Tuesday, December 07, 2010
-A good friend will give you a ride to the airport. A great friend will give you a ride back, too.
-A good friend will always be your wingman. A great friend will tell you you don't need one.
-A good friend will take you aside and quietly tell you that you're embarrassing yourself on the dance floor. A great friend will be embarrassing his/herself out there with you.
-A good friend will put on the Robin costume for Halloween when you're Batman. A great friend will put on the Azrael costume for Halloween when you're Batman.
-A good friend will give you notes from lecture. A great friend skipped class with you.
-A good friend will post on your Facebook wall. A great friend will post on your actual wall.
-A good friend will tell you you're sexy because of your intellect. A great friend will tell you you're sexy because of your body.
-A good friend asks your advice about who to date. A great friend dates everyone you've dated, just to be sure.
-A good friend introduces you to music by great bands. A great friend introduces you to great bands.
-A good friend stabs you in the front. A great friend doesn't.
-A good friend will meet you for coffee. A great friend will get you all the coffee. In the world.
-A good friend will let you borrow their DVDs. A great friend will explain to you what BitTorrent is.
-A good friend will let you join the GDI. A great friend will let you join Nod.
-A good friend will tell you when it's raining. A great friend will make it rain for you.
-A good friend will give you their last Four Loko. A great friend will drink their last Four Loko, because it's terrible.
-A good friend will serenade you from under your balcony. A great friend will have someone who's actually good at singing serenade you from under your balcony.
-A good friend will give the speech at your wedding. A great friend will just fill everyone's glasses again.
-A good friend will take you to Disney Land. A great friend will take you to Disney World.
-A good friend has many other good friends. A great friend has no other friends but you.
-A good friend will walk one extra mile with you. A great friend will walk 1.6...kilometers.
-A good friend will shoot himself in the head so you don't have to watch him being eaten by the zombies. A great friend will shoot you in the head so you don't have to be eaten by the zombies.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
After some unfortunate incidents regarding the treatment and objectification of women on campus at some of America's great universities, I decided to try to put together something that might help women to strike back. A rallying call, if you will, using the power of film to create a movement that will help them strike back.
EXT. Courtyard- DAY
Camera pan over a blue and white SIGN that says "Campus Women's Center". It's a cold, gray winter morning, and standing there under the sign is the FLY GIRL, a haughty-looking dark-haired girl who steps forward-
My name is Lt. Alice Rain, and I'm putting together a special team. And I need eight soldiers. Eight...Shrew-ish....Amer-ican sold-iers.
Now, y'all might'a heard rumors about a midnight cookout run happenin' soon. Well, we'll be leavin' a little earlier. We're going to be droppin' onto campus, dressed as sorority sisters. And once we're in enemy territory, as a bush-thwacking, guerilla army, we're goin' to be doin' one thing and one thing only: p0wn'n frat bros.
Members of the Inter-Fraternity Council have conquered this campus through intimidation, rohypnol, and flagrantly sexist social norms. And that's exactly what we're gonna do to them. Now I don't know about y'all, but I didn't come down from the underdiversified commodity economy of the Appalachian mountains, buy Halloween costumes designed to snugly fit a 12-year-old girl, and fight my way through the postmodern social networking of PanHel rush to teach frat bros lessons in humanity. Frat bro's ain't got no humanity. They're the foot soldiers of white male heterosexual privilege. That's why each and every son-of-a-Michigan-fan we find wearin' a popped collar, they're gonna die.
We will be cruel to the frat stars, and through our cruelty, they will know who we are. They will find the evidence of our cruelty, in the disembowed, dismembered, and disfigured bodies of their brothers we leave behind us. And the frats will not be able to help themselves from imagining the cruelty their brothers endured at our hands, and our stiletto heels, and the edge of Juicy Campus and CollegeABC. And they will be sickened by us. And they will talk about us. And And when the Broseph's close their eyes at night, and their sub conscious tortures them for the evil they've done, it will be with thoughts of us, that it tortures them with. (beat) Sound good?
I got a word of warning for all you would-be feminists. When you join my command, you take on debit. A debit you owe me, personally. Every woman under my command, owes me, one hundred Natty light tabs. (beat) And I want my tabs.
Monday, November 22, 2010
First, if you haven't seen Ricky Stanzi, quarterback of the Iowa Hawkeyes, declare his love for America, please follow this link and watch the video of him proclaiming "USA Number 1" after winning the Orange Bowl in 2010.
Second, Ricky has a problem with the communists who live in Iowa City:
There is a possibility that Ricky Stanzi may have sat in on a class with a communist. Yes, the American quarterback, the "Love it or leave it, USA No. 1" quarterback, might have shared class space with a Marxist, socialist or communist. We are talking Iowa City and the University of Iowa.
"I don't know how other colleges are, but when you walk around here, you've got people ... you’ve got guys walking around in dresses and just these hippies," Stanzi said. "They're doing nothing. There's the Ped Mall area down there, right in the middle. Those people are going nowhere. Those people are the people who don't like America.
"They always find something wrong with [America]. They're the problem. They're the people who need to change and figure it out. They need to get it together and work hard."
(h/t: Dr. Saturday via OurHonorDefend)
Thursday, September 30, 2010
From a message board I frequent:
1961, Freshman year and I'm taking my meals in the cafeteria for Park and Baker Halls. A large folding door closes off one room and it turns out to be the sitting area set aside for the football team and those guys are not on the same meal plan. They go through a separate line and emerge with porterhouse steaks or slabs of rib roast that cover the plate, foil wrapped baked potatoes the size of your Chipotle, salad bowls that look like your mom's mixing bowl and then they disappear into the closed off room.
Once they're seated the noise (which consists of shouts, belches and boisterous laughter) from this room drowns out the chatter in our section of the dining hall.
This goes on through most of the season and then one night before the Wisconsin game I'm sitting there eating my roast beef in gravy along with five or six fellow pencil necked freshman geeks (not Greeks) when suddenly, inexplicably, the noise from the secret room stops, an eerie silence falls about the place and holds. One of my friends then shouts, "More wine for Polyphemous!" and the rest of us burst out laughing like it's the world's funniest joke (see Python, Monty, Worlds Funniest Joke Sketch).
From out of the still quiet, secret room emerges a scowling figure. He looks as if boulders had been stuffed inside his clothes, his neck is so thick that the bottoms of his ears are about an inch further out than the tops, his jaw looks like the bow of a battleship -- it's Iron Mike Ingram, nose tackle and baddest sonuvabitch on a team full of bad sonuvabitches. He steams right over to our table, "All right which one of you smart ass wise guys said that?"
We give up our comrade in the blink of an eye and Iron Mike fixes him with a steel cutting laser look, "I read that book too. That ain't funny." And then turns and stomps his way back into the athlete's cave.
The rest of us didn't breath for a minute or so and then very quietly took our trays back to the wash room and slipped away before Iron Mike and his buddies emerged.
Monday, September 06, 2010
They're much easier to read as new media (i.e. in electronic form). The absurdism which characterizes much of postmodern writing can be better dealt with that way. Just zoom in so the text is cartoonishly large, and suddenly you realize how unimportant it is.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Postmodernism: I've heard of it, but I can't tell you what it is
Postmodernism (true version): I've heard of it, but it's meaningless
Absurdism: It doesn't make sense
Apathy: Who cares?
Recursion: See "Recursion"
Tautology: It's a tautology.
Friday, August 27, 2010
" A while back I remember listening to the Pussycat Dolls singing "Don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me" and thinking that mine's pretty hot... AND she knows enough English to use the subjunctive mood when discussing what the singer vainly believes to be a counterfactual proposition. "
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Night on the harbor bay is clear, crisp, and cold, and if I was home in the Midwest, it'd be about October right around now, and I'd be writing about how the leaves are changing colors, as if the trees are blushing, and if you strain your ears, you can just barely hear the whistle of footballs arcing through the air and corn-fed farm boys getting dissatisfied with the patriarchal consumerist suburban lifestyle and going to "find themselves" out in the wilderness. But instead, it's July, I'm writing about how the reflected lights of the skyline glow against the absolute black void of the water and if you strain your ears, you can just barely hear the screams of gamblers tossing down plastic chips onto faux-velvet covers and a DJ who actually isn't terrible at his job.
Beneath my feet, I can feel the engines stir as they strain to move a ferry roughly the size of Manhattan across the bay, turning towards the city. The twinkling lights that outline the glassy skyline seem false, too clear, too small, like flickering windows of a miniature house sitting next to a model train diorama. I grim the deck handrail and look out over the seas, and if I didn't know better, I would say the skyline and the water are rotating around a motionless ferry, as though they're on a giant disc sitting on top of the back of a slowly turning turtle. The boat is the only thing staying still as the whole universe shifts and changes around it. Carefully, I remove a top from my pocket and set it spinning on the deck to test my hypothesis that the boat is standing still/that this is all a dream. It spins and wobbles, spins and wobbles. If I close my eyes, the whole world drops away-
"Hey, Captains Courageous, you coming?"
I turn to see one of my fellow interns standing there, with an eyepatch over his left eye and a dark mid-level beer in his hand.
I shrug. "Sure, why not."
