Monday, May 31, 2010

Plenty of Weirdos

Yesterday night Maureen and I had dinner with a couple friends in downtown Detroit yesterday. Every trip downtown is an experience in its own right. and while nothing particularly exciting happened during yesterday's voyage aside from some nice dinner conversation, I was reminded of the kind of city that Detroit can occasionally be. In particular, Detroit can have that elusive characteristic that the biggest and best cities have - the ability to attract weirdos. Every big city has them, some more than others, but weirdos are the lifeblood of an interesting place.

The weirdos this weekend are being again pulled like moths to the flame downtown because of the Movement Electronic Music Festival (formerly Detroit Electronic Music Festival or DEMF). I've tried but do not understand the allure of electronic music to some normal people and weirdos. Repetitive things (snoring, dripping, dogs barking, that song "If We Ever Meet Again" by Timbaland, etc.) bore into my skull until I inevitably attempt to seek out the source of the repetition and destroy it. To me (and my myopic point of view), electronic music is the pure, filtered embodiment of repetitiveness with the primary intent of slowly evolving one's insanity. But people love it so who am I to judge.

Despite my opinion, the Movement Festival brings people to downtown Detroit who would never, ever find themselves in the city, and that is fantastic. Friday afternoon I was in the lobby of the Guardian Building and there were people who were definitely not speaking English taking pictures of the ornate lobby. I bet you one million billion dollars those people were in Detroit for the music festival. Yesterday at dinner, weirdos who were also not speaking English were walking through the lobby of the Book Cadillac wearing towels and others wearing freaky Euro outfits and I bet you one million billion dollars those people were also in Detroit for the music festival.

It is a culture and music that I don't understand with artists who have names that sound like a word you know but spelled differently than that word you know, but I will embrace it for making Memorial Day Weekend in Detroit a truly international event. As long as you don't try any of your freaky stuff directly on me, weirdos, welcome to Michigan and Detroit.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Why Wouldn't You?

It seems likely that people will have funnier jokes about this tomorrow, but Maureen and I were watching the results show of American Idol tonight (slightly odd as I haven't watched most of the last several weeks of the show per my typical AI pattern) and Crystal Bowersox was performing You Oughta Know alongside Alanis Morissette. That song has some naughty parts, so I was very much wondering what they were going to do on a show as family friendly as Idol without ruining the song. There is one part in particular of the song that most everyone has to know and they were getting closer, and closer, and closer and then...

"Will she go down with you to the theater"

I could not help but boisterously laugh. That has to be one of the greatest song alterations of all time. It pretty much completely changes the meaning of a key point of the song to something that doesn't make any sense. What kind of girlfriend wouldn't go down to the theater with her boyfriend? A terrible girlfriend, that's who. I don't know what kind of idiot guy would leave a girl who did the original thing in the song for a girl who wouldn't even go to the theater with him. That guy deserves a life of unhappiness for such a terrible decision. Terrible, terrible decision.

On a completely unrelated note, the sandwich shop Potbelly's may have lost me as a customer forever. Today I ordered the larger size of their signature "A Wreck" sandwich (technically called a "Big 'A Wreck'" which sounds kind of funny when you say it like that). When it got to the part where you tell them what you want on your sandwich, the girl said "do you want hot peppers". I said "definitely no hot peppers". She said "do you want mayo", I said "definitely no mayo".

"Yes, mustard please and everything else except mayo and hot peppers."
"OK so everything but hot peppers and mayo."
"You got it, thanks."

I ran to my car to eat the sandwich while driving between meetings, and took a bite. Holy crap that sandwich had some spicy mustard. I kept eating because with such a clear and concise communication with the worker, surely the mustard was the only thing that could be spicy on the sub. After several more bites, I was pretty sure that no mustard on earth was as hot as my mouth felt. I investigated further and was heartbroken to find not just some hot peppers, but a whole layer of mouth-burning goodness distributed throughout the bread. I tried to pick off the peppers while driving, but I'll tell you picking things like hot peppers and olives out of sandwiches is never easy, particularly while driving. Even if you do get most of them out (impossible), the pepper oil is all over the innards and your fingers and everything just tastes hot. I considered calling Potbelly's to explain my disappointment, but that wouldn't have served anyone any good. Because I appreciate food and I didn't want to feel like I wasted $5.50, I ate the whole terrible sandwich with my eyes watering, angry and sad that Potbelly's had put me in such a catch 22.

