Friday, May 15, 2009

Getting Back On Your Feed

I had this strange memory last night before I fell asleep - it seemed to come out of nowhere. My family lived in these apartments from the time I was in fifth to probably ninth grade, & the apartments were called "Villa Cordoba." (We pronounced it vil-la of course, not vee-ya, because we were dumb white kids.) It was squarely shaped, with doors opening, on the street at the front of the complex, to the street, & the other three sides to the parking lot that surrounded it like a moat. Little patios with stucco walls looked into the complex's center, which had a few apartments, a laundry room, the manager's office, & a pool that was generally never cleaned so was always full of green, green water. At the center of each of the complex's walls was a breezeway, with studio apartments above them (the rest of the apartments were two-story).

My thought - which wasn't quite a dream, because I wasn't asleep yet - was about the breezeway at the back of the apartments, which looked out over a parking lot, of course, & a white fence which separated the complex from the rest of the world, & then a giant Lutheran church with giant lush lawns where we played football & baseball when we were sure worshippers weren't around (you know, when their parking lot wasn't full of cars).

The front breezeway looked into the space where the manager's office was. The two side breezeways looked into the pool area. But the back breezeway, which always seemed very dark to me (maybe because it faced east & was protected from the sun by the church shadow), just looked at a wall. If you didn't know there was a path on which you could go left or right into the complex, you might think it was a dead end.

Why I thought about this place I don't know. I did a show about breezes last week or so, & talked a little about breezeways, & definitely thought of those breezeways of my youth, but it doesn't explain why this memory would appear & haunt me now. Because it did haunt me - I wanted to go to sleep, but my brain was now on fire, trying to remember details like: there was a door, wasn't there, some sort of custodial or storage door, in the south wall, a door I'm sure I tried to open whenever I walked by. Also, my brain wanted to remember if the breezeway smelled - if it were dirtier than the others, since it was darker - or if it were usually clean or cluttered with leaves, cigarette butts, trash.

It was a strange sensation - an irrelevant, uncalled memory suddenly at the forefront of all my thoughts - & me in a vulnerable place, where I had to make an almost physical effort to remove it from my mind, to think about whatever other dumb stuff - dumb, perhaps, but more relevant - I think about before I fall asleep.

I said it haunted me, & obviously it did. I just spent some moments looking through old short stories I used to write before I realized I wasn't very good at it, to see if I described it better back then, when it was certainly closer in time & not subject to all the intervening years & their onerous memories. But alas, no! I am still haunted.

Did I mentioned a new Self Help Radio tomorrow? Look for it in the afternoon.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Old Joke Found In An Old Email

Busy listening to concrete songs today so I have nothing really of value to say. Actually, I am apparently writing in rhyme but you don't care, I do it all the time. & possibly you think I'm awful square for pointing this out to you right then & there. No no no, don't call a cop, I promise, I promise, I'll stop, I'll stop.

No, man, it doesn't scan. If I had time to write a real letter, I'll bet you that all my rhymes would be better. & though it's really some dude's lame journal, you must now notice some rhymes are internal.

Ack! Alack!

I was looking for an email to reproduce for my whaddayacallit "Email Archive Blah Blah" & found an old joke sent to me on September 26, 1996, which made me laugh a full twelve years later. So I excise it from the entire email & share it with you:

Q: Why shouldn't you piss off a Unitarian?
A: Because they'll burn a question mark in your lawn.

Ha ha!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Whither Concrete?

A fairer question 'twas never ask'd. For this season, therefore do I placate my modest brow with an ode (like the oddest odists do) to that most hardened of versatile materials, viz. concrete, from the Latin concretus, which (every schoolchild ought know) means "hardened" or "hard" or "hardcore."

Consider this thy then, mine "Ode On Concrete." Written in 1821.

Concrete, concrete, have you any wool?
Nay sir, nay sir, I am instead a construction material composed of cement & sometimes other cement-like materials such as fly ash & slag cement, aggregate, gravel, limestone, granite (these three often mixed with sand), water, and chemicals.
But concrete! Why does thou deny me my rhyme?
For ought not odes rhyme, all the ode-ly time?
Nay sir, nay sir, I'm just a plain material one might find on your highway or sidewalk or sometimes around bunkers in freaky movies where a serial killer lines his murder room with concrete because of the creepy way fluorescent light just kind of hangs on concrete walls like egg whites slowly dripping down, down, down, causing immense despair in the poor victim, shackled & dead by the morning she or he cannot see in the hollow timelessness of the concrete prison.
Uh, okay concrete. Whatever. Just wanted to write an ode here, not speculate on what you daydream about when you're being mixed in one of those trucks.

So, no ode. I was all totally odic, too. If that's a word.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Preface To Concrete: Lazy Logic

I subscribed a long time ago to a "joke of the day" email thing to make sure one of my stupid online accounts was getting mail because, in those pre-google days, they'd sometimes close the accounts (if they didn't go out of business anyway - r.i.p. startrekmail & muslimmail!) if you didn't have regular email (& of course I'd forget about it anyway). I did it with the account that accesses this blog - & sometimes it's the only mail I have. So. Sometimes I read really, really bad jokes of the day.

The weirdest thing is the "offensive stereotype" joke - for example, if you're from Texas, the putatively stupidest Texan would be someone who went to Texas A & M, or an "Aggie" - has been apparently cleaned up - politically corrected, one might say - in that the subjects of those jokes are called "Antarctans" by this service. Apparently it's all right to offend the few hundred folks who live in Antarctica, but not people who should be smart enough to know that the school you went to doesn't define you. Unless you let it, I suppose. Anyway.

