Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Answers in the Form of a Pop Culture Footnote

To my neighbor to the south, Nancy Zerg of Ventura, California: Congratulations. You are now and forever embedded in popular culture. Way to have a good story at cocktail parties.

I'm No Ruth Buzzi

I've decided that whatever the content of my first book, the title should be Touching My Ass With a Feather." That way, when somebody comes up to me and says, "Oh, Drew! I'm a huge fan of Touching My Ass With a Feather," I can respond, "That's terrific. But how do you feel about my book?"

Don't Shoot Until You See the Reds, Blues and Aquamarines of Her Eyes

A rerun of the "Drew Carey Show" airs on the local FOX station before midnight during the week. I haven't watched the show in a few years and I believe it's not even on the air anymore, but back when I was younger, I used to think it was funny. The roommates and I couldn't even sit through a full half-hour of the what we saw. I'm pretty sure the episode was from the show's last season, since Mimi had lost a lot of weight and Drew's brother wasn't a character anymore and Kate had been replaced with the blonde chick from "Titus." Also, it was pretty evident that the writers had just stopped trying, as everything that's wrong with generic sitcoms was wrong with this episode.

Anyway, seeing the show reminded me of this one Christmas episode some years back that had a surprisingly touching scene. Granted, I was slightly intoxicated at the time, but thinking back on it sober — tired, but sober — still moves me, just a little.

In the episode, Winferd-Louder, the department store Drew works for, had decided to have a nativity scene in the window. They'd also decided to cut costs by using store employees as the various characters. Some clerical error had made Mimi the Virgin Mary and when shoppers saw the Holy Mother smeared with clown make-up they protested. Eventually, Mimi has to explain herself to the whole angry mob. She explains that, in her mind, the Virgin Mary must have been the most beautiful woman in the world. That's what would make the whole virgin angle exciting. Ugly virgin: who cares? Pretty virgin: we're still talking about it two thousand years later. And then Mimi went on to say that she wears her make-up because that's what makes her feel pretty and she's only doing it because she wants to make Mary look as beautiful as she knows how.

Of course, she follows that with something like "And if you don't like that, you can shove it up your filthy anus" or something like that. But for a moment, I feel like they gave her character actual depth, made her seem more like a real person instead of some garish accident at the crayon factory. Considering that Mimi is basically a one-joke character, I think that's pretty remarkable.

That's gotta be the reason I've remembered it all this time.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Suporma

  • Pages left to write for my research paper: eleven
  • Days left living in the UCDC center: four
  • Cost of flight from Dulles to Boston: about $25
  • Days in Boston: three
  • Days in New York: five
  • Number of girls named Jessica that Adam and I may mooch off while traveling: two
  • Amount of debt this trip has accumulated so far: twice what's in my bank account
  • Reliable sources I've spoken to for my Flores article: zero
  • Number of articles on Ebo Gogo I've read: seven
  • Episodes of "Arrested Development" aired last night: zero
  • Number of strangers who were unusually chatty with me this morning: three
  • Number of days until I'm back in California: thirteen
("do any of these figures even check out?" — drew's fleeting thought)

An Unkind Cut

Though my hair was longer than it ever had been before, I was happy with the length, more or less. And even though I have only one more week at Traveler, I felt I had to make the effort to put forward the smallest efforts toward looking professional. So I found the only salon open on Black Friday, this spot just west of Dupont Circle, and got a haircut.

“It just too long. I’m pretty happy with the length in front, but the top needs a bit cut off. The sides and back are way long too.”

The hundred-pound hair fairy immediately buzzes the clippers on the shortest setting across my left temple. Bam — just like that, months of length obliterated with the mere buzzing of a handheld device no bigger than a Game Boy.

“Whoa. That’s not what I wanted, dude. That’s not what I asked for.”

He tells me that I said it was too long. He’s right. I did. But never — never — did I tell him that I wanted to shear my head within an inch of my life.

“Well I guess there’s no point in stopping now, since you’ve already started.”

And from there begins the longest fucking haircut of my life. He buzzes the rest of my head, taking off nearly everything I’d grown. Fuck. That hair had a history, I remembered thinking. It was still blond from the summer, when I was actually outside, before I sacrificed my free time for the nine-to-five drag. Fuck fuck fuck. Eventually, he finished, spun me around in my chair and gave me a hand mirror. Hair fairy tells me that he thinks I look better this way.

“You gave me your haircut,” I proclaim.

I’m right. This guy ignored everything I asked for and cut and styled my hair precisely how he wears his. It’s short, spiky, pulled together in the middle. We look like two cadets in the some lightweight gay army squadron.

“I’m not paying for this. I hate it. I don’t like your hair and I don’t like it on me.”

Eventually, the guy at the cash register agrees that I shouldn’t have to pay full price for something I didn’t want. They charge me ten bucks. I have yet to decide whether I was still ripped off. A more sympathetic — yet equally fey — hairdresser chatting with the register guy has witnessed the entire transaction and puts in his three dollar bill of wisdom: “I say if he hates it that much, we should pay him the ten dollars so he can buy a hat.”

Highs in the forties today — definitely the kind of weather that would demand more head covering instead of less. I guess I could make better use of the scarf. It’s not the end of my follicle world; a few months would bring me back to where I was, and in Santa Barbara I at least know and trust certain hair professionals when I ask them not to enlist me in gay boot camp.

When I think about it, I hope I made my barber cry. To paraphrase the Sisters, this really will be the last time you ever do my hair.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

The Great Frog Society

In no particular order, a list of musicians who died young:
  • Kurt Cobain
  • Buddy Holly
  • Aaliyah
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan
  • Wendy O. Williams of the Plasmatics
  • Jim Morrison
  • The Notorious B.I.G.
  • Sid Vicious
  • Janis Joplin
  • Ritchie Valens
  • Karen Carpenter
  • Jeff Buckley
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Nick Drake
  • Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines of Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • Tupac Shakur
  • Otis Redding
  • Bob Marley
  • Layne Stanley of Alice in Chains
  • Elliott Smith
  • Ol’ Dirty Bastard
  • Bobby Darin
  • Patsy Cline
  • Marc Bolan of T. Rex
  • John Coltrane
  • Selena
  • Michael Hutchence of INXS
  • Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes of TLC
  • Hank Williams
Anybody missing?

