Monday, April 30, 2007

I hear what you are saying, but I don't know what you mean

I was standing in line at lunch time waiting to buy my sushi and spring rolls at the local Asian market when I overheard the conversation of someone walking by. Almost every other sentence coming out of the mouth of this one woman was, "You know what I'm saying?"

Her companion just kept nodding, but it was pretty clear that not only did he not know what she was saying, but he wasn't even really listening. I think the problem with this communication was that, in my experience, most people who interject much of what they say with, "You know what I'm saying" are engaged in that major league jibba jabba my good friend Mr. T doesn't have time for.

"You now what I'm saying" is interchangeable with:
You know what I mean?
All I'm saying is...
Am I right?
Ya know?

The jibba jabba response to such useless questions is often:

I hear what you're saying.
Yeah, I know.
What your saying is...
So, you're telling me...
You're right, you're absolutely right.
Get out of here.

You basically can carry on an entire conversation of "you know what I'm saying" without ever saying anything. For example:
Idiot #1: All I'm saying is that he doesn't know what he was talking about. You know what I'm saying?

Idiot #2: So you are saying that he doesn't know what he was talking about? I hear that!

Idiot #1: Exactly, that's what I'm saying. Like I said, he doesn't know what he was talking about, ya know?

Idiot #2: I know what you are saying. You are absolutely right. He doesn't know what he is talking about. Ya know?

Idiot #1: Yeah, he doesn't know what he is talking about. That's what I said.

Idiot #2: What?

See what I'm saying? So I have prepared some conversation stoppers for people who use the annoying phrase and other annoying verbal ticks like, "You know what I'm saying?":

No, I don't have a clue what you are talking about.
I hear what your saying but it sounds just like, blah, blah, blah.
Did you say something?
Do you speak English?
Stop saying "You know what I'm saying" or I'll dope slap you from here to the next corner.

Enough said?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Cut: A run with the scissors

Tess bought us tickets to the stage production of Edward Scissorhands as an anniversary present. It's nice to see live theater now and then, but in all honest, this one should have stayed dead.

I loved the movie Edward Scissorhands. It was quirky and had a nice bittersweet storyline. The stage production is based very loosely on the movie. It is billed as a musical version. The thing they don't tell you is that is entirely without dialogue or singing. It's like watching a musical performed by mimes or worse yet, a ballet. If you had never seen the movie, you wouldn't have a clue what was going on. It would have just looked like spooky looking guy running with scissors while chased by the cast of Happy Days.

We'd had dinner at a nice restaurant downtown before the show. Big mistake. Both of us were fighting to stay awake within 15 minutes of the curtain going up. The best part of the first half of the show was intermission. The best part of the second half of the show was the curtain going down.

This is one version of Edward Scissorhands that should have been full of cuts, but by the director.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The creative process

Working in marketing, you are pretty much expected to be creative on demand. It used to freak me out. You could be sitting in a meeting and someone would decide they needed a clever tag line for some project. Then everyone would turn and look at me. I've always been tempted to shout what comedian John Daly once said on a conservative talk show when he was asked to be funny, "I'M NOT YOUR MONKEY."

The problem is, the creative process isn't always pretty so you don't want people staring at you in the middle of it. It's kind of like making sausage. Once you've seen it, you lose your appetite for sausage.

I'm sorry, that wasn't a very creative analogy, but it is apt. Sometimes being creative simply involves slapping a bunch of crappy ideas down, grinding them up and forming them into a ball that you bounce around until it feels right.

But creative or not, the important thing is to have a ball.

Sorry, I'm not feeling very creative at the moment and it's the best I could come up with. Plus you are all looking at me. I don't like it when people look at me.

I see dead people?

Oh, nevermind.

Monday, April 23, 2007

#600: A simple man

"Some folks call it a sling blade, I call it a kaiser blade...hmmm."
Karl, Sling Blade

Frank: I like the way you talk.
Karl: Well I like the way you talk.
Sling Blade

Sometimes it's not what you say, but how you say it that matters. I could listen to Billy Bob Thornton's character in the movie Sling Blade talk for hours and be entertained. He reminded me of the way my uncles sounded when I was growing up. They didn't say much, but when they did it rolled off their tongues in a simple country fashion that was soothing to me as a boy. And when they spoke they cut right to the chase.

There is something to be said in using economy when it comes to words. I think it is okay to have an impressive vocabulary. I just don't think it is always necessary to use it. It's part of the difference between Journalism majors and English majors.

Instead of saying "I really like potatoes sliced into verticle slices about a half inch wide, deep fried in vegetable oil and served with salt," just say what Karl in Sling Blade said: "I like them French fried potaters."

