Monday, October 27, 2014

And I swear ...

(You know you're singing now.)
(Also it works because, like in the cheesy '90s song, I do swear by pretty much any celestial configuration.)

So, it's no secret that a lot of stuff has been happening lately in the newsroom. And because of my natural predilection for hyperbole and my love for words, I feel a strong desire to use words like "harrowing" and "bloodletting" to describe it. But the thing is: There really are harrowing bloodlettings, and they go on all of the time. I've never been near one or had to even really consider it. They're things that other people experience. Even in this latest round of what I might consider harrowing, I'm one of the people least affected. So it's made me consider my evolving relationship with language. I think I'm losing a lot of nuance. I go straight from adjective to expletive, with hardly any gray area. I mean, I don't think I'm the only one; I think the constant buzz of media, social or otherwise, exaggerates the need for exaggeration. Still, one thing I'm proud of is my precision, and I'm clearly losing it.

Also because of said stuff going on in the newsroom, I've been swearing a lot more. Which, I know, is hard to believe. So since last week I've been considering quitting. It's not the first time; in college I stopped saying "bitch" and "son of a bitch" because of the terms' misogyny. Around 2000 I quit using the sex-based swears because I'm sex-positive; things like f*ck, s*ck, blow, those things should be positive unless they're not, in which case they're likely a different word, like felony. At any rate, that's not something to just throw around. 

Predictably, that non-sex-based-swear time did not last long. It doesn't leave much, and I'm pretty literal, so the scatological ones kinda gross me out. So I fell back into old habits. And I am using bitch again, though almost exclusively about men and to their faces. Still, not a great habit. 

Also, there's this weird thing where people show genuine (but shocking) surprise when they discover my penchant for profanity. It happens mostly when I meet people at work. A couple weeks in, when I first let loose a swear word, I always hear, "Wait. You swear?" I have no idea why this is, but it happens fairly consistently. And, you know, maybe I should live up to whatever non-profane potential they see in me. 

So, in thinking about it again, I've chatted with a few people. One friend seemed shocked that I would even consider it. He strongly urged against it, saying that swearing is cathartic, a great emotional release. And I get that. But this weekend, when I started counting my reps on the weight machine "One m*therf*cker, two m*therf*cker," I knew that the words didn't mean that much to me anymore.

So I'm going to try. I've been pretty quitty lately, what with the Facebook and the Amazon (Super Walmart In The Sky, really). I like these little hiatuses; they help me consider my habits. We'll see how long this one lasts.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Complete list of musicians who can pull off talking in a pop song

1. Prince
2. The Artist Formerly Known As Prince
3. Yep, Prince again

Everyone else: Thanks for your interest.

Friday, October 24, 2014

You win, Mark Zuckerberg. You win!

OK, so I just got my one-month chip for Facebook, and I already know that I'll be going back next month. It turns out I can't stay in touch as well without it for people I don't see every day, and there is about to be a large group of people I'm not going to see every day. And I have to admit that it is a very useful tool for such relations. So OK!

Friday, October 17, 2014

If Wolfram Alpha could actually read ...

It would know that this is the breakdown of my social media presence:

1. Universal trivial outrage slash the passive-aggressive calling out of douchebaggery
2. Song lyrics
3. Math/word nerdism
    3 a. Charts of same
4. Treacly gratitude
5. Parenting whuh-fuhs

Sunday, October 12, 2014


I'm starting to think that my steady diet of Van Hagar (Right now! Is your tomorrow! ... Working so hard to make it easy! Come on, turn this thing around!) and the Floyd (We're just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl year after year! Running over the same old ground, what have we found? The same old fears.) is starting to lead me into existential crisis. In addition to, of course, the crisis of existence.

Oh, also Matthew Sweet. Damn, Matthew. How did I even finish college with you in my ears all the time?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Let me eat cake

So, many years ago, Harris Teeter used to sell these amazing little personal-sized Tuxedo cakes that had chocolate mousse and white chocolate and ganache and basically everything that I love in a dessert item. I was a little sad when they up and stopped selling them. But that sadness abated the day I discovered that Costco also sells them. Two problems that day, though: 1. It's Costco sized, which is ridiculous even for me, and 2. I wasn't eating dairy because of Abbott's allergy. So I always thought my big treat when I started eating dairy again would be one of these Tuxedo cakes. 

But seriously, no one can eat a whole Tuxedo cake. So I never got one. 

