2009-10-31

Who Wore It Best?

Are you familiar with the regular feature in celebrity magazines that shows photos of two famous people wearing similar outfits and then asks "Who Wore It Best?"


Well I have a special Halloween edition. Compare my Superman costume from four years ago that led to an infamous X-rated encounter to that of a friend's dog.


WHO WORE IT BEST?!
Vote in the comments section!

I'll kick off the poll by voting for myself, naturally, although I'll concede that the dog has less of a problem in the crotch region. If you look at the photo of me on the left, you can actually see my boxer shorts starting to poke through a hole which would lead to the problems mentioned in the story I linked in the previous paragraph.

Happy Halloween!

2009-10-29

Spektor-cle

Kevin: Regina Spektor put a new song on her myspace and it's awful.
Stacy: Really? Awful would surprise me. She's pretty mediocre.
Kevin: Only recently did I hear that she's a bit of a lesbian icon. I was like "Really?" but then reflected that if I [normally] like her, it shouldn't come as a surprise.
Stacy: Yeah, you're a pretty good litmus test.

2009-10-27

Shite

I went to Kentucky and visited Shite Ave.

2009-10-26

Marshmallow House

Students are distracting; they get off topic so easily. The problem is, the more off track they get, the more fun it usually is. And though you're getting paid to redirect them, it's hard to ignore the fun. Jessica discovered this fact the hard way when she first started her teaching career.

"Are you drawing flying toasters again?" she asks. She's caught them twice before not doing the assigned work, instead sketching appliances with wings. They'd always excuse themselves by explaining, "We're being creative." This time, however, the kids were drawing marshmallow houses. Instead of getting them to resume their work, Jessica finds herself debating the merits of a marshmallow house with the students. One student thinks it would be cool, because then if you got hungry, you could just eat the couch. Jessica counters that it's stupid to eat the couch, because you might have company come to visit. She suggests that they eat something less functional like the floor. The first student counters that the floor's not even a logical choice, to which Jessica flips out and asks, "What, so now you're going to bring 'logic' to the marshmallow house?"

Discussion then moves to the marshmallow pool. The students want to fill it with Jell-o, but Jessica is very adamant that it would contain whipped cream. Initially, the students think that's stupid because you'd just sink to the bottom and hurt yourself, until Jessica points out that the bottom is made of marshmallow, so you'd just bounce off of it. Suddenly, there's a collective "Oh yeah!" which then alerts Jessica as to just how off topic she has gotten and she runs off to help other students.

2009-10-23

Lexington

An actual answer I once wrote on a history quiz:

Where was the first shot of the American Revolution fired?
From a gun.

2009-10-20

2009-10-19

Search Me


I was a word search wiz as a kid. There wasn't a word you could hide in a letter-littered grid that I couldn't find. The mild dyslexia probably helped that... unless the word searches are actually what helped bring the dyslexia on, but I'm not yet prepared to think about that. My aunt and I used to have competitions where we'd work on the same puzzle simultaneously with different colored pens to see who found the most words once it was done. In second grade, I loved word searches enough to make my own in the shape of a teepee using words from our Native American unit which my teacher xeroxed and distributed to the whole class.

My word searching abilities peaked in third grade. One day, my class had a substitute teacher who gave us a word search to complete toward the end of the day. Since she probably realized it was a bullshit activity, she allowed everyone to work on it together, but this struck me as an awful idea. I knew that plenty of my peers wouldn't take the puzzle seriously and chat instead of actually looking for the words. I'd be damned if some slacker contributed one horizontal and forward word that was in plain sight while I handed him all the diagonally backward words! I asked the substitute whether she would permit me to do the word search by myself. When she wanted to know why, I responded that I could do it faster myself. Provoked by my claim, she suggested a competition: the other twenty kids in the class versus me.

