Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Threat cookies

Lunch: An hour-long respite from the concerns of the work day. It's not much, and when it's spent at Panda Express, it really isn't much, but every so often I succumb to eating there. That, however, is not the problem.

Like all Americanized Chinese food (we will lump Panda in with "Chinese food" for the sake of this entry) establishments, the meals come with a fortune cookie, and I'm presuming my readership is generally familiar with those, so let's move on. I keep all those fortunes at my desk at work. They don't really make me feel better; I'm just too lazy to throw them away.

Okay, really, one just never knows when their pithy wisdom will prove inspirational. And by "inspirational" I mean giving me something to write about, not spiritual fulfillment; I feel compelled to make that clear.

A recent fortune I got--which was not, in actuality, a "fortune" in the sense of predicting the future in a vague sense, but rather an encouraging aphorism, but... yeah, you've seen them; I'm over-describing this. (Moving on.) Ahem. A recent slip of paper inside the hollow bent cookie read: "If you dream it--it will happen."


Crap.

Like I didn't have enough reasons to worry that might keep me up at night. Now my unconscious had been granted unlimited power to shape the nature of things. And what little I tended to remember of my dreams (prior to being granted this by the fortune) made me concerned; I can have some pretty weird dreams.

However, after a couple weeks of weilding this authority, I've noticed I don't recall any dreams I've had during this period. Not even those wispy, indistinct recollections, the half-shaped images. Thus, all I have to go on is what I observe of the world while I am of the perception of being awake.

Apparently I dream of going to work, coming home, and watching TV. Over and over.

Egad, but my unconscious is dull.

The thing is: I don't think it used to be this dull. Clearly, this is some kind of Twilight Zone-esqe twist. Give my sleeping mind dominion over reality but strip it of any imagination, allowing it only dreams of the world exactly as it already was.

I didn't ask for straight-jacketed omnipotence; I just wanted some Kung Pao chicken.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la, la-plop

This is what I got this afternoon at my department's holiday luncheon and white elephant gift exchange. It's a reindeer that poops jelly beans.

Yes, I had to steal it from the person who first opened it.

Forget "holly jolly"--it's time to have a Poopin' Christmas.

Finally, a holiday slogan I can get behind. (Pun intended.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Dark times--but it's only astronomical in this case

If I'm calculating things correctly, the winter solstice will occur at 10:35 am (Pacific time zone), tomorrow (December 21). Of course, if you care about commemorating that moment, you probably already knew that.

Enjoy, or ignore, as you see fit. And if you want to review what I said about this event (four years ago), here's a link to it (which may or may not be more entertaining than this Wikipedia article about it).

And now, apropos of nothing above, on the left there's a picture of one of the ice sculptures that adorned the bars at my office's holiday party last week. Yes, there's tubes running through it to act as a luge for the vodka poured by the bartender in the top and coming out colder in the glass below.


It's difficult to not feel guilty about such indulgence when there's so much suffering in the world. That's where the vodka comes in.

Monday, December 19, 2005

This time of year

"December is the cruelest month"
- The Waterboys, "December" (1983)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Ho-ho-ho...llywood.

Intersection of Hollywood and Highland, facing east, looking at the seasonal decorations and the Scientology sign.

Anybody know what holiday the Scientologists celebrate? Oh, sorry. None of my readers make enough money to know the answer to that.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

I wanna spray paint all nite and party every day

Something I spotted on the train on the way to work this morning: graffiti. Now, this is, in and of itself, not anything unusual; I pass through South Central L.A. on my way to work, and there’s no shortage of buildings on which individuals or groups have found an outlet for their art. The graffiti in question, however, was seen on the side of a freight train car parked on the tracks next to the tracks my commuter train takes. And what, pray tell, could make it so interesting?

It said "Detroit Rock City" in somewhat sloppy, single swipe spray letters. Yep, gotta lose your mind in it, the whole nine yards.

My first thought was, Well, clearly that wasn’t spray painted while the train was in this area. However, then it occurred to me that it was short-sighted of me, and that I shouldn’t be so dismissive of the fan base of those rockers in the heavily black and Latino economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. It could certainly be construed as racist to assume that this part of town would be bereft of members of the KISS Army because of the ethnic population, and that is certainly not the kind of thinking that's going to move us forward as a society.

However, I suppose years of passing by the much more creative graffiti had led me to believe the gangs—er, alternative youth organizations—in those areas were, well, more talented, with composition and layering of colors in their pieces. Thus, it was a roundabout compliment to the local artists to assume the unimpressive three words were not their handiwork. They're better than that—no, really.

Besides, everyone knows that the favorite KISS track amongst the kids in South Central is "Strutter '78" (they're old school like that). They also have a soft spot for "Beth", but on the side of a train it just looks like a girl's name, not the proper tribute to the Peter Criss classic.

You probably thought I was going to say their favorite was "Cold Gin", didn’t you? Tsk, tsk. Clearly we all have a lot of growing to do.

Okay, here you go: Clearly, we also have a lot of rocking and rolling all nite to do. (Really, that’s how the song title spells it.) Never let it be said I don’t give the people what they want.

Oh wait, that’s the Kinks…



[And there's no shame in looking up the songs you didn't know so you get the jokes.]

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Something less than 1000 words, admittedly


Another picture: A traffic signal in downtown L.A., presented in this larger size to make it seem more dramatic.
(Do I take pictues other places? Sure. Some of them are even in sharper focus. But where's the fun in that?)
Remember: If it's kind of odd in composition, it must be artistic.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Ye Olde Old 97's


Here's some pictures I took at the Old 97's concert last night. (The ones that aren't in focus merely capture the energy of the moment.) Enjoy.

And to see the rest of the shots, check out this kodakgallery album. (You don't have to sign in; just click the View photos without signing in link.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Wiped out (follow up): Nothing's shocking

Having seen the Toyota commercial mentioned last week, and paid more attention to it, I admit: my comments were glib. ("Glib"? On the Internet? Really? I know.) The tag line they throw in at the end talks about just because there's "serious technology" you don't have to take yourself too seriously (or something like that). So it wasn't so much ironic, as kind of tongue-in-cheek. But still, they were trying to make a big deal of having developed windshield wipers that turn themselves on, which, if you think is a good reason to buy a car, you really need to have your license taken away. I'm not sure we should even let you on the bus, frankly.

Eh, on second thought (third thought by now?), soon enough you won't be able to afford to take the car out for it to potentially get wet and employ this feature, so heck, go out and waste your cash while you still can.

Shifting to another commercial: I haven't seen this in a few weeks, so I suspect they've stopped showing it, but Jack Daniel's had a spot that showed a slow montage of still pictures of people at least ostensibly enjoying their product while over it played (again, no joke) "Jane Says" by, of course, Jane's Addiction. I have no difficulty believing Perry and Dave, et al, would sign off on having their song used that way (Dave must have debts from Celebrity Poker or keeping Carmen happy), and I am not surprised that songs from those days when "alternative" music caught on with the mainstream would begin to be used in ads; it's what happens--marketing co-ops pop culture because, well, it works.

Still, despite its popularity with the (now) aging counter-culture, the song is about a drug addict, isn't it? The steel drums sound great, I admit, but I guess I figured someone at JD might have listened to the lyrics and considered the possible less-than-ideal association with their product before they agreed to produce the commercials and run them in prime time. That's not cheap. They certainly wouldn't want people getting the idea that whiskey could be... addictive.

Well, I figure someone must have paid some attention eventually, and the spots have been pulled. Perhaps they're only running late at night when I'm not watching. Or maybe they have lost their target audience, because that audience hawked their TVs to pay off... other debts.

I'm just waiting for "Pigs In Zen"--another Jane's song from the Nothing's Shocking album--to get licensed to Jimmy Dean Sausage. Maybe Farmer John.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Wiped out

Toyota has a new commercial where they spotlight (I'm not kidding) the one/fifth of a second that one saves without having to turn on the windshield wipers manually, as the car detects rain striking it and turns on the wipers on its own. One/fifth of a second. They show very, very brief glimpses of what one could do with that saved time, pleasant activities flash by in increments I presume last 20% of a second.

Thank goodness for modern technology.

All I can wonder is: Are they trying to be ironic in ads now? They play it so straight; it seems like they really wanted to tout the new feature. And I'm not in the advertising game, but I have to think that appealing to the irony-loving demographic is not worth running in a nationwide campaign for a major automobile company.