The ferry boat is loaded with close to a thousand [Company Name Redacted] interns of all shapes and sizes, many wearing pirate-themed gear: eyepatches, fake wooden legs, hooks for hands, cutlasses, RPGs, Pittsburgh hats, Barbary Coast patches, squidlike Cthulhu masks, and even a BitTorrent shirt or two. There are three levels to the boat: Shame, where interns may attempt to sing along with popular music piped in over an intercom, Despair, where interns may attempt to dance with popular music piped in by a DJ, and Karma, where interns may attempt to gamble away fake money at an array of three different games, including game (aka blackjack), game (aka roulette) and game (aka craps)*.
I try to get in line for karaoke at Shame, but then one of my fellow interns sings an impossibly good rendition of Bill Withers' "Aint No Sunshine When She's Gone", and I realized that there's no way I'm ever going to be able to replicate her smooth tone and on-key quality. So I head upstairs to Despair, where there's an open bar that only serves beer and wine free (but high-quality of both) and I debate the merits of a $10 shot. I notice that a number of the interns (by which I mean, all of them) are standing around in an enormous circle, whose probability of spontaneous existence is rather low. After all, because of the bizarre confluence of interns, alcohol, managers, and pirate gear, everyone is slightly tenser than they might be at a club, so there's considerably less grinding than you might expect, and everyone is making non-trivial effort to pretend they've stayed within a two-drink limit. Dance circles form quickly and dissolve just as quickly, fractal and ephemeral, so for one to exist for a long period of time at that size is incomparably improbable.
I crane my neck over several variably dressed interns, to see a very senior executive of [Company Name Redacted] breaking it down in full pirate regalia.
Somewhere on the deck outside, the top keeps spinning. I think.
*To quote a fellow intern: "Craps is a really fun game to play once you realize you'll never understand it and you basically can't win."
Thursday, August 05, 2010
I will have much more to write about Inception, which is kind of like the Phillip Glass of movies: highly structured, fractally simplistic but incredibly dense, and not as weird as you think it is when you first hear it (foghorns, that is). Anyways, here is the review of the film I like the best, and here is quite possibly the best trailer for it (cut by a fan, of course)
Monday, July 26, 2010
My hair is difficult to cut. Finding someone who can cut my hair is an even more onerous task, so imagine my delight and surprise when I discover that around the corner from my current place of residence is a hair salon (I prefer to think of it as a more masculine "barber shop"). There are several good signs about this place:
1) It isn't titled something hipster-ish like "Hair Design by Takeda", or cutesy, like "Lock, Stock, and 2 Smoking Clippers"; instead, it has a very blunt, Times-New-Roman-type sign that says "Hair Cut and Style" and screams "no ad budget"
2) There are plastic sticky letters above the displays that say something like "MEN'S HAIRCUT $10"
3) Most importantly, you can hear a very musical type of foreign language coming from the inside, which means that the people working there are either from Southeast Asia, or Scottish, all of which are good signs.
I go inside and find, to my delight, that the lady who will be cutting my hair today is in fact, Vietnamese ***WARNING RACISM ALERT*** because, there are only a few people who can cut my hair in a way that doesn't make it look like, say, a diorama of the French Revolution as created by a hedgehog with a surrealist bent, or Spock. These people are, in order of proficiency: 1) the Vietnamese 2) the "fish eaters" that That Girl used to make fun of ("unlike them, *our food* has flavor") and 3) a Korean lady who moved to Chicago. ***WARNING END RACISM ALERT***.
It turns out alright; in fact, once I get over the fact that my sideburns are now shaped like the State of Texas (my skin is oily enough to stand in for the Gulf) , I'm quite pleased with my haircut. Moral of the story: be racist; it's good for your hair.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
I am the owner of a Macbook, and this makes gaming rather difficult. My deathly fear of partitioning hard drives has kept me from using Boot Camp to fully utilize the blazingly-fast (by 2007 standards) components inside my computer, so I use a handy-dandy piece of software called VMware to run various virtual machines: Windows 98SE, Windows XP SP2, and Linux-Ubuntu*.
In selecting games that can run in a virtualized environment, I take myself back to the mindset I had in the mid-to-late '90s. When we bought our first family PC, it was a state-of-the-art Gateway rig (costing ~$5,000 MSRP) that had 16 MB of RAM, 200 MB of hard-drive space, and a blazingly-fast 166 Mhz Pentium chip. Unfortunately, it did not have a 3D graphics accelerator, and so I was unable to play MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries, a game that I had played and fallen in love with at my cousin's house (he was clearly ahead of the curve). I still have fond memories of that computer, though, starting with the first three computer games my father bought at a store: Men In Black: the Game, F-22 Lightning II, and a little weird-looking thing called Fallout.
It is absolutely astonishing to me how many classic games came through our greedy little fingers when my brother and I were children: in addition to the original Fallout, my brother and I played Command & Conquer (and practically cried with joy when my dad brought home Red Alert), Jane's AH-64D Longbow, Total Annihilation, Diablo (until my parents decided it was too bloody), Warcraft II, Dark Reign (does anyone remember Dark Reign?), the original Age of Empires, Quake II, Civilization II, Rainbow 6, Jedi Knight...the list goes on and on.
After a few years, my Papa had been convinced through carefully thought-out lobbying attempts by myself and my little brother (mostly us crying and saying "We can't play this game!"), and upgraded to a Pentium II 300 Mhz CPU, which was to the original Pentium as Terminator 2 was to the original Terminator, along with 64 MB of RAM, a 3dfx Voodoo 2 graphics accelerator and (this was the kicker) an enormous, 400-MB (that's FOUR HUNDRED MEGABYTES) hard drive.
I still remember staring at it the day after and watching this newfangled game called Half-Life run smoothly and beautifully; it was the most exciting 15-minute-long train ride of my life. There are very few things in my life that will ever match that beautiful feeling. Ahem.
In any case, here are some of the games I've been playing:
-Heroes of Might and Magic III (circa 1999)
-Jagged Alliance 2 (1999)
-Starcraft (circa 1998, and this will require its own blog post)
-Homeworld (circa 1998, picked up from that beautiful used-book store down the road for $7.95, and just as revolutionary as it was when it was released)
-Diablo II (1999)
*all the hipsters still sneer at me when I tell them I like Ubuntu
Saturday, July 24, 2010
My papa always told me that when he retired from [Other Company Name Redacted] he would want to go and get two more jobs: as a people greeter at Wal-Mart during the week, and a chef at one of those teppanyaki-type places on the weekends. I've never understood why my father, who has actual talents and hobbies, would ever want to do menial jobs like that, until I was enlightened by something that [Company Name Redacted] calls the Culinary Internship.
This is an opportunity to do several things, first and foremost of which is the opportunity to skip work for a half-day, giving me an easy out of a meeting via [secret and proprietary long-distance communication system that rhymes with "Mideo Bonferencing" redacted]. But more importantly, it's an opportunity to spend a half-day working in the kitchen of one of our cafeterias (which serves free food), learning about the food prep process. This is how I end up on donut-frying duty at 8 am, dressed in a comically stereotypical white chef's jacket and CSI-yellow latex gloves.
Frying donuts is a surprisingly difficult endeavour, and it's nothing like what you've experienced before. It involves donut dough, which is like cookie dough, but for donuts, and an enormous fat fryer that's large enough to be used to dunk naughty children in. Using a donut scoop, which is like an ice-cream scoop, but for donuts, I take globs of dough the size of my fist and plop them into the oil bath, which hisses appreciatively in a disturbingly anthropomorphic way, like an evil version of one of the magically alive kitchen instruments from Beauty & the Beast*.
Then begins the real issue. When heated, the globs of donut dough expand and start to float in the oil like corpses, but they're actually donuts, and that means that one part- the long segment that sticks out when floating- is not coated with oil, which means it might not get cooked properly. The only possible recourse, therefore, is to use a pair of tongs to savagely beat them down whenever they poke their heads out, bopping them down whenever they pop up like Whack-a-Mole, except with donuts.
It's fun, it helps people get the goodies they want, and it involves donuts; this is enough to keep me amused for what seems like hours, until breakfast is over and the crew cleans up, and serves themselves some leftover bacon, eggs, etc., though for some reason nobody wants to eat my donuts. Afterwards, we gather 'round and get assigned to different stations as we prepare for lunch.
Each team member prepares some dish for the buffet and presents it to the head chef and his assistant, who go down the line, sampling and occasionally interrogating the cooks as to the exact ingredients that go into, say, soy vegan hot dogs wrapped in noodles with coconut sauce. Each chef is required to be able to rattle off the recipe from memory to the head chef, and also to swallow a cyanide capsule if captured by the enemy and tortured for the secret recipe for grilled cheese ([ingredient redacted] between [ingredient redacted], if you're wondering).
The head chef and his assistant seem to like most of the selections today, other than offering a few subtle tweaks here and there that go off-recipe (they both follow the Half-Blood Prince's philosophy when it comes to cooking stuff). We then scurry around and get ready for the day's meal, which in my case involves chopping up a crate full of broccoli for the stir-fry station ("If you run out of broccoli, nobody wants to eat stir fry for some reason").
