Saturday, April 10, 2004

Report: Day 38 

By a remarkable happenstance, spend some time in church day fell right on Good Friday.

I am not terribly religious, but The One True Love of my Life is. I asked her if I could go with her to mass at lunch time and she happily agreed. She looked over the top of her glasses, stuck out her finger, and said "If you late, I go without you."

I considered myself warned.

Travel Photography

I presented myself 10 minutes early. "I'm here," I said. "I'm not only on time, I'm early."

The One True Love of my Life looked at me like I was a lunatic. "What you talk about? You Early!"

She is a writhing mass of contradictions. So very alluring.

On Good Friday you get to do the stations of the cross. Did you know? I didn't. We followed the priest around the sanctuary as he read to us about all fourteen. "And lo they spake unto themselves saying, I wish I'd stretched before coming unto the various stations of the cross because all this kneeling is working my thighs thusly."

After our workout we returned to our seats for the Lord's Prayer. I was sitting alongside the One True Love of my Life, naturally. The following was overheard.

"Our Lord Hav-fen. Hay-lo name. Kingshon come. Win done earth shone hay-ven. Gish us bread. Frogish us trays-passes for temptation."

I only giggled a little and never when the priest was looking at me.

Today is learn to speak Swedish day.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Report: Day 37 

My official Benrick task was to go to a restaurant, order food, and then ditch the bill. This is illegal. Technically it is called stealing. I was not at all comfortable stealing from a local small business person. However, as I have committed to this total transformation "radical style" I needed to find a way to live up to the Benrick task anyway. So I decided that while stealing from a restaurant was wrong, stealing from my friends and co-workers would be fun.

Here was my master plan. Two days ahead of time I invited a co-worker to lunch. I intended to go with him to a restaurant, order lunch as I ordinarily would, and near the end of the meal excuse myself to the bathroom and simply never come back, essentially sticking him with the bill. Sounds hilarious, no? I figured, I'd take him out to lunch for real next week and make it up to him and we'd all laugh about that time he was just waiting for me to return, but I never did.


I had everything in place until another co-worker, hip to my Benrick scheme, filled him in. I received the following phone call in my office at about 11:30

"This is Brian."

"Did you--um--hey. Why did you invite me to lunch today?"

"Well, we don't really know each other that well and whatever. I just thought we should have lunch."

"Because, R---- told me that you were Benricking me."


"Yeah. She said that you were going to stick me with the bill."

"Oh. Well, yeah, that was the plan."

"I don't think I can have lunch with you today."

"No, it was to facilitate my total transformation 'radical style.' I wasn't trying to be evil. I was trying to be hilarious."

"Well, I think that stinks."

So my lunch plans were completely shot. I started to scramble. I hastily called a number of friends who were unaware of my day's task and asked them to dinner, but to a person they all had other plans or obligations. It was simply too short notice. I began to despair.

But then I got a call from Bevin because she knew that I had this master plan to screw over a co-worker at lunch time and she didn't want to wait for this blog entry to find out how it went. "I have no plans tonight," she said subtly.

I decided to take a risk. "Bevin, do you want to have dinner with me later?"

"Why yes, Brian," she replied. "What a splendid idea."

So Bevin and I went to dinner and at the end of the meal, I ditched her with the bill just as I'd planned. It wasn't as effective as ditching someone who didn't know my intention, but because of Bevin's marvelous play acting it was still in line with the Benrick directive. I'll leave it to her to tell you what happened in the restaurant after I left. Pester her to write about it, she was completely invested.

Today is spend some time in church day.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Report: Day 36 

Ok, a seven hour shift on the reference desk made this absolutely impossible. In order to make a "radical style" transformation I must be able to fund said transformation. Therefore, I need to keep my job and in order to do so I must speak to people who ask me questions. But as I said when I took up this challenge "radical style," I believe I can live up to the spirit of anything Benrick places before me even when it is not possible for me to live up to the literal directive.

So I made the following alterations to say nothing day. First, I changed it to say nothing that is not essential day. This meant no small talk, no chitter chatter, no gossip, but it still permitted me to respond to questions and interact with the patrons and my superiors. Second, I changed it to say nothing that is not essential for the duration of my work day. Which means from the time I arrived 'til the time I left I Benricked. After that, the Benricking was done.

