Friday, August 29, 2008

Proportional Response

I love internet comment threads. I love 'em. They mix the finest examples of wit and humor with the most embarrassing faux pas of style and grammar. Everyone has a chance to speak their peace in a premeditated and absolute manner, and ultimately be engaged in "real" discussion.

Today I noticed that one of Justin's loyal readers had slipped in a request for his thoughts on "Barack Hussein". While the request was brazenly off topic & delivered from behind a veil of anonymity, I still found myself composing an atom bomb of a response. As I chose all the ways in which I would call this poster's civility, courage, and self-worth into question my mind redirected to this West Wing clip.

Believe me, this did nothing but fuel the flame of my building disdain for the commenter, until I recalled the counterpoint to the scene.

Leo McGarry: Do you think that increasing the body count is going to act as a deterrent?
President Josiah Bartlet: You're damn right I do.
Leo McGarry: Well then, you're just as stupid as these people who think that capital punishment will act as a deterrent to drug kingpins. As if drug kingpins didn't live their day to day lives under the possibility of execution, and their executions are a lot less dainty than ours, and tend to take place without the bother and expense of due process. So, my friend, if you want to start using American military strength as the arm of the Lord, you can do that. We're the only superpower left. You can conquer the world, like Charlemagne. But you better be prepared to kill everyone. And you had better start with me because I will raise up an army against you and I will beat you.

Finding myself lacking the motivation, or even the justification, to strike down every wayward internet commenter who falls out of line with my rationale, beliefs or style I deleted the snarky coup de grace and had a bowl of Honey Nut Chex. Another disaster averted thanks to Aaron Sorkin.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wednesday Afternoon

Modern day procrastination isn't just limited to the masses of starry eyed collegiate slackers out there. I have one hour to learn about 30 menu items for a new restaurant gig I've lined up, and, naturally, I'm perusing my bookmarks for little bits of internet interest. It really isn't a big deal, but it does raise a pertinent question: Does one really ever grow out of the ugly habit of procrastination? Are there nobel prize winners waiting til the 11th hour to pen their acceptance speeches? Do journalists take long lunches before rushing back to the office to pound out copy that has a looming deadline?

Who knows. But, surely not.

Maybe I'll never succeed at anything without conquering my predisposition to dallying in the face of obstacles. Or maybe, just maybe, I will.

While I was putting off my menu memorization I came across this sweet freestyle on the Black Cab Sessions website.

Monday, June 30, 2008


I think we can all agree that hypothetical questions, no matter how far fetched, are awesome. When taken pseudo-seriously they demand a variety of thought that we rarely call into use in our daily lives. The responses often elicit shock, awe, confusion and hilarity, but always reveal facets of the mindset and character of those involved.

So, here is one that Michael posed on the way home from Trevor's wedding:

The rapture is upon you and the inhabitants of the earth are being judged. The line to the pearly gates stretches for miles as the righteous wait to be separated from the vile. The Lord appears before you, pulling you from the line of sweaty-palmed sinners, and reveals to you that, inexplicably, you have been chosen to select a group of 20 modern humans to begin a new planet. They cannot be friends, family or acquaintances, and will arrive at your planet at their current age and status. Then, just as the questions begin mounting in your spinning mind, you are transported to a flawlessly white room. The room is completely empty and undecorated, save a wooden table, a notebook, a pencil and a Post-It note. The Post-It explains that you are to write the names of those who will be joining you on your new planet in the notebook and, upon the completion of this task, you will be taken there to begin the process of survival.

