|Bears Will Attack|
Friday, August 26, 2005
Southern by the Grace of God
List Week has ended here at Bears Will Attack. In truth, is was just a way to "mail it in" for a few days. Like a working vacation, only sneakier and less honest.
Speaking of vacations, I will (rather cruelly and selfishly) now take an actual one. Come tomorrow morning I will be on a train, off with Jaime (The Cutest Redhead in the World) for a whirlwind tour of the American southland, or, at least, the parts of it that I hail from (Richmond, Roanoke, Martinsville and the Outer Banks). Jaime has her worries about this trip, mostly that various members of my family will expect her to eat cornbread, wear unfashionable clothing and denounce the ways of "city slickers", all of which is true. I have tried to calm these fears as much as possible, but it is hard going. For the record, if she is reading this, we will not end up sitting in a wading pool to beat the heat, shooting at rats with pellet guns. Probably not, anyway.
Getting back to more serious matters, I have neglected this website of late. It has seemed a dull, flat place, like Kansas, where inspiration drifts away like fog, burned off by the morning sun. This saddens me, as I'm certain it saddens all of you, who have come to depend on Bears Will Attack for your daily affirmation of the wonder and strangeness of a world that contains both pirates and chess-playing supercomputers.
I blame this lack on many things, the chief among them being the colossal and unforgivable failure of the indie-rock community to provide me with any new music worth a damn in the last couple months. Seriously. How am I supposed to let my remarkably agile mind explore any interesting avenues if all I have to listen to at work is NPR? It's just not going to happen, friends.
Fortunately I was saved, as has happened somewhere between fifty and eight hundred times in my life, by the words and music of Mac McCaughan, whose latest Portastatic record arrived in my mailbox yesterday, and has caused me to recall the stirring beauty that is to be found in travel, truckstops, the cresting and changeful sea, sorrow, regret, North Carolina and girls. Plus guitar solos. Tasteful ones.
To make up for both my impending absence and my recent lackluster offerings, I will have a special and dramatic surprise for everyone upon my return. I can offer you no hints at all, because that would tarnish the mystery and injure the fun, and true Americans never tarnish the mystery or injure the fun.
You called it a stunning sunset
Thursday, August 25, 2005
BWA List Week: Cat Hats
Humorous Things A Cat Might Wear On Its Head
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
BWA List Week: Office Workers
Possible Reasons Why the New Receptionist at My Office, Though Friendly, Never, Ever Speaks
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
BWA List Week: Text Messages
Alarming Text Messages One Might Receive
Monday, August 22, 2005
BWA List Week: Robots
Good Names for Cruel Robot Overlords
Friday, August 19, 2005
Culture, and Its Malcontents
There was no update yesterday, for a very good reason. You know who you are.
I have been basking in the rich cultural stew that life offers this week, which included an evening of six one-act amateur plays, a hamburger served on pita bread (instead of a bun!) with avacados and garlic cream cheese (instead of mustard!), and my usual daily online discussions with the extreme right-wing.
The six one-act plays were all right. The one my friend was in was by far the best one, which was a relief to me. (There's things you can say to a friend whose creative efforts you have just witnessed and been unimpressed by, but I do not relish saying them. For a band, you can say "You guys sounded tight", which just means "Your music is lousy, but you appear to practice regularly." I have less theatrical experience, but saying something vague about the "staging" seems like a winner. The creative arts are easier, since you can tell someone you hate their painting and it makes you mad because it's so awful and they'll just nod and tilt their beret and be pleased that it elicited such an "emotional reaction" from you. As for opera or classical music, who knows?)
Andy's play was good, however, so no lies were needed. Another of the six one-act plays was good too, and it featured two robots, a woman playing a gorilla, and a man in a cage. Well, it wasn't amazing, but it was kind of a head-scratcher, which I appreciate. (Also, the woman playing a gorilla was excellent, especially considering that she wore a gray flannel suit and socks, rather than a full gorilla suit). The others were what you might expect from amateur one-act plays. Two people in a room reacting to each other's disjointed and random statements with inexplicable rage and/or sorrow.
