Honey Wine

We have weird relationships with our cars. They're a little bit friend, a little bit pet, a little bit family member. I've owned three cars in my life, and every time, the relationship has ended the same way: with a feeling of melancholy as I watch the car being hauled away by a tow truck.

My first car was a 1982 Buick Skyhawk. I spent an ungodly number of hours washing dishes at North Colorado Medical Center to earn the money to buy it. It was sort of a cream color, which worked out nicely. It was the exact color of dirt, so no one could tell how badly it always needed to be washed. The "UIC" had fallen off of the back, leaving behind "B K," which resulted in it being referred to alternately as the Blood Killa or the Burger King. The missing letters were just a sign of things to come, as the whole thing fell apart pretty quickly over the course of a couple of years, but I got more or less what I expected out of it.

After that, I paid my parents $1000 for their '89 GMC Jimmy, aka the James. The paint on the James was peeling, leaving behind an ever-growing patch of rust on the roof. It wasn't a great car by any stretch of the imagination, but it was perhaps a step up from the old Buick. It was responsible for several tons of Papa John's pizza being delivered to the good people of Greeley for a couple of years. Had I not put it through that abuse, it might have lasted another year or so.

After the untimely death of the James, I went to a used car lot. I was tremendously excited to drive away in a '95 Pontiac Sunfire. It was eventually christened Honey Wine for reasons I don't really remember. It turned out to be something of a lemon...but I loved it even so. It took me to California and back twice, to Mt. Rushmore, up to Wyoming a few times, all over Colorado. It hauled loads upon loads of groceries, and even a load of lumber one time. On the other hand, the engine needed to be replaced a few months after I bought the damn thing, and then damn near fell out a few years later.

Honey Wine crapped out for good and all about six months ago. Since then, it's been sitting in our parking space, rotting and being a general eyesore. In anticipation of our upcoming move, we've given up the parking space, and Honey Wine at long last had to go.

The tow truck hauled it away this afternoon. I was in some ways glad to see it go. But I also thought about what the car had meant to me, and I had to fight back a few tears, too. I've felt a bit sad seeing it rot in the parking space these past months, but at least it was there. It's gone now, and though I know it's irrational and silly, I'm going to miss it. Adios, Honey Wine. Thanks for the memories.

Television Really Does Inspire Violent Thoughts.

Have you ever wanted to climb into the television and strangle someone?

I don't usually watch television news - but I wanted to see the weather report this morning, so I turned on "WB2 Morning News." Before the weather, I was subjected to the tail end of a report on gas prices. The report included snippets of interviews with people filling up their tanks at a local gas station. Everything's pretty routine, people saying things like, "This is pretty bad" and "I wish it didn't cost so much" and suchlike...and then they talk to a woman who shares this nugget of brilliance:

"Someone needs to do something, because we shouldn't have to live like this."

This is not an exaggeration. This is not a joke. This is a direct quote. "Someone needs to do something, because we shouldn't have to live like this."

Yeah, lady, your life is really awful. It costs you a buck or two more than you'd like to fill the tank of your fucking minivan. You shouldn't have to live like that. I mean, there are millions of people dying of AIDS in Africa for no real reason, millions of people who don't know where their next meal is coming from, who don't have clean drinking water, people who spend eighteen hours a day assembling your Nikes for a few pennies and the privilege of not being beaten. But you're paying $2.79 for a gallon of gasoline, and you shouldn't have to live like that. To borrow a page from the book of Viva Las VegASS, you're a stupid, worthless cunt. My exposure to your existence has been nothing more than a few seconds of television, and I hate you more than I can say.

"We shouldn't have to live like that." Jesus. We produce people who say shit like that, and then we wonder why the rest of the world despises us.

Ladies Pinch, Whores Use Rouge

As we strolled home from an errand on the 16th Street Mall last evening, Mle and I saw probably ten or fifteen couples in all their Prom finery, out on the town for the Most Magical Prom Nite Ev Var. Boy, did it take me back.

