Thursday, November 24, 2005

Not Just Another Thursday

There's an episode of The Simpsons from the show's second season called "One Fish, Two Fish, Bluefish" -- I don't normally watch The Simpsons but this one particular episode resonates with me. The short, summarized version is as follows: Lisa, the older daughter, is tired of the monotony and boredom of suburbia life so she requests that the family skip Pork Chop Night and instead venture to the new sushi restaurant in town. They go, much to Homer's apprehension, but it turns out Homer loves it and tries every dish the place offers. Finally he tries "Fugu," which is blowfish. Blowfish, if not prepared properly, is fatally poisonous, and because the head sushi chef at the local restaurant is busy getting busy with his girlfriend out back behind the restaurant, the young apprentice chef screws up and believes he has poisoned Homer.

Since he's got 24 hours to live, the balance of the episode shows Homer making a list of those things that are most important to him, and he tries getting everything on his list done before he dies. His last action to this end is to sit and review the bible (via Books on Tape) and he falls asleep in his recliner. The next morning, Marge finds him and believes he's gone, but it turns out the drool on his lips is warm and he is alive to everyone's glee. As the credits roll, the viewer seea Homer on a couch, chomping a bag of potato chips and swilling a Duff's beer. The message, clearly, is that we shouldn't wait until the end -- or the prospect thereof -- of our lives to do whatever it is that makes us happy. Whether it's sucking down cheap beer and potato chips on a couch, spending time (being 'intamit') with a significant other, or spending time with family, friends and loved ones, there's no better time than today to enjoy life than right now.

I'm writing this at my parents' house in NJ, snugly secure on a couch near a fireplace with lots of activity happening nearby. As much as I like doing nothing and putzing around my own place in my own space, there's something to be said for being with those people you love and for whom you're thankful.

Hope you all have a happy, safe and wonderful Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Feeling so tired, can’t understand it
Just had a fortnight’s sleep
I’m feeling so tired, I’m so distracted
Ain’t touched a thing all week.

The Rolling Stones

On some level -- mostly a rational one -- I know that the sun also rises and everything will and does work out. I'm optimistic that the glass is half-full, and I know that things are far better than they seem.

Doesn't change the fact that I feel like I'm in a boxing ring with 12 different opponents taking turns hitting me, despite this omnipresent, unrelenting daze.

Okay, before I sound like one of those people we all know who constantly bemoan life whether it's good or bad, I'll stop what sounds like self-pity in its tracks. I'm far from depressed, and even without Thanksgiving two ticks on the calendar away from being here, it's still a monumental collection of stuff I've been handling. Aside from the personal/family stuff -- which is really far better than it could be -- I'm also buried with work, and there just aren't enough hours in a day. I've used that expression before, but never before have I meant it more or understood what others meant when they used same.

It's almost like being an insomniac in a hotel room in suburban Lincoln, Nebraska, with only Popeil Informercials on TV for entertainment.

Speaking of insomnia, for the most part, what I've noticed during this expanse is that I haven't been able to sleep for more than four or five hours a night. I'm not complaining -- I've got plenty of shit to keep me occupied 24-7. My apartment, as Kaia once opined, is like Mission Control -- so between the PC, a home theater system with 800 DVD's, 9,000 CD's and a cavalcade of other time-wasting choices, all I really want is to have everything go back to where it was. The question is, where was it? How far back can I go?

If I could, I'd go back to about four years ago and erase everything. That would mean I could have avoided an example of dysfunction and human pathos and never had to deal with any of those whackos. My dad would not have spent five months in a hospital and we could have spent the last Thanksgiving enjoying life, not merely being thankful for it. My mom would not have had to endure everything she did, and neither my sister nor I would have had to come face-to-face, personally or work-wise, with everything we did.

However -- and there's always that major caveat -- life happens. Shit happens. And there's no "Undo" button in real life. Things move forward, despite our desire to keep them static. So in this situation, we each had to face what was happening -- whether it was on our schedule or not -- and there's not much we could do about that. In truth, things could have been lots worse -- although looking back on it, I'm not sure how much worse. And the bright spot is that I extricated myself from a lifetime of misery and wound up with someone who makes me smile on a regular basis. So I'm not really complaining.

