Tuesday, May 30, 2006

What's Mis-Happening? (A Nevillian Adventure)

Plans for a bike ride to a nearby botanic garden, followed by a picnic, were crushed Friday evening when a rush to first base left Washington with a severely skinned knee and bruised palm.

We spent our Saturday cleaning our respective abodes, playing with our respective cats, and doing nothing much, in hopes that the knee would be mended enough by Sunday. And while it had certainly improved by that point, it hurt for me to even look at it.

So we did what any normal people would do: we planned a day trip, using an online city guide to locate a random place to eat in a small-town (total population: 1,500). It was about 100 miles away, and we took back roads to drive there.

Given our mutual proclivity for photography, we stopped a bit along the way.

Unfortunately, my camera battery died fairly early in the day and I missed a few great shots, including a picture of my grease-stained lips after dinner.

Suffice it to say, the restaurant we drove to made Long John Silver's look like a health nut's paradise. The food was great — I'll give it that — but I think if the conversation inside the restaurant had been a few decibels lower, I could've heard the distinct sound of my arteries clogging.

But any calories we consumed may have very well be burned off by simply being out in the heat (it was 35F here one day last week... but 101F this weekend), or the wonderful day we spent installing air conditioners on Monday.

It was during that little "adventure" that I learned three very valuable lessons:

  1. Don't talk to boys when they're doing "man" work
  2. If you have concerns, simply resolve them later on your own (i.e. go to Home Depot and get the weather-stripping without asking about the "gap" between the A/C unit and window sill)
  3. Never leave a rotting window open & unattended
You see, after Washington installed two A/C units at my place, we went over to his abode for the same routine. He quickly installed one unit in his bedroom, but we faced some difficulty in the living room:

His property management company failed to install storm windows, and the weather here hasn't been too kind on the wood. The area around the handle was rotting, and the window itself was hard to open (it took both of us to make it budge). We opened it and walked away to get something else, only hear a faint rumble and then a loud crash.

The next sound I heard was — as you might expect — an expletive.

That initial shock faded fairly quickly, and I attempted to locate the apartment maintenance guy while Washington taped up the pieces that remained. One shard had cleanly separated and fallen inside his apartment, but the rest of the window was severely cracked, with two shards pointing outside. Not at all a safe situation for passersby a few stories below.

By the day's end, Washington went full-redneck, with plywood in lieu of a window — still further proof that my bad luck is rubbing off onto him.

This all contributed to a delay that prevented us from catching a matinee showing of X-Men III, and then relaxing separately for the rest of the day. Instead, we spent the entire day dealing with four air conditioners, a broken window, and a cat (Washington's, not mine) who kept jumping up on the window sill. At one point his cat made the jump when there wasn't a closed window to stop him; he would've gone right over the ledge if I hadn't caught him mid-air.

The close of our day was somewhat more relaxing; with the sweat & frustration behind us, we ate Thai and rented X-Men 1.5 so I could catch up on what I've missed. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the film, as I'd had no interest in the series until a recent preview for III caught my attention.

Quote of the Weekend: "There's the easy way. And there's the right way... And we're not going to do either."

Friday, May 26, 2006

Haiku/Gesundheit (Volume XVI)

boredom? or ennui

some days never end
it's all "yawn this" and "yawn that"
every day's the same

thoughts concerning silence at work

if you listen you
can hear atlas spin the globe
(like fingers tapping)

in case you didn't hear the news
(a disturbing factoid regarding american idol)

more people voted
for taylor hicks than any
u.s. president

A Perfectly Normal Video

Not only is Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle very easy to understand, but I also find this video art to be hopelessly mainstream.

PLEASE NOTE: Blogger tends towards sarcasm.

In the Reins (Pseudo Music Review)

If two negatives make a positive, then two positives should make an even bigger positive... right? Sadly, the rules of mathematics and grammar seldom apply when it comes to pop culture.

Take Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, for example: by far two of my favorite musicians. When, several months ago, Washington found some bootleg recordings of the two singing together, I was pretty excited to hear the result. Imagine my surprise when — much like my entire face puckers uncontrollably whenever I taste something a little too bitter — my eyebrows shriveled inwards and up. While I appreciated that I was able to hear the two of them singing together, the impromptu nature of the duet left a lot to be desired. Whenever one was singing, the other would pop in out of key. The end result was a cacophony of sorts.

I was, suffice it to say, mildly disappointed.

But on that same website (his hometown newspaper, I believe) Washington also stumbled upon another collaboration that was bound to pique my interest: Iron & Wine and Calexico's "Sixteen, Maybe Less."

