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, December 21, 2006

Home for the Holidays

...So What That Let You Know?

That's right: temporary suspension of blogging activities for the next twelve days. But I'm not leaving my core readership entirely bereft! In the tradition of the Twelve Days of Christmas, I am posting Twelve Thoughts of The Day to see you through.

Some will be pithy, others simply vapid. Some vague, others more detailed than you'd like. Some just interesting little quotes, others not interesting at all! It just depends on what I can come up with. Without further ado, I give you - the Twelve Thoughts of The Twelve Days of My Christmas Trip!

Dec. 22nd: "I was as busy as a one-eyed man in a staring contest!"

Dec. 23rd: "The more you enjoy solving problems, the more fun life is."

Dec. 24th: "If you're morally bankrupt, it doesn't even show up on your credit report!"

Dec. 25th: "The afterlife is the original pyramid scheme."

Dec. 26th: "Expert opinions do not outrank facts."

Dec. 27th: "Referring to yourself in the third person does not make you seem more objective."

Dec. 28th: "Siding with authority does not mean that you have authority."

Dec. 29th: "The problem with personal experience is, it may not reflect reality."

Dec. 30th: "Jargon is the refuge of those who aren't smart enough to confuse people with real words."

Dec. 31st: "That reminds me, you ever hear the one about the blonde comedian who kept telling polish jokes?"

Jan. 1st: "The optimist tells it like it ought to be. The realist tells it like it is. The pessimist tells it like it will be."

Jan. 2nd: "More has been read between the lines than ever was written there."

Alright, that's all for now. Don't bother trying to break into my house while I'm gone. The cats are both heavily armed.

Although, I suppose I can throw in one for today too. Here it is! "Don't promise me the moon and give me Deimos!"

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Garn Stackelberg, Pioneering Sports Speechwriter 1925-2006

Garn Stackelberg left the world silently today, in his sleep, comfortably abed at home. It was how he would have wanted to go. Stackelberg wasn't one for dramatics or for drawing attention to himself. Yet perhaps more than anyone else, this quiet, unassuming man changed the tenor and tone of professional sports over the past 40 years.

It was in 1967, at 41 years of age, that Stackelberg (then a struggling political speechwriter) found he had come to the end of his rope. "Garn's stuff...it just wasn't incendiary enough for politics. Wasn't polemical, didn't rile people up," says Dick Wannick, a close friend of Stackelberg's from his political days. "Garn's gift was the exact opposite of that."

"He wasn't trying to blaze a trail or make a name for himself, he was just trying to make a living," says Joe Rotola, one-time head of publicity for the NFL Player's Association. "He was having more and more trouble landing gigs, writing speeches for more and more small-time politicos. Finally, I just said, Garn - why don't you give this a try?"

Jean Stackelberg, Garn's widow of fifty years, insists that the idea was all Garn's. "Oh, no, that Joe Rotola has been telling that story for years. He would tell that story right in front of my husband! Garn never cared. He didn't want any credit for himself. That was his style! But I assure you, the seed was planted years before he met Joe. We were watching the Packers win a game, Garn and I. It was a big game, I forget which one, but one of their receivers afterwards, well, he was pretty full of himself and he said some unfortunate things about the other team. Garn just shook his head and said, 'now that guy needs a speechwriter!'"

Soon, Stackelberg had struck out to become that speechwriter."You have to remember, when he first got into sports speechwriting, there was no such thing," Rotola laughs. "Guys would be saying all sorts of crazy things after games, causing all manner of brou-ha. It was funny on one level, but not for me in my position! When we brought Garn in, he really ignited. This was what he was made for, these were the speeches only he could write. He had a feel for that."

Stackelberg immediately made his mark with the bland, inoffensive style that has since come to dominate the world of pre- and post-game soundbites. Such phrases as, "We just need to play how we know we can play," "Well, they have a great team, you have to give it up for them," "It wasn't any one person's effort," "We knew that if we played our game, we had a good chance of coming off the field with a victory," "We need to take it up to the next level," and "We just didn't get it done out there today," phrases that today are part of the landscape, all are now widely-acknowledged as Stackelberg's work.

