Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turkey, not the country

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers.

Have a good Thursday, rest of the world.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It's most wonderful time... well, it already has been being the most wonderful time...

With still a couple days until Thanksgiving the Xmas specials have already commenced (interestingly, with a new animated show featuring characters from the movie Madagascar). This isn't that bad, all things considered. Heck, some stores have had holiday-themed displays up for months.

I know people who lament this stretching of the season—and by that I mean the shopping season—out for such a period; I have been one of them. It seems like the stores are striving to shove Xmas down our throats before Labor Day.

While the dismay has been directed at the merchants who start the pattern earlier than we remember it when we were young, the vitriol would seem to be better directed toward the people who actually buy these holiday-themed items in August. If the stores weren't making money putting that merchandise out when they were they wouldn't do it. Economics trump all other considerations.

However, it's too blithe to blame those who have their shopping completed before Halloween. Any such ill will about them is probably more envy that they don't procrastinate like us combined with the romanticized vision we have of hitting the shops when there's at least a chill in the air (or, here in SoCal, when we have to stop wearing open-toed shoes). They aren't upholding the tradition, and Xmas, moreso than any other holiday, benefits from tradition (or at least the appearance of tradition).

Here's the thing: Our children will grow up in a world where they will only know the holiday shopping season to run a majority of the year. That will be their "tradition." And someday when we tell our grandchildren how shopping for Xmas didn't just last all year round they will look at us blankly, and ask us to tell them again about Xmas trees were actual objects and not merely holograms.


No other holiday ever came up with such ripe marketing potential. It was naïve to think it wouldn't be exploited to a greater and greater degree.

Don't blame Xmas. Blame all the other holidays for not coming up with anything to compete with its potential and give the stores something else to drive in to the ground at other times of year, something that would give people who really like Xmas another part of the year to look forward to.

Something to stimulate the economy without stores resorting to touting Xmas in summer.

Whether people could afford two of those a year is another story, especially these days. So anyone thinking of trying that alternate Xmas may be best served to wait for things to get better financially.

Timing is everything.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


More pictures from our trip to the Big Island of Hawai'i have been posted to the photo site, for those of you who enjoy that sort of thing.

There's many of Kilauea Volcano inside Hawaii Volcanos National Park in this post and this one.

There's also some like this fern on the grounds of a B&B in Volcano Village where we stayed in this post.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Shrugging it off

My wife has copies of Ayn Rand books in our library, which I believe were acquired while she was in university. (I say "library" as though it were more than three bookshelves in the spare bedroom. I know.) Atlas Shrugged. We the Living. Possibly others. I think she has read at least some of them. She was a better student than I was.

There have been moments when I reflect back on my time in university and how I never read any of Rand's books—however, I don't recall ever being assigned to read them, so this is not entirely surprising. Still, I somehow got through years of taking classes—and being, technically, an English major, I took a lot where reading was assigned—without actually reading every book assigned, so it was entirely likely that even if, say, Atlas Shrugged had been on a list for a class that I would not have made it through it. Or necessarily have even cracked it open.

College taught me the far more useful skill of being able to make the most of what I had read and downplay what I hadn't completed. If you think that's a cop-out, you are an educational traditionalist with grandiose notions about the collegiate experience. And almost certainly you read much faster than I do. You may or may not care for Dead Poet's Society (but that may reveal more about your preference for the thespian abilities of Robin Williams).

Now that I am not under ostensible obligation to read books, and certainly not required to try to read them in timeframes that were unreasonable for me even in my proverbial heyday, I sometimes find myself thinking that I should tackle these bits of the canon that eluded my experience.

However, people with whom I have conversed on the topic of Rand's books generally dissuade me from bothering.

