Saturday, April 30, 2005

Get It Out!

Waking up early on Saturdays sucks. Problem is you get in a rhythm, and you can't get out without disaterous consequences.
Ohrworm. This is a German term for a sound or song that gets stuck in your head. The German's describe it as a song that literally wraps itself around your eardum. I like to think of it as a tapeworm in your ear. I know, that's disgusting. Moving on....
So much music out there now is Ohrworms. Some of it is good and some of it is bad. When you have a good Ohrworm, you don't mind that it's stuck in your head. But, when you have a bad Ohrworm, you want to claw your ears and brain out. The key to an Ohrworm is that it has a repeating melody and is usually quick. If you think or hear a piece of that song, the entire song begins playing in your head.
Have you seen, for example, the Vonage commercials? The ones where someone does something incredibly stupid (like cut down a tree and have it crash on to a car)? Well, the music in that commercial is a guy saying, "woo, woo. Woo, woo, woo," in a high pitched voice over and over again while a fast bass line runs. You can't help but get that song in your head. That song, to me, is a bad ohrworm. Another bad ohrworm is that song "Toxic" by Britney Spears. I don't know the name of this song, but it's on the radio all the time now. It has a guy in a hamster-like voice singing "Lonely. I'm so lonely." You find yourself laughing at it the first time you hear it, but as it plays over and over again, you want it to stop. Soon, it's in your head, and you hear it ALL THE TIME.
There is, of course, the ultimate Ohrworm. In this case, there are two. These are songs that are so powerful that even the tiniest note from them can cause the whole song to come into your head. What are these two devilish songs? "It's a Small World After All," (UGH, just writing it makes the song pop into my head!) and, "This Is the Song That Never Ends." They can never be expunged from the brain. This is where good Ohrworms come in to play (and, yes, good ohrworms can go bad).
Thankfully, there are songs that you don't mind popping into your head. Ever been on the subway, in your car, or somewhere when a song pops into your head, and your start humming it. I used to do that all the time when taking tests. If you went to college with me and had classes with me, I apologize. Anyway, there are these songs. For me, Looper's "Mondo '77" is one of those songs. Another one is Moby's "Lift Me Up." Both of these songs fit into the Ohrworm category with quick bass lines and easy words to fill up the ears. I don't mind, however, if these songs stick, and that's the key. Find some songs that if they pop into your head at random points, you don't mind.
So, feel free to tell
me if you have ever experienced an Ohrworm. Maybe you still have the theme from Disney's Robin Hood in your ear, (Remember that was sped up to become "The Hamster Dance") or maybe you look out your window and hear Suzanne Vega singing "Tom's Diner." Either way, take precautions, because Ohrworms can eventually, if strong enough, keep you up at night, and who wants that?

Friday, April 29, 2005

Tidbits 4/29/05

It's been a day just like every other day, but a few things happened today that are worth mentioning:

Here is one of the funniest blogs I have ever read. No wonder it won an award. Check this one out.

I love when the most random things possible happen when you aren't expecting them. I went for Greek food for lunch today. I went to this little place called the Athens Cafe (to me, it's the best Greek in town). After waiting for fifteen minutes and getting my food, I returned to my car in order to eat with some nice music and air conditioning. As I sat in my car and eat my gyro, I looked at a car parked a few spaces down from me. For some reason there was this movement that kept catching my eye. Something was moving. As I studied this car more closely, I figured out what the movement was: It was a head moving up and down. It seems that I stumbled upon a blow job. That's right, it was a guy leaning back, and a woman giving him some head. I was shocked as it was 12:30 in the afternoon and in broad daylight. I realized after five seconds of gawking that I needed to look away or I would soon lock eyes with the working woman. Still, he looked pretty happy. The only funny part was that as she worked, he was sucking (and I do mean sucking) on a beer bottle. It gave the whole scene a really different feel.

