Monday, October 30, 2006

Freak out

What to be for Halloween? Every year it's the same dilemma: Any good costume idea comes to me way too late to actually pull it off in time for my friend's annual party. Trying to think of ideas with weeks or months to go makes the most sense, and we try that, but it never works out for one simple reason: Only the pressure of being down to the wire really inspires me. I can't fake those conditions ahead of time.

This is one of my many flaws. I shan't make a joke about it making me charming.

The costume should be clever enough so that when people see it and discern what it is they compliment it, but it shouldn't be so clever that it needs to be explained. It's perfectly acceptable for it to be somewhat disturbing, but given that it's a party where ultimately all we're doing is hanging out, drinking and talking, it shouldn't be nausea-inducing (which is different from nauseating). Referencing something in the popular culture can be the most clever, but can also backfire if it isn't recognized.

Most important, it shouldn't require staying in character all night. That's just annoying (not only for others but for me as well—I am not a thespian, as everyone knows).

For a while the leading candidate was zombie Dane Cook, but I feared I wasn't familiar enough with his style and mannerisms to really pull it off--and no one would get it without the act. ("You know what's great? Eating human flesh with some Pringles and a glass of milk—delicious in my undead belly." "You know who I'd really like to eat? My Employee of the Month co-star Jessica Simpson… oh yeah!") That'd get old fast.

My girlfriend put the kibosh on any cape-wearing. Considering I have three, that did reduce my last-minute idea possibilities considerably. (Perhaps I shouldn't admit that in this pseudo-public forum. Eh, oh well.)

Saturday, the day of the party, I still wasn't sure. However, my girlfriend is wonderfully creative, and it's easy to pick up some makeup and pull out the box of stuff from previous Halloweens and allow myself to be her canvas.

So, what did we end up going with? See for yourself:

I'm the one who's not Fat Elvis.
Undead... kinda punker... guy.

Gimme a cheeseburger. Or human flesh.

Focus on the neck wound. Yes, those are safety pins sticking out.

Someone asked how we did it. First, you get a serated knife...

Oh well. We hit nausea-inducing anyway. Next year I'll try to be something cute... like a teddy bear... a zombie teddy bear...

Happy Halloween everybody!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Summing it up

I've been observing this YouTube (we'll call it) revolution. Heck, despite being bought by Google, it has even infected Yahoo, where now that site's home page (via its annoying "The 9") features videos of regular schmoes from YouTube. Regarding the direction the web has been heading in general, and there's only one conclusion:

The only thing that the internet is good for is sharing video and pictures (including watching repeats of TV shows your Tivo failed to record).

This site, obviously, is largely out of step with this new paradigm, only occasionally posting photos.

Thus, I must offer this advice to those of you stopping by this site: Just look at the pictures. Words should be printed out and read on paper.

Please act appropriately, depending on what kind of post I've put up. Thank you.

This one was probably short enough that you don't need to print it.

(Recycle the paper you use to print out the longer textual pieces. 'kay?)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My sweet one

In the latest Esquire, the "10 Things You Don't Know About Women" feature was contributed by Liz Vassey (who's apparently on one of the CSI shows), whose rule #4 was:

We won't tolerate your lies. Exception: "You're the prettiest girl in the room."

Maybe I suffer some kind of disorder, but I was not of the belief there was an objective standard of beauty that every single person had to adopt; I thought there was something to that whole "eye of the beholder" stuff.

I concede there are certain tendencies that are common regarding what is interpreted as physical beauty, and that the media makes great efforts to codify our perceptions of beauty (although all they really do is declare who is "hot", which is separate from being beautiful). However, that doesn't actually force everyone to perceive beauty uniformly.

In any room full of people, there will inevitably be many (if not all) women who are pretty. However, there'll only be one who's the prettiest: the one I'm in love with.

Am I suggesting love alters my perceptions? Damn right I am. If it doesn't do that, it's not love. And not only does it do that, but it should do that.

That's how I know she's the woman for me: That when we're in a room full of very pretty women, I look at her and my genuine thought is that she is beautiful. Thus, were I to declare her the prettiest one there, it wouldn't be a lie.

