Wednesday, October 31

Which Head Do You Think With?

Here's an interesting Right Brain vs. Left Brain test -- Look at the picture below: Which direction do you see the dancer rotating? In other words, is she turning clockwise or counter-clockwise?

If you see her turning clockwise, then you use more of your right brain. If she
turns the other way, then you're more oriented to left-brain thought patterns.
Even cooler, if you focus on the picture the right way you can actually change the direction she appears to spin in (see if you can do it!).

Unfortunately not all of us can be so intellectual, because the first thing I saw when I looked at the photo
..was nipples.
[Listening to:    Reverend Horton Heat"Slingshot" ]


Tuesday, October 30

Farewell, Quentin Hapsburg

It was odd to see the news of Robert Goulet's passing last night.

Not odd in the way that he passed, or in one of those odd "he was still alive?" moments that seem to happen so often when one of Hollywood or Broadway's former greats leave us -- mainly because unlike other celebrities of bygone eras, Goulet had done a decent job over the years of keeping himself in the public eye, whether it be through his movie work, self-parodying commercial appearances, or his good humor towards Will Ferrell's impersonations of him on Saturday Night Live.
I always felt the Neil Diamond bit was funnier, but that's just me.
All that aside, the strange thing about hearing the news of Goulet's death was realizing why it saddened me to hear about it. Not that I was surprised to be bummed out at the news of someone dying, but that instead of really mourning the man himself, I immediately thought of my parents -- who were both fans.

Well, perhaps I should back that up a bit. I think my parents were fans. Probably my mother more than my dad (she always had a taste for Broadway-styled singers), but neither of them would object to the other one listening to him the way they sometimes did with other artists. Sometimes my dad would put on albums of old-school country stars like Marty Robbins or Kenny Rogers and my mom would make a huge production about having to go into the other room or whatever. She'd rustle the pages of her book, talk in what seemed an unnecessarily loud voice, and make sure everyone knew that she was being inconvenienced by my father's desire to listen to his hillbilly music.
Dad would just shrug it off and play the album anyways.
These were the cute fights they had. The ones before the divorce.
The weird thing was that even though when you thumbed through my parent's amalgamated LP collection (kept neatly stacked in a floor cabinet that my father built himself), you'd see all sorts of Robert Goulet albums, lined up next to similar artists like Andy Williams, Paul Anka, and Perry Como -- but I really don't ever remember hearing my mom or dad listening to them much at all.

By the time I was old enough to notice and be critical of my parents musical tastes, my mother had fallen into a rotating carousel of albums by opera singers like Pavoratti and Placido Domingo, which clashed horribly with the Willie Nelson and Cat Stevens discs she also played the hell out of. She'd usually follow that up with periods where she listened to tons of Billy Joel albums in a row. These were my favorites, because I liked his more rock and roll sounding tunes and whenever my mom got into one of her Billy Joel moods it would always lead to her trying to play some of his music on the piano.

It's weird, knowing now just how much pianos cost -- and thinking about how really inconvenient it would be to own one (I can barely play, where would I keep it?), I find it fascinating that almost everyone I knew growing up had one. Gristina, MacEwan, the neighbor kids down the street -- everyone's living room had a piano in it. Not that they were all played that often or kept up well, but that I guess it was just a staple of that generation, the way a scattered computer desk and a dusty PC seems to be for people nowadays.

Still, it would be kinda cool to have a piano of my own someday.
Now that I think about it -- the only time growing up where you'd really hear Robert Goulet in my house was Christmas. Christmas when my parents would push all of their LP's to the left as they reached in the back for their small but treasured collection of Christmas albums.

They'd play in the background while we trimmed the tree, hung the lights, or have Christmas visits from family and friends. There were albums of instrumental music, collections of famous Christmas carols sung by the Vienna Boys Choir, but above all were the stacks of albums featuring Robert Goulet and his signature baritone voice belting out overly orchestrated versions of sons like "(There's No Place Like) Home for the Holidays" or "Sleigh Ride."

Mom would play these albums over and over, hoping to create a Christmas mood that the rest of us did our best to tune out. For a while we were able to divert her attention by putting on albums of Christmas Carols that we could sing along with, but then my little brother got into this habit of singing "The 12 Days of Christmas" over and over and over again to the point where (as cute as it might have been the first eleventy billion times) we were all ready to strangle each other if we had to hear it again.

The Bing Crosby and Robert Goulet albums never seemed to inspire that sort of sing-along enthusiasm, and perhaps in the hopes of keeping the peace, became sort of the mainstays of the season as the years went by (along with this one strange recording of Christmas songs performed entirely on Moog synthesizers -- which as weird as that sounds, remains to this day one of my favorite christmas albums ever).

Unfortunately, crooners of Goulet's ilk favored straight-ahead interpretations of the songs, accompanied by cheesy orchestras or string quartets complete with over-enthusiastic back-up singers who frequently "acted" like they were at Christmas parties having a grand old time.
Regardless of the intent, the effect of all this had no hope but to
come off as hokey sounding to anyone in the room under the age of 35.
It was the 80's after all, and artists like USA for Africa, Band Aid, and The Cure were (at least in my MTV-polluted mind) paving new and exciting roads for Christmas songs. I fully believed for a while that eventually there would be enough new-wave Christmas anthems out there that we wouldn't need stinky old Perry Como brooding on Little Drummer Boy or whatever anymore -- because as long as they kept putting out new versions of "A Very Special Christmas" we could continue to erase all memories of old and boring singers on our way to a holiday celebrated the way it was meant to be, with the J. Geils Band and Martha Quinn hanging out in Santa Hats introducing videos of X-mas songs by New Edition, Bruce Springsteen, and Run DMC.
      Man, we were idiots back then, eh?
Then as I grew older, had a child, and started having Christmas family get-togethers of my own something different happened. Faced with the fact that we were trying to have Christmas-themed events without any Christmas music collections of our own, I was left with two choices:
1) Find something Christmas-y on TV to provide the background music.
2) Go out and buy our own Christmas albums to play on the stereo.
Something you learn really fast about trimming a Christmas tree with a four year old is that you can't leave the TV on. Because the child cares a hell of a lot more about the Grinch than he does about anything with a hook on it. Then you'd find yourself in the midst of one of those pointless shouting matches that never had anything to do with anything, but seemed to happen more and more every X-mas we had.

