Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Characters, Sketchy



Having seen "The Simpsons Movie" (and I have watched "The Simpsons" probably fewer times than 99% of the whole Universe; maybe five times), I can tell you this:


Tony Soprano and Homer Simpson are similar in that each has very few redeeming qualities but we somehow for some reason root for each of them.

But we laugh more at Homer.

Usually.

I guess.


And Homer lives.

I think.





BLANK SCREEN NOW FOR 347 SECONDS.






Look, Ma, No Hands! I'm Freecycling!



I've blogged about freegans, so why not
freecycling?

I'm free to say, "Sounds okay to me."

Isn't this exchange of words and thoughts and feelings we call blogging a bit of spiritual freecycling?

But is anything free?

What is the cost of letting go?

What is the price of too many feckless fruitless fecking questions?


Alliteration Alert:


Polymorphous-perverse polycyclic pedantry pulsates pompously, puerilely.

Cyclic consumerism cascades communities corrosively.

Farewell to July, and my record number of posturing, postulant, petty, petulant, piscine, postliterate postiche of Pawline posts.

(Speaking of verbal blow-ups, wasn't it strange that filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni died right after filmmaker Ingmar Bergman? Maybe not strange at all. Pretty much all I remember about the former is that FirstSpouse fell asleep in the theater watching "The Passenger." Jack Nicholson either talked too slowly, or not at all. So, of course, I declared I liked the movie, it was high art, how could you?! etc. But no one gets blown up in "Blow-up," right?)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Cries and Whispers of the Herd


Well, I was aurally browsing with my XM satellite radio and settled on the BBC World Service's Culture Shock program (or progamme, if you prefer, mate).

Good show, guv'nor.

I heard an entertaining yet Brave-New-World-ish interview with a fellow from North Carolina expounding on the virtues of scent marketing via his firm ScentAir, as I naughtily mused to myself: "Would the interviewer please be so horrifically naughty as to ask blatantly about the ScentAir availability of the human equivalent of what I saw my dog do a few hours ago while encountering another canine, sniff-sniff?"

Then an engaging and thought-provoking chat with Mark Earls, linked a few words preceding to his own blog, author of Herd: How To Change Mass Behaviour by Harnessing Our True Nature. (Presumably, the American edition will be about mass behavior.) Among other things, the Duke of Earls spoke in the BBC interview of humans as "we creatures," which got me thinking about my sloppy blogging habits (i.e., the poor grades I deserve for my discourteous lack of blog-comment reciprocity), the "we" nature of blogging itself (despite blogging's radically ephemeral nature), and the challenges this concept poses for an avowed solipsist. But, deep down, and across and above, I believe we are indeed "we creatures," we the people. Curiously, Earls and the BBC's Tim Marlow noted how Western and Northern European society drifted from "we" to "I" several hundred years ago (the Enlightenment? the Reformation?), but the rest of the world still believes in "we" (or us, grammatically). I suppose all that -- Excuse me: We (the royal we) suppose all that is a bit of an oversimplification. And that also gives us the chance to voice the subjective view that most people misuse the word simplistic.

So then I browsed the BBC's World Service site and discovered Ingmar Bergman has died.

The BBC reported that:

British film director Ken Russell told the BBC: "He [Bergman] could hardly bear to watch his own movies, apparently they made him so miserable," he said. "To have done 50 films with such a variety of misery is quite an achievement."

Bergman had five marriages and eight children, and his work often explored the tensions between married couples.

But Bergman confessed in 2004 that he could not bear to watch his own films because they made him depressed.

"I become so jittery and ready to cry... and miserable," he said. "I think it's awful," he said in a rare interview on Swedish TV.

See, I'll bet Ingmar Bergman didn't comment on any other blogs either.

Or even read his own, if he had one. It would make him too miserable (to read his own, not yours, or yours, or yours either).

That's my excuse (I mean rationalization) (I mean rationale).

Yeah. Sure.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Revenge of the Busness Gods



Late as usual to work, I get in the car. Yesterday I gladly took the bus, but this morning I had already missed the 8:04 bus into downtown, so I proceeded to embrace the auto alternative (AA) (how many countless times since puberty have I quote embraced the auto alternative unquote?). Turn on AC , drive down the avenue, mail the subscription invoice to
The Economist magazine with the word Cancel in purple ink written twice on it, via my work-supplied tres au courant Uniball Vision pen. I think The Economist is a terrific and first-rate 'zine, especially the weekly obit, but during my trial run I did not find time to read it; I barely have time to read the cartoons in the weekly issue of The New Yorker I subscribe to.