Next to another team member named Mauricio (it takes me an embarassingly long time to realize this is a Spanglification of "Maurice"), I chop vegetables in a mechanical way and try to re-energize my Spanish with him and other passerby. I manage to learn a few things: most of his family is in NorCal, he has two kids who like watching soccer, and if he ran the cafeteria he would serve grilled shrimp and fish, with various tomato and pepper-based sauces over brown rice.
It's pleasant, to have a conversation that has nothing to do with what you're working on, and I reflect that I could do this job, and be moderately happy. What does that say about me?
I also resolve to talk to my team back at [office name redacted] more about personal, non-work-related content.
*there's a deep-fryer among the characters there, right? You know, the one with the deep Southern accent who sprays Gustan with his gurgling peanut oil during the defense of the castle and then turns into a fat, mayonnaise-loving caricature of Bill Clinton at the end, in a pointed and subtle critique by the Disney animators of how he embarrassed his own party and Americans everywhere? Right? Am I the only one who remembers this?
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
The poster says "Cardio" and has a picture of Michael Jackson on it. I'm in.
Yes, aerobics classes are girly, but like, Long Island Iced Teas and My Best Friend's Wedding, they can certainly be fun in the right context. Regardless of your views of his personal life, there is no denying that Michael Jackson created some of the catchiest tunes in the Western Canon, and even step aerobics can be fun with the right tunes.
At [Company Name Redacted], the company genuinely cares about the health of its employees (for one thing, it reduces insurance premiums) and so not only does it provide multiple sets of Greek-style gymnasiums, it also provides various fitness classes designed to get people out of the cubicle and away from 4chan*. These encompass everything from classes in the ancient art of Bhangra, to yoga, to mud wrestling, to how to use your analytical ability to dance in clubs. They are all branded as [Name Redacted], a clever portmanteau of [Company Name Redacted] and [Noun Redacted].
I change after my work on the [Name Redacted] Project and emerge from the locker room in the [Name Redacted] Building in my go-to sweatwear: long black athletic shorts and a white undershirt. After walking [Distance Redacted] miles to work every day, I feel confident in my ability to keep up with even the most strident, Spartan-style workout master/mistress.
With my faithful friends and fellow interns [Name Redacted], [Name Redacted], and [Name Redacted], we confidently march into the gym, brandishing our authentic '80s style workout gear, and find dozens of awkwardly matched couples practicing their last tangos, dressed to the nines. Apparently, there are TWO different fitness classes on Wednesday afternoons, and the one we're looking for is in the other gym, which is all the way across campus.
With a level of tenacity that can only be described as "dangerous", we stride away, avoiding the giggles of the pretty young things at our bizarre '80s appearance; it's human nature, after all, to laugh at ridiculously dressed people. While there's a part of me that wants to tell them to beat it, unless they wanna be startin' somethin', even I'm not enough of a smooth criminal to get away with bold-faced intimidation, especially after stealing Billie Jean's bike yesterday. That incident was a thriller, lemme tell ya, but I just can't help being a thief; my whole motto is "don't stop till you get enough".
Finally, we reach the other gym and confidently stride through the doors, only to find about 40 people thrusting their hips in a suggestive manner. Apparently, there are two different DANCE classes on Wednesday afternoons, and the one we're looking for is right here.
There's a moment in every crisis where things come to a halt, and two possibilities loom in your face: the one that involves the red pill, and the one that involves the blue pill. I could back out here, pretend I actually meant to go hit the weights, oops sorry to bother you. Or I could follow the other interns, who aren't shaken at all by the fact that the "aerobics class" turned out to be a group of crotch-grabbing dance maestros. A group that, from all accounts, seems to be ready to reshoot every music video in the MJ canon, shot-for-shot, move-for-move, grab-for-grab. On one hand lies safety in the no, in the denial. On the other lies risk, in the yes, in the acceptance. I take a deep breath. In improv, we teach ourselves to always say "yes". So I do.
Of course, in improv, everything you do is right.
Let me try to spell this out a little more explicitly. In the metafictional, postmodern sentiment, I designate myself, in the semiotic fashion, to be a writer. While not particularly accomplished (or for that matter, published), I am justly and forthrightly proud of the prodigious lexicon I bear in my concentric cranial cavity, and moreover, I consider myself to have nothing but the largest, most eloquent and most granular vocabulary of anyone I have ever met, with a judgmental and nearly draconian watch over those drooling denziens of the Illiterati who would stoop to using simplistic (and low-entropy) words. I state this not in the hope of receiving some unadulterated praise from you, dear reader, but merely to underscore the gargantuan and unimaginable magnitude of what I am about to tell you: there are no words to describe how bad I am.
To compare me to a drunk trying to dance would be insulting a drunk. Our dance instructor, who has the kind of unyielding perkiness that a Montessori teacher or a Communist propaganda broadcaster would need to get a gold star, shows just a slight twitch when she looks in the mirror at the back line where I am "dancing", the kind of twitch that seeps through the tiniest crack in a steel-hard facade, the kind of twitch that crosses the face of a Civil War infantryman about to have his leg sawn off, or maybe Wedge Antilles when he had to abandon Luke at the Death Star. Watching me trying to dance a Michael Jackson routine is kind of like watching an overweight rabbit with cerebal palsy try to hop through a flaming hoop, with one foot replaced by a poorly-made wooden prosthetic whittled by ex-Soviet nuclear scientists working on immigrant visas at a pet limb replacement store.
And that STILL doesn't explain how terrible I was at this. The only way that someone could understand is if they saw, which, thanks to the fact that the entire thing was videotaped and YouTubed, and I'm the only one wearing a white shirt, they now can.
Star Wars Kid, I feel your pain.
*Do NOT google 4chan. Trust me.
So, it's been about a week since I started working for [Company Name Redacted] on the [Name Redacted] Project, and things are going just peachily. Of course, 80% of that week was orientation, where the general focus was less on work and more on receiving free [Company Name Redacted]-branded swag and learning about the various ways [Company Name Redacted] is trying to retain its highly trained employees.
Other, lesser [Industry Name Redacted]-focused companies would focus on giving its employees things like money, good health plans, money, 401(k) plans, money, more vacation time, money, maternity leave, money, company picnics, money, and money to keep them satisfied. But [Company Name Redacted] doesn't believe in that sort of thing. Money, after all, is a crude and base way to motivate employees. Awesomeness, on the other hand, speaks to the little kid in every employee, and there's nobody who [Company Name Redacted] would prefer to negotiate with than a bunch of little kids.
You've probably read about the perks that [Company Name Redacted] employees get at [Company Name Redacted] headquarters. I am here to tell you that there are a lot of myths and rumors flying around. To see whether or not you have successfully pulled the correct ones out, here's a little quiz:
Which of the following [Company Name Redacted] perks and attractions are real?
A) Free computers
B) Trees and bushes made of actual candy
C) In-house psychic consultation
D) In-office rocket ship
E) Paid lunch breaks for hourly employees
F) Cirque du Soleil performances at the weekly company meetings
G) Shuttles running to downtown, suburbs, and the Seattle-Vancouver-Juno Metropolitan Area
H) Complimentary EarPods for all staff
I) Life-size replica of the Enterprise bridge (classic, not Next Generation /Enterprise/2009 movie version)
J) bikes that can be taken and returned freely anywhere on campus
The answer, of course, is E: [Company Name Redacted] does not pay its hourly employees during the lunch hour.
The bikes maintain a particularly interesting effect on campus culture. They are scattered everywhere, usually in front of buildings, always unlocked. Anyone who needs to get from point A to point B is free to take a bike from point A and ride it to point B and leave it parked there. He or she might be able to take the same bike back, but odds are someone who needs to take the bike from point B to point A will take it before then.
This sort of ad hoc circumstance has lead many outside observers to deduce that a truly pacifistic and generous culture can develop because of a socialist-inspired system where each takes according to their needs (getting from point A to point B) and gives according to their ability (parking the bike and leaving it for the next person). However, like the misguided Monopoly player who came up with the "Free Parking" rule, or Barack Obama, they are mistaken: the only kind of culture that can arise from such an open and free system is one of ruthlessness and Hobbesian distrust, where crowds topple statues and trade Levi's denim on the black market as if the jeans were made of gold.
I was at first, foolish enough to believe that such a system of shared bikes might work, in the same way that I once believed that we would have true world communism by 1985, and that you could play Grand Theft Auto as a law-abiding citizen. I was, in fact, appalled when I saw interns jostling and pushing each other around, racing to grab the last bike from the racks, and taking 80 bikes away from the common area and dumping them in the building we had to go to (about a quarter-mile away).
My indignation lasted until the next day, when I found myself riding a company bike that was clearly inadequate, in that the seat was about four inches too high, making my riding it an exercise in cirque du soleil-type contortion. With a deepening sense of dread, I realized that I would have to take at least thirty seconds to get off the bike, find the clasp underneath, adjust the seat height to my liking, get back on, check to see if it was the right height, and if it wasn't, I would have to get off and do it AGAIN.
Then my eyes fell upon a cloud of other bikes.
