November 30, 2011

don't look at me like that



My dear internet friends, today I only have one question for you... as I am due for a plane and cannot keep mine open, what color are your eyes?

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:29 PM (Permalink) | Comments (19)

November 29, 2011

another maze for mazes sake



Oh technology... able to do so much and STILL SUCK SO BAD!!! Why do you toy with me so? Why do you hint at a future so awesomeballs and yet pull the football away at the last second?

Let me be specific. There's a show on TV called Homeland on Showtime starring Claire Danes as a CIA agent who thinks a returning war hero might actually be a terrorist. For those of you stuck in 1994 on My So-Called Life, Claire Danes has reignited her initial promise (and Damian Lewis is creepily intense).

But I didn't know it was any good until friends started recommending it a few weeks ago. So Tessa and I tried to catch up on the five episodes we missed. BUT HOW, OH TECHNOLOGY, HOW?

"Homeland" is not on iTunes, not on Hulu, and the episodes were not repeating on Showtime in any kind of chronological sense. Both HBO and Cinemax have HBO GO and MAX GO respectively, where you can watch any show on either network, but Showtime has no such option.

I don't just subscribe to Showtime at our rental in LA, I subscribe to it again at our farmhouse. I subscribe to it TWICE, and I can't watch "Homeland" ANYWHERE. So I had to go to the internets, find the bittorrent files, and spend all night downloading the show illegally on our farm's shitty DSL.


Similarly, I like the show Downton Abbey, an upstairs/downstairs drama of constant fantastickness that was PBS's best import from the BBC this year. So Season 2 was much anticipated by all American fops like me, and we were all told to wait until next January 8 for the big premiere.

Except that Season 2 was already shown in its entirety in goddamn Britain! Not just some of the episodes, all of them!

I do not like being told what I can't do, so I went to Amazon UK and ordered the Blu-Ray DVD of the second season, waited a few days for the postman, and then WATCHED THAT MOTHERFUCKER.


Posted by Ian Williams at 11:37 PM (Permalink) | Comments (6)

November 28, 2011

don't forget what the dormouse said



Okay, I was all set to come back from Thanksgiving with all sorts of impish invective, but then I was feeling kind of rotten and decided to take the edge off with 30ml of NyQuil.

And 20 minutes later I can barely spell or keep drool off my shirt. What the friggon bunnypants is in this stuff? And so I ask, what is your sedative of choice?

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:04 PM (Permalink) | Comments (22)

November 22, 2011

i genuflect for knees



Okay, besides the obvious things to be thankful for - my amazing extended family, my stunning friends, all things Carolina, and especially Tessa and the Lulubeans - there are many other little things that should get some thanks but always get ignored. NO MORE!

• flexible caulk

• the aurora borealis

• earlobes

• the color orange

• ambient floor heat

• the berries in CrunchBerries, the clusters in Honey Nut Clusters

• the adjustable "delay between wipes" setting for windshield wipers

• the elm trees that didn't die from Dutch Elm Disease

• benzoyl peroxide

• peonies

Google Translate

• Arctic foxes

• "Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman"

• Daylight Saving Time

• the full-court bounce pass

• glass tiles

• The Cars

Paul Klee

• Courier New font

• Chiclets

The Twittering Machine, Paul Klee (1922)

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:38 PM (Permalink) | Comments (7)

November 21, 2011



In an effort to Remain Positive™ and Put My Best Foot Forward® so I can Hit the Ground Running©, I'm going to make a list of All The Things I'm Thankful For™!

Y'see, I was a bit of a downer (sad face!) for a few decades in there, and now I'm Really Turning It Around®!! So tell me what YOU™ are thankful for below, wontchya?

Don't say "Nasal Decongestants©"! That one's mine! >wink<


Posted by Ian Williams at 9:09 PM (Permalink) | Comments (8)

November 20, 2011




Look up!


Posted by Ian Williams at 11:08 PM (Permalink) | Comments (13)

November 17, 2011

monopoly, twenty-one, checkers and chess


Chris Matthews - who I quite like despite myself - said something very interesting on the last episode of Real Time with Bill Maher. They were discussing the hideousness of the Penn State scandal, and how Mike McQueary's response to seeing a 10-year-old being raped was unfathomably inept, when Matthews said:

"When you join an organization, you gotta have your values before you walk into the door. You gotta know what's wrong and what's right. Because they're not going to teach you there. [McQueary's] first instinct was 'My God, this is horrible, I can't believe I'm seeing it' and then he allowed himself to be propagandized into the system... You never ask a system to teach you values, because the values of a system is always the cover-up."

