February 28, 2006
He Said, She Said...He Said, Again
Now, dear Internet, don't think I'm going to cater to your every whim. Don't think I'll utter the question how high? when you request that I jump. You're nice and all but you're not the boss of me.
My Mad Organizational Skillz
The other day, my wife made a couple snide comments about the state of my music room. Last night, I accused her of being James Frey and called her blog something like A Million Little Entries. Here's how she described the room.
I happened to go into Chris's cd/guitar/stereo/half empty soda can/rock hard old gummi bear room (which I never enter as it is filthy and as I am responsible neither for creating nor cleaning the filth I just blissfully pretend it does not exist) to look for a pen and found the pink pacifier perched on one of his pedals. He is now in the dog house and also responsible for boiling the thing for half an hour to remove residual filth.
Do you happen to have the number for bullshit? Because I'm going to call it! (I'm waving my arms around and gesticulating wildly but you'll just have to take my word for it.) Now, I'll admit that I have issues with organizing my personal spaces. And that they might leave a little bit to be desired, if, what you desired happened to be completely sanitary conditions. I'll willingly admit to a few infractions.
My office is relatively clean, at least that's what I'd like you to believe. I successfully lull visitors into a false sense of security, enabling them to believe I'm both professional and organized. Sure, they see a couple ties on my desk but, to them, that reeks of professionalism and commitment in a wow he must be here late some nights so he just whips off that tie after business hours kinda way. No, that's laziness, my friends. And those piles of paper it looks like I'm actively engaged in reviewing? They've been there for weeks and I should probably throw them out but my recycling bin, she's full. And I'm way too lazy to empty that sucker. Oh, and whatever you do, don't open the overhead cabinet on the left without first donning protective eyewear and a helmet. Random, gravity-defying piles of paper and binders. I keep it locked for my own protection.
Have you ever walked by a car in a parking lot, looked inside, and tried to figure out what the driver was like based on what you could see? My car...well...okay, I'm willing to admit that it looks like some homeless dude took of residence, albeit in a fine, zippy German automobile which I doubt is standard fare for the homeless. There are no clothes except for the dozens of ties. So, it would really have to be a homeless nudist with a tie fetish. Who likes donuts. See, I'm really terrible about cleaning my car. When I leave work each day, I hastily unbutton my collar, rip off my tie, and throw it over my shoulder. This has resulted in the largest mobile tie collection in North America. I also pick up donuts on the way to work. You know those little colorful sprinkles? They're everywhere.
My Music Room
The music room is actually, in my humble opinion, the most organized, well-kept personal space under my purview. Between the 3500+ CDs, six guitars, gigantic stereo, 8 speakers, two amps and five guitar pedals, I think the fact that there's any floor space in the tiny 10X10 room is a miracle of organization. There's even art on the walls. And a nice, hand-woven rug on the floor.
Sure, I have some issues with the maintenance and organization of personal space. But Beth exaggerates. There's no reason to boil that pacifier for half an hour. Twenty minutes would probably do.
February 27, 2006
Two Ways In Which The Internet Scared Me This Weekend
Not only did the Internet scare Mia this weekend. It scared me too.
We have a friend - let's call him Gunter because I've always wanted to have a friend named Gunter - who ran off and joined the Army a while back. Now, he's a great, smart guy who landed a history degree with me in college but, after he graduated, never really found his thing. Okay, that sounds dirty. He never really found his niche. So, he joined the Army. It's been a while since we've heard from him and, to be honest, it's mostly our fault. Neither Beth nor I are particularly good about staying in touch. Beth dropped Gunter an email recently, and, fairly quickly, we heard back. He's halfway around the world now and expecting (and hoping, the crazy bastard) to be in the desert in about a year. As terrifying as that is, that wasn't what scared me. No, it was the picture he attached that did it. There he was, the Gunter we used to get terribly drunk and skip classes with, in full Army uniform. And he looked old. Not just grown up, but a little old. And I realized, I'm actually a couple years older than the guy.
There were a few of us who formed a really tight group in college. We did some crazy shit, most of it involving alcohol and skipping classes. It's a wonder any of us actually graduated. Now, one is a rocket scientist (literally), another's recently hitched, one's a teacher, another is halfway around the world in a uniform, and another is home with a baby girl. I know alot about that one because I married her. People grow up. Watching it is scary. Experiencing it first-hand is even scarier.
As for the other scary thing, well, remember how I discussed Small Wonder, the worst thing to ever air on television? Well, I've seen a lot of weird, scary shit on the Internet but nothing could prepare me for the existence of Small Wonder fan sites. Or the Small Wonder webring. Scariest? The grassroots effort to bring the damn thing back to television. Okay, maybe that's the second scariest. The first has to be this quote - Have fun playing Small Wonder at home with your very own doll in the image of everyone's favorite robot! Some of you people hitching rides on the information superhighway are just weird. No one who reads this site, of course. But they're out there. Watch your backs.
Haiku For Monday #119
Monday, cold Monday
Improved only by hot, black
coffee. Oh, or booze.
February 26, 2006
This morning, Mia decided she wanted to address you, oh Internetwebosphere. Then, well, she thought better of the idea. The audio's at the bottom.
February 24, 2006
Leaks N' Roses
I've managed to get my ears on three leaked tracks from the new and long awaited Guns N' Roses album Chinese Democracy rumored to be set for release, well, soon. My first impressions:
almost nothing about this song that's good. It's lame. Really, really lame. It's not terribly adventurous, consisting of a whopping three chords and, while some people make three chords sound great, Axl ain't one of 'em. There's a bit of a techno feel to it that probably sounded cutting edge ten or twelve years ago but sounds dated and silly now. There's a technically proficient yet boring guitar solo the only benefit of which is the relief it provides from insipid lyrics.
