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Inhuman Swill : Page 29
Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can unscramble the pieces to make William Shunn.

Kanab family values

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Almost exactly five years ago, I called your attention here to a brouhaha in the small town of Kanab, Utah, over the adoption by the city council of a non-binding resolution defining the family as "one man, one woman" with a "full quiver" of children. A few months later, Laura and I visited Kanab (a town founded by Mormon polygamists), where we were pleased to see many businesses opposing the resolution with "Everyone Welcome Here!" stickers in their windows.

I wish I'd known sooner, but I've just learned that there's a documentary out about the whole controversy:

Natural Family Values

I can't vouch for the quality, not having seen it yet, but you can be sure I'm ordering a copy and will watch it with interest.

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75

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Donald William Shunn
Today my father would have been 75 years old, had he not succumbed to complications from prostate cancer nearly three years ago. I want to post something about the old man, but the closest thing I have to a remembrance at hand is the second chapter from the latest in-progress revision of my memoir. It's not exactly complimentary on the whole, but it does attempt to trace the trials my father went through trying to secure a better future for his family, which I believe he succeeded at—even if he died doubting it.

By the way, I was in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago and I hunted down the house in Highland Park where we lived until I was six. My mother had warned me that I really didn't want to visit that neighborhood, but since when have I ever listened to my parents' advice? Anyway, the neighborhood was just fine—quiet, even. The house, perched on hill on Aldama Street between Avenues 53 and 54, was much, much smaller than I remembered. And there were parrots squawking in a tall tree overhead.



In 1984 my father and I were driving back roads somewhere east of Victorville in the California desert when he sprang a terrifying question on me. "Son," he asked, "do you want to serve a mission?"

I didn't know what to say. This was something I'd never been asked before, at least not in a way that betrayed any genuine interest in how I felt. I must have fielded that stock question hundred of times growing up, from relatives, family friends, and people at church, and the expected yes was always my reflexive answer. But the look on my father's face told me this time was different.

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The amp
First off, I must say that I made it home and back safely.

There was some debate about whether or not this month's Tuesday Funk reading would even happen, what with the blizzard and all going on here in Chicago. Hopleaf's opinion was that snow doesn't tend to keep audiences away as much as rain does, so we should go ahead and do it.

And I have to say, they were right. At least in a sense.

With so much snow predicted to fall, I didn't want to take the car over to Clark Street, so I tied our bass amp up tight inside two blue garbage bags, picked up the mike stand, and staggered the (according to Google Maps) 0.8 miles from my house to Hopleaf, with the frigid wind blowing in my face most of the way. I stopped to rest once in the lee of an alley just about sixty feet from Ashland Avenue when I felt like I couldn't continue. After a couple of minutes, the final stretch no longer seemed so daunting, and soon enough I was warm inside Hopleaf, setting up the speaker and mike and enjoying a Chimay our bartender provided free of charge.

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The bully's speech

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A couple of weeks ago, Laura and I bought tickets online for an evening showing of The King's Speech. We went out to dinner first but failed to leave ourselves enough time to get to the movie theater early. By the time we arrived, our theater was nearly full. We could have sat together in the front row or sat apart. Neither prospect appealed to us so we went to the box office and got a refund. We had to eat the $2.00 online ticketing fee, but it was our own fault for not getting there early enough for decent seats.

Last night we tried seeing The King's Speech again. This time we got to the theater a full hour early. This was probably overkill, but we did end up scoring ourselves the perfect spots, dead center two rows up in the stadium seating section.

Well before the previews started, we couldn't help but overhear an elderly couple bickering in the seats directly behind us. I rolled my eyes, hoping this wouldn't continue once the movie started.

The theater was filling up fast. Shortly after the old man excused himself to go buy popcorn or use the restroom or whatever, we heard a young woman asking the old woman if she would move over so she and her husband could sit together.

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Targeting violent rhetoric

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A green light for gunmen?
It has come to my attention that a major American retail chain, in an orchestrated campaign to "take out" high prices, may be quietly encouraging violence in our cities and towns. I'm sure the perpetrators of this offense don't mean it that way, but what other message than an invitation to mayhem are the impressionable and unstable amongst us supposed to take from the sight of a local area map covered with red bull's-eye symbols?

I hereby call upon Target Corporation, in these times of hyper-vitriolic political rhetoric, to change their store-locator symbol to something less inflammatory. A nice, neutral asterisk, perhaps? Who could possibly object to that?