I'd never thought about the world of cabals in quite that way, and while it seems logical that any major cultural or tribal organization makes its own survival the top priority, it didn't ring true for me personally.

Was it because I eschewed (or made fun of) those old-boy networks my entire life? Or because I always seemed to join organizations that distinctly lacked the lockstep unity that guaranteed its vitality (Democrats, my fraternity)? And then it hit me: the reason the Penn State scandal feels so foreign is because I, too, am a ravenous member of a college sports cabal, but instinctively believe such a thing wouldn't happen in Chapel Hill.


I know this makes me sound like every other dreamy-eyed fanboy lulled into fascist hegemony by a winning program and skimpy cheerleading outfits, but for better or worse, we have always done things the right way at UNC, largely because of the genius of two men: Frank Porter Graham and Dean Smith. I won't wax deuteranopic about how they helped make the University color-blind, how they made us the shining Light on the Hill, because I don't need to.

Many other universities and hallowed organizations have collapsed from the pockmarks of institutional rot, but we have not. Say what you want about our new Chancellor, but when things began to smell bad in the football program, he put a period on it. There are still crazed fans who want our old coach back, but hopefully Penn State can teach these people what happens when small infractions go unchecked over time, where a cult of both personality and sport combine to give protection to a sadistic fuck.

Chris Matthews may be right about most systems, but he's wrong about mine: the Carolina Way did teach me certain values: playing hard, smart and together; thanking the ones who made things possible; and above all, excellence in pursuits both physical and intellectual. Many of us didn't have those coming in - I, for one, was just a befuddled zork.

One of my favorite Michael Stipe lyrics is "Here's a truck stop instead of St. Peter's," which is how I feel about Carolina Basketball. It might be a weird religion, and my Sistine Chapel may be a massive octagon that vends Beefmaster Franks, but I'll never want for direction.

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:42 PM (Permalink) | Comments (26)

November 16, 2011

use some mercy now


I typically view anything occurring on the cover of "Us" or "People" magazine the same way I view wet barf on the subway platform, but the story of Gabrielle Gifford's recovery from the shooting in January transcends all that. If you didn't see 20/20 on Tuesday night, I'm pretty sure you can go here and watch it in its entirety.

she's our age, y'all

I remember a neurosurgeon saying "we know everything about the brain except what it does," and it's this central mystery that makes Gabby's story so frustrating and magical at the same time. I know this: I was trying not to cry so hard during it that I could barely breathe.

Oh, and she looks a lot like Jane Wiedlin now, and man, there are worse things in life.

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:08 PM (Permalink) | Comments (4)

November 15, 2011

i get knocked down but i get up again


Not that my opinion is required, but I've been relatively mum on the subject of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, partly because I've been long-stewed in political hopelessness, but mostly because it all seems very far away. When you live in Venice Beach, California - where nude performance artists rollerblade past medicinal marijuana superstores - any act of "civil disobedience" seems a little redundant.

There was a small gathering of people with signs near the post office traffic circle, and some people did honk their Smart car and Prius horns in support, but let's face it: it's impossible to drudge up righteous indignation in a community that already agrees with you.

The goings-on in Zuccotti Park in Manhattan are another kettle of scrod entirely, and today - for those blog readers 40 years from now - was the day everyone was kicked out. Whether this is the slow leak that deflates the movement or the spark that ignites the next level remains to be experienced, but my money is on the former.

I say this not to be a pessimistic, nihilistic, cynical dick, but because the weather will soon turn cruel, the cops have gas and guns, and it doesn't take much to demoralize a movement that had yet to become the foregone conclusion of civil rights, temperance or suffragism.

Obviously, you know me, my lot is entirely cast with the OWS movement, whether or not it continues as a physical presence on the street. But tonight's actions by Mayor Bloomberg, after two months of occupation, provide a moment of reflection: did the movement succeed despite everything?

