Archive for November 2006

November 24th, 2006

So Crappy Together

“Now Bobby — you probably don’t have any idea about this — but does Stephanie have the color scheme for your apartment?” In the weeks before the wedding I must have heard this question, almost verbatim, ten times from concerned aunts/female cousins/male friends who are gay, before they went shopping for our gift.

This was pretty amusing to me, on many levels….

For starters, it was always the color scheme. I mean, since we’d be married, of course we’d have a color scheme in our new dwelling, it was just a question of whether it has been set up yet. Like joint checking.

Also, the color scheme was a decree that only Steph could issue and that then should be passed on to them via me…. Hey, ladies, I’m a graphic designer. I went to art school. I know my primary from my secondary from my tertiary. You could ask me what our color scheme was. I’d know all about it. Women are always assuming that men, as a gender, do not understand the concept of color, and that words like “earthtone” and “pastel” meaning nothing to us. More of us get it than you’d think. I’m a guy and I bet I could choose a great color scheme for our apartment. (Of course, I never ever would, because I’m a guy. For the life of me, I cannot understand why the colors that adorn my home are so important. For example, if it were up to me, all our walls would remain stark white. I mean I’d hang some cool stuff on them to make them interesting, but I’d also use all those hours I would have spent drop-clothing and masking-taping and washing-out brushes to do things like drink beer and decide on a name for a boat, should I ever get one…. Why am I speaking my mind so freely here in the parentheses? Is some sort of soliloquy that only my closest confidants can read? “Hey, confidants, this is just between you and me…and the trillions of other people with internet access.” Ridiculous. I’m not even going to use a closing parenthesee. Let’s just continue from here.

Finally there’s the fact that…how do I put this delicately?…. This is Steph we’re talking about. The only color scheme she knows is “lots.” Lots of colors…preferably bright ones…all butted up against each other. For proof of this, take one look at the way she dresses. God help you if you are epileptic.

Please don’t think I’m complaining that I was asked about our color scheme, though. I appreciate that you’re trying to help us achieve a coherent look. As a matter of fact, I wish you more decorating-conscious friends and relatives would pay us a visit and help us out right now. Steph and I are both so overcommited and preoccupied that, after a month and a half of marriage, we’ve barely started unpacking. We live out of cardboard boxes and laundry baskets. We survive on doggybags from the times we’ve gone out and eaten somewhere.

Worse than our current quality of life though, is the possibility that Steph is going to find a free moment and start setting up our new place by herself. For as long as I’ve known her, Steph’s approach to interior design has been…unique. Many years ago, we got to know each other through mutual friends and one of the first times I ever hung out with her, we all went up to her dorm room. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen. Her half of the room was like a dense forest. Literally. She had huge tree branches she’d hauled inside, attached to the wall-mounted bookshelves, extending out into the room. Streamers and broken CDs on fishing line hung above her bed. I think all the posters she’d ever owned in her life were layered on the walls. All of this was draped with strands of Christmas lights. It was, I have to say, it was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. I remember thinking to myself “I wonder if this person has mental problems.” Today I am married to her.

“Accumulate lots and lots of crap that you like, for any variety of reasons, place it in the first available space you find, and leave it there forever.” This is feng-shui, Steph-style. And I know, I know, it sounds whimsical and eccentric. And it is. But don’t mistake it for its more elegant and pragmatic counterparts. This is not “Eclectic” or “Thrift Cool” or “Shabby Chic” or “Boho” or whatever the hell they’re calling the hodge-podge look that they featured in trendy decorating magazines like Dwell or Domino, where people who could not clutter up a living space if their lives depended on it attempt to look as though they enjoy going out to farms and rubbing elbows with common, salt-of-the-earth folk and bargaining with them for their old, beat-up junk. (Deep down inside you just know these decorators hate the sight of chipping paint and the fact that none of their furniture matches.) This not that. If I had to come up with a name for the look I am talking about, I would call it the “Crap-Thrown-Together” look. It is letters from best friends tacked right into the wall next to a cool page ripped out a magazine next to the power bill. It is flower pots on top of lidless tupperwares overflowing with paper scraps on top of cd players that no longer work on top of plastic milk crates…as a coffee table. It is never being able to find your cell phone or keys. It is, occasionally, tree branches falling down and hitting you on the head. I don’t want this for our new apartment.

Still, very soon I plan to write a feature on the “hot new” Crap-Thrown-Together look to submit to the trendy decor magazines. Either the editors will recognize it for the unlivable horror it is or — I think this is much more likely — we’ll cash in big on my wife’s eccentricity…and my ability to lay in on with a snow shovel.

I will use the money we make to get our place decorated properly.

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November 17th, 2006

Aparkolypse Now

Hell in a handbasket. It’s where we’re all going and there’s more evidence of it everyday.

This week, specifically, I’m talking about this new Lexus that parks itself. And we’re not even talking your normal, everyday, pull-straight-into-the-space kind of parking. We’re talking threading itself in between two distinct boundaries while aligning itself with the curb in a parallel fashion.

In the commercial they show a guy pull up to the space and hit this magic button. He lets go of the steering wheel and the car dutifully and precisely puts itself into the available space. And when it’s done it says, “There you go, Michael,” in a robotic voice.

Ok I made that last bit up so I could throw in a Knight Rider reference. But I’m serious about the main part of this. The parking part.

What does this say about us, as a culture? Yes, parallel parking is difficult. It takes concentration. It takes time and effort to master, and sometimes, when you have to do it under pressure, it can be tedious and even panic-inducing…. So what do we demand? A computer that does it for us.

