Archive for October, 2009

Music Video Director

October 31, 2009

Undisputedly, there is nothing more beautiful in this world than a man voice singing soprano.  Which is why I’ve been directing music videos for castratos ever since the unhealthy marriage of film and music.  Obviously, the proper place for a castrato is in a choir, but occasionally the rare and fragile albino castrato is born unto the world, and you must seize your chance to make money off of him.

I’m sure you are wondering how I managed to usher this dissertation-worthy video into existence.  Well, let me walk you through the process.  First of all, I hired a crack team of former thieves to fulfill my elaborate plan to infiltrate the dungeons of the Vienna Boys Choir and steal away Vitas, their prized albino.  Yes, it is just as you imagine it– crawling through sewers, voice modification devices and custom contact lenses for foiling security systems, a few tactical explosions and some good old fashioned hacking with an axe.  (You cannot tell it from the video, but he actually is missing a hand as a direct result of my overzealous axework– a small price to pay for freedom from his cruel Viennese Choirmaster.)  But this was just the beginning.  Then I had to teach the boy to walk.  Castratos are kept in much the same way as veal calves, except they are sedated after each choir practice in order to keep them from damaging their vocal chords, as they seem predisposed to screaming when you lock them up for the day.  Just one of the instincts of their species, I presume.

Vitas was so happy to have been rescued that he wrote the song featured in my video on the day after my brilliantly successful heist.  They tell me that he’s saying something like, “I asked myself so many times, ‘For what was I born, have I lived, and grown?… In this world I’m not waiting for anything… If only I could fly away to the clouds where there are no screams…”  and so on and so on.  As he rocked in the corner of my ocean liner, softly singing to himself, I walked over and told him, “Boy!  I think we’ve got a hit!”  And then I gave him a shot of Demerol, worked a Klonopil into his gullet.  The poor thing had a case of the nerves like I haven’t seen since the time gave Winston Churchill a Jolt Cola.

Within three weeks, production was underway.  I composed the accompaniment, rented a crane, had snow blown in from Canada and Patagonia, and even dyed the albino’s hair with my assistant’s own two hands.  As you can see, the walking lessons did not go well.  Still, it adds a certain charm and I managed to work his fall in so that you almost can’t tell that it was an accident.  In fact, I had a lot of covering to do with this particular shoot.  It may appear to you, the viewer, that Vitas merely tumbled to the edge of the bridge, when in fact the silly billy fell right off the thing.  And we’d only gotten those few shots of him walking.  Well, okay.  Maybe my crane bumped him a little bit, but I had no idea that his center of gravity was so off.  I was just trying to give him a sort of heavy machinery high five.  Ever since this video, I make sure that the castratos are given at least two months of walking practice.  But it all worked out in the end, because as luck would have it, I was able to hire a Muppeteer on short notice, fly her in, and she managed to work the poor kid’s face for the close up shots.  I spent the next six days slaving away in the editing room getting very little rest and only three meals a day.

That’s the magic of the movies!

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Radio Persona

October 29, 2009

The frightful hands of Christian kidnappers.

Before this all gets out of hand, I want to come clean and dispel the rumors:  Yes, I was once a famous radio play-actor for a certain Chicago-based Mission on their acclaimed radio hour of dramatized true-life tales of common folks’ journeys to God.  Of course, this was not of my own volition.  You see, when they kidnapped me, they told me that they were the Symbionese Liberation Army and I leapt gleefully into their van, pleased as punch to undergo their weeks of indoctrination.  Let this be a warning to you not to trust anyone claiming to be a member of the SLA– he or she is probably a Christian in disguise.

