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Thursday, March 31, 2005

"I love sex with girls!"

There's a review for Tim Burton's 1994 film Ed Wood in the "Movies" section! You heard it here first!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Today I attended an eight-hour introductory course to New Zealand wines. It was very interesting and informative, but on some of the topics, the instructor came off as something of a Nazi.

"Pumping or vacuuming air out of wines does not keep it fresher longer," he said.

"But you said air makes wine oxidized. If you removed the air, how can it not help it?"

"I said it doesn't help it, OK?"

"Yes, but--"

"End of discussion. Have you done the scientific tests with it? Because I have."

"Right . . ."

(I go back to drawing pictures of ninja turtles on scrap paper.)

By the end of the course I thought we had a mutiny on our hands. He suggested that there was a huge untapped market for dessert wines in New Zealand, but the problem was that servers and bartenders weren't suggesting it.

"But they usually cost more than the desserts they're supposed to compliment, and most people find that to be a turn off," one woman said.

"The problem is that servers and bartenders aren't suggesting it," he repeated.

"Yes, but people don't know anything about dessert wines, and they usually just drink coffee with dessert anyway, rather than spending eleven dollars per glass on something they've never tried," another man chimed in.

"Have you tried suggesting it?" the instructor asked.

"Yes, but--"

"I think you'll find that the problem is that people aren't suggesting them enough."

"But my restaurant doesn't sell desert wines."

"There's your problem right there."

By that point my scrap paper was filled with drawings of ninja turtles, wine glasses, and guys with afros, and I was ready to leave.
Lan is worried that he's spending too much time playing poker. I have a far worse addiction at the moment: "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas".

Video games are possibly the biggest waste of time on earth, with the exception of daytime television. Even so, I can't stop myself from playing, and thinking about playing it when I'm not playing it. My productivity in reading and writing have dropped dramatically, much like a housewife when Oprah comes on.

One of the worst things about this is that I've come to use the game's terminology comfortably as my own.

"We've got to get back to the 'hood to protect the homies," I told RA as he directed me through the streets of San Andreas to stop a gang war being fought on my turf.

"Damn, that nigger is hatin'!" I exclaimed when one of the members of the hated Balla crew shot me with an AK.

Almost certainly worse than that is the brief glimmer of frustration I feel when I actually consider carjacking someone so I can get somewhere faster, and then realize that I can't do that, even if there isn't a cop within viewing distance.

My mom never bought me any video game system when I was a kid.

"If I buy it for you, you'll just sit around playing video games all day."

Instead, I sat around watching reruns of Charles in Charge and Happy Days until I saved up enough money to buy a Super Nintendo myself, then I sat around playing "Super Mario World" all day until I beat it. Of course, by that time, I was way out of the loop, and my hand-eye coordination was nothing like some of my friends who easily kicked my ass at every game.

The other reason Mom never bought me a video game console is because of violent video games. I asked for "Street Fighter II" for Christmas and my birthday, but never got it.

"I don't want you thinking that life is that way," she said. She said pretty much the same thing but substituted the word "women" for "life" and "are" for "is" when she found an issue of Penthouse Letters wedged between a bunch of old posters and maps while cleaning my room one day when I was thirteen.

I never really felt tempted to do a shoryuken on someone in real life when I played SFII, and I don't think that videos and magazines have warped my mind so much that I expect all women to look and behave like they do in porn. I hate Joe Lieberman, and the way he tried to censor movies, music, and video games in the 90s using the same argument my mom had. Black guys at my middle school used to wear these shirts after Biggie and 2Pac died that said "It Ain't the Music", and I always just took that as fact.

The whole thing bears further scrutiny, I think. Especially since I found myself briefly fantasizing about smashing through fences and doing drive bys on people walking down the street today when I went to the grocery store.
In New Zealand, the law states that nearly all businesses must be closed from Good Friday until Easter Monday. Maybe it's just me, but I don't recall Easter Monday being a holiday, or even a notable day, or even worthy of the title "Easter Monday", since it's not actually Easter, and Jesus rose from the dead the day before--the same day that the Easter Bunny came. Easter.

"I think that he rose on Sunday, but they like, didn't find him until Monday," RA said.

"That sounds like bullshit to me."

In any case, it meant that I didn't go to work, and had I needed to buy a mattress or appliance at a retailer, I would not have been able to. That wasn't a huge problem, but not being able to buy groceries for the three days previous to "Easter Monday" was. By the end, I was eating yogurt and bread together, with a water back.

Monday, March 28, 2005

St. Jimmy

"That's $5.20 please," RA said.

"Are you serious?" the hick said.

"Yes."

"For one beer?"

"Yes."

He shook his head and scrounged up the right amount in change.

"You're a robber, mate." I could tell he was a hick by the way he spoke, his greasy slicked-back hair, and his ratty farmer's clothes. But it was mainly the fact that he was complaining about the price of beer that I took him for a rube.

RA walked off, and my sister and I were left behind the bar, drying dishes. The hick drank his beer quickly, and when he was nearly finished, he called me over.

"You gonna shout the next one?" he asked me.

"I hadn't planned on it," I said, and walked back to the other end of the bar to continue drying dishes.

"What?"

"I said 'no.' "

"Why not?"

"Why would I?"

"Because it cost me $5.20. That's for two, right?"

"Nope, that's for one."

"You're going to be closed down by next year if you keep that up," he said.

"It's a pretty standard price for a beer," I told him. At that point my mind was sending me several messages:

1. This guy is an idiot. Just ignore him. Arguing with him would be like replying to some jackass' internet post about how High Noon is a thinly-veiled pro-communist film.
2. Just indulge him, it doesn't matter. Just laugh and hope he goes away soon.
3. Fuck this asshole. I'm not in the mood to deal with this shit, and if he insists on behaving like an idiot, that's how I'm going to treat him. Just play it cool, but don't take any shit.

Guess what? Number three won.

"Five bucks for a beer? That's ridiculous." he shook his head.

"If you don't like it, you don't have to come in here."

He looked at me. I looked at him. We sat there staring at each other for a good eight seconds, and I could see my sister out of the corner of my eye observing us nervously.

"Yeah, I guess you're right," he said.

"If you want a cheap beer, go buy one from the store and drink it in your living room. When you go out, you pay for more than just the beer, you pay for the staff, the environment, the music, everything."

"You a Yank?"

"Yes I am."

"So I have to pay you higher wages because you're a Yank? What are you getting, like twenty bucks an hour?"

"I'm saying that when you go to a bar, the cost of the beer goes towards the cost of running a business." I walked away again.

He called over to me from his corner. "You're a Yank, right? How much does a beer cost over there, one or two dollars?"

"I doubt you'd find a beer that cheap anywhere in the States. Most beers cost at least three dollars, and more like four, which is much more than what you just paid."

"No they don't. They don't cost that much."

"OK . . ."

"Yeah, I guess you're right. Let's just change the subject. You're a Yank, right?"

I sighed audibly. "Yes."

"What do you think of George Bush?"

I couldn't help laughing as I walked over to him. "Wow. The only topic worse than the price of beer: politics." I walked away again.

"I think he's a good guy--taking care of those towel heads, eh? Somebody's got to take care of those bastards."

I ignored him.

"What about the blacks? You keep them in their place over there at home?"

I laughed. "Get a load of this guy!" I said to my sister so he could hear. "Jesus!"

A moment or two passed, and I was now putting away coffee cups.

"What's your name?" he asked.

"Chris," I said.

"I'm Jimmy."

"Of course you are," I said to myself.

"Do you like V-8 engines?" he asked.

I gave him a knowing look. "It's a pretty fast engine, I guess. But the V-12 is much faster."

"You know a lot about cars?"

"Not really."

"You a bit of a gearhead? Know how to get in there and fix cars, eh?"

"No."

"Yeah . . ." he watched TV for a minute. Some rugby game was on. "I traveled around Asia."

"Oh? Good for you."

