Pseudo (a short story)

One night, as my husband and I were lying in bed reading different novels:

“God, you’re lazy,” he suddenly said.

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“You’ve done nothing but slack off these last four years.”  We’d gotten married five years earlier.  “Why don’t you do something worthwhile for a change?”

“What the hell brought this on?” I asked, feeling like a no-good punk kid.

“Reading this book.  The author wrote it when she was twenty-eight and won a Pulitzer.  She also wrote the movie version and won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay.”

“Which proves that people love pseudo-literary shit.”

My husband and I used to write pseudo-literary shit.  He worked at a mortgage company; I blogged for whatever progressive website I could.

“Oh, please don’t use your so-called discriminating taste to justify your laziness,” he spat at me.

“Let me guess.  You got turned down for a raise again.”

“How much money do you earn?”

“Enough not to be an ass-kisser.”

He grabbed my novel out of my hands and tossed it at the wall facing us, narrowly missing the framed chinoiserie print we’d bought at the antique store.

“Happy reading!” he shouted before storming out of the bedroom and sleeping on the futon.

Later, after the divorce, I would write a somewhat-pervy story starring a thinly-disguised version of him.  I sold the story to my old literary magazine.  We haven’t spoken since our marriage ended, so I don’t know if he read the tale, nor do I care, though I should have told him that pseudo-literary was better than non-literary—you know, more accessible for most people, easier for them to handle, like watering down their liquor.

* * * * *

August 20, 2015 (revised August 21, 2015)

Copyright © 2015 by David V. Matthews

The Donald, Doubled

When I read a Maureen Dowd column, I know it will almost always lapse into vacuity and never recover.  The lapse may occur early or near the end, but when it does, I feel let down, despite knowing she cannot help herself, that she cannot comprehend the world otherwise.  All right, I also feel a little jealous that having a vacant mind has not hurt her career in the very least.  The New York Times most likely would fire her if she wrote intelligent analyses of sociopolitical issues instead of giving the paper and its advertisers free publicity via those oh-so-provocative, nyah-nyah columns about how feminists suck, or how Hillary’s a bitch, or how name-of-male-Democrat’s a sissy boy, or how name-of-male-Republican’s a manly-man.

Speaking of manly-man Republicans, her column today has the presumably nudge-nudge title “Introducing Donald Trump, Diplomat,” and the lapse into vacuity occurs in the very first sentence: “Donald Trump gives me his Grumpy Cat look.”  Dowd loves outdated pop-cultural references as much as she loves power and glamour. Interviewing Trump “in his office in Trump Tower high above Fifth Avenue,” she gives him the opportunity to present himself as a non-misogynist: someone who may harshly judge women on their looks and who may accuse a tough female questioner of menstruating, but who otherwise loves the fairer sex.  Quoth Trump:

“I have many women executives and they are paid at least as much as the men[.]…I find women to be amazing.”

Swell, though Dowd doesn’t ask Trump about the business dealings his “amazing” female execs have presumably helped facilitate.  She asks him nothing about his not-exactly-uncontroversial financial past, instead giving him space to inveigh junior-high-style against his enemies, and he does not disappoint, referring to the “moron Rand Paul” and George Will the “boring person” and asserting that Carly Fiorina’s way of speaking hurts his ears.

Dowd does discuss an actual political issue with Trump, however. The column’s last two paragraphs, in their entirety:

I ask Trump if he can at least admit the President Obama was born in this country.

The Grumpy Cat face comes back.  “No comment,” he murmurs.

And we find out more about Trump’s views in an additional Dowd piece today, “Lightning Round with Donald Trump.”  “[I]t’s hard to contain the Vesuvial Donald Trump in 1,300 words of my column,” she explains before calling him “the birther of a nation.”  I’ll admit, I did find that “birther of a nation” line amusing, a bit of amusement before the serious, in-depth content to follow.

Or not to follow—Dowd uses most of that rare extra space to let Trump describe how he has trumped his Republican rivals and how hot Sharon Stone looks, though he does characterize the Iraq War as a waste of money and American lives (Iraqi civilian lives excluded), criticize Bernie Sanders for not standing up to the Black Lives Matter protesters, and discuss global warming:

I’m not a believer in man-made climate change.  And again I had uncles at M.I.T. and stuff.  By the way many smart people agree with me.

He doesn’t name any of those “smart people[.]”  I doubt Dowd pressed Trump the rich birther to go into detail about the military, American imperialism, race relations, or the environment. And in both pieces, she asks him nothing about raising the minimum wage, strengthening unions, taxing the rich, or anything else that might help the non-Trumpish, not that The New York Times or any other corporate-dominated mass-media outlet would ever permit serious discussion of those issues.  And not that Dowd has ever cared about how the rich and powerful’s policies affect us all and the word we inhabit.  She loves her upper-class political and celebrity milieu—a milieu which, I have to admit, has its escapist, apolitical appeal in this era of debt, drones, and disappearing icecaps. 

Copyright © 2015 by David V. Matthews

 

Movie Review #2

The two-hundred-million-dollar movie Crazy Climber will definitely entertain an audience too young to remember the source material: a 1980s arcade videogame where some guy scales the outside of a skyscraper while dodging closing windows, falling flowerpots, and other obstacles. Bro-centric comedian Reggie Glenn plays the title character, here named Ace Foley, an aging fratboy content to spend his days holed up in his parents’ basement, watching cyberporn with his buddies Stanky and Toker while listening to classic rock. Until one day—oh, God. Oh God, oh God, oh God. Ugggghhhhh. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeek. Crap crap crap crap. Crap crap crap crap crap. American culture has entered an irreversible decline. If we don’t drown due to the melting icecaps, or die of radiation poisoning due to nuclear war, we’ll cause our brains to shrivel due to the obnoxious entertainment churned out by—hey, who are you? What are you—POW POW BASH BASH BASH KICK KICK POW PUMMEL BLEED BLEED BLEED—Hello. May I spend a few minutes telling you about the acclaimed author Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism? Essentially—JSGBCSKWIOI347KFKDGF;Q.WKR—and with an Eighties-rock soundtrack and an endless amount of CGI-aided battle scenes, Crazy Climber should appeal to an audience looking for the latest in comic-book-style fun.

