williamallenpepper

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Archive for the month “September, 2014”

THE ELUSIVE NOW

“What time is it?”

“About five minutes ’till dinner.”

“When do you want to go?”

“Whenever.”

Your sometime might be now, except “now” doesn’t like to sit still.

Sitting in your office, watching the clock until quitting time.

Waiting for your kid’s dance lesson to be done so you can go eat.

Tweeting while you stand in line waiting to buy the snacks you’ll take to kill time on your road trip.

We never just live in the moment, never experience the NOW. There’s no WHAT’S NEW? in our NOW. There’s only WHAT’S NEXT? If there’s any chance time won’t move at whatever speed we think it should, we look for things to fill it with.

You know how when you’re a kid it seems like it takes FOREVER for your birthday to come around? Or Christmas? Or summer vacation? When you’re young and have all the time in the world, you can’t wait to get to the next thing. Thing is, that feeling never goes away. Not completely. Swap waiting for Disneyland with waiting for that flight to the company convention to land and being an adult isn’t all that different than being a kid. Well, maybe the food’s different. Except Cheetos. I still kind of enjoy a good Cheeto.

A while back, I casually mentioned to a colleague that I wished it was Friday already. He thought for a moment, then responded, wistfully, that I shouldn’t wish my life away. The guy gives off a vibe of someone who’s been through some shit, came out clean on the other side somehow and is content to let life do its own thing now. There may be something to that. I don’t know. If I could stand to sit down quietly for a few moments, maybe I could figure it out.

It’s hard to appreciate watching the grass grow while also not letting it grow under your feet.

Wow. That’s weird.

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BEING NICE JUST FREAKS PEOPLE OUT

So, I googled “Is America getting less nice?’ The first thing that came up?  “Do more, apologize less – how bitches get ahead.”

So then I googled, “Are people getting less nice?” The first hit was “Nice guys finish happier, but they make less money.” Most of the entries on this list concerned the fact that people who are nice make less money. Others focused on how being nice can actually hamper you in society. None of them wondered if being nice was worth it simply for the value in being nice.

Humans, it seems, don’t like nice people. This seems contrary to the apparent needs of a functioning society, but there it is. Look around. Doing something for other people just because freaks other people out. Stop it.

I’m probably not one to start a Starbucks pay it forward. It’s not my personality. (Though I realize it’s not quite the same thing as fomenting revolution. It’s a couple cups of coffee. But…they might be VENTIS. Those ain’t cheap, bub.) But while I won’t start a pay it forward, I will typically participate if one has been started.

Does that make me a weak-willed patsy for the bullying tide of coercion as a tool of social niceties? Sure, but, really, does any good deed come without a push? People can claim to do things for selfless reasons, but you always get something in exchange – be it money or power or the promise of a favor in return. Even if all you get is a sense of worth and accomplishment, you’re getting something.

So what about that Starbucks pay it forward thing? What do you get out of that? Sometimes, I suppose, you get a financial boost – maybe the car behind you had a small bill than yours. But sometimes you have to pay even more than you would for your own order. People hate this thing. Start typing “Starbucks pay it forward” into Google and it auto-finishes “Starbucks pay it forward stupid”.  Some people go out of their way to purposely disrupt pay it forward chains. “A cheap publicity stunt,” they sneer.

Sure it’s good publicity. But it’s also a nice gesture for the stranger in the car behind you you’ll never see again.  There are bigger things to worry about, friends.

Forget coffee. Why don’t we do other “selfless” things anymore? Holding doors for people. Not cutting people off in traffic. We gleefully trash strangers on the Internet just because it’s anonymous. We don’t hitchhike because the people who pick us up might by psychopaths and we don’t pick up hitchhikers because hitchhikers are psychopaths. iTunes and the band U-2 gave everyone a FREE ALBUM and people lost their shit. “How dare they give me something! For free!” When our kids are little, we tell them to say thank you when they’re given a gift, whether they like it or not. Why shouldn’t we do this as adults?

