Thursday, September 30, 2010

Why Am I Blogging?

As I stated in my first post, I learned by reading various blog-advice websites that the first post should introduce yourself and explain why you are blogging.  I chose to ignore this advice, but mentioned that I would address that question later.  I guess this is later.  

Have you ever seen the movie Stand By Me?  If you have, you might know where this is going.  If you haven't you should watch it as soon as possible.  

In the movie Stand By Me four boys set off on a two-day hike obsessed with the idea of discovering the body of a young man who was supposedly hit by a train.  Written by Steven King and directed by Rob Reiner it is a touching film with a nostalgic theme that is expressed beautifully in it's last line:

"I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?" 

My favorite part of the movie is when the four boys sit down in front of the campfire and talk into the night. As Richard Dreyfuss narrates,  it's "the kinda talk that seems important until you discover girls."   

Gordie: Alright, alright, Mickey's a mouse, Donald's a duck, Pluto's a dog. What's Goofy?

Vern: If I could only have one food for the rest of my life? That's easy-Pez. Cherry-flavored Pez. No question about it.

Teddy: Goofy's a dog. He's definitely a dog.

Gordie: I knew the $64,000 question was fixed. There's no way anybody could know that much about opera!

Chris: He can't be a dog. He drives a car and wears a hat.

Gordie: Wagon Train's a really cool show, but did you notice they never get anywhere? They just keep wagon training.

Vern: God. That's weird. What the hell is Goofy?

The older I get, the less opportunities there are for these types of conversations to take place.  We become adults who are expected to ask boring questions like, "how's the job treating you?" only to receive trite responses like, "It's work." So to answer the question (why did I start blogging?) I guess it's because I needed a place to speculate about my mailman, make movie recommendations, and ask tough questions like, "What the hell is Goofy?"  

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Darling You Got To Let Me Know

My brother sent me the link to this delightful video a few days ago.  Who knew The Clash and Lady and the Tramp could come together so seamlessly? VeggaEccentric- that's who!

Watching this video reminded me how much I loved this movie as a kid.  Remember Jock and Trusty? Pedro the Chihuahua?  Peg?  And of course Si & Am, who are solely responsible for my distrust of cats.

I foresee myself making spaghetti and revisiting this charming Disney movie in the very near future.

How does that sound brother?  

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Keep On Grokkin' In The Free World

I love words.  Specifically, I love unusual words.

Have you ever heard of the word grok?

Robert A. Heinlein coined this term in his novel Stranger In A Strange Land. The following is an excerpt from that piece:

"Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science—and it means as little to us (because of our Earthly assumptions) as color means to a blind man."

Isn't that beautiful?

A good friend of mine introduced me to the word and now we use it all the time to express our desire to be completely understood or to completely understand.  The Oxford English dictionary provides us with this definition:  "to understand intuitively or by empathy; to establish rapport with" and "to empathize or communicate sympathetically (with); also, to experience enjoyment." 

The word was a bit more popular during the 60s (Tom Wolfe used it in his novel The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test), and it is used to today amongst hackers to describe coding comprehension.  

I love using this word, because I love the way it sounds.  Also, it rhymes with rock and therefore can be easily substituted in phrases involving rock.  So if you understand something really, really well you can say fun things like, "I'm hanging out at the Hard Grok Cafe."  

Or if you're having a really good conversation you can tell the other person, "I want to grok with you all night."

Do you see how much potential this word has?  Do you grok grok?  Will you join me in my efforts to keep on grokkin' in the free world? 


Monday, September 27, 2010

Are You Killing It?

Ladies and gentleman, a new and interesting character has arrived. His name is Paul Crik and he has one mission: killing it.

You might be asking yourself, "what is killing it?" Well, I can't tell you what "killing it" is (you'll have to discover that for yourself).  I can only tell you what "killing it" is not.

"It is not a replication.  It is not on a set.  It is not surreal; it is not real. It is not comedy; it is not tragedy. It is not sublime; it is not absurd. It is not good; it is not bad."

It is yours.  

Thanks for checking in y'all. Now go kill it.  

The Girl without the Dragon Tattoo

My friend Brittany is one of the most fascinating people anyone could ever hope to meet.  She is extremely creative, shockingly beautiful, and flat-out hysterical.  She is also full of surprises.

A few weeks ago we were hanging out, and someone mentioned the novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Brittany says (very casually, very cooly):  "I haven't read it, but I'm actually on the cover of the book."

With any other person I might be skeptical, but with Brittany all things are possible.

Me:  "Really?"

