Friday, January 07, 2011

Philosophy and Phylogeny

In my somethety-something years on this planet, I've read exactly zero books of philosophy. Somehow that seems both odd and correctable. Or as Wittgenstein would say...well, I don't know what Wittgenstein would say and that's the point. I bet he would say something about truth tables if we're talking young, calculating, I-see-the-world-with-more-clarity-than-anyone-else Wittgenstein or maybe something about how my use of "philosophy books" determines the meaning of philosophy as that which I haven't read and precludes every book I HAVE read from being considered philosophy, if we're talking to older, more world-weary and world-wise Wittgenstein.

And so that preceding paragraph is an example of how I've gone through most of my life. I recognize my lack of philosophical erudition and can compensate for it with soundbites and off-hand examples that hint that I DO know what the hell I'm talking about. As long as my conversation partner doesn't know any more than I do, or at least isn't confident that they do, I win! The key is to make sure you gauge, before you bust out with some jargon that may or may not be correct, the other person's knowledge. The last thing you want is to have someone correct you. You want to leave other people with the impression that you sure know what you're talking about, throwing Sartre and Kant into random conversations in applicable ways. Oh, I forgot, that's the other key. Just memorize a few exemplars of Kantian or Cartesian thinking and wait for a time in the conversation where you can say "well, as Kant would probably say..." That way you don't have to really worry about it derailing into a true discussion of philosophy while still getting across the point that you know a lot about Kant even when you don't.

Now, don't go thinking that this is easy. It takes a lot of work trying to predict where conversations are going to go before you actually get in the same room as the people you are going to be conversing with. Organized gatherings (church, book clubs, business functions) make it a lot easier, but know that there's a good chance you won't be able to use your pithy little insight if the right topic doesn't come up. The absolute last thing you want to do is use it in an inappropriate place and look like a fool.

So, I don't know how we got here but anyway, what I wanted to say when I started out was that I think I'll get around to reading some major works of philosophy this year. I've had Being and Nothingness on my shelf for more than two years now, so I guess I should finally read it. Of course, if I can pull it off right, I can get you to THINK I read it even when I didn't.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Arbitrary Day Combeth

So, as you probably know, I participated in the Reddit Secret Santa gift exchange this past Christmas season. It was fun. I got some "cheese" and "sausage" and gave a woman in San Francisco a rainbow-colored, It Gets Better-supporting collapsible hoop dancing hoop. Good times were had by all. It is the biggest Secret Santa gift exchange in the universe (unless, of course, the universe is actually infinite. In that case there exists at least 1 planet with a secret Santa gift exchange that is bigger) assuming that there are even any other planets that have a Santa. Well, even if there aren't any other planets with Christmas and Santa, it would still be the biggest by default.

Anyway, I also plan to join in the fun this Arbitrary Day. So, to my Arbitrary Day Giftee (who has basically zero chance of ever seeing this blog, let alone this specific post): I promise that your gift will include at least one (1) comb of some kind and at least one fictional story about something that will not be less than 4,000 words and will include the selective use of not fewer than 10 fonts (to include Papyrus, Comic Sans and Verdana). I mean, your gift will also include something else, too, probably, unless the comb is MADE OUT OF GOLD!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Much Ado About Sauce

So, the other day I was making some sauce for a home-made secret santa gift exchange. The sauce is incredibly good and made from the best stuff on earth. That's right, the sauce is Snapple. Anyway, to go along with the sauce (which is not actually Snapple, just to be clear) I decided, what the heck, I'll write the best story in the world to go along with it. Turns out that is harder than it sounds. I did write a story, but it's only the third best in the world. Sorry. But here it is anyway. The only printed manuscript in existence is owned by Dee Doan. The true manuscript makes selective use of Papyrus. Any manuscript that doesn't use Papyrus in the right places is an obvious forgery and should be burned on sight.

Two more notes: I wrote this in one morning (an amazing way to use a sunday morning, you should try it some time) so any typos are totally intentional since this went through a very rigorous editing process of printing it. Also, yes, I did at one time read a book by DFW, how did you know? Also when I said "two more notes" I actually meant "three more notes." So, third, I have no idea what happened to O. G. Readmore (this will make sense (well, more sense anyway) if you read another couple hundred words). He just never shows back up in the story. Weird how these things happen.

The Legend of the Sauce was WAY Hardcore

Archie’s quest began on an overcast Thursday in November. I think it was the 21st or something, but I can’t guarantee that. Anyway, his epic quest started when a creepy old many walked by him on the street and right behind that creepy old man, who was actually former President George H. W. Bush after an all night bender with Barbara*, was a guy holding a sign that said “Epic Questers Wanted: Apply Here.” So Archie stopped. He’d always dreamed of going on an epic quest, at least ever since he read the book A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn (R.I.P.).

Archibald R. Hammerstein walked up to the man with the sign, whose name was O. G. Readmore, and asked, “so, epic quest, eh? Tell me more.” O. G. replied “Arrrr, ye have to fill out this contract that says you are responsible for anything untoward that happens to ye on this here epic quest. Just sign here, here, initial here, put yar bank account info here, and finally give me yar contact info for yer next o’ kin.” Archie, being the trusting and, let’s be honest, gullible guy that he was, filled out the whole thing without a second thought.

“All right, here’s your quest, Archie,” said O. G. in a strangely normal voice*2. “You gotta find all the stuff on this list in its purest and most essential form. Then, you take them all, mix them together in unknown proportions to make a delicious, sweet and fiery sauce. This is the sauce of destiny and though its ingredients have been known for millennia, no one has successfully combined them in the right proportions. This is your quest, if you choose to accept it (which you already did when you initialed that thing just now). You have three weeks….no wait, it’s the 18th today*3 so you have four-and-a-half weeks before I need the sauce for…..well, for a thing. So be off.”

