[The Forlorn Grammarian]
The unfocused byproduct of
www.simulacri.com's incisive brilliance

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Grammar Is My Ward, Here In This Wilderness

I've been working on a grammar gimmick for quite some time. My intention was always to make the best possible use of my sobriquet with some kind of grammar feature, and originally I wanted to do a daily one-panel cartoon of my beleaguered, world-weary, furious grammar persona, ashtray overflowing at his side, half-empty bottle of bourbon at arm's length, screenshot of that day's terrible grammar atrocity floating in the white space above him. Since I'd probably only need to draw a handful of expressions for his/my reaction to incomprehensible YouTube mutants--exhausted, enraged, even more enraged, disbelieving, perhaps unconscious--this always seemed like something I could actually manage.

True to form, I didn't manage it, and instead I've been working on the accompanying screed about the use of language. This is taking quite a long time, because I periodically quit doing that and work on my screed about film instead. I have so much complaining to do that my complaints keep interrupting one another.

I have, however, found time for three things:

1.) Working on a wine label for a fictitious wine company that, if I make it well enough, will be used on as many as possibly two actual wine bottles by a person who makes actual wine. (Tentative Pitch #1 of 3)
Russell Crowe Vineyards

2.) Starting to play this beautiful game:
Assassin's Creed

3.) Abandoning it within a day for this:
Dwarf Fortress

...And then playing Dwarf Fortress long enough that when I finally went to sleep, my dreams were about ASCII symbols and blinking letters milling about as I frantically shouted something about rations over and over. They did not listen.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Worst Possible Thing; Worse Than Being Forced To Kill Seven Puppies And Finding You Only Have Six Bullets

I woke up 40 minutes ago, bleary-eyed, headphones still on, having fallen asleep watching Flight of the Conchords for the millionth time because if I'm not watching anything I just lie there in bed visualizing my manifold failures and then I can't sleep.

The method behind what I generously call my life is not the point. The point is that on the screen was not Flight of the Conchords. On the screen was MS-DOS. I stared uncomprehendingly, having been awake for maybe three seconds at this point.

DOS? I thought. What?
Oh. It's the boot sequence.
Why is it the boot sequence?
I don't know. What does it say?
"The boot devices have changed."
Oh. It lists one device. The other two hard disks and the DVD-ROM are gone.
I see.
I wonder what the least unpleasant way to kill myself is.
Normally I would ask Wikipedia.
Maybe the dictionary will know.

No, I thought gravely. No, it probably won't.

Then I decided to actually investigate the problem, with what was really an astonishing level of calm and collectedness. It turned out to be minor.

One of the extremely unwise stopgap solutions I've improvised over the past year of jury-rigging my machine like some sprawling, convoluted heap of inextricable overheating devices and twisted cables had loosened. In this case, the cable was the wall plug for a hard disk which is running on external power but plugged into the mainboard (don't ask; stopgap terrible you idiot I don't have any money etc.). So the system rightfully freaked out. Simple fix. No problem. And now I am mercifully sitting in front of 40 tabs of Flock.

A year ago I had a 100-gig hard drive with basically everything important on it suffer a mechanical failure and die on me. I tried every single ridiculous solution you'll read about to recover stuff from it, up to and including the use of the freezer and smacking the thing sharply, as though to reprimand it. I've since been perpetually afraid that it will happen again before I can afford to properly outfit this thing with a backup drive and some non-retarded replacements for my various idiocies.

So an incident such as this is among my worst nightmares; to wake up and be greeted with the infuriating boot sequence, in front of which I've spent dozens of hours trying to fix things over the years, as it essentially says ALL YOUR SHIT IS BROKE AND I WON'T TELL YOU WHY HA HA HA.

And of course it's always entirely my fault, because instead of reading a book to fall asleep, I pretty much recreate early man's firestarting methods inside my computer, where appallingly stacked and unventilated devices share their increasing heat as uncleared mounds of dust gather around them. My computer's human counterpart would be Sean Penn in 21 Grams, a wheezing wreck with a shoddy secondhand heart that is in love with Naomi Watts (although that last part is actually just me and not the computer).

