Thursday, May 31, 2007

Nobody walks in L.A. (Open letter to people who are unlikely to actually see it)

Attention motorist of Los Angeles in the right turn lane:

Hi there, it's me. The guy standing on the street corner next to you, waiting for the light to change so I can cross the street. (Yeah, I know: What am I thinking using my legs to get somewhere? You probably thought I was as extinct as the dodo, but here I am. Wacky, yes.)

In a moment the light's going to turn green for both of us—yes, it applies to me as well. Seriously. I see these cars going the perpendicular direction to us, moving across because they have the green light at the moment, and that's a big part of why both of us are holding steady for the moment. Anyway, I know you're just itching to turn right at this intersection, and I'm sure you're going somewhere with such urgency that waiting for those eight seconds it'll take me to get over there is too long a delay, and I'm sure that conversation you're conducting on your cell phone is a matter of great importance to the safety of the free world, but if I can have your attention for just a moment, I'd like to mention something that should be of interest to you.

When the light turns, I intend to step off this curb and stride out into the crosswalk—that's what that area between the two white lines running from this corner to the opposite one is called—because (I know this may come as a shock) I also am going somewhere—I'm not suggesting it's at all as important as your destination, but I'd like to get there. So if you could be persuaded to not whip across while I am in that crosswalk thing, that would be really swell.

I'm not so much concerned with pointing out that as a pedestrian I have what's known as the "right-of-way" (which is just fancy talk for saying in a given situation I'm supposed to get to go first). I grasp that your Mercedes—oops, I mean BMW (sorry about that mistake) is made to go fast, and that it outweighs me by a sizeable factor. I don't pretend I'm going to win any head-to-head battle with your vehicle. However, I'm pretty sure that the force of my body slamming against the grill and then probably the hood and possibly the windshield would cause dents (or cracks) that would undoubtedly prove to be some expensive body work to repair. If nothing else there'd be bloodstains, and you don't strike me as someone with time to make a stop at the car wash.

Beyond that, I have a sneaking suspicion that the courts would be inclined to find fault with you running into me. Oh, I have no doubt that you could afford better lawyers than I could, so you'd "win" in a lawsuit, but that involves a lot of going to courthouses and whatnot (have you seen what attorneys charge per hour?), and that would take time away from whatever it is you're talking on the phone about.

And if you were to speed away after I roll off the hood and land in a pile on the asphalt, that (if you want to get technical) is pretty bad in the eyes of the cops. And if someone sees you and mentions your license plate number to the police, they can find out where you live. Really.

So, if you could just hold off from slamming down on that accelerator pedal with your right foot until I've used my right and left feet to propel me at least part of the way across, it will spare you a lot of trouble later on. More than eight seconds worth, I assure you.

Don't do it for me; do it for you. It's all about you.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Monday, May 28, 2007

Pic alert: Hoops in bloom

Shots of backyard fun and beauty have been posted here on the photo site.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Surviving survivalism

So we've been watching some episodes of Man vs. Wild on the Discovery Channel, which (if you haven't seen it) involves a former member of the British special forces (Bear Grylls) parachuting into remote terrains and having to survive and find his way to civilization using only a knife and a canteen (and occasionally parts from his parachute).

Ostensibly the show is designed to give the viewer tips on how to survive should one ever be lost in a jungle or on a mountain or in a desert by seeing what an expert does in such a scenario. (The commercials for it specifically mention how this might save your life.) Bear narrates much of the show directly into the camera while he's in the middle of his mission (not merely providing it during voice-overs), explaining what he's doing as he's doing it.

He provides everything from basic techniques (try and find a river as a source of water and as something to follow) to last-resort tips (such as--I kid you not--if you happen to be lost in the wilds of Africa using fresh elephant dung as a source of hydration by drinking the moisture from it). (The show is not for the easily disturbed.)

Often he'll allude to how hikers or tourists have perished in these situations by making mistakes that one with his knowledge would not make, clearly intended to support the advice he is giving.

So, really, the show is an excuse for an adrenaline junkie to not let all the impressive knowledge he has gained go to waste. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, entertainment-wise.)

If you are fascinated by this sort of thing and fancy yourself an adventurer, it should serve to tell you why you should just stay at home (or at least stay at a Holiday Inn Express, according to their ads); if you are someone who really deserves to be in such a scenario, you probably already know what he's telling. Thus, it is clearly intended to make for compelling television as we watch him put himself in dangerous situations (on purpose) more as a cautionary tale for arrogant tourists than as a travel brochure.