Archie looked at the list. As O. G. had said, it was a list of ingredients. The list looked like this:

Only use the purest essence of these ingredients. Anything less than the best will lead to YOUR DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM

1) Honey
2) Ground Cayenne Pepper
3) Light Brown Sugar
4) Garlic Powder
5) Red Pepper Sauce (Tabasco or similar)
6) Dried Thyme
7) Salt
8) White Wine Pure Vinegar
9) Hickory Smoked Ham

Archie checked his list. He checked it twice. “So, I guess the hickory smoked ham isn’t…a…part….” He trailed off. O. G. Readmore was gone. He was nowhere to be seen. The fresh snow on the ground where O. G. had been standing remained untouched. It was as though he never existed. Archie looked down at the list in his hand, half expecting it to now be diamonds*4. But it wasn’t. Something strange was going on here.

In an odd coincidence, the Harris Teeter just a few blocks away had seven of the eight ingredients in their purest form. Archie started walking toward the Whole Foods at Clarendon. In another strange coincidence, he changed his mind half-a-block later. The reason he changed his mind is because he started walking east and saw the crazy old man (George H. W. Bush, remember) coming back toward him. “Ah, crap,” said Archie to himself under his breath. “That guy freaks me out. I’ll just go to Harris Teeter.” So he went to Harris Teeter. The whole way there (about 5 blocks) he sang to himself, over and over “My Harris Teeeeeeeter!”

As Archie entered through the automatic doors, he glanced at his list again. Obviously, the first stop would be the spice aisle (later, he would end up on the legendary Spice Isle, but not yet). He walked slowly down the lane looking at spice labels. He picked up a big jug of garlic powder because in his opinion, it was almost impossible to have too much garlic in just about any sauce*5. In this day full of coincidences, the jug of garlic powder he chose happened to be made from 19 heads of garlic from the very best garlic plant ever grown. Well, each head of garlic was grown from the very best seeds ever grown. Only one jug of garlic powder in all the world would be sufficient for the incredible sauce (which we haven’t named yet. It’s officially known as El Salsa de Arbol de Santo Domingo de la Ultra-Bicicletta, or ESASDUB for short), and this was it.

The dried thyme was easy to find. It’s a little-known fact, but there is absolutely no difference at all between all the thyme plants on earth. In fact, each one is a genetic twin of all the others*6. Thus, it didn’t really matter at all which little canister of thyme leaves Archie chose. The particular one that he grabbed was McCormick brand and was harvested and dried on the high arid steppe of the inland Pacific Northwest, just several miles from Kate Maisel’s hometown of Ephrata, Washington. Archie assumed, correctly*7, that one little canister would be enough.

Next, Archie moved down the aisle to the salt section. The wide selection was at first overwhelming. Iodized, non-iodized, sea, Mediterranean sea, ground, coarse, blue, so many salts! Naively, Archie assumed that the more expensive the salt was, the better it was. It may have been na├»ve, but it was true. The most expensive salt is truly the best salt. Basing his decision on price alone was what saved Archie in re the salt. Oddly, 5 minutes later in the honey aisle*8, the exact same reasoning produced the exact same result. The most expensive honey was indeed the best. It had been harvested the day before from a hive ruled by The Virgin Queen of Virginia Bees. Blind Franciscan nuns ran the apiary and the honey in the particular jar that Archie grabbed had been painstakingly dripped off the honeycomb by a beautiful nun named (as all nuns are) Maria*9. The jar was small, but Archie figured he didn’t need too much honey. He was right.*10

Archie left the spice aisle. He left without checking his list. He left without getting any ground cayenne pepper.

“Hmmm,” thought Archie to himself and the woman next to him*11. “I guess the baking aisle is where to find vinegar and brown sugar?” “Yes, it is,” she said. “Thanks!” replied Archie, not thinking twice about the fact that the woman shouldn’t have been able to respond to his interior monologue. His non-reaction actually threw Annette of her balance so much she ended up getting Splenda instead of real sugar, which made her pumpkin pie taste, well, like a dog’s breakfast if we’re being honest.

Now, in the baking aisle, Archie grabbed the biggest jug of vinegar he could find. It was 1.75 gallons*12 and cost $1.69. He forgot that the list said “White Wine Pure Vinegar,” but it turned out not to matter. Whoever made that list in the first place had just never tried any other kinds of vinegar. Regular old white, distilled vinegar worked just fine, and Archie saved himself enough money to buy six king-size Butterfingers.

The brown sugar was another story. Well, really it’s the same story. Fate smiled on Archie and the bag he grabbed was one of seven in the store that would satisfy the ESASDUB gods. You see, this particular bag of brown sugar was harvested on the south facing slopes of a hill in western Haiti. The plantation had survived the earthquake, but many of the workers fled to their hometowns to look after family. Those that stayed behind were worked harder than ever. Extra workers were even kidnapped, shanghaied or even sold into what amounts to slavery to the vicious plantation master Don Jesus de Lorenzo Contreras. One slave in particular lived a tragic life. He was nameless and died one day on the slopes amidst the sugar cane. His last bag of sugar cane that he picked was still slung over his back when the plantation guards found his body. They thought perhaps he had tried to escape, but alas the poor innocent soul had just had enough of this world. The master didn’t care. He took the cane from the boy’s back and processed it into the seven bags that ended up in Harris Teeter in Ballston*13. Had Archie been a conscientious shopper, he would not have purchased sugar from Haiti, but Archie didn’t know anything about sugar and didn’t want to pay for C&H brand. But he only needed half a cup, and this was the littlest bag he could find.

