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October 31, 2003

Week Off

The Queen and I are taking a weeklong vacation to Texas. I'll be back on November 10th with a report.

[ link | dy]



Urban Legends For The 21st Century

A young couple living in a large isolated house had gone out to a dinner party one evening and left the babysitter in charge of their two children. The children had been put to bed upstairs and the babysitter was watching "Alias" when her cell phone played the first two verses of "Crazy In Love" by Beyonce Knowles. The babysitter dug the phone out of her bag to discover that she had received a text message reading:

seria1_ki11a: im upstairs w/the chldrn youd betta come up MLOL*!!!!
[* Maniacally laughing out loud -- ed.]

Thinking it a practical joke, the babysitter deleted the message without another thought.

But a short time later the phone rang again. This time the display read

seria1_ki11a: im serious youd betta come up ROTFMLMAO!!!!
Getting rather frightened she called Verizon, who agreed to trace the messages to caller's exact coordinates via the Patriot Act-mandated GPS chip that had been factory-installed in the phone.

A few minutes later the phone rang again, but this time the message read

seria1_ki11a: wanna cyber?
The babysitter screamed and quickly deleted the message. When the phone rang seconds later, caller ID identified it as a voice-call from India. "Get out of the house!" the Verizon customer service representative yelled as the babysitter hit "talk." "The text messages are coming from upstairs!!"

But instead of fleeing, the babysitter angrily marched upstairs to find the oldest boy listening to illegally procured mp3s on his iPod and text-messaging everyone in his cellphone's directory.

When the parents returned home later that evening, the babysitter told them what had happened. Worried that such behavior could someday jeopardize their son's chances of gaining admission to a top tier university, the parents decided to put the boy on Methylphenidate and adopt a strict system of punishments for future episodes of acting out.

And he never did anything impulsive or creative again!!!


Hook Of The Story

I contributed one of the dozen endings to this story.

Also! I conducted this interview of Ron Cockerham (of the ever-entertaining Cockeyed).

October 30, 2003

A.G.H.O.S.T.

Last Friday. I spent an evening with A.G.H.O.S.T. -- the Amateur Ghost Hunters Of Seattle/Tacoma. You can read my report at The Morning News.

A big thanks to Mr. Ross Allison and all the A.G.H.O.S.T. members I met -- they were a great group of folks, and I had a fun time. More information about the Amateur Ghost Hunters Of Seattle / Tacoma -- including investigation reports, photographs, and membership information -- is at http://www.theresaghost.com.

October 29, 2003

I Raised Her Good

Ma Baldwin phones from the East Coast.

Ma: I got a question for you.

Me: Shoot.

Ma: Your dad and I were at church, and I was telling some people about Seattle and what a big music place it is. But I couldn't remember the name of that one band. That band you like.

Me: [Inwardly sighs] Nirvana. You're probably thinking of Nirvana, Ma.

Ma: Not Nirvana. After Nirvana.

Me: Pearl Jam?

Ma: No, no. This is a newer band. All women. And they're named after a street, a street in Olympia, I think.

Me: Named after a ... Wait, Sleater-Kinney?!

Ma: That's it, Sleater-Kinney. I couldn't remember their name.

[pause]

Ma: Hello? Are you still there?

Me: Yeah, yeah, I'm here. I'm just kind of, you know -- I'm all choked up with pride right now.

October 24, 2003

Art: A Fact

I don't think I would ever do art for art's sake. Well, maybe for a martial art, if it wanted me too -- but only out of fear. I wouldn't want to piss off kung fu.

October 23, 2003

$87 Billion In Iraqi Funds Lost

In a press conference this morning, White House Spokesman Scott McClellan acknowledged that $87 billion in US funds were misplaced sometime yesterday afternoon. The cash -- which, citing "security reasons," President Bush insisted on carrying on his person during his eight-day overseas trip -- had recently been earmarked by Congress for Iraqi operations and reconstruction. McClellan would not outline the exact circumstances of the loss, except to say that the President and his entourage had discovered the money missing after attending an impromptu "photo op" while touring the Australian outback.

