Graduate Recognition Speech

Last Thursday I was invited to be a Distinguished Student Speaker at Northeastern Illinois University‘s Graduate Recognition Ceremony. My upbringing and history has made me suspect of all institutions, but my experience at NEIU has been a boon for my confidence, production, and direction. And now I have a Master of Arts degree.

Below I’m posting a full transcript of the speech. For history’s sake. And also for blog content.

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A Conversation with Structo

In 2012 I published a short story in Structo: Issue 8, and the good people over with the UK-based lit-mag started a series where they interview former contributors, seeing what’s new and good and so on and so forth. Today it was my turn. Go here to read the full conversation, where I’m name-dropping Dostoyevsky, Terrence McKenna, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

A Toxic Filmography

I am less than a month away from my thesis defense meeting at Northeastern Illinois University. Once I’ve successfully completed that (fingers crossed), I will be receiving my Master of Arts degree the following month. The working title for my project is “Toxic Cults.” Sexy, right?

I’m still refining my final draft, but today I completed the filmography portion of the project, which I’m including below for those who are curious about what I’ve been doing the past eight months. The list is ordered by date, from oldest to newest. I’ve seen almost all of the movies here and my appetite for shitty ’80s cult movies is now fully sated.

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What I Watched in 2014. Including ‘Jack Reacher’ for Some Reason.

Though 2014 was a busy year for me, I managed to fill my downtime with regular doses of B- and C-grade media, and an occasional A-grade treat. And I’ve captured (almost) all of it in the below list that charts all films and TV series I watched during the year. There is a lot more TV and far fewer movies compared to past years, but as our culture increasingly consumes serialized entertainment, this seems a fitting shift.

And because I believe that media help us understand ourselves, others, and the world, I willfully ingested some absolute shit for the sake of social perspicacity (looking at you, Aaron Sorkin). Problem is, when you eat a lot of shit, your brain-stomach gets used to it, and you end up watching Crossroads for your final film of the year. But if I don’t watch Britney Spears movies, who will? How else will I know to drink Pepsi?

When I first started charting my annual entertainment consumption, I was in a strange cinematic phase. I was taking in Bergman, Tarkovsky, Kurosawa, and others in the Criterion Collection canon like they were minor deities. I was also watching through decades of Razzie winners. So I got a bit of vertigo mixing the high and low like that. As I near the end of my 20’s, I also realize that I have lost a taste for sober existential flicks, but probably because my present life casts me in a leading role. To the point where I wish Bresson’s characters would settle down a little, stop being so hyperactive. Also to the point where I make stupid nerd jokes.

If the titles on this list seem random, it’s because I did most of my movie watching on Netflix, Hulu+, Amazon, and YouTube. Whatever was available was what I would watch. So some of these titles are re-watches and others are because there was nothing better on. And while I enjoy the convenience of these services, sometimes browsing their digital shelves makes me feel like I’m in the VHS section at Village Discount. Sometimes you pick what looks best, and sometimes you pick Jack Reacher.

Best TV from this year was True Detective, Fargo, and Mad Men. Shows like these make me feel not-so-bad about the death of cinema. I also splurged on the full Seinfeld boxset, even though DVDs look more antiquated by the day. Nobody’s streaming the full Seinfeld, so fuck it; disc it is. Favorite movie was Birdman. Also, Interstellar was really well done, even if it was Cosmology for Idiots. Also, the Carlos miniseries is awesome if you ever have six hours to kill. Also x3, Guardians of the Galaxy is a legit fun movie and shows how comic book movies should be done. Also x4, Chris Pratt’s six pack makes me believe that anything is possible. Worst-best movie was Mac & Me, and that needs no explanation. Brought to you by Skittles. Also x5, I guess I saw Battleship? I don’t remember anything from that. Or from most of what else I watched.

You’ll notice a lot of ‘classic’ titles on the list here, too. Stuff like Caddyshack, Airplane, Blade Runner, and other movies everyone is ‘supposed’ to see. Because my wife grew up in the boons of New England, she never got the chance to take in the essentials. So I was happy to re-watch as she got introduced. But in the end she still preferred The West Wing, so I guess I lost.

