Do You Feel Lucky?

(and feel free to comment! My older posts are certainly no less relevant to the burning concerns of the day.)

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Tough Topics #4: ABORTION

Yeah, that's right. This is the big one. ABORTION. I bet you thought I wouldn't have the sheer brass to tackle an issue like this! In a blog? In fact, you'd probably be saying to yourself, who does this chump think he is? But you'd be wrong about that, as you can see.

Abortion is arguably the single most bitterly-divisive issue in American politics since Slavery. One might say no, "dude - Vietnam!" But I laugh at that suggestion. Vietnam was a deep ditch of agonizing hell and crisis for the whole country to drag itself through, no doubt. And actual physical war exacts tolls that no more purely political issue can touch. But in terms of lasting political impact - honestly, Watergate had more impact than Vietnam. Vietnam has ended up as merely the most prominent early entry in an ongoing series of handwringings over whom we ought or oughtn't invade.

Hey - which is not to denigrate that issue! It's an important issue. But I'm talking about ABORTION here. You bring up abortion in a crowded room, you can hear a pin drop. Nobody wants to open that can of worms! Nobody on either side of the debate even wants to hear the other side. The few times I've heard a conversation start between two people not-in-agreement about abortion, it's always ended up with both parties simultaneously reciting patches of the official position platform for their side, "talking" over each other at a volume just a tad under full scream. Decades after both the Fall of Saigon and Roe v. Wade, you don't see that happening in conversations about 'Nam. And I'll tell you something else - nobody's making any Sylvester Stallone movies about abortion, either!

This issue is in a class of its own. Global Warming? Secondhand Smoke? The Death Penalty? Evolution vs. Intelligent Design? Don't make me scoff. None of these issues gets people at each others' throats the way abortion does. No argument can crack it. All attempts by one side to pierce the shell of the other's position just slide off unnoticed, nary a dent.

But that's the challenge. That's why I had to tackle this issue in my blog. I take on the big issues. The Tough Topics. ABORTION.

That's just how I run it around here.

Monday, August 28, 2006

We Should All Have Personal Air Marshals.

I think we should all have personal Air Marshals. I believe that the Personal Air Marshal System, will enhance the security of consumers of Democracy everywhere. I think it's a system that we should look at. I think it's a system we should need. But let's not kid ourselves. This much-needed system is not going to be looked at the way it needs to - unless there is real, bilateral, grass-roots support on both sides of the fence. This is not a proposal that can afford to get bogged up in petty politics.

To those of you who would question the benefits of such a program, I would ask of you: Have you considered the drawbacks? Personal Air Marshals. The boon that that would put on our economy alone, would more than be enough to offset the corresponding drains that are inevitable, with any such program.

Some might call this proposed system a radical new program in our Nation's arsenal of positive weapons. To these mongers of ambiguity I say: speak more plain! There's nothing radical about a proposal whose time has come. To those of you to whom I owe favors, I say: the time has come. Support this initiative, or those precious favors of yours will never be called in. Bold words, I know. But bold words call for bold times. The time for hidden meanings and couched language has passed us by. At this point, I am laying it all on the line: I think we should all have Personal Air Marshals.

I hope you will support my humble initiative. I hope that you will stand with me, among the just and righteous, on the Day of Judgment.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The First Couple Songs I Wrote.

I distinctly remember not being a songwriter. I didn't begin writing songs until I was already more-or-less an adult. I guess I wrote my first song at about 17. Before that, I didn't want to write any songs, because...can't sing. Why write any songs if I can't sing? Write them for some other guy to sing? FUCK him! Fuck that other guy. He doesn't deserve my songs. I knew that even then, back before I had any.

It turned out later that I could sing, I just couldn't sing like my then-favorite bands. I have a surprisingly OK voice. Arrestingly nondescript, yet savagely nuanced, yet sort of boy-meets-girl-next-door. Yet not at all androgynous! If that's what you're trying to infer by that. But anyway, back then...let's just say that my vocal stylings didn't fit with my influences. The first song that I wrote was a parody of sorts of an AC/DC-style song. It was intended as a very sincere homage, but the end product was unmistakably a parody. Or perhaps travesty would be more accurate. I remember it was called "Devil May Care" (note the Hell angle, very -esque).

