Thursday, May 31

Mecha-Niwatori

There's always stuff to do at work, but for a change lately no one's really been freaking out about it like they were jut a few months ago. Turns out the new fiscal year more or less just got started -- which is apparently the time when the bigwigs upstairs take their feet off the pedals a bit and let the bike coast down the hill for a while before making the next big push.
Long story short -- the past few days have been easy, but they stretch on forever.
At times like this in an office job environment a lot people take advantage of the free time to rediscover some of the things that they always say they're going to do, but never had the time for when the crunch was on. For most this means actually answering emails for a change, cleaning out their desks or defragmenting their computer systems -- but for a guy like me it translates into something special
Like actually taking a lunch.
I'll be honest, normally I just work right through it. Every now and then between project crap I'll slow down a bit to punch out a blog entry or surf the web for a few minutes, but it's not like I'm really off the clock -- because if the phone rings or something comes up I'm more likely to just get back in the pit and knock it out rather than put it off until later.

With this particular gig I've found what I value most isn't so much the breaks during the day as much as it is finangling things so I might get a better chance to leave early. But now that things have slowed down so much there's a lot less to actually do, suddenly the idea of making the most of the breaks I get seems like the best way to make it through the day.

The odd thing about it though is that now that I'm actually taking the time for lunch, I'm finding out that despite the fact that there are a lot of little places to go nearby to the office, I still catch myself wondering where I want to go every day. Occasionally this has turned into driving around during the full lunch break kinda hoping that something would kinda jump out at me or whatever -- only to end up grabbing a bowl of soup at the company cafe a few minutes before my break is up.
..But not today.
Have you ever gotten one of those cravings for something where no matter what else is going on during your day, and no matter how inconvenient it might be to acquire that object, you simply must have it?

When a jones gets like that, suddenly your lunch break seems insufferably short. Coworkers seem more demanding of your time, even traffic feels slower. It's almost like everyone else can tell that you've got something good on your mind and out of their own petty jealousies they'll do whatever they can to keep you from getting it.

But you wants the precious. Always you are looking for it. And the precious is wanting to go back to you -- so the first chance you get you jump into the car, pump up the stereo, and jam on the accelerator until you get to the place, find the perfect parking spot, stand in line behind the others, and place your order for the greatest single thing in the universe:
Mall Teriyaki Chicken.
It's a magical substance, the kind that draws people from all over the place to get it. Fortunately once you reach the food court it's easy to find, because everybody makes it.
All you have to know is what to ask for.
Usually it's known as Chicken Teriyaki. Sometimes it's called Bourbon Chicken. In darker corners you might have to refer to it as Chicken Oriental, Cajun Chicken and Rice, or Chicken New Orleans. Sometimes if the food court is really busy you'll be forced to quest to the caverns of Sbarro's deep (usually located behind the place that makes those weird gyro-wrap sandwiches you've never seen anyone eat) -- where you'll need to tell the girl in the funny hat that you'd like an order of Bistro Chicken instead.

But no matter what they make you call it, the results are always the same -- a feast fit for emporers and kings, available to you in what seem like 50-pound servings for less than five bucks (if you don't order the combo meal).

Now before we get too deep here, it's important that we understand what we're talking about. Because despite it's many different names, it's actually possible that some of you haven't yet had the chance to sample in this particular ambrosia of the gods.
This is probably because you've actually tried to order it in a real restaurant -- which is wrong.
Oh sure, you can go to a Japanese restaurant and order Chicken Teriyaki. You can go to a Cajun place and ask for Bourbon Chicken. They'll be right there on the menu, clear as day. But don't come crying to me when the waiter comes out of the kitchen and gives you something you didn't want. Because when you get right down to it, Mall Oriental Chicken isn't oriental. It isn't Cajun, it doesn't have bourbon in it, they don't make it in sidewalk bistros, and it isn't not an old world recipe.
To be completely honest, I'm not even 100% sure that it's actually chicken.
Mall oriental chicken is the adult equivalent of school cafeteria food. You know the kind I'm talking about -- that one thing that the lunch ladies killed at despite the fourth-rate ingredients and quality control measures they used. Whether it was turkey and gravy, chicken sandwiches, kinda-pizza looking thing with the sorta square pepperoni stuff on top, there was one thing they made at school lunch that you'd eat even after you'd grown up enough to know better. The kind of thing that you'd stand in line for even if you were at a grade level where your school would allow you to leave campus for lunch.

Mall oriental chicken is kinda like the grown-up equivalent of that. Because it's not good for you. It doesn't pep you up, it's not filled with vitamins. More and more it's made in heaping portions that are designed to anticipate long lines of construction workers and off-duty cops who have ordered it day after day after day to the point where the girl behind the register doesn't even ask what they want anymore -- they just hand them the extra large Styrofoam cup filled with sweet tea so they can have something to drink while they wait. Then the specially trained Bourbon Chicken technicians behind the sneeze guard perform the mystical dance of clanking spatulas, gravy ladles, and ketchup bottles filled with peanut oil -- all resulting in a steaming pile of sauce and ..possibly lettuce that you'll eat without hesitation.

Actually my favorite part of the whole process is the waiting period while they make up your order -- because it gives you a chance to see that the mall oriental chicken place actually appears have a full menu of other somewhat-authentically named oriental dishes that you might consider ordering, but never actually will. It's sort of like how Waffle House claims to make things that aren't waffles and hash browns (even though no one ever orders them) -- kind of like an act of courtesty designed to make you feel like you're in an actual restarant instead of the human equivalent of a gas station.

I suppose I can see where restaurant managers feel somewhat obliged to create complete menus full of different options for varying taste -- but as a general rule of thumb if you're eating at a place called the International House of Pancakes -- it only makes sense that their Lobster Thermidore might not be quite as good as it sounds.

In fact, now that I think about it -- the best local place to get the mall oriental chicken is called Sarku (although I've also seen it called Sakkio, Sudoku, and Su-Su-Sussudio) -- words I always assumed to be gibberish, the kind of name that sounds just Japanese enough to indicate to the casual food court patron that it serves Asian-ish food, but schlocky enough so you don't expect too much from what you order.
I wonder what the name would translate to if I actually looked it up:
Sucker, perhaps?
[Listening to:   Mnemic"Jack Vegas" ]


Tuesday, May 29

We Are the Goon Squad and We're Coming to Town

Back when I was teaching middle school, one of the things that you couldn't help but notice about the students in my classes and around the halls was the relative frequency of scene-jumping that happened year to year. Sometimes it didn't even take that long -- if a girl into hip-hop started dating some skater/goth boy the general color scheme of her outfits could change within the course of a few days. But more often than not what you saw was a kid come into the school looking like his mother dressed him, only to see his hair grow and his shoes become more and more untied as he navigated his way through towards the 8th grade.

