Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ten on Tuesday: H

1: Highlander - There (and it) can only be one.

2: Handwriting - When I was in elementary school, it was not uncommon for me to get, when the report cards came around, all As and then one lousy B- or C in handwriting/penmanship. I'm just saying, I was valedictorian for both junior high and high school, but I wasn't even in the running in grade school because of my handwriting. I think I was relatively pleased about this in sixth grade because I didn't really want to give a speech anyway. Still, in retrospect, it would have been nice to pull off the trifecta.

3: Humility - As you can see from #2, I embody this principle.

4: Helen of Troy - From my fractured remembrance of history/mythology, I find it fascinating that this woman was supposedly so beautiful that men would bring armies to fight over her. One would think somewhere down the chain of command, one of the grunts would have thought, "Hmm, the possibility of my imminent and immediate death kind of outweighs how much I care about my boss's boss's boss getting a girlfriend. Hey guys! Let's just go get gyros!"

5: Herbivore's Dilemma, The - They don't realize how delicious meat is.

6: H - I think I saw somewhere that the phonetic representation of that letter is "aitch." I have no commentary on this.

7: Harry Potter - I have not read any of these books. For some reason, the prospect of a book series really scares me as it is such a commitment. Somehow, it doesn't bother me that I don't finish most books that I start even if they are not part of a series. I have also never read The Chronicles of Narnia. In fact, I think the only book series I ever read all the way through was the My Teacher Is an Alien series back when I was in grade school, which is, as you know, quite high art.

8: High Art - What separates high art from low art? I've spent a fair number of hours trying to work out this question. Right now, I'm reading a book called The Necessity of Theater that considers which parts of the human experience should be counted as theatre and which should not, which, in some ways, is a similar question. Though I find his definition a little broad, I think he's touching on some key points, and I'm looking forward to seeing where he goes with his idea.

9: Haberdashery - I wish there were more stores that simply sold hats simply because I wish this word were more common.

10: How many roads must a man walk down, before you can call him a man? - 7.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ten on Tuesday: G

1: Googleplex Carebear - I went on a chorale trip to Hungary and Romania, and in one of those countries, the words for "Thank you" sounded to me a lot like the words googleplex carebear, so that's what I said, oftentimes with a slight lisp. Mostly I think I just said it to my chorale mates. I'd hate to think I'm an ugly American.

2: Gollum's Cave - I did a play version of The Hobbit in which I played the Bilbo Baggins, who is, you know, the hobbit. Get it? Anyways, there is a part in the show in which Bilbo is supposed to be lost in Gollum's cave, and he cries out "Is there anyone out there?" I was usually met with silence, but one matinee, I called out, and a little boy responded loudly, "No!" I pretty much broke character at that and had a good laugh. Wouldn't you?

3: Goonies - I have never seen it. I don't know why I have never seen it, but I haven't. Everyone is surprised at this. I am not surprised.

4: Goody Wife - This is how I will sometimes refer to my wife. I apparently believe the year to be 1620 and each of my shoes to have a large buckle on top.

5: Groundlings - This is an improv group up in L.A. that my wife took me and my brother to go see one time. Many of their cast members go on to be in SNL. I would love to take a class from them, but the commute continually proves to be problematic. One day I'll get there.

6: Gramma - When I was littler (read: 14 or 15), I used give my gramma some chips, and then, while she was chewing, I would stick the back of my neck under her chin while she chewed because it tickled me. That was funny times, man. I love my gramma.