I do find myself not so much wanting to read them; I merely want to have read them. Or at least for some reason there are moments where I think I'm supposed to want to want to have read them. I suppose may stem from those instances where my degree comes up and people figure that acquiring it should have required familiarizing myself with a work like Atlas Shrugged. It's not that I got a degree to comply with anyone's expectations, but there's still something that hits upon some insecurity when I can't quite explain or justify. But which I get over quickly.


When one looks at the way my life has gone up to this point, it's not like doing what I should has been a common theme. Should would have dictated I focus on college rather than work more. Should would have had me graduate sooner and get a different job.  Most of all, more than likely, should would not have me married to my wife.

Should would not have resulted in my life being any better.

What I might need to know about Atlas Shrugged in order to understand erudite jokes on the subject I'm sure I could glean from the summary on its Wikipedia page (not that I'm going to actually go to that much effort, but I suppose some day I might). I'll never be able to speak authoritatively on the book, no, but somehow I imagine my life will turn out okay despite that. Or perhaps because of that.

From what little I can claim to have heard about the book it touts the beauty of selfishness (but, as noted, I could be wrong about that). What is selfishness if not eschewing what one should do for what one wants to do?

Reading the book would be tantamount to missing its point altogether. Probably.

I'm sure if this post gets read by someone who actually has made it through the book he/she will correct me if I'm wrong. Such is the glory of the internet: It gives the know-it-alls somewhere to show off.

(Here's hoping the know-it-alls have a good sense of humor.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A last word on this Palin thing

If someone asks me if I watched the Sarah Palin interview on Oprah I'll simply note that I'm ignoring the erstwhile Alaskan governor in the hope that others will follow suit and she'll drift back out of the public consciousness.

That I consider leading by example.


I concede I don't know Mrs. Palin personally, and only can claim to have any familiarity with the public persona that was cultivated during the campaign and over the intervening year in the mentions of her in various media. Were she merely someone I met at a cocktail party she might seem perfectly pleasant. I could comment on the brief business trip I took to Anchorage ten years ago, and how I thought her home state to be quite picturesque; she could relate how she was an avid hunter or something. "Really?" I'd reply. "Shooting them from a helicopter? Well, that must be quite the thrill," I'd remark out of politeness, and I'd probably find some excuse to mingle elsewhere. Likely I wouldn't come away with the impression that she was the proverbial sharpest tack in the box but that she did have a certain charisma. Ultimately, I'd be left ambivalent.

The problem is that from the national spotlight I did learn a bit more about her than the party small talk would reveal, and it only reinforced what the impression from the party would have been. Namely: Not someone who I'd want to spent the better part of an hour in the afternoon see be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey.

Ultimately, my disinterest is more of a referendum on the way that most news organizations continue to dwell on her; while she and (I presume) her team of publicists work to keep her on their radar, one cannot begrudge them for doing their job; it's the media outlets who lazily comply who need to get a message. That being: If you feature her, I will not watch; if you mention her book I will change the channel (unless it's The Daily Show poking fun); if you discuss her as a legitimate presidential candidate in 2012 I will consider you to have abandoned even the pretense of performing journalism. And I'll vaguely aspire for that supposed Mayan-predicted apocalypse to come true, just so you will have something else to report.


And really, it's McCain who deserves the most ire, for allowing himself to be convinced to select such an imprudent running mate and starting this whole debaucle.

It's his fault that now when people hear "Palin" they associate it more with Sarah rather than Monty Python alum and travel enthusiest Michael Palin.

That's what bothers me the most, I think.


And yeah, I realize that by mentioning this I'm not really doing a swell job of ignoring her. That starts... now.

Friday, November 13, 2009

It's the end of the world as we know it (and John Cusack is freaking out)

Some glib conjecture based on seeing a billboard and a 30-second commercial (with the sound off) for the premiering movie 2012.

The billboard claims "We were warned." The trailer features John Cusack fleeing from rampant destruction that is the end of the world, as apparently predicted by the ancient Mayans.