This could be a good story of how Kevin acquired humility, but instead this is a story of how awesome Kevin is. I creamed the combined efforts of my twenty classmates, finishing well before them. They lost a lot of time in having to point out the words to each other -- suckers! I had successfully rushed my way through an activity that was meant to waste time. I'm not sure what I had to do while I waited - probably read a Boxcar Children book to myself while the other children socialized. But I was the winner here.

I expected that the substitute would mention my impressive feat in her notes for the next day, but my regular teacher didn't ever acknowledge it. No one did, in fact. It's as if the other kids didn't even care that I was so much more awesome than them at word searches. I'm still not sure why I was never commended for my talents, but I will accept belated accolades now, however.

2009-10-17

Heel the World

Terri introduced me to a company that manufactures high heels for babies, a niche market I found puzzling.

Kevin: "Why do babies need high heels? They can't even walk."
Terri: "If someone were carrying me 24 hours a day, I'd be wearing stilettos."

2009-10-16

Inessential

B on an inessential television character: "She's been in every episode but has not had any effect on any aspect of the show. She's like the gay guy on Melrose Place."

2009-10-14

You're the Inspiration

I met a white senior citizen this past weekend. Though I can't publicly share the context of our meeting for various reasons, I'm still going to repeat some details of our awful encounter.

When I first approached Bill*, he greeted me warmly and I thought he seemed like a nice fellow. In the meantime, a Temptations song played in the background. Then the old man said the following to the guy next to him: "I like those Temptations. The music is what black people used to be good for. They had God in their souls and you could hear it in their voices. Today they have that awful music; who can listen to that?"

I hoped that when Bill said that that's what African Americans were good for, he meant that he liked that about them particularly, not solely. I was feeling charitable and willing to give the benefit of the doubt.

Bill continued, "Like Bruce Springsteen. I just can't get into that noise."

I was unsure whether Bill thought that Springsteen is black or that was the most contemporary musician he could think to name, but it was unintentionally amusing regardless. All the same, I chose to interact with some other people instead. This was a successful scheme for about twenty minutes until Bill took command of the conversation. With practically no lead in, he started a monologue.

"Whenever I look out at the beautiful scenery of the world, I know that creationism is real. I dare anyone to just look at a sunset and then you'll know, without a doubt, that creationism is real. I heard on the radio the other day that today people agree that either evolution or intelligent design was how life was created. And I thought, says who? Don't tell me that crap when I know creationism is real."

I wanted Bill to go away, but he wouldn't. In fact, he kept talking.

"The other day, I looked at the people running for the school board in my town and all of the people were Chinese. What's worse is they sent me my ballot in Chinese, too, so I couldn't understand it. They just assumed that since most people in town were Chinese that I was too. I complained about it, but it didn't really matter because I wasn't going to vote for any of them anyway. Oh, and I was on the phone the other day and I got the automatic voice thing telling me to 'Press 1 for English.' Why should I have to press a button to get my language? I'm sure in Paris it doesn't say 'Press 1 for French.' Welcome to America."

Some people, perhaps including me, must have made unpleasant faces to that comment because Bill got defensive.

"What? I can say that because my wife is Mexican."

The poor thing! What was she thinking? He calmed down a bit after that and I thought the worst was over. But when I finally went to make my exit, Bill stopped me and said he hoped we'd meet again, so I wished him a nice day.

"I'm an inspiration to young people, you know," Bill told me, with his arm still on my shoulder.

Who does that?! Who touts himself an "inspiration" to someone else. If he lives in an immediate community of Chinese people surrounded by communities of Spanish-speaking people, there's probably not many people wanting to listen to this crap, let alone be inspired by it. Rather than addressing his statement, I told him to take care and left.

But I guess Bill is right, he is an inspiration. He did inspire me to write this.

2009-10-11

The Lady Gaga of Her Time

On Friday night, Christine invited me to attend the Pasadena Art Night, an evening where more than a dozen local museums and art galleries open their doors to the public for free. After meeting up for dinner, we started walking down a main street, hoping to find the first location, or better yet, a map of all of the galleries. Suddenly, Christine dashed toward a stranger and I heard her ask, “Excuse me, where did you get that?” When Christine returned, I asked whether that person had a map. “No,” she said. “She had a glass of wine!” Ah.

