Appendix C: Suburban Tirade

Excerpts from the Fall issue of Suburban Tirade (Formerly "Philosopher’s Stone") Magazine

Excerpt #1: Why Suburban Tirade May Be The Most Important Thing Ever

by "Our fabulously mysterious editor, Mr. X"

My sister’s best friend, who’s name will go unmentioned, seeing as my identity is an extremely juicy secret the mere mention of which sets young girls’ hearts a-flutter, she claims that mixed metaphors (which I’d rather have than two in the bush), compound sentences (which she claims are two otherwise completely innocent and well-meaning sentences who have been dragged into an unholy shotgun marriage by the province of a brutish conjunction which does not know its place) and parenthetical banter (which, by the way, most people consider a refreshing change-of-pace) are not matters of style, as I contend, but lapses of.... uh... I lost track of what I was saying. Did I use a verb yet?

And that’s exactly my point. As our beloved English department so often rhapsodizes, if enough people use a word or grammatical structure "incorrectly" for long enough it becomes correct, which is how language evolves. What they fail to mention is that this process, like most supposed benefits of the free market, is really only available to a wealthy minority; You may have noticed entire dynasties in the poorer sections of Buffalo Creek who "ain’t" used correct English since they stowed away on the Mayflower, and I haven’t noticed their names popping up in any etymological dictionaries.

As George Orwell so eloquently demonstrated in 1984, controlling the very building blocks of language is a powerful and subtle form of mass manipulation; One cannot argue against oppression if there is no word for oppression.

The light at the end of the tunnel is the lamp of the oncoming train

It’s no secret that the world media is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands every year. The content of every book, film, television program, and radio show available is dictated and filtered by an increasingly small group of "decision makers," although even that title is misleading, since entertainment content is less "decided" on than orchestrated in response to marketing surveys. "Art" is being replaced by "entertainment," as bookstores carry fewer and fewer original novels in favor of licensed film tie-ins, ghost-written celebrity autobiographies, and "sequels" to perennial best-sellers whose authors have long since passed away. The budget for even a modest "independent" film is in the millions; Money means investors, investors want a guaranteed return, which means a roomfull of powerful people fighting for lowest-common-denominator decisions. The large Hollywood studios are less creators than sociologists finding new and cheaper ways to appeal to our base instincts in order to extract our money. Television both addicts and trains the world to accept light entertainment pabulum that increasingly abandons even the pretension of art.

The systematic and intentional blunting of our aesthetic palette, while a tragedy in itself, is only the most superficially obvious ramification of a world media kowtowing to corporate interests. Language, like any other domesticated animal, has ceased to evolve in response to the demands of its environment and begun evolving to suit the needs of its master. The evolution of language is synthetically orchestrated by an increasingly small group of corporations, and the function of a corporation is to perpetuate itself at any price. By allowing corporations so much power, we are surrendering one of the most fundamental qualities of being human – our ability to invent new ideas, and our ability to share them.

As Noam Chomsky has so eloquently written, the more closely a message is in line with the status quo, the easier it is to convey. An allusion to "accepted wisdom" can be made with a single image or a few words. But suggesting a new idea requires a well-reasoned argument. In our increasingly "sound byte"-oriented culture, the very language of new ideas is being artificially bred out of our information channels.

Solve all the world’s problems – for just pennies a day!!

Gentle reader, I have lifted the magician’s curtain and revealed the great darkness conspiring against your mind and wallet not to frighten you, but to open your eyes to the alternative: self-published art. Independently-produced records, books, comics, poetry, theater, Internet pages, ‘zines... the list goes on.

Naturally, corporate interests have co-opted even the anti-corporate ideology, attempting to obfuscate the separation between personal and corporate vision. GM devotes enormous PR coffers to imply the autonomy of Saturn, likewise Coors the autonomy of its micro-breweries and Hallmark the autonomy of Shoebox Greetings. If you distract people adequately with bread and circus, they won’t notice that the most popular and influential "independent" band of the ‘90s was bankrolled by David Geffin, one of the world’s most wealthy and powerful men.

