Monthly Archives: February 2010

for the love of god turn that so-called music down

2/28/10

I’ve been reading with some fascination about the so-called mosquito tone that some teens (ACH! KIDS THESE DAYS©!!!) are using as ringtones so they can text each other in class without the teacher knowing. Due to prebycusis, humans tend to lose their hearing in high frequencies as they age, meaning tones over 16 KHz are completely inaudible to many folks over 25.

Using the sound as a ringtone is actually a great fuck-you to the Establishment, who had been using the noise to drive loitering teens away from the outside of convenience stores and pubs in Europe. When I lived in Hollywood in the late ’90s, they use to pump Vivaldi’s “The Seasons” outside the 7-11 on Sunset Blvd. to chilling effect; no teen came within three blocks. Perhaps the Germans should have tried that first.

My dad (and by proxy, me) offers a good case study in staying aurally virginal… in the days before flat-panel TVs, that man could hear the CRT television tube whine (about 16KHz) in the house – while he was still in the driveway in a running car. We played our music at such low levels, and my pain threshold is so low that I have never actually listened to loud music without earplugs, which has left me a) a complete pussy, and b) able to hear the highest tones like a 14-year-old jerk smoking clove cigarettes outside the Kwic-Mart with a smelly jean jacket on.

Anyway, there are a few tests online that can gauge your hearing, but be warned: the tones can mess up some cheap computer speakers. Also, tones get unreliable above 18KHz and some sound cards simply give you weird harmonic frequencies. Most of you, however, should be fine. They recommend using decent headphones, and turning it WAY DOWN to start. This is the test from Plasticmind, so go there if it doesn’t work here. Report back with your experience! Below are 5-second long .mp3 files.

Whipper-snap-o-meter:

11 KHz
12 KHz
13 KHz
14 KHz
15 KHz
16 KHz
17 KHz
18 KHz

our 28-day forecast: no frickin’ idea

2/24/10

Around 1987, I was in a creative writing class taught by the renowned Max Steele at Carolina – it was about twelve of us, most of us pals, a cadre of deeply funny folks with a fair amount of talent. Max Steele himself was in his “last roar of the lion” phase, capping off his career as one of the last great Southern voices still teaching. When we saw the roster the semester before, we were jubilant, all thinking at least four great novels would come of it. The class was a disastrous bore.

My high school graduating class at Norfolk Academy was notoriously enigmatic. There were only about a hundred kids per grade, so it was possible to develop and foster a sense of kindred spirit. The class two years below us and the class right above us seemed like synergy-filled love-ins, even the nerds having Bulldog Fever™, raucous and full of inside jokes that all 100 seemed to get. Our particular grade, the Class of 1985, was balkanized and silent. When they used to list alumni donors by year, there’d be a bizarre drop-off in fundraising when it came to us.

Which leads, always, somehow, to my guys in baby blue.

I just can’t pile this all on Roy Williams, I just can’t. I know he’s getting crucified – even after getting us our 2nd National Championship in five years mere months ago – but like all art forms, basketball is beholden to the curious whims of chemistry. It’s the chaos theory of outcome, small trade winds in the mizzen topgallant sail that subtly push the warship into oncoming cannonshot. It’s fourteen small, seemingly-unrelated events that combine into insurmountable defeat.

Yes, there is always “play harder!” and “box out!” and “take care of the ball!” and “make the easy shot!” but if you accept that these are kids that don’t want to lose on purpose (and that we have a coach that dies a tiny bit inside with each loss) you have to dig deeper and find out why the little things aren’t happening.

Which, of course, is a fool’s errand. You’ll never find the source, just as you can’t unstir the milk out of the coffee. All of you have been involved in projects that just didn’t work, no matter how solid it looked on paper, no matter how many awesome people were involved. There are words for it in English: snakebit, cross-starred, unfortunate, ill-fated.

We anthropomorphize defeat to make it easier to take, but defeat doesn’t care. It is made of a list of benign ingredients that react when mixed. You can fight it, and sometimes you will win, but it’ll take mind-bending focus. Often, it’s in your best interests to take your lumps, and wait for the tincture of time, the infinite possibilities of the next day, to set you to rights once more.

poets priests and politicians

2/23/10

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A billboard along Interstate 35 in Wyoming, Minnesota – purchased by business owners in the Twin Cities (or the “morphyne” jackass)

Do I “miss him yet”? Are you out of your fucking MIND? I wake up every day, and no matter the weather, no matter the circumstances, no matter what petty annoyance or gargantuan life issue is staring me in the face, I think “well, at least goddamn GEORGE W. BUSH isn’t PRESIDENT anymore.”

