Wednesday, June 30, 2004


How Could I Be So Stupid?

Still Wednesday. Still German on my cable and internet. So much crap. Lame day. First, I missed the big meeting. It was arranged last Wednesday, the 23rd or whatever it was, and I could have sworn it was supposed to be from 1pm-3pm. So I get there a little early, about 12:30, and here’s a bunch of people walking out. Turns out the meeting was 8:30 -Noon. I didn’t see Princess Wolfie coming out. She had something else this morning, and had to find someone to cover her there, so I’m not sure if she actually made it or not. So this sucks. But I can rush home for the cable guy. He actually got here within the first hour of his window. Good news, right? Well it took him about a minute to determine no temp line would work. I have to wait til Friday for the construction crew to come out. No cable no internet. Oh it comes and goes. I saw almost a minute of TV this morning before it cut out again. And I did manage to sneak a post in earlier today. But by and large, nothing. At least I don’t have to hang out with the cable guy and I can do other stuff. For example, today is payday. Woohoo! Except my check is short because I neglected to work some optional hours in this pay period. But still, when I deposit my check, I can also go pick up my watch, which was having the glass face replaced. And it’s not done either. No meeting, no Princess Wolfie, no cable, no internet, no watch, short paycheck. I’m almost afraid to eat; I’d probably get food poisoning. I need to lose weight anyway. 201.4. That’s a little better at least. Also, KGO wrote back. There’s more with links later. I’ll try and squeeze this in today if I get the chance.

Yeah! Beat The Clock This Time!

All German, all the time. I write offline, and then just transfer the stuff to the blog. My connection came back just long enough on Monday to let me send you the warning I may miss a day. And I left you with the question of whether or not I should call. Well a couple of hours later, my cable went fritzy on me. No TV and no internet. So I made the call. Turns out the construction crew is due on Friday. It’s 8am Tuesday right now. Sometime today, a temporary line is supposed to be put in to last me until Friday. If they’re not here by 5pm, I’m supposed to call again. If you read this by midnight, then I haven’t missed a day. Although I should say that I’ll be visiting with relatives for a few days in late July, and there is an all office team building retreat in mid-August at die Konferenzmitte. They say what goes TDY, stays TDY. I doubt this will apply to the retreat, but who knows? Neighbor Lady says she might break her own rules and actually drink. Well this is quite a little roundup post. What else? Code Name Eagle is off to school, living on his own for the first time. My fingers hurt from the guitar. It’s slow going. Doing ok with the lessons so far, all self taught. My schedule doesn’t really allow for formal lessons, but this book I have is pretty good. I should say that I can’t read music fluently. The chords so far are going ok, but C chord is really tough for me. I have a tough time getting enough straight down pressure without my 2 and 3 fingers touching the next string and messing up the sound. I’ve always had big hands, but this is the first time my fingers haven’t been delicate enough for a task. What else? Princess Wolfie tomorrow, along with the rest of the committee from last week, for a quick afternoon meeting. That covers pretty much everything I think. Maybe a couple more things. Weight. Must have jinxed myself. 205.8. Crap. And what have I been watching while the cable is out? A couple of Wrestlemanias and a Survivor Series from back in the mid to late 80’s. Really a renaissance in big time wrestling. I got these tapes at a garage sale, if you can believe that. No temp line Tuesday by 5pm. Called again and lady says by 5pm today a crew should come by to check if a temp line is possible, if so they’ll do it. Connection out all Tuesday, brief window now I hope. Damn. Went out again before I could post.

Monday, June 28, 2004


It Comes and Goes.

Well my little angels, I feel like I should give you this warning. My internet connection has been like a German kindergarten class. There’s a little fritz in the system. There isn’t a pattern, it just goes out once in a while, for hours at a time. I should tell you my cable company provides my internet also. They thought it was a weak signal. A guy came on Friday and determined this was the case. He put a little booster on it and it looked a lot better. This lasted for the rest of Friday, and Saturday was good too. Sunday it crapped out again. Mr. Friday also said he sent a message to the construction crew because some work needed to be done between the cable in the street and the side of my house. He says the construction guys will be here within seven days. I mainly bring this up because I had promised to write every day and I’m just letting you know I might miss a day. Plus a question. Do I give it the seven days, or do I call and start complaining?

Sunday, June 27, 2004


This Post Chock Full Of Linky Goodness

Hidden Message Gets Thumbs Up From Cheney Posted by Hello

Ok at this time, if you follow this link, you’ll go to the Drudge Report, which links to an article about Cheney’s F.U. comment to Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.). We’re not going into that, though. My concern is the pic that accompanies the link. Check out the seal on the podium. Fudan University. Which on the seal is in all caps: FUDAN UNIVERSITY. Now check out the first word: FUDAN. Ponder this for a minute. It's not so very far from F U DAN. RATHER an interesting question now, isn’t it? Oooops. Lost control of my caps there for a second.

So this jumps out at me, and at first, I wonder if the picture hasn’t been doctored. I’m not a clever person, but some photoshop whiz out there might have had fun with the pic and sent it back into circulation. I mean, who the hell ever heard of Fudan University? Google has. It’s in China. So the place is real. Has Cheney ever been there? Turns out he has, in April of this year. Why use a picture that’s two months old? I can only think of one reason: F U DAN. But who’s Dan? Who could this perceptive pic purveyor be targeting? Ask me later if you need a spelling lesson. Whoever you are that associated this pic with this story, I salute you.

