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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: December 8, 2006-January 3, 2007

Saturday, December 30, 2006:

The holiday season has been pretty good to me despite the fact that I have not been good to it. (Our living room is full of still-unsent presents for my friends and family. I figure the Christmas rush at the post office will start to taper off around mid-February, and that's when I make my move.) Bev and I spent Christmas Eve at her parents' place, which was nice, and the other night, we went out to Uno's for dinner and drinks with her out-of-town friends Isla and Karl. So that's quite a bit of socializing, by my standards. We've also received lots of thoughtful cards and gifts, and even though I'm fashionably cynical about the entire season- and I flat-out loathe the music traditionally associated with it- it's been a nice reminder of how lucky I am to have such a widespread network of inoffensive people in my life.

Among other fun Christmas gifts, Isla gave us a copy of her "best of 2006" mix CD, which I'm really enjoying. Interestingly (to me), it contains entries from many of the same albums from which I've culled songs for my own such mix (to be finalized and posted in the coming weeks), but she picked different tracks than I'm planning to use. Here's her compilation, if you'd like to assemble it yourself:

1. Tapes n' Tapes- "The Illiad"
2. Tap Tap- "Little Match (Big Fire)"
3. Sunset Rubdown- "I'm Sorry I Sang on Your Hands That Were in the Grave"
4. The Thermals- "Test Pattern"
5. TV on the Radio- "Wolf Like Me"
6. Calexico- "Roka"
7. Band of Horses- "Wicked Gil"
8. Malajube- "Montreal -40ºC"
9. Yo La Tengo- "Beanbag Chair"
10. Islands- "Humans"
11. Swan Lake- "Nubile Days"
12. Decemberists- "Yankee Bayonet"
13. Belle & Sebastian- "Act of the Apostle"
14. Raconteurs- "Steady, as She Goes"
15. The Hold Steady- "Chips Ahoy!"
16. Red Hot Chili Peppers- "Snow (Hey Oh)"
17. Califone- "The Orchids"

I gave Bev a framed print of Tai Shan the panda from the Washington Post photo archive, and she gave me... a Petster. I'd never heard of these wonderful robot pets since their unsuccessful release in 1985- and I'm somewhat disappointed in myself for apparently never having even seen a commercial for them, because I retain every commercial I ever see, and I know I would've been gaga over the idea when I was five- but I doubt I could've appreciated their brilliance at the time. Mine is a robot cat you control with a series of claps, and you can make him purr and dance and "act tipsy" and sort-of echo the approximation of your vocal inflections with the Frogger/WarGames-era beeps he uses to communicate, and I love him. On Christmas night, Bev kept accidentally putting him in "sleep" mode by using the wrong clapping code, but I'm hoping to figure out his tricks more thoroughly, away from her narcotic influence.

Bev also got me one of those rubber reflex hammers doctors use to make you involuntarily kick. I've been having a ridiculously good time whaling on my legs with it, giggling every time I hit the right nerve. I'm sure this little hobby is ripe for some sort of Cartesean analysis of how I don't really consider my body to be a legitimate part of my essence, which is why I find it satisfying to make it do things that I'm not directly telling it to do, thus cementing the difference between it and my mind, and helping to rationalize the way I'm willfully neglectful of my physical self because I resent my body on a few levels... But honestly, I suspect that my laughter is closer to whatever instinct made Julia Roberts cackle when Richard Gere snapped the jewelry case shut in her face than to anything psychologically meaningful. It's fun.

T-Bone and LeAnne sent us the first season of Driving Force because they know we are total sluts for the reality-TV genre. This one follows the daily life of John Force, who is a hotshot in the world of professional drag racing, and whose three spoiled-rotten daughters are following in his footsteps with varying degrees of enthusiasm. When the series was first airing, I never watched it because I find the culture of auto sports nearly as tedious as the races themselves, and also because T-Bone described it to me as similar to I'm With Busey, which I wasn't a fan of. However, I'm glad he and LeAnne persisted the way they did, because it's actually a pleasant little show that uses drag racing as a motif rather than the main storyline. Kind of like The Osbournes without the squalor and theatrics. In many ways, Force is exactly the character you'd expect him to be: short-tempered, focused on winning above all, and harboring an unbecoming streak of anti-intellectualism... but despite all his bluster, he's never the bully in interactions with his family. His daughters and their mother (it's unclear whether she and John are actually divorced or merely separated, but the two of them have a fairly amicable relationship) know exactly how to push his buttons, teasing him constantly to get his goat, and John's reactions are endearingly fascinating because he's self-aware enough to know they're putting him on, but he still can't resist reacting as if they're serious, which results in a lot of monologues that are equal parts frustration and self-loathing. And even though his daughters are, in many ways, painfully vacuous (at one point, the three of them argue about the definition of the word original, with the younger two contending that it means exactly the opposite of what it means), there's also clearly a lot of love in the family, and everyone works hard to support one another. They try to broaden their dad's horizons as he tries to get them to take racing seriously, and it's an oddly sweet back-and-forth that helps Driving Force go a little deeper than the malapropisms and noisy behavior that keep things lively and fun along the way.

