Saturday, April 24, 2010

Not So Hotlanta

Sunday, April 18

1100, Driving to airport

Man, just when you were confident the Train era had ended.

1140, At the gate

A group of TSA subcontractors (or something) are loudly discussing the means celebrities like John Cleese and Whitney Houston have employed to travel despite the Icelandic volcano. I am thirsty, but don't know how to address that and still avoid the airplane restroom - I'm going to be in a window seat. The eternal struggle.

1200, At the gate

A young woman to my right is wearing an Elon University tee and blue hospital scrub pants. I know medical personnel who swear by their comfort, but if those are your best option for flight pants then your wardrobe is in rough shape.

1230, In the plane

I am in seat 17E. My carry-on is above row 31. Is this as bad as it will ever be for storage capacity, or will it get even worse?

1250, In the air

The first page of Bantam Books' "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" reads "Carson McCullers was only twenty-two when she wrote "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" and became the youngest American writer ever to join the company of immortals." Huh?

1310, In the air

"Blount just sat with his hand over his mouth and shook his head...Biff noted this. He was thinking in that nearly every person there was some special physical part kept always guarded. With the mute his hands. The kid Mick picked at the front of her blouse to keep the cloth from rubbing the new, tender nipples beginning to come out on her breast. With Alice it was her hair..."

Immortals make me feel pervy.

1600, Atlanta airport

Saw former KU (and former Cleveland Cavalier) forward Darnell Jackson walk by the luggage carousel. He's still tall.

Monday, April 19

0930, At the conference

Everyone is in the big ballroom for the opening session. The newly passed national health care law is being discussed. The woman sitting in front of me is making a show of herself, shaking her head "no" again and again and again as she stares down the speaker. She's wearing sunglasses on top of her head. In a darkened hotel ballroom.

I always hated sitting in a classroom and seeing another student nod their head up and down in response to something the professor said. Sort of a, "Hey, yes, I already knew that fact, and I should inform, Teach, and everyone else who can see me, that I knew that. I knew that." But at least those were always affirmative responses, and usually died out after one or two nods. This lady -- a Virginian according to her nametag -- seems to think her disapproval will change the opinion of the Department of Health and Human Services.

1115, At the conference

The phrase, "Ugh. Kill me," pops in my head for the first time since arriving in Atlanta nineteen hours ago. A personal best! The people who chose to sit in the back of this very large, very accommodating room are complaining about not being able to hear the speaker.

1140, At the conference

The third powerpoint presentation of this session is standard white text on a blue background. One slide has a chart with blue trendline on this blue background -- that's a powerpoint dealbreaker, ladies. Pathetic.

1210, Lunch

Turner Broadcasting owns TNT, TBS, CNN, Headline News, the Cartoon Network, and maybe more -- yet this is face they've chosen to force upon the citizenry.

TBS has promised "the biggest promotional campaign in television history" for Conan's new show. So why can I buy a "The Closer" baby tee and a "Morning Express with Robin Meade" bathrobe at the CNN Center gift shop, but no Coco merchandise?

1410, At the conference

Powerpoint #1 - the "Nashville region" label points to New York state.
Powerpoint #2 - the chart's x-axis starts at September '09 and goes through March '09?
Powerpoint #3 - the speaker moves the cursor along each bullet point as she reads it

1520, In the restroom

The Hyatt claims that each of its waterless urinals saves up to 40,000 gallons of water each year. That calculates to about 110 gallons per day. Per fixture! No way are they flushing that much per day -- not even if they host a enlarged prostate sufferers' convention for 52 consecutive weeks.

2000, At dinner

While enjoying some chicken at South City Kitchen, we noticed a couple dining next to us. One was a young, slight blond; across from her was a black-haired man with an injured right arm. The arm was in traction (or something), like the treatment you'd see for a broken neck. The man and woman spent the entire meal looking at their iPhones. I don't mean that they constantly checked their phones, or constantly spoke on their phones. They looked at their iPhone screens instead of each other or their food.

I didn't noticed them get up to leave, but I did see them walking down the sidewalk outside. That's when I realized how tall the man was, and when I remembered the Milwaukee Bucks were in town to play the Hawks in the NBA playoffs, and when I remembered that Bucks center Andrew Bogut severely injured his arm a few weeks earlier. ITEM: Andrew Bogut loves iPhones, fried chicken, and speaking to attractive blonds, in that order.

Tuesday, April 20

0830, In my hotel room

I'm willing to forgive the quirks of this IKEA tower the Hyatt has built, but there is no USA Today outside my door. Is this even a real hotel?

1112, At the conference

"cervical intraepithelial neoplasia"

1117, At the conference


1125, At the conference

"anal intraepithelial neoplasia"

1240, At the conference

It's no longer cute or funny when middle-aged individuals cannot connect a laptop to a projector, or in this case, cannot make a DVD play on a laptop. Not in a post-autorun world, lady. Wise up.

