Wednesday, February 29, 2012

In Praise of Brilliant People

So I'm sitting at work with about a half-hour to go before I can go home (read: drink vodka. Lots and lots of vodka). I'm watching videos on YouTube ("Jar of Hearts" ftw) when from over the cubicle wall, Co-Worker Randall asks, "Hey, Andy, I need to chill out my wife. And you told me this thing last week that Puts It All in Perspective. I need to text it to her. What was it?"

I put Christina Perri on pause and turned to him, frowning. I had no idea what he was talking about.

"Everything in moderation?" I asked. "It's how I live my life. It works." I am so full of shit. I was thinking of a 1/5 of Smirnoff even as we were talking.

He frowned. "No, that's not quite it. My wife is texting me like crazy, and she's about to lose her mind. The Internet is out at home. She sent our daughter to the grocery store, and she only came back with half of what we needed for dinner. Our son is running around the kitchen, throwing laundry at her."

"Okay, try this," I said. "Who died? As in, when you are in the midst of what you think of as a crisis, stop and ask yourself, 'Who died?' If the answer is, 'Nobody died,' then there is no crisis. My friend Kari used to like that one. She even passed it on to her daughter."

Randall's little mustache twitched, like the Mouse and the Motorcycle. He said, "It had something to do with the end of the world, like a meteor hitting the Earth."

And I said, "Oh! You mean, 'We're not in a race to save the galaxy!'"

Randall laughed and said, "Yeah, that's it."

A bit of explanation is necessary here. It goes back to the title of this post.

A few years ago, I was working for the Microsoft consulting firm where I first became an IT guy. I was having lunch one day, and the waiter noticed the crest on my button-up shirt.

"Hey, I'm studying IT in school. Can I give you my resume? My name is Sean."

Two weeks later, Sean wasn't waiting on my table. He was my co-worker. That's how good he was. In fact, "good" is an understatement. He was a fucking GENIUS. Believe me, I'm not dogging on myself. I'm no mental slouch, but next to Sean, I was riding the short bus in to work.

There was no problem in IT that Sean didn't know how to solve, could figure out how to solve, or write a program to solve. Then, he went home every night and played with his computers and write more programs. Every morning and afternoon, he fueled himself on his constant coffee. Every night, he drank himself to sleep.

He was a nightmare as a coworker. I am not a proponent of kissing-ass at work, but I realize that often, it's better just to keep one's mouth closed. Eyes and ears open, mouth closed, we say.

Sean didn't get that. He just said whatever was on his mind.

One time, we had a company-wide meeting, which included the president and owner of our company. We were sitting around, discussing how to approach an upcoming big project. It was one of the first meetings I can remember sitting in with Sean. Throughout the entire meeting, as the bullshit and ass-kissing and kibitzing without any progress continued, Sean just sat, drank his coffee and stared. I remember thinking, "Great. He's slow. Or something."

During a lull in the meeting, after about an hour, when NOTHING had been accomplished, Sean looked around the table and suddenly said, "Enough macking. Let's get cracking."

Another time, we were dispatched to a customer in another city. Dumb-Ass had locked his computer and forgotten his password, so there was no way he could get back into Windows. We showed up, I introduced myself as the senior person, then introduced Sean. Again, Sean said nothing and just watched me at work. I turned to him, utilizing the "good" management skills I had been taught, and said, "What do you think, Sean?" ("Value your coworkers' opinions. Include them in the discussion.") Sean said, "I have a password cracker."

I said, "Do you mind getting that for me?"

Uncomfortable silence as Sean just stared at me and the customer.

Then: "What am I doing here?" He turned around and walked back out to his car and sat in the car while the customer and I could only stare.

So while I was talking to Co-Worker Randall tonight, and he was passing on a bit of wisdom he picked up from me to his wife, it made me chuckle to realize that after all these years, I still remember Sean.

And, Sean? You were a horrible employee, but you were (and probably still are) a brilliant person.

We need more Seans in this world.

(To be continued)

If you liked this post, please comment, even a short one.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sublimely Mundane Goes to the Dollar Store

So I went to the dollar store on Friday with my wife. She was picking up some tissue paper, ribbon and gift bags for the Christmas gift-giving, which swells my cheap Chinese heart to no end. Before she met me, she spent a lot of time in Hallmark picking up extremely fancy gift wrap and gift bags. I made the (bullshit) argument that it didn't matter how the gift was wrapped. What mattered was what was inside and, moreover, what was inside your heart when the gift was wrapped. She called "shenanigans" on me (rightfully). But the point was made. We get our gift wrap from the dollar store now.

I have a love/hate relationship with the dollar store. It's a great place to get basics, like paper towels, cleaning supplies your mother used, and party supplies that may or may not be toxic to children. However, for the low, low prices you sacrifice a few things, such as cleanliness and organization.

You also have to go through some weirdo things in order to get to the things you want. Here are a few that caught my eye while I was browsing for non-toxic gift wrap:

First up is this incredibly strange item in Toys that may be strange just because of the wording. Yes, it says, "Robot Shield." Naturally, I ask myself, "Is this a shield for robots, or a shield that IS a robot?" Let's assume it's a shield for robots. This goes back to a conversation I had with my co-workers last week about Japanese cartoons. New Coworker Chris came up with the extremely insightful point, "Why does an advanced civilization like Future Japan build a war weapon that is basically robots having giant sword fights?"

Well, Chris, I'm not sure, but if you're going to build a weapon that is a giant, sword-wielding robot, I say invest another 60 billion yen into giving it a proper shield. (Unless you are shopping at the dollar store, in which case you don't need to spend 60 billion yen on a shield but can outfit your giant robot with this one from the dollar store for the low, low price of--you guessed it--one measly American dollar.)

I've been broke. I've been so broke I ate ramen for a week, and not that fancy three-dollar ramen that Whole Foods sells, but the 25-cent ramen. Having said that, I typically steer clear of dollar store food. And it's not just a kneejerk bourgeois reaction to dollar-store food. I got sick eating cheese dip from the dollar store. (Then again, it was like my college girlfriend--looked pretty good until we got involved, and then the girlfriend/cheese dip was just poison.) So, have you ever seen a less appetizing can of chili? I mean, this is like hobo chili, and not that hoity-toity "hobo chili" that some douchebag on Food Network cooks with organic beans and vegetables and spices imported from Europe and Mexico, but like honest-to-goodness, cooked over a fire by a railroad track hobo chili.

P.S. I couldn't even find a Web site for "Hartford House"--which in this day and age, is unsettling for reasons too numerous to go into--but I did find this blog entry on Cheap Eats about Hartford House beef stew, which was hilarious.

Balloons? Check. Napkins? Check. Robot shield? Check. Autobiography of Hollywood legend/former talk show host? You bet. When I'm desperate for something to read and don't have a lot of money, I browse the used books on Amazon or Abe Books. Sometimes, I go to my local Books-a-Million and look at the sale rack. But I've never thought about finding a book at the dollar store. Amazingly, although I've never heard of this book, it garnered 4 1/2 stars from Amazon's reviewers, and the people who said nice things about it include Mario Cuomo and Mary Steenburgen.

P.S. While Googling "Mary Steenburgen" to make sure I spelled it right, the second Google auto-search result is "mary steenburgen hot." I don't even know what to say.

Now I know what I'm going to get Rupert Murdoch this year for Hanukkah. He needs all the help he can get for MySpace. Haha! BUUURN!

Finally, the dollar store is stocking DVD's! For a dollar! On the con side, this is the selection you get. Scary Movie 4 should be buried and never see the light of day again, like the Ark of the Covenant at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I picked up the movie "London" and put it down again after reading the blurb, "Not a movie about the city, but about a hot woman!" (This was literally the description.) Strangely, this was a deal breaker. I did pick up "1408," though, because, hey, it's John Cusack, it's Stephen King, it's Cthulu. How can you lose? Especially for a buck?

Friday, December 02, 2011

Donk donk!

Rule #1 about days off work: There is ALWAYS a Law & Order marathon on television.

Rule #1a: You will end up watching the entire marathon instead of doing what you should be doing (e.g. wrapping Christmas gifts for your new baby niece).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wanted: New Phone

Have you had to shop for a new phone lately? Because let me warn you, ladies and gents, it's not pretty. I mean, literally, my last trip to the DMV went smoother.

