"Like hell you will."

With 45 minutes to waste before the movie, I thought I'd treat myself to a bowl of healthy veggies at that cheap Chinese place on University. Instead, I was Shanghaied into McDonald's by a sign in the window offering a Big Mac for 98¢.

I apologize to myself, and feel guilty just typing about it, because philosophically I am opposed to everything about McDonald's: raging capitalism, complete uniformity, the greasy food on the menu, and hard work at crap wages with no benefits, no sick leave, so your burger is made amidst sniffling sneezing and snot-dripping workers. And I'm nominally a vegetarian, but — a Big Mac for just 98¢? Yes, please.

Yes, please and please and please — I had three of them, with a large order of McD's always-disappointing fries, a large eggnog shake, and for dessert, a so-called 'hot apple pie' (79% corn syrup, 15% lard, 6% apples).

And you know what's the worst, most awful part? It was a pretty good lunch.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Eating at McDonald's means I'd just ingested twelve times the maximum daily dose of salt, so I quickly guzzled the 1.5 liters of tap water I'd packed for the movies. Then I walked into Thrifty Drugs to buy enough water to get me through two movies of popcorn, and…

"I'll take that pack for you," said some bouncer-size twit behind the photo counter.

"Like hell you will," I answered politely, breezing past him and down the aisles, my forbidden backpack still lashed over my shoulders.

Stores play the "check your bags" game, to prevent shoplifting. It's basically an accusation that everyone walking in is a thief, but almost always I cooperate. All I ask is that they ask nicely, and that guy didn't ask nicely so fuck him.

I found the water I wanted and bought it, all while wearing the forbidden backpack. The guard never decided what to do about my disobedience beyond glaring at me, and I certainly hope someone else in the store did some serious shoplifting while I had his attention.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

A reader (thanks, Mike) sent a Landmark movie pass in exchange for Pathetic Life #16, which I traded at the UC box office for today's martial-arts double feature. I'm not a big fan of the genre, but Jackie Chan movies always delight me.

Not today, though. Serpent in Eagle's Claw (a/k/a Snake in the Eagle's Shadow) was Chan's first big hit, from 1978, and it kinda sucked. I guess nobody had figured out the Chan mystique yet, not even Mr Chan himself.

He's OK in it, playing a retarded houseboy and sparring guy at a kung fu school, but he's not involved in most of the movie's fights, and when he's absent it's just chop-socky hokum. Nothing's particularly bad about the movie, but also nothing's particularly good, and even Chan's fights aren't up to Chan's standards. I spent most of the movie wishing I wasn't at the movie.

The second feature was High Risk, a new Asian import that's supposed to be a satire of Chan movies and Chan himself. The director has a grudge, or so said the theater's brief notes.

The guy mocking Chan is obviously having a grand time, playing him as a drunken cowardly womanizing wimp. He brags of doing his own stunts, but actually has a bodyguard who's a body double, and does anything that's dangerous.

That part of it was fun, but the rest of the movie is remarkably mean-spirited, and not just toward Jackie Chan. All through it, ordinary people are going about their business for just a few seconds, and they're randomly killed. It's supposed to be funny, I think. And jeez, I don't like children, but blowing up a school bus full of kids has limited entertainment value. Also, it's more of a machine-gun movie than a martial-arts film — there's so much gunplay here, it's a parody of John Woo, too.

Amidst the gloom of a disappointing double feature, however, the UC Theater pleasantly surprised me, by showing both films in focus and frame, all the way through.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Walking toward home, two Berkeley policemen pedaled past on their high-tech bicycles, looking for someone to pester or arrest. That's what cops do, and it reminded me to do something I've been putting off for too long, so I called CopWatch, the local group that monitors police misbehavior, of which there's plenty.

I had a long, relatively relaxed chat with whoever answered the phone (name dropped, but not caught) and got a quick overview of what CopWatch does and how they do it: They send out pairs of volunteers, armed with a video camera and a copy of the California Penal Code, to film cops making arrests. Any evidence of misconduct is turned over to Berkeley's Citizen Police Review Board— 

And that's where I began having doubts. I'm fairly new to Berkeley, and maybe their Citizen Police Review Board works better than its counterpart in San Francisco, but Frisco's CPRB is a facade. They have no interest in doing anything about out-of-control cops, and it's just a bureaucratic jumble, famous for accomplishing nothing. The SF CPRB holds hearings and makes occasional recommendations that some cop be disciplined, and those recommendations are always ignored.

The man on the phone was still talking, so I politely listened, but doubts began brewing. There was talk of meetings, and Robert's Rules of Order, all of which is probably necessary, but jeez, if there's videotape of cops beating someone, give it to Channel 2 News and the Tribune, and then give it to the CPRB. When I'm at a meeting, that's the very first thing I'll raise my hand to say.

The voice on the phone even alluded to "good cops," a concept as mythical as elves and fairies in my opinion. He talked about reporting bad cops to their commanders, which seems equally imaginary.

As if the higher-ups care? They got higher up by being brutal below.

No sir, until I see evidence otherwise and I never have, I'll continue to believe all cops are bad cops. Reporting a bad cop to another cop is simply futile.

Show me a "good cop" smiling at strangers and helping little old ladies across the street, and that's nice, but soon as he walks around the corner and you're not watching him, what's he doing then? That's what's worrisome.

I was hoping that CopWatch did something more radical than reporting what they see to Berkeley's Citizen Police Review Board, but you know what? That's more than I've ever done, and they're the only group making any effort to prevent cop worship. That's something to be respected, so I didn't give voice to any of my ignorant first impressions.

The guy on the phone told me they'd sign me up if I drop by their office, any time after 3:30 on any Tuesday afternoon. I told him I'll be there, and I will be, skepticism in check and hoping for the best.

From Pathetic Life #20
Friday, January 5, 1996

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.


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