12.31.2004

My five greatest failures.

1. My inability to perform a drum roll in sixth grade band.

2. Never having beaten Super Mario Bros. 1 for NES, even with a GameGenie.

3. That one time I spaced in college and forgot to do the daily promos, about five minutes of work, for public television.

4. Any Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit or similar game ever, where friends and family feel I will amaze them with my skill. I suck at these games.

5. Misspelling "corral" as "coral" in a school spelling bee.

12.29.2004

I want a 100-year-old camera.

Found in a drawer in the Arkansas State Prison and dating 1915-1937, these photographs by subjects and photographers who didn't care about the result are some of the best portrait photos I have ever seen. Examples (the last would be a kick-ass CD cover):








For more links, check out my del.ico.us bookmarks.

12.22.2004

I'm done.

I regularly read www.inpassing.org and www.overheardinnewyork.com , two sites that highlight the oddity of the passing street conversation.

This recent tidbit proves that I will never surpass the intuitive genius of a common third grader, thus I am finished.

*********************
Kids These Days, I Tell Ya...
Kid #1: Paper beats rock. BAM! Your rock is blowed up!
Kid #2: "Bam" doesn't blow up, "bam" makes it spicy. Now I got a SPICY ROCK! You can't defeat that!

--6 Train
*********************

I mean, an effective Emeril reference? C'mon. You can't beat that.

12.20.2004

Christmas angel. Or an eagle.

The pic at left is the reflection of a florescent light fixture in my computer monitor at work. The two "wings" are the reflectors and the center bit is the two bulbs. They appear to merge at the top because of the angle and the curvature of my screen. To scale at a 1152x864 resolution, which I hope no one uses.

9751

Get far enough away and everything makes sense.

Every day Jeannie Joy makes announcements over the phone network. Lacking a public address system, she calmly creeps up every phone line, crawls out the speaker, brushes herself off and states her piece before climbing gracefully back in and through to her position at the front desk.

Many times it's to summon the publisher or editor to take a call from our feudal lord, Rick. Rick Burroughs, despite being a handsome, rich and successful newspaper owner is never referred to by his full or last name. He is not William Randolph Hearst. He is merely Rick, his surname so rarely used as to atrophy into anew tense, a fifth person.

About once every other day, her pronouncement is not to encourage us to swear fealty, but instead to instruct us to tithe at a different altar.

"The meter-man is out front. The meter-man is out back. The meter-man cometh."

An orderly, cursing rush can then be heard over my basement cubical, as if a troupe of heavy-footed chorus girls is swearing their way back and forth across the floor.

For reasons only attributable to the stack of desks that is our municipal bureaucracy, we have been unable to get parking passes for our employees, forcing those who want the convenience of parking directly behind the offices to suffer the inconvenience of going outside four to five times a day to fill their meters, or, alternatively, paying a pink parking ticket left by one employed in the most thankless job in humanity.

I normally park in the free lot across the street and approximately 17 seconds farther away.

I do not know why, in an office where the use of Microsoft Outlook is required for checking in and out, for interoffice memos and organizational calendars, they have not yet scheduled in the meter-man. His schedule is predictable, according to my hastily scribbled notes over a two week period. Yet for two years he has tormented the office as a grumbling volcano to a primitive island tribe.

I could tell them. I could discreetly enter in his information to the frustratingly misspelled Employee calendar, directly under "Classified Dealine". But if I were to unmask this god, reveal the clock behind the curtain, would not soon Rick also fall, his phone summons unanswered, until he lay, trampled and beaten, a ladies heel embedded in his eye, a modern Mussolini?

From ocean currents to foreign politics, there is no chaos at a distance. But if you step into the order, enter the Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, it spreads to disarray around you. And points of light are never allowed to step back and see the image more distant eyes can see.

Also, they could just park in the free lot. I refuse to be one whoswabs rubbing alcohol on the arm of a lethal injection recipient.

12.17.2004

Insomnia.

It is consumption, it is madness.

It eats your muscles and your mind, making you too slow and weak to fight off the countless invisible demons.

I like to think of myself as fairly intelligent, my thoughts often racing so far beyond my ability to express them that I sometimes drop words, sentences, paragraphs out of my writing and speech, absentmindedly I’ll go so far ahead that I’ll miss where I’ve been.

But when I can’t sleep, the million marching legs of my thoughts are cut, one by one. For a moment the synchrony of thought and action is almost blissful, but too soon my thoughts are left behind in a relentless world, leaving me to grasp at echoes, trying to find out where I am.

