Sunday, July 31, 2011

July down

What a month July turned out to be.

On July 1, I learned that I had a job. On 7/11/11, I started that job.

In a month's time, I got a new city, a new place, new hangouts, new friends, new connections, new clothes and new oil in my car.

I could take this opportunity to reflect on life's growing pains, or on the lessons I've learned in the past four weeks. But mostly, this is a reminder to myself to that I have rent to pay again and it's due tomorrow. If I can somehow associate that with the rain that has fallen literally every day since I've lived in Baton Rouge, I should be golden.

Bring on August! And football!

Bizarre life lessons

What I learned from the Cabbage Patch Kids:

You can adopt a child and cast it aside when something cuddlier comes along.

What I learned from the Garbage Pail Kids:

People are diverse and we must learn to coexist with their quirks. (Bonus lesson from the movie: True ugliness isn't found in a mirror.)

It's all about the right influences, kids.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

All the reasons I don’t drink

Ever since moving to Baton Rouge, I’ve been asked approximately 95,134 times why I don’t drink alcohol. Pretty remarkable, given that I’ve had about only 250 conversations so far. But that’s to be expected. After all, Louisianans tend not to drink only under a select few circumstances:

1) They’re recovering alcoholics;

2) They’re under the age of five;

3) They just turned 21 and retired from drinking;

4) They’re allergic to alcohol, making them only half as likely to drink;

5) Their church promises an invitation to the big kegger in Satan’s eternal fiery furnace (not typically enforced);

6) They’re physically unable to do so because they’re passed out for the night;

7) They’re at work. Sometimes.

None of these apply to me, so I’m constantly forced to explain myself. It’s an interesting trait to have to explain, because no one ever asks why I don’t smoke, eat cole slaw or fly kites.

As any five-second scan of Facebook profiles will show you, drinking isn’t just a social lubricant, but a full-on hobby. This also goes for its cousin, “DRANKIN’.” It’s as if “eating energy bars” was its own leg of the Tour de France.

How many times in my life have I had this conversation?

“So, what do you like to do, Ian?”

“Well, I like to ride my bike, swim, play Wii and Kinect, read, write, watch movies and hang out with friends. What do you like to do?”

[Spoken in a tone that suggests it’s the most obvious thing in the world, and that my omission of it ensures we’ll never hang out] “Drink.

The truth is, I will drink occasionally. And when I don’t, I still don’t get huffy when others drink around me. Like with everything else, there’s a time and a place for it. But for the most part, I stay sober. Here’s why:

Drinking is a sedentary activity. George Carlin once said you never see someone take a shit while running at full speed, and similarly you really can’t do much else when you drink. That doesn’t mean people don’t try, but beer-soaked softball is more about beer than softball, and I play to win. Which is precisely why people often tell me during competitive sports that I need a beer.

I’m a picky drinker as well as an eater. People seem to forget or otherwise overlook this, but alcohol tastes weird. I suspect I’m what’s called a supertaster, someone who has more tastebuds than average; supertasters tend to sense a heightened bitterness especially, which makes them like fewer things. Beer is something I can tolerate, mostly through nostalgia (more on that in a minute). But beer, and hard liquor even more so, is not something I would drink for the taste. And I don’t consume enough to get drunk. Which brings me to my third reason:

I don’t like to get drunk. Or, more accurately, I don’t like to lose control of my faculties. I know, I know, a lot of you will say that losing control is the whole point. But you’re failing to consider this:

I already have no shame. When I’m out at a party, dance or club, people will often swear I’m drunk. When that happens, I have to think back to why they would assume that. And then it makes perfect sense — I’m usually the one showing the least inhibition, exhibiting a sparkly personality completely free of my daily shyness and coming off so goofy on the dance floor that obviously I’m not of right mind. But that’s called having fun, and if you’re not having fun, substances aren’t going to rectify that. And being able to turn back into rational Ian like a switch is a bonus when it’s time to go.

