Archive for March, 2009

my girlfriend is a watermelon.

27 March 2009

a girl once told me that she likes the way i tell stories, not eliminating or glossing over the parts that make me look bad. let me point out then, before i begin, that the following incident has nothing to do with me. i repeat: i only transcribed the text you are about to read. it happened to a friend (also, those italics mean nothing — my finger slipped and inserted some html code that i was unable to erase).

perhaps you’ve been looking for love but the conversations you’ve started with potential suitors in the produce section of grocery stores or between games of billiards at a bar or outside the church where your alcohol anonymous meetings are held have yet to bear fruit. some people, i’m told, turn to nonhuman companions, items that remind them of their desired suitor. they may only be able to fall asleep when they cuddle up next to a pillow or a stuffed animal. the more perverse-minded may seek out items with which to pleasure themselves. the friend to whom i alluded in the first paragraph falls into this last group, and the events i’m about to chronicle follow a similar vein, so if you’re a family member or you’re under some delusion that i am anything but a base creature then you may want to skip to another entry.

throughout history men and women have contemplated using food, primarily fruits and vegetables, in a sexual context. women probably have an easier time of it with all the phallic cucumbers and bananas at their disposal. men, on the other hand, have to do a little more work: research is involved, not to mention some tools. my friend relayed this information to me before saying that he settled on a watermelon and then cut it into eight equal wedges — he used one of them.

he detailed making a circular incision through the rind and into the pink flesh, adjusting it to make the hole larger, carving the bits like a master craftsman. he reported being in a sort of trance as he continued, as if a higher being was guiding him to put the fruit in the microwave for thirty-second intervals until it was warm, then placing it on the kitchen counter, his hands steadying it.

the whole thing was kind of surreal to me, envisioning the process and the dedication required to achieve the goal. when he finished, after i had returned to equilibrium, my mind was filled with jokes, so i tried one out on him. i guess you’ll think twice now before spitting out a watermelon seed since it didn’t seem to have a problem with yours.

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why does the wii hate my stomach so much?

24 March 2009

around the time wii fit was released i read an article about whether the game really helped people lose weight and become more toned. the author concluded that users only benefited when they were active participants in the program. now i realize it’s difficult to believe such groundbreaking scientific discoveries at first glance, so perhaps my anecdotal evidence in support of the research can persuade you to believe this claim which seems so preposterous.

from may until august of last year i worked out (i use that phrase loosely) on the wii three or four times a week. then i stopped for various reasons, as the system remained in my trunk unless someone challenged me to a game of bowling. in december i weighed myself, finding that i had gained slightly over thirty-one pounds in four months. just like that i had returned to my high school weight, but i was remiss to give the wii the credit it probably deserved.

after returning to the world of console exercising, i soon discovered, in my absence, the machine had formed a grudge. at every turn, my computer trainer berated my lack of fitness, my poor posture, and my slackening muscles. if i turned it on in the morning i was asked, somewhat mockingly, if i had eaten breakfast yet. did i know, it would ask, that that meal was incredibly important, that my body relied on the energy gained to fuel it throughout the day. if i returned at night it would chastise me for being up so late and lecture me about the consequences of not sleeping. i strained, balancing on one leg, only to have it tell me that i likely trip over my feet when i walk due to lack of coordination. i tried to weather its insults, consoling myself briefly with the adage no pain, no gain, until i could no longer pretend the statement pertained to verbal abuse. i returned to my high school-level of depression.

the wii once wondered about one of my friends who hadn’t signed in for a few months (she had moved to charleston). it presented choices for me: she was fatter, about the same, trimmer. of course i chose the first one, the on-screen balance board visibly enjoying her defeat. it advised me not to tell her, but if i absolutely had to i needed to break it to her gently. tell her she’s been living large, it suggested. what, then, was it telling my friends about me? i became increasingly worried that the world was looking at me differently. i used to be confident, i assured myself; now, when i’m walking passed a group of people, i know they are talking about me, i know they are high-fiving each other after a witty remark about my love handles. they are constantly making jokes about the guy that favors his right side and leans back too far on his heels.

i do not hold out much hope that our relationship, mine and the wii’s, will be amicable in the future. i will always be one step behind. i will always mistake the panda heads kicked toward me for soccer balls. i will never be able to catch enough fish while wearing a penguin costume. this is my fate, made harder by the fact that a machine relishes every second of my collapse.

have it your way.