And these ads wouldn't appeal to mere irony-lovers; these ads would have to appeal to those who are also nihilistically self-absorbed and don't give a crap about the hybrids that Toyota can't build fast enough. Or maybe that's just a demographic that Toyota hopes exists in order to move their other cars.

Or maybe they're hoping that stupid people with lots of money won't pay too much attention. I mean, in my experience it takes several seconds, depending on how heavy the rain is, for there to be enough moisture on the windshield for there to be anything for the wiper to, uh, wipe. Otherwise it just scrapes across the glass, making that screech that makes one wish it were only fingernails on a chalkboard. Thus, I'd wonder how long it takes for the car to stop the wipers on its own (which is not mentioned in the spot).

This is why I take public transportation.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I voted. I got a sticker.

Election day 2005: Although I have been old enough to vote for nearly 20 years, it was only last year I discovered the joy of voting in the morning. Prior to that I would vote in the evening after work, and although that allowed me the fun of picking candidates at random (given that by then the winner was already announced thanks to exit polls), it denied me the true joy of election day: Adulation from other people for no particularly good reason.

In those years, after making some effort to read the propositions and have some idea how I was going to vote on those, then going to the polling place, then patiently waiting for the nice elderly people behind the table to find my name on the list, then waiting for a booth to be available, then going through the ballot and punching the appropriate holes, it seemed like a little oval sticker that read "I Voted" was rather hollow recompense. Heck, some years they would be out of stickers. Sure, voting is a priviledge and all that, but given how low turnout tends to be, it seemed like the government could sweeten the deal just a bit. The sticker didn't even stick that well.

However, I didn't get it then, because after leaving the polling place (and never, ever, being asked how I voted in an exit poll) I took my little sticker (when I got one) and just... went home. As nice as home was, everyone there (if there was anyone there) pretty much expected me to vote. The sticker held no cache with them, because with them the act of voting was not special.

Then starting last year, when I voted in the morning (and hence had to actually vote semi-seriously--click here to see that entry), got my sticker, and wore it around the rest of the day where people (who didn't live with me) could see it. And therein I learned how many people out there--that I passed in the hall, that I saw in the break room, that I ran into as I was walking to lunch--were (let's call 'em) fans of the electoral process. There were several. More than a couple, at least. They said things like "Good for you" while pointing at the sticker. It took me a while to realize what they were referring to; all those years of not having the sticker had set in me an expected pattern--all day I had to fend them off with declarations of my intent to vote when I got home. And even then, I figured they only had interest in me because I was someone who could still vote the way they wanted to help the side they supported. But with the sticker partially adhered to my shirt today, like last November, they offered their vague praise, without the possibility of influencing my already-cast vote. It seemed so pure, so admirable, and (to the extent that politics is capable of this) so innocent, that even I could overlook my cynicism that told me it was most likely that they figured I voted their way.

I always wanted to believe that someday politics would do something for me, and now I know what that is: A few kind words from the people who aren't so jaded about politics. As long as I got the sticker.

I kind of feel sorry for those who voted absentee.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

So this kind of qualifies as getting published

For those of you who wondered why I don't write something for somewhere other than my own web space here (and bless your heart for thinking of me when you weren't contractually obligated to do so), below is a link to the Black Table website, who (inexplicably) put up something I submitted to them:

blacktable

(scroll down a bit; it's the second-to-last item on "The Black List" for 11/2/05).

It's called getting good mileage out of the material, people.
.

Monday, October 31, 2005

What the Samhain?!


Who would be upset by this?

So this is how I went to work.
White shirt.
Black slacks.
Neck wound.

What I said to those who gaped in disgust:

"Rough day at the office."

"Don't try to slice a bagel by holding it on your shoulder."

"Whatever you do, don't make a joke about the boss' costume."

The best thing about this... understated adornment: No one asked what I was. Come to think of it, no one seemed that interested in engaging me in prolonged conversation.

I could probably use this other times of year to get out of meetings...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Looking forward to the end of forwarding

All of us were at one time new to the wonders of email and the Internet. Some of you are still in that stage of your development. However, at some point, you really need to adopt the following attitude about it: It sucks just as much as everything else.

If you are not yet jaded about it, the rest of us have a simple request: Please hurry up and get so. The only reason we haven’t complained yet is we know you don’t mean to be this annoying, but that’s only going to get you so far. We already among the jaded can be annoying in our tone of superiority, as we insulate ourselves in the belief that halfway into the first decade of the 21st century that the novelty of this should have worn off, and that everyone should be well accustomed to email and the Internet, and that everyone should know better. Then we get an email forwarded from you and we must take that deep breath, refrain from lambasting you with an acrimonious reply, and remind ourselves that a long time ago we too were that naïve. However, we tend to just delete the message because we have grown weary of seeming like the asshole in the scenario.

It comes down to this: Everyone is full of shit. Me, you, everybody. That’s not a criticism; I’m not suggesting there’s anything wrong with that, just you really should have figured that much out by now. Nonetheless, we all need to believe something is true, so some of the bullshit we accept as fact because it doesn’t contrast with what makes us happy, or because we don’t feel like explaining why we don’t believe it so it’s easier to go along. However, that works best with things like gravity—we haven’t invested the time to disprove them, and it probably doesn’t work in our favor to disbelieve it, as we have nothing to gain by suddenly having no force keeping us grounded and being flung into the vacuum of space. Unless we have the corresponding belief that we can breathe in outer space just fine, or that outer space doesn’t exist either.

The trick is not so much going along with the common beliefs of science but taking the easy way out; it’s quite a task to construct a complete, integrated reality that is internally consistent.

Getting back to email and the Internet: Perhaps nowhere else these days is it more true that everyone is full of shit than on the Information Superhighway. The trouble is there’s no policing agent to stop someone from putting his or her bullshit on the Internet, but those people must at least find some website for that; there’s some modicum of effort involved. It’s not that difficult as it used to be, but it carries with it the implication of having had to take some time to get it out there. (Yes, I know some of you are thinking it an attempt at irony here on my part, which it would be except I already admitted several paragraphs back that I don’t consider this other than my bullshit, so while I have undoubtedly been ironic at times, this is not one of them.)

More important, accessing something on the ‘net requires the effort on the reader’s part to leave their email and bring up a browser window. (If my personal experience is any barometer, that’s more than many people are willing to do.) Email seems more personal because it came specifically to you; you feel some compulsion to read it on that basis. You’ll get over that.

The jaded know well the trouble with email is that it’s worse: not only is there similarly no guard, but you merely needs online access and to have somehow acquired the email addresses of others. It doesn’t even take much time and only the most liberal interpretation of the term “effort” to click the Forward button and add others from one’s address book. And because you’re still of the opinion that it’s keen to pass along these jokes or inspirational messages or virus warnings, you do so to everyone.

We the jaded are not lacking in sense of humor, nor are we are necessarily atheists, nor are we blithely unconcerned about viruses. We are, however, not all the same in what we find funny or inspirational, and we don’t find out about viruses through a method that is known for spreading them.

We realize you lack the sense of scope of things and you don’t realize that more than likely we have not only already seen it but that we have received it from many of you, on several occasions. (And it wasn’t particularly amusing the first time.) We have no choice but to concede that there’s no way you’ll verify the facts in whatever you’re forwarding before you click the Send button. We know you still lack some standard for discriminating what is not worth forwarding. We chuckle at how you thought the text with the most egregious spelling and grammatical errors was something others needed to see (the humor is sucked out when we know the difference between “there” and “they’re” and “their”—what we thinking by paying attention in junior high school?)

We have long since abandoned the hope that you might compose something yourself, or at least added some personal message to what you were forwarding; we know you’re worried we’ll think poorly of you if your writing skills aren’t up to whatever passes for snuff. Allow me to let you in on a secret: We kind of think poorly of you for having forwarded it in the first place (yes, kids, that is irony); if you wrote something along with it, that would only improve your standing, no matter how clichéd or unoriginal. It would prove that you put some modicum of thought into your actions, and that would mean you were capable of thought, and that would mean you were on your way to joining the ranks of the jaded.

Okay, this is the point where you get all up in arms about the suggestion that you weren’t thinking of us when you forwarded it. Go ahead. We understand you need to be upset about it. We don’t agree, but we understand how you think you were thinking of us. Yes, yes, we understand how you think you’re too busy (or, as it would be in the message you forwarded, “…how you think your to busy”) to write something about yourself, or that you don’t think it would be enough to simply create a new email and say “Just wanted to let you know I thought of you today.” Allow me to make it clear: You’re right, in that it wouldn’t be enough, but still it would be a dramatic improvement over what you’re doing.