The entire planet weighed less the day that cackling lemur finally got his last pair of soiled underthings out of the White House. Countries all around the world rejoiced. Hell, scientists were so juiced that they turned back the frickin’ DOOMSDAY CLOCK a few minutes. Losing that pitiless self-righteous nimrod was the best thing to happen to this country since the Miracle on Ice.

Are your tea-party brains so addled by the hoarse invective of your favorite cable-news carnival barkers that you actually think the rest of the country misses George W. Bush? If anything, your billboard accomplishes precisely the opposite of your intentions: any normal person driving by that sign will look at Bush’s sickening smirk and be jolted into sudden awareness: “wow, things in this country are still messed up, but at least THAT SLOBBERING GOON isn’t in charge.”

You rabid, decency-free, angry conservatives may try to rehabilitate Joe McCarthy, but you’ll never get any rational adult who lived under the reign of George W. Bush to wash the taste out of their mouths. You might find some other cruel fuck to trick Americans into voting against their self-interests again, but nobody will look back at Bush with wistful longing.

“Miss Me Yet?” I’m sorry, but… *ahem*

urp…

HOOORRRRRRFFFFFFF

i’ll eat up all your crackers and your licorice

2/22/10

I don’t know how many of you have ever had the croup, but it gets passed down through family lines, and unfortunately, my mom and I have given it to Lucy. I shan’t go into the “seal barking” that accompanies the affliction, nor the impending feeling that you’re about to be asphyxiated, but suffice to say it’s scary as shit when you’re a kid, and I’m up all night tonight making sure the Lulubeans can stay calm. Best that Tessa isn’t here – she doesn’t need the stress.

I, however, need the CODE WORD question to take care of the blog tonight, and in an attempt to keep things looking positive, I’ll re-ask a question from a while back, then compare answers: what is your favorite and least favorite part of your own body?

No checking back and cheating, if you answered in 2008.

evolutionary constraint, or just indolence

2/21/10

It’s the 21st century, and we still don’t get flying cars, engines that get 500 mpg running on bottled cowfarts, or an adventure park on the Moon. They say man’s technology outpaces our maturity (which is why somebody will probably get nuked because of religion) but I say there’s an opposite and equal frustration: man’s imagination always outpaces our ability to do cool shit.

I suppose it’s not very gracious to downplay the elements of modern life that would have been considered “magical” a hundred years ago. My flight from LAX to Charlotte was 3 hours and 31 minutes last week. I video-chatted with Tessa in Denver five minutes ago. I have a pill that keeps my self-loathing set at “vaguely”.

But I’m dreamin’ bigger, dontchya know! In the ’70s, “The Bionic Man” (and the even better show “Bionic Woman”) taught us all body parts could get a hardware upgrade. In that light, here is my list of 5 Human Parts That Are Awaiting Version 2.0:

1. Sinuses. Those who went to med school will no doubt wince at my dime-store explanation, but apparently we have sinuses so that our heads can be large enough to carry around a giant brain; the air-filled sac reduces weight in the front. The problem is that everyone’s sinuses suck. They act like the petri dishes of a 4th grade science class biology experiment, collecting every virus and bacteria on earth – except you can’t throw this petri dish away.

drugstoreshelves.jpg

We would like Sinuses 2.0 to be coated with that anti-bacterial covering they use on new grocery carts, natural immunity to all plant life, and we humbly request an upper limit on congestion, so that some of us can fuckin’ breathe once in a while.

2. Knees. Yours truly has always had strong knees, but I have seen the greatest minds of the generation above mine felled completely by knee problems, and they’ve ruined a fur piece of my peer group as well. This has been a well-known design flaw from the get-go; you’ve got the entire weight of our bodies being supported by a few ligaments swimming in synovial fluid? Hell, a fruit juicer makes more design sense.

Studies show that arthroscopic knee surgery works as well as a placebo. Yes, you heard right – just making an incision in the knee and telling the patient he had surgery works just as well as the surgery itself. And our knee replacement devices are iffy at best, so let’s just start over with the next build, okay?

