Saturday, July 30, 2005

It's a Wally World

Author's Note: The following post may, in fact, be offensive to you. If it is, um, tough.
I have a confession to make: Wal-Mart scares the holy hell out of me.
Whenever I walk into that blue building, I feel like an alien from Mars. Seriously. I grew up with local stores. You wanted food, you went to the market. Meat? Go to the butcher. You need a hammer, you head to the local hardware store. Wally World (as I call Wal-Mart) removes that need, which I guess makes it convenient (hence the term convenience store) but it loses something because of that. Should we be proud of the fact that we can pick up a pair of jeans, a jug of milk, steel-belted radial tires, and a blanket in the same store? I guess there's nothing more "American" than Wal-Mart (except maybe Target), but I miss the mom and pop stores. I could go to Winchell's Hardware on 22nd and put it on "the tab." Sure, at the end of the month it had to be paid off, but the service was such that the people there knew who you were, knew about your life, and maybe even knew what you needed to pick up before you even told them. That's great service. Now, at the Big Blue Box, you get people who look at you and make assumptions without even asking. As I walked around Wal-Mart this afternoon, I was looking for a cat carrier. You see I have a few precocious cats who are heading to the vet on Monday. When they are returned to me, they are usually in fowl moods and turn their joint carrier into steel cage death matches. I decided to end this and by separate carriers for them. I started to walk toward the pet section (which is behind the pharmacy and next to auto parts....Auto parts and pets? Ok then.) when I was stopped by "Gerald." Instead of just asking me if I needed help, "Gerald" told me, "the diet section is right over here." He then flashed me a big ole smile. Now, how would you react to this. Sure, I admit I'm overweight, and kinda short...just look at my picture...but that doesn't mean that I should be pointed toward the aisle o' Slim Fast. I just smiled at "Gerald" and said, "Hey thanks Chief," and I kept walking toward the pet section. Within seconds, I heard him helping someone else toward the toothpaste aisle.
I think my real problem with Wal-Mart occurred to me while I waited in line to check out. All of the magazines near the check out counter had country stars or (and I quote) "Bitchin' Cars," on the covers. The guy in front of me, AND the woman behind me as well as the cashier had mullets, and the music twanging over my head was countrireffic. A quick glance around showed me that no one working nor anyone shopping was anything other than white. The woman behind me with the gorgeous woe-man mullet wore a shirt that read, "America. Love it, or I'll kick your ass out!" Classy all the way. Yes, my ultimate problem with Wal-Mart, and the reason I feel like an outsider is that, honestly, I felt like everyone there (and I really hate making generalizations) that I had contact with was white trash. It's one thing to be a patriot. It's another to have a giant tattoo of a bald eagle facing one way and President G.W. Bush's face going the other with an American flag in the middle. I know this because in the next aisle over, a rather large pregnant woman was wearing a mid-riff revealing shirt and the tattoo was popping out. Other problems? The pet section had a huge hole in the wall (about the size of a fist) with graffiti next to it. Why wasn't that cleaned up? Don't you want your store to be clean and look good for the general public?

My wife has a similar take on the whole thing. She feels that Wally World is nothing more than a warehouse designed to make us feel that there's nothing better out there. "Poor lighting, subpar choices make us feel that we can't get any better. This is out lot in life." I feel bad, because my cynical nature is rubbing off on her.
Now don't get me wrong, it's not just Wal-Mart where I feel out of place. A few weeks ago my wife dragged me down to the Galleria near the Southdale Mall to look at furniture in
Gabberts. From the moment I walked into the place, I was uncomfortable. The gentleman and his wife (or girlfriend or mistress or whatever) by the door were talking about how, "the $3,000 Eames chair was cheap," and they should, "buy two for the guest house." Sigh. The guy even had that Thurston Howell III (the Billionaire on Gilligan's Island) accent. "I loove Moneeey." If you've seen the show, you know what I mean. Seriously, walking around that place and seeing how much stuff cost was appalling. I felt extreme rage at not only the prices, but the way people were talking about money in the store.
Seriously, is there any middle ground anymore? During the election, one pundit talked about how "Bush's audience is the Wal-Mart crowd", and, "Kerry's audience is the Williams-Sonoma crowd." Is that the division we have now?
So why does Wal-Mart scare me? Because it represents so many things I don't really like. The death of the independent shop, the fact that it still seems to be ok that women are paid less than men and still treated like second class citizens, the fact that cheaper has become more important than better, the fact that God can still be used as a weapon against those we don't like, and the fact that if you walk into a place and don't "look the part" of the people usually there, you will be singled out and questioned. I fully admit that I go there, and Target, to find certain items that would be harder to find else where, but I would rather schlep 40 minutes away to a co-op than give Wal-Mart my grocery money. I would rather go to my local hardware store and scrounge for the right size screws than head to Home Depot. Sure, there are things at HD which are easier to find, but you have to support your local economy, don't you?
Maybe it's just me. I don't know. Perhaps life will seem better after some much needed wine. Have a good weekend everyone.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Guten Abend, Meine Freunde

