Saturday, August 22, 2009

What's Up With The Oaf

One of my more pressing tasks is making a nice Anomalocaris canadiensis drawing. I put a lot of work into this one last year; shame that it doesn't work.

I neglected -- or rather, was intimidated by -- one of the most striking visual characteristics of the animal, the nasty trident-shaped 'teeth' on its armored feeding tentacles. Or arms. Or jaws. Or whatever the hell they're called.

And the 'flips' on the ends of its 'fins' 'suck.' They make it seem as if the 'fins' are soft, gelatinous. When I went back to study the fossils, it really seemed as if the 'fins' were stiff. And now I can't find the original sketch to try and fix it. Maybe I'll do a cartoony, multi-layered scene, something like the Tyrannosaur image I did around the same time as this.

(Looking at that now, I wish I'd gone ahead and put in the fleeing Edmontosaurs on the left -- the composition is unbalanced without them.)

Right now I'm feeling... well, not exactly overwhelmed. But I've got a hell of a lot going on, and I'm feeling pleasantly pressed.

School has started again. Like an idiot I spaced out the first day of classes, but I've emailed the teacher to let him know what's going on. Who's the teacher? This guy. That's right, I' gonna be taking 3D modeling and animation from an artist whose work I've been familiar with and fond of for years.

I'm also taking an introductory photography class. That's being taught by the woman who taught my Illustrator class last year. That class made me uneasy and defensive, as long-time readers will recall, because the teacher was a fine-arts type, and I had no clear idea of what she thought of me. Well, it turned out that she really dug what I was doing, and by the spring I was a fine-arts type myself. In fact, she and I both had pieces in the same gallery show. So again, there's a sense of connection with the teacher going in.

(It cracked me up -- some guy with an art history degree admired my critical technique and asked me where I'd gotten my training. "There's no training," I told him. "For me, art history is like music theory -- I only know what I couldn't avoid learning.")

The plan is that next semester I'll take a class in Painter, and that by combining photography and 3D with what I already know, I'll be able to execute the kind of realistic illustration that's popular on genre book covers these days. I also want to see if I can use the 3D to do comics -- I've never learned the skill of drawing the same characters over and over again repeatedly, and frankly it sounds like a drag to me. We'll see how that works out.

Of course taking these classes mandates a retail experience. Money will be spent -- gotta get the 3D software, textbooks, and a new camera. I like the one the missus lets me use, but it doesn't produce an image big enough for a large-sized art-quality print. Which I need. It's funny -- I am such a cheapass in my day-t0-day life. I lived for years on $680 a month, total. Believe me, in the East Bay Area that's cheap as hell. But when the time comes to gear up? I don't even care about spending the money. I kind of like being that way. Thrift and luxury, baby.

The reason I'm taking art classes rather than writing classes is because of the novel. I need to keep that part of my brain freed-up. And the novel is chugging along. I'm working on three layers of line edits at the same time. I line-edit forty page chunks, then send them to the Monday night group. I revise, and then send fifteen-page chunks to the Homework club. Then I revise again and hope it's good enough for an agent. It's actually moving pretty quickly -- the next section going out to the Monday night group will take them well past the halfway mark. It's a matter of weeks before they're done with it.

I want to be able to put together a submission package before October. That would be the first three chapters, a synopsis of the whole first volume, briefer synopses of volumes two and three, and a cover letter. That way I can have some people at Viable Paradise look the package over and give me advice before I start hunting down agents.

Viable Paradise, if you don't know, is the fancy-pants writer's workshop I'm attending in early October. I'm almost set up -- I still need to get my flight tickets for the trip between Boston and Martha's Vineyard, but everything else is pretty much in place. I've been in contact with a number of my fellow students, and they all seem to be good eggs. There's a good chance that this is going to be a watershed moment in my life -- to say I'm anxious about it is a radical understatement.

I also need to break down and get my student loan from the bank. I hate doing this, but given the choice between going further into debt and parasitizing off the fiscally-panicked missus isn't what you'd call a choice.

And I want to start thinking about how I could start doing copywriting or editing professionally. I'm told by people I trust that I have the skills -- I just don't have any idea how to find the work. Time to start investigating. Oafboy needs an income, you know?