One major complaint against OWS was its supposed "lack of focus" or "inability to articulate a message". Sure, "America's distribution of wealth is unfair" may not have the urgency of "Black men should not be slaves", but it's plenty obvious. Hell, I rallied against the 1% three years ago.

The key is this: given the OWS is not asking for a specific place to spike the football, can it declare a kind of victory by moving the goalposts back to where they belonged? Has the movement created an atmosphere where enough spotlight and shame has centered on CEO pay, bonuses and bank shenanigans, to at least give the system pause?

Given the amount of coverage it gets, and the fact that I've seen this graph ten times over the last month, you have to believe it's seeping in:


But here's the thing: there has to be some recognition of the last two months. You can't pretend it didn't happen. Obama has to refer to the movement itself, offer some kind of legislation, and deflect some credit back to the people that temporarily gave up their lives for an idea.

Because if it's all nightsticks and beatings, tear gas and curfews, tires being slashed and jokes about drum circles, there's going to be trouble. If all the fat fucks in monocles go back to counting their billions in front of a $35,000 commode, the OWS movement will metastasize into something much uglier. The original Luddites destroyed the machines that dehumanized them; a few motivated protestors could do a lot worse. And then we'll be that kind of country.

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:27 PM (Permalink) | Comments (38)

November 13, 2011

took a rowboat to find ya


Today's question will require just a modicum of thought. What are your top 2-3 "secret crush" songs? Here are the rules that make it a secret crush:

1) The song must have been on the radio at some point, not an obscure track on Side 2 of the album (which means no "Wildest Dreams" by Asia no matter how awesome the drum solo is)

2) The song cannot be considered widely popular, or played to absolute death in either Muzak or doctor office form (thus, no "If You Leave Me Now" or "Same Auld Lang Syne")

3) The song cannot have already been rediscovered, chewed up and spat out again by the Irony Machine [which means no "Major Tom (Coming Home)", "Break My Stride" or almost anything by Journey.

seriously, truly nothing is going to break his stride

My list? I have many, but here are three:

The Pointer Sisters - Automatic - With an androgynous vocal line and a sick electronic bass line, there was nothing organic about this song, and it fucking swung. I don't know ANYBODY with this one on their iPod (except me, and I'm only telling because I asked).

Jane Child - Don't Want to Fall in Love - I already wrote about this one: this song was so frickin' insane when it came out around 1990 that Linda's - a bar in Chapel Hill that was no stranger to some crazy shit - actually fell silent to watch the video. Featuring more chord changes than "The Rite of Spring" and a piano solo that KICKS ASS, she should still be famous. Alas, you'll probably only remember her as the chick who had a chain from her nose ring to her ear.

Shalamar - Dead Giveaway - I mean, come ON! You've got Jody Watley with staccatos on the DX-7 synthesizer:

And yours? Those judged most original and creative get some personalized artwork from the Lulubeans!

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:38 PM (Permalink) | Comments (44)

November 9, 2011

i pledge allegiance to the heels



I'm sorry, how is it NOT POSSIBLE TO GET EXCITED ABOUT THIS? Unless your heart is made of shale, you hate sports (or you went to Dook) there is all kinds of awesomeness in Carolina playing Michigan State on an aircraft carrier tomorrow afternoon.

Pre-season #1, potential 30mph crosswinds, the possibility of rain, washing away the vomitous taste of 2009-10 and the morons of 2010-11... I haven't been this excited for a new season of hoops since, well, 2008-09! Can a brother get an AMEN around here?

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:19 PM (Permalink) | Comments (107)

November 8, 2011

where you goin' with the mask i found


And now for your final report on the on the Generation X research from the Longitudinal Study of American Youth, otherwise known as I Parse the Recent Gen X Data With Spurious, Anecdotal Bullshit. Let's get it straight from the CNN article and see what happens, shall we?

Myth #1: Gen Xers are slackers.

LSAY says: Generation X devotes more hours to work than average and pursues continuing education, with half completing a post-secondary degree.

I say: When we were called "slackers", there wasn't an internet and there weren't as many cool toys, and, oh yeah, we didn't have kids to clothe. So I bloody well hope we've gotten past that. Besides, what exactly did you want us to do in 1991 - fold shirts at Benetton and pray for an early death?

Myth #2: Generation X is hopelessly single and pessimistic about marriage.