The hamburger was excellent, despite its unconventional trappings. Or perhaps BECAUSE of them. Hmmm...
The right-wingers (with whom I spend all my free time at work arguing on the internet) were in rare form this week. One of the site moderators declared a temporary ban on "Evolution vs. Creationism" threads, since he was sick of them, but some of the creationists got around this by starting a thread on "Young Earth" theories, in which the Earth is considered to be 6000 years old, because that's what the Bible seems to be saying, rather than 4.5 billion years old, which is what the geological strata, radiocarbon dating experiments, and astronomical observations seem to be saying.
I also received two emails at my personal email account from people on the site. This was unusual, since there is a "private message" function on the website already. One of the two emails came from someone I had had only one exchange with. It was hard to understand his email, since it was about two pages long, but expressed in the form of a single paragraph, but he seemed to be angry with me as a Jew. Since I am not technically a Jewish person, I'm not sure why he seized on this, but he was very impassioned about it, accusing me and my compatriots of killing eleven of Jesus' disciples, as well as "countless other Jewish Converts to Christianity." He also mentioned, in passing, the well-known practice of people in Israel revoking the passports of "poor Christian Russian girls" and using them as "sex slaves". Then he talked about my "leaders" some.
The other email was from someone I have had a number of heated arguments with, as he is a meat-eating, dyed-in-blood right winger, and I am rather the opposite. His email was a polite and friendly goodbye, saying that he had had enough of the "religious wackos" on the website, but he hoped we would continue to trade political views from time to time.
On the one hand, I appreciated the gesture, since one of my goals in spending all this time was to build some small bridges between Americans of divergent beliefs. On the other hand, when someone on the far right gets tired of dealing with other people on the far right because they're too religiously zealous, it makes one fear for the future of the union.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Calculus is the New Parameters
Jaime (the Cutest Redhead in the World) is sad because her job is so boring. Fortunately, my job is just as boring during the summer months, so I have time to search Craigslist to find her a new one.
Sadly, I cannot find many excellent jobs. There are plenty of lame and weird jobs, like being an intern for various magazines, being an intern for Alice Cooper's syndicated radio show*, collecting signatures and painting this guy's house in Jersey City for $50. Also there was an ad "calling all uninhibited girls", but I did not check into that one.
* Yes, Alice Cooper has a syndicated radio show.
She would also be set if she was interested in working with autistic children, raising money for the rainforest, chemical sales, upholstering, fixing clogged drains, driving a limo, assisting a physically-challenged professional poker player and home-schooling his 8-year-old son, being a "bra fit specialist", cleaning dishes, developing software, providing video footage of "funny dancing" for a VH1 reality show, renting her apartment out to a cable children's show, go-go dancing or coordinating payrolls, whatever that means. None of these fit the parameters of my current search, however, so I will keep looking.
If you know of any available jobs that are not boring, located somewhere in New York City, and pay a good wage, let me know.
Speaking of radio shows and parameters, this morning on NPR there was a show about grammar and overused words and things like that, and the guest expert was talking about how "calculus" has become a buzz word, and she said "'Calculus' is the new 'parameters'," which I thought was worth sharing.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Tacos Against Deviltry
My weekend is finally over, and I need another one to recover. I had many out-of-town guests, many things to get done, and many drinks to drink. Also, it rained a lot.
Speaking of drinks to drinks, Abby bought a round of poisoned lemon-drop shots for a table full of people on Saturday night. I know they were poisoned because, before drinking them, everyone was tipsy and coherent. After drinking them, everyone was drunk as pirates:
1. Jaime fell asleep in the cab home, and when I pointed out that she was dropping everything in her bag on the wet ground while searching for her keys, she said "No, you are!" very angrily to me.
2. Jenny yelled at me for leaving the bar too early and abandoning her, and then claimed (erroneously) the next morning that the two of us had ridden home together in a cab.
3. Chris told Laura that she "dreamed" a conversation that was later proved to have taken place.
4. Laura slept on the bathroom floor.
None of these behaviors is normal, and no one drank all that much prior to the mysterious shots, so I can only conclude that they contained some sort of fast-acting mind-poison.