I know the pithy remarks on the page aren't meant to be overly analyzed, but I get the impression Ms. Vassey was alluding to what guys who are just trying to get laid say. However, by suggesting the guy's statement was intrinsically untrue, I think she is too dismissive of the possibility that the rest of the women in the room ... could merely have good personalities (as they say), and that (statistically speaking) she really could be the prettiest one, in given situations.

As long as my girlfriend isn't there.

Jacaranda-palooza takes on new life

I've taken the "Jacaranda-palooza" posts from June - July and given them a spotlight in their own site, which you can see here.

This way, jacaranda fans can locate just those posts without having to trudge through all this varied-topic nonsense.

I'm so freakin' considerate. Intermittently.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

D-Town headwear dilemma

Although the Tigers are now in the World Series, back in 2004 my girlfriend and I attended a game a Comerica Park where the then-dismal Tigers lost to the Chicago White Sox.

(It would be easy to disparage a team for using "x" to replace "cks" but it was good enough for Boston, so it was not without precedent; the sports public has accepted this early version of text-message diction long before there were devices to allow text messaging. The seeds are sown early in some cases.)

Anyway, after the game we walked around the stadium—the whole thing—in search of a Tigers cap for me. I didn't want a standard fitted wool cap like the players wear, however. In my younger, more-serious days of following baseball, only a fitted cap would do, but now well into my apathetic semi-middle years, I have learned such hats are rather warm in the summer. The local friend who attended the game with us wore a Detroit warm-up cap, which had this mesh pattern of tiny holes in it to allow airflow, and didn't seem like a bad-looking cap, so we went in search of one of those in my size. Seemed a simple enough mission.

The circumference of my head has always been a bit small, relative to my height. I'm not sure why I feel reluctant to admit that; it's not like my head is freakishly small or anything, nor is there any supposedly correlation between one body part and another regarding the head. I consider my head to be perfectly normal, but it's the only one I've ever had, so I'm rather prejudiced in this area; why many others have larger heads I don't know, but I'd argue it's just as viable to state they are the unusual ones (despite their apparent majority).

The caps we sought were not adjustable, but semi-fitted with elastic or something. They weren't as narrowly sized as the wool ones; they came in S-M, M-L, L-XL (so it was a matter of determining in which range one's head fell). There were lots of the L-XL available, but that was too big for my head; we couldn't find any M-L, which we presumed would fit me. We came across a couple S-M ones, but those were, somewhat satisfyingly, too small. We went to every open merchandise store in the stadium (although there really weren't that many) and found no caps in the right size. Eventually we abandoned the search and I purchased a grey t-shirt with the old-type athletic department writing ("property of Detroit Tigers baseball club") on it.

This wouldn't happen at Dodger Stadium or Anaheim Stadium, I know that. Southern Californians may not stick around for the end of baseball games, but our stadiums know how to adequately stock merchandise.

I take the fact that we couldn't find any caps in the right size as proof that my size head is the common one, not the larger ones.

We did eventually find a Tigers hat for me--a cotton, adjustable one--in (of all places) Target. In L.A.

Of course.

Monday, October 23, 2006

TV Party: Overhype on the Sunset Strip

As a fan of Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing from its first episode through the finale (even through the second-to-last season), and before that enjoying his failed Sports Night, I was bound to watch Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip this fall. Not only does it feature many of the fine actors from WW, but in the months leading up to the S60 premiere the NBC marketing machine ensured that I was not oblivious to its existence; there were articles in every magazine and newspaper, there were spots on their network and their associates (Bravo, USA), there were billboards taking up the entire side of buildings on Sunset Blvd.

I knew it was coming.

Unlike Sorkin's previous series, where by my recollection I knew little about them before seeing an episode (truth be told, I caught the first episode of WW more by accident than intent, with nothing else on in that time slot that interested me; from what I'd seen in promos, I expected it was a sitcom), with S60 I saw a lot of hype for it. (It struck me as a bit odd at first that NBC would do this, as it had been my belief that they had given up on WW long before it actually finished, pre-empting its 8:00 pm Sunday time slot whenever possible—especially during sweeps.)

I liked to believe this indicated the network really believed in the show, and that the press really thought it was good. However, it did start to approach that level where it made me worry that the publicity machine was compensating for something.

