Thursday, February 15, 2007

Six Weird Things

Hmmm. Steph tagged me with this one, and I must say: I found the task of actually LISTING six weird things to be fairly difficult. Don't get me wrong: I'm terribly weird. Or, is that "wonderfully"? Anyway, I'm a strange dude. But, I don't really...I don't know, DO anything that's altogether peculiar. I can't turn my eyelids inside-out, or take a shit while running at full speed. I suppose I can wiggle my ears really violently, and I can raise only one eyebrow in a haughty yet disdainful kind of way. But those things can't REALLY be that weird, can they? I mean, I read Jenn's blog, and one of her answers was that, even though she's a tall woman, she really enjoys wearing tall spikey heels. Now, that's weird; I've never heard ANY woman say before "Oh, I prefer 3- or 4-inch heels!" So, I think of myself generally as a pretty mild customer. But, for the sake of the blog, here we go: my six weird things.

1. For all intents and purposes, I am immune to nicotine. I was a full-time smoker for about 12 years, spanning the summer I turned 17 until...well, 12 years later. Duh. Anyway, I finally quit in the late-90's, and I didn't smoke ANYTHING for a year. I finally gave in and began having the occasional butt with my non-quitter friends, and you know what? I can do it. I can actually treat cigarettes like most people treat cigars: I enjoy the taste & the feeling, it's a little "guilty pleasure" that I can occasionally indulge...but I don't get hooked on the nicotine. I don't know whether this is willpower or what; my father-in-law SWEARS that if he had even ONE cigarette, he'd be back up to a pack a day. Not me; I have my "smoking friends" that I get together with every so often, and I can have as many as maybe 8-10 smokes in a day with those people (depending on the amount of alcohol involved)...but when it's time to go home, I don't jones for a light-up. Go figure.
2. I have no interest in heavy metal chix. This, despite the fact that I wholly embrace the whole heavy metal/poser look myself. During the 80s I had a big poufy mound of permed hair (a la David Coverdale), and I wore Kiss jerseys (yeah, I said jerseys!) with the sleeves cut off. Usually the midriff cut off as well. All the chemicals were frying my hair, so I moved over to the always-attractive mullet look (a la Joe Elliot). Yeesh. Finally I've just grown out a long, silvering ponytail, but through all these metal hair looks I've remained pretty devoted to studded belts, pointy-toed slouch boots, and band t-shirts. Women, though? Huh-uh. I like 'em smart, well-dressed, and gorgeous. I never had any interest in chicks who bleached out their towering fuck-me hairdos, and who wore stiletto heels with fishnet stockings and all all that metal-whore accoutrement. Hell, I took the VALEDICTORIAN to prom! I'm basically into two types: the old-skool Hollywood glam look (think Drew Barrymore) or the nerdy-but-hot bookworm look (think Sandra Bullock). When I found a woman who was BOTH? I fuckin' married her.
3. I am full of shit. I know you think I mean that, "Oh, I'm such a bullshitter!" Nope. I am LITERALLY full of shit...which I excrete in copious amounts several times a day. This is why, early on into our Mexico trip, I was alarmed to find myself mildly constipated...'cause, that just don't happen with me! I can sit on the toilet sometimes up to four times a day, and I'm not just killin' time in there, trying to get to the end of a chapter: my bowels are walkin' and talkin'. I poop more than anyone I know...maybe more than any TWO people I know. Aren't you glad to know that??
4. I talk to myself. Kind of...a lot. As I've been accused before of being a little distant emotionally, of not really "giving" of myself, the only possible defense I can think of is that I've ALREADY worked out my emotional rubbish...just, to myself. Or, rather, WITH myself. I'll carry on elaborate conversations with myself, usually in the car on my daily commute. I'll play out both sides of an argument, I'll try to think of every possible outcome to a decision I need to make...I'll usually even mix it up with the folks at NPR, causing me to have to turn the radio OFF so that I can make my point out loud without having to shout over the reporters. I think this is #7 in an ongoing list of "Ways That I Display Only-Child Syndrome."
5. I have really thick, dark, gross ear wax. I guess I just have it comin' out both ends, don't I?? Yeah, I'm a 2-Qtip kind of guy, and what I pull out is about the same color and consistency of Bag Balm. In fact, when I'm feeling particularly frisky, I'll offer my scrapings to Tess for just that purpose. In spite of this, she let me knock her up. I always knew she was perfect for me!
6. I enjoy shopping. This belongs on the growing list of answers to the question "You know how I know you're gay?" (Other items include an aversion to sports, kissing my friend Mike, and thinking Johnny Depp is hot.) But, seriously: I love to shop. Heck, I even kind of like GROCERY shopping, but really I'm most happy if I can have an excuse to head out to some clothing stores and buy stuff...then maybe to the comic shop, out to lunch, to an antique store, maybe stop off for some new shampoo and get the idea. Whatever. I'm doing the economy some good by spreading cash around. So, stick it.

