December 2002 Archives

we get letters, december 2002 edition

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From time to time in Zembla, we receive correspondence from readers. The questions, comments, and thinly veiled double entendres pile up and up in the office, and Miss Trixie gets agitated, so it's best if we periodically clear the decks and deal with reader mail every once in a while.

Letter 1 comes straight from the LBC (OK, actually Clayton), from Mr. Perry Michaels:

Your essay on "Regulate" struck a chord with me. I have listened to that song on many occasions, and felt somewhat unsettled each time. Thanks to your article, I now know that the source of my discomfort was my disappointment with, and embarrassment for Warren G. Do you have any further thoughts on the song to share with your ghetto fabulous reading public?

Thanks for the kind words, Perry. To further understand "Regulate," it helps to look to the world of mathematics. Both Nate Dogg and Warren G employ algebraic principles to back up their assertions about music, the LBC, and the G-Funk era. When Nate Dogg asserts that "The rhythm is the bass/ And the bass is the treble," the implication is that, by the Transitive Property of Equality, the rhytm and the treble are equal. The G-Funk era features a whole range of sounds, all blended together as sweetly as a Nate Dogg harmony.

Warren G makes a more controversial claim when he states that "Rhythm is life/ and life is rhythm." If one accepts the postulate that rhythm is life, then the Reflexive Property of Equality maintains that life is indeed rhythm. However, as this follows Nate Dogg's analysis of rhythm, the implication is that, again by the Transitive Property, Life=Treble (Life=Rhythm=Bass=Treble). I think many listeners, including those driving lowered classic cars with huge speakers, could buy the idea that bass was life. But treble?

Letter 2 comes from Rose Ballantine of Walnut Creek. She writes:

You wrote that the most efficient solution to the Caldecott Tunnel traffic would be for drivers to stay in the left lanes as long as possible, delaying the merge until the cones force the car rightward. However, the only reason cars in lanes 3 and 4 have to stop at the merge is because of these late mergers. When a car goes all the way up to the cones, it has to stop completely. The stop-and-go that results is due to drivers in lanes 3 and 4 stopping for other cars trying merge from a dead stop. Wouldn't it be better if cars simply merged in the half mile preceding the cones?


In Letter 3, "Rick" asks, "Hey, Sean, how's your mom doing?"

Not bad, Rick. She's still in a cast, and still forbidden to put weight on her injured leg. So, she gets around in a walker or a wheelchair. This was important on Christmas, when we visited my father's aunt and uncle in Lafayette. They have a lovely home, but the stairs outside are a bit of an adventure, especially when toting a tiny woman in a glow-in-the-dark cast. I helped to bring her down the stairs, which was a very bumpy excursion. I mostly witnessed the trip up, where my dad held the wheelchair, with help. I was holding a sack of presents, so I was somewhat occupied, and when I offered to help near the top, I was scoffed at.

"Oh, now you help, at the very last stair."

So, I stepped back, the wheelchair went halfway up the stair, lurched to one side, and tipped. Thanks to the intervention of Dennis and sack o' presents boy Sean, Sharon did not actually fall out into the mud, though she came damn close. There was a horrible silence immediately afterward, where we waited anxiously to see if Sharon had managed to shatter her kneecap a third time. Then, when she was OK, it was back to the usual mockery and laughter.

Oh, and I used the word "cock ring" in a phone conversation with Sharon about TLC superstar Christopher Lowell. (This was five days after I used the f-word at Christmas Eve dinner) We both laughed, and she confessed she didn't know what one was. That's OK, because I don't technically know either, although I could probably make an educated guess.

Letter 4 is from a R. Nugent of Pleasantville, New York. He shares an observation about Nate Dogg, and a question:

"I once read an article comparing Robert Horry to Nate Dogg. The gist of it was that neither of them is a superstar in their field, but everything they touch turns to gold. Horry has won been on five championship teams, but was the third-best player on each of them. Nate Dogg has been a vocalist on many stellar singles and albums, but do you own a Nate Dogg album? Does anyone you know own an album of entirely Nate Dogg?

Anyway, what I'm asking is, if Nate Dogg is Robert Horry, who would Warren G be, if Warren G was a Laker?

Good parallel, Mr. Nugent. Nate Dogg and Robert Horry are consistent, underrated performers. Good team players. They also both provide occasional surprise heroics. For example, when I attended the Up in Smoke concert tour in 2000, the word on the street was that Nate Dogg was in jail. Nobody expected him to perform, yet at the end of "The Next Episode," there was Nate Dogg singing "Smo-o-oke weed every day." Similarly, Robert Horry made one of the most improbable shots I've ever seen to win Game Four of last years Western Conference Finals versus the Kings.

Warren G is different. Despite my criticism, he's not really a bad rapper; just one who needs to be used judiciously. The best Laker parallel would be a quality reserve who can give you minutes, but who you maybe wouldn't want on the floor in the final minutes. I think backup point guard Tyronn Lue would have been a good fit, but he's in Washington now. On the current squad, it would have to be Devean George, I think. Tracy Murray would be a possibility if I hadn't hated him since his UCLA days, and hated him more after nearly getting into a fistfight with his dad at a Warriors game. So, next time you watch the Lakers, mentally sing, "'Cuz this backup small forward is Devean G"

And finally, Cassie W. says, I love the "How We Met" feature. Who's going to be next?