With a guilty ease, I hopped off my bike and went to the nearest one, gettting on and finding the seat too low. Having crossed the threshold, I suddenly found myself hopping from one to another like a sorority pledge at her first progressive, unable to find the satisfaction I craved. Finally, with my teeth bared in rage at my predicament, I saw an unsuspecting engineer* riding away with a bike that I knew in my heart to have a seat at the right height.
Years of playing the GTA series taught me the correct way to 'jack a vehicle:
1) Step out into the street, directly into the oncoming path of the vehicle
2) When the vehicle stops, go up to the driver's seat
3) Wrap your left arm around the head in a headlock, use the right arm to grab the victim's waist, and pull directly upwards (bending at the knees)
4) The victim may be armed. Rest assured, unless you are 'jacking a cop car or are playing the GTA: Mos Eisley expansion pack, the victim will not be able to shoot you for more than three or four hearts before you gun him down mercilessly.
5) Get on/in vehicle. Run over victim's body as humiliating coup de grace (note: this is the ultimate manly way to show dominance; teabagging is for 12-year-olds who play Halo)
I executed all five of these steps flawlessly, and rode away with a bike whose seat was at the proper elevation. Five hundred feet later, I carefully parked the bike at the door of the [Name Redacted] Building and left it there for the next employee to use.
In addition to these institutional perks, [Company Name Redacted] also has a bizarre and freewheeling culture that encourages such things as the riding of Segways and teams going out to movies during the workday. I thought that was weird, and then I found out that another team had rented several kegs and a steamroller, and was busy using said steamroller to crush various objects into Dali-esque smudges on the parking lot asphalt: Tupperware, old bottles, watches, computers, jailbroken iPhones, heartbroken Roombas, housebroken interns, etc.
After seeing that display, I thought nothing could surprise me. I had entered my own personal Mike Tyson Zone, where no story, no perk, no program could possibly surprise me. In fact, as I was going to the cafeteria, I turned to my fellow intern, [Name Redacted], a sprightly young gentleman from [Name Redacted] College, and said, "At this point, there is nothing that could possibly sur-why is there a live mariachi band in the cafeteria?"
Three gallant gentlemen in black costumes, enormous hats, and comically oversized moustaches were busy moving from table to table, serenading bemused diners.
I turn back to my friend. "I'm going to go eat a tree."
*How to tell if your target is an engineer: he wears a bike helmet, has long hair, usually in a thick ponytail, facial hair, glasses, a t-shirt with either some obscure math/science joke or the logo of an '80s metal band with flames or dragons, cargo shorts with pockets filled with irregular (and possibly deadly) shapes, and practical high-top sneakers with knee-length socks. Or, if you're at [Company Name Redacted], he's every second person.
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Having been in NorCal for several days now, I have to say that my friends are right about the whole superiority of the Left Coast. In fact, were it not for the high taxes, earthquakes, wildfires, drug murders, bizzare weather, droughts, occasional race riots, lack of cellphone reception, and gang problems, it would basically be a temperate paradise.
NorCal is an eclectic blend of many different cultures, meaning you go down roads with names like "San Carlos" and see cheap Chinese restaurants on one side and cheap Mexican ones on the other, both of which will serve French Fries on their menu. Coming from the east, I am surprised to see the level to which that bizarro racial conglomeration we white folk mistakenly call "Latino" has penetrated society, although to be fair, the place really belongs to them in the first place. (In the Mirror Universe, the Author is writing a blog where he is surprised to see the level to which that bizarro racial conglomeration we caballeros call "White" has penetrated society, although to be fair, the place was really invaded by them in the first place).
NorCal is also the beachhead for an invasion by an even more repressed ethnic minority group: geeks. Their beachhead is a large corporation for which I am working this summer, the name of which cannot be said for fear of violating the severe 135-page NDA agreement I signed, which basically states (to paraphrase) that should we, for example, burp in a way that sounds like one of ten proposed codenames for the pre-beta testing phase of a yet-to-be-released product, we can be chopped into small pieces using a set of rusty Ginzu knives wielded by ill-tempered and partially narcoleptic midgets, and fed alive to sharks with laser beams on their heads. I will say nothing about what the company does or sells, only this: it has soft serve ice cream machines. SOFT SERVE ICE CREAM MACHINES.
It is also within walking distance from where I am staying, but the problem, of course, is that "walking distance" is a lot easier to deal with when someone gives you a ride on your first day of work, and a lot harder when you have to walk it back, on foot, with a backpack full of free swag and your feet burning from being stood on all day while you introduced yourself and repeatedly made small talk with other new interns. When I make small talk, I say exactly these things, in this order, with appropriate pauses in between:
"Hi/what's your name/where are you from/what are you doing this summer/what's your name again/what do you think of the soft serve ice cream/what's your name again/sorry I seriously can't remember your name/no I've eaten enough soft serve that I'm immune to brain freezes/oops, have to go answer my phone/mom this is not the time to be calling me/not that I don't like you, I'm just at a party/and I'm sick and tired of my phone r-ringing..."/sorry, sometimes I feel like I live in grand central station"
This is not how most of the interns go about introducing themselves and learning other interns' names, but to be frank, I believe that making introductory small talk is like build order in Starcraft: seemingly easy, quite complex, and best learned from watching other people's replays, which is why I have 600 hours of surreptitious footage of my friend Sr. Pfendl.
If you want to learn the art of introductions, remember, conversation is all about exchanging some harsh words, and bullets. More importantly, units of information (words, in this case) need to be produced: the key is to pump out more units than the other guy in a shorter amount of time and rush them all out so he's constantly reacting and can't get defensive. Also, proxy rush is useful.
Sunday, June 06, 2010
So once upon a time, there were three little clams in the ocean. The name of the first clam was Sam Clam, and the name of the second clam was Bam Clam, and the name of the third clam was Orpheus. The clams had grown up together in Clam Kindergarten, and gone on to excel both academically (scoring perfectly on their CLAM Exams) and athletically (dancing the clam-dam dance through the Hoover Dam). When it was time to go to college, Sam Clam and Bam Clam and Orpheus decided to go to Clam State University, where they were members of the Kappa Clamma Pearl fraternity, played together in the Grand Clam Orchestra, and graduated with Clonors.
After college, each of the little clams went on to do different things: Sam Clam went on to found a successful line of discount makeup stores, Clam and Glam; Bam Clam got a doctorate and researched neon lighting; and Orpheus founded a rock group called "Irritant in the 'Nads" (he was frontman, singer, and, when playing their novelty party song hit "My Love is Like a Pearl", harpsichord player). And all was OK, at least for about five years. Then the midlife crises started: there was too much clam wine being drunk late at night, and too many of their clam friends bought clam sports cars.
The three clams were no exception: Sam Clam sold Clam and Glam and became a trance/house DJ named Battlestar Clammatica, Bam Clam left academia to make money consulting, and Irritant in the 'Nads broke up because Orpheus, the front man, wanted to use his rich tenor voice and harpsichord skills to good use. Sam Clam was soon performing to sold-out crowds, Bam Clam got a job with the respected firm McClamsey, and Orpheus founded a nonprofit dedicated to saving clams from alcoholism called Casting Pearls among Vine.
Eventually, the clams retired. Sam Clam invited Bam Clam and Orpheus to come visit him at his retirement home. The clams sat around and went to the Cockles and Muscles, a local restaurant with an excellent early bird special (krill and fried plankton with a side of kelp, $6.99), talking about their old glories and the fun that they had had when they were younger. Sam Clam asked his friends if they wanted to go to the Spanish Galleon, a local nightclub that he had once DJ'd at. With nothing better to to do, the three friends set off.
At the Spanish Galleon, they were shocked to find that the proud fixture of downtown Clamdom had fallen into disrepair- sea worms and barnacles were everywhere, the wood was so rotten you could practically swim through it, and there was not a single clam in the place. The three friends decided this was intolerable, and decided to buy it and open it up for business again.
[Note: the joke is much better if you read it out loud from here on out]
Opening night was a huge success. Sam Clam DJ'd, Bam Clam did the lights and handled the money, and Orpheus got a few members of the old band back together for a live performance at midnight. He even dragged the old harpsichord back out to play "My Love is Like a Pearl". It was a glorious, glorious night for clams out for a little fun.
After the place closed for the night, one of Orpheus' bandmates told him that a producer from the music industry had been there and wanted to sign them up for a reunion tour and maybe even a Greatest Hits album. With the blessings of his friends Sam Clam and Bam Clam, Orpheus and his bandmates drove across town to the producer's headquarters.
The producer was one of those gum-chewing, fast-talking clams, and he explained he only had time to hear one song before his submarine came to take him to the Pacific for a meeting. He asked if he could hear their top hit, "...you know, that one with the pearl."
The bandmates, with visions of million-dollar recording contracts in their eyes, eagerly agreed. Only Orpheus was not smiling. He said slowly, "We can't play that song for you."
"And why not?" The producer was angry. Here he was, a man who bands around the ocean would kill to play anything for, a man whose very time was billed at $500 an hour, a man who could snap his fingers and make someone a star. "What could possibly keep you from playing one measly song for me?"
With a crestfallen expression on his face, Orpheus said, "I left my harp in Sam Clam's disco".
