Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Something weird happened to me today...

As I mentioned yesterday, I have a cold again. I went into the restroom to blow my nose nice and hard without disturbing anyone. When I did, I felt my right ear pop. That's not weird. I've had that happen before. I know it has something to do with the sinus canal or whatever it's called. But what was weird was I immediately felt very dizzy. Really dizzy. Like my equilibrium was gone dizzy. Like I was going to fall down and I had to reach out with both hands to brace myself against the walls dizzy. The first thought that sprang into my head was "Nick Esasky!". Nick Esasky was a baseball player in the '80s whose career was ruined when he suddenly and inexplicably developed vertigo. I hadn't thought of Nick Esasky in years (justifiably so I would think; I'm sure Nick Esasky would be as creeped out as anybody if I went around thinking about him for no reason) yet he was the first arrival in my head when this weird thing happened to me.

What happened next was a rapid succession of random thoughts: Don't fall on the toilet; toilets are hard and you will crack something and bleed. And don't fall in the toilet either. That could actually be more harmful in the long run. Uh-oh, speaking of long term affects, what if this is permanent? What if my career is affected? Will I need a special chair with straps or side rails to hold me in it so I'm not falling down every few minutes? Will the company provide that? I'll bet they'll have to. If they don't, I will go on the news and shame them into it. Bastards. I bet this will make me eligible for a handicapped parking tag, which wouldn't be the worst thing actually. But wait; I won't be able to drive! I'll cause horrific accidents all over the place. I'll roll my car over and over and probably won't event know it. Shit, who is going to drive me around? Maybe nobody. Maybe I'll be a shut-in, living on disability. But maybe I will develop incredible artistic ability as a result of my horrible affliction. People will be amazed at my incredibly surreal paintings and will be so astounded at my ability to create such beauty that they will pay incredible sums of money for them. I, of course, will remain a recluse, shunning all the adoration and will be thought of as a mysterious, troubled genius... Every one of these thoughts came and went within five seconds or so (and that particular phenomenon actually happens to me quite often). About a minute later I was fine and went back to work.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Billy The Kid and The Science Experiment

For some time now, I've been wrestling with the dilemma of whether or not to blog about my job. The perils of doing so are many and range from getting fired, which would be bad, to getting sued, which would be worse, to getting arrested which would be tragic. On the other hand, I spend so much time at work, where so many blog-worthy things happen, that I've felt constricted by NOT writing about what goes on there. I've been struggling with that for some time but have now decided, screw it, I'm going to blog about it...with some boundaries:
  1. I'm not going to mention where I work
  2. Or what exactly I do there
  3. I'll be blogging about some of what happens there, not the nature of the company itself or the business that takes place there.
  4. And I'm going to use pseudonyms for everybody who works there.

If you really care about the first two points, ask me (quietly, via email). I'll (probably) tell you.

I'll start by telling you a little about the guy with whom I share an office. Billy, while not actually a kid, is younger than me and I have known him since he was one. He's a cocky, mischevious little bastard who I think of as a grown-up Bart Simpson. Frequently my work is interrupted by a shower of pushpins or paperclips or bottlecaps or boxes he's thrown at me. Sometimes he punches me or puts me in a chokehold. I don't want to give anybody the wrong idea: I'm not a passive victim and am certainly capable of giving as good as receiving...I'm just saying he (always) starts it.

The other day I was working on something and was enjoying an ice-cold bottle of Coke. I had only finished about half of it when Billy came over (completely unprovoked) and put three or four paperclips in it. He laughed and I threw a stapler at him. Afterwards, we mutuially agreed that the Coke was no longer potable so we might as well put it to good use and decided to conduct a science experiment. You know the old urban legend about the incredible acidic properties of Coca Cola? The version I remember from childhood consisted of some kid soaking his bike chain in a pan of it to remove rust, but leaving it in too long and finding the entire chain itself dissolved. Anyway, we decided to see for ourselves if it were true. If I was to be deprived of icy refreshment, at least maybe mankind could benefit from our work. We left the paperclips in there and, as our control, we put some in a bottle of water and screwed the caps tightly on both bottles. We took Post-It notes and labeled them scientifically as A and B. We also added other elements to both bottles to see how this would affect things: some breath mints (this frightened one of our interns who worried that Bottle A would explode. Billy dismissed his fears reassuringly by saying "That's Mentos, not Ice Breakers, dumbass"), a couple of Sudafeds (I have a cold...again), some peanuts and a squirt or two of hand lotion (not sure why we did that exactly). Some have tried to dismiss our work as less-than-scientific:

  • Co-worker: What's your hypotheses anyway?
  • US: Huh? Whazzat?
  • Co-worker: Your point. What are you trying to prove?
  • Billy: That something bad is going to happen to those paperclips.
  • Co-worker: That's stupid. They're just going to rust.
  • Me: You are a cro-mag, unworthy of reaping the benefits that will eventually result from our research.
  • Co-worker: That isn't even how you conduct an experiment. You aren't measuring data...
  • Me: Heretic! We have see-through bottles! We have Post-Its! Leave this laboratory at once!
  • Billy: Yeah, get your ass out of here.