21 March 2009

with the opening of big daddy’s burger bar in december 2007, frank scibelli’s stable of restaurant franchises grew to three, preceded by mama ricotta’s and cantina 1511. after tackling italian and mexican cuisines, the newest concept showcases the most american of foods (if you don’t count hot dogs and, maybe, apple pies), the hamburger, and allows its patrons to create one specific to their individual palates. those previous restaurants make cameos here, as a hamburger with housemade mozzarella, pesto, vine-ripened tomatoes, and olive oil, and a black bean burger with green chiles, cheddar and monterey jack cheeses, avocado, and chipotle ranch appear on the menu.

while similar burger joints exist, i think this represents the best incarnation in charlotte. while they collectively allow one to choose toppings a la carte, big daddy’s competitors do so in such a confusing way that the meal invariably costs twenty dollars by the time one is finished ordering. in an effort to combat this sticker shock, big daddy’s menu contains more suggested combinations, thus one can select an entree and add or subtract a few ingredients without worrying about being surprised by the bill. the prices also include a side (french fries, sweet potato fries, house slaw, onion straws, tater tots, or housemade potato chips). on friday, saturday, and sunday, for an additional charge, they serve french fries cooked in duck fat, which doesn’t alter the flavor much; the change is more tactile, the fries are crispier.

i’m sorry that i’m one step away from sounding like a generic website — i just need to add something like, come join us on saturday nights when the patio gets jumping. before i change directions though, i should tell you that your options include beef, turkey, chicken, and buffalo, as well as portabella mushroom caps and black beans for those who prefer something other than meat.

there is another burger bar, located in las vegas’s mandalay bay and owned by hubert keller, where one can order a kobe beef burger named after a fourteenth century italian composer whose love for fine food was legendary. the rossini is topped with sauteed foie gras, shaved black truffles, and a madeira wine reduction on an onion bun. for your sixty dollars you also get skinny fries and, i think, a blowjob. luckily for those that cannot make it to vegas (or are sane enough not to drop that much money on a burger), i’ve found a recipe courtesy of saveur.

mothers die too young.

18 March 2009

again i’m reminded of the vastly underappreciated thomas bernhard’s the voice imitator, a collection of one hundred four short stories, none longer than a page. one such story is reprinted below:

mail

for years after our mother’s death, the post office continued to deliver letters addressed to her. the post office had taken no notice of her death.

it’s left me wondering what happens to people when they die. i don’t mean to suggest that i’m suddenly questioning the existence of heaven or the role that souls play following our deaths. instead i’m thinking about how strange it is that someone’s passing can have such a profound effect on one person, while not even registering with another.

it speaks to our isolation in the world — why we form friendships, why we procreate, why we marry, in order to feel less lonely. we are forced to weather great losses, more or less alone, as others can continue through their daily lives completely unaware of the things that keep us awake.

there’s such a push to find peace, to move on after suffering a loss. there are countless books which purport to help us overcome grief and reconcile ourselves to casualty, but i’ve come to find this approach rather naive. why are we expected to ignore or dull our feeling of emptiness? why is it considered healthier to act as if we aren’t shaken?

it’s sobering enough that we die with so few people who care about us even before taking into account that the bereaved are being advised not to worry, are being told that we are now in a better place free of pain, are implored to choose the route that distances them from their sorrow and connection to the departed. i think to promote these as the only viable options is to reject humankind’s capacity for resiliency. certainly we can relive or immerse ourselves in difficult emotional situations in our past without causing massive disruption in our own life. we can be productive even if periodically held captive by depression.

in every culture and throughout history there exist rules governing mourning, determining such things as length of the mourning period, clothing, and behavior. these practices are seen as statements of respect, solidarity, and commemoration, but if that is indeed the case, then why do they require a finite duration? it seems arbitrary (and heartless) to conclude that we cannot, in our own way, lament eternally. otherwise we eventually become like the mail carrier in bernhard’s story, pretending that nothing has changed, imagining that, this afternoon, the phone will ring, our mothers waiting for us to answer and tell them what we ended up making for dinner last night.

my year as a bronze god.