I was hooked within the first few chords. It had the light Indie sound typical of Iron & Wine, with a tinge of rockabilly (which I assume was Calexico's contribution).

And, no, I'm not calling Calexico rockabilly. Truth is, I've never been sure how to describe this Tucson band's style. The instrumentation is eclectic and — from what I've read of them — they were inspired by everything from the sounds of the Southwest, 50's jazz and country (among others). They certainly concentrate more on sound than words, with many of their tunes lacking the latter altogether.

They, like Iron & Wine, perhaps fall under the umbrella of "Alternative," though Iron & Wine is certainly of a much more mellow, Indie vein. Iron & Wine (essentially one man, Sam Bean) is one of those groups whose lyrics are almost always discernible over the light plucking of a guitar. As a writer, I always appreciate a song that establishes a mood not only through its sound, but with its words. And I generally get that with Iron & Wine.

So when I heard a few months back that Calexico was touring with Iron & Wine, I was disappointed that I didn't get to catch the show. And, for whatever reason, it never occurred to me to see if — in addition to "Sixteen, Maybe Less" — there were other songs the two groups had collaborated on.

Turns out they recorded eight songs together, and released the set on the album In the Reins (2005).

I'm sorry to report that none of the songs top "Sixteen, Maybe Less" — both in sound and lyrics, that song remains the gem of the album. I enjoyed most others, but nowhere near as much. I even found the title song, "He Lays in the Reins" to be outright annoying. Sounds more typical of Iron & Wine are interrupted midway through the song with a brief Spanish operetta. While I'm sure there's school of listeners out there who thoroughly enjoyed this diversion, I couldn't get in to it.

[Or, to quote Washington, "What the hell is this?"]

In short, if you're interested in either band, I'd recommend you listen to each separately before you purchase (or legally download) In the Reins. It's not bad. It's interesting. But, with the exception of "Sixteen," I have a slight preference for listening to each band independently.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Curious Encounters with the Shopping Cart Guy

Some people, no matter how little they try, have an uncanny way of making life interesting.

Take the Shopping Cart Guy, for example. I see Shopping Cart Guy just about every time I run errands on my lunch break. He's the sort of person you want to avoid if you're in a hurry, though you can't help but talk to if you see him.

He's the sort of guy with whom conversations, no matter how short, are always tinged by a degree of awkwardness. He's the sort of guy who runs across the parking lot to ask you if you'd like a cart, and then insists you take one even if you don't really need it.

He's the sort of guy you like, even though you never really get to know him.

He's probably in his mid-60s and not, by conventional standards, "all there." When he looks at me, I feel a degree of pity that I'm almost ashamed to admit (in part because I think it's condescending of me to assume people may pick on him; in part because I suspect that — when you get right down to it — he's probably happier than I am).

Take a recent encounter, for example:

I park my car about 15 spaces over from the nearest cart carrell. Shopping Cart Guy must've sensed my presence right away (I swear this guy has an internal shopper-in-distress GPS system), because he appeared from out of nowhere with a cart as I rifled through my trunk to locate a return.

"Would you like a cart, Miss?"

"No thank you, I just have this return."

I show him a single green softball.

"You sure, Miss? Return is all the way on the other end of the store."

He looked at me with such a degree of purpose, I felt as though another negative response would somehow ruin his day, crush his hopes and dreams, and thrust him into an existential crisis.

"Oh, sure," I said, "Why not?"

I took the cart he offered me; thanked him; and wheeled my softball to the return counter as he smiled and bid me a good day.

I told him to do the same.

Today I made another visit to the same store to pick up a few miscellaneous items. I saw Shopping Cart Guy as I turned into the parking lot. He had several carts lined up, but his return inside had apparently been hampered by an older, blue-haired lady who was, without question, flirting with Shopping Cart Guy. I could only assume that his kindness had been misinterpreted as a come-on and, before he even knew what was happening, he was pulled into a conversation while countless shoppers wandered aimlessly past in search of available carts.

Much to my dismay, a man I normally assumed was hungry for conversation was apparently as perturbed as he was flattered by the distraction. This resulted in a sort of internal conflict that evidenced itself in his movements as I and other shoppers walked by.

He'd motion towards a cart, and then pull back. He'd try to make eye contact with shoppers, touch one of the carts, and then hold up his right hand to wave hello... all the while this look of desperation sat upon his face.

When I saw him inside a little bit later — wheeling a row of carts into place — he was still visibly distraught. It wasn't until later, when I walked back out to my car and found him helping a woman buckle her toddler into the cart seat, that homeostasis had been sufficiently restored.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Spam Wins Pulitzer!