Tuesday, June 01, 2010
-Contra is a lot of fun to do, but more fun to watch (in person)
-Doctor Who's new companion, Amy Pond, and the actress who plays her, the lovely Ms. Karen Gillen, is taking a serious amount of crap on the Internet discussion boards for the following reasons: 1) she's a poorly written character and 2) Ms. Gillen is a (gorgeous) redhead. I feel this is unfair, partially because Ms. Gillen has made the Top 5 (Most gorgeous) TV Actresses list, at least in my mind. My theory? (SPOILER ALERT) Fans are frustrated because the whole crack-wiping-out-memories thing is just going to prove that every gorgeous redhead you meet secretly has attachment issues and will forget you ever existed at the drop of a hat. Which is true. Steven Moffat is nothing if not a truthsayer.
-Really the reason I wrote that last point was so I could embed this video, wherein Ms. Gillen tries to explain what a kissogram is (and also the word "snogging" was actually used, in proper context, which astounded me, since I thought it was a Haagen-Daaz-type word). And also this one, which might be my favorite parody of Doctor Who of all time.
-Randall Munroe perfectly expresses something I've been trying to explain to people for years: the difference between Geeks and Nerds (make sure to read the title-text).
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Why does fan fiction (known as "fanfic" in serious circles) capture the imaginations of so many fledgling writers and amateurs? Judging from the size of popular sites like FanFiction.net (which boasts over 2 million writers), there is, to use a Buffy metaphor, an entire legion of Potential (literary) Slayers out there, who, instead of creating new and brilliant work, are instead toiling away at someone else's fantasy.
Why? When you go out to do the gardening, you don't go and plant flowers in your neighbors' yard to complement their design; you plant them in your own and create your own tropical paradise. Yet with media and the arts, it seems that the urge to fanfic is irresistable. The Author himself has, in idle daydreaming, conceptualized an entire sequel trilogy to the original Star Wars Saga, both a "sidequel" and a "sequel" to Harry Potter, and series 6/32 of Doctor Who.
According to Wikipedia, media scholar Henry Jenkins (and when you read the words "media scholar" as a title, you know it's going to be rough) says:
The encyclopedic ambitions of transmedia texts often results in what might be seen as gaps or excesses in the unfolding of the story: that is, they introduce potential plots which can not be fully told or extra details which hint at more than can be revealed. Readers, thus, have a strong incentive to continue to elaborate on these story elements...Fan fiction can be seen as an unauthorized expansion of these media franchises into new directions which reflect the reader's desire to "fill in the gaps"
Basically, Mr. Jenkins' view seems to hold water. Even such esteemed personages as Russell T. Davies and J.K. Rowling have expressed their support of the fanfic medium for that reason; Ms. Rowling said she was flattered that others wanted to write their own stories using her characters as a base, and dear RTD deliberately left bits and pieces of the Doctor Who canvas blank to allow fans to fill in the gaps in their imaginations.
Yet I can't help but wonder if there is a deeper reason why fanfic is so seductive. In writing this stuff, all the hard work- introducing characters and relationships, creating a believable setting, building a history and personality for each character- has been done with you; you get to do the fun stuff, like blow things up that have already been made by the author, consummating relationships that have already been played out by the author, killing off characters that have already been beloved by the author. Let's face it: it's the writing equivalent of empty calories.
What about games then? Mass Effect 2 is a sequel (obviously, to Mass Effect), which allows you to import the character that you played in the original game, meaning that all your actions and deeds in the original game will have consequences in the second game. This has forced many players to go back and play the original game, making choices and decisions (e.g. one sequence allows you to save either character A or character B from certain death, but not both) knowing that they will carry over into the next game. Or, if you're sneaky, you can go to a save file depository, where players who have already beating the original game upload their characters (and by extension, the choices they have made and the personalized stories they have created) for others to download. Who is the "author" and who is the "fanfic" creator in this case? Obviously, the choices that are presented in the first game are products of the game developer, but the choices that are made are product of the individual players. In theory, with enough choices, and a broad enough universe, each individual player could have a unique experience they upload.
So if each one is different based on the player, shouldn't the player/audience have some credit for the story creation as well? After all, the experience of a piece of art depends heavily on the background and knowledge of the audience member. For example, the Crucible is a well-written play, but it become far more disturbing to an audience member who has studied McCarthyism. In that sense, the Crucible is really one work written by an author, that becomes two works when watched by a historically-aware and -unaware viewer, respectively. The aware viewer "fills in the blanks" and draws meaning from the play based on his/her own experience, adding to the work in their own mind, in the same way a fanfic writer does.
In a videogame sense, Mass Effect is also partially a product of its audience, and its experiential content is even more starkly drawn from player knowledge, ability and creativity: certain areas of the game (like later levels) aren't even accessible unless the player brings a level of accomplishment and skill with the game. Thus if you don't have a deft enough touch with the conversation wheel, you can't have a romantic relationship with one of the characters, meaning that that part of the character depth is lost. If you can, however, it is because of your own choices and contributions. That is, in a way, authorship of the fanfic kind.
Monday, May 17, 2010
They report on how the Auburn University administration refused to allow Justin Bieber's "Baby" to be used as the football team's theme song, and comment on Bieber's reaction:
"Bieber will be waiting for the right moment, stalking you patiently like a praying mantis on Adderall with a sniper rifle. And when the time is right, he'll kill you, because Bieber's favorite dish is revenge, and he likes it served three tenths of a degree above absolute zero, bitch. "
Sunday, May 16, 2010
From the inestimable Bill Simmons (http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/100514&sportCat=nba):
"Final point: Between Games 5 and 6 of the Cavs-Celtics series, an Austin, Texas, reader named Chris Rider sent me the following e-mail:
"I figured LeBron out, dude. I think you define a player by defining what is most important to them in one word.
"MJ -- Winning. Hands down, all he wanted to do was win. And that's over-used for a lot of athletes, but not him.
"Kobe -- Greatness. Yes he's going to win some, but only because he wants to be considered great and that will be a by-product at times. But you'd also see him shoot his team out of a game; jack 3s when he should press the issue and get to the paint. He didn't mind losing a few games if people came away saying 'Kobe is great; look what happens when he doesn't shoot.'"
"LeBron -- Amaze. I think he just really wants to amaze people. Which is why he spends 10 minutes before the game throwing underhand, left-hand half-court shots. Why he celebrates amazing dunks and blocks, but isn't working just as hard to win. I know the Cavs aren't great without him, but he's got PLENTY on that team to win rings with."
Is that totally fair? Probably not. But just for fun, let's extend Chris' game …
Russell, Magic, Bird, Duncan, Walton, West and Havlicek: Winning.
Oscar and Barry: Perfection.
Kareem and Elgin: Pride.
Malone and Garnett: Work.
Cousy, Stockton, Isiah, Pippen and Nash: Team."What's the word that describes what's most important to me? I want to say God, should really say Acceptance, will probably say People, and might say Spinach, if I'm in a weird mood.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
-Apparently, "Brother Number One" from yesterday's post is a reference to Pol Pot, which was pointed out by Lovely and Talented Author's Girlfriend. This is the kind of hard-hitting analysis I have come to expect out of her; her ability to find symbolism and esoteric references in my writing is amazing, especially given how many of them I had no idea about until she pointed out.
-On the subject of Pol Pot, my mother yesterday asked me to find her a YouTube video of "Pol Pot singing Nessing Dorm", which took me a very long time to do, as the dictator was better known for destroying his own people than singing what sounds like a children's song. Only after much consternation was I able to understand she meant finding a YouTube video of "Paul Potts singing Nessun Dorma", which is a powerful little performance you should check out if you have a chance.
-Speaking of powerful performances, check out ARETHA FRANKLIN, one of the greatest soul artists of all time (and really, one of the greatest artists of all time) singing Nessun Dorma, at the Grammys, in its original key, on 22 minutes notice.
-Immigration reform suggestion I thought of in the shower: Legalize them. All of them. Of any kind (although the vast majority of them are Mexican, for geographic reasons). Set a date, six months from now, when the amnesty policy ends. All illegal immigrants would have to do is go get fingerprinted, register at the local INS/FBI/police station, start paying taxes (flat tax rate of maybe 20%- exemptions are for citizens), enroll any kids they have in local school, and be registered for a Selective-Service type draft. *Dum Dum Dum* No, not for the Army- conscripts make poor soldiers. But think of what we could do with an enlarged Peace Corps/VISTA program in this country- fix roads, maintain schools, expand ESL options, enhance border protection etc. etc. Moreover, the knowledge that you might get drafted and taken away from your family will either deter people from immigrating, or, alternately, force people to remain undocumented, which will be more difficult now that all their friends and neighbors are documented. The final aspect, to enhance enforcement, is to step up border patrols using some of that tax money, and raise penalties for companies that use illegal labor. Whaddaya think?
Friday, May 14, 2010
Cuba Libre, Irish Car Bombs, and Red-Headed Sluts: A Novel
The crashing of waves against the shoreline is white noise: it is consistent, it carries no content, and it can cull the wakefulness out of you and lull you to sleep, just like a lecture on postmodernism. (A lecture that contains nothing on a philosophy about nothing that actually contains no clever ideas, wrapped up in a story about nothing written on a blog that...how meta). I stare out towards the ocean blankly, the pounding headache causing blood to rush through my ears in a kind of syncopation with the waves breaking.