The last ingredient (aside from the cayenne, which, ominously and importantly for this story Archie had forgotten) he needed was red pepper sauce. The list said “Tabasco” but Archie was a bit of a red pepper sauce connoisseur. In the condiments aisle, he whipped out his microspectrometer to analyze the different red pepper sauces. With one glance, Archie discarded all the Tabasco sauces. He could tell they didn’t have the right color. He picked three bottles of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. Peering through his analyzer, he found one bottle with such a perfect spectrum of red absorbance that he could hardly believe it himself. He’d heard of such sauces being created in small batches in the lab*14 but he’d never seen such an exquisite sample in the wild. He bought it, obviously. It was a big bottle, and he only needed a little bit of it*15, but none of the smaller bottles were sufficiently pure.

So, his cart being full (okay, it wasn’t even close to full, but he had everything he needed. Almost), Archie bought the contents of his cart.

At home, he started to make the sauce. Logically, he used a medium-size saucepan and mixed all the ingredients together. He had to heat it up a little to get all the sugar and honey to dissolve. The sauce had a pretty liquidy consistency. “Huh. I don’t know that I’d call this a sauce, more like a marinade,” said Archie to no one in particular. So he boiled it. And boiled it. And boiled it. In fact, he boiled it down by about half.*16

He tasted the hot sauce. It tasted like warmed over garbage. “WOW! I must have done something wrong, because this is a horrible sauce!” He checked his ingredient list again. It hit him like a ton of bricks. He had forgotten the cayenne. He scoured his spice rack*17 but couldn’t find any cayenne. “Ah shucks,” he thought. “I guess I better walk back to Harris Teeter.” And so he did.

Or at least, so he TRIED to do. Halfway there, a strange maroon van pulled up to the stoplight right beside him as he waited for the white walking guy to show up on the crosswalk sign. Three men in black hiking gear leaped out of the van and grabbed Archie. Before he could utter a sound, he found himself tied up and dressed down in the back of the van.

“Vee know vat you are do-ink,” said the leader*18. “Vee know you are after ze sauce of destiny. Ze ESASDUB. Vee are ze guardians of ze sauce. You cannat make ze sauce. It is impossible. You cannot be allowed to continue. Vee vill put a stop to your actions. Zat is vy vee are kidnappink you!”

Archie fainted.

He awoke one day later*19 on the top of a strange hill in a strange land. Luckily, there was a sign right next to him that read as follows:

Welcome, Archibald, to the Legendary Spice Isle. You are respected for your culinary genius in coming so close to creating the ESASDUB. But you cannot be allowed to continue. He who holds the knowledge of the ESASDUB holds the knowledge of good and Evil. You are hereby exiled to this Isle. You shall spend the rest of your days here. Unless…

But the rest of the sign had been destroyed in last night’s storm.

Archie spent his days comfortably atop the mountain. Food was delivered mysteriously every night. It was super-delicious. But no matter how good the food was, his brain would not stop gnawing on that “Unless.”

“Unless, what?” was the question constantly on his mind. He dreamed about unless, he wrote “unless” in the dirt over and over. He thought of a hundred, at thousand, a million*20 different “unlesses.” Finally, when he couldn’t take it any more, he decided to confront his mysterious food bringer.

Late on a Saturday night, last Saturday in fact, Archie hid behind a big boulder and waited for his captor*21. Footsteps echoed across the mountaintop at roughly a quarter after one that night. A wizened old man hove into view. Archie was shocked. It was former president George H. W. Bush*22.

Archie leapt from behind the boulder. “GEORGE BUSH?” he cried out into the dark. “Why are you doing this to me? Why are you keeping me here? WHY!!??”

Howard Bush hung his head in relief or shame, Archie couldn’t tell. “The day has finally come,” he whispered. “The end is here.” He looked wistful as he murmured. Wistful and honored and afraid.

“What do you mean?” screamed Archie. The end of what? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?”

And so Howard explained. He told the story of his life, his painful childhood, his desperate effort to find meaning in his life and his excitement at finding out his true destiny. While his brother became the leader of the so-called free world, while he oversaw the fall of the Berlin Wall and the death of global Stalinist Communism, Howard lay in the shadows, guarding the final, most powerful culinary secret. And it had all led up to this. Ancient ESASDUB lore held that one day, an innocent man would unknowingly come close to creating the perfect sauce. He would be missing only one ingredient: the quintessential cayenne.

“I have it here in my hand,” Howard croaked as his life came to its culmination. “Take it, Archie. It is yours. You must make the sauce. “

In confusion, Archie reached across the gap between them. His nightly food tray clattered to the ground, falling dramatically from Howard’s left hand as he reached out with his right. Clasped there in his right hand was an unlabeled jar with a powder so deep red that it was almost painful. As Archie touched the jar and wrapped his fingers around it, an electric shock shot across his nervous system. He felt complete for the first time in his life.

He held up the jar in triumph, knowing he was now in possession of the purest cayenne known to man.

Suddenly, he heard a gurgle. He whipped around and saw Howard collapse to the ground. In his hand was a broken capsule marked “CYA” on one half and “NIDE” on the other. Howard had poisoned himself.

“Don’t worry,” groaned Howard. “It was how it had to happen. The only thing keeping that capsule intact was my grip on the cayenne. I’ve been clutching it in my withering claw for 32 years now. It is pure peace to know that my task is over. I go to my grave happy,” He rasped. “Come closer,” said Howard. Archie put his ear to Howard’s lips. “Rose….bud…,” Howard whispered, and breathed his last.

Instantly, a crack team of sauce commandos dashed to the mountaintop. “Come,” said the leader. “You’re time hass arrifed. You must return to ze kitchen und complete ze sauce. You are ze saucekeeper now. “

The next day, Archie stood over his saucepan. He was surrounded by the aged inner circle of guardians and their younger protectors. They watched on in a mix of fear and honor as he added two tablespoons of cayenne. A light shone from the sauce as the ground pepper hit the liquid surface. If a host of angels had been there, they definitely would have burst into song.