I am reminded that I am a city boy who needs to stay in the areas of the wild that really aren't that wild. Paying attention to all the examples he cites of what caused people to die when being out in these remote areas without preparation can be boiled down to one thing: stupidity.

However, I must admit that as I watch it that there's a certain level to which I cannot give myself over and get completely caught up in watching him eat bugs and scale mountain sides with his bare hands.

Mostly it comes down to this thought: Sure, he's finding his own food and building fires with sticks and avoiding animals, but the film crew that's following him is covering the same terrain and having to do so while carrying cameras and booms and whatnot; I'm a bit more impressed with that, frankly.

Also, to get all the shots that end up in the cut of the show that gets aired, to get the numerous angles, either have him do certain things multiple times or have him wait around while they set up several cameras to shoot him from different vantage points.

It's a show that will definitely help average people who happens to be out in the wilderness with a camera crew to survive until the producers fetch them.

And ultimately I cannot be too worried about his survival, no matter how dangerous the way it's edited makes it out to be, because I know he survived. It's not so much that they wouldn't air the show if he died (because if the ratings were good they would) but that he must have survived to do the voice-overs in post-production.

For me it reinforces my appreciation of civilization. There is much about cities I do not like, but the survival skills I possess (such as being overly analytical) are better suited for that environment. It's how I have lasted this long.

There is a reason I do not have my own show. I have no illusions about why that is.

[This entire post was composed while watching episodes.]

Don't hold out for a hero here

I have realized that if I were Professor X or Sylar from Heroes I would not be able to resist using my powers when it wasn't absolutely necessary. I know this.

I'm not suggesting I'd compel others to perform atrocious acts or cut their heads open, but I'd certainly get them to leave me the hell alone when they should.

I'm merely being honest.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Curse of cognition

Following up on yesterday's post...

It is imprudent to hope for an injury that causes head trauma that would bring about the incapacitation of cognition, but let's just accept that such an unfortunate incident, while awful in most respects, would not be without an upside (assuming that it rendered the injured as incompetent—as oblivious to suffering—as those who were that way naturally…so to speak).

That type of mental incapacitation is precisely what people strive to achieve when drinking to excess; it's a temporary head injury that first alleviates the awareness of one's suffering, then later it's a head injury that involves such suffering that one's "usual" suffering seems insignificant.

A throbbing hangover can take one's mind off the incompetence of others that causes one's suffering, but it can hideously exacerbate that suffering if one must deal with the incompetent while hungover.

[Why is it not "hangedover"? Eh, no matter.]

If there is any consolation (in a manner of speaking) to this, I suppose it might be this: Accepting the basis for the thesis (eh, what the hell, let's call it that) that the lack of suffering indicates incompetence, then suffering connotes competence. If you are one to draw some modicum of joy from not being incompetent, then you may be able to take all those moments of suffering the fools on the road and those fools in the mall parking lot and those fools at the office—oh, dear goodness, especially those idiots at the office—and all those other moments and consider them a source of happiness. With sufficient effort, you may even be able to reduce your suffering in those moments. Conceivably, over time, you could even eliminate the suffering altogether, essentially rendering yourself incompetent through competence.

Yes, I believe I've just confirmed the theory by destroying it, and destroyed it by confirming it.

Reaching conclusions that are paradoxes makes me happy. It's a bit more convoluted than a fifth of Jack Daniel's, I admit. I would not recommend it for others, if my opinion is being solicited. Which, ideally, is not the case.

Uh, yeah. Let's stop.


This and some other shots have been posted over on the useless photo site. FYI.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Curse of competence

I came across an article online about the findings of a psychological study. The research of a professor at Cornell (back in 2000) concluded this: "Most incompetent people do not know they are incompetent."

It's encouraging to know that academia was confirming what I figured out on my own long before 2000.

The gist of the article is that a correlation was found where people who scored lower on tests tended to overestimate how well they actually did; conversely, people who scored better on the tests tended to underestimate how well they did.

Now, we'll not dwell on whether that's really "incompetence" or merely "arrogant denial of one's own stupidity" but instead jump on to a line in the article that struck me as egregiously wrong.

After noting how "the ignorant tend to be blissfully self-assured" and explaining "the skills required for competence often are the same skills necessary to recognize competence," it then asserts, "the incompetent, therefore, suffer doubly" because "they reach erroneous conclusions… but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it."

That, friends, is not suffering. That is paradise.

If Sisyphus was "incompetent" and didn't realize that he was pushing the same rock up the hill over and over, he would not be suffering; if he was blissfully unaware of the futility of his actions, he would not be suffering. If he simply believed it was a different rock each time, he might think himself overworked, but he would not be suffering.

