Thursday, June 30, 2005

Pirates aren't funny....except they are

Today I ran across this article about pirates hijacking a boat off the coast of Somalia that was carrying aid for tsunami victims, and I felt kind of awful because my first thought was that I wish we could retire the word "pirate" from being used to describe modern day maritime criminals because the word just makes me think of eyepatches and parrots and peglegs and hooks-for-hands and avast ye swabs and of course yaaaarr, and it just kind of pulls you right out of the reality of such an awful story. Except if they be not pirates, what be they then?


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

An odd reminder that the apple and the orange are both fruits

Newt Gingrich has done some bastardly things, okay? Can we just agree to agree on that for the moment? Is it really all that difficult? He's said, done, and spearheaded some rather nasty
partisan political moves that, from my point of view, put his own uncompromising ideology before the needs of the nation that he was supposed to be serving. But that's just me. No, actually it's not, but, well, yeah.

It's easy, almost natural, for us as human beings to divide ourselves. Not literally divide like amoebas or anything, but just to find reasons why I is different from they and why they are not like them. It's like an inborn thing, or maybe it's learned, except it seems that damn near everyone knows how to do it and can do it at the drop of a hat. From the high school categories of jocks, kickers, skaters, headbangers, rich kids, geeks, etc. to today's liberal vs. conservative clashes.

No, I haven't forgotten about Newt Gingrich, we're get back to him, the son of a bitch.

See, NPR does this really cool segment called This I Believe where they invite people to share their beliefs about life, people, the world we live in, whatever. And this latest segment was with none other than Newt Gingrich.

And I gotta tell ya, I sneered when I heard his name, but then he started talking, talking about things like the impermanent state of the world, how our way of life is not as invincible as we may think but just as prone to collapse as any of the world's great civilizations, how people have to be willing to face reality and work for solutions, and I had the realization that, had I not known who it was speaking, I would not have had quite so many doubts about what he had to say. While I certainly don't agree with this man on a great number of things and while he and I almost certainly would not agree on all "the facts" that we're supposed to face or possible solutions to our problems or even what our real problems are, I have to admit that just for one moment, I found myself in agreement with Newt Gingrich.

And that is a weird feeling. Because in moments like that when I find some kind of commonality with someone who seems so different, so opposite to me, I suddenly get this odd reminder of a fact that I shouldn't have forgotten, shouldn't ever forget, and that is that we're both still people, that we're all people, and with that comes some basic built-in stuff we have in common. And it may be small stuff, i.e. we all breathe, we all eat, we all excrete, etc...but as basic as these things are, I still think that they matter because they
mean that we're still human, whether we be liberal or conservative, labor or management, duck or goose. And if we could remember our commonalities more often than our divisions, I tend to think the world would in fact be a better place.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Zee cat appears to bee, how you say, out of zee bag

So we were waiting. Rather patiently I might add. At least I was being patient about it.

The plan was that we were going to wait to find out the sex of the baby until such time as its birth took place and it came out into the world to play.

We told our families we didn't want to know. We told our doctor. We told the ultrasound technician named Steve. Steve was nice enough to turn the monitor away from us when he got to that part of the ultrasound where they look to see if the bun in mama's oven will soon be clad in heaps and heaps of blue or gobs and gobs of unholy shades of pink. I wonder if the person who declared pink to be the new black meant to include baby girl clothes.

So Steve told us that the sex of the baby would be obvious on the videotape of the ultrasound that they made for us. Not obvious in the "look, there's its wee-wee" kind of way, but rather, because Steve typed out little descriptions for each new baby body sight discovered. Foot. Hand. Spine. Head. Oh look at the little head, it's gonna look so cute in one of those baby caps!

So we didn't watch it. Because we were waiting. Patiently.

Except my wife's patience, for whatever reason, be it the strain from the various discomforts of pregnancy or perhaps hearing all the other ladies at her yoga for pregnant moms class talk about the boy or girl they were carrying, well, it began to falter. She wanted to watch the tape.

So after numerous requests, I finally hauled out ye olde VCR and hooked it up in place of the Play Station, and in went the tape.

Now we knew that the tape contained the answer regarding the sex of the baby. We hadn't forgotten. The plan was that I would hide my eyes, Ash would know, and she would not tell me. And it would've worked too if it weren't for those meddling kids! Who am I kidding, no it wouldn't have. Except that's not how I found out.

So the tape's rolling. The baby's on screen. All the various labels that we remembered are appearing next to baby's image. Head. Spine. Foot. You name it. I covered my eyes. The problem was that I didn't cover my ears.

