Friday, November 30

Distant Early Warning

The human body is an incredible machine. It performs hundreds of independent life-sustaining actions without prompting or effort. It can learn new skills and adapt to different environments quickly. It monitors it's own status on a continual basis and gives you a variety of physical warnings to let you know if anythings wrong -- If your body's being attacked by the flu, you get a fever. If you're under too much stress, you get a headache. If you come in contact with something that your system is allergic to, you itch.
But best of all your body has the built-in ability to solve many of
it's own minor problems using a series of time-tested methods.
The only real problem is that this incredible biological machine is contained within a person -- someone who lives in a society with other people, who collectively conspire to embrace certain conventions of manner and decorum that don't always jive with the way your system needs to work.

In other words, as a human being I may not have the same abilities as other animals -- like if I was standing around with a bunch of other people near a watering hold and there was some sort of predator like a lion or a bear somewhere downwind, the chances of me picking up on their scent and then wordlessly warning all of the other members of the herd of the impending danger nearby so we can all scamper to safety are basically zero.
But I always know when I've got a fart coming
You know that feeling, a little bubble in the stomach -- that specific combination of muscle constrictions. It's your body's little early warning proximity alarm. Almost like there's a little submarine crew inside your mind and the sonar guy has picked up a blip on the radar. It gives you time to make a decision. It lets you map out your options and go through the contingencies -- especially when you're in situations where things like that might cause problems, like thanksgiving dinners, first dates, or my particular situation -- sitting at my desk within close proximity to five or six other people.

Sometimes you can get away with it. Sometimes it's not so bad. But your body knows -- and at this particular moment mine was screaming at me, telling me that I was about to enter into a situation that needed more than just a fake cough or any kind of overt shuffling of papers to cover it up.
This was a fart that was going to require some sort of action.
And not only because baking a brownie within such close quarters to my coworkers would be embarrassing, but also because the main person who would have to deal with it would be me. Some farts you can let go and then escape -- they either float away or get buried in the cushion of your desk chair, but then there are those others that you know won't just go away. The ones that linger. The ones you'd have to sit in.
I don't know about you -- but I just can't do that -- especially if a meat lover's pizza is to blame.
So you find solutions. You develop a series of contingency plans. Do I go into an empty bathroom and cut it loose? Maybe I should step outside for a moment and "Make sure I didn't leave my lights on when I parked?" or something. Who knows, perhaps this is a good time to see if that harpie in the marketing department is on a client call, so I can go into her office -- alone and interrupted, to see if she's finally gotten around to reviewing that proposal of mine she's always too busy to look at.

Depending on the urgency and assumed stink factor of the bomb you're preparing to drop, all of these options may be open to you. But in a crowded office environment like this one the motive is never enough. More than anything you need to have the means and opportunity in order to complete your task. If you have to get all the way across the building in order to get to the parking lot, or need to ride in a crowded elevator on the way to that one storage closet that no one ever seems to use there's a risk factor involved that you need to consider.
Just because you know one's coming doesn't always mean that you can hold it.
Which is probably why so many corporate roachers these days seem to avoid the complexities of these types of surgical air strikes altogether and take the easy way out:
Crop Dusting.
For those of you who might not know, crop dusting is the name given to the practice of getting up from your desk, walking to another place in the office -- and then cutting the cheese as gradually as you can while you're moving.

The idea is to spread the wealth as much as possible, thereby minimizing the overall stink of the fart in any one spot while simultaneously doing your best to escape the aroma (and associated blame) yourself by making sure it's placed as far away from your own cubicle as possible.

The key here is in the release, because there are two components you have to deal with -- the smell and the noise. Crop dusting by it's very nature is an attempt to avoid rid of the aroma, but if you don't respect the noise factor everyone's going to know what you're doing anyways. A beef is a beef, and no amount of dancing around the hallways is gonna change that.
So you have to be careful --
Test the waters a little bit, so to speak.
See, that first little fart is essential -- because it lets you know what you're up against. If it hisses like a snake, you're in the clear. But if it quacks like a duck, everyone will know what you're up to unless you're somehow able to slow things down to the point where it can be confused for something else. True masters of the art can break it up into smaller bursts, to the point where anyone nearby might mistake the sound for something else, like bubble wrap popping or the sound a heel makes when it accidentally drags against a tiled floor (ladies, don't think you're getting away with that one -- we all know what you're up to).

Unfortunately not all offices come with long hallways -- leaving many crop dusters with no other option but to slalom randomly between rows of cubicles, trailing their toxic waste behind them. You've seen them -- that guy that "doesn’t have time to stop and say hello," that one woman who seems to be walking too fast for the shoes she's wearing.

Worst of all is that one guy you hardly ever talk to who drops in to your cube just to "see how your day is going." They interrupt you while you're busy with something else, make vague small talk that you can only answer with half-sentences like "Really? I didn't get that memo yet." or "I guess I missed that meeting -- can I find the PowerPoint file online?"

Only to have them duck out of the conversation somewhat unexpectedly, check their watch -- and head off in a hurry; Leaving you sitting there for a moment wondering what that was all about, and why they couldn't have just emailed you with a question like that -- even to the point of raising your head to ponder the possibilities, only to have a nearby coworker suddenly stop what they're doing, sniff the air for a second, and then shoot you the accusing look.
While I, smiling quietly to myself -- walk back to my desk, sit down, and go back to work.

