Category Archives: Blog

Mostly just curse words.

Gallagher

After an enormous absence, Leo Gallagher showed up in my life, two times in two weekends.

When I was young, I watched his specials whenever they were on TV and they were on all the fucking time. I watched him on flying machines and telling truths and making me and my folks laugh at the same time, at the same nonsensical things we all take for granted. He had this weight to him, he was serious but goofy, his words were true but funny.

As he wandered in to the Mt Tabor lounge to record the podcast, it was clear he still had it; like a switch he turned on and off or a livid puppet he could still operate.

The face would lock into Classic Gallagher and he’d do the wind up for a good one — Something fun like chairs if our legs bent the other way or a hilarious rejoinder about how good fudge is. (My 12 year old brain yearned for it) — and then he’d drop that face and he’d say something about how there’s two types of Mexicans, good ones and bad ones, and we have nothing but bad ones here.

Mostly it was depressing.

Part of me cringed, to see that fame and fortune don’t make you happy if you’re too smart for your own good. The grotesque reveal: if your brain is convinced you shouldn’t be happy; moreover that humans shouldn’t be happy — you won’t be, and others joy will only bring you pain. Part of me wished he could be happy playing with the puppies one last time, which is what everybody but Gallagher himself was ready to let happen. Part of me cringed when he broke, too stoned to follow his own thread or too bored with his invective to care, to shamelessly promote one or the other of his idiotic patent troll plans. And part of me just tuned out because it became obvious that when he says something deep he’s just trying to butter you up to sell you watered down race bait, convince you to buy his pseudointellectual babble, or obliquely ask you to give him drugs on the street when you see him.

He was full of memorable quotes, and I’m sure there’s tons of discussion about the brown folks talk but he also said that humor was taking something that other people like and smashing it. By that measure, he killed. He smashed my opinion of what it was to be the smartest kid in the room. He smashed my innocent belief that he wasn’t a racist. In fact it forced me to realize I only thought he wasn’t because I’d seen Gallagher, Stevie Wonder, and Gordon from Sesame Street in tight offwhite bellbottoms, so clearly they were in cahoots. The rending of my youthful optimism about race in America, laff riot.

I worried about him for a minute, I read he was broke. And then I read he wasn’t really broke he was just getting a lot of traffic tickets in California and so he was avoiding his houses. But the article has another notable quote.

“I see things on the side of the road, which, of course, I’d never see if I just drove by. And I pick up these things, because, to me, it tells me about the society, and I find parts of cars and they’re important parts—and I wonder how the car is driving without that part now. It just seems odd to me.”

When I read it last year I heard it in the old Gallagher voice and my heart went out to the brave spirit speaking that truth. And now I know that he was just trying to sell some plan or idea and I wonder what it is. I wish he’d just come out and say it. Is it you Gallagher? Are you the important part that has fallen out of our societal vehicle, the pitman arm or the tie rod end all abandoned on the side of the road? Should we hit the brakes and swing back around for you, dust you off and install you back where you belong?

That’s not how it works man. When something breaks and falls off your car in the real world, you call one of those unmentionable brown folks and have em’ tow your car to a yard, where they replace it with a shiny new one.

Maybe one that isn’t as racist.

Apocalypse Denied

I guess I was kinda hoping the Mayans were right. Or at least the tabloid New Age version I’d grown up with. Some “far off” date in 2012 would occur and life would end. “Deal”, I thought. “I can do ’til 2012 standing on my head.”

Fall 2012. It was finally happening, I actually got a little excited, but I played it cool. I consciously ignored the news stories about it, the Facebook discussions. I consciously chose to ignore the date as it came up, dismissing any discussion about it. I didn’t look it up or mark it on my calendar. I didn’t want to jinx it, like if I accidentally talked too much about it, it might not happen. But most importantly I wanted to be genuinely surprised. The full apocalypse experience.

But in the darkest part of my stupid little heart, I thought one day I’d get on the bus to head to work, and while I stared aimlessly off the Parkrose Max platform, there’d be a funny smell, or maybe a startling noise. Each earthly ear deafened as every living throat shrieks simultaneously. A livid, howling meatpipe organ of agony, wavering higher and higher as the thousand layers of the blessed veil are ripped from our eternal eyes. My gaze would fall upon the workbooks of a construction laborer, caked with that funny extruded swirl slurry of concrete thin set and silty mud that always reminds me of dying ferns or the filigree on some Victorian sconce work and then I’d have the futile, thrashing fugue of worry about our foolish small world for the last time. My human eyes would weep and melt and smolder, and it wouldn’t even merit screaming through my flaming beard about, for All would Know/See/Hear the 12th Bak t’un was at an end and there would be no more need for calendars or eyes to see them. The time of man and trains and Parkroses would be over. The winter felt bleak enough, the summer short enough, the re-election of Barack ‘R/C Hunting Enthusiast’ Obama hollow enough. Every nut bag in the world out there collecting guns for their ‘big statement shooting’. Fracking? Fracking and flaring? Are you fucking with me. Fall 2012 just had that Apocalypse feeling to it. I thought maybe we had a goer.

