Wednesday, December 31, 2008

In with the Old

As I've thought virtually every year-end in recent memory, I am intrigued by the notion of New Year's Day being a major holiday. I grasp that it has traditions, and it carries the association of optimism or rebirth, but January 1 is ultimately arbitrary. It's not like the Chinese new year, which aligns with the lunar new year; there's no astronomical event to coincide with the day in Western culture on which the year starts. And of course, it's due to Pope Gregory XIII that it's not in March any more.

Now, to be clear: By no means do I mind having the day off. All I'm saying is that when push comes to shove (as inevitably it will on New Year's Eve), what is being celebrated is that the digits on the calendar are changing. Woo-hoo! It has a 9 at the end rather than an 8! Let's have a parade! Give everyone the day off, because they haven't had one since last week!

Every other holiday is at least about something. It may not be much of something, but there's something—religious observations, historical events or figures, rodents who ostensibly predict the weather. New Year's Day is about only that—it's the first day of the year, which by relative standards is still considered by most to be "new" at that point. So it's certainly an accurately named occasion. But why is it a major holiday? Say all you will about the hope of renewal and it being a good excuse to resolve to better one's self, but let's face facts: it's because we get the day off.

Not only do we get that day off from work, but for many, we get off work early on the day before. It has become expected that office employees need extra time to prepare for getting blitzed out of their minds; leaving work at the usual time would be insufficient.

But while we're on the topic of New Year's Eve, along with Christmas Eve a week before, it's one of the two days a year when we don't have the day off but get off early. And as anyone who goes into work on December 31 can attest, we're probably not getting a lot accomplished before we get to head out from the office, so it's a rather pointless reason to even go in at all.

Therefore, we need to get another day off.

Analyzing this, the obvious conclusion is that we only get full days off if "eve" is not in the name. Thus, if we get the name "New Year's Eve" changed, perhaps we can get it declared a full-fledged holiday on its own, and hence a full day off work.

I suggest "Old Year's Day"—and I'll concede up front that it lacks panache, but what are we celebrating? It's the last day of the "old" year (by the same relative standard than makes the next day "new"). It's not having a catchy name that results in a holiday (as we've already determined, it's not like "New Year's Day" was all that inspired); it's the lack of "eve"—and that much is accomplished in the name.

So on this last day of 2008, allow me to wish all my readers (likely for the first time) a Happy Old Year's Day.


It has to start somewhere. This could work if we spread the word, people. If you know anyone with some pull in the matter (even the Pope if you have that in your contact—historically, that position has proven to have some influence in holidays pertaining to the calendar), please forward a link. Everyone will be grateful when we all have Old Year's Day off.

Of course, then everyone will start partying on Old Year's Eve, and employees will start expecting to get off early then as well, and then we'll need to concoct a non-eve name for it, but we'll cross that bridge when the ball drops on it.

Monday, December 29, 2008

It's not like rain on your wedding day

In an issue of Wired magazine from August that I was reading a couple weeks ago I spotted a sidebar on a guy who made Excel-style charts (pie and graph) of pop culture items on a site called My personal favorite featured in the piece was this one:

song chart memes

Events described in the Alanis Morisette song that are...
Ironic = 0%
Unfortunate circumstance = 100%

That came to mind a few days later when my fiancée and I were shopping in a chain store whose name features the object on which one sleeps, the object in which one performs personal cleaning, and an alliterative term suggesting it carries more than merchandise for just those two areas of the house.

Whether it should have come to mind is another story.

While searching for generic gifts in a given price range we paused in an area of the store where items geared toward relaxation were found: vibrating neck massagers, comfy slippers, incense holders, etc. Perhaps the most notable display was an endcap that played selections from compact discs available for sale its shelves, featuring titles like "Music for Quiet Times" and "Rainforest Sounds" and the like. The sign called it the "Rejuvenation Station".

Located directly above this portion of the store, up in the exposed ceiling, rattled an industrial-size air conditioning unit, the noise of which drowned out the ostensibly soothing sounds from the CD display, even when standing directly in front of it.

Noticing this disparity between the intention of the products in that part of the store and the utter annihilation of their effect by the large metal object above them, I pondered whether this arrangement was genuinely ironic. Likely Alanis would consider it so, but as already deftly identified in the aforementioned chart from the article, that didn't necessarily prove anything. "Irony" had been so misappropriated in our society that even having studied the concept in college I was no longer able to be absolutely certain any more. It wasn't anything simple like verbal irony (e.g., sarcasm), and there was no audience with knowledge a character lacked to qualify as dramatic irony, but whether it could be construed as irony of situation—I remained somewhat flummoxed. Obviously it was poor design on the part of the party (or parties) involved in arranging the store, but was it anything more than that?

After completing our shopping there and hitting a few more stores in the mall we went to a restaurant for lunch. While in there my fiancée looked up "irony" on her Blackberry device, but even after reviewing a proper definition I couldn't shake the notion that there could be the possibility of it going either way.

What was most confounding was that I could even be confounded. This was the inevitable consequence of a society where words get twisted to suggest whatever the speaker or writer (or singer) intends, whether those words actually mean what is intended or not: It's not merely that those who never knew in the first place go around misusing the terms, but those who at least more or less had some grasp on the meaning start to lose that.

Minutes later—and I am not making this up—over the speakers in the ceiling of the restaurant started playing the aforementioned Alanis Morissette track.

That much I know is coincidence; with that there is no trace of irony.

There must be a chart proving it somewhere…


I'm pretty sure the thing in the store with the relaxation products under the noisy unit is not irony either.


Also not irony: During that same shopping trip, we popped in to the Apple store for some iTunes gift cards for stocking stuffers. As anyone who has been in that store knows, there are no cash registers. Associates carry wireless devices that allow them to ring up purchases from anywhere in the store. It's very high tech, as one would expect from that company.

When we went to pay for our purchase with a credit card, the associate's wireless device wouldn't read it. So she had to break out that sliding device and three-part carbon paper sales slips that stopped being prevalent at least 15 years ago.

Not ironic. Funny, but not ironic.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Changing the game

At the annual department holiday luncheon, one activity conducted (besides gorging ourselves) is a game called "Something You Probably Don't Know About Me" (which I've written about before).

To recap: On a slip of paper each person writes down a fact about him- or herself that is unlikely to be commonly known about that person by the other people in the department. Then someone reads aloud the anonymous facts, and after each one people yell out guesses about whom they think was the writer of that particular fact. If someone guesses correctly he or she gets a prize, but if after three guesses the person has not been identified then that person gets the prize.

After years of playing this game, I've determined a pattern: someone is going to guess me for just about anything, as people clearly think I'm capable of just about anything. I'm still not sure whether to be flattered by that or offended, but it is pretty much a given; it is something I can anticipate.

And thus it makes it tricky to successfully fool co-workers and collect a prize (although I did so last year through a bit of chicanery--as noted in this post).

So this year, with minutes left before the luncheon, I pondered what to put on the paper. Then I looked closely at the pre-printed sentence on the slip of paper--"The One Thing You Probably Don't Know About Me…"--and of course I thought, There's only one thing? Well, that's not the case.

So it struck me: Don't try to fool 'em. Just go with the deconstruction of the language selected for the slip of paper.

Below is the content of what I submitted and was read:

The one thing
you probably don't know about me...

