Sunday, May 31, 2009

Friday at the Common Ground Coffee Shop

I had a job this morning, lunch and two beers at Founders and now I'm at the Common Ground Coffee Shop, reading East of Eden, having coffee and smoking a cigar.

Three loud girls are at the next table.

One of the girls is complaining about a roommate. "He has no common sense," she says. "I put my name on my cream cheese and he ate it anyway." She says she's enjoying her freedom now that school is out. She sleeps in until ten.

"I'm connected to old boyfriends on Facebook . . . 'Oh, you look like a little old man.'" The girl is probably twenty-two years old at most.

"Churches help a lot," she says.

Someone used the word "gonzo" at Founders, and one of the girls just mentioned watching the movie Gonzo with a couple of friends.

Now the girls are talking about a guy whose guidance councilor said going to Michigan University was a "long shot". Now they are talking about their SATs. "I am not a fast reader," says tall gawky blonde girl.

Tall blonde has a pot belly, a tight white shirt, sad tits and horrible posture. The brunette in the middle has Tina Fey glasses and a red shirt with an American flag on the front and a white button down shirt over that.

"They wanted to place me in 202. I scored amazingly well on the test," Tina Fey Glasses says.

The third girl wears a brown shirt. She has bad posture and an unremarkable face.

The girl in the brown shirt is a chain smoker.

"What were we talking about?"

"We were talking about Lydia."

A guy shows up. He declares that he is tired. Black pants, black unzipped sweater jacket. White tee-shirt. Blonde hair cut close. Pale goatee.

Blonde girl gets up and hugs him. They sit on the sofa right across from me.

Tired Guy is going to California and then to LA.

"How's LA?" Blonde Girl asks. I think she likes saying "LA". I'm jealous of these young people. Apparently they are studying film.

"Like GR only more spread out," Tired Guy says.

Okay, I no longer am jealous. LA is like Grand Rapids? Really? I've seen Pulp Fiction too many times to believe that.

"I'm working with LA Catholic Worker?" Blonde Girl says. "I'm going to be living in an LA halfway house with homeless and three people who are dying?"

She ends her declarative sentences like questions. I hate that?

"These were fucking . . ." she says. "They call it the Hippy Kitchen. So what did you do in LA?"

"Different jobs, different companies. Made a few friends and made a few enemies," the Tired Guy says.

"What did you do?" Blonde Girl asks.

"Be myself," Tired Guy says. He seems pretty laid back. Non-annoying. That's saying a lot.

Tired Guy is in film school and Blonde Girl is in some kind of works program. They have been to LA and I haven't. I hate them and envy them at the same time.

Later . . .

"So I heard that Heather is pregnant?"

"Allegedly," Tired Guy says.

"She is so friggin' cute."

"I was nice to her, but that doesn't mean I have to like her."

Blonde girls starts a lot of statements with the word "Dude".

"I am now a film studies major."

"I wanted Photography but Calvin sucks ass."

"Finished French forever."

"You fluent then?"

"I wouldn't say fluent."

And later . . .

"I saw Fahrenheit 457?"

"What else are you doing?"

"Shooting movies."

None of these people have any concept of inside voices. I feel no guilt in eavesdropping. Eavesdropping? They're practically yelling their lines.

"I'm a vegetarian."

"When did that happen?"

"Oh, I eat cheese. Don't even start. I eat cheese, milk and eggs. I don't care what animals are abused for those or whatnot."

Saturday, May 30, 2009

chillin at the condo

we're living large at a condo on lake charlevoix. one of my very special customers needs the wireless set up so we get to use the place this weekend. this place rocks.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

in line at the post office

The guy in line in front of me is wearing brown shoes, blue jeans with frays at the heels. He holds five envelopes in his left hand, his pinky out. He keeps a wallet in his left back pocket. I see two credit cards. He wears a purple shirt. He keeps his brown hair short, but he needs a haircut or at least a shave on the back of his neck. He is going bald. He is impatient. There are four people in front of him, and the guy at the counter is a stamp collector, and he's asking about every type of stamp they have. The guy collecting stamps at the counter wears khaki pants and a large blue button down shirt, untucked. His hair is snow white, and he has a goatee. He and the postal worker lady are talking like they are the only two people in the room. It is noon.

