August 2002 Archives

got the tickets?

When I was younger, my dad used to take me out to sporting events a lot. And when we attended these games, there were certain traditions we'd always follow. We'd wear clothing advertising our allegiance to the home team, pick up sandwiches on the way to the game, and, invariably, my dad would trick me with the ticket gambit. We'd be walking towards the entrance gates from the car, immersed in conversation, when my dad would casually ask me, "So, you've got the tickets, right?"

Of course, he always had the tickets, and not me. Even now, I can't really be trusted not to misplace valuable objects like tickets, and I certainly wasn't given that kind of responsibility at age 7. Still, Dad asking the question invariably threw me into a minor panic, and I'd pat at my pockets while stammering, "No, I don't... don't you... I thought you were going to..." until my dad grinned and produced the tickets from his pocket, to my enormous relief. And it worked every single time - I don't think I stopped falling for the "Got the tickets?" ruse until I was 14 or 15.

(On a related note: My dad, sister, and I attended the Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit concert in 1998. After a ten minute walk from the Shoreline parking lot to the amphitheatre itself, Dad turned to Megan and asked if she had the tickets. "Ha ha," said Megan. "I'm not falling for that one." Of course, since Megan had bought the tickets, Dad really didn't have them this time, so we trudged back out to where Megan had left them, in the glove compartment of the car.)

I thought I was unique in having my dad pull this trick, but a few friends have shared similar stories about their own dads. I still maintain that my dad has taken "Got the tickets?" to an art form, but apparently this is something dads just have an intuition for. Or maybe they learn at Dad seminars, between learning the best way to pretend to take a child's nose, and lectures on sink repair. Whatever the foundation for this trick, I certainly plan to use it on my own children, as long as technology doesn't make it obsolete.

Scene - Geodesic Sports Arena Dome, 2021

Sean: Remember where we parked the hovercraft, son.

Sean, Jr.: OK, Dad.

Sean: Say, son, did you remember to bring the tickets?

Sean, Jr.: What tickets? Aren't they just going to have retinal scanners at the gate like usual?

Sean: I think you may have forgotten the...OK, yeah, they probably will just have the scanners...Hey, I've got your nose!

Sean, Jr.: That's obviously just your thumb, dad. By the way, the sink in the kitchen is leaking again.

Sean: I'll have the robot plumber take care of it tonight.

hobbit comedy

this is old

Urban Legends of Middle-Earth

* If you play "The Walking Song" by Bilbo Baggins, along with The Wizard of Oz, it totally lines up.

* Aragorn was once relaxing at the Inn of Bree after patrolling the Hinterlands. He began talking to a beautiful half-elven girl at the bar for an hour or so, but she disappeared when he visited the restroom. When he returned, the only thing that remained was a ring of mithril. When he asked Butterbur the barkeep about the girl, he appeared frightened. Visibly quivering, he told Aragorn that the girl had been killed by the Nazgul ten years before.

* Jamie Lee Curtis is a hermaphrodite.

* If you gaze into a palantir, and chant "Bloody Mary" three times, she'll appear. That is, of course, unless the evil eye of the dark lord Sauron manifests itself instead, in which case, you are totally screwed.

* If you eat lembas and drink Coke, your head will explode.

* One time, a guy in New York bought a bunch of baby orcs as pets. When they started to grow up, he freaked out, and flushed them down the toilet. Now there's a race of giant orcs living in the New York City sewers.

* In the movie Three Men and a Baby, you can see the ghost of Gandalf the wizard standing in front of a window. The scene was shot in the same apartment where he battled the Balrog to the death. Some people will tell you it's a cardboard cutout of Ted Danson, but that's just bullshit.

* Hobbits have enormous penises.