But the man himself was very humble about his pioneering work and huge influence. In a rare interview with SportsTime in 1997, Stackelberg was quoted as saying, "Well, I'm honored of course, but the credit really goes to the whole team. My editor, my agent, the players and coaches who really step up and deliver for me - where would I be without them?"

"I can't believe he's gone," muses Wannick. "But in a way, he'll never be gone. Every time I see a player step up to the microphone and say 'I knew that if we could dig deep, pull together as a team and play like we know we're capable of, good things will happen,' or when a coach says, 'We can't just keep beating ourselves with these stupid mistakes,' - that's Garn right there. He lives on in that."

Garn Stackelberg died in Ft. Leroy, Louisiana, December 19th, 2006. He was 81 years old.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Spiders Are Our Friends

Today I was late to work because I was trying to get a spider out of the house, and he wasn't cooperating. I could have just killed him I guess, but I didn't kill him, because "spiders are our friends."

Are they really our friends? What kind of friend keeps showing up inside your house - uninvited, unannounced - despite the fact that every time you see him, you grab him and throw him out the back door into the bushes?

Next time a friend does that, I'm going to take a rolled-up newspaper and hit him as hard as I can right in the body. If he lives, he's a friend.

If he dies...he was probably just a spider.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A thought of the day

Sometimes you just have to position the Gordian Knot beneath the Sword of Damocles.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

I bet it ends up being something embarrassing Pt.2

This is a followup to my September 22nd post I Bet It Ends Up Being Something Embarrassing, where I complained:
I've got this stupid song stuck in my head...the intro to a song...just a few bars of the very beginning: a couple boom-thumping drum beats ("BOOM -thump- BOOM BOOM"), then what sounds like a skittering guitar with some effects on it, very synth-sounding (possibly not a guitar at all, could be a straight-up synthesized riff): "dweer-ni-ih dwaar-ni-ih dwiih-na-ih-na-ih-ah, dweer-ni-ih dwaar-ni-ih dwiih-na-ih-na-ih-ah..."
Anyway, I found out what it was! After all that time. Can you believe it? I believe it! I never gave up hope on finding out. That says a lot about me, I hope.

Anyway, it's "This Town" by Elvis Costello, off his adored and ignored nineteen eighty-hum album Spike, The Beloved Entertainer. Can you believe all those people not knowing that? Go and listen to it. Just you go and listen, and then come back and tell me that I didn't describe it to a "t"!

boom. BOP boom boom BOP! dweer-ni-ih dwaar-ni-ih dwiih-na-ih-na-ih-ah, dweer-ni-ih dwaar-ni-ih dwiih-na-ih-na-ih-ah...

Good song, too! Not embarrassing a'tall.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Beatles

Looking back and reevaluating their legacy with the benefit of hindsight and history, I think we can safely conclude that while the Beatles did not suck, they were nowhere nearly as great as initial reports would have had us believe.

I'll elaborate on that in another couple of decades. But I think you already kind of know what I mean.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I Fought In Vietnam!

Well actually, I got into a scuffle with some drunk in a bar in Saigon, when I was over there on a business trip. But it's still a truthful statement.

What I mean by that is, it would be a truthful statement, if the above anecdote were true. The plain truth is that I have never personally actually been to Vietnam. The point I am trying to make is, you have to be careful how you interpret someone's statement. It might not mean what you think it means. Plus some people just lie their asses off at the drop of the hat for no reason.

That's something for you to consider, next time someone says something to you that you might want to interpret in a certain way.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

For One Brief, Awful Moment...

...I thought my life was about to end. I rolled out of bed and hit the floor as the cats scattered. Okay, there are only two of them, so I guess they more "separated." My eyes bugged as the loud bang at the front door - the sound that had awakened me - repeated itself. And once again - intensifying with each strike. This wasn't someone trying to summon me to the door, or even just trying to get in - this was someone trying to break down the door. Not sure I could make it in time, I shot out of the bedroom and dove over the living room couch, twisting neatly in midair to slide down between the couch and the wall.

