Archive for February, 2010

Self-Destructive Behavior (SRBs & RSOs)

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

The Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) are the pair of large rockets used by space shuttles during the first two minutes of powered flight. Together they provide about 83% of liftoff thrust for the shuttles.

SRBs are equipped with self-destruct mechanisms. This is to protect people on the ground in case the rockets become out of control. A Range Safety Officer (RSO) monitors the performance of rockets in flight, and is responsible for their distant destruction if it is decided that the rockets pose a hazard. He/she can simply press a button on a remote device and the potential danger is erased.

I mentioned that I have been feeling self-destructive lately. This is not to be misunderstood with a desire to harm oneself. Self-destructive behavior is often used as a coping strategy. A coping strategy is a behavioral tool which can be used to neutralize or overcome a disability without correcting or eliminating the underlying condition.

Not long after I began this blog, an old friend diagnosed my disability. I was thinking about it yesterday. “Someone once told me I was emotionally retarded,” I said to Elliot. “I think they were right.”

With self-destructive behavior, people knowingly do things that will cause them to fail or bring them trouble.  Due to my current lifestyle, I sometimes feel at risk of failure, and it seems that trouble is on my heels. There have been many late-nights of drinking recently, and a few mild outbursts when my emotions get aggravated or confused by what they see or hear. These drunken episodes make me think of the SRBs, out of control.

I don’t want to hurt the people on the ground. I need a Range Safety Officer to monitor me these days. Someone to know when to shut me up; someone to know when to press the button.

Top 5 Reasons Why I’d Rather Be A T-1000

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Recently I have come to the realization that being a T-1000 terminator would be a better existence than living life as a human.

I have listed the top five reasons which support this conclusion below:

  1. Shapeshifting. In Terminator 2: Judgement Day, viewers witness the T-1000’s mimetic poly-alloy body transform into multiple characters throughout the film.  This is how it gains trust in order to obtain desired information or access to certain areas.  Some may think this a very deceptive and dishonest means of getting what one wants, but I would never use it for harm.  I see it simply as a way to help others (“I might not be able to help you move your sofa, but I know a big strong man that can be of assistance!”) and accomplish various household tasks that I am either phisically too weak to do, or too short, etc.
  2. Fashion and accessories. The T-1000 has the capability to extrude small, simple items from itself.  In the movie, the T-1000 creates a helmet and a pair of sunglasses as needed.  The mimetic poly-alloy could also simulate clothing.  Those who know me well are aware of my obsession with new dresses.  Additionally, I enjoy accessorizing with cute shoes and jewelry.  It thrills me to imagine how easy styling myself could be if I were made of mimetic poly-alloy.  Because I could transform my body without difficultly into a human dressed in any outfit imaginable, closet space would never be an issue.
  3. Liquifying abilities and assuming other forms. In T:2 we see the T-1000 liquefy to fit through narrow openings, walk through prison bars, flatten itself on the ground to hide, and morph its arms into blades.  That considered, losing house keys would never be a problem, as I could just liquefy and slide underneath my door or walk through the bars of my front gate.  If faced with danger I could calmly melt and hide.  And when in need of the perfect kitchen knife for a particular job, I could transform my hand into the best tool.
  4. Wounds heal rapidly. The film portrays numerous scenes in which the T-1000 is shot, dismembered, and shattered, but its fragments flow back together with ease.  I often fall apart in one way or another.  Picking up the pieces is an arduous task, and I usually lose a bit of myself in the process.  As a T-1000, I would be eternally whole; unbroken.
  5. Absence of human emotion. In Terminator 2, the T-1000 possess a large range of emotional expression and interpersonal skills, but it certainly does not feel the sentiments of a human being.  Lately I have been sifting through unfortunate sadness, confusion, and regret.  This is not to say that I am devoid of all merriment, but the aforementioned emotions are at times so dominating that they arrest my abilities to accomplish educational and professional tasks.  It is with this mindset that I recognize the extreme benefits of being a T-1000 as opposed to a human being.  Without these feelings, efficiency in all that I do would never be influenced emotionally.