The Blues. Oh so very 1991. I wouldn't be surprised if this was a left-over from the Use Your Illusion albums. The Blues stradles the line between upbeat, inoffensive rocker and power ballad. It's not particularly bad, nor is it particularly good. It just, well, is.
There Was A Time. Clocking in at almost 7 minutes, I was prepared for prolonged agony. I had reason to worry early on, as Axl tried a little techno beat thing that, again, sounds very dated. The song itself, though, is pretty decent. The guitar work is solid and, while not nearly as stong, is reminiscent of the good old days. The structure is less repetitive than the other two offerings and kept my interest. It's not revolutionary but it sure doesn't suck as bad as the others.
It's Friday and I'm just now consuming my morning gallon of coffee. So, don't expect miracles. Instead, expect random.
1. I can't stop laughing at the term Jurassic beaver. Yep. Still 12.
2. All but one of you missed calling the worst show (my opinion) in the history of television yesterday - Small Wonder. Premise - brilliant scientist dad tinkers together a robot that looks exactly like a girl, keeps her in closet yet allows her to interact with his family which includes a son who's an obnoxious precocious prick like those kids in the Welch's commercials you want to smack around so bad. Hilarity ensues. Only not. This was bad, claw-your-eyes-out television, people.
3. Okay, okay...admittedly this comes from a source that might be somewhat questionable but apparently there was a reason Cheney had to be ordered to talk about the hunting malfunction...he was drunk.
I'll leave you with those tasty nuggets of blogging goodness this morning while I try to get my ass in gear. Happy Friday everyone!
February 23, 2006
Secure Or Not Secure?
President Bush, February 23, 2006: "People don't need to worry about security."
May 27, 2005: GAO investigators evaluate quick-clearance program for importers as well as the Container Security Initiative (CSI). Results yield evidence of poor planning, inadequate communication and funding shortfalls.
Margaret Wrightson (GAO), May 23, 2005: "A successful attack on a seaport could result in a dramatic slowdown in the supply system, with consequences in the billions of dollars," wrote Wrightson. Further, Wrightson stated that conditions as they existed in May leave the nation's 300-plus seaports and 3,700 cargo and passenger terminals vulnerable if not corrected.
Baltimore Sun, July 19, 2005: Nearly 140,000 cargo containers are shipped to Baltimore each year, according to port officials. About one in seven containers, or 14 percent, are examined by screening devices for bombs or other material.
Federal 9/11 Commission Committee 2005 Report: National Strategy for Transportation Security graded C-
President Bush, January 31, 2006 (State of the Union Address): "Our country must also remain on the offensive against terrorism here at home. The enemy has not lost the desire or capability to attack us."
Rude Cactus, February 23, 2006: "What planet are you on, buddy? Only a few years ago, we were being told to stock up on plastic sheeting and duct tape. Which is it?"
Sleep Deprivation, And Bad TV
Sleep, she is an elusive mistress. Screaming baby? Not so elusive. Quite easy to find in the dark. The past two nights have not been good. And yet, I don't have any right to complain since Beth has gotten the worst of it, what with me having to get up early and work, bringing home the proverbial bacon (not the literal bacon though - we're vegetarians). There also seems to be a bizarre phenomenon at play, what I'm calling the Rude Cactus Law of Sleep Deprivation. It goes something like this - total amounts and quality of sleep are inversely proportionate to the importance of the following day. Therefore, if you're like me and have meetings all day - 11:00, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 and 4:00 to be precise (and no, I'm not making that up or exaggerating for the internetwebosphere) you'll get absolutely no sleep whatsoever.
[Insert your own witty segue here]
I underestimated you all yesterday. I was convinced that my What's Happening reference would fly over your heads, not because you're not all bright, cultured people but because, well, it was a pretty dumb show (that I'll admit I loved) from the 70's and not all of you were alive then. But I was wrong. Whilst reading your comments, I started thinking about bad TV. So, here's my question for you today - what's the worst television show that ever aired? Admittedly, this can be broken down in to two categories:
1. The Guilty Pleasure This is a show that's bad, but bad in a really good way, a show that really sucked but was totally watchable and entertaining as hell.
2. My Eyes! My Eyes!. No redeeming value whatsoever. Shows in which the suckage wasn't remotely entertaining even in a trainwreck kinda way. Shows for which the producers should thank their lucky (although admittedly c-list) stars that they didn't produce them behind the Iron Curtain lest they be hauled into a backlot and shot.
So, what do you think?
February 22, 2006
Learn it. Live it. Love it. Is that too much to ask?
It's Like The DaVinci Code...But With Babies
Last night, Mia was incredibly talkative. She was also incredibly awake but that's neither here nor there. [Aside: When people say that - that's neither here nor there - I've always wondered exactly where they're talking about. So, for the purposes of this discussion, Mia being incredibly awake was neither Topeka, Kansas or Reykjavík, Iceland.] But, you see, I started listening to Mia as she was rambling on and I became convinced she was trying to tell us something.
Mia would, while banging on my guitar (she loves "playing" my guitar) precisely three times in rapid succession, utter something along the lines of the following: Dwayewaye dwayewaye huppenupp buy buy buy buy wadda bwack wadda dina gwove rorun rorunn rajjj divid.
