Monday, July 28, 2003

Manic Monday

Let's laugh!

I have collected chain emails and other funnies from the web since the early nineties. I have many of them stored on my old geocities vanity website, but I thought I'd resurrect some of the better ones here, and try to get you to wet yourselves. Included are recent funnies as well. Enjoy. Disclaimer: not responsible for sudden heart attack, stroke, or damaged furniture due to aforementioned and forewarned levity.

Onward through the frog!

It goes back and forth as to whether this one is an urban myth or not. Still, the idea of some asshole strapping a solid fuel rocket to his Impala, after all the grievous examples offered by Wile E. Coyote, is a blast.

The first part of this is the straight (ahem) story from the newspaper, the second part is anonymous comments made when it first made the early email-chain rounds. Two Richard Gere fans are sticking gerbils up their butts, and...

This is an actual letter returned to a) a loon, or b) someone who's brilliant at pranks who kept sending stuff he found in his backyard to the Smithsonian.

Krusty the Clown (the only non-scary clown in all of clowndom) reacts to a cartoon on his show after Marge has managed to pull a Tipper Gore and get every cartoon politically corrected into your standard PBS cartoon. (It's an MP3 file, but I think most browsers and systems play them automatically anymore. If not, go hence and get thee Winamp.)

An actual customer call. I've scrambled the guy's name in case he stumbles onto this and is still in the mood to sue. Most of the companies I've worked for have used this in their customer service rep. training courses to prepare them for guys like this. I love how he nearly stays contained, but when the lid blows off, it hits the stratosphere.

If we all talked in King James Leviticus style, this is what our children would hear.

Robin Williams channels a Scot who explains the invention of golf.

It's been recently proven somehow that a billion monkeys with access to writing materials will never produce Shakespeare, or even a passable fortune cookie slogan; however, the odd anonymous web scribe can certainly take the chicken crossing the road gag and render it in the voice of Freud, or Hemingway, or...

Thanks for playing!
Messages from the past

I have migrated back to my old Macintosh laptop to write these blog entries, so I'm using a way old version of Word that doesn't even underline the spellng errs. It's kinda fun in a retro sort of way. Besides, I can write on the dining room table upstairs, and my wife doesn't chide me for dissappearing into the basement (where our main computers are).

The only drawback is it's an old passive-matrix screen, so the old System 7 mac cursors tend to get lost when you are moving the mouse, which is like your steering wheel vanishing every time you try to turn a corner. Thus, I hunted around on my old floppies to see if I had some utilty to fix this problem, and found some cool stuff I'd backed up all those years ago. (When Wintel PCs hit $300, I defected from Apple puters like a Cuban who'd inherited a yacht.)

Back in the day before corporate ladders and the sometimes twitchy parents of other children calling, my wife and I used to try and make our phone message as wild as possible, hoping for recored guffaws and profanity from our victims, which we would then use to blackmail six-packs from them. We actually spontaneously won a radio contest where we got tickets to a Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald concert held on a virgin field up by Aspen, and a nifty jacket we wear to this day, when a DJ had called our number for some other reason. Our message tickled him so much, he invented the "funny answering machine message" contest, and we were the first winners, since ours was the inspiration for the contest.

Anyway, for a bit we used the phrase you hear my wife voice in the message that we'd heard on TV or a movie that cracked us up (though it's not the winner of the aforementioned contest). We had to change it after a few days because when people got us live on the phone, they alerted us that they didn't leave a message because they didn't think it was us. However, one of my buddies called and actually answered it this way, impromptu, on the spot, right out of the gate:


(Oh, and apologies for the "f" word - the other one. Please do recall that there was a day when Richard Pryor still used the "n" word loosely, and this message is old enough to have been back in the day when most of us used the other "f" word losely. Back before we had "blights" [see below], even.)
Polly Pocket

Polly Pocket dolls are the latest craze for little girls on our block. In this day and age we have a Barbie for every taste, race, and want, with wardrobes that rival any given OscarTM telecast. We have robotic dolls called "Divas" which chatter at you in valley-girl bitchspeak, and "Brats" which look like the twisted love child of Barbies and Divas with a little alien abductor thrown in, which evidently sell well because they are all hip on current teen fashions (plastic doll butt-crack framed by thong underwear is something that has to be seen to be believed), and maybe because they are racially indistinct so no one can get their feelings hurt because it's hard to find a dolly that looks like them. (Which I find odd, as not a single G.I. Joe I ever had resembled me in any remote way* and I couldn't have cared less, but perhaps that's just a boy thing.)