We followed the imbibing stranger’s directions and found a table full of glasses of free champagne. We drank our complimentary beverages – you know, to pay respect to the arts – and then I began to wonder where the art was. Christine pointed out the small triangular flags hanging above us and showed me a nearby sign that declared it an installation piece even though it looked like nothing more than crappy decorations from a party supply store. Unimpressed, I instead directed my attention toward a trio of Indigo Girl-types playing folk music on stage; inexplicably, they performed immediately behind a giant sign that read LATRINE, though that wasn’t their band name. Their music always seemed to be about two notes away from breaking into Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” so I grabbed another glass of champagne to cope.

In the meantime, I spotted a plump woman dressed in an embarrassing sailor costume helping herself to champagne. I couldn’t help but laugh at how ridiculous she looked. As I chuckled, I noticed several more middle-aged people in equally absurd (well, actually, the initial woman still looked the worst) sailor costumes. Further investigation revealed that a Navy-themed tap troop would be on stage next. As amazingly awful as old people tap dancing in sailor outfits seemed, Christine and I opted to move on to actual art.

At the first real museum, I stopped at the first painting I saw and studied it intensely. It didn’t take long for me to give subsequent paintings a quick glance once I grasped how much art there was to see that night. But with that first painting, I felt obligated to learn everything about it… and was thwarted quickly upon reading its title: “The Birth of the Virgin.” Last I checked, virgins are born every day, if not exclusively. I suppose there’s a middle-school joke in there somewhere, like, “I’m no virgin, I was inside of a woman before I was even born!”

Buddhist statues, Asian ceramics, and more nude portraits than you can shake a penis at. I asked Christine whether people were naked more often several centuries ago considering the bare human form was so prominently featured in artistic works. Not three seconds later, we passed a sassy six-year-old who tells her mother, “Why are they all naked?! They need to put some clothes on!” It’s good to know that I have the same level of appreciation of the arts as a young child.

Later we encountered Johannes Verspronck’s “Portrait of a Lady.” Christine called the painting’s subject “the Lady Gaga of her time.” She then speculated that perhaps this woman had injured herself and received this collar to prevent her from licking herself like a wounded dog. Her insight is even better than something an art historian could provide. It was a great night, though I do still regret missing the tap dancing “sailors.”

2009-10-09

Growing Up

"When I was a child, I used to get pleasure from freaking out the other little children. However, since then I have blossomed into a beautiful swan who has learned to keep the spitting, inappropriate language, and public urination to a minimum." - Liz

2009-10-07

Classically Conditioned

I wish I had studied more psychology throughout my education. I always managed to use my newly acquired knowledge in delightful ways against my friends.

When I was a high school student, I was fascinated by Pavlov. Pavlov is famous for conducting an experiment with hungry dogs. Noticing that the dogs salivated at the sight of food, Pavlov decided to test whether they would also salivate over something they associated with food. He began ringing a bell just before serving the food each time, so the dogs would connect the bell with eating. After repeating the bell with food multiple times, Pavlov rang the bell without bringing food and found that the dogs did indeed salivate in anticipation anyway. This idea that living subjects could learn to respond to one thing in place of another when trained is called Classical Conditioning.

After learning about classical conditioning, I wanted to enact it. First, I needed a bell. Actually, I had a bell, the school bell, but there was already an immediate response to that in the way of leaving for the next class. The one exception was during fifth period, which contained three lunch shifts. Since my calculus class ate first lunch, later during our class, the bell would ring twice more in the middle to indicate to other students to leave to eat, though it meant nothing to us. Normally, these bells were ignored by us, but what if I

And now I needed a subject... Grace. I chose Grace as my subject for a few reasons: she was good-natured, she sat immediately in front of me during class allowing me easy access, and we weren't so close that she'd call me out on my actions and put the experiment in jeopardy.

