Thursday, November 17, 2005

I Don't Get It.

I don't get it.
There are some things people do that I just don't understand. There are lots of things people do that I don't agree with but that's different. I know why they do them, I just think it's wrong. But, there are some things people do that make no sense to me.

For example, falling down pants. There has to be a term for this but I don't know what it is. You've seen what I am talking about - men who wear their pants so low they look like they are falling down.
I don't include boys in this category (and I've never seen a girl wearing pants this way) because boys, especially teenage boys, will do things for no reason other than to see if they can get away with it. Their thought processes aren’t always well-defined. Sometimes they do things for no reason at all. I know. I used to be one.

If you don't believe me, just ask a teenage boy.

"Why did you paint pink clovers on the garage door?"
"I don't know."

"Why did you throw glass bottles at those mailboxes?"
"No reason."

I'm talking about men, grown men, who wear their pants so loose that they have to constantly hang onto them to keep them from falling down. I'm not going to berate them for looking stupid, (though I think they do) because fashion is a personal choice. Besides, I'm no fashion guru. Maybe "idiot" is now considered cool. I'm talking about the sheer impracticality of the whole thing. Why wear clothes that require you to consantly use one hand to keep them in place? It's like tying one hand behind your back, just for the sake of fashion. And it seems like the lower they are, without actually falling down, the cooler they are. I suspect that actually having them fall down would be the greatest of social blunders, sort of a Price Is Right, "closest without going over" kind of thing, which makes me wonder, if you can put them in the lowest possible spot without having them fall down, do you win both showcases?

A lot of idiotic trends come and go quickly, but I've seen the fallng down pants (I really need to find that term) for at least ten years now. It looks like they are here to stay. It sounds like something from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

"A certain subgroup of humans began wearing their pants in such a fashion that they constantly needed to hold them up with one hand. This made life difficult as it left them only the one remaining hand to perform all of life's other tasks, such as eating, hunting, operating a Segway, cleaning telephones and manipulating one's towel. However, after several generations, evolution solved this dilemna and a new subspecies of humans evolved that had actually regrown their prehensile tails (which became accessible due to the lowered wasteline) thus giving an appendage to assist the lone unoccupied hand, whilst the other hand continued to hold up said pants."

Another thing I don't get is smoking. I understand why people keep smoking (nicotene-duh), I just don't understand why people start smoking to begin with. Smoking will eventually kill you. The only time it doesn't is when something else kills you first. And I'm not talking about a nice, quick, painless, late in life, died peacefully in your sleep, kind of death. I'm talking about a slow, painful, lingering, late middle age, hooked up to lots of machines in a hospital by tubes and wires, kind of death. Doing something that is certain to bring this about seems pretty stupid to me. I mean, if you just want to kill yourself, why use a process that is slow and makes you suffer along the way? It's like suicide on a 401k plan. Start smoking early, save for years, and have an early death from cancerous compound interest. (If we could only find ways to get people adicted to saving money, we could end our budget problems. Maybe nicotine with each deposit?)

While some smokers are shy and sneak cigarettes when they think no one's looking, others are the most selfish and inconsiderate group of people I've ever stereotyped. They either don't know (or don't care) that while they may enjoy lighting one up, smoking bothers everyone else around them. They spew out smokey stench everywhere and then have the nerve to get offended when people ask them to stop. Worse yet, the smoke sticks to everything and smells long after the cigarette is gone, even on the people that were unlucky enough to be nearby.

What many people don't realise is that the brain can block out smells if they are constant but not overpowering. And it's not like a background noise that you learn to ignore but can still hear if you try. No, the blocked out smell might as well not be there because once you block it out you can't smell it no matter how hard you try. The only way to get past this is to remove the smell and stay away from it for some time. Then, when you encounter it later, you can smell it just like anyone else. I know this because I worked in a seafood shop for six years. I reaked of dead fish all the time, but only realised it when I came back from vacation. I smelled like fish. My clothes smelled like fish. My car smelled like fish. It was awful. Smokers have the same problem, but they never take a vacation from smoking (nicotene - remember?). They smell like smoke. Their clothes smell like smoke. Their cars smell like smoke. Their homes smell like smoke. I often wonder if their pets even smell like smoke. Whenever I spend anytime with smokers, I have to go home, throw my clothes in the wash and take a shower. It's like I've been marked by a dog.

