Thursday, August 11, 2005

Life At Your Fingertips

When not teaching (which would be also known as the parts of summer before and after Summer School), I work for a publishing company that puts out a book (and a CD-ROM) dealing with lots at different auction houses around the world (such Christies, Sothebys, PBA Galleries, and more). It's not the most fascinating job, and I spend most of my time working with these catalogues and my computer.
What's interesting to me, however, is how I have turned my desk into my personal space. I hadn't really thought about how people personalize their desks or their cubes until I started looking around one day while working on a catalogue. Directly above the screen I look at is a picture of my wife. I keep this picture here not only to make me smile but to also remind me of why I'm working. When I get frustrated, I look to that picture for serenity.

Next to that picture is a stress ball with a smiley face on it. I got that ball at a party in college. I was able to throw three rings over a coke bottle while inebriated. That ball was my prize. It sits on a piece of metal that was cut by a laser (the first gift from my wife).
Next to that is a game: Curious George's Fishing Puzzle. When I was in college, my friend Liz gave me this game as a gift. She knew how much I liked Curious George (I still do). I can still remember when Liz gave me the box. It was my birthday, and I was hanging out at her place. She came to the living room with a big smile on her face. It just made her beam. You have to understand that Liz didn't smile very often, so to see her smiling was, in itself, a gift. She handed the box to me and gave me a hug. Other than my wife, she is the kindest person I know.
Next to that box is my latest addition to my Curious George collection. A Curious George Stress Toy. It's George sitting on a ball. I don't use it, because it's so darn cute.
I am not the only one who tries to personalize their space. At her work, my wife has a cubicle. Ever seen the movie
Office Space? Her work area looks ALOT like that. Cubicles everywhere, heads bobbing up and down. It's quite funny. Anyway, for our anniversary, I snuck into her cubicle and left flowers, a gift, and a note. Her area is nicer and bigger than mine, but I was struck by how many pictures of us she had up. Beyond just a photo of us from when we got married, she had photos from our travels together, photos of friends, she even had some Minnesota Wild stuff (she wasn't into Hockey before we got together). There was also a book shelf where she kept a book I gave her (it's called Bad Cat, and I highly recommend it to anyone who owns a cat). I haven't been at her cubicle in a while, so maybe it all changed. I guess I won't know until the next time I sneak in to do something...devious.
The more I think about it, the more I see how people try to block out the mundane and starkness of their workspaces. Look, work isn't meant to be fun. If it was, it would called Super Action Fun Time. It's not, it's called work, because it hurts just to say it. WORK. Your body rolls with the word as if pushing it out. So, pictures of loved ones, knick-knacks, even books or music helps to overcome the pain of being at your job. Sure, if you're a waiter, you don't have a work space, but you still keep something on you to help you get through the shift. I know a guy who works as a waiter (when not acting) at Vincent: A Restaurant. He really doesn't enjoy his job, but he carries a picture of his life partner with him to remind him of why he's doing it.
Maybe you agree with me, or maybe you don't. Everyone has their own way of coping with the drudgery of work. Sometimes we personalize our spaces to bring the outside world to our dark workspaces. Ever see The Simpsons' episode where Homer puts up all the pictures of Maggie to block the sign Burns put up? That's what we're doing. That's why people get upset when the boss says, "No personal items!" We want our worlds, our lives, to be with us. We want to be happy.
On a different note, I will be taking a short break from the ole blog (probably just until Monday, maybe Tuesday). I will return soon with more stories, thoughts, and the like.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Solitary Literacy

