Friday, April 28, 2006

Our Friend Bill

Last night, our esteemed Professor Goldstein referred to Papa Bill as a kind of Forrest Gump figure. In fact, the Prof said that Bill "seems to have more modern American history than the entire campus combined." Personally, I thought the Forrest Gump analogy was more apt. Books could be written on the vast amount of run-ins that Bill has had with historical figures. Of course, while Gump was an incredibly innocent bumbler, Bill is a (polite cough) not so innocent blitherer.

There are many thoughts I have about Papa Bill, but the one that is most prevalent in my mind is that he always surprises me. Every time I think I have the guy nailed down, he astounds me with another story about his life. Yesterday, at the bistro, he left R-dogg and I completely speechless. I always mentally prepare for my dinners with Bill, but I still wasn't ready for the stories that he told. Sometimes I feel as if Bill purposely readies stories to tell me on Thursdays just to see the look on my face.

There's an interesting lesson to be learned from Bill. Last night he finally let us in on his vast secret of being a charming person. He looked over at a young female college student, and wondered out loud what would happen if he sat down next to her and started talking to her. He looked over at me, his eyes turning sharp and determined and said "You know what would happen Brett? For about a minute she would act very uncomfortable, pretending like she was scared of me. But I wouldn't hit on her, just talk to her and gradually she would become more comfortable and her fright would turn to flattery. That's how it always works."

He didn't do it though, primarily because he was focused on the conversation he was having with R-dogg and I. But the immense secret with Papa Bill isn't that he has any more charm or better looks or anything of that nature. It's that when he's talking to you, he makes you feel like he genuinely cares about what you are saying, even if he doesn't know you. That is a unique trait that is lost on so many people. The way we show people we care about what they are telling us is the way we form strong friendships. Bill just happens to do it with everyone he meets. They are always the most important person in the world to him.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Last weekend I watched the movie The Confederate States of America, which is an alternative history mockumentary speculating what would happen if the Confederacy won the Civil War. Initially I went into the movie with a lot of curiosity. The subject seemed ripe for satire.

My reaction has been mixed. The interviews and re-edited stock footage is genius, and genuinely gives the viewer a sense that they are watching a real documentary. Making the documentary controversial and speculative also creates a veneer of authenticity.

One of the major problems with the film is that much of the new material falls flat. The commercials that are shown during the "documentary" are way too over the top. The fake plays and movie clips also have a stilted and amateur feeling to them.

Plus, suggesting that the timeline and historical figures would remain similar is just sloppy moviemaking. The filmmakers took the time to invent new white leaders of the country but relied on prominent black leaders. As much as I enjoy their works, Richard Wright and Martin Luther King Jr. probably would not have lived had slavery been allowed to continue into the 20th century. You mess with one thing in time, it effects everything else.

I do really like how C.S.A. seems to have opened debate up on IMDB. Any good historical film should do that. People's responses are passionate and eloquent. Of course, the one provocative idea the movie tries to forward, that the U.S.A. really isn't all the different than the C.S.A., is so awkward that it's placed only in the closing minutes of the film. It felt tacked on and clumsy, primarily considering that using commercial icons to assess a cultures' value is a weak argument.

Essentially my thought is that the idea behind C.S.A. is brilliant, but the film is poorly executed.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

It's Not About the Pot

Initially, I was angry about the FDAs blanket statement that marijuana has no medicinal value but I couldn't quite figure out what my anger was directed towards. There are a lot of issues to consider, the most prevalent being that doctors consistently advocate Marijuana as a useful drug. There are lots of dangerous drugs in the world that the FDA has given the thumbs up to.

My anger comes from the fact that the FDA is not a government institution designed to help people's lives. Instead it has become an ultra-political group that makes decisions based on ideologies rather than science. As this article by Sydney Spiesel so effectively points out, the FDA never even bothered to do any research before declaring that marijuana has no medical use. So their statement is motivated by the fact that marijuana is hard to regulate and carries a lot of baggage with it. They'd rather have a dangerous drug that pharmaceutical drugs can profit off of. Spiesel is write when he asks the question "What do you do when federal agencies become so politicized that their recommendations can't necessarily be trusted?" As a consumer, you become scared.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Santa Doesn't Like Chimney Fires

Papa Bill said "If you had an interesting childhood disillusionment, post it on my blog, or yours."

