Sunday, February 2, 2014
Monday, February 14, 2011
Have I got a box of Valentines Day Chocolates for you! Actually, it's a recycled box. And it's not chocolate. And it doesn't really come in a box. Anyhow, for your amusement, I'm posting here a couple of Valentines Day related essays (manifestos?) I wrote back in 1998. Before I was married. Before I had a proper blog (which I have largely ignored for the past couple years). Before everyone else had a proper blog. I used to write this stuff and email it to everyone on my email list. Here it is, out of context. Enjoy.
xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox[Feb 10, 1998]ok...here we go.take a deep breath, and graciously accept this bouquet of roses from me, off-color and slightly wilted though they might be.on my drive into work today, i was told that what women want, what they really, really want (spice girls included) are 1K diamond earings from jewelry 3 [2011 Marc is unsure if Jewelry 3 is a store that exists any longer, but let's just say that the modern equivalent of said perfect gift is just about anything from the open hearts collection by Jane Seymour, available at Kay]. is that true ladies? just checking. see, i figure that if i give the right gift to the girl of my dreams, she will ignore my bad hair, crooked and slightly yellow teeth, my lack of washboard abs, my lack of adequate finances, the fact that i sing vaguely off-key, my collection of comic books, and poor self-image and will love me. and they cost only $97. apparently, the beatles were incorrect in assuming that they couldn't buy them love. of course, in the '80's, girls just wanted to have fun, and that was a bit more cost-effective. interesting when you think of the '80's as the decade of excess (and INXS), you wouldn't think economizing was such an issue. i gues cindy lauper was just ahead of her time. a real pioneer, that wacky girl was.but on to the matters at hand.in trying to make some sense of this whole valentine's day thing (something i have been trying to do for years, ever since the little tastless heart candy i got from dori bicek, in fourth grade said "hey dude" and the one that phil jones got said "be mine") i have researched the history of this blessed event. i have always felt, or rather, i have always been told, that if you understand the past, you are better prepared for the future.now, as with all history, particularly history seeped in legend, one encounters the problem of conflicting reports. so i have compiled all the facts at hand, cross referenced them, and then filled in the blanks to try to give you an accurate, reliable, and archeologicaly supported historical reference.the significance of february 14 dates back to before anybody thought to canonize Valentine (whose identity is in doubt anyway), possibly as far back as the fourth century b.c.. way back then, you see, romans had a lot to offer the world. domination, conquest, funny hats (they still have those, only you have to be a pope to wear them), latin and many, many, many gods. on february 14, one of these gods got a party thrown in her honor. juno, apparently the queen of the roman gods, known most for her support of the female gender in general, and the institution of marriage, specifically. i don't know what this particular shindig involved, but if the women's only parties i have spied on are any indication, i suspect paper hats, toilet paper, and strange party games were involved. what i do know about this day, is that towards the evening, the women, or girls, as the case may be, would write their names on a peice of paper (separate peices of paper, of course) and they would place them in a large shoebox decorated with hearts cut out of construction paper, elmer's glue, and glitter (if they wanted to get really fancy.) the neighborhood boys would then wander by, dressed to impress, collars turned up on their togas and sandles shined up for the occasion, perhaps a bit of sheep lard to hold their hair in place, and they would reach in the box and grab a slip of paper. the young lady whose name they drew would be their partner for the upcoming festivities of the feast of Lupercalia, which began the next day. other historical documents suggest that this young lady was to be the man's companion for the year, after which another lottery would take place. this hardly seems in keeping with the idea of juno as the goddess of marriage, but who is going to argue with ancient romans? a guy with a time machine, maybe.at this time, i would like to voice my opposition to the "grab bag" method of choosing a date, and possibly a mate. true, those guys too shy to ask a girl to dance don't end up sulking in the olive groves, loathing themselves for their lack of courage. but on the other hand, it seems to take the choice out of the whole thing for the women. and what happens if there is an uneven number between the sexes in that town. this could lead to trouble.the feast of Lupercalia was apparently a rite of passage for young men, and a festival in worship to the god lupercus, who, if honored properly, would protect flocks, and keep animals and people healthy and fertile. lupurcus really liked singing and dancing, so the romans did that a lot. amidst the singing and the dancing, goats and dogs were sacrificed, and the