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vol 6 - issue 01 (sep 2003) :: interviews
BRIAN GAGE
interview by insane wayne chinsang

BRIAN GAGE WRITES CHILDREN'S BOOKS FOR ADULTS. READ THAT AGAIN: CHILDREN'S BOOKS FOR ADULTS. IF THAT DOESN'T INTRIGUE YOU ENOUGH TO READ THIS INTERVIEW THAT INSANE WAYNE CHINSANG DID WITH HIM, NOTHING WILL.

Wayne: Letís begin by talking about how you started off going to school for business, but then you got into doing more creative things. Do you think you could have gotten where you are now and written what you have without going through those-- what Iím sure were-- horrible experiences?

Brian: I didnít go to business college because I wanted to work in corporate America. I started out there, then I switched to computer science. And then I realized, ďIím going to be 30 and still in college if I donít clean up my act.Ē So I chose business just out of the path of least resistance. Iíve always had this disdain for corporations and power structures. And I probably would have still wrote what I wrote, but I think what I write now has a little bit more validity to it because Iíve studied corporations-- Iíve been employed by them. So, instead of throwing bricks from the outside, I was there. I can vouch for what Iím saying.

W: What was the deciding factor to switch over from a corporate job to start writing?

B: My original goal was to get a creative writing degree. But, I was influenced by this myth of not getting a ďrealĒ degree and not being able to get a ďrealĒ job. I was young, and I had this fear through parental and social pressures that I was still somewhat adhering to. I was told that I needed to have something to fall back on. But after I got out I was like, ďThis is bullshit. Iím just going to do what I want.Ē

W: Right. I think everyone goes through that a little bit. When I graduated from college I worked for a company that sucked, so I saved up a little bit of cash and quit. I think itís something thatís ingrained in us. Itís like, ďYou donít have a job? Well, what do you do

B: Exactly. And then you kind of realize that itís like whatís the point? Itís kind of cliche, but itís true: Iíd rather have a life than a living. I see no point in institutionalizing myself, sitting in a cubicle all day so that someone else can get a bigger boat or a better house, and I can barely afford a DVD player. As you get older, as you get further away from society telling you what to do, I think you get more secure with yourself. You donít care about those things anymore. When I was younger, I may have thought, ďGee, I should have nicer pants or a better car.Ē But now I could really care less. So, the further away you get from those things, the more easy it becomes to be who you want and pursue what you want. Do you feel the same way with the way the paper started?

W: Definitely. I think another important part of it is that I started the paper up at a young age, so I didnít really get used to having a steady check and insurance. I think if I would have waited until I was older, it would have been impossible.

B: Right.

W: I think you just get used to being poor. (laughs)

B: (laughs) Yeah. Itís like, once you get used to a certain lifestyle, who cares?

W: A friend of mine has this saying about how we live. He says itís like being a millionaire without the money.

B: Yeah. Itís like we live the life of the idol rich with no cash. Iím sipping on my lemonade by the pool,.. thereís just no water in it.

W: (laughs) Yeah. Itís just somebody elseís pool.

B: (laughs) Yeah. Itís somebody elseís pool, and they usually kick me out.

W: Or itís a public pool.

B: But the lemonade sure is good.

W: Yeah. Okay, so I think your writing is definitely influenced by Geisel (Dr. Seuss), who, early on in his career, took cartoony work, and tackled political satire. Do you think this genre helps or hurts the message? By having something so message driven look so childlike, does it affect it positively or negatively?

B: Well, I think a lot of groundwork was laid down by guys like Edward Gorey; guys who were doing a lot of darker stuff that looked like it was for children. But I think that when you introduce politics into all of that, itís a whole new animal. The way weíre labeling the books now is ďchildrenís books for adultsĒ, and I donít really think there was a genre for that before. So there has been a little bit of resistance, because people donít know what to make of it. Iíll get emails, about Snark, Inc. for example, and theyíll say they picked it up because they thought it was for kids. So theyíll read it and realize that something isnít right. They think, ďThis isnít what this book should be telling me.Ē So thatís kind of where the culture jamming aspect comes in. I think, depending upon the audience, it actually helps it, because it makes it a little more entertaining. And instead of preaching to the choir, or trying to get a message across by writing some 800 page dissertation, Iím just trying to break down these complex social ideas into a childrenís rhyme, which is a lot of fun and more approachable to people.

