Tuesday, November 22, 2005
The following correction appeared in the New York Times yesterday:
Wednesday's editorial about the lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave the wrong name for the president of Gabon in one reference. It should have been President Bongo, not President Gabon.
The funniest thing about this is NOT the name "President Bongo", which sounds like a children's party clown who wears a tie and a big red nose and gives comical speeches, but the fact that the nation's newspaper of record referred to the president of Gabon as President Gabon, which is like the Gabon Times referring to George W. Bush as "President America".
But as they put it so succinctly in the Good Book, let me first cast out the beam out of mine own eye that I might see clearly to cast out the mote from the eye of my brother. Bears Will Attack, although committed to the highest journalistic standards, is not without error, from time to time. And never let it be said that I would abandon the lives and reputations of those wronged without making amends.
CORRECTION: On Thursday, Nov. 17, this web journal made reference to Windows Media Player as being a "crappier version" of iTunes. This should have been phrased as "a more streamlined version". Bears Will Attack regrets the error.
CORRECTION: On Wednesday, Nov. 16, this web journal noted that "only YOU can prevent forest fires." In actuality, only the National Parks Service, in association with local firefighters and emergency management services, can prevent forest fires, as you lack the necessary training, firefighting equipment, communications grid and access to the water system to be effective. Bears Will Attack regrets the error.
CORRECTION: On Monday, November 7, this web journal reported that the cover of the Anne Rice vampire book I am reading is "fairly embarassing", which is not accurate, since the cover is actually "quite embarassing". Also, contrary to statements in that day's report, I AM a literary elitist. Bears Will Attack regrets the error.
CORRECTION: Contrary to a report from Tuesday, Nov. 15, Joe Janda does not have a mind control ray. Bears Will Attack regrets the error.
It takes a big man to admit when he's wrong. Fortunately, I am that man, thanks to a strict regimen of pizza for lunch and no exercise at all.
Monday, November 21, 2005
The Information Superhighway Has Brought Me Unusual Gifts
I have very little work to do today, and, being essentially a sinful and unproductive person, I have spent the morning looking on the world wide interweb to see what rare muses move the people.
The Bear Who Excretes Prime Numbers
Peter Pan: A Grown Man
Coke Can Tuxedo
The Interchangeable World of the Micronauts
The Gender Politics of Reality TV
Friday, November 18, 2005
Adult Swim Only
Like all Americans between the ages of 10 and 95, I sometimes think about sex. However, I do not typically share those sorts of thoughts on this web journal, as Bears Will Attack is a family-friendly establishment. To my knowledge, at least four of my family members are in the habit of occasionally visiting this website (Hi, Mom! Hi Carolyn! Hi, Jackie! Hi, Chris!), and now it seems that my friend James' mother has also visited Bears Will Attack (if only to see funny pictures of her granddaughter):
Jane actually said she thought your website was funny
This is all the more reason to keep things clean around here. James once forwarded an email to his mother where I (regrettably) used colorful language, and she responded with a severe and richly-deserved e-scolding in ALL CAPS. (Although, why would he forward something like that to his mother, of all people? Am I really the only wrong-doer here?)
At any rate, I will not be discussing adult topics at Bears Will Attack today, or any other day. However, if you are interested in such things, I can be found discussing them elsewhere on the world wide interweb, such as Heck's Kitchen and Repress Yourself. Enjoy! (Unless you are my mother, or Mrs. Johnson, in which case I strongly urge you NOT to enjoy).
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Sorrow Presses Down Upon Us Like A Stone
Today is a sorrowful day, and I am brought low by it.
One of the computer guys came to my desk this morning at work, and he looked uncomfortable. "It's about your, ah, network access," he said awkwardly. Instantly I became fearful, assuming my constant downloading of large pornographic image files was the cause of this visit. But, as he continued to stand there, I recalled that I do not download pornographic image files of any sort. Nor do I download computer games or instant-messaging programs or pirated video software.
I actually don't download much of anything at work. It's not that I like to toe the corporate line or anything. I'm just not much of a downloader. "If it's worth having, eventually Edward or Troy will download it and give it to me in a more outdated format," is my motto.