"Yep. Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, all that."

"How'd you find it?"

"Pretty good. Sometimes the beer was expensive though. The women were pretty friendly, if you know what I mean." He took a sip of his beer. There was only a sip or two left.

"Hm."

"Met some Yanks over there. Military guys. They thought they were hot shit."

"Part of the mentality, I guess."

"Yeah, they have a lot of technology."

"What, the guys did?"

"No, the military, the Yanks."

"Yep."

He finished the rest of his beer.

"Can I get another one?"

"Sure."

"For two dollars?"

"For full price, $5.20."

"Five twenty!" he said. "Come on!"

"I don't make the rules, I just play by them."

"Then I'm leaving."

"See ya."

"See you tomorrow," he said.

Tomorrow?

Friday, March 25, 2005

The manliest thing in the world? Easy!

Wasting food!

For example, imagine a guy who orders a big steak dinner with all the fixings, and then when it's delivered, he just flips the whole thing on the floor. See? Extremely manly. I would rate him "Super Manly".

Not convinced? Well listen.

It captures the essence of masculinity: doing stuff that we think is cool, even though there's many-a good reason not to do it. Like draining a lake, filling it with sloppy joes, and spraying the whole thing with pesticides--and piloting the crop-duster personally.

I tell you--wasting food? The manliest thing in the world! That and punching stuff.



Thanks to Dinosaur Comics #432, on which this post is loosely based.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

She Blinded Me With Science

The subtitle for Georgetown linguistics professor Deborah Tannen's LA Times opinion piece "The Feminine Technique" reads: "Men attack problems. Maybe women understand that there's a better way."

In the piece, she discusses Maureen Dowd, the NY Times' only female op-ed columnist, and why it is that there are so few females in her field.
"Men enjoy verbal dueling," said Dowd . . . "As a woman," she explained, "I wanted to be liked — not attacked."

That, Tannen agrees, is a feeling that many women have. But the real point, and the argument Dowd misses, according to Tannen, is the fundamental assumption that attack-dog journalism is the only kind worth writing.
That is the blind spot that explains why women are missing from many of the arenas of public discourse, including science (as noted by Larry Summers of Harvard)1 and opinion writing. (The Los Angeles Times was recently criticized for not running more women on its opinion pages.)

No one bothers to question the underlying notion that there is only one way to do science, to write columns — the way it's always been done, the men's way. There is plenty of evidence that men more than women, boys more than girls, use opposition, or fighting, as a format for accomplishing goals that are not literally about combat . . . (emphasis added)

The authoress concludes that "the true role of journalism should be a third way: a watchdog. And a dog who is busy attacking is not watching."

Every time someone comes up with an explanation like this, especially at the expense of the media, I remember what my extremely liberal journalism professor once told me: "The number one goal of the media is to sell their product." Of course, he said this in bitterness and disgust, but the fact remains. It doesn't really matter that "there's another way to do it," (although other possibilities should always be explored) because in the end, if a paper is employing columnists who don't sell, whether it's a White male or a transgendered Eskimo, what's the point other than charity or because some special interest group criticized their way into making it happen? The other thing that her conclusion widely misses is that it's not just journalism that we're talking about, it's op-ed journalism, the kind that people turn to directly because they're looking for a strong "attack dog" opinion. (The kind, ironically, that Tannen is trying to make here.)

This is the kind of article that can only be written by an extremely liberal intellectual who's running late to pick up her kids from soccer practice.

1Larry Summers' mention of women and science is one of the most over-hyped everyday-recognition-noted-by-someone-of-some-importance in recent memory. A summary of the apt position of The Economist can be found here (the actual Economist article is for premium subscribers only).
I was reading Dan Savage's Savage Love column:

There is only one thing in my mind that is not perfect about my girlfriend: the area around her anus is very hairy. I feel uncomfortable mentioning it to her as it could make her extremely self-conscious, but it does bother me a great deal. My questions are these: 1. Should I even bring it up? 2. And if so, how would you suggest I do so without hurting her feelings or making her feel uncomfortable? 3. Finally, how do you recommend removing hair in such a sensitive area?

-Hairy Met Sally

Seems like a fair question. What did Savage reply?
1. Sure.

2. The best approach in a delicate situation like this, HMS, is to use "I" statements. "I" statements will allow you to express how you feel about your girlfriend's hairy anus without putting her on the defensive. So don't say, "Your hairy anus is revolting." Instead say, "I think your hairy anus is revolting." Also, humor could help to dispel tension, i.e., "Hey, when did they start making thongs out of dead ferrets?"

3. Duct tape--put it on, rip it off.


"Who dates hairy anus girl?" Lan asked after reading Savage's response.

"I guess it can be a surprise sometimes," I said.

"How can it be a surprise? I can spot a hairy anus a mile away!"

"I guess there's the old "Hairy or no!?!" routine1, but that can get uncomfortable," I said.

"For whom?!" Lan wondered.

"Well," I said. "For your hand--it would probably stink after trying to probe a hairy anus."

"God. Just ask."

There was a pause, and I realized how hungry I was getting. "Damn, I'm hungry," I said. "Hungry for hairless female anus."

"The nutritional value of that as a meal is negligible."

"Now who's being naive?" I asked.

"Not me. I'm not trying to buy a jar of anuses to pepper my cereal with."

1The old "Hairy or No!?!" routine is a routine in which, when wanting to know how much hair a girl has on her nether-regions, you shove your hand down a girl's pants and yell out "Hairy or no!?!"

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

I saw the following sign on the way to work this morning:

Feed Me

A conservative estimate of the percentage of cars in New Zealand that have a bumper sticker advertising their dislike of genetically modified foods would be around 20-30 percent. Kiwis are terrified of eating GM products.

However, the Associated Press reported today that

. . . [R]oughly 75 percent of U.S. processed foods -- boxed cereals, other grain products, frozen dinners, cooking oils and more -- contain some genetically modified, or GM, ingredients . . .
And that
. . . Nearly every product with a corn or soy ingredient, and some containing canola or cottonseed oil, has a GM element, according to the grocery manufacturers group.
So what's the big deal?

Opponents say genetically modified foods could cause allergic or toxic reactions and harm the environment. Worries include the mixing of GM crops with regular ones either by handlers, or pollen -- already documented -- and GM foods being sold where they're not approved.
That seems like a valid concern. However
Despite dire warnings about "Frankenfoods," there have been no reports of illness from these products of biotechnology. Critics note there's no system for reporting allergies or other reactions to GM foods.
I don't think I have a problem eating GM foods, and I really don't have a problem using GM products as a primary food source for developing countries. The biggest problem appears to be that
. . . [T]here's no system to track health problems caused by GM foods.

[The Union of Concerned Scientists and] the Center for Science in the Public Interest has long pushed for labeling -- only required when GM products have properties different from ordinary foods, such as a higher nutrient content. They contend consumers deserve a choice if they want to avoid GM foods and they also want government regulation.

That makes sense. Experimenting with foods isn't a sin against nature or something, and as we currently understand it, there have been no side effects from the foods that have been released so far. All most people want is to know what it is that they're eating. That, I think, is a reasonable demand, and a far cry from demanding, as the bumper sticker says, that food companies "Keep NZ GE Free!"


For more questions and answers on genetically modified foods, go here.

Communique

I was talking to MT about various goings-on.

"Anything else new?" I asked.

"Nothing really," she said. "I'm just trying to make it through the semester."

"I hate that feeling; it's like holding your breath."

"Yeah," she said. "There's always a pain in my chest and a tightness in my diaphragm."

"You wear one of those things?" I asked. "The pill is usually more effective."

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Yesterday I went swimming at the beach. RA suggested that the three of us (me, my sister, and him) go out at high tide and jump in off the boardwalk, and then swim out to this small island that sits about 500 meters from the shore.

Unfortunately, when we got there, it turned out that we read the tide timetable wrong, and the tide was low. As a result, we had to walk over like ten meters of painful rocks to get in.