Every Tuesday night, my wife plays volleyball at Alleygators. Usually, I'm in class or something, so I can't go, but tonight, I was actually able to go and watch. However, as a usual precaution, I took a book with me. Why? Because I figured I would have no one to talk to (which I didn't). Also, it turned out to be a good thing, because she was playing on the far court where no one could really watch.
So, sitting at a table out on the patio, I read my novel (The Mother Tongue by
Bill Bryson). Here's what is so fascinating to me: for 30 minutes I sat at that table by myself, and no one bugged me. No one talked to me or even looked at me. A few people two tables over needed chairs. I had seven at my table. They walked right by me, saw that I had the chairs, mentioned it to one another, and then went back to their table and just stood. Seriously.
Apparently, my reading frightened them or something. Granted, this is a bar in Plymouth, and I noticed that there wasn't a single person there who wasn't white or blond (save me), but it was so odd. What was going through their minds as they passed me? "That guy's got a book...must...stay...away...from HIM!"
I even stopped reading, at one point, and offered the chairs to them. No dice. "No, no, sir (sir?), we wouldn't want to bother you." Bother me, I'm offering the chairs. Offering, as in take them from me for FREE.
I told my wife this story, and she laughed at me. She, and her teammates, thought that maybe the clientele of the place WOULD be afraid of a guy with a book. What if he had something to say that no one could make a response to? That would be ultra embarrassing in front of the ladies/guys!
I don't think this is a big deal, but is this some sort of commentary about where our education is going? Don't talk to the guy with the book, because he may be smart?
Oh, and my wife's team lost tonight. Too bad for them. There's always next week.

Bullets and Fuzz

I love the Muppets. If it isn't evident from yesterday's post, then I am declaring it now: I really do love the Muppets. When I was a kid, I would watch The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, and even Muppet Babies. Jim Henson, to me, was a genius. He managed to create a show that kids would watch AND learn from AND not react badly to all at the same time. Now that being said, I did once devise a way to kill all of them once upon a time. Let's begin back when I was in high school....
Once upon a time, a younger Leab was a precocious high school student. Suddenly, his world was made askew by the news that Sesame Street would be killing off one its most popular characters (and one of Leab's favorites): Ernie. That's right, boys and girls, Ernie. He was originally going to be diagnosed with AIDS, then the change was made to Cancer. He would die so that kids could learn how to deal with death. (We all remember Mr. Hooper...don't we?) Why in the world would you kill your most bankable star. Sure, everyone recognizes Big Bird, but the songs you love are all done by Ernie.
Bert and Ernie are the very representations of Frank Oz and Jim Henson. An odd couple that worked so well together. At the same time, we could see the lovable duo (Bert and Ernie, that is) as two sides of our very souls. One side the fun-loving, child-like nature within us. The other is the serious adult we need to be in modern society. But I digress....