LSAY says: A higher percentage of Gen Xers stay married than Boomers, and most want to be married. Two-thirds of Generation X is married and 71% report having children in the home. Additionally, divorce has been declining since 1996.

I say: Hey, when you learn marriage from the Boomers (and worse yet, the generation before them) you get the Don't Do What Donny Don't Does guide to lasting romance. It's easy. In any situation while married, simply think to yourself, "what would my parents do?" and do the opposite! Problem solved!


Myth #3: Generation Xers are disengaged, existential isolationists.

LSAY says: 95% of Gen Xers report talking with friends or family on the telephone at least once a week.

I say: Geez, that's a pretty low bar.

Myth #4: As former latch-key kids, Gen Xers are wimpy, neglectful parents.

LSAY says: About 84% of Gen X parents expect their children to earn at least a baccalaureate. 72% of parents of preschool children read to them three or more hours a week, and 83% of parents of secondary school students help with homework.

I say: It goes way beyond that. I thought our generation would rebel, at least slightly, to the precious "Baby on Board"-ification of American babymaking, but apparently we seem hellbent on purging every last demon of our own childhood by over-correcting on our brood. If you thought the Baby Boomers were bad, you haven't seen overprotective, painfully earnest, twee, fetishized worrywarting until you've followed one of us around. We would have hectored Willy Wonka over corn syrup, and fired Mary Poppins for letting our precious darlings consort with Dick Van Dyke.

Myth #5: Generation X is depressed.

LSAY says: Generation X is actually pretty happy. Two-thirds of Generation X are satisfied with their job. On a scale of 1 to 10, the median happiness score was 8.

I say: In a world with iPhones, Pandora, Fruit Ninja, the Daily Show, Netflix, triple espressos and Effexor, WHAT COULD POSSIBLY BE YOUR PROBLEM?

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:56 PM (Permalink) | Comments (31)

November 7, 2011

"i burn for you" segues to "take me with u"


To continue with yesterday's blog theme, I'd like to address the issue of Generation X's surprising amount of "happiness" by explaining how we used to listen to music. Most of you folks already know this, but bear with me for a moment.

When I first went to the University of North Carolina in August of 1985, I brought my entire collection of albums - LPs - shoved alphabetically into two crates that looked almost exactly like this:


The albums were so heavy that the wood bowed down the center, meaning you had to carry them with your fingers under the bottom. Along with my bass amp, we flattened the shocks of my dad's Mustang somewhere on US Hwy 58 outside South Hill, VA.

Later on, as I committed myself to the art of the mix tape and frequent road trips, I resorted more and more to cassettes. Even in the mid-to-late '80s, we knew cassettes sounded like shit, but every car had a cassette player, and I was part of the million-strong cohort that believed mix tapes could make people fall in love with you. Before long, many of us had walls that looked like this:


My first CD experience was in 1984, when a friend played Donald Fagen's The Nightfly on his dad's $2000 player. I was gobsmacked, of course, but CD players were for the indiscriminately wealthy until about 1988, when we all started to switch our collections over. The mix tape still ruled, but if we wanted to hear our music for reals on trips, we had to get this set-up:


That is a Sony Discman sitting on a car air-vent mount. The mount had little springs in it to keep the CD from skipping to the next song every time you made a left turn or went over a speed bump. Soon, the passenger side floor was littered with both tapes and CDs, and half the bulk of every trip was taken up by music media and players.

I always said the difference between the Baby Boomers and Generation X was innocence - the Boomers lost theirs in the '60s, and we never had any to begin with. Having been born after the JFK assassination, the sexual revolution and (for some of us) Watergate, our lack of faith was in our DNA.

To a more quotidian extent, kids in the younger generation today will have the same attitude about computers and digital media. Gen X still remembers a time when this shit was a kluge, a duct-taping disaster, a struggle... but these kids will have the digital life as second nature.

Which is too bad, in some ways, because my generation will always be amazed by things that seem like magic. Our rap for being sourpuss cynics doesn't hold up when you show us an iPhone, or nano-sized cameras, or a Slingbox that can stream a show you DVR'ed two weeks ago in another country.