Never in my wildest g-mail fantasies did I expect to find profound philosophical statements in my spam box. Suffice it to say I generally don't find anything especially insightful about hiding from creditors and enlarging one's... um... "member."

[Some of you may disagree.]

So imagine my surprise when — in the junk folder of my shiny new gmail account — I found what I like to call "hopscotch poetry" in the heap pile. In other words: 2-3 word phrases that tend to stop me in my tracks. Example: whenever the weatherman talks about "patches of blue," I smile. Not because of what that means for the weather, but because I love the way that expression sounds. And for those of you who haven't seen Donnie Darko, the favored expression of Edgar Allan Poe was supposedly "cellar door."

You get the idea.

Back to spam: the second clause of the first subject line in my spam box was charming ("daisy -dappled"), a la "patches of blue" (I suspect this trick was employed by spammers to try and prevent the message from being filtered). But when taken into context with the first clause ("you keep the profits"), it made me laugh. It was just enough that I decided to read the rest of the subject lines.

There's where I faltered. The second clause in each subsequent subject was increasingly dark, and the subject lines as a whole were outright depressing. This all culminated with a line that preyed on one of my biggest insecurities: "your future, stark dead."

Let's think about that for a moment.

My future. Stark dead.
My future — stark dead.
[STARK dead.]
My future. Stark
My future. DEAD

Stark dead

And so on. My only comfort was in the final subject line, in which I redeem myself as the Asbestos Crusher superhero (da da da dum!). Here's the list in its entirety:

you keep the profits, daisy-dappled
great matching bonus for new players, fellow workman
your money, fruit strainer
your future, lawn tennis
your money, yellow-horned
your future, banner staff
your future, stark dead
your future, asbestos crusher

When read as a whole, I saw all of the components for a story line: the rising action. The climax. The falling action. The denouement.

Here's what I mean: the daisy dappler gathers her fellow workmen (and women!) to protest abuses suffered at the hands of profiteers [read: student loan creditors]. They train for a coup d'etat by eating fruit and playing lawn tennis [insert Rocky montage music here]. They raise their banners and begin their march, only to be stricken down by the long (yellow-horned) arm of bureaucratic law.

This is when the Asbestos Crusher [da da da dum!] enters and saves the day.

Close curtain.

I don't recommend anyone ever click to read their spam — a big no-no in this computer virus era — but if you (like me) suffer from the occasional spell of life boredom / mental derangement, you might at least want to glance at those subject lines for a chuckle or two.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Haiku/Gesundheit (Volume XV)

ee cummings quotes two classic films to prove a point
(or "yeah, i got the memo about wearing our work i.d.'s around our neck")

i am (badges? we
don't need no stinking badges!)
not an animal

on being stuck in traffic in a car without a/c

times like these i wish
i were a superhero
powered by freon
tips on using a public restroom at work, part iii of a series
(or, "it's good to have principles")

i would walk thousands
of miles just to have the
bathroom to myself

Monday, May 22, 2006

Call Her 'Maude'

"I'm Dame Marjorie Chardin, but you may call me Maude." ~Ruth Gordon in Harold and Maude

When I finally narrowed the list down to Echo, Gatsby, Chaplin and Maude, I was at an impasse.

I like the idea of "Echo," but got tired of saying it (seems it works best only when whispered). Gatsby was fun, no matter how hard I tried... it just didn't fit her. Chaplin was also good, but even people who know of my fascination for "The Tramp" would likely assume the (wrong) gender.

My problems with Maude: it's only one syllable, and my mother, sister and Washington all associate the name with some old television show starring Bea Arthur (later of Golden Girls fame).

And yet, when I returned home from work last Wednesday, the kitten only responded to "Maude." When I took her to the vet a few minutes later — and they asked her name — that's what I told them.

"Call her Maude."

For those folks unfamiliar with the 1971 Hal Ashby cult classic that inspired this name, here's what you're missing: a love story between a 20-something death-obsessed rich boy (Harold) and a 79-year-old woman who's full of life (Maude).

Scratch that. It's not really a love story, though some people sell it as such. It's more so a film that underscores the importance of living. I've not seen a more charming female character on screen since that time, though Amelie (2001) comes close.

But unlike Amelie — which certainly has its quirks — Harold and Maude is a "dark comedy." I.e. the humor is disturbing at times, and many people who watch simply don't get it. Something to consider before you queue it up on Netflix.

