Inhuman Swill : Page 220
Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can unscramble the pieces to make William Shunn.

Sweepin' the employees away

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They say that into every sunny day must come a few clouds. Last Tuesday, a week ago today, a few huge thunderheads descended on One Lincoln Plaza. I escaped sudden death in the storm in a couple of senses, but I still caught a fatal dose of pneumonia.

Laura and I went on vacation to California last week, so that she could compete on the PBS game show MasterChef USA, hosted by British superchef Gary Rhodes. On Tuesday, we returned to our hotel room to find a message waiting. It asked me to call my boss at Sesame Workshop.

It was six in the evening, Pacific time, so I called my boss at home. "Bad news," he said. "Today our department was slashed to the bone. Management decided to change their business plan,

and they're going to outsource most of the Web site work from now on. Out of forty people they're only keeping nine permanently."

I sat there numbly on my rock-hard queen bed, waiting to hear which group I was in.

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Waving, not drowning

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Well, well, well. It's been a long time!

I was just looking over my and my friend's journals, marveling at the fact that I hadn't posted for a month and a half, and contemplating this entry when Baldanders AIMed me out of the blue. He had noted my long absence and wondered if I was okay. Strange synchronicity.

Gang, I'm okay. A lot of things have happened that I want to tell you about -- and that I wanted to tell you about as they happened -- but I have this difficulty. I'm rather poor at time management, and a single activity usually comes to dominate my existence. (Baldanders argues that this is good time management, and it may well be.) Right now the dominant activity is writing my memoir; it takes up most of my free time and leaves little emotional energy for anything else. And since my full-time job has to take some kind of precedence it there... Well, you get the point.

I've been to Utah recently, I'm going to California, Arizona, and Florida soon, I've nearly choked to death at a noodle shop on Union Square, I've had a doctor stick an optical cable up my nose and down my throat, I've acquired two more fish, I've finally met my five-year-old son, and I've written about 150 pages since the last journal entry. In fact, it may even be time to post a table-of-contents update to keep myself going (not that I intend to lose momentum at this point:

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Today's weather, as reported last night by the A&E Biography sign:

      WINDY & COLD

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Just on the off-chance that you haven't been forwarded this in email (Michael Bishop sent it to me), you must read Michael Moore's plea to Koffi Anan for intervention in the presidential election. Really.

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More Disching

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In all the excitement of slagging Vintage (whom I had previously appreciated for reissuing Fawn M. Brodie's watershed 1945 biography of Joseph Smith, No Man Knows My History), I forgot that there was a beautiful paragraph or two from Disch's 334 that I wanted to share:

"Okay, Mickey, it's your life."

"Goddamn right." These words, and the tears on which they verged, were like a load of cement dumped into the raw foundation of his new life. By tomorrow morning all the wet slop of feeling would be solid as rock and in a year a skyscraper would stand where now there was nothing but a gaping hole.

What's the word for something you've experienced time and again but couldn't ever render into language to save your life?


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This evening's plans

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Salon du chocolat. Never attend a trade show like this without a buddy.

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Time to Disch

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I just finished reading Thomas M. Disch's fine, fine novel 334, in the recent attractive Vintage trade paperback reissue edition. It wasn't until I was almost done, however, that I bothered to read the back cover copy in any detail. Here is how the blurb, written by some anonymous, bitter, and underpaid editoral assistant, ends:

Poisonously funny, piercingly authentic, 334 is a masterpiece of social realism disguised as science fiction.
Disguised? I'm sorry—excuse me while I heave. As if anything worthwhile in literature can't possible be science fiction—instead it's masking itself and is really something else altogether.

Disch is one of those writers who has written plenty besides science fiction, but is this the price one pays for literary respect? A Galilean disavowal of one's unsavory roots? I'm tempted to throw the book across the room, if only for the sake of the poisonous, piercing back cover copy. I'm sorry I gave Vintage my money. I should have just gone back and read my old tattered paperback copy, with it's unashamed proclamation of SCIENCE FICTION right there on the spine.

I bought a similar Vintage edition of Camp Concentration at the same time. Now I'm going to have to go back home and read the back cover of that one very carefully. I'm not sure how they can possibly spin it away from science fiction, but I'm sure they'll try.

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And the winner is...

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To offer my entirely unsolicited opinion, I think the very coolest personal graphic I've seen on LiveJournal belongs to Baldanders. (It was just one of those things that had to be said.)

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Pet Peeve #17

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The way pedestrians traveling in a group always spread out laterally to block the greatest possible width of sidewalk.

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The one argument I won

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I have a certain ex who was always very . . . willful. Once we came to a corner together in the city. A mother and child shared the corner with us. There was no traffic, but the mother was telling the child to wait for the light to change before crossing. The ex began to step off the curb. I stopped her. "There are no cars coming," she said in the tone of voice that was like the warning crackle of ice beneath my skates.

"This woman is trying to teach her child not to cross the street against the light," I said quietly. "You're going to compromise the lesson."

So she relented and didn't cross the street. I don't remember winning many other arguments, but the ones I did were always like that one—quiet. I never won the screaming matches. There must be a must lesson in there somewhere, if she didn't compromise it for me somehow.

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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

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William Shunn