Friday, September 28

Chinese Rock

Apartment hunting sucks.
It sucks because it's more than just a process. In a lot of ways apartment hunting is an examination of yourself. It's a brightly lit magnification mirror zooming right in on the clogged pores and blemishes of your current financial standings. It's the mental equivalent of Chris Hansen and a camera crew showing up in your living room and asking you what a man like you is doing in an apartment like this at this hour of night.

It's all those things mixed together, garnished with the soundtrack music from Raiders of the Lost Ark that plays while I try to decipher the classified ads like I'm looking for eternal love in the personal ads on Craigslist.

I guess I should back up a bit here. About two and a half years ago a lot of bad things went down, my marriage fell apart and I had to find a new place to live. Apartment hunting stunk then too, albeit for reasons well beyond the normal suckitude that comes from having to decode the secrets behind all the abbreviations and vagaries found in your average newspaper ad.

But after several weeks (well, weekends mostly) I was lucky enough to come across what appeared to be a diamond in the rough -- a good sized one-bedroom with central heat and air and ceiling fans in a half-decent neighborhood.
The rent was workable, the landlords seemed cool -- what could go wrong?
So I signed up for the lease, loaded up my stuff, and started moving in. But you gotta understand something here -- this was a lot more than just going from one zip code to another. It was whole new life. It was following through with the decisions I had made -- good and bad. It was starting over, on my own -- with the singular goal in mind to try and get it right this time.

It's funny, because I still remember that first day when I moved in. Lugging all my crap up the stairs, piling it against the walls, trying to get everything done as quickly as possible without killing myself in the process. Then at one point when I was moving in the kitchen stuff I took a quick break and bought a bottle of water or something to cool off with. I drank about half of it, and then opened up the fridge to set it down until I needed to hit it again later -- only to find a surprise sitting there on the center rack waiting for me:
A beer.
Ice cold, just waiting for someone to take care of it and give it a good home. How could that not be a good omen? How could it not be a harbinger of good things to come?

I don't know who left it there, I don't know if it was actually done on purpose (although I can tell you this -- the day I move out of this place I'll be leaving one of my own there for the next guy to enjoy) -- all I know was that despite the thought that it could have been there for months, could have gone all skunky on me -- that finding that gratis oat soda was like a beam of sunlight slicing through a rain cloud -- and the rest of my afternoon was marked with a bounce in my step as I moved boxes from the U-haul into the living room.

Later that night I hit the grocery store and filled up the rest of the fridge, made myself a makeshift bed out of blankets and stuff in the back room (I still hadn't bought a bed for the place yet), and crashed out for the night.
Three days later the fridge died.
Best I can figure it gave up the ghost somewhere in the middle of the night -- a fact I didn't discover until I came home from work later that afternoon and discovered all of the groceries I had bought the night before had either spoiled or melted into goo.

It took a couple of days, but the landlords eventually came through with a new refrigerator. I bought a bed, found a couch, picked up a couple of other things to fill out the place with -- which was all within the budget that I had setup for the move, but with the dead icebox I found myself eating my meals out almost every night, punching a serious hole in the money reserves I had at the time.

Still, I was in my new place and once I got everything setup things seemed to go pretty well. Sure the AC freaked out and spilled a lot of water on the floor early on during the first year, but the maintenance guy assured me that it was probably because it hadn't been turned on in a while and needed to be cleaned.

Now a couple of years later -- I've got ceiling fans falling out of the sky, sink faucets breaking off in my hands, A/C units shutting down and locking up, and landlords who have "suddenly" discovered the cats who have been living with me -- prompting them to issue me a notice stating that if I didn't either get rid of the animal or pay a hefty pet deposit/penalty fine that I would be in violation of the lease and evicted from the premises within seven days.
I've paid the fine, but the writing's still on the wall:
It's time to go.
It sucks though, because I love that place. I have some really great memories there. It's been my sanctuary from all the other craziness in my life for almost 3 years now, and even with the crappy plumbing and the questionable wiring all through the walls -- it's hard to imagine myself anywhere else.

But things with the landlord are stretching thin, and as much as I love the personality of the place it's hard to ignore the fact that piece by piece it's starting to come apart at the seams right in front of my eyes.
So I'm caught in this place I always seem to be in -- my sentimentality crashing into my realities, catching
me and everyone around me in the middle while I do my best to find compromises that aren't always there.
At the same time -- nothing bites more than the flashlight in the eyes that comes when you start checking the want ads day in and day out and remember that three years ago you were lucky enough to find the nicest rattrap in the area, and now that it's gone to pot I'm left choosing between all the places I didn't take the first time around.

In other words, this whole thing has become a strange sort of mirror on everything in my world -- from the uncertainty surrounding my status as an employee of this company versus being a contractor stuck in a salary that enables me to survive, but isn't helping me get any further ahead to the myriad reasons I choose to stay in this town versus relocating somewhere that might offer better opportunities or cheaper rental costs or whatever.

And it’s not like I’m looking for the Taj Mahal here -- but it would be nice to have working appliances, a little automated dishwashing assistance, and the ability to walk through my living room without having to pre-plan my video game button combos so I can dodge the falling lamps and fans coming from the ceiling.

Unfortunately between my bills and my debts, I'm in a certain bracket when it comes to rental real estate around here. Each place I tour seems worse than the last, as I find myself interviewing what appear to be the minor leagues of the real estate baron business.

This last place I went to (like so many places on this side of town) used to be a two story house that over the years has been passed from landlord to landlord who worked to turn it into anywhere from 2 to 6 apartments. This particular one featured a unique-looking front drawing room which was basically four walls, a tiled floor and a window which gives away that in a different life my prospective living room once was some guys front porch until Robo-Bob Villa over here with the silk tie and the diamond earring got the bright idea to add fifty bucks to the rent.

Inside was no better, as the "open floorplan" promised in the newspaper ad turned out to be a living room with an area of the ceiling that the landlord suggested would be great for hanging a curtain to separate the sleeping area from the rest of the apartment. On the upside it did have a fireplace ("oh that? -- it doesn't work") and a small walk in-closet that turned out to have a toilet and a small bathtub in it.
The kitchen was workable, but the place was still just a hallway with a walled in porch.
But best of all is that awkward moment when you’re standing there in a piece of shit apartment face to face with a guy who knows it’s a piece of shit apartment but feels since you can only apparently afford this level of rent he’s doing you a favor by offering it to you in the first place and he smiles and asks,
"So, what do you think?"