And now I’m pruning my apple tree, and cleaning unfrozen dog turds, and pulling out new blackberry from the cursed rock pile in the corner. I even had to clean out the fridge the other day. No miscarried souls in there to drag my unwashed heartfeather to limbo for the big tally, no locusts eating my bread butts, no ichorous grubs fouling my greens; just that gross old chicken juice smell. Bz’cht* the UnPronounceable hasn’t rent from the Heavenly Crystal realm into ours to see what chaos the poison Ego has wrought on Gaia’s juices and gargle its foul fermentation, and frankly it’s February. This is well past tardy and deeply into “being stood up”.

Maybe we all have to live after the rapture.

Maybe it happened, Jesus or Quetz’al or the turtle we all live on the back of came back – just popped in all cool to see how those sick ass monumental, healing teachings they left us with were working out, “POP QUIZ HOT SHOT”, and we were all so distracted by steam whistles or vacuum tubes or our own polyp filled assholes that They couldn’t find anybody who would even pay attention. Crawled out of a cave way out in the middle of the Australian outback on the top of a pile of rocks on the vernal equinox just like all the signs said, like what it told _everybody_ to write down, and the only one present to celebrate was a wild dog who was so scared it threw up, but was so hungry it immediately ate the throwup and skulked away. Cruised up into the stratosphere to figure out what was such a big deal we couldn’t even remember to show up for the big soul weighing mid-term rally, and couldn’t make sense of our jibbering at all. We were busy making shit we didn’t need and trying to sell it to each other in bulk and shitting and shrieking and swatting at each other so noisily that we were unrecognizable as civilized mature organisms. The dominant primate horde little more than an infestation of children, swaddled in shit and money and secrets and hysteria enslaving each other in increasingly small loops with shiny stones and sharp swords. Feral. Unsalvageable. So It-What-Taught just left us in our mess, chuckling darkly as it slid back to the Realm Immemorial.

“Good luck with that 3D printing stuff guys. Sounds great!”

Spring Break

The Spring Break mentality.

That’s what I’m calling it now, I’m not really quite sure if that’s the best name for it. A work in progress.

I don’t think it really started during elementary school for me, but at some point as I was transitioning between childhood and “life after”, I learned that the best way to deal with something horrible happening was to put your head down and wait for it to end. If you waited long enough, a respite period began, and the sweetness of that relief would be so monumental and complete, it would wash the dreariness of this bad shit away. It worked with so many things, in the short term, things would be awful, bullies would be throwing my shit in the shower and pissing on it or somebody would be shooting an impromptu dart into the meat of my leg or the security guard would be harassing me for the fifteenth time because he “didn’t like how my eyes moved” when he asked me about shit, but at some point, all of these shitty people would just be gone and I’d be back in my cave again and everything would taste sweeter. Icy blue cans of Pepsi pulled one handed from a seemingly never-empty drawer in the bottom of the fridge simply tasted better, than tepid Coke bought from a flickering steel caged soda machine situated neatly between the redneck and chicano “free harassment” zones. Carrying my rented cello to the orchestra room past the wrestling gym, for example, was a higher stress proposition than dragging it down the hall to my bedroom, and playing it on the corner of my bed.

For me, Spring Break represented freedom from the world at large. I missed the school work, the schedule. Semesters, quarters, periods and penalties for being tardy, all of this made sense to me. On the first day back to school I’d wake up before my alarm, get ready and sometimes be at school when it was still early morning dim and I’d have to go hit the greenway and ride ten or fifteen miles to waste some time. But after a while, knowing that going to school meant “seeing other humans and the way they treat each other” ground me down. And soon I found myself with my head down, enduring, waiting for Spring Break. When I could wake up and look forward with great excitement to a day where, if I was really lucky, I wouldn’t see anybody my age for a whole week straight. Nobody. None of this confusion and constant fucking harassment and no weird “what do we do with you now” panic like summertime brought along, just a solid week, unmoored. The prospect is so catalyzing, I can barely eat (and in those days I could ALWAYS eat) and Friday before it begins, instead of hitting the snooze button for the fifth time, I’m waking up before my alarm again. The dusty red pink haze over the horizon lases first sunlight to the cicadas and me, jittering our enthusiasm for daybreak in the parking lot.

Waiting for relief works when the problem is too many days of teenage angst in a row, because as I now know, the only cure for being a teenager is to wait until you’re not one anymore, but in most other situations, sitting with your discomfort without a plan is failure by any other name.

I am tired of failure, regardless of how easy it is.

