Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Smell my feet

Dear masked children,

Boo! Sorry no candy for you but help yourselves to a can of chunky goodness from my wide selection of three-year-old, generic-brand, cream-of-[insert vegetable/tuber/fungi here] soups which I forgot to set out for the Cub Scouts food drive last week, the poor bastards. Sorry there is a one can limit boys and girls. Don't get greedy.

Yes, that gruesome holiday is almost upon us again. No not the one when we give thanks that all the continent's indigenous peoples had such finicky immune systems, fought like cavemen and would've made lousy realtors. I'm talking about Halloween, silly. I mean who doesn't like being scared shitless? Well you can leave the room then. Those remaining go ahead and strap on the adult undergarment of your choice or take that laptop into the can and read on...

I lived alone in a century-old farmhouse in rural Iowa for two years. It goes without saying, so I'll say it, that there were more than a few nights when I feared being murdered by blood-thirsty rural farmhouse invaders. It was irrational, I admit. But that's what's so troubling about cold-blooded, axe-wielding killers: They're likely not rational. This is probably a good thing in the end since a rational homicidal maniac, assuming he or she (Oh who're we kidding? They're always “he's.”) wanted to get away with it, would clearly choose country victims over city victims because of the former's relative isolation.

A country victim's guard would be down (except mine!), their screams would be in vain and their mutilated body would likely lie unfound for a considerably longer time than had they been hacked to death on the corner of, say, 14th Street and Grand Avenue. (Well maybe not 14th and Grand downtown Baghdad but those bodies aren't a result of maniacs so much as extremists. Extremists aren't feared in rural Iowa. Except the ones on the campaign trail during caucus season, that is. But I digress.) Perhaps the only rational arguments against random farmhouse murder are country dogs and the fact that most farm folk do not live alone, but rather in hearty familial groups with deep tendencies toward preservation of kith and kin or whatever. I, however, did live alone making me a prime candidate for a rational-thinking, chef's-knife-brandishing, crazed lunatic. And my devoted pet was not Kujo the deathly loyal, blood-lusting Mastiff but rather, Barney the easily startled, sleep-lusting turtle.

A turtle's one basic defense trait, a trait which has kept it virtually unchanged as a life form for millions of years, is not the maniacal aggression in the face of danger which I would so dearly long for in my supreme moment of savage-rural-farmhouse-invasion-induced need. No. Rather it is fear. Turtles are the most scaredy-shit animal on the planet and probably have been for eons.

I've lived around Barney for 13 years and yet still, tomorrow morning when I walk up to him and say “Hellooooo little green Barn-barn! Oh your such a good witto totto, aren't you?! Yes you are! Yes you are!!” he'll immediately retract all appendages as if I were a violent nut case. Imagine if he actually ever encountered a real violent nut case. He would probably turn himself inside out.

Generally my nocturnal panic sessions would start, I imagine, after being awakened from the midst of some freaky dream by a 'coon or the like on my roof or a mouse in my walls. Then I would lie awake. Listening for the intruders. Perhaps they were already in the house. Maybe they've been in the basement for days waiting for me to drop my guard before they creep upstairs and bludgeon me with a log while I sleep.

One thing is for sure. There is no way any killer could walk up the stairs in that creaky old house without being heard. So if I were him I'd... already be upstairs! This is why I kept golf clubs leaning against the walls in ever room of my house. Yes I know. An intruder could just as easily use my own clubs against me but at least it could be a fair fight. “Let's see? A lofted iron against a belly putter... Okay, you gotta give me two strokes cold-blooded killer dude. Wait. I think I'm gonna go with the dual wedge after all.”

In the end, the primal pull of exhaustion would always win out over my feeble fight to stay alert. And since I was never, in fact, murdered I guess I should thank our distant ancestors who found it more evolutionarily successful to get a good night's sleep than to stay awake fretting over possible stalking predators. It could easily have been the opposite. Then I suppose we'd all be walking around like zombies during the day.

One night, recently, I was awakened by neighbors noisily arriving home from a night of carousing or whatever. In my first semiconscious moments I was again back in the isolated old farmhouse which was suddenly besieged by a pack of wilding teenagers. Quickly enough lucidity set in and I returned my racing-but-slowing heart to its cleaved chest and that chest to my bed. A bed warmed in the reality that, no I was not about to be assaulted by rapacious, conscience-free youths, doused in gasoline and burned alive into a Pompeiiesque cinder statue but rather had only been awakened by my asshole neighbors, bless their sweet, inconsiderate, non-murderous hearts.