Just bear with me a little longer, you gasping homebuilt monstrosity. Some day I will whisk you away to the Big City, and we will both live in air-conditioned comfort, and when your hard drives finally die of old age many years from now I will frame them in appreciation on top of a sepia-toned photograph of a big, silly '50s computer. I will give you a name and then autograph it with that name and a postcript that says "Thanks For the Memories," and I will put the frame above my mantle and smile.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Bar Dregs, Volume I

In my continued effort to keep personally disparaging stories off the page I proudly display to employers, I'm going to try to restrict most of my bar anecdotes to here. Most of my rambling typically involves bars, and this series in particular is a little sensitive, because it's laden with jokes about fat people and Ecstasy.

Whatever you've been reading here, chances are I was sitting in a bar when I wrote it, drinking alone and looking suitably miserable. Since I'm usually off by myself and doing something on which people can comment, I tend to attract every musky, wild-eyed loner who staggers through the door and wants to complain about the CIA. Here are some of my recent encounters.

The Unbefriendable Drink-Buyer

There's a really old guy who wanders around my neighborhood in search of people who will tolerate his lengthy, rambling, entirely fictional war stories. He doesn't confine himself to bars. If he sees you in the street or on your porch and he suspects that he recognizes you, or that you resemble one of his nephews, he'll stumble over--drunk regardless of what time it is--and engage you with tales about some battle in which he never took part.

This is his modus operandi. I have it on good authority that he's never seen any combat in his long, long, exceedingly looong life, but even if people who know him loudly declare this when he's within earshot, he'll just pretend nothing was said and continue telling stories.

The complication in this little plot is that he buys you free drinks while he's making up his stories, and also that he has no concept of social propriety or personal space. He will bellow about (imaginary) amputations toward your date as she eats her dainty salad. He will unexpectedly walk over and interrupt other diners to begin relating an anecdote which he'll eventually confuse with an episode of M*A*S*H. In his methodology--from the seduction of the drink-buying, through the slowly-dawning horror, up to the final realization of the gravity of your error--he is rather like Dracula. Once you've let him in, you've ceded your ideological barrier, and he's free to wreak his havoc.

Like a mythical creature in a young adult horror reimagining, if you ignore him without accepting his premise, he will suddenly be gone. Also like a mythical creature, his legend is met with foolhardy disdain by some of the rowdier townsfolk; they accept his free drinks, and in doing so doom the bar to his obtrusive storytelling.

I know all of this because I was one of those oblivious townsfolk. If you imagine that we are sitting around a campfire, I just turned on the flashlight and shined it under my face.

I happily, even graciously, accepted his initial free drinks as I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, regular patrons glancing in my direction and quietly filtering out. Eventually the bar emptied entirely, solely because of the Story Golem I'd unwittingly welcomed, leaving just him, me, and a very unhappy bartender.

The self-aggrandizing stories went on interminably, organized in such a way that I couldn't possible contribute anything, and I eventually fled like a coward, making my excuses and leaving the young, pretty bartender to deal with the guy on her own. She'd later tell me that he continued long into the night, inventing tales of heroism and following her around until the bar finally closed. And it was all my fault.

EDIT/UPDATE (7/13): Tonight I spoke to someone who also once indulged this Bar Golem with a group of friends. He had to leave almost immediately to pick up some other folks, and ten minutes thereafter received a simple text message from the people he'd left behind:


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Regarding Bar Game Machines

Dear Megatouch,

Here is a list of questions that ARE and ARE NOT okay to include in your bar trivia games.

1.) What is the capital of Venezuela?
2.) Who was the first man in outer space?
3.) What was George Eliot's real name?

1.) How long can a walrus survive without water?
2.) Who won the last American Idol? (Your machines are old and not dated and I wouldn't know anyway.)

