Wednesday, December 31, 2003

The Christmas Report

I am back, back from a land slightly colder and greener, and where people use their turn signals a little more than here in The Southland, as weather personalities call Orange County. Then they go back to Live And Continuous Coverage Of The Storm Of 2003, where they will keep you updated every five minutes about the tree that fell on someone's Lexus, before switching over to more pressing things, like coverage of A Day In The Life of a USC Cheerleader or something.

We have to keep our priorities straight.

Our drive to the Bay Area was long, as expected, with some truly inspirational bouts of bad driving on display. For those unfamiliar with the route from The Southland to the Bay Area of California, I'm here to tell you that it's straight. There is a stretch of about 3 hours that you spend on a road called Interstate 5, where you long for a pothole, a curve, a seven-car pileup, just to break the monotony.

Only a couple of things livened up the proceedings:

1- The Near Death Experience.
I try to nearly kill us every time we make this trip. This time was a little disappointing as the Near Death Experience occurred around the corner from our house before we even got on the freeway. I innocently looked the other way and next thing I knew the wifely friend was shouting something that I think was Swahili for "you are about to have a faceful of Oldsmobile!" and executing the traditional hand-on-the-dashboard maneuver so efficacious in high-speed collisions. Thankfully, I stopped in time and did not get a faceful of Oldsmobile.

Honestly I wasn't going all that fast, and if I had rear-ended the car in front, it would have resulted only in annoyance, but I went ahead and saw a tunnel with light at the end and Jesus and a pissed off goldfish whose water I didn't dechlorinate in the fourth grade, just to be on the safe side. This out-of body experience lasted only long enough for me to bother that John Edward guy and hide a few people's keys, and then I snapped back to my earthbound frame and quickly and vehemently denied there was any possibility I would have hit the car in front.

2- Infinitely Recurring REM
We were terribly excited to try out a new music system on this trip. The wifely friend had recently gotten an iPod as a bonus at work for being exemplary, which is an understatement if ever there was one. My bonus at work was a giftcard for Target and thinly veiled hostility, but I try not to complain. Anyway, we usually just bring along twenty or thirty CDs for the trip, which I select and she has veto power over. The usual process is "What is this white CD? Is it twangy? It's not twangy is it? Is it Nick Drake? We don't want to fall asleep..."

That sort of thing.

I should say that while our musical tastes do overlap in places, she prefers Industrial Dance Music and I prefer depressing music about death. Because we should always remember that we are but a step away from the cold, wormy grave, and frankly it's just irresponsible to go a few moments without a syncopated reminder of the fact.

We braved the mall a little while ago and picked up an iPod FM Transmitter for the car, since I have a CD deck and I couldn't seem to force the iPod through the little slot. Everything was going swimmingly for a time, as we selected our choices and beamed happily. Then, a couple of hours into our drive, we started to notice some distortion. This, we logically assumed, was due to the station we selected to receive the iPod broadcast being overcome by some Mariachi station, which are very, very numerous in this neck of the woods. Undaunted, we reset the iPod to another station, but with the same result.

A growing fear began to set in as we played tag with the Mariachi stations. Our happy Flaming Lips or, alternately, Russian Industrial Dance Music, would get all fuzzy and and soon would be pretty much unlistenable fuzz. There's nothing quite like the irritation of driving at night in heavy traffic at high speeds, with white noise blaring from your speakers.

Luckily, I had a CD along. It was an REM compilation which is actually really good, and relieves you of the inevitably lackluster five songs in the middle of every REM album ever. The problem was that we still had over four hours left on our drive, maybe five with the traffic the way it was, and after two times through the same CD, I was ready to fling that bad boy out the window.

OK, I thought, if I hear "Driver Eight, Take a break" one more freaking time, I can't be held responsible for my actions, and we were reduced to messing with the iPod again, until it was determined to be all my fault since I had been using the backlight too much and wearing down the battery. Then, all of a sudden, we figured out that we had the volume jacked all the way up on the iPod, and when we turned it down, the distortion disappeared.

All was once again happiness, and Michael Stipe no longer had to fear that I would find him and kill him.

3- The Christmas Robot
The Christmas Robot is the newest addition to our Christmas tree. He joins his friend Frog Dressed as Cowboy Sheriff as The Ornaments Most Honored.

The great thing about the Christmas Robot, which is frankly really weird and was found at Cost Plus and consequently was probably made by an eight year old in Thailand, is that it wants to kill you even as it wishes you love, peace and harmony. The internal monologue of the Christmas Robot sounds like this:

peace - and - love - and - KILL! HU-MAN! - and - baby - jesus - DEATH! RAY! - SMASH! - peace - on - earth - good - will - to - KILL! KILL!

The Christmas Robot is terribly conflicted.

47- That's All For This Year
It's New Year's Eve. We're planning on staying home and getting quietly crocked. My New Year's Resolution is to come in low and fast, out of the rising sun. And also, to take it to the next level. I hear people saying that a lot these days: "I'm taking it to the next level!" or "Man! That guy really took it to the next level!"

Whatever there is that is currently a level too low, I will endeavor to take that thing to the next level.

And maybe, well, possibly, I'll try to take this here blog to the next level and actually use Movable Type or something. But I can't promise anything. Honestly, it's more that I won't promise anything, but there you go.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

We're closing the hatches and going into silent running mode. There will be no stops for the peeing. Use the coffee can. Pour the runoff into the hole in the dashboard, to fuel the urine-powered engine!

Schneller! Schneller!

Yes, it's true. In a couple of hours we will begin our drive to the bay area for Christmas. Traffic will be hideous. I estimate a 2am arrival. Oh, and it's raining. Did I mention it's raining?

And just to complain about something else here, at work today, people scampered around like freaks handing out little Christmas gifts that, frankly, suck. I got a snowman beanie baby and some candy canes and a giant pencil, none of which I want even a little. The giant pencil fills me with rage. What is it about me that says I want a giant pencil? And now what am I going to do with it? Do you want me to take it into meetings and take notes with my giant pencil, Crazy HR Lady? Is that what you want?

Why do people feel compelled to give gifts to the office at the holidays? When you're giving out these little wastes you're really saying "I bought these in bulk because I worry that I'll be the only person not giving out really awful gifts at work. By the way, I don't really know or like you. Here's a giant pencil."

Anyway, that's enough bitterness. I hope all seven of you have a great Christmas. I'll be spending it with my various families, who I don't get to see enough. Peace to you.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Things are gettting a little wacky at the National Weather Service:

"Unusually hot weather has entered the region for December ... as the Earth has left its orbit and is hurtling towards the sun," read the message, posted on the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's Web site. "Unusually hot weather will occur for at least the next several days as the Earth draws ever nearer to the sun. Therefore, an excessive heat watch has been posted."

Thursday, December 18, 2003

I don't know where it all went wrong.

At first I told the guy that he better start working a little harder, show a little more enthusiasm. No real change.

I tried suggesting a "sense of urgency". This was met with a sneer.

Finally I put it this way: "I want to see you working like a hungry baboon is chasing you!"

I don't think he thought I would follow through.

Upholstery cleaner. I need upholstery cleaner.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

This shirt, it's just not quite right. It's kind of long, but I can't really tuck it in, because it has short sleeves. Is that right? Should I be thinking that? Do people tuck in short sleeve shirts? I think I saw someone doing that once. That's like an ice-cream man kind of look. I don't want to look like an ice-cream man. For a start, I have no ice cream and I'd hate to disappoint all those children. So I'd probably have to buy ice cream in bulk to give out to all the kids who'd be hassling me for fudgsicles. But I don't really have the kind of dough to be shelling out for bulk fudgsicles, so I'd end up buying some cheap crappy ice cream that would give all the kids some hideous trachea disease or goiters or something. How cheap does ice cream have to be to cause goiters?

Probably pretty cheap. Like that ice milk stuff that comes in a plastic bucket. Hell, their slogan might as well be "Ice Milk: It's Goiterrific!"

But the point is that I am unsure about this shirt. There's an odd small-stripe pattern going on, as a result of which I look kind of like an engineer. Not the geek variety of engineer, but the lovable but gruff "Engineer Bob" variety of engineer, who chugs his pufferbelly down to the roundhouse and gets coal-soot in his whiskers.*

What I'm really getting at here is that the wife bought me this shirt, so the only conclusion I can draw is that she wants me to look like an engineer. What sinister and nefarious plan is she hatching? Will it end with me in overalls and one of those puffy train hats?

I fear.

*That sentence, incidentally, was not about sex.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003


Blunder No. 3: “When Arwen and Frodo are being chased on horseback by the Ringwraiths, the soundtrack to the scene is a cantering horse. A canter is three beats, whereas a gallop—which is what the horses on screen are doing—is four very fast beats that often sound like a single beat.”
Jackson: I should’ve—well, it’s too late to fire anyone. The damage has been done.

Nitpicking the Lord of the Rings

Monday, December 08, 2003

I'm sorry. I know no-one wants to hear about my cat.

"Oh shit," I hear you cry. "He's posting about his cat. Get the kids, honey. Let's go. No! Leave the doll! You can't take the doll! GET IN THE CAR NOW!"

