jokes that sometimes people don’t get

The other day, a friend of mine, or rather, a friend of a friend – I don’t know him very well – was talking about a band he was in, and he cited the Olivia Tremor Control as a major influence.  He even went so far as to tell us that the Olivia Tremor Control was his favorite Elephant 6 band.  So just to joke around a little, I said, “That’s a big statement; what about Neutral Milk Hotel?”

And he went through a quick defense, like “Neutral Milk is just a whole different thing, like obviously Jeff Magnum is great,” and made to continue, unsure of whether this justification/name-dropping was adequate.  But I felt a little bad, because the whole thing was just a joke, a joke about using Neutral Milk Hotel to exercise power over your friends.  And I think that’s actually a pretty good joke, but you really can’t blame him if he didn’t get it.  As I said, I didn’t know him very well, and he didn’t know me very well at all.

And a little while ago I was sitting in a prestigious university library, studying in a group.  At one point a group of asian business people entered through the elevator and began taking pictures of us, some with smart phones, others with photographer’s cameras.  It made me uncomfortable, to be the object of such hopeful attention.  I had just been complaining about the class we were studying for, the inconsequentiality of the tested material and the shallowness of the professor’s analysis, and now these asian business people were projecting onto our well-groomed group an almost utopian potential, as if all the world needed was more blank prestige and high-capital anxiety.  So, riffing off this, and off the discomfort it made me feel, I said, “Ah, to be one of a future elite.”  And no one I was with laughed, or, I think, no one even realized I was joking.

Although perhaps it should be mentioned, that later I was having a conversation with one of my study partners.  I explained the joke, she laughed, she said she thought it was funny, and, although she said I shouldn’t blame our study group for not getting it, she gave me an impressed and hopeful glance, which was OK, I think.


On the Internet

Today, I put some music on,
but forgot to put my headphones in.

I had been meaning to check out Mahler,
but I kept checking my email.

And a friend said to me, “i know you were joking,
but I say: out with it!

“out with the whole internet!”
But I said:

“I am downloading Rosetta Stone right now,
and I will teach myself some German.”

I downloaded Rosetta Stone,
but it took me a while to get it working.

It was hard, even
to remember that I had a problem

a trio of poems about being an asshole



2) Tell me what you mean by “be yourself”

It’s just, that I
ate two plates of
pork dumplings.

they were fried and
i ate this thick chicken soup,

And last weekend I went to ultimate practice,
and this weekend, I didn’t.
because I didn’t want to.

And I used to be kosher
but I realized
it’s not something I still wanted to do.

I realized,
it was not a community
I wanted to be a part of.



3) Guys, I just love to think of myself as “creative”

That was so fun.
Guys, give me another topic for a poem.
“Monkeys who think like humans.”
I dont want to write a poem about that.

Guys, listen to me laugh,
laugh as I write it,
and when I read it.
But I only really like that last couplet.

Guys, I really only like
that last couplet. But that’s pretty good,
I’m pretty stoned.
And I’m new at this.

But guys,
thanks for all of this,
I feel a little funny,
you know, because,

There are certain circles,
where this wouldn’t feel okay.
There are certain circles,
where this would feel like an affectation.

cashiers 2

part of series on cashiers that started w/ the post “good intentions”!!!!::::

The other day, I bought a muffin.  Just a snack.  To be honest, I’m slightly embarrassed about it.  It’s such an extravagance, to buy a muffin.  It was only 1.95, but what possible use do I have for it– besides, of course, to keep my blood sugar up.  Sometimes it’s hard to pace your biology.  But to really be honest, I only bought the muffin so I could shoplift a yogurt and a bottled smoothie.  Those are useful, more useful than a muffin, although they certainly are still extravagant–  Unless they’re free.  So I’m not sure where that leaves me, with regard to embarrassment.  On the one hand, I’m no longer loose with my money, buying things like muffins when some people have trouble buying more biologically necessary foods; but on the other hand, I shoplift, and it’s always a crapshoot how people will feel about shoplifting.  Both yogurt and smoothies are perishable, so that amounts to roughly zero seconds for Au Bon Pain shareholders, but the retail value, for the yogurt, and the smoothie, combined, was like seven dollars, so that’s like a half-hour for me.  But people don’t always think about shoplifting in such utilitarian terms.  It’s a strangely emotional subject.  The only reason I bring this up at all, is that I thought of a pretty funny joke I could say to the cashier.  The muffin cost 1.95, so I thought it might be funny, if I gave her 2.05, and I asked, “Hey, I can just give you 2.05 and you can just give me a dime in change, if that’s easier.”

