Saturday, February 27, 2010

Band Hero (or Rock Band, I never can remember)

I love karaoke. I love it almost as much as you love imagining sexual congress with your boss. But I don't get to do it very often. Maybe twice a year or so, I don't know.
But my cousin invited me over to his house a month or so back to play Band Hero (or Rock Band, I never can remember) on his X-Box, and that was surprisingly like karaoke.* His wife and I sang stuff while he played the guitar and his brother played the drums or bass. I tried the drums, but apparently, I am white, and rhythm-free.

Not to be outdone, my buddy Jeff told me his kids had demanded he get them Rock Band (or Band Hero, I never can remember) for their Wii game system, and the other day, he invited me over to participate. His wife and I took turns singing songs while his kids played their instruments, and despite his ten year old's inclination to pick really really awful songs, it was a lot of fun.

I think there was a point to all this, but I can't remember it right now.

I consider myself a pretty good singer. And whether I actually am or not doesn't dissuade me from getting up there and belting it out, especially if you've been drinking. But singing on Band Hero (or Rock Band, I never can remember) with Jeff's kids did show me that I have my limitations, such as the ability to match exactly how the computer wants me to sing a song, like one of those audience members that wants the band they're seeing in concert to replicate the album tracks precisely. Another thing I learned was, though I thought I was familiar with the tune "Kung Fu Fighting," I'd never actually heard the song all the way through.

Most memorable, though, was when the kids were trying really hard to get a high score, and Emily (Jeff's wife) handed me the microphone to tackle, I believe, "Sultans of Swing." As I sang, the computer registered wrong note after wrong note. Finally, we were booed off the stage because of my performance.

We started again and I redoubled my efforts. From the first note, the computer was unhappy with my singing. "What's going on?" I asked Jeff. "You're off-key," he said. "You're too low," said his twelve year old. "You're an ass-wipe," said his ten year old, disgusted when our band was booed off the stage again and forced to tour Canadian coffeehouses with a Darius Rucker-free Hootie & the Blowfish.

My score on both rounds was 0.0%.

Well, Jeff got up to check the connections and I punched his son in the kidneys, and then we discovered that the mic had shorted out when Emily had handed it over. All we had to do was restart, and I was back to Celine Dioning with the best of them. Rock Band (or Band Hero, I never can remember) is fun.So, the next time you feel like complaining about my singing . . . there's a problem with the mic.

Rish "Rock Band Hero" Outfield

*But more like a video game I played once where two players had to compete in a karaoke-type singing contest, and the winner got a t-shirt . . . which of course I then sold on eBay.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bleep You

Aun que aprendi a espaƱol primero, hablo ingles todos los dias.

Despite my inability to spell fifty cent words like "moratorium" correctly, I really love the English language. Writing it, reading it, babbling on and on in it with my buddy Jeff or into a microphone. I like big words, arcane words, fifty-cent words, funny-sounding, and nasty-sounding words. And I'm quite fond of certain words that evoke stress or emotion or anger or perversion or any number of interesting sentiments. Hence, I really like profanity.

But it's a double-edg--oh wait, I'm not going to say "double-edged sword" anymore.

Have I mentioned that yet?

Well, it doesn't matter, 'cause that's not what I got on here to talk about. I guess I wanted to say a few (dirty) words about profanity. Besides, I highly doubt there's a Bible passage that says "Curse not lest ye be cursed."

I'm editing the podcast right now, and at one point I say, "Well, I don't have kids, so I guess I'm an unfeeling shit," in reference to the nonsense of teachers or coaches making it against the rules to keep score or declare winners or losers.*

As I sometimes do on the podcast, I became a bit puffed up with that sweet sugary righteous indignation you're always feeling, and started to say that I think kids need to understand that they're not always going to win and that there's going to be somebody better than them at things and they absolutely NEED the ability to lose gracefully without pitching a histrionic (see, another fifty cent word there) screamfit when it happens. 'Cause it's gonna happen. To you and me both (though probably more to me than you**).

But, like I usually do when editing, I had to make the decision of whether to bleep the profanity, or to let it be.

And that's not always an easy thing to determine. If it's a joke, sometimes it's funnier to bleep a word, especially if it's there for shock value. I watched a recent "South Park" where they bleeped the episode on television, but left in all the cursing on the internet version, and the bleeping was funnier than all the "flicks" and "bunts." Yet at the same time, in the SOUTH PARK movie, when they use the phrase "donkey-raping shit-eater," that's a big laugh for me every single time, and it just wouldn't be with added bleeping.