My next song after that was called "Aquired Taste." I misspell it now, because I misspelled it then. This was a pretty catchy number, marred only by my rather confusing attempts to express my ripening sex appeal by comparing myself to vegetables. I remember in particular the references to myself as being "Jersey-Fresh," a la the fresh produce trademark then in vogue at markets throughout the Tri-State Area. If the first one was more like AC/DC, the second one was more like Poison.

I took a couple years off from songwriting after that. Sometimes it takes a while to find your voice.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Thursday Night Pool Recap

Okay, here's how it went. As clouded as my mental process may have been at the time, I feel as though I have a super-keen memory of it now.

Here's how the action played out:

The old dude with the baseball cap rings us up and goes, "Twenty-One even." Dan, irrepressible imp that he is, couldn't resist slapping his hand on the counter and yelling, "BLACKJACK!" This caused all present to collapse in gales of laughter.

So I turned to Dan and said, "That's 13 for each of us." Figuring, a $26 total gives a $5 tip. We always tip pretty well. They treat us alright. Half the time they don't seem to charge us for half of the time. So I slap down my 13, and Dan puts a 20 down, of which the guy takes 21 out leaving an assortment of bills on the counter, of which Dan leaves 3 ones for the tip which is cool, which is fine.

Then outside, Dan reminds me that Nick also played that evening. Which indeed he had, and Dan also reminded me that Nick had given me $12 - which, Jerome-like, I had forgotten all about; and which $12 was indeed discovered in my front left pants pocket. This simplified matters. I gave six of those dollars to Dan. Easy.

The upshot of all that is that is that I was the undisputed singles champ. But Dan cleaned my clock in the two-man cutthroat variant, so I'm not sure where that leaves us overall.

After thinking a bit more about it this morning, though, I had to admit to myself that if Nick paid 12...and Dan and I got 6 each from Nick's twelve...that means that Nick paid twice what Dan and I got. Which seems a bit unfair. According to the inflexible laws of math, technically, Dan and I should each give Nick 3 dollars. But I'm willing to forgive Dan his half of that debt, because he wasn't the one who made the mistake. Fair is fair.

Nick, I'll get you your $3 directly.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Go Ahead...Move My Cheese

I want to write one of those business tomes. The whole "how-to," "seminar-style" the Move My Cheese one. A book that explains where people commonly go wrong in business. The Cheese one was a huge seller, rocking the chart-tops for months if not years on end. I believe the message in that one had to do with "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff." That's a lesson that I was able to absorb readily, even just from reading the title. That's why a good title is key: you have to convince people that they already know what you're going to tell them, and that it's something they want to be told.

So I was working on some titles, I thought perhaps "Turning Problems into Opportunities" would be a good one. But that's a bit too spot-on, it's not synergistic enough. You want something maybe a little more mystified, like "How to Turn Problems Into Issues." That's actually the subtitle, the whole title is going to be Crossing The Lake: How To Turn Problems Into Issues. See, that's got it all. The travel metaphor, very people-want-to-see-themselves-doing-it. Ah, but what's on the other side of The Lake? That's what we all want to find out! See, that's your "hook."

A good book title is like a metaphor for what people want to find inside. You also want to make sure to load that book with pithy aphorisms, such as "It's Only Work If You Do It."

And the book would contain all sorts of advice, for example: I think it's much more important to be boss than to try to be everybody's friend. If you're a boss, be a boss! Don't be a "friend" - what is a "friend" anyway? Somebody you can ask favors of? Well, there's no place for that in the workplace! I don't want to be working for a boss who's exchanging favors this and that all over. How do you know that someone won't hold that favor over your head, like in The Godfather? Next thing you know, the supposed "boss" is beholden in some way to perform some act that is illegal in some way, or immoral - or bad for the company's best interests. That's no way to gain your workers' trust. It needs to be a relationship of equals.