[Listening to:    The English Beat"Mirror in the Bathroom" ]

Thursday, November 29


Somewhere between the darkness and the rain is a place in your mind where all the languages you know or at least pretend to understand mingle together. It's a place you find after the day is finished, when all you really want is to enjoy your dinner in peace. Your thoughts move beneath you, pluming towards the sky like flames emitting from factories that never close. Fires that are necessary to the drive that keeps you moving forward, yet like all memories -- made from flames that can easily engulf your focus if you were to get too close.
So you fly above. Try to make it part of the background.
I rarely turn the lights on when I'm at home by myself. Between computer screens, the flicker of the television, and the world moving outside my window there's usually enough illumination for me to survive by. I don't really know when I started that habit -- but it's become such a reflex that I hardly even notice that I'm doing it any more.

Of course this time of year when the night comes earlier the shadows are longer, stretching and fading across old photographs, books that we both love, and CD's that you've sent me. Their presence is a comfort to me. A context that keeps those nights alive in my mind. Not that I would forget, but ever since you moved off-world having these reminders close keeps them alive in a manner more than if they were just an image in my mind.
Just because we can dream of the unicorn doesn't mean we can actually live in the moment with it.
Which might make some wonder where that dream came from, or even if it were real to begin with..

So you keep things close. You wear the bracelets until the colored threads wear out. Not because they have power themselves but because the objects keep you actively connected to the memories of the source. A band wrapped around your wrist almost serving as a cocoon around your mind, keeping the past alive in the present almost as if you were replicating the moment.
Unfortunately, a replicant only has so long to exist.
Last night, sitting in the dark -- emails to be read, movie images flashing by; the room coated in subtle shades of blue and yellow, driven each by their own sources, then meeting in the middle of the room as something less than where they began -- except in this case the effect is desired. Direct light is harsh. Demanding.

The television is on, but the sound is down. Voices in the background -- sufficient to hear, but not enough to distract. It's a welcome comfort, like hearing rain against the window without having to get wet. You sink into it, like a warm bath or a favorite couch, hoping to escape the stresses of the day and eventually transition into a place where the night can become it's own animal -- independent and free.
It's like folding paper. The result has beauty, but it's the process that creates the calm.
Which is perhaps why I was so caught off guard when I absently looked out the window of my second story apartment and caught sight of a brightly-colored blimp flying in the distance, it's sides illuminated by some sort of projection screen playing advertisements for the company who's name was written on the side.

After the initial surprise, part of me immediately began connecting the circuits in search for an explanation, thinking of reasons why a blimp might be there and if any of those things were happening right now.
But I swear, the very first thought that came
to my mind was that I had woken up in a movie.
I tried to take a picture of it to help illustrate the reality, but the best I could manage was a blurry blue point on an otherwise black background. Impulses and electrons, not enough even to create the illusion of reality.
Certainly not enough for a skinjob to pass as real.
And yet, sometimes it's not hard to wonder if it's not reality we crave, but the completeness of the aesthetic that we're looking to find. The idea that even if we know that our world spins around another star, the events in our own lives to some extent all revolve around our own perceptions and reactions to them. That our feelings and desires are at the center of our world -- which would offer some explanation for why I like to listen to sad songs when I'm feeling down, or why the approach of a holiday built on love and happiness only lately tends to make me more attuned to feelings of sadness and isolation, despite the fact that I know in my mind and my heart that I'm not alone at all.

It's just that sometimes despite the fact that there's a joy in having each memory to cherish and hold, there's a weight that comes when you realize that all you can do remember.
In other words, It's a shame those memories can't live forever.

..But then again, who does?

Wednesday, November 28

Actually Spoken During the Course of My Evening

"I've got a great idea for a new show: We get Dane Cook and Kathy Griffin, tie razorblades to their legs, throw them in a ring, and let them peck each other to death."

[Listening to:    Ankla"Your Grace Makes Me Sick" ]

Tuesday, November 27

Boston Can Suck It

One of the dangers of being a big sports fan who also happens to be a blogger is that there's always the danger of the thing turning into a sports blog, especially this time of year.

I mean, it's one thing for me to go all bonkers when the Broncos or Seminoles decide to suck out loud, because that's a part of who I am. Listening to me bellyache about Denver's NFL franchise is just part of the deal if you want to hang out with me.

But when you get right down to it, the last thing this world needs is another blogger complaining ad nauseam about all the things that are wrong with college football lately.
Which is why I'm gonna let Carl do it for me.

Mad love to Gristina for the link.

[Listening to:    Chevelle"Straight Jacket Fashion" ]

Monday, November 26

You Sir Are No Mark Holt

A big part of my job involves dropping in on people to solicit their approval signatures on the reports that I write. Sometimes I use interoffice mail when I need to get signatures from higher-ups and managers -- but when it comes to the engineers, a lot of times if you don't hand deliver things (and hover over them until they sign) your reports tend to get forgotten about or "put off until later" -- which can cause all kinds of problems, depending on the project.

I try to be cool about it -- I do my best not to trap people while they're eating, and if I see someone talking on the phone I usually move on and come back later, but in a busy place like this there's really no way to completely avoid disrupting people at their desks. Sometimes it works in my favor, as some of the people I deal with are more willing to sign things without much ado if they have other things to do.
But mostly I just end up scaring the hell out folks.
Not on purpose of course -- but it seems like a lot of the people I work with are the type that get so focused on their computer screens that they don’t realize I am there unless I say something or make a noise while I’m approaching their desks. And knocking on the cubicle wall when I show up isn't really enough; because a lot of people get so wired into what they're doing on that the noise itself startles them.

And while seeing the various managers jump in their chairs and even occasionally shriek in surprise is endlessly funny, it’s probably not the kind of thing that wins me a lot of points when it comes to winning friends or building bridges for the future.
Especially considering that the people who are the most startled
to see me are the ones who aren’t really working when I show up.
As someone who does his share of web-surfing and goofing off at the office, I’m well aware of what it means when someone takes a moment to re-arrange the windows on his computer desktop before turning around to see why I’m there. Not that I’m going to rat anyone out for checking up on a blog, reading their gmail or whatever while they’re on the clock –- but more like people’s personal business is their business, and it’s just natural to not want others to see it.