I would love to get a device that releases fumes that smell like dead fish. Then, the next time one of these selfish smokers lights up next to me, I'll spew out dead halibut stench and dare him to say something. If he does, I'll tell him to go home, throw his clothes in the wash and take a shower.

At this point, I would like to aplogize to any smokers out there reading this that are older than me (I was born in 1964) who might be angered by my opinion. You see, all of my life, thanks mostly to public service TV commercials, I've known that smoking will kill you. However, if you are at least a little bit older than me or grew up outside the US, it's possible that you started smoking before you knew how bad it was for you. Therefore, smoking doesn't automatically make you a selfish idiot and I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. However, if you are younger than me and born here, or are my age and started smoking well into adulthood, then I'm sorry, but the evidence speaks for itself.

Here is something I often wondered about. Why is it that people never get busted for throwing cigarette butts out of car windows? If I tossed my gum wrapper out the window and a cop saw me, I'd get busted for littering - a $100 fine according to all the signs I see along the highway. I don't see very many gum wrappers along roadsides, but walk down any road in rural America and you can find cigarette butts by the bushel. I'm surprised that no one makes gum wrappers that look like cigarette butts.

How do people even afford to smoke? I hear people talk about a onepack (or even twopack) a day habit. Don't cigarettes cost like $3 a pack? That's $90 a month. I've had electric bills less than that. That's $1095 a year. I bet most smokers don't put that in their other 401k.

Something else I've often wondered about, how do smokers get anything done when they are constantly carrying something small, delicate and on fire? They can't set a lit cigarette down just anywhere. Do they do everything with one hand? (There could be another entry in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy about this but it would probably involve a prehensile nose instead of a prehensile tail.) I wonder how many people who smoke also wear falling down pants?

Tony Dumas walked down the street, body cocked to one side, left hand wedged in his pocket tightly gripping his extra baggy jeans, right hand cupping a lit Marlboro, slightly swinging. Tony had spent many hours transforming this unnatural posture into a cool and confident strut. He needed a cool name to go with his cool walk and since his first name was really Ian, which he thought could not have been less cool, he started going by the short version of Anthony, his middle name, a much cooler choice.

He stopped and took a drag from his cigarette, acting as if he was checking out something in the store window. All he was checking out was his own reflection. He practiced his long slow exhale one time, just to make sure he could still look cool doing it, then went back to pretending to window shop. Yes, he was still cool.

He took one last celebratory drag and stomped out his cigarette. Reflexively, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his pack. He noticed the surgeon general's warning and ignored it as always. Those things were for suckers and wimps and besides this came from the same government that faked a moon landing so how could they be trusted anyhow? He was going to die someday. Why not enjoy himself before he went?

Not wanting to drop his pants, he stuck a single cigarette through his lips, swapped the cigarette pack for a lighter, and lit up. He could see everything in the reflection of the glass, including the fine young lady checking him out as she walked behind him. Yes, he was completely cool.

After pausing for a well calculated delay, he turned and strutted up the street in her direction. She had was just sat down on the bench at the bus stop by the corner and was digging something out of her purse. The bus gave Tony lots of opportunities to hook up with her, though he momentarily cursed himself for not being able to afford a better car than the POS that he drove. He could have offered her a ride.

He took another drag as he approached, noting that the bus had rounded the corner and was going to stop. Spotting her looking his way as she stood up, he performed the slow exhale he had just practiced and decided to take a ride on the bus.

"Hey, baby," he called out, in his coolest voice, "save me a seat?"
"Sure," she replied as she inserted a stick of gum into her mouth. "Throw this away for me?" she asked, tossing her empty pack of gum towards him.

Instinctively, Tony let go of his pants with his left hand and stepped forward to catch the flying gum wrapper. His pants immediately began to fall down, so he grabbed them with his other hand, flinging the burning tip of his lit cigarette against the inside of his now exposed thigh. He howled with pain even as toppled face first onto the street, the back of his white boxers now fully exposed.