On guns, opinions, and assholes

Right now, there are a million people googling the names of the various rampage shooters we’ve had in this country this year, and the rampage shooters in other countries who have made the news this year. The searches want to know what school they went to, what their parents did, what he did on Facebook. Did he play violent video games? The unspoken question is – how could I tell if this guy were in my life. There has to be an obvious sign, right, nobody just picks up guns and kills people for no reason, there has to be some underlying motivation to make someone do something so unconscionable.

They aren’t even asking the right wrong questions. There’s not a school for psychopaths (aside from the quite arguable para-psychopathic military special forces), there’s not a specific thing that happens to you when you’re a kid and makes you think, “Hey shooting kids ain’t so bad, in fact… sounds fun.” But I can tell you this – there’s a specific thing that happens to you when you are a young man living in despair, and you see the grim specter of age and irrelevance marching toward you. Wealthy people experience this as a time of shaking off the old and exploring the new. People with no options, people who have lived for years and years in the same rut, they experience it like a fucking vise clamping down around their heads. Can’t do this anymore, can’t afford anything else, can’t stop time so maybe I should stop being me and start being a legend. Everybody remembers those names!

In short this is my bio for every American shooter. I don’t have the cultural awareness to make these generalizations about other countries killers but I can say without a doubt about the big hitters in America, 2012 – He was a lazy, privileged American asshole who couldn’t see past the end of his nose and wanted desperately to have a legacy. Just like every rampage shooter, he was a young man whose hepecker and gutsjuice were telling him he was about to become forever irrelevant and he better do something about it _soon_. Guns load up real quick and it only takes a few minutes to drive to the mall. Having been sold all-in-one lifefixes and get rich quick schemes his whole life, he saw the absolute shortest shortcut one-step-plan to people remembering his face and decided to give that a try, because if it ain’t easy then fuck it it’s not worth doing. He was first and foremost an asshole, who spent his life tricking the small and dwindling number of close friends around him into thinking he was fine because he was afraid to ask for help, and once he finally felt alienated enough, he was self-justified into his nihilistic suicide drama. A lazy asshole coward who has conned the television set into paying attention to him, at long last.

Do yourself a favor – Turn off that search box, take that picture of him off your screen and stop searching the face to find violence in it. It’s like staring at the Dali Lama to try to see God or sifting the Pope’s shit to foretell the weather, it just doesn’t work that way.

Update: Dart

No pictures, no video, just a quick and dirty memory dump about today.

First memorable and important fucking thing – Aaron is not a special boy born in the sun who never ever has to follow the rules. That’s simply not the case. Never, ever is.

I failed in a lot of ways to get this motor swap done in a reasonable amount of time. Between getting discouraged (more writing about that later, because it’s been pretty difficult to fight and enlightening to overcome) and simply trusting that any amount of reading would make up for even a minute of doing has left me without my car for months, and feeling despair a few times along the way.

The short version, for all of you who don’t want to read boring technobabble? ALWAYS DO YOUR FUCKING PRE-START CHECKLIST. ALL OF IT. FROM THE START TO THE FUCKING END. CHECK THE OIL PRESSURE VERIFY YOUR JACK STANDS ARE SQUARE AND KICK YOUR TIRE CHOCKS ALL OF IT AND DONT SKIP SHIT LIKE MAKING SURE YOU TIMED THE ENGINE RIGHT BECAUSE YOU WILL FEEL LIKE A DICKHEAD LATER.

It roared to life, it came to temp, I was just getting ready to diddle with some carb settings on my SWANK ASS new carb (Barry Grant Street Demon, more about this fucking GREAT little guy later) and Nathan heard it burbling, but just as he came out the horrible stamped thermostat neck began to spray hot water all over the engine and I had to shut it down. But it runs, praise Doctor SpaceJesus, thanks to following the fucking instructions and erring on the side of doing more doing instead of more thinking.

So, without further adieu, the full list of caveats for a Mopar LA 318 to Magnum 5.9 Swap are:

Oil Pan – Buy a LA 360 car oil pan if you have a car, and use the Magnum one piece oil pan gasket. This will cause two 3/8″x1/2″ voids in the corners where the LA pan expects the U-channel locators but I just used those holes as injection points for some silicone, left the pan not-quite tightened down until it set, and then torqued the pan gaskets, It’s a low pressure area and the one piece gasket actually has a little skirt that covers most of the void from the inside, so this is one of those “good enough” fixes. If you have a truck you can probably use the cool awesome donor pan with the good gasket and no goop. Or if you are a fancy man you can graft the corners from the magnum pan onto your LA pan.

Motor Mount – The drivers side motor mount for the 318 is different (wider), you can make up the gap with two high grade “thick” washers, give or take a thin one.

Transmission Brace – The drivers side transmission bellhousing brace (which runs from a lug on the block just ahead of the starter to a hole in the bellhousing clocked further down from the lower starter bolt) is not the right length. The 5.9’s mounting point is several inches closer to the front of the vehicle. I haven’t found a fix for this yet. Presumably a 360 car or maybe a brace from a magnum truck, have to hit the J/Y with a ruler.

