Ironing a Shirt The Van Damme Way!
Any real man knows that there is no shame in helping out around the house. If you live alone then you have no choice (until someone magically creates a service wherein a person, or persons, comes to your home to take care of light housekeeping duties for an agreed upon fee, but let’s restrict ourselves to the real world, OK?). In either instance, you need to know how to perform a few rudimentary tasks to keep your place and person in presentable shape, i.e. to attract a potential partner, or keep the one you’ve already snared. These are the only reasons to keep a tidy home, so if you are single and have no intention of coupling, pull on one of your wrinkly shirts, put your feet up on your almost certainly fast food container-strewn coffee table, and watch Universal Soldier: The Return for the nineteenth goddamn time.
For everyone else, special skills are required (unless a forward-thinking entrepreneur invents a business where you take shirts and pants to a specifically designated building and leave them to be cleaned, starched and pressed but, again, this isn’t science fiction). Approaching such a task may prove daunting to those not stout of heart, but assuming those are exactly the kind of people who would buy this book, I suggest three stages to vanquish this chore The Van Damme Way!
Much like eating your waxed beans before tucking into your chicken Kiev, this is the tough work before digging into the sweet, buttery center of the task at hand. Folding out an ironing board without incident takes years of practice. Like any other strenuous undertaking, I recommend stretching. Now your first impulse may be to work your hamstrings for the inevitable performance of the Van Damme splits, but I suggest that your time is better spent working the upper body. In particular, dislocating one shoulder until your fingers are numb—this way, when you pinch your fingers between the board and the legs (and this will happen), you will feel no pain. However, do be careful to note any bleeding on the ironing board: this could indicate the escape of blood from an open wound, and that is no surface upon which to iron a clean shirt.
Warming the Iron
If you have purchased your iron wisely, it has temperature settings based on material. This is very important as improper heat-to-fabric calibration may lead to: a) under-ironing, a side-effect subtly noticed in the lack of wrinkle banishment (in this event, check that to see if you have the iron set for a multi-fabric blend, if you are in a humidity-rich environment or, failing all other options, see if the iron is plugged in); b) over-ironing, which will make the garment appear pressed only to revert to a wrinkled state by the time you put it on; or c) iron-shaped burn marks on the back of your shirt (while perfectly calibrated for comic effect, this does not suit our purposes as this is not a book called Be a Man—The Larry the Cable Guy Way).
Wait for your iron to warm up. This is an excellent time to stretch for the splits, if you are so inclined.
Many test an iron’s state of readiness by spitting on the element to see if their saliva sputters. This is grotesque and inelegant, completely unbecoming The Van Damme Way! Use the tip of your tongue.
You are now ready to attack and don’t fool yourself—this is warfare. Do not pity your opponent, but do not underestimate him either. Bow before your collared foe, but do not take your eyes off it.
Flatten the shirt on the board so the sleeves dangle on each side like a face-plant victim carried by stretcher from the Kumite circle. Smooth the shirt and then apply steady arcs across the back with strength but also with grace. Be of the shirt but not in the shirt. (Note: do not attempt to iron a shirt while wearing it not matter how late you are.)
Flip the shirt on the left front panel: the buttons are tricky, but you must move in and around them like one dodging pools of blood in the Kumite circle. Repeat for the right front panel, which is now a breeze because, if you have purchased your shirt correctly, there should be no buttons on that side.
Iron each sleeve. Make sure that the fabric is not bunched up on the underside of the sleeve you are ironing as this will lead to your ironing wrinkles into your shirt which, you will agree, is counter-productive.
Run the iron over the collar to ensure proper rigidity, and then hang on a plastic or wooden hanger. Collapse your ironing board, suck on your pinched fingers, and rejoice! Realize that you did not unplug the iron or remove it from the board before collapsing it. Stop celebrating. Retrieve iron (handle first if you can) and unplug. Decide how you will explain burnt parquet flooring to landlord. Find comfort that, if called before a judge in small claims court, at least you have a decent shirt to wear. The Van Damme Way!
Negotiating a Raise The Van Damme Way!
A quick checklist:
- You’ve worked there a long time
- You are underappreciated
- You’ve figured out the ultimate time-saving route to the office, shaving precious minutes off your commute and, as such, are reluctant to find another job
- Boss still calls you “Skip”
That sounds like one bullshit workplace environment. You have but two choices: find another job or get yourself a raise. Otherwise you’ll resent every second you spend crunching numbers or making deals or whatever the hell it is you do. Plus, nothing dries up a vagina quite like a low annual wage (other than a cigarette habit or approaching menopause). You don’t want to spend the rest of your life in a crappy bachelor apartment. Do you?
Assuming the answer is “no” (and assuming that you are straight because, seriously, what self-respecting gay man would live in a bachelor apartment?), an increased salary not only improves your bottom-line but will do wonders for your self-worth and your value in the dating market. You’ve put in your time, and you’re hardly ever late on consecutive middle-of-the-week days. Goddammit, you deserve this!
Hold on there, pal. You don’t just kick in your boss’ office door and make demands. What, do you think you’re some guy named “Skip”? You have to consider your approach, and that is determined by many factors such as on-the-job performance, personal comfort zone and kicking ability.
The Ninja Way
You are a quiet performer, content to put your nose to the corporate grindstone and get shit done without tooting your own horn (or keeping track of your metaphors). Essentially, calling you a “ninja” is a nice way of saying you’re a wimp, a complete train wreck of masculinity. That’s OK. You’ve still got options and I’ll talk you through them, ensuring that I don’t make any sudden movements that might startle and cause you to pee in your pants. You disgust me, you pathetic, supine, wormy little wastrel.
