Mar 28

A Post About Nothing

I suppose it happens to the best of us. Call it lack of inspiration, a loss for words, writer’s block or what have you, all of us writers go through it from time to time. Unfortunately I haven’t written an analogue to The Catcher in the Rye yet, so I can’t just take the next 45 years off.

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“Dear fans, piss off. Love, J.”
Image credit: bbnick42

It’s been suggested I could write something about nothing. It’s been done before: Seinfeld, most political speeches, the entire Meat Loaf catalog. The list goes on and on. Eh, maybe I’ll try something like that. I know! I’ll create the blog equivalent of John Cage’s 4’33”, a piano piece (or whatever instrument suits your fancy, it really doesn’t matter) consisting of four minutes and 33 seconds of … absolute silence.

Yes, this is an actual piece of music. It’s been a topic of serious discussion since its 1952 “premiere.” No less than NPR called it one of the “100 most important American musical works of the 20th Century.” Cage himself called it his favorite work. Hrm, I suppose the literary equivalent would be something like …

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Sheer minimalism! Genius!

But then again, this kind of crap doesn’t go over well in Idaho. I doubt anyone from The New Yorker or the The Village Voice reads my dreck, either. So much for that little theory.

Another way to go about this would be to write about my mundane life. It would be like a diary, but it would bore the hell out of anyone who reads it, including any Internet archaeologist who stumbles upon this blog hundreds of years from now. Hey, let’s try it out!

Dear Diary: Well, today was a boring day. Sneferu and Djoser have been running around like maniacs. I did laundry, no whites so I didn’t use any bleach. I did the dishes too. There were a lot more than usual. Oh yeah, I went downstairs and checked the mail. Well, I guess that’s all for today. Love, Lane

Still awake? Good! I could write either one of those things today. Or I could copy and paste the lorem ipsum placeholder text over and over in white letters so you can’t see them on your screen. Yes, dear readers, I would do anything for cheap laughs …

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… but I won’t do that!
Image credit: Christie D. Mallon

Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one. All right, now it’s time for today’s entry!

Ah, crap. Lost the moment again ….

Mar 25

What’s in the Air Tonight?

Ah, spring must be in the air. The last clumps of snow in the parking lots have melted. The HOA is planting pretty flowers. Furry creatures are scavenging anew. Blooms are threatening all over. It’s like one of those old Disney cartoons out there, with dancing trees and shit.

And my nose is running like liquid waste from a paper mill, probably replete with all the environmental hazards that entails.

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“You won’t find Bambi here, son.”
Image credit: Pollinator

Yes indeed. Allergies have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. This first occurred to me when I was four years old. A stray kitten wandered into the backyard, and like any four-year-old I was completely enamored with it. That is, until my sinuses went haywire, my face became became blotched red and swollen, and my eyes damn near sealed shut. No kitten was adopted that day.

Ultimately I was put on a prescription allergy medication and remained on it until I was a teenager. Beachy seems to have inherited this trait from me. Accordingly she can’t play with the Pyramid Brothers unless there’s a bottle of Children’s Benadryl nearby.

Fortunately my allergies have subsided somewhat since childhood, which in turn has allowed me to be the cat person I am today. Nevertheless, the constant presence of cat dander here at the Command Center is not exactly helpful for my sinuses.

Upon waking up with a head full of self-produced, off-white brine at three in the morning, I knew today wasn’t going to be particularly pleasant. This was exacerbated by Sneferu’s nightly chore of annoying the ever-loving crap out of me, which he performs dutifully.

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“Purr! You know you love me! Now let me claw your back!”

Ironically, Sneferu also has allergy problems. While they don’t seem to slow him down, they do often make him sound like Bill the Cat. So I’ve come full circle. I once sniffled and sneezed because of a kitten. Last night I sniffled and sneezed WITH a kitten. Who saw that one coming?

Naturally, I used up the last of the allergy meds when Beachy was here last weekend. Time to hit Albertson’s for a refill. I’ve dealt with my allergies long enough to know they’re not going to succumb to some candy-ass homeopathic remedy. I need to break out the heavy duty stuff. The stuff that takes down an elephant at 100 meters. I’m not screwing around here, dammit!