* People actually want to read three hundred fucking pages of elf genealogy.

recommendations, 8/28


Last night, thanks to the generosity and connectedness of Miss Kati Voluntine, I got to enjoy the California Shakespeare Festival's excellent production of Anton's Chekhov's The Seagull. At first, I was surprised at how funny the show was, and at the end, impressed again by the poignancy. Part of that is probably due to Tom Stoppard's translation, and part due to the excellent production. Even the set and lighting were excellent (in my uninformed, inexpert opinion) - the moonrise is a wonderful effect. As an added bonus, I got to sit next to, and converse with Marcia Fulk, better known as Ash Lee's mom. The Seagull runs through Sunday afternoon, so check it out.

While I'm raving about works of art, y'all should try and acquaint yourselves with the Flaming Lips' masterful album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots . It's sort of a concept album, sort of not, as many but not all of the songs concern a Japanese girl named Yoshimi and her battle against the seemingly unbeatable killer pink robots that are terrorizing her city. Sample chorus: "Oh Yoshimi, they don't believe me, but you won't let those robots eat me." There's also a song about a robot attempting to learn to love.

My previous experience with the Flaming Lips was limited to the novelty single "She Don't Use Jelly." This album is a lot different than that - a lot more sophisticated, and complex, and... heartfelt. The Flaming Lips are yet another band that I've discovered recently, and that Dustin was already listening to back in high school. Olivia Tremor Control's Dusk At Cubist Castle was the first album in which I noticed this Dustin-Sean-five-year musical time lag. Does this mean I'll be listening to the Inflatable Supermodels and lots of punk rock in 2007?

!si estas paredes podrian hablar!

The Lawrence Hall of Science's current exhibit is called If These Walls Could Talk." It's not about abortion or lesbian couples (which might disappoint the science-minded father who nonetheless wants to see Ellen Degeneres and Sharon Stone make out), but rather about architecture. Visitors can learn about earthquake-proof buildings, build computer models of doghouses, and discover at the importance of carbon monoxide detectors through the magic of theater. Also, there's an extensive display on demolition, which includes continuously looping footage of a high-rise building collapsing.

One note about the Lawrence Hall of Science: Since only a small number of the museum displays are created in-house, LHS gets most of its major exhibits on loan from other science museums around the country. This requires major exhibits to be arranged well in advance (18 months - 2 years, in some cases). Usually, this is no big deal: there might be a few new findings, but current thinking on dinosaurs probably won't change much from month to month. Occasionally, events happen that cast exhibits in a wholly new light. When LHS contracted for If These Walls Could Talk from the Science Museum of Minnesota, they had no idea that 9/11 would make all the demolition stuff so unsettling.

So, they added a small display, to the far right of the exhibit, entitled "What Did the World Trade Center Mean To You?" Visitors, usually children, can fill out little white cards with (non-racist) sentiments as to how the WTC affected their lives. Presented for your perusal are a sampling of the statements considered worthy of showcasing in a sort of WTC card photo album thing at the display:

One boy acknowledged it was a sad event, but insisted he "knew that Ismoa Bin Laden did not do it."

Another child wrote that, while he really liked the World Trade Center, "the people that blew it up probably didn't."

A girl named Jennifer was "scared because I thought Asoma Bin Laden was after me!"

Not all the cards were from children - one grown-up wrote a long and pretentious account of seeing the towers out of the airplane window while flying cross-country, which concluded with a comment of the irony in "the same vehicle that afforded me a view of those towers proving to be the means of their undoing."

One girl was hit close to home: "I am sad that it happened on my dog's birthday."

Unintentionally symbolic misspelling: "The WTC flat like a home to me."

Finally, one Berkeley visitor wanted to remind everyone that people from "OVER 80 COUNTRIES!!! died," so people shouldn't be using the crisis as "a platform for rampant nationalism! Don't we have enough of that??" At some point in the last month, another visitor has removed the card from its place and scrawled "you are an idiot" across the bottom, then crudely shoved the card back in place.

Only two weeks left for this exhibit. Admission free for Cal students and employees or if Sean is working.

The Clerical Workers' Union is on strike for the next few days on campus, for very good reasons, I think. The university is clearly trying to screw over temporary workers, and they're just not bargaining in good faith. That being said, I feel that the timing of the strike leaves much to be desired.

