Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Steve is not happy

I had a dream a few nights ago that whenever anyone gets a Blue Screen of Death, technicians at Microsoft always scramble to read what it says so they can help fix the problem, but they are never able to finish reading it before the user shuts the computer down in frustration, so with the new version of Vista, they embedded an mp3 of “Faithfully” by Journey into the BSOD image, so that should it come up, users will wait until the song is over, out of respect for the heartfelt way in which Steve Perry is singing about life on the road, and this way the tech team can read the BSOD and figure out what the problem is.

To be clear: I have not had a BSOD in about four years, and I don’t think I’ve heard “Faithfully” in about that long either, but if this actually is a problem, I think this could work?


And if this is not a problem that needs fixing, then Kacey O’Kelley, thank you for couple skating to this song with me in 1984.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My Kids Inadvertently Reenact John 6:19

It's almost May, and they still have to wear fleece and sweaters.
Hey, King of Kings, little help with the weather down here?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


In fourth period (Art Appreciation), Mr. Dunfry casually mentions that an X-ray of a 16th century Italian painting of Jesus revealed a man dressed in Renaissance clothing painted underneath. This gets our attention; we ask, “Does that mean that Jesus was, at heart, un uomo universale?” Dunfry says, “I don’t speak Spanish.”

“Have other paintings been X-rayed?” we ask. Dunfry shrugs and says, sure, some have; it wasn’t all that uncommon for painters to paint over old canvases, and now restorers sometimes notice that blah blah blah. Is it any wonder we don’t pay attention to him? So we interrupt: “Why has no one told us this before?” we all cry.

Dunfry tells us another example: the Arnolfini wedding portrait that we went over last week was also X-rayed, and the scan showed the subjects’ feet were sketched in one position, painted in a second position, and then this was painted over in a third position. “Show us!” we demand. He finds it on the computer, and we are startled to see that when all three sets of feet are looped, the Arnolfinis are doing the Foxtrot. “Was Jan Van Eyck the palimpsest for Arthur Murray?” we want to know. “OK, that’s enough,” Dunfry says, alarmed by our shouting. But this is pretty much how it starts. We all become obsessed with Pentimento.

By happy accident, Andrew Hunt has gotten second place at the science fair for a working infra-red spectrometer and we commandeer this (over his protests); we head to the school’s library, find a big reference book of famous paintings and put it to work (we know: it shouldn’t work but it does; don’t question). We scan a print of Picasso’s “Old Guitarist” and find the image of a woman behind him. Is it supposed to be Melpomene? Or is it just the person that the guitarist is singing is about? Did they break up? Is this the guy who wrote “I Know It’s Over” for The Smiths? That song is SAD. (And he kind of looks like Morrissey.)

Further scans reveal:
(1) Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” originally depicted just one sunflower and a ton of baby’s breath;
(2) The guy in Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” originally had glasses, a pitchfork and was standing next to the “American Gothic” lady (who was also screaming, N.B.);
(3) the appearance of the Mona Lisa’s smile was originally a result of the shadowing as opposed to the shadowing being a result of the smile (also: no bra);
(4) “Whistler’s Mother” started off life as “Whistler’s Father” (if you get what we’re saying).

Mr. Dunfry finally tracks us down and threatens us all with Saturday detention if we don’t give the spectrometer back (you only got second place, so get over yourself, Andrew Hunt). “Please!” we tell him, “One more!” and before he can say anything we point the spectrometer at him.

The scan shows beneath that he used to not have a beard, that he grew it to conceal malocclusion; that when he was little he wanted to grow up to be Ricky Nelson (which, who?); that his heart was broken early and he never really loved again (though he is married, N.B.); that he wanted to be a painter himself but could not overcome the fear of failure; that as each new year arrives, he thinks he could still have made a go of it the previous year, but this year it really is too late; that he plans to give everyone in fourth period a B.

(Looking at him with the spectrometer, it occurs to some of us, is like the opposite of when he puts a whole stack of transparencies on the overhead and then removes them one by one until he gets to the one he wants and the chaos resolves itself into words: it is totally our favorite trick of his.)