Speaking of bosses, what if your boss has sex with you? Is this acceptable workplace behavior? Another thorny issue to be dealt with in my book. My personal guess is that if you're going to have sex with the boss, it had better be good. I don't think I could respect a boss who I knew to be no good in bed. Sometimes you have to just look at the risks and say, it's better to just preserve that mystery intact. For the good of the company.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

What Love Means

Listen: everybody knows that the word "Love" can mean so much. Most people would agree that it can also mean a lot. But unfortunately, it doesn't always mean the same thing. Now, most of us are aware of all that, and we're quite capable of sussing out the differences between the finer shades of meaning when someone we know tells us that they love us. But it isn't so easy to tell all of the time...and for some people, it isn't so easy to tell at all. It was in my mind that some sort of standardization, in the form of a handy reference tool, could work wonders in helping our true emotions bridge the barrier that language poses.

To that end, I offer the following Universal Love Index and Reference Tool. When someone says "I Love You", you will find that generally, it means one of the following things:

1. Your life and happiness is more important to me than my own life and happiness.
2. You are unique and special in a way that I can't get enough of.
3. You are good for me, you make me happier about myself.
4. Your presence in my life is enjoyable and I wish to prolong it.
5. I want to have sex with you.
6. I just did have sex with you.
7. I consider you an ideal mate for breeding purposes.
8. I wish to marry you for reasons related to immigration status or financial concerns.
9. I wish to marry you for unspecified reasons.
10. I wish to string you along using the general idea of a permanent/committed relationship.
11. I want you to forgive me for a transgression against you, which you have just discovered or are about to discover.
12. I want you to help work through and figure out my emotional state for me.

I feel strongly that if the above classifications were adopted across the board, it would greatly aid clarity among lovers of all intents and purposes. Consider the ramifications:

before adoption of the ULIRT:

She: "I love you."

He: [ blank look ]

after adoption of the ULIRT:

She: "I love you."

He: [ blank look ] "Do you mean senses 2, 5, and 7?"

She: [ blank look ] "No, senses 5, 9, and 12."

He: [ look of enlightenment ] "Well hey, then!"

In the above example, the second speaker failed to think past sense 5. But with use and familiarity, the Index is bound to become almost second nature!

As additional legitimate senses are suggested for inclusion and approved by the usage panel, the Index can be updated and revised so that future users will always be able to make some sense of Love.

Please note that "I love you, but I'm not in love with you" was deliberately omitted from the list. A majority of the usage panel rejects this sense as unacceptable, and suggests "I think you're a dork, but I'm not in love with you" as a more suitable substitute.

Also, 40% of the usage panel consider that for sense 7, "an ideal mate" should be understood to mean, "an acceptable mate." 45% of the usage panel consider that in sense 4, "Your presence in my life is enjoyable and I wish to prolong it," the word "enjoyable" may be understood to mean "enjoyable, advantageous or convenient."

A significant minority of the usage panel recommends that senses 5 and 6 be expanded upon in the following manner:

5. I want to have sex with you, and believe that telling you 'I love you' will help.
6. I just did have sex with you, and believe that telling you 'I love you' is the decent thing to do in these situations.

These recommendations failed to win majority support among the usage panel, being considered by a majority of the panel to be "needlessly cynical."

Saturday, August 12, 2006

That Look

I just noticed that every morning when I first wake up, and I swing out of bed and gamely leg my way over into the bathroom, and look up in the mirror, look myself in the eye, and then I kind of feel better about myself...what is the deal with that look that I'm giving myself? I kind of, make eye contact, then my eyes narrow a bit, my mouth sets somewhere between a frown and a pout, the whole expression as if to say "hey, man...get it together!" And then I think to myself, there's a guy with high standards, there's a guy who lets it be known what he thinks. Not bad-looking, neither.

