Army of Fun

 

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Saturday, February 01, 2003

 
When I graduated from college in the early '90's I was desperate for a job in publishing. I applied for positions all over these United States, but I couldn't get one to save my life. So I started to look overseas and eventually landed a job at Grunters, a gay Australian hard-core porn mag. Now, I didn't recall applying to Grunters, but I was able to sort it all out with one phone call. It turned out that a resume I'd submitted to Life Down Under, a general interest magazine, had been circulated throughout its publishing empire which included a flourishing porn business. In addition to Grunters they also put out Going Down Under, featuring girl-on-girl action, Outback Nasty, featuring dusty trailer-park gangbangs, Arse Arsenal, featuring all flavors of ass-play, and several others. If it had been my choice I would have gone with Going Down Under, but it was Grunters that wanted me so Grunters it was.

Obviously, I had some qualms. I mean first off, it wasn't even an editorial position, but rather 2nd Photo Archivist. On the other hand, they promised opportunites to learn about the editorial side so at least I'd get some bankable experience. Second, it was, you know, gay porn, but I'm pretty open-minded and I figured I'd get used it with time. Third, it was in Australia a place about which I knew nothing that I hadn't seen in Paul Hogan vehicles. I guess I thought it would be a lot like Texas--hot and dusty, it's people full of that odd bonhomie bred by ignorance--except with a lot more cute marsupials. Oh, how wrong I was.

Within moments of disembarking the plane I discovered I'd entered country populated entirely by dangerous rednecks whose idea of a good time was getting shit-faced drunk then beating down an "Abo" and shaving his head. If you've ever seen Australian rules football on ESPN you know what I mean. It all made me very nervous. I could only hope that my co-workers who, as I guessed correctly, were mostly gay would be more tolerant types as a result of living as gay outsiders in a straight society. I soon learned that in Australia tolerance meant only that you hadn't actually kicked the teeth out of a swarthy foreigner. And these weren't even what we call in the US country-folk. No, the country-folk were a breed apart truly terrible to behold, and beheld them I did in my one and only trip to the Outback. These are people who make the most randomly violent, crank-addled American hayseed look like a rank amatuer, look like a big-eyed seal pup you want to embrace and protect from harm. These sun-addled wrecks--brains curdled by the heat, noses withered and eaten away by numerous skin cancers, the women sporting perpetual black eyes--have ten-times the temper, ten-times the misplaced anger, and are ten-times more vicious than anything America can offer.

As for my job it did end up getting to me. But it wasn't the gay porn. It was the cracked, reptilian, melanoma spotted skin of the models. I couldn't tell where the workboots ended and where their calves began.

In fact, the terrible condition of the average Australian's skin soon soured all aspects of my life that involved naked Australians. My sex life went to seed. Closing my eyes didn't help because I could still hear and feel my skin rasping against the girls' leathery shells. The best pair of breasts I saw had the appearance, and all the appeal, of a wrinkled, month-old, sun-bleached grapefruit. I don't actually know where all those attractive Australian actresses come from, but I imagine it's a kind of inverse Time Machine thing with fine-skinned Eloi raised somewhere underground to protect them from the harsh environmental conditions and brutal populace above.

In the end, though, it wasn't the weather-beaten boobs, creased asses, or even the benighted savages roaming the streets that drove me out of that horrid excuse for a nation. No, it was one simple television commercial. One simple, vile, hateful, racist advert for Foster's appropriately enough. It was one of those Foster's Australian for beer ads. I know, I know it seems odd that they'd run those ads in Australia but no one ever called the Aussies bright. The ad starts off with a desertscape. Then this cute Aboriginal girl, her clothes torn, comes running across the shot. Followed by a gang of savage Outback rednecks seemingly intent on raping her. The announcer intones, "Bestiality". Then, "Foster's. Australian for beer." Indeed. And "yikes" is American for I'm out of here.
Fyrste, 4:37 PM

Friday, January 31, 2003

 
People often come up to me and ask me, "If you're an atheist what do you believe?" My first impulse, unless the inquirer is wearing hot pants and too much make-up, is to throw the scalding hot coffee from my ever present Dunkin' Donuts bottomless mug in their slack-jawed faces and scream, "I believe in pain," in the manner of a professional wrestler. It is very hard for me to restrain this impulse and so I hardly ever do. Then there's that moment of embarrassment as I realize that I'm wearing my I'm An Atheist And I Believe t-shirt as I usually am when people randomly ask me, "If you're an atheist what do you believe?" By that time, though, my questioner-slash-victim has moved on to other questions. Typically, "Why, why did you do that?" or, "Jesus Christ, why did you do that?" or from those with self-esteem problems a plaintive, "What did I do?" except with more pained sobbing. This always leaves me a bit confused as to which question I should answer first. But really, I want to be helpful, I want them to understand where I'm coming from, so I get down on my knees if that's necessary, and it usually is because at that point they're typically lying on the ground in the fetal position whinging on about, "oh god, oh god someone help me," or somesuch.

