Day 165: Develop your very own eccentricity!

In other words: become a hipster.

The problem is that this is a game that never ends. This dude wears crayons in his beard: for a while, he’s the only one — because it looks fucking stupid — and so he gets hipster cred for being the only one. But people see him, and people talk about him, and soon there are others: not people in his circle, but people who are strangers or, at best, very tenuously connected. For a while, each of them gets hipster points for the crayons-in-the-beard thing, though the above dude, as the “OCBG” (“original crayon-beard gangsta”), gets the most hipster points.

Then a terrible thing happens: a critical mass of crayon-bearded hipsters is reached, and suddenly it’s “mainstream.” There are a variety of factors that determine the critical mass: the size of the community, the geographical area in question, the rate of spread of the eccentricity, how quickly it is possible to “fake” the eccentricity (in this case, with handmade felt fake beards with old-school crayolas in them), the first appearance of the eccentricity on You Tube, &c, &c.

Once the critical mass is reached, however, there is no going back, and the originator(s) and early adopters will drop the eccentricity faster than Julia Roberts dropped Lyle Lovett. Some may go so far as to shave their beards completely. Then they have to do something new, like bring back the penny-farthing. Or, at this point, the velocipide.

The only way to win this game is to not play, to strip oneself of all affectations and eccentricities. Of course, this is its own form of hipsterism, if done in a deliberate and conscious manner, with the goal of not being a hipster, which is why I’d be doing it.

My only option is to come up with something that most hipsters wouldn’t want to adopt, so that I can avoid the suddenly-fucking-everyone-has-crayons-in-their-beard problem: that something is manual labor.

Not just “manual labor” generally, but something specific, like laundry or deck construction or post removal. Everybody does laundry; deck construction takes too long; post removal is more work than I want to do, especially when the posts are in concrete. So I’m going to go into artisanal tree-trimming: to make it hipster I’ll be wearing cutoff shorts, too-small t-shirts, a fedora, and I’ll be drinking PBR out of a can, and I’m going to haul my tools — all of which I’ll acquire at thrift stores, garage sales, or on the side of the highway — on my xtracycle. I’m also only going to trim trees in small batches, whatever that means, though I’m going to charge a lot for it, probably twice what it would cost to hire actual professionals to do four times as much trimming.

Let’s see you do that, hipsters. Check and mate.

Day 138: Learn a new knot.

I’m not good at knots. I can tie my shoes, I can tie a square knot, and I can make some knot-shaped objects, but that’s the extent of my knot-tying abilities.

Or it was, until today. Today I doubled the amount of knots I know how to tie.

Before learning a new knot, I had to select a knot to learn – and, this being 2011, I went to Wikipedia and looked up ‘knots’. If I’d been at home when I was doing this, I might have looked in my Boy Scout Handbook, but I was in my office. (For the record: I was never a boy scout; I was a cub scout for one meeting, and then the troop vanished mysteriously, and that was that. But I do have the book, and I’m always prepared. Not clean, sober, thrifty, or reverent, though.)

I somehow landed on the “trucker’s hitch” page, which sounded good – where was this knot when I was trying to secure my new hot water heater a few weeks ago? – but which also turned out to be a category of knots, rather than a particular knot. I decided on the “Alpine butterfly knot” – because why not, dammit – which can be useful by itself, or in combination with a half-hitch or double-half-hitch.

The Alpine butterfly is actually pretty easy to do: two twists, a fold, another fold, a pull, and BAM! a knot. I practiced in my office, in the dark. A woman I don’t know walked past, looking pleasantly lost. She gave me the briefest of “what the fuck are you doing” looks, and I gave her back my best “tying knots in one’s office in the dark is totally normal, alright?” looks back. Then I closed my door.

I didn’t actually get to use the knot today: nothing appeared that said “tie me with an Alpine butterfly knot!” It must knot not have looked enough like a hammer to me, because I saw no nails.

So, that’s that. Today’s lesson? Learning a useful skill = boring blog post.

Day 103: Cleanse your bowels today.

WARNING: This post is fairly graphic, even by the standards of this blog. It’s about enemas – self-administered enemas, at that – and will therefore involve the sorts of things that enemas involve. If you don’t want to read about it, now is the time to turn away and pretend I just didn’t write a post today.

We have one of those showerheads that’s at the end of a long-ish hose, the kind that is great for washing one’s feet off when one steps in dog shit, and for washing the dogs just because they hate it and one is mad because one stepped in their shit, and for spraying one’s spouse when said spouse laughs at the whole dogs-and-shit-and-dirty-feet ordeal.