The sauce was finished. And it was perfect. In the fall of 2010, after more than 700 years of waiting, the world was ready for the ESASDUB. Its time had come. This is the dawning of the age of ESASDUB.*23

*George H. W. and Barbara Bush use the White House Credit Union in Arlington. This credit union is reserved exclusively for the use of former presidents and their wives. Anyway, one night at about 2 AM I saw George staggering out of his limo toward the storefront of the credit union branch. “Baaaaaarbraaaaa, it’s closed! I can’t get to the ATM! How are we going to pay our tab at The Front Page? They’re gonna be pissed!” Imagine him saying that with a lot more slurriness and you’ve got the idea. So Barbara says to him “Dammit, George, I told you it was closed but you never listen, do you? Let’s just go to 7-11 like I said we should in the first place. GAWD!!!” They got back into their limo and drove around the corner to the 7-11 on Fairfax Dr between Stafford and Stuart streets. George went in to the 7-11 (I’m following them at this point, of course, because who wouldn’t) and comes out a few minutes later with several hundred dollars (just a guess) and two cans of Four Loko. He chugs one of the cans and offers the other to Barbara through the limo’s window. She turns him down and says “Get in the car, George!!” and he’s all “NO! I’m gonna do whatever the hell I want! You can’t tell me what to do!” So he pounds the other can, throws the empty at the limo, shoves his secret service detail out of the way and dashes down the escalator into the Ballston metro station. The next morning, I think, is when Archie’s story starts.

*2 Turns out the pirate thing was just a schtick that O. G. had perfected to sound a little creepier than he really needed to. It worked, but only about 65% of the time. The rest of the time, people just laughed at him. He had low self-esteem because of this and often had fantasies in which he was proud of himself and didn’t care what nobody thought about nothing.

*3 Turns out it was Thursday the 18th, not the 21st. What do you know?

*4 You might not believe this, but things turning into diamonds in Archie’s hand was a relatively common occurrence. Once, as a child, his parents bought him a puppy for his birthday. The next day, he picked up the puppy he’d named Manzanita and the poor dog turned into a pile of perfect diamonds. In many ways, Archie was like the Midas of diamonds. The Diadas if you will. Anyway, those dog diamonds funded Archie’s college education at an expensive but third-tier (at best) college called [redacted on request of said college]. The Old Spice guy is based on Archie.

*5 He was right. For one batch of the sauce it turned out that he needed 4 tablespoons of garlic powder. That’s a lot of garlic powder for one sauce, if you know what I mean.

*6 In the mid 17th century, Mendel carried out what we would now consider an abuse of power and a perfect example of the hubris of man. He crossbred various thyme plants, mercilessly culling any plant that was slightly different from the others. In this way, he created what we now know as modern thyme. To rid the world of all other variations of thyme he built a thresher known as “The Thyme Machine” and paid itinerant Moors to scour the earth destroying strange thymes for all time.

*7 He needed two tablespoons per batch. It’s not precisely clear how he knew this. Serendipity, I guess.

*8This Harris Teeter is the only one in the Western Hemisphere that has an entire aisle dedicated to honey. Okay, really it’s one of those demi-aisles you find toward the edge of the store where it ends half-way back to the wall so they can put some fancy cheeses in floor refrigerators there.

*9 Maria von Helmsteinereinmann emigrated to the US at the tender age of three with her parents Pietr and Pauline. They came from the land of the ice and snow, where the midnight sun and the hot springs flow. The economy there was collapsing under the weight of all the ice so thousands upon thousands fled the country. Many ended up in Virginia. Many others found their way to California and the Baja Peninsula of Mexico. Maria wasn’t born blind, but lost her sight in a freak accident. Her family’s house burned down, and as Maria ran to the window to scream for help (this all happened when she was 8 years old) she was hit full in the eyes with the water from the firehose. The high-pressure water destroyed her retinas beyond repair. She was rescued with only minor other injuries, but for many years after the fire, until she dedicated her life to God and honey under the tutelage of Mother Superior Maria, Maria often wished she had been burned to death instead of just blind.

*10 Four tablespoons was all he needed. The bottle, which was NOT shaped like a bear, by the way, only held 6.5 tablespoons and cost $23.99. I told you it was expensive honey.

*11 Unbeknownst to Archie, the woman next to him was the celebrated psychic Annette Funicello (no relation to the Mouseketeer of the same name). She is one of three confirmed authentic psychics living on the eastern seaboard of the United States.

*12 He only needed one cup for the sauce, but he didn’t care. You can use vinegar for all sorts of things like cleaning counters and drinking.

*13 After taking the last of the sugar cane, Don Jesus threw the boy’s body to the dogs. The dogs, however, recognizing the boy’s holiness, didn’t eat him. Instead, they dragged his body gently to the top of the hill and left it there so that the first rays of sun on a new morning hit the boy’s peaceful face. His body did not decay.

*14 In fact, the latest issue of RPS Enthusiast Monthly reported on a study done at the University of Ghent where perhaps the purest Red Pepper Sauce ever created was created.

*15 Two tablespoons to be exact.

*16 He was correct in doing so and also about his marinade comment. A true ESASDUB should be reduced by half for full effectiveness. Once boiled down, it can then be diluted by half with a solution of one part vinegar and one part water to make a really bitchin’ marinade.

*17 Which was pretty stupid because his spice rack had been purchased from a disreputable online spice merchant and had come with 30 little canisters of oregano, not the wide variety of spices that had been advertised.

*18 You could tell he was the leader because he had a big badge on his chest that said “Der Leader.”

*19 Well, actually he’d awoken about 90 seconds later but the 2nd in command stuffed an ether-soakded rag in his face, making him pass out again.

*20 This is hyperbole. He thought of exactly 8,765 different variations on “unless,” none of which turned out to be right.