Come now, people--there's more than one thing you probably don't know about me. Let's not even pretend there's only one thing. Were it, in fact, the case that you already probably knew everything about me save one bit of personal trivia then it would be possible to list that here, but the slip specifies "The one thing..." and not merely "One of the many things..." so therefore the task is rendered moot.

Now, if everyone would please stop yelling out my name (because undoubtedly we've all already figured out whose slip this is by the time whoever--and it would be "whoever" and not "whomever" in this context--is reading this), we can get on with the festivities.

Also, it would be appreciated if you'd stop booing and throwing food, as these pants are not machine-washable. An imprudent sartorial decision for the day, I realize now. I will know better next year on the off-chance that I am still invited to the party.

Of course that was identified as mine before the person reading even finished the second paragraph (so after my name was called out I had to yell "Let her finish!") When she finally got to the end, everyone laughed. (And unlike with all the other slips of paper after they'd been read, mine was snatched up by the head of the department to keep.)

Although I'd fooled no one, I got the prize.

And more important, no food was thrown. It's entirely possible that people in the department learned something about me (even if that was only that their preconceived notions were roughly accurate).

It's not always a matter of following the rules; sometimes it's a matter of throwing them out.


No, it's not high comedy, but hey, what do you expect for what is acceptable for a general workplace audience?

I was just happy it didn't backfire.

However, in the interest of full disclosure: the pants were, in fact, machine-washable. But the joke worked better lying. The things we do for our art. Or whatever that was.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

And now it's winter

Officially. (The solstice has hit.)

p.s. I'm asleep. (Ah, the glory of scheduling posts ahead of time.)

It's autumn (barely)

Quick! Enjoy it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Beginning to look a lot like...

Enjoy these last hours of autumn with some photos of a decorated tree over at the photo site.


Winter hits Sunday at 4:04 in the morning (at least here in the Pacific time zone).

(I'll be asleep.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Best that you can do

This morning I was doing dishes, with no TV or radio on in the background. I was left to my own brain for entertainment, and what popped into my consciousness?

"Arthur's Theme"

Yes, Christopher Cross' soft rock song from the movie Arthur. Well, not the whole song. Just the chorus: "If you get caught between the moon and New York City..." and so on.

Here's the thing: It's not as though I heard it recently and it got stuck in my head; I hadn't heard that song in longer than I could remember (years, possibly decades). I never owned the song, either on vinyl, cassette, 8-track, CD, mp3, or piano roll. I don't even recall seeing the movie Arthur in its entirety.

So, at some point in my youth I heard that song on the radio. That much I'm certain was the case; it was pretty popular and got airplay in its time. And it's not a bad song, by any means, but at no point would I consider myself to have been a fan of it.

And something else worth noting: I have over 26,000 songs in my music library, almost all of which I've heard more recently than when last I heard "Arthur's Theme" and most of which would rank higher in what I like than that song.

But when the moment arrived that any of those songs could have been referenced by my gray matter, instead came... a chorus ending with the line "Best that you can do is fall in love." And it kept repeating over and over, because my mind never paid enough attention to the rest of the song to know any of the verses.

What this says about the state of my sanity is best not discussed further. However, it does seem to indicate that the advent of and ubiquity of the portable mp3 player, while allowing me to have almost constant access to the songs I like, has less influence over my idle brain than did pop radio from decades past.

I'm not sure whether that is due to a profound difference in the format in which the music is presented or due to the greater influence of experiences from youth over experiences of the years after youth.

But assuming it's the latter, this means that a young person growing up today (in the era of the iPod) who decades from now is unfortunate enough to have a moment of quiet for his brain to fill will be more likely to get a song that he used to have on his iPod than a song he recalls from the radio.

And if he happened to have "Arthur's Theme" on that iPod from his youth, then that will undoubtedly cause a rip in the time-space continuum that will destroy the known universe. So, with apologies to Mr. Cross, we need to eliminate all mp3 copies of that song and keep children from being exposed to it, just to be on the safe side.

It goes without saying that I would have been well-served by a lobotomy, but the time for that to intercept my moment of getting lost between the moon and New York City has passed. But I will pledge to humanity and any other beings in the universe that I will always keep some source of background noise on at all times, so there'll be no future opportunities for obscure pop songs to invade my idleness and start this wormhole of potential devastation. I know it's crazy, but it's true.

Or everybody could chip in for the lobotomy.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Here we go again

Well, it's December, and that means only one thing: Either you are filled with "holiday spirit" or you are deemed to be the most despicable person ever.

However, for those of you who can't quite bring yourself to maintain a delusional euphoria for an entire month and can't overlook the recession and the bailouts and layoffs, and who find the unrelenting over-commercialization of Xmas too overwhelming to muster any reason for joy, just remember this:

In January it will stop.

In a few short weeks the calendar will change and we can all resume openly acknowledging how screwed we are. The Pollyannas will have gotten their "peace on earth, goodwill toward men" fix, and all the energy-hogging decorations will come down, and admitting to being in a less-than-good mood will be perfectly acceptable again.

And for those who are filled with Christmas cheer: It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year...

Friday, December 05, 2008

Face off

As I noted in this post, back in May I did give in to the unrelenting hounding acquiesce to kind requests from friends and joined Facebook.

And over these past months since that time, what that has meant is about once a week I actually bother to log in and glance at the status updates from those of my Facebook buddies who actually bothered to log in and enter something in the "What are you doing right now?" field. I have not participated in many games or other means of time-squandering forms of entertainment offered by the social networking site--not because I considered myself "above" those activities but merely because that wasn't how chose to spend my online time.

Recently I accepted a Thanksgiving greeting from a friend. Clicking on link it brought up another page that had links to other applications vying for my mouse to click upon.

I fully admit that I'm not sure how these links get placed on these pages, but I have to imagine that were they not effective, those who choose to put these links up wouldn't bother.

And on this page with my pleasant Thanksgiving greeting from my friend, one of the larger fonts on the page was on a link that read thusly:
Someone thinks your dumb

Here's a screen shot:

And I thought, Clearly that someone thinks I don't the difference between a contraction and its homonym, a possessive pronoun.

Then it hit me: Although this seemed like another example of blithe disregard for language on the internet, it could just as easily be a shrewd ploy to lull me into thinking, If they're making such egregious errors on the link, imagine how simple the quiz must be.

I was too clever to fall for it, but I applaud the effort.

Or, at least, I choose to applaud the possibility that it was a deliberate reverse-psychological effort to goad me into compliance, mostly because the delusion that we're in a post-post-contemporary grammatical era makes me feel better than concluding it was merely another example of the aforementioned blithe disregard for language.

I mean, the line below that does correctly use "their" (rather than "there" or "they're"), so it's not as though there was no cause for optimism.

Things are only getting worse if you interpret them the obvious way.

Nonetheless, I won't be playing these Facebook games; I'm too busy with this nonsense.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


[Note to the reader: The following post eschews the typical tongue-in-cheek tone often seen in these posts. I thought you should be alerted up front.]

On Friday evening we heard reports on the news about an incident on Long Island where a Walmart employee was trampled to death by shoppers who had pushed down the doors in the very early morning hours. It was entirely possible that the ones in the front were pushed by the crushing weight of those behind them without intending to bust in and run over another human being. It's obvious that the store had inadequate security. However, in the end, someone was dead, and it could be traced directly to the abject perversion of the "holiday spirit" that all the sales on the so-called Black Friday have transformed it into.

At the time and still now when I think about this my jaw clenches involuntarily. My teeth grind against each other. It takes a conscious effort to make it stop.

