Monday, October 31, 2011

Scary faces

In a Narcissistic moment of weakness back in 2006, I carved an image of my own face onto a pumpkin. Can you guess which one it was? In an ironic twist, squirrels ended up gnawing my pumpkin face off the next day.

I took it as a sign.

This year I carved four pumpkins: A skull, a pirate ship with a skull and cross bones, a zombie and one of My Little Ponies (I think it was Pinkie Pie or it could have been Rainbow Dash). Parenthood makes you do strange things.

It is the same reason I'll be dressing up like a pirate tonight. My three-year old son dictated that the entire family would dress as pirates to go trick or treating. He issued this declaration several weeks ago and since has stated that he wants to go dressed as a cow, a witch, a robot, a spaceman and a spider. But we had already invested in pirate costumes so we are forcing him to remain a pirate so we will be one big happy pirate family. Though I seriously doubt Blackbird went out pillaging and pirating with his wife and toddlers in tow.

 There is a plus side to all of this. I can dress as a pirate (which I secretly kind of enjoy) without being thought of as an idiot because people will look at my two young pirates and smile knowingly thinking I am only dressed as a pirate for my children and not because I am addled. I can also spout things like, "Where do pirates eat their lunch...ARRRRRRRRRRRRR-by's...RRRRRRRR" with impunity.

 We will all be sporting eye patches and my son and I will be wearing plastic hook hands. These are pirate trademarks. Because apparently pirates were getting eyes poked out and limbs whacked off on a regular basis. My wife also bought me a pirate shirt that I actually think looks more like something the artist formerly known as Prince would wear (though I think he is now calling himself Prince again because no one could pronounce the symbol he changed his name to).

 I won't be brandishing a cutlass because apparently this isn't proper behavior modelling for children and the local police frown on cutlass brandishing. There are more rules for being a pirate than I would have imagined.

 I'll keep you posted on how the pillaging goes. Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Just when you thought it was safe...

Okay, I accepted going on Facebook was inevitable and I dabble with Twitter even though I think it is useless. I use LinkedIn for business contacts and I think I have a Plaxo account for some reason. I tried Foursquare but freaked that I was checking in all the time and people could track me. And I confessed to being on GetGlue because after all they give you STICKERS! I also have YouTube, Flickr, Twitpic, and Picasa accounts. Oh yeah, and I have a Google+ account that links everything.

So you would think I have no time left for any more social media sites. Not true! Just when you thought it was safe to go on the Web without having to join some new site, they bring you Tumblr is supposedly a combination of all of the other sites you don're really have time to keep up with. It allows you to blog, chat, post videos, post photos, post quotes, post annoying memes or just twitisms. Who in their right mind would join something that basically mimics every other social media site out there?

 I would, of course, because even after seven years of blogging unnoticed, I still live in a fantasy world that the reason why my blog hasn't busted into big time (i.e. Google Blogs of Note) is because I haven't done enough to promote it. So if I post on the Dizgraceland fan page on Facebook, Tweet on my Dizgraceland Twitter page, post a photo of a each post on Dizgraceland at Twitpic, mention I'm thinking about Dizgraceland on GetGlue, and now regurgitate everything on Dizgraceland at Tumbler, eventually I will go viral and people will subscribe for .99 a month to my blog on Kindle (which makes no sense since they can read if for free on the Web) and I will get massively rich and quit my day job.

I will also get gigs on Conan, Letterman and Leno. Maybe I will have my own t-shirts and Judgement Day calendars. Hell, I'll have a whole merchandising line. Dizgraceland will become a household word kind of like Justin Bieber (which is actually two words).