Clearly I was the target of this poison, as Jaime is disorganized, Jenny is a drunken blogger, Chris is a penniless Marxist, and Laura sleeps on bathroom floors and talks to dogs as if they were people. Unlike myself, they are not threats to the sinister global corporate conspiracy that controls the world.
The question is why the sinister global corporate conspiracy would act in such a roundabout fashion? Perhaps they realize that I am close on their heels, and discretion is their watchword. Their agents are all about us, but if they keep their profile low enough they can escape detection. But the joke's on you, sinister global corporate conspirators! I did not fall prey to the poisoned drinks. Thanks to my old friend tacos.
God bless you, tacos. God bless you.
Friday, August 12, 2005
Why the Internet is Stupid
I had a very important and exciting story to share with everyone today, involving a chest filled with antique Spanish doubloons, a crooked homicide detective from Palm Beach, a talking dog, mysterious clues left on the wall of a condemned Cuban restaurant, the tapes containing the missing 18 and 1/2 minutes from the Nixon hearings, three buckets of sand left in an airport, and a high-stakes gamble for the fate of the world.
But I can't, because I am completely demoralized by the news that there is Law & Order fan fiction on the internet. Several sites worth of it. Jesus. What kind of society is this? Doesn't anyone have WORK to do?
Thursday, August 11, 2005
A Short Movie Set in Queens
SCENE: The camera opens on a busy street corner in Astoria, Queens. The main character is sitting on a bench with two old men, eating fried chicken.
I had to go to Queens yesterday, to meet a woman about renting a parking space. I found that I could get a space for $300 a month in my neighborhood, $150 a month in the "downtownier" parts of Brooklyn, and $80 a month if I was willing to go all the way to Queens. For those of you who do not live in New York City (and for those of you who, like me, live in New York City but never really stray very far from home), Queens is the large borough to the north of Brooklyn. It is a little more "working-class" (ie - heavy accents, inexpensive haircuts) than the part of Brooklyn where I live, which is more "professional class" (ie - young-ish people with too much money, wine bars).
Astoria is nice. It's kind of like a little town, with trees and row houses. Also, Nancy (the owner of the parking space) picked me up at the subway station in her Chrysler, which was weird, because the house was only 4 blocks away. Then we stood and talked with Joan, the next-door neighbor, for a HUNDRED YEARS about gardening, and the difficulty of getting the proper permits when you build a garage.
I got fried chicken because I was kind of early, and I was hungry, and there was a place selling fried chicken right next to me, and it seemed like the thing to do.
Would I could afford to buy my love a fine gown
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
The Reaper Cat
Bears Will Attack is flying its flag at half-mast today, in honor of the mouse who gave its life this morning beside my trash can. It was a small-ish mouse, and I'm sure it was handsome enough in life, but death had visited it with unkind hands, and it was nothing I wanted to touch with my hands. After a few unhappy moments in which I frowned at the corpse and attempted to locate a paper towel, it was buried in the kitchen garbage can beside an empty box of popsicles. The gravesite was later decorated with additional trash.
My cat Pants is the prime suspect in this death, assuming that the mouse did not die of natural causes while running across the floor. While I do not enjoy finding the bodies of deceased vermin in my living space, I am reluctant to discipline Pants, since she has always been timid and skittish in the extreme. Once, when we lived on a farm, Pants was terrified of the place where the linoleum floor gave way to carpet, and she would always leap, Indiana-Jones-style, across the line. Other things that have caused her great fear and consternation include water dishes, other cats, large bugs, sudden noises, small pieces of plastic, imaginary creatures, books, voices on television, shadows, keys and all bathrooms.
So for her to stalk and defeat a live rodent is something of an accomplishment. Sort of like when a pale, bookish child is forced to play Little League baseball, and gets a base hit. Except Pants isn't exactly "bookish". Well, obviously no cat is, but Pants isn't even the cat-equivalent of bookish. She is actually pretty dumb, even for a housecat.
