Monday, January 31, 2011

Why I am Paranoid

Have you ever needed to restart your computer? You go through the shut-down procedure and choose "restart." The computer goes through its various mysterious actions which include shutting down all open programs and folding the laundry. The computer then goes off.

And then somehow IT GOES BACK ON. Let me say this again slowly so that it sinks in. It goes back on. It turns itself on; it was off, and then it woke itself up.

This doesn't scare you?

So then I was messing around with my cell phone this evening and I found an "Auto On-Off" setting. I set up that my phone would go off at 3AM and then on again at 4AM. Are you getting this? An hour after it turns off, it turns itself back on. How the heck does it do that?

If my electronics don't turn off when they say they turn off, how can I ever trust them? Even when they say they are off, they are just waiting, watching the clock till I'm fast asleep so that they can wake up and do all sorts of nefarious things like run spreadsheets and play Minesweeper.

I can barely wake myself up. Computers and cell phones are our superiors and are out to replace me with a robot copy of myself. Only better.

Bring it on, baby.

Monday, January 24, 2011

need to know

I was recently watching an episode of Law and Order and I noticed a certain child actor on it. This poor young girl had been attacked in one way or another by some evil, bad guy. And there you have another hour of riveting television. Thing is, I recognized the child from another show which my kids enjoy watching. On this show, her character is completely different. I guess not being attacked makes for a better personality. As much as I was transfixed by this young lady’s particular skill of being two very different people in different contexts, I also became annoyed. It started to dawn on me that in order to get this role, her parents, no doubt, hawked her around to every TV show, commercial shoot and who knows what else. Now I don’t know if she particularly enjoys either acting or doing auditions but it just smacked of so much manufactured persona. And if this is true for this one actor, it must be true for all of them. There seems to be a closed population of wandering faces who thirst for a moment as an extra or a small role which could lead to a larger one. The character actors who yearn to be leads. Whatever the deal, it just deflates, when I watch, the idea that I am immersing myself into any sort of alternate reality. I now see all these people as actors, not as the people that they are trying to be. Instead of losing myself in the stories, I keep imagining the behind the scenes machinations which allowed this particular person or group to be here.

This sense of the pulling back the curtain also hit me when I recent article about the people who are on the “game show circuit.” They specialize in trying out for game shows and knowing what the producers want from them. You might, therefore, see the same person on any variety of different game shows as the random person who simply tries out on a lark is the exception, not the rule. I can’t look at game shows as the triumph of the average person who gets a break and proves he is above average! I have to see through the cynical eyes thrust upon me by our constant fascination with knowing everything.

Reality shows, and the shows which reveal why the reality shows aren’t all that real, do the same thing. The Behind the Scenes exposes of my favorite movies and TV programs while titillating and sometimes fascinating, make it difficult to appreciate the shows anymore as simple storytelling. Watching the voices behind animated shows on Inside the Actor’s Studio simply confirms that these are empty vessels who aren’t what they appear (or sound) to be. It is disheartening. And cooking shows? Much the same thing – sometimes, I don’t want to see how the sausage is made. I need the illusion of something special and unattainable, almost magic. Sure, it is nice to be reassured that I too, if I follow certain basic steps, can make a good meal, but the plethora of shows mainly trivialize the artistry and turn it into an open process.

I know that I often fall out on the opposite side of this dilemma. Sometimes I want the openness and the admission that people are not magically special or different and that we all have the potential if given the chance to rise to heights. But there is an innocence that I admit I miss. A sense of wonder at what is all around me that I lose when I study the science behind the things. Cf. Whitman’s “When I heard the learn'd astronomer” and Seger’s “Against the Wind” (‘wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.’)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Idea for a movie

I dreamt this up (literally) last night. If you read this and decide to make this movie, please give me a nod in the credits and your acceptance speech.

It is called "Help Wanted." A wealthy socialite realizes that her husband is never around to do the things husbands do -- take her to events, take care of chores around the house and just be there as a husband. So she takes out an ad in the paper to hire a surrogate husband who can do/be all the things she needs. A series of men apply but each is run ragged by everything she demands and this gives her husband (who had time for a pang of jealousy) a good laugh. The neighboring boy (late teen?) starts doing all the things as favors and grows into the role but misunderstands and assumes that she favors him and is pursuing an affair with him so he keeps doing everything she asks. I'm thinking that the movie veers off into a psycho-thriller as the boy decides to force the issue. Other than that, it could be a lighthearted romp.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I can't seem to face up to the fact

I was chatting with a student today and he asked what I was doing over vacation. He is going away. I commented that I didn't enjoy vacations. Mostly because there is just so much to worry about. He told that I need to stop worrying about everything. And then it hit me.

I can't relax. I have chosen careers driven by timing and awareness of schedule. The pressure is always to perform at a certain level, by a certain moment. I'm not saying I like this, but I don't know any other way. Partially, I think that this mirrors life - there are always deadlines and obligations. No time to relax. Worry is ever present.

It seems like the highly rational approach which I embrace is one that, because it is rational, needs the order, structure and predictability of logic and cause and effect. The few times I have felt relaxed have been when I can somehow drop the rational me and be left with an irrational, emotional me.

Is this bad? I don't know, but I have to go and take care of some stuff.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A new project

I am starting a new project - I have decided to start collecting statements of false philosophy. These are not, though, untruths of any sort. These are statements which, on the surface smack of some deep metaphilosophical meaning but when you stop to think about them, are completely worthless. So far, I have 2 categories: truisms and empties.

Truisms are statements of identity or definition but which are presented as if this clarifying statement actually brings out some innovative subtlety of meaning, which it doesn't.

