Archive for June, 2010

That’s bullshit: Second name edition

I know you’ve all been wondering my stance on this for a while, so it’s time I got it out in the open: I’m often ok with the secondary names of body parts or ailments that get used more frequently than the proper ones. For example, I like the fact that “Achilles tendon” is used instead of “calcaneal tendon,” as it’s a nice nod to the Greek mythology I enjoyed learning as a kid. Similarly, I can appreciate why we would lean toward using the bluntly descriptive “pink eye” over “conjunctivitis.” But when it came time to come up with a secondary name for the masses to use instead of rheum, the powers that be failed us all miserably.

What is rheum? See – its secondary name has already wiped the real name out of our vocabulary!  (So even with the power of the internet and upwards of nine whole readers, this post will amount to little or nothing. Yet I press on!)  Rheum, I’ll have you know, is defined by the experts at Wikipedia as the “thin mucus naturally discharged as a watery substance from the eyes, nose, or mouth during sleep…(that) gathers as a crust in the corners of the eyes or mouth, on the eyelids, or under the nose.” I don’t know about you, but I grew up calling that substance “sleep.” Wikipedia also suggests the painful-sounding “sand,” the odd compound word “sleepydust,” or the confusingly plural “sleepies.”

Sticking with the term I know and still unfortunately use to this day, how the hell did that ever get traction? Seriously, let’s think about this for a minute. Was the originator of this term just being poetic before people took him or her literally?  I think there’s something quite pleasant about the description of waking up with a touch of sleep still in one’s eyes…as long as it stays on that metaphorical level.  Otherwise, it’s just confusing.  Why name the substance after the noun that causes it to appear in the first place?  It’s like calling sweat “heat,” or referring to body weight as “food.”  It’s strange, right?   I sleep, and when I’m done with my sleep, I awake to…sleep?  I take it back, that’s not just strange…that’s bullshit.

Technolo-jeez

For the past many years, I’ve selected books to read by one of two ways: Either it’s a book by someone whose writing I already know I like, or it’s a recommendation from someone whose opinion I trust.  Well I did something different recently, and there were mixed results.  While on the phone with the now-married Mike Honcho, we started talking about which books by author Christopher Moore we had not yet read.  After a minute, I pulled up his listings on Amazon and found a couple.  At the bottom of that page, Amazon made some recommendations for me based on the purchases of other people who had viewed that same page.  One in particular stood out for some reason.  Oh yeah, I remember why: it’s called Rampaging Fuckers of Everything on the Crazy Shitting Planet of the Vomit Atmosphere.  Intrigued (because honestly, who wouldn’t be?), I read the description and found myself laughing out loud at the synopses of the three novellas that comprise the book.  “What the hell?” I thought, and I ordered it for my Amazon Kindle.  (I specifically ordered it for the Kindle not just to get it right away, but because I didn’t think I’d want to have that title visible on a bookshelf in our house.)

So I read Rampaging Fuckers… and thought it was ok.  It’s over-the-top and absurd as hell (which I knew going into it), and I’d say I truly enjoyed a grand total of about 50% of the content.  The second story in particular (which is a kind of disgusting twist on the movie “Innerspace”) was my favorite of the three, even though its synopsis originally interested me the least.  In any case, all of this is prologue to a line I read and enjoyed in this book: “Kids today, they can’t even read unless it’s spelled wrong on a phone.”  It’s rare for me to put a book down in order to jot down a line that I like, but that’s what I did.  Well technically, I put down my book-storing mini computer in order to send an email from my phone to myself about a line that I liked, but that’s essentially the same thing.  Despite that last sentence that I wrote, I don’t consider myself to be a part of that “mass instantaneous information” group.  Sure, I send text messages to friends, but never in the “C U L8R” style.  And I’m in my 30s, so I had a nice chunk of life before people tried fitting everything in 140 characters or less. 

