Sunday, August 24, 2003


Wednesday, August 20, 2003

You are The Cap'n!

Some men are born great, some achieve greatness and some slit the throats of any man that stands between them and the mantle of power. You never met a man you couldn't eviscerate. Not that mindless violence is the only avenue open to you - but why take an avenue when you have complete freeway access? You are the definitive Man of Action. You are James Bond in a blousy shirt and drawstring-fly pants. Your swash was buckled long ago and you have never been so sure of anything in your life as in your ability to bend everyone to your will. You will call anyone out and cut off their head if they show any sign of taking you on or backing down. You cannot be saddled with tedious underlings, but if one of your lieutenants shows an overly developed sense of ambition he may find more suitable accommodations in Davy Jones' locker. That is, of course, IF you notice him. You tend to be self absorbed - a weakness that may keep you from seeing enemies where they are and imagining them where they are not.

What's Yer Inner Pirate?
brought to you by The Official Talk Like A Pirate Web Site. Arrrrr!

Monday, August 18, 2003

Part I: The Quest

Somewhere amidst the whitecaps of the South Pacific, a tattered and rotting vessel named the Belching Pelican embarked on another treacherous voyage through the dark places of the world. Wracked by scurvy, a maniacally obsessed captain pledged to scavenge the seven seas in search of a parrot.

“I have no parrot you scurvy scum! I have a hook for a hand and a funny hat. I even sawed off my own leg so I could fly the jolly roger and maintain some semblance of legitimacy. But it is only the albatross that flies overhead and our cups are filled with the dust of our own dead. We must find the parrot and tie him down. Then I will be the king who wears the crown!”

After months at sea the crew nervously relented. They wanted treasure. They wanted wine. Song. Women! But their gold-toothed commander was determined and forced them to press on.

Wygand, the timid and curiously educated cook, was troubled by such a vague and dangerous voyage. Scared of the perils that lay ahead but intrigued by the captain’s inexplicable obsession, he approached the poop deck and the weathered mariner who lay asleep at the wheel of the ship.

“C-c-c-c-aptain” he squeaked as he shook the skipper’s arm. The mariner awoke with a shake and swiped at the air with blind and desperate strokes.

“I’ll spill the intestines the scoundrel who tries to mutiny aboard my ship” he sputtered.

“B-b-b-but I’ve brought your dinner sir” Wygand whispered. “A-a-a-and a question.”

“Leave the food, speak your piece then leave before I feed you to the sharks” the captain snapped.

“With all the riches in the world, why do we seek, of all things, a parrot?”

The captain’s eyes lit up with a fire that set the deck ablaze.

“This is no ordinary parrot I seek. Tis’ a four-winged angel that sings the song of the Spanish Merchant” he growled. “It has a beak of brass and feathers spun from white gold. And its tune will lure the King’s ships from all corners of the earth. Why drift along the seven seas stumbling upon a galleon here, a clipper there? We will summon the wealth of the world and let it lie at our feet!”

Tempted by the promise of limitless wealth the crew let out a collective cheer.

“Let us prepare a feast and celebrate our imminent discovery of the Golden Parrot” the captain yelled triumphantly and ordered Wygand to prepare a feast like no other seen upon the deck of the great ship.

“Fire the canons! Raise the sails! Greatness will soon be upon us!”

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Traveling Up The River
Here is a first hand account of what it was like.

Friday, August 15, 2003

Heart Of Darkness
While I was living on the east coast it was California who was grabbing headlines with major power shortages and revolving power outages. Now the east coast has taken center stage with a blackout of historical proportions. But once again, the stars of the show are the citizens of New York City.

With a city of such phenomenal density as the Big Apple, one could reasonably expect chaos to reign. With the August heat one could easily imagine tempers failing soon after the A/C went out. With all the elements that enforce civilization crippled by a lack of power, a descent into madness is not unthinkable. But New Yorkers continue to show the country what makes them special. They persevered. They adapted. They remained calm. Civilized.

The evening news has been filled with pictures of New Yorkers maintaining order. Pitching in. Professors started directing traffic. A truck driver let dozens of people hitch a ride. People sold water to passers by for a buck a bottle. That's regular price in some place that is not notoriously expensive New York City. Laws of supply and demand make something as common as water as precious as gold but these people chose service intead of profit.