7: Grapes - This may be my favorite joke*: A duck walks into a grocery store and asks the cashier, "Got any grapes?" The cashier replies, "Nope, sorry, we don't carry them." The duck says, "Thanks," and leaves.
The next day, the duck comes back and says, "Got any grapes?" The cashier looks at him quizzically and replies, "Nope, like I told you yesterday, we don't carry them." The duck says, "Thanks," and leaves.
This continues every day that week, until the cashier is wholly frusted. On Friday, the duck comes in, but before he can ask, the cashier says, "Listen duck, we don't have any grapes, and if you ask me that one more time, I'm going to nail your bill to my cash register." The duck says, "Thanks," and leaves.
The next day the duck walks in and asks the cashier if he has any nails. The cashier, thankful that the duck isn't again asking about grapes, laughs and says, "No, silly duck, this is a grocery store; we don't have any nails."
To this news, the duck replies, "Got any grapes?"

8: Golem - In some Jewish folklore, there is a story a man made out of clay called the golem who will one day rise up and save the Jewish people and/or destroy the world. A friend and I in junior high thought this (the destroying the world bit) was hilarious and wrote a very short song that we thought the golem would sing. It goes, "I am the golem, squish your head." With lyric writing like that, I'm not sure how I ended up a music major.

9: Groove Daddies - This was a band in my home town while I was in high school. I was in a different band, and my bandmates and I envisioned a West Side Story standoff between our band and their band. Or, maybe I just envisioned it.

10: Grover - No matter what you think about Family Guy, this clip is very funny. Okay, at least it's kind of funny. Okay, it's not really funny at all, but I needed a #10. Okay, I didn't really need a #10, because I was going to do this top nine list like Buttercup does over on her blog, but I thought better of myself.

*My new favorite joke is in the movie Up and it is told by a talking dog**. It goes something like, what did the squirrel say to the tree? It said, "Oh tree, I forgot to harvest my acorns in you during the summer and now it is winter and I am dead."
**Spoiler alert! Sorry, I should have put that first.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ten on Tuesday: F

1: Far Side - Gary Larson is a funny man.

2: Facebook - A bucket in which an embarrassing amount of my liquid time goes to die.

3: Falafel - There was a hamburger(!) place in my home town called King Falafel. They may have also sold falafel, which would make sense, given their name. I didn't like their food when I was a little kid, mostly because it wasn't McDonald's. However, as I aged, I realized how delicious it was. It was like there was a party in my mouth and everybody was invited. Mmm. I wonder if that place is still around.

4: Fark - Because I am not a good person, I used to write a blog about celebrities (read: celebrity gossip blog) under the assumption that doing so would earn me fame and fortune. One day, one of my stories ended up on fark.com, which is a kind of news aggregator for weird or offbeat news. Though I usually got 50 visitors a day, that day, I received close to ten thousand. From my advertisements, I received about one dollar and I did not receive any fame. Disenchanted, I closed the site down not too long afterwards.

5: I'm taking a ride on a Flying Festoon - Just as soon as he learns how to fly.

6: Friendster - I think this is the only major social networking site that I do not belong to. Apparently I want everybody to be able to find me. What's funny is that when I first started using the internet (circa 1995-6), all that anybody used to say was that you should absolutely not, under any circumstances, put any personal information online. Now it seems like that's all anybody does. It's weird and a bit disturbing.

7: Fox - This network produces "So You Think You Can Dance," which is my surprise favorite show of the summer. I had been watching "American Idol" pretty faithfully this year, and, when it ended, a buddy of mine said that he liked SYTYCD better than Idol. I checked it out, and I was not disappointed. A key difference between the shows is that to be an amazing dancer, you pretty much have to train your whole life, or at least a goodly portion of it, so in the later rounds of the show, every dancer dances at an expert level; whereas, in singing, a lot of times people just have natural talent, which, while fun to watch, isn't usually as engaging as seeing people doing what they trained their whole lives for. I realize that I seem to cry at the drop of a hat filled with spilled milk*, but I do tend to tear up about once a week. Some of the stuff they do is just beautiful, some of it funny, and some of it spectacular. I recommend it highly.

8: Fox News - Not that I disagree with them across the board, but it makes me giggle a little bit when I hear them describe themselves as fair and balanced.

9: Sir John Falstaff - I look forward to learning more about you and the plays you are in.

