The Blob

Saturday, September 07, 2002

Rant-O-Matic: Paul Vitti for President

Don't get me wrong. George Bush is a decent enough chap. Maybe not the brightest President we've ever known, but let's give the guy credit for his focus. You may disagree, but considering the alternative and the bad times we're in, he was the right guy for a really tough, lousy job.

But if I had to vote today, I know who my candidate would be: Paul Vitti, the lead charactor in Analyze This.

Let me explain. George has his shorts in a knot about Saddam. That's good. But with George, it's personal. And that's bad. After all, Saddam tried to whack his dad. And that's really, really bad. It's just that the way George the younger is going about things makes me wonder. With all the sabre rattling that George and his conservative buddies are doing, you tend to leave out the element of surprise. And last I checked, that's pretty important if you're going to start a war.

In this case, I don't recommend that. Starting a war is not what Americans do best. We fight best when we have a cause. Pundits refer to that as political will. Simply put, drop a bomb on me and see what happens. That is when Americans win. Because in the end, it's not just the weapons of war and armies that you assemble that decides the destiny of human conflict. It's the political will to win the most unthinkable of endeavors.

Frankly, I'm not concerned about Saddam or whatever weapons he is purported to have. But I am a bit concerned about making all of Islam our enemy. That includes about half the world's population. Not that they don't hate us already. They do. And that's just because we're not them. But that's a subject for another blog.

Back to Paul Vitti. Sure he's neurotic. Yes, he's got issues. And luggage. But what I like about Paul is that he makes life simple. He gets things done. Instead of months of political wrangling, instead of making appearances on Larry King or your favorite telepundit show, instead of trying to assemble an army large enough to fight in The Two Towers, Paul just does one thing.

He calls Jelly.

It could be really simple. No wars. No mess. Just these words:

Paul: "Jelly. Whack him."
Jelly: "Sure, boss."

There. All done. Now, wasn't that simple? Yep. Paul's my man.

Thursday, September 05, 2002

The world's greatest invention

I got to thinking the other day about the world's greatest invention. So I started to ask around. What was indispensable for people? For some, it's the phone. For others, it was their car. Someone else told me it was their TV. One person even admitted it was the battery-powered vibrator. (Go figure.) For me, there is one invention so useful, so helpful that the answer was obvious: the shower.

I'm kidding, right? Nope. Think about it. If you're anything like me when the alarm goes off in the morning, just getting out of bed is a heroic human struggle that should qualify for a Movie Of The Week. Between throwing something at the alarm clock and getting to the bathroom, I return to my ancestral roots: I slog along on all fours. Okay, so I'm stretching things a bit, but not by much. My eyes are typically encrusted in salt and schmootz (God, I love that word), almost like barnacles on a ship. My tongue is epoxied to the side of my mouth. My morning breath could be considered a terrorist weapon. And typically, when I look in the mirror for the first time each day, it shatters. Violently.

That is why the shower is so important to me. No other device on this planet can transform me from this Neanderthal state to being almost Cro Magnon. The rush of hot water, the steam and white noise of a shower can bring me back to the land of the living instead of being the living dead. The utter pain of waking up is transformed into something almost fun. And before long, something utterly terrifying happens: I start singing. (This has also been known to shatter mirrors. And glasses. And windows anywhere in a 5-mile radius of ground zero.) But damnit, it makes me happy. And pretty soon, I'M READY TO TAKE ON THE WORLD.

There. I feel better now.

And have you ever noticed that you get your best ideas in the shower? After the first few minutes of waking up, it's when I think about the stuff I have to do, and how I'll get it done. It's the secret booth where my imagination rocks, where anything is possible, and even where I think of stupid blogs like this one. Whenever I need a creative thought, I take a shower. And that got me thinking: why isn't there a waterproof writing pad for showers?

My advice: if you want to get anywhere in this world, you've got to come clean. Take a shower. Right now.

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Did I mention that it's hot out there?

I'm lucky. Really lucky. Where I live is about as nice a climate as you can be in: Orange County, California, about two miles from the Pacific Coast. That means we never get fogged in, but we're always blessed by cool Pacific air. Pity the souls who live in Houston, Atlanta or even my birthplace of Minneapolis. (My personal vision of Hell is Minneapolis in February - with mosquitoes.) For some reason though, over the weekend, it was hot. In the high 90s. And for a spoiled little twit such as myself, that was bad. Of course, it could be worse. Ask the denizens of Houston, New Orleans or Mobile, who swelter through impossibly long summers.

Then there's my previous place of residence in Woodland Hills, in the western end of the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. It hit 110 (farenheit) the other day. And it was humid. And very smoggy. That's ridiculous. I gotta run, but I'll leave you with this one: when I lived there, my hobby in the September heat was watching people spontaneously burst into flames.

Spontaneous human combustion. What a concept.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

It's Official: I'm an old fart

When you turn a corner in your life, sometimes it's obvious. Your first birthday. First Communion. Bar Mitzfah. Senior Prom. The night you lost your virginity. The day you got it back. And so on. Sometimes though, you turn a corner in your life in less obvious ways. I knew I'd hit middle age when I was riding up an elevator and heard a Steely Dan song on Muzak. Or when I was in a record store and overheard the following conversation between two teenybopper girls:

Teenybopper Girl One: "Wow! A Beatles CD!"
Teenybopper Girl Two: "Who are the Beatles?"