Rewind the narrative. Leave car running, walk six to eight steps to mailbox, insert mail, return to idling car,
which is locked! All doors are locked, with cellphone sitting in plain view on the front seat, passenger side. I have never done this. Until now. It briefly reminds me of the time Violet G., in Dover, New Jersey, left her car running in her in-house garage below our apartment and almost killed us all with carbon monoxide, including newborn One and Only Son. (This was one time FirstSpouse's tendency toward paranoia proved invaluable, infinitely so. I owe her thanks for that. Infinitely so.) Walk up the avenue, and I mean uphill, in the heat, wondering why, and how. And fretting slightly over being ever later to work. Knock on our door. Fortunately, CurrentSpouse is not asleep yet from night-before work. She opens the door.

"What happened?"

"I was at the mailbox, and . . . "

"You mailed your keys," she replied in the fashion that longtime partners have of finishing each other's sentences.

"No, left 'em in the car, running. There's something wrong with me neurologically. I've never done that."

"You're just getting old," she said evenly and without rancor.

Grab her spare key off the rack of keys near the door (just about the only steadily organized aspect of our household). Walk fast and jog part way down the hill. Feck it. Slow down, I tell myself. Enjoy the whole episode. Roll with it. I feel light, almost laughing, not scolding myself for this lapse. "No judgment," as the beloved late Anthony DeMello pronounced frequently in the tapes I used to listen to in 1993, driving anywhere.

This is grace.

No ticket on the car. Nor is it towed away. (Glancing thought: In some cities this would look like a looming terror threat; such are the times.) Open door of idling car. Enter, sweating. Crank AC to max. Soothing.

Drive to work, with good success on the several traffic lights.

Manage a smile, upon entering work, greeting Mary V., at 10th-floor reception desk.

This is my little secret with the world. No high drama, no "poor me," no endless and tedious recounting to co-workers. The grace of anonymity.

Just gratitude to be in The Game (although the bus does indeed beckon me to return).

P.S. Didn't you read "busness" as "business"? I would have.

P.P.S. Change "gods" to "goddesses" if you are so inclined.

(Photo credits: Bus is in 'Yeats Country,' with mystical Ben Bulben in the background; and Pawlie Kokonuts walking in Sligo City.)


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Persona Non Verba

The preceding post was embarrassing.

Dreadful. Poor. Hideous. Moronic.

Just proves that sometimes one should not say anything if there's nothing worthwhile to say.

"Then why didn't you simply delete it, Mr. K?"

"Pride goeth before the faux pas."

(Should delete this one, too.)

The Litany of Social Contagion

War and peace
Talk and silence
Addiction and recovery
Driving vs. walking
Being rather than doing
And vice versa.

Work and idleness
Innovation and lethargy
Blogging vs. reading
Punctuation and anarchy
Kierkegaard and Kant
Voting rather than complaining
Blogrolling vs. not
Love or hate or apathy.

Faith and fear
Acceptance and control
Will and surrender
Community and solitude
Commenting and commuting.

Peace.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Food for Thought, and Thought for Food


By now, you've heard about the study in today's news concluding that obesity is socially contagious, as is thinness. The study is no Mickey Mouse effort. It covers some 32 years and over 12,000 people. It was conducted by Harvard Medical School and University of California San Diego researchers. (The figure shown is from James Fowler of UC San Diego, and it depicts the close correlation of obesity and social networks. Or so I gather. For all I know, it's illustrating vomit dispersion or aerial demographics of Berlin graffiti artists. It took years to create. Anyway, it's gorgeous, Jim.)

This story fascinates me on many levels.

1. I love the term "socially contagious." It's probably old hat to you hipper academics, but it's new to me. A cursory Google search yields hits related to obesity, homosexuality, gun violence, smoking, organizational misbehavior, substance abuse, and materialism. For starters. I'm sure I'm misstating or intimating core arguments incorrectly for each of those topics. But I predict this study will catapult the term socially contagious into the front lines of discourse, including as a weapon in the U.S. presidential election campaign (which really cannot claim to reach the heights of something called discourse). And then we will grow socially weary of this contagious phrase. (Perhaps you already have done so.)

2. The concept is hardly surprising. After all, sober people choose sober friends; boozers hang out with other drinkers; gangstas congregate with other gangstas; willowy ballet dancers associate with other willowy ones. From what I discern, though, this research says it goes deeper than that. The study seems to say we don't merely reinforce and validate each other's behavior but actually cause it by setting social norms. (I'm only surmising this, based on the linked summary. Don't ask me how or why. What do I look like a sociologist?)

