Do You Feel Lucky?

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

Sunday, September 30, 2007

A Moment For Sexism.

On the way out of the show last night, as the packed crowd filed into the aisles and up and out towards the exits, 3 or 4 couples upstream from us there was some hot girl-on-girl handholding action, capped off with an emphatic denim butt-slap! I was like, "yeah! Nice to see. Demonstrate your affection to each other unselfconsciously, heedless of bigotry and stigma! You girls have the right idea. Sexuality and affection - a beautiful thing!"

I didn't actually say that out loud, but that's an accurate (if edited) transcript of what I was thinking.

Then the girl on the right, the one with the less-nice ass (the one who had done the slapping) turned her head to look back over her shoulder and DAMMIT! It was a dude! That made the whole thing turn suddenly unseemly! This sexist pig, slapping his girl's round ass for all to see as if it were some OBJECT - it really made my craw crawl! I felt so defiled. Get a haircut, dude!

I'm a big-time feminist on the rise, and I have no patience whatsoever for benighted attitudes.

Anyway, I didn't start any beef or anything, but I gave him a look that spoke volumes - and on the rest of the way out, I didn't even look at his ass once.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Problem With Aftershave Is...

The problem with aftershave is, you can't un put it on.

I never use aftershave, because I hardly if ever shave (just trim), so I tend to forget the technique. For my own future reference, and the present reference of any of you currently in the process of applying aftershave:

DON'T.

No I'm just kidding. What you don't do, though, is jab the bottle at your hand for a couple dashes' worth, then slap your hands together rubbingly, then slap your hands on your face rubbingly. It's too much!

I forget what it is you do do, because I haven't done it in so long. But I seem to recall it's a bit like this: take the bottle and hold your face sideways, covering the bottle opening with your cheek completely so it forms a tight seal. Then tip your whole head up, letting a dot's worth of splash get on your cheek. Then repeat with the other cheek, put the bottle down and quickly run hot water into your waiting hands, splashing and rubbing your whole face so that your dot's worth on each cheek gets blended evenly.

It seems like it didn't used to be as elaborate as all that. Whatever, I will try it that way next time, and see what happens.

It sure is weird to be all beardless and smooth! I'd forgotten how lushly gorgeous my full, soft lips are. Not that my lips are obscured by my beard in any way. It's just a different effect, when framed by my clean-shaven face. Look at that chin! Hm. A little on the weak side, maybe? It'll do I guess.

I really like this aftershave! It was a gift. A sweet gift.

Open Dream Journal #13: Why Natalie Portman? (No Offense, Natalie Portman)

I had a weird dream. Natalie Portman was in it. We were fresh acquaintances, just hanging out in this brightly-lit (it was daytime) low-key club or bar & grill that looked like somebody's big kitchen. It was a clean place, but kind of podunk, albeit with a cool jukebox. She was just hanging on my every word for some reason. It was disconcerting. She kept gazing into my eyes like a staring contest, yet she retained an unforced but teasing sort of aloofness; laughing easily, being jokingly dismissive. Yet talking animatedly, with a certain passion and urgency. You know. Like you do when you're really hitting it off. We talked for hours about music, the world, beliefs in general. She was vibing the hell out of me! And part-way through I found myself saying, "wow, I think I could actually fall for this girl."

Which, when I woke up - NGAAAHHH!! Natalie Portman? First, she's twelve! Second, she's not particularly, I have nothing against her but...okay, I will say this, she has pretty eyes. I hadn't really noticed that so much, prior.

But thirdly, after I woke up, it made me feel like I'm an easy mark for anyone who pays enough attention to me and has pretty eyes. Not a pleasant thought to have about one's self!

Anyway, it was one of those weird dreams where I'm definitely me (myself), but the circumstances of my life were utterly changed around - even though I wasn't necessarily thinking of it in those terms because in the dream it was just natural, taken for granted. For instance, I wasn't living in California, though I'm not sure what State we were in. And it goes without saying that I wasn't attached to my current girlfriend (I wouldn't be giving Natalie Portman all this false hope otherwise!)! I know that for a fact, because at one point she (my current gf) came into the place with her cat Frank on a long, blue leash. And she didn't seem at all chagrined to bump into me and Natalie Portman, hanging all over me.

I couldn't tell from the dream whether in the dream my girlfriend and I knew each other. I'm sure in the dream I knew, one way or the other! But I don't remember now, and I can't tell from how we acted. But she did let me hold Frank's leash!

Frank was very well-behaved on that leash while she was walking him, but once she stopped to place her order at the counter he started climbing up the walls - literally. He was impossibly good at climbing those faux-wood panelling walls! He got like five feet up the wall and was walking around! At his size!

Now I'm not completely sure that it was Natalie Portman. Because, I feel like there's another one who I get confused with her. But wait, no, yeah - it was definitely Natalie Portman! Because that's how I introduced her to one of my dream-friends at the place (who, I have no idea who he was in real life). I'm sure if it hadn't been Natalie Portman, and I'd introduced her as "Natalie Portman", she'd have clocked me in the jaw! But apologized immediately, because...she seemed pretty emotionally invested by that point. And we'd only recently met, so how could she fault me?

So. Weirdly enough, even though in the dream she was definitely Natalie Portman, nobody was treating her weird or special. My friend, after being introduced, said "Natalie Portman? Cool." and then kind of started talking about something else for a minute, then left.

We were kind of on our own little island.

Awesome.

Me. I'm awesome. Just the other day, I had somebody compliment me on the elegance of a passage in a contract I'd written, and I wanted to say, "fuck you dude - you should see the SONGS that I'm writing!" Because, that's where my metier has really established its forte. I mean, lately - wow. I'm just blowing myself AWAY.

I'm not talking prolifigacy, here. Wait. Not prolifigacy. Prolificacy! I'm not talking the quality or state of being prolific. Because, to be honest, I haven't really had the time. I haven't been able to apply myself consistently, at the level I really need to to really reach that next level where I could truly be describing myself as "prolific." I've been there! I've been there before. And I will be again, but right now, what with work, it's catch as catch can so far as songwriting goes. What with work and all.

