Stuff People Seem To Like #3: Bacon

10 11 2009

Mmmmm… bacon. This fatty swine-derived product is suddenly America’s little darling.

It’s not clear when the obsession began, but I started noticing my coworkers’ purchases of bacon-scented air fresheners and bacon-infused donuts. Bacon costumes appeared at the Dragon*Con geek fest and on Halloween. I took a tour of a cave near Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the tour guide was quick to point out a bacon-shaped rock formation. Bacon-wrapped dates and a BaconFest at Dad’s Garage, a local improv theater, are some other baconizations to chew on.

Could it be a knee-jerk reaction to all this talk about healthy eating and vegetarianism? It’s like there are two factions in contemporary popular culture: complete veg and meat-o-rama. To take a moderate road is to be a fool.

In any case, bacon is pretty good in measured amounts. Scientists are quick to reassure you that your breakfast will not give you the dreaded Swine Flu, also known as H1N1 (I’ve sunk your battleship!).  So, of course it’s good for you. I’ll have some bacon on occasion. The gristly goodness and crispy, smoky deliciousness makes it just about the only kind of pork that I will knowingly eat. Maybe it’s time I was beggin’ for bacon.

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Stuff People Seem To Like #2: Twitter

10 11 2009

Twitter is the Hot New Thing right now. Actually, no, it’s not.

There seems to be some confusion over the novelty of Twitter, and some speculation as to why middle-aged folks have flocked to it while in theory younger people are attached to Facebook. (And then there’s the folks in the middle, who dabble in both if they can muster the interest.)

Hold on to your Fail Whale T-shirts, folks, because this site is with us whether we like it or not.

I think most people are ambivalent. Twitter is like a bulletin board for mobile communication, but it has a lot of other users and people don’t really agree on what they use the site for. Different apps and habits are at play, creating a tension in the community that is both vibrant and intimidating.

I get a little bit of anxiety every time I post a tweet because it’s hard to know what’s going to happen and under what circumstances people will be reading it. At times, it can be very tempting to rattle off a random thought or go off on a rant, or to announce one’s state of inebriation. Getting a reply is almost always a relief for me because then I know that the message has been received. The low barrier to entry facilitates this kind of impulsivity. But giving two-way conversation is very difficult, and it always feels as if one is showing off when one replies to another. I admittedly prefer to respond to tweets on Facebook, where it feels  a little more personal. Separation of the Twitter Church from the Facebook State is still in effect at this time, but I may change my mind.

There’s a potential for an awkward situation when tweets cross over from Internet to real-life conversation. It’s fine to tell someone you enjoyed their tweet, but I would say real-life critical discussion of one’s online behavior is a definite no-no unless you are prepared to suffer the awkward consequences.

There are people who take this communication medium much more seriously than I, and sit for hours replying and live-tweeting their lives away. It is a use more comparable to instant messaging. Depending on the app shell you have, this will look and behave differently to you. Me, I think I would be a bit self-conscious about living this way.

I don’t know what else to say. I guess I’ll leave the leadership and official commentary to the social media gurus steering this awkward ship.

Note: I’ve engaged in a little self-editing here, as I feel that I might have come off a bit harsher than I was picturing it in my head. The irony that I posted this post on Twitter was not lost on me.





Stuff People Seem To Like #1: Cougars

10 11 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of snapshots into what makes our culture tick: our strange obsessions with odd or silly things.

Cougars are hot right now. I’m not talking about the furry kind in the feline family; I’m talking about older women who purr like a kitten when a younger suitor comes around.

It’s not really clear what started this phenomenon. The first I heard about them started after a late-night discussion about some men’s preference for older women. I know of a few guys who subscribe to this type of thing. Shortly after that discussion, cougars were everywhere. On the news, on TV, in my Twitter feed, you name it. Somebody call Animal Control! I have to wonder if men now feel some kind of subconscious pressure to go for that aging vixen beckoning them from the bar. They do die sooner, after all, and age less gracefully. (I realize this is a gross generalization.)

Or, is this just one of those fads that won’t last very long?

And is a woman who seeks out a younger man really a predator? Or is she simply a woman who wants a more youthful countenance? So many cultural stereotypes are at play here. We will think nothing of an older man who seeks out a younger woman. That’s the way of things, and men are less mature after all.

Chew on that, cougars, there’s more meat where that comes from.





Fall is here. Now to figure out a costume.

17 10 2009



Hard-knock life

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

The weekend before this current one, I went with coworkers to a corn maze in North Georgia. We had to go through and find the photos of pumpkins. If we matched all the pictures to the pictures on the cards we were given at the start, indicated by writing down the name of the pumpkin, we could get ice cream at the end. The maze itself was easily exited, but we did have to go through and find the things. And, you know, get into the fall spirit. Another thing we did was take pictures of kittens and cats a-go-go, such as the one in the photo. The kittens were very tiny and the mother had an eye problem. Still cute.