Induction – Carb or FI? FI is a second-stage type project for me, I wanted something that would get me on the road quickly without having too steep of a learning curve, so I went carb. There’s a few manifolds, I couldn’t get a Crosswind (RPM Air Gap knockoff) so I got an RPM Air Gap. It’s… pretty sweet actually, Edelbrock makes a nice fuckin’ manifold. I need to do some plumbing for PCV and the booster and stuff but there’s plenty of holes there. The big under-hole thing is a terrible crap catch and makes the top of the motor look slobby when you have coolant leaks. Which you will. Because: thermostat housing.

Throttle Cable and Kickdown – Regardless of induction you will be on your own for throttle cable mounting. There’s a lot of options like OEM cables in custom bracket options (Bouchillon again) and modding the LA 4bbl stuff (bring your hammers and torches because it’s pretty crude shit), but after all the hemming and hawing, I went to these Lokar cables. Cheap enough and work good, which I guess is why they’ve been around for a zillion years since the grandpas cars. My new carb has a slightly different mounting bolt to throttle/kickdown linkage measurement than a standard holley type, I may order a new one, since I can see that the cables are about a half inch out of line at max adjustment on the Lokar generic bracket.

Thermostat Housing – The thermostat housing on the RPM Air Gap, at least, is not a standard LA size housing, it’s a “Late” design. You can cut down the donor neck (which is like 90000 miles long) and use it, or you can source one for an 80’s Dodge V8 car. Like a Diplomat with a 5.2LA in it or something. They are shitty, horrible stamped steel, and will require liberal siliconing (or in my situation, re-re-siliconing again again), for the most part. I am still looking for a cast aluminum diplomat water neck. I have seen a picture of one but never found out what the manufacturer was. Still looking, might be another junkyard find, so far all the LPS parts have been stamped steel.

Radiator Hoses – Ho hum. You swapped a motor, now you have to pay the piper by dealing with flex-hose until you can spend an hour in the back of your local parts store to figure out some that will work.

Starter – While the LA starter will fit without any grinding or changes, it’s huge – stupid huge, requires you to drop the suspension and exhaust every time you touch it and is woefully out of date. Ironically the mini starter which is stock to the donor vehicle probably won’t fit. There’s this big lug, just above the oil pan gasket, drivers side, rear, has a plug driven in through the bottom, that needs grinding, maybe a touch more than 1/8″ across it’s radius. Difficult to describe, if you have it in the stand, find the lug (I’ll do a diagram later) and just flatten out it’s radius to a 45 degree bevel instead. If it still don’t fit, it is easy enough to do in the car, as long as you have eye protection and an air grinder/electric die grinder of >dremel tool class. You could do it in place with a dremel but you’ll be there, arms over face, shooting sparks into what you laughingly refer to as your hairline basically forever. With a big die grinder it’s a 5 minute job and 2 minutes is finding your ear plugs. I made a very big deal of this and it set me back many hours of work for my stubborn headed laziness installing, then pulling that ridiculous greasy LA starter after it failed one crank in. This amounted for hours spent on my back in the mud versus five minutes thinking about it rationally while the motor was on the stand. Don’t be like me America, the mini starter whips the motor over effortlessly, well worth the effort.

Timing Cover – This is where you make a big choice. If you keep the magnum timing cover, that lets you keep the magnum serpentine setup. It’s cool, if you want all accessories, that’s awesome. If you got a truck donor motor the power steering pump will be in the middle of your battery box, so be prepared to make some major car mods if you want to keep the serpentine. If you put on an LA timing cover you can’t use any of the magnum accessories at all, except maybe kinda sorta you can mod the alternator and use it but it’s not a great solution (gets close to the block on the output stud). If you’re using an LA timing cover, and using a stock Magnum cam, or a cam ground on a stock magnum core, with no provision for the fuel pump eccentric, Bouchillon makes a cam snout extension. It took mine a silly amount of time to get here for what amounts to a little machined spacer but it works perfectly. If you don’t give a crap and plan to run an electric fuel pump anyways then you can skip this and save yourself a few weeks of waiting on parts and some money. Regardless, do the seal on the cover while you have it out. It’s easy and always worth it.

Harmonic Balancer – If you’re using the stock serpentine setup, you’re fine! Just use the donor one, install the seal saver that came with your timing cover seal kit (you did your timing cover seal right). If you are using any other type of belt system, get ready to throw that guy in the garbage. It’s all cast as one and not worth it. Professional Products makes one that has a replaceable weight that can be set for LA 318, LA360, and Magnum, it’s pretty cheap, SFI approved, and just has a regular LA style bolt pattern, so you can use your 318 pulley, any aftermarket serpentine pulley system, any aftermarket billet pulleys, etc.