*TLD: That's not entirely true. Before the days of kung-fu grip G.I. Joes, their hands were permanently molded so that they could hold a little plastic rifle. The left hand was shaped like a "C", and on the right hand the index finger and thumb where rigidly extended, the rest of the fingers folded back. Once, whilst digging for a large, elusive booger, I noticed that I had my hand shaped just like the trigger hand of my G.I. Joe on the floor next to me. The thumb was the primary tool and the index finger was used for support and leverage. However, this did not lead me to an epiphany that I wanted to grow up and have square pectorals and a scar on my cheek the way that some women have claimed to have wanted to be just like Barbie when they grew up. Nope, I just showed all my buddies that you could make it look like G.I. Joe was picking his nose. That kept us entertained for at least three whole days.

Yet, with all these wonderful high-tech and nuanced toys available, every girl on the block plays with these Polly Pocket dolls. Pollys are 3 1/2 inch high plastic dolls that you dress in little rubber clothes, and move around in little $9 playsets. It doesn't matter how rich, poor, black, white, twisted or nice the parent or the child is, this is the toy of choice right now.

Upon asking my daughter what the attraction is, she says it's because they're so small, and they can go in the water and out into the yard. They are sturdy little things, and yes the rubber clothing and hard plastic playsets do take abuse that would render most Barbies or Brats headless or looking like they had a tour through Syd's house from Toy Story. And they're so inexpensive, if you lose something, a fraction of allowance money gets back the lost item.

And I bet these things are a fluke hit. Toy manufactures don't really try to make things cheap, durable, and fun. Like most things these days, they're designed for maximum profit and breakage, which is just fine as far as the toymakers are concerned because most parents will fork out for a replacement. Then why do Pollys exist, since the evil toy manufacturers surely make them, you ask. I think they were a toss-off. An attempt to get that spare change, and an impulse item that most parents would agree to, since they're inexpensive.

So, if you're shopping for that inexpensive gift for the birthday party of your daughter's classmate (a complete stranger not worthy of a big lay-out of funds), go get yourself hooked up with Polly Pocket. She's the bomb right now.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Part time. Night shift. Some travel required. Must be able to lift minimum of 80 lbs. Work environment is often loud, smoky, and occasionally hazardous. Commissions only. No benefits.

Given the job description, you'd think there would be no live concerts. Granted, it doesn't mention the booze and drug soaked parties, or the groupies, but I think - like the free juice some companies provide - it becomes a mixed blessing. Over time as one's liver defects, the memory faults, paternity cases arise from unremembered trysts, and the sugar in the juice that makes you fat and ruins your teeth, one tires of the so-called benefits.

In spite of all these drawbacks, we still have massive talents who've persevered, overcome, and rock our asses to midnight.

Two of the best of these are Elvis Costello and Dwight Yoakam.

I saw Elvis Costello the other night and my God ... I cannot hyperbolize enough on how the man doth rock. I've been a fan for some time, but his concerts (I've seen two now) flaunt how many good songs he's written. And how varied and eclectic they are. He's almost the Beatles unto himself. If you have a chance to see him, by all means, go.

Dwight Yoakam is one of the only two artists whose CDs I buy the moment they're released, without previewing, because they are all good. There is not a single, solitary, even one turkey in all of his releases.

TLD: The only other active group to whom this applies is the Foo Fighters, because of course the Beatles are one of the other few examples of maximum non-suckitude in regards to consistency of oeuvre. And, if they are to your taste, the Eagles, Simon and Garfunkel, and Steely Dan can claim fealty to this throne, but only if you dig'em.

Dwight's latest release maintains his reputation of greatness. It's a little tainted by the current neo-bluegrass fad caused by O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which I am NOT a fan of. But it's still got his singular country-rock groove by way of Buck Owens and that city-slicker sound.

That people this talented exist (Costello and Yoakam, in case you forgot) just confirms my belief in God, country, and all that is good.