But I must say, their brainwashing methods are just as effective as any domestic terror group’s.  Perhaps even more so.  And for most of it, I did believe that I would soon be robbing the Amalgamated Bank of Chicago with General Field Marshal Cinque and Tania.  The rhetoric was virtually indistinguishable.  So when they set a microphone in front of me and handed me a script, I felt the chill of excitement run up and down my spine.  Finally!  My first communique to be sent to the outside.  Doubtless the world had been waiting with baited breath for this, the moment when my voice, captured on scratchy magnetic tape would be heard on the Ten O’clock News with Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobsen.  I could barely focus on what I was saying as I thought of my colleagues crowded round the cathode ray tubes, gnashing their teeth and wailing, rending their garments and pulling out their hair at my horrifying fate.  I imagined them pooling their money, and coming up short on what surely must be a $700 million dollar ransom on my life.  I imagined dear Mr. Polly, my trusted secretary of nigh on eight months, fainting into the arms of Jeannie-Fayelene Bakker, my consistently drunk bodyguard who I kept around for her reckless, paparazzi-scaring behaviors and knowledge of voodoo incantations.  I imagined Bill and Walter’s ashen expressions, their rich voices grave and burdened with the knowledge that breaking this news would likely cause mass hysteria on a scale not seen since the date of my biggest birthday blowout bash, which also happened to be the date of President Kennedy’s assassination.  As you may recall, the convergence of these two events sent the nation into a tailspin.  You’ve never seen so many children crying into their ice cream cake.

But enough of that.  After about six months of recording what were beginning to sound less and less like communiques, and more and more like old-timey radio tales, I began to suspect that I’d been duped.  I had yet to participate in a siege battle, and instead was feeding the homeless.  Not a once had my captors given me a straight answer to my pleas to “meet the Big Guy Himself.”  Instead they kept telling me he was with me always.  Lies.  I finally realized that I had to get out of there.  One night I managed to beat the night guards senseless with a large wooden “crucifix” that hung on the “sanctuary” walls, bust out a few 20 windows, and escape into the windy city night.  After only three days, I had managed to hitch a ride out to California, track down the SLA, and with a few swift konks to the head, turn them into the police.  I realize now that it wasn’t their fault that they hadn’t managed to kidnap me, but at the time… well, I was brainwashed, you see.

Turns out nobody really knew I was missing, per se.  The rumor was that I’d gone underground as a black-market dinosaur bone smuggler again, and was jetting around Siberia in my fully-functional X-Wing fighter paying the locals a pittance for their treasure troves of bones bones bones.  Poppycock, of course.  Once I’m through with a career, I’m through, and I never look back.

Tooth Appraiser

October 28, 2009

Did this tooth once grow in one of Sir Isaac Newton's many tumors?

Many people wrongheadedly believe that tooth collecting is a niche market and that there is no money in it.  However, this has been far from my experience– in my glory days, I traveled the globe as President of the Royal Guild of International Dental Valuators (or Valuateurs as they say in the French).  Still others believe that the 12 year apprenticeship and bylaw requiring prospective appraisers to be legally adopted by a Guild member are unduly prohibitive for those wishing to enter the field.  But I ask, what is wrong with hard work?  Has the whole world gone fickle?  And many simply wish to avoid the inevitable heartbreak at the all too frequent occurrence of appraising a decaying, poorly cared for (usually at the hands of the Lutheran Church) tooth.  To them, I say: good riddance.  Tooth appraisal is not for the cowardly.

For instance, it was during my watch that I was embroiled in the hunt for Judas Iscariot’s left incisor.  I had been writing a paper on the lost tooth, when a curator at the Mutter Museum who knew the tooth’s location was murdered by a diabolical pastor of the wayward Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church.  Being the preeminent authority on dental symbology, I was called in to figure out the cryptic message the curator had written in his own blood prior to dying.  Little did I know that they considered me a suspect in the murder.  The curator’s niece, Jodie Sweetin, and I embarked on a race against the Missouri Synod to find the tooth, all while evading the authorities.  In the end, it turned out that Judas’ incisor had been embedded in Jodie’s jaw when she was just a youngster, so I wound up having to perform anesthetic-free dental surgery to properly remove it.  And what do you know?  It was more than a little worse for the wear considering the fact that Jodie is an incurable tooth-grinder.  Thus the value of the incisor was so greatly diminished that it was hardly worth the effort at getting it set in the ring I wear on my pinkie toe.  Such a let-down.  What is a Dental Valuateur to do when those entrusted with such priceless antiquities hide them in little girls’ mouths, or in mummified bat stomachs, or even in cans of condensed milk?