Oh how I wish I was a T-1000.

T-1000, mimetic poly-alloy (above), in human form (below)

Things That Were Said

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

“When I told him I quit my job, he said ‘Make sure you change out of your pajamas.’”

“It’s as big a deal as you make it.”

“I can’t believe I almost let it happen again.”

“Drummers are a thing apart from the rest of the band. They’re an island amongst the sea of rock and roll glamor.”

“Well at least now you know.”

“Every person you meet on your path to enlightenment is a teacher.”

“Love is rubbing the soap in your own eyes before bathing the one that you love.”

“I don’t know what to say. I’ve got nothing prepared.”

“Jello: It’s the official food of the Navy Seals.”

“It’s like they want all the perks of having a girlfriend without calling someone their girlfriend.”

“We’ll be go-go dancers too. We’ll be the best go-go dancers because we have heart. We got fucking heart.”

“There’s something to be said about magic.”

“I don’t understand how two people like each other so much, but it still doesn’t work.”

“It’s a familiar feeling. Like I could cry at any moment. But I don’t.”

“It’s a juicer. Well, it’s either a juicer, or a time machine.”

“If you were one of those dolls where you pull a string on its back and it says something, it would say ‘If you were one of those dolls where you pull a string on its back…’”

“Fried chicken and wine make me feel fancy.”

“You’re really good at disappearing.”

“Sometimes things are so good, you think they won’t get bad again. And sometimes things are so bad, you think they won’t get good again.”

“Your boobs are doing it tonight.”

“Well, you did it. Just like last time, you did it.”

“Just keep dancing.”

“I’ll miss you very much.”

Katy & Rocky (for Andrea)

Monday, February 15th, 2010

In late-July 2008, 19-year old Katy was reunited with her 3-year old son, Rocky.

Prior to their reintroduction, they were both living and working in Hollywood in the entertainment industry.

Katy and Rocky are orangutans.

Both apes were formerly owned by a private company in Los Angeles that specialized in providing trained animals for entertainment and advertising. Rocky, whose resume includes a photo shoot with Fergie in Elle magazine and a Capital One credit card commercial in which he dons a tiara, is credited as being the most recognized orangutan in entertainment today.

The mother and son’s new address is at the Great Ape Trust, a scientific research institute studying great ape behavior and mental abilities, in Des Moines, Iowa. The move is a result of their previous home, Steve Martin’s Working Wildlife in Los Angeles, discontinuing the use of orangutans in entertainment.

Dr. Robert Shumaker, a scientist and director of the Great Ape Trust, says that the end of the orangutans’ Hollywood career is a matter of conservation and public perception. Shumaker claims the we could easily see the end of orangutans in our lifetime.

“Seeing apes in entertainment may lead people to believe that conservation is not an issue for them,” he says. “If that diminishes concern for conservation, then that’s a problem.”

Currently there are only two surviving species of orangutans: the critically endangered Sumatran and the endangered Bornean. Their endangerment has occurred mostly over the past few decades due to human activities and development. Thousands of orangutans don’t reach adulthood due to human interruption. Orangutans are killed for food while others are murdered because of disruption in people’s property. Mother orangutans are killed so their infants can be sold as pets. Many of the infants die without the help of their mother.

Orangutans and humans share approximately 97 percent the same DNA. Orangutans are highly intelligent primates with advanced reasoning and thinking skills, and they are tool-using creatures. They bear amazing similarities to humans: baby orangutans cry, whimper, and smile just like human babies, and their facial expressions indicate happiness, fear, anger, surprise, and other emotions.

Obviously these apes have the capability to achieve Hollywood superstardom. Still, we won’t see orangutans trying to make it in Hollywood anytime soon.

Katy (above), Rocky (below)

How to Make a Valentine’s Day Card

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Earlier this week, I made a Valentine’s Day card for someone.

I am confident that if you still need to get something for your valentine, with a quick trip to the dollar store and an hour or two for assembly, by following my instructions below you can have a card ready before this Valentine’s Day ends.

