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NOVEMBER 24, 1997:  BETTER OFF TED: Some two-odd years ago, The Weekly ran a cover story called "Quit Your Job," written by former working-stiff Ted Rall. His story, which we thought was cute and sort of relevant, stated that our lives revolve around the misconception that the work we do is of some import, and furthermore, that the technology intended to make our lives easier has actually increased the average work day. His thoughtful analysis of this endemic problem here at the close of the century was that, well, "work is stupid," and everyone who was fed up with it should just quit. At least, that's what some people thought he was saying...Some people who wrote in really angry letters when they read that story.

Perhaps the angry letter writers will gloat; but for good or ill, here's what ol' Ted's been up to in the last couple years of discovering the color of his parachute. At first introduction to our readership, Rall had already left his $32,000 salaried job as a financial analyst in a windowless office in San Francisco to eke out a living as a cartoonist, his strip and other musings appearing regularly in Might magazine.

Might is now out of business. But Rall seems to have landed on his feet as an award-winning, nationally syndicated writer and cartoonist. That's right, naysayers. Rall quit the good life to make desk calendars. With cartoons. One for every day of the year. They have jokes about corporate hegemony, middle managers, politics, religion, sex, you name it. And he's making more money now than he would've made after years analyzing other people's finances.

You'll probably see Is There Life Before Death? on some friend's desk, in some cubicle, somewhere in America, and you'll probably copy some random page and staple it to your blue-gray divider wall with the tacky surface. When you do, remember he's really a subversive. He's really saying, "Hey, you. Get the hell outta here!" That could be the defining moment separating those who read the words from those who just like to look at the pictures.

Oh, and if you aren't impressed with the desk calendar, keep an eye out for Revenge of the Latch-Key Kids, a collection of essays and cartoons about (in the author's words) "the collapse of American institutions," due out in spring of 1998 from Workman Publishing. Other evidence of Rall's continuing crusade of irreverence include the graphic novel The Worst Thing I've Ever Done! (which won a Firecracker Alternative Book Award), and regular features in P.O.V. and Maximum RocknRoll magazines. And by the way, he was one of three finalists for a 1996 Pulitzer Prize. Three cheers for Ted! We can't wait to see what kind of trouble he stirs up next.

WATCH THE SCREENS: The X-Files has been losing altitude for a couple years now, culminating in this year's virtually unwatchable two-part season premiere. But for our money, the best episode of X-Files in recent memory was "José Chung's From Outer Space," in which sci-fi author José Chung (loosely based on Whitley Strieber and delightfully portrayed by Hollywood Squares celeb Charles Nelson Reilly) tried to sort out the different perspectives of an alien abduction. Penned by Darren Morgan, the multi-leveled episode cleverly weaved just about every imaginable bit of extraterrestrial folklore from alien autopsies to the Men in Black, simultaneously skewering the UFO community and telling a provocative, chilling and hysterical story.

José Chung crosses over into X-Files creator Chris Carter's other Fox series, Millennium, this Friday at 8 p.m. on KMSB-TV, Channel 11. From what we hear, the episode (also written by Morgan) revolves around the empty-faced Frank Black's investigation into "Selfology," a nouveau religion loosely based on Scientology, sci-fi author L. Ron Hubbard's elaborate wacko cult/tax dodge. (But not so loosely that Scientologists didn't demand some script changes, at least according to a website we browsed awhile back--and to which we recently tried to return for more details, only to discover the page wouldn't load. Oh, how we loooove the Internet!)

But we digress. Tune in for what we expect will be a bundle of laughs, hopefully at the expense of Scientologists. Unless, of course, they use their vast mental powers to disintegrate our television sets.

FALL HARVEST: Authors Barbara Kingsolver, Gary Paul Nabhan, Richard Nelson and Ofelia Zepeda read from recent works at 7 p.m. Friday, November 21, at the Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway. The reading, entitled Voices of The Land, is a benefit for Native Seeds/SEARCH, a regional conservation organization. Admission is $8 advance, $10 at the door. Call 622-5561 for information.

Another literary benefit to celebrate this week is the first year anniversary of Border Beat: The Border Arts Journal, brought to you every month by Jim Caravallo, the energetic autodidact of his own publishing empire. A host of talent kicks off the festivities at 8 p.m. Friday, November 21, José Galvez Gallery, 743 N. Fourth Ave., with readings by Demetria Martinez, Tom Miller, Brian Laird, Patricia Preciado Martin, Susana de la Peña and Gayle Jandrey, among others. Admission is free.

Other events this weekend include "The Bullfight" and "Border Ballads," an afternoon of ambiente taurinos followed by an evening of excellent live music by John Coinman, Andrew Hardin and Tom Russell. The former begins at 2 p.m. and the latter at 8 p.m. at the Temple of Music and Art Cabaret Theater, 330 S. Scott Ave. For event and ticket information, see this week's the Literature section in this week's City Week listings, or call 321-0928.

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