Monday, April 28, 2008

I'm Sorry Sir; You Do Not Exist

Concisely put, I'm getting tired of this. I'm tired of being told I don't exist. I assure you, mister suit-selling guy, I do exist, in fact I am standing right here.

or at least I was. Over the weekend the Croftie and I decided to get my wedding suit on. A friend of hers got a great deal from some swank place that has a store downtown as well as in the north and clybourn area. We went the clybourn route, because it was reasonably nice out and we could walk there.

Upon entering above mentioned merchant place we were greeted by a guy I'm going to call Regis. Regis was a nice enough young man who was wearing a suit that appeared to be made of a carpet in some sort of 60's non-shag mode. He also had a sizable pimple on the bridge of his nose that looked like it would rupture if he so much as lightly sneezed. But Croftie and I were flying blind. All I had in my head was a color, the only color I invest in, blue, possibly navy, perhaps closer to midnight. Regis dutifully scrounged us some offerings and i was shocked by both their non-affordability and non-fitability. In these suits I would not only be broke, but broke-ass busted.

So Regis's friend, whose name i never got but whose physicality bordered on Andre the Giant-esque, was called over with his measuring tape. Andre the Giant Tailor measured me, all the while looking respectable if not precisely good in a preposterously large suit. Andre the Giant Tailor barks out some numbers and tells me;

37 Long. you don't exist.

But... I DO exist! I swear. Its just i don't have the bulk of the modern day man. what with his HGH and his Doritos and his general American bulkiness. Its more an issue of proportion. Most 6'+ guys have broader shoulders than i do. As even my pediatrician told me when i was 14, "You're a tall drink of water.' Tall maybe, but i suppose the 'drink of water' part means I'm a slender nancy boy.

Andre the Giant Tailor then suggested I go get a suit made custom. Or else I'd never be really happy. Regis told me to 'pump some iron.' I just went somewhere else and got something much nicer than anything they had for significantly less.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cult of the Nerd

I used to think things that were unreasonably popular should be avoided at all costs. The list, when it was originally composed in my freshman year of college included:

dave matthew's band
robert de niro
star wars
chinese food
White Baseball Caps

To name just a few. All this misdirected loathing despite the fact that radiohead, which i deified at the time, were roughly just as popular as DMB; i hadn't yet seen any of Bobby's earlier films (taxi driver, raging bull, et al.); I'd already seen and liked Star Wars when I was very little; I'd never even actually tried Chinese food (even I don't really know how that was possible) and had a hair-cut that really in all honestly should have been kept hidden 'neath a cap.

Yet these things were popular for a reason. DMB is user/radio friendly (and totally crapped all over a bunch of Chicago River tourists); Bobby, despite his late career mistakes is unquestionably brilliant; Star Wars is like totally a parable of our times, man; Chinese food is delicious; and fashiony things, well i can't quite explain those.

Then there are things that people purposely like because nobody else likes them. I guy i work with told me recently who purposely reads obscure novels not because of their possible worth, but just because nobody is reading them. Being skeptical of the howling masses is one thing, being a contrarian ass is another.

And yet somewhere in the middle, are pop-culture pieces that always deserved more, but ended up getting relatively less attention than one might have guessed.

These things/phenomenas are sometimes classified under the 'cult' heading, and end up being all kinds of misunderstood. Mostly, because cult tv shows, movies, music, and art suffer from the downsides of both the tremendously popular and the universally despised. Fans of cult things make the products in question seem more ubiquitous than they really. Think of a politician with very loud and sometimes offensive proponents. The quality of person spoken for somehow gets muddled up behind a tidal wave of hot air.

As such cult phenomenas suffer from an odd form of over-under exposure. People who know nothing about the product are put off by the reverential behavior of the proponents, figuring that they would have gotten into it if it were really that good. And a particular breed of fan(atic) might feel like the show they love isn't loved enough and act even more rabidly devotional, feeding a uroboros-like cycle of cult supply and demand.

All this is on my mind because of the show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and one of my best friend's perfectly reasonable/unreasonable avoidance thereof.

"Buffy" is a good example of a cult hit, although it might even have transcended cult at this point as some of the show's key points have entered a more broad cultural lexicon. yet its fans are typical of other cult fans, "whedonites" may as well be a synonym for disturbingly reverential fan-children. Its one thing to admire and another to blindly worship. But i can attest to the show's quality, I've seen every episode and never really spoken about it in a public forum until now. So, like, my devotion is reasonable then? whatever.