Supplies:

scissors
glue stick
construction paper
an old magazine (to cut up)
crayons
wax paper
pencil sharpener
iron & ironing board
Valentine’s Day-themed stickers (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Tear off two pieces of wax paper approximately 12 inches in length.  They do not need to be identical as the edges will later be trimmed.
  2. Lay one piece of wax paper on the ironing board.  Sharpen red and/or pink colored crayons and collect the shavings onto the wax paper.  (I used red, pink, and red-violet.)  Arrange the shavings into a heart-shape approximately five inches high and three inches wide.
  3. Place the other piece of wax paper on top of the crayon shavings, so that the shavings are completely covered between the pieces of wax paper.
  4. With the iron on a low setting, lightly press it over the wax paper so that the crayon shavings melt and become a sort of abstract-heart.  Place it aside to let it cool.
  5. Choose a piece of construction paper (I used black) and fold it in half to create the base of the card.  Cut a heart approximately 3.5 inches high by 2.5 inches wide out of the front center.  (I used a heart template that I printed from the internet simply by googling “heart template”.)
  6. The wax-paper heart should be cooled off enough.  Trim the edges so the the heart is framed by a wax-paper rectangle approximately one inch smaller on the sides and three inches smaller on the top and bottom than a half of the construction paper.  Using the glue stick, glue the wax paper-heart onto the inside left-flap of the card so that it shows through the smaller cut-out heart.  Put aside to dry.
  7. Look through the magazine for large letters (like in headlines or advertisements).  Cut out the letters of your valentine’s name from various pages so that each letter is a unique font and/or color.
  8. Arrange the magazine letters on the front of the card above the cut-out heart.  Once you know how they will best fit, use the glue stick to glue them into place.
  9. If you found any Valentine’s Day-themed stickers, creatively place some of them onto the front of the card below the cut-out heart.  (The stickers I used were cartoon monsters all doing something different with cartoon hearts – one monster was blowing hearts out of his nose, one had a bouquet of heart flowers, and one was even holding a heart that he had taken a big bite out of!)  In the event that no appropriate stickers could be found, you can cut out cute images from the magazine or cut hearts out of old fabric to use in their place.
  10. Open the card.  Using a different color construction paper (I used red), cut a frame to glue around the wax paper-heart so that the edges of the wax paper are not exposed.  (I could not find a ruler nor am I good at cutting straight lines, so this was challenging for me.  Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be perfect.  Your valentine is sure to love it no matter what.)  This might take multiple attempts and/or trimming, but once you are happy with your frame, use the glue stick to glue it on the inside flap around the wax paper-heart.
  11. Choose a light-colored piece of construction paper (I used pink).  Fold it in half and cut it down the middle.  Then cut approximately one inch off of all four sides.  Using alternating-colored crayons for each word or letter, write a message to your valentine onto the rectangle.  If you mess up, you can always cut another piece and try again.  Once you are happy with your message, use the glue stick to glue it inside of the card opposite the wax paper-framed heart.  If you have any stickers left, place them around the inside of the card.

I never got around to writing anything in mine.  For reasons I would rather not discuss right now, my card will not be delivered to its intended recipient.

Still it’s so hard to just throw it away.

When It Rains, It Pours (“It’s Gonna Rain”)

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

I was sitting across from Mike at the Metropolitan last night.  ”When it rains, it pours,” I told him.

In 1964 in San Francisco’s Union Square, Pentecostal preacher Brother Walter delivered an intense sermon about the end of the world. He told the story of Noah’s Ark, in which God, saddened by the wickedness and sin of mankind, decided to send a great flood to destroy all life on earth.

Musician Steve Reich happened upon this sermon, and he recorded it. The result was a musical composition nearly 18 minutes in length.

Jason Gross from the online music magazine Perfect Sound Forever interviewed Reich in April 2000. Below is what Reich had to say about “It’s Gonna Rain”.