We’re not expecting you to review any rules of email etiquette; even we didn’t do that. We learned these things the hard way, by making many of these same mistakes ourselves. However, the point there is that we learned them, and much like how no one is more bothered by someone smoking than an ex-smoker, we’re getting a little weary of how you seem to be lingering in your ignorance. We really don’t mean to seem hypocritical, but, come on. We’ve been patient. It may not seem like we have, but trust us: we have.

We don’t expect you to change overnight. We wouldn’t presume to be so arrogant as to tell you how to conduct yourself; the liability of freedom is also its strength. (Hey, notice how there’s no apostrophe in “its”? That’s because it’s possessive, not the contraction of “it is”—admit it, you thought I’d screwed up there for just a second, didn’t you? It’s okay. You’ve been exposed to too many erroneous emails.) You have the power to do whatever you want. All we ask is that, at some point, if it’s not too much trouble, you start contemplating whether blithely forwarding emails is what you want, whether it achieves what you really want to accomplish.

We know if we ask you to leave us out of your list of recipients you’ll interpret that as some indication that we don’t like you. It does not mean that we don’t like you; it means we don’t like what you’re doing. We may or may not have actually liked you before you started forwarding the emails, but that’s beside the point. If you have constructed your reality around the belief that we like you, that’s fine with us. It is merely in your best interest to wise up so that we don’t have to reply in a way that disrupts your reality.

At some point you’ll learn how to copy the url from the address line so if you find something you wish to share you can at least point your victims—err, recipients—to the original text. Which they can then choose to integrate into their beliefs or dismiss—unless they feel like going along with it out of laziness, which is, of course, their choice. And when we receive the email, having been bcc’ed, we will know you are on your way, Grasshopper.

In the interest of full disclosure, I fully admit that I don’t know whether there is a group of the jaded out there beyond myself, and that it was completely inappropriate of me to use “we” throughout this piece. Apologies to the jaded, if you exist, for purporting to represent you. That is merely me confirming how full of shit I am, but at least I stand by my bullshit. That’s the reality I built for myself, for better or for worse. A story for another time…

(I know I don’t have to ask you to refrain from copying this and pasting it into an email. This is way too long for that. And I’ve used the potentially offensive term “shit” several times. And really, who the heck would believe George Carlin wrote this?)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Thought of the day again

Does life have a point, and really, was it ever supposed to have one? Discuss. Or don't.

Oh, and for those who are extraordinarily desperate to fill their time, I've added a bit to the My Profile section where you can learn more about me. Go ahead, click on the link on the left. We'll wait while you do...

(And if you're inclined to leave a comment on the above or any of this nonsense and are wondering why you have to type some letters (CAPTCHA it's called), I've been forced to enable that check because some scum-sucking worthless crapbucket who thinks it's quaint to fill anything that isn't locked down with spam tried to use the comments section to promote something inane. I sincerely hope that every single person who uses some automated process to fill our inboxes and website areas with this shit gets a hideous and painful disease. I never claimed to be a nice person. I digress.)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Pictures

A couple shots I've taken recently:
Looking down the platform of the Willow station on the Blue Line, and the sun setting over Hidden Valley in the mountains above Palm Springs.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Extreme city makeover

Ni hau! The photos included here could certainly be mistaken for shots from my trip to China two years ago, but they are actually Flower Street in downtown L.A.

The shot to the right is the Westin Bonaventure hotel with, yes, Chinese flags flying where Old Glory used to be; below that is the rear driveway to the Bank of America building (we'll assume those characters represent BofA); below that is the walkway to the World Trade Center, where a banner is touting a better city while the Monrovia Bus Line speeds below; and the lowest shot is a somewhat out-of-focus shot of how they've transformed the street under the 4th St. bridges--notice the Chinese characters on the street itself.

I've heard these are props for "Mission Impossible 3", but what film studio would bother with replicating China in downtown Los Angeles when less than a mile away is... Chinatown? (Even with a Scientologist at the helm.) And as someone who has been to China, I can tell you: everything over there is ridiculously cheap. If it were me, I'd just move the production to China rather than make three blocks of a busy American city look like it. If nothing else, there's no way one could find enough bicycles in car-obsessed L.A. to replicate how many there are even in small towns in China, so you'd have to be over there to achieve that. And as smoggy as this town is, it has nothing on the air pollution in Beijing--trust me.

No, I suspect the Chinese have made so much money from making everything we buy that they're just going to purchase our country, a few blocks at a time. They've found the easiest way to get a "better city" is to just take over a little bit of ours, and by disguising it as the making of a future box office failure, we all blithely allow them to do so. And all this time I've been dismissing communism as a failure.

Thank goodness I already know how to use chop sticks.

Er, I mean, xie xie.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Thought of the day

Dogs are the only pets who give a shit about us when we are sad.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Buy me no peanuts nor Cracker Jack

Um, as regards my last post: I should have thrown in a disclaimer that indicated that my actively rooting for the Angels would definitely thwart them, but that did not mean that my not rooting for them ensured their victory. Apologies for not mentioning that sooner.

Apparently, if the umpires are determined to have the White Sox win, even the Doug inverse curse cannot overcome that.

It's entirely possible that I exert no influence over these events, and that the fate of the team from SoCal was due to their utter lack of offense. Or that my predictions hold true (as proved to be the case in the ALCS), so my next one:

Astros in six. In both the NLCS and the Series. (Have to pick the underdog to test how far I can take this revised ability, if I have it at all. Which it's doubtful I do. Please don't mention this to the fans in Houston.)

Monday, October 10, 2005

Take me out of the ball game

I will take this opportunity, in the wake of the Angels defeat of the Yankees in the division series, to say the following to the team from Anaheim and their fans:

You’re welcome.

Earlier today, when asked by a friend at work whether the Halos would win, I replied (without hesitation), “No.” And here’s the thing: I meant it.

Before I explain why I would be deserving of gratitude, allow me to explain why I would have such low expectations. I was raised an Angel fan.

My father’s side of the family was all Angel fans in my youth (the 70s and early 80s). For a few years in my adolescence we even had a share of season tickets. I remember the Big A (as the stadium used to be called) before it was enclosed, hiding the view of the 57 freeway in right center, to make room for the Rams. (No, I never rooted for them.) I saw many games per season, wearing the Angels cap to every one, cheering for the home team. They didn’t win all that much, but still, they were my team.

Then along came 1986. For the non-baseball fans out there, the Angels made it to the playoffs for just the third time in their history. They were up three games to one in the best-of-seven series against the Red Sox. I saw them win game 3 from the field level seats. Then I got tickets to game 5—sure, way up in the top level, down the right field line, but I was there. And in the top of the 9th, the Angels had two outs, and reliever Donnie Moore had two strikes on the Boston batter. The stadium was on its feet—well, the fans in the stadium… um, you know what I mean. The air was electric with anticipation; for the first time ever the Angels were one strike away from going to the World Series.

But rather than get that last out, Moore surrendered two runs, leaving the Angels behind by one going to the bottom of the 9th. The stadium was stunned, then bordered on despondent. However, the Halos rallied to tie it up and send it to extra innings. That allowed us, the fans, to get our hopes back up, and then be let down all the worse when eventually they blew it in, as I recall, the 12th. We filed out like we’d all been punched in the stomach.

That was the moment I stopped being an Angel fan. Oh sure, I rooted for them as the series went back to Boston—where they still needed to win only one of two games to make it, and watched as they let that slip away. (However, all in all, that was a much more important year for Red Sox fans, as it allowed them to continue their beliefs of being cursed, with the infamous Bill Buckner play. That belief was, of course, blown last year when the Sox won it all, but now is no doubt back in effect with them swept by the White Sox in the first round of the playoffs this year.) It was more than I could take.

Yes, I caught a few more games in the years that followed (up until Disney bought the team), but most of those they lost. Over time, the Angels became merely one of many teams in Major League Baseball, no longer mine.

How is it, then, that I deserve credit for their victory this evening by virtue of having no faith in them?

I did not believe they had a chance in 2002, in either of the playoff series against the Yankees or the Twins, or in the Series against the Giants. And you saw how that worked out for them, not only making it to the Series but winning it. Only 16 years after the point where it would mean anything to me.