So, who goes? Here, in no particular order, is my list:

Michael Griffin - a physicist, aerospace engineer, and the current Administrator of NASA. This dude has more degrees than you would believe, and he will be put to work brainstorming with the intellectuals. He'll also buildus a spaceship to cruise around on.
Hedi Slimane - THE men's designer of our time. Former Yves Saint Laurent director, and creator of Dior Homme. Dr. Gates in skinny jeans will be quite a sight.
Ziad Fazah - As a prominent linguist and the Earth's leading polyglot, He'll be in charge of creating and cataloguing 'how-to' guides for Earth's major languages.
Zadie Smith - An author, essayist, intellect, and paltry attempt at diversity.
I.M. Pei - I'm not sure who will be doing the heavy lifting when it's time to build things, but it's safe to say that they'll be beautifully designed.
Norman Borlaug - Norman is in charge of spearheading sustainable crop production and staying alive long enough to pass along his wisdom.
Robert Gates - Dr. Gates is in charge of keeping everyone safe and will serve as on of the consultants on infrastructure. In his free time he'll be rubbing it in that I don't have an Aggie Ring.
Stephen Breyer - A U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice and the individual in charge of establishing a system of justice.
Ethan Cohen - Again, I'm not quite sure who will be building the cameras, microphones, sets, etc., but he seems like a good guy to have around.
Chandler - Chandler is coming for theological savvy and as a foil to the Dalai Lama. He is also the de facto comedian of the bunch.
Tom Colicchio - The owner and executive chef of both Grammercy Tavern and Craft. He is considered a vital contributor to 'new american' cuisine.
Thom Yorke - Yorke got the nod over David Bowie, Colin Meloy, Herbie Hancock, Jonsi of Sigur Ros, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks, Lauren Hill, and Sufjan.
Mehmet Oz - Dr. Oz is the most likely to be made fun of behind his back, but will be in charge of healthcare and educating the next generation in health & medicine.
Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso) - Why not?
Shawn Johnson - Although I have some concerns that her offspring will create a strong segment of my planet's population who look like chipmunks, she is an Olympic gymnast and I'm banking on her birthing some physically capable children.
Roman Sebrle - Young, seemingly virile and the World Record holder in the decathlon.
Carmen Kass -a Dior, Prada, Chanel, Gucci model as well as the President of the Estonian Chess Association
Mira Aroyo - a well respected DJ and member of Ladytron. Oh, she also has a Ph.D. in Genetics from Oxford.
Severn Cullis-Suzuki -a Yale Grad who has been a political activist and consultant since her teens. She's also athletic, attractive and multi-lingual. She's in. Her accomplishments
Sabrina Houssami - a former Miss World contestant and an accomplished speaker/debater.

Before you begin looking up bruising synonyms for "racist", "sexist", "homophobe", "xenophobe", etc., i ask that you spend a couple of minutes thinking of who you'd bring. This is definitely a list with some very, very obvious holes and drawbacks (e.g. male/femail ratio, cultural/racial diversity, 'too many chiefs-too few indians', etc.). Be that as it is, these are my inhabitants.

Vive la nouveau monde.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Lottery

The following is the first installment of a three part Blues From Down Here serial on the great American dream, the dream of blindly cashing in on a preposterous sum of unearned money.

Part 1: The Ticket

On February 22, 2008 I answered the call. Every corner store in Manhattan had been proudly boasting the New York Lottery's 270 million dollar Mega Millions Jackpot during the previous week, drawing in hordes of passers by with the hopes of life changing coin. Around 11 that morning I walked through the lightly falling snow with a spring in my step, irreverently crossing the street before the intersection, wasting no time en route to the deli on Hudson. Standing behind a mountainous black guy at the counter I overheard his banter with the Asian proprietor. He made an expected joke about the kickback she would receive after he won the looming lotto prize. We briefly made eye contact as he slowly turned to leave. I saw the same glossy and hopeful look in his eye that I had undoubtedly adopted upon entering the deli. Strangely, I resented him in the moment. What if he wins my prize? What if this guy, the guy in front of me, that plays the numbers that (by any number of small twists of fate) could have been mine, wins the money? My asinine resentment faded as my opportunity to step to the counter to claim my numbers arose.
One dollar purchases you five numbers and a bonus number, all of which you must match to receive the jackpot in its jaw-dropping fullness. My plan was to really put the screws to fate. I intended to purchase one ticket that, after I hit the jackpot, I would be able to refer to as my ticket, as my 'lucky numbers'. Of course, cradled in greed's aggrandizing palm I elected to devote half of my twenty dollar bill to ten tickets. Ten sets of numbers giving me a little insurance if "my lucky numbers" didn't pan out. The machine spit out my numbers and the ruddy faced clerk handed me my ticket. I turned to walk outside and examine my numbers when the woman called out to me, alerting me that I had forgotten my change. She extended the bill towards me, and I don't think I'll ever forget her look and accompanying statement.