First, you have to believe in yourself! Make a list of your accomplishments and be ready to present yourself as the hero of any anecdote. Remember that time you screwed up the courage to ask out that girl with all the piercings in the mailroom? She didn’t laugh and make you lick glue off the floor—you took her out and totally banged her.
Think tales of conquest have no place in the workforce? You need to show your boss that you’re a guy who gets results, and if that means bragging about fictional yet meaningless sex, then so be it.
Who am I kidding? You’ll just rewrite an email thirty times asking for a raise and never send it, so I’m wasting my time on you. Jesus, you make me want to puke.
The Kumite Way
This is for the employee who makes the effort to play the game: knowing the boss’ middle name, his wife’s favorite dish, what sports his kids play. You see yourself as a player, but everyone else thinks you are the world’s biggest brown noser. So what? They don’t have to pay your phone-tapping and spy camera bills.
You know asking for a raise is a battle and like any warrior stepping into the ring, you know that preparation is the key. Before you step into this corporate Circle of Death prepare by arming yourself with the ordnance of information:
- Is the company financially healthy enough to pay for a raise? Best times to ask are after the announcement of record quarterly earnings, post cash infusion from outside investors, or when the boss is drunk
- Stay alert to unannounced signs of liquidity, such as office renovations: use this as an ice-breaker for your request, i.e. “Who the hell chooses pastels and beads of neon—a set designer from Miami Vice? Since we’re throwing money away…”
- Understand how you are perceived in the office: has that nasty public indecency rap from the Christmas party blown over yet? Underline the substantive difference between “moral turpitude” and “acquitted due to flood in evidence room”
One of the cornerstones of successful negotiation is possessing information that your opponent does not. Knowing your own style of underwear is not sufficient and points out a recurring flaw with this tactic. I say that more important is the possession of information that your opponent does not know you have. You’ve spent enough time hacking your boss’ email and having him shadowed by a private detective. Ask for your raise and slide a lurid snapshot of his affair with that dreadlocked white guy at the pet food store. Given enough time, you should be able to write your own cheques.
However, if your boss is stronger than all that or in an open relationship with his wife, you can always rely on persistence: if you do not receive your pay increase, refuse to leave the office. The discussion isn’t over until you get what you want or get dragged from the room like a beaten man pulled from the Kumite. In this case it will likely be in the form of a security guard and not a crooked Asian corner man. Also, instead of it happening after a bloody beating, this will probably end with one in the company parking lot. Try not to get blood on the guard’s pant leg: he makes a pitiful wage and is responsible for his own uniform.
The Van Damme Way!
Kick the door in and make demands. If you don’t get a pay raise, consider negotiating for perks such as an extra week of vacation or a company cell phone. There’s no shame in that.
Be a Man—The Van Damme Way™! An Entirely Unauthorized Guide to the Films and Virility of Jean-Claude Van DammePosted: April 30, 2017
Here’s a book proposal of mine that never went anywhere. It’s a shame, but no so much of a shame that I wouldn’t put it up here.
Hey men—tired of not knowing how to be a man?
Hey ladies—frustrated with men who don’t know how to be manly?
Would you read a book that sorts out all these confusions and makes for a more fulfilling life? Of course–what a stupid question!
Introducing Be a Man—The Van Damme Way™! (in no way officially affiliated, endorsed or medically recommended by the greatest action hero actor of all cinema, Jean-Claude Van Damme). This book and, by proxy, its author (me), strive to achieve the impossible: review the entire canon of JCVD’s work, film by film, and reveal the Rosetta Stone of masculinity that exists therein. Hard to believe? Which part, the “masculinity” part or the “entire canon” part? Seriously, not a stupid question: dude has made almost fifty films.
You can point to your Schwarzeneggers, your Stallones, your Seagals, your Willises, both Bruce and Todd Bridges (Willis of Diff’rent Strokes, who did appear in the Insane Clown Posse opus Big Money Rustlas as Scruffy Scrub #3 so, I appreciate the chance for confusion), but they all embodied a hollow form of manliness that is best summed up as Macho Regan-Era Ass-Kickers: a whole lot of 1980’s “we don’t negotiate with terrorists” plus “trickle-down economics” with a dash of “sado-masochistic homoeroticism”. Pre-heat the oven at four hundred degrees and bake. For how long? As long as it takes for that fucker to kick the door open and dispatch your sous chef with an Uzi and a “witty” yet monosyllabic one-liner, that’s how long. And in today’s hectic, dog-eat-dog, drive-thru culture, who’s got the time?
Now God knows we need good ass-kickings now and again. But if fine classical musicianship is as much about the notes not played as the ones played, then true masculinity is in the eyes not gouged. Correspondingly, if showing vulnerability is the true sign of strength, then doing so while performing the splits on two edges of a kitchen counter to avoid an electrocuted floor, then that person is so much the stronger (see Timecop).
We need absolutes in times like these. When women make up a greater percentage of the work force but men are still expected to pick up the cost of the abortion, we require a magnetic north to cross such treacherous waters. I suggest that Jean-Claude Van Damme is just such a geomagnetic verging of magnetic declinations.
After years of cinematic study and manliness failure, I have determined that the entire spectrum of positive male traits is prevalent in the films of Mr. Van Damme. One might suggest that my failures in masculinity are directly linked to my years of Van Damme investigation, but these are people who miss the greater point, i.e. my ex-girlfriends.
The proof in JCVD’s films and his finely wrought performances are endless: whether peeling back the layers of a widowed cop confronted with the ethical choice of using a time traveling device to save his late wife or just to apprehend bad guys in Timecop (Why couldn’t he just do both? A good question…); a cyborg programmed for warfare coming to grips with an emerging humanity and the virtues of pacifism in Universal Soldier; a hard-working father deciding whether to save his son from a hockey arena held hostage by terrorists before or after suiting up as goalie to win the Stanley Cup for the Pittsburgh Penguins in Sudden Death; to a cyborg genetically-engineered to track down a serial killer who comes to terms with his emerging humanity in Replicant. Even his stunning debut as “Gay Karate Man” in Monaco Forever shows a bravery in portraying every color across the masculinity rainbow.