Saturday, November 27, 2004

But Not Martin Scorsese

Indulge my nerdish leanings for a moment.

With some exceptions, virtually all words ending in the suffix “-ese” are adjectival forms of places. “Chinese,” for example, is the word describing somebody from China. (I guess I should mention that most “-ese” words are homographs, or words with more than one meaning, because they often appear as an adjective describing place of origin as well as a noun describing the language of that place.)

This suffix doesn’t really show up in any other instances in English. It’s either a place of origin or a language. That being said, I’m suspicious of what kind of geographic locations that word gets attached to.

Think about it: Chinese, Japanese, Burmese, Cantonese, Lebanese, Maltese, Pekinese, Siamese, Sudanese, Nepalese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese. A pretty specific geographic area, huh? All the words that use this suffix refer to Asian, African or Middle Eastern places. There are some exceptions, however. For some reason, a few western European locations take the “-ese” suffix as well, as evidenced by Genoese, Tyrolese, San Marinese, Milanese, Viennese and Portuguese as well. The sole standout is “Guyanese,” whose root country is located in South America.

And finally, a small group of Americanism born from the suffix exists, including “journalese,” or the verbal style of newspaper headlines; “officialese,” the style of official or bureaucratic documents; “computerese,” tech talk; “motherese,” or the way moms talk; and the most common, “legalese,” or the language of legal documents.

But I’m still not exactly clear why a certain word is “-ese” appropriate.

If I look at the ending letters of the countries whose adjective take “-ese,” many end in the sounds classified linguistically as liquids: [l], [m], [n] or [r]. The textbook definition of a liquid is a sound that you make without any friction (as you would with a [p], for example.) Also, the liquids can be prolonged like vowels, while other consonants cannot.

Place names ending in liquids:
  • Japan
  • Lebanon
  • Siam
  • Canton
  • Sudan
  • Nepal
  • Taiwan
  • Vietnam
  • Tyrol
  • Milan
  • Portugal
Others take the “-ese” suffix by chopping of the last letter of the word, usually a vowel. For example:
  • China
  • Burma
  • Malta
  • Peking
  • Genoa
  • San Marino
  • Vienna
So apparently when using this suffix, the final letter is negligible as long as the penultimate letter is a liquid.

The rule even works for the American “-ese” inventions like “legalese” and “officialese.” I just think it’s remarkable that while very few people would have actually considered how the suffix works, they used the rule correctly in inventing these little words that describe specific breeds of jargon. They could have easily ignored it and invented something that didn’t apply, but anyone who did never heard their invention work into the national lexicon.

What’s especially interesting to me, however, is one last group of words that includes “Congolese” and “Javanese.” Each of these, for some reason, actually adds as a liquid to the end of the location they describe in order to use the “-ese” suffix. Why? It seems like Congan or Javan would have sufficed just as well, but English speakers mashed them into the pattern.

Historically, the suffix traces it roots back to the Latin “-ensis” ending, which denoted place of origin even back then. We still use it in certain scientific taxonomy, like the name Homo floresiensis that scientists used to describe the “Hobbit” fossils found on the island Flores. That “-ensis” leaked through the years and continues to influence how we describe place of origin even today in English, though the Oxford English Dictionary cautions that suffix only suckered onto the end of foreign towns — always the places “way over there,” never “here.”

I’d guess that we still have that mindset when it comes to the “-ese” suffix. It’s not a word part to describe home, even today. So when English needed an adjective for “from the Congo” or “from Java,” we viewed them as being “over there” and unconsciously obeyed the linguistic rule of the “-ese” suffix. This would explain why I’ve never heard anyone describe the mannerisms of my hometown as being “Hollisterese,” as the town’s name sounds too Western. Come to think of it, I’ve never heard “Hollisterian” either, but that might be because people tend to not bring up my hometown in polite conversation.

(One would think that recently born nations, such as Eritrea would also take that suffix. Alas, no. Perhaps there’s too many vowels at the end. Also, The OED tells me that there’s a trend in the speech of illiterate Americans to drop the [s] when using the suffix when referring to certain nationalities. It’s “Chinee” or “Portugee,” the latter being what people in Hollister refer to the local Portuguese families. Apparently, it’s somewhat disparaging, though I’d imagine it probably defames the speaker more than anyone.)

This bit of linguistic pondering was made possible in part by a contribution from professional intern Canada Sue.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Twice on the Pipe

Brendon Small, venerable creator of the late "Home Movies" and all-round cool guy, muses amusingly on the nature of knock-knock jokes in the latest installment of the The Onion A.V. Club.
Hatred and fear are the root of all comedy—maybe. Hatred. The core of all humor. Look deep within the bowels of any knock-knock joke and you'll find white-knuckled fists pounding angrily at the door, only to ruin the self-esteem and mind-fuck the answerer. And we (as a country) must never let the knocker in. Why? Because he's there to kill you. Every knock-knock joke, when magnified, is a recipe for murder. Think about it, shitheads: a strange person who you could never recognize, spinning lies—he's the devil and he wants your soul. Because he's going to eat it. For dinner. And you're invited to the dinner, too. That you're the food for. The main course for.
Love that Brendon Small.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Wind Me Up and Make Me Crawl to You

Happy Thanksgobble.

I'm off to Tristan's house. Not to be confused with Tristan, Kristen and I exchanged music: I recommended Scissor Sisters and she shot back with Louis XIV's "Finding Out That True Love Is Blind," because she couldn't get it out of her head. And now I can't get it out of my head.

