Sunday, May 27, 2012


Karaoke Bars are the worst. Such good words separately, but together they conjure an image of hellish musical awfulness, jabbing elbows, bachelorette parties crammed on tiny stages screaming along to Sir Mix-a-Lot. And if a live band's up there, they probably hate you even if you nail whatever song you're singing.

I much prefer the Asian method: rather than shoving you onstage in front of a roomful of anonymous drunks, it shoves you onstage in front of a roomful of drunks you know and love. I've seen folks who wouldn't dare sing at Trader Todd's hit the high F in a Karaoke Box. Better food, cheaper drinks, and of course you get to sing more often--because let's be honest, no one at a karaoke bar is there to see strangers sing.

I like Karaoke Boxes for another reason. Tottering down the hall for a pit stop in the bathroom or another order of drinks at the bar, you can glance into each room and see freedom in microcosm. People, whether in groups of 2 or groups of 50, totally letting go of their self-consciousness if only for one glorious evening. Moms screaming Gin and Juice. Frat guys singing A Whole New World without mockery or irony. An entire room of friends linked arm-in-arm howling the "NA NA NA NA NA NA" section of Drops of Jupiter in perfect, loving, discordant harmony.

You don't get those charming little boxes at a karaoke bar. You get people watching impatiently and paying too much for their beer.

Corpses can be interesting! I would not begrudge that Chinese man his enthusiasm. On that note: how bizarre and awesome is it that there are competing forms of dead people infotainment?
...buuuuut yeah, that does sound a tad overwhelming. You lost me somewhere around "submerged." Maybe sketch a frowny stick figure with X-es for eyes?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Everything is Ruined Forever

The other day I read a charming, slow-paced manga called Usagi Drop. It's about a bachelor who decides to raise an orphaned girl. Very good take on the changes that come with raising a child, with light overtones of romance between the foster father and another child's mother.

And then I read the second half of it, wherein the foster daughter falls in love with and eventually marries the foster father. God damn it, Japan. Gettin' all Tale of Genji up in my mellow slice-of-life comic books.

At first I thought the entire manga was ruined, but I eventually reminded myself: even the crappy, baffling ending couldn't retroactively ruin how much I enjoyed the rest of the story.

The author even has a nice middle-point before she timeskips to the pseudo-incest in the foster child's teen years. I can just pretend that's the ending. Wish I could say I've learned something about letting go of rage over stories going the way I don't want 'em to, but naw. That'd mean I couldn't hate on Lucas for ruining Star Wars anymore.

Jess, I think your mom knows about your dying bicycle derring-do now. Sorry about that.

I never had any trouble biking in Wrigleyville. Although once, at a stoplight, a frat guy leaned out of his jeep and said "hey dude! Nice ass!"

I called out "thanks bro" as I rode away. I'm not sure he was expecting that response.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dother's May

When I was young, I had a habit of waking up in the middle of the night, convinced horrible creatures swarmed around my bunk bed. I'm sure the beady, watching eyes of a dozen stuffed animals--including one ET doll--placed across from the bed had nothing to do with this phenomenon. I took to keeping a flashlight in my blankets, convinced the little glowing halo was enough to cut through the darkness of my own imagination, but I'm pretty sure you could give the 7-year-old me a floodlight and he'd still be afraid of the shadows.

In nearly every case, I'd make it halfway down the hall before my mom intercepted me, eyes full of weary understanding and arms full of comfort. Sometimes I'd sleep with her, sometimes I'd get whatever midnight snack would mollify me, and sometimes she'd calm me down and walk me back to bed. One of these many nights, as she tucked me in, I asked her: how do you know to come for me? What if I'm scared or not safe and you can't hear me calling for you?

No worries, she explained, tapping a finger against her temple. She had a special antenna inside her head. Every mom gets one when she has her first baby. Any time a child is scared, or hurting, or needs a hug, that antenna buzzes. She could follow the buzz straight to me no matter where I was. She had her own Mom Radar.

I've grown a bit (not much) since I was 7. I now know, intellectually, that mom does not have Spidey-Sense or a bluetooth antenna inside her skull. But I'm still pretty sure that if terrorists ever kidnap me during my honeymoon, or I find myself reliving that James Franco movie, my mom will sit bolt upright somewhere and start making phone calls.