*21 Not really his captor, since he was stranded on an island, but Archie had decided the day before that he really was being held captive by this mysterious being. More on him later.

*22 Not really. Even more strangely, it was George H. W. Bush’s long-estranged twin brother Howard. The Bush family hid Howard from the world. They were embarrassed and appalled at his deep and abiding love for spices. It was shameful, and they made sure he knew. As a last ditch effort before taking his own life, Howard sought out the mythical Guardians of the Sauce. He found them in the catacombs underneath the Frauenkirche in Munich. There were only five guardians left. Only five members of the most powerful culinary cult of all time. Howard needn’t have worried about being accepted. His arrival had been prophesied by the great originator of the ESASDUB, Charles de Provolone, in 1312 on the lawns of Bretagne. He was the one who would be the last true guardian of the sauce. The Ultimate Sauceror. He would be the one to unleash the true power of the ESASDUB on the world at-large. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

*23 The age of the ESASDUB will run from December of 2010 to June 21, 2345. At that time, a new day will dawn with the creation of the perfect hollandaise sauce. The secret to the hollandaise is currently being held in an undisclosed location by a secretive band of Flemish painters. The current guardian’s name is unknown, but Wikileaks has recently released documents showing that, at one time, James Ensor, Belgium’s Famous Painter, was the Guardian. Many people have scoured his paintings for clues. His The Entry of Christ into Brussels is redolent with hollandaise imagery, at least to those in the know.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Ride in the Park

So, today, June 25th, I rode my bicycle to work for the first time this year. Last year at this time I already had about 500 miles to and from work. But that's neither here nor there. Well, actually I guess it's there, technically.

Anyway, here's a picture of my route.

Anyway, it's a pretty short ride, 4.5 miles. But that 4 miles is pretty scenic. In that short ride, I get to see (either up close or from a distance (The world is blue and green, amirite?)

  • Iwo Jima Memorial

  • Arlington National Cemetery

  • The Potomac (aka The Little Skanky)

  • The National Cathedral

  • The Lincoln Memorial

  • The Washington Monument

  • The White House

  • Cosi

  • CVS

  • A horse and wagon on Mulberry St

  • I mean, a reindeer pulling a sleigh on Mulberry St.

  • Wait, no! That's too obvious! I mean, I saw a tiger with a shark in its mouth riding on the back of Mr. T who was riding a Vespa on the back of a flatbed tractor trailer that was careening into a crowd of ninja midgets riding on the backs of another crowd of midget ninjas (camelfight-style). On Mulberry St.

  • When I used to live in Canada, all I ever saw was cars and some cute furry animals. AND ONE F'N BLACKBIRD WITH RED F'N WING!

    Tuesday, June 08, 2010

    A Tale

    Yesterday I twoerted that I like the Antlers album Hospice and that it sounds kind of like a Bon Iver/Secret Machines mashup. I was wrong. It's not a mashup. It is a much more complicated relationship than that.

    It's more like Bon Iver and The Secret Machines were seat-mates on a trans-Atlantic flight in the early 80's from Munich to Chicago. After takeoff, they started chatting about this and that and found out that they both lived in the same upscale suburb north of Chicago, right on lake Michigan. In fact, they both knew some of the same people, went to the same dentist and had kids in the same school, though not in the same grades. Bon Iver had kids in 1st and 5th grades while the Secret Machines had twins in 3rd grade, a boy and a girl. They also discovered that they were both Vietnam veterans, Bon Iver an Army officer fresh out of West Point at the time and the Secret Machines an Air Force mechanic. The Secret Machines had been there for the fall of Saigon. As the plane landed, they exchanged phone numbers and made plans to see each other again soon.

    Two weeks later, Bon Iver calls up the Secret Machines and invites them and their wife to dinner on Friday. In another strange coincidence, Bon Iver's wife and the Secret Machines know each other. In fact, they were once high school sweethearts so desperately in love they planned to marry at 17. The wedding was prevented by Angie's parents because the Secret Machines were worthless failures who would probably just end up having to enlist in the armed forces because there weren't any other options for no-accounts like them. She cried for days when the Secret Machines DID enlist. But she moved on. She went to college, got a job as a copy writer at a big downtown ad agency and the Secret Machines showed up in her thoughts less and less until she met Bon Iver at a happy hour on the Miracle Mile and all thoughts of the Secret Machines disappeared. He was a handsome, dashing Army officer just returned from Vietnam and Angie liked nothing better than an emotionally wounded man to care and fall for. So a year later they got married. He worked for a big defense contractor and worked his way quickly up the ladder to Vice President in charge of Munitions Operations. They had kids, bought a house on Lake Michigan and everything was beautiful and kind.

    But all of that came crashing down as she saw the Secret Machines for the first time in nearly 20 years. They didn't turn out to be a no-account. In fact, they were now the owner of the biggest aircraft maintenance company in the tri-county area. Midway, O'Hare, even Milwaukee all used the Secret Machines for maintenance contracts. Their wife was lovely. No, not just lovely. Stunning. The kind of woman you see on magazine covers or billboards or trading cards if they made trading cards for beautiful people.

    At first, the Secret Machines didn't even realize the connection. They were so far divorced from their past as the poor kids from the wrong side of the tracks that everything before 1974 seemed like a dream, or a copy of copy of a copy, or a television show that you forget about as you are watching it, flushed down the short term memory hole. But then, the Secret Machines were introduced (or re-introduced) to Angie and everything that would happen in the months ahead was written on their eyes in that instant.

    At dinner, everyone laughed about the coincidence and the Secret Machines and Angie told stories about the old days. Everything was perfect. The Secret Machines felt young again. Angie made love with Bon Iver more fiercely than she had in years that night. He credited the 4 glasses of wine she'd had, but really it was the Secret Machines coursing through her head.

