I've got an oriental rug in the cellar. It came with the house. It hid, tucked up into the ceiling in the old part of the house. I never noticed it during the final inspection. The previous owners left me a lot of treasures that way: original windows, doors, wiring, all stacked in dark corners. Why didn't I clean all that garbage out before I moved in? Well, I closed in January, so it would have been a pain. By the time spring came, I had moved on to other projects. Plus, it's a hassle to get rid of stuff like that.

I can barely keep up with the mandatory maintenance to the house and property. The fence and house need scraping & painting. Brush requires cutting. The barn calls for trim, planned but never executed when we built it eight years ago. My first year here, my grandmother asked me, "When will you have time to enjoy your house?" I had just finished enumerating my list of summer projects.Framing_4

My answer was quick, "I'm enjoying every minute."

I should have been more honest and told her that I didn't know. I still don't know. I certainly enjoy horses and dogs, and having friends stop by. I enjoy living in a place where parties happen, and where gatherings materialize. I don't enjoy having a list that never shrinks. I wish I had one spot, one place to rest my eyes that didn't have a project waiting.

Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought, "Is this me? Is this what I expected to be? When I'm looking out, do I understand that this is what other people see?"

What's the point of having a list?

And now, Brian and Ike take a quick break from their usual discussions of remodeling, the internets (plus the googles), and movie spoilers, to discuss, um, well, Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Random, we agree, but unfortunately our exposé interview with the Kardashians was cancelled at the last minute. Apparently the Nuclear Regulatory Commision needed their input on a few overseas issues...

Ike: Is there such a thing as love at first sight? I lean towards no. Certainly some people feel an instant attraction, and if their introduction doesn't stifle those feelings, perhaps the attraction can grow into love. Or maybe the love grows on the attraction (like a mold). Because once that love goes bad, it often spoils the attraction. 

Brian: Of course there is love at first site. I know this because it happens to me all the time. For instance, have you seen Wendy’s new Baconator?  “Two 1/4 lb. patties topped with juicy Applewood smoked bacon in between a premium fresh bun. Topped off with mayo, ketchup, and American cheese. Now that's not just a sandwich, but a tasty treat.” Indeed it is, Wendy’s, indeed it is.
Oh, wait, you mean between two people. Nope. There is definitely “like” at first site, and during the teen years there is also “like like“ at first site, but that is a different sort of emotion, fueled by rampantly overflowing pubescent hormones, Clearasil, and Taco Bell.

Ike: Okay, then we agree. I'm sure you'll also agree that the opposite happens as well: you meet someone towards whom you feel nothing but, after you get to know them, a physical thing just materializes.

Brian: Yeah, a physical thing materializes… in your pants! (for the record, it pains me to stoop to such depths. I’m trying to be clever and funny, but let’s face it, a part of me is still 13, so when you toss out softballs like that, I have no choice but to knock it out of the park with the best humor that 8th grade has to offer.)

Ike: If that's you "knocking it out of the park," then I assert that you might be the one with the "softballs."Disney-Beauty-And-The-Beast-3DBut, all that aside, my question is this: what's the deal with Beauty and the Beast? It's not that he's repulsive physically, at least that doesn't seem to be the point they're making. This giant hulk is frightening, intimidating, and gruff. Belle has her work cut out for her as she chips away at the Beast's defenses, taking the first two acts to fall in love with him. He seems to love her instantly, although he won't admit it.
They talk, fight, dance, lots of people sing. Hell, even the furniture and appliances sing. 

Brian: (why does the refrigerator make that humming noise? ‘Cause it doesn’t know the words.) 

Ike: They have quite a gay time. 

Brian: (Um, I hate to correct, but that was “Twinky and the Beast”, an adaptation… same basic story line, but slightly more, um, colorful, and significantly less “family friendly”… so I hear.)

Ike: And, of course, they fall deeply and madly in love. Who knew? Of course Disney didn't make up this story, but they're not shy about fixing a plot line that doesn't make sense. So why did they keep this one?
Here's the major problem: have you seen this prince guy that the Beast turns in to? Who believes that Belle's love for “The Beast” will translate equally into a love for that femme-bot?

Brian: Further evidence that you watched the wrong version of this story. Here’s a good way to tell… if your version starts with a disclaimer that everyone in the film was over 18 at the time of filming, there is a really good chance you grabbed the wrong copy.

Ike: I understand that as she got to know his personality she fell madly in love, but she fell madly in love with Beast. She fell in love with a big, hulking, masculine creature, and he turned into that prince guy who, quite frankly, looks like he might be looking for a big masculine creature to shack up with himself. 

Brian: (he definitely was in that other version…)

Ike: Just not plausible, even for a cartoon. 

Brian: So true. I know of many true love relationships that have fallen apart over a single bad haircut. I agree that the concept of this true love surviving such a transformation is bogus. Even Wiley Coyote physics can't save that relationship. Sure, it starts off fine, but soon enough Belle is going to be arranging clandestine meetings with Sully from Monsters Inc. to get some more of that furry love. In the long run, though, even that is doomed to fail. After all, statistics prove that a majority of relationships between persons of mixed animation ancestry end in divorce. Not to be racist, but Belle needs to stick with a nice Disney boy. A Pixar/Disney thing would never last, though I suspect the kids would be incredibly attractive.

