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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Meeting people is strange. When you meet someone and a conversation begins, it's like you're touring uncharted territory. What's dangerous? What's safe? What's offensive?

Last weekend, for example, Lan introduced himself to a young woman by telling her that if she didn't watch out, she was going to get a good pounding (meaning a punch to the face, not anything lewd), and then he shook his fist at her. She responded by giggling and asking him if he wanted her to pour him a beer.

"Jesus," an onlooker said. "I didn't realize the misogynist thing worked so well."

It's just strange what people are capable of. Tonight I met a guy who introduced himself to me by telling me his college ritual: get drunk, stay out till 3, sleep till noon, miss most of your classes. I kind of felt like thanking him for setting the scene so clearly.

I mentioned these events to Lan. "I'm like a speedboat," he said. "You just gotta cut to the chase. I mean, what's she going to do, throw a drink at me? I certainly have been there before. In fact, I was there a few weeks ago."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A letter from my dad to my sister regarding her dog, Reggie Mantle, who was named after the Archie Comics character. Reggie is a little black dog who has lived surprisingly long and who has consistently refused to be housebroken.
I finally realized the (evil) genius of that dog of yours. All this time I excused him, thinking that his pee brain just couldn't learn anything, but now I know the truth. When I put him out this morning he did his usual pretense of peeing in the yard, crapping in the den, and waiting in the corner to enjoy my reaction. It's times like these that I have fantasies of shipping him off to Michael Vick or beating him with the roll of paper towels in my hand.

I noticed the lake of pee he put in the kitchen sometime during the night, but I only now realize that it was placed there to give me a false sense of security in the dining room. As I slipped there, almost falling for the 19th time, I finally put it all together. He's subtle: the amount of pee was small enough in the dining room for me not to see it, and the clever placement in the grout made it nearly invisible. I know now that he IS out to kill or maim me and that he does plan to take over once I'm out of the way.

If I'm found on the floor with a broken neck, DO NOT pass it off as a common household accident. Closer inspection will reveal Reggie Mantle, the adopted pet, the pet we raised as one of our own, is a murderer.

I'm leaving it to you to see justice is done: I want him to go to the gas chamber. (I assume they still have these somewhere, I know he wouldn't fit in the electric chair.) Do not bring him into your home; once he has killed, he will only kill again! Never underestimate the cunning wile of this monster!

Have a nice day,

Dad
When I asked my dad about the letter, he said, "I've heard about this park that has alligators that eat terriers. I'm thinking about making a day trip."

Vote for me

It's here!

Last week I wrote, recorded and produced a song called "Thank God for Memphis," (featuring Robin Heindselman), for a website called Songfight!

The gist of Songfight! is that each week, the moderators choose a title, and people record their own songs and compete for bragging rights. Competition worked for the Beatles and the Beach Boys, it should work for schlubs like me, right?

If you're so inclined, take a peek here, and vote for me under my band's name, "Chris Cusack." I guess you could vote for someone else if you think they're better, but don't tell me about it.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Relationships have to be a conscious decision. We must know that there are no perfect people, that there are no guarantees, and that being in a relationship will require us to change in some ways. When relationships are treated in this way, we take ownership of the relationship and of our role in it. We take ownership of our own development.

There’s an overall feeling, for many of us, that we’ll someday meet our perfect person, fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after. This does occasionally happen, but it’s certainly not a plan. If you go into a significant commitment and are under the impression that any problems that arise will pretty much melt away—because, after all, you’re soul mates—you’re setting yourself up for disaster. How prepared can you be if your worst-case scenario is “Utter and Continuing Joy”?

Long-term romantic relationships are unique—and not just because you (usually) get to have sex in them. When you spend a significant amount of time with another person, tendencies and conflicts naturally arise. From these conflicts we learn how to disagree with each other, we learn how to make up, and we get to consciously assess if this is a relationship that we want to be in. More so than a parent, a best friend, or a roommate, long-term romantic relationships tease out our hangups, issues, and other idiosyncrasies. And these issues beg to be addressed.

Part of what we learn from looking into the mirror held up by our partner is compromise. No one likes compromise, but everyone in a relationship must endure it to some degree. The degree will vary from person to person, and it is directly proportional to compatibility in determining the success of the relationship.1

Imagine two people who share compatibility of 75%. (How compatibility works is certainly up for discussion.) For the relationship to continue to work, the couple must compromise to make up the other 25%. Similarly, a relationship doomed for failure could have two people who share a compatibility of 80%, but are only willing to compromise 5% of themselves for the relationship.