W: Do you think that because you create the stories in rhyme instead of straight storytelling, that it becomes even more childlike?

B: Well, thatís not really how I write. It just came out of me once. And itís very difficult to tell a decent story using those verse couplets. Itís kind of limiting, so there is a challenge as well. And also doing it and not sounding cheesy. Because you can only rhyme ďnightĒ and ďfrightĒ or fucking whatever so many tmes without sounding like a fool. Thereís a subtle nuance to being clever. Thereís a really fine line you travel between, ďWow. Thatís really clever,Ē and, ďYou should be embarrassed.Ē Iím hoping Iím on the clever trampoline. (laughs) I donít know why I just said ďtrampolineĒ.

W: (laughs) Itís okay. Do you run into people that say they like the book, but they donít get the message? Like, do you get the awful ďOh, thatís cute" comment? Because we get that sometimes with the paper, and it pisses me off. I mean, I know we write stupid shit too, but I think there is definite social commentary being put out as well.

B: Oh, definitely.

W: I think that some people think itís cute, but I just donít think they get it.

B: Yeah. I think most people are afraid. First of all, that Bon Jovi cover that you guys did?

W: Yeah.

B: That is hilarious.

W: Thanks.

B: Iíve been working on a novel at my parentsí house, and I pinned it up on the wall. Every time I look at it, it just cracks me up.

W: Sweet. Thatís great. Iíll pass it along to the guy that wrote it.

B: Okay, cool. So, as far as people not getting it, I think,.. you know, itís funny. Some people will come up to me-- with Snark especially-- theyíll come up to me and say, ďI think Iím finally starting to get what youíre talking about.Ē And I just think that those people arenít used to being confronted with things. Like, within the social circles that you and I travel, we all get it. But then you go out there, and itís different. I think the way people are barraged with all sorts of different information, I donít think people are really trained to know how to decipher a message from intent. And I think that when they see that our message is disguised as a joke, but our intent is to change someoneís social thinking, I think that confuses them because theyíre like, ďWait a minute. Youíre not telling me this by scolding me or telling me I should think this way; youíre trying to entertain.Ē And I think that makes their drone brain circuits go a little bit crazy.

W: Right. Itís almost like entertainment and thought arenít meant to be together. Itís like entertainment is supposed to entertain; itís supposed to be dumb and watered down, and youíre not supposed to think about it.

B: Right. Look at some of the trailblazers like Lenny Bruce. No one knew what in the hell to think about that guy. He had some serious socially scathing commentary for the Sixties. And he started out as this nice boy, almost slapstick comedian. And mainstream America didnít know what to do with him. Even today, Iím not sure if people would know what to do with someone like that.

W: Unfortunately, with people like Bruce and Andy Kaufman, I donít think they really get appreciated until theyíre gone. So, tell me about Books and Bands. I read somewhere that you said, ď...the problem with the art community is that it is every man for himself.Ē That there is no mixture between genres or within things that are going on with the art world. How did Books and Bands come about, and how has the turnout been?

B: Well, the turnouts have been decent. Each city that we stop in has its own little flavor, and it all depends on the bands and the venue. L.A. was decent, San Francisco was okay, but the Midwest shows have been packed. People have really turned out for it, and thereís been a really warm response. I think when people see this culture coming through town, they want to respond to that. And the idea came about because, being an author, I realized that if people had a favorite band, they could name all of their albums, every member of the band, and the members that quit the band that are now in other bands. But if you were to ask them who their favorite author was, theyíd reply with something like, ďI donít read.Ē And that was really bothersome to me. And not even from some pretentious librarian standpoint. Itís just that there are some really culturally valid things going on in literature today, and itís being kind of ignored. And I blame that largely on the MTV pop culture generation. You know, if people canít absorb it in 30 seconds, theyíre not interested in it. And thatís a detriment to intellectual culture. So with Books and Bands I wanted to get people to recognize that. And I was kind of hanging on the backs of local musicians who were popular, because I knew I could get people to come out and pay attention to these books. And itís going really well. A lot of people told me it wouldnít work, but Iím surprised by how well itís turned out.

