Desktop philosopher

21 09 2010

The other day, I decided that I was going to start writing out my philosophies, just because I think they’re funny. I hope you do, too, and I think pretty much everyone should do the same. Unless you’re boring, in which case, please don’t. Sometimes I walk down the street and I observe someone honking at someone, or there’s a funny sign or just some kind of wackiness in a store display, and it reminds me of some philosophy of some sort.

Back in the old days when people wore monocles and big white wigs (well that’s what I like to think) we used to have lots of these pesky philosophers roaming around, like John Locke, who was a man of faith that got stranded on an island and came up with some of the most important thoughts that would inspire democracy. Pretty good for someone stuck on an island, and the best part is, he didn’t need a wheelchair anymore. But then Ben Linus killed him, so I guess all’s fair after all.

But apparently these philosopher types are still around, and it’s pretty quaint when you spot a real, live one. I saw the other day a French philosopher speaking on TV about the moral underpinnings of the stoning practice in Iran — you know, the deeper and darker parts of the soul that want to mutilate the most important part of the body, the face — and I realized there is a practical application for philosophy.

After reading a one-act Woody Allen play aloud in the Barnes & Noble and making a fool of myself, I made up my mind that I was going to go home and scribble out the “Pagina Monologues” (that’s Spanish for “page”) and bake those thoughts into surrealities. It’s funny how everything I’ve read and seen today has been synchronous with my life.

So, here, just to get us started, are a couple of philosophical nuggets, best dipped in habanero chili sauce:

Disclaimer city — I’m going to disclaim responsibility for my opinions and my connections to my employer. Bottom line, anything I say here is just me flapping my mouth / fingers on my own behalf and for no one else but me. Although, I’ll let you decide the worth of a disclaimer on your own. Just don’t sue.

Synchronous Symbolism — Life brings you what you need, and then you give back. That’s why sometimes you’ll hear about this old chicken place you’ve never heard of, let’s call it Wacky Chicken, and then all of a sudden you keep hearing about it endlessly. That’s because the Universe wants you to get some wacky chicken in you. But then you are also responsible for perpetuating the myth of wacky chicken, so in way, you provide the Synchronicity for someone else. And everybody hears about wacky chicken.

Whoa, it’s magic — Lots of people wish there was more magic in their lives. It’s easy to forget that life itself is kind of magical, too. The fact that you exist as one entity, as a distinct sentient being from myself with your own concept of the universe entirely separate from my own … I don’t care what your background is or beliefs are, but that qualifies as something that approaches being kind of magical to me.

The real world is virtual — Life as we know it is a symbol in and of itself. What we perceive to be solid and smooth is far from it under a microscope. Colors, shapes, light, dark, smells, tastes are all fabrications of the human mind. The world that we’re in seems so real, but all is not what it seems. While this can be unsettling at times, it’s also somewhat reassuring when life starts feeling too stressful.

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Knowledge for knowledge’s sake

22 02 2010

I really want to get learning again. I felt a touch of yearning to start focusing back on educating myself over the past couple days, but I don’t want to go back to school because of the expense and career setback involved. This might sound a bit odd, but I got to thinking that an interesting compromise would be to put myself through a “school” of my own design. Devising some independent-study courses would be a creative project that I could test and evaluate and turn into a cool experiment, itself a form of study on our educational system.

If you know me, you know I go through phases where I seek to learn certain things for a short while. It’s sort of like a class, just done independently. Having this structured format, I think, would help me become more interested in things going on around me and would help me be more creative in my daily life, and have more things to talk about as an unplanned consequence. Here’s a few courses I’d like to take (some of which I never imagined I would want to take in my school days):

  • European historical geography
  • Language (Spanish, French)
  • Film/TV philosophy
  • Modern television series
  • U.S. travel and tourism
  • Independent music
  • Game theory and its applications to business
  • Social networks and game theory
  • Beginning computer programming principles
  • Geometry
  • U.S. history
  • Newspapers throughout the world
  • Science fiction in film
  • Reggae and society
  • Electronic musical instruments
  • Physical education
  • Origins of English
  • The Big Three Religions
  • Ancient History
  • Human Migration
  • Urban planning and city design
  • Cartography
  • Photography
  • Photojournalism
  • Video animation techniques
  • Video editing
  • Social media and journalism
  • Psychology

That should give you an idea. I think I might be serious about this, and I wonder if this will pan out. I was thinking of having a “course schedule” of sorts on a monthly basis with a topical course, a scientific or technological course and an “elective,” as well as some sort of “physical education” for my health’s sake. I dunno, maybe it will work, maybe it won’t. I thought I’d start out in March with my first set of courses. In the meantime, I may take a mini-course or devote some time to researching independent study and curriculum development.