Not that I’m a snoop whenever I’m at someone’s desk – but some things are kinda hard not to notice, you know?

For example, there’s this one engineer on the second floor. Nice enough guy from what I can tell, maybe a few years older than me. One of the main managers is his father, so you kinda know how he got the job – but he’s been here long enough that he seems to have gotten out of the shadow that might come from people thinking he lucked into the gig. I don’t work with him directly, but he sits on the same row of cubicles as the R&D guys I see almost every day. As a result, I walk by his desk fairly often.
This is why I can say with complete confidence that this guy is the WORST secret web-surfer I’ve ever seen.
I don’t know what it is. Maybe he’s just naturally clumsy, or he leans back in his chair too much for his own good – but whenever he sees me coming, there’s this sudden scramble to get his screen cleared. And I’m not just bagging on this dude’s game because of the way that he shoots up in his seat and literally dives across his cubicle – because that’s not the worst part of his technique.
The worst part is the mouse click.
You know the one I’m talking about – it’s that frantic mouse click people do when they click on a link and it opens up fifteen pop-ups, or turns out to be a lot more NSFW than they ever expected it to be. It’s a panic click, one that kinda implies a sense of guilt or embarrassment.
And this dude does it almost every time.
But even then all he does is bring some other window up to the front of his screen. It’s not like I can’t see the bottom of the screen showing the line of pictures of women’s faces and the little icon that show whether they’re online or not. It’s almost like I want to sit down next him and say ", eh? – How’s that working out for ya?" just so he’ll stop being such a wuss about it.

But that’s just the thing -- you’re a coworker. I don’t care if you can’t get a date. To be honest, I don’t really want to know about your private life at all. I understand you’re looking to find someone and I know that can be tough, but really – do I have to be a part of this process?
I mean seriously, why do you think I’m making all this noise as I’m walking towards you?
Over the years of working in offices I've developed an array of paper-shuffling, pen tapping, or saying hello to nearby co-worker type tricks that help break the silence, coupled with a bit of a hesitant step when I get close to a desk to give people a chance to get their ducks in a row before I get there.

To be honest, it's a habit I picked up years back when I worked as an administrative assistant for an IBM office in Tallahassee. Because it was a sales office, there were always lots of conference calls or client e-seminars -- things that were easy to walk in on and interrupt if you didn't realize they were going on. Clicking the walls with your pen helped catch people's attention enough that they could motion you in if they had a moment, or wave you off if things were too busy or important for them to stop.
..But that wasn't the only reason I did it.
One of the sales guys I worked with there was named Mark Holt. Sharp guy, really knew his stuff – very much the picture of a corporate salesman. His suits were always pressed, his casual conversations were non-confrontational, and he always was quick with a joke or a business card when he met new people.

Mark was one of those guys that are really easy to really like when you first meet him, but then becomes more and more annoying as time goes along. Not that he was a bad guy -– but that you sorta had to know what you were getting into when you dealt with him, especially once he stopped treating you like a possible contact or client. Because once those kid gloves were off, he liked to use people he knew as a sounding board for his opinions on the topics of the day – especially if he got the sense that you might be the kind of person who might disagree with him on something.

I like spirited debate as much as the next guy, but some people can’t help but turn it into some kind of sport, especially when it comes to topics that people are passionate about –- like politics.
And there was nothing Mark was more passionate about than politics.
Mark Holt may just be the most raging conservative republican that I’ve ever known in my life. He loved seeking out liberals and democrats and engaging them in debates that would almost always end in raised voices, followed later by emails or conversations further proving his points (long after the discussions were over), and of course, small talk with you that's actually aimed at people in the room, like:"Confused liberals like Larry over there would probably tell you differently, but here’s what really happened on the news last night."

That more than anything else was the problem – because he’d hit you over the head with it. You were always talking about politics with him, whether you wanted to or not. And don’t get me wrong – I liked the guy. It’s just that he had a tendency to be a royal pain in the ass half the time, and it was easy to get sick of. Perhaps that’s why a lot of people gave Mark a wide berth when it came to getting through the workday. They’d check with him when they needed to – but you could see people avoiding certain conversations with him just so they didn’t have to get trapped there talking to him forever and ever.
As a result -- Mark spent a lot of time by himself; checking messages, talking to people on the phone,
..And surfing the net for porn.
I don’t know how he got away with it. I don’t know why he thought it was a good idea. All I know is that one day I came up to his desk to hand off some sales reports I’d finished only to find him staring intently at the screen of his laptop. He seemed pretty embroiled in it, so it was almost natural for my eyes to wander in the direction his were pointed –- only to find a lot more than I was expecting to see smiling back at me.

I think I was more shocked at the fact that he was right there at his desk doing it more than anything I saw at the screen. But more than that was the fact that the way he was sitting, the casualness in his manner – he might as well have been reading the newspaper. It wasn’t someone sneaking a peek at work, it was just part of his day.
And I mean like every day.
You could always tell that he was doing it because he’d hold up a piece of paper like a letter or a memo against one of the edges of the screen so that people on his blind side (his desk faced away from the front door of the office) couldn’t see what he was looking at. But anyone standing near the other shoulder couldn’t help but notice the flashing graphics and topless women on the screen.
And nobody ever said anything.
I once saw the IT guy roll his eyes when he walked by, but I think most people just wrote it off as Mark being Mark and ignored it, like he was some nut on a subway that people didn’t want to acknowledge. In a lot of ways, I think people treated his questionable web habits a lot in the same way as they saw his penchant for political debate – and did their best to steer clear of both.