young men would make straps out of the skins, and they would run around the streets and then lash the women with those straps. apparantly, lupurcus liked that as much as he liked singing and dancing, so he would be pleased and would ensure fertility and easy child delivery to those women who would subject themselves to such behavior. now, something else the romans believed was that on february 14, doves and owls mated. not with each other. with other doves and owls, respectively. so this seemed like a good idea to the romans, so those who were paired in the "lottery" would slip off together and imitate the owls and dove. i suppose that means that they would hoot and coo at each other. i can't imagine what else that would mean.this sort of thing went on for some time, but eventually, the roman gods fell out of vogue, and policy decisions began to be made by the Christian church, who also had a monopoly on party hats. They did not approve of this festival, but rather than do away with it completly, they dusted off good old saint valentine, and made a big deal out of him.but i'll get to that tomorrow.until then,make love, not warmarc.xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox
[Feb 11, 1998]hi, everyone. i hope you are all well. i have a splitting headache. well, not so much splitting as throbbing. have you ever had somebody repeatedly swing a rubber mallet at the inside of your brain? and then your brain bangs against the backs of your eyes? well, that's what i feel like. i have taken some painkillers, and intend to make another score soon, so don't worry about me. i will be comfortably numb soon enough.of course, the headache didn't exactly help with the drive in. and the rain. visiblity was so bad that i wasn't sure if the vague shapes in front of me were other cars, or if perhaps those red glowing blurs were the eyes of some sort of demonic creatures. running backwards. very fast. it could happen.and i kept repeating that nursery rhyme over and over in my head "rain, rain, go away..." it's been so long that i don't remember all the words, so that was pretty irritating. but then i began to think of the nature of children's songs, and i realized that they are little more than mantras that children repeat to themselves to conquer their fears. "ring around the rosey" is a little chant that dates back to when the black plague ravaged england. [2011 Marc has actually since heard evidence contradicting this, but as I don't know for sure, I choose to like the black plague story] "the itsy bitsy spider" casts a spider, a truly horrible creature (if you don't think spiders are horrible, rent "kingdom of the spiders" featuring william shatner in a role that will surprise you) as a determined hero. anyway, then i thought about how almost all "adult" songs deal with love in some way or another. and it occurred to me that like children, we sing about what we fear the most, which is, after all, love.which brings me back to this whole valentine's day thing. (that previous paragraph was somewhat contrived and not very well-written. for that i apologize, but i present my headache as an excuse for all my faults today. )in case anybody out there was wondering, of the ladies who have responded to my half-asked question, the vote is unanimous. the earrings that jewelry3 (stupid name, by the way) has been shilling are not the way to every woman's heart after all. i guess i have to take them all back. commercials have lied to me yet again. i'm going to have to stop believing everything i hear that happens to have a snappy jingle behind it.but the real issue here is whatever happened to good old saint valentine. well, here's the deal. i have several versions of his tale that, while similar, are to some degree in conflict. plus, it's not clear if there was more than one valentine.either way, like cupid, valentine, or valentinius, was a bit of a troublemaker. not so much because he flitted about shooting darts o' love into the hearts of unsuspecting potential lovers, but because the romans didn't much like christians. yet. so valentine was a christian, and as such (unlike many christians today) he was compassionate to his fellow man. woman. whatever. so he used to let the christians hide out at his swingin' bachelor pad when they were on the lam from the romans. to make matters worse, the emperor, one claudius II decided in his lead-poisoning induced madness, that if he abolished the practice of marriage, then he would have more soldiers in his army. without families, these men would have no excuse to not go about killing people. this, of course, seems a bit short-sighted to me. one would think this might lead to an eventual reduction in population, but he was the emperor, and who's to tell him that he has no clothes. well, valentinius, for one. Valentine took it upon himself to marry young couples who had such a desire. needless to say, this landed him in the pokey. the hoosegow. the slammer. the joint. the big house. whatever your favorite jail slang might be.once in jail, valentine was a model prisoner, and the jailer was impressed with this kind and peaceful man, and would allow his daughter to spend her days with him. see, she was blind, and as such was no good around the house, so she would go to work with dad. always a good place for