Friday, October 31, 2008

The Only Winning Move Is Not To Play

Click on the Jack-O-Lantern...


Sorry, I couldn't resist...

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Change Is On The Way



And it's just one week away.
VOTE
Obama - Biden
Change We Can Believe In

Saturday, October 25, 2008

FLASHBACK: Fall 1988

"Mom, Dad. I'm gay."

I didn't just blurt it out, I built up to it, slowly.

My parents had just moved into a small one bedroom cottage on Pasquog Reservoir. I went to see thier new home and it turned out to be a big heart-to-heart visit.

My relationship with them had been a bit rocky in the 80's. The combination of my increasing demands of independence and resentment over their (supposed inability) unwillingness to help me out financially in my goals of a college education, and their increasing debt/decreasing income during the recession of the early 1980's, put me at great odds with them.

Ever since an early age I've harbored a great big sense of entitlement. When it came time for college considerations, I really didn't get much guidance or give it much thought. I felt that I should be able to attend whatever college I chose regardless of academic or economic preparations.

It came as a shock to me that even though I was accepted to every college I applied to, my parents were not able to provide me with any help towards tuition. I knew they couldn't foot the whole bill, but to deny any help...well, it was a death sentence to the colleges that I had wanted to attend.

Though not Harvard or Yale, my colleges were all prestigious private colleges in New England. That was my contribution to the costs issue, in a way, by selecting colleges that, if I had to, I could be a commuter. And it's one of the primary reasons I chose Bryant College (Now Bryant University) as my first choice. It was very close by in North Smithfield and that would save a lot of money. But, being a private school, the tuition was still way more than I could afford alone on my Howard Johnson's salary.

By 1988 though, I had kinda given up hope of great achievements so I was more receptive to my parents who themselves had such low expectations in life.

I myself had undergone a dramatic paradigm shift in life goals once I realized I was gay and after the failure to achieve the means to enter Bryant, decided that maybe it wasn't "in the cards" for me anyway. After all, wasn't art more to my liking?

I entered into art classes in the local Community College, but after the money for even that ran out, had to quit before I had graduated just some 30 credits or so shy.

By 1988 I was working only part time, but it was fulfilling work bringing mentally retarded adults out on what amounted to forced play-dates. Oh, but I thought I was really doing a service. Only thing, they paid me the equivalent salary that was equal to a moron, you could say.

But my parents had found what they felt would be their Nirvana. It was totally suited to them. They had full usage of the dock and the large lawn with picnic tables, so, over the subsequent years, they would through some great parties, expanding beyond the house interior, to the picnic area and the dock and eventually upon the pontoon party boat with seating for 14.

But before all the hoopla, then came move in day, when I finally, after all these years came out, officially, to my parents.

Though I feared the reaction of my father the most, as if he would suddenly want to kill me, he was actually rather calm and cool about it. He said that he kinda knew all along. My mother though, said politically correct words like..."I love you no matter what you are". She started to reveal her true feelings when she told me "Well, I think it's just a phase your going through."

Yeah, Mom, like I was going through a phase when you caught me playing with your costume jewelery and makeup when I was eight?

Yeah Mom, like it was a phase when you noticed I was wearing another boys bathing suit and likely had a slightly engorged penis when I was nine?

Yeah Mom, that despite your prohibition on ever contacting my best friend John after the bathing suit issue, you found out that I was still communicating with him?

Yeah Mom, like after the runaway attempt with Michael D. you didn't see a deeper connection there.

Yeah Mom, like after the suspension over the fight with Camille you didn't figure out what that was all about.

Yeah Mom, like you never looked at John N. in the early days and didn't see in his face his absolute love and adoration of me.

Yeah Mom, like you never understood why Michael P. and I were so into fashion, late night parties and Diana Ross.

It wasn't just a phase.

Though they may not have been 100% accepting, I do have to hand it to them they were civil and didn't berate me for who I am.

And my decision to come out at that time was heavily based on my assumption that this new house for them would really be a catalyst for getting the family back together.

And for years there after, it was. We held many a happy lakeside party there, entering the 90's with a renewed happiness and closeness for our previously very dysfunctional family.

Friday, October 24, 2008

You're Beautiful, It's True

You're beautiful, you're beautiful
You're beautiful, it's true
I saw your face in a crowded place
And I don't know what to do
'Cause I'll never be with you

You're Beautiful - James Blunt

Hardly a day goes by that I don't peruse the Internet in search for pictures of gorgeous men. I'm sure I'm not alone in that pursuit. ;)

I've seen a ton of hotties, but today I stumbled across the all-time hottest of the hotties!

When Yahoo Messenger opens, it also opens a small browser window listing some of the top news stories. Featured as part of their Entertainment News coverage was an article about Miley Silas or whatever, I don't even know what she's famous for, but it wasn't her that caught my eye, it was her boyfriend, Justin Gaston.

Yahoo had a tiny pic of the two of them and I squinted to try to make him out better. Piqued, I googled his name to see if there were better pics of him out there...

Oh yes there were!

I'm in love...


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Han Solo and Hockey Mom Lookalikes, Hard Times For HHN, Catching Fallout Fever, and Other Issues of the Day

Scott is down from Indiana and I just got done having dinner and drinks with him and Ric at Uno's. You know, I've known Scott for years but tonight Ric said that 2 people at the airport agreed with Ric that he looked like a famous celebrity. Ric asked me if I could guess who they said he looked like. I didn't even need to look twice at Scott, I knew the answer, though I never realized it before. He looks like a younger version of Harrison Ford. Ric gave me a high five for getting it right but Scott bemusedly shunned any comparison according to him. Well, if 4 other people see it, it might be true.

Jill had a new pair of glasses on today and immediately everyone in the office noted how much she looked like Sarah Palin. It was eerie. Well, if Tina Fey can't do her anymore on SNL because of her "30 Rock" obligations, at least I know where Lorne Michaels could look for an understudy.

To do Halloween Horror Nights or not this year? That is the question. I want to and it really isn't that expensive when put into the context of how much you get out of it, but the times, they are a tough, you know?