Once we got in, it was fine. I swam leisurely to the island and rested on the beach, waiting for my sister and RA to join me. When my sister got there, I told her that I was considering swimming over to the regular beach, which was about two kilometers away.

I started making my way around the island, and when I was about a quarter of the way to the shore, I remembered that I hate swimming in the ocean.

"I can't see anything!" I thought. "What if there are sharks and stingrays hanging out, West Side Story-like, ready to attack?"

Then I started thinking of this Faces of Death tape I saw when I was thirteen. This barracuda had attacked some guy who was swimming around in the middle of the ocean--kind of like I was right that very moment, and he ended up needing something like 400 stitches to get put back together. Do barracudas even live in salt water? Damn this lack of knowledge about sea life!

Then I started doing the backstroke, which is like half the speed of freestyle, with the hopes that when I was attacked by a barracuda that it would just bite my back, and not my precious, precious guts. That was when I had another revelation regarding my dislike for swimming in the ocean.

It happened when I was about halfway to the beach, when I felt something touch my leg.

"Ah!" I yelped. "AUGH!" Luckily (or maybe unluckily) no one was around to hear my screams. I had swum right into an enormous patch of seaweed.

"Gross," I thought. "I'll just swim out of it."

But I couldn't swim out of it. It was everywhere. I kept swimming, and the more I kicked, the more it wrapped around me. It was like swimming in your grandfather's ear. This is when I started freaking out, screaming and stroking, hoping the madness would be over soon.

"YAHH!" Stroke. "YAAH!" Stroke. "YAAH!" Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. Eventually I made it out, and into . . . an enormous stretch of jagged rocks.

The rocks proved to be unswimmable, and so I had to climb around them on my hands and knees, cutting myself on my unprotected hands and feet.

Eventually I got to the shore, and lay on the ground panting for ten minutes before I was picked up by my friend and my sister, who swam right back to our entrance point, and are evidently a lot smarter than I am.

When I went to sleep last night, I noticed a bunch of sock lint in the cuts on my feet.
It's a hat trick today, folks!

Added three, count them, three reviews to the "Movies" section:

1. Psycho (1960)
2. C'est arrivé près de chez vous (Man Bites Dog) (1992)
3. Catch-22 (1970)

Sunday, March 20, 2005

I noticed that for some reason my website was down today. I went to the site where I get my hosting to find out what the problem was. This is my conversation with their technical support stooge, "roger".

roger: Welcome to Registerfly.com Live Chat Support. How may I assist you ?

chrisq28: Hi, I just want to make sure I've gone through the right steps to renew my domain name.

chrisq28: I got an e-mail saying that "The validity period of the 'roadrunnerreview.com' domain owned by client 'chrisq28' (Contact name 'Chris Zane) has expired. The domain and all of its services were deactivated on Sun Mar 20 2005."


roger: Let me check. Just a moment please.

chrisq28: OK.

(Four minutes pass.)

roger: The email you got was for Hosting renewal

(A minute and a half passes.)

roger: As the correctdates were not updated fromserver and thats why you get the email

roger: But now correct dates have been updated

chrisq28: So I don't need to renew right now?


roger: No

roger: Is there anything else I can help you with?

chrisq28: I can't access my site.


chrisq28: It says that "This is the Plesk™ default page If you see this page it means: 1) hosting for this domain is not configured or 2) there's no such domain registered in Plesk."


roger: Your site wil be up within next 1 hours

chrisq28: And I assume I'll get an e-mail when it actually is time to renew now? Do you know when that will be?


chrisq28: OK great.


roger: Is there anything else I can help you with?

chrisq28: I assume I'll get an e-mail when it actually is time to renew now? Do you know when that will be?


roger: Good bye, and have a great day.

chrisq28: You never answered my question!

Chat InformationChat session has been terminated by the site operator.
"What the Fuck!" I said.

Rattled by the Rush

One summer when I was thirteen, my aunt and her two girls came to live with us. It seems that my aunt was getting through a messy divorce, and needed a place to stay in the meantime. She had no job, no money, no qualifications, and no real prospects. My mom (her sister) invited her to stay with us over the summer so my sister and I would have someone to look out for us, and my aunt would have a place to stay for awhile.

To her credit, she tried to make it a nice summer for us. She would think of various things for us to do when we got bored--trips to the mall, swimming, the park, the zoo. Even at the age of thirteen though, I could tell that she was coming from a very different place than my mom and dad were--she didn't seem to understand that I could do things myself, that I didn't need to be followed everywhere I went. I could make my own sandwiches, for God's sake.

I was getting frustrated with the situation, and I finally reached my limit after one eventful trip to the mall. My aunt took me, my best friend, and my two cousins to look and walk around the air-condition center--and nothing more. No lunch, no small purchases, no leaving the group. Finally at one point, my friend asked her what the point was.

"Wait--no one's even going to buy anything? What are we even doing here?"

In response, my flustered aunt took us to Taco Bell and bought one cup of refried beans and cheese for fifty cents--for all of us. Not only was I annoyed, I was embarrassed.

"Fucking beans and cheese!" I seethed to my friend. "What the fuck!"

I was sick of the whole thing--the trips, having to kind of look after my two other-worldly cousins that I didn't seem to have anything in common with, my aunt's doting--so I hatched a plan.

Having recently seen the Simpsons episode "Bart the Lover", where Bart sends the fake love letter to Mrs. Krabappel in response to a personal ad, I decided to do the same thing for my thirteen-year-old cousin. A brilliant plan, I figured, and one that would result in mystery and wonder as I watched them anticipate the next letter from "Andrew", the guy who had an eye on my cousin and thought that she was "very beautiful" if I remember my phrasing correctly. It wasn't out of dislike or hatred towards my cousin--it was really just a prank that I figured I would enjoy watching play out.

It all went horribly awry. Instead of being charmed and curious, she was confused, and immediately went to her mother for help.

"Who would do this?" my aunt asked. It seems like the work of a pervert."

They speculated about who it could be, and decided that it must have been the coach of our neighborhood swim team, which I was a part of. Jeff was probably the nicest and most Christian guy I knew at the time, and in retrospect I'm at a loss as to why they wouldn't just immediately recognize it as a fake. It was written in my own handwriting, first of all. I mean, I wrote it in cursive on paper from our computer--they couldn't see that this was just a poorly-written letter by a dumb kid who was a little bored and looking for a laugh? Second, for the photo attachment, I included a picture I cut out of an advertisement from the phone book--the president of an exterminating company if I remember correctly. I addressed it to my cousin with our own stationary, and put it in the mailbox. Without postage.

Just as she was about to call the police, I admitted, in tears, that it was me who sent the letter. I apologized, and I watched her try to piece it together. Why would he do this? Did he really do this? Are you sure it wasn't a pervert? My aunt gave me a hug and accepted my apology.

"You're a good kid, Chris. You're a good kid."

Friday, March 18, 2005

The Style Council

I watched about twenty minutes of an episode of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy yesterday. It was one of the most difficult things I've ever put myself through.

Not having any reference for the rest of the episodes, I can't tell whether or not this is a typical episode, but this one had a scruffy-bearded musician father whose family wanted him to get the Queer Eye treatment. "The Fab Five" came in and cut his hair, groomed and manicured him, re-decorated their house, gave him a new wardrobe, and taught him how to cook. The hosts were especially proud of the reaction from their subject's wife and family.

The biggest thing I had trouble with was how gay the hosts were. Wait, wait. I know that's the point of the show (that gay guys have taste, and straight guys don't), and I know there are a lot of straight guys who won't watch the program because homosexual men make them feel uncomfortable. This isn't my problem. I don't care if people are gay, and I don't even care if people are extremely, flamingly, overwhelmingly gay. My problem was that it was pretty easy to see that they were gaying it up for the camera, which I felt took away from the show and made it more annoying than entertaining.