    They began a torrid affair, the Secret Machines and Angie did. Lunchtime trysts, "out of town meetings," and soon they realized that the love they'd felt as teenagers was no passing fancy. Or was this just a mid-life crisis? A clinging to youth and power and soul and life that was doomed to burn out? No, it must be love, they told themselves over and over and over. Saying it did help to lessen the guilt a little.

    And so the divorces started. Bon Iver, resigned to his fate, parted amicably with Angie, sharing custody of the children. He was hurt of course, and though resigned to it, did occasionally curse his fate. Of all the people in the world to end up next to on that flight, why did it have to be the Secret Machines? Why not John Ritter or even Jack Johnson? Why godammit? He had a good life! A good wife! And now he had his munitions. At least with Panama and Grenada, Libya and Afghanistan business was booming.

    The Secret Machines, however, forced an unwanted and devastating divorce on their gorgeous and emotionally unstable wife, Emilia. Two weeks before the divorce was final, she took too many muscle relaxants. Her car was found wrapped around a bridge abutment and her body was crushed inside the Jaguar. Her face, the thing that had attracted them to her in the first place, was untouched however. She could almost have been closing her eyes to listen to a particularly good aria at the Chicago Opera House. It was a wonderful funeral, as far as such things can be wonderful. The kids were crushed to lose their mother and turned to the Secret Machines for more support than ever. They had always been a good father, the Secret Machines, and it broke their heart to think that it was their actions and an internal combustion engine that had pushed Caroline and Jeremy's mother into that abutment. They never told the kids why. The police wrote it off as an accident. So it goes.

    And life went on. The Secret Machines and Angie married and moved to a different suburb on the lake. Bon Iver never did remarry. He had plenty of opportunities, but something just never felt right. Maybe she smelled to much like soup. Maybe she stole his cat. It was always something, and as his children grew up, they passed word of his excuses and reasons to Angie when they were at her house. Every time she heard about Bon Iver, she felt a pang of sadness, knowing that she was partly responsible for his emotional state, but the pangs always passed quickly.

    The kids grew up, moved out, started families of their own. Grandkids came around every so often, in from New York or Dallas or wherever it was their parents had moved them to now.

    Then one afternoon in September of 2008, Bon Iver's phone rang on his mahogany desk in his Chairman-of-the-board suite. He picked it up. The voice he heard on the other end was familiar, but so.....old.

    "Angie died last night," said the voice, and Bon Iver knew at once that it was the Secret Machines. He couldn't bring himself to speak. So many emotions were being generated by his glands that he couldn't even breathe. Hate, fear, sadness, schadenfreude, and regret. Anger, panic, despair and the crushing sense of lost hope. For he'd never given up. Like the grown children of divorced parents, his own children, he always harbored a ridiculous and irrational hope, that maybe just maybe she would change her mind. That they would get back together. But now it was impossible. It felt like his life hadn't changed, but somehow the universe was different.

    "It was colon cancer. The funeral's next Monday if you would like to come. It will be at Memorial Cemetery on Westminster Street. 1 PM."

    And again, silence.

    "Goodbye, Bon Iver."

    And so he did go. He went and he saw his old friends that had sided with Angie. Everyone looked so ancient, so withered, half-dead and it hit him: that's how I look too. And he realized that it was too late. But yet not too late for some things.

    At the wake, Bon Iver went up to the Secret Machines. "I'm sorry for our loss," he said. "Our loss," not "your loss." The point came across clearly. And they started talking. They drank scotch and talked and ate things off trays that the waiters brought around. The Secret Machines told stories, Bon Iver told stories. They shared as only two lonely people at a funeral can.

    A week later, the Secret Machines received a call.

    "It's time," crackled the voice of Bon Iver over a cellular connection that was interfered with as one of the largest solar flares ever recorded washed over the earth in a bath of plasma and voltage.

    "It's time to record an album."

    "Let's do this before we die. Let's do this before it all goes black," said the Secret Machines.

    And so they did, and that album would sound kind of like The Antlers - Hospice.

    Anyway, I give the Antlers 4.5 cuils out of 5.

    Monday, May 24, 2010

    You Say You Want a Revolution!?

    Well, I don't have one for you.

    What I do have is a brief story about how one time I went out to real Virginia (this would have been last week) and as I was just starting to drive, I realized that I didn't have any CDs with me in the car (and mind you, this car has a 6-CD cartridge changer in the trunk!) so I stopped at my favorite record store to buy some. Since it's kind of a long drive, I purchased 3 new CDs. I am doing my part to keep the record companies in business. I only pirate software. So here's what I think about those 3!

    1) Shame, Shame - Dr. Dog: Honestly, I'm a little disappointed. Fate was totally good, so I expected the same. It was only regular, not totally, good, though. I think it earns 11 dog-eared DSM IVs out of 14 (They're not a real doctor, but we call them Dr. Dog)

    2) Infinite Arms - Band of Horses: You know that one song, Funeral by Band of Horses? Yeah, that's about my depth of knowledge of them too, until I bought this album. Basically, I chose to buy it because The National was sold out and I'd heard of this band and the cover looked really cool. I know I'm not supposed to judge things by their covers, but a lot of time it works! And it did here. This album does for symphonic dirge-pop what Shame, Shame did for medical canine-pop. By that I mean it was a new album. Rating: a linear approximation of a Taylor series (the fourth Taylor series to be exact)

    3) Congratulations - MGMT: I liked it. I don't care what anybody else says, I like it! (BTW, what do other people say? I really want to make sure I'm not going outside the group consensus on this. I don't want to lose my valuable CRED points.) There is a song about Brian Eno. Rating: On a scale of 1 to Clever! this one gets a "ConGradulations!" with a picture of a diploma.

