taking the passive out of passive-aggressive

Monday, January 27, 2003

I need content! Flummox.info is foundering since I put all my energy into this blog, my novel, school, my family, and drinking Red Stripe. To get you started, here are some categories I want essays on:

1. Your real resume: Forget the bullshit, what did you really do at your jobs? Look here for an example.
2. Your worst date. See, I can't write about mine because it turns out my mom actually reads this thing. Or rather she did once, complained about it, and has probably not been back... at least I think. (Oh, hi, Mom!)
3. Anything amusing, but I reserve the right to reject stuff in this category. Your amusing might be my scary. Try to keep it on the level of halfhearted complaint, since that's the style advocated by the editors of flummox (i.e., me).

As payment, you will receive a personalized e-mail from me, Claire, thanking you! Also, maybe your "friends" will stop saying things like "Well if you're such a great writer, how come I've never read your shit anywhere?"

Friday, January 24, 2003

My husband Nick spends a lot of time in the basement, where he records songs. Sometimes in desperation he asks me to sing things like "oooooooh" because he lacks a reliable vocalist. Every time he does it, I know he regrets it, because I produce no less than three thousand takes of flat Cs and wavering Fs, which he then has to cut up and autotune into some kind of usable mush that no longer sounds like me at all. Britney Spears I'm not. Though the upside is that if he ever gets famous, I might get royalties.

What interests me, though, is his love of the basement--actually, all men's love of basements. Our plumber, Chris Jensen, who's also a friend of ours, came down to install new pipes down there, and Nick couldn't have been more thrilled. To top it all off, Jensen fixed the basement potty, which has been sitting unused since probably, I dunno, 1967. Nick thought this was just great. Never mind that he has to wash his hands at the enormous zinc laundry sink--he has a basement potty, very convenient.

When I was little, we always had what real estate agents call a "club basement", which was actually plaid carpet and pine panelling. My dad loved these club basements and spent many hours watching football and playing the piano down there (my mom relegated the piano to the basement, I suspect, because my dad really only knew how to play "Dancing in the Dark" and "Perfidia" through to the end.) We always had a basement potty which my mom forbade me from using because the maid never cleaned down there and anyway, who wants to be in the basement? I internalized this division: top of the house for girls, bottom of the house for boys; and it's followed me the rest of my life.

My friends report similar behavior from their men. Whether it's computer-related or workshop-related or just TV-related, men seem to need basement time. They're like yams or mushrooms, requiring damp darkness to thrive.

Maybe we've just taken over the top of the house. Up here, there's no room for mess or smoke or wood chips or noise. Up here we have children and Barney and white wine and curtains. Maybe the men can't stand it after a while. They can behave themselves for a while but soon find that leaving socks on the floor isn't an option, that they muss up the sofa cushions, that when they sit in a chair it moves a little bit and someone comes along after them to readjust it. But in the basement they're truly free.

Until, that is, we rearrange their tools and organize their CDs. Then their only refuge is the basement potty.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Why is it that no one seems to think I'm nice, but they hang out with me anyway? Maybe nice is an overrated quality. It's kind of bland, to be nice, because you can never state a strongly held opinion. Being nice means agreeing with everyone, or just smiling and nodding.

Anyway, I can't think of anyone who's actually, really, deep-down nice. I meet people who seem nice, and everyone else thinks they're nice, but get a couple drinks in them and the truth comes out--these formerly nice people hate someone down the hall, curse profusely, and mock their spouses. It's entirely possible, I have to admit, that the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is at work here: my very presence, my un-niceness, allows these people to explore un-nice sides of themselves that they're ordinarily keep hidden away. But I don't think so.

Also, niceness seems to be connected to propriety somehow. Like if you have good hair and your pants are pressed and you smile a lot and listen, you're considered nice. You could be the biggest bitch in the world but if you have those four qualities, it doesn't matter.

Of course, the worst part of it all is I can't be mean about nice people. It's just not possible. They actually make me want to be nice. It's quite perplexing.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Crazy men love me. I don't mean funny-crazy or handsome-crazy, I mean diagnosable-crazy.

I've known this for years, ever since I was thirteen and schizophrenic men at bus stops started focusing their paranoia on me ("mutter mutter...what's she looking at...") or, as I got a bit older, when I became the frequent victim of flashing. (I never understood why the smallest men were always the flashers--what's to be proud of?) But I figured that as I neared thirty, this quality--whatever it is--would fade, and insane men would begin to leave me alone.