2006 was a fine year, I think. Got a good job, got married, got some encouraging election results, made a couple new friends, adopted a couple parakeets, got a fancy hanging pot rack for the kitchen... Still, I'm worried by the fact that my level of outgoing personal correspondence has slowed to a dribble this year. Most of my friends can expect to hear from me once every three months, tops, regardless of how often they write me, and that's not something I am proud of. Furthermore, I've done basically no recording this entire year, save for a few musical sketches that I haven't elaborated upon at all. These two trends need to change in 2007, so consider rectifying them my resolutions: One hour per weekend, at least, dedicated to recording, and I must disseminate more e-mails to those close to me.

And it's the responsibility of those reading this to enforce these resolutions. Get crackin', please.

CURRENT MUSIC: Isla's 2006 comp.
CURRENT MOOD:
Annoyed that I can't find my electric guitar. How the hell does one lose a guitar?
CURRENT THOUGHTS ON THE SADDAM EXECUTION:
The same as Ben's, but less eloquent.
TIME:
3:59 p.m.

Doot? | |

Saturday, December 23, 2006:

To quote Dave Foley's NewsRadio character, I'm not sure what it is caffeine does for you, exactly, but I'm pretty sure that without it... your head caves in. Unfortunately, this means that, on the weekends, when I'm not at the Eastern Agency with its morale- and productivity-boosting, never-diminishing supply of free coffee, I wake up with paralyzing headaches such as the one I've got right now. Which, further, means that instead of being the slightest bit useful on my days off, I cease to function beyond lying on the couch, an ice pack lashed to my forehead with the obi from Bev's kimono, eating her Jet-Alert pills until I finally give in and start eating her Relpax. I alternate baths with naps, beg the birds to please keep it down, and shakily stagger around the house like a deranged hobo in the futile hopes of spotting something that will make me feel better instantly. By the time I realize that Bev and I do indeed possess a coffeemaker that operates in much the same way as the one at work- i.e., it makes coffee- it's too late to stave off the pain and I not only ache, but rightly feel like an idiot for suffering an entirely avoidable malady. (Of course, I get headaches on at least two of every five workdays anyway, but those are less predictable and generally less incapacitating, apart from the lost time incurred due to conversations in which my coworkers try to convince me to see a doctor. Fat chance!)

My headache today is made all the worse by the fact that I cannot seem to stop the ceaseless loop on which the Miller Drug jingle is playing in my head. It's a local pharmacy's commercial whose lyrics make the following eloquent point: "Our family serving yours, Miller Drug, our family serving yours, Miller Drug, Miller Drug, our family serving yours, our family serving yours, Miller Drug, our family serving yours, Miller Drug, Miller Drug, our family serving yours." Without necessarily even knowing the pernicious melody, I expect you can see how this particular tune would make you feel like you're stuck on a Tilt-a-Whirl whose operator has wandered away for a quick screening of Die Zweite Heimat.

This is kind of a downer lead-in to a post in which I wish everyone reading this happy holidays, but since it's likely I won't post again until sometime in January, I hope you all have a happy, healthy, and fun holiday season. Good luck in 2007. You'll need it!

CURRENT MUSIC: My record collection on "shuffle." And at a low volume. Featured songs: "Queene of Polythene" by St. Etienne, "The Rain" by Kasey Chambers, "Sometimes" by Sunny Day Real Estate, "Places We're Trying to Find" by I Am Robot and Proud, "Better Times are Coming Our Way" by Cracker, "California Calling" by The Beach Boys, "Stars in My Life" by The Flatlanders, "The Chain" by Fleetwood Mac, "Lightbulb" by Call & Response, "Pieces of Me" by the Meat Puppets, "More Styles" by The Herbaliser, and "The Black Dog and the Scottish Play" by Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson.
CURRENT MOOD:
Ineffectively medicated.
CURRENT HOLIDAY SHOPPING STATUS: Roughly half-done.
TIME:
2:50 p.m.

Doot? | |

Sunday, December 17, 2006:

After a lot of false starts and shite ideas, I'm well into the lyric-writing process for the next Disclaimer album, and as a result, I've been spending a lot of time on Wikipedia doing research. Making sure I've got my allusions right, looking up technical terms, that sort of thing. And because I've been doing a lot of this research during downtime at work, I haven't fought my tendency to get sidetracked into the "history" sections of many of these Wikipedia articles. For those who haven't bothered to peer into Wikipedia's inner workings, the "history" tab at the top of every page gives you a chronological list of every change that's been made to the article since its initial posting. Since Wikipedia lets anyone and everyone change any detail on any page in the site, these archives can reveal a wealth of hilarious mischief that got erased nearly as quickly as it was posted, in many cases.