Okay, that's my list. I'll split the tags here: Mike and Kat, you're it. Spread the wealth.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Poking the Hornet's Nest

Dig, if you will, a scenario:
So, let's say I come home from a vacation this summer and find that a bunch of hornets have built a nest in my living room. 'Kay. Chances are about 100% I'm going to do something about that. And by "do something," I pretty much mean I'm going to eliminate the hornets by whatever means necessary. I'm going to go all-out, probably getting some sort of fogger or bug-bomb, and I'll "shock and awe" them out of existence. There's just too much trouble that can come from having a bunch of hornets right there in the house, and I don't want to mess around.

But, let's say I come home from said vacation (I hope I had a good time!) and I find that a bunch of hornets have built a nest WAAYYY out at the edge of the back yard, under the eaves of the garage that borders our property. Hmmm. I might suspect that they're up to no good, but in the absence of hard evidence to that effect I'm going to just...sort of keep an eye on 'em. Now, I realize that a lot of people STILL wouldn't mess around; they'd get a big can o'Raid (or whatever) and spray the beejesus of the nest, and call 'er good. Me...not so much. While I don't LIKE hornets, I find it hard to just KILL them without actual provocation. And, that might actually work: they can go about doing their hornet-y thing, whatever THAT is, and I'll just do MY thing, and we'll have a sort of wary co-existence.

Now, perhaps in ignoring them, everything turns sour. Maybe they start to build ANOTHER nest in a tree that I'd like to trim. I might wish that I'd done something about them sooner, but ultimately I could decide, what they hey, they're outside, and that tree probably doesn't REALLY need trimming anyway. I'll sort of GIVE them the tree, if you will, and figure that there, that'll satisfy them. Until they build a nest in the ground, and I mow over it and they come rushing out & sting the shit out of me. Okay, NOW I'm pissed. I'm pissed because they didn't just stay where we "agreed," and I'm ALSO pissed because a little voice in the back of my head (who IS that guy, anyway, and how did he get back there in my head?!?) insists that this NEVER would have happened if I'd just dealt with them when I had the chance, before things got all out of hand.

We could even imagine a tangent scenario, in which the hornets stay in their under-eave nest, but my daughter is out playing in the back yard (this is the hypothetical summer of 2012 we're talking about) and SHE gets stung. Again: I'm pissed, and so I'll go about obliterating the hornets then, remembering that the next time something comes up that can be handled right away, I shouldn't hesitate. But - and here's the thing - if a hornet stings my daughter, I'll kill the hornets. I WON'T decide that my neighbor's dog is also a threat, and so shoot IT. Out of, you know, "preemptive self-defense" of those I love.

As Congress completes its second day of debating the Iraq war, I'm reminded that emotions surrounding this issue run oh so very high. Sometimes I feel like we've finally managed to distill an enormous variety of tiny differences into a potent (deadly?) mix of just a few things that loom so large in our political and social consciousness, we're at risk of having these molehill-into-mountain arguments tear apart the fabric of our country. Taxes, abortion, religion...the war in Iraq. We're okay with the concept that alcohol is legal, and so we've solved the issue of prohibition and seemingly moved THAT argument, checker-like, onto another square. Now it's like there are only two thrice-kinged checkers left: one red, and And those checkers are being moved around the board in an all-or-nothing dance that seems to preclude rational behavior and careful consideration of the OTHER guy's point of view.

