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Posts Tagged ‘Zip Monkey’

It was difficult la-okc-trip-2004-029.jpggrowing up with the name “Eric Rasmussen” for a few obvious reasons. It’s a funny name for children to say, and given children’s talent for innovation, a fun name to mock. (“Raisin Muffin” was the sobriquet the junior high kids finally settled on for me.)

My name is now a problem for a different reason: It’s not anywhere near as as rare as many people think it is. “Rasmussen” is kind of like the Scandinavian “Smith.” and “Eric” is a natural fit for it. So not only are there tons of Eric Rasmussens in New York City (I even bumped into one at a party), but tons of them working in the same fields I work in–fiction, music, film and journalism. After I began recently releasing a slate of my novels, I realized there’s another Eric Rasmussen who writes short stories. He, like me, is published in several places.

I’m a hyphenate, which makes things more confusing. I’ve been working in at least four different media for years, subjects I’ve been passionate about since my teens. I never saw a reason not to pursue all of them at once, and I dare say I’m good at some of them. But to the outside world (and definitely to a career coach) it probably looks like I have multiple personality disorder.

So now I realize it’s become necessary to tell people both who I am and who I’m not. I talk about the latter in this companion piece. But for now, I’m going to give you my CV, if for some reason you get confused about which Eric Rasmussen you’re dealing with. My name is Eric Randolph Rasmussen. I grew up in Oklahoma, went to college in Austin, Texas, and I’ve lived in New York City for over two decades. I have a fairly large amount of content on the internet in multiple media.

Journalism

I’ve been a journalist since my college days. I focused first on arts and entertainment; in 1997, I started writing about finance. The following are the publications I’ve written for (if you see my name pop up in a different newspaper or magazine, it is not I):

The Daily Texan (the University of Texas student newspaper)
The Austin Chronicle
The Alcalde (The University of Texas alumni magazine)
Io magazine
Swing
magazine
Civil Engineering
Investment Management Weekly
Financial-Planning.com
Nurseweek
Financial Advisor magazine

Film

I’ve been making short films since 2006, and created a web series with my wife from 2007 to 2009. These are my works:

S&M Queen For A Day (2006)
Scrabble Rousers (2006)
The Retributioners (web TV series, 2007-2009)
Candy Rocks Doesn’t Grow Up (a screenplay and semi-finalist for the Austin Film Festival comedy screenplay competition in 2012)

Music

I am the sole musical artist behind Salon de la Guerre, which released its 21st album in 2019. I worked on music through the 1990s, but didn’t start releasing definitive versions of my songs until 2007 on MySpace and didn’t start publishing them in album form until 2012. As of August 2019,* I had 290 songs in circulation.

I’m listing the albums here with the dates I published them on the streaming sites (these are not the copyright dates of the songs, which go back as far as 1993). My albums are:

Time-Traveling Humanist Mangled by Space Turbine (2012)
Four-Track Demons (2014)
Diasporous (2014)
The Mechanical Bean (2014)
Toe-Tapping Songs of Pain and Loss (2014)
Your Eyes Have Mystic Beams (2014)
Clam Fake (2016)
Roses Don’t Push the Car Home (2016)
Gravitas: A Life (2016)
Liberty (2016)
The Church of Low Expectations (2016)
In the Lake of Feral Mermaids (2017)
The Widowhood of Bunny (2017)
Keep Your Slut Lamp Burning (2017)
Driver, Take This Cab to the Depths of the Soul (2017)
All Else Dross (2017)
Yipano (2018)
You’re Going To Regret What You Did (2018)
Bleed (2019)
Air Is a Public Good (2019)
From Sour To Cinnamon (2019)

Fiction

I’ve been writing fiction for well over two decades; however, for many reasons, most of them banal, my seven novels sat unpublished on my computer for years. A couple of months ago, that all changed: I began releasing my novels as e-books on Amazon, with the hopes of releasing the paperback versions on the platform later in the year. As of yesterday, five of my novels are now available on the site, and I plan to release the other two (one of which has three volumes) later this year. The books are mostly comic, though they also stretch into historical fiction and absurdism.

Here’s the complete list (I’ve listed the dates I released them on Amazon, though many of these books were finished at least five years ago):

Zip Monkey (2019)
Detective J (2019)
Letters to My Imaginary Friend Leticia (2019)
Traffic Waitress (2019)
Did it End? (2019)
American Banjo (2019)
The Ghost and the Hemispheres, Vol 1-3 (planned release date: 2019)

Poetry

My big plan as a teenager was to be a poet, and oddly enough, this is the field I’m least prolific in. I have only some few dozen poems to my name, almost all of which are available on this blog. However, I did get a few bits into the college literary magazine back in the day:

Analecta 1989-1991 (the University of Texas literary and arts journal)

The Blogosphere

Beauty is Imperfection is the blog you are reading right now. I started posting these little musings on MySpace in late 2006 and switched over to WordPress in 2009, moving a lot of the MySpace content over after seeing that the latter platform was dying.

