"Okay" – by Paul Maliszewski
Paul Maliszewski is one of the strangest, most original people we know. He is extremely funny. He probably doesn’t want us to talk about it anymore, but when he was just out of writing school, he worked at a business paper, and he spent several months creating “contributors” to the paper. They had names, voices, and agendas, and they were published straight. Paul’s bosses had no idea that he was writing half their content. Anyway, one thing led to another, and then the New York State Attorney General’s office got involved, and two men sat Paul down in a room and told him his life was over. In response, he defined satire. He is stubborn, and when he gets angry—Jesus, you don’t want to be around. But this all gets missed sometimes, if you aren’t paying attention, becausehe hides it. He goes around in khaki pants and button-up shirts, all innocent, all good credit, but then he writes a story like this.
"Okay" is about a husband whose wife suggests that she have sex with strange men while he watches. Paul applies all his intelligence and creative energy to an idea that an inferior writer (1) wouldn’t think up or (2) would think was enough in and of itself to carry the story and would just kind of mess with for 20 pages and then add an up note or a down note and call it done.
My wife liked the idea of me watching. That’s what she said. One moment we were talking about making dinner and what did we even have that we could make and did I need to run out and get something or should we just order in again, and then she was saying how she wanted to pick up random guys and bring them back to our house, and she wanted me there to, I guess, see what transpired. It was as if I’d just turned on some movie, except I was in it and my wife was in it and we were speaking about stuff we’d never spoken of before. I asked her where she got such an idea, and she shrugged. “It just came to me,” she said. “You know, necessity. Mother of invention and all that.” Wasn’t that what people said about the lightbulb? “Exactly,” my wife said. After much discussion, we went to a restaurant she liked. It had a big bar that wrapped around the inside. The place looked like a ski chalet. Stone fireplaces and heavy furniture and so forth. We took a table, and our waiter bounded right over. He was wearing ski pants and a black T-shirt that said “Eat.” My wife asked him to please just give us a few, and then he was gone. She put her hand on top of mine and said, “I’m going now, all right?” She indicated the bar, and I nodded. “And you’re sure you’re okay with this?” she said. I told her that I guessed I was. What else was I going to say? “I want to be clear,” she said. “I’m not asking for your permission, Thom. But I do want to make sure you’re okay. I care about you, you know. Very much.” I was okay. I told her not to worry. “You’re going to keep an eye on me, right?” she said. “Like you promised?” I said sure. “The whole time,” she said. I agreed, the whole time. She stood then and held on to the edge of the table. “Don’t you want to kiss me or something?” she said. I looked at her. Did she want me to kiss her? She shrugged, like whatever, so I wished her good luck instead, and then she walked away. She limped slightly, how she always does, favoring that left leg. I was thinking about getting a steak. I hadn’t had any steak that month. I’m supposed to eat red meat only very occasionally. My wife had been at the bar for maybe a few minutes when this guy in a suit sent her a drink and waved from across the room. She is not an unattractive woman. She’s also petite but big in the bosom, which I knew wouldn’t hurt her chances. I’ve seen how men look at her, like when we’re out shopping, and some guy’s walking by and I’m looking at him, assessing the threat level, and he’s just looking at her the whole time, like I’m not even there. Anyway, the two of them got to talking or whatever, and the guy looked like he was getting pretty fresh, and I saw my wife doing that thing where when she laughed she showed a lot of throat, and she must have said something about me, because the guy turned around and looked at me. I was having my steak, chewing on a French fry. I nodded in his direction, and he got to talking again with my wife and then he came over. “Is this some kind of game?” he said. He seemed agitated. I sawed a small bite off my steak, just like my doctor told me I’d better do. I told the guy if my wife said it was a game, then it was a game. Basically, it was whatever she said it was. What had she said? I sort of wanted to know and sort of didn’t at the same time. The guy said something that sounded about right, and I said he seemed like an okay guy, clean and all. I’d figured my wife and I would ride home together, in our car, but she wanted me to follow them. She was quite clear about that. The guy opened the car door for her and then did this little jog around his vehicle. He had one of those sporty Honda Civics. I flashed my high beams to let him know I was ready. We took the usual roads, how