One of the things my parents always hated about me was that I had an incredible memory for spoken words. When I was five, I would bring up conversations that we had verbatim. My father thought I was autistic because I never looked at people but absorbed everything that was happening around me. A lot of interesting words were thrown around about me.

An annoying side effect of my memory was that my deductive skills were quite adept. I figured out things about people that startled and embarrassed my mother. My mother desperately tried to have me keep my thoughts to myself. Of course, things like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny intrigued me more than anything.

So it was one sunny day, shortly after watching something on television about Santa Claus, that I approached my mother with a series of questions. I crawled into a chair and she fed me chocolate chip cookies and apple, hoping food would keep me quiet. It didn't. My most prominent question, and the one that had been bothering me the most, was how Santa Claus could possibly tell that people weren't Christian. It didn't seem rational that he would have the time to know everyone's address and what their faith was. So I asked this question hoping my mother, beacon of knowledge that she was, would have a brilliant answer for me.

What I remember most was the fumbling. My mother had never stuttered when giving me an answer before, but in the case she tripped over her answer. At first she told me Jewish people have Menorahs so that Santa would know, but I reminded her that Chanukah didn't always fall on Christmas. What other ways could he possibly know?

After several aborted answers, mom lied to me. She told me that Jewish people light fires on Christmas so Santa knows not to come down the chimney. Initially I felt bad for Santa, who must, on occasion, accidentally burn himself or get smoke in his beard. But I thought about it more, and continued to think until the answer made no sense to me.

We had a chimney in our house, but we never used it. In its place was a tacky electric log with ugly wax paper that vibrated when you turned it on. Even at a young age, I was fascinated with how bad it looked. So I knew that there was no way we would have lit a fire on Christmas, and unless I was getting presents my parents were discarding, mom had lied to me.

There's this feeling when disillusionment strikes. It's kind of a cold terror, as if my world has been wrong all along and people are purposely deceiving me. I remember that feeling and swearing to myself that I didn't want to ask people questions again if they were just going to lie. I became quieter and less inquisitive . My parents were pleased.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The End of Vacations, The Start of Cat Crazies (Again)

I promised myself my blog would not just become about my cats. I mean honestly, their lives are totally bloggable on their own. I'm thinking one day I'll get them their own blog, but until that day I'd like to hold off on the blogging about their lives. Needless to say, a quick cat update might be necessary.

The Queen of all Cats is still living with us. She has cooled off somewhat and is not a complete monster. However, her feminine wiles seem to have gotten the best of my little boy, who has taken to following her around the apartment. I hear them talking to one another in the night, and am presently considering purchasing him a book of cat love poetry. "I finished the catnip/which you rubbed into the carpet/and were saving to roll around in/forgive me, it was crunchy and warm/like your fur when I groom it.*" Okay, maybe not such a good idea.

Vacation is over and I really am not happy with having to plummet back into the real world. Last week was filled with a lot of joy. A major consolation, I suppose, is that summer is coming on fast. I'm already scratching at the door of my complexes swimming pool.

*Major apologies to William Carlos Williams' relatives. Please forgive me.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Rhetorical Nonsense

I have my own Howard Beale moments when I read articles by Ann Coulter. While scaning through her editorials I find my fingers tensing, my bones growing hot and cold. I very rarely become angry at another's opinions, but I do when it comes to her.

I've very recently realized there is a distinct reason for this anger. I don't believe that Ann believes what she is saying. Her writing suggests she is merely finding sensitive points to hit in order to fire people up. Her ramblings on news channels suggest that she's trying to make memes as she goes alone. Seriously, watch the way she moves when she says something totally ridiculous. Her eyes can't stand to be that close to her mouth.

I had to remind myself of my hypothesis while reading her latest article. In the course of the article she manages to suggest that maybe rape victims deserve what they get when putting themselves into situations. It's a little like saying a domestic abuse victim deserves to be hit by mouthing off to her husband. She also suggests that Natalee Holloway clearly shouldn't have been on a beach in Aruba at night while inebriated. Yep, that poor Holloway girl sure got what was coming to her. How dare she travel to a beautiful island, drink and take a walk on the beach. There should be laws against such things.

But in the middle of her editorial comes this disclaimer:

"Yes, of course no one "deserves" to die for a mistake. Or to be raped or falsely accused of rape for a mistake. I have always been unabashedly anti-murder, anti-rape and anti-false accusation — and I don't care who knows about it!"