Favorite Maude-isms:
Maude: Dreyfus once wrote from Devil's Island that he would see the most glorious birds. Many years later in Brittany he realized they had only been seagulls... For me they will always be... glorious birds.
Maude: "My body is the earth, but my head is in the stars." Who said that, Harold?
Harold: I don't know.
Maude: Well, I suppose I did, then.
Harold: You sure have a way with people.
Maude: Well, they're my species!
Maude: Harold, everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much.
Maude: A lot of people enjoy being dead. But they are not dead, really. They're just... backing away from life. Reach out. Take a chance. Get hurt even. But play as well as you can. Go team, go! Give me an L. Give me an I. Give me a V. Give me an E. L-I-V-E. LIVE!
Maude: Otherwise, you've got nothing to talk about in the locker room.
Maude: You know, at one time, I used to break into pet shops to liberate the canaries. But I decided that was an idea way before its time. Zoos are full, prisons are overflowing... oh my, how the world still dearly loves a cage.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Metropolis (Movie Review)

If I were to pursue a PhD in film studies, I'd want my thesis to explore Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) from a Marxist perspective.

Because I'm pretty sure that's never been done before.

If you've seen Metropolis, you know I'm being sarcastic. The movie is so wrought with allegory, I'm not sure "allegory" is even really the correct term: this isn't exactly a film that hides its political objective. Or, to sum up the plot in 20 words or less: a rich man; a judicious son; a city of machine-appendage workers; and one woman to unite them.

I know intellecutals wouldn't roll their eyes at such a classic film, but I couldn't help it (i.e. I'm no intellectual). In addition to the Marxist storyline, there's also the Tower of Babel as well as some personification of Death and the Seven Deadly Sins... along with a few other theological allusions. In short: from my jaded 2006 perspective, the allegory was, at times, a little too much. But when I remind myself that the film was made nearly 80 years ago, only one word comes to mind:


Not only are the special effects ahead of their time, but I was also impressed that Lang had the testicular fortitude to make such a blatant anti-Industrial, anti-government statement between the two World Wars. And that he did that so beautifully? Suffice it to say, it's no surprise it was the most expensive silent film of its time (costing around $200 million to make). It's also no wonder that Lang was asked by Joseph Goebbels to supervize the production of Nazi propoganda films. Even less surprising: he refused, and fled the country.

[Though, to be historically accurate, it seems Lang wasn't sure where he stood politically until Goebbels extended that offer. I was disappointed to realize that, in fact, there is some anti-Semitism in Metropolis. The Shylock-esque "Inventor" of the film is clearly meant to represent a Jewish man, with a "star" scattered around his abode likely symbolizing the Star of David. Seems Lang opposed dictatorship, but was otherwise confused by his own political sensibilities (until the aforementioned offer sent him running, that is.)]

I'm always impressed by a silent film that, without speech, nevertheless makes a powerful statement. For Metroplis in particular, I was especially in awe not only of the set design, but also of Brigitte Helm's many roles: she plays the Machine Man and the savior Maria as well as the Machine Man pretending to be Maria. Maria, in these instances, takes on very "robotic" movements, which Brigitte executes with seemingly little effort. The scenes in which she plays the "robot" are, to me, some of the film's most powerful moments.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Haiku/Gesundheit (Volume XIV)

bad president, no cookie
(or, "if president bush were a puppy...")

...i bet he would be
difficult to potty train
(good luck with that mess)

on watching a major league baseball game
(or "call me crazy, but i thought may was usually warmer than this")

the temperature
at last night's game was perfect
(for mid december)
thoughts concerning the elevator music they play at work
(or "if you don't stop this soon, i'm staging a protest")

bet you didn't know
i could mouth those trumpet sounds
so beautifully
seriously, guys, this has got to end
(or "a person can handle only so much")

i didn't realize
chuck mangione remade
kenny rogers' songs

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Fearful Symmetry

As I recall from Romantic Lit courses, William Blake was the first bad boy of that genre, with some of his better-known poems even prefacing — or existing apart from — the movement (let us never forget 1798!). And so, sometime before the melancholy Wordsworth and egomaniacal Shelley, Blake was painting the literary world with apocalyptic visions so intense, even Jim Morrison found inspiration in him some 160 years later ("You need only cleanse The Doors of Perception...")

If you're familiar with his work, you likely know his poem "The Tyger" (a photo of his original engraved plate is to the left). This was written a few years before Wordsworth and Coleridge threw together Lyrical Ballads, and the simple version of it goes a little like this: why would any caring deity create something as destructive as a tiger, anyway? And what's with this vicious food chain? War? Tyranny? Etc.

You Blake-ians out there are likely falling over yourselves to remind me that the poem is more complicated than that (or perhaps even tell me his mysticism shouldn't be confused with idyllic Romanticism).

But I'm not here to write a thesis. I'm here to show you some director's video interpretation of the poem.

