Thursday, December 23, 2004

What a Difference a Century Makes

Well kids, it's hard to believe, but we're approaching the five-year point since we all said "ciao" to the roaring 1990s. It might be a good time to take a moment and review where we were back then, and where we are now.
To that end, I've written up a little comparison of then and now, looking at myself - how I was in 1999, and how things are now. I suppose things aren't as great as they used to be, but hey, there's always the future. For extra "wacky" effect, I've posed this list of comparisons in the third person, so "he" in the following is, well, me. Your ol' pal, Mikey. Oh and "Happy Christmas" as those British say.

1999: Was a 7-handicap golfer
2004: Killed 7 handicapped golfers

1999: Could not imagine 9/11
2004: Could not remember 9/11

1999: Occasionally forgot to take a lunch to work
2004: Occasionally forgets to take self to work

1999: Claimed familiarity with 80% of the words in Webster's Collegiate Dictionary
2004: Claims familiarity with 80 words in Webster's Collegiate Dictionary

1999: Mike complains about how badly his Mustang handles the roads in winter
2004: Mustang complains about how badly Mike handles the roads in winter

1999: Lived about one mile from a local Aldi
2004: Is about one year away from working at Aldi

1999: Won his first dart match against a difficult opponent
2004: Won his second dart match against a difficult opponent

1999: Had annoying habit of letting hair grow to the point of resembling a homeless Michael Landon
2004: No change.

1999: Wondered what might happen in the 21st century
2004: Wonders what happened in the 21st century

1999: Occasionally played pool for money
2004: Occasionally cleans pools for money

1999: Was a promising software engineer working for a failing company
2004: Is a failing software engineer working for a promising company

1999: Was in a band, playing area bars and clubs
2004: Is now banned from area bars and clubs

1999: Planned for New Year's Millennium celebration
2004: Still recovering from New Year's Millennium celebration

1999: Sold the condo that was purchased in 1995
2004: Sold unused condom that was purchased in 1995

1999: Complained about unreliable cellular provider
2004: Cellular provider complains about unreliable Mike

1999: Feared the dreaded "Y2K" bug
2004: Fears this dreaded "U-NOT-FUNNY" blog

Friday, December 10, 2004

Nitpicking the Language

I can get snobby about specific things at times, but one area I carry the most scrutiny is with language, grammar, and the ability to communicate effectively in print. Not a day goes by without a groan or two, upon seeing hideously bad grammar on a prominent sign, likely written by a person who's paid much more than myself. While money isn't everything, it certainly isn't commensurate with intelligence either. Similarly, I'm sure I am putting a huge target on my back with this type of blanket incrimination - and as I often am quite a dizzy idiot during the waking hours, I'm bound to commit myriad typos and mistakes in these writings as well, but then again, I don't get paid for it. I only get paid for massaging sponges and refereeing Amish rake fights.

- The esteemed village of Niles (a local town with 25 cops per capita) always posted pathetic, condescending signs by traffic signals, with catchy commands such as "shop locally". One of their better efforts involved a sign with "just say no" and the word "drugs" in one of those red circles with a diagonal line through it. So we see "just say no" and "no drugs". Ok, sure, just say no to "no drugs". Sounds good. Perhaps I'll fire up a couple joints before shopping locally.

- Redundancy is always fun to notice. Ah wasted words, quite a shame. The idiots on the elevator will say "I was up until 2 A.M. in the morning". Thanks for clarifying the morning part. Either say "2 A.M." or "2 in the morning". Not both. People still stay "tuna fish". How did this start? It's tuna. I'm sure you're not talking about having a sandwich made of Tuna Chrysler. The fish part, I figured that one out. Tonight I'm going to Boston Market and get me some of that yummy chicken bird.

- V.I.N. stands for "Vehicle Identification Number". P.I.N. stands for "Personal Identification Number". But it's always "VIN number" and "PIN number". Vehicle Identification Number Number. #@##@%^!@. See, with forethought, we could have instilled "VI number" and "PI number" into the language. Plus "PI Number" sounds so nice and tasty. Mmm Apple PI Number. I suppose the math guys might take issue with "PI number" since PI represents 3.1415 blah blah blah. Fine, stick with P.I.N. then. See if I care. Math guys stink. They can all get stuffed...we have no use for you any more, we've got computers. Here's a quiz, math guy - what's zero plus the number of girlfriends you've had? Haha! Yeah, thought so. Now get outta here and do some long division or something.

- Here's a pisser. Nobody catches this one. I'll see a catalog of instructional cassettes with titles like "Learn Spanish In 10 Minutes a Day". You can run 10 miles a day, walk 30 minutes a day, but you don't exercise in an hour a day. That's abysmal phrasing, and all these "educators" fall back on this hack title construct. Here, you overpaid bozos, I'll help. The point of the title "Learn Spanish..." is to show what little you need to "give" in order to learn the language - so we're looking for an object to the sentence that illustrates what "device" is necessary to learn Spanish. You can learn Spanish with 10 minutes per day, or learn Spanish with 10 minutes daily. To even include "in 10 minutes" is simply incorrect usage for the context. The "in" preposition illustrates finite bounds - as in you must finish the test in 60 minutes. Not 60 more minutes tomorrow and the next day, just one set of minutes here. I don't know if these goofballs are trying to fool us naive, unilingual neophytes into accidentally seeing "learn Spanish in 10 minutes" - Zoinks! I can learn 20 languages in a couple hours! Whoo hoo! Perhaps this lousy tactic has paid off in the past. I'm no fan of marketing and advertising, to be sure.

- The apostrophe thing. "It's" and "Its", especially. Grrrr, damn it drives me nuts, seeing this in books and other allegedly legitimate arenas. Only stick it in there when saying "it is"!!! Puhleeeeeze. Just remember the mnemonic "Apostrophe? It is handy". By hearing "it is" split apart, it should help.

- Separate. Not "separate". Mnemonic - "there's a rat in separate". I still use that one to this day, though it conjures up a weird image.

- The British. Face it everybody, we "thick" Americans have won the Battle of the Babel...with the internet and our mere prowess, the "American Style" English rules the roost. So stop sending us funny emails and web pages sprinkled with "bollocks", "realise", "lorry" and all those other localized (not localised) words that are about as fresh as your universities. Otherwise I will send you to a hospital (not "send you to hospital") and it won't feel like you're on vacation (not "on holiday"). We get on an elevator, not a friggin' lift. Those are trucks, not lorries. We use paper towels, not kitchen paper. I don't want to write you a "cheque", unless you want to go "fuque" yourself. Stop using old words. Just stop it. Join the team. Otherwise you'll seem just as stubborn and anachronistic as those weirdos that still speak Gaelic. Whoa boy, don't even get me started with that bunch.

- Circular logic. I enjoy times when someone intends to convey that somebody's opinion or lifestyle has turned the opposite direction. "I used to be liberal and now I'm a staunch conservative; I've done a complete 360." No, doofus, it's 180. Doing a "360" means you've ended up right back where you started. Sheesh.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

I Hate The Store

Wow, big shocker here; I'm sure you, esteemed reader of these lithographic gum-scratchers, would never have fathomed that this author lacks the patience for public places such as the grocery store. I should point out that it's not a function of arrogance, or snobby philosophies, that keep me cringing at the thought of standing shoulder to shoulder with Hal the partially bathed carnival accident. My apprehensions stem from years of patience, politeness, and courtesy in these environs, and having those gestures rewarded with anything a selfish jerk could throw at me. Let's head off to the store, shall we?

Since I only need a few things, I can use one of those handy, convenient mini baskets. They should be right here, next to the door...well of course not. I've actually never seen a stack of them by the door. I don't even know where people find these baskets. There's got to be a secret type of basket club, like the Freemasons. Hell, that might be a benefit of being a Freemason. Well, suppose I'll have to grab a regular old shopping cart here...

Fantastic. I love when I get the cart with one bad wheel, some sticky mystery kleenex, and 1200 old coupons in the bottom. Count me in, boss!

