From The Desk Of We Are Scientists: Let’s Raise A Glass To Gestation

We Are Scientists—the duo of vocalist/guitarist Keith Murray and bassist/vocalist Chris Cain—are known for the oblique humor and intelligence that they bring to their music, but a question about their sharp mental acuity produces gales of laughter. “I don’t believe brains or wit are particularly helpful, or necessary, in pop music,” Murray says, still chuckling. “If we intended our appeal to be narrow and excessively insular, those qualities might be good for us, but nobody likes a smartass.” Despite this protestation, the songs on the band’s new LP, TV En Français (Dine Alone), are brimming over with wry humor and skewed insights into the state of modern romance. TV En Français was recorded with the help of producer Chris Coady (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV On The Radio), who helped give the album a polished, expansive sound. Cain will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new feature on the band.

Condoms

Cain: Sex has grown really popular, especially in the last few decades, and a lot of that’s to do, or so we’re told, with birth control. Contraception has become easy to use, reliable and cheap. It sometimes fails, of course, and occasionally, in an amorous frenzy, people don’t bother using it at all. But the general feeling is that if two people want to have sex with each other, fear of inadvertently becoming parents shouldn’t stop them.

But is it really our confidence in human ingenuity (in the shape of birth control) that makes us feel safe? Or is it something less admirable—namely, a willingness to ignore the future if the short-term benefit is tasty enough? Consider the Virginian Opossum: in as few as eight days after sex, the Virginian Opossum has a baby. Or the Fruit Fly: Fruit Fly eggs hatch 24 hours after they’re fertilized!

Now let’s do a thought experiment. If babies were born 24 hours after conception, would you ever have sex again? No! Fucking! Way! (Unless you wanted a baby, of course.) No matter how delightful sex is, if you knew that a mistake or bad luck would result in a screaming, crying baby (or hell, a smiling, laughing baby) the next day—you would never have sex again. The specter of the baby would haunt the entire miserable undertaking. Impotence would be rampant; everyone would be on edge. Condoms would be worn in triplicate—and still floating above the bed, the awful blue-eyed baby specter.

Yes, birth control has helped out a bit with recreational sex. But the real hero, let’s face it, is humans’ awesome nine-month gestation period. “Nine-month gestation period” … it even sounds hot.

From The Desk Of We Are Scientists: Getting Over A Girl

We Are Scientists—the duo of vocalist/guitarist Keith Murray and bassist/vocalist Chris Cain—are known for the oblique humor and intelligence that they bring to their music, but a question about their sharp mental acuity produces gales of laughter. “I don’t believe brains or wit are particularly helpful, or necessary, in pop music,” Murray says, still chuckling. “If we intended our appeal to be narrow and excessively insular, those qualities might be good for us, but nobody likes a smartass.” Despite this protestation, the songs on the band’s new LP, TV En Français (Dine Alone), are brimming over with wry humor and skewed insights into the state of modern romance. TV En Français was recorded with the help of producer Chris Coady (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV On The Radio), who helped give the album a polished, expansive sound. Cain will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new feature on the band.

PeepingTom

Cain: Every breakup is its own animal, but they all have a few things in common: rabies, a bad temper and blood thirst. Speaking less metaphorically, if you look at a thousand different breakups, you’ll see two thousand different sets of problems, but over our many combined years of romantic involvements, we’ve been able to ferret out four very general rules that apply to 99{e5d2c082e45b5ce38ac2ea5f0bdedb3901cc97dfa4ea5e625fd79a7c2dc9f191} of the brokenhearted, and we want to take this opportunity to get them out to a wide audience. Adhere to them strictly, and these rules will help you ferret out harmful behaviors that retard healing; they’ll put you on the path to a mended heart, ready to go out there and take another swipe at happiness. (Note: We phrased these rules as advice to a guy getting over a girl, simply because that’s been our specific experience. These suggestions are so general and all-encompassing, though, that they readily apply to anybody who’s sifting through the wreckage of a broken relationship.)

1. You must wean yourself from the addictive practice of peering in through a window from some night-clothed hedge or tree limb as your former beloved performs amoral acts of carnal assimilation on her new crush atop the expensive new sheets she must have bought between now and the last time you were with her, last Tuesday. You must also not review the tapes you made of them coupling on other occasions. Or at least, don’t watch them over and over—if you find yourself immediately rewinding a tape as soon as it finishes, not even pausing to pop some corn, then you are unhealthily obsessed with what’s on the tape. If you have transferred the tape to DVD so you can skip rewinding altogether and seamlessly loop the video, you are unhealthily obsessed with the tape. If you have made a collage of particularly juicy moments from each of your dozens of tapes and tried to work some sort of narrative into the visual quilt through the use of voiceovers and CGI, then you are unhealthily obsessed with these sex tapes, but you are also a budding and potentially very gifted pornographer who should by all means follow his muse.
2. You have to stop calling her. Not completely; that’s not what we mean, and you know it. It’s the late night calls, the ones where you fail to identify yourself and then sit in silence listening as she gently reminds you—though compassion gives way further each day to frustration—of all the reasons it wasn’t working and had to end, and that besides she’s really into this new guy because they connect on a level the two of you never did (you’ve seen it happen) and don’t you want her to be happy?—those calls you need to stop making.