The downsides to this approach are that I would not have the guidance and expertise of a teacher or the social interaction with classmates. There would be no formal evaluation process. I might lose interest or focus. The upside is I can just do it with minimal overhead and interruption of my current routines.

So stay tuned; I’ll be posting my conclusions here on my blog. The first step, as I mentioned, will be to study curriculum development and learning techniques. On March 1, we’ll get started with the official courses if my interest in this project persists. Check back in and let’s see how it goes.





Podcasting experiment

6 02 2010


The Big Chicken

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

This here is the Big Chicken in Marietta, Georgia. I’m doing a little podcasting experiment since I was in GarageBand messing around with the hats project. It’s called “14 Miles From the Big Chicken.” I’m totally stressing out about whether that’s “14 miles from” or “14 miles to.”

Anyways. Here is an experimental audio podcast that I did (and even a little tumblr I started for it so it would have an RSS feed associated with it).

Weird, huh? I don’t know if I’ll do another one, but I thought it’d be fun.





365 Hats Trailer!

6 02 2010


365 Hats Trailer

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

I’ve just put out the trailer for the 365 Hats project. Going through this process has been lots of fun. As you may gather, this project has been more about being creative than adhering to strict rules. I’ve violated pretty much every principle I started with, but at the same time, I’ve also stuck better to the plan than I expected I would. A few notes/lessons learned through the process:

  • This is nutz, baby. Nutz. But so much fun.
  • My definition of a “hat” is somewhat loose in many cases, but that’s OK. It’s all creativity.
  • I don’t need to OWN the hat. A few of these were “found” in the environment.
  • Some of the hats are handmade or improvised.
  • The vast majority of the hats are actual hats that I own.
  • Headbands, bows and the like count as hats for the sake of simplicity.
  • I got a late start at dailymugshot. I’ll be posting a link to that soon, thanks to a pointer from a coworker.
  • Currently the images are stored in a Picasa Web Album, which allows me a lot of freedom to upload in batches and change photos in and out.
  • In some cases I’ve had to bend or break the time interval rules due to breaking news at my day job (Haiti coverage for example).
  • The only strict rule I’m setting is that I must upload at once per week (multiple images from that week are OK, individual daily posts are ideal) and that I must have 365 different hat or headgear arrangements by the end of 2010.
  • Multiple poses/shots with the same hat are ideal because it allows me to animate the scene. I may do some videos, too, just to mix things up a bit.
  • Don’t tell anyone, but I’m actually a few days ahead in my photo-taking. I’m trying to stash those aside and stay in pace.
  • It’s super-awesomer if the hat has some meaning for the events of that day.

Overally, I’m surprised at how fun and not-tedious this process has been. While I haven’t been able to do updates every single day that I’ve been doing this, I’ve stuck with it through most of the thick and thin moments that have come along, and there’s been quite a bit to distract from my resolve. In many cases my hats or headgear match up with current events so that helps. I can document the day by showing what hat I am wearing.

View high-quality version on YouTube if you like. The video clip here is from Flickr.

So the big question is, WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS? ARE YOU INSANE? Well I’m doing it mainly because it’s fun and because it will be something I can look back on at the end of the year. It will be something simply awesome and fun. And, it gives me a chance to play around and experiment with new ideas and technology and software. In short, it’s just a lot of awesome. I do wear a lot of hats in this world and sometimes it’s nice to just do something fun.

PRODUCTION NOTES: All the photos shown here were taken with an iPhone or with Photo Booth on my MacBook. Visual arrangement for this piece was done on free video editor HyperEngine-AV v. 1.5. I experimented with iMovie but found it too limiting in some respects and far superior in other ways. Overall, I’m finding that a combined approach of HyperEngine-AV and iMovie may be the way to go unless I spring for Final Cut at home. More to come on that. The music is an exported GarageBand sound clip.





Oh, Coco, say it ain’t so!

23 01 2010


Conan’s last Tonight Show

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

DISCLAIMER: I’m relating the personal angle I have on the Conan issue. I’m not taking sides on the Jay-Conan debate insofar as which host is better, which time slot is better, whether it’s better to have big hair or a big chin, whether these men are overcompensating for something, etc. I happen to be a fan of both men’s shows, but I choose to focus on Conan here. My opinions do not necessarily reflect those of my employer, their families, my family, subsidiaries, Vampire Diaries or tributaries herein or hereafter.

