Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Our marginalized server: a pointless play in one libelous act

INTERIOR: Local Mexican Eating Establishment


ANDY - John's eldest brother. Has receding and wild hair, creating an effect vaguely similar to "Doc Brown" from "Back to the Future". Has a beard, obviously subscribing to the "total average" theory of head hair.

JOHN - Andy's youngest brother. Was once told he looks like John F. Kennedy, Jr., but now wears a beard that one might see on George Clooney, in any film besides "O, Brother: Where Art Thou?"

DORA - Attractive mid-20s waitperson. Despite the busyness of the eatery, she seems to only have two tables. Bears a striking and heavy-lidded resemblance to a seemingly stoned Apple commercial testimonial, who was later revealed to have been taking Benedryl. DORA is very happy and pleasant, but not effusively so. She is the definition of mellow.

[JOHN and ANDY are shown to a booth. They disrobe from their heavy winter gear.]

ANDY: I can't believe we ran three marathons today! I can't believe some people can't even finish one!

JOHN: Indeed. Were I to run only two, I probably would have fallen asleep on my feet from lack of challenge. Should we swim to Scotland tomorrow?

ANDY: I think we better had! I hear that... [he stops with the approach of DORA]

DORA: [smiling as one does when first awoken] Hi! Welcome to Tecano's Southerwestern Mexi-sperience. I'm Dora. [she continues smiling as several beats go by]

JOHN: [breaking the silence] Uhh... hi.

DORA: [as though meeting an old friend] Oh, hey! How's it going?

JOHN: [a beat] ... Fine. I'd like water.

ANDY: [blinking] I would also.

DORA: [seemingly relieved and accepting of the choice] Greeeaaat. I'll be back.

[DORA leaves]

JOHN: [hesitantly] Does our waitress seem a little...

ANDY: [nods once] Yes. She seems very ... relaxed.

[dinner continues. The food is excellent, and DORA is an extremely attentive waitress. JOHN remarks that his water glass has never been empty, which is a challenge for spicy mexican food.]

[DORA brings the bill to the table.]

DORA: Thanks! Just pay me when you're ready.

ANDY: Dora? This isn't quite right. The house salad, when ordered with the entree, should only be $2.50, not $4.00.

DORA: [thinking] Umm...

ANDY: It's listed at the bottom of the menu.

DORA: [cheerfully dismissive] Oh! Ok. No. Sure! Right. I'll fix it.

[ANDY isn't sure she actually understood at all, but it's warm in the restaurant and cold outside, so staying a bit longer isn't difficult.]

[An inordinate amount of time passes. DORA only has two tables, and the other table has long since left, reducing her work load by half. A simple item change shouldn't take five minutes. More chips and salsa are eaten.]

DORA: [returning, in the same tone as before] Thanks! Just pay me when you're ready.

[ANDY sees that the bill is now correct. He figures the tip, calculating 20% on the before-tax amount, because DORA was very attentive.]

[ANDY pauses, then laughs]

JOHN: What?

ANDY: I figured the tip. It came out to four-twenty.

JOHN: Heh! She'll probably think that's the greatest tip ever.

[JOHN and ANDY share a laugh over the possibility their waitress was taking Benedryl, with ANDY remarking that DORA bore some similarities in behavior to other Benedryl enthusiasts from his managerial times.]

[Outside, the wind is bitterly cold]


Monday, December 22, 2008

Oh, that's a shame.

Labeled on the on the Fail Blog as "Spelling Fail".

fail owned pwned pictures

You were nicer the first time we met for the first time!

I had a delightful night last night. I happened to run into a girl I've been interested in while at a party, and we talked and laughed and generally had an excellent "first date". She's pretty much everything I thought she'd be.

But that's to be expected and is actually the problem.

See, last night's excellent meeting and all the conversation and all the good vibrations were all a dream. I know, it's a rather sitcom plot line ("but it was all a dream!"). I was very disappointed this morning, much more so than the usual displeasure at leaving a nice dream.

I was disappointed because my sub-conscious took it upon itself to "fill in" what a first date would be like. I'm not worried those dreamlets will, in any way, infringe upon the actual experience, which I'm sure will be very different and distinct. What worries me is that my brain may have set me up for disappointment.