Everything that can go wrong with the mind, does. You forget to lock your door, you forget to close it, you forget where it is. What have you done? You doubt everything, a sobbing rocking ball of paranoia, before springing up in maniacal delusion. Trudging on, slow and unsteady, your mind wears trenches in its countless roads, you are trapped, repeating, obsessing compulsive. You can get so far behind you will miss hours of your day, no more than ethereal ghosts seen out of the corner of your eye in a coal black room. You wait.

You wait.

But it does not come, sends its desperation to you instead. Dreams are not a gentle ride, nor even a nightmarish fog of persecution. You are flung down a hole filled with gibbering mouths and epileptic television sets, reaching, surpassing terminal velocity, until, despite your need and weakness, you wake yourself up if a fear that, if you didn’t, you never would.

You are trapped between the very real feeling that you are dying and an unholy desire that it was true. You are already dead, and this is hell.

When it passes, when you finally get out of it, you can never remember how. If you were rocked twitching pains of psychic withdrawal or finally collapsed in a weeping pile until a week had passed. A month later you realize you are fine, a little tired, but rested. Memories of it are as sharp and incoherent as a childhood trauma.

And then it starts again.

12.16.2004

21 Reasons I shaved my head.

1. I joined a synchronized swim team and every second counts.

2. My wife and I are Advies—advertising fetishists. I play a stern but loving Mr. Clean and she’s a naughty little Aunt Jamima.

3. I went on a vision quest and discovered my spirit animal is the regal mole rat.

4. It makes the trepanation easier.

5. I’m starting over, completely, from the beginning. Later today I will have my teeth removed and botox injected randomly about my body, giving me the feeble inarticulate movements of an infant.

6. I’m auditioning for Blue Man Group.

7. Long story short: I finally got my sideburns even.

8. I take the challenging card game “War” very seriously.

9. I ran out of shampoo.

10. It was the only way I could secure an interview with activist Sinead O’Conner.

11. I saw G.I. Jane last night and it changed my life.

12. I have joined a collective of enlightened individuals who, after cleansing castration and a transcendence involving strychnine-laced punch, will be joining the gods upon their hover ship on the moon.

13. People kept mistaking me for Antonio Banderas and it was getting annoying.

14. My fedora was too tight.

15. Big league chew, 80 mph motorcycle ride, sneeze.

16. I am a student of phrenology.

17. I’m doing an undercover investigative piece at the light bulb factory.

18. I’ve had the nickname “cue ball” all my life, so I thought, “What the hell…”

19. I fell asleep at a party.

20. I head-butted a barber.

21. I found my beautiful luxurious hair too distracting to my coworkers.

12.14.2004

Lego science and microwave temporal manipulation

I was playing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II last night, but before you tune out entirely I assure you this has nothing to do with that midi-chlorians crap nor will I regress entirely into indecipherable geek.

Anyway, it’s a fairly straightforward RPG, full of the regular benefits (escapism) and detriments (mindlessly annoying puzzles, linear plot, time devouring game play). What I’d like to focus on is something that can be found in a host of futuristic games, movies, and books: modular technology with apparently infinite adaptability.

Throughout the game robots, pardon me, “droids,” engines and computers are constantly being damaged or destroyed. It would seem a strong grasp of quantum engineering has not led society to develop anything more durable then a Faberge egg. These items are almost always part of some annoying little riddle which can easily be solved by opening up various hatches and finding the egregiously named “spare part.”

The future is rife with spare parts. I picture a vastly advanced civilization which uses nanobots the way I use a fork and black holes the way I use a toaster. Also, instead of rats boarding every damn thing we build, sentient spare parts will lodge themselves in everything from the refuse bin to the heat duct.

In any case, any item in the game that is broken can easily be fixed by adding a number of spare parts to it, a number conveniently known before hand. Doesn’t matter the size, type or application, three of whatever the hell will fix a hyper drive. I like to mix it up, fixing one droid with a part I found in the storage locker and another with a part I found in an ion cannon. One step above tinker toys and one step below erector sets.

Now I’ll admit I know some clever fellows in mechanics and computers. I also remember a couple of years ago when the dream was a totally modular computer, basically a power supply with slots in it wherein a motherboard, hard drive etc. could be swapped out and in with ease. I refuse to believe, however, that no matter how advanced we become we will be able to adequately fix a fried cpu with a heating coil, a piston ring and one of those screws with triangular slots found on happy meals toys.