To be completely honest, it wouldn’t entirely be a joke.  I really do prefer a dime to two nickels.  The marginal convenience makes the difference between “will get used” and “will sit in a pocket or on a desk until eventually it gets lost.”  But it’s funny, I think, to care about such a slight difference in convenience, and I also think it’s funny to pretend to make a suggestion for someone else’s sake, when clearly you’re just asking a favor.  So, in these aspects, it would still be a joke.  I took out the two dollars, and I took the extra nickel into my hand, and I chuckled a little bit, but then I put the nickel back and just took the extra nickel as change.  I just already felt embarrassed because I was shoplifting, and if it wasn’t apparent that I was shoplifting, I was still just buying a muffin from Au Bon Pain, and it’s hard to tell jokes well when you’re embarrassed.


I like to talk to cashiers.  To be honest, I like to flirt with cashiers.  I think it’s very important when you meet people to think to yourself, “I could end up dating this person, or at least we could be friends.”  It reminds you of the humanity of everyone you meet.  So many people have very limited spheres of sociality, and these are often kept separate: work-friends, school-friends, friends-from-home, my friend’s friend.  Like friendship needs an excuse, a raison d-etre.  Seriously: “Oh I just met my girlfriend in line at the grocery store.”  Why doesn’t that happen?  It’s just another symptom of the lonely mass man.  That’s why I think it’s important to flirt with cashiers.

One time I was checking out of a Whole Foods, and I kinda scoff/ feel nauseous at a rack of CD soundtracks to the movie version of Les Miserables in the impulse purchase section.  That movie was so bad.  It just injects non-sensical pathos into every situation.  Characters decide to die arbitrarily, but their entire life was arbitrary.  The events of that movie posit themselves as sad, but they never had any connection to reality.  They existed in complete isolation and their dissipation is appropriately inconsequential.  The tears stand alone, signifying nothing.  This is the current state of our society: humans separate from emotions; emotions separate from humans.  We pay eight dollars a ticket to re-acquaint, but are only given the semblance of our old friend.  We leave alone, maybe with an inkling of having been cheated.

It’s also worth mentioning that they switch the theme of the musical from “revolution! Economic equality!  The tragedy of poverty!” to “Forget about the poor – they’ll inherit the Earth!  Economic equality in heaven!  In the meantime: check this bourgie wedding.”  Seriously, we still revert to Christianity to justify the social situation?  Maybe just to justify the money spent on that movie.  The number of ways this film mocks its audience turns my stomach.  I shouldn’t go on.  I just wanted to justify my distaste.  But if you do watch that movie again, try to notice the arbitrary deaths, the arbitrary drama, the disgusting class bias, the selective revival of one of Christianity’s more destructive tenets.

The only point is that I kinda scoffed at the CD rack.  The cashier catches (I almost wrote “cashes!”) my scoff and initiates a conversation.

“Just reacting to the Les Miserables CDs,” I tell her.  I did not know her taste, and did not want to offend.

“Oh?  I heard it was good.”

I hesitate, eventually express non-committal disacquiescence.

“Yea, that’s the sense I got.  The trailer just took the most famous song and put it against high-capital emotion in period attire.  Didn’t get a sense of the ruckus or the righteousness that I like in the musical.”

And so I’m kinda caught off guard: “Yeah, to be honest, it was really bad.  I just didn’t want to pass judgment on your acquaintances.”

“No, no!  You shouldn’t worry if you don’t like that movie.”  And she talks about how people often have bad taste, which is true, but more becoming when spoken than when written.

