Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Who let the blog(s) out?!?

The tenth anniversary of the Columbine tragedy kinda snuck up on me this week—it just doesn’t seem like it’s been that long.  I visited the Denver area just a couple months after it happened, and drove by the school and it was surreal seeing the yellow police tape blocking access to parts of the campus.  It also struck me how similar Littleton, CO was to suburban Kansas City, especially on the Kansas side in Overland Park where I work, which just goes to show that unthinkable tragedies can occur anywhere, no matter how insulated the area might be from "the Hood".

I read an interesting write-up in last week’s Newsleak, er uh, Newsweek about new book called (cleverly-enough) Columbine by author Dave Cullen, which is apparently a very-detailed play-by-play account of that horrible day.  I thought about picking up a copy of it in hopes of understanding what went on in Kleibold and Harris’s twisted little brains, but my man Leonard Pitts, Jr. made a great point in his column this week, saying "…but as for me, I will give them not an hour of my one and only life trying to comprehend their incomprehensible deed."  To wit, spending hours and hours reading this book only gives those little bastards what they so craved in the first place—attention and fame—so I think I’ll pass on it after all.  It’s a similar dynamic to trying to figure out what possessed that Chapman wanker to kill John Lennon—no matter how hard you try, you’ll never get the answer you’re looking for.  And even if you do, it won’t bring Lennon back anyway, so why waste the time?

Pitts also pointed out all the finger-pointing that went on in the aftermath of Columbine—it was video games or years of being bullied and ostracized or lax gun control or violent movies or bad parenting that drove the two turds to do it.  While I won’t cop out and blame bad parenting or poor gun control totally for this senseless tragedy, you can’t tell me that someone (i.e., their parents, gun shop owners, etc.) wasn’t sleeping at the wheel while Kleibold and Harris were able to amass a weapons arsenal that most third-world countries would be envious of.  Even the most astute NRA members (that’s a contradiction in terms, I know) can’t justify teenage kids packing the kind of heat those two did.

Interesting stuff in this week’s Newsweek too, about an English major from Brown Univ. named Kevin Roose, who infiltrated Liberty Univ. (aka "Jerry Falwell U.") in Lynchburg, VA, posing as a Super-Christian student to see what campus life is like in Moron Majority country.  Evidently, the kids there aren’t quite as anal-retentive as I would imagine, and some of them even do dare to doubt their faith after all and they "aren’t a bunch of Beaver Cleavers", according to Roose.  My older sister lived in Lynchburg for a time back in the late ‘70s, and even though she’s a fairly faithful Presbyterian church-goer, she said she found the place to total squares-ville.  To successfully pull off his ruse, Roose had to re-train his secular self to follow the LU code of conduct, which stipulates things like "no drinking, no cursing, no hugs lasting longer than three seconds."  Okay, I understand the no drinking and cursing stuff, but I find it hard to believe that Jesus himself would’ve put time limits on hugs, if He really existed.  Yet another example of why I have no use for the (very wrong) Religious Right…

Private Gump’s drill sergeant was right—Forrest was indeed "a Goddamn genius" compared to those who partake in this whole Twitter phenomenon.  Apart from maybe Pauly Shore's film career, is there anything on earth more pointless than this self-indulgent folderol?  Why would anyone care what latte you drank at breakfast or what activity you’re currently engaged in at any given moment?  There’s already a communication device in existence if you just have to tell someone what you’re doing—it’s called the telephone!  Then again, you can’t spell Twitter without ‘twit’, can ya?  I realize we’re in a recession and lots of people are out of work, but America has WAY too much time on its collective hands.  And that's all I have to say about that…

I watched Mickey Rourke’s comeback vehicle The Wrestler last night, and the critics were right for once—this wasn’t a bad movie at all.  Darn good, actually.  It’s the story of a small-time has-been pro wrestler who still thinks it’s the ‘80s and has trouble coming to terms with middle age and the facts of life therein.  It also has a couple good subplots involving his estranged lesbian daughter and his pursuit of a local stripper/lap dancer, played by Marisa Tomei in her Supporting Actress Oscar nominated role.  While I loved to see my girl Marisa buck nekkid in this flick, I really coulda done without the nipple piercings and tattoos all over her beautiful body.  PLEASE tell me those were fake—I hate that shit!!  This is one of the rare areas where I’m as conservative as Reagan—"body art" and piercings on women are a major turn-off for me, especially on an attractive woman like Ms. Tomei.  It’s akin to spray-painting a swastika on the Gateway Arch or something.

