100 Perfect Things

August 5th, 2012

One of the more controversial steps I am taking in my insane quest to die under a palm tree is to pare down my belongings to 100 things. I am not the originator of this idea, nor am I the first person to do it. I’m pretty sure that this guy named Dave came up with it, but I think it’s a pretty swell plan.

Has anyone seen my keys?

My life has about three nexuses of stuff that are actually important to me. My desk at home contains the things I use the most. In the event that my house caught fire and was going to burn down to the ground, if I could just get my desk out, I’d be fine. My desk has my computer, my USB sticks, my Ukulele, my phone, my nook, a flashlight, my allergy medication, my change box and other assorted miscellany. My bedroom closet has my clothes in it. My medicine cabinet contains my toiletries.

Then, there is the rest of my house: a wasteland of shit. No, not a wasteland–an ocean. Useless crap ebbing and flowing around my house and my life. “Cleaning” is the word I use for taking that crap and moving it from one place it doesn’t belong to some other place it doesn’t belong. I do this because a lot of it doesn’t belong anywhere. Some of the things I own are “decorative.” Decorative items are items that take up space on flat surfaces–surfaces that could house items that actually have some sort of useful function. As if space weren’t at a premium. As if with this surplus of shit, I can afford to just have a bunch of stuff that doesn’t do anything but sit around, take up space and look awesome.

There are two common questions about the 100 Thing Challenge that everyone who takes it must answer for themselves: what is a “thing,” and what are “my things?”

Hey, I may need that blue rabbit later.

One guy who says that he made it down to 50 “things” is counting all of his socks as one “thing.” I’m not doing that. I’m trying to sort of abstractly but fairly strictly balance a “thing” between a single unit of useful stuff (e.g. one pair of socks, or “my computer,” which consists of my computer, keyboard, monitor and other necessary accessories,) and a single unit of shit that I have to deal with owning. Rather counter-intuitively, between a pair of socks and my computer, counting the pair of socks as a single item is cheating more than the computer is by these definitions. The computer sits there. It’s always hooked up, stationary and useful as a unit. Socks, on the other hand, are none of these things. Those god damn things are everywhere.

The second question, “what are my things,” is a little harder to define in my opinion. Many things in this house are communal in nature. Kitchenware, for instance. I feel no desire to include spatulas among my personal effects, though eventually I would like to pare down these communal items as well. I have elected to include several of these communal items among my personal items, though. I am including a set of personal dishware in my list of 100 things to cut down on the dish clutter in our house.

At heart, I’m a conflicted being. I am a collector, I admit it. I also suffer from But-What-If-I-Need-It-Later syndrome. On the other hand, I’ve no problem sorting out what has utility and what does not or what I use and what I do not use. I’ve read articles about the 100 Thing Challenge that suggest that a person take a month or two to sort out the things they want to keep from the things that they want to get rid of. I made the following list in about twenty minutes.

Total 95
# Things
1 Computer
1 Phone
1 Nook
1 Laptop
2 USB sticks
1 MicroSD Card and Adapter
1 printer/scanner
1 canned air

7 pairs of socks
3 pairs of jeans
5 underwear
1 scarf
10 T shirts
2 hoody
2 pairs of shorts
1 swim trunks
2 coats
1 flipflops
1 boots
1 clogs
3 hats
1 Wallet
2 Sweatpants
1 Longjohn bottom
1 Longjohn top
2 Button up shirts
1 Bandanna

1 razor
2 electric razor
1 deodorant
1 hair wax
1 toothpick
1 ear cleaner
1 tooth brush
1 towel
1 Shampoo

1 knife
1 fork
1 spoon
1 bowl
1 plate
1 glass
1 Coffee People coffee mug

1 ukulele
1 backpack
1 bag
1 pocket knife
2 pens
1 umbrella
1 Kukri
2 Pillows

1 Stuffed bunny
1 change box/cup/container
1 Framed Chat Noir poster
1 Grand-ma's Coo-coo clock

1 Bike
1 Skateboard

1 wedding ring
5 Books


Now, here is the rather anti-climactic twist I am adding to the equation. Because I am only going to own 100 things, I am treating myself to some new stuff.

Whenever I buy a new gadget, I am very methodical about how I do it. I have always had a limited budget for new toys, so I make sure that every single one I buy is perfect. My computer, I built myself. I picked every single part to maximize the effect of my buying power. No bits I didn’t need, but nothing too over-the-top. I made sure I bought as many items on sale as I could manage. In the end, I saved hundreds of dollars and got myself a computer that was way better than the price I paid for it.

