Monday, September 28, 2009

Quanto Sonno Ho Perso Per Te

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Lessons From Dan Brown And Exxon Mobil

I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, but this morning I went to a Mobil station to gas up. I never, ever go to gas stations—ANY gas station—because a) they only benefit evil corporations that have the gall to turn a profit, and b) I drill and pump my own crude in my own backyard, one barrel at a time, then wheelbarrow it down to the neighborhood refinery for processing. Sure, it ends up costing me upwards of $12.50 a gallon for the finished product, but it’s worth it. It’s better for the environment, and I know that not having my business hurts those greedy oil companies where it counts.

But this morning I overslept and didn’t have time to fire up the oil derrick, so I had to swallow my pride, bend over and grab my ankles to the tune of $2.49/gallon.

While I was standing at the pump silently cursing Exxon Mobil and all of its subsidiaries and wondering why in the hell they couldn’t find some Jimi to play on the piped in Musak (memo to Exxon Mobil marketing parasites: Celine Dion does not make my gas pumping experience more enjoyable), I saw something like this:

A gas credit card offer. What grabbed my attention was not the giant subliminally misleading 15¢ PER GAL., nor the slightly less giant DOUBLE REBATES debatable distortion of fact, nor the itty bitty asterisks indicating the presence of itty bitty fine print, which lurked in the bottom right corner, out of focus, and half-concealed by an errant dollop of pigeon shit.

What did immediately grab my attention was the blatant mystical symbolism hidden in plain sight:

The reason I noticed this first—or at all for that matter—is because I downloaded and started reading Dan Brown’s new book last night, and ever since I’ve been actively searching for ancient secret knowledge that’s hidden right under my nose. For those of you who plan on reading the book, don’t worry, I won’t give any of the plot away. But I will say that up through the first thirty chapters 90% of the book has been flashbacks, dream sequences, and people standing in front of mirrors for the express purpose of describing their physical appearance. In other words, the shocking and unpredictable twists and turns you would expect from a master of the craft.

By the way, don’t get intimidated that I’m already on Chapter 30. I’m no speed reader; Chapter 30 begins on page 45. In fact, there are 969 chapters in the entire book, a number that holds significant hidden meaning in and of itself because if you flip it upside down it becomes 696, which, when multiplied by the Golden Ratio equals the coefficient of shitty prose.

But let’s not get distracted.

What my fiction-induced heightened awareness was telling me was that there was some serious esoteric shit waiting to be unraveled at the Mobil station. So I did what unwilling-yet-intrepid adventurer Robert Langdon would do. No, I didn’t launch into a scene stopping expository monologue. I applied logical historical analysis to the mystery in question.

Admittedly, I’m new to this sort of thing, and in my hastiness to discover the wisdom held in secret by the ancients, I had a couple of false starts, as evidenced by this first iteration of analysis:

Ain’t no way that tiger’s gonna catch the pegasus. It’s a flying horse for chrissake! Tigers are dumb.

Obviously, whether accurate or not, this doesn’t fully capture the entire spectrum of implied nuance, so when I got to the office I conducted some historical research.

Now, in the new book Dan Brown states that Google does not equal research, historical or otherwise. To get around this, I donned a black turtleneck and a tweed jacket with elbow pads. This simple act transforms the process from research to scholarly pursuit, a jurisdiction under which Google is considered a legitimate source. If you add a pipe to the ensemble, you can use Wikipedia too.

Anyway, I soon uncovered this:

Yes, that’s a depiction of the old pre-merger Mobil pegasus. Notice the smile, an ancient universal representation of happiness and good cheer, which, some claim, predates even the Sumerians. You can imagine Pre-Merger Pegasus gallivanting around some fantastical corporate logo countryside, frolicking with other various pastoral icons, like Elsie the Cow or the Keebler Elves.

Now, compare that to this:

The new post-merger Mobil pegasus. This is the same pegasus being chased by the Exxon tiger in the credit card offer. We can infer from the change in directional orientation that Pre-Merger Pegasus, a carefree creature of whimsy that spent its days idly prancing to the left, at some point encountered the Exxon tiger, turned tail, and is now hauling ass to the right. Also note the 45 degree angle, indicating the impending moment of takeoff that was not present in the original. Now, let’s zoom in on Post-Merger Pegasus’ facial expression:

As you can see, the smile has been replaced with an expression of astonishment and fear: the downward looking gaze, the trembling bottom lip, all depicted, as noted above, at the exact moment of flight, as if the pegasus is saying, “Holy shit! I thought I was just a regular horse! But I’m flyin’! I’m really flyin’!” This is THE moment of self-actualization. The pegasus realizes, for the very first time, that it can fly.

Some might be quick to argue that Post-Merger Pegasus already knows it can fly, and the fearful expression is the result of being hunted down by a 600 pound predatory jungle cat, but upon closer inspection that conclusion doesn’t hold water. If Post-Merger Pegasus knew it could fly, it would have no reason to fear. In fact, most likely it would exude an air of cool indifference, or even taunting arrogance, as if to say, “Ha! Ha! Dumbass tiger. I’m a flying horse!” But that’s clearly not the case.

When all the pieces of the puzzle are put into place, a tiny morsel of the Wisdom of the Ages is revealed:

Sometimes, it takes a tiger on your ass to realize you can fly.