It's like the old joke. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Brief and Unfortunate Career of Top Chat

Either this is the road not taken or I'm just dialing it in today.

So a few years back I flirted with the idea of doing a celebrity-oriented humor site. I was inspired by the old Smart Set column in the National Lampoon. (I almost wrote, "back when the National Lampoon wasn't a joke.") Not to mention Spy magazine, thanks to whom I will always self-identify as a thick-fingered vulgarian.

Well, it sucked. It was me doing someone else's schtick. Honestly? Celebrities aren't my thing. Kinda wish there was a way I could set them all on fire at the same time. In my defense, at that time the missus subscribed to a number of gossip rags and they were sitting near our chamber of excremeditation, so I wound up leafing through them. Drove me fucking nuts; it was self-torture, plain and simple. This was my simpleminded attempt at striking back.

But there are a few decent lines lurking in the lameness, a couple of giggles. So let's get nostalgic for those golden days of yore when Paris Hilton's contretemps took our minds off that nasty old Iraq War.

(Oh -- just for the record? My soul is for sale -- if someone paid me for this crap I could spool it out by the yard.)

Top Chat

Five Fun Facts About Your Favorite Celebrities!

1) Aspiring yard man George W. Bush has been trained to ride a bicycle – the big boy kind with just two wheels!

2) Beautiful precious Britney Spears has had her recent difficulties linked to a rare medical condition that causes her IQ to match the temperature of her immediate environment. In degrees Fahrenheit, natch, and the poor kid just can’t keep her hands off the air conditioner. Likes to keep things at a level seventy-two. Britney, Top Chat has two words for you – Death Valley!

3) Speaking of medicine, the busy little elves of the pharmaceutical industry have discovered a new anti-coagulant in the saliva of former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling. Turns out that when he’s sucking blood his spit keeps it from clotting, allowing him to feed at his leisure. When he’s done the blood just keeps on flowing but that’s somebody else’s problem, now isn’t it?

4) Is Eddie Murphy still alive? Sure seems that way!

5) Vicious addled pundit Ann Coulter is America’s first holographic neocon! Created by the dazzlingly talented imagineers at Pixar Studios, her jaw-droppingly insane drivel was originally intended to poke satiric fun at the current right. Pixar bull goose John Lassiter grimaces painfully and shrugs his shoulders – “We’re trying as hard as we can but she still sounds about like the rest of them!”

When There’s No More Room In Hell – The Cheney/Hilton Sex Tape

“I don’t know why I have to add bleach to the Visine myself, it should just come this way,” was Top Chat’s initial response to viewing the much-heralded video footage of the distressing tryst between stinky Veep Dick “Lil’ Sure-Shot” Cheney (Ever noticed how his name really is Dick? Truth in advertising!) and repulsive celebutard trollop Paris Hilton. Not since the Nixon/Arafat sex tape (those flaccid stubbly jowls clinging to one another as though made of Velcro, two men whose physiques appeared to have been composed of pure scrotum – double ick!) has publicly distributed celebrity sex gone so wrong.

You’ve seen it by now of course. What was your favorite part? The sight of Hilton’s pathetically meager flesh withering when exposed to Cheney’s famed (and actually visible) halitosis? The way a bored frustrated Hilton washed down a rainbow-colored quarter-pound of pills with a pint of Everclear while Cheney gave his extended speech of justification? The thing they did with her nostrils? Top Chat favors Cheney’s heartbreaking post-coital bleat – “I thought you were supposed to be good at this!” Poor old guy… If you haven’t seen it, well, spoiler alert! He doesn’t shoot her in the face.

The Laws Of The Lizard

The average American woman weighs a hundred and forty pounds, more than twice the weight of the average celebrity. Top Chat is saddened by this. Worse, Top Chat speaks for the vast majority of people who are sexually attracted to women – where are the movie stars for us?

It was during a viewing of Ocean’s Eleven that Top Chat was horrified by the sight of Julia Robert’s face blown up to brobdingnagian proportions. That gleaming death’s-head rictus stretched back convulsively until her earlobes brushed her molars, the massive bone-crushing jaws and huge gleaming eyes filled with desperate hunger… then the camera would pull back to reveal the finely honed physique of a predatory insect.