I guess, especially given the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, that I've learned on some level that life is absolutely chronological; you can't be here unless you've been there. And like that Jim Carrey movie, Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, things happen in sequence. So does learning. I could have erased all the pain and misery, then and now, and I'd lose the ability to appreciate and be as thankful as I am for my family, my friends, Kaia, and what I have.

Essentially, I think it boils down to this: even when I feel like I don't wanna get out of bed, and when it all seems like it's just too much, I know how good it really is, even when it's not great. That reminds me of an album I saw the other day -- not sure by whom -- called "Even The Bad Times Were Pretty Good." And as much as I know these days are difficult, long and sometimes grueling, exhausting and exasperating, I also can't rightfully bring myself to describe these days as bad. I think, for the most part, that whether I'm naive or just too damn optimistic, I have it pretty good, and even when each day is a collection of long, painful phone calls involving situations over which I have no control, I know -- somehow -- that tomorrow will be as good, if not better, than today.

And that feels pretty good.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

First and Foremost

If and when it gets any easier, I'll be happy to advise you accordingly.

About two weeks ago a wave of less-than-stellar news came my way. Most of it was health-related involving my family, and while I could go into more detail herein, I won't. Suffice to say it's been a difficult couple weeks. Since I am not willing to go into specifics herein, I haven't been stopping by the HoB because I've been handcuffed -- if I can't be completely open here, then I'm not entirely able to let it all hang out. In other words, it's a Catch-22. Either I spill it all or I don't spill it at all.

Needless to say, my absence has been somewhat self-inflicted.

The news is far from all bad -- even though there has been some darkness in the near-past, the clouds are dissipating and the news is far better. So I am hopeful and optimistic. And irritated that I wasn't able to be more open about it herein. Suffice to say everything will be back to normal -- whatever and wherever normal shall be -- and I won't have to be hamstrung by cryptic, measured after-the-fact posts like these.

In the meantime, Kaia and I have both gotten Logitech webcams so that has kept us pretty occupied as well. We have been spending time chatting via cam instead of simply on the phone, and while no one needs nor wants, I am sure, to hear any sordid details, there really are none -- which is what is so funny. Only a few months ago, if someone asked me if I had a webcam, my first response would be "No, I'm not a pervert!" Whether or not that's true is irrelevant... But the fact is I typically associated people with cams as extroverts who enjoyed doing inappropriate things for whoever wanted to watch. However, instead of us performing lewd acts for one another, the cams have enabled us to see each other and while it, on one level, has made being far away a bit more easy to handle, it's also reminded us how much we miss being with each other, sharing glances, touches and whispers. So while I could have provided details of sordid, inappropriate behavior, it strikes me as funny that the end result is that we miss each other more rather than less.

Aside from us being able to see one another, what we also discovered is that installing and setting up the webcam is simple, so much so that we are not worried that once she becomes a full-fledged New Yorker, we'll be able to set up cams for her parents and her sister so that everyone can keep in touch. I think it's given her another measure of reassurance that moving here won't completely cut her off from her family and friends, even though on some level we both know that it will be difficult. But barring weekly trips to San Fran, the cams will at least enable her to see everyone and keep them nearby. While there are people who assert that Shower CD Players from The Sharper Image might constitute better living through technology, I can't think of anything more useful than a cross-country webcam.

There are other examples of how webcams have saved lives -- look here or here for more info -- but in our case, it has just whetted our already voracious appetites to being together.

And inasmuch as I know this entry's been a tease, I can both apologize and promise that this site won't degenerate into anything inappropriate -- for better or worse. I just found it interesting that something we hoped would help bring us closer has reminded us just how geographically far away we are. And reinforced that when we're together, there's nothing better. Funny how things work.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

When we wish to describe someone as "smart," we either regard them as "book-smart" -- ie they possess a lot of technical knowledge that most people do not -- or they are "street smart" -- conveying the notion that one possesses common sense and is quick and able to think on his/her feet.