Also, I retroactively updated the journal with entries for the past week, some of which I just backdated and some of which I had posted as drafts and hadn't yet made it on stage. Expect more in like — what? — another week?

Topwise

Roommate Daniel and I saw "Sideways" last night. It's by the same writer-director who did "Election" and "About Schmidt." I liked it, even if I have no idea what its title means. But the weirdest part was seeing a movie set all throughout Santa Barbara County. All the same 101 exits that we all use, the same wine country that we generally avoid, Solvang. I stepped out of the theater and for a second was surprised to see Washington instead of Santa Barbara.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The Third Architectural Model for the Gates of Hell

kidicarus222: my impression: "hi. i'm lulwa. i don't take no shit. i hate israel. this one time, in lebanon, all these lebanese things happened. i can't talk now -- i'm IMing my boyfriend. i'm good at basketball. look at me! look at me! look at meeeeeeee!!!"
lulwa22: it would have been wayyyy better in person. you could have flipped your hair and put your hands on your hips trying to act as tough as i do

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Ballad of Bardo Boppie Bip

Please excuse the lack of updates. I have a Power Point presentation to give on tourism crisis management on Monday and a paper to not completely fuck up. My verbal energies must flow elsewhere.

Oh, and I finished Villa Incognito. If anybody else would like to read a thrilling novel about mythological Japanese badger-raccoons, Lao whores named Miss Ginger Sweetie and Miss Pepsi Please, a lesbian circus clown and Vietnam MIAs who would rather stay missing, drop me a line.

Floatilla

kidicarus222: change your name to mabel puffybush
sparklejetstream: which name?
sparklejetstream: my legal name?
sparklejetstream: my screenname?
sparklejetstream: my porn star name?
kidicarus222: yes
sparklejetstream: yessir rightaway sir

Croak

So my last project at Traveler is writing an article about tourism on the Indonesian isle of Flores. For those of you who are too stupid to live, the announcement of three-foot-tall humanoid fossils on Flores a month ago catapulted it into the news. (It also forced evolutionary science to re-examine itself somewhat, but that’s a different post for a different blog — probably Science Josh’s.)

I was hoping to write an article about the boom in tourism interest for the island, particularly the village of Liang Bua. Few had ever heard of the place before, but suddenly news articles talking about its rustic, almost primeval charm, had motivated people to try to go there. The French version of the Associated Press even ran a story on specifically that subject, so I was hoping I could springboard off that short article into something larger.

My research, unfortunately, has made me realize that Flores is the Indonesian equivalent of the Ozarks.

There’s not a whole lot to do or see there, and for three good reasons:
  • You can’t actually see the “Hobbit” fossils, as they were shipped away to be studied.
  • Furthermore, the closest you can get to said fossils is a distance away from the excavation site, which is a cave. Basically, the island’s tourism highlight is a cave.
  • The island is near Komodo, which has the famous Komodo Dragons, the largest predatory reptiles in the world. They can eat a goat whole. If you had to chose between one and the other, what would you want to see?
  • What Flores does have is these three lakes with colored water: one blue, one red and one green. However, the green one recently turned to a color they euphemistically refer to as “café au lait.” Shit brown, I’d assume.
On top of that, Indonesia is basically on the opposite side of the world from Washington, D.C. The eleven-hour time difference makes phone interviews difficult.

Nonetheless, I received an email from some Indonesian tourism jockey that attempted to answer some of my questions. While the letter offered very little in the way of information, I found it highly entertaining, as did Canada Sue and UCSB Melanie. And now for your entertainment, I present selections of it here. (For legal reasons, I’ve changed his name to “Babu.” The capitalization is Babu’s, not mine, though I have bolded a certain section in which he mentions having successfully starting a war.)
Dear Mr. Drew Mxxxxx,
Thank you very much for your email about some questions.
Here are some point of my response:

Our company has recently success in organising the Pasola War on Sumba island specially hosted for the guest from Hapag Lloyd Germany. A hundred guests attend the event which we organised worked with the local government and local people.

This year our begining success was with Sri Chinmoy (the most popular prayer) from your lovely city Washington city, then Happag Lloy ships to West Timor on February.

Now we focus our attention to make the LIANG BUA as one of the HIGHLIGHTS on Flores and Komodo trip. We are fully aware the beginner may not be a successor but we want to be a frontier to get the LIANG BUA to be promote as the HIGHLIGHTS.

We always explain at the beginning to the people that their visit mainly NOT to see the FOSSILS but at least to make them understand the real site where NATIONAL GEOGRAPHY found the place and fossil.

EBO GOGO, OLA BULA ARE not yet on the people questions. But many of the visitors, specially from the archiogist traveling from village to village asking people whether they know some ancient ruins or any for their studies. From what I knew, every findings are similar to the story of the Flores legend such ANA DEO and more traditional legend.

THIS IS A UNIQUE WHY I COULD SAY IT SIMILAR TO THE STORY OF THE LEGEND.

YES.... I THINK SO THAT MORE PEOPLE WILL VISIT FLORES. The National Geography on your news has given a significant values of the broadcasting to contribute the islands from the eyes of the world. So i think it could be more and more eyes paying to the lovely island Flores, as they are much more and many ancients heritage.

I feel and trust as local there will be many people coming in to Flores specially those who are interested in special interest tours and adventure. One point may be we upset was WHY THE FOSSIL DOES NOT PLACED IN FLORES...?? This is a questions that of course will never influence those who are on the upper people.

BUT IF WE COULD PROMOTE AND EXPOSE THE SITE AND TRIP to FLORES. THEN NATIONAL GEOGRAPHY AND US GIVE A REAL CONTRIBUTION TO THE LOCAL TO ACHIEVE THEIR DESIRE.

Thank you very much for your kind support.
Best regards,
[Babu]
Personally, I think it’s funniest if you try to read it out loud, in a serious newscaster voice like the lack of grammar doesn’t matter.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Science Josh Explains It All

In this week's episode:
Okay, so in the snail cartoon, this is what's going on.