The thing is, if you're going to put hot peppers all over my food, you should probably just fill out the rest of the bread with cat food or vomit (whichever is cheaper), because it will make absolutely no difference to me. They should offer a "hot pepper plus miscellaneous filler" sub because I can't imagine that anyone can distinguish among the other meats, cheeses, or vegetables that may be between the bread. Sawdust? If there are hot peppers, it makes no difference to me. This is partly because of my pansy-like palate, but also partly because I thoroughly enjoy tasting my food. Call me crazy, but that's just the way it should be.

Monday, May 24, 2010

28 and Counting

8 more minutes left in my 28th birthday. Does anyone else find it weird that a 28th birthday actually marks the end of one's 28th year and the beginning of the 29th? It feels like being cheated out of a year. I propose the world goes through a temporary, though immensely painful, rescaling issue where we all acknowledge that we are one year older than currently and move forward with our lives. When you pop out of your momma, it should be your first birthday, not your zero-eth birthday. That just makes no sense. It may be no fun to think of yourself as one year older, but nothing has really changed. You're still the same person who is the same age as before the shift, just with more accuracy.

Now that this bit of semantics is out of the way, it's time for me to step back and look back at the last 28 years of life. Years 0-3 (now officially 1-4) are pretty much a blank, but aside from these 3 years, today I came up with one pretty big conclusion. I complain a lot. For those who know me, this self-assessment is probably not much of a surprise. What is more interesting to me is not so much the fact that I have always been a whiny little girl, but rather that almost all of the complaining has really had one underlying symptom, and I wonder if this is true for others as well: life is pretty great.

The last several extremely busy months and corresponding anxiety have really solidified my feelings about this; we're remodeling a house, professional work is high gear, I have no time to run or otherwise exercise or see friends, my brother and sister are farther away than I would like, we're going to have to move all of our stuff again in a few weeks, and a few more, Michigan remains economically stagnant, etc. All of these things are annoying or somehow stressful, but what is way more interesting to me is when I actually think about the root causes of each of these issues.

1) Maureen and I are lucky enough to afford a house
2) Having a job is never a bad thing
3) I can't run, but if I was unhealthy, I wouldn't ever have the opportunity to run
4) There are some people who haven't yet rejected me as a human being
5) I love my siblings and being away from them isn't how I'd like things to be
6) Michigan is important to me because it is a truly wonderful place
7) and so on.....

I've actually never had this realization before, and it's kind of weird. There are a few major complaints that definitely don't fit this pattern - one that immediately springs to mind is unemployment. There is typically nothing happy underlying unemployment frustration except for maybe additional free time to enjoy 20 seasons of Law & Order. Another of these examples is health issues (though you could argue that sadness regarding health issues is a reflection on how good things can be without them or the basic value of life). I guess the more I think about it, there are some legitimate complaints that are generally more thrust upon an individual, and I don't want to dismiss these or insult people experiencing true hardship.

I think my primary point and self-realization is that I'm finally old enough to start to understand the difference between petty, often self-inflicted annoyances and frustrations, and real, painful issues. It only took 28 years. The key for me moving forward is to do a better job to differentiate between the two, and to do a better job to avoid complaining when these complaints are really just a reflection of how good things really are or can be.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

In the West

As is periodically the case throughout the year, I'm in California right now. I've been here since yesterday and will be here through part of Friday. It's not particularly exciting to visit - the days are pretty filled with meetings but I do get the chance to visit my brother while out here. That's not half bad.

The only bad thing about the travel is that the schedule sometimes robs you of quality me time. I understand your sadness. It's how I feel when I'm asleep and I don't get to consciously enjoy my own thoughts.