"He is so hot," they kept saying of New Dad. At one point, when the son came in to see Dad's new look, there was the obligatory

"Oooh, his son's cute."

From what I understand, this is a pretty popular show, and my suspicion is that most people enjoy watching this show for the overwhelmingly gay interaction between the project-people and the hosts. This made me recall the frustrating-but-true idea that when a form of expression is forced to appeal to the masses, it generally suffers.

Some friends of mine often joke that if there's a question of the intelligence of most of society, we should simply look at the bestseller lists in books, music, and film. Right now you can find the likes of Moby, Maroon 5, Kelly Clarkson, and Jack Johnson on Amazon.com's bestseller list--if that doesn't say something about the mainstream's tastes for C-minus music, I don't know what does.

But it's not fair to indict people for being stupid just because they like crappy music. Certainly, music and film aren't most people's biggest interest--it's just something to do when they're bored, for the most part. They may not be stupid, they just don't care. So that's the worst thing about television, radio, and movies--most of it is stuff that's been filtered down and test-marketed until it's something that can make money, and it works.

The blame has to be shared. It's not just people who keep gobbling up the garbage and telling me that it's sugar candy1--it's an industry set out to do what industries do, it's a lack of understanding by the public of what there is to offer, and it's just a general acceptance by buyers to purchase only what they're comfortable hearing--which is generally the music they grew up with or what they hear on the radio.

It's nothing to be too upset about, but I think it's worth noting.

1"That one song on Songs About Jane, the one about the beauty queen? That song is beautiful poetry," a girl I know said. Are you fucking serious?

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Rapsodie espagnole

About once every three weeks or so, my boss gets drunk at work and asks me to drive him home. I have mixed feelings about this.

He lives two towns away, so it's kind of a long drive, and out of my way. However, he generally asks me when I'm still working, so I'm getting paid for driving, which means that I get to sit down, which is better than being on my feet, cleaning the coffee machine or the beer taps. But the other day he asked me to take him home after we'd closed, which meant that he was cutting into my personal time, which made me reluctant to agree.

It's weird--every time I get the sense that I'm doing something I'd rather not do, I get really impatient and frustrated.

"I should be fucking (reading/writing/watching a film/cooking/working out) right now," I think to myself. Those are the things that I'd prefer to do in almost any situation, so when I get into conversations with annoying or stupid (or both) people, or find myself in the situation in which I'm not enjoying myself, or driving my damn boss home on my own time, I get really annoyed.

I don't think many people understand this, because time is often worthless to many people, who spend it getting drunk, or not being productive by any measure, and couldn't care less about what they do. People are free to do what they want with their time; it's when they start taking my time that I get upset.

I talked to my boss the next day and made sure that I was paid for the time it took me to drop him off at home.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Added Part Two of the long-awaited essay "Range Life" to the "Essays" section.
Added a review of the 1959 Alfred Hitchcock film North by Northwest to the "Movies" section.

Stagger Lee

"What movie did you guys watch last night?" LG asked.

"Twelve Angry Men," I told her. "It was really, really good."

"Aw, I've seen that, it was hilarious."

"You've seen it before?"

"Yeah, it was hilarious."

"Huh."

"Wait, what movie did you say?"

"Twelve Angry Men."

"Oh, I thought you said Anchorman, that one with Will Ferrell."

"No, I said Twelve Angry Men, the 1957 Sidney Lumet film."

"Oh. No, I've never seen that."
The toilet at my new house flushes really hard. It flushes so hard that when it's at full-strength, water tends to rebound off the far wall of the toilet onto the toilet seat.

Sitting on a wet toilet seat is possibly one of the worst feelings in the world. I mean, it's not as bad as like, getting beaten unconscious with a bag of oranges, but it's pretty bad.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

You've got more natural talent when you dance than anyone I've ever seen.

Completed a review of the terrible, terrible 1995 film Showgirls. Also reviewed the fantastic 1957 film 12 Angry Men. Both of these can be found in the "Movies" section.
A friend of mine made what I thought was a good point the other day regarding relationships.

"Don't bother with the second date," he said, "unless you're smiling uncontrollably the day after the first date. A girl who doesn't make me want to hug my pillow whilst grinding my hips and laughing just at the thought of her isn't worth my time."

I don't know if I take his comment literally, but what was most valuable for me was the idea of not wasting any time with girls who you know aren't right for you.

I mentioned the advice to another friend.

"So what he's saying is that first impressions are the most important? I don't know whether I buy that."

I considered his thoughts.

"You can find stinkers right away," he continued, "but there is a lot to understand about the good ones."

"That's true," I said. "I guess what I should be looking out for are the promising ones. I mean, there were warning signs about KB from the moment I met her--I should've just abandoned ship."

"I don't know--"

I interrupted him. "The message I picked up, whether he meant it or not, was that I should stop wasting my time with stupid girls. That, obviously, is good advice."

"Yeah. Like, I think (1) that love isn't a "magic" thing and (2) that it's never that easy. Also--all that glitters is not gold. And consider it from the reverse perspective--do you think you are always "on" the first time you meet a girl? Do you ever think that a girl grows on you?"

"Yeah, girls always grow on me. I had the urge to ditch Samantha at the very beginning, but it turned out very good, during the relationship at least. But I had the urge to ditch that nightmare of a girl I was seeing before I left after the first time too. . ."

"The ones that grow on you, I think, more important than the ones that are explosive."

I left the conversation more lost than before. My first friend's advice was helpful to me in that it forced me to re-think how lax my standards often are when giving a girl "a chance". But after that second conversation, I became convinced that it's very true that you won't always recognize the possibilities for a good relationship at the very beginning. (What's that thing they always say about getting to know the other person first before becoming romantically involved?) From where I sit now, it seems like there's no real way to determine who will be a good match--you've really just got to take it on a case-by-case basis.

Monday, March 14, 2005

It's a double-whammy today, folks.

Added reviews for the terrible 1986 film Top Gun and the fantastic 1954 film To Catch A Thief to the "Movies" section.

"That pregnant slut is playing us like a cheap fiddle!"

Added a review of Wes Anderson's 2004 film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou to the "Movies" section.
Every week when I get my pay stub at work, I find that he's left a different note for the staff to read. Here are several:
1/31/05: Big brother is coming soon!!! Its (sic) called the silent witness (sic) and we think it will help us run things more efficiently.

2/6/05: Big brother is in a week now and proving to be a valuable tool, (sic) already had cause to look up some issues.

Great Staff (sic) means great service, (sic) lets (sic) make sure we keep it consistant (sic) and thats (sic) how we get repeat business, (sic) hope you all enjoyed Stat days (sic), a long time before the next one YE HA.................................(uh, sic)

2/13/05: Big weekend ahead and a chance to prove that we are great at Hospitality (sic) and lets look after overseas guests (sic). Young Rich Farmers (sic) from all around the world.

Looking at Monday 21st Feb to be our possible evening out at Happy Valley, expect to see everybody sharp the next day

2/20/05: Hope you all enjoy your evening @ Happy Valley, (sic) this is a great example of the rewards that working as a team can achieve.

Don't plan anything for March 17th because you are working.

2/28/05: Be warned!!!!!!! I am going to drill into all hours in both departments Bar and Kitchen (sic) and will want to see lots of productivity all the times (sic).

I wish I hadn't thrown away some of my other pay stubs, because they're even better than these. I mean, grammar, spelling, and punctuation aside, the things he says are just creepy and unhelpful. Good luck, weirdo!

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Last night, I was privy to an experience that most people have only imagined, but never experienced: the geriatric bitch-session.

Two couples, one of which I named Herb and Judy were standing together at the corner of the bar. Their companions, who I named Edith and Stan, leaned against the bar nearby.

"I'm so over my grandkids," Judy said.

"Tell me about it," replied Edith.

Stan looked like he wanted to leave. He'd been nursing a beer for the last thirty minutes, and was about a third of the way through with it.

"Want another beer Stan?" asked Herb.