1. Dream Team (1989)
2. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
3. Vernon, Florida (1981)
4. Red Scorpion (1989)
5. The Turin Horse (2011)
6. Battleship (2012)
7. White Men Can’t Jump (1992)
8. Broken City (2013)
9. Pacific Rim (2013)
10. Spring Breakers (2013)
11. Top Gun (1986)
12. Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
13. In Like Flint (1967)
14. Computer Chess (2013)
15. The Long Goodbye (1973)
16. Haywire (2011)
17. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
18. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
19. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
20. Her (2013)
21. Rock ‘N Roll High School (1979)
22. Orange is the New Black: Season 1 (2013)
22. Reindeer Games (2000)
23. The Act of Killing (2012)
24. The Octagon (1981)
25. Jack Reacher (2013)
26. Reindeer Games (2000)
27. Gray’s Anatomy (1997)
28. Psycho (1960)
29. Holy Motors (2012)
30. Warrior of the Lost World: MST3K (1993)
31. Double Indemnity (1944)
32. Somebody Up There Likes Me (2012)
33. The Kids Are Alright (2010)
34. Dirty Harry (1976)
35. The Great Outdoors (1988)
36. XXX (2002)
37. Galaxis (1995)
38. Twin Peaks: Season 1 (1990)
39. Twin Peaks: Season 2 (1991)
40. M*A*S*H (1970)
41. Airplane (1980)
42. Harold and Maude (1971)
43. Airheads (1994)
44. Passion (2012)
45. Archer: Season 4 (2013)
46. True Detective: Season 1 (2013)
47. The Blues According to Lightnin’ Hopkins (1967)
48. Sherlock: Season 1 (2010)
49. Sherlock: Season 2 (2012)
50. The Station Agent (2003)
51. 3rd Rock From the Sun: Season 1 (1996)
52. 3rd Rock From the Sun: Season 2 (1997)
53. The Ambushers (1967)
54. Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (2012)
55. 3rd Rock From the Sun: Season 3 (1998)
56. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
57. Rapt (2009)
58. 3rd Rock From the Sun: Season 4 (1999)
59. Gravity (2013)
60. American Hustle (2013)
61. Static (1986)
62. 3rd Rock From the Sun: Season 5 (2000)
63. Parks and Rec: Season 6 (2014)
64. Don Jon (2013)
65. MST3K: Cave Dwellers (1984)
66. Homefront (2013)
67. 3rd Rock From the Sun: Season 6 (2001)
68. Peep Show: Season 2 (2004)
69. Crackhouse (1989)
70. Peep Show: Season 2 (2004)
71. Holes (2003)
72. Bob’s Burgers: Season 4 (2014)
73. Men in Black II (2002)
74. Maximum Overdrive (1986)
75. Mad Men: Season 7, Part 1 (2014)
76. Adventures in Babysitting (1986)
77. Over the Top (1987)
78. Maria Bamford: The Special Special Special (2013)
79. Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
80. Johnny Mnemonic (1995)
81. The Net (1995)
82. Game of Thrones: Season 4 (2014)
83. Fargo: Season 1 (2014)
84. Seinfeld: Season 3 (1992)
85. Seinfeld: Season 4 (1993)
86. Deadwood: Season 1 (2004)
87. Deadwood: Season 2 (2005)
88. Seinfeld: Season 5 (1994)
89. Deadwood: Season 3 (2006)
90. Seinfeld: Season 6 (1995)
91. Seinfeld: Season 7 (1996)
92. Orange is the New Black: Season 2 (2014)
93. Under the Skin (2014)
94. Seinfeld: Season 8 (1997)
95. The Mighty Ducks (1992)
96. Hardware (1990)
97. Seinfeld: Season 9 (1998)
98. The Frozen Ground (2013)
99. Bored to Death: Season 3 (2011)
100. Gross Point Blank (1997)
101. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989)
102. The Naked Gun (1988)
103. Office Space (1999)
104. Lolita (1962)
105. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
106. Blade Runner: Final Cut (2007)
107. The Double (2013)
108. A Brief History of Time (1991)
109. The West Wing: Season 1 (1999)
110. The West Wing: Season 2 (2000)
111. Trailer Park Boys: Season 8 (2014)
112. Zelig (1983)
113. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
114. Black Sabbath (1963)
115. Futurama: Season 2 (1999)
116. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
117. Shivers (1975)
118. Slap Shot (1977)
119. Portlandia: Season 4 (2013)
120. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Season 9 (2013)
121. Kingpin (1996)
122. They Came Together (2014)
123. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
124. Snowpiercer (2013)
125. Office Space (1999)
126. Batman (1989)
127. Batman Returns (1992)
128. Last Action Hero (1993)
129. Changing Lanes (2002)
130. Event Horizon (1997)
131. Carlos: Miniseries (2010)
132. The Bad News Bears (1976)
133. Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
134. The Omen (1976)
135. Scrooged (1988)
136. Mission: Impossible (1996)
137. The Burbs (1989)
138. Nebraska (2013)
139. Django Unchained (2012)
140. Futurama: Season 3 (2000)
141. Caddyshack (1980)
142. Interstellar (2014)
143. Days of Thunder (1990)
144. The Firm (1993)
145. Sneakers (1992)
146. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)
147. Damien: Omen II (1978)
148. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
149. Birdman (2014)
150. The Drop (2014)
151. Black Mirror: Series 1 (2011)
152. Black Mirror: Series 2 (2013)
153. Jumanji (1995)
154. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
155. Mac and Me (1988)
156. Society (1989)
157. Crossroads (2002)