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Eh, close enough.

The allergy medicine seems to making a little bit of an impact. I was able to write today’s entry without having to squeegee snot off the screen on a regular basis. That’s a good thing by any author’s standard, right? Oh, I do love my craft.

Mar 19

That Giant Sucking Sound

Back in 1992, part-time presidential candidate and full-time lunatic Ross Perot coined the term “giant sucking sound.” He originally used it to criticize the then-proposed NAFTA treaty. Later politicians also used it to play up the “jobs lost” bogeyman. Admittedly, in that context it really doesn’t do a whole hell of a lot for me around here.

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“Our jobs are secure. Now piss off.”

Nevertheless, it’s still a good phrase. It’s also one of the few notable things conceived during Perot’s presidential runs which didn’t involve pie graphs and/or batshit conspiracy theories. For me, the “giant sucking sound” is what I often hear in the back of my mind when I’m writing. It’s a thought along the lines of, “Hoo boy. I’m really posting a turd to the Internet today!” I’m having that thought right now, actually.

Yet one person’s manure is often another person’s manna. Regardless of what kind of artist you are – be it a painter, actor, musician, or a writer like myself – you fancy some of your works are much more awesome than others. However, what you think is good and what others think is good are often two different things. The same holds for one’s perception of crap.

Here’s a case in point. The late Alec Guinness thought of himself as an old-school English stage actor of the highest caliber, on par with his contemporary Laurence Olivier and with Patrick Stewart later on. Indeed, like Olivier and Stewart his Shakespearean chops were indisputably world-class. However, most of you out there know him for this role:

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“It’ll be just like Connery in Zardoz. No one will remember this.”
Image credit: williampcoleman

At best, Guinness viewed the Obi-Wan Kenobi role as a late-career afterthought and a retirement hedge. Indeed, thanks to some shrewd negotiating he made a ton of money off of it. But once it became apparent many would remember him from his Star Wars appearances more than anything else he ignored the subject as much as he possibly could, even going so far as to throw away Star Wars fan mail unopened.

Something like this happened to me, albeit on a much smaller scale. For a few years in the mid-90s I was on the staff of the Bengal, the student newspaper at Idaho State University. I started out as an op-ed writer and remained in that capacity throughout my tenure there. That’s how I saw my role there. Oh yeah, I also wrote some straight news stories, mainly for shits and giggles.

One day in 1995 I was informed I won first place in a regional college newspaper newswriting competition. This came as a complete surprise because (1) I wasn’t aware I entered a competition in the first place and, (2) the article I won for I found banal and pedestrian at best. I don’t recall exactly what it was about, but it had something to do with proposed fee increases, something dry and boring like that. To this day I’m somewhat bemused by the experience.

Mind you, I don’t try to write garbage on purpose. Well, not usually. However, I sometimes wonder what would happen if I gave up all attempts at humor, intellect and integrity, and wrote entirely for the lowest common denominator. I could totally pump out dreck for the Oprah-addled masses if I wanted. I imagine the result would be akin a mashup of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and the Twilight series.

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Illustrated by the undead Thomas Kinkade, of course.
Image credit: ojimbo

Ultimately I’ve learned over the years to discount the giant sucking sound, at least to an extent. It’s often completely wrong anyway.

Mar 16

At One With Nature, Sort Of

Today Beachy is with me. Nothing like trying to keep an eight-year-old busy for an entire weekend without going bankrupt. The fact she lives in the 2T and Boise has so much more to do exacerbates the issue.

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She also has a pretty hardcore YouTube habit, thus the late post today.

Fortunately the last few days have been relatively nice outside. That opened up my options a bit. It was a pleasant enough day to go to the zoo, a relatively cheap and time-consuming activity. Frankly I’ve had my fill of child-friendly indoor diversions such as Pojo’s for the time being. Beachy considers herself an expert on those claw crane games, exploiting every opportunity to practice her craft. I still have a big bowl of hard candy she won something like six months ago. The Pyramid Brothers like to play with said candies. Here at the Command Center, finding a pack of Smarties behind the toilet at two in the morning is a rather common occurrence.