So, I figure why make every item I own the same way? Why not have 10 pairs of perfect socks? Why not have two really awesome pens? So, I’m going to do some research and catalog my “perfect things” as I find them. Many of the things I already own will be going on this list, but I can’t help but feeling that my list of personal effects could use some sprucing up.

Brittany: Agent From G.L.E.E.

August 2nd, 2012

I just had a fantastic idea for a spin-off for Glee.

Most of the time I sit watching Glee, I’m questioning why I’m sitting watching Glee. For the most part, I hate the characters and I want them all to perish. Then, oddly, I find myself pulling for them to break through the thin veil of First World problems that seem to constantly hover between them and the shallow happiness of recognition and validation they so desperately seek. Then I experience a rush of self loathing. Then I go back to wanting them all to perish.

Except Brittany, of course. Brittany is Amazing.

I also spend a lot of time wondering what the poor, ignored, band geeks must feel like. How can they stand listening to these whiny bitches for hours on end, every single day and not slap the living shit out of them? What sort of problems do they face? Are they as trite? Probably not, or they would likely be just as loud and obnoxious about them as their singing, dancing counterparts. No, those band geeks have real problems.

Go ahead, cry about your first world problems.

Then it hit me: those geeks are international secret agents.

It all makes sense now.

The premise for the show is that the Band, code named G.L.E.E. (Global League of Executive Enforcement,) headed up by their fearless leader Brad the Piano Player Guy, is actually a top secret paramilitary organization that answers directly to the President of the United States (played by Gary Busey,) sent to Ohio to fight a ruthless secret organization hell bent on world domination. This group will be, unbeknownst to G.L.E.E., secretly headed up by the nefarious Elektra Skorpio (code name: Emma Pillsbury.) The only person to suspect this will be a rogue operative and mercenary, code named: CHEERIO. Emma Pillsbury will secretly work to destroy the band as they feverishly attempt to uncover her identity. Her love affair with the knappy-headed Will Schuester is just a cunningly contrived cover–her loathing for him knows no bounds and is the basis for several musical solos that attest to that fact.

With the exception of Brittany, none of the other main characters from the original show will actually suspect that anything unusual is happening at their high school. Brittany will play the lead role, starting as a normal (if slightly retarded) cheer leader, just as she is portrayed in Glee. She will accidentally stumble upon the G.L.E.E. secret base under the floor of the music room and be thrust into a world of intrigue, betrayal and other nefarious goings on.

This will explain why she joined Glee (to be closer to the band geeks and their secret lair.)

I find your lack of faith disturbing.

The original Glee series will be analyzed and re-filmed so that the parts where the band geeks are visible in the show are blocked to be filmed in the exact same spots in a new episode that they were in the original. The timelines for the shows will coincide exactly.

All of the camera work will focus on the band. The original Glee cast will reprise their original roles, but will be more or less silent other than singing and dancing in the background. All of their loud, pedantic conversations about their bullshit problems will be replaced with something similar to the sound that the teacher makes in the old Peanuts cartoons.

The band geeks will use sub-vocal mics to communicate and plot their strategies for defeating whatever crazy plot they face that week while they play their instruments and the annoying kids sing and dance in the background. They will use the combined noise to assure that their conversations can’t be listened in on by covert surveillance.

Brittany will end up as a full member of the G.L.E.E. task force. The show will end when Emma Pillsbury forces G.L.E.E. choose between rescuing the Glee Club from a burning house or stopping her ultimate plan. They will, of course, be forced to sacrifice the Glee Club to the flames for the greater good.

The last musical number will be Burning Down The House by the Talking Heads.

Project Eject

July 25th, 2012

Yes please.

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog of mine. Over a year, actually. But, some interesting things have happened to me since last I posted, and I’ve decided to re-purpose this blog to chronicle my attempts to flee the United States for warmer climes. My wife, son and I (along with one of my best friends) are going to attempt to move to the Island nation of Palau in a little less than a year. There are a number of reasons we want to leave, but I won’t bore you with all that. Long story short: we need a change of scenery.

Why Palau? First: my friend (whom I shall refer to as “O”) has family from there. Third: it’s absolutely effing gorgeous and D: it’s not here.

