Friday, December 31, 2010

December 31st, 2010

So, it’s New Year’s Eve, and I’m now in Las Vegas. My brother-in-law is in the tremendous line to check into our shared room here at the Sahara, and luckily, we have a bench of couches to hang out on until he gets through the endless line. After that, I’m not sure what we’ll do. Check into our room, then watch my brother and -in-law scope out the Blackjack and Texas Hold’em tables. I don’t have much money to burn on something like that, especially since I’m not a lucky gambler, but it will be fun to see how much they win. Look, if they can enjoy watching me sing karaoke (and it’s possible that they don’t), then I can enjoy watching them win money.

So, who knows how long I have to sit here, entertaining myself? I’m sure I can come up with something to say (maybe even write a story idea), but I don’t know how much I want to. Life is funny. Last week, I had a job, I had (at least the prospect of) some kind of romance, and my car seemed at least capable of getting me where I wanted to go. But I haven’t driven it since Sunday, and it has a little more trouble starting every time I try.

My Uncle John has been trying to help me find a new (used) car, and we did look at one yesterday (I think it was a Nissan Sentra, but I can no longer remember). It seemed nice, and was certainly cheap. The owner had her driver’s license taken away, and couldn’t make the payments on it, so she was trying to unload it for what she still owed. John seemed much more interested in her than in her car last night, but since it was dark and the roads were terrible, so we didn’t see it in favorable circumstances, at least not enough to know if there were problems with it, or if it was the icy, crappy road. We didn't make a decision on whether to buy it or not, and it was so cold that I couldn't think anyway.

I'll talk to him on that when I get back, but my sister had come up with the idea to go to Vegas for New Year's a week or so back, and I told her if I wasn't working, I'd definitely go. Well, even though I was previously scheduled, I'm not working, so I was happy to come along with her and my brother-in-law. She invited my brother, and then we were four. And my other sister was invited but bowed out, only to change her mind at the last minute, and bring along our cousin (who brought along a friend of hers). So, our original group of three is now a group of seven, but somebody somewhere said that was a lucky number, so we'll see.

Because this was such a last-minute thing, we didn't have a lot of choice when it came to hotels, and every place in town skyrockets their rates for a holiday weekend like this. But we decided that we could get a room at the Stratosphere and split it between us, thus being able to afford it. And when my sister was checking on prices, she saw that the Sahara was even cheaper than the Stratosphere (and a block or so apart), so we picked that one instead.

I had been taught that the temperature usually rises when it snows, and have been under that misconception for decades, apparently, because even though it was eighteen degrees out, snow started to fall (at an angle, since there was a chilly wind blowing it into our faces and windshield). The roads were insanely snowy and icy (there was a twenty or thirty mile stretch where the hick county hadn't appeared to plow the roads since the Bronze Age, and I had to creep along with tight fists on the wheel driving in the trail made by the big trucks that had gone before. Once we reached a section where people had actually plowed and salted the road, however, I was able to drive a decent speed again. My sister went to sleep, and I had the first-ever real conversation with my brother-in-law as we talked about movies and which actors were overpaid or underrated. I wouldn't have ever guessed we could talk for hours like that, but it was a nice surprise.

Despite the snow and cold, we somehow survived to arrive in Nevada, where the weather is only marginally better. They're shutting down several of the freeway exits for tonight's festivities, which slowed traffic substantially, but by the time my sister gets here in my cousin's car, it'll probably take forever just to get to the hotel.

So, now we are in our room, a small, Strip-facing room with two double beds and hard, iron-burned carpet floors, and a television the size of a TV dinner. I brought a sleeping back, and we're talking about pushing the two beds together to make one gigantic colossal bed, but my brother and I will probably volunteer to sleep on the floor if there's no room.

The Sahara was built in 1952, and while that makes it historical, it's also a real dump. There's no ice machine on our floor, the elevator in the parking garage doesn't work, the outlets are strange in that if you plug something into one it falls out on its own, and the Pepsi machine just ate my sister's two dollars. Even so, now that there's seven of us, it will be cheap enough I can gamble and eat and let my hair down without worrying that I'm being irresponsible.