A Thank-You Letter to the Packard Foundation

Have you heard of Vasalgel? It’s a new contraceptive technology for men that’s recently been making news rounds at The GuardianThe Daily MailThe Daily BeastThe New York Times, and others. The short version is that Vasalgel is a safe, non-invasive, non-hormonal, and completely reversible form of male contraception. And if you don’t believe me, read the long version here.

I’ve been following Vasalgel’s progress for a few years and I’ve been excited to see their project gaining traction. In their most recent progress update, they announced a new grant award from the Packard Foundation and asked subscribers to send thank-you letters to the foundation for their support of Vasalgel. Normally I wouldn’t do this, but male contraception has a huge uphill battle to fight. So I wrote a thank-you letter (printed, stamped; real old-school) to the foundation’s director of population and reproductive health, Tamara Kreinin (The David & Lucile Packard Foundation 343 Second Street Los Altos, CA 94022), and I’d like to share the letter with you now (below).

Male contraception’s uphill battle starts in the social thickets. Here are your alpha males who think the penis does as the penis does and, hey, if a baby’s made, not my fault. And here are your pee-shy policy makers who prefer to defer all questions of reproduction to women (while at the same time doing an excellent job inhibiting women’s reproductive rights). And here are your political pedants who’d rather spend billions on chemicals and laws to curb ovulation than on finding a way to turn sperm ‘off’ for a while, which conceptually seems like it’d be far more simple. But what fun is birth control if it’s not increasing cancer risks, causing permanent reproductive damage, and upsetting psychological balances? Especially if it happens to women and not me in my Ford F-450 on my way to the gun range where I can compare calibers with my bros.

This is why I support Vasalgel and will do what I can to bring this product to market. Other dudes—those who have hetero sex and those who don’t—should do the same.

Here’s the letter:

Dear Ms. Kreinin,

I’m writing to thank you and the Packard Foundation for your recent gift to Vasalgel. As a proponent of reproductive rights, I’ve been following Vasalgel’s progress for a number of years and it’s incredibly exciting to see their project gaining steam.

In Vasalgel’s mailing list update from November 5th, they announced their grant award from the Packard Foundation and invited mailing list subscribers to thank you personally. Because of the positive life changes Vasalgel promises to deliver, I’ve become a vocal supporter of their project to provide a new, safe form of birth control and destigmatize male reproductive rights. And as a potential future user of their technology, I want to do everything I can to help bring their product to market. If that starts with a simple thank you, count me in.

I’ve been married almost five years and birth control is always a concern, especially due to the financial stresses that would materialize if we were to unexpectedly conceive. I hated seeing the damage ‘the pill’ was having on my wife—from severe mood fluctuations to loss of sexual appetite—and as we all know, condoms are a bummer. She’s since switched to an IUD which has so far been effective, though we’ve had countless conversations over the years ending with a depressed wish that there existed a simple, effective male birth control solution. When I first heard of Vasalgel, I wanted to know where to sign.

It has been really exciting watching Vasalgel’s success in the lab. With continued financial support from organizations such as yours, Vasalgel will be able to continue cutting through the red tape and bring their product to market. And I’ll be standing first in line, looking forward to worry-free birth control a new era of reproductive rights. The Packard Foundation benefits, and so does humanity. It’s a win-win. Sex needs only chemistry, not chemicals.