The other funny part of the day occured at the gym. Have you ever seen that commercial for Vonage where the guy falls on the treadmill and gets pitched? I witnessed a different version of it up close. Here's why you can't flirt and work out at the same time. This guy, we'll call him Shemp (as in the Three Stooges) was on a treadmill next to a gal about ten years younger and waaaaaayy out of his league. As they were running, he kept turning to her and trying to strike up a conversation (I admit it, I people watch at the gym when I work out). She ignored him. Finally, as the treadmill was rocking away, she turned to him and asked him a question. Not thinking, he turned his body to talk to her. Bad move. His foot slipped, he went down and was thrown back. Even Ms. Treadmill couldn't help but laugh. Still, she check in on him. When I finally left a half hour later, they were sitting together talking. Maybe he wasn't so "clumsy" after all.

I am going to attempt to be a weekend warrior starting tomorrow and get some work done around the house. There's staining, hanging, and general carpentry that needs to be finished.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Leab's Laws of Looting

Ok, perhaps "Looting" is too strong of a word, but I want to talk a little bit about panhandling. While I was downtown today, a guy stopped me on the corner of 7th and Nicollet and asked me for a dollar. His exact pitch was:
"Hey, man, I need a dollar. Can you give it to me?"
Now, there's nothing in that statement that makes me want to give him a dollar, and I'm a generous guy. Hell, I'm generous to a fault. I once gave a woman the shirt off my back just because she asked for it and told me a story about why she loved it so much. I didn't need it. That's the way I feel about panhandlers. I have no problem giving someone a buck, but they have to earn it. It doesn't take much. Make me laugh, or tell me a good story, or just flat out entertain me, and I'll pony up the dough. My sister likes to say that I have, "SUCKER," tatooed on my forehead, but I don't care. I live comfortably enough, why not help others out when you can?
Before you go all, "How dare you," on me, realize this: In New York last year, seven people were found to be making over $100,000 a year by panhandling. They hit the right spots and said the right words. The New York Post followed one woman home and discovered that she lived on Park Avenue and would meticulously dress down every morning in order to gain the attention of pedestrians. It's brilliant.
Hence, here are my "Laws of Looting."
1. You must look the part. There's nothing more disheartening than when a guy in a power suit says he's homeless and needs a buck. This actually happened to me. I was in St. Louis and a guy in a black suit said, "I don't have any money, can you spare a dollar for the bus?" His jacket label flashed Armani. No dice...
2. You must be entertaining. If you just stand there are say a speech that sounds rehearsed, I won't look over. Be creative, and you get the cash. Sing a song, dance, recite Shakespeare, whatever! The best and most entertaning panhandlers for me were both in New York. One guy asked me for five dollars. I told him, "Entertain me, and you got it." He did a soft shoe routine and sang a song (Mr. Bojangles). Of course I gave him five bucks, and a round of applause. The other guy was outside of NBC Studios wearing a sign that said: "Attending Budweiser University, need money for books!" That's creative. He got two bucks.
3. Know when to quit hassling. There's a difference between a follow-up and being annoying. When I was in St. Louis, a guy sitting on a bench asked me for bus money. I told him (truthfully I might add) I didn't have any cash. He got off the bench and followed me up the street saying, "Well, there's an ATM right over there." Bad form my friend. That just annoys me that you know where the ATM is. Why not just camp out there and hope for change.
4. Be polite. Which sounds better to you. A. Excuse me sir/ms./maam, could you please give me a dollar for the bus? Or, B. Hey, man, I need a dollar. Can you spare it? People love people who are polite. We're all taught to be polite, so why not be? You have a better chance of scoring that way.
5. Don't get caught in the lie. Ok, this is a tricky one. If your schtick is that you live in a homeless shelter and need the money to pay for the night, then make sure your mark doesn't know otherwise. I was in a liqour store, and the guy in front of me bought a bottle of Allegrini Amarone 1999 with a debit card. That's a 70 dollar bottle of wine. After I made my purchase, I went outside and started to walk up the street. After going ten feet from the store, the guy who was in front of me in the store stops me and says, "Sir, I need a few bucks in order to pay for my homeless shelter tonight. Could you give me three dollars?" When I asked him what was in the bag, he lied and said, "A bottle to recycle." So, I called him on it. "You were in front of me in the store. You just paid $70 for wine. I think you got the money." He didn't follow me, so I must have been right.
6. Find the right position. Ok, here's the situation. You're on the corner, and there's another panhandler down the street from you. You see a mark you like. That mark is hit up for money by the guy down the street, he or she give the guy money. Do you think it's wise to hit him up for money now? If you answered yes, you will remain poor. If I already gave to one guy, it's going to be tough to convince me to pull out more money. I'm not a bank. Yes, I am generous, but there's a difference. So make sure you find a corner where you can work alone. If there are two or three people already on your block, move. New York, for example is two miles wide and thirteen miles long. You can find your own spot. And don't set up to close to exits. There's a guy who always waits right outside the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. As soon as the door opens, he is right on the people there. You want to hit the "I'm cold and hungry angle"? Wait until they feel the cold.
And finally,
7. Keep It Simple, Stupid (or KISS). I was in Chicago with my wife. As we were walking to dinner, we were stopped by a guy who wanted some money. Instead of just simply asking for a few dollars, he launched into the following speech:
"Excuse me sir (at least he was polite).This is my ID (he pulls out a license). As you can see, I am not crazy or a drug addict (all of this because of an ID?) and pose no threat. I usually sleep at the Wacker shelter, but they kicked me out last night on account of some personal issues."
At this point I have been standing there listening to this guy talking for ten seconds. That's a long time. His pitch continued for a full minute. Now, as I said before a story is entertaining, but you have to make sure that it doesn't bore the listener or they're going to bolt. Finally, even though his story wasn't finished, I finally said, "Here's a buck. It's all I've got. Good luck."
This guy also broke rule #4 by calling me a "cheap bastard." Oh well. that's graditude for you.
So, if you follow these 7 simple rules, you should be able to get a few bucks for lunch. Good luck, and let me know how you do.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A Bitter Pill