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3. Cornea/lens. Seriously, why do people have to be nearsighted or farsighted? Why can’t everyone just see with pinpoint clarity? Everyone being forced to hang plastic frames with concave-convex lenses on their faces… we’re lucky we have a nose that sticks out, or else we’d have nothing to put it on. Laser surgery, contact lenses and everything else – come on, let’s get this one fixed ASAP.

4. Pancreas. Median survival time for someone diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is 3-5 months. You see where we’re going with this here. Scrap the pancreas, and diversify: create four different organs in different places that do what the pancreas does (insulin, somatostatin, pancreatic juice, etc.) so that our lives aren’t so beholden to one link. Many of us have a separate cable for television, phone and internet so that one tree branch won’t shut down the entertainment – we’d like to see some of that thinking go into Pancreas Project 2.0.

5. Skin. We’ve got this stuff wrapped around us for our whole lives, and while some of us have exquisite epidermii (hi, my wife!) many others of us are prone to acne, sunburn, rash and scars. A lot of us would like to go out into the sun – you know, the star 93 million miles away that sustains life – without having to slather ourselves in sunblock. The teens of the world, billions strong going back in history, don’t understand why they are given cystic pustules of painful zits all over their bodies at the precise time they are least equipped to handle the pressure.

No, no – let’s get this updated. Obviously, we’d like to keep the endless variations of color and sensation, but ditch the melanoma, hives, pimples and August-ruiners like poison oak, and let’s get a cleaner, more durable version running by Q4 2015.

Sound good? Go 21st century! We can do it!

just nursin’ this lukewarm cup o’ mud

2/18/10

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The WSJ has an interesting article about coffee shops in New York – specifically Brooklyn – that have banned laptops. I cannot think of a better rule, and if caffeine makes you smart, perhaps the baristas in Los Angeles will follow suit. When I walk into a coffee shop and every 4-person table is taken by one motherfucker who brought a laptop, his own teabag and paid for a cup of hot water… and then SAT THERE FOR FOUR HOURS… I want to frisbee his 13″ Dell into oncoming traffic.

I say this knowing full well that I was that guy in the late ’90s. I wrote the first draft of two entire screenplays at a coffee shop off Beachwood Drive in Hollywood, because I hated my house and I had one of those tangerine iBooks. In my defense, this was before the days of wireless internet, and coffee shops had yet to explode into the cultural phenom they are today. Even now, I will occasionally open a laptop at a coffee joint, but that happens twice a year whenever I’m waiting for Tessa.

There are two times a laptop should be allowed in any coffee/eating establishment: when there’s nobody else there, and when there’s an actual bar-like situation, meaning stools that only allow you to take up one seat. Oh, and if the coffee shop in question is a national chain. Other than that, people who hijack tables with their computers are nothing more than goddamn parasites, draining both bandwidth and money from the establishment they frequent.

5% of men who work on laptops at coffee shops do so because working at home is infeasible. The other 95% do it because they want to put their penis inside someone else. You know it, they know it, and the struggling owner of an independent coffee shop knows it as they turn away customers because there’s nowhere to sit. How about this, laptop people: pay for your own internet at home, and STAY there. And if you come to a coffee bar, bring a book and order lattés while you pretend not to stare at someone’s tits – at least that way, the owners can make rent.

I know this rant puts me in “crusty old fuck” territory, and besides – in a few years, it won’t be laptops, it’ll be the iPad, flexible color Kindles, iPhones with holographic images and a Complete Awareness Machine called THE YouORB™. By then, the internet will be ubiquitous and beamed from the sky, making the idea of an access point inside a coffee shop as quaint as a lamplighter.

That’s fine, but in the meantime, you laptoppers gotta quit hogging all the tables and actually spend some money at a local establishment. You could even try talking to people – we used to do it in a place called “college”, and as I recall, it went pretty well.

got yips; seeking cure

2/17/10

I know there’s a cadre of blog readers on here who automatically tune out every time I start talking about the North Carolina men’s basketball team, and I totally get it. As I’ve said many times before, other people’s sports teams are at best a creepy experience for you to endure, and at worst, a testosterone-fueled game-day mob that can only end in date rape.

I even tried to explain to my therapist today why Carolina hoops has always been my magnetic north, but it always fails in translation. I usually leave it at this: “deflect personal glory, act like you’ve been here before, value your family, play hard, play smart and play together.” But even that can end up sounding like a motivational poster hastily taped to a conference room wall in a struggling company.