I always hated when my parents argued during the holidays because the fights were always about things that weren't worth fighting about. It was one of those things that never really made any sense to me until I found myself having equally pointless fights of my own over nearly the exact same things.
Those were the cute fights we had. The ones before the divorce.
It's almost like I wanted to create the perfect Christmas to try and erase the memories of my parents arguing during the holidays.
But in doing whatever I could to force that "picture postcard" holiday ideal onto the people in my life, I ended up in the exact same place my parents always did.
And all the while, Robert Goulet continued to sing.
[Listening to:    Robert Goulet"Home for the Holidays" ]


Monday, October 29

An Open Letter to Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry,

You don't know me personally, but I just wanted to let you know that I am aware that you have a new animated movie coming out. It's called "Bee Movie" and it features you playing a Bee that I guess falls in love with a human woman voiced by Renee Zellweger. I am also aware of the fact that many of the people involved in making this film were involved in the making of the Shrek films, and that there are apparently several jokes at Ray Liotta's expense. I am also fully aware that Steven Spielberg produced the film.
Do you hear me? I get it.
I've seen the commercials, I am aware of the film, I know that it's opening up at theaters everywhere
So for the love of all that's holy, can you frikkin' let up with the advertising blitz already?
I mean Jesus Christ -- you're 'effing Jerry Seinfeld, since when are you worried that white people somehow aren't going to flock to anything with your name on it? I swear, the way you're hammering this thing into the ground you'd think no one had ever heard of you before.

What's the problem there, Jerr -- Little short on cash? Need to dig up some extra money before the holidays? Because I gotta tell you, as hard as that is to believe -- if you need a couple of bucks to tide you over I'll gladly pony up if it means you and your ads will go the hell away.

But the problem is that you won't, will you? This whole marketing push now is just the tip of the iceberg, isn't it? Because I'm sure there's got to be an X-Box game I haven't heard about, or Happy Meal toys I haven't seen? Beach towels, action figures? Then there's gonna be ad after ad on TV saying "You saw it once, go see it again!"
And this is all before we even start hearing about the special edition DVD release, or
the inevitable sequels opening up in theaters everywhere just in time for Christmas '09.
Look, I understand that Hollywood is a dog eat dog town, but perhaps it's time for someone to go up to the front desk over at Columbia/Tri-Star and say:
Just wanted to let you know I got all those messages regarding Spiderman 3, kthxbye.
It's almost like instead of spending all that time and money to make V-chips or television controls that can help block programming that I might find inappropriate, I wish that they'd develop some sort of return receipt functionality for my television, you know -- like you can do for your emails so you can find out when people got the message? Not that it's gonna make a lick of difference to Jerry Katzenburg or Michael Eisner -- who apparently will not rest until I can sing all the songs in High School Musical from memory.

I mean seriously -- is it just me, or has the entire world of marketing turned into some bizarre sort of frat initiation, some hell week bullshit where if I can't recite the names and birthplaces of all the members of the Fantastic Four movie cast on cue, I'm gonna have to wait until next fall before I can rush them again?
You like ice cream. You like ice cream. You love it. You can not resist ice
cream. To resist is hopeless. Your existence is meaningless without ice cream.
Once upon a time there was this television show on Thursday nights. It was setup like a situational comedy, but there wasn't really a specific recurring plot device that drove the action week to week. Basically it was a show about nothing, that consisted of comedic explorations of funny things that reminded people of things that happened in their lives.

But the thing about this show was that if you didn't watch it, or you missed an episode it wasn't like people could say "oh you know, it was a lot like last week -- he tried to get the girl and some funny stuff happened" -- it was the sort of thing that required a certain amount of explanation to set up the premise. It was the kind of show that people loved talking about (even if other people didn't really want to hear about it).

I know movies are different, and it's really important to generate a little hype beforehand to make sure that a film's opening weekend isn't a disappointment -- so you can use the big weekend numbers to help market the film during the rest of it's run, but honestly, there's a line between generating excitement and pushing people away, and from where I'm sitting -- you crossed it a long time ago.
Seriously, where's Newman when you need him?

[Listening to:    Stone Temple Pilots"Big Bang Baby" ]


Sunday, October 28

Vader Blows It

..Then gets it back
Then blows it again.
I don't know about you, but I hate to see my boy crash and burn like that. I know he's the dark lord of the Sith, Mr. force choke and everything, but come on -- everyone needs a wingman then and again.
So give it a little while, and then call that baby back -- aiight?