A student of mine told me something very disturbing today. The generation of kids who are in high school today have finally been named: Generation Rx. That's right, as in prescription drugs. See today's students are medicated for all sorts of things. ADD, ADHD, OCD, etc.... She's right, however, today's kids are medicated for so many things and more and more dead people are being assigned a medical condition. Did you know that they think Ben Franklin was ADD? How about Hitler was OCD? Did you know Moses had Asperger's syndrome? Wow, what's next? The first caveman actually had ADHD, and we just evolved. Oy! For the love of Pete, there are now two year olds (TWO YEAR OLDS!!!) being medicated. That's like giving a one year old a chiropractic adjustment. Ummm, chemistry is still changing in a kid, don't screw that up by introducing a new chemical.
I think about all the students I have had in class, and all the pills they had. It's really scary. When I was a kid, I would get hyper here and there. It was awesome. Sometimes that hyper activity led me to create cool things or try new things. Does this mean I should have been medicated? Modern medicine would probably say yes.
When I was told that my students are Generation Rx, I thought about when I taught at a theatre camp back in 2000. During the Summer of that year, I was the Technical Director and Head Technical Teacher. I was also given the assignment of giving and watching kids take their pills at lunch. Most them were on Ritalin, but a few were on other drugs. Out of 125 attendees, 45 took pills. 45! It was easily a little over a half an hour of giving the pill, checking their mouth, next. I did this everyday, five days a week, for eight weeks. It was so odd.
One day, a kid missed taking his pill. He was working on a scene and forgot to come in to take it. I was told not to chase them down and make them take the pill, because it might embarrass them. I never saw a change in this student. It made me wonder what the pill was really doing for him. After asking several other counselors, I was told that alot of the kids were on medication not because they really needed it, but because their parents THOUGHT they needed it. Think about that for a second. I think you need to lose your hand. Not because there's something wrong, but because something COULD be wrong. Maybe I'm looking at wrong, but it feels like we are trying to over medicate for everything (got a cold, forget the soup and go to the hospital), and find ailments to blame. It couldn't be that a kid has a ton of energy, he or she has to be ADHD.
Why should we be worried about this? Because recent reports in magazines and even on CNN show that 1 in 5 teenagers are now abusing the prescription drugs. Know what happens when a kid who doesn't need Ritalin takes it? He or she gets hyperactive, like taking super uppers. Where can this kid get the drugs? From friends or even siblings. Shouldn't we be worried about that?
Am I saying that there should be no medication at all? No. Alot of kids do benefit from the prescription drugs, but the problem is that we are using the drugs as our go to course right now. We need to start thinking about alternative medicine (a shameless plug for my sister, I admit it) and alternative ways to help students without just going to medication. My ultimate fear here is having a kid who, from birth, is given some sort of medication to keep him or her from being "wild" or carefree. So, to Generation Rx: I hope you are the generation that shows society we need to re-think some of our ideas. Every generation challenges a norm, maybe yours will be the medication dependence.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

