No Need for Plasma

It is New Year's Eve and the salesmen are briskly walking, single file, through the glass doors to the car lot. On their faces are scowls, angular and hard, masks made of long hours with little pay. In their hands are helium-filled balloons, which freely float and bob on their strings like fishing lures in water. The salesmen, with their solemn faces and bunches of red, white, and blue balloons, resemble sad clowns as they move through the car lot, placing one here and there in a patriotic whimsy that seems to say, "Yes it's New Years Eve, and yes we're open, and God bless America!"

The calls flow in on my phone. I vocally manuver my way through the oncoming waves of "uh's" and "um's," of needy husbands and ex-wives, and of needier solicitors, debt collectors, and the occasional customer. My fingers move fast on phone's keys like the beating wings of a hummingbird. My voice, stern and robotic, is often mistaken for a recording as I push each call to its respected place. I watch the flickering lights of my switchboard light up like a cityscape at dusk, muddled with the confused voices of its constituency, all asking to be guided here or there. It is the usual morning rush.

Dirk walks in from the lot and stands by my desk for a moment to adjust his tie. Last month he was asking me to google places where he could donate plasma for cash, a task I would pursue for beer money back when I was in college. Last month Dirk was nervously scouring beneath the seats of his car for loose change to buy gasoline. He was counting dollar for dollar the debt he owed to his bank in overdraft fees. But not this month. He's sold enough to hit his bonus, and mabye he'll sell more. "You never know in this business," he tells me. I jokingly tell him that this article is called "No Need for Plasma," and he says maybe not. He could always use the extra money.

The week between Christmas and New Years is supposed to be one of the busiest in car sales and so far it has been...okay. Stephen Paul Skinner asks me if we are open on New Years Day and I tell him, "bell to bell."

"Really?" He frowns and walks back to his office.

New Years is just another day in car land.


Kim Peek

Click Image to Enlarge
Unfinished. Will upload newer version soon.


My 5 Least Favorite Trends in Gaming

*This post was featured in the community spotlight on ScrewAttack.com!!*

5. Waggle
Waggle practically ruined this game.
I know this is a recent trend, but Wii developers need to stop making us shake the Wii remote. It is not accurate or enjoyable. I don’t want to waggle to make Link swing his sword. I don’t want to waggle to make Mario spin jump. And I especially don’t want to waggle to throw grenades in Metal Slug. Unless the controls of the game are specifically and adequately designed to imitate the action that your character is doing (see: Wii Sports titles, Zack and Wiki, Silent Hill Shattered Memories etc), I don’t want to waggle the Wii remote to do something that can be done by a simple button press. Just because the option is there does not mean that it has to be used. Waggling causes a brief loss of play control that is unacceptable to most gamers. It’s also just plain annoying.

4. Final Fantasy Minigames

This is Sphere Break. It's about as fun as it looks.
Let’s set the record straight. Snowboarding in FF7 rocked. It was an excellent change of pace to a game that is primarily controlled through navigating menus. FF7 got it right. Chocobo races? Yes please! Then FF8 arrived and what was the minigame? Triple Triad: an ultra boring card game that was difficult to understand and hard to play. Then came FF9 with Tetra Master. Ugh. Now, I understand how developers could think that RPG gamers might enjoy a card battle game. I used to play Magic the Gathering myself when I was a kid. But if you are going to insert a minigame to break up the gameplay of an RPG that is primarily based on menu navigation, inventory control, and statistical analysis, then I would rather it be a fast paced diversion. A card game? More menus, inventory control, and statistical analysis? Pfft! I’ve already got 60+ hours of stuff to do here. Of course, nothing was worse than FF10’s Blitzball minigame. What a missed opportunity! What could have been a fun and fast-paced arcade style sports game played like a math quiz! Then came Sphere break with FFX-2 and it literally was a math quiz. Sounds like fun, huh?

3. Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic and the Stupid Gimmick.

These days, when a Sonic game is released, the gaming community rolls their collective eyes with the same dismissive air that is usually reserved for the latest Mario Party. The problem with this is that we shouldn’t have to feel this way about our beloved hedgehog. Our expectations should be high for the rodent, but a slew of past failures have forced us to see Sonic as the boy who cries wolf. Sonic’s problems can be reduced to the fact that he never evolved with the gaming community. A prisoner of his own “attitude,” Sonic’s character has become completely irrelevant to the generation of gamers who grew up with him. To make matters worse, the gameplay of current Sonic releases does not cater to the nostalgia of these older gamers. New games in the franchise just don’t play like the old ones. I suppose Sonic’s developers still think that gamers want a feisty animal mascot with loads of ‘tude. We don’t. So now Sonic is reduced to being a second rate children’s title. It’s sad.

2. Water Levels

Big heavy boots = fun?
Who can forget cursing as you swim through toxic seaweed to disarm bombs in TMNT for the NES? Or screaming as you die just out of reach of an air bubble in Sonic the Hedgehog? Water levels are often some of the most frustrating and boring levels in gaming. Why? Because water levels usually equate to less responsive control and slower gameplay. Moreover, water levels have become an overused cliché in most adventure/RPG’s. Particularly awful is the water temple in Ocarina of Time, where you have to adjust the depth of the water to proceed. What could make that even more boring? How about giving Link boots made of steel so that he can slowly walk around the bottom of the water! Why do game designers keep creating levels with this type of puzzle? Either way, I know for a fact that the next time I pop an RPG into my console, I’ll eventually have to cast lightning on everything when I get to the water level. Can we get some new ideas here?

1. Slowly Pushing Heavy Blocks
Can't Kratos push these things faster? So. Slow.

Be it a statue, giant crossbow, or an actual huge cube-shaped block, pushing heavy objects slows the game down gameplay so much that puzzles which require this are more of an exercise of patience than of problem-solving skills. Yet many of the best games, even the best of the best, from every console generation will make you take a break from some awesome gameplay and endure the tedium of pushing some blocks around. Zelda, Resident Evil, Tomb Raider, and God of War and countless other games are guilty of this offense. So basically, we have some incredible game developers who still believe that gamers actually enjoy pushing the block over to where it will activate the switch that will open the door up on the ledge that we can’t reach unless we push another block! Ugh. I wonder if game designers just like rearranging their furniture. They probably all go home every day and push their sofa toward the bookshelf. Then push the bookshelf into the corner. Then push their dresser onto the switch that unlocks their pantry. Then they push their washing machine toward the pantry so they can reach the crushed red pepper on the top shelf. Art imitating life, right?