Dunfry is quiet as we do this: each underpainting influences in some way the next layer and we are all like the onion metaphor in Peer Gynt (we are reading this in AP English), each layer of paint nudging the next layer of paint one way or another until the mammoth commune of neurotransmissions gets complex enough to be a “soul”. We are not supposed to talk about religion in school (due to the separation of Church and State) but that is what it is, right? But like we said: Dunfry is quiet. But then Dunfry looks like he is about to not be quiet; he is about to say something about what the implications of this might be, but then the bell that ends fourth period rings, and we all literally scream our heads off and run into the cafeteria.

Today is pizza day.

Monday, April 21, 2008


This will complete my collection.

¯ ¯
Tuscan Raider: Not a Jew.
But guess who is? Hall of Famer Aunt Beru. (She converted)
¯ ¯

Saturday, April 19, 2008


A few more Monster Stories from the previous Daily Monster Cycle (Stefan Bucher took a break but has started up again for the month of April). These are sort of more specific to the illustrations, so they get dumped in a big post, to make it easier to ignore them. I will even back-date them a little so you don't have to look at it. YOU'RE WELCOME. Unless you are reading this in an RSS reader, in which case it shows up as new. IF THAT'S THE CASE, I AM SORRY.

The book arrived and looks nice. We should encourage stuff like this? I think?

Monster 167 & 168
The TV show “Avengers” had its charms,
Especially those clothes of Emma Peel’s.
And, hence, One-Sixty-Eight throws back her arms
And smiles in thigh-length boots with eight-inch heels.

Her friend One-Sixty-Seven’s like an onion:
She says, “What doesn’t kill us, makes us tougher,”
And dons her cloggy shoes, despite the bunion,
The corns and hammertoes from which she suffers.

The law says, “No white shoes post-Labor Day.”
That would not seem a problem with these two,
Yet: one of them has filched the letter “A”
From Bucher’s hand, and it is not clear who.

Suspicious, then, we’ll click ‘replay’, until
We get to see more monster clips in “PRIL”.

Monster 166

His audition for "the wolf" in what MGM is currently calling "Untitled Tex Avery Project" is in a couple of hours, and Monster 166 goes over the part in the script again: (1) eyes bulge from his head (check); (2) jaw drops (check); (3) lips curl in rictal whistle (check); (4) body goes stiff with instantaneous rigor (check); and in what he hopes will distinguish him from the other actors, he adlibs a bit, contorting his body into Tex Avery's initials; and it is here that he hears a sharp click, a familiar enough sound (he has TMJ), though one not usually coming from his spine.
Not good. His mother had always told him, "If you keep making that face, it will stick like that," and now, quite possibly, this has come to pass. But his first thought is: Can I still audition? He tries a line: "Fly away with me to the Riviera / And it will be a beautiful thing / I will get you diamonds, pearls / Everything!" It comes out all wrong, and the obvious occurs to him: this is an animated cartoon, not a slide show (unless the Hays Code has its way); if the number of facial expressions Avery needs is > 1, then he's sunk.
But! Pierce Brosnan, George Clooney and Katie Holmes have all been affected by Bell's palsy, and at least two of those people are great. But also: they won't be born for another 10, 18 and 35 years, respectively. Also: they're people (Holmes might not be, actually; investigate). He will go to the audition. But he will keep his expectations low. And when it's all over and he's back in his apartment, he will call home, and when she picks up the phone, he will say to her, even if he's not sure, "Mom? I'm OK."
Qualifications: Fez
Monster 164
164 launches the ‘résumé wizard’ in Microsoft Word and starts filling in fields. He has no objectives; no education; has received no awards; speaks no languages; his hobbies are unsavory; his volunteer experiences non-existent; his references suspect. But he types in what he can, and the document is created. At the top, in Arial Black, it says “MONSTER 164”; under “Qualifications” it says “fez” (there is nowhere else to put this that makes sense), and under “Skills” he has typed “second-stage periodontitis -- receding gums meens a bigger smile??” (This is so 164: getting “periodontitis” right, only to blow it on “means”.) It’s worth a shot. He logs onto (obvious, in retrospect) and uploads it. Now there’s nothing left to do but stare at the phone and wait for it to ring.
Do not judge him too harshly, Potential Employers. He hasn’t had an overabundance of breaks in his life, and he’s a little misguided. And although he’s prone to indulge in self-pity, he tries to do the right thing a lot of the time. We’re not saying, you know, hang out with him all the time, and we’re not saying he’s not going to take *some* office supplies, and we’re not saying you’ll be able to leave something in the break room for more than a few minutes and expect him not to eat it; just: if you can think of a way to show him some generosity, he would probably appreciate it. And he has a big smile. Why not give him a call?
Seriously, Jack Kirby
Monster 163