I took careful notes, consulted my copy of the Bible, my personal translation of the Rosetta Stone, J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, the latest copy of Us magazine, Goodnight Moon and placed a collect call to Dan Brown. And I think I have the answer. Let me walk you through it.
Dwayewaye is clearly Dwayne and huppenup is, according to contemporary scholars, happening. Mia then follows this with the command to buy buy buy which is obvious enough. Strangely, it seems that song titles follow - Black Water and China Grove, both made famous by the Doobie Brothers. Then we have rorunn which is, most likely, rerun followed by raj which could be a variation on the name Roger. This is all concluded by usage of divid which is, extrapolating from what we now know, DVD. Combined with the three-beat guitar slapping, the conclusion is obvious. Mia really wants us to buy her season three of the 1970's hit television comedy What's Happening.
I fully realize that I just lost, oh, about 90% of you. The vast majority of you have never heard of this classic, one of the most popular shows of the 1970s despite its incredibly high cheese factor. You never caught the adventures of high-school buddies Raj, Dwayne and Rerun, like the time Rerun got talked into bootlegging a special Doobie Brothers concert. You never got to experience terrible acting like that of Danielle Spencer as Raj's little sister Dee. I'm not sure you shouldn't be grateful for missing all that stuff. But it's okay. You can borrow season three from us as soon as Mia's watched it.
February 21, 2006
Stand Up, Sit Down, Salute
My brain is blank today. It's like an old-school Etch-A-Sketch (please tell me you remember what those are) and someone shook it clean overnight. There were several things I wanted to mention but, well, I barely remember my own name. You'll just have to settle for the highlights.
Weekends. Since becoming a parent, the very nature of weekends has changed. They used to be quiet, relaxing days during which I could put my feet up, hang out on the couch and read a book for two days straight if that's what I wanted to do. Beth and I could go out to dinner, see a movie or just stare blankly at the ceiling. No longer. Weekends aren't relaxing anymore. Don't get me wrong - they're great. But relaxing? Not so much.
Photographer (and Pee). Yesterday, Beth and I took Mia to see a professional photographer. Now, normally, I would have been a little upset by this since I take most of the pictures and I feel a little territorial about that. But I guess I'm no professional and said professional is also a friend of ours. So, the set up is Beth and I holding a naked Mia. Cool. Except Mia decides, as any good baby would, to pee. Again, nothing out of the ordinary and par for the baby course. But we're convinced she knew what was coming and held it all morning. The dam broke, pee was everywhere and Beth was soaked. I, of course, laughed. I'm not so sure that was appreciated.
Olympics. We're catching up! We're most of the way through Thursday night's broadcast. Thank god for TiVo. Also? There are a surprising number of sports that are actually more fun to watch in fast-forward - figure skating, the really long-ass speed skating races and snowboarding to name a few. Curling? No, that's boring regardless of speed.
Nice Guy At Dunkin Donuts. I was in line this morning picking up my coffee. The guy behind me turns to everyone in the store and says, "hey, does anyone drink those latte drinks 'cos I got a book of coupons that you can use here." No one did but I thanked him for the offer. "I wouldn't know how to drink one of those fancy things," he informed me in a gruff, manly southern accent. "I wouldn't know whether to sit down, stand up or salute." I laughed. Then I realized, I have no idea what that means.
February 20, 2006
I've become boring. Okay, I know I haven't become utterly, totally, predictably boring. But I'm a little worried.
Yesterday, Beth and I had some friends over for lunch. And all we could talk about is being parents, and Mia, and all the good and bad stuff we go through on a daily basis. Basically, we've become those people...those people childless individuals and couples come to hate because all we can talk about, in our effortlessly mundane familial self-absorbtion, is our life with our kid. At least, I'm pretty sure that's how it looks to other people.
And here. Remember how I used to write about stuff other than being a dad? Yeah, neither do I but I have the archives to prove it. I used to ramble on a bit more about politics and music and random crap that got all up in my metaphorical grille. I guess I still do, but keystrokes are usually reserved for Mia-centric things these days.
On Thursday, for instance, I received an IM from Beth. We'd been a little concerned about, uh, Mia and her bathroom habits lately or, rather, the lack of one specific aspect for a few days.
Her: Wow. Look what our lives have come to.
I have always written and talked about the things that are most important in my life (excluding the times I've rambled on about bathroom etiquitte or they psychos I seem to attract, or course). And being a dad, well, that's the most important thing that's ever happened to me. So, honestly, I'm okay being really boring and having one topic of conversation 80% of the time. It's who I am. It's what's important to me. I'm a dad. Huh. Freaky.
If you'll excuse me, the cat has just decided to eat my oatmeal. She doesn't look real happy about her breakfast choice.
Haiku For Monday #118
Fourth, final day off.
Taking stock: coffee, cats, books
Napping child...I'm set.
February 18, 2006
On Music: Say Anything
I've been listening to Say Anything since they released Say Anything Is A Real Boy. The instant I heard it, I was sold. It's rock, alternative, indie, emo and punk rolled into one giant package but it's strength doesn't reside in the music alone. The album derives most of its strength and charm from its brilliant writing. The album is biting, dark, funny, sarcastic and crude but above all, it's smart. Lead singer and band mastermind Max Bemis is like a cynical Ben Folds. Okay, okay, a more cynical Ben Folds. Neither Bemis nor his compatriots are afraid of being honest with the listener. The result is a truly unique and utterly brilliant album.
The album begins with one line, although if you listen closely, you'll hear Bemis agonizing over its delivery before the first take.
