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July 17, 2008

           I’m screwed without caffeine, as this column will reveal.
          Caffeine makes me feel young and interested again, instead of aging and jaded.  Jaded? My general interest in things has been sandblasted by human idiocy and betrayal. I’m sure I have ADD, ADHD, PTSD, manic-depression (and not too much manic), a hairball, and beriberi. By the way, isn’t that the prettiest name for a disease? Beats the hell out of “shingles.”
          Give me caffeine, and birdsongs are gorgeous again, the blue of the sky makes me cry, my fellow man seems merely clumsy, not malevolent, and Louis Armstrong and a choir of cartoon chipmunks sing “Wonderful World” in my head.
          If I had caffeine, this labored verbiage would come to life like Dracula after a good neck, Villaraigosa in the presence of some hot TV news poontang, Cindy McCain on illegal prescription uppers. But as you can no doubt tell, I've had no caffeine. My words are as flat as Obama’s speeches. And McCain’s. Combined.
          Gimme a dose of green tea, though, and I become one sparkly, companionable fellow. Happy, intrigued, engaged, caring, prolific in my work, even. . .amusing. (Well, people laugh, and who can account for taste?) It can last many hours---long past the time that everyone else is asleep and I am left to make merry with the cats and TV. Which is why I ain’t havin’ no caffeine this afternoon. I want to sleep later.
          So here I sit, irony personified. I'm parked with my laptop, caffeine-less, in a goddamn Peet’s Coffee in Westwood, staring helplessly at ridiculously undraped, hormone-dripping UCLA girls, listening to a jackass with a foghorn voice behind me talking about his script. Or his novel. Or his computer game design idea. Or his comic book. . .
          Whatever it is, it will make him money. I can tell. His foghorn voice projects confidence the way Godzilla projected fire---no, not exactly confidence. It projects that unquantifiable je ne se qua that conveys incipient, certain, runaway, gooey-drippy, blunderbuss success. I don’t know what you call it, exactly, but I know it when I hear it. Foghorn speaks it, he reeks it, and others of his kind speak it and reek it. They all get together and speak and reek until products and money just appear. They’re all over the place, these guys.
          Me, I like to pass the time talking about The Beatles, or any other kind of music. Or why newspapers are dying. Which in itself is really a dead pursuit.
          I tune out Foghorn as well as I can, which is not very well, so I put on headphones and try to drown him out with the Grateful Dead. That lasts five minutes until the batteries in my CD player die. So I keep the headphones on anyway, and then only the occasional foghornish “world trade” and “cool” leak through.
          I’m writing here today, if you call this writing, because the cats drove me out of the house. I spent a couple of hours with Winky the Criminal Cat at the vet (oh, and $300) this morning to find out why he pukes every time after he eats, unless I pick him up and rub his stomach. Got no answer outside of “He eats too fast,” which makes me wonder why his sister never pukes, though she eats faster than women speak into iPhones.
          Anyhow, once back home, Winky was so discombooberated that he would not leave me alone. “Give me something to eat,” he demanded, followed by, “No, I don’t want that---give me something else,” followed by “No, not that goddamn Petromalt crap again,” followed by “Scratch my head again, will you?” followed by, “I’m constipated---what do I do?”
          He’s quite conversant, you see, not to mention demanding.
          So I escaped here to Foghornland, and ordered some kind of dumb decaf vanilla soy latte which I did not notice was made with “non-sugar-sweetened” vanilla (translation: laboratory-produced synthetics guaranteed to give you cancer of the small left toe.) The net result: my mouth has a vile bittersweet chemical aftertaste, kind of like rotten cherries and onions, and my brain is as foggy as the American public.
          Add to this a complete lack of creativity, not to mention caffeine, and we have here a recipe for column success.
          Actually, I was going to try writing a piece about the big NYT front-page article about how satirists and comics can’t find anything funny to say about Obama. I was going to prove that Obama is really very funny, after all. I was going to note that it is a scream, for instance, that he says “tuh” instead of “to”---just like Bush! But then, that doesn’t strike me as too amusing, really, as I think it is quite possible that Obama does this deliberately to cultivate folksy appeal. I mean it. He is that calculating.
          So the NYT article says that everyone seems to be afraid to crack jokes about the O-man for fear of looking like crackers. Well, they have good cause. There was a stranger-than-truth story last week in Dallas where city commissioners were all gummed up because one (white) comissioner referred to their traffic ticket accounting office as a “black hole.” As in “deep space phenomenon.” As in “impossible to comprehend concentration of dark matter that sucks everything around it into oblivion.”