I'm not saying I can explain this, but apparently, the less I think of their chances the better they do. So now, as they move on to face Chicago in the LCS, to compete to represent the American League in the World Series, I say this: White Sox in five games.

You can thank me some time next week, Angel fans. Be grateful I’m no longer one of you; the team never went anywhere when I was actually rooting for them.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Real-time commentary

I'm sitting in my comfy chair with my laptop on, well, my lap (rather obvious--I know), watching TV while I type. And now I'm going to comment on whatever comes on screen.

Michelle Wie, the teen golf phenom, gets to drive a golf cart without a permit.

The scores of the hockey games with the new rules (that encourage scoring) look more like baseball. Oh wait. Better than baseball, in some cases. Perhaps our national pasttime needs to ditch extra innings and go to some kind of 10th inning home run derby to break the tie.

Carlos Mencia is not apparently Mexican, and that's supposed to be a scandal, but I don't recall him claiming to be Mexican. Even if he did steal his routines from George Lopez, I wonder why Lopez tamed himself. I'd rather watch "The Mind of Mencia" than George's eponymous sitcom. It may not be right, but I just know what I find more entertaining.

I don't watch the news; I watch the Daily Show. I am simultaneously ashamed and delighted at how many stories I learn about at the same time they are being lampooned. The Daily Show is too important for me to type while trying to pay attention to the jokes.

Wow. That was a less-than-impressive showing. Sorry for wasting your time. In this case.

At least I was ripping some tracks to mp3 from CDs while I was doing this, so the time was not a complete loss.

Oh wait. Jon Stewart (not his given name but I don't care) is commenting on how Nicolas Cage named his child Kal-El, from Superman's given name on his home planet of Krypton. Sure, that will likely get the child teased in later life, but it's hardly surprising when you consider that Cage is not the actor's given name. While it is reasonably well-known that Nicolas is actually a Coppola and that he changed his last name to escape the shadow of his famous relative, it may not be quite as commonly known that he pulled "Cage" from a comic book character--Luke Cage (a.k.a., Power Man--for the uninformed, a really strong black guy).

Never let it be said that collecting comic books as a child held no benefit for me.

Anyway, it does seem to be a consistent behavior for Nick, in light of what he's done before. And at least this time he went with a superhero that more people have heard of, so when young Kal-El must explain his name, people won't give blank stares.

Yes, my name really is Doug. And any children I may have in the future will undoubtedly not be named for comic book characters, mostly because there's no way their mother would go for that.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

No, really--the check IS in the mail

A little over two months ago I bought a wireless router at Best Buy. With the $30 in rebates I could mail in for, it was a pretty good deal. And in theory it would facillitate surfing the 'net on my new laptop while sitting in my comfy chair.

Of course, the rebate was broken up in two parts (one from Best Buy, and one from Linksys, the manufacturer), so I had to send off two envelopes with copies of reciepts, etc. The only other time I'd sent away for a rebate it took so long for the check to come that I'd forgotten what it was when it showed up. But with this deal, the first check (from Best Buy) came a few weeks back, and I was impressed (so to speak) with its relatively speedy arrival. It came in a plain white envelope which, to be honest, I didn't even open for two days.

Yesterday the second rebate check (from Linksys) showed up in the mail. And when I say the check showed up, I mean the check showed up. It was sent plain, in no envelope, with the "payable to" line pulling double-duty as the address line for the post office. (The metered mail stamp was up in the corner.) As with the first check, I didn't recognize it as something immediately worthwhile, since it looked more like one of those junk mail scams made to look like a check. I almost threw it in the recycling bin with the ads that were in my mailbox that day, because I wouldn't imagine they would send it in such a manner.

Well, I wouldn't imagine it would get delivered without someone making off with in somewhere along the way. Sure, it wasn't much, but I know the banks don't check real close on deposited checks these days.

Perhaps my general distrust of humanity is not completely warranted.

Perhaps.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Update on the streak

I don't like to toot my own proverbial horn, but I have been maintaining a streak for quite some time, and I haven't mentioned it in a while, but nonetheless it's still intact so I figured I'd give myself some props (as they say). This goes back so far I have long since lost track of how many consecutive days it has been, but rest assured it spans well over a decade--quite possibly two. The streak: a consistent pattern of not living up to my potential.

It hasn't always been easy--sure, most of the time it has been, but not every moment; I mean, over the course of that period I have, on occasion, been tempted to make something of myself, to see to fruition something I started, to do my little bit to make the world a better place. However, somehow I have found the strength of will--or rather, I should say, I have failed to find the strength of will--to keep this streak alive. How? All I can say is: I'm a natural. Kind of like Robert Redford in that movie, except without the baseball smashing the lights and the sparks raining down while running the bases in slow motion.

Please--hold your applause. I do it for the love of the game.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Solving the energy crisis

We all know that oil is going to cease to be an available fuel source some day. Changing our dependency on fossil fuels is a complicated issue, with many people with higher IQs than me working on the problem. However, I believe I may have found a viable alternative, which I humbly offer for the consideration of the powers that be.

KFC corn on the cob.

(Yes, the side dish from the Colonel's chicken franchise.)

Allow me to admit up front that I don't know how the restaurants prepare the corn, or even whether or not it's actually edible. To be honest, I have not been able to eat the corn on the cob ordered with a KFC meal in quite some time. What I do know is a meal that includes the corn on the cob, wrapped in a single layer of aluminum foil, should come with an oven mit. However, that it is very hot initially is, in an of itself, not that impressive. What makes it the potential solution to our impending catastrophe is the fact that, wrapped only in a single layer of (unimpressive) aluminum foil, it retains that tremendous heat for hours. Hours.

Stick with me here.

If we simply determine how to harness the power of the heat, say, to turn turbines to generate electricity, to heat our homes, to run our vehicles. Perhaps we simply need to get science to develop an ear of corn the size of Cincinnati and use its heat to power the country. Or not. I'm just brainstorming here; the exact details I leave to those thinking heads to work out. I'm an idea man.

No need to thank me. Just doing my part to save the world. As long as those corporate bastards at KFC's parent company will play ball. Otherwise, you can blame them when society collapses. At which point, that secret blend of eleven herbs and spices won't do them much good.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Cheap laughs--actually, free laughs

I am always amused when I spot an unobservant motorist turn the wrong direction down a one-way street in downtown Los Angeles (where there are many). Sometimes the error is caught before the turn is completed, sometimes the driver pulls a quick u-turn, but occasionally some fine and potentially tragic entertainment ensues when the driver proceeds blithely down the road. The absolute zenith of this experience occurs when the oblivious one starts to honk at oncoming traffic in his lane, believing the other is in the wrong. That is good stuff. Better than television--or at least funnier than that "The War at Home" show Fox put after the Simpsons. (Insert your own head-on crash joke here.)

A quick glimpse to the parked cars on the right facing the opposite direction would reveal the mistake to the driver, but of course, were he likely to notice such things he would have caught the one-way sign back at the intersection, and well… it’s not like one should be inconvenienced with having to pay attention while behind the wheel, especially when there are lots of tall buildings to distract. And then I’d have to alleviate my boredom with the thoughts in my own brain, rather than admiring the stupidity of others. Gratis.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

When I don't win the lottery

I found a story from last October where a winner of the lottery was shot to death by police during a fight at a bar just outside a Seattle Seahawks football game. After I got over the shock that this sort of thing occurred outside Oakland, I read on and learned that the man fired a handgun during the incident (which made me find other articles to verify that it was Seattle and not Oakland). While some claimed he did so into the air “to break up the fight,” the police (and many witnesses) claim he fired at a fleeing vehicle, then crouched behind a car and pointed it at them. The article concluded by mentioning the victim had used some of his winnings “to buy a house for his mother and cars for his siblings.”

Even assuming he fired the weapon only to snap the combatants out of their rage, he still was carrying the gun and thought firing it would be a good idea to resolve the situation. So while he may have been good to his family in light of his good fortune, it may be presumed he held some questionable ideas. Whether he was deserving of winning is another question, but one could argue that, judging from this, he had some serious karmic payback coming to him.

I do not, as a general rule, play the lottery. That’s not saying I have never purchased a ticket over the 20 years that California has been running one, but the few times I have done so resulted in nothing, so there was no reinforcement to make me continue. Simple enough from a behavioral science perspective.

However, on a more philosophical level, I cannot claim to be completely comfortable with the notion of hitting that kind of financial home run the first time I step up to the plate, without having worked my way up through the proverbial minor leagues; if I haven’t done something to earn it, either literally or figuratively, then not only cannot I not feel good about it, but I worry about the retribution the universe will eventually unleash upon me. (I’ve seen way too many episodes of “The Twilight Zone” to know how that works.)

