Two Fer Tuesday...A day late

Two Fer Tuesday...A day late

There are some days when detail just ain't happening. On such dates the dreaded "random thoughts and observations" blog entry rears its ugly head. Here goes.

Conference Room Carnival

It's usually foolhardy to blog about one's boss, but whatever. This one is pretty innocuous.

At my company, a small intimate affair with a lake view and an air of chumminess, a good lunch is one eaten in the conference room in monastic silence. This ideal state is rarely achieved because my boss is fond of talking, whether anyone listening or not. Papers can be held in front of each of our faces in an effort to relax, read, and digest our food, but still he desperately tries to engage us in whatever only he happens to be interested in. I am conspicuously not fond of listening because when I do I lose my patience with the idiocy of the conversation and engage my boss in less than civilized debate. You'll understand why.

Today wasn't going well for Boss. No one was taking the bait. I don't know what strategies they were employing. I was too busy to notice - my head down over one of the hundreds of Sudoku puzzles I keep around for just such occasions when I need to ignore the man who signs my checks. But in a brilliant oratory gambit my boss finally said something that made each of us at least cock our heads, if not actually make eye contact.

"Hey," he exclaimed "'Mardi Gras' means 'Fat Tuesday'. I didn't know that. Did you know that?"


Incidentally, other misfired conversation starters have included, "Don't you think we could get the terrorists could stop if a asteroid hit Mecca? They'd take it as a sign." and "Phil Simms isn't still playing? No way!"

Roadmap to Peace 4: Roadmap in Space!

Take note future business leaders. You might have what it takes to be a CEO.

The Theoretical Limit to Nostalgia

This gets lumped into the observation category of blog filler. I was in Target this weekend and was somewhat bewildered to see that ALF is on DVD. For the sake of disclosure, I will say that I liked ALF when it was on. My father taped it for me and I'd watch it when I went to his house once a week. I was young and there was something familiar about the dumpy, hairy, hook-nosed, bitter, sarcastic creature with a taste for strange foods. Hmmm. Wonder what that could have been about?

ALF-related humor has really never lost its appeal.

What I want to know is simple: are there any boundaries to the events, programming, and fashion that we are willing to reconsume in the name of nostalgia? My guess is, probably not. Apparently, TVLand has been airing "ALF's Hit Talk Show" for a couple of years now, starring Melmac's own Gordon Schumway. IMDB does not, however, list a movie in the works. Too bad.

Now if NBC would only release the only seaon of "The Misfits of Science," starring an adorable 21-year old Courteney Cox, then all other nostalgia would be forgiven.


Lyssavirus Rabies virus Brings the Funny

Lyssavirus Rabies virus Brings the Funny

Actorly, we are not. But The Flying Buttresses do have a superstition or two. Most prominent of these is that we are wary of good rehearsals right before shows. This especially goes for the long form we do in said final rehearsal. Call it a desire to purge all of our sucky ideas or simply a more primal belief that being funny would compromise our improv virility in some way. Or just call it some dumbass thing that we do that has no relation to/impact on reality (just like a blog, for example). Those are all equally catchy names for it. The important thing is that this Thursday's rehearsal was thoroughly suckass. Honestly, we went all out to make it the nadir of good taste and entertainment. In sum, the long-form we did opened with one Buttress coming down with a raging case of genital rabies. A respectable show was a lock from there.

How did the gift of Rabies get into our rehearsal?

I rarely remember much about shows. Well, that's not totally true. I remember stuff that I screwed up and brilliant ideas (and they are invariably "brilliant") that I should have used, but only thought of after I left the stage. I think it may have been a decent performance though. This isn't so much remembering anything about the show as it is my own happy funtime brand of revisionist history. Still, it seems we are the cream of the 2 p.m.-on-a-Sunday- afternoon improv crop. Sure, being the kings of the theatrical Early Bird Specials comes with responsibility, but we wear it well.