Last Tuesday, I wore all orange as a sort of thematically appropriate outfit (by accident, really). On Friday, I wore black.. All this weekend, I might just put that orange scarf back on as a tip of the hat to Conan O’Brien, who just finished his last show as host of NBC’s “Tonight Show.”

The finale was touching. It started off with a monologue doing a few hits and jabs at NBC and pending unemployment, plus another one of those “draining NBC’s coffers” sketches. There was a mashup video pulling together footage of Conan running across the country with some favorite bits during the last 7 months. Tom Hanks came out with scotch for the host. Neil Young gave a touching performance of “Long May You Run.” And then Conan made a speech that almost brought tears to his eyes, and mine: “If you work really hard and you’re kind, I’m telling you, amazing things will happen.” He said cynicism is one of his least-favorite attributes and thanked the network for how they treated him. It was a very touching tribute. And then Will Ferrell was Ronnie Von Sant as he performed Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” with guest players including Beck, Ben Harper and a cowbell. Magical!

It’s surprising to me how much a stupid show like this can get me riled up, and how sad I feel now that it’s over. Perhaps it’s because it’s hard not to live vicariously through him. Especially since over the years I’ve occasionally dreamed about saying “See ya! Wouldn’t want to be ya!” to traditional jobs and even going into a comedy or writing profession of my own. It’s for that reason I’m employed in a position where at least some creative latitude and individuality is encouraged. I feel connected in some way, like I have  a stake in his success.

Or perhaps it’s because what we witnessed tonight was the unraveling of one man’s lifelong dream, played out on our television screens. With the economy as it is, lots of folks surely can relate. Or, perhaps we’ve all fallen short of our own expectations on a less-public scale in our lives and we’re now both exploring our own sense of loss and hoping to watch Conan to see if he’s got any clues on how to handle such a situation.

Or, perhaps it’s because that was a darn good show and it would be a dang shame if this man can’t find a way to get back on air.

Maybe all of these.

I was so happy when I found out that Conan was going to host the Tonight Show, although I also felt bad for Jay Leno. I waited five years to see it, and it finally happened. When that video came up and we watched Conan run, run, run from one corner of the country to the other, my heart just leapt. And now I think if I watched the same video, I would cry. I feel like I know the guy. I’ve been sitting in my pajamas, watching that guy, for 13 years going on 14. I was an eighth grader when I first started staying up late and catching glimpses of the kind of goofy Harvard-educated comic with the pompadour. Watching Conan in my formative years literally guided my career. Hearing that he wrote for the Harvard Lampoon inspired me to be a writer as well. His quirky brand of wacky humor and intellectual substance was very intriguing to me. When he got married, I was heartbroken. Other girls were thumbing through Seventeen and Tiger Beat, and I was watching Conan O’Brien. I’m pretty ridiculous, I know.

Evidence of my quasi-obsession can be found in the Angelfire homepage/Conan fan site I created for myself in the mid-1990s, The Orange Baron’s Domain. With all the style and flair of HTML 1.0, it was both my first Internet presence as well as an expression of my own absurdity. The garish orange background is gone by now but let me assure you, that was something to behold when it was fully put-together. (And you can also find my old Mock Trial questions which are tacked on there kind of oddly. That was a spare-time hobby during my junior and senior years.)

In college, I made a point to talk to Triumph the Insult Comic Dog when Presidential Debate Road Show ’04 made a stop at Arizona State University on October 13, 2004. If only the Masturbating Bear had been part of the entourage.

Nowadays, I no longer want to marry Mr. O’Brien and I have a more realistic perspective on things, *LOL* giggle giggle. But I still enjoy the show. So when I see late-night strife happening to Conan, I’m a little hurt. But that’s Show Business, as they say. I’m still a fan of Jay Leno and I’ll support his efforts, too. It’s not going to be easy for the Big-Chinned One to retake his old time slot.

I really hope that online video doesn’t completely do in this TV star. The world would be a less-interesting place without comedians like Conan doing what they do. He’s smart enough and has built up enough cred from this experience that he’ll do well wherever he goes or whatever he does. It’s an exciting but scary time in the media. We’ll see what happens when he’s allowed to talk publicly again. For now, a few months of silence and pompadour-free airwaves await us.





365 hats in 2010: Cheesehead trucker hat

5 01 2010

This entry announces a fun project that I hope will turn into something cool at the end of the year. I’ll be chronicling the year in hats by uploading one (or two or whatever) photo per day to a special Picasa album set up specifically for this purpose.