I back it up with political concerns regarding how lotteries exploit the poor (which, let’s face it, they do—it’s not like the typical lottery player has a lavish portfolio of investments and savings), and how the justification for the implementation of the lottery here—to benefit the schools with part of the proceeds—has completely fallen by the wayside in the lottery advertising and thus (to the extent it was ever the case) in the minds of those playing. However, part of me worries that were I to play and win a large sum it would change my life not by alleviating concerns but by augmenting them; even if nothing bad happened right away, I’d always be wondering when it would be coming.

On another hand (if I may misappropriate that expression here), perhaps I have read Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” too closely.

Anyway, if you’re like most people to whom I have attempted to explain this, at this point you’re probably thinking I am completely insane (which is more or less accurate, but not for the reasons you’re thinking). How could one be so neurotic about a shortcut to the good life?

I used to work in a department where each week someone organized a collection of a dollar from anyone who wished to participate in a group purchase of tickets, and each week I’d decline. I claimed I didn’t want my bad luck to bring down the others. Telling them I was philosophically opposed to the lottery might work, but more often confused them, so I developed the luck joke. However, still sometimes they would try to convince me to chip in and it was always using the same argument: “Wouldn’t you feel bad if we won and you were left out?” At that point I’d smile politely and at least pretend to go back to working. (And in truth, no, I wouldn’t. If they all suddenly left due to sudden riches, at least their insipid questions would leave with them.) Last I’d heard, they still hadn’t won anything more than a pittance (which merely went back into more tickets the next week); the mind reels at how much those same dollars would have accrued in interest over the years, but there’s no excitement to that.

I think a lot of people take some comfort in the idea that there is some higher power that rewards the worthy and punishes the unworthy. That’s the backbone of a number of your more popular religions. More concretely, we appear to have a built-in sense of what is deserving of reward, and generally it seems to involve either intense suffering or utter selflessness. The producers of “Extreme Home Makeover,” for example, seem to seek out those who meet both criteria, which is why audiences are not merely envious of the new homes but sympathetic with the recipients (and the show does well despite the annoying host and other stars). The producers of “Pimp My Ride” make at least a token effort to find worthwhile individuals, but those whose rides get pimped tend to get picked for their ability to appeal to the younger MTV demographic, where the focus is much heavier on envying the ridiculous upgrades (and the show does well because of the charm of the host and the wacky personalities of the workers at West Coast Customs). When watching “Makeover” I tend to be moved (even though I know I’m being manipulated by editing) because the recipients are duly presented as deserving; when watching “Pimp” I tend to wonder how long before the young person’s revamped vehicle gets stolen or how long before the flat-screens in their sunvisors prove sufficiently distracting to cause an accident (because you know they watch while driving).

However, all that understanding of our innate sense of reward and punishment goes out the window when there’s millions to be won without having to live in some remote and unforgiving locale without getting voted off. Perhaps others simply have a better ability to delude themselves into believing they have somehow suffered and/or given of themselves sufficiently.

In any case, on some level I fear what might come of my life in the wake of suddenly coming in to such a sum by luck alone. It might not involve meeting a gruesome ending like the Seattle man. It might be something as simple as never getting to trust anyone new I meet. (That would be the T.Z. ending, of course—driven mad with my own paranoia.) If only I could attribute all of my problems to an inadequate bank account, rather than to the inadequacies of my personality—or, perhaps, more often, to the inadequacies of others’ personalities—then I’d find playing the lottery more alluring.

For whatever reason my standards are inexplicably consistent. Clearly I need a more convenient way of viewing the operation of the universe in this regard; this notion of “there is some modicum of justice meted out to the deserving” needs to be replaced temporarily with the heartless “everything is just random chance and there are no inherent consequences,” just like others apparently do while playing the lottery. (It’s an intriguing combination of creationism—er, Intelligent Design—and evolutionism, when you think about it.)

Thus, I am not insane enough.

Hmm. The more I think about it, the more convinced I become that if I suddenly became filthy rich I would not merely suffer paranoia but arrogance as well. Heck, that’s a given. If the way people with really expensive cars drive (as though they believe they own the road) is any indication, great wealth would make me more of a jerk than I already am. It would only be a matter of time before I went off the deep end and started hunting the poor for sport, a la Dr. Moreau.

Of course, as long as I pitched it appropriately, it could be developed into a successful reality show, which would make me even richer. And I wouldn’t go near a Seahawks game, so the cops would never be near me.