Had Jack “The King” Kirby’s “Devil Dinosaur” comic lasted longer than nine short issues in 1978, and actually made the 120-million-year run that Kirby intended, the fanboys might have gotten to see the “Devil Bird” into which Kirby planned for “Devil Dinosaur” to evolve; as it went down, though, Marvel’s usual treatment of its employees meant Kirby’s leaving the company for a final time, and all that remains of his vision is this sketch of a small waterfowl with Kirby Dots surrounding its eyes, a souvenir of what could have been.
Special Pee Story for Jessi Guilford
Monster 162
Monster 162 checks his email and sees something from “Oh good,” he thinks, but we say “Not oh good”, because: “Hello from,” it says...
We're writing about the order you placed on December 18 2007. Unfortunately, the release date for the item(s) listed below has changed, and we need to provide you with a new delivery estimate based on the new release date:
Stefan Bucher (Author) "100 Days Of Monsters" [Hardcover]
Estimated arrival date: 03/10/2008 - 03/12/2008

We apologize for the inconvenience caused by this delay.

You know how when you need to pee, and you can’t, but then you finally do, and it feels, like, really really good to pee? Like the sense of relief is almost preternatural? We’re basically trying to make you feel that way.

Before you ask that, let us first say that sometimes we tell people that their item is in transit, and then we send a follow-up email saying it’s not. Like this guy, Joerg? We totally did that to him. Tomorrow, he’ll get an email that says, OK, it was shipped, but it’s only readable on a Kindle. Then we’ll tell him the item exploded. Then when he actually gets the item without warning, he’ll feel like he is peeing preternaturally. So before you change or cancel anything, just know that we might be doing this to you.

We’re bored. We blew £1.95 million on that Tales of Beedle the Bard thing, and it didn’t really do it for us..? It was good, don’t get us wrong, but more like “really big sneeze good”. We were hoping for something else. See above discussion on pee.

The name of our company is “Amazon” and we’re obsessed with a fish called a candiru that lives in the Amazon and can swim up your never mind. Never mind, let’s get back to your problem.

...aaand it goes on from there. It’s unclear at what point in the reading of this email, Monster 162 sort of gives up a little inside, but he does. It hasn’t been a good day at work, and this was pretty much the only thing he's been looking forward to since December. But on the other hand, the book is probably still coming, right..? And maybe it will all work out..? Amazon hasn’t let him down before, and maybe they know what they’re doing..?
We say, Monster 162: “hope is a thing with feathers”, and so are you mostly; and “gratitude is merely the secret hope of further favors”, which we’re not sure if that applies; and “hope is the shin splint of endeavor”, which we just made up, but still, there is hope, there is hope, Monster 162, there is hope.
It's Possible that I want to Make Out with the Chick on the Flag of Sicily
Monster 161
The first tongue of 161
Looks just like a hamburger bun.
Attached to the skull, it
Distracts from the mullet
And makes sure his steak is well-done.

The second’s for licking Blue Penny
And sometimes an Inverted Jenny.
(We refer to philatelists’
Dampening catalysts
But grant that the meanings are many.)

Tongue number three turns vermillion,
Jutting out like a thirsty vaudevillian.
And, when tailoring’s needed,
Pants twice unimpeded,
Making one “pair of pants” à Triskelion.