[Listening to:    American Head Charge"Effigy 23" ]


Wednesday, September 26

Wax On, Wax Off

Have you ever had one of those weeks where you made some good moves, got into what felt like a good place, a spot where it looked like things were finally lined up the right way?
..Yeah, me too.

[Listening to:    Otep"Sepsis" ]


Tuesday, September 18

I'm Really Sorry Tron Killed Sark, OK?

Just for the sake of argument, let's say you're a geek.
I'm not thinking of that word in a derogatory way. I'm considering the word Geek here as a name that reflects your particular ability to understand the inner workings and needs of higher technology items such as a cell phone, a printer, or a computer. If you knew the same amount about cars we'd call you a mechanic. If you knew the same amount about dogs and cats we'd call you a veterinarian.
But in this case it's computers and IT equipment -- so the word we use is geek.
In today's technology-dependent world, there's actually a lot of value in being a geek. It's a marketable and useful skill. Many of us have known our share of geeks, and some of us may actually be geeks ourselves -- but on those rare occasions when a known and trusted geek is not available, wouldn't it be nice if there was a place where you could find and solicit the assistance an one available geek, especially if you were having trouble with items they clearly knew a lot about -- given their inherent geek-itude?

It might even be better in a society like ours if you could find more than one geek at a time, all in the same place -- just in case more than one non-geek needed assistance, or a given technology problem could benefit from the combined knowledge of several geeks at once.
A squad of geeks, if you will.
I gotta tell you, that would really be a cool thing. Especially considering the fact that many retail outlets out there advertise the fact that they have such a grouping available to help people out with their technology, when in truth all they seem to have are people in matching shirts and ties who can only shake their heads and suggest that you probably would have been better off had you purchased the more expensive service warranty when you first had the chance.
Look, Geek -- perhaps you've misunderstood the purpose of my visit to your
little primary-colored enclave here in the back corner of this particular Best Buy.
See, I wasn't looking for you to tell me which service plan I should have bought. I really didn't come here to hear the myriad of things that you can't do for me, much less any of your suggestions as to what steps I could take that might help you shorten the 4-5 week time frame you feel will be needed before I can get an estimate of how much it might cost to repair my computer.

What I was actually looking for when I came in here was the sense that someone could help me with my problem. What I (and honestly, what ANY customer) really wants here is someone to offer a sympathetic ear while I explain the problem I'm having, and at the very least a positive outlook on the chances that the particular problem I have can actually be solved.
I came to you because you are wearing the suit that says you know how to fix this sort of thing.
Not so you could shake your head and inform me what it was
I should have done a year ago when I was making the purchase.
See, I fully admit that I don't know how to fill out the database form on the computer you're standing in front of that will put my name and address on the sticker that you will apply to my computer so that when the geek in the back room mails it off to the geek in the other city who will attempt to diagnose the problem when he gets around to it -- will know who to mail it back to once he's done.
I'll accept that you can do that better than me.
I guess the real problem is that seeing you there under the sign that says "Geek Squad" wearing the same clothes as the people in the picture gave me some sort of impression that you personally knew how to fucking fix something that might be broken.
Instead, I get the technological equivalent of a high school
lunchlady telling me that "fries don't come with that, baby."
I know it's broken. I know it's gonna take time to fix. I'm the one who broke it. I didn't mean to do it. I didn't want to do it. But sometimes things happen. Things that need more than just a Phillips head screwdriver and some duct tape. Which is why I bought the service plan that said if/when something like that happens, I could bring it to you geeks.
Because you're the ones who are supposed to know how to fix these things.
And let's get something straight here -- I never expected it to be fixed that very moment. I never expected for someone to wave a magic wand or push a button and suddenly things would be as good as new. But I sort of did expect that someone would treat the issue as one that could be fixed in a reasonable amount of time -- Which is why when you say things like "Well, hopefully we can find the parts from the manufacturer so we can give you an estimate. After that we'll have a better idea of what we're getting into here." I start to go all angry white man on you.

I used to teach this back when I was at ACT (which was essentially a private vocational tech school whose main goal was to take people without college degrees and give them the computer training and basic professional skill set needed to get into the corporate workplace, which is a fancy way of saying I took high school dropouts and got them to the point where they could be receptionists, CSRs, or AR clerks -- all of which aren't great jobs, but are a way to get into companies that offer better jobs). I would tell my students this time and time again:
Customer Service is not about solving the customer's problem -- because it's rarely as simple as that.
It's about assuring people that their problems are just as important to you as they are to them.
Because when you, mister geek tell me you're going to send my broken equipment off to someone else. When you, guy on the other end of the phone tell me that the limitations of my membership are clearly stated in the terms and conditions statement that I signed when I accepted the rate agreement. When you, Automotive Service Department Manager shrug your shoulders and say "I don't know -- call some salvage yards?" When you, Fast Food counter employee see the pickles that I asked you not to put on my kids burger, and then say something like, "Well, just pick them off the burger"
What you're really saying is -- I don't care about your problem.
Of course -- having been on the other side of the counter plenty of times myself, I also know there's nothing that makes a day longer than whining customers saying "I broke this, you fix it." I know that in situations like that most people use you as a whipping post for their frustrations. That we as customers can seem like we expect you to make lead into gold and that if it doesn't happen in five seconds you're worthy of all the angry insults they can think of.