Magnum Crank Sensor – There’s a crank position sensor that hangs off the back of the block. You can either clearance your bellhousing for it with a grinder, or unbolt it and plug the bolt holes (or not). Obviously if you are retrofitting the stock EFI you need to clearance it or figure out a different way to get that signal from the engine. I unbolted. If and when I go EFI I’ll use an EDIS type wheel mounted on the front of the engine instead.

Flexplate – If your 5.9 magnum has a weighted flexplate you are good to go, you oval one hole to bolt your LA torque converter to and scoot. I lucked out. There’s a big tone ring for the EFI but it doesn’t interfere with anything when you bolt it all together. If you have a neutral flexplate with weights on the torque converter (afaik neutral flexplates are limited to “early” magnums, 92-94), you either have to source a weighted magnum flexplate and modify as above, find a specialty B&M flexplate weighted for the magnum with a neutral converter, modify a neutral balance converter with mopar performance weld-on weights, buy a custom converter with the right balance, or devise an as to yet unknown method for transmitting power between a motor and a transmission, superior to all before it in every way. Who am I to limit your options.

Air Cleaner – Obviously I’m way off stock here so I can’t reuse anything, and my carb choice makes it even less tested. I think that a stock Mopar dual snorkel would clear the hood on top of this manifold/carb combo but I’m not sure. I bought this and the drop (they claim 1.18″ which sounds right) is just a touch too much, it hits the electric choke on the Street Demon. But I mean just a touch like I think a double gasket under the air cleaner base might do it. The issue is even after this clears I have fears about the 3″ element clearning the under hood, I need to do a clay test.

Valve Covers – The donor valve covers have one totally normal PCV and one weirdball breather thing you’ll have to pry out and replace. They have a nice screw in oil fill hole in em and they have real nice gaskets. There are Mopar Performance and Edelbrock aftermarket parts that fit as well. I believe I’m going to be installing a regular old breather on the passenger side with the cap and the PCV on the drivers side going to a barb on the back of the carb.

Exhaust – Anything that bolted to an LA motor and fit in your LA car will bolt to this motor and fit in your LA car. I am using the stock LA manifolds and they fit great.

Goldfish update: DIY LED lights

The hex tank was quite lovely with my single bright Marineland led strip, but it was definitely not bright enough to grow plants (not that these fuckers won’t just eat em all anyways but I want to try). Worse, the extreme depth of the tank means that in order to grow anything I need a very high lumen output. I priced out several options that would supposedly give me enough light – metal halide, halogen, power compact fluorescent, t5 ho, and all were ridiculous in their own way. MH and Halogen are expensive, hot, and eats electricity. T5 is great but there are not a lot of fixtures aimed at <20" width. Power compact would require a ludicrous number of bulbs to get enough light. Then, I remembered my old issue with the track lights in the house. They all took $10 apiece 35 watt halogen spotlights. They were burning out 2-3 per room a month and getting real spendy to keep up. I took a big chance on some Chinese 4x1W LED replacement bulbs and they are AWESOME. Not one has failed in over a year of service and while the light is certainly very cold, they're bright as fuck. So I tore down the old fluorescent hood fixture, drilled a piece of 3/4" aluminum flat to mount inside its housing, and then fitted four GU10 bases, each with a 110v 3x3W 6500k lamp. The result? Stunning bright light all the way to the gravel. Fish look brighter, plants (and algae) exploding with new growth. Once I build my new top, I plan on building a hex shaped 7 lamp fixture (which will allow me to grow anything I want to). I also ordered two 10w LED floods (also 6500k) for the 10 gallon. I'm totally sold on LED lighting, BTW. 20120707-170518.jpg

Magnum Swap Facts

  1. The serpentine belt system will not fit in your A body. The power steering pump will sit in the middle of your battery tray and there’s no effective way to reroute it.
  2. Just get the Hughes Engines magnum snout extension (or a cam ground on an LA core so it has the extension already). Be prepared for this to take a few weeks and you bothering them because you’re dealing with an American company and by definition they do not understand “urgency” or “communication”.
  3. Don’t buy a mini starter. It hits some block lug and it’ll make you real mad.
  4. The heads are cracked between the seats on at least one cylinder per side. Just order some new ones now.
  5. Get the gasket set for your magnum donor, the gaskets are like 900% better than the crappy ones they sell you for an old LA block.
  6. Maybe just rebuild your LA engine. Have you thought about that long and hard?
  7. The intake manifold bolts being vertical means that they can’t be torqued down as much. Make sure you’re gentle with them.

That’s it so far. Very slow progress overall but I’m trying to get out there and chunk away at it. Hopefully I’ll have way more radical news next time.