I drank when I was a kid. I have many happy memories of sitting on my grandfather's lap and sipping on his Old Milwaukee. When I first saw “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” the scene where Clark shares his beer with Rusty (who chugs the whole thing) resonated with me. I eventually stopped sipping by 8 years old — but not before getting caught on video on Thanksgiving Day 1987 grabbing a Schlitz off the table, taking a huge swig and proudly brandishing it at the camera. I should point out that at no time do I recall ever feeling any sort of buzz. In fact,

Only recently have I ever felt a buzz while drinking. This is because I am in better shape now than I was a decade ago. During my too-brief 7-year stay in college, I gained some flab weight. It wasn’t from beer, but many people thought it was (I sometimes played along because the truth was too depressing). I once drank three Bud Lights during a drinking game and felt nothing. Several years later in Missouri, where I was 20 pounds lighter, I had half a Budweiser and had to lie down. Today’s tolerance is somewhere in between, but does seem to go hand-in-inverse-hand with how healthy I am at the moment.

Half the time, I have a hangover already. Even before I pursued strenuous activities, I was a ravenous water drinker. On the advice of my college cross country coach (who tells me she reads this blog every day — hi!), I began carrying around a bottle of water. While doing so kept me constantly hydrated, it also short-circuited my sense of thirst. To this day, I rarely, if ever, get thirsty, even when I go a long time without drinking water. Combine that with my love for swimming, biking and running in the illegal Louisiana heat, and I sometimes wind down the day with headaches. In those situations, I find myself reaching for all the V8 and water I can consume. It’s a full-on hangover, without all the awesome stories I can’t remember.

All of these reasons might explain why people like to get sloshed around me. I don’t blame them. Maybe from here on out I’ll just say I had too much last night.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rhetorical questions, answered

“Hot enough for ya?”

Not if it’s snowing or if I’m preheating my oven.

“Will wonders never cease?”

Yes, I’m sure wonders will cease one day. Killjoy.

“Is that your nose or did a bus park on your face?”

It’s my nose. It’s big. A bus would smash my face to smithereens. Shut up.

“Where do they come up with this stuff?”

In their brains, the only organ capable of stuff-thinking and/or storming.

“Who wouldn’t want a shot at her?”

Gay men and straight women, as well as straight men who are not interested.

“Does it get any better than this?”

If you’re in a late-’80s Old Milwaukee beer commercial, not a chance.

“Who died and made you king?”

I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. It’s good to be the king.

“Oh, Superman, where are you now?”

Off shooting “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” while you were polishing off “Land of Confusion.” Some friend you were, Phil.

“What am I going to do with you?”

Please don’t answer like my dream girl if you’re a mob boss. And vice versa.

“Why don’t they make the whole plane the black box?”

Because passengers make terrible tape.

“Why do 24-hour stores have locks on the doors?”

In case they go out of business.

“Why is there Braille on drive-up ATM buttons?”

So you can press dot for English or dot-dot par EspaƱol.

“Is it in you?”

If you’re referring to my internal organs, food or Gatorade, yes. Everything else, I sure as hell hope not.

“What came first, the chicken or the egg?”

Whichever of the two is older.

“What’s not to love?”

He nicknamed his duodenum “Mitch.”

“Who would have guessed?”

Quite possibly the police.

“What do I look like, an idiot?”

If you’re an idiot, then by definition you do.

“If not now, when?”

Later. Perhaps never.

“Who knows?”

Somebody does.

“Who knew?”

Somebody did.

“What’s the deal with...”

Yeah, really! What IS the deal?

”What have I done to deserve this?”

Good point. You read this blog, so you’ve suffered enough.

“Can I ask you a rhetorical question?”
.....

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tea goggles

With all of this debt-ceiling talk, I'm wondering what routine government spending decision will be the new sudden bugaboo in the coming years.

My guess? Spending on our wars. It's the most obvious example of something nobody even thinks twice about extending, an allocation that has been renewed umpteen times and could arguably be said to be the deciding factor in the continued operation of this country. Kind of like the debt ceiling was for decades before it became the be-all, end-all of our national malaise. And infrastructure and social spending before that. And Social Security before that.