Until this week, which has been a little rough. We're going through a lot of changes at work, with a lot of very talented and dedicated people leaving and a high degree of uncertainty and more than a little infighting. On Tuesday and Friday we had two big bombshells hit the newsroom that are still reverberating. Alongside that anxiety, I was out for a couple days with the shingles (or as I'm now calling it, pox de deux), and I returned to two photo shoots, which I already don't love, and which included one with me in a leotard (!). So, a lot's been going on. And I thought to myself, you know what? After these shoots, I'm going to finally get myself one of those Tuxedo cakes, expletive it. My plan was to cut a tiny bit off for myself and then bring the rest in for the night desk. 

But even as I was thinking that, I was a little iffy. I try to not eat emotionally, or at least I try to be aware of it. And I was aware of it this morning at Costco. So I was half and half on buying the cake but finally decided that I would.

So I get home, and I have this enormous confection that I'm trying to get into the refrigerator, and Abbott asks what it's for, and if it's for him. I tell him, no, buddy, it's got a lot of milk in it. It's for me. Sorry. And then he asks why I bought it. And I start to try to defend it, to say, "Well, bud, it's been a rough week, and you know, I was sick, and I've been working a lot." And even as I'm saying it, mentally exhausted from the illness and all the other stuff going on, I know that what I'm saying is not healthy or right. So I'm feeling irritated with myself, and thinking, I am not modeling good behavior here. And I only barely wanted this cake. Dammit! 

And then he cuts me off, having waited long enough for the answer he was expecting, and says, "And because you're hungry!" I burst out laughing because I'd have to be *really* hungry to eat this thing, and also because I am just so grateful that he so graciously cut me down from the hook. And I say, "Yes, buddy, I got it because I was hungry."

And I am so thankful that he's healthy. And I really, really hope he stays that way.

Monday, October 06, 2014

A little background

I grew up on stand-up comedy. It helped that it was everywhere; when I was 12, MTV started its Half-Hour Comedy Hour. I stayed up late to watch Carson and Letterman every night -- back when they featured comedians -- laughing at things I only vaguely understood. There were also shows on A&E (remember when it was Arts and Entertainment?); I watched all of it religiously. I followed comedians like other children follow sports figures. When I was in high school, I fantasized that in college I'd write bits for Letterman's monologue and Top Ten list in the morning, which would give me time to go to class all day and front a rock band at night. That fantasy came after I decided that fantasizing I would marry him was just a little too unrealistic for me -- if even Merrill Markoe couldn't make it work, I had no damn chance.

Of course, none of that happened. But in my last semester of college, I got it in me to finally try stand-up comedy. My roommate Marc and I went down to a little comedy club in Chicago and did their open-mic night competition. I had what I will generously call a 4-minute set, after which I pretty much ran from the stage. And I won! It surprised me most of all. After that I did it one or two more times, as part of a group at my school. I got caught up in the intoxication of writing bits and decided, as a 21-year-old will, that I was going to quit journalism to become a stand-up comedian. I actually stopped sending out resumes. I even went so far as to tell my dad one day on the phone. He said, "Good. You're funny." Beat. "Need money for the rent?" I can tell you that I learned everything I know about timing from him.

Anyway, it was the end of my senior year, and I was heading down to Miami for a design and graphics internship at The Herald. That was a big deal to me, and I like to keep my word, so I figured I'd go down there, do my internship, and then make my life as a comedian. 

So, a few weeks into my internship, I was at a 4th of July party with some of the designers. I was talking about my plans, and I did my little set. Mark, the husband of one of the designers, said, "Yes, you're funny. But what are you really saying?" 

It hit me like a brick (one's enough, don't you think?). I thought, what *am* I saying? Is there truth? Is there voice? Is there meaning? Or is it just funny? 

I decided it was just funny. And you know, maybe it wasn't even that funny. So I stopped. And I became a serial journalist.

In the intervening couple decades, I've thought about doing it again, just for fun. Periodically I'll carry around a little notebook for any bits I might have. And I often think of Mark's words when I write anything; sure, I'm not a bad writer. But is there truth to what I'm saying? Not reality, but actual truth? Is there meaning? Or is it just fun? It makes writing very, very hard for me.

Part of me thinks of course I should hold myself to this standard! All writing should be held to this standard, or it's frivolous!

But part of me wonders whether, if I let go of the standard, I could hit it anyway, more often, and more relaxed.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

White Palace

I don't have talents in this area, so I'm going to have to ask: Can someone please re-engineer "White Palace" without all the lilting sax? It mars an otherwise pretty perfect romantic 1990 movie. Thanks.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Open letter

To the man in the sky blue minivan stopped at the red light on Hampton this afternoon,

I was not laughing at you. I was truly delighted by the enthusiasm with which you were singing. It made me smile, and I'm sorry that you caught glimpse of that smile and felt you had to stop. I wasn't mocking you. I really was enjoying it. Thanks for the smile.

the woman in the white Civic

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Time to call it

I just don't think I have it in me to watch a Brad Pitt movie ever again.