Desperately trying to find one last way to regain his cool, Ian Anthony Dumas looked up just in time to see the young lady chuckling as she boarded the bus. And as the doors closed, her final comment drifted down to him: "What a dumbass."

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I am Mr. Oblivious.

I am Mr. Oblivious.
My family and friends all call me this and I no longer deny it. Being observant is not my forte. I have no idea what the heck is going on around me sometimes.

This can present problems. I am the kind of guy who burns up because he doesn't notice the fire alarm going off. While I've never crashed through a "Road Closed" barrier, I once drove the wrong way down a one-way street. And the police once evacuated the floor of our building so they could handle a mentally unstable, out-of-control employee. I was working in my cube in the room next door to hers. I found out about it later. Yes, flashing red lights and "Are you sure?" pop-up boxes were invented for people like me.

Worse yet, all those subtle clues that people give when they want you to know something, without actually having to tell you, are generally lost on me. Apparently, thoughts work by osmosis on most other humans, but not me. If you want me to know something, you have to spell it out.

I'm not stupid. I'm not trying to be rude and I'm definitely not mad at you. I'm just oblivious. I didn't realise that when you said
"sit down and we'll talk about this",
you were really saying
"Sit down, shut up and do as I say."

Or when you asked
"not having a good round?",
you really meant
"Your golf game sucks and you're playing too slow. Let me play through."

Or that when you asked
"Is that bread good?"
you really meant
"Stop eating all the bread and save some for someone else, you fat manatee!"

Or, when you stared at me in angry silence, you really meant
"You're late. Your dog peed on the floor - again. The check did NOT come in the mail today. The kids have BOTH been bratty little snots. I'm going out with the girls tonight. You are on your own for dinner. Tell me to go and have a good time or you sleeping on the couch for a week."

However, being oblivious sometimes has its advantages. I generally don't guess wrong about what people are trying to tell we mostly because I don't know when they are trying to send me a message in the first place. Hints don't work, so they always tell me what they need me to know.
And sometimes ignorance is bliss. I'm not bothered when the clerk at the grocery sore treats me a bit rudely, because I didn't notice. A few weeds in the yard won't set me off because all I saw was green. Not many things will tempt me, because I just don't see them. Steal? Steal what? Covet? Well, now that you mention it, I guess that new car is pretty nice. Marital infidelity? Not going to happen. I wouldn't know if a woman was trying to hit on me if she were dancing naked in front of me, shaking a bottle of Viagra and singing "Why don't we do it in the road?"

Sometimes, it just takes a while for things to register. Even when I recognize all the dots, I don't always connect them right away. I often feel like I'm the sheepdog in that classic Bugs Bunny cartoon. ("Hey, that was the fox.") I could be driving through my rural county at night, pass some well lit area on the side of the road and not have it dawn on my for several minutes that I had just passed an alien abduction in progress.

Other times it takes a really long time for me to realize things, or maybe to just to come to grips with things that maybe I've known all along, but didn't want to admit - like the fact that I can be an impulsive, lazy, slob. Or that I start a lot more things than I ever finish. Or that I have a lot of great friends that treat me better than I deserve. Or when I tell my daughter that it's most important that she "try her best", that most of the time I don't try my best. Hindsight may be 20/20, but sometimes my "right-now sight" can't see past the end of its nose.

So the next time you see me and I don't say anything to you, don't assume I'm being rude. It may just be that my eyes have seen you but my brain is too busy working on my next blog entry to listen to them. And if you need me to do you a favor, your best chance of success isn't going to be dropping a hint. Try starting with "can you do me a favor?" And if for some strange reason, you feel the need to hit on me and you're not my wife, you're just wasting everyone's time.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Apple vs Apple