All that said, it’s hard to escape what communication has become to our society.  This was made abundantly clear to me a couple of days ago.  My friends Jon and Erin stopped by on Saturday to meet our new children, and they very sweetly brought over some adorable outfits as gifts.  The next day, my lovely wife put a thank you note out on the table for me to write, which I did right away.  About half an hour later, I was sitting on the couch when Jon came to mind for some other reason.  Immediately I thought, “Hey, I wonder if he got my thank you note yet.”  I’m apparently so used to emails and text messages being composed, sent, and received within a matter of seconds that it was a foreign concept to me that I would actually have to (gasp) wait for something to be picked up, mailed, and delivered.  “Oh no,” I thought, “Am I really one of them and didn’t know it?”  Dismayed, I shook my head and went back to the Scrabble-type game I was playing on my iPod touch with my friend Lisa.  Yes, it’s another form of instant technology, but at least it’s still a place in which “LOL” isn’t a real word.

Soul

There are so many commercials that I hate, when one comes along that I actually like, it’s important that I highlight it.  Today’s is an unlikely candidate in many ways.  In general I hate commercials that animate animals.  I also did not like the previous commercial for this very product which animated these very animals.  In fact, I don’t even like the product.

So what was it about this commercial that made it the exception?

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Choosing a Black Sheep song immediately lends legitimacy if you’re a hip-hop aficionado.  This is not some poppy song, they’re invoking a vintage hip-hop classic.  It’s a brave choice, but it only pays off if they truly bring it.

Which brings me to the hamsters.  They resist taking the cute road.  No, that would be too easy.  These are no talking dogs with tongues that unravel and eyes that get wide as saucers.  No, these are obese hamsters with phat moves, a much more interesting and challenging choice.  And somehow they just nail it.

I’m not sure how the commercial was created, but it looks like people in hamster suits doing the dance moves, with the faces animated in post production.  The details are just too exquisite to imagine recording through motion capture.  In any case, the dancers and the director made about a thousand great choices, and it shows.

Examples of nailing it:

  • 0:11:  Hamster in green gives a casual point with attitude.
  • 0:17:  I swear I’ve seen the human version of this street drummer, eyes closed to the beat, and if you pay close attention, he’s actually playing the drums accurately, the snare matches up.
  • 0:21:  Hamster in red kicks back to the beat. Lazy animators would have had him just walk up to the car.  Extra touches like this kick it up a notch.
  • 0:23:  Our lead hamster easily could have just pointed to the car, but instead he actually does a dance move to point. He’s incorporating a wave with a little popping and locking, no joke.
  • 0:24:  OK, this hamster has better moves than I ever will.  Look how sad the hamster in the passenger slot of that toaster is. Ears flat against his head indicate they’re getting clowned, yo.
  • 0:33:  Requisite urban barber shop reference.
  • 0:34:  These are definitely people in hamster suits.  Busting a move on cardboard with a boombox is a nice touch, and look at how the fabric and everything moves when he lands.  Note both of them have watches, these hamsters are flossing.  The level of detail in this spot is delicious.
  • 0:35:  This scene obviously takes place in the hamster projects, and note that the dunking hamster is shirtless, an authentic choice.  Although I’m not sure what to make of the completely naked spectators.
  • 0:39:  I cannot explain why, but I swear this hamster is being played by Mekhi Phifer.
  • 0:40:  Leaning back, our lead hamster tosses your attention to the cardboard boxcar with an overhand point worthy of non-animal rapper Snoop Dogg.
  • 0:47:  Lead hamster’s moves are great, but I like Mekhi Phifer in the background just bobbing his head to the beat behind basketball “Hamstar.”
  • 0:49:  Front girl hamster’s arm pumps are hot.  Never typed that sentence before.
  • 0:52:  Head fake.
  • 0:53:  Still clownin’, y’all should park your toaster somewhere else.
  • 0:54:  Sinking into the passenger seat, our lead hamster shows how street he is.

Am I taking this analysis too far?  Maybe.  But this commercial could’ve been done in half the time, with half the effort, and many ad agencies would’ve called that good enough.  So I like to give props where props are due.  Thanks for giving us rich content, Kia and David and Goliath, their ad agency.  And while I don’t believe the Kia Soul actually has any soul, those East Coast Rap Hamstars certainly do.  Anybody else really want a Hamstar hat?

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Fathers’ Days

weddingThis coming weekend is going to be very interesting for several reasons, but I’d like to highlight two of them in particular.  First, it’ll be my first Fathers’ Day weekend as a father.  Second, it’ll be my first Fathers’ Day weekend as a Father with a capital F.  Ok, technically I’m a minister, but that’s still pretty cool.  Yes friends, your main man P-Dawg is an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church, ready to co-officiate fellow blogger Mike Honcho’s wedding this weekend.  I will be the most Jewish minister there, I imagine.  I’m excited and ready to rock the party, but I gotta say, becoming legally able to marry people was far, far too easy.