My whole "going viral" scheme is fed by the fact that you can connect all of your social media sites. This means when I post on my Dizgraceland Facebook page, it generates a Tweet on Twitter which is captured by GetGlue as well. Ironic it also appears again on my Dizgraceland blog. I have basically created one single social media organism that essentially feeds upon itself. This is exacerbated by the fact that I essentially have the same followers/friends/tweeters/gluersniffers and Tumbler's on all of my social media sites. And most of them don't really care whether there is a new post about Judgement Day on Dizgraceland or that I am also listening to Jake Shimabukuro's song Dragon on Jango while watching the latest episode of Boardwalk Empire (which was pretty darned good I might say though a bit graphic in the violence department).

But I digress (a line that will have to be on one of my t-shirts that you'll be able to buy via my blog store...these will be quality shirts mind you...not those three for $5 crap ones you buy on the beach in Cabo that shrink to the size of a dog sweater after one washing).

I haven't really decided who I want to play me in the Dizgraceland television series. At first I was thinking maybe Pierce Brosnan or Richard Gere, but let's face it, Father Time is winning the foot race with both of them. Plus I think someone like Jesse Eisenberg would be more appealing to the younger demographic the show would appeal to. But I'm also thinking that he is a bit too bohemian nerdy. So I'm going to insist that Jake Gyllenhaal play me. If he tries to screw us in contract negotiations then the back up can be Adrian Grenier from Entourage. That show is off the air and he's probably looking for work. Of course Mark Wahlberg could probably pull it off, too.

Now all I have to do it is sit back and go all viral! In the meantime I'll keep checking in on GetGlue. Did I mention you get free STICKERS!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Just another Doomsday

So here it is Oct. 21, 2011, the day Oakland based preacher Harold Camping predicted would be the end of the world after his flubbed prediction that the rapture would occur on May 21, 2011. What the 90-year old Camping didn't specify was which time zone the end of days would take place in. Because it is now May 22 in some parts of the world and there is no end in sight.

Since this doomsday doesn't seem to be working out for Camping either, I wonder if he is going to fall back on December 21, 2012, the end of the Mayan calendar, as the next scheduled doomsday. But since Camping is 90 and had a stroke in June, odds are he won't last until the end of the world anyway.

When Camping does meet his maker, I hope the first thing said to him is, "Hey Harold, we've got this pool going about the end of the world, want in on it?"

I have no sympathy for Camping. What arrogance to predict the end of the world. If believed in sin, that would be right up there. And Camping's punishment should be having to live forever...waiting for the rapture.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What would you call the White House if it was yellow?

That's what my five-year old daughter asked me when I called home from a recent business trip to Washington D.C. I of course told her I supposed it would be called the Yellow House. She proceeded to ask me what it would be called if it was red, green, or blue.

All good questions.

It was my first time in the nation's capitol. And I have to admit it was kind of surreal seeing all of these things I'd grown up seeing photos of like the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Monument and of course, the White House. I was particularly moved by the Lincoln Memorial having been fascinated by his life since I was a boy.

I also visited Ford's Theater and the house across the street where they carried Lincoln after he had been shot by John Wilkes Booth where you could see the room he died in.

The park ranger at the house pointed out that none of the furniture in the house, including the bed in the room where Lincoln died, was the original furniture.  But she assured everyone that it looked a lot like the furniture that was there when Lincoln died, including the short twin bed that was way too small for Lincoln's six foot plus frame. Apparently Lincoln spent his final hours with his legs hanging over the end of the bed.

A bed like the one Lincoln died in.
Not a dignified way to go I must say.

It struck me, after sheepishly waiting in line to tour the house and then marching up the steps to the Lincoln Memorial the next day, that Lincoln would have probably been a bit mortified by the whole thing. I think he was basically a simple man and having people tromping through the room he died in and taking photos of the bed that he didn't really die in would have made him more than a bit uncomfortable. And I imagine he would have been embarrassed by his statue in the monument as well. Not that he didn't warrant a monument (though he does have his face on the penny and the five dollar bill.

The theater box at Ford's Theater where
Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth.