My cat's new thing is Eat the Feet. Eat the Feet is a fun game which is taking place every morning in my bedroom. The cat sleeps peacefully all night, nestled dangerously close to our posteriors, claiming all the warmth he can. Kick-off is anywhere from 5:30 AM to about 7. Without warning, the cat will leap on our feet, bite our toes and apply the patented jackrabbit kick move which you can only get by rotating the D-pad in a deft and quick semi-circle and pressing the X, Y and L buttons simultaneously.

This is a lot of fun for the cat. I imagine he thinks my feet under the covers are some deathly bed-shark or perhaps He Who Walks Behind the Rows from Children of the Corn.

One of the problems with Eat the Feet is that when I am sleeping, I can't be reponsible for my actions. If some little fanged quadruped is going to leap on my soft flesh, he can't expect not to be flung across the room. Of course, he doesn't care. For him, it's his own little Monday Night Football with Hank Williams Jr. blathering "Are you ready for some Eat the Feet?!"

And he is. He's ready for some Eat the Feet.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Saturday, December 06, 2003

My nephew, who as has been previously stated, is two, is terribly into Bob the Builder. Bob the Builder is a little stop-motion foreign homunculus who you can imagine crawling around your house and assaulting you with a tiny crescent wrench in the middle of the night. He hangs out with talking bulldozers and scarecrows and various other possibly psychotropically inspired chums. All that is, of course, just fine.

Bob the Builder and anything featuring large earth-moving machinery drives him into what can only be described as near-religious ecstasy, of the type experienced by the saints, or monks who have been at the sacrament wine.

I was driving to work today and was minorly delayed by a giant crane type doohickey spelunking in the road for no apparently good reason. I watched the giant maw of the beast descend to the asphalt and pick out big chunks, belching pollution into the already non-pristine air of Orange County, and I thought to myself "My nephew is right. Giant digging and destruction machines are great!"

Of course, my more rational side demanded I retract that statement. After all, I rail against pollution, SUVs, jetskis. You name it, I'll rail against it. But I have to admit, the sight of these giant metal beasts lifting thousands of pounds, is just freaking cool.

So I guess it's OK for the little guy to be into all the polluting, dehumanizing technology, but I figure I'll balance him out. I'll get him a Koyaanisqatsi "Life Out of Balance" Playset for Christmas this year. Sure, he can watch videos of buildings falling down and tungsten-carbide drills hollowing out the Earth, but he can follow it up with some conceptual dioramas of little ant-like drones enslaved by the soul-killing bulldozers that lift man too high, too high, always too high.

And if you press a button, you get choral music.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

I don't know if there's a name for this condition, but I have a terrible desire to attach binder clips to my fingers.

I'm afraid if I start doing that, though, I won't be able to stop. In the end, they'll come into my cube and I'll be curled fetal in the corner, a human binder clip porcupine, covered from toe to scalp in binder clips, shivering and making little "guhhhh" sounds in the back of my throat, rendered insensible by the binder clip hanging from my tonsils. Think of them clinging to my nose, my eyebrows! It would be beautiful!

Maybe not.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Two Somewhat Unrelated Pictures

Since the output here lately hasn't been of the "vast and unstoppable torrent that crushes you beneath its awesome grandeur and weight" variety lately, I'll post a couple of pictures.

I took this one in Buttonwillow, a little "nothin but a wide spot in the road" kind of town about halfway between Orange County and San Jose. Being halfway between makes Buttonwillow the ideal place to stop for a pee on the drive up Interstate 5. Last time we made the drive, I had spotted this place with lots of hideous lawn wildlife on the way up, so we stopped on the way back.

We were greeted by the kind of welcome that only a ten foot long "BEEF JERKY" sign can provide. This buoyed our spirits somewhat, as we are devotees of jerky when trapped in the car for six hours, and we walked into the courtyard in the front of the place, where this picture was snapped.

There were tables and tables of badly painted plaster lawn ornaments. You can see the pleasing donkeys and even a pokemon in the picture, but there was so much more, all dusty, chipped and just weird. There were frogs in bikinis next to fairly bloody Crucifixion scenes. A monkey dentist reclined with a flock of mallards. Power Rangers passed the time with buffalo.

We spotted the confederate flags and Nazi paraphernalia almost exactly at the same time the owner of the place came out, his shirt stained from painting this gang of plaster masterpieces. I'd say the gentleman represented the Spray Cheese demographic, and was a few teeth short of whatever you get for having all of your teeth. If his name wasn't Clem, I feel confident he knew at least one Clem.

"Half price on everything!" he declared, and I wondered, just for a second, if there was anyone locked in his basement.

Anyway. If you're ever in Buttonwillow, stop by. And let me out of the basement.

This somewhat poor photo was taken at Irvine Regional Park, the first weekend of the big fires down here in Southern California. You can get a sense of the air quality by the even-more-than-usual brown tinge to the air. We didn't know anything about the fires until we got to the park, because we pay no attention to anything ever. As a result we were somewhat surprised by the clouds of ash drifting down like snow.

The fall-out storm cut our visit somewhat short, but we did stay long enough to ride the train with my two year old nephew, and stop for a moment by the pony rides. There's something kind of poignant about the pony rides. You're putting your kid on an animal who clearly has not made the best career choices, and now has to walk around in a circle like Conan the Barbarian when he was pushing that wheel thing at the beginning of the movie. Incidentally, what the hell was he doing out there anyway? Grinding flour?

It's no wonder they want to bite anyone they can get their teeth on. I say more power to the ponies.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Today is World AIDS Day

Monday, November 24, 2003

I went out and bought myself a real and bona fide type Weber kettle (the Weber kettle is, of course, named after famous Weimar Republic figure, father of modern Sociology, and inventor of the shish kebob, Max Weber) this weekend, which means that I will be able to barbecue the turkey this Thanksgiving. This is important, because your average Thanksgiving turkey-cooking doesn't involve enough danger as far as I'm concerned. If I can't visualize a scenario in which I'm running into walls with my hair on fire, it's just not fun.

Of course, I have always been a proponent of The Bacon Hat Method of turkey cooking, which is possible either in the oven or on the grill. The Bacon Hat is formed by draping bacon over the turkey's back while it is cooking, thereby basting your turkey with healthful bacon fat drippings. Afterwards, the bacon lattice assumes a somewhat convex shape (unless your turkey was in really, really good shape).

If you are of a mind, you can seize the bacon from the barbecuing bird, place it on your head and prance about the garden declaring in a sing-song voice "Look at me! I'm wearing The Bacon Hat!" until the hot grease runs onto your scalp, and the paramedics must be called, in a time-honored ritual that brings all families closer together.

Also, in a effort to soothe our troubled carnivore consciences, we got a Free Range turkey this year. Well, actually it's more so we don't get some steroid crazed Butterball. I mean, with all the drugs they pump into those little guys, they might just reanimate and lurch sickeningly around the table in the middle of dinner, and no-one wants that.
Yesterday, we traveled to scenic Carson, California (not too far from scenic Compton, California) to see the 2003 MLS Cup. I am pleased to report that my Earthquakes ran roughshod over the hapless Chicago Fire and won the championship for the second time in three years.

Of course, no-one cares about that. This is fairly obvious from the fifteen seconds of coverage the exciting 4-2 championship game received on ESPN's Sportscenter last night. Thank you, ESPN anchors for presenting the beautiful game as if it were a sixth grade cheerleading competition in Iowa.

I know soccer's not hugely popular in America, but it is disheartening to see such blatant disregard for a sport that's so popular the world over, and played by millions in the US. If major media in this country continues this attitude towards soccer, they'll be left behind when all the kids who love the game get older and make soccer as huge here as it is is elsewhere in the world.

If you care a little, contact ESPN and ask for a little more coverage of the most popular sport in the world.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

We all loved Oolong the Rabbit, who brought us such joy with the head-performances over the years, and we were all devastated when Oolong was taken up.

I didn't know that Oolong's owner has a new rabbit, named Yuebing (Moon Cake) and is balancing things on her head once again!

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Absenteeism is rampant here at My Life as an American Gladiator.

Employees have stopped even pretending to work, and are instead making erotic shadow puppets on the walls. The "gentleman's reverse astronaut" is proving a particular favorite.

Collectible figurines on desks now outnumber actual workers, and the prophecy of the ancients that the giant-headed Bruce Lee figurine will one day defeat the 12" plastic Godzilla, bringing a new era of peace and harmony to our land, has come to pass. Harmony, however, has yet to be empirically gauged.

The tunnel out to the parking lot is almost complete. Once the papier-mache head is complete, the jailbreak plans can begin in earnest. Various factions has seen various movies and are variously calling for guarantees that

1. Roberto Benigni prepare the rabbit
b. No sympathetic senior citizen characters cut off their own fingers with a small hand-axe.
3. In the event Pele should break his ribs, the Germans are not allowed to punch him repeatedly in the chest.
4. Gobo Fraggle finally get his shit together.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

I grow old...I grow old...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled

Actually, come to think of it, I probably won't wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled. It's kind of weird. I mean, what are people going to think? That I'm some kind of rockabilly guy or something, trapped in a retro movement whose time has been and gone? That I'm into wearing capri pants or something? That my ankles need to breathe?

No. I'll keep the bottoms of my trousers at the normal level. But I might roll my socks down.

The relative level of my pantaloons notwithstanding, it is true that I am 32 years old today.

The days spin faster, a whirling vortex drawing me deathward, ever deathward. And as I decay, as I fall to decrepitude, will I know meaning? Will I find the answer that justifies the hideous torment of existence?