I'm not even quibbling semantics here: suffering requires awareness; that is an intrinsic component of the plight. The idea in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was the removal of hurtful memories—of the awareness of the cause of the suffering—would alleviate the pain. And while there's problems with the notion of surgically extricating specific memories, given the interconnectedness of everything presumably stored in the brain, the theme of lack of awareness alleviating—nay, not facilitating in the first place—the suffering is ridiculously obvious.

The incompetent do not suffer, not doubly, not once. The competent people who have to deal with the incompetent suffer, but the oblivion of the incompetent spares them from grasping any of that.

I am so freakin' envious of the incompetent.


"To perceive is to suffer."
- Aristotle
(he knew it millennia ago)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tolerability on a scale of 1 - 10: -3

[The following was composed back in March but I didn't get around to posting it until now. Please pretend it's still relevant.]

In an interview in the AV Club section of The Onion, Win Butler (of Arcade Fire) touched on how the way MTV doesn't promote the hip and cool but the glamorous and vapid seems to be a disservice to the youth of today. Shows like My Super Sweet 16 ostensibly are presented with a wink, in a let's-see-how-ridiculous-the-rich-are way, but he fears the young fail to grasp the irony.

I'm not sure whether the reality show world is deteriorating the minds of the children any worse than anything in pop culture did in the past, but I see his point.

However, at least the Sweet 16 show (which I've had to sit through more than a few times due to my girlfriend's occasional fascination with it) is relatively overt in its hints of how risible the feted ones are; there are far worse shows.

I assume.

Anyway, shortly after reading that, I caught a bit of the "Chefography" of Food Network personality Sandra Lee, host of Semi-Homemade, a show where she takes pre-made ingredients and spruces them up a bit. The special is part of a series showing the biographies of some of the popular chefs on the network. Overlooking how she is even less of a "chef" than the new queen of overexposure, Rachel Ray (who at least approximates cooking), I didn't think Sandra was popular enough to warrant this level of spotlight. They must be desperate for programming, or she must have embarrassing photos of someone high up in the network. (That would explain a lot, actually.)

I found her annoying before ever seeing the special, not merely because of her utter lack of qualification to be on a "cooking" show; her personality reeked of insincerity, even though I'm sure her on-air presentation was more-or-less how she really was. (Sad to say.) Her "tablescapes" (which I presume is intended to be an amalgam of "table" and "landscape") seemed only of interest to the vapid but utterly uncreative.

After seeing what I did of her special, with a college friend of hers lauding how she decorated her dorm room with lace (while the rest of the girls were lucky to pick up their dirty clothes from the floor), and hearing of her "harrowing" start at the network (where critics picked on her lack of cooking skills) and her alleging that when the critics picked on her they were picking on women across the country "just trying to put a meal on the table" (as though she represented middle America), I came to realize that I was kind to have only found her annoying; she was insufferable.

Then I saw a few minutes of The Real Housewives of Orange County reunion show (after, admittedly, not sitting through more than 30 seconds of the actual series), where a host interviewed the women featured in the show as though they were exemplary humans, and I realized that there were levels of insufferability (go with it) so far below Sandra Lee that I held little hope for the future of our species.

Spoiled rich kids didn't seem so bad at all.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

You do Jimmy

Seeing a taping of the Jimmy Kimmel Live show in 40 steps*:

1. Sign up online for tickets that don't guarantee entry.

2. Show up outside the theater two hours before the taping starts.

3. Wait in the queue, watching cars speed along Hollywood Boulevard and glancing at the costumed performers outside Grauman's Chinese posing for photos with tourists. Talk with friends, and avoid making eye contact with the guy who carries his own amp down the line, rapping to people in line in the hope of getting some money for it.

4. After they start letting people in, walk up the steps, turn to your right, then remove everything from your pockets and walk through the metal detector.

5. Realize you have something metal in your undergarments and walk through again two more times before the guards just tell you to go on ahead anyway. Smile sweetly at them.

6. Wait in the lobby while they seat the people in front of you.

7. Enter the studio. Comment to your friends how small it seems.

8. Follow an out-of-work actor acting as an usher up to the next to last row in the room, the one that unlike all the rows in front of it is not elevated.

9. Stare at the back of the heads of the people from Texas seated in the row in front of you. Their hair proves everything really is bigger in Texas.

10. Listen to the warm-up comedian tell you how important it is to applaud a lot.

11. Be admonished by the warm-up comedian for not applauding loud enough, and then be warned (facetiously) that if, as an audience, you don't do better, they'll replace you with the people still waiting outside.

