Archive for June, 2007

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Great Covers

June 30, 2007

Saw this cover over on The Book Design Review, which is a terrific little blog, then kept going back to look at it again. It is simple brilliance. It makes sense immediately, to the point that it seems obvious, but couldn’t have been easy to conceptualize. This is the kind of design that makes me jealous and eager to get to work myself.

Music: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, “Gimme Some Salt”

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South Beach, Self-Image, Die Hard

June 29, 2007

(Nine days since my last post? There goes my five-times-a-week plan. I haven’t been home before 10pm a single day this week, though, so at least I’ve been generating some material for posting.)

So I’m on the South Beach Diet. Three of us in the Game Studio started it on Monday, and another started it a couple of weeks ago and is blazing the trail ahead of us. Our wives and SO’s are doing it, too. We’re in Phase I, wherein we eat only low-sugar vegetables (fuck you, carrots, I guess) and lean meats (fuck you, uh, bread of all kinds?) for two weeks. Breakfast consists of scrambled eggs and turkey bacon, whereas it used to consist of a bagel with cream cheese or a scone or, more often, nothing at all. Lunch and dinner are made up of things like salad greens and chicken breast. It’s all very reasonable. Black-bean chilli is going to make up a big part of my weekend, I tell you what.

Since Monday, Brian has lost something like six pounds. It’s been in the neighborhood of 94 degrees outside, though, so half of that may be to sweat, what do I know? Unfortunately, I haven’t been to the gym all week, and that’s where we keep our scale, so I don’t know what I weighed at the beginning (I’m going to guess… 260 lbs.) or what I weigh now (I’m going to guess… 259 lbs.).

Without the instant positive reinforcement that comes with immediate results, I have only one thing to fall back on to make this work: self-loathing. Denying myself stuff is a kind of flagellant rush I can appreciate. “Good for you,” I say, “you didn’t eat that bagel.”

This is a mutation of the thing I was doing before (and that has worked as a weight-loss thing when I lived in cities where walking was something people actually did), which is based on the idea that Everything I Don’t Eat is a Little Victory. So, leave that part of the burger on the plate, eat half a piece of pie, skip dessert (or lunch) and it’s good. Dial that up to ten, and it’s the philosophy that I mine when I’m presented with the image of a toasted sub. Made with bread. Blackened-at-the-edges, dressed-with-peppercorn-ranch bread. Sweet, life-giving bread. O, bread.

Then, yesterday, standing around a theater lobby with thirty minutes to kill before Live Free or Die Hard1 starts (and the irony pressing down on my stomach like a party platter of toasted subs), I smell popcorn. Salted, warm, buttery popcorn. Sweet, life-giving popcorn. O, popcorn.

And I start thinking to myself: Would I rather be in shape, or would I rather make peace with the way I look? Should I chase after an image of myself on an engine fueled by self-disgust, or should I accept that I cannot escape the fat slob on my tail?

I look at the candy, bright in its case, displayed behind glass like a colorful Chinese vase. “See this candy?” it says. “It is special. It is art.”

Do I beat myself into lean, healthy submission, and live enslaved to the service of a looming idea, like the slave toiling until death on the scaffolds of the pyramids? Or do I live through my senses, free to explore a world of tastes and smells, but die over and again from a long series of clogged arteries and rotten teeth, free to live but too fat to get out of the house?

I look at the little metal dish of collected butter topping that has dripped from the self-serve spigot. Self-serve — have all the butter you want.

Do I live free to dress as I like and run around like an action hero, or do I die, hard gunk filling my veins and stopping my heart?

I realize that this is a bullshit question. I can eat enough to enjoy myself, but little enough to be happier, once I get myself down to a weight that’s not ridiculous. I can be active enough to eat without shame, and I can be fit enough to be happy without feeling like a prisoner.

I tell myself, “You can have it both ways. And you love having stuff both ways, don’t you?”

“That’s true,” I tell myself.

“Just wait. Beat yourself with this whip. You’ll feel better,” I say to myself, popping a two-calorie, sugar-free mint in my mouth.

And I do feel better. I skip the popcorn. But when the cute teenage couple walks by with two bags of popcorn, I say to myself, “Fuck you, me.”


1: I’ll review it shortly, but I liked it more than I’d expected and less than I’d hoped.