Sometimes I decide to bleep a word that's NOT obscene or profane because it makes things more oblique or amusing (like once I said, "So it makes me look like a total jerk either way," and I bleeped "jerk" just for the bleep of it), even if we self-censored ourselves beforehand, by saying "effing" or "a-hole." A lifetime of watching television has shown me that bleeps are funny, sometimes in and of themselves.

But when I'm angry or feeling really sincere (read: self-righteous), I often choose not to censor things. And I don't know if that works to my advantage or not. I believe I actually used the f-word in a recent podcast episode and left it in because I was trying to get my point across and make it obvious I really meant what I was saying. Monsieur Anklevich left it in, though he has bleeped things before (most recently, when I said the words "Aunt Jemima" as an example of something offensive one might say. In retrospect, that may have been misconstrued had he left it in), but I don't know whether that was right or not.

Which brings me to the "shit" comment on this week's episode. It's hard to make the decision here because it's not supposed to be funny (even though Big laughs), and if I bleep it, it will probably sound more like a joke than if I leave it. If I went by the rule Is It Really Necessary? in using or not using certain naughty words, that opens another can of monkeys since my buddy Jeff's mother would NEVER deem profanity necessary, and another buddy of mine (also named Jeff) said there wasn't a single word he considered over the line . . . ever.

When writing in college, I constantly had to censor myself, and I remember using the f-word in a screenplay and being pressured to change it to something else (I also got grief for using the word "damn," "bitch," and "golf balls" around the same time, so there's the sliding scale again). I tried less R-rated curses like "asshole" and "bastard," but they didn't have the same effect or sound as natural as the f-word. I tried removing the curse altogether, since I've found that substituting other sentiments often works better than simply changing "shit" to "spit" or "prick" to "jerk" or worst (and also most common) "fuck" to "screw." But it just didn't work the way the f-word did in that case, and I ultimately ended up putting it back in. There are certain colloquialisms that only work with the real words, kids.

Honestly, I really should be covered on the Dunesteef, no matter what I choose. When we started our podcast, we had to make the determination of whether we would make use of the Explicit tag, since there aren't letter or number ratings for podcasts, just Explicit or . . . not. And from the very beginning, we decided that, while we didn't intend to fill our show with blasphemies and the always delightful c-word, we weren't going to tiptoe around language every week and a half. Life has taught me (and Now Slightly Less Big Anklevich) that somebody is going to be offended no matter what you do. If there's nothing overly offensive about your entertainment, that person will find it on his own, whether it's there or not.

And just between you and me, in most people's eyes, the whole Explict or Not Explict line of demarcation is the f-word. I'm not exactly sure who decided that it was the foulest of all dirty words, but when they announced it, people really sat up and paid attention. It's a pretty powerful word, and I've been told that it's the most versatile word in the English language, but it has the power to set people off like nobody's business.

In '08, Big and I weren't about to go through every episode of our podcast and determine on some personal scale (or arbitrary one like the f-scale) whether each show was Explicit or not. So we just put a blanket caveat on every one of our episodes, hoping that it would warn the wrong type of people away, even though we have yet to air a child-is-raped-by-demon-possessed-grandfather story like a certain podcast I know.

Is it possible that we have chased off potential listeners that way? Oh bleep yeah, but hearing some angry parent claim we traumatized his twelve year old by saying "dildo" or "bungstain" on our show is a headache neither of us want. As Big always says, what the devil are you doing listening to podcasts with your kids anyway?

Abbie Hilton, friend of the show and fellow podcaster, says that the Explicit rating is a good thing. It offers a freedom and openness to say whatever you want without the fear of a dark shadow standing behind you. She said she sees the Explicit warning on a show and she's even more likely to check it out. But of course, her upbringing was pretty similar to mine, so she's broken as an objective observer.

Everybody has their own rules as far as language goes. There was a time when I refused to use certain words and frowned upon anyone who did use them. But I grew out of that, the same way I finally stopped wetting the bed in my early twenties. Some people are more sensitive to profanity than others, and many are more sensitive to certain words than all the others, and walking on eggshells isn't going to please them or me.***

I still haven't decided if I should bleep it or not. I probably won't, because while this post started out as an amusing little "I wonder which is better" paragraph, it spiraled into some kind of rumination on rules and sensitivities and language mores and female circumcision, so I'd better just leave it in, or all this blather will have been for nothing.

Even more for nothing, I mean.

Rish "Bich is Latin for generosity" Outfield

*My niece Lexy has started playing basketball on some kind of kiddie girls league, and they have games but they don't keep score, out of the altruistic desire to protect children from a sense of failure or loss or disadvantage or challenge.

