THE NEEDLE AND THE DAMAGE DONE
I am an atheist and work in the scientific publishing field, two places where people are always running around yelling SHOW ME THE EVIDENCE, and normally I am sort of that way myself. However, I’m seeing an acupuncturist once a month now, for various mystery-ache and energy-level reasons. The acupuncturist is very short and sort of moist-looking, although her hands are startlingly dry and cold, and she looks at my tongue and puts needles in my limbs and head and leaves me in the dark to chill while I listen to surprisingly enjoyable “meditation music.” She tells me things like how my liver is wet and my qi is blocked and my pulse is hollow, and I resist the urge to tell her how it all sounds like utter baloney.
Here’s the thing. It may well be utter baloney, but it’s helping somehow. It may only be helping in the psychological way of resting in a dark room while a professional (of some sort) attends to your well-being. It may be helping in the way that the Chinese think it is, but my science-self rejects that because really? The wet/cold/damp/hot/liver/spleen thing sounds really close to the black bile/yellow bile/phlegm/blood thing for my liking. It may be helping for some entirely different physiological reason that no one quite understands. I don’t care. I can afford to give this lady some money once a month, I feel cheerful afterwards, I enjoy the hell out of the amusing bb-sized “herbal medicine”* she gives me, and when you get right down to it I don’t see how it is different from paying for a facial or a massage or some other not-entirely-necessary service.
*Now this stuff I actually am sort of frightened of, since I have read a few too many case reports about Patient X who took high doses of Chinese herbal whatever-the-fuck and died of liver failure. But I have thoroughly researched what she’s given me, and it seems to be ineffectively small doses of benign and happy adaptogenic plants. So why take them then? BECAUSE THEY’RE FUNNY, I TOLD YOU WHY. And they are like four dollars, so whatever.
Now I have pissed off everyone, from the people who do believe in Chinese medicine to the skeptics who think I’m an idiot for partaking in it at all. Stuck in the middle with me!
WE MUST APPLY THE WIRE BRUSH OF KNOWLEDGE TO THE FORESKIN OF IGNORANCE
SING, SING OUT LOUD
The last few days have been all about singing or chanting the phrase “Get your scrotum off my waffle” in different styles and manners. It works well as a sort of walking meditation mantra (GET your SCRO-tum off my WA-ffle), and also as an upbeat old-timey ukulele jam, with jazz hands and an attempt at doing the Charleston in the shower, which I do not recommend as I nearly killed myself with that maneuver. Showering needs to be made tolerable in any way one can find, and I have found scrotum waffle ragtime dance moves, so there you go. I really hate showering, did you know that? I do it, because I’m not gross, but oh how I would love to be self-cleaning.
WHY DO I DO THIS TO MYSELF
I feel oddly compelled to keep up with both Jonathan Franzen and Nicholson Baker, even though I am “meh” about much of their written work, and both had books of “essays” released recently. I put that in scornful quotation marks because both books felt kind of lazy and thrown-together, including short remarks from funeral services (Updike’s for Baker, David Foster Wallace’s for Franzen), teeny little should-have-stayed-in-your-notebook pieces, and book reviews. There are longer, more polished things too, and I’m not really complaining about it—collections like these are bound to be pushed upon you once an editor decides you are The Literary Sort. But I want to bitch about Baker for a minute.
Nicholson Baker is somewhat well known for writing about sex. For the record, I don’t particularly care if he writes about sex, although the sex certainly deteriorates with each of his “sex books.” Vox was semi-enjoyable as a wank book, Fermata was an elaborately sick postmodern fantasy about how it’s kind of okay to rape as long as you are extra-considerate and make sure your victim enjoys herself, and House of Holes is an unreadable disaster that lurches from scene to scene while employing some of the most ludicrous sex-talk ever. “Fill my mouth with your manly nutbag?” Please.
The sex crap notwithstanding, my Baker beef is that everything he writes feels like sex crap, even when it’s not. The Mezzanine was briefly exhilarating when it came out—the attempt to capture and share the minutiae of one mind was what DFW was getting at when he said that literature was a way to feel less lonely—until you realize that NB doesn’t give a shit about you feeling less lonely. He is not interested in seducing you with language, he is mostly going on and on with all these quirky viewpoints and lush descriptions to pleasure himself. Unless he is writing nonfiction about libraries, newspapers, or some other real-life, out-in-the-world topic, my main image while reading any Nicholson Baker is of him rubbing up against language going uh uh uh, sweat on his forehead and a stain on his pants.
Nicholson Baker, if you read this and are pissed about it you are welcome to beat me up. I’m sure you will get a lot of exquisite pleasure out of doing so, and will describe it in voluptuous detail. I just ask that you do not wipe yourself afterwards on any upholstered surfaces in my house.
—mimi smartypants sent you the cleaning bill.