"And the record begins with a song of rebellion..."
Belt immediately kicks in after the brief introduction. It's aggressive, quirky, funny and punky. It's an anthem about rebellion, non-conformity and, most especially, nudity. Woe, which follows, is easily one of the strongest tracks on the album. Although I've heard it a hundred times, it remains one of the most clever, well-written songs I've heard in years. Bemis delivers lines that are at once funny and heartbreaking. "She took pity on me, horizontally, most likely because of my band," he admits, breaking down the wall between band and listener. Stepping into character as a female protagonist, he later exclaims, "I can't get laid in this town without these pointy fucking shoes...my feet are so black and blue and so are you." The message is simple - we're all fucked up and we're all tired and sad (sometimes) but at least we're all in it together.
The Writing South takes the volume down a bit, with an acoustic intro followed by a more serious, laid back tone. At least, until the second verse kicks in. Alive With The Glory of Love provides another hard-driving, upbeat tune but, at the same time, it proves graphic and gritty. It's about the endurance of love in the face of oppression...and sex in public. Yellow Cat/Red Cat is as odd as it's title. Bemis was clearly pissed off when he wrote it. Similarly, someone must have pissed in his corn flakes when he wrote The Futile, a jarring, halting, loud masterpiece that is about exactly what you'd expect it to be. In it, he exclaims, "Shit! Nothing makes sense, so I won't think about it. I'll go with the ignorance. Eat, sleep, fuck and flee; in four words, that's me. I am full of indifference." I know, I know...more angst than a 15 year old boy at a coed sleepover.
Spidersong and An Orgy of Critics are probably two of the more straightforward songs on the album and they suffer as a result. They just aren't as interesting as the rest of the album. They're not quite throwaways, but neither are they key to the album. More important is Every Man Has A Molly. The wall between the band and the listener is completely shattered, as we're informed that Molly has left due, in large part, to the revealing nature of the previous songs. Since we've already bought the album, we're asked to appreciate it, given the apparent sacrifice that went into it. Logically, two big-riffed songs, Slowly Through A Vector and the brilliantly named Chia-Like, I Shall Grow, follow, loud and heavy and appropriately full of lament.
I Want To Know Your Plans, which follows, is one of the greatest songs recorded in the last five years. Period. No debate necessary or tolerated. Here's where Bemis proves to be a genius. The same brilliance, the same grittiness that fuels Bemis' cynical ranting and raving, enables him to write beautifully sensitive lyrics. "You're what keeps me believing the world's not gone dead, strengthen my bones put the words in my head. They pour out to paper. It's all for you, cause that's what you do" he writes. There's a chorus that'll stick with you.
The album closes with Admit It! which is a near stream of consciousness rant against the mainstream, against popular culture. It feels slightly out of place and I personally think allowing the album to close with I Want To Know Your Plans would have been preferable. But then, I'm not Max Bemis.
Say Anything are lots of things. They're incredibly talented, honest, brave, unique, funny and refreshing. Bemis and company deserve to be recognized for this, one of the best efforts undertaken in a recording studio in years. Now, let's just hope they get recognized for it.
Obligatory Numerical Score (ONS): 9 out of 10
Remember, you can get music and book reviews from me anytime over at my other gig.
February 17, 2006
It's Mia's Way Or, Well, You Know...
Close Encounters of the Old MacDonald Kind
Mia's excersaucer (praise be the Creator of the excersaucer, oh great molder of plastic) plays different songs, one of which is Old MacDonald. For some reason, Old MacD (as he's known in the 'hood) is on a hair trigger. So we hear the song a lot. The other night, while eating dinner, we were hard-pressed to come up with any more animals that could be living on the MacDonald farm. We improvised. Improvisation is never good.
Old MacDonald had a farm.
And on that farm he had an alien
Ei-igh, ei-eigh, oh
With a zeelblibbit here
And a zeelblibbit there
Here a zeelblibbit
There a zeelblibbit
Everywhere a zeelblibbit zeelblibbit
Old MacDonald had an alien
Ei-igh, ei-eigh, oh...
Trust us to take it one, horribly inappropriate step further.
Old MacDonald had a farm.
Ei-igh, ei-eigh, oh
And on that farm he got anal probed.
Ei-igh, ei-eigh, oh
With a boy howdy that smarts here
And a boy howdy that smarts there
Here a boy howdy that smarts
There a boy howdy that smarts
Everywhere a boy howdy that smarts
Old MacDonald got anal probed
Ei-igh, ei-eigh, oh...
February 16, 2006
Drained (Or, TGIT)
I'm absolutely drained this week. So many things I have to get done. So many things I want to get done. Of course, there aren't enough hours in the day for them all. Where I'm usually awake without much of a fight, I've been sleeping through my alarm all week, dreading throwing my legs over the edge of the bed planting feet on the floor.
On the plus side, today, for me, is Friday. I'm cobbling together a long weekend by taking a few days off. Standing betwen me and the long weekend, however, are hours and hours of meetings. Hopefully, a little music will help me make it through the day. I give you the top 20 random music selections for the morning.
As Tall As Lions - Why We Cry At The Movies
No Man - Pink Moon
Coldplay - Clocks (live)
Our Lady Peace - Picture
The Hold Steady - Hornets! Hornets!