a young girl, prison. anyway, either they became pals, or valentine fell in love with her. it's unclear. maybe she wasn't so young. maybe there's something about valentine we don't know. anyway, legend has it that the day before he was executed, valentine wrote her a letter in ink that he pressed from violets, and signed it "from your valentine". wich seems odd, because the girl was blind. but, with violet ink, at least she could smell the card. miraculously, thought, when valentine gave her the card, her sight was restored. now. again, the story diverges. either he was executed as scheduled, or the jailer, pissed off that his daughter had fallen in love with this prisoner, clubbed him to death.that's amore.but, i tire of the history lesson. suffice it to say that when christians took over, they decided that a feast to the roman gods was a bad idea, so they made a big deal out of valentine and turned the feast of lupercus into Saint Valentine's day.so for years and years, saint valentine had the honor reserved only for heads of state and rock stars, but probably because of his immense popularity, or because he was jaded by all the relationships gone sour that he was forced to oversee from his little pink room in heaven, he sold out. the catholics wouldn't stand for that, so they dropped him from their calender in 1969.that's all for today.more fun valentines facts tomorrow. probably.later.marc.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
or, how I alienated myself from the other Cub Scout parents.Last night, I attended a parents meeting Cub Scouts. My older son, Ross has been in Cub Scouts for three years, heading into his fourth. Jack is excited to start. Me? I'm a little bit to cynical for most of it, and find some of it to be busy work that, but the kids seem to generally like it. And I like building cars with them to compete in the pine wood derby.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Thank you for coming to see To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday. Like many, I was unfamiliar with this play when it was suggested as one of the possibilities for this season. I had seen the 1996 film version featuring Peter Gallagher and Michelle Pfieffer, and hadn't loved it. But when I read the script, I was interested to see that what didn't work so well in film could work differently on stage. I began to understand why this script was awarded the Oppenheimer Award for best play in 1983. And like you, I took a chance on a little known play.
Friday, February 29, 2008
-Smashing Pumpkins "Bullet with Butterfly Wings"
Again, I appear to have missed my calling. I came across a story today about some "research" done in Japan on the effects of alcohol, and whether or not one can actually drown one's sorrows.
So here's how they tested this:
The researchers, led by pharmacology professor Norio Matsuki, gave mild shocks to lab rats to condition them to fear. As a result, the rats would freeze in terror and curl up the moment they were put in their cages.
Researchers then immediately injected the rats with ethanol or saline.
Let me parse this a little bit. First, we have to consider from whose perspective should we consider the shocks "mild". Mild to humans (which can be at worst, uncomfortable, often beneficial, and in some cases pleasurable)? Because I'm not sure if a shock considered "mild" for a rat would condition a rat to fear and "freeze in terror and curl up" when it was put in it's cage. But I'm no expert on rats. So maybe it would. Or perhaps rats are particularly wary of needles, so the part that really scares them is the injection. That would explain the need to inject the saline in the control group. Because...what's the point of the saline?
Okay. So, experiment performed, here's what my scientist friends observed:
The researchers found that rats with alcohol in their veins froze up for longer, with the fear on average lasting two weeks, compared with rats that did not receive injections.
And the brilliant conclusion:
If we apply this study to humans, the memories they are trying to get rid of will remain strongly, even if they drink alcohol to try to forget an event they dislike and be in a merry mood for the moment...The following day, they won't remember the merriness that they felt.
Now, I've been performing experiments on myself involving various concentrations of alcohol derived from myriad sources for almost 20 years. I feel that my research has been pretty complete. I have used alcohol derived from grapes, mixtures of various grains, sugar, potatoes, and the occasional desert plant. I have avoided injections, preferring to ingest the chemicals orally.
While my research is ongoing, I feel that I can with confidence report the following observations:
- Consumption of alcohol in large quantities changes the subject's perception of the intensity of a "mild" electrical shock.
- Consumption of alcohol in large quantities eliminates the terror one feels when a "strong" electrical shock is administered. It's best to consume the alcohol BEFORE the administration of any stimulus that might lead to unpleasant memories.
- Alcohol cannot erase memories created prior to its consumption when ingested in quantities that can be processed safely by the human body. Research in this area is ongoing.