In other financial news, the White House has announced a $1 million reward for any information leading to the capture of a kangaroo last seen approximately 30 miles southwest of Sydney. Officials describe the marsupial as clad in a "Air Force One" bomber jacket, wearing sunglasses, and prone to breaking out into "Rapper's Delight."

[ link | News]



The Seattle Three-Day Forecast

Chance of continued, heavy showers: 70%

Chance of continued, tedious, "most rain in 50 years" chit-chat with coworkers and acquaintances: 100%

October 22, 2003

Band of yeti

Email.

From: B.
To: Matthew Baldwin
Subject: Defective Yeti band

Hey Matthew My name is B. Well me and my friends started a band recently and we were looking for a name for it. We were at a site andclicked on a link and it took us to your page and we saw defective yeti printed and we thought that was really cool and we really wanted to call our band that..I wasn't sure if that was ok or legal and I was wondering if that works or if we need to find another name...(right now we arent more then a garage/basement band) but we are still unsure. If you could write back that would be good. Thanks and nice website name.

B.

* * * * * * * * * *

From: Matthew Baldwin
To: B.
Subject: Re: Defective Yeti band

Hello B. "defective yeti" was originally intended to be my band name, but after a few years of carrying it around in my head I suddenly realized that I had no band. Then I used it for my website instead, the end.

Still, it would be a shame for it not to be used by some band somewhere. So knock yourself out. HOWEVER! There are three conditions:

  1. I can reprint your letter on my site;
  2. If you band ever does a show in Seattle (and is still using the name), you will comp me in to a show;
  3. If your band ever becomes crazy-successful (and is still using the name), you will invite me to the orgiastic celebration that will inevitably follow the announcement that one of your records has gone gold.
Best o' luck. I hope the name treats you as well as it has treated me.

Sincerely,
Matthew Baldwin

P.s. I'm saving this email. If you try and welch on any of the above conditions I'm going to totally Judge Judy your ass.

[ link | dy]


October 21, 2003

Footnote

Two weeks ago the morning bus was overcrowded, so I found myself standing in the aisle. The guy in the seat next to me kept looking at my feet and then glancing at my face. I resolutely pretended not to notice him, assuming that he was just irked that I was standing so close. I was all, like, "Yo: I'm the one who got stuck standing, so what the hell is your problem?! It's public transportation you selfish moron -- if you don't like it, drive your hummer to work like your asshole friends!" Of course I said all this in a silence, seething, internal-monologue kind of way.

Later, after arriving at my place of business and entering the elevator, a woman darted into the car just as the doors were closing. She jabbed the button for her floor, glanced at my feet, and shot me a quizzical look. I wasn't sure what that was all about, but as people in elevators are meant to be ignored I paid her no further mind.

The elevator stopped at the second floor and another woman boarded. She took one glance at my feet and said "Can I ask you something?"

"Suuuuure ...." I replied warily.

"Why are you wearing two different shoes?"

I knew the reason even before looking. That morning I had put on my "mowing shoes" (i.e., the old pair that I don't care about) before sneaking into the neighbor's yard to plant fake election signs. Upon reentering the house I had kicked them off so as to not track mud on the carpet, and they had come to rest right next to my "work shoes" (i.e., the only pair I own respectable enough to be worn to the office). Then, running late, having squandered much of my morning on practical jokery, I scurried around the house grabbing my things, hastily "put on my shoes" in the entryway, and sprinted out the door.

The thing is, I don't really "put on my shoes" -- a busy guy like me doesn't have time for formalities like "bending over" and "tying laces." What I typically do is cram my feet into the already-tied shoes, do a few ankle-twists, and complete the donning process with a couple of hearty stomps as I walk away. It never occurred to me that, in a harried and pre-caffinated state, this method might result in my sticking a left foot into one shoe and another foot into a similar-looking but different right shoe.