[Listening to:    The Real McKenzies"Bugger Off" ]


Saturday, October 27

Pickin and Grinnin

I'm not a huge fan of country music -- but every now and then a song will get into my head and I'll find myself drawn into it for a little while. And even though it's not something I could ever see myself doing on a regular basis as a musician, one of the secrets guitar players the world over know is that regardless of anything else it might or might not be,
Country music is hell of a lot of fun to play.
But more than that, country music is just catchy. Even if you generally don't like it as a style -- if you're ever in a place where you're willing to give a song a chance, even if it's just out of courtesy (riding in a friends car, waiting at the auto shop, whatever) -- the tune tends to get stuck in your head.

Then like a day later, when you're not thinking about it -- you'll find yourself humming the melody or half-singing the choruses.
Only to look up and and find all your coworkers are staring at you, saying:
"Dude, was that ..Garth Brooks?"
And then you're caught in the inevitable backpedal, trying to wriggle out of it with half-assed excuses that never seem to hold any water -- because if you're not considered part of a sworn and true group of boot-scooters or shitkickers, there's just something embarrassing about being thought of as a country music fan.

I live in the South, where there are lots of people around who love, live, and wear Country music on their sleeves (which is fine) -- but if you're not sorta known among your friends as being a country music fan yet own a George Strait album there's some unspoken shame that leads you to do your best not to keep at the top of your CD case.
It's almost as if as much as people love living in the South, the
last thing they really want to be accused of is being Southern.
You'll even see times where you're at someones house for a party, and inevitably there will be that one guy who decides it's somehow acceptable behavior to browse the host's music shelves and make character judgements based off what they find there -- and once they find that country disc hidden in the back near the Christmas collections it's like they feel compelled to point it out like it's an ugly stepchild or something.

Which is kind of silly when you think about it. I mean, it's just music -- right?
I can't tell you how many times I've seen people faced with Randy Travis or Shania Twain discs who immediately try to disown them or blame it on their spouses or significant others. You'd think their parents had busted them with pot, or discovered a stack of porno magazines under the bed they way most people try to back away from it.
"I had ..this roommate in college who loved the stuff. Our CD's
must have gotten mixed up when she moved out. It's not mine."
I think there's this odd stigma surrounding country music that makes it seem like you have to be kinda stupid to enjoy it. The simplistic chord structures, the outdated dress code, the seemingly closed-eye optimism that underlies so much of the lyrics -- there's just something about it that gives you the impression that not only is there not much thought involved in writing a country song, but that enjoying this style of music is best suited for people who not only have trouble understanding advanced concepts -- but also seem uninterested, even resistant to acknowledging real issues that besiege the world around them.

The irony of course is that it's not like other styles of music out there are overflowing with quadratic equations or highly informed and piquant socio-political debate either -- but the difference seems to be that big dumb pop songs and heavy metal anthems seem to exist in a present day world that's at least aware of the fact that the Civil War ended a long time ago.

I think the reason for this has something to do with the fact that country music is written almost entirely from an adult viewpoint. You'll be hard pressed to ever find a cowboy song dealing with the frustrations of being a teenager without a prom date, or what it's like to be misunderstood or feel disenfranchised.

In other words, country songs seem written by people who have lived long enough to know exactly what it is they want from life, how a fun Saturday night should be spent, and what their mama means to them. It's almost like sometimes country singers know too much for their own good.
All except for one thing..
Because when you get right down to it, there is one subject that country songs don't seem to know anything about. One topic that country singers never seem to deal with at all.
Sex.
You can find country songs that deal with love. Country lyrics talking about children and family. Hell, Tammy Wynette scored a huge hit singing about D-I-V-O-R-C-E, but the one thing you don't hear country crooners (David Allen Coe notwithstanding) talking about is getting busy.
To hear the lyrics tell it, it's almost like they don't do it at all.
I clearly remember growing up watching country superstar Dolly Parton singing songs on television and hearing everyone (including my parents) talking about how "wonderful her voice was" and how "bright and refreshing a personality" she had, almost as if everyone was tripping over themselves not to notice any of the um.. other attributes that might have made her appealing to the public at large.

Of course the odd thing is that whether it's jokes about inbreeding, falling in love with various farm animals, or being thought of as a group eager to over-populate the world with kinfolk -- few groups in America have been so negatively stereotyped as oversexed as hillbillies, rednecks, and country folk have throughout the years.

It's just that when you get to the music itself, there almost seems to be a concerted effort to avoid discussions of those kinds of things. One might even go as far to suggest that all those negative sexual stereotypes are the very reason you won't find Trisha Yearwood and Faith Hill getting together to do a remake of "Shoop."

Not that I think all music and lyrics should be written about boinking, but that Country music's apparent refusal to even acknowledge the concept may have helped create an atmosphere that makes the people involved seem sheltered, naive, and hopelessly out of step with the modern world.

So perhaps the problem isn't that people think country singers and fans are stupid so much as they think of them in the same way some people see clueless virgins -- which in today's everybody-knows-everything Judd Apatow type world seems a fate far worse than never having read a book, finishing school, or being able to find "the Iraq" on a map.

Or to put it another way, Lula Mae in the trailer park might have 14 rugrats pulling at her ankles, but as far as Kenny Chesney is concerned -- the stork must have carried them over in little bundles of cloth during the middle of the night.

At the same time considering who some of the biggest stars in the genre are, I'm not so sure I would welcome the change if it came tomorrow. Truth be told, I think even most die-hard fans might have trouble if someone like Charlie Daniels got up on a stage in Nashville and said
"To truly understand the message of this song, it might be helpful for
all you good people out there to close your eyes and picture me naked."
It's almost like what country music really needs is a new voice -- a worldly, experienced kind of spokesperson to help remove that sorta never-been-touched nerdiness from it's public image.
Someone like say, ..Maynard James Keenan in a wig.