But having said that, catch has been catching and canning a bumper crop of quality over quantity in recent weeks! I'm only working on maybe 3-5 songs at any given time, as opposed to the dozens I would juggle back at my peak, but the 3-5 that I've had "in process" at any given time lately are simply the creme du la resistance, the top-tip of what I am capable of peeking at.

Which, let me tell you - aw, MAN! I'm loving this one I just did. It's either called "Grand Romantic", or "Romantics", or its original title: "Love Writ Large." It's great. I love it!

You'll know it when you hear it, it's splendid.

I'm so pleased with myself! Everybody! Take up songwriting, it's for your own good I swear. You'll thank me! Even if you don't thank me, if you end up sucking at it, what have you lost? What have you got to lose?

There's nothing to lose by trying. As Samuel Gerard once put it, "Either I'm lying or I'm going to shoot you!"

Friday, September 28, 2007

Ciao, Luciano! You Had Us At 'Figaro'

They say that no man is an island, but Luciano Pavarotti was a continent. Cancer sang the last sad note in the funeral aria of this great, big man. Dead at 71, Pavarotti first stormed the world stage of opera at a rambunctious age, then elevated the global profile of his chosen milieu both by himself and in the company of such erstwhile rivals/compatriots as Domingo Carreras.

It was said of Pavarotti that at his height, he was relatively easy to pick out in a crowd as compared to other, shorter tenors. The notes he could hit and the sheer lengths to which he could hit them won justly-earned plaudits from fans and aficionados alike.

While he was noted for his vocal timbre, he had an astonishing appetite for musical excellence that kept him plowing his trade far into the night on many an occasion. Though some critics aver that he was occasionally prone to "show his ass" (metaphorically speaking), none would now blemish his memory with mentionings of such unseemly taint.

He passes now, from this world of mist and greasepaint, a towering giant in the hallowed annals of song, a performer with few peers and fewer still who knew the true hue of his tortured artist's soul.

He was 6'2".

This Kooky-Looking Junk Is the Root of So-Called All Evil?

I feel like I've railed against this before, but every time I see it it's like a fresh insult: the NEW MONEY.

America used to have the coolest, most laid-back and dignified currency on the planet. Greenbacks. Gray fronts. Serious-looking. But now our money looks almost as goofy and stupid as all the cartoon cash from other countries that we've been making fun of for years! It's an insult, foisted on us by our own...people...who were...put in place...to...do things for us...in a trusted capacity. I'm not really sure which people. Congress probably. But whoever did it, whoever is in charge of messing up our cash, they have betrayed that trust!

The phrase "serious money" has been forever ruined. As in "How'd you like a chance to make some serious money?"

No American will ever again have that chance.

Every time I look in my wallet and see that I'm about to pay for something with one of those crazy new bills, I feel like I have to apologize or ask permission. "Do you take Disco Dollars?"

It sickens me. It sickens me to the heart.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sorry, Officer!

"One-time" pulled you over? Got caught out by "Sneaky"? "Po-Po the Clown" chased you down? Did you smell the bacon cooking too late? Need a quick excuse that will help you wriggle out of the grasp? The following are actual explanations offered by actual drivers to actual peace officers who had pulled them over, in entirely fictitious situations that never happened:

"Sorry officer - I was busy looking all over for cops and I missed seeing the light change."

"Sorry officer, but this thing's a beast. I can't f***in' hold her back!"

"I was only doing 70 because there's no way to gauge the speed limit on this road. You need to post up some signs."

"Sorry, officer, my night vision's terrible. I never would have cut you off if I knew you were a cop."

"It wasn't me, another guy just blew by me in the same car! Right before you pulled me over! You can probably still catch him!"

"Sorry officer, I was only going so fast because I was trying to catch the real criminals."

Use of the above excuses may be prohibited in some areas, or by common sense.

Answering the Naysayers: King Kong Vs. Jesus Christ Edition

Well for one thing, people don't seem to get the fact that this is a clear winner of a screenplay idea. So I see I need to set some misconceptions on their ear!

First, Kong. The presence of Kong in the film might raise some questions. Just from a legal perspective. Rather than duck those objections, I will meet them head-on like I always do! To wit. King Kong is an intellectual character, that's true. Which means that legally, in theory, not just anybody can use him in a movie. There are certain rights issues. But get this: the movie is set two thousand years ago! Therefore, if Kong existed two thousand years ago, then it stands to reason that he's now in the public domain! See?

All you need to do is buy into the premise a little, and problem solved.

The other objection is that maybe the topic itself could be a problem. But how can anyone seriously make that objection, in this day and age! Have we ignored so soon the lessons learned from successes made by films such as The Passion of the Christ? If we have, then lesson up, folks! Wake up and smell it: the audience is out there! People are ready for these types of films. All you need to do is execute it well, with respect for the material. You can't fool the audience with a watered-down or insincere approach! But if you gussy it up with integrity, with a guts-first take that displays intelligence and respect, then you will find yourself reaping the sweet rewards of beaucoup box office profits!

Bidding on the screeplay is now open. Bearing in mind I haven't written it yet.

Completed it yet, I mean.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Kickass Screenplay Idea #1: King Kong Vs. Jesus Christ

Get this. The movie is called: King Kong Vs. Jesus Christ.

I'll set the stage for you.

The first half of the film starts as a gritty, wincing observation of early A.D. Jerusalem in the time leading up to Jesus's crucifixion, but when King Kong attacks the city, the Roman garrison proves no match for the beast - and the Romans are forced to enlist the help of Jesus and his followers! With the aid of their miraculous powers, Kong is defeated and Jesus is hailed by all as the town's savior, and given a reprieve.

Then the second half of the movie examines the effect this would have on history, down through the ages and up to the present time, as we witness how so many things would end up changing radically, just because of one small change way back in the ancient day!

It would be a film like no other! And it all started because of my kickass screenplay idea.