Crocheting a "home sweet home" mural for your cage

I’ve focused on the entertainment industry because I’m a teenager, and that’s what I’m informed about. Of course, that’s what I’m informed about because most information I receive comes through the media, and the media stands to make the greatest profit by turning my attention towards itself. I’m like a rat, who has very definite opinions about which pieces of cheese are better, but is completely oblivious about the scientists.

Not that my generation isn’t complicit. Ask any teenager how much their favorite athlete makes, their favorite actor or singer. Now ask them who the Secretary of State is. Or how the Federal Reserve works. We’ve been bought cheap: "Hey, kid, listen – sure the system’s unfair, but you can cash in on that unfairness, if you just wear the right clothes, get the right hair cut, figure out exactly who to be to seduce the camera-lens eye of the world. And we’ll give you all the right clues, too: we’ll tell you all about how to brush your hair in just the right way to become rich and famous overnight. What’s that? You’re too short to play a leading man, or your chin’s too weak for MTV? Relax, we’ve also got alternative, counter-culture, nonconformist prefabs for you to emulate – we’re not above selling you flattering reflections of yourself, no matter how big an outcast you are!! (Provided you pay in cash.) Sure, none of our roadmaps are guaranteed to get you there... but then you can always buy another!! Someday soon your ship’s bound to come in, right? Ooop – don’t pay so much attention to the men getting rich behind the curtain, or you’ll miss your big chance!! Anyway, you can’t fight city hall. So why not run for mayor?"

But what can I do?

As transnational corporations replace national governments as the global superpowers, corporate bottom-lining is replacing traditional methods of decision-making in all fields: Doctors are finding it harder to evangelize effective but unprofitable treatments. Politicians are becoming increasingly open about their willingness to trade favors for campaign contributions. News programs are increasingly reluctant to watch-dog environmental polluters ultimately owned by the company which owns them.

Your access to information which does not contribute to corporate profit is increasingly restricted.

Unless you’re wealthy enough to circumvent the media and hire your own fact-finding groups, your choices are simple: Either you get your information from corporations whose goal is to extract your money, or you get it from human beings who’s goal is to express themselves.

The self-published magazine, or ‘zine, you hold in your hands is one of the few corporate-free information sources available in Buffalo Creek – maybe the only one. So if you’re looking for an escape route from the informational playpen of network television, if you think questioning the status quo is a healthy thing or if you just enjoy being intellectually challenged, you’ve come to the right place. Each and every issue of Suburban Tirade is a haven for the well-reasoned, free-thinking, and sublime.

And now, some mean-spirited jokes about people I don’t like...


Excerpt #2: Exclusive Transcript of Teacher’s Strike Negotiations!!

submitted by: Anonymous

That’s right, using a secret "spy" microphone obtained by this magazine through some sleazy mail-order company, Suburban Tirade has obtained copies of the actual conversation that took place during the final negotiations last summer between Pat Wodehouse, head of the teacher’s union, and the administrative staff of B.C. Regional High!! You may remember that after a long and bloody strike, Wodehouse suddenly caved and sent her team back to work with no real concessions. What caused the usually bull-headed union leader to acquiesce so easily? Let’s listen in...

Wodehouse: ...the children should be the highest goal of this community, and instead they’re the lowest. All we’re asking for is salaries commensurate with other professional positions.

Unidentified Administrator: Off the record, Pat, I should tell you that the school board has been looking very seriously at raising teacher salaries for quite some time. Of course, you realize that if we pay competitive wages we’ll fire the current staff and hire much more qualified people. Then you’d probably have to go back to flipping burgers.

Wodehouse: uh...

Administrator: I suppose then you’d want burger flippers to be paid more.


Excerpt #3: Sex Tips for Girls

written by Brooke Van Heusen

(copied from Ms. Heusen’s diary during her end-of-summer bash, while she was busy taking a "meeting" [cough, cough] with Bobby Drescher in the coat room)

Dear Diary:

How far-fetched is it that Dina is a witch and Lauren is her unholy demon servant from beyond Hell?