Julia Roberts was not pretty. She was not attractive. She was, however, fabulous in the most oppressive sense of the word. Top Chat realized that the standards for female beauty in our culture are now being determined by the segments of our society with the least interest in and most loathing for the female body – gay men and straight women, respectively. Echoing from the hills of Hollywood, Top Chat heard a chorus of the phrase that has sucked all the fun out of watching scantily-clad movie stars – “You could get a lot more work if you just lost weight.”

Top Chat has reflected on this. Top Chat has discussed this at length with a variety of concerned parties. Top Chat has ruminated on the fact that only someone who is sexually attracted to women is going to be able to tell if a woman is actually sexy – the rest of you are just guessing. Top Chat has a solution. From now on all female sex symbols will be selected using the same criteria that apply to the purchase of pet lizards. Perhaps you’ve never purchased a lizard or an actress. Don’t worry. The rules are simple and easy to remember and will pretty much guarantee that you’ve got a physically attractive specimen. You’re looking for…

Clear, bright eyes. A high level of activity and responsiveness. No visible signs of injury or disease. A vigorous eater. And a moderate plumpness at the base of the tail indicating a healthy proportion of body fat.

Top Chat would like to point out that these rules do not apply to the Olsen Twins. They are not lizards; they seem to be some kind of salamander. Caveat emptor.

Celebrity Redundancy

Top Chat has reached a decision – no more celebrity redundancy is to be permitted. Every time you duplicate a star you reduce their value. Soon it will take an entire wheelbarrow full of Baldwins to buy a loaf of bread. This must be stopped.

When one movie star does work that could be adequately done by another, the two are to be compared. The superior gets all appropriate roles. The loser is returned to the wild, a la Marlin Perkins – Top Chat has always wanted one of those tranquilizer guns. You may point out that many celebrities are incapable of surviving in an unsupervised environment. Top Chat recognizes the truth in what you say and nods sadly – nature is cruel.

Is there really any difference between Julia Roberts, Gina Davis, and Andy McDowell? Top Chat says no! In this case Gina Davis gets the nod because of Beetlejuice and because she isn’t Julia Roberts. Who is Andy McDowell anyway? Has she ever been in anything aside from People?

Kevin Bacon and Christian Slater. Do you need to ask? Top Chat compulsively watches dinosaur documentaries and Christian Slater’s voiceover for Dinosaur Planet is insufferable. Since he’s named Christian maybe he could be fed to a nice lion. Next!

As for Willem Dafoe and Christopher Walken, well. Willem Dafoe has had more opportunities to show his versatility as an actor and Christopher Walken kissed Top Chat’s wife when they were both teenagers in Queens. Walken is going down hard.

Keanu Reaves and… We don’t need anyone else, do we? Fuck it. He’s redundant!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lovecraft And Me

The Oaf presents his best wishes to the Terrible Old Man on the Occasion of his One Hundred and Nineteenth Natal Anniversary.

The other day I was out walking with the missus, and I mentioned to her that H.P. Lovecraft was the literary figure with whom I most closely identified. And more than that, he'd had a direct influence on our relationship.

"He married a woman named Sonia Greene -- she was Jewish, too -- and moved to New York. He had a hell of a time there and they wound up divorcing. I can't help but wonder how things would have turned out for him if he'd stuck it out. Back in the bad old days, there were a few times when I wondered if our relationship was good for us. Then I'd think of poor old Lovecraft, giving himself cancer with his cornflakes and canned spaghetti diet, dying poor and alone, and then I'd feel grateful for what I had even if it wasn't perfect."

I first encountered Lovecraft as a child, I'd guess in the second grade. Maybe first. It was in an anthology of monster stories, I believe edited by Peter Haining (I wish I could remember the name because I wish I had a copy; it had the chicken heart story and Ballard's giant-corpse-on-the-beach story and...).

The story was The Outsider. When I was done reading it, I had the same kind of reaction I'd have years later when I really listened to Hank Williams for the first time. "That son-of-a-bitch has my number. He knows where I live."

I tried to find as much of his work as I could. I scoured the library for him. His vision of mankind's fragile tenure in an essentially hostile universe was one of the seeds around which my view of the world crystallized. But as the years went by, I found that there was a lot more to Lovecraft than horror.