The experiment went like this: cach time the bell would ring, I'd whisper Grace's name, prompting her to turn her head and ask, "What?" I'd simply respond, "Hi." Grace would say a dismissive "Hi," back before turning back around to pay attention to class again. My goal was that after a few months of calling her name each time the bell rang, she'd naturally learn to turn her head and greet me when she heard the bell on her own.

When I've explained this story in the past, people question how I could get her to keep saying "Hi" twice a day for three months in the middle of class, but Grace was really just that nice. That's not to say her "Hi"s didn't become increasingly agitated as time wore on, but she was far too nice to not respond at all. The other question friends ask is why Grace didn't ask me why I kept doing that or find the whole thing suspicious in the first place. Well the answer to that is that I had a reputation for being pretty weird. My quick, pointless interactions with her were somewhat strange, for sure, but that in itself was not strange, so apparently she never gave it a second thought as soon as each incident happened. In that manner, my experiment was working ideally.

After more than three months of greeting Grace, I decided it was time to put it to the test. I wasn't sure whether she had been successfully conditioned, but I had managed to condition myself: I was a slave to the bell, reacting immediately to pester Grace whether I felt like it or not. It almost felt wrong to not say anything when it came time to test the experiment, but I had to see the response. It was greatly disheartening to discover that the first time the bell rang without me doing anything, Grace didn't even flinch. No response whatsoever. At the next bell, however, Grace glanced back at me. I was hoping for a "hi," but she didn't say anything, so I had said "Hi" and she responded reciprocally. Still, maybe the turn in my direction was a positive sign? I decided to do my part for the next two weeks to condition her further to see if that would help reinforce her response.

Again, when I stopped doing my part, the results were mixed. Often, Grace would do nothing when the bell rang, but other times she would noticeably tense up or glance in my direction. Finally, one of our mutual friends blew my cover because she didn't think it was right to make Grace the unwitting subject of a psychological experiment. I saw her point, but I didn't think I was being unethical and subjecting her to shock treatment or anything.

Grace was thoroughly surprised by the revelation. I had been concerned that maybe she figured out what I was doing, but she admitted that she had never been conscious of the fact that my interruptions corresponded with the bell. From that point forward, however, even though the experiment was "finished" it continued. Each time the bell would ring, I felt compelled to say Grace's name and Grace felt compelled to turn around - often times she'd beat me to the punch before I said her name. It was stupid, but it was a routine we had practiced for so long that it became really difficult to quit.

Even though I controlled the experiment and wanted to emulate Pavlov, I ended up being the drooling dog.

2009-10-04

I Could Care Less

The other night, Andrew called to ask me about lesbian bar etiquette. There's a lesbian bar near his house that he'd like to visit but he wanted to know whether that would be acceptable. Since I've only ever really been to one lesbian bar, I'm not sure I can call myself an expert, but I'm glad that people are mistaking me for one.

From there, the conversation went a variety of directions including Halloween costumes. Andrew is considering being former French President Francois Mitterrand. Mainly, Andrew wants to represent him because he finds Mitterrand to be a funny figure (he fathered two separate families, one of which he managed to keep secret from the public through most of his political career.) The problem is there is no real obvious Mitterrand costume, so Andrew is concerned he'll just spend the whole night having to explain what he's dressed as. I agreed, deciding that it was one thing if he could just say "I'm Mitterrand" and have everyone understand, but for a lot of people, this was going to require the whole story. I added, "It's probably best to have a costume that you can explain in five words or less... err, five words or fewer."

I was really thrown off by that grammatical slip. "# words or less" is such a common expression that I don't think I've ever stopped to correct it until right in that moment. As a Grammarian, I know the difference between "less" and "fewer": use "fewer" when whatever being described can be counted. And especially in the case of five words, I can count to five (shut up - I can), so it should be fewer.

