Symbols of Distinction

A couple of years ago, someone at work decided it would be a good idea to form a Fun Committee. This group, comprised of representatives from various departments in our building, organizes events such as sleigh rides, baseball games, picnics, bowling, a regular blood drive and monthly contests to win a parking spot in the underground garage.

With the exception of the blood drive, I do not participate in Fun Committee events.

Why? Well, maybe I’m just cantankerous. Maybe I hate fun. Or maybe I’m very selective about my leisure time and with whom I spend it. I have my reasons.

Last night, the Fun Committee sponsored an evening at a local bowling alley. I’m told there was karaoke in addition to the bowling. Karaoke inevitably leads to people making spectacles of themselves, especially when (as is usually the case) there is alcohol involved. I’ve heard that the inevitable spectacle occurred, but two of my male co-workers singing “Islands in the Stream” isn’t really what this story is about.

The bowler with the lowest score was given a certificate (as, I’m sure, was the bowler with the highest score). Specifically, the bowler with the lowest score was given the Kris Johnson Award. That’s right, I am so notorious that even when I am not present, my influence is felt.

The recipient of the Kris Johnson Award came to me this morning to have her certificate signed and for the obligatory handshake pictures. She was appropriately awe-struck and deferential, and I was only too happy to sign the certificate. I was somewhat disappointed that the designer of said certificate hadn’t had the foresight to include the appropriate signature line.

iMobile

I’ve been carrying my iPod back and forth to work in the inside pocket of my jacket, which is not an ideal solution. During last week’s warm spell, I left the jacket at home and carried the iPod in a pants pocket. Even worse. In the few months since I got it, I’m afraid that the screen and case are showing some noticeable scuffs. I’m told that Brasso will do an excellent job of removing those, but to prevent further scuffing (and because I am an incredible clutz) I broke down and bought an iPod holster.

Initially, I wanted to go with a leather holster, but most of the ones I looked at didn’t do the trick. They used flimsy plastic to “protect” the screen and the iPod just didn’t seem to fit very well. The hole in the plastic designed to provide access to the clickwheel didn’t line up properly, despite the fact that the holsters were allegedly designed for 4G iPods.

I was about to settle for some kind of sporty gizmo (complete with wrist/arm strap) when I came across the Contour Showcase.

This thing is fantastic. It has a rubberized shell, a formidable clear plastic front and a beveled clickwheel opening that lines up perfectly. The removable belt clip is reversible, so the iPod can be worn on either side. Unlike many other holsters I looked at, it mounts the iPod horizontally rather than vertically, which makes it much less intrusive when clipped to my belt. Of course, it has the standard access openings at top and bottom for headphone jack and synchronization port. The whole thing feels incredibly solid, yet it’s very easy to get the iPod in and out of the holster. Well worth the thirty bucks, in my opinion.

Character Exercise One

I don’t know if there will be further character exercises, but during a conversation at work today I imagined combining Stockholm Syndrome with what I’ll call addictive personality disorder.

From Wikipedia: “… Stockholm syndrome is a psychological state in which the victims of a kidnapping, or persons detained against their free will — prisoners — develop a relationship with their captor(s). This solidarity can sometimes become a real complicity, with prisoners actually helping the captors to achieve their goals or to escape police.”

There is some debate as to whether Addictive Personality Disorder is real, but for the purposes of this exercise, I define it as follows: A psychological state in which a person is inclined to addiction, whether to substances, people (personality types) or situations.

Combining the two, we have a person who has been involved in some manner of hostage situation during which he or she developed a relationship with and/or sympathized with his or her captors. After the situation is resolved (whether peacefully or otherwise), the person returns to his or her routine. Now, however, when our character waits in line at the bank to make a withdrawal, they hope that men wearing ski masks and brandishing automatic weapons will storm the bank. They yearn to hear a voice behind them demand that everyone lie face down on the floor. Our character never uses the drive-up window or an ATM. They insist on entering the bank at every possible opportunity in the hopes of being held hostage at gunpoint.