"No," Stan replied flatly. He began pacing around the bar, looking at the walls.

"I mean, yesterday, for example," Judy continued, "Joanne brings the kids over, and I'm trying to do some gardening. I tried to teach my granddaughter how to pick the weeds, but she just starts picking out the plants as well! So that's one more thing I can't do when they're around."

"Hey Judy," asked Edith, "what do you do if there's nothing to do at the house?"

"There's always something to do at the house."

"I just get bored around the house sometimes. I usually go into town. You know, go into town, and check things out. Look around."

"Look around?" Judy asked incredulously.

"Well, what do you do?"

Judy looked at Edith, and answered quickly. "Garden."

"Garden? You can't garden all your life. You'll just garden your life away!"

They turned away from each other, Edith to no one, Judy to Herb, who was picking his teeth with a toothpick. Herb noticed me overhearing their conversation.

"There's only so much time you can spend with grandkids," he said. "Then you just get sick of them."

I was waiting for a qualifier--'But we love them', 'We treasure the time we have with them though', something like that. None came.

Boy, I thought. I hope my grandparents don't talk about me like that when they go out drinking.

Squeeze Box

knock knock

I'm groggy, and I can barely see my alarm clock, but I can see that it's 8:48 a.m., which really means it's 8:38 a.m. I have to get up in twenty minutes. I hate being woken up this close to the time that I actually have to get up.

"Yeah," I manage to say.

My roommate opens the door and stands in the doorway. I've been living in this house for fourteen days, and I share it with five other people: my sister, LG, a seventeen-year-old Kiwi girl who is a co-worker, RA (a twenty-eight-year-old Englishman), and SH, a twenty-five year-old Kiwi girl. Oh, and E_, a twenty-one-year-old six-and-a-half-foot-tall Maori guy, who is the seventeen-year-old girl's boyfriend. E_ is standing in my doorway, and he takes up nearly the whole area.

"Sorry about last night," he says. "We were pissed as, and I just get stupid when I do that. I'm still drinking now." He gestures to a bottle in his hand.

"Jesus."

Last night I was woken up at 4:30 in the morning to hear Eminem's The Eminem Show blaring on the stereo in the living room, and several voices conversing indiscriminately in the hallway outside my room. I opened the door to see what the hell was going on, and some guy turns around and looks at me.

"Can you keep it down?" I ask.

"Oh, yeah. Sorry, mate."

I close the door.

"Was I being too loud?" I hear the guy ask.

"No, you're fine," I hear E_ reply.

The time is 4:40 a.m., the music's been turned up. E_ and two other guys are standing in the bathroom.

"Hey man, you guys gotta keep it down. I'm trying to sleep and it's 4:30 in the morning. I have to wake up and go to work." I'm less polite than I was eight minutes ago.

"Oh yeah, sorry 'bout that," he says. "Show me how low you want it."

So I follow him, in my boxers, into the living room, where I find five people standing around smoking (against the house rules) and drinking. E_ goes over to the stereo, and changes the track, then turns up the volume.

"That's the wrong way," I say.

The song starts, and it's louder than it was before, because the volume was turned up.

"Down," I say.

He turns it down a little.

"More," I say.

He turns it down to a level that I imagine won't disturb me.

"That's fine."

I lay in bed, and I can feel a tenseness in my shoulders that won't go away, especially because I can still hear the music, and the talking hasn't quieted at all. It isn't as intrusive as before, but it's still there, and now I'm awake, so of course it's bothering me. I'm also bothered because the three other roommates (not including my sister, who is away for the weekend, but definitely including his girlfriend) haven't gotten up to say anything, and left me to take care of it. I know they're awake, I can hear them walking around in their room upstairs, and I heard LG arguing with E_ in their room, which is right next door to mine. I drift in and out of somewhere between wide-awake, anger, and semi-lucidity for the next half an hour, mainly because I heard someone say that they were "taking off in a minute here, bro." The voices stop, The Eminem Show stops. My shoulders just start to loosen up, when--

BOOM BOOM BOOM BA DA DA DA DA DA
BOOM BOOM BOOM BA DA DA DA DA


He's put on some kind of drum and bass, and turned it up as loud as it can go. The house is vibrating off its foundation, due to the ten-inch subwoofer connected to the stereo that is situated on the floor. I throw open the door and march down the hall.

"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING, MAN?" I yell above the noise. He turns it down. RA steps out of his room onto the balcony of the stairs.

"Can you turn it down please?" he asks in his polite English way. I continue spouting off about how it's 5:30 in the morning, how we all have to go to work in the morning, how there are six of us that live here, get these people the fuck out of here, and turn that shit off and leave it off. E_turns the music off. I march down the hall back to my room and lay in my bed for the fourth time that evening.

Everyone's gone and the music is off, so I assume I'll be getting back to sleep soon. When I was a kid, my grandmother taught me this exercise that has always helped put me to sleep. I start with my toes, and begin moving up my body, relaxing every muscle until I'm completely relaxed. I can't seem to get past my calves. I shift positions in bed over and over again, hoping it will help. It doesn't. Five minutes after the music is turned off, I hear E_ and LG arguing in their room. She seems to be accusing him of doing methamphetamines ("P", they call it here), he's hurt that she would accuse him of that. It seems mostly one-sided. She has to wake up in about forty-five minutes for work, and doesn't want to deal with it. But he won't shut up. Eventually I just start yelling.

"SHUT UP. SHUT UP. SHUT UP," every few minutes.

I must have fallen asleep, because before I know it, I'm being woken up again.

knock knock

I'm groggy, and I can barely see my alarm clock, but I can see that it's 8:48 a.m., which really means it's 8:38 a.m. I have to get up in twenty minutes. I hate being woken up this close to the time that I actually have to get up.

"Yeah," I manage to say.

Of course, it's E_, and he's apologizing for last night.

"Sorry about last night," he says. "We were pissed as, and I just get stupid when I do that. I'm still drinking now." He gestures to a bottle in his hand.

"Jesus."

"I got cracked over the head with a crowbar at this pub last night. Apparently it was a 'white people only' thing."

I'm laying in bed, unsure of how to respond. He's obviously drunk, and I'm pissed at him for keeping me up all night, and I'm trying to sleep. But he seems comfortable in telling me this story for some reason. I cover my head with a pillow.

He continues. "This guy says to me 'You're a little dark to be in here, aren't you?' and I end up having to stab my way out."

Stab my way out?

He points to what he says is a gash on his face, which I can't see since I don't have my glasses on. Then he starts asking me if I'm having trouble with my car, which I only kind of am. He offers to work on it sometime, and tells me that he took the engine of his car out and in and out and in again earlier this week. Then he mentions that he's going to drive to Mapua now, which I think is a couple of hours away. He asks if I have a map, which I don't. He takes a slug from a bottle of what looks like Jim Beam.

"Should you be driving?" I ask. "That seems pretty dangerous, and there's a lot of cops out there."

"They'll have to catch me first," he says, grinning. "But I'll just finish with Jim and go."

"Have a good time," I say.

I haven't been able to speak to anyone else in the house about this, since I got up and went straight to work, but if this happens again, I'm moving out.

Friday, March 11, 2005

It's Only Natural

Don't you just love that feeling of eating a good, hearty meal when you're really hungry? I do.

That's why when I went to Carnivores, a place that specializes in, strangely enough, chicken, I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into it. First of all, the place smells great--like some kind of delicious slaughterhouse. I'd never been in before, so I asked the sixteen-year-old blue-jean-mini-skirt-clad girl at the counter what her favorite was. She suggested "The Lunch Box" which is basically a big box of various kinds of chicken with some potato wedges (ie, steak fries).

They were about to close, so they had a limited selection remaining: honey chicken, "crumbed" chicken, chicken sausage. She chopped it all up and threw it in the box.

That I'm aware of, the only vegetables they sell are potatoes--and they're fried. I took some of those as well.

"Would you like any sauce?" she asked.