Beachy insisted we use sunscreen before going out. This struck me as a bit bizarre as it was 59 and partly cloudy in Boise today, hardly sunburn weather. I went ahead and got some. We’re going to need it when the Command Center’s HOA opens the pool.

More often than not, my experience is a visit to the zoo is little more than a two-hour walk past a series of empty artificial habitats, the alleged animals always sleeping in the back or whatever. Today was more successful than that. The animals were out more than usual, although most were fast asleep. A good thing for second graders, not so much for fans of blog snark. Sorry ’bout that.

There’s a carousel at the zoo, and Dippin’ Dots. Oh yes. No trip to Zoo Boise is complete without those damn Dippin’ Dots.

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Truth be told, a pretty good use for liquid nitrogen.

We proceeded with the obligatory carousel ride. As Beachy is finally over the height requirement, I observed from the sidelines. There are distinct advantages to having a older, taller kid at the zoo. No stroller required, and they don’t ask to be lifted up as much.

While Beachy was on the carousel I got strafed by a Canada Goose. Trust me, you don’t need to pay $11.25 to get up close to these things in Boise. They’re everywhere. My craptacular camera phone wasn’t able to get a decent shot of the perpetrator, so here’s a boring-ass Wikipedia image instead.

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You should see what they do to the Idaho State Capitol.

The highlight of the zoo is undoubtedly the African Plains Exhibit, set in a meticulously and accurately re-created Maasai village. Yup, it’s straight outta Tanzania, baby.

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Totally.

Anyway, the lions are always a hit and there are always plenty of monkeys about. The giraffes appeared to be hidden for some time. How the hell do you hide a giraffe? We finally found them before we got out of there, with the Dippin’ Dots of course.

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Did I mention how authentic this place is?

We were done with the zoo. My ankle was done, period. Headed to the car I was strafed again, this time by a seagull. You don’t need to pay to see those here either, especially this time of year. Thanks to my phone … aw, screw it.

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Here’s the boring-ass Wikipedia image. *sigh*

Mar 14

The Indifference Strikes Back

“A blog entry every day, no matter what.” I swear sometimes I’m such a bitch to myself.

“And make it funny, dammit!” Yeah, yeah, yeah …. This is easier said than done when one is battling bipolar depression, insomnia and cats who want to sit on one’s face at three in the morning.

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Yes, I’m looking at you, Sneferu.

Today I’ve been thinking about the benefits of carbonite as depicted in the Star Wars series. For the benefit of the three of you who have never heard of Star Wars, it’s a series of science fiction films involving good guys, bad guys, terrible laser gun shooting, something called the Force, curious swordplay, and of course explosions and shit. As a four-year-old I declined an invitation to see the first (fourth?) movie when it first came out in 1977. I thought it sounded stupid.

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A good cereal notwithstanding, C-3PO needed to be slapped, repeatedly.

Anyway, carbonite. According to the august, authoritative Star Wars database Wookieepedia, carbonite “was a metal alloy that was made from carbon. It was mixed with tibanna gas, compressed, and flash-frozen into blocks for transport.” In addition to its industrial uses and thanks to several convenient leaps of logic, carbonite was an ideal medium for placing people, and presumably other living things, into a state of indefinite suspended animation. Han Solo was placed in carbonite towards the end of The Empire Strikes Back.

Too bad it’s not real. Given my chronic sleep issues I’d love to place myself into suspended animation from time to time. Today being a perfect example. At least as far as my experience is concerned, depression isn’t a constant state of sadness as much as it is a constant state of “fuck it.” Of course, if it were real I’d probably have to pay royalties to Disney, as they own Star Wars now.

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Behold your corporate overlords.

Personally I’m more of a Star Trek fan. The technology featured in that franchise strikes me as much more practical overall. I’d love to see a real-world transporter in action. Space travel wouldn’t be necessary to appreciate its benefits; you could just as easily use it for those nasty commutes.

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“I’m going to Albania for the afternoon. See you at 5.”
Image credit: tkksummers

Of course, the airline industry lobby would delay transporter technology for years.

All right, so I’m in the 400-word range with this. Good enough for me. I’m going back to bed now.