The point is I have a somewhat unique perspective. I watched the show's first few seasons in high-school, then watched nothing for years--I watched virtually no tv shows in college. The show went on without me and quietly ended while i wasn't looking (the nerve I tell you). However, I recently found myself renting the entire series, disc for disc, from netflix. Along the way I got to both remember why I had liked it in the first place and then find new reasons and ways of appreciating it that i wasn't capable of before. And I'm not the only person who might not fit the bill of a Whedonite--I happen to know of a stodgy old professor here at the University who is a complete nut for Buffy, and you would never know it from the look of them (or the subject matter they teach or from they themselves, assuming they'd rather not want underclassmen to know a few things about themselves).

So what did we learn here today, class? Skepticism is good? maybe! You can't judge a tv show by the quality of fans it pulls in? Um, sure! Buffy totally roxxorz!!!!? Er, yeah, all of that too.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

How Many Assholes We Got On This Ship, Anyhow?

My mind has been focused on work lately, and not in a good way. Yesterday was a struggle to find anything to do, mostly, and ironically, because I've attained a position where lots of things I used to do are considered beneath me and are left for part-timers and others to do. In other words, since I make the big bucks, its more important i do the important things, of which there is currently a dearth. A dearth i say! a dearth.

Its one of those, if I got paid less, I'd have to do more situations, and please don't feel like i'm either bragging or complaining. Its niether, really. A huge part of me likes the fact that i can come and go as I please, read this or that on the intry-net and compose inane posts for my blog. But another equally large part of me is uncomfortable being paid at all for doing next to nothing, and this brought me to the following conclusion. The worst type of work behavior, bar none, is the guy who criticizes others for doing less work than s/he does. The big talkin' work hypocrite. let me 'splain.

The whole constellation of most annoying work behavior originated out of many things, mostly an article i read (dreamed up?) where one of the most popular grievances was food smells. Most often they were bad food smells, like burnt pop-corn or strange ethnic/vegan/organic foodsmells wafting into one's workspace and disrupting one's peace of nose.

I can relate, I've had to work with plenty of stink-eaters, but this issue goes both ways, because its equally distracting to others when your food smells good. Just ask the croft. She gets comments from co-workers several times a day regarding the nice smelling qualities of her snacks'n'snacks. But in the end, peeps gotta eat. So this is a wash for me. I then tried to think of inexucsable behavior, something that not only shouldn't exit, and does, but both affronts the subjected as well as making the subjector into something of a huge asshole.

Which is how i landed on the "I work more than anyone else" hypocrite. Because everyone, everyone has down time, when they've just completed a project, or are in between things, or just need 5 minutes (or hours) to not work for once. Everyone does this, even the most necessary of public servants. There aren't always fires to put out for every firefighter. Sometimes nobody's spine needs operating on for every spinal surgeon. And a lowly merchant may not have anything to merch every second of the day.

yet some people in authority have huge problems with this. When you are working hard, everyone else seems to be slacking off, especially one's subordinates, and you just want to give them an arm-load of something to do, even if they aren't trained to do it and would completely fuck it up. Its petty, but most people have had this superiority complex, and lots succumb to it and all of a sudden become the biggest jerk in the office. because the most reasonable amongst the accused are going to realize that said braggart is going to find himself with some downtime at some point, so just chill already.

And this attitude is a direct front to the most common rule of thumb for nearly every organization that employs human beings, i.e. everyone does just enough to not get fired or run the business into the ground, and sometimes, when push comes to shove, maybe even just the former.

When i was home from college after my freshman year i took a job a beverage distributor. The place was alternately radically overstaffed and drastically understaffed. Somedays everyone would just sit around playing cards. other days you had to bust your hump, wheeling kegs out to cars. Everyone knew how things worked and felt like they were being remunerated properly (more or less). But if you suddenly got up while everyone was taking it easy and tried tidying up or moving stock, you'd immediately be excommunicated as a show-off loser brown-noser. Similarly, if you slacked off during the busy time everyone would yell at you for making them work harder (and in this instance that seems perfectly justified seeing as everybody did more or less the same thing together).

I guess the moral is just because its work and they are paying you to be there doesn't mean you should suddenly lose all self-awareness and treat others like assholes for reasons that if you just stepped back and thought about it a little would reveal to you that we're all in this together and our patriotic mission for decreasing workplace assholery starts at home, with you yourself, not them.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Well I Wouldn't Say I've Been Missing it, Bob.

The past week, coming on the heels of a whirlwind vacation/wedding planning extravangapalooza, has been a blessing in that my average work day has basically consisted of the following rough outline:

8:00am, eat breakfast while reading my comicbook websites (newsarama, IGN, comicbookresources, etc). They are like my soap-operas. I needs my stories!

8:30am, as the store opens, i try to improve my sluggishly underperforming fantasy baseball squadrons. wtf CC sabathia!?

9:45am, visit and loiter in the Onion's AV Club.

