Tuesday, September 30, 2008

One Way Street

I see the sheeplike press have taken up the politicians clever "Main Street" not "Wall Street" rallying cry. And Congress failed to act on a bailout bill that may have stemmed the nosedive our economy is taking (along with my retirement fund). Even I, a person without a shred of economic savvy knows that perception is everything when comes to people's spending habits. Regardless of whether the bailout would have literally helped, it would have given people some hope and perhaps got them spending again (cash not credit).

I don't claim to understand the nuances of sub prime lending or how it is bringing down major financial institutions. I do know that trading on Wall Street is like throwing firecrackers in front of sheep. They'll stampede in the opposite direction at the slightest hint of bad news. And with it goes our bank accounts and retirement funds that are inextricably tied to the value of stocks.

I have never been one to use credit cards to live. I hate being in debt. I have a mortgage, but it kills me knowing that I owe somebody money for my house. And with the panic of the latest economic situation, I probably couldn't sell my house if my life depended on it. One no one is lending and two, there is a glut of foreclosures out there that the vultures can swoop down on for pennies on the dollar anyway.

So I sit like everyone else, wondering what will happen and what it means to my family. Oh, and I don't give a rip about Main Street or Wall Street. I care about my street.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Debating the hook

I tried to watch the first presidential debate between Obama and McCain. We even taped it so we could watch it at our leisure between diaper changes and feedings. After about 45 minutes, changing a dirty diaper seemed more interesting.

First, I couldn't get past the fact that Obama and McCain's message experts came up with the same clever play on "Wall Street" versus "Main Street." The luck of the draw allowed Obama to use it first and then McCain, obviously coached to make sure he said it spat it out in his first two minute ramble.

Having been in the messaging business, I also cringe when I hear the words, "accountability" and "transparency." I give the debate to Obama mainly because I couldn't take McCain pointing out all of the various places he has travelled to while in public office. "I've been to Kandahar. I have a very nice pillow cover I picked up at the airport there and I tell you that the people of Afghanistan are pretty skilled at embroidery."

It could spark the next college drinking game.

The value of debates is debatable anyway. I still think you watch them with your mind made up and wait for the guy you aren't voting for to screw up. I came away from watching the debate thinking McCain seemed a bit too much like Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now for my taste. And Obama needs to work on hiding his look of disgust at stupid comments or he'll never be able to sit through all of the State dinners he will be required to attend as President.

Oh well, it's almost over.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The shoulder of giants

"nanos gigantum humeris insidentes"

I'm actually amazed that humans have as much knowledge as we do. Because think of it, we all have a life span of say 80 years. In that 80 years, we have to learn as much as we can from those who came before us and pass as much knowledge on to those coming after us. And in that time we also have to sift through the misconceptions, half truths, myths and outright lies that are passed along from generation to generation to arrive at our best guess at what really is the truth.

Collective consciousness aside, none of us are born knowing everything. So why is it some people insist that they don't need an education? Education is that giant's shoulder we stand on to review what past generations have learned so we don't have to start from scratch as we venture out into our world. And every generation someone suggests a better way to build a fire or else we would still be rubbing sticks together.

But still I am impressed at how advanced our species is considering we are all just marking time here. Scratching on cave walls advanced to pencils on paper, tapping on typewriters, and now clicking away on computers. I marvel that I can store and listen to my entire music collection on a mp3 player the size of a matchbox. I still can't believe something as big as a 747 can fly. And I really can't believe I can receive 300 different channels of television via satellite and still can't find anything decent to watch.

Despite the old adage, "Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it," there is still this propensity for our species to repeat the same mistakes over and over even after reviewing history. Perhaps it is the folly of youth to consider themselves immune from the pitfalls from following the same paths as their fathers.

Or perhaps there is a danger when perched on the shoulders of giants of having our vision obscured by clouds while the giant plods off a cliff at the end of the path.

Oh well, I've mixed enough metaphors for now.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

And they call it monkey love...

I was watching the History Channel while using the elliptical machine at the gym today. I'm not sure what program I was watching, but it was about a program Stalin funded to try and cross breed apes and humans to create hybrid army of man-apes with extreme strength.

A Soviet scientist went to Africa and tried unsuccessfully to artificially inseminate chimpanzees (talk about spanking your monkey). When that didn't work, he returned to the Soviet Union and tried to use orangutan and gorilla sperm to impregnate human females. And thus was born the World Wrestling Federation.

But seriously, the experiment apparently never worked. Though the Soviets always had a pretty decent team at the Summer Olympics.

I thought this was a pretty odd experiment. Even if it had worked, how did the Soviets suppose they were going to train this army of man-apes? And how would anyone take seriously soliders with names like Bobo, Bonzo and Cheetah who were just as likely to spontaneously fling feces at the enemy as throw a grenade at them.