But honestly, nothings ever gonna get better if all we do is stand on either side of this fence and point the finger at each other. Someone's going to have to give a little here, and maybe it makes me sound like a dick -- but honestly, I think it's gotta be you.
I mean, I guess I could break my computer in a way that's requires less effort for you to fix next time --
But until then, the ball is kind of in your court, don't you think?
[Listening to:    Deftones"Rapture" ]


Monday, September 17

I ♥ Dracula

I'm not an Internet superstar.
Sure my site does some decent traffic, and I've been fortunate enough over the years to pick up a number of regular readers (who I'm honored to have), but thus far I've not reached a level of infamy where people all over the world annoy each other by forwarding links to their friends featuring my stuff. Nor have I had the chance yet to become one of those "accidental web sensations" whose hilarious/unfortunate "personal moments" get caught on tape, posted on YouTube, and then emailed all over the world with taglines like "You've Got to See This" or "OMG ROTFL WTF!?"
Why not?
Probably because no one's ever filmed me watching football on TV.
Case in point -- How frikkin' sweet was the Bronco's win over the Raiders Sunday? I mean, anytime my Broncos win I'm happy -- but when you get right down to it there is absolutely nothing better for a Denver fan than when we punk Oakland. If we lose every other game in a season and beat Oakland twice -- I'd still consider the season a successful one.
Lets be clear about something -- I hate the Raiders more than I hate
Jimmy Buffet, Notre Dame, okra, and the IRS combined.
For two quarters of the game we were able to move the ball up and down the field, leading to a comfortable 17-3 lead at the half. But then we start making mistakes, turning the ball over, and giving up points -- leading to a place where the Raiders looked like they might make a game of things -- bringing the score to a much more worrisome 17-12.
But here's the thing -- the game isn't actually on in my area.
The best I could manage was watching another regional game (hoping for highlights) while constantly checking NFL.com for updates. And even with all the advances in web technology that allow me to keep up with the game while it's going on, there's still a delay from the time the things happen on the field to the moment that it updates on my browser.

So what at the beginning of the game was me keeping an eye on the score updates on my TV screen and occasionally checking my web browser to see how things were going, occasionally nodding in approval and saying things like "Alright, looking good" eventually morphed into me pacing up and down the halls of my apartment, hitting the refresh button a million times in a row hoping for any sliver of information I could get while shouting coaching tips and angry admonishments to our defense to no one in particular.
Especially in the 4th quarter when Thomas Howard returned an
interception for a touchdown -- giving Oakland a 3-point lead.
At this moment I realize I hate the web. I hate that a second ago my team is driving down the field looking to run down the clock and hold on to their 4-point lead, only at the touch of a button to find out we're suddenly in danger of giving a game away to our most hated rival in our own stadium. I hate the web because these are the only facts I have. I can't see the a receiver almost catching the ball. I can't see the oncoming pass rush.
All I know is that one minute we're winning, and then the next we're fucked!?
Suddenly I'm furious, cursing and yelling -- especially at the local CBS station that refuses to show me anything other than what I wanted to see. And sure I guess I could have gone to a sports bar -- but it was a hangover Sunday, and all I really wanted to do was sack out on the couch, drown my headache in delivery pizza and cold beer from the fridge, and catch a little NFL action on the tube.

I even started to try and figure out the closest place that might have Sunday Ticket so I can at least see the people I'm cussing out -- when suddenly something magical happens.
The Bears/Chiefs games ends, and CBS switches their coverage to the Broncos game.
OK -- Forget the Star Wars kid. Get away from me with your Numa Numa or that Dick in a Box nonsense -- because if there had been a camera close enough to catch me the footage would easily be the new object of ridicule on Kimmel the way I was suddenly jumping up and down on my couch and shouting in excitement.

It's no secret that I get revved up for sports. I've been known to shout and scream at my share of sports bars while watching FSU games or Stanley Cup finals. There was a night last year during the NBA playoffs where Kevin basically shut the place down so we could watch game 6 of the Detroit/Cleveland series and cheer or boo at the top of our lungs.

It's just that things like this usually happen when I'm in large groups where everyone's invested in the outcome.
But this was just me in my apartment trying in vain to get
two uninterested housecats to chant
"Defense! Defense!"
It should also be noted that the walls in my apartment are pretty thin. I can hear lyrics whenever my downstairs neighbor listens to his stereo (not to mention the names his girlfriend calls him when they fight -- which is ALL THE FRIGGIN TIME). If I got out into the hallway I can tell you what TV program Slammy (the really scary fat guy who lives in the other downstairs apartment -- so nicknamed for his continual habit of slamming every door whenever he comes and goes) is watching at any given moment -- So I know for a fact everyone in the building heard me threatening to curse Brandon Stokely's name every chance I get if he drops another pass.

Long story short -- Stokley catches the pass, Cutler mans up, Travis Henry and Javon Walker find the right spots and with just over two minutes left we tie up the score at 20 a piece.

There really is (nor should there be) any such thing as a field goal celebration dance -- but I start doing one anyway, which had to look ridiculous, but luckily wasn't seen by anyone else in the world. In fact the only thing possibly more embarrassing than that homage to the funky chicken was the arm waving hokey-pokey thing I started doing when cornerback Dre' Bly handed Jake McCown his 3rd interception, effectively cutting off Oakland's last drive and sending the game into overtime.

Overtime goes back and forth for a little while, followed what might be the coolest 3 minutes in Bronco/Raider history ever -- all due to the pure evil of one man and one man only,
Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan.
Better known to the rest of the world as Bela Lugosi.
   
The fact of the matter is that despite the fact that I'll always be a Denver Broncos fan, even after all these years I still find myself with mixed emotions about the man who's coached the team for the last decade. Don't get me wrong, the guy's an amazing coach -- and I'll always love him for finally getting us over the hump and bringing the team it's two Superbowl championships.

But even so it's kinda hard to escape the fact that despite all of his success, the guy comes off a bit smarmy. Most reports have it that while preparing for his role as the domineering head coach in the Oliver Stone film Any Given Sunday actor Al Pacino studied hours of film and actually spent some time hanging out with Shanahan. But that's only the tip of the iceberg.
Possible Reasons I Might Have to Dislike Mike Shanahan
  • He's a raging conservative republican
  • He routinely tortures Fantasy Football owners (especially me) with his roster moves.
  • Steve Spurrier is one of his best friends.
But despite it all I still love the guy, if only for the simple fact that he hates the Raiders even more than I do.

Seriously -- If Raiders owner Skeletor Al Davis on were fire Mike Shanahan wouldn't piss on him to save his life.

