The Salutation Enthusiasm Observation:

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If you note a differing level of enthusiasm from someone as they initially encounter other people, it generally follows that it is an accurate reflection of their unstated yet observable opinion and/or social ranking of each.

*The greater your urge to nitpick the nuances of this concept, the more likely it is that the truth of it scrapes too close to something you’ve long suspected to be true. Observable variances in enthusiasm are opinions in motion. Naysaying notwithstanding, this generalization rarely bends to scrutiny.

Springdale Horror House Afternoon

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By way of preface, I live in a relatively new neighborhood. It abuts an older area behind my house. As a bona fide weirdo myself, I can only say that a couple of the people behind me would be ideal characters in any movie plot involving dysfunctional and possibly homicidal misfits. When I was having internet fiber cable installed, I only had a few seconds to warn the crouched technician as one of the eccentric neighbors made his slurred and erratic approach toward us and the fence line.
“Pretend that the ‘Adams Family’ is real. You’re about to meet all of them rolled into one person,” I told him. The technician quizzically looked up and then over at the approaching person. “Wow” was his description of the encounter afterward. “I’ve seen a lot in my years.”
This afternoon, I went outside to chase a squirrel from my bird feeders. Like most houses with questionable pedigree, the residents of one of the houses behind me strive to let the yard grow wild, possibly in hopes of concealing whatever might go on there. I’m constantly battling the encroachment of the foliage and critters which call it home. Everything about the house indicates that its current trajectory will land it on an episode of “Hoarders” or “Crime Scenes of America.”
While I’m not positive that the sounds originated from the yard in question today, I froze as I stood in my small backyard. Even if I were given 20 guesses, I’m not sure I could have determined the real origin of the squawks and murmurs I heard as I went outside. The overcast sky and rain-filled air didn’t add anything wholesome to the fact that the back of my neck was tingling as I listened.
I went back inside and found my Nikon digital camera in hopes of capturing the unnatural sounds just as much as the visual if anything ran out of the house missing an arm or shouting in an unknown language. While finding a clear space in the overgrown foliage, I noticed something unusual: a 3-foot blue and white bunny rabbit hanging by a rope about 10 feet from the dark porch.
“Oh hell no!” I told myself as I went back inside and pretended it was just a normal day in East Springdale.
I enjoy a good horror movie but choose not to be the guy getting told “Don’t go in there!” by those watching.

Death’s Proximity

There’s a quote out there which asks us to consider whether the issue at hand would seem important if we were dying tomorrow. It depends. Am I on fire? Is the world ending?

It’s ridiculous (but understandable) to use the prism of our own ending as a filter to prioritize the mundane moments and reactions of our lives, in part because 99% of our lives reside in those moments of normalcy.

Unlike many, I learned more than once that death comes as an angry and unwelcome surprise. It often visits without a warning knock or a glance at our calendars. Yes, it even appears with a totally disengaged and indifferent glance in our direction. It simply comes.

Time is irrelevant to death.

At 20, you have no means to determine your proximity to death.

It is arrogance and a disavowal of the way the universe works to believe that you have any inkling of how close the claws of your undoing are.

To live as if nothing is important enough to engage with is a terrible way to move through time, whether you have one day or one decade. It’s possible that you might learn more from spending 23 minutes of your day reading the fine print of a website than you would learn while considering life’s complexities.

It’s difficult to know. Focus on what it interesting to you, now, because it’s what you have.

 

The Invisible Post

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NBC has opted to pick up my latest TV pilot tentatively titled “Unfinished Business.” It’s a prank show in which we scare the daylights out of people momentarily after they enter the bathroom.

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“Take a bite out of crime” is the worst diet advice I’ve ever heard.

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Motivational quote By the time you get there you're gonna stink.

Motivational Quote: By the time you get there, you’re gonna stink.

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Friends in their 20s, stock photo.

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“It’s not rocket séance.”

This should be the new cliché, especially given the current trends.