"Fallout 3" will be available in five days. Luckily, a SmartGuys Computers outfit just opened a block or two away here in Lake Mary so if I need to upgrade Mildred, so be it.

Speaking of computer games, my SPORE fever has cooled a bit. Once you get to the Space Stage and build your Space Empire...it becomes a bit tedious. Plus, though I applaud the vastness of the game in terms of the number of available planets for you to colonize, I can see that unless you have absolutely NO life in the real world, you could never get anywhere near to conquering "the galaxy" because it's way too huge. (Though I bet some will achieve it after many months of game play. I eagerly await the YouTube videos showing a synopsis of their progress.)

I'm up to 317 now. Not good. But I'm planning on dropping Januvia and Zetia due to costs so I guess I better do the right thing and eat right, exercise, and reduce alcohol consumption. Oh brother! Why not just ask me to walk on water and raise the dead! Sheesh!

Wow, despite the credit crisis, one of my credit cards actually increased my credit limit without my request. It went up a whole $20! Woo Hoo!

God Bless America!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Perseverance

PERSEVERANCE, noun:

1. continuing in a course of action without regard to discouragement, opposition or previous failure

2. persistent determination to adhere to a plan of direction; insistence

"He whose courage has made way against the turbulence of opposition, and whose vigour has broken through the snares of distress, has many advantages over those that have slept in the shades of indolence, and whose retrospect of time can entertain them with nothing but day rising upon day, and year gliding after year." - Samuel Johnson

Yesterday I posted a SCRAPBOOK entry based upon my experiences in New Orleans a few years ago and I mentioned that Google Maps had finally sent their specialized panoramic camera mounted vehicle to cruise the streets of the city. I talked a bit about the post-Katrina devastation that could now be witnessed, as if you were actually there, from a virtual hands-on perspective.

Tonight, I just finished watching a documentary I rented from Netflix, "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts" directed by Spike Lee and heard all the tragic personal stories about life in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina.

I was reminded of a curious scene that the Google Maps cameras had captured:

First, you'll notice, if you look at the older satellite image here, you see fresh debris just after Katrina and the aftermath. Not one house is standing. It's all just totally destroyed.

Now, fast-forward a couple of years later, in the same exact spot, and we see in the 360-degree shots that the debris is gone, having long ago been trucked away. The street remains, even the fire hydrants dot the road intermittently, ready to service empty lots of grass and bushes.

But here, in the middle of what is now just open country, stands one newly-placed little trailer-sized house. It can't be more than one or two rooms, and it's probably FEMA-supplied, but it has pretty flowered pots and is being tended to by this landowner we see here. They're not going anywhere. This is their land and you know they'll eventually rebuild a permanent home. If you look closely, in the previous north-facing picture, you can make out that they've even placed a campaign sign on their front lawn supporting a local political candidate. They refuse to give up hope for the Ninth Ward.

This is how a proud community is rebuilt.

One lonely little house at a time.

FLASHBACK: September 1985

I got to the staff meeting room in the basement of Hefron Hall a little late for the scheduled inservice and had to scramble to find an available seat. Every MRA in the building was here and the small room was filled. Russell, from the other side of the room, made eye contact with me, smiled and silently nodded to the chair next to him. He saved me a seat. That’s when I realized that he liked me.

Russell had started here at Wrentham just a month ago. He was assigned to Ward D and I was in Ward A so we didn’t see each other that often but by chance it had turned out that his break and lunch schedule was the same as mine so we saw each other often in the breakroom.

You didn’t need to have a fine-tuned gaydar ability to pick Russell out of a crowd. While not overtly “queeny” he had a certain savoir-faire and gentility about him. His smooth Southern accent flowed gracefully from his mouth and he spoke with a refined and erudite vocabulary that surely, in these surroundings, only I fully comprehended. It always seemed as if he were getting ready to retire to the verandah and have his Mammy bring him a tall mint julep in a sterling silver cup.

But it was his clothing style that screamed out gay most acutely. Russell’s outfits were casual enough…they had to be in our line of work, but they were definitely not your usual blue collar fare. Egyptian cotton button-down shirts and Brooks Brothers khakis, even seersucker vests and the occasional straw hat. Yes, straw hat, ala 1930’s style! I think it was only a touch of humility and common sense which prevented him from further adornments such as sporting a Hermes ascot and TAG Heuer chronograph.

Despite his high-end fashion sense, Russell was at his core born and raised in the cornpone trailer trash set. His father had left his mother when Russell was just a baby and she’d struggled through the years as a single mother to barely put a roof over their heads.

When he turned 18 he left home and made his way north with his fag hag friend and came to settle in the sleepy suburbs south of Boston. How he ended up working here was beyond me. He didn’t seem the type. But it was better than working in a factory or something and paid fairly well when compared to other jobs in the area. I doubt he liked it though; he didn’t talk about it much.

As I sat in the seat he saved for me at that boring meeting I felt compelled to flirt with him and come-a-callin’ on him proper. I was intent on courtin’ me a Southern dandy.

The nurse conducting the inservice on something as dull as bloodborne pathogen precautions or something droned on. I revealed to Russell my panacea for getting through the scheduled hour long meeting; I’d hidden my Walkman cassette player in the pocket of my khakis and threaded the earphones discretely up from under my argyle cardigan sweater so I could listen to music. He smiled and complimented me on my good idea.

I had just received my newest Time-Life Classical Music of the Month cassette in the mail just before I'd left for work so I hadn’t yet listened to this tape. As the concerto played and passed to the second movement, my face flushed and my eyes started to well up with tears.

“What’s the matter?”, Russell caringly inquired.

“Nothing. It’s just that this is the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard…”, I replied as I dabbed my tears away.

I smiled, rewound the cassette to the start of the movement and handed Russell the headphones. I hit PLAY and watched him as he listened. I was thrilled to be sharing this with him. We’d talked before about classical music and I knew he was fond of it as well. As he listened, he smiled and our eyes locked in a dreamy gaze. Our friendship had crossed into the realm of lovers at that moment.