Then last month S60 premiered. I watched it. I enjoyed it.

During its second week I was on vacation, but I taped it and watched it later. I have seen all the episodes thus far, and I fully intend to continue watching it. It's a decent show, featuring the standard Sorkin elements that all the magazines said it would have. (Matthew Perry shows how much he was wasted on Friends.)

The thing is, I don't find myself watching with the same level of interest that I did with WW. When I would watch those new episodes (and I watched them on tape when it moved to Sundays, as it was up against The Simpsons), I paid attention. I wasn't washing dishes or doing laundry or having it on while doing something on the computer. It required focus, and I wanted to give it that focus. S60… well, it keeps my attention, although perhaps not 100% of it.

I hadn't contemplated it that deeply, but after last week's episode, when I was trying to think of what was different between this and the previous series, and what came to mind first was: it's not funny. It's well-written, well-acted, well-directed, but for a show ostensibly about a comedy, it is alarmingly short on levity. That was part of what I liked about WW: it was a drama, certainly, but the repartee between the characters injected moments that were humorous (without being heavy-handed about it), albeit only inspiring a chuckle or perhaps a smirk. S60 has repartee, sure, but it's not the same, somehow; the show should be funnier, but it's just not quite working. Maybe I haven't gotten invested in the characters enough, or maybe they need to establish the milieu better first, but that's the sense I get.

Then I see how last week's Entertainment Weekly (which had already hyped it in the pre-season preview) was pushing it again, as one of the "5 Shows You Should Be Watching" and I thought:
Okay, now they're compensating.

Was NBC thinking a semi-erudite show about a television show would garner the ratings of a Lost or American Idol? Of course not, I assume.

Then by the weekend I saw two separate things that made me realize I wasn't alone (although apparently if I kept up better with reviews I would have seen this before).

The first was the hilarious "op-ed" piece (see link below) in the latest printed version of The Onion, where the writer reflects on how S60 used to be so relevant, for its first ten minutes, but after that has become formulaic.

The second was a bit on Friday's Best Week Ever episode where they also took the series to task for not being that funny, given that it's about a comedy show.

With that thought more or less validated (not that I require such things, but I'll take it when it comes on its own), I could move on. Or rather, move back.

I cannot help but wonder whether I went in a bit more ignorant about S60 as I had with WW, without the overwhelming publicity machine trying to convince me it was great, I might be perfectly happy with it being pretty good rather than being slightly disappointed.

I'll never know, however.

Next year I'll lock myself in a cave over the summer, just to be on the safe side.

(In the meantime, I'll concede tonight's episode, while still not that funny, had some decent drama.)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Vacation highlights (of sorts), part V: A heartbreaking mecca

Highlights from two week ago's vacation (in no particular order):

Tuesday, September 26

San Francisco (more)

While in San Francisco, one of our stops had to include visiting "one of the top five pirate stores" David Byrne had been to: the shop in front of the writing project started by the McSweeney's folks, 826 Valencia.

It wasn't because I'm a sycophant for David Eggers (I'm not--although I have read and vaguely enjoyed his first book), nor was it entirely because I enjoy their Believer magazine. It's a store devoted to pirate merchandise (where the proceeds support helping kids become better writers); that's always a worthwhile stop.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

And now, this unnecessary deconstruction of our language

Extra means more. If you ask for something extra spicy, it should come spicier than mere spicy would be. When I order a burger with extra pickles, it should be made with more pickles than they usually put on one.

So, logically, extraordinary should indicate the thing being described is even more ordinary than what would be ordinarily described as ordinary. Something so predictable that it is inconceivable that anyone could be surprised by it.

Yet, what it actually means, of course, is something that is beyond ordinary, more than ordinary. Here "extra" causes the term being modified to become less of what it was rather than more.

There is no learning English. Stop trying.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Vacation highlights (of sorts), part IV: Another grammar town

Highlights from two week ago's vacation (in no particular order):

Tuesday, September 26

San Francisco

Sign seen in a window on 18th Street, between Valencia St. and Mission St., which would be in what is known as the Mission District.