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“You can run but you can’t hide” is a really strange saying to teach a kid, if you think about it.

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Bean Burrito Day at work…

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The first time I sing “Happy Thursday” to the melody of “Happy Birthday,” it’s funny. The 40th time, though, Identifies those with impulse control.

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“80% of people dislike their jobs.” – Whoever cited this study is an optimist.

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She had Bette Davis eyes; unfortunately, though, she had Danny Trejo’s face.

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Most people are familiar with albino animals. For whatever reason, most aren’t aware of melanism, which is the opposite of albinism.

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Concert attendees of last night’s Luke Bryan AMP performance were initially perplexed by the show commencing 30 minutes early. It turns out one of the stage crew members had accidentally hammered his own hand near an open mic.

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I’m glad he went to medical school after the RN program in Oakland expelled him. ‘Nurse Dre.’ Is way less cool than “Dr. Dre.”

“Casual” on Hulu

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When the show “Casual” started on Hulu, I thought it might be at least an interesting diversion. It turned out to be a delight at every turn. Even when everyone was being a literal pain in the ass on the show, it was engaging in ways that most shows aren’t. In so many ways, it evoked some of the same sentiments in me that “Six Feet Under” did. The show deserved all the praise it earned, even as it ignored the supposed line between comedy and drama. “Smart people behaving badly” has been done many times, but rarely with the contained breath of this show.

I expected the show to excel in its final season, even as I complained to myself, as all fans of a show meeting its demise so often do. Now that the curtain has closed and I’ve seen the finale, I can only wonder about how all these fictional characters are doing in their separate lives. The writers convinced me that all these people were indeed real and that I would no longer be a voyeur in their lives. It was an elegant dance to watch it wind down.

The antepenultimate scene was of Alex’s empty house, the center and crucible for so much of the show. As that scene faded, a door somewhere within slammed with finality. Oddly, I felt the door close. Alex was in the autonomous car with his daughter, heading for his new life. The selfish man we knew was looking forward and making choices he couldn’t have made several years earlier. As he teared up, he smiled and as this scene faded, he looked down and to the right, obviously seeking memories of those now gathering in his absence. In the last scene, we saw everyone else in a jovial room together.

It was a moment filled with inevitable nostalgia. I think many people joined me in thinking that this couldn’t be it and that Alex wasn’t really moving away.

Alex, never the sentimental type, hid a few precious photos inside the Ova box (a digital personal assistant) for Valerie to find. All of them were combinations of Valerie, Alex, and Laura, the essential heart of the show. Valerie wiped the tears from her face as Tom Petty’s “Time to Move On” began to fill the room. Much like “Parenthood” opened my heart a little for Bob Dylan, this final scene gave me an appreciation for this Petty song, one I always disregarded.

The scene blurred completely away, letting us know that life was going to continue for all of them, out of sight, but perhaps lingering in our heads instead of on our devices.

“Casual” is one of those shows whose name conflicts with the complicated joy of humor and pain being blended together.

I hate to see its departure. That’s a sign of how crafted it was. Many people forego television for their own reasons. “Casual” is one of those few shows which can make you feel that subtle immersion you experience when reading an exquisite book. When the last page passes, you look up at the room you’re in, wondering if the other world contained in the book still spins on its own axis.

Television can be magic. If you haven’t watched “Casual,” it’s your loss. It’s filled with old friends and people you’ll be fascinated by.
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“Casual” seasons 1-4 are available on Hulu, and some are available on DVD, for the few Amish among us who have DVD players.

An Allegory Of It

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The light summer evening rain faded after a couple of minutes. I walked for quite a while along the edge of a long ridge as I admired the vista that was unfolding in front of me.

The air pressure seemed to plummet.

The horizon’s colors evaporated and the air slowed. The lazy blue sky darkened as the lighter clouds coalesced into ribbons of black. Insects ceased their instinctive chatter. For a brief moment, I could hear the faint murmur of what sounded like thousands of voices. Though I could see no one, something on the horizon was watching me.

