Monday, November 29, 2010
I have always wanted to be a philosopher.
It seems like a really easy gig. Spout off the occasional "deep thought" or question, throw in words like "nihilistic", "existential", or "tetrachromatic", look smug and superior ( I really have this part down), and the next thing you know, you are hip deep in coeds.
The only problem is that, as a paying profession, it ranks about ten spaces below "art history major", or, in remunerative terms: minimum wage plus a dime for working third shift on the Fry-o-Lator.
There is also the problem of topics. The great philosophers of human history, from Socrates to Sartre, have labored over what they considered to be the important questions of human existence. You know: Why are we here?, What is the nature of evil?, Is there a God?, Does free will exist?, and Who is Robert Ludlum and why does he keep writing the same book over and over again?
Billions of trees have been ground to pulp addressing these and other equally tedious questions.
I submit to you, it is time for a new set of questions. And better yet, for actual answers to those questions that don't require plowing through 800 pages of ossified text that make reading a software license agreement seem spellbinding.
But who can give us these questions?
Why, songwriters, of course. These folk have made an industry out of asking deep, philosophical questions, and BLOODY WELL GETTING PAID FOR IT!!
It stands to reason that if they can get paid for simply asking questions, I should be able to rake it in by the fistful for providing the answers.
So, for your enlightenment and edification (by the way, I should get five bucks from each of you just for using edification and tetrachromatic in this article), I give you Answers to the great musical questions of our age.
Do you know the way to San Jose?
No, but I can look it up for you on MapQuest.com
Do you know where you’re going to?
I just told you, San Jose, and I need directions.
What’s your name? Who’s your daddy?
Fred. You’ll have to ask my mom.
Does your mother know?
Maybe not. She did drink quite a bit in her younger days.
Why don’t we do it on the road?
Because that possum over there didn’t flatten itself.
Does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bed post overnight?
Chewing gum? On your bed post? And you wonder why you can’t get girls to go out with you?
Do you love me?
Not bloody likely! Anyone who keeps his chewing gum on his bed post gets crossed right off my list of potential objects of romance.
Hello lamp post, whatcha knowin’?
Dude! Where do you get your drugs and can I have some?
Why do fools fall in love?
Same reason as everyone else, barring some congenital defect in the endocrine system.
How do you mend a broken heart?
I find that a good heart surgeon will usually do the trick. The REAL question is “will your insurance company cover it?”
Where have all the flowers gone?
Uh, it’s Fall. They’ll be back in the Spring, so chill.
Why do birds suddenly appear, every time you are near?
Because you’re Tippi Hedren in an Alfred Hitchcock movie?
Who’s crying now?
The baby right behind me on EVERY FREAKIN’ PLANE I FLY ON!!!!
Whatever happened to Saturday night?
It’s right there after Friday, and before Sunday, where you left it. And would it really kill you to clean up once in a while?
Who put the sham in the shama lama ding dong?
Look, I’m just following the recipe in the Paula Dean cook book, though I suppose it could be a typo.
When will I be loved?
My guess is as soon as your special inflatable friend arrives from Frederick’s of Hollywood.
Will you still love me tomorrow?
Probably not after I’ve sobered up.
Do you really want to hurt me?
Well DUH! What part of “I am a sadist” do you not understand?
Who’s that girl running around with you?
Uh, upon advice of counsel, I wish to exercise my rights under the Fifth Amendment.
How much is that doggie in the window?
$692.14 plus tax. But wouldn’t it be cheaper AND more responsible to adopt one from a pound?
Who’ll stop the rain?
Isn’t it better to buy an umbrella, than curse the rain?
David Allen and this blog post are brought to you by the childishly simple passwords Bill and Amy keep using for this site.
PS: If you want YOUR musical questions answered by a trained professional, post them in comments, and you, yes YOU, may be selected to have your question answered.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Brownies, cookies, nuts, and shakes.
Help me know that if I eat
My waist will soon obscure my feet.
It shames me some to have to tell
That I weigh on the Richter scale.
So pork chops, have no fear of me
Roasts and cutlets can run free
NO! I do not have the will to try it,
I would rather die than diet.