Dustin. Happy New Year, y'all.

For the good of the permanent public record, and expose the unreliability of human memories that aren't mine, I will be presenting a series of "How We Met" tales about various prominent figures in my life. First up in this series is Miss Kristen Larson.

Though Ms. Larson and I grew up just one street away from one another in Pleasant Hill, and though I'd even been inside her house once - I think Ian Macdonald was feeding her dog Roxie for a weekend or something - our paths did not cross until seventh grade, my first year at Valley View Middle School. I was a recent refugee from Sequoia Middle School, preoccupied with my burgeoning musical theater career and my inability to peg my pants. My voice had not yet changed (hence, I could still use "career" and "music" together in a sentence without having to make finger quotes in the air, or endure derisive snorts from the general public) and I stood an impressive 4'10". Kristen was pretty much the same height she is now.

It was probably late October when Kristen finally spoke to me. She had seen me, or thought she'd seen me, in a production of "Mame" at the RCA in Walnut Creek. I played a newsboy, a Southern fox hunt-type boy, and, in the play's final scene, a little boy named Peter. I wore a turban, did a salaam, and got to say, "Life's a banquet, and most poor sons of bitches are starving to death!" (Note: Even at age 12, this didn't feel like swearing) This was the pinnacle of my performing career to date, surpassing my dual role as Simpleton and a shoe-making elf in "I Believe in Make-Believe." Kristen was duly impressed.

She stopped me as I was leaving Ms. Irwin's science class.

"Can I talk to you?" she asked. Given that she was nearly a foot taller than me, and could have squashed me like a bug, and I had no friends, I acquiesced to her request.

She began to speak in what I later knew as Classic Kristen style, like a beta version of the constantly-flirtatious low purr that she currently brandishes.

"I went out with my parents this weekend, and we saw a very good play called 'Mame'..."

"I was in that!" I blurted out.

Kristen paused. She furrowed her brow. Her look said, "Really? You were in it? What a weird coincidence that I would talk to you for the first time, ever, about a play I saw with my parents that had nothing at all to do with you." Maybe it didn't say that out loud, but it said it in the important place, my own mind.

She took a deep breath and continued. "Yes. Yes you were. Anyway, I wanted to tell you I thought it was very good."

Or something like that. I was hyperventilating pretty bad by then. Very nearly sweating through my "Bart Simspon: Underachiever And Proud Of It" t-shirt.

I muttered a thank you, and then we both stood there awkwardly for a few seconds. Then I walked away.

And we've been friends ever since!

In my informal capacity as future analyst and hip-hop theorist, I will take the time to consider seminal efforts in the field of rap music. Before you question my credentials, let me assure "y'all" that I regularly wore a San Francisco Giants cap backwards from 1994 until the summer of 2002.

The song "Regulate," by Warren G and Nate Dogg, tells the story of a dramatic night in the LBC. There is sex, there is violence, there is bass, there is treble. Nate Dogg cruises for skirts, guns down rival homies, and beds down triumphantly at the East Side Motel. Nate emerges the ideal G-Funk man. By contrast, Warren G tries to join a craps game, gets mugged, and is nearly killed. He comes off as completely ineffectual, dependent on Nate for protection, and trick acquisition.

In the first verse, Warren G rides in a car alone, scanning for women. When he attempts to shoot dice with some homies, he is instantly robbed of his rings, watch, and presumably, his dignity. It's not just the egregiousness of this assault which stands out, but also the quickness. Warren G is jacked impossibly fast, and does absolutely nothing to help himself. His most notable action is rhyming "contemplate" with "homie Nate."

In the third line, Nate Dogg locates a car entirely full of skirts. By the end of the next verse, Nate Dogg will have so charmed these horny tricks that their vehicle crashes. Nate has laid the foundation for an evening of pleasure at the East Side Motel by the time he arrives on the scene and shoots many attempted takers of Warren's wealth (I originally heard this lyric as "I can't believe they're taking Lawrence Welk." I guess I thought it was some arcane ghetto drug/polka slang I didn't understand). And he's not done. Before his nine has even cooled, Nate is back in freak mode.

The rescued Warren G claims that he was in freak mode earlier, before the robbery, though he obviously made little progress. Nor does he do much to facilitate the East Side Motel car-full-of-girls/Dogg and G hookup. Nate Dogg smoothly informs one of the dames of how much he likes her size, and the rest is history. It is notable perhaps that Nate Dogg only acknowledges one particular dame as being "sexy as hell," so we have no idea the quality of Warren G's romantic lot. Once again, Nate Dogg commands the action, while the useless Warren G rides along. One almost expects an additional verse where Warren G needs Nate Dogg to tie his shoes and wipe his ass for him as well.

One can only infer that when Nate Dogg has to "regulate," that means he's shooting thugs, having various kinds of intercourse with horny sluts, and generally kicking ass. When Warren G has to "regulate," that means he's receiving a severe pistol-whipping and getting sloppy seconds from Nate Dogg's ho's. One shudders to think what life is like for Warren when he isn't regulating.