3. You need to quit the thing with the hooker, whatever her name is. At first it may have been palliative, sure, but it has become very destructive and it must stop. We know what you’re thinking (we’ve been there too, remember?). You’re thinking, at least subconsciously, that for you while strolling Sunset Strip late one night on your way to get donuts to just happen upon a hooker who looks a lot like your ex … well, that’s fate stepping in and offering you a helping hand. And that this hooker, from behind, could be your ex’s twin-slightly-older-sister … sure, fate is good, fate is kind. But at this stage you’re malingering. You’re using the crutch well after your foot should have healed. You even told your ex that you’d met someone that reminds you of her, which is a sick thing to say considering the facts, and only ended up biting you in the ass when she congratulated you with heartfelt sincerity. Besides all that, we might as well tell you that a blood test will reveal that your hooker friend has been giving you a veritable cornucopia of added value for your $60.

4. If you’re ever going to get on with your life, you’ve got to start seeing new people. We know how hard this can be, but once you’re over the hump, you’ll really appreciate what a difference it can make, how much it can make you feel that you’ve moved on. Now look, we know you’re bad at this, and that’s why we’re going to go ahead and advocate your mild inclination to pursue things with that girl, the friend of a friend, whom you had sex with that weekend last October when your (now-)ex was out of town. So you called her last week, the two of you got together and had a few drinks, and you excused yourself early in the evening, citing an early morning the next day. In fact, of course, you were sighing big relief as you strolled home; this girl was every bit as unappetizing as you remembered, every bit the “fuck only when plastered” type, and you’d be damned if you were going to sink that low just because you were going through a tough time—the fact is, you suspected that taking such a nose-dive in quality from your ex to a new girl would almost certainly do your sense of self-worth more damage than good. You’d be surprised. First of all, you’re paying for sex right now, OK smart guy? Think about that for a second, digest it. You are paying. For sex right now. So just relax, get down off your high horse, and think practically for five minutes. Now: You’re going to be 27 in September—27! It’s time to act a little more grown up, a little more French, about all things sexual and romantic. Looks aren’t everything, you know this. Did you also know that personality and likeability aren’t everything? Well they aren’t. A lot of the time, “everything” is just having someone to share a taxi home with at the end of the night so you don’t have to think about what’s missing. Because technically, nothing’s missing—there’s a warm body beside you, night after night, and you can go to brunch with her on weekends, and you don’t have to see her during most of your waking hours because you’re at work, so who cares if she’s not beautiful and witty, or even sexually attractive and nice? You wanna move on with your life? Here’s the prescription: Call that girl back, the ugly one you cheated on your ex with. Go out with her this weekend. Get drunk and go home together. In a month, move in together. Two years from now, start over. And repeat. And repeat. When you find someone you’re not absolutely itching to leave after two years, and she feels the same, check each other’s pulse. Still alive? Get married, buy a house in Azusa, have kids, some pets, some cars—boom, you’ve moved on. You’re done. And late, late at night, when your family slumbers and snores in carpeted rooms around you, and all the grinding distractions of your midlife days are terrifyingly absent, and you feel your heart’s as empty as the streets outside … well, you’ve always got those tapes.

From The Desk Of We Are Scientists: The Scourge Of Masturbation

We Are Scientists—the duo of vocalist/guitarist Keith Murray and bassist/vocalist Chris Cain—are known for the oblique humor and intelligence that they bring to their music, but a question about their sharp mental acuity produces gales of laughter. “I don’t believe brains or wit are particularly helpful, or necessary, in pop music,” Murray says, still chuckling. “If we intended our appeal to be narrow and excessively insular, those qualities might be good for us, but nobody likes a smartass.” Despite this protestation, the songs on the band’s new LP, TV En Français (Dine Alone), are brimming over with wry humor and skewed insights into the state of modern romance. TV En Français was recorded with the help of producer Chris Coady (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV On The Radio), who helped give the album a polished, expansive sound. Cain will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new feature on the band.

Masturbation

Cain: Masturbation is almost definitionally a wonderful pleasure, but, as with any pleasure, it can easily become the object of our excessive devotions. Lucky, then, that over the last few thousand years much of mankind’s investigative acumen has been aimed at taming our desire to masturbate constantly, and many effective countermeasures have been cataloged as a result.