 

With Gratitude,

Benjamin van Loon
Writer, Marketer, Married Guy

Freedom From Religion

Pleased to announce that I’ve placed in the 2014 Brian Bolton Graduate/Older Students Essay Contest, offered by the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The essay had to answer “why ‘Religious Liberty’ does not mean the right to impose your religion on others,” and though I played by the rules on this particular submission, I’m glad to see my literary conservatism pay off. I still owe $499 for my fall semester at NEIU, so the $500 award seems almost providential. Also, I’ve now received scholarships from a Muslim foundation, a Jewish foundation, and a secularist foundation. What does this make me? Mega PoMo? Broadcast-ready on NPR? Do I need to start wearing a cape?

I can’t post the full essay here, but I’ll post a snippet and then provide a link to the full version once FFRF posts it next month. And the snippet:

The First Amendment establishes freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and most importantly, freedom of religion. In emphasis of this importance, the amendment opens with the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses that state, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Thomas Jefferson sums up the implication of these clauses in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, that with this rule in place, there is erected “a wall of separation between Church & State.”

On paper, the separation seems like it should work, but two centuries later the amendment is still contentious. Though we’re reading the same law they ratified in 1791, its words are weighed, conveyed, and parlayed according to an entirely different historical rule—and under our present paradigm, religious liberty is what’s at stake.

Stay tuned for more soon.

Everything Loose Will Land

“Tip the world on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.”

Once said Frank Lloyd Wright, famously smug. In his mind was the teenage City of Angels, then and now a sprawling metropolis of traffic jams, cultural piracy, and media cacophony. Angelenos had no innate culture but for those rootless scraps landing from elsewhere, and so emerged the LA style of denuded cool. It was a raucous period extending from the end of the 1960s into the early 1980s where there emerged a new context formed by accord between art and architecture and contest between commerce and creativity. The dynamics of this period are what curator Sylvia Lavin explores in ‘Everything Loose Will Land’ at the Graham Foundation’s Madlener House in Chicago, Illinois.

The exhibit arrived in spring 2014 in Chicago after an inaugural 2013 appearance in LA (obviously), at the Mak Center’s Schindler House, and an interim show at Yale’s Paul Rudolph Hall Exhibition Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut. And for a exhibit documenting the emergence of an aesthetic common language from a place without one, that Lavin’s curation appears in Chicago—a city connected to LA by federal governance and not much else—adds a hint of irony to the show’s coy celebration of creative cross-pollination between art and architecture.

Included in the exhibition are 120 drawings, photographs, models, sculptures, and multimedia-miscellany from names like Judy Chicago, Frank Gehry, Cesar Pelli, Denise Scott Brown, Maria Nordman, Coy Howard, Craig Hodgetts, Ron Herron, and many others. The Madlener House, a 1902 mansion designed by Frank Lloyd Wright-contemporary Richard E. Schmidt, and present home to the Graham Foundation, hosts the exhibition on its main and second floors. A cardboard sculpture of Bloxes greets you in the main foyer. It has no explicit connection to Lavin’s exhibition but implicitly comments on the malleability of retrospection; a tongue-in-cheek welcome to how ‘Everything Loose’ celebrates the varied.

The works are arranged into four distinct categories—Environments, Users, Procedures, and Lumens—which the brochure copy declares as four triggers “that caused architecture to coincide with other art forms as it sought to engage in this new cultural logic [emergent in 1970s in LA].” It’s not immediately obvious that this is the intention for the exhibit’s organization, though whatever feelings of disarray one senses walking through the rooms is likely postmodern reverb from the aesthetic discord of 1970s LA, emanating from many pieces as a dull glow.

In Lumens, on the second floor of the gallery, a five-foot-tall blue plexiglass pane, designed by Cesar Pelli and Victor Gruen Associates, reflects Connections, a geometric glass and wood sculpture by Frank Gehry and Richard Serra. Behind that, Billy Al Bengston’s Tubsteak, iconoclastic and psychedelic, lacquer on formica. On the northern wall, four flatscreens with obscure footage by Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson, John Whitney, and Eric Saarinen (son of Eero, who introduced the 20th Century to extraterrestrial architecture). In the room on the opposite side of the wall plays a film by Environmental Communications, originally installed in 1977 at LACMA.