At work, our character scrutinizes his or her co-workers, trying to determine which of them is most likely to snap and show up at work with a high-powered rifle. Perhaps they even attempt to push the most promising of these unsuspecting individuals over the perceived “edge.”

Now that I’ve built certain aspects of the character’s personality, the exercise part (at least for me) is to write a scene or a short story featuring the character, filling in the rest of their personality and creating a situation in which their (hopefully) unique flaw is developed or revealed. I’ll post the result in the near future.

Finding the Artist Within: Chapter One

I picked up The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain on Tuesday, then Laura and I took a trip to Pat Catan’s to pick up some art supplies. After we got home, we both did the first three exercises in the book.

  1. Self-Portrait. Not too bad. I squished my head a bit on the horizontal, and I had a real problem with the lips, but it came out much better than I expected.
  2. Portrait from Memory. Simply dreadful. I started and stopped no less than half a dozen times. I tried my maternal grandfather, my maternal grandmother, my father, my friend Rob and a couple of other people and erased my futile efforts in each case. I could see each of these people in my minds eye, but when I tried to focus on their features I failed miserably. According to the author, this is not at all unexpected.
  3. Non-drawing Hand. Weird. The end result came out very lumpy, but it was definitely recognizable as my hand.

I have to read the rest of the chapter so I can get to the next exercise. The author goes into great detail about the assymmetrical nature of the human brain and the studies that have been done surrounding the separation of the hemispheres. It’s all very interesting stuff. Laura and I are (I think) going to try to do the exercises together whenever possible. Perhaps I’ll scan some of the drawings and post them for all to see when I’ve finished.

Lazy Thursday

I woke up yesterday morning feeling completely rundown and crappy, so I allowed myself the luxury of calling in sick. I didn’t leave the house all day (which, unfortunately, included skipping the April Cleveland-area NaNoWriMo group meeting). Here’s what I did do:

  • Played Pool of Radiance. Old school. The original Pool of Radiance was released by SSI in 1988 and I had it for my Apple IIGS. I played for hours upon hours, mapping each area I visited on graph paper and then reproducing those maps in the art program, printing them (in glorious dot matrix color) and mounting them on poster board. Most of the time I was playing I was also listening to Rush’s A Farewell to Kings over and over and over again. I recently found a copy of the DOS version of Pool of Radiance and (with the help of DOSBox) began my quest to finish the game once and for all. Did I mention that I never finished the Apple version? Come on, this is me. Of course I never finished it. So I fired up Chronicles on iTunes and played a game that transported me in time and place. My party consists of Brak, bold human fighter; Boddy, daring and clever halfling fighter/thief; Isabeau, pious human cleric; Jaegen, devious dwarven thief; Sara, wise half-even cleric/magic-user; and Drea, mysterious elven magic-user. Together, they have kicked acres, nay, hectares of 16-color ass.
  • Watched a bit of an anti-smoking show on HBO Family. Why? I don’t even know. I was just flipping through the channels and it caught my eye. The show, aimed at teens and pre-teens, featured some rather shocking statistics and interviews with some shockingly ignorant and naive teen smokers.
  • Watched Warlock: The Armageddon. Why? Well, the TiVo recorded it and I was feeling far too lousy to find something better to do. Plus, I like cheese. Julian Sands is the title character, and he spends a lot of time killing fashion designers, prostitutes, old men, cabbies and fuzzy bunnies with gore-rific effects, only to be defeated by… headlights.
  • Watched some of the extras on the second Spider-Man 2 DVD. Interesting stuff. I like extras. There’s a mini-documentary that follows Doctor Octopus from his origin in the comics about forty years ago to his most recent incarnation in the movie. I only wish they’d showed a little more about the design and implementation of the tentacles. Perhaps that’s elsewhere on the disc.

Eyes on the Tube!