The (apparently) female snail and her (apparent) husband are watching the two other snails go past. The two snails going past are wearing shells that don't cover their underwear, and the older female snail says to her husband, "I find these mini-shells to be scandalous." And the husband, who is clearly enjoying watching the half-naked snail-women, is cowering sheepishly and biting histongue as he stares. So it's a cheap joke about mini-skirts and how marriage keeps you from publicly enjoying girl-watching, using snails for no apparent reason.

So, now you owe me a coke.
And the language in question apparently is Portuguese.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

This'll Be the Last Time I Ever Do Your Hair

I caved.

Since this blog first began occupying valuable realty on the information superhighway, I rejected the idea of allowing comments. Shit — this is my journal, right? It's not some forum for Joe Suitcase and Mabel Puffybush to discuss their piddly lives. However, it occurred to me that installing the comment feature might prove interesting. If it does, I might keep it. Besides, allowing comments might give me more idea about who checks out this site.

So here you go, you Joes and Mabels and Leons and Barbaras. I'm interested in your input. Dazzle me.

"S Hatter Ed Dweams"

You know you want to see it: the best blog ever.

KZMB — All Zombie, All the Time

Part of my internship involves writing up travel deals, some to places I'd like to go and some to shit-ass slice-of-Americana fuckbergs on the east coast that I'd rather didn't exist. An example from today: this hotel in Litchfield County, Connecticut that's offering a Christmas sleigh ride package. Puke. I hate it. But what I like is the name of the county: "Litchfield" literally translates to "field of bodies" or "corpse yard" or something like that. I think that should just officially change the whole area from Litchfield County to Zombiopolis — "where being dead won't stop you from enjoying life. Beautiful. Tranquil. Undead. Zombiopolis."

(i should do PR)

Oh, and I left a message today for a woman named Luke.
"Why aren't there more boys named lucy? That's what i want to know."
— Canada Sue

The Queens of Spades, Clubs, Hearts and Diamonds, Respectively

So the William Jefferson Clinton library opened today. Whether they wanted to or not, the Carters and all four Bushes were in attendance for the opening ceremony. This picture, which I would have flagrantly reprinted without permission if My Way News allowed me to download images, shows the four First Ladies.


I think there's something perfectly iconic about this picture of these women carrying umbrellas. I'm not sure what though.

Maybe it's that Hillary is carrying the only white umbrella. Maybe it's that Laura is the only one wearing pink — and at that, she's wearing the pinkest pink she could get her hands on. Maybe it's Laura and her mother-in-law's apparent amazement at the function of their umbrellas? And just maybe it's Rosalynn Carter putting as much distance between herself and the other three as possible while still remaining in the shot.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Anagrammar

My excuse: my roommates were watching it while I was ironing on Sunday. Nonetheless, something stuck me as odd about the fake boss's name: N. Paul Todd. Not all that bossy sounding, really. And why the initial? To sound haughty? Like J. Peterman or something? When I actually saw it written in an article discussing "My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss," it finally hit me: it looks like an anagram.

As it turns out: Mr. N. Paul Todd = Donald Trump. I beat you, FOX. I beat you.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Yank-Hot-Fox

n8rs81: are you the one who told me about wilco?
n8rs81: cause i really like them
kidicarus222: no -- i can't get into wilco
kidicarus222: i know they're good but they just don't do it for me
n8rs81: huh?
kidicarus222: i try again every few months but they don't stick
n8rs81: well you know who i really like is the killers
n8rs81: have you gotten a chance to hear them
kidicarus222: i bought their album this summer, but i only halfway like them
kidicarus222: who i really like know is the scissor sisters
kidicarus222: they're awesome
kidicarus222: they're like if jamiroquai and beck had a baby and the baby was gay and raised by elton john
n8rs81: thats a super gay baby
kidicarus222: well, they're not that gay

T.I.L.T., R.I.P

The Thanksgiving international leisure travel story just died and I couldn't be happier.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Tonight's Feature Presentation

Errors or not, here it is: the Ohio feature (also known as UCSB Melanie Goes to Washington).

Drew and the Mysterious Bathroom

Lying in bed, I hear the upstairs neighbors' toilet lid drop and I instantly remember this lost, random anecdote...

So this lady is having dinner at some fancy house owned by this rich people and she really has to take a piss. But she wants to be polite so she asks to use the "washroom," as she thinks "bathroom" or "restroom" might sound too vulgar. The hosts show her down the big houses complicated corridors to the washroom, which consists of a sink basin, a mirror and nothing more. Again, not wanting to appear impolite she steps into the bathroom. She's rather not, but the urge to urinate is so powerful that she has no choice. She balances on this antique sink basin, drops her pants and squats... Only the antique basin is way fragile and it snaps partway through the piss and she falls to the floor. Time passes, and eventually the dinner hosts wonder what's become of their polite guest. They finally wrench the locked door open and find her unconscious on the floor, drenched in urine and sink water and lying besides the porcelain shards of the ruined bathroom fixture.

Unfortunately, I have no idea where I've heard this anecdote. Some drunken conversation? A movie? I haven't got a clue.

King of All Blasting Matter

I walked around Georgetown by myself yesterday and though I was among hundreds of shoppers, I enjoyed a sense of privacy I rarely do: invisibility in a crowd.

The air stings a little more every week. I'm told that's what real winter is like -- a general sort of pain that rattles all your exposed skin. Since I was downtown and cold, I gave in a bought a scarf, meaning I made the transition from "guy who doesn't wear scarves" to "guy who does," a change in categories that I think only an insecure guy from California could really appreciate. I wandered around for a while, and because I had "Wonderwall" stuck in my head again I went into a music store and bought the Ryan Adams album that has his cover of it. I still haven't listened to it. Then I looked at some children's Christmas books. Seeing Polar Express reminded me that I had a dream about riding a open-air train a few nights back. It was freezing, that train. I myself have never read Polar Express.

