For Auld Lang Syne

"A long December, and there's reason to believe, maybe this year will be better than the last."

-- Counting Crows


One of the many problems with FB

One of the problems with Facebook and that family of website, perhaps even with the consumer internet itself, is that much of it is not actively interesting, it's just barely not boring.

When I'm at work, but not particularly busy, or when I'm sitting at a coffee shop putting off doing any sizable bit of writing, I keep flipping back to Facebook, to Google News or to Cracked.com, not because I'm at all interested in what's going on there but because I can't think of anything better to do. I could simply check FB once at the end of the day and see all of the messages, all of the comments, all of the tags that were sent to me and be no more the worse for it. Unless some truly major event occurs in the middle of the day, I've heard all the news I need on NPR while driving to the office. And, Cracked, I don't ever really need to read that, do I?

Checking these sites, and others, I'm never invested in the article, in the tweet or the status. It's just something to do for thirty seconds until I need to find something else to do for thirty seconds. Like a crack addict can pass days and waste thousands of dollars with a chain of ten dollar, ten minute hits, so can we flush away whole afternoons waiting for that little red flag to pop up on our main page.

Once upon the days before ubiquitous internet access, one went looking for an activity on the presumption that one could invest an hour, two hours or even an entire day in that activity. Now, we just need something to tide us over until the server refreshes. This is a bad thing. It causes us to lose focus and it keeps us from contemplation, innovation and self-discovery.

And I can't really think of anything else to say on the subject, so I guess I just proved my own point.


Cry in Your Coffee but Don't Come Bitchin' to Me

I'm sitting in a coffee shop in Los Angeles, a tidy, minimalist, artsy spot that caters to locals. I quite like the place, despite being more expensive than I am used to by virtue of being in the City of Angels.

A woman just entered, ordered a beverage in Starbucks-Speak* with "double whip."

The woman behind the counter informed this displaced mall shopper that, "We don't have whipped cream."

"Why not?"

"We just don't have it. We don't carry it." Which I point out is much nicer than anything that I would have said about it's comparative health value and what it does to the flavor of a properly made coffee.

The patron shuffled her feet and hoo'd and haw'd before asking for her latte extra sweet and with extra foam. (Is that still a latte?) She commented in an uncalled-for tone that they really should have whipped cream because people expect it, that this place would do better if they kept some around.

But, why should they? Why should people expect whipped cream. This isn't a Starbucks or a Caribou or a Seattle's Best. This simply isn't a chain coffee bar and why would anyone expect it to be? The entire point of such places as this, and the very reason that the good ones thrive, is because they are not the cookie-cutter, ergonomically designed bastions of corporate S.O.P. that germinate unbidden from the urban and suburban landscape. Yes, this place serves coffee, but this place is also somewhere else. That is the point.

The painfully conventional wisdom from such people is that success is the product of imitation of what else is successful. This wisdom propagates much too widely, from the Mom&Pop stores that add piddling bric-a-brak to their inventories based on larger establishments' sales numbers to the myriad of second-rate sports bars that seem to be rightly orphaned Applebees to the triple-digit satellite channels that constantly offer low-budget versions of network reality programming.

This lady, with her whipped cream just, didn't get it. She didn't get that most of the people in here came to this spot expressly to get something other than what's offered by Ahab's first mate's namesake. Might this place eek out a few extra nickels each day if they offered blended, sweetened, milk-shake-esque espresso concoctions? They might, but they'd probably also loose their soul and they'd certainly lose the faith of all the people who come here for the coffee and not the whipped cream.

*I've never mastered the language of Starbucks, the vente, skinny, grande, frappe talk. There was a time, though, when I spoke fluent Waffle House and that's good enough for me.


Brightest Blessings, Everyone

"The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singin' 'Galway Bay.'
And the bells are ringin' out
for Christmas Day."

-- The Pogues


Yule Blessings

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around.