While it certainly took a toll on me to deal with these sorts of incidents on a daily basis, in the end it was the denial of my petition to the United Nations to preemptively remove the teeth of all potentially important world leaders and the refusal of the Guild to allow children as old as seven to begin their apprenticeships that finally drove me to resign from my post and leave the dental community behind me once and for all.

Ruble/Quarter Plugger

October 24, 2009
Through the neck, Washington.

Through the neck, Washington.

Admittedly, this particular career began more as a volunteer position for me.  There is nothing a small child loves more than to finger the still warm bullet hole in a shiny new ruble, and being something of a Bearer of Joy, I took it upon myself to travel the cities, towns, villages and unincorporated watering holes of America, with my trusty six-iron on my hip, tossing coins in the air and plugging them right through the center.  Kapow and Kablam!  There is nothing more revivifying than the sound of gunshots on a dewy spring morning, at a crowded county fair, or in the dead of a winter’s night.  At the time (1949 or 1950, if memory serves), I was still dealing with a lot of anger over War Admiral’s downfall at the hooves of the cursed Seabiscuit at Pimlico.  Only shooting holes in Soviet currency could console me.  I’d toss that Lenin-headed coin into the sky, pretend I was looking into the eye of that devil’s steed Seabiscuit, and mentally send the cretin back to his maker.  However, the times were changing, and no longer could a broken man or woman set up camp on the town square exercising a firearm from sunup to sundown.  After a rude police escort out of Decatur, I decided I’d take my show to the only part of the country able to not only accommodate,  but appreciate my proclivities:  The Mountain West.

Indeed, this move opened up new horizons to me.  Little did I know that one could wear the same stained, fringed leather suit day after day, as I had been bowing to convention and donning 3-piece linen suits back east.  (Not something to be wearing if one wishes to avoid meat stains.)  And since every Mountaineer, or “Westerner” to those of you east of the Continental Divide, owns  a few assault rifles and handguns, I was often joined in my pursuits and the dusty streets rang with the happy din of ricocheting shot and shells.  Men, women, children and trained cattle monkeys all possessed a keen eye and a genial respect for a man with a grudge against a horse… the Mountain West is truly the most egalitarian culture on the planet.   Of course, the workaday concerns of these fine people often intruded on our therapeutic shootouts, and it was always with great reluctance and not a little regret that I left each rugged outpost, each rendezvous, each fort.

It was around this time that I made the switch from shooting rubles to quarters.  I had nearly spent my fury over the horse race, but as always a new frustration loomed.  This was the culmination of a feud I had with the state of Wisconsin and their brewery zoning standards.  As a result, I became a Communist, and began shipping trainloads of shot up quarters to the Senator of that mitten-y state.  I also underwrote about 60 Russian nukes.

Rescue Dog Barrel Manufacturer

October 23, 2009
A fine specimen and an okay looking dog, too.

A fine specimen and an okay looking dog, too.

The folks fine enough to know me, know that there is nothing I appreciate more than an appropriately-sized barrel of whiskey in the evening.  Which is why it seemed like a natural outgrowth to open my own factory for the manufacture of such barrels.  After all, as rich as I am, it grows tiresome to have to purchase a new barrel each day so that I may toss it into a roaring fire in the evening, and watch the servants skitter off frightened of the ensuing explosion (as if they didn’t know it was coming) before I call them back to clean up the smoldering wooden shrapnel and lay a new Persian rug in place of the singed one now stinking up my smoking lounge.  I could significantly cut my overhead if I simply produced my own barrels.

That, and I have a keen interest in helping people.