“What’s this called?”, he asked.

I read the cassette case, “Johann Sebastian Bach’s Suite No. 3 in D major…this movement is Air on the G string.”

We giggled.

Russell beamed a sly grin and leaned in towards me. He let his soft, warm lips touch my ear and whispered, “Maybe we could get together sometime and I could wear a G-string…”

So it was that a few hours later after our shift was over I drove him to his house so he could gather some overnight supplies including condoms and lube and took him to my apartment. We passionately fucked through the night and got very little sleep but when morning came we both had lots of energy. We were excited to be in love. Or, at least in lust.

Being a Saturday and a day off for both of us I suggested we spend the day together. We decided to go into Boston and visit the Isabella Gardner Museum. While getting ready for our daytrip, Russell saw that I had a women’s gold chain necklace with an opal and diamond pendant on my dresser.

“So do you do girls on the side or are you into drag?”, he joked holding the necklace up for me to see.

“No…”, I giggled, “I used to work at a restaurant and found that sitting in the lost and found box. Months went by and it was still there, so, I decided that if nobody were going to claim it, well then…”

“You stole it?”, he seemed excited as he ribbed me about my “procurement”.

“Well I wouldn’t call it stealing”, I earnestly defended my action. “It’s more like finders keepers…”

“…losers weepers”, he grinned, finishing the phrase. “Can I wear it under my shirt for the day?”, he begged, blinking puppy dog eyes at me.

“Sure. But please don’t lose it.”, I cautioned. After all, I too liked to wear this on occasion under my shirt. And I knew that if I needed money in a pinch I could hock it. It had to be worth a couple hundred bucks at least.

We took the train into Boston, caught the T to the Fenway area and had lunch at a nearby Au Bon Pain. We strolled through the beautiful galleries and gardens of the museum for several hours. As we were about to leave, Russell started patting his chest in panic.

“It’s gone!”, he exclaimed.

“The necklace? You think it slipped off somehow?”, I asked.

We retraced our steps but it was nowhere to be found. Russell seemed devastated and kept apologizing to me as we made our way back to Wrentham. I wasn’t that concerned since I never paid anything for it, but I was a little disappointed that he lost something of mine so quickly.

The mild disappointment morphed slowly yet methodically towards feelings of mistrust and regret. I couldn’t shake the tingling feeling that the necklace wasn’t really lost, it was in his pocket. I could never approach him about this suspicion though, that would be, well, uncouth.

As the train pulled into Franklin station and we got into my car so I could drive him to his car which was still parked at work from the night before, our previously comfortable ease with one another began to dry up. I drove in silence for the ten minute ride and I knew that as quickly as it had begun, this little fling was over.

We stayed friendly enough at work but the spark had fizzled. Within a month or two, Russell had finally burned out at work and quit Wrentham. I called him around the holidays and found out he was packing to move back to Tennessee. We promised to stay in touch, but as often happens, we never did.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

SCRAPBOOK: Way Down Yonder In New Orleans

If you've read the 10 chapter long account of my troubled and turbulent years primarily between 2003 and 2004, then you may have learned a lot about the time I spent in New Orleans, getting accustomed to that city's culture, landmarks and citizens. Though my pockets were frequently empty during that time, I still have many fond memories of the Big Easy.

Recently, I noticed that Google Maps FINALLY put Street View photos up for N.O. These are relatively recent pics, post-Katrina for sure, and clicking on any street in the 9th Ward especially is quite a shock...it's like you're somewhere else, out in the boonies with only a scattering of boarded-up, graffiti covered houses and lot after lot overgrown by years of copse, grasses and brush. To see a tight grid pattern of paved streets seemingly laid out for no reason, since there are no houses on them is quite eerie.

Here's a little photo tour of my haunts from "back in the day" as they appear now:

Here's Regan and Jay's house. It fared well and looks exactly like it did pre-Katrina. I wonder if they still have rats?

Here's the Grants place I worked at for much of my time in New Orleans. This is in the antiques row area of the Garden District. But believe me, we weren't sellin' antiques. Of course the business isn't there any more but that had nothing whatsoever to do with Katrina.

We used to cash our weekly paychecks from Grants here, pretty much across the street on Magazine (thus the name of the store). There was a fierce Chinese lady who owned the place and was more than happy to cash our checks for a fee which was determined not by any set percentage but more by what she assessed she could skim from you on the spot. Usually around 5-6%. Do not mess with her!

Here's the place on Dorgenois both Alicison and I "stayed at" for a few months. She was in a unit on the first floor, kinda in the center of this photo. I was up on the second, my window was the last dormer on the right (was cut off when I cropped the pics to a standard 700 by 425 pixels for uniformity, oh well...). Notice the lovely automobile parked in front (no, I don't know who's it is since this is a recent pic and not from our days there). Great neighborhood...if you like crack and gunfights...woo hoo!

Despite how this pic looks, we had "moved on up" to this street in the Gentilly neighborhood. This was a pretty middle-class, well-manicured and landscaped street, full of huge shade trees. Now it's a rundown cesspool. How sad. Our house is circled here.

Here's a close-up of our house (well actually, I had the converted garage in the back down at the end of the path you can see on the left). This was once a pretty little thing. The windows we see would have looked in to Alicison's rooms. Notice the house next door in much the same shape, as is the entire neighborhood.

This is the neighborhood grocery store I shopped at almost every other day. I'd get off the bus from work right across the street and buy a small amount of groceries which I carried the 3 or 4 blocks to my house. In the fall of 2004, the store owners had just finished remodeling the exterior including the installation of some really neat retro-styled neon signage near the roof. Now, as you can see, it's all just an empty lot.

Six Flags New Orleans
Born as Jazzland in 2001
Closed and abandoned after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Spammed Scams And Shams...Scram!