I would’ve gone, if I were doing it. I liked how the guy drove. Not too fast and not too slow. It meant something to me that he wasn’t a shitty driver. We turned down our street, and then he proceeded to pull into our garage and park his car. I was fixing to honk, I was this close to laying on the horn, but then I suspected my wife had just told him to do it. She probably insisted. That time of night, I could usually find a spot on the street somewhere, maybe on the other side of the park. When I got back to the house, I went straight upstairs to our bedroom. That’s what my wife had told me to do. The two of them were in the kitchen, getting into some wine, it sounded like. Our bedroom overlooks the living room. There’s half a wall and some decorative iron railing that looks like it was removed from the outside of a house in Italy or Spain or somewhere like that. Anyway, that’s where I was supposed to station myself, by the railing. My wife and the guy—his name was Terry—got pretty chummy on the sofa. He was telling this joke that sounded like what some comic he saw said on TV, and my wife was sitting there absolutely rapt, like she was hearing about the time he saved a blind family from a burning building. She had one leg tucked under her kind of girlishly, and she was doing that thing where she stretched her other foot out and bounced her shoe on the end of it. The guy touched the back of my wife’s neck, smiled, and I thought, Here we go. They got a pretty kissy thing going then, and my wife started pawing at the guy’s pants, and next thing she removed his member, which didn’t look like anything special, as far as I was concerned. The guy leaned back into the sofa and loosened his tie. Then my wife inserted his member into her mouth and started going up and down like a piston, making these just ridiculous sounds. I really could not get over the sounds. That’s when the guy—Terry—saw me, I think, upstairs, peering through the railing. “I’m sorry,” he said. He pushed my wife away. Not roughly. It wasn’t excessive force he used. He just kind of moved her off him. “This is too weird,” he said. He stood then and tugged at his pants. “You folks have a nice night or whatever.” When he was gone, my wife looked up at me. “You don’t have to be so fucking creepy about it,” she said.
A Brief Anthology of ‘Quotations’ – An Homage to the Final Chapter of Susan Sontag’s On Photography
Susan Sontag closes her seminal book On Photography with a “brief anthology of quotations”—compiling remarks from various brilliant people on the topic. Sontag writes:
The final reason for the need to photograph everything lies in the very logic of consumption itself. To consume means to burn, to use up—and, therefore, to need to be replenished.
There’s always a new thing to look at, the same way there’s always a new way to say that. The following statements are a variation on Sontag’s original collection of quotes—misheard, translated, or reimagined for the year 2014 and for replenishment’s sake. This isn’t what they said, but it’s what they meant.
Beauty, you’re under arrest. I have a camera, and I’m not afraid to use it.
—Julia Margaret Cameron
I love looking at famous people. Because of the way they look. Because of the way photography makes them look famous.
I can only see beautiful things when I’m fucked up.
If you can take photographs with language, I’m taking one right now.
One Version of ‘One Version of Terence McKenna’s Life,’ by Tao Lin
The public story of Terence McKenna’s life—in my view, and by my estimates—is a ~450-page book, which could be titled One Version of Terence McKenna’s Life. It’s composed of Terence’s memoir, True Hallucinations (1993), his essays “I Understand Philip K. Dick” and “Among Ayahuasqueros,” certain sentences and anecdotes in dozens of his interviews and talks, and ~15% of The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss - My Life with Terence McKenna (2012) by Dennis McKenna, Terence’s younger brother by four years.
In a lecture called “Surfing Finnegan’s Wake,” Terence referred to a book of literary criticism that told James Joyce’s 656-page novel, Finnegans Wake (1939), in a one-page version, a ten-page version, and a 200-page version. The following biography (which to some degree presupposes knowledge of Terence McKenna’s Memes) is my eight-page, fractal-inflected, short-story-esque version of One Version of Terence McKenna’s Life.
The world which we perceive is a tiny fraction of the world which we canperceive, which is a tiny fraction of the perceivable world. – Terence McKenna, 1987. [“Understanding and Imagination in the Light of Nature”]
1. Paonia, Colorado (1946-1962)
Terence Kemp McKenna was born on November 16, 1946, in “a Colorado cattle and coal-mining town of 1,500 people named Paonia,” he said in an interview in 1993. He elaborated:
They wanted to name it Peony but didn’t know how to spell it. In your last year of high school, you got your girlfriend pregnant, married her, and went to work in the coalmines. An intellectual was someone who read TIME.
