The Things Left Out

ArnoldYesterday, when I left my apartment in the morning a construction worker said to me, “Don’t even bother. Go back inside.” At that time the temperature was about 95 degrees. I told him I was going to the gym, and he says, “Oh God.” I should have listened to him. The Y was fine, with its AC comforted weight rooms, and I did a 20 mintute elliptical machine and then another half hour or so of weights. Push yourself, I said, because I’d been slack lately, do another rep, up the weight. Well, I was fine and randy until I hit the lobby, which devoid of AC, was probably soaring in the near 100 mark. A little faint, I said, “Let me just get a gatorade. I’ll feel better.” Nope. So I went downstairs thinking that in the locker room I could splash water on my face. That only made it worse because the locker room was even hotter. So there I am on the floor of the men’s locker room, black stars before my face and these kids coming up to me. “Get your boss,” I said to them, unable to articulate the correct word for their counselor. Eventually, a man named Chris helped me upstairs into the AC’d lounge where I suddenly felt 1000 percent better. But the Y would not let me leave, having me fill out an incident report. “It was just the heat,” I said. “And I overdid it a bit in the gym.” They gave me a scarf doused with water to walk home with, and it dried in about 5 minutes outside. People were looking at me wondering why I was walking around with a scarf in such temperatures. I called my cousin, and after telling him what happened, he said, “Well, you’re in good company. Arnold Schwarzenegger used to pass out all the time when he was training for Mr. Olympia.” And I said, “But I’m not doing nearly as much as him.” And he said, “Exactly.”

Yesterday, too, I read this article about the AFL-CIO and their recent vote for the “rapid return” of the soldiers from Iraq. Funny thing was, as monumental as such a decision is coming from such a large union, both the supposedly liberal New York Times and NPR posted stories attacking the AFL-CIO yesterday, almost as if to lessen the impact of their decision. Here’s the NY Times article. And here’s the NPR audio clip one and two. Here’s a brief summary from The Institute for Public Accuracy about the historic AFL-CIO decision. It is my opinion that there is no such thing as “trusted” media, and even such respected giants of NPR and NY Times are not immune to “witholding” information (another term for lying, in my opinion) when it suits their political aims (i.e. continued use of troops in Iraq). Shame on you both.

Here’s a nice yellow ribbon you can put on all those gas guzzling SUVs you see.

Finally, I read that NASA plans to ground the space shuttles yet again because even after two years of study and research, they still can’t get rid of the debris falling from the nose cone! Burt Rutan and friends, now’s your time to shine, buddies!

I Dream of Code

While in college and working towards my degree in Computer Science, I frequently had dreams about coding software. We’d be in the labs for twelve, sometimes sixteen hours a day trying to finish these enormous projects, not to mention balancing all of our other classes. And sometimes when I dreamed, I would see the code before me, not some amorphous representation of the code, but the actual code (or so I thought) that was, from looking at it so often, buried deep in my subconscious. And I also remember one specific time where I solved a problem I was having in my sleep — literally debugging in my sleep — and when I awoke and tested the solution I discovered that it had worked. Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve had such dreams, but last night I dreamt not of code but of writing. I have been working on both a short story and a novel concurrently, and last night in my dreams I kept rearranging text and sections over and over again. This time the contents weren’t as clear, and I know it’s probably because I was obsessing about one particular story I was working on. I came up with the story idea under one premise, added a second premise to it as I started writing, and then when I finished I added another element to it which may or may not mean I have to go back to the beginning and add/change more text. It’s already at 8000 words. I still have a week to fiddle with it before my writers’ group will take a look at it.

In a fit of nostalgia, I went over to the C64 website and downloaded a few old Commodore games. I played “Times of Lore” and one of my favorites, “Space Taxi.” The latter still held most of its fun. I used to know the map to “Times of Lore” by heart, but time has since eroded those neurons. I was thinking this morning as I slowly awoke to jackhammers (yet again) that I grew up in an era without VCRs, DVDs, Cellphones, and personal computers. All these things came about in my lifetime (Supposedly, one of my friend’s father was a beta tester for the Betamax, and we saw a Charlie Brown movie on it for his 7th birthday). I remember when we got our first VCR. We recorded every movie that was on TV. (8pm, HBO anyone?) I remember my first computer, a big and silvery TRS-80 Color Computer. I remember watching “Video Killed the Radio Star” on MTV with my sisters as we all sat on the shag carpet. I said, “What’s MTV?” They said, “It’s like radio except you see them play the music.” I remember my Dad’s car-phone, a big bulky thing that you had to enter like twenty digits just to call home. I remember talking about DVDs in college with my friends. “Can you imagine storing gigbytes on a disk?” we said. (DVDs were originally supposed to hold 17 GB. Now most hold 4.7GB). I remember my first cell phone. I resisted it at first. Who wants to be that available? But I relented and got one for work (what a mistake!) That year, I had no evenings and no weekends as the phone rang wherever I was, including on vacation in Park City, Utah. One day a few months ago I decided to imagine that I was a time traveller, come from a few hundred years in the past, before all this technology we think of as commonplace. I looked at the cars and said, “How strange.” I looked at the cell phones, and the suits, and the bodegas, and the pay phones, and everything, and said “How strange.” And then something happened. For a moment, everything was strange, and I was an alien on my own planet. Who were all these people shuffling to and fro in such a hurry with their gadgets and gizmos? Suddenly, everything old and dry seemed new and strange. Try it sometime. Your mileage may vary. My cousin believes we are in a very primitive time. That in a thousand or tens of thousands of years we’ll look back on this time as a sort of Middle Ages. I can see his point of view too. We still are just starting out in so many ways. But I suppose, as one philosopher put it, there’s an infinite amount of time behind you, there’s an infinite amount of time ahead of you, and in the middle, here you are. There ain’t no changing that.