"There's a sucker born every minute" - P.T. Barnum

So I check out my inbox at Hotmail and this, the contents of the most recent email is at the top of the list:

"We have a job opening for the position of Accounts recievable officer. Would
you like to work from your home and get paid weekly? We are offering this
position to all interested applicants. Please carefully read through.
ASHLEY FURNITURE COMPANY is a well established Manufacturing Firm,that
delivers high quality precision furnitures products to some of the largest and best known companies in far back Asia ,the Regions Of America and Rest of The world for a long time. You will find our high quality furnitures in the BEST products on the market today.

ABOUT US:

About Our Company
Our Vision, Values, Mission and Operating Principles have been developed to
reflect not only our day-to-day work on our core business strategies,but also
to guide us through the challenges and opportunities that come with global
expansion and rapidly changing markets.

Job Description

Your primary task for now , as a representative of the company is to Coordinate
payments from customers and help us with the payment process.You are not
involved in any sales. Once orders are received and sorted we deliver the
product to a customer. After this has been done the customer has to pay for
the products but in most cases we make our clients prepay for orders or items
they order for . About 90 percent of our customers prefer to pay through
Certified Checks or Money Orders drawn from the United State based on the
amount involved.

We have decided to open this new contract -to-hire job position for solving
this problem.

Your First Primary task (Collection of Payments):

1. Receive payment from our Customers or Clients.
2. Cash Payment at your Bank or any cashing facilities near you.
3. Deduct 10 % which will be your percentage/pay on Payment processed
4. Forward balance after deduction of percentage/pay to any of the offices you
will be directed to send payment to (Payment is to be forwarded by Western
Union Money Transfer or Money Gram). Transfer Charges will be deducted from
Our funds.Prospective Finance coordinators should forward their resume or
infos.below if interested:

1. Your Name:
2. Mailing Address:
3. City/State:
4. Zip Code:
5. Phone Number(s):
6. Sex
7. Marital Status
8. Age:
9. E-mail address:


A swift acknowledgment of the receipt of this email will be appreciated.

Thanks For Your Checking to Apply with US.
Mottl Zachary(Staffing and Recruiting Dept)
ASHLEY FURNITURE COMPANY"

Um, ok, let's break this down, shall we?

First of all, the only reason I even started to read it was that this coincidentally arrived at a time when, lo and behold, I happen to be looking for a job to replace my soon-to-be-no-more current employ.

But upon an even casual read, I quickly surmised this to be bogus. And worse than just some ad spam, it's no doubt an attempt to defraud and rip people off in the vein of the now-infamous Nigerian lottery scam emails.

Well, purely on a cursory analysis based on this email's semantics, grammar and cultural awareness, let's go ahead and point out, helpfully perhaps to the scammer, what's wrong with this missive, okay?

Sentence 1:

"We have a job opening for the position of Accounts recievable officer."

Issue A: Unsolicited email "alerts" about job openings are not new. And, in fact, with sites like Monster.com offering publicly viewed resumes available to prospective employers it's sometimes legitimate. Last go-round looking for a job, I got more than a couple offers from real companies, offering real jobs. But, right now, my Monster.com resume is not enabled for public view (mostly 'cause I'm still working on it), and no other site, to my knowledge, is allowing people to see my resume. So this was suspicious point number one.

Issue B: Would a reputable company send out an email to prospective employees with typos? Even if the person assigned to write the email were to accidentally misspell something, they would most likely have written the email contents first in a word processor (with Spell Check enabled) to be reviewed and approved by someone else (their manager or HR department, whatever) so that typos might be caught beforehand by an even casual proofreading. Never mind the Spell Check in the first place.

So why is "receivable" spelled wrong?

"I before E, except after C" anyone?

Sentence 5:

"ASHLEY FURNITURE COMPANY is a well established Manufacturing Firm,that
delivers high quality precision furnitures products to some of the largest and bestknown companies in far back Asia ,the Regions Of America and Rest of The world for a long time."

Wow, okay, um, where do I begin? Let's just go from beginning to end...

Issue C: While the name of the business may at first be recognizable to most Americans as the popular and well-known furniture maker and marketer, it's actually not accurate...the company we are familiar with is Ashley Furniture Industries. (This "error" may have been planned since the originators of this scam may have thought that it would have avoided legal issues. Um, I'm no lawyer, but I'm pretty sure that in such a case like this where the two names are similar enough, you wouldn't be able to claim a unique business name status to avoid law suit. It's too similar.)

Issue D: Capitalization of common nouns and verbs within the body of a sentence (other than proper nouns and some pronouns relating to God) have been obsolete in modern English for over a century, yet here we have many words capitalized. While this technique might be used informally to denote importance, it is not proper English, and would not be used in such a real email campaign.

Issue C: "furnitures". At first you might think it's a typo but it's repeated in each instance. The writer thinks this is the proper word describing what most of us would label "furniture". The plural of "furniture" is "furniture"...no "S".

Issue E: "in far back Asia". Huh? Who talks like this? Only persons trying to convey their thoughts in a language they were not as familiar with as their primary language would make this statement. The tricky thing is, if you are trying to figure out it's English accuracy...it's not improper English. It's perfectly acceptable in pure grammar...it's just archaic and weird.

Issue F: "Regions Of America and Rest of The world for a long time."
* Inappropriate capitalization aside, a statement about the extent of the businesses coverage in the US would likely include more info, even on an introductory level. If "regions" were used, they would likey be named as the USA is usually broken up into just a few "regions" for marketing purposes. (ie: the Northeast, the Midwest, the Pacific Northwest, etc.)

*Well, if indeed the "rest of the world" were true, then why bother itemizing geographical locations in the first place?

Sentence 11 and 12:

"After this has been done the customer has to pay for
the products but in most cases we make our clients prepay for orders or items
they order for . About 90 percent of our customers prefer to pay through
Certified Checks or Money Orders drawn from the United State based on the
amount involved."

Prepay...for furniture? Um, they (the furniture retailers) all offer in-house financing terms since it's expected most purchases (amounting to thousands of dollars) would be on credit.

I would expect the opposite...90% pay on credit. And the idea of using certified checks or money orders...not likely.