Most importantly, we seemed to do well by our new venue, the Beat Kitchen. Some people's suggestion that we ask management to rename it the "Butt Kitchen" may be a bit premature. Three dozen fans don't merit us getting naming rights. Plus there is some concern that such a change may serve only to confuse gay tourists. In any case, thanks to everyone who came out to support us. A special thanks to those who came early enough to get a buzz going to make the improv go down (and the laughter come up) that much smoother. And a rabies pox on the houses of those who stayed home to watch the Closing Ceremonies.




I miss letter writing.
When e-mail began I was a devoted letter writer. I resisted the technology though I always said that I would eventually relent to e-mail. I was mourning the letter even before it was dead. In the last year, I have written exactly one letter. It was on the hottest day of the year - I think it hit 103 at the airport with a generous helping of humidity - and I had barricaded myself in my bedroom with the AC and Arrested Development DVDs. I didn't even have paper to write on. I had to use a printout from an EEG I had a few years ago.

Write a letter. Do it for Mr. ZIP.


The Ancient Art of Boggalah

The Ancient Art of Boggalah

Here's your Monday Morning Time Sink. See what words and meanings you can divine from this Boggle arrangement. The idea for this special Presidents' Day edition of Monday Morning Time Sink was pretty much stolen wholesale from Gwendolyn at Bluestockingism. That's Bluestockingism: Where Boobalicious Mr. T T-Shirts Make Reading Come Alive.

Scroll down for some of the words we happened to find.





Death Cab from Ali: Update

It was reported earlier this month that evandebacle was coming into the possession of Ali's car. They (evandebacle and Car) were to hang out for about two months, see the sights, and then go their separate ways. The catch was that Car had to keep from meeting the fate of previous Ali loaners, which, for lack of a better, analogy, seem to be the Spinal Tap drummers of the graduate student vehicle world. Now alarming news comes from evandebacle's unconscious mind which may hinder this well-laid plan.

evandebacle dreamt last night that the car met a mysterious fate. He spent the day with his father at a baseball game. It's assumed that it was the NY Mets. They were never at the game in the dream, but it was implied. Afterwards they got a bite to eat on the streets around the stadium. The streets resembled Florence more than Flushing, but evandebacle has not been there for some time and evandebacle hears that social engineering has come a long way since he was young. They're doing wonderful things with gentrification technology these days. In any case, when they got back to the father's house (his old house actually) there was a car in the driveway that looked like Ali's, had clearly been in an accident (side-swiped, which would prove to make no sense), but her car was gone.

Being the crime scene investigators that they are, father and son brilliantly used dream logic to deduce that there had been a horrible accident between this car and Ali's and that the town, to clean up the carnage and return the surburb to its quiet igornance that such things can take place under their noses, had disappeared Ali's car. Why take Ali's car and leave the other one in the driveway? Well, which is more frightful to a blissful suburbanite? A car that shows normal side-impact damage or a car that inexplicably was parked in a driveway one minute and then managed to cause side-impact damage to another car out in the street the next? Ali's car was abducted.

When evandebacle told Ali of this, she simply said he was becoming Bolivian (she's in Bolivia and Bolivians are quite fond of dreaming of things before they happen). Still, he's hoping she brings him back a pet alpaca to seal the transformation.


For Amy: Love: Stupid and Sucky or Totally Kickass?

For Amy: Love: Stupid and Sucky or Totally Kickass?

I've decided to pander to the season and write a bit about love. My friend Amy is going to be married in May and so this entry is dedicated to, and directed toward, her.I'm to be a groomsman at Amy's wedding and there is some concern that I may offer a toast, the gist of which will focus not on traditional sentiments:

"I wish nothing but happiness on this beautiful couple as they start a family together. May the Good Lord bless your home and hearth and unborn children."

Or have a personal touch:

"I may not say it often...or ever, but it does even my icy, cynical heart good to see two people so meant for each other and so in love"

Or even go with the less sappy, but equally a propos

"Dudes, this punk rock wedding kicked total ass. RAWK!"

No, Amy has the kooky idea in her head that my toast will go something like:

"Love is stupid and it sucks."