Excuse me while I run down to the 7-Eleven for a quick pick. (The Mega Millions is up to $200,000,000 tonight.) As Daffy Duck said, “Consequences, shmonsequences; as long as I’m rich.”

~~~

Back in 1989, Camper Van Beethoven included on their album Key Lime Pie a song called “When I Win the Lottery” (which is quite a good song, and you should look into hearing it at your earliest convenience). The protagonist of the song is a less-than-popular member of the community, an ex-con mechanic who aspires to win the lottery. Like many who dream of such fortune, he notes he would use some of the money in philanthropic ways. Well, at least, ostensibly so.

In the verses he explains how he would buy the affection of the women in his neighborhood by getting them new TVs and silver-plated six-shooters, and how he would make a large donation to the city “so they have to name a street or a school or a park after me.” By the end of the song he has explained his plan to buy the American Legion hall and paint it “red with five gold stars” just to piss off the hypocritical, self-righteous veterans. (Don’t get all bent out of shape if you haven’t listened to the song and paid close attention to the entirety of the lyrics. Back to our topic at hand, whatever that will prove to be.) In short, the protagonist is not one to be admired, but on the whole, he’s not necessarily more despicable than the others in town who look down their noses at him; he doesn’t deserve to win the lottery, but then again, who does?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Promotion

I think it's time for the Mr. & Mrs. Smith billboards to come down. The movie opened three months ago.

I'm just saying.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Giving

There are no frequent readers of this site, for the simple reason that clearly I don't update it often it enough to warrant anyone visiting it with any regularity. That's not pessimism; it's just the case. (Plenty of other things I've written here do qualify as pessimistic, but not that.)

There are many reasons why I don't update this more often, but I think it boils down to this: You really must have more important things to do.

Don't get me wrong--I appreciate you taking the time to bother reading this nonsense, but I think it a bit egotistical of me to expect your schedule is so open that you have time to spend reading this except once in a while, and even then it's only when you choose to ignore some more important activity. Thus, it is my overwhelming sense of consideration for you, gentle reader, that limits me in regards to adding entries here.

No need to thank me. (And all this time you thought me merely lazy.)

Remember: Sometimes, it's better to not give than to force reception.

Now get back to whatever you should be doing. Or don't. Far be it for me to tell you how to live your life.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Wanta Fanta? Great. But that has nothing to do with this.

One cannot stop computers from sucking, but one can mitigate the effects of computers sucking by always keeping in mind that computers suck and expecting them to suck, so that when they do one is not surprised, and during those intermittent periods when they aren't completely sucking one is as close to pleasantly surprised as one can be.

Another problem with computers: They fail to prevent run-on sentences. However, that's so low on the list of issues that we'll overlook that for our purposes here.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Haikus du jour

Proof that high school English class wasn't a complete waste of time:

Creativity
Enough for a first line here
A faucet it's not


That which we deserve
Justification eludes
Best to just accept


Pretty much a waste of time, but not completely.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Did the earth move for you?

According to my girlfriend and to the media, an earthquake struck Southern California yesterday morning. Apparently it was a magnitude 5.6 with an epicenter near Palm Springs, which, being only 100 miles or so from where I was at the time, seems like it would be something I would have noticed. I tend to be sensitive to seismic activity, or at least sometimes I perceive a shaking sensation when sitting still. (In fact, it has happened three times just while typing this paragraph. I suppose it could be an inner ear problem, but I don't think it's just in my mind; having lived my entire life in this area, I know what it feels like when the ground shakes.)

Despite the reports, I felt nothing at the specified time. I was outdoors, and standing on sand, so that makes it easy to dismiss my normal abilities as keen enough to pick up on it.

However, when I got back home later in the day, I started to be suspicious of the news stories. Caltech may have advanced instruments for gauging these things, but I have my own method for determining building-jolting events: On a shelf in my bedroom there's well over 25 Simpsons toy figures (I shan't refer to them as "action figures" to play on the obvious irony, nor call them "dolls" because I have never held a tea party with them), most of which are free-standing on the oak wood, just waiting for some vibration to disrupt tentative dance with gravity. (Some are anchored in playsets; those are purely ornamental, like the hot dogs at the Quickie Mart. They serve little scientific purpose.) I have witnessed, for example, Otto, with that plastic guitar around his neck, take a header (as though he were "blotto") from me merely walking too stridently across the bedroom. Because I don't dust often enough, when some of the figures topple there's always the less dusty footprints left behind even when they are stood back up. And not one of the figures had so much as even shifted slightly in position. I must believe that a quake of any significance would send Vacation Smithers (in Hawaiian shirt and holding a brown plastic suitcase) on a trip for which he hadn't packed.

I don't mean to suggest that my beloved girlfriend had hallucinated the whole thing. I mean, she is gracious enough to love a grown man with toys displayed in his bedroom (although not crazy enough to allow said toys to be displayed in the living room); I am not stupid enough to refute anything she says with such conviction. I am not incredulous regarding the scientists' claims that something happened. And from a conspiracy standpoint, the government might have faked the moon landing decades ago, but I doubted they had any hand in making a bunch of Southern Californians… well, not terribly concerned, but believing something occurred that didn't. Still, the evidence failed to support the declaration that there had been an earthquake.

I seemed to be experiencing something of a dilemma. Well, for the thirty seconds or so before I moved on to thinking about something else. Then today I realized what reconciled the claims with the evidence. I recalled my girlfriend noted the event felt like the building swayed back and forth. Therein lied the answer.

"Quake" means to shake or tremble. It brings to mind a certain violence, or at least panic-causing motion. That does not fit with the "swaying" description. Ergo, the problem is with the ubiquity of applying the term "earthquake" to any activity resulting from the shifting of tectonic plates; the event was something, but if it didn't put Professor Frink and his beaker on his back, it wasn't an "earthquake."

What was it then? Here I must acknowledge my lack of scientific background and, more important, my general laziness, and not tread into areas I don't belong. I shall leave that up to the geologists and, ultimately, to the marketing folks (no doubt involving focus groups at some point) to come up with a new designation for such seismic activities. I think, however, that if it involves "dance" in some way it will score well in the coveted 18 – 34 demographic. "Mother Earth Slow Jam" may do well in the urban market. Just throwing those out there; as I said, it's not my bailiwick.

I'm not sure what my bailiwick is, exactly, but thus far in my life it has not involved creating trendy names for natural non-disasters.

Here's where the obvious wrap-up would be: "That would test the bounds of my girlfriend's love just a little too much." However, in reality, she'd probably be happy if I explored such a path; anything to get me out of my dead-end job. So if anyone needs a consultant for unnecessary terminology, let me know. And if anyone in the media needs verification of whether a seismic event was really an "earthquake" or just the ground asking us to get our collective groove on, feel free to contact me. Groundskeeper Willy and Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel wait in my facilities—er, bedroom—ever-vigilant.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Something to explain most of my problems

Computers suck.

Okay, I suppose mentioning that I have made a living for the past nine years in what is ostensibly the "Information Technology" field lends some creedence to the assertion above. Or completely undermines it. Or both. However, the greatest frustrations stem from these silly amalgamations of circuits and disks and little 1's and 0's--or rather, from the unrealistic expectations built around them.

So the next time you're encountering some technological malady, remember the explanation is simple.


All I know is this: We were not meant to live this way.


[We now return you to your regularly scheduled existence, already in progress.]

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Streetcorner love

Overheard on the walk home, while waiting on a street corner for the light to change:

Young woman #1: "…But you guys fight all the time."
Young woman #2 (pushing a stroller): "Yeah, but the sex is great." [YW#2's tone turns wistfully playful, slurring her words ever-so-slightly, as if re-living a post-coital moment right there.] "I mean… it's like… it's like movie sex, you know?"

Note: I was clearly standing within earshot; she was rather proud of this, obviously. The light turns green and we three start across the street.

YW#1: "Well, no, I wouldn't know."
YW#2: "It's like…"

At this point we reached the other corner and our paths diverged, but there was a tiny bit more of YW#2's explanation I overheard. However, let's instead shift to what I thought at that moment:
Um, it's simulated, and performed in front of cameras and a crew, then edited so it fades to black before it gets to the good part?

Okay, now let's pick up that very tail of her explanation:
YW#2: "…passionate."

Oh, passionate sex! Egad, who ever heard of such a thing? Isn't it supposed to just be a perfunctory act that merely achieves the continuation of the species? If I didn't have such respect for others' right to lead their lives as they see fit—or rather, if I gave a crap—I would have reversed course and given her a good talking to. Yes, indeedy, a good talking to. However, I needed to get home because I had to pee.

During that last block's distance to the door of my building, while I ignored my bladder, I did start to ponder whether my girlfriend and I really had a sufficiently passionate sex life. I mean, I certainly thought we did, but then, we don't fight very much. Could we simply be deluding ourselves? Could we possibly have great sex merely because we loved each other, without screaming at each other the rest of the time, and without it occurring in front of a crew (at least as far as I'm allowed to admit here)? Was the fact that we actually enjoyed each other's company when we had our clothes on preclude us from getting the most out of when we didn't have clothes on? Did the fact we don't go around fondly reminiscing our escapades while strangers could hear indicate we had nothing to fondly reminisce?

Hold on. She was identified as "young," right? In fact, by my estimation, she would need a fake ID to get in a bar. I know I was completely stupid at that age (less stupid than I am now, at least).

And let's not overlook the fact she was pushing a stroller. That's the key: Clearly she was not having this "movie sex" with the father of her child.

Ba-dum-chink!

Anyway...

Perhaps the out-of-context remarks of strangers should be ignored out of hand, but isn't it more fun to dismiss her implicit formula for great sex by concocting this elaborate scenario of an ignorant slut, who gets knocked up, pops out the kid and then immediately starts sleeping around, thereby making her someone who should not be used as a gauge for anything?

In any case, crisis averted.

And for those of you who need all the loose ends tied up: Yes, I did make it home and to the restroom without wetting myself. (I really don't thank my parents often enough for potty training me all those many years ago.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Salvation of a sort

I thought of posting something here a little while ago, but now fatigue has set in. And it's almost time for "The Daily Show" to start. However, take whatever solace you may find in knowing for a few moments today I at least toyed with the idea of going on too long about myself in some way that may or may not have been interesting.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Question of the day

How arrogant and self-centered and filled with self-importance must one be to delude one's self into believing anyone else gives the proverbial rat's ass about what one has to say?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Clarification

Please pardon the blunt candor, but just so we're clear: I'm not doing this to fix your life.

Apologies for any inconvenience.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Not-So-Brave Old World: Pseudo-feminism for the semi-intelligent

Disappointment du jour:
This morning I caught a minute or so of "Good Morning America" while I was putting on my shoes. Why only a minute? Because it doesn't take me that long to tie my shoes. (I'll take a moment out to thank my parents for giving me that handy skill so many years ago. Still use it to this day.) The fact that I came from the bedroom to the living room fully dressed save for footwear, with a pressing need to get out of the house so I wouldn't miss my train, and turned on the TV for just that brief period while I slid the shoes on and tied the laces no doubt indicates an unhealthy relationship on my part with that device. However, for a quaint change of pace, we're not going to explore my neurotic quirks but those of (as best I can tell) roughly half the population of the Westernized world.

The TV came on tuned to ABC and I merely didn't change the channel. The segment already in progress was one of those puff pieces where they get a bunch of models to showcase the upcoming swimwear fashions. As best I can tell this is commonplace for the morning shows; I'm sure it's not difficult to get designers and/or retailers to agree to what is essentially free advertising pretending to be journalism. (Okay, to be fair, all fashion and entertainment journalism is free advertising, not just these pieces. I'm not complaining; just identifying a shovel-like suit in a deck of cards as a shovel-like suit in a deck of cards.) The "twist" in this one, as far as I could tell, was that rather than recommending swimsuits that complement with a woman's body shape they were suggesting particular fashions worked with a woman's astrological sign (apparently as an indication of her personality and therefore willingness to show a greater or lesser amount of skin). And while that is ripe for comment, that's not where I'm going with this.

The piece was hosted by Diane Sawyer (not sure whether she normally does GMA) and some woman who was introducing the models (not by name but by which sign they represented) and explaining how the fashions related to the theme. (I know—you're wondering how I was able to continue with my shoe business with this sort of fascinating spectacle on screen.) The models were all, of course, young and thin. That's what the models who do a morning talk program have going for them; they may not be stunningly gorgeous, but they're young and thin. With the last one featured, the model was in a bikini (I don't recall which sign was spotlighted—I must have been tying the laces at that point), and the announcing woman threw in a remark about the model's flat stomach (presumably as a helpful body attribute to pull off wearing such a suit, whatever one's sign). With the segment coming to a close, Diane Sawyer thanked the announcer woman and all the models for coming. However, just before segueing to commercial, she muttered a comment about wishing she had a flat stomach like the last model, and she sounded completely sincere.

Well, of course being an accomplished journalist who appears regularly on national (international) television programs is clearly less worthy of coveting than is having shapely abs when you're not even old enough to get in to bars.

Disappointment level 1: I suspect women reading this reacted to the above first with an identification with Diane's stated desire for the lithe figure, and then with a sense of defensiveness, feeling that casting on TV journalism is unfairly skewed toward the young and pretty, and that the only way for women to stay viable is to continue to look young and pretty.

They undoubtedly would argue that Diane wasn't serious, and I fully concede she was not contemplating trading in her career to acquire such a physical attribute. I am not removing all context from the situation. She is an intelligent, successful woman, and the model is some nameless flat stomach who appeared on screen mere seconds. While that's all true, and I agree completely, she still felt compelled to utter that envious thought aloud while they were on the air. I can't help but think the motivation for that, if only on an unconscious level, stemmed from the belief that it was what a lot of the female viewers were thinking.

Disappointment level 2: I guess I would hope that a woman who will turn 60 this year and still looks fantastic and who has led a life much more enviable (in my opinion) than anyone who makes a living from lucky genetics would have gotten over the shallow standards women have been brainwashed to believe they should maintain. I don't know; perhaps the show of vulnerability makes her more appealing to the women, as some indication that she suffers the same way they do.

Disappointment level 3: The women reading this will dismiss everything I said complimenting Ms. Sawyer's accomplishments and mental prowess because I'm a guy, and therefore the only reason I could possibly have been watching the segment for the aforementioned minute would be prurient interest in the semi-clothed bodies of the models. I must be rabidly attracted to young flesh. That's all I could possibly desire in a woman: nubile naiveté. That's the only aspect of a female that could hold my attention: looks.

Disappointment level 4: This is directed toward myself. I pushed it a bit too far with the sarcasm in the last paragraph. I should have been able to make the point without being so obvious.

Disappointment level 5: For some reason, I hadn't lowered my expectations for this society where there's people out there who are putting the airhead bimbos in front of the teleprompters (perpetuating the whole cycle), and where the public seems to think that's how it should be.

I've stopped flipping through channels plenty of times because a pretty face was on the screen, but I've only left it there if there was smarts and personality to go along with it. Or, I suppose, if I were occupied with tying my shoes.

(And now you're disappointed this didn't have the typical self-deprecating twist at the end.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The end of lunch as we know it

In the restaurant where I had lunch today there was music playing. This is fairly common practice in eateries, presumably aimed to provide some semblance of ambiance, to provide the patrons with a pleasant environment, escaping for a brief period the firestorm of hectic modern living. And because when it's too quiet people expect there to be books on shelves, and that doesn't make people want fries with that.

It sounded like one of those commercial-free satellite stations, with the focus on pop hits from the 80s, a decade I remember alarmingly well, and one apparently popular with the restaurant’s demographics. Or just the one the manager left it on by mistake. As I waited to place my order, the song playing through the speakers was "Electric Avenue" but the singer was not Eddie Grant. It sounded pretty much the same in tempo, arrangement, etc., but the song clearly had been re-recorded by someone who sounded about as reggae as Pat Boone. It wasn't muzak, but still it made Pat Boone's version of "Tutti Fruitti" seem as raucous as Little Richard's.

(I don't remember the 50s firsthand, but have listened to a reasonable amount of oldies radio. For you youngsters, there was a time when to make rock n' roll—which some called "devil music"—palatable to a conservative audience, the hits of black artists were redone by popular white singers of the day, with all the soul pretty much sucked out. Oh wait. I forgot we still have "American Idol", so you know about that. Anyway, let's get back to our story.)

I found myself wondering who would bother with such a watered-down remake (and, moreover, why any radio station would play it). Then I was enlightened: The next song was "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun"—well, a version of that track that featured a vocalist who resembled Cyndi Lauper inasmuch as she too was female. By the time I got my food I'd gleaned the station's whole format revolved around pale imitations of songs that were popular during the Reagan Administration. Again befuddlement struck me: Why did these songs need to be redone in a manner that was neither muzak nor music? And why wouldn't the station just play the original versions? I suspect the royalties being charged for Eddie and Cyndi were well within the range of anyone with at least a paper route.

Part way through my meal, after I'd tuned out the sound, I was brought back into the fold when I noticed "California Girls" playing. Not the Beach Boys, of course, but in the same paltry style as the other songs. I revised my surmise of the format to be lame (as in limping) covers of pop songs from multiple decades (because why should only one ten year period be insulted?).

And then in the hollow harmony of the chorus, between the overlapping "I wish they all could be California Girls," I discerned the lead singer interject, mildly: "I love them girls… whoa." (Exclamation mark withheld on purpose.)

I took petty solace in having been right in the first place. This was a cover of the David Lee Roth cover of the Beach Boys, lacking in the sunny flavor of the original or the cheesy schmaltz of the remake. And with that I was not so much wondering why it was being played but merely curious why they couldn't get Diamond Dave himself to re-sing it. (I bet he'd work for scale.)

While it's easy to criticize an establishment that would actively use that in their attempt at ambiance, both for health concerns (that it can't be a good environment for food preparation) and out of simple respect for rock music in its myriad non-watered-down forms, I think I understand the higher purpose of the crap.

It came to me when later I saw an ad for a new a series NBC is to begin airing called "Revelations" (based roughly, I imagine, on the Biblical prophecy of the end of the world, where I'm pretty sure Satan comes to rule over the earth or something like that). Whatever your religious proclivities, I think you would have to agree: there's no way any lord of the underworld would spring forth and want to take dominion over a world with an entire station devoted to taking songs that were not that great in the first place and making them worse, with an abject lack of irony.

Rest easy, people: Surely the Devil wants no part of this "devil music".

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Raging Walter Mitty (a modest impulse)

When I’m walking down a well-lit, semi-populated street, striding purposefully and as unthreateningly as one can without crawling, and someone I pass eyes me warily and gives me an unnecessarily wide berth, sometimes I feel like going up to that person and thrusting my elbow straight into his face. You know, a back-sweeping blow, with absolute and inexplicable malice, trying to break the nose or something.

I never do it, of course, continuing to walk purposefully and giving no outward indication of the impulse. I may even feel somewhat guilty about the unwarranted animosity as I continue on my way before the thought completely passes and my mind moves on to contemplate something that’s probably equally unfit for admitting to people on a website.

I suppose the motivation, on some unconscious, testosterone-inspired level, stems from the sense that this person’s paranoia is practically begging for something threatening to occur; animals can smell fear and apparently so can I. The world has so conditioned my unwitting pseudo-prey to operate as though everything is out to get him that it’s almost as though doing nothing is letting him down. I mean, if the Bush administration’s insistence that “America is safer” has not put him at ease, I am sure that making eye contact and smiling innocently wouldn’t have much effect on his outlook. However, I bet justifying his distrust of strangers would, on some level, provide a sort of satisfaction; it wasn’t all for nothing that he comported himself as he did.

Undoubtedly the irritation I feel also springs from the impression that, despite all of my subtle efforts to seem at least not untrustworthy, I have been lumped in with those scoundrels who flaunt their machismo in their gait, presumably wishing to instill such fear. I suppose I could revel in such glowing success in the absence of any effort whatsoever, but really, as this essay reveals, I’m plenty capable of being off-putting when you get to know me; I don’t need the uninformed paranoia of strangers helping me there.

The irony (let’s overuse that term), of course, comes from the fact I’ve never been in a real fistfight my entire life, and anyone who has even so much as seen an episode of a sitcom where the protagonist attends a beginning self-defense class could almost certainly take me down without wrinkling his clothes. Perhaps that sub-conscious realization on my part, when combined with the perception of being threatening, elicits in me a reaction that’s akin to one dog sensing submission in another. (Hmm. On second thought, anyone who knows dogs knows what one dog tries to do to another dog in that scenario, and that would not only get me arrested but force me to hire Michael Jackson’s lawyers, so please try to appreciate the metaphor without dwelling on the practical application thereof.)

I am civilized enough that it never manifests in action; I am intelligent enough to grasp that unlike the thugs who have forethought and get away with their violence, I would be not only be arrested but, not being a celebrity, would get the maximum sentence; I am considerate enough that I wouldn’t do that just on principle; I am lazy enough that it’s simply too much trouble to bother; I am pusillanimous enough to worry the person has seen that sitcom episode.


“Deeds of violence in our society are performed largely by those trying to establish their self-esteem, to defend their self-image, and to demonstrate that they, too, are significant. …Violence arises not out of superfluity of power but out of powerlessness.”
– Rollo May (identified by the editor of The Great Thoughts as an “existential therapist”), 1972


"Elbow?" I know enough about my fighting prowess not to attempt to use a fist, and that the elbow can both deliver and withstand more punishment.

"Him?" Go with it. Admittedly, more of the incidents of this scenario involve women I pass, but I’m not so stupid as to be oblivious about the fact the pronoun “her” would give the whole thing a connotation I don’t intend, and would pretty much destroy what little humor there might be.