There was a story last week about a study that concluded that movies of the "Romantic Comedy" genre were somewhat detrimental to the health of relationships, creating impressions of unachievable standards of what relationships should be like. My sub-conscious may have done the same thing.

Usually, my dreams aren't distinguished by overly optimistic events. They're mostly mundane and straightforward, even to the point of brutality (especially concerning dreams about my poor teeth!). Friends and family who appear in my dreams behave like themselves; they don't suddenly become much more like I'd *wish* them to be. For example, I've had dreams where I invite people out for a party, but they can't make it, so I end up dreaming about myself staying home and puttering the night away. It's not all sunshine and rainbows.

The difference here is that I don't actually know this particular lady very well. That suggests to me that my brain may have had very little to work with and decided to get creative. That would be harmless, ordinarily: it's just a dream.

But will I be quietly dogged by the "first" meeting that went so well?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

All the fuss began when cute little Adolf Hitler was denied birthday cake...

I know what you're thinking, but it wasn't *that* Adolf Hitler. I don't know if his problem was lack of cake.

I'm talking about little Adolf Hitler Campbell of New Jersey. He's just turned three, and his parents wanted a cake with a frosting message just for him. But the evil local supermarket, ShopRite, called it "inappropriate" and refused to decorate a cake for little Adolph. The store did offer to make a cake with enough room for Mr. and Mrs. Campbell to decorate it themselves, but the Campbells refused, taking their business to a Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart obliged them with the Hitler-cake.

This kind of story is why context in news is vitally important. Up till this point, this couple has just named their child after one of the most reviled men in history, which some parents would actually do as a "joke", I'm sure. Mr. Campbell himself says, "people should look forward, not back, and accept change." Indeed, that's the sort of philosphy I have, too. The world will change. Little Adolph Hitler Campbell can't grow up to be the leader of a fascist Germany: that ship has sailed. He has his whole life ahead of him. Maybe he grows up to be the next mother Theresa! Wouldn't that be interesting? "Are you referring to Adolph Hitler the dictator, or Adolph Hitler the peacemaker?"

So far, I'm with the Campbells. Though they seem to have a rather extreme sense of humor, they are getting people to talk about it. Can you even see a child named "Adolph" without thinking of Hitler? Is it wrong to have one name struck out of the books forever?

Granted, the Campbells have two other daughters, who also have ... interesting names. There's little JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell: she also was denied a birthday cake for [ahem] some reason. Then there's baby Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell, who may take the cake for the most "Is that a mistake?" thoughts in one name. First, the Campbells seem to have the "xxxx-lynne" name fetish. And what a "honsz"? Is that the sound a goose with a lisp makes?

And then there's "Hinler". It's apparently meant to reference Heinrich Himmler, the infamous mastermind behind the "Final Solution", which is pretty tacky for a name, though that sort of absolutist value description doesn't work well in a discussion already filled with people called Hitler and Aryan Nation. So, following the theme, I can see how they'd pick "Himmler" as a name. Except they didn't. They chose "Hinler". And, correct me if I'm wrong, but Himmler's name certainly isn't Hinler. But perhaps I'm thinking too much.

So, these parents have questionable naming ideas and a strange sense of either humor or name-equality. But then, context for the UK Telegraph article arrives in the form of other articles from other papers.

From The Australian: "He said he named his son after Adolf Hitler because he liked the name and because 'no one else in the world would have that name'."

From USA Today: the above picture of the happy parents and child.

From the NY Daily News: the father disbelieves in the Holocaust, decorates the home with swastikas, and insists they are not racist though they don't believe in "mingling" the races.

They's just good people, really.

As an aside, I originally thought this story was VASTLY more interesting that it really is, because I skimmed the article and looked at the photo. From a cursory glance, I thought the Campbells were a lesbian couple, since I couldn't immediately identify the male face. Lesbian nazis and cake would have made it much more of a "grab ya" story.

Instead, it's just garden variety racism and white supremacy. Ho hum.

P.S. On the subject of mistaken identity, I had difficulty telling Honszlynn from Adolph in these photos from the Lehigh Valley Express-Times.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What kind of woman am I looking for?