It turns out that my violation was listening to NPR all day long on iTunes. Apparently internet radio is a big eater of company bandwidth, which, I am sorry to report, does not grow on trees. Also, apparently, we're not supposed to download iTunes, we're supposed to use the much crappier Windows Media Player that comes already installed. All this was news to me. And, although I like to make life difficult for the suits, I hate to make life difficult for the constantly-harassed computer guy, so I de-installed everything and continued to work in eerie, nerve-wracking silence.
Except that was driving me batty, so I hunted around and found some cd's to listen to. Still, my work day seemed very long and disjointed without the familiar monotone voices of the NPR hosts respectfully engaging both callers and guests in their earnest discussions of Medicare prescription drug reform and documentary films about the halycon days of Broadway.
I will endure, but it is not something I am pleased about. If only there was some sort of portable, non-computer device that could be used to listen to radio programs. Maybe Microsoft will invent one soon.
I'm a war, of head versus heart,
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
When Babies Attack
As you can imagine, given the name of this website, I like to keep abreast of the latest happenings in the world of bear attacks. Such reports, however, can often be sobering, and may contain a tragic dimension of human loss. The most recent such report to find its way to me was, luckily, not such a tale.
My friend James (whose status as a brand-new father was recently featured on this web journal) took his three-week-old daugher Parker camping in Yellowstone National Forest this past weekend, and, as happens so often to inexperienced campers, they were set upon by a ferocious bear. Fortunately, Parker, using the martial arts skills that all three-week-old babies possess, attacked the bear and drove it away:
Remember: Only YOU can prevent forest fires.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Received Wisdom: Vol. II
I have no time to waste today on such fripperies as guitar songs and daring tales of the sea, no time to sift the coded signals of the universe for wisdom. Instead, I will have to do a data purge, and let you sort it out for yourselves:
If anyone can determine the connections between these seemingly disparate data points, please advise.
Monday, November 14, 2005
Jeff Tweedy, the shambling anti-hero who leads the band Wilco, is playing two solo acoustic shows in New York City this week. Which would be a source of great excitement to me, if it weren't for the fact that both shows are free.
That sounds fantastic, at first blush. Free shows! The only thing better than free shows is free shows with free hamburgers and haircuts. Unfortunately, of course, the less-charming angels of our nature make a free-spirited communal society without possessions an impossibility, and even a subset of the population as well-intentioned as Wilco fans labors under the iron collar of the Almighty Buck. Which is to say that the "free" tickets were snapped up in seconds, and are now going for as much as $75 apiece on Craigslist and eBay.
Wilco fans among my discerning readers have surely seen the documentary 'I Am Trying to Break Your Heart', an excellent film that chronicles the making of the band's critically-acclaimed 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot' album. (One needn't be a Wilco fan to enjoy the movie. Anyone with any connection to the idea of music as art will get something out of it.)
Anyway, there's a great scene in it where Tweedy is at some kind of industry meet-and-greet while his newly-finished record languishes in record-label purgatory, staring somewhat blankly at oblivious suits who keep asking him what the new records sounds like. He struggles with a suitable answer, and comes out with "The music has...holes...in it." Which is a good six-word description of the heavily-deconstructed album, but he delivers it in a strange and awkward fashion, like a man with a bad case of the shakes, and the suits are clearly uncomfortable with this response.
Directly following this, the movie cuts to live footage of Tweedy playing a solo acoustic show in a small theater, where he does an unremittingly spare and desolate version of 'Sunken Treasure'. This particular version of this particular song has stayed with me clearly, years after seeing the movie. I have, of course, turned to the world wide internet, where various people have provided audio-files of this acoustic version, completely free from all charge or obligation. Which is nice, but it's not quite the same.
I spent the weekend at a recording studio in a basement in Brooklyn, doing all the things one does when recording rock music (playing the bass guitar, stopping, starting, trying to pay close attention to the drums, sitting on a sofa for long periods of time, drinking Coca-Cola from a can, etc). So perhaps I am more attunted than I might usually be to the idea of a song as a fluid, mutable thing. Someone writes a song, thinks about how best to arrange it and play it and sing it and then records it that way, and if you like the song, you become accustomed to that particular arrangement, that particular recording, as being "how the song goes". But any good song can be broken down into its component pieces and re-assembled in dozens of ways. Tweedy's re-assembling of 'Sunken Treasure' with just a guitar and a harmonica and a melody line flattened down to a crawl is, to me, a remarkable way to break that particular song down and re-assemble it. But is the experience of that remarkable enough to part with $75? It is hard to say. I am still thinking about that.