The strike dates are Monday, August 26th through Wednesday, August 28th. Those are the first three days of classes for the fall semester. Some classes will be cancelled Wednesday, either due to a lecturers' (non-tenured instructors) strike, or simply out of solidarity with the strikers. There were signs, chants, protesters, rallies, informational handouts, and picket lines all over the campus today. Honking horns and pro-union buttons showed support from all sorts of people. And still, everywhere you looked, picket lines were being crossed without a second thought.

The reason is that the strike is happening too early. The first few days of school at Cal are chaotic already, with students crashing classes left and right, trying to move up on waiting lists and frantically rearranging their schedules. The fall semester is much worse, since it's the first day for both freshpeople and junior transfer students. As a result, students who would normally show solidarity with strikers are too worried about being dropped from classes to respect the picket lines and stay off campus. I should know, as I was one of them.

There's also an information overload: anyone who ventured onto campus today had flyers thrust at them advertising anything from the Korean Christian Fellowship to Berkeley College Republicans to the Chinese Christian Fellowship. Tables for various student groups lined Sproul Plaza all day long, and the Sproul preachers were all out in force. As worthy and as informative as strike flyers and signs were, it was easy for them to get lost in the sea of papers and banners.

I'm sure that striking on the first few days of the semester disrupted the machinery of campus about as much as possible. And I'm sure the administration has been sent a message about the importance of the clerical workers. Still, I think the strike could have had a lot more impact on the second or third week of class, when students could have been more informed and aware of the issues, when freshmen could have attended their first day of college without being confronted with crossing picket lines, and when instructors could have figured out what the hell was going on - I had one professor who returned from overseas, and didn't hear about the strike until Sunday night.

In conclusion, I support the clerical workers, but I'm also a dirty strikebreaker. But I'm staying home tomorrow...

lawrence hall name fun


My co-worker Stacy is leaving the Lawrence Hall of Science at the end of this week, bringing an end to an era. It's not that remarkable of an era, but it's an era all the same, and Stacy is a very pleasant person to work with. Stacy is sweet, reads and discusses interesting things, and is absolutely adorable. She also joins the illustrious pantheon of Front Desk employees with transcendentally amusing names. She goes by Stacy, but her real first name is Nhu (pronounced NOO). Her old boyfriend had the last name of Ho, setting up a potential married name worthy of Snoop Dogg, but they broke up.

I don't mean to disparage anyone's name - in Vietnamese, Stacy's name translates to "flower that blooms at midnight" - but many of them are a great deal funnier in English. My Korean co-worker has a name that translates to "prince of stars," but in English, it's just "Soon," leading to lots of amusing confusion, especially when he's late.

I don't know if Ai's name translates to anything interesting in Japanese, but it's pronounced like "eye." Misunderstandings abound. Example:

Supervisor: Thanks for counting out, Sean.
Sean: No problem.
Supervisor: Who's going to sweep the upper level for visitors?
Sean: Oh, Ai will.
Supervisor: Sean, you don't have to do that - you counted out, after all. But, if you insist, go right ahead.

Example #2:

(Crowd of visitors waiting to pay admission. Ai returns to the desk from a break)
Sean: (to second person in line) Ai can help you over there. (points to stylish Japanese girl waiting attentively)
Customer: Great! (walks halfway towards Ai. Glances back at Sean expectantly. Dejectedly returns to the line.)

It's very difficult for us to talk about her without sounding like rednecks. Ai is late today. Ai is on a break. Ai is the purtiest girl in the whole wide world, fer sure!

There is a Romanian girl at the front Desk named Brandusa, but she really deserves her own separate entry later.

welcome week

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As we saw tonight at baseball, the Berkeley campus is overrun with freshpeople. There's lots of them, disproportionately lots of them, since other undergrads don't really need to be here until Monday. But instead of simply mocking their gawkiness and clothes, or lusting after their hot, nubile near-jailbaitness, let us ponder the significant events happening in the dorms tonight:

A lonely freshman from Massachusetts begins a lifelong cigarette addiction simply because he wants an excuse to stand outside and talk to the guy across the hall he spotted wearing a System of a Down t-shirt.