I don't know the man who died. I live thousands of miles away. I wasn't anywhere near to a shopping center that day. You couldn't pay me to go to the mall or a shopping center on that day of the year. I should be able to maintain a level of emotional distance in this scenario. However, clearly it gets to me.

Obviously my kneejerk reaction is that all involved should just be taken out and shot. No trial, no excuses—just line 'em up and don't stop until we run out of bullets. Make them dig their own graves first, of course.

But that's not right.

It's entirely possible that the people who caused this man to die are racked with guilt now. I would be lying if I said it wouldn't be at least somewhat satisfying to know that much was the case. But I don't know them. I'll never know any of them. And obviously it's best that it stays that way.

But I'm not here to vilify them. It's a tragedy, but they cannot undo what was done. They will have to live with what they were involved in for the rest of their lives, and possibly farther than that (depending on one's beliefs about the afterlife).

I'm just admitting that unlike so many other tragedies that I hear about on the news (many of which are arguably even worse—although to rank tragedies is undoubtedly amongst the most abjectly macabre things one can do, so I insist on pointing out I don't mean to imply anything that seems to undermine the severity of all tragedies) this one didn't merely elicit a response of "oh-how-terrible" but of visceral anger—much more visceral than would rationally be justified.

(To the extent that anger can be "rationally justified," yes; the terms may be somewhat incompatible under semantic analysis.)

I suppose when I started this I figured at some point along the process of writing about it something would come to mind to make some sense of it, but there's no making sense of it. Not now, not ever.

I guess my reaction may reveal something about my feelings about the "holiday season"—which would be that at this point in my life, with no children, it's something that I could take or leave. I don't mind the family get-togethers; those are the part I enjoy.

But the gift-giving clearly seems to have transcended acknowledging those one cares about when it involves congregating outside a retail store in the pre-dawn hours (possibly waiting there for days) not to procure food or medical supplies but to get a bargain on a flat-screen TV or a cashmere sweater, and then having the crowd mentality turn into a mob that is so sub-consciously convinced that the success of their holiday is based on getting in the store so soon that it involves trampling another person, that I cannot help but consider the epitome of what is wrong with this time of year.

It's overly melodramatic to say the "black" in Black Friday is in the human soul. I don't think it's fair to lay the blame on the soul. The soul isn't the part of the body that makes these decisions, not the part that inspires retailers to open at ridiculously earlier and earlier hours with limited numbers of "specially priced" items to entice people to sleep outside their doors, that's not the part of the body that suppresses the memory of how awful everyone was to each other at the mall last year and goes out and shops at those ungodly hours anyway. No, that's the grey matter between the ears, controlling the arms that shove others out of the way, that considers it a victory to have snagged some material item (that will be outdated in a couple years) away from some other fool up at that hour.

(Yes, I've adopted a judgmental tone. It was inevitable, given the vitriol I noted earlier, with the whole line-'em-up-and-shoot-'em line.)

Anyway, I have to imagine that if Christ was watching the news last week, He had to be screaming, "THAT'S NOT WHAT IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT!" (Not that I presume to know what the one whose birth is ostensibly celebrated in this season would do, but I hope you know what I mean by that.)

Of course, that lament of over-commercialization of Xmas goes back to well before I was even born. That's nothing new.

So, to conclude, I've concluded nothing. Perhaps it's merely that I hit the point where I couldn't be jaded any more, and it turned to anger.

Of course, I was able to suppress that anger without, oh, you know, trampling anyone, so I don't feel too bad. I'm not saying it makes me better than everyone—just that it makes me better than the people who couldn't use their brains better to prevent the death of a man who did nothing worse than be at work. And all it would have taken is not buy into the illusion that Christmas is supposed to be an orgy of spending.

Yeah. I need to stop now.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Cue the wah-wah peddle

I just saw part of an episode of The Universe on The History Channel where the term "the snuggle tunnel" was included.

Just when you think you've seen it all...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's not turkey

A shot from last Thanksgiving, taken from the backyard of my fiancee's cousin's place. Yes, it's the moon, behind the leaves of a vine on the fence.

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hitting 'em up

A couple of weeks ago as I entered the downtown train station a young man was hovering by the stairs panhandling. He stated that he was trying to get money for a ticket. It wasn't that he sought food; he sought to get somewhere, but apparently he couldn't put together $1.25 for a fare.

He was not disheveled. He was dressed in clothes that appeared laundered. He was clean-haven. But apparently he lacked even a dollar and a quarter.


As I walked by, a guy and two young women also passed near him and he changed his line from "Can anyone spare any change?" to addressing one of the women with "I'd also take your phone number." He started following her, telling her how beautiful she was. As far as I could tell she had no interest (and may not have even spoken English). But really, I can't imagine why she wouldn't want a guy begging for train fare.

He's going places. Well, as soon as he can convince someone for a few quarters.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

If it's Sunday then this must be a plug for photos

As has become routine, this is an alert that new pictures are available over on the useless photo site (which lives somewhat in the shadow of this verbose one), so if you have a few minutes to kill, please feel free to click on over and browse.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Wise men

I realized something: The next president and I were both born in the same decade--the 1960s.

Has there been a previous president who was born in the 1960s? No. The next most recently born was… yes, Bill Clinton, in 1946. (However, he's only a month and a half younger than George W. Bush.) They go back more than a decade from the one that saw both Barack Obama and me emerge.

This suggests that for the first time I will be of the same generation as the person occupying the Oval Office.

It was inevitable that eventually the presidency would catch up with me—or, perhaps, me with it. Still, it's a more profound moment of realization than I would have expected. I mean, of course there would come a day when someone born around my birth year would get elected. It's inevitable that someday a person who is younger than me will reside in the White House. Every year the pool of people who are younger than me and qualify to run for the office only increases; it will happen.

I'm not saying it's bad to have someone who comes from the same generation in that position. I'm sure a lot of people from my generation are absolutely giddy at that prospect, and they should be. I'm saying that I've long held a sub-conscious association: The president is old. Sometimes it's really old and sometimes it's kind of old, but still… old.

Don't get me wrong; it's fine that the president is old. There's a reason why there's a minimum age limit, and presumably it's to try to ensure that the person taking the office has a certain amount of life experience and presumed wisdom (of course, there's no guarantees—as evidenced by some presidents who shall remain nameless; hey, the people still voted for them).

And now I have constant reminders every time I turn on the news (okay, The Daily Show) that require me to consider whether I have the wisdom to run the country. (It's a short consideration. I don't.) In the past, with what I perceived as a generational disconnection between me and the person with access to the nuclear codes, it was always fine that they presumably had some wisdom I lacked. Now, the distinction cannot be applied based on a simple criterion like age.

I'm old, but I'm not prepared to be old. It's not that I mind getting older, or was clinging to my youth. No, I just cannot shake the sense that somewhere I went wrong and didn't learn… something I should have.

And it's all the fault of the president-elect.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Last weekend on the new CNN show D.L. Hughley Breaks the News, he held this segment with Dr. Drew Pinsky:

D.L. alluded to being thrown for a loop by the election results. He was pleased, certainly, but his world view was based on a paradigm that no longer applies. In a strange way he missed the sadness of the cynical take on the way things were that had been the foundation for his attitudes. It seemed even a fucked-up status quo was simpler to deal with than a new not-as-fucked-up world.