Let's jump right into the sweet-smelling of the produce section. Wait, dodge the fruit flies that have been living inside those disgusting tangelos. I'm not altogether sanguine that some of these perennially untouched fruits are edible. My bet is that they wait a few weeks, entomb it in some type of fruit varnish, and display these juiceless, colorful little Lenins for all to observe and fear. In a few millennia, a spelunker will unearth these treasures up in the Ural mountains and claim they're from Noah's ark. Hey, he/she/it might be right. Well, let me grab a handful of this delicious, fresh spinach so I can -- hey -- oh dandy, the carefully timed sprinkler ambush has swung into action once again, showering me in ice cold clam water, while rendering these morsels of vegetation just a bit more moldy than before. Well, that was refreshing.

Down to the meat section, oh this should be fun. Great, granny's right in front of the four remaining packages of ground beef. Soon as she moves along to the left, I can slither in and grab a pack...

- Granny goes left, I start to go right
- Granny goes right, so I swing left
- Back to the left for granny, I cut back, around, twisting my back, oy!
- Granny swings the cart around, gotta swing back out of the way
- Granny gets a forearm shiver to the glasses, falls into the cold meat display, and we all chuckle with the foreshadowing.

Down goes Granny! Down goes Granny!

Cool, got the meat - I'm thinking about sloppy joes tonight... fun on a bun. Bulemics love to use it over and over again. As I think about those yummy sandwiches, I pause for a few sloppy seconds. Moha! I made a funny. Sloppy seconds. Sew up my side! Oh, just kill me. I suppose I'll leave my cart here and walk the treacherous aisles of Montezuma. Though, hmmm, every time I leave my cart somewhere, it always gets moved around, since people always seem to want to grab merchandise that's perched immediately behind my precious YumMobile. Ah, here's an idea, I'll put the ol' basket by these squid eggs and canned seahorse liver. Oh no! 25 Japanese tourists! Oh the humanity! I apologize for the concentration camps! We thought you guys couldn't concentrate! Whoo. After that trampling, I can barely hang onto my tasty meat n' sloppy joe sauce. The fruits of a hard day's labors are always savored.

Now I'll zip over by the frozen foods section here and...JESUS CHRIST...why do they even bother with doors on these freezers? It can't be 35 degrees over here. Man, where are the walruses...oh, well there's a fat lady, close enough. Just remember, male walruses and caulk both like to work on a tight seal. Hey! He's on fire. I wish I were on fire, as it might melt some of the icicles off my face. Maybe I'll grab some of these Banquet frozen meals. Oy vea - 10 for 10 bucks? Great deal and all, but should I trust anything this cheap? I'm a bit scared now. I'd somehow feel a lot safer if it were overpriced - like maybe because the talented Banquet chefs took too much care.

Need to grab my personal staple, that zesty "sodee pop". The nectar of the clods. Hmmm, Fanta. Nah. Not sure about the Fresca there. A little burnt out on Nehi, Mr. Pibb, and Teem. Green River! Take one of those. Man, how about just plain Diet Pepsi...anywhere here? Not by the Tab, Like, Pepsi Free, Pepsi Light either. Not quite in the mood for the Canfield's Farmer Frank's Watermelon soda or whatever that is. Don't need the diet creme soda either, I'll let the grandmothers field those.

Well hell, maybe I'll stop by that fabulous deli and grab some freshly sliced corned beef. Mmmm, nothing like some of that on a nice slab of rye bread and nasty mustard. But wait, of course there's the New York Stock Exchange pit of traders standing in front of the counter. Of course they don't bother paying attention to the take-a-ticket concept any longer, so it's every fat mom for themselves. And the one who wants everything her own special way.... "I want that cheese sliced really thin. No that's too thin. That's too thick. No give me the Land O' Lakes American cheese instead. Too thin. Too thick. I only wanted half a pound." you want the worker to sign the cheese for you too, Blanche? Let the poor dumpy lady go home and do some exercises to work off that 500 gallon ass.

Time to check out. Ok, this register has the cart piled to the hilt. Next one. Cool, put my stuff on the belt.

"I'm CLOSED sir"

Thanks for the hint, Bitcheralla. Try flipping that "closed" sign up, kind of like the sign that I'm flipping up right now. Next one...99 year old man with 10 bags of kitty litter, arguing about the whippersnapper that charged him too much ("In my day this woulda cost me a plug nickel"). Next one over...too many people that can't speak English. Ok, there's always this new fangled self checkout thing. It's wide open. Wanna know why? Because it's god damn BRAIN SURGERY. I've worked in machine code, assembly level programming, have programmed mainframe computers, designed dozens of programs, and I can't even figure this thing out. Hell with it, I'll sit and listen to the kitty litter man's angry rants. Cool, he's shaking his fist now too.

Uh oh, back home, and now it's late, and I forgot to pick up some sleeping pills to knock me out for the remaining 3 hours of the night. Back to the lovely 24 hour fluorescent paradise I go! Hey, found the aisle right away, turning the corner, and....oh great. The floor cleaning guy. Why does every store have the same floor cleaning guy? 67 years old, Russian, angry, scary, evil, snarling, and certainly the reincarnation of any of those spooky villains from those abysmal Scooby Doo episodes. Well, I'll just ignore him and reach around to get the bottle...

"Bradlavosh eee no waztilovaomeewetfloor"
"Whatever, Ponch. Thanks for playing."

I think I'll start using Peapod...

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

I Hate Driving (Part One)

There is a healthy list of things that irritate me, most of which are sourced in the fantastic world of metropolitan transportation. Chicago's fast moving cars, buses, trains, and squeegee-riffic vagrants continue to mystify and amaze the author. In any given day's progression through our concrete canals, I'd estimate that I wish death and misery to at least a dozen buffoons who claim to have license for operating heavy machinery, despite the warning label stamped on the back of their hollow skulls. In the interest of presenting a type of living constitution for all motorists that I hope will be omitted from the Apocalypse's guest list, we have some participants/candidates for transportation's Firing Squad:

Pick A Lane:
Many dweebs love to center up on the dashed middle line of the road, thus claiming both lanes of a thoroughfare. Such baboons embrace a flavor of pavement megalomania, cower from curbophobia, or are just way too opaquely brainified to grasp the complexities of a traffic conduit.
Others, in suburban regions, had previously decided that by virtue of their impressive wealth and lengthy list of achievements, are too special for just one lane. But who's left then? Many others must ride up the middle of a two lane road with some reasonable incentive. I believe that since the lines in the road are so nicely dashed and painted in a bright color, that the psychotic behind the wheel must be exercising their fantasy of being PacMan. Hey, as long as they don't look back, their little vehicles are gobbling up those painted lines with impunity.

The Motorcade Effect:
Forget about having any type of view of the road ahead. Most of the time, when traffic is light, I'll still be stuck behind a buffoon's S.U.V. traveling at a hearty 15 miles per hour, while a hellish, 10000 horsepower pickup truck follows me with a safe distance of 11 inches. It's rather enjoyable to know that, at any given time, this majestic vehicular ballet can pile up into a mass of reinforced steel and whatever is left of me for comparison to dental records.
One might assume it's easy enough to slide over a lane, bail out of the mechanical sandwich, and speed away toward other hazardous situations. Not quite. Usually there's a bozo in the adjacent lane, rolling along at the same speed. If not, then up the road apiece, another slow-moving clown awaits, prepared to create another motorcade and another reason to pull out the pistol.