(For the curious: Yes, the DMV--here in Alabama, we call it the "courthouse"--is next door to a Chinese restaurant, a surprisingly good Chinese restaurant. A little pricey, though, which is why I only ate there once and why it's being another Chinese restaurant, a cheaper one, natch. It's in the same shopping center as the closed gourmet grocery store (vacant for five years), a Hallmark (how they stay in business, I'll never know), a Mellow Mushroom pizza parlor (not bad), the local sports bar/meat market, a Kohl's and a Milo's Hamburger. For the uninitiated, Milo's looks like the nastiest fucking hamburger you will ever see, but it is so damn good. But I digress.)

So long story short, T-Mobile and I had a falling out. The details aren't important, but let's say that (finger quotes) "The Man" doesn't like it when you don't (finger quotes) "pay your cell phone bill." But it wasn't just that. I'm paying $120/month (!) for a plan they are now offering for $70 (!). And T-Mobile--or "The Man"--wouldn't let me change the plan without signing up for another two years. Fuck that noise.

Also, I was using this piece of shit when I saw all those happy people on TV using all new pieces of shit, and damn if I didn't want in on that, too.

Frankly, I don't know why. I make so few phone calls (probably because I'm so anti-social) that I sometimes make a call out to my work voicemail just to make sure that my cell phone is still working. And I'm not one of these people with a ton of fancy (finger quotes) "apps," who are constantly checking their phone for every little bit of trifle from their friends. "hay we are at the game lol". Hey, that's fucking great. For that piece of info, I pay $100+ a month. Sign me up!

So at last count, I've pissed off AT&T (formerly known as Cingular). I don't even remember why, but it probably had something to do with the bill. T-Mobile and I started out great. We had some laughs, went out a few times, took a vacation together, tried out a few restaurants, we liked the same movies... But after a while, we just grew apart.

Now, I had the option of going with something like Boost Mobile, Virgin, Tracfone, or something like that, but ooh-la-la, I just couldn't bring myself to use a phone that's sold behind a counter, on the shelf between the statue of Ganesha
and the Phillies Blunt cigars (wink, wink). So it was between Verizon and Sprint, and since Sprint actually sent me a letter wanting my business, off I went to the Sprint store.

My first impression--very nice! What jumped out at me off the bat was the "hostess station" (yes, they literally call their store greeter a "hostess"). I sat and waited my turn and was sold on an HTC Evo Design.

Everything was beautiful for ten days. Then I dropped it. I called Sprint support and spent an hour with them on the phone while they ran a diagnostic (over the phone). And while I was annoyed, at the same time, I thought, "They can do that over the phone? That's really cool!"

Normally, I would not take advantage of any business, but I was still within my 14 day trial period, and they did tell me they would swap the phone, no questions asked, so back I went to the store. Very nice woman swapped my phone, and I got it home, and...well, the vibration function wasn't working. It would cut out, etc. So back I went to the store this morning, and had the misfortune of speaking to a guy who saw me in the store last night. And the vibrate function worked just fine.

I took it to another store for a second opinion, and the second store frowned at the phone, looked it over, and said, "Yeah, some problems here. You should just get it swapped. But you'll have to do it at your original store."

So, okay, after work, I raced back to the original store, the dude who declined my request to have the phone swapped wasn't there--hooray!--and the sales clerk looked at my phone and said, "Yeah, the vibrate cuts in and out." Hallelujah! I told her that I could kiss her just for making me feel NOT crazy, and as much as some women would jump at that chance (wink, wink), she kinda gave me a withering smile. Thanks, but no thanks.

So. On the third phone, but I may have a winner. I'm sitting here, with the phone next to me, happily updating apps (not that I have a lot), and hopefully enjoying Sprint...for the next two years, or when the bill comes due, whichever comes first.

P.S. Hooray! AppBrain is very cool. The graphic below shows the apps I installed on my phone.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

It Was a Good Day

First things first: I want to thank Kari for not forgetting about our blogs and for encouraging a return to form.

Secondly, no more hiding behind new blog titles. I'm going back to Sublimely Mundane, so yeah, I'm going to need my title back. Sorry, new Sublimely Mundane. But in all fairness, I was here first (and it didn't look like you've been doing a lot of blogging, anyway).

Third, to the reason I changed the name in the first place--and you know who you are--a little message. A .gif is worth a thousand words:

Now, why don't you go fuck yourselves?

Now that I've gotten that out of the way... I took a mental-health day Friday, and I do mean mental health. I've worked every holiday this year (2011) and have been on-call more often than any of my coworkers.

I've got a week of vacation, about that much in holiday days (!) and a sick day I need to spend before December 31. It feels unnatural to me. My father was a workaholic, too, and maybe, that's one of the reasons he was dead of a stroke by 55.

It's a hard thing to admit to myself, but I want to make sure that doesn't happen to me, but so far, it's not looking good.

I say to you even as I remind myself to stop and smell the roses. Easy to say, hard to do. Sometimes, I'm not even sure what it means anymore. Stephen King summed it up best in one of his books a few years ago. I think it was Insomnia: "Every thing I do I rush through so I can do something else."

I grabbed a coffee with a chocolate donut at noon--marvelous! I browsed a little, locally-owned cookware store, looking for nothing in particular--amazing! I did a little window shopping for Christmas gifts at the local department store--very nice!

That night, I went home and watched two episodes of Luther on Netflix (and am convinced Idris Elba is one of the best actors of his generation). I also nodded off to Limitless (pretty terrible), found my copy of Batman Begins and watched the first hour of that.

One of the best parts, though, was having Kari write me and ask me about the blog. I'm glad she did. So this post is dedicated to her. And, yeah, I know. To paraphrase Kari who was paraphrasing someone else-a comedian, I think?--it's hard to believe that once upon a time, Ice Cube was the baddest motherf*cker on the planet.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

All Good Things

It's time to say goodbye to this blog. So much to say, and I don't know if I can put it all into words.

I have a few reasons to end this blog, but rest assured it wasn't due to any one person. When I was done with Yahoo! Chat, the FoRT and (someday soon) Warcraft, I knew when it was time to say goodbye. Not so much with a blog. With a blog, you have to know when to say when.

Well: when.

I will always appreciate everyone who visited, re-visited, commented, emailed me and asked after me. I love you guys, you know this.

But the test of any online endeavour is whether you can wipe the slate clean and start it all over again. Be assured this isn't an ending. It's just a new beginning.

Be well.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Vacation, Day 5

On Wednesday morning, we spent breakfast with Jennifer's great aunt, who cooked breakfast for us. Bacon and biscuits. If you can get more Southern than that, I'd like to know how. Well, sure, I could have been wearing a seersucker suit with a bolo tie, sitting in a rocking chair surrounded by tick hounds, firing a shotgun into the air while girls in Daisy Duke shorts washed my old pickup, but where is the fun in that? I call that "the weekend."

As we said our thank-yous and made our goodbyes, Jennifer's great aunt hugged Jennifer and said, "You need to gain ten pounds before you see me again." She turned to me, hugged me and said, "...and you don't."

OH! I mean...OH! Cracked on by a ninety-year-old woman! And it was a hell of a setup, too!

The next few minutes went something like this:

Me: What? WHAT?! Did you just crack on me? NOBODY does that and gets away with it! It's go time! I'll see you outside, GRAMMA! One of us is leaving here with a black eye!

Her: ...and it's not going to be me, fatboy! You want to dance? Come on, let's dance!

Well, not really. But it was my most Adam Sandler moment ever and should be noted.

We drove from Charleston to Atlanta. To quote from Forrest Gump, "...and that's all I have to say about that."

We had dinner with the family of Jennifer's childhood friend. As dinner wound down, I was stunned when the parents of the house revealed that she was born in Minot, ND, where they met and later married. A good friend and renowned blogger is also from Minot, ND, a postage stamp of a town, from all accounts. It's a small world, sometimes, and we're all interconnected.

This morning, I'm treating myself to a dim sum brunch before I drive home to Birmingham. It's been a long trip, one that will make me reflect on a lot of things--has made me reflect on a lot of things--and a tiring trip. I need a vacation from this vacation. Who's with me??