Living, again, amongst others has brought an end to these foolishly fearful fits. Should I someday fall prey to a sociopathic, black-hearted ripper I will be comforted, ensconced as I am in my new urbanhood, by the thought of having dozens of people within earshot willing to ignore my blood curdling midnight screams and subsequently explaining away the vaguely fusty corpse smell twinging their nostrils every time they walk past my perpetually darkened house. These are the twin pillars upon which community is built, Or whatever.

“Halloween Hobo” to you

p.s. Right now I'm lying in bed playing eyeball parallax. “Right eye... left eye... right eye... left eye... right eye... lef right eye... left eye.” Beat that Nintendo Wii!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Coffee table to nowhere

I've never owned a coffee table. Let me restate that. I never owned a coffee table until recently. My thrift-gifted uncle found me a second-hand one a few weeks ago which cost $4.88. It's worth every dime. But not a penny more.

Now, I know what you're thinking: “An essay about a coffee table must mean the writer is talking about more than just a coffee table.” Okay so maybe I didn't know what you were thinking but you bring up a good point. Perhaps my new coffee table is more than just a coffee table. Maybe it's a metaphorical expression of a new elevated sense of self-worth. A concretion of the abstract feeling of loftiness I've been experiencing of late. A sign that I've begun to rise above my once cold, dusty existence. If only 15 inches. After all, I've finally got a coffee table, arguably the most frivolous of home furnishings, so I must be doing something right. Right? Don't answer that.

Now before you start to think of me as some highfalutin dandy you should know that my coffee table is what most would call low-rent. (And everyone else would call kindling.) It's sturdy and functional and serves its purpose. It's also able to go above and beyond the call of coffee table duty just like any self-respecting coffee table should. Not only will it support a mug of piping french roast and the odd selection of periodicals, but one could sit on it for a spell or even step up momentarily to, say, change a light bulb or pile-drive your little brother. But it's low-rent so that's about the limit. I mean, I'm not going to be having intercourse on this coffee table. It's much too spindly for that. Again, I know what your thinking: “It isn't the coffee table's fault you're not going to be having intercourse on it. You're pretty spindly yourself, ya know,” so let me cut you off right there before this gets personal.

As I was saying, my coffee table is low-rent. If it were a bridge, it would be a causeway. It's more than a ford, though. A ford coffee table would just be a board lying on the floor in front of the sofa that you would trip over when you got up to go to the bathroom during every commercial break. (Note to reader: You should really have that over active bladder thing checked out by the way.) And it's no poetic suspension span linking my couch to my fireplace, that's for sure. No. If my coffee table were a bridge it would be a causeway. Ably transporting traffic over a shallow obstacle while also providing open water access for local anglers and breeding niches for sea birds (or vice versa), yet easily wiped out by even a modest hurricane/earthquake/alien invasion (all hail Supreme Commander Zark). Like I said, worth ever dime. But not a penny more.

Now, I don't want to get into a tussle over definitions with all the civil engineers out there. I could take one or two of you but in a gang I've heard you fight dirty. Let's just face it. My coffee table is nothing but that. Four secure, if skinny, brass tipped legs under 900 square inches of pressboard topped with a cheap faux veneer which goes particularly poorly with all the other various wood grains around the room. It's nothing but a place to put a colorful array of magazines, only one of which I actually subscribe to and none of which I really read, whose sole purpose I can only imagine is to be excitedly swept aside in a moment of unbridled amorous passion before the whole thing collapse, Icarus-like, back to the cold, dusty hardwood floor below.

And if you believe that'll ever happen, I've got a coffee table to sell you... for $4.88 and not a penny more.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pompousness and Circumferencestance

Dear students, faculty, President Andrews, Provost Schluter, Dean Nielsen, Dean Mpherhr, Dean Ghrerfrgr, other Dean Ghrerfrgr, distinguished guests, parents both birth and other kinds, various family members and relatives, real uncles and “uncles”, loved ones and merely tolerated ones, as yet unborn offspring unnoticed and noticed alike,

It is my great pleasure and a sincere honor to be well-paid to address you today on this, the most momentous day of your young lives. For today youth and hope and promise eternally springs eternal and the promise of eternal springtime is hopefully not promised today so much as it is hoped for eternally. But if you'll allow me to begin again...

As I was saying. Hope is not eternally promised to the youthful, I promise you that. I also promise you this: There may come a day, surely, maybe, when the young youth of today are not so hopeful and full of promise as they were in their younger youth. I hope your hopeful youth promises to last an eternity for you. But hopeless promises are made to be broken... If you'll allow me to begin once more...