You can sit there if you please
Eating fruit and cottage cheese
A celery stalk, a carrot stick
The vision fairly makes me sick
As for me I’ll roast and fry
And feast on pizza, cake, and pie
I’ll gorge until my zippers bust
And then remove them if I must
But til that dreadful day shall be
I’ll spend my time with Sara Lee.
Happy Thanksgiving to All and to All a Good Bite!
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Ssshhh! Don't tell anyone, but the old Cap'n has a secret: he smuggles candy into movie theatres.
See, it's like this. I got nothing against anybody making a profit by selling anything at whatever price the market will bear. And by the Ghost of Blackbeard, when I'm rolling in the doubloons I think nothing of whomping down a sizeable chunk of my hard-earned jack to impress my First Wench by my largesse in the matter of a king-sized box of Junior Mints.
But times have been rough around the old Love Boat this year, what with a couple knaves in the higher educational system, and my pieces of eight have lately been downgraded to pieces of three and a half. Very embarrassing to a Pirate Captain of my stature, as you may be able to understand.
It started in allergy season, with a few hard candies in my pocket. (Cinnamon discs. Burns through the drainage and leaves a smoking crater on your tongue to boot!) I half expected the candy detectors to go off as I entered the theatre, and prepared to brandish my cutlass menacingly at any scallywhacker who tried to stop me.
Nothing happened. I was impressed. I thought I had accidentally hit upon a secret method to get contraband inside the Sanctum itself.
Then my First Wench, AmyDoodle, told me the real secret: "You gunk-head," she said. "There's no such thing as a candy detector! That has got to be the silliest idea I have ever heard in my life!"
What can I say? I rely on her support in all my endeavors.
So I've begun to load my pockets with fun-sized Snickers and Butterfingers. I've figured out that the key is to not act like you're carrying illegal foodstuffs. So I took it one step further: I generally forget I've even got it with me. If I don't know it's there, I can't act suspicious!
Of course, you've got to keep your wits about you. There was the time I reached in my pocket for a Kleenex (Not that I cried through Secretariat. Nope, not me.) and found a half-melted Milky Way. My cry of surprise and alarm ("Augh! What the -- ! Brown stuff ahoy!") did not go unnoticed, and it was only by dint of my lightning-quick pirate reflexes that I was able to avoid the consequences by hiding behind the First Wench.
Not the Cap'n's best moment.
Now I'm working on a way to smuggle fresh popcorn in. The little bags of Otis Reddenbacker fit comfortably my pocket. The trick is going to be the microwave. And I reckon I'll have to run a power cord out to the lobby. Should be doable. I'll just have to disguise it as something non-food-preparational.
But what about those times when popcorn just isn't enough? I figure the truly piratey thing to do would be to set up a grill down front for a little tailgating. I'd even be willing sell a hot dog or two. And take the proceeds out to the lobby for a great big honking box of Raisinettes.
Because Raisinettes are what a pirate loves best.
The Cap'n is your basic pirate with delusions of fandeur. He has served in various capacities and institutions over the years, but has since settled down to a life of (except for that whole candy thing) placid law-abiding domesticity, under the calming influence of his First Wench AmyDoodle, who has actually come closer to domesticating him than anybody else.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
When a nasty turn of nature shut down the power grid in our area, and the only ones in the house with access to electronic entertainment was a teenaged boy with a supercharged video game and a Labrador with an electronic catnip mouse, we trotted out the kerosene lanterns and jumped right in to a family bonding experience.
“Why do we have to do this?” Son One, aged 22, is ever the encourager.
“Milton Bradley says Family Game Night will bring us closer together.”
“The dog’s asleep on my foot. How much closer can we get?”
A warm wet tongue washed a pizza stain from my pants.
“You’d be surprised.”
He peered at the rules in the dim light. “It says the youngest goes first. That would be me.”
“They have that rule so little kids won’t pout. Let’s roll to see who goes first.”
“Okay, if you want to cheat a little kid out of a turn.”
“You haven’t been a little kid since Barney the Purple Dinosaur faded into lavender.”
“I’m younger than you.”
It’s amazing how people act when they don’t get their way.
“Okay Mom, let go of my ear. You can go first.”
The game proceeded. It suddenly came to me how unfair it is to teach children how their young lives can end with a roll of the die.