So anyway I'll be back home pretty soon and can turn my attention to the subject that is the focus of much of our attention these days: the upcoming release of the next Shrek movie - Shrek 4, Why Does This Movie Exist?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Sounds of Michigan Summer

It's that wonderful time of year again where the grass is just about ready for the Slip 'N Slide, the trees are looking healthy enough for climbing, and the sun doesn't set until 8:30 or later. All of these factors, and others, combine for an insane quantity of children playing the weekend and weekday nights away with all the other children of the neighborhoods. The sounds of this playful spirit drift high among the roofs branches and across the neighborhoods, leading every adult to wistfully wonder - "Why the hell does it sound like the children are being murdered or otherwise brutalized?"

Maybe it's the fact that Maureen and I now "live" (in quotes because the entirety of our time there is still spent cleaning and painting) in a 'hood that is stuffed full of children who seem to have a good time together, maybe it's that I'm slowly becoming a crotchety old man, but I can not believe the sounds emanating from the local kids having "fun" together. The sounds the young boys make are the sounds I would make if both of my arms were ripped off, and the sounds the young girls make are like the arms that were ripped off the boys are being used to beat the girls. It's insane. I really have no idea why their parents aren't like "hey, kids, would you mind not sounding like you're being killed every time that you play with each other?"

For this point I'm looking for a little knowledge from the older generation that have had the pleasure to watch multiple sets of children grow into adulthood - has this always been the case? I remember making lots of noise when I was younger (and, yes, I still make a lot of noise today), but I have no recollection of any sounds coming from me or my male or female friends containing so many elements of sheer horror and pain. It might certainly be that I'm not remembering correctly, but I have the feeling that this trend is growing progressively bothersome and weird.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Even Facebook

I refuse at this time to have a Twitter account, and this would really work better as a Tweet:

How cool is it that my captcha for a Facebook entry tonight was "emulate Ken". Seriously. Taking over the world, bitches.

Not Like This, not like this

This year, I've been a little on Law & Order's case. Sure, parts of the show were annoying at times, but what in life isn't? Just talking to people who I consider friends is annoying, so even enjoyable TV will have extended moments of imperfection (except for Modern Family thus far in the season. Even the iPad episode was funny if you can get over the iPad thing. Modern Family is the best sitcom since Arrested Development, and if you're not watching it now, I DO NOT want you to tell me how good it is 5 years from now after watching it on Blu-Ray or DVD). Despite some of these problems, L&O remains one of the best 42 minute segments of my week, if not for any other reason than the familiarity of 20 seasons worth of episodes.

I guess I again underestimated the power of my words and my website, since reports today assert that NBC has canceled my show, my old friend. It's too soon to say if the show is really dead in the ground because it may be moved to cable or some other random mid-season pickup, but we must curb our optimism and probably begin the long mourning process.

What sucks the most about this is everything about NBC. I picture the executives at NBC as a room full of literal giant turds wearing spectacles and ties (but no shirts or pants, just glasses and ties). Can you imagine a worse run network? Probably not if you have the same image of turds in glasses and ties. Thursday night makes for some good NBC comedy, but everything else on the network aspires to and dreams of one day achieving turd-dom.

The lesson from all of this is that I need to be careful. If I'm unhappy about anything, I must temper my emotions lest I speak out, and because of this, lose other things that are valuable to me.

Chong Chong.

Update: who knows?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Why Ernie Harwell Was Magic To Me

As everyone in Michigan who appreciates summer and is older than 10 knows, Ernie Harwell died. The tributes are everywhere and in all forms of media, and they're great.

I don't have too much to add to all these remembrances, except for that the voice of Ernie Harwell defined the happiest non-family parts of growing up in Michigan for me. I was the standard little boy who loved baseball. As a little boy who loved baseball and also had a reasonable bedtime, normal operating procedure wouldn't allow me to be up for the latter part of my Tigers' baseball games. I had a blue Realistic transistor radio about the size of a deck of cards that I would put under my pillow over the summer to listen to the games until I fell asleep. For the most part, my parents knew that I was breaking the rules, but for reasons of love, they let me get away with this small rule break and listen to Ernie Harwell and the Tigers.