Okay, so a few days ago in biology class, they’re discussing an experiment called Pavlov’s dog; This Pavlov guy rang a bell every time he fed his dogs, right?, and it reached the point where whenever he rang the bell they would salivate, seeing as they expected food. I say something like, "I don’t get it," to which Dina makes some bizarre, intentionally unintelligible joke along the lines of "Pavlov’s Dog chasing Schrodinger’s Cat." Lauren laughs, the smart fat kid who hangs out with Corey Bancroft laughs, the rest of us are confused. I pull out my trump card – that I’m the best-looking person within a hundred miles in any direction – and make some joke containing the phrase "birds of a feather," to the effect that Dina is a dog.

Not a great joke, granted, but Dina cows her head and is suitably reminded how much higher I rank than her on the Darwinian pecking order. Then Lauren does some little thing with her hand, rubs the side of her nose or something, and Dina nods. DINA NODS!!!! Like the little nose rub meant something!! It’s their secret witch/demon language!! It’s like, hello, real teenage humans don’t have an elaborate, secret language of hand-signals worked out in advance!!

So the next period in art class they pair Lauren and I up, since they didn’t have enough scissors or glue or whatever to go around. And I’m thinking, not that I’m a petty person, but Lauren has shown me up more than once with apparent glee, I’m thinking I have a wonderful opportunity to come out on top for a change. Because our assignment is fashion design, for which the Van Heusen’s have an extra chromosome. Lauren, by contrast, seems content to buy off-the-rack. I think I’ve made my point.

Anyway, the starting bell goes off, and I start sketching away madly with the little colored pencils, and Lauren’s one eyebrow goes up, which is never a good sign. I think maybe she clued in that I’m keen to thrash her grade-wise. Never corner a lion, as they say.

She combs through the pencils slowly, with the excessive deliberation and ritual she always devotes to the mundane task at hand while preparing to tear one’s larynx out. This raises an important question to which their are two main schools of thought in Buffalo Creek: (1) Is Lauren using this time to formulate her plan of attack?, or (2) does she conceive her vengeance instantly, and move slowly into position solely as a means of psychologically intimidating her target?

"You’ve only got twenty-five times, you know." She says this matter-of-factly, her hands beginning the broad strokes that will form the basis of her sketch.

One of the great detriments of a finishing-school education is the inability to do anything which might be perceived as unhelpful, such as restraining oneself from immediately questioning obviously baited remarks.

"What do you mean?" I ask against my will, silently cursing my expensive, annual summer visits to New York for two weeks of etiquette lessons.

Lauren begins to outline the suggestions of a figure. "I mean with Kirk. Boys fall into three broad categories: Either they don’t particularly care to shag you, or they want to once, or they want to twenty-five times."

She glances up from her drawing. "You’ve only got twenty-five times."

I put my pencil down and lean into her, my voice heavy with venom but lightly sprinkled with confectionery smarminess. "I’m sure that’s true for some of us, Sweetie. I’ll have you know that David was still begging to play hide the sausage well into our fiftieth roll in the hay."

The primary difference between Lauren and every other teenager I’ve ever met is her ability to restrain herself from immediately answering an attack. She gently replaces the black, intently sifts through the pile for a cream, all the while suggesting with her body language that she has not yet yielded the floor.

"Oh, he’ll still sleep with you, given the opportunity." She says finally. "But your bargaining power will have evaporated.

"When two parties conduct business, the weaker party’s moment of maximum power is the point of negotiation. After about the twentieth time, he’ll start criticizing you in little ways, finding your idiosyncrasies mildly irritating where he once found them cute. That’s nature’s way of telling you that if there’s anything you still want out of him, you’ve got five more shags left."

At some point I stop drawing and start rubbing my hands together; It’s like my blood has stopped circulating. Just the night before, Kirk had affected a pained expression when I closed an anecdote with the phrase "C’est la vie," something he used to find endearing and cosmopolitan. And that was after our twenty-first time!!