Gomez - Sweet Virginia
The Mars Volta - The Widow
All American Rejects - Move Along
Audioslave - Heaven's Dead
Blow Up Hollywood - Floating
Soundgarden - Slaves & Bulldozers
Ben Folds - Bastard
XTC - Boarded Up
Brad - Brothers and Sisters
Elbow - Teardrop
Fountains of Wayne - Bright Future In Sales
Rob Dickinson - Don't Change
Joseph Arthur - Speed Of Light
Mott The Hoople - All The Young Dudes
Robyn Hitchcock - I Often Dream of Trains
Happy Thursday, everyone.
February 15, 2006
Pondering The Olympics
We're watching the Olympics. More accurately, we're trying to watch the Olympics. Those of you with kids, especially kids who don't sleep, know that sitting down to watch anything is a challenge. Enter TiVo. Were I not already married, I might just have to enter into a civil union with TiVo. TiVo is wonderful, especially for something long and drawn out like the Olympics. Don't care about a particular sport? Bloop bleep - fast-forward! Don't care about the lame human interest stories? Bloop bleep! I've set up my friend TiVo to catch all the evening broadcasts, yet there's a flaw in my clever plan. Because of Mia's reluctance to sleep, we just finished Saturday night's broadcast.
Last night, we were closing in on the end of Saturday night's recording. Pairs figure skating (which I'll admit that I like watching) was on and it got me thinking.
Me: You know, if you really think about, this is a ridiculous sport.
Her: Yeah, but its better than ice dancing. Do they still even have ice dancing?
Me: I think so. Do they ever retire Olympic sports?
Her: I think I heard that they were getting rid of baseball.
Me: Well, that makes sense. It doesn't seem like an Olympic sport. Its just so uniquely American.
Her: They play baseball everywhere.
Me: True. Well, let's see the American Olympians bust out an ass-kicking pick-up game of full contact freedom and see what happens. If we can beat the terrorists, we can sure as hell beat some pansy-ass commies. Oh, wait...
February 14, 2006
Ahhh, Valentine's Day. I have to admit, I don't totally buy into the whole greeting card holiday thing. But it's a nice idea and I certainly have a lot of Valentine's Day lovin' to be thankful for. This morning? I got to kiss my two valentines. Then I had to go to work so, you know - poof! - nice, sickeningly romantic moment ended.
I hope you all have wonderful Valentine's Days!
February 13, 2006
The sure sign you should just go back to bed on a Monday morning? Your front door is frozen shut and you can't leave your house. I think the message is pretty clear. We have a glass storm door between the front door and the world and it wouldn't budge. Fortunately, I remembered the perfect, elegant solution to all such problems - kicking the crap out of it. It worked. I'm here, aren't I?
This weekend, after a long, dry and mild winter, we got snow! I think we had somewhere around eight or nine inches out in my neck of the woods. Mia even got to play in it - if you happen to define play as sit around while your parents take pictures of you in a cute, fluffy snow suit.
...lots more on flickr...
After the debacle that was Friday - one of those shitty days that did, actually, work out okay once I'd received proper praise from the powers that be - it was nice to have a relaxing weekend. Or, as relaxing as a weekend can be when you have a six month old who doesn't see the importance of sleep.
Anyway, here I am - the office. I've got my coffee and I'm ready to go...back to bed.
Oh, and by the way...I'd like to suggest a change in terminology - please refer to any accidental shootings as dick cheneys. For instance, I have no idea how he got shot. I was just standing there with my gun and all the sudden, I'd dick cheneyed him.
Haiku For Monday #117
Damn, it's effing cold.
Worse? I'm back in the office.
Is it nap time yet?
February 11, 2006
February 10, 2006
I'm happy to report that Friday - at least the working portion of Friday - is over. This won't go down as one of my favorite days ever.
Now? I can relax. They're predicting snow this weekend. I hope they're right.
Not A Good Start
I woke up this morning and immediately realized something was wrong. It was light outside. I slept through the alarm and was late which is interesting because that time during which the alarm was going off was probably the only time I slept most of the night. Most Fridays I end up working from home but I was kinda feeling self-conscious about that last night so I'd decided to go in. For some dumb-ass reason I stuck to that plan this morning. Can I tell you how long it's been since I've driven into work when it's actually light outside? A damn long time.
When I finally made it to the office (which took a while since several thousand other jackasses decided to do the same thing and were totally in my way), I had an unusually high number of emails with those little red exclamation points next to them, indicating that the end of the world is rapidly approaching. As it now stands, I believe I've saved the world from imminent extinction but only just. We'll see how the rest of the day goes.
May you make it through Friday unscathed.
February 9, 2006
Through no breach of etiquette of my own, I've recently been reminded of the things that constitute proper bathroom behavior, especially in the workplace. Let's recap, shall we?
Rule 1. The floor is no place for your pants. I wouldn't eat off the floor. I wouldn't roll around on it. I wouldn't let my daughter roll around on it. Granted, I have completely different expectations of my daughter than I do my pants. I expect her to walk and talk someday. It would be disturbing if my pants evolved similarly. But still. Pants on the floor? There's a drain in most bathroom floors. What does the presence of a drain say about the state of a floor? Now, there are boundaries to this course of action. One shouldn't be encouraged to remove one's pants entirely to avoid the floor. One day I was washing my hands, when out of the stall came a pantless man. Sure, he did have on his shoes, socks, button-down business shirt, tie and tighty-whities, but pants? Not so much. I didn't ask. I left. Quickly.
Rule 2. Multitasking - impressive in the office, not in the bathroom. There's only so much you can do in a bathroom. Hearing people doing things with Palm Pilots scares me. Are they taking notes? If so, about what? Worse are the folks on their cell phones. I don't care who you are - if you're in there, we don't need to be talking. The scariest was an encounter with a guy who repeatedly brushed his teeth while taking a leak. There aren't words (only facial gestures which don't translate well to the blogging medium) to adequately capture the number of things that are wrong with those processes taking place simultaneously.
