2009 October

October 2009

When I come across old cookbooks, it makes me very grateful that I live in an era where our desperation for flavor and variety can be quelled by harsh chemicals instead of encasing things in gelatin. Has there every been a singular instance where a food was made better by suspending it in a translucent substance? Staplers notwithstanding, though technically, they are not food.

Anthropological studies, conducted informally and by exclusively looking at 1960s cookbooks, reveals that there is not a single food in the universe that cannot be assaulted – and quite frankly,  roughly violated – by the addition of boiled eggs, black olives and salty gelatin. Anyone who can’t understand the seductive wiggle of a perfectly cylindrical slab of jellied meat paired with the brimstone and sewage aroma of boiled eggs…. well, let’s just say that they haven’t lived.

Step Four : Set aside at least 48 hours for your colon to stop spasming uncontrollably.

This is Shane Lee. He is admittedly schizophrenic and on medication. He has a YouTube channel that is full of him singing songs and homophobic rants.

And it is hilarious. That is all.

I wrote this back in September of 2004, but it’s one of my all time favorite articles that I did on All Nerd Review. It’s got funny stuff, it’s got music, and it’s generally pretty satisfying, as it’s one of the few articles that involved doing things that existed out in the real world, even in some small way. Please enjoy.


It wasn’t too long ago that I found a can of squid in my closet.

I do not clearly remember BUYING this can of squid.

Maybe I purchased the can in some kind of misplaced creative impulse. I’ve bought odder things under the pretense of creativity, though having a luminescent Jesus nightlight and 50 spools of thread have not yet proven useful in ANY way. I was, in fact, using dead octopodia for art and comedy at one point. Half of this comedic performance entailed pulling a dead baby octopus out of my pocket and cleverly proclaiming ‘POCKTOPUS!’ and waving it in the faces of attractive young women in The GAP, one of which actually ended up becoming my girlfriend for 2 years. It all ended when we realized that the foundation of the relationship – the proud display of a dead octopus and a lot of hot lovin’ – was actually pretty flimsy and she ran away. The other half of the comedy went something like this.


That phase in my creative career lasted about as long as an unrefridgerated octopus could. I disposed of them, but I still don’t explicity recall attempting to fill that particular void in my life with canned squid.

I don’t find the idea of canned squid specifically unappealing, as I eat all manner of seafood both cooked and uncooked, though I do have a personal policy of not eating things which include  instructions like, ‘pull head from body sac’. ‘Discard viscera’ isn’t too appealing either. It’s not that I wouldn’t eat these, I just that don’t trust myself to successfully pull something’s head from its body sac in one yank. It usually takes a bunch of small tugs and then some vigorous rotating, and by that point, I’d probably be either too excited to eat or at least leaving some squid brains behind in the body sac. This violates my second most important personal gastronomic policy, ‘don’t eat the parts of the animal that have possibly thought about you before’.


One of my earliest contacts with squid was probably this statue of Mario vs. the blooper. Something like this doesn’t really give a kid a good impression of squid. Mario is obviously unprepared for this guerrilla rectal exam, and even invincibility, granted to him by the golden star, will not ease the discomfort of the squid’s attack. In fact, this unprompted squid suppository has even shocked the invincible star itself, who, as we all know, directs snuff films and is very difficult to phase.

None of this brought me any closer to figuring out where this came from. SOMEONE paid $1.99 for this, but I was given no indication as to who the financial recipient of this transaction was, since the price label only said ‘GROCERY’. As for an expiration date, ‘MO NB M21B’ seems to be some kind of alpha-trinary code for ‘C’mon… Live Dangerously’ or ‘No, There’s Nothing Else To Eat’. These letters and numbers are embossed into the can lid, and can also be read by the squid inside, if they have the tiny flashlights or miner’s helmets that I imagine them to have. These letters and numbers are probably some kind of squid code so that THEY don’t forget when they go bad. I’ll open up the can, they’ll say, ‘Too late, buddy’, and we’ll both go on with our lives.

Along with the directions on how to eviscerate the little bastards, there are serving suggestions and nutritional information, and according to this label, squid actually have a negative nutritional value. For every serving of squid that you joyfully partake of, you can subtract about 15 minutes from your life. Caveat : these 15 minutes will probably come somewhere in the middle, and not in the already truncated final moments, when they’re pounding on your heart to bring it back to all of its clogged, pulsating fury. A mere 2 ounces of squid contain 90% of your RDA of cholesterol. From this information, top scientists have discovered that squid are actually composed of 90% pure butter and 10% assorted viscera, which are composed of margarine. They’ve also discovered that it’s safer to insert the squid directly into your heart than to consume them orally.

“Wel-Pac California Squid is already cooked. Once cleaned, cut squid into bite-sized pieces; season to taste with soy sauce and lemon juice. Serve chilled as an appetizer or main dish salad. Or, add bite-sized pieces of squid to salads, or soups, such as tomato and vegetable, for a light but full meal. For a quick main dish, add cleaned Wel-Pac California Squid to your favorite spaghetti sauce and serve over cooked spaghetti or rice. For additional recipes, write to : Wel-Pac Squid Recipes, P O Box 7251, San Francisco CA, 94120.”