The Book’s self-enema instructions require such a showerhead – or, rather, they require the hose. I unscrewed the showerhead part, greased up the hose, and – per the Book’s instructions – inserted it into my anus. Then I turned the water on.

I realized, almost instantly, that I’d forgotten to get the water to a comfortable temperature first – and almost as instantly turned the water off and removed the hose (a bit too quickly) – but I still learned what it feels like to have very cold water in one’s large intestine. Unpleasant, if you were curious.

So: got the water warm, but not hot; turned it off again; reinserted the hose; turned the water back on; allowed my bowels to fill with water. Thought: why the fuck am I doing this?

The Book recommends holding the water in for fifteen minutes before “letting it flow out” – sounds so natural and gentle, right? – but I wasn’t sure I could make it that long. I wanted to try, certainly, but I also wanted to be prepared for the worst – and so, after filling my colon with water, I stood naked in the bathtub, a timer running on my phone, ready to move to the toilet in a deliberate-but-not-hasty way when the time came.

The five-minute mark rolled by; I felt pretty good – well, physically I felt somewhat uncomfortable, and a bit like Steve Martin in LA Story – but I felt good in the sense that I thought I was going to make it a full fifteen minutes with a gallon of water in my gut. Why I felt good about that, I have no idea.

Then— well, then bad things happened. I was having to work – not hard, mind you, but keeping all that water in required some focus and some muscle control – and then something distracted me. I don’t know what; a noise in another part of the house, a dog barking, a car backfiring. It barely registered, but it broke my concentration just enough that I lost control of my sphincter.

Well, you can guess what happened: water and shit came gushing out of my asshole, all over my legs, all over the bathtub. More shit-water than I thought possible. Gallons and gallons of shit-water. My asshole produced a veritable Niagara Falls of shit-water. I ought to be dead, I lost so much fluid. Fluid mixed with shit, that is.

I stood there in shock for a bit. Half an hour, maybe, covered from the ass down in shit-water.

Then I reattached the showerhead and started cleaning myself and the bathtub. Used a lot of soap, most of a gallon of bleach, some garlic. Eventually I felt clean, sort of. Physically clean, yes; mentally, emotionally, not so much.

That shit-water is going to haunt my dreams.

Day 83: Demonstrate the arbitrariness of human timekeeping.

The Book wants me to do this by calling a friend “across an ocean” and disturbing their sleep. There are, however, two problems with this—

—I always find a way to have problems with the tasks, I know, but that’s what makes this fun, so just deal with it—

—the first problem being that I have no friends across any oceans, and the second being that I don’t like to talk on the phone. Fortunately, there’s another way for me to “demonstrate the arbitrariness of human timekeeping” – Daylight Saving Time, which started while it was still winter this year.

I hate Daylight Saving Time. I hate it with the fire of a thousand suns. I hate it with a hatred that precedes reason, though I think there are valid reasons to dislike – though probably not to hate – DST.

I used to decry DST precisely for its arbitrariness, for the casual way in which we decide – or go along with the decision – to ignore solar time and do our own thing. I don’t mind the arbitrariness so much anymore, because our globalized world requires a bit of arbitrariness: clock noon and solar noon are only the same time in a narrow band of longitude in an given time zone, and there’s not really a workable way around that.

The primary reason I hate DST these days is that it’s a completely ineffective solution for the problems it purports to address. It’s like putting a band-aid on some dude’s toe when his wife is having a heart attack, and declaring the problem solved.

More hours of daylight leisure time is good, sure: more hours of leisure time, period, is even better. I have only my own experience and anecdotal evidence to support this, but I think that productivity in a lot of industries would go up if the number of hours an individual employee worked went down. I have a feeling that the average cubicle-dweller gets three hours of real work done in a given eight-hour day – less if the day is full of meetings – but that the same worker might get five hours of real work done in a five-hour day.

Such a solution, though, would require radical and fundamental changes to the values that drive our economy, and the first would be removing the economy from its primacy of place in our society: the pursuit of wealth is, I think, far more important to most people than life, liberty, and happiness – or, at least, we are constantly told that we ought to value material accumulation above all else, because material accumulation is what makes everything else (life, love, liberty, happiness) possible.

Another really important change would involve making it possible for more people to work at what they love, because that sort of work isn’t really work, in the sweaty-bitter-toil-and-anguish sort of way: it’s still labor, but a good and joyful sort of labor, even when its difficult. I work much more than 40 hours a week – but very little of it is unpleasant, and most of it is what I would do if I were independently wealthy (that is, read and write all the time).

