Archive for November, 2009

Closing thoughts as another Thanksgiving weekend waves bye-bye

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

Man this Thanksgiving holiday always does it to me.

Every stinkin’ year.  It’s the same bloody story.

Don’t get me wrong…I love this holiday.

Nope…it’s the end of it, the sorry final death-cackle of that fourth and last day of the annual turkey-gorging extended weekend that kills me.  That makes me depressed and turns me into a sentimental fool as I long painfully for Thursday morning to return, a Thursday which seems like just moments ago.

Has it actually been 4 days since I was boiling some potatoes and mixing in nauseating doses of half and half and butter?  Salting that fluffy creation and drowning it in chunky gravy?

How could 4 days fly so sneakily?

Why does life seem to accelerate as you draw closer to the end?

Why do I become so morose as the 4-day weekend is dies like a spent ember?

I was an absolute swine. In spite of my “gluttonization” post from yesterday and my reasonable gastric behavior on Saturday, I fell off the wagon today by eating in excess of 4,000 calories. In fact, I just finished up the last gooey piece of some key lime pie which I had been unable to finish earlier after eating a 3/4 pound steak, baked potato and assorted veggies.

God I’m sick.

From Thursday morning to Sunday night…I’ve gained 5 pounds.

Does it show? When you gain this much weight in a short period of time, where does it go?? My gut? My ass? My face? Crap, I hope not my face. I’m incredibly sensitive to facial fat.

Am I man damnit? Why does all this crap bother me?

Or does it even bother me and am I just making a spectacle for the global blogosphere and my hundreds of thousands (forget that shit, millions) of readers? Am I acting like a hysterical attention whore? Is it all the food and short-term fat accumulation that has feminized me? Is it the fact I have to drag my sorry ass back to work tomorrow and start eating steamed vegetables again?

Perhaps I’m still slightly traumatized by coming face to face with the pony-sized cockroach that has been squatting in my apartment for the past month or two. It’s a lone-wolf cockroach, has no spiny companions, and I seem to catch glimpses of it ducking under my stove or scooting its gnarly ass across the kitchen floor before I can spring to Rambo action.

I don’t squash cockroaches, especially the ones that size. This sucker is a beast. I can only imagine the slimy entrails which would burst out its little insect asshole if I drop a hammer on it. I just let it live, no skin off my back. Until tonight…it was sitting in my bathroom when I got home. Big, shiny, brownish-black and a pair of antennae so large that NASA could probably employee them in the search for extraterrestrial life. And it was mine. I grabbed a bottle of Chlorox bathroom cleanser and sprayed away. It literally floundered on its back for an eternity, waving those antennae as if it was sending out an emergency beacon to Recon I somewhere beyond Jupiter’s orbit.

Fucking creepy animals. Now I feel like insects are everywhere. I feel like some crazed drug-addled freak who just ate some mushrooms and now the carpet is turning into a sea of slugs.

Tomorrow is bench press morning. Let’s see if these extra five pounds added five pounds to my reps. Usually doesn’t work that way, but resigned optimism is charming.

Happy Thanksgiving.

“Gluttonization”

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

In the spirit of creating my own language, a task it seems I’ve undertaken for quite some time and which matches well with my inflated sense of self-[fill in the blank], I’ve taken a common suffix, -ization and surgically attached it to another word glutton, and created a word which needs to be added to the English language if it hasn’t already.

Gluttonization. I’m seeing red squiggly line underneath it, hmmm…

‘Tis the season of gluttonization. The season starts now.

Doesn’t help that my birthday was the day before Thanksgiving. Doesn’t help that I kicked off the Season of Gluttonization with a friggin’ sinful Tiramisu cake and pizza. As in 6 slices of pizza, from Papa John’s.

Oh, and did I mention Papa John’s has some really disgusting hybrid dessert called a “cinnapie?” A strange conglomeration of concepts resulting in what is essentially a cinnamon pizza with white frosting.  When the box was first opened to reveal that monstrosity, I cringed as if I’d just seen Jeff Goldblum start to sprout housefly leg hair. Yeah, whatever…when all was said and done, guess who had 3 pieces of that? That’s right, man. Me.

So Wednesday night’s damage (technically not Thanksgiving yet, but don’t the police start counting Wednesday night as the first official DUI night of the holiday anyways?):

Six slices of pizza (2 pepperoni, 3 jalapeno and 1 sausage), 3 slivers of “cinnapie” and 2 pieces of my birthday Tiramisu cake. Awesome. I was ready for Thursday now! (By the way, even in the midst of this Gluttonization, I still missed my fiber which was sorely lacking from the dinner menu. I shoveled down a nice dose of Metamucil when I came home).