1.) In Norway, which of these did a police dog find in a field? (I believe the options were drugs, a plane crash, a serial killer, and a dead body).
2.) Match the ballet icons' first names to their last names (displayed: five identically Russian names with thirty consonants each).

Don't I already give you enough money, Megatouch? Doesn't my refusal to admit defeat in a game of wits line your pockets with enough of my money? Can't you just pitch me enough reasonable questions in a row for me to finally get on top of the leader board, once and for all ousting 1.)TEAM DOUFG and 2.)A GAY? Every time I'm forced to give up because I open my wallet and a lonely moth flies out, I've lost another battle to these two tasteless trivia thugs, usually because I was on pace to win and then you asked me the name of the costar on the 1951 season of the Jack Benny Program. I don't know, Megatouch. I don't fucking know.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Coffee-Related Machinery Has Been Unkind To Me

The latest in my barrage of posts totally unrelated to film was about my coffee grinder, and how it is shit. Though there is obviously a little bit of hyperbole in that instruction manual, what with all the references to the machine being sentient, I didn't exaggerate that the ridiculous thing broke after two uses. I know how to use burr grinders; I've had two before, both of which lasted years. This one lasted a day.

Immediately before this I'd had an embarrassingly titled Cuisinart Grind Central something or other, which was just a regular old blade grinder with a nifty lid that made it quiet. Other than the fact that a lid goes over the top, this was in every way an ordinary grinder with no mysterious and easily disrupted features. It lasted about three weeks before ceasing to work entirely for no apparent reason. I exchanged it for another one, and exactly the same thing happened. At which time I moved onto my current burr grinder, and enjoyed its company for 24 hours.

So I'm not sure what the problem is. I'm not cramming these thngs to bursting with coffee beans, tamping them down with a heavy boot and frantically mashing the buttons. I'm not filling them with gravel to see what happens. I'm not even really making much coffee these days. Which is good, because it means I've been buying tea, so now I have that to drink while two pounds of coffee beans take up space in my cupboard, rendered temporarily worthless unless I intend to eat them by the handful.


I came across that sentiment a month or two ago, casually appended to the end of an otherwise totally benign job posting, caps and all. Well, minus the violation of the second(?) Commandment.

The vehemence is not really surprising; I imagine that human resources people everywhere have had quite enough of applicants who believe that a sporadically updated blog about how the President can't spell very well counts as a professional qualification. "Things were not always this way," they lament to one another, ripping up multicolored cover letters that have screenshots and exclamation points in them. Nobody in the 90s proudly emblazoned his resume with references to alt.startrek, or listed a Sliders-themed GeoCities page as "relevant experience" when applying at a newspaper. Having an opinion was not a notable accomplishment. Familiarity with the Internet was a source of embarrassment to be concealed, not burbled with self-congratulatory pride.

If I am not being clear, what I'm trying to say is that I hate blogs. I hate them so much. So this is kind of a portentous step for me.

I've had http://www.simulacri.com gathering dust for years, originally just a repository for an impenetrable maze of literary quotes. When I revamped the site and began putting text posts up there, I tried to stay professional about it; it wasn't really a blog per se. It was more restrained and professional. I was still better than all those reprehensible bloggers and their small opinions.

Obviously this is an embarrassingly stupid point of view. I have probably always realized that. Nobody actually hates bloggers and blogging, because it's what we've been doing here since there was public discussion on the Internet. It's the same principle; it's just been repackaged and pounced upon by the obtuse heralds of popular culture, so it sometimes feels cheap and silly. It's still in essence the same (non-pornographic) use we've always had for the internet--the dissemination of opinion--with an unfortunate tendency to bypass "personal" and plunge right into "self-absorbed." Which can easily be avoided.

All of this is, in any case, what I'm telling myself so that starting a blog will feel less like capitulation and more like I'm doing something very clever and expedient. I also intend to do a shameless ideological 180 and mention this on my resume.