Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I like to sit with Amanda, watching Mickey Mouse sing the “Hot Dog” song by They Might be Giants. However, we like to sing it “Hot Frog.” The image is much more interesting.

Last night I dreamt I was in the caves of Oblivion, alongside an adorable brown-haired hamster. (Perhaps it was Boo the Space Hamster from Baldur’s Gate.) There was a fork in the caverns, and a rock wall came down and separated us. I felt horrible, because I knew it was taking the much more dangerous passage while I had the easy way. I wanted to tell it that I was OK, but I was so worried about it and wished it could tell me how it was. (Because in dreams, hamsters can talk. Probably. Maybe.) Then I was in my grandmother’s kitchen eating a lemon that had baked in the oven and turned thick and brown, and kids in Star Wars costumes were running around the house.

I watched Red Dwarf: Back to Earth last night and was sorely disappointed. I can’t even begin to explain the depths of my annoyance. First of all, the, “Oh my God - we’re just fictional characters!” metafiction twist has been beaten into the ground - I thought Stephen King’s Dark Tower series had left no doubt of that. And then in the end, it was all just a dream? Seriously? You have everyone waiting ten years for a new episode and that’s the best you can come up with? What happened to the humor, originality and intelligence that brought us episodes like "Terrorform" and "Cassandra"? I felt like I was suffering through The Phantom Menace all over again.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Saying Goodbye

I went to the funeral of a friend's brother this past weekend. Sadly, I really didn't know him that well, but funerals do have a way of making you realize how hard it is to say goodbye to someone you care about forever. There's a great South Park episode, "Tweek vs. Craig,"where the shop teacher mourns the death of his love and how he was never able to say goodbye to her. At the end, her ghost explains that saying goodbye doesn't matter, because even if you never got to properly say it, the other person always knew how you felt, and that's what's important. (And that was a run-on sentence!) So even though it may hurt you terribly and you may love and miss someone, you should just be glad they knew how you felt. What makes it worse is that there's always conflicting feelings: sometimes people are happy, sometimes they're sad, sometimes they hurt, sometimes they feel proud, sometimes they feel like shit. But through it all you loved your friends and thought that no matter what, they were the best people in the world and your life was so much better for having known them. The important thing is to realize that they knew. Maybe they had to read between the lines, but they knew.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Do Fish Have Soles & Other Thoughts

Mandy loves Madagascar and it is a great movie, but the penguins' solution at the end has always bugged me. Why is it morally wrong for Alex to eat other animals, but perfectly acceptable for him to eat fish? ("Savor it!")

When we watch classic Disney cartoons, I keep remembering how Elena and I used to think the Donald Duck song went, "Who's gonna feed the little chickens?..."

OK, I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I just don't understand why it's so important for some people that gay people don't get married. What difference does it really make to your own life or your own marriage if two people who love each other have a legal union with each other?

I'm sure everyone and their brother has seen it, but I love Susan Boyle's performance on Britain's Got Talent. It's such a wonderful lesson in not judging a book by its cover.

Wouldn't it be great if the Kazakhstan national anthem from Borat became the United States National Anthem? You'd just have to replace "Kazakhstan" with "USA" ("USA greatest country in the world / All other countries are run by little girls...")


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Random Thoughts

There is a tree by my apartment building whose giant roots are thick and high, but are chopped close so it can fit in a sidewalk square. If it had had the luck to grow in a forest instead of Queens, it might have spread out about ten feet in every direction.

Amanda is well on her way to becoming a woman. She stomps around the house yelling, "I am so angry!" When you ask her what's making her so angry, she screams, "Nothing!"

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is a fun waste of time, but there's nothing really creative or special about it.

I'm having a very hard time working on my second draft lately, because life keeps changing the way I view my characters. I should just barrel through the damn thing before my perspective changes again.

I've also taken up work on False Idols again, and remembered why I got annoyed in the first place. All those tentacles can be a little overwhelming.

All the tiny beetles in my building, (one of the many joys of living in an old apartment,) go to my dining room light to die. Whereas in the days of incandescent bulbs they would accumulate in the defuser glass, they now pack themselves into the grooves of the curly florescent bulbs by the hundreds. It's disgustingly cool.

Enough reflections for now.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

One Way to Make the World a Better Place

Wouldn't the world be a better place if jars of mayonnaise and peanut better contained sealed capsules to keep the whole jar fresh? Is there anything in the world more soothing than the first taste of a new jar of pb or mayo - or more disappointing than the thin, oily crap at the bottom?


Monday, April 13, 2009

I'm Just a Boy Whose Intentions are Good...

The other night we watched episode six of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy TV miniseries, the novelization of which wound up in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. The Guide says this about telepathy:

"The Belcebron people used to cause great resentment and insecurity amongst neighboring races by being one of the most enlightened, accomplished, and above all quiet civilizations in the Galaxy. As a punishment for this behaviour, which was held to be offensively self righteous and provocative, a Galactic Tribunal inflicted on them that most cruel of all social diseases, telepathy. Consequently, in order to prevent themselves broadcasting every slightest thought that crossed their minds to anyone within a five mile radius, they now have to talk very loudly and continuously about the weather, their little aches and pains, the match this afternoon and what a noisy place Kakrafoon had suddenly become."