When I found the Ballantine Adult Fantasy edition of The Dream-Quest of the Unknown Kadath, it was a revelation. While it hasn't stood the test of time for me, the dizzying visions of a genuinely fantastic fantasy world, a world that was wholly the product of the mind, captured me absolutely. I read it and reread it, and when I tried to find out more about it I found myself drawn to other writers such as Lord Dunsany and Clarke Ashton Smith who have been more directly influential on my work.

It was during my first miserable year of college that I found out about Lovecraft the man. The library at UC Santa Cruz was very kind to me. A complete set of Dunsany first editions! Who's this Edward Gorey guy? He's great! And what are these black-bound volumes with the gold lettering on the spine?

The Letters of H.P. Lovecraft.

I'd known about the Lovecraft circle. Part pen-pals, part writer's group, part proto-internet, many of the most influential American fantacists of the early twentieth century were correspondents with one another, and Lovecraft seemed to be the center of it all.

Reading his letters brought home to me the contrasts he represented. His mind held the universe and more; he lived a life of poverty and limitation. He spoke of the essential hostility of existence and yet he was a genuinely lovely person to his friends. I came to regard Lovecraft as a brother I'd never meet.

The discomfort he felt with himself and the world also made me feel a sense of connection with him. While I'm not in a position to completely understand him, I truly feel the forces both internal and external that led him to lead such a limited life. His example is one of the reasons I continue to struggle to find a place in the world. If I grow weak, I too will shut myself away and die of poverty and self-neglect. But as long as I wish that there had been a way to save Lovecraft, I won't stop looking for a way to save myself.

A few years back, Michel Houellebecq wrote a book on Lovecraft. I did not think highly of it. When I ran across its listing on Amazon, I went to the trouble of writing a negative critique. Here it is. This was something I could do for Lovecraft's memory.

Here's to you, Howard. I wish we could have met.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Why I Hate The USA: Dishonerable Opponents

So I was looking at the statistics for the blog and I noticed that someone from the Democratic National Committee had taken a peek at the last post. (I assume they were after dog brain porn.) I wasn't sure if I was going to do any more of these screeds, thought that if I did I'd probably do something on the prison system or education.

But now that there's a chance someone involved in politics might see them? Boy howdy.

Hey, Republican National Committee! Come on down and have a look-see for yourself!

I'm going to indulge in a little fantasy here. I'm going to pretend that I can actually address the two major political parties.

Okay, you two. Cut it out. You are fucking civil servants. Start fucking serving the people.

Republicans? Remember when you were Lincoln's party? Democrats! Remember when you were devoted to social welfare?

What the fuck happened to you two?

I think a two party system is madness. You can't divide every issue into two sides. You can't have a party that deals with all issues in a cohesive fashion. That's not how reality works. Each issue needs to be regarded both in isolation and in conjunction with all other issues.

That said, if one party was genuinely interested in promoting social progress through the use of legislation and the other was genuinely interested in economic conservatism and minimizing government's place in the culture?

That would not be a terrible thing. I could live with that. And wouldn't it be swell if you campaigned on the basis of things like, oh, I don't know. Maybe issues? Voting records?

But those concepts of the Democratic and Republican party have fallen by the wayside, and what we've got are the chickenshit kleptocrats and the loud-mouthed trigger-happy 'I'm all fucked up on Jesus' kleptocrats.

Democrats, you need to get your ovaries and testicles in functioning fucking condition. From the Reagan years on you have let the Republicans fuck this country like a prison bitch. Right now America is dribbling shit from a ruptured anus because you did not sac up and do what's right. They lied and they lied and then they lied some more and all of their lies were easily refuted with indisputable evidence and you let them fucking get away with it because you were scared of losing the dumbshit vote.

Or, rather, the sweet, sweet flow of cash from the corporate teat washed your mouth clean of the taste of Republican jizz. Rather than presenting a unified front opposing what was clearly wrong, you chose political expediency and personal gain and we are all paying the price for your weakness and greed.

(I'll go into this later, but if you think prison rape is funny, or that anyone deserves to be raped? You are a fucking degraded subhuman. Go jump into moving traffic, now.)

And Republicans. I remember with fondness the Reagan years, back when I'd hear asinine granola-grubbing left wing types refer to Republicans as Nazis and I would give them shit about it.

That's right. I may not have given you any votes, but I defended your right to exist.

