Tuesday, May 29, 2007

In which we embrace the downward spiral. And not that NIN album either. The real one.

"Idiocracy". It's directed by Mike Judge, first infamous for creating a cartoon that inspired teenage arson, and stars two of the Wilson brothers: the one without the nose thing and the un-famous one who sort of looks like the guy who played Stifler. It's about an imagined future in which humanity has devolved into a race of near-retards and the man who's been frozen for 500 years that saves them. If you haven't seen it, you should. But you probably haven't since it was released to about 125 theatres with no press, which is a lot like opening a Burger King in Nepal, which is to say: not a good idea.

Anyway, in the "Idiocracy"-future, society, science, and culture have gone down the shitter in tandem with mankind's intelligence. The drinking fountains stream Gatorade, scientists work only on pills to enlarge genitalia, and television...well. Here's the point: television didn't seem a whole lot worse. In a movie that is so smart about being so stupid, T.V. seems almost better. Stupider, perhaps, but better.

See: if we're in the internet's infancy, then we're in T.V.'s preteen years at best. After all, television has only been commercially available for 70 or so years, and only prevalent in the lives of your typical American for about 50. And what a half-century it's been. We went from Edward R. Murrow to "Are you Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?", with layovers at "The Gong Show" and "Joe Millionaire" along the way. In other words, "Idiocracy"'s imagined sit-com "Ow! My Balls!" seems almost high-brow in comparison.

And then there's this. There was a time when only the Fox network would run something this patently manipulative and inhumane, but, apparently, they made a lot of money doing it, so now even the Dutch are in on the act. (Although, to be fair, the Dutch let tourists take hallucinogens, so, really, it was only a matter of time till they caught up with American ingenuity). Anyway, here's the premise of the show: terminally ill woman decides to donate kidney; three contestants clamor to become recipient of said kidney; outrage ensues.

Now: this is the point where we're supposed to bitch and moan and shake our fist and write stongly worded letters, but you know what? I'm through fighting it. I'm just going to embrace it, put my feet on the coffee table, and watch the inevitable decline. I'm looking forward to "World's Most Hilarious Deformities" and "America's Top Enema". Because, see, it's all about ingenuity. Sure, we're racing to the bottom of the barrel, but what a race. We're reaching the point where the World Wrestling Federation is positively Shakespearean. Honestly? I couldn't be happier. After all, isn't this better than a bunch of "Full House"s and "7th Heaven"s?

Exactly. If you need me, I'll be watching "Dirty Sexy Money" on ABC.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


So I've got a job again. It's not much: I get here at 8:30, eat a croissant, then spend my day reading through legal documents so boring they could, um, enlarge a hole to a precise diameter with a cutting tool by means of rotation. Also, apparently, boring enough that I'm getting jokes out of the dictionary.

There are bonuses of course. Like, you know, getting paid. And replenishing my pen and scissor supply. Plus: I'm only working three days a week, which makes every Monday a MonWednesday, which in turn makes every Wednesday a WednesFriday, which in turn pleases me immensely. In fact, T.G.I.W.F.

This also means I can remedy the conspicuous lack of bloggery that went on in the last couple weeks. When I've got no job or my job happens dressing up like a criminal and participating in a scavenger hunt, I tend to stay away from the long sessions at the computer. And when I've got no job, I've got no money, and when that happens, my days are a thoroughly invigorating mix of eating fake-cheese products and following the sunspot around the couch. In other words, not exactly the stuff of great literature. Or, for that matter, mediocre blogerature. (And yes, I think I may have just coined a word more annoying than blogosphere. I apologize).

Of course, the dream is to one day not have to work. Because being in a band, well, it's work, but it's not Work. It's like if you were a nine year old and you had to test candy all day: sure, some days you get stuck eating Necco wafers, but overall you're probably a pretty happy kid. Sure, you'll lose your teeth when you're an undergrad but still: free gobstoppers.

For now though, I'm paying for my candy by perusing expert testimony and requests for document production and objections to special interrogatories. Of course I'd rather be at home playing the piano. That's what ThurSaturday is for.

Monday, May 21, 2007

On not taking your home for granted; also, I know it's been a while. I have no excuse.