And yes, I'm taking into account that Republicans are all about virtually unchecked military spending. But if their recent tea party-driven austerity moves have proven anything, it's that no stance is too sacred or ridiculous. If they can punt Bush's overseas operations to Obama and insist they're his problem now, and demonize programs that they once supported, then it makes sense that they could eventually target military spending.

As long as it isn't higher taxes on the obscenely wealthy. That'll never change.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sorry

Somewhere right now, Amy Winehouse is lying unconscious, unaware that she is rapidly decomposing and not smelling too good. Except this time she's dead. 

Sorry.

In all seriousness, if you know someone disintegrating in front of your eyes like that, make sure they get some help before they kick it too early. Help them take an interest in rehab.

Sorry again.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

An attitude I'm trying to adopt

That which doesn't kill me makes me stronger. And even if it does kill me, one of two things will happen: either there's no afterlife and I won't be conscious, or there is one and I won't have to deal with real-world problems anymore.

Nothing's killed me yet. I got this.

The beauty of Comedy Central

The Daily Show and the Colbert Report run from 10-11 p.m. and re-run from 1:30-2:30 a.m.

Now that I work days, I often nod off right as Jon Stewart's guest comes out. I then wake up right around that same time during the repeat. So I don't miss much.

I thought that shouldn't go unnoticed.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Putting the "boo-boo" in "nanny nanny boo boo"

It may not be smart for Steelers linebacker James Harrison to call NFL commissioner Roger Goodell a crook and a devil, but it's better than Jerry Kramer calling Drew Brees an idiot.

After all, Roger Goodell actually is the devil. No, not really. But he is a controversial figure through his direct decisions. Harrison’s not doing himself or his fellow commish critics any favors with his choice of words, granted, but let’s not pretend those criticisms don’t exist on some appropriate level.

Kramer, on the other hand, has no grounds for calling Brees an idiot. Look, I don’t agree with everything Brees says; indeed, I’d peg the consciously apolitical quarterback as center-right on most issues. And I’m not one for value judgments, be it the conservative yarn about how we shouldn’t raise the minimum wage because it’s just for teens and dumb adults or that retired NFL players piss away their pensions.

But I might vote for Brees, because I know he’s a smart and solid guy who seems to want to do what’s right. I may not agree with all of his views, but that’s also true of Barack Obama, and everyone else I’ve ever voted for. Also, he’d probably have to run as a Democrat because he represents a union, and Republicans hate unions as much as Saints fans hate the Falcons. Or, more accurately, as much a Saints fan hates a Falcons fan who is wanted on multiple felonies and cracks Hurricane Katrina jokes.

Anyway, Brees is not an idiot — he’s a guy who said something Jerry Kramer didn’t like. That doesn’t make him an idiot. Being an idiot comes with tons of subtleties, something any idiot should know.

Until now, Kramer was known for his famous block in 1967. Now he’s just being a blockhead.

I wrote this whole blog just to use that line. You’re welcome.

License plates that sneeze

While driving along I-10 Sunday, I saw a truck with a Kentucky license plate. The name “Kentucky” was barely visible, dwarfed by the capital letters underneath: “IN GOD WE TRUST.”

Weird as that was, I was floored to later see a South Carolina license plate with the same inscription during the same trip. (To say nothing of Indiana’s current default issue.)

Why do drivers — and enabling states — feel the need to assert this on their license plates?

I have a theory: it’s not a declaration so much as a hissy fit.

Hear me out.

I don’t doubt that most people who say “God Bless America,” “In God We Trust,” “One Nation Under God” or any related expression mean it in an earnest, if cliched, sense. But when one of those mottos appears on something official like a license plate or coin, for me it takes on a more ulterior edge.

Just as “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance at the height of the Red Scare in 1954, so do I think that public declarations in this vein are polemic rather than patriotic. They’re intended to establish self-righteous dominance. Same goes for “In God We Trust” on our bills and coins. They got placed on our currency exactly 100 years apart, during periods of national turmoil and long after our Founding Fathers (and many of their descendants) became one with the American soil.