I lugged albums and tapes across the country so I could rock, so I could create the perfect self-defining mix tape shoved into a canary yellow Walkman. Music had weight, and I hoisted them everywhere. When I look at my iPod Touch, and know that it contains every note of a thousand songs I have ever owned, I still sigh and marvel at the brave new world that hath such things in it.

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:51 PM (Permalink) | Comments (17)

November 6, 2011

i'm so happy 'cause today i found my friends


The invariably excellent Ehren Gresehover sent this link to my FB wall, complete with stock photo of My Generation Having Fun:


Along with it, he wrote one accusatory word:

Once upon a time, this was my stock in trade, making sweeping generalizations about Gen X (anyone born between 1961 and 1981) but to be honest, I was really only speaking for myself and whoever I was living with at the time. So when I said "we" - which I did a lot - I usually meant the Purple House in Chapel Hill, NC circa 1994.

So, in essence, I only pretended to give a voice to lower-to-upper middle class decently-educated mostly-white folks who had the same cultural experiences I had. You are your circumstances, and whether we like it or not, being a small kid in the '70s and early '80s hews us together like strangers in a bus where somebody farted.

With that disclaimer, I will now pontificate: that CNN article makes perfect sense to me. However, they left out one important fact about the study - the subjects who said they were "balanced and happy" are also all still alive.

I hope I'm not giving away any secrets, but many of us in Generation X consider every day we don't kill ourselves to be a fuckin' revelation. You may think I'm kidding (and you'd be half right), but when you grow up with the kind of existential dread we did, pretty much anything that works at all can be filed under Minor Miracle.

If one looks at Happiness as the remainder when you subtract Reality from Expectations, Gen X was stunningly well-prepared. Our expectations for the world were so low that we are virtually impossibly to offend. The government is corrupt? No fucking duh, my first President was Nixon. Technology can't save us? No fucking duh, we watched Christa MacAuliffe and Chernobyl explode the same year.

As for our personal lives, almost every single one of my friends was the result of a broken family. Many of us continued the tradition with an EUM (Early Unfortunate Marriage) of our own, but still more of us waited out the horrendous dating scene until we were ABSOLUTELY GODDAMN SURE we married the person we were waiting for. Either way, we've mostly figured it out by now, so when we roll over in bed and actually like this other person we're sleeping with... well, again, it's a goddamn revelation.

Gen X is "balanced and happy"? Yes, and all it took was a fucked-up childhood, parents throwing dishes at each other, AIDS, drunkenness, therapy, pharmaceuticals, and the kind of expectations that would have made the Grinch hang his head in despair. That we choose life every day, even now as we get older, is proof positive of what I have been saying since we were 23: Generation X may be pessimistic, but we are not now, nor have never been, cynical.

NEXT: more generational fun!

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:56 PM (Permalink) | Comments (24)

November 2, 2011

duct-tape cell phone charger to leg


I have absolutely no time to write a blog tonight, and I'll tell you why: the wife and I just had a heated argument about how I'm always late to begin every trip we take. Late to cabs, always forgetting one last thing, etcetera, etcetera, etfuckingcetera. So now I have to absolutely nail the morning takeoff (even though we're driving to Santa Cruz).

Which leads perfectly to a code word question: what habit of yours is absolutely your significant other's bête noire? What do you consistently do that drives them batshit?

wheels up 9:30am

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:34 PM (Permalink) | Comments (17)

November 1, 2011

an unlicensed salon


I'm not one to stick a bunch of videos in your face that you could have found yourself, but these guys are LOCAL HEROES from FUQUAY-VARINA, NC! Yes, I know if I was 17 I'd already have seen these forty times, but since I'm a bit of a shut-in, I'm posting a few of my favorites.

Rhett and Link went to Buies Creek Elementary School together, then to NC State for engineering, and needless to say, they are making the internet work. This is the first thing Lars showed me, and it's very complicated on all kinds of levels:

...which led to their amazing, purposely-bad local ads, like this one in High Point:

...which, of course, led to all my Mormon cousins in beauty school in Salt Lake/Provo, Utah:

the music in this one is GODDAMN BRILLIANT

Be sure to check out their pillow song, T-shirt war, and Jones' Big Ass Truck Rental & Storage. You know, if you haven't already because I'm horribly late to the internet meme party. Go Old North State!

Posted by Ian Williams at 11:13 PM (Permalink) | Comments (6)