We also saw some falls for the fall in the Tallulah Gorge state park. I read that it was at one point a top tourist attraction in the South. The visitor center was nice, as was the view and the nice almost-changed leaf-peeping experience. We didn’t find much to eat, however, and went back to the ATL to fill our famished bellies, exhausted from climbing all those freaking stairs down to see the suspension bridge and the water.

Now I’m mulling my Halloween plans (more travel? I must be nutzy) and what I’m going to costume myself as. I posted a bunch of themes on Facebook and have even more now: some kind of two-party political thing with donkey and elephant parts, Mod Squad, Clockwork Orange, lolcat, fairy with giant wins, tooth fairy, The Economy, modernist art, postmodernism, a hippie, Michael jackson, Kanye West, Balloon Girl, Internet Meme-a-palooza (crasher squirrel, Kanye, lolcats, you name it), a computer, an iPhone, a Google phone, the Twitter bird, a fail whale, a scrabble board, a keyboard, a social network, something from Alice in Wonderland, omg I don’t even know what I could be. Mom even suggested the Mona Lisa and I was intrigued at what could be done with that. There is no limit to my imagination, only to my artistic abilities and wherewithal.





What I did in London: Impressions of an American Werewolf

17 10 2009



25 points

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

I’m going to tick someone off, and rightly so, but my recent taste of the UK gave me the impression that London is just like a city in the United States, but maybe a little wackier and a little hipper. Am I wrong? Then again, the UK has yielded things like Are You Being Served?, much of PBS programming in general, Monty Python, Mr. Bean and Thomas the Tank Engine (and Ringo Starr). Paris, on the other hand, can claim Babar and Madeleine. That should give you an idea of my experience.

I arrived on a Eurostar a few days into my trip across the pond and for the most part I was thoroughly relieved to be around people who in theory speak the same language as me. Mind you, all that “Feeling peckish?” and “lift” and “Mind the Gap” stuff was a constant reminder that I was no longer in Kansas, but things were familiar enough that I was OK with being so far from “home,” wherever that might be nowadays.

As I sit here in Arizona typing this post, I am a little floored at the culturedness of London. Its Tube underground, while crowded and filled with people who are walking way too fast and stressing way too much about missing trains that come every two minutes, is pretty good and pretty useful as long as you’re not handicapped. The whole city is pretty and cultured. The food is tasty. There are literally things to do and see around every corner. There aren’t so many skyscrapers and it’s not nearly so urbane as New York, but it is very hip and the open-air markets are a nice change. A lot of my impressions about London were wrong for the most part. The weather was nicer (still a bit chilly, but pleasantly so) and the people were all about being outdoors. It wasn’t that foggy (certainly not like San Francisco) and colorful things could be seen everywhere. The people have a delightfully wacky sense of humor and you just get the sense that culture is brimming from every chimney.

Now for the weird stuff: I got really tired of climbing stairs. Sooooo many stairs. It was really bad. There were a few escalators but in general walking around London left me hurting really bad during the trip and for about a week after. I think I’m still feeling some residual effects now that two weeks have elapsed. If you wanted to go to the restroom you had to go downstairs or upstairs (true of Paris as well) and there was just a lot of stair climbing to do.

I had a strange hotel room. Trying to find a place to stay was not easy but I found something. Coming from an odd hotel in Paris, I was sure that anything else would be normal, but I was wrong. I found a place that was safe enough, close to transit at St. Pancras and in general convenient as all hell. It even had a fresh English breakfast each morning consisting of eggs, sausage, toast, tea, juice, grilled tomato, baked beans, etc. That was a plus. But it was a strange room. I had to take the stairs to the third floor. The hallways were narrow and split by fire doors that you had to go through, and then the room itself was pretty small. The bathroom was elevated up onto a platform. My sink had separate hot and cold faucets so that your hands would never be comfortable when washing. There was no phone or clock in the room, and so no wake-up call of any sort, but there was free wi-fi. Still, not too bad, I guess. Could have been worse, and it was clean. The strange hotels are part of the travel experience methinks.