TLD: Both Elvis and Dwight are not the best-looking guys ever to grace the stage, however. It's as though when they were being prepped for life on earth, God informed them that they would have prodigious and bountiful talent, which would bring wealth and acclaim, but He was going to have to make them really ugly in order that they wouldn't be too powerful. I don't imagine either of these guys wants for female attention, but I bet on occasion, when they emerge from the shower, their paramour must think to herself, "Damn! I hope our children resemble me."
The Strokes

One of the big deals according to the critics last year was a rock band called the Strokes. I listened to the samples via the web and was not impressed. They seemed like pretty basic rock songs, nothing to write home about.

Then I encountered their CD at the library and checked it out. Once it hit the real stereo (and I have a very good one - Yamaha amp/receiver with Infinity speakers) it suddenly dawned on me why the critics were all gaga.

They sound like the Velvet Underground. Now VU has always been the critic's darling with Meco, and Lou Reed, and Andy Warhol, and heroin, and androgyny, and being a NY band, and the fact that they SUCKED OUT LOUD. Gad, I don't know anyone who likes to put on a VU record just for fun, just to listen to it. They sound like a bunch of no-talent heroin addicts recorded on one of those old, mono, home office, built-in mic cassette recorders sold in the 70s. (Though, to be fair, Lou Reed has since found his talent, in spite of his one-note range.)

So, as the sales didn't happen, critics kept writing their columns with dismay as to why the public hadn't caught on to this next great thing, The Strokes. Well hell. No one likes VU either.

Not a big mystery, folks.

Love the org album cover tho...

Changed in America to this...

The Market

Let me tell you how bad it is out there right now. One job I applied for had 4,000+ applicants, and though it was in my field, it did have a very specific requirement - something akin to having gardened geraniums on Tuesday and those who have potted posies on Thursday need not apply - so it's amazing they still had that many applicants.

Another position in my field, which did not require something really specific, had over 10,000+ applications. In this particular case, I was recommended by a peer who gave them my resume personally (which is often a guaranteed interview), and still didn't get a call.

So, I guess the only relevant question is: would you like fries with that?

(Which in itself is only a lame punchline, because two decades back I applied at McDonald's, and even then they told me they wouldn't hire me because I was over-qualified.)

La Cucaracha by Lalo Alcaraz

Friday, July 25, 2003

Dawkins for Dummies

For those many of us who are kinda prepping for the first time we encounter some idiot who adopts Dawkins' label of "bright" - a conscious PC spin/label alternative for atheist - I have an idea.

As we often don't hear things correctly when we hear them the first few times when they're used out of their older/standard context - think "embedded" reporters in the latest war, for reporters that agreed to all the military's rules for disclosure of information and propagation of approved propaganda* - it gives us an opportunity to put in a little dig, such as, "'In bedded', meaning you're in bed with the military?"

*Btw, I thoroughly approved of this tactic of "embedding" reporters. We don't need to be putting our men and women at risk because some journalist wants a freakin scoop. I even think having them on the convoys was going too far, unless it was fulfilling some unspoken military objective.

When we encounter a self-announced "bright", I suggest we lean in, give them our "I didn't quite get that" face, and say, "I didn't quite get that...did you say 'blight'?"

Their response: "Oh no, I said 'bright'."

You/me/us (still feigning not getting it): "'Blight'?"

Them: "No! 'Bright.' As in 'bright light'. It means I don't believe in superstitious nonsense."

And then you can either give them the "Oh! Now I got you" face with the "And I'm going to move away slowly, with deliberate movements so as not to excite you" mixed in for good measure. Or you can prank them a little further with something like: "You know, I really liked the movie Gremlins too! [Mogwai voice:] 'Bright light! Bright light!'" Then laugh heartily.

And of course, refer to them as "blights" whenever possible.

Naturally, Asian immigrants can play a variation on this.

Tee hee hee!

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Media Mash-O-Rama

All this free time has given me opportunity to read and watch movies with impunity. If I weren't unemployed, I'd be in heaven. Here's my opinion on some of this stuff...