Swedish Waffle
Monster 158
[The neutrality of this monster story is disputed.]
[This monster story needs additional citations for verification.]

Having long established its neutrality on pretty much all matters international [citation needed], Sweden is an ideal font of Olympic judges for the 1936 games [POV], which Yay Sweden! Accordingly, Monster #158 gets a job. He says the oath: “I promise that we shall officiate in these Olympic Games with complete impartiality, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them in the true spirit of sportsmanship,” and presumably..? These “rules” include not ranking anyone higher than ten..?

And yet! Time and again, with the completion of each event, #158 unfurls his wings to display his score: 77. 77; 77: everyone gets ranked 77. [citation needed] And each time, #158 cocks his head and listens. For (it turns out): the complex and subtle diphthongs required in the pronunciation of the word “seventy-seven” in Swedish (“shütioohshü”) makes it the ideal word to determine the True Origin of each athlete. [citation needed] By listening to each person’s perplexed reaction (“77?!”) #158 knows instantly if they’re German, Norwegian, Swedish, or what. The idea being: this will come in, like, handy..? Along the Norwegian border..? If, you know, a war breaks out..? At some point..?

And, in fact: Even for events that aren’t ranked by judges (like the long jump), #158 shows up to rank them anyway. Naoto Tajima (eventual bronze winner) jumps, sees #158’s score and says, “Shichijushichi?” [citation needed] Luz Long (silver) says, “Siebenundsiebzig?” [citation needed] The point was to hear them try to say it in Swedish, and that’s not exactly how it goes down, but still, important data is collected and used later for Sweden’s problematic role in the Second World War.
[citation needed] [POV]

Just a word about that “Siebenundsiebzig”: in prelims, Jesse Owens has two fouls, and a third will disqualify him from the finals. Knowing that Owens can clear the minimum distance even if he begins his jump from several inches behind the line, Luz Long tells him to play it safe so he can advance. Owens takes the advice, advances to Finals, and eventually takes the gold (“Seventy-seven?” he says, perplexed; #158 writes this down).
[citation needed]

After Long dies, he is awarded the Pierre de Coubertin medal for sportsmanship. Monster #158 has never been awarded that medal. Nor, actually, has anyone from Sweden. But we are not judging! [citation needed] Sweden, “Mitt liv som hund” is totally our favorite movie! [POV] Strindberg..? Big fans! [POV] And when we’re at IHOP..? Lingonberry pancakes, please. [POV] We’re just saying, we just read all shütioohshü pages of “Sweden_during_World_War_II” on Wikipedia [citation needed], and now we don’t know what to think..?

Except to say, Monster #158..? Booo.
Work harder at being a better monster.

Halloween Party
Monster 156

It’s 1999, so there are a few Harry Potters and at least four Austin Powerses. But my division always goes for the conceptual. Last year, I went as “Various Stages in the Life of Rockin’ Rollen Stewart” (rainbow wig, John 3:16 sign, world’s longest moustache, restraining order), so this year I’m trying to beat that. This is the high point of the year at our office, so if you can pull off a good costume and not accidentally hook up with anyone, you’re sort of golden until at least June. I’ve chosen to go as “Lines from the Album ‘My Aim is True’ by Elvis Costello”: I bug my eyes out like I’m looking at someone with a face like a magnet (Watching the Detectives); I conceal one of my arms in some wedding cake (Alison) and stick the other out the back of the costume so it looks like a juggler running out of hands (Welcome To The Working Week); put on a black patent leather glove (Miracle Man), big red shoes (The Angels Wanna Wear My R~ S~) and loose fitting white pants (Wave A White Flag); refuse to dance (No Dancing); reshape my head like a rifle (almost sure there’s a rifle or gun or something in Less Than Zero); put on an old Edwardian looking corset that’s completely falling apart (Poison Moon: “And these bones, they don’t look so good to me”; accentuate my mouth (“lip service” lines from Cheap Reward); OK YES IT IS A STRETCH DO YOU THINK I DON’T KNOW THAT. But I couldn’t get anything else together and I know at least this: no one else will have the same costume as me (a minor scandal: two of my officemates are both going as “Y2K” this year, although they took different approaches). There is a lot riding on this, for me, personally. I AM UNDER A LITTLE STRESS DUE TO THINGS AT WORK I WON’T GO INTO THEM NOW.

