Friday, October 30, 2009

CI #34 -- Halloween Costumes

Halloween is either my favorite non-presents-giving holiday or my most hated. I can't decide. It all depends on my costume -- or a frustrating lack thereof.

I hate running around at the 11th hour trying to pull something together. Yet, some of my most favorite costumes have come from a last-minute shopping frenzy.

The worst thing you can do is half-dress up. If you're not doing the whole costume scene, I respect that. But if you're going to attend a costumed party or event, you must make an effort. Now, an effort doesn't mean wearing your normal clothes plus a name tag and one wacky accessory. At that point, you're really just an Adam Sandler bit.

In my mind, there's only one rule for Halloween costumes. What is your one rule for Halloween costumes, Greg?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ci #33 -- Record Fairs

My friend Brock and I attended the WFMU Record Fair this weekend, and it was a lot of fun. How do you know you're at a good record fair? Just look for Rolling Stone Editor David Fricke shopping there and Yo La Tengo member Ira Kaplan working there.

But calm yourself. That wasn't the exciting part!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

CI #32 -- Organic Eggs

I normally don't buy organic foods, mostly due to the sheer expense of them (also, because if your organic food product X comes all the way from California via fossil fuels, is the net result really a gain?).

I'd love to imagine a day where all foods are organic (whatever that means, since the FDA/USDA doesn't really have a meaningful and consistent definition of it). And water would come right out of the ground, and we could drink it too!

I know. I'm a hapless romantic.

This week, however, I did happen to pick up some certified organic eggs. As most Americans are, I'm cynical about labels (How do I know my $5 Chinatown shades really block UVs?). But this is no laughing matter.

So how can you be sure that your healthy, environmentally-friendly organic food is actually healthy and environmentally-friendly?

Why just check the machine-stamped, ink label right there on your eggs, of course.

(not Photoshopped, by me or a 1980s robot. I promise.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

CI #31 -- 10-year High School Reunion

After much deliberating, equivocating, hemming (but not so much hawing, oddly), and Facebooking, Katie and I decided to attend our high school reunions, which happened to be the same night this past weekend, at the same time, 40 minutes apart.

It was hectic, but a lot of fun. I drank more than I should have, went to Waffle House at 2 a.m., found myself worried about being left out of group activities. In other words, it was just like high school.

(My high school, boasting as many windows as most federal prisons!)

Most everyone seemed to be doing pretty well and looked pretty much the same. The people who have really let themselves go don't show up. ("Hey, look at this sweet gut I picked up over the past decade!")

Suffice it to say I'm small-talked out. If I see you this week, please be prepared to carry the conversation. As always, the inevitable lead question at the reunion was "What have you been up to?"

Here's how many exchanges went. [Ed. note: Some words were actually spoken. Some were spoken in my head.]

ME: Oh, you have three kids under the age of 6, work in a cubicle selling insurance, and live in a subdivision sandwiched between strip malls? ... That must suck.

NOT ME: Oh, you're not married, currently unemployed, and live in an apartment with no windows in the living room? ... That must suck.

To each his own. I'm fine with mine.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

CI #30 -- New Penny

I'm going to go out on a limb here and call Abraham Lincoln a classy guy.

Not classy in the Kennedy Camelot mold, but the kind of guy who'd give you the shirt off his back so you could be classy (It's hard to be classy when you're shirtless). Then he'd just be shirtless. He'd do that for you.

The Lincoln Memorial has always been my favorite of the presidential memorials, and by extension I've been a fan of the Lincoln Cent. So I was a little taken aback when I found Classy, Distinguished Lincoln to be replaced with Cartoon Lincoln on the reverse of the brand new penny I got yesterday.

It was just one of a four-part series, this one being pt. 3, Lincoln's "Professional Life in Illinois." For this reverse side, the designers chose not to showcase the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Lincoln's classic stoicism, or his razor-sharp logic. Instead, they opted for depicting Lincoln after he'd moved to Illinois, gotten elected to the general assembly, and proven his ability to serve as a JC Penny catalog model.

(Lincoln outside the Illinois capitol building)

He really was ahead of his time.

Here's my curious question: Really? You take one of the most pivotal and influential presidents in history, and this is how you show he's important?

What is this posture or pose supposed to be saying? "Come to Illinois! We have a fancy building!" "Vote for me! I can point to things!" "'Ello, guvnah! Shine your shoes for a tuppence?!"

I know that public interest in philately is an all-time low [not fact-checked], but surely they could have done better. I also know that all the truly great coin designers died during a tragic fire in the Willard Hotel's sauna [also not fact-checked]. Yet still, I know that for better or worse, tastes and design preferences change over time -- and in this case for the stupid.

