Monthly Archives: April 2007

festival of ones and zeros

4/12/07

If you’re not a fan of self-congratulation, solipsism, navel-gazing, narcissism or, for that matter, onanism, please look away now: this is where I’m going to try and pinpoint some excellent (and depressingly sub-par) moments on my own frickin’ blog. In five years I have approximately 1,452 entries to choose from – I say approximately, because my family (and the occasional guest) have filled in when I was either too sick, too preoccupied, or in jail. More on that later.

For the first year or so, I blogged every goddamn day. I guess it was part of the healing process, and besides, I didn’t know who was reading, so I didn’t differentiate for the weekend. After a year, I dropped Sundays, then Saturdays. I know I said I’d blog less since this New Year, but almost every weekday, I feel an inexorable pull – or responsibility – and thus I rarely skip a day. Back when we were building dot-coms circa ’95-’01, all research showed that a site that didn’t change every day quickly atrophied, and I guess that’s still in the back of my mind.

Anyway, on to the categories!

The Morrissey “I Can Laugh About it Now But at the Time It Was Terrible” Award: Getting thrown into Homeland Security detention at the Canadian border, October 2003. Coming home from an awesome weekend up in Prince Edward Island, Canada, the border patrol took one look at my car – and then me – and decided neither were up to any good. It didn’t help that they searched my backpack and white powder fell out (it was baby powder for post-hoops games). My only way out of jail rested on one talent. Read for the thrilling conclusion!

The “My Wife Groaned About It All Day” Award for Silliest Entry: There’s so many to choose from, including how I dealt with my third kidney stone, what happens when you accidentally snort three Extra-Strength Excedrin and Don Knotts vs. Hitler, but I think we can all agree that Ski New Orleans! pretty much wins in a landslide.

The “Pill-Popping Left-Wing Stooge” Award for the Commenter Showing the Least Amount of Class: Yep, you know him, you hate him. His initials used to be J.B., but severe agoraphobia made him use a variety of moronik monikers as the months passed. Sure, I get way worse in my inbox all the time, but our little friend from New England is so publically chunder-headed that even the conservatives avoid him at the virtual lunchtable.

The “That Insurance Job” Award for Most Loyal Commenter: All of you are fantastic, but truly LFMD has swum through thick and thin to be with us. Since this blog is firewalled from her work, I don’t even know how she gets here. Honorable Mention goes to caveman, as our resident Id.

The Morrissey “Sun Shines Out of Our Behinds” Award for Tactless Entry: Well, there’s the time that Tessa’s stepmom got so mad at an entry she wouldn’t give us Blakey’s bow-front cabinet, but my dumbest foot-in-mouth moment came two years ago when I accidentally outed an old college friend before he could tell his own parents. Thankfully I was able to delete most of the entry before Google cached it, but it still made me look like the entitled, indelicate buffoon I was at 20.

The “Easiest Way to Get 37 Comments” Award for Salacious Topics: Religion and Global Warming. Nothing even comes close.

The “Easiest Way to Alienate Your Readership With the Opening Sentence” Award: “While Fedexing my urine to Chicago today…” from the awesome week-long adventure of having to collect my wee-wee for research, November 2002. Sample fun: “I’d go so far as to say I was the only guy lugging around a bucket of his day’s pee in a backpack” (and it only gets worse from there).

The “Iceball Hurled at Ear” Award for Inspired Week of Bloviating: This set.

The “Stand Clear of the Closing Doors” Award for Botched Blog Book Deal: I had gotten a lot of work based on snippets of the blog, but none more than American Coastopia in 2004, after which two different publishing houses were interested in the book version. Not downing Mothers Little Helpers yet, I was slow to react, and when I submitted the proposal a month or so later, I was told the moment had passed and shown the door. I would still put that proposal up there with some of the best – maybe I’ll post it here someday.

The “I Told You So, I Fucking Told You So” Award for Prognostication: Well, this prediction was pretty good from March 2003: “we do a thorough sweep of Iraq and come up with absolutely no weapons of mass destruction; Bush and his team are humiliated on the world stage. Americans begin to think he’s a liar.” But I think you have to give me credit for this from August 2004: “I have but one team left for all of my heart: the North Carolina Tar Heels, a university and sports team I love that just happens to be in the United States. You will have to pry my cold dead fingers off my replica of the 2005 NCAA Championship Trophy.”