When I finally understood this profound hidden meaning, suddenly Celine Dion singing “A New Day Has Come” over the gas station speakers not only made perfect sense, but it was destined to be, as if the high priests of the ancient mystery schools were reaching through the aether of the space-time continuum foam to hold my hand as I took my first step toward nirvana, toward operating on a higher consciousness vibration plane via corporate synergistic ecstasy.

Or not. I dunno. Maybe it’s just a horse with wings.

Anyway, thank you for this cleverly encoded message of inspiration Exxon Mobil, you evil fucking bastards. And thank you, Dan Brown, for writing manipulative stories with hyperbolic shit to poetry ratios that nevertheless keep me awake longer than a Mountain Dew/Red Bull speedball. Prick.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I Heart Elizabeth Warren

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Then He Started Throwing Sea Creatures

God, I love Florida.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

They're Big...

...and you're small.

PS: Oops.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I'm Not Usually The Memey-Meme-Meme Kinda Guy...

...but Writtenwyrrd had this one up the other day and it looked fun. It's about reading habits.

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack:

No, but I rarely snack. However, a while back I’d gotten into the habit of eating Dove Dark Chocolate Minis while reading in bed, until one night I fell asleep with a handful. Interesting Fact: The human body produces enough heat over a six hour period to liquefy several ounces of chocolate, and can produce enough force (through tossing and turning) to squeeze liquefied chocolate through tiny holes in aluminum foil wrappers.

I blamed Carl Hiaasen for writing an unnecessary and extraneous chapter that, despite his clever turns of phrase and keen understanding of human nature, induced unconsciousness. Oddly, my wife didn’t see it that way.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?

Non-fiction books I mark up like the kitchen walls of a paranoid madman who’s hard at work deciphering the mysterious runes in a bowl of Lucky Charms. I used to use a highlighter, but I couldn’t read the margin notes so now I use a pen. But not just any pen. It has to be one of those fine tip roller ball pens where the ink spreads easily and with little effort, but not so quickly that I end up with ink dots all over my hands and shirt. Regular ball point pens, I find, require too much work to operate.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?

I used to use a baseball card (1989 Donruss Tony Gwynn or 1987 Topps Tony Gwynn), but that was back when I didn’t dare crease the spine of a paperback either. I’ve since experienced a moment of clarity and have come to realize it’s not the physical pages of the book that are sacred, it’s what all those little squiggly markings on the pages represent that is sacred. Dog-earring the shit out of a novel doesn’t desecrate the essence of it, just as burning a nation’s flag cannot diminish the nation nor the principles upon which it was founded, no matter how many people get offended. The symbol is not the thing.

Fiction, nonfiction, or both?


Are you a person who tends to read to the end of a chapter, or can you stop anywhere?

Chapters irritate me. I don’t know why. I usually read to the end of a scene. The only time I don’t is when I hear one or more of my children screaming/fighting/breaking things. At that point I pause and listen. If the screaming clearly involves injury, I’ll stop reading and investigate. If the screaming is part of a larger fighting event or a clear indication of a potential future fighting event, I will (depending on who is involved and how serious they sound) stop reading and investigate. If they’re breaking things I definitely stop reading, especially if they're breaking my things.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?

If it’s a non-fiction book I usually do. If it’s a science-y word in a novel I usually do. If it’s a non-science-y obscure word in a novel I can usually guess at the meaning with no harm done. If there are a lot of non-science-y obscure words in a novel I start making bets with myself as to how many chapters I will read before throwing it in the trash.

What are you currently reading?

Hollywood Station, by Joseph Wambaugh

Gateway to the Moon, by Charles D. Benson

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne (audio book)

What is the last book you bought?

Captiva, by Randy Wayne White

Are you the type of person that reads one book at a time, or can you read more than one?

I tried holding one book in one hand and one book in the other hand and alternating every other sentence, but it turns out I was still only reading one book at a time.

Do you have a favorite time/place to read?

The present/planet Earth.

Do you prefer series books or stand alones?

I like them both.

Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?

No, but there is a specific person (my Mom) to whom I make recommendations over and over. It works like this. I recommend an author, and if she likes the first book, she reads everything by that author. Then she passes all the books on to me, and recommends to me that I should read them, because they were very good. So now I’ve got all these extra books to read, but very little time to read them. But I do plan on reading them, eventually, because I hear they’re very good.

How do you organize your books?(by genre, title, author’s last name, etc.)

I believe in simplicity. Therefore, I only have 3 categories of books: Books I’m Reading, Books I Need Something From, and Everything Else.

Books I’m Reading are on my nightstand.

Books I Need Something From (ie, notes, margin scribbles, etc.) are on my desk.

Everything Else is on the bookshelf. Or on the floor next to the bookshelf. Or on my desk or nightstand, positioned in such a way as to easily distinguish them from Books I’m Reading or Books I Need Something From. Except on the rare occasion the categories overlap, in which case they could be on any of the three, any combination thereof, or none, possibly the floor. And then there’re the ebooks, which I guess would be a fourth category. Those could be on my nightstand or my desk, or in the garage I guess, if I left the ereader on top of the fridge while grabbing another beer. They could also be on the floor or the table by my closet if the ereader's being charged. Anyway, point is, I know exactly where things are. Really.