I'd like to thank Kari, Vanessa, Jennifer, Irma, Crystal, Jadzia and Mary for reading and commenting. Thank you for the unspoken encouragement to keep writing at the end of the day. I loved blogging the trip, and you made it all worthwhile. I love you guys, you know that?

P.S. I have a Powerball ticket among my things. If I'm the $76 mil winner, I'm taking everyone to a place of your choosing. Europe? The Caribbean? Sierra Leone? Darfur? Sky's the limit!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Vacation, Day 4

I woke up this morning with a yen for Asian food. ("Yen"? Asian food? Get it?) Jennifer woke up right behind me and wanted to get on the road. So no mo' pho for me, for the time being. (So/no/mo/pho--get it?)

We visited the Boone Plantation instead, and as a good California boy, the word "plantation" makes me wince, of course. There's something about people held in bondage that makes me uncomfortable. (Well, the bondage that isn't agreed upon ahead of time by two consenting, loving adults, of course...)

The Boone House was the setting for the miniseries North and South and The Notebook. That's what the Web site (or whatever) said, anyway, and I tuned out as soon as I heard The Notebook. I have this theory that "love" stories like The Notebook hurt us more than they help. They give us an unrealistic expectation about real life love, etc. etc.


I was astounded by how the ultra wealthy lived (in the mansion) and how the slaves lived (in the one-room slave houses). I'd read the history and had seen the photographs, but nothing prepares you. It's like visiting the Nazi death camps, is my guess.

The tour was given by a young woman named Allison who was forced to wear period dress--bustier, corset, hoop skirt and all.

We struck up a conversation as the retirees shuffled from room to room and oohed and aahed.

I was amazed (but not really) that Allison the Tour Guide wanted to major in journalism, minor in history, and spend a year abroad in England, which is word for word my university career. What did surprise me was that she was a sophomore--a sophomore!--in high school. Girls at that age look so much older now than when I was that age.

What I found age-appropriate was her "spunkiness"--she wanted to set the world of journalism on fire, she wanted to write for the Washington Post. As a tour guide for a historic home, she probably knew more about the history of the house than most of the other guides. She was eager to share what she knew. She was eager to talk about her plans to major in journalism. I smiled at her bright-eyed optimism and wished her the very best of luck. I hope she is one of the few who doesn't burn out when dreams meet reality. I hope she makes it. I hope I read her stories in The Washington Post someday.

Jennifer's cousin met us after our tour and took us antiquing and across the bridge to Sullivan's Island. We enjoyed lunch just over the bridge and she drove us around the island. As we approached the house where Jennifer's cousin's family spent their summers, I fell asleep and dreamed uneasy dreams. They were not the uneasy dreams I had when I was young, of journalism school and semesters spent in England.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Vacation, Day 3

Whenever I stay in a motel/hotel I've never stayed before, the first question I like to ask is, "How many people have committed suicide in this room?"

For this trip to Charleston, I can say, "One...okay, two. But definitely no more than two."

The day started sweltering. Breakfast was a muffin that Jennifer's (not As I Was Passing Jennifer but...) great aunt sent us on our way with last night.

I slept until 9:30, which was a luxury for me. Since the end of February, when I started playing Warcraft, I've slept an average of three hours a night. Earlier that morning, I couldn't sleep, so I walked outside for a cigarette. The motel sits near a stream. Behind the lobby/check-in area sits a swing and picnic table facing the stream. I sat down and had a cigarette and received a text message by a fellow insomniac to chat on MSN . That's the heaven and hell of the Internet, I think. People are only as far as your computer--both heaven and hell right there.

So we did. We chatted. And it was probably the nicest way I could ask for to wake up.

Jennifer and I drove to downtown Charleston, famous for its marketplace. We browsed the candies and postcards, sunglasses and kites, baskets and household decorations, Christmas decorations and sandals.

After a carriage tour of Charleston, lunch was crab claws and rum punch in a nearby restaurant. We sat at the large window and people watched, which is always one of my favorite pastimes. When I'm in a good mood, I don't mock people but just study them. I like to think I'm pretty good at reading body language and facial expressions, so I just...watched. What I find the most fascinating is that everyone is sublime, everyone has an interesting story, everyone I see is a snapshot of what they are for only a moment in time. For example, here's a young woman who has walked past the restaurant twice, speaking into her cell phone each time. Who is she talking to? Why does she seem so perturbed? Who knows? She probably has no idea that someone in the restaurant she walked past found her interesting and is writing about her.

For dinner, we took Jennifer's great aunt and another of her cousins to a local barbecue restaurant. I last ate at Sticky Fingers two years ago in Chattanooga and have been dreaming of it since. It was...fine, the service was acceptable, but I was distracted from the conversation because of (1) my headache and (2) I'm continually distracted by other thoughts running through my head.

We took Jennifer's great aunt home and sat with her while she forced iced tea and more of her cake on us.

We went back to the motel room, where Jennifer happily sipped a nightcap, watched the news and scribbled postcards to her family and friends. I thought about barbecue. I thought about where I was two years ago when I last had barbecue at this restaurant chain. And it occurred to me that sometimes, the things in our memories are much better than reality. For certain things, we filter out the bad and recall only the good.

And my thoughts are still distracting me.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Vacation, Day 2

Sunday morning started with rain.

Now call me Emo Kid, but I like the rain. I struggled all the bags into the truck (in the rain) and checked out.

The Indian from Chicago wasn't behind the desk. His replacement was a twenty-something whose surliness was too practiced to be genuine. (Give it a few more years, kid, I thought. Bitterness will not be a foreign houseguest then.)

He didn't seem to care that his checkout procedure left something to be desired and that entire geological eras passed between the time we surrendered our room key and the time he had us sign our credit card slip.

Somehow, the topic of Internet access came up, and I mentioned that Sophia liked to steal wireless access from a nearby access point. He snorted in derision and said, "Sometimes, I don't know what the fuck that chick is talking about," a nonsequitur that gave up everything the King of All Returns needed to know about Mr. Artificial Surly and Sophia. Obviously, he had put the moves on her, and she had rejected him outright.

"That's because you just don't know her Shibboleth," I thought.

Our first stop was the Columbia Zoo about an hour-and-a-half away, where we indulged Jennifer's (not As I Was Passing Jennifer, but...) love of penguins. I looked at the caged animals, and they looked at me, and I would swear they had this look of "What the fuck am I doing here?" You're not the only ones who are wondering that, I thought.

Another two hours, and we arrived in Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston is one of those unusual Southern cities--a shabby/chic resort town.

Jennifer and I picked up her great aunt, Mary, who is approaching 90 but going strong.

Dinner was at Jennifer's cousin's house, a home tucked away in a Charleston suburb, on a street lined with red brick homes and trees hung with Spanish moss. I was both in awe...and had never felt farther from California.

I ate three servings of lasagna, had two glasses of red wine (from a box), two slices of garlic bread, two servings of green salad, and two servings of vanilla ice cream and chocolate cake.

I took a cigarette break after dinner and called two people--one from Warcraft, another special to me for a different reason.

Warcraft Ethan was in the middle of a dungeon. I'd been worried about him and had wanted to check up on him.

As for the second call I placed, I was glad just to hear a voice on the voicemail message.

Jennifer's cousin's husband showed me his sports car, asked me a few questions about his computer problems--no surprise there; as a computer tech, I'm as valuable if not moreso than a doctor at a cocktail party in 2007--and showed off his model railroad.

"This is the Burlington Zephyr," he told me. "In its heyday, it ran from California to Chicago." So did I, I thought.

After dinner, Jennifer and I bundled her great aunt into my truck and took her back to her condo. As she and Jennifer chatted about friends--current and lost--I took a look around her place and studied the photos and paintings, knick knacks and postcards, the furniture made by family and the drawings made by great grandchildren. It had been a life worth living, I thought. I also wondered how someone with 90 years worth of lost friends and heartbreaks keeps going. Maybe, I thought, that's why the Higher Power numbs our memory after so many years. Maybe that's the Last Blessing and not the Final Embarrassment.