A Short History of Nearly Everything
by Bill Bryson
Wow. Again, wow. Initially as I flipped through this book to preview it, a habit I have with all non-fiction, it appeared to be a dry review of all the science classes I had taken in college. I was already aware of the info that I spot-read. But near the end of each chapter was new info that has been uncovered since I was in school, and I got hooked. Thank God, because the beauty of this book is not only what it presents, but how it presents it (Bryson is a gifted writer), and the synthesis of the information. I ended up reading it cover to cover. This book should be the text for any Science 101 college class, or in high schools that still indulge in college prep courses. Anyone who likes good stories and has any sort of interest in history or science will treasure this tome.

by Mary Roach
Quite hysterical. It's odd to laugh out loud at a non-fiction account of the scariest reality of life. (I wondered about the wisdom of reading this after recent events, but I had put myself on the request list at the library months ago, and when it's your turn, it's your turn, so...) It eventually achieved a critical mass of gross-out for me, and I found I had to start skipping the more gory stuff near the end. The guy who was exploring full head transplants via transplanting the severed head from one monkey onto the recently head-challenged torso of another monkey did me in. The only sour note in the book was the now-almost-cliche sneering at anything to do with religious belief, particularly Christianity. Back in 1931 a French doctor was curious as to whether the blood stain patterns on the shroud of Turin were consistent with crucifixion, so he hung one cadaver on a cross to see. (They were.) After that, he wanted to verify the placement of the nails as it relates to supporting the weight of a body. He used limbs he'd amputated himself from folks who had damaged their arm beyond repair. The author doesn't mind a Swedish woman's current effort to use human remains as compost, but she objects to arms having been used to see how and when nails pull through the hand. Sheesh. But other than that, Mary Roach is a witty and informed stylist. I'll probably search out the rest of her stuff.

*** Caution - mild spoilers in all of the following film reviews ***

Interesting little horror film. The actress who plays May just breaks your heart, she's so good. She sells the character's lazy eye and tragic attraction to a guy with perfect hands to the extent that you forget she's acting. The interesting twist in this film is the guy is one of those "I strive to wake people up" artist/posers who hides his lack of talent behind ham-handed, prurient, gross-out films (see next review for prime example of same), but of course is shocked when he finds a true oddball, that being May, and his discovery that the kind of "waking up" provided by shock/schlock art is not really the kind anyone needs. The film is bloody and gross, so be warned.

Laurel Canyon
The worst sort of art-film tripe. Plotless, decadent, and dull. Francis McDormand, like Kathy Bates, automatically improves any film she's in by her mere presence, but that is the ONLY positive thing about this film, in my opinion. At the point where the new young wife is making out in the pool with her mother-in-law (McDormand) and the mominlaw's boy toy, I emotionally checked out entirely and, knowing only about 20 minutes was left, decided to hang on till the credits rolled because I was curious as to what the non-ending would be, as these types of films never have anything resembling a resolution of events because the writer/director will be one of those wanks who thinks it's more realistic when things don't have any sort of conclusion, not realizing that most audiences aren't watching movies for that sort of reality. I think I'll have to leave it up to the 2Blowhards to give this film any sort of a detached review. I hated it.

OK, when Meryl Streep was grinding away on top of the orchid thief, I thought to myself two things: 1) It's wierd watching perhaps one of the most renowned and talented actresses ever to essentially be doing porn moves, and my gosh it's a turn-on; 2) The woman she's portraying, who's supposed to really exist, must be appalled. However, though this movie is based on real events, it's about a screenwriter's angst at trying to adapt a virtually non-adaptable non-fiction book into a compelling screenplay. It becomes clear much license was taken in following the story of the writer's agonies, many of which are probably in his head, and in the clearly self-conscious, self-referential action ending tacked onto the flick. The writing credits for the movie are a big clue as to when we're not in Kansas anymore. It's a hoot, and a ride.
The Da Vinci Code,
Or, neo-pagans rule while Christians drool

Just finished The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.

First rate thriller. A blast to read. The writing is clunky at times, but you get past it. Page turner of the first order. Put it on your list.

But, oy, the "theology". Essentially the book is one big screed against Christians, and specifically against the Catholic church, because Christianity doesn't worship the goddess, and therefore is against women, and is therefore sexist and icky, and so you should go join a neo-pagan fertility cult right now, get skyclad and boff while encircled by other goddess-worshipers who are chanting the latest, greatest pagan hits, available at a new-age store near you. Oh, and get some crystals and a tarot deck whilst you're at it.