Admittedly, the hypothowhatever has changed to "What's inside these bottles is totally going to reak" now that we've gotten bored with waiting for the paperclips to rust (they're not) and have just been opening them up every day to add more stuff (non-dairy creamer, sliced beets), but I guess that's the ever-evolving nature of science.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

And the award goes to...

The Oscar red carpet interview show that takes place before the actual awards ceremony is officially the dumbest thing on television.
Good god.
The insipid, vacuous fawning over celebrities great and small (mostly seems like the BIG names don't allow themselves to indulge in such twaddle) was so dialed up that I wasn't even watching it but I had it on in the other room and I still think I could actually hear my own individual brain cells dying. I may actually now be too stupid to get up from this chair by myself and go to bed. Of course, I think I only saw three movies this past year, Borat, the new James Bond and the one where Will Farrell plays a stock car driver, so that may have already been the case.

The Panties-In-A-Bunch-O-Meter

Let's see what has people all bent out of shape this week, shall we?

This guy, who is a caucasian college student names Chad, Troy or Jason or all three, is no longer allowed to dress as a Native American chief named Chief Illiniwek and perform at University of Illinois athletic events. I rate this one a big whooping zero out of a possible ten rat's asses.

This guy started crying while rendering legal judgement during the Anna Nicole Smith baby custody trial. On one hand, I care because it's so wildly inappropriate for a judge to behave in such a way. For example, can you imagine if a referee started crying while calling an illegal procedure penalty during the Super Bowl? They'd convene a congressional hearing. On the other hand, this outburst was just another ploy for attention from a noted gloryhound and by all accounts, one of the worst judges in south Florida...which is saying something. So no rat's asses for you, Judge Douchebag.

This guy refused to make jokes at the expense of Britney Spears on his late night talk show and used his opening monologue to explain his coming to terms with the fact that celebrities are also people with real emotions and real problems. That's admirable but unfortunately no human being has ever seen this show so it gets an automatic zero.

These guys were playing a game of hockey with playoff implications when a series of huge brawls broke out all over the ice. Finally something important happened. This is a rock-solid ten out of ten.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Google ranks THIS BLOG #1!

When you type in the query "whatever happened to brian baschnagel", guess what site comes up first? You'd better believe it's THIS ONE, baby!! Yeah!!!! (note: I have no idea whatever happened to Brian Baschnagel, but now I'm kind of curious. So if you know, give me a shout.)
So listen up, big business; if you're just not reaching that highly coveted late 1970's Chicago Bears fan demographic, then THIS is where you need to advertise. Believe me, for the right amount of money (ie: plenty), everything here is for sale.

(Your corporate logo here) Brooks

Monday, February 19, 2007

We get what we deserve

I attended a focus group tonight about how there is work afoot to bolster the Clean Water Act, which has been eroded over the years by government entities, mainly the Army Corps of Engineers, reclassifying bodies of water which allows for looser restrictions on pollution (for example, the Hillsborough River, which is so filthy that people shouldn't eat the fish caught out of it, is actually classified as a channel, not a river). What's funny (aka sad) about that is Florida also has something called the Clean Indoor Air Act, which outlaws smoking in over 90% of Florida's commercial buildings and that (after some initial resistance) has been followed without question. We can legislate a habit but we can't protect a natural resource every single one of us needs to stay alive?
Anyway, many people there were appalled and had no idea this was taking place right under their noses. They said the media should do a better job of making people aware of situations like this. However, people don't understand, or don't want to understand, that the media is in the advertising business, not public service. For example, I just watched an in-depth report on Britney Spears shaving her head on our local Fox affiliate. Now, honestly, which news item is likely to draw more potential Dodge Ram, Pizza Hut, cell phone plan purchasing viewers? The info is out there; if you see something wrong (like the major source of fresh water for a major metropolitan area being choked with filth, for instance), ask your own questions and find out for yourself what's going on. Or we can all just sit here in our own filth and wait for the next Anna Nicole update. We must like it; why else would we put up with it?

State Fair

We went to the state fair this week. We had fun.