This gluttonization.

It’s like a steamroller.

It’s like a filthy, inflated snowball rolling down Mt. Everest in the winter, voraciously obliterating all that sits in its path.

Gluttonization.

Man. I won’t even go into what I ate on Thursday and Friday. Let’s just say that today (Saturday) was the first day I kept my calories below 3,000. And I am starving as I type this. Starving. You know why?

Gluttonization.

Look, gluttonization is why obesity is slowly swallowing the well-being and health of the Western world. Gluttonization. It is self-perpetuating, it is a disease of the mind that feeds on itself and circumvents the natural appetite inhibitors which Mother Nature gave our bodies long ago, a forgotten gift we’ve tossed out with the discarded turkey carcass.

And though I consider myself one of those who has escaped the wrath of gluttonization, it is times like this that I realize just what a powerful force it is; how wickedly mesmerizing gluttonization can be. I realize now how three 3,000+ calorie days can easily subvert the natural survival instinct and turn the reflex of hunger (it is a physical reflex) into some Pavlovian jerk-off which sends your gastric system into a frenzy when the Domino’s delivery boy rings the doorbell.

What does that do to the mind? I don’t know, I can only guess.

I’ll just say that I was incredibly uninspired and sluggish during this morning’s workout. For no apparent reason. I was well-fed (!) and well-rested. I simply had zero motivation and didn’t feel like lifting a finger, much less a barbell.

That cinnapie was awesome.  I wonder if any was left…?

“Phoenixism” redesign & reconstruction

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

To the handful of you who may have noticed…I’m in the midst of changing the layout of this blog.

Sorry for the Alaskan winter whiteout look, that will change. Gradually. Many of my old motifs are gone, but they will return. Piece by piece.

It’s called starting from a blank slate.

Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: Chapter 3: Impressions

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Chapter 3 is the chapter in which this novel takes a turn for the mysterious and lunatic.

Whereas chapters 1 & 2 followed a roughly understandable, albeit peculiar, storyline, chapter 3 introduced a new surreal vibe. Philosophical musings, dotted with whiskey and gray skies, are paraded for us, the reader.

When I first bought this book, I was under the impression it was a philosophical tract. In fact, I found the book on the philosophy shelf at Borders. The first 2 chapters were thoughtful and inherently pensive but nevertheless they could hardly be called truly Philosophical in the academic sense.

In the third chapter, Pirsig throws off the gloves off and comes out ideologically swinging.

In a gloomy buildup, we watch as the Narrator and company head into a small town just as rain begins to fall and the race begins. The town promises to provide shelter, warmth and dry from the onrushing storm, the layers of gray which sink and hide the outline of the town from the distance. And the rain falls harder. In an effort to make haste, they step on it and fly down the road at 90mph in the face of all good reason. There is a cresendo affect as you realize that this may not be the safest route. Once lightning begins striking the land around, you know it’s not the safest route. One of the lightning strikes lights up a farmhouse and a water tower…and appears to provide an epiphanous moment for the Narrator because he suddenly ratchets down the speed.

…and then in the brilliance of the next flash that farmhouse…the windmill…oh my God, he’s been here…throttle off…this is his road…a fence and trees…

Thus begins a chain of events which put the Narrator through an overwhelming series of deja vu incidents. The mysterious “he” remains a mystery.

Many of the references are so oblique that the reader must accept that chapter 3 will not answer, only ask. All one can do in such a situation is continue reading while weathering the storm of bizarre and esoteric references while storing them for future reference.

The sense the reader experiences early in the chapter is one of familiarity, of a previous unspoken occurrence or period of time in the Narrator’s history, and that the act of entering this town’s city limits is a “homecoming” of sorts. Or more appropriately, the discovery of a trail, an electric presence, left behind by the recent passage of someone known only to the Narrator.

They disembark and check into a hotel where they have dinner.

Afterwards they retire to the courtyard where they rest and share a bottle of whiskey. This puts Chris in a campfire mood and he begins talking about ghosts. Therein begins the true essence of this chapter. Like any good author of philosophy knows, the best way to bring a philosophical subtext to life is through dialogue. Give the character something to say, a speech, which clearly explains the author’s philosophic message. And that the Narrator does, at first hesitantly…but the whiskey works wonders.

