Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - When farming becomes a wee bit too specialized

Sure, it's lucrative. But getting it to climb those bean poles is a real mother.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

I can't remember the title for this column

Like many men my age, or my sex, frankly, I have memory problems. I don't remember this happening as often when I was young, except on days when I was supposed to help friends move. Now, though, I will think of an actor, and I can see his face, and I am sure I know his name, but the neural pathway to it has been blocked by, I don't know, "Brady Bunch" lyrics or something.

The next day it will come to me, maybe as I'm walking across the street to work. "Kevin Spacey!" I will shout out, then look left and right to see if I am now a kook to somebody. One bonus is that now that particular brain circuit to Kevin is fresh, to the point where I will see Kevin Bacon on TV and shout "Kevin Spacey!"

In middle age, close enough should count for something.

Last month we went out for my wife's birthday and had an amazing mushroom appetizer. The next day, I could not remember what the cornmeal the mushrooms were served with was called. I had to Google it.

Polenta. How could I forget polenta?! Now polenta and Kevin Spacey stand shoulder to shoulder with Marsha, Jan and Cindy in my head. Let's just call that a win, shall we?

Experts suggest saying things aloud while you are doing them in order to cement the memory, like "I am taking my vitamin," "I am coveting my neighbor's wife," "I am making polenta for Kevin Spacey."

Anxiety over your failure to remember things can actually make it worse. Chronic elevated cortisol levels can reduce the size of your hippocampus, eventually rendering it just a small, out-of-state hippo party school.

Certain foods are supposed to help restore neural pathways lost in aging, and I wish I could remember what they are.

I am joking. You can find them online, of course, if you do a search for "foods I don't like." Fish. Broccoli. Flax seed. Winter squash.

I am not sure that being able to recall the cutie in the bathtub from "Moscow On The Hudson" is worth it. (Maria Conchita Alonso.) HOW CAN MARIA STILL BE IN MY GOURD FROM 1984?!

Well, it could be worse. It could have been Phyllis Diller in that bathtub. Plus, I've never had polenta come up in conversation. I'll be fine. Some day Kevin Bacon will play me in the movie.

. . .

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - Existential directions

Finally, someone points me the way! Thank you.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas carols form a bridge to the past, and dad

I went to a caroling party last week and learned it is much easier to fake harmony than it is to sing on key.

I was also humbled to realize that I only know the first line of any carol you can name. For example, I know perfectly well it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but I couldn't tell you where.

It was a festive evening, with food and drink and the predictable seasonal conversations about kids' exorbitant tuition costs. Somewhere between "Silent Night" and "The Little Drummer Boy," though, I began to feel the melancholies. It might have been the Old Fashioned I was drinking, which had four fingers of whiskey in it. That is, for me, three and three-quarters too many fingers. I am a basically antisocial person, but a social drinker. Meaning I don't get much practice.

So it might have been that, or maybe just the memory of Christmases past, which brought my dad to mind. He was a singer, a some-time professional, but best loved being part of a chorus. He once visited a prison with a choir to bring a little holiday cheer. They filled the place with song, and then as they departed, called out "Merry Christmas! See you next year!" From a far corner of the cell block came a doleful reply: "I'll be here."

There are a lot of carols I have never heard of. They, like all things unnecessary but good, can be found online. "Bethlehem Down" sounds like a Michael Bay action movie starring Liam Neeson. (Slogan: "They told Mary and Joseph there was no room at the inn. They were wrong. Dead wrong.")

I can't imagine "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree" ever moved a lot of sheet music. "Rocking Carol" sounds hopeful, especially if you picture it sung by shepherds with ZZ Top beards and Stratocasters, until you find out it's a Czech lullaby to put babies to sleep.

Dad probably knew all of these. He would sing anything, any time. He felt like it made the world better.

The fire crackled at my back, and I set down my cocktail for good as we launched into "Jingle Bells." In this version, Batman didn't smell, and Robin didn't lay an egg. It wasn't that kind of crowd. It was cheery, though.