3. This underscores the need for social research on eating. Here's what I mean. My eighth-grade science teacher, Mr. Charles Robinson at Burdick Junior High School in Stamford, Connecticut, extolled the virtues of how we eat, not just what we eat. He pointed out the healthy habits of ethnic and ancient groups who ate as a group. Eating for them was (is) communal, unhurried, and entirely social. Contrast that with modern America: eating is solitary, fractured, rushed, or distracted (or some mixed salad of all those adjectives). There's no doubt in my mind that cancer research should focus more on how we eat at least as much as what we eat. That's why, if I owned the company, no one would be allowed to eat at their desk while working, ever, and a lunch break with real food would be mandated.

Chew on that.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Virtue of Jet Lag

Jet lag. What a wonderfully oxymoronic term, connoting (or is that denoting?) the rush that slows; the propulsion that regresses. Yesterday, rather hung over from fatigue (late-night browsing in the Double U Double U Double U Universe will do that), I was driving to my haircut place (i.e., Hirsute Psychotherapy by Don), and I experienced memories of recent trips. And the memories were of first moments of arrival in Ireland and in Berlin.

The gauzy, slow-motion sleepwalking of arrival in Shannon, the terror of trying to drive a car on the "wrong" side of the road, the traipsing through a cemetery in Ennistymon as the sun was rising (and Youngest One was toppling over with sleep in the back sleep).

Or sitting in a Mercedes-Benz taxi en route from Tegel Airport, trying to converse with a driver who knew not Word One of what I was saying, canals and rivers, graffiti splattered on stately buildings, falling asleep during a ballet class's lullaby piano melodies, the Brandenburg Gate looming at the end of Unter-den-Linden.

Powerful memories.

And it dawned on me (though not the dawn of vertiginous arrival). These jet-lagged memories recur frequently. They are triggers of further evocations. They are the madeleines featured by Marcel Proust, those tea biscuits that a bite of which [grammar check, please!] transported the narrator into a journey of the past.

I have come to understand that (despite the bone-crushing weariness, deep disorientation, and grouchiness) jet lag is the portal into a new world (it seems to hit me more en route from America to Europe, probably because of the morning arrival). It's really not all that bad, looking back. It's more like we are expected to bemoan it (and I understand why; I do not sleep well at all on planes), but if we roll with it, jet lag yields later benefits (sure, sure, you're saying; so does a colonoscopy).

I salute Jet Lag Memories.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Labels Majora and Labels Minora


In looking over Blogger.com's options to "customize" my blog, I noticed an option labeled, Labels.

Presto! I clicked a few times and soon surveyed one of the longest lists in Christendom (second only to the list of remembered resentments of a particular ethnic group [hint: my wife's, whose ancestral lands we visited without resentments before or after last October], or possibly second only to the list of things to sort and dispose of at home and office).

Sheesh! Talk about a laundry list! Or talk about airing your laundry in public!!

Or exclaim about about excessive exclamation points!!

I dare say my list redefines the word eclectic.

Or obsessive. Or some other word.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Do Re Me Meme Me Me Me Me

Wanderlust Scarlett accurately intuited that I loathe doing this stuff, but here goes. You asked for it. (And I never promise to follow all the rules. For meme-ing or maiming.)

4 things that should go into room 101 and be removed from the face of the earth:

• Anything that has been touched by Dick Cheney
• That rubber glove Michael Moore is wearing in the ad for "Sicko"
• Martha Stewart's apron
• George W. Bush's passport

3 things people do that make you want to shake them violently:

• Meme-ing
• Maiming
• Mumbling morosely

2 things you find yourself moaning about:

• Salma Hayek: moaning "about" her unreachable allure; moaning over her allure
• The dearth and dying of the serial comma

1 thing the above answers tell you about yourself:

I'm a solipsistic self-memed man.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Excess-Baggage Handlers


Have you observed the phenomenon of Excess Baggage in your city, borough, hamlet, town, village, shire, or county? It consists of these elements: a seemingly employed person, often a professional, in an urban environment dragging a suitcase or some type of baggage on wheels, with its handle extended for portability.

Typically, the luggage is wheeled into or out of an office environment.
Let's explore the possibilities, shall we?

a) it is some kind of terrorist being so obvious as to be, well, undetected

b) it's a lost traveler 18.6 miles from the airport

c) there is now an abundance of transvestites who need to cart extra clothing for a quick change in the bathroom just before and just after work

d) people like surreptitiously to bring in their collection of Bratz dolls for lunchtime fun e) folks are eating bigger lunches

f) there's a sudden onslaught of copier or computer repairers out there

g) the demands of the workplace are forcing more people to stay overnight in the office

h) people are saying they have to work late hours but they are staying overnight in the office to screw around

i) people have so much work they cart it home, work on it, and cart it back to the office

or

j) the same as i) but they are faking it; no work gets done at home

I first saw this excess-baggage nonsense in my daughter's school a couple years ago. Yup. "Mommy, Mommy, my books and lunch and soccer ball and sneakers and bowling ball and globe and calculator and protractor and iPod and cellphone and pens and notebooks and erasers and pencils, but no newspaper, are so heavy I need this suitcase."