~~~
Unrelated quote:
“I’ve only this morning learned of blogs, and my first reaction was, ‘Why would anyone care?’”
– Rosario Dawson, in a public diary feature for Black Book magazine, Feb/Mar 2005 issue.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Hey! A picture I took!


nothing to do with anything. building in downtown L.A. Posted by Hello

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Old habits die surprisingly easily

Happy A-Month-Or-So-After-Groundhog Day, everybody.

There was a time when I sent out Dougression-type emails to commemorate the lesser holidays like that. There was a time when I thought I had a reason to, I suppose. I was inspired by some vague pleasure associated with acknowledging the little guy, celebration-wise. It wasn’t so much that I did anything to actually celebrate the days in question; it wasn’t accurate to say I was really “in tune” with the origins of the celebrations (although I could do modest research on the internet to approximate some understanding thereof); it wasn’t as though I gained anything from alerting people to the trivial aspects of the days other than some minor satisfaction from having sent out something.

It was easy fodder for subject matter; that much is easy to admit. Making it interesting for my “audience” was pretty simple, given I wasn’t blathering on about myself. It ensured I’d get at least a few messages read by a fair number of people each year; for some reason that must have appealed to me. Ultimately it all boiled down to: Finding some sense of community in this big crazy world. (It’s only over-analysis of the situation that renders that conclusion, but that’s what I do.) I aspired to keep some modicum of contact with those people who had expressed some interest in hearing from me; there’s only so many folks with whom I can hope to get along well, so I can’t let them get too far away (metaphorically speaking). Sending out messages is, frankly, how I maintain some of my friendships (in some cases it’s the entirety of the relationship), so it’s how I get some sense of connecting with these people without having to make an effort to, say, see them face to face on any sort of regular basis. But I digress. We were discussing the commemoration of events like the quaint notion that a rodent predicting the severity of winter for the next three fortnights.

Why would anything like that catch on? More important, why would it continue to be celebrated in this day and age? It gets back to the community thing. We like excuses to get out from the doldrums of our everyday existence, yes, but we also want to get out amongst others who are of a mind to celebrate something just for the heck of it; it makes us part of a group of ostensibly like‑minded individuals, if only for one day in February. (It’s also probably the only time that town in Pennsylvania gets mentioned in the national news, and must do wonders for its local economy with the temporary boom in tourism, or at least in reporters staying in town to cover the morning’s festivities.) However, my messages commented more on that delightful absurdity than about the importance of whether it would be snowy through March (growing up in Southern California that’s never been of particular concern); it intrigued me that people went to such efforts to maintain a tradition that had long since lost its intended significance. (Well, that presupposes that everyone appreciates the day in some ironic context; it’s entirely possible that Punxsutawney Phil can foretell the weather and it’s unfair to dismiss it as a long-standing publicity stunt. All I can state definitively is my intention with the messages I sent, and only somewhat so at that.) Something about that appealed to me, and I figured it would appeal to others (based on the fact it still gets mentioned on calendars and the news, etc.), and those people are worth keeping in contact with.

Or at least they used to be, before some implicit novelty wore off. Or perhaps I've succumbed to a hibernation-like routine. Every so often I emerge from my hole, see my shadow, and then... six more weeks of curmudgeon-ness.

And pretending that "curmudgeon-ness" is a word is a sure sign I need more human contact. Or maybe I just need to be feted by Pennsylvanians.

Make of this what you will

Poop.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Yesterday's future today

Although from the frequency of posts here it seems like I rarely write, the reality (or some delusion commonly agreed upon) is I don't often write on a computer outside of work (where I spend far more time behind a keyboard than humans were even meant to). On the train ride to and from the office, I jot down thoughts on a pad of paper with alarming regularity, sometimes composing several handwritten pages of drivel a day. (That I consider my journal, something I have been keeping on and off since 1988.) To the extent any of that is worthy of being shared with others, when I get home each night I tend to be too tired, undisciplined, unmotivated, and distracted by television to transcribe the barely legible text and transform it into as close to a coherent essay as I bother to achieve here.

A short time ago I borrowed a laptop from work to test using it during the commute. What follows is what I wrote one morning on that machine (a rumination on what it might be like to switch from using paper and pen to using a computer), without revision. You have been warned.


The biggest loss, to the extent that applies, to switching to composing on a machine like this would be the lack of false starts. That is, when I’m writing on a pad with a pen and I decide I don’t like the word choice or I decide to change the direction of the sentence or I misspell a word and have to re-write it to get it right (or as close to right as my brain allows at that moment), there’s lingering evidence of it: the lines scratching out the “deleted” text. Often I make them so heavy it would take forensics to make out what was there originally, but there’s no way to hide that I either goofed or reconsidered. On the computer, of course, if I backspace over a mistyped character or if the automatic spell check kicks in and the guesswork is taken from the scenario, all that is left is the end result—which may still be flawed from the standpoint of how well I composed whatever theme I pretended to be exploring, but would show no evidence of the process by which it was achieved (be it worthwhile or not).

I suppose there’s something about the process that I find enjoyable, and hence the slight dismay over the alteration to the way that would work by changing the methodology. No, let’s call it what it is: arrogance and egotism. Like anyone who puts even the slightest artistic effort into a task (go with it—remember, arrogance and egotism), I harbor some delusion that the process grants some delightful insight into my person and my personality, and should it prove to be something that is regarded as genuinely artistic, some scholar might choose to analyze it thoroughly someday (presumably after I’m dead but perhaps sooner), and the scratched out passages could be seen as some kind of Rosetta Stone to the enigma that is Doug.

Arrogance and egotism. I make no proverbial bones about it. Not that I’m sure what making a bone of something means from an etymological standpoint, but nonetheless the expression has made its way into my vernacular. (See, that’s the sort of detail the scholars would eat up. That frightens me somewhat, to be frank.)

On second thought, there may be something to be said for having the evidence of my mistakes be lost to history. More than being combed over by scholars it would just be used to tear down what little I may have achieved. Well, that’s not so much an issue; given the way I try to reveal my shortcomings in these essays, what might be learned in a journal entry that would be that damning is somewhat hard to imagine.

Really, it’s probably my own inadequacies that aren’t exploited by writing on a pad of paper with a pen that I like about that method. With electronic words in an easily transferable format like this, I have little excuse to not go back and revise, to hone it to something that is ready to be shared (if the thought is even remotely worthwhile); with immutable scratches of ink on a piece of wood pulp, there’s no opportunity to go back and re-work it. It can be re-written, yes, but that’s essentially starting over, just with a good outline; it’s not merely tweaking a word here and there, not just adding or subtracting a line to improve the argument. It’s much more laborious, and hence the ideal excuse to not bother with even starting (unless great inspiration strikes)

Yes, procuring a laptop of my own (that is as small enough to be used it on the train, harnessing the nigh ten hours a week I’m already accustomed to being semi-productive) is certainly a first step to overcoming my shortcomings, and perhaps getting to the point where scholars would decide that the world needs no greater insight into the enigma of Doug than concluding he’s not much of an enigma.

[I am presently stymied by the decision of what kind of laptop to get, with what bells and whistles, etc. Ah, the joys of a neurotic bent to one's personality.]