Young ladies and gentlemen, you are the promise of, or rather the hoped for, or further rather the hope of today. I stand before you as the hope of yesterday and I promise you this: hope is not all it's cracked up to be. Yes I stand before you today, well-paid and full of yesterday's promises and its hope too. By that I mean the hope which was promised me yesterday is with me eternally today. Not really yesterday but rather quite a while ago really.

Yes, yesterday's hope was not what it was cracked up to be. I stand before you as testament to that statement of testimony. Yes, I am well-paid, but, no, not as well-paid as was promised me yesterday. Again, not really yesterday but further back than that. The promised pay which I eternally hoped for was not all it was cracked up to be, I assure you of that. And of this: I hope your promises today are all they are cracked up to be and hopefully well-paid for, too, by tomorrow. By that I mean rather a long time past tomorrow actually. But not an eternity.

Today, the real today, is the most momentous day of your young youth, I can assure you of that. Hopefully it is all it was cracked up to be for you. For me today's today has not been what was promised but that is hopefully why I'm rather well-paid for it.

Young ladies and gentlemen, promise to promise me this one thing: Promise me that tomorrow will be an even more momentous day than today was, rather is.

And promise me these other things.

Promise me that tomorrow, rather the further tomorrow from the real tomorrow, will spring as full of promise as today is, rather has, sprung full of promise or hope.

Promise me that, and this: That this spring day today will, rather is, hopefully as cracked up as tomorrow's day is, rather will be, be it a spring day or be it not.

And in conjunction, promise me one more thing young ladies and gentlemen. Promise me that rather than hoping for being well-paid-for for tomorrow that your promises will, rather are, being paid well for it today! And eternally!

Students and faculties and their parents, President Schleicher, Provost Anderson, Dean Nelsen, Dean Mghrphr, Dean Ghrarfrgher, other Dean Ghrarfrgher, guests, indistinguished and the other kind,

Thank you all sincerely and rather heartfeltedly for well-paying me to address you on this mostly momentous of your young days!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Will it make me sweat? Will it make me wet?

Dear Lovers, Dreamers,

Triple cereal mix: Oatmeal, Grape-nuts and Raisin Bran (all low-rent store brands) with a drenching of vegan half and half (one part soy milk, one part water). That's what was for dinner tonight in case you'd like to know. Of course I just found out that the gum I'm chewing has milk derived ingredients in it. So now veal calves must suffer because I want whiter teeth. Way to go Trident. Dumb asses.

Boy was that ever a crappy start to a blog post. Anyone still even reading? Let's try a different tact. How 'bout romance?

I'm one small step closer to saving the life of the girl-whose-laugh-is-as-lovely-as-she-is from Supreme Commander Zark's apocalyptic wrath (casual readers, late-comers, and others not yet indoctrinated check the archives here and here). Lucky for her she chose to not hang up on me when I asked her out, otherwise she'd be sorry. Apocalyptic alien wraths have a tendency to sting a bit.

On the subject of stinging, rejection can feel downright wrath-ish from time to time as well. So here was my strategy for the aforementioned phone proposition. (Feel free to pinch it, hopeful lovers-to-be.) The call is placed during the last few minutes of a break between rehearsal segments. That way, in the event of a negative response the option of a quick termination of the inevitable ensuing awkward conversation is afforded when the oboe's A is heard sounding in the background.

Sure. Such a scenario could be affected quite readily through the use of a tuner held at arm's length but who wants to not start a potential relationship with a dishonest post-rejection awkwardness avoidance excuse? Not me. That's not who. Besides, in case you haven't been paying attention it doesn't matter anyway cuz I wasn't rejected for some reason which I don't pretend to understand.

Which brings to light the only flaw in my strategy: If there is no rejection, by definition there will not be any post-rejection awkwardness. Thus you're left with mere moments to express your pleasure and thanks at not being rejected and to generally wrap things up including making future meeting plans if need be. This is not much time to beam and bask and can lead to a hurried and confusing post-acceptance conversation. Score one for the shady tuner method which offers more in the way of flexibility.

In other news, my third and final orchestra is up and running for the season. We played Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphosis, Rachi 2 and Elgar's Enigma Variations in QC last weekend. The Saturday night show was exciting and not just because I had the Elgar open on my stand at the beginning of the concert instead of the Hindemith. (I thought the conductor's prep seemed rather more vigorous than the Enigma theme warranted. And it was aimed right at the principal and me (2nd) as if the two of us started the whole piece fortissimo or somethi... OH SHIT!)