For me, it's also a weird and unprecedented scenario. Nothing as profound as what D.L. experienced, but something that threw me for a bit of a loop.

My streak has ended.

The streak was that I'd never voted for a presidential candidate who actually won previously. (Four years ago I offered this post where I first mentioned the streak.) Sure, some of those years were what some would call throwing away my vote, but I'd argue that in the last four presidential elections I would have thrown away my vote regardless. There had never really been a nominee who elicited in me a sense of being someone I wanted to vote for; there was merely one candidate who was worse and needed to be voted against.

However, that's not representation. That's the proverbial lesser-of-two-evils. And while many would argue that's what the system tends to be, it doesn't make it less of a waste to vote merely to keep out the one more feared.

I will note that, being a Californian, it was always a virtual given that the state's 55 electoral college votes would be given to the Democratic ticket, whether I voted for them or not. If I voted in the evening, shortly before the polls closed, it was not uncommon for the news to have already called the state. In that case I could vote for a third party, which was closer to doing something I believed in; I did fancy the notion of developing a viable third party, and it seemed only by them getting a noticeable percentage of the ballots would that ever be likely to happen.

And really, how could I pass up the chance to cast my vote for Ross Perot? I mean, that was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to vote for someone who was quite possibly insane.

Anyway, starting in 2000, I'd attempted to keep W. out in two consecutive elections (not because I was sold on the Democratic candidates but because... well, do I need to elaborate?) and had that backfire. It seemed like if I voted for a candidate he was doomed not to be inaugurated. I'm not saying I was a jinx, but there seemed a distinct pattern developing.

I was therefore reluctant to sincerely vote for Obama. I didn't want to screw up the first time I felt like I was really voting for someone. However, I could not pass up this chance to vote for a candidate who I felt came as close to representing me as I could ever recall.

I never believed he'd win, even though all the pundits said he was a lock.

I'm not suggesting that my lack of belief is what contradictorily propelled him to victory. I don't like to think I have that level of influence, and I'm certain I don't. Still, I had a particular take on my relationship with the political system that was long established, and even if it wasn't a source of happiness it was something to which I was accustomed. I'd watched Bush the first, then Clinton (twice), then Bush the second (twice), all with a sense of eh-there-it-goes-again.

And this time I had to adjust to I-can't-believe-it. However, on election night itself, I was rather emotionally distant, mostly because I'd been hearing for weeks that McCain could not win (Obama could lose, but McCain couldn't win). So after all that saturation, at the point of watching Jon Stewart confirm that outcome it was somewhat like watching the favored team win the Super Bowl and more than cover the point spread, with the end result never being in doubt. However, over the days since then, I've had more chance to ruminate on how amazing it all is.

No, I don't mean just that a non-white male got elected; I also mean that I could favor a candidate (non-ironically even) and not have it blow up.

It's a new world, and it's going to take some time to get used to.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The other post-election blues

Back during the weeks leading up to the election, I got a considerable amount of mail from those either in favor of or opposed to particular propositions (most notably the local ones). Every day my mailbox was stuffed.

Since election day I have received nothing from them. No notes thanking me for voting as they recommended or condemning me for going against them. Nothing.

It's as though they only cared about me for my vote, as though I had no thoughts, no dreams, no aspirations. It seems I was just a nameless member of the electorate that they wanted for their bidding.

I feel so used.

Is it time for the next election yet?

Monday, November 10, 2008


From the sit-down-for-this-one department:

I was listening to some TV On The Radio tracks I downloaded. They were from the band's material on the Touch N' Go label, and I could tell that they were good. Previously I had heard their last major label album (Return to Cookie Mountain), which featured a successful single ("Wolf Like Me") which didn't sound like the rest of the album. However, their sound tends to be that: Not all the tracks sound the same. That isn't a bad thing from an artistic standpoint.

Their tracks aren't generally "catchy" so they do take some time to grow on one (or at least on me); overall I was not inspired to listen to the Cookie Mountain disc after we got it more than once. It was not bad, by any means; it simply didn't strike that chord with me right off like some songs do--songs which are almost certainly of a lesser artistic quality.

However, it is very easy for me to listen to the TV On The Radio tracks and detect that there is talent behind them. I hope they come up in random playlists for a long time.

[This post on Aquarium Drunkard has some live TOTR tracks that are quite good.]

What intrigues me is that in their fall music preview*, Entertainment Weekly did mention TOTR's latest album, Dear Science. While I accept that in the early 21st century here that such bands are not relegated to underground publications, and that such a situation hasn't been the case in nearly two decades. Still, EW has such a mainstream, populist association for me (not that what they cover is necessarily restricted to that, I know consciously, but that doesn't change the connotation in my mind) that seeing a band that I'd consider as non-mainstream as TOTR to be something outside of what EW should spotlight. That's probably more reflective of the better marketing that such artists can get these days than anything.

So, in short, it's a different world than this probably fictitious one that is the basis for my associations. I fully admit that I tend to think that to be immensely popular is to be egregiously mediocre. (And that's not knocking egregious mediocrity; I happen to like a lot of songs which are that. I'm just identifying the relative artistic quality.) Thus, there's a certain level of difficulty for me to reconcile the non-mainstream and artistically worthwhile with being discussed in the same way as the mainstream and less artistic work that tends to be popular.

That's kind of stupid, I concede. I should be pleased that what is more worthwhile is getting its due, rather than the same ol' drivel being crammed down the throats of the masses. However, I came from a situation where there was that distinction, and it became something of a badge of honor. I can remember going to concerts in the late '80s and early '90s (my heyday for that) with my friends and looking around at the others in the crowd and thinking, Look at these poseurs. You can tell by the way they're dressed that they're not as into this band as we are. Clearly they're just here because the band happened to get a fluke hit on the radio. They probably can't even name a song off the band's last album.

The thing was: Those same people were probably looking at my friends and me and thinking the same thing about us.

It was very much a matter of being able to identify who was sincere in their appreciation of that which we took very seriously as opposed to who was merely jumping on a trend (and who undoubtedly would be jumping off as soon as that novelty wore off). When the "quality" artists were not household names, not being mentioned on TV, not something that the average person would hear about, knowing about those bands carried a tacit fraternity. Those people knew the secret handshake in a manner of speaking. Popularity was what the unworthy achieved, by allowing themselves to be sold to everybody.

That's not how it really was, of course. That was the bitter grapes attitude we unconsciously adopted to make up for not being in the mainstream. Everyone probably starts out wanting to be popular; smart people eventually figure out that being popular is as much of a curse (if not more) than a blessing.

I imagine that's what was too much for Kurt Cobain to reconcile. (Note: I was merely a Nirvana fan, not a Nirvana fanatic, so please don't jump down my throat for not having read every book about him—or, to be honest, any book about him—in the wake of him shooting himself.) I get the impression that Kurt came from that same mindset, and that's what made it particularly difficult for him, given that he more or less single-handedly (well, with the help of Krist and Dave and Butch Vig) and quite unintentionally played the key role in changing the way the situation was between what the mainstream media covered regarding the world of music. He should never have become that popular; that wasn't the way these things worked out, and that was how everyone had been comfortable with previously.

Yes, it is entirely convenient to attribute the shift to the public reaction to Nevermind (and in particular to "Smells Like Teen Spirit"), but I was 23 in 1991, and remember quite well how I perceived the distinction of what was covered by non-music magazines (representing the mainstream here) before Nirvana's major label debut came out and what is covered by them now, and I know it's what everyone (whoever that is, yes) says made the difference. I agree, based not on hearing it over and over in rock documentaries but on my personal experience. It could be completely wrong, but I don't think there's any actual "right" or "wrong" in this scenario; it is whatever one perceives it to be.