I was a bit mortified myself at the gift shop in Ford's Theater selling Lincoln shot glasses, Lincoln Rocks t-shirts with Lincoln holding an electric guitar, Gettysburg Address neckties and Lincoln bobble heads. You could even buy licorice jelly bean bullets. Ironically Ford Theater's tag line is "Where Lincoln's Legacy Lives On."

To add insult to injury, there was a Hard Rock Cafe just down the street from Ford's Theater. Perhaps this explains the "Lincoln Rocks" t-shirt.

After visiting Ford's Theater, I walked through the National Portrait Gallery a few blocks away. Again I was blown away seeing the actual portraits I'd seen in history books over the years. And once again I was moved by a portrait of Lincoln and his actual life and death masks.

I spent the next day exploring museums, monuments and memorials. Americans are big on monuments and memorials...really big monuments and memorials. I saw the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Monument, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial and the newest Memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. that was being dedicated the next day.

The World War II Memorial
The Franklin Roosevelt Memorial
The Jefferson Monument
The spot at the Lincoln Memorial where
Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I have a dream" speech.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
I have to say, it was all pretty overwhelming. It is difficult to squeeze a couple of hundred years of history into a day and a half. But I'm glad I had the opportunity and I plan to take my family to Washington D.C. once the kids are old enough to appreciate what they'll be seeing. But I imagine my daughter will still ask me what they'd call the White House if it was yellow.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Transported for life

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she With silent lips.
"Give me your tired, your poor,
 Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
 The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
 Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" 

 --Emma Lazarus, Inscription on the Statue of Liberty
Apparently, from the early 1600s through the beginning of the American Revolution, the UK used to transport criminals (major and minor) to the American Colonies as punishment. Once the colonies began fussing over taxes on tea and such, they stopped with the logical conclusion that if they shipped any more to America, they'd simply join forces with the Colonial Army thrilled with the opportunity to point a gun at their jailers. Beginning in 1788, they began sending their prisoners to Australia instead.

I sometimes wonder if that is how my ancestors migrated to America. Not that I have uncovered a great deal of criminal activity in my family tree on my forays into genealogy.  Though one of my cousin's wife did shoot her five-year-old son with a shotgun before turning the weapon on herself. This left a lasting impression on me because the five-year old was only a day older than me and I had played with him on occasion. I do recall my mother describing my cousin's wife as being high strung. I would describe her more as being a few marbles short of a full bag.

But I digress.

Though while I am revealing skeletons in my family closet, I do recall another cousin robbing a bank in California. I think it was a small bank, however. Other than that and a few relatives who have seen the inside of various asylums and mental institutions most of my relatives I've uncovered have been too preoccupied with scratching in the dirt or procreating to engage in criminal activities. I think crime in general would have required a bit too much mental effort on most of their parts, but that is just my educated guess.

Not that you had to be a criminal mastermind to get transported to America for life. Apparently all it took was "injuring" a bridge to get your behind thrown onto a boat for a one-way trip to New England and a life building roads for the state or sold into slavery. The punishment for returning from transportation for life was death.  In the long run, I think it was just the British way of weeding out the riff raff without having to build more prisons.

The funny thing is that I don't remember being taught anything about this in school. We were taught crap about how the pilgrims came to America seeking religious freedom from persecution in England. But the near as I can figure, they weren't really interested in anyone having freedom from religious persecution once they got here. I think the Salem witches would agree with me.

I don't imagine it would go over well if we had been taught the truth about anything in grade school. A book called Squanto, Enslaved by the British Before Being Screwed Over by the Pilgrims, wouldn't be politically correct as Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims. Squanto, whose real name was Tisquantum, was a member of the Patuxet tribe. He was kidnapped by one of John Smith's lieutenants who tried to sell him in Spain for 20 pounds. He was sort of rescued by some monks who tried to teach him about Christ. He ended up in London and eventually worked his way back to America only to find his tribe had been wiped out by a gift of the early settlers -- smallpox. He did help the pilgrims by teaching them how to plant corn. But they never really trusted him. Squanto/Tisquantum, died, apparently poisoned by another tribe who thought he was selling them out to the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims buried him in an unmarked grave (maybe along with some corn).