Chris asks his father if he believes in ghosts.

“Do you believe in ghosts?”
“No,” I say.
“Why not?”
“Because they are un-sci-en-ti-fic.”
The way I say this makes John smile. “They contain no matter,” I continue, “and have no energy and therefore, according to the laws of science, do not exist except in people’s minds.”

Is the Narrator being facetious?

Ah, but now the Narrator blames a multitude of factors (the whiskey, fatigue, and the wind in the trees) for the loosening of his rigidity.

“…the laws of science contain no matter and have no energy either and therefore do not exist except in people’s minds. It’s best to be completely scientific about the whole thing and refuse to believe in either ghosts or the laws of science.”

Chris relates how one of his classmates, an Indian child, believes in ghosts, and the Narrator laughs, changes his skeptical tone, and says he was talking about European ghosts, not Indian ghost. Chris asks for the difference.

“Well Indians sometimes have a different way of looking at things, which I’m not saying is completely wrong.”

The dichotomy revealed that whereas past generations viewed ghosts as real and endowed them with the quality of existence. The scientific point of view has replaced much of that “primitive” superstition, bringing with it its own brand of knowledge and supposed wisdom. In spite of this, modern man still has his own ghosts. And here the Narrator equates belief in ghosts with belief in atoms. He tells Chris that modern man has his ghosts and spirits also:

“Oh, the laws of physics and of logic…the number system…the principle of algebraic substitution. These are ghosts. We just believe in them so thoroughly they seem real.”

The Narrator begins to tackle the puzzle of the greatest unseen natural force known…gravity. He wonders if gravity could have existed eons ago, in the time before light and matter and the universe, or as he called it, before the primal generation of anything. If the laws of gravity, in the absence of anything, could have existed as we know them today.

“Sitting there, having no mass of its own, no energy of its own, not in anyone’s mind because there wasn’t anyone, not in space because there was no space either, not anywhere–this law of gravity still existed?”

And the Narrator tells us that if indeed the law of gravity existed, then it has in fact passed every law of nonexistence there is; and conversely, it lacks the scientific proof for every trait of existence needed to prove that as well. He presses the issue and concludes that if examined deeply enough, the only possible conclusion that anyone could logically reach given the evidence is that the law of gravity did not exist before Isaac Newton. And he takes it even further:

“And what that means…and what that means is that that law of gravity exists nowhere except in people’s heads! It’s a ghost! We are all of us very arrogant and conceited about running down other people’s ghosts but just as ignorant and barbaric and superstitious about our own.”

And if you think this is where the Narrator lays it all out, you are wrong. He continues like an engine without the ability to shut down. He calls human scientific assumptions to task. He deliberates over the belief that scientific principles are ascendant. He persists in deconstructing and whittling away at all reason and logic until he’s left us only slivers of barely recognizable facts which have been so excised of reality that they appear irrefutable on the surface. If something is questioned continuously in the face of all known factual evidence, eventually you’re left with a prime fact which can not be reduced further, just like you can’t divide the number 11 by any whole numbers.

The Narrator concludes:

“Laws of nature are human inventions, like ghosts. Laws of logic, of mathematics are also human inventions, like ghosts. The whole blessed thing is a human invention, including the idea that it isn’t a human invention. The world has no existence whatsoever outside the human imagination. It’s all a ghost, and in antiquity was so recognized as a ghost, the whole blessed world we live in. It’s run by ghosts. We see what we see because these ghosts show it to us, ghosts of Moses and Christ and the Buddha, and Plato, and Descartes, and Rousseau and Jefferson and Lincoln, on and on and on. Isaac Newton is a very good ghost. One of the best. Your common sense is nothing more than the voices of thousands and thousands of these ghosts from the past.”

The conversation wraps up uneasily and everyone goes to their room. And the reader is left with the trail of relativistic destruction left behind by the Narrator.

As a reader, I disagreed entirely with his skepticism. I’ve never been able to parse out reality so easily. When the question “if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?” was asked, I always answered, of course it does. Even as a child I felt this strongly. I’ve instinctively believed all my life that certain laws and characteristics of the physical world are immutable and irrefutable. I’ve never doubted this. I believe our planet is a physical body which obeys laws of physical science…physical characters which exist in and of themselves and depend on nothing for this very existence other than the simple equation which is a blueprint which justifies their reality.

