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Month: July 2006

Uncle Charlie

Uncle Charlie

Last Friday I got a call from my mother saying that my uncle Charlie had died the evening before. I didn’t know what to say about this, and I still don’t. In the grand scheme of things I ended up being “closer” to my mother’s relatives (Charlie was my mother’s brother in-law) than my father’s because we seemed to see them more. Visits to Aunt Lois and Uncle Charlie’s were quite common growing up. Although I can no longer attend, my mom’s family gets together for thanksgiving and Christmas every year. I remember many times sitting in Lois and Charlie’s house watching the parade waiting for the food to be served.

Charlie’s health had been deteriorating for some time now, and he’d been having heart trouble. The news of his death wasn’t really a shock to anyone – but sad and unfortunate. However, Charlie had already given his contribution to the world. He was a scout master, a former US Army soldier, a small business owner in the small town of Wooster, and raised my cousins to be Eagle Scouts and upstanding members of their community.

loose change

loose change

A friend of mine sent me this link over the weekend.

Compelling stuff – despite the hip-hop and teenage narration.

I can validate the accuracy of the Cleveland airport footage. I was in Cleveland that day and remember seeing all those people on the local news. I think it was even the same clips used in this film.

the future (and past) of food

the future (and past) of food

Tuesday afternoon I took a trip to Burbank to meet with my doctor. He is a surprisingly nice guy (I’m used to the “coldness” of Los Angeles citizens now I guess), and it seems like another indicator that Burbank operates more like a small town than other “burbs” in LA. I’d had blood tests done two weeks ago and got a physical at my first visit. Apparently I’m normal inside and out. All the tests came back with good numbers. That night I did yoga for the second time in my life. This time it was longer and more painful. My flexibility is very poor – so I should keep going. My friend Edimer is in the class and she told me I’d lost weight since she’d seen me a month ago. My weight that night was 165 (with shoes and clothes on). I’m probably in the best physical shape I’ve been since I first started working out as a teenager.

Last night I went to Aaron’s to watch the documentary The Future of Food . The documentary was about genetically modified food. Aaron asked me to pick up a little ceasers $5 pizza for them on my way. (You’ll see why this is important in a minute) The documentary mainly focused on the production of GM corn crops and it’s impact on the consumer and the farmer (both are getting the short end of the stick apparently). It also made the case that subsidies are hurting farmers. Apparently other countries are watching us to see if GM crops cause damage. A Japanese official was quoted as saying (I’m paraphrasing) “For the next ten years we will watch America’s children to see the effects of GM crops before importing any into our country.” So, we are all guinea pigs for the seed corporations like Monsanto. A Monsanto employee even released a statement saying that they don’t care about the health effects – “it is our job to sell seeds, it is the FDA’s job to make sure they are safe.” Turns out – many high ranking FDA and government employees are current and former employees of Monsanto, even Donald Rumsfeld.

At the tail end of the film it was noted that production of GM wheat has started. I silently thought about the pizza Aaron and Caleb just ate.

On the way home I thought more about what products have wheat and how it would affect me more than corn based GM products. Then I remembered the pizza. Pizza dough is made from wheat, isn’t it?

Then I remembered someone that has a wheat allergy. Someone that insisted I buy much more expensive Spelt bread for her at a farther away grocery store to eat at my apartment rather than regular wheat bread I bought a block away. I then realized that we’d eaten pizza together on many many many occasions and not once did she ever complain about it making her sick. My father suggested that some or all of these allergies may have been fabricated in order to “compete” with mine. A narcissist always has to be the best – especially at garnering sympathy. It would appear the wheat allergy was fabricated. If I forget that there are peanuts in a candy bar and I eat it – I’ll still get sick. Thus – I NEVER FORGET TO CHECK INGREDIENTS. If she was really allergic to wheat then chowing down on that Papa Johns pan pizza, that Shakeys pizza, that personal pan BBQ chicken pizza from BJ’s, etc. would have made her puke her guts out. Instead I just heard “mmm, this is good pizza.”

I know some of you say that I shouldn’t even think about this stuff or talk about it. However, little realizations like these serve to reinforce the fact that I should be glad this person isn’t in my life anymore. It is also a way of recording these important deceptions. A phenomenon I’m noticing is that the more time passes, the easier it is to forget about the little things like this. The more you start to miss the tactile things about a person and the “together” mode of thinking. That is a very dangerous thought pathway to walk down – so writing these “negatives” down keeps me on the right track.

At this point I’m at least ready to date someone. There are a few girls I’ve met online that appear interesting – but they all have significant roadblocks. One is saying that she’s going to Australia for 6 months. Another is currently in Hong Kong. Another is a total flake. And so on. Two thoughts always run through my head. #1 Online dating doesn’t work – the people are generally inferior and that is why they are online. #2 My ex met her new boyfriend offline. Aaron met his screwed up “ex” offline. Therefore you are just as likely to at least be introduced to a “fucked up” person offline anyway – so online dating is not any worse. And I know from personal experience that women can hide their secrets just as well in person as in email.