Be warned, I recommend 100% sobriety before watching this video. It's a trip in and of itself.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Weather Man (Movie Review)

"I remember once imagining what my life would be like, what I'd be like. I pictured having all these qualities, strong positive qualities that people could pick up on from across the room. But as time passed, few ever became any qualities that I actually had. And all the possibilities I faced and the sorts of people I could be, all of them got reduced every year to fewer and fewer. Until finally they got reduced to one, to who I am. And that's who I am... the weather man." ~ David Spritz in The Weather Man

This movie can't really decide if it wants to be the quentessential Indie film with a niche audience... or a blockbuster more becoming of its star (Nicholas Cage).

And so, it's not really either. The Weather Man certainly has quirky elements, including a sequence where a Chicago weather man walks through the streets with a bow and several arrows strapped to his chest. And there are some great shots of the city (for those of you unfamiliar with the Midwestern mecca) but overall, I'm unable to give it any more than a "slightly above average" review.

Essentially, it falls under the umbrella of films that I'm able to watch with a modicum of interest. In other words: it's not bad (at times even compelling), but it's no Adaptation. It has a similar (but slightly less compelling) story line as About Schmidt and Broken Flowers, but depicts a younger, divorced protagonist (Cage).

The humor in this film is also less dry than the aforementioned movies, though not to a detriment. Some of the most "touching" scenes are also the most comical, as when the lead character, David Spritz, talks to his 12-year-old daughter about schoolyard taunting (suffice it to say, the boys at school all have an offensive nickname for her). In scenes such as these, you grow to like Spritz, even sympathizing with his plight as a divorced father. He has a difficult time balancing his career with his personal life as a result, and is tormented by the fact that his exwife's boyfriend sees their children more often than he does.

Makes me wonder if there's a term that implies "bildungsroman," but works more for aging men. The downward spiral of growing up. The story that relies on past regret as a vehicle for present action. The middle-aged man still trying to impress his father. Etc.

But this isn't really just about a middle-aged man dealing with middle-aged man problems: this man is searching for meaning in his life. He's in his 40s, but still doesn't know who he wants to be.

I don't know of too many people, at any age, who can't relate to that.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Introducing What's-Her-Name

She purrs like a motor boat and wiggles her bottom before attacking. She's eight weeks old, and terrified of loud sounds. She's ... !!

Still unnamed.

I can't help it. I'm starting to understand the pressure Adam & Eve felt, having been given the responsibility of naming things.

And so, for those of you who joke about how indecisive I can be: you're right.

[Though, just for the record, I'm only selectively indecisive. Sometimes I know exactly what I want... believe it or not.]

When you consider how long cats can live, I don't want to mess this up. And, of the 75 or so names I've put on "the list," there's a problem with every one of them.

- As in "Won't you come out and play..." Name only works if the cat is terribly shy/hesitant. This cat is shy at times, but I think she'll outgrow that after she recovers from the moving trauma (four homes in 10 days).

Kerouac - As in On the Road. She's traveled 300 miles from conception to her current home with me. She's better traveled than most cats, but "Kerouac" breaks the two-syllable rule (not to mention, my sister said it sounds too much like "ear wax")

Maude - So-named for one of my favorite movie characters... the spunky old woman in Harold and Maude. No one seems to get it. Also breaks the two-syllable rule.

Desdemona - Gets killed by Othello. Too fatalistic.

Bukowski - Breaks two-syllable rule. Bukowski was a good poet, but a dirty old man. Not a very good name for a little girl.

Echo - Still in the running, though the story of she and Narcissus is one of the the saddest Greek myths (which also means it's one of my favorites).

Walden - A la Thoreau and "Walden Pond"... Lint tells me I can't use this, since we know someone by that name. And Thoreau is out, since my cat doesn't hoe beans.

Pandora - Still in the running, though it does break the two-syllable rule. Could call her "Dora," but that's a co-worker's nickname.

Buckwheat - This possibility occurred to Washington and I simultaneously when my brother mentioned he recently learned how to cook "buckwheat" pancakes. I'm quite fond of the name, though I worry it's somehow racist for a white girl to name her black cat "Buckwheat" (considering how modern society interprets the 40's sitcom, The Little Rascals anyway).

Chaplin - Cause she has black fur with a white undercoat, and her attitude reminds me a little of the tramp (sweet but playful; easily scared; a wee bit ornery; only talks when the cameras aren't on; etc.). Still in the running, though no one else seems to like it.

Wordsworth - I like the way this name sounds, but despite countless attempts, I've been unable to get her to write any poetry.