Those leery of my thesis would benefit from regarding the totality of Van Damme’s work in the same way one should view Proust’s A la recherché du temps perdu: if you watch Street Fighter the same way you read In the Shadow of Young Girls Flower, well you’re just not getting the whole picture.
Gentle reader and seeker of masculine wisdom, I am here to help. For not only do I intend to look at each of JCVD’s films in detail, with special attention paid to lessons learned by men at any pivotal stage in their lives (loss of innocence—see Kickboxer, sins of the father—see The Order, the moral quandary of a clothing counterfeiter drafted by the CIA to break an international producer of forged designer jeans that conceal “microbombs”, as opposed to genuine designer jeans which almost never explode—see Knock Off), I will provide many handy examples of how these modes of masculine behavior can be applied to your everyday life—The Van Damme Way™!
Much like a Shakespearean tragedy (but only if Shakespeare had the stones to finish his off on an “upbeat” note), we shall review Van Damme’s films in five parts:
- The Rise Begins: from uncredited yet head-turning roles such as Car Driver in Missing in Action to Spectator in First Dance Sequence in Breakin’, we detect a sensibility that will become readily apparent when Van Damme blade kicks his way into the spotlight.
- A Star Is Forged (alternately known as The Cannon Years): From Bloodsport, where JCVD takes the title, center stage, and pummels the shit out of our hearts, to Hard Target, where he introduces John Woo and flocks of slow-motion doves to North America. Boys and inebriated men the world over try to mimic his famous ability to do the “Atomic splits”. Hamstrings are snapped, testicles are ruptured, cases are settled out of court.
- Superstar: Timecop sees Van Damme headline a major studio picture (and tame his mullet from Hard Target), play a member of the elite foreign legion in Legionnaire (note to filmmakers: do not title your film after a disease and expect anything but box-office poison: also, don’t release theatrically and to DVD at the same time), and live out every boy’s dream of embodying a video game hero to destroy an apparently AIDS-ravaged boss villain in Street Fighter: The Movie (poor Raul Julia). The pressure of being all men to all mankind wears on JCVD and the cracks start to show. The ballooning cocaine addiction doesn’t help.
- The DTV Slide: We see what is, by now, an all-too familiar trajectory—a series of direct-to-video cheapies shot in Eastern Europe for quick name-recognition cash. This is not a surprise for more one-dimensional action heroes such as Wesley Snipes and Steven Seagal (with a hotel room in Prague reserved for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, presumably), but a shocking decline for our hero. From Inferno to The Shepherd (a film notable as much for its critical stance on America’s War on Drugs as it is for being Van Damme’s sixth time playing a character whose surname ends with the letter ‘X’), Van Damme puts in his time, cleans up his act, and finds his kin geri (stomach kick) is no match in his battle against rapid cycling bipolar disorder or most divorce lawyers.
- Redemption: JCVD is made, a quasi-autobiographical account of an aging action film star holed-up in a botched post office robbery. This film presents the entirety of Van Damme’s artistry, both martial and acting. It plays at film festivals around the world and he is suddenly a hot commodity once again. He uses his most valuable instrument, his voice, to appear in Kung Fu Panda 2 and achieves a circle-of-life moment by playing hard to get for Stallone before finally signing to appear in The Expendables 2: Of Course We Cast Chuck Norris.
Think it can’t get any better? Well go back to your thinking spot and think some more! Edifying and life-changing essays will sparkle throughout, including a winsome, yet rib-crunching piece on the Death of the Action Star: nowadays it takes a $200 million budget and twice that in publicity to launch an actor-proof franchise like Batman, whereas in 1985 even a charisma-challenged mannequin like Kurt Thomas could open a dud like Gymkata (a fine form of martial arts, provided villains don’t know enough to stay away from back alley appearances of a pommel horse or the uneven bars); a true-life event that actually happened that I just thought up, Meetin’ J.L.G. (JCVD vs. JLG), a one-act play depicting directors Van Damme and Jean-Luc Godard nervously awaiting the debut of their films, The Quest and For Ever Mozart respectively, at a prestigious film festival in Albany; and a definitive assessment of Van Damme’s signature move in The Splits: A Useful Tool In Your Martial Arts Arsenal Or Just A Waste Of Warm-Up Time?
Whew! That’s a lot of book. Maybe too much? Bullshit!
The book is called Be a Man—The Van Damme Way™! It must include a system for living your life in a balanced, well-rounded masculine manner (if not to justify the title, then at least the trademark).
Included in The Van Damme Way™!
- Defuse a situation without violence and possibly through dance—The VDW™!
- Kicking crazy amounts of ass—The VDW™!
- Ironing a shirt—The VDW™!
- Negotiating a raise—The VDW™!
- Marital bliss—The VDW™!
- Beating Van Damme in a fight—The VDW™!
- International diplomacy—The VDW™!
- Romance your lady—The VDW™!
- Self-awareness—The VDW™!
- Talk about yourself in the third person—The VDW™!
- Defending yourself in nature specifically by punching animals—The VDW™!
In the end, there is no book like it in the world (see exceptions below). This makes it difficult to encapsulate for the average writer, but I’m made of sterner stuff, so here goes: this book is part off-beat film analysis, part sociological study and part self-help book—but all man.
The Van Damme Way™!
Originally appeared in Points in Case.
If the state of my pillow covers means anything, this douchebag uses a ton of moustache wax. That narrows it down to eleven out of the fifteen band members.