Mar 10

Springing Forward

Oh yippee skippy, it’s Daylight Savings Time “spring forward” day again. Time to reset the clocks on the thermostat, the stove, the coffee maker, the microwave, the car stereo, the cats ….

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Well, maybe not the cats. I do wish they had an “off” switch though.

Still, I wonder why we bother with it anymore. Daylight Savings Time is a relic of World War I and has been gradually extended ever since. Today it’s more standard than “Standard” time, in effect for nearly eight months out of the year. Yup, we won’t be “falling back” until 3 November. Personally I’d be in favor of making DST our year-round “standard” time and dispensing with the old Standard Time entirely. Apparently exactly that was tried in the mid 70s. I was too young to remember it, of course.

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Which is a shame. I understand there was quite a party in the 2T back in ’74.
Image credit: Docob5

Anyway, year-round DST was scrapped because people were concerned about kids leaving for school in the dark. This makes about as much sense as extending DST to accommodate Halloween trick-or-treaters (which, sadly, was also done). Besides, if you grew up in a far western section of any given time zone, you went to school in the dark for part of the year anyway. You know, places like … southern Idaho.

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And I turned out just fine. *twitch*

So America, don’t forget to set your clocks today. But if you live in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Arizona outside the Navajo Nation, parts of western Indiana (where no one seems to know what the hell time it is in the first place), or Pocatello, Idaho (where it’s still 1968), you don’t need to worry about it. Simple, right?

Mar 07

No Tanning

So much for a productive week. I still need to take out the recycling, get a haircut and do something about this nasty ER bill. The Pyramid Brothers have been allowed to run amok and I still haven’t made it to the gym. Maybe later today, maybe tomorrow. There’s definitely a sense of procrastination around here, but I also think it goes deeper than that. What the hell is the word I’m looking for?

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Stagnation! That’s it! Thanks, Leon.

In my defense the week hasn’t been a total loss. I managed to pay all my bills and file my taxes, although the latter was a terribly disappointing experience this year. I’m getting a whopping $10 back. Woo. I’ve also kept up on my laundry. It may surprise you to know I’m quite adept at laundry. Think Jersey Shore, but in Idaho, with about 100 more IQ points and absolutely no tanning.

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I use bluing like a boss, y’all.

Obviously I don’t have anything terribly profound to say today. I suppose what I should do is get off the blog and make a to-do list of all the mundane crap that needs to be done. Spend my tax refund on bleach, yeah ….

I can’t believe I made it this far in the blog without a Dead Milkmen reference.

Mar 05

The Muse is a Bitch

Much like yesterday, there are days when shit bloody nothing happens here at the Command Center. I can only watch the Pyramid Brothers lick their asses for so long. Yet I have a commitment to write every day. That’s a big reason why I do this. I’m finally feeling better after a long illness, and I’ll be damned if inactivity is going to pull me down again.

So I can relate to the guys who create, or rather created, Homestar Runner.

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You know, this guy.

The Brothers Chaps, who envisioned the aforementioned character, were incredibly productive for a very long time. Check out the Strong Bad e-mails for verification. They were working with Adobe Flash and and such happy horseshit too. You know, words AND images. They did it every week for years. I just steal images from Wikipedia and write snarky comments about them.

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… is nobody’s baby.
If you get the reference, especially if you’re a single female, I love you.

Anyway, the point is after about eight years or so the entire Homestar Runner site stopped providing new content. Just freakin’ stopped. The last update there was well over two years ago. I don’t mean to denigrate them in the slightest. They had a hell of a run few of us will ever duplicate. Shit, I haven’t even made it a month here and I’m already feeling that heat.

Hell, History Wednesday is tomorrow. I know what I want to write about, but I don’t even have a draft yet.

Back in the dark ages of Milli Vanilli I was a cross country runner. It was said during practice that after a few runs your quality would drop off sharply, only to progressively get better as time progressed. That was with continued practice, of course. I happen to believe that’s true. My experience with writing strongly suggests the same rules apply.

I hope the Brothers Chaps aren’t done. I hope I have plenty left in the tank myself. I can only get away with bullshit like this for so long ….