Probably not. But at least there's Indian food and beer to while away the time.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Created at the astonishingly fun Church Sign Generator.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Crazy dream last night.

I was, for some unknown reason, looking at real estate in San Francisco. At the end of a cul-de-sac was a two story house with a sign out front, just like a For Sale sign, but it said "HAUNTED" in Arial 50 pt. font, red shadowed letters on a shiny white sign. I looked up at the front door, which was up a few steps like you see in the city (listen, I know I live in Orange County now, but San Francisco is still the city to me, OK? We cool?) and the front door flapped open once or twice.

Next thing I know, I'm running down the street, arms and legs flailing, making those "Bleeeeaaaa! Bleeeeaaaa!" noises that only truly scared people make, and get this: the sign was chasing me! Just a sign that said "HAUNTED". It was keeping up with me like in some terrible film school stop-motion animation project.

I don't really remember anything else about the dream. But there are a couple of things to consider here:

1. It doesn't really matter what's chasing you in a dream. It's just the idea of being chased. Or what the thing that's chasing you represents. In this case, it was a sign. Semiotically speaking, in this dream, the sign was the signifier, which is more than a little confusing.

b. My dreams are too low budget to afford a good monster. Maybe, though, I'm too jaded by a lifetime of horror-movie viewing. After all, I think the scariest movies are the ones that show the least. Maybe my subconscious is getting all arty on me, and will soon be dropping me a postcard from Cannes, saying only "I must find myself. Au revoir."

About time it did something useful.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

I cut myself shaving again this morning. It's ridiculous. My features are apparently a little too obtrusive for the Gillette people.

I've got the two blade razor. I know they've got the Mach 3 Razor, with the jaw-dropping innovation of 3 whole entire blades. Now I see they've gone to the crazy-insane maniacal lengths of four blades on one razor. I'm thinking I'll still cut myself though.

What I need is some sort of mask made entirely of razor blades. I could just insert my face into it, execute a dainty pirouette, and I'd be all clean-shaven and ready to go.

Maybe that's not such a great idea.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Not so very long ago, I was the victim of a Surprise Public Speaking Seminar at work. Of course, I should expect these things, seeing as how I am a technical writer and marketing guy who sits in front of a cathode ray tube all day. It just makes sense that they should want to keep me on my toes by including me in something that's totally unrelated to my job function.

"Gee, Kaf," the President of the company will say. "I appreciate that you're trying to meet your deadline on this new brochure, but I think it's real important that you take a couple of days to learn how cheese is processed." or perhaps "You never know when a crash-course in emergency thyroid surgery is going to come in handy."

So anyway, I was roped into this public speaking thing which was basically me and all the company salesmen and executives, and I got to have a marginally good time for the next couple of days learning how to gesture expansively. They really wanted us to gesture in a big way. One guy gestured so hard he dislocated his shoulder and had to be airlifted to a local hospital. You probably read about it in the news.

I was sure gesturing a lot. Wild, arching gestures of the type seldom seen outside of amateur theatrical productions of Annie. The result of this is that now any time I need to have a conversation, I have to first measure the maximum clearance of the ceiling, just to be sure. Also, people talking to me must maintain a distance of three (3) feet, so as not to be injured if I get all crazy and start some hot gesticulation.

Also, the well-paid public speaker person (who was eerily reminiscent of Fred Gwynne in Pet Sematary (and later told me some fun stuff about taking lots of acid in the sixties and getting into Transcendental Meditation), but that's neither here nor there) introduced us to a fun mnemonic device to rid yourself of "filler words". Filler words are "uh" or "um" or "so", or "or", come to think of it. But I kid "or". "Or" is a perfectly fine word. One that begins to lose its meaning if you look at it enough on the screen, becoming instead a strange and cryptic symbol. Try it with me and see. No? Maybe that's just me.

The fun mnemonic device is that you get your spouse (or a live-in companion of some sort. I'm not here to judge.) to snap their fingers every time you use one of the filler words. Sounds pleasant, doesn't it?

"So, how was your day"

"Uh --"


"Oh, ha ha, that's right. I keep on uh --"


"Maybe we could just um --"


"I hate myself and want to um --"


Until, inexorably, someone ends up disemboweled and buried at the bottom of the garden. Don't say I didn't warn you.

But the main thing about the public speaking seminar that worried me, once I got used to the frankly ridiculous fact that I was there, was the being filmed part. The concept of being filmed doesn't particularly bother me. I gave my little speeches with relative aplomb, and got polite applause and all that, but I had a nagging fear every time the camera was on. You see, I've seen too many movies like Minority Report and Strange Days and The Sixth Sense, where the main character spends quality time with their drug of choice, gazing at old film of their wife/girlfriend/kid/gerbil/houseplant/small pile of gravel and weeping openly at cruel fate which snatched them away.

Usually there is bad music, too.

This is what happens when you let yourself be filmed by an amateur videographer. You end up being all out of focus and zoomed-in-on for no reason, just waiting for someone to make a moving montage out of you, so your grieving loved one can drink themselves into a stupor watching you babble away like an idiot on the screen. Maybe they'd even uh--


Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Also, somehow, someway, today is my third wedding anniversary.

Thank you for putting up with me, wifely friend. Your karmic rewards will one day be rich.
A word of advice

If you see an old lady standing on the same streetcorner every day, and nobody seems to see her but you, and she has kind of wild spooky hair, and sometimes almost seems to be floating a couple of inches off the ground, under no circumstances should you hire a medium, a team of parapsychologists and indulge in a little Kirlian photography to document this, the first provable evidence of life ater death. It's very embarrassing when it turns out she's just some lady waiting at the bus stop.

Monday, October 27, 2003

OK, Canada. Sure, you're smarter than us. And generally a lot nicer than us. And probably more hygeinic.

But do you have to have everything? Even the Rock-Paper-Scissors Championship of the World?

It is a dark day for America.

Incidentally, isn't the game called Rochambeau? I prefer to call it that because it makes me feel important to use such high-faluting language, but you are free to use whatever appelation pleases you.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Every Day Is a Little Song

Arvo Part
John Cale
We're out of

That was the chant in my head this morning. Every morning, my wife wakes me up, since she is far more reponsible and diligent about the little things like being awake than I am, and I stagger out to the kitchen. We have breakfast while listening to NPR, dutifully rolling our eyes or expressing deep-seeded moral outrage when the President or Arnold Schwarzenegger is mentioned. Interaction is somewhat minimal, as we are slowly coming to consciousness. One of the daily tasks apportioned to me is the pressing down of the French press coffeepot. This, for some reason, seems to require Herculean strength and the patience of Job. You must exert tremendous force on the plunger, which will crawl downwards at the rate of a tree sloth who's not got anything on his schedule that day, until it reaches ground zero and your somewhat cloudy cup o joe is ready.

I should mention that the reason we have to use the French press is that I broke the Krups machine's carafe when I tried to do something silly like washing it, and we have yet to get a replacement. This was over six months ago. It used to be that you could go to Macy's and buy a replacement carafe. Indeed, when I was a humble coffee-slinger, we sold the carafes in the café, and got a lot of business from the clumsy faction of society. Now, you have to order the replacement carafe online or get Macy's to order one for you.

Do you care about this? You should, because it starts with the carafes, man, and ends up with outpatients not being able to get their insulin. Macy's is killing diabetics is what I'm saying.

Sorry. that was a little off-subject.

The chant thing is what I'm really talking about here. Every morning I get these little thoughts, like this morning when I thought how nice it would be to take an Arvo Part CD to work, so I could get all minimalist while I write the company newsletter. The problem is that I forget these little ideas with astonishing regularity, so to remember, I have to chant the words just under the current of conscious thought. So I was droning "Ar-vo Part", "Ar-vo Part" like some crazy symphony cheerleader or something who won't shut up during the quiet bits of "Tabula Rasa" and feels it necessary to lend encouragement to the first violin.

I got a little distracted with the internal chanting when some pedantic portion of my mind wanted me to add the umlaut or dieresis thing over the "a", hence Arvo Pärt, and pronounce it correctly, like PAIRT. The first portion of my mind argued that pronouncing it "Part" was better for the cheer-chant rhythm. The umlaut camp responded with accusations of xenophobia and insinuations that perhaps I just wasn't smart enough to use more complicated punctuation. In the end, no decision was reached, and since the chanting was only internal anyway, both parties were satisfied by adding the dots and leaving it up to my discretion whether to pronounce them.

Then, out of nowhere, I suddenly felt a deep desire to hear John Cale's "Fragments of a Rainy Season". I don't know why. Maybe it was a particularly Welsh quality to the sesame bagel and cream cheese this particular morning. But now I had to add two more syllables to the little song in my head:

"Arvo Pärt John Cale/Arvo Pärt John Cale/Arvo Pärt John Cale"

I had a little cadence going now. I imagined legions of sweaty masses like you see in Biblical epic films and gladiator movies banging immense kettle drums and chanting it in a voice one thousand strong.

This image stuck with me throughout my morning shower, shave and gel-action, until I wandered to the kitchen to make sandwiches for the wife's and my lunches. I folded little slices of meat and slathered healthful mayonnaise to the strains of the mighty chant. And then, a sudden blow! A rabbit punch from out of nowhere: We were out of tomatoes! "I have to remember to buy tomatoes at the store today", I thought, "or surely the Earth will be consumed by fire."