Of course a lot of people would argue that's what those developmental years are really for -- discovering your own boundaries, trying out different things to see how well they do or don't fit your personality.
It's a process that's been around forever, and certainly isn't going to go away anytime soon.
The thing that made this different to see from a teacher's perspective was that even as the kids that you knew and worked with went through the changes, you could still manage to see parts of their core personality shine through whatever sort of outer shell they may have taken on. You could see kids that were even at that young age somehow able to rise above the trappings of the clothes they were wearing or music they were listening to, and which ones were still at a point where they were more likely to be steered by what they thought they should be in order to project the particular sense of authenticity they felt the scene they had linked to required.

Not that those kids were lost hopes or anything -- but more that when someone links their lifestyle with their outward appearance (as teenagers sometimes do) there's a risk of shutting yourself off to new discoveries. Even worse, they are susceptible to what appears to be a sort of cultural segregation that comes as a byproduct of the clique culture movement that's so prevalent in marketing campaigns aimed at this specific age group these days.

I suppose you can understand where the business marketers are coming from when they create niche markets -- after all there's a simple logic to creating a store for kids who to listen goth music where they can purchace goth clothing, goth-themed toys, accessories or whatever -- but once you create that sort of encapsulated culture -- you also court the idea of a captive audience that maybe doesn't have an interest in appreciating other things. Sure kids can take it upon themselves to say "I prefer this style of music, but I also want to check out other things too," -- but sometimes it seems the way that things are so specifically categorized these days (Fuse vs. BET, for example) it's almost more of a cultural challenge than a question of preferred tastes.

In other words (as much as us old fogies might disagree) these days it's almost as if you're not a "real goth" unless you buy your fingerless lace glove thingees from Hot Topic, your little black hoop earrings at Spenser's, and so forth. And it's not like we can really sit here and point the finger at these kids for being like so many sheep -- because the same crap happened when we were in school. The names of the stores might have been different, but the theory is always the same.

I think what separates a lot of us from this sort of thinking is a point we hit somewhere along the line after we'd seen a little bit more of life where we kinda say to ourselves, "You know it was fun for a while, but all this stuff isn't really who I am -- it's just clothes I like to wear."

The realization comes at different points and in different degrees for everyone, but I clearly remember a big moment in this vein came for me when I was working backstage crew one night in St. Augustine and getting accosted by some metal-head band member I was working for at the time when he discovered I was listening to a rap album.

The moment was unique because it wasn't my parents or teachers saying my music was just noise and screaming. This was someone I supposedly shared a connected style with telling me that I somehow wasn't allowed to like one form of music because of my stated connection to another. It wasn't the end of an era for me, but a light bulb certainly went on at that moment where I was like,
"Wow, that's kind of a stupid rule."
I think it's easier when you're emotionally young to ideologically belong to something without question. Not so much that you sign some contract and start lock-step marching and reporting your parents anti-Reich activities (although the theory is probably similar) -- but more like someone doing their own part to gain what they feel is authenticity within a connection to a larger group -- which in turn would indicate some level of being authentic to yourself (or at least that part of yourself that identifies with a certain musical style, trend, or whatever).

And yeah, there's clearly a nod to herd mentality that can easily be associated with that type of thinking -- but there are ages where I think people want to leave the sheltered shadow of their family influence, but don't have the relative confidence or experience yet to be able to survive without having a 'different' sort of family to belong to.

Obviously this sort of thing can have dangerous side effects, but I think it's short sighted to blame the scenes themselves. Not every kid who hitches his wagon to Thug culture ends up a criminal, nor does every nerdy school kid end up tied to their lack of social graces either.

Perhaps that's why despite seeing so much jumping of someone else's train while I was a teacher I still come away with a lot of optimism about kids in general.
Unfortunately I can't always say the same for adults.
I think sometimes it's not always our fault -- because even as grown-ups there are still a lot of people out there who still emotionally need some sort of cultural umbrella to feel safe under (perhaps because in some sense they still haven't reached that personal point where having some sort of connection or association to a group hasn't yet become separated from simply sharing interests with that group, if that makes sense).

So even as adults of all ages continue to complain ad-nauseum about the lack of integrity in youth culture (which is particularly annoying when you hear it from Baby Boomers, although I'm still not quite sure why), you still see dudes driving around in cars that have license plates that say "Parrothead 4 Life," or whatever variant of the Jesus fish sticker/emblem that happens to fit their personal ideologies at the moment.

I can't tell you how many times when I was teaching where we would have parent/teacher conferences to discuss and try to deal with the flagging educational performance of some peroxide-blond hair with the one bang hanging his eyes skater kids, where the mom wearing the Katie Couric blazer tagged with fifteen 'this colored ribbon pin shows my support for [insert Oprah-championed cause here]' who would always be on the edge of tears saying,
"He used to be such a good boy, but now all he wants to do is whatever those empty-headed
friends of his tell him they saw on the latest episode of Viva La Bam - I don't know where
he got the idea that being such a follower was the way to live."
So you kinda have to ask yourself -- what's really the difference between the kid in the Slipknot t-shirt with the dyed black hair and eyebrow piercings and the parent who can't connect to him emotionally who wears the same Oakley sunglasses Dale Earnhardt Jr. wears and has a number "3" decal on the back windshield of his Chevrolet?

To me it comes down to accountability. No matter how plastic or temporary a given trend's half-life might be, if you ask a teenager where they got their look from, they'll tell you the band, the album label, which coast said record company is representin' for, and who they're gonna be hotter than when they blow up.

But go to a group of adults and say, "Which current trendsetters do you feel you're the most influenced by?" and my feeling is that 90% of them will say something to the effect of,
"Who has time for all of that nonsense? I do what I like to do. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get home -- Idol's on."
No matter how young or how old -- you still see guys who like to play golf who always have to wear some shit on their clothing that somehow tells you (whether you wanted to know or not) just how much they love golf. You still see the same plain white backwards ballcap, pink popped-collar polo shirt, lucky brand jeans, and flip-flop shoes on guys who show up at the sports bars in groups of 50 at a time,
And you still see tons of chicks wearing those enormous-looking designer sunglasses.
Which is something I simply do not get at all.
I mean, OK -- I understand people have a desire to staying in touch with the latest fashions from New York, Paris, Milan, or whatever. I can even find some sense in the idea that if you are seen wearing something close to what was coming down the runways in Bryant Park (or perhaps more specifically the styles being worn by the jet-setters who get front row seats at those sorts of things) that you're showing the world that you not only have the fashion sense to know what the latest thing is, but you also possess the ability and money to go buy and wear it during the relative 15 minutes it takes for it to go from "hot" to "fug" -- Somehow implying to the rest of the unwashed masses that the only thing really keeping you from being a jet-setter is the lack of a jet.

But we're not talking about a specific cut of jeans, a modern print, radically redefined blouse design, or the latest style of over-the-shoulder handbag here. We're talking about sunglasses -- something that goes on your face, and when you start putting on these Yoko Ono looking things that wrap halfway around your head like a facehugger alien, a whole bunch of you look really fucking stupid.

Get something straight here -- if you're gonna embrace fashion icons who promote the idea that the more sunken in your cheeks look the thinner you appear to be -- you might want to consider what will happen if you start strapping five feet of thick dark plastic on top of there.