The “Dodgeball Thrown in 1976 That Hit My Balls in 2003” Award for Shit That Made Me Feel Bad: The vaguely-cruel rancor I got from a particular message board after I described my wedding in August 2003. These days I’m quite used to the deluge of vitriol that accompanies a public blog, but back then, I really let it get to me. It’s all a big lesson in skin-thickening.

My Favorite Entry Award, Cerebral Division: The curious Parallelism of Generation X and Y, November 2005. Dime-store pop psychology at its most inexpensive. Also my fave blog title, but I don’t think anyone reads those.

My Favorite Entry Award, Emotional Division: I suppose it’s a tie between two important characters, one coming while the other was going. Lucy’s birth in April 2005 is the most amazing thing I’ve ever known, and as for guest entries, I thought our dog Chopes was pretty heartbreaking as he left us nine months later.

The “Heavy Sigh That Says a Thousand Words” Award for Supportive Spouse: This chick.

The “She’ll Probably Hate Me in Middle School” Award for Overanalyzed Progeny: This chick.

Best Picture: Man, this was hard. According to my FTP client, there are almost 2,000 pictures on this site. I mean, there’s a cool wedding one and my odometer and a Pangea Brooklyn Greeting Card and a mystical pre-Katrina New Orleans and my cousins in the late ’80s, but when it comes down to it, this girl keeps hogging the awards ceremony:

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There’s a lot more in the last five years that would be fun to pick apart, but there’s only so much archivism any of us can tolerate in one sitting. If there’s something in the back issues that you like, or something you said that was awesome, here’s your chance to tell the world, yet again, that you are here!

And I thank you guys, as always, for reading. With my Celexa purring along as normal, and my self-indulgences nicely fed, I couldn’t have gone on this long without the incredible commentary you bring into our house each day. I bow, omnidirectionally.

i’ll give you five good reasons, officer

4/11/07

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to announce that today is my Fifth Blogiversary! That’s right, some of you have been listening to me rant and/or rave for an entire half-decade!!! When I started this thing, I was a 34-year-old, single nincompoop with a chemical imbalance, and now I’m a 39-year-old, married dad with only a slight chemical imbalance! Ah, the inexorable march of history.

Doing something for five years on the internet should surely qualify you for some kind of plaque, or at least a parking space with your name stenciled in messy white paint. Hell, it ain’t easy keeping a personal outpost here in cyberspace; people keep calling you fat! I have another beef: I’ve been doing this longer than 99% of all bloggers, and I don’t get invited to all the cool conferences, like Dooce and Dave Winer. “Zap Your PRAM” was fun, but I want bags full of cell phone swag, Peter! WHERE’S ALL THE RICHES I WAS PROMISED?

We have a fantastic community here at the corporate headquarters of xtcian.com, but like any school play, it’s not real unless somebody’s having sex because of it. So? Have any of you had sex by hanging out in the comments section? If not, I really have to start buying the top shelf drinks. I don’t get it – I think Ketel One tastes the same as Smirnoff when it’s in a Woo-Woo.

I’d like to change the look of this site, and fix all the links at left – the one for my dad hasn’t worked since about 2003. Also, the “About Me” link is hilariously out-of-date. What’s this “Pink House” movie, anyway? Is that something I worked on? And I helped write a book in frickin’ 1993? Did I do it on rolls of papyrus using the blood of Abyssinian slaves?

I guess what I’m asking is, what have I done for you lately?

Anyway, I know people don’t read blogs on Fridays, but I’m going to present my own little awards for the five-year anniversary of the site. Any suggestions will be welcome, as well as deconstructive criticism. And since my focus group testers say that I “need more images” to “promote eyeball stickiness,” here is a picture of Annie and Lucy to increase ratings. Salut!

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left non-deciduous mandibular central incisor

4/9/07

I’ve had several fights with God (or, as I prefer, an Occasional Higher Power of My Choosing) over things inflicted on me in my childhood and adolescence. First off, he/she pulled the “appendicitis” thing, and I had to be rushed off to the hospital at five years old. I made it, and actually, I thought the hospital was Super Cool.