Sometimes the gap is covered by one person compromising themselves outside a range that they’re comfortable with, but this usually lasts only a short time. Couples sometimes go to therapy in an attempt to make up gaps in either category. It strikes me that therapy is often another way of asking the couple to acknowledge that compatibility and compromise matter, and that relationships have to be a conscious decision. Sometimes this works, but sometimes couples therapy is like using a defibrillator on a decaying corpse.

Compromise and compatibility, compatibility and compromise. Without these two things, and knowledge of our own, a relationship can be nothing more than shallow and short-lived.

1It’s arguable, but lessens my point, that compatibility includes the willingness to compromise.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Chicken/egg

Are television shows any indication of the state of society? How do those television shows, which may or may not reflect the state of society, then shape society? How about the reviews of those television shows in the media? The Times reviews several new television shows on the topic of relationships.
You’re born alone and die alone. Framed by silence, secrets and solitude, these modern relationships suggest you also love alone. It’s depressing to look too closely at the inner workings of any marriage. Viewers are advised to keep in mind that wedlock is a little like Churchill’s definition of democracy: an institution that is the worst, except for all the others.
Yikes.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Accompanying Philip K. Dick's mighty resurgence: A New Yorker article.
Dick’s future worlds are rarely evil and oppressive, exactly; they are banal and a little sordid, run by a demoralized élite at the expense of a deluded population. No matter how mad life gets, it will first of all be life.
True that.
Matthew Dessem, who writes the Criterion Contraption blog, has written an interesting article about the "ancient art of list-making" for Good magazine, with plenty of references to High Fidelity, which everyone can appreciate. It's very "good." Get it?

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Time seems to go by very quickly lately. Part of it is because I look forward to the weekend so much, so I don't spend a lot of time embracing each moment of my work day. Another part, I'm sure, is that I'm getting older, and everyone always says that time goes by faster as you get older.

This worries me slightly. As youth, we don't really think about the future a whole lot; we just assume that things will work out the way they should. When maturity sets in we quickly realize that fate won't just sort things out for us--that at some point, it doesn't matter how many softball games we play; we will probably never walk on to the Astros. That is, we have to start making actual plans to do things. We have to put ourselves onto a track that we can hope to be satisfied by.

It only worries me slightly because I feel like I'm still relatively on-track to do things that will leave me satisfied with my life. The anxiety comes from imagining that the decisions I make in the next couple of years will really determine what I do forever.1

But that's probably a lie. I had a conversation at a party last night in which the other person mentioned how exciting it was that we have so many opportunities to do different things in life. And I think that's true. The average person has, what, three different careers in his or her life? I should probably take some reassurance that I know a number of adults who have moved from job to job, who have sacrificed the corporate life to do what makes them happy. (Like Michael Totten, who quit his cubicle job to be an independent journalist in the Middle East.)

I should note that a lot of these entries where I explore a concern end up with me feeling a lot better about it/realizing there's nothing to worry about. But I guess this kind of narcissistic rambling is what blogs are all about.

MORAL: "Hakuna matata."

1In reality, this has always been the case, but I just wasn't so aware of it. For example, after I turned 11 and I wasn't spending ten hours a day in the gymnasium, it was probably evident that I was ruling out being a professional gymnast.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial-arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad.
(Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash, 271.)

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

SCENE: 1992, SAM GOODY MUSIC STORE, INSIDE A MALL

"Oh, they have the new Color Me Badd remix album!"

"I don't know, don't they, like, really suck?"

"You know that song 'I Wanna Sex You Up'?"

"That's them? Get it!"

"I'm gonna keep this album forever!"

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Script for a commercial: "The Fox"

Note: I've been reading Kevin Bewersdorf's website (in the links to the right), and I'm sure it, along with helping with a recent Heinz commercial, brought this idea about.

V.O.: Do your kids have the summertime blues? (Boring music plays.)

CHILD 1: (Looking bored) Aw, man. There's nothing to do around here.

MOTHER: Go on outside and play, honey. It's a beautiful day outside!

CHILD 1: (Begrudgingly) OK.

V.O.: Summer doesn't really start unless you've got THE FOX--the most dynamic and out-of-this-world mindfuck you can imagine!

(Computer-animated image of THE FOX mascot runs around CHILD 1. Exciting rock music plays.)

CHILD 1: Hey! A fox! Aaall riiight! Now it's time for some fun! (laughs)

V.O.: Kids love THE FOX, but it's fun for children of all ages!

CHILD 1: (Playing with THE FOX) Yahoo!*

MOTHER: (Close-up) Jerry loves THE FOX, but--just between you and me--(stage whispers) I can't wait till naptime gets here!

V.O. That's right, you've got THE FOX. So say "good-bye" to the summertime blues, and say "Hello" to non-stop excitement!