Not a moment too soon. The second I settled, I heard the stubborn door finally surrender under the force of some gigantic blow. The entire front door flew the length of the living room and crashed into the sliding glass door to the back patio, sundering the glass outward and finally settling into the torn and wrecked mesh of the screen.

"Culgrew!" barked a harsh voice. "We know you're in here, Culgrew! Where's the gold!"

"My name's not Culgrew!" I answered, confusing them as to my location by bouncing my voice off several walls. "You'll never find me, and you'll never get the gold!" I thought for a moment. "Go away!"

"Fool! We'll tear this place apart!" a second voice half-hissed, half-shrieked.

A tense moment of silence followed. Then, as if at some silent signal, the thunder of guns boomed out - almost unbelievably loud in the cozy enclosure of the small but comfortable house that I'd made a home. A grimly measured fusillade of hot lead - I felt the sturdy couch vibrate with impact after impact, saw the wall above me pock with holes, felt the dry plaster raining down, dusting my hair and clothes. In the kitchen, windows shattered and dishes crashed. All over the house, framed pictures cascaded from the walls.

After what seemed like solid minutes of bombardment, the noise ceased and a deafened silence washed in to fill the void. The dust began to settle across a carpet of the wrecked pieces of my life. In the kitchen, fragments of glass and china lay collaged in a violent kaleidoscope of mingled shards. I could hear something ceramic rolling to a stop under the kitchen table.

"Well, Culgrew! Had enough?" growled the first voice.

A long pause.

The second voice spoke in a nervous sotto voce: "What are we going to do? We can't find him in OOF!" He was cut short by the deep thwunk of a fist or elbow, striking him somewhere solid.

"How many of you are there?" I called.

A short pause. "Two!" said the first voice. He sounded like he meant it.

"That works," I said, and suddenly my lithe, muscular frame shockingly altered shape in a braced lunge - my hands on the wall behind me, both legs suddenly pivoting straight out like pistons, flinging the heavy sofa across the intervening space in the tick of a breathless second! I vaulted to my feet as the huge, tweed-upholstered bulldozer of a sofa bowled into the intruders, smacking them into the far wall with a pop and a heavy crunch. As it rocked to a stop, I was already on top of the two stunned men - my shoulder arriving like a battering ram, slamming the big one's head back into the plaster with the full weight of my body behind it.

"Hey! Now! How do you! like! That!" I queried, as I disarmed and harried the two with brutal, crunching blows to the face and abdomen. After a few more strokes, I stepped back and surveyed my work. Neither of these guys would be giving me any further trouble! But I still had a problem: how had they found out about me?

A sudden indistinct blur out of the corner of my eye gave me to understand that I had yet a more pressing problem - but too late! I half whirled to face the third intruder, and got my own red foot-long Maglite flashlight right in the skull, swung hard by somebody with a lot to swing with. I didn't even see stars, just black.

When I came to, I was back in bed. I rose uneasily, looking around. The room seemed to be in order. I padded silently out of the bedroom, then froze, flabbergasted. The whole house was back in order. Front door back on its hinges, sliding glass door repaired, bulletholes spackled so expertly even I couldn't see the marks. Dishes back in the dish rack, pictures on the walls. Couch sitting serenely! I couldn't believe it. The fixup job was just too thorough. Was it possible it had all been a dream?

"Wait a minute!" I started, with a yawning shock of horror. "Where's my gold!?"

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Secret Too Bold To Be Told

There are three things about which I cannot tell you. The first is something I've known about for a long time now. Let that one go. Even if I told you, there would be nothing you could do about it now. You're better off not knowing.

The second is breaking news. There's no covering this one up. You're going to be hearing about it very soon now; in fact, by the middle of next week, take a look at the newspaper - look for the most shocking, disturbing story on the front page. That's it. That's the one I can't tell you. When you see it, hopefully it will make sense to you, as to why I can't say anything now. You would do the same in my shoes.