Rourke, meantime, was quite impressive and believable as Ram the wrestler, and he reminded me of a bulked-up muscle-bound modern-day Jim Dandy of Black Oak Arkansas, who ironically also thinks he’s still living in a bygone era.  My favorite part of the movie was when Ram lamented the downfall of ‘80s Heavy Metal, saying "Then that Cobain pussy had to come around and ruin it all.”  Amen to that!  To which Marisa Tomei concurred, "The ‘90s fuckin’ sucked!"  Truer words have never been spoken.  Apart from the music of John Hiatt and a few others, the ‘90s were a total wasteland for Rock music in my view.  This currently decade hasn’t been any better, either.

Anyway, the film is a bit graphic and gory in places, so I wouldn’t recommend it for the faint of heart, especially those who don’t like the sight of blood, and I give it about a 7.

Looks aren’t everything, I know, and this "Britain’s Got Talent" contestant Susan Boyle may well be a talented singer, but I can’t get past how she looks look like a cross between Julia Child and Benny Hill in drag!  You can gussie her up all you want, and she’ll still make k.d. Lang look downright girlish in comparison.  Then again, she is prettier than Amy Winehouse!  For her next appearance on the show, I dare Boyle to sing Roy Orbison’s "(Oh) Pretty Woman"…

Related question: In legal circles, could crossdressing be considered a form of "male fraud"? [Place rim shot here]
I do hope the Kansas City Royals will soon be Kyle Farnsworth-less, because this douche is Farns-worthless in my book.  The Fredo Corleone of relief pitchers has already blown three games this season that the Royals could’ve/should’ve won, including his latest gem Sunday when he gave up the game-winning HR on the second pitch he threw against the Texas Rangers.  $4 million a year buys this?!?  This so reminds me of the days of the great steroid jockey Jason Grimsley and his nightly blow-jobs with the Royals not so long ago.

I was almost tempted to burn some leaves in my back yard to celebrate the great Earth Day today.  I’ll be brutally honest here—I don’t give a rip about future generations and the planet we leave them with because I ain’t gonna be here anyway.  Did prior generations give a rip about what they left us?  I think not.  I’m pretty cynical about stuff like this, because I know deep-down it’s nothing but media-generated hype with no substance whatsoever.  Do all these dreamy-eyed tree-hugging hippie simpletons truly believe all this "going green" stuff is going to make a lick of difference in the long run?  By the time earth implodes upon itself, humans will be living on other planets anyway…

...would you hear these four songs in succession:
"One Piece At A Time"--JOHNNY CASH
"The Last In Line"--DIO
"Calypso"--JOHN DENVER
I believe the word for this mix is 'eclectic'.  Or 'deranged', I'm not sure which...

We got into a discussion at work recently about the long-gone musical format known as the 8-track tape and it brought back some memories (good and bad) of this ‘70s phenomenon for yours truly, so I thought I’d share a few…