Not to my prom, though, because I didn't go to my prom. It made me think back to the spring of my senior year when my parents asked, "Why didn't you go to the Prom?" It wasn't just a casual question. They asked with the same note of concern in their voices as they would if they were asking me, "Why are you cutting yourself?" or "Are you addicted to heroin?" They were simultaneously confused, horrified, saddened and mortally offended. My actual verbal response was the usual teenage, "Dunno." My internal response was, "Why the fuck would I go to the Prom?"

Prom nite in Greeley, Colorado was a Big Deal. Greeley was one of those towns. Prom wasn't just a dance. It meant something. Senior prom was the Single Most Important Night of Your Entire Life Should You Live to be a Hundred Years Old. One simply did not go to the Greeley West High School prom stag, or "with a group of friends" or whatever. You went with a date, or not at all.

Arranging a prom date was a contest. The winner was the girl whose date had come up with the most creative way of asking her to the prom. It didn't matter if it was a couple who had been together since fifth grade. It was never assumed that you were going to prom together. A girl had to be asked, and a boy had to come up with some crazy, elaborate and extravagant bullshit way of asking.

Going to the prom was a contest, too. The winner was the girl whose date had gone to the greatest lengths to make it the Most Magical Prom Nite Ev Var. Hiring a limo was good. Hiring the Hummer limo was better (though these days, I understand, the Escalade limo is where it's at). Dinner at Potato Brumbaugh's (Greeley's best attempt at a fancy restaurant) was okay. But driving at least to Ft. Collins was necessary for bragging rights. All the way to Denver or Estes Park, better still.

So, no, sorry to offend, Mom and Dad, I didn't go to the prom. I didn't feel bad about it at the time, and I have absolutely no regrets. I didn't have to rent a tux. I didn't have to buy the most expensive corsage the florist had to offer (anything less would mean it wasn't the Most Magical Prom Nite Ev Var, of course). I didn't have to hire the Hummer limo. I didn't feel any compulsion whatsoever to participate in the high school bullshit.

I was never some above-it-all "You're all sheep!" type in high school by any stretch. I went to the football and basketball games. I was a theater dork, an editor on the school paper and the captain of the speech and debate team. But I was also the guy who mostly sat in the back of the room drawing cartoons during every class, and my willingness and ability to participate in high school idiocy could only be pushed so far.

Fuck the prom, man.


The domestic dog is, at the genetic level, a wolf. The wolf is known to biologists as Canis lupis; dogs are merely a subspecies, Canis lupis familiaris. Tens of thousands of years ago, some enterprising caveman tamed a wolf, perhaps thinking in some vague cavemanish way, "Perhaps having a wolf living in the cave with us will be beneficial in some fashion." Since then, thousands of years worth of cavemen, kennelmasters and weirdo dogshow types have been carefully and selectively breeding for desireable traits, giving us more than 800 modern breeds of domestic dog.

I like to go running in the park near our apartment. The park is also tremendously popular with the local dog owners. Every time I go running, especially now that the weather is nice and the days are longer, I see dozens of dogs. Canine variety simply astounds me. Speaking in purely genetic terms, those things that look like a rat on a leash are the same thing as an English Mastiff, and both are the same animal as a gray wolf. Hard to believe, but true. That's intelligent design.

Every time Mle and I are out walking and we see a particularly cute or cool dog, I say the same thing: "I want a dawg." And I do. As you might guess, I can't stand those things that look like a rat on a leash, what the AKC calls "the Toy Group." The dogs I like are from the Sporting Group (the family dog when I was a kid was a German Wirehaired Pointer, and he was the coolest dog ever, and I also really like Weimaraners, aka William Wegman dogs.) and from the Working and Herding Groups, too.

In the end, though, when I do get my dawg, it'll probably be a kickass mutt from the Dumb Friends League. And who knows...moving into a house with lots more space and a yard...hmm...

Has Reality TV hit rock bottom?