Check this out: I went to TheMonastery.org.  Easy enough to remember, no?  I clicked on “Free Online Ordination” – oh yeah, did I mention that it was completely free too?  Then there were five bullet points of instructions with which I had to comply.  Summarizing, they are: Put your real name, please don’t put a fake name, double check that you put your right name, don’t capitalize your name incorrectly, and really guys, don’t put a fake name.  Those are the regulations.  On the next page, I had to put my name (my real one, spelled and capitalized correctly), address, email address, birthday, and sex.  That was it; I’m not even close to kidding.

I was very pleased to see it was so easy, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was too easy.  Shouldn’t I be required to do more than that?  I was given a pretty awesome power, and that was the whole of the initiation process?  It’s way easier than buying a song in iTunes or even making a rental car reservation online.  Hell, it’s just about as easy as leaving a comment on this blog.  I couldn’t let go of the nagging feeling that I’d missed something or that I would show up to the wedding and realize I needed to complete some 8-hour online course, so I called the LA County Clerk’s office.  I waited on hold for a while before reaching a nice woman in the correct office.  I explained my worries, and she told me, “It doesn’t matter how you were ordained as long as you were by a religious organization.”  She went on to tell me that the biggest snag that people run into is by not filling out the marriage license correctly.  “Make sure you use black ink,” she said, “and you need two digits for the month and day and four digits for the year.  Otherwise the form is invalid and we send it back.”  “Oh,” I said.  “The marriage is still valid though,” she added, which was a bit of a relief.

So that was truly all I needed to do to be able to marry people.  This coming Saturday, I promise only to use my new powers for good – that is, I won’t sneakily marry unsuspecting couples on the dance floor, no matter how much fun that could be.  I’m debating whether or not I should add “Ordained Minister in the Universal Life Church” to my resume; since not everyone knows how retardiculously easy it is to become one, it might look impressive or give me an undeserved dignified air about me.  Either way, I’m very much looking forward to Saturday, and I know the whole wedding event will be awesome.  Oh yeah, and the other kind of fatherhood is fucking rad so far too.

A trifecta of thoughts

Ok, I said I had more to tell, and I’m a man of my word.  I have three additional items, and dab nabbit, I’m going to get all of them out this time.

1. I don’t know how many times I’ve driven by “self storage” places, but seeing one last week struck me in a different way for some unknown reason.  “Hmm, like where someone can store himself for…the winter?” I thought.  Then I started thinking about what kind of story I could write that focused on a society in which people routinely put themselves away for extended periods of time, making “self storage” facilities carry much more societal importance.  The thing I liked most about it is that it seemed inherently willful to me.  That is, no one is going to forcibly store my “self” away without my consent, because “self storage” implies that it’s a place for one to do that on his/her own.  (Although I suppose I could technically force someone else’s “self” into storage, but that doesn’t fit as well.)  The more I thought about, the more defined my potential plot points became, which I found exciting.  It would start off showing a world in which “self storage” was an everyday part of life.  “Where’s Frank?  He stored himself at the Greenwood facility until next Friday.”  But why?  Were these similar to recharging stations?  Were they healing centers?  Rehabs?  I didn’t know, but the next step in the story would have to be something that changes the “normal day in this society” to an extraordinary one.  Maybe something goes wrong with the “un-storing” process.  Maybe the President is self-stored when something happens…I don’t know.  Then the worst kind of light bulb went off: the totally erroneous kind.  I had a quick flash of a world in which people deposited only their bodies in these facilities while their souls got to explore the world without the weight and ailments of their corporal selves.  Why is that an erroneous light bulb?  Because that’s the exact plot of “Unready to Wear” by Kurt Vonnegut in his “Welcome to the Monkey House” collection of short stories.  And it was going so well.  I still think I had something there (before it veered off into plagiarism) that could be a cool science-fictiony tale with subtle jabs at the ills of our real society.  Maybe I should put that on my list of “Things I’ll Never Write Because I Haven’t Mastered Stopping Time Yet,” ya know, behind a screenplay or three and some other short stories.  Or maybe I can write it in 15-minute increments as I wait for bottles to heat at 2am each morning.  Right.