The third thing is another kettle of brisket entirely. This is a secret so grave, that no one can tell it and live to tell the tale. A secret so bold, that it cries out to be kept silent. A secret so delicious, that generations of blabbermouths have taken it to their graves gladly. No human eye has glimpsed, nor human tongue told, the secret that I am not about to reveal to you now. This is the sort of secret that could reach down and jostle the foundations of bedrock notions held as commonsense truths throughout the civilized world. A secret like this could root out the skeletons from the dank and privileged closets of the high and monied, could expose the shameful lie hiding behind all major world religions and bring heretofore respected public institutions tottering to their knees.

You may ask, how did I come to know this secret? That, I'm afraid I can't tell you. The true tale of how I came to know the secret is nearly as terrible as the secret itself. Simply know this: I know what I know. And I am not going to tell you.

Nyah.

Monday, December 11, 2006

I Picked Up Cell by Stephen King

Got it at the airport bookstore yesterday. Took me long enough. When the thing first came out in...God! It was January! What the? Anyway, I when it first came out, I read some of the notices and a small portion that had been excerpted in an entertainment magazine, and I said, "ooh, looks like a good one this time! I'm getting that." Then I got to the bookstore and of course, BWONG! Giganto hardcover version.

I always forget about that. There's this long period of time on any "hot" book, where it's only available in the death-to-extra-trees edition. I suppose this is somewhat analogous to the theatrical release of a movie, and then the long wait before it finally comes out on DVD. I never minded that, though, because I love going to the movies. But where books are concerned...I don't have acres of bookshelf space to be storing chunky volumes, and I'm sorry Mr. King, but I'm probably going to be reading this thing in the tub anyway, or lying on my back in bed. Might as well wait for the little edition and save on wrist-strain.

Still, I had made the decision to get the book and I stuck with it. I would glance at the "K" section of the fiction shelves every so often, whenever I found myself strolling through bookstores and happened to remember to look. Finally, the paperback edition came out this month. After almost a year! Seems pretty long to me. For a while there I thought they maybe were making us wait for the movie!

Anyway, I've picked up a copy, and I'm four or five dozen pages into it, and it looks pretty gripping. I'm glad I decided to give it a read. But I tell you now - if it turns out to be the goddamned Devil behind the whole thing yet again, I am never buying another fucking Stephen King book as long as I live. Does humanity pose no threat at all? Can't we come up with ONE decent world-ending problem by ourselves? Must we rely on Satan for all of our plot machinations?

I'm sick of all this Diabolus Ex Machina.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

My Snooty Review of The Cheesecake Factory

I had never been to The Cheesecake Factory before, though I've seen them around. But tonight, having picked up my companion at the airport and rushed straight to the gigantic mall so that she could replace some of the key facial and toilette products that (being liquids) had been stowed in her checked baggage which, alas, dematerialized en route to SFO, and, finding ourselves starving and the Cheesecake Factory so close to hand, we decided "let's."

The vaulted ceilings, rococo design elements and art deco colonnade made as if to prepare me for the sprawling profusion of the menu - yet still it was too much to take in. Page after laminated page of Italian next to Thai next to Tex-Mex next to good ol' fashioned Meat Loaf (excuse me - "meatloaf" - not the singer) next to filet mignon, next to (swear to God) Hungarian goulash, and on and on. I just chose the first thing that looked likely, and an ice tea to go with it. My date ordered a mixed greens salad and a chicken piccata.

We also ordered a cheesy spinachy dippy thing, but this never came, so que sera sera I guess.

The people seated next to us, two young men and a young woman, regaled each other (and unfortunately, us) with tales of Rome, particularly of the Vatican and its amazing Swiss Guard, who apparently dress like court jesters but carry poleaxes, may or may not actually be Swiss, and may or may not have uzis tucked away "just in case things get serious." As our beverages arrived I caught my sweetheart's eye and suggested that now would be a fine time for one of our special haughty and erudite conversations. She demurred (tired out from the flight).

My ice tea was tinged with raspberry. Apparently people are still doing that.