In that way, I consider myself a simple man. Sometimes you just have to say what you have to say and shut up. There are lots of radio talk show hosts and pompeous bloggers who could benefit from that approach.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A dark and stormy knight

When I was in junior high, I somehow became the president of the chess club. I had joined because I wanted the service points so that I would be eligible for this award they gave you at the end of your 9th grade for school service. In retrospect, I'm not sure why I wanted the award. It turned out to be a modest trophy that is now somewhere in a trunk. I am sure there are thousands of such abandoned trophies gracing the shelves of thrift shops the world over. After I die, I'm sure mine will join them.

But I digress.

I became president of the chess club because the other geeks in the club elected me. But hey, as Lucifer once said, it is better to rule in hell than serve in heaven. I accepted the office. I never quite got into chess club. We came together once a week on our lunch hour and played chess. It seemed a rather pointless thing to form a club around, but one of the faculty -- a teacher who bore a striking resemblance to Kramer on Seinfeld -- thought our school needed a cerebral alternative activity for the sports impaired to engage in.

I was the chess club president and I could play chess, but that is about all there was too it. I was never one of these people who could focus on strategies and styles when it came to playing chess. I've never been much of a planner that way. I tend to approach most things with a kind of random logic that I'll know what to do when the time comes. Most of the time it gets me by. It works in chess as long as you are playing other mediocre players. And fortunately the East Junior High chess team didn't attract any heavy hitters.

I bring this up because I believe that my predisposed aversion to actually planning anything is just as good of a life philosophy as that of following a road map for success. While the rest of my collegues were on career paths, I was meandering around in the bushes. Ironically I'm pretty much as far along as the rest of them. I just didn't have to bust my hump to get here. But then again, I also set my sights on mediocrity and trusted fate would eventually lead me there.

As one might expect, this is the same philosophy I use when I approach blogging. It is the very unstructured nature of it that makes it my kind of medium. I tried my hand at short stories and novels and got a bit distracted by the requirements of following a storyline. I like the blog world much better. All you have to do here is throw something up on the wall and see what sticks.

So I guess that is pretty much check mate, mate.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Family resemblances

My great, great grandmother Amanda Knotts was a strong woman. She was born in the Shenadoah Valley of Virginia. I don't know what led her to marry my great, great grandfather George Knox, 20 years her senior. It was 1870, so I imagine it was out of practicality.

As one might think, she outlived George by 25 years. She was the matriarch of the family and raised six children on a ranch in Idaho. Last year I posted a blurb I found about her on the Web from a History of Idaho published in 1920. The author wrote that "Mrs. Knox has long lived in this district and has therefore witnessed much of its development and progress, her memory constituting a connecting link between the primitive past and the progressive present."

When Amanda (pictured above left next to her daughter Elvie) died in 1936, she unfortunately had witnesses more of the progressive present than she had bargained for. By that time she'd watched my 18 year old grandmother run off and marry a farmhand who lacked the work ethic for anything but producing children. She also witnessed all of her ranch land sold off to make way for the progressive present. I personally would have liked to see some of the primitive past remain.

But again, obviously I never knew my great, great grandmother. My mother barely knew her but remembers her sitting in her rocking chair on the porch smoking a corn cob pipe. She was kind to my mother, something that was a rarity in her family growing up. So I have a hunch that Granny Knox, although forged in a tough land, was a good and kind person. I hope I've inherited part of that side of the family. I do think I have her eyes (sorry Granny).

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sketch me if you can

Does a photograph contain anything of the subject, or is it just light frozen by chemicals or electronics? What can you tell about a person just by looking at their picture? Can you tell if they are kind? Evil? Cold? Compassionate? In that split second they posed for the camera, what is going through their mind?

Obviously I am fascinated by photographs. I grew up in a time where a box camera was pulled out of a drawer for birthdays, holidays and visits by relatives. My past is captured in blurry black and white.

The portrait above is of my great, great grandfather George D. Knox. He was born in Ohio in 1830 and died in Boise, Idaho in 1911. Obviously I never knew him. All I have are three photos of him including the one above. I know he served in the 19th Iowa Infantry during the Civil War. He was a farmer after the war. He married Amanda Knotts in 1870. She was 20 years younger than him. They had six children. One was my great grandmother. She died when she was 19 years old and my grandmother was raised by George and Amanda.

That's it. Whatever else I know about him has to come from looking at his photographs. But who was he? I stare into his face and wonder if I am like him. Part of his DNA is mine. Whatever legacy of his personality that he infused into my grandmother and was passed onto my mother is also mine.