Alien Evolution

Ok so I had Chinese food last night. It came with one of those clever Chinese Zodiac placemats. They give you all the animals, and you find the year you were born, and presto! Should any guy really be born in the Year of the Cock? Well I am. I’ll just type it in for you. “A pioneer in spirit, you are devoted to work and quest after knowledge.” Hmmmm. Semi-accurate, I guess. But check this out. “You are selfish and eccentric.” Ooops. A little more than semi-accurate this time. Hell, I don’t need a placemat to tell me that. “Rabbits are trouble. Snakes and oxen are fine.” Well after a little mental calculation, I determined that Princess Wolfie is an Ox. Talk about a knife in you. Even though I’ve got these feelings for her like she’s the greatest thing since fire, my inner Spock knows that nothing can happen there. Yet, here she is, named as compatible for me by my Chinese Zodiac placemat. Also an Ox is the lady who invited me to this shindig.

Her husband died about two years ago. I told you before how bad I am at picking up hints. I’m wondering if she is making overtures to me. She asked me last week if I was ready yet. Now my neighbor the Gardener has been asking me this for a few months now, but of course he’s a guy, single, and must be close to 50. How can I put this? His nightlife is active. If you need more, ask me later. So you can see where Gardener is coming from. He keeps telling me I should “appreciate” my other neighbor, Clippie, if you know what I mean. Now he tells me I should appreciate Ox Lady, as well. Ok, Ox Lady isn’t going to work. Let me tell you about her, and I’m sure you’ll recognize the type. Ms. Professional, that’s her new name. She is representative of a type of intellectual, professional, office worker. She is a management type. This is difficult to describe, I hope I can communicate this effectively. This type is not necessarily weak, but still manages to look somehow frail. This type is not unattractive, but doesn’t inspire lust or passion. I don’t think housewives ever look like this. Housewives, stay at home moms, they do real work. Don’t complain. For purposes of this discussion, “real work” means actual physical work, as opposed to the intellectual sort of work done by Ms. Professional types. Ok I’m warning you now, this may be the most convoluted bit of writing you’ll ever see on this site. Not for the timid.

Still here? Good. Women doing physical work, their bodies, and even the (for lack of a better term) vibe that they give off, somehow seem more real. They’re just more physically there, if you catch my drift. Perhaps one crude way of putting it would be to say that in these women, the mind serves the body. Ms. Professional types are just the opposite. Their work is in the intellectual realm. By this I don’t mean university professors, but rather anyone whose job involves the mind but not the body. And because their lives are less physically based, their bodies and their vibe seem somehow less real, less physically there.

Indulge me here. These Ms. Professional types seem more evolved in some way. What are they evolving toward? I’m glad you asked. We’ve all seen Close Encounters, right? If you haven’t, go and buy it, and watch it twice. I’ll wait. Ready? Ok. Near the end we see some “Grays”, you know, the typical good alien. Short, hairless, sort of gray, big, black, almond eyes in a big, oversized head. You get the idea. Well here’s my theory. Start with the typical Gray alien and work backward through its evolution. You know what it would remind you of? It would remind you of the human evolution chart if you looked backwards for about a million years. What I’m saying is if you go back in Gray evolution, you’ll eventually get to something that looks a lot like us. So how did we get from here to there?

Believe it or not, the Ms. Professional type is the first step on that journey. I’ve said above that they somehow look less real, kind of frail. I said that in housewife types, the mind serves the body. In the Ms. Professional type, the body serves the mind. What’s the difference? I shall now speak in very broad terms. Mind serves body exists when the purpose of the mind is to direct actions that satisfy the needs of the body. Body serves mind exists when the body serves the needs of the mind. Think of a car. You get in, and the car does all the work. It exists to transport you from place to place. This is the same relationship between the body and the mind in the body serves mind type. Look back over our evolution. Look from grunting man-apes to caveman types to wandering tribes to domesticated animals to settled agriculture to the industrial revolution to the technological age of today. Obviously, man-ape’s mind serves his body. As you advance this doesn’t change substantially for a long time. I think it isn’t until the industrial revolution that meaningful numbers of people were able to live lives that facilitated the body serving the mind. This number has grown ever since and will continue to do so. We do less and less as technology grows. When was the last time you didn’t use an electric can opener? When was the last time you got up and walked to the TV when you wanted to change the channel? The more labor is done for us, the less we need our bodies. The more climate controlled, the less hair we need. When everything except walking is done for us, we won’t need much more than a childlike Gray body type. When our lives are almost entirely of the mind, we may have oversized, Gray type heads. I don’t have to sell you on this, do I? Seems reasonable. Except. Except it’s all based on the body type of the Grays actually being real and known and measured, etc. Which it ain’t been. So where did this image come from? Some of you know. I don’t. Why do many ufo encounter claims contain similar descriptions of the Grays? Or was it in sci-fi first? You tell me. I wonder if someone, trying to imagine what aliens would look like, had the bright idea of imagining humans a million years in the future. By that time, we would be out, exploring the galaxy, visiting primitive worlds where some people see us and no one believes them. We are the Grays.

So as I was saying, you’ve all seen these types of women, and Ms. Professional is one of them. So she asked me if I was ready, and I told her I thought I would leave it to fate. You know, my usual response. So then she invites me to this dinner. It’s sort of a civic organization. And the tickets are fifteen dollars and she buys my ticket. So is she just being nice, or what? Now if she’s just being nice, well great. No problem. But what if it’s more than that? I’m the sort that prefers beyond a reasonable doubt in these things. What’s happened so far is not enough to go on. So I guess I’ll just wait and see. But waiting until I’m sure might mean waiting too long. All this from a Chinese placemat. Life is weird.

