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The Money God pays off

Today must have been my Free Friday or something, as I got free things every time I stopped at a place of business today. Well, almost every time. The folks at the Krauszer's didn't give me anything, but that's not a surprise.

I went to the garden center to get another tomato cage, and was asking where their fresh corn was from, when the proprietress told me to take a few pieces home and try them and if I like them, come back. Then I went to the mechanic down the block, where I used to take my cars for years, to tell them that I still don't have anything wrong with the Jeep. (It was actually just an excuse to say hello to the guys, who have been very sweet to me over the years.) Except that the front left tire was low, and it turned out there was a screw in it (and no jokes about my having a screw loose and causing this), so the guys removed the screw and plugged the tire, gratis.

It's nice when things like this happen. Reminds you that there are, indeed, nice people in the world.


Standing in line at Target the other night, I had the misfortune of being in front of one of the more annoying people I've encountered lately. I had to endure five minutes' worth of negative comment after negative comment by this idiot. He had to criticize everything about the store, the clerk at our counter, the number of lines that were or weren't open, the slowness of the customers ahead of us. At one point, he exclaimed indignantly that the person in front of me had more than three items. "It's six items," I said, pointing to the sign. He hemmed and hawed and said that he thought it was three because he had three items and I had three items. I had four. The man couldn't count, either. I pointed out that stuff happens, and clerks rarely tell a customer that has more than the required amount to go to another line, since the customer usually gets annoyed and complains to the manager. The man insisted he would side with his clerk and tell the customer if they didn't like it, shop somewhere else. "I'm guessing you're not in customer service," I said. The irony escaped him completely.

There was another moment where I actually got him to shut up, after he complained that they should have more lines open and more people working. "Yeah," I told him, "I just don't understand it. A job that pays just over minimum wage where you're on your feet eight hours a day and have practically no benefits--I don't understand why they can't find people to come work here." Half a minute of blissful silence followed this remark.

I find that Target and K-Mart and stores like them give me the opportunity to study human nature, especially of the working class. For instance, there was the couple in front of us who had a cookie jar shaped like a barn that plays the theme to Green Acres. The woman obviously wanted it, and it was even more obvious it was for her, as the man she was with (her fiancé, it turned out) kept on saying, "You're the one who picked it." And yet, when it inadvertently started playing the song while she was getting checked out, she seemed embarrassed that we all knew she was buying a cookie jar that plays the Green Acres theme. The contradiction amused me. So did the fact that she was tasteless enough to want to own a cookie jar that played the Green Acres theme song every time you opened it. But Mencken was right: Nobody every went broke underestimating the vulgarity of the American public.

Hm. Part of me wants to write that essay on elitism that's been cooking in my head, but the rest of me says: Not now. Here's a preview: I'm an elitist, and I have no qualms about saying so.--MAY



Be vewy, vewy quiet…

You know, one of the things the stats on this site tell me is who (or at least, what server) is calling me. And an interesting statistic on who is calling me is that a large number of you are coming through, and now you're starting to come through safeweb as well.

Which leads me to wonder: Why all the mystery?

I have several theories as to who is coming here via anonymous web servers. Let me run them past you and see if I'm on the money.

  1. You're hackers, trying to see if my IP provider isn't completely up-to-date on their MS IIS software. Sorry, d00dz, they are.
  2. You're Keith Henson or friends of his, attracted here by my link to his story ages ago. I can understand why you'd want to stay quiet. Those Scientologists are tenacious.
  3. You're Scientologists, attracted here by my derogatory comments. Go away boy, you bother me.
  4. You're friends or former friends of mine who don't want me to know you're keeping an eye on what I'm saying about you. Hey, no skin off my nose. Web traffic is web traffic.
  5. You're just people who like your privacy and you somehow found my website, but it's a puzzle to me how you found it.

So, how right am I? Did I miss any theories?

You know, if you wanted to, even you anonymous people could send me feedback. I don't want your real names or e-mail addresses. It's not like I'm going to ask you over to dinner. It's just that it would feel less like an echo chamber around here if you actually said something to me. Use a hotmail or a yahoo account with a fake name. Please don't make me set up a CGI feedback form for you, because perl and I do not agree with one another at all, and it would take far too much work. Save my sanity.--MAY



The Money God has risen

Okay, so it took me a while. But I got my brother to come over and supervise the hanging of the portrait of the Chinese Money God, whom, as you remember, I purchased the week I got laid off from my job.