The guy in front of me taps his foot, then turns around to see if anyone else is witnessing this shit (the guy at the counter with no regard for other people's time). My head is down, writing into this little notebook, so I don't have to make eye contact. I hate interacting with people I don't know. The guy in front of me has a goatee, and he stands like he's in a hurry. He should take up writing. It is a good hobby, and helps kill time while waiting in line (I forgot my book).

The lady behind me has shiny faux gold and jeweled flip-flops. She is wearing shorts. She has a horrible 80s hairdo and a burned face. She has a purse and a stylish canvas bag. I'm no fashion genius, but she is one tacky broad. Glad my handwriting is crappy, there's no way she'll be able to read this.

The lady in front of impatient purple shirt guy has grey frizzy hair.

There are six people behind me and only two in front now. There is a cop in line.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

memorial day weekend . . .

There is no new news since last time I checked the news sites. There are no new updates on Facebook since last time I checked Facebook, just minutes before. There is nothing new to eat in the refrigerator since last time I checked, half an hour ago. There is nothing new outside my window since last time I checked, a few minutes ago. There is nothing new on television since last time I checked, just a few minutes before.

There are no new calls on my phone since last time I checked. There are no news items on CNN.com since last time I checked. There are no new updates on Facebook since last time I checked.

I don't have any new ideas for stories since last time I checked. There is nothing new to eat in the refrigerator since last time I checked, half an hour ago. There is nothing new on Facebook since last time I checked. There is no new email since last time I checked, just a few minutes before. There is nothing new outside my window since last time I checked, a few minutes ago. There is nothing new on television since last time I checked, just a few minutes before.

There are no new calls on my phone since last time I checked. There are no news items on CNN.com since last time I checked. There are no new updates on Facebook since last time I checked.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

scooter


I was tooling along on Alex's electric scooter on the sidewalk. I took it to the bank to make a deposit, and on my way back, I heard a motorcycle behind me. I turned and looked at it was a motorcycle cop. He was right behind me, on the sidewalk.

I got pulled over by a motorcycle cop for riding an electric scooter on the sidewalk. I would usually bitch about something like this, but the cop was cool and I've wrinkled my nose at other people doing the same thing. The cop asked me for my driver's license. He asked me if I "was suspended". I had no idea what he was talking about. He said, "Is your license suspended?" I said I hadn't had a ticket in years. He ran my license and let me go.

We got a lot of funny looks, a guy pulled over on an electric scooter by a motorcycle cop, on the sidewalk, lights flashing.

Monday, May 18, 2009

two movie reviews:

THE WRESTLER: great movie, except it will make you want to commit suicide for a few hours afterwords. ERASERHEAD: weirdest thing I have ever seen in my life. Weird is a good thing.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A BULLSHIT THEORY

This essay is about the disillusionment that takes place throughout an individual's lifetime. Disillusionment is the decision by an individual that an idea or concept that was once believed valid is actually bullshit.

REALIZATION AND THE IDENTIFICATION OF BULLSHIT

There is an instant when a human being moves a concept or idea from the "accepted" subset of all ideas and concepts to the bullshit subset of all ideas and concepts. This instant is called a moment of realization. The remark "that's total bullshit" is an indicator that the speaker believes that a concept, declaration or idea is indeed bullshit and should therefore be held in contempt and or scorned.

DEVELOPMENT OF SKEPTICISM (THE ABILITY TO IDENTIFY BULLSHIT)

A newborn baby has no concept of bullshit. A baby receives unfiltered sensory perceptions, but cannot understand abstract concepts. A newborn baby accepts everything as valid. This condition is temporary and soon ends as the baby becomes a child and later develops the ability to recognize bullshit.

As a child develops the ability to use language, he or she develops a short list of things considered bullshit, although the child may designate these things as "lame", "bogus", or "weak". The child will use current popular slang to express his or her belief that a concept or idea is bullshit. Whatever slang the child or adolescent is using, it is building and refining his or her list of things that fall under the category of bullshit. But eventually the child will utter the phrase, "that's bullshit".