“It’s Gonna Rain” is about the end of the world.  In those days, the voice was recorded in ’64, you had the Cuban Missle Crisis and so it was very much a part of many peoples’ thinking at that time.  We were at the point where we could all turn into so much radioactive ash at any given time.  So while this guy is preaching about Noah, it’s not something abstract that has nothing to do with what’s going on in your life.

It was also a time that was fairly difficult for me personally.  So “It’s Gonna Rain,” especially the second half of it, is very bleak.  You’re literally hearing the world come apart.  Technically, it’s been said many times, the discovery of the phasing process was within that piece.  It happened with those two little Wollensack tape recorders I had.  I made identical loops and I thought I would line them up in a particular relationship.  Mainly with “it’s gonna fall” on top of “rain” with the two channel result being “it’s gonna… it’s gonna… rain… rain…” with 180 degrees separation.

I put on headphones (which were stereo with each ear with a separate plug going into the two machines).  By chance, two machines were lined up in unison.  So what I heard was this unison sound sort of swimming in my head, spatially moving back and forth.  It finally moved over to the left, which meant that the machine on the left was slightly faster passing in speed than the machine on the right.  So the apparent phenomenon in your head is the sound moving to the left, moves down your left shoulder and then across the floor!  Then after a while, it comes into an imitation and then finally after four or five minutes, you hear “it’s gonna… it’s gonna… rain… rain…”

By the time it got that far, I though to myself “this is unbelievable.”  Instead of a particular relationship, here is a whole way of making music, going from unison through all these contrapuntal relationships, all the way back to unison.  All the possible relationships, rational and irrational, are there.  So I immediately decided to experiment with just how fast that process should happen.  Then in the second half of the piece, it got much more complicated, going from two then to four then to eight voices and never coming back together again, which is more in keeping with the text.

In the first half of “It’s Gonna Rain”, Brother Walter tells how Noah was mocked for his absurdity in preaching and building the ark:

It’s gonna rain after a while, for forty days and forty nights.  And the people didn’t believe him, and they began to laugh at him.  And they began to mock him, and they began to say, “It ain’t gonna rain!”

When the second half begins, Noah has boarded the ark and the door has been sealed.  Brother Walter is increasingly frantic.  (This is reflected by Reich’s manipulations of the tape):

They didn’t believe that it was gonna rain, but glory to God!  Hallelujah!… But sho’ ‘nuff, it began to rain.  Hallelujah!  They began to knock up on the door, but it was too late.  The bible tell me they knocked up on the door until the skin came off their hands!  My Lord, my Lord, I say until the skin came off their hands!  They cried.  I can just hear their cry now.  I can hear them say “Oh no!  Will you just open the door?”  But Noah couldn’t open the door.  It had been sealed by the hand of God.  Glory to God!

By the end of the song, the text is undecipherable and drowned by flood of noise, which slowly fades into silence.

You can listen to “It’s Gonna Rain (Part I)” and “It’s Gonna Rain (Part II)” by clicking here (tracks 3 and 4).

Or you can listen by clicking here. (Rhapsody give you your first 25 downloads free.)

The Cure for Insomnia; Magicicadas

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

I couldn’t fall asleep last night.

My alarm clock projects the time on my ceiling.  Around 4:15 in the morning, I got out of bed and took two non-prescription sleeping pills.

Still, I did not fall asleep.

My thoughts drifted to the film The Cure for Insomnia. At 87 hours in length, it is the third longest movie ever made. There is no plot.   It simply consists of artist Lee Groban reading his 4,080 page poem over the course of three and a half days, spliced with stock footage from heavy metal videos and clips from pornographic movies.

I have never seen The Cure for Insomnia, although I have felt interest, especially on nights like the last.

Other thoughts came and went. My body was going numb as a result of the sleeping pills, but my mind remained somewhat functional. Another glance at the ceiling told me it was 5:45.

Next my mind wandered to Magicicadas. Earlier in the day, I had told Elliot that I thought they were going to take over the world.

Magicicadas emerge after 13 or 17 years underground in numbers as large as 1.5 million individuals per acre.