Rule 3. Bathrooms and food are mutually exclusive. Like matter and antimatter, Moe and Curly, Michael Moore and Ann Coulter, nothing good can come of their combination. The fabric of space and time may very well rip, forcing the universe to collapse into nothingness. But tell that to the guy I keep running into who takes breakfast into the stall with him. Granted, its a light meal - usually fruit and a cup of coffee - but still. There's nothing right about that.
Rule 4. Decorum - even in the midst of doing what you're doing and we all know what you're doing - is appreciated by all. Restroom users can be categorized into several different vocal groups, only one of which is truly acceptable.
Marathon Runners. These folks who don't hesitate to let you know exactly how hard they're trying to reach the, er, finish line, so to speak. They huff and puff and do everything but ask you for water and a towel. You may get the urge to string some toilet paper over the stall's entrance so they can break the tape upon completion. But don't. This only encourages them.
Crestfallen Lovers. Traits of this group include moaning and what might be taken for the quiet sobbing of the spurned and heartbroken. Don't be fooled - they don't need tissues or hugs. Offer neither.
Power Lifters. This group has many similarities to Marathon Runners, however Power Lifters punctuate their efforts with pained cries and gasps, often sounding as though they're in great pain. If you believe that the occupant of an adjacent stall is trying to pass a small color television or flush an alpaca from his or her system, you're probably sitting next to a Power Lifter.
The Strong Silent Type. Everyone should be so lucky to encounter these folks in the bathroom. They exemplify good bathroom behavior, uttering not one sound during the course of their lavatorial activities.
There you have it - your guide to making the world a better place, one bathroom at a time.
February 8, 2006
Thoughts From A Restless Evening
Beth did something recently that I swear I'm not trying to steal. Night before last? Totally sleepless for her. Last night? My turn.
Wha? Whatsthatnoise? Asleep...I'm asleep...this is a dream...only not. Wait. Shit! that's crying. Code red. We have crying. Scramble the emergency parenting response team. Double shit! Beth's out. Unconscious. Comatized. Roofieville. And there's more crying. Maybe she'll stop? Okay, no, that's not going to happen. I'll have to go in alone. Where the hell are my PJs? Damnit it's cold.
Won't. Stop. Crying. Wait...mom's here! Thank you. In the name of all that is good and holy - like bad celebrity reality shows and marshmallows - thank you.
Okay. Back in bed. Where was I? Sleep! Ahh, yes, sleep! Wait, wait. Damnit! Wide awake. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I'm wide awake. Get a load of me and my mad awake skillz.
Duh nuh nuh nuh...nuh nuh...nuh...can't touch this!
Christ, what is that? Something in my eye. That hurts. Yeah, like anything in your eye other than the ball itself would ever feel good. (Heh, I said "ball.") It must be an eyelash...but it feels like someone parked a 1985 Chevy station wagon on my cornea. Maybe if I just sit here and pluck all my eyelashes out, that'll solve the problem. At least it'll give me something to do.
The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo's Fire, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, Can't Buy Me Love...all great 80's brat-pack era moves but I'm missing some.
Green acres is the place to be...farm living is the life for me...
You know, I should be writing all this stuff down. It would make a good half-assed entry when I can't think of what to write in the morning. But that would require me to actually get my ass out of bed and grab a pen. I will not suffer so for my art. Did I just say that? "Suffer for my art?" I'm so full of shit.
What the hell is that? The alarm? Another day, another dollar...
And here I am.
February 7, 2006
On Books: January '06
It should come as no surprise (especially if you've been reading my other site) that I read a lot. January was no exception. Here's the recap!
I kicked off the year with Inside Out by Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason. This "personal history" of the band was fantastic. It was well-written and the text was augmented by personal photos and some of the great artwork fans have come to expect from the band. This really is a must for fans of The Floyd. Also in the must category, with a dreamy feel reminiscent of past Floyd music (how'd you like that segue?), is William Nicholson's The Society of Others. I never really put too much stock in the blurbs found on the backs of novels but one really proved true here - it is indeed like a bizarre cross between Salinger and Kafka. I was completely and utterly beside myself when I turned the final page. In a good way, not like if I ever find the author I'm going to beat him senseless with his novel and inflict a thousand horrible papercuts with his dustjacket...or something.
On the flip side, Terence Green's Blue Limbo just left me bummed. Bummed that I'd wasted my time on it. Granted, it was short so the commitment was minimal. Green turned in the fine Shadows of Ashland several years ago so my hopes were up. Sadly, it was just crap. I was similarly deceived by The Town That Forgot How To Breathe. I really wanted to like it. I'd scoped it out in stores and finally bought the hardcover. I was positive, from the description, that I was going to adore it. Sadly it was like Elaine dancing in that episode of Seinfeld. You know, you have every reason to think she can dance okay but when she starts twitching and gyrating, its astoundingly bad. Kenneth Harvey really screwed this one up (yet admittedly, the guy could probably write and dance circles around Elaine). I know what he was trying to do. I'm not dense. It was a proverb, an allegory. But is proverbial eyes were bigger than his allegorical stomach. The novel never lived up to its potential.