According to conventional wisdom, history always repeats itself. We may be about to see an example of that in the music business. Long ago, the main push of the record companies was to produce hit singles. Kids bought 45's by the dozen so they could listen to whatever their favorite song was that week. Albums were expensive to make and to buy. Most albums were collections of a few singles with lots of filler tracks thrown on. Other than movie soundtracks or Christmas albums, there was no consistent theme within an album. That all changed with the Beatle's Sergeant Pepper in 1967. The album became an art form. People started listening to albums instead of just songs. (yes, I know the Beatles didn't do it first, but they made it popular, so that's what counts - ask Christopher Columbus.) Selling albums became the main goal. An album could become a big seller with few or no singles.
Many times, the album as a whole was better than the sum of its songs, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, being a prime example. Songs segued one into the next with no break between. They belonged in a certain order. You would never plop the needle down onto "Any Colour You Like". It would sound like a mistake. You had to start back at "Us and Them" (or more likely, way back to "Money") and listen all the way through that side of the album, right to the end of "Eclipse". The only true, proper way to listen to albums like Dark Side of the Moon (or Fragile or Brain Salad Surgery or Leftoverture...) was in the dark, alone, late at night with headphones - not the wimpy little open air headphones they make now but the big heavy over-the-ear, sound-blocking, bass-thumping, looks-like-they-belong-to-the-guy-on-the-airport-runway kind that guaranteed that all you would hear would be the music, not traffic or people talking or the background hum of civilization - just you and the music, the whole music and nothing but the music, so help you God. Amen. (Artificial brain chemistry adjustments were optional.) In that environment, listening to an album could be an experience. And it's all about to go the way pf the eight-track. This is mostly due to MP3's.
Don't get me wrong. I love MP3's. Whether at my computer, in my car or out in the yard with my Nomad, MP3's are about the only way I listen to music. The very first thing I do when I buy a CD is launch Musicmatch and rip it to my harddrive. In fact, my 20 year old receiver died a few months ago and I haven't even thought about replacing it because I couldn't remember when I last used it. Before that, I bought a new car stereo that plays mp3 CD's. I could not hook up the antennae at the time so the radio doesn't work. Since radio sucks (I don't have XM), I haven't missed it. All I have are mp3's.
But thanks to MP3's, everybody (including me) has access to all their friend's album collections, which they can root through, pull out the songs they remember and like (i.e. singles) and stick on their MP3 player of choice. It's no accident that all mp3 players have a shuffle mode (why do you think Apple called their player a Shuffle?). It's like having a radio that only plays your favorite songs with no commercials or annoying DJ's talking over the music.
Enter I-Tunes (Yeah, yeah go ask Chris again). Now, you can just buy the songs you like and skip the rest. Albums will become passé, so the single may about to become king once more. Those other tracks, the ones that were never singles, the ones you learned to love but only after you listened to them a few times because you were too lazy to fast forward to the next single, the ones that became your favorite songs, as opposed to everyone's favorite songs, those other tracks won't get recorded, because there is little point in recording songs that won't get downloaded, at least from a commercial standpoint.
But if history does repeat itself, then someday someone will bring back the album, or something like it. What might that be? DVD audio. Headphones and MP3's all work nicely in stereo, but DVD offers several flavors of surround sound. Perhaps, someday soon, someone will create something in surround sound that is just so new, so original, and/or just so flippin’ cool, that people will flock to get it, stick it in their home theater system, plop down in their favorite chair and marvel at its ingenuity - alone, late at night, with tiny satellites, a center channel speaker, and big thumping subwoofers. Then the album will be king again. I'll be looking forward to it.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Well, that was easy.

"Dishes done!" (Sorry - Robot Chicken reference).
I have updated my links. I also changed the colors. I'm not that wild about this template either, but it is better than the green one I started with.

Welcome to my blog

For years, many of my friends have been telling me that I needed to write down my thoughts and opinions. Well, here it is!
Welcome to the Blogosphere, Clint. Go wild.

The first thing I need to do is change this template. It's about as plain as can be. Maybe after that, I'll think of some topics to write about. Hmmm...I could talk about my opinion of Geoprge W, but that's a bit overdone at this point.
I had cancer in 1997. I should write about that.
I had a really awful experience with my local cable company (and by awful, I mean "this is the kind of thing that happens to Ben Stiller in his movies" awful). I should write about that as well.
Anyway, maybe I'll see if I can add some favorite links.