The guy is likely a racist because I found a crumpled up piece of paper on the bedroom floor that had a list of potential band names. He might be an idiot, too, because “Low-Cut Niqab” was the best of the lot.
My best friend Jack likes the current band name because he thought of it. He’s in the band but is the only guy who isn’t an autoharpist; he plays the metronome (he studied at the Sorbonne and everything!). At first, he thought it couldn’t be one of the band members but then he remembered how married women throw themselves at him all the time. But he doesn’t act on it because “metronomists have morals”. There’s also the fact that he heard my wife say autoharps make her wetter than pictures of a young Boris Karloff so, yeah, he came around to my thinking. It’s got to be one of those damned string pluckers.
Also, I found one of the matching barbershop quartet jackets all members of the band wear. It was crumpled up underneath the bathroom sink and stank of skunk weed and Febreze. So, we’re back to every member of the band as a suspect.
It might have to be one of those day-job-type musicians, given that all evidence points to quick lunch-hour couplings (messy sheets on a bed I make in the morning, cap off the KY lube that’s left on the new issue of GamePro–the one with my letter to the editor!). At a Knitting Factory after party, I heard one of the guys in the band say that he freelances for an ethical IT firm, so maybe he’s the culprit. What does “fair trade Wi-Fi” even mean?
Whoever he is, dude left his skinny suspenders slung over the gaming trophy shelf I had Jack install right above the headboard. So it’s probably the guy who fucks up the polyphonic cover of “Single Ladies” by constantly pulling up his pants during the bridge.
But I have my suspicions that guy is gay. Maybe it’s the way he talks or possibly the rainbow flag he has dyed into his immaculately trimmed chest hair, which I believe is cultivated by his husband of seven years.
My wife and I have been married for almost seven years. Whenever I bring this up, she counters that Xbox has probably broken up more marriages than office Christmas parties. Then she follows up with statistics, or a story, or something else I don’t hear because finding the bharals in Far Cry 4 takes more than just natural skill. You need all of your concentration.
I don’t think it’s the guy that’s seven-feet tall; my wife once said she couldn’t sleep with a man she respected too much and she always admired tall guys like they’d earned their height. They haven’t placed in Major League Gaming’s “Halo World Championship North America Regional Finals” three years running, not like a certain you-know-who here. So she’s got that to admire me for. Which, if true, would also explain the three-month dry spell in the sack.
Maybe it’s the one who wears the bowler-and-monocle set and legally changed his name to “Axe Jeeves”.
Or the guy who’s side project is a one-man Color Me Badd tribute band.
Or the one with the beard that doubles as an apron.
Maybe it’s Fred Armisen.
My wife wants me to think that she might be sleeping with my best friend Jack. She manages this with sly insinuations like waving a ripped-open condom wrapper in my face and saying, “These are Jack’s favorite, he says they feel like silk.”
Which is ridiculous, because I know that Jack hates silk. Or at least he hated the silk shirt I bought him for our friend-versary. But still, I have seen his eyes linger over her backside a few times. And he came out of the bedroom after installing my trophy shelf more out of breath than the task required. Especially seeing as he had my wife there to help out.
In my darkest moments, I consider whether Jack—a second son to my father, the guy whose college graduation my dad actually attended—might be fucking my wife.
But my best friend Jack does not play the autoharp, so I always have to start over again.
Maybe it’s the clumsy guy with the scraped knees. That guy is so clueless.
- Nipple squints
- Viper tongue
- Asner Eyebrows
- Chapped hips
- Teeth lesions
- Squater’s Blight
- Genital burpies
- Webbed eyelashes
- Noontime terrors
- Curved fingernails (or “Jester’s Claws”)
- Nose sweats
- Barking rectum
- Widow’s Gumline
- Over-spaced teeth (“Chiclets Mouth”)
- Floral rectitude
- Bumblebee Knees
- Nasal halitosis
- Lower lumbar caking
- Spastic Knuckles
- Pigeon Elbows
- Suicidal Appendices
- Foreskin Curd
- Labia Tremors
- Prostate Shudders
- Heaving Eardrums
- Gruff-in-Mouth Disease (or Panthrax)
- Uvula Tantrums
- Paranoid Occlusions (Myopic Phasia)
- Hyposeusso-spadia (Curly Cock)
- Soupy eyeballs
- Puckering Navel
- Burning Cuticles
- Oral Yeast Infection
- Throbbing Extremities (Flintstone Toes)
- Tingling Follicules
- Tangled Toes Syndrome
- Armpit Vaginas
- Herniated Lips
- Chin Splints
- Crabgrass Syndrome
- Male pattern blandness
- Pancreatic fancies
- Premature calculations
- Hobo Squats
- Impromptu Cleveland Steaming
- Phlegmatic Aural Discharge
- Elvin Ears
- Skull Bowing
- Auto-erotic Immolation
- China Bifida (or “Spinning Plate-Eye Syndrome”)
- The Rapid Cycling Fitzgerald Staggers
- Spontaneous Combustion (gas station employees only)
- Erroneous Soothsaying
- Banal leakage
- Calligraphic ejaculations
- Nocturnal Shoe fetishism (women only–am I right fellas?)