I got a taste of this last weekend. On Friday, I stuffed all the papers on my desk into my backpack with the hope of at least sorting stuff out and ranking (see? we don't need that loathsome word
prioritize after all) various documents. Of course, on Monday, those same papers came back to work with me, intact and untouched within the backpack. Nice try.

For about 2.5 years I used to work with a guy who did that every night, with the same result. He loaded a bunch of stuff into a cardboard box, brought it home, and brought the same stuff back again, seemingly with no progress made toward accomplishing his appointed tasks.

What a shame that people's daily work tasks corrosively leach into every part of their existence. What next? E-mailing a spreadsheet while at the communion rail? Texting a proposal to a would-be client during foreplay?

Work is work. Play is play. Home is home.

You can quote the ol' Kokonuts on that.

p.s. Please note that a missing hyphen in the title would radically alter the meaning of this post and would instead refer to an overabundance of those employees at the airport.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Something Up His Sleeve

Picture the sleekest of modern conference rooms with its inviting view of the city all the way to the shimmering lake. The room, which readily doubles as a corporate board room, has all the amenities: large plasma screen on the wall, remote computer gizmos, high-backed leatherette chairs, and a dark wood table large enough for Henry VIII to dine on or to commit debaucheries upon with all of his eight wives simultaneously (if his heady decisions didn't preclude that). Seated around the corporate monument are the Politburo, ticking off items on the weekly agenda, readying themselves for the appointed Monday cross-examination of our beloved, if fictional, Pawlie Kokonuts.

"What do you have?"

It is a query not about the potential affliction of a communicable disease but rather an inquiry into the rundown of potential work-related items (i.e., The List) for the Politburo to consider, yay or nay, thumbs up or thumbs down, a la the Roman Coliseum.

Mr. Kokonuts, in honor of the weekly ritual, sports a lavender shirt, a reddish silk tie with hunting animals dancing around on it (why not? it is a hunt, isn't?), and khakis (well, shoes, wristwatch, glasses, etc. too).

As he prepares to introduce this week's List, Pawlie spies something amiss peeking out of the cuff of his left sleeve. As he mumbles through the first item, Mr. Kokonuts, Esq. entertains the faint possibility that last night's laundry effort may have resulted in a static clinginess of otherwise disparate fabrics, joining together what can not yet be put asunder.

What to do?

For one, don't wave the left hand too vigorously. But I write (excuse me; the fictional Pawlie Kokonuts writes) left-handed, so the left arm is apt to be engaged in risky motion.

Pivotal question: What precisely is the cling-on article of clothing married to the interior of the shirtsleeve? A dark-blue sock? Spousal panties? Pawlie's panties? Someone else's knickers!? A series of brightly colored, knotted handkerchiefs straight out of a lesser Houdini's act?

Another pivotal question: Don't you agree that modern detergents permit you to mix whites with colored clothing (except for brand-new duds) with impunity?

"What do you have?" the Greek chorus intones, a second time.

"This," Mr. K sings, and triumphantly whips out a blue sock with stars, one of those half-socks you wear with loafers or sneakers.

Fearless? Or reckless? (What would Kierkegaard do [WWKD]?)

Fact? Or fancy?

The blogospheric people decide.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

On (And Off) The Road

The trip with Ballet Daughter (BD) to Saratoga Springs, the place of "health, horses, heritage," the venue of midsummer night's pleasures, and the "scene of the crime," proceeded smoothly, providing an opportunity to muse about family, feelings, and other journeys, with this journey feeling strangely slow-motioned both at the very beginning and at the very end. Make of that what you will metaphorically. (Grammar Lesson: a long sentence is not the same as what laymen call a "run-on sentence"; length has nothing to do with that solecism. A sentence can "run on" for pages and still be legitimate and grammatically correct, and not qualify as a run-on sentence.)

For BD, it occasioned a temporarily tense but ultimately joyful reunion of balletic friends.

I fantasized solitary Saratoga pleasures: smoke a cigar, read the Saturday Times or The Economist, stroll along Broadway. Take in the crowds. Turned out to be too crowded for that. Expensive and hard-to-find parking. I soon wanted out of Dodge.

I settled for the definitely not upscale but tasty Boston Market, sitting at the counter listening to the woeful Giants on XM radio.

Turning left onto Route 9 South, I tried to take the way I had come but got a little lost. In that interim, the Giants' Randy Winn hit a grand slam to narrow the score to 7-6, with satellite radio frustratingly fading in and out. I got onto Interstate 87 in the shimmering sunset but bailed out at Route 5, knowing Route 5 West goes all the way to Buffalo. The motives? A little adventure, a sense of mystery, and why give New York State all that toll money? No, maybe the motive even touches on lostness, the flirtation with danger.