I'm off pennies.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

CI #29 -- Foamhenge

Yep, you guessed it. It's a full-sized replica of Stonehenge made entirely out of styrofoam. Foamhenge remains the only Stonehenge replica in the U.S. with that size distinction -- so the fact that it's made out of foam is really just gravy. Everybody wins.

Located in Natural Bridge, Virginia, Foamhenge is the perfect place to visit after realizing what a ripoff THE Natural Bridge is. "Eighteen bucks to see a rock formation?! It's not like you built the damn thing. Virginia is for assholes."

Foamhenge, on the other hand, is free. (It's not really a tourist trap if it doesn't cost money, right?). You seriously should stop here. It was the highlight of a recent trip from D.C. to Roanoke. The place is funny and odd and mindboggling and pointless and funny again.

I have to admit that while I was walking the grounds, I did find myself thinking "How was this made?" and then I realized "Oh yeah, we know. In a shop by "4-5 Mexicans [fact-checking needed] and one crazy white man. It says it right there."

"Do we need a full-size replica of Stonehenge made out of foam?" No, of course not. I don't know that we needed, per se, the original. We "need" it like I "need" a pen that also dispenses guacamole -- I can get by without it, but I don't want to. And (full-size replica?) Merlin certainly doesn't want to either.

Monday, October 12, 2009

CI #27 -- My Appointment With Death

I found this pamphlet on the windshield of a car down the street from me. Presumably, its goal was to get me to consider the end of my days, and I did. But what I didn't realize was how hilarious this pamphlet would be.

If you do indeed believe you have an appointment with death, is it possible to have a sense of humor about said appointment with death?" The answer is a resounding and apparent yes, at least with respect to the clever prose of Harold S. Martin. Consider the following:

- [Ed. note: Ever hear the one about] the man who said to his wife, 'Begorra, I wish I knew where I was going to die. If I knew that, I'd never go there."

Woody Allen, I know you're Jewish, but eat your heart out. On second thought, that's all the more reason to eat your heart out.

CI #26 -- Coincidence (?)

On Friday I watched Patton Oswalt's 2004 special "No Reason To Complain" for the first time. Way to be up to date on your supposed line of work, Greg. As expected, it was hilarious.

[Side Bar: Patton was part of what I call my "most New York moment." In 2005, my friend Brock and I were at "Invite Them Up" at Rififi, where Patton Oswalt and Todd Barry did sets and, "Wait, is that? ... Yep." Yo La Tenga just showed up and played a three-song set. It was awesome.]

Back to the special. He was doing a bit about the fact that if you were in 80s metal bands -- especially their videos -- you were basically gay (makeup, tight leather pants, etc.), and you apparently shoot your videos in factories that "produce only sparks."

Right as Patton landed on the word "gay" in the punchline, they cut to a guy in the audience laughing. Wait, wait. Is that Anthrax's Scott Ian?

My favorite thing you ever did will always be a cover of a Public Enemy song, but this is a close second.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

C.I. #25 -- Pyrrhic Victory

Do you keep finding yourself among friends who frequently use the term "pyrrhic victory"? If so, you should get new friends.

Nevertheless, you might find yourself asking "What's a modern day example of a Phyrric Victory?"

(Un)Fortunately, a poll provided us with one today.

According to the article, "opposition to Obama's health care remake dropped dramatically in just a matter of weeks" (to a 40-40 split).

You know times are tough when just getting people to hate something less is a win.

Monday, October 5, 2009

CI #24 -- America's Crumbling Infrastructure

On a handful of occasions, I've encountered the same ideas (dare I say themes) in some far-flung and unexpected places. I'd call it Fate, but I doubt Fate has the time or inclination to insert bull fighting into my life three times within one month (September 2006: Almodovar's "Talk to Her," The Sun Also Rises, and some short story not easily recalled from The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005.)

That happened again last week, this time with coal ash, which apparently is pretty much the worst substance ever. My first encounter with coal ash was on a 60 Minutes follow-up about the 2008 incident that spilled toxic coal ash all over Kingston, TN.

The second came when I watched the History Channel special "The Crumbling of America," aka "The least sexy two-hour programming block ever to be broadcast." You laugh now, but what about when the decades-old water main beneath your very feet starts to crack, causing runoff to mix with waste from a hog lagoon, in turn allowing harmful bacteria to leak into the water supply, KILLING ONE THOUSAND BUNNIES IN THE PROCESS!!!

That might as well have been the tone of the show -- sensible and scary as hell on its own, but way over the top in execution. Long story short, we're screwed but not necessarily immediately. Our bridges, canals, levees, damns, overpasses -- you get the idea -- are way out of date and, guess what, funding for maintenance for these projects is disappearing faster than the public option.

The problem is, infrastructure isn't sexy. Most people don't care to think about it, and fair enough. But I'm wondering (cq) Is there a way to make infrastructure sexy?

No, regardless of what Fergie says.

Coincidentally, Happy 100th birthday to the Manhattan Bridge.