Seeing her advantage, Lauren presses on: "Broadly speaking, men want sex and women want commitment, and you’d better get the commitment before he gets bored with the sex, or you’ll never get it at all. That’s why all pop music, literature, and courtships orchestrated by men are a sales pitch with the coded message, ‘Sleep with me without a commitment,’ and all women respond with, ‘I’ll sleep with you, but I need a commitment.’"

"What about the songs that aren’t about relationships?" I countered weakly.

Lauren tilts her head slightly to the side and smiles with condescending affection, as one does while explaining the simplest laws of physics to a toddler. "It’s just a more oblique approach. There are cigarette advertisements in which no one is smoking. But the point of the ad is still to sell cigarettes."

Then the bell rings, and I hand in my pathetic beginnings of a sketch. Lauren hands in a rather credible drawing of the dress I had worn to the Christmas dance – a dress I had designed and sewn myself. She gets an "A" and the suggestion that she go into fashion design professionally.

I get a "D" and suddenly my stomach hurts. Lauren notices me rubbing my belly and hands me an Alka-Seltzer, which she just happens to have in her hand.

Since then Kirk and I have gone "all the way" a total of twenty-three times, and I have made it abundantly clear to him without actually saying it that he is required to produce an expensive item of jewelry before we do it a twenty-fourth time.

So today in biology Kirk and I are making goo-goo eyes at each other when Lauren sits across from me, flashes me her quick bullshit smile and spells out "2, 5" with her fingers. Immediately my stomach hurts again.

She leans over and whispers, "There. Now you understand Pavlov’s Dog."

Dina looks over and very slowly, very deliberately pulls at her earlobe, to which Lauren nods.


Excerpt #4: Lady and the Tramp

by Mary-Lou Henninger

(Ms. Henninger’s article was overheard from the next booth whilst she was enjoying an especially greasy and fattening-looking burger at the old diner out on route 51)

Brooke: Look, Mary-Lou, all I’m saying is if you didn’t dress like a slut, people wouldn’t treat you like one.

Mary-Lou: Yeah, well I’ve got news for you? Your choices are to be "the marrying kind" or "the other kind?" My choices are to be "the other kind" or for guys to ignore me entirely? Anyway, since when do you give two shits about my self-esteem?

Brooke: (sighs theatrically) Mary-Lou, listen... as long as the first string of Buffalo boys know they can slip it to you whenever the mood strikes them, well... (in a whisper) it damages the rest of our bargaining positions!!

Mary-Lou: "Bargaining position"? Did you just say "bargaining position"? Brooke, you never talk like that? Have you been hanging out with Lauren or something?

[editor’s note – distant crickets chirp]

Brooke: Look, we’re friends, right? All I’m saying is you’re unavailable to whoever’s currently on my dance card. Okay?

Mary-Lou: (sips her soda slowly for a minute before answering) Okay, so Lauren also says that strong bargains are built on mutual incentive? Maybe if I don’t poach in your territory, you could invite me along to those fancy out-of-town parties you’re always telling me about? That way my territory suffers no net loss?

Brooke: Mary-Lou, I can’t. My parents have to pull strings to get me into those, and you’re just not... I’m worried you might not fit in. Look, I’m protecting your feelings here.

Mary-Lou: (her voice dripping with saccharine) Oh, sure. Okay. I can understand how you wouldn’t want to threaten your lofty position by dragging along a slutty, provincial guttersnipe. I tell you what, you withhold the one thing I want from you, and in return I’ll just promise to keep my hands off your boyfriend’s privates on good faith.

[editor’s note – thunder rumbles in the distance]

Brooke: Okay, okay. You can come to one party a month.

Mary-Lou (in a small, mewing voice): Thank you.

Brooke: You know, you stopped ending your sentences with question marks for a minute there.

Mary-Lou: Anyway, let’s go to the lady’s room? I’ve gotta shreve this burger before I start digesting it?