The toughness and unstoppability of 213 also appears to be purely a function of Nate Dogg's badness and/or motherfuckerness. Saying that 213 is difficult to step to is sort of like saying that Barry Bonds and Benito Santiago combined to hit 62 home runs last year: it's true, but somewhat deceptive. Both Dogg and Bonds would be intimidating regardless of their partners. Dogg may as well say "Nate Dogg and Sean Keane have to regulate;" at least I've still got my watch. Warren G contributes little to the duo, aside from the questionable interior rhyme of his "Chords/ Strings/ We brings/ Melody" freestyle. The only possible reason I can think of for Warren G to include this tale on his album is to distract rap fans from the song "This DJ," which contains the immortal lyric, "I hit the gate and I hops on my Schwinn/ And I tell the homie 'Aight then'" Regardless, Warren G comes off poorly, and in my opinion, does not fully recover until his pro-nut-juggling entreaty at the end of Snoop Dogg's "Ain't No Fun."

demorol, sweet demorol


This Friday, I had a minor surgical procedure to repair my receding lower gumline. A small strip of tissue was cut from the top of my mouth, and grafted directly onto the gums, right in front of my lower incisors. Supposedly, this will make me look less like a scurvy sufferer, and prevent me from having to undergo many root canals later in life. Currently, it means that a big chunk of my gums appears to be tied to the front of my mouth with fishing line. I also brush half of my teeth using only a Q-tip, which would be quaint and charming if I were an anthropromorphic storybook rodent, but in human reality just makes me look like I'm developmentally disabled, not to be trusted with objects as sharp as toothbrush bristles..

Still, the operation itself was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, thanks to an intravenous visit from my new best friend, demorol. I was extremely nervous before the operation, with my pulse rate spiking to around 120 when the IV was first put in. Dr. Reed cautioned me that I would soon feel like I had ingested a "couple of martinis," but the first few minutes of the drip left me disappointed. I think it was right around the time I began trying to ask probing, specific questions about the hygienist's academic career, with a mouth full of gauze, that the demorol kicked in.

It was a lovely experience all around. I kept having little mini-dreams which usually ended with a mysterious voice saying, "Wider!" I tried to think of song lyrics, to distract myself from the cutting and the sewing and the spit-sucking-up. This was doomed from the outset, as I got only one verse, mentally, into Elliott Smith's "Say Yes" before getting distracted. I wanted to allow the acoustic guitar part after the first verse to finish, imaginarily, but I lost concentration before "It's always been wait and see" and began thinking about pirates and/or weightlifting.

Watching pieces of my gum tissue being rearranged didn't even bother me at all. I thought I'd be disgusted by the blood, or the cutting, but all I was thinking at the time was, "I'm going to get these people some flowers. This whole office. Flowers. Yes." I tried to tell them to expect flowers at my next visit, while my dad was walking me out to the car, but I don't think it was intelligible through my novocained lips. Later, one of the staff remarked how I had been a well-behaved patient, and "surprisingly affable."

Later on, the demorol faded, and so did my spirits. A few hours after the operation, I lunched on some Jamba Juice. I am not allowed to use a straw, for fear of loosening the stitches, so I had to spoon the Orange Appeal into my mouth. My mouth was sore, and my lip was still very numb. On my third attempt, the spoonful of juice fell heartbreakingly out of my mouth and onto my pants, and I shed one single tear.

short conversation roundup, part 1

Various brief conversations from the past few years:

Sean: What are you eating?
Jay Lee: Cow meat.
Sean: Do you mean beef?
Jay Lee: (pause) Yes.

Gene: (trying to explain the nerdish game, Shadow Run) It's like... do you know what role-playing games are?
Kati: Yes, but I don't think we're talking about the same sense of the term. No whips and chains, right?

Monica: B's are bad, right? B+'s, I mean. Those are bad, right?
Sean: No. A B+ isn't really bad at all. It's frustrating though, because it's close to an A. Basically, a B+ is bad in the same way a handjob is bad. The end result is a net positive, but you're just so close to something way, way better.
Monica: OK.
Sean: Plus, there's a lot of chafing with both... unless that's just the TAs I've had. Getting a C on a final, and dropping to a B+ is the academic equivalent of a handjob for which you have to wear a condom.
Monica: That is a beautiful analogy.
Sean: Thank you. It's going to be the title of an inspirational book for teenagers.


Felix: Oooo! Thunder Squirrel! Hooray! (Computer beeps)

Yi: Hmmm.

Felix: Thanks to Thunder Squirrel...

Yi:: I survived.

Felix: Thanks to Thunder Squirrel...

Yi:: I survived.


Felix: (tentatively) Thanks to Thunder Squirrel...

Yi: I survived, OK?

Felix: Yeah. (chuckling) Yeah you did.


Felix: (sniffing) Smells like popcorn.

Sean: Yes, Felix, would you like some?

Felix: (sniffing) Nope, too much butter.

Sean: Actually, Felix, this is light popcorn. Artificial butter.

Felix: (still sniffing) It sure smells like butter. Popcorn butter! (chuckling) Yeah it does.

It seems beyond dispute that no one knows how to drive in Northern California. And no one is ever going to fucking learn. Ever. There's a monsoon that's been raging for a week or so now, a monsoon that brings out the worst driving instincts in everyone. As if a bunch of holiday shoppers tooling around in SUVs over the worst-designed, most confusing freeway system in America weren't bad enough, now there's rain and lightning and big huge trees in the road.