So I get down on my knees and say "There, there, it's going to be okay. I've seen this many times and there's nothing to worry about. It's a first degree burn. It'll just be some redness and blistering followed by a little peeling. It's like a bad sunburn really, and actually it's not even that bad being restricted to your face and all." I like to think they take some comfort in that.

"Now," I say, "let me take your second question first. And the answer is I don't know the answer. Who knows why we do what we do? Why do I fall in love with needy, high maintenance women who wake up angry? Why do I feel embarrassed for Jack, Chrissie and Janet while watching "Three's Company" when their imbecilic antics are meant to amuse me? These are questions for the ages."

"As to your original question, well, I think it should be obvious that I wear this t-shirt ironically. Which is not to say that I believe in God because I don't, but that the statement on this t-shirt is intentionally, essentially ironic. And honestly, you must be terribly foolish not to see that."

I can't really know if that satisfies them. I suspect not from the way they often stare wild-eyed at me as if to say they understand thus far but there is more they want to know. Like what do I base my ethics on in the absence of a higher power? I'd like to tell them, I truly would, but there's never time. I have to beat it before the five-oh show up.
Fyrste, 1:01 PM

Thursday, January 30, 2003

 
Jolted into clinical apathy by the State of the Whatever speech on Tuesday, I find myself incapable of caring about squat for the time being. If you absolutely must be entertained I am the man who will fight for your honor, reviews* the Cristina Ricci vehicle "Pumpkin" upon my request, and in doing so dashes my hopes for hot Ricci-on-Retard action. Which on second thought may be the actual cause of my apathy.

*Warning: contains gratuitous use of the word "titties", any use of which sends a clammy chill down my high-falutin' spine.
Fyrste, 12:48 AM

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

 
In the late 1990's when jobs were as easily plucked from the aether of opportunity as plump ripe plums hanging low from the over laden boughs of plump ripe plum trees I obtained, in two days following a spell of dizziness and whimsy, a job in a PR firm. There I wrote press releases, blast faxed and cajoled a certain type of journalist, and hand-held clients wondering when their press would materialize. And there was a lot of the hand holding. We were not what you would call a prestige firm. No, we came along and picked up the leavings after the sweetest fruits, to extend a metaphor, had fallen as if by magic into the hands of the better and the brighter. In fact, after periods of extended hand holding and increasingly less reassuring reassurance our lesser clients would sometimes slip their sweat slicked hands free from mine and use their newly freed digits to gesture obscenely while raving on about "bottom-feeders". I, ever diplomatic, would refrain from pointing out the onus they laid on themselves with such accussations. For if we were bottom-feeders then they were what settled at the bottom, weren't they. And they didn't make it easy for us.

Examples? I have a few:

Pen-tos. Trademark issues aside, eventually resolved, a pen that dispenses breath mints was not a terrible product in principle. In reality, the mints were annoyingly small and they were dispensed every time you clicked open the pen whether they were wanted or not. Good if you were selling refills, bad if you kept flicking mints all over your office. Apparently, they are now selling well in Japan.

Personal Hygiene Goggles. One of many odd products imported from Japan. Apparently, they protect your eyes from, uh, eye disease I guess. The only press we were able to get these was of the "Wow, those crazy Japanese" variety. Another thing, by design they fit across the face very tightly leaving users with racoon eyes hours after taking them off.

Sugar Scabs. Gummy-like candy that looked convincingly scab like. They'd even stick to your skin awhile so you could remove them and pop them in your mouth for maximum repulsive effect. We got pretty good coverage for them in How Convenient: The Journal of Franchise and Independent Convienence Stores (no link available, sadly) and in some local papers. Surprisingly, they never caught on.

Health-Scents. Another Japanese product. This was an egg-shaped device that you'd hold under your arm for sixty seconds while it soaked up your sweat. Then you'd link it to your computer for a chemical analysis. It could also automatically send any anomalous results to your doctor. Originally, its US distributors wanted to call it the Odor Orb. We went out on a limb and pointed out that they might as well call it the Stink Egg. Besides, an orb is spherical not egg-shaped. In any case, the press was again mostly in the "wacky Japanese" vein. Right before I left the job someone had a stroke of brilliance and we got it a lot of coverage in women's magazine as a device that measured hormonal levels for women trying to get pregnant or practicing natural birth control.

Hein-eez. Worst. Product. Ever. It was criminal of us to take this account, but the inventor was a failed movie producer who thought we could turn it into a Hollywood fad. I like to think that by taking him on we performed a service to the movie-going public, not that you'd notice. Anyway, Hin-eez was a thin foam cylinder, "using space-age technology," that "wicked up perspiration and odor". Also, I think it was supposed to prevent wedgies. Unfortunately, it was highly visible under most clothing thus giving the impression that the user been in such a rush to dress they had neglected to remove some kind of sex toy from their ass. Even the Japanese were uninterested in it.
Fyrste, 3:02 PM