12. Applaud enthusiastically when Uncle Frank comes out to the stage and then laugh when he attempts to make a joke about his sexual prowess. Not so much laughing with him, however.

13. Applaud as Cleto and the rest of the musician stride over to their little pen to the right of the stage (that is, stage right). Notice they're more casually dressed than the people from Texas seated in the row in front of you. Think for a second about how your father would disapprove.

14. Applaud as announcer (and Mighty Mighty Bosstones frontman, and former Indie 103.1 morning show host) Dicky Barrett comes out and perches himself just to the side of the band. Remark to yourself how his gray suit would meet with your father's approval.

15. Applaud with Pavlovian mindlessness as Jimmy comes out from backstage, without his tie or jacket on yet, then listen as he briefly thanks you for coming, then disappears whence he came. And you applaud again as he does that.

16. Half-heartedly clap when Cousin Sal wanders out. He's only Cousin Sal.

17. Be reminded by the raspy-voiced warm-up comedian to follow the "Applause" signs hanging from the ceiling over the audience. Notice to yourself that the bottom half of the sign has another option ("Stop Applauding"), but that does not get mentioned in the prep talk. Ponder what must have prompted them to implement that.

18. Be informed the show is about to start. See the "Applause" signs light up. Hear the band playing the theme song. Try to remember what to do at this point.

19. Applaud as Dicky announces the evening's guests and continue the curtains part and Jimmy emerges to his mark, which proves to be remarkably close to the camera with the teleprompter mounted above the lens.

20. Watch the monologue on the overhead monitors because the large hair of the Texan seated in front of you almost completely obscures the host down on the stage. Laugh when a punch line is reached, for the most part because you found it to be at least moderately amusing. (Concede that waiting in line for all that time and then being conditioned by the warm up make one more inclined to be entertained by whatever happens while in the studio than one might be if watching on TV at home.)

21. At the end of the monologue, follow the instructions from the overhead Applause signs.

22. Listen as Cleto and the band play an instrumental version of "Working for a Living" (by Huey Lewis and the News) as the show goes to commercial.

23. Stop clapping when the sign goes off, but notice that the band just keeps playing the song. Peer around the hair and observe as Jimmy goes to the desk and people from off-stage come to him, and they seem to review notes or discuss the upcoming segment. Glance between the hair and the hair next to it and see Dicky still at his post, pretty much doing nothing but looking sharp doing it.

24. Heed the alert of the warmup comedian who appears in front of the audience, announcing 30 seconds until back on the air.

25. Applaud when prompted, trying to drown the end of the song; realize that Huey Lewis still can only be tolerated so long. After the band finishes and Jimmy starts talking, cease clapping.

26. Sit through the segment where Cousin Sal comes out (dressed more casually than the band) and they show a pre-taped piece (where he set up a table near the end of the course for the recent L.A. marathon, handing out ridiculous items to the runners, such as chocolate-covered shrimp) on the overhead monitors. (The ones on which you were already watching the rest of the show.)

27. Applaud as indicated by the overhead signs as Jimmy sends the show to commercial, then listen to Cleto and the band play another instrumental version a song, this time "Rock and Roll Band" by Boston. Think to yourself about how the music not only keeps the audience occupied but also precludes us from yelling out anything to those on stage (be it vulgar or complimentary).

28. Applaud when instructed that they show was coming back from commercial, despite the profound awareness that there's no chance that even a sweeping camera shot of the crowd would capture you. Notice Dicky (between the Texas hair) still perched next to the band clapping along with you. Ponder how he keeps up the enthusiasm night after night. Then remember that he gets paid to be there.

29. Sit through the interview with Rosie Perez, filling in for Tori Spelling. Laugh at an amusing anecdote she relates, more because she accidentally uses profanity and catches herself too late than because it is that funny.

30. Applaud for the commercial transistion, yadda, yadda, yadda. This time the band plays some funky, jazzy riff. You don't recognize the tune, so you speculate it could be an original composition. It is good enough to keep you from yelling out, were you inclined to do so; if you heard it come on the radio, you'd change the station.

31. You know what to do. The announcement that the show is coming back from commercial elicits a mindless reaction of clapping by this point; there's no need to pay any heed to the signs.

32. After Jimmy announces the next guest, one of the guys from Supernatural (the one who used to be on Smallville), recoil as the women around you erupt into such enthusiastic applause (replete with whistles) that you begin to fear for your safety.

