March 2007 Archives

higher lerning

Of my friends with kids, Katrina is the most Mother Earth. I cannot present evidence of this without inciting arguments about which I do not remotely care. Suffice it to say that it would surprise no one if she sang "Kumbaya" to Annalie every night before bed.

To Katrina, any time not spent snuggling with Annalie is utterly wasted time. It was torture, then, when I called her office yesterday to tell her that her husband, parents, daughter and I were all together at her house while she worked. I guess I'm just thoughtful that way.

Those parties gladly stuck me with kid-watching duties, and I made the most of my quality time with Annalie.

"Can you say crack-whore?"

"Co-co."

"Crack-whore."

"Cwack-co."

"Crack-whore."

"Cwack-ho."

"Good! Have some chocolate."

Katrina eventually came home, and much snuggling ensued. At dinner, I looked at the child, pointed to Katrina, and said "Crack-whore."

"Crack-whore," Annalie chimed with perfect clarity. Katrina was aghast.

"No, Annalie! Don't say tha—"

The child's eyes grew wide with realization. "MOMMY CRACK-WHORE!"

I burst into applause. Dad burst into applause...inwardly. Mommy thunked her forehead on the table with surprising weight.

The rest of the night was dominated by a game in which Annalie sang "MOM-MY CRACK-WHORE!" and I responded by clapping two and three times. (Think the "o-ver-ra-ted" basketball chant.)

Other people's kids are fun.

supreme.pngFrom esteemed Stank trolls Bob and Marta comes this train wreck from which you cannot avert your gaze.

For the first 1:45, it's merely awkwardly botched jokes.

Then the beat, and the real pain, start.


friends unimaginary

There was a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon that meant little to me when I last saw it, in my 20s, but that really resonates with me now.

Calvin's parents are talking about their son. Dad expresses concern about the boy's obsession with his toy tiger.

"Didn't you ever have imaginary friends?" Mom asks.

Dad sighs. "Sometimes, I think all my friends are imaginary."

I'm not quite at that point yet, but as old friends fade away and get replaced by whatever's handy, I'm getting there. I was trying to explain the phenomenon to Dorkass recently. Instead of my normal practice of using hand puppets to explain a situation to her, I employed an illustration.

"Let's put it this way. There are several people out there who I intensely dislike who consider me a very close friend."

"I'm sorry!" replied Dorkass, thinking this was yet another you-had-a-baby-and-dropped-me-just-like-you-dropped-her lecture. It actually wasn't. It was about me, not her. But I took the apology, 'cause Supreme Court vacancies are easier to land than Dorkass apologies.

In fact, parents, you all should all follow suit. Pony up the repentance. How thoughtless of you, really, to procreate. Did you think of me not at all?

• • •

Allie, discussing people's negative reactions when she announced she was pregnant with Lily: "You tell them you're pregnant, and their first reaction is 'You're never going to be able to do the things you love again.' It's really odd. Like they can't wait to crap on your happiness by saying they feel sorry for you."

"What was my reaction?"

"Oh, you were fine. You just felt sorry for yourself."

things i will never get

Most of life baffles me; it's true. But I find the following things especially confounding this week.

Mechanics and car seats. What is it, exactly, about driving my car the 20 feet from the garage to a parking space that requires him to adjust the seat?

Japan not surrendering immediately. Three days passed between Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Three days to sort through the rubble and count the bodies. They didn't know Nagasaki was next. It could have been Tokyo or wherever Hirohito was. Was there no sense of self-preservation? What the hell else does one have to do to get an "Uncle?"

Grits. Overcooked candle wax, only blander. And less nutritious.

Restraint with bigots. This is dedicated to Serena Williams, who yesterday during a match was taunted with vicious racist vitriol from a spectator. She calmly asked the judge to do something about him, then crushed Sharapova 6-1, 6-1. I cannot fathom such calm and grace. If I'd been her, the man would have a permanent waffle imprint on his larynx today. And I'd be in jail instead of the quarterfinals.

The anti-abortion demographic. I actually have no logical quibble with the anti-abortion argument. If you think the fetus is a human life, then you can't be faulted for defending it. A perfectly valid point of view. No, what confounds me is that I can't name one secular pro-lifer. Although the above argument is not religious, its proponents universally are. Bizarre.