Well, no, probably not...

But seriously, "Celebrity Cooking Showdown?" Following hard upon the success of "Dancing With the Stars" and "Skating With Celebrities," NBC has come up with its own version of "let's take some D-list celebrities and put them in some sort of vaguely competitive but subjectively judged situation, and televise the whole damn thing!"

How is any of this entertaining to watch? Who wants to watch Tom Arnold caramelizing shallots? Who does watch it? All the people who weren't/aren't watching "Arrested Development" and all the other good shows that don't find an audience, I guess. No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public, they say. Or is it overestimating? I don't know. Either way the saying doesn't make a lot of sense...but you get my point: the majority of the people who make TV assume that their audience is composed largely of idiots, and they're right.

I don't want to rant about "nobody watches good TV," even though they don't. That doesn't so much bother me. What sort of amazes me is how many people watch bad TV. What's entertaining about the eighteen different versions of Science Cops? How many times can you really watch a fatass with an improbably hot wife make mother-in-law jokes that were old when people were doing them on the vaudeville circuit? What do you get out of watching whatsisname and his team of idiots build a new house for a family of bible-thumpers?

We (and here I'm speaking about myself and Mle, but it applies generally to a broad section of the American populace) are in a bad habit of watching whatever's on TV, whether we really want to watch it or not. I think we're culturally trained to have the TV on. It's easy, it's mindless, it doesn't take any real effort on our part. I don't ever want to be one of those smug "I don't watch TV, I don't even own one" assholes. I don't inherently dislike television. There's some really great stuff on TV, stuff worth watching. But you have to look for it amongst the rest of the aptly-described "vast wasteland" like looking for an oasis in the desert.

Continuing Tales of the Crappy Art Teacher

The last two class periods in my Drawing I class have been an introduction to life drawing - which means we've been drawing a nude model.

The guy who usually sits next to me was there waiting with the rest of the class for the teacher to show up (and she was a full ten minutes late this time instead of the usual five). When she arrived, he had a brief, quiet conversation with her, then left. I ran into him in the hallway later on in the day, and I asked him what was up.

Turns out, the model is his next-door neighbor, someone whose family he knows pretty well. On the first day working with the model, he wasn't very comfortable with it, but didn't quite know what to do. After that class period, he talked to the model's father, who told him that she hadn't been very comfortable with the situation, either. After some discussion, he told her father that if she was modelling again the next time the class met, he would leave. She was, and he did.

The discussion he had with the teacher was him explaining the situation. Before the life drawing project, the teacher had said that if anyone wasn't comfortable with the model, they could do an alternative project for full credit. Makes sense, since you don't really go into Drawing I expecting to draw nudes; if it were Life Drawing, it would be a different story. Anyway, he explains to her that he's not comfortable with the situation, and would prefer to do something else. She says nope, if he was uncomfortable, he should have left on the first day, and he's only getting half credit for the assignment.

So the Crappy Art Teacher seems to have randomly decided that her previous statements on the subject don't apply, for some reason...and it's not as though he said, "I don't want to have to look at and draw a naked woman." It was clearly an awkward situation for both him and the model, and he resolved it in the best way he could - and yet, because the Crappy Art Teacher is a Crappy Art Teacher, he's penalized for it, I suppose just because that's the way the proverbial wind was blowing in C.A.T.'s mind that day...


So, um, does anyone actually like Peeps? Me, I think they're foul on the order of Circus Peanuts...

Anyway, in spite of the fact that I'm not even remotely Christian, and that I more or less despise the Christian religion on general principle, happy Easter, readers. May your day be filled with...whatever the hell y'all do on Sundays - we like to have omlettes or french toast and turkey bacon, with coffee for me, maybe go get the paper and do the big Sunday crosswords together, go to the movies or walking in the park if the weather's nice - or on Easter if you're so inclined.

It's funny 'cuz it's true...