Alas, it's not to be. In the last couple of months, I've met a bug-eyed twenty-something whose claim to fame was being a child prodigy surfer (he showed me a picture! Unfortunately, he was not surfing in the picture but wearing a diaper), who kept making stabbing motions in my direction; a drunken good ol' boy whose neighbors, he claimed, were all after him and had given him that nasty, oozing cut above his eye; and a suave gentleman in a three-piece suit who wanted to marry me and as proof, read me poems about my ebony beauty (btw, I'm rather pale).

I imagine that in the old folks' home, they'll put me in a room next to some insane, drunken old codger who harasses me day and night with his schizzy love/hate for me. I'll complain to the nurses but they won't listen because they think it's cute. And when I tell them this kind of thing has been happening for seventy years, they'll just smile and tell me old mr. so-and-so is harmless.

Monday, January 20, 2003

I never cared about my family tree before: that was something my grandmother worried about, carrying clippings and letters from dying relatives around in a book with gold leaf on the front. She’s gone, now, though, and so’s my dad, and anyway the Internet is here. The next best thing to Googling your friends and acquaintances is Googling your dead relatives. It’s the same kind of idle attempt to connect with the world. Only it seems, oddly enough, to yield more results than Googling living people. There’s dead Bagbys and Chambers and Mears all over the net; and the deader the relative, the better the results.

So I find myself sitting around sometimes looking up my ancestors. I’m not dedicated enough at this (or anything else) to spend more than a couple nights at a time; and my research methods are probably pretty spurious. But I did get this genealogy program, and I entered in everything I could. I got back to the fourth generation: my great-great grandmother. It’s not very impressive. I hardly even know any dates, and one entry is labeled only “Georgiana” (my mother’s great-grandmother, of whom my mother only remembers “she smoked a corncob pipe, and I don’t know her last name.”)

And I keep wondering why I’m doing it anyway. After all, the other people who do this more seriously all seem like terrible dorks. Their webpages scroll endlessly and some of the sites even play little MIDI tunes. I even found one that had a poem about the Bagby family: “Men who stood for what is best, in home, in state, in nation/ Unsoiled by wish for self alone or self aggrandization.” You get the idea. If this is the kind of poetry Bagbys write, I’m disowning them.
My grandmother was kind of dorky too, come to think of it. It might be a Bagby family trait. She was always identifying things that way: “That’s the Bagby in you!” or “That’s the Miller in you!” as though after five generations I have anything in common with the “family”. I probably share more genes with a fruitfly.

I just read that people are having sex less often. Work, stress, and exhaustion are blamed... but I, as usual, have a more sinister theory. After all, the teen pregnancy rate is dropping dramatically too:

Teen birth rates declined for the tenth straight year in 2001 and are now at record low levels... In response to the new data Sarah Brown, Director of the private, nonprofit, National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy issued the following statement:

"When it comes to teen sex, pregnancy, and births, 1991-2001 is now firmly on record as the decade of substantial progress," said Brown. "The credit for these impressive declines goes primarily to teens themselves who are increasingly making wise decisions about sex and their future. It is clear that more teens are adopting the formula for success — more are refraining from sex and those that are sexually active are using contraception more carefully"

Now, do we REALLY think that teens are making wiser decisions about sex? C'mon, for thousands of years, teens have been unwise in love (c.f. Romeo and Juliet, Priscilla Presley, my mom). No, I think possibly everyone is having less sex than they used to, possibly because of beef hormones, environmental hazards, or something. Not that I'm a big environmentalist or anything, but all the chemicals must be having some effect. I dunno, it requires more research from someone more qualified (or crazy) than me.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

I like to say I'm "credulous", but my husband tells me the word for me is actually "gullible". I find it appalling that I'm gullible. But it's true, I'll believe anything. When people say things like "Oh, yeah, Michael Jackson's nose is falling off because he has a flesh-eating virus given to him by Saddam Hussein" I say "Really?" It's not just a verbal tic, I'm really interested and want to know more. Of course none of it is true, which I don't find out til someone says, "Yeah, really, Claire. C'mon." I do appreciate that my friends don't take unfair advantage of my, ahem, credulity.

This is why I must restrict myself only to reputable news sources. When I go online randomly I find myself completely believing all kinds of crap, like:

"Is Hitler's NEW WORLD ORDER the same as Bush's? YES!!" I have to admit, I thought all insane right-wing fundamentalist crackpot Christian ministers were pro-Bush! I can halfway believe this stuff just because they dislike El Presidente as much as I do.

"It always kinda nice to know that where ever you are, you can get a taste of home delivered right to your door step." Scrapple really is good-- and good for you, too. (Well, I was predisposed to believe that one.)

Libertarians are such optimists, it's really hard not to go along with their point of view. I mean, I can't do anything about global warming, so wouldn't it be better to pretend it doesn't exist?