Why? Mainly because back in 1989, then first time NFL head coach Mike Shanahan actually was the coach of the Raiders. Davis, one of the NFL's most famed megalomaniacs did what he always does, and handcuffed the young coach in every facet of the game, leading to a losing season after which Davis fired Shanahan from the team -- and apparently stiffed him out of $250,000 that he was contractually owned. The feud over the money continued for years, even to the point where the league's commissioner ordered Davis to pay the money (which he didn't).
At one point Shanahan actually offered Davis a compromise where he could take the 250 grand and simply donate it to Oakland's public school system (after all, it's not like Shanny needs the money) -- and the old man still refused.
I may not know much about politics, but as anyone who ever thought it would be fun to go hunting with Dick Cheney can tell you – if there’s one thing you don’t do in this life – it’s steal money from a Republican.
"But sir, nobody worries about upsetting a droid."
"That's 'cause droids don't pull people's
arms out of their sockets when they lose."
Because ever since that day, Shanahan has made it a point to beat the crap out of the Raiders every chance he gets.

Flash back to Sunday, the game going into overtime – and after a series of close plays and missed tackles, Oakland sets up to try and kick a 52 yard game-winning field goal. Their kicker (former FSU star Sebastian Janakowski) has a monster leg, and apparently kicked a 65-yarder in practice earlier that day. It had been a back and forth game, but now it seemed after this emotional roller coaster, everything would come down to nothing more a gimme for one of the better field goal kickers in the league.
Or it would have been, if my team’s coach wasn’t a Nosferatu with an axe to grind.
Because literally a split second before Oakland snaps the ball to kick the winning field goal Shanahan takes advantage of a recent rule change in the league and calls a time out from the sideline.

The ref heard it (probably because Shanahan had bitten him on the neck so he could transmit the command to stop the clock telepathically), which makes it official – but no one else did and the play went on, and the ball sailed right through the uprights -- seemingly giving the Raiders the win.

Oakland starts celebrating, it all seems hopeless, I’m cussing up a storm standing on top of my couch – all before the referees get on the microphones to explain and the TV commentators figure out what’s going on.

The clock is reset, everyone gets back on the field, and they have to try the kick again.
Which they do, except that this this time around the ball
sails left, hits the upright -- and bounces harmlessly away.
The look on Shanahan’s face is priceless –- because he knows that after his sneaky little gambit gave them a second chance after apparently losing the game, the entire Broncos team has essentially turned into vampires -- literally coming back from the dead to walk on the field again.

Nine plays later we kick our own field goal to walk away with a 23-20 win that not only puts us at the top of our divisional standings -- but completely digs the knife right into the ribs of Raider nation.
Which is when the really embarrassing dance moves kicked in over at my place.

[Listening to:    Three Days Grace"Let You Down" ]


Sunday, September 16

Nobody Fucks With The Jesus

Before you check this out you have to understand that I'm really, really hungover right now -- so it's fully possible that this clip isn't nearly as hilarious as it appears to be in my current state. Much the same as every Krystal hamburger or Waffle House breakfast entree that I've decided I absolutley can't live without after a night of getting completely trashed -- I fully expect to come back to this entry a day from now and wonder what the hell I was thinking.
That being said, this is my new hero:
For the record, wrestling in any form is one of the most boring, strangely homo-erotic things a person could ever try to watch and pretend to find compelling -- but wrestlers are among nature's most special creations, right up there with Jim Mora and the entire cast of Rock of Love.

Because when you get right down to it, if you can't see the divine wisdom being passed down by a 300 pound shirtless man hugging a pinata -- then really, why even go on living?

The only thing better would be to find a video clip featuring a sobbing Chris Crocker imploring us all to leave Bruno Sammartino alone.
All you people care about is readers and making money off of him...  HE'S A PINATA!!
Of course The Crusher can talk all the smack he wants about his 100 Megatons or how all the little girls and old ladies in Pittsburgh go for his girlish figure -- but none of it's gonna amount to a hill of beans unless Bruno himself gets bothered by it.
Which apparently isn't the case.



Saturday, September 15

Supertrain

See, this is how it works. This is how my mind runs with things. Vodka till two, coffee in the morning, and then it's like gentlemen start your engines, run and gun, June Jones calls the play and then it's Bobby Hebert to Andre Rison for the touchdown, Left Eye burns down his house but wasn't it a damn shame when she got taken away from us so early like that?

Sometimes it's frenetic. Sometimes my mind gets in a place where it's looking for somewhere to roost. Hoping for a challenge or some kind of idea to stick with. Sometimes when I get like that and I can't find the right thing it gets frustrating, and I feel all restless and caged up. Drives me nuts. Other times I link into one idea only to ping pong off to all sorts of different tangents connected to it by some little detail I've picked up along the way in my life.

Like the other day -- I'm at my place, looking for an escape from broken air conditioner hell and I end up at Jackrabbits to catch a few bands. When I get there the place is wall to wall with annoying stoners, which gets under my skin to the point where I get an idea for a story.

So I'm hashing out the piece and connecting all the dots, and somewhere along the line I was reminded of all the funny rips Jake Busey (btw, am I the only one out there that liked Shasta McNasty for the 5 seconds it was on TV back in the day?) and John Favreau were making about stoners in that great old flick PCU.

Instantly I have a title for the rant (although to be honest I almost called it "Jerrytown"). I write the thing and I feel pretty good about it -- but then all I can think of is how long it's been since I've actually seen PCU, so after I get off work I jump over to the video store and get it.

So this morning I'm all hair of the dog watching the DVD, and despite the fact that it's always been a second-rate Animal House and the script is so steeped with jokes about 90's culture that it can't escape being dated -- it still kills me every time. That scene where they throw all the raw meat on the Vegans, The Caine-Hackman Theory, -- and of course, one of the my favorite movie lines of all time:
What's this? You're going to wear this to the show? You're wearing
the shirt of the band you're going to see? -- Don't be that guy.
But I'm watching the flick and one of the things that I notice (which is one of the things I really like about the film) is just how natural the interplay is between the actors, especially with guys like Jeremy Piven, John Favreau, and Alex Désert (who I've always thought was great) and it dawns on me that Favreau and Désert were both in Swingers with Vince Vaughn (which is also a great film, I need to rent that next).
Quick Sidebar here, because I don't want to lose the train I'm on, but -- Favorite Scene
in Swingers -- Is it Making Gretzky's Head Bleed, Double Down on 11, or You're So Money?
Hmm..Gotta think about that one.
Anyways, I'm kinda distracted by whole Swingers connection to PCU when an action montage comes up on the screen featuring a song by Steve Vai, who did the score for the film. I know that because the tune is on an album I own called "The Elusive Light And Sound" featuring Vai's soundtrack work.