[When telling this story to friends, The Queen interupts at this point and helpfully interjects: "Actually, the two shoes aren't similar in the least. One is practically a boot." Thanks, hon.]

And sure enough: As I stood in the elevator and looked down, I discovered myself clad in one "mowing shoe" and one "work shoe."

But then, something inexplicable happened. Speaking immediately, and looking the woman right in the eye, I said, "Oh -- heh heh, yeah. See, I'm wearing these because the other set is in my office."

The other set is in my -- what the hell does that mean?! More importantly, where did it come from? I haven't the foggiest notion. But it must have sounded convincing., because the woman looked chagrined and quickly replied "Oh ... right," followed by a little "duh -- I should have figured that out" laugh.

A few seconds later we arrived at my floor, and I exited as quickly as my heteroshod feet could take me.

October 20, 2003

When Husbands Attack

Driving to the store.

Me: Here's the list. Do we need anything else?

The Queen: We need more vegetables. I need to start putting more vegetables in my lunch.

M: Okay.

Q: I always eat my lunch last.

M: You always ...? Last after what?

Q: After everything else.

M: What else do you eat during the day?

Q: My sandwich, my yogurt, my fruit -- the rest of my lunch. [Exasperated] Why don't you listen to me?!

M: I did listen to you. You said "I eat my lunch last" and I had no idea what you meant.

Q: Didn't I say "I eat the vegetables in my lunch last?"

M: No.

Q: Oh.

[Pause]

Q: Why are you attacking me?!

Three months of pregnancy to go, folks.


Movies: Kill Bill Vol. 1

When Pulp Fiction came out in 1994 it was Required Viewing for my circle of acquaintances. It was also presupposed that you would love it, what with Quentin Tarantino reigning as the Hip New Director in the wake of Reservoir Dogs. But you certainly wouldn't have any queasiness or misgivings about the carnage in the film. After all, we were Generation X, too cynical to view gratuitous violence as anything but ironic, and too apathetic to feel a visceral reaction to anything, least of all the sight of some guy having his head blown off in the backseat of a car.

Today, however, I find myself older, married-er, a father-to-be, and largely uninterested in movies that showcase violence for violence sake. Intellectually I find such enterprises to be morally troublesome. In practice, I just find them to be dull. Seriously, how many times can you see one guy shoot another guy before the whole thing becomes so routine that you don't even notice it any more, like a grocery store checker asking if you "found everything okay?" Movies with a good mix of plot and action (The Matrix) still float my boat, but films which do little more than string together one "exciting" fight scene after another (The Matrix: Reloaded) do nothing for me these days.

So I had no real desire to catch Kill Bill, Vol. 1. At least, not until I read this review in the San Francisco Chronicle which called the film "a 90-minute orgy of endless sword fights, multiple severed limbs and gushing blood" and concluded with "let's just call it pornography, and let's just admit it's indefensible." The rational part of my brain agreed with most of what the reviewer was saying, but I was curious to discover what kind of emotional reaction I would have to yet another exercise in the exaltation of violence. I decided to see Kill Bill and find out how far removed I'd become from the 23 year-old who revered Pulp Fiction a decade ago.

The answer appears to be "not very." And my emotional reaction to Kill Bill was something along the lines of "Holy shit -- that was awesome!!"

At various points during the film I tried my darndest to become incensed by the completely unnecessary and wildly excessive gore, but my efforts were consistently undermined by the sad fact that I was thoroughly enjoying myself. [This is the part of the review where I would recap the plot, but as Kill Bill has no plot we'll just skip this section.]