And these aren’t even big things. I’m not even talking about lifting people out of poverty, making health care abundant and affordable for everyone, or free copies of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. (Sorry Bono, but if I have to choose between you or Kate Upton, well…)

All I’m talking about are the minimal levels of decency society needs to actually be considered decent. Uber- nerd Wil Wheaton might be onto something. Sometime ago, he laid out his “Dont Be A Dick”  plea. The idea is simply that people should be decent to each other. That’s it. It’s actually both a pretty good mantra and a pretty low societal threshold.

But I’m not sure we’re up to it.

I HAVE QUESTIONS

Do you wonder about things? Anything at all?

That’s a dumb question. Are you at least wondering about why I would ask such a stupid question?

I wonder about a lot of things. Serious issues of life and politics and commerce. Funny things like the enduring appeal (to me and more than a few others) of Laurel & Hardy or why Conan O’Brien didn’t work on The Tonight Show at 10:30 central, but does fine at 10 central on TBS.

But mostly, I wonder odd things.

My family likes that I’m on Twitter, @carnivalofglee, because I can subject the Internet to my random thoughts rather than them. To give you an idea what suffering my family occasionally, and the Internet multiple times daily, here’s a peek inside my brain. Brush away the cobwebs and assorted old Archie comics and Dave Barry columns if you must, but do NOT kick the troll out of his barcalounger. He gets pissed. You do not want to have to deal with a pissed brain troll.

Anyway, here’s what’s in my head much of the time:

Why does pizza with a round crust taste better than rectangular?

Why do sandwiches cut into triangles taste better than rectangular ones?

Buffalo wings are chicken, with absolutely no relation to buffalo. Similarly, elephant ears are not what they seem.

Why do I enjoy Superman less than when I was a kid, but enjoy Spider-Man a lot more than when I was a kid?

Why wasn’t Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip a better show?

Why don’t time travelers got sick from all the diseases they’re exposed to in other eras and/or infect the people with unaccustomed diseases?

If the universe is expanding, what is it expanding into?

The necktie is a stupid idea. So why does it really look good?

Was my friend Robert right years ago when he predicted the end of the writing as a form of communication?

Is choosing to cut strangers’ hair as odd a career choice as I think it is?

Why is wearing team colors, debating sports stats with your friends, and setting aside the afternoon to cheer your team on considered less nerdy than wearing a t-shirt of your favorite character or show, debating plots and stats with your friends, and being excited to watch your favorite show?

There’s not a movie made that couldn’t be improved by the addition of Tim Curry.

How the hell do people who spend weekends binging entire seasons of TV shows find the time?

Sure, the Twilight series was popular, as was Hunger Games, but will another book series ever capture young readers’ attention the way Harry Potter did?

So there’s a wee sampling of the dross flossing my brain daily. Clearly, I need help. Also cash. And a donut.

CLICKETY CLICKETY DING! CLICKETY CLICKETY DING!

If you thought my posts about Doctor Who were nerdy, better grab hold of something. You haven’t seen anything yet.

Here we go.

Recently, my brother-in-law surprised me with a rebuilt 1931 Smith Corona typewriter, the preferred typewriter of luminaries like T.S. Elliott. It’s very cool. Here it is:

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He found an eighty-five-year-old guy who still knew how to fix typewriters to rebuild it and then drove it across country to give to me. It’s in great shape and types great, the keys striking with a satisfying, cat-terrifying, crack. The only oddity, which turns out not to be so odd, is that there is no numeral 1 key; there’s not even a spot for it. A quick Google search clarified manufacturers at one time didn’t want to waste materials or production time, so they’d leave out superfluous things like the number 1. Makes sense. It was the Depression Era after all. Can’t be throwing around expensive digits willy-nilly. “Rotten sob’s can just type a lower case ‘l”” they apparently thought. “Good enough for the peasants. They’ll make do with 2-9 and like it.” It’s sort of like how these days we choose Congress-people.