"No," I said, eyeing the brown plastic bottle of barbecue sauce that didn't look like it offered anything in the way of robust flavor or deliciousness.

"On second thought," I said, "do you have any tomato sauce1?" I expected small packets. She brought back a squeeze bottle, and began squeezing it all over my chicken and fries.

"Um, that's enough," I said.

Then the fucking lid fell off and ketchup was dumped all over my food. She tried to scoop it off with a spoon, but the result was an awkward performance on her part, and only slightly less ketchup.

"Just give me a fork," I asked her. "Maybe I can spread it around or something."

It was at least 35% less satisfying as it would have been with the appropriate amount of sauce.


1Ketchup.

Changes

Last night when I was riding my sister's bike home from work, I slowed down to stop at a stoplight, as all good bike-riders do. As I slowed, I heard a car accelerate behind me. I turned around to see an ugly yellow truck coming dangerously close to me. A scraggly-haired kid was behind the wheel; his driving companion was an overweight girl wearing a pink shirt.

I recognized the shirt from a shop window I'd passed by days before. It featured a picture of two monkeys. One of the monkeys had its mouth open, and the words "BLAH BLAH BLAH" were written in a word balloon above its head. The other monkey had his fingers in his ears. The caption on the shirt said "Totally not listening".

When I stopped at the light, the kid edged his truck closer and closer to me, to the point that he was almost touching the rear wheel of the bike. I turned around and looked at him. The fat girl was giggling. I turned back around. He honked the horn. I turned around to glare at him again, and I gave him the finger. The light turned green.

I moved to the side so he could pass me, and just as he did, the fat girl gave me the finger, and with a defiant look, mouthed the words "Fuck you" to me. I assumed they were going to drive off down the street, but instead they turned into McDonald's, which was directly after the light. Oh sweet, sweet opportunity, I thought. I fantasized about smashing the window with a helmet-guarded headbutt, and then bitch-slapping the kid into submission, laughing maniacally all the while.

They'd pulled into the order-speaker, and the kid looked like he was making up his mind. The fat girl sat there looking forward, expressionless. I pulled the bike up right next to the window of the truck. The girl didn't notice me, so I stood there waiting for her to turn towards me. She finally turned and saw me, startled.

click

"FUUUUUCK YOOOOOOOUUUUUU!!" I yelled at her, my breath leaving fog on the window of the truck. I timed it perfectly. I started yelling the exact moment she turned, and the look on her face and the squeal that came out of her mouth was absolutely priceless, and totally worth it. She pulled away from the window, and after getting over the initial shock and upon realizing what happened, stammered "F-f-uck you!" before turning around quickly.

I laughed to myself and rode home.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Added a review of Clint Eastwood's 2004 release Million Dollar Baby to the "Movies" section.
"It's hard to make a joke at the expense of absolutely no one or nothing," I said.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

"Man it would be sweet to work in a bookstore," I said.

"What? Are you joking?"

I was walking home from work with my flatmate, who is also a seventeen-year-old girl.

"No, I'm not joking."

"Why the hell would you want to work in a bookstore?"

"Free books! Plus, you could probably read while you're working if it isn't busy."

"Reading books is a waste of time," she said.

"What could you do instead?"

"Anything--there's lots of things to do besides reading. It's so boring!"

This from a girl who spends about 90% of her time watching terrible movies and watching her boyfriend play his Playstation 2.

"Like what? Play Playstation and watch movies?"

"Yeah, I guess."
I told my boss that I was going to have to really scrimp in order to take the time off I needed to go on various trips.

"You should start playing the lottery," he said.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Added a review of the 2004 film Elephant to the "Movies" section.

Also added part one of "Range Life"--my account of living with a family in the woods for two weeks--to the "Essays" section.

Señorita

Added a review of Justin Timberlake's 2002 release
Justified
to the "Music" section. I am not joking.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Welcome To The Jungle

From The New York Times:
In 1997 Todd Sullivan, who was then a talent executive for the [Geffen] company, sent Mr. Rose a sampling of CD's produced by different people, and encouraged him to choose one to work on "Chinese Democracy." Mr. Sullivan says he received a call informing him that Mr. Rose had run over the albums with a car. . . .

. . .The singer had encouraged everyone in the band's camp to record their ideas for riffs and jams, hours and hours of song fragments that he hoped to process into full compositions. "Most of the stuff he had played me was just sketches," Mr. Sullivan recalled. "I said, 'Look, Axl, this is some really great, promising stuff here. Why don't you consider just bearing down and completing some of these songs?' He goes, 'Hmm, bear down and complete some of these songs?' Next day I get a call from Eddie" - Eddie Rosenblatt, the Geffen chairman - "saying I was off the project."

A difficult-to-work-with lead singer is only part of the reason that Chinese Democracy is being dubbed "the most expensive album never made." Started in 1994, the album has gone through producer after producer, various corporate mergers, the entire original lineup of Guns 'N' Roses (with the exception of Axl), and fourteen million dollars in production costs.
Around the start of 1998 Mr. Rose moved the band that he had assembled to Rumbo Recorders, a three-room studio deep in the San Fernando Valley where Guns N' Roses had recorded parts for its blockbuster debut, "Appetite for Destruction." The crew turned the studio into a rock star's playground: tapestries, green and yellow lights, state-of-the-art computer equipment and as many as 60 guitars at the ready, according to people involved in the production. But Mr. Rose wasn't there for fun and games. "What Axl wanted to do," one recording expert who was there recalls, "was to make the best record that had ever been made. It's an impossible task. You could go on infinitely, which is what they've done."

OK, but how could you rack up fourteen million dollars just to produce an album?
With the band's return [in 2001], Mr. Rose's machinery cranked up again. One internal cost analysis from the period pegs the operation's monthly tab at a staggering $244,000. It included more than $50,000 in studio time at the Village, a more modern studio where Mr. Baker had moved the band. It also included a combined payroll for seven band members that exceeded $62,000, with the star players earning roughly $11,000 each. Guitar technicians earned about $6,000 per month, while the album's main engineer was paid $14,000 per month and a recording software engineer was paid $25,000 a month, the document stated.

Oh. I see. But a label can't just let him do that forever, can they? Eventually they'll get sick of him wasting money and give him the boot, right?
"HAVING EXCEEDED ALL budgeted and approved recording costs by millions of dollars," the label wrote in a letter dated Feb. 2 , 2004, "it is Mr. Rose's obligation to fund and complete the album, not Geffen's." The tab at Village studio was closed out, and Mr. Rose tried a brief stint recording at the label's in-house studio before that too was ended. The band's computer gear, guitars and keyboards were packed away. Over a legal challenge by Mr. Rose, the label issued a greatest-hits compilation, in search of even a modest return on their eight-figure investment.

Released in March of 2004, it turned out to be a surprisingly strong seller, racking up sales of more than 1.8 million copies even without any new music or promotional efforts by the original band. The original band's debut, "Appetite for Destruction," which has sold 15 million copies, remains popular and racked up sales of another 192,000 copies last year, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It is a sign that Mr. Rose's audience still waits.


Maybe it's just me, but if this album is ever released, it seems like it will be the most over-anticipated release in history. Axl mentioned the idea of making it a triple-album release, and has said that there could be sixty or more tracks that could be released for the album. Triple-album? There is no worse format. How can you maintain yourself for sixty tracks?1 This from a guy who previously dated the late porn star Savannah (who killed herself after she got into a disfiguring car accident), who has done every drug under the sun, who has a "rumored interest in plastic surgery and "past-life regression" therapy," and who has a fourteen-million dollar-ego to live up to. I guess part of the album's mystique is its eccentricity.

1Possible exception: 69 Love Songs by The Magnetic Fields.
Blogging can be a fun and entertaining way to express yourself. It can also be a good way to get yourself into trouble.