I don't have a solution for this. Rain seems to frighten drivers into horrible decisions, and complete irrationality. If you consider that 38% of drivers faced with a potential crash situation do absolutely nothing to avert the accident (source: SJ Merc article I picked up off the bottom of the Storytelling cart), it's hard to be optimistic that there won't be a lot of fender-benders, bumper-dumpers, grillie-willies, and carburetor-incapacitators in the immediate future.

Still, there's one thing we all, as drivers, could do for the general good of driverkind. We could stop trying to merge a mile early for the Caldecott Tunnel.

There's *four* lanes. Four whole lanes. There doesn't need to be a merge until the line of cones forces cars rightward. Yet motorists begin darting right once they hit the Orinda city limits, artificially restricting themselves to two lanes far earlier than need be. Why is this? Elementary-school prejudices, incorrectly applied to freeway driving.

To wit, many motorists are concerned with Cutting. That shameful line-avoiding tactic prohibited with the immortal "no buts, no cuts, no coconuts" admonition. And when many of these motorists see blissful cars zoom along in the two left lanes, while they stop-and-go in the far right lane, they think the spectre of Cutting has reared its ugly head over Highway 24. Their hands grip the steering wheel, their eyes flit from mirror to mirror, and they hug the back bumper of the car in front of them to prevent any dirty mergers Cutters from merging after they waited in line patiently.

gene paraphrase

Only, it's not Cutting in line, because guess what, there's no line. There's no line because we're all going different places. On a big road. And since we're all going different places, it's not a race, either. The car in front of you isn't winning, and you're not beating the car behind you, either.

Gene also adds that, paradoxically, the best strategy for getting through the tunnel quickly is actually to move to the second-fastest lane, right when the incline begins, just past the Orinda exit. This is the point where many drivers, wanting to get in on the fast-moving left-lane action, but unwilling to risk being seen as Cutters, dart all the way over to the far left lane. Then, after a frantic mile of driving, they immediately veer back to the safety of the right lanes once the "Left Lanes End 1/2 Mile - Merge Right" sign appears. At that point, Gene counsels, move left one more lane. Ignore the horrified looks, and the muffled screams of "No Coconuts!" coming from other vehicles.

/gene paraphrase

I fully believe the merge could occur at a smooth 25 MPH if all the lanes were just filled. And you should have to take the driving test again every five years. And SUVs shouldn't have the same emissions standards as light trucks. And my kitchen should be full of cookies.



I'm pretty afraid of heart-to-heart chats. There's not a lot of reason behind it, besides my middle-school-rooted beliefs that telling someone you like them is just about the worst thing you can do. Best to make sure no one at all gets any hint of your romantic interest. Just keep the conversation going, and if it ever gets too awkward or personal, do a fucking British accent ASAP, OK, motherfucker?

So tonight there was one looming, unavoidable. Now, you don't have to tell me about avoiding heart-to-heart chats. I've gone weeks, months, avoiding heart-to-heart chats. I've let fertile, sprouting seeds of relationships wither in the hot sun of platonic friendship rather than water them with the heart-to-heart talk that might nourish them. I've spent hours muttering half-slurred Spanish phrases (more on Espa´┐Żol later) in drunken hazes, after attempting the "liquid courage" route to unburdening my soul. But mostly, I do nothing in these situations, and eventually they go away.

Tonight was about the best-case scenario for these sorts of things, considering. I didn't start to feel embarrassed or self-conscious until fifteen minutes after it was over. There was no crying. English was the only language spoken, except a few delightful Latin phrases and a very moving passage from Baudelaire, recited in the original French. After agonizing about it for weeks, none of the bad things I imagined actually came true, except for the one major bad thing, which didn't really happen so much as get revealed. Which didn't so much get revealed as it did get tacitly acknowledged. Which didn't really surprise anyone anyway.

Still, I still feel that the Worst-Case Scenario was not wholly unreasonable.

Dear Sir:

First of all, how'd you like that show? How 'bout that Ben Folds? Wasn't he great, singing up there, playing piano, all by himself? Kicked some fuckin' ass, wouldn't you say?

I had only seen Mr. Folds live one time previous, and it was impressive. Ben Folds Five was opening for Counting Crows at the Greek Theatre, and I had only a vague idea of who they even were. This was in the period before "Brick" was being played on the radio with the same frequency of Jane's Addiction's "Jane Said," which was really saying something back in 1997. Anyway, this was before Mr. Folds went solo, but he was already the man. What stuck with me, (besides him playing the piano with his stool, and Adam Duritz pausing for applause at the "Ben Folds on my radio" line in "Monkey") was how easily he went from funny songs like "Song for the Dumped" or "Underground" to ultra-serious works like "Brick." I think it was because he performs every song very whole-heartedly, and is good at conveying meaning with subtle vocal inflections. Still, this show was better. There was much more Ben than the first time. I was with my friends Cassie, Monica, and Bri. And, of course, I was standing in front of you.