(Response to the Screwattack community)

Wow! I didn't realize that so many people enjoyed blitzball and the card games! Cool. Anyway, Nailattack made a valid point that I wanted to address: "if you wanted that then why are you playing an RPG?"

Well, I'm actually not a huge fan of arcade style sports games. RPG's are usually my favorite games. (Currently playing Demon's Souls.) I think that I was initially turned off by Blitzball because it wasn't a big departure from the standard gameplay of FF10. Don't get me wrong, I loved the gameplay, but (and I may have been spoiled by FF7) I enjoy when minigames act as a quick and enjoyable diversion from the long hours of RPGing. Things like blitzball and the card games required me to take too much time away from playing the actual game and progressing the story. However, given how much support the community has for these games, I believe that I may have been quick to judge. I think I might give blitzball another chance the next time I play through. I'll just try to look at it as its own game. Anyway, I appreciate all the feedback.

P.S. To those who think that pushing blocks is a necessary part of gaming, I point to Uncharted 2, which, if I remember correctly, didn't require any block pushing whatsoever! Now that is a game with great pacing!

Thanks for the comments everybody! keep them coming. I want to know what you think!


not adequate

click image to enlarge


Emergency Casserole

Like so many Austinites, I have been finding the scattered trinkets, collages, and toys left by Science Bear Arcade for years now. The bulk of their work is an exercise in randomness, from rescripted Garfied comics in which the hero dawns a mustache and spouts seemingly random insanities, to homemade meat/doll combos. Many of us are familiar with Science Bear Arcade and its larger artistic community Palfloat. It is with this prior knowledge of their antics that I gleefully anticipated seeing their variety show, Emergency Casserole.

What I found was a delightfully cacauphonous mixture of music, sketch, and performance.  The show itself, like the the discarded trinkets littered arond town for which palfloat is already known, was an ecclectic and almost nonsensical affair injected with humor. Often I found myself laughing at the non-sequiter monologues and dialogues even when I did not know why. Lines like: "I'm ready for some new bagel flavors," and "My first job out of college was analyzing ZZ-Top lyrics," kept the show feeling whimsical.

The patchwork performances were tied together by the weird humor of the River Boat Captain, who hosted a quiz show in which the audience could win prizes for answering unusual bits of trivia. In fact, there were prizes given away throughout the entire performance, ranging from the usual Science Bear Arcade knick-knacks like Nerf Margaritas and Arby-Dolls, to Palfloat DVD's and Top Gun on VHS.

Some of the highlights of the show included Community Lotion performing a clever song about the chestburster scene in the film Alien and a hilarous sketch in which a man endures the worst job interview in history. Also noteworthy was an interesting performance piece in which the artist painted while using her limbs to cast shadows to grinding musical score. The show was backdropped by bizzarre projections by miss Lori 16mm Varga and the music was handled by the fake mustasched DJ Trail Mix, a cowboy Burt Reynolds look-alike.

Also, the food at Cherrywood Cafe was excellent. After the show I learned that they were giving away paintings, so I grabbed this one:

It was a ton of fun. They do shows with some frequency, and I definitely recommend checking the next one out.
Check out the blogs of some of the artists:

and here is a link to some slides by Lory 16mm Varga:



I live on the outskirts
In the servant houses
Of the rich
With my one good suit
Gripping a Bordeaux
Gaping at the opulence
Across the window
Looking in
Like Fitzgerald
Not having
In weakness wanting
Through windshield glass
For a prize worth taking
Breaking a barrier
Barring the wealth
Thinking of dealing
To make a living
Without stealing
Ineffectual Intellectual
With a nametag
And wet dynamite
Beneath my ribcage
A library card
And a mouth of pulled
A crook
Guilty of being
More free than free
Brave with failure
And unsatisfied
With the opulence
Across the window

Shopping At Wallmart

I can’t afford not to be here,
Among the morbidly obese,
Hobbling down the aisles
With their fat children,
Who know no better
Than the deer hunters,
The patriots,
Stockpiling rifles,
Pistols and canned foods,
To protect themselves
From me.


Stephen Paul Skinner

Our new 2010 Trucks have heated steering wheels. That's right. Your ultra sensitive truck driving hands will never have to feel the icy sting of the wheel again. If you read about the history of Chrysler from their perspective, you will learn that Chrysler has patented more innovations that Ford and GMC combined. Things like heated steering wheels are, in my opinion, along the same line as bacon flavored mayonnaise, useless, excessive, and utterly American.

Our new sales guy has been in the car business for years. When I ask him if he could change his name to any other than the one he has, he tells it would be Stephen Paul Skinner. He scratches his freckled bald head, puts his mouth to a make shift blowgun and *pops* a stray balloon at the ceiling. "Push pins," he says, utterly delighted with himself. "It shoots push pins. Do you got any?" When I ask him why he chose that name, he tells me that his birth mother gave him that name before she put him up for adoption. She didn't want his birth certificate to not have a name. It was eventually changed by his adopted parents, and he learned his original name years later.

Stephen Paul Skinner.

His one link to his mother. Three proper nouns. They give cause to wonder. Stephen Paul Skinner loads up another push pin and *pop* goes another balloon. The phone calls are flooding in. Customers are looking to get their vehicles fixed, looking to complain, every once in a while one will want to buy a new vehicle. Something that is reliable, affordable, and gets good gas mileage. Most of them won't be able to afford anything, which shouldn't come as a surprise in this economy. This is a time for cutbacks. HEB brand groceries and cheap toilet paper. But if any of you need a heated steering wheel in your giant-ass pick up truck, I have one question for you.



Snap into a bad romance!

Okay, I'll admit it. I love the new Lady Gaga video. Huge news in Gaga Land everybody! Is Lady Gaga the new Slim Jim mascot? Macho Man would be proud.