Saturday, June 26, 2004



I used to be skinny. Scrawny little wimp was something I heard from a loved one, partly in jest. When I was getting to the end of high school, an Air Force recruiter told me not to lose weight. Most people when they sit, their stomach/belly sort of pushes out, it’s just a natural thing. However, if you’re skinny enough, it sort of folds in instead of pushing out. Mine used to fold in. When I graduated high school, I was 6’2, 160 lbs. That has changed. I blame it on two specific events, or time periods. Remind me later.

Jump forward about twelve years. I’m not any taller, but I’ve topped out at just under 250 lbs. For about the last year or so, I’ve managed to get a little more than halfway back to 160. Yay me! The first 40 were easy. Getting from 210 to 200 seemed to take forever. My scale is digital. The lowest I got to was 199.4 lbs. That happened once. Since then, I’ve been to a couple of graduation events for Code Name Eagle, plus a Father’s Day celebration. Lots of food at all of these. In fact, the Father’s Day thing was where I went for the second half of Friday night two weeks ago. I promise I’ll get to it. Ask me later. Anyway, now I’m back drifting between 202 and 204. I haven’t been over 205 for weeks. My progress has greatly diminished. I like surprises sometimes, so maybe I’ll try to make a concentrated effort while I’m on this self-directed period at work, and surprise them when we’re all together again. I should probably work out too, maybe actually get in shape.

Sometimes people ask me how I do it. Usually I tell them I always make sure I go to bed hungry. Maybe that’s just another way to say I’m eating a lot less. I’ve never really been a breakfast eater. At work I only get lunch about half the time. Aside from that, I usually only eat one meal a day, sometime in the late afternoon or evening. I have a terrible diet. Sometimes I may get a bit hyperbolic, but I don’t think I would be exaggerating to say that at least 90% of my meals since D-Day have been frozen foods heated in the microwave or fast food. Pretty much the only thing I’ve cooked has been big batches of chili or nachos that last me for four or five days. I just hate the time and effort and cleanup of making meals. As it is, I use paper plates and run the dishwasher about once a month, usually when I’ve run out of silverware. Not very healthy, but I do take vitamins every day and drink lots of juice. Hopefully that will balance things out. Lucky for me, at this point it’s been long enough that I don’t get people asking me if I’m getting skinny because of D-Day. Now they think I’m just being virtuous and health-conscious. Both of which are quite a stretch when it comes to me.

Ahhhh! The whole point of this thing is that BMI Height Weight chart. Did I really have to write all that to get to this? A BMI of 18-24.9 is considered normal. According to them, I have to get down to 186 to crack the upper end of the ideal “normal” weight for someone of my height. At the rate I’ve been going lately, that might take another year. And can someone out there tell me the range implied in yo-yo dieting? Even I can see that a cycle of losing 100 pounds, regaining it, losing it, etc. can be bad for you. What I’m asking about is the low number. Where does normal weight fluctuation meet yo-yo? If you go up and down in a ten pound range, that doesn’t seem bad. What if you go up and down within a twenty pound range? Anyone? Anyone? Something -doo economics. Anyone? I’m sure you’ll forgive the gratuitous cultural reference.

Friday, June 25, 2004


Is It Really This Simple?

What’s the difference between the two sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? The stated goal of Palestinian terror groups is the death of every man, woman, and child in Israel, and the end of a Jewish state. If they had the means, this is what they would do. Israel has the means to do just that to the Palestinians, but doesn’t. Is there anything that changes this fundamental equation?

Better, Stronger, Faster

You owe it to yourself and our nation to read this.

France Apologizes. One Of Them Anyway.

Look what I found:

“I write these words with a heavy heart. I’ve stumbled into a strange new world, a new consciousness. I think it was the wine, which might have turned. I have emerged from the cocoon. The universe in which I existed is no more. My beliefs, my thoughts, my attitudes, everything that made me me, all were torn away. My heart is heavy for the comfort I have lost, false though it was. My heart is heavy for the role we have played in world events, following a foolish ideology, blinding ourselves to objective reality. I have found that there are strange flowers of reason to match each error of the senses.

I am ashamed of us, and I would like to apologize. A flaw must be acknowledged before it can be repaired. What has driven us? Envy. America does so many things so well, it is almost natural to feel somehow inferior, lesser, not quite able to match up. My eyes were opened, and I realized that no one can be best at all things. The man sitting at the next table may be better than me at many things. I do not hate him. He has done me no wrong, and I wish him well. Why can’t we have this same feeling about America?

America has a huge military. For all practical purposes, it cannot be matched. If America wills it, and wills it hard enough, it’s word is law. We can barely say our word is law within our own borders; just ask the Jews. We do not protect them. We don’t even acknowledge them or the anti-Semitism creeping into our national will. Why should we be in any way concerned with American military might? Can anyone in France honestly believe America might attack us? No. In fact, they’ve saved us twice. Since we know America will not attack us, how does their military concern us? We should be grateful for it. I do not want to be a policeman myself, but I am very glad there are people willing to be policemen. I am grateful to them. So are you, and we should be grateful to America. Some of my taxes pay for the police, but I receive all of the benefits of America for free.

Are we somehow afraid of what America’s military might do elsewhere in the world? Again, I ask you, my fellow countrymen, to look honestly into your hearts. America isn’t evil. America is a powerful nation that does good things. Why should we complain about that? We should congratulate them.

I think that many of us think of America as a “them”. Sure, we may have met a perfectly nice American, but “them” is who we mean when we complain about America. I like to imagine a higher plane of existence. The inhabitants of this plane are sort of astral embodiments, spiritual manifestations of all the nations of the world. I picture them looking just like people, and national interactions on our plane look like personal interactions on the higher plane. When I think this way, it’s easier to personalize our national actions. I look at how our nation has behaved toward America and I am ashamed to realize that I never would treat a friend like this in my personal life. How can we be proud of our nation while this is true?