The odd truth about America is that rather than a melting pot, we are more of a compost bin. This would explain Emma Lazarus' line about "retched refuse on your teeming shore" and our strong urge to recycle. We also believe in liberty, especially when it comes to the truth.

Trust me on this.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Literature of digression?

Here I have been digressing for years and now I discover that there is actually a literary genre called the "literature of digression." Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne was apparently one of them. It was a 18th century novel written in nine volumes. The narrator digresses so much that the main character isn't even born until volume three. Now that is a digression.

I actually read Tristram Shandy in 8th grade. I thought it sucked.

But I digress.

I have never been fond of the term literature. It conjures up too many bad associations for me of literature students dissecting some author's works to determine how it ticks the same way a biology student would perform a vivisection on a rat. Neither the author nor the rat really take much pleasure in either act.

Not that I would consider anything I write as literature. Nor would I expect anyone to study it or perform a vivisection on it. When you peel away the layers of an onion you will typically discover an onion. So you are better off just eating it and appreciating that it is an onion.

I have never really understood why people get PhD's in literature. You shouldn't study literature, you should read it. It is not as if people with PhD's in literature actually end up writing great literature themselves. All they seem to write about is what some author was writing about. But if the author was any good in the first place, he or she wouldn't need some PhD to interpret what they were trying to say, now would they?

Of course, I am over generalizing as usual. I think it is nice that people can spend years and thousands of dollars getting an education to deconstruct the meaning of the harpoon in Moby Dick. The practical side of me wonders how in the hell they make a living with a PhD in literature. I like to read and write, too, but at least I majored in Journalism so people didn't ask me what I was going to do with my degree once I graduated. Most people assume literature majors are going to either teach or be barista's.

 I don't like poetry or creative writing (fiction or non-fiction) majors either. As a rule, I think poetry sucks and teaching someone to write creatively if they don't have talent is like teaching a cat to bark.

But I digress.

Personally, I learned to write by reading. To this day, I probably couldn't diagram a sentence if my life depended upon it. But I know intuitively when something is wrong with one. And I don't need to sit in a creative writing class having eight other "writers" telling me how they would have written my story.

I think constructive criticism sucks.

But I digress.

I guess I've given up on the concept of writing fiction and being a great novelist anyway. I don't have the patience to craft three or four hundred pages of plot with believable characters that don't bore me. I'm better suited to crank out 1000 word blog posts without any deep meaning or point.

It's my art and I think I'll keep it.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Me, myself and I

I realize now the major social media faux pas I made the other day by posting about the music I was listening to on Jango. I think I reached a new low in hits on the post. Even the "next blog" people passed on it. I keep forgetting that no one really wants to read about me regardless of how fascinating I think I am.

I guess I got carried away by the wealth of music out there that I was totally unaware of. And if I were being honest to myself, I'd have to say I wanted to impress the world with my openness to cutting edge music regardless of whether I could pronounce the names of the musicians performing it. It reminded me of seventh grade when a  girl in my class expressed amazement that I said I liked listening to America's Horse With No Name. She told me that she would have thought I sat around listening to classical music. It was a wake up call that I needed to tweak my image in the "hipness" realm.

Part of it is also middle aged angst. There is a tendency to think anyone over 50 only listens to Tony Bennett. It doesn't help when I read my niece and nephew's Facebook pages and don't have a clue as to who or what they are talking about, especially when it comes to music and concerts.

Not that I ever was much on going to concerts. The last one I went to was the Wiggles. It was a pretty good show if you don't mind short songs that are about fruit salad. The first concert I ever went to was Boz Scaggs. He was playing in an exhibition hall at the Western Idaho Fairgrounds. Not many groups performed in Idaho at the time because there wasn't any place to perform. I remember Boz stating on stage that performing in the exhibition hall was not unlike playing inside a toilet bowl.