I need to come up with more of these.

Cat Nicknames Pt.1: Frank & Noonie

Frank, the big hairy maine coon sweetheart dog of a cat is:

Big Booga
Frankus Cattus
Frankus Biggus
Biggus Frankus
Frankus Aurelius
Boogus
Biggus Boogus
King Frank (pronounced "Fronk")
Bonky
Bonkus
Bonky Booku
Fronkus Bonkus
Boon Din
Frankie Pants

Noonie, the mean little-head huge-body orange cat is:

The Noone
Kittenhead
Miss Snoose
Little Snooser (or "Little Snoosie")
Noosie Snooser
Little Sweeter ("she's a little sweeter,")
Miss Hiss
"Hates-It" ("she's a little hates-it!")
Attacko
Stinkass Noone
Asser
Asser Big'n'fat
Big-Little
Cushion Crusher ("she's a little cushion crusher!")
Bin Doon
Lil' Cheese Puff
Little Tin Tune
Pin Tune
Pitty Tune
Noonie Shoes

Either cat, or both collectively:

Little foot-chaser
Eatin' heads
Useless Eaters

I Like Equals.

As far as math signs go, Equals is the best. Better than Greater Than. Better than Less Than. Better than Plus and way better than Times! Times stinks. It's just an X! Or, in the new math, it's an asterisk. Either way, pret-ty weak!

Minus is cool, it's true. I give Minus its props. But Equals is like, MINUS TIMES TWO! Double your pleasure! One Minus right on top of the other. Two negatives do make an Equals! - which, if not precisely a positive, is certainly at least a neutral.

It's the most impartial of math signs. Equals tells it like it is. Equals isn't trying to cut you down or pump you up. You can trust Equals to give you the straight scoop on where things really stand, assuming you did your math correctly. And if you didn't, that's no fault of Equals!

I must admit, Divided By is a pretty sweet sign. I love it - that horizontal dash with a dot hovering both above and beneath! It's got some kind of eerie U.F.O. vibe going - a very sweet design indeed. But it loses points for not even being on the keyboard anymore. They seem to want you to use the forward slash instead, which has just zero style. Gross!

Frankly, that "Square Root" sign is just gay.

Yes sir, there's just no sign that compares to Equals. Make mine Equals! If A equals B, and B equals C, then Equals equals Equals. Equals is exactly where it's at.

It's starting to look a little weird, though. As a typed word. Equals.

=

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Michael Crichton's New Book

Anybody read it? Is it any good? Do you think it's just a rough draft for the inevitable movie version or does it stand on its own as a novel?

Does he even have a new book?

It's so hard to keep up with these modern authors.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Untimely Confessions #1: I Tried to Cheat

I tried to cheat on my girlfriend. I stole her answer key and memorized the sequences of Trues and Falses. But she must have known, because on the day of the test she switched up all the questions! So I failed, and it taught me a great lesson to pass on.

Remember folks: cheaters never win, and winners never quit, and quitters never cheat. So if you're planning to cheat, just be ready to cheat for the rest of your life, you cheater! Because you can't quit on it now! Once you've elected to cheat your way down that primrose path! Cheaters never quit cheating!

Ultimately, it is the cheaters of the world who cheat the winners of their clean victories, because even though the cheaters never win, the fact that their cheating is going on in the background makes the whole thing seem disreputable somehow. And then the jaded crowds point at the proud winner standing on the dais and grumble, "yeah, he won alright - I bet he probably cheated to do it!" Despite the clear contradiction! And the poor winner, spirit broken by the risibly libelous accusations of the press and public, kind of stands there with his shoulders slumped, frowning, with a bitter lump in his once-proud throat. Well I say, this backbiting meanspirited vicious suspiciousness is baseless and asinine! And I refuse to countenance it, on the basis of the one sweet pure fact that these fools seem to have overlooked:

Cheaters NEVER win.

Case closed. End of story.

Where Are The Corporate Motto Combos We Were Implicitly Promised?

I'm a little disappointed by the outcome of corporate consolidation over the years. When that whole mergers & acquisitions frenzy really started gathering steam back in the 80s, I was looking forward to seeing slogans like "When E.F. PruState-Barney talks, you know that we make money the old-fashioned way: By making sure your piece of the rock is in good hands."

And yet, it hasn't happened. Another marketing opportunity lost.

I Do It.

My advice to the average person is: don't even bother trying to do it. Because I already did.

Other people come in, trying to justify - but not this guy. I don't justify anything. All I do is, I do it. I don't wait for the dust to settle down, either! I'm in there even before the dust even gets a chance to rise! Let others argue over implications and consequences. I already moved on to the next! No looking back for me. No recriminations dog my trail. People aren't blind. People can see, once I did it - it needed to be done. Or even if it didn't need doing - I did it, and that's all there is to that! There's nothing to it, but to do it.

Others have claimed that they could have done it - claimed they were able to do it. I say, "pfffft to those claims of yours. You were able to do it? Then why didn't you do it?" Whereas I, on the other hand, DID it.

You see my point. That's a little easier to back up. In fact, I just did.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Fair Warning #2

Anybody who comes in here trying to mess with me and my buddies is going to have to deal with my buddies!

Less-Than-Impressive Boasts #2

"I drink more beer in one day than a person who drinks less beer in a month than I do in a day drinks in a month!"

Spiders

Man, there was a spider in my car. He's not supposed to be in there. Spiders belong in the environment, and that's where they should stay!

Everything in nature has its place. My car is MY place.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Cow's Milk

I love cow's milk. I think from now on, though, I'm going to call it "cow's milk." That does honor to the cow.

I don't know the cow. I never met the cow. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't like to honor the cow! I may have eaten the cow. I suppose that's possible.

I don't like to think of it like that. It feels like the idea of having eaten a cow whose milk one has previously enjoyed violates some sort of unspoken taboo. Like cannibalism, or incest. Only not on that level of course! But a sort of minor entrant in that vague general category.

Ah, you guys know what I mean. I like goat's milk, too! Only, turn that stuff into cheese, first.