This nice little package forgives all she said before. It's like saying the phrase "I'm just saying" which my friend Dee says is meant to clear somebody of any responsibility they take for saying something out of line. I'm just saying it, but clearly I shouldn't be held accountable for it.

Ann needs to put in this remark though because something has crawled inside her brain and let her know she doesn't believe herself. So, on occasion, she'll give an inch and back off her statements. She can let someone else run with them.

Then after this nice retraction comes the standard "blaming it on liberals" line. Yep, liberals are responsible for rape, murder, kidnapping and all sorts of terrible things. Every time a liberal does not cry out how immoral an action is, they clearly are condoning it. How about the idea that maybe liberals respect other's lifetsyles and let people live the way they choose? Mistakes are life Ann, the are how we grow into the people we are. I never learned not to touch a hot stove by someone on the news telling me to avoid them. It's easy to make these claims when you are writing for an audience and not because you believe such things. I'm just saying.

My personal favorite is her random and arbitrary slamming of Jews, Muslims and Christians which is a nice crowd pleaser and a great way to end an article. Next time, it might be nice if she takes some time and does her research before simplifying religious idealogies into quick one sentence phrases. Somehow the phrase " I don't know what the Jewish answer is" doesn't inspire confidence in a reader. Whining about how long the Talmud is suggests she is merely an ignorant mouth spewing forth nonsense like it was free.

Which, in America, it is.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


I've been on a vacation of sorts, so I haven't had time to blog. However, with these few precious seconds I figured I might point out some incredible highlights of my vacation thus far, which includes:

  • Posing as an interior designer in order to help my friend Dee look for new apartments. The woman was fascinated by the fact that I was a designer and had all sorts of questions for me.
  • Going to a Mets game with Dee and R-dogg, and seeing Pedro Martinez win his 200th game. Nice work Pedro.
  • Dee and I laughing like crazy at American Chopper because the bike painter's name is Nubs.
  • A fantastic barbeque where kickball was played and then immediately not played when the host's dog ran away with the ball.
  • Lots of falling asleep on couches.

Further updates will follow...

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Professor Rock Star

Did you happen to catch the big guy on television this Easter morning? It always astounds me how people react to him. Colin was being his interesting self, which completely threw the other guests off. I think my favorite part of the segments was when poor Shelly Sindland smirked at Colin, her expression suggesting complete and utter confusion. She opened her mouth and said "I just don't know what to say to you."

Join the club.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Why I Love Kids

"So why exactly is Tybalt so mad when Romeo said he loves him?"
"I think it is because he is a Capulet and Romeo is a Mongolian."

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Digital Dreams (A Short Story)

We called him Papa, although that wasn't his real name. I heard one of the old ones call him Sam once, but he never goes by that name. He insisted we call him Papa. We loved him.

He was the last of the old ones. They all steadily died until he was the only one to tell us the stories. He would shift laround, staring at us with his bright eyes and tell us tales of how it was before. I always thought he was making them up.

"Did you kids know there was a time, long ago, when we didn't have to travel without these vests." He was referring to the airtight, silicone vests we had to wear in order to shield us. "I used to travel around with my friends and feel the heat sink into my body. Those were the times."

That's how he always ended the stories. He would look out the window of our tower, his eyes growing cozy, and say "those were the times." Adults are funny that way, they always pine for the lost ages where things were simpler, the atmopshere was cleaner and nutrients cost less than a ride on the transit. Except there is no transit anymore, so obviously that made no sense. I suppose in his own way it made sense to Papa though.

Papa was old, maybe even upwards of 130 rotations. But he was amazingly well built. He wasn't one of those people who gradually broke down as they got older. Instead, he seemed to only get stronger with age.

There weren't many of us back then. In our tower, there were maybe fifty of us, and Papa figured we were the last. We frequently looked out across the fields, desperate for some sort of sign of others, but there was none. Most of us were barely in our adolescent rotations, our parents having been killed by bad air, or in the battles before that. I never knew them. Papa was all we had.

It was during one particularly bad day of atmosphere that he let me in on his little secret. Papa was waiting to die, and would have killed himself long ago had we not been arond. The last of the old ones made him promise to stay around and die naturally. He told me chances were that we were probably all just waiting around to die.