The world is not getting smarter, if today's news courtesy of CNN is proof. Based on the article found here, Sylvia Johnson, 41, of Golden, Colorado, wanted to be a "cool mom" so she began throwing parties -- replete with drugs and alcohol -- for her high-school-age son and his friends. Unfortunately, Ms. Johnson forgot she was the mother in this equation and began having sex with her son's friends -- five of them, actually. All told, she had sex with five different boys aged 15 to 17, and admitted in the arrest affidavit that she provided tequila, methamphetamines and marijuana at these parties (in addition, presumably, to sex). So she was indicted for contributing to the deliquency of a minor (several charges) as well as child endangerment, sexual assault and -- get this -- more counts of contributing to the deliquency of a minor when she let her daughter -- a 14-year-old -- drive her and her son (and a 15-year-old friend, natch) of his to the arraignment.

The truth, indeed, is stranger than fiction. And I think it's pretty clear that we're all going to hell.

The other thing is this: while it'd be cool to have a 41-year-old mom be hookin' me up with drugs, alcohol, sex and pizza while I was in high school, it wouldn't be great if she looked like Ms. Johnson (here's her mugshot). If she looked like this, I'd be begging for her to contribute to my deliquency, and to assault me sexually -- in fact, I'd probably drop out of school to facilitate said assaults. But assuming Ms. Johnson even remotely resembles her mugshot, then I would suggest that this story be shared throughout the land to warn against the ills brought about by alcohol -- after all, the story is set in the land of Coors -- Golden, Colorado.

Moral Of The Story:
Stay sober, and stay outta the news. Or you too might have illicit, mind-scarring sex with a heinous-milf in cheap beer country.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

My Lithium Rechargeables for An Outlet

I've been mulling an issue back and forth now for quite some time. The issue: how technology is a rampant waste of time and materials versus the benefits we derive as a culture from technological innovation.

Incidentally, I'm not referring to artificial hearts, new plastics, breast implants or better living through chemistry (take that last one as you want). I mean things like PDA's/Palms, iPods, cell-phones and the other assorted goodies that pervade my person on a semi-regular basis.

To wit: on my desk, at any given time, there is a cordless phone with a desktop charger/dock; a Palm LifeDrive PDA with a desktop charger/dock; an iPod Video 60GB with a desktop charger/dock; and a Nikon Coolpix S1 with a desktop charger/dock. Sensing a theme?

I think technology is a great thing; and if I haven't already expounded on this topic herein before, it seems to me that many PC innovations come as a result of companies striving to improve their machines in order to make games play better. Now before you take pause and think I'm losing my mind, consider the topic of graphics cards. Years ago, there were a few of these on the market; now there are over 500 choices, all of which feature different resolutions, amounts of built-in memory, and ancillary benefits (like the option of receiving television, capturing live video and/or piping output to a TV). As computers become more powerful, game designers (like those at Electronic Arts and Rockstar Games) pushed the envelope. The result -- PC's that become obsolete a lot quicker, but better software -- and not just games. Microsoft Office -- the ubiquitous collection of Word, Excel and a variety of other add-ons -- has continuously gotten more sophisticated (or more bloated, depending on your perspective) with each annual update.

If buying cars was like buying PC's, we'd each go through three cars a decade. Consider this: if the highways, roads and drive-through burger joints of this nation continually evolved like software did, we would be forced to upgrade/replace our cars as frequently as we do PC's.

The cycle goes like this: buy a PC and plug that bad boy into the wall and to other stuff -- printers, monitors, speakers, etc. That PC is, that first day (unless you bought a piece of shit like an E-Machine) is great.

However, next year, when Dell comes out with a new, faster version of the newest Pentium processor, game manufacturers will take note and tweak their games (both current ones and those in production) to run better on that new processor. So you'll be able to steal more cars or shoot more civilians in "Grand Theft Auto: Dover, Delaware" with even more realistic blood and gore. And once Dell revamps that brand-spankin' new Pentium 4 and makes it even faster, game manufacturers will follow suit and improve their output to run even better on that new processor. Re-read the prior sentence and take note that faster and better are generally regarded as synonymous in the world of PC's.