For devices, few things rival that age-old prohibitor of joy, the chastity belt. A bit of history: Contrary to popular belief, the chastity belt was invented by a Parisian constable during that ignominious period in France’s past when genital theft had grown rampant. Yes, genital theft. Initially, therefore, what we today know as a chastity belt was called, after its function, a “sanctity belt.” As criminals trended from genital theft toward less messy conspiracies, the sanctity belt was repurposed by overbearing parents worldwide who hoped to safeguard their daughters’ virginity until marriage. As we now know, this simply caused a genetic preference in our species for men with snaky, flexible penises that can turn corners before penetrating — nothing could be more obvious or expected to the modern eye, but in those dark early years it was as miraculous and sought-after an appendage as ever mutated its way into existence.

Of course, chastity belts remain wonderful impediments to self-stimulation, and you should by all means employ one if your wardrobe will allow it. A more subtle addition to one’s “look,” in case you’re picky about that sort of thing, is a good tight pair of sandpaper gloves. They are equally restrictive for the would-be onanist, come in a range of earthy hues, and alter one’s silhouette barely at all.

Perhaps, though, you are a professional gymnast or stage actor, or work at a chain restaurant, and aren’t in a position to choose your clothing. In that case, it’s your behavior that must change. Fortunately, with just a few strategic nips and tucks, your proclivity for prick paddling (or clitoris coddling) can be stemmed:

• Don’t watch pornographic video, look at pornographic pictures or dwell on lascivious thoughts. Do not watch the final act (roughly the last third) of films or plays—this portion often proves too fulfilling, in a way that can push the mind to thoughts of sex. For obvious reasons, do not cradle warm, bunless hotdogs in your naked hand.

• Do not drink ice-cold beverages, particularly on hot days—the satisfaction gained can easily turn erotic. Don’t play basketball, as the experience of a “swish”—shooting a rimless basket—can set to flickering that unwanted flame. Avoid looking into the eyes or at the chest or arms or legs of anyone you find attractive; focus instead on one of his or her shoulders. An obvious exception should be made if the shoulders are bare, in which case eyes can be aimed at a street curb.

• Abandon immediately any conversation in which one of the following topics arises: rocketry, fur, hot springs, weaving, rowing, poetry, length or irrigation. Never apply lotions of any kind, even to inanimate objects. When using coins, which is inevitable, cast from your mind the fact that they have “heads” and “tails,” and never pay by placing them into slots. Avoid furnishings with leather or upholstered surfaces; the furniture in your home should be made exclusively from plastic.

• Don’t caress porcelain. Don’t think about tigers or deer. Look away from precipices and curvatures; use horizons only as reference points.

• Do not stand so close to another person that you can feel his or her breath. If you find yourself in a crowded bar and feeling the breath of others, pull your coat over your head and stumble to the exit. Do not go to bars.

• Do not use sensual fonts, like those with serifs. Read only text written in “cartoon” fonts. If you must read something written in a sensual font, such as the news or a book, have it retyped first in a cartoon font.

• Only pet dead animals. Avoid desserts; an exception can be made for desserts speckled with bits of hard candy. Do not sit in, discuss or for that matter think about hot tubs.

• Finally—it’s a small thing, but can make a world of difference—refuse under any circumstances to get into a bed, alone or, needless to say, with company. Sleep sitting in a chair or lying on the floor. Use a blanket only when strictly necessary for survival.

And there you have it! Thousands of years of knowledge, distilled and laid at your fingertips. Scrupulous adherence to these precepts will liberate your flesh and mind from the yoke of sexual ardor. The burden cast off, your energies may be redirected toward whichever cause you deem worthy. Good luck! And remember: all things in moderation! It is still fine to jack off once or twice a day.

Normal History Vol. 260: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 29-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Excerpt from Obliterating History – a guitar making mystery, domination and submission in a small town garage, a novel by Jean Smith

Gordon can never think of any good titles for his paintings, while Frank has a seemingly endless supply to offer. Maybe it isn’t the actual title per se, thinks Gordon. Maybe he just likes how Frank sees his work. To Gordon, they’re decorative panels, but the gallery staff implores him not to say that. Ever. When potential clients ask about his paintings, they want to know what the paintings represent, what they mean. They wonder if they are supposed to be able to see something in them. Find something. These are the clients Gordon steers clear of at his openings. The ones twisting their heads sideways, both ways, back and forth, all around, trying to find something, while practicing the art of not spilling their drink. There is a lot of sideways head twisting at Gordon’s openings and it makes him nervous, his Hathaway shirt damp under his black suit jacket.

When cornered by gallery staff and herded over to a sale-in-progress to be introduced to a buyer, Gordon, for once in his life, has nothing to say until he can covertly lean in to read the card mounted on the wall, and then, with great theatrical emphasis, he tells the buyer that it’s called Orange Path To Pink Sea or A Dotted Line Divides Them or My Sister is a Big Baby, and while the painting is being reconsidered based on a few words, Gordon slips back to the bar to order another martini and loosen his tie. No one except Gordon and Julia know that a five year old kid is making up the titles.

“No Mind’s Eye,” from The Family Swan (Kill Rock Stars, 2002) (download):