Sunday, July 29, 2007

Arguments, Advice, Frustration and Photoshop

There is not much in this world that leads to frustration quite as quickly as arguments or bad advice. In fact, arguments about bad advice just stomp on the gas even harder.

Frustration also comes in more than one flavor, so we will be discussing two of them today, class. You got your pencils and notepads ready?

Oh. Forgot. This is 2007.

Okay, you got your iBooks open and your bloody iPods turned off? Then listen up: I apologize for sounding semi-serious up there. On to the material.

I bought a PlayStation 3 because there were games slated for release that I can't get on my Xbox 360. This seemed a logical step for me, given the recent price drop Sony grudgingly applied.

I have a brother. Two actually, but one of them (we shall call him Steve) was offended to his very core that I bought both consoles. Though this conversation took place mostly over the phone, I will color code them just like an Instant Messenger conversation because I think that'd be fun. I'm red, because red is my favorite color. Steve is blue, because that goes with red.

"You already HAVE a 360!"
"That's true. I'm glad you've been paying attention."
"Well, it's a better console, and all the games anyone would want are already on it, or if they're on both, then they look better on the 360."
"Mighty persuasive argument. What about the games that it DOESN'T have?"
"They're not popular."

"I'm not popular. It'll be like a joining of souls."
"You should have just stuck with one console."
"Why? This should, in theory, double my fun. Now I don't have to worry about whether or not I'll be able to play some spanky new game, because I'll be covered."
"How much did you pay for it?"
"$500. How many games do you have?"
"About twelve. Why?"
"At 60 bucks a pop, that's $720. I have a total of three games, one of which I got on eBuy for $13. That means that, despite sticking with one console, you've still outspent me."
"So it sounds like you've been sticking with only one brain cell to do your thinking with. That's dedication, and I applaud you for it."
"The Xbox is a better system. You wasted your money."
"Don't be a twat, Steve. It looks bad on job applications."

And so on. That kind of argument will make you mad if you actually care about convincing the other person that you're right. Rule of thumb: fanboys and fundamentalists are immune to logic, and arguing with them is like trying to shoot holes in a lake. About the only positive outcome would be to entertain nearby listeners by being sarcastic.

So what if you can't argue with your opponent? What if, no matter what input you offer, your opponent comes back with cryptic answers in little boxes that have little or nothing to do with your input? And what if, throughout the entire argument, your opponent insists on reaffirming his desire to make your life easier and to keep asking you whether or not you're sure you want to say what you just said?

Thank you, Vista! Perhaps I will ask my administrator! Since this is MY computer, put together with MY hands and MY time, software installed by ME, configured by ME, I guess I have to find an administrator. I shall make Sprocket my administrator. He says "meh." What's "meh" mean, Vista? Should I put that in The Registry? Should I restart and boot from "meh"?

Or how about I just put the hard drive in the litterbox for a few days, and let you think about what you've done? Lousy rotten, stinking...

I eventually subdued Vista by pouring glasses of water into my computer, and completely reinstalled, after hours of backup. Why, might you ask, did I go through all this trouble? I wanted to install Photoshop CS3. That's all. Why did I want to install Photoshop CS3? Because I'm stupid, and I should have stuck with CS1 because it's more popular.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Vapid Caste

Let me be clear first off that I am not attacking classic literature as a whole. There are examples of such that actually deserve this distinction. However, I belong to a book club and, so far, most of the selections offered have impressed me not at all. I have wondered about this, since some of them are widely known to be classics. Why is it that I do not "get" these works? Is it that I am uncultured or do I simply possess good taste in literature? As likely as the latter may be, there is always the possibility that I have failed to perceive the intrinsic genius of these volumes. Resisting the urge to summarily dismiss this prospect, I have decided to give these select classics another chance, by contributing to the insanity myself.


Searing. Sphere, o burning sphere, heaving rays of enkindled luminescence upon the writhing mantle of a damned mortal race. The radiant shafts were pitiless, yet effulgent; cruel, yet pulchritudinous. The heavenly multitude rejoiced at the beauty, while hordes from a really yucky place reveled in the patent anguish of the miserable human masses.

A carriage made its arduous journey through the lithely shimmering heat, a translucent canopy marginally shading the liberally perspiring passengers. One such was young Rodney McWitless, who had purchased transportation aboard the conveyance en route to the estate of his recently deceased paternal relation.

Not a fortnight prior, it had come to Rodney’s attention that, given the rather untimely passing of his father, he was now in possession of acreage, funds, and an expansive collection of GI Joseph action figures.