I'm not going to be in Washington for very much longer, and even though I'll be returning to a different Santa Barbara than I left, I'm really going to miss parts of this city.

Linkasaurus

Gee, I know I've been posting links in lieu of real chunks of writing. I'm gosh awful sorry, but here's another one I'd forgotten about. The IMDB 100 Worst Movies of All Time, at least according to how the site's users rank them. Okay, most of them I can deal with, but "Piranha Part Two: The Spawning"? I saw that movie on KICU when I was a kid, and it thought it was pretty good... Noticeably absent: "Wolfen."

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Fight the Cesspool

Oh, for fuck's sake. Some people need a fucking hobby.
[ link: all about our cesspool and all about our inner darkness ]

Brothers in Burial

Yassir Arafat and Old Dirty Bastard die days apart, confirming my belief that the two were one and the same. But seriously, do I have to pretend I'm sad?

Friday, November 12, 2004

Iron Horse, Iron Terror

The following includes original subject matter I dreamed, scenes my subconscious gleaned from movies and movie trailers, things that actually happened and plot connections I strung together in the moments I woke up after the dream in an effort to jam a serious of unrelated images into a cohesive narrative.
Marcy, Jill and I lived together in some big city. (I presume Washington D.C., but we're working on dream logic here so it could be the Vancouver, for all I know.) We have an apartment in some high-rise building. Despite its age, it looks a lot like the UCDC complex. In any case, we have problems with our upstairs neighbors. They play their music too loudly and, from what we can hear, they spend their evenings rearranging their living room set — every night.

Frustrated, we go to our building superintendent to complain. He asks us what room we live in and we tell him and explain that the source of the noise comes from directly above us. The super looks at us funny, then says that such a situation would be impossible: the room directly above ours is vacant and has been for years.

We're suspicious. After all, we can hear the noise. So we venture upstairs that afternoon and check it out for ourselves. Sure enough, the door is boarded shut. No one's been in or out in a while. Then we can hear a woman's voice in the room across the hall. She's repeating the same word over and over again.

"Hello?" She opens the door.

"Oh hi. I didn't mean to disturb you. I was calling for my cat, Psyche," she tells us.

"That's fine. But while you're out here, do you know if anybody lives in the apartment across the hall?" we ask.

"No. Not since I've been here"

"Okay thanks. Hope you find your cat. Has she been missing long?"

"Yeah," she says sadly. "Nearly a year."

She closes the door.

In a transition that evidences that my subconscious has the foresight to make plausible scene transitions, I wake up to the upstairs noise again. I go to the living room and me the other roommates and we stand, groggy and annoyed, and look at the ceiling, from which a series of loud bangs can be heard — three at a time, in the same pattern.

We figure we have nothing to lose, so we go upstairs to the mystery apartment. The door is wide open.

As we walk through the house, I notice that it’s much bigger than our apartment. More nicely furnished, too, even though sheets dusty cover much of it. It really doesn’t look like anybody lives here. It’s cold, too. I can feel it in my lungs. And I’m jeebing like I never have before, but the girls insist that we should see the whole apartment.

We keep going through the chain of rooms until we find the farthest back one. It looks very much so lived in. I even notice a cup of coffee steaming on a table. I’ve about reached my addreno-limit when we hear the front door slam shut. Someone is home and they’re moving toward us.
“We need to get out of here now,” I say.

“I think there might be a place we can hide behind that couch,” the girls say.

Without even questioning the logistics of this claim or even how they might now that, I pull one side of the couch away from the way. Sure enough, there’s a tiny door there — no more than two feet tall but wide enough that I could fit through it.

“How did you guys know that would be there?” I say, turning around to face my roommates.

They’re gone.

“Fuck it,” I think and I throw open the tiny door and dive through. I’m crawling through what feels like a carpeted air conditioning duct forever until I finally reach the other end. I pull open a second tiny door and then tumble out onto the floor of my apartment.
No denouement. That’s the dream, more or less.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Not to Be Confused With Switzerland

Dear Swaziland,

If you really want me to visit your country, please improve your national tourism website. Why can't you be more like that nice Senegal?

Sincerely,
Drew

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Suck It, Haier!

And also thanks, Haier, for this wonderful glimpse into the intersection of pop culture and Christianity.

Yellow Meat Pounder With Ping-Pong Ball Eyes

Characters on "The Simpsons" who have undergone long-range changes in lifestyle or personality:
  • Kirk and Luann van Houten got divorced in "A Milhouse Divided."
  • Barney is sober now (and less funny).
  • Principal Skinner and Mrs. Krababel started dating in "Grade School Confidential," then got engaged and then finally broke off the engagement on their wedding day.
  • Skinner also was revealed to be Armin Tanzerian, which Lisa brought up again in a later episode despite Judge Snyder's decree that no one in Springfield could ever do so.
  • Apu married Manjula, they had octuplets and Apu cheated with the Squishee Lady. Now they go to marriage counseling.
  • Lisa became a vegetarian and then a Buddhist (though I can't actually recall her Buddhism being mentioned after the episode dealing with her conversion).
  • Maude Flanders died, making Ned a widower.
  • Bleeding Gums Murphy died, which is fairly life-altering.
  • Dr. Marvin Monroe died off screen, then re-appeared inexplicably.
  • Lenny and Carl developed this gay-vague affection for each other (like so many male-male pairs on "The Simpsons" do).
And then, I've read that this season will see a prominent regular character come out of the closet. And it's not Smithers, though it's still pretty obvious once you hear it.Characters that have become regulars in the past few years:
  • Lindsay Naegel, the blonde, professional-seeming but apparently alcoholic businesslady
  • Cokie Kwan, the shrewd realtor
  • Gil, the only guy in Springfield with worse luck than Hans Moleman
  • Judge Constance Harm
Characters who don't show up anymore because the actors who provided their voices either left or died:
  • Troy McClure
  • Lionel Hutz
  • Lunchlady Doris
  • Helen Lovejoy — haven't heard her near-catchphrase, "Won't somebody please think of the children?" in a while.
  • Maude Flanders
  • Does Miss Hoover ever talk anymore?
  • Princess Khashmir
I know my yellow people. What can I say?