Obnoxious fans. I'm not talking about people who root for their team loudly. I'm talking about people who think the price of their ticket entitles them to ruin the good time of people who also paid for their tickets. "It's the Super Bowl! I paid $3000 for this seat!" said one such moron when the elderly gentleman behind him asked him not to leap up during plays in progress. "It'd be a shame for it to go to waste, then," I replied.

Diamonds. Even animals are fascinated by shiny things. I get this. And diamonds are pretty. But talk about having no intrinsic value. If you set thousands of one-dollar bills on fire, at least you'd get heat. Ever try to sell a diamond ring? The same dealer who appraises your ring at $10,000 will offer you $350 for it. Those figures aren't made up, either. That would be my mom's ring.

The big mortgage lie. For years, I was told I was stupid for renting a house and thereby passing up on the fantastic tax savings a mortgage provides. Uh huh. These people annually set aflame $15,000 on interest in order to "save" $2000 on taxes, and everyone else is stupid. This reminds me of my mom buying items she didn't want in order to use coupons. "But I saved twenty cents!"

mailbag: jesus checks in

"No one wants to read all your tiresome Jesus-bashing," says a dully representative piece of reader mail from fundy types. He then proceeds to tell me what everyone does want to read.

Is there a more fascinating psychological phenomenon than the capacity of the religious weird to take enormous (and self-serving) leaps of causality? It's their superpower. If you don't want their religion taught in your kid's science class, you're intolerant. If you're uneasy about the war, you hate freedom or the troops. If you have nothing in particular against gay marriage, you want to destroy the family. And if you mock the attention-whoring excesses of fringe religious types, you're bashing Jesus.

Stop confusing yourselves with Jesus, please. He'll doubtless thank you for it. If you read carefully, or if you have a friend with two ganglia rubbing together who can read carefully to you, you'll see that I've never, in fact, bashed Jesus. Just you. And despite how loudly and misspelled you assert the contrary, there's a gaping chasm of difference between these two parties.

For that matter, you're hardly "everyone," either. On Jesus' and everyone's behalf, I ask you to kindly stop the impersonations. Don't make us get a restraining order.

• • •

Syrupy Stank troll Karen send in this comedic take on the Bible and religion. It's an odd combination of mocking and affectionate, and God looks and sounds disturbingly like George Lucas. The part where "Dad" hands Jesus a drawing of a crucifixion, and Jesus' stunned expression, was priceless.

the week in pranks

Part I

Action: I sabotaged my friend's computer at work, rewiring cables in interesting ways and hiding crucial parts.

Intention: To cause about 20 minutes of irritation, culminating with the statement "John is such a dick."

Result: My friend was trying to work remotely and, unable to access his office computer, had to commute to Redmond from afar to troubleshoot the situation. Much worse words than "dick" were uttered. Still are.

Part II

Action: I laid an email guilt-trip on a friend who had a high fever. Replying to a fabricated email in which pretend-she reassures me that she is in fact alive, I sarcastically say "Why thank you for letting me know. That was very thoughtful of you."

Intention: She gets the joke, snorts that she has better things to do than send me status, calls me a dick.

Result: Still home sick, she thinks someone at work hacked into her account and sent me email, posing as her. She goes into the office and angrily accuses a very confused co-worker.


Yes, kids, in 24 hours' time, I made two people go in to work unnecessarily. I'm going straight to hell, aren't I?

Victim #1, told to name his restitution, chose cruelly. "You're coming to my house and making pizzas. For my kids and their shrieking friends. And they get to sit on your lap while they eat. And you don't get any pizza."

dungy and dumber

All around nice-guy Tony Dungy celebrated his second month as the First Black Coach to Win the Super Bowl by throwing his newfound fame behind the worthiest of all possible causes: denying rights to a minority.

Read that paragraph repeatedly until your face has pruned from disgust.

Specifically, he raised money for an anti-gay group and endorsed a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. I'll skip past whatever form of mental retardation allows this descendant of slaves to, without a whiff of historical irony, advocate institutional discrimination. Something else is on my mind.