33. Find nothing interesting about his interview (mostly because Jimmy's not trying that hard, dwelling only how on his good looks make him popular with the ladies). Observe Dicky at his spot by the band, standing as though riveting by the conversation, even though he's off-camera. He's a pro.

34. Get drawn back to the moment as Cleto and the Cletones break into "Driven to Tears" and wonder for a moment whether that's some kind of subtle joke about how the interview went. You're applauding already, without needing the ubiquitous reminder.

35. After the show has gone to commercial, wait as the people in the lower rows start getting up and funneling out down a long hallway, so you can all see the performance by Evanescence that closes the show. Although you were told the P.A.s would come to each row and dismiss you one at a time, the need to get everyone outside during a commercial break results in the entire upper half just getting up en masse and making their way out as a blob without direction.

36. Make your way down the stairs and then along a hallway to a door, where you exit the theater and cross the alleyway behind the building, continuing into the fenced area that used to be a parking lot but now has a permanent stage set up for concert performances. As all the people who didn't get into the theater have been out here the whole show, you take a spot near the back of the crowd. Which is fine with you.

37. Finally understand why, when watching the show at home, prior to the music acts there would be one commercial break, then a 15-second program ID, then another commercial break; it's as much to buy time to prepare as it is to get more ad revenue.

38. When the show comes back, stand quietly as Jimmy, not far from you, announces the band and they break into their current single, which involves a baby grand piano. Be amused watching middle aged tourists taking pictures of the band with their cell phones, which you suspect is more to attempt to later bond with their children than an indication they have even heard of the band.

39. Fail to notice how Jimmy got from the back of the crowd to the side of the stage, but from your angle notice during the performance him sitting on a sofa with the Supernatural dude, just kind of hanging out, not really talking much. Eventually spot Jimmy's girlfriend Sarah Silverman crouching behind him. Wonder why they don't let her sit on the sofa.

40. Exit the "concert area" through the opening in the fence out on to the street behind the theater. Walk up and down Hollywood Boulevard looking for an after-show meal, but end up getting a pizza at the little hole-in-the-wall next to the theater.

* Everything after step 2 is optional, and specific to if you were there for the March 14 episode.

Hive of scum and villiany

Timeliness alert! Pictures of an important [sic] pop culture phenomenon* taken mere hours ago posted here on the photo site.

Hurry up and look at them before they become outdated.

Oh well. View them if you like...

Never let it be said I don't occasionally make half-hearted efforts to abjectly placate the public.

* They talk about it on The Soup and Best Week Ever; I never actually watch it.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Hands off

On the walk to the station this evening I saw a bumper sticker on a Cal Trans vehicle that read "There's no excuse for domestic violence."

While I don't disagree with the premise, I have to question the efficacy of such methods of persuasion; it's not like stickers promoting beating the wife are that prevalent (although that message may be implicit in a lot of the decorations on pickup trucks).

I have to conclude that anyone who refrains from smacking the kids from merely seeing a pithy message of disapproval was not really committed to the act in the first place.

That, or the little brats finally got the hint and stopped mouthing off, so it no longer proved necessary.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

If words aren't your thing

New photos taken today and posted today over here. More than what's below.

If you wondered what jacaranda blooms would look like atop a palm tree trunk, it might look like this:

And then you should really find some way to occupy your time so you don't wonder such things.

Start spreading the news

Glib conclusion to be drawn from A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (the film): New York is an ordeal to be escaped, but the best one can do is run away and pretend to have escaped.

Note: I said "glib."


Getting little in the way of feedback from my readership, I can only speculate about what people might be curious regarding this site. Thus, I offer Frequently Unasked Questions (a.k.a. FUQs):

FUQ #1: Why don't you compose more satirical pieces?

I'd like to blame that on the readers, who often seem to miss the wry elements of the posts that have been done. If they're not picking up on the slight subtlety of those, it seems imprudent to throw full-fledged irony at them and expect they'll interpret it as the opposite of what I actually think.

However, such suggestions do not lay the blame where it belongs. Really, I don't write more satire because I'm simply not that clever (as evidenced by this answer).


FUQ #2: Why don't you try to be funny in a more straight-ahead manner, a la Dave Barry?

I am not completely bereft of cleverness.

(I'm being unnecessarily critical of Mr. Barry's work, which is not warranted considering I have several of his books. I even did a paper on him in my Journalism and Literature class years ago, wherein I lauded his worth as a writer.

On second thought, the snarky criticism may be entirely warranted.)

Eh, let's just conclude I'm not funny in a straight-ahead way. Not consistently, at least.


FUQ #3: Do you really think "FUQ" is funny?