W: Thatís great. The way I heard about you was because a friend of mine from Columbus read an article someone did on you there, and they passed it along. And youíre right on when you talk about authors being unknown. Weíve tried to get numerous authors for interviews, but, for some reason, we have a hard time getting in touch with them.

B: You know, I have a lot of friends that are authors that would love to talk to you, Iím sure. But one of the things Iíve come to realize is that most authors are socially retarded.

W: (laughs)

B: (laughs) I donít know. Maybe Iím one of them, but Iím astounded at times. Iíll read somebodyís book and think theyíre brilliant. But then Iíll meet them at a conference or something, and itís like, (whispering) ďYou forgot to put your pants on.Ē

W: (laughs)

B: They are really an eclectic lot. I imagine itís kind of like the Harrison Ford/Indiana Jones complex. When I was younger, I read about how someone was really into Harrison Ford, and they ended up meeting him. But they were really disappointed that he wasnít anything like Indiana Jones. And I think thatís the same thing with authors. I donít know, maybe Chuck Palahniuk can kick some serious ass, but Iíd have to meet him to see if heís like Tyler Durden or not. I think people would be surprised to meet me as well. Iím writing this character that is a depressed epileptic in my new novel, and Iím nothing like a depressed epileptic.

W: Right. My mom met Chuck, and she said heís a maniac.

B: Iíve heard heís a wild man. I love his stuff. He really is like a neo-Bret Easton Ellis. He reinvigorated the genre. Heís definitely a trailblazer. Itís always good to see somebody like that, that can put writing back on the map again.

W: Yeah. Kind of back to what we were talking about before, I think with Fight Club, a lot of people just didnít get it, and thatís really sad.

B: Yeah. Itís really insightful social commentary. I mean, he basically took a scalpel and split it right open with that book, as far as Iím concerned. And Survivor is another one that I think is dead on.

W: Invisible Monsters is great, too.

B: I havenít read that one yet. I have it, and itís on my list of things to read. But that list is huge.

W: Yeah. Mine too.

B: I have it next to my bed, but itís not going to be read anytime soon.

W: I just buy books, but I never get a chance to read all of them.

B: I canít stop. And now itís getting to a point where my writing is taking over my reading, so anything that I am reading is research based. As a writer, when I read someone elseís work, Iím constantly picking it apart. Itís like back in the day when Jimi Hendrix and Pete Townshend would always one up each other. I think there is a lot of that between writers as well. So when Iím reading someone else, I think to myself, ďOkay. How do I up this, or do something that isnít like this, so that it is its own?Ē

W: Everyone is always critical of their competition.

B: Yeah. And I think it is wise to do that. You know, you canít be a good movie maker unless youíve watched a lot of Kubrick and Coppola.

W: So, with your first book, Snark, Inc., how did you hook up with Soft Skull Press and get that going?

B: Well, I was doing a lot of research, because itís not like you can walk into a bookstore and say, ďDo you have anything that is anti-corporate that rhymes like a childrenís book, but itís really for adults?Ē

W: (laughs)

B: Itís not really on the ďhot listĒ of what people are thinking they want to read. Itís more something they need to see. So I was doing a lot of research on similar books, trying to figure out that whole graphic genre. And I came up with a couple publishers that I really liked, one of which was Reagan Books, and the other being Soft Skull. And I had an agent at the time, and she was like, ďLetís send it here, letís send it there.Ē But I was like, ďLetís just send it to Soft Skull and see what happens.Ē And, Sander (Hicks) was still there at the time, and he got back to us really quickly. I feel kind of bad because it was a little too easy. But I had really been busting my ass as far as the post-publicity and promotions, which is really where the work comes in, as far as Iím concerned. Unless you have some type of overnight sensation. Like a Dave Eggers character, or somebody like that. His work pretty much promotes itself.