Sure on some women it looks OK, but that's only because the shape of their face and the length and width of their nose is complimented when the area around the eyes is obscured a bit by the shape of the glasses themselves.

I don't know, maybe it's a personal thing. To me one of the sexiest things about women are their eyes -- especially the way their shape combines with the relative fullness of the lips. In fact I think it plays out a lot throughout history where a lot of women who have been celebrated for their beauty feature either a combination of wider set eyes and fuller lips or a narrower base to the eyes and smaller lips to match.

It's one of those things that helps create a frame around a person's face -- and it's one of those subliminal things scientists are always pointing out about human preferences in body features. I'm not saying people who don't have these combinations can't be beautiful, but in a society such as ours where outward features are so objectified that it seems like the same type of people become famous over and over when judged on those terms.

Of course, not all of us are born this way -- and that's where things like sunglasses can help out. People with closer eyes sometimes wear wider sunglasses to project the idea of width to their faces, while people who's eyes are wider apart favor slimmer glasses to minimize that image.

At the same time there's nothing easier to spot than someone who looks goofy in their shades (something I know all too well from personal experience).

Or to put it another way -- ever notice how John Lennon always favored those little wire-rim glasses? Sure they were a style in England at the time, but it's become a part of Lennon's lasting iconic images largely because it really really worked for him. Take a look at any pictures of the guy without glasses on and you'll quickly notice that his eyes were spread wide apart, almost to opposite sides of his face -- dude was like a fish!

Of course we all know the names that are driving this recent move back towards the big frames and whatnot -- but I for one contend that these sort of looks don't really work on these chicks either (save for perhaps the Lohan -- who's beady little eyes tend to undercut the effectiveness of whatever surgeons have been doing to the rest of her for the past couple of years) -- and were probably first assimilated into their clothing styles to help hide raccoon-like circles around the eyes that people tend to get when they do boatloads of heroin for weeks at a time.

But more than that -- you've got to choose things that work for you and stop trying to accent your look as if you were someone else.

For example, Paris Hilton has a tiny head. It's one of the reasons she gets away with being so sickeningly skinny where some of her other big-headed friends have to deal with accusations (whether grounded or not) about eating disorders. Everyone's favorite heiress icon almost needs to be dead skinny, because few things in this world are more fug than having a fat body and neck taper up to a tiny face. Researchers continue to say that humans tend to favor symmetry in the bodies of other humans, which means should Paris pack on a few pounds anytime soon and start to look like the top of a ball point pen, people might not pay quite as much attention to her as they used to.

Which is why even when she wears oversized glasses they tend to have skinny frames and big lenses. If she tried to wear some of those big ol' Jackie-O style frames that are starting to come into mode these days, they'd look like a hat.
Going with a style like that makes about as much sense as me wearing a shirt that shows off my midriff.
The thing is -- Paris knows this. She pays lots of fawning sycophants to tell her these things so when she gets dressed in the mornings she doesn't look stupid. It's not her stylist's fault that the girl herself is about as sharp as a bag of hammers, but at least when she does retarded shit in public you know it's her -- because she's created a signature look around herself that nowadays is almost more appreciated than her personality -- which I suspect is exactly what she (or her various handlers) want.

You, on the other hand sitting there sipping your vodka-cranberry-Red Bull-Zima-on-the-beach through the little mixing straw the bartender gave you -- do not have the benefit of an army of experts -- which means when you strap those $300 Bulgari tank-commander-goggle looking things to your head and slurp your drink that way all people see is something akin to the head of a fly sniffing the garbage with your tiny tube of a mouth.

I swear it's like some of these women don't even look in the mirror when they put these things on -- have you seen yourselves lately? I mean, I'm no fashion plate myself, but how does this work exactly?
Do you go to the store and try on as many frames as you can until you feel as if you've matched the look of someone more famous than you?
Because I gotta tell you, I just can't picture Anna Wintour standing in front of some model preparing to do a spread for the cover of Vogue and saying, "Darling this is all wrong -- Give me more Cylon or you'll never work in this town again!"

Look, I know women's fashion isn't easy. I know you all want to look beautiful for who you are and stay up with the current "in" look. I also know that a lot of the featured looks out there are created to accent women who's bodies resemble frikkin' toothpicks. But it seems like far too many of you get stuck in these trends where the basic idea is to somehow squeeze yourself into some approximation of one of these toothpick-inspired looks, even if you aren't a toothpick. I can't imagine that's an easy thing to do or to deal with, especially if your body type isn't exactly what you think it should be.

But until you get to that place (or even better reach a point where you're more personally happy with the features you were born with) you've got to start thinking proactively. For example, if you've still got a little baby fat on your cheeks, and like to wear your hair big, then large glasses might be able work for you. But if you've nailed down one of those feather-thin hairstyles to match your slender head shape and your nose is really small, then big shades are going to simply swallow up your face, and all that's gonna be left is a tiny mouth and a set of anime eyes.
After all, this isn't fashion -- it's shades:
They either work or they don't.
I mean, you wouldn't put monster truck tires on a mini-cooper, or try to give Hello Kitty a set of double-D implants, would you?
Then why the hell do you keep trying to staple those twin satellite dishes onto your face?
However, if you've made the decision that no matter what you need to stick with trying to keep up with the current crop of uber-skinny wackadoos that say you got to have thin hair styles and drooping necklines that show off the shoulder bones that tell everyone how much you don't eat, then you need to perhaps take a step back from the sunglass counter and think it over before you make a really big mistake.

Try setting up some basic ground rules to help you out, things that even the most inexperienced fashionistas can understand.

For instance:
1) If your sunglasses are bigger than your dog, cease and fucking desist.
2) If you cannot bear to be out of the loop and simply must wear big shades -- can you at least stop doing this?

  
And finally, understand that there's a very fine line between being hip and looking like you could easily break one. Because it's not like big sunglasses are all that new an idea -- women have been wearing them for years.
    Ooh, that's hot.
[Listening to:   Garbage"Parade" ]


Monday, May 28

Play it Again, Sam

I spent a large part of Monday's holiday hanging out with my little boy so that my ex-wife could have the time to go to a day spa appointment she had set up a while back. Any extra time I get to spend with him is golden, and I really didn't have anything planned for the day -- so it wasn't any kind of inconvenience either way. In fact, the only real problem I could foresee about the deal was the fact that I had been a little tight for cash lately, so I wouldn't be able to spoil him as much as I usually do when we're together.

Luckily the two of us are pretty good at making our own fun -- so after spending some time helping him try to master the roller skates he got for his birthday, we loaded up the car and headed out towards the beach. It was a gorgeous day and if there's anything the both of us love to do, it's play around in the surf. About the only negative aspect I could imagine was the possibility that it might be really crowded -- but it wasn't like we were on a tight schedule or anything, so even that wasn't that big of a deal.

We found a place to park, gathered up our stuff, and headed out to a spot near the Jax Beach pier where I sometimes go to surf. As expected, the shore was thick with people, but not to the point where we couldn't find a little area in the shallows to splash around in. I watched close as he hopped in and around the breakers, helped him up when he fell down, and lifted him up over any larger waves that happened to come through.