A Chemistry major from Orange County desperately tries to think of a way to casually work his SAT score into conversation.

Three different girls, in three different dorm rooms simultaneously hang identical black-and-white prints of "Kiss by the Hotel De Ville."

A 19 year-old virgin grabs two condoms from the bowl outside the Health Worker's room, just in case.

An EECS major's heart leaps when he mentions Akira to his roommates, and nobody laughs or even says "What's that?" - they just nod knowingly.

While her roommate listens unaware, a girl plays the first of what will eventually be 324 renditions of Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" over the course of the year on her Winamp player.

A future medical career is derailed when an intended Biology major is forced to sing up for two separate 8 am lab sections. He will drop both classes, and enroll in the Haas School of Business two years later.

A nervous freshman boy leans against the wall of the first stall of his co-ed bathroom, going through prime numbers in his head to try and relax enough to be able to urinate. In a nearby shower stall, a different boy whistles as he pees directly into the drain.

hooray for english


Why English Is The Best Language, Ever

Look, I'm sure you don't need a whole lot of convincing. We all know English is the linguistic top dog. But just in case there's any confusion, here's how English stacks up against a few challengers.

English vs. Spanish

The reason why English is superior to Spanish is the element of surprise. In English, an exclamation point can sneak up on you; it is a dramatic, often unexpected ending to a sentence. In Spanish, that exciting conclusion is telegraphed. One sees the upside-down punctuation, and automatically, one anticipates the exciting conclusion at hand. When the right-side-up exclamation point arrives, it is but anticlimax.

English vs. French

Look, Frenchies, without us, you'd all be speaking German, OK?

English Vs. Hawaiian

Hawaiian is ostensibly a very functional, useful language. In fact, the word "aloha" means both "hello" and "goodbye"! How magical that the same word can mean two totally opposite things! Of course, historically, that led to a few problems:

December, 1941 - Oahu

Lookout #1: Man, we sure lucked out being stationed here in Hawaii.
Lookout #2: You said it, mister. Hang on, we're getting a message. It says ma'iuauaua'liau'au.
Lookout #1: Ma'iuauaua'liau'au? What does that mean?
Lookout #2: According to my Hawaiian dictionary, it means "skies clear, no danger..."
Lookout #1: Great!
Lookout #2: ...or, "imminent Japanese sneak attack."
Lookout #1: That's bad. How do we know what they meant?
Lookout #2: Beats me. Don't worry about it - I'll get you another mai tai.
Lookout #1: Mahalo.

English Vs. German:

Look, Krauts, without us, you'd all be speaking French. Well, you'd probably still be speaking German, but in France or England maybe. But, without the Romans and Visigoths, you'd all be speaking Hunnish, OK?

English Vs. Old English:

When I was a freshman, my roommate's name was Yi. We didn't really get along. One day, when I was bitching to my friend about him, I said something like "Yi annoys the hell out of me." My witty friend shot back, "I understand you're annoyed, but why are you speaking in Old English?"

Anyway, choosing between English and Old English is kind of like choosing between accessing the internet through a cable modem or by yelling into a Dixie cup attaching to a string. Plus, when you're yelling into the Dixie cup, you have to pronounce every single consonant, since there's no silent letters. Also, it's the 11th century, so most of the online content is just Beowulf fan fiction anyway.

Final score: English, 5; Non-English, 0. USA! USA!

the diary of chris webber


Dear Diary,

Would you like to know a secret? OK, but you can't tell anyone. There's a girl who I like and her name is Tyra B. I would tell you her last name, too, but I'm afraid that Peter Vecsey or other NBA beat writers are going to find about it and then they're gonna tease me. I always tell the reporters I don't want to tell them who I like, not even if they tell me who they like, but I'm worried. Hedo T. is having a sleepover next weekend, and they're probably going to play Truth or Dare. Last time we played, I picked "Truth," and I think Doug C. was going to ask me who I liked, but his wife made him go home before I had to answer. I'm just going to choose "Dare" this time.