Jennifer and I left at nine o'clock. She wanted to go to bed. We walked out the door into the summer night, down a path lit by faux gaslamp and lined with trees hung with Spanish moss. She closed the door behind us and walked back into her home, into the arms of a lifetime's worth of things and the warm embrace of old, old memories.

Vacation, Day 1

As I write this, it's 15 minutes to midnight, Saturday, June 16. I'm too wired to sleep and too tired not to try. I spent 9 hours on the road today on my trip from Birmingham to Charleston, South Carolina. We broke the trip up, so we're spending the night in Aiken, South Carolina.

Aiken is not a nine hour trip. Aiken is a nine hour trip when you stop and look every time something catches your eye, and that something happens every hour or so.

I'm sitting in the lobby of the motel, sipping a Mountain Dew LiveWire (best...soft drink...ever) and staring at the Indian hotel clerk, who's trying not to stare at me. He just moved here from Chicago, so we're both strangers in a strange land. I wonder how an Indian from Chicago ended up in Aiken, South Carolina, and working the night shift behind the counter at a motel, but he's not volunteering. The world is so strange and wonderful--often at once!--sometimes.

I'll post photos from the trip. So far, the most interesting photos will come from a graveyard in Camak, Georgia, where the oldest gravestone we saw marked a death in 1862, and a demolished car from an accident that snarled traffic outside Atlanta for two hours. (Did I photograph someone else's misery? Did I!)

Jennifer and I ate dinner at the Aiken Brewery, which was fine, but reminded me of just about every damn microbrewery in America--beautiful people munching on overpriced appetizers, drinking too much, and cranking out a sexual tension you can cut with a butter knife.

Jennifer and I went back to the motel, and she fixed herself a nightcap and retired. I wandered over to the motel bar...and met one of those interesting people who only come along once every great while in our lives and make life that much more fascinating, even if for a little while.

Sophia tended bar, served our drinks, and overheard Jennifer making fun of me for my Warcraft addiction. She smirked. And then she said, "I'm so done with Warcraft."

I turned and said, "Oh yeah? What makes you say that?"

She shrugged. "I did it two years ago. I'm done with it. It's behind me."

After that, it was a conversation about Star Trek, comic books, college, favorite professors, least favorite professors, the movies, drinking, ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, online activities, family, friends, love, religion, music and--what else?--ethnic food in Aiken, South Carolina.

As I sat in the lobby and waited for this laptop to boot up, Sophia walked by and said, "Are you sure you're not going to come to the club with us tonight?

"I'm tired, but thank you," I smiled.

"You sure?" she asked, cocking an eyebrow in Spock fashion.

"I'm sure," I said.

And just like that, she stepped out of my life, perhaps forever.

It's always been funny to me, the people who come into our lives and touch us in some way, perhaps momentarily, perhaps for a long, long time to come.

It almost makes me revise my theory that the only thing in this life worth living for is to make the lives of those around us a little better. I want to add that sometimes, a connection can be made that can't be broken, and that's worth seeking, too.

And to the person who's wondering if I'm thinking about them. The answer is "yes...yes, I am."

Monday, June 11, 2007

Don't Stop Believing

So much has been made of the last episode of The Sopranos. Some loved it, some hated it. Me? I loved it. See the post below for the reasons why.

It got me thinking, though, that if the series of my life were ever to come to an end, which song I would want to play. For The Sopranos, the choice was the extremely unusual, but very inspired, Journey's Don't Stop Believing. (No, seriously.)

I thought about it, and the choice was obvious: The Wallflowers' One Headlight.

Just as they faded to black on Tony during the last refrain of the song, I'd like to fade to black on:

Well, this place is old
It feels just like a beat up truck
I turn the engine, but the engine doesn't turn
Well, it smells of cheap wine and cigarettes
This place is always such a mess
Sometimes I think I'd like to watch it burn
I'm so alone, and I feel just like somebody else
Man, I ain't changed, but I know I ain't the same
But somewhere here in between the city walls of dying dreams
I think her death, it must be killin' me

Hey, come on, try a little
Nothing is forever
There's got to be something better than
In the middle
But me and Cinderella
We put it all together
We can drive it home
With one headlight

Probably the best lyrics I've heard in the last ten years.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Turn the Page

I watched the series finale of The Sopranos last night, expecting a Tony death. His family was in disarray--both his blood relatives and his Mafia crew. He was not in a good place mentally or emotionally, which, really, has been the focus of this series from the beginning.

But, somehow, some way, Tony didn't give up, and in the end, it all worked out for him. That's a simplistic way of looking at the episode, but for a blood-soaked series with a black sense of humor, it was a fitting if surprising ending.

It couldn't have come at a better time for me. Things with my family are settling down, and the merger that was supposed to leave me without a job has seen the finalization of that deal. I even get to keep my job.

Jennifer (not As I Was Passing Jennifer, but you know...) and I have been laughing together more than we have in a long time. Even my dogs seem okay.

Sometimes, there's a part of me that wonders if I don't invite, don't actively seek, chaos in my life. Well, that's what one of my psychologists said, anyway. ;)

But I know that deep down, there's a part of me that just wants what other people want: a stable family, someone you look forward coming home to, a good job you enjoy with fair wages, friends you can depend on, a few interesting hobbies to occupy your time. And, of course, a swimming pool filled with Twinkies.

k. larson did for me one of the kindest things anyone can do. She was there for me at a critical moment last week, and made all the difference. I know most of you--if not all--would have done the same.

So I watched The Sopranos last night and compared it to my own life. I feel a chapter of my life slowly closing, and the page turning to a new one. And I've learned that, yes, even though you don't expect them to, even though they don't look like they will, sometimes things do work out after all.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

As promised, here are some of my photos.

2004, London, UK. The photo was taken from too far, I know, but I love this photo. Jenn (not As I Was Passing Jenn, but my significant other Jenn) and I visited London. I hadn't been in England in nearly ten years. Jenn had never been.

2005, Birmingham, Alabama. Here I am (with my dogs, natch!) at a summer outdoor music festival in Birmingham.

2006, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Last year, Jenn (not As I Was Passing Jenn, but, well you know...) and I visited the new aquarium in Chattanooga. We stayed two nights in a train car that had been converted into a hotel room. I ate barbecue until the top of my head exploded.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

You Can't Go Home (Page) Again

A very wise friend of mine emailed me today and warned me about the posts I've been writing.

"I think your friends are worried about you, Andy," she said.

She also said something that made a lot of sense: "We want to be transparent on our blogs, but that's just not possible."

So here's to transparency and our attempts to be honest.

Stolie posted an interesting question recently having to do with the line between our "real" lives and our "online" lives.

My response, if you didn't see it, was that we're a generation caught in the middle. The generation before us doesn't care to develop online connections to others. The generation after us doesn't think twice about enhancing their real lives with online.

We're caught somewhere in the middle and just muddling through it all.

I did something very unwise today. I took a walk down memory lane. And that's another problem with the online world. In the online world, there's a fairly complete record of your comings and goings. It's all there for you to revisit. It's all there for other people to see.

So for the first time, may I introduce you to my online home before Blogger. Let me introduce you to (aka I know most of you are probably howling at how anticlimactic that introduction was. (And I am, too.)

Once upon a time, phat32 was a big shot on this forum. I was a very early member. I helped institute some of the practices that still exist today. I helped start some of the most popular discussions, discussions that are still going today, hundreds (or thousands) of messages strong. I wrote top-quality reviews for this site, which generated not only attention and new member sign-ups, but more importantly, income. I "greeted" new members. I moderated disagreements. I lost sleep staying up late to talk "friends" through hardships. I met a great group of people, a group of people who swore our bond could never be broken. (Well, guess what?) I shaped the rules, set the tone, helped build it from a forum of a few hundred to literally thousands.

Then Amelia came along.

And three years--three years--of hard work, of invaluable relationships, came to a screeching halt. Do you know how long three years is, online time? Three years is a lifetime.

Even today, I'm not sure how it all happened, but there's a very, very small part of me that wonders if Amelia didn't see it coming and sped it along. Paranoid, I know.

So lately, I've been thinking about those connections I made and how those bonds shouldn't have (but did) break. And I've tried to contact a few of those old acquaintances. One or two of them were happy to hear from me and have wondered "where [I've] been!" From others, it was a frosty reception, at best.