This was very difficult as I love the sound of my own voice. The dulcet tones of my voice are very soothing and pleasing to me. Sometimes, I talk just to hear what I might say and even if I'm saying nothing, I still feel stimulated, relaxed, and focused when I hear me. I believe, further, that even if other listeners are unaware of the benefits of hearing my voice, they still receive them, so I make every effort to ensure that everyone who comes in contact with me hears me. It's a public service in my view. A way in which I give back. One of many.

This challenge was made all the more difficult by the unexpected appearance at the reference desk of a former co-worker. We'll call him "B. Strawes Manservant" for my protection. B. Strawes has never once spoken a word to me. Never once. But he arrived here early for a meeting on campus looking very dapper in his tweed and walked straight up to my desk and attempted to make small talk. On the one day when I'm not a small talker. What are the odds?

I really feel like I missed out on an opportunity with B. Strawes. I always wondered what was going on with him when he would chit chat with a soda can. He remains a mystery for me to solve.

In the mean time I post for you the text of an email that was circulated around the library yesterday.

Is anyone interested in going to Yasmeen's for lunch today around noon? K---- and I are going, and I spoke to S------ and she can't make it. Brian is at reference at that time but he's taken a Benrick induced vow of semi-silence today- so I'm not sure if he'd want to go today anyway.

I feel like they're starting to really get to know me.

Today is eat and run day.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Report: Day 35 

Yesterday was really a great deal of fun. I spent the day speaking in short declaritives. Staple this. Move over. Straighten that up. Push in your chair. Use a napkin. You get the idea.

I started right off the bus on my way in to work. "Hold my hand as we cross the street," I demanded of a very startled woman who happened to be crossing in the same direction I was. I thrust my hand out toward her and looked at her impatiently.

"What did you say?" she asked.

"I told you to hold my hand as we cross the street. And be sure you look both ways."

I wiggled my hand a little and groaned. She considered me carefully, this was Newark after all. Then she took my hand and, after carefully looking in both directions, guided me across the street. At that point any doubt about being able to pull this off completely evaporated.

I assigned a task to most everyone I saw yesterday. Most were reasonable, few were terribly demanding. I considered calling co-workers into my office to give them faxing or copying chores, but I decided to draw the line at treating the world like my secretary.

Some tasks were a little more unorthadox than others. At lunch time I stood outside the law school and barked the command, "run!" at a passing law student. I suppose my tone was particularly authoritarian as he immediatly complied and ran several steps before stopping, turning to glare at me, and finally composing himself.

It goes without saying that on a day like Give Little Tasks to Everyone Around You Day I would Benrick with The One True Love of My Life. I waited until late in the day, 3:00 p.m. or so. I walked up to her desk and said, "Stand up."

She immediately complied, smiling broadly and saying, "What you want?"

"Turn around," I said. She complied. "The other way now. Again. Put your hands over your head and do it again. Spin, baby, spin!"

"What is going on here?" asked a co-worker who was understandably confused by the One True Love of My Life spinning haplessly and in a less and less graceful manner.

"Don't ask questions," I demanded. No further questions were asked.

I turned my attention back to the One True Love of My Life saying, "Thank you. That's enough. Retake your seat now."

She sat down and swayed gently from the dizziness. She giggled helplessly, like a child after a carnival ride.

Other tasks were purely selfish. "Give me some gum," I demanded of a law student.

"I don't have any gum," she said.

"I really like gum. Your failure to comply with a simple task like 'give me some gum' is very disappointing."

She thought about it for a second and finally said, "I'll see if I can find some gum." About two hours later she reappeared with a stick of Juicy Fruit which she laid gently on the reference desk. I nodded in approval and she disappeared back into the stacks.

Today, God help me, is say nothing day.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Report: Day 34 

The following is a trascription of a letter I posted to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand this morning.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra
Office of the Prime Minister
Government House
Pitsanulok Road, Dusit
Bangkok 10300

April 5, 2004

Dear Prime Minister,

While acknowledging the seriousness of Thailand's drugs problem, and your government's need to combat drug crime, I write to urge that in doing so you do not violate human rights.

Amnesty International in association with the Soonerverse is concerned that no independent, thorough and impartial investigation has taken place into the killing of more than 1,000 people in the context of the "war on drugs" in 2003, and into allegations of security forces' involvement in a number of cases. I urge that your government ensure that such an investigation is opened, that the method and findings are made public; that any government official suspected of involvement in extrajudicial killing is brought to justice, and that relatives of the deceased are provided with reparation, including compensation.