I did go through a brief but expensive stage when I moved to Seattle to go to college where I went to concerts every few weeks. Seattle has many more places to perform than Boise did. I remember walking the floor of Key Arena at Seattle Center marveling at the number of people openly selling drugs the same way a peanut vendor would sell his wares at a ball game.

One of my claims to fame is that I threw up at a Cheap Trick concert in the Paramount Theater in downtown Seattle. I wasn't drunk. I just had the flu and had shelled out big bucks for the tickets. I'd tried bolstering myself with Pepto Bismal, but that just turned my puke pink..  I watched the standing fans shriek and part as the pink river flowed down the sloping theater floor towards the stage. I didn't stay for the end of the show.

In my single days, I also went out a bit to see live music. I saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers perform live at a club downtown once, not because I knew who they were, but because they were performing along with a local Portland band called the Crazy Eights that I liked. The only thing I knew about the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the time was that they had performed nude wearing only a single sock (and it wasn't on their collective feet). The were fortunately fully clothed when I saw them.

The best show I think I've ever seen is the Blue Man Group sitting in the Poncho Section at the Luxor in Las Vegas. I also saw their Complex Rock Tour Live at the Paramount Theater. I didn't puke at it.

Damn. I've posted about myself again. I don't think I'll ever get the hang of writing for you.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Jango'd nerves

When I was a kid, I had a little blue transistor radio that I carried around with me during the summer. I'd twirl the tuning dial and hold it up in the air trying to get the best reception so I could listen to the latest songs that had made the charts. It was the 60s and the classic rock and roll songs weren't yet classics. Although I'm sure there was a plethora of music out there, my music world was confined to that small blue plastic box. And it seemed contained to a manageable number of musicians that I could at least name.

I hate listening to radio stations anymore not because I don't like music, I just hate listening to mindless DJ babble. Much of the music I now listen to now on my MP3 player is stuff ripped from my CD collection which was mostly stuff that I'd bought to replace my record collection which was based largely on music that I used to hear on my transistor radio.

I have to admit that I am woefully behind on the current music scene. I will blame part of it on having a couple of toddlers. You don't listen to much during the first four or five years of  raising children that doesn't involve the Wiggles or Raffi. My kids begin screeching in protest if we get into the car and the radio is playing instead of a soundtrack to something like the Princess and the Frog.

So when I stumbled onto a Web site called (a free music site that plays any kind of music you want, relatively commercial free and non-stop), I was overwhelmed at the number of artists out there I've never heard of.  You start by plugging in the names of musicians you like and Jango shuffles through their songs and then starts adding songs from similar artists.

I started with a group I like called Zero 7. Before long I was exposed to groups like Beats Antique, Boozoo Bajou, De-Phazz, Massive Attack, Bent, Air, Bonobo, Kinobe and Thievery Corporation (fortunately, you can't judge a group by their name). Jango also gives you mini-biographies of the musicians. You fine tune Jango by clicking on a thumbs up for songs and musicians you like or a thumbs down for stuff you'd rather not hear again.

Did I mention Jango is free? Even when I had satellite radio in my car I had to pay to listen to the satellite stations on my computer. Plus I could never find anything I really liked listening to and it never customized the stations to me. Jango even lets me set up different 'radio stations' based on different genres of music all keyed off an initial artist I liked. If I'm in the mood for country music, I can start with the Dixie Chicks or the Civil Wars and get music similar to those musicians. Or if I feel like heavy metal, I type in Black Sabbath and chances are Iron Man will be cranked out.

My only complaint about Jango is that it overwhelms me at times. There are so many great musicians out there I don't really have time to get lost in one groups music the way I did when I was a kid and play their album over and over like I did with the Beatles.

Did I mention Jango is free? If it came in a little, blue plastic box and had static, I'd swear I was listening to my transistor radio again.