If you do MySpace, we should exchange MySpace ID's. I always swore I wouldn't do MySpace, but I'm doing it as part of the group I'm involved in for World of Warcraft. And I would love to include my Blogger friends.

You can see that I do value and cherish my old FoRT friends--Sherri, Jennifer, Irma, Kiki, and Wendy--as I cherish y'all.

Tom Wolfe was right, though: You can't go home again. He just probably never imagined it would apply to the online world.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The End?

I was having lunch by myself at my favorite Chinese take-out place today when I spotted an article in the USA Today I was reading. A couple of things here. Number one: yes. Lunch by myself. I can be anti-social by nature, so I almost always take lunch by myself. It's my chance to get away from people and not have to listen to another human say anything to me other than, "More Country Time Lemonade, sir?"

Number two, I usually don't read USA Today. USA Today isn't for stupid people. USA Today is for retarded people. But I didn't feel like walking down to the corner for a decent paper, so USA Today it was.

So I'm reading Retard Daily and spot an article ranking the season finales of the major television shows. This is why I have season finales on the mind. Maybe it's because I'm undergoing a series of major life changes, too, just as television characters seem to around this time of year. (It must not be easy to be a television character. For eight months, they plug along, and then BAM! Season finale!)

But enough foreplay. Let's get to the fucking post.

If you've read any of the earlier entries, you know that my half-brother walked back in to my life.

You also know my company is undergoing a major merger with another hospital. This was supposed to be a done deal. Everyone was supposed to keep his or her job. We were moving forward with the merger. We were to receive our new contracts and benefit papers. Today, we were told all scheduled meetings having to do with contracts and benefits were now off the table. What does it mean? I don't know. Could be nothing. Could be everything. But that's another reason I didn't go to lunch today with my co-workers. I knew they would be discussing this endlessly and hypothesizing whether they would have jobs or not. And I hate random, empty hypotheses. Something either is or isn't. And nobody at the table can tell me anything important, so why bother bullshitting about it?

I've been sitting here staring at the screen for this next part, because I don't know how or what to write. I don't even know if I should be writing this, because it's nothing to make light of, and believe me, I'm not. But my life has been pretty much an open book on this blog, and I don't want to stop now. Also, this fits pretty well with my whole "end of one season/beginning another chapter in life" theme of this post.

Someone close to me may be pregnant. And while I am thrilled for her, it brings to mind all the "could have beens" and "may have beens" in my own life. I am not especially fond of children, but every once in a while, every once in a while, some children grab my heart and won't let go. This person's daughter is one child like that. And so she would make a great mom all over again. However, it does make me sit up at night, asking myself all kinds of questions about whether I made the right choices, especially about having (or, in this case, not having) children.

I am a child of 80's, no doubt about it. Some of you are, too. And we were fed a steady diet of schmaltzy television that I truly believe has had more of a detrimental affect on us and our ability to relate to one another than any trauma that may have happened in our lives. Think about it: the shows we watched as children were written by middle-aged people from another era who didn't understand our generation and yet tried to "talk" to us and tell us how our relationships should be formed. (Kids Incorporated, anyone?) Bullshit, is what I say. BULLSHIT. My life isn't (and wasn't) a happy-go-lucky meetup at some bullshit, non-existent malt shop where we all met after school, and the jocks were jocks, the pretty people the most popular, the nerds even part of the clique, where serious issues could be resolved within 30 minutes (with commercials for Stretch Armstrong and Thundercats toys), and nobody ever died, or was hurt, or emotionally scarred, or faced real issues.

Having said that, if all the world is a stage and all the men and women merely players (as opposed to playas; thank you, Shakespeare), then I'm in danger of losing my job, am reassessing family and love in a major way and am looking at being the character who gets written off, the one who packs a bag quietly, heads to the Greyhound station, and with one look back at Birmingham, gets on the bus.

And as the bus rolls away into the dusty distance, the placard on the side of the bus announcing its destination is almost visible.

But not quite.

(Currently listening to: Hinder's Lips of an Angel)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Things That Make You Go "Hm"

Check out this MSNBC story.

I'll have to read it again before I can fully comment on it because my co-workers were milling outside my office, and I had to tell them to shut the fuck up.

And I was a little distracted after that because I was sending sugary emails to my sweetie.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Reason #39: Why I Love MySpace

How can you not love MySpace? Oh, sure, there's the clunky-as-fuck interface, the junior-high popularity contest, and the fundamental coding that looks like it was put together by a group of retarded syphilitic chimps, but then you get stuff like this.

For those who aren't familiar, MySpace's front page features a "Cool New People" module which spotlights recent sign-ups to the site. And, today, these were the cool new people featured:

I LOVE IT! I can just see it now:

Comment from Chris Dodd (D - Connecticut):

"First of all, may I congratulate my two fellow, er, MySpace 'Cool Persons,' Betty and Meat. Yes, Betty, I did see your comment on my MS, and I will 'promise not 2 be a hater!!!' and 'hit you back,' as long as you don't mean domestic violence. As a Democrat, I strongly believe in the dignity and rights of all Americans, especially women who are victimized every day in this great nation of ours. And may I say, yes, your blue top that you 'totally macked on sale!!!' is indeed fetching, or as you said, 'like, only the cutest top EVEEERRR!!!!!!!!!'

"And, Meat, while I believe that you may not have had a strong male presence in your formative years, and that you lacked parental guidance since your 'moms' had to work to support 'all your azzes,' I appreciate your viewing my page and leaving a comment, even if I can't agree wholeheartedly with your statement 'pimpz uppp! hoess doewn!' All women deserve to be addressed in a dignified manner, especially women who are addicted to narcotics and/or suffered sexual abuse and are looking to escape a life of sexual slavery. And, yes, I will leave a comment on your page, or, as you so aptly put, 'holla back at your boy.'

"In conclusion, may I just say that it is an honor to found a MySpace site so that I may keep in better contact with you, the young people of America, and I look forward to starting a dialog...even if that dialog is 'What superhero are you?' (Answer: Aquaman.)"

Blogger up, MySpace down!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Reader Appreciation Day: May '07

It's been too long since I've written consistently, and I think that sometimes, in the midst of our troubles and distractions (work, family, cough World of Warcraft cough), we risk losing sight of the things that are most important to us.

I'm going to take a page out of FunkyBrownChick's playbook and hold a long-overdue Reader Appreciation post.

First, to Nics: Where did you go? :-) Your posts never fail to make me laugh. Nobody--and I mean nobody--can make me laugh about the drudgery of working in a department store like you can. You were one of the first (if not the first) bloggers to take the dive into Test for Echo, and even though TfE is defunct (for now!), I will always be grateful to you. Nics, I salute you!

Glaciermeow: You are one of the most astute, warmest and insightful bloggers I know. When I look at your photos, I never fail to learn something new about how to take effective photographs for use online. I am sorry that I haven't been very good about commenting on your blog, but I hope that will change in the very near future.

Jenn: You lead where I follow. Our professional backgrounds are so similar it's almost eerie. I left. You stayed. You know why? I'm a decent writer. You're an excellent writer. Forget about "holding a candle." Where I am a match in the wind, you burn like a torch. Your writing is powerful, affecting, moving and portrays both the best and worst about people. It is, in short, what great writing should be.

Jo: Don't leave. Keep going. That's all I have to say. Nothing uplifts me quite like a comment from you. Well, one thing does, and that's one of your posts when it really hits. And believe me when I say they hit. They hit because you lend a human face to the all-too-often frightening and confusing world of the US healthcare industry.

Mary: War Eagle! You are one of the most creative, artistic, witty and just gosh-darn nicest people I have ever had the pleasure to get to know online. I have followed your blog with pleasure, especially when you post your art works and I have to say, "How does she do that?" You're talking to a guy whose stick figures look like they've been badly mangled in motorcycle accidents. You, madam, are an artistic star.