Ridiculously unsafe for work, yet hilarious.

[Listening to:    Jimi Hendrix"If 6 Was 9" ]


Friday, October 26

Floating in a Most Peculiar Way

Long day. Glad to finally be going home. Student loan money collection vultures can suck it. Going to see the Genitortures tonight, which should help make things a little better -- but in the meanwhile:
Here's hoping your weekend is as cool as this.
[Listening to:    Edgewater"Apples & Oranges" ]


Thursday, October 25

Worst. Toy. Ever.

What, was "Let's Play Jail" taken?

Honestly, who would get this for their kid? What kind of a-hole parent wraps this up for Christmas and then says "Here beloved son or daughter -- I thought you might enjoy seeing what a day in hell is like." Yeah, lets all gather round the living room and play another thrilling round of everyones favorite game -- Watch the Clock.
"Hey kids, -- it's Pretend and Play Office Space, the game the whole family doesn't really want to play, but kinda got stuck in for the last 15 years while their dreams of being an astronaut, rock star, or princess slowly went down the tubes."
I mean seriously, do you want your kids to know how to do this, or even to pretend to be excited about these kinds of things while they're still young enough to have dreams and ambitions of doing the kinds of things with their lives that are truly worth imagining?
Lets just imagine for a second what "playing" with this toy would be like:
As you can see, the kit comes complete with desk accessories like a stapler, a calculator, and a toy fountain pen. There's also a calendar, a laptop computer, and pretend business cards. Everything your child needs to get completely swamped under with paperwork and meetings that keep them from ever really getting ahead of the game enough to earn that one promotion that they're always getting passed over for.

But don't fret, there's still the simple joys of that pretend coffee mug and fake donut that they were nice enough to put in there for the kid to wolf down between the ringing of the toy cell phone telling them about their next big deadline.
The cutest part is when your child pretends to have a coronary after finding out about the surprise fourth-quarter layoffs.
The kit even comes with an adorable little glass ceiling for all the little girls out there (Notice the cute framed photo of the blonde who I guess is supposed to be your "wife?") Don't worry though, it totally compliments the pretend necktie, glasses, and men's wristwatch that's included to ensure that you comply with the playtime dress code (except for Fridays, where it's pretend business casual -- complete with wacky hat day coming up next month, and be sure to bring a covered dish for the after-hours team building potluck!)

     "What's that honey? Cynthia's piano recital!? -- Oh shit, that was tonight?"

But worst of all are the toy paychecks they put in there for your child to shake their head at and sigh. Come on -- everyone loves it when we play the first and the fifteenth, because that's when the FICA-fairy shows up!
Look kids, it's Captain pre-tax HMO contribution, and he's brought along his buddies
Dental and Vision -- you know, the ones that only play with you 20% of the time?
I could just see sitting there with my son. First we'd set up all the stuff, then sit there behind the computer playing solitare until he looks up at me and says "So, what do we do now?" and I'd sip my fake coffee and say, "Hopefully nothing -- unless the boss walks by."

Look, office work is not something I want my kid thinking about, even if it's just pretend. There's so much more he could dream of, so much more potential for him to realize. Even if I have a better office job now compared to any of the other corporate gigs I've had in the past -- there's no escaping the fact that it's still a soul-sucking exercise that I would give up in a heartbeat if any of the things I really wanted to do with my life came along.

Besides, what's the most fun you can have with something like this anyways -- Blogging in Outlook so that it looks like you're typing something official?
Oh crap, I'm playing it already!

[Listening to:    Dangerdoom"Doomsday" ]


Wednesday, October 24

Survey Says

So today while making my rounds at the office I took a shortcut through the cafe to get back to my desk. There's a TV in there that they leave on all day. I think the original intention was to have it on the news or weather channel during the day so people wouldn't feel disconnected and would have something to watch while they ate, but something funny happened on the way to the forum -- and now you can find just about anything on there depending on what time of the day you happen to show up.
You think watching Maury Povich helps the time pass when you're unemployed?
Just wait until you see who the baby's real father is while you're still on the clock.
I think the trouble really started to happen when Anna Nicole Smith died, and CNN's 24-hour coverage started to feel like a second-rate version of Entertainment Tonight. And while everyone couldn't help but be drawn into the train wreck at first, management didn't really have a problem when people started to get tired of all the sensationalism and switched over to other channels.
But once that floodgate opened, all bets were off.
The funny thing is that we get a lot of corporate visitors in this place. As a multi-national medical engineering firm, it's pretty common to see the execs walking around explaining our operation to foreign dignitaries, research scientists, and various medical professionals. Guys in expensive suits taking notes about our quality controls, manufacturing processes or whatever.
What I wouldn't give to hear my boss try to hold it together while giving one of these VIP's a tour that passes by the flatscreen featuring two brawling trailer trash girls while the crowd chants "Jerry, Jerry, Jerry!"
Anyways, I'm cutting through the café today and the TV's on like always -- this time tuned to a recent episode of Family Feud -- and they're playing that bonus round game where the contestants answer questions and then see how many of the surveyed people had the same answer,
And at the top of the board, showing as the #1 answer -- was the word BOOBS.
I mean, how totally priceless is that? Here, right at the center of our campus, literally within feet on an ongoing production meeting -- some guy leaned into a microphone, said the magic word, and then listened while his relatives shouted "Good answer, good answer!!"