- Regular alcohol consumption over an extended period of time can interfere with one's ability to create new memories. One could extrapolate from here and determine that if one expects a future consisting of less-than-ideal circumstances, it's a good idea to drink early and often to avoid the the long term effects of the memories those circumstances might generate.
- Memories created while consuming alcohol often lack detail and clarity. They cannot be trusted or used as evidence. Photographs taken of subjects of these experiments can be a useful tool for documentation, but can also be digitally altered. Don't believe everything you see.
- The above two points are the key to avoiding the creation of additional unpleasant memories. The advantage to using the second method is that one is often heroic in the memories that are created during the consumption of alcohol. (Note: This is only effective is all persons who share the memory are also participating in the experiment.)
Now, I haven't written my findings up in some sort of sciencey format and published them in the journal "Neuropsychopharmacology" like my Japanese counterparts. But I'm willing to bet that my research has a lot more to do with the effects of alcohol on humans than theirs does. And the "merriness" that one feels...well...that's really the point, isn't it?
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
i'm sick today. not feeling well with some variation of whatever virus is floating around at present. I can't breathe too deeply, because when i do, it sets off a coughing fit. And looking at things hurts my eyes a little bit. Generally, I'm a bit uncomfortable.
But i'm at work. Why? because I don't have any sick days. That's the big downside of being a freelancer: no sick days. And I need the money, so I soldier on. The one thing I had to look forward to today--my only small pleasure--was lunch. And even that has let me down.
To begin with, I grabbed a frozen something out of the freezer on my way to the car. I was unsure what it was, but I assumed it would be a part of a meal that Polly had put in the freezer for this very purpose. Turns out I was wrong. Nope. Just some random sauce. Would have tasted great if there was a chicken breast and some rice to go with it.
Not to worry! There's a full service cafeteria in the building. They have a large variety of reasonably priced food, prepared on site that is usually somewhere between edible and good. Sometimes even very good. Looking over today's specials, I noticed with interest that the chefs had highlighted a gyros plate (had it before--passable, but not great), a "deep-dish vegetarian pizza" and a taco salad type thing in a tortilla bowl. I wasn't sure what was special about the pizza, as they usually have it there, but perhaps it's because this one didn't have any meat on it. I got in line for the taco-salad thing, but watching an actual Mexican ladle some melted Velveeta into this bowl-thing sort of made me sad and a little bit sick.
So I decided to try the pizza.
Here's the part where I should have followed my own instincts. The pizza didn't look good. It did smell good, but it didn't appear to have much in the way of toppings. I convinced myself that there had to be more to it than there appeared to be. I've seen people eating the pizza here. There must be something to it.
Nope. It was basically a lump of mushy just barely cooked and not very tasty "pizza" dough with an embarrasingly small amount of cheese on top. The sauce was, at best, an afterthought.
So...my lunch sucked.
On the other hand, it could have been worse. I happened to be reading the following article about Cheesebugers in a Can.
Hey...what's in your bag? Wanna trade?
Thursday, February 7, 2008
here i am again. apologizing for my inattention to you, my blogfriend.
this is a short post...mostly because of the shooting pain I feel when typing. it seems that whatever ailment I have in my right arm--likely tendonitis--has been exacerbated by whatever movements I use to shovel snow. And I've been shoveling a lot of snow lately. I don't think it's normal for my pinky and ring finger to be both numb and in pain. Oh well.
felt like a bit of jerk yesterday. a client of mine from Tennessee contacted me regarding a project i'm working on, and he let me know that they were a bit wet, but still standing. I replied with a vague statement about how much snow we're getting in Chicago. After hitting "send," it occurred to me how silly it was to compare a little snow storm with the massive devastation brought on by all the tornadoes down south. we can be dumb sometimes.
on an amusing note: I walked into work today behind a young woman who works on my floor. I don't know her, but I've seen her around. She's a stereotypical pseudo-flower child. There's about 2 inches or more of slush all over the pavement. She was wearing her Birkenstocks. To be fair, they weren't open toed Birkenstocks, and she was wearing socks, but there is no way her feet stayed dry between her vehicle and the building. I don't understand being so committed to one's lifestyle that one is willing to suffer wet, uncomfortable socks for the rest of the day. I'm just funny that way.