  • Ever notice how your favorite song on the album always seemed to be the one they had to split in two because of the space limitations on each "program"?  For you youngins, think of "programs" as sides on a cassette tape, only there were four instead of two (usually lasting 10-15 minutes and containing three or four songs each), thus some songs were interrupted by the inevitable "clunk" when it switched programs in the middle of them.
  • Unlike cassette tapes, you couldn’t fast-forward or rewind 8-tracks—thus you either had to sit through the shitty songs to get to the good ones, or push the button to move on to the next program, but it always seemed like the good songs were in the latter half of the program, so you still had to wait.
  • Often times, the track sequence of an album would be altered to accommodate the space limitations of the programs, so if you had a vinyl or cassette copy of a particular album, the songs played in a different order.  I remember listening to Elton John’s masterpiece Goodbye Yellow Brick Road on 8-track first, and got quite used to "Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting" being the last song instead of the "official" closing track "Harmony".
  • When shopping for 8-tracks at the record store, one often had to inspect them in an incubator-like clear plastic display case through these circular holes big enough for your hands, but too small for the tapes to fit through.  When you decided which tapes you wanted, the sales clerk would unlock the case and open it for you to retrieve, or some cases had a conveyor belt you dropped the tape on, which transported it to a little box with a lock on it for retrieval.  Either that, or 8-tracks were sold on racks in those over-sized cardboard cartons or were mounted in plastic security devices to keep folks from shoplifting them.
  • The biggest draw of the 8-track tape (and later the cassette) was they afforded a portability that vinyl records couldn’t match—i.e., you could play them most anywhere, especially in your car. The big drawback was the typical poor sound quality and how quickly they wore out.
  • Another disadvantage of 8-tracks was you lost most, if not all, the album cover artwork (esp. the back covers) and booklets, inner sleeves, lyric sheets, etc., that came with vinyl records.  Sadly, compact discs have diminished the once-proud medium of album cover art as well.
Still and all, the thought of inserting one of those big clunky tape cartridges into a car stereo like in that pic takes me back to a better vanished time.  For even more fun 8-track memories, I highly recommend this here tribute site.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The (Love) Life of Brian--Part IV

After nine years of frustration, I finally got somewhere with a woman...

Toward late summer/fall 1993—against my better judgment—I decided to give the Great Expectations dating service a try.  Even though I had long resisted such institutions, I took a chance this time because I figured any woman out there who was willing to pay that kind of money would be pretty serious about finding a partner too, and I was able to get a fairly good deal on a six-month membership.  After a month or two of being turned-down by numerous women I’d chosen from their photo/video library and feeling very frustrated, I was tabbed by a girl I’d passed on previously named Lisa who wanted to meet me.  I would’ve preferred someone with a different first name to be my second girlfriend, but I couldn’t be a choosy beggar, so I gave her a shot. 

Lisa #2 originally hailed from West Plymouth, MA, and I found her Nor’easter accent rather cute and charming when we first spoke on the phone.  Lisa was about 5’6”, a bit Rubenesque (which I don’t mind at all) with cute curly brown hair, and I really liked the way she dressed—in dresses and skirts most of the time.  The girl seemed stable enough, since she owned her own house and had a good job in the telecommunications field, plus she had a lively personality and we had a lot more in common than I did with Lisa #1—this one even liked hockey!  I also liked how she referred to herself as a “bad Catholic”, thus religion was never an issue with us. We hit it off really well in our first encounter—a very pleasant downtown dinner date after work—so we decided to meet again, and I took her to a comedy club and once again, things went swimmingly. BTW, I found that comedy clubs are excellent ice-breaker type dates—there’s no pressure, and you can learn a lot about the other person by observing what makes them laugh.

For our third encounter, Lisa suggested I join her and some of her girl friends from work on a Friday night at a dance club up near where she lived.  I wasn’t anticipating anything spectacular, really—I just figured on having a few drinks and visiting with her friends, maybe dancing a bit, and just playing things by ear.  We did indeed have a fun time, and as the night wore on, our non-verbal communication kinda took over and her friends took notice of it, because they started leaving one-by-one and before we knew it, it was just me and Lisa sitting at the table next to the dance floor.  Finally, the little dude inside my brain said, “Go for it, Dummy—kiss her!”  My instincts served me well, because Lisa offered no resistance and in fact, kissed me back even harder! I think she said something like, “I was hoping you would do that,” and the little dude in my brain went, “SCOOOORE!”  We kissed some more and then Lisa gave me my first-ever genuine French kiss, which was more like a tonsillectomy!  Since the dance club was getting a little crowded and loud, Lisa invited me back to her place just a few blocks away where we could continue our little rendezvous in private, and we wound up entangled on her sofa for hours.  I have no earthly idea what time I got home that night, and I don’t mind telling you, folks, after a nine-year dry spell, it felt damn good to have a girlfriend again!

