More subtle condescension techniques

Two new undermining tactics I’ve come up with (the first I’ve put into practice, but the second is too combustible and so far exists in theory only):

1. Deliberately misjudge or question the gender of a person you’re communicating with by email (or any other internet-fueled written medium of discourse). This one came in handy recently in the comments section of JohnnyO’s blog, when a fairly asinine reader kept making troll-ish comments and basically being a nuisance. I wrote a comment sort of subtly poking fun at this person, but the key was constantly referring to him as ‘him/her’ or ‘he/she’ when it was clearly obvious both from his handle and his writing style that it was a he we were dealing with. He replied with a huffy diatribe that ended with ‘I’m a he, by the way!!’. Mission Subtly Undermine = accomplished.

It became clear to me how subtly undermining it can be to have your gender misapprehended when my best friend fell of his bike when we were 12 years old. My friend had long-ish hair and was at that humiliating not-quite-to-puberty point when it’s possible to be mistaken for a girl. Anyway, he wiped out on his bike, landed hard and broke his collarbone. As he was writhing on the pavement gasping for air, a good samaritan guy arrived and started shouting out, “Call for help! This little girl is hurt! She can’t get up!”. My friend was desperately trying to wheeze, “I’m a boy!” but couldn’t manage it. Bad times!

2. Anytime you call someone and reach their voicemail, quickly jot down their entire spoken outgoing message. Then, when it’s time to leave a message, recite back their outgoing message but in a high-pitched, whiny, mocking voice. I bet you could alienate every single friend with voicemail and perhaps entirely wipe clear your social slate by doing this for a month or so.

See also: Subtle condescension techniques

The Legs of Izolda Morgan

I’ve been working on another freelance book cover project for Twisted Spoon Press, this one another collection of writings by Bruno Jasienski. Jasienski was a leader of the Polish Futurism movement who was deported from France on the basis of his ‘catastophist’ novel I Burn Paris (which I also did a cover for, due out in the fall via Twisted Spoon), and wound up eventually perishing in the gulag of the U.S.S.R. after initially receiving a hero’s welcome there on his arrival.

The most celebrated story in this collection is ‘The Legs of Izolda Morgan’, a delirious tale about a worker who steals his girlfriend’s legs after she’s run over by a tram and sliced in two in the opening lines of the story. The worker basically flips out and decides that machines are out to get us, and strikes back by attempting to sabotage the factory he works in. As a characterization of someone whose sanity seems to have been tainted by contact with the machine age, ‘The Legs of Izolda Morgan’ isn’t exactly as sympathetic as you might expect to technology and modernity as you might expect coming from an avowed Futurist. The story is accompanied (and further obfuscated) by a weird little preface, Exposé, that contains lots of odd provocations and baffling statements, such as this passage that I’m thinking about using on the back cover:

I do not claim that the present book should stand as an example of how the contemporary novel ought to be written. But it is most certainly an example of how the novel cannot be written these days (the joke that you wish to make here, dear reader, only confirms your naivité).

Sometimes, Jasienski doesn’t seem so much a committed ideologue as just somebody who likes stirring up controversy and rattling chains, which I suppose puts him in good company with many other practitioners of Futurism, a movement that was basically founded by a brilliant and subversive clown.

Another story in the collection is called ‘The Nose’, which presents a tempting cover design opportunity in that the cover could be divided in two between nose and legs. However, as ‘Legs’ is the most celebrated story, I’ve inevitably come back around to letting this one be the star of the show. The publisher and I discussed using an all typographic cover, which sort of led me in the direction shown here that I’m currently leaning toward:

The idea would be to print this on a rough recycled paper, to get the same feeling as those great Bukowski publications from Black Sparrow Press. Still very much kicking this one around, though — a few things about it don’t entirely sit well with me. Mainly, it doesn’t  look ‘of its time period’ (e.g. 1930s), which is something I’ve made a conscious effort to achieve with my other Twisted Spoon covers. But maybe that’s a welcome change… ?