It’s kinda weird how that works, where the guy who hides in plain sight is the one that people don’t seem to notice and the one who makes a huge scene out of hiding things is the one you can’t help but be curious about – and the one you’re sure will eventually get in trouble for it later.

While at the same time -- somewhere in America, Mark Holt is probably sitting alone in some executive corner office
..Staying the course.
[Listening to:    Nonpoint"March of War" ]

Sunday, November 25

Lets Kick the Ball to Devon Hester

Sure, that sounds like a great idea. Lets kick the ball to the guy who always scores a touchdown on kickoffs and punt returns. You know -- the same guy who already scored a touchdown on us when we kicked to him earlier in the game? It's not like the Denver Broncos desperately need this win to get into the playoffs or anything -- besides, I'm sure the guy who's already 4th all-time in kickoff and punt return touchdowns after only his second year in the league isn't really all that much of a threat, right?
Seriously, did you and Bobby Bowden get together this weekend to work on gameplans together?
"Well Bobby, what I'm thinking is, we'll just kick the ball to Devon Hester."
"Mr. Shanahan -- That there is some dadgum quality coaching, I'll tell you what."
"How about you, any ideas on how you're gonna beat the University of Florida Saturday night?"
"We're gonna let Tim Tebow score as many touchdowns as he wants on us until he tires himself out."
It's like both coaches have decided to adopt new offensive philosophies this year. No more high-percentage passing schemes. No more fast break offense. Now both teams use "The white people in a horror film gameplan:"
  • When you hear a suspicious noise, go to the area you think it came from and investigate.
  • Repeat the word "Candyman" over and over any time you see a mirror.
  • Choose vacation spots that favor half-naked, drug-addled debauchery, such as Slovakian hostels, summer campgrounds, or old abandoned houses.
  • Insult facially deformed hillbillies whenever possible.
  • When you see a zombie that resembles a former loved one -- attempt to strike up a conversation with them.
  • If you ever find yourself in Southern Mexico, Prague, or Transylvania -- wait until the sun starts to set, seek out as many hot women wearing goth-styled clothing as you can, and then make out with them in secluded places such as cemeteries or meat lockers.
  • Get a job with an underseas mining company. If you are out digging one day and find anything that glows -- make sure to bring it back home with you.
  • Swimming with dolphins is expensive. Sharks are free.
  • If you're African-American, and live in a town that harbors some horrible, dark secret -- make it a practice to always befriend every misunderstood yet strikingly handsome white kid who's family just came to town and moved into the old house up on the hill.
  • A 7-foot man wearing broken handcuffs on his wrists and torn prison clothes has stepped into the bar where you and your drunken friends are hanging out. He doesn’t say a word, but moves slowly towards the bar -- revealing several fresh wounds on his over sized biceps. Go over and ask him where he's from. Refer to him as "boy." If he doesn't answer, hit him over the back with your pool cue -- they like that.
Bobby Bowden has two National Championships. Mike Shanahan has two Superbowl rings. Cocaine is a hell of a drug. Big Jim Slade, former tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs, is outfitted with various whips, chains, a sexual appetite that will knock your socks off -- and the capital of Nebraska is Lincoln!
Kick the ball to Devon Hester (twice).
..What the hell were you thinking!?
[Listening to:    Ankla"Flush" ]

Friday, November 23

Here We Go Again

The web is a strange place. Sometimes it's like billions of people wandering around in the same room, anonymous yet present; sharing an interest, exploring shared curiosities, inexplicably forwarding each other links to videos featuring two girls and one cup -- and then at other moments you find yourself on pages where the communities are so tight-knit, so ingrained in their virtual cul-de-sac mindsets that at times you can literally feel like you're intruding on something private even if all you wanted to do was find a unique Christmas gift for that faraway friend or relative.
Perhaps I should explain.
About a year back I was working on a post for the other site I write for, Highly Recommended Thing of the Moment. It was the end of November and the holidays were in full swing, so there were plenty of cool seasonal things available to post on the site. One of these was a website offering something called "Monster Stockings" -- which are Christmas stockings that come complete with claws at the bottom where the toes would normally go.

The first moment I saw these I was instantly reminded of Maurice Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are, my all-time favorite kids story, which I always used to read to my son before bedtime when he was little. So of course I wanted to get one not only for me, but for him as well -- which is when I found out that the company selling these wanted 60 bucks a piece for them.
I don't know about you, but where I come from that's just waaaay
too much to spend on something you're only gonna use once a year.
So I posted about it on the site, including my complaints about the price -- only to find myself facing a storm of angry comments from supporters of the person behind the product telling me that the prices were totally justified because it was the only way for a crafter to expect any profit after all the costs involved for production, marketing, or whatever.

It was one of the first flame wars HRToTM's ever hosted, which I'm actually sorta proud of (sorry Satorical) -- but maybe wasn't the best way to help grow our readership or standing in certain circles, especially considering that my original intention was to promote the crafter's website and wares.
At the same time if you think I'm losing any sleep over a couple of
pissed-off hippies, then you don't really know me that well at all.
Fast forward back to the now, where I'm once again tooling around the intarweb looking for new content to highly recommend -- which leads me to this cool site called, who are promoting a new line of winter caps for cold weather climates that feature an interesting twist:
Built-in Beards.
First off, how killer is this? Certainly not an everyday thing, but what a conversation starter, you know? Plus I've always loved wacky hats -- especially ones that have a unique character of their own. But then you read a little farther down and you find out that if actually you want to get in one of these instant Yukon Cornelius costumes, you've got to pony up 135 clams first.
135 Dollars. For a Hat.
Are you kidding me? Are you fucking kidding me!? Look, unless it buys me dinner and kisses me first there's no way I'm shelling out that kind of lettuce for 3 pieces of crochet and some glue. I'm perfectly willing to go the extra mile just for a joke (especially one with a built-in mustache ride punchline) -- but seriously, who the hell has that kind of money to throw around on something as silly as this?
..And no, Carrot Top doesn't count.