We must accept our place in the world. On that higher plane, France is getting old. Our national prime and vigor have passed. We have a sort of grandparent place in the family of nations. England is also old, but not as old as us. England’s place is one of a master who has been surpassed by the student, America. Our national spirit is old. We were mighty and young once, for several hundred years, but we’re old now. We can’t do as much anymore. Just as there’s no use for me to be angry that I’m older and diminished, we waste our energies being angry that our nation is old. We should enjoy it. France had its part to play in the advancement of civilization, and we did well for our part. Now we should think our ourselves as retired. It’s not such a bad thing. We might think of ourselves as an emeritus nation. America is young now. This is America’s time. Old Europe really is old, and so is France.

Still, we have much to offer. Fine wine, excellent cuisine, art, literature. We have glorious cathedrals, and even some of the younger ones are older than America itself. We can also contribute on the world stage. We are not a nation that can play a major role, but what we can do, we should do. We cannot just take our toys and go home. Our national pride can be found in doing the most we can do, and doing it the best we can. We feel the same in our own personal lives.

I write this with a heavy heart, but my heart is also lifted by hope, because there is an America in this world, and it thinks the rest of us are worth fighting for. Thank you America. I’m just sorry it took me so long to realize it.”

-Louis Andrieux

Thursday, June 24, 2004


KGO Channel 7 Part Two

KGO never wrote me back. I’m a little hurt. I think I’ll send another email, with something a little more tasty for them. I’m curious to see if they only respond to things that fit their preconceived notions.

Are You Sad? Happy? Nice? Nasty?

Sad people are nice. Angry people are nasty. And, oddly enough, happy people tend to be nasty, too.

That’s just the first couple of lines. And it’s not as grim as it sounds. Happy people aren’t pure evil. The article didn’t really address whether or not purely evil people are happy. I do have a recognizably evil laugh in my humor repertoire. Does that count? If I’m a nice guy, does that mean I’m sad? Sometimes I wonder. I don’t feel like I’m a sad person, but I guess I am sad sometimes. Doesn’t everybody get sad sometimes? Besides, isn’t feeling sad the only way you know you were feeling good? Does anybody remember when Satan sang, “Without evil there would be no good, so it must be good to be evil sometimes”?

Now that I’m done with this committee, I’m off on another objective and I won’t see these fun people for a while. That’s a reason to be sad. At the same time, I can keep my own hours on my new assignment. I’m almost completely free of supervision. It’s nice not to be directly responsible to another on a daily and hourly basis. That’s a reason to be happy.

I need more books I guess. Let me give you a brief timeline. On my own. Ton of books. No cable. Eventually, some would say in spite of myself, I got married. Then I got cable. Suddenly books were way down on the list. I went from reading all the time, with some TV, to mostly hanging out with wifey, some TV, and almost never time for reading. That was a full schedule. Now wifey is gone. I’ve still only got some TV. And there’s a lot of hours left over. Now I’m out of the habit of reading. Ask me later. I guess I’m just bored. And conflicted. I hate people, but I crave human contact. There’s a Randall moment for you. I hate people but I love gatherings. Life is weird.

And it’s all Princess Wolfie’s fault. And mine for not reining in these foolish thoughts about her. I know better. I’m a grown man, with occasional immature tendencies. Still, I should know better. This is why I keep putting off talking about her. The feelings are great, but if I think too much, the rational universe starts creeping in. Stupid reality. That’s enough of that for now. Maybe I’ll go practice guitar for a bit. Ask me later about my sausage-y fingers.

Ok back home again. After all my whining, it turns out Princess Wolfie and I are going to another meeting next week. See what I mean about fate and faith? If not, ask me later.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


Shopping List

Chocolate milk
A bunch of frozen dinners

Cat food next time

One More Day

I thought today would be the last day our committee met, but a big cheese asked us to come back tomorrow. One more day with Princess Wolfie. We’re all on these different assignments now, and after tomorrow, I won’t be seeing any of these guys for another month or so. What a bummer. I mean the other people in the company are all right, but these people are sort of my peers. We had a really weird hiring pattern for some reason. There’s really a very distinct age gap. How can I be specific?

Ok. Let’s try this. I’m 34, and I’ve been with the company for eight years. I am in the position of having the most seniority and being the oldest of the Young Group. Our ages range down to mid-twenties. Now look at the Old Group. If you start at my age, 34, and count up, you won’t hit another person until you get to at least 50. I have eight years of seniority. These people have twenty-eight years or more. So now you see what I mean when I say peer group.

Sherman Potter once explained that there’s a special sort of bond between people in a closer age group; they share so many social and cultural experiences that there is a definite feeling of We/Us. This feeling is even stronger for us because we are outnumbered 4 to 1 by the over 50 Old Group. So I guess what I’m saying is that I’ll miss these guys. That wasn’t so hard now, was it?

Tuesday, June 22, 2004



I bought a guitar. For several years now I’ve been wanting to get a guitar and learn how to play. I always kept putting it off. Too much Dante, etc., if you remember. So I finally took the plunge. It’s a nice basic acoustic guitar. I didn’t want to spend too much, just in case I got bored and gave up. This is a bad habit of mine. It’s why I promised myself I would write every day. That’s going ok so far. Maybe I should have said before I go to bed each day I will post. I think last week I got in a couple after midnight. Oh well. I’ll let you know how the guitar learning curve goes.

Obscurity Alert.