The rest:

"Your First Primary task (Collection of Payments):

1. Receive payment from our Customers or Clients.
2. Cash Payment at your Bank or any cashing facilities near you.
3. Deduct 10 % which will be your percentage/pay on Payment processed
4. Forward balance after deduction of percentage/pay to any of the offices you
will be directed to send payment to (Payment is to be forwarded by Western
Union Money Transfer or Money Gram). Transfer Charges will be deducted from
Our funds.Prospective Finance coordinators should forward their resume or
infos.below if interested:

1. Your Name:
2. Mailing Address:
3. City/State:
4. Zip Code:
5. Phone Number(s):
6. Sex
7. Marital Status
8. Age:
9. E-mail address:"


Now it's clear....

1. They send you a check...probably in your name since you are an "employee".
2. You cash it with Ellie-May, the teller at your neighboorhood bank who has been handling all your transactions for years. She trusts the check is good and pays you.
3. You wire the funds to your "employer" and keep the 10% thinking you made out well for such simple work.
4. The "check" bounces. Big surprise. Now you have to pay back your bank what they paid you.
5. Your "employers" are not easy to track down. You never hear from them again.

How sad not only that some idiots would be drawn in by this, but also that Hotmail has been unable to filter this.

Online email accounts used to be relatively spam-free.

Not anymore, I guess.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Joe Sixpack Meets Joe The Plumber

When I was younger and a fervent independent, I cringed when Democratic candidates would use cute anecdotes to introduce to their debate audiences the plight of the common folk they have met along the way in their journey to put their cushy well-fed, pampered tush in the White House.

Now, it's the Republicans bringing up their "brush with the serfs" stories to elicit a feeling from viewers that they are somehow better connected to the plight of the struggling masses.

Wow.

Is that not like a 21st century version of Marie Antoinette's "sympathetic" plea "If the poor of France have no bread, well then, let them eat cake"?

All in all, in my opinion, after watching tonight's debate, I feel relieved.

Barack Obama kept on the high road and, as McCain himself acknowledged, was eloquent in his handling of McCain's poor attempts at striking an offensive blow to the Democratic candidate.

You can't fire your cannons if they haven't been calibrated and aimed. You can't carpet bomb if you aren't certain that there will not be unintended and unforgivable collateral of war. You can't order a precision strike if you don't have the intelligence.

Epic Fail, Mr. McCain.

Whew...

"Hello, Canada...ya, I probably won't have to move to your land after all. I think my country may be on the rebound. It looks like we'll have a smart, fair, progressive and creative President again, after such a long time. Thanks anyway, okay? Yah, okay. You too. I love you...I'll visit again soon though. You bet. Okay. Bye"

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Back To The Drawing Board

It's time to wipe the slate clean and start over, folks.
I've let things go for way too long. What am I referring to?

Well, everything.

First, there's these health issues. The chronic ones aren't getting better through medication, at least not on a perceptible level. The so-called minor ones like this aching shoulder are just persistent nuisances that have to be dealt with swiftly and firmly. I'm tired of waiting for "nature to take it's course". A new ailment popped up this week...my left ear is plugged up. I've used earwax cleaning fluid, warm water syringes...no help. I tried getting the gunk out with wads of tissues (used like a soft Q-Tip)...bad idea. It just jammed it in tighter. So now I'm walking around with about 25% hearing in my left ear and the feeling of pressure building behind the eardrum. Knowing my luck, it'll be infected before the end of the week and I'll be in excruciating pain. Arrrrgh!

Next item on the block is Ric. I haven't responded to his voice mails this past weekend. They were drunk dialing messages anyway...one was a slurred account of his run-in with a dive bar (Thirsty Whale) roughneck who supposedly threatened to shoot him since he was staring in an "unsavory way" at his daughter? Oh brother! This "livin' on the edge" drama I just don't need right now. Methinks it's time to go back to a stance similar to this summer's isolation from him. At least for a while. Maybe forever.

Lastly, I think it's time to look to the past and to literally go "back to the drawing board" as it pertains to my career ambitions. When I went to college some 25 years ago my major was Fine Arts, with a focus on 2-D Visual Arts (painting, drawing, etc.). Was this to prepare me for a life of call center work? No. It was to prepare me for a career as an artist. But I lost my way over the years. I gave in to those who told me that it was an iffy thing to make a living as an artist. I hung up my brushes and never looked back. And all for what? For two decades of going from job to job, never getting really very far and hating it all along the way.

It's time to pick up the brushes again.

Monday, October 13, 2008

FLASHBACK: Fall 1994

My life had calmed down a bit from the drama of the earlier months of this year. I was falling into a “same old, same old” routine and though stress-free and supportive of my alcohol-free, fitness-first lifestyle I’d clung dearly to over the past 16 months, I was starting to feel a bit lonely again.

Wayne had left for “greener pastures” in March and I hadn’t been very much in touch with him and his new East Side friends. I did attend his house warming for his new apartment near the campus of Brown University in the spring and presented him what would turn out to be one of my last (and best, I might add) artworks of the ‘90s “Torso”, it was a large (5’x3’) Conte crayon drawing of a muscular male torso. It came out really nice and I have to admit, I thought about keeping it for myself rather than giving it away.

My fling with Almir was definitely over. Just as well, I had trust issues with him. I highly suspected he had AIDS or was at least HIV+ so when I had last visited him in his small walkup in the Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan (re: practically the Bronx) after a night of odd sex which even included a bit of roleplay (him in my Atlanta Braves baseball cap, me in his leathermen biker cap), I got up at the crack of dawn, left a Dear John message on a paper napkin and drove back to Rhode Island.

I had finished my project making a semi-partition half wall in the living room with drywall and glass brick accents. I’d gotten butch and built it all myself, using a Time-Life “How To” book to teach myself drywall construction. It came out great and everyone who saw it liked how it broke the huge living room back to what it originally had been when the tenement-style house was first built…a separate living room and dining room.