A serf of low dignity had delivered the letter into Rodney’s manicured phalanges, after bowing to such a low altitude as to fracture his skull on the marble rug. Rodney called for another servant, who diligently buffed out the bonk mark and then reprimanded his colleague for such an oafish display.

“Hot dang!” said Rodney, opening the letter. Then, remembering to be vapid and swank, he cleared his throat and began once more. “I mean, this is highly acceptable information with which you have filled my copious noggin, uh, pate. My thanks, knave. Now be gone, lest I scorn you.”

It was due in large part, though not wholly, to these propitious circumstances that Rodney was sojourning back to the habitat of his formative years. The other reason was this really hot babe who was sitting on the carriage seat next to him. The woman’s name was Mary, although her close acquaintances all referred to her by the affectionate eponym Gwendolyn VanDrapery.

Gwendolyn was also returning to the home of her childhood, but not to a large fortune. Like Rodney, she had received a letter telling of death and demise. While on a missions trip to Africa, her entire family had been trampled by a herd of stampeding gazelles, leaving poor Mary alone and orphaned. She was now traveling back to the family home to oversee the effectuation of the will.

Although the journey meant riches for Rodney, he had not been pleased by the prospect. Traveling gave him gas and, journeying in the company of a beautiful female, it was decidedly problematic to resolve such a malady. He kept having to halt the carriage and wander into nearby deserted fields, on the pretense of spotting a rare bird or needing to “stretch my limbs.” Upon completion of his mission, he would return to the carriage and resume his seat, while the other passengers would comment on his newly-acquired expression of contentment.

Riches aside, Rodney had considered not taking the trip for this very reason, but upon learning of Mary’s plans to travel by the same carriage, he had adjusted his schedule with alacrity and purchased a ticket for said conveyance.

“I feel it my duty to see you safely to your home,” he told the girl in as gallant a tone as he could muster.

“I’m not going to sleep with you,” Mary said, good-naturedly piercing his foot with her parasol.

Rodney staunched the flow of blood by filling the wound with gunpowder and wrapping his foot with one leg of a pair of long johns from his valise. This arrangement proved quite cumbersome, until Mary suggested cutting away the rest of the undergarment.

There were two other passengers in the carriage, an old man and his wife. The old man was quite as round as he was tall and had to keep a firm hand on the side of the carriage to keep from rolling out and bouncing onto the roadway. His wife was quite ordinary, one of those women who are seen and then immediately forgotten. Her face was plain and unremarkable, her build neither large nor small. The only attribute remotely memorable was a birth defect, which had given the poor lady a third arm. This extra appendage projected from the left side of her neck and had been festooned with bright ribbons of all dimensions and hues. These strips of cloth fluttered in the slight breeze created by the movement of the carriage and created an impressive, almost mesmerizing, display. But otherwise, the old woman was forgettable in the extreme.

The old man reached into Rodney’s vest pocket and removed yet another cigar. He had been quite broadminded with Rodney’s stash of smoking materials for the entire trip, even offering one of the mammoth cigars to Mary, who had coyly refused and given the lame excuse that she had always found it difficult to enjoy both a cigar and a pipe simultaneously.

The cigar lit and smoldering, the old man leaned forward to continue his lengthy conversation with Rodney. He held the cigar between two fingers and had just launched into an eloquent dissertation concerning the evils of wealth, when the carriage bounced over a particularly obstructing tree root. The unexpected jolt caused the glowing end of his cigar to break free and fall downward toward the dry, wooden floor of the coach. Fortunately, they were all saved from a fiery demise, as the ember landed instead on Rodney’s injured, long john-encased foot.

A black hole appeared in the wrapping, as the spark ate its way through the fabric. Rodney stamped the foot and began tearing at the makeshift bandage, but was not quite speedy enough. The ember completed its trip through the long john and fell onto the gunpowder-packed wound.

Once the smoke and foot debris had cleared, the carriage continued its journey. Rodney had used the remainder of the long johns to wrap his battered appendage, while shrewdly refraining from dousing it with any medicinal blend containing explosive properties.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Hardass Has Hisself a Sex Scene

I'm sure that most of you time-wasters have read at least one crime novel. Either one of the more lawyerly types from Grisham or one of the "gruff man finds the killers, punches them, and has sex with some ladies" type. Go on. Admit it.

Well, what bugs me is that the story will be going along great. Almost believable, even. And then all of a sudden (it seems sudden to me, anyway) the hero will find himself partially or fully naked and in the (arms, bed, backseat, corner office) of some woman. They will of course exchange witty banter, with the woman chipping away at our hero's stony facade, while he smiles ruefully over his glass of gin and sodies.