I wish I could walk around all day giving everybody that look. Unfortunately, I find that it's a hard look to duplicate consciously. The best I can do is this face that makes it look like I'm about to cry because I can't take a shit. The effect isn't quite as effective.

Friday, August 11, 2006

There's Something About Me You Need to Know

There's something about me you need to know, because I don't want this to become a problem later on. It's not a problem now, and I don't want it to be, but it's something that I've been aware of and dealt with all my life, and you really deserve, you really really need to know this about me. Considering how things are, it would be unfair of me to withhold this knowledge from you.

I want to make it clear that this is something that I've got under control. I am not just saying that: it's a fact. I have been living with it every day. I don't want you to back away and say, "this changes the whole thing, this isn't something I'm comfortable with anymore." If that's your honest reaction, then so be it! But first, I want you to know that despite my own personal issues, I have never once let this impact or interfere with or otherwise harm anyone other than myself, and even there - it's only affected me emotionally. As bad as that may have been, it has never, NEVER crossed that line - and I would never let it. Please believe me on that.

I just want you to think of me how you always have. I just want you to understand. I'm not trying to lay a trip on you or scare you off. It's the exact opposite: I am trying to let you in. I feel like you've gotten a sense of who I really am, and I don't want to hold out on you on anything. That's the ONLY reason that I am telling you this, and I just hope that you take it the right way, because this is a huge risk for me to put myself out there like that.

I hope you can look past the surface, and see this for what it really is...see me for who I really am, like you always have. I hope you can understand. But please be honest with me, and don't hold back in your response! No matter what happens, I am glad I had a chance to tell you this.

The next move is yours.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Rejected First Lines For My Novel #1

"I first realized that I needed to change my ways when my nude body was discovered floating in the Potomac."

Monday, August 07, 2006

Pop-Pop's Cold Blah-Blah

When I was a kid, there was very little in the fridge in the way of tasty beverages. None of your lemonade or soda pop. There was a big plastic bottle of Coke at all times, but you did not touch that. For one thing, it was exclusively Dad's. For the other, he liked it completely flat. No fizz. Nyet fizz. He would sit there watching boxing, slowly shaking that big bottle and loosening the cap to let the fizz hiss out. He was expert at it. He never let it explode. By the 5th round that Coke was dead flat and ready to drink as far as dear old Dad was concerned.

But in the heat of the summer, all was not amiss. There was relief in the wings for all us thirsty brats after my grandfather (and namesake, Grandpop Joe on my mother's side) taught us how to make his special chilled thirst-quencher known as Pop-Pop's Cold Blah-Blah.

There are a couple ways to make Pop-Pop's Cold Blah-Blah. For the quicker way, first fill a large container with water - about 2/3rds of the way full. Next, put in a large number of ice cubes, enough to fill the container the remainder of the way. Now, you're going to want to mix this up thoroughly and let it steep for at least 15 minutes or it won't work. After it's ready, pour into a large glass and serve with a straw. I find the straw just accents the "treat" aspect.

The other way, for those of you concerned about calories, is to omit the ice cubes. My grandpop was one of those, he always made his without. Same basic recipe: start with a large container; this time you will want to fill it 3/3rds full with water. There's no mixing here, instead you will need to put the entire container directly into the refrigerator to chill. This is going to take a while (the drawback to this method). There's no telling how long it will take to get your Pop-Pop's Cold Blah-Blah to where it needs to be. It just depends on how powerful your refrigerator is, and whether you're keeping anything really hot in there.

Some of my brothers or sisters have occasionally attempted to cut corners and make a batch of Pop-Pop's Cold Blah-Blah by putting the container into the freezer. Let me advise you on this one: DON'T.

The time you save is not worth the risk you take.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Preview Reviews #1: The Fountain

I saw The Lady in the Water. Kicking off the festivities were 5 previews. I don't recall them all. I remember one of them (The Fountain). Once again, Hugh Jackman is travelling through time to find love, this time with Rachel Weisz. Is Meg Ryan jealous?