10: Form or Function - Oddly, I tend to prefer function.

*Was the milk spilled into the hat prior to when the hat was dropped? That's up to you to decide.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Retrospective

"Pull over."
We've hit the border, and we're eager, anxious even. Four hours in a car with the only stop being for a delicious, albeit greasy, breakfast can make a man that way.
We get off the freeway and pull into the entrance. There's no parking garage, only a sea of black top; this fact is reinforced as we tumble out of the SUV and the heats blasts us both from above and below. We grab the wrappers and Styrofoam containers -- out with the old, and in with the new -- because we are, if nothing else, polite and excellent car guests. Plus, we don't want any bad juju affecting our luck. Sunglasses are adjusted, and smiles spread like wildfire as we head towards the shade of the entrance.
Yes we can, we think; yes we can.

"We Are the Champions, My Friends."
A light show to the music of Queen blinks and pops overhead. We see pictures of Freddie Mercury with his fine moustache. The band hardly ever smiles in its pictures, which is apparently how we are to know that they're cool. They stare at us, unsmiling, and we stare back, jaws slacked and necks arched. In this way, they are different.
I look at the people around me. Many are singing along; who doesn't want to be a champion, after all? Or, maybe it should be said, who doesn't want to feel like a champ for a few minutes?
Some people are wearing beads, some have their hands clasped together, some have their hands over their back pockets, desperately trying to protect the money they will happily give away in a few minutes to a different type of light show, one with spinning wheels featuring sevens or cherries.
But for a moment, monetary concerns are forgotten. The producers have made sure it's loud enough and bright enough to make you forget that this place is one where angels fear to tread.

"This Is Where I Get It All Back."
It's Thursday. For most of us, the places in our wallets that used to be primarily the color of money are now primarily the color of wallet. Still, the one thing we couldn't overlook was one glorious buffet. We get in towards the end of breakfast time so that we pay the breakfast price, but, in a few minutes, we get to eat lunch food too. It's the best of both worlds.
"I question your manliness if you don't eat at least five plates, I know I'm planning to; this is where I get it all back."
There are laughs and general agreement with this notion. It should be noted that the excuse for the trip was a weight loss contest, and that excuse is nowhere more flimsy then when you consider that this is the third all-you-can-eat buffet that we've been to in a twenty-four hour period. I'm not sure that you'd call us gluttons, but I suspect that that is mostly because you're polite.
"Oh, by the way J, when you take us back to our hotel, would you mind stopping on the strip for a few minutes? I placed a bet yesterday on the Padres game, and I won. Let's just say that it's time for Caeser to render unto me."

"I Thought We Were Playing 26."
Now it's just my brother and I. The rest have started the trek back through the desert. My boss asked me to attend a meeting in San Francisco on Friday, and it seemed like a great idea a few weeks ago to stay an extra day with my brother, and then fly to San Fran direct from Vegas; now that I'm down to my last twenty I've budgeted for the trip, I'm questioning the wisdom of that decision. Nevertheless, here we are in Rome so we go and do as the Romans do by hitting a blackjack table on the way back to the room. I float my twenty down to the table and receive four five dollar chips in return. My brother does the same. We look at each other and think maybe this table will be different.
We sit there for a few minutes, winning and losing, winning and losing, until my brother has had enough, and he sticks his twenty in chips into the betting circle. He draws a seventeen to the dealer's twenty.
I tell him I'll do the same thing and then either cash out or head back to the room. My first two cards equal 12. I'll need a small card. Hit me.
I draw a two. Dang. Too small. 14. Hit me.
I draw an ace. 15. Hilarious. Hit me.
Another ace. 16. I'm having trouble remembering why I enjoy this game. Hit me.
26. Too many.
I thank the dealer (if nothing else, I'm polite, remember?), and I walk the walk of shame back to the room. I'd say it could have been worse, but when you lose all the money you've budgeted, well, that's about as bad as it gets, right? Only then do I remember that I still don't get to see my wife for another day. I guess it can always get worse.