Then they will have sex. This is the way some characters greet each other in these books. Total time in one another's presence? Forty-five minutes.

Disclaimer: I use some cuss-words in this post. Please tell the children to keep the hell away. Thanks!

The Hardass Has Hisself a Sex Scene

“My stars! You look positively ravishing!” The Hardass said in a lilting soprano. Chastity Prostrate stepped back from her doorway to admit him to her apartment.

“That’s a new side of you,” she giggled.

“I’m hilarious,” The Hardass admitted, reverting to his normal voice, which was like a gravel driveway in December. “It’s a thing I do.”

Placing a large hand on Chastity’s shoulder, he pushed her roughly aside as he moved into the foyer. There was a nearly audible whoosh as the displaced air exited the door, and then he slammed it hard enough to break the glass in the peephole.

“I brought you flowers,” The Hardass rasped, a grin spreading across his craggy features. “But I ate them on the way over. Thorns and all.”

“It’s okay darling,” Chastity said. “You want a drink?”

“Damn yes, I do.”

“What’ll you have?”

“Gasoline on the rocks,” he graveled.

“Oh, you!” Chastity simpered, and squeezed a buttock at him through her negligee as she turned. The gown was a silk so sheer as to completely sidestep any processing by the imagination. This suited The Hardass just fine. Imagination was for children and marketing people. His imagination was vestigial, and he only used it when he needed to punch somebody creatively.

“Damn yes!” The Hardass roared quietly. He swore because it complimented his six-foot-seven, two-hundred-eighty pound frame and slab-like gorilla arms. He took off his necktie and punched a hole in the wall next to the sofa.

Chastity’s voice, drifting on gin-scented air from the kitchen: “I suppose you realize that this little, uh, meeting of ours has to stay on the down-low. We really can’t have the Chief finding out, can we?” A giggle, followed by shattering glass.

The Hardass considered this, his mind’s granite cogs grinding manfully away.

“Look. Mike knows me. He knows as well as I do I ain’t about to let down the force on accounta some broad and her feminine whatsits. God, where’s that drink?” He tore one of Chastity’s decorative pillows in two pieces and stuffed one into his mouth.

“I know, I know, but I just can’t help but think of it like some kind of mystery story! The sexy young lady lawyer and the gruff, lone-wolf homicide detective thrown together by fate, you know?”

The Hardass swallowed. “Fate? Fate my chrome-molybdenum ass! You couldn’t stand the sight of me at first, Chastity.”

“At first,” she said, padding softly back into the den. “But then I realized that there must be something more beneath that ego of yours.”

“Yep. Dumptrucks full of ass-kickery, that’s what. Gimme that,” he said, snatching a drink from the pewter tray she held. His flint-gray eyes disappeared into muscular brows as he squinted at the thick glass and its contents. “What’s this mess?”

“Gin over ice, baby,” Chastity said, seating herself on the arm of the sofa and running her fingers through The Hardass’ thick black hair. “We lawyers are good at deciphering intent.” She winked and poked him in the nipple.

“Nuclear Moses! I asked for gas over rocks, and you bring me some pansy sauce? Nice.”

“Oh, don’t be so whiny,” Chastity said, removing his belt. “Let’s play a game. I’ll be the unwilling hostage, and you can be the billionaire kidnapper with a heart of gold, okay?”

“That’s” bullsh—”

“Oh, unwilling at first,” Chastity explained. “But then you get naked.”

“That’s an improvement,” The Hardass said, and downed his drink in one gulp.

“There’ll be some hot back-and-forth between us, and in the end, I’ll see the validity of your argument,” Chastity tittered, and helped The Hardass out of his regulation wingtips.

“I like stories, so long as they have lots of pictures of motorcycles and naked things,” he grunted. “But I’m game if you are, Chas.” He sucked the last drops of gin out of his glass, then ate the glass.

“In that case, I suggest we adjourn to my bedchambers and deliberate.”

“Damn yes!” The Hardass swore. He stood, and as his jeans slid to the floor, he ripped off his sport coat and shirt, and flung the pieces onto the sofa. He tucked Chastity under one arm, and rhino-charged into her bedroom. He needed both hands to get his socks off, so he set her down next to a dark mahogany bureau, and swore as he pulled.

Chastity, with a smooth, practiced movement, shrugged like some sort of goddess, and the silk negligee fell from her shoulders and pooled around her ankles. The Hardass looked up.