"Good Shepherd, You have a wild and crazy sheep in love with thorns and brambles. But please don't get tired of looking for me! I know you won't! For you have found me. All I have to do is stay found." -- Thomas Merton, A Book of Hours

Taking Route 5 was like traveling into the 1950s, into the pre-Thruway world. A slower journey through Niskayuna and into Schenectady (to whom I had just sent a proposal on Friday; coincidentally [or not] I saw some of the routes cited in the proposal as well as the street where the document was sent).

Aquarius Gentlemen's Club, dark and shuttered, no neon to tempt me or others. A McDonald's (coffee as an excuse to use the bathroom, which had to be opened by a counter person; not a good indicator of the neighborhood's safety). Streets lined with vendors and visitors; storefronts and porches. Churches. Hints of better days. I was not afraid, but I knew my limits. Called Apple-of-My-Eye Son (AMES) on cellphone and told him of my wayward trek. Might've scared him a bit; he counseled me to be brief so as to avoid using up the phone's battery. Through Downtown Schenectady and out along the old Erie Canal and Mohawk River, on the opposite side of the faster and sleeker Thruway, the Thruway that provides fewer opportunities for careful observation and up-close human (or other) interaction. Two freight trains, each at least a half-mile long and maybe as much as one mile long, snaking by on my left peeking through treelines and staghorn sumac. The occasional shack, farms, a horse farm that looked like a small boomtown all its own. Dirt drag racing in Fonda or was it Fultonville with locals not wanting to pay peering over fences like a scene depicted by the false and sentimental Norman Rockwell. Amsterdam, its mills long gone. This is the sorry and sturdy heart of Richard Russo Country.

The Giants somehow tie it at 7 in the ninth.

Finally, at Canajoharie, I bailed out. It was all taking too long.

Back on the Thruway.

Back to Modern Life.

The Yankees announcer on trad radio said my boys lost 8-7, in 12.

The rain intermittent and slight enough for the windshield wipers to smear my vision.

Home by 10:30.

Irish Stepdancer Daughter (ISD) performs a flying druidic leap into my arms.

"Daddy!"

Caught.

Safe.

"Will you snuggle?"

"Sure."

There, there.

Techno-no-oh-no-oh-no

Technorati is beseeching me to do certain unmentionable things to gain their alliterative allegiance, fecund fealty, and unctuous unswerving loyalty.

Alas, will The Laughorist be granted status as one of the loyal subjects of Technorati?

Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Be Not Afraid

"Be Not Afraid." I recall a hymn with that title from my days in the seminary (stop your faux recoiling; it's not the least bit shocking for you to learn that upon examination of conscience [yours]). "Be Not Afraid" is not a bad motto (let's call it personal autodidactic mission statement) to live by. I've been told that "fear is the chief activator of my character defects," and I have found that to be empirically true.

Of course, fearlessness has its limits, just as fear (reasonable and prudent fear) has its uses.

Remember the 1993 movie "Fearless" by Peter Weir? The character Max survives a plane crash and his postcrash behavior is wildly fearless. (I haven't watched that movie in years. I should re-view it, if for no other reason than to check out lovely Isabella Rossellini and because of the fine acting from Jeff Bridges. And to know what I'm talking about.)

Yes, fear has its obvious utility in everyday life (e.g., having enough fear not to stand in front of a locomotive; or is that called prudence?). But I suspect fear gets in the way of authenticity. Fear prevents me from being fully alive. I admire people who exhibit the right blend of fearlessness and confidence. That's part of what I admired about Willie Mays's playing: its fearless disregard for the possibility of failure.

Is it a thin line between fearless and reckless? I suppose so.

I truly believe people sniff out fear (literally and figuratively) in social situations (e.g., the workplace) and respond accordingly, just like in the jungle.

Most of the time, in a quiet moment, I need to meditate on what it is I am afraid of. Losing what I have? Losing what I don't have? What is "having" anyway? (And does anyone "have' anything that isn't simply on loan?)

The fearful tightrope walker is more apt to trip, yes?

I didn't learn how to ride a bike until fifth or sixth grade (afraid of falling).

As I imagined myself as Willie Mays in my childhood outfield, I typically missed the fly ball (Charlie Brown-style) or missed the fastball at the plate, "stepping into the bucket" (afraid, in both cases). One day, in kindergarten or first grade, I wore my Giants uniform (expecting everyone to be in my game), and fearlessly and joyfully tossed a rubber ball against a wall, playing catch all by myself. Is that fearlessness taken to the sociopathic extreme?