[Listening to:    Skindred"Rat Race" ]

Thursday, November 22

Take Your Macaroni Art and Go Home

Ok, I'll admit it -- I'm still a total honk for Project Runway. I think like a lot of people I was sort of thinking that I was over it, especially after the show caught fire last year and changed from something I felt like only a few people knew about into something that everybody and their mothers wanted to talk about at the drop of a hat. I even considered not watching it at all this season -- thinking that perhaps the premise had jumped the shark or that maybe I'd just grown out of it.
Only to be hooked all over again during this season's premiere.
I could probably go on for ages about all the things that make the show appealing to me, but I think a big part of the reason I was able to fall back into it so easily this year comes from my continual allegiance to the glorious train wreck that is A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila. It's almost as if after spending the past few weeks enduring the fake (albeit hilarious) lesbian antics on that show I had forgotten just how much entertainment value can be found when you lock 15 queens in a room and give them a time-sensitive task.
Honestly, within 10 minutes of the first episode I found myself saying
out loud (to no one in particular)
"Thank God -- REAL homosexuals!"
So I'm back, ready to dedicate an hour every Wednesday night to crazy sewing challenges, Tim Gunn's charmingly diplomatic reactions to creations that are clearly horrible, and the eventual kvetching by host Heidi Klum with the panel of esteemed judges (and their grandmother, Michael Kors) about how bad the clothes look.

All because I love high fashion. Oh yeah. Dresses and shit. Yup, that's what it's all about. That's totally why I watch the show..

Heidi Klum's Knockers - Funny bloopers are a click away
Just for the record -- Seal is the new Billy Joel, and I hate him even more now.
[Listening to:    P.O.D."Sounds Like War" ]

Wednesday, November 21

Don't F*ck With Wendy Testaburger

So about a week ago, in an effort to show off the some of the cool web tricks a friend of his designs with his company, my dear friend Monster made this:
My Miata? So that's how things are gonna be now? Now you're gonna shoot me in my pinky toe? This is where we're at, is it? I mean, I know it was all supposed to be in good fun (I certainly laughed my ass off) -- but you know what?
The Dude minds.
This will not stand, ya know -- this aggression will not stand, man. And while I'm sure I'm probably inviting a world of web-widget retaliation here (especially on a workday before a holiday like this where neither of us probably has anything better to do) -- It's on.
It's on like Red Dawn.
[Listening to:    Limp Bizkit"Broke" ]

Tuesday, November 20


I've never liked the Olympics. Call me an ugly American, call me closed-minded, whatever you want. I know enough of the history to appreciate the fact that in today's turmoil-filled war, there's something special and pure about a place where all the nations of the world can get together and compete against each other to see who's best. That part of things I can get behind.
But does that mean it has to be so utterly boring?
Track and field does nothing for me. Skiing is neat to look at like ..once, but then it's the same thing over and over. Ice skating and gymnastics just don't hold any appeal for me. Even sports that I enjoy on a regular basis, like basketball and hockey have been diluted by the presence of pros who not only create mismatched games, but coverage that tends to focus on anything but the actual game that's going on.

About the only interesting thing they ever have is that "ski a little while -- pull out a rifle and shoot things" event they used to have, and even then the entire appeal of that sport (as far as I can tell) was to try and figure out which country has the best cold-weather assassins.

But the thing I hate the most is that every time it comes around NBC does it's best to shove it down my throat, literally smothering their coverage with sappy human-interest angles that are supposed to get me to care about a specific athlete because of the things he's had to go through just to reach the Olympics. Not because I have a cold heart and don't care, but because after like 19 of these in a row it just gets to be mind-numbing.
"So and so was raised by wolves, worked 10 jobs and trained in the middle of the night amidst freezing temperatures and constant attacks by Pterodactyls to build up the skills needed to qualify for this competition. His one dream is to win the gold for his home country and bring glory to the people"
Complete with sweeping orchestral background music, close-ups of the person smiling to a soft-focus camera lens, and teary endorsements by fellow athletes and countrymen.

Then you get to the actual race and So and So wins by fifty lengths, completely slaughtering all the other nameless competitors who's life stories were not tragic or interesting enough to consider them worthy of coverage -- all within the record time of under a minute, which is approximately 14 minutes less time than it took for the human-interest profile to play altogether. And if that's not enough, the next thing you find out is that so and so is set to compete in 6 more races before the games are over, meaning there's plenty of chance to go through the whole thing again, just in case your heart wasn't moved enough the first time around.
It just gets old after a while.
I know a lot of people love the Olympics, but try as they might -- the networks and international competition committees have yet to find the magic combination that could make the whole thing interesting for me.
Or at least they hadn't -- until they decided that the 2008 games should be held in China.
The games themselves are still months away, but reports are surfacing out of Beijing that there's going to be plenty to be excited about -- especially when it comes to giving awards.

Apparently the people in charge of organizing the games are looking for women to be presenters at the medal ceremonies for each event -- but there are restrictions as to just what kind of woman can qualify.
"We have some very clear conditions and demands," explained Zhao Dongming, director of the Cultural Activities Department at Beijing's Organizing Committee for the Games. "We have certain requirements for their height, since they are to present the medals to our athletes. They need to be of a height between 1.68 and 1.78 meters (roughly 5'6" - 5'8"). That's above average."