As one who fears all bugs, I imagine this a horrifying event to witness.

Often confused with the locust, the Magicicada is actually a type of periodical cicada. These insects have large eyes spaced far apart on the head and transparent, veined wings. They have three small eyes located on the top of the head between the two larger eyes, which match the larger ones in color. Cicadas are usually 1-2 inches long but some species can reach 6 inches.

The genus Magicicada are black with red eyes and yellow or orange stripes on the underside. The veins on the wings are orange. On average, adult Magicicadas are a little over an inch in size.

Once they emerge from their subterranean childhood, they live for only a few weeks, their sole purpose being reproduction. The males sing a mating song using a vibrating membrane called a tymbal. The sounds of this chorus can reach 100 decibels. (This is comparable to a jet takeoff at 1,000 feet away. The level at which sustained exposure may result in hearing loss is 90-95 decibels.) Females respond to the calls with timed wing-flicks, which in turn attract the males.

The next 13-year cicadas are scheduled to emerge in 2011 in the Midwest, Maryland, and Virginia. The next 17-year cicadas are scheduled to emerge in 2012 in western Virginia and West Virginia.

Not to worry – they are harmless insects; they do not bite or sting. They are not venomous, and there is no evidence that they transmit diseases. Although in my half-slumber dreams last night, they stood on hind legs and held machine guns.

I’m feeling self-destructive again. Stuck in circles. Waiting for the Magicicadas to emerge.

Excerpt from The Cure for Insomnia:

I wonder how come
the cartoonists of our most popular newspaper comic strips
never use Polish, Armenian, or Romany Gypsy names for their characters?
Why only Western European names?
“THAT all y’do all day? Soun’s like a drag…”
By the beard of the Lord Eordogh of Ordogkeresztur and Nagyeskulo,
it’s a drag.
By the beard of the Lord Cseffei of Totor and Noszalya,
it’s a drag.
By the beard of the Lord Bethlen of Kallo, Ecsed, Tokaj, Szendo, Murany, Szecseny, and Regecz,
it’s a drag.
By the beard of the Lord Tomori of Devecser, Besenyo, Gyanda, Borsfalva, Csobad, Felso-Homrogd, Also-Homrogd, Hegymeg, Berkes, Szakacsi, Kercs, Senye, Cseb, Nyilas, Abauj, and Borsod,
it’s a drag.
By the beard of the Lord Dolhai of Kereczke, Kusnicza, Zadnya, Kelecseny, Vizkoz, and Okormezo,
it’s a drag.

Magicicadas (above)

House of Cards Reprise (The NeverEnding Story)

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

I didn’t go to bed until 5:30 Sunday night.

The duck wasn’t busy, so I stayed until close, getting wasted enough to forget a particular episode from earlier in the weekend.  I was also trying to rid myself of the feelings that I not only hate to admit I have, but that I hate to admit I have no control over.  In my extreme state of intoxication, I decided to build a house of cards out of drink coasters.  My mind was convinced that I could make it work if I just tried hard enough.

Unfortunately, it kept falling apart.

“It’s a metaphor for my life,” I told him.  “I can’t make anything work.”

He picked up a stack of coasters and began building.  In moments, he had engineered a flawless structure.  “You’re just doing it wrong,” he told me.

I kept reminding myself of Berg’s claim: The more cards placed on a tower the stronger it becomes, because the weight of the cards pushing down on the base (increasing friction) allows occasional cards to stumble without the entire structure collapsing.

Still each time that I created a strong base and reenforced the walls, my house failed.  The more attempts I made at creation, the heavier the failure felt on my chest.  Each time I was left with nothing.

Considering the way this nothing consumed me, I began silently comparing my life to The NeverEnding Story.  Everything is a fantasy.  The Nothing is coming.  I can’t be like Artax in the swamp; I need to stop letting myself sink.  I need an Auryn.  Maybe if I keep imagining, if I keep wishing, then my dreams will become reality.  And I will have many amazing adventures.

And perhaps one day I will build a house strong enough to remain standing.