But I’m about finished bagging my groceries, and so I check over my receipt real quick, just holding it deftly between my nails, and head out.  I regretted not taking the extra step, asking for her number (“Maybe we can watch a good movie sometime?”).  But I was glad for the exchange, and I think I can learn from this regret, and will be ready to ask the next cool and pretty cashier I talk to for her number.  I think it’d kinda surprise them, probably in a good way, because I doubt many customers think of socializing with cashiers.

There really are a lot of cool cashiers.  I would love to date one of them.  If I were dating a cashier, I would walk around, and know that most of the people I see, who I think that many people hardly notice, could be my friends, or maybe they are already like my very short-term friends.  And that would be very nice.  The only thing is that, the cashiers, their systems are probably so rife with BPA, because they handle receipt paper all the time, that there will probably be a high rate of birth defects among their children.  So I could never marry a cashier.


My post grad plan is to make a fake documentary called “Petnapping: the most adorable crime”, comprised of a series of staged pet thefts (mostly dogs and cats) and interviews with the owners and perpetrators.  Most of the scenes are of crimes of passion (citizen turned thief by these vampiresses of cuteness), and thereby raise the question: if something so wholesome as falling in love with a dog can turn a man into a criminal, ought we re-evaluate this category?

But in one scene, the crime is pre-meditated and wholly unsympathetic: a man kidnaps a wealthy person’s dog and holds it for ransom.  He threatens to feed the dog one square of chocolate every hour until the ransom is paid.  The original owner, distraught at the very prospect of a poisoned pup, scrambles to pay the ransom, but encounters a series of obstacles beyond their control.  The ransomer is going through with his plan; shots of the dog eagerly lapping up chocolate squares are cut against the owner’s distraught face. Four chocolate squares in, the dog is getting visibly sick, but it is still eagerly lapping up the chocolate squares, blithely gobbling its doom; but, cut to the ransomer’s face: he is in pain.  He can not keep up his plan; he has fallen in love.  He cancels the ransom, but cannot bring himself to return the dog (he would never be able to see it again), and, in a panic, flees to Canada with his best friend (the dog). The scene ends, but the question remains: Is this his redemption?  If so, why does our society demand his effective banishment?

The film will probably include the following monologue:

See the tragic irony with like cats and stuff, is that the type of person I think who’s probably most eager to pet them, is also probably the most attuned to when the cat or whatever doesn’t want to be petted.  So let’s just say I’m that type of person.  Travelling in foreign countries is hard for me, because I feel, as a tourist, like I shouldn’t just pet people’s dogs.  And I’m in a foreign country, everything’s already so strange, I feel like I should be careful, like I probably shouldn’t pet strays either, but sometimes I do, but like I don’t know the status of rabies vaccinations wherever I am.  I would look that up beforehand, but whenever I sit down at the computer to do so, I just think, “no, c’mon John, you can refrain from petting stray dogs while you’re in Prussia for like two goddamn weeks,”  And so I refrain, because I think it’ll be good for my willpower, and, while I think it’s generally endearing to be really eager to pet cute animals, it would maybe be a little trying, for like a potential life partner, maybe, if I literally couldn’t refrain from doing so.  So I end up not looking up the rabies status in Prussia before I go there, and it kills me.  It just kills me.