There was no specific requirement on their weight according to Zhao, but he added: "Generally speaking, they can't be too fat. Their figure should be good. They shouldn't be too heavy."
I mean, sure -- maybe it wouldn't look all that great on TV if the world's greatest high jumper or whatever were to stand on some platform while his countries national anthem played in the background -- only to have to step off the platform and bend over just so he could receive his gold medal from Margaret Cho, but let's hear it for China coming out in public and basically playing the "No Fat Chicks" card in front of the international press.
I mean seriously, who's in charge over there -- Al Bundy-san?
[Listening to:    Nonpoint"A Way Out" ]

Monday, November 19

My Head's Still On My Torso

Here's my impression of the New England Patriots game against Buffalo last night:
..and scene.
[Listening to:    LL Cool J"Mama Said Knock You Out" ]

Sunday, November 18

Black Friday

It's the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Only 5 days left until hordes of crazed women tear each other limb from limb in search of the perfect Christmas gift that they could easily buy the next week without stress.

But then again, if you're the kind of person who wakes up at 3am just to go shopping at a mall with thousands of other people all trying to save five bucks then it's really not about the presents at all, is it?
Look ladies, I know it was Roberto Cavalli and all -- but holy shit! Seriously, I'm willing to bet real money that one of those women got home and found the remains of someone else's bloodied arm in their shopping bag, still clutching on to the other half of the handbag that she wrestled away from them.

I can just see it now, some event in Hollywood, paparazzi everywhere, Joan and Melissa rivers interviewing all the stars as they walk down the red carpet --
"Angelina you look absolutely amazing -- tell me who you're wearing!?"
"It's an Armani evening gown stained with the blood of the unworthy!!"
Still, you've got to imagine there's gotta be some sort of silver lining to all this. I mean sure -- all that crap had to cost an arm and a leg, but I bet it'd be a small price to pay for what had to be some serious after-shopping victory sex. I mean, I know what I'm like right after I get out of a mosh pit -- so I can only fantasize imagine what it must have been like when these chicks got home:
"I just killed three bitches for a dress with matching pumps -- get in that bedroom NOW!!"

[Listening to:    Dead Kennedys"Winnebago Warrior" ]

Saturday, November 17

Rooby Rooby Roo

So, have you seen what's playing on TV lately?
You know, not that I'm Mr. pro-marijuana use over here or anything -- but if there's a new strain of pot out there that's so good it makes you think your pets can talk, then really the only thing left for me to say is:
Hey Linds, can I get a hit of that?

[Listening to:    Five Finger Death Punch"Can't Heal You" ]

Friday, November 16

Toshi Station

It's been kind of a weird week. Not a horrible one -- but one where more often than not I couldn't find a way to shake this feeling where I wanted more to happen than actually did.

The bad aftertaste from the weekend probably had a lot to do with it -- but more than anything I think the problem is that I can sorta feel the holiday blues coming. There are places I would like to be, people I would like to be with, things I would like to be doing -- but whether it's the result of bad timing, poor finances, or just rotten luck, a lot of things seem out of my reach lately.
..And there's really not a lot I can do about it right now.
So you try make the most of what you've got. Fill the space, man up -- live your life. You try to find things that you can savor, look for distractions and replacements. It's just that sometimes when you're not expecting it, circumstances catch you off guard -- and you find yourself seeing things with the wrong eyes. Eyes that compare. Eyes that envy.
Eyes that doubt the person behind them.
But worst of all is the fact that you can feel yourself doing it. You can sense that shadow creeping up behind you, but it's like sometimes it's hard to get out of it's path. Perhaps that's what has made the whole thing snowball for me the way it sorta has this week.
Because as much as I hate feeling like I'm being taken for granted, the only thing that's worse
is the creeping suspicion that there's some reason things like this keep happening to you.
It's like a gravity well, slowly pulling everything around it into skewed lines that throw off your perspectives until all the bad things behind you somehow appear taller than all the ones around and ahead. You know it's bad for you, you know where it leads -- so you try to throw something in there. Fill the space. Overflow the cup.

I don't know, maybe it's just me. Sometimes I get in these weird lonely moods where I'm all bummed out for whatever reason, and without realistic access to the things that I think would help it seems like sometimes the only way I can think of to make myself feel better..
Is to buy myself something cool.
Retail therapy. Better living through stuff. Call it what you will -- but when the overwhelming urge to try and "spend myself happy" gets its teeth into me it's sometimes all I can do not to give into it.

I don't know -- it's like you reach a point where you get fed up feeling bad about all the things in your life that you feel you can't control, so you seek out something you think you can -- and then push the hell out of it.

It isn't like shutting yourself up in your bedroom and drinking a fifth of Bacardi while eating a whole bag of Doublestuff Oreos -- this is something entirely different. Those things are escapes. Those things numb the pain by burying it under something else.

Retail Therapy is different. It's more like cutting yourself. Choosing to ignore one problem by focusing on something else. Denying one demon by inviting another.

I mean, would buying a new iPod Touch, downloading iTunes, filling it up with music, and then listening to it conspicuously in public in the hopes that all the other non-iPod touch losers around me will feel bad about themselves make all the problems in my world go away, buy me a plane ticket to Maine, or get me on the guest list of the Nonpoint/Skindred show on the 25th?
Well, ..No.
But do you remember that one time you were in school, running around and playing in some new outfit that you talked your mom into buying -- the one with the shirt that actually said "Ocean Pacific" on it instead of "Pacific Sea" or whatever coolness crushing knock-off brand you normally ended up with on school-clothes shopping day? That day you thought you were totally hot shit, especially when you were playing on the swings and jumped higher than you'd ever jumped before, sailing through the air like Superman and Han Solo combined -- right at the very moment you were sure that Lisa Smitha and all her little friends were finally checking you out --
...Only to trip the landing on some tree root sticking out of the ground that you didn't see?
The one that sent you careening across the playground -- scraping up your elbow and utterly fucking up your shirt with grass stains and mud, leaving you sitting there by the tetherball pole crying like a little bitch while Lisa Smitha whispered something to her friends that made them all giggle and point in your direction?