Dear Diary,

I can't believe how mean the refs are! Rick F. was totally pushing and bumping and hurting and fouling me and when I yelled at him to stop or I would tell the ref on him, he gave us double technicals! Unfair! I made the pouty face so he would know how mad I was. Someday, when Rick F. pushes me under the basket, I hope it hurts so bad that I die. And then the refs and the Lakers and Coach Rick are all really really sorry they were mean to me. And also Vlade D. would feel bad about making fun of my headband.

Dear Diary,

I think that Vlade D. might be smoking cigarettes! After practice, I saw him and Peja S. outside doing something and when I said hi to them, they tossed something behind them and muttered something in Yugoslavian. Maybe I should talk to Vlade about how smoking is bad. Or tell Coach Rick. I just hope they don't try to peer pressure me like Juwon H. in Washington.

jesus and the altar boys

jesus comes down to earth to lecture the priests about their most recent scandal. He starts off by talking about how disappointed He is with the priests and how they've totally profaned their positions, and ignored the word of god and god's teachings.

"look, jesus, about the altar boys. it's just that..."

and jesus says "altar boys? no, i'm not talking about altar boys. i'm talking about how you priests continue to associate with women whom are menstruating. i mean, come on, i spell it out very clearly in leviticus. any man who comes into contact with a woman who is at her monthly time should become unclean. and he must wash his hands in holy water, and then break the clay pot that he used to boil the holy water in, and then, after he prays, he only becomes holy again at dusk. you guys are constantly unclean... are you even on your guard about this? we need some serious burnt offerings from you guys. wait - what are you saying about altar boys?"

"you know, jesus, the scandal about the priests performing sex acts with their altar boys."

"yeah. and...?"

"well, jesus, the priests. altar boys. blowjobs. holy water. you know."

"what of it? what the hell else are the altar boys there for?"

lawrence hall of sadness

For the past four years, during the school year, I've worked at the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley. Most of the time I've worked at the Front Desk, collecting admission and giving directions, but during the Spring of 2001, I also began doing brief talks about dinosaurs. Our exhibit at the time was on loan from the Museum of the Rockies in Montana. Their curator, Jack Horner, has a somewhat controversial theory that Tyrannosaurus Rex was actually a scavenger, not a predator.

My job was to discuss various features of the T. Rex with our school-age visitors, with the help of audience participation and some cheaply-made props. I would choose child volunteers to wear small Triceratops masks and operate cardboard jaws, to show the difficulties T. Rex may have had as a hunter. Big fun for all, except when the occasional volunteer would run amok and go after innocent audience members.

I had some issues with the mask, though. It was painted a ridiculus shade of green, and featured large cardboard teeth wrapped in masking tape. As one might imagine, this didn't make for the sturdiest arrangement. It wasn't long before the lower jaw had caved in, and half of the teeth were bent. As a result, it soon looked like an alligator, not a dinosaur. The kids pretty much bought into the T. Rex illusion, but it always bothered me. I'd ask "How fast was T. Rex?" but in the back of my mind I'd think "alligator." "Do you think that a T. Rex could swim?" (No, but an alligator could) "Where would a T. Rex live?" (Alligators probably lived in swamps.) And all the while, a child is prancing around the stage roaring, looking like an understudy from an elementary school production of Peter Pan.

The most crowd-pleasing part of the demonstration came when I discussed the T. Rex's disproportionately short arms. A child volunteer would come up, and I'd use a strip of velcro to bind their arms close to their chest. Then I'd explain that, relative to its forty-foot body, the T. Rex's three-foot arms were quite small. In fact, if T. Rex were kid-sized, his arms would be just four inches long!

Much hilarity ensued. The volunteer would invariably wave their arms ineffectually while the audience roared with laughter. Imagine having four-inch arms!, I'd nearly shout. You couldn't do anything! What a freak you would be! It was somewhat less comical the day that the audience contained a little girl whose arms really were only four inches long. Which, of course, wasn't noticed until the child volunteer had donned the velcro strap and fake claws.