That's it, I got nothin' else. You can't make fun of the state fair. When something as over-the-top tacky as the state fair makes no pretense about being anything else, it renders itself totally immune from snark or any other form of criticism. You just can't do it. It would be like making fun of someone for being blonde...ok, bad example. The point is you're not likely to find anybody who is full of shit to be working in a neon-covered trailer selling corn dogs, so there is no point.

Anyway, we went and enjoyed the vendors, games and (in pretty respectable moderation, I must say) the awful (aka AWESOME!) food. For what it's worth, I found this year's new fried item, Pepsi, to be disappointing. The rest of the group disagreed. However, the ribs, and the two guys from Memphis preparing them, were unanimously popular.

We can't wait for the Strawberry Festival!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Et tu, Jiff?

Apparently, tainted peanut butter is responsible for an outbreak of salmonella that has affected nearly 300 people in 39 states.

Are you kidding me? Peanut butter?!?

If peanut butter can't be trusted, then it's official; my entire childhood, and hence, my entire life, is built on a foundation of duplicity and deceit. First I have my 3rd grade teacher announce in class that Santa Claus isn't real, now this. Peanut butter has always been the ULTIMATE comfort food! Whether it's eating a delicious sandwich (co-starring peanut butter's vastly underrated sidekick, jelly) or feeding a spoonful of it to a dog, from the time I was a small child peanut butter has NEVER failed to lift my spirits. Now, it seems that just beneath it's chunky or smooth surface lies diarrhea, fever, dehydration, abdominal pain and vomiting.

Just like everything else in life.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Tampa: Standard bearer of taste and decorum

I notice a lot of things while I drive, which sounds like I'm not paying attention to operating my vehicle safely. But don't worry about it because I'm really good at it. I can not pay attention to five or six things at the same time. On my drive in to work this morning, I noticed a new strip club opening soon. The sign says this new establishment will be called "Liquor Box". I'll pause a minute to let that sink in.


This isn't in some seedy part of town; it's right on Dale Mabry, which is the main north-south highway. Actually, it's within walking distance of three or four other strip clubs, so I guess it actually is kind of seedy. But it's also right across the street from a Borders and within a mile or two of a Rooms-To-Go and a Target, not to mention Raymond James Stadium and the Yankees spring training complex. I don't consider myself a prude (well, in some areas maybe) but does anybody really think it's a good idea to have a joint called "Liquor Box" right on the main drag? This particular building has always been a strip club and has previoulsy been named "Ponytails" and "Skorez". Whatever happened to a little discretion and imagination? "The Kit Kat Club" would sound downright upscale by comparison.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Other Others

If you have found this message floating in a bottle, please forward the information below to my family and friends. I just want them to know I'm ok.
Actually, 'ok' is probably understating it. I'm great!
I know you were worried when you heard that Oceanic flight 815, the flight I was on from Sydney, Australia to Los Angeles, had disappeared somewhere over the Pacific. Well, what happened was the plane basically cracked in half and crashed on some uncharted island. I have to admit, that kind of sucked. Lots of people on board were killed and all our luggage and stuff was scattered up and down the beach. The good news is that a bunch of us survived and, even better, we now live on a tropical island! Seriously, this place is fantastic. The weather is gorgeous, it's scenic as hell and for some strange reason we seem to have plenty of food and fresh water. Don't get me wrong, there are a few drawbacks. There's a small clique of survivors from our flight, seemingly all the pretty ones, who've decided that they're in charge or something. They make a lot of racket, what with the fighting among themselves, having flashbacks, blowing things up and getting killed. There's also apparently another group of folks who live on the other side of the island who seem hell bent on making the clique miserable. The clique's leader, a guy named Jack says these people are bad guys but one of the first things they did was the favor of taking all the children from our group over to their side of the island, so I think Jack is full of crap.
Whatever. As long as both groups leave me out of it (and so far, they have), I could honestly care less what they do to each other. Meanwhile, my days consist of sleeping until whenever I feel like getting up, hanging out on the beach, maybe doing a little fishing and watching the most incredible sunsets you've ever seen. I have to tell you, in spite of what appears to be a flock of angry polar bears living in the jungle who may or may not decide to drag me off and devour me with no notice whatsoever, I've never felt so relaxed in my whole life.
Bottom line: Please don't rescue me.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A short conversation about taking a stand on difficult issues

"You were really calm and composed during dinner when Sam's nephew 'came out'. That was a really awkward, tense situation and you handled it so maturely. I was really impressed by that."

"Darlene, when it comes to things like that, I just don't care."

"That's admirable. More people should follow your example."