Brittany:  "Yeah, I think I have a copy around here somewhere."

Sure enough:

That's Brittany!  Also, that tattoo was not added to her image.  That's Brittany's tattoo! (I made her lift her shirt and show me.)

So last night we were hanging out and I learned that Brittany is in the process of having her dragon tattoo removed.


So here's what makes Brittany cool, and what makes me a total loser: if I had a tattoo that was prominently featured on the cover of a novel that is a global phenomenon, I would never remove it. Not only that, I would probably go around introducing myself as "the girl with the dragon tattoo" and keep a copy of the novel in my purse at all times.  

I asked Brittany why she was removing the tattoo and she explained that she was tired of it and ready for something new. 

There are certain things that I learn from certain friends.  Brittany teaches me about fashion, art, and basically gives me lessons on "how to be cool."  Lesson number one: don't live in the past.  

Get Excited

about this!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Try To Make It Last

My gym has a valet service, and I happily utilize it as my gym is downtown and parking can be an issue.  A few months ago one of the valet drivers told me that he and the other valets always argue over who gets to park my car, because they like my taste in music.

I immediately felt a tremendous amount of pressure.

So for the past few months, each time I went to my gym, I tried to make sure that a 'cool' song was playing in my car.  I have even gone so far as to try and select a song that is rather obscure just to keep things fresh.

As the compliments continued, the pressure decreased and I grew overly confident.  The stereo in my car holds six compact discs, and my mixes are fairly random, but I could usually locate something decent fairly quickly.

One day the valet said, "I really liked that song in your car. Who is that?"

"Wilco," I arrogantly replied.  "Would you like the cd?"

He eagerly agreed.  I got in my car, began the drive home, and congratulated myself on a job well done.  And then I realized something.

I actually don't have good taste in music, or at least what a lot of people would consider completely 'cool' taste in music.  I fake it.  While I had given him exactly one Wilco song, this Wilco song was the only standout on one of the cheesiest mixes ever created.  The disc featured everything from Bruce Hornsby's "Every Little Kiss" to Steve Winwood's "The Finer Things".  

Oh, and this little gem.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Down By Law

If you think that life is both sad and beautiful, you scream for ice cream, or you love Tom Waits- this is a movie that you don't want to miss.  

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My Mailman/My Hero

I like getting mail.  Not junk mail of course, but a handwritten letter or a fun invitation always brings a smile to my face.  I think this is true for most people. 

When I enthusiastically scurry up my front steps after a long day of work and peer inside my mailbox I'm hoping for a personal greeting from an old friend or a brown paper package . . . tied up with string.  But what do I get?

Other people's mail.  All the time.  

Today, for example, I received mail for four different people with four different addresses.  How does this happen?  Correction: how does this happen often?  And when I use the word often I mean at least twice a week.  

I know what you're thinking: file a complaint.  Really? Do you think that's wise?  I don't want to complain about a total stranger, who knows where I live, who is employed by a federal operation that is responsible for the term, "going postal."  Especially when his response to a friendly wave is a blank stare followed by a low whistle.  

I've inquired about the quality of my neighbors' mail delivery service and it's the same story: they get other people's mail.  All the time.  

The problem is that, as a neighborhood, we've all received the blank-stare-low-whistle treatment so we're all uniformly terrified of him.  No one has the courage to complain.  

The bright side is that I'm very good friends with most of my neighbors.  I have to be.  We're always exchanging our incorrectly delivered mail.  

And so I must consider the possibility that my postman is a "big picture" kinda guy.  He's not satisfied with simply providing reliable parcel delivery for his community.  Nope.  By intentionally misdelivering our mail he is fostering communication, which creates relationships, that connect households, that form friendly, safe neighborhoods.  

So the next time my wave is returned with that cold, blank stare and the eerie, low whistle I might just have to say, "Thank you. I realize what you're trying to accomplish."  

If you don't hear back from me, it didn't go over well.  

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Absolutely and Irrevocably Losing Your Mind

As promised, I am back. I was going to postpone my next post until Friday, but I can't sit on this any longer.  My friend sent me this 'lil video he created the other night.  In his own words, "it's an edited reinterpretation of Oprah revealing to her audience that John Travolta is flying them to Australia. Or, as I call it, "Absolutely and Irrevocably Losing Your Mind." 

Creepy, yet hilarious.  Right?

If you are not familiar with Oprah's Farewell Season Premiere you can read more about it here.  This might give you a little context if you are not an avid Oprah viewer.  

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Back Next Week!