I Could Give A Crap About "Baby Boomers"!

As a generation, I mean. Not as actual individuals. I guess I probably must know a few.

Kindly old folk!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sports Scandals of the Animal World

It turns out the fastest animal in the world is really the antelope!

He only lost the race because the other guy was a cheetah.

If You're Goin' to VEGAS!

Be careful, baby. Vegas is the place where dreams are made to be broken, where good people dress their best and hope to impress, but end up slipping in the glitz and glitter that lines the gutters of this Oz-like neon Babylon. They try to get up again, only to fall sacrificed upon the altars of this temple of exalted sin. In the end, they discover that the glow of green in this emerald city is from the envy that lines men's eyes - at the sight of greenbacks, slipping through their fingers while they tell themselves lies, lies, lies.

Don't fall into that trap! Strapped to fortune's wheel as Lady Luck gives you a spin, picking your pockets while you whirl in circles. Go see a show instead! Enjoy a free buffet. Or perhaps move to a more spiritual urge, as you search out the First Church of St. Vegas to hear a fiery sermon from a born-again reverend Elvis impersonator.

Vegas has so many attractions, distractions and wonderful sights to see. Dizzy yourself with all the wonders of a city planned specifically for your delight! But mind your step. Don't slip, or a thousand besuited suitors will catch you by the arm and chaperone you down a lane paved with bitter tears and fool's gold dust.

So I've heard anyway.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Advanced Negotiating Tips #J: The Accidental Head-butt

The Accidental Head-butt is a key weapon in my arsenal of negotiating tricks. I suppose I should say rather, "negotiating techniques" - since when you have head-butted someone, you haven't "tricked" them, exactly. It's more like you've assaulted them. This, however, is where the "accidental" part comes in!

There are several ways to camouflage your head-butt so as to make it seem plausibly "accidental." The simplest methods are best, and timing is everything. Keep these tips in mind, when planning your move to perfection:
• Discussions should be at a fairly high emotional pitch, and you should make sure to "set the stage" well prior to your head-butt by gesturing in a fairly animated fashion, leaning forward excitedly to make a point, etc. You can't just come out of nowhere with a head-butt after sitting there like a statue the whole time.

• You must be seated or positioned close enough to your quarry that some incidental contact will seem like a reasonable possibility, after the fact. There's no point in even attempting the move if it means bridging a wide gap of space with a spastic head-first lunge.

• BE IN THE MIDDLE OF A SENTENCE*. You should appear to be making an important point, which you then have to interrupt: "Oh! I'm sorry! Pardon me. Hey, are you alright?" This charade makes it seem all the more plausible that the devastating collision of skulls was merely an unfortunate accident. Because, why would you interrupt your own important point? IMPORTANT: NEVER head-butt the other party in the middle of their sentence. This is too easy to spot, and if spotted, it will come off like a desperation move. NOTE: be in the middle of a sentence, yes - but do NOT suddenly raise your voice dramatically at the very moment of the head-butt! That's a real tip-off. The vocal control can be tricky, but you will be able to master it with a bit of practice. Which brings us to our final point:

• Know how to head-butt. Do not even attempt, unless you already know how to deliver an effective, non-accidental head-butt. Proper form is essential to avoid injury, but you need more than just proper form here. This isn't a street-fight, it's a negotiation. You need an easy and comfortable familiarity with the move, to be able to pull it off all nonchalant. If you're a head-butt neophyte, forget about the Accidental Head-butt until you get some serious training in. Otherwise you're going to hurt yourself, and end up weakening your position instead of claiming dominance.
Warning: under no circumstances should you attempt to deploy the Accidental Head-butt during phone-conference negotiation. It will not be effective, and you may disconnect the call.

Entertainment Weekly

I'm getting Entertainment Weekly again. I used to get it. Why did I get it? I'll tell you. I got the door, and there was one of those people selling magazine subscriptions with a sob story and an earnest catch in her voice, plus I'm already a pushover when it comes to a woman with a clipboard, so I said "which one of these is going to give me VALUE for my commitment? Which one has not just movies, or not just music, or not just...books, I guess - but all of these things? Which one has instead of 12 issues per subscription, something a little more like FIFTY FUCKING TWO issues!? Dammit, that's gotta be Entertainment Weekly!"

I said all that to myself. I didn't say it out loud, to her. That might have been a little bizarre. She did look at me a little funny halfway through the long, awkward silence, though - I might have been moving my lips a bit.

Perhaps she could lip-read! Wow.

Anyway, having sprung for it (and another 2 magazines which I can't remember, maybe Vanity Fair was in there), having sprung for it I read it. I ended up getting into the habit of reading it, every week. Practically the whole thing - generally in one sitting. A little harmless "decompress" at the end of the week. It was an okay magazine, and I felt more informed about the entertainment people and entertainment issues that matter to me. By the 47th or 48th issue or so, though, my interest was flagging, and I didn't like the new format change, and I kind of petered out as far as actually reading the thing.

And then the subscription ran out, which was fine by me by that point. Flash-forward a couple years. Once again, Entertainment Weekly is showing up at the house! Why? My girlfriend didn't order it. I didn't order it. What the hell? Is it a free issue, to entice us with what we've been missing? No! It keeps coming! Week after week! It's been two months now.

I kind of like getting it again. The new format's not so bad. I just have a hard time dealing with change, in the initial phases. The writing is still harmlessly snarky in an enjoyable way. But I have kind of what you'd call a beef, with Entertainment Weekly: I like the show "30 Rock." I never watch tv except for NFL broadcasts or "The New Detectives," but I caught an episode of "30 Rock" in our room at the W in San Francisco while waiting for the gf to come back from her spa treatment, and it was good! I love the show! So when a week or two ago, EW casually referred to "[Tina Fey's] hit show '30 Rock'" I was psyched! I was glad it was a hit. I hadn't known it was a hit. I like it when people like the things I like, and when the public rewards quality with patronage. I felt good about having read that it was a hit.