The film is homage to the samurai films that Tarantino grew up with. That's what all the real movie reviewers say, at any rate. As I am not much of kung-fu film buff, pretty much every reference went over my head. But even so, while watching Kill Bill I felt like I did when I saw my very first Jackie Chan film, or when a friend talked me into going to see Akira and I entered the theater having no idea what to expect. Honestly, Kill Bill took me even farther back: it reminded me of riding my bike to the comic book store after a hard day of Junior High and spending the rest of the evening gorging myself on Wolverine and Punisher. Kill Bill may be intended as a tribute to chop-saki flicks, but it feels like watching the most violent (and enjoyable!) Saturday morning cartoons imaginable.

So there you go: I loved it and I'm ashamed. But not too ashamed to admit that I'm counting the weeks until Kill Bill Vol. 2.

Three final notes:

  • Pay special attention to that "Vol. 1". This is only half a movie, and not a self-contained half, either. At minute 111 the film simply comes to a halt, making no effort to tie up loose ends (and, in fact, introducing some brand new loose ends even as it draws to a close). As the final credits rolled I heard more than one person in the theater exclaim "What tha --?!", clearly unaware that they had only purchased a ticket to a single installment in a two-part series.
  • This film should not be rated R -- this is what the NC-17 rating was designed for, folks. So don't let your 14 year-old nephew sucker you into taking him to see it.
  • After I saw it, I read this in a review: "Don't leave until the final credits finish rolling or you'll miss what many are considering Kill Bill: Vol. 1s best bit." Sadly, I know not of what they speak. Oh well. I guess I'll have to see it again. Update: In the comments, Cambo says there is nothing after the credits -- the scene that was at the end during the pre-screening version was moved into the body of the film for the final release. Now I guess I'll have to see it again to, um, verify his claim.

October 17, 2003

Stocks Fall On Disappointing Forecasts -- The Movie!

Via Monkey Disaster:

Studio plans 'Fan Interference' movie

A Chicago Cubs fan reaching for a foul ball, an action blamed by some for keeping the team out of the World Series, has already inspired plans for a movie, according to a published report. Trade publication Daily Variety reports that Revolution Studios has accepted a pitch for a movie tentatively titled "Fan Interference" ...

Okay, stop. Stop right there.

Revolution Studios accepted a "pitch" for this movie? Let's ignore the pun for the moment (actually, let's ignore it forever) and concentrate on the fact that the studio required another human being to "pitch" this idea. How do you wind up running a movie studio if it never occurs to you that interesting things that happen in real life might also be interesting when they happen in a film?

And how did this "pitch" go, exactly? I can only imagine. "You'd better notify your next of kin, because this idea is going to Blow. You. Away. Are you ready? Are you sitting down? Okay, here it is. You know that thing they are showing incessantly on tv for free? Well you should show it ... in theaters!"

How much do you get paid for a service like this? If it's more than a dollar then, Revolution Studios, come to papa yeti next time the ol' movie idea well goes dry. Check out these great concepts I just-this-moment came up with:

  • A movie where, defying Bush, the senate votes to make Iraq pay back loan
  • A movie where F.D.A. approves new Alzheimer's drug
  • A movie where Bolivia's poor proclaim abiding distrust of Globalization
  • A movie where 4 American soldiers killed in 2 new attacks in Iraq
  • A movie where breast-feeding seen not to curb childhood obesity
  • A movie where Bush and Japan's Premier fail to agree on issue of the dollar
  • A movie where, after 21 hours, Chinese spacecraft lands safely
  • A movie where Lee Bailey, expert on cooking and entertaining, dies at 76
  • A movie where Jack Black gives the performance of his career in 'School of Rock'
  • A movie where occcasional showers expected throughout weekend
I've got a million of 'em. Seriously.

October 16, 2003

Hibernation

Whoa! Everyone is probably wondering where the hell I went. Well, maybe not "everyone," but I know my boss and wife were.