If the idea (which I fully concede the extent of my knowledge is an episode of Penn & Teller: Bull... I saw where they debunked the notion, and which I saw late at night and don't recall that well) is that the Mayans knew a long time ago when the world would crumble in an orgy of destruction at the hands of the universe, and the end of their calendar was alerting future civilations of that, but there was nothing that could be done about it, that doesn't strike me as a "warning"; a warning (in my mind) constitutes information that is presented to allow one to avoid danger by one's actions. If the end is, in fact, nigh, the only reasonable response seems to be making peace with it in whatever way one believes appropriate.

What I can't figure out: If the world is ending, with tremendous earthquakes and presumably all other sorts of ostensible natural disasters, to where does he think he's escaping? It's an understandable reaction to the stimulus of imminent danger, the survival instinct kicking in, but it seems like the sort of thing someone who failed to come to grips with the afterlife (or the lack thereof). It merely delaying the inevitable.

Sure, it wouldn't be much of a movie if our protagonist simply spent the entirety of the movie praying or meditating in order to reach an internal sense of serenity about the end, and then was calmly crushed under rubble, but conceivably if we were, in fact, "warned," conceivably that's what he should have been doing.

Ultimately I guess I must admit I do feel warned, but only about how I shouldn't bother with the movie. That much seems contradictory to the purpose of marketing, but hey, maybe that's how it works these days; Convince the audience the movie is so pointless that they feel compelled to see it merely to confirm that.

It certainly would be setting realistic expectations for the movie-going crowd. Which, I must admit, is a nice thing to do for people as apparently we have only a few more years left.

Oh wait. Is the movie itself the warning? Holy cow. I imagine never has something so secretly profound involved so much CGI.

And all this without me having to actually see the movie. Bravo, mediocre filmmakers. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some peace to make with something, or at least stock up on canned goods.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

How far is that?

On the HGTV shows about people buying houses I've noticed in the opening voiceovers the host's narration often notes units of distance in amounts of time; e.g., "The apartment is only ten minutes from downtown."

Ten minutes by what method of movement? By car? On foot? Riding an alpaca?

The narration never specifies. Presumably the producers figure the audience doesn't really care; they assume the audience merely wants to hear the sales pitch.

Which is probably true.

The shows aren't so much about giving sound advice. They are real estate porn touting the upside of buying a home in an exciting locale.

Details would only serve to ruin the moment. Can't bust a nut with the narrator specifying how far "ten minutes" is. Nope.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A visit to the mailbox

Way back in May when we were sending out the wedding invitations we addressed one to Barack and Michelle Obama, at the White House.

It wasn't just a stunt; we were offering a legitimate invitation for them to attend. Obviously we had absolutely no expectation of them showing up, much less that it would even be acknowledged. But we had enough invitations and stamps to spare, and it cost no more postage to send it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue than any other address.

The wedding came and went back at the end of June, and the first couple was not in attendance, which was precisely as we anticipated. The day turned out great. Their absence took nothing away from the event.  Personally, I didn't think of them at all that day.  Silly me, I was focused on, you know, getting married.

Then yesterday evening I got home and, as I do every day, I checked the mail. Amongst the bills and junk I saw a small, cream-colored envelope. It was hand addressed to both of us, with our full names.

In the corner the return address identifies the sender: The White House.

I knew immediately what it was regarding. Our wedding invitation is the only thing we've sent to the White House, and it's one of the few things that has had my full name on it.

I dared not open it before my wife got home. I knew she'd want to be there when the envelope was pried open.

When she got home I met her at the door, gave her a kiss, and then handed her the envelope. She looked at the return address, paused, and then started to cry (much as she did a year ago on election day) tears of joy.

She was too excited to perform the task so she handed it back for me to open, carefully, without damaging the envelope any more than absolutely necessary. And then when I was being too methodical she took it back and we tore a cautious hole along one end.

Inside was a note, embossed with an emblem, with a message wishing us well on our wedding.

At the bottom were the signatures of the president and first lady.