The experiment did make me think of the Planet of the Apes movies from back in the 70s. I remember going to a Planet of the Ape marathon back when I was 15. I think I watched five Planet of the Apes films in a row -- Planet of the Apes, Beneath Planet of the Apes, Escape from Planet of the Apes, Conquest of Planet of the Apes and Battle for Planet of the Apes. That Roddy McDowell was one underrated actor.

I don't admit this very often, but when Escape from Planet of the Apes came out in 1971, I kind of had a crush on one of the chimpanzees --Zira. And when I say a crush on the chimpanzees, I literally mean Zira the character, not Kim Hunter the actress who played Zira. Give me a break, I was 12.

Well, enough monkey business.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Blogaversary

Damn. August 4 was my 4th Blogaversary, and it blipped by me unnoticed. I think it had something to do with my son being born. Funny how life has this way of taking priority over blogging.

Anyway, I've been at this for four years now. It seems like 40. And it seems like four days. Time has no meaning in a blog. And a great deal has happened in four years. I got engaged, married, sold a house, bought a house, turned 50 and had two children. I'd say that it has been a pretty eventful time.


I didn't even know what a blog was when I stumbled into blogging. I'd been slogging away with my own Web page before that, writing HTML and then experimenting with programs like Dreamweaver to create pages. As irritating as Blogger.com can be, it is still light years ahead of hard coding pages with HTML.

Having been blogging for four years, I still can't really tell you what purpose it serves. Sure, it provides an easy and cheap (translate in most cases to free) outlet for writers and artists to publish. But at the same time, people tend to value things according to how much they pay for them. And with 14 million (give or take a few million) blogs out there spewing words for free, trying to get someone to read your blog and take you seriously as a writer is about as easy as a Jehovah's Witness making money selling Watchtower religious pamphlets in Las Vegas.

I suppose blogging is a social experiment more than anything else. Most people seem to stumble into it the way I did and get overwhelmed by the immensity of the blog community. It's a world with it's own rules, language and social pitfalls. There are trolls, lurkers, flame wars, stalkers and other virtual bogeymen. Since it is a one and two-dimensional world primarily of written words, it is fraught with misunderstandings and miscommunications. People make friends, enemies, allies and foes.

Blogging is carnival mirror of life.

Some people get burned out and stop blogging. Some take breaks and never come back. Some vow never to blog again and then blog the next day. I have gone days and weeks without blogging, but I have never really got tired of blogging or been tempted to stop. Maybe it is because I try not to make blogging an obligation or work.

Maybe I should write a book about blogging. I could call it Blogging for Dummies, but I tend to think that would be redundant. There is no formula for blogging. There is no plot, no real structure or format. It is the lack of a "right or wrong way to do it" that makes blogging so attractive to people. It is also why blogs will likely never be considered great literature in the classical sense.

But that is not necessarily a bad thing. All art needs to evolve. Perhaps out of the chaos and primeval ooze of blogs a new form of literature will evolve. It could be the expressionist movement or abstract art of the written word. And it may not be recognized in my lifetime as an art form.

I don't kid myself that I am a pioneer in this new way of writing. It's hard to consider yourself unique when millions of others are clicking away at the same thing. But I like to think that my blog is uniquely mine and not so much like any of the other 14 million out there.

Oh, and the sun revolves around the earth.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Perchance to dream...

Everyone thinks it is funny to ask new parents whether they are getting any sleep. Ha, ha, ha...I never get tired of that question. Of course we are getting sleep. I just comes in fits and and starts like an old Fiat. The good thing about never sleeping more than five minutes at a time is that you tend to dream a lot...even when you are awake.

But are they all dreams?

I was getting my Grande Americano at Tullys (a far superior coffee chain than Starbucks that is also based in Seattle) when I noticed the crack head who hangs out there eating raw onions and nursing a drip coffee with his bare feet up on one of the tables was wearing a straw hat ala Tom Sawyer. No one but me seemed to think this was odd. So maybe it was one of my dreams.

And I keep seeing an Asian dude with a robe walking around downtown with a bunch of freshly cut bamboo strapped to his back. I saw him on two separate occasions, so I am thinking that he probably isn't part of a dream. Yesterday was a full moon after all.

The gay nude beach my train goes by in the afternoon on my way home has been particularly active. I certainly hope that is not one of my dreams or Freud would be rolling his cigar around nodding at me. And why is it that nudists (particularly gay ones) seem to resemble Jabba the Hut?

I think Roan's teddy bear (that has a sound feature that simulates the heartbeat within the womb) sounds like the sound effects from the old computer game Doom. It has been freaking me out.

I almost put the cat in the dishwasher the other day. Fortunately he was sleeping and I got him out before the second rinse cycle.

We went to Costco over the weekend and bought a case of baby wipes, diapers, 20 rolls of paper towels, a 30 pound box of cat litter and a bottle of laundry detergent the size of a Volkswagen. I wish that had been a dream.

Somebody pinch me.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Blogging for the Pulitzer

I really don't think they give out Pulitzer Prizes for blogging. If they do, something tells me I likely won't be on the short list to get one. I think more that five people have to read your stuff before you are considered for a Pulitzer Prize.