"Well, thanks. But I'm not sure you understand. When I say 'I don't care', I don't mean 'I don't care' while banging on a podium with outrage and indignation, I mean more like 'I don't care' while shrugging my shoulders with ambivalence and boredom"

"Oh. Wait...wait a minute. What?"

"Yeah, I just don't care about stuff that other people do that doesn't directly affect me. So once it was clear that Sam's nephew was gay, but with no intention of having sex with me, I just kinda lost interest in the whole conversation."

"Oh, and why is that? Are you too busy to care?"

"Hmmm, if it's possible to be busy being apathetic, yeah, that's me."

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Astronaut Love Triangle

Ladies and gentlemen, it's only February and we already have the story of the year. For those who don't click links, please allow me to sum up: Astronaut girlfriend (or astronutjob, for brevity's sake) in Texas finds out that her astronaut boyfriend or (astronaughtyboy, for brevity's sake) in Florida is cheating on her with some astronaut slut (or astroslut, for brevity's sake). Astronutjob hops in her car and sets out for Florida in a diaper (because she didn't want to stop along the way to relieve herself), a trenchcoat (because that's what psychos preparing to wage bloody vengeance wear...which must make it tough for the PR people in the trenchcoat business) and a wig (because she...didn't want to be noticed?) and a whoooole bunch of weapons with the intent of teaching astroslut and astronaughtyboy some very serious life lessons about fidelity.
I don't care what else happens this year, nothing is going to top this. Astronauts, sex, betrayal, diapers, murder, astronauts and astronauts. This story has it all!
You can hear the talkshows now; pundits and common citizens alike are going to be wringing their hands and wondering whether or not NASA does any kind of pre-astronaut training mental health screenings whatsoever. Of course, it's obvious that they do. And you can bet that somewhere in Lisa Nowak's (astronutjob's real name) file, next to the question "Is subject insane enough to want to be stuffed into a bucket and propelled by rockets into an empty, endless void?", there's an emphatic "YES!!!" in double bold, red Sharpie.
PS: I think Astronaut Love Triangle would be an excellent name for the punk band I will form some day.

Am I on MySpace?

Because I've been asked, I will answer: Yes.
Go there if you feel you must, but trust me, there isn't much there. No music, no videos, no photos. Probably the only useful thing there is a link to back here. And if you're already looking to leave here, this is just going to trap you in an endless circular loop of self-perpetuating disappointment. Sorry, but I only signed up to get access to other people's pages which isn't as creepy as it sounds.
Ok, it is.
But I don't go there very often.
So anyway.

Today is my birthday

Don't worry about it if you didn't send a card or a present. Seriously, that's fine. I don't make a big deal out of my birthday. I'm not weird about it or anything, I just don't make a big deal about...well, anything...when it comes to personal matters. My favorite birthday activity would be spending some low key time with my friends, which is no different from what I enjoy the other 364 days of the year. My friends also know me well enough to know better than to sic a pack of singing waitstaff on me at dinner, something about which I am phobic. I would rather dive out of a third story window than be serenaded by one group of strangers and drawing the focus of other strangers, all of whom, I'm sure, would much rather not be bothered. I don't like being the object of attention in social situations when I don't have control over my level of participation (which is a big reason why I generally don't socialize with people outside of a very tight circle of trust). Some people just don't get that and try to force birthday fun on you. They're just trying to be nice, I know; it's just that I'd rather not play, thank you. Unfortunately, these people can be quite persistent. So I sometimes have to go to the extreme of being a dick while guarding my boundaries:

"Happy Birthday, Clark!"
"Yeah? Tell my mom. She did all the work."

"CumpleaƱos Felices, Clark (Happy Birthday in Spanish)"
"I don't speak that language so I have no idea what you said. Therefor, I have no choice but to accept it as an insult to my racial heritage."

"Happy Birthday, Clark!"
"Thank you, but my religion doesn't recognize traditional celebrations of annual occurences."
"Oh, I'm sorry. What religion are you?"
"Um, Methodist?"
"Really? I am too! But we celebrate..."
"I'm sorry, I meant that other fruity cult of wacko pinheads. Scientoligists. Yeah, that's me."

"Happy Birthday, Cl...(would-be well-wisher is interrupted by punch in the face)"

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Bear Down!

As I mentioned here previously, I was going to make a concerted effort to get into football this year, particularly in regard to the Buccaneers. Well, as it turns out, I picked a pretty lousy year to do that. The Bucs record (4-12) was awful, but worse than that, they were boring. I've sat through 50 loss seasons by the Lightning and 100 loss seasons by the Devil Rays but they at least managed to provide some entertainment in the process. The Bucs weren't even interesting. I pity the poor schmuck who has to put together a highlight video from this year. He's going to be wading through an awful lot of two yard runs up the middle and incomplete passes.