An Early Prototype of the Future Mr. Amy

One might say that Amy's discomfort with my speaking on such a joyous occasion of which she is the focus (sorry Future Mr. Amy, but she would have corrected me if I said she was but one of multiple foci) is not entirely unfounded. The most oft cited evidence comes from the time when I heard that she was going to run the Chicago Marathon for charity. I may have said something to the effect of, "That's the stupidest thing I ever heard." To clarify, I am pro-charity, but anti-marathon. Honestly, did Pheidippides really die after his run from Marathon to Athens just so LaSalle Bank could get some PR?In any case, Amy came around and agreed that while running a marathon, especially for charity, may not be entirely stupid, it wasn't a stroke of genius either. So, in return, I'd like to clear up my position on love a bit.

Finding love can make us boring and that's stupid

This comment is a direct result of my experience with online dating and how profiles make us less unique and therefore less desirable. Inevitably, this dating is going to be exhausting, frustrating, and often disingenuous. To paraphrase Chris Rock, when you're dating you're not meeting the person; you're meeting their representative. As an aside, my reps aren't getting it done and maybe I need a better PR approach. Anyone who has ever heard my Judaica-themed pick-up lines knows this to be true.*

I actually don’t mind the online dating experience. Most of the women I’ve met have been quite nice. A number even bore vague resemblances to their photos. And I’ve even become friends with a few of them. The ones who were kinda crazy, well, they made for good stories. And honestly, I feel like I’ve really touched and changed some of their lives. Specifically, I’ve changed the lives of those two or three who, after dating me once or twice, immediately realized their love for their ex-boyfriends. Perhaps I am simply the Jimmy Carter of dating – a poor Dater-in-Chief, but great at bringing people together and making it work.

But back to online dating and love stupidity.

For me, it really boils down to why everyone feels compelled to tell the world that Secretary is the sexiest movie ever. Well, if I have to wear a James Spader mask and spank your ass because of misspellings just to find love, then so be it. But I really think you’re dumbing yourself down just to fit in a profile.

Love, and the pursuit thereof, makes people into stupid consumers

Actually, stuff like this can be kinda cool or hideous. Either way spending hard-earned money on it is pretty stupid.

Nothing romantically mixes love and disease like V-Day vermin

Oh Amber & Kyle, I do so envy the mutual affinity you have

This love-inspired commercial is stupid

Chicago Public Radio is currently running the dumbest fundraising commercial in the history of the world. Girl meets Boy. Girl loves NPR. Boy, not so much. Girl tries to get Boy involved with Girl's interests by buying Boy membership. Boy resists this blatant attempt to change his listening habits and therefore the very essence of his existence. Girl says, "If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with Carl Kasell." Boy kicked to curb. This is all (allegedly) taken from a phone message left by a woman who wanted to tell her story to the world. You'll forgive me Amy, but she sucks and is stupid.

Fan the raging fires of your hot love with some Fresh Air from Terry!Grrrrrrrrrrr.

This all being said, Amy, love, in and of itself, is not stupid. It may turn people into retarded consumers or even make someone like me write a sappy ass Valentine's Day blog entry, but stupid? Nah.Post Script: If you have been touched in any way by the romanticisms, philosophizing, or sickly sweetness of this entry, I, Evandebacle, am free tonight for...stupidity. I must warn you that the sentiments laid out above are often somewhat muffled by the light touch of my idiosyncratic sarcasm. Also be warned that my "couch" (actually an unforgiving futon that was, coincidentally, once the property of the model for the Mr. Amy Prototype) is, shall we say, cuddling prohibitive. To make up for these shortcomings of setting and personality, I will make you the single greatest cup of hot chocolate ever and, perhaps, rub your shoulders while you sip.

*To give those who haven’t heard these lines some perspective, the more innocuous of them is “Hey, you know Jesus isn’t the only thing we’re good at nailing.” Enough said.


The Obligatory Cheney Entry

The Obligatory Cheney Entry

I can't really bring myself to blog about sharpshooter Dick Cheney's little mishap over the weekend. Commentary is completely extraneous. Dick shooting, I'm sorry, peppering real good, his friend in the face simply is what it is - a permanently bescowled grinch of a man trying to disfigure all normals and make himself seem warm and beautiful.