  • Laura and I watched the season finale of Carniv├ále Friday night (or perhaps it was Thursday). I have a sinking feeling that HBO won’t be bringing this show back for a third season, but I hope I’m wrong. Entertainment Weekly referred to Carniv├ále as “a snore” in a recent issue, a statement with which I wholly disagree. The confrontation between Brother Justin and Ben Hawkins was somewhat anticlimactic, but Sophie’s choice more than made up for it. There is more story to be told here, and I’m hoping that HBO lets Daniel Knauf and company tell it.
  • I was a bit behind in my Deadwood watching, so I caught up Saturday evening while Laura was out with her mother. This little mini-marathon was excellent. Al Swearengen is suffering from kidney stones and the absence of his guiding hand is felt not only by his employees at the Gem, but also by mayor Farnum. Seth Bullock is trying to reconcile his feelings for Alma Garrett after the arrival of his wife (his brother’s widow, whom he has married) and nephew. Meanwhile, rumors that the government may not honor the miners’ titles to their claims circulate through the camp, causing unrest. Deadwood is my soap opera, of sorts. It is gritty, dirty and coarse, full of fascinating characters and equally fascinating stories, and the second season is every bit as powerful as the first.
  • I was watching Alien Apocalypse when Laura returned late Saturday evening. I watched this movie for one reason and one reason only: Bruce Campbell. As I feared, however, Campbell can only do so much for an uninspired, low-budget, shoddily produced crapfest like Alien Apocalypse. The SciFi Channel seems to have two sets of standards when it comes to the programming they produce. The first set is reserved for series like Battlestar Galactica and Stargate: SG-1 and mini-series like Frank Herbert’s Dune. These are the few gems that receive the royal treatment in terms of attention to quality. Then there’s everything else. Garbage like Mansquito and Alien Apocalypse that continually pushes the bar lower and lower. How about this, SciFi? Take the proposed budgets for ten projects like King Snake and Earthsea and make one decent mini-series like Taken, or maybe a couple of movies that are actually science fiction as opposed to science schlock-horror. Thank you.
  • Speaking of the SciFi Channel, Battlestar Galactica is (as I mentioned) one of the things they’re actually doing right. The season finale was quite good, teasing us with the possibility of some revelation and hitting hard with a stunning cliffhanger as well. July can’t come soon enough.
  • Laura and I watched the most recent episode of LOST on Wednesday night, and we weren’t disappointed. One of the survivors dies, Claire gives birth, and we learn more about Jack’s history. This show is simply not slowing down. I watch very little network television, but Lost proves that it’s not entirely a desolate wasteland filled with second- and third-rate trash.

Ch-ch-ch-changes.

If things have been flaky here for the past couple of days, it’s because I moved KJToo.com to a new hosting provider. The transition wasn’t exactly silky smooth, and then this morning the new web host moved KJToo.com from one of their servers to another. Things are slowly returning to normality now, and if all goes well over the next day or two there shouldn’t be any more major issues.

Coming soon: A real photo gallery. I promise.

Multi-Media

After dinner at Max & Erma’s last night, Laura and I did a little shopping at the Barnes & Noble where she used to work. We picked up On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt, Robbing the Bees by Holley Bishop and Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters by Dick Staub, which Laura presented to me and said she wanted “just because of the title”.

I searched for but was unable to find the CD Discozone by The O Zone. Their ridiculously catchy tune, Dragostea Din Tei (AKA Mi Ya Hi), has been in my head all week thanks to that blasted Numa Numa Dance. I’ve listened to snippets of the other tracks on the disc, and I liked what I heard, so I’m looking to buy it (else I’d just download the one song from iTunes). Better luck next time, I guess.

Later, we watched What the Bleep Do We Know?, which isn’t exactly an easy movie to describe. If I had to summarize its content I would do so thusly: Science meets spirituality meets mysticism and they discuss the nature of God, the human experience and mind over matter on a quantum level.