Feb 28

The Costco Slog

Yesterday I broke down and did what I should have done a couple weeks ago. I went to Costco. The Pyramid Brothers were low on food and litter. I didn’t feel like a trip to Albertson’s was enough. I needed to think BIG. Costco is the place for that.

Did you know Costco has a funeral section? Neither did I until today. If I go all I ask is a simple, tangible memorial free of any Thomas Kinkade influence. After that do what the fuck you want to with my remains.

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Not Kinkade, but the same sort of kitsch and revisionist hell.

Anyway, where the hell was I? Oh yes, if you’ve ever been to Costco, you know everything is big. You also know you wind up spending a hell of a lot more than you intended. Cat food and litter obtained, but how about something called “channa masala?” The nice lady offering samples introduced me to it. Damn good actually, and it has garbanzo beans! That’s one of the great terms in the English language. I bought two boxes.

Dr. Pepper? Haven’t had that in a long time. Gatorade? Hell yes! Sadly, it was only after I left I discovered I bought the “low calorie” crap. Well, such is life.

But both the best and the worst purchase of the day was a “Chairmat,” which is one of those large plastic surfaces designed to protect carpet from rolling chairs. Given that the Command Center was obviously flipped as cheaply as possible during the worst of the housing crisis, I’ve needed one for some time.

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Pictured: the result of a half-assed flip.

It’s the best purchase because I’m genuinely concerned I’m going to tear a hole in the carpet. It’s the worst because, well, try fitting something like that in a 2004 Ford Focus. Not pretty. The best part is I had to do it only once.

Ah, but the worst was yet to come. The Command Center is located entirely on the second floor of my building. That means I had to carry all this crap up Astroturf-covered stairs with a still-sore side from my fall. I’m still feeling it. I’m thinking trying a return to the gym next week, but damn. More on that later.

The nice part is I’m well-stocked on needed liquids for the immediate future, as well as cat food and cat litter. I also have enough coffee filters to last me until the heat death of the universe. Like many other things, the best part about going to Costco is when it’s over.

CRACKED.com update: Holy crap! For the first time I made the “Pitches We’re Considering” folder today. That means I’m one step away from snark with at least six figures of hits. I’m not celebrating yet, but I feel good.

Feb 24

What’s the Word?

I don’t have my daughter this weekend. There’s nothing on my social calendar either. While this gives me plenty of time to write, it doesn’t do a whole hell of a lot for inspiration.

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Besides, Djoser is a terrible copy editor.

And so once again thoughts drift back to a simpler time. A time when I was still young, vigorous and under the impression a college degree actually meant something in this economy. I was also broke.

I think you see where this is going.

The legend of Thunderbird dates to well before my time. Even so, I never actually got around to trying it. That’s probably just as well. However in my 20s I became somewhat familiar with some of its cousins, especially after I started to seriously question my college degree. Primary among these was a concoction called Olde English 800, also known as OE or 8 Ball. For lack of a better description, this is what you drink when you no longer give a shit.

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And look where Eazy-E is now. Oh wait ….

By the time I got to Philadelphia on those nights when I only had quarters from the change dish I occasionally got St. Ides too. What’s the difference? Um, a different label as far as I could tell. Yeah, I was a straight-up gangsta’ outta south-central.

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For those who don’t get the reference, the 2T is in south-central Idaho.

The real nastiness didn’t hit until I moved to Las Vegas in late 2000. When I was living in an apartment behind Palace Station, I made the unfortunate decision to hit a 7-11 to try this:

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It still gives me the jibblies.

This was without a doubt the worst drinking experience I ever had in Vegas or anywhere else. And this coming from a guy who several years earlier walked back to the hotel from a strip club goosestepping down a high crime area on Las Vegas Boulevard whistling the Hymn of the Soviet Union at the top of his lungs.

I don’t plan on dying boring.

If you want to learn more about this subject, check out Bumwine.com. It’s yet another valuable Internet resource on a subject not many people think about. And for good reason I might add.

Mmm. Devil’s food cookies.

ED NOTE: We here at Superfluous Bloviations no longer engage in these activities. We don’t recommend anyone else doing it either. Seriously. Listening to right wing talk radio or beating yourself with a shovel accomplishes the same thing much more efficiently.