To be honest though, embarrassing answers like that have always been part of the appeal of that particular game, a fact that's been proven again and again during the seemingly billion-year run it's had on broadcast television.
Game shows certainly aren't as popular as they used to be in popular culture, but it's hard to think that they'll ever truly go away. And in my mind that's not such a horrible thought -- because despite their inherent cheesiness, there's still something about them that's hard to resist. I can't say I watch them all the time -- but like a lot of families growing up in the late 80's watching Wheel of Fortune was an every night kinda thing. And before that my family watched the hell out of things like Family Feud, Hollywood Squares and The Joker's Wild.

I think the main reason for this was my mother -- an incredibly well-read and intelligent woman who possessed the two main qualities that are utterly essential if you ever want to be considered a real game show fan:
1) A burning need to validate your own intelligence by shouting out answers before the people on TV can.
2) A pure sense of joy that can only be attained when other people show themselves to be stupider than you.
Qualities which I'm proud to say (for better or for worse) that I have completely inherited from her. Ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you that watching Jeopardy with me tends to be a total pain, because I'm continually playing along. I'm not always right -- but rest assured my answers are always shouted out before anyone else can buzz in.

Even worse, getting my two cents in on a game show question is something that usually takes precedence over any other conversation I might happen to be having at the time.
"Of course I love you baby, you know you're the only one for m.. WHAT IS A RAKE!!"
It all sorta goes back to this theory that I've been expounding for a long time, ever since I was a corporate trainer back at Alltel -- which is that smart people desperately need you to know just how smart they are. It's like a drug. If we've read the book then we're gonna tell you that it's better than the movie. If you mispronounce something we're gonna call you on it -- and if you're trying to pass off a joke as your own that we saw on the Simpsons or the Daily Show the night before we're gonna make sure you don't get credit for someone else's stuff.

Especially in this day and age where the encyclopedias are written by committee and everyone seems to be an expert about something -- once you get a couple of know-it-alls into a catfight the rest of the day is basically over. From "Who would win in a fight between Kirk and Picard" to "What was Miss Teen South Carolina thinking?" -- nothing's more important these days than knowing what you know.

The thing that's changed about this though is that it's not only smart people anymore. Even the idiots you meet on a regular basis are willing to fight about the things they know better than you. From how much I don't know about what it's like to try to make it on the streets to telling me how hard it is to get respect from your peers when you're beautiful, there's no shortage of "informed sources" out there to choose from -- even when it seems like the vast majority of them don't really know what the hell they're talking about.

I find it interesting in a culture where being "too smart" is still seen as a social handicap, it seems like now more than ever there's been a huge spike in the value that's placed on the idea of someone being an authority in a given area. And I'm just as guilty of it as anyone else -- especially when it comes to things that I feel like I've put time into learning about.
Or to put it another way, I don't so much have a particular taste in music anymore as
much as I'm completely convinced that all the music I don't happen to like totally sucks.
Of course the worst part of it all is the hypocrisy that comes with this sort of though process -- because as much as I'm truly offended by people who tell me that I'm un-American for not supporting the war in Iraq, I'm the first one to point out that anyone who voluntarily listens to and enjoys a song like "Big Girls Don't Cry" must have been dropped on their head as a baby.

I'm not trying to sound all superior here, but I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent person. I read a lot. I'm a college graduate. I enjoy learning new things, and even if it's not my chosen profession anymore I truly love teaching others. At the same time I still can't balance a checkbook to save my life. I have no idea where Albania is. Lolcats still crack me up. Few things in this world are funnier than watching me attempt to do long division in my head, except of course if you need me to figure out and fix what's wrong with your wi-fi connection, explain to a mechanic what's wrong with my car, or try to name any members of the current presidential cabinet.

Never mind the fact that I can name (from memory) the stunt coordinators for all 3 Blade movies, the exact technique and accessories Kirk Hammett used to get the wailing sounds you hear during the outro section to the Metallica song "The Thing That Should Not Be," the names of all the current head coaches in the NFL who used to be coordinators for Mike Shanahan, or how to make an upside-down kamikaze without a glass,
..when you get right down to it, I'm kinda stupid.
I guess in the end none of us can really know everything. But I don't know that it's the worst thing in the world if we don't. Even in this culture where everyone seems to be a know-it-all about something -- there's still a world of difference between intelligence and maturity. Some of the best people I've known never finished school. Some of the worst people I've come across have more degrees than they know what to do with.

It's not what you know -- it's what you do with it. It's how you apply it, where you put your particular knowledge to use.
But then again, any dummy could have told you that, right?

[Listening to:    Coal Chamber"Shari Vegas" ]


Monday, October 22

Hi Mom

Monday Night Football is a unique event. One night, one game -- broadcast in a time slot that almost always offers no conflicts with any other sporting events. Realizing the singularity of this opportunity to attract fans and advertisers, the NFL does their best to ensure that Monday Night games feature matchups between marquee teams.

As such, it's a high-profile TV opportunity not only for the teams and players involved, but also for the cities hosting the games, which is why getting scheduled for a Monday Night game is always such a big deal, especially in smaller media markets that don't always get national coverage on television.

In other words, when your town's franchise is lucky enough to be the home team for a Monday night game, it's a unique chance to introduce the rest of the country to the things that make your city special.
America, say hello to Jacksonville:
To be honest -- it was one of those moments where if you weren't paying full attention to the screen you probably missed it. And with the game at that point being pretty much a blowout, it's safe to assume a lot of people had already tuned out. But just like that time the girl flashed her boobs on the Today show, those of us who did see it pretty much couldn't unsee it -- and will forever be altered by the experience (Best. Today show. Ever.)