Dire September

Another salesperson is gone. Blake, who sauntered in with confidence and sunglasses. Blake was a closer. He told me himself. But he also joined the business during the month of September, which was surprisingly slow. Nobody did well this month. Somebody had to go. There will probably be more to follow. A dire September.

Bonnie thinks that September is slow because the Cash for Clunkers program pulled a lot of buyers out of the market during August. This article supports her assumption.

As I have mentioned in earlier blogs, salespeople don't like to look back. There is no paycheck in the past. You can't eat it or live in it. However, after a month like September, looking back becomes necessary. The furthest back you look in sales is 30 days. No further. And now the repercussions of September are being felt. Management is experimenting with the fine details of how the dealership is run, hoping that a slight change here or there might be the golden trigger.

The sales staff will bend and fold as they need. Anything to sell a car. "October is going to be great!" says Alfredo. "And know how I know why? 'Cause nothing can be worse than September." He's right. His optimism is the trademark of the salesperson. Doubt can lead to a poor performance, which is a quick ticket out of here. Alfredo will do fine, and so will this dealership because the sales team here are always looking forward. That is the golden trigger. They will keep on pulling it until it fires.


The New Guy

Soul got hit by a car. Twice. So he won't be back for a while. One of our new guys is sitting in his office. Lucky break. His name is Angel. His brother used to work here months ago. Angel is from Puerto Rico.

Margaret needs a good trial lawyer who will work for the fees of a court appointed attorney. I tell her that she would need to find somebody with an altruistic streak to who would take on her son's case. I don't tell her that I believe it is hopeless for him.

The month is over. Final numbers are being turned in.

Angel sits in Soul's desk, going over paperwork. I like him. He is excitable, and commands himself like this dealership is a schoolyard playground. He believes that his life is beautiful. That he or anybody can make it in America. He falls in love with every woman he sees. Sincerely. Every woman he sees is America. He is brimming with confidence. With expectation.

He hasn't sold a car yet.

Marcos comes up to my desk to check out. He needs to go to the bank. I ask him why nobody has taken their day off today, and why everybody is here early. "We didn't sell enough cars last month. No days off." Another seventy-two hour week for the guys.

My switchboard rings. I answer the line and the voice on the other end asks for Angel. I connect the call and watch Angel's grin fall from his face. He places Soul's phone back on the receiver. "Not this time," he says to himself. I feel sorry for him. I am sad that he came to Texas of all places from Puerto Rico. I am sad that he came when he did, during these hard times, particularly for Chrysler. I wonder if he will learn. Change. Become a true blue salesman. Live a life dominated by contracts and closing deals. I just don't see that happening to Angel, but he will hold on because this job is America to him.

This business will destroy him.


Joose it up!


What can I say? I'm a marketing whore, and though I don't think that Joose was target marketed to guys like me, I still couldn't resist the appeal of a drink that promised a whopping 9.9% alcohol content. Juice it up!
I wasn't expecting much. Though, at the time, I did not know that Joose is an energy drink/malt liquor beverage...thing. I thought it was booze only, without the energy. It tasted like sweet tarts mixed with cough syrup. I couldn't swallow it. Also, upon spitting the terrible tasting drink (I bought the Jungle Joose flavor) into my kitchen sink, I discovered that it was bright green in color. Fucking gross. I guess it is supposed to look like candy, or MD 20/20.
After brushing my teeth, I checked out the Joose website, jammed out the the Joose Player, looked at some "Joosen" party people, and came to the conclusion that I couln't ever have that time back. Or my money.
(Sigh) Looks like the only thing I'll be "Joosen" up are my massive pecks.


Goodbye Mr. Kidd

At approximately 12:09 in the afternoon, Mr. Jason Kidd placed two bean and cheese tacos on my desk and then announced that he was leaving our dealership. As I have mentioned numerous times, auto sales is a migratory business. Sales staff flock from dealership to dealership like birds at the change of seasons. It was inevitable, therefore, that Jason Kidd would leave us, as will all of these sales people eventually. It fazes nobody. As I ate my tacos, I listened to the sales staff quietly mutter variations of a phrase containing the words Jason and gone. But business continues as usual. Tomorrow, the only people who remember him here will be his customers and me.

I am sad to see him go.

I genuinely enjoyed working with Jason, who had been survived being shot in the face when he was younger, and had the scars to prove it. One time, Jason convinced me that his father-in-law was involved in some famous dealings with a well known Texas politician and I was so thrilled to hear the story that I relayed it to some friends only to learn that he was telling me the plot to the movie Charlie Wilson's War. But Jason could tell a story with such innocent elation it made me want to believe him. And I think I do.

He also helped to get me on the CAD grant review panel by introducing me to one of his customers, who was none other than the city grant coordinator. He encouraged me to not give up on my quest to embark on the same path that every salesperson eventually takes: the path that leads away from here. He would always joke that once I had a real career I could take him out to dinner.

And I will.


The Numbers

Chrysler has already been bought by Fiat and many dealerships were forced to shut down in the process. Now, in the aftermath of the storm, our numbers are slowly building back upward. Managment is pleased.

We had to hire new employees to handle all of the new customers who would have normally gone to the other dealerships that have closed down. Many of their former staff were also at my desk, borrowing pens, filling out applications, waiting, waiting to speak to anybody who might hire them.

A few of them were taken in. Those who weren't just moved on to apply at the next dealership. They'll find a job. That is the nature of sales. It is migratory. Salespeople are like basketball cards, collected and traded by dealerships.

Margaret passes by my desk. "Have you read any good books lately?" she asks in her shattered glass voice. "Not in the past six weeks," I tell her, "but I'll probably be reading more now that I am finished my work for the City." She smiles, lips clenched together and walks toward the sales tower. She is always asking me for books to recommend for her son.

Marcos is sitting quitely his office with his hand over is mouth. His eyes are looking in my direction, but they look through me, as if he is deep in thought. He rises from his desk and walks outside to scan the lot. His grey hair shimmers in the morning light. He spots a customer by the yellow Ram 1500 and moves in to greet him. I wonder what he was thinking about. I should have asked him. He probably would have responed, "selling cars," whether he meant it or not.