Excerpt #5: Correspondance With Lauren, pt. 1

by the editorial staff of Suburban Tirade

Dear Esteemed Classmate:

The newest issue of Suburban Tirade (formerly Philosopher’s Stone) is underway, and we’re seeking submissions from the distaff members of our fine community. This is your opportunity to respond to whatever unfair implications I’ve made at your expense in past issues (and will no doubt continue to make in future issues). So get out your poison pen, your serpent’s tongue, your evil eye and whichever metaphorical writing implement you feel would close this metaphor most adroitly!!


Mr. X


Excerpt #6: Correspondance With Lauren, pt. 2

by Lauren Bancroft

Dear Mr. X (Corey):

I am rarely pleased with any reminder of your existence, let alone a note on my pillow suggesting an undue familiarity with my room on your part. I wouldn’t write for your pathetic exercise in narcissism to save your life, even if terrorists had chained you to a red ant hill, wearing nothing but a Speedo and smeared with molasses.

Your loving sister,


p.s. If you ever set foot in my room again I’ll have you chained to a red ant hill, wearing nothing but a Speedo and smeared with molasses.


Excerpt #7: Andrea’s Astrology ‘n Stuff Corner

by Andrea Moffet

This week: Debunking Unfounded Superstitions

Most people in the world have religious beliefs which they are very careful to avoid examining too closely, for fear of confronting how thin the bedrock of their dogma really is. Anecdotal and statistically meaningless "evidence," recursive arguments ("I know there is a god because it says so in the Bible, and I know the Bible is true because it was written by God"), and flat-out abandonment of deductive logic are kept comfortably hidden from any careful scrutiny. The abandonment of logic in particular suggests that when people ascribe their beliefs to "faith", they’re using the word as a euphemism for "comfortable denial."

The best argument I’ve ever heard for divine intelligence is the non-argument: Subscribing only to the insupportable tenants of a given faith, the faithful will argue that since their beliefs can be neither proven nor disproven empirically, and their instinct tells them it’s true, it’s probably true. This might seem fairly persuasive, until you realize that it’s equally applicable to the idea that the entire universe was created by an enormous pink space hamster named Ralph.

Like most forms of denial, religious beliefs are basically innocuous if restricted to the personal. Unfortunately, the brainwashed make a particularly easily-controlled army, if sufficiently convinced that "God" wishes them to violently "convert" unbelievers, incidentally stealing their money and real estate in the process. Self-appointment as the representative of an unverifiable, omnipotent father-metaphor was pre-civilized man’s first clumsy method of avoiding personal responsibility for personal avarice and desire for power, and is still widely embraced today (albeit typically in an inverse proportion to the IQ of the intended audience).

Another major detriment to widely-preached but thinly-supported religious beliefs, seldom discussed, is that they collectively decrease the credibility of more legitimate metaphysical phenomena.

Of course, I’m talking about alien abductions. My second cousin’s hairdresser described her alien abduction, and it was exactly, I mean exactly like on that episode of the X-files where Scully was "taken up." Also, she had some soot in a bag from the abduction site, and we all know where soot comes from – fire. Fire like the kind that might come from the engines of an interstellar craft?

You be the judge.

If it weren’t for people’s pathetic clinging to their laughably insubstantial superstitious beliefs, thereby "muddying the waters" of the preternatural, genuine supra-normal events like Patsy’s abduction might be given the serious attention they deserve!!


[Excerpt #8 dead tree edition only]


Excerpt #9: Trust Your Feelings, Luc

or After Happily Ever After

by Dina Gallagher

Dorea Beaudreaux has written more than a dozen historical romances for Sultry Paramour Press, including The Ghost of Kelly McDonald, set right here in Buffalo Creek. Although critical response has been restrained, Dorea’s small, rabidly faithful audience unanimously laud her books for transcending the genre.

Okay, so they’ve sold like 300 copies each, and this is her first review. But Beth and I think they’re great, and remember when we turned everyone onto Lady Chatterley’s Lover in junior high? Trust us on this one.