I lean on the balcony railing. Below me, some kids who will soon be Mired in Court are being taken away, their attempts to have a "wizard duel" with roman candles having failed on account of alcohol-influenced firing at the strip of hotels alongside the beach. Next to me stands (Pledge) Brother Number One, leaning against all that remains of a great statue of something that had only four toes. We've been sitting there, occasionally eying the cork in the bottle of wine sitting at our feet.
"I will eventually find a loophole, you know," he says casually.
"Uh huh." If I could just find some water. There's a ship on the horizon, looking for all the world like it's driving directly at us. Like it's going to ground on the beach. Maybe its hold is filled with Pellegrino.
"It's a big cycle, this place. The same thing will happen next year, with a different group of alumni. Every single year." Brother Number One takes a deep breath and tugs at the v-neck he's wearing. "I guess it's time to go."
"Have fun killing Castro." I smile as Brother Number One vaults the railing one-handed and drops the five stories to the pavement, landing in a crouch like a cat, a product of superb gymnastic training. He sprints down the beach, across the shell-strewn sand, and dives headfirst into the water, where he begins swimming parallel to the beach. Eventually, if he follows the shoreline, he will run out of beach, and will be in open ocean with a pretty good idea of which direction Cuba and the revolution lie in.
I don't have the heart to tell him he's swimming north.
I yawn. I can't believe I've already been in Myrtle Beach for three days. My fraternity has rented out the top floor of the Crimson Cyprus Inn (*name changed to protect the guilty*), which looks like a cross between the Bates Motel and the shoot of a Girls With Low Esteem video. Here, for the low, low price of $40 a night and your dignity, every spring-break cliche possible can and will be played out, like a college-aged version of Westworld.
The scene: Sunday (of course). The place: a progressive, which is kind of like Bruce Lee's Game of Death, with different drinks in each room instead of different athletes trying to act. Partygoers arrive and go in sequence to each room, chugging the appropriate drink in each room. Tonight's progressive is themed "Alice in Wonderland", and along with my Big, I've been given the extraordinary responsibility of hosting room number 2, The Flood.
I was quite excited, practicing my Gravemind voice and driving around trying to find a store that sold plush monsters, but I was informed by Roommate that I had misunderstood, since apparently Flood can have more than one meaning. (Also, playing my audiobook recording of "The Fall of the House of Usher" was not what they meant when they asked me to play popular rap artists in the background). Going with the whole "Alice" thing, I am supposed to be themed after the second chapter of the novel, and when serving cups of punch out of a giant orange Gatorade cooler, am supposed to recite this monologue:
"When Alice ventured to explore the path that lead down the Rabbit Hole, one of the first things she did was to glance upon an exquisitely sliced piece of marzipan-cake, of which was written in large letters "EAT ME". Being a young lass of inquisitive and not overly cautious nature, she proceeded to follow the instructions, which made her grow to a proportion of gargantuan sizes. Aghast at the possibility of spending the rest of her natural life as a Giantess, she began to weep great tears that pooled together into a flood, and created a lake at her feet. And the lake tasted something like this *hand them a cup of punch*"
After a couple of servings to impatient carousers, this quickly gets shortened to "So Alice cries, and her tears taste like this." Occasionally, such as in the case of the Anime Character, this evolves into explaining that if you like the drink you're a terrible person. This is going against the entire theme of the progressive; I'm not supposed to be making pseudoBaptist value judgments of the people enjoying it. Of course, I'm also not supposed to be just telling people what's in the punch (Gatorade and frozen pineapple juice concentrate, in case you were wondering). I'm also not supposed to be ordering a large pepperoni pizza for myself, Brother Number One, and the Girl Who Fits in a Dryer, but given that everyone keeps telling me to drink a little of theirs first to prove it's not poisoned, getting a food base quickly will be vital.
As I go about serving, (Pledge) Brother Number Three makes his way through the crowd. The most studious Asian in a fraternity full of studious Asians and studious Jews (and some Bulgarian guy) is currently "bro-ing out", and not in a self-consciously ironic way, either: he is wearing a baby-blue polo with the collar popped out, plaid shorts, and easily the largest New York Yankees baseball cap I have ever seen, backwards. Brother Number Three, having already demonstrated that he sinks beer pong cups as easily as he sinks the Putnam, will eventually go through the eight rooms of the progressive a total of four times, yet will be the only member of my pledge class to not utterly humiliate himself tonight (though some might argue the Yankees cap would be humiliation itself).
"How are you doing, Brother Number Three?" I yell over the din of the crowd.
"I'm flying!" he yells back. He then follows the rest of the crowd outside to the balcony, where everyone is staring at the flaming and charred remains of a car, with a shell-shocked Hungry Howie's pizza delivery boy staring at his job going up in smoke. I make sure to tip him well; he's going to be walking home tonight. As I walk back up to the room I'm supposed to be hosting, I run into the Fencer, who is smooth and melancholic, and who is drunk enough that his Irish accent is coming out.
I tap him on the shoulder. "I forgot you used to work in the IRA's Wittenburg office. Was that you?"
"Bloody English. That'll teach Lord Howard to mess with us!"
Back inside, Big has returned from his sweep through the eight rooms of Wonderland, and takes over the Gatorade shower so I can make my way through. I take a deep breath and make my way to Room 101.
The first room is hosted by Brother Number One, who calls on his extensive network of friends to relieve him so the two of us can continue to progress together. We start with red and blue-flavored Jello shots (Jello comes in exactly three flavors: red, blue, and yellow. Anyone who says differently is a liar and a communist), to go with the whole Matrix "follow the white rabbit" Alice in Wonderland theme (more postmodernism). Jello shots, for those who aren't aware, are like jello, except the sheer deliciousness is permeated with something that burns and turns everything a bitter flavor.
Next, we go into the second room and see Big and Steve's Tall Friend chatting on about the relative merits of cars or some unimportant thing like that. Brother Number One and I clink our cheap clear plastic airline-type cups and drink down some punch, which tastes terrible and doesn't taste anything like either Gatorade or pineapple, or even alcohol. It reminds me of bug juice from summer camp, if that bug juice had been left out by a careless fPendl who was too busy playing Nintendo 64 in his air-conditioned cabin to remember to bring his campers' sustenance and lifeblood back into the refrigerator. It's so bad, I have to drink another one just to wash out the taste.
The next room is supposed to be hosted by Brother Lights Out, but he's currently...er...lights out, and being taken care of by Girl Who Fits Into a Dryer. At the behest of Brother Owns Mass Effect 2 And Beat It Before I Got Home to Play It, Brother Number One and I take over. The room's theme is Cheshire Cat, and the drink being served is Sunny Delight and something that doesn't really matter, because Sunny D is not only delicious, it's healthy. Clearly being concerned with my own health, I survey the "Cheshire Cat Grin": a smiley face which has been made out of little paper shots full of orange mix, and feel my own mouth turn upwards.
While Brother Number One cautions me to take shots out of the right eye and not the rest of the smiley face (otherwise the Cat wouldn't be disappearing symmetrically), I see the one person who can confirm that this is about to become a Drunk Story: Max himself, along with his Girlfriend from California, who was under the mistaken impression that the theme for this party was "Back to School", and dressed accordingly. We cross arms and take a shot, or maybe two, or maybe...I had not thought to bring a permanent marker to keep track of the number of shots I'd drank on my skin, and if I got arrested for tonight's behavior, I was definitely unprepared.
After that, things become a bit of blur, to be honest, but I remember that I realized being drunk is so much fun- why aren't people like this all the time? I make my way back to our room, where a box of delicious delicious Capri Sun that I had bought at the beginning of the trip is waiting for me. In a magnanimous gesture, I decide to give it to the President, who, cursing his misfortune, is required to be sober the entire night in case the Po-Po show-show (as happened last year, due to a noise complaint). The next morning, people will tell me that all night I followed him around extolling the virtues of Capri Sun, but that's absolutely ridiculous.
Towards the tail end of the night, people are leaving for the Black Rock, which is a converted Spanish galleon that is now a nightclub with not one, but FOUR different cages on its floor. Kindly brothers are helping each other out, having remembered their childhood admonitions against drinking and driving, calling cabs, and one of them, the Mexican, is kind enough to bring me to a bathroom, which is occupied. He then steers me out to another bathroom, where I decide to rail against the injustices of a 21-and-up drinking age policy that leaves law-abiding kids unprepared for the joys of rum by vomitting everything in my entirely full stomach into the sink.
Sleep it off, I think to myself, as the hands of various brothers and alumni and concerned lookers-on carry me back to my room, pallbearer-style. Sleep it off, and wake up tomorrow at three in the afternoon, completely cured.