Anais - Sounds too much like "Anus"

Buddha - Cause I think it'd be funny to rub her belly for luck. Again, no one likes this but me.

Zephyr - Does the west wind blow from the west, or blow to the west? Cause she's coming from the east, and keeps traveling west. I can only use the name if Zephyr heads in the same direction.

Gatsby - Hard for me to imagine a female with this name, since "Gatsby" was known by his last name. She does have green eyes, at least, (a la the green light at the end of the dock), but the "Catsby" play on the name would be as annoying as it is cute.

Imagine that sort of rationale a few more dozen names down the line, and you get a pretty good idea of how tortured I am by this.

Friday, May 12, 2006

I'd Rather Be Skydiving

I'm at an age where everyone I know seems to be having children. Some friends are even on their second child, whereas I struggle to maintain a healthy living environment for my goldfish.

But this frenzy of simultaneous births has caused me to realize something: it's time that I, too, became a proud parent.

So I'm getting a cat.

I've long resisted getting a cat, out of fear of becoming that stereotypical old maid. I mean, you start with one cat, what stops you from getting two? And then a third? Next thing you know, you're 65 years-old, never married, and chasing away the neighbor kids with a dilapidated broom.

[And then, a couple years later, your half-eaten corpse is discovered by police after the paper boy reports an "unusual smell" radiating from your front door. You earn your 15 minutes of fame post mortem, with news stations nationwide reporting that the 123 cats you kept in your basement were so hungry after your passing that they had to — well, you get the idea.]

Point is, I don't want that for my future. Seemed the only way I could avoid that slippery slope was to avoid getting a cat altogether (not to mention, until recently I didn't live at an apartment that allowed them).

But being around Washington's cat has made me a tad nostalgic for those days of my youth when I always had a pet (cat, dog or both). And I've since committed to housing a particular (little) feline, who will soon join me at my abode. I was fine with this until Wednesday night, when it suddenly occurred to me that the cat might "tie me down" or "hold me back" from other life pursuits.

I mean, if I decide to abandon all of my wordly possessions and ride my bike from coast-to-coast some summer, what do I do with the cat? What happens when Lint and I backpack around Scotland? What if she [the cat, not Lint] scratches up my furniture? What if she meows like mad whenever I'm trying to sleep?

Thoughts like this (among countless others), hurtled me into a panic. I called one friend, who encouraged me to simply "back out" of the deal. I discussed the matter with a couple others, all of whom brought to light other problems I hadn't even considered ("man, her hair is going to be everywhere"; "you're taking her even though you've never seen her?"; "what if she and Washington's cat don't get along?"; "you do know it's like $100 to get them fixed... right?" etc.).

All of these insights were, somewhat ironically, followed with "but you should keep her — it'll probably be worth it" type remarks. That to me was like saying there are potential rewards to being kicked in the teeth.

But then I look in the corner of my living room, where I've stashed away all of her future belongings: the terry cloth bed; the food and water bowls; etc. Or I read over the list of potential names (which I'll formally decide after "meeting" her), and I almost feel a tinge of excitement.

If all else fails, I may convince my mum that the kitten is my Mother's Day gift to her. I mean, when we're kids our parents have to love whatever we give them — right? Even if it's an ashtray we made (or a kitten whose pregnant mother was abandoned by its owners), and our folks are nonsmokers (or dog-lovers)?

I'm hoping here that similar rules apply for adulthood.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Dirge for the Old and Decrepit

For the first time in 13 years, I played in a competitive softball game last Friday.

Correction: I played in two softball games last Friday. Between that, and a couple practices, I've come to a startling realization:

I'm getting old.

The Back Story:

Back in the day of school-age athletics, the word "hustle" was something my father pounded into me whenever we'd practice softball or basketball together. And "hustle" isn't a methodology easily abandoned: if I'm out in the field (or on the court), I run. And I run as fast as I can. Basically, if I'm chasing after a ground ball — even if it's practice — my father taught me to sprint to it. And when you get to a pop up just before it hits the ground: you dive for it.

In short: you paint your clothes in dirt, sweat, blood and grass. And if you go home clean: you weren't playing hard enough.

This philosophy was all perfectly fine back in the glory days of junior high school. And though I've taken up running and lifting in the past couple years — which has made me stronger and faster in those muscles so-impacted by the activities — I had no idea what a real & actual competitive game would do to me. Suffice it to say, the passage of time is eerily apparent in my stiff joints and achy muscles.

Now, before those of you who know me comment on how I'm always getting injured (regardless of age), know this: I'm not talking about bizarre mishaps that result in third degree burns, broken bones, allergic reactions and hospital visits. I'm talking about general wear and tear that we used to hear our parents complain about.