The first floor is dedicated to Users and Environments. Unlike the white walls of the upper floors, the main floors pop with the fluorescent pinks and golds of painter Judy Ledgerwood’s Chromatic Patterns installations. These are floor-to-ceiling paintings reimagining baroque window screens against two-dimensional drywall, and much like the Bloxes, separate but complementary of Lavin’s selections. Collages by Ron Herron (Archigram), one-off catalogs and publications by Judy Chicago and Leon Koren, event posters by Morphosis, and handwritten notes from artist and architecture studios, present a multi-sensate visual mediated not only by materials (large plastic bubbles guard ephemera in appropriately space-aged fashion) but also by time itself.

Lavin calls the “cultural epistemology” emergent in 1970s LA a product of looseness and a “precise model city of the future.” Her exhibition highlights the interchange between the visual and architectural arts that, at the pinnacle of the postmodern era, established contexts for new cosmopolitan languages, apparitions, and celebrations. ‘Everything Loose’ suggests that culture, like matter, does not disappear; it lands.

[This article was written for the 2014 Frieze Writer’s Prize, which I am proud to add to my growing list of contests lost. I hope you’ve enjoyed my failure.]

Boston: Spring 2014

I went to Boston at the beginning of May to visit my wife’s family. Here’s a sampling of the pictures I took with my dope-as-hell GoPro. You can view the rest at my Flickr.

Boston Museum of Art
Boston Museum of Art
Paul Revere, Old North Church, Boston, North End
Paul Revere, Old North Church, Boston, North End
Boston North End
Jane Jacobs’ favorite hood
Boston
Across from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Harvard Medicine Quad
Harvard Medicine
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Auditorium, Renzo Piano
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Auditorium, Renzo Piano
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Addition, Renzo Piano
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Addition, Renzo Piano
Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Le Corbusier
Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Le Corbusier
Ralph Waldo Emerson's House
Ralph Waldo Emerson’s House
MIT Chapel, Eero Saarinen
MIT Chapel, Eero Saarinen
Kresge Auditorium, Eero Saarinen
Kresge Auditorium, Eero Saarinen
Statue of Thoreau at Walden
Statue of Thoreau at Walden. Raindrop on the lens.
Site of Thoreau's Cabin
Site of Thoreau’s Cabin
Boulders in Upton State Forest
Boulders in Upton State Forest
Upton State Forest
Upton State Forest

.

Letters to Ted Kaczynski: Part I

[I began writing letters to Ted K back in 2011. I needed a muse and so I designated Ted K as the would-be receiver of my epistolary confessionals. I have and will never sent these letters to Ted K. They’re for my own amusement. And now yours. I plan on posting them intermittently. Following is the first such letter I wrote. I hope the NSA or FBI or whatever has a line item for CNF.]

Dear Mr. Kaczynski,

I first want to thank you for your prompt reply. As you say, we just go through the motions. For that reason I want to try my best to explain. Our perception is not merely what we apprehend on a conscious level. There are nuances. Like the way our teachers illustrated stellar collapse with cartoons and talking insects.

I thought they said sprained at first, but what do they know? It was probably a result of these relentless jumping jacks. What do I care? Why do I care? Pour some fish down my throat and call me Jack Daniels Jr., Robber Baron of the Little American Ocean.

On the up-swing, I’ve lost 15lbs in the past seven weeks. The same can’t be said for everything. You know how it is. What did me in was the catering gig. It was a wedding celebrating the union of a spritely young divorcee and a fifty-something VP. They booked it at this sanatorium in Skokie called ‘Misericordia,’ which as a word sounds like an Aligherian invention. We worked in a kitchen the size of a Petsmart. Most of the time I ran empties from the bar but by the end of the night I had a limp like a Vietnam vet. You were never enlisted, were you? I’d support you either way, but these are our options: Drop a cinder block on few bicuspids and sip mint juleps on the weekends, or spend four years doing pushups and getting beaten by Duracell-packed tubesocks. Uncle Sam failed me as a role model.