The Malachi* Crunch:
Fine, I had to put the famous "Happy Days" demolition derby team in here somewhere. While there are many types of crunches, a common one occurs when an idiot is poking the car forward, out of a driveway, ready to jump into traffic on a busy thoroughfare. At the same time, another idiot will be prepared to turn into the aforementioned driveway from the left side, and both cars are prepared to T-Bone each side of my car at the same time. It takes quite a bit of practice to adequately calibrate the requisite synchronization (especially without walkie talkies, as the Malachi brothers used). The adept crunchers prefer to execute this maneuver without looking, something I certainly envy, but would rather not be seeing it right in front of me. Unlike these knuckleheads, it just doesn't pay to look while driving.
*pronounced "Mull ah chee"

Old People:
I'll get into this much deeper at another time, but these folks are just all over the place. Plowing into banks, restaurants, houses, jeez... a carload of cornish game hens could steer a moving vehicle less dangerously than these old farts. I'd rather be on a highway full of drunks than octogenarians... at least the drunks have a fraction of their reaction time, and they don't use that "I hit the brake and the car accelerated" song and dance. Come on, Elmer, grab a three-wheeled bicycle, or buy one of those Rascals, and keep us out of harm's way. Terrorize the bike trails, the barber shop, the post office parking lot, or just run over other old people. But don't kill me because you still assume you have your wits intact. I know you've been driving for 92 years without an accident, and I'm sure the building you smashed simply jumped into the way, but you really have no place important to wander anyway, unless Albert the Alzheimer Sprite is really convincing you that a midnight drive into Lake Michigan is a healthy respite. Worse yet, we sometimes enjoy dealing with the feistier ones - those road-hardened old coots who don't take any "bunk" from us whipper-snappers, and love to shake their fists out the window when we crazy punks impede their swerves into other lanes. Our elders, insistent on their might and right to everything, seem to prefer driving those incredibly lengthy, clunky, cumbersome vehicles - the ones that a trained professional pilot couldn't even properly park. Oh, we're all dead meat from this bunch.

Retarded Traffic Ordinances:
I have to laugh at the stupidity that some towns employ when organizing their all important traffic regulations and road signs. First off, I'm certain that any time you see a speed limit sign with the words "Radar Patrolled", that road is guaranteed to be unpatrolled. I see these signs in the farther reaches of Chicago, where I'm certain it's a little too inconvenient for routine patrol, so they throw these signs up, with designs of fooling those crazy lead footed speeders into keeping cool. It reminds me of the era when the state police would park a state police car in a location that might be conducive to executing a speed trap. Theoretically, wild and crazy motorists would see the police car, assume there's an actual human inside, and slow down out of fear that the police car might burst into life and start a hot pursuit. This insulting attempt at traffic trickery lost its charm after only a couple years. It's pretty sad when they can't even fool the dumb people.
Moving right along, there are the ubiquitous "No Turn On Red" signs, seemingly propped on any occasion that a locality might find some scrap metal and a makeshift sign post. I can only see a few instances when this rule need be enforced, and implementing yet another low cost ticket generator isn't one of them. Pass-through communities, such as some of the smaller, neighboring suburbs of Chicago, have little else to generate revenue other than nitpicking motorists' every stop, start, and turn. An old lady could be getting pummeled to death by a fat guy's mammoth arm, but ten feet away, some kid will be cited because the bell on his bike was too loud. And forget about getting through these dumps without a seat belt - hell, they'll ticket you for not wearing a belt.

The Big Metal Asses:
Yes, as Jerry Seinfeld once put it, buses are the "big metal asses" of the road. Ok, fine, they do great things for the big wide world, like cut pollution, traffic, blah blah woof woof. But once cars switch to a clean fuel source, can't we exterminate these abysmal buses? They clog the traffic flow, stop every 100 feet, smell like a charred circus, and indirectly create approximately 60 million potentially dangerous situations. Drivers are forced to veer around these obese, irritating scourges of the road, and quite simply, buses do not belong on 95% of the standard, high volume two lane roads in urban areas. If you can find a way to build a special "bus tunnel" or even separate bus lane, you can have your rotten vehicular sloths. And what do these pieces of crap run on? It sure isn't diesel - I'm guessing a savory mixture of coal, magma, cyanide, and old Twizzlers. Whatever it is, I'm certainly more than happy to sit in traffic 45% longer while this loser box on wheels picks up an arthritic 340 year-old Russian woman on her way to death class. And once the old crone is aboard, can we get this stinkbox rolling again while Granny Stalin repeatedly drops her crumpled bus pass? If she doesn't pony up, just dump her out as soon as you pass the nearest bone yard.

Stay tuned for part two, coming soon, unless I fall victim to one of the above.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Mongerers and Emotional Predators

It's funny how people foster such immense gratification from the empowerment associated with having a juicy bit of gossip, and keeping a circle of ravenous subscribers at bay, begging like a puppy for a morsel of dirt. Holding a potentially destructive nugget of news carries the scepter of superiority for those who have little else to brandish. Weaknesses and zest for temporary empowerment, in the souls of the weak, historically outweigh the implicit trust and morally scrupulous aspects of maintaining confidence with private information or news. It's the intangible difference between having a bran muffin and having a fat sugar coated donut. Temptation versus discretion. Despite the notion that the majority of us carry these values with the best of intentions, it merely takes a moment of indiscretion or another person's mindless bellowing to create gossip's subsequent avalanche of confusion, anxiety, and abandonment of trust. A few truly bad apples refuse to embrace any doctrine of communicative restraint, and pathologically harbor no guilt for breaking confidences or compromising predetermined tenets of trust within contexts of close friendships and privileged information.

People who assume too often, and in doing so, tend to assume the worst, either are too lazy to investigate, or couch a philosophy of negativity, and need to project that dank stench of acrimony toward everyone else's perceptions. It's a huge powder keg when a presumptuous, pessimistic person casts their predetermined doubts into reality and suffocate others with their haphazard conclusions. Invariably the innocent victim must jump to his/her own defense, convince the doubter of their erroneous ways, and shadow‑box against a phantom of neuroses and skewed recriminations. A type of cycle builds, as the presumptuous Doubting Doogie ends up excluded from otherwise rational cliques, and upon realization of being isolated, fulfills his prophecies of pessimism that either people don't like him or people are embittered and difficult to associate with. In a quorum of one, a doubtful, bitter, irrational person is the majority voter, and once alone, the homespun conclusions build with impunity. Worse, that person is usually lactose intolerant. If so, enjoy it ‑ when else can you use a fresh stick of butter as a weapon of gastric suction?

I hate hearing and saying the word "friend" about as much as I hate hearing the word "feelings". It's such a throw away word, exploited far beyond comparison. I love when people rhetorically spout "what are friends for?" so I can volley my "who knows" right back into their stinky little tennis shorts. In my usually doubtful frame of mind, it's surprisingly difficult to pare all the people from my circle and decide who are the ones who legitimately have concern for my well‑being, enjoy my company with no ulterior motives, and strive to keep the ledger of favors and obligations reasonably balanced. Being neither an angel nor someone qualified to wipe the ass of an angel, I realize that the burden of sincere friendship does not need to fall outside of my own boundaries, but after dealing with enough parasites and jerks over time, those boundaries fade in places.
Where boundaries are lacking, interpersonal functionality takes over. It's easy to fire dank questions over the forest of vagueness and think "Why do I desire this person's company?" For me, most people just enjoy the silliness I can provide, much like hiring one of those foul smelling clowns to entertain at a birthday party. They perform a job, fill a role, and when finished, head back home to prepare for the evening's rituals of porn and self‑mutilation. I don't mind necessarily having a particular type of enticing feature, such as designated court jester or mood lifter. But when taking careful inventory of those that surround us, it's usually but a handful of kind souls that have legitimate interests and concerns for our well being. And further yet ‑ why should anyone have an overwhelming concern and zest for our happiness? Aren't we all about looking out for number one? Nobody should be ashamed about pursuing their own interests and potentially fostering selfish motives. We aren't groomed that way, and most of the sacrificial types are either in mental institutions, monasteries, or both. Those are the ones that chose to decline purchasing the extra body armor and risk traversing the streets with their meager vulnerable skin as sole insulation against parasites, thieves, and emotional time bombs.