So this entry is for her. The woman so patient she could survive raising 5 loud, crazy boys (but so sharp she can get all of us in line with a look); so fun I still ask her for advice about throwing parties; and so good that if I tried to convey in the amount of words it deserved, I'd overload Blogger's meager servers. Happy Mother's Day, Mom. That is, assuming you've managed to find this blog. :)

Hercules: one of those Disney flicks I always intend to watch, and then never, ever do. But to those of you who did, this postcard must be at least three times as cool as it already looks to me!
I'm regretting the scruffy goatee I grew in Japan. Without it, maybe I would've been in more Japanese pictures and fewer Japanese nightmares.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Time Capsule

Greetings, reader of the future!

I know not how you stumbled upon this ancient "blog" with its curious "postcards" and talk of queer locations which undoubtedly no longer exist (or only exist as irradiated wastelands, above which you live in domes). I can only wonder how you're consuming this information. Perhaps with some kind of bio-chip neural interface, or maybe something a little less wholesome. No matter! The important thing is, you found this entry, and are eager to learn about our past-dwelling ways.

For example! By this point, I'm sure you've evolved beyond any need for vocal communication, either through bluetooth telepathy or secretion of pheromones, but back now we must speak to one another in order to convey desires or ideas. In a customer-server conversation, this exchange of meaningful noises is in general brief and to-the-point, as our baristas have not yet been replaced with machines that read your every thought. An example:

Barista: Hello, sir!*
Man: Greetings. I would like to purchase** a tall mocha created using non-fat dairy product, but topped with high-fat whipped dairy product.
Barista: Right away, sir! Nice day, isn't it?
Man: Yes. The weather*** is indeed quite fine. I will be taking in a sports match at Wrigley Field this afternoon.
Barista: Here is your drink, sir. Enjoy the Cubs game!****

Baristas and other employees engaged in customer-server interaction are discouraged from freely speaking in front of their customers, as this indicates employees have thoughts and feelings unrelated to fulfilling the customers needs, which shatters the illusion of total customer dependency. Many a Barista has been censured for referring to events outside of work while in front of a thirsty patron. This makes for restrictive, but predictable, conversational patterns.

However, in a different context, conversations can be fraught with ambiguity. Picking up a member of the opposite or same sex in a bar or party environment is an exhaustively-researched example, but another is the Office Chat.

In the Office Chat, one worker leans into another worker's office, cubicle, or general personal space in order to briefly converse. This conversation may have a work-related point, or indeed may serve no purpose at all save for general socialization. It is far more flexible in nature than a customer-server interaction, with no set end point and no set topic. Normally such conversations--or "convos," as emerging segments of our population call them--are pleasant and enjoyable, but if one member of the "convo" is new to the office or unused to flexible conversation at work, he may find himself wondering several things, including:

a) Should I keep working while we talk?
b) Is it appropriate to call other workers in the cubicle block into our discussion?
c) How casually may I behave?

The main concern we address today, though, is: what is the proper thing to say when the conversation ends? The usual salutations--goodbye, take it easy, mahalo--are ineffective, as the coworker is in most cases not leaving. So, does the worker simply walk away? Return to his duties? Or perhaps end the conversation intentionally? All are valid approaches, but to a recent hire or import from the customer-service sector all seem equally dangerous. If you have solved this mystery, by all means, let us know via time machine or messages sent through wormholes! If the future is bleak and populated only by marauding machines, let us know as well, so that we might stop worrying about health or pollution and simply drive muscle cars while consuming salted porcine meat.

These murals undoubtedly exist in greater numbers and across geographical boundaries, now that China is one of two remaining superpowers. But in our day, real murals were hard to come by, and often quite old!
I assume female toplessness is allowed and encouraged in your future, but back now it's illegal in many places and often thrown into entertainment or advertising in order to shock and titillate. Not sure if this should change, honestly, as the forbidden nature adds a sense of excitement.

*In our society, physical sex is inflexible, and sexual reassignment surgery is cosmetic in function. If your society has moved past this through means magical or scientific, disregard the gendered noun.

**Assuming your society has reached post-scarcity, "purchase" means to exchange a form of capital--usually precious metals or coinage representing the idea of precious metals--for goods and services.

***Mankind currently has no way to control the weather, although we have successfully created lightning. If this innovation at any point leads to commonplace lightning-based warfare, we are deeply sorry, though feel sort of proud of ourselves all the same.

****You will of course be familiar with the Chicago Cubs due to their 104-year championship drought, and their subsequent 200-year winning streak. Or at least you god damn well better be.