"You can bring this back to me tomorrow for more numbers", she said*, her lips curling to a devious and knowing smirk.


I hurried back to the apartment, my feet leaving deep recessions in the mounting snow. I sat down on the couch and examined the numbers. I was looking for patterns, signals, digits that held significance to my life. As my gaze rolled over the ticket I began looking for a front-runner. I wanted a set of numbers to latch onto so that, when i won, I would be able to say with a clear conscience, "Seriously guys, I knew it would be that set".

Gradually the matrix of light grey digits faded into the deepest and most engrossing daydream that I can remember. An opulent rolling cavalcade of luxuries and dreamy impossibilities began to materialize in my mind's eye.
I visualized the spacious apartment that Ashley and I would fill with avant-garde furniture in the coming weeks.
I began planning to itinerary for the cities that the newfound fortune would deliver us. I, in very rational and real terms, began weighing out the benefits of the lump sum vs. monthly installment payment options. Intermittently, great ideas for the gifts I could give my friends and family would disturb my hedonistic flight. I imagined the hunting lease in Montana that I could provide for my dad and brothers. I visualized cutting a check without any hesitation to pay for Justin and Michael's med school expenses. I elected to buy Trevor a vineyard in Argentina. And a slow smile came to my face as I decided I would use my considerable monies to arrange for JD to have an all-you-can-eat crawfish boil/bbq wing dinner with Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita.

My spirit began to feel remarkably light as the joyous thoughts of providing those that mean the most to me with anything and everything that they could desire. I inhaled deeply as the anxiety of figuring out what I'm meant to do with my life melted away amidst a string of zeros and commas. I felt the deep satisfaction of a life without complication or fear. I spread my arms wide, set free to explore, to learn, to create, to live without inhibition. Surely I would not be deprived of these joys.

As the afternoon carried on I enjoyed a few more daydreaming sessions. My mind warred with my heart as I convinced myself that I wouldn't win. Beneath the umbrella of this understanding I lowered my expectations, but must admit that I did the responsible thing and continued on to planning out what, precisely, I would do immediately after my numbers were drawn...

*Cue the sound of a balloon being punctured and it expelling air as it wildly exhales its contents.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Deal Breakers

I've now returned to the fold of bachelorhood. Having spent the better part of the last decade on the other side of the fence I find myself thinking back over these years and my experiences. As my mind wanders and wraps itself around the idea of another relationship down the road I see the need to synthesize everything I've learned about women. I have a need to formulate my life lessons, to validate the decisions that have delivered me to where I am and, ultimately, to shape an ethos for future dating. But surely enough, as the portions of the heartbreak, anger and confusion that are inherent to this transition are gradually dispensing, they are giving way to unexplored uncertainties, hesitations and, naturally, questions.

Questions are truly the torment of my post-breakup psyche. Ugly and irrepressible questions that linger in the wake of my irrevocable decisions. These are questions that counterbalance (read: lessen) the certainty I felt after moving on and that I hold for the future. My mounting questions are an enduring burden, a complicated gift, in a sense, the unbearable lightness of my being.


One of the many things I love and appreciate about Justin is his ability to whittle things down to the brass tacks. He recently proposed that there are five observations that one can make about a woman in determining her to be 'the one'. In true Wolfshohlian style they're readily discernible and succinct. They support his assertion that a compatibility for marriage can be confidently established without the toil of years of dating. Justin's 5 tests, his 'little things', reveal that he wants a sweet and sensitive girl who is a great conversationalist, has the capacity to be a good mother and is grateful and aware of her blessings. Sounds like fair qualifications for 'the one', right?

Thinking about Justin's post it struck me that his approach is fundamentally different than mine. When I see a pretty girl I assume that she enters my life as a complete and potentially marry-able being. Her life experiences have shaped and matured her into a woman that, hopefully, i can love and be loved by. Over the course of a conversation, a few dates or (tragically) a lengthy relationship I pathologically assess and dole out demerits in accordance with my ever-growing matrix of 'deal breakers'. Sounds more harsh than it is. I think.