As these PC innovations continue to take hold, everyone else -- ie non-game-manufacturers -- follow suit. Whether these innovations are actual improvements -- being able to do more simultaneously, like work on a term paper, do research online and chat instantly with a friend in Venezuela -- or mere 'upgrades' -- being able to hear your friend as you chat live with him/her instead of simply talking to him/her on the telephone -- is subjective. But the short and long is that as computers become faster, more powerful and more advanced, software appears to take advantage of the increased capacity and/or horsepower.

Why is this a problem? It isn't, if you can afford to replace your PC every six months. But the truth is that the innovations are happening so quickly and so uniformly that by the time you actually decide to upgrade, whatever you've purchased is not only going to be obsolete within six months, it will be a tenth of the price and will be replaced by something that is more efficient and more capable of doing whatever it is you hoped to accomplish with that little conglomeration of metal, glass and/or plastic.

So on my desk, I see a 5.8 gigahertz cordless phone, which has already become semi-obsolete by new models which use less energy and charge faster; a Palm that is going to be replaced within six months by a newer model that has three times the capacity and very few, if any, bugs. The iPod, which is almost brand new, will be replaced in Apple's lineup with a device that uses much less energy, sounds better, and has increased capacity. My cellphone will be useless unless it runs on the newest version of a wireless interactive protocol known as Bluetooth; and since the cellphone that replaces mine in Motorola's lineup will get better reception and have fewer emissions, that should go in the trash as well.

The Nikon, while a nice product, is a five-megapixel camera; for the same money, I can now purchase the same model with more features and a better battery as an eight-megapixel version, which provides roughly 30% better resolution. And I haven't even mentioned the Logitech webcam that is perched stealthily above my monitor.

Essentially, where this all brings us is a choice: are we to run this unwinnable, eternal race to have the newest, most capable gadgets, toys and life-acoutrement available, or are we going to take an honest, realistic approach to all these myriad devices and decide what we need versus what we want? In years past, I'd scoop up goodies as they hit the market, tossing aside the old crap without giving same much of a thought, never considering that today's hot new item and the object of my techno-lust will be on the scrap-heap along with the device I'm tossing aside this minute. But now I'm more inclined to hold off and decide what is necessary against what is simply luxury. The iPod isn't a luxury per se, but given the amount of time I spend on subways, trains and my feet in and around the City, it's a worthwhile purchase. I use my Palm to keep my schedule and information handy: the fact that I can take pages of data (in Word and Excel format) with me anywhere is, if not necessary, at the least very useful.

I could toss the Nikon and get a new one: they now have weather-resistant cameras so you can actually photograph up to 20 feet below the water. Do I really need that capability? Not really. Do I need to be able to have a phone that can take pictures, send text messages, or calculate a tip if I'm unable to do so? Not particularly.

I think it comes down to the question of need vs. want, as many things in our daily lives evolve from what we think we need to those things we could really use and/or enjoy. Necessity doesn't merely equate to sunshine, food, water and love, either: but it seems that the more that we want, the less we truly need, and as more is out there to captivate our attention and our gadget-lust, the less we intrinsically need to make us happy. The more computers and technology attempt to make our lives better and to enable us to communicate more efficiently, the more I value seeing someone's eyes when I speak with him/her, and the more avenues of electronic communication available to me, the less connected I feel.

I don't decry technology -- you can be sure I'll still lust after the next Palm and the next version of the Motorola Razr that hit the market -- but inasmuch as these things add something to our lives, I like to remind myself that our lives our a balance of things, and when these things add something, they also tend to take something away.

At the very least, something to think about the next time you're waiting for your cell-phone to charge or you're on hold with Dell technical support.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Questions For Another Day

I had the best of intentions -- really I did.

I'd spent the better part of the last 36 hours -- work and sleep and meals aside (which leaves approximately one hour and forty-eight minutes) coming up with good ideas for this space: and then the bombings in Jordan happened, and here I am. I'm referring, of course, to the multiple hotel bombings that claimed at least 57.