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Forty Feet Remain

Melanie and I saw the officialization of a jenn-u-wine Guinness World Record today. National Geographic Kids made the longest continuous line of footprints: 11,000, adding up to 1.8 miles of foot. But not realy that cool: Children just traced their feet and colored them. It was cold. Melanie and I stayed for a few minutes. Then we left.

High of forty-six degrees today.

I Sowed Love and Reaped the Heartache

Working at a national magazine in Washington, D.C., I'm continually boggled by the sheer lack of necessary information.

One would think that if you could think of a reasonable question — for example, how many Americans left the country during or around the Thanksgiving holiday for the purposes of leisure travel between 2000 and 2003? —someone, somewhere would be privy to that information.

I call someone and ask them. They don’t know. I ask them who might. They give me phone numbers.

Nearly an entire work day goes by and I eventually make a circle of phone call referrals that leaves me back with the first incompetent organization, which only keeps records from 2001 — not 2000, for some reason, and certainly not anything more recent than 2001.

I’m sure it would take quite a bit of research to find something like that — certainly something beyond the means of the average person. But when your organization is called the Bureau of Transportation Statistics or the American Society of Travel Agents or the United States Department of Travel and Tourism, one should expect that you or someone you know might have some inkling as to what these numbers might be.

Astounding.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Not Aunt Lindsay's Real Nose

I'm blogging at work. Don't tell on me.

Presently, I should be writing a news article on the burgeoning industry of Thanksgiving leisure travel — that is, Americans heading out to South America, Europe, the Caribbean, Asia and Australia rather than traveling within the country to meet with relatives. People have finally realized that braving snow and holiday traffic just isn't worth it and instead have chosen to go somewhere nice.

People can be smart sometimes.

However, I have nothing to write because no one will call me back. I'm floating in that limbo space that all journalists know: desperately wanting to write but having to words to put on paper because you're waiting for calls. I tried going downstairs to buy coffee. I tried using the bathroom. I wish I smoked so I could step outside to do that, just so I could have a reason to leave my office. (As any reporter should know, stepping out of the office is the easiest way to get called back. At least playing phone tag means having something to do.)

So in lieu of a travel story, I will instead write about "Arrested Development."

If you don't already watch this show, you're missing out. It's the best sitcom on network TV, easily. It's likely in the running for best thing on TV on any channel, though that's surely a tighter race. In any case, "Arrested Development" assembles a strong cost of performers, including well-known comedic actors — like David Cross and Jeffrey Tambour — relatively unknown but nonetheless solid actors — Jessica Walter, better known as the evil dean from "PCU" and the voice of Fran Sinclair on "Dinosaurs" — and who-knew-they-were-funny types — like Jason Bateman and Portia de Rossi.

Sitcoms detailing the interactions of dysfunctional families are nothing new, but I think the show's true strength lies in its emulation of recently established new forms of comedy. The quasi-mockumentary and the animated sitcom.

If you really think about it, "Arrested Development" owes a great debt to "The Royal Tennenbaums." Both works present a screwed-up family in a narrated manner that suggests "Best in Show" or "Drop Dead Gorgeous." However, the mockumentarians are never mentioned. They're just floating there, capturing the family's intimate moments in the way a normal sitcom would, just using the trappings of the mockumentary.

Besides that connection, both the Bluths and the Tennenbaums have financially criminal patriarchs and interfamily crushes that flirt with incest. Both families are rich, famous and, in their own way, outstanding.

"Arrested Development" also shares a prominent stylistic feature with animated sitcoms like "The Simpsons" or several of the Adult Swim shows.

Most non-animated sitcoms are constrained to a certain linearity. The plot goes along steadily and rarely ranges beyond the confines of immediate space and time. Episodes eschew subplots and instead contain several long scenes.

"Arrested Development," however, frequently flashes back to different points in the characters' lives — from childhood to a few minutes ago, and often both within one half-hour episode. Furthermore, the show also isn't above cutting away to a joke — something funny happening away from the setting of the current scene's main plot — just for a laugh. Ultimately, these little asides usually don't affect the main plot, but they're still funny as hell. "The Simpsons" does this a lot by jumping for a few seconds to a scene involving some Springfield resident and only tangentially relating to the plot, then jumping back. As far as I can remember, "Arrested Development" is the first non-animated show to mimic this fast and loose handle on what can appear within the scope of an episode.

And aside from these two points, I like "Arrested Development" because it's funny. I think it gives hope for sitcoms and television shows in general. The genre's nearly dead. The only truly funny stuff besides "Arrested Development" is acted out by cartoon characters or actors on "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Think about it.

One small note: Before "Oliver Beene" got canned, David Cross was on two FOX Sunday night sitcoms. He provided the voice of the adult Oliver — the narrator — and then played Tobias Fünke on a different show with a never-seen narrator.

Another small note: The never-seen narrator on "Arrested Development" is Ron Howard. He's also a producer, and his daughter Bryce Dallas Howard appeared in "The Village" this summer as Ivy Walker. Her character had a sister named Kitty, who was played by the talented Judy Greer, who appears regularly on "Arrested Development" as the conniving secretary, Kitty Sanchez.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

The Wild Boy of the Veldt

Six movies, each recently viewed and each worth writing about.