Kevin Smith started an interesting comedy sub-genre way back when with Clerks. It's the original "My Job Sucks" movie, and its conventions have been followed faithfully at least a couple of times since. Basically, it's the low-budget movie about a specific type of job and the poor saps who have to do them. They're never really great movies, strictly speaking, but they're generally pretty funny and wind up especially beloved by those who labor in the industry being lampooned. The most popular (and probably the best) movie out of this mini-genre is Office Space.

A newer addition is Waiting..., which Mle and I watched last night. It's not really a great movie, but it's pretty funny and is certain to wind up a particular favorite of people in the restaurant industry - especially the shitty restaurant industry. It's kinda hit-and-miss, but it really rings true in a lot of areas.

I will say that, in my experience, the "kitchen/service staff will spit on/pee in/wipe their asses with/otherwise do disgusting things to the food of unpleasant customers" thing is one of the great myths of the restaurant-going public. I've never done such a thing, and I've never seen it happen. But the strange and quite often disgusting running jokes and weirdness happen (though I've never seen anything quite so extreme as the Penis-Showing Game), the staff bitching about customers in the back and then coming out to the front all smiles, the constant near-incestuous hooking up with other servers, the passive-aggressive comraderie and after-hours boozing, the smarmy middle-aged manager flirting awkwardly with the high-school-age hostess, the nearly-as-smarmy mid-'20s server who's actually hooking up with the high-school-age hostess...well, "it's funny 'cuz it's true."

I'm not really wild about Ryan Reynolds, but his schtick is well-applied in this role. Luis Guzman is good as usual. And how bad can any movie be that gives a small-but-crucial role to the great Sam Weir?

One o' them "Graphical Novels" the kids're all excited about these days

Today I finished Charles Burns' "Black Hole," which is one of the biggest things to hit the comics world in a while - everybody's been reading it and everybody's been talking about it. And now I see why. This book is great - totally engrossing (with a definite emphasis on the "gross") from start to finish.

I will say that the narrative is perhaps a little clunky, and kind of falls apart at the end...but it's not really a story-driven work. It's much more about character, setting and mood. And that, my friends, is all quite masterfully handled.

First off, the art...well, it's simply gorgeous. And my cardinal rule of comics is this: If the art's no good, the comic is no good (though my standards of what constitutes "good art" are pretty broad). It's all very dark - Burns must go through black india ink by the bucket. But at the same time, his lines are very clean. Every lock of hair and every shadow has crisp, well-defined edges. His characters have a simple, cartoony look, but are very expressive. It's sort of a "Sin City" Frank Miller meets Tom Tomorrow look, overall - though I suppose that sells Burns' wonderful eye for fine detail short. Every panel is worth examination. And he doesn't shy away from the graphic and disturbing images that his story requires.

It's remarkable how well Burns both evokes the exact era in which his story is set (the mid-'70s, "when it wasn't exactly cool to be a hippie anymore, but Bowie was still just a little too weird," to quote from the dustjacket), and creates a timeless quality as well with the overall mood. He captures perfectly the way what's cool for high schoolers can shift from day to day, and the way that every teenager, from the freaks & geeks (to borrow a phrase) to the cool kids feels alienated, isolated and misunderstood...and how every teenager can go out of their way to make others feel it, too.

I loved it, and it'll probably only be a couple of days before I start reading it all over again. Comic books like this are rare, wonderful treats, worthy of reading and rereading over and over, worthy of close inspection and intense discussion.

Tool Time

Why should you boycott Tom Cruise and all things Cruisian?

Because he's a giant tool, that's why.

The hilarious Viva Las VegASS started the movement, I'm just doing my bit.

I used to defend Tom Cruise. I always thought he was underrated as an actor (and seriously, watch Rain Man again and tell me who has the harder role to play - Cruise or the guy who gets to hit one note and then hold it for two hours...but I digress). And he's done some really swell movies - who doesn't love Jerry Maguire? Nobody, that's who.