W: I know what youíre talking about. I wrote a script, and it just got picked up by Image Comics as a graphic novel.

B: Oh, killer. Congratulations.

W: Thanks. Thing is, I feel kind of guilty as well. I donít really read comics, so Iím not immersed in the genre at all. But we pitched it, and it got picked up within 24 hours of pitching it. But it was just so easy, so there is a level of guilt there.

B: Yeah. When somebody asks me how long it took me to get published, I feel like I should lie and make up some kind of story. But itís just a matter of timing and diligence, I think. And I just happened to be sticking to it at a point in time when somebody was ready to buy. But I always feel like I should say something like, ďOh, I wrote this when I was 22, and,.. whatever.Ē But we did get one or two rejection letters. I think Fantagraphics turned it down, but I donít remember, to be honest. Some of the major ones didnít know what to do with it.

W: Yeah. But with what Soft Skull does, it seems like itís perfect.

B: I agree. Especially now that theyíre doing the second book, and, hopefully, the third.

W: I saw that Soft Skull opened a new division called Red Rattle for books for kids.

B: Yeah. And Iím really proud of all of that. The thing I love about Soft Skull is-- see, Iím in New York right now on tour. And Iíll just go down there and hang out. And I can get my editor on the phone whenever Iíd like, and I feel like theyíre a family to me. And I think that some of the other authors feel that way as well. Red Rattle came along because they wanted to start publishing childrenís books, and to be the first book out on this press is something Iím really proud of. And I think that the book is really my strongest work yet.

W: Tell me a little bit about that book, The Saddest Little Robot.

B: Well, the rhymes of Snark and The Amazing Snox Box are on the level. Itís written for adults, but a kid could understand the books. But when I write specifically for children, like with The Saddest Little Robot, I write it on a higher level. So I donít know if that says that I hold adulthood in contempt or what.

W: (laughs)

B: (laughs) But itís 120 pages of prose, and itís an allegory of modern day capitalism in the working world, and the individual struggle to survive taking place in this sad little robot. Thatís why I titled it The Saddest Little Robot. I thought that would be really clever.

W: Thatís awesome.

B: Yeah. Whatever.

W: (laughs)

B: (laughs) Thatís always my joke when people ask me what my kidsí book is called, and I say, ďThe Saddest Little Robot.Ē And then theyíll say, ďWell, whatís it about?Ē And Iíll say, ďItís about the saddest little robot.Ē And I think thatís stupid and obvious humor. But people will just stare at me like, ďNo shit.Ē

W: (laughs)

B: So now I just tell them that itís too long to explain. Thatís why I really like using humor like that, because it gets you out of social interaction sometimes. Because you can tell some joke, and everyone will be like, ďWhat? Huh?Ē Theyíre all confused, and then you can just move on to the next step.

W: You should hang out with us, man. We are the kings of fucking with people.

B: Oh good.

W: We just moved up here about a month ago, and my roommate had a neighbor of ours convinced that he was a BMX biker.

B: Very nice. I had myself convinced earlier that I was a BMX biker.

W: (laughs) Oh really?

B: Nah. You know, I really need to learn the rule of self-censorship. Because I end up saying things, and then thinking, ďWhy did that come out of my mouth?Ē

W: (laughs) I hear ya. Okay, so youíre from Youngstown, Ohio.

B: Yeah. Y-Town.

W: And now you live in Los Angeles?

B: I live in Hollywood. Hollywood proper, I guess.

W: Was your work influenced by growing up in Ohio?