I digress, of a sort.

Anyway, I alluded to how it was likely that everyone aspired to popularity initially, but that some eventually gave up, either because they accepted it wasn't going to happen or because they saw through it and realized it wasn't all it was cracked up to be. However, there was another way that could go: They could actively sabotage the likelihood of gaining mainstream popularity.

Behold the Replacements, the patron saints of underachievement. Leader Paul Westerberg wrote some phenomenally good songs, and a watered-down version of their sound was taken to the mainstream by the Goo Goo Dolls (who were admitted 'Mats devotees), so the possibility of them getting more popular with the non-college rock crowd clearly could have happened, were it not for one thing: they stuck a metaphorical middle finger toward that.

By the very late '80s their label was trying to get them exposure by having them open for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on a nationwide tour. It's a difficult position for any band to fill that opening slot and try to win over another artist's fans, but Paul and the guys would come out on stage drunk (and sometimes in drag) and actively insult the crowd between songs--when they actually finished their songs.

And apparently that doesn't tend to make people want to buy your albums or request your songs on the radio. Funny that.

Sure, they recorded some songs that seemed pretty clearly intended to be radio-friendly (not that their better songs were radio-unfriendly, by any means), perhaps seeming a good idea while in the studio or to appease the label who was paying for the recording, but in the end they went out of their way to shoot down mainstream success.

I have long held the opinion that those of us who are big fans kind of like that fact. It may be on a subconscious level, but we appreciate that when we allude to the Replacements that we never have to make the follow-up statement about liking them before they got big; they never got beyond the realm of being relatively well-known in the world of those who aren't that well-known. Those 8 albums of theirs remain perfect because if you own them, you probably still listen to them; you didn't buy them because they were "hot" at one time (because they never were). They weren't spotlighted in EW or such magazines as something to look forward to.

Thank goodness.

I sincerely believe that would have kind of ruined it.

I have to imagine that had the 'Mats gotten as big as, say, R.E.M. (with videos in heavy rotation on MTV rather than just on 120 Minutes, playing amphitheaters rather than just concert halls, being a band whose name virtually everyone at least recognized, etc.)—and Paul Westerberg is a better songwriter than Michael Stipe, so it wouldn't be out of the question—then instead of just putting out a couple raw early albums, four really good albums, and two more that were Paul sliding into a solo career before officially breaking up and cementing their rock legacy as a tremendously influential band who never sold out (not that their label wouldn't have loved that), they would have transformed into something that all of the diehard fans would have stopped liking.

We were all underachieving as well, and on an unconscious level we almost certainly felt represented by them.

That's not suggesting they were shooting their prospects for big-time success in the foot just to keep from losing their audience; they simply weren't any more comfortable with being that successful as their fans were.

Of course, that's just my take on it; I could be wrong. And I'm sure I'll be told that I am. (That's why there's a Thoughts on This link below.)

* Yes, the EW issue in question came out weeks ago. I put this post on hold until after the election stuff subsided.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Weekend update

Taking a break from all the words to cast a little light on pictures, and suggest you click over to the useless photo site and have a look at what's been posted recently.

Friday, November 07, 2008


For those of you who read this post from last week, you've probably been waiting anxiously to see how an important event turned out.

Namely, how did my Halloween costume go over at the office last Friday?

First, a reminder of what I wore a week ago:
In short, it was a big hit.

In the pseudo-contest amongst those who bothered to dress up, I got a prize (I tied for "most creative"—which, considering how much make-up and props were involved with the other winner in that category, I have a hard time feeling good about it; however, considering the prize was a plastic skull and a CPK gift card, it's not like it's a big deal one way or another).

(In case you're wondering: There were two Sarah Palins in the costume contest... who tied for "scariest costume"—the judges had a very particular political inclination.)

The people in my department who remembered my previous costumes were appreciative of the conspicuous absence of the neck wound. (See reminder from 2005 at left.)

Not only would have going with a "zombie PC and Mac" have pushed it over the top, undoubtedly it would have ruined the best part of the costume I selected.

No, it wasn't winning a prize, nor the fact that no one else was in the same costume.

Unlike with more gruesome ensembles of past years, at no point did anyone ask me, "So, what are you supposed to be?"

My costume took a few seconds to sink in, but it operated without explanation (well, there were a couple people who don't watch TV and didn't get it, but even they didn't ask what I was; they accepted it as what it seemed to be). I even got some nods of approval from strangers I passed when I went to lunch.

In past years I would get confusion or repulsion or dismissive rolling of the eyes. And while that was entirely expected at the time, I must admit: it got old after eight hours.

The lesson: It's better to be clever than to be gory (even if it's gory and kind of clever). But it's best to be something easily identifiable.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Not judging anything

Last night The Daily Show and The Colbert Report teamed up for a live election night special: Indecision 2008: America's Choice (see it here on Hulu).

However, at the beginning Stephen Colbert thought "America's Choice" was too weak, and came up with his own title for it:

And although the ridiculous stream of words flowed quickly across the screen, I noticed something immediately that distracted me.
"Judgement Day."

In case it doesn't jump out to you, in American English it's generally considered correct to spell it "judgment"--dropping the "e" off of "judge" before appending the "ment" to it. (The British still spell it with the middle "e," but I doubt Colbert's graphics people would be paying intentional tribute that, even though they are our allies now. Without shaking off their empirical shackles a couple centuries ago, we wouldn't be having the event that inspired the special, so it seems inappropriate given the nature of the show.)

But my point is not to vilify a simple lack of running a spell check (and it's likely that the graphics program used lacks spell checking capability). My point, as always, is that my brain cannot stop noticing. And that detracts from my enjoyment in ways that people with (shall we say) a less discerning mindset presumably do not experience; they laugh at the joke without pause.

And most important: Because they didn't notice in the first place, they feel no compulsion to note it on their blogs.

Lucky bastards.

So, if someone could please sneak up on me and hit me in the back of the head with a blunt object--just enough to knock this awareness of how words are spelled, not enough to make me seem like a good Republican vice presidential nominee or someone who'd vote for Proposition 8--I'd appreciate it. (Please don't let me hear you coming, or else I'll almost certainly flinch and that might ruin everything, leaving me with only a concussion and full cognition.) I mean, I'd like to still be able to understand the rest of The Daily Show, without having my viewing options reduced to merely Fox & Friends.

After that, I'll be able to watch TV and read the internet, all without being encumbered with useless knowledge regarding the arbitrary quirks of how our language has been tweaked by whoever* the hell it is that decides how words are supposed to be spelled (even if the country from which that language originated still spells them a different way) and the distracting consequences of that knowledge, which is my right as an American.

(If you could, please hum a few bars of "God Bless America" to yourself to help accentuate that last paragraph. Thanks.)

I'd say maybe it's just me, but that's stupid; of course it's just me. That's my point. I'm tired of it being just me.

No matter what the election results might imply, elitism is the bailiwick of the unhappy. And I'm willing to give a bit of happiness a try.

Someone can knock me slightly senseless. We can do this.

Yes we can.


Let's make it simple: In the Thoughts on This section below, please just indicate on a scale of 1 - 10 how much of an asshole I am.