Und jetzt für meine deutschen Freunde, David Hasselhoff!
Seriously, I have no idea what this is from, but he is like a god in Germany. He's released at least 13 albums (THIRTEEN) over there, and all of them have been hits.
Seriously, there are sites like
THIS which shows one of "Michael Knight's" most famous photos. Good ole DH buck naked with only some puppies to cover himself. Here, we find it ridiculous, but in Germany, it's a photo that can be seen everywhere.
Last year my wife and I were in Northern Germany with my family (We were just outside of
Rostock). It was gorgeous. If you've never been to Germany, I highly recommend it. The south is honestly alot better than the north, but that's just my humble opinion. Many Germans, especially those from Berlin, would disagree with me. Anyway, one day we went for a walk around Rostock. Now, you have to understand: Rostock is on the northeastern tip of Germany. It's only a stone's throw away from Poland and was, at one point, essentially Russian. Much of the city's signs and shops still have Russian along with German in or on them. As we walked up what could be called, "Main Street," we noticed a poster on the side of a building for an upcoming concert. We crossed the street, and, lo and behold, we discovered that it was for David Hasselhoff. It was a HUGE glamour shot with him in (what looked like) black leather pants, an open white shirt, and an expression that was somewhere between constipation and awkward orgasm. Very odd, yet very humorous.
So, if you're a Hasselhoff fan, you're going to love the link at the beginning. It's him singing a timeless classic, though I don't really get the dogs that are involved (you'll see). Enjoy.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Someone's Dream Comes True

Because of this lovely invention, several geeks everywhere are imagining how their dreams can come true. There are several possible outcomes here:

1. We have the very beginning of the whole
Blade Runner thing coming true. We'll create very life-like androids that will do all of our work until they rebel and come after us...or become human than us and teach us how to understand the rain....
2. Lonely men (and some women) everywhere will have a chance for some hot, electric looooove (a la Barry White). Have you ever watched the show
Futurama? In one episode, Fry (the thawed human) downloads Lucy Liu into a robot for some loving. You just try and tell me that there aren't people thinking about ordering their own (insert hot female here) robot.
3. Everything will work out perfectly. Ha, there's no such thing as a utopia. It really more of a distopia, but we try not to notice the bad parts. See Animal Farm, 1984, Brave New World, The Giver, The Island (if you dare), The Village, and on and on I could go. People who choose this outcome remember every film that ever had a robot in servitude to man...and how it went awry. "Klatuu Barada Nikto," mean anything to you?
I guess we'll just have to wait and see how Repliee Q1 works out. Perhaps this robot will take the place of living spouses and then people will go to court over whether or not man and robot can be married....Wouldn't that be a fun little arguement?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Size Matters

Ok, I get it. My posts are too long. I'll try to make them shorter. No need to write me an email with the words, "You've made my eyes bleed from trying to read everything." I'll work on having less to talk about (boy that looks weird).