Don't You Know, Baby Yeah Yeah

It's only now that he's dead that I think of Michael Jackson as the child he never ceased to be.

His first indelible impression on me came via a VH1 mini-series version of his young life. That horrendously abusive father who tortured his children toward talent, until one of them (young precious darling Michael) fulfilled those Jehovah's witness prayers. It seemed cruel that the young Jacksons were whipped with sapling switches and forced into state fairs and talent shows, but Michael was beatific enough to unravel the torture; he almost gave it depth.

The extent of his childhood idyll was demonstrative of a deeply stunted man. Adulthood seemed to be forced on him. He acted out abusively, effectively alienating himself from societal norms. In the end his astonishing feats were overshadowed by his embarrassing behavior.

It's easy to be a post-mortem apologist, trite even, but it’s coming more naturally to me than I would’ve expected.

**This is incomplete, but it won't stay timely for long. Figured I'd post now -- flesh it out later. I take back the "this doesn't make me sad" comment. It just took awhile to move away from "wow, something is really HAPPENING!?" You know?


TalkHard Issue 3

Here is TalkHard issue 3.
(Click an image to enlarge)

Cover Art by Manik Nakra

We are dead serious about Murderparty.


Next issue news/updates

Hello everybody. I just want to let you all know that the next issue of TalkHard is in the works and we are hoping to put it out in July. We'll keep you posted on what is going on.

This has been a busy month for us, due to a few other projects that we're working on. We should have more regular updates after June 25!

Thanks to everybody who came out to the Boho Coco Show. See you again at the next one.


Something is Rotten in the City of Austin

From the Boho Coco show at Co-Lab!
It was a fun show, and there will be many more!



We were still getting our margins right with issue 2, so some small parts were accidentally cut out. Below is the issue with notes on what was cut out beneath the respective pages.
Click on an image to increase its size.

We got a lot of emails about this one. The last sentence reads, "While I don't intend to ever make a career of this work, it will always be connected to me."

Nobody really noticed this accidental cut because it was so obscure. See the asterisk after Happy Thanksgiving? On the bottom of the page there was another asterisk with the note: "TalkHard Magazine does not condone the celebration of Thanksgiving."
This back cover is the one of which I am the most proud. I truly feel that this picture represented how Austin was changing, especially having seen my friends forced out of their apartments, where were being converted into high priced condos.



The first issue of TalkHard from Oct 2007.
Click on an image to increase its size.


Bigots Win a Round, But No Knock Out

So a small victory goes to the small minded today, but it is a mere door stop meant to withhold a battering ram.

I am not going to investigate the depth of simple minded, hate and fear consumed, bigotry that causes people to think that there should even be a debate over whether some people are more equal than others. We are past the point of argument here. Those who understand our reasons will continue to do so, and those who do not will continue to clutch their crosses and desperately pray for a god to take their side.

The fact of the matter is that there are still 18,000 couples in California who's status as equals serves as a reminder of the progress that we have made. There are also five states states, which is a number inconceivable to activists who tirelessly toiled as little as a decade ago. The wheels of justice turn very slowly, but they do turn.

So chin up people! Working toward a cause is never easy or fluid. It is tough, riddled with ridicule, tireless work, and disappointment.

Keep fighting California!

This Texas boy is biting his lips, clenching his fists, and still believes that this fight is far from over.


Another Day in Car Land

"I'm just trying to keep it rollin'. Just taking it a one day at a time," says Soul, "but damn, 789 is a big number. It'll take you some time to count there one by one. 789. Lord! Think about all the people who losing they job!"

That's what Soul, our most experienced salesman, told me on D(ealership) Day. It was like having lightening strike five feet away from you. But we made the cut. We stayed open. I printed lots of job applications to suppliment the fresh wave of newly out of work applicants who would surely crash up against our glass doors. And they did. So, now that the earthquake has ended, things have gone back to normal. "Another day in Car Land," as our managers would say.


Why Buy a Chrysler?

Why would anybody want to buy a gas-guzzling vehicle that requires frequent maintenance and has a significantly shorter life span than its competitors from a company that has gone bankrupt?

I have no earthly idea, but this article offers a few accurate suggestions. People are still willing to buy, which astounds me.

It looks like a lot of dealerships will be closing down soon. Ours is one of the last in town. All of the smaller dealerships have shut down or have combined the larger ones that sell Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep. We are one of two, I think, large dealerships left, both of us on opposite ends of the city. None of the salesmen seem worried about it. Their only concern is to sell cars. That is their focus. Gotta sell a car. Nothing more.

The phones are busy, but we are selling fewer vehicles. Perhaps people are calling just to see if we are still here. Or maybe they are calling with unreasonable offers, thinking that they can wrench a better deal from the corpse-like hands of Chrysler.

Actually, they can.

If they have good credit. Most people, I have learned, do not. They are trying to live beyond their means. I see it every day. People with virtually no income, bad credit, and enormous debt are all trying to purchase brand spanking new vehicles. A couple of years ago, they would all probably have gotten approved. With this in mind, America's current financial crisis comes as no surprise to me. People like to buy things. Unreasonable things. Unsustainable things. Anything.

Every time a customers walk through our front doors and gawks at the classic automobiles on our showroom floor, they say the same thing. "I want that." A phrase, shouted by children after every commercial, three simple words that encompass the mindset of nearly every American.

Service customers are impatiently pacing around the showroom floor. Our new-car manager is introducing himself to some customers. Things are as usual. Footloose is playing over our Muzak system and Jeff, our youngest salesman, is absurdly dancing and singing into an imaginary microphone. His customers are happily walking across the lot with the keys to their new American made gas-guzzler.

Americans and American cars; they both consume too much.


Not quite a poem

I first noticed the “thin line between love and hate”
That all nerds allude to
When you called me tender.

Tenderness is what our grandparents felt at the altar
And what ninjas know nothing of.

It’s dogs barking
And you altering your jeans,
meticulously. I didn’t think you could sew.

