Saturday, June 17

Herb Tarlek

Sometimes I think I'm really, really weird.

Take the other morning for example -- I open my mailbox to find this little postcard thing that says,
"You've been selected to enjoy a year of PLAYBOY
for just $1 an issue, our absolute lowest price!"
Say what you will about aging misogynist Hugh Hefner and the unfortunate legacy he's helped place on impressionable women in this country, it's hard not to read something like that without that little voice inside your head saying, "Damn -- that's a pretty good deal!"

As if the bargain was the real hook. Like the magazine itself didn't matter next to the sheer enormity of the sweetheart deal I'd somehow lucked into. Not that I was clueless to what the offer was for (I mean come on, this is me we're talking about) - but that it was somehow worth investigating further simply because of the price.

So I open up the mailer to try and figure out what the catch is and there's this sample cover inside with big block letters that read:

Paris Hilton and Debbie Gibson NUDE!

At which point all thoughts of economics fly out the window and and I find myself saying
"Aww Hell No!"
[Listening to: The Waitresses, "Square Pegs"]

Wednesday, June 14

Stuck With a Valuable Friend

When you're in the middle of a job hunt, your vision tends to blur.

It's like this day-to-day cycle that continually lands you somewhere between optimism, pessimism, and downright apathy depending on what's going on in your surroundings. But more than that, it becomes this huge test of your personal fortitude. It's like the utter freedom of having nothing to do all day flirts with you while the shadow of your impending poverty sneaks up slowly behind, waiting to smack you across the head with a 2x4.

The problem is that no matter how much as you want it to, there's simply no way to speed the process up. You've got to get your name out there, have it noticed, jump through hoops, and then get the gig. It's not something that's gonna happen in a day (no matter how many times you try to convince yourself that it should).
But what are you supposed to do in the meantime?
Unfortunately, I've been through this process too many times for my own good -- which has enabled me to notice certain patterns that keep emerging whenever I or anyone I know falls victim to sudden employment absence syndrome. 'Trends' probably isn't even the best word to use -- it's more like stages in some evolutionary process.
Stage 1: The "little time off to recharge the batteries" stage - I can't be going to job interviews looking burned out. Besides, I've still got money left in the bank - What's the rush?

Stage 2: The "I'm so qualified for these things, I'm not gonna have time to turn them all down" stage - No matter what anyone tells you, is not your friend. The worst possible thing the easily-distracted job hunter could have is a point and click interface. I've easily applied for at least 40 jobs in the last week -- all without shaking a hand or delivering a resume. Hell, I don't even know what half these companies do.

Stage 3: "I can't believe my working friends haven't replied to the 15 memes I've sent out today." - Sure you've got customers and a deadline to meet, but did you see which action hero it said I was the most like -- didja, didja?? (Also known as "Oh come on - everyone knows this bar doesn't get going on Tuesdays until after midnight - you don't have to leave yet do ya?")

Stage 4: The "Entry Level? What do you mean Entry Level?!" stage - There's no way the guy driving the Titanic saw only one iceberg that night. It's just that the first one was really little and didn't have a very competitive benefits package.

Stage 5: "Dear Sir: I am a friend of the cousin of the young woman who's cubicle is directly next to yours. By chance I happened to hear about a position that has come available in your company. If you have a moment, please take a look at my resume..." - For the record, many of these inquires end with return emails that say "Your name seems familiar -- weren't you the one who started that "Forward this message to 10 of your friends or your dog will be hit by a car" chain that totally clogged up our servers last week?"

Stage 6: "Hello, sports talk? Yeah, long-time listener, first time caller here -- You've got to be kidding me with all these doubts about steroid use - Just look at the size of Barry's head!" - This stage is also where you see a lot of things like "I never thought I'd be one of those people with a "blog" on the web or anything like that, but then when I heard about how those liberals in the mainstream media were twisting around the words of our countries only true heroes, I knew that I had to do something."

Stage 7: "Hey dad, how's it going? That's good. *heavysigh* .. I Wish I could say the same"

Stage 8: "Yes, someone from your office contacted me a few weeks ago about an entry level position, and I was wondering if it was.. You know, still available?" - affectionately known as the "Please baby, Please baby, Please baby baby Please!" stage, this is the time when you seriously consider clicking on banner ads that promise untold millions if you can just pin the tail on the Bush.