Jadzia: We have so much in common, it's almost frightening. Not only are/were we Aztecs, but we also share a love of all things 'Trek and Lost. The only thing I enjoy more than your posts and comments are the emails we've exchanged. I sometimes pinch myself and say, "I can't believe this supermodel-looking girl likes Star Trek." You're every fanboy's dream! And you're probably the only other blogger I know who is as excited about J. J. Abrams' revival of the Trek mythos. Now, to the all-important question: Would Spock have kept pushing the button in The Hatch...? (I'm coining a term for "doing something you're told is important but feels perfunctory and hollow" (eg work): pushing the button in The Hatch. You heard it here first. But I digress.)

Vanessa: Your observations are always enlightening, and your writing is always clever, honest and insightful. I've loved each and every one of your comments and look forward to them. Chrysalis Stage, indeed, because they broke the mold when they made you. I love you dearly because when I run across something you write that drops my jaw, chances are, a second later, I'm laughing my ass off.

And I know no better feeling in the world.

Kari: Kari, Kari. :-) Yes, I know of your dislike for emoticons. But you also have a dislike of capitalization. (e e cummings, indeed...) When I first started blogging, I encountered you. I thought I knew what blogging was, but I had no idea. You showed me the way. And in many other ways, you showed me the way out of a long, dark tunnel. For this, and for many other reasons, I will always, always be grateful to you.

Last, but certainly not least, to FunkyBrownChick: Stols, I've said it before but I'll say it again. You were one of my first comments. For a long period, you were my only comment. And you were my first recurring comment. I couldn't possibly have asked for better. It's like a rookie coming to his first at-bat. In the World Series. And hitting a grand slam. To win the pennant. I may have first coined the expression "The Stolie Nation," but now I'm just one of the legion of fans. And with all your recent success in blogging, did I not say one day soon, I would be able to say, "...I knew her when"? Well. I knew her when.

If you didn't see your name in this list, please don't be dismayed or feel insulted. I'm writing this before the break of dawn, and my energy is quickly draining. Know that I appreciate you, too, and hope that you will visit this blog again in the near future and leave a comment just to say hello, or that you loved (or hated) something I wrote. Know that I will reciprocate happily.

I send much love to each and every one of you.

May your day be Sublimely Mundane,


Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Watchman

For a month, I've been coasting by on a pack of cigarettes a day, three hours of sleep a night, six Cokes, a limited food budget, $25 a week for gas. My skin feels like a live wire that I could jump out of at any moment, and my mind feels like it's two minutes from the surface of the sun.

Sorry it's been a while since I rapped at ya, as Jim Anchower from The Onion likes to say. But in a moment I think it will become apparent why.

Let me start with a quote. "May you live in interesting times" is a saying often attributed to my people, the Chinese. I did a search on the expression via Wikipedia because of the state of mind I'm in today. (More on that in a minute.)

I discovered it's actually an expression an American (or English) writer came up with and attributed to a Chinese character.

And I've been learning lately why "May you live in interesting times" is considered a curse, not a blessing.

My company is undergoing a massive restructuring, a merger. From the time I step into my office in the morning to the time I leave, the phone has rung incessantly every five minutes with co-workers who are in some cases literally screaming at me to resolve their computer issues. In the last week, we received the mandate to convert all of them--yes, over 1000--to the new patient management system. We have five people in the IT department every day who can do this volume of work. (And if there's one person with whom I can swap war stories about hospital work, it's Jo.)

So I retreat into the World of Warcraft. I know I'm doing it. I know why. I do it as a form of escapism. I've been playing. A lot. [Edited]

When I do find the time to speak to my real life friends, I find that many of them are no better off than I am. In fact, some of them are distraught over negative situations in their lives. Because I am a loner by nature, I treasure each and every friend I have. Remember that I love you and support you and believe in you and my heart goes out to you every waking minute. You can get through this.

Finally, the piece de resistance. This morning, my brother received an email...from our long-lost half-brother. Haven't heard from him in over ten years. He decides to look up my brother and email him.

(rubs face wearily)

If my life were a television show, this would be the "last two episodes before the season finale." I hope I'm living a comedy and not a drama, because the season finale doesn't look good for this kid.

(Note: The title of today's blog entry post and accompanying image were inspired by the graphic novel Watchmen, a work that the creators of Lost are extremely fond of, and every Lost fan should become familiar with. I'm looking at you, Jadzia!)

Currently listening to: James Blunt's You're Beautiful

Sunday, February 18, 2007

From Russia with Love

[We all get spam. But from time to time, I get spam that catches my eye. I found the following in my in-box this morning, and this is how I responded.]


How are you? My name is Nadejda. I am 26 years old. I live in Russia, city Yoshkar-Ola.

Isn't that in Wisconsin?

I am cheerful woman, and like to do many things as sport, camping, go to the cinema, theatre etc. In a word I like to do all what like all people.

Here's something I've always wondered about. When Americans go to the movies, why is "cinema" interchangeable with "theatre"? And is it "theatre" or "theater"?

I work in marketing structure on sale of cosmetics.

I work in healthcare structure on selling a warm cup of shut the fuck up to whiny crybaby users who apparently earned a doctorate in fucking up their computers.

My dream this travel abroad. I know the english language well enough..

That's a lot like saying "A pig knows how to drive a tractor...well enough."

I began to study english language approximately one year ago. I wish tell to you history which have pushed me write to you. 8 months ago I have got acquainted with the man from other country by name Justin.

Maybe he was bringing sexy Russia.

During this time we had good relations. We have understood that our relations become serious and we have decided to meet in his country. I wrote the application for reception the visa. I waited reception of the visa approximately half of year. All time I kept in touch with Justin through the internet and often called to each other. I and Justin waited reception of the visa to our meeting. I have received the invitation from the ambassador for reception of the visa. My director has given me long-term holiday from work and I have gone to Moscow to receive the visa. I informed good news to Justin, but he has answered, that does not want our meeting. He played with me. He has informed that has the wife with two children and at all has no plans to meet me. I was not ready to such turn of events. I could not think what even after 8 months of acquaintance he can so unscrupulously act with me.

Ah, that's too bad, honey. Something similar happened to me.

I came home one day from school and had a letter. The letter said I'd been "pre-approved" for a visa. So we communicated over the phone and the Internet. Things became serious and we decided I should get the visa at 6.9% APR on new purchases for first 12 months. We agreed I would use it "just for emergencies."

When I got visa, I decided to "try it out." So I bought a new pair of CK jeans [Stop laughing. It was the 90's.], and bought some drinks and chicken wings at Applebee's. When bill came at the end of the month, I had run out of student loan money. I couldn't pay the bill, I got a late fee, and then I maxed out my card. (I'd also bought a few video games and gone on a date with a woman from one of my journalism classes.)

I forfeited my introductory APR, and it skyrocketed to 18.9%.

I was not ready for such turn of events. Visa played with me. They had no plans to let me have the introductory APR. I could not believe that after a few months of acquaintance, visa acted so unscrupulously with me.

Now I am in Moscow trip to Moscow and reception of visa. I do not want that all was gone for nothing and will be glad if my visa will be useful to our meeting. I could arrive already through 4-5 days, but a problem in that that now I have no man which would like my arrival. Probable it will silly sound but if you will be interested in a meeting with the good woman I shall like to meet you sometime soon! As Justin was dishonest with me I have decided to find the man which is interested to meet the woman from Russia. I do not know your ideas about my letter, but it would be fine if we could meet and have some weeks or months together.

Well, if you give me a week to finish that dungeon in my basement, you can stay there...indefinitely.

On my trip I want to receive rest from my work and a life in Russia. Also the basic purpose for the future it is search good men for serious attitudes which go to a marriage. I have no children, but I want to have children in the future. I am the mature woman and ready to creation of family with good man.

I do not know what you really search in the future

1. A Nintendo Wii
2. Volumes 7-9 of the Preacher graphic novel series
3. A Monte Cristo sandwich

but if we could meet I shall be happy to discuss with you more about our meeting. What are you going to do this time? It would be fine if we could meet, do friendship or more than simply friendship. I shall be happy if you also have a free time and we could meet soon. I do not know your interests, but anyhow write to me back and I shall tell to you more about myself. Write to me all that you want. Maybe we have similar plans and it will be interesting to us together.

I'd been planning on refurbishing a Victorian-era dollhouse I'd found in a local antiques store. I was going to furnish it and repaint it and make it a home for the tribe of tiny, three-inch-tall people who have been living between the walls of my home. If that sounds interesting to you, then I'm the man for you.