With a bum knee, my flight to Boston failed to be a gas. I was cramped in coach and because it was a last minute thing I had a layover in Detroit. I was only there for two hours but that’s still two hours more than anyone should have to spend on Michigan soil. In its defense, DTW is a damn nice airport. I’ve spent a lot of time at Midway, so I know what I’m talking about. What would happen to Detroit if DTW went out the GM-way? Michigan is the USA’s finest testament to the strength and longevity of Bold American Industry. I just read that the city has a less-than 50% literacy rate. Internet nerds raised $60k to erect a Robocop statue at the heart of Eight Mile. Peter Weller has become the Aryan laughing stock of Masonic International. What’re your thoughts on the DC Pentagram? (This is a getting-to-know-you question. Be as direct or circumspect as you wish.)

I bid (bide? bided? bought?) my time by people watching, comparing gaits and breast sizes; trying to guess the weight of the Tennesseans being carted to Gate A1. What is this obsession youthful and sometimes non-youthful women have with yoga pants? Is this part of our Great Slovenization? We’re pretty well into the 21st century. Slop is the new Betamax. It sips on 666-calorie macchiatos and showers in Diet Coke. Then again, I shouldn’t point fingers. I swallowed a four-egg omelet whole while waiting at ORD that very morning. The woman sitting next to me on the plane fell asleep on my arm. The only thing worse than trusting a stranger is being entrusted by one. Wouldn’t you agree? This is a greeting card sentiment, but truth is truth. She woke up on her own and had apparently found a way to use her cell-phone at 30k feet. I’m surprised the plane didn’t start flying backwards.

When I finally got to Providence, my friend picked me up in his GMC (go fig). He gave me an update about the kinds of girls he’s into and how he’s gunning for this kick-ass third-shit job that pays like a billion dollars. He smoked four cigarettes in twenty minutes. We stopped on the way to Ashland because he needed some weed bad. He lives with his mom.

This reminds me, in my first letter to you. I forgot to ask about Seeley Lake. I’ve always wanted to visit Montana. 147,000m(2) of Pure Anglo Autobahn. I bet you could fall off the earth out that way. I once saw My Own Private Idaho. Is it like that?

Anyway, we ended up at my friend’s Friday-night stomping grounds; a low-ceiling’d strip mall joint called The Corner Pub. The Bruins were on and I was told my beard would help me fit in. The air quality is different in New England—like long-cut Skoal, Wintergreen flavor, and a side of 2-1 Jim Beam. Wings to go.

Conversations involved the complexities of lures, baits and Asian carp. What else is there to talk about really? My jeans were too clean to pass for Real Deal, but they liked my joke about the California wildfires. I drank a Grateful Dead (Long Island Iced Tea with Jim Jones’ Kool Aid) and chased that with a Coke heavy on the Jack, which was itself heavy on the water. The microwaved French fries were congealing in my stomach, so I walked across the street to the 7-11 where I snorted a line of Ibuprofen and browsed the bin of free shot-glasses. I snagged a pair that said “Old Geezer Pleaser.” There was a sun-bleached mosquito at the bottom of the “Daddy Drinks Because You Cry” glass.

Grieved as he was by the Bruin’s eventual unsurprising loss, I paid for my friend’s dinner while he paid for my drinks. I did the math and he came out ahead.

Remind me to tell you about Newport in my next letter. Meanwhile, please enjoy the bag of Carmellos I’ve included in this mailing. It’s the least I can do.

– bvl

Five Ways to Make X Look Like the Dickhead He Is

[Following is an experimental piece I wrote for theNewerYork a year-or-so ago. It combines mathematics and juvenile self-loathing. All that’s missing from this Neopolitan combo is the strawberry flavor.]

1. Neo-Yiddish Poo-Poo Sequence: X + [shm(X-Y)]

X = thing you want to poo-poo
Y = consonant(s) prefixing X; if there are no consonant(s) prefixing X, Y=0

Example: You are at a friend’s party. Another attendee at the party invited Chase even though nobody likes him and he is a tool and he is dating your ex-girlfriend. You are cooling your head outside and moments later, he also steps outside. He has the audacity to ask if you can spare a cigarette. He knows you don’t smoke. Respond with the Neo-Yiddish Poo-Poo Sequence.

cigarette = thing you want to poo-poo
X = cigarette
Y = c
cigarette + [shm(cigarette-c)]
= cigarette shmigarette 

2. Conditional Question-Subervsion Hypothesis: I should(emphasis) * [(Q*-0.1)/Q] + …if I were + [(D)P]

Q = ironic idea suggested by entity for something you can do
P = derogatory term
D = [a ≡ P begins with a consonant] ∨ [an ≡ P begins with vowel]

Example: You are standing outside a friend’s party and have been joined by Chase, who is an idiot and who knows that you don’t smoke, but he asked you for a cigarette anyway. You tell him that you do not smoke. Chase wonders if you guys are chill. He suggests that if you were to pick up smoking, you might be less stressed and more chill. What is the best way to apply the Conditional Question-Subversion Hypothesis in this situation? Show your work.