First of all, I was so impressed that you knew all the songs, all the harmony parts, all the little spontaneous vocal flourishes from the albums. Even when Mr. Folds himself skipped, or changed those vocal parts, it was refreshing to hear you belting out those parts anyway, so all in the Warfield could hear. You matched Mr. Folds flourish for flourish, falsetto for falsetto, except those times when you didn't. Hearing you absolutely nail the high notes on "The Luckiest" was probably way better than being able to hear Ben anyway.

Your mid-song banter was also well-polished. It was reminiscent of the traditional gospel call-and-response to hear you echoing Mr. Folds' soft-spoken introduction of "Army" with a steady stream of "woo"s. When Mr. Folds began a minor-key rendition of "Song for the Dumped" with a short portion of Aerosmith's "Dream On," it was you alone in the crowd who had the courage to implore Mr. Folds to "rock it out." Seven or eight times, you implored. The only thing that entertained me more than the impromptu drum solo Mr. Folds did to wrap up "Stephen's Last Night In Town" was the charming manner in which you steadily repeated "Oh shit!", matching the percussion almost exactly.

To be fair, Mr. Folds contributed his share to the quality of the show. There were songs I'd never particularly cared for which I gained a new appreciation. I think I was humming "Evaporated" pretty much constantly until just this Wednesday. Mr. Folds threw in some notable cover songs, particularly his inspired choice of the 80's classic "Careless Whisper." Sure, it's never a bad joke to cover Wham!, but Mr. Folds has the ability to make the audience laugh with the irony of his selection, while still singing the song in a very poignant manner. For a brief instant, I believed that he truly would never dance again. Even though you "had no idea who the hell" Elliott Smith was, his cover of "Say Yes" was quite sweet, as was his request that, "if anyone in the audience knows this guy, tell him to get it together and put out another album."

Mr. Folds also encouraged audience participation in a few songs (not that YOU needed encouragement, you big galoot!). Watching him teach a hall full of semi-inebriated, off-key warblers to harmonize on "Not The Same" has convinced me that Mr. Folds could, if this rock star thing falls through, be the greatest elementary school vocal instructor since Diane Kamrin. You may have missed that part, as your tongue was pretty far down your girlfriend's throat at the time.

(On the subject of elementary school musical instruction, let me venture a guess that you liked to play the cymbals, man behind me from the concert. Cymbals that you could crash together, again and again, as loud and as often as possible. The maracas wouldn't have been sufficient for a man of your temperment. A kazoo would only emasculate your esophageal prowess. The best analogue to your concert performance would probably be the cannons of the 1812 Overture, but the cymbals are a realistic compromise.)

Many times during the show, I asked myself what I might have done to deserve such a talented and courteous general admission section neighbor as you, and I can't think of a thing. Except maybe when I yelled, "Duncan, you're my sheik!" at opening act Duncan Sheik, or when Bri asked me if I thought the dark-haired Duncan might be a "sheik-ano," or when Cassie requested "Barely Breathing" after every Sheik tune, or wehn Bri loudly referred to Duncan as "tres sheik," or maybe when I asked Monica if she thought he could rock us, and before she could answer, replied, "Dun can!" But that probably didn't really matter to anyone but us, and the lone Duncan Shiek fan in the audience (the girl you inadvertantly spit on while singing along to "Alice Childress") who was still in good enough spirits after his set to wonder aloud, "Should I go and try to get his autograph? I mean, it would be my third."

Anyway, dude, man, brah, perhaps our paths will cross again at some show. Until then, I'll miss your sweet voice, your amazing breath control, and your spastic, flailing arms. Keep working on the hand claps on "Zak and Sara" - I'm sure you'll totally figure out the timing by the next time Mr. Folds returns.

Sincerely yours,
Sean Keane

Presented here unedited from their original notebook form:

Jurassic Park Parody: Scientists clone Jesus, put him in amusement park. He goes nuts, starts eating people.

Jerry Springer Show Topic: "I'm the World Ultimate Fighting Champion, I have a black belt in karate, and I'm confronting my wife's lover."

Steven Spielberg's Amishstad

Socratic Method Acting: Getting into character through the use of a dialogue with... yourself. Basically, it's De Niro at a mirror yelling, "You talkin' to me?"

A fat guy and a girl in a bikini play hacky-sack together.

Superhero: The hero leads a decadent, morally impure lifestyle, and gains power with each new sin. At a moment of weakness, he can attain strength by smoking a cigarette, or masturbating.

Weird Al's Ghostwriters: A biography of the really weird-looking parody songwriters who sell material to Weird Al, including stuff too "cutting-edge" for Al, like an Eric Clapton parody song called "Dead Kids in Heaven."

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Raincoat (?)

The ASNEM Convention: For dyslexics with an IQ above 140.

"Making spaghetti": New euphemism for masturbation.

Attempting to get people we know to refer to Cotati as "The Cotati that rocks the body."

Fake Paul McCartney song called "El Nino":

The rain goes drippety-drip
The drains go glubbety-glub
My heart goes flippety-flip
'Cause I'm in love

Rain Man II: Two doughnuts fall out of a box. Waitress goes to pick them up.

CHARLIE: Wait! How many doughnuts, Ray?

RAY: (quickly) Two.

WAITRESS and CHARLIE count. For a while.

CHARLIE: How many doughnuts did you sell us?