Our room overlooks the Strip, though our view is blocked by the buildings next to us, and we found that the windows actually open out (we’re on the fourteenth floor, plenty high to jump from), but don’t entirely close, and the amazing thing is that Vegas is actually really cold right now, around thirty-eight degrees. My cousin told me it's the coldest New Year's Eve on record, in a place I always automatically imagine as swelteringly hot.

We plan on going down now into the casino and seeing what they've got. My brother and -in-law are really itching to do some gambling, so my sister and I will either watch or participate. Around eleven or eleven-fifteen, we plan on walking out on the Strip and watching fireworks and doing the big countdown thing. The cold might make that less pleasant, though, so we can ask if they're counting down inside as well.
I’ve no idea what tonight is going to bring, but it should be interesting, if not a lot of fun, to walk up and down the Strip, watching people drink and dry-hump, smelling people smoke . . . and dry-hump.

I’ll keep you posted. Ish.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Stupid Thing of Christmas Morning

My niece got a bunch of makeup in her stocking this year, and while everyone else went into the kitchen to work on breakfast, she got out what she thought was lipstick and stuck it on her lips.

Turns out it was nail polish.

Kudos on whomever got a nine year old a makeup kit!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas

I am knee-deep in melancholy this lonely Christmas Eve. It's odd that it would befall me so, since I've been in better spirits these last few weeks, working a lot of hours at a job I do not loathe that appears I have not yet been tossed out of,* but darned if I wasn't overcome with a bout of peanut-butter-thick unhappiness this afternoon and evening, weighing me down like an overweight conjoined twin.

I'm not entirely sure what brought it on. Perhaps it was the realization that the holiday has arrived, and my situation has not improved. Perhaps it was the anxiousness in my coworkers as they awaited their time to go home so they could be with their families, lovers, or Christmas parties. Perhaps it was that darn Eagles song that I heard (and sang along to) twice today, or that my car refused to start yesterday and this afternoon, or that the sky was grey and overcast even at two p.m.. Or maybe it's because the lass I fancy at work was there today, chatting it up with others, and giving me a rather significant miss.

I did try to engage her in conversation once (I believe one onlooker was quoted as saying, "Oh, the humanity!"), and asked her what time she was off. When she told me, I suggested she come by my desk before she took off, and I'd either declare my undying love for her or wish her a Happy Christmas. Either/or.

Hey, I thought it was charming. But life has certainly taught me that whatever I think is cute, clever, charming, creative, classy, or cool . . . is probably the opposite. To drive home my point, she did wish people plenty of Joyeux Noel, but walked on by me with nary a wave. Sigh.

Could that be it? Am I really thirteen years old again?

Or twenty-two?

Or Thirty?

"Sigh," if I haven't already said it.

Alrighty then, I've two options:
1. Wallow. Wallow like the swine that I wish I had the chesthair and testosterone to be. Turn on the Jeff Buckley and Aimee Mann, and imagine the sweet embrace of a cold and abandoned grave.
or 2. Do something to improve my mood. Something that'll make me smile. Something that'll engage my mind, entertain my kidneys, warm my cockles.

But what?

How about I write up this happy crappy in my blog, and send a couple emails, and wrap some presents, and see if I can't pull out of this barrel-roll before I pull a Jek Porkins on the surface of the Death Star?

Mmmm, STAR WARS. That makes me happy.

What else?

Oh yeah. This has delighted me for years:

Also, every Christmas Eve, my friend Jeff has a tradition of watching his favorite holiday movie. I believe he makes his wife sit through it too, whether she wants to or not. What a great tradition.

So, in honor of him (and it), I bring you this:

Rish "Zuzu's Petals" Outfield

P.S. "What's Christmas but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer? If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart!"