Do you remember how that felt? How much that sucked? How you thought your life was over forever and you'd never be able to show your face on that playground or at school ever again?

Until your dad saw that look in your eyes, drove you to Dairy Queen, and bought you whatever kind of ice cream cone you wanted.
No matter what it was. No matter how bad, how life-ending the situation was..
My dad could make it all go away with a Happy Meal.
Seriously, How awesome was that? Those days where a fresh batch of cookies could outfox any bad grade you ever brought home from school? Those times when life handed you shit and your dad simply raised his had and forced it all away with a new HotWheels car that he would let you pick out yourself from the checkout aisle at Walgreens?
That's where it comes from. That's where it all started.
Of course, ice cream and happy meals don't really carry the same power they used to in my life (although I'm starting to suspect there was a lot more at work there than just cheeseburgers and fries), but that doesn't mean the concept hasn't stuck with me -- which is probably why I was at Target earlier this week standing over the glass case with the Apple on it running numbers in my mind, wanting desperately to figure out a way to make it work.
Because sometimes when things get crappy in my life I can't help but want to
go to Alderran, learn the ways of the Force, and become a Jedi like my father.

[Listening to:    Deftones"The Chauffeur" ]

Thursday, November 15

Math Fight

Bubs 1, Cakes 0.
[Listening to:    Skindred"Roots Rock Riot" ]

Wednesday, November 14

Monday, November 12

Oprah's Fight Club

They used to call sites like this "online diaries." Places where people could electronically keep a journal about their lives, in much the same way that so many of us used to (and in many cases still) do in unassuming spiral notebooks or well-worn blank books picked up in the front corner shelves of Borders or Barnes and Noble. Of course things like that were always thought of as places for private thoughts. Personal worries. Private fears.
Blogs are different.
For a long time, it seemed like the people who wrote "journals," "online diaries," and "web logs" were able to maintain that sense of detachment that comes from the process of sketching their thoughts onto the page without thought to any given audience or concerns about the way things were presented. It was as it paint were splashed onto the canvas -- with themes of anger, hurt, or happiness coming through as familiar shapes, even when the edges weren't clearly defined. It was almost as if whenever you read someones online journal back in the day, you were peeking directly into their lives --
Sneaking a look into those paper diaries, reading things that
in a normal context other people wouldn't want you to see.
My old friend and mentor Rick Straub used to say that journaling is one of the most important things a writer can do to develop their craft. He always maintained that writing wasn't so much the act of copying down whatever was in your mind -- but an ongoing process of translating your personal thoughts and ideas into the kind of language that would best convey your meanings to readers.

Think about it for a second, have you ever written a letter or email to someone -- a close friend, a family member; someone who personally knows you, how you talk and has some degree of familiarity with the events and circumstances in your life -- yet all the while you're writing the message you're continually hitting the backspace key, rewriting paragraphs, changing words, or adding little parenthetical asides to sentences that you've already written?

Why do that? Why bother tweaking language for people who shouldn't need clarification on the ways you communicate?

Anyone who's received an email or text message in the last 10 years knows damn well that it's certainly not out of a desire to correct bad grammar or spelling mistakes. It's not style that gets worked over and retouched -- it's meaning.

It may not always seem like it, but I think in today's world there's almost more value in being understood than there is in being seen. Not all of us are movie stars or famous athletes -- but almost every one of us can find ways to share our opinions to people all over the world.

Of course, just because billions of people can read your words doesn't mean any of them have any reason to give a crap -- which means that even if you have thousands of MySpace friends, names on your buddy list, or contacts on your blackberry -- more than ever it's the people who actually take the time to listen to what you say who hold the most value.
Especially for a blogger.
Very few people who read blogs only read one. Instead they browse through an ever-changing library of favorites, almost as if they were walking person to person asking how their day was, or how they felt about that thing that happened on the news last night.

At the same time the impetus for most people to start and maintain their blog had something to do with wanting a place to write down private thoughts or rant about personal issues one way or the other. You talk about your kids, or discuss things that are happening in your life, or your job, or relationships. Sure every now and then you post a quiz, fill out a meme, complain about celebrities, talk politics, or whatever -- but by and large I think people who blog frequently just want to have a place to talk about what's going on in their lives. Almost like a scrapbook, or a photo album.
But are blogs really personal writings anymore?
Sure they represent your take on things, your feelings on a given topic – but when you have a blog that’s read by people and you’re aware of the audience, it tends to change the way you approach the writing.

All writers want to be read, all artists want to be appreciated and critiqued -- but from the angsty teenager with a Livejournal to the retiree who posts daily reactions to the news filtered through their own political views -- it seems that in more cases than not, bloggers write for validation.
Authenticate me. Confirm my presence. Don't shut me out.
Whether it's stat counters, comment threads, submissions from Digg or some other link sharing site -- you sorta know there are people there. Even people whose blogs only have one or two close friends who check in usually have some sort of acknowledgement of their presence (comments, emails about posts, etc).