Of course the great thing about that disc is that it's got all the music from the sequence in Crossroads where he played the Devil's hired-gun guitarist Jack Butler for the head-cuttin' duel against the Karate Kid (Vai actually wrote and performed both guitar parts in the scene -- but I love it when he acts like he can't figure out how to play that one arpeggio at the end and ends up throwing his guitar on the floor in disgust [Take that, ..Satan?] -- maybe I need to rent that again too, eh?).

Man, watching this really makes me want to go play some guitar.
..Which probably would be a good thing since I've completely forgotten what it was I sat down to write about in the first place.
Dammit Steve!
[Listening to:    Steve Vai"Now We Run" ]


Friday, September 14

Bathroom Ninja

I probably shouldn't advertise this too much, but sometimes when I'm at work I take "busy walks."

Basically, a busy walk is an exercise where I gather up a couple of random papers from my desk and walk around the building looking like I have somewhere important to go. It's not something I do all the time, but every now and then I'll come across a day where I don't have all that much going on, but there are too many managers walking around my desk for me to blatantly websurf without the worry of some sort of reprisal -- so I gather up some stuff, get a head of steam
And kinda, you know ..take a lap.
The funny thing about it is that I know that I'm not the only one who does it -- because whenever I walk down the halls by the R&D department, I always see the same 2 or 3 guys heading towards operations the other way.

To be honest, the way things are set up at this company there seems to be some sort of naturally occurring balance between the times when you're nailed to the wall with phone calls and projects and deadlines, and the moments when you can take your foot off the accelerator and let things coast. Even so, I'm still not comfortable enough in my unsecured contracted position to feel like I can openly laze off.

Of course whether managers like to admit it or not, in today's corporate culture I really do think there is a loose acceptance for a certain amount of slacking. I think a lot of managers (having worked in offices themselves for some period of time) realize that without certain allowances for coffee breaks, websurfing, or the occasional inter-office fantasy football league that it's all too easy for people to start feeling like their cubicles are actually more like jail cells keeping them locked away from their friends, their distractions, and their sanity.

At the same time I don't really think that the suits on the third floor would be too thrilled if they felt I was spending my entire day blogging or messing around with things like this whenever I ended up with a few extra hours minutes to kill on a Friday afternoon.
Thus, the busy walks.
Of course sometimes it backfires on me, because people will see me near their cube and say "Hey, I was just about to call you -- do you have some free time today to help me out with a project?" -- which sorta kills the whole concept of slacking off like that, but it does give me something to do, which is the actual point of me being here -- so I can't complain about too much.

The weird thing about these walks is that once you've gotten into the habit of taking them, you start to notice things about the environment you work in and the people you work with. And I'm not talking about the fact that literally all of the people who have access to the labelmaker software have used it to create stickers indicating where their phones, pens, and coffee mugs are placed on their desk -- I'm talking about the secret lives of the engineers who work for this fortune 500 company.

Case in point. Recently corporate shelled out some money to refurbish the look of the second floor. Everyone up there got new cubicles, they put in new carpeting, painted the walls, and perhaps most importantly of all -- totally updated all of the fixtures in the bathrooms. Apparently the bathrooms had remained unchanged since the building was first put together -- and were starting to show signs of their age.

So they brought in a plumber and a contracting crew, and a week or so later the mens room had a whole new look to it, complete with all new tile, brand new toilets, and a complete array of automatic faucets, soap dispensers, and paper towel machines. So you'd go in there, find a stall, do your thing -- and then find yourself in motion sensor heaven. The toilets flush when you get up, the faucets kick in when you put your hands under them, the soap drops into your palms when you move them under the dispenser, and when you're all done you wave your hands under the towel dispenser to start the machinery turning to roll out a single towel that you can easily tear away to dry off with.
Of course if you're really good, you can figure out how to get it to give
you a couple of towels at once (but you already knew that, didn't you ;)
The first thing you noticed was that for the first few weeks, the second floor bathroom was always crowded. Everyone in the building, from the CEO's to the guys that sweep the floors took the extra trip to test drive the new digs. Certainly understandable, especially with all the fancy amenities they had in there. But the more you went in there, the more you started to notice certain things.
Like the guy who can't make the water work.
As commonplace as they've become in our world, I think a lot of people are like me and still experience a feeling of momentary excitement at the magic that happens when the faucet realizes you're there and turns on automatically. A feeling that becomes all the more magical when the guy next to you can't for the life of him find the sweet spot -- and has to resort to waving his hands around under the faucet, trying to figure out the mystical angle needed to make it rain.

And don't deny that secret feeling of superiority you get standing next to that person with your fully operating automatic sink pouring fresh, cold water into your hands while the guy who makes five to ten times what you do is flailing around like some second-rate mime.

Even better than that though was the thing that happened today. Because today when I ducked into the second floor mens room during a mid-afternoon busy walk I discovered that I was the only one in the bathroom.
Me, alone -- with all the automatic stuff.
None of you out there can tell me that you haven't thought of this -- but how many of you have actually had the chance to try and make all the sinks work at once? And then, while all three sinks are pouring water you're able to move your hands quick enough to get the soap working at the same time, on all three sinks?

The best and simultaneous worst part of the whole thing though are the mirrors. Best because you use them to keep an eye on the door behind you, lest someone come in an catch you in the middle of your hand waving sink activating antics. But worst -- because you can't help but watch yourself in all your adult professional college-educated employee glory, waving your arms around in a half karate-chop half orchestra conductor way taking delight at your ability to make automatic urinals and water faucets go off in unison.

But then, after a few moments of this you catch yourself and kinda know you have to stop. Bathrooms at a big office like this never stay empty for long, and if you play around any longer you're almost sure to get caught in an embarrassing situation. The kind of thing there's just simply no logical explanation for.

