Monday, September 29, 2008

"Back off man, I'm a Scientist"

I am newly convinced that Ghostbusters is the greatest movie of all time. Seriously. Watch it again with your adult eyes.

That is all.

(Oh yeah, and Ghostbusters 2 is great too. I was only recently made aware that there was an undercurrent of hate towards this movie, not dissimilar to the feelings that surround Caddyshack 2 and Major League 2. You are wrong if you feel this way. I don't know how to tell you this any other way.)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Filming Pains

IMDB trivia item for the new movie "Fireproof," now in theaters

Kirk Cameron, a fundamentalist Christian evangelist, refuses to kiss any woman other than his wife under any circumstance, so to film a scene in which his character in Fireproof (2008) kisses his wife, the filmmakers had to dress Cameron's real-life wife, Chelsea Noble, as the wife character (played throughout the rest of the movie by Erin Bethea) and shoot the kissing scene in shadow so the difference between Noble and Bethea would not be as evident onscreen.

Also, if you've never seen this video, you should. Kirk and his buddy Ray describe how a banana proves the existence of an intelligent deity, which somehow also disprove that we evolved from apes. True fact: Kirk Cameron refuses to hold any banana except his own under any circumstances.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Hug Me, I'm a Vegetarian

Today is apparently International Hug a Vegetarian Day. Who knew?

There doesn't seem to be much grander purpose to this, other than PETA's continued efforts to recognize the people who are putting our nation's chicken farmers and captive bolt pistol manufacturers out of jobs.

Here's another tidbit from the Web site:
Random Hug-Related Fact of the Moment!
There are a plethora of different kinds of hugs, and all of them are vegan—unless you cover yourself in butter before hugging someone, in which case you're just disgusting.

Whatever your dietary preferences, I think we can all agree on that. In honor of this day, I will hug my peanut butter and jelly sandwich before I eat it in a few minutes. Then I will probably suffer through another round of meat-based jokes from other people in the newsroom. Typical example:

News clerk: I saved you some sausage. Want some?
Me: No thanks.
News clerk: Are you going to order the cheesesteak sandwich?
Me: Not today.
Me: ...(turns back to crossword puzzle)

WARNING: Hugging vegetarians should be avoided at all costs because their bones are brittle and easily breakable, due to the lack of proper nutrition and protein obtained through a steady diet of bacon and Thickburgers. Gentle pats on the back are also discouraged since a muscle system sustaining on rice and soy may shrivel under the added pressure.*

*statement not verified by anyone with any medical background

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists: Just what the doctor ordered

(The Guide, 9/26/08) -- When your trusty yet vigilant and skeptical Guide staff first heard a rumor about Ted Leo coming to Hilton Head Island, a contest immediately arose to see who in the newsroom believed it least.

No one here wanted to fall prey to what was certainly an apocryphal story, that a political powerhouse who once earned comparisons to punk royalty Fugazi and the Clash would soon be slashing his way through the manicured landscape of Hilton Head.

We were never so happy to be wrong.

It turns out that Leo's actually been to Hilton Head many times (though not to play music), and has fond memories of it. But when Leo and his band the Pharmacists return to the island Oct. 2, on tour with Against Me! and Future of the Left, it will be a day for the history books. Here's why:

Question. We did a little bit of research, and we think this may be the first punk show in Hilton Head history.

Answer. I used to go out with someone who lived on Hilton Head. I used to actually go down there a lot and visit her and we'd hang out and see shows in Savannah.

But there was one night where some ska band that I actually knew from New York was playing at like some crazy frat bar, and we went. And I remember her being so freaked out, like, 'God, this is so weird, there's actually a band that's not like the String Cheese Incident or Widespread Panic or something that's playing here.'

Wow, but I would have figured since then, that since there are kind of 'punk' shows everywhere, I'm surprised to hear that I'm the first.