Next time, as promised, we'll bring you our interview with Igor and Vladimir Kardashian, the quantum physics duo from the outer Kamchatka Peninsula.

WillisI think this all started with Bruce Willis. At least he's our first data point; who knows when it really started. It could have been cooked up over a jazz cigarette at New York University some night at 3am. Anyway, Bruce Willis was the first victim to the evil plot. 

Here's how it goes: take a Name Brand Star, someone like Willis. You give him a interesting little movie with a twist ending and hard-to-read script and show him that it can be a commercial and critical success. I give you The Sixth Sense, for example. Then, just when you've got Willis buying in, WHAM! You bust him up with an Unbreakable, just to mess him up. He'll be so spun around backwards he'll end up getting a divorce and making a shitty movie with Billy Bob Thorton. It took him six years (six years) to climb out of that hole. He bounced back faster after Hudson Hawk

This is a prime example of  M. Night Shyamalan's game.

Sometimes he'll go for the quick score, like he did with Sam Jackson. Poor old Sam will sign on to any picture. I heard you can get him attached to a cocktail napkin if you write enough zeros on it. Sam didn't know to pass on Unbreakable. Hell, he probably thought it was an okay movie.

But most of the time, M. Night goes for the compound kill. He sets you up with a halfway decent movie and then he suckers you into doing the worst thing anyone has ever seen. Take a look at Signs. No really, look! It's not that bad. It has at least one of each: tension, aliens, a religious sub-plot, dog-killing kids, a Culkin, baby monitors — this movie has it all. 

In this film, M. Night worked with Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, and the unforgettable Cherry Jones (don't worry, even she doesn't know who she is). Mel Gibson was smart. He said, "Thank you Mr. Shamalam [sic - everyone calls him that], I'll just do this one half-way decent film and be done with you."

Joaquin and Cherry were not so smart. They decided to double-down and sign up for another tour in The Village. Holy shit, what a terrible movie. What's even better than that ruse? M. Night also convinced William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, and Adrien Brody to be in this garbage film. That's eight nominations and two oscars in one place. For The Village. Stunning? That's like a triple word score of screwing people over. Even given all that, my favorite part of The Village is that M. Night then convinced Bryce Dallas Howard to be in Lady in the Water, which turned out even worse.Wahlberg

To prove the point, I submit The Happening. This enormous poop-biscuit starred newcomers to the Night fold: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, and that guy who looks like an ugly Freddy Rodríguez. To increase the difficulty level of screwing over the actors, M. Night told the whole cast that they had to either yell or whine all their lines and look perpetually confused. It worked — worst film ever. 

Actually, that's not 100% correct. Not everyone in that film was new to working with M. Night. There was that hotdog farmer guy: Frank Collison.frank_collisonInterestingly, if you type his name into IMDB, you'll get a phone call from Frank within 90 seconds, asking,

  1. Do you have any work for him, and, 
  2. Do you have any idea who he is (because even he can't remember).

I have this fantasy that Mr. Shyamalan sets up these elaborate practical jokes to trick decent actors into starring in horrible films just so he can wait outside at the premiere. When they step out into the night, heads low with shame, he pops up and says, "You've been Shyamalan'd!"

Ike asked me to guest blog today. It has been a while since I've written anything other than environmental remediation reports, so please excuse me if my snarky rant drifts about like a TCE plume in tidally impacted groundwater through an unconsolidated aquifer. (Exhibit A, your Honor, which proves that technically accurate environmental contaminant metaphors don't work... especially when they are similes.) Much like the fabled G-spot, finding the mental switch from "technical report" to "sarcastic jackass" is not that easy. Unlike the G-spot, however, my mental switch actually exists.. bear with me while I fumble about for it...

My former blog, http://sketchometer.blogspot.com/ has sat dormant and angry for about a year and a half. During that time, there have been a record number of environmental catastrophes, including the recent quakes in Japan, New Zealand, and Chile, the puzzling massive bird dieoffs, and the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland. As an environmental scientist, I feel it is my duty to comment on most tragic catastrophe of all, which is, of course, the failure of any of these natural disasters to stop "The Jersey Shore". I often hear that show described as a train wreck, but I wholeheartedly disagree. You see, when there is a train wreck, people hope and pray that survivors might emerge from the twisted wreckage. Another key difference - trains have guards in place so that accidents aren't caused by stupid cows getting in the way, whereas that show is all about stupid cows getting in the way and causing accidents. (note to self: contact NTSB re: the Snooki-catcher train guard - patent pending)

Time out... it is not right that I'm being cruel and hateful in a blog just because I am trying to be funny, so I apologize from the bottom of my heart to any cows who might have been offended by the previous statement.