Not that I'm bashing the dude, because honestly -- I laughed my ass off when it happened, but it's not hard to imagine that somewhere in the Mayor's office discussions are being held as to whether or not it would be a good idea to get a task force together to find this guy and fit him for some cement overshoes and a free tour of the bottom of the St. John's river.

Luckily for the Mayor, this is the redneck capital of the new south -- which means finding the perpetrator is only as difficult as tuning in to the local morning radio shows, where the guy himself called in take credit for the move, followed by a bazillion calls afterwards proclaiming him as a folk hero.
And yes ladies, because I know you're asking,
He's single.

[Listening to:    The Clash"the Guns of Brixton" ]


Friday, October 19

The Last Thing You Should Do

I hate Fridays like this. Half the office is out on vacation. I didn't go out last night. Nothing new has caught my eye on TV lately. I really don't have anything new to report on the apartment hunting front. Nothing has fallen out of the ceiling recently. Didn't see anything in the news today shocking enough to get all rant-y about. The Broncos still suck. It's raining outside.
I guess the only thing left for me to do is ..get back to work?

[Listening to:    Deftones"Kimdracula" ]


Thursday, October 18

Eight or Die

Ok, lame videogame reference aside -- I got tagged by j the other day with this -- so here you go.
    Rules:
  • Each blogger must post these rules first
  • Each blogger must start eight random facts/habits about themselves
  • Bloggers tagged need to write about their eight things
  • At the end of your blog, choose eight people to get tagged & list their names
My Eight:
1. My full name is Jack Daniel Luft. I have been told that my name is a combination of my grandfathers first names, and that my adoptive parents "didn't really realize" people might think I was named after something else.
2. I have a vacuum cleaner, but I've never used it.
3. I cannot stand the texture of cotton balls. Seriously, it sends shivers up my spine when I touch them. I've gotten to the point where I can open up medicine pill bottles and remove the safety cotton from them, but I look like a frikkin' wackadoo whenever I try.
4. I can play guitar. I can (kinda) sing. I'm utterly hopeless when it comes to doing both at the same time.
5. I'd rather slamdance than go to the movies (DVD's you can rent, that concert is only gonna happen once).
6. I'm a really laid-back guy, but sometimes at work I'm like this
7. I'll flirt with anyone. It gets me in trouble sometimes.
8. When I get angry, I tend to argue with bigger words than I use regularly. I have a 3-penny vocabulary, but for whatever reason it only seems to come out when I'm pissed.
I tag: Bill, Monster, Werdna, MsPuddin, Sarah, James, Amanda, and WIGSF.
Eh, anyone else that wants to jump in is welcome too -- pretermit the prescripts!

[Listening to:    Mnemic"Meaningless" ]


Tuesday, October 16

The Latte Factor

They say the key to getting ahead of your money troubles is to examine your spending and try to find your "latte factor." That is, the thing that you tend to spend your extra money on that isn't really a necessity, but has become such a habit that you don't really think of it as a luxury expense. If you can isolate that one thing -- whether it be a daily stop at Starbucks, going out to lunch, maybe that one soft drink you always buy on the way home from work to get you through traffic -- eliminate it, and then save that extra money you'll find yourself surprised just how much moolah you end up with every month.
Sounds simple enough when you think about it --
but sometimes the latte factor isn't easy to find.
Back in college, I could have pegged it in a second -- Compact Discs. I was always buying them, always hungry for new music, and always too willing to take the plunge on anything I heard on the radio or whatever that I thought might be worth having.

Far too many times the one song I heard that was good was the only bright spot on the CD, and at $15 - $20 a pop, there were far too many times where at the end of the month I'd be paying bills wondering why I kept coming up just short on everything. Getting student loan checks every semester made everything seem financially possible for a while, but when that train left the station I had to learn some hard lessons, and fast.

Nowadays when I try to examine my finances to see where the corners are I find that I've reached a place where it's not so much the little everyday things that bite me in the wallet as it is the big things I "think" I've saved up enough to splurge on once in a while. I'm sure there are one or two cable channels I could cut from my bill, and I doubt the loss of my Netflix account would prove fatal -- but the more I pour over my budgets and my bills the more it seems I'm a victim of my big ticket indulgences rather than the nickel and dime stuff that pops up along the way.

So for me, staying ahead of the bills month to month is often a matter of restraint rather than any sort of daily reconditioning. With my math skills being what they are, I guess it shouldn't be such a surprise that I sometimes have trouble balancing all sides of the equations when it comes to situations where I think, "Yeah, I can afford that."

To be honest, I've gotten a lot better about it lately (despite the fact that my knock-off mp3 player is starting to break down, I still have been able to resist the urge to fork out for that new iPod I've been wanting just yet), but it doesn't mean that it isn't difficult sometimes.
Why?
Because window shopping is free.
This is the Ibanez RGT42DXWH. Mahogany body, rosewood fretboard, 24 frets and 2 of the sweetest factory-made humbuckers I've played in a long, long time. For a guitar that seems like it's built just for shredding or heavy stuff, the jazz tones this instrument produces are really fantastic. Plus there's just something about it that catches your eye, even for such a plain design and color scheme.

I was trying to explain it to j the other day -- the way that guitar shopping is sorta therapeutic for me. I own 4 guitars, I love them all, and have specific uses for all of them even if these days playing is more of a hobby for me than anything else. But every once in a while I like to go over to the musicians superstores and just wander around, take something off the wall, and test-drive. New guitars are expensive, so I'm rarely tempted to buy because the numbers are rarely realistic -- but it's been almost a week since I played this thing and I'm still thinking about it.