Me Goldfish

So, it’s a fairly dumb story about why I have goldfish now but I have goldfish now. I had a fishtank when I was young and was truly convinced that the guppies needed to be bathed, so I would catch them one or two lucky fish at a time in a dixie cup and take them to the sink to lather with some lovely gentle barbasol shave foam, and then I’d return them to the tank. I had a system.

Well luckily for these fish I grew out of my Preschool of Doctor Moreau period and they just get to have a regular fish house. Here it is, a lucky craigslist find that I resealed with silicone. It’s got a SunSun canister filter full of ceramic biomedia and floss, an aquatech HOB filter for additional filtration and polishing, and two very fat very messy fish. Jank Teef and Latrice Royale.

It’s surprisingly satisfying to stare at. As I am unable to enjoy anything sans tinkering, I have bought some GU10 bases and chinese 6500k LED spotlights to build a custom grow light fixture for it, I should be able to grow all the way down to the substrate, and the fish should be able to support TONS Of plant life if I can get enough light on them.

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Being a faggot…

I’ve been called gay a lot.

When I was young, I had faggot written on my gym clothes a couple times. Been picked on on the school bus, been called a queer at clubs, sporting events. My dad sat me down and asked me if I was gay, after I came back from college. My mom, in her mom-ly way, asked plenty of times. Teachers. Dad sat me down again like twelve years after college and asked me again (lol srsly tho, does u has the homos). One memorable time I had it spit in my face at a lunch table, and when I chose to pay up and find a less phlegmatic place to eat my fries, two more folks threw their (pro) opinion in on the Great Gayness Debate. I mean, _I_ knew I liked looking at boobs, but when you’re a young virgin with zero sexperience, life is a confusing, terrifying haze of insecurity. After the accusations piled up and mounted in direction, I started to wonder. I mean, this was like some kind of social signalling, right? This many people can’t all agree on a thing without some kind of significance to their accusation. They could site all kinds of reasons I was a faggot, from drivin’ in the fashion of one to liking “their” type of music, my disdain of the cocaine-and-cheap-vodka-pressure-cooker rapeshed atmosphere of dance clubs, my lack of proper bro-upmanship to male friends who successfully cheated on their girlfriends (regardless of how hot the chick was – this earned me a “giant faggot” I think that’s like the difference between Assault and Aggravated Assault), my clothes, my “faggy eyes” and my “soft little gayboy face”. Even my love of books was a significant statistical point, and what did I have to balance all this? My insatiable lust for vagina? Hardly enough, it would seem, to balance over such a huge pile of obviously reasoned opinions.

Clearly we needed more data. I catalogued all my interactions as I entered the adult world. Again, more data, again, no solution to the equation. I just kept having to assess. Did I have frosted tips? OF COURSE I HAD FROSTED TIPS. IT WAS THE 90S YOU GUYS. Did I keep my hair neat? Yeah, my shit’s all curly and it looks greasy unless I do something with it. Was I fat? Duh. Was I introverted? Of course I was, I was constantly trying to figure out why I was straight when I was CLEARLY gay. Did I tip even the ugly lookin’ strippers at the strip club? YES, DID YOU NOT SEE THE CHEWED UP DROOPY HALF-TAN ORANGUTITTY HOMEGIRL JUST SHUCKED OUT HER FILTHY GREY K-MART NURSING BRA? THAT WOMAN HAS CHILDREN TO FEED. LIKE EIGHTY CHILDREN OR SOMETHING — OF COURSE I’M GONNA DROP A FIVE. IF SHE DANCES FOR TOO MANY MORE SONGS WITH ALL YOU CHOADS SCRATCHIN’ DICK WELL OFF THE RAIL, I MIGHT BE FORCED TO GO BUY HER A FUCKING BREAST PUMP AND SOME VITAMINS AND A BOOK ABOUT BECOMING A DENTAL HYGIENTIST. I neither fell in love with a stripper nor believed one was secretly in love with me. I didn’t think joining the Army would be that much fun, I hadn’t shot a gun, stolen money from my parents, vandalized the school to stick it to the man, nor snuck out late at night to meet up with my “boys”, I’ve _still_ never caught a fish. I shouldn’t have to point here that Team Hetero is losing the numbers war in a big way, and I could keep on these completely un-straight facts about myself for seven more rambling pages, but you can relax, I won’t.

It took years of gathering this data and taking it to heart, amassing such a huge wide catalog of reasons I’m a faggot that it bordered on silly, accepting that there was simply something wrong with me that for whatever reason I couldn’t quantify. I accepted my faggotry. Over the years I toyed around with things. Had some awkward threesome makeouts with some very lovely couples. I called myself “Bi” in college. Maybe it was because I was confused, maybe it was because I wanted to be. Bisexual is still sexual, and that’s better than asexual faggot. Obviously the chicks weren’t diggin’ my whole faggy “situation” as outlined above, and while I still wanted to stick my weiner in THEM, many of them seemed quite convinced that I was looking for a penis to stick in me.