Arvo Pärt!
John Cale!
We're out of!
Arvo Pärt!
We're out of!

This was getting complicated. And I hadn't even put my socks on yet. I completed my pre-work duties, including chasing the cat around the house, and made it to the car. Then it struck me that I had left Arvo and John inside in the CD cabinet. What the hell good was my stadium full of drum-players doing if I didn't even remember what I was supposed to do? Pondering the unknowable workings of the brain, I ran back in to get the CDs. I have a little CD carrier that holds maybe 30 CDs, which I take to work every day. I always chastise myself for not changing the selection in there enough. I seem to end up with the same little core of work-music again and again.

Anyway, I manage to select a couple of CDs to replace with Arvo and John and I 'm ready to go.

Theoretically, I should now be able to remove the "Ar-vo-Pärt-John-Cale" portion of the chant, but I can't! I'll forget the tomatoes if I do. The rhythm will be lost! The center cannot hold! So now I'm stuck with the full chant until the tomato objective is achieved.

As I pull out of the garage, The Clash's Sandinista starts up in the stereo. The first song is The Magnificent Seven. Soon I am singing my little chant to the tune of The Magnificent Seven. But I am too easily distracted. I have overdone the coffee this morning and my mind leaps from one tangent to the next:

Magnificent Seven...Seven Samurai...Yul Brynner...Westworld! You've got to remember the tomatoes!....Samurai...Kurosawa...Yul Brynner...The Toy Dolls...I should have grabbed the Toy Dolls CD...The tomatoes! Don't forget!.....Nellie the Elephant...

When I arrive at work, the chant becomes too multi-faceted, with syncopated rhythms dealing with every little thing I wanted to remember from my morning drive to work. Now along with the legions of drum players, there is a children's choir singing the more fluid notes, holding the notes for long periods of time and clutching candles in their hands like some terrible Night Ranger video. The camera zooms and pans. Colors flash, and the words appear on the bottom of the screen like a karaoke machine.

The chant drones in my head all day, keeping me company as the hours drag past, until finally on the way home I make it to the store.

I forgot the tomatoes.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Here are a couple of completely unrelated links for your potential enjoyment:

Video game toilets!
Scroll down past the russian gibberish for some truly beautiful video commodes.
[courtesy of the Wife]

World Beard Championships
Why not encourage mites? Think of it as topiary for your face. Kind of like in The Shining with those crazy hedge animals. Except here you'd have Beard Animals! Imagine the terror as you are stalked by your own whiskers, which you yourself have lovingly shaped into the form of a double-helix, thus investing them with the very spark of life itself!
[courtesy of my good friend Mr. Bungee Benji]

Friday, October 17, 2003

I don't get it, man.

You say to one person "Be my queen and together we rule the Earth for a thousand years!"

And they get all freaked out. Even without the diabolical laughter. I mean, come on. That's a common enough thing to say to the checkout guy at the grocery store, right?

Also, don't call your boss "Ultraman" all day for no good reason. It turns out it's kind of upsetting.

It probably didn't help when he got all mad and I said "Why don't you get your beta capsule out and kick my ass, Ultraman? Come on, Ultraman! Do it! You scared, Ultraman?"
So we just had our quarterly meeting at Purgatory, Inc., and it was announced that we will once again not be receiving incentive payouts.

However, I have developed my own way to make a little side dough. My hopeless lackeys are only here 8 or 9 hours a day max. For the other 15 hours a day, there's no reason that space can't be put to good use. I envision miniature Japanese Coffin-Hotels in each cubicle. For the small price of maybe $35.99 a night, weary travelers could have a little home away from home for the night. True, the cubes aren't that big, but what do you want for $35.99? I think we could probably fit ten, twelve guests in one cubicle.

I mean, we've got computer access, we're centrally located right next to the airport and all the office supplies they can carry on the way out in the morning. And if they play their cards right, they can raid the employee fridge for whatever marginally viable foodstuffs the office drones have left in there.

Hell, if they hung around until work hours, they could probably fool HR into thinking they work here and supplement their income a little.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Kids Play Classic Games

Too hilarious. A bunch of kids are given PONG, Mattel Hand-held Football, etc.

Brian: What's this supposed to be?

EGM: Football. It's one of the first great portable games.

Brian: I thought it was Run Away From the Dots.

John: I don't see how this has anything remotely to do with football.

EGM: Which team are you playing?

Kirk: The red lines.

Tim: They could've just as easily called this game anything—Baseball, Bowling, Escape From the Monsters.

EGM: Did you score?

Kirk: I bumped into a dot.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003


I'm sorry. I didn't know the Spoonman was a real guy. Here is his site.

There must be some rabid Spoonman anti-defamation league out there, just waiting for some yutz to make a crack about the Spoonman. To be fair, I only received a couple of emails about the Spoonman. It is great to say, isn't it? Spooonman. It's even better with the extra "o". But the Spoonman ain't havin' that. He's fighting against the man. With his spoons.

For penance, I will use only spoons to eat for the rest of my life. Except at Chinese restaurants, because I feel it's important to participate in the culture with the chop sticks, you know?

I still think it's a goofy song though.
I suddenly remembered yesterday that there was a song a few years ago called Spoonman. I don't remember much else about it, just that it was a song called Spoonman.

I remember just a little of it. The part that goes "Spoooooonmayyy-un! Come together with your hands!"

Now I can't stop laughing.

Maybe that's not how it goes. I think it was one of those Pearl Jam type bands with the singer that sounds kind of like Neil Young and kind of like Scooby Doo on a bender.

But, for me, it's enough to know that someone, somewhere, wrote a song about a Spoonman.

Monday, October 13, 2003

We watch the teevee.

We can't stop. Once, we were the proud, steely-eyed death-machines who would purr "Oh? You own a television?"

We watch World Poker Tour. We watch Fear Factor.

We know and hate certain commercials. We grade them for relevance and staying power. We puzzle at the insane volume of our local Mercedes-Benz dealership ads. We wish death upon Radio Shack spokespeople. We know what a Swiffer is.

We watch 24. We watch The Amazing Race.

We scan History, Discovery, PBS for documentaries on mummies or Mayans. We are upset that King Tut was denied the title of #1 Mummy.

We watch Trading Spaces. We watch Monster House.

We wonder at Paige Davis' physique and potentially drug-induced perkiness. We cringe at the sight of Doug the Designer, knowing his visage portends yet another family room that dimly resembles a gay bar circa 1983.

We watch What Not to Wear. We watch Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

We call people "bitchy" when they complain about their makeover. We prefer the BBC America version, where the hosts grab any and all available boobs. We trust the style coaches, and wonder about shaving with the grain.

We watch baseball. We watch Monday Night Football.

We plan our evenings around primetime sports. We puzzle over the cheerleaders and why they are there. We embrace commercial breaks to run to the fridge for another beer. We demand instant replays, telestrators, ridiculous graphics and Mascot Races. We point out the rally caps in the crowd, and the alarming trend to catch the cotton candy vendor on screen. We comment on trends in athlete facial hair.

We, at long last, are a demographic.

Something must be done.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Well, 29% of the vote is in here in California, and My Life as an American Gladiator is now projecting Rip Beefslab has won the office of Governor. Of course it was all a little confusing, and many people tried to vote variously for:

Brian Bosworth
That one guy from "Red Dawn"
Rae Dawn Chong (My Life as an American Gladiator is hypothesizing that there was some spill-over from the "that one guy from Red Dawn" camp, though this is largely conjecture)
Dawn (of Tony Orlando and Dawn)

When all the dust has settled, it will be important for us all to get behind Thump Assgrabber and follow him on his merry trip down the sewer pipes to the happy, money guzzling promised land that Pete Wilson fought so long and hard for. Why, it's almost as if Pete Wilson is back! But no, it's not possible that Brick Bicep is just a face, just a chump who has not even one clue about politics and is in fact just a mouthpiece for a gang of power hungry leeches.

Perish the thought!

Thank you, Arnold Schwarzenegger, for making California ridiculous once again. It fills me with pride to know that this is just the first step, paving the way for Republicans to oust any Democrat politician that they don't like.

Monday, October 06, 2003

When people ask you the awkward "What are you thinking about?" question, sometimes it can be difficult to come up with a satisfactory response. Because, let's face it, most of the time you're thinking about pie or maybe who sang that Muskrat Love song you always have stuck in your head.

Because I like to help you and am convinced that one day someone will give me a huge reward for my good deeds, here's some stock responses that should get you out of trouble:

1. "a dog riding a bicycle."
2. "The biggest cookie eaten by anyone ever."
3. "The chill menace of Death. Watching, watching."
4. "Happy ducks."
5. "A magical tree that sings songs to children who are pure of heart. Children who are not pure of heart can cry as much as they want, but no songs from the tree. It is debatable how impure a child can really be, and without going into the whole issue of Original Sin and the sins of the father being visited upon the son, let's just say that this is a magical tree and knows what it's doing. Also, it's kind of mean to the children." (This is kind of a long response and should not be attempted except by seasoned professionals.)

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

There exists a place beyond space and time, where physics is a lie and all that you know to be true is shatteringly false. Objects cannot be relied upon to behave consistently from one moment, indeed one second, to the next. Your cries can disappear without a moments notice, and a picture you held dear in your mind's eye can be eradicated without apology.