So, whatever my point was, it was gross to pick up a dead mouse, but I don't want them running around my kitchen eating my Cocoa Pebbles, so to hell with it.
Tuesday, August 9, 2005
Things I Watched on Television
Going into work on Saturday morning was a terrible, soul-searing experience, mostly because the night before I was at a party in Brooklyn at 3:30 am, sitting on a rooftop drinking wine directly from a bottle and saying (according to eye-witness reports) "What am I doing? I have to work in the morning?"
The experience was not without compensation, however, as I had yesterday off to GET THINGS DONE. While I got a few of the things on my list done (craft enormous bookshelf from bastardized Ikea shelves and cinder blocks, find good parking space for van, get cat food, etc.), mostly what I did was watch television and play Tetris online. In my defense, I was kind of zonked.
Things I Watched on Television Yesterday
Entourage (Episode 18: The Bat Mitzvah)
Law & Order
The Second Half of 'Starsky and Hutch'
Face the Nation
Monday, August 8, 2005
On Being a Drug Dealer
Well, my subliminal advertising scheme failed to net me even the promised five dollars. For those capitalist-minded bloggers out there, I would suggest you avoid Brian Ratzker and his alleged "five dollars for subliminal advertising" claims. Remember, kids, just because you read it on the internet doesn't mean it's true.
It's not that I need the money. Sure, I've got some student loans still hanging over my head, a little credit card debt it'd be nice to pay off, but aside from that, I'm all set. Decent apartment, nice neighborhood, great girl, hamburgers on a regular basis; everything a fellow needs. Except a house at the beach. That would be nice.*
(* My grandmother lives in Cape May, New Jersey, my grandfather lives in Myrtle Beach, and my dad lives in the Outer Banks, so it would be unfair of me to complain about not getting to hang out at the beach in the summertime. Still, I don't get much of a chance to be there in, say, September, when you need a sweatshirt because of the brisk wind off the sea, because of the job and all.)
That five dollars wasn't going to make much of a different anyway, I guess. I need some way to make serious scratch, like drug dealing or corporate investment for a major energy firm. Except I don't really have that killer, take-no-prisoners, lawbreaking, relentlessly amoral shark mentality. I'd be a bad drug dealer too. (Ha!)
One plan is to write a successful children's novel about something vaguely fantastic and magical, and sell a million books, and make so much money off the movie rights that I'd need a wheelbarrow to get it all home. But I lack the discipline for writing a novel. Maybe I could write a best-selling children's pamphlet instead.
On second thought, drug dealing might be better. Children's book authors never have the chance to drive their old-school Dodge Charger super fast down a pier to jump off a ramp and land on an escaping yacht just in the nick of time. Drug dealers do that kind of stuff all the time.
Except drug dealers always meet a bad end in cop movies. It would be nice to have that fancy house and all, but eventually I'd get shot by Mel Gibson or Vin Diesel in some dramatic, ironic fashion. And, honestly, a drug dealer mansion would be more house than I'd need. So never mind.
Thursday, August 4, 2005
Car Insurance, and How It Will Get Me Five Bucks
The readers of Bears Will Attack, being the spoiled, selfish people that they are, continue to provide me with NO revenue whatsoever. No one orders official BWA tote-bags or thermal mugs, no one anonymously pays for my bandwidth, no one sends envelopes filled with unmarked, non-sequential twenties in the mail. You know who you are.
Fortunately, I have hit upon the perfect method of income generation: SUBLIMINAL ADVERTISING. Modern day office-worker-types are much too clever to look directly at web ads for discount airfare or humorous keychains. Instead, they must be tricked.
We pay bloggers to write posts
Apparently I'll only get five dollars per subliminal message, but what the hell? That's five dollars I would otherwise have to go without. My first assignment arrived this morning from the blog ads guy:
Your blog has been approved and we would love to start sending you postings. The first posting is for Car Insurance. Write whatever you like, but at some point in your posting mention the term auto insurance. Please link that term to: http://www.carinsurance.com/
Now that I have that little housecleaning out of the way, I'd like to share something that's been on my mind lately, namely, car insurance. If you have a car, you really out to have some car insurance. Even if you don't have a car, it certainly couldn't hurt to have car insurance. Get YOUR car insurance today.