Are you there, God? It's me, inadvertant irony.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Vacation highlights (of sorts), part III: Ghost dance

Highlights from the week before last's vacation (in no particular order):

Monday, September 25

Napa Valley, California (more)

After a day of wine tasting in the valley, what else would my friends do but break into dance? And in the process, they became semi-transparent.

But they stayed on the beat.

(Ah, the effect of using the night flash on my camera. Pretty cool, huh?)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Hollywood Hill

September 2, behind Carney's on Sunset in fabulous West Hollywood.

This part is not as fabulous as other parts, admittedly.

(What? You were expecting more vacation pictures or something?)

Friday, October 06, 2006

Vacation highlights (of sorts), part II: Roll out the barrel

Highlights from last week's vacation (in no particular order):

Monday, September 25

Napa Valley, California

Barrels of wine at the Sterling Vineyards.

After a weekend of dragon boating in the San Francisco Bay, some of us headed north last Monday to do some wine tasting.

(Don't worry: We bathed first. We're not completely uncooth.)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Doing my part, in a manner of speaking

This morning I was not in a particularly good mood. Last night I didn't get home from work until roughly ten minutes before The Daily Show came on. And as I tried to get back to work today (for reasons that baffle me), the 9:05 train just never showed up; the 9:15 arrived on schedule, but that wasn't the one I should have caught.

Finally I got downtown and walked up the street from the station to the office. While in a crosswalk, I noticed coming the opposite direction two women with a man next to one of them, leaning his head and looking vaguely toward her, as though in something of a conversation.

As I passed, the woman broke off from the man and reversed direction to now be in step with me.

A 6'3" white guy in a medium blue striped shirt and navy slacks.

She started talking to me, even though I had not looked at her. "Is it okay if I walk with you?" she asked.

"I'm just walking this way. I really don't care what you do." (Bear in mind: Not in a good mood to start with.) I did not turn my head at any point while saying this, nor did I break stride.

She continued to explain: "I'm being harassed." (I suspect she meant she had been being harassed.)

"Then you should just talk back to him," I offered, my head still facing forward without swiveling to look at her. "He won't know what to do with that."

At this point she muttered something that, although I couldn't discern it, the tone of her voice implied I had bestowed her with an idea that had never occurred to her, and she broke off (or at least she disappeared from my peripheral vision), and I presume she resumed her original direction.

Before you judge me harshly for responding in what could be interpreted as a cold tone, I point out the implication of her action: I would defend her from this guy. Sure, she figured merely talking to me would scare him off without altercation, but she had no right to drag me, a total stranger, into a situation she had no idea how it would play out.

Moreover, how did she know I wasn't even more dangerous than the man she sought to lose? Strikes me as hideously presumptuous.

And as I suggested, she should be able to ward off such individuals herself. That's why those types seek her out; she projects fear, and they sense that. Frankly, I think I helped her more than she deserved.

Moreover, she needs to learn to stop harassing passers-by who aren't interested in hearing about her lack of self-reliance.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Blame it on hunger

Monday I drove in to the office, rather than taking the train. The reasons why are unimportant. What was noteworthy was how light traffic was for a Monday morning. Later in the day I realized it was Yom Kippur.

In the evening I passed by the desk of a co-worker who, being Muslim, was observing Ramadan. I knew it was Ramadan, having heard it on the news before I went on vacation. Also, I remembered it being around this time last year, when I made a point of alerting said co-worker when the sun had set each day. Not that he needed to be alerted, of course, but it made me feel like I was helping. He's an affable fellow, and I figure he was probably a bit peckish each day by sunset.

He mentioned how it had been many years since Yom Kippur fell during Ramadan (and hence the Jews and Muslims would be fasting together). He noted hearing something on NPR where the commentator mentioned how when it occurred 30 years ago the Mideast Peace Accords happened, and all seemed rife for peace; then the next time it happened was when Sadat was assassinated.

(We could be wrong about these things; he was just trying to remember what he'd heard, and I'm just trying to remember what he said.)

I quipped, "That means this time we're due for peace, right?" He laughed, because he has a good sense of humor (which is not implying that Muslims ordinarily don't).