Curses (in Many Forms)

The Dentist's Office
In the last two years, the dentist's office I go to has turned over a lot of employees. For my last four visits, I have seen a new dentist each time. Over the course of five years of visiting this office, the only people who have remained the same are the two receptionists Pam and Nancy. Lovely women, who if they ever leave then so will I. Anyway, two years ago, I saw Dr. C. Nice guy, but too much garlic in his breath. He used to do that thing (that I really dislike) where he would have all his tools in your mouth, and then he would ask you questions where you couldn't just answer, "Yes," or, "No." You can't move your mouth or tongue, but he wants your opinion on a Baroque style couch? Not fun. He also didn't shoot me up with enough Novacaine to finish my filling, so I felt it all. Awesome. Two days after seeing me, he left for parts unknown.
Next came Dr. P. Nice guy, bad hair plugs. He liked to tell me all about his kids' potty training, and his first wife's infidelity. Great topics when you can't go anywhere. After I saw him, he left to go open his own office in Rogers. It's a little too far for me. At the same time, three receptionists or hygenists left.
The next dentist was my favorite. Dr. C. She was Canadian and quite nice. The sad thing is that I knew more about Canada than she did, but that's fine. It was only her second day when she saw me. She knew how to ask only yes or no questions when the tools were in, and then ask the complicated questions later. That was nice. After seeing her, she left three weeks later for North Carolina. Also my hygenist quit, and another receptionist I like took off.
So yesterday I saw another new dentist, and a new hygenist. However, everyone now thinks that I am cursed. Whoever sees me will end up leaving for some reason. That's the joke. In six months, we'll see if it's true.
The Tennis Court
I joined a tennis league a few weeks back. Once a week, I get to try and get some exercise and work out my agression by crushing a little ball. It's fun, usually. Today, however, was frustrating and annoying. I admit that I can be obnoxious and loud, but when I play tennis, I try to be courteous to other players out there. The gentleman I played today does not think like I do. No, he pretty much swore as loud as he could and acted like a big kid. I slammed a hard forehand down the line, and he was right there for it, but he missed. He let out the loudest tirade of F-bombs that I have ever seen to the point where every other player on the other courts turned and stared. He cursed to high heaven everytime he lost. It was really unprofessional and annoying. Very unsportsmanlike. What's worse is that after I won the first set, he started cheating me. If a ball was near the line, he called it out and usually late. I hit a beautiful ace right by him. I start to move over to the other side, and he goes, "Umm. Yeah. Uh, that was, um, out. Yeah." I was pissed. He did this to me over and over and over. I ended up losing the second set, and he didn't want to play a full third set, so we had to play a tiebreaker where he cheated me out of points again. Now granted, I should have won the second set. I should have played better so he couldn't cheat me, but still....COME ON! Are some people that petty and desperate that they NEED to win? The cursing was one thing, but the cheating was another.
At School
After tossing one of my students out of the classroom today for totally inappropriate behavior, he was swearing up a storm. I pulled him into the hallway and tried to calm him down, then I explained to him that between his behavior and his absence of work and attendance, he would not be getting credit for the class. He then told me, to my face mind you, "I hope you and your wife die, and I can dance on your grave, bitch." Now, I can't hit him. That would get me sued, but I can use words against him. I looked him, stepped up to his face, and said, "If anyone's going to die around here, it's you. You can't even read the back of a bottle of water. How are you going to know if you're drinking poison? How are you going to be able to do anything if you can't even read the note that's on my door? Get used to this phrase: 'Do you want fries with that,' because that's your future. Now get to the office!"
I shouldn't have lost my temper, but this is a kid who thinks that I should allow him to pass, because this is his, "second time taking the class, and I failed last time, so you have to let me pass." Bottom line: he's not passing. End of story.
At Home
My lawn is a mess. One of my neighbors, for the first time ever a few days ago, commented that my lawn, "looked so nice." Ever since then, Crabgrass, Clover, and other lovely little broadleaf weeds have sprung up all over the place. Add to that the brown spots from all the heat, and it suddenly looks like death paid a visit and crapped on my lawn. It's embarrassing, at least to me, because it says, again to me, that I don't take care of the lawn. My neighbor, by saying something nice, cursed my lawn. It's like when you watch a sport (say Hockey), and the announcer says, "this team hasn't lost to the other team in six years." What happens? Your team loses. It's karma rearing around and kicking you like a mule.
But hey, curses can be broken. Maybe something better is around the corner.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Ramblings for the Afternoon (7/26/05)