I was unhappy to hear this news. However, only a week later, after a large letter writing campaign by faithful viewers, the death was, well, canceled. Ernie would not die.
Now, a few weeks later, I was at a party with friends, and we decided to get inebriated. Ok fine, we got drunk. Happy? Anyway, while drunk, I told everyone about the whole "Ernie dies" thing and explained that if that happened, Sesame Street would have to kill more. I can even recall the speech I made (Cue wavy lines on screen as we flashback to the past):
"So if Ernie dies, what's Bert going to do. If kids have to learn about death, then maybe they should learn about suicide too. Here's what I see happening: After Ernie's funeral, Bert is distraught. Reallllly upset. He goes home and sees how empty it all is without Ernie. The apartment has no energy. Finally, he looks over and sees Rubber Duckie just sitting there. Bert's emotions get the better of him, and he starts crying. Bawling really. He decides he just can't live without Bert, so he writes a note about why he's killing himself, and then he grabs a shotgun. The camera zooms in as Bert, still crying, sticks the gun in his mouth. It gets quiet. We can hear the birds chirping as the camera moves up to the top of Bert's head and then beyond to a picture of the two friends. Then...BLAM! We hear the gun fire and yellow fluff flies on to the screen."
Now, everyone there (and probably you as well, dear reader) was in shock. They couldn't believe what they were hearing. "That's horrible!" I would hear. "You're a monster!" another would say. But...but...they laughed. That was the key. No matter what they said, they belly laughed at the idea. So, I started killing off more of the Muppets with help of my drunk friends. Below is a list of the ones I can remember. If your favorite isn't there, drop a comment with his or her name (possibly a description if it is a random character), and I'll tell you how we killed him or her (if we did). For example, when we did this Hector, the Hispanic Lobster did not exist. So we didn't kill him. Enjoy:
Kermit the Frog: Finally caught and turned into frog's legs.
Miss Piggy: Along with the other "Pigs in Space", she became "Bacon in the Atmosphere" when re-entry went wrong.
Gonzo: His nose hooked on the "O" in The Muppet Show, breaking his neck and killing him.
Statler & Waldorf: The balcony collapsed.
The Swedish Chef: The lobsters, fed up with his bad cooking and Shakespeare, ganged up on him and boiled him alive.
Animal: Sadly, Dr. Teeth's drummer was put down when he contracted Rabies.
Fozzy: Caught in a bear trap while trying to hibernate, he was shot by a hunter in Northern Minnesota. Folks say they heard, "Wolka, wolka, (BLAM), Waaaaaa).
Lew Zealand: He tried to throw a boomerang swordfish, and it impaled him.
Rizzo the Rat: Killed by a subway car in New York.
Sam the Eagle: Poached.
Camilla the Chicken: Was caught, covered in 11 spices and eaten by...
Dr. Teeth: who choked to death on a chicken bone.
Big Bird: Fell into a wood chipper (I don't like Big Bird).
Oscar the Grouch: Crushed in a garbage truck compacter.
Grover: Flew into a light pole and was electrocuted.
The Count: "Oh no, I've lost my keys, and the sun will be out in three, two, one, ha ha." POOF!
Elmo: played with matches and caught on fire. He ran up and down the street screaming, "Elmo hot, hot hot!" Thus, we had St. Elmo's Fire.... (a thank you.)
Cookie Monster: choked to death on a cookie.