Oh yeah, so what did I see? My first stop before heading to bed was Piccadilly Circus, which had glittery neon and gawdy shops and the Trocadero mall with its weirdness and its danged pay toilets. I found an awesome souvenir shop that sold killer merch; I returned the next day to buy something and the store had been closed and completely stripped of its goods. In the morning and on the next day, I visited everything you’re supposed to: Walked by the London Eye, Parliament House, Westminster Abbey, the Changing of the Guard, St. James’s Park, Hyde Park, the Marble Arch, the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, the Tate Modern and the Globe Theater. Bridges were everywhere and it was awesome. I took a side trip to Camden Town, which is like Atlanta’s Little Five Points on a much grander scale, and grabbed some gelato amidst the open-air markets of Notting Hill (which is sort of like Decatur, GA, on a much grander scale). Open-air markets are the thing in London. Before I left, I dropped by Turner House to pay a short visit to some of my colleagues in distant lands. To arrive at a satellite office of my workplace when so far from home was a very strange feeling. I had also browsed some neighborhoods and had Persian-Chinese fusion cuisine. Trafalgar Square was nice, as was its view of Big Ben. I liked the wacky charm of Soho and the international flavor of Chinatown. All in all, so much to see and do! I’d like to go back and see everything I missed.

It was a good trip and full of good humor and great underground art. At left is a Scrabble sign posted on a building in Notting Hill. It’s so pretty and hip in London. I want to go back and explore the UK, especially Scotland. I also want to see Ireland. So we’ll see. I also want to go to Spain, Italy, Germany, Greece, Switzerland, EVERYWHERE. Lord help me. Thanks for reading.





What I did in Paris: In-Seine in the Membrane

17 10 2009


DSCN7210

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

I departed for Paris on September 24, 2009. I arrived at 8 a.m. the next day after a layover in Philadelphia and an ensuing 8-hour flight, plus the 6-hour time change. After fumbling around for a bit at Roissypole and then crashing in Room 666 at my very strange little Parisian hotel, I was well on my way. The first night, I went all the way to the top of the Eiffel Tower and looked out the window. Great view from the top.

After a good night of rest, I visited things such as Notre Dame cathedral, the Louvre, the Montemartre butte and Moulin Rouge, Arc de Triomphe, the Pantheon, the outside of the Montparnasse cemetery, parks, cafes, McDonald’s and KFC. You can buy beer everywhere, even at the fast food places, and it’s a lot cheaper than paying 4 Euros for a Coke.

I wandered around the Pompidou Centre and strolled down the cobblestone streets of the Marais and other neighborhoods. Good times. I left for London in the middle on the Eurostar and returned to spend one more night. Unfortunately, the Catacombs appeared to be closed due to vandalism.

The Metro was my primary form of transit and it did me right except when I really needed it to be on time; and it was during these times it screwed me over.

My last night I had a weird hotel that had slanty walls but was otherwise pretty nice, so I could forgive the strangeness. On the way out, as I said, I had some Metro and RER issues that resulted in my almost missing my flight to Philadelphia. But I made it, and here I am.

People say the French people are mean and whatever, but I found them to be more helpful and less crazy than the British. My biggest gripe was with the high cost of beverages and things in general. The Euro is very strong, and a four-Euro cola comes out to about six bucks. It’s like the whole region of Europe is one giant ballpark when it comes to buying a beverage. I guess a small “price to pay” if you will, for a nice trip and a “Seine” of good things to come with international travel.





Dragon*Con redux: Part Deux: The Recap

9 09 2009
 


Thriller creep

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

So just a few days ago, I made my third expedition into Dragon*Con. As usual I was overwhelmed by the schedule, the possibilities and my own physical limitations. It is difficult to stand up for hours and wander around. Heaven forbid that you are wearing a sweaty Klingon outfit and carrying a bunch of memorabilia around. I’d hope these folks have a hotel room that they can retire to.

The impression that I get is the 2009 event was the largest ever. It was super-crowded. We got to do a few things and it was fun, but we had to fight a little and be smart about it. No doubt, the fact that William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy were making appearances must have drawn in the crowds by the thousands. It was, by all accounts, a magical exchange. I was at work, but I was there in spirit. Now, if only I cared about all these newfangled shows the kids are watching. Im an old-school Trek and TNG fangirl. Buffy, Babylon and Battlestar don’t really do it for me. And the new Star Trek movie? I have to admit, it was a bit of an affront.

I managed to get myself up for the parade (my second year doing this) and enjoyed it, although it was much harder to see than last year. After that, we objectified ourselves by looking at wings, masks, corsets, bellydancing suits and other geeky and nerdy thingamajigs. It was good because one of our non-Con-membership-$$$ friends was able to sneak in with us and buy some things, thus helping the tourist E-Con-omy — someone who otherwise wouldn’t go. That’s how we justified it; I think it’s just like how BART overcharges for travel to SFO airport — because tourist dollars are sought after more than resident dollars. When the Patrick Stewart line had gone through (our mouths were agape at the fact that it stretched through the Marriott and into Peachtree Center mall), I asked the ushers if I could get inside and we lucked out. Captain Picard was on fire, exchanging hot remarks with the Trek Trak show hosts with the sharp, barbed wit of a bald, Shakespearean science fiction actor. We sought coffee and were immediately besieged by geeks with cameras and horrible pickup lines. 