It's probably somewhat scatological for those inclined to think about it. So, yes, slightly funny. Ever so slightly.

Okay, not anymore.


FUQ #4: Given how much you post photos now, what is your philosophy about taking pictures?

Buildings and trees and clouds and sunsets may not be innovative when it comes to subject matter, but they don't ever complain about the way they look in the shot.

Also, they tend to remain still long enough to take the picture without using the flash. Using the flash is occasionally necessary. But it rarely makes for worthwhile shots.

Making a shot seem artsy is simply a matter of putting the subject off-center.

With photography, it's easier to get away with not really knowing what one is doing than it tends to be the case with writing. That works in my favor, to be certain.


FUQ #6: Do you really think every post is of interest to every reader?

Of course not.

I don't think any post is of interest to any reader.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


Don't think of it as bad parenting; consider it providing the children with better material for their adult lives.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Showing a little hometown love with the latest photo post. Show some love and click over there. Very few words to read.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Heads up

New pics posted on the photo site here. Similar to this one, but different. Think: Black & white and in focus.

You can't get enough of the Bonaventure Hotel, right?

Mother needs something today to calm her down

Further evidence of ignorance being bliss:

Among the mistakes I have made over the course of my life is paying attention to the lyrics of popular songs. Not every song, mind you, but enough of the ones I've heard repeatedly to have gleaned some of the themes expressed. This does not necessarily result in me liking the song in question more or less; I may develop a greater or lesser appreciation for the songwriting, but that appeals primarily to other songwriters (or people who are frustrated songwriters). For the rest of the music-listening public, a good beat, a catchy melody, and earnestness in how the lyrics are sung by the singer (regardless of the content) prove more important in determining how much the song is liked. Some songs are acknowledged for their message or for their novelty, but they are the exception, not the rule.

Make no mistake here: There is absolutely nothing wrong with liking a song for reasons that do not factor in the lyrics. I have over 20,000 songs on my computer; I couldn't tell you what a majority of them are "about" without making the effort to listen to them closely. I could rattle off a list of the ones that really rock, or are played remarkable musicianship, or that are accessible to a larger audience than the rest of the artist's material, but to make a statement about the meaning of the words would take much longer.

In my younger days I used to make mix tapes for friends, and I'm sure there were many times when I included a song that was completely inappropriate in regards to what the lyrics were about but which had, say, that person's name mentioned at some point. Novelty without context. I imagine the only reason I didn't lose said friends was because they didn't listen that closely either. Assuming they listened at all. I digress.

Last weekend my girlfriend and I were at the mall in search of Mother's Day cards for our respective moms (both of whom live at a great distance, so we need to get them in the mail early). The ones that caught our attention were the ones that play part of a song when opened. (You've seen the commercials for them, or you can see some here.)

Glancing over the selection of these musical cards, I noticed that the songs they featured tended to be in that same vein as my old mix tapes: novelty without context. The Miracles' "Shop Around" alludes to motherly advice, certainly, and I guess that kind of fits in, but it's not really about loving mom. "I Got You (I Feel Good)" by the Godfather of Soul (James Brown—egad, if you didn't know that just stop reading now) struck me as a bit of a stretch; perhaps I'd always interpreted "when I hold you in my arms" as having slightly suggestive overtones when I should have seen it as purely innocent affection. I suppose directing all the words at one's mother and dwelling only on the "so good" (bamp-bamp) "so good, I got you" line it doesn't get too creepy. (Hey, I'm not one to judge, but it does get a bit too heavily Freudian for me at some point.)

Clearly the songs were chosen primarily because the publishing company licensed the rights to the card company, secondarily because someone at the card company considered them to have some connection with motherhood. They're popular songs that are safe with broad appeal. They should sell. That's all that mattered, I'm sure. And most all of the ones I saw fell into a category where I thought, Hey, if you want to send that to your mom, knock yourself out. Such is the joy of a free society.

One card, however, gave me pause. The front featured cartoon limes on the front, and cartoon margaritas on the inside. Hey, I'm not offended by the notion of mom needing a little tequila-fueled relief from the rugrats.

When opened the card plays the Rolling Stones' "Mother's Little Helper". Ha-ha. Yep, that's a helper, all right.

The song, of course, is not about an occasional drink; it's about the abuse of prescription medications (likely valium) amongst housewives.

But yes, it does have "mother" right there in the name of the song, and Mic and Keif won't turn down the money, so what the heck. Well, if you have that kind of relationship with your mother and her issues, you've found your card.