The reviews on have done a reasonable takedown of the staggering re-imagining of religious history in this novel. (I make it a habit to read the negative reviews of books I'm interested in on amazon. Usually, in the rest of the critical world, negative reviews are almost always about taste or sour grapes on the part of the reviewer, but on, the negative reviews of books are telling.) But I really hope everyone who reads The Da Vinci Code realizes it's FICTION. Though many will be thrown by the note in the front of the book: "All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate."

Well, they're not. For instance, here's just one example of the BS littering the pages of this book: "Also rumored to be part of the treasure is the legendary 'Q' Document -- a manuscript that even the Vatican admits they believe exists. Allegedly, it is a book of Jesus' teachings, possibly written in His own hand." This particular chunk of horsepoop will stand out to anyone who knows even just a little bit about the "Q" document.

The "Q" document is an invention of the Jesus Seminar, a group of secular, uh, scholars and some token sympathetic theologians, lead by a fundamentalist atheist whose admitted goal is to dismantle Christianity. When they did their famous/infamous analysis of the Gospels to guess what Jesus may have said and what the authors of the Gospels made up to bolster the story (note that the premise of the project itself assumes lies and deceit), they invented the concept of the "Q" document, which according to them was a collection (a bullet list, say) of the sayings of Christ, that the authors used when writing the Gospels. The assumption is "how could they all agree so closely unless they were all using a common source document of Jesus' sayings." (Let me interject that the authors were reporting real live events, and they had either witnessed them themselves or knew someone who had witnessed it, so they were getting the story firsthand. In addition, due to the low rate of literacy in those days, people were pretty good at remembering what someone said as they couldn't write it down for later reference. That's how come there is the near perfect corroboration between the Gospels.)

The Vatican didn't say "yes, the 'Q' document exists", they merely agreed that there may have been short collections of the sayings of Christ floating around at the time. Finally, Jesus was not known, through the Gospels or through external histories and sources, to have ever written anything down Himself (save for his writing something in the sand when the folks wanted to stone the adulteress).

And even if you should actually choose to believe in anything, the author has a character say this: "Sophie, every faith in the world is based on fabrication. [edit] Every religion describes God through metaphor, allegory, and exaggeration, from the early Egyptians through modern Sunday school. Metaphors are a way to help our minds process the unprocessible. The problems arise when we begin to believe literally in our own metaphors." So, if you don't think it's all bullshit, then you are the problem.

From here on, I will be giving away many plot points, so be warned.

*** Mondo spoiler alert ***

The hero and heroine are looking for the Holy Grail, which we discover is NOT the cup Jesus used at the Last Supper, but is in fact the bones of Mary Magdalene, the wife of Jesus who also bore his child(!). With Mary are many huge boxes of documents that explain the true history and intent of Jesus Christ, in that he wanted Christianity to really be a goddess-centered and -worshipping religion, but the evil male Apostles didn't like chicks, and so with the help of Emperor Constantine three hundred years after their deaths, they suppressed the true meaning and path of Christianity and made it a boys club, totally hid the fact that Jesus was married, and sullied Mary Magdalene by changing her into a whore. Thus, we are on a chase to find the hiding place of these bones, which you are supposed to kneel before and honor, and then read the piles of documents that tell you the truth, including the bloodline of Christ and Mary. Of course, the heroine of the story is revealed to be a direct descendant of Jesus and Mary.

One of the biggest gaffs in the book is the author has Leonardo Da Vinci as the grand poobah (in his day) of this secret society which protects the secrets of the grail/goddess/Mary, and this society honors the goddess by having a sacred ritual in which the poobah has sex with someone of the opposite sex (a woman has to be involved at the very least) in the middle a circle of fellow ritual-goers who stand around in robes and chant whilst holding little golden globes. Well, it's revealed that Leonardo was homosexual (which I think was actually true), so I can't imagine ol' Leo being able to perform the central rite of his office.