Songs are like a ribbon strung across time. Dad's got one end and I've got the other. Joy to the world? Yeah. I'm in.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - From the annals of obscure rappers

No, his rap career was not long, but it was delicious.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Dog's shopping skills need to be more fully developed

There are only 12 days until Christmas and yet, as usual, the dog hasn't even done any shopping. It's all "me, me, me" with Skipper.

Terriers. Sheesh. You say "Target" or "mall" to them, they just look at you. You say "cookie," they are all ears.

I long for the day when I can rent one of those driverless cars, stick my dog in it, having pre-trained him to fight the Christmas shopping crowds, snag everything on my list, and bring me home a boba.

I live many male stereotypes, but the one I live most fully is a dislike of shopping. Oh, I can buy milk, but ask me to use my taste and discernment to pick out a birthday present and I get the eye twitch.

Do you know how many options there are out there for birthday presents? Dozens! Dozens of options. I want two. Give me two choices, I can flip a coin. Like a man.

Options are every man's downfall. I shopped for my wife's birthday recently. Here's how it went:

(Inner dialogue is not to scale)

Me: That necklace is pretty.

Me: Wait. She already has one just like that. Doesn't she?

Me: I don't know. I don't pay attention.

Me: What about this scarf? She likes purple and green.

Me: We live in L.A. She could wear it, like, three days a year.

Me: I don't care if she wears it. Just that she likes it.

Me: Good point. Get this painted pebble too.

Me: What's it for?

Me: I don't know! To show that you remember she likes little painted things. Isn't that enough?

Me: Yes. No. Yes. Probably. Yes. I'm pretty sure.

Skipper needs to start pulling his weight, I am telling you. There was a time when being adorable was enough, but that was the '90's. Yes, I'm writing about you, dog. (He's lying in a patch of sun checking my hands for treats.) You need to learn how to shop, boyo. Google's almost got the driverless car thing down. We need to get you fitted for little shopping basket saddlebags.

Dude, my hands are empty, look in my eyes, buddy. Up here. Look up here. Read my lips: Mommy likes purple and green. She likes little painted things.

Crap, you're color blind, aren't you?

You know what? Lie there. Fine! Pretend it's the 20th Century!

Ohhh, come here. I can't stay mad at you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - Technology and fashion seamlessly merged

 Finally! An automated way to make sure I haven't hiked my pants up too far.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Smart phone not yet advanced enough to conquer

Some people fear that machines will one day rise and outstrip human intelligence, but those people have never used a smart phone.

I shot a four minute video which then apparently went to the "cloud" for ease of accessibility. It was about as easy to snag as brunch with Kim Jong Un. I desperately needed to transfer it to my computer for editing, and luckily it said a copy was still on the phone.

I connected the phone to the computer.


These two future humanity-crushers could not even see each other. I tried to share it wirelessly.

"Error," the phone's screen said. "Unable to upload. Try again later." Evidently the phone, like me, has a hard time uploading under pressure.

Then a new message popped up. "Storage almost full." I thought for a moment the phone was so advanced it was capable of measuring the post-Thanksgiving pressure of my jeans.

Almost full?! The settings said I still had six gigs free. (For the non-tech-savvy, a gig is like an invisible Tupperware container in which you keep videos of total strangers' dogs playing in snow.)

Judging by my Internet search results, a lot of people have the same problem. One guy said he fixed his storage anomaly by setting his phone's clock back two years, then forward again. Rather than figure out where the clock was, I just threw a pinch of salt over my left shoulder.

I tried again later. "Unable to upload." "Storage almost full."

My eyes saw those words on the screen, but by the time they reached my brain they had been translated into "I wonder how far you can throw me through that window if you really do a full wind-up."

The video was of my son delivering food to a charity. He did this because is an upright guy, and also because his English teacher said those three little words which no teenage boy in history has ever been able to resist—"extra credit points."

My son was quickly consumed by charity towards the needy. But now the evidence of his altruism was stuck in the unreachable cloud and the deranged phone.

After about eight hours of this, the phone finally decided, for no discernible reason, to upload. One problem down. It still thinks it has absolutely no room left for new input, but I don't blame it. I know the feeling well.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Wednesday Wa Pic - When Teletubbies go bad

Typical. Tinky-Winky, Dipsy and Laa-Laa are too savvy to ever use their real names.