“Mom, you got the big slide. You have to go back.”
“The slide is out of order due to road construction.”
“There’s always road construction.”
Just as Son One was about to display a lack of self control, the power came back on and the room was flooded with light. Someone accidentally knocked the board off the table during the excitement.
“You were supposed to go down the big chute. You cheated!” Son One was wounded by the hand of injustice.
“Of course she did,” the Captain caught my eye and leaned in with a tone dripping with “she owes me a favor.”
“But this time we’ll let her slide."
Monday, November 15, 2010
Sunday, November 14, 2010
"I think you should do NaNo."
It’s not that I can’t keep up, but whenever the Captain wants to win an argument, he uses words I don’t understand. I think he gets them from random advertisements in Popular Science magazine. This one sounded vaguely like one of those yoga poses that causes your hamstring to snap.
“Yep, it’s that. . .”
“Oh, I know. That’s what that alien said on that hokey show back in the 70’s. Remember Robin Williams played him.”
“He didn’t say Nano. He said Nanoo. It means hello. I think.”
“No, I think it meant goodbye. Sort of like Over and Out.”
“Maybe it was one of those all purpose words that means something else. Like Aloha.”
“Aloha? Like in Hawaii? If a research trip to Waikiki is involved, count me in.” Finally, an idea I could get behind to try my spray-on tan.
“Waikiki is way too expensive.”
“Maui? I can pronounce them all, but I can only spell the main ones. I’ve been practicing my vocabulary for extravagant vacation destinations.”
“We’re not going there either.”
“It figures. Like when you say we’ll go to a romantic movie only we never do.”
“I took you to see Inception.”
“What was romantic about Inception?”
“People were asleep.”
I pause. It’s true that when you reach 50, a full night’s sleep is about as rare as a trip to an exotic island. But a movie where the girl dies doesn’t strike me as romantic. “I don’t think that counts.”
“Fine. I’ll take you to a romantic movie.”
“I don’t know what’s playing in Hawaii.”
“We’re not going to Hawaii.”
“See. I told you. You hold out the roast pig then you yank it away.”
“Isn’t that what they eat in Hawaii? When they have those luaus and girls in grass skirts do the hula while you eat?”
The Captain pauses a moment to reflect on girls in grass skirts. “I don’t know. I’ve never been to Hawaii.”
“Looks like you’re not going now, either.”
“I was just trying to talk you into participating in NaNo.”
“Is that one of your SciFi alien words?”
“No. It’s short for NaNoWriMo.”
“Oh, well that makes it better. No trip to Hawaii and now you’re speaking in tongues.”
“It’s short for National Novel Writing Month.”
“You sign up to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November.”
“Is one of those words Hawaii?”
“Then you can go sleep by yourself. I’m going to the movies.”
“It’s a oldie, playing at the cultural center downtown.”
“But which one?”
“Blue Hawaii. But don't worry. It's a discount show.”
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
I am not one for practical jokes, but when you attend military school with 150-200 other adolescent males, practical jokes are a way of life. Having a practical joker (PJ) for a room mate meant never being able to let your guard down, always coming back to your room as though you were entering a mine field or a small Viet-Cong-controlled village. After a while, this can wear a bit on the nerves, and homicide is contemplated.
If you want to avoid spending your formative years banged up in a juvenile corrections facility, you must deter the PJ, either by being eternally vigilant until he gets bored and searches elsewhere for victims, or by giving as good as you get.
The first strategy can be time-consuming. In a military school with few options for entertainment, the PJ has lots of incentive to to keep himself entertained at your expense. The second option carries the threat of escalation to the point of “mutually assured destruction," meaning you both wind up in the commandant’s office, followed by 30-50 hours of marching and a couple of hundred demerits a piece.
The only way to win using the second option is to retaliate at the first practical joke with massive overkill. Metaphorically speaking, this means responding to cross-border name calling with a squadron of ICBMs, leaving nothing but a smoking crater where your PJ was standing. This thwarts the desire of the PJ to escalate the war, since he really doesn’t want to find out what the next step up on the retaliation scale will be. Better yet, done in front of witnesses, this strategy makes other PJs think twice before engaging you, sending them in search of easier targets.