    In Which a Day Burns Out

    You know a good way to waste a perfectly usable Sunday afternoon? Go to the stupid ER because you're stupid worried you might be dying because your stupid heart is beating erratically and super-fast and you're all dizzy and sweating like a sieve (does that even make sense?) and then not too long after they admit you, it kinda goes away and it turns out you probably just drank to much stupid caffeine but you have to sit there and talk to them and say "no, I don't snort cocaine" and they take stupid blood out of your stupid arm and then put stupid saline into your stupid arm and then they finally let you go home but not until after you wasted 3 stupid hours of your stupid life.

    Not that I would know.

    Friday, April 30, 2010

    Transcontinental Concerns

    So, right now, on the other side of the continent, my grandmother is having brain surgery. It's weird. I talked to her last night and there's a chance that it was the last time I'll talk to her as her. Or maybe it's no big deal, and she'll be fine. They'll get the tumor out of her brain, it won't be malignant and she'll go right back to being the same grandmother I've always known, I don't know. I guess I'll find out later.

    I hope she has a good doctor....

    Anyway. Here's a random picture.

    HA HA! It's not a RANDOM picture at all! That's what they're doing to my grandma right now! GOTCHA!!!

    And no, I'm not putting the dog in that one.

    Monday, April 26, 2010

    Retrograde Curmudgeon

    It's funny, isn't it, how when we look back on the past we only remember the highlights and the lowlights? I don't remember what I did on June 3rd, 2005 for example, that's for sure. OH WAIT, I DO!!! I was in Bolivia protesting against president Carlos Mesa. We forced a constitutional assembly that would ultimately reform the constitution in favor of the native majority, paving the way for Bolivia's first native president, and country's namesake, Manute Bol! It happened, you can look it up. And if you don't believe I was there, then prove it! Where was I on June 3, 2005? HMMMMMMM???? For that matter, where were YOU? You were probably the one that sent that suspicious package to Australian Foreign Minster Alexander Downer that day, weren't you? I'm sure you have a great alibi.

    Anyway, this made me stop and think for a moment. We are quickly reaching a point in time when it WON'T be true that our lives are primarily undocumented and our self-histories will NOT be based primarily/only on the memories of ourselves and those around us. We WON'T disappear into the aether of the collective human past within 100 years (well, we still might) because our entire lives, cradle to eldarc will be digitized and documented! We're not at the end of history, we're barely at the beginning. We're in the transition from the dark ages to the age of historical enlightenment! Events will be parsed, causes tracked back through reams of data into the past! We will know everything about everyone! What will this look like? I don't know, but I want to find out!

    So, I started reading back through the archives of this here blog and I realized that it's good that we don't remember many details about the past (in our current era at least) because most of the past is trite, cruel, blowhardesque, tweeishly self-conscious and maudlin with a large dollop of self-righteousness to bring out the flavor of the self-referential self-absorbedness. At least it's good to know and have a record of how self-serious and self-serving I was only a few short years ago. I'm super self-glad that I'm not self-like that any more! Just look at this post, for instance...

    *reads back over the post*

    OH SHIT!!!

    Thursday, April 22, 2010

    Dispatch from the Metro: Orange Line Art Edition

    What a privilege it is to ride the Orange Line everyday from the far reaches of Virginia (don't worry, it's not REAL Virginia, I'm not that far out)! Nearly every day I get to experience one of the greatest pieces of art ever created. Actually, I'd say that I get to hear it many times per trip as the train rolls from station to station. You might be thinking to yourself "Self, what art can exist in such a cramped and utilitarian place?" Or you might be thinking to yourself "Self, it's almost time to eat lunch, isn't it?" Or even perhaps "Self, I can't wait until summer when fresh corn on the cob sells for, like, $2 per dozen!"

    All you need to do is listen.

    It's beautiful.

    Bad Poetry Thursday: Now Sugar Free! Edition

    I was going to do some Photoetry, but I'm still learning GIMP 2.6, so I'll give it a couple weeks. So anyway, here is some (imo extremely) Bad Poetry for you!!! HOORAY!

    An Anthem

    A roll of tape
    A roll of twine
    Sixteen cases of fine red wine

    Some rubber bands
    Some handrail screws
    I black eye and a rais-ed bruise

    Don't buy the hook
    Just by the sinker
    Pull the line down into the drink(er)

    Fire all of your guns at once
    Because there is a lady who's sure
    That ice is just as great firearms.
    But she's wrong, you know.
    It won't suffice.
    You can say it twice
    "It won't suffice,
    It won't suffice."
    (Unless, of course, it's pykrete ice)

    A roll of tape
    A bottle of wine
    We hope we don't run out of time.

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    A Wicked Left Turn!!!!!!

    So, I came across this on reddit the other day (by "the other" I mean "yester"). Now, if you've never lived in Michigan and experienced the "Michigan boomerang" for yourself, you'll probably think that I'm full of crap and that there is no way that this could possibly be real. I assure you, it's entirely accurate, all the way down to flooring it so you don't get hit by the semi as you complete the second half of the u-turn.

    Now, according to the wikipedia article "Studies have shown a major reduction in left-turn collisions and a minor reduction in merging and diverging collisions, due to the shifting of left turns outside the main intersection. In addition it reduces the number of different traffic light phases, significantly increasing traffic flow. Since separate phases are no longer needed for left turns, this increases green time for through traffic. The effect on turning traffic is mixed."

    I have some problems with this description, mainly because the effect on turning traffic is not "mixed." It's mainly bad. Normally, you might wait through a left turn light for one full cycle if you have bad timing. If you have bad timing at a Michigan left, you might have to wait through 3 red lights (this happens about 60% of the time in my experience.)

    But anyway, the effect on traffic is not what I was trying to say. What I was trying to say was something along the lines of the excess miles drive to accommodate the Michigan Left.