My leg had finally healed after this summer’s varicose vein stripping and I was now back at work after enjoying about two months off for which I got regular time-off pay and disability insurance pay…almost a double salary for doing nothing. It was sweet. And much needed. Since Wayne was gone, I had to foot the bill solo for all house expenses like rent, electric, and especially gas. The gas bills were outrageous…almost $200/month in winter! Thankfully my landlord Dan never got around to fixing the hole in the ceiling above the tub so rent was still at the reduced rate of just $500/month. But at my salary of $8.25/hour, I was thankful for the rare increases in income like this comp time.

I was cruising my Internet stomping ground, the M-to-M Forum on America Online and came across the ad of a guy in Providence who was into computers and thought it might be fun to contact him. From his profile I saw he was in his early 40s and considered himself overweight so I made it clear that I wasn’t interested in dating or anything, just friendship. He emailed me back and said he was cool with that so we arranged to meet at Borders in Cranston.

There was live music there that night, some folk singer with a guitar I think. It was nice and made for a very comfortable relaxed environment. John was already sitting at a table; he saw me and waved me over. We shook hands greeted each other and started to chat, in what we would now call RL (real life). You got to remember, this was still in the infancy of the Web and the M-to-M Forum of AOL was really nothing more than a dedicated and monitored IRC with BB and E-Mail services included.

I don’t know what sign we had designated as identifying each other but it wasn’t by face recognition since this was before the days of exchanging GIFs or JPGs of each other. Yes, those image formats were around and if you were patient, you could download them. But AOL didn’t allow uploads of personal images yet and in any event it was rare to have a binary copy of a photo of yourself then. It would require you to scan the image (virtually nobody had scanners yet) and then upload it to an FTP server (I think AOL did allow storage space on their FTP servers, but it would have been at exorbitant rates, for sure, with the average PC hard drive space back then of around 100 – 200 MB)

I could tell right away that he was attracted to me but I made it clear that I was only interested in friendship so he visibly struggled with suppressing his horned up self and ogled my crotch a little less often. I could also tell that he was likely manic-depressive and he openly divulged the fact that he was on the new social-anxiety drug Zoloft. Being in the mental health field and well-familiar with MDD I wasn’t turned off by this trait, it intrigued me to see this in someone intelligent and “normal”, as opposed to the folks I dealt with at work.

John and I would come to be good friends, going to Borders, out to eat (which he loved to do and I was starting to get back into), to arthouse movies on the East Side, to computer trade shows. John even got me interested in attending, for a while, a support group for Catholic or former Catholic gay men run by and primarily attended by a non-canonical brotherhood.

But as the season crawled on into the doldrums of a typical long and bleak New England winter John and I started seeing less of each other. I had taken on, again, part time work at DialAmerica in Warwick and had little leisure time now, plus, John’s home-based computer reseller business started failing, mainly as a result of his inability to get new clients due to his social-anxieties. As he became poorer, his health suffered since he couldn’t see his doctors or buy the prescription meds, so he became more and more withdrawn. By the Holidays he could hardly speak without severely stuttering and spent most days at home in bed.

So it was, by the new year, I was alone again and had to face my inner demons by myself. Fortunately I was able to stave off the urges and remained true to my commitment to abstaining from alcohol. But the food issue was making a return and it would take a whole new commitment to fitness in early ’95 to turn it back around.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Finally, An Honest Resume

Honesty is such a lonely word
Everyone is so untrue
Honest is hardly ever heard
And mostly what I need from you

Honesty - Billy Joel

Ok, I'm tired of padding my resume every time I have to go out there and find a new job. Don't get me wrong, I've done this so many times over the years and the hundreds of interviews I attended that I'd say I'm pretty darn good at it. Heck, just because of the number of years I've been "out there" in the workforce, even "unpadded" I can show more real experience than say, Sarah Palin...

Well, I'm feeling a little like gruff but lovable Gus, the bookmobile driver. (If you don't get this reference, too bad:)

Gus didn't say much, but his deadpan mug gave up more than words could convey...he was brutally honest. Honest to a fault one might say.

So I decided to "rewrite" my resume and have it give a deadly accurate picture of the type of worker I am. Something a little meaty and gritty for a prospective employer to chew on, you could say.

Methinks they won't be swallowing:


Your New Prospective Employee?
A one room former garage on a barely paved dead end road
An Overpriced Community, A Hot and Humid State
A pre-paid Go Phone since I don’t have the credit for a “real” cell phone


Objective

To get you to pay me for as little work or responsibility as humanly possible.
It wouldn’t suck if I could easily steal from you as well.

Education

3 poorly-attended semesters at a small, under funded community college mainly attended by GED grads and bored retirees, 1983-1985, Did Not Graduate. Major: Fine Arts…worthless field for call center work


Work “Experience”

A Well-Known Software Corporation (as a temp 2006, employee Dec. 2006-2008)

Senior Slacker Extraordinaire

Taught virtually nothing and thrown into position uninformed; learned to BS people from day one. Eventually pretended to take calls and tricked system into reporting false stats freeing me up for more important things like cruising the Web, writing in my blog, playing Peggle, and taking catnaps. Hung up on hundreds and hundreds of customers without them ever getting through to me, falsified casework to make it look like I did something, sat in my cubicle goofing off every single day.



A Big Outsourcing Call Center Corporation (whenever I felt like it during 2005)

Bitch and Whine Sounding Board Specialist I

High volume inbound calls from cranky cell phone users bitter about Life, the Universe and Everything. Recited scripted phrases as needed but rolled eyes and made faces at idiots spewing their oral shit at me. Trained extensively by uninformed and jaded training and supervisory staff on how to get by doing nothing. Repeatedly lied to folks that they were getting a better deal when they had to pay more for poorer service. Burned out and left mid-shift never going back.



A Fly-By-Night Scam Offering “Guaranteed” Govt. Grants, LLC (a few months in 2003 and again in 2004)

Hungover Telephone Predator

Consistently stole hundreds of dollars from redneck morons thinking they were getting “the hook up”. Superior deception skills and out right lies to cater to semi-retarded losers’ greed and laziness. Threatened and insulted people telling them they’d be hunted by the government to avoid cancels. Needed to carefully construct pitch so that the owners would get nabbed by the FBI, not me. Which is what happened eventually, of course.