For at that moment, Ashley's brother walked into the room, looked at the screen, and read out loud the label that Steve the technician had typed.

I was a bit upset.

I left the room.

I might have slammed a door on my way out.

But even in the middle of being angry, I was happy, and I knew I would be over it pretty quick. Hell, how could I stay mad? I had wanted it be a surprise, sure, but much more than that I wanted the baby to be healthy, and beyond the baby's boy or girl status, the ultrasound had also concluded that it was indeed healthy. I never thought I'd be so happy to hear the word "normal" repeated over and over again so many times.

So one bright side is that we at least know what kind of baby clothes to buy. You would not believe how incredibly gender specific baby clothes are. I guess big-people clothes are too.

Oh, so that label that the technician typed, the one I mentioned earlier. I guess maybe if you're reading this and you know me, you might be a wee bit curious about that. Well I'll tell you, on the screen, he drew an arrow to a little spot in the baby's pelvic bone. And up above it, he typed "Little Man."

Monday, June 20, 2005

It's frustrating. It really is.

It is difficult to understand what it is to live in another person's particular life unless one has walked through the same or similar experiences. One may listen to get an idea, but that's about as far across the ocean that particular crow can fly, know what I mean? That's how life is. This isn't a revelation. Most of us know this to be true on an intellectual level. Most of us can regurgitate this statement in some form or fashion if we must.

And yet....

I find it interesting how people, when speaking to one another about life and all its quirks, can say something to the effect of, "I know I can't really understand what it's like to be you, I've never been in your situation, I've never been handicapped/been a P.O.W./had an alcoholic parent/lived under a fascist regime/had to fight off a badger and been left with hooks for hands"...whatever the case may be, they can confess that they know nothing of what that situation must be like, they'll even state flat out that they don't possess all of the facts, and then in the next breath, they have the audacity to launch into what THEY think YOU ought to do about YOUR situation. You know, the one that they don't understand and don't even have all the facts on. Yeah, that one.

And then, rather than listen and maybe try to, I don't know, learn a little something, develop some understanding, or even just garner a few facts, they hang up on you.

That's frustrating.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Words, because I wish to bore you

Writing about words.....I'm a dork. Don't expect a conclusion here because I don't expect to come to one....we'll goes.


Words are slippery little things. Every one of them potentially carries numerous meanings, and when strung together into sentences, the number of possible meanings is multiplied exponentially. Add various inflections such as tone, volume, context, subtext, and so on, and you realize the extraordinary power of words to communicate both that which they say, and that which they do not.

And yet, words don't always quite do it, do they?

Words don't always convey exactly what it is that we intend to get across. Not completely anyway. Sometimes hardly at all.

You may interpret this as a confession of my limitations as a writer, but I don't think that's all there is to it. Ahem. Ideas that are hard to express, feelings that are impossible to accurately describe to your friends, that moment in the middle of a sentence where you stop and just mumble "um, uh, um" and wring your hands in search of the perfect expression that just won't come to you while your friends wait patiently and some of them pretend to understand but they really don't and you know they don't and they know you know but the conversation has moved on...that's what I'm talking about.

Maybe it's a limitation of the English language, but I get the feeling that similar limitations exist in other tongues. For example, ancient Buddhist texts that most certainly were not originally written in English speak at length about states of being that are beyond words, that can only be fully understood by way of experience.

But the things you can't put into words...they still exist. Just because you can't form a sentence out of it doesn't mean that it just goes *poof* into nonexistence. You DID feel that feeling. You did see that amazing sight. You still have that wild theory, even if you can't quite find the words to make anyone else on the planet understand it, or maybe you do get one person to understand it, but it's only because in the middle of your attempt at an explanation, their eyes light up and they point at you and shout "YES!" and then you have a conversation that goes something like,
"You know?"
"Yeah, it's like when you..."
"I know!"
"Oh my God."
See...understanding achieved with only minimal use of words.

In conclusion, well, I have no conclusion. Other than perhaps an acceptance of the things I have stated here, even though I don't. Accept them, that is. Not completely. It's a contradiction, I know. I state the things above as theory of some sort, and yet when I as a writer set down to express an idea, either through a direct format such as this or through prose or through a script, I will bloody my forehead by banging it against the wall looking for the words to express what I have to say. The words are just there, I know they are. I will find the right dialogue for these characters to say in this scene to get my idea across because it needs to be understood by everyone. Dammit.

And sometimes I do. Sometimes not. Sometimes maybe.