Gentle Readers,

I am off to San Francisco for a few days and I know that there will be no time for blogging.  Unfortunately, this means that I will have to postpone both Gen Y and the Culture of Cool: Marketing Tips for 2012 (Part Two) as well as this week's Flashback Friday.  Check back next week- I should have something posted by Friday.  In the meantime I will leave you with this little gem that the girls at mentioned on their blog:

And if don't watch Mad Men . . . you should.  If not for Pete Campbell's facial expressions then for Don Draper's voice.  

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Gen Y and The Culture of Cool: Marketing Tips for 2012 (Part One)

Have you started thinking about 2012 yet?  I have.  First of all, who is the GOP going to nominate?  I hope none of these people.  Second of all, do you think the GOP learned anything in 2008? Like, how it's a huge mistake to ignore Gen Y. In an effort to level the playing field I have decided to provide what I think are some key insights into the minds of my generation.  Unfortunately for Republicans, the RNC will most likely never come across this post.  

Tip Number One:  We Take Music Appreciation to Extremes

Listen up Republicans, because apparently you didn't get the memo in 2008. The soundtrack to your political campaign is crucial.  Surprisingly, you can get by with putting out stale material if you throw together some charming, heart-felt tunes.  Don't think so? See the movie Garden State, a Gen Y favorite.  

During 2008, Obama wisely capitalized on a poignant soundtrack.  The song he utilized during his two acceptance speeches (at the DNC, and on election night) couldn't have been more perfect.  First, the song is by a band with a massive following. Second, said band is perceived to be socially conscious without being divisive. Three, the song itself is vague yet uplifting.  Check out Obama poetically gliding across stage while his supporters instantly recognize his supreme taste in music, breathe a sigh of relief, and convince themselves that this is indeed a magical moment.  

We are the generation that produced Napster and subsequently became addicted to devices such as Pandora, iLikeLaLa, and iTunes.  We follow music blogs, attend overpriced festivals, and invent sub-genres every other day.  We take music waaay too seriously.  You need to understand this Republicans.  Because in 2008, clearly, you did not.    

Oh and review your song choices carefully.  You don't want another Springsteen debacle

Friday, September 3, 2010

Flashback Friday: Fiona Apple, My Friend's Father, and Child Pornography

In an effort to give this blog a little direction I have decided that some Fridays will be devoted to celebrating humorous events from my past.  Now that you are aware, the flashback can begin . . . 

In junior high I had three best friends. Let's call them Kristy, Claudia, and Stacey.  Traditionally we would all spend the night at one of our homes on Friday nights.  We looked forward to doing something really cool all week long, but we usually ended up doing something fairly lame like going out to eat with our parents, followed by wandering around a video store, prank calling kids from school or various hated members of our small community, and then watching a movie which we thought was sophisticated and meaningful, but didn't really understand. Like Reality Bites.   

One particular Friday night three things came together to create one of the most embarrassing situations I've ever been involved in.  One, Stacey had recently purchased a new camera.  Two, we were bored.  Three, Fiona Apple's "Criminal" video was all over MTV.  

Now lemme call timeout real quick and say that I love Fiona Apple.  This blog post is not a condemnation of her, her music, or the "Criminal" video.  I am merely providing you with some background information. And a side note to this side note- check out the lyrics to "Criminal" sometime and reflect on the fact that Fiona wrote that song when she was a teenager. Genius. 

Do you remember how when you're a child you know that certain things are sexy but you don't know why?  Like, you know that licking a lollipop is sexy, but you have yet to realize what that lollipop represents.  I think (I hope) this is where we were mentally when we decided that it would be fun to take some 'sexy' photos.  Taking 'sexy' photos involved stripping down to our underwear, smearing on an ungodly amount of eyeliner, utilizing a giant stuffed bear, and scrounging up a Blow-Pop.  Claudia was modest enough (and smart enough) to volunteer to be the photographer.  Well, let me tell you- our photo shoot put the Annie Leibowitz/Miley Cyrus photo shoot to shame.  We vamped it up!!! And then like most pre-teens we grew bored with the activity and quickly moved to the next.

Stacey's dad is such a sweet man.  Mr. McGill is one of those really nice dads that will drive you places, and grill hamburgers or let you order pizza, but also pretty much leaves you alone.  Well the next day (after we had all gone to our respective homes and Stacey had gone to the mall) Mr. McGill was putting something in her room and noticed her camera.  He saw that the film had been used and was ready to be developed.  Mr. McGill was on his way to run some errands so he thought he would have the film developed in the meantime and have Stacey's first set of pictures ready for her viewing when she came back from the mall.  