This was the strategy I adopted. I never went after anyone first, but I bloody well left terror and despair in my wake if fired upon.
I was a patient opportunist when applying this strategy. The PJ was always on his guard following any assault upon your dignity, and immediate counterattacks were contraindicated. I never made an elaborate plan for the response. I was simply patient and waited for the an opening, then improvised.
A friend of mine learned this first hand after subjecting me to a prank which, I must admit, was simple but effective.
I changed my underwear and waited my turn.
The year was 1976, and it was a cold November Saturday night. I was at the movie theatre.
Being a “day student” at my school meant I got to go home in the evenings and on weekends, whereas everyone else in school was constrained to the barracks, unless they got “town leave”. This was easy to obtain, providing one had not broken any of the myriad rules and regulations that are the epitome of military school life.
The movie was Carrie, and I loved horror movies.
I got this fondness for the macabre at an early age from my mother, who loved nothing more than a good scary movie. Easy on the gore, but buckets of blood was fine. From the age of literacy I had a steady diet of House of Mystery, The Phantom Stranger, Ghostly Tales, The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves, etc. TV was filled with episodes of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Sci-Fi Theatre, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and my all time favorite, The Night Stalker.
A few parents were horrified (sorry) by my tastes, especially when I told them I only got to read the comics after my Mom was through reading them. Other parents took their kids to Disney movies, but if there was an all-night horror fest at the drive-in, Mom and I were there.
Alas, Mom wasn’t with me that night, as she had to work that weekend. She was annoyed that she was going to miss Carrie, but movies in our town ran for only a week (this was in the days before “multi-plexes”). We had one theatre, and it showed a different movie every week. Occasionally, a really popular movie would run two weeks, but that was rare.
Mom gave me three dollars (I said it was 1976. A movie ticket was $1.50, drinks and candy $0.75, or three times the going rate outside the theatre. Some things DON’T change).
Where was I?
Oh, yes, at the 7:00 show, watching Carrie by myself.
Now, if you have never seen Carrie, you should go and rent it (or stream it), before reading the rest of this tale.
Go ahead, I’ll wait.
. . .
This was the first Stephen King novel to be adapted as a movie, and I (and my Mom) had somehow missed reading any of his books up to this point. But when Carrie was released, people were excited. Stephen King was scary, really intense, and this movie was supposed to be a faithful translation of the King novel.
And it was.
Especially the final scene. A last-second “gotcha” scared the wee wee out of you (this was before such things became cliche), by lulling you into inattention with a bright and cheery scene, then literally leaping at you from the grave.
If we delve into the Stephen King oeuvre, we see that King’s stylistic use of imagery. . .
Wait a minute! You! Yes, you on the left, behind the Control Panel icon. You didn’t go watch the movie, did you? You just went to YouTube and watched this clip:
Sigh! Folks today are SPOILED by the Internet.
What that clip doesn’t convey is that the movie segues from Carrie’s burning house, following a night of some pretty vicious people getting their due (any movie which kills John Travolta is OK with me), to a very bright scene with soothing music. Sue (played by Amy Irving) is the only person to survive Carrie’s vengeance, as she was the only person who treated her kindly. She walks to the site of Carrie’s burnt-out house, carrying flowers to lay in front of a “For Sale” sign shaped like a cross. But even in death, someone has mocked Carrie, scrawling “Carrie White burns in Hell” across the sign. Sue ignores this, then bends down to place the flowers.
That’s when Carrie’s bloody hand reaches out of the ground and grabs her. We cut to a hospital room, and Sue is screaming in her bed, while nurses try to restrain her.
Like I said earlier, this scene was really scary at the time, because no one else had done it before. These days every third horror flick pulls this stunt, and it only scares the teenyboppers who haven’t broken the parental controls on the cable box.
But back then, we didn’t see it coming.
Bright cheery scene, soft focus, lilting music...
BLOODY HAND REACHES FROM THE GRAVE AND GRABS THE HEROINE'S ARM!!!
People in the audience, men and women, screamed in abject terror. When the lights came up, people were pale, nervously trying to laugh off the fright.
More than one pair of bloomers were soiled that night, my friend.