PS - Car insurance
Wednesday, August 3, 2005
Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash
As longtime readers of this web journal will have noted, I often express a certain wistful admiration for pirates, and the swashbuckling life they lead upon the high seas, waving their cutlasses merrily at the fading pursuit of spent Spanish privateers and singing bawdy songs over flagons of grog. I realize that this is something of a fictional construct, since historical pirates were probably not nearly as jolly as we might imagine, and also, no doubt, smelled pretty ripe after a few months at sea. As for modern-day pirates, they are probably even less exciting, since most of them seem to be grim-faced Indonesians with machine-guns and a taste for brutal maritime thuggery.
The excellent online resource Wikipedia, in its entry on pirates, confirms these suspicions:
Pirates are a popular modern representation of rebellious, clever teams who operate outside the restricting bureaucracy of modern life. In reality, many pirates ate poorly, did not become fabulously wealthy, and died young.
The sour tone of this seems like a needless buzz-kill, but the facts are, no doubt, roughly correct. However, I have heard that some pirates made at least rude attempts at fashioning some sort of meritocratic society far from the class wars and hieracrchies of their homelands. The infamous Blackbeard even created a pirate Constitution, or so I have heard*. And even if most pirates were outcasts for perfectly good reasons (ie - they were thieves, or cutthroats, or the sort of people who drink beer in church), at least there was somewhere such misfits could find a place in the world, even if it was only the pitching deck of a dark-lanterned ship sailing fast on a on errand of questionable legality.
* I heard this in an NPR interview at some point, but web searches for the relevant terms only lead one to numerous reports of Blackbeard's assault on the USS Constitution in 1878, which is not the same thing at all.
So I cannot, in good faith, claim that I wish to adopt the pirating life, or even that I approve of it. In fact, if the mayor and the vice-admiral should drop by this afternoon, I will meet them in the drawing room in my best jacket, and have Jenson pour them some of the second-best whiskey, and we will talk about the latest word from the colonies, and shake our heads at reports of the thieving dogs who plundered the merchant ships headed for the Barbary Coast, leaving their hapless crews stranded on an island and driving up the prices for tea and molasses. But though I will shake my head as vigorously as the others, inside I will raise a secret salute to the Jolly Roger.
We set to sail on a packet
Tuesday, August 2, 2005
Things That You Should Not Make Jokes About
Monday, August 1, 2005
"I Just Ate Twenty Meatballs"
As usual, my weekend was a high-profile whirlwind of glittering social engagements, including an exhausting five-hour Yankees game, selling old hats at a bunch of antique stores, and hamburgers for dinner on two separate occasions. You'll probably read all about in the society pages of your local newspaper.
In case you prefer short and cryptic phrases shorn of all context, however, feel free te reconstruct my social agenda of the last two weeks from the following text messages I received on my cellular telephone:
Yaw baseball! I made out with an awesome lady last night in a treehouse!
As you can see, high society is not without pitfalls and dangers of its own, some relating to foodstuffs, and some relating to professional baseball.
Friday, July 29, 2005
The End of the World As We Know It
It is a bright day, filled with sunshine and promise. The weekend is upon us, and I have many exciting plans, some of which involve quesadillas and some of which involve the New York Yankees. All in all, it seems a perfect time to discuss THE DESTRUCTION OF THE EARTH. Alert reader Eric Webster shared some thoughts on this yesterday:
Your recent post on entropy recalled to me the following link, which I sent to HK some time ago. But I thought if you ever should worry that Earth is to be destroyed, you might take some solace here.
This leads to a bright and discursive discussion of "geocide", in which the author, Sam Hughes, offers some reassuring thoughts on the relative difficulty of destorying the earth:
The Earth was built to last. It is a 4,550,000,000-year-old, 5,973,600,000,000,000,000,000-tonne ball of iron. It has taken more devastating asteroid hits in its lifetime than you've had hot dinners, and lo, it still orbits merrily. So my first piece of advice to you, dear would-be Earth-destroyer, is: do NOT think this will be easy.