But between prison camps, illegal wars, openly advocating torture, mass wiretapping, plundering of public funds for private interests, the sick collusion of corporatism and theocracy metastasizing in the political body --

You aren't as bad as the Nazis were. But you are now legitimately comparable to the Nazis. And if given full reign? I think you'd be every bit as bad and maybe worse.

And the way you lie! I mean, you'd think with all the practice you've had you'd be good at it. But no. The way you've embraced the big lie principle is fucking staggering. You just say whatever you think is going to get you your way no matter what you said on camera the day before, no matter what the facts are. Black is white, red is blue, that's not dogshit, it's chocolate.

And the USA eats it right up. Just swallows it down.

Any ordinary citizen who regards him- or herself as a Democrat or a Republican is a sucker. Two sides of one coin. To support one or the other is to support a bankrupt system.

I used to automatically vote for whatever third party seemed most likely to have a chance. Even Libertarians!

(There are two kinds of Libertarians. The naive kind who believe that the magical Free Market fairy will wave her wand and make everything better, and the vicious kind who really like the idea of the vulnerable starving in the gutter.)

Bush put an end to that. His administration made it plain that the Republicans as they currently stand are genuinely evil and will consistently act against the best interests of the nation and the world as a whole in order to indulge their greed and bloodthirst. I hate the Democrats; the Republicans are unquestionably worse, even if their strength and determination makes them more attractive.

That's right, Republicans. You've driven me to vote Democrat. You, of all people, should know how degraded a condition that is.

Sometimes I wish I believed in God. Because then I could believe in Hell. Because if I believed in Hell?

I would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are going there.

Why I Hate The USA: The Early Years

I've decided to make this the default image for posts where I spend a lot of time complaining. Consider yourself warned.

Okay, let's get this out of the way. The main reason I hate America is because I am a hateful person. I am filled with hate and it has to go somewhere. I'd hate any country that I lived in and frankly, it wouldn't take much effort to come up with a fairly convincing list of grievances against any nation on the planet.

I am a US citizen. My family's been here from the start of colonization, and the odds are good I've got Native American blood. This is where I'm from. Don't assume that my hatred of the US means that I'm in favor of anything else. You may as well think I'm a duck as think I'm a Marxist.

That said, there's something... special about the US. Special in the short-bus sense of the word.

Here's the bit of news that set me off a few minutes ago. We have members of the Supreme Court speaking out in support of the execution of the innocent.

Let's be serious -- if Scalia was a tapeworm-riddled hunk of dogshit, all the other tapeworm-ridden hunks of dogshit would justifiably regard him with moral loathing. Fuck you, Scalia. The Constitution does not specifically forbid cracking a dog's skull open with a hatchet and fucking the cleft in its brain. That doesn't mean you have any grounds for defending the act.

Oh, yeah -- the Holy Sacred Glowing Constitution. There are three kinds of people who venerate the Constitution. People who are members of the privileged classes. People who identify with and support the privileged classes...

... and people who haven't read the fucking thing. If you actually sit down and read the Federalist Papers and the Constitution (the original Constitution, pre-Bill of Rights), it's pretty clear that the purpose behind the so-called Revolution (more on that real soon) was to establish a social structure similar to that of England, with the noble class deriving authority from wealth rather than heritage.

(Of course, wealth is inherited, which is how we get our USAnian dynasties.)

The type of democratic egalitarianism we are taught to think of as American (and I use the term American ironically, with full knowledge of the fact that there are other fucking nations in the fucking Americas) is in no way directly supported by the Constitution.

Rather, it is a set of principles primarily intended to keep the rich rich and to make it easy for them to get richer. The Bill of Rights definitely puts a different complexion on things, but if you look at the history, there was a lot of resistance to the very notion of those rights. The Constitution can be called on to support worthy causes but in order to bring it to bear you have to beat it like a government mule.

If you disagree with me, then give me your arguments based on the texts in question. Not on opinion or emotion or appeals to patriotism. If it ain't on the page, then fuck your outrage.

And as for the American Revolution. As I mentioned above, America is not the name of our nation. We're the United States of America. And as for Revolution, go look the fucking word up in the dictionary. A revolution changes the central government. The American Revolution was actually the US Rebellion. Which would be a great name for an aircraft carrier, don't you think?