It's the Monday after Bay to Breakers, a debaucherous annual trot across San Francisco, where the entire city wakes up at eight in the morning to heckle 60,000 runners in better shape than they are, all while drinking beer for breakfast. In other words, today figures to be a long, long day. My liver: still soggy.

But a nice, molasses-style hangover is a small price to pay for Bay to Breakers. I think every city needs one. Or something like it. It's like Mardi Gras, except with more uppity Berkeley-ites trying to convert you to some unreasonable political stance while you're taking a swallow of Zinnfandel from a plastic sack. So many of our holidays and festivals are spent inside with our families that it's really a joy to see everyone outside, making bad decisions together. Unity in idiocy, sort of. I'm not sure there's anything wrong with that.

And I think you get an interesting view into your city's character when you've rousted everyone awake before church and handed them a mimosa. Sometimes, this awareness comes in tandem with a staggering amount of shriveled nudity. So be it. I learned (or, relearned, rather), that I live in one of the most enjoyable places in America, a place where, when so much of the country seems hellbent on eliminating fun, we still appreciate early morning drunkenness, inappropriate paper mache floats, and Frank Chu. I forget that sometimes, what with all the more-liberal-than-thou posturing that goes on around these parts which, quite frankly, does get good things done, but, really: no fun. It's a happy mix if it works: on one hand, you can have the democratizing principles of a Board of Supervisors, community meetings, town halls, and the like, while on the other hand you have, um, old-man nutsacks swaying in the wind.

(Which reminds me: I've got no problem with public nudity, per se. Actually, that might be a lie. But what I really get weirded out by is the naked man in his late 50s, walking an 8-mile road race by himself just staring at you. It's creepy. It's like he's daring you to do...something. I don't know what. But if Wes Craven made a horror movie about a naked, withered, old dude, he should send his casting director to San Francisco.)

My point? It's like that R.E.M. song "Stand In the Place Where You Live." Or, as the case may be, sit at a desk making charts about expert testimony in the place where you live. In fact, it's nothing like that. Or maybe it is. I just know the chorus. But yesterday re-energized me on the place where I live. And if all it takes in a pre-noon hangover and some decidedly clumsy wiffleball-ing, sign me up for 2008. And aught nine for that matter.

Monday, May 07, 2007

What happens when I leave the house, or, Why I'm on the couch right now

I used to have one of those arm-length, Zach Morris-style cell phones. You know, the ones that are essentially guaranteed to give you eye cancer or brain cancer or testicular cancer, even though the thing barely fit in my pocket anyway. But then again: tight pants. I say "used to have" because at some point last week, between temp jobs and shows and overall sloth-dom, I lost it. No small feat, considering the fact it was slightly larger than a baby's torso, but then again, I've lost keys, guitars, permanent teeth. It's a super power, really. The Bush administration calls regularly when it wants memos misplaced. You should read the shit they send me.

Of course, cell phones are an essential part of modern living. I was definitely a late-adopter, getting one only after a college roommate neglected to pay our land-line bill the week of my birthday, which led to my Grandma calling and hearing that "this number has been disconnected due to staggeringly lazy negligence," and worrying I might be transforming into the sort of grandson who takes his birthday savings bonds to the dog track and screams "run, you horrible bitch" while spitting Skoal at nearby children. Instead, I turned into the sort of grandson who happens to be unemployed, spends most evenings away from home in dank bars playing music she can't like because my name is neither "Frank" nor "Sinatra".

At any rate, I had to get a new phone. I had visions of one of those high-tech kinds: the ones that are also camcorders and digital cameras and have ringtones that don't make you wish fondly for Hoobastank. Yes, I had high hopes. Until I got to the cell phone store, that is.

I'd say what company I used, but really: what's the point? They're all the same and they're all horrendous. It's like choosing which Bronte sister to read. There's the one with Catherine Zeta Jones, the one with that smug Rivers Cuomo looking guy, the one with the orange thing that looks like its doing snow angels. You know, it's actually less like the Bronte sister thing and more like ending up in one of those Ohio turnpike rest stops, having to eat a late lunch, and choosing between Burger King, Arby's, and S'barro's. Every one's a loser there.