1900, Before dinner

Man, I love watching the local tourism channels they air in hotels. Meet my very modest friend, Dante.

"Bride Wars" is on HBO. Kate Hudson plays a cutthroat Manhattan attorney? Makes sense. What a good, well-thought-out film.

2100, After dinner

The NBA game is a blowout, so a coworker and I flip over to HBO and start watching the documentary about media/life suppression in Burma. Just drinking some Bud Lights in silence, watching monks get beaten up.

Wednesday, April 21

0915, At the conference

I just had the "What would I do if gun-toting terrorists busted into this hotel ballroom right now?" daydream. Kudos to this insultingly elementary presentation for dusting off that old nugget.

2030, At the ballgame

The organist knows two songs: Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London", and the theme to NBC's "The Office". Cool baseball atmosphere, Turner Field.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Take A Hike

Here are some photos from the hike we took last weekend, on the west side of Clinton Lake.

"If you find an old sun-bleached tree limb, you can put it up to your face and act like a walrus."

* * *

Today was the library book sale fundraiser. I bought a few classic pieces of literature, which means I am officially abandoning "The Brothers Karamozov". Eat it, Mother Russia!

I saw a stack of "The Value of Believing in Yourself" books. I have to think if Louis Pasteur were alive to see his caricature on the cover, he'd object.

Scientists -- what nerds! And sure, his nose wasn't small, but it wasn't a gigantic red clown nose!

At least he didn't get the Johnny Appleseed treatment.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What Nerves!

Remember when I got glasses?

I check in with the optometrist once a year. At every previous visit, he's marveled at my optic nerves, calling them "two standard deviations" larger than average. We casually rap about statistics all the time.

I splurged on photos of these optic nerves last week. Sure, it cost an extra $22, but I deserve it -- a man of my status enjoys the finer things in life, like fluoride treatments that aren't covered by Delta Dental, or fancy eyeball pictures.

They emailed the jpegs, but didn't label which eye is which, so I had to guess which way to arrange the two files. I chose the way that made them look less like boobs, but still kinda like boobs.

The optic nerves are the white circles. I've gotta say, much like when I saw the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time, "I thought it would be bigger."

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

"Book It!" With Alipete - High Fidelity

Given a lack of other thrilling material to work with (Want to hear about driving through Missouri with my lady? In the Chillicothe McDonalds, there was a kid with a deer hunting hat that said "Buck Star" and a shirt with "Lil Bro" printed above the number 10. The end.), I'm posting an email conversation with Alipete regarding the Nick Hornby novel / John Cusack film "High Fidelity".

(The title of the book/film, by the way, comes from an Elvis Costello song. At least, there is an Elvis Costello song called "High Fidelity", and I'd be really surprised if the title does not originate from that great song. You can listen to it:

End parentheses.)

I just read "The Corrections," and I will NOT recommend that. Now I am reading "High Fidelity," which is ruined because I've seen the movie a BILLION times. I also just read "What Is the What." Have you read that? I thought it was phenomenal, and now I am sponsoring a Sudanese student. That is not an exaggeration.

Well, lookie lookie. Somebody’s been reading books from dn’s collection. What is the What and High Fidelity. I have a lot to say about High Fidelity, if you want (but not much to add to What is the What. That book doesn’t really provoke much discussion except for “Yikes” and “Whoa”). I’d also seen the movie several times first, but cherished the book nonetheless. I read it in the midst of my blue period, which followed my worst breakup, and coincided with a lonely trip to Ann Arbor. Good stuff. Anyway, let’s book club it up when you’re done.

I guess I’ll go elsewhere for a book recommendation. Great, now Floyd is just going to tell me to read something about Russia.

50 pages left. I look forward to this discussion.

Also, I'm not really a "Men Are From Mars"-type person, but how unfortunate is it that guys get cool break-up, what-does-it-all-mean stories like "High Fidelity," and girls have rubbish like "Eat, Pray, Love"? The quality gap there is as big as the difference between, well, fiction and non-fiction, you could say.

Good point. Maybe it’s the pursuer vs. the pursued? They’re bound to reflect on things differently? What about Stella getting her groove back? Was that different than “Eat, Pray, Love”?

I don't know anything about Stella or her groove. And I don't know too much yet about "Eat, Pray, Love." I'm embarrassed to say I know anything about it all. It was purchased in a moment of weakness, OK? Anyhow, it is fundamentally very different from "High Fidelity," and I appreciate Rob Fleming's musings much more than Elizabeth Gilbert's.

Can you remind me if there is much in High Fidelity that is not in the film? I thought there was, but now I worry I’m confusing it with About a Boy, which was super different than the movie.

There's not a ton different in "High Fidelity." In the book, his relationship with Marie LaSalle is a little more involved, and his parents are bigger characters. He celebrates a birthday. There are actually five girls on his Top 5 Break-Up list, whereas in the movie, he kicks off the last one for Laura. And he doesn't start a record label; he goes back to DJing in the end... unless there's more to come in the last 10 pages.