You can write all that you want. Ask any questions which interest you.

1. How do we rectify our belief in an all-benevolent, all-powerful Judeo-Christian God if He allows so much suffering to exist on Earth?
2. Why have American Idol contestants from Alabama historically done so well?
3. What, exactly, are Tootsie Rolls made of?
4. How did NASCAR become so popular? And why?
5. Do you have a recipe for Swedish meatballs?
6. You're trapped in a well with a goat and a Slinky. Describe how you would escape. (Oh, wait, that's a retarded-ass Blogger profile question.)

Write to me back and I shall tell more about myself and send more my photos.

Can you send me a picture of your pussy? Here's one of mine:

Please, write to me back on my regular e-mail: zolnadja@xx.xx
Have a good day,


May your day be Sublimely Mundane.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Crazy Little Thing Called Love

Just in time for Valentine's Day:

I've got an idea for a card. "I would drive 900 miles wearing a trenchcoat and diaper, armed with pepper spray and a mallet, to confront your other girlfriend if..." [inside of card] "'ll be mine, Valentine."

And the cover should have a cartoon of Snoopy in a field of hearts.

Ah, amore.

(P.S. I'm kinda pulling for you, Lisa Nowak! Your mug shot was worse than Nick Nolte's, but you were kinda hot in your court appearance!)

Monday, January 22, 2007

I'm Ready for My Close-Up

A few reactions after the Jan. 15 Golden Globes:

1. If I have to listen to one more shitty Borat imitation ("Sexy time!" "Very nice!" "High five!"), I'm not responsible for what happens.

2. I saw Children of Men opening weekend. On the one hand, it was a good film. Not the Second Coming, as some critics would have you believe, but good.

On the other hand, I just don't get it. If children disappeared from the face of the earth, I'd imagine the planet would be like a Sandals Resort, twenty-four/seven. But, oh no, everyone in the movie was all like, "Oh no! Womens aren't getting knocked up! It's the end of the world! Life sucks! Let's set fire to the streets and litter and graffiti! Blah blah blah!" And then English people were like, "England hasn't collapsed, but we're fascist! Blah blah blah!" And Clive Owen's character was like, "Bitch, don't blow me up! I'm escorting the world's only knocked-up chick to safety! Blah blah blah!" Whatfuckingever.

3. If I ever won a Golden Globe, I wouldn't use the word "faggot" in my acceptance speech. Using my speech to expose the Elders of Zion/Faction One/Trilateral Commission conspiracy? Yes. "Faggot"? No.

4. Freedom Writers? Yeah. I liked this film...the first time I saw it, when it was called To Sir With Love, Stand and Deliver, Dangerous Minds, et. al.

5. Check out this freak show of a publicity still from Pan's Labyrinth.

The international critics are coming all over themselves in their rush to heap praise on this film. "A girl's dream world is as nightmarish as her real life"? I liked this shit the first time I saw it...when it was called The Dark Crystal.

Oh, and you want real life nightmare? A real life nightmare is ordering a sausage breakfast burrito from Chik-fil-a, driving five miles to your office, opening the bag, and discovering a chicken breakfast burrito. But is anyone making a movie out of that? Fuck, no. Get me Andy Serkis on line one, chop chop.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Don't Call It a Comeback

I actually find writing every day easier than writing only occasionally. If I take a long break--as I've obviously done lately vis-a-vis this blog--then I find restarting harder than writing every day.

Having said that, here are a few thoughts. Some are slice-of-life, some are (hopefully) funny, some not, some are random thoughts, some not so random.

*I've started listening to National Public Radio again during my commute. I find it oddly calming, mostly because all their on-air personalities sound like they're lobotomized. Hell, their guests sound lobotomized.

When and if the world faces complete, Hollywood-style annihilation, I'd want to get that bit of news from NPR because of their unflappable-ness: "...later, on Fresh Air, we'll be hearing a report on the history of turnip greens. And, this hour, the moon-sized radioactive meteor populated by brain-eating zombies scheduled to bullseye the earth sometime tomorrow afternoon.

"But right now, an interview with the president of the Iowa Corn Grower's Association..."

*As if the hopeless tedium, heart-stopping stress and low wages that would stun Ebenezer Scrooge weren't enough, my company engages in an annual mandatory "online retraining" of us lowly drones. We click through ten pages of each "training exercise," with typical lessons like "Do not grab your co-worker's boob. This may be construed as sexual harassment." Or: "Do not eat the biomedical waste."

I did a screenshot from the lesson on "Preventing irate customers from doing violence to you."

I include it here because I wish I'd created it. I would have titled it Cock Block. (Oh, and I'm not kidding about the lesson in preventing customer violence that it came from.)

*You know those round blue tins of "Danish shortbread cookies"? The ones you can buy on sale for about a buck two days before Christmas in Walgreens? The ones people give to co-workers when they can't think of any other damn thing to give them around Christmas?

Okay. Am I the only one who actually likes those damn things?

I'm sure Danish people probably had some kind of proletariat uprising in the 1970's and banned these cookies in their own country, deciding instead to ship every last tin to the United States. ("Hey, Lars, I got an idea. Send that shit to the Americans. Those blubber asses will eat anything." "Done and done!")

*Jennifer was laid out by a stomach flu two weeks before Christmas and still hasn't completely recovered. In and of itself, this is not good. Factor in an annual holiday party she's done for 13 years (and I've assisted for five!), and this was a complete fucking disaster. We held our holiday party in mid-December and hosted Christmas dinner for her family a week and a half later.

Along with going to my job every day, I spent two weeks coming home to clean the house top to bottom, then preparing six trays of hors d'oeuvres for 20+ people. A week and a half later, I finished cleaning after the party and cooked two turkey breasts and a tray of dressing for her family's Christmas Day dinner.

I also did the last of the Christmas shopping, mailed the packages and cards and tried to stop from killing every last stupid motherfucker on the road, driving to do their Christmas shopping. What is it about the holidays that brings out the worst in people? Why do we celebrate the birth of Jesus, Who came to Earth to spread a message of hope, love, kindness and joy, by moshing our way into Best Buy and beating the elderly with their walkers so we can snatch the last Nintendo Wii out of their hands?

I don't know, but there came a point, around, oh, 2:42 pm on Dec. 23, when I was glad I didn't have a vial of Avian Flu tucked in my back pocket, because I would have stood in the middle of the mall, drawn that vial like motherfucking Clint Eastwood and released it with a mad laugh.

Belated holiday wishes, everyone!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Pelosi: "No, Mr. President, I can't say I've ever seen an episode of Dragon Ball Z, although I think my grandchildren are quite fond of that program."

Bush: "Tell me again about the rabbits, Nancy. Please? The rabbits we're gonna get, and I...I get to tend them."

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

It's Go Time!

I was horrified Tuesday by the news that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had challenged US President George Bush to a televised debate on world affairs.

On the one hand, I sympathize with the White House, who are caught in a classic no-win. If Bush accepts, then the US risks becoming hostage to the whims of any two-bit head of state who wakes up one morning with a yen to throw down on the US. On the other hand, if Bush declines--which he did--then our enemies are given the opportunity to mock us for not stepping up.

But, frankly, what I'd like to know is how the hell did a country whose people are not primarily English speaking realize that public speaking is not exactly our commander in chief's forte? How?

Let's face it: the Iranians challenged Bush to a debate because when it comes to lyrical flow, Bush is, frankly, no Reagan or Clinton. The Iranians know that if he doesn't accept, they win. If he does accept, they still win because (at the risk of sounding unpatriotic) Bush is a sucka MC.

I like the old-school medieval approach to resolving this Mexican stand-off, though, the idea of us putting forward a champion and Iran putting forward a champion.

What I think we ought to have done rather than dismissing the challenge outright and looking like we totally pussed out is to put forward a counter challenge. Here, then, are ten events where I don't like Bush's chances and ten events where I do.