When our salads came, they were enormous; but as we both were famished this was looked at favorably. My endive pecan salad with bleu cheese was very self-assured, and with good reason. The Belgian endives, radicchio, and arugula, accented with glazed pecans, just enough crumbled bleu cheese, and a touch of vinaigrette - this approached to as perfect an expression of the "bitter greens" school of the salad-maker's art as I've had in a long time. It lacked but one ingredient that could have tied it all together and made it sing: where were the hearts of palm?

Across the table, she pronounced her mixed greens salad "solid," and I had no desire to gainsay her on the point (but was that iceberg lettuce in there??).

Our entrees arrived - to our momentary confusion as the appetizer we'd ordered was yet to make an appearance - but one glance at those laden plates gave us every assurance that no further appetizing would be necessary. My darling's chicken piccata was surmounted by a heavenly mound of angel hair pasta, which in turn was surrounded by mushrooms, plump and delicious. The chicken cutlets themselves were done to a golden turn. An A+ plus for presentation, and though I couldn't bring myself to try a full bite of it, I did dip a bit of oven-fresh squaw bread into the sauce, and found it quite saucy! Full of an agreeable zing, for which the capers must justly be credited.

The reason I was reticent to dig into my love's chicken piccata was that I had my own hands full with the Tons Of Fun Burger that I'd ordered. Two all-beef patties, "secret sauce," lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame-seed bun. Wait! Does that sound familiar? That's right - it's the Big Mac! Which was pretty much what I'd guessed from the menu entry. The description of the dish led me to expect what a Big Mac might be if someone tried to make one from scratch with real ingredients. And I must say, this burger approached to that lofty expectation. A solid two-handed burger, with the unexpected bonus of some quite lovely and light-tasting fries to go with. I found myself oversalting the fries to further echo my golden early memories of McDo'.

The party at the next table had moved on to the topic of music. One of the lads was talking about the Manic Street Preachers, leading the lass to inquire, "who are they? I've never heard of them." Laddie replied, "oh, you probably wouldn't have. They're more of a European band."

I very nearly smiled.

By then it was time to think about dessert, and the thought that immediately came to mind was, "are you insane? After those portions?" But it was, after all, The Cheesecake Factory. And I do so love cheesecake. I found I hadn't the heart to leave without ordering a slice - although certainly not a slice adulterated with all manner of chocolate peanut-butter cup brownie crunch madness! - styles towards which they seemed to have a pronounced leaning. I'm more of a purist. I ordered a slice of their classic cherry-preserves-topped plain cheesecake, "to go."

I'll let you know how that turns out.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Fluffy Scrambled Eggs

What's the secret to coming out with perfect, fluffy scrambled eggs every time? Have me do it.

I love scrambled eggs. I love that something so delicious and satisfying, such a perfectly-realized food, can be so simple. So easy to do. Plato believed that it was impossible for perfection to be realized within the tangible world. I would like to serve him a plate of my scrambled eggs!

I love cracking a succession of eggs into a bowl one after the other, one-handed, without getting a particle of shell in or breaking one single yolk. I always feel a little bit wistful when I see all those perfect yolks floating in the bowl. "You guys should be fried eggs," I say. But I go in nonetheless and I break them up with a fork, pouring in the milk as I whisk and stir, whisk and stir.

My single favorite moment of the process is lifting the bowl over the stove, still whisking with the fork, and pouring the egg mixture out into the lightly-buttered pan to that gratifying sound - a soft hiss and a sizzle - of egg hitting hot pan and spreading out.

The greatest thing about it is, anybody can do it! I don't claim any special gift. I don't say I never get a piece of shell in the bowl. I'm not perfect. If I get a little speck of shell in there, I pick it out.

I do kind of wish I had some orange juice, though. I tend to fail to plan ahead, and then find I don't have all the accompaniments on hand.

People Seem To Like Me

People seem to like me. I have no idea why. I'm aware that I am good at doing certain tricks and things, small feats of conversation. I'm told that I have a great sense of humor. I don't know what it means. I think everything's funny. I've just learned to limit my remarks to what other people will think is funny. In those social situations.

But I feel like I'm not even good at that anymore. The small joy has gone out of it for me. I feel like a fake, a huge fake. Not a fake as in I'm really one thing, and I put on or pretend to be something else. More like a fake as in I'm not anything, not anything at all.