But now: it's happening to me.

My left groin muscle aches (can you say "groin" on a blog?). My right knee has a bump on the side. And — after going to some batting cages with Washington on Tuesday — the padding around my left thumb is quite tender.

Nothing terribly serious, and the — um — "groin" muscle feels much better than it did a couple days ago. So while I'm not actually injured... I'm certainly displeased to realize I've reached an age where my body is susceptible to aches & pains hitherto unknown.

Someone pass me the Ben Gay.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Haiku/Gesundheit (Volume XIII)

lessons learned from a diamond jewelry commercial*
(or "if these advertisements were people, i'd take up boxing")

always consult with
wrench experts before getting
engaged to a tool

on joining a co-ed softball league
(or "back into the swing of things — sort of")

i seem to recall
being much better at this
where is my ice pack?
on being asked to remove my shoes at the sea-tac airport
(or, "what's next, tsa?")

ever stopped to think
about the dangers of the
underwire bra?

*A response to J.B. Robinson's newest radio diarrhea, in which a woman tells her man that shopping for a diamond ring is a lot like shopping for wrenches (in both cases, she claims, you need to consult an expert).

Wedding Crashers (Pseudo Movie Review)

DISCLAIMER: Contains non-specific spoilers regarding the (predictable) ending.

After months of hearing friends tout Wedding Crashers (2005), I can finally add it to the catalogue of movies I've seen. And, much as I hate to say it, I was sufficiently entertained.

I.e. The humor wasn't too grotesque, and the script was clever enough that I regularly chuckled (though that may have been more so a response to Washington guffawing next to me). And it was simplistic only insofar as there was a clear moral ("Don't take advantage of women" — or some such variation), but not so much so that my eyes regularly rolled into the back of my head.

But that's not to say a part of me wasn't entirely repulsed by the attitude that drove the content. In other words: even if we don't buy into the male stereotype typified by the two lead characters, I suspect most of us know men who remind us of them. In other words: it's difficult to watch this film, particularly as a female, and not feel an ounce or two of disgust.

Of course, the men "learn their lesson" — and find "true love" with some of the very women they try to manipulate. This is part of the aforementioned moral... something that borders on being a spoiler, but is so typical of such films that you're bound to anticipate it. What really bothers me about this film, I suppose, is that the sleazing ultimately pays off. By this design, the film subverts its own moral.

[The old cliche about having (and eating) cake comes to mind.]

Friday, May 05, 2006

Things I Don't Understand

Recent additions are in teal.

  • Daylight Savings Time. It seems fundamentally — and existentially — wrong to play with elements of time.
  • We spend almost as much on car insurance as we do health insurance. The latter works for maintenance as well as emergencies (though arguably not as effective as it should), but with the former we only get finanacial "assistance" in case of an accident — in which case they raise our premiums anyway. Why do we tolerate this? And, even better, why is against the law to drive without car insurance, but not against the law for insurance companies — of all varieties — to treat their clients unjustly?
  • How it is that co-workers who barely know each other — but work in the same general vicinity — often show up to work wearing similar colors/patterns on the same day. Is this evidence of a (fashionable) univeral collective?
  • How, when driving, you can abide by the "three second" rule in or around a large city without being cut off by other motorists taking advantage of the gap.
  • Why more women aren't outraged by diamond/jewelry advertisements.
  • Why "Pin-Sol" has "pine" in its name and all over its label, and yet cannot be used on wood floors.
  • Why Subway, one of the "healtiest" fast food franchaises, always leaves a stench on my clothes that reeks of vomit & vinegar.
  • How Sallie Mae, one of the largest "student loan" creditors, gets away with propelling young graduates further into debt by stuffing their mailbox with credit card applications.
  • How deer are able to read all of those "Deer Crossing" signs.
  • How President Bush won the first election.
  • Why, after a disgraceful four years, President Bush won a second election by an even wider margin.
  • Why there wasn't a public outcry when the youngest daughter on the hit television show Family Matters disappeared after a few seasons (i.e. they never integrated her disappearance into the show as "sending her away to boarding school" or even "longstanding coma." Rather, they just pretended she "never existed").
  • Why so few people seemed to notice when Uncle Jesse, on the hit television show Full House, changed his last name from "Cochran" to "Katsopolis" (again, with no explanation).
  • Who actually "rubbernecks" automobile accidents. Everyone I know claims to despise these people; and yet, traffic here always jams even after the accident is removed to the shoulder. I can only conclude that everyone who hates rubberneckers is, in fact, guilty of the crime.
  • If any lives have actually been saved by me taking off my shoes everytime I visit an airport.
I'll add to this list as more baffling oddities — silly and otherwise — occur to me. If you ever want to check back in, I'll link to this post under "Modus Operandi" on my blog's main page. You may also see some of these resurface as haikus.