The reason I needed my brother for this is that The Money God happens to be an antique Chinese reverse painting, which is painted on the glass, not on canvas, so if he falls and breaks, the painting is gone. Done. Finished. Shards. (Am I being redundant and repetitive here? I'll end this and stop.)

So Dave did a bang-up job hanging Charles (that's the name I choose to give him, since he has no name), and my living room walls are now--finally!--balanced, and there is something incredibly strange about Charles. It's his eyes. By some trick of the artist, no matter where you go in the room, his eyes seem to follow you.

I think it's really neat. It's kind of liking having someone watching out for you. My mother, I suspect, would have had the same reaction she had to my Cat Stevens poster that hung in my room when I was a teenager. She hated it. She said he was "looking at her," and ultimately tore it down in a fit of anger over something I had done. I then got a poster of George Harrison, whose eyes were even deeper and darker than Cat's, and that one lasted only until I did something that pissed her off again, then she tore that one down, too. Have I told you that my teen years really sucked?

Anyway, I can't wait to see Mom's reaction to Charles. She can't tear HIM down. It's my home.--MAY



Random Thoughts, Part II

News flash! Unidentified lights in the sky appeared over Carteret (that's here in NJ) Sunday night. So the various news channels had their various stories on them, and UPN was the absolute worst. The incredibly intelligent and incredulous (not!) journalist reported on the lights as if they were bona fide UFOs and the aliens had landed, ending her story by saying "That wasn't the first UFO report in Carteret. Last year a man saw a UFO the size of Giants Stadium in his backyard!"

The ambiguity of the above statement begs the question: Just exactly how big was this man's backyard?

Mind you, I'm of the opinion that the lights may very well have been swamp gas, as anyone who has been in or near Carteret can attest to the--er--odor. (Can you say "oil refineries"? I knew you could.) But even so--six lights in the sky do not a UFO make. And evidently, four years in college as a communications major do not a journalist make.

Look what I can do!

This one's been getting to me slowly but surely over the past year. I'm a big fan of MAD TV on Fox. It's what SNL used to be--mostly funny skits with talented actors skewering personalities at will. One of the recurring characters is "Stuart", who is a small boy played by Michael McDonald, and whose signature routines include somehow always managing to strip to his shorts and pose with his butt stuck out, and the one that I can't seem to get out of my head: "Look what I can do!" This is spoken in McDonald's version of a little-boy voice, and I find myself, from time to time, wanting to leap up and down, wave my arms, and say "Look what I can do!" in that voice, just like he does.

Do you think perhaps I should seek therapy over this?

Ex-smokers make lousy neighbors

I'm finding myself having to curb my reaction to my upstairs neighbor's new girlfriend. She smokes. I quit smoking more than three years ago. This wouldn't be a problem, except for the fact that I prefer to keep my windows open and the fan on, so when she goes out on the front porch for a cigarette, the smoke comes into my apartment until I hurry and close the windows. It also explains why my bedroom has been smelling like smoke--it must be coming through the air conditioner vent.

The conundrum here: What I would REALLY like to do is go outside while she's smoking, leap up and down yelling "Look what I can do!" and grab the cigarette from her and crush it out.

Do you think perhaps I should seek therapy over this, as well?--MAY



Look what I found

I was looking through my writing directory and found this from July 18, 1999. That would be a few weeks after my father died, before I decided to go to Chubb and become a programmer. It looks like I had these weblogs in mind longer than I thought.

I guess I'll have to call this:

Random thoughts

I bought one of those "Nature Sound" CDs--a rainfall soundtrack. So I put it on one night, adjust the sound so that it will be just low enough to let me drift off. The rainstorm breaks out at the beginning of the CD, I can feel myself relaxing-and then a thunderstorm hits. The thunder gets louder as if the storm is coming closer. This is billed as a meditation CD. Uh-huh. Relax... relax... KABOOM! Yup. Works for me.