Vinyl Siding Telemarketer (many hungover mornings from 2000-2002)

Phony Telemarketing Trainer

Designed and implemented course based on the Don Lapre method of deception: promise anything. Managed training curriculum to keep low-skilled, usually mentally diminished idiots off welfare. Designed and implemented a useless management training class comprised of stolen ideas and concepts. Photocopied cheap materials to make it look like I was doing something. Abandoned job to get drunk.



The Biggest Telemarketer in the Country (not usually full workdays from 1998-2000)

Sleazy Telemarketing Assistant Manager

Lorded over 60 losers who couldn’t get better jobs; good ones got cheap little prizes, poor ones got fired. Worked with 4 supervisors reporting to me getting them to do all the work while I nursed my hangovers. Interviewed, hired and trained reps for office. Taught them how to brutally ripoff people over the phone. Consistently fell under pie-in-the-sky sales targets set by idiot project managers who had no experience. Promoted from within by sucking up to my boss since I hardly ever showed up. Eventually forced to resign.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

SCRAPBOOK: To All The Memes I've Loved Before

Internet meme (from Wikipedia):

The term Internet meme is a neologism used to describe a catchphrase or concept that spreads quickly from person to person via the Internet. The term is a reference to the concept of memes, although this concept refers to a much broader category of cultural information.

I guess this definition is geek-speak for "what Internet junkies think is cool".

Many say that the first Internet meme was the Dancing Baby...

But, as confirmed by the Internet Meme Timeline, I remember the first real Web-based meme: It was the "episodic" website "The Spot".

This format was a precursor to what ultimately would become "Big Brother" on TV, cameras "spying in" on members of a household. It was said to be a Web-based soap opera similar to TV's "Beverly Hills 90210", but really, it's true inspiration had come from several porn websites that had been successful with this voyeuristic format.

Soon after "The Spot", which I actually only intermittently followed, I became truly hooked by another episodic website with a sci-fi theme: Eon-4

I was an addicted devotee of the bulletin boards on this sci-fi mystery drama site and I spent hours after hours logging in with my 19200-baud modem ignoring almost all else. That was 1996 to 1997 and I think I cried a little when the parent company of the website went under and the site was shut down...before the mystery of the story had been resolved...I'm still hoping and waiting for a resurrection of the site, but frankly this format is out-of-vogue now. Too bad.

The Internet went on after the collapse of Eon-4 of course, and the memes kept a comin'. Here are some of the ones that I fell in love with over the years:

Bert Is Evil caught my fancy right off, 'cause, other than the fact that he is a closet queen, I always had a feeling that he was really evil.

Soon after 9/11, when those fanatic parading crowds appeared on TV news holding posters supporting Osama Bin-Laden and Bert was present in some of them, the fact of Bert's evil-ness was all but confirmed. (Actually, some poster maker in the Middle East just used Internet images of Bin-Laden for his collaged posters and some had Bert in them from the humor sites. Little did the printer know, since he was oblivious to American culture, thus wouldn't have recognized the Sesame Street muppet, he naively thought those images were homages to his hero, not mockeries which in fact they were.)

This one slew me. You gotta love pics of kittens. Especially when they're chased by foam and felt "monsters". It did make me think twice a few times when I set out to have a little "right-hand fun".

Then the kitten thing blew up into this, LOLCATS. To this day I will crack up if it's a good one. 'Cause you know that if we could hear what cats are thinking, they would sound just like this.

With YouTube came the viral videos and the memes spawned by them, like:

The "Numa Numa Song" videos

Dramatic Chipmunk

And my favorite, videos that start off as something else that's become popular, but are spliced and interrupted abruptly with the 1980's music video of "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley.

I personally love being rickrolled, since I love this song...

Eh, just call me a geek. I wear it like a badge of honor.

Monday, October 06, 2008

I've Fallen And I Can't Get Up!

Who knows if it'll continue dropping or it'll rebound before the close, but I thought It'd be fun to take a screen shot of it's low point so far...

Right now it's the Dow's largest point drop ever (surpassing last Monday's plummet) for a single day of trading, if it remains at these numbers 'till 4:00.

I have a feeling that for some poor bastards on the trading floor of the NYSE, 4:00 seems so very, very far away in what must be an agonizing and harrowing day. Betcha they'll need a drink when it's over.

Hell, I think we all will.

Update 4:07...

Well, pretty admirable comeback...late day rally. Still down quite a bit overall, especially landmark since the total index is below 10,000 now.

I think I'll still get that drink though. ;)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Going Ostrich

Long ago in the halcyon days of my youth, I religiously followed current events. I read as many newspapers and news magazines I could get my hands on (and unlike some Vice Presidential candidates nowadays, I could name them off the top of my head if asked). I watched the nightly news on TV each evening, and even as a pre-teen, I'd give up an hour or two on Sunday morning to see shows like "Meet The Press" or "Face The Nation".

In high school my buddy Steven Glasscock (yes, he got ribbed constantly about his name) and I lived up to our uber-geek reputations and spent study periods delving into Facts-On-File and quizzing each other about geo-politics and current international events like the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the European Common Market and the stability or strife of newly-independent African regimes.

But it always amazed me when I ran across an adult who admitted that they avoided watching the TV news or reading periodicals. They defended their aversion to reality and the greater community out there by saying that "the news is just too depressing". I truly didn't understand their point of view. In my mind, I labeled them as ostriches, wanting to put their head in the sand so they don't have to deal with anything.

Back then I thought...oh yes, there's always plenty of bad news out there. What people call "evil" appeared to be everywhere. But I seemed to always take it in with a different set of steps to process the information. Rather than focus on the "negative" elements of dire news, I tended to look on the bright side of life...for each instance of "evil", there could be a "counter-agent", inspired by the original deed, to surface. And ultimately, that "counter-agent" would tend to be "good". Yin and Yang.