We’re going about moving to Palau in a rather circuitous manner. First, we’re divesting ourselves of nearly all our shit. Personally, I am taking the 100 thing challenge, which I will post about in more detail later on. Next, we’re moving into a garage. All three of us. Because we’re fucking idiots. And also because it’s going to be very, very cheap. This will allow us to save money for the ridiculously expensive air fare and help O save money as well, because it’s his garage. Win win win.

No please.

Finally, we’ll pack away what few things we have left that we don’t want to take with us and pull the eject lever. Phase two involves probably building a house, possibly buying a sailboat and definitely getting a suntan. I’m sure scuba lessons are in my future, too.

Meanwhile, I need to concentrate on getting rid of all my shit and procuring the things I need before we go. We also need to build a shed, which will store the things in O’s garage while we’re occupying it, and then we need to insulate and drywall and paint the inside of the garage before we move in. We’re also considering collecting cheap or free materials here to build our house over there and then shipping them, but we still have to figure out which way will be cheaper. Shipping materials over-seas doesn’t sound like it’s the most environmentally friendly solution, but depending on the cost of shipping , it may be our best option by a long shot.

So, in short I’ve decided to make my blog into a diary of our attempt to move into a garage and further our attempt to move to paradise and then, possibly, a chronicle of the things we do when we get there including (hopefully) building an energy independent, highly efficient home. More for myself later on down the road than anything else, but if other people decide to read too, all the better.

This is a model of the inside of our new abode that that my wife made in Google Sketchup.

That’s all for now, more on my “100 things” later.

The Death of a Bodhisattva

January 4th, 2011

(Not actually my Grandmother.)

I didn’t cry when I heard that my Grandmother died. It was in October of 1996. I was nineteen at the time and living in Oahu in a run-down, one-bedroom apartment on Kanekapolei Street. My roommate was this slimy, French coke-head named Dave and my new (now “ex”) girlfriend Amber had already claimed a couple drawers in my dresser even though we’d only been dating for a couple of months. I was selling T-shirts to tourists in Diamond Head crater for pennies an hour–making just enough to keep me in cheese sandwiches, Mini-Thins, Newports and Coca-cola. My grandmother was very proud of me. To her, I was perfect; to everyone else, I was a broke, going-nowhere loser–which was actually quite a bit closer to the truth

My mother was the one who was hit the hardest; my grandmother was not only her mother but also her closest friend. When she called me she was crying so hard that she was completely unintelligible and I had to calm her down before she could even tell me what was going on. Even then, all she could choke out was “Your grandma is…” over and over again.

“Dead?” Dead is a good word for dead. It’s so final, so perfectly monosyllabic. My mother couldn’t bring herself to even say it. I sat on the other end of a scratchy, staticy phone line two-thousand miles away and tried to talk her down, to sooth her, to be her little hard plastic shoulder to cry on. I was stoic; I couldn’t crack up now. Tomorrow, perhaps.

Two days later, sans tears, I boarded a red-eye from Honolulu to Seattle chasing a ten AM funeral for the person I loved the most. With only a plastic cup of Coke and a few bags of peanuts to keep me company, my mind began to wander back to my grandmother. The past few days had been a mad rush and I hadn’t had any time to think which, in retrospect, was probably on purpose. I had responsibilities. Who was going to take care of my mom if not me? Self-indulgence was hardly an option. I stared thoughtfully at the little plastic phone mounted in the back of the seat in front of me. Maybe a call to my mom would redefine my role as the unwavering rock of dependability that I had cast myself in. Maybe. It would certainly drain the thirty or forty bucks I had left in my bank account.

(Not actually my Grandmother.)

I suppose it’s worth mentioning that dependability, responsibility and most other -ability suffixed adjectives are not words commonly associated with me. I remember thinking that this was pretty funny. My grandmother had a way of bringing out the best in people. I had thirteen hours to kill so I spent most of it thinking about her. My grandma is worth remembering.

She was born in nineteen ten. Unlike some octogenarians, my grandmother was not grumpy, not sad or self-pitying; she wasn’t tired, she wasn’t bored, she wasn’t afraid. She was never old. I have a great sepia tone picture of her from the twenties. She’s leaning up against a wall, smirking and wearing this really audacious flapper outfit. I’ll never forget that picture… I don’t think she ever forgot it either. My grandmother was something else.