When I run out of hats, I’ll have to get creative to find headgear. In my humble opinion, that’s when the fun will truly begin. Not that my hat collection isn’t fun.

For example, the photo at right shows a cheesehead ballcap/trucker hat obtained during a trip to Madison WI a few years back. The benefit of this hat vs. a traditional cheesehead is it’s a little less cumbersome, while at the same time being a little more subversive.

Hat date: January 3, 2010. And that’s me backlit in shadows. Never let your light source be behind you. But, in this case it kind of works.

I can’t claim to have completely invented this concept, but I hope to put my own spin on things. It’s been done by many others and the inspiration here is a few of the projects I’ve seen in the course of my work, as well as a few more on YouTube. It’s been done, but I thought I might as well do it, too.





Not the Night Before Christmas Anymore

25 12 2009

OR: BUSTA X-MAS RHYME, YO!

Nerditor’s note: This is an unauthorized, potentially troublesome parody of “The Night Before Christmas” that you can read and love in its original format. What you’re about to read is a twisted, nasty, naughty, weird version of the traditional feel-good holiday poem with a little modern techie spin. I originally posted it on Twitter in 140-character-ish spurts. Some parts were omitted for brevity and to prevent mass-unfollowing from taking place, and so that I could finish by midnight ET for all my peeps on the Atlantic side of things. This is the uncut, unaltered, un-neutered, uncircumcised, mano a mano version of the parody. Enjoy.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Every keyboard was stirring, each mouse in the house;

We updated our facebook stati with care
In the hopes that likes and comments soon would be there.

The children wore snuggies pulled over their heads
But the copyright folks said to call it a ‘sleeved blanket’ instead.

Pa in his wayfarers and ma in her Uggs
Could not get to sleep without aid from drugs;

When all of a sudden, snow fell and the cold grew bitter;
I decided to post photos and update my Twitter!

But first, Windows told me to update my Flash,
Had to restart my system and empty my trash;

Lawnchairs, grills, flamingoes covered in snow
Gave warning that Jack Frost wanted to nibble my toe;

When what to my wandering eyes did appear
But a schmaltzy TV pitchman and eight robotic reindeer;

He wore a funny hat, his personality lively and quick
I asked him his name, he said it was Nick!

More rapid than eagles, Nick’s sales pitches came
And he whistled, and shouted, the robotic reindeer names!

“Now, Crasher! now, Necromancer! now, Hacker and Stricken!”
“On, Grommit! on Blooper! on, Blunder and Chicken!”

So up to the house-top the robots they flew,
With geeky griffin-like wings of metal, and Nick, too.

Then, in a ring-a-ling-a-ling, I knew a text had come.
Felt jolly buzzing in my pocket, so I typed with my thumb.

I’d asked, “Yo Santa, wat r u gonad bridge me?”
“Hot hoo hoo,” went another typo-ridden T-X-T.

CUT: [[[ Let’s skip lengthy description of Nick’s jelly belly —
The rosy cheeks, smoky wreaths, reindeer breath so smelly … ]]]

He stayed pretty chill though ash covered his suit and loot;
This North Pole pro’s hair was perfectly coiffed to boot!

A plethora of thingies he had stuffed in his sack,
And he looked like — was — a peddler opening his pack.

His CrackBerry — how it twinkled! his iPod how merry!
The LED’s were like blinking roses, iPhone case like a cherry!

His troll-like mouth was drawn up like a bow,
His ears pointy and Spock-ish and all logical, you know.

He wouldn’t stop smoking despite pleas to the contrary,
And just kept puffing away so much that it was scary.

He had a cute little face and a clear-cut beer belly,
Like a pregnant man with a dude-womb full of jelly.

He was stocky and big-boned, which is code for “chubby,”
But I wouldn’t say he was quite on par with a Teletubbie.

With twist of the radio dial and a pounce on his touchpad,
He chuckled a bit at the gumption of those yo-yos at NORAD.

[[[END CUT]]]

The Northern sales-lad worked quietly to not be a jerk,
Giving free samples of things we don’t need — such a perk!

I shuddered when he put his finger in proximity to his nose
Fearing he might be in H1N1’s throes.

As he veered for the chimney, I missed him like whoa,
But I knew he had peeps to see, places to go.

With the sound system cranked up, the sleigh flew out of sight,
“Merry Christmas to all,” he said, “Cuz this Saint Nick’s jammin’ tonight!”