SUBJECTIVISM AND THE IDEA OF BULLSHIT

What is and is not bullshit is a matter of opinion, and therefore cannot be defined absolutely. What is obvious bullshit to one person is absolute truth to another person. Without an ultimate authority of truth and bullshit, arguments will go unanswered.

DISAGREEMENT ABOUT WHAT IS AND IS NOT BULLSHIT

Conflicts arise when large segments of a population cannot agree on what is and is not bullshit. Humans cannot identify all bullshit correctly at all times. That which is believed to be bullshit by a few may be accepted as truth by many, and that which is accepted as true by some may be held in contempt (as bullshit) by the majority.

Popular ideas may fall out of favor over time, declining in the collective consciousness until it is universally defined as bullshit, although in earlier periods that same concept may have been accepted as valid without discussion.

The conflict that arises over differences in opinion regarding the bullshit or non-bullshit of a given issue sometimes take place in the arenas of politics or religion. Sometimes even the debate over a given issue becomes bullshit itself, and the matter being debated is obscured by a shit-storm of bullshit arguments and contortions of logic on both sides of any argument. The downward spiral of competing bullshit arguments has led many to believe that all politics and all religion are bullshit and should therefore be held in contempt regardless of the actual issues being debated.

UNBALANCED SKEPTICISM AND DOUCHBAGGERY

The idea that any number of ideas or concepts could be bullshit can lead to unbalanced skepticism, which can lead to snarky comments on all subjects. This can lead to douchbaggery, a condition brought on by the fear of missing some concept that is bullshit, and the fear that in failing to detect said bullshit, one has exposed oneself to the mockery of one's peers. One should always keep in mind that in the set of all existing concepts and ideas, there is a slim chance that some things are not bullshit.

ADVANCED IDENTIFICATION OF BULLSHIT OVER TIME, AND THE CONCEPT OF 100% BULLSHIT RECOGNITION

Cases where individuals (often elderly or mature individuals) who have identified between 85% and 95% of all ideas and concepts as bullshit are often considered "wise", "worldly", "senile", or "grumpy".

Over time, the aging individual experiences more things and categorizes a continuously growing number of things as bullshit. The percentage of things held in contempt as bullshit approaches 100%.

The percentage of things that exist that are considered bullshit in the mind of an individual can never reach 100%, because if the person concludes that all concepts and ideas are bullshit, the individual's will to live reaches 0% and the natural survival instinct is negated and the individual would then become non-functioning.

There is no possibility of reaching a belief that 100% of all ideas and concepts are bullshit because the very "idea" that all things are bullshit is also an idea, and holding that idea itself as true makes it impossible to believe that all ideas are bullshit.

While the hypothetical 100% bullshit non-functioning person does not necessarily die, it is possible that a person who has reached a 100% bullshit identification ratio will have a really bad attitude, or may in fact be a douchbag.

The other possibility is that someone who has identified all existing ideas and concepts as bullshit may become totally laid-back and cool. This idea, however, is itself bullshit.

CONCLUSION

There is a lot of bullshit out there. Next time you are presented with an idea, a dogma, plan, plea, cause or theory, think critically about what is being discussed or proposed, and ask yourself: is this bullshit?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

writing scraps

* * *

It was their need to control that eventually destroyed them. The cameras, the number of cameras doubled every year, until there was nowhere to go that wasn't under surveillance. At least it appeared that every spot in the country was under surveillance, but there was a problem:

There weren't enough people to watch all of the cameras. State workers got bored watching the same street corners day after day, year after year. Usually nothing happened, and when something did happen, it was usually sad and typical.

So they wrote software to watch what happened on the cameras. Face recognition software, RFID chips, optical character recognition (for vehicle license plates) and advanced programs to read body language, cultural trends and so on was developed. There were particle analyzers that sniffed the air for drugs and explosives.