This place is called MicroSoft Word.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Also, I like The Eels now.

I just thought you should know.

And here's Mr. Eels Guy's funny fake advice column.
Cat Town

I know people are probably making fun of you, Cat Town, but I won't. Stand proudly, with your ALL CAPS text, oh mighty Cat Town.

Cat Town Cat Town Cat Town

[link liberated from various places]
I know. I haven't been posting anything.

I could say that I was on vacation, which I wasn't. Not really. Unless you count a three-day weekend. And who counts that, really?

I mean, I seldom post anything on the weekends anyway. Is there a reason for this? Is there some magical forcefield shaped like the Treetot Treehouse that prevents me from approaching my computer on Saturday or Sunday?

Yes. Yes there is.

But apart from all that, the fact remains that I have no real excuse for not posting to my blog. I even have little post-it notes piled up at my desk with cryptic communiques reading "WAK UP", "BOB DER BILDER" and "PIRA".

What do these notes mean? It's beyond me.

The fact is that I am entirely to blame. There were even a couple of days during this, our period of silence, the difficult part of our relationship, communication-wise, that I stared at the keyboard, smirked, and went back to playing Soul Calbur II in a purely desultory fashion.

Also, I am solely to blame for California's energy problems. It was just me and a 1982 Sears toaster-oven.


Friday, September 19, 2003

Shiver me timbers!

I almost forgot that today is Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Of course, everyone will be talking like a pirate all day, so I suggest branching out in new directions, such as talking like the saucy cabin boy who keeps the pirates' Rogers jolly on long sea voyages, or perhaps like a pirate who has been socialized into modern society but still allows his inner pirate out every now and then when he is at his most pensive and soul-searching.

Recommended activity: count people's teeth in your office and say appreciatively: "Arr, this one'll fetch a pretty penny at Long Farthing's Potluck Luncheon!", or "Haul 'im up the mizzen mast, lively now, this one's got the gingivitis!"

For extra credit points, get Scurvy or The Gout.

For extra Extra credit points, amputate your hand/leg/buttock and replace with a prosthetic replica of less than stellar quality.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

There comes a point when you realize you're not on the cutting edge anymore. You have ceased to represent the demographic for which exotic vodka coolers are crafted. This struck me with sudden and inevitable clarity just now as I looked at wardrobe choice for today and heard the music I had put on for a Thursday morning:

Dockers + The Gap + Tears for Fears = The juggernaut triumverate of cool.

Things fall apart.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Meet Me In Heaven
Johnny Cash

We saw houses falling from the sky
Where the mountains lean down to the sand
We saw blackbirds circling 'round an old castle keep
And I stood on the cliff and held your hand

We walked troubles brooding wind swept hills
And we loved and we laughed the pain away
At the end of the journey, when our last song is sung
Will you meet me in Heaven someday

(Chorus) Can't be sure of how's it's going to be
When we walk into the light across the bar
But I'll know you and you'll know me
Out there beyond the stars

We've seen the secret things revealed by God
And we heard what the angels had to say
Should you go first, or if you follow me
Will you meet me in Heaven someday

Living in a mansion on the streets of gold
At the corner of Grace and Rapture Way I
In sweet ecstasy while the ages roll
Will you meet me in Heaven someday

In sweet ecstasy while the ages roll
Will you meet in Heaven someday

Johnny Cash was my hero in a lot of ways, and maybe in his death too. He loved his wife with a beautiful perfection, and lived for her. I thought when she died he would not tarry long behind her, and this morning he went to meet her.

There will be so many eulogies, I would not be able to do any justice for a man I didn't know apart from his music, but the world is a poorer place for his loss.

But still, we have the music.

BBC Article

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Man. Some of the spam I get! Doesn't anyone have sex with anything normal anymore?

I guess it must make the 4H meetings more entertaining though.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

My friend Timmychanga of the huge and giant-sized pectoral muscles has started a blog! Go read it with all speed and dispatch, and you will learn:

when it comes to possums and squirrels, no man i know spends more time planning and plotting against them* as the one i call dad. my dad has many fruit trees in his backyard. and every year, i'd know exactly when harvest seasons for the different fruits would be, because all my dad talks about is his latest theory on why the squirrels have it in for him. such as mocking him by taking only one rodent-sized bite out of perfectly good apricots and leaving the rest on the ground for him to find. and do you know what he does in retaliation? he captured one in a cage and left him in the yard all day, 'as an example', in case any other 'four-leggers' were still of the mind to commit crimes against his fructose-bearing prizes.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

I've been watching the U.S. Open tennis tournament over the last few days, and I can tell you by far the most exciting match was Justine Henin-Hardenne, the spritely and spry Belgian against lumbering behemoth and ex-glue-sniffer Jennifer Capriati.

Have you seen this woman? She looks like the love child of Lou Ferrigno and Tyne Daly.

OK, maybe that was unkind, but it was great to see David beat Goliath. Henin-Hardenne just seemed mentally tougher, and held it together when Capriati couldn't close out the match.

Is there a lesson in the giant, pumped-up American being felled by the tiny, strategic European? Probably not, but maybe it's at least an argument that tennis isn't all about power and looking like Glenn Danzig.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

I have been hard at work for a few days in the think tank, cooking up a barnburner of a theory: I believe there has been a serious paradigm shift in the last few years, with the old standard order of "Ernie and Bert" being replaced by its polar opposite "Bert and Ernie". Bert has grown in notoriety while Ernie has become a tragic and marginalized figure.

A quick Google search reveals the depth of the swing into the Bert camp in recent years:

The sad numbers
"bert and ernie": 19,300 Google results
"ernie and bert": 6,740 Google results

Yeah, I hear some of you out there, saying "But I always said Bert and Ernie!"

That's fine, but you need to accept that this is wrong. Perhaps you are simply unable to remember a simpler, more carefree time, when Ernie came first:

Official "Ernie and Bert" video You will notice that in this video cover, the order is clearly "Ernie" and then "Bert".
Wikipedia entry for "Ernie and Bert". Tellingly, there is no "Bert and Ernie" entry.
Ernie and Bert Flag Once again, no "Bert and Ernie" Flag.

There now.

I say it's time for a return to Ernie. A return to a time when this country valued the gregarious, good-natured, disturbingly furry young man who lived with his peculiarly pineapple-headed friend in what was debatably a platonic relationship.

I mean think about it: It's a choice between pigeons and rubber duckies, between bottlecaps and tweedlebugs. Well, I know for a fact that Dangerously Insane Person Mike Tyson keeps pigeons because I saw it on FOX, so that's a pretty clear vote for rubber ducky. And everyone loves the tweedlebugs, whereas bottlecaps are relatively inanimate, don't make cute noises and patently do not have their own complex society in a windowbox, now do they?

Ernie is charming, what with his wacky antics and Muttley-style snigger. Bert, frankly, is repressed and sounds like the horn on an '84 Chevy Cavalier.

So please, join me and let's make ERNIE FIRST! a reality.

Somewhat related: Bert and Ernie Call It Quits
Unnervingly Exhaustive Ernie & Bert Sketch List

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Oh, and one last thing today:

I went and changed my bank accounts after the little mail-theft debacle I went through last week.

So, if you are trying to steal money from my accounts, I'm sorry if you experience any inconvenience. Just contact me for the new account numbers.
Now that that bit of ugliness is behind us, so to speak, I can tell you that yesterday the wife and I went to a "Water 101" class given by the Orange County Water District. We, of course, wanted to see just how many times we could fill our Mr. Turtle kiddie pool every day before we need to start feeling guilty about it. Turns out it's eight times a day, so that might put a damper on the end of summer.

The real highlight of the seminar for me was a video about the Sacramento Delta and the terrible water mismanagement that goes on there. Actually the video was not terribly exciting, but they did show protesters outside a the capitol in Sacramento, one of whom had a sign that read "I PAY TAXES -- FISH DON'T!!"

A couple of thoughts sprang to mind about this sign:

- I hope that the sign carrier had made the sign one morning, after a visionary dream, and had been waiting years for the appropriate opportunity to brandish it angrily. Maybe she had tried her sign at other events, like an Evangelical Christian revival for example, with disappointing results.
- What if fish did start paying taxes? Maybe the California economic difficulties would end. Or maybe some philanthropist, like that Percy Ross guy who used to give away money in the newspaper to needy people on the sole condition that he had to look like a really great guy, could spot the fish some tax money.

But wait! Fish are for the most part unemployable (besides some in middle-management positions), so if they were assigned social security numbers they would undoubtedly turn into welfare cases and get huge tax refunds every year.

Further study is definitely needed.

Seriously, the seminar confirmed that California and indeed much of the country and world, is headed for a big water crisis as the population grows and you, yes you, continue to water your lawn.

After the water seminar, we headed off to the free Mars viewing at the University of California Irvine observatory.

Somehow, I don't think the staff of the observatory anticipated that five thousand people would show up. Traffic was backed up for blocks and we ended up parking about a half-mile away and hiking up to the observatory, where we found thousands of kind of pissed-off looking people in the kind of line that you can grow a beard in. Luckily, there were some amateur astronomers with their own telescopes there, and we had a look through one such device. I think it was Mars I saw, at least. It could really have been any roughly circular off-white object.