Should the Allies have stopped Hitler in 1938? Well, hindsight says YES, absolutely. We wasted (to use Barack Obama's absolutely correct term) far, FAR too many lives trying to undue the damage caused by the ravings of a charismatic but way-out-whacko fascist. Did the U.S. get "stung" in it's own back yard? Yes, the attack on NYC (BOTH times) was hideous and pointless and entirely hateful...and we responded in kind, going after the "hornets" in Afghanistan. But this Iraq's like shooting the neighbor's dog, just because it looks threatening. It's a Rottweiler, after all, and intelligence suggests that these are dangerous and canny dogs, but sometimes you gotta move beyond what may be, after all, faulty intelligence and just LOOK at the situation.

Instead, we went and shot the neighbor's dog anyway, and now the neighbor is shooting back. Like a brick thrown through a window, the results are costly but, in the end, unlikely to cause us to move. Even when the neighbor manages to turn the whole BLOCK against you, it's hard to just leave. You start thinking about the investment you've already made, and ultimately decide you can afford to lose a few windows. Besides, just up and LEAVING makes you feel like your penis is small and inadequate, so you bone up (ha!) and start heaving boulders back.

President Bush wants yet ANOTHER chance to prove that he can make a good decision with regards to Iraq, but I sort of feel like he's a boy who's cried wolf...again...and again...and again. At some point, I think a person needs to be acknowledged as having zero credibility or good decision-making powers, and then...well, FIRED, I guess! Look, if Mr. Bush was the CEO of a company, and every one of his decisions turned out badly, do you think the board of directors would give him a big fat bonus, or would they throw him out on his ass? (Well, in THIS country, you never know...) Sheesh, college and professional athletics coaches get fired ALL THE TIME, even after just ONE losing season, for what may or may not amount to nothing more than bad luck! So, no: I don't believe the Prez needs "one more chance." He's pretty much had his three strikes...lord, we impeached President Clinton for lying about a blowjob, doesn't that rate a little lower on the scale than, say, invading another country and fucking it all up?

Ultimately, there are only two possible options for the instigator of a war: you can WIN and leave, or you can LOSE and leave. Either way, leave. In the end, we LEFT Vietnam (probably while claiming victory), and now, only 30 years later, we're trying to normalize trade relations with them. The President feels that leaving Iraq now would be a tremendous mistake, but sooner or later we WILL leave. In the meantime, it's like he's trying to make up for an itty-bitty penis...and until he's no longer the Commander in Chief, we're ALL getting fucked by it.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Audio Memory

Even though I'm a professional musician, I tend to think of my memories as visual entities. When I think of a past event, I usually "see" it in my mind, and I remember it in that fashion. Sometimes, though, a particular SOUND is the motivating factor in my memory. I may still see the past event, but the trigger for that visual is actually stored in my mental sound file. These are some particularly strong examples. Enjoy.

June 28, 1996
It was one of the hottest days of the summer: easily in the mid-90s, and I spent the better part of the day lugging quick-crete down my mother's driveway. The annual winter freeze/thaw cycle, coupled with heavy spring rains, really takes a toll on her dirt & gravel approach, which is probably 40 yards long. To make things a little more stable for driving, she had had a big load of this dusty, gravelly concrete mix trucked in and dumped at the house end of the driveway. From there, we'd shovel it into the wheelbarrow and roll it down toward the road, spreading it around so that when rain finally came it would harden this stuff into some facsimile of concrete. Just when I thought it couldn't get any hotter, my best friend showed up and we headed off for our evening festivities. We arrived at the home of my OTHER best friend, and there in the company of most of the people I love in the world I drank beer & socialized for several hours. The LEAST inebriated of us got behind the wheel of a minivan & we set out for Tiger Stadium. We joined a throng of 40,000 people to witness what I had literally waited my entire life to see: Peter Criss, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and Ace Frehley, in full costume and makeup, tear through a couple of hours worth of classic tunes. The stadium lights went out, and helicopters started circling overhead, spearing the audience below with spotlights. And then...the voice, and the words:

"Allllriiiiiggghttt Deeeeeetroooiiit! You wanted the GOT the best! The HOTTEST band in the WORLD..."