B: Definitely. I have really strong blue-collar roots. My grandfather worked for Ohio Bell, climbing telephone poles. And my dad and my dadís father were steel workers for some time. I consider Youngstown to be the blue-collar capital of the world. So I guess the reason I got into social commentary is because I grew up around people who were always complaining; people who were just in awe of all the things rich people had. And it goes even beyond my whole family and into the whole social class. As a kid I would always see the unhappiness that people would express. And even as a younger kid I would think that there were things that people could do so that they wouldnít have to be a tool in their machine. So I guess thatís where it comes from. I didnít want to be 45 years old, and still having to obey my boss, and worry about whether I was going to have pension, while somebody else is taking killer vacations, and I can barely spend time with my family. I just donít think thatís a way to live. It doesnít make sense to me why people do it. And another thing I have a hard time understanding is why the working class does not unite together. Because thatís where the power is. Youíll have one CEO, and then 45 workers under him who are completely controlled and manipulated. If you want a job, obviously, youíre going to have to conform to some extent. But I donít see why it should affect your life. You should be able to be just as happy and healthy as the CEO. But the average worker doesnít get the same luxuries, and I think thatís a real crime.

W: Yeah. And I think itís bullshit that you typically have to work somewhere for a year or two before you get a week of vacation.

B: Oh. Yeah. ďWho are you to tell me when I can and cannot do things?Ē It drives me nuts. The last couple jobs I had were at the point where Iíd be like, ďIím not coming in today.Ē And theyíd say, ďWell, you donít have sick days.Ē And Iíd say, ďWell, then fire me or deduct my paycheck. Because if the boss can take three months off, then I can take today off to just sit at home and relax.Ē Did you ever have to take those interviews where you review yourself?

W: Yeah.

B: Those are just,.. Itís really humbling because you think to yourself, ďI have a Visa bill coming, but I would rather shove this piece of paper back in this guyís face. I mean, what am I? Your lapdog?Ē I just donít see why people put up with it. And it wasnít until I leveled with the HR people and said, ďLook, I come in here and do my job. Iím not going to come in today, because thereís not enough work. So you can just deduct my pay.Ē And they would put up with that. And I know that most places wonít.

W: Yeah, most people would kick you out on your ass.

B: Yeah, but thatís the thing. If everybody did that, what would they do? Like if everyone decided to take the day off and not come in. Do something like that, and they lose some of their power. Because right now theyíre just getting more and more powerful over peopleís lives.

W: And itís like, who really likes to go to work anyway?

B: Thatís what I mean. I had this one job when I first got out of college, and these people would always try to trick themselves into thinking they liked their jobs. And then theyíd say, ďOh, if I won the lottery Iíd quit this job in a minute.Ē And Iíd say, ďBut I thought you liked it here. Wouldnít you just come in and file anyway?Ē

W: (laughs)

B: If this is what you really like doing, after you win the lottery, you should still come in. No one wants to be hungry, I guess.

W: And itís good to keep busy. See, the thing thatís good about what you or I do is that, even if we did have a job, in our free time we would still be doing this.

B: Right.

W: Whereas most people just do their job, and then in their free time they donít do shit.

B: Thatís what Iíve realized is funny-- the difference. Like with people that go home and just veg out on TV. You know, I would lose girlfriends when I first moved to L.A. because every night Iíd be working on my writing. If people donít have that creative drive, they donít understand. They think youíre just a weirdo.

W: Exactly. Yeah, I lost a girlfriend over the paper.

B: Did you? I lost a girlfriend over Snark, Inc. and the website, because that took me nine months to build.

W: Yeah. I started dating the paper; she got jealous, so she took off.

B: (laughs) It happens.

W: Yep.

B: But, with the whole creative process, sometimes I feel like Iím Jack Nicholson in The Shining, minus the axe and the creepy twins hanging out in my apartment.

W: (laughs)

B: Iím just roaming around, staring at things. Like that scene where he is just staring out into the open space.

W: And he doesnít blink.

B: Yeah. I feel like that. ďCome and play with us, Brian.Ē I feel like the little twins are going to pop out, and I just have to snap out of it.

W: We all have days like that.

B: I think creativity is a weird asylum in a way, though. Itís extraordinarily selfish, as well. But, in a way, itís not, because you spend all of these years focused internally trying to figure out what you want to create next, but youíre doing it to entertain and make other people happy. So, itís a weird balance.