Normally, these types of attacks -- which are relatively frequent throughout the Middle East, thanks to al Qaeda -- are not worthy of mention herein above and beyond the fact that loss of human life, however extensive, is not something I want to focus on in these pages. However, the fallout from the attacks -- on the streets of Amman -- was far too interesting to ignore.

First of all, if you've been in a cave or merely stopping by here and not reading, hearing, viewing or otherwise ingesting the news vis-a-vis the bombings, here's a link. This link details not only what happened -- a multitude of al-Qaeda bombings which ripped through 3 Western-frequented hotels (The Radisson, Grand Hyatt and Days Inn) and killed 60, including the three animals responsible for carrying out the actual attacks -- but of the protests in Amman, which is what I intend to focus on here, at least for the moment.

Why this incident is significant -- and make no mistake, it is extremely significant -- is that the angry, inflamed protests by young Jordanian males screaming for blood in the streets of Amman are protesting al-Qaeda, not Israel, not America, and not the myriad Western targets which usually are the focus of Arab bile. No, the anger is self-directed -- and while al-Qaeda referred to their choice of targets, Amman, as a backyard for the enemies of [Islam] (referring to Israel and America), the bottom line is that the majority of the 150 either injured or killed by these attacks are Muslim.

In the above-cited link, al-Qaeda's statement included these words in describing their planning of the attacks:

"A group of martyrdom-seekers carried out the planning and implementation. They comprised three men and a woman who decided to accompany her husband on the path to martyrdom," the statement said.

"It was agreed to use suicide belts for precision and to cause maximum damage."

This type of statement, while not unusual and typically chilling for al-Qaeda, is unique in that this was the first time this type of anti-Muslim edict was openly discussed by the group. Their assertion that this attack was an indictment of Jordan as a Western and Israeli ally will not carry much weight for those Arab youths chanting "Burn in hell,Abu Musab al-Zarqawi!" Al-Zarqawi is the senior member of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Yesterday, while discussing this with Kaia, I told her -- point-blank -- that despite the horrific nature of these attacks (especially detonating an explosive belt in the middle of a wedding celebration), the one positive result of this incident -- if one can even use the term "positive" in the same sentence as this incident -- is that by crossing this line and attacking their fellow Muslims, al-Qaeda has become reviled by both non-Muslims and Muslims alike. During the years of heavy IRA activity between Belfast and No. 10 Downing Street, the IRA always targeted the British; if the IRA began arbitrarily killing Irishmen -- politics be damned -- they would have been sold out to the British without hesitation. Now that al-Qaeda has begun attacking fellow Muslims -- other than merely bombing mosques of other Islamic sects -- I hope that the Muslim, Arab world begins to see these monsters as have Westerners and non-Muslims have. And reacts accordingly.

There is no doubt that a large part of why al-Qaeda has survived this long is because many Arabs who publicly condemn suicide bombings and attacks on civilians, whether they are Israeli, American or Arab, privately don't mind these types of attacks. Many Arabs -- from heads of state on down to the poorest members of Arab societies -- have no fondness for Jews or America, as they have been inundated over the past five decades to believe that Jews and America are evil and want to drink their blood. That inundation, in part, is how fervent, radical, maniacal suicide bombers are bred. However, now that the curtain of religious piety has been lifted, and the entire Muslim world can see what these non-humans are doing -- in the name of Islam -- to their fellow Muslims -- I wonder how long it will be before the Arab world begins not only to cease its support for them, but even join the West in targeting and eliminating them.

According to the above-linked article, Jordan's Queen Noor predicted the terrorists would lose ground because of the anger over the assaults.

"I personally think they've made a significant tactical error here, because they have attacked innocent civilians, primarily Muslims," she told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Thursday night. "It is a sin against Islam what they have done."

The U.S.-born queen said a good friend of hers was wounded and is in intensive care, and his daughter was killed. Most Jordanians know someone -- or someone who knows someone -- hurt by the bombings, she said.

"I think those who comprise many of the either disaffected, or those searching for the best way for their grievances and frustrations and anger to be resolved or represented, will look at this in horror, and I think they (attackers) will lose support as a result for what they have done."