In November 2005, around the time my brother Richard was dying, I attended a public preproposal meeting for work. Without getting into all the details now, at a public forum a stuffy and officious official publicly asked me to state, for the official record, my name and company name. I paused. The room of sixty or so professionals paused to listen. Then I solemnly declared, "His Lord and Eminence Pawlie Kokonuts of XYZ Brands." [Actual nominatives changed to protect the guilty.] Silence, followed by a smattering of nervous laughs. Why that outrageous announcement? I guess I felt, "You only live once, asshole. Lighten up." Fearless? Or foolish?

Maybe Mondays would go better if I had slightly more fearlessness. Or maybe I'd be recklessly fearless, and Mondays would be spent waiting for an unemployment check.

Which is not the worst thing on Earth.

I've done it before.

Be not afraid.

p.s. I'm afraid I've been meaning to give this unsolicited shout-out for a long time: Check out "These Are Me Thinks," a very clever and astute blog. Army rules!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Twilight Transcendence


Transcending the All-Star game itself last night was the
ceremony paying tribute to Willie Mays, "The Say Hey Kid." [check out the video link; or just picture via words, the old-fashioned way]

Why and how does this transport us beyond sports and enter the realms of myth? No one else played with such wild abandon, glee, and elan. Willie Mays channeled all the pride and fury of raw youth into the battle of the game. And he made it all look easy.

Although Jackie Robinson became a symbol of racial pride and progress, Willie Mays, for me, was baseball. My adoration of him transformed my own attitudes toward race as I grew up in an integrated public housing project.

So, tears formed in my eyes as I watched him being honored with unabashed sentiment at AT&T Park last night in San Francisco. Willie in centerfield, Willie teasing, Willie tossing balls from a pink Cadillac into the crowd.

Willie.

I could still see the flash of youth in his eyes, and even an echo of his great arm as he lobbed baseballs to adoring fans. Sure, it was a bit corny. But the ceremony also conveyed a reverent dignity. It worked.

What I'm having trouble articulating here is this: watching Willie Mays (for me) transcended wins or losses, success or failure. His performance transcended athletic prowess. Here was someone who exhibited sheer rapture and delight in what he was doing. Period. It was exhilarating and inspiring.

He was the best, and made it look easy. (He later admitted to showboating, sometimes making a catch look harder than it was.)

Thanks for the show, Willie.

What grace.

Is there sadness now in seeing the ravages of age? I suppose so.

But Willie was cool. He truly seemed to be having a great time.

As always.

Would that I brought the same verve to my daily tasks.

Maybe I do sometimes.

(Especially if I wear that T-shirt with number 24 on the back.)

Monday, July 09, 2007

Googlenopes

Being wrung out from another Monday that has me pondering self-inflicted retirement, I offer you someone else's humor:

A Googlenope is a term coined by Gene Weingarten of The Washington Post. It means you get no hits on Google when the words are enclosed by quotation marks. The Googlenopes linked right here are courtesy of The Style Invitational of The Washington Post. (Of course, now they may no longer qualify as Googlenopes.)

My personal favorite is:

"DIY Extreme Unction" submitted by Elden Carnahan of Laurel, Maryland.

(Elden and I have chatted on the phone but have never met, though we almost ran into one another at a Loserpalooza about 10 years ago. Fate had other plans.)

I submitted some examples, but none made the Googlenope grade, as judged by The Empress.

By popular demand (at least as demanded by Glamourpuss), here are my entries:

1. my hemorrhoids are like asteroids
2. Only my gynecologist knows for sure
3. Ich bin ein Style Invitational Loser [or Verlierer]
4. fight global hamming
5. birth-control device = children
6. 24/7 times 365 except for Armageddon
7. make sure all words are spelled corectly
8. my children are flying magpies
9. dance of the seven veils and one lonely rhino
10. media mucilage
11. name-recognition mucilage
12. the mucilage of one faux pas
13. faux pas mucilage
14. 1,212-step program
15. Harry Potter's knickers fetish
16. do I get paid in euros, dollars, or goat cheese?
17. your sister, she needs immigration help, yes?
18. I am John Edwards's hair and I want to be your president
19. It was a serial-comma killing punctuated by ejaculatory expletives
20. your kilt is rising, alas
21. Bonds retorted, kiss my asterisk
22. your cat is healthy snack
23. I have a 36-ounce Adirondack slugger

You decide if my schtuff merited ink.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

A Citizen in Good Standing


The Scene: A Wendy's Restaurant, Route 11, Upstate New York.

Problem 1: Although I rather like the spicy chicken sandwich, in the realm of fast-food crap, the fries are cold, soggy, and tasteless (with or without the special seasoning of my serial comma subsequent to the word soggy).