"We're trying to promote the family—family values the Lord's way," explained the man whose disconsolate young son took his own life last year.

What we have here is a congenital irony defect. May I suggest that the energies Dungy devotes to imposing his version of "family values" on strangers are perhaps better devoted to making his own family feel valued? When your own kids are killing themselves, should you really be devoting your spare time to regulating everyone else's family?

weekend whining

I detest "what I did yesterday" posts, but I figure if I whine, it'll still fit the theme of this page. So.

I spent Saturday helping my boss, Flo, shop for hot tubs, which was surprisingly like work.

John, why a? WHAT?
Find out b. FUCK. WHAT?
If z, I'm going to x your y-ing w.

Saturday night I went to a local, small-town St. Patrick's Day party, where the conversations went like exactly this:

"I restore classic cars."

"I patina metals for the Guggenheim."

"I build custom surfboards."

"I write technical documentation for software products you've never heard of."
Just call me The Cooler.

Sunday morning, Minette and I headed out on the 24-hour-cold trail of orcas and gray whales. Someone else spotted the orcas many miles south of us, but the grays were there, in all their spectacular unspectacularity. I got a few not-so-noteworthy shots of their backs, so I'll post "cute" instead. We caught this massive California sea lion in the act of leaping on to a buoy. This was his second, successful attempt.

sea lion leap.jpg

Perhaps proud, perhaps sensing a kindred spirit in Minette, he got his nose so high in the air it was practically up his own ass.

sea lion bend.jpg

I was like a stalking paparazzo. "Hey seal! Seal! Look this way!"

harborseal.jpg

oj and chris rock

Chris Rock was on "Inside the Actors Studio" the other night. I'm pleased to report that excruciatingly white host James Lipton did not this time refer to himself as a honky or otherwise attempt what he thinks is street vernacular. In fact, it was a good interview.

Example: Lipton asked Rock to explain the sociology behind blacks but not whites using the n-word. Rock's incredulous reply: "Now I've got this job?!"

But the highlight was a revelation about an episode of the old Chris Rock Show on HBO. Eight years before the OJ book, Rock presaged it to a startlingly accurate degree. There's truth in comedy, indeed.

ojvideo.JPG

experiment

It's always amazed me how the same post can offend seemingly opposing groups. Why, it's almost like people troll the Internet for offense, viewing words through the prism of their own biases!

So I decided to do an experiment.

In my post two days ago, I took care not to mention Kobe's legal troubles or the fact that the league seems to be targeting him alone. I stated no thesis. I didn't say the league was targeting the guy because he elbowed white players. Nor did I say Kobe was racist for elbowing 'em. Yet somehow, readers saw both arguments. They eviscerated Kobe, the NBA, me, all for the hobgoblins of their own imaginations.

Fascinating.

mailbag

One of my favorite things about hosting this site is receiving interesting links from interesting folks. I suppose it stands to reason that Stank readers would be discriminating readers, indeed.

Speaking of people who are intellectually ill-equipped for self-assessment, I defy you to read about this study of incompetence without thinking of specific co-workers. Courtesy born-a-once Stank troll Aspeth.

From Stank troll Larry comes this bit of, ah, candid feedback on technical documentation, especially interesting to people in my profession. I'm mulling over how fired I would be if I showed this to my writing students.

And this awkward bit of Michigan humor comes from head-sucking Stank troll Amit. (Crawdads are practically insects, you know.)

• • •

Which reminds me, on this day, the beginning of March Madness, I must acknowledge the single greatest moment in tournament history. Bless you, Chris Webber, wherever you are, for providing what's still the hardest laugh of my entire life.

kobe beef

A funny thing happened while I was listening to Phil Jackson defend Kobe Bryant. They showed clips of Bryant throwing his elbows into three different faces, acts for which he was suspended. They looked flagrant enough to me, but they could have just as easily been no-calls. What really caught my eye, though, was that it was three white guys' faces. If I remember probability theory correctly, the odds of that happening are 82-1. Same odds as getting Ace-King before the flop in a single hold'em hand. Or of Cleveland winning Super Bowl XLII.