Later that night I get a telephone call from Stacey:

Stacey (whispering):  Oh my gosh we are in so much trouble.

Me:  Why?

Stacey (still whispering):  My dad got our pictures developed and he's really mad at us.  

Me (mortified, but trying to play it cool, but also genuinely confused):  Why? They're just stupid pictures of us in our underwear.  I mean, that's kind of embarrassing, but why is he mad?

Stacey: I don't know, but he made me burn them.  And he said that he can never go to Miller's Drug Store again.  

Me:  Geez Mr. McGill, it's not that big of a deal.

Stacey: I knoooow! Riiiiight?! I don't know why he's so mad.  He said that the photo guy treated him like he had a disease. 

Me:  What does that mean?

Stacey: I don't know.  He was yelling and soaking the photos in lighter fluid so I didn't want to ask.  

Fast forward ten years.  The four of us are home from college having drinks.  We start reminiscing about old times, and 'the sexy photo shoot' comes up.  It was the first time we had ever brought it up and we roared with laughter as we recalled what our underdeveloped, brace-faced selves must have looked like.  "I don't even think I had what you could call breast buds!" exclaimed Kristy.  "Remember how mad your dad was!" I said.  "Yeah, he was being so weird about it . . .he made me burn the pictures . . ." Stacey slowly recalled.  Suddenly, we all got really quiet.  We looked around at each other and realized (ten years too late) what poor Mr. McGill had to go through that day at Miller's drugstore.  And then we burst into a fit of laughter.

From time to time I will see Mr. McGill. Whether at a graduation, wedding, or funeral I feel the urge to apologize for making him look like a child pornographer. But I always lose my nerve.  And so Mr. McGill, here I am, officially apologizing for making you look like a pervert at a family owned drugstore in a small town that absorbs gossip like a triple ply Bounty paper towel on my blog (that no one reads) where you have a pseudonym.  

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Observation and Interaction: Attending A Film Screening Vs. Hanging Out With A Crackhead

Last night some friends and I attended a screening of short films featuring themes of reconstruction. Don't worry this post is not about those films- primarily anyway. Most of those films were tedious.  In fact, all but two seemed long- bad news for short films.  The two standouts were "Glenn Beck Beats" (crazy statements set to music) and "Great Man and Cinema" (a compilation of Kim Jung Il II propaganda videos).  At some point I must dedicate a post to analyzing Kim Jung Il II- what a cult of personality! I can't believe he's kept it going so long! Another day . . .

At the conclusion of the screening, one of my comrades (Austin) and I decided to grab a beer at our favorite neighborhood bar.  I need to explain a couple of things  about this establishment.  First of all, when entering you feel as if you're in a bar that would be in a Quentin Tarantino movie- maybe even specifically Inglorious Bastards. It is extremely dark and there are usually about 10 people inside but no one is talking and no music is playing.  Basically, it feels like someone is about to die.  Second, the place is owned by a Russian immigrant who tends bar.  Have you ever talked to a Russian immigrant? They're no-nonsense. Example (based on an actual conversation with said Russian immigrant):

Me:  "Tell me what it was like living in Russia."

The Russian:  "What is there to tell? I work. I drink. I come home. Same thing as here."  

(This exchange was followed by him yelling shocking profanities at someone for dropping a glass.)

The Russian's energy really sets the tone for the place: subdued but volatile- and that's what I like about it.  It's quiet, but anything can and does happen when you least expect it.

So Austin and I are casually sipping our beers when we are approached by a man in his mid 40s with peroxide blond spiked hair wearing a white sleeveless undershirt, wind-shorts, and flip-flops.  He also had some fairly suspect tattoos that were poorly done and well, just pretty unoriginal.  And when I say that he approached us I really mean that he walked by and yelled something about Austin's beard.  Of course Austin yelled something back and before we knew it this man had pulled up a chair and was gabbing with us like we were grammar school chums.  This antagonism was his way of making friends- friends that would buy him drinks.  Because he had no money.  

I'm not exactly sure why I bought him a beer when he asked me to (within two minutes of introducing himself) except that I knew right away that he was a character- and characters can be fun!  Luckily (and sometimes unluckily) Austin shares my vision concerning interacting with total strangers who are slightly left of center. I could tell he was looking forward to the potential entertainment that our guest star could provide.  

And provide he did . . . 

After thanking me profusely for his newly acquired Miller Lite, Miguel quickly launched into a rant about how illegal drugs were destroying our country.  "Violence", "the children", "the taxpayer's money"- all of these things were discussed. In fact, he talked with such fervor that I began to suspect that he was presently under the influence of some sort of stimulant.  