W: People used to be amazed because we did the paper for free.

B: I was amazed. I couldnít believe that. Itís really good.

W: Thanks a lot. So, do you get a lot of resistance since youíre pretty vocal about stuff? I think in times like these, post-9/11, people are more and more following shit blindly and believing whatís put in front of them.

B: Yeah.

W: And I think that people like Michael Moore, that get booed for having an opinion, feel like they canít even voice their opinion for fear of persecution. So do you get shit for being verbal against government and big business?

B: Every now and then Iíll get an email from someone telling me what a terrible pinko Commie scum I am, or theyíll ask me why I hate America. But, first of all, I donít hate America. Second of all, Iím not a Communist. Thirdly, why do you blindly support wealthy plutocrats who just want to take your money, and theyíre hiding behind the banner of freedom and democracy only to manipulate you into believing in that? Theyíre hollow idols. Bush is completely inept. Itís obvious, even now, that he is just a puppet. Politically, whatís at risk for the Iraq war being based solely on weapons of mass destruction-- unfortunately, I believe that the American public is too largely asleep to really care about that-- but internationally, thatís huge. Because now the reputation of the United States is just wasted. Especially since they havenít found these weapons, and I donít believe that they are going to at this point. So, I believe that Bush honestly thought that they were there, which just shows that someone else is pulling those strings. They got little Georgie all riled up, so he sent in American soldiers to clean house for someone we put in power to begin with, which is a real crime. But do I get a lot of backlash? Iím relatively protected by my friends on the left. I mean, I guess I consider myself a radical political person, but I donít like to say left or right. I donít like any rhetoric at all that comes from conservatives. I think conservatives are just frightened little monsters who are trying to control people through their own ineptness.

W: Theyíre complete bottom-feeders.

B: Yeah. And theyíre just so afraid of not being able to do or manipulate or change, that they just have to put everybody else down. I agree with a lot of the leftís ideology. I just think that every single person has the right to be who the hell they want, and itís not your right to tell them what to do.

W: Exactly.

B: And conservatives seem to not really understand that point, and it just doesnít make any sense to me.

W: I think itís very obvious that Bush is just a puppet. But that gets scary, because then youíre left asking, ďWhoís in control?Ē Because everyone is being led: the masses, the President. So who is at the controls?

B: Well, another email I usually get is from people who want to know why Iím a conspiracy theorist. And I donít subscribe to conspiracy theories at all. I think theyíre a large waste of time. I mean, there are real problems, for sure, but when people talk about the shadow government or the secret room of old white men that are plotting,.. I mean, the shadow government does exist. But itís not shadow; itís completely open. Just look down the street at the CEOs of these major corporations. Thatís who controls the government. I think the United States is founded upon some really great documents and there are some great ideals here, and, yes, we are more free than most other places, but when people say, ďIt could be worse,Ē I just want to say, ďDonít pretend youíre doing me any favors by letting me be free. This is my right to be like this and do these things. People will fight for this. Donít pretend like youíre doing me a huge favor by letting me express myself, because I have a given right to do that." Itís like someone coming up to you and saying, ďLook. I gave you teeth.Ē Um, no. I was born with teeth.

W: (laughs)

B: I hear people say ďdemocracyĒ, and itís like, ďGood little parrot. Hereís your propaganda cracker. Eat more.Ē I look at it more like the government is in place solely for wealth protection. And part of that wealth protection is keeping the people happy; then people want to spend their money, go further into debt, etc. And they put the politicians in front of us. I mean, you canít be a guy off the street with some really good ideas and morals, and get in office. You have to be paid for by a corporation to get you there to begin with. So who are they going to answer to? The public? Or are they going to answer to the people that paid for them to get there? The government is paid for by the corporations. And this notion of a shadow government is false; our masters are the corporations.

W: God. Thatís really sad. I mean, I know itís true. But hearing it is just so pitiful.

B: It really is. And people need to acknowledge this. I know Iím going on and on here, but I love to rant about this stuff.