15 March 2009

the difference between the way the united states and canada each view nationalism has always puzzled me. growing up in canada i was accustomed to seeing the iconic maple leaf everywhere — incorporated into the logos of fast food chains like mcdonalds and pizza hut, tattooed on people’s arms, in the trees.

in the united states that connection to home is not as innate. patriotism often comes as a knee-jerk reaction to a world or local event, to be seen only on american independence day or following a terrorist attack. then signs will start appearing on lawns, proclaiming the great nation, susceptible to nothing. it’s so transitory (certainly there’s a difference between wearing a t-shirt that reads, these colors don’t run, a couple of times a year and inserting colored pigments into punctured skin to create permanent patterns) and somewhat fabricated.

perhaps it’s the northern country’s underdog spirit that gives its citizens an authentic sense of community. there’s something in our blood, especially after we move away maybe, that forms affinities to actors and bands simply because we possess a shared homeland. i cannot explain fully why i instantly fell in love (i mean, more or less; work with me) with avril lavigne’s music upon first viewing her video for complicated, weeks before i knew she was born in ontario. or why the presence of sarah polley increased my appreciation for the sweet hereafter (a legitimately great film) and go (likely underrated but in no way a legitimately great film). why is it that i feel the need to comment when one’s nationality matches my own, like continuously mentioning how ryan gosling and i are brethren?

the only thing i can come up with — and i understand that this is far-fetched, not to mention a bit scary that i actually believe this — is that there exists a current that keeps us in tune with each other’s movements and empathetic to each other’s struggles to succeed in a country smaller than our own, but more populous and — we may as well admit it — more important.

i’ve lived in the southeastern united states for over two decades. obviously the area has influenced me quite a bit, but it remains at arm’s length. at the same time, my birth country is distant to me, as if covered in gauze.

a little over a year ago i began a campaign to connect further with my adopted terrain by visiting a tanning bed two times a week on average. i’ve since ended that misguided attempt, my skin returning to its previous northern light. for a little while though my stomach was a few shades darker. i’m not entirely certain why this part of my body darkened more easily, but i’m sure there is evidence of fat tanning quicker but i’m unwilling to discover that truth.

rather than bringing me closer to this place though, it robbed me of thirty dollars a month, and i still, from time to time, was met with the you’re-not-from-around-here vibe, which wasn’t leavened by my compulsion to repeatedly listen to one great city! (about winnipeg, manitoba) by the weakerthans or sing alanis morissette songs at karaoke night.

it’s my destiny, then, to remain a stranger in a strange land, wherever i happen to be, detached from everything and thus able to comment unbiasedly. it’s also my destiny — or perhaps my birthright — to blind everyone that looks directly at me, sort of like the sun or a greek god.

the music of my youth.

12 March 2009

i’m sure you realize that i didn’t wake up some morning recently, newly quirky and idiosyncratic; i’ve been like this for quite a long time, likely since conception. the first compact disc i purchased was m c hammer’s please hammer, don’t hurt ’em, but before that — that is, before cassettes disappeared — there were two songs that i wanted to hear repeatedly. i was reminded of them both today as they were played in succession on the satellite radio station we listened to at work, each offering evidence of the child i was and influencing the adult i would become. both incarnations of myself are, admittedly, a bit strange and show that, over the years, to my credit perhaps, i haven’t really changed much.

one area where i have changed, however, is my dismissal of certain advancements in technology. for instance, i’ve been posting writing on the internet for a long time but i’ve been reluctant, for no good reason, to embrace everything the medium allows. for today, at least, i’m going to change that, ignoring my inner pleas for continuing to do things the same way and attempting to shake off my fears.

with that makeshift disclaimer, i present you the videos for the songs to which i alluded in the first paragraph. feel free to judge me accordingly (but realize i’ve heard all your gay jokes previously).

a psychologist’s warning: whatever you do, don’t blame yourself

a historian’s perspective: mississippi, circa 1870

a short history of bull.

9 March 2009

in high school, everyone had to choose a future job, research the position, and be interviewed. owing to the fact that question-and-answer sessions with writers who haven’t written anything is extremely boring, i decided to become a rodeo clown, if only for the duration of the project. on tape i talked about avoiding injuries: we were trained professionals, i proposed, respecting the animals and always remembering their penchant for the unpredictable. i must have been a decent liar, because, even weeks later, others were asking me if that was what i really wanted to be when i grew up.