Copyright © 2015 by David V. Matthews

Time for This Blog’s First Movie Review

One reviewer famously–or infamously–called Bobcat Goldthwait’s 1991 directorial debut Shakes the Clown “the Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies.”  Well, Dr. Willard Glice’s directorial debut Endoscopal Detection of Gastrointestinal Abnormalities in the Elderly is the comparing Shakes the Clown to Citizen Kane of three hour and forty-five minute Internet downloads that feature footage taken inside geriatric patients of hiatal hernias, fundic gland polyps, stromal tumors, and so on, meaning self-styled cinéastes bored with The Room and 9/11 footage will sarcastically derive humor from Dr. Glice’s unforgivably ingenuous and pop-culture free medical presentation, though the patients undergoing endoscopies in this download fail to find their situations amusing for some reason.  I suppose I should insert a winking emoticon here.  Has anyone even seen Shakes the Clown?  Robin Williams has a cameo in it as a talking mime.  I repeat, Robin Williams has a cameo in it as a talking mime.  He should have quit acting after this pinnacle.  I suppose I should insert another winking emoticon here.

Copyright © 2015 David V. Matthews

Flash fiction (a hundred words or fewer) #3: Slimepit

When I found myself watching the latest camera-phone video showing that latest pop strumpet’s latest drunken altercation at the latest hot L.A. nightspot, I knew I’d grown old, knew I’d aged out of the snarky pop-cultural slimepit due to my having exerted actual effort to avoid aging out—and worse, due to my showing actual sympathy for that spoiled, vacuous strumpet, who would likely enter rehab and spend the rest of her career starring in cheap, purposely-campy, sci-fi cable movies that reference her past debauchery, permitting her to continue earning far more that I, the more-or-less lifelong teatotaller, do.

* * * * *

(Written on the spot)

Copyright © 2015 David V. Matthews

The Faux-Scruffiness

I dated a white man for two years and never told my family.  Of course, this was during the early Nineties, before the arrival of the Internet—before a stray picture on Facebook or wherever could destroy your privacy.  Also, I spoke very rarely with my family back then, maybe a few phone calls a year, for reasons I still don’t understand.

Anyway, I met him in a coffeehouse in 1991, right after the Gulf War had begun.  As I sipped my double cappuccino, I overheard someone at the table behind me call the war “corporate welfare for the bad guys in G.I. Joe.”  I turned around to say “Amen, brother!”  (I’d heard of G.I. Joe but had never seen it.  I still haven’t.)  He sat by himself, scribbling something into a spiral-bound notebook, the type with holes and blue-lined pages.  He had short, dark blond hair, almost like a mullet; and he wore the most neatly-pressed flannel shirt I’d ever seen. He smiled at me a little nervously.

“Sorry—sometimes I what I’ve written aloud to hear if it works,” he explained.

“Did that line work?” I asked.

“Do you think it works?”

“Uh-huh.  It’s funny, but it makes an important political point.”

“Yup, it sure does, but I still don’t think it works.  Dropping the ‘corporate welfare’ part and saying that ‘the bad guys in G.I. Joe’ are running the war would, like, make the comment more accessible.”

“Accessible to whom?”

“Why—people who don’t converse with me, that’s whom.”

I laughed.

In retrospect, that inaugural conversation featured a few things I would increasingly find problematic about him: the faux-scruffiness (that mullet), the fussy appearance (that crisp flannel shirt), the barely-jovial superciliousness (that comment about not associating with presumed idiots).  But at the moment, I found him captivating, much more captivating that the pretentious creeps in my poetry classes.  Now that I think about it, I don’t know why I never shared my poetry with my family, either.

* * * * *

(Fiction written mostly on the spot)

Copyright © 2015 by David V. Matthews

Doonesbury Meets Cabaret

I think most people knew President Reagan had Alzheimer’s as early as his first term. He couldn’t remember anything, couldn’t string two words together without a script, and couldn’t distinguish between fantasy and reality.  Yet in 1984, the Democrats never made an issue of his mental fitness, thus helping him win reelection that year in a landslide.  My mother, a lifelong liberal, compared him that year to a community crafts project: an ugly, garish, Popsicle-stick-and-Elmer’s-glue ashtray everyone—Democrat and Republican, male and female, rich and poor (well, mostly rich)—had helped build and had to pretend represented something worthwhile, otherwise someone’s self-esteem would suffer.  My mother died of a heart attack in 1987 at age fifty-eight; I still miss her, but I particularly miss the political talks we’d have at her apartment, during which I’d feel a little guilty about knowing I’d use her observations, often word-for-word, for the comic strip (think Doonesbury meets Cabaret) I drew for the local weekly queer paper, a pretty radical rag, complete with socialist politics and gay porn reviews.  I never told her about the comic strip, nor did I ever tell her my sexual orientation, though she had probably inferred the latter due to my lifelong bachelorhood; most of my male classmates from high school (class of ’70) had already married, divorced, and remarried.  After her death, I abandoned cartooning and went into real estate. I haven’t drawn since, not that I’ve denied the world much in the way of artistic talent, though I suppose flipping houses in this economy takes talent of a sort.

(Fiction written on the spot this afternoon)

Copyright © 2015 by David V. Matthews