I probably should have warned you in advance -- this happens every year. You see, I was a student at The Evergreen State College, known affectionately by the student body as "TESC" and by local citizens as "that goddamned pack of bleeding-hearted hippie lunkheads." TESC has many hallowed traditions -- the spelling of "woman" with a "y", offhandedly referring to cops as "The Man" because they once asked you not to urinate on the post office, the widespread belief that the world would markedly improve if everyone dropped acid at the same time -- but none so cherished as "The Autumnal Orgy of Self-Righteousness," a festival which begins on the second Monday of October and reaches it's apogee on the fourth Thursday of November.

Actually, is starts a few days early, as students create banners and signs in preparation for Columbus Day -- or, as it is popularly known at Evergreen, "WHY DON'T WE CELEBRATE HITLER TOO WHILE WE'RE AT IT??!! Day". When the date arrives, student gather to march in protest, picket calendar stores, and speak passionately about the plight of the Native American which they know first-hand because they once rented that movie by Sherman Alexie. They also write letters to the editor of The Olympia demanding that the name of the holiday be changed to "Legalize Hemp"

Then, about a week later after everything has settled down and the people who got arrested for assaulting pedestrians with giant puppets have been released from jail, everyone eats one last "Pizza Hut Meat Lover's Thin Crust Special" and then announces to all their friends that they are vegan now, and, in fact, always have been. ("But I saw you eating a Reuben sandwich last week!" "No no, that was a ToFuben™") This allows them to not only join in the campus-wide, month-long denunciation of carnivory that precedes Thanksgiving, but also to wear t-shirts that say things like "Give Thanks That You Are Not A Turkey" and "I Am So Hardcore Vegan I Won't Even Watch Animals On TV" or whatever. The net result is that everyone spends Thanksgiving either (a) consuming an entree sculpted from soy, or (b) consumed with guilt as they gnaw on their murder. I mean "meat." Same thing.

So I got in the habit of withdrawing to my bunker on the second Monday of October and pretty much just hanging out in there until the end of November. (Luckily, at Evergreen you could miss 6-8 weeks of classes before anyone noticed or cared that you were gone.) Unfortunately, I can't seem to break myself of the habit. Last Sunday, for example, I unthinkingly went to my Fortress of Solitude and hunkered down, watching Fox News for three days straight. I was only jolted out of my reverie by the realization that I was running low on pork-flavored Mountain Dew.

And that's the completely true reason why I haven't been posting. Well, you know. True enough.

October 10, 2003

Home Improvement For Fun And Prophet

I tend to be skeptical of the paranormal, but I can no longer deny that The Queen is psychic.

Often, over the course of the week, She'll notice something that needs to be done around the house -- a leaky pipe that requires repairs, or a portion of the garage overdue for cleaning -- and say to me "Well, I guess you know what you'll be doing this weekend." And I'll be damned if she isn't right every single time: at that moment I do know exactly what I will be doing on the following weekend.

It's downright eerie.


The Bad Review Revue

Anything Else: "Wretched, condescending, and sad, like watching an elderly man spend more than 100 minutes tapping his arm for a youth vein he never finds." -- Wesley Morris, BOSTON GLOBE

Jeeper Creeps: "It's not often a movie makes you yearn for the energy and half-baked artistry of Freddy vs. Jason, but there you have it." -- Paul West, SEATTLE P-I

Good Boy!: "Except for an endless drum roll of fart jokes, what we get is stuffy liberal humanism that would bore the Oshkoshes off Al Gore's littlest nieces and nephews." -- Stephen Cole, THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Underworld: "Not since Battlefield Earth pitted overacting, nine-foot-tall Psychlos against puny man-animals has there been an interspecies match-up this perversely uninteresting." -- Nathan Rabin, THE ONION

Cold Creek Manor: "About as thrilling as cleaning out your garage." -- Marc Savlov, AUSTIN CHRONICLE

October 09, 2003

The Political Circus

From an Fox News interview with George W. Bush, September 22:

Q: How do you get your news?

A: I glance at the headlines just to kind of a flavor for what's moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who are probably read the news themselves ... I have people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world.

October 08, 2003

Disintegration

Why I am bummed.