Tenderness is “This page cannot be found”
And me floundering to end your sentences
When I am fully aware that “The Newlywed Game” went off the air years ago.

It has so much less to do with me
But then, I’m writing this,
And you’re probably just glossing over it.

Rose petals are cousins of razor blades
And step-parents can mime affection without prompt.

It’s dogs barking
And you pouring over greeting cards
Until you find a phrase that meets your standards…

Or what you expect your standards to be.

So, you steal a line from Top 40 radio and I swoon
Because a line lifted is a line felt.

But ninjas wouldn’t even pause for this cold pot of coffee.
Ninjas don’t like coffee at all.


prodigal daughter

That's a shitty title, but we're stuck with it. Something I read recently (I'm a champ at not being able to cite sources) talked about the Prodigal Son's real moral as one that demonstrates the fact that some people do not wish to be loved. Which if you think about it, is totally different and more poignant than the whole unconditional forgiveness Sunday school spin. Why am I talking about alternate bible interpretations? Maybe that can be, like, my thing. Tomorrow: Leviticus -- god's call for the chosen to eat fish sticks. (You're fucked Richard)

And anyway all I meant by prodigal is that I don't frequent the talkhard blog, though I intend to start. I definitely want to be loved. Like probably too much. Like probably way too much. My cat is rubbing his face raw against my laptop while I write this, I think to demonstrate that he sympathizes with my need to be lavished with affection. Or else he's just a fucking cat.

In other important global events: I hate/am jealous of people who use the phrase "meta" frequently and appropriately. As retribution I'm going to start using it as arbitrarily as possible.

Person Who Isn't Me: Hey, Nicole-- Do you believe breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, or is that just more greeting card company hullabaloo?
Me: (thoughtful pause) Meta.

Person Who Isn't Me 2: Let's play kickball!
Me: (pregnant hesitation) Meta.

Updates to follow

(but probably I'll just forget the whole experiment or bore of it. Not a lot of follow-through with this kid)


A Live Reading

Here I am reading an article from issue 4 of TalkHard at Ruta Maya.

Thank you Chris Savage for posting this on your blog.


Good Morning Chrysler

I keep reading in the news about how far car sales are sliding, but you wouldn't know it working here. Our numbers for last month were as steady as they have been ever since our current management team took over. I think that this story paints a fair picture of how many of us feel. Certainly, we are not getting out two to three hundred vehicles a month like we did in the often reflected upon heyday, but we have kept ourselves steady since December.

It is early morning now, and I won't have time to blog later today because I am training our new evening receptionist.

Our lot manager, Booker, passes by my desk. He has a small, but muscular frame, like Bruce Lee. His eyes, which could pierce a hole through solid steel, are softened by the small framed glasses that he wears. A thoughtful and considerate man, he often stops by my desk to talk about various tidbits of knowledge. "Good morning Booker," I call to him. "Hey brother-man," he calls back, and walks toward the garage.

Now I check on yesterday's numbers and call our main store to give them to Lorraine, who is the morning receptionist over there. She is the voice of my mornings. Every morning I talk to her. Sometimes I ask for her advice. Often I just tell her about my evenings or weekends. Every morning for close to a year now I have talked to Lorraine, but I have never actually met her.

The salespeople are trickling in, tucking in their shirts, tying their ties, smoking their morning cigarettes out on the concrete stoop that looks over our parking lot. They lean on the rail and talk about yesterday's near misses and today's possibilities. Sales people always focus on the possibilities. Theirs is a profession that can't look back for too long, there's no money in it. You can't eat your past, or take shelter in it.

I see my trainee walking up the steps so I need to wrap this up. Until next time.


Porn Star Chicken Sanwiches

Remember when McDonald's was trying to appeal to the health conscious with this load of bullshit?Of course the "Go Active" campaign failed, because nobody could possibly believe that McDonald's actually gave a good god damn about fitness. Meanwhile, unused pedometers fell into the sticky linings of countless couches.

Meet Micky D's new mascot, The Dollar Menunaire: ********(Click the image to enlarge)*******

So basically the Dollar Menunaire is a an stupid slob who doesn't have any money, which is, as I see it, the most honest ad campaign that McDonald's has ever conceived.

No, they are not going after your kids. No, they don't want you to be healthy. With the Dollar Menunaire, McDonald's has created their ideal customer, a fucking moron. It's like they are saying, "hey fat fuck, this shit is for you and it is CHEAP!"

Though one could easily be offended by how McDonalds characterises consumers, I have to admit, I appreciate their honesty.

And the salad in the background? Old habits die hard I guess.

Oh, and one more thing, doesn't Mr. Menunaire look a lot like Ron Jeremy?

Nice touch, McDonald's.



I'm not surprised that it finally happened. But what does it mean for us, who make our meager wages at Chrysler dealerships?

Customers have been calling in to check if we are still here. We are. They want to know if their warranties are still valid. They are.

The sales people here don't seem worried. Why should they be? There are still a lot of cars to sell. Gino strolls through the dealership with a closed mouth smile. He's excited that Italian company, Alfa Romeo is buying Chrysler. "Today is a good day," he cheerfully says. Gino is Italian himself, and so I suppose he feels a sense of pride. It puts me at ease.

But then there are the ominous signs. The Meeting. Upstairs. Between the managers of every department of our dealership. Service, Parts, Sales, Office. All of the boss folk are going up into that room. We, on the first floor, stare up with trembling eyes, wondering what ill news they will bring down with them. Even Gino takes a brief moment to stop at my desk and wonder what is going on up there. "Maybe restructuring," he tells me.

Our dealership is filled with classic cars, which tell a story of the history of Chrysler. I guess they are here to attract customers, who enter our dealership in a state of awe. I always hear, "You don't see that every day." Well, yes I do. Though I think the classic cars are interesting (especially the 1924 Depot Hack), I can't help but see them as symbols of past ideas that no longer apply to today. The monstrous, gas-devouring, road-hogging, cars from the fifties are offensive to me. Not the cars themselves, but the unsustainable and shortsighted way of life for which they stand. I recently read an essay on the nature of collecting, and how it was characteristic of groups or individuals near the end of their life span. This thought makes the presence of so many classic cars at the dealership trouble me. It's as if my desk is in the center of a whirlwind of fragmented memories, a life flashing before Chrysler's eyes.