    Let's take some pulled-out-of-my-ass estimates here. Say there are 1000* such intersections in Michigan and that the average number of turns per day is 1500**. I have no idea if these are reasonable assumptions. But anyway, that means 1.5 million turns are tooken eachen day. Now, one time I measured how far I had to drive to make the right-turn-u-turn-to-make-a-left turn. It was about 0.25 miles. That means that every day, vehicles travel an additional 375,000 miles. Annually, that's 136,875,000 extra miles driven in Michigan. That also means that an additional 1.23*** billion tons of CO2 are emitted by these cars! That's more CO2 than is produced by all the sheep in New Zealand and all the caribou in Canada COMBINED***! So if you want to blame global warming on anything, blame it on Michigan. The world needs a good whipping boy, and Michigan is so down on its luck that it won't even notice the difference.

    *Could be off by an order of magnitude.

    **Might be nowhere close to reality since nobody has a job in Michigan anymore.

    ***Absolutely no basis for this claim whatsoever.

    Friday, April 16, 2010

    Theological Exploration

    So, today, I'm riding the train home from work, as I am wont to do, when I looked behind me to see what people were reading, as I am also wont to do, and I saw a guy reading what looked like a bible, but was really the Book of Mormon IN DISGUISE! I figured this out when I looked, progressively less surreptitiously, over his shoulder trying to see what book of the bible he was reading. The more and more I stared, the more I realized he actually was reading the Book of Alvin.

    When I got home, I did some research and found out that the Book of Alvin is part of the story of Joseph Smith. It occurs chronologically right after he finds his pair of magic spectacles that allow him to decipher his magical golden tablets that he found just laying around under a rock. He is visited by the Spirit of his old business partner Brigham Young and told to expect to be visited by three ghosts, in preparation for which he is given a pair of super-magical earmuffs (they were golden too!). That very night, he is visited by all three ghosts at once. You will immediately recognize their names from history: Alvin, Simon, and Theodore. With the help of the magical, golden, jewel-encrusted (sorry, I forgot that part before) earmuffs, he is able to decipher the ghosts' outrageous squeaking. They explained the whole history of religion (including stuff that wasn't covered in the golden tablets) from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to George Washington. Their final command, before they disappeared into the mists was this: Joseph Smith must henceforth change his name to David Seville.

    And the rest, as they say, is history. More specifically: THE BOOK OF MORMON PART II: THE SQUEAKUEL.

    Friday, April 09, 2010

    Raindom Paicture Fraiday: Back of the Boat

    So, here we go again, right? Do you remember the drill? First I go to Drew's Livejournal Random Picture Generator, then I choose a tasteful picture from among the many taste-free pictures (It's like finding a diamond in the rough, and by that I mean it's a total waste of time), then I put it on this blarg.

    VOILA!!!! (or is it "VIOLA?" I'm not all that good at orchestrating clever puns.)

    This appears to be the result of some kind of torpedo attack or something. Probably those danged Somali pirates.

    Step 3: Put a picture of that darn dog in the random picture

    Step 4: ???????

    Step 5: PROFIT!

    Step 6: Lose all the profit in an acrimonious dispute over arcane accounting rules in an assiduously planned pyramid scheme. (That was for all of you out there that are studying for the SAT!)

    Step 7: File a complaint with the SEC about the refereeing at last year's Alabama-Florida game

    Step 8: File a complaint with another SEC about the pyramid scheme.

    Step 9: ?????

    Step 10: PROFIT!

    And there you have my foolproof ten-step method for making money.

    You're welcome.

    Thursday, February 11, 2010

    Rememberance of Things Past


    You know, I was just thinking, it’s been three years since went to one of the best parties I’ve ever been to. Almost exactly three years ago, we were preparing to leave DC for the northern wastes of Detroit, Canada. So our great friends in the current snow capitol (well, actual Capitol, too, I suppose) of the country threw a pretty great going away party. There was karaoke and some of it was even custom written for us! There were some beers, some scrapbooking, some kids.

    It’s kind of hard for me to believe that it was three years ago that we left. That’s half my son’s life (almost)! Hell, my daughter has NEVER been there and she’s almost a year old. I feel like this post is getting a little melancholy, so I’d better wrap it up (in Bacon, so it’s more delicious).

    Anyway, it was a great party three years ago, and I’m afraid our going away party in Michigan won’t be quite as good. Hopefully our “welcome back” party in DC next month will make up for it.


    Wednesday, January 27, 2010

    A Tale of Two CDs

    So I've now listened to the latest Avett Bros. album approximately a baker's dozen times while driving to and from work and/or stores and I've come to the conclusion that I have to call it a total sell-out. It is basically a mainstream wannabe that lacks the pure poppiness of actual mainstream music without the vibrancy and banjo that made their past efforts (see Gleam and Emotionalism for example) so awesome.

    Now this is hard for me to say, and I come by this after many hours of deliberation. You see, I've never heard any other Avett Brothers albums before in my life. However, I am aware that many of their "true" fans do not like the latest offering. I definitely don't want to be one of those Ralph-come-latelys because then I totally lose all my credibility (sort of like how I feel about people who have only heard the Kings of Leon's newest album, which sucks and is a total sell-out). So I am forced to pretend that I don't think this newest album is very good so as to look like someone hip and in the know. You wouldn't think being hip should be so difficult, but you are wrong. It's a lot of work.

    The great thing about this decision is that even though I claim to think "I and Love and You" is a total cop-out, major-label, Rick-rubin suckfest and how they were WAAAAAAY better back when, I can still listen to it in secret. If I listened to it in public without shame, I would be opening myself up to all kinds of mockery by the real deal fans.

    Basically, I just want to make sure I'm hipper than anybody else at work, which is, let's be honest, in the northern Detroit suburbs, like shooting a barrel with a gun specifically designed to shoot barrels with barrel-seeking missiles.