Every now and then he'd make a break for the shore to chase off seagulls and make little sand castles, which gave me chances to check out the scenery all around us. The remnants of a recent northeaster offered a handful of surfers a few quick rights to cut into, which was fun to watch -- but this is me we're talking about, so it wasn't like I didn't spend my fair share of time checking out the available eye candy all around.
You must remember this -- a kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh..
If there's one thing you can say about women in Jacksonville, it's that when it comes to beachwear -- just about everyone thinks that they look good in a bikini. Some women are more right than others in this assumption, but there's still something to be said for the relative chutzpah shown by some of the more rubenesque beachgoers you come across in this town -- regardless of how much you might personally prefer to see them in something a little less revealing.

One trend I got a particular kick out of were all the little party girls in name-brand bikinis with their ridiculous little "I'll-simply-die-if-I-get-my-hair-wet" top-knot ponytails who thought it might be a good idea to wade into the water still holding the plastic cups filled with whatever red bull-mixed concoction in their hands -- only to get all pissed off when the eventual wave came along to knock them over, soaking them to the bone and sweeping whatever was left of their $9 drinks out to sea.
Serves you right, socialite.
But It was after watching this scene play itself out for like the third time in the same hour that something different caught my eye: Carmel brown skin, soft curves wrapped tightly by a light blue two-piece -- the kind of thing that usually makes me take notice, except that this time it was more than just the dog in me chasing a cat. Because even though when you think about it -- it could have been any one of a million girls from anywhere in the world -- in an instant I knew that right there, not ten yards away from where I was standing
Chemistry hottie was splashing around, playing in the surf ..with her boyfriend.
It was a unexpected momentary bummer, not so much because of the dude -- because as crappy as finding that truth out was, it only made sense for a girl that fine to have someone in her life; but when you consider the sheer mathematical odds involved in placing this one girl in this one place on the exact same beach where I just happened to be -- it's hard not to think that someone upstairs has somehow got it in for you.
Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she had to walk into mine.
The thing about it was, even though she has longer hair, she looked a lot like (although nowhere near as good as) what j looks like in a bikini -- which probably has a lot to do with why I look in at her so often at work. So even though the visual confirmation of the nameless bohunk that I'd always figured had to exist was kind of a downer -- it was enough of a mental tab of paper to send me back a summer previous to a nameless condominium pool, waist-deep in the water, giving a silent curved lip smile to a certain purple-blue bikini with the little heart cut-out near the hipbone that I can still see clear as crystal to this very day.

That alone was enough to put that same kind of smile on my lips back in the real world, and despite the relative suckiness of the whole scene enabled me to kind of put it all in perspective. Because although I certainly won't ever be his biggest fan -- chemistry hottie seemed to be having a really great time frolicking around in the water with her dude.
..And in the end, I suppose that's something to be happy about in itself (well, not really -- but still)
I gave myself a moment more to appreciate the curves I'd only imagined her having while at work, chalked the whole thing up as just another brick in the wall, and spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the beach with my son.
The fundamental things apply, as time goes by.
[Listening to:   Ill NiƱo"All the Right Words" ]


Sunday, May 27

Saturday, May 26

Catfish Blues

I don't want things to die.
I don't want to wake up one morning to find it all floating at the top of the bowl, bobbing back and forth with the current. Especially if I did all I could to take care of it, keep it healthy, and make sure it was happier than it had ever been before.
But sometimes it just happens.
It probably shouldn't, but it really gets under my skin when things that seemed to be swimming along fine suddenly change. I look at the tank and get this pit in my stomach, and all I can do is think to myself, "What did I do wrong? How did I not see this coming? What could I have done to prevent this?"
Why is it all the things I care about eventually leave and go away?
Sometimes I forget that I don't control everything. Sometimes I get really frustrated that I can't. I've done a lot of things in this life that I'm not proud of. I've had a lot of things crash and burn on me, and right or wrong -- I'm still dealing with a lot of guilt over them.

I'm not perfect. I burn things in the oven. I look funny when I dance. I'm a little heavy in the middle, and I'm kinda bald on top. I'm too nice where I shouldn't be, and too shy when there's no reason to be. I flirt with everyone I know. I truly believe that the strippers and bartenders I give money to are actually my friends. No one beats me at air hockey. I hate the Black Eyed Peas, I never let people go (even when it might be the better thing to do), and even though I still don't really understand why it keeps happening -- the fact remains that there are really only two kinds of fish in this world:
1) Fish I've killed
2) Fish I haven't killed yet.
You need to know this about me. You need to understand what it means, and you have to decide how you feel about it -- because it's who I am and it's probably who I'll always be. But even so, and even with everything else that is or perhaps isn't going on there is nothing I want more in this world than to swim in this ocean with you.
..Even if it's filled with corpses.
[Listening to: Reverend Horton Heat, "Indigo Friends"]


Friday, May 25

Stuffin' Briefs

So last night, trying to find a way out of this hole I got myself into I headed out to the French Quarter for some much-needed mosh pit therapy - compliments of Flaw, a Kentucky-based metal band I've loved for years.

Flaw's one of those groups. They got a huge promotional push from the record company when they first came out -- videos, tours, the whole nine yards; but for whatever reason they just never really caught on. They're great live, but as much as I love their first album -- it's one of those discs where you listen to the it and say, "This tune sounds like Korn, that one is Alice in Chains, and the other one wishes it was Tool."

There's a point (especially in hard rock) where certain numbers of copycat bands are accepted and even liked on their own merits (Rancid, Papa Roach) -- but that honeymoon never really lasts that long, and then lot of decent bands who haven't found enough of their own sound to set them apart from their influences get caught in the backlash. As a result, Flaw put out a few albums, had some success, lost momentum, broke up, got back together, changed lineups, broke up, sort of re-formed under the name Five Bolt Main, broke up, reformed, and are currently touring around again.

The thing about the show though was that during all four(!?) of the opening acts people were milling around the place, talking and hanging out -- including the members of Flaw. Now the fact that these guys were just strolling around was kinda cool, but it spoke a lot to not only the fact that they didn't view themselves as prima donnas, but perhaps offered a commentary on how rough it must be to go from being record-company darlings to headlining a hardly-advertised Thursday night metal show for roughly 25 people.

I shook a couple of hands and exchanged some small talk about being excited about seeing the show, but it was hard to say much more -- partially because other fans wanted their chance, but mainly due to the fact that I wasn't sure if I could hold my tongue when it came to guitarist Lance Arny and his particular sense of um, ..style.

I mean when it comes to being a member of a touring metal band it's not like there is a set fashion code in place or anything. Maybe back in the cheeseball 80's you could call a guy out for not having enough neon colors in his spandex jumpsuit, but those days are (thankfully) long gone.

Nowadays there seems to be a theme of general dinginess, sleeve tattoos on both arms, and multiple facial piercings -- but it's not like there are any hard and fast rules about it.
To be honest -- most rock shows you see these days feature bands
that look like 3 or 4 Jiffy Lube technicians taking a lunch break.
Plus -- it's not like I'm gonna stand here with my stuck in 1992 threads and try to tell some other dude how he should dress. I really didn't have an opinion about his duds one way or the other. The problem I had was with his head.
See, you kinda gotta make a decision here:
You can't be Harry Knowles and Chewbacca.
You really have to choose one or the other, ok?