The Comics Get It Right
Today's Non Sequitur
has hit on the very essence of the problem with movies nowadays. You have to have a willing suspension of disbelief in order to get through most summer movies. Instead of the plausability, concentrate on the actual art. Is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory possible? Not really, but it sure is pretty.
The Test Has Occured
Today my reading students took their test. How did they do? Well, I won't know for weeks, but here's the breakdown for the day:
2 students did not show up for the test. That's right, five weeks of classes, and these two decide that the whole reason for showing up is unnecessary. Brilliant.
Of the 29 who showed up, seven attempted to sleep through the whole test. No matter how often they were tapped or whatever, they would put their heads back down and try to sleep.
3 students' tests will not be validated as they cheated. When you drop your answer sheet toward another student and look at their test while you're picking it up, it might or might not be cheating, but when you do it three times, that's cheating.
The other 19? A few did not finish the test, others rushed, and a few should be fine.
On Top of That, There's This Problem
I don't turn in my grades (or credits) until Friday. Several of my students in my second reading class have to be there everyday this week in order to get credit. Unfortunately the coordinator came into my class today and passed out completion certificates and passing grades. That's right, several of my students, a few who were not going to pass, have now been allowed to pass thanks to the coordinator. Not only does this totally and utterly undermine my authority, but she has now socially promoted students who do not deserve to move on to high school. What the hell? Seriously, WHAT THE HELL?!?! Why bother having these kids come into my class? Just pass them all the time then. What is the freaking point of me busting my ass for five weeks to prepare these kids for a test, when they can not show up, they can do no work, they can even skip the test that they're prepping for the whole time, and yet they can still be given credit for doing nothing. If the answer is, "I am being paid and that's enough," then things need to change. Look, when it comes to politics, I am not really a Democrat or a Republican. Think of it this way, if St. Paul is the Republican party and Minneapolis is the Democratic party, then I am somewhere neeeaaaar Tokyo. I really hate American politics (I'm using the word "hate" here, folks). And yet, politics has totally and utterly screwed up the school system. Is it the fault of one party or the other? Nope. It's BOTH their faults. However, I don't want to write pages upon pages of a political rant. Suffice to say, by allowing these kids to pass, because the district doesn't want older kids in lower classrooms. Great. My father once warned me about this. He's a History professor, and he's failed students only to have the administration change the grades without his consent. I guess this is what's happened here. Is it fair to me? No. Is it fair to the students? No way. Some of these kids just flat out cannot read, and yet, they will move into high school without being able to do the work. They are being cheated, and because they are moving on, they will probably fail on the standardized tests, meaning that the school will fail according to No Child Left Behind, which means less money, which then means fewer teachers, and on and on the vicious cycle goes. Oy VEY!
On a happier note,
I Got Quoted
In today's copy of USA Today, I found myself reading my own name and words in the "Life" section. An
article talking about whether you like to go to the movies or you like to stay at home has my little ole opinion in there. It's very weird to read my own words that have been put out for a nation to read. Granted, maybe only five or six people see it, but it's still weird. My sister is a journalist for the Litchfield County Times in Connecticut. She's read by the entire state of Connecticut, and yet she still gets shocked sometimes seeing her name there in print. It is strange. People are looking at what you're saying and then making some sort of comment. Granted, I understand the blog is the same thing, but really only a few people really read this thing. Those of you that do are quite loyal (which is why you rock). It's all very odd.