As my long-suffering readers know, even in my blogging life, I’m something of a schizophrenic. For its first few years, Beauty Is Imperfection was a comedy blog with lots of Top 10 lists and other silliness, most of which was meant to help create buzz about my web series, The Retributioners. In 2010, my mother died, and the blog took on a more somber tone, and I also started posting a lot of political material to give the world a taste of my long-stifled polemical voice. My posts have been infrequent in the last few years; occasionally I post new poetry, but otherwise I use the blog to let people know about all these many other projects I’m working on.

Hopefully, this post gives you a more complete picture of me. I rarely talk about these projects with friends and colleagues, mostly because I’m not the bragging sort, I don’t like to shove art down people’s throats and I know how much great, perhaps better art is out there that I’m competing with. I’m offering this summary of my career mostly to help people navigating the internet avoid confusion if they see a name like mine and don’t know whom they are dealing with.

For the record, I haven’t written any plays.

*Updated October 2019.

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[The following is an excerpt from my novel, Zip Monkey, which I plan to release in the upcoming months. Copyright 2012. Cover art by Corey Brian Sanders.]Zip Monkey Cover 2

Christina Brostrom looked out onto the grounds of the college holding a coffee cup up to her face gently, so that the steam would open her pores a bit. This was part of her ritual of drinking hot tea with Stevia, a cup of inspiration with which she greeted every morning. She knew that ritual was a foundation of wisdom. Or would be, were she ever to become wise.

On the desk next to her computer screen was a greeting card of forced congratulations from her co-workers out in the cubicle pit. Lots of “Congrats, girl!” and “I knew you could do its!” scrawled across the card to celebrate her promotion. But every laconic “Congrats” betrayed bitter envy. Christina had been in her position only a year. And now somehow she’d gotten a big promotion, seemingly for no reason. When they were saying, “Congrats,” what they really meant to say was, “Who the fuck do you think you are?”

And they were right. She didn’t deserve it. She was just a pretty face who’d done it with the right guy. She remembered her mother’s joke, “With a vagina, you can go anywhere,” which wasn’t really a joke. Christina had bartered her sex appeal for a job as a Level 6 grants and contracts manager. Not too shabby.

Ralph Bliagos was nowhere to be found, of course. He had defiled her, promoted her, disappeared and left stacks and stacks of data on her desk to reconcile—enough work to last her a year. Most of it paperwork for live animal research grants that would be submitted to the National Institutes of Health (“NIH.”) Her first job, according to a memo, was to haggle with somebody from the Institute of Animal Research Studies for a $100 discount on a crate of pre-diseased mice. A hundred of the 1,400 mice were dead already when the box came in. Certainly that was worth at least two hundred dollars off, said the dean to Christina in an e-mail.

Before this, her job had been to do simple data entry, making sure the lab equipment codes matched the inventory. But increasingly, after an audit of the university and a fine from the New Jersey attorney general’s office, she found herself actually making decisions on how procedures were coded. That was way above the pay grade of a 23-year-old intern. Checks made out to the university for thousands of dollars started fluttering onto her desk. She didn’t know what to do with them. Nobody claimed them. She put them in a folder with dollar signs marked on it.

The Grants and Contracts Dept., hidden behind leafy plane trees in a white travertine campus tucked away from the road, was a huge vein of money for Mount St. Catherine’s University. While Ph.D’s elsewhere at the university lost their jobs during Congress’s sequestration, Ralph Bliagos’s department was somehow thriving, his money spigot still pumping. “How could this be?” Nobody wanted to ask that question. “Just keep growing the pie,” said the dean’s office. Ralph’s enemies raised questions, of course. Grants and contracts had an ongoing Hatfield and McCoy-style feud going on with the dicks in finance. Christina was even told she shouldn’t be seen having lunch on campus with her friend Judy who worked in the finance department.

“Wouldn’t look good,” said Bliagos. “You gossip with Judy Freeman, and it’ll get back to me. She’s waiting to find out we’re doing something wrong.”

“Well then, who should I have lunch with?”

“How about me?”

That’s how it had started.

Bliagos was 13 years older than Christina. He seemed to know a lot about a lot of different things. He’d played guitar in a band in college and knew about music publishing rights. He knew about trademark law after working as a paralegal. He even knew about dance.

“You can’t really separate Merce Cunningham from Eastern religion,” he’d said.

A year later, Christina, the former star of the Cape May High School ballet, now older and wiser, realized Ralph had pulled the Cunningham bit out of his ass. But at the time he said it, she’d been smitten. Though he was older, he had an eternal boyishness—his averred belief in the inherent goodness of all people touched Christina’s heart and parted her knees—knees weak from naivety and a 2005 arabesque accident that shattered her bones and dreams forever.