I mean lets face it, you're not as slim as you maybe used to be -- so anything that draws the eye out towards the shape of your gut isn't your best play. And not to go all Perez Hilton on you or whatever, but how about mixing in a couple of vertical stripes now and then? Who knows -- Maybe that's what you were going for with the dreads and all, but there comes a point where you sorta treading the line between being someone who wants to have a unique and striking look and putting the thought in people's heads that you don't really wash your hair ..ever.


Sure Frank Zappa might have been speaking the truth when he said that playing on stage in a rock band is the best way for ugly people to get laid, but I think even he would draw the line at a fat guy who doesn't bathe.

I mean, Lance is a nice enough guy when you talk to him who apparently just got married -- so someone out there likes it, but in terms of our relationship wherein you're the one on stage playing moody metal songs with emotional lyrics and I'm the one in the audience trying to take you seriously -- it's not really happening.

Or to put it another way, when you stand in front of the microphone to sing back up harmony on a line like "I need the chance to live my life one more time/Give me the chance to live my life one more time" all I can really think to say back to you is:
Dude -- Saving Throw, Saving Throw!!
[Listening to: Noisettes, "Bridge to Canada"]


Thursday, May 24

Lasso of Truth

Thanks WW, I owe you one.

[Listening to: Miles Davis, "I Loves You Porgy"]


Wednesday, May 23

A Song to Myself

Things have been kinda rough lately. It's hard to explain, and to be honest I'm not really sure that I fully understand it all myself. I'll be OK -- somehow I always eventually find a way to get through things like this, but at this moment everything seems heavy -- like sweltering heat after a rainstorm, or finding your favorite coffee mug broken in the sink.
It's nobody's fault -- but somehow it still. just. burns.
What I do know is that one of the few things that seems to help is driving nowhere in particular on empty streets in the middle of the night while screaming along at full volume to this:
It's so simple to look at every little thing i do wrong.
It's so simple to overlook every little thing i do right, right?

   i think too much, i feed too much, i'm gone too much, i sleep too much, i snore too much, i'm bored too much, i eat too much, i'm way too much too stuck... (up).
you're probably right
this time - but i don't want to listen
you're probably right
this time - but i dont even care.
i dream too much, i think too much, i step too much, those things too much, i am too much, i'm pissed too much, i need too much, i'm not one to trust
you're probably right
this time - but i dont want to listen
you're probably right
this time - but i dont even care

and if it was mine to say, i wouldn't say it
and if it was mine to say, i wouldn't speak
i'm bored too much, i need too much, i think too much, throw fits too much, i'm free too much, i'm pissed too much, i sleep too much, i step too often...
you're probably right
this time - but i dont want to listen
you're probably right
this time - but i dont even care
and if it was mine to say - i wouldn't say it
and if it was mine to say - i wouldn't speak


                           - Deftones, "Rikets"
[Listening to: Skunk Anansie, "And This is Nothing That I Thought I Had"]


Sunday, May 20

Dominoes of Indiscretions Down

The air goes in and the air goes out. The faucet drips through the night, metronome ticking the hours away against the plates left in the sink. Train whistles and passing cars, coming and going like inhalation and release. The light rises and fades. Every day another matchstick struck against the rough, lashing out like a flame, only to slowly fade again -- falling all around in cycles -- in circles
Constantly consuming, conquering, devour..
Sometimes it just gets ahead of you. Stretches of days regardless of what you are or aren't doing where there's simply too much time to think about it, to analyze it from positions calling for too much logic, leading to unfettered bouts of dark-edged realism without the protective buffers of optimism or hope available to somehow soften the blow. You feel comparative, competitive. Antagonists without shape, names you only know in passing.
What makes them so great,
Why him and not me?
What am I doing with this life?
It's petty and you know it -- so on top of everything else you feel childish and guilty. Mindcrime uncommitted, yet the thought is remorsed. All of it leading together into this sense of frustration -- this idea that perhaps it's not so much the solutions that are causing the problems, but whether or not the questions are even the right ones to be asking.

It's one thing to value the journey as much as the destination
It's quite another to feel you're just spinning your wheels without knowing which way to go.
[Listening to: Dark New Day, "Free"]


Thursday, May 17

Loser Light Special

The closest supermarket to my apartment is this little Publix that's kinda caddy-cornered behind a Starbucks, a sushi bar, and a whole slew of overpriced condos overlooking the St. John's River. It's a nice place, but even though it's probably just as big as any other supermarket in the area it feels kinda cramped inside -- kinda like there wasn't enough room for everything they wanted to put in there, but they kept going anyways.

Regardless, it's a nice store, and above all it's simply too close by to my place for me not to consider as it my first option whenever I run out of something important, or need to pick a few things up on the way home.

Like the other night when I stopped in there on my way home from the gym. It had been a long day at work, so it was around 8:30 at night or something when I stepped in the door. The store is only open until like nine or ten, so it was pretty empty -- but all I really needed was a few essentials, so it wasn't like it was a big deal or anything.

So I get my cart, and I'm pushing it around through the aisles getting my stuff. The thing about a store like this at that kind of hour is that it's really really quiet in comparison to any other time you go in there. Usually in a busy supermarket you're washed over with the sounds of parents cooing their children, people taking to bakers and butchers, and the sounds of a dozen checkout lines beeping along a product at a time. It's like suburban white noise, and it's just part of the scenery in a place like that.
Which is probably what made all that silence seem so eerie.
Almost as if after years of being in busy stores filled with the sounds of waiting lines and commerce in action -- I'm actually more uncomfortable in a grocery store that isn't spilling over with the noises of families and bag boys scurrying around like ants before a rainstorm. But it's not like I was there to have some sort of transcendent existential experience -- I just needed a gallon of milk.

But as I continued to move though the aisles -- occasionally passing another carts and shoppers, I couldn't help but be aware of the one noise that was still actually going on:
Easy listening Muzak spilling out of speakers all across the ceiling.
Isn't it weird how we've all been in so many supermarkets and elevators over the years that we've sorta reached the point where we just sort of tune this out? It was almost like I was standing there for a second thinking to myself, "Who's the jerkoff playing their stereo inside a Publix?" -- only to realize that they always play music in here, it's just that normally I can't even register it above the usual din of the place.

But now, unhindered by cell phone talkers, label readers, "mommy why" kids, and all the rest -- there was no escaping the sound of it. Which is when I started to realize just what kinds of songs they were actually playing.

I should mention here that an unfortunate side effect of my former employment as a DJ at an adult contemporary radio station in Tallahassee is that I can instantly identify the titles and artists for the sappiest songs ever written -- which is why it only took a nanosecond for me to realize in horror that the screeching sound above my head was actually the sound of Eric Carmen's infamous painfest "All By Myself":
Livin alone
I think of all the friends I've known
But when I dial the telephone
Nobodys home

All by myself
Don't wanna be
All by myself anymore
All by myself
Don't wanna live
All by myself ..anymore
Just five straight minutes god-awful shoot yourself in the head caterwauling that's really only fit for montage scenes in movies starring Hugh Grant, not only making me pine for anything with a backbeat and distorted guitars -- but also kind of inadvertently driving home the point that I too, at that very moment was all by myself as well.