What is so troubling is that there still remains a question whether al-Qaeda, after killing or injuring 100 of their own people, will begin to lose support. While one can only hope that this continued violence perpetrated by al-Qaeda abates, it seems far more likely to me that, assuming it does not, that their attacks on their fellow Muslims continue and the Arab world sees -- once and for all -- why Israeli and Western interests regard the Arab world the way they do.

At least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political idols.

- Aldous Huxley

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Where It All Began

The other day, my father and I were alone in the car and talking about a few business matters when I got a call from a friend whose advice I'd solicited about reworking the format of the HoB. I had an HTML question and since he's been doing web/e-commerce programming since the web began (back before Al Gore fessed up about his new invention), he was definitely the right guy to see. Since I was busy and en route, he and I made plans quickly for an evening phone meeting and we hung up.

My father, who has a hard time grasping the entire concept of the Internet to begin with, asked me "Why do you bother with your blog? What's the point?"

At first, I told him that I enjoy writing and it gives me a space to "stretch out," so to speak -- no editors, no formats, no number-of-words or -column limitations and no boring statistical derivations to which I needed to adhere. In other words: I'm my own pilot -- where my fingers and the screen take me is where I go.

He didn't understand that at first, but he did ask a good follow-up question: "So why does it need to be online for any- and everyone to see?"

Like I said, a good question. I knew the answer, but I kept it to myself, for good reason.

Later, I went back to the original post, the first real contribution I made here, and re-read it, and it's been a year. To the day, it's been a year since he's been -- unofficially or otherwise -- out of harm's way.

In the back of my mind, I knew this day was approaching. It's hard to believe that the second of the three major anniversary dates have come and gone. The first was the date we discovered he'd had a heart attack; the second, as indicated above (in the link), was the day he was released from Lenox Hill; and the third is New Year's Eve, which is the day, in 2004, he finally went home.

In context with both this date being a special one and his asking me why I maintain this space, again, is a good question. And in addition to my original answer, which was that I enjoyed writing without any constraints, I think part of why I continue to do so -- a year after I began -- is not for experimental, creative writing. Nor is it so I can simply foment ideas and throw a bunch of shit on the wall and see what sticks -- both in my personal review and others' interpretation thereof. On some level, I write only for me -- so if others see it and/or enjoy it -- and even if they don't -- it's not my concern.

The point here -- as far as why I do what I do, and how I do what I do -- is akin to Tom Clancy and Miles Davis. Tom Clancy, as an example, needs to write according to the current trends of modern international diplomacy and politics; he could write, I am sure, a wonderful, superb story about Cuba and the Soviet Union secretly stockpiling nuclear weapons and firing same into the United States; but since a) Cuba long has been without nuclear missiles; and b) the Soviet Union no longer exists, it'd be a pretty tough sell. So he's got to -- on some level -- give the people what they want. Tell us a story about terrorists attacking a boat transporting nukes in the South China Sea, or a plot uncovered near the Bering Strait that reveals far more pernicious plots afoot. Or tell us about how Fidel Castro has authorized bin Laden and his bunch to use Castro's personal swimming pool for growing Gremlins. But give us something.

Miles Davis, on the other hand, played his horn night-in, night-out. He played from the heart and put everything he was into every note that he emitted. And he turned his back on his audience with regularity.

I'm not turning my back on the audience; but on some level, I'm simply focused and into what I'm doing more than any reaction thereto. And I'm not foolish enough to think this space, somehow, makes the world a better place, or solves problems, or does anything positive for anyone. Except for me.

I tried putting that into words, but instead I just looked over at him, smiled, and we continued on our journey. The conversation tailed off, but I'm sure -- or at least I hope -- we'll one day get a chance to finish it.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Winter's Approach

"The hospital called," she said mildly, making eye contact with me despite her doing her best to avoid making eye contact.

I felt a pit rise and fall below my ribcage as my shoulders sagged just a bit. "It'll be okay," she followed, noting my body language and the sideward glance of my eyes before they reached the floor and then the wall.