Of course, I wake up at eight the next morning, heart pounding, and am completely unable to go back to sleep for the next four or five hours as the Earth rotates around me. Somewhere else, Brother Number One has also had his issues, but that's a different story altogether. He and I are going to go meet on the balcony, and maybe talk about life. And also, the liberation of Cuba.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
So now that Dollhouse is officially dead (time of death: the reveal of the real head of Rossum in the antepenultimate episode) (yes, I just used the word antepenultimate) (it's better than penultimate). My roommate and I have been enjoying the USA network original television series, "Burn Notice", which is ostensibly about a spy who has been disavowed, or "burned", without reason. This spy, a gentleman named Michael Weston (played with a brilliant, darkly sardonic humor by Jeffrey Donovan), spends his days as a private-detective-slash-mercenary, going around doing (generally) good deeds in deliciously evil ways while raising funds and supplies for his investigation into his own burning.
It's kind of like 24, if 24 took less than an ENTIRE FREAKING SEASON to reveal the contents of one day, and if 24 was set in Miami, and if 24's Jack Bauer didn't instantly conjure up mental images of a stereotypical greaser bullying some poor 1950s kids. Also, Burn Notice's average episode consists of nothing but the following five things:
1) Michael Weston trying to claim his relationship with his girlfriend isn't a relationship
2) Michael Weston telling his client of the week "I'm working on it"
3) Michael Weston inevitably failing his original plan ~25 minutes in and then having to tell his client not to call the police, because that won't work
4) Michael Weston putting on sunglasses in dramatic slow motion
5) Michael Weston taking off sunglasses in dramatic slow motion
It's a pretty cool show, despite how bad I make it sound. I'm done now, I promise. Oh wait, no, it's also racist, because all the bad guys are Czech immigrants who are secretly assassins. Or Jamaican immigrants who are secretly money launderers. Or Cuban immigrants who are secretly slum lord gangsters. Or Columbian immigrants who are secretly kidnappers. Or Iranian immigrants who are secretly spies. Or Mexican immigrants who are secretly sex traffickers...the list goes on.
And yet, it's still marvelously entertaining, with the kind of perfect touch between serious meditation on aging and responsibility and the generation gap, and ridiculous dry farce that Psych tried to master and House tried to avoid. And it has Bruce Campbell, another underrated actor that looks like he's just cut loose and is having fun. I haven't seen Gabrielle Anwar (Fiona) or Sharon Gless (Madelyn Weston) anywhere before, but they're both perfectly cast. Ms. Anwar is a character who used to be the kind of "bad@$$ chick with guns" role that producers could have easily been tempted to throw to a younger a Jessica Alba/Angelina Jolie/Eliza Dushku-type actress, yet now needs to let go of the whirlwind of free spirits and violence that once chracterized her life- in other words, in a similar situation as Jackie Brown from my favorite Tarantino movie, having to learn how to age gracefully. It's a difficult, almost invisible role, but played well against Donovan's emasculated hero, who is doing everything he can to get back to those salad days- his ultramasculine, ultraviolent James Bondian world. Meanwhile, Gless is the perfect shrewish-manipulative-vulnerable mother, playing a stock role and injecting it with more verve and fun than almost anyone I've seen not named Jessica Walter.
Of course, there are all kinds of conceits and irritating difficulties that go along with it:
1) The music-video-style fast-forward-rewind-fast-forward loop that the editors stick on every establishing/B-roll shot of Miami is annoying, and the shots themselves look like they were borrowed from stock footage of tourist promotion videos, which they probably were
2) How does Michael Weston, who's basically living paycheck to paycheck once he's burned, manage to not have a safe-deposit box, a dead drop, an anonymous storage unit, or a shoebox full of cash buried somewhere in his home town? In case he might lose his incredibly difficult, incredibly failure-prone secret spy job? I mean, for goodness sake's, the closest thing I'll ever get to his situation is getting a Love Burn Notice that says I have herpes, and even I have a safe box for that eventuality (don't ask what's in it). (Am I writing out loud again?)
3) For that matter, how does Michael Weston, who's basically living paycheck to paycheck once he's burned, manage to have an inexhaustible supply of sunglasses and tailored Armani suits? The things are *expensive*.
4) Remember how improbably Mrs. Lovitt's meat pie business was able to run? Weston's detective business is even worse. Even at a job a week, if he's making between $1000-2000 per job, the suits alone will bankrupt him (see #3). And half the time he gives the money back, or does something silly with it.
5) Why are there so many improbably-shaped women in Miami? Am I the only one who's noticed this? It's like the whole city is one bikini ad.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
476: Romulus Augustus deposed, end of the Roman Empire
1492: Columbus finds the new world, Moores kicked out of Spain as the Reconquista comes to a close, Jews also kicked out
1521: Diet of Worms, Protestant Reformation begins
1555: Peace of Augsberg, Princes can worship however they want in the German states
1648: Peace of Westphalia, the Netherlands officially recognized
1713: Treaty of Utrecht finishes War of Spanish Succession, universal monarch of Louis XIV (the "Sun King") avoided
1763: Treaty of Paris ends French and Indian (N America)/Seven Years' (Europe) war between France and everyone else
1815: Congress of Vienna ends Napoleonic wars
1848: Revolutions sweep everyone
1871: Foundation of "modern" Germany under Emperor Wilhelm I, shepherded by Otto von Bismarck
1918: Treaty of Versailles ends WWI
1945: End of WWII
So, for those of you keeping score, that's 12 dates: 476, 1521, 1555, 1648, 1713, 1763, 1815, 1848, 1871, 1918, 1945.
Here's a few more that aren't vital, but good for party talk:
1066: Battle of Hastings: Normans conquer England, ensure that French will become a vital root of modern English, start the Middle Ages, end the Dark Ages
1588: A "divinely inspired" storm destroys the Spanish Armada, along with machinations by Francis Walsingham et. al. Also, two words: fire ships.
1792: French Revolution breaks out.
1812: The year in which the War of 1812 was fought.
1861: American Civil War. Pesky Europeans all try to influence it, while maintaining neutrality.
1914: Archduke Franz Ferdinand assassinated by Gavrilu Princep, causes chain reaction leading to WWI. First major continental warfare since Germanic Reunification wars of 1871
1917: Russian Revolution. 'Nuff Said.
1929: NYSE market crash starts the Great Depression worldwide
1931: Spanish Civil War breaks out. Fascist and Communist forces duke it out via proxy in Spain. Hitler and Stalin try out their new toys: gas, tanks, bombers, etc.
1939: On September 1st, Hitler's Nazi Germany invades Poland, starting WWII.
1941: Pearl Harbor ensures American entry into the war.
1960: DeGaulle withdraws France from NATO, because, well, he's a dick.
1989: Fall of the Berlin Wall
1991: December 25th, USSR falls.
So, to recap: 476, 1066, 1521, 1555, 1588, 1648, 1713, 1763, 1776, 1792, 1812, 1815, 1848, 1861, 1871, 1914, 1918, 1929, 1931, 1939, 1945, 1960, 1989, 1991.
Not so hard.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
So the other day I got the opportunity to see UConn play a women's basketball game, and I must say, it was surprisingly entertaining. There's a reason that that team has a umpteen-game winning street; they're very well coached and certainly better at fundamental skills like press-breaking, entry passes, and backdoor cuts than the middle school team I helped coach in 8th grade. It was not as much fun to watch, however, as the coach, Geno Auriemma, an absolutely delightful chap who looked like a shaven Nick Nolte and had exactly two facial expressions going the entire time:
1) The pained/irate/grouchy "Why is it so loud in here, didn't they tell the students I went pub crawling last night" look and
2) The slightly bemused, slightly skeptical, slightly disgusted "I can't believe I'm actually here" look, which he gave at least three times to his assistant coach, one of those Evil Icy Blondes they called up from central casting. In fact, at one point during the evening I swear they had this exchange:
Icy Blonde: "I can't believe the ref called that a foul!"
Geno: "I can't believe I'm coaching women's basketball!"
Icy Blonde: "What did you say???"
Geno: "Oi, hangover."
In addition, some incredibly baller jump-roping kids performed at half-time, and I heartily wish that competitive jump-roping had been a sport when I was a kid.
Speaking of things that may or may not be sports:
The fine gentleman from EDSBS, one of the best blogs on the net, studies the art of Curling, or, as he calls it, "Scottis Tetris". http://www.sbnation.com/2010/1/19/1258965/the-amateur-goes-curling.
Speaking of things that may or may not be (sports, music, movies...)
This dissection of the long-forgotten Star Wars Episode I has perhaps the most pointed critique of both the logical and narrative problems in the film. Although there's more bad language than your mom can shake a stick at, the irritating narrator is dead-on, and his explanation of how most good film plots follow a simple structure/character arc should be Required Viewing for Screenwriting 101. This little spin on grindhouse films should be extra credit. And so should Pulp Fiction.
Social Engineering: the Forgotten Major
I will have more on this later, but a dear friend got me a copy of famous hacker Kevin Mitnick's book The Art of Deception. It's wonderful and evil and paranoia-inducing and terrible.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
These were forwarrrrded to me by a good friend.
1. A pirate does not ask forr dirrections. He relies only on his gut feeling, a compass, orr a trreasurre map.
2. Parrrrots arre the prreferrrred pirate companion. Monkeys arre an acceptable substitute, unless they fling theirr feces at people. Then they arre an awesome substitute.
3. When fishing, a pirate uses eitherr a sworrd, a knife, orr his barre hands. Use of a hook is only acceptable in the event the pirate is missing a hand.