2. I have a profile and contacts on the business networking site called Linked In.  It’s somewhat helpful in terms of making connections with contacts of fellow contacts, but without the bullshit of Facebook that pisses me off (i.e. there aren’t any “At the grocery store” updates).  One thing is drawing my ire though, and it’s not entirely the site’s fault.  When making a new connection, one must choose how they know the other person.  The options are Colleague, Classmate, We’ve Done Business Together, Friend, Other, and I Don’t Know Him/Her.  Those seem pretty straightforward to me, but then again, I’m blessed with the ability to have abstract thought.  This site defines “colleagues” as people who work/worked for the same company.  If we have worked together in a business-to-business sense, we’re supposed to select “We’ve Done Business Together.”  Easy enough, right?  Nyet.  Many times, an invitee has indicated that I’m a colleague.  What’s the harm in that?  Well, as soon as I accept the invitation, the site says something like, “You didn’t list Company X on your work history.  Would you like to add it?”  Since I never worked there, I say no.  It’s a minor extra step, but since it’s something that I figured out the first time I created a profile on the site, I’m getting tired of saying “No, I didn’t work there” every time I accept a new contact.  If we’ve done business together, how about you just say that we’ve done business together?  Is that so hard?

3. A strange thing happened last week.  I had just gotten home from work a few minutes ago, and I’d already changed and started feeding one of the kids.  There was a knock at our front door, and I slowly gathered baby, bottle, and myself to start my way over to the door.  As I got there, I looked through the glass at the top of our front door and saw a young man walking away.  He turned back and saw my face, then held up a Taco Bell box with a few tacos in it and made a face that said, “Do you want some of this?”  I responded with a face that said, “Why the fuck would I do something like that?”   He replied aloud, “Come on!  One?”  “No,” I said while shaking my head sternly, and I turned around and went back to the couch.  That’s really weird, right?  The best guess I have is that he somehow got a six pack of tacos for free or for really cheap and was trying to resell them for profit.  That almost makes sense on face value, but who thinks it’s a good idea to simply start knocking on strangers’ doors in hopes that they’ll be hungry for tacos and willing to buy them off a stranger in a transaction that reeks of shadiness?  I’d be floored if he got any takers on his deal.  If so, it would have to be someone who opened the door and thought, “My wish has come true!  I was just craving Taco Bell but didn’t want to get in the car and drive there.  I’m even willing to pay more than I would at the restaurant for these tacos because of the convenience.  Thank you for answering my prayers, Crappy Mexican Food Gods!”

Hey, those are my three thoughts!  I’m proud of myself.  That’s it for now, but I plan on thinking again sometime soon.

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Just plain wrong

the hillsSo I’m sitting in an airport with time to kill, and how else would I want to spend my time besides writing down some thoughts on this here blog? Exactly.

Wanna hear something funny?  That’s all I ended up writing in the airport.  This page wasn’t appearing as I needed it to on my cell phone, so I abandoned the post before it even got going.  So now I’m sitting at home instead of in an airport, and I have the opposite of “time to kill” but still want to get some lingering thoughts out.  Here goes:

When I think about what’s wrong with our society, I usually point to two things.  First, “The Hills.”  “Famous” people who are only “famous” for being “famous” who do nothing but act like idiots but are somehow compelling enough for millions of people to watch. (Mind you, I’ve never seen the show but have seen enough of Spencer and Heidi that I want to gouge my own eyeballs out.)  Second, our over-litigious society that causes empty cups to warn us that it’s possible there may be hot liquids eventually placed inside them.  Well I think I may have a third, even though this is coming to me a little late.  How did it happen that a hip hop artist, upon being acquitted on gun charges, made a formal announcement that he was changing his name from “Puff Daddy” to “P Diddy” – and people just went along with it?  I remember watching that and thinking he sounded like a moron (especially since he already had, ya know, a real name) and that he’d be ridiculed non-stop.  Instead, a day later and he was being called “P Diddy” by various information and entertainment outlets.  This isn’t on the same level as the other two “what’s wrong with the world” items, but it still bugs me almost a decade later that his self-important fake-name-to-other-fake-name change was taken so seriously.

That’s it for now.  I hope to get my other thoughts out soon, so stay tuned.