So the demonstration had a slight change: "If T. Rex was your height, his arms would be only four inches long... which there is absolutely nothing wrong with. At all. He may not have been able to be a predator, but he was probably good at math, or...holding objects extremely close to his body." Luckily, there were no children with oversized, alligator-like heads in the audience, or I would have had to go work in the book store or something.

Aaron: The rise of the Internet is going to change everything. So much history will be preserved about ordinary life.

Gene: Yeah, but after the Apocalypse, scientists are going to look back on us and realize that we spent all our time looking at porn. That's all we did.

parsley, rage, rosemary, and time

Man, oh man, do I hate the intersection of 59th Street and Telegraph Avenue. Now that I've become a commuter this summer, I have to drive down Telegraph to the Highway 24 entrance at least once daily, if not more. And nearly every time I do, I have to stop at 59th Street, even though there's never any cross traffic, since the only reason anyone drives on 59th Street at all is so they can turn right on Telegraph. So they turn right, but not before triggering the sensor and forcing cars to stop in both directions for a maddening 45 seconds while tumbleweed blows across the crosswalk. Sure, it's only 45 seconds, but over the course of the summer, that's nearly an hour and a half of my life that 59th Street has stolen. And I want it back, dammit.

It's so maddening, I wrote a song about it, called The 59th Street Stoplight Song (Feelin' Grumpy):

Slow down, you drive too fast
You gotta make the commute last
The 59th Street light is red
I'm headed home and feelin' grumpy

Hello stoplight, why ya glowing?
The other direction, no one's going
Why must ya be on a timer?
Still idling and feeling grumpy

We've all been waiting for half a minute
The intersection's clear, there's no cars in it
Pretty soon I'll break down, and start taking Ashby
Light, I hate you, All is grumpy

Hopefully, this will not spark Allen to renew his longtime debate about whether Paul Simon is the greatest lyricist of all time.

it, um, randomizes them

So I'm housesitting for the next week in a house in Lafayette. The owner of the house is a man named Stuart, who is almost definitely suffering from a mild case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. The instructions for the house took nearly an hour, even though all I have to do is feed the dog and cat twice a day, and fill the pool if the water level declines. Stuart took the time to explain every single thing possible, from the thermostat ("To turn the fan on, move the switch to 'On'") to the proper way to dish out cat food ("slightly more than a heaping teaspoon"). Stuart is the type of guy who can not simply explain something, but must also demonstrate it, so I had to endure him locking and unlocking several doors, as well as turning half the lights in the house on and off.

The kicker came when we got to the stereo. Now, I may not be incredibly "tech savvy," or own a "home entertainment system," but I am also not suffering from "Down Syndrome." Stuart talked about the CD player for nearly ten minutes. "Now, this is a CD changer. You can have multiple CDs in here at once. And, on the display, you can see which one is playing because of the circle around the number. So, if the CD in Tray #1 is playing, there's a circle around the 1. (as this talk continues, Stuart is removing CDs, returning them to their cases, and filing them in alphabetical order) One tricky thing, though, Sean, is the 'Shuffle' button. It, um, randomizes them, so you'll hear tracks from many different CDs, that is, if there are multiple CDs in there, in the tray (opens tray again, in case I'd forgotten in the past twenty seconds). And if you have questions, just give us a call."

Why would I subject myself to such a bizarre individual? Well, money, of course, but Stuart also has a phenomenal collection of comics. I used to be a big comic book fan in my youth, until it became necessary to buy five or six different X-Men titles just to follow the convoluted plots. I didn't have the kind of disposable income necessary to keep up, nor did I have the patience. At Stuart's house, however, I can read a year's worth of old Daredevil comics in an hour, for free. Last night, I read the whole Death-of-Superman-Just-Kidding-He's-
saga. And I am rapidly discovering the genius of Frank Miller. It's great to be able to nerd away the hours in air-conditioned comfort. It'd be perfect, if only Stuart had demonstrated how to use the microwave...

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