Q. How does that feel?

A. It's exciting. It's auspicious. I had no idea.

Q. What's it like going from a big tour with Pearl Jam back to playing little clubs?

A. It's not that awing to be on a big stage. In fact, it's usually not that fun.

In the middle of the Pearl Jam tour, we had some days off and we threw in some of our own shows. So we went from playing the Verizon Center in D.C., which is like 18,000 people, to playing a 200-capacity art gallery in Richmond, Va., and you know, that was kind of actually more fun. I hate to limit our ambitions, but it feels much more at home.

Q. So you still prefer the smaller venues?

A. Our tours are always kind of up-and-down like that, to a certain degree, and that also is really nice. It's like you go from playing at Metro in Chicago to the aquarium in Fargo, N.D.

It's a nice way to keep things in perspective, I guess is what I'm trying to say. The Fargo show can be just as fun, and almost feel like more important in some ways.

Q. You guys have been around for a while, and have a big following. Do you still enjoy introducing new people to music when you're in strange places?

A. Definitely. I don't think we play any different in those circumstances, whether it's somewhere relatively new or whether it's somewhere we've been a million times. What it actually enables us to do was kind of change our set list up in ways that we normally wouldn't. It's not like a total hometown crowd. In a weird way, it gives you a little more freedom to be a little looser in your choices.

Q. Do you ever edit your own Wikipedia page?

A. No (laughs). Should I? I don't look at it. I don't really want to know what people are saying about me on there. I think the last time I looked at it was probably two years ago, when I first realized there was a Wikipedia page for me: 'Oh, wow, that's interesting. Hmm, that's not true. Oh, that's true, I guess.'

I think things like that are better. Unless it's meant to be some kind of professional resume that I have specific things that I want to be mentioned on it, I would prefer to just let people do that if they want to do it.

Q. Anything else you want to say about the tour?

A. Just psyched to go back to that beach.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Dark Bailout

"Nobody panics when things go according to plan. Even if the plan is horrifying."

How did people seeks solace from the chaos of political absurdity in the era before the advent of the mashup, back when we were forced to relive a John McCain speech on cable news over and over without the added benefit of watching him be Barack Roll'd all up and down the screen?

So regardless of your political views, this is just enjoyable. Mainly because it reminds me of how much The Dark Knight rocked the brick sh*thouse. So I guess Batman is the subprime mortgage crisis in this situation? Or maybe Batman is Fannie Mae? I'm sure lots of people are dying to use the pencil trick on some investment bankers these days.

(via Wonkette)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Trivia team names for the week

• A Really Cool Potamus
• Large Hard-on Collider*
• I Went To Four Fewer Colleges Than Sarah Palin
• Do You Know How Many Times I've Had to Look Up How to Spell 'Lynyrd Skynyrd' In the Past Week?
• Hank Paulson's Deal or No Deal Suitcase
• The Cleveland Browns Won't Give Me the Finger
• Clarence was a Dapper Sight Astride his Four-Legged Friend+
• Nature: 2; Stuck Up Bitch: Zero

*Used in competition and rewarded with free beers
+ Won't make any sense if I explain it either

Gigantic Pencil, Reporter Nearly Kill 74-year-Old Woman

This is probably my greatest response to a story EVER. And by greatest, I mean perhaps the most stultifying, stupefying example of head-smacking obtuseness:

I have not listened to the weather channel or paid much attention to hurricanes since the passing of Ike. After all, I had prepared to evacuate with the threat of Hanna, but recently unpacked all my necessities. I just was avoiding the issue.

And then today's headline! "The Storm is headed for the Carolinas." My goodness, a story that should have been a Sunday feature on an inside page ends up on Page 1 of the Beaufort Gazette. I looked at the picture of the huge hurricane heading straight for us and quickly turned on the weather channel. It was after the hour, so there was no Atlantic weather news. Back to the story, and it turns out it is just a feature on "the Carolinas".

My heart did not stop racing for at least half an hour. I am 74 years old. How many elderly people did you cause to have heart palpitations this morning?

I wonder if it also got first page coverage on the Island Packet. Your next headline might read "12.000 people in Sun City head for the hills--or back to Ohio." Sounds like the radio program of "War of the Worlds."

Anyway, the article was a fine one, even though it was misplaced.