And so, when people start coming up to me and saying, “Weren’t you just in the copy room?” and I say no and they say, “Someone else is here with the same costume I guess,” I can’t believe it. I make my way to the copy room, past “Standard Ghost” (sheet, two holes); “Dog Dressed Up For Halloween” (bee costume, dog mask); “Molly Ringworm” (don’t... just... just let it go); “Sexy Girl Scout”; “Sexy Nurse”; “Sexy Cat”; “Sexy Ralph Nader”. And then I see it: someone else dressed up as “Lines from the Album ‘My Aim is True’ by Elvis Costello”. Is it the guy from Accounting? With the forehead? I can’t tell. As I approach, though, someone asks him/her, “What are you supposed to be?”

“Monster 156,” the person says. I duck back over by the punch bowl.

My costume is still unique.
It’s possible no one remembers I hooked up with Jenni from HR at the last “Labor Daze” party.
It’s possible my job is saved.

Kubelik Con
Monster 154

154 always wears a power tie, although the office went business casual months ago. He smells like some chem plant in New Jersey’s idea of “the woods”, and today when he stops by my desk to flirt with me (he’s married, n.b.), he’s wearing a hairpiece. “What do you think?” he says. I tell him nice tie, but I have to admit, the hairpiece is working for him.

“Big day today,” he says, and it is. The sales team is expanding the “AIDA” method (“Attention”, “Interest”, “Desire”, “Action”) to “AIDAS” (adding “Satisfaction”), which means a four-hour kickoff meeting, which means they’ll order in pizza, which means I don’t have to pay for lunch today, and ordered-in-pizza is the closest thing I’ve had to “dining out” in a while. He catches me staring at his hair and does a thing romance novels always describe as a shaking of “golden tresses”, except his are not golden, and I see now that they also have eyes and teeth. Then the hairpiece asks me out for dinner. “Are you asking me, or is your hair asking me?” I ask him. 154 and his hair just smile at me, polycephalicly.

Then I see what he’s doing: A: Attention; he has my attention, because his hair looks nice. I: Interest; I am interested because his hair has eyes and teeth; D: Desire; I desire to eat at a restaurant instead of having ramen again; A: Action; he’s asking me out.

Am I Fran Kubelik to his Mr. Sheldrake? I do not know how to play gin rummy, but I do feel like a misfit. Before you judge me, let me stress there are no C.C. Baxters left in all of Manhattan. Fine, I say, yes. But pay attention at the kickoff meeting, I tell him. If I don't see any “S” tonight, there will be hell toupee.

Midas Rex
Yes, I know these are different myths; thanks.

Monster 152

A monster, whom we shall call K--,
Was Thebes-bound, and heard a sphinx say,
“Can you name the guy
Who’s a quadruped, bi-
ped, and tri-ped, and all in one day?”

K-- said that the answer is “Man”,
For he crawls on four legs; then he stands,
And then when he’s older
He is a cane-holder.
(The ‘day’ thing’s a figurative span.)

The sphinx told him that this was right; it
Said, “I’ll grant your wish, then. Please cite it.”
“Transmute stuff to bullion,”
K-- said, “But one rule: on
Condition,” he said, “That I bite it.”

The first thing K-- changed to gold hues
Was his footwear, which one can excuse
As an homage and thanks
To director Les Blank’s
Movie, “Werner Herzog Eats His Shoes”.

But late that night, post-counting sheep,
As into all parables creep
Comeuppance, desserts,
Retribution asserts
Itself: K-- bit his tongue in his sleep.

The golden tongue’s weight on his beak
Soon rendered his posture oblique.
He was forced to maintain
Himself up with a cane,
And his mandible gave in a week.