And I'm not going to speculate about his sexuality (queer as a three-dollar bill)*, or the veracity of his relationship with Katie Holmes (a beard to put ZZ Top to shame), or just what shenanigans went on to get her all knocked up with the Scientology Messiah (turkey baster)...I'm just tired of it all. I'm tired of Tom Cruise acting like a tool. I'm tired of people talking about Tom Cruise acting like a tool. I'm sick and tired of people making snide "I hope Katie Holmes winds up with post-partum depression" comments because, honestly, what's that going to solve? It won't get Tom Cruise to stop acting like a tool, that's for sure. But if we all stop paying attention to him, he can be as big a tool as he pleases and no one has to suffer for it.

So...beginning now, boycott that giant tool Tom Cruise and all his movies...and then, never ever discuss the matter again. S'aright?

* Note to the Litigious Tool Tom Cruise and his Team of Psycho Attorneys: You're a public fucking figure, dude, and no matter how much noise you make, you can't sue people for saying that you're the gayest gay who ever gayed, you big gay. And the more you make a stink about NOT BEING GAY AND STOP SAYING SO OR I'LL SUE YOU, the more you confirm that you're the gayest gay who ever gayed, you big gay.

Duck and Cover

Wil Wheaton (who is one of the top contenders for President of the Nerds' Union, and whose nerdy blog is nerdier than mine could ever be), linked yesterday to a really fascinating piece - Dark Miracle - about a visit to the Trinity Site near Los Alamos, NM, where the first atomic bomb was detonated. It's great reading, and you should check it out.

As I was reading it, I thought a lot about a movie I watched in 8th grade science class. That was a long time ago, and most movies you watch in junior high don't really stick with you that long, but I still remember this one pretty clearly. It was about the bomb tests at Bikini Atoll, and it featured old 8mm footage shot by the sailors as they blithely boated into the area in which they had detonated a NUCLEAR FUCKING BOMB mere hours before. This is followed by footage of them being swept by a geiger counter upon returning to the ship, and their shirts hanging on a clothesline alongside a sign that says "Radio Active."

This movie was made in the early eighties, and also featured interviews with the surviving sailors from the Bikini Atoll tests. Pretty much to a man, they were all suffering from cancer, and many in quite grotesque ways. One image that still haunts me is a man in a wheelchair whose hand looked like a catcher's mitt.

It's really quite astounding how much power the early atomic pioneers were unleashing without even remotely understanding it...

Funny, because you'd think it'd be brown...

Maybe it's just me being 12 years old and all, but, I can just imagine the Yahoo headline writer giggling as he wrote...

• Newly discovered ring around Uranus is blue

I mean, seriously. That's just comedy gold right there, am I right?

Teachers and scientists have been trying hard for years to come up with a way to say the name of that planet that doesn't make schoolchildren (and childish grown men) giggle. The best they've come up with is an emphasis-free, rushed mumble of "eurahnuss." No matter how hard they try, though, no one is ever going to convince me that the name of the seventh planet isn't "Your Anus."

Hee hee...Your Anus. Hee hee.

"We've sent a probe to take photos of Uranus. We're hoping that the probe can give us a closer look at Uranus than we've ever had before. Perhaps this probe can even tell us if there's life on Uranus."


This, of course, leads us to the best 3rd grade joke ever:
Q. What does the Starship Enterprise have in common with toilet paper?
A. They both circle Uranus in search of Klingons.

BWAH-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA! Oh, I'm dyin' over here...so funny...

Oh, by the way..."'The outer ring of Saturn is blue and has Enceladus right smack at its brightest spot, and Uranus is strikingly similar, with its blue ring right on top of Mab's orbit,' said Imke de Pater, a professor of astronomy at the University of California Berkeley, who helped lead the study."


The Signs of Spring

1. The weather in Colorado is all fucked up. It's simultaneously windy, cloudy, sunny, raining, too warm for jackets but too cold for shorts.

2. The bums are molting. The sidewalks are littered with ratty old jackets and jeans, left where they were shed like a snakeskin.