Cuddling up on Lisa’s sofa became a regular habit during the fall of ’93.  Lisa told me that her previous boyfriend was an “ice cube” in terms of affection, so I was like a windfall to her because I was so touchy-feely.  Actually, my big 7’ sofa was infinitely more comfortable than hers, but I was still living with my parents at the time, so we spent the majority of our kiss-and-fondle time at her place.  Unlike with Lisa #1, I was in no hurry whatsoever to do the dirty deed this time, because I found it to be a total hoot just doing the simple stuff with Lisa #2, like holding her in my arms throughout an entire movie in a theater (Sleepless In Seattle, I think it was), which was a first for me.  There was even a time about three weeks into our relationship when Lisa got real quiet on me one night while we were making out on the sofa when my adventurous right hand found its way up her skirt.  She said she was apprehensive about my expectations and that she was a virgin and wasn’t quite ready to go all the way yet.  I also thought it was too soon for that, so I reassured her by saying, “Relax—I’m enjoying the hell out of what we’re doing right here,” and that perked her right back up.  Ironically, we wound up in her bed that night after all—her futon-esque sofa was giving both our spines a hard time, so we relocated to her bedroom and got naked from the waist-up and continued making out while her two cats kept pouncing on us.  First time I’d ever been in bed with three pussies before! Ohhhhh, that was soooo bad…

Meantime, we enjoyed each other’s company and had fun together.  Lisa seemed to really enjoy introducing me to her friends, and it was nice to get some badly-needed socializing experience.  Sometimes we’d stay in and she would fix a nice dinner for the two of us (her lasagna rocked, as I recall) and on other occasions I finally had an opportunity to show someone a good time at eating establishments that were a slight cut above Denny’s, like when we celebrated Lisa’s birthday at the Golden Ox, the Cadillac of K.C. steakhouses.  We even went a little high-brow one night and did the Broadway version of The Who's Tommy at the Music Hall downtown (thank you, Chairman Townshend!).  It was also nice to have a few things in common and be able to have long talks about stuff and actually relate to each other, unlike with Lisa #1, where it always seemed like a one-way conversation.  I was mildly frustrated that we weren’t able to spend Christmas together because she had already made plans to visit her family back East long before we’d met, but we made up for it over New Year’s by “playing house” (as she liked to call it) at her place that weekend.  Oddly enough, Lisa #2 was the first woman I ever slept with, but I can honestly pull a Bill Clinton here and proclaim, “I never had sexual relations with that woman.”  We “played house” a few other times on weekends after New Year’s where I’d spend the night and we’d sleep together, and we did everything but have actual intercourse.  We were real close to having sex one night at my place when she was especially amorous with me, but she was still apprehensive and I didn’t push it.  I figured when the time was right, we’d know it anyway, so I wasn’t too upset.  Besides, I was perfectly content having a half-naked woman in bed with me, and the kiss-and-fondle thing was working real good for us.

Things began to unravel in our relationship by late February of ’94, though. I think the beginning of the end was the night Lisa talked me into attending this folk dance event that she was really into with some friends of hers.  It was a sort of hybrid of folky square dancing and the Country line-dancing thing that was all the rage at the time, and was rather intricate and hard to follow.  I had my reservations about it going in, because I’m not much of a hoofer to begin with, and when I realized what I’d let myself in for, I chose to merely watch from the sidelines.  I’d have sooner done the “Poop-Scoopin’ Boogie” (or whatever that stupid hick song is called) than be remembered as the idiot out there on the dance floor who mangled up the whole dance for everyone else, but Lisa was highly-pissed that I chose not to participate.  Even if we were having sex at the time, I sure’s hell wasn’t gettin’ any that night, and that was the first time we went home mad at each other.  The other nail in the coffin was the time Lisa and I spent the evening with one of my best friends and his family at their house.  As I’ve stated before, I’m not very good with children, and his two little girls were being fussy as all get-out that night, and Lisa could sense my irritation.  She knew early on in our relationship that I had no desire to have kids, and she was okay with my feelings about it, although she did eventually want to have marriage and a family herself.  My guess is she was holding out hope that I might change my attitude about it (or that she could sway me that way), but when she saw firsthand how poorly I interacted with kids, she realized that I wasn’t kidding [Pun partially intended] and knew that I probably wasn’t a “keeper”.  I felt badly, but I am what I am.