But now, in the current issue, there's a big ol honkin' article on "30 Rock" where they champion the thing, just tout it to the rafters and give it the best recommendation they can. Yet in the course of doing so, they admit that the ratings have been poor - 137th place! What the fuck! Were they making fun of it, before? By calling it a "hit?" Were they making fun of Tina Fey? Were they making fun of me, the impassioned viewer?

Fuck you, Entertainment Weekly! Don't yank me around with your ironic "oh, but everyone in the know knows it's no hit so, kind of funny to say that it is, in our tossed-off, offhandedly blasé way." Don't be making fun of Tina Fey.

One more crack like that about "30 Rock" and I'm going to find out some way to cancel my subscription. Which might take some doing.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Grasp Fate by the hand, my darling.

Grasp Fate by the hand, my darling.
Twist its thumb back painfully,
and it will do your bidding for a time.
Will take your lead, and follow behind
Will meekly bow its head and submit to your
Will. But if you let it go, then it will rub its hand,
and look at you implacably, and wander off -
expecting you to follow. Expecting you to heed the call
of its inscrutably retreating rear end. Fate is used
to having people trail after it, pleading and entreating;
gnashing their teeth, wringing their hands. But darling:
don't waste time trailing listlessly in Fate's wake.
Grasp Fate by the hand! Go for the thumb!
That's its weak spot.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

An UnSundaylike Thought of the Day

At some point, you just have to start laughing at the bitterness of others.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Thriller, Reconsidered

See, some people talk about Thriller all the time, but it's like, Thriller wasn't all that great. In retrospect? In the reflected glow of the hindsight of its historical legacy? Was it? Was it really all that great? I mean, sure, "You Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" was the dope jam and no question about it.

But come on. "P.Y.T."? Look at Back In Black. Now there's a great album. Ain't no "P.Y.T." on there.

Open Dream Journal #4: Life Lessons from the Dream-Realm

Once I had a dream where I was a Hobbit on a mission with Gandalf and Jesus Christ, and at one point we were in this house and Gandalf was trying to microwave a cat. I looked over at Jesus and said, "hey, man...are you okay with this?" He just calmly shrugged his shoulders and replied, "It's part of the movie."

That's a lesson I've tried to apply to my life almost every day since.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Piss Off, Asimov!

The three fundamental Laws of Robotics...

One: a robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm...

Two: a robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law...

Three: a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First and Second Laws.

-Isaac Asimov

OK. What exactly is this crap supposed to be? How are these "Laws" justified as Laws? By what logic can their compelling necessity be proved?

I find them powerfully unpersuasive. For these to be considered "Laws," there would have to be some reason why robots could not be constructed or could not be programmed for the purpose of injuring certain human beings, or disobeying certain human beings.

As I understand it, the justification used by Asimov was something along the lines of "human beings would have to be fools to create robots that were capable of doing them harm!"*

Human beings are fools.

We create spears and knives and swords and halberds and guns and artillery and bombs and missiles that are capable of doing us harm. Why not robots? Our real-life military already features remote-piloted and robotic weapons applications.

Yeah, yeah, I gather that in his Robot books a lot of the plots and dramas revolve around various contraventions of the "Laws of Robotics." But it's a stupid framework to try to hang drama on, because it's a ludicrous premise in the first place! It has zero believability, zero credibility - why then should we be surprised when it is contravened? No society composed of humans and robots could ever swallow the idea that this trite pabulum rises to the level of Scientific Law. Only here in the real world - where robots are considered an abstract notion, semi-remote from most people's lives - do we buy it. So that out in the popular parlance of the populace, you get morons quoting Asimov's "Laws of Robotics" as if they remotely approach to the level of the Laws of Thermodynamics, or of Conservation of Matter and Energy.

Or is it "Energy and Matter"? No matter. The bottom line is this: the real Laws of Robotics will not be written by humanists, or philosophers, or kindly, well-meaning novelists. They will be written by engineers, and they will be governed by the limits of design parameters, not by the bounds of some supposed moral constant.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Aw, Man!! I'm sorry, dude!

There was a big frikken cricket crawling across the floor of the office just now! A black cricket. Antennae weaving calmly in front of him as he scutters along. Probably a happy little guy! Probably he just got some good news, and he's thinking "what a wonderful capper to a beautiful day!" Then he scuttles into my field of vision, and I'm thinking "what is my responsibility as an employee in a position of responsibility in this company? And then, what is my responsibility to the cricket?"

I used to love crickets. Crickets were my buddies. Chirping in the rec room. There'd be a bunch of them coming in there when the weather got cold. Coming in through the walls. Coming in through the fireplace, maybe - trying to eke out another few months in comfort, I guess.

They were my buddies! I loved those guys. When I found a dead one, I'd be sad, and I'd carry it outside thoughtfully, to repose on the withered winter grass. I don't know. What the hell, I was eight.

But I like crickets. The adult part of me is wondering, "what do they eat? Are they like roaches? Are they getting into stuff? I better put this guy outside, he shouldn't be in here and underfoot like that - this is a place of business."

I got a big paper dixie cup. I was going to catch him under it. Then I'd slide a stiff file folder underneath it, and carry him to safety, outside.

He was half-way too fast.

...

I don't know what's more sad: me being here working at this hour, or this poor chirper getting croaked because of it.

R.I.P., little guy.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Do You Want a SHITTY JOB with LESS PAY?

...or would you rather wait around forever for that PERFECT JOB to come along?

Let's be honest. Be honest with yourself, at least! Because you're not fooling us, anyway. We here at the Underemployment Center of America know you're never going to find that perfect job. How do we know that? Because it isn't out there. Or if it was, somebody else nabbed it already and they're not giving it up.

However, we can help place you in job after job making less than you deserve - far more easily than you would have ever thought possible! Sick of being underappreciated and underpaid at your current job? Tell them to "stuff it"! Then come on over and feel the queasy sense of freedom as you walk through our doors. We will have you placed in a new job that is as bad or worse than your old job, within 48 hours - GUARANTEED! - or we'll give you your old job back!