I am cut off, as we all are cut off. We spend our lives trapped in our own selves, never knowing whether other people really feel as we do inside, or whether no one does - and no one knows. I feel like I never have had and never will have a connection to anyone, that our connections that we tell ourselves we share are all either purely surface, or purely illusory. Nothing gets in. We are locked out from each other.

I wonder whether every interaction we have is just people going through the accepted motions, repeating the scenes and displays and interactions we've seen; acting, interacting the way that we've been shown how, on television, in the movies.

I feel as though I and everyone I know are play-acting our parts, parts that we write as we go along. It's strenuous, writing your own dialogue as you go along. Sometimes you have a conversation that could have been extremely important, could have meant something. But you fuck it up. And then you tell yourself, it wouldn't have meant anything anyway. Because nothing does.

After a certain amount of time you realize that you always have felt this way. You just weren't as aware of it before, but it's always been there. The isolation. The hollowness. The lie.

Unfortunately...no one can be told about the Matrix. You have to see it for yourself.

Friday, December 08, 2006

On Hypocrisy

One thing I hate is when somebody gets accused of hypocrisy just for changing their mind about what they believe in. It would be pretty poetic and I would love it if I could use razor-like logic right now, to demonstrate that those making such an accusation are, in fact, hypocrites themselves - but I don't really see the angle in to that argument right now. So I'll let that one pass.

But the fact is: people are allowed to change their minds, change the way they live, change what they believe in. It isn't hypocrisy. You may be a teenager who believes in God, Jesus, 10 commandments, the whole kit. Then later on, you may at the age of 60 decide "hell with all that! From now on it's hard drugs and celebrity prostitutes for me!" This is not hypocrisy. To believe in one thing, and then to go on to change your ways or your beliefs, is not hypocrisy.

For that matter, other things that are not hypocrisy include:

1. Subscribing to a portion of a particular belief system / philosophy / party political platform, but not all of it - you're not required to swallow the whole bill of goods just to satisfy other peoples' stereotypical impression of how "that type of person" is "supposed to" believe and act!

2. Giving different advice to two different people on what each should do - they're different people! What's good advice for one may not be the same as what's good advice for the other!

3. Giving another person advice that you wouldn't necessarily follow yourself - astute readers will have noticed that this is identical to #2...and for the same reasons.

A word about "do as I say, not as I do" - this is the standard nutshell definition of a hypocrite. But is it necessarily hypocritical to tell someone to do one thing while you yourself do the opposite? Is a Catholic priest hypocritical to advise someone else to get married? What if you're a professional daredevil and you tell the people at home not to try this? Suppose you're a doctor who smokes. That's bad enough, but should you also tell your patients to smoke, so as to avoid being a hypocrite? Let's take more extreme examples: what if you're a drug addict? What if you know it is killing you, but you just can't stop - and then you turn around and tell someone else not to do the drug? Are you a hypocrite? What if you are a mass murderer, only just sane enough to be able regret your homicidal binges - and so you tell people they should not kill others? Is that some kind of hypocrisy or what? And, would that make it bad advice if it was?

What if you are for lack of a better word a sinner, and it's killing you inside, and you know whereof you speak. What if you have tried as hard as you can to reform whatever it is that you do, whatever it is that is cutting you off the rest from humanity, or from the grace of God, or from whatever you might conceptualize that as. Think of the worst thing possible. Now imagine you are one of those driven to that act. No one is forcing you to do it! But you've succumbed to the urge nonetheless, and you really feel that your next step should be to kill yourself. Because what you did, is just that bad.

If you speak out against it, against what you did...against the worst act possible, that one human being can do to another...are you being a hypocrite?

I don't know, but I don't think so. We may not all be out there committing the worst possible act. Nonetheless: we all fall, and we all fail. If failing meant that we could no longer say what we believed to be right, then all of us would be utterly lost, and...there would be no more guides.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Wassails and Yuletidings, Ye All

When Christmastime
shrieks by overhead,
and your Christmas thoughts
close in around you,
repeat to yourself: "it's just once a year"
it's just once a year, when that magical time
comes crashing down
and crushes our souls
into sugarplum pudding.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Godzilla: Are We Better Off Without Him?