I was correct.  As sweat began to drip from his temple to his neck Miguel informed us that he did smoke crack.  Regularly.  In fact, he had smoked crack earlier in the evening.  

I know this is only my second post so let me clarify something for you, gentle reader: I am not comfortable with crack. Just felt I had to let you know.  

So here's a question for Emily Post: in what direction do you steer the conversation when a fellow bar patron reveals they are on crack?  Emily wasn't around which forced me to go with my gut.  Naturally, I asked Miguel what sort of television he was watching these days. And naturally, Miguel did not disappoint.  

Without hesitation he replied, "Dog the Bounty Hunter."  Miguel then passionately explained why he loved watching Dog apprehend criminals.  "You see- he doesn't judge them, because he's been there.  He wants them to get their life back on the tracks."  

I took this opportunity to ask him, "If Dog the Bounty Hunter chased you down, handcuffed you, and then had a heart-to-heart with you encouraging you to stop smoking crack- would you stop?" 

"F--- no!" exclaimed Miguel. "I mean, unless he offered me a spot on his team."  

The three of us shared a hearty laugh. I was genuinely enjoying our conversation.  And then Miguel said, "Hey . . . you guys wanna get high?"  

At that point Austin and I decided that our time with Miguel should come to a close.  We finished our beer, closed out, and began the walk home.  We decided that though he has his issues, Miguel was far more interesting than a stuffy film screening.  Like his favorite television star, Miguel is real, he is open, and he is honest. Well, except when he's committing Class-C felonies. 

While I'm no Dog the Bounty Hunter, I too believe that all you can offer is non-judgmental encouragement. And maybe a beer.  

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Unsubstantiated Fantasies: 5 Fears I Must Overcome In Order To Write This Blog

You know that song "Feels Like The First Time" by Foreigner? Yes, I know- it's terrible.  I'm actually tempted to scrap this topic and brutally criticize the lyrics to that song.  It always seemed weird because Lou Gramm is going on about how much he loves his new lady and howls that "it feels like the first time." Obviously this is meant to be a compliment to their shared lovemaking abilities, but I thought the first time (for most people) was awkward and maybe even a little uncomfortable.  I guess since Lou Gramm is (was?) a stud he probably didn't consider this negative association with "the first time."  Well I have been ridiculously nervous about this first blog entry and have been humming that song for days.  

What started out as a fun new project quickly transformed into an anxiety-laden chore that had the potential to destroy me both personally and professionally.  (Yes, I'm still talking about this post.) I asked friends and family members to share their thoughts on potential topics for my first blog entry.  Everyone was a great sport and generated a few ideas, but they couldn't grasp why this was so important to me.  The subject would change, and while I pretended to listen I was actually silently considering whether or not "True, Tried Friend: A Look Back at Al Cowlings" would be an appropriate first post.

I turned to the Internet.  I learned by reading various blog-advice websites that the first post should introduce yourself and explain why you are blogging and what you will be blogging about.  I might do that for you eventually gentle reader, but first I must address some fears that I have concerning this blog. 

Fear Number One:  I Will Alienate Friends and Family
My family and friends are very important to me, but they are also a source of material.  For example, my grandmother is a refined woman of class and taste, but I'll be honest- she has a drinking problem.  This made for some precarious situations during my childhood and the stories that are the result of these situations will probably make their way to this blog.  Friends and family members should contact me immediately if you would like to discuss the possibility of a pseudonym.  

Fear Number Two:  I Will Offend Total Strangers
I try my best to avoid snarky writing, but I am somewhat opinionated.  I do not want to offend anyone, but it's probably going to happen.  Actually, it probably already happened- sorry Foreigner fans.  

Fear Number Three:  Not 'Enough' Followers
What if by writing this blog I realize just how dull I really am? What if only my mom keeps up with it, and even she seems irritated when I ask if she's read my latest post? 

Fear Number Four:  'Too Many' Followers
So I know that David Koresh was insane, but do you ever wonder if there were moments of lucidity when he thought, "Wow- this thing is totally out of control!" It seems like once you have a lot of followers there would be more pressure to perform.    

Fear Number Five:  My Human Resources Department
Eight hours of everyday is consumed by my job. My job is always an adventure, and could provide me with tons of material. However, I know that it would be in poor taste (and maybe even grounds for termination) if I discussed what I do for a living so I am going to keep that part of my life as vague as possible.   

So those are my fears.  I feel like I worked through them.  This concludes my first post. Was it good for you?