So I would like to simply quote my friend Joey who concisely stated, "Cheney pulled a Burr." I love historical duel humor.


Schmuck Finn

Schmuck Finn.

Memory is silly. Crap lodges in our brains for no apparent reason and which gives us exactly zero benefit in how we live our lives in the present. Anyone who has ever been drunk at a party and argued over details from the 80s television footnote Small Wonder can attest to this. You know who you are and you know the parties at which we've argued. With the beginning of Torino Games, as with every winter olympics, names crammed in some cortical nook tend to pop up from out of nowhere. Speedskater Uwe Mey is one. The reasonably well-known Alberto Tomba is another. But the one that pops up most vividly is Matti Nykänen, The Flying Finn who dominated ski jumping in the 1980s.

Finland's aerodynamic native son

My interest in all things Scandinavian had little to do with vikings or gravlax, but grew out of an admiration for the quick, precise finesse play of certain hockey players. This was a bittersweet obsession. As Europeans entered the NHL in greater numbers in the early and mid-1980s via
Scandinavia and the occasional Eastern Bloc defection (e.g., the Stasny brothers), the beloved brutish game of Slapshot fame began to disappear. Though, truth be told, it was gambling cuckold Wayne Gretzky who drove hockey's transition from the helmetless, bench-clearing slugfest of my early childhood to the daintier, European-style, proto-metrosexual sport that it became once the Edmonton Oilers started winning Cups. Nevertheless, I latched on to some of these European players (e.g., Anders Kallur, Tomas Jonsson, Pelle Linbergh, etc.) and tend to still do so today (e.g., the cancer-beating Lance Armstrong of hockey, Saku Koivu). And this is probably why Nykänen got lodged in my brain.

Anders Kallur: Penalty Killing Viking

So, I was thinking, "What has Matti been up to?" Is there Finnish reality television programming which has him living in a house with the Finnish Flaavii Fläv, hilariously negotiating how their respective dried up fame translates to a division of labor on the chore wheel? Or maybe he's retired to his hometown of Jyväskla and is raising a family is relative, hearthside peace and quiet.

WRONG! It wasn't enough for him to be the greatest ski jumper of all time and go into coaching or attending fan conventions wearing his four gold medals and signin autographs. Nope.

Sure it's cliché, but he had to beat his wife...well wives and be a drunk. To be fair, he did throw in being a male stripper for good measure.

Like many who rose to meteoric fame, he ended up stabbing a friend in the back. Except
he did it literally. And twice. And used a 5-inch blade. Oops. Don't worry, he's no punk-ass OJ. He served 11 months of a 26-month jail sentence.

Finally, and most egregiously, there was the siren song of pop. Perhaps it was the language barrier or simply hubris, but he couldn't look to
America and learn from the lessons of Don Johnson and Eddie Murphy. Nope. He went into the studio and laid down some tracks. Two albums actually: his 1992 debut Yllätysten Yö ("Night of Surprises") and the impressive sophomore effort one year later, Samurai.

Samurai: On eighty-four Top 10 Lists for 1993

Among his more insightful and poetic lyrics are the sexually charged, "Hai! Hai! Hai! I am your samurai!" and the starkly introspective "Vain mäkimies voi tietää sen" ("Only a ski jumper truly knows"). It must be lonely, Matti. It must be lonely.


It's all pun and games 'til someone loses their dignity.

It's all pun and games 'til someone loses their dignity.

Back when I was in graduate school, I was writing a thesis on the anthropology of humor or, as some would have it, humorology. In the process of writing (and smoking excessively and drinking much coffee), I began to dream in puns. The worst of these came to me as follows:

The scene is one typical of Medieval literature or fairy tales or, more accurately, the anarcho-syndicalist commune scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I am in a non-descript and entirely stereotypical European village with one cobbly/muddy road running through town and over a hill and off into the countryside. The village is being terrorized, as villages do, by an ogre. The ogre, who is tall, bearded, and beefy (why is that dwarves and ogres are often portrayed with the same basic body types with the only difference being volume - as opposed to proportion, clothing, hirsuteness, etc.), is literally sacking the peasants of the village. That is, he is scooping them up and placing them into a huge burlap bag, which he has flung over his shoulder with a flourish as he prepares to shanté up the path and on out of the village.