OK, OK. I'm starting to see a pattern here. My credulity favors things I want. If Michael Jackson had a flesh-eating disease, or George Bush was the Devil, or Scrapple was good for you, or there was no global warming... all of those would be satisfying plot twists. And good narrative makes for good living.

Monday, January 06, 2003

top 10 things of 2002

1. layoffs: better them than me
2. discovering the champagne of beers
3. never painting my nails til new year's eve (and how I regret that still!)
4. getting ab muscles
5. learning not to care so much
6. dreaming of spending money, but not actually spending it
7. deciding to quit smoking, but not actually doing it
8. new furniture from my mama
9. new orleans
10. "the wind-up bird chronicle"

And for 2003: quit smoking, figure out what the hell I'm doing with my life, and write a novel that no one will ever read.

Friday, January 03, 2003

Just heard about these "numbers" radio stations, where (evidently) master spies read codes to their joes in the field, who carry one-time cipher pads in the pockets of their overcoats and listen to the mechanized voices intently, knowing their lives are on the line:

this guy is so totally into it, he wrote a book
this is a pretty good intro

Anyway, I hope it's really as exciting as spies and cipher pads and overcoats. I hope it involves the Brits, it's so much more like a spy novel when they're involved. The weird thing is, though, that most of these organizations who follow these signals all seem to mysteriously go out of business. Or maybe their servers are just crappy, I dunno. The audio can be great, though.

If my blog is mysteriously shut down and I disappear, please tell my husband it was the CIA, okay?

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Women have this way of acting like they're from the cartoon "Cathy", which has got to be the worst piece of shit cartoon ever made (except maybe for the Lockhorns or Marmaduke). What they do is this:

1. Feel somehow deprived, depressed, or otherwise maligned by the world.
2. Initiate a craving for some sort of sweet, typically chocolate but possibly cookies, pie, candy, or ice cream.
3. Talk ceaslessly about the craving (and attendant guilt and glee) until it's fulfilled.
4. Force others to become complicit in the "sin" by indulging and discussing the craving with them ad nauseam.
5. Indulge the craving (usually an inconvenient affair involving driving to one particular bakery, ice cream shop, etc.)
6. Coo, aah, and make other orgasmic sounds during the indulgence.
7. Display guilt feelings of varying intensity afterwards, ranging from tepid satisfaction to all-out barfing.

In the cartoon "Cathy", of course, the fat, homely, stringy-haired title character is constantly looking for a man, and constantly dieting. Her life revolves around whether she'll fit into a bathing suit. She indulges herself in sweets and then castigates herself endlessly. She's horrible, empty, stupid, and terrified. But what's worse than that is that she's true.

Lots of women do this. In fact you'd be hard-pressed to find one that doesn't, on occaision, have the occasional Cathy-attack of sweets-indulgence. Some women do it all the time--their day seems to revolve around the next sugar buzz-while others have it more or less under control, with only the infrequent midnight trip to the supermarket for frozen pie or those awful cookies that taste like Crisco.

This is truly a horrible habit and one that should be stopped. It's not the least bit harmless, or cute, or girly. It goes against everything that most women claim they want: love me for me, oh, stop looking at my body, oh, I'm so above my animal appetites, blah blah blah.

The sweets thing is disgustingly childish. Besides, the whole thing makes all of us women look bad. Out of control. Afraid of our bodies. Unmasterful. It's completely anti-feminist, to do this shit, but feminists do it all the time. And these indulgers, they're the ones that complain about their bodies the most--and demand the least critical male eye, too. "How dare he think I'm not thin enough? God, I need some fucking cake."

What happens to us after we die? Listen, I'm not obsessed with death, but here are my theories:

1. The good part of you goes elsewhere, while the bad part of you wanders the earth forever. That's why we're all scared of ghosts, 'cause they're the evil parts of dead people.

2. Nothing happens, which means we're all screwed.

3. You're compelled to wander one square mile around your remains, forever. So in the case of my dad, he can go to the Fox Chevrolet dealership, that weird suburban nightclub, and Mars Supermarket. Not a bad deal, remind me to be interred near the Club Charles.

4. You start your life all over again, but without any advance knowledge of what's going to happen, which is kind of deterministic and means you live the same life over and over again.

5. In your next life, you become the thing you hated most. I'd be a bug, then. It's possible I was a bug before, and hated humans.

6. Whatever you thought was going to happen, well, that's what happens. So if you always say "I'm going to hell" you probably will. If you believe in harps and angels, that's what you get. I don't know what will happen to me, with all my theories, under this option.