She survived through the Depression, clipped coupons and eeked by on social security and a small pension. Yet, for some reason, she always thought it was a good idea to try to slip me a twenty whenever my mom wasn’t looking. And, though she couldn’t afford it, she was strangely obsessed with feeding people. While at her house one was obligated to eat something. It was an immutable law. There was nothing anyone could do about it. She had to cook something and you had to consume it. Not to imply that she was pushy. She was always extremely sympathetic to whatever excuses you might have. “I’m just dropping off a magazine from Mom,” “I have a doctors appointment,” “I just ate a huge dinner,” these were all met with an understanding smile and then a resigned shrug, as if to say, “I understand and I am truly sorry, but the Gods demand it; you will eat pot-roast before you leave this house.” Then, with a few artful, disarming remarks she’d have you reclining in her ugly Laz-Y-Boy while drinking her apple juice and watching her television. My grandmother was selfless.

During World War II, my grandmother worked for the Army and helped develop underwater camera’s that were used in strategic reconnaissance. After the war ended her career prospects were dimmed by men returning to the workforce. She had many different jobs including working at Newberry’s, being a checker at Fred Meyer, being the manager of the Baghdad Theater and several others that I can’t recall. My grandfather (who I don’t remember too well) got sick some time in the 70’s and it was my grandmother that had to provide for him. She often worked fourteen hours a day between several jobs to make ends meet but she was never bitter about it. After she retired and my grandfather died she kept herself busy with her garden, her prodigious cookie production operation and her grand-kids. She saw adversity as a project, defeat as an annoying setback and if she ever thought someone had it better than her, she never mentioned it to me. My grandmother was unstoppable.

(Not actually my Grandmother.)

I caught my transfer in Seattle and made it to Portland on time. My mother and stepfather picked me up from the airport. They both looked terrible. We all hugged and got in the car. I think I remember my mother trying to make some sort of chitchat to show me a brave face, but the bulk of the ride to town was spent staring out the window in silence. I felt bad for them. I really didn’t know what to say.

The funeral was your typical affair. Big funeral home. Faux Victorian furniture. Sleepy music. People cried. All the while soft-spoken funeral directors gently nudged the proceedings forward. Managing a funeral must be a lot like dropping off a kindergartner on their first day of school. They know the moment has to come but they just don’t want to say goodbye yet. I saw a lot of family that I hadn’t seen in a long time and we exchanged “I’m sorry”‘s and “Are you OK”‘s. Theirs tearful, mine not. By this point I was starting to get a bit paranoid. I spotted my stepbrother and stepsister; drawn-faced and red-eyed, milling about in a foyer full of people they didn’t know. I supposed that they must have felt oddly out-of-place being at a funeral for a step-grandmother. That didn’t stop the water-works, however. They didn’t know my grandmother very well and to this day I really have no idea why it hit them so hard, but I remember them being pretty broken up about the whole thing. My step-siblings didn’t interact with my grandmother very much. She was a bit player in the cast of people that made up their lives. So why were they standing by the door sobbing and choking like a couple of world-class hired dirge singers? Or maybe a better question is why wasn’t I?

I don’t really remember the funeral itself, which means it was probably unremarkable. What I do remember was approaching the casket afterward. Seeing someone dead with your own eyes really cements the idea in your head. There is an eerie, coldness and a stillness that rubs off and sticks to you. It is a moment that punctuates the finality of death and forces us to contemplate the nature of mortality. At the risk of sounding repetitive, I fully expected that this terrible moment that I saw her laying there was going to be when it all came pouring out. Just as Gilgamesh did at the side of Enkidu, I would gnash my teeth and pull out my hair. Instead I just stood there and stared.

(Not actually my Grandmother. (But close.))

I used to ask my Grandmother a lot of questions because she was the only person whose opinion I trusted implicitly. Perhaps another reason I asked her is simply because she had such great answers for everything. When I asked her if there was a God, she said:
“I don’t know, maybe.”
When I asked her if she was afraid to die, she said:
“Nope, I’ve already done everything I wanted to do.”
When I asked her if she had that chance to be young again, whether she would take it or not, she said:
“No. I already was young; I’m going to try being old for a while.”
And it was always like that. I’d try to corner her with some annoying, open-ended question and she’d cut me short with her Buddha nature. My grandmother the Bodhisattva.

She died in my mother’s arms in the back seat of a car. It was quick and painless. She wasn’t afraid. I imagine if I were to ask her if she had the chance to be alive again, whether she would take it or not, she’d say something like: “No. I already was alive; I’m going to try being dead for a while.” That’s just the way she was. The more I think about it, the more I believe that the reason I haven’t cried is because there really isn’t anything to cry about.