Q = I should pick up smoking
P = total idiot
D = a
[(I should pick up smoking*-0.1)/I should pick up smoking)] = -0.I should pick up smoking
Based on the Principle of Ironic Rephrasal, -0.X has all of the properties of Implied Inherent Negativity, thus -0.I should pick up smoking = I should pick up smoking
should pick up smoking + …if I were + [(a)total idiot]
= I should pick up smoking …if I were a total idiot.

3. The Norris-Allen Algorithm: N + (T*√2) + Just kidding

N = corn-balled one-liner from a B-grade or C-grade action movie
T = normal amount of time it takes for someone to realize you are/might be joking
Because √2 is an irrational number, term (T*√2) is often expressed as a pause just long enough to make things uncomfortable.)

Example: You rejoin your friend’s party. The host of the party approaches you. You suspect that it was she who invited Chase. It seems like she intentionally arouses contention so that she might make herself more relevant or interesting or whatever. She can tell you are upset because you’re having a hard time opening your beer. She opens the beer for you. She smiles and says, “Don’t step on any toes,” though you can tell she means the opposite. Respond to her employing the Norris-Allen Algorithm where N is equal to a corn-balled one-liner from Braddock: Missing in Action III.

N = “I don’t step on toes, I step on necks.”
T = 1.1 seconds (based harmonic mean of host’s standard conversational pace with blood alcohol level > .001 points above legal limit)
I don’t step on toes, I step on necks + (1.1*√2) + just kidding
I don’t step on toes, I step on necks + (≈1.555719) + just kidding
= I don’t step on toes, I step on necks. (Pause just long long enough to make things uncomfortable.) Just kidding. 

4. Type 1 Negative Patronymic Quotient: -0.X / [Y(?) + Good ol’ Y + (M/{Z})]

X = how annoyed you are
Y = first name of subject you are deriding
M = surname of subject you are deriding
{Z} = set of puns and derogatory terms rhyming-with or related to M
Determination of NPQ application determined by probability of {Z} distribution. If {Z} is null, Type 1 NPQ is null.

Example: You are sitting alone on the couch at your friend’s party. You are on your fifth beer. Some guy from work whose name you can’t remember but who is super annoying sits down on the opposite end of the couch and strikes up a conversation with you. “Good party,” he says over the music. “You know that Chase Ursal dude? His Lexus has some sweet-ass ground effects, bro.” If possible, provide {Z} and articulate proper Type 1 NPQ response. Choose one condition from {Z} to complete your calculation.

X = super annoyed
Y = Chase
M = Ursal
{Z} = {Ass-sal, Asshole, Urse-hole, Ass-salve}
Based on the Principle of Ironic Rephrasal, “-0.super annoyed” has all of the properties of Implied Inherent Negativity.
Type 1 NPQ: Chase? + Good ol’ Chase + (Ursal/{Urse-hole})
= (said with IIN) Chase? Good ol’ Chase Urse-hole.

5. The Rocks-Off Principle: {A}B ⊃ -{A}(Well, whatever gets your rocks off).

A = condescending tone
B = something a dickhead wants

Example: You are at your friend’s party and have had more beers than you can count. You have been saying things you will probably regret later, but you don’t care because everyone is dumb. You hear Chase whispering to his dickhead friends that he wants to teach you a lesson. This dickhead clowder then approaches you with Chase at the helm. He says, “Leave, or you’re going to be more than hungover in the morning.” Based on the information given, if you reply with the Rocks-Off Principle, will this force Chase to make good on his threat?

A = {condescending tone inferred from implication of threat}
B = leaving you “more than hungover in the morning”
{condescending tone inferred from implication of threat}to leave you “more than hungover in the morning” ⊃ -{condescending tone inferred from implication of threat}(Well, whatever gets your rocks off.)
Based the Apparent Reciprocated Condescension, Chase will make good on B. However, based on the Overpositive Schlitz-Factor, you can find no good reason not to suggest that Chase is free to do whatever will get his rocks off.