It wasn't a real strong telescope.

I'm guessing they probably turned away all the would-be stargazers about midnight, maybe with free passes to Laser Floyd Night or something. One can but dream.
I had a first today.

It was the first time this thought had ever crossed my mind: "Gee, it's ten AM and I've already had a colo-rectal exam." I mean, what can possibly top that?

Yes, I had the first physical of my sheltered existence today. I'll spare you any further details, as this blog refuses to sink to the depths of bottom humor any more than is absolutely necessary, especially when it's my bottom that's in question. Suffice to say that in the subject-predicate paradigm, I now know what it means to be the predicate.

Also, it's difficult to conduct a conversation when the person speaking to you is palpating your testicles.

Come to think of it, I don't think I need to use the word "palpate" again just about ever.

If you haven't already stopped reading, you should probably go and have a nice cup of tea, a shower, and a bit of a lie-down.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

They pass, these people from accounting and customer service. The smiling receptionist. Their life force is strong. We sense it in the subtle shift of the wind, this approaching vibrance.

We remember the light.

And we ooze forth from our cubicles of darkness. We joke at them desperately, implore them only to stay. To keep us company in this our long windowless nightmare. We drape ourselves over their youthful forms and cling to their ankles, hoping to wrest some small shard of hope from them, that we may huddle round it later, warming our icy bones.

"Tell us of the light!" we implore them, beseech them.

But they cannot hear us. They hurry past us, turning up collars against an involuntary chill, nervously whistling or remarking to each other that a goose has trodden on their grave.

We are lost, alone in the depths of Purgatory, Inc., under the fluorescents that eat our souls and over the carpet that tells our story in wavering, sickening patterns of grape, mustard and what may very well be periwinkle.

Sometimes, there are doughnuts.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Sorry for the absence between updates here, but some significant things have occurred in the last few days, though not necessarily in this order:

1. I sunburned the hell out of my back.
I was weeding in the back yard on Saturday, and foolishly neglected to wear sunscreen, a hat or a shirt. Now I am paying the price with a back roughly the color of raspberry sherbet.

Having a badly sunburned back is, of course, great fun. You have to try not to wrinkle the skin on your back, because if you do, incredible itching and pain will result. I imagine I looked a little like some demented marionette at work this morning, involuntarily jerking my shoulders in response to the sharp twinges of pain.

I bought Aloe Vera gel at lunch and drove home with it, to soothe my back. Putting it on made it hurt one thousand times worse, and I ran around the house screaming profanities. I actually said "whoremaster!" for some unknown reason. I probably read it in a Stephen King book. My cat would not stop yelling and is lucky I did not behead him.

Also, there are ants everywhere in my house. I killed them with glee and shouted my nastiness at them. They allowed me to externalize my horrific pain.

It sounded kind of like this: "OH MY GOD OH MY GOD! OW! OW! OW! DIE! DIE ANT! OH YES! DIE! DIE! HAHAHAHAHA!" and so on. I believe leading Hellraiser theoreticians would have surmised that I had crossed the line where pain, murder, death and pleasure blend together into a symphony of evil.

Now I am getting twinges that feel like needles poking into my back.

2. Phil Hartman contacted me to tell me I may have been the victim of identity theft.
Obviously, not the Phil Hartman. No, this is a detective in the town where I used to live, who told me that some quality individuals had ransacked my mailbox, along with the mailboxes of other good folk of the C Building. Actually, I don't know if they're good folk or not. They could be chickenfondlers for all I know.

So I went down to the police station to reclaim my mail. I waited for Phil Hartman for a long while, and tried to keep thoughts of guilt out of my mind. As soon as I entered the police station, I felt like The Man was going to spring out from behind the institutional plastic rows of chairs and nab me. This led to subsequent grandiose fantasies involving the breaking of windows, the scaling of trees and the shouting of "You'll never take me alive!"

Anyway, it doesn't seem like the mail thieves actually managed to do anything with the info they gleaned from my cell-phone bill and bank statement, but it's a little disquieting to know that I may not be me. I mean, I thought I was the one eating asparagus salad last night, but maybe it was an identity thief!

Does that mean I have to eat the salad again?

3. There is mouse poo all over my desk.
Self-explanatory, though I should state that this is not the sort of treatment I expect after I make it clear that I would like to rehabilitate you from your life of carefree mouseness, Mr. Work Mouse. I understand that I didn't get the humane trap thing that I was talking about in order to save you from the evil glue-trap setters, but I really did think about it quite seriously.

Isn't that enough for you?

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

When I have to discipline my hapless lackeys here at Purgatory, Inc., I like to do so in a Jacob Marley "vengeful ghost" type voice. It confuses them and keeps them nice and twitchy.

In fact, whenever I am unable to avoid speaking to them, I select from one of the following voices:

Foghorn Leghorn
Yosemite Sam
Henry Kissinger
Carol Anne from Poltergeist

Monday, August 18, 2003

The Aquariass Aquarium Toilet

Seems like a great idea, although it might be a little traumatic for the fish.

Just one of the several neato thingies at Elseware.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

So I dropped the wife off at the airport today to fly to a conference, and immediately raced home to do what married guys do when they have a couple of days to themselves:

That's right, I watched Altered States with my cat.

It seemed to go pretty well, and I think it was a good human-feline bonding experience, even if he did express some concerns about the facile nature of Ken Russell's religious imagery. He snorted with derision as Dr. Jessup held out the Bible to his dying father in his hallucination, and made some rather cutting remarks about "fifth-grade level psychedelia", leaving me somewhat ashamed.

I explained that the cheesy effects were representative of technology of the time the film was made, but he seemed nonplussed.

But I think I gained a little knowledge from my cat. Next week he wants to show me Kieslowski's Dekalog, possibly followed by a discussion on whether there is any true morality in a world devoid of divine guidance. But I have to get him the good cat food first. Eukanuba, you know.

Come home soon, honey.

Friday, August 15, 2003

13 Labs Garden springs terror on an unsuspecting world:

Probably not, but anything is possible.


Thursday, August 14, 2003

It is indeed a hard world for little things.

Courtesy of Mr. Plurp:

Patriotic Hermit Crab Shells!

Sure, your neighbors may think they're impressive with their 20-foot high floodlit flagpole in the front yard, but their pathetic fair-weather patriot jaws will drop to their patchy lawn when you spring your little pal in his American Flag shell on them.

"That's nice" you can drawl, "But have you seen my little friend!?" as you brandish your little crab friend proudly.

Incidentally, I think they could score big with middle America if they would make RV and Slipstream Hermit Crab shells.

Here's the whole shebang. Let's all just take a moment and thank the good people at Pet for remembering to humiliate God's little creatures.
We went and saw Tindersticks at the Henry Fonda Theatre in L.A. on Tuesday. This, of course, goes a ways toward explaining my absence from this site. Staying up til 1am on a weekday means I have to pretty much write off the rest of the week, what with being old and decrepit and all. I noticed something at the show (which by the way was great and you should have gone. Yes, you! I know you live in Nebraska. I don't care! Just shut up. I'm not even continuing this conversation).

What did you notice? I hear you cry.

Well let me tell you: I noticed the dancing. Concert dancing is a tricky field to get into. I know because I've been at shows where I find myself doing a little toe-tap head-bob sort of thing a few songs into the show, and next thing I know it's five songs later and I've been doing the exact same toe-tap head-bob thing for five songs in a row! I know, it's unsettling. I'd understand if you want to go to another site right now, and maybe look at pictures of ringtail lemurs for a while.

There. You back? OK.

Yes, the pressure can be intense. You have to mix it up a little bit. You may want to engage in some hands-over-the-head waving action that you saw in that one Motley Crue video that one time when you were cutting Autoshop.

Then there's the "how much am I annoying the guy standing behind me?" factor. If you really, really want to annoy the guy behind you, you can't beat some violent head jerking kind of stuff, making the guy behind you wonder whether your rear cranium is about to shatter the bridge of his nose. And, after all, screw that guy. He knows what he's getting into going to a show, right? You go see a band, you pay your twenty bucks, you have to expect that maybe you're not going to make it out of there without a little sinus damage, and maybe some cartilage trouble. It doesn't matter that this is a Tindersticks show, and you're dancing around like an extra from REM's Stand video to a song that has one beat every ten seconds. Go for it!

And, by all means, yell out stuff between songs. Not only does the band love it, the people around you think you're really, really funny. As a matter of fact, I may have paid $20 to see Tindersticks, but what I really wanted to hear was some yutz yelling in the breaks. Sometimes, when I listen to CDs at home, I yell things myself. I'm glad you have taken care of the yelling for me, yelling guy.

Hmm. Got a little sidetracked there.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Well, the entries have been pouring in for the "Let's imagine Babar, King of the Elephants in unseemly film and literature" contest. Well, it's kind of a contest. The kind of contest where you don't win anything and there's no real criteria for judging. It's like a midway game where a cruel carny gives you a softball that you know can never ever knock down those milk bottles, but you have to try anyway.

And then, against all odds you manage to knock down those bottles, and your heart leaps into your throat and just as you think, just for a moment, for one fleeting second "I am a winner, dammit!", some guy steals your car stereo in the parking lot.

That kind of contest.