She didn’t suffer and die in a nursing home. She didn’t waste her life. She had no regrets. She wasn’t torn from us before she was ready. She lived a long, full life and in the process brightened up the lives of everyone she knew. She has influenced me from the way I visualize the workings of the universe to how I make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and everything in between. I don’t mourn her because she never went away. I’ll keep her in my thoughts and save my tears for tragedy.

Defrauding voters is treason and should carry the death penalty

November 15th, 2010


A few days ago, the Baltimore Sun published an article on their website outlining a complaint filed against a GOP consulting group which is being accused of robo-calling over 112,000 Democrats on election day–while the polls were still open–and informing them that their candidate had already won and that they needn’t bother going to vote.

This called to mind a similar experience I personally had while I was going to college during the 2004 presidential campaign cycle and ran into a guy on campus who was attempting to persuade students to register as Republicans, claiming that there were certain ballot measures that only Republicans could vote on.

Then, of course, there are the numerous complaints of voting machine tampering in the last decade, including video documentation of vote fixing using voting machines and voting machine “bugs” in which the machine changes the vote after the vote has been placed. There are even a number of tutorials on how to hack a voting machine.

Every election cycle there are hundreds of reports of political groups misleading voters or intimidating them or otherwise abridging their right to vote. If there were ever a direct attack on democracy, it is this. If there were ever a crime that deserved to share the word “treason” with Benedict Arnold and his collusion with the British, it would be this attack on the fabric of our political system.

I just now figured out that “Eggs Benedict”
is a god damn pun. “Poached” (i.e. stolen)
eggs on an English Muffin…
That shit isn’t funny.

The vote is the essence of freedom. It is the root from which all of our liberties stem and it is the collective voice with which we temper the machinations of the government. It is the leash on the monster; the hammer that shapes the sword. Without the vote, freedom is an illusion and our government becomes our master. Therefore when a person or group of persons does anything to halt, forestall, impede or otherwise fraudulently dissuade voters from executing their duty as citizens, or changes or destroys their votes after the fact, it is treason and should be punished accordingly.

Title 18, part 1, chapter 115 § 2381 of the U.S.C. states:
“Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death…”
It goes on to list lesser punishments such as jail time or fines.

The rest of chapter 115 covers sedition and conspiracy, which could reasonably be applied to unlawful disenfranchisement in even more cases than treason.

Now is probably a good time to mention that–for a number of reasons–I don’t actually support the death penalty. Still, I am perplexed as to how voter fraud is not considered treasonous (or at the least “seditious conspiracy”) and why punishment is not meted out in that light. It simply doesn’t make any sense. Who would stand up for voter fraud? Who would impede a bill that demanded harsher punishments for those committing voter fraud? And most importantly: why the fuck is our government not doing more to prosecute people for these brazen attacks on what is certainly among the most sacrosanct of our rights?

Eyyy… don’t touch the hair.

The recent case against the GOP political group that defrauded Democrat voters is being tried as a civil case in federal court and is seeking $500 per crime. While this could potentially cost the defendants $60 million dollars a piece, this simply is not good enough. This is a crime perpetrated against the very wellspring of our freedom, not a god damn dispute over the neighbors dog shitting on our lawn. This is a criminal case and if these people are found guilty of making those calls, they (at the very least) need to go to prison for a very long fucking time.

If you suspect voter fraud is being committed in your district, SAY SOMETHING ABOUT IT. It would be nice if your duty as a citizen was discharged on voting day and you could go back to watching guidos fuck each-others’ hair on television, but that is a fantasy. Your responsibility to shape the attitudes of our elected officials is perpetual and must be executed frequently.

Go here and let your congressman know how you feel about voter fraud.

The inadvertant stalker

November 6th, 2010

Nothing makes me as keenly aware of being a man as being behind a woman. It’s a weird place to be being behind a woman. I don’t mean in line or in general, I mean happening to end up a few steps behind a woman I don’t know on a street when there isn’t anyone else around. It’s especially unnerving when it’s dark and the lighting is bad.

Stop following me!