Jas seems to take the alternate route with his five selling points, his 'deal makers', if we must. He can rapidly weed out the women in his life who aren't right while attributing desirability to the ladies in compliance with his few tests. These tests define what he believes are his requirements for long term happiness. His girls are pretty contestants running a brief, but immediate, gauntlet of observation. I know it isn't the perfect analogy, but you get it. These girls have a sporting chance. Justin sets the bar just above the moral and social heights prescribed by the tests and they each have a shot a clearing the bar.

It seems as though the girls that enter my life are deprived of a similar challenge. The girls in my construction are like floating treasures I've come across and possessed. Their only hope lies in their unknowing ability to withstand the weathering effects of their owner's endless 'deal breakers' and his often fickle admiration of their luster.

For some perspective here are a sloppy handful of my 'deal breakers':

- Uses excessive superlatives
- Watches bad television (e.g. Rob & Big, The Girls Next Door, Gossip Girl)
- Vegetarian
- Habitually wears tennis shoes and jeans in tandem
- Pushy
- Can't describe a beer or wine
- Isn't intellectually challenging
- Uses her car horn emotionally
- Christian or not, contemplates religion
- Annoys any of my close friends
- Bad handwriting
- Sarcastic
- Victoria's Secret Outerwear
- Disinterested in cooking/baking
- Not inquisitive
- Always sleeps in
- Never had a job
- Can't pull off hats
- No hobbies
- Selfish
- Respectful of strangers (yes sir, no sir)
- No belching, farting (should be a gimme)

This is just a sample, and definitely not representative of the whole, but the problem is that my 'deal breakers' are, with very few exceptions, individually negotiable.

I suppose the real questions are: Which method is more fair? and Which method (without any sort of hybridization) seems more likely to lead to finding 'the one'?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Favorite Songs 1998 - February 2008

Loyal BFDH readers (of which there should be none) know that there are few things i enjoy more than rankings. From NCAA basketball, year-end music lists and, yes sadly, even my friends I've delineated just about everything that I hold dear through numerical ranking. So last week when William Sea (who, in case you missed it at Why, Justin, Why? has some new hits online) offhandedly suggested that I should join him in compiling a list of my 100 favorite songs of the past 10 years there was no question that I'd waste several hours on the task.

A couple of preliminary problems:
a) What do I know?
b) How can you compare songs across musical genres?
c) How have my feelings changed about the music I loved 7-10 years ago?
d) Upon completion, will I be too ashamed about all the time wasted?

In response to the concerns above I utilized Chev Vil's methodology, the spreadsheet format. As you can see I rated the songs on lyrical content, vocal performance and musical impact (a vague assesment of musical innovation, booty-shaking beat, tear-inducing melancholy and guitar virtuosity). These three characteristics were then averaged.

I began by combing the internet for year-by-year lists of album releases and flagging those that contained tracks deserving of a rating. I compiled a list of these tracks and ranked them in order of year of release. I built upon this lengthy list with an alphabetical run-through on my ipod.

Reviewing the list I'm embarrassed by many of the artists I forgot ( The Magnetic Fields, The New Pornographers, Pavement, Built To Spill, countless female artists). Let any deserved lambasting begin.

I will say that I greatly enjoyed the process & I'm open to another large scale project. Any suggestions??

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Unexpected Nausea

This made me a sick to my stomach. Watch til at least the 90 mark. Any similar reactions?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Literally looking for change in the couches

i have about 7-10 minutes before the chinese food delivery guy arrives and i have to admit that i'm embarrassed. i realized that, after covering the cost of the meal, i have less than a dollar to tip. oh, did i mention that it's raining outside.

so after spending weeks in the hull of an ocean liner to travel to this Land of Opportunity, adopting a new language and culture, biking in the pouring rain to my apartment and delivering my delicious sesame chicken, this is the thanks he gets?

i'm sorry i haven't blogged more/better.