I wonder if a hundred years from now, someone will look at a photograph of me and wonder similar things. It goes back to a post I wrote some time ago about wishing there was a way that we could preserve who we are for future generations. Even if it was just a permanent storage medium that kep all of our personal, writing, recordings...whatever. Maybe blogging is part of that. It's our way to shape the image the future will stare back at and wonder...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A little off color

I swear, by the moon and the stars in the sky
I'll be there
I swear, like a shadow that's by your side
I'll be there
For better or worse, 'til death do us part
I'll love you with every beat of my heart
I swear
Words and Music by Gary Baker and Frank Myers

Words. We empower them with the stigma of the forbidden and spew them. Then they become profanity. But they are still words.

My father learned to swear in the navy during World War II. He'd interject "damn" or "hell" into most of his sentences. It lost all meaning. But still my mother "tsked, tsked" her way through my childhood at his swearing. She rarely swore. Though on a rare occasion she squeezed out a "damnation." It would set me off dancing around her chanting, "Damnation, damnation, damnation, damn, damn, damn." This would set her off giggling and she would forget her transgression.

I began swearing in junior high when I started playing basketball. I couldn't play worth shit, but I could swear a blue streak by the end of the season. On more than one occasion I would have got a technical foul from the ref if he could have figured out where the swearing was coming from. But I was pretty good at spewing my string of swear words discretely while at the bottom of a pile of players fighting for a loose basketball.

Most of my swearing these days is confined to the car. I can't seem to drive with spouting streams of unbelievably foul language aimed at the uncertain parentage of other drivers. I have created strings of swear words that are works of profane art. And I drive along chanting them like a mantra intended to keep the driving gods on my side. I also use lots of non-verbal hand signals.

Despite my advance swearing skills, for some reason I find it difficult to write dirty words. Oh, I can slap out a "shit" or "hell," but I freeze if I try to type "fu...fu...fuc..." Well, you get the picture. When I try to swear in my blog I hear my mom "tsk, tsking" me and my fingers freeze. Pretty fucked up, huh?

Hey, wait a minute...I typed "fuc...fuh..."

Darn it, anyway. I swear I'll get over it some day.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

On the level

I am not one to blog about current affairs. In this age of information overload, it seems senseless. What can I add to the world knowledge base by linking to some news article or a video of today's top story? But I have to say I have been more than overly disgusted lately with the state of journalism and how we are force fed sensationalism.

First the whole debate about whether the radio shock jock Imus should have been fired or not for insulting the Rutger's women's basketball game was a travesty. I had never even really heard of the guy much less given a hoot in hell about anything he had to say. His racist crap would have drifted away into oblivion if the press hadn't reinforced it at every turn and made sure everyone got to hear in graphic detail what idiotic mumblings he had uttered for the sake of shocking his audience. The real question was not whether he should be fired, but why he had a show in the first place.

And now the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech. How many times did each reporter have to point out the body count and how this was the new record for mass shootings in our history? It's just this kind of sensational garbage reporting that inspires other lunatics to try to beat such records. This was a tragedy. Why does the press insist on making it worse by conducting their scab picking form of journalism and obsessing about minutia. I don't need to hear interviews with local alumni who lived in the same dorm at Virginia Tech where some of the shootings took place. What purpose does that serve?

And don't get me started about Anna Nicole Smith.

It is getting so I am ashamed any more to have a degree in Journalism. It used to mean you were someone who had a thirst for presenting the truth in an objective and informative manner. It has mutated into this circus where the reporters scurry around turning over rocks to feed the masses' voyeuristic hunger for dirt and degradation.

I for one am mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more.

Sorry, I had to go put my head out the window and scream. Hayden asked what am I going to do. Well, I'm going to boycott the stinking news programs that exploit these stories. I'm not watching Dateline or 20/20 and definitely nothing on the Fox Network. And maybe, just maybe I'll start writing letters to the networks and complain. Then I'm going to start writing the sponsors and tell them I'm not going to buy their products if they support sensationalism and sensationalistic programs.

So there.

PS: I did begin writing e-mails today. I've started with MSNBC. I asked them if they had any shame for the way they are reporting. Then I told them I won't watch any network that keeps reporting this way. I'm sure they will file it with the rest of the cranks out there. But at least I said something.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Flying the friendly skies

I can't really say I enjoy flying. But I can tell you if you have to fly, flying First Class takes away some of the pain. The biggest problem with flying First Class is having eventually to go back to flying coach.

It's that way with life, however. Once you've stayed in a suite, flown First Class, tasted a really great (expensive) wine, been in a limousine, dined in a great restaurant and had great seats at a sporting event, returning to reality sucks.

This is not to say you should condemn yourself to coach so you don't know what you are missing, but flying First Class will make flying coach even suckier than it really is.