The Sunday matinee felt exactly the opposite of exciting due solely to my own foul and frustrated mood. A state of mind which stemmed from a weekend of restaurant socializing in table-clumping-sized groups with everyone except the only person I wanted to be talking to at all who happened to be sitting right next to me for most meals: the-girl-whose-laugh-is-as-lovely-as-she-is.

Okay, maybe my Sunday grumpiness was also due a little bit to a Saturday night hot tub party that fell through just like all the other grandiose post-concert plans we make during QC sets even though I did push-ups before the concert and wore a swimming suit under my tux just because of it. I mean, jeez! But it's all good now.

Oh, I guess there is one more flaw in my post-rejection awkwardness avoidance strategy. In the event of either rejection or acceptance you've got to get through the rest of rehearsal in a very distracted state. You're either cursing her AND the key change you just missed or dreamily wondering what she's doing that very second before wondering somewhat less dreamily what the fuck the count is.


p.s. What is the count, anyway?
5? (2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
12?! (2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
Letter what?!!

Be like water my friend...

I found this noble looking predator tucked in the weedy bushes in front of my farm house sometime during the Summer of 2006. October's BOTM, the Chinese Mantis (Tenodera aridifolia), was amongst a plethora of fat juicy grass hoppers that summer but unfortunately I wasn't able to shoot a kill. She must have just eaten.

An inspiration to Asian martial arts, the mantis is
one of the fastest striking insects on earth and can catch flies and bees out of mid-flight. The intricate details on her exoskeleton and wing covers are evocative of a samurai warrior's armor.

The Chinese mantis was introduced here in the late 19th century for insect pest control (though they've been known to prey on small birds and mice as well) and they are wide-spread today. They are the largest type of mantis and my friend here spanned about 5 or 6 inches. She also kept the two most flexible and complex of her five eyes fixed on me the entire time!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A cafeteria-style ramble

Dear Peeps,

Marshmallows are not vegan. Remember that the next time you're camping cuz that s'more between your sticky little fingers is contributing to not only the slaughter, dismemberment and rendering of our highly sociable, fairly large-brained, fellow mammals, but also their idyllic, grazing-on-endless-rolling-green-pasture, pastoral pre-death existence. Well, okay. I'll give you that such a life doesn't sound all together bad but if you'll just allow me a moment to quickly google “peta beef talking points”


Ah yes! The crowded feed lots. You must not forget the feed lots! Remember how crappy the cafeteria lunch was in high school? Recall being herded to the chow trough where we were only offered food which we could not digest properly for apparently the sole reason of fattening us up on the cheap? Remember the crowded, stressful and volatile conditions, being forced into close quarters with countless others from disparate social groups, left to fend for ourselves within a suddenly unfamiliar and unknowable pecking order. Remember how it felt for you?

Okay so the chicken patties and pizza rectangles were pretty tasty and you didn't have to wallow in a communal mix of feces and mud, at least not literally (unless you were public schooled you poor bastard) and the fetid stench of death didn't waft through your nostrils when the wind blew wrong (except for that one time Ms Bigowsky's ferret some how got stuck in the oven vent over homecoming weekend... and I s'pose during fetal pig dissection week in freshman bio... or, again, unless you were public schooled you poor bastard). But no analogy rings true on all levels.

What the hell was my point anyway? Ah yes. Next time you're camping try substituting a nice juicy cube of tofu for the marshmallow in your s'more and enjoy your treat with a clean conscience, of course conveniently ignoring the fact that millions of field-dwelling animals are massacred during each soybean harvest. But I mean, c'mon. It's not like you were drivin' the tractor. (Gourmet hint: Non-silken tofu which has been frozen, thawed, microwaved and pressed dry is the most easily toastable. Extra chocolate is strongly encouraged. Enjoy!)

If you'll permit me to switch gears without engaging the clutch, a new acquaintance of mine (whose laugh is as lovely as she is, sigh...) recently paid both a parking ticket and a speeding ticket at the same time. I think that about covers the spectrum of vehicular penalties, doesn't it? You're fined when your car is sitting perfectly still while you're no where near it and you're fined when your car is going as fast as possible while you're gripping the wheel for dear life. They gotcha comin' and they gotcha goin', or not goin' as the case maybe.