I know it's not a unique observation to point out that Wikipedia is sometimes wrong. In a recent House recap, Sara Morrison referred to some aspect of the Terri Schiavo case with the caveat that the Wikipedia page from which she got her information also claimed that Ms. Schiavo is the newest ingredient in V8. And, of course, if you look at the history of changes to the page on elephants since early August, you'll see hundreds of short-lived claims that the world's elephant population has tripled in the last six months. Regardless, looking around for this stuff has quickly become one of my favorite work hobbies.

Just about every page has an instance of someone replacing key words with "poop" or "penis." Or with other profanities. (For example, amending the list of Pingu episode titles to include "Pingu Delivers the Shit," "Pingu and the Barrel of Bastard," and "Hide & Fuck.") Or disparaging references to someone the editor knows ("Ewan MacNeilage Shags Pingu"). Or questionable assertions that the readers of any particular user-edited page have been "PWNED" because the page was edited by a user. While I do tend to giggle at the randomly-placed profanity, I far prefer the bits of absurd misinformation that people inject into articles, such as the notice that momentarily graced the top of the page on the Helvetica typeface: "For the cattle breed, see Helvetica: Cattle Breed." Wikipedia does maintain its own catalogue of "bad jokes and other deleted nonsense," but it's a little nerd-centric for my tastes; I find it more entertaining to snoop around on my own because it kills more time that way. At any rate, below, I've pasted a few of my favorite changes, for your momentary amusement or distraction.

Wikipedia on:

Steel drums: The steelpan is the only acoustic instrument that was invented in the 20th century.

Magnifying glasses: Visually impaired people always benefit (no exceptions) from magnifying glasses and similar low vision aides.

Sacco and Vanzetti: Nicola Sacco was a shoe-maker born in Torremaggiore, Foggia. He was known for the famous quote, "Tengo un gato en mis pantalones! Ay ay ay ay ay!"

Christian communion: The Body Of Christ, unfortunately, constitutes 117% of your RDA of monosodium gleutamine. Moreover, one serving containes 6 mg of aspertine, a carcinogen know to cause many different types of cancer, including pelvic cancer.

WVII-TV, Bangor's ABC affiliate: The current sports reporter, Tony Consiglio, is in the Guinness Book of World Records as "World's Most Fragile Sportscaster."

Spina bifida: "Spina bifida" (Latin: "split spine") describes when a starfish is used as a contraceptive.

Possible motives for Iago's behavior in Othello: Insecurity, supreme intellect unregulated by emotion or conscience, he has a beard, sadism…

Doorbells: The transmitter sends a radio signal to the doorbell radio receiver inside the turkey. When the radio signal is detected by the receiver, it activates a buzzer, speaker, light, bells, moans or songs.

Characters featured in The Wuzzles: Sealopotamous (half seal, half hippopotamus), Vipdo (half viper, half dodo), Foxaffe (half fox, half giraffe), Shull (half shark, half bull), Leopwl (half leopard, half owl), Bengal Deer (half bengal tiger, half deer), Chimpilla (half chimpanzee, half gorilla), Att (half bat, half ant), Hermit Croat (half hermit crab, half goat).

CURRENT MUSIC: Last Days of Wonder by The Handsome Family.
CURRENT MOOD:
Slight.
CURRENT EXHAUSTION LEVEL: Plenty.
TIME:
4:02 p.m.

Doot? | |

Friday, December 8, 2006:

Dear whoever operates the HAARP mind control/weather machine project in Alaska:

If you could please alter Maine's climate to more closely resemble that of, say, Seattle, I'd be grateful. I am already tired of the snow this winter season, and its presence is further hindering Mainers' already severely stunted driving abilities.

Lots of love,
Chris Willie Williams

P.S.: Please don't kill me! Thanks!

CURRENT MUSIC: Tides by Arovane.
CURRENT MOOD: Inky.
CURRENT FAVORITE BOOK REPORT: Meagan, from Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team, after she was assigned to read What Jackie Taught Us: Lessons from the Remarkable Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis by Tina Santi Flaherty. I paraphrase: "Jackie Oh-nay-sis Kennedy-- er, Kennedy Oh-nay-sis. Um. She never did anything for other people. I mean, she did things for other people, but she would always think, 'Would this be good for me?' In conclusion, she had an effect on the things that she did."
TIME: 9:53 a.m.

Doot? | |

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