February 2, 2003
I had a distant and difficult relationship with my father...something I'm convinced I'll blog about in the future. Even though he was my biological father, he was actually only two years YOUNGER than my mother's mother. The generational gap between us was often too great for either one of us to make much sense of the other, a situation that was exacerbated by his crippling stroke during my freshman year of college. No one knew at that time that, while he would never heal either physically OR mentally, neither would he be in particularly poor health. He hung on for 17 years, deteriorating so slowly that most people couldn't even see it. He pretty much made my mother's life a sort of living hell during those years, and most of me hated him for it. I like to think I provided an occasional break for her, inviting her down to my apartment often to hang out, watch movies, and snoop around at antique shops and local auctions for any collectable "goodies." She had just left my apartment on Groundhog Day when I got a frantic call from her down-the-road neighbor: seemed my father had fallen coming back to the house from the mailbox, and she needed to talk to my mother RIGHT NOW. I managed to get ahold of her at the auction site, and I told her "Look, you need to call Sue right away, something's happened at home." She callled back just a few minutes later:

"Scott? You're not gonna believe this...he's dead."

February 9, 2007
We had our second ultrasound today. There wasn't even an appointment with the doctor...this was just a 2-week check to make sure Tess' cervix was staying nice & long. I mentioned to the techie, a nice young woman named Peggy, that we were so excited the last time to be able to see the little nugget move around; kind of PROVED, at least for me (who's getting no physical symptoms whatsoever...not even a little couvade), that there was actually something IN THERE. But, I said, the excitement was tempered by the early diagnosis of previa, and that even though the doctor had told us not to worry about it, that it would in all likelihood vanish by itself...well, we still worried anyway. That's how we roll. Peggy said, "Well, yeah, we hate to even tell parents that kind of thing so early, BUT, once I've seen it, we kind of have to...I'll tell you what ELSE, though: it's gone." That's just two short weeks, that worrisome placenta seems to have moved out of the way, no longer blocking Tess' cervical opening. Hell, I figured that even if it DID move, we'd be talking about a period of at least a couple of months! But here it was, we no longer had to worry. Then she continued by telling us that the peanut wasn't really cooperating this time; in a fashion that only makes me know it was MY child we were looking at today, the babe had screwed all around and was only showing us a rear end (or "rump" as Peggy so blithely put it). But one interesting thing happens with that view, and I'll never forget what Peggy said:

"Congratulations! You're having a little girl..."

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Judge not...oh, screw it!

Let's get one thing straight: I should be working right now.

Okay? Now that we have THAT out of the way, let me start in with my vent about astonishingly bad drivers. I read a survey once in which an overwhelming percentage of drivers considered themselves to be "good." As a duly appointed member of that club, let me say that an overwhelming percentage of drivers are, apparently, full of shit. Because, with the number of BAD drivers I encounter on any given day, someone out there is just plain lying on that survey. Take, for example, the following scenario...which actually happened to me on the way home today.

See this sign?

This is posted near the on-ramps of virtually every expressway in Michigan. What it says, essentially, is that people who are in the straightaway need to be on the lookout for merging traffic. The implication - correctly so - is that the merging traffic has no manner of stop sign, yield sign, or any OTHER frickin' sign that indicates a cessation of forward motion is necessary. The responsibility falls completely on the shoulders of whomever is moving in the straightaway traffic to either get over, or speed up, or slow down...whatever it takes to allow the merging traffic entrance to the expressway.