Next up were two novels, both of which took place in Japan. Coincidentally, both featured a half-Japanese half-American protagonist. (Huh. I hadn't realized that before.) Nevertheless, they were very different. Barry Eisler's Hard Rain was the second volume in the Rain series, featuring hit man and jazz enthusiast John Rain (could I say "rain" one more time in this sentence? Oh...apparently). Eisler's experience living in Japan pays off. The novel is packed with detail and paints a very lush, noir-like portrait of modern-day Tokyo. Similarly, Zen Attitude by Sujata Massey, despite its silly title, portrays crime in the big city of Tokyo. It is, however, a little less gritty. Like Eisler, Massey spends a great amount of time educating her readers and, like the Rain series, it's fascinating. Where Massey falls short is her dialogue and plot development. Zen Attitude is clearly the work of a young writer who isn't quite comfortable with her, dare I say it, craft.
Last but not least is Cell by the great Stephen King. I say great somewhat sarcastically because I've never been the biggest King fan. I think it's time for me to admit that the guy can write. He proved it with Cell - a brilliant and utterly disturbing tale. I'd say something cliche like you'll never look at your cellphone the same way again but that's crap. It was horror. You want to read something a little brutal and a little scary, this is your thing.
It's A Bird. It's A Plane. It's A Pillow?
It's amazing the lengths to which you'll go to make your kids smile. The sad thing is that I'd probably have done this anyway.
Allow me to introduce myself. I am Amazing Pillow-Head Man, one of the lesser-known superheroes from the Justice League of America, Lame And Mundane Superheroes Division. Wherever there are uncomfortable sleepers, I will be there. Wherever there are unsupported necks resulting in neck, shoulder and lower back pain, I will be there. Wherever there are pillow fights, especially ones featuring scantily clad coeds, I will be there.
Would you like to join me in my fight? What potentially lame and mundane superhero are you?
February 6, 2006
Sticks and Stones
There are two things from Sunday I'd like to talk about on this fine, chilly Monday morning. One is, of course, Super Bowl related but I'll save that for last.
God Help Us If They're Homeschooled
The scene - browsing a section of books close to the cash register at my local Borders yesterday afternoon. Upon hearing the total from the sales assistant, a man - early forties, slightly overweight, dressed as though coming from church - decides to explain the concept of taxation to his two young daughters, both of whom appeared as though they could have cared less.
So, you see, out of this whole amount, they're asking me for two dollars and forty cents to pay for things for other people. That's because we have a new Democratic governor and the only thing Democrats know how do to is raise taxes. They collect all this money from people like us for things we don't need. Like roads. And welfare, so that people can sit around and do nothing all day except be poor while we work. But we're rich so we don't have to worry about stuff like that.
I'm all for educating your children but I hope that, when it's time for me to start talking to Mia about all the things that make up the world, I'm a little more balanced than Fat Rich White Guy. What other nuggets of wisdom has he passed on? Hopefully the secrets of levitation since he and his family apparently don't need roads. I think this must be how Ann Coulter became, well, Ann Coulter.
Satisfaction? Uh, No.
Every year, I sit down to watch the Super Bowl and realize that I don't really give a damn about football. That's why we ended up catching up on TiVoed stuff during the second half. I am, however, always interested in seeing the halftime shows because they invariably turn into trainwrecks.
To preface, you know I'm a big music fan. You know that I'd donate my left nut to be on a big-ass stage just once and contribute to the hearing loss of thousands. I'm well aware that what I'm about to say is, at best, sacrilege.
The Rolling Stones sucked ass.
I got no satisfaction. No, I know it was only rock and roll and I was supposed to like it but, to me, it sounded like two cats getting run over by a lawn mower. Mick Jagger sounded like crap and moved as though a small furry animal was turned loose in his pants. At least, though, he seemed to know what songs the band was supposed to be playing. I'm pretty sure Ron and Keith were playing totally different songs through the entire set. At one point, I turned to Beth and asked, ok, this sounds like a bunch of three year olds were handed guitars and stuff, right? It's not just me? She agreed.
There's a point at which a band is around so long, they become not only a shadow of their former selves but a parody as well. The Stones are well past that point. Retire already.
Haiku For Monday #116
I forgot the 'ku.
Can't say I've done that before.
I now sneak it in.
February 3, 2006
Working For The Weekend
One of the advantages of working from home is that I can occasionally get Mia to do some of my work for me.
I have to do a little database design. You think there's any way I can get her to help?
Happy Friday everyone!
February 2, 2006
Every Cactus Has Its Thorn
The other night, Beth and I were beached on the couch, having successfully tucked Mia into bed, when we saw an ad for Monster Ballads. It was one of the typical "as seen on TV" music ads - clips of the original videos with song and artist names scrolling up the screen. David Coverdale belting out power ballads in the middle of a rain-soaked highway; Poison, teased hair and more makeup than Tammy Faye, bent over acoustic guitars with smoldering cigarettes hanging out of their mouths; the Nelson twins jumping around on stage looking more like Bizarro Olsen twins than legit musicians...you know what I'm talking about. As the name of each hair metal ballad went by, I noticed a disturbing trend. I owned every song. Turns out, of the 35 songs in the collection, there are only five that I don't own. Worse, I don't just own the songs, I own the albums from which they came
I don't know whether to wear my hair metal history as a badge of honor or a spandex-covered scarlet letter of shame.
February 1, 2006
Thanks for the reminder, Jenn! All photos by yours truly.
The Rude Cactus State of the Union Address
Last night, we learned that the state of the union is strong. I don’t disagree…but I think it could be stronger. Last night we learned about initiatives intended to decrease our dependence on foreign oil, reduce government spending, deal with immigration and deal with Iran. Yet, there are some fundamentals that, without attention, make even the best ideas unattainable.