I wondered where this all stems from, why it all happens, and I can't -- not for the life of me -- discern if it is an ugly, repulsive vampire I invited inside before she revealed her true self. I felt the clock change from across the room, and it was time for me to find answers.

Silently, between glances, I grabbed and tied a scarf around me, carelessly rolling my pen between my left fingers absently. She cocked her head to one side, in a downward diagonal perch, and before I could muster the courage to go to her, I was buttoning a coat, sensing my keys in my left pocket, weighing on my leg, and feeling the cold air rush across my ears and my forehead and my knees and the empty pavement.

I walked for three blocks before I wondered where I was going. The sky, a rainbow of indigo, black, blue and emptiness, featured few stars and was largely obscured by the dried, wilting leaves dancing in the breeze precariously before their final journey downward.

Somewhere I heard sirens and I instinctively turned to see the flashing lights that accompanied them through the cold, nearly abandoned street. Suddenly, as I felt the phone vibrating in my outside pocket, I remembered that this journey of mine had a beginning, a middle and an end, and I realized that I wasn't alone. I pulled the phone from my pocket and knew before I looked who it was. I turned and walked back and wordlessly let go, knowing she would be there no matter what, and we met in the middle and stayed there for what seemed like hours.

As we got ready to get into bed, I noticed the windows were open. A few steps and intention and they closed, keeping the winter at bay for as long as possible. We both breathed quietly before we finally fell asleep, her on my shoulder, my head aching, and the air -- dancing shadows, the smell of fresh linen -- teasing me as I finally surrendered.

Shaun of The Dead

There I was, determined to contribute a meaningful, useful, creative entry involving my weekend, friends and family, Kaia, the weather and even sneak in a crafty, witty shout-out to those who think I've turned to the dark side (aka the Geritol crowd). And then it hit me -- I've been so busy with work, goofing off, dealing with real life and doing laundry that I haven't had the time to conceive of, let alone produce, such a meaningful, useful, creative entry.

However, I did manage to get in another viewing of "Shaun of The Dead," a spoof of the 'Living Dead' zombie movies which have either plagued or entertained us for the past 20 or so years. I originally saw it with Kaia about 10 days ago, and since we both really enjoyed it, I wound up watching it again more in remembrance of her being her recently and less as a cinematic experience. However, having said all that, I actually found some interesting things in the movie with a solo, secondary viewing.

First off, if you need specifics on who made the movie, who starred in it, or anything else -- like what year (2004) it was made, how long it was, or who played "Zombie #3," check the
IMDB listing for more info. This is the internet -- all that info's a click or two away, even if you are so extraordinarily lazy that you wouldn't have gone to the IMDB if the link wasn't there for you on a shiny silver html platter.

Now, several things which I found to be quite creative -- and while this might constitute a spoiler, if you've read this far, you either have no knowledge and no interest in seeing the movie, or you already have and are interested in my opinion thereon, or you don't know how you arrived here, clicked in via some aardvark-donkey web-search and don't understand english and are simply entranced by the captivating font which I've chosen in which to convey my lunatic writing. In short, Shaun of The Dead is, as previously indicated, a spoof of the zombie horror movies which involve zombies walking the Earth: Night of the Living Dead, Return of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, etc.

There's a copious amount of humor to be derived from this particular genre -- the teen horror genre was successfully (and thoroughly) spoofed already by the Scream and "Another Teen Horror Movie" franchises -- and since many of the zombie-tinged movies seem particularly stupid and self-effancing, doing a proper spoof would need to employ some creativity. I'm happy to report that Edgar Wright, the writer/director of the film, did a wonderful job.

There is one main theme which seemingly runs through the entire film -- essentially, the star of the film, "Shaun" (Simon Pegg) is almost 30; he is lazy, insensitive, unambitious, and, basically, going through the motions in life. So after his girlfriend finally dumps him -- for forgetting to remember an anniversary -- he and his lazy, couch-potato friend, Ed, head to a local pub for a night of heavy drinking. The next morning, Shaun makes his way through his neighborhood to the local store and fails to notice that all hell has broken loose.