There's rows and rows of houses
Friday, November 11, 2005
The Ghosts of Sailors Past
Like most people, I enjoy living on the knife-edge of the millennium, what with the plentiful food, ready supply of potable water and effective medicines, constant data-stream and endless array of consumer products. I do sometimes regret, however, that the life of a gentleman adventurer is denied to me.
Daring rescue missions to remote Afghanistan, negotiating with indigenous tribal chieftains on the way to the fabled source of the Nile, various imperialist concerns, sailing ships, cutlasses, bandoliers. These are the elements of romantic, pulp-fiction-era adventure missing from today's world. Also, I imagine that a certain degree of British reserve and American derring-do would be required. And mustachioed villains, possibly holding those big round bombs with the rope fuses on top.
The closest thing would be the army, I guess, but that seems like a LOT of tedium and hard-work and being yelled at very early in the morning, for only a very small return of "daring adventure". And, while the uniforms are okay, you never see army guys in pith helmets.
(It's possible that pith helmet technology has been replaced by somethiung more advanced, which I am unaware of, given my lack of familiarity with this sort of equipment.)
Clearly I am wildly mistaken in my belief that the world was less complicated and more romantic one hundred years ago, and, equally clearly, I am wishing for a world that exists only in colonialist myth. Deconstructionism, while it has formed the basis of my intellectual pursuits and the wellspring from which most of my best jokes are drawn, lacks a certain panache. But that does not stop me. Those dastardly villains may have escaped with Lady Huntington's brave and beautiful maidservant, but there's no place on earth remote and dangerous enough for them to hide. (*Shakes fist*)
We set to sail on the clipper
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Ambivalent About Chaos
Yesterday was a good day in America, with significant electoral victories for Democrats in my neighboring state of New Jersey, as well as my home state of Virginia. And they don't always cotton to Democrats in the Old Dominion. let me tell you what. Well, they do in northern Virginia, where everyone works for the federal government or an internet company, but not so much in southern Virginia, where I grew up, where everyone works for an auto-parts supply store.
So that was good news. Plus the entire school board from Dover, PA (the ones currently embroiled in the law suit over the teaching of "science" versus the teaching of "magical powers") were all voted out of office. The American people are willing to put up with more nonsense than I would like, at times, but their patience has a limit.
Given these positive developments in the civic realm, I think I can afford to relax my hound-like vigilance. I was extremely cranky for a couple days there. I think maybe I was a little overcommitted, what with the scattershot campaign volunteering, the aiding of the disadvantaged youth, preparation for the upcoming D&D game, rehearsing with the Debutantes for an imminent recording session, and all that tedious 'going to work every day' business on top of it. Plus, I'm disorganized, reckless and strange.
How do I know this? Scientifically, that's how.
Online tests of this kind often fall into two camps: the ones that make you answer vague questions in unsatisfactory ways and then shoehorn you into a few narrow categories that make no sense, and long, comprehensive lists of questions that force you to describe your own personality traits and then feed them back to you using synonyms and thinly-veiled armchair-psychologist euphemisms. I prefer the latter, since they tend to make people say "Hey! That's TOTALLY me!" and forward the test to all their friends.
For those of you not privileged enough to spend time with me on a regular basis, have one of your friends behave in the following ways for a couple days in order to realistically simulate the experience:
messy, disorganized, social, tough, outgoing, rarely worries, self revealing, open, risk taker, likes the unknown, likes large parties, makes friends easily, likes to stand out, likes to make fun of people, reckless, optimistic, positive, strong, does not like to be alone, ambivalent about chaos, abstract, impractical, not good at saving money, fearless, trusting, thrill seeker, not rule conscious, enjoys leadership, strange, loves food, abstract, rarely irritated, anti-authority, attracted to the counter culture
Except for "thrill seeker" and "loves food", these are all pretty on the money. Although you could read "thrill" as "moderately-interesting things" and "food" as "hamburgers", which would make it all 100 percent accurate.
My favorite one is "ambivalent about chaos". Cause what are you gonna do, right?
