Sunday, November 17, 2013

"Biker Bill" [originally published March 4, 2007]

I wonder about a lot of irrelevant things when I should be doing something useful.  One thing that I've been wondering about recently is the motorcycle helmet.  I know next to nothing about motorcycles.  But I have noticed that, over most of my life, a motorcycle helmet has been a thick, bulky, visored contraption that protected, and concealed, everything above the neck.  Some time in the last year or two, motorcycle helmets suddenly turned into small black soup bowls that cover only the top of the head.  If the trends continues, in a few more years we will be looking at the motorcycle yarmulke.

Was the shift in styles strictly a matter of fashion?  Or was it discovered that the old helmets didn't offer any significant advantage in skull protection?  I suppose that I could find out by using the all-knowing, all-seeing Internet, but I don't really care all that much.

"Bill Gets Lost" [originally published February 6, 2007]

I don't watch much prime time television anymore.  Back in the late Nineties, the evening airwaves were full of great programmingSeinfeld, The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, NYPD Blue, and half a dozen more.  But gradually it all went away.  

Now the networks are dominated by the unregulated cloning of reality shows and police procedurals.  I can't stand reality shows at all.  I still watch the original version of Law & Order, but nothing similar.  I can only handle one hour per week of investigations and autopsies.  

I also enjoy King of the Hill, but that's my only contact with animation.  I don't watch The Simpsons because, blasphemous as it may sound to the ears of Generation X, I got sick of that show years ago.  And I don't watch The Family Guy or American Dad because, for one thing, I have trouble telling them apart.  The only way to distinguish the two is to remember that the family on The Family Guy lives with a talking dog, and the family on American Dad lives with a space alien who is also an aging, alcoholic homosexual.  If the Fox network ever needs to cut costs, it could combine both into one show called Family Dad, and likely no one would notice.  

The sole series in the last few seasons that has generated any excitement in me is Lost.  Creative, intricate, and bizarre, Lost is like nothing currently on television, and like almost nothing that has ever been on television.  (The only things that come close are The Prisoner and Land of the Lost; Land of the Lost holds the advantage in dinosaurs, and The Prisoner holds the advantage in paranoid Sixties psychedelia, but overall Lost takes the pre-packaged, air-dropped Dharma Initiative cake.)  I'm continuously surprised that such an "out there" show could become such a big hit.  I'm also surprised that such an "out there" show would be broadcast on ABC, and not on Fox or what used to be the WB network.
Lost has been on hiatus for a few  months.  It returns on Wednesday, February 7, 2007.  I will watch this new episode, but I may have to stop watching the show soon.  For most of the show's run, it was based around exploration and adventure, visions, hatches, a monster, and all kinds of cool strangeness.  But, starting with the end of the second season, the entire focus of the story has changed to the survivors being kidnapped and tormented by the Others, and being entirely powerless to resist.  This grim tale of capture and captivity was starting to give me nightmares.  

Normally I am not the sort to be driven easily to nightmares.  (I do, though, still have nightmares about some people from my class in high school, which is why I don't go to the reunions.)  But the helplessness and hopelessness of the survivors' struggle with the Others has gotten into my head, and led me to several unpleasant dreams. 

In one harshly vivid incident, I dreamt that I was a survivor on the island, and I was captured by the Others, and imprisoned in their compound.  I knew that I was in a dream, but couldn't get myself out of the dream.  The only way that I could find to resolve the situation was to convince myself that I wasn't the character who had been kidnapped, but rather the actor playing that character, and that filming was ending for the day.  But even as the nightmare concluded I was filled with dread that I would be returning at some point to resume shooting the scene. 

Lost is still a quality show, but it's no longer much fun to watch.   

A few months ago I was at work and I needed some information on the finer points of tapir taxonomy.  Being too lazy to get up from my desk and look in a book, I checked the internet.  During my web search, I inadvertently discovered that there is a legend in Asian countries that the tapir will eat one's dreams.  

Here was a mythological answer to my Lost nightmare problem.  And here was a perfect device to tie up a blog entry about my Lost nightmare problem.  

Oh, dream-eater
I believe you can get me through the night 
Oh, dream-eater
I believe we can reach the morning light

Everything seemed to be coming together for my strange musings on Lost.  But a question remained: When a tapir eats dreams, does use its mouth, or its trunk?  I prefer the trunk option; I like to imagine a man suffering in a fitful sleep, beset by nightmares, until a tapir enters the darkened room, and moves the end of its trunk like the nozzle of a vacuum cleaner across the man's cranium, gently inhaling the phantoms troubling his nocturnal mind.

My question inspired me to search further, where I found that someone had already blogged about using tapirs to eat dreams.   It's a small blogosphere after all. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

"Bill's Seventh Blog" [originally published February 1, 2007]

It was late on a Saturday night in early 1974.

The phone rang.

My father answered it.

"This is the White House calling.  May we speak to Jeane Dixon?" asked the voice on the other end of the line.

"I'm sorry, Jeane Dixon's not at this number," my father responded.

Now, almost thirty-five years late, this strange event has been placed in its proper context in the annals of presidential freakishness by an MSN/MSNBC/Newsweek report [original link dead] that Richard Nixon did in fact receive frequent advice from psychic Jeane Dixon.

"Bill's Sixth Blog" [originally published January 19, 2007]

I just saw an televised ad for a tax preparation service featuring Ghost Rider.  Ghost Rider is a Marvel Comics character who has a skull for a head, and is on fire.  When I was young, I read Ghost Rider's comic book a few times.  From what I can remember, he was a demon, or maybe his dad was a demon.  There was a demon in there somewhere.  Ghost Rider could also shoot flames.  He would ride his motorcycle around the Southwest, looking for bad guys, and when he found them he would shoot flames at them.

I used to work in tax preparation, and at no time did we have a Marvel Comics character as a client, let alone a flaming skull dude.  In the commercial, Ghost Rider gives his W-2 form to the tax preparer.  The W-2 is used to report income from employment.  So who employs Ghost Rider, and for what?

Unlike more popular comic book characters like Superman or the Hulk, Ghost Rider has not seeped into the popular consciousness to any significant degree.  I would imagine that most viewers didn't understand the ad at all.  Some people asked, "Why is that skull dude on fire?"

And other people just ran away from the TV screaming.