I'm only jealous of Hugh, myself. That Rachel Weisz, she's got a certain distracting, fascinating something...that I can't specifically describe in case my girlfriend reads this. Distracting, fascinating...I wanted to say disquieting, but is it really disquieting? Yes! Oh yes. It is to me, anyway. I can't think about this too much. It disquiets me. Not in a bad way. Certain people can be disquieting in a good way. I'm firm on this point.

Anyway, the preview. The way the preview begins - clearly hinting around the whole Fountain of Youth expedition with Ponce De Leon - I thought it was going to be a big-screen adaptation of his story, that fabled search. I pictured it being called, Ponce!

Then I thought, "why is it that in British slang, 'ponce' means a gay man? Was Ponce De Leon a notable early homosexual, and I didn't know it? Was he as famous for exploring his then-forbidden side as he was for exploring the forbidding New World of the Florida peninsula? I mean, what's the connection? He's certainly the most famous Ponce in history, with the possible exception of Oscar Wilde. Surely if it's a reference, it must be to him! Or maybe not."

As the trailer unfolded, with intertitles letting us know that the action was to take place in 1500 A.D., 2000 A.D., 2500 A.D. et cetera (and possibly ad infinitum), the film began to look like an increasingly bad bet. Then, halfway through the preview, everything turned upside down.

"A Darren Aronofsky Film."

That took it from Suck to Whoa in a skipped heartbeat. I am potentially a huge Darren Aronofsky fan. I haven't seen one of his films yet, but I've been dying to. His reputation precedes him and it is solid, rock-solid. Solid like a Buddhist would dispute could truly be possible. I knew right then that I was in for a mind trip that would unite the metaphysical with the Grand Romantic in a way that could make even my life seem potentially fraught with cosmic implications. I am so on board with this one. I give it "two eyes"!

That may or may not develop into a ratings system.

I couldn't help but wonder if this film started out as an adaptation of The Bridge Across Forever by Richard Bach. I think Darren Aronofsky ought to direct that one next. As a comedy, of course.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Road Safety Corner #1: The Wrath of Tercel

What the hell was that about? Who does this guy think he is? I didn't cut him off. He was merging behind me...and pretty far behind, at that! There must have been six car lengths between us at fifty MPH. Comfort to spare. Clearly we're both getting off at this next exit. He can't just wait behind me? He's got to zoom around and cut in, in front of me? Just what does that accomplish! You're only one car up, bud! Was it worth it for the adrenaline surge? I mean, shoot, we're both getting off at this exit anyway. What difference does being one car up make? Except...the car in question, is ME.

Switching from one highway to another isn't going to help you here, pal. In fact, you couldn't have picked a worse ramp! Not only is the downslope in my favor acceleration-wise, but coming down from on high gives me just the vantage I need to make a thorough survey of all the angles and openings. I'll just let the gap open up a bit between us, give me the ramp-up room I need...there's not a car in the way...! This is going to be sweet! As we enter the highway together, I am already powering past ya in the passing lane. Sorry about your turn signal there, FRIEND. Too little, too late! I admit to a pang of conscience, but what, am I going to mess up my sweet move to be courteous to some big barging bully in an SUV?

You just felt The Wrath of Tercel.

A lot of people don't expect my crappy little silver hatchback to have the get up and go that it does. But when I'm sitting at the red light, mentally gunning my engine next to some unsuspecting fool in the next lane...I rarely come off second best. Note that I do not actually gun my engine. That would be a bit of a tipoff. Plus...come on, my little V3-and-a-half doesn't exactly roar out a challenge to all comers. It's all in how I uses it, though. The guy said when I bought the car new, it's all about how you break it in. And I've been pushing the envelope since day one! My Tercel came up hard on the mean traffic circles and intersections of New Jersey, jockeying for position in a no-man's land where the only Right of Way is Might of Way.