"Walk Like a Man, Talk Like a Man."
That night, my brother and I get dressed up to go see a show. We decided on Jersey Boys, which is a retelling of the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Season. It won the Tony for Best Musical in 2006. I've been wanting to see it since then, and it doesn't disappoint.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the evening is how the crowd cheers for each new song the actors sing. Remember, the people singing are not the real people the show is based on. These people are cheering for fakes. I remember back to the Queen show a few nights before, and I am amazed at how much this music, that I had always thought was kind of silly due to the sky-high falsetto of Valli, means to these people.
Nevertheless, by the end, I too get lost in the songs and the stories of the songs and I'm having to hold back tears. The ideas in these songs are so pure and genuine, it's hard not to get lost in them. Falling in love. Falling out of love. Encouragement to be the best person you can be.
All this time, I've missed the forest of the human experience detailed in these songs for the trees of that once silly, now haunting falsetto voice.
I leave feeling better about life, and those I meet in it.

"What the Deuce?"
My brother and I took a bus (called the Deuce) down to the strip to see the show. Now, three hours past the show's end and two buses filled past capacity that we cannot therefore get on, our spirits are, to say the least, a little sour.
All the walking on that hot desert night while trying to find transportation back to our hotel has made us thirsty, so we hit a Subway sandwich shop at the base of a hotel to get a couple of Cokes. They are icy and spicy and delicious, and we greedily drink. We walk along the base of the hotel, and pass a lounge that has dueling piano players. Our feet are tired, so we sit and hope again for musical respite, and we are not disappointed. First comes the unmistakable instrumental solo, then, "She's just a small-town girl, living in a lonely world..."
I smile from ear to ear. This song used to crack me up in its pure eighties-ness, but now I just love it. I look at my bro, and he smiles too. I won't stop believing.

"Leaving, On a Jet Plane, Don't Know When I'll Be Back Again."
Sometimes, the takeoffs are rough. Sometimes, the plane seems like it's losing power in the engine closest to you as the plane feels like it's slowing down after takeoff, which doesn't feel like a good thing. Sometimes, you wish you would have told your brother when you hugged goodbye at the airport to tell your wife you love her. On Friday morning, all those things happened to me. As you may have ascertained, I got through it.
I look out my window at the sprawling desert community. The television had a lot of commercials for lawyers offering legal aid for people who had been foreclosed upon. I wonder how many of the houses below me are still occupied, and a wave of gratitude washes over me for the fact that I've got a home and beautiful wife to come back to.
I'm happy this part of the trip is over, and I'm more happy that the plane has started to speed up, and I'm most happy that I hear that engine going again.
I chose to wear a suit today, though it will be a little fancy for the meeting. The suit I'm wearing has alternating black fabric running in vertical lines. Amazon had a deal on suits, and I wanted one for the trip so I could pretend to be a high roller. Once in Vegas, though, I opted to save it for my flight out. Even though I hadn't earned a million dollars, I wanted to feel like one.

"You Are My Sunshine."
My meeting was a breeze. It was in regards to a monthly report, and all that was basically said was that we should continue to do it the same way. It took two and a half hours to say that, but still, it's nice to know that there won't be extra work.
I haul my luggage back to the BART station to head back to the airport, and the train is packed. I stand and try not to fall over during its brisk starts and stops. After a few stops, however, people get off, and I am able to find a seat.
At the next stop, a family of three gets on. The third is a little girl, who can't be much more than four or five, and she is a happy little girl. Her mother tells her to sit on a seat by herself with her little pink suitcase, and she obeys right away. She then starts carefully zipping and unzipping the sides with a huge smile on her face. I can't remember the last time I was so unabashedly happy at such a small situation.
The parents are talking; the mom says something about New Orleans and how she'd like to go there for her birthday. The man seems like he suspects it won't happen, but he gives the standard "Oh, okay" response that comes printed on the back of the man-card the federation sends you when you hit puberty. The woman lowered her head and looked at the man with a tone of voice that said, "We'll just see about that."
The woman looks over at the little girl and smiles, and she is right to do so. I hope my daughter is half as cute. Then the mom, in a voice as thin as paper, starts to sing:

"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,
You make me happy, when skies are gray..."