File this one under "Only in America": I'm watching The View one morning. Joy Behar has a spot on weird machines that were patented in the past, such as the "breast enlarger"--what looked like a funnel at the end of a tube that drew air via a hand-pump. So, they try it on Meredith Viera, and suddenly the "A-B-C" ding-dong that signifies a newsflash sounds. Rather than interrupt Meredith Viera's shtick, ABC runs a picture-within-picture of the surrender of Rafael Whatshisname, the train-riding serial killer. Like I said--only in America.

So does anyone else find this condescending? Peter Jennings announces the American Women's World Cup Soccer victory, and adds this caveat, "But there's got to be a better way to win than by penalty kicks." Yeah, we've come a long way, ladies. Get the feeling he would have said something like, "In a thrilling game capped by a penalty kick goal, the U.S. Men's Soccer Team won the World Cup yesterday..."

I like Rosie O'Donnell. I think she's a wonderful comedian, and a good actress. But I think her talk show is one of the worst things to hit the airwaves since the first trash-talk show back in the 80s. It seems to me that Rosie's show is all about being a starry-eyed fan of celebrities. Celebrities are, frankly, people who have accomplished nothing but acting in television or the movies, or have acquired hit records on the Billboard charts. While I acknowledge their talent (those of them who have some), I have no more respect for them than I do for anyone else who works hard at a field and achieves in it. I've never bought into the cult of personality, and it bothers me that Rosie not only buys into it, but has turned it into a cottage industry, and lowered the standards of television even worse than they were before. She not only worships the television culture, she talks about her favorite TV shows all of the time.

Rosie: Get over it. Audience: Get a brain. Check out Oprah's book club instead.

I'm walking home from the gym one day, and I see a sign in the automotive parts store across the street: "WE RENT PRAYERS". I do a double-take, stop dead in my tracks, and stare. Shaking my head, I resume walking-and see the "S" that was hidden by the window frame, and invisible from the angle I was looking. "WE RENT SPRAYERS." Oh.

Do you think TNT will ever get tired of playing Clint Eastwood and John Wayne movies? What's that? Not until Ted Turner is dead, buried, and a hundred years gone? Damn.

A stitch in time saves nine what?

Okay, I admit it. I have fallen completely for the ad campaign of Taco Bell. Every so often, I find myself saying, "Here, leezard, leezard, leezard." I find that I can't turn the station when that chihuahua appears. And I fell out of the chair laughing when I first saw the Star Wars Taco Bell commercial. It almost makes me want to purchase YUM stock. Hm. Maybe I will.

If dolphins are supposed to be so smart, how come they can't jump over tuna nets?--MAY



Games people play

Oh, man, did I make a huge mistake a few weeks ago. I bought a five-pack of formerly popular games on CD, which includes Myst, and installed Myst on my system today. Gawd. That thing can keep you occupied for days if you let it. And to think, it's really just an expanded version of Zork, and I hated Zork, and all Zork-like games.

This is all Heidi's fault. She bought that Scooby-Doo game for Sorena, and then I played it with Sorena while I was in Virginia over the Fourth, and it reminded me that I'd bought Myst and never installed it.

All I can say is, I'm glad I didn't install Sim City 2000 while I was at it. It's taking all my self-control not to boot up Myst again. Zoiks! (See? Scooby-Doo is evil.)

There's a live skunk in my parking lot

I wish it were a dead skunk in the middle of the road. At least the scent would be over and done with after a day or so. But we have this huge skunk hanging out in our parking lot, and of course, since cars travel through an apartment parking lot frequently, it gets frightened a lot. I've been hurrying to shut my windows and balcony door a lot, lately.

My neighbor calls it a reverse skunk. It's mostly white with a bit of black. I wonder if that means anything other than that its colors are reversed. I know! I'll ask Miss Cleo, the famous psychic! Or John Edward! Maybe it's a dead soul come to haunt someone (or everyone) in this apartment complex.