Then in early March, we attended a Friday night birthday bash for a co-worker of mine at a big nightclub, but Lisa wanted to drive separately, for some reason.  She was late arriving, and once she got there, she was a total wet blanket the whole time.  We got out on the dance floor and it was like she was in another time zone, and I knew something wasn’t right when she didn’t want to slow-dance at all.  Coincidentally, long about this time I was beginning to re-evaluate how attracted I was to Lisa, so I stewed about it over the rest of that weekend and after seeking my good friend Phil’s advice about what to do, I confronted her after we ate dinner out a couple nights later and she acted distant again.  I kinda caught her off-guard, but Lisa told me she was “having a reality check” about her feelings for me, and that she wasn’t sure where we were headed, so we decided to break things off.  It was weird to me because there we were three weeks earlier sending each other flowers on Valentine’s Day (and lawd, she was lovey-dovey!), then it was all suddenly over just like that.  I was disappointed, sure, but kinda relieved in a way since we had more less mutually lost interest in one another at the same time and we certainly were looking for different things in life.  I never imagined we were destined for anything long-term, so it’s probably just as well we ended things before we got too attached to each other.  I was also mildly miffed that we never had sex, and it would’ve been an honor to be her first, if indeed she really was a virgin, but oh well…

But wait—there’s more!  Even though we broke off the romantic relationship, there was still the little matter of the big vacation I was planning for the Northeast later in March—my “The Puck Stops Everywhere Tour” hockey trip, as I called it—and Lisa was going to be a part of it.  After visiting Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Toronto and Cooperstown by car during my little 5,000-mile excursion, the plan was for Lisa to fly to Boston and I would meet her there and we’d stay with her folks for a couple days while she showed me around the city, etc.  Lisa said she still wanted to do the trip as planned, and oddly enough, when we met for dinner the week before I left town to finalize our plans back East, she was suddenly warm and friendly again, as opposed to the cool and distant wet blanket she’d been earlier in the month.  She was really affectionate and touchy-feely that night, not to mention excited about showing me around her home turf, and I kinda got the impression she was regretting breaking up with me in the first place.  I didn’t let on either way that I was interested in getting back together, though—I had no interest in playing head games with her.

Anyway, I called her long-distance from Toronto to make sure we were still on for Boston, and she seemed fine on the phone, but when I met up with her at Logan Airport, she was cool and distant with me again—didn’t even hug me.  She wasn’t ice-cold, mind you, but just very business-like (“turn right here“, “go up this street“, etc.) in New England and we didn’t talk at all about us the entire time we were together, not even during a potential Kodak moment on the beach in Kennebunkport, Maine at sundown.  She was a bit more chatty when she’d talk about her past or about famous places in Boston, etc., and especially when we were around her family, but it was still rather awkward for me most of the time.  I was also very taken aback by the drill-sergeant manner in which she ordered her 11-year-old little brother around at home.  He didn’t seem like a bad kid at all, and I’d never witnessed this control-freak side of Lisa before.  It made me wonder if this was part of the reason she broke up with me—there’s no need to order me around, since I’m already house-broken, thus with me she knew she couldn’t fulfill that need to be in charge.  Just as well, because constant nagging will get you nowhere with me!  Anyway, the New England excursion was all a rather surreal postscript to a fun relationship.

When we originally broke up, Lisa told me “Oh, but I still want to be friends and go out and do things together now and then…” and I truly think we could have remained the best of friends for the long haul, but her words didn’t ring true.  We kept in touch for a while afterward, trading Christmas cards for a couple years or so, but she’s basically blown me off since about 1996, for reasons I’ve never fully understood.  That’s when I learned when an ex-girlfriend tells you she still wants to remain friends, it’s a load of bullshit and she‘s merely being nice.  Even so, I don’t mean to paint Lisa #2 in a bad light here because she’s a good person.  I’m forever grateful for the time I spent with her—it was fun while it lasted and I gained some valuable experience in the process.  While writing this piece, just for shits and hoots, I Googled her name and sure enough, I found her Facebook page.  Seems Lisa is now married and has a son, so I guess she found what she was looking for and I’m happy for her.  She still lives here in town too, so maybe our paths will cross again someday (platonically, of course).

Meanwhile, I still had a month or two left on my Great Expectations membership after Lisa and I dissolved our relationship, but I never went back there again—being with her gave me some confidence that I could meet someone new on my own without artificial intervention, hopefully soon.  Didn’t quite work out that way, as yet another lengthy dry spell ensued…