Stage 9: The "Last night I had toothpaste for dinner" stage - It's truly frightening how fast a bank account can go from "this ought to last me a week" to overdrawn. Then suddenly you're stranded inside your own reality TV show, rationing food and discovering culinary treats that you never knew existed, like "Cheez-it Ramen surprise," or "Oh snap - there is a hotdog left in this package!"

Stage 10: "God I hate this job" - This one comes a few months later, when you're sitting in some cubicle with a half-tied necktie and uncomfortable shirt on. Normally accompanied by long periods of staring out the window at gorgeous summer days and pining for the all the good times you used to have when you were flat broke and hungry.
It's the stage I'm hoping to get to very, very soon.
But until then -- top this, bitches!
Crunk Test
[Listening to: Korn, "Mr. Rogers"]

Monday, June 12

Karen Lesko

Pretty much the reason why I've never seriously considered pursuing a career as a game show host.

[Listening to: The Clash, "Rudie Can't Fail"]

Sunday, June 11

Actually Spoken During the Course of My Day

Her: "What are you doing?"
Me: "Well I'm broke, so I'm doing nothing -- and passing the savings on to myself!"

[Listening to: Radiohead, "Down Is The New Up"]

Saturday, June 10

Poisson Heureux #2

Here's what's been making this fish happy lately:
1. The Atlantic Ocean
2. Mothra
3. Joan Jett
4. PatrĂ³n Silver
5. Having calculus explained to me over sushi
6. Season 1 of The Venture Brothers on DVD
7. June 24th at the Freebird Cafe
8. Dulce du Leche Ice Cream
9. Emails from Minnesota
10. Ninjas
[Listening to: Missing Persons, "No Way Out"]

Friday, June 9

Actually Spoken During the Course of My Day

"My hotness is loaded with Omega 3s -- I'm brain food!"
[Listening to: Charles Mingus, "Haitan Fight Song"]

Thursday, June 8


Sometimes I think that we're all like stained glass. Fragmented and broken, then welded together just enough so that despite the cracks, light can still come through.
It's never perfect, and the colors aren't always right
But it's nothing short of beautiful -- in it's own way.
The more and more free time I find myself with, the more distractions I find creeping in. I say distractions because when you get right down to it there are other things I need to be focusing on. That being said, I think sometimes we need to have a chance to be ourselves, need to take the time to spread roots out into the soil and soak up the nutrients that feed us in more ways than just what is needed or required.
I've been playing a ton of guitar.
Swimming deep into the ocean.
Reading. Discovering. Learning.
And while none of these things have helped me to find a new job, put money into my bank account, or cured me of the spiral of issues and problems that I'm currently dealing with -- by and large they've all in some form or another become inspirations for me to cultivate and grow.

It's something that I didn't always get to do at my old job. Which is strange to say, considering that I worked as a teacher. But teaching isn't so much about learning new things as it is about adapting yourself to find the best ways to show those things to others. Your enrichment (and there was always plenty of that) came from seeing your students gain understanding and begin to grow. But in a lot of ways teaching (at least at the level I was working on) holds a high risk of putting you in a place to tread water, which is never good.

And while it would be easy to blame this on the laughable professional culture at the school, the overall lack of direction or support from the county school board, the rose-colored blindness of a large portion of the parents, or even the students themselves, I'm not really sure that's what it was at all.
I think in the end the problem was the lack of wonder.
Have you ever had a friend that you could just really sit and talk with -- you know, just take a subject that was at hand and really find ways to dig into it? You can tell them your opinions, react to what they say. You can disagree. You find ways to see the other side. That kind of person in your life who's friendship, personality, and intellect you respect enough so that even when you don't see eye to eye on an particular issue, you're willing to at least consider the validity of what they are saying, and perhaps even let it evolve your own ideas into something better. Someone who lets you disagree with them, but never without a fight.

