Friday, December 31, 2010

Free Soap!

There's just something nice about a hotel room.

Technically it's just a poorly equipped, overpriced apartment, but somehow having that little room set aside for you is an incredible treat. You relish the experience, tossing down your bags with great flourish and stretching out on a bed just big enough to be considered a double. You inventory the room: chairs, table, tv, coffee pot, tiny fridge (exquisite!).

And then you turn on the TV. My mother never understood this part when I went on vacation as a kid, and asked why we traveled so far if we were just going to watch television we could see at home. She never understood that you have to "settle into" a vacation. You need that moment to claim your new space, kick the tires and open her up a little. Only once you're fully at home can you enjoy a single thing outside that window, with its super-heavy blackout curtains.

Oh look, the number for the nearest pizza chain. Gonna give them a call later, aren't you? Yes, pizza delivered directly to your new little domain. What royalty you are.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Dear Santa Claus,

First of all, let me commend you on your free toy program. It's a fine, charitable idea that has benefited millions. However, the rules governing your allotment system have always seemed a bit vague to me, so there are a few points I'd like some clarification on.

1. What, exactly, do you mean by "naughty" and "nice"? Is this morality scale working on absolutes, or more of a relativist system where culture and environment are taken into account?

2. How far does "nice" credit accrue, and does your Christmas morning pay out accordingly? I guess what I'm really asking is, "If I do enough charity work, will you turn me into Spiderman?" Just let me know, I can make the time.

3. Speaking of credits, is rollover something we need to worry about? Does the new year start fresh, or does a certain amount of naughty/nice still apply? And does the new year start on Jan 1, or once the current year presents are delivered?

4. Do you get Christmas presents? What about your wife, and the elves? And who would deliver them to you? Taking presents to all those kids seems pretty "nice," so I imagine you must get some crazy stuff.

So when you get a chance, please clarify these points for me.* I'll be happy to write up the details in a GoogleDoc, so you can include it as a faq whenever you get a webpage going.

*Please note that answers to these questions do not constitute a gift.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Awkward Garden

I have nothing against Olive Garden: it's tasty, it's reasonable, and the level of service is pretty consistent. For chain restaurants, you can't do much better. If you said "How about hitting up the OG for dinner?" I'd probably say "yes," if only because I love Andes mints.*

But I'd feel weird about it.

I always feel a little uncomfortable in that place, because it occupies the center of a social nexus. OG is a chain, and a corporate entity, but steps its presentation up a notch from most in that field. I mean we all know the place isn't a "real" Italian restaurant, but any given 'Garden is definitely a classier experience than your average Applebee's or Chili's. And that's exactly why it's so weird.

If I walk in wearing jeans and a t-shirt, I feel like I should be more dressed up. If I walk in dressed up, I feel awkward sitting in the waiting area next to a guy in overalls. Which one of us is inappropriately dressed, Olive Garden? If this was a burger joint it'd be no big deal—the relaxed motif would give us level protocol ground. But your bottles of wine and stone exterior have forced me to shuffle my feet, wishing I'd shaved before I left the house.

*Which is why I love going there with people who don't like them.

Friday, December 10, 2010

And the Fury

Live music is like the movie "Chicken Run." I never feel motivated to watch it, but once I do I'm surprised how much I enjoy the experience.

Some would say that live performance is definitive, that recording and replaying is a hollow, lifeless imitation. I'll save that intellectual position for the guys at the poetry jams who walk up to the mic and say "this is not my voice, this is an electronic interpretation of my voice." Those guys would know better about the supposed purity of live performance, and are more comfortable being immediately disliked.

But there is something special about seeing someone play their own music, and I don't know that it has much to do with the sound itself.

-As with sports, martial arts demonstrations, and dances, being reminded what human beings are capable of is pretty incredible. When you listen to a recording, that simply doesn't register the same way: you are dealing with the sound alone, not the sound and the person making it.
-It's hard to be a jerk in person. When you only encounter the art and not the artist, you can be more critical. Listening live robs you of that emotional distance.
-Watching someone sing their music, like hearing a person read their writing, lets you in on the subtle inflections and body language they use. A lot of people say that Citizen Cope, for instance, doesn't write enough lyrics, instead endlessly repeating his choruses. It wasn't until I saw him live that I realized he uses lyrics like a mantra, a point of meditation that he repeats in a trance state.

But not all art forms have the option for live versions. There are book readings, but they aren't common. Movies and TV let us see the actors involved, but no one else, and since we're not in the same room as any of them it isn't the same. Even in a restaurant, the chef generally stays in the kitchen. Music, then, is fairly unique in that we have so many opportunities to encounter the people responsible for it.*

*Unless you count Twitter.

Friday, December 3, 2010

And then nap.

As we've discussed before, cats are like tiny superheroes. For their particular environment, they are the most incredible physical creature to be found.

But I guess, when your life includes the constant threat of being snuggled by a larger being, who fails to recognize what a terrifying predator you are, karma has to send some serious stuff your way.

And that's why the best part of having a cat is watching it flip the hell out for no particular reason. If they weren't so fast, sleek, and agile, cats hitting their regular crazy time would just look kind of desperate and scary. But the incredible gifts nature has given them turn those tiny kitty brain fluxes into pure hilarity.

So much happens so fast when your cat goes nuts, it's primal hunter brain suddenly turning on and venting all the stored energy of sleeping 19 hours a day. Generally it goes something like this:

"What's that noise? I haven't been in the other room in a while. This room is weird, I should go back to that other room. Is there something under the floor? I have a TAIL! There's that noise again! What if the carpet were lava? JUMP!"*

*Which constitutes about a quarter of a second of a cat's "buggin' out" time.