[ Barton Fink ]
Before I saw it, my only prior reference to this Coen Brothers movie was a joke on “The Simpsons.” Milhouse and some of Bart’s other friends are going to sneak into an R-rated movie. They chose “Barton Fink,” the joke being that despite its mature themes, this movie does not have the boob and blood that a bunch of ten-year-old boys would expect from the rating. Nonetheless, the movie is good, mostly. It’s set in 1940s Hollywood and shares some thematic ties with “Mulholland Drive.” John Turturro stars, and now I can finally match a memorable role with his name and face. And John Goodman manages his role better than anybody else could. Is the Earle actually hell? Can life successfully imitate art? Is this movie about the Holocaust? Gosh, so many wonderfully unanswered questions.
[ Audition ]
First half: a slow-paced but light-hearted Hugh Granty romance about a man who holds an audition for a fictional movie in order to find a wife. Third quarter: unnerving suspense as the investigation into one character’s past becomes a little scary. Final quarter: one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen – no exaggeration. I can’t believe we sat through this. Overall, this movie is praised as one of the most jarring in the J-Horror genre. The director claims it’s not a commentary on Japanese misogyny, but without that reading, I’d have to disregard this as a repellant snuff piece and a waste of my time. Disturbing stuff, though.
[ Wall Street ]
Decent enough morality tale of a young guy being enveloped by the shady world of 80s investment tycoons. Daryl Hannah looks like some kind of mannish monument to garish style of the 80s. Michael Douglas won an Oscar for his performance as Gordon Gekko, the epitome of greed. Also, this movie mentions more animals in casual conversation than any movie I’ve ever seen, and not just “bull” and “bear” and stuff you’d expect in an movie about the stock market. Worth seeing.
[ Policewomen ]
Easily the best movie I’ve rented in months and definitely one that got a lot of play in Quentin Tarantino’s VCR a few years back. This details Lacy Bond, a tough-as-nails policewoman on the trail of some tough-as-nails lady smugglers. They’re tough, see? But that doesn’t mean they don’t spend in an inordinate amount of time wearing bathing suits. Despite how I might make the plot sound, it’s a lot more coherent than most 70s exploitation pics. The roommate keenly observed that the dialogue sounds like that in “Kill Bill” – and not just the words but the very way the actors speak it. One of the supporting actresses, playing the requisite streetwise black chick, is named Jeannie Bell, which was the name Vernita Green takes after she goes into hiding. Oh, and Sondra Currie, the main character, looks just like Brie. Groin-grabbingly transcendent filmmaking. And regardless of what IMDb says, it's "Lacy Bond," not "Lucy." I heard it. I say so.
[ Out of Sight ]
Sanam was right; this is a good movie. Steven Soderbergh directed this before “The Limey,” but you can really see the influence this movie had on “Traffic.” I’d call it a quasi-prequel if the script wasn’t based on an Elmore Leonard novel. Don’t let the fact that Jennifer Lopez stars in it deter you, either. If I had seen this when it hit theaters in 1998, I would have guessed that J-Lo was destined for great things. She makes the role of a federal marshal who falls in love with a bank robber seem plausible. She even looks more beautiful in this movie – and in a natural way that isn’t buried beneath so much glitz. Technically, this movie shares realty in the Tarantino universe. Michael Keaton shows up in one scene as Ray Nicolette, an FBI agent. The same character, also played by Michael Keaton, appears more centrally in “Jackie Brown,” as the agent who busts Pam Grier’s character.
[ The Gift ]
The least of these six, but still not a waste of time. Cate Blanchett does a good job, even if Keanu Reeves and Hillary Swank don’t. Gary Cole fares better. Katie Holmes shows her breasts. Sam Raimi seems to have been ramping up for “Spider-Man” while he directed this. A few major characters from “Spider-Man,” like Aunt May and J. Jonah Jameson even show up playing small roles smaller than the ones in “Spider-Man” but similar in mannerisms. Creepy in a “Twin Peaks” kind of way, and I like that.
Apparently, I now only watch movies that feature crime as a central plot device. And seriously, if you don’t already have Netflix, you quality of life is clearly substandard.

Friday, November 05, 2004

"My Roommate Likes Le Tigre and She Isn't Kidding"

The long-delayed results of the Neil Sedaka trivia challenge. Me (and my phone): “Emergency trivia: Is Neil Sedaka Asian or not? I need to know!”
First place: “No,” Josh

Second place: “Deanna says no,” Marcy

Third place: “It means ‘friendship’ in Hebrew. Not Asian,” Meghan

Fourth place: “No he is not!” Kristen

Honorable mention: “It I had to guess, I’d go with yes, but I’m not 100 percent sure. I’d have to remember who that was to be sure,” Other Drew

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Floris, Get Guinness on the Phone

[ one ]
Jill's parents bought me lunch and gelato. Adam's mom bought me dinner and drinks. What a great day it's been, even if it's windy as reverse blow job and all the city's fountains have been drained in order to protect them against the coming weather. High in the forties next week. Forties!
[ two ]
Damn this UCDC atmosphere. Do any of you have any idea how frustrating it is to desperately want to have sex with someone but be unable to due to the antisocial boundaries constructed between the various UC campuses?
[ three ]
For the record, I saw “Crossfire” again on Wednesday. Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala were way more civil towards each other. I can only imagine that the ghost of John Stewart’s ambush lingers and has doused their bipartisan fire.

Dyluck (or "Die, Luck")

My brain connections sometimes connect inappropriately.

Walking through the city on the day immediately following the election, I noticed that everything felt just a little heavier. I didn’t see any of the emotional meltdown — the hysterical crying like the women in the streets just after Kennedy got shot — though if I had I surely would have stopped and watched. And the black shirt I was wearing wasn’t picked out necessarily as a sign of mourning. I’m not that dramatic. I just think I look good in black. Sure, the sun didn’t come out today. Sure, I can feel that nasty east coast winter coming. But knowing that the vast majority of DC residents voted for Kerry instead of Bush, I shouldn’t have been surprised that people seems just a little down.

Strangely, I had a song stuck in my head that I’m sure I couldn’t have heard more recently than eighth grade. When I was a kid, I played this game called Secret of Mana. It’s like Legend of Zelda, just not. Early in the game, the hero happens onto the first city — not a village, a full-on city with a castle and everything. The town, which I think was called Pandora, however, is cursed. Everyone’s mute. You talk to them and all you get is “……………” That’s how text-intensive video games represent silence: with ellipses.