David Shapiro Isn’t Much Use to Anyone
David Shapiro and his Tumblr Pitchfork Reviews Reviews once felt “big on the internet.” Roughly five years ago, Shapiro—then fresh out of college with a shitty job and some self-esteem issues—started writing meta-reviews of the music reviews published on Pitchfork each morning. As he commuted to a conservative clerical gig, he’d frantically type out ranting but sharp essays on his Blackberry memo pad (sans-capitalizations and with few paragraph breaks), deconstructing the music critics’ arguments and logic, and even commending certain reviews a “Best New Review” tag—a play on Pitchfork’s “Best New Music” symbol of indie gold status. From his office bathroom, he’d often write colloquial personal essays in the afternoon about his relationship with music, which are the only remaining fossils of his site today.
The website got very popular, earning Shapiro over 100,000 followers, writing gigs at The Wall Street Journal, Interview Magazine, and The New Yorker, as well as a profile of his Tumblr in The New York Times. Shortly after he stopped posting on Pitchfork Reviews Reviews, he wrote a screenplay and a novel, both which sold and made it out of production limbo. Despite the success, Shapiro has sworn off writing (save the occasional New Yorker piece), and has since finished most of law school and now works at a white-collar firm in Manhattan.
His new book, You’re Not Much Use To Anyone, which comes out later this month, is a semi-autobiographical account of Shapiro’s life right out of college. It details the creation of Pitchfork Reviews Reviews and what was going on in his life at a time when he was especially insecure and looking for a form of authority and influence.
The book’s main character, David, is both anxious and hyper-analytical—fanatical with trifling metrics of success like how many Internet followers he has, or ways his life doesn’t compare to the lives of Pitchfork writers he both idealizes and envies. So even though his Tumblr is just a Tumblr, he feels validated and important when people he was once infatuated with start paying attention to his thoughts and ideas.
On a surface level, You’re Not Much Use To Anyone, sounds nominal: a physical book about a Tumblr about a music reviews website. But the story is a punchy and sometimes poignant read for any young person trying to figure out how he can become significant or simply noticeable to the people he/she admires. Over the course of a boozy, four-hour interview, we talked about his book being “almost desperate” to get you to finish it, feeling guilty about writing a semi-factual story about friends who didn’t sign up for being characters, and on his relationship with Pitchfork today.
VICE: The inspiration for your Tumblr and writing came from an unlikely source, but can you tell me about the actual inspiration for this book?
David Shapiro: I was seeing this girl who was working on a novel and she wouldn’t tell me anything about it. I felt a little resentful that she wouldn’t share it. Later, she broke up with me. And I thought, what better way to get back at her then to write a book myself? It was months after I stopped posting on Pitchfork Reviews Reviews. I refilled my prescription for anti-anxiety medication prescription and wrote a draft in a week.
This must have been insane to pitch to a publisher. It’s a physical book about a meta-Tumblr. How would you describe it to someone with zero context?
[Laughs] I still don’t even know how to describe it. I don’t know how to talk about it. I don’t have an elevator pitch. It’s a book about a blog about a popular music reviews website—after a certain point of shopping it around to publishers, I realized it was better to stay quiet during meetings and let my agent talk.
To me, I mean, if you read the book, in many ways, Pitchfork is not the focus.
Definitely. You could say Pitchfork is incidental. In another time, it would have been… I don’t know, like a car a magazine? It could have been written about any fountain of authority.
That’s what I found really interesting. In a lot of ways, your book details the rise of social media as a platform for anyone to assert their opinion and influence.
Yeah, or throw rocks at the throne.
Read the whole interview
Watch Michael Shannon Fuck a Corpse in James Franco’s Short Film ‘Herbert White’
Because my film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s book, Child of God, will be released this August, I thought I would share one of my previous attempts at transforming literature into film. When I was at NYU, I made a short based on Frank Bidart’s poem ”Herbert White,” which you can watch here.
Why Do So Many Soft Drinks Taste Like Teletubby Blood?