For reference, this is the story that's under discussion. And (brace your heart for it), below is the offending graphic that ran with it that made me responsible for this woman's near cardiac arrest:

So, instead of actually reading even the first paragraph of the article that sent this woman's heart into Speed Racer mode, she threw aside the newspaper and threw herself into a panicked frenzy befitting cable news coverage, presumably calling up the Weather Channel and awaiting Local on the 8s while haphazardly stuffing prescription medicine bottles, the deed to the house and various clothing into a duffel bag, yelling at her husband to don't even bother boarding up the windows, just go outside and start the damn Escalade already.

But, more amusingly, I can only imagine the thoughts that ran through her head when she noticed not only a large hurricane barreling straight for South Carolina, but also a gigantic pencil looking like a Stylus of God sticking out of the sky apparently erasing South Carolina from the map.

"Dear Lord, Joseph, get the sharpeners! This thing means business. Do we know if our storm shelter is eraser proof? GAH! THERE'S NO TIME MAN, THERE'S NO TIME!"

I haven't responded to her yet, but I'm betting my reply will be none too light on the sarcasm (in extraordinary circumstances such as these, you are allowed to bite back, I think) and contain the basic sentiment of: "sorry you didn't take the time to look at one sentence of the story before freaking out, and sorry for piquing your interest and getting you to read our newspaper."

But at least she liked the article, when she finally did read it. This is, however, the first time I've been compared to Orson Welles. But maybe not the last?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Give Her the Finger

Interesting Fact Recently Learned By Me, Now Shared With You

You cannot purchase a Cleveland Browns foam finger anywhere. Go ahead, try it. Not even on the eBays. You can find a foam dog bone, a thick foam dog-like hat thing, a plush hand that looks like it was wretched out of some horrid Ohio-based Wes Craven movie.

How do I know this? Join me in a trip back to Sunday, sitting outside Street Meet restaurant on Hilton Head, the patio awash in a hot mess of football fans who seem to forget they are in South Carolina and actually not 800 miles away in Baja Canada, and me, sitting there, the lone person rooting for the poor Ravens, not so much out of my fealty to Maryland but more my appreciation for the life and works of Edgar Allen Poe. An ebullient woman who for the previous two hours had been pounding Jagerbombs with the unassailled regularity of the gameclock ticking down the minutes, stood up and demanded the attentions of the 30 or so patrons sitting nearby.

"I have an announcement!" she proclaimed, careful to match the start of her proposition to the start of the 47th Microsoft ad airing that afternoon. "If anyone can find me a Cleveland Browns foam finger, I want it. I've checked everywhere and no one has it. I've looked everywhere, even the Internet."

My eyes shrunk with immediate skepticism. When most people say they can't find something on the Internet, it often means they could not figure out how to turn on their computer and then smashed the hard drive with a tennis racket in frustration, or that they accidentally searched Not religion, philosophy or superstition -- my sole tenet of belief in this world that comforts me even in the darkest hours is that you can find anything through Google these days. Anything. Want to look at hot chicks wearing Nintendo Power Gloves? There, just found it. Billy Dee Williams' home address? Careful, someone may have arrived just before you. Looking for the entire collection of characters from the 1980s cartoon show The Wuzzles? Please, give me a challenge.

"Did you try the American Internet?" I asked, allowing my sarcasm to drip into her horseradish onion sauce.

"Yes, I looked everywhere. The Browns' Web site,, eBay, all nothin'. If you can find me one, I'll ... I'll ... well, I don't know what I'll do, but I'll give you something."

Payment will not be necessary, ma'am, as proving you wrong will be reward enough. I informed her I would return the following Browns game with the answers she sought.

Last night I awoke the Googles and gave them their task, thinking the first result of the 9,310 returned in 0.19 seconds would almost certainly prove fruitful. But no luck. I tried several other word combinations, all to no avail. For some reason a foam finger for the Trenton Thunder minor league team was placed in the top results, but nothing for the Browns. My roommate joined the search, then my friend Missy. Browns web site, NFL shop, eBay -- none containing even a trace of our prize. They either have never made the foam fingers, or they were so exclusive they were only available at Skyline Chili restaurants in the greater metro area.