Eventually, the conversation turned somehow to how light traffic had been, and I exclaimed in an exaggerated tone, "The Jews should take every day off! It must be their fault that traffic is bad the other days! Maybe Mel Gibson was right!" He laughed again, because he appreciated the absurdity of the quip, not because of anti-Semitism. (I'm sure it was just coincidental that traffic was unusually light that day. What do I know anyway? I take public transportation most of the time.)

I followed with, "If there were a Muslim or agnostic hell, we would certainly be going there for that joke." He chuckled at that as well. I was on a freakin' roll.

(Eh, you had to be there.)

Should I force myself to not eat for a day to repent, just to be on the safe side?

[Yes, technically, Islam does have a hell-like concept, but not in the same context of what I meant by the joke. Yeesh. You haters really gotta break my flow, don'tcha?]

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Vacation highlights (of sorts), part I: Grammar town

Highlights from last week's vacation (in no particular order):

Thursday, September 28

Monterey, California

is a quaint town on the central coast of California, and seems fairly affluent. (There's no litter on the streets.) It has a very nice aquarium and something of an unhealthy obsession with John Steinbeck.

While strolling down Alvarado Street, the main drag in downtown Monterey, last Thursday morning, along the city's Path of History, my girlfriend and I noticed this sign commemorating where Casa Bonifacio used to be.

That was apparently a noteworthy adobe structure that was on this spot "prior to it's [sic] relocation" (to make room for the bank you see pictured behind me in the shot).

Go ahead. Look where I'm pointing.

I suppose there's nothing incongruous about a town highlighting a building that hasn't been there in 83 years and, in doing so, failing to find anyone in town who knows how to make pronouns possessive correctly.

(His. Hers. Ours. Theirs. Mine. Yours. Hmm... no apostrophes. Imagine that.)

What I wonder is why the bank (look under my arm) is called "Rabobank" (that is its name) when "Robobank" would be so much cooler.

Maybe it's only cooler to those who know grammar.

What the heck is going on in my head?

Last week while on vacation I didn't think about work at all. That's not terribly surprising, however, as I have trained myself to cease thinking about work as much as possible once I leave. Sure, sometimes I'll be fuming about something that pissed me off, and I'll vent about it on the ride home, or occasionally a work-related thought will float through my mind (which I suppress as soon as possible), but generally I leave the office at the office. As I have been informed by my supervisor, I don't get paid enough to stress out over this stuff. (I knew that already, however.)

A week of not thinking about work, or, with minor exceptions, even touching a computer, was quite pleasant. It was particularly disturbing, then, when the first conscious thought that came to mind yesterday morning after I awoke—and I mean the first thought—was about work. I couldn't stop it; it just popped in. The project I'm working on was far from as far along as it should have been before I left, and I figured things would be pretty screwed after a week of being away. However, that was something that should have steered clear of my consciousness and subconsciousness (and unconsciousness) until the point where I was in the shower, at the very least.

I don't have much, but some paltry semblance of dominion over my thoughts in such a context should be within that purview. I don't think that's asking too much.

Suffice it to say the situation in the office was roughly what I anticipated. To be fair, as such it didn't affect me as much (regarding frustration levels) as had my first thought been along the lines of Hey-it's-going-to-be-a-great-day. (Even the deepest recesses of my unconscious mind cannot perceive any day involving work to approach that territory.) The lack of disparity between my expectations (suck) and the results (suck) left me feeling… well, not good, but not necessarily bad either… even after staying two hours late (in a futile attempt to keep my part of the project from being a bottleneck).

(I was in a much better mood than the day before I was leaving on vacation, when I was desperately trying to get things in some shape to survive while I was away, and others kept interrupting with insipid questions. That day I expected to be awful, but it proved a clusterf*ck, so frustration could not be mitigated. Preparing for vacation is often so stressful that one needs a vacation just to try to recover.)

Still, I cannot think that the due warning my mind wished to provide me could have been presented more gradually and achieved the same effect. In case the part of my brain that controls those post-somnambulance moments is reading this.

For what it's worth.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Proof I'm still around, kinda

A recap of last week's vacation will be forthcoming... eventually. In the meantime, please catch up on the posts from the past weeks. Please stop back again soon.