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


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