* Addendum on November 8, 2008:
An astute reader noted in the Thoughts on This that in the sentence indicated with the asterisk above the term "whomever" should have been used. And that's true. At least I think so. I have used "whomever" in all these posts before; clearly on more than one occasion I have exhibited some awareness of the distinction.

However, now that I think about it, I think that in the moment I was typing that line I was overcome by the spirit of Colbert. And by that I mean I unconsciously adapted "truthiness" for grammatical purposes, and went with what felt right.

For that reason, I shall leave it as is, with apologies to those who are aware of the rules of usage for "whomever" and come across it. Undoubtedly that will cause them to be distracted by it in much the same way I was distracted when watching the show. Therefore, I recommend any such readers rate me high on the asshole scale in the Thoughts on This.

More important than that: This self-revelation about why I did what I did granted me insight into what happened on the show. When those who prepared the graphic in question included "judgement" it wasn't so much that they sought to acknowledge any variation in how it can be spelled. They felt that the "e" was the way to go, and they went with it.

That doesn't change whether the common spelling in American English is "judgment"--and in the Blogger editor it flags the alternate "judgement" as misspelled, as is also the case with the Microsoft Office dictionary for "English (U.S.)" so I'm having to ignore those little red underlines as I type this--nor does it alter my reaction to seeing that spelling on an American TV show, but it does explain how the graphic was completely consistent with the Colbert philosophy.

With any luck, continued viewing of his program will have the same mental effect as the blow to the head mentioned in the original post. I can only hope.

And now is a time for hope.

(Let's continue to not dwell on this starting sentences with conjunctions I've been doing rampantly, okay?)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I voted. It was okay.

Just before I walked out the door this morning to go to my polling place (in the old folks home—er, retirement community—next door to the condo) I got a text from my fiancée, who noted that up where she was (in L.A.), the lines were around the block. This was at roughly 8:00 a.m., an hour after the polls opened.

Down in my neighborhood in Long Beach, it took me a total of 12 minutes to complete my voting transaction. And that includes walking to and from the polling place (which, as noted, was only about 40 yards outside the front door). I did have to wait a couple minutes to sign in (there's always someone who has difficulty with being able to state his or her name, and the people behind the table almost always struggle with finding the names on the list, even when you spell them out), and then after getting my ballot I had to wait another few minutes for a booth to become available. Once in the booth, it took me approximately a minute to punch the holes for the candidates and propositions on the ballot; I did spend some time prior to getting there identifying how I planned to vote, so it wasn't terribly challenging. When I went back to the person who collected the ballots, she commented "That was fast." I smiled politely. She tore off the stub from my ballot and handed it to me. I asked if I could have an "I Voted" sticker, and she said, "Oh, sure," tore off two of them and gave them to me.

On my walk to the train station I passed another polling place (in a church rec room about four blocks away). And there I could see a line of people waiting that was at least as long as the distance from my front door to my polling place. None of those people would be in and out in 12 minutes, that much was certain.

My experience with my polling place has been the same every time I've voted there since 2004, whether voting in the morning or evening. It's always as relatively quick. But clearly that's not common.

Now, I do not believe that the people working at that location are intrinsically more efficient than people working at others. (They aren't necessarily hideously inefficient, but to call them a "well-oiled machine" would be a stretch.) So why were there so many more people waiting at that other location?

Well, conceivably more people who were assigned there chose to vote before work. The retired don't need to worry about hitting the polls in time to get to the office. Or maybe more of the people over on my block were of the percentage who don't vote.

Or maybe the answer was implied by what the woman said to me about the expediency of my voting time. Maybe the people at these other locations are making up their minds when they're in the booth, without having done the research ahead of time. If a majority of those voting are taking up the available booths for considerably longer than it takes for those at the check-in area to process the folks, they'll just hold up the line outside.

So maybe the people on my block who bother to vote are also more inclined to make up their minds ahead of time.

Maybe the people at other polling places, where there are long lines, liken the process of preparing for voting to sitting on a jury, where one is supposed to withhold judgment until all evidence has been given. And that would apparently last until they get in the booth.

Hey, perhaps they figure they're giving all the people waiting in line time to read the sample ballot.


Remember: Less than half of eligible voters actually do so. Thus, if you voted today, you're in a minority, and therefore an elitist.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Run for your life or your polling place... or neither

From the crappy-last-minute-ruminations-on-the-election department:

Before we start today's post, I would like to take this time to remind my readers that I have a big corn dog up on the masthead. I think we can all agree that I am in no position to be telling anyone else what he or she should do.


On the eve of the election, it seems a lot of people are essentially beseeching everyone to vote. However, I imagine most of those people have very specific loyalties regarding for whom they intend to vote. Thus, in truth, it's probably not so much that they want everyone to vote, but that they want everyone who does vote to vote for their preferred candidate. The implication is that they somehow believe that the ambivalent 2/3 of the country who don't vote would somehow be in favor of their candidate if only those people invested some time in the process. Or perhaps they merely prefer that their side achieve victory by whatever means necessary, and if getting people who really don't give a shit one way or the other to pretend to care about their side for as long as it takes to fill out the ballot, then that's fine with them.

Sure, that's hideously crass. And I'm not saying it isn't. Hell, I admitted four years ago that I am the problem. But that doesn't mean it isn't an accurate deconstruction of the situation. (And if you're so inclined, I'd really appreciate it if you could click on the Thoughts on This link below and tell me how full of shit I am.)

Despite my cynical leanings, I will be voting tomorrow, but as to the rest of you, I say: Vote if you want to. If you don't want to, that's certainly your prerogative. If you weren't going to before reading this, I don't delude myself into thinking somehow I could (or even should) try to convince you otherwise. And if you were going to, I imagine you already have a pretty good idea for whom you intend to cast your ballot.

I would only hope this: You will vote for the candidate who inspires you in whatever tiny way politicians can these days, not for the candidate whose campaign made you afraid to vote for the other side. If you're merely voting against the side you dislike most, if I were giving any suggestions I would encourage you to intentionally undervote. (That is, when you're in the booth, if you don't have any modicum of belief in any of the candidates, leave it blank; don't vote for any of them.)

Seriously. You don't have to. It doesn't invalidate your ballot. It just means you don't have any preference one way or the other.

Which, it sounds like, represents your feelings perfectly.

I know this won't happen, of course. I'm just being idealistic in a horribly cynical sort of way. I'm aspiring to see an election where the tally indicates what people really believe in, not what they're afraid of, nor what they figure they have to resort to.

Fat chance. I know.

The system is well-established, which means it has little to do with how the system could be. Voting's not likely to change that, but hey, it's all we have.


Anyway, while it's still a modicum of a free country, please do what you think is best. Even if that involves just following what someone else tells you to do.

As long as that person is not me.

Friday, October 31, 2008


As I post this, it's possible that someone could be worried about getting a citation from the L.A.P.D. for using (or even just having) Silly String. (Yes, Silly String--that liquid propelled from aerosol cans that forms thin strands of resin.) Signs posted in Hollywood suggest that today and through noon Saturday it's ticket-able offense in that part of town.

Some might look at that and think it's silly to ban Silly String (especially only for one 36-hour period a year), but let's be clear: I'm not saying the ban is silly. I'm saying the sign is saying that the ban is silly.

Allow me to elaborate.

Right at the top the "$ 1,000.00 FINE" text is placed in quotes:(We'll overlook the closing quote being the same typographical symbol as the opening quote. Perhaps they have limited characters available at wherever these signs are printed. Probably not, but let's overlook nonetheless.)