Surely these utopian observations are an exaggeration, or at least not entirely accurate. After all, there were reports of a few lootings. People probably got pissed off and yelled at each other. But the event highlights an important difference between New Yorkers and people in, I don't know, L.A.

New Yorkers have humanity in their face 24 hours a day. They live every waking hour with people stacked on top of them. People in New York learn real quick that you can't fight everyone in front of you. You have to adapt and move among them. For that reason there is a sense of community, or at least a sense of tolerance, that helps distinguish them when their vital and fragile systems break down.

Folks in Los Angeles are different. We move in solitary, isolated waves. We are not forced into contact with each other on the freeway like New Yorkers are when they ride the subway. We do not feel or hear or smell each other. We see everyone through panes of glass, getting partial glimpses of lives that will never touch us. Every morning we see obstacles, not people. Our paths are choked by the damnable misery that is everyone else. By man-made machines but no men.

I hesitate to guess what a prolonged blackout would yield here. Maybe New York's example would force the image concious in L.A. to compete. Maybe it would give us something to live up to. Or maybe we would just fuck it all up and burn it to the ground.

In other news...
Air conditioning is the greatest invention ever.

Tofuttiecutie is insane.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

I may be an adult now, but Disney is still teaching me lessons. But they're not teaching me about dreams and believing you can achieve your goals or to stand in awe of the miraculous creation that is the world around me. In fact, Disney is teaching me something that is strangely anti-Disney: perfection is a double edged sword.

Disneyland may very well be the "happiest place on earth" but that is not something that happens naturally. Our world is not all happy. Disneyland is not at all natural. Painting with cartoon facades and quaint storefronts, antique cars and fluffy characters, families and candy and children, Walt creates a pretty convincing picture. Idyllic. Wonderous. Protected. Sure you run across the occassional youngster throwing a tantrum or a legitimately terrified toddler, but for the most part the surface of Disneyland is a world full of magnificent things to be discovered.

But Disney is serving people. Their armies of animatronic creatures are completely under control. But the park's 50,000 guests don't come with an instrument panel. These are 50,000 independent, free-thinking, partially selfish people who have been crammed into a confined space and who are being forced to compete. They're in competition for parking, rides, food, tables, restrooms, space to sit, spots on the parade route. Basically, all of the things that either they went to Disneyland for, or the things that are required of them by nature, are limited resources, and if they don't aggressively seek them out they won't be getting their 43 bucks worth. For a less thoughtful bunch than the park administrators, this could definitely a problem.

But the park administrators are smart. Smart enough to learn from experience anyway. So throughout the years they have been refining an elaborate system of rules. They have wrought a utilitarian utopia.

No cutting.
No food.
No drinks.
No loose items.
No pregnant women.
No sitting on the handrail.
No one under 42 inches.
No admittance after 8:30.
You can't stand here. Keep moving.
You can't stand here either. Keep moving.
You aren't scheduled to ride now. Come back later.
You're not with a handicapped family. Don't come back.

It's in the best interest of the group. Each person needs to be insulated from the tyranny of the other 49,999. They paid 43 bucks to get in too you know. But deviate, even a little, from the system and someone will let you know. Someone will put you back in line. It gets a little bit frightening. One may find himself hoping for a little chaos. One may find himself seeking out the tree with a few leaves breaking formation. The line for a ride that isn't being policed very thoroughly. The illegal post on the parade route.

I caught a glimpse of that chaos and it was in some of the park's own employees. It was as if they were beaten down by years (months? hours?) of enforcing the battery of rules that makes Disneyland so "happy." And some of them were wearing thin. They did not issue humble requests to violating visitors, they barked orders. Their tone was not one of polite respect but one born out of prolonged annoyance.

Now, all this may make me seem like an embittered theme park burnout (I was just at Magic Mountain),but that is definitely not the case. I had a great time (that's the power of good company I guess.) I just thought it was interesting to see fun and happiness so vigorously legislated. It seems strange to me. Foreign. Actually encountering some of the systems and rules took a little bit of the fun away for me.

It helps drive home a point for me. Perfection isn't all it's cracked up to be. It makes sense for Disney. After all, imperfection on the scale they work on could be costly. It's a business decision in their case. They're an entertainment company. They traffic in illusions. But trying to attain perfection, brilliant and maniacal perfection, in real life is insane. Especially if you're not making any money off it.