W: So do I. Donít feel bad.

B: Okay, good. (laughs) I just donít know why people are so willing,.. like, if you look at The Amazing Snox Box, one of the key points of the book is how people will themselves into slavery. Itís like people like to be institutionalized. Itís like religion is an institution, remaining in college is an institution, or having a 9-to-5 is an institution. Why do we need to be institutionalized? Why canít we just be free and do what we want and make our own path? I guess that sounds like anarchy. And I donít think weíre ready for that as a species.

W: I think anarchy as an idea is great, but I think most of us are just too fucking dumb to do it. Weíre savages.

B: I think some of us are. Any species that quits evolving goes extinct, and weíre going to have to evolve sooner or later. So Iím hoping thatís the next step. But I came up with this really slick political system that I want to employ called solipsistic anarchy. Which means that everyone else has to obey rules but me.

W: (laughs) Thatís pretty good.

B: Yeah. So Iím going to run on the solipsistic anarchy ticket.

W: Cool. Iíll be your running mate.

B: That sounds great. We could be co-presidents or something.

W: Yeah. No vice presidents. It would have to be even.

B: Completely even. I donít believe in totalitarian structures, you know? So weíre going to be equals, obeying nothing.

W: Exactly.

B: (laughs) You know, I donít want to be a renegade. I like doing things in society that make it run more smoothly. I donít really mind paying taxes if itís going to go to making better roads or hospitals. But I certainly donít care about seeing really huge bombs built that are going to go blow arms off children. Thatís not really where Iíd like to see my tax dollars going. If this were really a democracy, youíd be able to vote where your taxes went.

W: Yeah, well, democracy is a fallacy.

B: Right. The principles are here, but the execution is not a democracy. Iím not a huge political science scholar, but it doesnít take a genius to figure out that we are not living in a democracy. 500,000 more people voted for Gore, yet whoís our president? And donít try to pretend for a second that the electoral college is a good idea.

W: (laughs)

B: The fact that it even still exists,.. I just imagine that the Bush campaign was certainly having a celebratory dinner over the founding fathers and the invention of the electoral college. There is a reason why these guys are so revered. They were some brilliant men who set up a system that would keep wealthy people wealthy, and they kept regular people believing that they were somehow a part of that team. And thatís what kills me. People think Bush is just like them.

W: (laughs)

B: That just slays me. You will never ever be a part of their club. And itís nuts, because I get backlash from a lot of blue-collar people when I talk about Bush, but Iím thinking to myself, ďThat guy is not on your side by a long shot.Ē Hereís a man who sends people over to Iraq to fight a war and then he slashes veteranís benefits by $14 billion over the next nine years, and he does it in the same stroke. And Iím like, ďDoes anybody care that this happened?Ē

W: But nobody reads or pays attention. It seems so connect the dots, so easy. But itís so lost on so many people. Apathy really is the thing to blame, because people just donít care.

B: But I think it even goes deeper into the human psyche than that. Itís the ďnot my kidĒ mentality. Parents can have the biggest druggie kid in the world, out shooting heroin in the backyard, but they would never believe that their child is using drugs. And even once they found out, itís obviously someone elseís fault. And I think that applies to broader social things as well. No one wants to believe that there are these maniacal structures controlling them, because thatís not what you were taught in your history books. And itís hard to break out of that. I remember when I first started realizing how the world was really run; there were some things that were really shocking to me that I didnít want to believe. But you just have to own up, pull up your boots, and try to quit your job or something.

W: I hear you. So, are you a California resident now?

B: I am. Yes.

W: Are you going to vote for Schwarzenegger? (laughs)

B: (laughs) I donít even know whatís going on.

W: I canít even believe it. It makes me want to puke.

B: I guess this goes against my theory from a minute ago, about how all politicians are paid for by the corporations.

W: But he is a corporation.

B: Yeah. Heís a corporate spokes model. Have you seen any of his Japanese commercials?

W: No.

B: He does commercials for products in Japan, and those need to be aired before the election. Thatís all I can say.