Problem 2: The chairs. The visitor to this dining experience encounters a mucilaginous clinginess not on the seat itself fortunately, but on the back and handles of the Not-Quite-Stickley sticky furniture. One shudders at the age and origin of such stickiness. My convo (Australian for conversation) about this does not enhance the epicurean feast.

Problem 3: Global what? The place exudes arctic temperatures.

Problem 4: A trip to the men's room offers one Pawlie Kokonuts a manly challenge indeed. The porcelain pretreatment device (PPD), or urinal, is positioned at a level that makes one wonder. It is, what, 1 meter high? Must Everyman stand on a stool to accomplish the deed? (No jokes about the architect and his own personal equipment or the equipment manipulations the Average Guy must manage.) Mr. Kokonuts gives thanks he is not a little person, or dwarf, and completes his task. (No comment on the need to dry one's hands either in one's armpits or on one's pants.) Upon his return to the dining experience, Pawlie Kokonuts regales his audience with a tale about the urinal standing challenge, evincing gales of laughter from his progeny (even showing her Exhibit A, sans Pretreatment Contributor, of course), to frowns and scowls from spouse.

For those counting, this is at least my second post involving a urinal (two different urinals, though).

(The photo is from NASA, presumably depicting the elimination option that astronauts employ.)

Friday, July 06, 2007

State of Strangeness

Steve and I went to a baseball game in Philadelphia (a.k.a. Philly) last weekend. Mets vs. Phillies. Maybe I'll manage to post some photos. Eventually. (Last year in July, Steve, Brian, Lisa, and I went to Shea Stadium and back in the same day, and sandwiched a double-header in between.)

Steve scored a great deal on a red Mustang rental. Sweet, I guess is the slang. how bizarre is that, a geezer like me trying to look cool in the Mustang (with my SF orange and black cap). A laughable Laughorist.

Anyway, a few oddities regarding the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (so does that mean there are really fewer than 50 states? Aren't Virginia and Massachusetts also Commonwealths?):

1. On the highways, one sees this sign: EMERGENCY PULL-OFF. Shucks, I don't think I've had any emergency pull-offs since high school (maybe fresh after scoring some porn) (well, upon closer scrutiny, it's not been that long ago).

2. We saw a traffic signal (traffic light) WITHIN a parking lot.

3. On two occasions, the toll machines didn't work, causing significant delays.

Otherwise, a splendid time was had by all (to paraphrase Sgt. Pepper in its 40th anniversary year).

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Don't Fence Me In


I admit it; I get a perverse pleasure in reading my local newspaper's weekly Police Blotter (that's the actual so-retro title). The Police Blotter is in the Neighbors section, appropriately enough, replete with its very own color-coded "Weekly crime map" with concentrations of crime dots like so much funfetti on a cupcake depicting those who merely got caught (for some reason, only burglaries and robberies).

To paraphrase Robert Frost, rather brutally and ironically: "Good neighbors make good fences." Of course, "fence" here relates to recipients or disseminators of stolen goods.

I think I am honest in declaring this habit started as an idle curiosity. Then it became more like an avid hobby. Then closer to a weekly obsession.

Before you rush to judgment about my alleged rush to judgment, allow me a modest attempt at self-justification.

Conjure up the concoction of shame, pity, or delight in spying a familiar name in these pages! Several years ago, I spotted the name of a guy who was about to drive his family (and, more important to me, my daughter) up to camp (that's our word for vacation home). He was charged with (when I worked at this same newspaper years ago, we were not allowed to say "arrested for" because of its tilt against innocence, but could say "charged with") aggravated unlawful use of a motor vehicle or driving with a suspended license, something like that. I only let my daughter go when I was assured that the charges did not involve alcohol-related offenses. To this day, I probably should've put the kibosh on letting my daughter get in a vehicle with this defendant. So, reading the Police Blotter yielded very practical results in such a case.

Twice, I have seen the names of people I knew who allegedly intended to purchase certain carnal pleasures that would be legal in certain civilized sovereign nations.

In all these instances, I think I successfully refrained from the smirk. My feelings were more like, "There but for the grace of God go I." You're rolling your eyes or shaking your head. Fair enough.

Naturally, there are other practical benefits to this exercise. I do want to know about my own neighborhood and its environs. Who wouldn't?

I do confess to scouting for the names of the prominent and famous, the high and the mighty. So far not much luck with that. Besides, my prejudice tells me the powerful can keep stuff out of the press, or keep from facing arrest in the first place. However, if they stain the Police Blotter, I'm dying to see how the news coverage would go. In this tabloid age, they're liable to face the other extreme, of disproportionate attention.

Needless to say, there are potentially tragic risks to this endeavor. Obviously, I cannot guarantee myself freedom from seeing the name of a loved one in fine print (a la Al Gore in today's news). Such is the price one pays for this penal voyeurism.