“Golly,” he said.

“You like?”

He squinted at her breasts. There were two of them.


“I spent all afternoon polishing them,” she said, smiling.

“Alright. Enough playing around,” The Hardass growled. “Playing’s for elves and gnomes. Men —real men— take action.” He picked her up and performed an elegantly gentle dropkick.

“Whee!” said Chastity as she flew through the air and landed on the bed. It was a plush Queen size with puppies on the counterpane. The room was lit by four bulbs underneath a ceiling fan. The Hardass jumped up onto the bed and punched the lights out. Glass flew everywhere, and to show that he could be tender as all hell, he helped Chastity brush it off her bed.

In the darkness, The Hardass explored her contours. He couldn’t read the map without his flashlight, but trivialities barely registered on his hairy radar. The dancing beam illuminated the room in sweeping light-saber fans as he thrashed about.

Five hours later, sated, sweaty and hungry, The Hardass coiled his climbing rope and put it and his ice pick and rock hammer into his pack. He had planned to stay and bite small pieces out of Chastity’s ears as she slept, but he had man’s work to do out on the streets. Catching murderers, wresting information out of crime bosses. He kicked his way through the wall next to the door, and went into his woman’s kitchen, where he ate a bag of coffee beans, washing them down with boiling water.

“Thanks for last night,” Chastity said sleepily from the bedroom.

“Damn yes,” said The Hardass, and allowed a smile to tenuously chisel his crags.

Okay, I'll be the first to admit that I haven't read a lot of crime noir, or crime rouge or any color of crime novel. But if I had a choice, I'd rather the sex scenes be intentionally funny.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

If You Think About It...

So there I am, in the shower. This is weird enough already, but what sets this apart from other showers is that I was thinking at the same time, and not just about what parts of my awesome body I'd already washed. I have a small dry-erase board to keep track of that.

No, what I was thinking about was thinking itself. You know how if you say a word, any word, over and over again, either out loud or in your head, it starts to sound kind of strange? Take one of our language's most popular words: pouch. Say the word about twenty times, and by the time you're done, the word will sound almost foreign. Isn't that weird?

I put a check mark next to "hair" and re-capped the marker.

The same thing is true of everyday occurrences as well. Take cat ownership for example. On the surface, it sounds pretty normal. A friend of mine approaches me and tells me that they have a cat. The only thing that seems out of the ordinary about this statement is that they're delivering it to me while I'm in the shower. So let's rinse the soap out of our eyes, and examine this statement...

You, a being of the human type, have willfully decided to share your domicile with a little furry animal that makes funny noises at you if you touch it. Babies do the same thing, but babies don't have whiskers and fangs. Normal babies don't. Anne Geddes might disagree because she's crazy.

This "cat," as you call it, is descended from such obviously wild animals as lions, tigers and perhaps those goofy stringy fellas called meerkats. I begin lathering my pits and resolve to look into this further. You talk to this animal. You give it beef. You pet it, and it bites you if you pet it too much, or in an area it has decided is off-limits. You allow it to poop in a box of grit you keep in your closet. You are happy to discover it lying on your pillow, and are upset when you accidentally step on it. You apologize to it, and give it some guilt-beef.

Isn't that strange? This oddly symbiotic relationship you have consciously fostered with another animal that has absolutely no conception of what your laptop computer is, and is yet extremely interested in it? In fact, you will even go so far as to leave the computer on if this furry little interloper seems to enjoy the heat.

I carefully rinse out my belly button and put a check mark on the whiteboard.

Replace "cat" with "squirrel" and the entire description above makes less sense. Still plausible, yes, but more people would look at you funny if you told them while they handed you your change over the Starbucks counter.

Replace "cat" with "girlfriend" and all of a sudden you're eligible for incarceration.

The next time you look at your cat, stare at it for awhile. Not too long, though, because this will make it nervous. The same is probably true of your girlfriend, with the difference being that she is capable of writing to the authorities about it, but this isn't the point. The point is that I have finished washing my elbows, and am dismayed to find that they do not have a listing on my board. "Arms," yes, but not specifically elbows...

Come to think of it, simply standing in a big, rectangular, open-topped enclosure under a stream of water heated by the combustion of ancient dinosaur farts in a big tank in your basement, naked, and rubbing your body with fragrant goo that makes bubbles when combined with water until you decide that you have changed your skin's surface and your overall odor enough to justify your halting the water's flow by twisting a knob that sticks out of the wall and humming to yourself until you're dry (or however you do it) before re-clothing yourself is pretty strange all by itself.