**Although, is that fair? I'm the kind of geek that sits in the sidelines not even gearing up to play the game, so it's possible that those with the lumbar to actually participate in life are going to lose a lot more than me, numberwise, at least. But man, you guys are so much the better for it.

***Here's one last aside. One time at work, a friend of mine called a woman a fucking bitch after verbally she ripped me up and down. Was that appropriate? Well, probably not, since I got fired for doing an impression of President Bush on the phone once. But did I appreciate it? Oh hell yeah, even though I don't think I ever said so.

Moratorium 3

I was going to do a whole series of these, but I sort of forgot about them.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Uh oh

Aren't we all, really?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Today, after reading my most recent post, my buddy Jeff accused me of rambling.

I may have to change the name of this blog from Rish's Ruminations to . . . something else.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Turtle Boy

My sister's kid loves candy, he loves being thrown in the air, he loves monsters, he loves CARS and ICE AGE, he loves throwing balls, he loves pretzels, he loves to run, to swordfight, to kick the people around him in the Planters, to squeal at inopportune moments (like during church or when others are napping or in the middle of a bris), he loves those CapriSun juice packets, but more than any of these . . . he loves turtles.

It's strange how completely and utterly obsessed he is with turtles. The way that I was so into frogs as a kid that in my thirties, I still dream about them at least monthly, the newly-turned-two year old simply adores turtles.I see the kid a lot, actually. Part of the reason is that I am a free babysitter and my sister needs all the financial help she can get, but another reason is the hard-to-define pleasure I get out of being around this lad. I know it's not love, since my friend Merrill has said on three different occasions (each a bit more grating than the last) that a person doesn't know what love is until they've had a child of their own, and uncledom just don't cut it, but it's something pretty interesting. And it doesn't help that the boy is WAY cooler than your kids, if you have them.

Even so, it can get really tiring to have the boy constantly pestering me about the turtles. Literally from the moment he arrives (sometimes before I've even gotten him out of the car seat) he starts in on the turtles, wanting to play with them, wanting to feed them, wanting to wash them, wanting to change their water, wanting to throw them, wanting to put them in the fishtank, wanting to stack them on one another like blocks, wanting to sit in the bathtub with them (the last time I allowed this, he covered them with shampoo, which I figured would not brighten their shells), or rambling about how the big one bit him once.*

I used to monitor him with the animals, sure, but I don't have the focus or dedication to be a lifeguard at a wading pool, much less a parent. So he usually ends up playing with the turtles unsupervised.

Oh, I try to lay down boundaries or limits, such as he has to clean up his toys, or eat all his food, or allow me to finish pressing sewing needles into the crotch of my Glenn Beck voodoo doll before he gets to play with them. But I amn't exactly the world's greatest babysitter (as I really ought to blog about someday), so I invariably give him one or all just to keep him from bothering me. This has come back to bite me (though not literally) on more than one occasion, and this week was definitely the craziest.

I gave said child the big turtle to carry around the house while I went to my computer to type or surf or edit or ogle or email or basically do anything except write stories, when from the kitchen, I heard a beep . . . the unmistakable sound of the microwave having its buttons pushed. "What the fu--" I either thought or said as I rose to my feet and entered the kitchen. The child had put the turtle in the microwave, and was trying his best to start it up.

Well, I wrenched the door open and scooped the animal out, unsure of how much damage had been done. The light inside the microwave had been on, I know that much for sure, and that only happens when the door is open or it's running.

I put the turtle back in the bowl, and the boy immediately started crying to hold it again, but I was adamant that he never touch one of the poor animals again.

Of course, the next morning, the turtle seemed none the worse for wear, so it either never got zapped, or animals can stand one or two seconds of microwave bombardment.

Like most experiences with the boy, when I told others about it, they thought it was funny (I believe my sadistic cousin Ryan expressed disappointment the turtle hadn't exploded like a Gremlin), and of course, the next time I see my nephew, he'll have free reign with the little reptiles.Ah well, could be worse. Could be frogs.

Rish Salamander Outfield

*This sort of thing tends to happen when you jam your little finger violently into an animal's head. But crazily, even though he daily reminds me of the incident, it's the big turtle the boy always wants to play with first.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

February 14th

So, it's come to this. Valentine's Day. It hardly deserves my efforts, but I did say I'd do it, and I so rarely have the chance to keep my word nowadays.