The moral, Monster 1-5-2
(Also known as “K--”) might construe,
Is this: “Chrysopoeia:
I don’t want to be ya.”

And: “All that glitter’s not AU.”

Friday, April 18, 2008

It is dark

This is family entertainment, not a video nasty.

I don't know the word "acknowledge".

You can't see Michael Bywater here!

This is family entertainment, not a video nasty.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

"Gyllenhaals in Evidence" Metric: There's your ten percent

I thought this Wired article about Netflix crowdsourcing the algorithm it uses to recommend movies was sort of interesting. Because it applies to me.

I recently re-joined NetFlix to give myself an excuse for not writing in case the cable goes out (or there could be another Writer's Strike!)*, so I've been going through and rating a bunch of movies, so that the k-nearest-neighbor algorithm can tell me what to do. ALL I WANT IS SOMEONE OR SOMEONE'S ALGORITHM TO TELL ME WHAT TO DO BECAUSE EVENTUALLY I WILL RUN OUT OF DVDS OF THE WIRE AND WHAT THEN?

But wait, existential crisis (crap!), because what if a movie was just OK, but I want to acknowledge admirable creative impulses behind it? What do you rate interesting failures? Maybe the answer is to expand beyond a straight five stars for "is it good (or not)" and add some phantom meta-categories?

So maybe like for Donnie Darko:

Actual Good-ness: ˜˜
Interestingness: ˜˜ ½
Likability: ˜˜˜ ½
Gyllenhaals in Evidence: ˜˜˜˜˜

I was talking to a co-worker and he said he takes all this into account and ranks movies that are ungood (but still have these positive, more nuancy aspects) artificially higher, so he can continue to [hope to] be surprised by movies he hasn't seen.

Which is sort of what I was thinking I would have to do, but then I don't want someone to look at my ratings and say, "Wow, you really liked [any Tim Burton movie, ever] that much?"
Which I totally didn't. I found [that Tim Burton movie] to be totally self-indulgent. Why did I even watch it? Please let me know when his remake of Frankenweenie comes out, NetFlix, thanks.

So OK the algorithm is clearly working on levels I'm not (e.g., it recommends Fitzcarraldo because I enjoyed Annie Hall, Blue Velvet and Brazil) (which Venn diagram is more perfect than anything yet on VSL), but I don't care if the algorithm is assuming I'm averaging these out, or taking into account that I'm gaming the system; I just want people in my "social network" who happen to be looking at how I'm ranking these movies to know what I was thinking at the time..?

[My septuagenarian landlords in Brooklyn taking discarded couches from the street and storing them in the hallways of my apartment building] : [there might be another war] : : [I rejoined NetFlix] : [there might be another Writer's Strike]

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


To respond to this post on Doree Shafrir's blog from, like, February, there are a lot of plus-sized women in Chicago. (Dudes too.) According to anocdotal evidence, 83% of the stock footage of people shown from the neck down for the purposes of local news segments on obesity are filmed on State Street (source: anecdotes).

But it can't all be due to Italian Beef and Old Style intake, and so I was happy to find an evolutionary justification for the Morbidly Rubinesque-ness of the city: Cougar-Avoiding: (you think I'm about to make a joke about not DVRing Private Practice but I'm only going to make a joke about not making the joke); viz.--

Thing to Do Number Five on this increasingly relevant list of Things to Do when you encounter a cougar: Do all you can to look bigger.

If you take the cougar's age, divide by two and add seven, and you are still younger than that, better head over to Portillo's. THAT IS ALL WE'RE SAYING.

Whoa: And just as I was posting this, I opened Google Reader, and saw that Doree S~ just linked to the same article. that's weird enough for me to turn off the Internet for the day. If you need to reach me for the rest of the day, do not look on the Internet.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Spoiler Alert

In the last post of the blog, we find out that there really were no drills, it's just that when he was ten, Balk had broken his dad's Makita when he was playing in the garage.

"Villains!" I tumblred, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! — tear up the planks! — here, here! — it is the drilling of this hideous handtool!"