This is the exact same attitude that brought us the drum machine.

And this is to say nothing of the fact that the whole self-maneuvering car idea seems pretty ridiculous. I have a hard time believing that, in all the different environments and circumstances where you’re required to parallel park, this car will work as advertised.

All you really need, those of you who were excited by prospect of this car, is a Smitty to ride shotgun with you. Then when you came across some insurmountable parking situation, you could switch places and let Smitty put your car where it needed to go.

Currently you’re probably wondering “Who is this ‘Smitty’?” and “Is he really that good at parking?” and “Should I keep reading this nonsense or go check the weather?” Well, to answer your first two questions…. In this day and age, we no longer gather ’round the hearth and invent “tall tales” as a form of entertainment (thanks again, technology), but were this tradition still in practice, I would most certainly spin you a yarn about Smitty and his amazing parking ability. As exaggeration and farfetchedness are key in a tall tale, I’d probably claim Smitty once road a blue whale to shore and parallel-parked it in a shoebox…though this scenario would definitely take me some time to set up.

In other words, yes, wherever you needed your car parked, he can do it. I used to work with the guy, and quite often we’d go to lunch in downtown Raleigh. He could spot a sufficient space on the street from blocks away, then swing up just ahead of it, and the next thing you knew you were standing outside, on the sidewalk. Smitty’s manual transmission Chevy Blazer (not the tiniest of vehicles, by the way) was perfectly-positioned in the space and you had no recollection of how it got there. I don’t even think, during the process, that he had to touch his foot to the brake pedal. It was all so seamless.

I guess what I’m really getting at here is: I’d like to put Smitty in a “John Henry”-style-parallel-parking-show-down with this new LS 460L.

You just name the time and place, Lexus.

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November 10th, 2006

Losing My Region

And to continue my grousing from last week…is anyone else out there really bothered when a sports team’s mascot doesn’t reflect anything about the place where the team is from?

The fact that some franchises’ nicknames are so generic that they can be picked up and moved halfway across the nation without even needing to alter them is just sad.

Let’s do an audit of the North Carolina teams as an example:

In pro football we have the “Panthers.” I spent several years of my life memorizing facts about wild animals, particularly the big, scary, sharp-toothed kind, and I know that there are no panthers in North Carolina. (Ok, ok that obsession subsided was a long time ago, let me check online. Yes, apparently I remembered right: no panthers in North Carolina.) This is symbol is inaccurate. We have to change it.

Meanwhile, we have the recently formed Charlotte “Bobcats” in the NBA. Hmm…another vicious meat-eater…. Well I can tell you that, way out in the mountains of North Carolina, we do have bobcats. (Ok, let me verify this on Wikipedia too…. Ha-ha! Yes, there are bobcats in North Carolina!) It’s a legitimate North Carolina species and therefore a good symbol for a North Carolina team.

The NHL’s “Hurricanes” probably have the most distinctly North Carolinian of all North Carolina professional sports icons. Each year, from the months of June through September, we get what the media dubs a “Storm of the Century” about once a week.

And what about our colleges?

Carolina is “The Tarheels.” Great. North Carolina is the “Tarheel State.” Of course what is Carolina currently using as their mascot? A ram wearing a sweatshirt and a Popeye cap. Hard to imagine how UNC arrived at this, when a “tarheel” is actually (get ready for this…) a rebel soldier that narrowly escaped invading Union troops (seriously). The ram makes no sense. Someone draw a cartoony version of a fleeing Confederate soldier. They need to make the switch.

Moving on, NC State is “The Wolfpack.” I must say this is exactly the kind of fierce, menacing image I’d want on my team’s side, but does it pass the location-relevance test? Clearly I am still a definitive expert on wildlife so I can tell you that certain wolf species reside (sound of me clicking over to Wikipedia)…all over North Carolina. Ok, State, you pass.

This brings us to Duke. Duke, what does a “Blue Devil” have to do with the closest North Carolina has to an Ivy League school? Just awful. Really.

App is “The Mountaineers.” Not bad. However, as many other states have mountains that are widely-settled, and therefore, must have had mountaineers, this is not terribly specific. Still, not bad.

Wake Forest is “The Demon Deacons.” North Carolina is located firmly in the bible belt, so there are a lot of deacons in the area. And, given all the moral corruption in organized religion, a lot of them are probably evil men. More creepy than fearsome, but you’re thinking, Wake Forest. I like that.

ECU is the “Pirates.” Not to toot my alma mater’s horn here, but this is a good mascot. Pirates, by their very nature, are dangerous and threatening. And the ECU athletic department actually cracked their history books (as opposed to attending yet another giant kegger) and found something that is, throughout the scope of history, unique to the region where ECU is located. It’s perfect.

So, were does that leave us? Obviously we have a few mascot changes to make….

I purpose our NFL team get the “Bobcats” name. They’ve been around longer.

Our basketball team will be demoted to “Housecats.” I know it’s kind of lame, but there are housecats all over this state. Everyone I know has at least one. And I don’t want to hear any complaining about this, Charlotte, you’re the ones who wanted to be “cats” in the first place.

As for Duke, let’s give them a mascot that has to do with something the university is known for. Of course, they will be the Duke “Lacrosse Players.” This will be pretty weird for the all the teams that don’t play lacrosse, and, for the lacrosse program, it really just comes across as unimaginative, but, hey, rules are rules.

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