Following this comforting thought, however, Mr. Hughes goes on (with great scientific precision) to describe the various way by which the planet Earth might be utterly and completely destroyed, including annihilation by 'strange matter', being sucked into a black hole, rotating it super-fast until it breaks up, blowing it up with a matter/antimatter reaction, simply smashing it with a heavier object, hurling it into the sun, having it eaten by something called Von Neumann machines and burning it with solar plasma. He goes on to discuss some less feasible methods, my favorite of which is using time travel to negate its existence. Destruction by God is also briefly examined in this section.
Let me say, for the record, that I am not in favor of the destruction of the earth, since this is where I live, and also where I keep my stuff. However, whatever you're going to do, be it making fine cabinets or a website meticulously listing the various methods by which your home planet might be pulverized, you should do it carefully and with great seriousness of purpose.
That's great it starts with an earthquake
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Time Travel and the Eventual Heat Death of the Universe
1. Entropy is a measure of the amount of chaos and disorder in any system, from galaxies to high-schools to mile-long particle accelerators under the Nevada desert. In a closed system, entropy increases constantly. Individual actors within the system can stop the increase in disorder on a local scale, but their efforts only serve to increase the total disorder elsewhere, or slightly prolong the inevitable.
2. In a closed system, energy dissipates as entropy increases. This effect is sometimes referred to as "time's arrow". If an independent observer of a closed system had no other way of marking the passage of time, he or she could note the steadily increasing disorder and the corresponding lack of available energy in the system, and could discern that time was passing.
This has been used as an argument against the possibility of time travel. Once events have taken place, the very fact of their having taken place contributes to the increase of entropy. It is impossible to reverse this process.
3. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that entropy in a closed system increases until a state of complete disorder is reached. At this point there is no available energy within the system. Light, heat, wind, radiation, movement, sorcery, helium balloons, and all other sources of energy are tapped, depleted. It is not a heartening thought.
4. The First Law of Thermodynamics states that matter can never be created, nor destroyed, and holds no direct application to the problem at hand.
5. In a closed system, the degree of entropy will increase, in fits and starts, to a maximum, at which point no energy is available for any purpose, and the "heat death" of this system is achieved.
6. The universe is not a closed system.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
The Best Songs Never Get Sung
Mastery. I lack it, in all things, and the knowledge haunts me terribly. I got no game.
As other, more scintillating thinkers and writers have observed, it would take lifetimes to master the vast array of intellectual, creative and physical disciplines that the world contains. Since each of us has only the one (lifetime), we must decide what fascinates us the most. It is this choice that vexes me so.
If I had a long supply of lifetimes to fritter away, I would choose to master astronomy, poetry, fencing, stage magic, political science, theology, bluegrass music, the history of science fiction, American history, classical piano, clay-court tennis, cartography and cabinet-making. As it is, I lack focus. Each time enthusiasm takes me, I make a small amount of progress and then move on to other things. I have written only random chapters of a children's book about sinister monkeys. I can play the guitar but not the banjo. I understand economics enough to talk to someone who doesn't , but no more than that. I play chess, but if I played against an expert, I would be beaten like a thief. Mastery of any one thing eludes me.
There is something to be said for being a generalist. We live in an era of specialization. Knowing a little about a lot can be more useful than knowing a lot about a little, but it is rarely as impressive. Also, what if that's just a crock cooked up by people like me who lack focus, but are good at disseminating propaganda? (Maybe they have blogs too). It's difficult to say.
Also, I apologize to my regular readers for the lateness and (let's admit) lameness of this week's posts. In my defense, it's 96 degrees outside. My brain is leaden with fatigue and my fingers shake from heat exhaustion. Even typing this much has weakened me.
The best song will never get sung
For more information on the ruin of the West and the sudden, violent light that streaks across the universe directly from distant quasars into THIS VERY COMPUTER, please visit the Bears Will Attack Weblog Archive.
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