Then came croup, and thankfully, my parents had heard enough stories from the pioneer ancestors to put vaporizers in our rooms. Then came a horrible bout with acne, which I managed to vanquish in 1986 with Accutane, but not before having the shit kicked out of my face. Next? Unsustainably bad eyesight, which I LASIK’ed in 1999, lifetime chemical depression which I Celexed in 2002, and massive, burdensome lethargy which I Dexedrined in 2006.

And yet still, there were my teeth. Sean and I have teeth that have always skirted the edge of acceptable, and therefore we never had braces but always felt like we needed them. For my part, I had one tooth in the bottom front that came in poorly and just seemed to get worse.

I became deft at hiding it in pictures, and when I would bite an apple, I would look down at the marks and grow despondent. In ninth grade at Norfolk Academy, one of my friends (whose father was a famed orthodontist) once looked at my lower teeth and said “man, those are a goddamn mess,” one of those things you never forget, even 25 years later.

Thank God my teeth were always pretty white, made even better by the fine folks at BriteSmile a few days before my wedding four years ago. Yet I always looked upon them, especially the one errant tooth, as a reminder that I could make all the cosmetic changes I wanted, and still be basically, unfixably flawed. I would watch the interviews I did on television back in the “13th-GEN” days, and all I could see was that bottom tooth, threatening to take over my entire body.

I have a great dentist in LA who uses cutting-edge technology, USB cameras, indestructible crowns, the whole thing. She and I went over everything wrong in my mouth, and we set about to fix the fillings, crowns and canals I’d let slip during those desperate years when I was still trying to keep the Purple House phones from being disconnected. I asked her if there was any easy way to get my teeth straightened without braces.

Turns out, not really. Teeth-straightening technology stalled at some point in 20th century; sure, there’s those plastic mouth moldings you can wear at night, but they don’t do any heavy lifting. Even behind-the-tooth braces offer little but slight nudges – if you want your teeth fixed, you’re talking about full braces for at least 18 months. Needless to say, at this point in my life, I didn’t see it as an option. I’m already married and I’m not a TV weatherman.

But, she said today, she can smooth down the edges of my problem tooth so that it matches the others. As long as I wasn’t planning on getting braces, she could make it look, at any casual glance, like my bottom teeth were pretty much straight. I immediately said “yes, by all means yes” and she lay me down in the chair, and I heard the familiar squeal of changes inside my mouth.

When she gave me a mirror, I was astonished. I’m not going to make the cover of Dentist Fancy anytime soon, but it looked amazing. She’d even fixed a little bit of my two front teeth so they ran gracefully along my mouth. All the way home from Beverly Hills, I kept looking in the mirror: I had pit myself against the Higher Power of My Choosing, and I’d played him/her to a draw.

Hours later, Tessa and I were watching the premiere of “The Sopranos,” and I’d settled into a melancholy. I realized I had this habit of touching that errant tooth when I was nervous during a movie or a show. I kept putting my finger on the tip of my bottom jaw, but after twenty-seven years, the tooth wasn’t there anymore. I ran my finger along the row, and it was smooth, odd.

As the show finished, Tessa continued work on her computer, and I just sat there, wondering if I’d done something terrible. Had I taken away a basic part of my personality? Had I removed a key part of something bizarre that fueled creativity? I know this seems ludicrous, but I turned to my wife and said I felt like I had punished one of my children, told him he wasn’t good enough, and shaved him down to make him look like everyone else. I even started to tear up, and believe me, with all the problems in the world, I know how that sounds.

It must be something else, it must be emblematic of a bigger issue, it must come from a deep well of self-hatred that takes a drill to discover. I have this great new smile and I’m stuck mourning something so ugly.

yolk of heaven

4/8/07

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looking for the last egg – oddly, you can see it elsewhere in the pic

Here’s the way I see it – sure, they might be a little young for holidays. Lucy remembers one thing about Christmas, and that was a giant tree in our living room that we covered with crazy-colored crap. And today’s Easter Egg Hunt? It took everything just to keep her from impersonating Cool Hand Luke by eating everything she found, especially the eggs that were covered in dirt. And I agree, dyeing Easter eggs in those little vinegar bowls is bizarre, almost as weird as disemboweling a pumpkin and putting a candle inside.

But this way she will never know a “new” holiday. She will carry with her an inkling of the same day from the year before, even if it’s the vague notion of looking for eggs or rooting for presents under a tree. This essence of repeated ritual translates to “twas ever thus” for her, which gives the few rituals we still possess a more mystical meaning.