Beaudreaux defies convention in using historical events not only as a backdrop, but as something to be commented on and re-explored. Her books are interwoven with a fugue-like structure which is all the more incredible for its inobtrusiveness; All the elements of romance are reassuringly presented on the surface, while her deeper themes and formal experiments swim unnoticed beneath.

The first book of Ghost is rather archtypical historical romance: handsome rich guy with a dark past (Luc Boncautèle) falls for lush-of-bosom, creamy-of-skin and enormous-of-hair local beauty (Kelly McDonald in the book, though records suggest Boncautèle’s wife’s name was actually Cordillia), but the hero cannot profess his love, owing to his noble desire to protect Love Interest from the repercussions of his past (in this case the Javert-like Colonial Viejo-Robles, who has rather in keeping with stereotype "hunted Boncautèle across a continent," in this case for stealing a boatload of Spanish gold). In the grand tradition of the genre, Ghost plays slavery both ways: The reader’s proxy enjoys the full plantation mistress fantasy (the Bancroft paper mill was originally worked by conscripted Winnebago, Menominee and Sioux), while simultaneously comforting herself with the conceit that the House of Boncautèle was as racially progressive and sachrine as a Benneton commercial.

Boncautèle saves Viejo’s life, Viejo has a change of heart, Luc and Kelly profess their undying love, yadda, yadda, yadda. Big marriage, everyone happy. Viejo stays on as the estate manager and eventually shacks up with the Best Supporting Actress, who we are given to understand is of native american descent and thus slightly less lush-of-bosom, creamy-of-skin and enormous-of-hair than our heroine, but still a looker and in these historical romances there are seldom enough white women to go around.

Of course there are endless complications and details, but on first reading Book One seemed filled with the mere complexity-for-the-sake-of-complexity inherent to the genre, and it was only with Book Two that Beaudreaux fully captured my interest. Because rather than keeping to form and panning off into the sunset, Carl Cliché and his Thousand Strings assuring us that everything ends happily ever after, the second book of Ghost returns us to the estate five years later. Kelly has had that species of accident peculiar to characters appearing in wish-fulfillment fiction: too fatal for help to arrive in time, sufficiently mild to allow for a lengthy and impassioned final speech.

Wow!! Obviously the first book was just to lull us into a false sense of complacency. Slavery, the White Knight fantasy, the tendancy of genre fiction to reaffirm the status quo rather than challenge it – these are among the dozens of tropes Beaudreaux invites us to question through the clever mechanism of redrawing our attention to assumptions she’s already pretended fealty to. Seemingly-random details from the first book assume deeper significance as we glimpse the interwoven nature of every element, surprisingly familiar and then elusive again like a sudden fragment of retrograde inversion in a Bach concerto.

The narrative focus shifts almost invisibly from Boncautèle to Viejo. And if Beaudreaux is able to make interesting the love story of two cardboard-perfect people with no real problems, imagine what she does with an émigré who has forsaken his country; A man born to serve whose master is no longer deserving of that loyalty.

Boncautèle is still sharp, strong, wealthy, powerfully charismatic. But without his wife, he seems also to have lost something precious and intangible. In the village he is now seldom compared to those stern and compassionate German saints. The weather is turning cold, the cowmilk is no longer sweet. There are fewer celebrations among the slaves, and not so many births. Finally a competitor of Boncautèle’s is found dead. At first it seems to be accidental, but slowly a murder case builds.

Viejo is asked to lie to the authorities, provide an alibi for the night of the death. Boncautèle assures Viejo of his innocence – he merely wishes to protect the reputation of the lady he spent the evening with. Even if Viejo could confirm the veracity of this claim, to ask a man of honor to lie...

Viejo has already fought his battles, has already settled into a comfortable and worthy role. But he and the rest of the household find themselves still caught in Boncautèle’s wake, sailing into darker and darker waters. The question is no longer "Will Kelly and Luc live happily ever after?" but "Is Viejo strong enough?"

Strong enough for what?

Corey, don’t print this. I need to think.

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