They’re political statements, and not particularly positive ones.

There’s no point in placing “IN GOD WE TRUST” in huge letters on a license plate any more than there’s any point in my sporting a bumper sticker that says, “I’m OK with the Internet.” Unless, in my case, I felt like someone was trying to end the Internet, and I wanted to be passive-aggressive in my opposition.

When someone feels the need to proclaim their faith as an adjunct to their patriotism, I don’t feel like we’re on the same team. Not because I don’t have deep morals and convictions of my own, but because I choose not to tie it into how good of a citizen I am. And no one, regardless of stance, should.

What makes this declaration especially insipid is what always makes this issue insipid: No one’s trying to take away anyone’s freedom of religion. In fact, the opposite is true — activism generally favors the end to government declarations/endorsement of parochial beliefs. And plastering God onto courthouses and on our license plates, etc., has the backfiring effect of making that activism more essential.

As I’ve said before, it’s ironic that the symbols that are supposed to unite all Americans are often loaded with theocratic rhetoric. Isn’t the point of standing united that we don’t have these litmus tests, no matter how weak or token they seem?

I’m extending that definition of “symbol” to include license plates. On top of those being government-issued items, I am an avid collector. I don’t want my future wall displays to look like the backdrop of a CPAC podium.

Friday, July 15, 2011

New rules

Rule #173: Outing outrage
Anyone who is passionate about the debt ceiling has to explain what it is. And then disclose when they first started caring about it. Actually, let's do that with every incredibly specific and wonky political issue that suddenly becomes the fuel for our collective flying spittle once it's on par with eating children.

Rule #174: Foot-In-Mouth-Ball
Let's have more athletes saying stupid things. I like when people speak their minds, whether I agree or not, because it's interesting. If an athlete's allowed to be an idiot, I know that a smarter athlete won't be silenced either. When it comes to free speech, I think it's better to err on the side of not being a robot.

Rule #175: Land of Lines
Can't we just have Wi-Fi everywhere? Please?

I just called to say, shut your face

During my morning drive to work, the DJ was talking about his experience at a Stevie Wonder show. As an aside, he mentioned that Stevie started talking about politics before a song, and how much that annoyed him. Shut up and sing, the DJ basically said, no one wants to hear about your opinions.

And I thought to myself, "But we should hear about yours?"

It reminded me of two acquaintances I had many years ago, one in high school in one in college. Both were complaining, oddly enough, about Fiona Apple. The first one got real heated about her, calling her a "vegan, hippie, liberal...(grunt!)" The second told me how much he liked her music, but that she was "very opinionated."

They ought to just redefine the word "opinionated" in the dictionary to mean, "someone who expresses issues with which I disagree vehemently." Has anyone ever used the word "opinionated" in a positive sense?

I'm very political. You know that. I love to talk politics as much as anyone else, whether it's preaching to the choir or debating with an actual choir. I do think such talk has a time and place, though I don't come down in favor of "shut up and sing." I suspect that most people who push that latter thought simply disagree with the ideas being presented.

We should be happy that our entertainers have passion in the issues, whether or not we agree, as long as such passion is informed and not in the service of hatred or intolerance. If you don't like what they're saying, join the fray — don't demand they shut their traps while you brace yours open.

I know I'd never shout at Ted Nugent during a show to shut up — his batshit lunacy is at least as entertaining as his music. Also, he has guns.

Toy Boy and the Kay-Bee blanket

Not merely content to believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, I made up my own fictitious, benevolent deity: the Toy Boy.

The Toy Boy was literally a toy soldier who would leave presents during my afternoon nap. He did so not under cover, but with very loud drumming. He’d slowly march through the living room and the kitchen at my grandparents’ house as I lay next to my grandfather during our afternoon nap, making like a top-flight line drummer the whole way. Ba-da-bum. Ba-da-dum. Dudududududududududududududududududu...

Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy would rib him for this whenever they all hung out together. “Oh, Toy Boy,” the Tooth Fairy would tease, “You bang so loud!”

I dreamed about Toy Boy bringing me the Transformer Prowl. And anything else I wanted. Not for any particular occasion, or even because I was a greedy little bastard. Just because I thought it would be cool.

The toy soldier in question looked a lot like the Kay-Bee mascot. This was no accident, because I also had the Kay-Bee Blanket. That was a special blanket that could take you anywhere in the world you wanted to go via its magical fibers. And of course, the only place I ever wanted to go was Kay-Bee Toy and Hobby. Hence the name.

The blanket later became the Smurf Blanket when I became obsessed with the Smurfs, and it would take me to Smurf Land. Usually to meet Smurfette, my favorite Smurf (after Handy).

After reading all of this, I feel like I have to stress that all of this happened when I was six and/or seven years old. Put this story in the wrong decade and it takes on a whole new context. And I have enough actual tales of teenage depravity without being metaphorical.

Smurf!

What have I been doing?

Well, this, for one.

But not this ... yet.

I'll be back...like in a minute. I already wrote something. Why wait any longer?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A public declaration

I am currently using a wireless Microsoft mouse. It is pink. Many people have asked me about this. And you know, it does say something about me.

That I own at least one thing that isn't Saints.
It says that the trackpad on my laptop continues to malfunction despite professional repairs. And the wired Apple mouse I used as my first backup broke. And that my mom had a wireless mouse lying around that she wasn't using, and it hasn't failed yet.

Just like the pink Wii remote I recently inherited. It's better on batteries than the white one. If my car was pink, I doubt I'd ever have to get gas.

Life likes to laugh at me sometimes.

A list about 'Kiss on My List'

According to Hall and Oates, your kiss is on their list of the best things in life.

If the best things in life are free, it's safe to say that Hall and Oates are not visiting a kissing booth or prostitutes. I do hope they're not kissing the same woman. That would just be awkward.

I wonder, what else is on that list? Whatever the list looks like, I hope the kiss is ranked pretty high. Seems like it would have to be. Certainly higher than more advanced romantic gestures. And Fritos.

I like to think that each guy has their own separate list. I'd imagine they're at least slightly different. For example, I'll bet Oates' list has "Hall" on it. Hard to say if the reverse is true.

I wonder if "Maneater," "Private Eyes" and "Out of Touch" later made their way onto their list(s). I know they're on mine. If they did, though, I'd hope they didn't bump the kiss at any point. 

And I certainly hope that Hall and Oates aren't holding this chart number over the woman's (women's?) head(s). Otherwise, it seems like too much pressure.

OK. Off to read the news for the first time in a couple of days. Don't yet have my Internet hooked up. I suspect you can tell.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Afflictions moving cures

• Hoarding

• The compulsion to not jettison all possessions and go live in the woods

• The healthy, uninjured body

• The idea that what looked great in one apartment will look great in another

• The peace of mind that comes with knowing what bills you have

• Knowing where to bike, shop and drive

• The tragic lack of phobia that others will stumble upon things you'd rather they not see

• Pizza withdrawal

• Non-alcoholism

• Blissful ignorance of how much strength and adrenaline one truly possesses

Anything else I'm missing?

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Maybe we're the ones who are guilty

I didn't follow the Casey Anthony murder trial for the same reason I never follow the missing-white-girl, Nancy Grace brand of intensively selective outrage. That doesn't mean I don't have things to say about the outcome.

It's interesting to see how a not-guilty verdict in a case like this really lights a fire in people. Yesterday, my Facebook and Twitter feeds were awash in declarations of death for the justice system. Smart, friendly people who aren't typically known for keeping an eye on American litigation suddenly became not just authorities on the subject, but also outraged watchdogs. It's as jarring as it is annoying.

It happens sometimes, almost always because of a high-profile trial given a disproportionate amount of breathless media coverage — the kind that seems to insist that nothing of this sort has ever occurred before. Oh, and the defendants are all guilty, guilty, guilty, no matter what the presented cases and evidence point out to the group that matters, the jury.