Take for example, Moxie, a 31-year-old woman in New York City, who does a Sex in the City-type blog, where she goes into explicit detail about her sexual relationships and encounters. On a recent post, she mentioned that Patrick, her current boyfriend read her blog and was upset to learn that an old fuck-buddy stopped by and tried to get a piece of ass from her. Old Fuck-Buddy wasn't successful, but since Moxie decided to post about it (well, it is relevant to her blog), he found out and got justifiably upset.

Take another example, my friend Lan D. Ho, who is currently suffering from the frustration that is often associated with handling the anger of a female who is mad because you mentioned in passing on your blog that it might be a nice idea to fuck her in the ass in a car after she takes an exam.

And of course, take me, who after posting in my blog my response to an intriguing online personal ad, was chastened by said girl from intriguing online personal ad and was requested to take down a link to her profile. Mentioning the event here probably does nothing for my chances with Intriguing Online Personal Ad Girl, to be honest.

I suspect that all of these cases are somewhat typical in blogging. Blogging tends to be about publishing your thoughts on specific areas of your life, and as a result, other people will almost certainly be brought up (I've found that people get less upset when you use a pseudonym or at least initials when telling a story about them). But I guess that pissing people off is all part of the risk you run when you publish things in a public setting. I personally don't think that people should get so upset about seeing their actions revealed--in each of these scenarios, the blog post itself was at least twice as entertaining or hilarious as the expected level of outrage should be. (Additionally, I feel like it's a good rule to never post something about someone that you yourself wouldn't feel comfortable in having posted about you.) It seems like the best you can do is offer at least some level of anonymity (the aformentioned idea of pseudonyms or initials seems to be a good way to do this), and hope that people aren't to sensitive to your hilarious antics and commentary on the events and conversations that take place in everyday life.

In the end, isn't it worth it?

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Drifter's Escape

The following is a completely true account of how I spent the evening of March 5, 2005.

I finished work at the internet cafe at around eight o'clock, and having received the text message that "were just on our way now, see you soon," from KB, a girl that I've been hanging out with recently, I made my way over to the pub I work at, expecting to see them shortly. We were celebrating KB's twenty-fourth birthday, and the birthday of one of KB's close friends, FH.

KB and I have been out on a few occasions, and it has come to my attention that she is a Christian. Not just a Christian, but a Christian. This means that she is twenty-four years old, and is a virgin, and plans on staying that way until she is married. This means that she feels very uncomfortable when people say "God damn." This means that she attends church at least three times per week. This means that she has never had a boyfriend for longer than six weeks, and I have intuited her mentions of her previous sexual experience to mean that she has never done anything more than kiss a member of the opposite sex. We recently discussed the whole religion thing, I told her I wasn't a Christian, and she seemed OK with it. "It's not like we're getting married; I just enjoy spending time with you," she said. We have not kissed, held hands, or touched in any sexual or romantic way at this point, but the possibility had been hinted at.

How did I get into this situation, especially when I'm writing and thinking things like this? It has a lot to do with self-denial, and reading too much into things. Anyway, it's not important right now.

So KB and a reasonably large group of her friends showed up at the pub I work at, along with her father, who showed up long enough before the rest of the group to make me feel appropriately awkward. Her father is a pastor at the church she attends, and has consumed an alcoholic beverage approximately once in his entire lifetime (last Christmas he tasted a Heinekin, KB said, and he thought it was disgusting). We were at a pub, so imagine my surprise when I heard him say "Do you have handles?1" The bartender said yes. He resumed his question with "Can I have a handle of raspberry Coke?" I made small-talk with him, and he said that he wanted to start a tab for the group. Then he clarified: "I'm not going to pay for all their drinks. I mean, I could if I wanted to, but I won't. I'm not going to pay for them to just drink all night."

Thankfully, the group arrived shortly. I ordered a beer and some snacks for myself, since I hadn't eaten all day. KB was behaving a bit strange and distant towards me, but I didn't really think about it too much. I handed her her birthday gift/card, which was a thirty-minute massage at a nearby spa. She smiled somewhat nervously.

"Thank you," she said.

I spent the rest of the time at this pub talking with a male friend of theirs that seemed pretty interesting. We chatted about New Zealand culture, the half-assed environmental concerns held by many Kiwis, and made stupid jokes with each other. The girls surrounding us (including KB and several of her church friends) made comments like "It's getting a bit serious over here," and more sarcastic jabs like "Well isn't that interesting? Oh really? How interesting!" It was hard to ignore, but I really didn't know how to respond to it. When my fellow conversationalist brought up his experience watching a terrible adventure movie about sharks, and mentioned a particularly awkward sex-scene, KB covered her ears.

"Stop talking about it," she said. "I don't want to hear about things like that."

I am of the belief that everyone should have two things on their birthday:

1. A slice of birthday cake, with a candle.
2. The birthday song sung to them.

I arranged for both of these things to happen, and the girls both seemed embarrassed.

Shortly after the song, we left the pub, and walked down the street to a dance club that the girls requested. On the way there, KB and I walked together.

"I wanted to talk to you," she said.

"In general, or about something in particular?" I asked.

"About something in particular."

"Oh, OK," I smiled.

"You know how the other night we were talking about being honest, and bringing an issue up if there was a problem?"

"Yeah, right, of course."

Awkward pause as tension grows exponentially and she stops walking.

"I don't want you to kiss me," she blurted. "And I don't want to kiss you."

A wave of familiarity hit me that contained every rejection I've ever received in its power.

She clarified. "I mean, I want to kiss you, but I don't think we should. It wouldn't be a good idea."

"Oh. OK," I frowned.

"I really like hanging out with you, Chris, but I know you're leaving, and that makes it really hard. The next guy that I'm with, I want him to be the one. Do you understand?"

"Um, wow. I wasn't expecting this," I murmured.

I went on to say that I respected her decision, and affirmed that no, I didn't hate her. She wanted to make sure that I didn't hate her, and wanted to make sure that I was OK. I tried to make it clear that I was surprised, but was hanging in there. These are, in fact, my honest feelings. When she told me that if we kissed, it "wouldn't be just a kiss," I retroactively felt relieved of the kind of pressure that kissing her apparently would have necessitated.

From there, we went to the dance club, and the real horror began.

We walked in and danced to a barely-bearable Kylie Minogue song. The DJ announced that he was taking requests. KB ran up to the DJ booth, and I saw her suggest some songs. The song she requested was, in fact a song called "Shackles (Praise You)", by Mary Mary, a gospel/R&B/dance group that I had never heard of. The expression on my face must have been a sight to behold. It was as if she'd discovered the only religious R&B/dance song in the club's repertoire and asked for it. "Let's bring a little bit of holiness up in here! Let's make this God's house!" That kind of thing.

I was in awe2 when the song came on, but my awe turned to abject horror when the following song turned out to be "Respect" by Aretha Franklin. She'd chosen the only other song lamer than the one that preceeded it. Seems like a pretty fair judgment, doesn't it? Well, it turns out I was wrong. The third song in the trio of doom was none other than one of my most-hated songs in all of recording history.

The artist was Gloria Gaynor. The song was "I Will Survive". I sat down. KB and friends got up to add a little sisterhood to the holiness that they had already brought up in there. They weren't that chained-up little person still in love with me, I can tell you that much. A couple of songs later, we were treated to the not-requested-but-enjoyed-by-all former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell version of "It's Raining Men". I am not making this up; this song does exist.

That's when I noticed that the very chubby girl with the denim tennis skirt and aviator sunglasses was giving me the eye. Shudder. FH suggested that we go across the street to a nearby Irish bar that also had a dance floor. I hurriedly agreed. There, we danced to several songs that were, in comparison to the previous playlist, must-hear classics (including some atrocious new Gwen Stefani song that includes a slightly-altered chorus to the song "If I Were A Rich Man" from the popular musical The Fiddler on the Roof). After a dance or two, I bought the birthday girls one last drink and told them that I was going home. What I didn't say was that the awkwardness was becoming unbearable, and despite your friendly and well-meaning demeanor, KB, I'd just like to say that this is almost certainly for the best, even though I was willing to see it through until the end, which means that I am not a bad person. Oh, and happy birthday to the both of you.