Weekend song: Let Her Dance / Don't Ever Let Me Know

I might be the only person who likes Bobby Fuller (best remembered as the guy who originally recorded ‘I Fought The Law‘) better than his obvious inspiration and fellow Texan Buddy Holly. This is kind of like saying you prefer the Monkees to the Beatles. Fuller has none of the depth and resonance of Holly (hell, Buddy Holly basically established the idea of rock ‘n’ roll recording artists writing their own material) and was fairly minor figure in comparison… but, for whatever reason, his better songs sound exactly how 50s rock songs should sound to my ears: simple, driving, all wound-up and kinetic (exactly the same qualities that the Ramones brought back into the picture).

Really, the only thing that bothers me about Fuller is his occasional eerie resemblance to George W. Bush:

In terms of a song choice, ‘Let Her Dance’ doesn’t really constitute a sleeper, in the sense that it’s probably his third or fourth best known song. But, still, no one whom I talk about music with cares about this track, and it literally might be my favorite single example of 50s-style rock ‘n’ roll, so up it goes:

Let Her Dance — Bobby Fuller Four

Then, for something more sleeper-ish, it’s hard to resist ‘Don’t Ever Let Me Know’, the pretty B-side to the ‘I Fought The Law’ single:

Don’t Ever Let Me Know — Bobby Fuller Four

Designated 'Roid Guy

Everyone knows that Major League Baseball has hosed itself with its mismanagement of the steroid problem. Purists can no longer innocently compare players from different eras when the late ’90s and early ’00s were conspicuously full of wily middle infielders who suddenly showed up with 50 extra pounds of muscle, a plague of tics and 40-home-run power. Idealistic fans feel betrayed for having emotionally invested themselves in the doings of cheaters. What’s worse — but rarely discussed — is that the few fans who aren’t offended by what happened during the steroid era are bored by what’s happening now that the game’s been cleaned up. In Bill Simmons’ recent mailbag column on,  a reader named Mark from Baltimore sums it up perfectly:

So I was at an O’s versus Yanks game the other day and an Orioles rep was going around asking fans questions, and one of them asked me what I thought the O’s needed to do to improve this year. I said, “They need to get Miguel Tejada back on the steroids so he can blast 40 home runs like the good old days.” They did not think that was funny.

Baseball– let’s face it– is a fairly boring game, and (health issues aside) it’s clearly more entertaining to have guys doing steroids, blasting home runs, donning togas and lying to congress than not doing these things, especially if your team stinks.

My solution to this is to bring steroids back into the game, rather than trying futilely to sweep them under the rug as MLB has been pathetically attempting for the past few years. But you have to bring it back in a controlled way. So, each team should be allowed to have ONE guy do steroids. It’s the evolutionary descendant of the Designated Hitter– we already have the DH, now we’ll add the DRG (Designated ‘Roid Guy). This way the comical/enraged foibles of the steroid user will be reintroduced to the game, but in a contained way such that the culture of ‘roiding wouldn’t overrun the sport again.

As a bonus, imagine the strategic wrinkles that the DRG would add to the game. If you’re the Red Sox front office, for example, do you tag David Ortiz as your DRG (the obvious choice– hopefully, he suddenly recovers his 04-07 power)… or, do you take a chance on Adrian Beltre, who put up one of the most obviously steroid-inflated stat lines in 2004 (.629 SLG, 48 HR all in Dodger Stadium in what JUST HAPPENED to be a walk year before hitting free agency)? Moreover, let’s assume MLB screws up the implementation of the new rule and adds it to just one league and not the other, like they did with the DH. Suddenly, you’d have teams furiously ‘roiding up a guy and then de-‘roiding him in preparation for interleague play and the World Series. Finally, there would be the comedy of inept GMs making dumb choices and squandering the DRG rule. I can just imagine the Pittsburgh GM using the DRG tag on somebody like the diminutive David Eckstein and being all surprised when it doesn’t work.