- Pendulous cheekbones
- Eyeball eking
- Plantar’s Fascist Tendencies
- Kaleidoscopic Stigmata
- Kneecap spiking
- Migrating boils
- Sagan’s Conundrum
- Bellicose bloviations (or “The O’Reilly Hector”)
- Scalp frights
- Hyper Thyroid Insurrection
- Argle Bargle in the Hoo Hah
- Bugle Burps
- A Serious Case of the Tuesdays
- Lung spurs
- Angry Ankles
- Forehead Fissures
- The Waltzing Maltidas (or “Violent Diarrhetic Explosions”)
- Verb Aversion
- The Delta Blue Balls
- Fingernail Pustules
- Slinky Ribcage
- Distended Philtrum
- Kidney Ballooning
- Anal Breakage
- Waxy Tongue
- Under Ripe Banana Aftertaste
- Starchy Discharge
- Bagel Buttons
- Lincoln’s Distemper
- Screaming sneezes
- Withering Advanced Sexual Progeria (or “WASP”)
- Earlobe clapping
- Droopy sternum
- Noodle limbs
- Hasty Reheats
- Collapsed hamstring
- Bronchial lubing
- Accordion neck
- Hefner’s Palsy
- Carrottop’s Convulsions
- Uncontrolled baking
- White patches or sores inside your pockets
- Lazy Leg Syndrome
- Painful erection that lasts four years or longer
- Unusual bone seizures
- Under-reactive reflexes (or “The Melancholy Dane Condition”)
- Difficulty bruising
- Orgasm Bragging
- Ringing in your molars
- Coughing up soup
- Trace amounts of urine in blood
- Irritable Spleen
- Cranky Duodenum
- Perturbed Thalmus
- Wet Heaves
- Varicose Aortas
- Seeing halos around lights and traffic cops
- Frequent mood ring changes
- Inversion of eyeball/retina colours
- Temporary hair gloss
- Flamenco Heartbeat
- Swelling in your hands, feet, ears, nose, throat, toes, elbows, gums and chin
- Short-term memory…something
- Frequent, prolonged or bothersome euphoria
- Heart jaundice
- Ecstatic urination
- Poorly thought-out suicide attempts (or, “Three Stooges Ideation”)
- Loss of child-like wonder
- Nested menstruation cycles
- Intestinal Roman Candle Syndrome
- Increased hair growth on wide-spread back acne
- Partial or complete oxygen allergy
- Geometrically progressive growth spurts
- Evil Kneivel Knee Weevils
- Lunar Dropsy
- Wellington’s Itch
- Fire-sprouting esophagus
- Tongue shaving
- Bronzed Johnson
- Chapman’s Carbuncles
- Galloping Backend Bombast
- Bricklayer’s Burning Sensation
- Mouth Gout
- Thoracic Splendor
- Multi-hinged Jawbone
- Whooping Doff
- Locomotive tenderness
- Membrane Sheeting
- Milky Foot
- Flangial Purpura (or, “The Artist Currently Known as Prince’s Swollen Ridge”)
- German Easels
- Dashing Quinsy
- Berger’s Tissick
- Timpani Cheeks
- Cosby’s Dance
- Ulcerative Dizziness
- Stygian Wind
- Rushing Meadows (or, Rapidly Advancing Endometriosis)
- Irregular Tibia Bleeding
- Transvaginal Meditation
- Gall quarks
- Saliva Retention
- Chalky Eardrums
- Heart Disease
- Vacillating red cell count
- Decreased breast size
- Increased testicle size
- Epidermis translucence
- 360 Degree Floating Patella, (or, “Medial Collateral Ligament on a Half Shell”)
- Discolouration of lunula (or, “Green Cheese Thumb-Nail”)
- Torso Cancer
- Lik-M-Aid Tongue
- Yo-Yo Balls
- Cerebral Eczema
- Pelvic Corkscrews
- Apical Babooning Cardiomyopathy
- Apathetic Periostitis
- Calamitous Hypertrophic pulmonary squirts
- Arterial frimping
- Coal Miner’s Dung
- Blue Blood Syndrome
- Cerbrovascular Whoopsies
- Sagging Valves (or, “Pulmonary Shanty Towns”)
- Rheumatoid pancreatic sluggishness
- Spontaneous Macular Regeneration
- The Ludlum Conjunctivitis
- The Kucinich Delusion
- Temporal Lobe Shrieking
- Pathetic, Half-Assed Self-Loathing
- Purpling of the Humors
- Severe Acute Chronic Syndrome
- Periodic Invincibility
- Fore-shortened eyelids
- Elevated Fibula
- Loss of Blood Retention
- Wheezing Uterus
- Need for a little less conversation, possibly counterbalanced by an overwhelming desire for a little more action
- Chronic Loss of Car Keys
- Pain or burning while talking
- Black, Bloody or Tarry Calves
- Shoulder Rickets
- Spinal Pleurisy
- Brickwork Gums
- Urge to punch people as a salutation
- Quaking Tooth Pulp
- Pork Belly
- Arrhythmic Two-Step
- Thigh Pouching
- Irrational Fuckface Anger
- Itchy Feet (or, “Rambling Man Syndrome”…no wait, those are cysts)
- Casanova’s Simmers
- Intermittent Duckface
- Appearance of unusual or rarely-seen skin creatures
- Blood clots in your temples
- Darker than usual urine, say like a weak cup of coffee
- Major organ itchiness
- Blood thickening
- Serious, possibly life-threatening sexual attraction to lawn mowers
- Speaking in a heretofore unknown foreign language (especially Japanese, Russian and Esperanto)
- Reckless behviour including, but not limited to, skydiving high on Xanax with a troupe of daredevil clowns
- Ear Marks
- Peeling mania
- Diarrhea and constipation
- Hair sores
- Straightening of some, if not all, vertebrosternal ribs
- Loss of appetite coupled with violent urge to cook Asian fusion cuisine
- Low white teeth count
- Putnam’s Phlebitis (or, “Sausage Veins”)
- Colorectal Dancer
- Sickle & Hammer Cell Anemia
- Haphazard Name Dropping
- Boiling Blood (or, “Irishman’s Curtsy”)
- Russian Tsar’s Telemetry Squibbles
- Ethiopian Gout
- Ranch Hand’s Argot
- Bloated or distended lottery winnings
- Irritation around injection site that looks like Maori war paint but is just a meaningless doodle (and likely cancerous)
- The Yahoo Serious Walkabouts
- Sleep-Related Ironing Disorder
- Tax Code Comprehension
- DNA Popping and Locking
- Tree bark mouth
- Pubic Parasthesia (or, “Thumb Tacks in Yer Tenders”)