The Celebration of Mediocrity

The Faultless FamilyTo entertain myself last night, instead of watching the uncreative drivel on aerial TV (I don’t have cable), I took out two films from the library. One was called the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie, and the other was Fritz Lang’s M. I put in the first film, the “the discreet charm..”, which was billed as a “wicked Academy Award winning film,” a “priceless satire on the absurd lifestyle of the upper class,” and “a pioneer of Surrealist cinema.” My God, what hyperbole! The story revolves around a bunch of coke dealing ambassadors, their drunken wives, and their repeated failed attempts at having a civilized dinner. After about forty minutes of this film, I had to shut it off. I rarely do that to a film, but it was that terrible. The setup was pretty good: The neighborhood bishop wants to be the couple’s gardner. The guests think the police are coming to raid because the hosts have disappeared out in the yard to have sex. The first restaurant they visist has a dead man, the former owner, laid out with his mourners in the next room. Yet the jokes in this film are so poorly executed, so few and far between, the plot virtually non-existant, and the characters so loathesome, that the movie fell flat on its face. Honestly, I don’t even know why it won so many awards. I can think of several films from the 1970s, specifically those of Woody Allen, which take Surreal cinema and comedy to commendable, if not genius levels. Though not from 1972, I think Stardust Memories is one of his best.

I did watch “7th Heaven” before the film, only because I was doing my bills, I couldn’t both read subtitles and write checks at the same time, and it was the only thing that came in without static. “7th Heaven” is one of those shows where every character is beautiful, their deepest flaw is that they sometimes like to sneak out and have pizza without telling their family, and every minor conflict works out miraculously in the end. One of the girls was pregnant, decides to sneak out with her brother to get a gift for herself and the baby, when, what-do-you-know, she goes into labor in (you guessed it) a stuck elevator. Eventually, the whole town seems to find out about the incident, and they swarm around the elevator waiting for the news. Of course, the husband somehow gets into the elevator to help deliver the baby (if he can get in, how come she couldn’t get out?) and the department store owner says, “Anything you want from the store, it’s yours.” If they made “7th Heaven” novelettes, Barnes & Noble would put them in the Fantasy section, right next to Dragonriders of Pern. But I suppose it’s nice to escape into the gooely hypnotic world of make believe for a while.


A RabbitSaturday was one of those perfectly blue days that come around once a year. It wasn’t too hot, and the sky held this cerulean blue usually only seen in film after the CGI boys do their work. The clouds too were perfectly puffy and formed, unlike the usual chalky haze present over the city in the summertime. I was sitting by Stevens Tech reading from Alchemy and alternately Magic for Beginners, by Kelly Link. And while I was reading all these rabbits (no kidding) started to come out of the fences and the bushes and just sit there and stare at me. Not sure if you’ve read Link’s “Stone Animals,” but rabbits feature a very large role. Funny thing was, I didn’t put two and two together until this morning. Partly it was because the day was so beautiful, and partly because I was reading a different story and thinking about the state of the world. I did not see any faeries riding their necks, thankfully.

How would you like to be this guy who, while innocently working on his computer, had a meteorite crash through his ceiling and land on his floor? Apparently, the meteorite was one of several that fell over Chicago that day from a large fireball. The article says, “the average homeowner should expect to repair direct meteor damage every hundred million years.” I hope you have insurance.

Finally, did you hear that New Jersey wants to ban smoking inside your own car? I understand the reasoning for banning smoking in public places like offices and restaurants, but in your private spaces too? That’s taking the law too far. From this AP article over at The Smokers’ Club, a smoker says, “The day a politician wants to tell me I can’t smoke in my car, that’s the day he takes over my lease payments.” Ditto! While I do occasionally sample the tobacco from time to time, I consider myself a non-smoker, but a proposal like this just makes me want to take up chain smoking just to spite the politicians. The proposal was sponsored by Assemblyman John McKeon who says that one percent of all 32,000 traffic fatalities last year were smoking related. That’s 320 deaths caused by smoking while driving. Meanwhile, since January of this year, 342 American soliders have died in Iraq and somewhere around 23,000 Iraqi civilians (note: not insurgents) have died since the war began. World to Assemblyman McKeon: go do something better with your time.


Saturn & MoonNot much time for blogging this morning, but I thought I’d share this beautiful picture of Saturn, its moon Tethys, and Saturn’s rings. The image was taken from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.

Last night I wandered over to the annual St. Anne’s Festival in Hoboken. I’m not big on these sausage frying, elbow bumping, mini-carnavals, but I was meeting a friend there. Never found him in the crowd, but I did see a tanned, bow-tied, and bo-toxed version of Joe Piscopo on stage. It’s seems he’s trying to pick up where Frank Sinatra left off as king idol of Hoboken. Frankly (pun intended), I’d rather we had some other icons to celebrate, like Edgar Allen Poe, who supposedly lived here for a while. I like Frank, I like his music, but it can become a little tiring in this town that seems to name every street after him, that has hundreds of his pictures hanging in every bar, and has Hobokenites unable to name some other well-known figure that came from this town, who, from rumors, I was told didn’t like this town very much. I think it’s about time we made some new idols.