Feel free to add any of your own in the "comments" area... if so-inspired, I may turn your random confusion into haikus as well.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Good Alphabet? Bad Alphabet? No Alphabet At All?

Are you tired of your alphabet? Do you wish the sounds you made resembled the characters that represent them?

Then try Takeluma! With this new alphabet, phonemes are a relative breeze.

Simply explore This Guy's Thesis and say goodbye to abstract symbols and "letters" today!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Great Wok Challenge

If you were to develop a cookbook specifically about wok-based cuisines, what would you call it?

A few ideas:

  • Wok Like an Egyptian
  • Wokkin' After Midnight
  • Cookin' with Christopher Wokkin
  • Wokkin' in the Coal Mine
  • Third Wok from the Sun
  • It's a Hard Wok Life
  • Wok Right In
  • Wok This Way!
  • Hard Wok Cafe
  • Woks on, Woks off [Endorsed by Karate dojos worldwide!]
  • Wok-a-Bye Baby [Making Your Own Infant Formula at Home]
  • Wokkin' Around the Christmas Tree [Seasonal Delicacies]
  • Everybody, Let's Wok! [Includes recipe for friend peanut butter & banana sandwiches]
  • Jailhouse Wok [For the "Detained" Chef]
  • I Wok the Line [Every recipe requires a ring of fire]
  • WOK ON!
  • Wok 'n Roll [Various Baked Goods]
  • Wok Hard Abs [Cuisine for Body Builders]
  • Gimme Something to Wok About
I'll leave a link for this list on my blog's main page, and will continue to add to it as new ideas occur to me. Feel free to leave your own (should the wok spirit move you).

***Inspired in part by my sister and her boyfriend, with whom I first began this catalogue in conversation.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Dance Monkey — Dance!

Much like the color of the pill Neo can choose to swallow in The Matrix, some people just aren't ready to appreciate that — human or ape — we're all still members of the animal kingdom.

Which begs the question: who has it worse — animals who suffer the whims of nature with a negligible degree of consciousness... or to be an animal with a heightened sense of self?

Think before you click.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Thank You For Smoking (Movie Review)

This film — perhaps Jason Reitman's biggest release to date — isn't as good as Capote, but I enjoyed it quite a bit more.

But I'll reserve my thoughts on the disproportionate relationship between expectation and enjoyment for another entry. For now:

Back to the show.

Thank You For Smoking (2006) isn't so much a film about cancer sticks (and the lobbyists who promote them) as it is a blow against "spin" in general. And it's a little bit about taking sides, too. For example: all through the 70s (and even still in the 80s and 90s), cigarette ads were on the waning side of ubiquitous... they were still in magazines and on billboards, and even smokeless tobacco still had a television presence. And through the 70s and 80s, heroes and villains alike were lighting up the silver screen.

This is very seldom still the case. Tobacco giants haven't been "allowed" to advertise cigarettes on television since 1971, and protagonists are far less likely to smoke in movies (though we can't say the same for their foils). In short: the people who once made a ton of money on cigarette advertisements — television networks, movie producers, etc. — were among the first in line to condemn nicotine.

In other words, they helped make smoking cool, but once they came under fire for this — from other advertisers, fair-weather lawmakers, anti-smoking groups and such — they stopped. And even better: they seemed to completely forget how complicit they were in increasing cigarette sales in the first place. They washed their proverbial hands (if only Lady Macbeth had been so lucky!) and switched sides according to what brought in the best profits.

By alluding to this switch, Thank You for Smoking targets no single group. It exposes the hypocrisy of smoking lobbyists, anti-smoking lobbyists, lawmakers, smokers, nonsmokers, the media... you name it. No one is innocent... but no one is really a beast, either. Rather, everyone is just... trying to "pay their mortgage."

(Something even we apartment-dwellers can understand).

I wouldn't nominate this for any Oscars, but I enjoyed how this film was "spun" with a humorous slant. It has a message of sorts, but doesn't take itself too seriously (a seemingly impossible feat, when you consider the film points fingers in all directions). We see this again in the scenes where Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) — a lobbyist for "big tobacco" — sits down to dine with his two best friends: one a lobbyist for the NRA, and another for an alcoholic beverage conglomerate.

In another humorous twist, I was fairly amused that — in a film titled Thank You For Smoking — not a single character ever actually smokes a cigarette.

Correct me if I'm wrong.