Infinitely advanced technology, yeah. Then why the hell can’t the things fix themselves, like those self-healing gels? Why aren’t they nigh impenetrable? I understand a laser or light saber or whatever the hell is exceedingly damaging, but if it can be fixed with two ball bearings and some telephone cable it ain’t that broken.

The sci-fi fantasy community needs to band together and rid themselves of this nuisance once and for all, even if it means the next time I play KofOR III I have to spend four hours finding the right sized bolt to fit a desk lamp.

This completely fails to bring me to my next topic: cell phone precognition. I freaking love this. I know why it happens and still I love it.

Before my cell rings, the phone has to receive data from the tower and then send back “yeah, I got it.” When it sends back this signal the little micro/radio/fairy waves interfere with the sensitive electronics/components/gnomes of computer monitors and speakers. Result: about 5 seconds before it rings monitors and computer speakers fizzle. Bam, I’m psychic.

Of course they continue to fizzle while it rings, and while I talk and whenever I smile to big, but what the hell. I still feel like a super cyber ninja, from space.

12.07.2004

The office.

Surreptitiously clipping my fingernails wasn't a phrase I'd ever use seriously, but there I was, trying to appear to type while trimming my fingernails with scissors.

It was an office faux pas, which was why I was hoping no one would notice. The people in the cubicle across from me--fellow reporter Rosemary and editor Tom-- faced away, but I faced into the corridor, and both were known to get up sporadically to get more tea.

Long nails disgust me, not on others so much, but on my own hands. Going to dislodge a bit of apple and tasting a bitter awful whatever you touched during the day is bad enough, but to feel a piece of that whatever take the place of the apple . . .

I was almost done, despite some close calls wherein I was furtively tapping on the keyboard with the back of my hand to make the tappy tappy noise. Then my pinky fingernail, left hand, flew into the numeric keyboard.

It was invisible, yes, but I would feel like some depraved fiend if I left it for some future employee, five years from now, to find. Carefully, wedging the scissors into the crevice between the 5 and 2 I pried upward slowly. 5 popped up easily and the nail slid under the2 with even greater ease. I looked around. Everyone was busy. I pried at the 2. Rosemary looked across and opened her mouth to say something. The 2 flew gracefully into my forehead and came to rest on the carpet five feet away as I belatedly went to protect my face from the errant key, nearly putting out my eyes with the scissors still in my hand.

Rosemary closed her mouth and went back to work. I retrieved the key and did the same.

12.01.2004

Surreal.

Here's a dream whose incongruous parts I can easily interpret and find their real-life origins:
Married life had made money kind of tight, and (due to a degree in writing) the only part-time job I could get was at the world's worst knock-off store in the mall.
Juicers, as it was called, sold only off-brand Jones Soda in the most revolting flavors imaginable (I think I tried Watermelon Pizza). The stuff was so bad it actually gave you skin cancer, which was why the store also operated a mole removal service in the back.
(I had originally gotten the job to support an increasingly draining comic book habit, I believe.)
I met some nice customers during my stay, as I gave them nitrous and local anesthesia. As the owner burned the moles off we chatted about friends and family, small talk really. There was one old lady with a hairy chest and no nipples that claimed one mole in particular gave her trouble because it caught in her chain mail.
Also in the back, the owner had some kind of sweatshop java scripting operation wherein high school students were forced to constantly update his website. I generally didn't care if I caught them downloading mp3's instead, as the job really sucked.
Anyway, for some reason Autumn and I had to flee the country by sneaking aboard a train. I had opened a large triangular crate for her to hide in and had tucked myself under a box car, but she got caught anyway. To entertain the angry crew and their Large-Marge-esque conductor, I threw a red ball in the air, and, as they watched it fall, stole all their wallets. Surprisingly this worked, and the lady conductor promised me passage if I would let her listen to "Highway to Hell" during the trip. Autumn, however, was still out of luck.
When I tried again to sneak her aboard they cast us down into a pit filled with red oatmeal, human corpses and live chickens. At this point I could fly and Autumn got away. As I was attempting to flee, however (being only able to fly about 3 feet off the ground) all the bodies turned out to be zombies craving not flesh, but human affection. One dead and decomposing cheerleader attempted to hug me, but I dodged and flew off, leaving her to shriek "Great, now I have "Bad manners disease!"
Seriously.
Then I woke up.