So you reach down for one last time, wash your hands in the faucet for real this time -- shake them out a little, and then pass your hand under the towel dispenser -- Only to hear the thing grinding in it's death throes, overworked and under stocked -- providing you with the ultimate revelation about the secret lives of your coworkers, which is:
You're not the only one in the building who acts like this.
Someone. Maybe the guy sitting next to me. Maybe the guy who signs my paychecks. Someone out there has helped work this poor towel dispenser to death by doing their own version of the automatic bathroom dance you're doing right now. The thing hasn't been installed for 3 full months and it's already giving out. That kind of wear and tear doesn't just happen, you know. A breakdown like that can really only be the result of people playing with it, just like you are right now.
I tell you, it's a wonder we get anything done around here at all.

[Listening to:    40 Below Summer"Monday Song" ]


Thursday, September 13

Blow Me Where the Pampers Is

So last night looking to get out of the AC-less heat in my apartment I headed over to Jackrabbits to see The Expendables, who were headlining some Jagermeister sponsored package tour put together with fellow ska-rockers The Supervillains and Authority Zero.

Both The Supervillians and The Expendables opened for Fishbone the last time they came through town -- and even though I can't say I fell in love with either of them after that particular performance, it wasn't like either band was really horrible in any real way. Plus the ticket was only $10 -- so even if they weren't all that good it wasn't like I was throwing away tons of money on a bad show.

The thing about these bands is that despite the fact that it would be easiest to categorize both of them as third generation ska-rockers, the simple fact is that despite their upbeat tempos, horn section accompaniment, solid (sometimes even impressive) guitar work, and faux dancehall accents and flourishes in their singing styles -- I personally find it easier to simply put them into their own little category:
Pot Rock.
In other words, regardless of the style of music these bands play -- almost all of their lyrics are about getting baked.
Expendables Song Titles        Supervillains Song Titles
Ganja Smuggling                     The Cam Song
Mary Jane & Jager                   Sensimilla
Crippy Weed                            Piped
And it's not like I don't realize that a huge chapter of the history of modern music isn't littered with songs about drugs or getting high, but to me there really comes a point where the whole thing gets kinda played out. In other words, if your major challenge as a songwriter is continually having to come up with different words that rhyme with "icky sticky," it gets kinda hard to take you seriously after a while.
One of the The Expendables bigger hits is a love song called "Bowl for Two" which goes:
Oh I -- I packed this bowl for two
And I -- I’m gonna wanna smoke it with you..
Needless to say -- Hotel California it ain't.
And I know that if you asked them these bands would try to tell you that they are continuing a musical tradition that has its roots in reggae music and the two-tone ska bands of the mid-80's, but the simple truth is that whether they want to admit it or not they're all riding the coattails one group and one group only -- Sublime.

Anyone who knows me really well knows that I have sort of a love/hate relationship with Sublime. When you look at it on paper, I have every reason to love them. They were basically discovered by Fishbone lead singer Angelo Moore, who was good friends with the groups late lead singer/guitarist Brad Nowell. As a band Sublime specialized in a more reggae-heavy variant of ska than many of the pop-ish ska bands that were popular at the time (Reel Big Fish, Goldfinger), and their songs featured some really skilled guitar work.

Add to this the fact that I have a lot of friends who love them to death and you'd think it would be sort of a slam dunk -- But I've just never really gotten into them all that much.

Why? Probably for a lot of reasons -- the least of which revolve around my continued assertion that "Santeria" is one of the most annoying songs ever written, regardless of how many people on dance floors all over the world love it when the DJ drops the music out so they can all shout
"Id pop a cap in Sancho and Id slap her dow-ow-ow-ow-own."
I don't know -- there's a few songs that are OK, but by and large they leave me flat. And I can't help but think that the real reason behind it all comes directly from the fact that I don't smoke pot.

Of course just because it's not my thing doesn't mean that I have a problem with people who do. If that's your thing and you like doing it -- then more power to you, knock yourself out. Little be it for me to tell you how to have a good time.
At the same time, just because I'm accepting your desire to blaze out doesn't
mean I won't make fun of your ass when you choose to act like a damn fool.
And maybe it's just me -- but there are few things out there that bring out dumbass behavior in potheads like the music of Sublime. Not so much in the way the lyrics of the songs deal with getting stoned or whatever, but more in the way people try to use the band as some sort of symbolic indication of how relaxed, enlightened, and streetwise they are.
In other words, it seems like there are a lot of people out there who:
  • only seem to listen to bands like Sublime while they're smoking pot, perhaps in some weak-assed attempt to make it seem like they're immersed in that sort of Long Beach California laid back weedhead lifestyle, even though they actually only imbibe once in a while.
  • Listen to (or worse, don't listen to but keep the CD noticeably displayed in their car) to let you know that "they're down and cool" and if they didn't have to go work for the man, they'd be totally stoned right now.
So maybe it's actually more accurate for me to say that what I find annoying isn't so much Sublime themselves, but I've had trouble connecting to them as a band because a large portion of their fans that use the music to try and align themselves with a lifestyle they actually only occasionally subscribe to.

It's the same behavior you see with Baby Boomers whenever they pull out their Jimmy Buffet albums, or the way college kids try to get you to believe they've listened to Bob Marley their whole life.

That whole I'm like this ALL THE TIME attitude that people like to put on with certain kinds of music, even when you're around them enough of the time to know that they're clearly not.
Look, If you need a specific soundtrack to get high -- how much of stoner can you really claim to be?
Look, do you really want to know what potheads really listen to? -- Potheads listen to each other's inane babbling about how uptight the rest of the world is while insisting over and that the spiritual powers they have retained from their American Indian forbears helps them to be able to totally handle their high.

Sure there's music playing while all of this babbling is going on, but in a true stoners house that same music was playing before the drug paraphernalia was ever brought out, was still playing after everyone has passed out on the couch, and probably will play all day long while they're out doing whatever it is they do.
Music doesn't dictate your habits. Nor does it enhance your vices.
And anyone who tries to tell you differently is completely full of crap.
Music entertains. It enriches people's lives by allowing them to experience different emotional states with more than one of their senses at a time. Good music has the ability to engage you emotionally and intellectually. Favorite music can be ignored as background noise and tuned out just as easily as it can be lost in and inspired by.
It should be an expression of your personality, not a roadmap to it.
And sure, there are certain bands and styles of music that seem to be more associated with stoners, but if you think about that one guy or girl you know who is like waaaay too into marijuana as a lifestyle, one of the most annoying things about them is the fact that their musical tastes are usually all over the place. They're the ones who have the top 40 hip hop albums on in the car, the Tool songs on their iPod, but then break out the completely faded cassette bootlegs of that Grateful Dead show in Modesto where they almost, almost like touched it man..