After that, we marched around some of the show areas where art is on display and went to see a concert by Abney Park that was right in the middle of the Hyatt ballrooms. The fire marshall was literally pacing back and forth like Darth Vader, and his D*C minions were adamant that people were to “keep moving” and not linger in the area around the concert. Clearly the demand exceeded supply. I don’t know why the fire marshall didn’t don a villainous constume, because it would have befitted his cretinous ways. I was tired at that point and could hardly see what was going on because the crowd of ewoks and other ridiculousness had gotten thick. I heard some clapping and cheering going on. Turns out, there was a marriage proposal during the concert. Too bad I couldn’t hear. But, congratulations to the lucky couple. We had run into a coworker who was working on a video piece about love and romance at Dragon*Con (not as much of an oxymoron as it seems) and we let him know about this as well.

The rest of the time around then is a little fuzzy. At a later point we were wandering around the art show. And at still another point, we attended a panel discussion by some people who worked at Battlestar Galactica (but were not key players like writers or actors). In the words of a friend, they “towed the company line” in regards to fans’ questions and disappointment about the series ending. I didn’t know what they were all talking about, but I enjoyed getting this sense of the kinds of reactions fans get to work that people put out, as well as a way NOT to act when receiving criticism and affection from devoted followers. It was enlightening nonetheless. I also remember we tried to sneak into the Leonard Nimoy panel just as we did with Patrick Stewart only to find that it was canceled. Oh well, at least we didn’t have to wait in line to find out.

And then, sometime later in the evening, we went to go get some food and had some geeky conversations, and then we attended a panel on skepticism (a bit baffling to me coming from a crowd of folks dressed in Spandex alien suits), followed up by a “filk” concert by Tom Smith. I always forget what filk is, but it’s basically a geeky version of folk music. The music guests that I saw were a lot better last year. Voltaire and folk duo Paul and Storm were there. I know the latter joined the likes of Jonathan Coulton and Wil Wheaton at Penny Arcade Expo this year. Hey, I can’t blame them for wanting to go to Seattle. In fact, I’m thinking if I do a Con again, I might seek out a change of pace by heading out West instead of looking outside my back door.

After that, or maybe before that, my memory fails me, we had some time to kill and went in search of amusement. We found it in a tiny, dark room showing bizarre films. We watched the last act of “Black Sheep,” an apparently foreign film (Australian? I’m going to get myself in trouble here…) about evil mutant sheep that attack humans and try to turn them into additional members of their kind. Yes, I said evil mutant sheep. The film is a hoot. After that, we saw the beginning of a horrible movie about lesbian vampires. Meh. It was kind of entertaining, though.

We closed out the night with a rousing concert by Cruxshadows, a funhouse-mirror reflection of Depeche Mode; I would describe it as the band’s brooding, younger, goth-ier brother — the one who cuts himself for attention. No, but Cruxshadows rocked the carpeted ballroom floors in stylish fashion. The band isn’t all that well-known, so they were hungry to bond with fans. That made this a great show. The lead singer dude came into the audience right in front of us on a couple of occasions, standing on a chair in one instance and doing some sort of a dance in another. And then at the end, everyone jumped up on stage and the singer picked up a young child that had been sitting on someone’s shoulders (!) much to the crowd’s excitement. Everyone was singing along and it was awesome.

That was the conclusion of day one. Day 2 found me sleeping in, going to a brunch at Straits in midtown, venturing out to the Decatur Book Festival, and then heading back intown just in time to join the world’s largest thriller dance. It was chaos when I got there and I almost didn’t get to dance. They were only going to let the first 1,000 go in, and they weren’t giving out any more ribbons. I was lucky that someone in the gift shop heard my pleas for a ribbon and mentioned that her pelvis hurt too much (or something along that line) and soon I found myself with three ribbons in the 400 group. And thus I had admission for my friends as well. It was a good time. The way I see it, the count is MORE accurate this way, even if it’s not the same person.

The dancers included a giant Michael Jackson single shiny glove, Cookie Monster in an orange jacket, storm troopers, zombie Elvis and some other colorful folks. It was a good time. The dance was more involved than I thought. I tried to recreate it for my coworkers the next day when we went wading in a fountain near the office, but was not very successful. That MJ. So talented was he. And such a great zombie.

And then more dinner and talking and a little more gawking and soon I was back at home, celebrating and mourning the end of my Con experience at the same time. Maybe next year I’ll go to PAX in Seattle for a change of scenery. Maybe not. I’m certain that there’s something magical about Dragon*Con and I hope it stays that way.