  1. Yesterday I heard the song "Pictures Of You" used in a commerical for digital cameras.
  2. Today I saw this.
It's enough to make boys cry.

Update: Also!

  1. I can only savor my Internet crush on Mighty Girl -- whose blog served as an inspiration for my own -- for two more days. As of Saturday she is a married woman.

[ link | Misc]


October 07, 2003

H.C.I.

There was yet another riot on The UW's Greek Row last week:

All available Seattle police, the State Patrol, a sheriff's helicopter and campus police were needed to quell an alcohol-fueled disturbance early yesterday morning in the fraternity district north of the University of Washington A mattress was set afire in a street, a vehicle was turned over, and other cars, including three police cars, were damaged. Police estimated total property damage at $6,000. Witnesses and people who called police estimated 300 to 500 people were involved. [Seattle P-I]
Apparently the whole thing started as a block party and then raged out of control.

It's funny how that happens -- parties are held every night of the week without incident, but occationally one hits the flashpoint. In fact, these riots share a lot in common with forest fires, which also seemingly spring from nowhere and catch everybody off guard.

The problem in each case in an overabunance of fuel. That's why I'm a big supporter of The Healthy Colleges Initiative, which reduces the risk of college-based riots through selectively thinning of student bodies. Crack teams of "harvesters" sweep through campus every few months and cull those students that pose the greatest danger. Specifically:

  • Deadwood (students coasting by on C minuses, liberal arts majors, etc.)
  • Old growth (students who have been matriculated for 6 years or more)
  • Shallow-rooted seedlings (First-year students who are just going to drop out after a year of incessant alcohol- and drug-use anyway)
  • Monocultures (students who strive to look like whatever the prevailing fashion is at the moment)
  • Epiphytes (students who are unable to support themselves, and only going to college because their parents are paying for it)
I also think they should air PSAs starring Everclear the Binge-Drinking Bear. "Only You ... Can Stop Knuckledheaded University Riots, Bro"


White House Crush On Farres Leaked

The White House thinks Megan Farres "is a hottie" and may ask the Fairheights Junior High student to an upcoming Hallowing party, according to report in Tuesday's Washington Post. The Post received the information from a "high ranking administration official" who declined to provide his name, saying, "the White House would spaz if it knew I was telling you."

According to the informant, the completely confidental information was conveyed to eight or nine officials, and each was made to swear that he would not divulge the secret to anyone. "Especially not to Megan," the White House allegedly emphasized. "I don't want Megan to find out that I really, really like her."

Asked about the report at the daily press briefing, White House spokesman Scott McClellan flatly denied the charges. "It's not a crush!" McClellan exclaimed, adding, "When I find out who blabbed I'm totally going to kill them!"

After the briefing, The White House approached reporters and asked if Farres had seemed interested in the Halloween party.

[ link | News]


October 06, 2003

Put A Snake In Office

With the local elections a few days away, my neighborhood is covered in election signs.

Saturday, the 11-year old girl who lives across the street decided to join in the fun. She and a friend created "Re-Elect Harry Potter" and "Elect Hermione Granger" signs, which they placed next to the road on our street.

Of course, as soon as I saw the signs I knew what I had to do. Last night, I stuck over there and added my own sign.

Update: We had a downpour Monday night, which, curiously, destroyed my sign while leaving the Harry and Hermione signs unharmed. Curse that meddling Dumbledore! Potter:1, Malfoy:0.

I was bummed my sign didn't make it to the election, so I decided to make another. The Draco placard had been up for two days and everyone driving down the street had seen it, so I figured that joke was over. Thus:

October 03, 2003

California ... In Crisis!

I contributed to this.

October 02, 2003

Fuego! Fuego!

I have an essay over at The Morning News today.

October 01, 2003

Endorsement
Not a real t-shirt. I'd make it myself, except I'm not especially eager to get taken to court by Google. Those guys can find out everything about you!