The topics could be anything -- religion, music, sports, relationships, whatever. The most important thing is having that opportunity for discourse. That chance to test your convictions, to be put in a place where it's not enough to have an opinion about something -- but you've got to back it up as well. Where stories you hear from other people, the ones glazed with a sense of individual passion spark your own curiosity.

For example, I wasn't really interested in surfing until I heard Gristina talk about it. I mean, I loved the ocean and have always loved to swim, but I never really wanted to surf until I met him. And sure, a big part of me trying it for the first time was wanting to do things that my friends were doing, but the reason I stuck with it came from the way that he and Spruill would talk. That glitter that would come into their eyes. It's like the way that someone you know can be talking about their favorite TV show, the one you saw the commercial for and didn't think that much of, and it makes you suddenly curious to watch it for yourself.
I'm drawn to intensity.
It's a seductive force.
This morning over breakfast I found myself pulled into this documentary about an uprising against the Roman occupation of Britain that was led by the Iceni Queen Boudica in AD 61. From just that snippet of information I found myself curious enough to start seeking out more information on the web, just because the story was fascinating and inspiring enough that I really wanted to know more about this amazing woman who was sort of pressed into leadership but then came within a stones throw of pushing the Roman Empire out of England. Villagers, farmers, regular people just swept up into her anger and passion -- willing to risk everything take on the worlds greatest army at the time, and nearly taking them down.

I'm almost ashamed to say that this morning was the first time I'd ever really heard her story.

But the weird thing about it was, once I found information about this Celtic queen and her revolt, it opened doors to other stories and ideas that caught my eye. Totally by accident I ended up on a page discussing the history of an Italian mathematician named Leonardo Fibonacci, who was basically responsible for the transition from Roman Numerals to the Arabic numbering system we use today.
When you teach reading comprehension strategies for the
billionth time in a row, these kinds things don't happen.
And as cold as it might sound to say, very few of the kids I taught the past few years ever showed that sort of spark for wanting to build their own base of knowledge. Not that I didn't have smart, or capable kids in my classes -- not at all. I had all sorts of incredible students over the years, some starved for inspiration and direction (which I did my best to provide).

But the one thing that I always found lacking was that overall thirst for knowledge. That hunger to know everything you could. I mean who knows, maybe the kids I taught were too young for that sort of epiphany -- but can you remember a time in your own life when you really worked hard to resist the chance to enrich your knowledge about the world you live in? When you didn't want to learn at all?

I think that's why teaching could be so draining at times. A lot of my excitement about the job came from the opportunity to show kids things that they maybe never would have had a chance to read or learn about if I wasn't in that classroom to help them find it. But when I got there what I found were kids who weren't bored with what they were being taught in school -- just bored with the idea of learning itself.

Rick Straub told me something I always tried to carry into the classroom with me:

"You can't give them everything. Otherwise there's nothing left to discover."

But I think the real secret is that there is always something new to find, as long as you're willing to look.

For example, one of the other things I found out about Fibonacci this morning was that he studied and worked with the idea of recursive number sequences, the most basic of which ended up bearing his own name, the Fibonacci Sequence. Basically, each number in the sequence is the sum of the two numbers that come before it. Simple enough when you think about it, but what's really cool is the fact that Bela Bartok used it as a basis for rhythmic figures in some of his music, and it even spawned a style of poetry.

Then I got all nerdy and wrote a bunch of them to see how well I could do with it.
Which in my book makes for a very cool morning indeed.
Fear or Pause
So That What You See
Becomes the Very Thing You Seek.
[Listening to: Tiger Force, "Kill The Wonderboy"]

Wednesday, June 7

A Little Scary?

Your Stripper Song Is

Closer by Nine Inch Nails

"You let me violate you,
you let me desecrate you.."

When you dance, it's a little scary - and a lot sexy.

What Song Should You Strip To?

[Listening to: Debby Holiday, "Island"]

Monday, June 5

Nerd Bliss

Ever since I upgraded my cel phone, I've been caught up in the midst of everyone's favorite modern pastime: Finding the right ringtone.

