Monthly Archives: July 2007

millions of tiny darts

7/31/07

No blog today, I’m too busy deleting hundreds upon thousands of fucking comment spams. If I ever retire this blog gig, it will be because of this thunderfuck torrent of robots trying to crush my psyche EVERY GODDAMN DAY. “Blacklists” are useless, and the new bots can solve captchas. I’ll erase 500 of them, and 75 get through while I’m erasing. How about I show what I got while typing this paragraph?

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I want to inject these people with slow poison

yes, you’re older now and a clever swine

7/30/07

I’m watching “Law & Order” and “The Simpsons”, but I’m still getting most of my philosophy from Morrissey. I’m on a Mac writing late into the evening using Microsoft Word. I’m still a little bummed out that Carolina got bumped from the NCAA tournament at least two games too early, and now our star center/forward is going pro. Tessa and I hang out with a small group of writers in our weirdly creative town, and Chip, Bud, Jon, Salem and Lindsay are among my best friends in the world. It is 1989 and I’m a senior at the University of North Carolina.

For all this talk of change, it’s incredible how much is exactly the same. Sometimes our culture moves so fast that it creates a blur, and can be barely told apart from a standstill.

she shed you don’t understand what i shed

7/29/07

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This is my new shed. I just finished building it. I’m posting this blog as a public service to all of you out there who might be contemplating building your own shed to RUN AWAY SCREAMING. This beast took me three months, riddled my body with scars, and made me blow a gasket pretty much every weekend.

Why, do you ask, did it take three months? “I thought you were pretty handy with tools building stuff,” I hear you cry. And yet, isn’t it interesting that a rectangular building not much larger than a twin bed can provide so many opportunities for such flummoxation?

Here’s the thing: I don’t like other people doing what I can do for myself. And since Salem put me on Betty Mills’ corporate mailing list, I saw a good deal on a 4’x10′ garden shed that seemed to be our cup of tea; it had a “lean-to” look that was perfect for this tiny space between our house and the next, and we could finally get our bikes out of the dining room.

First off, I had to build the thing into the tiny space itself, meaning I couldn’t just build it in the yard and move it – that would mean uprooting trees and all kinds of crap. Thus my power drill screwdriver was useless, which meant sticking my hand into blind 4-inch crevices and installing screws with this:

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Technically, it’s a Husky ratchet and socket set, but I’ve come to know it as the ArthritisMaker 3000™, and it nearly killed my spirit. After about five screws, I was done for the day. Half of the screws wouldn’t even work with it, so I was forced to use other methods so chintzy that I won’t mention them here.

Secondly, the Shed Assembly Instructions was written by either a sadistic bastard or a robot with no sense of narrative flow. Take this, for instance:

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1. After the 3rd side siding is fastened to the 2nd, roll it over on the roof and fasten as before.

Um, WHAT? Are you fucking kidding me? First, Mr. Manual, you never used the term “1st side siding” or “2nd side siding” before, so I don’t know what the “3rd side siding” is. And when you say “after,” are you assuming that I already did it – I mean, clairvoyantly – since “Step 7” didn’t mention it? And how can I “fasten as before” when this is the first time I’ve been asked to do anything like this?

Oh, I could go on, but you would have had to been there to understand the backbreaking idiocy of it all. And at the end of the three months, I had a… vaguely crappy aluminum shed. Yeah, it’ll be fine, and it’s pretty airtight and we can keep the bikes, barbecue and random shite in there, but heed my warning.

If you have a modicum of building skills, just design a shed yourself and build it out of pressure-treated wood using a simple frame. Stick a tiny shingled roof on it, and voilà! Barring that, get a professional Shed Man (or Woman) to plop a pre-made shed on your property while you sit in a hammock sipping Pimm’s and lemon soda.

quicksand instructions

7/26/07

Today’s quick CODE WORD is this: I know there are elections for the President of the United States next year, but does anyone see these people relinquishing power? Why on earth would you urinate on the Constitution and inflict such damage to the way our country is governed if you didn’t plan on running it, basically, forever? Does anyone else see these people pulling some kind of trick, like martial law declared after a terrorist attack, or elections being made “temporarily illegal” or something? Or am I really sliding into kook territory?