CHARLIE: And how many did we eat?


CHARLIE: Nice try, Ray. There's three. Twelve minus nine is three, see. (points to first doughnut) One. (points to second doughnut) Two. (points to first doughnut again) Three.

WAITRESS: Wait! There's one doughnut left in the box!

(They stare at RAY in amazement. CHARLIE recounts the doughnuts.)

Wilt Chamberlin's "40,000 Lines about 20,00 Women"

Theoretical Mathematicians: They walk around campus discussing the TV show Perfect Strangers. Colleagues invite them places, bums ask for change, and their response is always some variant on, "No, I don't think that's statistically probable!" They make fun of Euclid a lot. One of them wears a t-shirt with Mark Linn-Baker's face on it.

Einstein!: It's a sitcom about Einstein. The concept is pretty much the same as Mr. Belvedere. Einstein works as a butler. He's a good butler, but he's not supposed to help the kids with science projects or their physics homework. Unfortunately, he can't resist nachos!

Suggested catchphrases:
"Mmm, I love nachos!"
"No, I really muzt not solve ze equation for you because eet would be... did you say jalapenos?"

Beginning every question with: "Not to be redundant, but..." or "In your heart of hearts..."

1. I am working at the Lawrence Hall of Science, and we're severely overstaffed, with five or six people working at the Front Desk. So, on a hall shift, I end up just hanging out with (Bich) Catherine Le either in the auditorium, or some non-existent place in the museum with a couch. We end up talking, I begin rubbing her shoulders, and we begin making out. Almost immediately, I am paged over the PA system to return to the Front Desk. I am only a few minutes late returning from my Halls. Later in the dream, I am late for the museum's closing, but that is due to laze.

2. I'm in a dorm room in Norton Hall with Yi (my old roommate), Jay Lee, and some of Yi's pals. Apparently, in this dream-verse, Yi has just searched through my desk and found some insulting cartoons I had drawn of him. We are having an ostensibly cordial conversation, but Yi keeps making little snide remarks about the cartoons, all while staring straight ahead at his computer screen. Jay and I leave to go downstairs.

When we're in the elevator, I ask Jay what was up with Yi. He says, "Oh, Yi's mom has been telling him to be more assertive... He's a good guy!" I don't answer, but I'm really mad about Yi going through my stuff and all. So when we get to the lobby, I decide to call Yi. I dial his room from the phone in the lobby. When he picks up, I say in a low voice, "I'm gonna cut your motherfuckin' throat." and then hang up and leave.

3. I'm getting on a plane with Uncle Tommy and his family, with no idea where we're going. The inside of the plane reminds me of a Denny's, or a high school cafeteria, rather than an actual aircraft. I see Katie Vigil on the plane, so I ditch my family, give Katie a hug, and sit down next to her. The flight attendant/waitress brings us three-egg breakfasts just like the ones served at Chef Burger. Mine contains corned beef hash. I don't remember what Katie had alongside her hashbrowns.

4. I'm in Norton Hall, listening to Ming talk in some room, when out of the corner of my eye, I see Kacey Moore and Lusanna Russ run past. I turn and call out, "Lusanna!" as they pass. They both go into a hallway that is where the stairs should be, but in the dream, it leads to this two-bedroom, one-bathroom suite. Even though I said "Lusanna" first, Kacey turns and gives me a hug, and I pretend that I meant to say hi to her as well. She talks for a bit, then leaves. Then I hug Lusanna, and she tells me she got the suite because she had applied for housing so late. Sometime later in the dream, I see Gwen Stretch, from the swim team I coach, and I put her on top of my shoulders.

5. I hear on TV that the Spurs have traded David Robinson to the Jazz for John Stockton. The Spurs threw in another player as well, for some reason. Later, someone told me that the Rockets had traded Hakeem Olajuwon for Stockton instead, and had thrown in Rodrick Rhodes in the deal. I was confused... then remembered Rodrick Rhodes had already been traded in the Scottie Pippen deal with the Bulls...then got more confused...then saw it was snowing outside.

speeding motorcycle

Gene gave me a ride to work last week on his motorcycle. I spent the first portion of the ride terrified, expecting to pitch off the bike at any moment, but once I realized that I wasn't going to fall, I was able to relax. I mean, there's a chance I could have fallen, but that's only if the bike crashed anyway. In that situation, it's not like I could jump off and avert injury or anything anyway, so why worry?

The whole experience was great. I liked the speed, the wind in my face, being at near-eye level with pedestrians we passed, and this one moment where Gene revved the bike up so we could slip past this big construction-type truck thing on Dwight. Some might ask, "Hey Sean... riding on the back of Gene's motorcycle? Didn't that feel a little bit... gay?" Well, if wrapping my arms tightly around Gene's warm, leather-clad chest while hundreds of pounds of metal vibrate between my legs is gay, then I don't want to be straight!

Kristen once described her difficulties with Gene's spare helmet as such: "His spare helmet is too big for me so it tends to wobble around on my head a lot; I probably look like a Parkinson's sufferer from the outside." My enormous, Sputnik-like head posed no such problem with the helmet. The appropriate analogy is Sean's head: Helmet :: Winnie-the-Pooh's head: Honeypot.