Grind-grind-grind ka-chunk! Ya know the BNL song that goes, “if I had a million dollars I'd buy you a green dress but not a real green dress cuz that's cruel”? Well, if I had a million dollars I'd probably buy you that used green fan boat sitting for sale beside the I-80 westbound lanes near mile-marker 266 (Iowa).

Okay if it was only a million I probably wouldn't spend a dime on you unless you had a great sob story or gorgeous, cascading hair. I mean let's face it. We really hardly know each other. If I gave you a used green fan boat how do I know you wouldn't go right out and use it to run meth across state lines for Carlos from Burlington (cuz fan boats are sooo stealthy).

Granted there is a good buck in that racket, especially since Iowa meth is primo. So I've heard. It must be all that high quality ammonia fertilizer we have sitting around here. Let's see. What's worse: Spraying it on all the “fields of dreams” so it can leach into the ground water or run off into tributaries of the Ol' Miss eventually settling in the “as seen from space!” dead-zone of that great river's silt-bed delta? -OR- Covertly and dangerously manufacturing an intensely addictive illegal drug which results in, yeah sure okay, risk of prison or death by DUI, highly questionable sexual decisions, a sunken, leathery complexion coupled with patchy hair loss and ultimately destroyed youth, but also some real fun times?! My dear reader, the answer's obvious if you've ever eaten really good blackened Cajun river catfish. It's to die for!

I'll say no more, since my chunk o' Ciabatta and mug of double-brewed French roast (home-baked and home-brewed respectively lest you think I'm posting from some sickeningly pretentious coffee house) are about gone. But let me leave you with this admonition: Beware the impending alien invasion for I have it on good authority that only “hardcore meth/tofu addicts currently in drug/soy induced coma-like states and their pretty, new, oft-ticketed girlfriends will be spared Supreme Commander Zark's rath [sic]!”

Take good care heathens,
Parochial school prig

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Apple a day

Reader Warning: BAP (Boring-Ass Post)

Dear Homo sapiens sapiens,

We started our season in Des Moines last night with JB. Sadly the house was far from packed (2700+ seats) but we wise musicians speculated that the somewhat sparse audience had less to do with the week-night show, potential TV competition or any lack of draw from our sexy soloist than it had to do with the $85 ticket price. You pay $85 to hear Madonna for two hours in the Metrodome, not the Bruck Violin Concerto plus a couple of encores in the Des Moines Civic Center.

Aside from the numerous empty seats the show was arguably the best we've played in a while (well, since I've been a member any way). Lots of good comments about the horns in Don Juan and Tchaikovsky's Capriccio Italien was good, clean, vivacious fun. Bell was marvelous and easily won over those who grumbled about his pedestrian choice of rep. The guy can play.

On the topic of grumbling, our double service yesterday induced the usual gratis “catered” bag-dinner which included a heretofore unavailable vegetarian option. Usually I swap my ham or turkey for an extra brownie or bag of chips. Yesterday the new vegetarian bag was the best choice in my opinion. A delightful papillae potpourri of lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, avocado, onions and sprouts with a dash of vinegar and oil on soft earthy marble rye and a knee-buckling brownie so rich its dark chocolatey-ness osmosizes straight through your mouth's mucous membrane entering the blood stream directly for a short trip to the brain's pleasure center.

My only meal complaint concerns the little sealed plastic bag of apple slices. An apple is one of the most perfect foods on the planet. It comes with it's own water proof, disease resistant wrapper which is edible. You can throw it in a backpack as is, leave it for days at just about any temperature and then eat nearly the entire thing (and plant the rest if your so inclined). Are there really able bodied people older than the age of 4 who need someone to separate the seeds and stem from the rest of an apple, then slice it up perfectly evenly and place it in a hermetically sealed package? Aren't we the same species which attained top-predator status using stone tool technology? Give us a credit card sized chunk obsidian and we used to be able to skin a still-breathing mastodon. Yet now we must have defenseless fruit prepared for our unencumbered consumption. Well that's not entirely true because that little bag was a real bitch to open. Still, it's enough to make one ashamed to be a homo. Next time, lunch dude, just drop a damn apple in the damn bag! (But make sure it's not a damn Red Delicious cuz they suck royally.)

Monkey Man

p.s. Possible rejected pilot: The Neolithic Vegetarian.

GORK: Why Urk no eat mammoth meat?
URK: Urk no think mammoth need to suffer just so Urk can enjoy good burger.
GORK: But Urk's brain stay small then.
URK: No. Urk's brain swells because of too much soy in diet, studies show.