While it's amusingly easy to fall into the wrong circles, and suddenly realize that one is immersed in negative or dangerous folks, it can be amusingly difficult to realize the hazardous environment and deal with the confrontational backlash of severing the ties with these entities.
Those that tap complacent individuals for ego fuel are always aware that the "victim" will avoid stirring the pot, and allow things to continue indefinitely. For such types, a lifetime of slow burn is better than a short period of hot flash ‑ deal with the selfish individual, rather than risk conflict and stress with confrontation and a standoff. Any time I see a person in any type of friendship capitalize on another person's vulnerabilities, it irritates me in realizing that this faux exploitation and gross imbalance is bound to have a ripple effect, and burden other people in the support system.
In a larger sense, it's obvious that imbalance is the most effective antagonist against precariously forged partnerships, pairings, and similar relationships. The aforementioned tendencies toward one's exploitation of another's inconsistencies is a direct consequence of preconceived imbalance ‑ and those who seek imbalances in planting the seed of "love" with another are the ones to avoid. To pull this prosaic tractor of a litany full circle, it's the seekers of people's foibles and blemishes who also disperse exaggerated tales, rumors, and inevitably harmful and libelous nuggets of observation. A harmful, gossip mongering individual will observe two people talking, and once processed through that person's feces‑laden microbrain, a newly embellished tale pops out of the rear like a hot batch of yesterday's corn. A day later, enough people will have heard that a person is being unfaithful to his girl, or similar tawdry endeavors are afoot. Nothing good can come out of a nefarious mind but an entanglement of allegations.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Advertising Rant #1

September 15, 2004

Yes, I know supplies are limited, unless you're selling sand, drops of water, or anything else that might outnumber the population of the globe.

Stop, just stop, creating commercials portraying the happily married couple, comprised of the thin, pretty, responsible wife, and the fat, unshaven, childish husband. Fat, unshaven, childish husbands belong with fat, unshaven, childish wives. That's how it works, and that's how it should be. Since media feces apparently imitates life, it disturbs me to know that these commercials are created by the fat, unshaven, childish executives of the world. Yeah boys, don't forget to gas up the car on the way home tonight, before sitting down to that delicious margarine supper.

Who decided on Joan Cusack for US Cellular's spokesperson? She's had way too many whacks to the head and certainly can't speak without pulling a neck muscle. And now, Richard Pryor for Sprint! Stephen Hawking for Nike! And now, Muhammed Ali will show us all why the only brand he trusts is Ginsu! Oh oh, um, lil' help? Someone call Chef of the Future. Can it core "a" apple? Jeez, we've gone from Smith Barney's John Houseman campaigns to Joe Walsh slobbering as he sells us fencing.

I'm reasonably happy that the idiot who does the voiceovers for movie commercials is now catching parody-flak for starting every commercial with "In a world..." I know it isn't his fault, but the poor guy has to be the voice of the stupidist "creative minds" in the country? I usually steer clear of poking fun at Hollywood in general, they're too pathetic to merit any real criticism anymore. Seeing them produce bad movies is like watching a four-year-old run off with plans to build a nuclear submarine using his soon-to-be-swallowed lego pieces.
And the next time someone uses James Brown's "I Feel Good" or Aretha Franklin's "Respect" as a bed for another movie commercial, make no mistakes - I will find the 46 year-old bonehead responsible for this decision and literally have him/her sucked through a military jet's turbines. Twice. Sing it Aretha : "T - U - R- B - I - N - E... what that engine did to me..."

It's somewhat unsettling to still hear jingles on the radio. Isn't this from a bygone era?

I laugh when I hear the ghetto, hip hop approach that McDonald's uses in many of their campaigns. Are we pandering to our best customers? How long until we change our name to "MackDonalds"?

It's always funny when a prescription drug commercial comes on. They spin together a majestic, convincing pitch, then completely negate it with 10 seconds of mentioning the possible side effects. And for that matter, I'm seeing a lot of young males in these Viagra clone commercials. They never seem fat, unshaven or childish. Where's the justice?

I'm fairly sick of one of those "Back to School" commercials from Dell, in which they show a person's Dell being dropped, dripped on, or assaulted by various "wild" activities in a dorm. I can't sufficiently express how irritating this commercial became. First, at a party, this dreadlocked ignoramous is apparently trying to attract (presumably) a girl by dancing and shaking his stupid hips, and in doing so, bangs into a table to the point where a Dell laptop falls right to the floor. I would have, at very least, rammed that idiots head through many walls. Then some asian-american boy, meticulously stamped from the overused boilerplate of all second generation asian-american college kids, is shown swinging at a golf ball, which smacks into a person's computer. "Fore" he sheepishly announces. Funny stuff. Again, if that happened to me, that painfully typical punk college kid would've received a painfully typical 8 iron to his nether regions. Owwwww! Ope - sorry, I mean uh...fore.

Our local grocer, Jewel, always makes deplorable attempts to attach current events to their routine sales events.
"Arbor Day means ice cold Canfields creme soda. Only 79 cents for a 2 liter bottle. Quell those election day hunger pangs with Farmstand radishes, only 19 cents a pound. Kick off that Super Bowl gathering with Corn King bacon, only 79 cents a package!"
Then for New Year's Day sales, they always peddle idiotic, G rated stuff like deli-sliced corned beef or Tyson whole fryers. They should pitch it this way:
"Clean up your pools of puke with Bounty paper towels, 2 for 99 cents. Ease your New Years tensions with EPT pregnancy tests, only $16.99 for a limited time."

Commercials for diapers, tampons, toilet paper, and the like are always funny. They have to use persuasive, descriptive rhetoric without cutting to the chase. Some day they'll just cut to the chase... "When it's a hot muddy mess, Charmin toilet paper is best!"
Instead we suffer with concepts of softness, freshness, leak prevention. C'mon boys, prove it - get some demonstrations going, with real people and nasty graphic examples. I wanna see these products really work.

Local company owners: stop, just stop, appearing in your own commercials, unless it's for less than 5 seconds. I can't believe people still do it, but yep - some vertical cadaver with his hands in his pocket, explaining his crazy sale, where he's out of his mind and all his cars must go. He'll stand there, not moving a muscle, with all the affect of Jack Webb, talking about how wild and nutty things are going to get. Drop a hundred extra bucks and pay some starving young actor to do something more appropriate.

No more commercials for athlete's foot, or itching, or rashes. Just stop, I eat in front of the TV, ok?

Puppies and little kitty cats are cute enough, so leave things as is. Can advertisers do that? No, they have to do that creepy computerized mouth animation thing, so it looks like they're really talking. It's outright haunting and certainly not a good thing for anybody out there sitting through an acid trip. When are the plants going to start talking too? Frank the Fern says "Me want Jobe's plant spikes."

There's so much painful overacting in commercials for restaurants. It's the same routine - person takes a bite, tastes the festival of flavors, then apparently climaxes from this culinary happy ending. C'mon, is there someone under the table when they film these bits? I'd have to think so...

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Query for the UnStraight Guy

September 9, 2004

Women can never be classified with a particular aphorism, such as the faded sugar/spice/everything nice billboard that was painted on the side of tradition's brick facade back in the 19th century. A wondrous lot, the vast majority have a gentle, incisive, but caring quality that helps quell our sociological pangs of dissonance and conflict. I therefore tip my mysteriously stained cap to the fairer sex, and how they bring such intangible elements of humanity and softness to the harsh confines of maledom. Wow, I just read this after about an hour had passed. That's just a crippling, pathetic, disgusting pile of steaming poop if I ever saw it. Not that it's untrue,

Ok, back to the program. First of all, the lesbians need to turn it down just a little bit. Your machismo, as a faction, is getting so embarrassingly brackish, it's making members of all orientations and genders roll their eyes and chortle. This whole "ay mee-ann I knows what I'm doin" bit might be cute for overemphasizing your fiendish rebellion against androgens, but in a normal periwinkle-collared culture, it's self parody. I'm not saying that all of the Red Lobster Mobsters can be accused of this level of thespian antics, but the fraction that play the macho-man game are bound to clear a room.
While on the subject of perceptions, effrontery, overtures and the like, let's not forget the confused and uncomfortably over liberated ego that often accompanies the attractive lesbians. Though not a daily routine, I will encounter a cute one, and being one who carries myself with dignity and respect when talking with a relative stranger, I don't invite or invoke any mental sparring. Invariably, however, she'll carry on with a preemptively hostile attitude toward me as she adjusts her "Men are Pigs" bra strap. Miss Anita Van Dyke is so elated and inflated from her liberation from evil men (since they're ALL the same) that any interaction is doomed to be slanted and under a cloud of prejudice. It's irritating at best to be judged that I'm entertaining lurid thoughts about her, and it's equally that I have to take on the recriminatory rhetoric against males, while all I'm trying to do is be social. Fine, congratulations, you have an alternative lifestyle. I drink warm soda, so I must be living one too. Lookout for me and my warm soda parade!