Tuesday, November 8, 2005
Today is, of course, election day, that rare and magical civic holiday when Americans of all beliefs and creeds gather in drab public buildings to share that most sacred of civil acts. After which they may have the opportunity to purchase baked goods from church-lady types nearby.
New York City is fiercely in the grip of a hotly-contested mayoral race, with incumbent Republican Michael Bloomberg expected to pull ahead by a mere 85% or so. Seriously, it's set to be a blowout of epic proportions. The New York City Democratic party should be run out of town on a rail.
Which is why, in the spirit of anti-authoritarian tumult for which this great city is known, I encourage my fellow citizens to cast their votes for mayoral candidate Jimmy McMillan, a bearded man running for office on the "Rent Is Too Damn High" party ticket.
Mr. McMillan has numerous traits that might qualify him for mayor, such as his weird, floating beard, his career experiences as both a mailman and a Vietnam veteran, and the fact that he appears to be high on drugs in both of the two pictures of him I have seen. The real strength of his campaign, however, is the official Rent Is Too Damn High party website, which features a picture of McMillan (although it does not mention his name until much further down the page), and the official party slogan ("You're Going to Get Evicted"). It also features the following explanation:
We apologized for the BAD, Grammar, Spelling, and anything you might find wrong with this web Site. We Deeply apologize. But your "RENT" Is Still Too Damn High. (This Web Site is maintained by a disable veteran)
But the most compelling case by far for the Rent Is Too Damn High party is made by the song that plays as soon as you visit the website. Details are not given, but the song is probably called "Rent Is Too Damn High", since those are the only lyrics. They are delivered in a grim and joyless monotone (presumably by the candidate himself) over a jaunty Casio-style beat.
Other highlights of this website include a perplexing series of inappropriate punctuation marks (such as the constant use of quotation marks around the word "we", which suggests either an advanced sense of textual identity-deconstructionism or schizophrenia), the back-up slogan "Ain't Nobody Running Nobody Anywhere", a series of paranoid-sounding "warnings" to landlords, the endorsement of the "Dance Liberation Front", and some newspaper articles that refer to Mr. McMillan being tied to a tree and "doused with gasoline". It is not clear from these articles whether Mr. McMillan was engaging in an act of civil disobediance or simply messed with the wrong dudes.
At any rate, a vote for Jimmy McMillan will not accomplish much in the world of municipal governance. In fact, it would probably be disastrous. But it would send a strong message to multi-billionaire Republican Mike Bloomberg: "Our votes are not for sale! As you can see."
Monday, November 7, 2005
My Dark Gift
I was, of course, looking forward to another work-free Monday, when I would sit on the sofa, make a turkey sandwich EXACTLY the correct way, and keep you, my loyal readers, up to date on the day's 'Law & Order' offerings. Unfortunately, I saw the movie 'Jarhead' last night, which made me realize how woefully out of shape I am. What if I needed to lounge around on a tank looking confident and muscular? Not with this desk-jockey's physique, buster. So I dug up my running shoes.
Also, I need to do something about this pink hair (see last Monday's post). I got some "Starry Night" hair dye, which is supposed to turn your hair "bright black". Which sounds okay, except it might make me look too emo. Plus the box says that, if applied to bleached or highlighted hair, the dye may result in a "very intense" color, which worries me.
I've gotten pretty used to having pink hair, and people on the street seem to enjoy it. My ratio of compliments/pleased children to disapproving glances is around three to one. Unfortunately, however, I have taken to reading Anne Rice books, and this has caused some problems.
I'm no literary elitist. I always meant to read an Anne Rice book, just to see what alll the fuss was about, but I never got around to it. Jaime read all the vampire ones, and she recently started reading the witch ones (there's a big pile of 'vampire' books, and a smaller pile of 'witch' books). Normally she reads at the usual pace, but she just tore through those books. No eating, no sleeping, no television; just the silent flipping of pages. So I figured I would give it a shot. I started with "The Vampire Lestat", which is the second book in the vampire chronicle (I skipped the first one, since I half-remember the movie with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt), and it is a PAGE-TURNER. Man, those vampires do not stop with the secret societies and mysterious histories and sorrowful tragic relationships.