Just kidding. We can't give your old job back. You told them to "stuff it" remember?

Less-Than-Impressive Boasts #4

"You know, back East...a lot of people used to call me, 'tough guy'. So...you know. I must be pretty tough."

A Few More Thoughts of the Day

"The worst that ever was, is better than the best that will never be."

"Expect the unexpected, but don't act all surprised when it never happens."

"Honesty is the only debt true friendship can incur."

Thought of the Day

There is only one fight...and we are all in it.

Monday, September 03, 2007

LABOR DAY: A CELEBRATION

[Ed.: This post was originally published in November 2006, too late to really do justice to the topic. It is being republished today, unedited and in its entirety, as a tribute to Labor Day everywhere.]

Labor Day is nigh upon us again, and we're all in the mood to enjoy so many things. The waning days of summer...the first brisk hints of autumn in the air...cookouts, school semesters, a 3-day weekend...the start of the Football Season! So many things. Yet how many of us take time out to meditate on the whole purpose and theme of Labor Day? That's right! I think a little history lesson is in order.

As we know, the modern era of the Organized Labor Movement was born in strife and struggle. The largest, strongest league of workers in the country - the AFL-CIO - was troubled by the emergence of an upstart league calling itself the NFL-CIO. The battle for superiority between the two was fought in the court of public opinion. NFL-CIO officials charged that the established league had grown complacent and boring. The AFL-CIO countered with the claim that the new league was all flash and no substance - sure, they could put points on the board, the negotiating board, but what about defense? Could they hold onto those gains? Could they prevent the opposition from making gains? What about pounding it out in the trenches, getting the job done with a smash-mouth run-first approach to labor negotiations? Eventually, the war of words died down, and the two rival organizations merged to form a stronger whole. One that catered to both styles, but was plagued by pointless strikes, salary-cap disputes, and free agency.

Such is the unavoidable story when it comes to organized labor. But I think it holds a lesson for us all: the gains made are more than worth it. It is common knowledge on a bumper sticker seen frequently enough: "The Labor Movement: The folks who brought you the weekend." It's true. Before laborers banded together to force change, employers could make you work all over the place and whenever they wanted. Then came the weekend...and finally, we could all exhale a sigh of relief, for at least a couple days (or 3 days, in this case). Over time, that weekend became a deeply-embedded, ingrained part of our culture and our society.

But consider this: walking among us, almost impossible to distinguish with the naked eye, are people who do not observe the traditional Saturday/Sunday weekend. Some of them are waiters. Others are emergency workers. Others attend gas stations, or provide security at functions. There are a whole host of businesses that remain open on Saturday and Sunday, and whose staffs must perforce toggle their schedules to cover those shifts. They end up with weekends on Monday and Tuesday, or in the middle of the week, or at random times. They go to work on Saturday and Sunday and sleep in on days you or I might be at work. Our first impulse is to let our hearts go out in sympathy for these poor folks, and it's a good impulse. But consider this: owing to their weaker ties to society at large, these people may very well be more likely to be sociopaths.

I think it's important to think about. I think it's important to meditate on the various aspects of labor, and the workplace, and the workforce, and particularly our heritage regarding these important things and ideas. And if you see any organized laborers over the next few days, take some time out to give them a big thanks on behalf of a grateful nation. Organized Labor: The Folks Who Brought You A 3-Day Weekend.

Here's to ya.

note from the management: We apologize for the delay in publication on this feature. My volunteer fact-checker went on strike. I can't be certain at this point, but I think she might be a sociopath. I have certain suspicions.

Crowded House, Mountain Winery, Pt.4

So there we sit, exhaling the last gasps of stress from the ordeal of our long road, our triumphs and reversals, the hard decisions made, costs paid and efforts expended just to get to see a rock show. And we made it in time! And it's just about perfect.

Twilight is waning as we look out from the mountaintop amphitheater, the scattered clouds oddly bright above a twinkling valley. The night air is clear and the stars are coming out. The band takes the stage.

They open with "There Goes God." I'm losing my mind, necessarily. Crowded House had been my favorite band at the point when they called it quits in '96. So when they announced the reunion...I was hopeful, but doubtful. Was this going to expand their legacy, or tarnish it? Will they really be Crowded House? I was hopeful enough to get tix for successive nights, but I had some serious worry as well. What if they "ain't got it no more"? Plus, the night hadn't exactly gone so well so far. It would look like just my luck for them to show up and bring the suck. So when they come out all cocky and scornful and plant that slinky, arabesque guitar riff smack in the middle of my forehead - and they clearly DO STILL GOT IT - I'm just ecstatic, goofy with relief. With joy - it was like having an old friend move back into your life! But the person I'm with, she's never seen this band. Vaguely familiar with their "hit." Doesn't know 'em otherwise. Will she like it?

I chance a sideways glance to appraise her reaction: she's got as wide a smile as I have! Both our smiles widen. "It's good!", she says, her eyes lit up - possibly surprised that it's good, but with definitely no doubt about it.

I had forgotten the feeling you get when you introduce a good friend whose opinion you respect to something you love, and she loves it too. It must be something like the feeling a Christian evangelist gets, when they spread that Good News. Wow, what a great feeling! That must be why they do it! As the band hits the refrain of "There Goes God", she laughs out loud for the first time (it is a pretty funny refrain). From there on, the rest of the show is golden.

Five songs in, "Fall At Your Feet" hits like a magic spell; the moon is coming out round and golden from behind the trees, and Neil has us howling at it! At the end of the song, he actually instructs us to turn around and sing at the moon - an impromptu singalong of the "finger of blame..." bridge, with the crowd's attempts at the falsetto "I fallllllllll" high note providing the howl. Yet I have to admit to myself, the crowd is in pretty good voice! I know I am. I have what I like to characterize as an inimitable Neil Finn impression.