Things I love:
1. The original "Twilight Zone" TV series
2. The word "slake."
3. French Fries
4. Monty Python's "Spam" sketch
5. "House M.D."

Actually, I considered listing a bunch of people that I love, or at least have loved here. But I couldn't do it. It's not that I haven't loved, it's just that on this particular day, I don't feel like thinking about it. After all, the legendary Saint Valentine was stoned, and when that didn't kill him, beheaded.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

February 13th

1. Michael Jackson's "Thriller" (the video and the song)
2. Spatulas
3. Patrick Stewart

Friday, February 12, 2010

February 12th

1. Theramin music
2. Movie trailers (although I'm starting to tire of them lately)
3. The theme to "The Greatest American Hero"

Thursday, February 11, 2010

February 11th

1. The sad piano theme to "The Incredible Hulk" TV series
2. Abbott & Costello's "Who's On First" routine
3. The word "chalupa"

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

February 10th

Hmmm. Things I love.

1. The smell of a fresh bar of soap.
2. The instrumental part of "Layla."
3. David Letterman

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

February 9th

1. The word "bastard."
2. Those pendulum-type rides at amusement parks.
3. My sister's lad.

Monday, February 08, 2010

February 8th

More things I love.

1. That joke that ends "Well, you're gonna hate Thursdays."
2. Bosoms
3. Oingo Boingo

Sunday, February 07, 2010

February 7th

1. "America" by Simon & Garfunkel
2. Those pink frosted cookies they sell in gas stations
3. Comedian Louis CK.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

February 6th

It was brought to my attention that I ought to list a real life person I love, rather than fictional characters. Okay.

1. Ricardo Montalban
2. Corn Nuts
3. Riding a bicycle

Friday, February 05, 2010

February 5th

1. "The Wonder Years"
2. Falling stars/meteorites
3. Darth Vader

Thursday, February 04, 2010

February 4th

It was brought to my attention that I really ought to list a PERSON I love every day, since Valentine's Day is supposed to be about people rather than objects. Hmmm.
1. Cherry Icees
2. Ghost Stories
3. Captain Malcolm Reynolds

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

February 3rd

Here's three more things I love.

1. Driving at night with the windows down
2. Going to a movie with a friend
3. Talking about the movie we just went to

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

February 2nd

Alright, three things I love.

1. Pepsi
2. "Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult
3. The Pacific Ocean

Monday, February 01, 2010

February 1st

Like I said, I'm going to list three things I love every day till Valentine's.

1. Pepperoni Pizza
2. British Accents
3. Spider-man

February Resolution

So, the other day, I was having a half-conversation/half-argument with my buddy Merrill about Valentine's Day. Of all the holidays, it's the one I have the biggest problem with, and I have for years. I despise Valentine's Day and consider it a phony commercial holiday promoting jewelry and blue balls, and honestly consider February 14th to be the least-romantic day of the year.* A day where you are FORCED to concentrate on the one you love because the greeting card companies or the radio or the Bath & Bodyworks displays say you have to be isn't romantic, it's not heart-felt, it's not significant, the way an anniversary, or god forbid, a day that you actually FEEL like doing something nice for the woman in your life would be. Well, I hoped he'd stand up after I berated the holiday and said, "Yeah, fuck Valentine's Day, I fuckin' hate it too!" like Adam Sandler in that religious cult sketch.

But he didn't.

It's no big deal, but he, having had different Valentine's experiences than I have (and having a wife waiting for him when he gets home from work), felt that the day is kind of nice. Harmless. Considerate. Half of Americans are women, and shouldn't they have a day celebrating them?

I'm totally on the side of the people who say Valentine's Day is a manufactured holiday designed to guilt and/or pressure men in relationship into buying overpriced jewelry, flowers, candy, and restaurant reservations, and if they don't, well, they can just kiss their trusty orgasms goodbye.

But Merrill compared Valentine's Day to Halloween, and said that it's a day with a long tradition, and maybe there are women out there who love the day and look forward to it the same way that I do every year, excited when I see the displays, anticipating the time when television programming changes to suit that special date. What if somebody told me that Halloween should be done away with because a portion of the population disagrees with it? How would I feel?

So, I'm going to try to stretch a little. No, I'm not going to get anybody any Valentine's Day gifts (not unless something surprising happens in the next weeks), but I'm going to try to be a bit more positive about February. For the month leading up to Valentine's Day, I'm going to list three things that I love.

Who knows, it may change my attitude a little, focusing on the good rather than the bad. We'll see.

Rish Outfield

*Most romantic? That would be New Year's Eve. Thanks, movies.