I was out to dinner on Monday night with my friends Dave and Lindsay. They were married this summer, but before they were married they had been dating for years and years. Now that they're married, they've become the couple that everyone agrees is really special. Of course, in our hearts, we curse them for being so fantastically happy. But in our heart-of-hearts, we know we're just compensating for the frustration over the fact that finding a really good romance is a little bit of skill and a lot of luck.

The conversation eventually turned to something that (apparently) I haven't given much thought lately. At least, Lindsay's question caught me completely by surprise. We were talking about my brothers and dating and how much that changes people, then we shifted over to people I've dated and what that said about me, etc. Standard conversations, really. Then I got asked a question which I later felt I should have had a prepared answer to, like at a job interview.

Lindsay asked me what type of woman I am looking for. "Besides tall," she helpfully added.

And I drew a blank. It's not a subject I've given a whole lot of thought lately, having been rather busy with my lecture recital preparation. But even that is a bit of a non-answer, because I didn't really ever give it much thought BEFORE I got really busy.

Every once and a while, an innoccuous utterance gets trapped inside my brain, bouncing around from all sides. I can't shake it, like what happens when I get a song stuck in my head. During periods of passive thinking, there it is again! Popping right back into my head. This has been one of those questions.

Usually when people get asked this question, they have a go-to response: "I like redheads." "She needs to be hella rich!" "I seek the companionship of an elf trapped in a human body; just like me."

I like brown hair. I like blond hair. Long hair is beautiful, but short hair is very fetching. A knowledge of music is nice, but tone-deafness is not a disqualification. I just don't think about classifying the people I meet. I couldn't tell you how many of the women I know have brown hair, for example. Or how many wear glasses. Or how many wear expensive shoes. That sort of thing doesn't really make an impression on me.

I can tell you which of the women has a short temper. Which one refuses to tip waiters. Which one likes to watch the moon at any opportunity. Which one has a secret disdain for email. These are the sort of things I notice, and for the most part, I don't think of the women who exhibit these traits as belonging to a category *of* those traits. Jane has a short temper, but that doesn't mean she's at all similar to Eliza, who also has a short temper.

To Lindsay's question, I think I gave a rambling mumble about "nice demeanor, good sense of humor, fantastically wealthy". It's the sort of list that just about everyone makes when asked to check the boxes concerning possible mates. That proves that we should just not mention anything at all, because traits that vague are bound to suit all sorts of people. Most likely, we're all holding out for something more. Possibly something we can't even put our finger on.

I don't know if that's my cop-out answer. By way of an example, I floated a name of someone I was interested in to my friends, as an indication of someone that might be classified into "my type". "That's the sort of person who interests me," I said. "Someone who isn't ashamed of disagreeing with me," I continued, echoing something I've discussed on this blog before.

"She's very nice," said Dave, without any trace of irony or particular earnestness. I have no idea what he meant or what he was thinking. The conversation drifted on from there, so I suppose whatever point we had been trying to arrive at had been reached.

My friends then related a story about an acquaintence of theirs, who's apparently tall, looks like a model, and is very friendly. Apparently too friendly, because she tends to accumulate a flock of guys who think she's more interested than she is.

Speaking as a guy, being the object of any kind of interest from a woman I'm interested in is just about the best thing in the world. It tends to give wild release to all kinds of latent scenarios of affection and couplehood. The problem comes because when we're moving at breakneck speed in our own brains, there tends to be little room for the finer details between "we should be a couple" and "we should be a couple of buddies!"

I've drifted off my topic a bit and this is my segue to get back on.

I'm still at a loss as to what I should have said in answer to the question. I don't fear my friends running with the information and fixing me up on a bevvy of blind dates, now that they're armed with some sort of knowledge of my preference. I just couldn't come up with a satisfactory description of "what I'm looking for". I'd probably be terrible at filling out Internet dating site questionaires for just this reason.

It is (if a reference to a pornography supreme court decision can be used in a topic about love) something I'll know when I see. Or perhaps I'll know it when I know it. Either way, I don't think creating a list, which by definition creates boundaries, will be very helpful or even possible. If I rule out Irish descent and stop looking there, will I miss a golden opportunity?