Whatever it might be sensed that I was observing it and the voices immediately ceased. I could feel it shift to make its approach. My hair didn’t stand on end but I felt like falling to the damp ground. My stomach gurgled and my neck constricted like it often does at that moment immediately prior to nausea. “It” slowed as it crossed the flat valley, stopping near a large solitary tree. As it hovered, the tree lost form and its living leaves began to swirl and shimmer as if they had become thousands of imperceptible insects. The nothingness of the ‘it’ enveloped the tree and began to coalesce along the fertile ground.

Oddly, I stood my ground, my curiosity in defiance to self-preservation. After decades of walking the earth, it seemed as if the worst truth would still be a comfort to me.

“Not today,” a quiet voice whispered, literally in the air.

My chest compressed as ‘it’ passed over me and through me. I could feel the interminable nature of it as it passed.

After it went, I stood motionless, watching the sky infuse with sapphire hues again.

As I stepped toward the place where the tree once stood, the insects began to chirp and hum again.

My pace quickened. I knew that all my steps were now counted and measured.

Downtown Dummies – An Art Installation Sponsored by Prank Sinatra

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I keep lists of jokes, ideas, and amusing things to amuse my amusing self. Last year while I was walking before sunrise in downtown Springdale, I burst out laughing with one of them.

I’ve been secretly fantasizing about an idiotic prank for quite a while. I’ve browsed on eBay, Amazon, and retail clearance websites trying to get a reasonable cost to purchase several dozen mannequins. The best cost I could devise was about $750. Three weeks ago, I could have purchased an entire lot, clothing included, from a defunct retailer.

After purchasing all the mannequins and keeping them in a self-storage unit, I’d rent a U-Haul. Early in the morning, I would drive around downtown Springdale and strategically place the dummies in key places. (Benches, leaning on walls, astride Spring Creek, behind patrol cars, etc.) It occurred to me that I could create a story if I was creative enough in my implementation. (With the epilogue involving me getting bailed out of jail, I presume.)

I even had a list of explanations if I were caught. I’d say, “It’s an art project for the Revitalization District.” Or, I’d say, “Look at that!” and as the person looked, I’d run like hell in any possible direction.

If I keep my movements low-key, no one will think twice about dummies downtown. There are always several standing or loitering around down there and several have been elected to keep the city running. Just kidding, Doug. I’m a big fan, with the exception of that horrendous city logo – the one which invokes an image of the floor of a New York City Taxi when I look at it.

I’ve had more fun thinking about doing this than you might expect.

I’ll probably never do it now, especially after sharing it with everyone.

If there’s anyone out there reading this, though, it would make an excellent prank.

It would also make a beautiful art project if it were planned with care.

Listless in Seattle

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“You can run but you can’t hide” is a really strange saying to teach a kid, if you think about it.

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The salad dressing was too strong. It was raspberry vinairegret.

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They were a proverbial match made in heaven. He was the human equivalent of Axe body spray and she was a pair of over-sized reflective sunglasses.

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They asked me to say a few words about the deceased. No one mentioned that I was expected to say GOOD words. A heads up would have been appreciated.

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“Safety Dance,” for those born a million years ago, was inspired by the songwriter’s ejection from a nightclub about the way he was expressing himself through dance. Let this be a cautionary lesson to all of you as you sit at your desks, dying incrementally as the cloak of career embraces you.

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I got arrested. I thought the banner said, “Tour de French.” To his credit, the lead cyclist managed to keep pedaling.

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In a cosmic twist, he accidentally signed up for the “Write Bitter” course instead. He has nothing good to say about it, though.

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I ain’t saying she’s two-faced, but when she talks, it is in stereo.

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Word joke: If you kidnap an equestrian, he becomes a sequestrian.

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An ‘uplifting’ photo I made. Energy inevitably changes form; why not harness it?

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Given the occupant of the White House, “I can’t wait to get under the sheets” can mean wildly disparate things.