So we’re discussing the end of project lunch. We had two weeks, ending this Friday, but we’ll be done tomorrow. Some big cheese sent us a menu from a nearby place. We pick what we want, and big cheese will order it and have it delivered. One of the menu items was a Greek salad. Someone asked what a Greek salad was, and I said the primary characteristic of a Greek salad is that it takes so long to make, you’re never sure if it will be done on time. Nobody got it. Usually I’m a little more aware of my audience. But I know somebody in the collective mind of the internet can get it. Pickles and potato or pasta salad come with the sandwiches. I don’t like either, so I asked Princess Wolfie and Subtle Boss if they preferred potato or pasta salad, and they could have mine. I also asked if they wanted my pickle. Fortunately, I was aware enough of my audience not to crack a smile when I asked that. I even kept it together when Sublte Boss later said she was going to eat my pickle.

But here’s why you’ve gotta love Princess Wolfie. She actually tossed a V-Ger reference my way. Does it get any better? We both agreed that the first bald woman we had ever seen was in that movie. Plus she says dork a lot. I love that word. Remind me later. I know I keep putting it off, but remind me later.

Monday, June 21, 2004


Check. Check.

Made some changes. Mostly invisible, but helpful to me.

Never Volunteer

Princess Wolfie and I were part of a conversation that included the phrase “never volunteer”. Here’s a lame story that illustrates the point for me. I worked for a certain industrial type company several years ago. There were about twelve of us in this orientation. Only one woman, who of course got the lab tech cushy air-conditioned indoors job. Don’t get me started. Remind me later. My best friend was also there. Well at a certain point, someone came in and said they had a two-man assignment they needed to fill and they wanted some volunteers. All we really knew so far was that we were going to be part of a maintenance type crew. This two-man assignment would be a different sort of job, more in the factory type area of the facility. I suppose I should add that this was a summer job at the sort of place that needs large areas of land as a key component of operations. You get the idea. Our maintenance type work would be mostly outdoors. Hundred degree weather. No shade except under the truck. But you at least would be doing different things. The two-man assignment would indoors in the factory area, but the same thing all summer.

Well my best friend and I looked at each other, thinking maybe we should volunteer. At least that way we would be guaranteed to be able to work together all summer. There was no way of knowing which different jobs we might get on the larger maintenance crew. We hesitated. I’ve often thought about why we hesitated. Ask me later. The point is, we took so long that two other guys volunteered first. Do I really have to tell you the rest? Our job was great. A lot of fun. Those two poor bastards who volunteered had the crappiest of crap jobs. Sure, they were out of the sun, but the indoor areas were just as hot but also humid. There were lots of conveyor belts that carried this sludge from place to place within the plant. These guys had the job of taking a wheel barrow and shovels and going under all the belts scooping up any of the slop that spilled over the sides of the belts. Then they would dump it back into the system. Absolutely miserable. So we got lucky. That’s why you gotta keep the faith. And never volunteer.

Doesn’t quite square with my advocacy of civic-mindedness. Hmmm. Remind me later.

Monday, June 14, 2004


Hoo Hoo Hoo-oo Hoo! Hoo Hoo Hoo-oo Hoo! Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo-Hoo-oo-oo-oo