I don't need it. And right now it's not even a realistic thought -- what with me trying to save up for an eventual move into a new place (which is always a huge hit to the bottom line), but oh, man -- I really want this guitar.

The funny thing is that I went in the store because eventually I'm hoping to buy a new amplifier. Mine is ok, but I really don't like the way it sounds and it's too small to be effective in most jam situations. One of these days I'm hoping to play around again -- and having a better amp is something that (even if I can't afford it right now) is something that I feel is definitely necessary if I want to improve my overall sound.
In other words, if there's any sort of musical equipment out
there that I could make a case for needing -- it's a new amp.
But when you're a guitarist, the lure of a new guitar is a hard thing to pass up. The only thing I can really think to compare it to is the way women get about designer handbags.

Now before you start to think I'm going to get all sexist on here, you need to know that I fully understand why women buy so many purses. I get that purses and shoes need to coordinate with outfits, and that it's hard to find just one thing that you can use in every situation. That being said, I've seen first hand the difference that takes place in a woman's eyes between the time spent sifting through the hanging racks at Dillard's and the held-breath staring through the window that happens when you walk past the Coach or Kate Spade store.

Or to put it another way -- this guitar I want costs about $700, which is just about how much it would cost to buy one of these:
Now does she need that purse? I mean, really, really need it?
..But does she want that purse?
Oh yeah, she does.
The difference I suppose is that in my experience when I've caught a woman looking longingly through a store window at a handbag that would normally be out of her regular pricerange, you can't get them to go into the store to look at it. I suppose the feeling is that it's hard to strap it on your shoulder if you know you can't easily afford it -- a thought that probably could be a lot easier to transfer to my guitar shopping habit than I'm willing to admit.

But if that's the case, it would mean that window shopping for guitars is my latte factor.
..And there's no way I'm giving that up.

[Listening to:    The Clash"Career Opportunities" ]


Monday, October 15

Steal The Covers, I Dare You

Dear God, are you seeing this?
I mean seriously -- what gets into people's heads sometimes? Protection from home invasion? When has that old chestnut of a theory ever really gone right? Think about yourself when you wake up suddenly from a restful sleep. Is a shotgun really the first thing you want/need access to?
Actual Uses People Might Find for a Bed-Mounted Shotgun
  • Shutting off an alarm clock
  • Expressing your opinions regarding Leno's monologues
  • Re-writing the old Christmastime favorite Up on the Rooftop
  • Livening up that one dream you sometimes have where you're Steven Seagal
  • Putting an end to unwanted nocturnal flatulence issues forever.
  • Two words: Zombie Attack.
Look people, Red Dawn was a fun movie, but it was a long time ago; and I don't care how much you are into hunting -- I promise you that sound you hear in the middle of the night isn't a 6-point buck foraging through your underwear drawer for food.
Get a dog already.

[Listening to:    Eric B. & Rakim"Don't Sweat the Technique" ]


Sunday, October 14

Actually Spoken During the Course of My Evening

"It's like a giant used bookstore ..full of dildos."

[Listening to:    Motograter"Down" ]


Saturday, October 13

Death Ray Guy

Seriously, am I gonna have to cut a geek?



Friday, October 12

All Your Crackers and Your Licorice

Here's hoping your weekend is as much fun as this:

(Mad love to the Burnt Rastafarian for sending this my way)
If you need me for a back massage, you know where to look ;)

[Listening to:    Skrape"I Can't Breathe" ]


Wednesday, October 10

Hills, That Is

The thing about hunting for a one-bedroom apartment (especially in this city) is that you have to go see them. There's so much doublespeak and obfuscation going on in your average classified ad that all you can really take from is the price (and sometimes not even that). Most ads around here don't list square footage, hardly ever show addresses -- it's a huge crap shoot.
Your only real bet is to make the phone call, set up a time, and go see the place yourself.
So I found this one place in the paper and went to check it out. It was a complex, so my radar was already up -- but it's been a tough apartment search, so I've had to open myself to things that I normally wouldn't consider. So I get there, sign a piece of paper, talk to the dude for a second, and we head out to the model.

One of the things I find annoying about looking at complexes is that they always have a furnished model. That one pristinely-clean-overfilled-with-rental-furniture-and-throw-pillows-unit that represents a standard of living that I don't think anyone could ever survive in. There are tons of chairs and couches, but with all the pillows and stuff there's nowhere to sit.
Seriously, who lives like that?
So we tour the rooms (which is always awkward when you're looking at 1-bedroom places, because as considerate as you're trying to be, there's only so much to look at). The kitchen has all the appliances I'm looking for, but it's really cramped. There's hardly any counter room to cook on -- which for me is a negative, but it's much more functional than my current kitchen, so we'll call it a push.

Then we go into the bedroom, which is unbelievably small. They've got one of those half-beds in there to try to make it seem larger, but there's no hiding the fact that it's really not that comfortable a room at all.

I guess the apartment guy picked up on my apprehension -- because he quickly moved over to the window in a hurry and pulled back the curtains to let some sunlight into the room, which gave me my first chance to get a look at the view I would have from this place.
Outside the window, framed by the curtains -- was a Wal-Mart.
"So," he says, "What do you think?" I tried to be pleasant about it, saying friendly things without professing any false love for a place that I already felt wasn't right for me -- which he took as a cue point in his sales pitch timeline, and instantly started talking amenities and features of the community (I had to swallow a chuckle when he mentioned how close to local shops and merchants the place was).