These are tough moments.

But over the weekend, I became what I've dreaded all my life: an old fart. It happened at dinner, while my wife and I were hosting the 17-year old daugher of my wife's best friend. This wonderful young woman had called to say she was in town (she was driving down from LA to Orange County, where we live) and wanted to visit us. Seriously. She's an amazing young woman for her age, or any age: smart as a whip, incredibly mature and poised, a joy to be with. We were thrilled to have her in our company. But I digress.

Anyway, talking on the subject of music, or why there's nothing worth listening to on LA FM radio (and LA is the second largest radio market in the US - go figure). I really wanted to know what new music was important to her, in a desperate, last-ditch attempt to stay current. (God bless this young woman - her tastes in rock are more edgy and less commercial.) But in the course of conversation, I blurted out a deadly faux pas that I will never forget:

"Well, when I was your...." Ohmygod. I'd just used a phrase my father always used when talking to me as a teen. Even though I caught myself in mid-sentence, it was too late. Our guest knew it. My wife knew it. And sure as Hell, I knew it. I was officially an old fart.

I've become what I used to hate. I've become the enemy, or in my case, the enema. I don't know that this can be cured. Yes, I've deluded myself that despite my growing waistline and that oh-so-distinctive touch of gray, that I was still young, a with-it, kinda-new-kinda-now, kinda happening sorta guy. I was just an edgy young man trapped in the body of a 49-year old, that's all.

Yeah, right.

It's downhill from here. I'm doomed and I know it. They tell me that pretty soon, Buicks will look really cool to me. That if I come across a Lawrence Welk re-run on cable, that I will actually dig it. I may start getting into coupons. Shuffleboard might look like an extreme sport. And I'll probably think that the X-Games will mean talking about my first wife. Somebody shoot me. Please.

This begs the question: how can an old fart stay young? No, I'm not talking about leisure suits, comb-overs, or buying a red Porsche to counteract the inevitable onset of male erectile dysfunction. I am what I am, like it or not. All I can do is to stay young in spirit and soul. And that means not letting my attitude harden. It means keeping an open mind, continuing to discover and learn, and continuing to challenge myself. I'll gladly move over and let younger people get the shot they deserve. It's the least I can do for having been denied the chance myself when, when, when...okay damnit, I'll say it: when I was their age.

Nobody ever said this was easy. But please. Judge me for what I am, not how old. I'll judge you for who you are, not how young.

Sunday, September 01, 2002

Thought of the day

Hype is greatly overrated.

Required reading

Here's your homework assignment: read everything you can by Dave Barry. The guy is hysterical. How anyone can pack so much humor, absurdity and poignant thought into one block of prose is a mystery of life. Do yourself a favor. Spend some time with Dave and bookmark his site. It's worth it.

Rant-O-Matic: I'm skeptical about skeptics

Whoever said that the pen is mightier than the sword had it right. How many have suffered a horrible death by a thousand paper cuts at the hands of vicious, sniping skeptics and pundits? How many great ideas were drowned under a torrent of "it'll never work"...or "I don't see the sense in this" or whatever. It's amazing how many companies and ideas have been killed because somebody thought, I don't like that. Or, it's different, so it must die.

Here's an example: every time I read a technology or a business magazine, there's always an article slamming a business or invention. I remember all too well the concerted effort in the mid-1990s to drive Apple Computer out of business. Everywhere you looked, the journalistic vultures were circling overhead. Okay, at the time, Apple sucked. You know it. I know it. And to the surprise of many, Steve Jobs came back and turned the company around. But in the mean time, it became a blood sport to deride Apple for every wrong, to spread rumors that the company was going out of business, to blame Apple and its users for all the crimes of humanity. Every time I would read another poisonous article, I was reminded of the National Geographic documentary on the albino penguin. He was different. So he was shunned at best, and in the end, pecked to death. It did the world no good. But it made some penguins feel better, secure in the fact that the status quo was again preserved.

I'm not for making the world safe for mediocrity. I don't want to live in a world where everybody looks the same as me, drives the same car, dresses in the same colors. Difference, taking chances and asking why are vital if we as a society are to advance. In business. In technology. Science. The arts. Medicine. And improving the human condition. Otherwise, we all might as well tune into another nightly installment of Pleasantville.

Look. It's not like criticism doesn't help to improve things. It can. But I'm just tired of people who contribute nothing but dark thoughts cutting down the passion and imagination of people who want to make the world a better place. You don't advance by standing still. You can't cross a chasm without taking a chance. But the skeptics and pundits who rule the printed pages and the airwaves don't understand that. They're too busy blathing on in often convincing tones about why an idea is a threat, why an enterprise is bound to fail, why people don't measure up to their standards and why the status quo must be preserved. I think of them and I think of the late J.T. Walsh's brilliant portrayal of Big Bob in the forementioned Pleasantville.

That's why I'm critical of criticism. That's why I'm skeptical of skeptics. I worked too long around people whose job it was to cut down the efforts, passion, hopes, dreams and energy of people lower on the corporate food chain than them. Maybe it was all about power, about holding people down. Maybe it was to cover their insecurities and their inability to make a difference. I only know this: it's pointless and poisonous. If we spent as much time encouraging good ideas and bold ventures as we did criticizing them, imagine what the world could be.

Already, I can hear the skeptics pontificating on that.