So there you are, headed the same direction as this woman, it’s dark and for whatever reason there you are, plodding along a couple of steps behind her. She is never not uncomfortable with this arrangement. You are going to get either the bunched up shoulders or the over-the-shoulder glances or both. It’s a pretty awful feeling knowing you are freaking someone the hell out but who can blame her? It’s a rough world filled with shitty men. Realistically your options are pretty limited in these situations. There typically isn’t a lot either one of you can do other than ride it out.

  • Sometimes, if it is practical, I’ll cross the street. That does the trick, but it is kind of silly to do if your destination is on the side that you’re already on.
  • Sometimes, if she’s moving slow and there is plenty of room, I’ll speed up and pass her. Granted, she probably suffers heightened discomfort by my new velocity, but once I am past, I can go even faster and we can both stop worrying about it. Like ripping off a band-aid.
  • If she’s truckin’ I can slow down and jingle my keys or whistle a tune or something so she can tell she’s outpacing me.
  • A couple of times I have thought about just saying, “hey, I am not going to rape and kill you, we’re just headed the same way.” But that might make things even weirder and more uncomfortable.

Last night I headed over to Safeway to buy cat food, milk and bread. It was pretty late, so the store was almost totally empty but I ended up walking in right behind this girl. She had a pretty short, tight dress on and fishnets and boots. He hair was curled and she looked pretty done up. She was probably no stranger to dealing with guys and their unwanted attentions. Just a guess, obviously.

At first she goes off to the right, which is good, because I am going left. Then she cuts across behind the left-over Halloween candy display and ends up in front of me again, only now she’s like five feet away. She makes as if to go up the chips isle and I veer to go around her but then she stops and resumes her original trajectory so that now I am two feet away.

Of course, she turns up the cat food isle.

She stops at wet food. Obviously, she loves her cat more than I do because I blow past her like a race car driver taking the inside lane on my way to the purgatory-of-dry-food-for-cheap-people-who-don’t-appreciate-their-pets.

I feel better because I am no longer crawling up this poor chick’s back and start looking for the giant bag of weight control food for ancient, fat-asses. My cat is seriously about the size of the the entire Chicago Bears defensive line duct-taped together. Maybe slightly larger.

Be reasonable madam, I mean you no harm.

But then I can’t find it. She walks past me toward the back of the store as I finally settle on a smaller bag of Iams for fat-asses and head off to get milk.

Who is also getting milk? Same girl. Now I just feel really awkward. At this point I think about cracking a joke and informing her that I’m not following her but think better of it. I grab my 2% quickly, hoping I can regain the lead but am too late, she’s already off.

To the baked goods section… Of course.

Screw it! I’ll just get bread on Monday. Kai can have hot lunch. I head for the checkout hoping that she doesn’t have the ability to teleport.

It’s late, so there is only one lane open. She ends up in line behind me. She has grabbed a loaf of the exact same potato bread I buy. I now feel double glad that I didn’t decide to buy bread. The poor woman probably would have been forced to mace me.

I pay and flee.

Where am I going with all this? I have no idea.

Maybe: sometimes they are more afraid of you than you are of them.

And then sometimes they really are stalking you.

So I guess our dance of paranoia continues.

Backsplash? Not any more.

November 2nd, 2010

It took me over thirty years to figure this out on my own. I made a diagram. If I save just one person, it was worth it.

Spread the word. You don’t have to be a victim anymore!


Sons of Anarchy, Season 1

November 2nd, 2010

Sons of Anarchy
Airs on FX on Tuesdays

The premise for this show did not sound terribly promising. I was predicting it would be something like a violent Dukes of Hazzard plus tits. I don’t think I was completely off, but it’s more like Violent-Dukes-of-Hazzard-meets-the-Sopranos, minus tits.

Hear that flash?

The show revolves around Hazzard County the town of Charming, California. Mostly due to the influence of the Duke Boys Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, the town has remained virtually untouched by the onslaught of progress. There are no drugs in Charming, no prostitutes, no real crime to speak of. No chain stores, no housing developments; it’s the town that time forgot. It seems that the people of Charming have mixed feelings about the club, but at the worst view it as a necessary evil. Most of the townspeople seem to like the biker club and appreciate what they do for them. The town and the club have a sort of symbiotic relationship going on. It’s actually a pretty cool concept.

If you liked the Sopranos, you’re probably going to like Sons of Anarchy as they have a number of things in common.

The story is character driven. Sons actually does a better job of creating dynamic characters than the Sopranos did. It seems as though the writing team sat down and mapped out every person’s relationship to everyone else. Every character has a unique take on every other character and their behavior toward one another reflects their shared history. Not only that, the characters evolve and change in pretty realistic ways.