Here's the winners, that my wife and I just judged:

12 Angry Babars
Rosemary's Babar
The Unbearbale Lightness of Babar
The Last Temptation of Babar

Faster Babar! Kill! Kill!
The Madness of King Babar

A Confederacy of Babars
It Happened to Babar One Night

Babar of Nazareth
Conan, The Babarian
Star Trek: The Wrath of Babar

Richard (who has no linkability):
Pier Palo Pasolini's Salo: 120 Days of Babar (alternately, Babar: 120 Days of Sodom)

Babarella, Queen of the Galaxy (It should be noted that this was a multiple entry, with Skot's Babarbarella, Queen of the Galaxy)

Congratulations to all the winners. Years from now, when someone's bothering you in a bar, you can tell them the story of how you thought up the best damn Babar jape ever, and rest assured that they'll leave you alone and possibly notify the authorities.
I'm so glad to see that Arnold Schwarzenegger is running for governor of my home state.

It's good to know that when (I would say if, but it's only a matter of time) a demented supervillain siphons off California's atmosphere, our governor will be untroubled. Sure, his eyes'll bug out a little bit and he'll make some odd Shatneresque grunting sounds, but he'll pull through.

And who else? Who else have we got running? Gary Coleman. And Gallagher. I can't wait for the debates,.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Here's a My Life As An American Gladiator fun game you can play at home:

Imagine Babar, King of the Elephants in decidedly un-Babar films and books.


Babar: Portrait of a Serial Killer
The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Babar
Babar Got His Gun
Come Back to the Five and Dime, Babar, Babar
Fear and Loathing and Babar in Las Vegas

Got any good ones? Send 'em in.
I just happened to be perambulating around the web dealy here and happened on, courtesy of Adampsyche.

There's nothing too remarkable there. Just your average aliens bothering the godfearing denizens of our planet, tinfoil hat sales, that sort of thing.

One section particularly drew my attention, though: The Alien Plan for Humans. I've always been curious about just why these aliens want to come down here and mess with people's heads, as they are wont to do if you believe the literature. This passage has all the answers:

"And he's saying to me that, 'You know how you have memories?'

And I'm saying like, 'What do you mean, memories?'

He's saying, 'You know how you remember your father, your mother, your sister, the birthday parties?'

I think he's giving me an example and I'm saying yes.

And he goes, 'Someday people who are like you will not have those memories either. They'll be like me.' Like him meaning.

And I'm saying, 'What do you mean by that?'

He's saying, 'Don't you understand that?'

I said no, or rather, I don't say no, I just shake my head. And then again he tells me to listen.

He says, 'There will be only one purpose for you. You won't have memories like you do now.'

I'm asking him like, 'You mean me?' He goes, 'No, the people who will come after you.'

I don't know what he means by that.

He's asking me, 'Are you understanding?'

I'm shaking my head like I don't. I'm asking him, 'They're not going to take me away, are they?'

And he's saying, 'They don't need to take you away. They will come.'

I don't know what he means by this. Again I ask him what are they doing.

He looks down and he looks up at me again and he lifts his arm up. He is saying something like, 'Do you see this?'

And I say, 'What, your arm?'

He goes, 'Never mind.'

I said, 'No, tell me. Tell me. What are the aliens doing?'

And he's saying all they're interested in, that no matter what happens at all, is that they control."

Now, I'm no tinfoil hat wearing expert, but I think the aliens should really be more selective in their abduction targeting. It's pretty obvious that this guy is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. You can just picture the alien getting more and more frustrated. "My arm? Yeah, I'm talking about my arm, Clem. How many ways do I have to tell you that we're a superintelligent race and you mouth-breathers are in trouble." And then he rolls his almond shaped eyes and says to his colleague "Let's drop this idiot off and try Nebraska again."
There is no situation that could not be worse if one imagines it being a lavish musical production number.

Imagine it. You get laid off. Your wife leaves you. The cat is possessed by a minor demon. You lose your hair in a bizarre rototiller accident, and your eyeballs turn backward into your head.

And just then, just as you are convinced nothing more could possibly happen to make your situation any worse, the music swells. You realize there's a full orchestra behind the potted plants, sequined-leotard wearing dancers spring unbidden from every doorway and out of nowhere someone starts crooning.

Just remember that next time you fall on hard times, my friend.

Thursday, July 31, 2003

I had a good day of nonplussing store merchants.

First, I went to Petco (you know, where the pets go? Personally, I think until the pets come up with some cash, they should stop crowding the aisles). There, I went through my usual routine en route to the Giant Bag Of Cat Litter aisle. This consists of first glancing up to see myself on the surveillance screen.

I'm not sure of the strategy behind putting the surveillance monitor right over the door. It is, of course, a good chance to preen in front of a camera, and check for unsightly blemishes, and I recommend trying to spot the camera and approaching it, nostrils flared, in an effort to pindown any unwanted nose detritus. Also, you can make goofy "I'm on the teevee!" faces or caper about the cameras view pretending you are a lovable entertainer whose career will be tragically cut short.

I mean, do they think I'm going to walk out with a schnauzer under my coat or something? Perhaps fill my pockets with those green hamster pellets? Sure, I may have done this once or twice, but I blame society.

After the surveillance antics, I made for the cat section, but on the way I had to stop and moon at the hamsters and rats for a while. Usually just long enough to give them their dark and unholy instructions. Then I hurried past the birds. Who the hell wants birds as pets? They don't even remotely like you, and spend their entire lives pissed off that they're stuck in some filthy cage, plotting their escape or at least the irreparable soiling of your upholstery.

And then I was in the cat section. At least I hoped I was in the cat section. Things move around in Petco. They have a pretty standard offering of ten dollar cat toys that your cat will never play with and two-paycheck cat condos that go a long way toward proving that cats like cardboard boxes, but the Petco people are not satisfied with that.

They like to move everything around, so I can never quite locate the cat litter without first peering down each aisle like some challenged prairie dog, frightening the shy and reclusive cat supply customers, who scatter under my puzzled gaze.

Anyway, I found my jumbo Jonny Cat bag and hauled it to the register, feeling very manly and virile as I toted my 20 pound burden. It made me feel even better that later, the Petco surveillance crew could watch me strolling through the store unaffected by the Herculean weight held firmly in my grip.

The register woman asked me the same question they always ask me in Petco: "How many cats do you have?"

At first, when they asked me this, I thought they were genuinely interested in me and my cat. I thought maybe the conversation would continue to the point where they would be asking me and my cat to appear in some Petco promotional materials. And then I thought, maybe they're trying to offload some kitties on me. They think "Here's a guy buying twenty pounds of cat litter at once...he's not going to be bothered by a few dozen more pairs of tiny unkempt feet around the house."

And then they'd pull out a duffel bag full of kitties and I'd be powerless to resist them.

But after about a hundred times of being asked the "How many cats?" question, I figured out that they were required to say that. Somewhere in the back room of Petco, there's some crazed reeducation effort underway wherein they brainwash these poor souls to ask me how many cats I have.

Tragic, really.

So, I replied "Just one."

The woman made some sort of noncommital sound, making it clear she really didn't care.

"One kind of fat, lazy old cat."

And with that, I had achieved counterperson nonplussedness.

Nonplus number two was at MicroCenter, which is a budget computer store. I go there sometimes and gaze at the new games and wonder if my karmic tally is positive enough to allow a fifty dollar outlay. This time, I was buying blank CD-Rs for various nefarious purposes. I took my item to the counter and the girl there rang me up. I paid with my Mastercard, which now requires me to make some childlike scrawl on the computer signature pad.

I should say that my signature is astoundingly variable at the best of times, on your normal paper surface. It's one of those squiggly heiroglyphs that looks like the last missive of a dying man who had a stroke halfway through. These little devices do nothing to help the quality of my signature. I swear to you, there have been times when I 've signed on the electronic pad, only to have written someone else's name entirely. Last time I think it was "Debbie Sue".

And the counterperson asked me "Do you want your name on the receipt?"

I couldn't quite figure that out. Maybe I would want to keep it for a few years. Pull it out and impress my friends. "This is from the time I bought 50 Maxell CD-Rs. You can be sure it's real because my name's on it." As they were struck dumb with awe, I might add in a low voice "Five dollar mail-in rebate*."

Maybe they were trying to get information about me? I am one of those people who will not give their info to stores. I despise the Club Card and I'm certainly not telling Radio Shack my blood type and educational history just to buy some batteries. But what could they do with my name on the receipt?


So I just said "Why the heck would I want that?"

The girl was kind of stuck, and said "It's just something we're supposed to ask."

And there you have it, double-nonplussed goodness.

* Does anyone ever mail in the rebates? I can imagine the lady with all the coupons at the grocery store doing this, shaking her fist to the sky as she cackles "That's right, Maxell! You didn't think I'd do it, but I got you, you bastards!"

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Oh man.

Monday's audience burst into laughter during the seduction scene, when J.Lo spreads her legs for Ben and says, "It's turkey time. Gobble-gobble."

You couldn't make stuff like that up. From the new Ben McDamonFlack and J-Lo debacle "Gigli".
Before work today, I saw some of President Bush's press conference. The first in 5 months.

ALl I could think of was a line that Barry Crimmins had about Dan Quayle's press conferences (to paraphrase): I look at him and I see a teenager trying to get past his parents, drunk at 2 in the morning.