It was if Eric Carmen himself and his ten-gallon hairdo was standing in my shopping cart yelling lyrics at me, and I could barely wait for the whole ordeal to be over.
Or at least that's how I thought I felt until the next song kicked in.
Because for the rest of my stay at the store it was like me and every other person in there couldn't escape the relentless medley of songs from that long lost Time-Life CD collection, "Songs to Eat a Microwave Dinner for One to While You Watch TV with Your Cat"
Featuring all your favorite hits like:
Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again, Naturally"
Roy Orbison's "Only the Lonely"
Barry Manilow's "Can't Smile Without You"
James Taylor's "Fire and Rain"
Heart's "How Will I Make it Alone?"

and what collection of smooth favorites could ever be complete without

"How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?" by Michael Bolton
And after a while you're just like, "What the hell, man?"

I swear, every time I passed someone pushing another cart they looked just like me, shoulders slumped, looking off into the distance at nothing, buying ice cream they didn't need.. It was heartbreaking. All I wanted was a stinkin' gallon of milk (and maybe a bag of chips, and a bottle of cheap wine, and ..god at this rate I'll never make it through the night without at least 3 boxes of these Little Debbie snack cakes) -- but it was like the supermarket Muzak gods themselves were out to get us.

It just got to a point where enough was enough -- and it was all I could do not to find the nearest bagboy and try my best to shout at him over the sound of Janis Ian singing, "I learned the truth at seventeen, that love was meant for beauty queens.." where the housewares aisle was so I could go drag a cheese grater across my wrist and just put an end to this sad charade!
Publix -- Where Shopping is the Only Fleeting Hope of Pleasure You'll
Ever be Able to Find in This Dark, Lonely Hole of a Place You Call a Life.
[Listening to: Flyleaf, "I'm So Sick (live)"]


Wednesday, May 16

Plush

Since I spent the better part of my last post talking everybody’s ears off with all of my theories about the finer points of basketball and redneck fighting styles, I figured today I should probably talk right down to earth in a language that everyone here can easily understand about a topic we all can relate to:
Sex
..with furniture. (nsfw)
[Listening to: Blindside, "Caught a Glimpse"]


Tuesday, May 15

Rule #8

Not to go all Lozo on everybody here or anything, but did anyone happen to catch what went down at the end of the Suns/Spurs game the other night? Not so much the foul by Robert Horry, but all that mess that went down afterwards?
Now before we take another step here, lets make sure we're all on the same page. No doubt, no question -- it was a flagrant foul. I don't want to any hear conspiracy theories or half-baked ideas about what Horry might have been trying to do -- because the simple fact is Robert Horry knew exactly what he was doing.

If you've been watching this series at all, you already know it's been full of hard fouls and physical contact from both teams. Extra elbows, a couple bloody noses, even a knee to the groin thrown in for good measure. These two teams don't like each other, but even so it's pretty clear that the Spurs are initiating a lot of contact to try to counter the fact that as a team they aren't nearly as quick as Steve Nash and the rest of the Suns are.
I don't know why everyone's acting so shocked about it -- things like this happen every year in the playoffs.
The theory here is simple. Scuff a superstar up a bit and maybe he'll start to get irritated, start crying to the refs, start to look out for the contact, start to hesitate a little, and above everything else -- stop focusing on the game the way they should be. It happens all the time in any sport that features multi-game playoff series. From brushing back batters to crashing the net, it's simply part of the game.

A fact a lot of people would understand a hell of
a lot better if they watched a little more hockey.
See in hockey you have a bunch of little guys who skate around and score all the goals, surrounded by a gang of enormous thugs who's sole purpose is to protect the little guys and beat the crap out of anyone who gets too close. They're called enforcers, and they've been around almost as long as the game has been played. Hockey is a physical sport, so most of what these guys do is hard checking, but every now and then they'll drop the gloves and make sure the message is clear.

Enforcers are paid to take penalties, expected to take and deal out punishment, and are absolutely necessary when you're playing against 30 other teams who all have their own bruisers who are looking to crash your superstar against the boards.

The same thing is true in pro basketball, even though it's not supposed to be as full contact as hockey. When you've got a relatively little guy like Michael Jordan flying all over the court and scoring at will, and you've got no one on your team who can even come close to matching his scoring output, it becomes a pretty common practice to put one of your bigger Charles Oakley-sized forwards out there to hassle him. Of course when an opponent tries something like this there's always the chance that your superstar might get hurt, which would sink your team's chances of utilizing his talents and riding his skills to a possible championship -- which is why if you're a coach like Phil Jackson, you bring in someone like say, ..Dennis Rodman
Because Dennis Rodman doesn't care about scoring points.
Dennis Rodman doesn't care about getting fouls.
I'm not even sure Dennis Rodman really even cared about winning after a certain point in his career.
All Dennis really cared about was making sure no one laid a hand on 23.
At the same time, if the Bulls were losing a playoff game because John Starks or Reggie Miller was shooting the lights out, Dennis would be there to make sure they tasted a little floorboard now and again lest they think the Bulls were going to go down easy just because they were losing one game.

Which is why near the end of a game 4 when it was clear Phoenix was pretty much headed for a win (which would tie the series -- meaning they'd have to play at least two more games before anything final was decided) -- it was time for San Antonio to send a message.

I'm not saying that the Spurs coaching staff told their players to deliberately go out and hurt somebody -- because they wouldn't do that. I'm telling you that someone who's been in the league as long as Robert Horry has doesn't need to be told when to intimidate an opponent.
So he checked Steve Nash.
If anything, the real problem was that Horry botched the move. A foul like that is supposed to look like you were trying to get your arms up and you know ..whoops, I guess I kinda stuck my elbow in your ribs there, didn't I?

But Nash had a step on him, so Horry had to kind of rush his little "accident" and probably put more behind the elbow part of the equation than he normally would, seeing as the goal in a situation like that is to lean your hip into the guy and try to force him out of bounds. Of course it really doesn't help that Steve Nash only weighs about 30 pounds soaking wet, so any contact at all is libel to send him flying off in the other direction -- which is exactly what happened.
But all of this is beside the point, because what really ticked me off was everything that happened after that.
I mean, you're Robert Horry here -- you just elbowed the two-time league MVP into a wall. You can try to walk away all casual like, but you know damn well there are about 12 dudes in blue uniforms who are gonna be up in your face about it. They're gonna call you names and complain, they might even try to bow up on you a little bit. You can't just take out a star like that and not expect some kind of retaliation.