standing outside of work, i thought about my former faux-occupation while watching the mechanical bull at a neighboring bar. it bucks and pivots with a girl astride its robotic back. there seem to be a few requirements for those who want to ride: a short dress must be worn and also thong underwear. the guy controlling the beast’s movements eventually stops it with its head down, leaving the girl’s ass visible to the raucous crowd. he then further cements his place in their hearts by causing the animal to shake, the girl jiggling along with it. i’ve seen this occur countless times with almost identical results. the rider soon lands onto the padding with her dress up over her head. due to his behind-the-curtain machinations and his adeptness at choreographing the eight-second show, like an expert puppeteer, i refer to him as the wizard of bull.

now my attentions have turned — and it shouldn’t be surprising considering my past and present affinities for bulls — to planning a trip to spain, particularly for the festival of san fermin in pamplona to participate in the running of the bulls. when i’ve floated this idea to friends though they’ve acted like i am crazy.

i was looking through pictures of gorings (to prepare) when i came upon this. seriously who wears jeans to an encierro? did he not realize that he would be trying to avoid three-thousand-pound animals with sharpened horns on their heads? bulls are very fashion-conscious creatures, and as such, impaling someone is their pointed way of saying, your style does not please me today. i will be fine as long as i can find a nice red scarf.

another thing working in my advantage is that i once was able to run a mile in about six-and-a-half minutes. the bull run is only half that length. plus i will be wearing shoes, while the bull must trod along the cobblestone roads on hooves. also, i can quote passages from the sun also rises to lull everyone else to sleep.

if time permits me to travel by foot, i’d like to make pamplona a stop along the el camino de santiago (way of st. james), a pilgrimage to the cathedral of santiago de compostela in the northwest of spain where it is said that the remains of the apostle st. james are buried.

the separation of teacher and bleacher.

6 March 2009

i don’t mind admitting that i don’t understand the purpose of college sports.

it goes without saying that i believe universities should focus on academics rather than sponsoring what is basically a minor league team. baseball and hockey have a well-defined system of private businesses and individuals coming together to bankroll semi-pro teams where athletes can mature and learn the fundamentals of their game before possibly one day being called up to the big leagues. basketball and football, to my knowledge, lack this structure, and instead use academic institutions and taxpayer funds in order to achieve the same. some will argue that revenues generated from these events help fund other pursuits, such as science equipment and music halls, but after calculating all the costs associated with these sports, from facilities to trips to other schools, i can’t imagine many of these teams have much in the way of surplus funds. why would they hire fundraisers who canvas the community for more money if they are not only self-sufficient but wealthy enough to prop up under-performing areas?

coaches at the university level are paid; athletes, because they are students, are not, though they are reimbursed with scholarships and stipends, inflated gpas, and simple jobs. the legality of these avenues of payment are debateable, but if we remove the university from this equation and make the students into the athletes that we are treating them as anyway, then they can receive a contract from a minor league organization. give people the choice where they can enter college in hopes of obtaining a degree and perhaps participate in intramural sports along the way or let them train in hopes of guaranteeing a position on the squad for the upcoming season and work their way toward achieving their dream as a professional athlete.

it’s depressing that a school’s ranking in the associated press poll is seen as more of an accomplishment than the fact that one of its professors is a nobel laureate or that research there has brought an end to — or abatement of — some disease. people will readily pack the stands or watch a contest on television but are more than hesitant to attend a lecture or other event that the college was initially constructed to hold.

i thought about all the above while sitting at a bar while duke university and the university of north carolina at chapel hill, the blue devils and the tarheels if you will, played basketball. i was surrounded by people who were fervent admirers of one side while harboring animosity for the opposition, people who were alumnis of neither school but rallied behind them nonetheless. it wasn’t the school they were rooting for necessarily, and it couldn’t be the players for whom they were attached because none of them played more than four years before advancing.

perhaps people are able to identify with sports heroes due to nostalgia, due to their childhood practices and championship games. sports offers a chance to relive those moments vicariously through someone who is better than us. scholastics cannot do that. when pierre de fermat’s last theorem was finally proven in 1995, not one of us was fondly reminded of the house where we grew up, sitting at a desk, puzzling away to solve it.

midnight’s child.