And so it went, for years and years. I dated, mostly online, I found people who were willing to talk to me despite my fagginess. I found women to date, and people to talk to. And I stopped trying to correlate other people’s “data” to my reality. It turns out that’s not healthy, you can’t try to live for others perceptions, and you can’t try to live for their validation. And back when I was trying to balance the sheets on my sexual preferences considering outside sources as valid as my own opinions? Every single accusation was terrifying, every time my dick was called to doubt it slayed my confidence and my mood. Now that I know better? I just look at the hater who is spitting his hate, and think, “Bitch, I know I’m fabulous! That homo hate? Old and busted. You need to upgrade your haterade to something fresh.” And that’s what’s up.

It does get better, in part because as you get older the accusations of others have less impact, but mostly because you learn how to make it better. You learn how to weed out the assholes and let them live their miserable lives as far away from you as you can. You learn how to be you. I’m 33 now. All official. And I’ve finally learned how to be me without fear and without shame. It’s magnificent.

Advice columnist audition tape

I occasionally get asked for advice and really why would you ask me anything. Here is my response to this email.

PS I am totally moving another person to Portland even though you all told me to stop.

question… in general…

how do you feel about the following statement?:

“I fear I am entering into a new career market in which the creative class will fucking eat my dirty hack asshole alive and shit what’s left right down the river before I know what hits me.”

(disregard grammar, consider theme)

Well, that sentence is a natural paranoia/worry/fear manifesting as a chink in your artistic/professional self-opinion. There are literally dozens of very good reasons that it’s silly to think that about Portland, but they’re kinda complex to explain and very easy to just see, so I’ll ignore those and march forward into the “artistic/professional self-opinion” bit.

So, basically, leadership and true human “excellence” come from a very specific mental conditioning, it requires some intelligence combined with some humility in the early years, and then a very specific voice. God’s maybe, mom. A girl you think is hot or your priest, tells you that you’ve “got it, no sweat, you’re born to do this” and it emboldens you. You decide to DO SOMETHING in all caps don’t care what it is because that voice? It was right and you wanna hear it congratulate you when you’re done.

Now, that’s all fake. That never happens. What actually happens in that fleeting moment of inspiration is a stopwatch starts. That moment of actualization? It was a reset. Right at the moment? There’s only two voices in your head. Your own strong, familiar internal dialog, and the voice of someone who loves/fucks/titillates/nurtures you saying “You can do it”. And the stopwatch is now counting how long it takes for a voice of terminal doubt to get in there and jam up your shit.

For a depressingly large chunk of folks? THAT voice sounds just like Dad or Mom or themselves when they’re drunk and it just beats em’ before they even have a chance to think about what the “something” was. Afterglow is over and who gives a fuck what some stripper says anyways, fuck it. They’re done. Back to frappuccinos in the new reusable ultrachug with bonus drinkDiaper(tm) and trying to up the threadcount on the sheets.

If you make it all the way to “fucking around trying to think up what something to do is” without getting jammed, you’re now a doodler. You’re a tinkerer. You read a lot to try to get ideas or you learn how to run long distances or you get a job or you finish college or whatever. Stuff that’s easy to get into a track and push on gets completed. Things that are more free form tend to either not get finished or you run into obstacles. But you’re still young and nothing has stopped you yet and your great awesome young brain is just wet and hot with ideas, you’re soaking in em’! SOMETHING is in there just waiting to get out, as soon as you figure out what it is and how to do it.

So, if you manage to tinkerdoodle around enough and still not get upset and stop, and you get bored with all your hamster-wheel life progress meters, you develop some skills, and now you’re a journeyman. A person who can do. Not maybe SOMETHING in all caps but stuff, you can do stuff.

This is where almost all of the adults on the planet stop. They can do their oil changes and clear their toilets or they can take a pretty good wedding picture or they play guitar in a local band. They bake a wicked apple pie or they write a pretty good essay. They still dream a little, but they have enough “life lessons” that the voice of terminal doubt? It’s their own. And it comes in a cool breath of logic, yeah we’d all like to sing an aria at the Sydney Ampitheater but there’s a mortgage payment dummy! Or, in many cases, SOMETHING came to be. SOMETHING turned out to be a son, or hitting upper management or owning a muscle car just like the one in that movie except for the rusty muffler, and it just takes up the slack in any left over creative impulses. I’d write a symphony but Die Hard is on and that’s my favorite nap movie.

And then all that’s left are the artists, craftspeople, psychopaths, the sociopaths. These three groups have something unique inside them that tells them that they need to DO SOMETHING REAL BECAUSE THE REST OF THIS SHIT IS FAKE. Artists feel the whole sentence. Craftspeople hear “Do something real”. Sociopaths get “the rest of this shit is fake”. Psychopaths get “DO SHIT”. They’re intelligent enough to be bored by their station, have successfully avoided or defused internal doubt and external judgment, and the drudgery of day to day existence hasn’t curbed their intense need to externalize their singular vision. They’ve developed their skills through long practice and have developed exquisite “taste” in their particular fields of interest. This is where Rick Perry lives, and Churchill, Ted Bundy, Pablo Piccasso, Paris Hilton, Charlie Sheen. It’s where genius and madness are stranded with each other when the masses return to rest. Which is unfortunately why you’re running into so many dickholes.