If every man, woman and child (and animal) on this planet suddenly vanished and you were left with a large, blue planet, a very empty planet, but a planet known as Earth (or what we called it in our human language which is our invention), the clouds would still drift and leaves would still dot the ground and the sun would still shine. These are intrinsic traits embodied in the physical model of the planet. The fact that no one exists to call gravity gravity does not mean rocks will suddenly start flying upwards into the heavens. We are mere inhabitants on a large mass and the laws of nature surround us and coax us and prompt us…we do not flaunt them because we do not control them, we do not own them. Our scientists have learned to harness many of them and control many outcomes, but the laws never change.

The Narrator indulges in some strange semantic relativism and he would have you believe that the act of naming natural laws brings them into existence from nothing. I cannot accept that, ever. Of course the law of gravity pre-dated Isaac Newton. Was Isaac Newton floating through the sky like a feather only to come crashing down to earth with his apple when he penned the concept of gravity?

We are an intelligent, sentient race with the ability to name. We name everything. And yes, human language is an invention and in that sense, all scientific query is invented…that is, the human concept is invented, but the physical law exists outside our minds and our reality. We are observers and interpreters; the laws of science transcend all level of our existence.

This is the scary contemplation, and that which is most troubling to the most virulent anti-spiritual atheists…that the world is direly impersonal. That gravity is a known and measurable variable. We can call it anything we want in our very limited and finite perspective.

I appreciate the Narrator’s reference to ghosts and his skeptical appraisal of the self-aggrandizing modern scientific eye. We do have many ghosts as a modern society and the laws of science are not the playing field where we should be testing that observation or belief.

Wireless is for pussies

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

I came into the wireless game very late.

As much as I consider myself soundly immersed in the flighty nature of technology and its flavor of the month disposition, I’ve always had a deep mistrust of “wireless” as a concept.

I’m all about wired; about wires and cables and cords. I have a sense that such connections are stronger and more resolute. Wired walks the earth stoically, it persists because it does not ask for a different path. Wired is persistent and it knows what it wants and it knows how to get there. The path is laid out. Wired is masculine; it’s tangible left-brained reality marked by visible boundaries. Nothing can deter a hard signal except for a pair of wire cutters.

Wireless…I can’t shake the feeling that it is weak and capricious and defies the good sense of natural laws. Wireless is invisible and imposingly fluid and unworthy of confidence; swayed by the slightest blip in environmental stability, it is not to be trusted. It’s convenient but lazy. Wireless will find another easy way out when the charged atmosphere gets tough. Wireless is feminine.

So it wasn’t until last year that I finally joined the old-school wireless revolution.

Comically, I bought a laptop which was very current and gadget-marvelous about 4 years ago. Which in computer years is about time for life support. So it was refreshing and kind of exciting to finally flip on the blue LAN light for a change and surf on the laptop…with the router an incredible 10 feet away!

And here my laptop has stayed. Despite the fact I can walk this damn computer anywhere in this apartment and out to the balcony, I prefer to keep it planted here in the living room tethered by a wired mouse, AC power, and a cable running into my Bose radio so I can hear the annoying computer sounds in blaring hi-fi. And for those nostalgic moments, I use the desktop which is hard-wired. My good ol’ steady HP desktop, the Silverback of my cyber kingdom. When I need a steady signal, some grounded surfing, I go to that. When I want to upload at length.

But tonight…I was adventurous. Maybe it was the turkey, or the birthday cake, but I was compelled to throw caution to the wind and take my laptop outside. I unplugged all the earthly wires and carried the damn thing to the patio.

And check it out…this is L.A. and most people would find it humorous that temperatures in the high 50’s might be construed as uncomfortable. And take it from someone who never wears jackets, but after sitting out there a few minutes, the calm warmth of my apartment began to call me back to wired paradise.

Also, I don’t have any seating out there…I don’t own lawn chairs or patio chairs…I sat on the stairs. Nothing to sink my back into. Typing on a laptop while you’re fully erect (wow that sounds gnarly) with the computer on your lap is not comfortable. And toss in the gentle cool breeze which started to chill me down once I’d been out there a few minutes…yup, wasn’t happening. Fuck Forget this wireless bullshit. (Potty mouth edit)

BTW,..the keen-eyed observer will note the lawn chair in this photo. That lawn chair is older than this computer and eaten through at the bottom. There is a no ass rest. That chair is better suited to a bad Frankie Goes To Hollywood music video.