Thursday, January 10, 2008

Get to know your imaginary community (part 1 of 22)

St. James Place is a modest, lower-middle class community located along the Eastern border of our imaginary city. Originally settled in the great northeastern pyrite rush of the 1820s, St. James Place became known for both its prostitutes and its sasparilla throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. The 1903 discovery of an old leather and cork sports ball in the public square put St. James Place in the running as an alternate location for the baseball hall of fame, an honor this beleaguered town saw slip through its hands when the ball was revealed to be a key instrument in a primitive form of bondage-style sex playfully referred to by town residents of the day as "them ol' peculiar hoodwinks in the parlour," and made briefly famous on a national level with the publication of Philbert Tripleday's 1906 foxtrot of the same name.

Did you know? . . .
-You can get to St. James Place on the Pennsylvana Railroad?
-St. James is the patron saint of vinegar-based condiments?
-There are two Wendy's restaurants on the same street in St. James place?!?
-The scenes at "Adams College" in the film Revenge of the Nerds were shot in St. James Place?

And did you further know . . .
-Famous celebrities born in St. James Place include: Neil Patrick Harris!
-The St. James Place Children's Zoo tops the nation's list in unaccounted-for ungulates! Nobody knows how they got out, or where they went! This zoo needs more oversight!
-On an average day in St. James Place, there are over 4000 sandwiches eaten! This is hundreds more than are eaten in Marvin Gardens!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Dream Analysis, or Terror Quantified

This morning I woke up and remembered a dream I had. Not a dream from last night, but one from sometime in the past couple weeks. You know, you have dreams and you forget them, then for some reason you remember them days or weeks later. In my dream I was eating a Big Mac. I wasn't enjoying it. I remember putting the Big Mac back down in its box (this is where I put burgers when I need to take a "burger break") and feeling mildly stressed out because I still had about half of it left to eat (I'm still a die-hard member of the clean plate club, modern nutritionists be damned). It was a mildly stressful dream. If the unit of unpleasantness in dreams is the nightmare, this dream may have been about 1/20 of a nightmare. It is less exciting to have bad dreams this way, but I imagine I get more sleep at night.

In my waking life I very much enjoy the Big Mac once or sometimes even twice per year.

What does it mean?

After careful consideration, I believe the ambivalence towards the Big Mac in my dream is either:

a.) an unconscious expression of my real-life ambivalence towards the Hardees Thickburger. I love the Hardees Thickburger; however, I am horrified (to the tune of 1/5 a nightmare) by the cultural aura surrounding it.
b.) an unconscious expression of my real-life ambivalence towards Mark McGwire. I love Mark McGwire; however, I am horrified (to the tune of 1/5 of a nightmare) by the cloud of steroids-related controversy surrounding him.

I have boring nightmares.

Monday, January 07, 2008

the metaphors we live next to

There's this book about metaphors called Metaphors We Live By. It talks about how we use stuff like the concepts of up/down or in front of/behind to describe stuff where those concepts don't literally apply. It says we use them so systematically that it seems like our brains just work that way. Like time, say-- we're pretty consistent when we describe some scheduled event as "coming up," or that golden oldie we heard on the radio taking us "way back." You see how it works. Nothing too philosphical or complicated there.

I heard some radio program about data compression. I was thinking about the kind called run-length encoding, in which strings of data that are repeated are replaced by some stand-in to save space. Like say you took the book of Genesis and said *="and it was good." That would save you a lot of room, because after all that stuff He makes, all He would say was *. You see how it works.

Well, then I was thinking how similar that kind of idea is to the way some people say we use metaphors. By thinking of different kinds of things using the same schemas, like using the in front of/behind schema for a road and for a calendar, maybe we are saving space in our brains. Not just saving space, but keeping things more organized and less redundant. So there it was, my first crackpot revelation of 2008: Data Compression is the new Metaphor.

I looked it up to make sure nobody had beaten me to the punch. Turns out people way smarter than me have been thinking about it since the late seventies. God damn, It's hard these days to come up with a brand new crackpot revelation.

So Saturday night I was talking to a stranger about how her cell phone won't break when she drops it. I said she had to drop it harder. I thought it would be funny to understand her as wanting to break her phone. I said "gravity is not enough." That sounded like a cool catchphrase. I was overheard, but incorrectly, by a short man who plays the pedal steel guitar. He thought I said "gravity is not a metaphor." That sounded like a cool catchphrase.

The discussion turned to the pinball machine against the wall. It was called "Night Moves." We wondered whether "Night Moves" the pinball machine might be named after "Night Moves" the Bob Seger song. I suggested that in "Night Moves" the Bob Seger song, Bob Seger is actually using sex as a metaphor for pinball. I thought it would be funny to say that.

Later I realized that although so many things are used as metaphors for sex, it's all but impossible to use sex as a metaphor for anything.

Go ahead, try it.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Dear 2008,

I've a bone to pick with you, young man. You are the future, and I think it's time you start acting like it. Don't look at me like that! Don't say you're not the future! Even if 1984 wasn't supposed to be the future after all, 2001 sure the hell was. If you expect me to wait around until 2010 you got another thing (or is it think?) comin'. So listen up. Here's a list of grievances. Oh, come on future, don't cry. Maybe I was too harsh. I guess you've done allright, what with ipods and laptops and innovations in automated meat processing facilities. But this year you gotta do better. You have 361 days (tough on you, being a leap year, isn't it) to address the following areas of distinct and painful lack, and if you cannot, you will be replaced by someone who can (current leading candidate: 2009).

-Flying cars
-Teleportation, at least of small inanimate objects
-Vertical lanes in which flying cars can move in addition to the usual horizontal ones
-Alien contact (with either a benevolent species or one bent on destroying us)
-Various new traffic regulations concerning flying cars
-An elevator to the moon
-A George Foreman grill that presses not just from the top and bottom, but also from an as-yet undiscovered fifth dimension
-Driver and passenger side airbags in flying cars
-Nanotechnology implanted directly in the cornea that allows the viewer to distinguish between Amish and Menonites
-New energy-saving fuel cell technology for flying cars
-A kind of new pop music that a.) doesn't suck and b.) sounds all weird and futuristic-like
-An island nation of intelligent, clothes-wearing bears, equipped with a viable, state-of-the-art armed forces as well as a world-renowned, largely seafood-based culinary culture
-A way to jump-start flying cars without all the hastle
-The return of prehensile tails in the higher primates
-Advances in personal fashion including something known as the "third eyebrow"
-The immediate cancellation of Everybody Loves Ray (in the future, nobody loves Ray)
-Back-seat Blu-ray players standard in selected high-end flying car models
-A new type of jar opener that appeals to old people and young people alike
-A new shape of New York-style pizza whose slices can be folded along some as-yet undiscovered fifth dimension
-In the future, it seems like there shouldn't have be any shitty food anymore. All food should be good now.
-Self-zipping pants
-A telekinetic device you can install in your lamps that allows them to turn on and off when you just think about clapping.
-A great peace-making between Glad and Ziplock brand resealable sandwich bags.
-A Number 3 pencil
-No less than seven noteable new peanut-derived inventions (this area has really slowed down since George Washington Carver, and I personally believe 2008 is the year of the peanut once again)
-A convenient medicine which settles the uneasy stomach some experience as a result of flying car travel
-A new method of melting cheese without all the muss and fuss
-A portable closet or pantry whose contents reside in an as-yet undiscovered fifth dimension without losing any of the utility or freshness we've come to expect from our three-dimensional closets and pantries
-A new tool to spread condiments with more efficiancy and more panache