W: Oh man. I met him once in person, and heís an idiot.

B: I canít,.. you know,.. I really liked Predator.

W: (laughs)

B: Thatís all I can really say.

W: What about Twins or Junior?

B: Yeah. Or what about the really homoerotic one?

W: That narrows it down.

B: No, Pumping Iron. (laughs) Yeah, right. Wasnít that his whole career?

W: (laughs)

B: ďSo, Mr. Schwarzenegger, how does it feel to be one of the leading homoerotic stars of all time?Ē

W: (laughs) [IN SCHWARZENEGGER VOICE] What did you say?

B: Yeah, right. Ah,.. I think you just said that one. I didnít say that.

W: (laughs)

B: (laughs) That way he can beat you up.

W: (laughs) When I transcribe this Iíll be sure to put my name before that statement.

B: Yeah. But Pumping Iron doesnít really paint him in a positive light. He seems like a bully.

W: I donít even remember that one.

B: Heís a weightlifter. Itís a documentary. You should really look into it.

W: Iím writing it down. Iíll try and find it. See, the whole thing with him just scares me because people will just vote for him because itís him. And theyíll think itís cool to tell their friends that they--

B: --voted for Schwarzenegger. If youíre going to do that, you should just go ahead and vote for Gary Coleman instead.

W: I know. I mean, he could be a fucking Nazi and actually be verbal about it, and no one would even pay attention because they think itís cool that heís running.

B: ďTerminator is governor, man!Ē You know? People get all excited about that.

W: I saw that stuff about Gary Coleman. Thatís bad news, too.

B: You know, I used to work at a place doing freelance web design, and he would always go into this building downstairs. I think it may have been the social security office, but Iím not sure.

W: (laughs) That would not surprise me.

B: Do you think that kind of thing might get me sued, for saying that?

W: No, man. Weíre a humor paper. Nobody probably believes Iím even really interviewing you, anyway. They probably think itís all bullshit.

B: (laughs) Wouldnít that be a good joke? Like, thereís no paper. This is just some guy fucking with me.

W: (laughs)

B: (laughs) That would be great. But Iím the kind of person that would think thatís cool. ďWait a minute. This isnít a real paper or interview? Youíre just some wacko fucking with me? Wow! Letís go out for drinks!Ē

W: Yeah. I just wanted to take you to dinner.

B: Alright. Cool, man. (laughs) That would be something else.

W: So whatís next after The Saddest Little Robot?

B: Well, weíve got the third installment of the childrenís books for adults called The Evil of Dr. Laroo, which is about capitalism and greed.

W: Is that based off of Lash LaRue, the old cowboy actor?

B: I donít know who that is. But now Iíll find out. Iíll tell you what? Iíll find out who that is, and you watch Pumping Iron. And then weíll reconvene.

W: Itís a deal.

B: Okay. So The Saddest Little Robot is a series of books. I also have a story in a political anthology coming out in the Fall called ďThe Vampires of Draconian HillĒ. Thatís the name of the story, but the book is called Politically Inspired. Itís basically like a Grimm Brothers fairy tale, which is an allegory of U.S. foreign policy, specifically on the war in Iraq and the way the media has manipulated people into thinking that that was a good and just war. And then Iím working on my first novel, and another thing that is probably going to turn into a graphic novel series. Itís basically a three-part series, and I want to use art in it really badly. But, as much as I like the graphic novel format, I donít think it works for me. I donít know that I could write within those confines. So, it may be a novel, somewhat illustrated. And then, finally, a very special Christmas story. I donít want to reveal the title yet because itís too good.

W: Cool. Okay, last question. Do dogs have lips?

B: Do dogs have lips? Hmmm,... (pauses) I think they have cheeks that havenít really evolved all the way. Hanging cheeks is what I would call them.

W: Hanging cheeks. Okay.

B: I wouldnít call them lips. Hanging cheeks. Is that the first time anyone has ever said that one?

W: Yeah. For sure.

B: Good.

VISIT BRIAN HERE.

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