*Little did I know when typing this, but I'd be laid off (over the phone) two days later.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Stupid Thing of the Week

So, Big and I got together this week to talk about his trip to Southern California. We started slow, but then really got into the spirit of it, making fun of Californians, his children, our old age, the Disney corporation, Big's girth, his wife's name, mannequins with boob jobs, the ill-conceived update of Disneyland rides, Demi Lovato's recent trip to rehab, my own Disneyland experiences, and joking about the sort of thing you'd never want to hear someone in a Goofy costume say.

It would later prove regrettable that, during the middle of our conversation, I got up to go to the bathroom while Big paused the recording. A moment later, we started back up again, really getting into the swing of things. Man, it was some of our best stuff ever, and Big was actually crying from laughter toward the end (I don't know if that had ever happened before, in all our times doing podcasts). We got to the end of the two hour show, content that we had created something quite magical . . . when Big discovered something truly awful . . .

Unfortunately, the pause button was somehow still on from more than an hour before, when we'd stopped for a break and to look up the name of an obscure Disney character. All of that material was lost.

It was a bummer, and something we've had happen before (though not exactly under those circumstances). Big was really upset about it, and required that we walk three miles in the middle of a chilly December night to cool down. Afterward, we did attempt to recreate that conversation, and recorded another hour or so on the same subject, but it wasn't quite the same, and a lot of the inspiration had faded. Ah well.

Rish "UnPaused" Outfield

Karaoke final

So, you ever see that one "South Park" episode where Stan coaches a pee week hockey team, and in the end, they accidentally get into a match against the Detroit Red Wings and are annihilated? Well, the final night of the karaoke competition was a lot like that.

People really brought their A-games, wearing costumes, bringing props, using entourages, and going above and beyond the call of doodie.* I guess I complained about it last week, but it wasn't just a friendly night out for singing and imbibing to a lot of the folks, but some kind of heated tournament with real stakes.

I did quite badly on my turn, actually. I didn't really know the song, and it fell apart at the end, and that's a bummer because I'd like to have known I did the absolute best I could do (but the DJ said I couldn't do the song I wanted to since I'd used that in one of the qualifying rounds), even though I hadn't a prayer of winning.

I don't know, I'm a bit sworn off of doing these little contests again for the time being, and will probably only go if it's a pressure-free evening of crooning with inebriated buddies. That's what karaoke was meant to be, anyway.

Rish "Sore Loser" Outfield

*One guy even went so far as to dress in a Lady Gaga costume, complete with pasties over his hairy, hairy nipples. Yeah.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

X-mas present

My mom bugged me the other day that she still had nothing to give me for Christmas (what do you get for the guy who has everything but love, confidence and a future?), and it came to me: a microphone that doesn't sound like I'm recording from a caved-in Chilean mine shaft. Hopefully my voice will be annoying you much more clearly in 2011.

Rish "Static Reverb" Outfield

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

You Read Any Good Books Lately?

My generous friend Jeff sent me this link, knowing it was just what I've been looking for. Perhaps it can help you too.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Karaoke Smackdown

Big and I haven't done much podcasting lately, and the last time we talked, I told him I was bummed out about that, because I've been participating in a multi-tiered karaoke contest the last few weeks, and it would've been fun to give him an update every week on TGMG. Our two listeners could thrill to me describing the events of each night, what I sang, and if I was moving on to the next round.

But ah well, life's the thing that happens to you when you're out of toilet paper. Or something like that.

So, I somehow made it to the final round of this karaoke contest, despite getting sick and losing a lot of my voice last weekend (I figured they took pity on me and gave me points for giving it my all even when raspy. Either that, or I really am that good). The whole shebang was pretty fun, but somewhere in there (probably these last two rounds), it started become less about having a good time and singing a song and more about competition, about defeating the others, about being better-than.

I'm not good with that.