Distracted, I forgot all about Mitterrand and his legitimately illegitimate kids, and expressed outrage over what is truly outrageous: ungrammatical phrases that are adopted into the English language. The other one that riles me up is "I could care less." People say that when what they mean to say is "I couldn't care less" or "I don't care." Saying you could care less implies that you did care, at least a bit.

That's when I tried a line on Andrew: "I could care less about you." He returned the sentiment and it felt nice. It strikes me as a great way for unaffectionate types to share a fuzzy moment with one another without pushing it too far. "I could care less about you" acknowledges some level of fondness, but stops well short of "I love you" due to its ambiguity.

Henceforth, I propose that everyone use "I could care less about you" as a term of endearment to reclaim the grammatically incorrect cliche as something positive. Together we can vaguely compliment those who mean something to us. Just be sure not to say, "I could care fewer."

2009-10-03

Exer-spies

So my backyard neighbors have this bike exercise machine in their yard that they never use. I know this because I watch. I watch because I want to ride the bike. I want to ride the bike because I am sort of obese. And I know I'm obese because I was offered a free t-shirt today but told they were out of mediums. When I asked for a small, the worker said, "What? Oh, you like your shirts real tight?" then handed it to me. Someone of my height would look ridiculous in a large t-shirt, but apparently I would look ridiculous - ridiculously fat - in a small, too.

Anyway, my goal is to ride this bike machine. I figure if I watch my neighbors enough I can learn their schedule and determine when it is safe to ride their equipment without them being home. We'll call this Plan A.

Plan B is to actually befriend these neighbors who I keep avoiding eye contact with so that they give me permission to ride their bike.

Plan C is to quit wasting so much time spying and actually get on the bicycle I own and ride somewhere to "get exercise" as it were.

While Plan B & C are much more practical and sane, right now, I'm sticking to Plan A. You know, "stay the course." Wish me luck.

2009-10-02

The Midas Touch

We owe WNBA superstar Lisa Leslie a lot of thanks. To commemorate her retirement, Leslie received a pair of gold shoes, which my housemate, Dan, was envious of. “I want gold shoes!” Dan exclaimed. And since Dan is a do-er, by the time I got up the following day, Dan had already purchased a can of gold spray paint.

Suddenly, the possibilities were endless. What did I own that might look better gold? Better question: what didn’t I own that might look better gold? While Clare and Dan decided to gild their sneakers, I thought it’d be fun to spray my baseball mitt so I’d be the snazziest looking guy on the field. The results were stupendous:
I encouraged him to shuffle his feet while he walked to make it look like they were heavy - gold & heavy. Clare joked that the number one question Dan would get asked when wearing the sneakers is, "Are they real?" The actual #1 question Dan gets asked is, "Were you drunk when you did that?" No, no he wasn't.

Then we got a bit overzealous, and Dan thought it’d look cool to have his hubcaps painted gold. He started on one and it didn’t look quite as elegant as imagined so he stopped partway through. Fortunately, he can just blame it on vandalism; who would do that to his own hubcap, you know?

Still, we knew we were onto something and that our friends needed to get in on this gold action, too, so we decided to host a party called The Midas Touch. Our friends were instructed to bring items that they wanted to spray paint gold.

It was a great idea, if I say so myself. Since it’s the recession, people can’t afford nice, new things. That doesn’t mean our friends can’t turn their old items into more valuable things, however! Get rich quick, baby!

People brought a variety of items: shoes, an umbrella, a bike helmet, picture frames, a license plate frame, pennies, jewelry, toys, mantlepiece ornaments, a frisbee, a notebook etc. Even those who abstained from drinking alcohol grew intoxicated from the paint fumes, so all discretion toward what should and shouldn't be spray painted faded way more quickly than the gold paint ever will. While no one attempted to gild a hubcap again, two of us thought it'd be smart to turn our cell phones gold.
If that doesn't sound awesome to you, you're right! It led to some fun party games like catch the golden cell phone in the golden glove. Bling bling! When's the last time you left a party several thousand dollars richer?