In short, I’m having trouble imagining a world where these people are willing to let go, and I’m wondering what you think will actually happen – who will be nominated, and who will win?

okay, there’s this watchmaker, and his name’s Nick…

7/25/07

No real blog tonight, as we have our first spate of meetings starting tomorrow, where the missus and I go into a room full of TV execs and give ’em our Dog ‘n ‘Pony show, and hopefully emerge feeling emotions ranging from sanguinity to exhilaration. In the next week, we already have more meetings that we did all of last year, which is heartily nice.

It’s also proof that our strategy for this year – something I’ll only divulge after October if it all works out – is paying dividends in the early going. One thing to know about all of this – you may not have any control, but the Buddha helps those who help themselves.

mata hairi

7/24/07

Hi!

You guessed it, it’s time for Dumb Inside Joke Theatre™! Today’s Dumb Inside Joke© is brought to you by the folks at the New Yorker Caption Contest and my caption is an Inside Joke® for my brother Sean:

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“slings and arrowz”? With a “z”? You were SO CLOSE!

Well, I hope you enjoyed it. Points accrued if you can guess the Dumb Inside Joke©! Extra points if your comment is a Dumb Inside Joke© that none of us understand!

my atavism ran over your buddhism

7/23/07

Today’s blog goes out to our next-door neighbor, great friend and honorary Uncle to Lucy: David Petrarca, who was struck with appendicitis on Saturday night. After an emergency appendectomy in the wee hours of the morning, he emerged groggy but unscathed. Man, times have changed. David was in the hospital for only one day, and is able to walk, albeit uncomfortably, just 24 hours later. Apparently all appendectomies are now done through the belly button, with two other tiny incisions elsewhere. The stitches dissolve by themselves and there’s absolutely no scarring.

However, for those of us who got our appendix out in 1972, it looked a little more like this:

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That’s orange iodine stain covering my belly from the operation, which put me in the hospital for four days (am I right about that, Mom?) and it was emblazoned on my scrapbook as The Great Appendix Caper. I still have the scar, which is no smaller than it was during Nixon’s term.

I remember the hospital being more fun than I could imagine – I got grape Jell-o on command, lots of visitors, and a ceramic dog that held a plant I kept alive for years. I loved the nurses, and they would pal around in my room. This experience made me a little weird; I actually enjoy hospitals. I know they make most people want to kill themselves, but I’ve always appreciated them deeply.

Oh, and by the way… what the hell is up with appendixes? The tail end of your large intestine that just sits there like a time bomb ready to kill you? I take it from research that it is probably the vestigial remains of a distant evolutionary relative who ate a lot of leaves, but why does the appendix have to be so mean-spirited? The male nipple, wisdom teeth, our coccyx, ear muscles and body hair may all be useless reminders of our forgotten past, like an ancient dinner guest who says nothing and eats little, but at least they know how to behave!

kids say the garsh-darndest things

7/22/07

A couple of videos to share with you today, and YES, they’re all about our kids, but I can’t be a krusty kurmudgeon every day, so DEAL!

First off, my brother Sean taught himself iMovie on the Mac and made this lovely little piece for Jordana’s birthday. As an editor, he really gets into a groove near the end, where you can cue most of my family welling with tears:

As for the Lulubeans, she (like most of us) has a deep affection for Babar, king of the elephants. One afternoon, Tessa began the first word of the book, and to our astonishment, Lucy read the rest of Page 1 aloud. I asked her to do it again last night, and even more stunningly, she complied. Not bad for a 27-month-old! Apparently I could read when I was three (thus I skipped kindergarten and slipped promptly into Hell) but with recitations like this, she’s on par to kick my ass:

I can lose 20 lbs and get down to my high school weight and still have a frickin’ double chin – YUK

pull all of our fingers

7/19/07

While we’re on the subject of shite and all things crap-related, I was asked “how communal pooping brought my fraternity together” back in 1989 at the University of North Carolina. The answer, as always, is slightly complicated.

At a certain point halfway through my proper schoolgoing years at UNC, the tenor of my fraternity – Chi Psi – changed dramatically. This is where I’d normally give the usual disclaimers about how my fraternity was different from all other fraternities, how we were intellectuals, often hilarious, had a healthy African-American quotient when no others would, and now, an openly gay quotient. I would then go on to say we had amazing parties and managed not to be assholes, but then everyone says that about their fraternity, so let’s move on, shall we?