So today's was this sort of "strange but true" "funny thing to think about" series of arbitrary comparisons that might fly in a lame stand-up comic's act (which is probably where it originated), but seems to be monstrously unfunny because of its lazy logic. What's more, it's premise or motif or whatever is "Only in America..." which might also be a little insulting if you're the sort of person who doesn't like this country being dissed.

Here's a couple of just plain bad examples. Remember, they're supposed to be "things to make you stop and think."

- "Only in America can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance."

That's not technically true. The only stats I have are from a dumb song where it claims that "22% of the time a pizza arrives faster than an ambulance." That's in Great Britain. But I dunno - lately my pizzas have been coming awful slowly, probably because there are less drivers after gas exploded in price. Anyway, until someone can produce data on this, I call bullshit on it.

- "Only in America are there handicap parking places in front of a skating rink."

This is one of the stupidest. Do they imagine all handicapped ("differently-abled") people are wheelchair-bound? What about amputees with prosthetics? Surely they can ice-skate just fine. & in any event, can a person with a handicap not visit an ice rink? Take his or her family there? What a douchebag this "joke writer" is!

These two are somewhat similar:

- "Only in America do drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front."
- "Only in America do banks leave both doors open & then chain the pens to the counters."

I think both of these are risk-assessment decisions. The drugs are easier to steal in the drug store than the money in the bank (which is in a safe, with armed guards around for protection). So put the drugs in the back. Leave the bank open (like the drug store does, of course) during business hours. & the pens are chained to make sure not only that people don't walk off with them (because people do, & I'm sure they're not intentionally stealing them) but also so the next customer doesn't have to pick it up off the floor, or dig for it under crap on the counter.

Also, it's not only the sick that visit the pharmacist. We have many reasons to go there, & filling a prescription doesn't necessarily mean we're so gravely ill that a short walk into the bowels of a store would be something like an insult. I should also add that some smokers are pretty sick a lot of the time. Nyah.

- "Only in America do we buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight."

Do we know that for a fact that it's only in America this happens? I imagine it's also probably true in Canada. Anyway, the Straight Dope answered this to my satisfaction a while ago.

Oh, don't click this link for the meaning of Canadian Hot Dog. Don't say I didn't warn you.

- "Only in America do we use the word 'politics' to describe the process so well: 'Poli' in Latin meaning 'many' and 'tics' meaning 'bloodsucking creatures'."

Of course, that's a dumb etymology, & the word for politics is Dutch is "politiek," in French it's "politique," in German it's "Politik," & in Italian it's "politica," all of which contain "poli" & some word that sounds like "tic."

The word "politics" comes from a Greek root meaning "civic affairs."

I think it's a dumb joke, but I am acting sort of irritated because not only is this purporting to make some sort of point about how crazy America is (even if just for a laugh), but it's now lying to do so.

One last one:

- "Only in America do they have drive-up ATM machines with Braille lettering."

Stop & think about this one. While you are mulling this, another person, someone not as thoughtful as you are, someone who believes that the political correctness mafia has simply gone too far with this nonsense & is a beagle's whisker away from an aneurysm, this person just can't believe all the wasteful motherfucking shit that we do to bend over backwards for one segment of society. Braille on a drive-up keypad! What the fuck?

Except you, like me, can see beyond this little taunt. We have a sense of proportion. We think. We know that people with handicaps aren't just wheelchair bound & should be able, in any case, to visit skating rinks even if they can't themselves skate. (I don't skate & I've been skating rinks. You're allowed.) We look at the big picture. We can surmise things, & then, perhaps, if they seem a little odd, we can check them out. We think this way: the corporate scum at Diebold & places like that who make ATMs (ATM machine is of course redundant) don't get an order like this: "We need 400,000 machines for Texas. Oh, & make 7,000 of them Braille-free for drive-up banking." They simply make the machine, & make them all the same, according to federal & state regulations, & some of them get put in drive-up positions. How fucked would they be if they did the opposite? Plenty. They deserve it, but they're covering their asses. & they're also probably saving money by not having to make two different kinds of ATMs - after all, I have no vision defects & I can use the ones with Braille just fine.

Plus, what if you're with a friend who has impaired vision & you're driving around & he wants to stop at a bank machine? You're going to make your friend get out? Why? There's Braille on the drive-through ATM! That's classy!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Livin' Largesse

New Self Help Radio show (about the breeze, of course) at In case you weren't paying attention.

May we take a moment, apropos nothing, to talk about regurgitation? That link links to the Wikipedia page about vomiting, & notes that "the two terms are often used interchangeably," but that they're two different processes &, what's more, the "causes of vomiting & regurgitation are generally different."

Members of my family have a deep, deep fear & dislike of vomiting & they can't or won't even try to do it when they're sick. They will leave the room when someone else is vomiting, because the very sound of it (sometimes even on television) will make they start to vomit. I used to be like that - I would only vomit if I absolutely had to, & usually even then I'd fight it.

But not anymore. Now I can vomit when I need to, & sometimes I even vomit preemptively, such as when I've had too much to drink & am about to go to bed, or when I feel something close to food poisoning & I assume that upchucking will make me feel better. While members of my family to this very day will suffer though emesis would relieve their discomfort, I could theoretically purge like a supermodel.

What changed? I had my heart mightily broken many moons ago. (Approximately 225 moons, I reckon.) (That's for my Native American time-keeping friends.) During the aftermath, I couldn't keep food down with any regularity. The merest thought of the one who had devastated me would cause me to throw up, literally. Though I of course got better, steeling my heart to let it get broken again & again, the ease at which I could vomit (& the acceptance I had of it, since I couldn't really stop it) stayed with me. No sticking a finger down a throat for me! If I think I need to ralph, I can do it.

Why this is on my mind I don't know. It certainly has nothing to do with this week's Self Help Radio, which will be about concrete.