The greatest part about this new typewriter is that now I have for my other typewriter.

Oh, yes. I have another.

Settle down, ladies. I’m taken.

Years ago, I picked up at an antique store an old Underwood typewriter; a huge, heavy thing:

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Some knobs are missing and some of the keys are wonky, but it’s charming nonetheless. I have not yet found an eighty-five-year-old dude to fix it.

I like typewriters. I don’t mean Tom Hanks-let’s build-an-app-that-sounds-like-a-typewriter like, but I do like them. I won’t be coming out with any Hanx Writer type apps. Would any of you give me $2.99 for an app that sounds like me typing blog posts?

I’m not alone in enjoying the soothing clicky-clicky of the typewriter keyboard. No less than the London Times has taken to piping the sound of people typing on typewriter keyboards to inspire and stimulate beleaguered reporters trying to file their stories.

I was a newspaper in a past life, writing for The Daily Iowan in college. I did enjoy walking into the newsroom. There was no haze of cigarette smoke or the bank of typewriter keys punctuated by the ding of the carriage return, but even the mellower sound of multiple computer keyboards was thrilling.

But they weren’t typewriters.

I was one of those kids in fourth-fifth grade, down in the basement using my mom’s old portable typewriter to bang out rip-offs of Encyclopedia Brown mysteries. The sound of the keys has stayed with me longer than the plots of most of the stories I plagiarized wrote.  Farting around with the new typewriter has given me that old familiar feeling.

I don’t know when I’ll use these typewriters. Or even if I ever will use them. But I like having them around.

Which is also sort of like how I feel about Congress. (Self-referential call back.)

 

 

 

 

WHAT I LEARNED FROM LABOR DAY

Grasshopper

 

Why, hello, Jiminy Cricket! How are you?

What’s that? You have a story to tell us? Please do, Mr. Cricket!

*Puts on footie pajamas and pops the popcorn.*

 

Okay, here’s the thing. Don’t be tweeting me angry corrections, you entomologists.  I know the bug in the picture isn’t Jiminy Cricket. It’s a grasshopper. A bug. or maybe an insect. I don’t know. One or the other. (Stand down your tweeting thumbs, bug doctors.) Whatever it is, it attacked my vehicle during a gas stop on the way home from my Labor Day three-day weekend travels.

Once I bested the grasshopper in two out of three falls, I went inside. There were people working all over the place. On Labor Day.  Selling gas, mopping the restroom, stocking shelves.

That’s not new, right? We’ve all travelled, or hell, just been out in the world on Labor Day before. People are always working. Earlier in the day, I had lunch at a fast food place. People were working there too. Cops were out stopping speeders on the highway.

Lots of people out working on this holiday. And, here’s the thing, they all seemed really happy. When’s the last time you went to a fast food place and found happy people behind the counter? They were today.

But who exactly is Labor Day for? Have I misjudged the definition of the day? Does “Labor Day” mean a day to do work? I hope not. Mostly what I did is not shave, eat fatty food and drive down the road. Oh, and watched Doctor Who (*ding* obligatory Doctor Who reference.)

I think Labor Day is supposed to be a day off from working. So what were all these people doing?

“You know…” Jiminy Cricket says.

Yeah. I do.

The truth is, Labor Day isn’t a holiday for most laborers. It’s pretty much just a holiday for me, those like me with white-collar jobs and, evidently, a hell of a lot of old, retired people in RVs. (RV’s, really? Gas is like $4.00 a gallon.) If you’re a minimum wage earner or in law enforcement, no three-day weekend for you. Holidays that don’t have their own carols or aren’t tied to some sort of gift giving can be tricky. We forget what they’re really about. Labor Day is one of those. We should take the time on days like Labor Day to appreciate those who do the things – cook our burgers, make sure the gas pumps don’t explode –  that make our lives easier.

Go hug a cop.

*The blog is not authorized to post bail.*

 

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