I am also concerned by reports that hundreds of persons convicted of drug offences have been sentenced to death, and urge that you abolish the death penalty in law. Pending its abolition, I urge that you impose an immediate moratorium on executions. Amnesty International and the Soonerverse are in lock step when it comes to opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances as a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. It is, moreover, an irreversible punishment that carries the grave risk of judicial error.

But if, Prime Minister, you are unable to comply with these simple and straight forward requests, I urge you to appoint me custodian of any high quality drugs seized in your "war on drugs" as I sometimes dream about just running my fingers through a bucket of loose Valium like Amelie with the whole grains at the market in that movie. I understand you do receive foreign films in Thailand, so you know exactly what I'm talking about, Prime Minister. Stop with the pretending; it's just sad. You know just the scene. Anyway, I would do a bang up job for you, so keep me in mind if you decide to further ignore the human rights of your citizens.

Love to the wife,
Brian Blaho

Today I'm supposed to give little tasks to everyone I come in contact with.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Report: Day 33 

Yesterday I was to be aware of the paranormal. Benrick specifically stated that I was to be aware of unexplained smells. Let me just say that I live in New Jersey, and if unexplained smells are attributable to the paranormal then I live in the epicenter of a shit-storm of creepy crap. I spent the morning sniffing the air like a hound on the hunt. I was completely inundated by unexplained smells and probing into each of them seemed like such a daunting task that I quickly gave up.

But as luck would have it, I share my apartment with a ghost. A ghost I have named Intraferon the Mighty! Intraferon the Mighty manifests himself by turning a floor lamp on and off in my living room. We live quite well together. I prefer reading in bed, so while the light in the living room is nice, it is not, strictly speaking, a necessity. I do not try to exorcise him or interfere with his light switch fetish, and he leaves my other appliances alone. It's a commonality, you see. A harmony.

Well, anyway, I decided that I would attempt to make contact with Intraferon the Mighty last night so I pulled the floor lamp out into the middle of the floor and I lit some incense and a candle too. And then I assumed the lotus position and closed my eyes and started thinking about Intraferon the Mighty and all his might and whatnot. Pretty soon, the kitties started going crazy, well crazier than normal, and I started to feel like maybe Intraferon the Mighty was present.

"Intraferon the Mighty," I said, "Make yourself known to me. Manifest through an unexplained smell!"

But there were no smells. In fact, with all the flying cutlery and spinning sofas and flashing lights I barely had time to register any smells at all. Perhaps next time Intraferon the Mighty will be more accommodating.

Today I am supposed to write a letter to a dictator asking him to "stop the torture."

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Report: Day 32 

Yesterday's challenge was very specific. I was supposed to spend the whole day thinking about airplanes, hedgehogs and (I swear I'm not making this up) midgets in an effort to put these items so deeply in my subconscious that I had dreams about them. What Benrick doesn't know is that controlling my dreams is really no problem. Oh, gentle reader. I'm a lucid dreamer.

What does that mean? It means that I am ordinarily aware of my dreams and when they start going in directions I don't like I can control them. As a child I was plagued by nightmares, but a school counselor taught me to control them by reminding me that my dreams are just that. They're mine. And the instant something scary starts to happen, she told me, I can tell that dream to change. That very night I tried it and it worked and I've been doing it ever since.

I felt pretty confident about today's Benrick. However, confidence does not always lead to success, so I enlisted the assistance of LoRo, Peth, and The Admiral. We had a hang and I requested that throughout the evening the conversation revolve around airplanes, hedgehogs, and midgets. Everyone was very accommodating.

"What do hedgehogs eat?" asked LoRo.

"They have those snouts," said The Admiral. "You know, they have those snouts like that. I bet they eat bugs and other pests. And also I heard that in England they just come right into your house from the garden. They just come right in."

"That's right! I heard that too," said LoRo.

"I think we should get coffee to go and then go watch some mile high midget porn and hedgehog exploitation films," said Peth. "I have a couple at home. They're Flame's, but I bet he'll let us watch."

"You know," I added, "as a midget myself I often dream of other midgets. And sometimes when I dream of people I know they are midgets like me. So maybe tonight I will dream of a Midget Admiral and a Midget LoRo. But never a Midget Peth because that would just be too weird." Everyone nodded their heads in agreement. "Too weird."

Last night neither airplanes, nor hedgehogs, nor midgets appeared in my dreams outside of my direct influence, but all made appearances throughout the night.

Today I am supposed to be on the lookout for the paranormal.

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