3 March 2009

salman rushdie’s female characters are often, if not always, strong, able to influence with their charm and/or beauty. their gifts are not only reserved for men — or humans for that matter –, for everything is susceptible, including animals and illnesses (in his latest novel, the enchantress of florence, rushdie surmises about one young woman that maybe diseases loved her too, which was why she was dead before she was twenty-four years old).

in his work, every woman has some degree of magic contained within her, whether she can tell your fortune by looking at vegetables, land safely after falling off a precipice, remain as alive when a ghost as she was when she was corporeal, or lead others pied-piper style to follow her. maybe it’s this way of thinking that causes someone to marry four times, like he has. maybe i have him to blame then for my own exploits and mercurial tendencies. can i legitimately be faulted because i made the mistake of first picking up one of his books, the moor’s last sigh, when i was an impressionable sixteen-year-old boy, and, from it, learned that each girl is both charismatic and demented in her own special way? is it any wonder that ever since i flipped through those pages i’ve wanted to search the geography of each body to find the spot marked with an x that conceals a treasure chest? it’s as if within my heart resides a rainbow with its terminus located elsewhere, in another heart, and i am charged with discovering the pot of gold.

i didn’t have the chance to tell him any of the above as i was quickly ushered through the line during a book signing. he had just spoken at length about the world, politics, terrorism, and humanity, and now he was seated at a table waiting for books, open to the title page, to be placed in front of him. i’d like to think that when i shook his hand, some degree of appreciation was passed to him. this was my meeting-a-rock-star moment, fainting as elvis presley’s hips swivel but without the fainting (thankfully, i’m a bit more stoic and, probably, suffer less from feelings of inferiority).

he is the reason i began writing, the reason i have adopted this silly way of communicating with excessive commas and parenthetical references, the reason i continue extending metaphors far after i’ve baffled the majority of my audience. i share his uneasy relationship with pop culture (in his speech he referred to paris hilton as a second-rate person named after a second-rate hotel, but despite this notion continues to be aware of her career). his efforts made me even more captivated by puns: in the moor’s last sigh he calls someone who is part jewish and part catholic a cathjew nut; the enchantress of florence includes a song called my sweet polenta with lyrics like if she was a letter i would have sent her, if she was a coin i would have spent her.

he is the (partial) reason i possess the capacity to love every single one of you equally, if only for a short time. there are countless secrets below the surface, and i am willing to swallow the world’s collective and individual pain, to endure the struggle and the success, in order to reveal them, because i understand that each one of you has a story that you yearn to tell and each one of you has something up your sleeve, some feat of legerdemain, that only i can experience.

little-man complex.

1 March 2009

in christopher bell’s bigger, stronger, faster, the writer/director examines the culture of steroids in this country and concludes, often while citing dubious evidence, that the use of such drugs is merely a side effect of being american. he proposes emphatically that blame should be put on our obsession to be the best at everything, but his arguments, which at first appear compelling, become tiresome quickly and devolve into scapegoating. he suggests that america’s affinity for winning undermines our ability to make moral or ethical distinctions of any kind.

chris, who has given up steroids, and his brothers, who both continue to use, are the main subjects of the film. their heroes, among them, hulk hogan, sylvester stallone, and arnold schwarzenegger, are highlighted, as they encourage children to take vitamins if they want to grow stronger. how can we not use performance-enhancing drugs, it’s repeated throughout the movie, when the people who have achieved the results we want for ourselves are? has breaking the rules become the only way to realize the american dream? is it still cheating if everyone is doing it?

surely, the previous questions are thought provoking, and an even examination of these topics should produce a successful and informative film, but the treament of the material is often so juvenile and biased that it is rendered comical. he sometimes makes wwe chairman, vince mcmahon, look like he took truth serum before appearing in front of congress during his trial regarding steroid use in his sport. in portions steroids are viewed as comparable to tiger woods undergoing laser-eye surgery to improve his vision to twenty-fifteen, the use of anxiolytics by professional musicians to calm nerves before a concert, and this country requiring fighter pilots to take amphetamines.

chris saves his harshest criticism, however, for the health industry, attempting to debunk claims that the drugs come with inherent health risks, but providing little beyond anecdotes (i.e. his brothers are taking steroids and doing just fine) to support his claims. at some point he also reveals that even vitamin c has adverse effects on the body, making it irresponsible, in his view, to promote one while criminalizing the other. it should come as no surprise that some of the people that worked on this film also helped michael moore with his poorly-researched propaganda.

the movie’s best sequences involve the boys’ parents. they both are opposed to steroid use, but that doesn’t keep them from cheering, brimming over with joy, when their son lifts seven hundred pounds over his head. at the dinner table they give the children an opportunity to confess their actions but they are met with ignorance and lies, even though, purportedly, they do not think they are doing anything wrong — or at least that their actions are excusable.


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