Well enough of this. It's Friday. I'm going home.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Baby Tracks

So I got the idea in my head to do a mix CD of music for my baby to listen to while still in utero, and I suppose, after it's born. Probably the most fun mix I've ever made. I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to lyrical content for the most part , but more to overall tone and feel, trying to create a good mix of stuff for baby, and maybe some stuff that would possibly sound good in a womb type setting. I had so much fun doing it that it ended up being a two disc set. So here's the track list:

Disc 1:

  • Protection by Massive Attack
  • Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel
  • Whip-smart by Liz Phair
  • Whale & Wasp by Alice in Chains
  • If It Wasn't For You by Handsome Boy Modeling School
  • Stars All Seem to Weep by Beth Orton
  • Une Annee Sans Lumiere by Arcade Fire
  • Little Wing by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
  • Fur Elise by Beethoven
  • Lovage by MF Doom
  • Take My Hand by Dido
  • Porpoise Song by The Monkees
  • Let's Stay Together by Al Green
  • The Rain Song by Led Zeppelin
  • The National Anthem by Radiohead
  • Thirty-three by Smashing Pumpkins
Disc 2:
  • Know Your Chicken by Cibo Matto
  • Rebirth of Slick by Digable Planets
  • We Are All Made of Stars by Moby
  • You Are My Sunshine by Norman Blake (O Brother Where Art Thou Soundtrack)
  • Summertime Rolls by Jane's Addiction
  • Mondo 77 by Film Dialogue (Vanilla Sky Soundtrack)
  • Life By The Drop by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
  • Your Name by Tricky
  • Breakdown by Jack Johnson w/ Handsome Boy Modeling School
  • Umi Says by Mos Def
  • Everything's Not Lost by Coldplay
  • Do You Realize? by the Flaming Lips
  • It's A Fire by Portishead
  • Friction by Morcheeba
  • Svefn-g-englar by Sigur Ros
  • Subterranean Homesick Alien by Radiohead
I hope he or she likes it, or at least some of it. Yay for happy dancing baby!

Friday, June 10, 2005

Imperial, er, American Storm Trooper

So is this guy making a concious statement about the Imperial Empire-like nature of United States foreign and domestic policy by wearing a costume that juxtaposes images of an Imperial Storm Trooper with an American flag?

Or is he just a dumbass?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

You ever walk into a bathroom...

...and think to yourself, "Man, it smells like shit in here"...and then remember where you are?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The bay-bay industry

Make no mistake folks, there is as much, if not more, of an industry surrounding babies and the raising of these wee creatures as there is with that other great big life-changing event, the wedding. Just as the wedding industry employs an army of millions to convince the engaged masses that they must have this kind of dress and this kind of tux and a ring of this size and this many attendants and this much food for this many people and oh cripes don't forget that the cake has to touch the ceiling and oh dear me you're forgetting all about the accessories if you don't have every single one of these you're going to end up divorced in a trailer park...will that be Visa or Mastercard...yes, much the same kind of thing exists for babies. Hundreds of hucksters, all eager to sell you tons of crap and stuff and gizmos and devices, all of which have been specially designed by experts in the field of babyology to make your baby happier, smarter, quieter, taller, thinner, prettier, saner....this product insures baby will earn seven figures...this product prevents serial-killer-like thoughts. And the advice, my friends, the sheer volume of advice that's out there about how to raise your kid given any number of different circumstances. I'd find it extremely interesting if one could feed all of the information contained in all of the baby and parenting books for sale in even a small bookstore into a database and then run checks and queries and various cross-references to find out just how many contradictions you can find. I'm betting the number is in the millions.

Thing is folks, all these products, all these devices, all this advice, even though I know a lot of it is great and even necessary, and I wanna soak up as much of the "good stuff" as I can, my instinct tells me that the vast majority of it is all nothing more than one great big Mickey Mouse driving down Sesame Street and running over Winnie the Pooh (modern or classic Pooh) distraction. And come to find out, one of the leading experts in the field, Dr. William Sears, concurs:

"There is really no such thing as one best way to parent a baby, just as there are no perfect babies and, would you believe, no perfect parents - only people who have studied babies and people who have more experience than you. Being a parent requires on-the-job training. Too much advice from 'experts' can actually interfere with the beginning parents' intuition and block their ability to learn as they grow."
Of course, this guy is one of the so-called "experts" too, but hey.

So it may be a bit soon for me to be saying this, given that my kid is still a few months due, but the point I'm getting at is, don't believe the hype. Something tells me that this is the kind of job that demands training while doing, and that Ash and I have a whole host of instincts that have yet to kick in to help us out.