The Year Of Dishonest Empathy / 4 January 2000

My Resolutions:

  1. I want to create a logo that will be used in connection with me and my various projects. It will be both a stamp of approval and a seal of quality. People will see this logo, this icon, and understand what it means. It will be a pictogram, textless in order to reach foreign markets. It needs to be simple enough to be quickly spraypainted on the sides of buses or scratched with a dull number-two into the rough surface of a junior-high binder, but distinctive enough so there is absolutely no doubt as to its nature. A kind of corporate branding that goes beyond conscious awareness, like the cross or the golden arches. It will adorn the usual promotional items. It will be clear and vibrant at both miniscule and gigantic sizes. It will be monochromatic. You will see it stamped in a subtle location on the front of a house and know that you will be among likeminded people there. You will receive a letter in the mail, and pressed into the envelope’s sealing wax will be this symbol and you will carefully open it and read its contents, the rest of the world drifting away behind you into a cold blur as you nod and understand what must happen next.

  2. A Synopsis of the Third-Person Novel Written in First-Person: The guy who worked at the deli said he’d heard some things and explained how it was microscopic organisms, how microscopic organisms had been loosed on the town, released into the air by the billions, maybe on purpose, maybe on accident. And we breathed these things in and they got in our systems and that’s why people been swelling up, people been seeing things, horrible things, people been shaking and shaking, people been floating up into the air, turning blue, saying things no one’s ever heard before. I said I felt them inside me, I felt their little stingers, and the guy who worked at the deli got all squinty-eyed and asked what I knew about it. And I said sometimes it feels like there’s a million bees crawling around, stinging me. And the guy who worked at the deli got all quiet after that and it later turned out that I was righter than I thought because that’s just what it was, tiny little bees, except not real bees of course. These bees were manufactured, built on an assembly line, maybe. And it wasn’t no coincidence that I thought of bees when I felt that stinging. No, that was my DNA talking. That was the bile from my implanted kidney talking just like it’s been talking ever since the operation only I wasn’t listening but now I am and now I’m packing my bag and slitting a hole in the jerry-rigged plastic seal that’s been placed around the entire town and sneaking outside where I’ll meet a doctor that lives deep underground who will tell me the history of the plague and equip me for what must happen next.

  3. I’ve been brainwashed by our culture’s dependency on honesty. My slavish need for acceptance has forced me to play ball, to worry about validity and plausibility and reality and truth. But the truth is that I like the imaginary shapes of machines and I like men that hunch and scowl and sweep instruments from their desks and are full of interesting and useless information and I like women that are giant and tense and circle errors in your work with bright red pens and say “here’s what we’re going to do.” I like everyone to have lived a life so full of yarns that they’re blasé about it.

  4. IJ talks about athletes plateauing (goodness but my vowel cup runneth over with that word) and how that’s the most difficult time, where you play and play and just can’t get any better and it gets wretchedly frustrating but you have to keep playing because everyone hits that plateau and you just have to stick with it because eventually you’ll move beyond that. Well, that’s how I feel about bowling, and since I refuse to acknowledge my body in any way, this is probably the closest I will ever get to understanding the life of an athlete, and since we’re talking about bowling here, you can imagine that I’m not particularly close, but perhaps in range to make a call on a cellular phone to said athlete, just to say, “I feel your pain.” You know how sometimes you will consume a piece of advertising and you’ll realize that it doesn’t work on you on any level because you’re the polar opposite of the target audience? So you’re left to sit and analyze it coldly, because it’s simply impossible to respond to it with any kind of instinct or passion? That’s how I feel about Nike commercials.

  5. I will disconnect my home telephone and use only a cellular phone which will emit an almost inaudible chirp when someone calls. The number for that phone will be sent out to select individuals in the aforementioned envelopes, stamped with my signet ring. The phone will reside in a velvet-lined mahogany box somewhere in the back of my closet and I will answer it by saying “happy birthday!” and finish by saying “I’m done talking now” and hanging up.

  6. Jay brought us each an identical gift from his recent trip to France (which reminds me of how I wanted to give everyone the same thing for Christmas — I don’t know what, just one thing for everyone, maybe some kind of corporate thank-you gift, something made out of lucite with an inspirational phrase emblazoned in it: “Perfection is our goal, but excellence will be tolerated.”) which is one of those chocolates wrapped in gold foil, made to look like a coin. These novelties invariably contain the worst chocolate of all time but that’s OK because they look like a coin, like I said. What’s especially great about these, though, is that they’re huge. They look like giant pennies, and it made me wish that there were some coins that were actually this big, like the size of a coaster. They could be of a weird denomination, like a seven-dollar piece, or even better a seven-cent piece. It’d be neat if there was a big disparity between its size and its value. And there wouldn’t be tons of them around, they’d be sort of rare, like a two-dollar bill, but they’d show up from time to time and you’d get all excited when you got one and you’d carry it around, awkwardly, in your pocket for a while but eventually you’d get sick of this huge coin and try to squeeze it in your spare-change jar but it wouldn’t fit and finally you’d break down and pay for something at 7-Eleven with it and annoy the clerk who has to stick the thing in a special container because the cash registers still haven’t been updated to accommodate it.

  7. The inspirational phrase thing reminds me of the box of teabags I just bought. I got really into beverages last year, just the variety and marketing and design of the many special-interest, non-alcoholic beverages that are available today, and part of that enthusiasm resulting in a newfound interest in tea, and it has become my default beverage order in restaurants, replacing the slightly more economical ice(d) water. The great thing about iced tea is that every restaurant has it, refills are usually free, and you can modify the flavor to meet your needs with sugar and lemon. I am now starting to grasp the appeal of coffee, the mechanics of it, the variability of it. Due to wild circumstances I now have a french press in my apartment, a beautiful and specialized instrument that I never really understood until now. I unfortunately have no use for it. If only I could choke down the nauseating, dirty flavor of coffee, then maybe I could fully brace Americana. I meant to type “embrace,” of course, but I think the typo is, as always, more interesting. I had a delicious iced tea in a restaurant in Denver, Colo. and it required neither sugar nor lemon as it was already perfect and ready to go. I detected a nice peachy (I mean that literally, as in “having the flavor of a peach” instead of the more slangy “neato” or “keen”) flavor and wanted to ask the waiter if he knew what brand of tea they were serving but then I got too shy. So I went to the store and bought the only peach-flavored tea I could find, and it was one of those Celestial Seasonings teas and it’s covered in goofy imagery (rabbits carrying giant peaches in wheelbarrows, bears in nightshirts) and hackneyed quotations like “The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart” and one side is devoted entirely to highlights from the god-awful Life’s Little Instruction Book. The shit is called “Celestial Seasonings” — who thought that name up? I haven’t tried it yet.

  8. It was an air submarine, which I know is a troublesome name, and it was sleek, bisected with refined ridges that looked like the spine of a great beast. The interior was de-luxe! Burgundy leather, brass fittings, indirect lighting.

  9. I would like an elaborately detailed model train set in my home, although I really would like one that could disappear at the push of a button because I don’t want this thing taking up all my valuable real estate, and also nothing says “troubled loser” more loud-and-clear than an elaborately detailed model train set, so it’d be handy if I could quickly stow it away when decent folks came over for socializing or meetings or whatever these fictitious characters will do when they allegedly arrive.

  10. As I read these over, I discover that the new year will be all about empathy, but a dishonest empathy.

Joshua Green Allen

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