I had to admit: the Jagerbombed lady was right, and my faith in the power of Google was shaken to its core.

But I did find solace in the fact that the Browns lost, and I would have one less annoying piece of Ohio sports memorabilia blocking my view of the TV next week.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Learned Negro Gentleman for Rent

Our photo editor just showed me an e-mail from a woman who used the word "negro." As in:

"Here are three photos. The negro gentleman is James (Last Name Deleted), PhD, the white gentleman is Jim (Last Name Deleted) and the woman is me. LOL Lucy (Last Name Deleted)"

My immediate reaction was that this woman, who lives in the creepy settlement of oldsters known as Sun City, was surely of that sainted vintage where less-than-delicate comments are written off as missives from a lost era, the brutal remnants of a long and weathered existence, from when the world was ordered much differently, a time the rest of us can only read about on Wikipedia.

Not so, the photo editor said. She is, like, mid-40s.

I don't doubt that she meant no harm by the use of the term. But I was unaware this particular anachronism was still hibernating somewhere in the depths of society. Or maybe just in South Carolina, at least.

Then I Googled it out of curiosity, and discovered Rush Limbaugh has been calling Obama "Barack the Magic Negro," saying the candidate has been successful because people “can’t criticize the little black man-child.”'s not just South Carolina, I guess. The first Google result (after definitions) is for a company called, the pitch being:

What can you give a person
who has everything?

Give them a new black friend....

Maybe this PhD gentleman from that woman's e-mail could make some side money? LOL.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Even coyotes hated House of Wax

I'm of the caste of individuals who could care as much about the exploits of a stuck-up heiress (or former heiress, at least) as I do the sales figures for Darius Rucker's new solo CD, a copy of which is inexplicably sitting on the makeshift cardboard table next to my desk. I'm a firm believer in the argument that individuals should actually have to DO something to achieve a modicum of public attention, and that this entire school of celebrities-because-they're-celebrities makes me want to erl in my hummus. I once regularly read a Web site (sadly, now defuct) for a group that regularly protested Paris Hilton book release events and organized boycotts of Carlos Mencia's visual abortion that somehow got mislabeled as a television show.

This news story is horrible in its implied brutality. But something about it seems so .... so ... crunchy. Read.

It's the same kind of perverse pleasure I would get if those guys responsible for the horrendous Disaster/Epic/etc. Movie franchise came home one day to find their production equipment stolen and replaced with a trailer full of the creatures from Tremors 2. Man, that would be a sweet, sweet victory for art.

Does this make me a bad person? Probably. But seriously, 17 dogs? Even Acme products can't fail all the time.

A Really Cool Potamus

You should probably get this and listen to it, unless you don't like being happy ever. In that case, you should probably get and listen to this.

"Is a hippopotamus a hippopotamus, or just a really cool potamus?"
“A burrito is a sleeping bag for ground beef.”
“I was at the airport and I put my bag on the x-ray machine and found out that my bag has cancer. It only has six more months to hold shit.”

It's not near the levels of hilarity of Mitch's other two albums, especially the comedic Iliad that was "Mitch All Together." But it's a satisfying postmortem release, and like any beyond-the-grave material, will satisfy fans hungry for any remaining crumbs from his work. The 40 minutes of material on this CD are from a show in Ontario, and probably would have been much more refined had Mitch stuck around long enough to release another full CD.

I saw Mitch at the University of Maryland in 2002 with Barry, Ally and Dave Malitz, who interviewed him after the show and asked Mitch why he did so many jokes about food. I don't think he had an answer. Then he died in a Baltimore hotel room three years later. Coincidence? Um, yes, yes it is.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Billboard moment

I had something published on today. Ted Leo, you're a class act all around. Also, I had to send an e-mail that began this way to my managing editor yesterday.
so you may or may not have a random and very confused sounding punk rocker on your voice mail today.....
It was a very odd day. At some point today, maybe I'll actually focus on covering my beat for the publication that actually pays me on a regular basis. No promises.