As I walked back to the car, I saw a disheveled hippy-bum poorly playing the clarinet, of all instruments, in an alcove off the street. A large group passed him on his side of the street in the time that I watched him from my side. No one dropped him any change.

1A handle is a large glass that beer is usually served in.
2And not awe as in "We felt awe when contemplating the works of Bach." Awe as in "The observers were in awe of the destructive power of the new weapon."


I was talking with a Kiwi who was an acquaintance of a friend.

"If the US invades Iran, I will go to Iran to fight and kill American soldiers," he said. "It's just utter madness. I'm willing to go that far to stand up for this."

I'm no fan of unnecessary military action in the Middle East, but I still found myself resisting the urge to punch this guy in the neck.

"That reminds me of the time when I was fourteen," I told him. "I swore to my girlfriend at the time that if this guy Alex in our class kept trying to kiss her, I'd beat him up."

"What happened?" the guy said.

"He kissed her," I told him. "And I sat around making empty threats."
The following comes from the song "So Right" from The Lox's 1998 Bad Boy debut Money, Power & Respect:

"I hang my plaques in the bathroom/Cuz I'm still thinkin' 'bout making a hit/While I'm takin' a shit"

When I was seventeen, I thought this was totally awesome.

Brown Sugar

"Wow, I can't believe you're listening to The Rolling Stones!" the old guy said to me. "I thought only old guys like me listened to this stuff!"

"Ha ha, no," I said. "They're pretty great."

"What album is this?"

"Sticky Fingers."

"What year was that? '71?"

"Yeah, '71 I think."

"You know, when this album came out, I was in engineering school. We celebrated by rolling a joint the size of my forearm."

". . ."

"We had to share it amongst ten people, and we missed class for two days afterwards," he laughed.

"But you'll always have those memories!" I said.

"You got that right," he replied, shaking his head.

Friday, March 04, 2005

The following note was found in the kitchen at my job:
AHAA;

Rae look @ were you got Irish Stew written on the menu isn't it CHUNK'S NOT CUNKS's

AHAA.
Have you ever wondered why you don't have a girlfriend?

Say You, Say Me

It's tough being a public figure. Everything you say is recorded, and people will often remember you for things that you meant at one point, but have decided against since that time. Here are some examples of quotes from public figures who ended up going against their earlier statements, although many of the later quotes may have been missed by most of the public:
"I categorically deny all charges of steroid use, and of any other drugs banned by Major League Baseball." - Jose Canseco, 1988


"I don’t recommend steroids for everyone, and I don’t recommend growth hormones for everyone. But for certain individuals, I truly believe, because I’ve experimented with it for so many years, that it can make an average athlete a super athlete. It can make a super athlete--incredible. Just legendary." - Jose Canseco, February 16, 2005

----

"[Rock music is t]he most brutal, ugly, desperate, vicious form of expression it has been my misfortune to hear." - Frank Sinatra, 1962

"I can't get enough of that wacky rock 'n' roll music!" - Frank Sinatra, 1993

----

"The personification of the devil as the symbol of all evil assumes the living shape of the Jew" - Adolf Hitler, approx. 1941

"Did I say that about Jews? I must've been drunk. I love the Jews! L'chayim!" - Adolf Hitler, approx. 1945

----

"I loved history, and pursued a diversified course of study. I like to think of it as the academic road less traveled. For example, I took a class that studied Japanese Haiku. Haiku, for the uninitiated, is a 15th century form of poetry, each poem having 17 syllables. Haiku is fully understood only by the Zen masters. As I recall, one of my academic advisers was worried about my selection of such a specialized course. He said I should focus on English. I still hear that quite often. But my critics don't realize I don't make verbal gaffes. I'm speaking in the perfect forms and rhythms of ancient Haiku. " - George W. Bush, Yale University, May 21, 2001

"You know, you can't discriminate. Freedom is not a discriminatory thought, at least in the White House--in other words, if you say, certain people should be free, but others shouldn't free. It's a universal thought, as far as I'm concerned." - George W. Bush, not speaking in the perfect 17 syllable form and rhythm of "ancient Haiku", Mainz, Germany, Feb. 23, 2005

----

"People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook. I've earned everything I've got." - Richard Nixon, November, 1973

"Yeah, earlier, when I said I wasn't a crook? Yeah, what I really meant to say was that I pretty much am a crook. That's why I resigned. It wasn't like, health problems or anything." - Richard Nixon, on his death bed in 1994




Thursday, March 03, 2005

Breakin' Loose

When I was about ten years old, I made up a power-rock/pop-metal ballad in the style of Bon Jovi called "Breakin' Loose". The chorus went like this:
Breakin' loose!
You're never gonna stop me now!
Breakin' loose!
Through the chains that hold me down!
Breakin' loose!
I'm goin' all the way!
Breakin' loose!
(Silence, and then a heavy four-count bass drum here while the pressure builds up)
Breee-aaaaaaa-eeeaaa-kin' looooooose!

My parents put together a box of old clothes that my sister and I used to play dress-up when we were younger: old dresses, old suits, ties, big hats, jewelery, glasses, etc. Often, when I sang "Breakin' Loose" to myself, I would lie on my back and take this extremely long (like six feet long when unclasped--it was one of those rope necklaces) necklace with tiny red beads of my mother's from the box, wrap it around my hands and kick it with my feet so that when it broke, the beads would fly all over the room. I would do this when I sang the "breakin' loose" part of the chorus. I thought it looked pretty cool when all the beads flew around the room; it was the exact image that I thought of when I made up the song. In fact, I couldn't think of a better effect, you know, for the video, than the flying beads, unless it was breaking glass, which I wasn't ready to try just yet.

After I got through the necklace, I cleaned a bunch of it up, but there were still hundreds of little beads in places I never thought to look. One day, when my mom was helping me clean my room, she asked

"Where did all these little beads come from?"

"I don't know," I said.

The Devil Came Down To Georgia

It was moving day.

"Oh," my female ex-roommate said. "It's a good thing you're here. You can help us carry the couch into the truck. It's really heavy."

"It is a good thing I'm here," I said thoughtfully. "Because I'm really strong."

She gave me a look that said "Get over yourself."

"Get over yourself," she said.

Then I imploded with laughter.
My dad and I were discussing the state of modern music.

"I like that John Mayer," he said. "He's a good guitar player."

"Da-ad," I intoned.

"What?" he asked innocently. "He is!"

"Well so is Steve Vai," I countered. "But you don't hear me listening to his over-soloing ass."

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

I hate traffic tickets. I have received, since my time in New Zealand, the following:

  • An eighty dollar ticket for speeding eleven kilometers (approx. 6 miles) over the speed limit. Caught by a speed camera.
  • A forty dollar ticket for parking too long in a ten-minute zone. Caught by a police officer.
  • A $200 ticket for not renewing my registration (which in itself costs $270.00). Caught by the same police officer who gave me my parking ticket
  • A $150 ticket for not wearing a seatbelt. (I actually was wearing a seatbelt, but put it on a few seconds after I began operating the automobile.) Caught by an unmarked police car driven by a cop who remarked that I had "been here for quite a while." I have no idea what that means.
However, a couple of the problems I had been having with my car (overheating, strange liquids dripping from the engine area at an alarming rate, car being unsightly and having a large wooden box on top for camping equipment, car being a 1989 Toyota station wagon, car having a missing window from being broken into (on the second time of being broken into)) have been solved. I paid a guy thirty dollars to replace a hose that had been leaking terribly and causing the overheating problem. Now to pay all my traffic tickets. . .

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Ostensibly, we're being asked to leave our house because the property owners would like to rent the house to some relatives.

I know that the real reason is because we haven't really maintained a decent standard of lawn care.

Plus my roommate is a bitch.