10:30am, check my work email, yep, still empty of everything not containing the improper phrases "take her to seven heavens," "Make God in the bedroom," "I'm bored/tired and am using my friend's email address and would like to show you some pictures." All spam dead giveaways, except for that one time a professor assigned that classic University of Chicago Press work: Making God in the Bedroom: From Aquinas to Pope Benedict the 16th, or, How Religion Took Her to Seven Heavens While America Was Bored/Tired and Using His Friend's Email Account, by Arthur Bangability, 2005

11:15am, refresh "Oline In the City" for the 1,113th time.

11:30am, leave to 'go buy lunch' even though i clearly brought one with me that morning. Hey, it's like paradise on earth outside, well, minus the hurricane winds and schlumping U of C coeds moaning under overstuffed backpacks like 18th century child mining-slaves.

12:00pm, take lunch, play online card-game Hearts. lose horribly. Damn you BitchQueen of Spades!

1:15pm, ardently defend the goddam Cleveland Indians on the ESPN MLB Forum from upstart Royals fans claiming that with 150 games left, the season is over. (but on a more serious note, wake the fuck up, Tribe! This Fall was supposed to be a delirious trifecta of getting to marry the only woman silly enough to say yes to me, the election of a Democratic President (I just don't care anymore Dems, just pick a candidate already!) and the obligate Tribe World Series Championship (over, let's say... the Phillies).

2:00pm, stare vacantly into space.

2:30pm, yep, still staring.

2:55pm, read a strip or two of my favorite web-comic, 8bit theater by brian clevinger. so funny.

3:13pm, decide that I don't deserve to bleed any more money from my employers, leave early, fill up the gas-tank for $85.30 and reconsider leaving early ever again and working for 60 hours a week instead, just to fuel the Jeep.

what's that? it's only 10:40am still? hmm... wonder what Oline's doing over on her blog...

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Betterments

Last night I had a terrifyingly realistic dream. And it went on forever, a full-length feature film and then some. It was equal parts Village of the Damned and Pleasantville with a little Cronenbergian body horror mixed in as well. In it I was a teenager in an idyllic small town where a new medical practice moves in. The sign is simple and almost fairy-tale direct: Betterments. The doctor boasts that he can correct what is wrong with everyone and since everyone is unhappy with something about themselves, his business doesn't take long to grow. The doc really exploits people's insecurities and there is a slick small town advertising campaign and everything.

In the dream my father (who isn't my father in real-life, like i said, this dream was like a live-action movie where even I am an actor playing me, if that makes any sense) is one of the first to go in, his big toe is banged up and he has surgery to fix it. The thing is, the guy running Betterments not only fixes the problem but also manages to secure some sort of control function over each patient. At any moment the doc can take over one of his patient's free will. And this is just the beginning.

The dream meanders along with me the happy go lucky center, I'm often hanging out with my sister (again, not my real sister) and we begin to get suspicious, especially of Dad. But since in the beginning there is no real reason for the Doc to use his control, its impossible to prove, but we keep catching glimpses of this puppeteering at work all over, most times in the most benign fashion. Finally our mother goes in to see the Doc about 'night blindness' or something stupid like that and there is this skin-crawling sequence where my sister and I walk into her bedroom in our house which is more a horrible funhouse at this point, with impractical angles and doors everywhere, Dad is a carpenter and this odd housework is part of the whole mind control deal, or perhaps an unintended side-effect, and we walk in and mom is facing away from us. She turns around horribly slowly and stares at us with this creepy sedated smile and both her eyes are strikingly different colors, one a bright light purple the other a greenish brown.

We run screaming out of the house and the latter third of moviedream has us playing the Running Man because now most of the town is under control or eliminated or too stupid to care otherwise, and now all sorts of secondary abilities in the patients start cropping up. Everyone who has been operated on can communicate with each other telepathically and have super strength and other heightened senses depending on what surgery they had. Along the way my sister is horribly murdered by this big bald thug who has obviously had brain surgery or something and is really slow moving but implacable.

Somehow i end up building a case, getting audio and other files against these people and there is one extended moment where I'm running from Dad and half the town and end up hiding under this filthy porch and a bunch of them are sitting above me talking about how they will find me and kill me, that i know too much and that it was my fault that my poor innocent sister was killed and that my mother is worried sick about me and how this doctor's procedure will spread across the country and the world.

In the end I'm captured (of course this would go the 1984 route) and just before they are about to kill me I let them know its no use, that I have already informed the proper people but everything is now ambiguous, i don't quite know if the people i sent things to got them or if they can be trusted. And the moviedream ends with my neck being broken (same thug as my sister) and the camera just slowly zooms in on my wide open eyes, starting from many feet away and my whole body in view, head at an impossible angle and the feet of everyone walking away from me in all directions, the camera zooming in until its just my unblinking eyes.


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