So I walked to my friendly neighborhood cell hut, eager, ready. I had a few extra dollars and was hoping that I could scam my way into one of those "free" phones that involve sending forty-five mail-in rebates to central Kansas but also having a roommate's phone as a back-up plan: in other words, if I couldn't get a magical free phone, I'd make my own magical free phone. Diabolical, I know. So I get there and there's five employees helping five separate customers and I'm patiently waiting my turn, looking at insulting in-store advertisements, pacing. Five minutes go by. Ten. Twenty. Then, at about the half-hour mark, I notice there's now about two employees helping two customers. Perturbing, of course, but I'm still being patient since I need a phone for free so doormat-ness seems a good opening gambit. Then I notice the last two customers sign their receipts, scurry out, while one employee goes behind a door marked "Staff Only" while the other motions to me:

"Can I help you?"

"Yeah, definitely. I've been a customer for about five or six years now and I just lost my phone but I think I might be elligable for an upgrade. Could you check that for me?"

"...Yep. Yeah, you are."

"Great, show me what you've got then."

"Uh, sir. I'm actually not a salesman."

"O-kay. Then can you find me one?"

"Actually, sir, they're all in a meeting."

"All of them, huh?"

"Yeah, sorry about that."

"About how long till they're out?"

"Oh, it usually doesn't take longer than a half hour."

"Great. Would you mind if I stabbed you?"

Ok. Obviously didn't say that last part. I'm a docile sort of person. I'm like Ghandi, only with more hair and a better fashion sense. But really: who has an hour to wait at a cell phone store? Actually, come to think of it, I do. But, you know, imagine I had a job, or, or something to do. Yeah. That would've been rough.

Anyway, that's why you always have a back-up plan. I had the non-salesman put one of those SIM cards in my roomie's old phone, thanked him for being totally unhelpful, and walked back home. Yet, in a weird way: success. I got the free phone I was after. Plus, it's filled with phone numbers of people I don't know and some of people who I think I know but who just share the first name of people I know, which has already led to one text message of "Who the hell is this?" and will hopefully lead to the sort of misunderstanding oh so romantic comedies are predicated on. Added bonus: crying baby ringtone. What's less annoying than that?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A belated post about, well, nothing. That's why it's taken so long, silly goose.

I have yet to solve this puzzle known as employment. Last post dealt with the wondrous lessons I learned as a temp, most of which reflected a certain bitterness after a day spent in the closest thing I've got to a business suit, passing out folders to European doctors who looked at me like I had some sort of contagious fungus on my face. Two days later, I got to play a faux mobster in a scavenger hunt and make sixty dollars talking about how my cousin got himself flattened under a parade route's worth of elephants. Yet, since then: nothing. We're about 4 days away from signing up for electroshock studies. $100 for 3 hours of voltage-induced agony, eh? Do they pay for parking?

The give and take is this: no work equals no money but no work equals no stress. Call it the reverse Puff Daddy corrolary; if mo money means mo problems, no money means no problems. After all, food and shelter: highly overrated.

I think the key here is embracing the situation. Temping is sort of like a really crappy lottery. At any moment, the phone could ring, and a new, mind-numbingly vanilla job could be mine the very next day. Data entry? Why not? Receptionist? Done did that. Stuffing little foam torsos in a plastic cylinder? Please, you're talking to a pro. So see, it's all in how you look at it. Today, the fat kid with the glandular problem is at the "ain't got no work" end of the employment teeter-totter so I may as well make good use of it. I think I'll go play the piano. It's free, you know.

I should mention a couple things before skeedaddling, though. Birdmonster is currently on touring hiatus as we work on new songs and a dynamite cover of "Allentown", so missives from the road will be lacking. We should have some real news soon as we're gearing up for another album, which was the original reason for the blog in the first place, which, now that I mention it, makes me feel like Tony Gwynn's grandpa, kind of old and really proud. I have also neglected to mention how thoroughly glorious it was playing in Ess Eff again but, really, it pretty much goes without saying. Regardless of what Charles Barkley thinks, the Bay Area is the metropolitan equivalent of proscuitto and melon. Oh, and if you missed it: Illinois and the Cribs are effing magnificent. Don't say you weren't warned. You were.