Which is all well and good, but since I enjoyed the first one so much, I got the "first three volumes in one big honkin' book" edition, partly because it was more economical, and partly because it had the least embarrassing cover art. Although it still has fairly embarassing cover art ("ANNE RICE'S VAMPIRE CHRONICLES" plus bright red blood on a black background), which brings us to my problem, which is the reality of being the guy on the subway with pink hair, reading a giant Anne Rice book. I can't be that guy.
Thursday, November 3, 2005
Grounds for Divorce
I really like that one song where he's singing all crazy at first. You know? Before the drums come in and the guitar's all back-and-forth and buzzy. And then the part where everything starts and the whole band is playing that back-and-forth part. And then the chorus or whatever starts and there's like a big keyboard part and he sings all soft and sad and he's talking about how someone is standing or moving their hands or something. And right after that the instruments all drop out and he says the end of that part about the person standing there and maybe she got married or whatever, and then the music comes back and everything's going all back-and-forth again. Then, the second time after the chorus, it all stops and he finishes singing that short part when it's all quiet about how they should get a divorce or something like that, and then there's a new part with the drums playing really fast and the guitar's all chink-chink-chink. I like how that part is really different but it doesn't go one for very long, and they don't go back and play again.
Anyway, that song is awesome.
Wednesay, November 2, 2005
What Are the People Looking For?
Faced with the many-armed kraken of modern existential panic, many of our fellow citizens take to the world wide internet, searching frantically for some meaning, some clue to the the hidden wisdom of the spheres that might be contained in the streaming code. A handful of them, seeking enlightenment on some very specific and narrow topics, arrived at this website:
Recent Search Terms That Led Unsuspecting Web Trawlers to Bears Will Attack in Recent Weeks
Aside from the usual nerd-culture detritus (comic book and Dungeons & Dragons references, which we can ignore, because those guys always be lookin' up stuff on the internet), we can infer that there is a great thirst for knowledge about animals, often bears, doing various things, like being funny, being evil, being fluffy, being sad, and bothering horses. I am just pleased that I can provide some solace in an unmoored world.
Tuesay, November 1, 2005
I'm So Punk
The guy at the store described the hair dye as "fire engine red", which I thought would go perfectly with my costume (a fire-powered superhero). However, he ought to have described it as "Gwen Stefani magenta", since that's what color it turned my hair.
The guy himself had dyed-black hair, but that was okay, since he worked at a goth store in the East Village. It is perfectly normal for him to have dyed hair and spiked clothing and eye-shadow. It is less normal for people who work in office buildings in midtown Manhattan to have magenta hair, or, indeed, any wildly-non-standard hair color. (My friend James once observed, of the little old ladies who came into the grocery store where I worked in high school with shockingly-bright blue hair, "If WE did that, it would be all punk and we'd get beat up.")
I am somewhat torn about the hair color. One the one hand, it is a fantastic dye job. The color is vivid and strange and there are random black streaks in the front where the bleach didn't take very well. Also, unlike most radical hair colors adopted by myself or my friends in college, my ears and scalp did not turn the same shade. In short, it is the hair color that my college-aged self would have killed to possess, in order to express his proud iconoclasm to his immediate circle of friends who all listened to similar music, wore similar clothes and knew all the same people.
On the other hand, a thirty-year-old person with pink hair is the cause of no end of glances in the street. Since this is New York City, I have little fear of being accosted, accused of abberant sexual deviancy and beaten up by thugs, but the distrustful looks from immigrant workers and Marines on leave are new to me. Also, because it was Halloween, I encountered a number of small children yesterday in my neighborhood, many of whom required explanations from their mothers regarding "that man's hair". ("He must be a rock singer," was my favorite.)
So I like the magenta hair in an absolute sort of way, but I am not sure I like it in a practical sort of way. That is to say, I enjoy the sight of my head in the mirror every morning, but I don't like people looking at me for a long time on the subway. And I probably will get over the enjoyment of it once the novelty wears off. Plus it's hard to dry my hair without turning the towels pink. Given these factors, I suspect I will need to obtain some dark brown hair dye fairly soon. Until then, I am enjoying the rare confluence of aesthetics between my current self and the younger version of me that was sure of so many things that time and experience would later reveal to be wrong.
I want to conquer the world
For more information on 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, which is, at present, several months out of date, due to unanticipated demands on the summer schedule of the BWA editorial staff.
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