For starters, I allege that it is a male-oriented fairy tale of a perfect breakup. Rob:
Gets to wallow in pity and surround himself with music

Gets proof that his exes are not that great, and he’s not missing out on them

Gets to bed a musician

Does not have to feel guilty about bedding the musician, because Laura is also with someone

Gets Laura back

Becomes a somewhat well-adjusted, comfortable adult

I'll agree. He doesn't have to feel guilty about anything: the post-breakup musician, the affair, the abortion, the debt. It's all forgotten, and he doesn't have to account for any of it.

And maybe you read it differently than I did, but it seems to be a pretty bleak picture of love. I feel like Rob thinks "Well, this relationship will never be new or even exciting again, but it's something. I'm too lazy/unlikely to find anything better, so this'll do." And Laura is the same. She knows the relationship is no good, but she doesn't want to look for someone who'd be a better match. Everyone is settling. Am I wrong?

I don’t think it’s bleak. I can only go on the film version, since I only read the book once, but I didn’t see it as settling. Yes, they are tired of looking for other, “better” people, but they’ve also realized that a more suitable match probably does not exist.

I don’t know the female perspective on this, but as a male, I can say without hesitation that the looking is exhausting. And I don’t mean dating – I mean looking. Looking to see how attractive (or not) a jogger on the sidewalk is as you drive by, looking at the receptionists in the ophthalmologist’s office, looking around on the bus or in the airport terminal. (It was only in the past few years when I trained myself to stop looking in some of those situations - really, what would you do if the jogger was attractive? Stop the car?) Rob is tired of looking. Yes, Laura isn’t new or exciting anymore, but every relationship loses that initial thrill. He’s realized that a Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a myth, and he knows if he just focuses on Laura they will be happy.

Yeah, I suppose. Something about it still strikes me as sad, though.

I agree that the looking can be exhausting. And I understand that the thrill of a new person can fade and that it's sad to run out of "firsts." I appreciate those sentiments. But I guess, in a perfect world, Rob -- being with Laura -- shouldn't be tired of looking; he shouldn't want to look anymore.

Maybe that's too idealistic. I mean, this is obviously more a story about maturing and realizing what "real-life" love/commitment is than it is a story about love. And the fact that I think it's kind of bleak probably points to some disappointments in my future. But, I get it. I do. The more I write and think about this, the more I get it. It's just a bummer.

I always liked the "Do I listen to pop music because I'm miserable, or am I miserable because I listen to pop music?" [See the 0:44 mark in the clip below.] debate. What a masochistic thing to do to yourself. Post-breakup, I much prefer episodes of "30 Rock" to sentimental pop records. But I guess Rob is a much cooler person than I.

Take it from someone who has made CD mixes titled “Breakup: Pessimistic” and “Breakup: Optimistic” – you do NOT want to indulge more than one or two listens to the pessimistic playlist. I’m convinced that error extended my blue period for several months.

Obviously he shouldn’t WANT to look anymore, but he’s a man, man! It’s in his biology; or, if you want to argue the sow-your-oats urges, you have to concede that he’s conditioned himself to seek and impress and conquer women for the last 10 or 15 years (I don’t remember Rob’s age). The revelation is that the cute tattooed girls that wander into his record shoppe aren’t better options, they’re just other options.

This book/story speaks to you more than it does to me. That's what I've learned here. Which is not to say that I didn't enjoy it. It's one of my favorite movies of all time. (Maybe I just enjoy this existential crisis more when I'm watching John Cusack endure it.)

And though I question Rob's methods, it's still a better way to deal with a breakup than eating Ben & Jerry's and watching "Love, Actually."

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Caballo Sin Nombre

The 1972 America hit "A Horse with No Name" was featured in the beginning and the end of this week's episode of "Breaking Bad". Consequently, it's been in my head for the past four days.

It's a sweet tune to hum for the first day or so -- then it rapidly sours. When the "la laaaaa laaa la la la la la la laaa laaaaa la" chorus rolls around, I think about a college roommate shout-singing it. He liked to wear an Allmann Brothers "Eat a Peach" T-shirt.

"Breaking Bad" is terribly good. They break so bad on that show. During this week's discomforting scenes, I found myself looking away from the TV as family members argued with each other. I exhibited the same behavior when watching "A Serious Man" on DVD Monday night.

Why would I do that? I've been watching and enjoying gritty, realistic drama for many years, and I haven't turned away in the past. I hypothesize that reality television is to blame. When some reality star coot crosses the line from "entertainingly dumb" to "embarrassing example of the humanity's worst", I wonder why I turned it to "16 and Pregnant" in the first place and refocus down at my laptop. My brain has lost the ability to distinguish excellent dramatic acting from horrific real-life behavior.