The meeting is ending as I am writing this. The suits are filing out quietly. The sales people are leaning around my desk, talking about what might happen. Nobody is too worried. Sales is a "here today, gone tomorrow," kind of business. Salespeople come and go fast. Losing your job is part of the job. Let's just hope its not the only part.


Would You Rather Spit or Swallow?

Hey class act!
Are you craving you nico-fix, but worried that cigarettes are losing their cool?
Do you love to chew, but are sick of having to hide your blackened saliva in empty Coke cans and potted plants?
Well now you can buy a product that will discreetly infuse nicotine into your bloodstream while flavoring your spit at the same time!
-One can definitely understand the need for a product that makes the act of feeding a nicotine addiction more secretive and less smelly and gross. However, this product is nothing more than flavored spit. Fucking tacky. Smokers will just stick to smoking.


Mistakes and Apologies

No issue of TalkHard is without its share of blunders, but this issue's blunder takes the entire cake and sets it on fire.

We placed an article in this issue written by Matthew Duncan (a regular TalkHard contributor) without crediting him in the issue. Matt, I'm sorry about the mistake. I didn't even notice it until all of the issues had been distributed. We are running a second print of this issue with the error fixed. I apologize.

All you readers out in Austin land may have noticed that the zine is almost gone from shelves. Cool, huh? Don't worry, we will have a second run of the issue coming out this and next week. We'll keep you posted on where to find one.

Oh, and if anybody wants a copy mailed to them, send us an email.



TalkHard Delivery!

I'm putting TalkHard issues at the following places!

-The Hideout Coffee House
-Ruta Maya Coffee
-Book People
-Waterloo Records
-(this one coffee shop on manor that nicole used to live by.

But I need more places to distribute!

Anybody have any ideas?


Dropping the Mike

My first reading at an open mike was last night. Ruta Maya. By the strip club. Nerves, shivering hands clasping crumbled paper, I looked up at the poets on the stage with the same big-eyed fascination as when I first searched for the sky through the majestic skyscrapers of Manhattan.
My choice was an essay I wrote for issue two of TalkHard called Something is Rotten in the City of Austin. I'll add it to this post later. My choice of reading was a response to all of the poets whose verse was entirely focused on the obstinate beauty of their drug hazed party scenes. I wanted to call them out on it.

It went very well. They laughed at the funny parts. I dropped the microphone at one point, but it didn't change anything. They applauded as they do, and a pretty young girl with silver earrings and a boy's curly hair cut told me that she liked my piece. Satisfaction. Next week, we'll do it again.


I'll bet you are excited. I know I am. There will be a staple party soon, so if anybody wants to spend some time talking, drinking, and stapling, give me a call. I will probably do it this Saturday.

There will be a special blog on the process of creating this issue posted soon this week.


How not to make a zine. Chapter Two

Why didn't we start a blog a year ago?

Finally, the next issue of TalkHard is on the way. The articles are written, the cover is done, and we are laying out the issue as we speak. The latest issue should be kicking Austin in the face early March. I'll let you all know as soon as it comes out. It will be found at the usual places. Also, we are going to have a live reading of this issue, so if any of you out there in TV land want to participate, just let us know.


As soon as I learn more about how to lay out blogs, I will be uploading the old issues in their entirety for our readers to enjoy! More on this tomorrow, as I am going to bed soon.

Here is a sneak peak at the cover:

Rad, huh? Our buddy Trick designed it. Check out his website, tricktricky. Its in the links to the right.


Oscar recap

So we were spectacularly wrong. But not about Winslet. or Ledger. Well kind of about Ledger.

How appropos that a movie about foreign poverty would win this year (economic crisis... what we inflicted on the world for eight years.. etc.). Congrats to all the Desi kids relegated to the back row. You should have all been sitting on Jolie's lap.

Diet Coke lost, though. I know that much.

Fucking PSHoffman in a beanie. That, ladies and gents, is how it's done.


OSCAR picks 2009

Richard and My take on what liberal fatcat's taking home a golden statue

R: Slumdog Millionaire made me fall back in love with being alive. It was the first truly globalized movie. Not just amazing, but intellectually appealing.
N: Milk had everything I needed. But also I like watching boys make out.

R&N: Winslet wins! Winslet wins! GOOOOOOOAAAAAL!!!!

N: Langella makes the most sense. Fallen despot too prideful to feel anything but sorry for? I will lick those jowls.
R: I can’t remember who else was up for actor.

N: For having such a unassuming face, Marisa Tomei makes everything evident in the stitch of an eyebrow or the twitch of a nipple. Nineties sucked.
R: Marisa Tomei all the way. She’s the hottest 75 year old I’ve ever seen.

N: R.D. junior. Non-ironic blackface meets ironic blackface meets-- how the hell did we get here? Also, best comeback EVER. Let’s not spoil it. p.s. if Heath Ledger would’ve died a little later he would totally be my pick.
R: Philip Seymour Hoffman: don’t you just wanna lie in bed and cuddle with him? I bet he’s a good cuddler. Haven’t seen the movie though.

N: Wall-E made me cry like a baby, but I was also on my period.
R: Wall-E. duh.

N: Dark Knight. If only for the vehicles.
R: Dark Knight cause Heath Ledger’s dead.

N: Slumdog Millionaire was so pretty. Those colors -- I could smell them. They were crunchy. And tasted like curry.
R: Slumdog Millionaire, it was just so fast paced. I was never bored. And I get bored so easily. I’m already bored just talking about it.

N: Boyle, but with VanSant hot on his heels. Tough one. This category is one of the hardest to decide.
R: Boyle for 28 Days Later

N: Slumdog. So technically perfect. Bollyriffic.
R: See above.

N: Hellboy II for sure. Guillermo DelToro rocks my box. I want to crawl inside that brain.
R: Ditto

N: Slumdog: rockin.
R: Have you bought any soundtracks to any of these movies? Cause I downloaded Slumdog. Sucka Lucka.