This story isn't all that unique, or remotely funny, or insightful, but just thinking about how happy it made me to listen to Ernie Harwell recount the Tigers' game on my blue radio late on warm summer nights in my house with my family does bring tears to my eyes. Something about the thought of his voice wraps me back up in the warm humidity of an un-air conditioned home, loving every second of summer break and the thought of the Slip 'N Slide tomorrow. It really was perfect, and the memory of this joy will stick with me forever. I've heard it a million times but never really FELT it myself until now - "thanks for the memories."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Ha! my first pun-based title. I think. This is a significant milestone, and it only took almost three years for me to come up with a pun. Holy crap has it really been almost three years? Holy crap. Who knew when this all started, readership would skyrocket from 10 readers/day to 10 readers/day. That is the kind of growth Wall Street can get behind.

Sam Riddle is a former "political consultant" and buddy of crazy woman Monica Conyers. He's in trouble for all kinds of things right now including federal bribery charges, but before he gets in more trouble for that, today he was convicted of felonious assault and possession of a firearm during a felony. If you agree that "I was drunk" is a reasonable defense, then you should be outraged by this conviction. In fact, there's a decent chance that Sam Riddle is drunk and waving a shotgun around in front of your house right now.

This part of the story is pretty cut and dry, but Fox 2 news did their usual fantastic professional news casting tonight. Fox 2 and their quality news are personified by Deena Centofanti on Fox 2 Saturday morning news. Most of the time I'm pretty sure she's drunk or, at least, is partially illiterate (as a humorous aside, it took me like 3 minutes to come up with the word illiterate). Anyway back to Fox 2"news", Sam Riddle was talking drunkenly about something after the verdict and Fox 2 had as the tag line under him "Sam Riddle: Convicted Felon". That is great, because it's both informational and true. This is why under Deena Centofanti on Saturday mornings they should write "Deena Centofanti: Drunken Illiterate". If you can't be described by two words, you need an image consultant.

Was it Encyclopedia Brown who solved mysteries with his photographic memory? I think he was the kid who would look at things and say "click" and then he would have a perfect memory of that instant. I've been trying to get this to work for the last 20 years, still with nothing approach success. I would have loved to stick the image of "Sam Riddle: Convicted Felon" in my mind in a perfect photographic way, and then I could work on inventing the technology to take this memory and transfer it to the computer for your appreciation.

Monday, May 3, 2010

"And They're Probably Having Sex Right Now"

The title of this post has nothing to do with the actual post. I'm more than a week behind on Days of Our Lives right now because I'm currently without any time to do anything (you know the schedule is filled when Days starts slipping down the priority list). During the episode I watched during my workout today, there was this scene where Chloe thought her fiancee Daniel was at a no-tell motel with another woman named Carly (they weren't together) and she was expressing her discontent to this guy Philip and she said "...And They're Probably Having Sex Right Now." At the time, I thought this was the best line I had ever heard on television, but I wanted to make sure that after reflecting on it a little more, it was still an excellent line. It has passed the test of time and seemed at least worthy of a blog call out. Keep up the good dialogue work, writers.

The other title I was considering for this post was "Yeah, Because of ME" but I liked the sex one more. However, the losing title would have been far more pertinent to the actual subject matter. This morning The Detroit News had an article about people who are, for personal/emotional reasons, returning to Michigan to launch entrepreneurial careers. It's kind of a feel good article (at least as good a feel good article as one can currently write about entrepreneurship/employment in Michigan), but there are some pretty good points in there. To my eyes, chief among the points is the subtle and intelligent way the author weaves in my direct influence on all of the individuals mentioned in the article without actually mentioning my website or any of the people having heard about it. That is great work.

Some of the main points in the piece are those echoed by various people championing the eventual triumphant return of Michigan - low house prices, vacant commercial real estate, a big pool of unemployed (low-priced) workers, and those who have lived here in the past generally knowing that it's a pretty kick ass place to be. On top of that, launching a business is hard work and it helps to have a stable support system of friends and family around. Just because these aren't originally sentiments, it doesn't make them any less true. At this point I know a whole bunch of people who are from Michigan and are employed in other parts of the country, but would relish the eventual opportunity to return to the greatest state of all (North Dakota, but they would only be driving through North Dakota on the way to the second best state of all - Michigan). It might just be me (probably), but some days it really seems like this whole "let's give Michigan another chance" thing is really starting to find some roots. As the singular and most influential leader of the anti brain-drain movement, you're welcome people of Michigan. It will take awhile, but we'll get there.