Well, random thoughts took me to a Prince concert recently. The whole experience was amazing, and I’d like to tell you all about it. Let me go back a little first. The concert came up in conversation with Drinking Buddy a few weeks prior. I told him I had thought about going, but I would have to be at work early the next day. He didn’t think that was a good excuse. I thought it over for a few days, and realized he was right. I’m already too good at letting life pass me by. Too much Dante and not enough Randall, too much T.S. and not enough Brodie, too much Holden and not enough Alyssa, too much Felix and not enough Oscar, too much Spock and not enough McCoy. You get the idea. More thoughts on this later, but if you knew me you’d probably have a good idea of what I’ll be saying.
So I got my one ticket. The seat was good, but you know what? I took notes while I was there. I’ll just put them in for you.
12:15. 7 hours, 15 minutes away. Things are settled for a few minutes here at work, and I have time to write a little. Wolfie (by the way, I have a huge crush on her; more on that later) suggested I wear a Prince shirt from the concert to work tomorrow. Drinking Buddy agreed, but at least he was willing to draw the line at mascara, which Wolfie suggested as well. I informed them neither was very likely. It doesn’t seem like a concert shirt is appropriate workplace attire, at least in our workplace.
6:20 pm. On line. Not at the computer, but at the concert. My ticket says 7:30; who knows when the doors open. This is a pretty good line. Everyone is friendly, without actually talking to me (I can never hold up my end of a conversation anyway; more on that later). Of course waiting on line involves two types of people: the people actually in line, and the people that seem to always be wandering up and down next to the line. Maybe three or four concert hotties passing by, but lots of good looking average girls (remind me to tell you more about them later, and sexy souls, remind me to tell you about them, too). There’s a pretty little park across the street. Nice, pleasant, peaceful. Beautiful lawn. At the opposite corner from the concert hall is a really nice looking building. 425 W. Santa Clara St. Colliers International, it says. I seem to remember Collier’s Magazine, but these couldn’t be the same people, could they? This building may be brand new, but it looks like an older building. Lots of nice detailing on the exterior, really nice. If you happen to drive by, park your car, sit on a bench in the park, and take some time to appreciate this building. There’s so much beauty in life. I seem to appreciate it now more than ever (maybe I’ll tell you more about that sometime). Oh! Here’s a man with a Jesus Hates Sin sign. He seems to be protesting the concert. Very negative though. Jesus Hates Sin. Not a very uplifting or positive motivator. I mean he should have had a sign saying Jesus Loves You. After all, don’t they say hate the sin but love the sinner?
6:35. Moving now. In the door. I heard they were giving free copies of the new CD to everyone at the concert, but I couldn’t quite picture some guy with a stack of boxes filled with CD’s. Sure enough, there was a guy with a stack of boxes filled with CD’s. Not in a jewel case, but just a cardboard sleeve shrink wrapped in plastic. I got in pretty quickly, so the hallways were fairly obstacle free. Slow people in front of you can be so annoying, even when you’re not in traffic. Lots more concert hotties in here. What, was I in the Uglo-American line outside? Where do they come form?
Buying a shirt is usually a problem for me. I can be rather finicky, which means it’s hard to find a shirt I like. On the other hand, I would feel like an ass if I left a concert without a shirt. It’s just a given that I’ll get one. It’s part of the ritual of the concert experience. Luckily, this time I did find one I liked ok. XL is the biggest they have of this shirt. Need to get skinnier I guess. Then again, I don’t think I’ve worn a single concert shirt I’ve ever bought. This is probably because I spent too much time in my youth collecting comics. I also have a really difficult time throwing things away. Maybe I can go into that another time. BB tells me it’s related to why I hate to go to bed. Ask me later. So maybe I don’t want the shirts to wear out? Could be. Now that I think of it, I almost never wear shirts with picture or logos or whatever on them.
Section 107, Row 8, Seat 14.This concert hall is in other times the home of a professional hockey team. I was pleasantly surprised by the setup. Many bands I’ve seen in indoor arenas set up stage at one of the short ends (at one end of a basketball court, for example), with the available seats forming a sort of capital “U”. Not so for Prince. His stage is right at center ice. Since my seat is 8 rows up behind the goal, I’m in pretty good shape. Don’t be too jealous though, there were still 23 rows of floor seats between me and the stage.
Dang. I just looked over my notes and saw I’m only a little over a third of the way through them. The problem with random thoughts is that new ones are always coming along to distract me. Well I’m trying to be less of a quitter, so I’ll keep going. I often think of concerts as being for young people. I often think of lots of things as being for young people. Problem is, I’m getting older, and I don’t necessarily want to give up all of those younger people things. At the other end of the spectrum, the older people I know seem to be getting younger. Or perhaps I should say that ten years ago, I might have said someone over 50 is old, but now you have to be pushing 70 to be old in my eyes. I’m just going by years to keep things simple; I realize that some people age more gracefully than others.
Anyway, there were lots of older people there. Now the older men are generally ok, but a surprising number, or perhaps I should say a disturbing number, of the older women seem to think they’re still 18 and have a shot at being selected in a groupie sweep. They don’t seem to be aware of the ick factor in overage trampiness. I’m not saying anything against trampiness, I’m all for it when it’s done by someone who can pull it off. These women can’t. They have problems, age related or otherwise, that make them unqualified for the tramp look. A little tip ladies, and I’m not just talking to the waitresses: if you attempt trampiness and you can’t pull it off, you end up looking like a skank. And not the good skank either; you’re bad skank.
7:19 - quick estimate. Seats 10% full. And this thing starts at 7:30?
The restrooms are really nice here. Everything is shiny and polished looking, and nobody’s pulling a Van Halen. I see I devoted four pages of my mini-notebook to a diatribe on the subject of stairways in stadiums. I’ll spare you the details. Saw a guy dressed like Prince. Looked a lot like him. Also with him, a guy wearing an orange fuzzy Henry Blake hat. Now I don’t mean fuzzy like it’s made of felt. This thing looks like Einstein dyed his hair orange, shaved it, and glued it to this guys hat. He also has a tambourine. Ok he just wandered closer and I see his shirt is the same sort of orange fuzzy too. This thing looks like Robin Williams and Albert Brooks dyed their back hair orange, shaved it, and glued it to this guys shirt. And if either of you read this, please know I only refer to you in the spirit of colorful metaphor. I worship Albert Brooks, truly. And Robin Williams is ok too.
I didn’t mean just to pick on the girls earlier. These older guys have their problems too. Unless you’re a member of Warrant or Poison, do you really need the long hair? I haven’t seen this many ponytails since I ran last place at the Kentucky Derby.
7:57 - maybe half full now. Ok I guess I should say now that outside of the Purple Rain CD, I only know maybe 5 or 6 songs by Prince. I only mention this because I had thought about trying to keep track of what songs he played. Probably not going to happen.
This place has folding seats that pop up when no one is sitting in them. Some people just sit, slowly, letting the weight of their hiney regions push the seat down under them. Some people like to push the seat down with their hands, then do a sort of turn and squat maneuver into the seat. Some of the people in this second group are women. Some of these women happen to wear very low cut spaghetti strap style tops. Some of these women happen to be facing directions that are rather fortunate for people looking in the right direction. One of these women happened to be facing in my direction. Whoever you are, bless you.
Can women really complain about guys looking at them? I’ll say it. Women are great to look at. Everyone knows it. Just ask the Mona Lisa. How many millions of people have come by to look at your kid’s art, proudly displayed with magnets, in what I like to call the “Refrigerator” wing of the family museum? You’ve been to concerts. You know the women I’m talking about. Can there be any other reason a woman would dress this way, in a climate controlled environment? This sort of woman marches in her spiked heels to the beat of the heart of our society: advertising. You think a company like Ford spends millions on advertising in the hope that no one will want to “test drive” the car? Now I’m not advocating a return to some sort of Golden-Agey Ed Sullivanian attire of three piece suits for men and ankle length dresses for women. And trust me, I was never voted best dressed in my high school. I don’t even know if I would be voted best dressed in my own house. The cat’s been looking pretty sharp lately. Oh look! Two hotties next to me. Amy and Shannon. So sweet. With the blonde and the cute and the smiles their little round faces, you know what I mean. I would learn later that Amy and Shannon smoke pot, and never learned to share. I talk big. Yeah, as if I’d know what to do if they did offer. Probably pee my pants. And of course I couldn’t tell on them. I’m a guy. When we see a pretty woman, our brains revert to Grand Master Albert mode. Like Billy Batson yelling “SHAZAM!”, a pretty woman allows us to channel Einstein’s IQ through the mind of a chess Grand Master, scanning all the future timelines that end up with the woman sleeping with us. Unfortunately our brains slavishly devote themselves to this end, and everything else ends up controlled by Rain Man’s slower cousin. This is why guys crash their cars while looking at a woman walking on the sidewalk.
8:19 - Upper deck 90% full, lower level 75% full, floor seats 50% full. Ha Ha. There’s this guy I saw from behind far away and I thought he looked like Rod Stewart with short hair. He just walked by a little closer. Looks more like Sid Vicious now.
One more thing real fast. In my mind, I always pictured Los Gatos as a rinky dink type town. Small townish. Looking at the ads in here, I see that Los Gatos has a Hummer dealership. Hummer. I can’t get over it. Oh the muses really smiled on the bastard that got that name going. I mean naming a phallic symbol with a code word for a b.j., man that takes real balls.
And then the music started.
Later, Special K and I learned through mutual friends that we were both at the same concert.