Please. It's for the good of the country.

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Under their skirts

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Under Their Skirts
The sidewalk trees drop
their skirts of dirty snow
for a silver-tongued winter rain,
exposing a careless mulch of cigarettes butts,
not to mention the occasional dog turd
and chicken bone.

Nothing better to do, trees,
than eat, shit, and smoke
as you wait at the curb
to be picked up by spring?

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The tissue at hand

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Having finished the first draft of a novel a few months back, I am now slowly but surely whittling my memoir, The Accidental Terrorist, down to its fighting weight. This means chopping out certain scenes I'm very fond of, but which don't fit the focus and tone of the revised manuscript.

Here's one of those scenes I'm sorry to see go, surgically excised and preserved under glass for your inspection.


October 1986

"You want to see my what?" said Elder Vickers, assuming that expression of shock and disgust he feigned so well.

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And your little Terriers, too!

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Dear FX Networks:

I've never before been moved to write a television network to express my love for a program that has struggled in its ratings, but that's exactly what I'm doing now. There are few shows I've ever come to love so quickly and fiercely as I love Terriers. I hope you'll renew it and give this compelling, idiosyncratic show a chance to find a wider audience.

You know, of course, that the writing and directing on Terriers is top-notch. The show is brisk and involving, witty and suspenseful. (In what was probably my favorite single episode, "Agua Caliente," the suspense was excruciating.) At the outset of the series, I assumed I was watching nothing more than an unusually good PI drama with snappy dialogue. It wasn't long, though, before I realized how attached I had become to the characters, and what an emotional stake I had in their problems, both personal and professional.

This points out that no matter how good the talent behind the cameras, the show would be nothing without great acting, which is exactly what Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James deliver in every episode. They're tough when they have to be, they desperately try to be as smart as they need to be, but they never fail to exude warmth and charm and vulnerability. Their friendship is one of the most natural-seeming I've seen on television, which only makes the ordeals they endure all the more devastating. Donal Logue, in particular, has never been better.

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Floppy puppy

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Between five and six this morning, I had a pretty awful dream. I was somehow in a big grungy rusty white panel van with my family, who I guess were visiting town. Except it wasn't my family as it exists now. It was my parents circa the mid-seventies and my four youngest brothers and sisters circa the mid-eighties. My three other siblings were not around, but for some reason I was being forced to go to church with the family—a stake conference, to be precise. I didn't want to go, but there didn't seem to be a way out, and as we parked in gray dusk light near the church I realized angrily that I was going to miss meeting my friend Kevin that evening for beer (which is actually on my schedule for tonight).

The church was a strange one inside, with a chapel that was much wider than it was long, and with the congregation seated on rising auditorium-style benches looking down at the pulpit. The only door in or out was in the corner behind and to the left of the pulpit, so if I tried to leave everyone would see. As I tried to work up my courage to leave, I realized that I wasn't wearing Sunday clothes like the rest of the family. I had on white shorts and a black T-shirt with something printed on it. (Probably something obscene, I don't know.) Feeling hideously exposed, I turned to my parents and loudly announced that I was leaving and they couldn't stop me.

Outside the church, I found Ella on the porch leaning against the wall beside the door. Apparently she'd been in the van and someone had left it open. Anger surged inside me. Ella was very groggy and didn't even lick me as I picked her up and cradled her in my arms. She flopped bonelessly, like a rag doll, and somehow I knew she'd been hit by a car that pulverized her skeleton. I kicked open the door to the church and strode into the chapel bearing my dog like an accusation. "You did this to her!" I screamed.

That's when I woke up.

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Mixed signals

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So Laura and I met up after work down in Wicker Park, so we could each buy some jeans at the Levi's Store. Sadly, we left the store jeanless. (Well, I did still have on the ones I wore in.) I should have remembered this, but the Levi's Store only stocks sizes suitable for pipe-cleaner people, because of course there is no such thing as a tubby hipster.

The scales were somewhat balanced, though, by:

  • the man who crossed the street while Laura was waiting for me in front of the store to tell her how strikingly beautiful she was and how lucky her husband was.
  • the hostess at Piece Brewery and Pizzeria who carded us both.
  • the waitress who told me how cool my glasses were.
  • the drunk who apologetically addressed me as "young man" after not bumping into me (though he seemed convinced he had).
So all in all, last night was a push. And there was pizza and beer.

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