And the show continues. Number after number...brilliant. I'm impressed by how well the material from the new album is coming across - and how heavily they're leaning on it (by the end of the night they will have played six songs off the new album). Normally this is not a good sign, since most of the crowd for a reunion show is there to hear the oldies. But they are nailing these tracks, and totally rearranging my opinion of the album for me. My prior 1-listen opinion was, "nice." Now, sitting here hearing the same songs go over, my opinion has been upgraded to "NIIIIIIICE!!" The new songs are positively throttling me with gorgeousness (particularly "Silent House" and "People Are Like Suns," but everything is great, really). And I keep checking to my left for my friend's reaction - a reality check, just to make sure I haven't completely lost my objectivity. But it's no good: because we both have.

By the time "Something So Strong" starts, ("Hey! I know this one!") she's actually singing along a little bit! And she is a person who does not sing (dunno why, she's got a lovely enough voice). It might be the wine. We're not driving home, so we decided to try a couple different bottles of "red," and by now we're deep in the merlot (which I liked a little better than the syrah). And after a knockout rendition, they leave the stage to huge applause...

...and return quickly enough, to kick off a stellar 6-song encore! "Locked Out" rocks out. "She Called Up" hearkens back almost to Neil's days in Split Enz (and am I the only one to notice Neil starts out the song singing a snippet from the Klaxons' "Golden Skans"?...as Nick swings his glowstick in true nu-rave form!). "Weather With You" - wow. They had to play this. Beautiful in this setting, under the stars with the chiming of the guitar part and the glorious harmonies. It sounds like the whole crowd is singing!

I'm singing the Tim harmony part. Because Tim wasn't able to make it.

And then, "Fingers of Love." I have never heard it sound so great, almost threatening in its sexiness. Ooo, goosepimples, goosepimples. And then, "She Goes On" - and I'm crying! Sad, sad, sad song.

During the final number, "Four Seasons In One Day", the much-threatened curfew kicks in, and the power is abruptly cut. But flouting the venue's affluent neighbors, Neil forges on - inciting the crowd into a long singalong finale of "Four Seasons" that tacks on a quick run-through of the coda to "Better Be Home Soon" for good measure!

And then we're running to catch a cab, and I'm wondering how tomorrow's show can possibly top all this.

Crowded House, Mountain Winery, Pt.3

~ Our last installment found us smack in the middle of my second blowout in 15 minutes, on the most dangerous highway in California, coming out of a steep, decreasing-radius curve and with no turnout in sight - when suddenly, ~

A TURNOUT! *whew*! As the road straightens out, there it blooms along the roadside like a sweet mirage: a wide, sweet turnout. Long enough to be called a shoulder, really. I stop right in the middle of it.

So we both get out, and I look at her (A word about her. When the shows were announced, I immediately procured two tickets for each evening, not being willing to miss either night. My girlfriend, however, felt she didn't want to see the same band two nights in a row. So I asked a friend to come to the first night's show, and she was pretty psyched about it! although not particularly familiar with the band. Anyway, so we both get out, and I look at her) and I look down at the tire, and I look back up at her and say "this means we aren't going to get to see the show!"

And I'm crestfallen. And after all the travails of the evening so far, and my heroic tire-changing and impressive emergency driving skills, and my general comportment and demeanor that would have led anyone to conclude "he's ALL MAN," I feel as though I'm about ready to cry. I especially feel that I've really let down my poor Toyota Tercel, who had been basking in the admiration of an unfamiliar passenger (a truly impressed: "wow, this thing's really got a lot of pickup!" albeit perhaps with an unspoken: "...for a piece of crap!"). And when I took that front right tire off, I could see that the tread was worn down. I should have paid better attention. So I'm standing there, having let down my not-date and my car, and myself, and with no one else to blame I have uttered the words: "this means we aren't going to get to see the show!"

I call Triple-A. It is 6:35 PM. Seating at the show has begun. Show starts in one hour. The tow truck is en route. It will be here no later than 7:24, they say.

And I'm sitting there on the guard-rail, thinking. They can tow my car all the way home. I'm a AAA-Plus member. HEY, DO I NEED TO WAIT HERE FOR THE TRUCK?

Yes I do. They said so on the phone, remember? You already had that idea.

Yeah, but - if the truck gets here on time and we call a cab -

And just as I'm thinking this, she says, "they have an opening act, don't they?"

GOD BLESS YOU, PETE YORN!!

Yes, they do! Cab called! Tow truck arrives at 7:35! Cab arrives just as truck finishes up! 7:48! We're walking into the show together to the fading strains of a song, and I can hear the voice, and it's not Neil Finn!

Wash hands, concessions stand, wait this is a winery isn't it?

A bottle of "Red," please!

We're going to get to see the whole show!

What a perfect evening.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Prior Disclosure Notice

Tomorrow, I'm going to go all lazy on ya' and just re-post last year's Labor Day: A Celebration post, from November.

I think the timing was such that it might have been hard to fully appreciate when originally posted. So I'm posting it again, tomorrow. In full. Without apology.

Crowded House, Mountain Winery, Pt.2

No good! The previous post was NO GOOD. It wasn't a review of the show at all! It was more like, a review of the band at this stage in their career, based on the evidence of the show. It didn't really give a good picture of the show itself. What was the SHOW like? How did it make me FEEL?

So I'll do another one.

First off, set the scene. I'm driving North along the winding and treacherous Highway 17 (one of the most dangerous roads in the state, in terms of accidents and fatalities), heading to Saratoga. We're doing pretty good on time. It's about 6:15, the show starts at 7:30, we're only about 30 minutes from the venue and my 1990 Toyota Tercel (my "sweet ride") is powering through the traffic pockets and lane changes as we come up on Big Moody Curve. It's a great drive so f-

BLOWOUT!! Right front tire!

With the steering wheel tight in my keen grip of command, I seize the careen and gun it between a three car-length gap through the right lane into a miniscule turnout (my only chance to get out of harm's way on this shoulderless stretch!), sliding to a white-knuckle stop missing the concrete sidewall by inches, jumping out of the car whipping out the jack in one hand and the and tire iron in the other, hoisting the front end getting the lug nuts and the ruined tire off slapping on the donut and tightening it down spinning the jack-winch lowering the front end back to terra firma giving the donut a kick for good measure (firm!) and slipping back into the driver's seat...all in one smooth motion.