I wanted to know everything about him, everything about what happened to change our world. He looked haggard, and insisted it was too much for me. I told him if I was waiting to die in the tower, then nothing was too much for me. He finally told me.

Where we lived was just a tiny part of an entire community that had been eradicated. The enemy, using very powerful weapons, had managed to turn our atmosphere toxic. If we were ever outside, we would either die quickly or mutate into a horrible creature. The only problem was that the enemy had accidentally done it to itself also. Our entire world had been destroyed.

I asked him why the battle had been started, but he said it didn't matter. All that really counted was what it had ended up doing. He used to say "wars are always over petty stupid things, but the lives they take are never." I didn't quite know what he meant since there were no longer any wars. There wouldn't have been anyone to fight them anyways.

At that time, my greatest desire was to find a way to fix our world. I spent hours scanning the only node still running in our building. Hours were spent studying what the bad air was and what it meant for the environment, but I never quite found a way.

It was Papa who found the way. Something about telling me about thebad times changed him. He followed me around endlessly, sharing with me stories of the war. Apparently he'd been one of the soldiers on the frontline against the enemy, but he'd been injured early on and spent most of it in a med center. He regretted not dying in the war.

One day we were searching through old files together when he came across a top secret machine known as a "reset device." Apparently scientists had been working on it just in case of the eventuality that came forth. It was in testing phase when the disaster struck. According to the schematics, it would totally reset our environment and make our world liveable again. The only problem was that we would have to go to the main corridor to activate it. We weren't sure if anybody could make it.


In my family, I am the youngest amongst my brother and cousins. So it is with terrible anticipation that I always fall to reading the Haggadah. Even when I was six years old with a red bowtie and we were at a stranger's house, I read the Haggadah. It's always been my duty. It's never gone well.

My first couple of times, I remember humming over the Hebrew I couldn't pronounce or remember. The Haggadah went something like "Ma Nishtana Halahmmm hmmm hmm hmmleyloth." There was a lot of wine at our passovers.

When I was older, we decided maybe the Hebrew wasn't such a good idea. Of course by then I didn't bother to practice the English either, so I started making interesting things up. Usually it would be like "Why is this night different from all other nights? Well, I don't have school tomorrow, so that's good. I also have a glass of wine in front of me. What's up with that mom and dad? I'm like fourteen." There was always lots of wine.

Recently I've been doing seders with my cousins. I still have to read the freaking Hagaddah because my cousin's children aren't old enough yet. This turns out to be more of a disaster because my uncle is the most impatient person when it comes to food. My new Haggadah is normally something along the lines of "Ma Nishtana Halayla CAN WE FREAKING EAT ALREADY Hazzeh Mikkol NO SERIOUSLY, THE MATZOH BALL SOUP IS RIGHT THERE, I'M STARVING Haleyloth Shibekhol WHAT THE HELL ARE WE DOING THE HEBREW FOR ANYWAYS Haleyloth."

I was pleased to see this very simple version of the Haggadah. I'm actually skipping out this year for scheduling issues, but I will send it to my uncle with my regrets. My plan is to see him on Friday anyways, where we will we eat traditional non-Kosher fried seafood in a nice restaurant in Sheepshead Bay. I'm planning on having this conversation:
"Why is this night different from all other nights Uncle Peter?"
"Shut up and eat your fried clams."

Happy Passover.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Books (Again)

I rush through books. When I become attached to one, I just can't seem to slow down and enjoy every moment of it. I take it in and demand to know everything about it in the shortest amount of time possible. It's the way I am.

Which is to say that when I come to the end of a book I really love, I am always sad. I miss the characters and the connections I've forged with them. Lots of books leave me wanting more. When I come to the last page, I realize the flaw in my plan.

This book, in particular struck me. Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting on the lawn at my apartment complex, completely wrapped in it. It was a perfect day, the sun shining down and the new spring hanging all around. The last page was nearly torture for me, as I had to get up and search for another book to do that to me.

Thank you Jodi Picoult....seriously.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Wonder of It...

Dee and I are sitting at Margaritas, enjoying a few drinks and discussing his new interesting facial hair. He thinks I should grow some as well and then we could go to gay biker bars together. I look at him and say "all I would need is the assless chaps." We laugh and continue our conversation.