Not that I think bloggers write specifically to appeal to their particular audience (although I'm sure some do), but that I think there is a difference between people seeing your site and having people take the time to read your words and think about the things you’re saying.
After all -- the Internet isn't a collection of published pages. It's a discussion. It's discourse.
And yes, huge percentages of this particular discourse out there are sycophantic, ill-informed, overly negative, hateful, or borderline retarded -- but without an active exchange of ideas how can anyone ever learn? Knowledge spreads through communication, communication dies without discussion. Discussion can't happen without language, or forums for that language to be used and exchanged.
People painted on cave walls for a reason.
Who are we to say that the first hieroglyphic in Egypt wasn't created to tell anyone willing to read that the pictures of stick figures throwing spears at some animal was all part of some vast right-wing conspiracy, or to add a caption the image of one of the cat gods that says "I'm in Ur Pyramids, Raising an Army of Ur Dead."

All the web really does (for better or for worse)
is provide platforms for people to make those choices.

It’s almost like a daytime talk show. If Oprah likes a book, she suggests that everyone read it. And if her viewers value her opinions -- the next time they’re in a bookstore the chances are pretty good they might check it out. But If Oprah gets pissed about something, it’s only logical to think that things might work the same way -- Especially if she dedicates and episode of her blog show to her feelings on the topic.

Every time I read Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club I’m struck by the same question: At what point does the narrator go from needing Tyler Durden in his life to feeling like he’s gone too far and has to be stopped?
In my mind, it's once Tyler starts trying to spread his message to
other people -- people willing to follow those words without question.
It could be easily argued that without Tyler, the narrator would have never reached self-actualization, would never have grown out of his dependencies on material needs and the shelters he found in his corporate status and acceptance of a lesser place in society.

But the very same things that make Tyler Durden's presence empowering to the narrator as a character (and in many ways us as a reader) change once Project Mayhem becomes a reality, and as the story goes on those traits begin to present a danger to the people he cares about (Marla), the people who believe in him (Robert Paulson), and perhaps society as a whole.

But without Tyler’s influence, would the narrator have ever been able to recognize that danger?
Let me try to put this another way..
I had a really bad weekend. Something happened that I
wasn't expecting. Something that cut me to the quick.
Not like that time you were moving furniture around and scraped your knuckles on something and messed up your favorite shirt with the bloodstains, but like an paper cut -- where something so tiny, so unexpected not only won't stop bleeding, but stings like hell long after you thought it should have stopped.

Writing about it, venting that anger -- just getting it all out would have done me a world of good. Good in the way that putting things down in a diary or a private journal does -- because you can scream it out without whining. Bitch about something without being such a bitch. Explore it in words, figure it out, go through the stages, have your time to be mad about it, grow up, get over it, and then get on with your life.
But this isn't a private journal.
For me to discuss my feelings about it would mean explaining the situation. Describing the details, and naming the names. But because of the public/private nature of blogging (and the nature my site in particular) I would also be opening the door to, perhaps even inviting discussion/discourse about the incident, my feelings of anger and hurt over the situation and the people involved.

Without the context to understand why this incident was so bothersome, all I would be doing is throwing someone else under a bus just so I could feel better – and that’s not what I want to do. I mean yeah, I was mad. I was hurt –- but considering the way that I personally would need to work through it on the page, the style that I use to write about things -– would that the best choice for me to make?
There's a difference between thinking something and saying it.
There's a difference between having an opinion and posting it.

[Listening to:    Skindred"The Fear" ]

Sunday, November 11

Actually Spoken During the Course of My Evening

"I've got to stop letting these things get to me and live my life."

[Listening to:    Crazy Town"Black Cloud" ]

Friday, November 9

Anyone Know Where I Can Get a Purple Jumpsuit?

So I just found out that there's a bar down at the beach that's having a Big Lebowski party Saturday night. White Russian drink specials, the movie playing on all the bigscreen TV's -- the whole nine yards.
I'm. So. There.
But best of all is the news that if you come to the place dressed as one of the characters from the film, you get in for free.
..But who to go as?
The Dude?




The Jesus? Liam?



um ..Bunny?

The Stranger?

Jackie Treehorn?

In a second I would go as any of them, but seriously -- this thing is tomorrow night. I mean when you get right down to it, things sorta stacked up against me and I wasn't able to have as much fun on halloween as I wanted to, so this would be a perfect opportunity to catch up. Problem is, I'm not exactly rolling in cash, so if I do anything it would have to be pretty thrown-together. I heard at the last Lebowski Fest a lot of people went dressed as the rug -- which would be awesome if I could find a way to pull that off..
But lets be honest here.
If I'm really serious about dressing up as one of the characters from this Coen brothers film just so I can duck a $5 cover to get into a bar where I will have the chance to watch a movie I've seen a bazillion times already, then I'm gonna have to face the fact that there is one character in the film I could easily imitate. The body type, the hairstyle, the smooth and suave demeanor..
It's almost like I was born to play the part.

[Listening to:    Skindred"Cause Ah Riot" ]

Thursday, November 8

The Five Ladyfingers of Death

At the center of the campus of the company that I work for is a little dining area complete with tables and chairs for people to sit at while they eat lunch, and a little short-order cafe that sells breakfast and lunch to anyone who wants it. The food isn't terrible, but unless you order like a cheeseburger or something that they cook on the spot it's served sorta buffet/school cafeteria style -- which tends to suck most of the appeal out of it for me.
Plus buying lunch at work cuts into my drinking budget, and we ..can't have that.
Anyways, as long as I've worked here, the folks who work there have all dressed the same -- all-white chef's smocks with white aprons, and then hairnets or little white hats for the people working directly around the food. Pretty standard fare for the food service industry, hardly the kind of thing you'd really notice or pay attention to on any given day.

But for whatever reason, they switched things up recently and are now wearing these all-black outfits with these little black pill-box hats that don't really seem to fit on any of their heads the right way.

It's probably the exact same outfit they were wearing before (in a different color) -- but where they all used to look like restaurant workers, now they all sorta look like..

[Listening to:    Suburban Tribe"Sunflower" ]

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