So any of all y'all that get a chance to, ride on a damn motorcycle, you should do so. You don't have to break your necks to get your kicks. Gene almost definitely probably might not crash. Again. Almost for positively not.



Since I work at the Front Desk of a local science museum, I don't meet everyone who works in the museum. There's distinct cliques of Front Desk folks, store employees, exhibit monitors, and lab assistants. Front Deskers and the exhibit monitors seem to interact most of all, while students from the Bilogy Lab are mistrusted. There's just something unsettling about a group that chooses to work with chinchillas, rather than human beings.

The result of this is that there are people I see multiple times every week as they enter and exit the building, but I never actually talk to them, or even learn their names. I sometimes spend idle time at the desk idly speculating on why the bandanna-wearing Asian girl from the Biology Lab is so serious, or if the art school girl from exhibits makes her own clothing. I also make up secret nicknames for people, most of which are shared only with myself.

Recently, this breathtaking Chinese girl was hired as an artist's assistant. Even though I'd mostly only caught glimpses of her, it was enough that I dubbed her the CGAME, in the vein of David Foster Wallace's "PGOAT" (Prettiest Girl Of All Time) in Infinite Jest. "CGAME" stands for "Cutest Girl Amongst Museum Employees." Anyway, for weeks, she'd stroll through the lobby, and I'd think "CGAME" and smile, both at her enormous cuteness and my equally enormous cleverness. Once I said it out loud by accident, and I had to explain to a befuddled co-worker what I was muttering.

Said befuddled co-worker was there when I actually met the CGAME last Friday while moving Math Around the World to a new location. Her name is Karen, and she is both cuter and and shorter up close. She's also not very good at lifting up enormous Hex boards, though the "Delta" formation she made with Trading Towers, Game Sticks, and Shongo Networks was a thing of beauty. Yesterday in the Museum Cafe, she told me she was a PEIS major, that she hoped to work at the museum full-time, and that she liked the way my voice sounded over the intercom. She also cuts her sandwiches into smaller pieces with a knife and fork before eating them.

So I gave a phone number to a girl for the first time in God knows when. I hope she calls. I wish I knew how to punt.

on emotions


So I'm not really someone who generally shows a great deal of emotions. Some might say I'm "repressed," or "out of touch with my feelings," or that I "use humor as a defense mechanism" and "never relate to anyone on a personal level beyond small talk and sarcasm." Anyway, for whatever reason, for better or worse, for pete's sake, Im just not the most outward fellow.

Until last Friday, when I cried for no real reason, for the first time in months. It was a real decent cry at that, with red eyes and bawling and sniffles and pillow-clutching. The whole nine yards of wallow. And, frankly, the cathartic effect was pretty minimal. I don't feel any more emotionally healthy, or spiritually cleansed, or more able to sleep more than four concurrent hours. But it appears that the floodgates are now open.

Currently, I feel like I'm always the right fifteen seconds away from bursting into tears randomly. I don't feel generally sadder; it's just that the trigger has been closer to the surface. I cried while singing along to Michael Penn's "No Myth" on the radio in my car. I woke crying after a really vivid dream about my mom dying in surgery. I cried reading this. I almost started weeping while making falafel. I even found myself sniffling at the end of the third Harry Potter book, which disturbed my fellow AC Transit passengers. It was probably better that I didn't try to explain: "It's just that Harry (sniff) gets the dementors with the (sniff) patronus of a stag and he learns his dad could change into (nose blow) a stag and then Dumbledore tells him... (uncontrolled weeping) ."

I don't exactly know what's next. Perhaps it's SAD, and it will go away as it gets warmer and lighter. Perhaps it's due to the sub-arctic temperatures in our apartment that's weakened my body's natural defenses against bawling. The heater being repaired may be the only thing that will keep me from spending the next few evenings on the couch watching "Steel Magnolias," devouring chocolate ice cream, and sobbing.

surgery update

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Sharon and the knee appear to be holding together a little better. I was unable to steal a wheelchair when I was at Kaiser, because the volunteer wheelchair-pusher was far too crafty. The new cast is not nearly as attractive and holidayriffic as the old cast, and I would seriously doubt if it glows in the dark. Disappointing.

Sharon is now the knee surgery equivalent of a frequent flyer. Anaesthesiologists ask if she wants "the usual." The pharmacy clerk who gave me her prescriptions, actually said "blah blah blah" in the middle of his Vicodin-taking instructions. Two more operations, and they throw in a hip replacement for free.

Also, Mom seems to have developed a fondness for Tenacious D, as evidenced by her instructions to give her "some fucking smooches" before I left. I don't even have a joke here.

kneed i say more?

That confounded knee is at it again. Three weeks after the kneecap-repairing surgery that has left Sharon Keane in a stylish red cast, she's returning to Kaiser Permanente for some more knee-screwing action. This surgery was necessitated when Sharon fell on her left knee, while shuffling around the house, which loosened the screw holding the artificial kneecap. The screw was itself necessary because Sharon fell at the preschool she works at, gimping along on her new artificial knee. I tell you, this time I'm just going to steal a wheelchair from Kaiser and then tie her into it, James-Caan-in-Misery-style, just to keep her from reinjuring herself trying to do work around the house.