Anyway, when I got to the Lodge, it was a bevy of people who would then go on to rock the world: David Gardner, who founded the Motley Fool; Peyton Reed, who directed “The Break-Up” and “Bring it On”; the creators of CitySearch, the new media barons of Wall Street and Silicon Valley, you name it. They were a feisty bunch who fought a lot, but always did it with incredible élan and words I didn’t even know yet.

A new group came in when I was a junior, and they were quite different. They liked to drink – a lot – and a few of them developed put-down skills that would have made Don Rickles blush. They even named their own era “RANCOR” and I fucking hated it. Not just because I was an easy target of their jokes – god knows I was – but there was an anaerobic insider-y mean-spiritedness to it that bummed me out. It bummed a LOT of people out, and the place became noticeably balkanized by the summer of 1989.

Cue a massive renovation, where the Lodge went from being a ragtag, quaint, mysterious fire hazard to a shiny metal interior reminiscent of a Ramada Inn. It saddened old-timers like me, but it was a refreshing change to have sinks that actually had running water and doors you could actually lock.

The 3-month job started in May, and was almost finished by August, except for all the bathrooms. Actually, those were finished too, but all of the toilets lacked stalls and doors; five of them, all in a row, with no protection and no personal space. The parts were “on order” or something, which meant we were facing three months of privacy-free grunting.

Many brothers simply held their goods until the middle of the night when nobody else would be there, but there’s only so many times you can do that. Eventually, everyone had to give in, and just take giant dumps right next to each other. Pee Shyness and Fart Shame became things of the distant past, and the whole fraternity grew noticeably more affable. Something about the communal latrine had done what nothing else could: forced some of these jerks to actually get along.

Except for me, of course. I was already writing “Wednesday’s Child” by then, and thus was not allowed to be funny or charming at the Lodge; my britches, apparently, had grown too big, and it didn’t help that I had become a drunk gadfly with a stunning lack of self-awareness. I continued to take gobs of rancor from many of the bros in attendance until I had my post-college poverty-stricken nervous breakdown, and then I was finally welcome back on the hoops court. Funny how these things work.

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my composite picture, junior year

doing it on repurpose

7/18/07

I pride myself on being your one-stop repository for all Historically-Significant Outhouse News, and I want you to know I don’t take your trust lightly. As I’m sure you’re aware, a 130-year-old outhouse was discovered in Ventura this week, and along with it, an “archaeological gold mine.” They found a pistol, dog skulls, a bowie knife, bottles of whiskey, and all kinds of stuff from the late 1800s.

My own… dare I call it “expertise”?… with ancient outhouses came when we bought our li’l farm up in Columbia County in late 2001. Like many farmhouses, it originally had a classic “2 over 2” room structure with a separate, minimalist carriage house for the horses about twenty yards behind it. But our carriage house also had a privy in it, and not just an ordinary outhouse: it was a two-seater.

This says several things about the 1860s, the foremost of which is “pooping was a communal activity.” On those cold winter evenings of 1871, when you were forced to walk outside in the middle of the night in two feet of snow, you brought a friend. There’s something quite endearing about that. Communal pooping during a renovation brought my UNC fraternity together when I was a senior, but that’s another story.

Anyway, as farmers made more money, they got sick of trudging outside to take a dump, and thus extended their houses all the way to the outhouse. That’s why so many old farmhouses in New England look so fucked up and bizarre – they built odd-shaped rooms en route to the jakes. Ours does that, and many of you who have been there know how weird the farmhouse gets behind the laundry room.

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renovating the carriage house in 2003 – privy was on the right

In 2003, we renovated the carriage house to be our master bedroom – even though it was far too thin and barely fits a bed, it has a 25-foot ceiling and an awesome vibe. In doing so, we had to remove the two-seater outhouse, and while breaking it down, I discovered an ancient… well, I looked up various definitions: “dunny-can,” “nightsoil collector”… but I think you’ll agree that the best name for it is the Poop Trough.

This particular poop trough was on rails, and slid out through a hole in the side of the carriage house, which I found particularly ingenious. It hadn’t been in use for a century, so I did what anyone else would do: I cleaned it, sanded it, stained it with mahogany polyurethane, built a lid on top with old barn wood, and made it into our coffee table:

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Inside is my collection of rare Scotch whisky, and on top, many of you have eaten your dinners, rested your feet, and charged your laptops. Take THAT, Ikea!