Example: "Questions are the things which we are driven to find answers for."

The pop culture example is "It is what it is." We want to find something comforting, deeper or somehow insightful in that statement but if we try too hard, we realize that it is difficult for anything to be what it isn't or not to be what it is.

Empties or nonisms are those nuggets of metaphors or imagery which you would think, when deciphered, impart some important meaning but really don't.

Example: To tie a knot is to connect three friends and four enemies.

This group, however, lends itself to 2 challenges. The first is the possibility that the inane may inadvertently have meaning to someone. The second is that the creation of these bits of nonwisdom lends itself to silliness or become derivative of real statements. I risk the abyss and intend to fill this category as well.

Because you know what they say, "without anything, all you have is nothing."
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Talking Candy, from a baby

I was in CVS this evening, preparing for the onslaught of snow by buying construction paper and scotch tape (if you don't know how those are instrumental in dealing with blizzards, then I don't want to be at YOUR house...) and I saw something which caught my eye -- a Snickers bar with peanut butter.

At first, I thought, "Wow! Mad cool!" and I was about to go and by myself 40 or 50 of them. Then I stopped.

I thought about another new candy bar which I saw - a bar with all caramel inside. Then another: Reese's with dark chocolate. Another: Twix big crunch. More and more - all the traditional sizes and flavors became intertwined.

Now I get it. There is a conspiracy of candy makers. Eventually, THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE CANDY BAR! It will have everything in it and that will be all we have to choose from!

Fight the power! Eat the traditional candies in their traditional forms or we risk losing freedom of choice.

quintessential movies

I started making a list of "quintessential movies" this morning and I needed a way to break film down. Genre wouldn't do it because even the genres were too broad. So I have started with sports movies and have broken down the groups by particular sport. My list, though, is not about the "best" film in each category beause, hey, who am I to determine that. But about the movies that, to my mind, typify that sports experience. So here is what I have. If you have others, feel free to start your own blog and make the list for yourself. Please excuse typos -- I'm very tired and working on my daughter's netbook in a low light setting)

Hockey -- Slapshot
Football -- North Dallas Forty
Baseball -- a tough decision. I wasthinking about a sentimental favority like "Field of Dreams" but that isn't about baseball. I considered The Natural and the Bad News Bears but I'm sticking with Major League. Not a great movie, but one that is about baseball. Sort of.
Boxing -- another tough call. Between Cinderella Man and this new Marky Mark movie The Fighter, I had lots of options. But how can I choose anything other than Rocky? The first one.
Bicycle Racing -- Breakling Away
Basketball -- The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh. After that, maybe Hoosiers but honestly, I didn't find Hoosiers very funny.
Wrestling -- there are two types of wrestling -- fake adult wrestling (like in The Wrestler) and real greco-roman wrestling (like in that teen angst underdog wrestling movie). Either way, it isn't a sport.
Dodgeball -- Dodgeball
Arm Wrestling -- clearly, Over the Top. All those other arm wrestling movies aren't nearly as good.
Sailing -- Probably Captain Ron, but only because I couldn't think of another movie about racing boats besides a random James Bond flick.
The Olympics -- Chariots of Fire
Death Racing -- The original Death Race 2000 (close runner up, The Running Man)
Car Racing - I know people want me to say Days of Thunder, but I won't. I also won't say Cars or some Herbie movie. And, no, I'm not listing that Ricky Bobby movie.
Horse Racing -- the one with the kid shipwrecked on the island with the horse. No, not Blue Lagoon. The other one. The kid's name was Alex.
Ping Pong -- I can only think of two contenders, Balls of Fury and Forrest Gump. So I'll choose the new version of The Longest Yeard. It was a miserable movie but it had a ping pong scene and it has another thing going for it -- it is neither Balls of Fury, nor Forrest Gump.
Golf -- Caddyshack. What, you were expecting Tin Cup or Happy Gilmore? Ugh.
Skiing -- Hot Dogs. And that movie also wins for competitive hot tubbing and for "movies named after hot dogs"
video gaming -- The Last Starfighter (second place, Tron)
foot racing and other assorted sports -- Meatballs
cooking -- Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe
Kickboxing -- Bloodsport
Blood sporting -- Kickboxer
Fishing -- Jaws (quint essential)

If you can think of other sports that need my vote, let me know.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Let's talk about regrets, baby

And bad, mistakes, I've made a few.

Well, tonight, I made a doozy. I just pigged out on frozen yogurt. There was really no excuse for it. I can't rationalize it in any way other than "because I'm a fricking idiot." QED and all that.

I'm feeling a bit light headed right now from the carbs and like that and, oh, did I mention, I have a history of pronounced lactose intolerance. Should make for an interesting night. I should probably sleep on the lawn.

I know what you're thinking (with apologies to Thomas Magnum) - according to the sign in the Frozen Yogurt place, frozen yogurt is fine for most people with moderate lactose intolerance. Well, let me just review a few salient points:

1. Most. Not all. And if history has proven anything, it is that I am exceptional only at the most inopportune times.

2. Moderate. This is not moderate.

Now, a note -- I discovered when I started on the path of righteousness we call "Atkins" that my lactose intolerance didn't rear its ugly, well, rear, when I limited carbs. Now, that should be troubling considering that I saw the ingredients on the side of the yogurt container, and they read "Yogurt: Lactose and carbs" but it is important that we put all events into a socio-cultural and historical context. For dinner I had 18 slices of American Cheese.

Yeah...I know. So right now, things are a bit surreal. I think I have to go lie down.