- Subcutaneous Fibrous Toroids (or, “Cheerios Ridging”)
- Ill-timed Scissor Kicks
- Roman Shingles
- Barrel Chesting
- Hysterical Hyper-Hydrosis
- Banker’s Howls
- Tulip Lips
- Dirtbag Dermatitis
- Pickpocket’s Panting
- Antagonistic Pregnancy (or, “Fifth Child Syndrome”)
- Voice Box Palpitations
- Puffy Eye Balls
- High Chair Vertigo
- Dandruff that doubles as itching powder
- Mad Cat Disease
- Taste of copper in ears
- Soft palate cramps
- Bungling in extremities
- Skinny Jean Legs
- Illuminati Welts (or, “Hova’s Branding”)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Bravado
- Profligate Profiteering
- Bolivian Marching Glowers
- Peacock Glands
- Achy Breaky Novelty Songitis
- Satin Sash Rash (almost exclusively for mayors and Baby New Year)
- Briny secretions from previously undetected “pores”
- Shadow Boxing for International Recognition
- Dilated Nose Holes
- Sniper’s Whimsy
- Chigger Fights
- Foppish Papacy
- Papal Foppery
- Slip ‘n Fall Podiatry Hallucinations (or, “The Banana Splits”)
- Appearance of wild hair tufts that resemble raccoons (or, “Davey Crockett’s Haberdashery Syndrome”)
- Symptom confused for hand tremors but really just excessive jazz hands
- Loneliness of a long-distance runner
- Homeowner’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick of those rotten kids playing street soccer in front of his house
- Hard Palate shuffling
- The Tumbling Bumbershoots
- The Trouble with Hairy Cell Leukemia
- Periodic Hooliganism
- Exotic Pet Whispering
- Juvenile Alzheimer’s
- Knotted Small Intestine Disorder
- Ineffective Cockblocking
- Hipster Handlebar Pubic Hair
- Spitting Blisters
- Forty-Eight Hour Colitis
- Walking Dead Pneumonia
- Night of the Living Dead Blues
- Crescendo Arches
- Ever-increasing handsomeness (that’s right—we’re talking to you, gorgeous)
- Increased likeliness to haggle over bargain basements
- Syncopatic Flatulence (or, “Group of Children Clapping”)
- La Gripe
- Answering unheard Sufi call to prayer (non-Muslims)
- Pretty much just walking around like a big shot
- Unwarranted bodybuilding pose downs (especially in KFC lineups)
- Roller coaster-triggered epilepsy (seen primarily in roller coaster addicts)
- Blinding Orthostatic Hypotension (or, “My Head’s On Fire!”)
- Photo Insensitivity
- Deviated Biceps
- Saddle Calves
- The King’s Nervous Hiccups
- Armpit Miasma
- Cruise Director’s Scurvy (or, “Rotting Promenade Deck”)
- Panting Virus
- Hooker’s Dry Dock
- Hypersensitivity to constructive criticism
- Increased likeliness of lightning strikes
- Erupting follicles
- Free-roaming crying jags (or, “Pagliacci Squirts”)
- Inexplicable affection for Celtic music
- Ashy Eyes
- Solidification of finger cartilage (or, “Unjointing”)
- Excessive nominalization (or, “The Applicability Ask”)
- Impromptu but workman-like dance routines that lack finesse but make it for it with plenty of “zazz”
- Some side effects perfectly mirror symptoms of congestive heart failure and our doctor-lawyers predict a 17% chance of misdiagnosis that will lead to death or more severe results; so if you see this or any of the above behaviours, stop the dosage if you can’t handle it, pussy
- You should not take Propinquium if you are experiencing serious complications after clipping your nails
- Propinquium should not be used in children with a history of imaginary friends, worm-eating or delusions of wizardry
- Do not use if allergic to polypropylene pre-injection swabs
- Do not inject directly into pituitary gland, no matter what all the cool kids are talking about
- Direct sunlight or high heat may cause an increase, then decrease, then an increase again in optical proptosis (“Eyeballs-on-Springs”)
- Death-like rigor mortis (cured only by complete sensory deprivation, especially if six feet or more underground)
- Avoid contact with women who are pregnant, likely to become pregnant, or are the result of a pregnancy
- Not for use in adults suffering from cradle cap
- Improper use may lead to unexpected bone growth where you once had tendons
- After injection, allow four hours to pass before going near an open flame; also, closed flames
- Not to be used by those who have breastfed livestock
- Not for use in those with squamous cell non-small cell lung cancer because, well, what’s the point?
- Do not mix with alcohol or protein-based foods
- Mix Propinquium with avocado, lime juice and minced garlic: use dip as a salve for spontaneous foot-long sores that might erupt wherever you have skin
- May induce episodic Non-REM Arousal Parsomnia resulting in “Sleep Sex” encounters with your mattress
- In case of shortness of breath or loss of life, consider decreasing dosage
- Not deemed safe for use in carbon-based life forms, but how many of us are made up of carbon?
- Ideal for use in grown-up test tube babies…what ever happened to those kids? It seemed like they were all the rage in the seventies.
- Not to be used in conjunction with SSRIs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, or Spanish Fly
- Increased instances of awake bruxism may turn your teeth into a tangled, Eastern European-type nightmare
- Any changes in sexual behaviour—including frequency, preference and role-playing—should be immediately reported to your pharmacist because he’s got a boring job and could use the spice
- Oh, test tube pregnancies are now called “in vitro fertilization”. Kinda cold, don’t you think?