So many of you won’t understand the epic fall from excellence our program has suffered over the last year, nor will you care, and that’s fine. But we were supposed to be celebrating the centennial of UNC basketball this year, and it feels a little like America’s bicentennial: an epic calendar event that happened to fall in the year 1976, when the entire country was malaised, depressed, stuck in gas lines and wearing checkered polyester leisure suits.

Most college basketball fans would say “boo fucking hoo, you won the National Championship in 2005, not to mention last year, while schools like Illinois, Texas, Purdue, UMass and Memphis have NEVER won it” and yes, that’s true. But this year we’re seeing a historic collapse, the kind of “first to worst” showing that is leaving most of us fans – and there are thousands and thousands – wondering what the hell happened.

We were pre-season ranked in the Top 5, returned some important starters (despite losing most of our team to the NBA last year), and had a stellar-rated recruiting class. The old cliché was trotted out: “Carolina doesn’t rebuild, it reloads”. Now we’re beneath even rebuilding – we have to gut the floor plan, buy new material and start over. It’s getting hard to see how we win another game this year.

Excellence is decades in the making, but success teeters on the pinpoint edge, a breath of air on a hair’s breadth, felling it one way or the other. Look at the Olympics over the last couple of days – Lindsey Jacobellis (snowboardcross) and Lindsey Vonn (alpine skiing) are both excellent, but one caught an edge, and the other grabbed gold. Maybe the same could be said of our team this year.

Let’s throw in a few elements: We lose the most determined player in Carolina history. Our point guard tries too hard, then is too tentative. Our big man relies on a soft touch that turns soft. Our freshmen are a little shellshocked. We lose a game in Charleston that punctures our vanity, but also puts a slow leak in our confidence. Eighteen games in, we’re psychologically devastated, and then the real losing starts.

On Tuesday, we went to Georgia Tech and fell behind by 27 points in the second half. After the game, Adam Lucas summed it up best:

As [Deon] Thompson rounded a corner in the Alexander Memorial Coliseum labyrinth, he came upon [Roy] Williams. The big man, still clad in his uniform, said nothing. He just sank into his coach, with Williams wrapping his arms around Thompson and clapping him on the back several times. Both have been called upon to try and explain this season to the public, to tell us what’s going wrong, how it feels, or how they’re going to fix it. Both have been upbeat and resolute.

Now, though, they just hugged. Neither man said anything. There was nothing left to say.

All that’s left of our season is recrimination, rumors of rifts on the team, unfortunate tweets from players, message board frenzy, transfers, and a lot of folks like me wondering what happened to the winters we used to look forward to.

We’ve been in worse states before, I’ve had this blog long enough to have documented horrors from the Doherty era, getting waxed by 40 points, and wandering out into the snow. Then, as now, I post a picture of Michael Jordan dunking over Maryland in 1983, as a reminder that we thrive in an era of excellence, even if we live in a moment of failure.

landing the quad

2/16/10

Yes, yes, I know I can’t be trusted to deliver you cutting-edge commentary and effervescent persiflage every weekday, but MAN has it been hard to restart after this 3-day weekend or WHAT? While I climb back onto the horse, I can deliver my headlines, and then encourage you to do the same.

1. It is now 75 degrees and sunny in Venice, CA.

2. As much as I want to believe otherwise, the Tar Heels are basically done for the season.

3. I don’t care what you say about Johnny Weir, I love him.

4. I can’t decide if I want to make our new TV project a dramatic comedy (1 hour) or a comedy (1/2 hour).

5. I installed a Thule rack on top of our car, and I’ve now contused my head into it seven separate times, the last one drawing blood.

6. Tessa has a conference in Colorado, so I’ll be a single dad for a week starting Monday.

7. Lucy skied for the first time this weekend, and after one lesson, she went down a blue-rated hill with us at Mammoth:

8. Oh, there’s so much I can’t say. How frustrating. O for the days when I could give myself suppositories while driving and still tell the blog…

So what are your headlines?

st. valentine was beheaded so you don’t have to be

2-11-10

Okay, fans of virtual disclosure! How about four questions that are COMPLETELY UNRELATED TO ANYTHING?

1. What is one non-essential feature you truly crave in a car?

2. What plant or flower do a lot of people like, but you just find annoying?

3. Are you in love?

4. How would you like that cooked, sir/ma’am?