Well okay, but I did have that thing changed in less than 8 minutes flat. In a pretty tight space!

Then, OFF!! Seamless merge into high-speed traffic, powering off again (albeit, taking care to keep it under 60 not wanting to overtax the

DONUT!!

Maybe I should have kept it under fifty.

A sudden list to the right followed by an appalling noise gave me to know that my trusty donut had given out. Now what would I do...? How would we make it to the show?

...And not a turnout in sight!...

~ TO BE CONTINUED ~

Road Safety Corner #6: Check Your Headlights

Night driving tip: when your car's headlights are set really close together, drunk people with bad night vision think you're further off than you really are.

I'm just saying. Think about that before you buy your next car.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Crowded House, August 29th & 30th at the Mountain Winery, Saratoga

First off: Neil Finn's hair and pants were understated yet impressive. Dignified and stately, yet with a rough, raw edge that bespoke volumes of scrappiness, tenacity, and visionary genius.

Sorry. Had to get that out of the way for the rabid F.O.T.E.* contingent in attendance at the second show. And now for the review proper. Ahem.

This is no nostalgia act.

Known in the States primarily for their hit "Hey Now" (a #2 Billboard smash in 1987) off their self-titled 1986 debut album, Crowded House went on to release 3 more studio albums** to increasingly total global acclaim (and increasingly total Stateside anonymity), before calling it a day in 1996. Yet those in attendance at Saratoga's Mountain Winery on these two dreamy, moon-soaked nights of August 29th and 30th bore witness to just how poorly the label "one-hit wonder" fits this band. Out of 30 total songs*** played over the course of two evenings, only 8 songs were repeated on both nights. I've seen plenty of bands twice on the same tour, and far more often than not the set lists are nigh-identical. Maybe one or two songs' worth of changeup - the rest of the set is "dialed in." It's staggering to see a band pull off a stunt like this, and still deliver a powerhouse show each night. The second night, they were six songs into their set before they repeated a song from the night before. And every song a knockout.

I don't know why I'm surprised. Crowded House, anchored by Finn's crack songwriting talents, produced some of the most deeply-satisfying pop music ever made. It's not just that they never made a bad album - they barely made a bad song. Each of their albums is dense with hooks, rhythms and textures that are unique to that album - while always dovetailing snugly with the band's distinctive identity and rock-based pop sound. Touring behind their fine new studio album Time On Earth ("fine" like treasures and clear bright skies, not "fine" like "just okay"), they seem reenergized and at the absolute top of their form: there is already talk of getting into the studio this year for a followup, and I for one can't wait.

Crowded House are Neil Finn (lead vocal, guitars), Nick Seymour (bass), Mark Hart (keyboards, guitars), and Matt Sherrod (drums). They are joined on tour by Neil's son Liam Finn (keyboards, guitars), aged 23.**** This is a great band. Matt Sherrod, known for his stickwork backing up Beck, is an inspired choice to replace the late and much-lamented Paul Hester (to whom the band dedicated a sublime reading of Hester's "Italian Plastic" Thursday night). His unfamiliarity with the band's material was a plus, according to Finn. They wanted a fresh perspective, a new angle. That instinct proved right-on. Sherrod's exhilarated and exhilarating playing provides the confidence and the spark that drives the show. With that solid foundation to build on, the rest of the House is free to rock like they've never done before. This is no knock on Hester, who was a great performer - bringing an indelible wit and humor to the show along with his always-solid drumming. I think it's just down to the maturing of the rest of the band. Ten years on, they've lived through tragedy and doubt, but they've clearly come through it all with clear eyes and a renewed will. They decided to reform the band not as some pathetic dead-end last-ditch resort, but because the lessons they've learned have led them back home. For this band at least, maturity brings with it the ability to rock with a relaxed intelligence rare in Rock.*****

And rock they did. Holy shit. I can't even start mentioning or describing songs. I'll be here all day and not do it justice. The first night's show left me marveling at what a tight, clean, masterful unit these guys have become. Onstage, past incarnations of the band have often strayed into (or lived in) the realm of the "wild, loose, and wooly" - with excellent results, and all part of the band's charm of course. Yet to see them like this...wow. Mind you, they still know how to go off-script, screw around royally and keep the audience enjoyably off-balance, but having this dimension of absolute top-flight professional musicianship there to back it up has given them the ability to showcase the songs themselves better than ever before. When I saw Finn tour behind his solo albums with a crack band in tow, he played a significant number of CH songs, of course. And the band was so tight and on-time that I found myself thinking, "wow, I wish Crowded House could have played that song that well!"

Well they can now. But they bring with it all of the joy and personality, all of the family feeling of a real band - of Crowded House.

Don't even dream it's over.

French Toast and What Happened After

So I'm enjoying my breakfast of french toast - which, if I showed you a picture of it, you'd say "that looks awful!" Too eggy and browned! But naw, man. It tastes great.

Anyway, suddenly I'm still in the middle of mine (I like to linger over a nice weekend brekky), when I become aware of all this clattering and jangling going on in the kitchen. My girlfriend is already in there rinsing dishes and putting them in the dishwasher! I'm like "hey! I wasn't raised that way!" Give me a chance to get it, I'll clean it up. I made the mess, I'll clean it up!

Some people were raised like, "you make a mess, you clean it up." Other people were raised like where they say "if the one person did the work cooking it, then the other person can do the work cleaning up after." But you see, I was raised the first way. I've tried the second way, and while it sounds fair and equitable in theory, in practice I can tell you that all it leads to is a lot of passively-aggressively, needlessly elaborate recipes dirtying the maximum number of bowls and pans. Serious!

I'll clean it up. It's my mess.

EDIT: and then I go in there, and she did all the easy stuff and left me the PAN! Man, that's the hardest part!