Likely copyrighted image of a village-menacing ogre

Here's where the badness comes in. I, smaller in stature than the ogre, but clearly in this dreamworld, superior in derring-do, approach the ogre from behind. I pull out a knife or medieval shiv of some sort and slice open the bottom of the sack, allowing the peasants to tumble out to safety and so that they may return to their drudgery and their Bubonic destinies. Then, with all the anachronistic movie tough guyness I can muster I face down the ogre and boast, "Well, you seem to have met with some unpeasantries."

You guys would totally think I was cool if I dreamt of this orge.

Yeah, awful. The reason I bring this up is that there are certain activities during which people are prone to pun and I've found that blogging is certainly one of them. For instance, in the shower, where most of my dumb ideas occur to me, I've been inundated with terrible puns to use as blog headlines. The only one I can think of now is "To Thine Own Sylph Be True" (a scintillating idea for a blog entry where I simply list my favorite words. "Sylph" is one of them), but I forget most of them between rinse and repeat.

I fully expect that promise of such awful wordplay will really boost readership. Well, at least that second ogre pic is kinda funny.


Fordimentalists Torch Chevy Dealership

Fordimentalists Torch Chevy Dealership

In the hands of The Onion* this would be fantastic...or at least puntastic.

RUTLEDGE, TN. Numerous great schisms threaten to tear apart America, but none is greater than the one that erupted this week in Grainger County, TN. No, it's not the abortion debate, nor the enduring skirmishes based born of the racial and class divide in this country. This danger stems from the long-simmering and now not-so-cold war between Ford and Chevy owners that threatens to shake our country to its very foundation.

The rivalry seemed like harmless Waffle House banter until a local Chevy dealership took it one step too far. Edde Chevy of Rutledge began offering window decals standard with all new or used Chevy car or truck purchases. The decals pictured a cartoon character known as Calvin urinating on the universally recognizable (and to some, sacred) Ford Motor Company logo. To add insult to blasphemy, Calvin is impishly smiling all the while.

Blasphemy or Free Speech?

Angry Fordimentalists responded by hurling Molotov cocktails at the dealership and burning effigies of Rick Wagoner, Chevy parent company GM's CEO. An incensed Randy Kilby, proudly sporting his sleeveless "Ford Mustang: American Thoroughbred" shirt and a "Pony Power" trucker hat, explained the need for Chevy owners to challenge such effrontery, "I'll tell ya why I'm throwing this rock - and note the choice of rock, its mineral composition is analogous to that of the Cambrian bedrock of Henry Ford's Springwells Township, Michigan - I am throwing this rock because that Chevy dealer is not simply defiling a corporate logo, but perpetrating a very real violence against a way of life and a sacred value system that is embodied by said logo. To you, it is perceived as merely an oval inscribed with the word 'Ford', to us it is a densely-packed, polysemic symbol which we Ford-owners as a people can deploy in a seemingly infinite number of modalities in order to inhabit and project our complexly stratified identities...Oh, and Silverados are for queers!"

It long seemed that our society provided socially acceptable outlets for the animosity both sides feel for one another. Just as our desires to (re)enact all modern wars from WWII to Operation Iraqi Freedom have been sublimated to digital role-playing, Xbox allowed us all to act out fantasies to ram the fuck out of a Ford with our Chevy or vice versa. It seems that this was not enough to stem the tide of consumer-tribal warfare. As federal troops do their best to contain the unrest, fears are mounting that violence may spill over into the Coke-Pepsi civil war and might even arouse the soporific Nyquil-Robitussin disputes.

Etc. Etc. I should leave satire in the hands of professionals.

* * * * *

Am I being a bit glib about the whole Mohammed cartoon controversy? Of course. People have died, and will continue to die in the larger conflict between Middle East and West. Not to mention the fact that W. et. al. seem intent on bankrupting America in the name of whatever the hell they're fighting in the name of.