Events I Don't Like Bush's Chances:

1. Chess

2. Freestyle rap battle

3. Composing, delivering university-level discourse on the overlooked European philosophers of the Enlightenment and their influence on 19th Century American fiction

4. Trivial Pursuit

5. Spelling bee

6. Jeopardy!

7. Connect Four

8. Tic Tac Toe

9. Battleship

10. Bumper Stumpers

Events Where I Do Like Bush's Chances:

1. Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots

2. Hot dog eating contest

3. Double dutch

4. Chili cook-off

5. X-treme BMX

6. Duck Duck Goose

7. Leading a demagogic, religiously-fundamentalist regime filled with sycophants too frightened to oppose their head of state, expert at scapegoating and curbing--if not outright ignoring--the rights of women and minority peoples, but ineffectual at addressing and resolving key infrastructure problems that prevent real and sustained economic growth (tie)

8. Beer funnelling

9. Clearing brush

10. Exhibiting arcane knowledge of obscure Tom & Jerry episodes

Friday, August 18, 2006

"Somebody cool that bitch out!"

What an interesting week in airline travel.

I'm not talking about the terrorism arrests in London--which are interesting--but the disruption of a D.C.-bound flight from London that was diverted to Boston after a passenger--how to put this?--freaked the fuck out.

On the one hand, I kind of understand where freaked-out passenger Catherine Mayo is coming from. I am not, shall we say, the (finger quotes) "model airline passenger." I, too, am claustrophobic. Call me crazy, but there's something about sitting in a narrow metal tube filled with tons of flammable liquid and hurtling 15,000 ft above the ground at a speed of 500 mph that tends to bring out the worst in me.

And lest any employee of the Department of Homeland Security (cough cough my neighbor) think me dangerous and put me on the no-fly list, I'm not dangerous, just a bundle of neurotic bullshit.

Luckily (for the crew and other passengers), I'm a lot more manageable after I'm in a state I like to call "shitfaced." Get a few vodkas in me (okay, two), and, suddenly, Row 23 (and most of the rear) resembles a Rodney Dangerfield movie, circa 1985.

My need to be inebriated is simple: I have the shittiest luck when I'm flying.

Believe me, I know (now) how stupid this was, but I once read Michael Crichton's Air Frame the week before a flight. If you haven't read Air Frame, Crichton will scare the shit out of you concerning the whole flying thing, like he scared the shit out of you concerning emergency rooms and cloned dinosaurs.

In a nutshell, according to Crichton, airplanes are very, very precise machines with thousands of little mechanical parts that must all work and work in conjunction. Malfunctions are (and must be) few and far between and could lead to more serious trouble (ie crashing).

So, there I am, half an hour into the flight, haven't had my vodka yet, and the seatbelt light comes on. "That's funny," I think, "there isn't any turbulence, and the pilot turned off the seatbelt sign shortly after takeoff."

Seconds later, the pilot made an announcement to the cabin: "Sorry, folks, but you can ignore the seatbelt sign. We seem to have a slight malfunction in the plane's electronic system."

Now, he said "slight malfunction." I heard "We are all going to fucking die."

For a split second there, I almost became the guy who loses his shit, jumps out of his seat and yells, "We're all going to die!" in the middle of an airplane disaster flick, forcing the stewardesses to come barreling down the aisle to push me back into my seat while the hero takes charge of the situation on the plane. The only reason I kept my stuff together was because I didn't want to be That Guy.

But it's not just the potential for mid-air disasters that alarms me. I also hate flying for the simple indignities foisted upon us at every turn. We eat when they want us to eat. We go to the bathroom when they want us to go to the bathroom. And we have little to no say in our seatmates. Why, gee, it's starting to sound a little like, oh, say, jail.

And when it comes to seatmates, I get the kind described by Tommy in The Shawshank Redemption: "Kind of roomie you pray you don't get...talked all the time...never shut up."

I don't like enclosed spaces, and I like my little creature comforts, like a stiff drink and a little quiet when I'm reading my books. These are the things that airline travel, by its very nature, will deny you. I don't like sitting still for long periods of time. I don't like inactivity. I don't like being in close proximity to people I barely know. And, usually, I have the Fat Guy on one side of me, and the Screaming Baby on the other. Yeah, that's right. Sometimes, I don't even get the mother who spends four hours trying to shush the baby (in vain, I might add). Sometimes, right before takeoff, they just plop a screaming baby down next to me. And the Fat Guy to my left just keeps on babbling about his gout.

Despite all my complaints and bad luck when it comes to flying, though, I once had an experience that almost--almost--made up for all the transatlantic Screaming Baby Expresses and Fat Talky Seatmates I've ever flown or flown next to.

So, there I am, after a long day of trekking out to the airport. I was hot and sweaty and hadn't had anything to eat all day. The flight was 6 o'clock in the evening, and of course, we'd been delayed and sitting at the gate for an hour. I'd forgotten to bring a paperback book on board. I was sober as a priest on Sunday morning, and because I'd been in a rush that day, I hadn't had time to hit the ATM and had no cash for drinks on board.

Oh, and I forgot to add that I was in the very last row. In the middle seat. Just in front of the bathrooms.

I sat with my head bowed, staring straight ahead at the seat in front of me. I was also hunched forward slightly because, in case you've never flown the last row, the seat doesn't recline. In fact, it feels like it has a slight incline forward.

Five minutes before takeoff, just after I finished a deep chest-wracking sigh, I noticed two shadows falling over me.

"Ah, good," I said to myself, "the Screaming Baby and Fat Lactose Intolerant Guy finally made it. I'm glad they didn't miss the flight."

Instead, I heard a voice made of honey say, "Excuse me, but do you mind if we sit on either side of you?"

I looked up at two women, in their early 20's, wearing airline uniforms, smiling and shifting their feet from side to side. It turns out they were international stewardesses "dead heading" their way home, which was why they had to sit in the last row. Needless to say, they were gorgeous.

During the flight, the one to my right turned and said, "Will you look in my eyes and tell me I'm pretty?"

Let's see--from a shitty flight to two stewardesses sitting on either side of me.

At that point, I realized I somehow exited my life and entered a beer commercial.

Monday, July 31, 2006

It Just Works...on So Many, Many Levels

If you're (a dork) like me and my brother, there's nothing you love more than news about a comic-book movie...especially when the casting is unintentionally hilarious.

Take the sequel to Batman Begins, tentatively titled The Dark Knight. When my brother and I heard that Heath Ledger had been cast as The Joker, it was like Christmas had come early. We were howling. And on the phone to one another within minutes.

"Hey, did you hear? Did you hear?"

"What? About the new Batman movie?"

"Yeah, they cast Ledger."

And we said together, "I WISH I KNEW HOW TO QUIT YOU, BATMAN!"

Just this morning, my coworkers Doug, Chris, Ellis and I were having a cigarette break and talking about the movies.

Chris has a theory--shared by my brother and I--that movies always come out in tandem. For example: Deep Impact and Armageddon. Antz and A Bug's Life. Happy Feet and Surf's Up. Etc.

"Hulk and Shrek," Doug dead panned.

"Hulk," I shook my head. "You know they just picked the wrong director for that. I mean, Ang Lee?"

Chris and I looked at one another and said at the same time, "Hulk quit Betty!"

And I have just finished surfing the Web for more comic book movie news. And this is a goldmine: Edward Norton as Bruce Banner and Liv Tyler as Betty Ross in the new Hulk film? Damn, what did I ever do to deserve all my good fortune?

"The first rule of the Hulk don't talk about the Hulk. The second rule of the Hulk is...YOU DON'T TALK ABOUT THE HULK."

Oh, and who wants to see some photos of me? I'll post them if you do. We've known each other what? Two years now?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

National Public Radio: In A.D. 2006, war was beginning.

President George W. Bush: What happen?
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld: North Korea set up us the bomb.
Secretary of State Rice: We get signal.
Bush: What!
Rice: Main screen turn on.
Bush: It's you!!
Kim Jong-il: How are you gentlemen!!
Kim Jong-il: All your base are belong to us.
Kim Jong-il: You are on the way to destruction.
Bush: What you say!!
Kim Jong-il: You have no chance to survive make your time.
Kim Jong-il: Ha Ha Ha Ha...
Rice: Mister President!
Bush: Take off every 'MiG'!!
Bush: You know what you doing.
Bush: Move 'MiG'.
Bush: For great justice.

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