Plenty of cargo room with the back seat seat-back down. Windows all around, head on a swivel visibility - I'm too small and mobile a target to be hit! Zero-to-sixty in less than you'd think. Headlights blazing a path through the blur of night. Tires gripping the road like a jealous lover. Silver paint fading imperceptibly into the metal underneath. Four gears of scrappy determination, and they all say "Get Out The Way!" in the same high-pitched growl! Excellent gas mileage.

The 1990 Tercel Hatchback. They don't make them like this anymore.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Why AC/DC Does, In Fact, Rule

You know what, though? If you don't know this already...there's really no point me trying to explain it to you. It's like, why is a joke funny? Because it isn't at that point. Next thing you know, you get somebody trying to beat me in an argument about "who is better?" Sorry! Not interested.

I can't imagine a more fruitless endeavor than that.

You just can't compare, it's like trying to compare an apple to an orange! It simply can't be done. An apple's surface is just too smooth and shiny compared to the relatively dimpled texture of the orange. And on the inside, the apple's flesh is white, crunchy, solid with a fine if slightly grainy texture. The orange, on the other hand, is a mass of pulpy juice-laden vesicles divided into sections. So as you can see, it's completely impossible to compare the two! Only a fool would try it.

I consider AC/DC to be the first true "Alternative" band, but it's only a gut feeling. I have nothing to back that up with really. Still...think about it. You know? Yeah...! Kinda...? You have to admit, they did it better and first in a lot of ways.

The same goes for the Pet Shop Boys, really. Except for the "Alternative" part, of course. Although coincidentally...good album. Good double album!

I heard AC/DC might be coming out with a double album. They really need to not.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Talkin' Sweet

Baby, you know that I want to Love you. I want to Love you in that deep and tender way that all women deserve to get loved. I know you don't know who I am, but hear me out. A man like me has got to wear this heart of mine on his sleeve.

Men...basically, men always want to fuck new women. But I don't. I just want to keep on fucking the same woman. I just, can't seem to find her is all. I look and I look, but I just can't seem to find her. Are you that woman? Can you be the one, to release me from this tormented R&B slow jam that has become my daily life? Is that woman you? Are you that woman? I think you could be.

One time, I was watching you from across the way and it struck me just how much of you I wanted to get to know. A woman like you should be savored preciously, not simply thrown to the side like a used orange. That other man you may know, the one who you should know by now is the wrong man in your life...he's just toying with your heart, baby. Don't treat your heart like a toy on a string for some other man, to bounce around with his hand in a calculatedly abstracted manner. That's your heart! Maybe it belongs on a sleeve, but never on a string.

This has been Talkin' Sweet. Join us again next week, when we will be talking our sweet way out of many of the things said this week. We will be focusing on our methods of clarification and elucidation. Many times, it can be hard for a man to explain how what he may have said, can sometimes be the exact opposite of what some person thinks was meant by that. So until then, keep your heart on your sleeve, and keep...Talkin' Sweet.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

It's the ACLU Van!

I was driving back from Los Angeles, when my eye was suddenly caught by a distinctive vehicle tearing towards me in the rear view mirror at a great rate of speed.

The ACLU Van!

I had never seen the ACLU Van. It was impressive. A brand-new white van with dark blue trim and those famous letters sharply-emblazoned in dark blue. As they came up behind me, it was clear they had a serious engine under that hood. They were closing the gap with alacrity!

I wondered what their urgent errand could be. Was this the ACLU Rapid-Response Unit? Or perhaps the super-secret "Enforcement Arm," masquerading undercover as the Rapid-Response Unit. There was no way to tell for sure. I only knew that somewhere, someone's civil liberties had been violated or were in serious danger of being violated, and these brave men and/or women were racing to the scene to set the wrong things right. I had someplace to get to myself, but as they swooped around and past me, I couldn't help what I was compelled to do. I wrenched into the lane after them, and tried to close the gap as best I could. This was important, this was history and I had to be in on it!

Then suddenly I noticed that it was in fact the UCLA Van.

What the heck do they need a van for?