Personally, watching Shaun's journey from his house to the store and back is among the more funny scenes I've seen on film in some time. Having the foreknowledge that this movie is about an invasion of brain-eating zombies, the film ironically twists on its ear -- and ours, in a more subtle fashion -- that the zombies in this movie appear to be less shiftless and more focused and more driven then are the non-zombies. Shaun ambles through his neighborhood and fails to notice the destruction -- garbage strewn through the streets, cars with windshields bashed in, bathrobe-clad, bloodied corpses lying in front yards of houses, pools and stains of blood in his direct path -- and when he finally encounters a zombie, he mistakes him for a begger looking for spare change. It's comical in its simplicity, and the message is clear -- and powerful.

There are other striking, entertaining scenes; Shaun and his roommate Ed confronting a girl in the garden who they believe is drunk, until they have to fight her off by shoving her onto an exposed metal pole. And when she rises, exposing a hole in her torso that allows them to see -- literally -- through her -- Ed's first reaction is to take a photograph. Once they get the jist of what's happening -- all over London, according to the TV newscasts -- they finally work together to formulate a plan.

While the movie is far from highbrow, it's very entertaining, whether or not you've seen any of the zombie movies. Overall, it's the goofy stepchild of 28 Days Later, which was on many levels as disturbing as this movie is humorous. The splatter and gore aren't too over-the-top, and the script is very sharp. The message of the film, certainly, is that Shaun has lived his entire life as a zombie, and now that real-life zombies are here to (literally) devour him, he has finally risen from the couch and changed his life, by getting back together with his girlfriend, finally introducing her to his mother and his stepfather, and taking an active rather than a reactive approach to life. But even in the absence of that message, the film is light, entertaining, memorable and really creative.

And more importantly, you'll never listen to the Queen song "Don't Stop Me Now" the same way again.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Sharin' Some Photos, Bogarting That Joint

Anytime I feel like having a good time, I turn the lights down low, grab a few candles, grab the Grafix six-foot ultra-swirl bong, head over to Google and do a search for kodakgallery.

Wow, man...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Weird New Oldness

My mornings are usually bereft of convention.

Most people have a routine. They wake up, shower, brush their teeth, drink their coffee, kiss their wives/husbands/significant others and go off to work. All at the same time, for the most part, each day.

These day-in, day-out routines are how hit men make their bread and butter, incidentally.

This morning, as per usual, my day was thrown off course by a phone call from a City inspector advising me he wanted to confirm the number of windows at a property we handle. Since the property is close to my apartment -- within ten blocks -- I agreed to meet him on my way to work. Once he did what he needed to do, he split and I opted for the bus, which was right there, in favor of a cab.

I settled into a seat and fired up the iPod, and opted for some people-watching. A host of people got on at the next stop, and the weirdest thing happened; an older woman, probably 65 or 70, slowly climbed the stairs and stepped through and took a seat. Why weird? I watched her, and it felt like I could see the young person that she used to be, and it freaked me out.

Before you, dear reader, suggest I take a vacation at a local sanitarium, I didn't have an episode or anything bizarre; it just hit me, like Bender describing fat girls named Claire in The Breakfast Club, that I could see her in her younger years and how age had slowed her and changed her appearance, but otherwise I could envision how this woman looked in her younger years.

I'm not sure if that means I'm weird, or if I'm suddenly into oooooolder women; likely none of those things applies here. But it did hit me as strange as I reached this conclusion. Just a very odd experience.

I apologize if reading about it is as boring and disinteresting as it was weird for me to see it live; but it was something I wanted to chronicle. Why, I'm not sure; I think it somehow either suggests I'm getting older, or maybe she reminded me of someone I once knew, or perhaps I was really, really, really bored this morning. What I think, in retrospect, was that she was a nice-looking woman who reminded me of my grandmother, and somehow it triggered some neuron in my brain (one of seven remaining) and that's where all this came from.

I also could have just opted to not include it here, but I'm rarely one to shy away from brutal honesty, and I'm not planning on scoping out the babes at the Shady Pines Retirement Center; then again, the night is young and it IS Bingo night...

If I'm not back by midnight, don't wait up... :)