And while I like the fact that my phone now has the ability to play mp3 snippets of real songs whenever someone's trying to call me -- it's brought out an unfortunate side effect that people who know me closely can probably already guess.
I'm a music snob.
Not just in the songs that I like or in the endless multitude of reasons I can supply for the ones that I don't -- but also in how the music is put together, and the way that it sounds. You might think this sort of nitpicking would be annoying, but I promise that it's actually one of my more endearing qualities (unless of course you happen to be a fan of the Black Eyed Peas).

What it breaks down to is this. My old cel phone had a great ringtone on it -- "Punk Rock Girl." Except that my old phone could only play those cheesy casio-keyboard sounding midi files, which more or less reduced one of my favorite Dead Milkmen songs into sounding like some sort of polka theme music for a mario brothers type video game.

The rest of the phone worked great, but as I found more and more people getting phones that played songs, I found myself stuck helplessly in a sense of phone envy. That is until the day that the druids over at Cingular sent me a message saying that I could upgrade my phone for free. That's when I picked up this new phone I have - complete with real song ringtone ability.

I jumped on the Cingular site and grabbed the first couple of ringtones that I liked. There were no real music versions of "Punk Rock Girl" to be found, but a quick search did turn up a few choice Ramones tunes to choose from. Eventually I settled on an old fave, "Rock and Roll High School" -- and went on my merry way.
Except for one thing...
The sound quality on the mp3 was horrible. Instead of the Ramones sounding off whenever a call came through what I'd get would be this muddled wash of overboosted treble and white noise that would only sort of suggest the Ramones to anyone who actually knew the song beforehand.
And really, what good is that?
So today during a stretch of free time before my dentist's appointment I set out on a mission to find a ringtone that I not only wanted, but could live with as well.

And after much searching, I'm happy to say that I've finally found it:
Living Colour's "Cult of Personality"
[Listening to: Deadsy, "Better Than You Know"]

Sunday, June 4

Orange Cars and Dove Bars

Messages from the past. Phone calls from the future. Somewhere on a deserted shoreline a voice sings out to you so full of happiness that you can't help but be swept up into it. And yet there are these nights alone where it seems as if I'm nothing more than some message tucked into a bottle bouncing aimlessly on the tide.

For every moment of simple clarity it seems like there are two more of confusion. It shouldn't be a wonder, what with all the dark clouds that have passed through my skies in the past few months, but sometimes I can't help but feel like all I can do is run from the sunshine that's casting these shadows beneath me.
The things that should make sense ..don't.
While the ones I can't understand linger
Sometimes it gets on top of me. It's like I can't find a way to sort it all through. Sometimes all I can do is sleep, even when I desperately want to be awake.

Part of it has got to be the dark side of the horizon that's been laid out in front of me. That place the rays of the rising sun hasn't touched. On the one hand I've been given an open doorway. A place in my life where literally I could go in any direction that I wanted to. But at the same time -- I could literally go in any direction, you know?

There's a part of me -- a gift from my father mixed in my own hesitations and insecurities perhaps -- that tries to shy away from things like this. A part that cringes at big decisions. A part of me that I want to shed, but perhaps never will.

Sometimes I think I enable my own confusions. Let my foods touch, allow the flavors to mix. I'm not quite sure where it gets me, but I can see myself doing it now and again.
..and it worries me.
[Listening to: Deep Inner Voices, "Perfect Compromise"]

Saturday, June 3

Wong Foo

The school year's over, which means summer vacation is finally here. Add to that the fact that I'm basically unemployed and the result is me spending lots of time at home. For better or worse, this has led to a hell of a lot more TV watching than even I can normally be counted on for.

Today, while flipping back and forth between cartoons and cooking shows, I came to a sudden realization:
The Kool-Aid man is wearing pants.
When exactly did this happen?

Honestly, what the hell gets into people these days? I mean, it's one thing for museum curators or patrons to take issue with classical sculptures depicting nude figures and want to cover them up (it's wrong, but at least you can see a point to it) -- but this the kool-aid man we're talking about here! Does he even have anything to cover up? Because slapping a pair of dockers onto the boy certainly suggests that there is.
Which can only mean one thing...
Dude's been tucking.
[Listening to: Weezer, "Falling for You"]

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