Now what you need to know here is that depending on the part of town you choose to live in and the kind of place you're willing to accept, a one-bedroom apartment in Jacksonville will cost you somewhere around $400-$800 a month (you can find places for less -- but trust me, if you sign on to live in one of those 2-bedroom apartments listed in the paper for 300, be prepared to have uninvited roommates smoking up all your stuff whenever you're not home). My personal range is somewhere in the middle of that -- but I haven't been having a lot of luck lately, so I've been considering higher numbers and a radical re-shifting of my budget.

Dude keeps droning on and on, and I decide to jump in and cut to the chase. I ask him how much a place like this runs for -- at which point this guy lights up, looks me in the eye, and holds his hands up in front of him palms up so that he can literally push each syllable out while he speaks -- as if he were somehow helping the deal move through the air towards me through the air while he says,
"Are you ready for this? $1100 a month."
At which point I can't help but look out the window at Wallyworld, busy as ever.
[Listening to:    Taproot"Lost in The Woods" ]


Tuesday, October 9

Like Lysistrata, If it Were Acted Out at The Gap

I don't know what is wrong with me sometimes, because my opinions don't always follow any real sense of logic. I'm not naive enough to believe that the trashy reality shows I enjoy watching on VH1 like Rock of Love or I Love New York don't have staged bits or people who are playing "parts" for the camera -- but I tend to believe that the majority of those shows are basically real, or at least the reactions to things that are going on.
But I've always always believed that MTV shows are fake.
From Parental Control to that first time The Real World was on when I was in high school -- the people they used were always too pretty, and the dramas that developed were always too cut and dry for me to whole-heartedly buy into.

In the real world, someone who feels like that (whether they're right or not) should carry that same belief everywhere -- meaning that I shouldn't believe in VH1 reality shows either, but for whatever reason I draw a line between them. Basically I guess I believe has-been stars such as Flava Flav, Danny Bonaduce, and Hulk Hogan are basically too dumb or too drunk at any given moment to keep a secret -- so even if there are fake bits happening on their respective shows, I've come to believe that the key players involved think it's all real.

Which is why it shouldn't really have been so disappointing when the new reality show Tila Tequila's Shot at Love felt utterly, utterly scripted. I don't know what it is about TV , but there's no hiding it when people are trying really hard to look like they are having fun -- and once you trip into the fact that supposedly "real" people you tuned in to watch aren't real at all (even when you were totally expecting them to be) it's hard not to feel a little annoyed.

Unfortunately, this is exactly the way I felt watching Tila's new reality show. Honestly -- It was like an episode of "next" featuring 20 people at once wooing a girl I (and nearly everyone else has) seen prancing around on MySpace.
Everything *everyone* said on the show felt like it was being read off a cue card.
That being said, the show is totally worth it.
Why?
Because the 16 straight girls they got to play the part of the "lesbians" were totally hot. They included 2 sorta butch looking girls (for balance, perhaps?) and then promptly kicked one of them off.

But the whole thing about the show that's hilarious is that even if Tila claims she likes both boys and girls, the show itself ends up being a resounding endorsement for the lesbian lifestyle. The dudes on the show instantly turn into monkeys once they're introduced -- are constantly grabby and annoying, get in fights with each other, and all act like complete douchebags.
At the same time, they all look good with their shirts off -- and after all,
isn't that always the real point of an MTV show, regardless of the title?
Then these 16 smokin' hot Maxim bimbos come in and everyone watching is like -- "That's a lesbian? Oh man -- that's for me, where do I sign up?"

Not that there's no such thing as a hot lesbian, or that even that a group of lipstick lesbians in LA wouldn't do a reality show like this and exploit themselves, but that these girls are so utterly unconvincing that it's almost funny every time they even say the *word* lesbian. It's like they were describing a car they drive.
"I love being a lesbian. The mileage is great, and there's plenty of legroom. Mine even comes with a GPS navigation system!"
Honestly -- these are the kind of girls that guys wish for lesbians to look like.
Then, in a true show of womynist pride, they did a segment where the liberated women all come out in sexy Halloween outfits and say awful pickup lines related to their outfits. Not that they weren't hot -- but that after 15 minutes of complaining that guys are always too macho and competitive and it's annoying how they're all so testosterone-driven and that's what makes girls so much cooler to date -- there's a fashion show where Tila and the rest of us get to channel the goddess Sappho while we all shout, "Hooray, Boobies!"
It's like someone saw the movie Bound (which totally, totally rocks), made 5 copies of
it, and then played them all at once on a wall of TVs, and called it ground-breaking TV.
At the same time if Tila said the phrase "No one knows I'm bisexual!" any less than a billion times during the episode I would be floored -- emphasizing the word as if it were something no one had ever heard of before.

But by far the funniest thing was when all the hired actors and musicians they got to be "contestants" acted totally SHOCKED to find this fact out. Guys were actually pretending to be visually grossed out when the girl in the bikini stood in front of the other hotties in bikinis and said "Surprise -- I like girls and boys!"
Which, as everyone knows -- the only real response is to say
"Thank you, God." or "Santa got my letter!!"
In the end, the whole thing looks fake (if you need any real proof that the thing is staged -- Marcus from the Janice Dickinson reality show is one of the male contestants), but I'm all for watching really hot chicks making out and mud wrestling on television. Which is good, because despite her noteriety -- Tila Tequila looks really funny when she talks. Her head seems strangely out of proportion with the rest of her body. She's one of those girls who looks better in photos. She's also about 2 feet tall. It's like a romantic version of one of those Leprechaun Horror movies without all the Irish accents.
However, the fake drama promises to be supremely trashy
-- and besides, what else am I gonna watch on a Tuesday?

[Listening to:    Rikets"Anything for the Devil" ]


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