* * *

She holds her books like a schoolgirl. She has bad posture, a slouch that makes it seem that she doesn't want to be seen; as if she is ashamed to be in the room, wherever she is. She has mouse-brown hair cut pageboy style around a chubby face. Chubby: that is the word for her. If she had any fashion sense she would realize that a khaki pants and brown belt and pale tucked-in button down shirt are wrong for her body type. Everything is wrong for her body type, but at least loose clothes wouldn't give her a "muffin top," the bulge over the belt that is too tight.

Her name is "Ed" which is short for Edwina, her grandmother's name on her father's side. She has always hated the nickname but has never said anything about it.

She never says anything about anything.

* * *

Barista

The barista is a movie / television buff. He has a hip way of talking, laid-back Californian styled speech couched in Michigan.

But he doesn't know what a cathode-ray tube is. The postman he is talking to mentions it, and the Barista comes up blank.

The Barista talks to the postman about the new Star Trek movie, and the director, whose name is Abrams, who has done "Lost" and "Cloverfield", and about how Abrams has a knack of making things "vibrant" and "alive".

I agree.

I eavesdrop, but is it eavesdropping if the speaker has a loud voice and is using it in public? I think not.


* * *

Monday, May 11, 2009

new blog post in 3...2...1...

How to make your dull day a little more interesting: On the show Mythbusters, before they do anything, they always announce what they're going to do and then count down from three: "Firing in 3...2...1..." and then they fire the gun or whatever. "Electrocution test in 3...2...1..." and then they pull the switch.

I think we can all incorporate this weird behavior in our own lives. "Saying grace in 3...2...1...", or "brushing teeth in 3...2...1..." or, "coffee break in 3...2...1..."

It might help break up a dull day (if you have those) or at least annoy or entertain those around you.

This has been a tip from Dan Manning, who is waiting for the damn phone to ring (in 3...2...1...)

Saturday, May 09, 2009

fifth third river bank run

did the 10k in 58:26, which is pretty good for my pace. Now, off to the Hideout for a beer.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Star Trek movie review

Great action movie. Spoiler alert: The bad guy looks like the lead singer from Smashing Pumpkins.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

#96 poem?

When Pearl Jam counts as classic rock,
And Ozzy plays the fool,
And my old bones no longer dance
Because I'm so uncool,

With mortgages and bills and work
To occupy my age,
When Democrats and Publicans
Have outlived my outrage,

When I have seen that everything
Is Bullshit without fail,
And Global Warming and Swine Flue
Are both brought down to scale,

When everything I've ever known
Turns out to be untrue,
I'll shake my head and thank the Stars
Above I still have you.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Are You With The Writer's Group?

I arrive at the bookstore to hopefully join a writer's group. The website said they meet here at noon. I go up to the counter to get some coffee.

"Does the writer's group meet here today?"

"I'm not sure," says Miss Helpful as she gets my coffee. "I don't usually work here during the day. If there is a meeting they usually meet in the back."

I think she's wrong, but I lug my writing stuff back there, and no, the roped off area with the tables and podium is empty. I return to the cafe at the front of the store.

Do I really want to join a group? I'm not much of a 'joiner'.

The people who have come into the bookstore cafe so far strike me as kind of . . .

Well, they aren't the writer's group after all. They are probably church people. They are severely white, safely dressed, and annoyingly self-conscience.

You would think I'd be able to spot a group of writers. I guess they aren't meeting today. I guess I'll just sit here and write.

Two middle aged church ladies are sitting across from each other near the black-marble tiled fireplace, and one of them has a voice that carries.

Skinny alone guy by the window has looked over his shoulder at them twice now, but they haven't noticed. He's trying to read the paper, and how dare voice-carrying lady disturb him?

From the kitchen of ill-advised belly shirts I hear this: "Did you see the email from Barb? About the banana split?"

The group I thought was a writer's group is indeed a church group. They have pushed tables together right behind me, chatting about safe topics.

"What was the best part of the trip?" One of the faithful asks. There is much banal talk. At one point: "Let me finish this so I don't have to keep trying to finish this, Vicky."

So no writer's group. I guess I'll write without them.

Actually, asking each person who comes into the bookstore if they are with the writer's group is becoming increasingly easy.