Let Me Tell You Something Kid, It was Pretty God Damned Glorious

I watched Vision Quest twice today. One of the benefits of premium cable. On the movie type channels on my cable system, one channel might show a movie at let’s say 8:00 p.m. The same channel might show the same movie the next morning at 6:00a.m. and then again that afternoon at 4:00p.m. That’s three times in less than 24 hours. In addition, many of the movie type channels have an east coast and a west coast feed. A movie I watch at noon on the east coast feed I can watch again three hours later on the west coast feed. Now of course for a movie like Vision Quest or About A Boy, this is a great opportunity. However, every silver lining has a cloud, and this cloud comes in the fact that a movie like Gigli will also be shown over and over. Well, nothing’s ever perfect, but Vision Quest comes pretty close.

If you haven’t seen it, please consider watching it soon. Then come back and read this. It’s about a high school senior, who is trying to drop enough weight to wrestle in the 168lb weight class, the toughest weight in the state. The state champ at 168 is Brian Shute, three years undefeated, one of these types who has a legendary status as a wrestler who cannot be beaten. Our hero, Louden Swain, has just turned 18, and is bothered by the feeling that even though his age might indicate he’s a man, he hasn’t really accomplished anything to earn that status. Even though Louden is a senior, he is unusually aware of mortality and that no one lives forever. Louden’s dad is a mechanic, and in the beginning of the movie, they meet a 21 year old woman whose car has broken down while on her way to San Francisco to become an artist . Carla comes to stay with Louden and his dad while waiting for the car to be fixed, and the movie goes from there.

So what is a Vision Quest? Here’s what the American Heritage Dictionary has to say:

vision quest (noun): A period of spiritual seeking among certain Native American peoples, often undertaken as a puberty rite, that typically involves isolation, fasting, and the inducement of a trance state for the purpose of attaining guidance or knowledge from supernatural forces.

Or Margaret Sanger (1879–1966):

“It is ... marvelous ... to have a period of apparent fanaticism. No obstacle can discourage you. The single vision of your quest obscures defeat and lifts you over mountainous difficulties.”

Pretty good stuff, but what does it have to do with a wrestling movie? Well Louden has a coach, who is practical. Coach refuses to let Louden drop the weight, feeling his obligation as coach means keeping Louden at 190, where he can be state champ and earn a college scholarship. Louden’s only goal is to wrestle Shute. For Louden, the future, college, even a scholarship, are all part of the worldly urges that hinder us from transcendence. Challenging Shute, whatever the cost, is that transcendent goal for Louden. He convinces his coach through a feat of strength unattainable by even the strongest wrestler on the team. To make the weight, Louden has to fast, skipping meals while fanatically exercising, even doing pushups while waiting for elevators at his hotel job. He faints in the hallway at school. The school mascot is Native American, and the team name is the Warriors. Louden is clearly on a vision quest.

Louden has chosen the path of adventure, and finds himself on what Joseph Campbell would call the Journey. A hero on the Journey of course faces any number of tests and challenges. These include the fasting and training. Louden has to make the weight before he can even attempt the challenge of facing Shute. There is another challenge, and that is embodied in Carla. Louden has enforced his discipline over the merely physical. He is steadily losing the weight. Louden does eat, but only a very small amount. He has mastered the basest eating impulse of life. Carla’s test is of a higher impulse: sexual lust. She isn’t motivated by this, or doesn’t intentionally set out to have this affect on Louden. Louden perceives her this way because he hasn’t yet become a man. In Carla’s presence, Louden is distracted by the sexual impulse and disheartened and embarrassed that he is still a virgin, another missing part of his manhood.

Every hero on a journey finds assistance from wiser/elder/spiritual/magical helpers. Louden’s English teacher helps him to form his thoughts and ideas about seizing the day and wanting to achieve. Louden comes to him the day of the match to tell his teacher how much he means to him. Louden explains he wants to let people know how he feels, “just in case I get paralyzed from the eyeballs down.” His teacher notes that this is the first time he feels sorry for Shute. Louden is thinking outside the purely physical personal, and is becoming aware of his obligations and relationships with and to others, not just to himself.

