January 2016 Archives

endangered pander

This morning I was going to rant about how Hollywood is awkwardly wedging China into aspiring blockbusters. In The Martian, for instance, the hapless Americans, capable of setting up a huge Mars base, are mysteriously incapable of launching food into Earth orbit without gracious Chinese help. In Gravity, an astronaut saves her own life only by lily-padding to the nonexistent Chinese space station.

And so I was going to satirize this with my own awkward infusion of noble China into today's post. I was going to title it "Pander Express." But I needed a third example, so I googled "movies chinese pandering."

Sigh. Colbert did this exact bit three months ago. His writers even thought of a sweet and sour joke. Jerks.

runaway ralph

I was driving home from a movie theatre last night when I noticed a leaf caught on my windshield wiper. No, wait. That's behaving weirdly for a leaf. Did it just...amble to its right?

The mouse and I gazed into one another's eyes. He was bemused by the 35 mph winds. I was amused that he was walking along my windshield wiper.


The wiper shot the mouse to my left, and he whipped around the corner of the car, where he grabbed hold of the mouse-sized gap in the driver's door window. He clung on, sticking his head into the car and glaring at me. Amusement: canceled.

We gazed into one another's eyes again, one of us enraged, the other terrified. I'll let you sort out who was whom.

hateful eight

The kids coined a useful new term to describe someone who is conspicuously trying to seem edgy, to shock. It was impossible to watch Hateful Eight without thinking that Tarantino has gone full-on edgelord.

I say this as a fan: it is puerile without counterpoint. Or any kind of point. It was three hours of "meh" punctuated by the occasional "Jesus H., Quentin." As a rule, if I'm thinking about the filmmaker during his film, both have failed.


Clemson alum Terrell was in town, so I suggested that we go to a Clemson bar to watch her alma mater play in the championship game.

She said she'd be late, so I got there early and snagged us a booth. After the place filled up, some 20 people were without a table, so I walked to the standing mass o'humanity and held up two fingers. "I've got room for two," I said.

Youth and dexterity prevailed, and soon a couple of recent graduates were seated across from me. We chatted about their journey to Seattle, and they asked if the Seattle Chill ever abates. (It doesn't.) The boyfriend left for the bathroom, leaving me seated across from his hot 22 year old girlfriend.

That's when Terrell walked in.

It takes quite the glare to make you feel guilty when you're innocent, but she unleashed exactly such a withering glare as I stammered an explanation.

sucking down

Friends and I were talking about our undergraduate degrees, and as usual under such circumstances, I could only envy theirs. They'd gone to schools focused at least partially on their educations. I did not have that luxury.

• • •

When you're poor in Ohio, you go to Ohio State. Ohio State at the time had more students in my major than my subsequent grad school had total undergraduates. I was one of 45,000 commuting students. I will remember this stat forever because of another: there were fewer than 6000 parking spaces. Even when my first class was at noon, I arrived at 6:30am so that my $600 car might gasp and knock in a space of its own.

The_Ohio_State_University_December_2013_05_(Lincoln_Tower).jpgThe scale of the place is massive. Each college has its own den of bureaucrats with which you must deal, and after you wait for hours, each office invariably sends you to the remote Lincoln Tower, the university's massive central administrative building. Abandon all hope. I was once behind a guy named Drew at the Arts & Sciences office. He was trying to drop a class. The clerk said that his records showed him as female. "Can you change that?" Drew asked. No, she grinned sadistically. He'd have to go to Lincoln Tower. "Fuck that noise," he said. "I'd rather wear a dress." Everyone but the clerk laughed. Nope. He would have to trek the mile to Lincoln Tower and get his gender reassignment surgery before she would process his drop form. Then trek back, wait in this line again, and then find out what other dance she'd make him dance. This would take a full day, guaranteed. His eyes welled, and then he unconfidently began his quest.

It took years, but I found the shortcuts in that maze. While my peers kissed their professors' butts, I befriended the lowly clerks and secretaries. They were more my people. I would chat with them about their lives. I baked them cookies. It was genuine friendliness on my part, not a crass strategy, but the advantages soon became clear. The most powerful people at Ohio State do not have fistfuls of degrees. They do not drop pretentious Latinates into your conversation, like turds in your crab bisque. No. They are the overlooked, the underpaid, the despised, the truly fucked. They became my friends. Soon I was shooting through my undergraduate years like I was fired from a rail gun. Frictionless.

• • •

I listened to my friends' college tales of with unconcealed envy and zero recognition. When I'd been struggling to find parking and drop classes, my friends had been on the crew team and reading and retaining John Irving. I was happy for them, but I stewed in envy.

"The only thing I learned at Ohio State," I said bitterly, "Was how to exploit obtuse bureaucracies."

"Uh..." said my friends.

And with that, self-awareness kicked in. I've been manipulating moronic corporate bureaucracies ever since, profiting both myself and my friends, including those present. I'm not sure why I didn't see the parallels before that moment. I suppose sometimes people need to hold a mirror up to your face.

• • •

In 2007, my Microsoft boss fucked over one of my peers. He was an average worker and human being but not deserving of his vilification, yet she angrily drove him right out of the company. I did what I do: I stayed in touch. I sent him a joke a couple times a year. A few years later, now a peon at another corporation, he contacted me about a consulting gig. And then he helped me navigate around the corporate bullshit, straight to vendor cash. This would balloon into a full-scale business that changed my life and those of several friends. Today he is gone, but I continue to feed at this trough.

And it all began with me emailing him in 2007—when he was broken, disgraced and downtrodden—that his former boss had dropped a pen and split the seam in her pants.

reunited and it feels so moot

Since summer, I've reunited with 5 people whom I had not seen for a collective 61 years. Four of those reunions were on purpose. The fifth, an accidental encounter at her sister's house, made me pray for the sweet release of death.

Either hers or mine, lord. I'm not picky.

If I were to score the encounters, I'd say I finished 1-4. I eeked out my first win just last week. For the others, I concluded that I'd been right to sever things in the first place. All I seemed to accomplish was to replace our mental images of one another with more wrinkled, fatter versions.

Lesson learned: chop more, stitch less.

• • •

Crap, I forgot the Portland reunion. So it's 7 friends I had not seen for a collective 92 years. Jesus, I'm old.

my "when would you kill" drinking game

In bars, I'll sometimes throw out this question: if you could go back in time and kill a celebrity, thereby saving them from themselves and preserving our fond memories of them, who would it be and when?

My go-to example is Michael Jackson in 1983. He was at the height of his powers and popularity, and there wasn't a lawsuit, dangling baby or grotesque surgery in sight. The weirdest thing about him was his glove. I don't know about you, but that's how I like my Michaels. Mel Gibson or Michael Richards in 1995? Also excellent choices.

It occurred to me yesterday that I need to retire this bar game, now that every possible answer is "Bill Cosby." Or maybe I just need to travel back in time and kill the game in the 80s.

欢迎, chinese readers

Some bureaucrat at the Great Firewall must have set his elbow on the wrong key, because this page suddenly has Chinese readers.

I'm banned no longer!



Here's the Wikipedia article on the Tiananmen Square massacre.

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