Education - The F Bomb
The United States Department of Education is responsible for an overall budget of $71.5 billion (that’s with a b) dollars. Yet, despite the fact that more money is spent per child than almost anywhere else in the world – the national average is $7,524 - only 31% of the fourth graders across the country are proficient in reading. Overall, only 32% of kids in the United States are proficient in math, 29% in science and 18% in American history. On the world stage, American eighth graders rank 19th out of 38 countries when it comes to performance.
Reason #1 – Teachers aren’t fairly compensated.
The average teacher salary is $46,579. During the past year, there’s been only a 2.2% percent increase in salary. This falls short of the overall 2.7% inflation rate. In the last 10 years, teachers’ salaries have only increased overall by $1,011. During the current administration as a whole, salaries have increased 1.1%. Since this increase again falls short of present-day inflation rates, this is actually a loss for most teachers.
Reason #2 – No Child Left Behind.
No Child Left Behind is a noble yet inherently flawed program. It seeks to increase the quality of education through several initiatives. These center around progress measured on an annual basis, increase in parental involvement, choice in public schools, educational and professional development based on scientifically based research strategies, and teacher quality. Nice and all yet No Child Left Behind represents an 11% increase in Education spending yet leaves an estimated 97% of the actual costs unfunded.
I’m no education expert but the folks in Washington with the big titles should be. I do know this – teachers have to be able to earn a living. What they do shouldn’t be a sacrifice. What they do should be noble, a sought after profession. In order for any program to succeed, it must be given the resources to succeed. No Child Left Behind never had a chance. It has taken initiative away from teachers, forced them to gear everything towards a set of standards at the expense of more innovative criteria, and allowed schools to continue steady declines, encouraging parents and students to abandon institutions instead of fixing them.
The United States has long been thought of as the Land of Opportunity yet, since the turn of the century, the government has consistently failed to ensure the welfare of its people. In 2004, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that 12.6% of the population lived below the poverty line, up from the previous year’s numbers. For the record, as a single individual, you’d have to make less than $9,570 to join that club. A family of four would have to maintain a household income below $19,350. This designation encompassed 37 million Americans, up 1.1 million from the previous year. Imagine Oklahoma City, Oklahoma or Richmond, Virginia – each with a population around 1.1 million people - falling into poverty overnight.
An oft-overlooked statistic is the number of “working poor” – those pulling down an income yet are unable to get by without assistance – estimated to be around 7.5 million people. Of the 140 million people employed in the country in 2003, 4% fit the definition of working poor. 60% worked full-time jobs. These 7.5 million working poor constituted 4.2 million families among the working poor.
Since 2000, the percentage of those living below the poverty line has risen two points, with consistent growth occurring each year. This represents 5.4 million people joining the ranks of the poor over the last half-decade.
This is perhaps the most mind-blowing and astonishing to me – 46% of African American kids and 40% of Latino kids below the age of 18 live in poverty. Overall, 21% of the kids in these United States are existing below the poverty line.
In situations like these, I like to apply the “alien test”. If an alien were to land in Washington right now, watch our television, read the newspapers, really investigate society, what would they think? I think they’d be confused. I’d think they’d see a vital, energetic country with limitless potential, bound only by self-imposed restraints. They’d also see legions of working poor and kids going to bed hungry at night. They’d see a country in which millions of dollars are awarded on game shows and, maybe justly, assume that America is a land of prosperity for the most part with little, if any, tolerance for the poor and disadvantaged. How else can you explain Paris Hilton, a woman with only one purpose in life – an example to my daughter of everything I don’t want her to become. Otherwise, she’s just a pretty but ultimately useless whore…but she’s everywhere.
The War On Terror - War on an Idea
The events of 9-11 were tragic. Many important lessons were learned and it forced the nation as a whole to understand the larger threat represented by terrorists and extremists from all over the world. However, it’s disingenuous to use the tragedy felt by a nation for less than noble purposes.
The war in Iraq has thus far claimed 2,242 lives. On average, one American or British soldier dies every day. Countless others are injured. And these tragedies aren’t limited to the good guys. Thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens have been killed or injured since the start of the conflict.
I’ve talked about it here quite a bit. I think the war is wrong, the justification completely lacking in, well, facts. And while we shouldn’t be expected to give up our soldiers, we shouldn’t have to forfeit our civil rights. No one should ever keep track of the books checked out from the library. No one should ever be privy to phone calls or emails of others without a warrant. No one should ever have to worry about speaking out for what they believe in. To further the spread of democracy we can’t beat others into submission. Instead we must lead by example. We must develop the means to take care of the nation as a whole – by providing adequate healthcare, education, and job opportunities and protecting the people living within our borders. Ideological fire-fights do nothing to win converts. Instead, we must lead with calm confidence, by succeeding in making our system of government work.
I’d argue that anyone who is, through circumstance, unable to exercise his or her talent, strength and intelligence isn’t truly free. In order to create the free society we tout on the international stage, we need to ensure that everyone is indeed afforded the opportunities to live, breathe, learn, eat, sleep and earn and it is up to us, as a society, to ensure no one slips through the ever-widening cracks. No child should be left behind but if words aren’t backed up with commitment, with resources, and with intent, they just form another cute sounding slogan that doesn’t mean a damn thing.
So, what are the answers? I don't know. But then I'm not the guy who was elected to lead this country. I shouldn't be responsible for having the answers. The President should. And he doesn't. And frankly, he doesn't seem to care.