"Are you with the writer's group?" I ask an attractive girl. I already know she's not with a writer's group because she has nursing textbooks and a laptop. She's studying for nursing school, but I ask her anyway because she's somewhat hot.

"No, I'm studying."

I knew you were; I just wanted to see that awkward moment when creepy guy asks you if you are with the writer's group. Could I somehow use this as a pick-up line? Hey, look at me, I'm wearing black and looking for a non-existent writer's group. Oh, can I buy you a coffee? You've always been interested in writing? Oh sure, it's hard to find time for anything, studying for school. . .

I learned about this supposed group online last night searching "Facebook" on the word "Grand Rapids."

Another group arrives at the bookstore cafe. Nope, they are not the writer's group. At least there are some bohemian traits with this group. At least there is some eyeliner and shirts from Hot Topic. At least there are backpacks and tattoos. But alas no, these are not the writers I seek.

Just to make sure, I gather up my pen and composition book and check the area in the back again. Nope, no writer's group there.

Overheard: "Didn't see any birds flying around in Church today."

That's a sign that God has abandoned your false church! I want to scream, and then I imagine I storm out and stare belligerently at them through the windows until they call the police.

Seen: The morbidly obese man in the black striped shirt: he has a black and gray goatee, red mottled skin, and a receding hairline. He places the contents of a plastic baggie into his hand. He examines the little group of colorful pills in his fat sweaty palm and then pops them into his mouth and washes them down with coffee. Then the waitress brings him a giant roast-beef sandwich, and I foresee his lonely death in his empty apartment due to heart-complications and diabetes. His corpse will watch television for four days before he is discovered. When they find him, Dr. Phil will be humiliating some skinny pierced teenager on the television with a belligerent lecture about responsibility.

Maybe there is no writer's group, but the person who set up the Facebook page is here anyway, giggling as I ask strangers if they belong to the non-existent group. What a nice setup. How many times have they mocked rubes like me who come seeking a group to belong to that doesn't exist?

Even the non-helpful belly-shirt coffee girl gets into the act. She asks people if perhaps they are in the writer's group. What do I look like to the nubile staff? What do they think of the creepy guy in his forties who keeps asking everyone if they are with the writer's group? Help, I need to belong to a group! Won't you let me join you? Look how lonely I am, sipping my coffee, hunched over my little composition book, glancing up at every group hoping to belong, to belong to something bigger than myself, where I can pretend to listen to other people's writing when really I'm only waiting for my turn to read my writing, which is all I really care about. Pretending to be impressed with someone else's writing while inside I'm screaming, "Why don't you acknowledge my genius? Where is the multi-million dollar contract? Harrison Ford is too old to be in a movie based on my novel, but Stephen Spielberg is more than welcome to direct it, just as soon as I get around to writing it.

What am I doing in this bookstore? I should be home, smoke-checking my keyboard with sublime turns of phrases, scintillating wit and subtle innuendo. No publisher will be able to resist my literary charms. My characters, rich and complex, will exchange witty banter before saving the world from philosophical aliens who arrive in silver spacecraft.

"Are you with the writer's group?" Now I've actually gone outside in the sun to ask the lone girl sitting at one of the tables outside. She smiles. Oh, she likes me. Is this a pickup line, she is wondering. Just a mouse of a girl, reading alone, minding her own business. Oh the things I could show you. I'm a writer, aren't I fascinating? But no, she isn't in the writer's group, although I knew it all along, I act mildly disappointed, and then I slink back into the darkness like Nosferatu before she becomes nervous and sprays me in the face with pepper spray.

Finally I give up. Oh the scalding post I'll post on that Facebook page. I spent all this time in the bookstore when I could have been writing instead . . . Oh, wait a minute . . . Maybe if I were to jot all of this down, it might be mildly entertaining.

Naw.

About Me

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I am the author of 8 books: Android Down, Firewood for Cannibals, Brain Giblets, The Cubicles of Madness, Booze and News, Get Your Zen On, Zen Happens, and most recently, Robot Stories. I live and write in Michigan. My website is at danmanning.com

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