-- Richard Curtis


Lift me up from this Illusion, Lord

Somewhere, there are monkeys playing accordions before the throne of a deposed sausage king who craves waffles because he can't make up his mind about something and there's some symmetry there. In this place the air is heavy but there's not a cloud in the ceiling. The eldest sun of the slug & rugby captain has gone out to water Uncle Satan's testicle garden while the champagne went flat because Barry Manilow gets sick from carbonation. Four dwarves, two blue, one orange and one who's regular flesh colored despite having no regular flesh are looking for their lost innocence in the lye vats they use to clean the stains from the bed sheets of chain smoking turnips, who aren't good for much except that the word turnip is funny to say. In this place gravity is slick with ice, tomorrow tastes purple and hope is a dish best served with nail clippings and broken glass. The world's last honest lawyer lost his toolbox at the carnival because he drove too hard a bargain at the kissing booth. One man in the movie said to the other "You see, Bob," to fill a plot hole rather than just eat someone, blow something up or throw penguins through the air. Neil Armstrong gave a lecture on the benefits of formica in one's diet while twiddling his thumbs out of time with the pulse of the beavers in his brain. The day after yesterday came before tomorrow because one of the monkeys got himself ahead of the beat and the King of Sausage decided now would be a good time to discorporate. A man in a finely tailored blue suit who looks curiously like J. Sigmund Tumlin impersonating a Baptist preacher escorts me to the ebony revolving door and tells me I can come back after the reptilian hegemony is over but, until then, I'll just have to wait, or learn to play the accordion


I Know, I Know

I've been really quiet these past few months.

There was a show that took up most of my time and I've a large piece of writing in the works as well to which I've been devoting most of my pen-time.

I'll have something shortly, I promise. In the meantime here's an oldie but goodie:

Look at you. I mean, Christ, just look at you, those clothes, that hair, that demeanor. You’re helpless. Do you want people to see you like this? Do you even care what they would think? Nothing good, I can tell you that. Look at what you’ve done with your life. What happened to your goals, you dreams, your plans?

What would you do if you ran into yourself tomorrow, not another of yourself as you are but yourself when you were seventeen. What would the seventeen year old you say? Would they be disappointed? I imagine they would be. Things haven’t turned out as they imagined and they’re probably pretty angry. Would they think that you got lazy or that you lost your focus? Would they think you squandered your best chances or that you simply fucked up? Worst, would they think you sold out?

No matter what they thought they would be when they got to be you, you’re not it. If you are then you’re either lying to yourself or you had dreams too mundane for any self respecting seventeen year old to have. That or you’ve been given more than you’ve earned in life and it doesn’t count for bollocks anyway. Somewhere along the line you did, even if for a moment, get lazy, lost your focus or squandered a good opportunity. Somewhere along the line, some tiny part of you sold out. Somewhere between seventeen and now you stepped in your own shit and didn’t have the wherewithal to wipe it off and the reek is still clinging to you. You@17 , the you that was eager and feisty, proud and invincible, the you that was ready and capable and jaded in the way that only a seventeen year old can be, that you is really pissed off.

Y’know what? Fuck You@17. You@17 didn’t know shit. Nobody had told them what the real world was going to be like. Nobody had explained to them anything about adulthood. They didn’t know a thing about sleepless nights. They didn’t know a thing about paying bills. They didn’t understand being broke or having to perform on someone else’s terms. They didn’t know about sacrifice, about bruised pride, about long hours or about how the world likes to beat good people down. You@17 didn’t know about lost jobs or heartless lovers. They didn’t know what it feels like to fail, even when you were at your best. They didn’t’ know what it’s like to have more expected of them than they were able to give. You@17 had never been defeated. You@17 had a lot of lessons to learn.

And so do you.

Don’t you dare feel bad. Don’t you dare feel sorry for yourself. Don’t even think about apologizing to You@17. You@17 couldn’t have done what you’ve done, couldn’t cope with what you undertake every single day. You@17 kept fucking up until they became you now and never thought to revaluate the surroundings. You@17 needs to be put in their place.

Now, straighten up, dust yourself off and put yourself in order. There are things to be done, things You@17 would never understand or appreciate. There’s still a world to conquer and legions of left over seventeen year olds’ asses to kick.