Fascinating.

and this, dorkass, is why i hung up on you

This fire erupted while I listened to positively pulse-pounding tales of Dorkass winning a slot machine tournament. ("What, was there no more room in the coin-flipping tournament?" I asked.) To give you a sense of scale: each of the white lights on the shore is a different house. It darted from one home to another. After a half hour, the neighborhood was nothing but smoldering coals.

13Mar07whidbey_sm.jpg

Yesterday I briefly attended a peninsula film festival, watching three local documentaries. Imagine seeing a cinematic version of letters to the editor, and you've got a good handle on how self-absorbed and ill-executed the films were. The ode to bicycling made me want to open my door into a few self-promoting cyclists, and in a rhetorical miracle, the expose on overzealous development made me want to tongue-kiss a developer. To say the latter film was over the top is to understate the altitude it achieved. We're talking low orbit, here.

In fact, it was that film's maudlin excesses that compel me to write this morning, just so I can craft the description "Weeping hippies screaming at Mickey Rooney to the haunting strains of the Benedictine Monks."

No exaggeration.

superman too

I have a new Sexiest Thing I've Ever Seen in a Movie. Specifically, the movie Superman II.

The morning after he and Lois got busy, Superman and his father are arguing in the Fortress of Solitude. Lois is watching from afar. She's wearing white knee socks and the blue shirt of Superman's costume.

You can't even imagine how hot.

Don't remember this scene? That's because it wasn't in the movie. It was filmed by S2's original director, Richard Donner, who'd made S1. After a feud with the producers, he was fired after having shot most of the second movie. They hired another director, who cut a ton of Donner's footage and added the Eiffel Tower scene and travesties like the villains zapping Mt. Rushmore and the stupid amnesia kiss. The producers also cut all of Marlon Brando's footage in order to avoid paying him.

I expected it to amount to a couple restored scenes, but the "Richard Donner cut" of Superman II is film school in a box. You get to see something close to his version, and it's a substantially different movie than what was released. It's more serious. It's more affecting. It's smarter. Brando turns in a surprisingly warm performance, and the film continues the arc of the father/son relationship from the first movie. If you rent the DVD, be sure to listen to the commentary, where Donner and his writer expertly, often bitterly, contrast their movie with the released version. Their pain is obvious. I've never seen anything quite like this DVD.

Best surprise: certain that Clark is Superman, Lois pulls out a gun and shoots him. How come no one ever thought of that before?

Best moment: Brando glaring at Lois silently, accusingly. I've seen that look, myself.

long days

I've been knockin' out some long work-days this week. When that happens, I don't leave the house, and when I don't leave the house, I don't encounter daft people about whom I can write. Thank goodness for distinguished Stank troll Tamara, who sends some imported daftness my way in the form of a much-grieved fetal chicken.

let the love flow

The mail mechanism is fixed, now. Idiot that I am, I brokeded it when backing up the site. Ironic.

good wiki, bad wiki

Wikipedia allows everyone to contribute to its encyclopedia's articles, and that allows us to arrive at Truth—or if not Truth, some sort of triangulated approximation of it. Anyone in the world may edit its entries.

Clearly, Wikipedia has a liberal bias.

Fortunately, some enterprising right-doers have created a new wiki repository for Truth. You can tell it's unbiased because they call it "Conservapedia." And you can tell it's conservative because they don't mention supply-side economist Jude Wanniski or Congressmen J.C. Watts or Orrin Hatch.

As the site points out, Wikipedia is guilty of liberal bias on 29 documented occasions. For example:

  • The entry for the Renaissance in Wikipedia refuses to give enough credit to Christianity.
  • Wikipedia often uses foreign spelling of words
  • Wikipedia removed and permanently blocked a page identifying its many biases
  • Wikipedia's errors spill undetected into newspapers
And the crux of the matter:
  • For example, even though most Americans reject the theory of evolution, Wikipedia editors commenting on the topic are nearly 100% pro-evolution. Edits to include facts against the theory of evolution are almost immediately censored.
Conservapedia's claim of "facts against" evolution includes a citation, and if you follow it, the citation leads straight to damning evidence: Conservapedia's own evolution article.

It's about time.

In fact, if you search for "evolution" on Conservapedia, you're immediately redirected to the "Theory of Evolution" article. A search for "intelligent design," on the other hand, leads straight to the article "Intelligent Design."