The Entire Nation of Fraggle Rock: The hill collapsed and crushed all of them, except for one fraggle, Wembley, who was eaten by the guy's dog
Sprocket (the Dog): Choked on Wembley
Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker: Bunsen blew himself up in an experiment gone awry. Beaker survived...then fell down a flight of stairs and broke his neck.
Rolf (or Rowlf to some) the Dog: Died when his new owner tried to have him neutered, and the procedure went wrong.
Like I said, if your favorite Muppet isn't here, drop me a line, and I'll tell you what happened. I still have most of the list with me.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Ramblings for the Evening (8/8/05)

O Muppets. How thou hast fallen!
Tonight on Monday Night Football, Statler and Waldorf (the old guys in the balcony) introduced the game between Miami and Chicago. Now, here's my problem. Waldorf (the one with the chin) said (and I quote), "foh shizzle." Are you kidding me? The Muppets had one of their old and venerable characters saying, "foh shizzle?" That's like Julie Andrews singing Baby Got Back: It should NEVER happen. I understand that the Muppets have to keep up with the times in order to stay with today's kids, but this is ridiculous.
The Muppets from The Muppet Show aren't the only ones who have changed. Have you watched Sesame Street lately? Cookie Monster doesn't eat cookies anymore. WHAT?! That's right, they want kids to eat more vegetables and such, so he now eats celery. Let me put it this way: a monster that got his name because he eats cookies, now eats celery. Are they going to turn him into Celery Monster? That's not all. I was told (now this could be faulty info, however) that Oscar the Grouch is...well...not really grouchy anymore. He's always happy.
If the producers want to embrace pop culture, then they should do this: First of all, Big Bird has to become a hip hop rapper and survive being shot five times by Snuffy. They can have a real East Coast/ West Coast thing going on between them. Then Grover has to be gunned down in cold blood so that B2 (Big Bird's new name) can pour a 40 on the curb for Grover every show. Next, they already made Bert and Ernie stop being roommates, so neow, Bert has to start believing in Intelligent Design and Ernie has to believe in Evolution. Instead of singing about "Rubber Ducky," they argue over which one is right. Next, Oscar the Grouch will turnout to be a sleeper cell terrorist and will be arrested by Homeland Security and a new Muppet named: Alberto the Lion. Alberto is Sesame Street's liason to Homeland Security and teachers kids how to tell adults about any wrong doings on their block. Oscar will be put in a Gitmo type prison and tortured. Am I done yet? NOT EVEN CLOSE! Elmo has to become an altar boy and be molested so that he can sing songs about how to tell your mom and dad when the priest is touching you in "Elmo's Secret Place." For that episode, Benedict XVI will guest star from the Vatican. Oh, but there's more. Zoey (the female Elmo) will start wearing pants down around her ankles and sell her cooch for heroin. The producers will also introduce Hector, the Hispanic monster who will teach kids about how to build lowriders.
Now, if you think I'm being racist, or insensitive, think about this: an old, white Muppet said, "Foh shizzle." Muppets were supposed to be role models for kids, as I recall. The world exploded when Janet Jackson's breast popped out for half a second (which, come on people, isn't that big of a deal), but they don't care that a children's puppet is peddling stereotypical ideas? Shame on you. (Thanks Bill Plaschke!)
Scooter Accident
Some kid had an accident on a scooter today. I picked August 9th for the first death after this new law went into effect. Could it be that I'm right? Look, if kids are going to riding these scooters, then a helmet law (of sorts) has to be created. I know, there are people out there who think that having to wear is "restricing their freedom." Dude, it's not about your "freedom," it's about you on a motorcycle wearing nothing but shorts, flip-flops, and sunglasses at 90 MPH. One tap from my bumper, and you're road pizza (hold the cheese). Sure, maybe that adds to your rush, but it slows down traffic (yes, I can be a little selfish here) while you're being washed off the pavement. So look kids. Just wear the right clothing and wear a helmet. I don't want my tax dollars going toward your respirator.
At the Co-Op (Wooo)
This is a rant/statement/whatever to my fellow Co-Op shoppers: You may not ever, EVER talk down to me when I am waiting in line to checkout. Do we know each other? No. Then why are you looking in my cart and talking to me about what I'm buying. So I like fish, so what? I'm buying Reynolds Wrap instead of the Recycled Aluminum, I'm going to Hell. Sheesh. Look ladies and gentlemen, I freely admit that I am not a midwesterner. I will not keep quiet when I hear something I don't like. Most people in Minnesota will just nod and say, "Oh you know. You're right, ETC. ETC." Not me. You want to comment on what I'm buying? Fine. If you make a judgement about my or my wife from what we're buying, then yes, I will verbally berate you AND your ugly child until you back off from me. Don't you ever say that I hate the Earth and am, "killing babies," because I want to buy the not-so-natural shampoo. I like that shampoo. Did you know that your breeding is leading to the death of humanity, lady? No? Well thanks for screwing up the gene pool even more. Why don't you go spend $32,000 to go clone your cat so that "Rain Dancer" will never be without her "Pooky." Don't you sit there and judge me without knowing me and tell me I'm the problem on this Earth, THEN GET IN AN SUV. Talk about hypocritical. Just back off.
Poker Sweat
This is just my opinion, but Poker is not a sport. Don't try to sell it to me as a sport, because it isn't. It's like watching Chess. The only "thrill" is in the anticipation of the moves people will make. Chess is the same way. What's next? We already have televised Rock, Paper, Scissors tournaments (also not a sport), so why don't we start a Quarters Circuit. Hot men and women playing quarters until everyone passes out. Oh, or why not have cockfights televised. I mean, at least that's physical. Want another "sport" that should be televised? How about Professional Four-Square? Wait. I've got it. How about Professional Nappers. Yeah! I mean they would move about as much as the Poker players, right? You could have rules about sleep aids (no Ny-Quil), and a uniform (single jammies...with feet). That just might work.
Ok, that's enough for tonight. Tomorrow, more about the Muppets and me (warning: If you love the Muppets, tomorrow's post may upset you).