For instance, the media reports a mugging, so...people become more aware of their surroundings; they form community watch groups. If a raging fire burns down a house and leaves a family homeless, destroying all their possessions, well...at least no one was hurt and it teaches that having less material possessions means you have less to lose, inspiring a more Zen lifestyle. A mass murderer uses a chainsaw to senselessly slaughter dozens of elderly people and little babies...well...at least they went quickly; he could have used a butter knife. And, after all, he spared the more productive and viable members of society from his sociopathic homicidal whims, right?

Okay, but seriously, I've recently started to become sensitive to the pains of the world. Or at least brainwashed by the media into thinking as most of them do, that "the end is nigh".

The past week or so was especially grim.

Terrorist bombings now in South Ossetia...mark my word, this will be the next blow up region.

China's continued disregard for the global environment; building an average of 3 new dirty coal fueled power plants each week.

Palin's assertion that "Drill Baby, Drill" is a good thing. And, that climate change may not be the result of man's impact on Earth's environment.

Unemployment at 6.1 percent, highest in 5 years. And, as you know, I'm joining those ranks.

The $700 billion bailout that guarantees nothing...and stocks continue to plummet despite it's passing.

The U.S. Senate passes the civilian nuclear agreement between the US and India. Dr. Kaveh L Afrasiabi, has argued the agreement will set a new precedent for other states, adding that the agreement represents a diplomatic boon for Tehran. Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, the Iranian Deputy Director General for International and Political Affairs, has complained the agreement may undermine the credibility, integrity and universality of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Pakistan argues the safeguards agreement "threatens to increase the chances of a nuclear arms race in the subcontinent...Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has suggested his country should be considered for such an accord and Pakistan has also said the same process "should be available as a model for other non-NPT states". Israel is citing the Indo-U.S. civil nuclear deal as a precedent to alter Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) rules to construct its first nuclear power plant in the Negev desert, and is also pushing for its own trade exemptions.

So I think, I too may become an ostrich for awhile.

Hey, it can't hurt.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

FLASHBACK: Summer 1979

By the 3rd inning, I was already thoroughly bored and I could tell that my father, noticing my lack of interest, started becoming disappointed and frustrated.

We were sitting in the lower-level seats off right field just beyond first base, about 10 or so rows back. Pretty good seats really. Other boys my age along with their fathers, sat nearby with their well-seasoned leather mitts eagerly held at the ready to pick up a chance errant pop-up foul. I never even owned a baseball mitt.

“You gotta pay attention ‘cause if a ball comes this way you don’t want to get hit in the head with it.”, my father instructed to me. Frankly, until he warned me about it, I hadn’t really taken notice of the potential risk involved at being a spectator in seats so close to the field as we were. Now, to add to my boredom, I started to let a slight paranoia build inside me as I peered towards the player at bat and prayed he didn’t smack it towards me.

The weekend before, I had been on my Sunday morning shift at Bijou’s, the bistro-style restaurant/bar I worked part-time at as a dishwasher/general laborer. I was vacuuming the mint green-colored wall-to-wall carpeting pushing the loud and clunky silver machine's floor attachment back and forth across the rug, dancing to the cool jazz/disco beat of Herb Alpert's “Rise” when I noticed two rectangles of stiff printed paper lying on the floor under one of the tables. They were a pair of tickets to the next home game of the Boston Red Sox.

I dutifully turned them in to my boss, Janine, and she said she’d hold them in the lost and found drawer for a few days but if no one claimed them, they were mine. When they went unclaimed, I admitted to her that I hated sports and really wouldn’t have any interest in the tickets.

I think it was her who suggested that it might be a good idea for me to ask my dad to go to the game as a father-and-son outing. Deep inside, I thought the idea was hokey and somewhat old-fashioned.

Though I felt I loved my father, we didn’t have much in common and barely had many conversations at home, let alone go somewhere together, just the two of us.

But Janine, an out-and-proud lesbian (very rare in those days, especially as a business owner in a small, Catholic city) probably picked up on what I myself hadn’t fully realized. That even at the age of 15, I was already putting out gay vibes. Yeah, her gaydar had pinned it dead on, right off the bat, so to speak, and she knew that it’d be good for me to strengthen my relationship with my dad now in order to make it easier to deal with the eventual, and inevitable, coming-out process years down the road. She was a bright one, that Janine!

So here we were at Fenway Park in Boston, trying to make uncomfortable conversation with each other, munching on hot dogs and washing it down with a couple of ice cold beers.

“Huh? You were drinking beer, you ask? But you were 15!”

That’s right. My father had pretty much no compunction about allowing me to drink. Even out here in public. Plus it was the 70s. Nowadays, if someone was letting their kid drink beer out in public like that, they’d be risking some concerned citizen turning them in to child services. Back then, strangers kept to themselves about such things. No one ever intervened.

That whole summer at Bijou’s would be an introductory course in Booze 101 for me. When working ‘till closing on weekend nights, I’d be invited to sit at the bar with the waitresses (and one gay waiter) while the owner allowed us to have a “couple” on the house as she tallied up the evenings receipts.

I usually just had a beer or two, and I avoided joining the others “out back” for the occasional toke on a shared joint. The bar had all these glossy advertisement tents for a drink called “The Universe” and one night I asked if I could try that. Janine giggled, thought about it, and figured, “Why not!”. A vodka and Midori concoction, it tasted like Kool-Aid. Yum! I sucked it down rather quickly…it was so sweet and delicious. Needless to say, I was bowing to the porcelain god a couple hours later.

At the baseball game, my father allowed me only one beer. I guess he drew the line at actually getting his child falling down drunk in public. I could do that during house parties, but that would be in the privacy of the home.

So the afternoon slowly dragged on as the buzz from my one beer dwindled, and my fear of getting knocked-out-cold by a powerful foul ball intensified. I impatiently sat there wishing I hadn’t found those damned tickets.

I couldn’t wait until this stupid game was over and we could get to the car and sit silently ignoring each other during the long drive back to Rhode Island.