Movie over, nothing left to do, but head out into the frigid November night and start for home.
Then, as I entered the lobby, I saw my friend (we'll call him Dave) at the ticket counter with his girlfriend.
Opportunity had knocked.
I faded from the lobby, retreating to the bathroom, and bided my time until the 9:00 show had started. I then returned to the theatre, sitting in the back, looking for my friend. The 9:00 movie played to an audience that took up a third of the available seating. Since people weren't forced to sit next to each other, they had formed little clumps of humanity, interspersed amongst the black Juju Fruit speckled seats.
Dave was down in front, three rows back, and in the center.
As the movie progressed, I noticed his girlfriend holding tighter to his arm, as the plot became darker and spookier. This was good, the perfect setting.
The movie reels spun on, and I watched the movie up to the point where I estimated I had ten minutes left. I slipped back to the bathroom, turned on the cold water tap, and let it run.
As I mentioned, it was a very cold night, and snow was still on the ground from a storm on Thursday. The bathroom pipes must not have been well insulated, as the water was COLD -- so cold, in fact, that my hand became painfully numb after a minute under the tap.
I gritted my teeth and kept the hand under the icy flow for a good five minutes, then stole back to the theatre.
I moved quickly down the aisle, slipped into the row just behind Dave, dropped to the sticky floor, and crawled to a spot just behind him.
And I waited.
As the last 45 seconds of the film started, the theatre shifted from darkness to near daylight, and Amy Irving walked across the yard to place her flowers. She bends down, and I wait for the sound I know is coming: The mass inhalation of an audience about to shriek in fright.
And then I grabbed Dave's leg.
I had snaked my way as far under the seat as I could and, as cautiously as possible, moved my hand up his pant leg without touching him. I wanted the area just above his sock, for my glacial, vice-like grip.
From my vantage point, I did not get to see how he moved, but I certainly heard him.
I have never to this day, ever, heard the sound he made come from another human being. It was more ululation than scream, kind of like Xena's war cry, but it went on for about seven seconds. Simultaneously, I heard the sound of something I also have not heard since: An audience taking a break from one shriek of terror, to start another, completely different one.
I am told by witnesses (his girlfriend) that his leg shot forward and he launched from his seat, vaulting over three rows, before careening onto the floor, trying to get away from his own leg. No slouch at moving from point A, to point B, while not actually transiting the space in between, the girlfriend moved perpendicular to her now departing boyfriend and wound up across the aisle and sprawled over three seats.
My friend is screaming.
The girlfriend is screaming.
The vox populi find their vox, with feeling.
Amy Irving is screaming, but I don't think anyone notices.
The audience has cleared a blast zone around my friend that is 15 rows deep with folks on the left and right section hugging the wall and each other.
Pandemonium erupts as people try to figure out what is happening.
I arise from my cramped position and behold my handiwork. My friend has not an ounce of color in his face. He looks up at me and the tumblers tumble into place. He raises a hand and points at me.
"YOU!" he hisses, with some considerable heat.
I chose this time to start laughing.
It was a full-throated, howling laughter. The type where your sides hurt, your eyes water, and you actually get a headache (though that may have been from my friend trying to kick the Oreos out of me when I collapsed to the floor in hysterics).
The audience reaction to the matter was confused and disorganized. Some folks figured out what was happening, and started laughing. Others were somewhat, shall we say, vexed. Actually, most were vexed, to be honest.
"THAT'S NOT FUNNY!", one fellow shouted several times. His companion, thought otherwise and wheezed out, "Yes, it is," as tears ran down his cheek and he held his side.
A couple of less-than-sporting types thought the police should be summoned, and I took that as my cue to depart via the exit door, stage right, Dave still beating on me into the night.
I think it was some time after the Christmas vacation before Dave saw the humor in the situation. From that day forward, he always looked for me when he entered a room, making sure I never sat behind him.
And for some reason, he took an irrational dislike to Stephen King.
David Allen is the Chief Minion of Dr. Miguelito Loveless, and is writing this stuff under duress. He is a professor emeritus of Computer Debuggery, and chair of the Department of Broken Home Economics at Miskatonic University (Go fighting cephalopods!). He holds a Masters in Computer Anger Management, and a Bachelors in Applied Computer Telephone Tech Support, with a minor in "Have you tried turning it off and on again?"