But I digress — there’s nothing to be gained from _thinking_ that sentence, unless you wanna go think it to you at… fourteen? That’s a “terminal doubt” of the kind that can only work when it’s integrated early. It’s an ineffective deterrent thought-scourge that you ran over your ego dozens of times like some kind of purification rite and it’s silly. You’re past that. It’s an emotional
damage-control device you’re using to preemptively prepare yourself for failure and it’s the sort of shit I do all the time. I do it less now. Because I recognize that forcing myself to a psychological low before starting a project is counter productive, the “net happiness” from a situation where I forced myself to live out every variety of failure before starting is a low gain proposition if I succeed wildly, and in every other case is a stone cold bummer followed by a halfass payoff. It’s a weak type of magic spell that you learn when you’re young and have no other use for all that beautiful brain that god gave you, like a really shitty computer program that just pulls up the pictures on your SD cards where it thinks you look “extra fat”, it does it very slowly, turns on all your fans while it does it, and when you agree that the picture is bad, it doesn’t do anything with it, it just finds another one to show you. Sometimes it just shows you the same one over and over for hours until you agree you look fat in it.

Quit doing it. Or, do it alllllll right in a big ass pile. Say it out loud to yourself, say it in words so you have to hear it. Say “I’m a fraud and a fake and nobody believes in me and I’m gonna fail.” say it in the mirror and cry about it, cry over all that wasted effort you gave to projects that went nowhere and mourn the innocent youthful you who squandered so many opportunities. Do it all the way out. If you have a relationship with god? Talk to him about it. Or just talk to somebody dead about it, it doesn’t matter, pick somebody who can hear you, and who most of all can effortlessly understand the emotions which are forming your words, and talk to them. Have that out. Get real stoned. Make fun of yourself. But only do this doubting out loud. ONLY do it out loud. Don’t write it, don’t let yourself do it in the car in your head. If you’re in the car and you start having this desire to dig down a sadness bunker to wait out the war? Talk it out. Talk to the radio guy. Talk to the commercials. No I do not care about five dollar foot longs all week mother fucker because I have a fucking problem here that you would not believe. Don’t let it live in your head. Because it’s a loop, it’s a computer virus, it’s like you looked at too many porn sites and eventually your computer starts running like shit (I mean a regular computer not your immunodepressedMac), and you need a reboot, but the brain doesn’t “do” that, so…

There’s a concept, in the new “cloud computing” paradigm, of having “tiered infrastructure”. Basically, you can run a whole computer and if part of the computer’s software is gonna be thrashing the hard drive, you can physically store that data on really fast memory, and all the boring text files and backgrounds on much less expensive, much slower hard drives. This is “tiered storage”, the hard drive looks like one big thing to the computer but it’s split up according to how fast we need access to it. I believe the human brain, having billions of years more R&D time, is like “tiered compute”. We have this big fancy new part, cerebral neocortex, which is capable of all kinds of neat “wide” processing. It can take really big ideas and think about them all at once, think about their relationships, we can hold dissimilar ideas and compare them. Then we have the paleocortex limbic system, which is just kinda “where the rubber meets the road”. It’s where we keep “what gunshots sound like” and “the sick feeling when you know you broke a limb”, and the fear of strangers. Interior logic fights, stuff that’s all hypothetical and never needs to interact with your sensor organs or limbs? The brain starts to run them as efficiently as it can, and the neocortex is waaaaay complicated and takes up a lot of kilocalories. Part of the brain’s survival-efficiency routine is to makes the loops smaller and smaller, and stuffs them further down the stack, if you can basically reduce a very complex argument to “you are dumb” and you iterate it often enough, the brain will try to just throw a “you are dumb” signal out from the limbic system on an interval to make you stop using the fancy part so much. So you get all the endocrine system triggers that come with feeling shamed/stupid on a regular tap and then it just lives as tension in your lower back forever. Forcing yourself to talk it out brings it back up to the fancy processing and lets you experience it fully, which will help the brain stop trying to simplify and automate it.

Here’s what you should be thinking about. How much stuff you can sell on Craigslist in the next three weeks, how to work the logistics of leaving and driving up, how many people you can find to take your lease. I have four days of vacation to use before the end of the year, two of them are yours if you need a copilot. Past that, it is in the chubby thick babyhands of Dr. SpaceJesus. Go have your freakout, take a nap, and then re-assess your to-do list when you’re done. It’s like jackin’ off before a date so you’re not all nervous.