- Due to deflation of self-confidence it is not recommended for use in ballers, shot-callers
- May cause numbness or tingling in vomit
- Prolonged exposure to Propinquium may result in thinner than usual urine stream
- Enlarged prostate in women is a serious red flag
- Allergies such as Anaphylaxis have been reported, along with how cool a name “Anaphylactic Shock” would be for a wrestling move
- Do not take in conjunction with the viewing of any large-scale wrestling event, excluding a Ladder Match, First Blood Match or Circular Saw-Ninja Star Fight
- Epileptic seizures may be triggered in those taking Propinquium and who suffer from epilepsy
- Do not use as a suppository (even the bottles identified as “suppository”, which was a batch resulting from an ill-advised night of Beer Pong in the laboratory)
- Cases of hypokalemia, or low sodium in the blood, cannot be remedied by eating excessive banana floats, mashed potatoes, or mashed banana floats ‘n potatoes
- Do not use as a marker in Texas Hold ‘Em poker
- Do not use as a marker for your golf game on the back nine
- Not recommended for use in the positive reinforcement of dogs or children, despite the medication’s rumoured “bacony” aroma
- Reports of Adam’s Apples descending to form a third testicle are mildly supported by tests, pictures, video testimony and a spot in the next volume of Ripley’s Believe it Or Not
- Duplexis Pharmaceuticals does not condone the use of Propinquium by Jackass-style stunt performers due to its numbing properties and impediments to common sense
- Do not operate heavy machinery if you can help it because those are low-paying and low-status jobs, despite the high level of skill and concentration required to do so successfully
- Abstain from the use of metaphors while using Propinquium—there are reports that they have gotten out of hand by when used by some patients and resulted in more than a few broken marriages
- Do not get married while using Propinquium
- Avoid making serious, life-altering decisions or at least have your pharmacist co-sign any loans or mafia-related IOUs
- Messianic fervor and belief in supernatural abilities will wear off within forty-eight hours of use: ability to walk on water will subside within a week
- Do not gamble while on Propinquium—unless you have a system, in which case you’d be a fool not to bet the mortgage payments
- If you sense a prickling beneath your skin, that’s no silly trick of the mind: you’re one of the lucky few to develop an actual new layer of skin known as “Triceratops Hide”
- Instances of hair growth on the tongue have been reported, but Duplexis is currently developing a specially designed mousse for styling (working title, “Tongue Sheen”)
- Urge to watch Adam Sandler movies can be combated with large doses of alcohol, ether
- The efficacy of Propinquium improves in those with a sedate, sedentary lifestyle: discontinue any health programs while taking this medication
- Not to be used in conjunction with pink camouflage clothing because, well, we’re all adults here, aren’t we?
- Reports of patients unprovable boasts at having read all of In Search of Lost Time, even more widespread use of the adjective “Proustian”
- Beware of counterfeit versions of Propinquium—they can present serious risks to your health
INT. OFFICE – DAY
A swell office, if you like IKEA furniture and clear glass awards. Oh, and posters of old, classic slow cooker recipes that the person sitting behind the desk wishes he was involved in developing.
Speaking of, a slim and nerdy type sits behind the desk, chewing on an arm of his glasses while he flips through recipe cards: this is BLAINE, our Recipe Development Executive.
Sitting in front of him is ERNEST, the Recipe Writer, a pathetic wastrel of a chef, chewing his nails and tapping his feet.
Meh…I don’t know. Is this based on a previously existing recipe?
Nope. One hundred percent original!
Too bad. It would really help us if there was already an established audience for this.
The last time we spoke, you said the world needed a new beef stew recipe. It was time, you said.
But, really—beef stew? Doesn’t Campbell’s already have a beef stew?
Surely there’s room for more than just one—
Have you thought about cumin?
OK, maybe ginger. Or how about ras el hanout? People like spicy.
I guess I could consider—
You know what, if you take out the beef and put in a root vegetable, we might be able to sell to a younger demo of chefs. Vegan is so hot right now.
I don’t know if roots are really part of my vision.
How about lamb? Lamb is skewing younger these days.
Blaine drops the recipe cards on his desk top and puts his glasses backs on. Leans forward on his elbow, serious now.
I’d like to think that my MBA leaves me uniquely qualified to tell you how to best cook food. Even though I’ve never been in a kitchen in my life.
Maybe something kind of Moroccan?
Sounds kind of spicy. People don’t like spicy. Also: do we have to tell people you’re from Toronto? That plays like shit across the country.
When I was growing up, I had a cousin who lived in Fenlon Falls.
Small town. Plays to the hicks. I like it. But, I’m going to have to pass. I just feel as if your recipe lacks focus. It’s all over the place.
Oh. I felt pretty confident about it before I came in here.
Sure you did. You’re an artist! By the way, we have a few chicken noodle recipes we’re having trouble cracking. Do you want to take a run at those? For no money, of course.
Come on. I have some self-respect.
Blaine gives Ernest a knowing glare.
OK. It’s just nice to get email from a recipe company. Makes me feel important.
That’s the spirit!
Ernest rises and exits. Blaine leans back and puts his feet up on the desk.
I’m an awful human being.
FADE TO BLACK
I love recycling. For me, this is generally restricted to cans of pasta sauce and Dick Cavett jokes, but I came upon another opportunity while editing my novel.
I have spent five years working on the book (on and off, not straight through) and, worried that my periods away might have undercut the integrity of the overall work, I weeded through the manuscript looking for oft-repeated words and phrases. Discovering an add-in for Microsoft Word that scanned a document and produced a report, I found myself looking at the entirety of my novel reduced to an alphabetical list of words accompanied by a number indicating how often it was used; with each new number, the alphabetising started anew. It was a fascinating way of viewing those words I had worked on for so long, re-ordered and shaken free of context. It made my work sharper and forced me to confront why I overuse the word “braying”.