It would seem perhaps the intent was to emphasize the magnitude of the check one would have to write (or one's parents would have to write) if cited. Generally speaking, making the text bold or italicized would be the better way to do that, but let's grant that such formatting may not be possible with the typesetting for these signs.

So what would be the next best thing? Make the characters bigger? Yes. Oh wait. They already did that.

Let's review the rules for quotations mark usage from our friends at Overthinking Everything to see if any of them might explain this:
1. To cite the name of an article from a magazine or newspaper.
There's no attribution to any publication originally printing this, so that doesn't apply.
2. To indicate a direct quotation.
There's no attribution to anyone saying this, so that's also unlikely.
3. To set off words that are deemed special.
Well, that seems likely, but let's not be too hasty.
4. To express dialogue between characters in a story.
I, uh, suppose this could be some extremely experimental fiction, but even I am reluctant to believe that.
5. To indicate irony.
Ding ding! We have a winner. They're like air quotes when speaking, to reinforce sarcasm. So it's suggesting (ahem) penalty is a one-thousand dollar fine (wink-wink).

However, from a single instance it's difficult to draw any conclusion. Let's move on to the fine print:Here the word "ILLEGAL" gets the irony treatment--which, I have to say, would undermine the impact of the capitalized term, were it not for the fact that we've already dismissed the size of the fine as just kidding around, so clearly it's not really illegal.

So it appears that not only did the person who composed this sign knew exactly how to employ ironic quotation marks, he or she was being consistent with their usage. Thus, this is something of an inside joke for those who can appreciate the sardonic tone the quotes indicate.

Who knew the city had such a sense of humor?

I will concede it is entirely likely that those who might be inclined to cover the streets with the difficult-to-clean resin at Halloween celebrations would fail to grasp the humor on the signs and think that the law is real, and the perceived threat of having to fork over a grand might prevent them from using it anyway. However, those of us who are "in the know"* are keenly aware that there's no actual threat. (We choose to not use Silly String because it's juvenile and we understand the hideous mess it makes, and further we grasp that it's our tax dollars that would have to go toward cleaning it.) It's possible that the sign could be working on multiple levels.

However, if some year the city decides to remove the irony and start issuing these citations for real (and collecting those thousands of dollars), they should take some of that money and get sign-making technology that allows for other formatting (bold, italics, underlining), just so there's no confusion. But as long as apparently they're limited to only quotes, I guess this "Los Angeles Municipal Code 56.02" will remain only more silliness in Hollywood.


* The quotes here indicate a common expression, which is akin to something someone said, but without specific attribution. It is entirely possible that they are not being used properly, but they seemed like a good idea at the time.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What I am

Last year I reminisced about spending Halloween 2003 in Beijing, but the year before that I posted shots of my gruesome punker zombie costume that I wore to a party. And the year before that I told the story of how my neck wound makeup left people at work disquieted. (The year before that I wasn't really posting very much yet.)

And here's a shot of my zombie pirate amalgamation from 2005:
(Egad, we were fond of that neck wound makeup. And check out that chest hair--the scariest part of the outfit.)

So in what grotesque sartorial direction will I go this Halloween?
(Aaaaaaaah! Look at that poorly knotted tie!)

For those who don't recognize it, let's zoom in on a couple key spots on the costume:

Get it? (I look more like John Hodgman than Justin Long.)

I'm sure everyone at work will be happy there's no zombie element to it.


Happy Halloween.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fun with the sample ballot

In the official sample ballot sent by the state (or the county, or whichever branch handles it specifically) it includes the arguments for and against each of the local measures. (For the state measures, those are handled in the larger voter information packet.) I admit I'm not entirely sure who gets designated as the ones to compose the text that appears in the booklet, but I'm pretty sure that the content of these arguments is completely up to those offering the arguments. I presume the text is not altered in any way when the text is typeset by those preparing the sample ballots for printing.

I would imagine that when these arguments and counterarguments are constructed by these groups who either oppose or support the initiative in question that some thought and effort is put into crafting them to be persuasive. This text may be the only thing that some voters see to use as the basis for their vote, so it's undoubtedly in the best interest of those who feel so strongly about seeing the initiative pass or be rejected that what ends up in the booklet be as accurate as possible.

In the argument against a city measure, attributed to an individual identified as part of the city's taxpayers association, the opponent seeks to prevent the voters from approving a bond that would cost them hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes over the next decade and to stop the "reckless spending" of the city government.

In the next-to-last paragraph the text features a sentence noting the city is "currently at its' spending limit."

Yes, that is exactly how it appears in the booklet.

For those who didn't catch it (and because I didn't interrupt the flow of the text with "[sic]" to distinguish what wasn't my error), when making "it" possessive (as was the case here), one simply appends "s" ("its"); as with the possessive of all pronouns, there is no apostrophe. (There is an apostrophe in the contraction of "it is"—but that appears in the middle ("it's") to denote the dropped letter.)

Of course, we could give the benefit of the doubt and suggest this could be an error of the typesetting, and that those who composed the text knew that "its" never has an apostrophe at the end under any grammatical circumstances. However, in the all-important last paragraph, the text implores the voters to "tell the city it needs to prioritize its' [sic] spending" by voting no on the measure.

Okay, I suppose it could be a coincidence that the typesetter goofed again. It's not outside the realm of possibility. But were I asked to place a wager I'd put money on the explanation being that the taxpayers group hires no proofreaders.

Perhaps they're going for that ignorant vote. (Sadly, that is a rather effective strategy.)


Of course, it is entirely likely that I am in a minority in this. Not only am I perhaps in an uncommon position of knowing the proper punctuation of "its" (i.e., none at all), I am perhaps one of an even smaller group: those who bothered to read the information booklet for a mere city-level measure.

The worst part: I spent all this time dwelling on this error in the text rather than getting any idea whether I support or oppose the measure itself. I still don't know if I'll vote for it or against it.

I have to believe that's not what the person(s) who wrote this argument had in mind when they threw that superfluous apostrophe in there.


I'd offer my proofreading services were it not for two things: 1) they haven't asked, and 2) these instances provide me with material.

Probably more the second one.

Hey, I'm just being honest.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Poop 8

More riffing on the topic from this earlier post:

The proponents of California's Proposition 8 have further raised the bar in the commercials, alleging that the failure to pass the ban on same-sex marriage would lead to lawsuits against the state and churches losing their tax-exempt status (and the aforementioned teaching of same sex unions to school children without any parental input). They don't mention in the ads how the one leads to the other*, but it's not like explanations have any part of any commercial, whether it's for floor polish or for using the state to codify one's intolerance; they're just about convincing the concerned that the situation can be cleaned up simply by following what the ad says.

If they were smart, the proponents would figure out some way to imply that banning same-sex marriage is good for the environment. The "green" movement is the bandwagon on which everyone is jumping these days.

It's no worse than anything else they're saying.


Having read the voter information guide (the one sent out to everyone), the argument in favor of Prop. 8 focuses largely on how a similar initiative received a majority of the vote in 2000, and how that was overturned by "activist judges" in defiance of the will of the people.

Their thesis is that if a majority of people disagree with the notion that a minority who wants to be treated the same as that majority—not better, just the same—that the will of the majority should dictate that the law treats that minority differently.

They claim that same-sex unions carry the same benefits as marriage, but they want "marriage" to be kept separate.