Look, the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution are two of the most gloriously inspirational passages of prose the world has ever seen. But they don't really tell us anything about the actual rebellion in question. I mean, what would have happened if the rebellion hadn't occurred? Aw, look at poor Canada, Australia, New Zealand, groaning under the brutal yoke of British imperialism -- all with better health and educational options for the average citizen than the US offers. Fuck the American Revolution.

There was never more than 1/3 popular support for the war. It resulted in drastically increased taxes for the citizens. And most telling of all, within the first few years after the rebellion there were two populist revolts against the federal government, Shay's Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion.

King Washington put one down through use of a secret society, the Brotherhood of Cincinnatus. (Doesn't that sound like a crazed conspiracy theory? Again, look it up or shut up.)

In response to the other, he personally led an army as big as the one he fielded against the British in order to extract usurious taxes from a bunch of subsistence farmers. The fact that Washington owned a lot of land in the area that appreciated in value after he put down the Whiskey Rebellion might have had something to do with the enthusiasm of his response...

Oh, my golly gosh. This post is already running long and I haven't even gotten past Washington's administration. I'll let it go for now, but lemme say this.

It may seem as if I've got a bug up my butt about the origins of my country. Well, lemme tell you this.

That ain't nothin'. I'm really pissed about the current state of the nation.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Creative Spaces 5: Deathtrap!

There have been four responses to the Creative Spaces call... Here's the full listing!

This broom will very probably increase my lifespan by a significant figure. How can this be, I hear you ask.

Well, for years I had to stand on this ledge...

... to reach this window. (Or the books on the upper shelf.)

Here's the drop from the ledge. And remember, that staircase is steel -- it is quite unforgiving. These days I use the loop on the end of the broom to open and close the window, so I'm only imperiling myself when I need to grab a book from the top shelf.

And yes, that's my gut. I'm leaning backwards with my hips thrust forward, bringing its magnificence into prominence. Yeah, I'm on a fat boy plan and yes it's working, lost a couple of inches around the waist -- but I'm a big guy, I'm forty-five, what the hell do you want from me anyway?

For years the missus has expressed concern about my climbing around over the staircase. This is understandable. I'm a fairly clumsy fellow, and as you can see, that's a nasty drop. Honestly? I worry about it a little myself. That staircase is murder.

I figured out the trick with the broom after I had a little adventure a few months back. I was standing on the ledge, facing the bookshelf, and a moment's clumsiness shifted my center of gravity past the point of recovery. I started to topple backwards.

Now, in my blog post yesterday I made reference to feeling comfortable in situations involving violence. That's actually just part of it. I'm good in general emergency situations. I'm a danger ranger. I don't panic. I think.

So as I started to fall backwards, Emergency Guy took over. Everything slowed down and I had a chance to figure things out. Stupid as it may sound, I thought to myself, "Hmm. What would Spiderman do?"

And then I visualized his actions.

And then I acted.

I pushed myself off the ledge, jumping backwards, and pushed harder with my left foot so I spun in midair. I landed on my feet in a crouch at the top of the stairs. It was fucking perfect. I had no idea that kind of thing was within my capacities.

Right then I figured out how to open and shut the window with the broom. Talk about your deadline inspirations.

So now I've got to wonder. Am I the only person in the world whose life was actually saved by Spiderman?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hilarious Sex Traumas

So as soon as I woke up this morning I started working on manuscripts for a couple of my pals. When I went to send them a couple of quick emails letting them know my initial reactions, the missus usurped the space where I'd been editing and started meditating there, so I had to come on up to the studio and kill some time on the computer until she's done. I figure I may as well humiliate myself in public.

Here's a filthy little workspace secret. My workstation is poorly set up for dealing with manuscripts, so when I'm doing line edits, I do them in bed. That's right, folks, I edit naked.

But that's not typical of me. Naked is not my metier. I'm a child of the sixties. I grew up during the sexual revolution. I come from a generation and a culture where sexuality is regarded as birthright and necessity. None of that has done me a fucking bit of good. I am a roped-off sexual disaster area, half-prude and half-pervert.

I've never approached a woman, didn't hold hands til I was twenty-three. I tend to make friends more easily with women than with men, but if an attractive woman I don't know smiles at me? I am flummoxed. I have been known to walk right into moving traffic to get away from a cute girl, out of brute animal fear. Sexuality just ain't been a positive force in my life.