I know all the culturally relative arguments about how these incidents are simply indicative of the divide between Middle East and West regarding notions of freedom and the Sacred.
How could I not know these? I'm an American liberal who studied anthropology. I live for cultural relativism. It tastes exotic and it helps me tell myself that it's OK to sleep at night. So why be glib? Well, because this whole thing is fucking crazy. Although, on the bright side, Salman Rushdie could probably hold a pig roast in Mecca and not get a second look. Also, the fact that an Iranian Newspaper is holding a Holocaust cartoon contest, now that's just childish. In any case, any incident that renders Denmark controversial is inherently absurd.

We don't need no vand; let the moderfucker burn.

So, what to do? Damned if I know. I've probably come off as a xenophobic Westerner stereotyping Muslim extremism. That doesn't fly with me. Just as valuing American troops and the role of the military in general when trying to maintain a security and democracy is very much commensurate with opposing a misguided and deceitful war, pointing out that killings in response to a series drawings is at no way at odds with my usual politics. In line with that, no one should condemn the Holocaust cartoon contest. Yeah, it's a little third grade for my taste, but I think we should just give Hamshahri a chuck on the shoulder and tell them "Well played!"

*Coincidentally, though not the least bit surprisingly, after I completed this entry I found that The Onion had in fact addressed this very topic, and in Tennessee no less.


Death Cab From Ali

Death Cab From Ali

I am hours away from a motorized two months. My friend Ali is headed out of the country for a couple of months and I am the lucky recipient of her vehicular largess. Specifically, this means I'll be driving a late 90s Mitsubishi with no power steering and manual door locks.

Alison's generosity comes largely because we've basically adopted one another as siblings and because a previous car steward destroyed one of her cars to an amazing extent - the front driver's side window was held up with a large splinter of wood (else it would simply slump downward and disappear into the door) and the back doors only remained closed/attached to the chassis because they were bungeed together. I could actually blog all day about this person, but that's not nice, is it? I will simply refer to her as "Cyanide" because it is a word that both resembles her name phonologically and reflects the general toxicity of her person.

None of this is to say that lending a car to me is by any means a smart move. In my two previous car-sitting tenures, one car was stolen two weeks before Ali's return only to be found months later, the parts not even worth stripping (this is the bungee/splintermobile) , and the other car, a Dodge Neon bought for something along the lines of $37 and a green bean casserole, was returned to Ali in tact only to have the engine attempt to exit the vehicle several weeks later on the highway.

Beware the Dodge Neon: Engine is a flight risk

But the real problem is not that I may lose, have stolen, or abet the demise of, another of Ali's cars. The real problem is that I may stop using the CTA. And this is not a fear of an anti-environmentalist turn in my behavior - becoming a gas guzzler. My fear of abandoning public transit stems solely from my love of sitting near, though not next to (call it gawker's NIMBY), crazy people. C'mon, lunatics brighten our days. Don't lie. They give us stories to retell over wine and cheese. They parse the monotony of everyday life and show it for what it really is...monotonous. And some of them are quite wise. I've seen man-on-man blow jobs during the morning rush, heard urban nursery rhymes from (and into) the mouths of babes ("Put your dick in my mouth / Give me head 'til I'm dead"), and sat in on a stirring lecture about how the vacuum testing industry is the bane of homelessness in America. You just don't get that kind of knowledge from listening to NPR when parked on the Dan Ryan.


Split Virtuality

Split Virtuality

I am here and there. That is, I am trying to get my web legs and decide whether it is best to be a Blogger or an LJer. Are there different characteristics of each? Is it like being part of different cliques in school? Will there be a remake of The Breakfast Club featuring wayward reps of each blogging site who learn to empathize with one another even if they'd never acknowledge each other in the chat rooms or on message boards. Is it even possible to have two Debaclypses now, even if they have little or nothing to do with each other? Or worse still, is it taboo if I post the exact same things on each? Hmmm. Quandaries.

If you have insight on the cultural differences of different blog site devotees (rituals, language nuances, rites de passage, etc.) please pass the word along in comment form.