I love it when they announce early boarding and you get to leisurely saunter down the ramp to the plane without having to worry about fighting someone for space in the overhead bins. I love it when you sit down in an airline seat that is more like a leather recliner than a bench with a TV tray. I love it when the flight attendants ask you what you want to drink before you take off. I love being offered a warm cloth before they serve the meal. And I love eating off real plates, drinking out of real glasses and wiping my mouth on a cloth napkin. I also love getting free headphones to watch the inflight movie that you can actually see because there is a video monitor right above your FIRST CLASS seat. Oh, and I love not having to fork over $5 every time I want a glass of wine (which is never empty in First Class). You also get your own bathroom that none of the riffraff back in coach is supposed to use.

Did I mention your luggage is also tagged so it is the first to be unloaded?

Oh yeah, you also get to use the airline's VIP lounges when you have a layover. I'm talking free booze and all the peanuts you can stuff in your pockets. And the restrooms aren't full of stranded passengers bathing in the sinks and towelling off with paper towels.


But I am still a humble, simple man.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Travelling man

Haven't had much time to post this week. It is Tess' spring break and we are travelling again. I've had sporatic Internet access so I haven't really been in blog mode. Hope to catch up this weekend.

Don't feel too sorry for me. We have been flying First Class. That in itself is a vacation. :)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Building a cathedral

A traveler came upon a group of three hard-at-work stonemasons, and asked each in turn what he was doing.
The first said, “I am sanding down this block of marble.”
The second said, “I am preparing a foundation.”
The third said, “I am building a cathedral.”

Okay, that little parable is slightly cliche and it has been used by inspirational speakers for years. But I've always kind of liked it. It illustrates how your perspective on things goes a long ways towards how you approach anything you do.

I like building cathedrals. I like believing that what I do matters. But damn, sometimes it just feels like I'm just moving rocks from one pile to another.

I work in a renovated turn-of-the-century train station. Each morning I walk through the Great Hall. It used to be the main train depot. It looks like a cathedral and early in the morning, when there is no one else around, it is quite peaceful and uplifting.

But then I take the elevator up to my office. As the elevator door closed this morning I realized that, at the very minimum, I had another 16 years of punching that elevator button to carry me up to my office. That's about 4160 elevator trips. And at the end of those 4160 trips up the elevator what will I have to show for it and who will care?

But you really can't look at things that way. Then you are just carrying rocks from one place to another and after another 16 years all you'd have is a big pile of rocks.

So as the elevator doors opened and I walked to my office, I said to myself "I'm building a cathedral."

But when I'm finished with the damned thing, I'm going to Disneyland.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Love Boat, Second Season

It was two years ago today that Tess and I got married aboard the Diamond Princess bound for the Mexican Riviera. Our Love Boat has been sailing happily ever since. I just want to take this opportunity to thank her for being my wife. She was truly the best thing that ever happened to me.
Happy Anniversary Honey! I love you!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

I pity the fool

"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool. "--William Shakespeare
"It takes a smart guy to play dumb."
--Mr. T
"I got no time for the jibba-jabba."
--Mr. T

It's April Fool's Day and it seemed only appropriate to write about fools. Thus the quotes. When was the last time you saw Mr. T quoted along side Billy Shakespeare? But you've got to love it, especially the line about having "not time for jibba-jabba." Shakespeare couldn't have said it better.

I too have no time for the jibba-jabba.But I constantly find myself in situations where I'm confronted with a fool who spouts only jibba-jabba.

Remember my post about how I don't like talking to naked men in the locker room of the place I work out in? Well this same naked guy sees me come into the locker room the other night and immediately asks me, "Whens the next tattoo show?" I'm hoping he is not just standing there waiting for me to take off my shirt, because it was my celtic armband tattoo that set him off talking to me the first time he'd seen it.

I play dumb and reply, "Tattoo show?" He says, "Yeah, I have to pick my tattoo design." Then he begins his jibba-jabba. "I'm $1000 short of buying my outrigger, though. The tax return helped." This is how crap meanders out of this guy's mouth. What does an outrigger canoe have to do with a tattoo? I put on my iPod and shut out the rest of the free word association he was engaged in.

This leads to another quote I like. I don't know who it is attributed too, but it goes: "It is better to be silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

I've tried to live by that quote. Because I don't really mind being thought of as a fool. People don't tend to feel threatened by you if they think you are a fool. They also don't put to many demands on you. But the minute they think you are a bit sharper tool then they originally imagined they'll start expecting things.

But I digress. My less than finely honed point was that you should never judge a fool by the sheer volume of his verbiage. When you start hearing or reading a massive amount of jibba-jabba, rest assured you are dealing with total moron. This applies to politicians, pastors, self-help gurus, marketing professionals and pop psychologists. It also applies to more than a few self-righteous bloggers.

No fooling.