But what's the first thing Horry does when the cavalry comes in? He acts all shocked and starts pointing his fingers and yelling, and then proceeds to do the worst thing possible thing of all:
He starts Chance Fighting
Chance Fighting is the subtle art of telling everyone you're going to kick their asses without ever actually doing anything. It's something akin to the way non-venomous snakes make threatening noises to make their enemies think they are more dangerous than they really are. But when people do it, it usually involves a lot of name calling and thorough descriptions of what you're gonna do, of what's fixin' to happen, what you better be lookin' out for if you know what's good for you.

This technique gets it's name from not-really-even-worth-calling-a-reality-show-star-celebrity Kamal "Change" Givens, who spent half of his time on VH1's "I Love New York" telling people what they were about have done to them if they didn't stop flapping their gums:
As you can see, chance fighting involves a lot of waiting for someone to hold you back so you can start yelling for them to let you go so you can go cut this bitch up. It's the kind of thing you see in bars a lot when rednecks get a bunch of beers in them and then start leaning into each other and flinching their chins like birds doing a mating dance while they repeat key chance fighting phrases like:
"What you gonna do?"
"You gonna do something?"
"Oh I'm gonna do something, just you wait until I do something"
"Start something, see what happens"
"Say it to my face"
"Say that again"
"Someone better hold me back before I really do something"
"What did you just say to me?"
"I'm serious, if security doesn't get here some real shit is going to go down."
"Say that one more time, punk"
At which point I'm usually like "Hell, I'll say it if it will help you shut the hell up!" I mean come on, is this a fight or an episode of Crossfire? Somebody throw an effin' punch already. And this is coming from me -- a guy who hates fighting in any form.

Seriously, when I was a kid my parents used to call me Kissinger because I was always breaking up fights at school. I've only been in two real fights myself, and both of those were with my asshole stepfather after he hit my brother. The way I see it, physical conflict rarely if ever solves anything, and really only should be used to protect yourself or someone else.

But if you're gonna fight, then stop screwing around, get it on -- or shut and go away. There's nothing more annoying and embarrassing than seeing two dudes close enough to kiss just talking to each other about what they're gonna do to each other.

Which is exactly what you saw Robert Horry doing once it looked like the whole Phoenix Suns team wanted a part of him. I mean, sure getting into a fight would probably have meant some huge fine and more than just the two-game suspension he did receive -- but at least it wouldn't make him look like he was man enough to blindside some little dude who wasn't looking, but too much of a coward to stand up to someone who's right there in his face looking for payback.

That's why I like women. Because when two chicks get to that point, you know it's gonna happen. And even if it doesn't solve anything --

There's really nothing better than a good catfight, is there?
[Listening to: Sevendust, "Bender"]


Monday, May 14

Mr. Peevley

I'm not putting this up here so I can say that I finally posted something new on this blog after a few days of uncomfortable silence. I'm not going to say that I've been too busy at work, or that I've been recovering from a cold, or that Aliens Ate My Buick, or that I'm all tied up trying to figure out the best way to respond to being tagged by Lola, or anything like that.

I'm posting this because I absolutely love this song, and have been known to sing it out loud for no apparent reason regardless of how professional or solemn the situation might be.
PS - Once I figure out the invisible motorcycle trick, I'm
coming to pick you up so we can go to the beach and party!
[Listening to: System of a Down, "Cigaro"]


Friday, May 11

Actually Spoken During the Course of My Day

(although I sorta wish it wasn't)
"Oh, so your nipples are pierced? Well that's uh, certainly good to know ..Vernon."
[Listening to: Nothingface, "I, Diablo"]


Thursday, May 10

Trade Secret

I'm gonna let you in on something, but you've got to promise not to tell anyone. This is secret internal information about my company that very few people know about. But since we're cool -- I figure it's ok.

See, one of the hallways at my office is decorated with three identical plants, sorta like small bamboo trees. It's a nice little touch, but not really the sort of thing many people pay attention to.
But if you look at them really closely when you walk by, you'll notice someone sitting among the branches, just enjoying the sunshine and some free eats. You have to watch close, because he's in a different place on a different tree every day.

I don't know who put him there, and I don't know who keeps moving him around -- but it's the kind of secret cool that puts a little smile on my face every time I walk by.
Say hello to The Corporate Companda.

[Listening to: 12 Stones, "Open Your Eyes"]


Wednesday, May 9

Roxy & Elsewhere

I don't have a lot of recurring dreams. There are repeated themes that seem to pop up once in a while, but by and large my midnight adventures are usually new and different every time. But every now and then this one dream comes back into focus, and I don't really know what to make of it.

I'm at a club. The name of the place is never clear, but it's always crowded and smoky. People milling about, stage lights set to half power -- your standard pre-concert scene. I'm there, hanging out. Sometimes I'm talking to the sound guys, sometimes I'm at the bar chatting up the cute bartenders --
When I suddenly realize that Frank Zappa is standing there next to me.
Now first off, I'm a huge fan. I'm not quite as psycho about it as I used to be, but there was a point where pretty much everything I listened to was Zappa-related to some degree. I find his music is unique, esoteric, and challenging -- not only from a technical standpoint, but as a listener. Discovering, learning to appreciate, and then spending countless hours trying to imitate, emulate, and incorporate his compositions into my own style marked an enormous growing point for me as a musician, and I tend to think a part of his sardonic worldview rubbed off on me as well (which isn't a bad thing).

All of which should be swirling through my head once I realize the dude is right there next to me, but in the dream doesn't register the way it probably would have if the opportunity had ever presented itself. In the dream it's a nod, a handshake, and oddly enough -- casual conversation about nothing in particular. There's plenty of time before the show, so talking at the bar turns into "come join us at the table," where I find myself sitting next to people like George Duke, Steve Vai, Terry Bozzio, Ruth Underwood, Mike Keneally, Ike Willis, the Fowler Brothers -- all those people. Like some real life version of Picasso at the Lapin Agile, except with marimba players.
And we're just, you know ..hanging out.
Stories are traded, I even get a few laughs out of Frank. We're talking music, I confess to being a big fan, but by that point it's all good. I've got a few drinks in me, so maybe I start bragging a little bit, but not to the point of making an ass out of myself. Everyone's laughing and having a good time when all of the sudden one of the sound techs comes up and lets everybody know that it's five minutes to show time. Everybody gets up, pats me on the back, shakes hands and apologizes for having to leave, and then heads up on stage.

I make my way into the crowd and find a spot near the stage. I never had the chance to see Frank Zappa perform before he passed away, but I own enough recordings of him in concert to know that I'm gonna be in for a great show.

The lights come up, people start cheering, and a couple of band members start setting things up and making sure they're in tune, when the same sound tech from the table shows up and asks me if I could come backstage. Of course I say yes -- and I head back there to find Frank talking to the monitor guy about something or other. Once he notices I'm there his face lights up, he puts his arm around my shoulder, and says:
"Hey why don't you sit in with us tonight?"
Floored, I stammer some sort of response like, "What!?"
C'mon -- it'll be fun. You can use one of Steve's guitars."
Sometimes the scenario's a little different. Sometimes the guitar player in his band couldn't make it to the gig for whatever reason, sometimes Frank's jamming with a group of music students who are frustrating him because they aren't playing the songs right, and finally in a vent of frustration he points at me and says, "Hey Dan -- get up here and show them how it's supposed to sound."