Separate but equal. Hmm… that has a familiar ring to it. Where have I heard that before?


We certainly wouldn't want children getting the idea that it's okay for a person to marry the person he or she loves most in the world. Most of them will never find true love anyway, and will end up settling for some pale imitation; no point in getting their hopes up in their youth.

That would be irresponsible.


Paying attention is depressing.


* The fear is that if churches refuse to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies they could be sued for that.

Which I admit is entirely possible. I'm sure there may be at least one gay or lesbian couple who'd just want to fuck with a church, and have plenty of money for attorney fees.

However, given that the marriages are presently legal, one wonders what is holding them back from suing now.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Phoning it in

I noticed this as a headline on the Yahoo front page: "Survey: A third of U.S. workers admit calling in fake sick days."

What does this indicate about our nation's workforce?

A third of U.S. workers are too stupid to lie when surveyed about faking calling in sick.

Ba-dump-chik! Thank you. I do two shows on Sunday. Tip your servers--they're working hard out there. (And they don't get sick pay so they don't call in sick.)


The story reveals that these results are based on surveying around 10,000 individuals (nearly 3,400 hiring managers and under 6,900 full-time workers). In a country of over 305 million, that fraction of a percent (about .003, if my math is correct) represents all of us.

However, there's a key problem with that extrapolation. They don't represent most Americans, for one simple reason: Most Americans don't bother replying to surveys.

Therefore, the real conclusion: A third of people who like to respond to surveys will admit to feigning illness to get out of working.

Which, I will admit, is brave, considering how lousy the economy is; now would not be a good time to get fired for pretending to be sick.

So, revised conclusion: A third of people who like to respond to surveys don't really need their jobs (perhaps because they have trust funds and were merely working as a lark).

It's all about knowing how to interpret the data.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Drawing the lines

In last week's episode of The Girls Next Door, the girls decided to give Hef something special for his 82nd birthday: chocolate body parts. And yes, it's the body parts that would be of most interest to him.

(Also available here on YouTube.)

Because E! re-runs their shows with such frequency I came across this same episode several times while flipping through the channels. (And really, that's more a statement on how poor the pickings were on other channels such that I'd have to be looking for something to watch than it is about E! re-running their shows over and over.) I never sat and watched it all the way through, but between those instances I saw most of the episode, and certain scenes more than once.

In particular, what intrigued me was the censoring standards that they had to abide.

Obviously, on a show about three women who live at the Playboy Mansion*, there are moments of nudity where particular body parts are pixelated to obscure them on screen. And if you watched the embedded video above, you saw this done with breasts and buttocks on the girls as they allowed the molds for the chocolate pieces to the readied.

However, when the actual chocolate breasts and butt and vagina were made from the molds, those very anatomically accurate edibles could be shown on air with no pixelation whatsoever.

That was a bit surprising, but okay, it appeared that representations of body parts were not subject to the same censorship rules as the corresponding actual body parts.

Later in the episode, the group goes to Las Vegas for Hef's birthday celebration. In the afternoon they check into their colossal suite, and Hef is shown wearing a big foam hand, which presumably is birthday-related. However, rather than having the index finger extended in a "birthdays are #1" way, it appeared to have a different digit up (with more of a "screw birthdays" message).

And it was pixelated.

I know that showing the extended middle finger is considered offensive on American television and is generally blurred out, but this was not Hef sticking up his actual finger but a ridiculously exaggerated representation of the finger.

So, from this we can only discern the standards for censorship are: Nudity is fine if it's made by a fancy chocolatier, but there's no circumstance where the middle finger can be shown. Apparently, that gesture could offend someone who a short while earlier had no problem with seeing chocolate labia.

Okey-dokey. Let's all keep in mind that's where the line is.

Of course, although there's been plenty of previous cases of middle fingers on screen for the folks in Standards and Practices to cite as precedents, it's entirely likely that this is the first time that they've run into chocolate genitalia.

It will be interesting to see what happens the next time it happens. If it ever does.

Let's not hold our collective breath on that.


(I say: If you're relying on "reality" TV for cheap nudity, just have the decency to go find real porn.)


* Or at least who lived there at the time this was filmed.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Yucking it up

For my readers who wish a bit of break from... reading, I'll alert you that I've completed posting on the photo site the shots from last month's trip in Joshua Tree. Click over if you'd like to have a look.

Friday, October 17, 2008

It's not the end

I wasn't sure whether to write some thoughts on the Angels recent playoff demise (winning more games than any other team this season and a favorite to go to the World Series, then a pathetic performance in the Division Series against the Red Sox) or to write about politics, and I realized it's kind of the same thing: events that get one's hopes up but almost cannot avoid disappointing when all is said and done.

You can say that's jaded and cynical, and I'd allow myself an extraordinarily juvenile moment to reply: No shit, Sherlock.

Cynicism is not admirable by any means, but it has never let me down like blind optimism. I'm just saying.

The only time the Angels failed to let me down in the post-season was in 2002 when they somehow harnessed the power of the "rally monkey" (a brilliant albeit inexplicable marketing ploy) to win the World Series. To this day, the only reason I think that happened was because I had absolutely no belief that they could win; they'd broken my sports heart 16 years earlier, when I was in the stadium to witness the moment when they were one strike away from going to the Series and blew it, and from that moment on I had no faith in them.

And in anticipation of your question: This season, with as well as they did before the playoffs, I did start to think they were almost a lock to go to the Series (where they'd lose to the Cubs—go ahead and laugh; it's funny). Am I to blame for their poor showing against Boston? Let's not be ridiculous. I don't have that level of influence over the universe (at least, dear goodness, I certainly hope not), but I have noticed that me getting my hopes up (or, more specifically in this case, taking as likely the outcome of an event) tends to result in the outcome being the opposite of what I was expecting.

I know how ludicrous that sounds. Believe me, I do. I admit this with no small level of trepidation. Again, I'm not saying it's me who's making these things happen; I'm saying I've noticed a pattern, and one where's it's entirely possible—likely, even—it's mere coincidence. Nothing would make me happier than to see this pattern end, but obviously, I dare not get any sort of hope up about that happening.

Please don't try to convince me otherwise, okay? I assure you it won't work.

Which brings us to the upcoming election. (Why? Because I have no better segue.) As I have already intimated (or perhaps even out-and-out stated) I plan to vote for Obama. Listening to what I've heard from him over the past year he seems to represent me better than what McCain has become (and e-fucking-gad Sarah Palin is a...). I'm not going to contribute to Obama's campaign or put a sign up in my front yard, but I do plan to cast my ballot for him next month.

It boils down to this: I do not forget that he's still a politician.

He has to be.

I can support him without deifying him. And frankly, I worry about the people who have done so. It's not that I don't think he'll win (I try to have no expectation one way or another—which should be a comfort to Obama supporters, given what I mentioned about the Angels above); I just think if he becomes president, he'll simply prove to be… well, president.

In that scenario, I see it this way: When it's all said and done, the history books may state he was a very good president, but there's little chance that with these sort of lofty expectations beforehand that when he is perceived as simply returning to earth that it won't be seem a disappointment to those who placed him upon that pedestal.

"Change" is merely a modest variation on the political status quo, and that's as much as we can possibly handle. The opposite the "same thing" is not change; it's an armed coup d'etat. And no matter how bad our government is, I for one don't need that much of an overhaul.

In any case, one thing is certain: Barack Obama will not let me down.