I’m guessing future seasons will have a more thrilling central story arc. The first season’s arc is a great introduction to the story-world and lays groundwork for future plot-lines with some decent foreshadowing.

There are a couple of moments where suspension of disbelief starts to sag a bit, but no deal-breakers. As my friend Amen has pointed out, the main character (Jax Teller, played by Charlie Hunnam)–who was born and raised on the teat of a motorcycle club–wears saggy jeans, white Adidas and strolls around town with a pimp limp. It’s not that improbable that he should display these affectations, but friends of his raised in the same town at the same time have no such inclinations toward the same cultural displays. This makes him the only biker that behaves this way, which does seem a tad out of place.

Rule #34, biatch.

The most interesting character so far is the main character’s mother, Gemma Teller Morrow (played by Katey Sagal.) Her character is difficult to describe because it defies conventional archetypes. She’s pretty simply a bad-ass, although not always a likable one. She’s a bit like George R.R. Martin’s character Catelyn (Tully) Stark, only more capable and less self absorbed.

All said and done, I’d recommend this show as long as you don’t mind violence, cursing and the occasional man-ass. I don’t know what it is with fucking man-ass shots these days, seriously. I am pretty sure they have them in cereal commercials and kids cartoons now. Fine, I can deal with man-ass in Pokemon and Count Chocula, but I would like more boob and less man-ass in my show about biker outlaws, thank-you-very-much. On the up side, with no boobs, my wife doesn’t glare at me as much while we’re watching, so that’s nice.


October 22nd, 2010

I just got done watching the first season of the BBC show Being Human and while it wasn’t terrible and has a lot going for it, it did break one of the rules of modern vampire stories that simply can’t be broken: day-walking vampires.

Vampires: yes.

I assume this trend in vampire storytelling is because it’s inconvenient to write about characters that can only go out at night. Well tough shit. They are god-damned vampires! If you don’t want to write a story about fast, non-reptilian creatures that don’t have shells, write about rabbits, not fucking turtles. If you want to write a story about a guy who is obsessed with tanning beds, garlic and primping in mirrors, write about a guido, not a fucking vampire.

Granted, there is some leeway here as there is no historical consensus on what a vampire even is, but in modern times we have narrowed it down quite a bit. Let’s take a look at what is and isn’t necessary to concoct a vampire story that isn’t complete shit.

Drinks blood
This is certainly the cornerstone of vampirism. No blood drinking, no vampire.

Is Dead
Not as necessary as the blood drinking, but pretty damn common. In many cultures, vampires came from the improperly treated remains of the dead, while in others, they were born vampires and were presumably alive. Still, from a modern standpoint, most vampires are no longer classically “living” entities. If you are going to toy with this, you better have a damn good reason.

Killed by sunlight
Historically, vampires were not effected by exposure to sunlight. My friend Amen pointed out that Bram Stoker’s Dracula went about during the day, which is true. During this conversation, I explained how much I hated daylight vampires and he offered some insight which I will share a bit later.

Can’t be seen in mirrors. Can turn into a bat or mist.
This is great flavor, and it really depends on your mythology. If this is a modern story with a more scientific bent to it, these can go. If vampires are created by some virus or another, then it stands to reason that they are still going to be visible in a mirror and are probably not going to be able to turn into vapor. If, on the other hand, it’s more of a “demonic curse” kind of thing and we’re going with a more supernaturally charged motif, then these things can be kind of neat. I can go either way on these.

Is stronger and faster than humans
It stands to reason that if they are going to hunt us, they should be stronger than us.

Can be killed by decapitation or a stake through the heart
Again, not necessary, but this is classic flavor. There is generally no reason to get rid of it, so it shouldn’t be gotten rid of. These are easily included in any genre of vampire.

Repelled by garlic, crosses, hallowed ground or holy water
These I can do with out. Historically, there are a ton of herbs that are supposed to ward off vampires. The whole garlic thing just seems rather silly. Crosses and holy water seem fairly goofy as well unless the vampire is “demonic” in origin. As many vampire movies and books have pointed out through their characters: to allow crosses and not stars of David (or what have you) makes a pretty strong metaphysical claim, a claim I doubt most authors care to make. Various stories have included the by-now-entirely-unoriginal explanation that the symbol doesn’t matter as it is faith alone that drives away the boogie man. This is thin. Very thin.