That said, I am looking forward to the Superbowl today. I'm no longer the Bears fanatic I was when I was a kid (I have Brian Baschnagel's autograph on a football card) but I do still feel a connection so I'll be rooting for them. Their presence in the big game has brought a lot of attention to the rioutous '85 team that destroyed the Patriots in Superbowl XX so it's been fun to stroll memory lane. Plus, they're underdogs which makes them appealing to root for, although I won't be sad if Tony Dungy's Colts win. Both teams play an entertaining (they're the anti-Buccaneers) brand of football so it should be a pretty good game to watch. Plus, Prince is performing at halftime!

Thomas Harris: Coasting

When exactly did author Thomas Harris start phoning it in? Well, this abridged diary I just made up might shed some light.

  • 1985: They're going to begin filming the adaptation of my novel "Red Dragon", although they are changing the title to "Manhunter". Whatever. This will not compromise my integrity as an author and I reserve the right to release a novel whenever I feel like it and not at the whims of the marketplace. Every six or seven years or so sounds about right.

  • 1986: Well, it looks like "Manhunter" was a flop, I can't say that I'm surprised; why would Micheal Mann cast William L. Peterson as Will Graham?!? He's not leading man material! I do applaud his inspired choice of Brian Cox as Hannibal Lecter, however. His portrayal was definitive and as a result he will forever be associated with this character. At any rate, as always, the goings-on in Hollywood have no influence on my writing and I continue to craft my next novel, "The Silence Of The Lambs". Another two years and I should be done.

  • 1990: "The Silence Of The Lambs" will be released as a movie next year and I have to say that the foolhardy casting of Jodie Foster and some nobody is disappointing at best. I have refused all requests to assist with the screenplay as I want nothing to do with this inevitable epic failure nor the business of movie making in general.

  • 1991: Wow, $272 million worldwide gross and five Academy Awards! Maybe I should send a few cases of wine to the cast and crew.

  • 1997: I am sick and tired of being pressured to write a sequel to "Silence..." so I am putting the final touches on my next Hannibal Lecter novel, which should shut them up. I don't think they'll be pleased though; it features man-eating pigs and a character eating his own brain! Ha ha! Good luck filming that, Hollywood!! At least they'll be off my back and I won't have to deal with the film industry anymore.

  • 2001: Holy shit, "Hannibal" pulled in $357 million worldwide gross??

  • 2006: I can't wait to see "Hannibal Rising", the story of Hannibal Lecter as a teenager, on the big screen! After the premiere, I will only go to Diddy's party for a few hours and then it's back to work on "Baby Hannibal", "I Was A Teenage Hannibal", "Elderly Hannibal" and "Hannibalette" (what if Lecter was a woman? Mindblowing!!), all of which will be released as novels and movies in 2007.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

I got a haircut today

I went to my barbershop for my every-three-weeks-whether-I-need-it-or-not haircut. My barbershop is in the heart of West Tampa, which is predominantly Cuban in the same way that a baseball is predominantly round, which means I am frequently the only person in there who speaks English. I've been going to this barbershop off and on for the last 20 years and every time I go there, there's always a group of four to six old guys arguing about stuff in Spanish. I don't know if it's the same guys who've been arguing for more than two decades, but I'm seriously considering learning Spanish so I can join in someday. That way I'll have something to do when I get old.
I love my barbershop. For one thing, it's cheap ($12, which is only $2 more than when I started going there). For another thing, they take their time and do a good job. You wouldn't think it would take more than three minutes to cut my hair, but they take at least a half hour every time I go. It's a very no-nonsense, working class, neighborhood place. I don't know what the Spanish word for metrosexual is but I'm sure it's never been uttered there. The whole experience is very old time-y and I like that.
One thing I don't get about haircuts is the part where they turn you around in the chair so you're facing the mirror and then they hold up a mirror behind you so you can see the back of your head. I'm never exactly sure what I'm supposed to be looking for. Because of the natural order of things, there are certain areas of your body you're just not supposed to see, such as your internal organs, the bottoms of your feet and the back of your head. A pretty good rule of thumb is that if you do see these things, there's a pretty good chance that you might need some immediate medical attention. So when the barber shows me a reflection of the back of my own head, they might as well be showing me a photo of what's on the dark side of the moon, because I have no idea what's there or even what it's supposed to look like. I just kind of act like I'm checking it out, maybe furrow my brow a little and then nod my approval; "Yeah, I guess that'll do". For all I know, it's been all jacked up back there for the last 20 years and everybody is in on the joke except me....which would explain a lot, actually, now that I think about it.