Without knowing the lyrics it would just be an amusing little joke with mom about what a little hellion you were in your youth (or possibly still are) and to what lengths you drove her.

Remember: It's not that I don't get it; it's that I get it more than I should.

If only there were something I could take to make me forget about such troubles, possibly in pill form...

Happy Mothers Day to all the moms.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Thursday, May 10, 2007

This morning's entertainment

This morning I had a dream where even in the context of dreaming I knew I was observing a world similar to that of the movie Escape From New York. At least that's what I (or the me who was in the dream) thought as I watched a shootout between people who were crouched behind boxes (inside a hanger or barn of some sort) and invaders on motorcycles.

That, I admit, doesn't sound like Escape From New York. Still, my dream self thought it was. And that was not the odd part.

From the side of the barn opposite those attacking on the motorcycles, during the battle, entered Neil Patrick Harris, suited up as Barney (the character he plays on the enjoyable sitcom "How I Met Your Mother")—yes, you'd think the fascist officer from Starship Troopers would have fit in better with the theme, but that's not what my unconscious included. He was completely unfazed by the gunfire exploding around us, walking up to those of us crouched behind the boxes for cover, to ask us something. I don't remember what he asked, but I recall my dream self just stood up with blithe disregard for my safety to answer him. (I don't recall thinking the meeting was "awesome"; although my unconscious pulled up his character and wardrobe, it didn't include his catch phrases.

The dream moved to a sequence on a train out in a barren desert (this was more like a Western set in the late 1800s). For this part I wasn't a character but observed from an overhead vantage point, as though in a helicopter trailing the locomotive. The train hurtled at a breakneck pace (or so I feel compelled to describe its speed as such now) as the tracks curved to the right.

On the caboose of said train (yes, it had stereotypical caboose) was a man at a steering wheel, apparently needing to drive the tail of the train (not unlike the driver on the back of a hook and ladder fire engine). The caboose driver, decked out in the stereotypical overalls and brimmed hat (like what Steve Martin wore in The Jerk during the scene where he's driving the train at the park where he meets Bernadette Peters), became alarmed as he noticed another train approaching on a track that was about to meet up with the one his train was on, but (here the dream switched focus to a tight shot of the other train's caboose) there was no caboose driver on that train, and apparently in the context of having trains where the tail end needs to be steered, that put the trains in danger of colliding.

The caboose driver turned the wheel with all his strength and with his strained effort narrowly avoided the other train (which then veered off to the left as though on a completely separate track, and so from a rational standpoint the actual danger seems undercut, but again, in the context of the dream is was quite dramatic). The dream camera (so to speak) zoomed in on the caboose driver as he sighed in relief and took off his hat to wipe his brow.

It was Ted Danson. Dressed as he was (appropriate for the "scene") I can't say whether it was more of a "Cheers" Ted or a "Becker" Ted, but given that I never really watched the latter, and given that he was older there, we'll figure it was the slightly more verile Sam Malone-esque one. He did have hair, so the toupee was included (and sticking to his head remarkably well considering how he perspired in the wake of saving the train).

Then I awoke (a minute before the alarm went off) and had no more unconscious adventures to watch.

I'm so glad that television has had no impact on the way my brain operates, and really has not affected the way I interpret the world. I'm screwed-up enough as it is.

Classic rambling alert

Because you're unlikely to notice on your own, I'll mention that I've added another Another Useless Column (the precursor to this site from my days writing for my college newspaper) to the archives. Specifically here.

(All of the egrigious mistakes have been left in. Please do be amused by them.)

11 years ago I was merely younger. That's the only definitive statement I can make.

To peruse all of those pieces from my days on The Union, click here. (If you'd rather not peruse those pieces, well, there's the entirety of the internet, television, movies, books, magazines, and that weird hair growing out of your side to keep you occupied.)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Pics of the fire (sort of)

Pictures taken last night of the Griffith Park wildfire (well, of the smoke) have been posted here on my photo site.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Feliz ignorance

If I'm convinced of anything it is this: Life would be so much easier if I were more ignorant. Case in point:

(First, you may find it helpful to review this post from a year ago, as what follows is another in what's becoming a series.)

Friday morning the staff in the office received an email to rouse excitement for a celebratory event being held that afternoon. Here is the text of the message exactly as it appeared:

Viva Cinco de Mayo!
To all the soñoritas and señores
Join us in the lounge
Today at 2:30pm

Astute readers already know that my reaction was not Oh boy! Free food! (and not because I hadn't even had lunch yet at that point). So let's just break down what did come to my mind, rather than the sentiment of the gesture:

The second line caught my eye first. Specifically, the egregious typo in the fourth word. It's not so much that I can't understand a slip of the finger when typing, but given how the effort to put the accented n in the word to comply with proper Spanish spelling, and given that the corresponding male term later in the sentence is spelled correctly, I guess that raised my level of expectation just a smidge. If I could notice at a glance, having never studied Spanish, it seemed like the composer of the message might have done the same.