Ten minutes later, Dee's eyes spring into life and he's staring at someone at the bar. He points, and I look over to discover a woman who is indeed wearing assless chaps. We both laugh. He looks at me, a sardonic grin growing on his face. He says:

"Quick, say all you would need is Anna Kournikova."

In case you were wondering, it failed to work a second time.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Another Dream Deferred

R-dogg and I sometimes dream of having Sunday brunch at a quiet restaurant and sharing the Times crossword puzzles with ladies. But it seems that dream has been temporarily put off. For the Times crossword puzzle is no longer the quaint force we once thought it to be.

My heart is sad and my tongue is fully jammed into my cheek.

I Should Know Better

What is it with me and hairstylists lately? My last haircut, the stylist literally shaved my sideburns ll the way to the top of my ear. That was a good look. This time around, I sit in the chair and the woman asks me what length I get on my sides. I proceed to tell the length is a 2, and before I can say anything else, she begins cutting my hair. Immediately, no asking me what I want or suggesting anything. Without a word, she gives me the high and tight army look that I hate. I want to say something, but she begins telling me how much she hates it when customers are picky. I decide that it can't be as bad as I think it will be. My hair is now so short that it's easy to see how pale my skin really is.

There's a reason why I own a lot of hats.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Begun the Geek Wars Have (My 300th Post!)

Watching South Park last night, I knew there would be some backlash at their heavy criticism of Family Guy. People are staunch Family Guy supporters, and in my heart of hearts I knew that people could would get militant about it. But I had no idea that an all out civil war could break out.

Family Guy and South Park can both be loved on their own separate levels. Lets not break our strong ties over this one incident. There is no need to choose sides, nor is there a reason to continue burning down "enemy comic book shops."

Now I must jam my head in the sand so people don't assume I watch South Park or Family Guy.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Mad Shout Out

Have you seen Colin's blog lately? It's finally time to admit it, Colin has become better at me than blogging. Finally, the teacher has surpassed the student. My only issue is that I feel like those of us who brought you where you are today (Brie, Eric, Bill, etc...) should get a stipend for your Courant blog. After all, we did lay the groundwork. How's about spreading the wealth Colin?

Of course, I may just be mad because he never seems to be able to reply to my glowing emails, asking him a really smart question. Nothing, not even a quick "yes we shared something special, but it's over so go away, freak." I get tons of those emails a day, but none from Colin.

Oh well.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Who is Reading My Mind?

When I was younger, my friend Dave and I played a game called Wing Commander: Privateer. It was the ultimatge addiction. he game was fun because it let you run around the galaxy in your own ship, accomplishing pretty much anything you want. If you want to be a space pilot hero, all power to you. Of course, the real fun was being a crazy pirate who was chased around the galaxy. You needed a fast ship for that.

Not a single game has recaptured that magic for me. Origin made a Privateer 2 but the game became too complicated and lost its charm. Microsoft brought out a game called Freelancer, which was close to Privateer, but ultimately not free form enough. I've clamored to find that one perfect game that recreates the Privateer experience.

Which is why I'm so excited about Space Rangers. This game, developed by a small software company in Russia, has eveything I want. It's as if they went inside my head and tailor made the game to me. I'm still finding cool things in it.

The most exciting thing for me is that the game allows you to just fly around an enormous galaxy and do whatever you want. But it's so much more than that. The missions you are assigned to are incredibly diverse. You could be running trade routes with your ship on one mission, and on another land on a planet and deal with an alien infestation RTS style. Plus, the RTS in the game isn't some wonky, cheesy minigame. It's a fully realized game in itself with features I've never seen in other RTS games.

Of course, what I really love about this game is that the missions don't take hours. My rationale for playing games has changed and now I play games when I need a distraction. So it's nice to see a game that I can play for a bit, feel like I've accomplished something, and return to whatever it was I was doing. Check it out.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Thank You

On Friday, SJ identified me as the "star of the murder mystery." Indeed, this is not true. I am merely a humble facilitator.

Everyone else involved were the stars, able to take what I put down and truly make it come to life. There were so many wonderful ways in which people infused their characters with energy and joy. I couldn't have been more happy, and more proud everyone in the show.

One specific person I'd like to thank is the tireless R-dogg, who worked an incredible amount. He is truly a wonderful individual who takes on interesting challenges. I know I imposed a great deal by asking him to play a character that essentially never leaves the stage, but he seriously rose to the occasion.

Thank you.