You can imagine that I was at first astonished to learn that there was a market for such barrels.  “Strapping them to dogs?” I thought.  “St. Bernards?”  I thought.  I could imagine strapping a barrel full of whiskey to a chihuahua.  It’s an important part of one of my favorite party games.  Then you and your compadres race the chihuahuas up a 9% inclined track greased with sow fat.  (Be sure to take note of this for your Cinco de Noviembre festivities, and be sure to emblazon my name on the track– I own the rights to the game, and I don’t want to embroil you in a protracted legal battle, but am willing to allow any “Common Joe” to play as long as my name appears on your track.)  I simply couldn’t see the fun in giving a St. Bernard a barrel of whiskey and sending it off into an avalanche zone.  What would become of your whiskey should another avalanche occur, and the dog died under thousands of pounds of snow?  Perhaps there is a market for a whiskey cured in such a manner, but I have yet to meet a person who cultivates such tastes.  I did, however, soon discover the error of my ways.  After a minor skiing incident of my own which found me face down in a drift outside the chalet, having lost my way to the little men’s room, I finally saw the light.  My face and hands were freezing, and in my inebriated state I couldn’t seem to right myself.  What was I to do?  Would I suffocate there, unable to pull my face from the snow, lungs finally losing the battle to glean that last bit of life from the already oxygen-depleted air I’d been breathing prior to stumbling over the railing on the first-class porch of the chalet?  I tried in vain to weep, hoping tears might melt the snow, but not a one… not even thinking of the underwater safari and the blue whale I would never have a chance to harpoon could bring a tear, salty like the ocean, to my eye.  As I was on the verge of giving up hope and resigning myself to at least having a well-preserved corpse, I felt the snuffle of a wet nose in my ear.  “Oh, and now a snow ape will mar my beautiful visage,” I thought, but as the creature turned me over I was greeted with the disgusting smell of a St. Bernard’s breath and not a snow ape at all.  And what was more– a barrel of whiskey!  And then the tears did come, and I wept with joy as I ripped the barrel from the dog’s neck (subsequently breaking the neck, but surely a small matter) and doused myself with the restorative elixir, which gave me enough strength to climb the twelve steps and return to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day party I had been attending.

Since that day, I have been a silent but powerful advocate for the rescue dog industry, and continue to supply the majority of barrels for such enterprises.

Wool Speculator

October 22, 2009

A gang of local toughs sporting a popular look

Investment always presents an excellent opportunity for the sharp-witted among us to spend the hours most other folk are working at the local supper club, avoiding the nighttime rush.  I’ve had several wild successes in the investment realm which are likely never to be repeated in this lifetime, and perhaps the 16th most successful of them all was my brief and stratospheric dabbling in the wool trade.  In the mid- to late- 1970’s, I found myself on the forefront of the fashion industry, having purchased futures in several industrial sheep operations back in the late 1960’s.  I was initially betting on genetic cross-breeding to produce a lamb that would grow to three times normal size, thus infiltrating the fast food market with a delicious product I was developing called “Mutton Chops,” but unfortunately this was not to be.  Luckily, I’d taken a gamble and decided to go ahead and purchase not simply the tender flesh of the lambs, but the wool as well.  I expected I might use it as stuffing for my popular line of camping equipment (more on this in future posts).  Neither was this to be.  You may not remember, but in the mid- to late- 1970’s, a revolutionary new fabric hit the market– PLAID— and the youth went wild.  It had long been known that “wool of the sheep,” as we called fabrics made from fleece back in the day, was an excellent insulator from the cold, even while sopping.  Once the roving street gangs of Britain discovered this fact, however, life as we once knew it changed forever.  Soon, wool of the sheep was being woven into the jarring, striped patterns that used to be associated with such hoodlums as the Manchester Munchausen by Proxies and the Bristol 86-ers.  Mills sprouted on every corner and the streets ran with the blood of thousands of sheep.  Children as young as nine were caught up in “dancing” fits, and were frequently induced to leave home and join the melee.  I recall many nights when I was kept awake, trembling fearfully betwixt the sheets to the howls of their rampages, captured here in this terrifying footage:

By 1976, I intuited that nothing would stop these hooligans, and properly predicted the high likelihood of raids on secret Scottish wool warehouses.  I cut a deal with some of my comrades less-than gifted with foresight, and dumped my goods for a pretty penny.  I then sold the addresses of the secret warehouses to the fearsome gang featured in the above newsreel, and washed my hands of the affair.