However, the lack of proofreading is only the tip of the proverbial floating frozen body where the majority is below the surface of the water. (Wow, that's an inefficient metaphor.)

Let's consider what the event is ostensibly honoring: The Mexican victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5 (145 years ago). (Yes, I can do two minutes worth of research.) About Mexico. That country to the south of the U.S.

It's not about the day that comes after May 4.

So, even with the little Spanish I know, I can translate that opening line as "Live 5th of May!" I am pretty sure that wouldn't make any more sense even if I hailed from south of the border. But it's the thought that... oh come on. That implies thought went into the amalgamation of terms in the line, and it makes me feel better to believe that wasn't the case.

Even conceding that the intent was, in fact, to honor Mexico, let's pause and contemplate the origin of the dish being offered. At least according to the story (which may or may not be true but which is Wiki-true), nachos were invented in Texas (long after it ceased to be part of Mexico). But as their creator was someone from Mexico, it does seem vaguely appropriate that they be used in this context. Eh, both the man who led the Mexican forces 145 years ago and the man who created chips covered in cheese and jalapenos (64 years ago) shared the same first name (Ignacio), so perhaps the homage is to that.

My last thought was not associated with other languages or history but with word choice for the portion in English. As regards the last line, cheese is an integral part of nachos, so it seems like touting "cheesy" nachos is, if not utterly redundant, piling the hard sell on thick. And it proved to be leaving out all the other toppings that they were actually offering. [I suppose that was probably trying to make up for the picture inserted into the email: a plate of plain tortilla chips with the words "cheese goes here" and an arrow pointing to the chips. I suppose there's no images of nachos to be found on the internet.]

Anyway, that is what preceded Oh boy! Free food! in my head (unlike, I presume, everyone else in the office when they read it).

Enhancing my cultural awareness proved to detract from my ability to just enjoy others' half-assed efforts to display cultural awareness.

I have to believe that ignorance would be closer to blissful here. For me, however, it is too late.

And now I've probably screwed it up for you. Sorry about that. Forget I said anything.

No kidding

Sometimes the best way to express one's feelings is to allow a satirical letter to the editor do the talking:

If Someone Wanted To Publish My Blog Entries For Money, I Wouldnt Say No

The Onion

If Someone Wanted To Publish My Blog Entries For Money, I Wouldn't Say No

Let me make one thing clear right off the bat: I started my blog because I needed an outlet for my thoughts and feelings during the 2004...

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Photo alert

FYI: New pictures posted here. But not this one:

Drink it in

For the past seven years I have participated in a team sport that, despite being the "fastest growing water sport in the world," still draws blank stares from people I meet here in Los Angeles when I mention the name of it: dragon boating.

(Eh, what the heck: Go ahead and read the Wiki-planation of it. It's true that I don't write about it much here.)

I got in the habit of describing in this manner when it came up in conversation for the first time with someone: "It's a paddling sport called 'dragon boating'--you haven't heard of it." I didn't even wait for the puzzled look before offering the follow-up. (Every once in a while I would run into someone who had heard of it, which would be a tiny thrill, but that still proved too infrequent to cause me to change the habit.)

So you can imagine my surprise when I was getting lunch on Friday at the fine "Chinese" dining establishment Panda Express and saw what was on the medium drink cup:

The cup even had a reasonable explanation of the history of dragon boating on the back (considering the space available).

They also feature it on their website.

Now dragon boating is going to explode in popularity, and soon it will become a household word, and I'll never be met with another blank stare when I mention it.

Except for one little thing: Although it alludes to races being held around the world (which is true), no where on the cup does it mention how to celebrate the dragon boat festival--except, by implication, by eating Panda's latest menu item.

(Like the American public is going to do the legwork to find a festival near them. If you're in Southern California, the Long Beach festival is coming up on July 28-29.)

So really, Panda Express has co-opted a sport that is still virtually unknown in this country to seem culturally aware while promoting their food. It's like they're primarily interested in making a profit or something.

On behalf of dragon boaters everywhere, I feel kind of used. On the other hand, there is part of me that feels kind of validated by seeing my sport mentioned this way.

I wouldn't have this dilemma if I'd joined a bowling league.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007