We're Carbonated! Frustrated! Castigated!
Keep YOUR ice cubes out of MY soda.
Refrigerate Yourself!

Conversely, it's hard to defend why I might feel uncomfortable at a gay bar, or knowing I'm being looked at in "that" way. Gay men advertise their "alternativeness" in varying degrees and to disparate depths. On a personality level, I completely don't get along with the incredibly flamey ones; cross those off the list right away. I'm sure they'll be quite upset about their excommunication from the Church of Mikey; I'm such a carnival. Regardless, that's merely a personality clash, rather than bias or acrimonious aversion. Yes, believe it or not, I've known a few, and it always was exhausting trying to keep pace with the bouncy pink Slinky flittering about and acting like every day is New Year's Eve. Worse yet, while I appreciate razor sharp wit or precise criticism, it is equally tiring keeping one's guard up, wondering when the insult artillery will begin prancing toward my personal walls of Jericho. Waitaminute, as I recall, they took down the walls of Jericho by blowing horns. Bad analogy. Ok, I can't use "analogy", the first part of that word...hmmm...ok I better sneak out the back door on this one. Wait, back door! There I go again.

I'm amused how the labeling of Bravo as the "Gay Channel" has finally taken shape. I'd been muttering about that trend for a long time. Check out one of its evening's lineups and see for yourself. If it isn't an overtly gay show, it is very entertaining material for those who like decorating with pastels and making French stuff.

The point of all this, with the illustration of the overly hostile lesbians, or the painfully queeny gay guys, is that it's a bit of a left turn from the normal way everyone else acts in mixed social situations. If I were to prance into a butcher shop wearing a pink fluffy hat, singing "Hello Frisco!" like Nathan Lane, the odds are reasonably good that others will take notice and spin with bemusement. Amazingly, wearing bright, festive colors, carrying on like a one "man" show, our little festive performer takes exception to being treated "differently"? You are different, you attention starved butterscotch buffoon.
Do you think it's normal to stand in line at a muffler shop, wearing a pink and yellow pirate outfit? Oh gee, and don't forget to try that pathetic "you can put me on the rack anytime, mister mechanic" thing. That always kills with the grease monkeys.
We're all entitled to equal treatment under the law, (ho ho ha ha) and nobody wants harassment or harm to fall upon any class or segment of the population just for their cultural or sociological makeup (get it? makeup? anyway). But expect to be treated differently if looking, acting, or living differently. Taking notice of an unusual person is one of the oldest instincts in the human condition, as it is sourced in keeping watch for outcasts and potential threats from foreign tribes. Pack animals will notice any discontinuity in the group, instinctively, as an indication of impending harm or potential threats from the outskirts. Obviously, we can fast forward all the way up to the modern era, where culturally cohesive neighborhoods and areas provide a basic element of belonging and security within the "pack" of, say, ethnically similar people. Most humans prefer to live amongst those who resemble themselves. Why, then, must "diversity" be thrust upon us? Can't it be an option? Sounds like the theme for an upcoming article...

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The TwentySomething Boys

August 31, 2004

Ever an armchair anthopologist, my senses are never closed off from observations regarding generations, demographics, and the like. Though barely more than an artificial hobby, it does afford me the opportunity, at times, to step back after a long day of grief and self-abuse to analyze the mounds of information I might've gathered. Gathering, in this sense, is a bit of a misnomer; let's assume it's a combination of eavesdropping, staring, and sarcastic conversation. I wish I could extinguish this habit, as the joy lasts about as long as picnic potato salad.
It's a natural tendency to organize things. As such, we love to organize ourselves - into races, colors, creeds (how many people actually know a person's "creed"...). People like to form groups in their heads, most often groups that exclude themselves. "Those rich folk". "Those lousy Europeans". It's even more irritating to group everyone by status. Wealthy people are despised for the assumption that they're arrogant and elitist; poor people are outcasts for their perceived lack of values and education.

As an uninspired daily worker bee, I'm forced to share an 11 floor hive with a predictable collection of peculiar drones, all of whom work in a huge company that commands the top 3 floors. The company, which is one of the successful dot com enterprises, has far too many people stuffed into that office space, apparently swelters in high turnover, and embraces the typical corporate flatness that we'd all hoped to forget. There are many more irksome aspects to this McCorporation (don't take that literally); the males that work there. I'd love to know where they keep the jagged, overused cookie cutter that cranks out these office boys, because I'm starting to realize that despite our supposed independent society, everybody from this class of yuppie-in-training is the same damn person. Since I have to share an elevator with these buffoons at least 5 times a day, I've learned all I need to know about this yuppie trainee clone. Here are the common traits of the male yuppie-in-training:

- Between the age of 24 and 28.
- Very short spiked hair, or medium-short dark hair with the tiresome sideburns
- Wearing a light blue dress shirt
- Attempt to dredge up painful small talk when slithering up to the bevy of office cuties
- Must walk with their hands in their pockets
- Have an annoying up and down bobbing effect as they slowly walk
- Use credit cards to pay for the $5 lunch
- Have a "smoke" every 30 minutes, unless they're tired from lack of sleep, then it's every 15 minutes
- Always a "real zombie" in the morning
- Always slept less than 5 hours last night, due to one or more of the following:
1. Had a few beers
2. Friend's birthday (incl. reason #1)
3. Saw a cool movie on cable
4. Played too much Playstation/XBox
5. Significant other (incl. reason #1)
6. Saw some band/artist/play/ex-girlfriend
7. Daily trip to Starbucks was too late
8. Segway breakdown
9. Had to wash blue dress shirts
10. Thai restaurant was too busy
11. Train that runs adjacent to the loft was too noisy
12. Treadmill-addicted neighbor that runs adjacent to the loft was too noisy
13. Had the runs
14. "I had this stuff called Ouzo? Djya ever have this stuff man? Wow."
15. Couldn't remove Ouzo stain from blue dress shirt
16. Vomiting friend
17. Vomiting on friend
18. Spent an hour trying to find parking (Cubs night games only)

I can't fault these metropolitan fellows from aspiring for corporate relevance, as they are gainfully employed, not rude (i.e. they're American born), and contributing some type of product to our economy. Unfortunately, their post-collegiate lifestyle doesn't have much variety, as if college taught them how to spend their evenings and survive on lack of sleep. Since it's still a learning phase for how to absorb the real world and daily grind, their vague grasp of independence belies their tendencies to blend in with their contemporaries. One might conclude that I have some anti-establishment slant; this may be true in a sense, but it's the painfully predictable mannerisms, shallow conversation, and unified appearance that keeps me mildly frightened and consistently irritated.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

On Loss, Humanity and the Meaning of Life

August 24, 2004

There are so many nefarious variables and factors in the modern world, that, due to the sheer quantity of temptations and dangers, it's rare to see a long, gratifying marriage run a long course, or to see a close friendship carry on without significant bumps in the road. To impinge on quasi-biblical thought, evil deeds can ruin a good thing. Purity is the exception, and like a gosling in the harsh forest, its chances for survival are tiny.
On that note, I once decided to take a whack at the whole "meaning of life" thing. Usually the correct answer is "there is none" but I had to take a step back on it and venture toward my predictably unpredictable, spite-fueled interpretation of all things overwhelming. Let's roll...