*** Mondo spoiler alert over ***

I have a theory as to why this guy wrote this book. Way back in the day, in the early days of the web when it first began to be used by the general public, there were only two religious presences: Wiccans and Fundamentalist Christians. Dan Brown's early work centered on technology, so I bet he encountered that weird web synergy between the two religions way back then. As a Christian I have to admit that given the choice of the Christian Fundies and Wiccans, the Wiccans certainly presented a much more fun face. The Fundies said you were going to hell if you didn't become one of them, and then when you did, you had to stop drinking, go to church all the time, not have sex with anyone but your spouse, and even then you were supposed to feel bad about it, and to top it off, you had to tell others they were going to hell unless they joined the no-fun club. Wiccans, on the other hand, promised big parties with nekkid people, spells, whatever pantheon of gods and goddesses you cared to make up, and the cache of being in a cool little minority club that wore black a lot. If I were young and impressionable, I know who I'd have wanted to party with.

Anyway, I think the author is trying to cash in on that particular phenomenon. Catch a wave, as it were. There's certainly enough anti-Christian sentiment these days to help things along. (Make sure to read the comments, particularly.)

I sure wish the fundies knew how much damage they're causing. They are near the top of the list that makes the faith look bad, right up there with pedophile priests, and government officials who cover up the breasts of classic statutes while abusing government powers to pursue the sicker, punitive sides of their misguided backwater of what is really, when viewed honestly in the context of the real tenets and goals, a beautiful faith.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Back to Life

Well that sucked.

Two things I had feared the most occurred within days of each other.

Losing an infant (a premature infant to be precise) must be only a little less painful than losing a child of some years, but not enough to bother with the distinction. When I held her shortly after her birth, after I was able to compose myself (one of the few times in my life where I actually had to compose myself in the most terrible and primary sense of the meaning), of the many emotions and effects I didn't anticipate, the most surprising was a profound sense of the loss of tremendous potential. Images literally flashed through my mind of all the places she would never be, and all the things she would never do, or get to be. I saw her little face in all those images. She was smiling.

For a while after I had to say hello and goodbye to someone I unexpectedly loved beyond the unknown boundaries of my soul, I felt I might actually rip in half. Other times it felt as though I actually had. Later, it felt like I'd been taped back together hastily with blue masking tape, constantly aware that I might tear in two again if I bumped against anything. As time has passed, I've gone through patches of reprieve. (With a pain that stop and starts, to quote Bob Dylan.) Finally, sunsets are beautiful again and laughter has returned.

The most beneficial result of this tragedy has been a massive renovation of perspective. Though forgiveness and understanding of others has gained, anger at thoughtlessness, at those who are petty or mean to their children, friends and loved ones, flares much more readily, and it's difficult not to march up and deliver a fiery sermon on how precious everyone is.

Fears harbored against other possible unwanted developments transform from monsters in the closet to dust bunnies under the bed. Ever since I endured an abrupt and unexpected layoff in my late twenties, I have carried around worry of it happening again. When I got laid off on my first day back to work after losing the baby, I found myself relieved. To be laid off in an economy that hearkens back to the great depression in terms of unemployment and disruption of the middle class, exacerbated by an unconcerned administration seemingly bent on extinguishing the middle class, is daunting. But it is merely something to overcome rather than something to dread anymore.

The HR lady (it's never a guy) looked stricken when they pulled me into the layoff meeting. The guy who was ostensibly my current boss rattled through the canned speech as quickly as possible. (I got a new one a week before the layoff; we had gone through reorgs and layoffs every quarter for about two years now; I've been told that the layoff I was in was probably the last one before the whole division finally completes its swirl down the drain with a big wet "ter-glook!") When he stopped, I said, "Are you done? Is that all?" The HR lady looked up in happy surprise, probably because it was clear this layoff wasn't going to involve wailing and gnashing of teeth. (I can't imagine how messy some layoffs must get.) No doubt they expected the worse since I was a grieving father, but my primary thought was that I would get to spend some needed time at home with my family. I signed a couple things and we all went happily on our way. I was flying down the highway towards home with my cardboard box of cubie contents a half an hour later, images of Office Space dancing in my head.

I have always striven to not take daily life for granted, but it is still that much more precious to me now than it ever has been. The time away from the corporate mosh-pit has been a blessing. The time with my lovely wife and wondrous daughter has been more so.

I'm not even remotely past losing our dear little one, but life isn't meant to be lived in a daze, walking around as if someone has whacked you in the temple with a ball-peen hammer. It is time to get back to life.

Thank you everyone for your kind words and deeds.

Now, let's have some fun!