This got me thinking about communication. It works like this: Person A thinks of something he wishes to share. Various filters take over and phrase this thought in a way that seems just right, and his mind subconsciously translates these thoughts to speech. His tongue then transmits the thoughts as physical sound waves, which are heard by person B's ears. Person B's mind subconsciously converts these sound waves into thoughts. Assuming there was no physical or mental interference and the process did not need to be repeated, her brain then applies its own filters to the received thoughts as it tries to understand them. This is where things can go wrong, because the receiver's brain may be changing the meaning from what was intended. Perhaps one of the contributors to "good chemistry" between people is the ability to inherently understand what the other person is saying without coloring the intent.

The process for text messages or instant messaging is slightly different. As many have lamented, once a sound wave is emitted and heard, it cannot be taken back. However, an editing process can be applied to words on an email or text so that it looks "just right" before sending it. Jerry Doyle, (who played Mr. Garibaldi on Babylon 5 before becoming a talk radio host,) once said that all letters should be hand-written without any editing, because once you start to edit yourself you begin to lose meaning. Sadly, chatting also causes you to lose inflection, which is why emoticons were invented. (I have to say Skype has the best range of emoticons ever.) I've had arguments before after attempting sarcasm in an IM without any emoticons to soften the blow. Sometimes I feel I overuse the smiley face, and that my words should be enough to express my meaning, but yeah, sometimes I just feel like smiling. :)

Sometimes people say the same things over and over again when trying to describe their emotions because even though they've said them once, the feelings and need to communicate them are still so strong. Face to face communication is the best for this, because of all the expressions and other subtle body language. Sure, webcams are fun, but nothing says I love and missed you like a hug. So go up to someone you love and hug them today, I'm sure they'd appreciate it.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Twas the Day Before Easter...

Here we are, Good Saturday 2009: the day before Easter. When I was a kid, this meant Easter Vigil at church Saturday night, playing and singing in the folk group, and going to my grandmother's in Brooklyn the next day. My grandmother made delicious sweet Easter bread, a tradition my mother has thankfully picked up since her passing. I tried to buy some Easter candy for the kids yesterday, but this section of Queens is far too kosher. How can I get through the day without Reeses peanut butter eggs?

To me, Easter was the Halloween of the spring, except instead of having to go door to door begging for candy, the candy came to you. You still had to dress up to get some (in a suit as opposed to a costume,) and you had to go to church, but still, you got candy. I always felt gypped that it was supposed to be this big holiday, but it was never on a school day. Sure, we got Good Friday off, but as my parents insisted we spend the day watching the Catholic school kids reenact the stations of the cross, there really wasn't any joy in it. The television was kind enough to provide us with specials, but we weren't allowed to watch them. "What does Charlie Brown have to do with Easter?" my parents would cry. One time I drew a picture of Snoopy on the cross just to show them. They were not amused. When my son was three, my mother tried to explain it to him, saying that Easter is the day when Jesus comes out of his hole in the ground. "Yep," I chimed in. "And if he sees his shadow, it will be six thousand more years of winter." Again, she was not amused.

So for the secular and faithful alike, Happy Easter and a belated Zissen Pesach, have a good day with lots of eggs, candy, bread, food, and family, and whatever you wish.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Biblical Living

Last year, I bought my sainted Sicilian mother the book The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A. J. Jacobs, and now I'm finally getting around to reading it myself. Mr. Jacobs, a secular man, describes his attempts to follow every bible law to the letter. He wears white clothes that are not of mixed fibers. He doesn't trim his beard. He eats bugs. He carries a cane-chair around so that he doesn't touch unclean surfaces. He visits the Amish and prays with the Orthodox. He shoos a mother pigeon from her nest so he can take her egg, (he gives it back afterwards.)

As a closet agnostic who grew up in an extremely Catholic home, I'm finding Jacob's journey fascinating. He realizes that these bizarre rules and rituals actually give him a sense of peace. The dietary laws of the old testiment may seem strange and strict, but he feels they teach discipline. He grows to love blowing his ram's horn every morning, and paying for the next customer's coffe at Starbucks.

I went to bed thinking about this, and had a very odd dream. I dreamt Amanda (my five year old daughter) said to me, "There is no greater sacrifice than to give your life up for the Lord." I grew furious and told her that no, god just wanted you to live your life and be happy, not to worry about sacrificing yourself. Upon waking, I realized I stil have a lot of religion issues. But that doesn't mean the bible is bad, or that it is not full of good and wonderful rules to live your life by. So I try to think what laws I should have governing my life, because I really need some. I've always loved Kurt Vonnegut's quote, "Please-a little less love, and a little more common decency." I replace "common decency" with "kindness." I think I should just be kind to the people in my life. That's a good start. Does that include myself? I'm working on it.

Any ideas of your own?