N: The Dark Knight prolly, but I’m not all that equipped to say.
R: Benjamin Button for fooling the academy into nominating it for so many awards. That has to be some kind of effect. I’m calling shenanigans.

N: How can you manage to make a talky fucking political play into a genuinely engaging screenplay? I don’t know, ask that guy that adapted Frost/Nixon.
R: The Reader. I haven’t actually seen The Reader, but I read the first chapter and it was pretty good. I have no reason for this.

N: Wall-E. I don’t have to answer to any of you.
R: Oh yeah, Wall-E. It’s funny cause there’s so little actual script.

N: Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s a shoe-in
R: My money’s on Heath Ledger.


nicole is here now

florida's the shriveled cock of america. and i'm so stoked about spring break. and i am once again a blogger. woot woot.


The 46 Albums that Shaped me

(In chronological order)

1. Halloween Sound Effects Tapes/Edgar Allen Poe Stories
My parents bought one every year for Halloween. After the holiday, I would save them and listen to them as I went to sleep. One year my mom brought home a cassette of abridged Poe stories being read over creepy sound effects. I must have listened to The Pit and the Pendulum over a hundred times.

2. This One Cassette of Christian Songs That Frightened the Hell Out of Me
I don’t know who gave this album to me, nor do I remember much of it except for this one song that was about the dangers of sin and the horrors of eternal punishment. Scared the hell out of me, but I was compelled to hear it again and again.

3. Oliver & Company Soundtrack
“Why should I worry? Why should I care?”

4. Flood, They Might Be Giants
I first heard Particle Man and Istanbul not Constantinople during an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures. It was also the first music video that I remember seeing.

5. Weird “Al” Yankovic, The Food Album
“Nobody appreciates a guy with a good imagination.”

6. Kraftwerk, Computer World
My dad worked at a record store when I was a kid. One day he brought me home this album and told me that it was the way of the future. I believed him.

7. Jethro Tull, Thick as a Brick
Yet another recommendation of my father’s. We would jam out to this album together so much that one day he bought it for me.

8. The Presidents of the United States of America, Self-titled
I was always an outcast throughout school. Once, during the seventh grade, I was singing Lump to myself and a girl in front of me turned around and said, “wow, you are actually cool.” She never spoke to me again after that, but I never forgot the first time that somebody actually called me cool. It wouldn’t happen again until college.

9. Metallica, The Black Album
Entering high school now. Overweight, no social skills, bad at sports, big ears, a walking target. Yeah, I was angry.

10. White Zombie, Astro-Creep: 2000
My closest friends at the time started listening to a lot of metal at the start of high school. I listened to a lot of Pantera and Marilyn Manson and so on, but White Zombie was definitely my favorite. I still listen to this album today.

11. Alanis Morrisette, Jagged Little Pill
Yeah, the metal thing didn’t last long.

12. Soul Asylum, Candy from a Stranger
Don’t even remember how I found this album, nor would I listen to it today, but this album was my junior year of high school.

13. Weezer, The Blue Album
Everything changed when I found Weezer. I could say that this and Pinkerton are the most pivotal albums in the development of my musical taste.

14. Weezer, Pinkerton
Legendary. Every song on this album was written about me. No, really.

15. Rushmore Soundtrack
I wish I lived in a Wes Anderson movie. I would be so clever and sharply dressed and would get to meet Bill Murray. Oh well, with this album, I can at least pretend.

16. Cat Stevens, Teaser and the Firecat
I will never stop listening to Cat Stevens. I just can’t do it.

17. Radiohead, Kid A
I have listened to Radiohead before, but Kid A was the album that sucked me in. I listened to this album during rehearsals for a play called Oh Best Beloved. It was my first year of college.

18. The Anniversary, Designing a Nervous Breakdown
This album and I shared a five month long period of depression that brought us incredibly close.

19. The Get Up Kids, Red Letter Day (EP)
Not only was this abum important to me, but I believe that Mass Pike is one of the most important songs in music. Period. Now if you excuse me, I’m going to drive to work sreaming the lyrics to Red Letter Day at the top of my lungs. No, I’m not drunk.

20. Sigur Ros, Ágætis byrjun
This is one of those albums that always happened to be playing whenever anything important (tragic or joyful) was happening. It has therefore engraved itself as part of the soundtrack of my life.

21. Ozma, Rock and Roll Part Three and The Doubble Donkey Disc
So now I finally have the internet and I am learning how to find music online. I downloaded some songs from both these albums as I got into them, so I have to classify both of them as one. Eventually I would buy these albums when I saw Ozma live in Houston with The Impossibles.

22. The Postal Service, Give Up
I have listened to this album consistently since it came out and have still not gotten tired of it.

23. Sigur Ros, ( )
I wrote my first play while listening to this album. I may have lost my mind also, but I found it in a bush in the backyard next to the plastic Santa Clause.

24. Tilly and the Wall, Wild Like Children
I picked this album up when I saw them open for Rilo Kiley at Emo’s. I see them every time they come to Austin. Amazing live show. Right up there with the Red Elvises and Of Montreal. Go see them.

25. Lou Reed, Transformer
Anybody who wants to know how this album affected me should read Issue # 2 of TalkHard Magazine.

26. Dan Bern, Self-Titled
Jerusalem may be the most important song of my entire life. I sing it to myself every day, and if you ever want me to sing it to you, just ask me and I will. There are a tremendous few who understand where this comes from.

27. The Shins, Chutes to Narrow
This album is the perfect soundtrack to your life during those brief moments of beauty. Once I had a beautiful moment last for around three solid months with this album playing the whole time.

28. Pedro the Lion, It’s Hard to Find a Friend
I’ve been listening to this album, trying to remember why it is so important, but now I’m just so depressed that I can’t move. Leave me alone.

29. The Decemberists, Her Majesty The Decemberists
If Red Right Ankle ever plays in my proximity, I will shed a tear and sing along at the top of my lungs. Seriously. This album found me during the midst of the Blue Cave Den. If anybody who was there is reading this, I have something to tell you: the Mama Tree was cut down.