A Dating Story
So, here's a bad date story to make people feel better. When, during the summer between my sophomore and junior year of college, I was suddenly single again, I was hanging out with a girl that lived down the street from me. We'll call her, Allie. Wonderful girl. She was (and continues to be) a fantastic web designer and artist. Her skin was so white, that I liked walking down the alley with her, because she lit up the walls. For a while, every night we would end up either on her steps or my porch and would just talk while she smoked. Well, after a while, I just decided to ask her on a date. We went on our first date to dinner and a movie. Dinner was at Fridays, and the movie, strangely enough, was Saving Private Ryan. On a side note, everyone of the dates she and I went on involved movies. I was on a date with her when I almost got my ass kicked seeing The Blair Witch Project.
Anyway, we're at Fridays. We get seated in the bar area, and the way it works is that the bar is sunken and lower than the eating area. As dinner progress, Allie puts her drink up on the edge of the table which is over the bannister (who designed it this way, I don't know, but it's REALLY brilliant). Allie, prone to falling down and other famous klutzy movements, swings her hand around and knocks the drink over the side. In slow motion, I shoot my hand out and catch the glass, but most of the drink spilled down on top of a couple below us. Now, I am a short guy, but at the time I was muscular and stocky. The drink had spilled all over a biker who was much bigger than I am. Imagine you're him. You're wet. You're unhappy, and you look up to see some guy holding the glass where the fluid came from that is now all over your head, shoulders, and chest. What's the first thing you think of or do? Would it be:
A. Grab a knife and stab, stab, stab.
B. Ask your date if she's ok, and then scream and shout.
C. Go up and pour your drink on top of the person who spilled it on you
D. B and C.
E. None of the above.
If you answered B and C, you're RIGHT! That's right. He asked the girl at his table if she was all right, then he screamed at me about being, "a little bitch," and then he came up, and even though I offered to pay his bill, he poured his beer over my head. I did nothing in retaliation, except laugh at him and ask if he was still in high school. He just grunted, swore under his breath, and walked off. The bartender ended up escorting them out. My bill was free, which was nice, and Allie just felt really bad. Over and over, she just kept saying, "Oh my God, I'm so sorry."
Now, very wet, and without extra clothes, I sat underneath the hand dryer in the bathroom for five minutes, then we headed to the movie theatre. Now, I don't know about you, but I've never thought of Saving Private Ryan as a date movie. And yet, there we were for two and a half hours. After watching it, neither one of us felt very romantic. On the contrary, we were quite, well, depressed. So when we returned to her apartment, nothing happened. I dropped her off, gave her a kiss on the cheek, and went home.
We were sort of together/ sort of not for a while. I ended up freaking her out by giving some of my stuff (an old Playstation and some games) to a co-worker of hers whose son was very sick. I didn't need the stuff anymore, so I figured he might like it. It was my understanding that the kid was essentially dying, so I wanted to make him feel better. This, along with our not-so-great dates, and my stalker, and a friend who was a homosexual but was still possessive of me ended any romance. She was also in love with a friend of mine. She'd never admit it, but I know it. I would bet that she still carries a torch for him.
Final Thought
It's kinda funny when you write about a stalker, and no one really says anything to you. Even weirder is when you go to work the next day, and you swear that the girl interviewing in the office is your former stalker.
Hope everyone is having a nice day. Until tomorrow, goodbye. Off I go to the dentist now.