To me, people who try really hard to impress upon you the extent of their drug experience by subjecting you to songs that tell you how many joints they smoke a day are about as valid as people who try to express their toughness through songs that tell you how many people they've shot, or how many people happen to be standing under their umbrella at any given moment.
It all boils down to the fact that some people go to ridiculous lengths to try and be something they’re not
A behavior that seems to increase a billionfold
whenever the idea of getting high comes into play.
So despite the fact that I always like to see a good musical performance, added to the fact that I already knew and sorta liked these bands didn't help ease my worry that my enjoyment of the evening was more than likely going to be completely dependant on what sort of crowd showed up.

The first thing you need to know about Jackrabbits is that the place is really small. It’s the quintessential picture of a hole in the wall music club. The good thing about this is that when you see a show there, you’re usually able to get really close and personal with the performers, which usually translates into really energetic shows because the bands can see the crowds and easily feed off their enthusiasm (or lack thereof).
The bad side of this is that when the place gets crowded, it turns into a fucking oven.
A fact that became immediately clear when I stepped in the door and found the place completely wall to wall with people. The heat literally hit you when the door closed behind you, wrapping your body in its weight and almost instantly making you sweat. Considering the fact that I’d come to this show to get away from a place that didn’t have a working AC unit, this was an immediate downer – but the beer was cold, and the music was live, and despite the humidity and the lack of room to stand in, it seemed a better way to spend an evening than just sitting home and watching the tube.

The crowd was young, filled with girls in Hollister shirts and guys wearing Bermuda shorts with their shirts taken off and tied around belts that were only there to draw a line between their pants and the boxer shorts that were strategically exposed as if to say: "my pants are slung low like I’m from the streets, but my brand names are from the mall because I’m not". It was easy to assume that everyone had their shirts off because of the heat, but the place was so crowded that it was impossible to avoid contact with the peole next to you -- a fact that seemed to make the atmosphere even worse.
Basically it was like playing the low post in a pick-up basketball game against 200 people.
The Supervillains were on stage, having a good time and really charging the crowd up. Maybe it makes me a hypocrite, but despite the fact that I think a lot of their lyrics are retarded – it’s hard not to like their sound and get swept up into their energy. And regardless of whatever opinions I might have about the people all around me; that’s what I had hoped to find when I went there.
Still, it started to get old in a real hurry when after almost every song the band would ask questions like:
"How many of you motherfuckers like to get high?"
"Is there anyone out there who smokes pot?"
"Who wants to come smoke out with us in the parking lot after the show?"
And my personal favorite:
"How many of the women out there have a vagina?"
Only to have the crowd completely fall over themselves shouting in approval every single time. And yeah I know that it’s pretty basic concert behavior to agree with almost anything the singer says, but It’s almost like you could imagine some chick in the front row thinking to herself, "Wait a minute -- I have a vagina. I actually qualify to answer this question –- Whoooooooooo!"
It reminds me of that old joke:
Never ask a tattoo artist if they’ve ever been asked to do art on a dick
Because they’ll always answer,
"Yeah, I’m working on one right now"
The bands changed sets, and The Expendables kicked into their set. The crowd was instantly into the show, dancing around, singing on cue, and generally having a good time. But there was really no escaping the fact that we were all crammed in there like sardines. Add to that the fact that half the people in the place were smoking cigarettes, and despite the great music and positive vibe to the crowd, it was a really uncomfortable place to be.

And you could tell the band felt that way too -- because their comments between songs continually returned to how hot it was in there, how uncomfortable they were, and how amazing it was too see such a big crowd on such a hot night. Much like The Supervillains before them the energy of their performance was infectious, and the crowd seemed more than happy to go wherever the band wanted to lead them, up to and including the moment when after draining a bottle of water the lead singer looked out into the crowd and said:
"Hey Jacksonville, how many of you like to smoke marijuana?"
And of course the crowd screamed in approval – but then the dude said something that really surprised me:
"All right then – let’s do this. Spark 'em up right now, let’s get high!"
There was an odd pause in the crowd noise, followed almost instantly by the unmistakable aroma of waaay too many people in the crowd doing exactly what the singer asked.
At which point security swooped into the crowd, found
the offending parties, and immediately threw them out.
Now understand something here -- I’ve been around a lot of bands in my day. I’ve seen groups stop playing in the middle of gigs because they didn’t like the vibe (the Pixies). I’ve seen bands stop gigs because the guitarist broke a string and forgot to bring an extra. I’ve worked for groups with singers who right before the show said "Man I really don’t feel like playing tonight" then went out on stage and started a fight with an audience member to get themselves thrown out of the club -- But I have never, ever seen a band purposely trick their audience into getting thrown out of a show just to make the place a little cooler
Which is what I’m pretty sure happened right in front of me last night.

[Listening to:    George Clinton"High in My Hello" ]


Wednesday, September 12

I Know It Was You Fredo

So today while chasing down some details for a new project I'm working on I noticed a shocking new development in the ever-expanding saga of the Corporate Companda.

As you may remember, the last time we checked in there was this new kid trying to set up shop in the fake flowerpots in the hallway -- a move that we all kinda felt wasn't going to go very well for Gnomeboy,

But guess what?
The Gnome is still there:
         
But the Companda is suddenly all the way over here, (almost a full corridor away).
         
I gotta be honest here -- I'm kinda disappointed in the Panda. I'm sure defending your turf is never an easy thing, but lets face it here -- You're a frikkin' BEAR! You can't just let someone come in and run you out of your own hood like that. I don't care what kind of Grand Theft Auto/Tony Montana tactics kid is bringing with him, since when does a predator back down from a meal?
What are you, Rex Grossman all of the sudden?
I mean, have you even seen the movie? The Ewoks beat the white guys -- unbelievable as it might have seemed, that's the way it's supposed to work!

Who knows, maybe it's tougher than it looks to be number one. Maybe right now in a in a South Jersey diner Companda is sitting down with his wife and deadbeat son, eating onion rings and listening to Journey -- but come on man, don't go out like that.
Get back in there and take back what's yours!