At a Loss

I would like to preface this post by saying that I am, in no way, trying to offend anyone who is from the deaf community. This is just a personal feeling.
Earlier today I feel down some steps and hit my head. Somehow I managed to cup or clap my ear on the floor when I finished, and my ear started ringing. I could not hear out of it for over an hour. Just a ringing. This is not the first time I have heard this ringing. In the middle of the night, when it's completely silent, I hear that ringing. Thanks to a class on speech and language development, I know that the ringing is a symptom of Tinnitus. Basically, I have listened to too many loud noises (power tools, music, etc.) and killed some of the hairs in my inner ear. Because they are gone, the nerves are constantly stimulated which is what the ringing is. On with my point, however.
As I sat there thinking about how I could have ruined my hearing, I remembered a conversation I had when I was younger. If you had to lose either your sight or your hearing, which one would you lose? I chose sight. I can explain it by re-telling the story.
When I was sophomore in college, I went home on a break. My mother had to go to a dinner party that a friend of hers (a fantastic artist named Vincent) was throwing. Unfortunately, my father could not go, so I was to attend in his place. The party consisted of myself, my mother, Vincent, his lover, and a couple from the Hamptons. This couple was, unfortunately, the stereotypical rich couple that frequents the Hamptons. We're rich, so we're right. (I could go off on a rant about just that, but that's for another day.)
Anyway, we were sitting at the dinner table when Diana (Mrs. Hampton) said, "Oh I simply must ask you all something. If you had to lose either your sight or your hearing, which would it be?"
Everyone around me said hearing. I, however, said, "I would rather be blind than deaf." This shocked Diana. "Why?! Then you couldn't drive, or look at art, or know what your girlfriend looked like." I was quiet for a minute as I pondered my response. Soon the table grew quiet, and they all stared at me while waiting for a response.
This is what I said: "All right. Sure. If you were blind, you would not be able to see the world. But really, isn't the world really more than just what we see? We stop to smell the roses. If we couldn't smell them, we wouldn't really have the best part of them. But here is why I would want to hear: every amazing thing about life, for me, has come from hearing than seeing. I have a girlfriend. She's wonderful. I hear her voice, and my heart races. If I couldn't hear her, how would know when she was kidding, or being sarcastic, or being coy? I could deal with not seeing her eyes, but I couldn't deal with not hearing her. What about music? Music is the very essence of our lives. Try this sometime. Go outside with a walkman. Play a happy song and just walk. Look at the landscape, how alive it feels. Now, play a sad song and walk that same path. The whole world looks different. Our emotions are truly played through hearing, not sight. But if you really want to see how important hearing is, try this right now. (Here is where I made them do the following.) Take your husband's hand. Feel the warmth of it. (To Mr. Hampton) Look into her eyes and tell her you love her without saying a word. Just mouth the words. How does it feel? Now, close your eyes and take his hand again. Don't peek. (To Mr. Hampton) Tell her you love her again. The words mean more than the sight with nothing, right?"
Well, she disagreed, and the night went on. I later found out that the Hampton couple was there to purchase one of Vincent's paintings and ended up passing, partially due to how they felt about me. Still, when that memory came, I realized that I still felt the same years later. All of the great things in my life are associated with sound. I can take or leave a sunset, but if I couldn't hear my wife's laugh, I would be devestated. When I get stressed out, I lie down in a dark room, and I listen to music via headphones. This helps me to relax.
I don't want to sound like I feel sorry for anyone who is deaf, because they cannot get the same experience I can. That's not my intention. Just from a personal standpoint, I am not and would not deal well with losing my hearing.
So, if you see me working with a saw or at a concert, don't laugh when you see I have ear plugs in. That way I can hear but not have to worry about losing my hearing. It's silly, I know, but it is important to me. The irony of it all is that I love silence. I love when you cannot hear a thing, because the mind totally clears itself of all thought. I just don't like the ringing.