When I was two, my older brothers were still eleven and twelve, not to mention the 30 kid cousins milling about. For the Mormons, and even my own lapsed-faith family, these holiday traditions had gone on, as far as we knew, for 17.5 million years. When Tessa talks about how good I am at holidays, my only feeling is that it seems preternaturally disturbing not to do these things right. Somehow it offends the Easter Gods, the souls on Hallowed Eve, or even the Pilgrims and Indians giving thanks.

Today, as you read this, is Saint Gautier’s Day. It’s also Saint Casilda’s Day too, but like you, I knew neither. Because so many days are non-descript, without celebration, it’s important to sanctify the days you can. Ironically, for some of us without religion, the religious holidays are more important. Not just because the manufacturer of Marshmallow Peeps or Cadbury Creme Eggs tells us so, but because it allows parents to give their kids one thing that makes life worth living: something to look forward to.

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oh yeah, she made her first pancake this morning too – nice shape! kinda looks like P.E.I.

texodus

4/4/07

Ian said he would rather stick a fork in his eye than write his blog tonight. I am Heather, staying with my old friends Tessa and Ian, and I am here in LA on a mission to get the fuck out of Dallas, TX and relocate to a bigger city filled with blondes and plastic surgery, closer to the Pacific Ocean.

I hate apartment hunting. I have a long history of bad luck with housing. I once lived in a lower corner two-room apartment in Astoria—before it was hip to live in Astoria. My landlords were, not surprisingly, Greek and my earliest memories are of the Greek husband landlord spitting fig refuse into the gutter while he sold me on all the fabulous renovations he was going to do on this “charming junior” and how the strange, mysterious train on the track above the building only ran “once a month.”

And the Super that stood on the corner and would shout out one-liners like Burgess Meredith circa Rocky: “That Marian, she’s a whore!” Now, I don’t think anyone harks back fondly on the place where their first psychic break took place, but when Bill (in the apartment upstairs) had his Rod Stewart’s Greatest Hits on repeat in the piss-smelling sweltering balm of New York summer, I felt like noosing myself.

When the roof caved in from faulty plumbing that burst during one of Bill’s all-too-frequent post-coital showers, I watched Baywatch and dreamed of being CJ to ease the pain. When he would bellow out his second-story window at his partner-in-coitus Marian – in a heavy Queens’ accent – “Come out and PLAY-EEEE- AYY!” the deli meat carver (in the weed lot that doubled as the “garden”) seemed like the long lost friend I never had.

I must admit that during this year, one of the longest years of my life, my judgment was sketchy and I couldn’t shake the feeling I was being followed. But ten years later I know the truth. It wasn’t that I was leading a life in my head closely resembling that of (in my personal opinion) the great pioneers of going mad — Francis Farmer and Virgina Woolf. (Oy, those headaches). It is, in fact, that Queens Sucked For Me.

So is it really “Location! Location! Location!”? Or, will it all be okay because once you get your “sanity cherry” popped, things will never be the same again? Oh, and as for the train, well, I bet you can guess.

spartan final

4/3/07

It was close, but due to Florida’s (overwhelmingly boring) repeat as national NCAA basketball champs, our old friend Sean Marier is the winner of this year’s contest! Meaning, of course, he gets to write today’s entry.

For those of you who don’t know Sean, he was an indispensable PA for the Pink House movie shoot, hailing from Michigan State, of all places. He’ll have to say how he ended up on our set, because he was just one of those quality dudes that seemed like they had always been there. Appeared out of nowhere to make things better for everybody, which was invaluable on such a disastrous shoot as ours.

During filming, he said he wanted to have a little part in the film, and I told him that we were planning a scene that required a bunch of campus right-wing Aryan Youth types. Jokingly, I told him to dye his dark-brown hair yellow like a good Aryan, and damned if he didn’t show up the next day with almost lemon-platinum hair:

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Sean is far right with some other actors, including now-stunningly-fantastic-artist Casey Burns far left; August 2001

By god, he got his scene. He was made ARYAN #1 and Casey became ARYAN #2. During the party sequence at the Pink House, a group of them bust open the front doors and demand payback for the LSD the residents baked into their brownies. Zola confronts them:

ZOLA: Ha. Well, you look like you survived.

ARYAN #1: I’ve been talking to my backpack all day!

ARYAN #2: I signed up for pottery class!