[Listening to:    Fishbone"BeerGut" ]


Tuesday, September 11

The Apartment of Usher

The apartment I live in is part of a very old house that was refurbished into a quadroplex many, many years back. Of course this "classic" styling is part of the place's unique charm -- but there is a dark side. Namely, over the past few months it's been showing signs of it's age by basically falling apart right in front of my eyes.

Case in point -- late Sunday night, I'm stretched out on the couch half asleep watching the waning moments of the Cowboys game when the ceiling fan in the living room comes loose from its anchor bolts and crashes to the floor.
Scared the crap out of me.
It's a low rent bachelor pad, so even though the landlords eventually fix things -- speed isn't really their calling card. So a day later a guy shows up in essentially a business suit to come check it out. He's been here before (fixing the kitchen faucet that broke off in my hand, replacing the broken refrigerator), but it's always been on weekends where he was more dressed the part for a maintenance guy.

It makes perfect sense that an apartment maintenance guy might have a day job or whatever, but suddenly it dawned on me that this might be more than just a fix-it dude. The landlords I deal with actually handle a number of properties in town, including managing properties for small-time real estate investors. Which means that there's a distinct possibility that the guy in my living room holding the flashlight could actually be the owner of the property -- which made me suddenly very conscious of the state my place was in, not to mention the two cats hiding in the other room that are not really allowed per the terms of my lease.

Luckily he doesn't seem interested in any of that, as the expression on his face is more a mix of surprise and disgust at the apparently shoddy manner in which the ceiling fan was hung in the first place. It's not hard to imagine this guy as someone who had a little money to work with, bought into a rental property -- only to find himself back there week after week fixing all sorts of things he never expected to have to deal with.

But the funny part of the whole thing was the fact that because he was dressed so nice, he wasn't really eager to do a whole lot of things. He was like "Do you have a Phillips head screwdriver?" and I'd hand him one and then he'd say "Do me a favor, take that mounting assembly off the light fixture so I can look at it."
So basically the guy came over to check out my ceiling fan problem, but I did all the work.
In the end he told me he'd probably have to replace the mounting bracket, and maybe reinforce the wiring box in the ceiling -- a process that would take some time given his schedule. While not the ideal situation, it's pretty par for the course with this place.

So when I left for work this morning, there were wires hanging from the ceiling and a ceiling fan on the floor. When I came home from work and put the key in the door, the optimist in me hoped against hope that it would be fixed.
What I wasn't expecting was to find it GONE.
Best estimate is that he came by and picked it up. But then the phone rang, which turned out to be the landlord telling me that they've shut off my air conditioner because apparently it was pouring water into the apartment below.
So as much as I love my place, it's becoming more and more clear that I need to trade up a little if I can. Not that I can afford a move anytime soon, or any real bump in rent -- but that if I stay in this place much longer the floor might fall out under me or the walls will start bleeding or the monster in the attic will come down looking for his mail under the name "Willie Nelson" or whatever..
In other news, Florida is still a very hot and humid place at night.
..Especially if you don't have AC or a fan.
[Listening to:    American Head Charge"Fall" ]


Sunday, September 9

Aldo Nova

Today's the first sunday in the NFL season -- which is a huge, huge deal for me. I love College football and my Seminoles, but there is nothing I get hyped up for more every year than pro football.

Which of course means that I'm totally geeked out for Fantasy Football, and have been for many many years. My draft this year didn't go as well as I could have hoped for, but I've made a couple of trades and moves that I think will help the team out. It's a long season, so who knows what will happen when it's all said and done -- but I think I have a chance to do pretty well --
If I can figure out who to start for my 3rd wide receiver spot.
Mike Furrey or Malcolm Floyd?
It's driving me nuts, because I just know whichever one I decide to bench is gonna go off and have a big day. Of course it's just Fantasy Football, so it shouldn't be the end of the world -- but it is important, dammit!

But even if I do choose wrong (I've been leaning towards Furrey so far), there are some thing that are certain about today:
  • Pizza will be ordered.
  • Profanities will be uttered. (I'm a Bronco fan, it's inevitable)
  • The dishes that I've been putting off are NOT gonna get done today.
  • Someone's gonna call me on the phone and get the feeling I'm paying more attention to the game than I am to them.
..and they'll probably be right :)

[Listening to:    Mushroomhead"Burn" ]


Thursday, September 6

JuJu

As much as I enjoy reading them, I normally don't put a lot of stock in horoscope reports.
At the same time, you rarely see many of them as pointed as this:
Libra:
Your routine will get severely disrupted
today, but just try to go with the flow.
Now I'm starting to contemplate buying a fortune cookie and playing the numbers inside in the lottery.
Anyways, I'm (suddenly) really busy at work. Talkatcha later!

[Listening to:    Red Hot Chili Peppers"Funky Crime" ]


Wednesday, September 5

Look at The Turtle Go, Bro

Ok, I need some assistance.
I've got a Red Hot Chili Peppers song stuck in my head, but I can't for the life of me figure out what it is.
It goes like this:
Bum Ba-dum-Bum Buddah-Budda BAH DAH!
Bum Ba-dum-Bum Buddah-Budda BAH-DAH DAH-DAH-DAH-DAH-DAH!

Bum Ba-dum-Bum Buddah-Budda BAH DAH!
Bum Ba-dum-Bum Buddah-Budda BAH-DAH DAH-DAH-DAH-DAH-DAH!
And the drummers all like:
Boom Pap. Boom Boom Pap. Boom Boom BADDABADDA -- PSSSSSHHING!
Boom Pap. Boom Boom Bap. Boom Boom BAPA BAPA BADA BAP!!!!
Nothing? Oh Come on -- you gotta know this one!? It sounds all like side one of Freaky Styley -- but not in that Jungle Man/Brother's Cup sort of way. It's upbeat, kinda fast like all the fun songs on Mother's Milk but without the huge drum sound. It's like an instrumental break, a bridge or something -- lockstep groove, but not as aggro as the middle break in Stone Cold Bush or No Chump Love Sucker.

I don't know, the whole thing feels like one of those classic Hillel Slovak grooves, but who knows -- it could be Frusciante. It's not Navarro, that's for sure.
Man, I hate when I get stuck on a song like this..
Help!
[Listening to:    Ratt"Lay it Down" ]


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