Anyway, I can remember all this clearly now, when I haven’t really given it much thought since then. But the memory that seems to outweigh all the others is the music for that area: a sad, repetitive ditty that doesn’t go away until you beat the witch who’s cursed the area.

Sometimes, my brain connections things inappropriately. No symbolism. No foreshadowing. Just an odd song from my childhood composed for the primitive sonic capabilities of the Super Nintendo sound processor.

I wish it would connect to a melody that I wouldn’t mind forgetting.

I'm not really mad. And I guess I'd be kidding myself if I said I was all that disappointed. I'm not even all that surprised that to so many people, everything that happened in the last four years — 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Patriot Act, the prison torture, Michael Moore and other things which surely must matter, regardless of a person's political affiliation — added up to equal four more years of the same administration. What really gets me is that there's that much difference in Americans. I could probably no better understand some Bible-thumping Mississippi native than I could Joe Eskimo. Statistically, I'm the odd one, not Bible-thumper.

I wish I could unearth the Super Nintendo and play video games all day.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

If You're Reading This, You'd Better Be Done Voting (or Canadian)

I dodged.
Hotmail Ain't so Hot Anymore
Your Hotmail Enduced Woes Are Cured With Cool but Sinister Gmail

"Security notice: You are entering a page which is not secure. The information you view and send can be read while in transit."

And with a simple click of the OK button, I bypassed this little security warning and accessed for the first time my new Gmail account. This week, I joined the small-but-growing segment of the population lucky enough to ditch their digs at Hotmail and transition into using the beta version of Gmail, Google's new e-mail system. Gmail blows its competitors out of the water; if the storage space allotted to the average Hotmail account was Rhode Island, the storage vault at Gmail would be Alaska. Furthermore, Gmail allows users to search their archived e-mail and categorize their correspondences.

I probably sound like a walking advertisement for this Google off-shoot - "Gmail cleared up my psoriasis, reunited me with my biological parents and solved my erectile dysfunction. Praise Gmail!" - and I might have been, initially. But by Googling the phrase "Gmail," I found reason to doubt my new e-mail messiah. Just four search results below the link to the Gmail log-in screen, I saw a link reading "Gmail Is Too Creepy."

The theme song to "Unsolved Mysteries" is creepy - as are black cats, home-schooled kids, hypnotists and Scientologists. But nothing about my e-mail's tidy, well-organized interface sent a shiver down my spine.

According to the critics of Gmail at this site, www.gmail-is-too-creepy.com, this service and its parent company represent an invasion of privacy that would subject users to both government scrutiny and overzealous online marketing. These folks argue that Gmail's storage capacity and "never delete an e-mail again!" policy essentially create a permanent file of users' personal lives that both Google technicians and government spooks can search and use for data mining, persecution or - I'd imagine - personal amusement.

Secondly, the site condemns Gmail's ad-matching feature, which puts all e-mail through automated scanners that glean key words that dictate what ads will pop up when you log in. You write about grapefruit in an e-mail or 20, and suddenly you're pounded with ads for fresh fruit.

The site managers at Gmail Is Too Creepy conclude by saying that Gmail's policies are too invasive and that they will simply refuse to reply to any e-mail sent by a Gmail user.

And here I thought my biggest problem with my new e-mail service would be deciding whom I would extend my six precious Gmail invitations to.

Though the tone of these gripes reminds me of some nutball conspiracy theorist, the points are valid. Google wields great power in the online world, which every day encroaches more upon the offline world, previously known as "life." Users should be aware of Google's liberal interpretation of the term "privacy" and understand who might read their mail.

However, I think some people overanalyze how much others - even government spooks - care about their personal lives. The critics say, for example, that those sending e-mails containing the words "box cutters" and "airline schedules" could be branded terrorists. Box cutters and airline schedules are a bit 2001 for me. If anyone read my typical e-mail topics - forwarded jokes, interoffice administrative bullshit and the Linguistics Dept. listserv - they'd be bored senseless. Personally, I'm considering sending out a flurry of e-mails containing the words "dildo" and "cock ring" just to see if Gmail smuts up my ads.

My decision to proceed with Gmail, despite the warnings, ultimately boils down to the storage space. As somebody who spends most of his day mired down in words, the prospect of having a well-organized e-mail archive is too tempting. Hotmail sucks nuts and until another e-mail service can offer Gmail's pluses without the minuses, it's simply a matter of efficiency.

After hearing about all those creepy baseball curses, Daily Nexus columnist Drew got scared and reluctantly sent this column from his Hotmail account.

Monday, November 01, 2004

ThE FIsh BEhInd thE FIshstIcks

The newly computer-savvy strikes again.



And Jean Pascal, apparently, is still alive.

No Rubber Hoses

I can take this latest development as a sign of mental instability or burgeoning perversion.

Somehow, amidst all the nasal passage-cleaning of this sinus infection which has recently made my life more interesting, I've realized that I kind of enjoy the sensation of pulling my nosehairs. And not just a gentle tug -- I'm talking about yanking those fuckers out entirely. It's a pain and then a release and it's altogether not completely odious. Quite possibly, this little philia grew out of my fondness for sneezing. I like to sneeze. It's fun. It's a chemical release. Maybe this nosehair think works along the same principles.

The biggest drawback to this, however, is that I find myself once or twice a day compelled to yank. If someone catches me mid-yank, I'm done for; they'll think I'm picking my nose, which I'm totally not. That's gross.

"No no no," I'll calmly explain to him or her or them. "You see, Bob and Lupe, I wasn't picking my nose at all. I was yanking out my nosehairs. I'm not weird and neither are you."

Ah-Koo-Bah-Nay, Porters

I heard about this on Thursday and can't believe I didn't post it: there's a new branch on the human family tree, albeit one half the size of the normal branches. The species homo twig, if you will.
[ link: tiny little cavemen ]