And for those 50 or so of you who saw that early cut of the movie – indeed, the only people who will ever see any cut of it – you know how it all goes from there.

So we remained friends with Sean, throughout his various travels, and he always keeps up with us on the blog. So, without further ado, here he is:

************

Sean M’s very first blog entry ever. And quite probably his last.

So, when Ian emailed this morning and told me that my prize for winning the NCAA basketball pool was my own personal blog entry, my first thought was “sh**!” My second thought was “what’s going on in my head or life that’s so important, so relevant to the times, that I need to make sure everyone in the blogosphere (or at least Ian’s substantial corner of it) knows about it?” After determining that answer to be “nothing”, I though I’d just share the first 10 random thoughts that pop into my head. And here goes…

Random thought #1 – Only in Ian’s basketball pool would the gay guy win.

Random thought #2 – “Planet Earth” on the Discovery Channel… brilliant, addicting, beautiful, humbling.

Random thought #3 – Two words: Sanjaya Malakar. I feel so sorry for this kid. He’s clearly not the most talented kid on American Idol, but he keeps moving on based on sites like VoteForTheWorst.com and schoolyard rabble-rousers like Howard Stern and Perez Hilton. If you don’t like the show, don’t watch it. If you don’t like the singers, don’t buy their albums. But to blatantly mess with the system just because you’re able just seems so messed up. And for the show and his friends, parents, etc to have to keep telling him/themselves that he’s there for the right reasons (America loves you!) saddens me, and I’d hate to have his therapy bills once this is all over.

Random thought #4 – Alanis’ humps. Remember when Alanis Morissette was this dark, intense, angry little singer/songwriter from Canada with no sense of humour about herself, but with many very important things to say about relationships and the world around her? Well, she’s back… minus the intensity but with added fun. Check out her (ironic? dontcha think?) cover of “My Humps”:

Random thought #5 – GLAAD Media Awards Los Angeles, taking place on April 14th at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. In LA and want to support a cause/organization near and dear to my heart? See a great show, eat a fab meal by Wolfgang Puck, and help raise even more money by participating in the silent and live auctions (which I’m the co-chair of)? Go to this link for more info. If you’re not in LA, but you get the Logo cable channel, the awards will be broadcast there on April 21 (and many many times thereafter). Check your local listings.

Random thought #6 – “Heroes” – I miss you. Can you come back before April 23rd? Pretty please?

Random thought #7 – 10 random thoughts is too many.

And that’s that. Thanks to Ian for the forum. I don’t know how you do it 5 days a week!

Thanks to Florida for winning the tournament.

And lastly, my apologies to anyone who comes here each morning for a shot of thought-provoking inspiration, but had to settle for this. If I had a cute kid, I’d end with a picture of him/her. Someday. Fingers crossed.

Adieu.

************

above the fruited plain

4/2/07

Okay, see if you can help us out here. We’re trying to make a list of Things Americans Do Better than Anyone Else in the World. And no, it can’t be stuff like “demoralize Iraqis” or “be insane Fundamentalist Christians.” Nor can it be sports that only we play. It has to be actual products that we export, currently in widespread use.

We came up with:

1. visual entertainment, especially TV and movies – yes, there’s a lot of crap, but we also make “House,” “Law and Order,” “The Simpsons,” “Six Feet Under” and “Battlestar Galactica.”

2. computers (yes, we don’t make the chips, but we make the units: Apple, Dell, etc.)

3. beef

4. maple syrup (yum)

5. tobacco (sadly)

6. jeans (or do the Europeans do it better now?)

7. athletic shoes – Nike alone kicks everyone’s ass, and yes, I know they’re actually “made” by slave labor in Djakarta, but the designs and concepts come from Oregon.

Then we tried coming up with another list, this time “Things Americans Try to Do But Everyone Else Does it Better”:

1. cars (not even close – Toyota is two decades ahead of us)

2. chocolate (Ghirardelli is pretty good, but have you ever had Belgian chocolates?)

3. coffee (Kona coffee from Hawaii is awesome, but the beans from Ethiopia and Kenya are sublime)

4. home theater systems, DVD players, flat-screen TVs, stereos

5. pop music (the Brits will always be better, and it’s time to face it)

6. comedy (again, Brits are funnier, as are Canadians)

7. stem cell research

I know these two lists are paltry, can you guys add to either of them?