But the reason I bring all this up, is that, like I said, the type of person who’s most eager to pet cute animals, is generally more likely to be aware of when the animal doesn’t want to be petted.  That’s not quite what I said, I guess.  I revised the formulation somewhat.  It’s more scientific, a little more sure of itself.  It’s hard to get 100% behind a statement like that right when you say it, I think.  It’s reassuring to see that I haven’t abandoned my formulation after a paragraph’s consideration.  It’s just that, nothing’s so frustrating for me, than seeing someone, who I don’t really know, because most of my good friends don’t do this, although my sister does, which really drives me pretty crazy.  It drives me crazy.  Just the way she was picking up her friend’s new kitten the other day, she would scoop it up, her palm on its belly, and then, with her other hand, she’d pull back its skin, as if the kitten needed a facelift (it was only two months old!), so the ears would be pressed down, and its eyes became little diagonal slits, and the kitten was so scared.  Kittens are simply not that OK with being held, and if you come across a kitten that does want to be held, that is a blessing, people, and it really just ruins this, I think, to just hold a terrified kitten against its will.  Like, seriously, how cute is that really?  This kitten is literally trembling with fear, pressed into this like gross caricature of human comfort, and its bearer is projecting onto the kitten this neurotic fantasy, it is neurotic, of a return to infancy, to the warmth of your mother’s breast.  But I’ve got news for you people: that is not what it means to be an infant kitten.  That’s why I always pick kittens up by the scruff of the neck.  That’s how they’re comfortable.  They let their muscles relax, and God knows they deserve it, these animals are always on the prowl, they’re just little spring-traps waiting to go off, and I think it’s just so nice to see them relax, but meanwhile, my goddamn friend, or like my sister, will go off on me with this completely ridiculous anthropocentric rant like “oh my God, how can you hold the cat like that,” as if these self-assured brats never stopped to consider that not every mammal goes through an identical infancy.  Although I guess my sister can at least get behind a statement when she says it.

But anyway, I made this joke, which I think was kinda subversive, and actually really socially responsible, to be honest, kind of about taking the whole “cuddling an animal against its will” thing to its logical extreme.  Well it all started one night at my friend’s house when I was sitting on the couch with my friend’s dog, this hilarious old bloodhound, and it was so sleepy and cute, and its head lay by my legs, and it seemed to be enjoying my petting it, but I guess I was a little greedy, to be honest, and I just really wanted it to lay its head on my thigh while it was falling asleep, but of course that’s ridiculous, because I would probably want to get up before the dog did, like it wasn’t even my couch, and I can’t sleep sitting up, and like, presumably the dog didn’t have that kind of foresight, and it still didn’t put its head on my thigh to fall asleep, so it clearly didn’t want to.  And I was just sitting on the couch and all my friends were in this room and I couldn’t say anything because all I wanted, it took all my will, not to like pick up this dog’s head in my hand and scooch my thigh underneath.  It was so hard for me, and I just started thinking, “what if I did it, what if I was that type of person who would selfishly cuddle this dog while it was trying to sleep, with absolutely no regard for the animal’s welfare?”  But of course I’m not, like I’ve seen my sister sit next to dogs and unless like she’s doing her performance, “Oh look how much I like cute animals,” it’s like the dog’s not even there, but it was so hard for me, sitting next to this dog, who wanted to cuddle, I think, but not as much as I would’ve liked it to, and, as I said, I thought about taking that vein of selfishness to its logical extreme, and I just started making these jokes, and also I was a little drunk at the time, but I said, “What if I just took a needle, and I sewed this dog onto my thigh while it was asleep, and I sewed like three cats onto my arm and I sewed rabbits onto my back and my torso, so I would always just be cuddling like ten cute animals?”

It was really embarrassing for me, because that’s not who I am.  I realized I just said it because I was mad at my sister, but she wasn’t even there, and she wouldn’t even have got it if she were there, and all of the people there just said that that was disgusting and that I shouldn’t say that, except one girl, who I think I’m in love with, who laughed so hard.  She couldn’t stop laughing I think because she got my joke.

I’m sorry, I just wrote this because I thought it might be good for people to think about what it means to really love cute animals, and of course there’s also quite a bit to be said about socializing animals, or getting them used to your touch, in order to develop a truly close companionship, but I also just wrote this to explain that joke I guess, I really just wanted to do that, to clarify that when I’m saying “I want to sew this dog into my arm,” I’m really saying “look at all of you, you self-assured ear-nuzzlers, so certain that this dog is desiring of your attention, look at your loose translations of cross-specie affection, dispensed without a moment’s consideration, without even a notion that the dog may prefer its face the way its skin falls naturally,” but of course maybe it doesn’t, because our dog’s always happier to see her than me.