Louden’s coworker at the hotel is Elmo, an older, single man who has an appearance of being not materially wealthy, not very well educated perhaps, lower class somehow. After all, he’s in his forties, no family, working the late shift cooking for hotel room service. Could this be the life of a successful man? How could a man like this give some sort of special aid? Well for me, he is perhaps uniquely qualified. Elmo is clearly unmotivated by financial concerns. He is not bound by family concerns. He is a free actor in his own life, and he hasn’t spent that time unprofitably. Elmo tells Louden of a time he watched Pele on Spanish television while sitting in his tiny apartment. Pele made an incredible goal, jumping in the air, flipping upside down and kicking the ball into the goal. A soccer fan could tell me if it’s really called a bicycle kick, a term I’ve heard somewhere or other. Pele tears off his jersey, waving it as he runs around the field to the cheers of thousands. Elmo couldn’t even understand what they were saying, but he found himself crying. He was moved, to paraphrase, because “…another human being, a species which I belong to, when he kicked the ball, he lifted all of us sorry human beings up with him, just for a moment. Let me tell you something kid, it was pretty God damned glorious.“ Elmo has made the connection, knowing that he and the other are one. He has given up a day’s pay to go and see the match. Money isn’t everything. Every one of us is connected. Pele’s moment was a moment for all of us, of all of us. And our own glories are everyone else’s. A fruitful life is not lived on the level of personal physical needs, but on the awareness of the connection between oneself and all other life. Compassion, for and with the other, gives one a full life.

Carla is also a helper. She eventually does have sex with Louden, fulfilling that component of his search for manhood. This makes Louden feel terrific. Unfortunately, he thinks he’s in love with her. At this point, he is blinded by lust and is willing to give up his goal of wrestling Shute, just to be with Carla. Carla does know the difference between lust and love, and she knows Louden will regret giving up his goal for the rest of his life. He would also end up resenting Carla because he would see her as the one who kept him from it. To get Louden back on track, Carla moves out the day before the match, while he is at school. Louden comes home to Carla’s empty room and is hurt, angry, and filled with despair. Elmo explains to Louden that this match is a chance to live out a defining moment, and convinces Louden to go to the match and carry put his goal. Carla isn’t really gone, and she shows up in the locker room to talk to Louden before he goes out to wrestle. As an angry kid, Louden lashes out at Carla, who ably defends herself. Louden finally internalizes his experiences of the past few weeks, and admits to Carla that he would do it all again. Now these are the words of a developed human impulse. Anyone can enjoy the passionate excitement of lust, but love means an acceptance of all the hurts as well. By accepting this, Louden becomes a man. He has left his childhood behind. His path is merely affirmed when he goes on to beat Shute.

If this is not a life affirming movie, I don’t know what is. Life is pain. From the moment you’re born, you’re on a (hopefully) long, sure, slide to your own death. You’ll suffer terrible losses of parents, friends, lovers, spouses, even children. You will have setbacks. You might get fired. Someone will run over your dog. You may, personally or within your society, face terrible natural disasters or war. So why even live? Why not blow your life savings on hookers and drugs and then kill yourself? A narrower version of this question was asked in an episode of ST:TNG. Discussing betrayal by someone thought to be a friend, Data, who is an android and can’t quite comprehend emotional connections between people, decides having friends isn’t worth it. Commander Riker notes that without friends, you miss out on so many wonderful experiences in life. Data argues that you put yourself at risk for terrible betrayal. Riker replies with a smile, “Every single time.” No matter how many times you get burned, the basic impulse to friendship, compassion with another, is worth the risk. So too with life. Pain cannot be avoided. Hurt cannot be dodged. But life is worth it too. There is so much beauty in this world, beauty that every one of us can experience, beauty we create ourselves and share with others. It doesn’t matter if it is a renowned work of art, a movie like Vision Quest, or a kind word to a stranger. Life is pain, and beauty. And let me tell you something kid, it’s pretty God damned glorious.

Update: How could I forget that wonderful scene where all the boys on the team lay on their stomachs, in tight formation side by side on the mat, forming a large circle, all of them facing inward. Well the boys are slapping out a typical “Cowboys and Indians” movie style drumbeat. Suddenly one boy gets up and begins running around the outside of the circle and diving back down into his spot. The thing is, as soon as he passes the boy right next to him, that boy gets up and follows the first boy. The third boy follows the second, and so on, until the very last boy has made it all the way around the circle. You may have seen people attending sporting events doing “The Wave”. Picture that, and you’ll have some idea of what I’m talking about. Now by the time the first boy makes it around the circle, the next several boys have gone, and there is plenty of room to land as you dive to the mat. The tension and excitement build as each runner rounds the circle, and by the end, these boys aren’t just falling to the mat anymore. They’re leaping into the air and practically hurling themselves to the mat. It’s as if each succeeding runner has to give a more intense physical demonstration of the toughness and invulnerability of the “tribe”. When the last boy lands in his space, all of them surge forward to the center of the circle, forming a big dog pile. This is a thrilling moment. Some might argue that it’s just a movie, and there’s a whole plot and music and it’s just Hollywood making things exciting. Fine, take all that away. Think about the actors performing this ritual. Only a few of them have speaking parts. Some of them have gone on to greater fame and fortune as actors. Others were never in a movie again, and even in this movie, it might be the only scene they were in. But I think if you asked any one of them about those minutes, in that circle, pounding the mat, running, jumping, screaming and yelling, he would tell you it was a highlight in his life. This ritual has another symbolic level. Think of what is often called the wheel of fate or wheel of fortune. On the wheel, you can be at the top, on the way down, at the bottom, or on the way up. Well your life may have these ups and downs. The trick is to not let your actions be ruled by them. You shouldn’t react to events but rather act from your true nature. This is the center. Every boy has to travel the outside of the wheel; everyone will have good and bad experiences. But the center of the wheel, the hub, is where the glory is, and that dog pile in the center is the triumphant moment of the ritual. You can’t beat that.

Lord Floppington Teaches A Lesson

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