All the while, unbeknownst to Frank -- I've gone from mildly buzzed to instantly sober as the sudden realization comes crashing through the haze like a wave hitting some unsuspecting sandcastle on the shore
I don't know how to play half of this guy's stuff.
Like I said, his music is technically dense -- filled with split second changes and all sorts of rhythms and odd time signatures. I'm a pretty decent guitar player, and there are a number of Zappa songs I can play the hell out of -- but there is a whole other list (including some of his most popular stuff) that are just a bear to tackle -- songs that after years and years of practice I still can't quite get all the way through without having to stop, slow down, or fake.
Or to put it another way -- Me playing Inca Roads (even on a good day) sounds like some first year little kid with a violin trying to play anything on the last 5 pages from a Suzuki Method workbook.
My heart's in the right place, but the song is just frikkin' hard.
But there's this look in Frank's eye. This sort of gleam of excitement you get when you know something cool's just about to happen. I try to put excuses about being out of practice, but he shrugs it off and tells me to just keep my eyes on his hands, and he'll walk me through any changes I don't know.

It's like I've talked myself into this situation that I'm not really prepared for. Like I've earned someone's trust and confidence to the point where maybe they think I'm capable of a lot more than I actually am. It's like I've finally been given a true chance to shine -- a spot on the stage, an open look at the basket with seconds to go on the clock, a quiet bookstore standing a foot away from a pretty girl -- like I'm one question away from all the money on Jeopardy! and the category is "Things Dan said he was good at for $1,000"

But worst of all is the part of the dream where I actually walk on stage with a guitar strapped to my back, still not sure how I'm gonna make it through this whole thing without embarrassing myself, but above all -- trying to figure out how I can do this without somehow letting Frank down. Because that would be the worst fate of all. Having someone's confidence in me shattered, their belief in my superpowers all kryptonited away in one fell swoop.

The music starts up, and it's one of my absolute favorite (yet incredibly difficult to play) Zappa songs -- Echidna's Arf (Of You). It vamps for a few bars, just like it does every time I try to play along with the album -- and just as those rapid fire light speed arpeggios are about to kick in I wake up like a shot, wondering what the hell I'm gonna do.

I'm sure there are a lot of messages to be read in there, but the dream recurs at such odd intervals that I can't always understand what it's trying to tell me. It's not like I always have the dream just before I'm about to embark on something that I'm not fully prepared for. Sometimes it just shows up.

It makes me feel like there are things I should be doing with my life that I’m not giving enough focus to. Like there are chances I should be taking, skills I should be honing, places I should be going that I’m not.

I don’t like that feeling. I don’t like what wondering about it does to me. I get all wistful for the shoulda coulda wouldas, get frustrated with the things I do have that aren’t where I thought I was going to be at this point. I mean, it’s ok to want more from your life – but not at the cost of the blessings that you already have, you know?

I want to be good at things. I want to be the one who takes that last shot with the clock ticking down. But for way too long in my life I've wasted far too much time worrying that when Frank finishes singing "Or was it, something different.."
I won't know how to shine.
[Listening to: Nine Inch Nails, "Into the Void"]


Tuesday, May 8

The Adam Maitland Conspiracy

Sometimes I truly love this country. From the purple mountain's majesties to the amber waves of grain -- every time I think that I've lost some degree of faith in America, someone comes along to give me the peace of mind that I need to go on. Sometimes it's as simple as the laughter of a child. Sometimes it's the sound of a Mustang's engine roaring to life. And sometimes, perhaps more often than not it's all the people around me every day who continue to wear expressions of genuine shock on their faces when they say things like:
"Alec Baldwin's an asshole?"
A statement to which the only real response can be: "Doy!?"
When was this issue ever a question? What's with all this debate over what kind of person this guy should be, or how shocking it is that he would say the kinds of things that he did? Sure it was kinda harsh, and maybe weren't the sort of thing you'd personally want to hear, but guess what -- You're not married to Alec Baldwin.

And just for the record, the person that he actually said all of those things isn't married to him anymore either -- probably as a result of moments just like this one. Yeah, it might sorta suck to hear some of those comments if you were his daughter, but who's genetic makeup do you think it was that prompted her to turn right back around and rat out her dad for the whole world to hear?

Now don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying that it's in any way, shape, or form right for Alec Baldwin to be such a jerkwad, but at this point it's just sort of a foregone conclusion, isn't it? This isn't exactly Alec's first time on the "go on TV and apologize for my behavior and check into rehab/anger management classes" merry go 'round, and it probably won't be the last.
Why?
..Because Alec Baldwin is an asshole.
Look, just because a guy acts on a screen in Hollywood (plays on a sports team, holds an elected position, wears the outfit blue) doesn't mean he's somehow gonna be exempt from being among the ranks of the a-hole faithful. If anything, it probably increases his chances tenfold. Sad but true, the same tenacity that it takes to claw above all the other people who are trying to get to the top of the celebrity anthill doesn't somehow magically go away once the director yells "cut."

And not for nothing, but did anyone bother to check old Alec's resume to see what sort of characters he's asked to play most often? I don't know where people are getting their delusions from, but if you're producing a script that has an asshole character in it, the easiest way to cast that part is to hire someone who's already an asshole!
Honestly, What kind of guy did you really think this was?
I mean -- have any of you even seen Glengarry Glen Ross? There are only a few people out there who are better on-screen a-holes than Alec, and that kind of ability doesn't come from years of doing Dinner Theater before you hit the big time.

So yeah, Alec's a pud -- but you know what?
That's exactly why you love him.
It's like I've said before, Women don't go for jerks -- but they love strong personalities. You've probably dated Alec before -- he had a different name of course, but it's essentially the same story, right?
After that first night, Alec didn't call back.
Alec was great, but he wouldn't set aside his career.
You had some good times with Alec, but in the end you had to let him go.
Alec was the one you couldn't fix.
But you didn't know that when you met him, did you? Of course not -- because he was all smiles and charm, all good times and crazy adventures. He was direct about what he wanted, took control, and once he got his mind set to something - he didn't stop until it was his.

But best of all, he wasn't:

An abusive crackhead.
A born-again stoner.
A pretty face with nothing new to say.

..Because lord knows you'd already had your fill of those, haven't you?
The point I'm trying to make here is that you've got to stop acting so shocked at things that are simply not surprises. Yes, Don Imus is a bitter old bigot in a cowboy hat. Yes, Paris Hilton thinks she's above the law just because she's rich. Yes, if you continue to worship at the altar of celebrity and give these people access to anything they want without worry or consequence they're gonna abuse it, get away with it, and then go on The View and apologize for it once they get caught.

Look, I know we raise them up just so we can watch them fall, but honestly -- can we drop the whole 'shocked and disappointed' act now? It's making you look worse than the people you're calling out for acting that way.
Besides, if you really wanted to know what kind of prick Alec Baldwin was,
all you had to do was ask his first wife -- I mean, look what he did to her.



[Listening to: Oingo Boingo, "Only a Lad"]


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