The "affirmative action" article is an unbiased masterpiece, dispensing with meely-mouthed critical thought and getting straight to what needs to be said. Its first sentence:

Affirmative action is an area in which government policy is contradictory.

Smiting bias at every turn, Conservapedia tells us that Islam has origins in Paganism, that "significant studies" show that homosexuals aren't born that way, and that the Spanish Inquisition was a method of torture. And finally, someone got the Crusades right. The fourth Crusade was tragic because it "never reached the Holy Land and ended with the crusaders' sacking Constantinople—a Christian city."

"It seems that the Christian armies lost sight of our goals to bring and spread love and Christianity along the way, " the unbiased author continues. "The Crusades went against our Christian teachings."

who would jesus shitcan?

Reluctant Stank troll Katrina sends in this gem.

You have to love when a pastor "guarantees" who Jesus would want fired. Because that Jesus guy, he hated on gender-switching public officials from way back.

so very, very gay

From distinguished Stank troll Jean comes this ludicrously timely story about a young girl punished by her school for using "gay" the way I described.

What's striking to me about this tale isn't that "that's so gay" is considered offensive—isn't that fairly obvious, in the end?—it's the context here. The girl is Mormon. (Yes, them again. It's Theme Week.) And "that's so gay" was her response to her classmates' ridicule of her religion. I'm not defending the girl's choice of weapons, but I think you have got to call this self-defense. Where's that part of this story? What punishment was handed down to her tormentors? What's the difference between slandering someone's sexual orientation and slandering their religion, except for the fashion of the day?

the stupidest kid on the face of the earth

Before I turned 10, back when my family still bore a resemblance to a real one, we all lived under one roof. Although we lived 20 feet from our neighbors on either side, we claimed to live in the country, as there were woods and cow pastures just across the street. This is where I learned to detest cows, but that's another anecdote.

I don't know that my brother and I were any more accident-prone than other boys, but our location in the country kept things interesting. Remember when you were ducking under the electric wire and it snagged inside your lips, applying its jolt to your gums, and you woke up looking at your concerned friends, one of whom was nudging your face with his foot just in case you were still electrified? Remember that? No?

Russ emphasized the blood-spurting spectacular, but I preferred head trauma. Things like jumping off the playhouse deck just to see if it were possible. Things like tripping while sprinting into the house, cracking my forehead on the cement threshold. Things like watching Evil Knievel on tv, then building a rickety ramp out of mason blocks and 2x4s—none of which was actually attached to one another, mind you—and then assaulting this debris pile at 30 mph in a bike that weighed 80 pounds. And things like hanging curtains by stepping on the back of the easy chair, causing it to violently rock into the picture window and catapult me through the glass and into the back yard.

Lying there amongst the shards of broken glass, I knew what was coming next. My mother's unconditional love always manifested through the same sentence.

"Jesus H. Christ. You are the stupidest kid on the face of the earth."

"I'm fine, thanks." I was troubled by what she had just said, though, and by what she had said previously. "So how can Russ and I both be the stupidest? You pretty much have to pick one, don't you?"

"No. You alternate. It's a competition."

It was, actually. We kept track of our stitch-counts. Russ, a decade older, led by triple-digits, but I was gaining and gaining fast. At least until a suspicious band-saw mishap put his mark forever out of reach.

How competitive was it? One time, my mom and I were driving home from the emergency room and she was verbally lopping points off my intelligence while I carefully counted stitches for Guinness. Suddenly, we passed my father and brother on their way to the emergency room. Russ gave me the finger, which was more or less still attached to his hand. Mostly less.

All hail the master. It was like when Karl Malone would approach the scoring title and Jordan would torch someone for 65, just to put the title out of reach. You simply don't outscore Jordan, and you don't outbleed Russ. I might have been the stupidest kid on the face of the earth in spurts, but he held the belt. He was Ali to my Leon Spinks.

Wouldn't life be grand if such seasoning in childhood made for tough adults? If Russ and I hadn't grown up into self-pitying pussies who whine unabashedly every time we get a hangnail or the flu? Alas, we're left with nothing but wistful stories of yesteryear's toughness.

Like this one time...

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