3. The mallards are horny. A few blocks' worth of my walk to school are on the Cherry Creek trail. As I walked today, I watched the drakes fighting each other, chasing their rivals away from the ducks. It was quite amusing.

Oh, and there's like, y'know, leaves and flowers and shit.

The Union Forever

So the local transit workers are on strike. This doesn't really affect me much, as I walk pretty much everywhere I go (plus an occasional bicycle excursion), but I never quite realized just how much Denver really relies on RTD. The traffic has been crazy for the last couple of days (another reason to be glad that we're able to walk nearly everywhere we want to go) and Mle said that people at her office have been taking as long as 45 minutes to find a parking place now that they can't park on the outskirts of the city and bus in.

About 1/3 to 1/2 of the people in all four of my classes yesterday didn't show up, and many of the people who were there were late. Part of one's student fees go to pay for a pass that gets you on buses and light rail for free, and quite a good chunk of the student population relies on that to get to and from campus. Of course, one particularly dim bulb in my drawing class rolled in an hour late on the one day where anyone could have an ironclad (if not necessarily true) excuse for tardiness and, apparently not being a follower of current events, mumbled something about that morning being his only chance to get to the art supply store. Pays to glance at the paper, I guess...

In other union news...

I got my new shoes yesterday. They're Chuck Taylor clones made by No Sweat Apparel, and I dig 'em a lot. As a longtime Chuck Taylor fan, it pained me to continue buying them after Converse was bought by Nike. I was quite excited to discover that I could get shoes with the cool style of the Chucks without feeling guilty about buying from the Worldwide Leader in Worker Exploitation. All No Sweat apparel is 100% union made.

The No Sweat sneakers aren't exactly like the Chucks - they're a little wider and a little heavier, but I think they're actually higher quality shoes. And they came with a disclosure of wages and benefits for their workers at their factory in Indonesia. They're paid well over the average minimum wage for Indonesian workers, they get medical coverage, a stipend for rice, a pension, a Ramadan bonus (Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world), and something called "Gratification" which amounts to six weeks' salary. I don't think any employer I've ever worked for has ever given me six weeks of gratification.

Anyway, I wore the shoes all day today, and they're quite comfy, and they feel sturdier and give better ankle support than my old Chucks. And if you're an uber-tree-hugging-hippie type (instead of merely an attempting-to-be-socially-conscious type like me), they've even got Hemp sneakers that are sweatshop-free and vegan, too.

If you clicked on that last link, you have shown yourself to be a dirty hippie.

Men in Tights

For Mle's birthday, I gave her tickets to the ballet.

I don't understand the point of view that so many guys seem to take where they're somehow "scoring points" or that they're doing some great, monumental, Herculean task by accompanying their wives or girlfriends to the ballet (or the opera, or the theatre, or what-have-you). I mean, if I was just picking an activity for myself, the ballet probably wouldn't be my first choice. But it was an enjoyable evening.

I didn't take her to the ballet because I wanted to have some sort of karmic "Get Out of Jail Free" card to whip out when I want to go to a baseball game this summer. I don't watch "Gray's Anatomy" with her as an exchange for me being "allowed" to watch football. I don't go clothes shopping with her so that she won't mind when I want to go to the comic book store. I do these things because, shockingly enough, I acutally enjoy spending time with my girlfriend. I watch football because I want to, not because I've "earned the right to" or some nonsense like that. I do things she enjoys with her, and she does things I enjoy with me. I know, weird, right?

Anyway, the ballet (Prokofiev's "Cinderella") was a lot of fun. I was quite impressed with many of the dancers, as was Mle (who knows a lot more about it than me). And the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, formerly the Municipal Auditorium, is absolutely gorgeous. They did a stunning job on the renovation. We had pretty good seats, but my suspicion from what I saw of the auditorium is that there's probably not a bad seat in the house. We were close in enough, though, to be able to have a pretty good guess at the religion of the male dancers...