Hiking tonight (again) in Griffith Park. No plans for this weekend.


the answer is….”42″

the answer is….”42″

I hiked up one of the fire roads at Griffith park yesterday. Went all the way to the top where you can look out on downtown. I just stood there for probably twenty minutes….not knowing how to feel about anything. As I walked back down (it’s about 45 minutes each way) I realized a fundamental human problem. As humans we don’t understand what being together OR being alone really means. While we are technically alone our whole lives we spend the entire time trying to connect with other people whether it be for friendship, romance, family, etc. Even when we accomplish what we think is the ultimate “together” (marriage) we end up alone in the long run because people die. We were given the gift of self-awareness, but we weren’t given the ability to understand how that consciousness can die out. If we could understand it we wouldn’t grieve. We also probably would not have organized religion. Almost every religion on earth states that when we die…we aren’t really gone. It is an excuse to bypass the idea of permanent absence of consciousness where one once existed. This also accounts for the idea of a “soul.” Soul simply being a word to explain the “personality” that each person has – the traits we exhibit that go beyond instinctual behavior and physical flesh.

This is why loss, whether through death, divorce, moving, etc. can be the most traumatic event many people will experience. This explains why combat veterans have trouble reintegrating into normal society. They have been trained to kill. It must be a very large burden to live with the knowledge that you killed another human. Not because their life ended – but because we don’t understand what happened to them after that. Is it okay to do this just because someone “in charge” of you said it was?

However it happens in your life – loss will be accompanied by advice to “move on.” Moving on is a false concept. What these people are really saying is (although most of them probably don’t even realize it) “think about something else and never think about that loss again – because you’ll never be able to truly understand it.”

The human mind instinctively tries to understand; to make sense of what we witness. I think this is a reason why some people (myself included) can become depressed. This also explains why depression seems to appear more among more intelligent and creative personalities; for they are the truth seekers. When there is no truth to be found – these people keep at it – as if they’ll be the first to discover the answer to life. It never happens however, and the minds keep bending downwards into a pit of confusion over the subject. Most of these people end up taking chemicals simply to stop their brains from following their natural path – for that path leads to personal destruction.

Sigmund Freud said that depressed people see themselves as they really are. If they are convinced they are a loser, ugly, pathetic, etc. then in some small way that must be true. Perhaps he was more right than he knew. Perhaps depressed people can really see how terrible the world really is (after all – people are getting murdered right now, people are starving right now, people are being beaten, etc.). Animals have an instinctual behavior to avoid harm – but it is up for debate whether they actually understand death. What I mean by understand in this sense is the fact that it will A) one day happen to them and B) a dead thing is no longer living. Humans appear to be the only animals that were given this “gift” of understanding (but only halfway).

Almost everything we do every single day is dedicated to the pursuit of forgetting this cold fact of life. We work. We tell ourselves we’re working so we can buy food and live. If we really wanted to just eat we’d all still be out on the plains of Africa killing wild animals. The problem is – after we kill that animal and fill our guts, we’re left with ten more hours of sitting around wondering what the point of life is. Why do you think the “regular” working day is from 9am to 5pm? It is structured so that we have something else to occupy our minds. We’ve set up a society in which we work so hard at this distraction that we need to take “vacations” from it. Imagine that – we need a vacation from the thing that is keeping us from getting depressed in the first place. This is why we hear about depressed millionaires and wonder “how can they be depressed, their life is better than mine and I’m doing okay?!” The answer is – those depressed millionaires have a lot more free time to sit and ponder the meaning of life. The reaction to realizing you can’t figure something out (and never will) is naturally sadness. The natural evolutionary path for humanity is sadness.

That is – until we develop (evolve) the ability to actually understand these things. That is the next step. It is unclear whether human beings will ever reach this point (although I suppose that is the goal of the buddhist) – or even if any animal in the entire universe ever will, but it is the only way to actually be truly happy. I would hypothesize that anyone who is “happy” now is simply choosing to exist in a state of ignoring (thus “ignorance is bliss”). Real happiness will come when (if) we are able to understand the world (death) and then embrace all the things that make us superficially happy now – for at our current state of evolution these “happy” things are merely distractions.

However, if the choice is to be puposefully ignorant and be happy…or live with this knowledge and be sad – I suppose I’d rather be happy. Ironically – being depressed leads to a quicker death – and we’re all afraid of death in the first place. By ignoring death and it’s implications we actually do live longer. Fitting, in a way, don’t you think?