Also, with his halting speech pattern and distracted manner, it seemed like Bush was being fed the responses, perhaps from crafty Rumsfeld hiding in the rose bushes behind him. That would make Rumsfeld the intimidatingly large-nosed Steve Martin and Bush the dopey but cute fireman, trying to win the heart of America, who in this equation would be played by Daryl Hannah. Or maybe Rumsfeld would be Gerard Depardieu.

I'm confused.

But really, the whole ordeal is just depressing. To see this smug figurehead up there at the podium, deflecting important concerns over the blatant lies of his administration by cracking little jokes just seems disgusting.

Calgon, take me away.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Yes, the rumors are true. It is, in fact, My Life As An American Gladiator's 2nd Birthday today.

There will be triscuits and spray cheese in the main lobby.

It's a tradition here at MLAAAG to look back at the past year and name some of the less uninteresting posts. I don't know if you can really call it a tradition, seeing as how this is only the second time, but I'm going to make that leap of faith. I hope you're comfortable with that.

The Story of Elvis and Monkeyboy

The Big Movie Idea

I Can't Catch

Another Big Movie Idea


Spider Messiah

Halloween 4


Toilet Training

Salad Horizon Theory

My Neighbor

And my favorite of the year:

Skeleton Warrior Found Dead in Malibu Home

So there you have it. Two years have come and gone, and I feel ready to impart some great wisdom to you.

I just haven't worked out what that wisdom should be yet.

Should it maybe be the thing about brillo? No. Maybe you're not ready for that yet. Or the dire warnings from the future about not making Baked Alaska?

Yes, maybe that should be it. Don't make Baked Alaska unless you're totally prepared for the metaphysical consequences.

And one more thing: Death Race 2000 is probably the greatest movie ever made.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Also, to the person who emailed me yesterday:

No. I can't tell you where to buy Sizzlean. I don't know what it was that made you think that I would be your source for ersatz bacon solutions, or that if I were a bacon substitute middleman, I would share such weighty knowledge with just anyone.

Of course, it could be that they don't make Sizzlean anymore, and for that reason I am hoarding my supply closely, like a greasy, cholesterol-concerned Cerberus.

I guess you'll never know.
It really makes you consider your career choices when the president of the company greets you breathlessly at 8 in the morning and says to you:

"Kafkaesque, can you find me some clip art of hillbillies?"

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Also, to the gentleman from Germany who sent me the nice email today:

I am afraid I am no longer in possession of the necessary equipment to return you to your own time and/or plane of existence. I sold them for some shiny beans.

I do, however, have an old toaster-oven that has possiblities. It may not be the Dimensional Warp Generator that you referred to, but it does a real number on sourdough.
A Death Threat to the Arby's Oven Glove

Listen to me, oven glove.

There will come a time, an unspecified time in the future, when a figure will appear out of the darkness and rain down upon you with awesome and holy vengeance.

That figure? It'll be me.

Because I hate you. I hate you perfectly and beautifully, like a poem. Except this poem is about lighting you on fire and putting you out, and then submerging you in a shallow kiddie pool for five minutes at a time before taking you out and alternately cursing at you and crying for about fifteen minutes.

The next stanza of this poem, which is about your death, is about how I would rather listen to a Joseph Conrad novel on tape, read by Snuggle the Fabric Softener Bear, than endure one more thirty second spot featuring your Tom Arnold voice-talent and buggy little eyes. Eyes that will be dealt with in ways that you cannot possibly imagine, pok--


Monday, July 21, 2003

I haven't checked in for a while on the madcap world of lawn goose clothing, but it does my heart good to know that patriotism is not dead amongst the cement waterfowl of the front yards of this great nation:

In support of the troops
I can only stop in for a minute. My wife is after me.

She's got parsley. She's got broccoli. And yes, she's even got beets.

And she wants me to drink them.

Now, I've long been a proponent of the Juiceman, and have waxed monotonous about it here before. Apart from the really creepy oompah-loompah inventor, the Juiceman is indeed a great invention. You can juice anything in there*.

But I draw the line. Leave the celery in its solid form, I beg you. My one encounter with celery in its liquid form was the subject of song and legend and vomit, Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray Tonic. When I was a humble bagel slinger (working for my pal Julio the Suicidal Bagel Shop Manager, who was so important to my formative years), we would "haze" new employees by making them drink a bottle of the stuff and, most importantly, keep it down for a full hour.

Beets should maybe, and this is even stretching it, be pickled and buried like little purple landmines in an otherwise peaceful salad. Or borscht. Beets can go ahead and be borscht, if that's what they want to do with their little beet selves.

I can't even imagine what sort of heretofore unknown sadistic streak lay dormant in my wife these long years that she could even conceive of juicing broccoli. It's just wrong, and I might add, against God's plan.

I must close now. I smell parsnips coming for me.

* Except beloved household pets. You probably shouldn't juice them.

Friday, July 18, 2003

The Bonsai Potato

Containing the answer to the eternal question: "How can I maintain aesthetic balance in a multi-variety arrangement dominated by a mono-planar asymmetrical alternating branch stalk?"
Thank you, Microsoft Excel, for having the default scroll setting be a bazillion miles per hour, so I get to see my little cells whizzing by, powerless to stop their screaming, hurtling rush, and somehow end up in cell RZ2705.

This is the equivalent of getting in your car to go get a pack of cigarettes from the corner store, and suddenly going Mach 3 and ending up in Zaire by accident.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Matrix Style Ping Pong Action!

[thanks to Chimichanga, whose birthday is tomorrow. If you know who Chimichanga is, I recommend you spend a good portion of the day realizing that you will never have pectoral muscles like his. Also, think about the Bastille for a while.]
You may have noticed that the usual juggernaut output here has slowed to a tiny trickle.

I just want to reassure you that I am giving 25-35% out there, every single damn day. As a matter of fact, last Thursday I got up to 37%, but I got tired and it slipped down to about 18% for the remainder of the day.

So on average, Thursday was about 27.5%.

Now I have to go and return a Sharper Image subwoofer.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

I just thought you should know that the new National Geographic has all kinds of pictures of randy and/or humping animals.

I have it on my coffee table.

This is great, because whatever I'm doing at home, I always know that I could just step into the other room and nearly instantaneously be looking at a picture of a lion with its nose in another lion's genitals, or maybe some anacondas doin' it orgy style.

It helps me through my day.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

The Octodog!

Make your hot dogs into octopuses! Make other people's hot dogs into octopuses!

[warning: not intended for use in octopus --> dog applications]

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Also, when we bought our house, I should have read the fine print on the Privacy Agreement from the Lender. This privacy agreement must have read, in part:

We, the evil and apathetic LOAN BEHEMOTH do hereby promise to sell the UNDERSIGNED's name, address, favorite color and shoe size to anyone and everyone under the sun, especially WINDOW DRESSING COMPANIES, because we think it's funny for you to get all that crap every single day in your mailbox. HA HA. In fact, were it possible, we would learn the arcane arts of ancient magick and craft self-willed, vengeful GOLEMS AND HOMUNCULI from the various humours contained within the body of the UNDERSIGNED just so we could sell the information to them too.
Do not be alarmed!

The pictures of Oyster Billy, El Diablo Jazz and their pals that comfort you through these troubled times have not been lost forever, but are merely being held hostage in some elaborate hosting company coup d'etat that is totally beyond my control and would require something big like a phone call to get to the bottom of. I don't have that kind of time or attention span, so you'll just have to rough it.

Monday, June 30, 2003

I should also note, on the subject of gardening, that our long national nightmare is over: the dark tyranny of the apricots no longer holds sway. They have come and gone through our lives, leaving only a sticky residue that gathers flies.

And pies. We have some pies.
The Kafka Family Garden Menagerie Running Tally:

Gnomes, Plastic: 1
Frogs, Plastic and Marginally Realistic: 1
Frogs, Plastic, Wearing Overalls and Holding a Shovel: 1

You will be updated of further developments.

Friday, June 27, 2003

Apparently, the National Do Not Call List sign up is flooded. Somewhere over half a million people have signed up today.

But not me.

I will be the only person receiving telemarketing calls left in the country. I will sit by my phone 18 hours a day, with only a break for a sensible lunch of maybe tuna salad, and then back at it. I will have banks of phones set up to field every offer I possibly can. I will be the savior of telemarketers. They will have pictures of me up there next to the clock, where the picture of the president used to be when the land was simple and men wore hats more.

It will, of course, get a little complicated being the only telemarketing demographic left. Everything will have to be tailored to me. And if I get annoyed with the telemarketers, I'll say "you know, I'm thinking of signing up for the Do Not Call List."

I bet they'll cry.

And then, after they've cried some, I'll sign up anyway.
For many years, I thought the word "solder" was pronounced "SOUL-DUR" instead of "SAW-TER". I still hold that this makes no sense whatsoever, but there you go.

This mispronunciation really came to haunt me when one day I was walking down the street, lost in thought about the marginalization of Man-At-Arms on the old He-Man series and the loss of meaning inherent in the double-name paradigm, when suddenly a man leapt from the shadows.

"Pronounce this word!" he demanded, and pulled out a tattered piece of brown bag on which he had inscribed the letters S-O-L-D-E-R.

I, of course, said "SOUL-DUR", marking myself as a feeb.

Luckily, though, my assailant was so shocked by my stupidity that he had a brain aneurysm and died almost instantly.

Let that be a lesson to you.


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