          Never mind. Commissioner John Wiley Price (black) went nuttier than Amy Winehouse in rehab, insisting that "black hole" was a racist comment. Really. That’s one dark matter, all right. Soon there will be no "black humor," "black bottom pie," and "White Christmas" will be banned from the airwaves. No wonder Bill Maher and Letterman are timid about wisecracking about the O-man. But maybe they are missing a bet. Obama is half-white, and it’s long been safe---really required among comics, especially black ones---to make fun of white people. (Like this snotty young woman.)So maybe they can just joke about half of him.
          You know. . .What does Obama do after a long day lecturing black America?
          He goes home and has himself a nice mayonnaise sandwich on Wonder and plays a spirited game of Yahtzee with Mrs. O.
Nope. Guess not. The NYT is right.
          So maybe I’ll just sit here and complain a little, instead. That’s what non-caffeinated people do, isn't it? Complaining, after all, is the poetry of idealism. (You may quote me.) And boy, do I have things to complain about, yessirree. Consider this alone: my first novel, “The Last Byline,” seems to have been stolen. Yes, ten years of causing my brain to behave in extremely unnatural fashion in yielding this 500-plus-page work. . .pffft.
          Somehow, and on-line booksellers seem to own it. And they seem to be selling it all they want, without having to give me so much as a hearty handclasp. I wonder. . .did they secretly exert some sort of long-distance CIA-style mind-control, rendering me, the writer, a mere puppet doing their creative work, while all along I was thinking that the characters, story, dialogue originated with my brain? (That would be well in line with much American thinking today.)
          I mean, never mind that I own the copyright on the book, and always have. In today's Fanny-Freddie USA, how can such things carry any weight?
          It all started, friends, when I cancelled the book with the “publisher,” Xlibris. Oh, why do I use quotes? You’re right. Much too gentle. This publishing house is operated by The Three Stooges taken to exponential extremes. The Three Stooges as Pi. Yet after I cancelled the book (a revised version is coming soon on this website!), it suddenly sprang up for sale on various other websites, including the titanic Brand-spankin' new copies. I know. I just bought one myself. The snake eats itself!
          And this is all despite the fact that “executive customer relations” told me many months ago that Amazon was not selling the book, would not sell the book, and that the store page for the book on would soon disappear! But hey, this is Renseworld, where Foghorn Boy and constipated cats and unwanted chemical sweeteners get drunk, play pinochle, and pass out on my couch. There it is for sale--- “The Last Byline"--- with the words, “sold by,” as sure as I dreamed last night that my sadistic 10th grade geometry teacher, Mr. Boyer, was shaking his crooked finger at me and accusing me of cheating on a test.
          Is there a lawyer in the house?
          Ah, yes, then there is my quixotic, quizzical, sine qua non-y periodic effort to go “back to school” and finish my degree. This is a good one. Suffice to say that I did not finish it, approximately two eons ago, because a comet wiped out my species and left only me behind. Through the years, though, I’ve had teaching offers, but without a diploma, couldn’t take them. (That’ll teach me!) As there was no Wizard of Oz around, I figured on going back and getting the stupid sheepskin. Funny thing, though---they changed the rules on me!
          Follow this: to finish the two semesters for my fantastically useless journalism degree---now more useless than ever---I would have to take one or two years of math. Yes, math! Something that is not a part of my culture, history, or neural tissues. The how and why of this no more merits explanation than why the federal government buys up bank mortgages and gives them cutesy-wutesy names. But---
          Rejoice! I was recently told that I could finish without math, if I am accepted back at school (CSUN) under my original catalogue. I rather like this concept, as it reminds of me of Dracula carrying around his own soil. Here’s the funny bit: no one in the journalism department ever told me of this option! An old pal did. And when I asked the journalism department about it, I got an e-mail in response that said, “Talk to admissions and records.”
          And---you know where this is going---when I obediently talked to “admissions and records,” I was told. . .to talk to the journalism department. The snake eats itself!
          Now why in a pair of squirrel’s nuts, you are thinking, does Rense want to finish his idiotic degree anyhow? Well, Rense really doesn’t, especially as it would mean more staring helplessly at half-draped co-eds dripping with hormones. I just had some idea about teaching journalism---evidently, no one else is---but of course, it turns out that journalism teaching jobs are almost as scarce as newspaper jobs.
          So once again, my life is essentially one large version of W. C. Fields trying to get to sleep. (If you don't know what that means, please see this.)
          Hell, I might as well just hang out at a goddamn Peet’s Coffee and type meaningless stuff for my website for no money at all.
          Ah, bring on the caffeine.

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