Monday, July 25, 2005

One More Thing

All right, 102 will have to be about dating troubles. I just wanted to throw in that I have updated my profile with a few new items. Props to anyone who can tell me where the picture came from. It's not American, I will tell you that.
Also, because I've hit 100, will Willard Scott now be singing to my blog? Will it be on with the weather and a cup of yogurt?
Have a nice night.

Stalking the Century Mark

And so we hit 100. That’s right my valued readers, this would be my one hundredth post. The big centennial, a perfect score on a test, the amount you’re supposed to give at work, etc., etc., etc.
I promised guest stars and funny stories, so I’ll try to deliver as best I can.

I’ve been thinking about dating in modern times (again) because of two things that have happened in the last week. First of all, many of the blogs I read have been discussing how hard it is to date in modern society. How do you meet people? How do know who a person really is? On and on it goes. The other event came from a discussion at a birthday party about the number of times that you have either proposed or been proposed to by someone.
My number was more than anyone else at the table including the women. Most of the guys were at the number one. Maybe this is because they were being proud MACHO men, who didn’t want to admit they had been shot down. Even Rock Hudson, a closet homosexual, was married for three years, AND on the first try. You got shot down, and Rock Hudson didn’t? Ouch! What do think of that Rock? Too far? No? Thanks for dropping by…
Anyway, the guys (except for myself) were all at one, and the women at this table were at two (except for Jessie, because her boyfriends were, well, not bright). So when it got around to me, I answered with a number no one was expecting.
You know that noise that cartoon characters make when they whip their heads around really quickly? That “whoosh” noise. They all made that noise. “Three!?” was shouted so loud by one of them that the other tables at La Bodega turned and stared straight into my soul (or so it felt).
So let’s explain this “three”. For the deaf, Marlee Matlin will be signing. Ok, first of all, only two of the three were my asking. The second person was my wife. She actually married me (sucker). The first person I asked was a girl I dated in college for two years. Convinced that she loved me (though I later found out I was wrong, but that’s another story), and convinced that I loved her, I asked her to marry me. She said yes. Fortunately (because I love my wife a hell of a lot more) the coupling did not last.
The strangest one, however, is number three. You see, I was not the one to ask for number three. Nope, I was asked.
In a very strange twist, I gained a stalker while in college. That’s right. A nice girl we’ll call Kelly decided that I was her soulmate. Her SOULMATE! This is a girl who called me from Paris. Why? She was lonely and needed someone to talk to. She would come by my home (I lived alone in a house while in college) at two or three in the morning. Have you ever had a woman (or a man for that matter) show up at your home in the cliché of a trenchcoat and nothing else? I have. And much to the chagrin of many of my friends, I refused to take advantage of the situation. I did not want to lead this girl on at all. I was not interested, and I was not going to let her think I was. However, my greatest shock came during the summer of 1999 just before I started dating my now wife. Kelly was not getting the hints. I had even gone as far as telling her face to face that I was just not interested. I admit that I am a flirt, but with her, due to the fact that I was uncomfortable with how she was, for example, attacking other women who even talked to me. When I say attacked, I don’t mean, “Get away from him, he’s mine!” No. I mean, “Die bitch!” and then grab a blunt object and swing away.
Anyway, one (ironically) dark and stormy night, I was home alone, watching Red Corner (a [actually] brilliant Richard Gere film) when my back door opened. Now I was used to my neighbors at the time getting drunk and attempting to kick in my door, because they were so sure that’s where they lived, but this was a key turning, not a kick. There was Kelly, who had stolen my emergency key from my friend’s apartment across town. She had TAKEN THE KEY. He didn’t give it to her. He knew the score.
So there she is, dripping wet, in my kitchen. I’m slightly inebriated and in my boxer shorts (as it is a typical St. Louis summer night: hot and humid even though it’s raining). She hands me a card with a poem on it (It was e.e. Cummings’ "May i feel said he"). If you don’t know the poem, it ends with “You are Mine said she.” I thank her, and sprint to go get pants. After putting on some, I ask her for the key. No problem. She then begins a speech that I will always remember. She tells me about how, “God created Eve to be with Adam.” (Never a good start with me.) Next, she talks about how, “Even now God makes two people that are so perfect for each other, they NEED to be together.” She then drops to her knee and asks me, “Will you be my Adam?”
I admit, it’s incredibly sweet, but I had never given her any indication that I even remotely liked her. I didn’t take her ring. I told her that she was sweet for asking, but it would never work, because I didn’t feel that way about her. “I think you’re a very nice girl, and that some guy out there will love you, but that guy will NEVER be me.” I know it sounds harsh, but I had to say it. It was the only way she would learn. Now, one or two of you out there might think that I’m a bastard, but how else do you get through to a stalker? Before this final speech, I had tried using friends as decoy girlfriends (and one decoy boyfriend, who ended up trying to get me to make out with him, which was SO strange), I had fallen (on purpose) out of a second story window into a hammock in order to avoid her (and let me tell you, that really hurt. The hammock didn’t break and neither did it, but it launched me forward into some rose bushes. Ouch!), and I had even tried getting other people who were friends with her to tell her she was making a mistake. That didn’t work either.
She stopped showing up and calling me. She started dating a friend of mine, but he later told me that she would call him by my name in the bedroom and always talked about me. She even once confronted my wife. Since we left St. Louis, however, we have not heard from her.
Stalkers can be tough to deal with, right Hollywood superstars and singers Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Tom Jones, and James Woods? Am I wrong? No? Brad? Nothing? Thanks ladies and gentlemen, I bring you here to impress and you just sit there….
The crew I was dining with that night just couldn’t believe that story. One gal sat with her mouth wide open until I tossed a shrimp in it and almost made her choke (um, my bad). Little ole me, the dude who looks like Greg Grunberg, had a stalker, and a serious one at that.
Well, that’ll do it for 100. I hope it made you laugh or think or something. For 101, maybe I’ll talk about more failed dating. I don’t mind, it makes others feel better and makes me laugh at my own stupidity.
Thanks for taking the time to read this loooonng post. Special thanks to all my guest stars. Look for former mayor Ed Koch, Todd McFarlane, Goran Ivanesivic, several ex-girlfriends (or girls I've dated), and more!