Music: Digitalism, Jupiter Room (Planetary Lobby Version)

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A Dead Rat on the Doorstep

June 19, 2007

It’s weird to me, that animals have gift-giving instincts of their own. What is it that makes a cat want to give back to the gibbering monkeys that feed it? Most days, I put food in a dish for Socks, the outdoor cat that came with our house. She shows up when we park the car, is very talkative, and follows us around until we feed her. She can be very sweet, though she’s also deadly.

One day, I open the front door and there, centered on the doormat, is the punctured gray corpse of a rat laying on its side. The cat is nowhere to be seen. She didn’t put it near her dish, or leave it in the bushes like she does with her birds, and she didn’t hide it in her bed. She left it for us to find, like an offering of oranges at a Buddhist temple, or a birthday gift left on a coworker’s desk.

What compels her to do that? What does she expect we’ll do with it? If some dude left a dead rat on my doorstep, I wouldn’t take it nearly so well. It wouldn’t be sweet. But the cat dumps a body on my stoop and I think it’s cute. Life’s weird.

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Never Had Wings

June 17, 2007

Redbull owes me wings. I’ve had a bunch of this stuff over the years, with and without vodka, and it never seems to do anything. I’ve tried drinking it as part of all-nighters, in the middle of the day for an afterburner-style boost, in the morning as a kick-in-the-pants jump-start, and none of it’s ever done anything special. Am I missing something? How would I know it’s working? Am I immune to taurine?

It’s like I’m just drinking a tall glass of Flintstones vitamins.

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Remembering Nina’s

June 12, 2007

By following a link through the blog of the inestimable Jeff Tidball, I cam upon a review of Nina’s coffee shop at Cafeapolis, a site touring the Twin Cities’ coffeehouses. I’m happy to say that I visited most of those shops when I was living there, but I happened to live one block from Nina’s (I could see it from my apartment) and spent quite a bit of time there… even though I didn’t find that comfortable a place to work. Always a nice staff, though.

Looking at the current photos, though, I see they’ve put in nice chairs and a sofa and all that. Likewise, Garrison Keillor (that’s quite a long tie, Garrison) has put a little bookstore into the basement shop directly below Nina’s, linked by a little hundred-year-old staircase. When I was there, it was an overpriced but nice art supply store. Having a book store a block from the house would’ve been dangerous (but also would’ve been an example of exactly why I love living in cities), so I’m relieved and jealous.

I once stood behind Garrison Keillor in line at Nina’s. He lives in the neighborhood. If he wasn’t easy enough to recognize by his hair, his jaw would’ve given him away. I like The Writer’s Almanac quite a bit, and have enjoyed some of his other writing, but absolutely cannot stand A Prarie Home Companion. So I was conflicted there, standing next to him, but just for a moment. Then I got over it and went on with my day.

Anyway, if you happen to still be in the Twin Cities, visit Nina’s.

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How I Spent My Elementary Education

June 8, 2007

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Roy Batty Has A Posse

June 7, 2007

Yes, yes, Internet, you can has meme. I get it.

Normally this lol stuff doesn’t do much for me. I appreciate how it’s like jazz, with the variations on a theme and the freeform riffing, but usually it’s also formulaic pap. This is the kind of geek humor that makes me embarrassed at conventions: the stuff that just supplies blanks for the user to fill, like Mad Libs for people who wish they were Chandler Bing.[1] This stuff is in the book right after the chapter titled, “How Quoting The Simpsons is the Same as Being A Funny Person Yourself.”

Despite all that, even Language Log is paying semi-serious attention to this stuff.[2] Certainly this lol stuff (see also, Flickr’s philolsopher group) is an interesting display of some kind of pop vernacular sensibility, even when it fails as comedy. It’s like a pop pidgin dialect developing on fast forward. But, and this is important, simply fulfilling the requirements of the grammar still doesn’t result in a successful sentence. Just because you can “can has” whatever doesn’t mean it’s funny.

Formulaic funny doesn’t work.[3] You need a knack for it. When it’s funny, it’s funny, and no matter how stupid I think the gimmick is, I’m still going to laugh. As much as I want to seem above this nonsense, I just cannot stop laughing at some of this stuff,[4] because I’m still such a geek that all my base does belong to whatever.

Lolbatty

Music: The Servant, “Cells”

1. That entry on Chandler is so you, Wikipedia.

2. Did you know Geoffrey Chaucer hath a blog?

3. Though monkeys is always funny, and robots are a good bet.

4. Thanks to Chuck for the link.