So. This is our setup, then:

That's me, in the Vibe. I'm zipping along the entrance ramp leading to southbound I-127. There, in the right-hand lane, is this woman in a minivan. Notice that there's NO ONE in the left-hand passing lane next to her. In fact, once I actually got ON the freeway, I could see that there was no one BEHIND her for at least a mile. Okay. So, does she get over? NO! She DOESN'T! Neither does she speed up, or slow down. She just keeps putterin' along in that lane, and by the time I realize that she in fact ISN'T getting over, I've damn near driven into her as my merge lane runs out. Gah!

Afterward I felt rather bad about the whole thing. I mean, it's not my job to police other drivers. The thing is, I figure that logically there are only three reasons why she didn't get the hell over into the other lane:

1) She didn't see me. I find this irritating and unforgivable, because it implies she wasn't paying attention to the road.
2) She didn't KNOW she was supposed to get over. Even more unforgivable, because it means she doesn't actually understand the law as it applies to the rules of the road.
3) She simply didn't care. This would be the worst of all, because it implies she SAW me, KNEW she was supposed to get over, and instead chose to ignore the whole thing.

At the end of the day, most of us give in occasionally to automotive revenge, based on the perception of a personal injustice. My own philosophical feelings about this are tied up in a loose sort of belief in karma, wherein I try very hard NOT to engage in road rage because I feel like, sooner or later, that kind of thing will come back to haunt me. So, even though I was irritated and my blood pressure was climbing, I tried to put myself in the mindframe of a father-to-be. I realized I wouldn't want my child to witness me being dangerous and vengeful in a couple thousand pounds' worth of steel hurtling down the road at 70+ miles per hour. I quickly left this clueless person behind me and went about my business.

Fifteen miles down the road, I pulled off the highway to get gas. And - wonder of wonders, this bonehead actually pulls up to the pump immediately on the opposite side of mine. A number of thoughts went through my head: I could bitch her out for the crime of Callousness Behind the Wheel. I could take the initiative and actually apologize for forcing her to get over, which would probably put a big fat surplus in my karma bank (it works that way, right?). In the end, I just ignored her altogether and avoided the chance of any kind of souring of the situation. But I had to laugh (inwardly, of course) at discovering that she's probably just clueless. See, she did the thing where you start to pump your gas, and then get back in your nice warm car. DESPITE all the signs to the contrary, warning that doing so could cause a spark of static electricity that would ignite the gas fumes. Here's a short quote regarding this phenomenon:

Four Rules for Safe Refueling:

1) Turn off the engine.
2) Don't smoke.
3) Don't use your cell phone—leave it inside the vehicle or turn it off.
4) Don't re-enter the vehicle during refueling. Static electricity can be a refueling danger.

A study of 150 fires showed:
1) Static electricity can ignite the vapor that comes out from the gas.
2) Most individuals involved had on rubber-soled shoes.
3) Almost all cases involved the person getting back in their vehicle while the nozzle was still pumping gas. When they went back to pull the nozzle out, the fire started as a result of static electricity.

Ultimately, I caught a glimpse of the inside of her car as she got BACK out to put the nozzle back in the pump. Get this: she had one of those 100% polyester blankets on her front seat. So, as if the dry air isn't enough to cause a spark of static all on its own, here she is sliding around on one of the most static-y substances known to man. Rolling my eyes behind my sunglasses, I quickly finished MY fueling and drove away before she turned the local Citgo into a blazing inferno. News at 11.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

A super bowl of "Who Gives a $@*#"

So, the Super Bowl is today. (Is that one word? "Superbowl"?) I was actually reminded of this on the radio only this last week, as more and more "human interest" stories started to come out about the "event."

I'll probably get a lot of anti-American hate mail about this blog...which, of course, is a precisely good reason to write it. So here goes: I'll go on record right now as having a "Who gives a shit?!?" attitude about the whole affair. More and more of the "news" lately is focused on this football game, and every time I hear about it I'm just more and more boggled. (In the sense that I am overcome by astonishment, NOT in the sense that I am shaken around in a clear blue plastic cube. Idiots.) I just can't comprehend why this is such a big freakin' DEAL to everybody!!