It may seem at odds with my hard-nosed position on Superman in the previous post, but I've always sort of wished that there was a Godzilla. This, despite the mayhem and destruction that always seem to prance hand-in-hand with the big "G" as Godzilla fans, or G. Fans as they refer to themselves, refer to him.

Godzilla is a natural disaster with personality. I know, "we have more than enough natural disasters as it is." But suppose you could add Godzilla to the mix, without increasing the total natural-disaster "pie"? If you could take a bunch of your regularly-scheduled natural disasters of comparable magnitude off the board, and replace them with Godzilla, wouldn't you do it? Wouldn't you just about have to do it?

The thing is, all of your other natural disasters are too implacable. They don't even know you're there. They're just spiraling or surging or buckling along the lines of least resistance, and there isn't a thing you can do about it. You can't really reason with Godzilla, either, but at least you can anthropomorphize the brute! At least you can have a sense that the disaster happened for a reason - even if the reason is only that Godzilla doesn't like the cut of your city's jib.

Another point is that, under the right conditions, and given a streak of luck or two, a Godzilla event can be managed. Possibly even, minimized. You can throw all your Godzilla Defense Forces into the field, lull Godzilla into a false sense of security by pounding him with several hundred tons of conventional ordnance (to which he is manifestly immune), then use the recorded calls of seabirds to lure him across a nearby plain and right into the handy row of tricked-up super-high-voltage towers. This sort of thing doesn't hurt Godzilla, but he's a pretty good sport about it and will usually wander off back to the ocean again afterwards, if you can pull it off with any sort of panache at all.

It's no use fooling ourselves, though: Godzilla cannot be stopped. Not by conventional weapons. Not by nuclear weapons. Not by germs and not by Superman. Nothing Can Stop Godzilla.

The best you can do is hope he changes direction.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Superman: We're Really Better Off Without Him

Yeah I know, he'd be real useful to have around in a pinch. But when you really look at the question from a few angles, you'll probably admit that overall, we're much better off without Superman.

First of all, superheroes always seem to attract super-villains. At least that's one thing we in the real world don't have to worry about, right? Criminals who sneer at the laws of physics! We don't need that. Every time a super-powered costumed adventurer pops up in the movies, it always seems like an equally-dangerous super-maniac pops up pretty quick to challenge him. And generally, more than one will pop up! Each of your superheroes tends to breed a whole stable of super-enemies, pretty quickly. That's what comes of needing a new menace each month in your comic book. But in real life, you just know that those first six or eight month's worth of super-villains (each of whom alone is bad news enough to hard-press the hero) would just pool their forces and clobber the guy.

Plus, every time those guys get into fights in the city, somebody always starts throwing cars. I don't want somebody picking up my car and throwing it at anybody - especially if I'm in it.

Second, and more importantly: just imagine the impact that a real, live Superman - active in the real world, flying around dealing with real disasters - imagine the impact that such a being would have on our entertainments! He would totally ruin all new action movies, just by existing. You could no longer suspend disbelief. Everybody would be sitting there in the theater going, "Come on! This crisis has been going on for twenty minutes. Totally unrealistic! Superman would have swooped in and mopped everything up easy by now."

Call me a fool, but I don't want to live in a world like that.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Road Safety Corner #2: How To Merge, Damn It

It almost constantly strikes me how many people out there don't have the slightest understanding of how to negotiate a merge. Or perhaps I should say, it constantly almost strikes me.

I'm not talking about a situation where the highway is rolling along at or near the speed limit, and one or two cars are trying to enter via the on-ramp. That's a self-explanatory situation. Nobody needs any pointers on that. That's not what I'm talking about, when I say "negotiate a merge." No, I'm talking about where two completely full lanes of traffic are merging into one lane. This is a very low-speed, stop-and-go operation, and honestly - the requirements of safe driving and courtesy should be self-evident. The rule is as obvious as it is simple:

"ONE AHEAD, ONE BEHIND."