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A housekeeping supervisor’s job title should be: Neatwork Administrator.

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I’ll be playing cello with the orchestra tomorrow night. They don’t know it yet, though, so be cool.

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Endergong and Exergong (New Words)

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I’m creating two new words for the English language today.

Are they necessary? No, but neither is “philtrum,” which is the line or cleft between your nose and upper lip. (To the tubercle of the upper lip, to be ridiculously obtuse and exact.)

Luckily for me, the litmus test for word inclusion in our shared collective English language is that there isn’t one. Yes, usage determines inclusion, but a word is a word the second that any meaning is attached to it, even if it doesn’t thrive.  Even “callipygian,” which is an artful way of describing buttocks that won’t get you punched in the epiglottis.

As Douglas Adams once paraphrased, it’s this kind of fact that generally pisses people off.

An endergonic reaction is one in which energy is absorbed and an exergonic reaction is one which results in energy released.

My two new words are these: ‘endergong’ and ‘exergong.’ Words which terminate in “gong” are gorgeous words. Perhaps if the movie had been titled “Gong With The Wind,” it might have fared even better with the general public. We’ll never know. And no, we frankly don’t give a damn.

An ‘endergong’ is someone who requires or takes in more energy than he or she adds to the social fabric.

An ‘exergong’ is someone who adds more to the social fabric than he or she consumes.

The implication is that exergong is a more positive word, characterizing positivity, freedom, and openness. You feel happier with exergongs surrounding you.

An endergong is someone who sulks at the table, complaining about everyone and everything, even the free beer you just handed him or her.

You’re welcome.

P.S. If you don’t like the words, please send a postcard to the American Society For Language, which is a non-existent organization that won’t read whatever it is you have to say about it.

Live Your Life: The X-Hanlon Repudiation

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No matter what, we live our lives in the moment. Often, we convince ourselves we don’t. It’s an illusion. We’ve all said or done things that later come to diminish our ability to continue living good lives. We’ve placed our foot so far into our own mouths that we can taste toenails, so to speak. Whether we’re joking or we’ve simply intersected with the random wheel of life, what we’ve said or done infects our memory and turns us away from remembering the shared joys.

We can’t know that someone is going to die in his or her sleep, fall from the sky, or roll their car 13 times and get crushed underneath it. We do know, however, that these things are going to happen to a LOT of people every day. Statistics tell us that 150,000+ die each day. (106 per minute, if that seems more comprehensible to you.)

If we take overly careful steps as we walk through life, we sacrifice a great portion of what’s possible to what brings fear. We become afraid to speak or to express ourselves because of the immense ‘what if’ lingering on our tongues. Experience teaches us that life is painful. It is also our only opportunity to prance honestly through these ridiculous obstacles we all share.

If humor is at stake, we should err on the side of lunacy and caprice. Life has already sentenced us to death. I see no great reason to allow its shadow to overcome us as we go about our routine lives. A great gaffe will survive a long time. We all love to share stories of incredulity about what friends and family said or did.

Hanlon/Heinlein’s Razor: Never attribute to malice that which is explained by stupidity.

X-Hanlon Repudiation: Assuming you are interacting with people of mutual like or respect always feel free to do or say the thing which expresses pleasure, joy or greater enjoyment to the moment. Errors may arise – but humanity will exonerate.

I wince when I see the pain that results from good people regretting the things they’ve said or done in good spirit. Life is not only short, but it laughs at these self-conscious hesitations.

Good people will not bear malice toward you for openly embracing life and its whims. Mistakes are going to happen.

Go ahead and tell your grandmother that her house smells like boiled derriere if it makes her laugh. If it’s the last time you speak to her while she’s alive, you will have shared a moment of frivolous life together. There is no greater compliment than sharing your wit, wisdom and laughter will someone. Do not soften who you are because fear sits on your shoulder.

For anyone who knows me, you’ll know that this idea is one I earned one stupid comment at a time.
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