Nerves started to prod at me, I started to feel guilty for not practicing, and even found myself disappointed when it was all over and I wasn't one of the winners.*

It's weird, because I absolutely hate those bleeding hearts that say kids can't play Tag or Kootie or Tic-Tac-Toe because there might be a loser, you shouldn't pick teams 'cause someone might get their feelings hurt, or that it's wrong to keep score during Little League. Those same douchebags probably declare it unconstitutional to block cellphone signals in movie theaters, so the girl sitting next to us during HARRY POTTER wouldn't blind us every minute and a half sending or receiving text messages. Boo hoo.

A contradiction, it would seem, but there was definitely less a spirit of "You go, girl!" going on in the end, and more of a "You stay away from my man, ho."

Maybe that's the way of things, the way of the Force, but I don't know. There were a lot of competitors, and the way the contest was structured, it was difficult to prepare for. For this round, we got to pick our category (Rock, Country, R&B, or Alternative), then we had to draw a number out of a hat on our turn. That number corresponded to a song that we had to then sing, with no practice or preamble. Or do-overs. You know it's rough when you see a fifty-year old dude singing "Little Lies" by Fleetwood Mac, or a smalltown librarian singing "Cum On Feel the Noize." People, however (for the most part), were really supportive, and complimentary of my singing, so that's cool.

One of the actual winners of the night is a guy I've always liked, both in song choices and personality. I and my female companion chatted him up for a moment during the show, when he got there a couple hours into the program (turns out he's an actual musician and arrived late because of a gig with his band). He leaned in and told her, "Hey, you're way cute," then leaned back out and said, "Hey, you two aren't married or together or anything, are you?" It struck me as both a Han Solo smooth and Southern California dickish thing to do, and I'll be honest and admit I was relieved when he went home with the woman who won Second Place at the end of the evening.

Now that it's over, I can't help but scrutinize my own performance on Friday night, and that's another aspect of competition that's just no fun. There's one last round of the finals I'm all worried about, but I can't come up with a song that's a) popular enough and b) one within my singing range to guarantee me a place in the winner's circle. I'll keep thinking about it, though. Wish me luck.

Rish "El Perdedor" Outfield

*You'd think I'd be used to that, huh?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Stupid Thing follow-up

So, I mentioned the white woman made up to look like a black woman from yesterday, and it vexed me for a little while. I'll be honest, I've never really understood what was so icky about blackface. You see the Al Jolsen stuff from time to time, or Eddie Cantor or Bugs Bunny in the makeup sometimes (I even recall seeing a movie where Shirley Temple wore blackface for a song, but I could be insane), and I understand that it's offensive to African Americans today, but I don't really know why.

Is it because it's perceived as mocking the black man? Is it because those originally in blackface were perpetuating racial stereotypes that aren't acceptable today? Or is it because in those days, blacks weren't allowed to perform, and the white man dressed up in this costume as a way to keep the black man in his place?

Of course, I'm one of those guys who thinks that somebody's intentions are the most important factor in whether people should be offended or not, but race is such an inflammatory issue that it's difficult to tell. I'm white, so I may not be able to understand by design. And it could be that people are okay with it as long as it's not a pitch-skin, huge wig, big red mouth kind of thing, like in the old minstrel shows.

After all, audiences laughed along when Robert Downey Jr. did his character in TROPIC THUNDER, and when Fred Armissen plays Barack Obama on "Saturday Night Live," nobody cries foul.

And when this performer came out last night and started up her song, I expected to hear howls of outrage, or at least snickers of "That ain't cool, man." But there was nothing. People seemed to be into it.

So maybe the problem is mine. Maybe I got offended on somebody else's behalf, that thing I complain about other people doing all the time, with a clenched jaw and fists of both hands. Say it with me, folks: I've become what I most despise.

Rish "Greenface" Outfield

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Stupid Thing of the Week

I've been participating in a karaoke competition the last couple of weeks, singing my lil heart out and (somehow) moving on to the next round. I haven't really felt the need to talk about it in my blog, since it doesn't seem to be the sort of thing people would find interesting.

But yesterday, somebody thought it would be cool to perform a Whitney Houston song . . . in blackface.