It doesn't matter which lane you're in. It doesn't matter which lane would have had the right of way, if there had been no traffic backup. When two full lanes are coming together, there's no "yield to the right" or right of way given to one lane over the other. Anyone who thinks there is, is either an idiot or driving a cop car (in which case, "yield to the cop car" applies). Just think about it, even for a second! You're sitting in your lane saying, "my lane has the right of way, so nobody is going to get in front of me!"? Exactly how the hell would that work, Clarence? Should the entire other lane sit there forever, not moving at all until all the traffic clears?

Wake up! Lane-based right-of-way doesn't even apply in this situation. There's only one way to handle it fairly. You let one car in ahead of you, and one comes in behind you. Everybody equal. Everybody lets somebody in. The idea involved goes all the way back to principles of natural law.

All of you dirtbags riding up on the bumper of the car ahead of you, determined to let nobody from the other lane in - what makes you so special? Is it just the fact that you are a dirtbag? Or do you have other, hidden qualities besides? Qualities that decree that you among everyone else in your lane should be exempt from having anyone merge in front of you?

You're not special. There's a whole lane filled with cars, right next to you. You are going to be putting your car in front of one of them. So you let someone else in, in return. It's the least you can do.

And while we're on the subject - let only one car in. You're not doing anybody any favors by letting in a whole group of cars! Screwing up the merge order, forcing everyone around you to re-jockey around. Nobody needs to let in more than one car, but everybody needs to let in one.

One ahead. One behind. Simple.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

My Life Has Gone Wrong Somehow

I can't put my finger on it. Most days, my life seems okay. But then there's something missing. Or if there isn't something missing, then it must be that there's something there, that shouldn't be. Either that, or both. But whatever it is, my life...has gone wrong somehow.

We don't feel nostalgia for the past. We feel it for the future. It wasn't what we were doing then that was so golden, but what we were envisioning. All those futures that we saw for ourselves. At first, they kept pace with us seemingly right at their heels. Then they receded further and further out of reach, until we gave up and began envisioning something else. We miss them. We miss the futures we thought were ours.

A lot of people love me a lot. That ought to be enough for me. Shouldn't it?

When I pass a happy dog tied to a pole outside a restaurant, I ask myself, "why can't I be like that?"

I have never fallen out of love with anyone I've been in love with. No one else ever seems to have this problem.

I should shut up about it. I should probably shut up about it.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Hate Part 3: Hate Explained

I think that white people who are racists against blacks only act that way because they are afraid that deep down inside they might really be black.

I don't know what's up with the homophobia though.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Open Dream Journal #10: Watch Out!

I dreamt I was driving down my street a little too fast, and suddenly I ran over a whole bunch of babies. I wasn't driving my regular Toyota Tercel, I was driving an unfamiliar car, a red sports car.

This car was loaded. Macked-out. It had a booming stereo, 7-speed manual transmission, deluxe interior with ultra-comfy bucket seats, fat tires, and some kind of a honey of an engine under that hood. I don't know what make or model it was, but its gleaming midnight-red body was muscular yet curvaceous. It had swoopy lines and sharp angles, reminiscent of a cross between a Corvette Stingray, the early Dodge Viper, and the Mach-5. It even had control buttons on the steering wheel, somewhat similar to the layout on the Mach-5! But these buttons didn't control any special arsenal of weapons and gadgets. Just the normal functions of a sports car.

I tell you, I have never in real life sat in the pilot seat of a machine like that and thrilled to the ROAR of the engine, as I idly gunned it. It had a whole different sound and feel to any other car that I've ever driven. Probably because it isn't a car that exists in reality, but the thrill of it sure felt real. This wasn't one of those cars that insulates you from the feel of the road. This was a car that puts you in tune with the thrum and vibration and pulse of its tires and chassis and engine, a car that makes you part of itself; as you rocket down the road, savoring every pitch, swoop, and turn, feeling the vibration of the pavement as the tread of your four wheels grips it and hurls it behind you!!!!

One sweet ride, man.