30. The Beatles, The White Album
I once knew a girl who sang Why Don’t We Do It In the Road? to me as I took a leak on the side of an apartment building in San Antonio. Now I am often compelled to sing it at inappropriate times. Ah, memories.

31. Rilo Kiley, More Adventurous
Remember those three months of solid beauty I mentioned? Well, at the end of the beauty, I found More Adventurous.

32. Tom Waits, The Early Years Vol 2
Thus began my love of Tom Waits, which has never waivered. This album in particular takes me back to a brief period of my life when I worked as a Carpenter in Boerne, TX. Every morning before work I would watch Harold and Maude. My daily drive was down a long path of highway that was overgrown with sunflowers and bluebonnets, like an expressionistic paining flowing by me on both sides. The evenings were when I would listen to Tom Waits, surrounded by close friends, subtle romance, and the excitement of an upcoming adventure. We were all happy prisoners together on the verge of being set free.

33. Her Space Holiday, The Young Machines
Me and close friends and this album on a road trip from Texas to Maine.

34. The Format, Interventions and Lullibies
There is a lighthouse in Maine, off the coast of Acadia, that I shared with this album.

35. The Good Life, Album of the Year
I learned how to play the harmonica by playing along with this album. I also learned that you can never go back home. Ever.

36. Yann Tiersen, Le Phare
I adore this man’s music. In fact, I still listen to this album nearly every day. It inspires me like no other album ever has.

37. Death Cab for Cutie, Plans
Yes, I know that Transatlanticism is their best album, but this is the album that I took with me when I moved to Austin. At that point in my life, I seriously thought that I was the messiah. Yeah. That’s right. I have no explanation for that.

38. Ben Folds, Songs for Silverman
This album reminds me of one of my closest friends, which is weird because we were in a fight throughout the time I listened to it the most. It was my fault, by the way.

39. Tom Waits, Raindogs
I used to go to some incredibly debaucherous parties, every Tuesday night, only a couple of years ago. Yes, they were legendary. I have seen and done things of which I am not proud, oh hell, yes I am. Anyway, we would dance to Raindogs at every single one of these parties without exception.

40. Don Mclean, American Pie
This album and I spent some serious time alone together in a cursed house. There was the residue of death in every room. I lost it. Everybody who came inside did. Let’s not talk about it, okay? I hope that place sinks into the earth. I hope it is swallowed. Great album though.

41. Simon and Garfunkel, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme
It just is. I can’t think of why. But this is where it belongs.

42. Iron and Wine, Our Endless Numbered Days
Holy mother of god this album is beautiful!

43. Sun Kil Moon, Ghosts of the Great Highway
When I first moved to Austin, years before I actually listened to this band, I stayed in the basement apartment of my friend Anna. She gave me a guayabera (that I still cherish) and let me use her freezing cold shower. She read my stories and told me that they were too sad and asked for advice about a boy she liked. She really helped me when I was getting started, and I haven’t forgotten that. We lost touch rather quickly, though I have heard that she is married now. Anyway, she played this album as I dozed off on her windowsill. Much later, when I heard the album, it sounded familiar and safe. I listened to it and gradually found a memory that I thought was long forgotten.

44. The Indelicates, American Demo
This album totally sums up how I feel about music today. It makes me feel both powerful and defeated.

45. Of Montreal, Skeletal Lamping
This album makes me think of somebody special.

46. Antony and the Johnsons, The Crying Light
The final album on my list. I have only recently discovered it. It brings me endless inspiraton. This may be a little premature, but I think that I will be listening to this one for years to come.

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed my list. You will never get this time back.



How (not) to make a Zine Chapter One

Jonnie and I started putting out TalkHard a little over a year ago and have learned a lot since then. Now that I have started blogging, I thought it would be interesting to start a column (an e-column?) about how we do what we do and why. This column will include the story of how some articles are created, why some make print and why some must be canceled.

Issue 5 is hot on the way, but which Issue 5 will it be? We have two separate issues nearly ready to go. One issue will be an brutally honest investigation of the psyche of our co-founder Jonnie. The other issue is our usual hotchpotch of things that we find interesting, useful information, and dick and fart jokes.

We did just have a set back on an article that I am working on. I'll share. I stopped by a local bicycle shop to take pictures of some graffiti that I thought was cool enough to put in the zine, (I am fascinated by the tags around Austin), but found that it was being painted over. I talked to the guy painting and he told me that the wall of this shop is a popular spot for taggers, but that he wished somebody might put a decent bike related piece of art on the store that they wouldn't paint over, but they are getting tired of the frequent tags that they are getting.

So I got the idea of doing an article that was a call for artists (like a mural artist) to come and give this store the beautiful work of art for which they've be waiting. The manager thought it was a good idea, but he wanted me to meet and ask the owner first. So, tomorrow, hopefully, I will. I'm drafting the article tonight. Isn't it strange how one article can become another so quickly.

Oh, and I have some good leads on a Yellow Bike Project story that I want to run. We shall see what becomes of it...


painstaking introduction aside...

Tequila + triple sec + orange juice = welcome to TalkHard.

My name is Jonnie and I can't stop listening to a song on repeat. For the past hour.

So welcome to TalkHard. This blog is going to supplement the zine that we distribute across the condo-covered city that is Austin, Texas. We have put out a few issues already, and you may have read them. Good for you. We're friends now. Our next issue is coming out pretty soon, probably in a couple of weeks. I'll keep you posted.

The song is Let Down, by the way.

So my name is Jonnie and I have some things to say that involve the following subjects:
-I love/hate/can't stop having sex with Austin
-Hey, did you know that (so and so)?
-What the fuck is wrong with America/Austin/my/your/neighborhood and what can we do to fix it?
-My houseplant told me...
-Talkhard is having a contest for whoever can write (will fill in the blank later)
-Gawd, people are so stupid/careless
-Seriously, what is wrong with us?
-(waaaaay too personal...)
-Here's how you can help (yourself/others)...
-Why are you even here?
-The new issue of TalkHard is at (insert locations)
-Check out this thing I made!
-Boo hoo hoo...
-Yadda yadda yadda
-You you you you you!
-Me me me me me me!

So here we go. Lets do this.

Blogs away.