I am reminded of a question Barbara Walters once asked a panel of presidential candidates (1984, if I recall correctly). It was a daring question, one sure to be dodged. It went something like this, "We all know your strengths and assets; you'll tell us that. But what is your greatest weakness?" The only memorable (whether truthful or not) answer came from candidate Jesse Jackson, and it was along these lines: "The person in the wheelchair, we see that person's weakness. But for the rest of us, it's not so apparent. It's hidden, but still there. For me, it's the failure to articulate or communicate properly." (This may have been after his infamous reference to New York City as "Hymietown," so I don't want to gild the response too much.)

Nevertheless, the point is well taken, charged with a crime or not, we all have our faults, dear Brutus, whether in the stars, or not; whether in our genes, or not; whether in our, um, jeans, or somewhere else.

p.s. Speaking of blotters, does anyone even remotely know what an ink blotter is? We had them in elementary school, about 89 years ago. But, being left-handed, I found fountain pens to be troublesome. Maybe it was the start of my ADHD.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Flagged But Not Flagellated

A zero day. Got up; let the dog out; breakfasted; blogged; revised blog template (not sure even I like it; do you?); went back to bed; stayed in pajamas until a shower at 6, post meridiem.

Relished some reading, too (not the kind of relish that goes with that gross hot-dog-eating contest at Coney Island).

Finished a collection of novellas called "The Woman Lit By Fireflies" by Jim Harrison. The first piece features the eponymous Brown Dog, in what appears to be his debut literary appearance. Brown Dog is one of the most colorful characters in modern American literature, to this reader. I was introduced to Jim Harrison on the recommendation of Cort, a colleague who now calls me Brown Dog in passing at work. The collection's title piece is, well, luminous. A woman ditches her husband and spends a night alone in a cornfield. How's that for stalking one's demons?

Was I depressed today or simply indulging in some hard-earned rest? Probably more the latter. Or maybe not.

The temporarily empty nest gets refilled shortly, with youngest daughter returning (a few days early) after a stay on Block Island and with elder daughter in Berlin back in the, back in the, back in the US of A.

No great American novel (or story or poem or blog) written during this one week's worth of nest vacancy.

None yet.

A passing rumble of amateur fireworks.

My feathers are not ruffled by it, though I admit to a fluttering as the decibels increase.

Listened to the BBC on XM satellite radio a bit today. Good to hear that reporter Alan Johnston is freed from Gaza. Listened to some baseball on XM too. The Giants won today, aided by a grand slam by Fred Lewis, twice now in his rookie year (something never done in the team's San Francisco era). Alas, though, Mr. Lewis is no Willie Mays. He may not even be a Nate Schierholtz.

And now, the sweetest coda to the day and counterpoint to the sporadic neighborhood firecrackers: a lazy summer rain steadily sprinkling on the sidewalk (a pleasure exceeded only by the symphony of raindrops tapping on a car roof).

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Don't Sweat The Fast Stuff


According to a New York Times story by Louise Story, researchers at NBC claim commercials "work" even if you fast-forward through them. If true, that would mean advertising dollars could be reaped (careful on the spelling there) whether the ads are watched rapidly via digital video recorder (DVR), or in the more seemingly ordinary pace of so-called ordinary time (in itself, an intriguing theological term).

These new studies don't merely measure eyeball movement; they track biological reactions such as sweat (formally called "skin conductance"), heartbeat, abdomen or chest movement (to see if you hold your breath), erectile tissue, and wiggling in your seat. (Here's a pop quiz: one of those measurements in the preceding list was tossed in there just to see if you're awake. Which one? It's not hard. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.)


The buzzword for the viewer's response is "emotional engagement."
Ponder the implications of a few of these seismic quotations:

"Whether people watch or not is not a useful measure of anything." -- Joe Plummer, chief research officer for the Advertising Research Foundation

"People don't turn off their emotional responses while they're fast-forwarding."
-- Carl Marci, chief science officer of Innerscope Research



"You've created a message that in theory requires 15 seconds or 30 seconds to get that selling message across. On a high-speed DVR, 30 seconds gets pushed down to 1.5 seconds with no audio. It just wouldn't work."
-- Jason Maltby, president of MindShare North America

It was bound to happen. The world spins ever faster. "The centre cannot hold," to quote William Butler Yeats.

So much for sound bites instead of political or intellectual discourse; now we have vidbits.
So much for character development; now we have subliminal stimulants. So much for linear plot; now we have streaming slides, no sound, please. So much for instant messaging; now we have IMage-racing.

I've gone on too long. You have no time for forays into verbal foreplay or airplay. Research says I've lost you already. Research says, you are not moist with the sweat of excitation. Your screen has gone black, just as in the last episode of "The Sopranos."