Can pass on the curse/virus/whatever under specific circumstances
This adds a layer of complexity to vampires that makes them interesting and threatening in a whole new way. This also ties into the point about sunlight, which I will come back to in a moment.

Vajazzling: fine.

Vampirism makes you “bad”
This drives me nuts. I can understand it making a vampire uncontrollably hungry, but the whole deal where they instantly become diabolically disposed to eating babies is just fucking annoying. Generally, a good character is not static and is the master of their own fate. They show that they are capable of change. A story about a remorseless killing machine or “the one good vampire” is really a yawnfest. The remorseless killing machine is pointless and the “one good vampire” shtick is really tired. If there can be one, there can be others. I’d think new-found immortality, lust, hunger, fear and boredom would be enough to change most people’s outlook on what they eat. That there would be a lot of bad vampires is understandable. That they are all bad is annoying and breaks my suspension of disbelief.

Can’t come in uninvited, can’t cross running water.
If you are going to go hella old-school and are working with a “magical” vampire, rather than a “scientific” vampire, these are good stuff. They have that odd, old-world flavor of shit people just made up. It’s cool because it’s a bit nonsensical. Still, I dig it, I think because it means most people have to allow the vampire to harm them.

Vampires can hypnotize people
This is annoying and makes it too easy on the vampires. I think there is probably a sexiness inherent in a hungry 200-year-old trapped in a 20-year-old’s body that works fine without the woo. Characters need to make their choices. It’s a lot less interesting when the vampires are all perfect killing machines and the people are all sheep.

Die in a fucking fire.

Vampjazzling: fuck you.

Vampires embody an inherently skewed power paradigm. They are simultaneously stronger and weaker than the humans they feed on which is what makes them interesting. I came to this realization when I was talking with my friend Amen about it. I explained that I didn’t like “daylight vampires” but that I wasn’t entirely sure why. He proposed it was because they are seem too powerful that way. I am inclined to agree, although I’ll take it a step further. If vampires can make more vampires in a more or less unrestricted fashion, can go out during the day, are stronger and faster than humans and are nearly physically indestructible and we are to assume that they have been around for thousands of years, by the time the story setting comes around, there simply wouldn’t be any humans left. The suspension of disbelief is destroyed by day-walking vampires. That they are completely helpless during the day is the only factor that realistically keeps them from taking over the world.

At night, they are fast, strong and in every way physically superior to humans. But humans can move, hide and fight at night–and with a stake (or holy water or some other weakness to exploit,) stand a fighting chance of making it through ’til dawn. Vampires, on the other hand, are only cloaked by secrecy during the day. Hired guards can be bought off or disposed of by a superior force. The only realistic way to stay safe is to hide and the best way to hide is to remain unknown. Running around and making a bunch people into vampires to create an army is not a terribly low key course of action. That army has to sleep and they all have to sleep at exactly the same time, they also need to be fed during the same hours. With these restrictions, vampires populations are kept in check and they remain in the shadows where they belong.

In conclusion: day walking vampires are stupid and people should stop fucking writing stories about them. Q.E.D.


October 19th, 2010

I’m bedazzled. Seriously, I am floored. My father has been using this
seriously sketchy hosting company that appears to be a guy with a
cheap-o virtual host that’s reselling and charging his customers 15
bucks a month. His IP address is through some sort of proxy exchange
in California so it’s difficult to tell where he’s hosted. All his
contact info is no longer working and he’s the regisrant of my
father’s domain, which expires in less than a month. He claims on his
website that he has a co-location at Rackspace.com, so I gave them a
ring on a lark.

Someone answered the phone. I was seriously caught off guard. It took
me a second to figure out that a human just picked up the god damn
phone and said hello. No menu, no answering machine, just

She was super nice and sat and listened to my saga and then was very
sympathetic. She put me on hold and came back five minutes later and
told me that they did not host his server, but then told me who did.

She just solved my problem. 5 minutes. Boom. Done. I’m not even one of
her customers! With the place I host my websites through, it takes me
several days to get anything done and it’s always through a guy in
India or Pakistan who has no idea what he’s talking about. It’s
usually 24 hours turn around for each question I ask and generally,
they have been completely unable to solve any of my problems. Then
again, my hosting is no where near as expensive as Rackspace.

Long story short: if you are looking for a high-end co-lo facility, I
can vouch for their customer service. It’s fucking amazing.

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