V.O. (Quickly) THE FOX is not associated with Fox Media, Fox Racing Shox, any living fox, or Fox Racing.

*THE FOX is not associated with Yahoo! corporation or its subsidiaries.

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"I hate Bush as much as anyone else, but ruining a gaming session won't get him out of office."

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Let it be known that on August 10, 2007, at 2:35 a.m., I had the profound sense that because humanity--and "civilized" humanity especially--is still in its infant stages, there is still so much to be discovered. And it would be pretty sweet if I discovered some of it. Let it be known that I hope to do something about that.

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Do all men feel this way? Just the men of my generation? Just men my age? Just the guys I hang out with? The narcissism, the shallowness, the elevation of juvenile pleasures as sacred. It wouldn't be half as funny if it weren't true.
JERRY: I had a very interesting lunch with George Costanza today.

KRAMER: Really?

JERRY: We were talking about our lives and we both kind of realized we're kids. We're not men.

KRAMER: So, then you asked yourselves, "Isn't there something more to life?"

JERRY: Yes. We did.

KRAMER: Yeah, well, let me clue you in on something. There isn't.

JERRY: There isn't?

KRAMER: Absolutely not. I mean, what are you thinking about, Jerry? Marriage? Family?

JERRY: Well . . .

KRAMER: They're prisons. Man-made prisons. You're doing time. You get up in the morning. She's there. You go to sleep at night. She's there. It's like you gotta ask permission to use the bathroom. Is it all right if I use the bathroom now?

JERRY: Really?

KRAMER: Yeah, and you can forget about watching TV while you're eating.

JERRY: I can?

KRAMER: Oh, yeah. You know why? Because it's dinner time. And you know what you do at dinner?

JERRY: What?

KRAMER: You talk about your day. How was your day today? Did you have a good day today or a bad day today? Well, what kind of day was it? Well, I don't know. How about you? How was your day?

JERRY: Boy.

KRAMER: It's sad, Jerry. It's a sad state of affairs.

JERRY: I'm glad we had this talk.

KRAMER: Oh, you have no idea.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

An incredible interview with an Iraqi interpreter named Hammer on Michael Totten's blog. An excerpt:
MJT: What’s it like out there now for the average Iraqi?

Hammer: If you give average Iraqis electricity right now it will be enough. This is the most important thing. Give them power for seven days in a row and there will be no fights.

Giving them electricity would reduce violence. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself what would happen to this Army base if the power was cut off forever and the soldiers had to spend the rest of their lives in Iraq. Do think think these soldiers would still behave normally?

Iraqis are paid to set up IEDs. They do it so they can buy gas for their generator and cool off their house or leave the country. Their hands do this, not their minds.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Has anyone noticed that "More than Words" is just another way of saying "a little less conversation, a little more action"? Extreme are copycats!

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Crash isn't the worst movie I've ever seen--it's just the worst movie I've seen in the last six months or so.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Happy birthday, Lan!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

"Is it weird that I still have E's [the boyfriend that left two+ years ago] toothbrushes in my bathroom?"

"Yes! Yes it is!" I said.

"Well, what if he comes back and says, "Where's my toothbrush?"

"Comes back from where, the mist? He's gone!"

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"I'm bored."

"Want to come learn about math?"

"No. I already know everything about math there is to know."

"Oh, really? I think Leonhard Euler might have something to say about that!"

"Who the hell is Leonhard Euler?"

"Boo-ya!"

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Movies I watched in July:
Ratatouille, Brad Bird
Red Beard, Akira Kurosowa
Happy Times, Yimou Zhang
Citizen Kane, Orson Welles
Ray, Taylor Hackford
The Thin Blue Line, Errol Morris
The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Chia-Liang Liu
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Sam Peckinpah
Nashville, Robert Altman
When the Levees Broke, Parts 1-4, Spike Lee
Hukkle, György Pálfi
Touch of Evil, Orson Welles
Matrix Reloaded, Larry and Andy Wachowski
Matrix Revolutions, Larry and Andy Wachowski
Drunken Master, Woo-ping Yuen
Amores Perros, Alejandro González Iñárritu
The Good German, Stephen Soderbergh
The Simpsons Movie, David Silverman

Books I read in July:

Let it Blurt, the Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America's Greatest Rock Critic, Jim DeRogatis
Leviathan, Paul Auster
Amnesia Moon, Jonathan Lethem
The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
My Life as a Fake, Peter Carey
A Model World, Michael Chabon
A Scanner Darkly, Philip K. Dick
Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction, Christopher Butler
The Cyberiad, Stanislaw Lem (Part)
Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson (Part)

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