Employing what is, in essence, a cut-up technique, I now provide the following poem culled from the words that didn’t appear all that often. Enjoy! Or don’t. Or, cut it up and make a new one.
From the Department of Irregular Words
The Grotesque spy
Unleashes culminating verse;
Caucasian counterparts and
in the blithe discourtesy of
Mid-argument cross-current rays
on a high-speed wood-panelled tilt-a-whirl
anchored by a sponge
Flinty fraternizing opposing thrill-kill alibis
the fleshy homeowner’s lament.
Writing wasn’t thought
when the late high heart
waited to trip your childhood
And break your goddamn neck.
Yellow cracked sounds
when Father returns for a four ear response
and terrible breath
Rounded plastic hips,
Mother has written beyond suffering men.
Appeared, sit-kneed to explain,
“Get drunk on the pale palm.
Ever surrounded, seven shoes in the right rubber aisle.
Conversations don’t prove fellowship
The flat twisted phrase
a wild trick of the reflected evening
shuffle-board squeals our struggled solace
when handsome amorous groups
framed romantic menace.
On September 15th, 1830, William Huskisson died because the world sped up and he didn’t notice.
Poor bastard. Huskisson, a man whose chief talents apparently lay in a facility with the French language and inheriting great sums of money, dove into British politics after witnessing the dawn of the French revolution as a young man. He served several constituencies with consistency if not distinction and yet will never be remembered for any of his middling achievements. Instead, he is remembered for his appearance at the opening of the LiverpoolManchester Railway, whereupon he stood on the edge of one train while misjudging the speed and proximity of another (George Stephen’s Rocket) approaching on an adjacent track. Never mind his work reforming the Navigation Acts as President of the Board of Trade and Treasurer of the Navy—Huskisson has become known for being pulled under the wheels of a train and forever after as the first railway fatality, to say nothing of his pioneering work as patron saint of klutzes.
Perhaps his story is less an ode to the comic ballet of fatal disfigurement beneath the wheels of a locomotive so much as it is a cautionary tale; one about speed, the rush of advancement and the simple pleasures of not being killed by a train.
Our family VHS machine was a JVC top-loader. Hitting ”eject‟ was followed by a glorious whirl of gears and gathering hush of elegant hydraulics, which only heightened the anticipation of a young boy whose palm gushed sweat over his rented copy of Code of Silence (which chronicled, if the video box was to be believed, Chuck Norris as a “good cop having a very bad day”). Over time, the action of that ejection became less graceful and more like a dog cacking up a bone fragment. But when it was new, it lifted up slowly and came to a cushioned stop with an adorable sigh.
As much as I loved that sound, and the confident interlocking of cogs as the tape was pulled from the casing and run along the video heads, I loved even more when the movie was finished. Before watching the second movie (and there was always another as video renting was the last gasp of the classic double feature viewing habit), you had to rewind the tape. Instead of frustration at the curse of sitting idly by in a hopelessly pedestrian analog world, this demanded, and inspired, patience. You could always pull the tape out and slap in the next, but rewind fees were usurious and a silly thing to pay for, like the privilege of taking your own money out of the bank.
Better than forced meditation, the rewind offered a quiet break to discuss the movie you’d just watched. Later in the arc of VHS history, you were able to watch broadcast television when the tape in the VCR was stopped. But in the early top-loader days this was not an option. To press stop meant a black screen and silence. And to rewind the tape meant the same but accompanied with a lulling hum from the machine; slow at first, the wheels struggling to pull the tape back right from the end, then picking up speed mid-way. This provided the perfect rhythm for conversation, shocked into silence from the sudden halt of the end credit music, then the slow slog into review.
“So. What’d you think?”
“It was good.”
“Yeah. Yeah, it was.”
“I liked the music. It was by a band called Tangerine Dream.”
“I think that’s their name.”
“No, I mean you liked it? It sounded like elevator music.”
“That’s a little harsh.”
“No, it was just… not what I expected.”
“It does give it a weird feel. Not like any other teen comedy.”
“How many other teen comedies have the lead guy running hookers out of his parent’s house?”
Before long, a list of Risky Business virtues were judged greater than the comparative sins of Private School and all were in agreement that Tom Cruise was a better star whereas Matthew Modine was the better actor.
Then technology had to rear its ugly, ergonomically-correct head and ruin the whole thing. Once DVDs arrived we could bid farewell to the double bill (one viewing of the movie plus a cursory trip through the extra features and Jimmy Kimmel was on), to say nothing of the rewind. How, pray tell, is the modern-day film watcher supposed to accurately digest and analyze The Fast and the Furious without this forum for the free exchange of ideas?
Now I don’t want to come off sounding like a linear-minded veranda-squatting crank yelling at these digital kids to get off my damn analog lawn. There are many changes born of technological advance that aren’t soul-sucking harbingers of the coming apocalypse: self-defrosting freezers, universal remotes, online socialising that allows for contact without the messy human component. I propose that advancement simply because we can isn’t always worth the collateral damage. Haven’t we learned our lesson from Frankenstein? No? Of course not, because we haven’t watched it and then taken the time to discuss during the rewind (or at the very least reckon with the more suspect directorial choices made by Kenneth Branagh).
If you need a moral to savour, then I humbly suggest this: time-saving developments are only as good as the activities we undertake with those newly discovered moments. As long as conversation is trumped by nattering, and interaction confused with connection, we’ll never tease out the subtle ambiguities of the Kevin Smith oeuvre and that, ladies and gentleman, is a world I shudder to contemplate.
Bonus feature moral: watch for on-coming trains. They are moving faster than you think.