Monday, April 25, 2005

I'm a Party Loser!

My wife has a lovely friend named Jill. Jill is a funny, energetic, and vivacious engineer who looks like Giada De Laurentiis only thinner. She also tends to like the liquor. The first time that I talked to Jill was at a hot tub party at one of my wife's co-worker's house. Jill, who was already three sheets to the wind, stood up in the hot tub and screamed at me, "Get me some Tequila!" Derek, Jill's husband, shook his head vigoursly. When I agreed and said, "no," Jill got upset, got out of the hot tub, ran over to the bar, grabbed the bottle, and jumped back in to the water. As the alcohol coursed threw her veins, she, along with the other drunk ladies in the hot tub, called for Mark (whom I have mentioned in previous posts) and I to "get naked and get in the damn tub." Both Mark and I slinked away in order to avoid more embarrassment.
I like Jill, don't get me wrong. Beyond the yelling and drunken debates, she is a very intelligent person to talk to about a great many things. However, when Jill gets drunk, she goes to a whole new level. Once, thanks to her imbibing alot of beer, Jill created a new term that has spread out across the nation. This term? Party Loser.
It was Thanksgiving night of 2003. My wife, my friend Paul, and I had finished eating and were laying out on the various couches while watching football. Slowly, but surely, we were being dragged into that Tryptaphaned (no, I can't spell) state. Feeling weighed down, I was unable to move when the phone rang. Still, I answered it only hear a piercing scream come across the line. The conversation was as follows:
Me: "Hello?"
Jill: Screams into phone
Me: "What the hell? Hello?!"
Jill: "It'ssss Jill. Hi!
Me: "Hey what's up?"
Jill: "Derek and I are going to see that Neil Diamond impersonator. You guys want to come?"
Me: "Umm...We're kinda drugged out. Trytaphan (I can't spell) and all. So I think we're gonna pass."
Jill: "What?! Cooommmeeee Ooooonnnnn!"
Me: "Yeah, dude, we can't move."
Jill: "You are SUCH a PARTY LOSER!!!!"
Now it turned out later that Jill was so drunk that she couldn't stand up. Still, this whole "Party Loser" thing stuck. I told Paul and Caroline about it, then it spread. Another friend of mine, Vicki, who lives in Indianapolis, told me that a friend of hers heard the term from a friend in Minnesota, and her friends have started using the term. Now, whenever anyone in our group tries to cut out early while we're out partying, we turn to them and say, "Don't be a party loser!"
Jill still laughs about it when we bring it up. So thanks Jill for coming up with a new term. Who knows, maybe we can copyright it like Trump did with, "You're fired." (Does this mean I owe him a quarter now?)