Friday Night

Friday Night

We set out from 4939 around 9pm, including Aaron, Garen, and Pete. We took the 2 down to Echo Park and parked behind the big church there. It was a short walk down and to the left to get to The Echo . I haven’t been to very many of these local music venues, but they all seem to be about the same inside; and not that different than the music bars in Ohio (think Little Brothers ). While waiting outside I saw the biggest cockroach I’d ever seen. It was at least as wide as my thumb, and promptly scampered inside the bar when Aaron tried to stomp on it.

The second band had already taken the stage by the time we were ushered inside (those without tickets had to wait in the “other” line). The music was alright, but the band would definitely benefit from a live drummer – and in fact later in their set they told the crowd they were looking for one. This resulted in more than a few elbows hitting Aaron’s ribcage, but he confided he’d only join the band for one reason – to score with the blonde lead singer. She wasn’t my cup of tea (I haven’t had a blonde preference since the last century) but a few others in the group seemed to think she was something special. One in our group even spent some time after the show trying to get in her good graces while the rest of us waited outside.

The next band was better, and we all agreed were the standout for the night. They had a “happy” sound and incorporated a mellotron melody into many a song. The set was short however so they could make way for the headliner.

Dios Malos took the usual approach of making the crowd wait. And wait. And wait before they took the stage. The mood was set by a disco ball and a video projector featuring oddball spliced clips of 70s kids shows and old movies (2001, planet of the apes, lost in space, etc.) splayed out on the long upper wall of the “great hall” section of the room. The ceiling was higher in this middle room in front of the stage (the rooms were laid out much like a small medieval church) and thus allowed for a spare wall above the crowd to throw a projection on.

The music was different. I couldn’t help but think about James Dietzel. He would love this band. In fact, the uncharismatic lead singer/guitarist reminded me very much of James; if James had been born Hispanic. Every song seemed to have good moments that were destroyed by meandering and just plain weird interludes. The band had a “new” drummer that was very strange as well. He looked a lot like Billie from Green Day and insisted on rolling his eyes into the back of his head and making zombie faces with every rough blast on the skins. Pete noted that it looked like he was using the “weezer” setup (one floor tom). I believe he can be seen here (looking considerably more mellow) in the white shirt.

Superman Returns

Superman Returns

I’d wanted to see a movie on IMAX for quite some time. I’d heard great things about the format. I’d seen an IMAX movie in Columbus Ohio, (see this blog entry) but it wasn’t a MMP (major motion picture). As Superman Returns posters started going up around town last month I noticed at the bottom “see it in IMAX 3D.” So, plans were made to see the movie in IMAX 3D with Aaron. We tried for a few days but tickets would always end up selling out a day in advance. So, Sunday we bought tickets for the Monday night show.

We opted to walk up the hill instead of paying $11 to park in the T-Rex garage at Universal Studios. Once inside we made our way to the theater only to find out we had to wait in one line to get tickets to get in the real line. Apparently the ticket print outs weren’t good enough for Loews. So, we had to wait in line at guest services (which was manned by only one employee that night) before getting in the long line for the IMAX screening. Once we were admitted to the theater things didn’t get better. Apparently Loews had been slamming as many showings of the 157 minute movie into each day as possible – and not bothering to hose down the floor in between shows. As soon as we started walking down the thinner than usual rows we heard the terrible “sticky-shoe” noise. Walking out after the film I counted no less than three pieces of gum on my shoe bottoms.

I must say I don’t understand the draw of watching a MMP on an IMAX screen. They letterboxed it and so I don’t think it was that much bigger than it would have been on any other screen in the theater. However, IMAX seats are pushed much closer to the screen (so you’re “in” the action). Unfortunately with a MMP this just results in you getting a really good look at the film grain.

There was about 20 minutes of “3D” action in the film – but none of it worked as well as the CG movie trailers shown before the film.

The film itself was rather dull. Superman returns. Why was he gone? Nobody cares. How Lois can continually not notice that Clark and Superman are the same person must make her the dumbest reporter alive (aren’t reporters supposed to pick up on things like that?). Brandon Routh has signed a contract for two more films, I hope they aren’t as “mommy-centric” as this one. Nobody cares about the problems in Lois Lane’s relationship with her new guy. Nobody cares. Yeah, we know that kid is Superman’s son. Why didn’t you? If he has super hearing, super strength, etc. you’d think the needle would have broken when the doctor tried to give him a shot (this phenomenon is even demonstrated on his father in a later scene)….thus giving away who his father is. And how are we supposed to feel about Mr. White? He seems like a nice guy, yet he’s being led to believe that this kid is his when Lois probably knows it isn’t. We usually want to root for Superman – but in this case I can’t really root for a guy that disappears from a relationship for five years and comes back and expects his old girl’s new guy to just move along. I suppose this was Singer’s attempt at introducing a “human” aspect to Superman. The problem is that Superman isn’t supposed to be human, he’s Super.