Speaking of Eyjafjallajökull (and you know you were), here's a few interesting facts about Iceland:  

  • The tourism-based economy is focused largely on hot Scandinavian chicks and hot tubs;
  • The chief import is American geology students on field trips, and  
  • The chief export is volcanic ash.

In many ways, it is a smaller version of America: they are most famous globally for one giant ash-hole, whereas we are famous for lots of giant ash-holes (see "Jersey Shore" rant above for details).

As I was saying, it has been a while since I've written, and in my absence, a bunch of bad shit has gone down, and not just in the natural world. Socially, the world seems to have taken a bit of a nose-dive as well. I'm talking about the decline of spelling due to texting, the decline of music due to Willow Smith, or the decline of proper haircuts due to Justin Beiber. These are all omens, harbingers of doom, bad ju-ju... these are all irrefutable proof that in the last 18 months... wait for it... I have gotten old.

"But wait", you say, "no one as handsome and awesome as you could ever be considered old. Surely you jest, you magnificent hunk of manliness, youth, and vigor?". Alas, I fear it to be true. I have found myself criticizing parts of society that are always criticized by old folks... the music, the fashion, those damn kids driving too fast... GET OFFA MY LAWN, YOUZE LOUSY KIDS! On some level, though, it is reassuring, like I am part of the cosmos, and the more things change, the more they stay the same, that sorta deal. I am angry about the latest disposable Disney pre-pubescent idols like folks were mad about the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. I am tweaked by Jersey Shore just like people were for the first MTV Big Brother or even Candid Camera back in the day. And finally, I am annoyed by "I Whip My Hair Back and Forth" in the same way that everyone from Cro-Magnon Man to Christopher Columbus to FDR has been annoyed by other things that really, really suck on a cosmic level. And just like Christopher Columbus bitching about Queen Isabella in his blog (bitch better have my money!), here I am, griping about Snooki, Beiber, and the rest.

That's all for now... maybe I'll stop in again once I get my head organized a bit and figure out how to best get 18-months worth of thoughts out of my head. Then again, maybe I'll just go get a snack.


He has the perfect feel for the notes, but that's not the first thing you'll notice. When he bends a string it rolls out a pure stream. There's never a buzz or rattle. Each is timed perfectly; it may start unexpectedly or last just a little longer than you thought, but the result is magnificent.

His arrangements are subtle — spare and beautiful — but that fact doesn't settle in until around the end of the first set.

His knowledge of blues guitarists is impossible. How would someone have time to learn to play like that4308354262_a0f647197e while absorbing so much history? You'd never know that by listening though. When he plays you forget that anyone else has every played the instrument. He seems akin to nothing. Comparisons you might make would be to a perfect dessert which melted on your tongue, or a nap you took in a shaft of sunlight. These are all considerations for the next day.

No, the first thing you notice is the swell of sound coincident with his pick hitting the second string. The first note, from his E-string, has been hanging there as if it always existed. But when that second note comes in, the two join resonant forces. They burst in your ears, a weaponized nectar. The third note drops before you're quite ready. Four, five, and six round out the chord and it's like an elephant sitting on your chest. The room suddenly smells toasty. You remember basking in a sauna some January night.

Those notes will ring in your ears until your jaw aches from smiling.

People shouldn't be allowed to drive. Maybe it's just me.

You can't maintain a safe following distance. Actually, I don't think anyone actually knows what a safe distance is. When I was taking driver's ed with Mr. Cox, we learned that one should maintain a two-second following distance. Since your speed is constantly changing, you should periodically pick an object by the side of the road — I recommend a sign or a guardrail — and as soon as the person in front of you passes it, you start counting.

do_not_enter_signsHere's something to think about while you count: a South Dakota man was arrested for having sex with street signs. They confiscated his camera while he was in the act, and found all the evidence they never wanted to see. This is a fetish near and dear to me because about ten years ago, a friend and I made it up. We made up a lot of fetishes in that time and talked about creating special interest groups surrounding them. As far as I know, this South Dakota man became besotted with street signs as a direct result of my meddling. Next time you see a picture of a guy with his johnson in a birdhouse, that was my idea too. Shoot, have you counted past two yet? Then you counted too far. You're just supposed to count off two seconds.

Anyway, as soon as that car in front of you passes the next sign, think of Verle Peter Dills  (google it, I dare you) and start counting.

If you managed to count off two seconds before you passed that same object, congratulations, that means two things:

  1. You're maintaining a safe following distance to stop in case of an emergency, and
  2. Someone is a nanosecond away from squeezing in between you and that car in front of you.

Yes, as soon as you give up enough ground to follow safely, that's the cue to other drivers that the gap in front of you is the most desirable driving location in the entire world. If you polled them, you'd find their second most preferred location is about seven and one half milimeters from your rear bumper.

Do you still have the google open? Try this. It takes forty-two-thousand web sites to talk about fecal contamination of pools. If they had the internets forty years ago, I bet they could have covered this topic in no more than five-thousand websites, tops. People are just getting too lazy to get out of the nice water to go take a dump. Either that, or they're too stupid to realize that shitting in a pool is a major downer. Either way, people shouldn't be allowed to drive.


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