And that's why I don't buy that people want justice in cases like this — what they want is revenge. The bad guy to go down in flames. And when they don't get it, they wonder where the system went wrong. They wonder how this overblown TV show they're watching didn't deliver the satisfying ending they craved from the beginning. If justice were the issue, the decision wouldn't evoke such anger and self-righteousness one way or the other. That isn't to say that verdicts are sometimes wrong and that outrage has no place, but there are few reasons to attach the same deep emotions to the Anthony case as to, say, the Jena Six case. But people do. And all one has to do is turn on the cable TV to see why anyone does.

Again, I don't know whether or not the Casey Anthony trial was on the level. But what I do know is that, once again, it has shaken awake a disconcerting bloodlust — the idea that a not-guilty verdict is unfathomable, and that justice comes only with condemnation. And it reminds me that even casual spectators of the American judiciary like to feel superior to those actually charged with administering due process. That says far more about us than it does about the justice system.

There's a reason suspects are tried in courtrooms and not in the court of public opinion. And this is it.

Parental Advisory: Explicit Cigarettes

American cigarette packs will soon be required to show graphic depictions of the effects of smoking, as is done in some other countries. Future regulations will include the following measures:

• All cigar boxes will be required to show Rush Limbaugh with a giant cigar in his mouth

• NyQuil to roll out new cigarette line, for those who seek nighttime sniffling, sneezing, coughing, stuffy head and sore throat

• Class B Cigarettes

• All new lighters will spark with a recording of Humphrey Bogart hacking up a lung circa 1956

• All movie and TV scenes depicting smoking will work in dialogue about what a bad habit it is

• For patrons’ convenience, smoking sections of restaurants and bars will be on fire

• Free cancer for anyone who wants it, no questions asked

• The number of Kool-Aid Points required to buy cigarettes will sharply increase

• Hey, teens: smoking causes acne and syphilis! Don’t believe me? I saw it on the Internet!

• Include updated classic baseball cards to show what famous players looked like when they died of cancer

• Every pack of Marlboro comes with a free cow to corral

• Cigarettes will be redesigned to fit between gum and cheek. Yes, it will burn like hell. Whose fault is that?

• Every third pack will lack the U.S. tax stamp; police will step up tax-stamp enforcement

• The whole nation will be Shallow Halled into seeing smokers as giant burnt lungs

• Cigarettes can be smoked after sex, but only by the man, because a woman cannot engage in unclean habits in her dutiful capacity as an expectant mother in the eyes of the Lord

• Hipsters are exempt from all tobacco regulation; I’d tell you why, but you wouldn’t understand

• Camel Cash now good only for actual camels and trips to Turkey

• Marlboro Miles now have to be jogged

• Tobacco companies now allowed to advertise on TV, but three-quarters of the screen will feature clogged hearts and cancerous organs

• Safer options for smokers will be stressed like, I don’t know, weed

• New packs of cigarettes will have tar and nicotine separated, so smokers can see what they’re inhaling. Also, because it’s fun to shake stuff before using

• From here on out, cigarettes will stain your teeth and fingers, make you stink and make you unable to enjoy any activity uninterrupted for the rest of your life

Monday, July 04, 2011

A trophy, not atrophy

The last time I found myself with a new job and the move that accompanied it, I let this blog go to pot. I'm determined not to let that happen this time.

I'm generally someone who writes more out of compulsion than anything else. I always have a lot to say and this has long been a release for me. Prior and concurrent to this blog, I had other ways to express myself in ways that keep me from being the guy at the party who everyone avoids.

Still, you can’t be any kind of interesting blogger if you don’t have something to write about. And sometimes living your life gets in the way of writing about it. This is one of those times, I guess. I’ll keep that in mind and do my best. Not out of obligation, but out of compulsion.

So I hereby promise not to let any busy and fulfilling life get in the way of my nonprofit online indulgence. Priorities.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

I got a job

It will involve writing online updates on the business community in Baton Rouge.

They will be more interesting than this post.