4. Pirates shall always wearr boots, except in the case of a peg leg. Then one boot is acceptable. Flip-flops arre right out.
5. Pirates do not crry, except in the case of the loss of a shipload of rum.
6. When descrribing the size of a trreasurre, a pirate is requirred to exaggerrate by at least 130%. Flowarrs arre not trreasurre undarr any cirrcumstances, unless said flowarrs arre made out of gold.
7. A pirate shall nevarr wearr lipstick, nail polish, orr caprri pants. Actually, that kinda goes without saying.
8. No pirate shall discuss his feelings, unless his feelings include gutting a man frrom stem to sterrn and spilling his entrrails.
9. A pirate should always remove his hat in the prresence of a barrtenderr.
10. Durring a sworrdfight, sworrdfighting insults arre requirred. In the event both parrticipants arre still alive at the end of the fight, the parrticipant with the superriarr insults shall be declarred the victarr.
11. No pirate shall evarr wearr a "fanny pack".
12. All foods prreparred by a pirate must include rum, grrog (rred orr orrange punch), orr beerr. Boone's and otherr "Wench Punch" is prrohibited.
13. A pirate may nevarr compliment anotherr pirate on the softness of his hands.
14. No pirate shall wearr a brracelet orr a necklace, unless it is the tooth orr tusk of an animal he killed. If in the prresence of cannibals, a necklace is acceptable camouflage, but only if said necklace is made of human toes.
15. Dousing oneself in beerr is a perrfectly acceptable replacement forr a showarr.
16. No pirate shall drrink Grrog out of a glass. Grrog is only to be consumed eitherr strraight frrom the barrrrel, orr frrom a mug heavy enough to to kill a man.
17. Thrree-corrnarred hats, headbands and bandanas arre the only acceptable headwearr forr pirates. Fedorras, bowlarr derrbies, baseball caps, mickey earrs, top hats, sombrrerros, orr anything with lace and flowarrs will be removed frrom the vessel-- head included. A
grrace perriod of one minute is allowed forr hats looted frrom a tailorry.
18. A pirate shall nevarr wrrap prresents. The only thing a pirate gives is a bludgerrin'.
19. A pirate does not use the worrd "Fabulous". Evarr.
20. No pirate shall attend a movie with less than an Arrrrrrrr rating.
21. Only a pirate is capable of killing anotherr pirate. If you arre not a pirate (let's say a ninja) and wish to challenge a pirate, they have a worrd forr that. Corrrrrpse.
22. "Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr..." is a perrfectly acceptable answewarrr to any question.
23. A pirate does not "go shopping", unless by "shopping", you mean "killing".
24. Peglegs must be made of timbarr orr some otherr suitable wood. Plastic, cerramic, porrcelain, orr metal peglegs arre uttarrly unacceptable, simply because it complicates the use of the phrrase "shivarr me timbarrs".
25. Real pirates have chest hairr. If you cannot grrow chest hairr, you may be a cabin boy.
26. Undarr no cirrcumstances is a comb-ovarr an acceptable pirate hairrdo.
27. No pirate may evarr change his shirrt because it is "wrrinkled". A pirate may only change his shirrt if it is completely soaked in blood.
28. When drrinking, pirates may sing. "Fifteen Men on a Dead Man's Chest" is prreferrrred. Kelly Clarrkson songs arre not allowed, excepting any that involve hooks.
29. No pirate shall evarr drrive a minivan, unless he drrives the minivan into a tavarrn, forr the purrposes of looting barrrrels of rum frrom said tavarrn. Upon completion of this task, the minivan is to be BURRNED. No exceptions.
30. No mattarr how harrd it is raining, two pirates may nevarr sharre an umbrrella. pirates do not fearr rain.
31. If cirrcumstances demand a carreerr change, a move into real estate brrokarrage orr tax collection shall be considerred a latarral move and said individual may keep theirr pirate status.
32. A pirate does not snuggle with an animal, unless he is trrying to snap its neck. But I guess that wouldn't really be "snuggling".
33. A pirate may nevarr wearr anotherr man's clothing, unless he firrst kills that man.
34. Two pirates must nevarr sharre a bed orr a hammock. It is perrfectly acceptable forr one pirate to sleep on the floorr, orr on a pile of trreasurre.
35. Pirates do not wearr eyeglasses orr bifocals unless they arre
looking at a trreasurre map, and even then they arre allowed only a monacle. Any comments about "Mrr. Peanut" while wearring the monacle arre prrohibited.
36. When setting out on a voyage, a pirate does not pack a suitcase. He is only to brring what he can carrrry undarr his arrms, orr what his wench can carrrry on herr back.
37. A pirate does not mow the lawn. Lawns arre forr landlubbarrs.
38. Lifting orr removing one's eyepatch is extrremely impolite but is not considerred an insult. It's just kinda grross. Likewise, one should nevarr remove anotherr pirate's eyepatch, except with a sworrd to the face.
39. Pirates nevarr use the worrds "frresh" orr "feelings," and cerrtainly not togetherr (as in "I have that not-so-frresh feeling").
40. A pirate must nevarr visit a tanning salon. If he is not alrready tan enough frrom searrching forr trreasurre, he hasn't been searrching harrd enough.
41. While crreativity is encourraged durring any barrfight orr battle at sea, pirates may only use the following types of sworrd; falchions, scimitarrs, rapierrs, and parrticularrly long knives. Katanas orr any otherr Ninja sworrd arre strrictly forrbidden, unless the pirate rips off a Ninja's arrm and hurrls the arrm, and attached Katana, as a prrojectile.
42. No pirate shall evarr sit on a toilet seat, forr any reason.
43. Kidnapping is an acceptable substitute forr killing, but only if it is forr the purrpose of plank walking at a latarrr time.
44. When swimming, pirates do not dive. They cannonball.
45. Cannoneerrs aboarrd a pirate vessel arre not allowed to use hearring prrotection of any sorrt. No mattarr what the OSHA regulations say, if ye can't stand bleedin' frrom the earrs, you have no business being a pirate.
46. A pirate will nevarr wearr a patch that is any otherr colorr than black; unless it's halloween. Then they can wearr a patch with an eyeball painted on the outside. Polka dots arre not perrmitted undarr any cirrcumstances.
47. Female pirates arre allowed some exception to rules concerrning hygiene and garrmentrry, but must make up forr it by using twice as much prrofanity.
48. Hooks arre the only acceptable hand substitute. Howevarr, they may not have secondarry attachments such as scrrewdrrivarrs, bottle openarrs, corrkscrrews, orr nail files. These arre pirates we'rre talking about, not Inspectorr Gadget.
49. A pirate's diet consists mainly of meat. If at sea, and meat is not available, shoe leatherr is an acceptable replacement.
50. You can't spell pirrrate, without "irrrate". Therre's a reason forr that, so don't even trry.
51. No pirate will evarr, evarr raise his pinky when drrinking any sorrt of bevarrage.
52. When choosing clothing, even if it looks dirrty, orr smells dirrty, it is clean.
53. A pirate may ride in a rowboat, if trraveling to orr frrom his ship. Use of a Kayak is only perrmitted if used forr cannon tarrget prractice.
54. When drrinking rum, the only thing a pirate adds to the rum is morre rum.
55. The official pirate religion is Pastafarrianism.
56. No pirate shall evarr play wiffle ball.
57. Undarr no cirrcumstances does a pirate speak with a Ninja, unless he firrst decapitates that Ninja and uses his head like a sock puppet.
58. When at the office, answewarrring the telephone with "Arrrrrrrrrrrrrr" is perrfectly acceptable forr pirates. Otherr acceptable choices arre "Avast!", and "Ahoy Matey!"
59. A pirate does not read poetrry, unless said poetrry is scrrawled on the wall of a bathrroom.
60. All women arre to be referrrred to as wenches, with the exception of female pirates, who can be referrrred to as "lasses".
61. Pirates do not clean up, except when gold falls out of a trreasurre chest.
62. Spilling rum is not acceptable, except in the act of "pourring some out forr dead mateys".
63. A pirate may tell any tale of swashbuckling without being called on the details, as long as at least 51% of the storry is trrue.
64. A pirate may nevarr shave below the neck. Shaving above the neck is allowed, but only if the pirate shaves his entirre head. In the prresence of cannibals, a mohawk is acceptable.
65. No pirate may do the arrm movements forr "YMCA", orr engage in countrry-westarrn line-dancing.
66. Pirates do not say "please" orr "thank you". The phrrase "Arrrrrr, I'll prrobably kill ye tomorrrrow" is an acceptable altarrnative forr "Thank you".
67. Should the ship's bow have a carrving of a naked wench, merrmaid, orr something of the like, crrew membarrs should not touch it. Feeling up a wooden statue is unbecoming of a pirate.
68. Pirates do not "IM". The only instant message allowed is a sworrd thrrough the chest.
69. Dental Hygiene forr pirates is not a prriorrity. Should therre be occasion, howevarr, strrong rum orr salt wavarr can be used as mouthwash. Anything "minty frresh" is strrictly farrbidden.
70. Pirates nevarr, evarr obey laws. Perriod. Irronic, I realize.