All dancers hurt their knees. But Christina Brostrom had somehow managed to pull her kneecap apart after momentous thigh contraction while doing the Black Swan in front of 200 provincial New Jersey ballet fans. The audience was mesmerized by the plangent screams of this shining young dancer and swept up into standing ovation as several male dancers in blue doublets with silver galloons with the strength of apes carried her out the back door to the nearest emergency room.

Christina had always been rather keyed up and anxious, dancing as fast as she could, and even her mother opined that the injury was no accident, but a cry for help. She insisted her daughter was getting back at her. Christina had avoided a proper warm up and fragged herself on purpose, said Mom, whom everything was about. Mother Marla Brostrom was a semi-famous psychoanalyst and believed there were no accidents. Everything bad that happened was an act of sublimated feelings, even a fall down the stairs or choking on a hot dog.

The adjustment from ballerina to clerical assistant was remarkably easy for Christina Brostrom. Gone was the anxious, excited ballerina whose fast-rising stardom made every day a birthday party thrown just for her. Now it was all just workaday world narcosis, interoffice birthday cards to people she’d never met, and hot pocket microwave lunches in rooms with receding slate colors. Instead of jetés and soubresauts, Christina could now pursue the drama of office gossip, hear temper tantrums through the walls and smack insolent fax machines. And there, holding on to the handle of a 2005 Honda Civic every afternoon with wolfish teeth was Ralph Bliagos. Ralph, with his round, McCartney-ish eyes, big hands and hair extensions. He seemed to know her dreams, and his adoring eyes reflected the star she’d dreamed of being. Or at least that’s what she was thinking when she went down on him in the Honda. The thrilling, fleeting, naughty affair. The sweaty, heart-beat-skipping rendezvous every night in the office where they had started somehow fucking and committing government billing fraud in no particular order.

Ralph’s the one who taught her to do it. First he showed her how to double bill for clinical trials—the university charged Medicaid and Medicare money for lab work on volunteers even though the companies sponsoring the clinical trials on the devices and drugs were already paying. It was a surefire way to rip off Uncle Sam, something Ralph had learned at a couple of research universities. He also taught Christina how to “unbundle” the lab tests, coding a bunch of blood tests separately when they should have been billed together. Apart, they were worth more money.

To Christina, it was kind of like playing Candy Crush Saga or Asteroids. “Unbundle. Duplicate. Recode.” It seemed more naughty than illegal. “Girl! You’re bad! Ha-ha!”

“It’s just us printing money,” Ralph had said. “Everybody does it. At the end of the day, who cares? We’re curing diseases.” She wanted to impress her boss, and as she separated centrifuge work, she was actually whistling.

It only slowly dawned on her that what they were doing was actually very much against the law. But she was already in it way over her head by that time. Her signatures were all over everything.

It was only in month three, long after Ralph had given her the first bladder infection, that he asked her out to a movie. He confessed then that, yes, he had been engaged to somebody for three years. But his fiancée, Dina, was an argumentative, hatchet-faced bitch troll attorney, and he insisted he was going to break it off with her. Dina didn’t understand him, he said. She didn’t listen to Rush. She didn’t like white water rafting. She didn’t know who Merce Cunningham was.

“But you,” he said to Christina. “You’re an open book. Everything is still possible and hopeful for you.” This appealed to her in part because neither statement was actually true. She, in fact, had fallen south in ways only people with the lost promise of true greatness can fall.

He had made love to her gently and sweetly the first time. His feet stuck out the open window of the Honda and he swore it didn’t hurt. Later, as they lay together naked in a dark brindled cowhide rug from Bed Bath & Beyond, he imagined them going to someplace romantic. Like Nova Scotia. Or Atlantic City. Christina was breathless. She had a dangerous love and a job she was good at. She was now a person like other people.

The morning of her surprise promotion, she crept over to the files and sorted through them. Three doctors in cardiology wanted to test a vasodilator and needed to make sure the NIH didn’t reject them again. The last time around, the government quibbled because the doctors testing the equipment held small equity shares (indirectly) in the company that made the dilator, and that would likely bias their research. Ralph turned to Christina one afternoon and asked her directly: “How would you make this problem go away?”

It was her first real executive decision: and it was something she was intensely proud of, because no one else would have ever thought of it. She simply moved the money over from another grant. She piggy-backed the vasodilator work onto a research grant for rheumatoid arthritis medication the doctors were also working on. Nobody asked questions. All the doctors knew was that the money they needed was suddenly there. “Doctors,” Ralph said, “must remain innocent.”

Christina Brostrom, the girl in the church choir, the girl who sang “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” the girl who made Frank Rich cry when she performed in The Nutcracker at age 12, was not, after all, born to be a ballet dancer. Christina Brostrom was born to be a criminal.

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