Life's meaning is embedded in the physics from which it came. It is intended to be an elaborate microcosm of the universe's journey. Like the universe itself, life's "meaning" is to ultimately conform to the only pure and original precept from nature - the circle - and complete a cycle, as the line of a circle might. This cycle, for life itself and its mother universe, is to proceed from its origin of a single, perfect, static point, almost microscopic in size, explode into vast, chaotic subsets, and finally, somehow, return itself to a perfect, solid endpoint - as it began. Clearly the universe is more of an orchestra than overt chaos, and some argue the same for human interaction (the "everything has a meaning" theory). But as life itself, with it's birth, expansion, chaos, and ultimate demise, so closely emulates the big bang cycle of the universe, we stand to learn great things from the progression of astronomy, cosmology, and all the collisions, formations, explosions, and wonders therein.

Some find it bizarre that there is serious consideration for the existence of similar life in other galaxies and solar systems. While religious pundits claim that this position somehow poops in the sovereign oatmeal of religious and spiritual dogma, I've yet to see an adequate explanation as to why our singularity as a race is a requirement to theological conformity. Why couldn't multiple earths and races have one god? It's silly, selfish, egocentric, and very much a sepia toned replay of the persecution of Copernicus as he innocently noticed that the solar system and sun doesn't actually revolve around our muddy little planet. The universe is so unimaginably large, with so many galaxies, it's simply a mathematical likelihood that something might have spawned - or is still spawning - in a theater not near you. Get over it, you closed minded, Oswald-lone-gunman idiots. You're the same donut chomping bunch who said the internet was a fad. Thanks, and keep your two brain cells in your can of Skoal. Anyway, few can draw the comparison between our refusal to acknowledge other worlds, and Pre-Columbus leaders, who refused to acknowledge that anything might lie beyond that big ocean. All things considered, we're not all that advanced, when compared to the 4+ billion years that the cosmos have danced. Some race just might have beat us to the Darwinian punch here. It's probability, Otis. Have another batch of "chaw" buddy.

It might make sense that there is a controlling influence of the progression of all things, and even "control" in that context might be a misnomer. Something obviously started this whole universe/existence fiasco, be it "God" or a guy using a cell phone while pumping gas. Despite the best of intentions, comets crash into planets and destroy them, and people murder other people. The wondrous portraits of sorrow and destruction are painted by the disparate primary colors of chaos, and less frequently those portraits feature a perfectly eye-catching, pastel colored brush stroke of a delicately composed flower. The artistic elements of nature might be merely remnants of a lost era, when earth was less tainted by the rippled oil slick of humanity's confused tendency to bind with chaos, rather than dwell within the instinctive comfort zone of nature and sustenance, like our oldest ancestors. When people lose a loved one, they exclaim "why?" with rhetorical anguish. Good people are taken from us amongst the bad ones - and finding an answer to why this fate can be so arbitrary is tough and often without reward.

For those that favor the philosophical side of things, losing something intangible carries an effect directly proportional to that person's own personal completeness. Many of us, as emotional products of our consistently flawed venues of nurture, tend to have festering gaps in our personal lives, conveniently filled by those important people, pets, plants, and activities. Unfortunately those implements that complete our inner puzzles have the very same flaws of inconsistency and unreliability that burden our own psychological paths.
Losing someone important to our own inner completion is a gut wrenching battle, and no soldier can adequately contribute security, ammunition, or moral support in any palpable way. Quelling the aches and inner confusion of personal loss can only be achieved with the personal sacrifice of realizing that there are other avenues to explore - and that fear must not imprison this innate resolve. When losing a commodity of our own personal security or completeness, the first instinct is to shed tears out of fear for the future. In all scenarios, we're prone to fear the future even in the most stable and confident frames of mind - take any aspect of security away, such as losing a significant other or friend, and that component of security is ripped unceremoniously from the heart, and the mind scrambles to sketch an image of how the world will appear without this critical puzzle piece. Uncertainty is an unrelenting poison. It creates unhealthful stress, robs us of peace and sleep, and looms like a predator over our overall survival instinct. Questioning our own safety, abilities, or source of a meal and home, can lead us all to shiver.

One of the greatest injustices in the world is the imposition of unwarranted loneliness. Isolating a good person from the support systems and equitable devices of emotional growth can be considered a crime against humanity in some circles. There's simply nothing worse than having nobody in your dugout when the ninth inning comes around. Since most people are notoriously flawed, selfish, toxic, and impetuous, the human course has easily been characterized as a thankless struggle ever since mankind's first iniquity (choose thy religious tale for deriving the source). Certainly if we were all perfect and of no threat to others, an existence without a comrade might be easily achieved - unfortunately fighting the ills of human nature needs to be a team sport, and losing a teammate can create vicious pangs of invulnerability. Defeating the formless antagonist of uncertainty can be almost impossible without the aid of allies - and those are the ones we truly "need". Those dismissible religions that preach their "everybody love everybody else" isn't just airport terminal fodder; it's oddly practical for personal survival against those who, without allies, had to succumb to the impurities of chaos and its destructive wake. Though the plague is spreading, the best preventative medicine is in maintaining and fostering our personal circle of human support systems.

Bear in mind that I qualified things by saying how unjust it might be to isolate a good person from good support systems and caring people. Our penal system will put a horrible prisoner into solitary confinement, and few of us bat an eye - because we don't want the bad apples anyway. Judgmental grey areas develop, however, when good people are spoiled by not the bad apples of humanity, but the slightly not-so-fresh apples. This is where evaluation loses its objectivity, and thus becomes difficult to determine if one person is bad for another, and vice versa. While we might advise a close friend as to whether or not another person is good for someone, it isn't necessarily in our jurisdiction. We're not so perfect ourselves, so who are we to judge? But we care, sometimes, about a persons well-being, and that incites the need to give opinions and convince someone important to achieve the same interpersonal happiness that we seek. We have many enemies hurled toward us by chaos - the asteroid flying by, the thief eyeing your back, the pathogens scrambling around our homes. To defend the old fort, we need our personal armies to be large and unified. We should take advice from other pack animals, as many of them herd themselves into a tight group when natural enemies threaten. Strength in numbers! What might be the moral of this adventure? Perhaps it's that we should do everything we can to dissuade conflict with our friends - keep them close and concede if necessary. In difficult times, you'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Caverns have Cavemen ‑ Do Taverns have Tavemen?

August 18, 2004

The hidden world of the bar culture is hardly simple to summarize. With varieties of themes, clientele and products, these little pockets of sidespun subculture pop out of the ground in myriad flavors. Most of us never taste 98% of these flavors, and in all likelihood, they'd taste like crap anyway. Opening a tavern for only fat gay guys named Earl? Good luck, Earl. In the 70s, they used to call that a den.

Obviously, as bars reflect our sociological tendencies, most drinking establishments are geared toward a specific clique, class, race, etc. That's fine and dandy - we like to congregate with people of our own ilk. What most fail to realize is that the people who congregate there too often are inherently not the normal ilk, but more of the normal alk, as in alk-ee's. No real point to that, other than wanting do somehow fart out a play on words. Plus it's extra typing. I'm like that "Loves To Type" lady from the Guinness Book of World Records. Hopefully I'll never end up as Robert Earl Hughes or one of those fat motorcycle twins. Digress alert.

It's easy to rationalize the tavern world as the jovial adult's playground, which is just a nice way of collectively labelling all patrons as those who never learned how to grow up. While it's certainly a wonderful venue for co-workers to meet after a long day, or a group of friends to rendezvous and share a few laughs. But what's the scoop on those people that just show up, on a regular basis, with no agenda, nobody to meet up with, but just sit there and stare at a television with the sound turned off? Isn't this the same as being a kid, being forced to go to grandma's house on Sunday nights for dinner, knowing there's absolutely nothing to do except wait until it's time to leave? Can't these people just buy twelve pack and get stewed at home, sparing us socially superior humans the stench of their unwashed sweatpants? While society has its upper crust, this is clearly just plain crust. And none of these globs are going to be appearing on the cover of GQ anytime soon - and I can assure you that they've all been through at least 52 car washes, and their faded tops can use more than a few treatments of Nu Vinyl.