I don’t drink soda very often. It’s not that I don’t like it; it’s just that after age 12 I never felt like having more than a shot of it every now and then. Soft drinks are designed for children with tiny, discerning pallets, unimpressed with the flavors provided by actual food. That said, some of the tastes in these beverages exist only inside of their cans and cannot be found anywhere else in the whole world. It’s like a Willy Wonka land of weird water, and who would be such a fool as to not sometimes dunk their tongue in the chemical concoctions and see what’s good?
I decided to veer away from the recognizable labels and see what life is like on the wild side of the soda pop biz.
15 calories per 12 fl oz/12 g sugar
Kill Cliff calls itself a “Recovery Drink,” or, rather, “THE Recovery Drink,” being conceptually healthy in that it is “naturally sweetened” and only 15 calories a can. I found it over with the Boar’s Head meats and cheeses, like maybe it’s strategically placed next to the high-end shit to make you think it’s good, a can of cola all on its own. The text on the side of the can claims that the drink was “developed by a former US Navy Seal” to “improve endurance and speed recovery.” It’s unclear who the Seal was, and why he thought “Kill Cliff” would be a good name for a revitalization beverage. They also employ the tagline “Test Positive for Awesome,” which is maybe closer to an AIDS joke than should be on a can of soda.
The first sip reminds me of if Sweet Tarts were a liquid and strained through a pair of men’s briefs after a short doubles’ tennis match in a domed arena. It’s all puckery and buzzing around the edges, and when it hits the back of the throat it immediately provides the feeling of having recently barfed. This post-barf expression kind of kneads its way back and forth across the tongue and palate like electricity. I take a second sip to cover up the first, and the buzzing strain appears again, redoubled. I kind of already have a headache.
As I get deeper into the can, my brain becomes warm. It feels like my head is flooding with acid, and I can only tolerate the sensation by drinking so fast I can’t taste anything. When I stop my head is spinning, and I feel full of gasoline.
I might recommend Kill Cliff to remove paint or to dissolve the bars on a prison cell, but as far as liquid designed to go inside my body is concerned, no.
Marley’s Mellow Mood (Berry Flavor)
165 calories per 12 fl oz/29 g sugar
Sniffing the edge of the can’s mouth before I take a swig, I get the full bouquet of chemical fruit fun, suggesting what I’m about to drink is again going to come from the “Sick Fake Candy” food group. So I’m shocked when the liquid hits my lips and the first thing I think is actually, Hey, this IS smooth! Maybe it’s the dead rock icon on the can with the marijuana colors that brainwashed me into this feeling, though more likely it’s how, compared to Kill Cliff, this shit is like white sturgeon caviar. More watered-down Hawaiian Punch than actual soda, there is also a delicate flavor similar to the air in a bong shop lurking just behind the first curve of berry. The mixture is confusing, hairy, seemingly as unsure of itself as I am of it, but at least I don’t want to do an immediate spit-take.
The Tao of Terence: Beyond “Existentialism”
I learned of Terence McKenna (1946-2000) on September 14, 2012, when I was 29 years old. It was the day after I had completed the main final draft of Taipei, my first book to include psychedelics and which ends with a scene in which a character wonders if he has died after eating psilocybin mushrooms. I was in my room, zombielike and depressed after a period of time embodying a “whatever it takes” attitude regarding amphetamine use and completing my book. I had somewhat randomly clicked a YouTube video in which Joe Rogan (whom I was vaguely aware of as the host of Fear Factor, the TV show, a long time ago) was aggressively, excitedly talking about DMT, a neurotransmitter-like, illegal, psychedelic compound found in human (and other animal) brains and in at least ~50 species of plants worldwide. I did not have firsthand experience with DMT at the time, and had only read about it online.
At one point Joe Rogan began referencing someone in a “if you think I sound crazy, listen to this other guy” manner. He was talking about Terence McKenna, a person who would smoke DMT and, after ~15 seconds, without fail, find himself in an “unanticipated dimension” infested with “self-transforming machine elves”—also called “fractal elves,” “self-dribbling jeweled basketballs,” or “little self-transforming tykes”—that spoke English and a kind of visible language while jumping into and out of his body, “running around chirping and singing.” These entities, which McKenna described in a word as “zany,” were maybe either “dead people” in “an ecology of souls,” “human beings from the distant future,” or things with their own hopes, fears, problems that inhabit a parallel universe.