More vacation time would be good, too: at most places, you’re lucky to get two weeks, and many people are forced to use that time during holidays. When I worked at Starbucks, which is fairly progressive for an American corporation, I had to use half my annually-allotted vacation time if I wanted more than a day off at Christmas (and I usually had to make the request six months in advance, because everyone wants time off at Christmas, and nobody gets any, because everybody else wants to go to fucking Starbucks or Wal-Mart or wherever on their holidays, &c &c – you can probably finish the rant on your own, and if you can’t, maybe you should try working a retail job for a few months).

It may seem that I’ve gotten a little off-track, but really I haven’t. We nonchalantly decide that, for nearly eight months of the year, noon should happen at 11 a.m. – and this nonchalance about time-keeping reveals a much deeper flaw in our attitudes toward time-spending. We – as a society, notwithstanding individual exceptions – we believe that our lives ought to be work and toil and accumulation, but never enjoyment. A moderate amount of work is not just necessary, but its own sort of good; but in work, as in so many things, we have such trouble with moderation.

My advice? Work less, live more, and don’t worry about having a glass of wine at 11 a.m., especially when the clock tells you it’s actually noon.

Day 74: Express your views today.

Holy flying fish fuckers, seriously? “Express my views?” Views about what? And why?

Look, I have no views. No opinions whatsoever. I have nothing to express, to anyone, about anything, for any reason, ever. I am completely neutral. I’m so neutral I make Switzerland look like the opinionated blowhard uncle nobody wants to sit next to at Thanksgiving. I would make a joke about how I’m more neutral than neutrons, but, honestly, I don’t understand neutrons enough to pull it off.

Obviously that’s not true. About having no views, I mean – I really couldn’t come up with an “I’m more neutral than a neutron” joke. I have lots of views, but I prefer not to express them – especially on the internet. There’s not much in the way of context, there’s no room for nuance, and text is completely toneless: irony, sarcasm, mock-seriousness, actual seriousness – they all sound the same on the internet.

You want some views? No, you don’t, not really, but here they are anyway. And they’re all steaming piles of horse-shit.

  • “A book should be constructed like a watch and sold like a sausage.”
  • “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”
  • “Nature violates its own kingdoms! Kings shave themselves!”
  • “I should to Plashy too, but time will not permit.”
  • “A sandwich can kill you.”
  • “Eventually technology will reach the point where this conversation makes perfect sense.”
  • “I just threw some bassoon on this muthafucka.”
  • “Who is the best at space? Riker.”
  • “I gave no shits, because I’m dead.”
  • “Obviously a strongly elongated penis is the solution.”
  • “Saturation Matching.”

See? Expressing your views is a complete waste of everyone’s time, and nobody should do it. Ever. Under any circumstances. I think my list proves that.

This is a picture of squirrels fighting; your opinions are invalid.

Day 53: Today, return all your junk mail.

I’m already doing something like this: my modification of Day 5 – which continues to occur, albeit sporadically, as we don’t get nearly as many credit-card offers as we used to. That bit of subversion only works with postage-paid envelopes, though, mostly because I’m too cheap to use a 44¢ stamp to “stick it to the man.”

«As an aside: I was browsing some comment thread or other over at reddit a few days ago, and someone mentioned sending those envelopes back with a few dozen pennies in them – because the postage is calculated by weight. Now, I’m too cheap to send pennies, but I bet I can find some small rocks. Also, I know I’m using the guillemets in a non-standard way, and I don’t care.»

So, I wrote “RETURN TO SENDER” on all the junk mail that came today – three pieces, none of which seemed likely to contain a postage-paid return envelope – and dropped them in the box with the water bill.

It felt … well, sort of pointless. Certainly more pointless than the “out of order” nonsense, which is already pretty pointless. In that case, I’m at least costing some giant corporation a tiny amount of money, and giving the openers of the envelopes the gift of a moment of absurdity – a chance to say “WTF?” before going back to the tedium of opening envelopes and processing whatever paperwork they contain.

But the junk mail that I’m “returning to sender” is just trash that isn’t being thrown away yet. For all I know, it might get thrown away at the post office – and I feel certain that none of it will make it past the mailroom of wherever I’ve sent it back. It will not land on someone’s desk; nobody will pull up some file with my name on it and note that I don’t want any more unsolicited pieces of trash (or that I want even more pieces of trash, which seems an equally likely response).

No, those envelopes and their contents will get thrown away without ever having been opened – I’m just doubling the amount of pointless work that has to happen before they end up in the trash, that’s all. Maybe I’m still costing the companies tiny amounts of money, maybe I’m helping drive the USPS a little closer toward total collapse. It doesn’t really matter; either way, this exercise in returning my junk mail has made me feel ashamed, and a little dirty – like you feel after you watch a Farrelly brothers movie.

I need a shower.