The glossless taverns within Chicago's city limits are very much a distinct feature of this blue collar town. Little taverns, with their dusty, outdated "Old Style" sign out front, usually have origins from the 1950s and 1960s, in the day that many would regularly congregate, a la Archie Bunker's Place, to watch each and every baseball or basketball game on the nice fancy color television. Generally these patrons were married men of advanced age, who had lost any interest to sit at home and listen to the daily domestic grievances. For much of the city's working class, daily existence had been reduced to nothing more than a beer and a television set. It merely offered the simplicity and consistency that other aspects of domestic bliss couldn't offer.

Conversely, there are plenty of high dollar "hot spots" around the higher income districts. These appeal to the financially comfortable, younger crowd, who may drink as much or more than any lower income alcoholic, but do it in the company of friends, escorts, and workmates. It may be daily, it may only be a weekend affair. They look for lusty encounters with similarly liberated patrons, and perhaps can boast of the conquest at a later date. These well dressed social butterflies know they are hot stuff, prance around with a peacock's flair, and sadly their shallow routines usually pay off. Most of the time, these swinging studs and dolls have some murky ulterior motive, and when enough of these skewed motives congregate, the resulting stories are invariably bizarre and complicated. It's funny how the consequences of their metropolitan lifestyle bring on more complexities than their typically stressful, skyscraper workday. Too boot, these moderately wealthy "clubbers" seem to conclude that they are invulnerable and above the law. It doesn't take very long before they realize that their invulnerable bodies are frail or bloated from their nightly excesses, and they are permanently taking cabs around town because of their multiple drunken driving offenses.

It's always tricky to slice up the statistics of how often people go out, how much they spend, etc. Some go to bars, some go to work out, others may have clubs and nice shiny happy charity organizations. Doesn't it seem that only in the last several decades, a flood of social gathering places propagated themselves throughout all urban regiions? Why? Declining marriages and increasing divorces. Once the divorce rate climbed into the 50+% range, all of these separated couples had to look elsewhere for occupying their free time and hollowed part of their domestic existence. The young people who matured into the 1980s where very cynical of the institution of marriage, and didn't even want to take the risk. Marriage, in trendy urban regions, was an outright failure, and the new generations had no reason to submit themselves through this doomed ritual. If nothing else, they were content to stay single as long as possible, and either marry or die around 35. Go ahead, insert a joke there about the little "marry or die" phrase. Hey, that was a good one, bub. Keep up the good work and I'll get busy stitching up my side here. Anyway, with more single people around, there will always be a large component of them who refuse to stay home, and need their daily dosage of social interaction. Many turned to the internet chat room craze of the day, and some found it too inhuman to be sufficient. Too inhuman?! But AOL offers such adorable little emoticons like the smiley face and the sad face. Awwww. The internet's commercialization kept a lot of people home - but somehow the ongoing prevalence of social gathering places held its ground.

It's hardly fair that adults be expected to grow up, in the sense they must not have their toys and games as they did in their adolescence. The antiquated painting of mom and dad sitting in the living room, reading the paper until bedtime is painfully staid and Amish. Then for real excitement, mom and dad might have friends over, to sit in a circle and talk about what they had read in the paper. There's no shame in feeling like a kid at any age; but somehow earlier generations insisted that this were an irresponsible attitude. In these days, more and more of the adults are embracing their inner childishness. The preferred playground of a bar's fun, games, and ribaldry, always present themselves as the adult "candy store" for the kid with a pocket full of nickels. The difference is that kids who spend too much time in the candy store might fatten up, the older kids that spend too much time in the tavern simply wither away.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Relationship Injustice Part Two

As one might have likely inferred from the previous article, I tend to harbor a sensitivity for watching a nice, sweet, caring person allow a "significant other" to take advantage of their increasingly rare facets. It has always puzzled me how such gross imbalances manifest themselves, despite the bland, colorless "opposites attract" tenet.

Be it human nature, self destructiveness, or anti-Darwinian destructiveness, many couples seem to form when a grossly dominant person latches onto a sweet, caring, passive one. While someday I might hope to explore how these personality types are forged, for now, it's safe to assume that personality differences between couples may generally differ greatly. Many pundits, all of whom are either dead or penniless, have said that we seek a partner which may fill the voids of our own makeup. If one is passive, one might seek a dominant individual, and vice versa. I sorely hope that this human trait be quickly removed from our human nature. Should, by that resolution, a sweet, caring, passive woman be indefinitely bound to a dominant, self-centered man for the sake of, ironically speaking, fulfillment? If this natural drive for "opposites attract" is to be the pro forma means for finding a lifelong partner, then may we all regress back to the cavepeople style of smash n' grab for finding a mate, as this proves no more rewarding.

Though I think the statistics are changing, I've seen more women play the passive role in relationships than men. A dominant man in a relationship seems far more abusive than the situations in which the woman dominates. Since, by social grooming or regressive parenting, it seems that the dominant men tend to be more abusive, egocentric, and heartless than dominant women, I invariably see more women than men in tears as a result of situational emotional claustrophobia. Mind you, I perceive no differences in the inner strengths, intelligence, and resolve between both genders - but socially speaking, I think we're still a century away from the era which a female's upbringing and parenting might match that of a male's. In other words, the passive roles of women in prior centuries still loom in recent parenting models, and for that reason, the pain pendulum seems to frequent the woman's domain more often than the man's.

I, as a relatively middle-of-the-spectrum man, am prone to admire the women who take charge and refuse any passive role in their social interactions and romantic endevours. Consequently, those women are prone to gravitate toward me, and while I savor the flavors of their strong will, I know I'm not attracted to women who embrace that type of personality. And that forms the great bail-out thesis : Sometimes, people just want to spend their lives with people who are exactly llke themselves. It's rather infrequent, so it seems, these days, but makes perfect sense in the sociological context, and shines like a fresh orchid when recognized by those who suffer with the absence of psychological inequality. We seek equality and similarities in our occasional quests to match up people whom we judge to be "compatible". "Oh they both love the opera" we might say. Well, I'm inclined to say that common interests, no common interests, or perfect matching has little to do with each person's prefences toward a mate, or what they seek in terms of fulfillment and altruism. We can't rate human bonding in such external terms, and I certainly can't see computerized dating services as faring any better. Sure, there will be success stories, but everyone hits a winning lottery ticket every once in a while. So my pointless advice of the day - go with thy heart - never let a stat, or similar arbitrary measure, decide who is ideal for your partner in your one and only potentially colorless life.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Relationship Injustice Part One

Invariably I'm engulfed in drama and emotional turbulence due to a guy treating his girlfriend unfairly, or vice versa. I, on behalf of the nihilistic, disenfranchised, fatalistic therapists of the leftover philosophists, please keep your ashes of any unbalanced relationship to a slow burn, lest you expose their embers to an overloaded, psychologically imbalanced fellow such as myself. Especially for the girls out there - guys are not good people for sifting through a woman's tormented afterbirth of historic emotional malaise. Men are looking at your physical features, fiendishly pondering the method in which they might position their "Bikini Inspector" hat most efficiently for ideal induction of infidelity and physical reward. As an acute minority of males who actually care about girls (as well as some guys and most rakes) and their well-being, it's easy for a cumulative effect of reliance to build upon the perceived stability of my restraint from mysogonistic gestures.