Okay, and that concept of "everybody" is a good place to start. I heard on NPR (as my friend Angela says, that's always a good sign of high-falutin' snobbishness) that some 90 MILLION Americans (i.e., U.S. citizens, not ALL of North America...but it's a convenient term) are expected to watch the game. Whoooooo! Let me calculate some numbers for y'all:

• Number of Americans who watched the 2007 State of the Union speech: 45.5 million

• Number of Americans who voted in the 2004 presidential election: 122 million

• Number of Americans who watched the final M*A*S*H episode: 125 million

• Number of Americans who watched the final Sienfeld episode: 76 million

• Number of Americans who watched the final episode of Friends: 51 million

Okay, there. Some comparisons. So, at least the number of folks who VOTED is higher than the number of people who care about a single football game. And, I'm actually HAPPY to report that nearly double the number of people will watch a football game than will watch the Worst President in History fumble (pun alert!) his way through yet another string of lies and empty promises. And, in terms of cultural iconography, this football game ranks up there with some of the most popular television shows, so I guess that counts for something.

The thing's JUST a football game! There's no, like, multi-game "best-of" series, which would make a LOT more sense to me. One game win? Could be luck. Could be favorable calls. Could be the WIND...or lots of other random events. So, at that, this game is really no different from ANY OTHER game you could have watched on any other Sunday or Monday. Or, you know...Thursday, if it's Thanksgiving. But point is: how is THIS game any different than any of those OTHER games?

Some would say it's the commercials. I KNOW we've officially entered the twilight zone. Because...honestly, COMMERCIALS?!? What the fuck?? Now I'm watching TV...for the commercials. Isn't that kind of like subscribing to Cosmo JUST so you can see the face cream and/or tampon ads? Or, like justifying your commute to work on the basis of the worthiness of billboards? god. The day I start watching TV for the stinkin' commercials is the day I officially check my brain into self-storage, because I simply won't be needing it anymore.

One of my favorite (read: most-irritating) things about the whole affair is just the smarmy assumption that "everyone" will be watching. A story that I hurriedly quit listening to in the car last night began with the announcement that "Tomorrow is Super-Bowl Sunday, a day when even the most CASUAL sports fans will gather around the water cooler to get in on office pools...)" GAAAHHHH! There's so much wrong with that I barely know where to begin. I guess the thing that offends me the most is the cultural expectation that I'll BE a sports fan. Uh...WHY?? Okay, so I get all boned up about a bunch of folks wearing the same uniform, located in a city that's more or less close to me, who play a game for a living? And the sense of that is...what exactly? People who think that...oh, I don't know, Barry Sanders was this great football player, and got all hyped up whenever he'd take the field, and they'd scream his name when he'd make a touchdown (he made touchdowns, right? He wasn't, like, the field-goal kicker or something?)...come Monday morning, what exactly was his effect on the lives of these people? How do normal people relate to this guy, in the sense that there's a reason to cheer for him and his team?

I suppose that there's a case to be made for a sort of "regional pride" that sports teams can embody. Or, if your team sucks (as the Lions often do), then at least there's a sense of "community spirit" that a sports team can evoke. I get that, at least on the surface. Hey, as a Kiss fan, I'm certainly not immune to the concept of screaming for similarly-uniformed people who entertain me. But...come Monday morning, I can identify with these guys in the sense that I (nominally) do what they do. I've played my drums before several thousand people, I write songs. Furthermore, I can acknowledge the effects of an overall lifelong devotion to the group. I've had the opportunity to say to them, in person, "Thank you for the positive effect that your music has had on my life. When I've been down, your music brought me up. When I've been happy, your music made it even better." How many people say this to their sports heroes? "Gee, thanks for making that astonishing 70-yard touchdown run last Sunday, that really brought me out of a deep funk." I'm...guessing not so much.

So, yeah. There's my sour-grapes blog about the worthlessness of the SuperBowl. I can do without all the hype, and I can see through the facade of an event made extravagant not because it actually IS, but because people say it OUGHT to be. I plan on spending my day grading, watching a movie I've seen a dozen times me, that's a lot more worthwhile than getting all crazy about a sports event that fewer than 1/3 of the American people will watch.