Monday, November 8, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
“Scattered and smothered,” I told the waitress, slipping the menu into the metal holder behind the napkin dispenser.
Looking across the table, I’m tempted to apply the same order to Aunt Nette. She is scraping egg off the laminated menu with a polished nail on a finger laden with hand-me-down diamonds, and lecturing me on my child-raising abilities.
“You should call more often. I never hear important news until it’s too late.”
She flicked away a piece of petrified yolk. “I hear the baby is walking now.”
The baby is 20 years old. “Okay so maybe I’m slow with updates. Follow me on Twitter and you can read everything in sentences short enough to slap right on the gossip chain.”
“What those boys need is more parental involvement.” She dipped her paper napkin in her water glass and began to polish her fork.
“The last time I had parental involvement with these kids, I lost three lives."
"You should use caution in dealing with children."
"All I did was pick up a video game controller. Then I blew myself somewhere over the rainbow in a blinding blue flash."
The only reason my children aren’t listed as serial killers in police records country-wide is that there are still those officials who refuse to admit the impossibility of a zombie apocalypse.
"You do know they’ve been studying the best method for slaughtering the undead.”
“They were Boy Scouts. They want to be prepared.”
“They’re prepared for a swarm of mercenaries, an invasion by aliens, and a world-ending zombie attack. What they’re not ready for is an English test or a quiz on fundamental dinner etiquette.”
“You could probably learn some things from them. Remember when I stayed the weekend at your house? The boys and I found a new respect for each other.”
“Oh, really? And how are you a better person since that weekend?”
She sipped coffee from a stoneware cup leaving Pink Poodle lipstick on the rim, crossed her beige stockinged ankles under the table, and leaned forward with a prim smile to perform an airborne example on a pretend video game controller.
"I beast at Borderlands.”
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
“It’s supposed to be brown. I’ve been cleaning stuff.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to just smear mud on the clean spots?”
“It’s November. There’s enough mudslinging without me joining in.”
Cleaning the bathroom is a lot like electing a President. You need to wipe away all traces of anything nasty and create a sparkling platform that will stand up to all the dirt that will come to light later on.
This weekend, as I sprawled on the bathroom floor peering into corners that don’t always (um, ever) receive the full scope of my attention, I couldn’t help but think of the upcoming elections. There’s not a presidential candidate at stake, but given the choices on the ballot I found myself wishing I could scoop back through the litter box for some better alternatives.
I’m from South Carolina, an area where throwing your hat into the ring involves more hat tricks than rings and there’s not anybody in the limelight I’d want to tip my cap to without keeping a firm hand on my wallet.
“Trouble?” The Captain of my Scrub Boat lounged in the doorway, sipping coffee and checking his watch. He likes a clean bathroom as much as anybody, but once the scrubbing bubbles crowd lunchtime, he’s done with the dirty work. Besides, it’s his job to contain the mess I make when cleaning, and this time it could take a village just to get me off the floor.
“Toss me that sponge. I can’t get rid of this mystery spot.”
“That’s no mystery. It’s barbecue sauce.”
“Do I want to know the whole story?”
“It involves chicken nuggets.”
“And the dog.”
“You don’t see any stray french fries down there, do you?”
“No, but there’s something in the litter box that I don’t plan to investigate.”
After a while I found that I’d scrubbed my way into a space up against the wall and it was either make a dramatic exit through the window or track dirty footprints back the way I’d come. Life is full of those times when neither choice sounds beneficial.
Cap appeared again in the doorway. “It's lunchtime. Need a life preserver?”
“I’ve backed myself into a corner.”
“Step on these newspapers and then grab my hand.” He laid the front page and the comics to make a pathway to the door. I never thought about it before, but they seemed to work well together and I followed the newsprint road to the door.
Free at last, I look backed to admire the morning’s work. The floor was spotless except for the tiny corner where I’d been stranded.
“Not bad for a morning’s work,” I grinned. Everything’s clean except one place that’s hidden behind the closet door, and I have somebody who can give me a hand when I’m in a tight spot.
I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Election Day.