But I'm not really disappointed in Sharon. No, the one who really let me down was the artificial knee. What's wrong with you, artificial knee? We took you into our home, Sharon took you into her body, and this is the thanks we get? We always treated you just like you were a real knee, gave you your own pant leg, tried to make you feel at home. But, no, you've just gotta be a rebel. You've gotta shatter at any small impact. You've gotta stay up way past your bedtime, aching. I guess maybe you miss your surgeon friends in the Kaiser operating room, but that's simply no excuse for this kind of behavior.

I know we always told you that you were extra-special because you were artificial, knee, but I've got news from you. You and your kind, you're a dime a dozen. OK, maybe more like $43,000 a dozen, but you get my drift. This HMO brought you into this world, and it can take you right back out. You better get your little patella in line, or I know one little joint that will be going right back into his fiberglass cast with no dinner. Or Vicodin.

In closing, artificial knee, screw you. Literally, I guess. And do a better job of it, Yamamoto - those old screws sucked.

two tales of thanksgiving violence


Thanksgiving is the time when families and friends come together, stuff their faces, and play board games. Violent, bloody board games. At our house, the conflict came early on, in front of the Cowboys-Redskins American football contest. The players were my three sisters (Megan, Kelly, and Molly), Megan's boyfriend Nevin, and Kati Voluntine. The game was Scattergories. The board was borrowed from Kristen. The equation was PAIN.

I am going to assume that any readers of this blog are civilized, cultured, non-Philistines, so I will skip any discussion of the rules of Scattergories. Suffice to say, it was a hotly-contested match, with many responses challenged and argued over. The boiling point came after young Molly entered "To Make You Feel My Love" as her "Song Title" for the letter T. Megan challenged, claiming the song's true title was simply "Make You Feel My Love." There was much yelling and name-calling, until Molly produced a Garth Brooks CD that validated her entry.

Molly then demanded an apology, and received no satisfaction. So she gathered her things and resigned from the game with dignity, at least until she emitted a string of profanities on her way out of the living room. There was a long pause, and then Kelly asked, "So, what'd you get for 'Things At The Beach'?"

* * *

vignettes from LHS


1. The Finger

Last night, I managed to slice the index finger of my right hand fairly badly, resulting in a disturbing amount of blood and a big band-aid. It also swelled up around the second knuckle, rendering said finger mostly useless. Thankfully, working at the Front Desk of the Lawrence Hall of Science does not require much in the way of fine motor skill. Taking money, transferring phone calls, giving directions - not brain surgery. Even when I have to give directions to the exhibit on brain surgery, it's still quite doable.

On the other hand, having a gimpy finger has made me aware of how automatic and unconscious many of these physical tasks are. I reopened the cut early in the day doing reflexive, finger-endangering cash register-related tasks. So to avoid further injury, I have been curling the index finger toward the palm, keeping it out of the way, and using other fingers to handle money and directions. There's been no more blood, no more pain, but around 3 pm, I realized I've unintentionally given the finger to at least 80% of the people that came in in the past two hours. They may have gotten the wrong impression from my tough-guy gesturing.

"Where's the restroom?"
"At the bottom of the stairs." Jerkoff.

"Do you have any dinosaurs?"
"No, our main exhibit today is on elephants." I got your dinosaurs right here!

"Hi, I forgot my membership card. Can you look me up on the computer?"
"Sure, no problem." Ya piece of shit.

"That looks like a nasty cut on your finger."
"Fuck you." Fuck you.

Better the kids learn it here instead of on the streets, right?

2. Try Again

The elephant exhibit has generally received positive feedback from our members. I think most children have a fondness for enormous animals, whether they're dinosaurs, elephants, or whales. Elephants are herbivores, which cuts down on the amount of kill scenes, fake blood, and screaming hysterical children.

Nonetheless, not everyone is pleased. Here is the text of a recent comment card we received. I wish I could have scanned it, so as to capture the furious penstrokes and intense rage emanating from said card:

The elephant exhibit was the worst I've seen in 6 years. The emphasis on death, skeletons & evolution is just so limiting to the vast aspects of elephants. My children could hardly wait to leave after 8 minutes. Try again.

Why's there always gotta be visitors hatin' on evolution, anyway?

3. No shirt, no shoes, you know the drill

A family of five came into LHS around 2:15. The youngest child, a girl who appeared to be about 2 1/2, stood apart from her family, arms folded and face scowling. After paying for admission, the moms of the family said, "OK Maddy, ask him."

Little Maddy withdrew her lower lip slightly and queried, "Do you hafta wear a shirt inside?"

Her Moms, standing behind Maddy, nodded her head slightly.

Probably, the museum has a policy on both shirts and shoes, vis-a-vis service, but I still felt like I was selling little Maddy out by requiring a shirt. Why not let her roam amongst the elephants, free from her itchy shirt? She's got her whole life to wear the uniform of "Joe Starbucks" or "Sally Cell Phone." Who am I to break her flow?

Anyway, I solemnly informed her that only babies were allowed to go shirtless in the museum. Her preschool mind quickly calculated: "Only babies are shirtless in the museum. I am not a baby. Ergo..." So she got a baby seal stamp on her hand instead. Blue. It matched her shirt. Everyone was happy. Especially Joe Starbucks, wherever he was.

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