Sounds like a plan. I was going to write them a letter. I’d avoid writing anything accusatory, criticizing their guerilla marketing techniques of placing their product in the back of my closet, and simply ask them for more recipes. I drafted a letter on July 22, and waited.


Meanwhile, I did some research.


I found out a few things. “4000 embryos”, and “Gary has no luck”. What does this mean towards uncovering the mystery of the squid? Well… it meant that I had to write a song about it. A sad, folkish song. Because that’s just what squid are into. Which you can download.

The infectious presence of the squid on my desk had infiltrated my brain, so with guitar and MusioMate, and a bit of remastering from my friends over at Headhat, I had a horribly mediocre song. Meanwhile, Wel-Pac/JFC International had responded to me! The responded with an array of recipes that I would, in all likelihood, never ever ever try, since my baked potatoes generally have cryogenically frozen cores, and bacon? Thousands have died from the undercooked wrath of my bacon. I somehow manage to reverse the aging process in cheese and actually turn it back through its delicate milky phases and into grass once again. I don’t know how this happens. Within the realm of the pamphlets, ‘Oriental Classic Recipes’ like ‘walnut spice biscotti’ never looked so right, surrounded by neon green clipart of Thanksgiving turkeys. My culinary expertise would remain firm in the country of chicken nuggets and Spaghetti-Os.

Am I going to eat the squid? Well, they’ve become something of a desk mascot. They’ve inspired a bevy of visitors to state things like, “Hey… he’s got a can of squid on his desk!”, or “Look! A can of squid! I don’t get it,”, which is perhaps the greatest compliment I’ve ever been paid, because I’m a horrifically undesirable human being. My can of squid is truly my most attractive attribute. So, until the can begins to bloat and rust, I have no choice but to keep them as pets. They’re low maintenance, requiring but a light dusting every so often, and my gentle, soothing words.

Plus, they’re probably older than me. At least I have a quick way out if things get too bad. I can imagine the coroner’s report, and their desperate attempt to turn ‘squid’ into a verb. The answer, of course, will be locked behind my cold, dead lips.


I work at a library. Our VHS collection is about 2000+ videos strong, because the hill-people of my town ain’t gonna get ridda thar tapey machines no way no how. Granted, the videos don’t go out TOO often, but they still take up an entire wall of our small, cluttered office. An office, by the way, which was one time described as ‘the bad part of Beirut’ in aesthetic. Rusty metal cabinets that don’t really close, live wires leading down to a well covered by a few thin floor tiles, and a defunct oven that functions as a safe really drive that point home.

Anyhow, today, we got a VHS tape back in our interlibrary loan delivery box with a note to the effect of ‘the movie on this tape doesn’t match the label or box’. Of course, this was pretty odd. I investigated.


Someone had actually taken the time to peel the label of our ’800 Leagues Down the Amazon’ VHS off the the video itself, as well as the corresponding circulation barcode, and re-glue them on top of their own ‘West Coast Regionals’ VHS.  They kept our VHS, and because we’re not exactly expecting people to scam us on 75-cent VHS tapes, we didn’t pick up on it until a patron complained. OR – that same patron complained to cover up for the fact that they did this themselves. I’ve seen stranger, more selfish, and idiotic things behind the desk at the library – but this is pretty far up there.

I’m a little obsessed with Christian Weston Chandler.

At first, you feel sorry for him. Then, you realize that his ‘autism’ qualifies him for tons of free government money every month that he squanders on Playstation and porn, he refuses to get a job, and repeatedly does ridiculous things on the internet. So much so that he’s had his own horrific wiki dedicated to him. It’s an endless parade of tragic and hilarious. It’s obvious that he’s not stupid, just amazingly unaware of how the world functions – presumably because he’s never had to really interact with it. This is a guy who has been kicked out of various malls and stores because he sits around with a sign begging for a girlfriend. This is a guy who draws very detailed, disproportionate comics about his own characters having sex.

Today, he is very angry about ‘dang dirty trolls’ on the internet. Cardboard everywhere is terrified.

When you Google ‘Voice-O-Graph’, I’m the third result. Well, not ME, but a thing I wrote a while ago. I’m an unofficial internet expert, apparently.

Most of these (as well as the similar Recordio discs) I’ve found or bought off of eBay, but I’m mainly interested in preserving them. They’re flimsy, they tend to flake apart, and eventually, they become too hard to extract sound from. And because each one is completely unique, it’s a little tragic to lose all of those sounds from the 40s and 50s. Because of this, I get a lot of e-mail asking me to transfer these old recordings of family members and friends onto CDs and MP3s so they can be heard again. I do it for free – other places charge thousands of dollars.

I recently had the pleasure of transferring about 40 old Recordios for a woman in New Mexico, as recorded by her mother and father (and friends) while he was stationed in Yokohama in 1948 and 1949. I’ve never seen such a well-preserved, coherent collection, so I leapt at the chance. Over 2.5 hours of recordings, there’s a beautiful portrait of a family making the best of a hard situation. I was given permission to post some of these here, so enjoy. More to come.

A January Get-Together

Christmas 1948

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