Besides, I'm thinking that actually being successful as a writer wouldn't be all I've built it up to be. Getting one book published, for instance, would just put a lot of pressure on me to get another one published. And I'm starting to develop this theory that most writers only have one great story in them. Then they spend the rest of their career trying to crank out another one.

Don't wave Stephen King in my face, either. He has written maybe one great book, The Stand. Everything else he has published is pretty much the same story rewritten with a slightly different plot but the same characters.

And being a successful writer doesn't seem to be good for you emotional health anyway. I read today where author David Foster Wallace hung himself. I have to admit I'd never heard of him, but his obituary said he wrote a 1000-page novel called Infinite Jest that had earned him a "genius grant" from some foundation and a gig at Pomona College teaching Creative Writing. I'd hazard a guess that reading one too many freshman short stories contributed to his suicide. Plus I'm also guessing he didn't know what to do once he'd achieved genius writer status. How do you top being a genius? No matter what you write from then on is held up to that "genius status" and you are pretty much screwed.

Not that I'm speaking from experience. My writing is usually categorized in the "interesting" category, which is like telling people with an ugly baby that it "sure has lots of hair" (my son, by the way is pretty darn cute and has lots of hair).

Let's face it, being considered a great writer pretty much amounts to a death sentence. Hemingway blew his head off with a shotgun, Hunter S. Thompson used a .44 magnum, Spalding Gray drowned himself, so did Virginia Woolf, Yukio Mishima committed Hari Kari, Sylvia Plath stuck her head in the oven, and John Kennedy Toole sucked on his car's exhaust pipe (in all fairness this was before his novel Confederacy of the Dunces was published and actually won a Pulitzer). Wikipedia actually has a complete section on Writers who have committed suicide.

Maybe being an interesting writer is okay. I'll probably live longer.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

No muse ain't good news


Having been out from work for a month on family leave after the birth of my son, I haven't been much on writing. Maybe it's because the Monkey Playing Cymbals was at the office chattering away and I wasn't there to be inspired by his banana-baited breath.

I missed the Monkey.

I've been back at work two days now. The Monkey has been ignoring me. He's a bit pissed that I left him alone for a month. There is nothing worse than a monkey scorned. I need his chattering as a laxative for my writer's constipation. Though too much chattering can lead to run on sentences. Ha, ha.

I could also use some sleep.

The month off from work was the longest time I've been off work since I started working full time 26 years ago. But it went by in a blink of the eye. And I feel guilty going back to work. Because trust me that working isn't near as much work as taking care of a toddler and a newborn.

I think the Monkey is forgiving me. He is smiling at me. I think I have my muse back. Give me a couple of days and I'll be producing Pulitzer Prize material again.

Or at least a real blog post or two.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Death Sentence

Death Sentence is the title of a 2007 movie starring Kevin Bacon, Kelly Preston and John Goodman. It is the story of a business man who witnesses his teenage son murdered with a machete as part of a gang initiation. He then goes Rambo on the gang's ass and kills everyone but only after they've killed or maimed about everyone in his family first.

Watching Death Sentence is more like getting a life sentence. But Tess and I watched the whole thing because despite several hundred DirectTV channels, we can never find anything but Seinfeld reruns to watch. And much as I love Seinfeld, I've just about seen everyone of them 50 times and yadda, yadda, yadda.

I don't think Kevin Bacon is a bad actor. I don't think he is a good actor (I do find the fact that he looks like Lon Cheney Sr. in the original Phantom of the Opera a bit disconcerting). I just think Bacon peaked after Footloose. But I think he has done some okay movies. I'm not sure what he was thinking when he accepted the part in Death Sentence. I suppose it was the same thing John Goodman was thinking...paycheck.

Don't get me wrong, I like a good vigilante film as well as the next guy. Who hasn't secretly longed to blow away street scum with a 12-guage Mossberg and a .357? But this film challenged my "willing suspension of disbelief" meter.

First Bacon goes from a milk toast business guy teaching his boy how to ride a bicycle to a avenging psychopath with superhuman strength in about five seconds. He is surrounded by 40 or 50 tattooed skinheads with automatic weapons and he beats them to a pulp with a key chain. Apparently these bloodthirsty gang members have never been to the shooting range either, because they manage to shoot at Bacon from two feet away and constantly miss.

Goodman plays the gun dealing father of the head gang member. He plays the same character he played in the Big Lebowski, but this time his writers were obviously smoking crack. He was neither quirky nor funny. He was just creepy in that same way as the sweaty fat guy with Tourettes Syndrome that sits down next to you on the bus is.

Kelly Preston really had no character whatsoever and was only in the film because she is married to John Travolta. I'm willing to bet the Scientoligists backed the film as well.

What adds insult to injury for me is that I Googled this film and read several random reviews raving about the "action packed psychological thriller" and Bacon's superb acting job.

Once again I am reminded that I live in my own world.