It may have been a stamp, but nonetheless there were their signatures. On a card that had been sent to us.  From the White House.

And only six months after we sent out the invitation. Given the economy and the wars and health care, I'm kind of amazed it showed up that quickly.


It's undoubtedly best that the first couple did not attend the ceremony back in June. As exciting as that might have been, I have to imagine Secret Service padding down all our other guests would have been something of a distraction. And I cannot help but think them being there would have taken the focus off of us. It's the one day it does get to be about us, so that would have been something of a bummer, I must think. I'm just sayin'. No offense to them.

So the card is better. Whenever it showed up.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The unexpected benefit of the Obama presidency

Let's pretend that in honor of the recent anniversary of last year's historic election day I offer this post.

Wanda Sykes has her new late night talk show premiering this Saturday, which I expect won't suck as much as most talk shows, and part of why I say that is because recently we watched her very funny HBO comedy special (I'ma Be Me).

One of the topics she discussed was her excitement over having a black president. She conceded his mixed-race heritage, and then jokingly admitted if he ever messed up really bad she'd change her tune to "Who voted for the half-white guy?"


If my wife and I have children of our own (that is, specifically by my sperm combining with her egg) they will, technically, be of mixed race. Which is to say they will be similar to the President Obama.

I already know that if the scenario where we have these children comes to pass that my children will have skin tones that won't match mine, and at some point I'll be out with the kids but without my wife and someone will come up to us and, thinking my children adorable (which, of course they will be), say something inadvertently stupid wherein the person will assume the children were adopted. The person's intention undoubtedly will have been to compliment me for taking on the responsibility of helping some children in the foster care system, but they will be falling prey to the cultural bias against mixed race heritage; a lot of people do reproduce with someone of the same race and thus their offspring resemble them in that way, and so it's not inexplicable that such is the paradigm that a lot of people still use for making such assumptions.

As insulting me presumably will not be the intended result of the situation I won't consider it appropriate to get offended and respond with anger. Yelling, "Listen, dumbass, you need to pull your head out of the 18th century!" seems unlikely to help educate the person to have a broader spectrum of ideas about such things. Also, I won't deserve to be praised for something I didn't do. So perhaps I will smile politely and softly explain, "Thanks, but they're not adopted. You see, they're like the president; my wife and I are similar to the president's parents (but reversed)."

In this vision the person nods in acknowledgment, understanding the reference without requiring me to explain further, and, most important, without feeling horribly embarrassed. Perhaps the person is a little wiser for the experience.

And that's all thanks to fact that there'll be a well-known public figure to whom I can allude, who got elected to the White House. Regardless of one's political affiliations, everyone knows who the president is.

I think that explanation will sound a lot classier than, "Thanks, but really all I did was get my wife knocked up."


There's an alternate scenario wherein some idiot makes an obviously insulting remark and I kick his ass, but let's keep it positive. And that one has not even an indirect link to the guy at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., so I can't tie it in with today's ostensible thesis.

Which, for some reason, I'm considering pertinent at the moment.


And rest assured:  I will be very motivated to teach our potential children that if they grow up and go into politics to make sure they don't screw up. It won't merely be for the country's sake but for mine as well.


Monday, November 02, 2009

Do I dress up for Halloween? You have to ask?

Before I reveal what this year's Halloween costume was, for some reason it seems apropos to do a little costume recap of the last several years:

2004: Death takes a holiday

At a party, I'm a zombie pirate

And at the office, let's call it Jimmy Fallon with neck wound (and a tale of that)

(Yes, the same neck wound makeup used in both.)

At a party, I'm a zombie punker

And at the West Hollywood festivities on actual Halloween (with the story for that) I'm just kind of messed up:

2007 seems not to have been photographed. That, or the evidence has been destroyed.

2008: I'm a PC (and the story of it)

And for 2009?

That requires video...

This was my wife's handiwork. Literally.