As often stated, it's hideously thankless to be in the infamous "friend zone", as a man, with a girl who's involved in a serious relationship. All that will result is lots of wasted time and cleanup duties - do thyself a favor and clean porta-potties, like the balding guy from the Woodstock movie. Keep away from drama, as it is merely a source of stress and worry which shows no reward. If the male friend of a seriously-involved female has no romantic dreams for the aforementioned lass, so be it; but still run like a chicken might sprint from a 12-foot slinky. Females innately tend to vent their emotions, whereas males prefer to bottle it up, let it burst, and exterminate a race of humans. Neither has a great advantage, though it invariably spills an undue encumbrance upon the male friend, who intends to listen and understand with good intentions, but eventually cannot cope with the frequency of rants.

Though it's been said that money is the root of all evil, love and lust take a close second, if not first place in this race of sweat. While all this ranting might appear cheuvanistic, it's a general observation that men don't seek other people to hear their sorrows regarding the paramour of the day -- women rely on it -- and rarely seek the shelter of other women. If I'm attracted to a particular married girl, why should I have to hear that her "man" has been treating her poorly, and that their love life is on the wane? Why should I, the therapist, have to hear constant rhetoric about unjust actions from people's partners, when the therapist himself wallows in loneliness and abject vaccua? To solve the equation, it's obvious that a man, disenchanted with relationships and self-exiled into a lovely world of circular sustinence, should not have to process the negative aspects and rigors of someone else's travails in a relationship.
I'm tired of being the "sweet guy" to discuss problems with, as it simply yields acrimonious evenings and sleepless nights. Some people actually need to be in a relationship to be qualified to advise someone who's entrenched in dissonance. Sweet people deserve to be with sweet people - and I see those ideal couplings roughly 3% of the time. Stop jumping the gun to quell the sense of loneliness that might swell. Propose inciteful observations about personality compatibility and the like before rushing into a convenient relationship that might merely blossom from mutual voids. Hastily formed relationships carry an untoward burden on those that had been preselected as advisors and therapists, and no self-respecting individual should have to endure the symptoms of a "friend's" rushed judgement.

I, like a preponderance of the "sweet" guys, have been so emotionally damaged from "winner take all" relationships, that any zeal for further emotional attachment has vaporized and unlikely to take shape in the future. Most will accuse our stance as nihilistic, lazy, or artificially rebellious, but the unitiated should realize that those who are equipped with sufficient ego and self-deceit to resume dating after a disasterous relationship are exactly the ones who shouldn't be dating (the vast majority). The greatest guys are far too scarred, battle sore, or mentally disembowled to risk another preconceived fiasco with a girl who, despite logic, sees merit in a good person such as the therapist types like us. With no intended disrespect toward the fairer sex or their predelictions, please : Women of the world, if a sweet guy cares for you, listens to you, and isn't gay - can you consider that friend a potential soulmate and break up with the mindless, selfish, stereotypical egocentric man with whom you've assimilated convenience? It's so ridiculous that women should lay claim to male "fwiends" and burden them with their daily complaints, while the offending boyfriend prances about with impunity. If a man cares about you and breaks the mold of the childish, impetuous boy, he's a catch, ok? Stop letting habit and predefined roles reign romantic zeal. Find some gumption and follow the tip of the soul's compass, not the preprinted lettering. To be continued next time...

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Cards Everywhere...

August 3, 2004

Some infinitesimal component of my anxiety-laden persona was optimistic enough, at this millennium's onset, to anticipate the advance of human society to the point of doing away with fads, lemmingish trends, and mindless clones. When we review fads, they are always evaluated in a context that their very existence and emergence were idiotic, and an amusing symptom of the ills of society's innate zeal for following group thinking. Depending on which anthropologist you ask (and I always flog them with questions over at the local Subway) many will claim that humans are pack animals, tending toward huddling in herds, as you might find with skateboard guys, cigar store regulars, and those weird knife guys. And what's with those knife guys? Always excited to show off the new knife. "Can't wait to get home and start cuttin' stuff". I'm sure they have the ladies breaking down their door with that impressive pastime.

Now this televised card game fad is really beginning to wear thin on my fledgling Jenga game of tolerance. The World Series of Poker, ok, it was around and it probably had the most impact. It had been televised in fits and starts for a while, when it happily filled the role of the less active, less healthy, stinkier brother of televised bowling. Certainly poker itself enjoys wide recognition and familiarity in the United States, and it makes sense why televising such a motionless game might gather popularity amongst the right demographic. Lazy people who want to sit with a 30 pack of beer and watch TV all weekend, can finally bask in a sympathetic trance of arbitrarily engendered superiority. Sure, watching great, conditioned athletes run around might give a lazy viewer a sense of inferiority, but when watching a poker tournament, these players are just sitting like big fat Wes at home! Plus big fat Wes knows what cards the other players are holding, so he can shake his head with a deity's resolve and know that poor bastard is about to lose his wonderful stack of chips. The stoic, passive nature of the game, combined with the omniscient vantage of seeing everyone's cards, gives Joe six-pack a nice ego boost while literally doing nothing - the perfect weekend!
Anyway, this "cardmania" is drying out; now we've got celebrity versions of every flavor of card game imaginable, all of which are televised. It's not ridiculous to anticipate televised Craps, Roulette, Bridge, and during the swan song's chorus of this shallow trend, celebrity coin flipping. "Ron Palillo calls tails -- it's a head! Daniel J. Travanti wins!" Since television executives, along with music executives, are likely the least imaginative people on the planet, I know this monochromatic ride will not end anytime soon. There are far too many variants, channels, and gullible viewers to stomp this cockroach into the linoleum floor of cancellation.

Many of the televised card tournaments show up on ESPN, and if my acronymic gland still adequately pumps out acronymic fluid, then my recollection is that the second letter in the ESPN acronym still stands for "sports". Well, maybe the sagacious brainiacs that run this fine network might be already considering renaming the channel to "Entertainment Stuff Programming Network". Poker doesn't qualify as a "sport" in the classic sense of the term, unless they would like to retroactively embrace the athleticism involved in chip tossing and performing those neat hand exercises the players display when shuffling two or three chips within one hand. Sure, the stubborn pundits might respond that a sport also exercises the mind, but by that sneaky definition, we'd have to consider just about every thought-based activity as a sport, such as memorizing, erotic fantasies, and figuring out a tip at a restaurant. Can't wait for these exciting events to pour through my Sylvania! The precedent has already been vomited forth when ESPN began televising those physically grueling spelling bees. As I, with a smirk and a gasp, watched the spelling action unfold during this year's bee, I realized this might be the only time that a fat Pakistani 11-year-old might be on ESPN. For all I know, he might be a heck of a curler or cricket player, but those obscure sports are forever destined for one of the small time Fox Sports channels that dot the digital cable guide's horizon.
Spelling bees are inherently fun to glance at for a few minutes, in hopes of seeing a pathetic kid screw up or faint (as with this year). Heck, fainting is action, it's exciting, and requires brief medical attention. People enjoyed the opportunity to see Mike Tyson be knocked out by an eager Buster Douglas, and we similarly want to see little Abdul Nafharidad get physically knocked out by the word that means "a flat Sumarian biscuit". So what if it took 5000 years for those Sumarians to get even. Long ago, I'm sure a visionary king said "someday we'll crush them all with the spelling of our flavorless biscuits".
Long after the Martians take over our planet and exterminate us all, we'll exact our revenge when they all cower to properly spell "separate". Banzai!
It's only a matter of time before the television executives take further steps to add appeal and excitement to these televised card games and spelling bees. Violence and drama will invariably poke their way into the proceedings:

"John has a flush draw! He's going all in. Oh NO! A BEAR! Where did this big hungry BEAR come from? Oh the humanity."


"E-N-A-..." Wait! It's TV's Potsie - Anson Williams! With a gun!I suppose there's little to resolve in this embarrassing trend toward televising bland, passive activities and billing them under a sports moniker. People are becoming lazier and lazier as time passes, and the promise of showing inactivity seems to pacify the minds of the couch potato masses. It's a sad reflection on society when our populace, who was once too lazy to participate in athletic activities, is now too lazy to watch them as well. So turn off that wide screen TV and throw a frisbee or something.