There's an old lady in the other parking lot

There's this woman who does laps around the nursing home behind my apartments. I see her crossing the parking lot, generally while I'm preparing supper, as I usually have my balcony door open unless it's hideously hot and humid. I prefer air to air conditioning. So I see this woman, and she sees me, and I'm wondering if I should say hello or something. But then yesterday I started thinking, what if she's nuts? She really doesn't look old enough to be in a nursing home. So maybe she's there because she's a bit batty. And I don't think I can handle batty right now, so instead I tried a kind of nod when she looked up at me. She didn't change expression at all, just kept on walking. But then again, she does hold her head at a peculiar upward angle, and that's what enables her to look almost directly into my eyes when I glance outside while she's walking, and it does creep me out just a bit.

Hm. Maybe she is a loon.--MAY



Over and over again

I've figured out a new way to occupy your mind when otherwise feeling bored. A list. No, not A-list, just a list--of movies that do not bear repeat viewing.

This occurred to me today, while channel-surfing past TNT's showing of "Three Men and a Baby". Not only are the hair and fashions dated, but the film itself is a yawner once you've already seen it. And I don't believe I've seen it since I first saw it in the theater.

We need to establish a few guidelines. It's probably easier to create rules for movies that you can watch over and over again.

So here are the criteria for a movie that does bear repeat viewings:

Comedies must still be funny. For instance, my brothers and I can watch "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" again and again and still laugh at it. "Big" gets very small after you've seen it a couple of times. No film made by Lorne Michaels and starring any SNL alumni bears repeat views.

Dramas must still grip your attention. "The Crying Game" is a Johnny One-Note--once you've figured it out, you're done. "The Sixth Sense" was just as interesting the second time around, since you got to catch all the things you missed on the first run.

Action films have to be fun to watch every single time. I was at a Wiz store once while they were showing "Jurassic Park" on the home theater system they were trying to sell. A crowd gathered around when the T-Rex scene began and stayed until the scene was over. If you find yourself fast-forwarding through any part of, say, "The Last Action Hero," it's a goner.

Tearjerkers have to make you cry each time you watch them, and no cheating with onions. This is obviously a women-only rule, as I don't know a single man (straight, that is) who enjoys a good tearjerker. Nearly every single classic 1930s and 1940s tearjerker fits this category. There are a few modern movies that I'll put in there ("Where the Heart Is," "Terms of Endearment," "Steel Magnolias"--except I always wanted Julia Roberts to die, so I can't really judge that one).

Science Fiction films: There are so few good SF films, I'm not even going to bother with this one. Its only criterion is it has to be good. Is there really anybody out there who is not a Scientologist who thinks "Battlefield Earth" should be viewed once, let alone multiple times? I thought not.

Slasher flicks: Don't watch 'em. Don't care.

Horror flicks: See above.

Suspense: Very, very few suspense films outside of Hitchcock can be successfully re-watched. "Silence of the Lambs" was one. I can't name too many more because I view suspense films as painfully as horror films. I really don't like to be scared.

Westerns: "Silverado" was excellent. It blended humor, adventure, and classic Western characters and situations, even though it was made in the 80s. "Unforgiven" is a once-only film. It felt like it was trying too hard to be a meaningful Western. Maybe that's why "Silverado" succeeded. It just was.

Animated: Must be older Disney (but not too old) or non-Disney. Most modern Disney (post-Beauty and the Beast) sucks. All animated films that go straight to video suck.

Films made from television shows: No film made from a television show can stand up to repeated viewings, and that includes the Trek films. Not one. Nuh-uh. Crapola. Okay, wait. Maybe STII and STVI. But no others.

Musicals: They have to be real musicals, not films with random songs in them. Most Rodgers & Hammerstein films, all Judy Garland non-Andy Hardy films work, and most of the Golden Age musicals. The last good recent musical: Cabaret. Worst remake of a musical: Barbra Streisand's version of "A Star is Born".

Romance: Sometimes tough to distinguish from tearjerkers, but there is a difference. Men still only bring their dates to these films because they're hoping to score points (or other things). "Sleepless in Seattle" was a good example of a fine romance. (There's a pun in there for you old-movie buffs.) "You've Got Mail" was a good example of a terrible romance. Hey, whaddya know? The same team that made the first made the second! Just goes to show you: Even good writers, producers, and actors can make a film that sucks.

I've run out of categories. Well. That was fun.--MAY