At this point the daughter starts to sing along:

"You'll never know dear, how much I love you,
Please don't take my sunshine away."

My mom used to sing that song to me. Fortunately, I'm wearing my big sunglasses, so folks don't notice when my eyes well up.
I used to excuse people when they did bad things under the assumption that everybody was just trying to do the best they could with what they had. I don't think I believe that across the board anymore, but here, in my little corner of the universe, in the back of that BART train, I was reminded that sometimes, just sometimes, it was still true. Sometimes, people do nice things just to have done something nice. Now that's a human experience I can get behind.

"Where Are You?"
I'm on the ground in San Diego waiting for my wife to pull up. The traffic is horrible, and people like to drive stupidly at the airport. Oddly enough, that second parts seems to have a direct correlation on the first.
I see my wife has called me on my phone. I didn't hear it ring, even though I had set it to loud. I call her back, and she asks me where I am. In just a minute, she pulls up, and she is all smiles. So am I.
So am I.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Ten on Tuesday: E (Two Days Early; Deal With It)

1: Early - On Tuesday, I will be picked up from my apartment at 4:30 in the morning for a fun-filled trip to Las Vegas. Now that is determination.

2: Evelyn Waugh - I read a dual biography (primarily during a stint where I was called for jury duty but didn't get assigned a case) of Waugh and George Orwell a few months ago. The book included a story about how, during World War II, fruits were rationed, and the Waugh family received just a few bananas one month. Evelyn called his family to the table, and then proceeded to eat the entire family's rations of bananas. All I could think was, if I were a man named Evelyn, I'd probably be a cranky curmudgeon as well.

3: Eggs - I had a hard time eating eggs as a kid because I thought it was really weird that they went from being a liquid when freshly cracked to being a solid when cooked. Think about it. It's gross. I still have a hard time with it.

4: Existentialism - How many existentialists does it take to screw in a light bulb? Fish.

5: Eels - On my honeymoon, my wife and I briefly saw an eel while snorkeling. Fortunately for my sense of terror, my wife, while snorkeling, had taken to singing through her snorkel. She's a funny lady, and never too non-plussed about immediate doom.

6: Eleven - July 11th is 7/11 Day, and it is also International A.C. Day, and my beautiful wife makes it a point to make that day special for me. Please note the July 11 is not my birthday, she's just a sweetie that way. Please also note that one year she had me kidnapped, which I guess goes to show that sometimes people have different ideas of what "fun" is.

7: Eclipse - This was my little brother's nickname in football in high school. Pretty cool, right? You know what my nickname was? Linus. NOT COOL AT ALL! Thank you very much musical theatre!

8: Egg Nog - Surprisingly, though eggs are always weird for me, I loves me some egg nog. Mmm. Delicious.

9: Egypt - Over the weekend, the wife and I went to the King Tut exhibit up in San Francisco, only to find out that none of Tut's sarcophagi were on display. There was, however, some other lady's sarcophagus on display (his possible grandmother, I think). Overall, it was a very interesting afternoon, but what is the first thing that you think of when you think of King Tut? Those golden coffins with the smiling faces, right? I'm just saying, it was a little disappointing.

10: Edgar Allen Poe - In college, I did an arrangement for Poe's poem "Annabel Lee." It would be a lot cooler if I could link to a recording of that right now, as opposed to doing nothing, which is what I will do, but I don't have it with me. Nevertheless, I shall try to upload for you all. Prepare to have your minds blown by how awesome it is.