And while some of the reasons for this might make you want to pat my hand and go, "Oh, poor baby," and others might make you edge nervously away and start looking for a blunt object, some of them are pretty funny.

Let's start off with the moment when I began to feel uncomfortable with the female body. I was three and my sister was just a few months old. We were living in San Pablo, in a bungalow that had exactly the same floor plan as the house I live in now. My mom was laying on the couch in the living room nursing my sister and I was watching jealously.

Now, my mom was... Jesus, how does one find the words for this? Mischievous doesn't quite cover it. Lemme just say that the household rule she defended most fiercely was no squirt guns in the house. That was because she liked use squirt guns on the cats and if everybody squirted them all the time they might get used to it and stop leaping about in affronted rage when she doused them.

So I'm looking at Mom and Charity and I start feeling, well, left out. Cheated, even.

"How come she gets that and I don't?" I asked.

Mom looked at me and smirked. "You want some?"

I nodded, and she slipped her nipple out of my sister's mouth and squirted me in the face with breast milk. And then laughed herself sick as I, like the cats, leaped about in affronted rage.

Intellectually I know it ain't true but my every intuition tells me that male sexuality, especially my own, is inherently offensive. That to desire a woman is to insult her. And this is a direct result of uncritical exposure to feminism. I am not arguing against feminism, of course. I think that even the most inflammatory and reactionary elements of feminist philosophy have been necessary elements in an important cultural passage through which we're still moving. Hell, I think Valery Solanas was funny as shit up to the point where she pulled the trigger.

I'm just saying feminism fucked me up. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and it hit me like a truck hits a possum.

For instance, when I was in elementary school I didn't play with the other kids. That's a whole other story, but to understand this one you have to know that during recess, I would find a secluded spot and sit by myself and read while I hoped the vermin would stay the fuck away from me. But during the sixth grade, a group of girls got in the habit of periodically approaching me en masse.

They would stand in front of me, silently, until I lifted my head to look at them. Their facial expressions made it plain that they were pissed off, that I'd done something awful.

Their leader would then ask in an accusatory tone of voice, "Do you like to kiss girls?"

To which I would inevitably reply, "What?"

In response, the entire group would scream in unison, "Male chauvinist pig!"

I'm still not sure what that was all about, but it was an important element in the formation of my character.

When I was in high school, I worked in a day care center. I was a teaching assistant at first, but I made the mistake of showing a knack for cleaning and I wound up as a janitor. (Evading tasks through ineptitude was a skill I had not learned at that point.) But I was really popular with the kids -- wound up babysitting a lot of them.

So one day I come in through the gate and am immediately gang-tackled by five of the girls. They're screaming, "Get him! Get him!" and we roll around a little as they try and pin me to the ground. I put up a bit of a struggle, enough so that they gets some satisfaction when they manage to pin me down, one girl on each limb.

And then girl five, Rayne -- I've got to post on Rayne at some point, she was one funny kid --

Rayne sticks her hand down the front of my pants and yells, "Let's see if he's got a penis or a bagina!"

There is a corner of my soul that is still screaming.

And there have been drawbacks to being friends with women. (I mean, aside from the Friend Zone, which everyone knows about.) Hearing their stories about men has definitely been a contributor to my sexual reticence, but guys? When you're around some women and they start getting raunchy, just step back and observe. You'll learn something.

One time I spent an afternoon sitting in the back seat while my sister and our friend Kirsten (who I had a crush on -- she was robust and bitter, qualities I appreciate) drove around in a convertible. The idea that women actually want to have sex with men is one I regard with grave mistrust (this mistrust peaked right after I had a sigmoidoscopy) so hearing them whooping it up like a couple of prospectors on the way to the whorehouse was a real eye-opener.

At one point they parked next to a candy store and rushed in while I sat in the car. Now there used to be -- and maybe still are -- these bar-shaped caramel suckers called Sugar Daddies. When they came out, my sister -- my sister! -- held out a sucker made by the same company, pushed it in my face and said, "This is what every girl wants."

It wasn't a Sugar Daddy.

It was a Slow Poke.

You begin to understand why even though I prefer sex, I'm a hell of a lot more comfortable with violence.