Also, Reason No. 2 in the Four Weeks of Ted Leo, our effort to fill a local club with at least a respectable number of curious audiophiles.

Don't Mess With the Suicide Doors

Today was a big day in the world of The Saturn, aka The Red Rocket, better known as The Only Car I've Owned That Has Yet to Be Towed Out of This World in a Fiery, Smoke-Filled Coffin of Misery: we hit the 100,000 mile mark.

I say "we" because I consider myself an integral part of this effort, as any other driver/owner of the Rocket probably would have let those weary wheels rest on occasion over the four years of service, whereas I made the machine stand in constant vigilance, ever ready for a last-minute jaunt up the East Coast or an ill-advised navigation through a roadside drainage system.

I am not entirely responsible for the mileage since the car came into my possession in July 2004 with a little more than 9,000 miles on it. It was found sitting idle in a Volkswagen lot in Monmouth County, New Jersey on Independence Day, a hastily agreed upon replacement for the much (and, by the end, deservedly) maligned Celica. Anyone from back in those days remembers the slow parade of atrophy and decay that was the final days of The Celica, when mirrors, knobs and other parts fell off with the disturbing grievance of a leprosy patient, until it hemorrhaged in a horrible fit on the Beltway, spewing unidentified liquids all over the windshield, finally gasping its final choked breaths on the exit ramp and coming to a final stop in front of the New Carrollton Metro station. There it sat overnight, where, upon my return in the morning to pay my respects and collect belongings, I discovered it had been towed.

My options, as interpreted from the comments from the supremely helpful and not at all condescending towing company employee were:
A) Pay the $100 towing fee, plus the rapidly mounting $70 per day storage costs to retrieve the car
B) Pay the $100 towing fee, hand over the title to the car and sign the corpse over the towing company
C) A Celica? What the hell is a Celica? Who is this? How did you get this number? Stop calling me! Hello? *Click*

Assuming there is no warrant for my arrest in Prince George's County, Maryland right now, I think I made the right choice.

I did the math real quick: the mileage put on the Saturn since that July works out to an average of 59.2 miles a day. This is the equivalent of driving from Beachwood, NJ to Philly every day; or from Hilton Head Island to Yemassee, which, as everyone knows, is practically the City of Brotherly Love of South Carolina (replace "brotherly" with "steak" and "love" with "get your gas, karaoke, alcohol, dinner and line dancing in the same establishment").

Yet the car has held together well, save for one unfortunate accident last year that crumpled the front of it like a paper doll on US 278 (for the record: my car — looked like a piece of stepped-on Play-Doh thrown on the street. Mammoth SUV in front of me — tiny hole in the bumper. Guess which driver freaked out more). Plus, there's that bizarre problem that causes the car not to start for upwards of 20 minutes on occasions when the temperature drops over night. This of course only happens when I'm alone, and never, not once, not even a little bit, when there's a mechanic within 400 yards of the vicinity. I left it at the mechanic all day one Friday last year to see if he could spot the problem. Said he tried it several times throughout the day, and it started fine. When I went to pick it up an hour later after he had already gone home, I could hear engine laughing at me as it refused to turn over. This has led me in my amateur mechanic's training to diagnosis the problem as a terminal case of VPJ (Vindictive Poltergeist Jerkdom).

Major feats of endurance have included: three nine-hour trips to College Park in one year; one drive to New Jersey; two to Orlando; several to Raleigh; miscellaneous others to Asheville, Atlanta, Gainesville, Annapolis, Myrtle Beach and way way waaaay too many to Bluffghanistan on a near daily basis.

The single worst drive of my life happened inside the claustrophobic bosom of the Saturn, where she and I forever cemented our bond of the open road. It was on the way back from a trip out to Coachella in 2005. In booking this trip, blinded by an utter inexplicable commitment to camaraderie and conquering distance, I decided to fly out of BWI with festival buddy SteveChris. This involved driving up to Maryland after work, arriving in the middle of the night, getting a sparse two hours sleep on a hard Commons couch, then heading to the airport for a weekend under the stern eye of the 100-degree California desert sun. Then we took an overnight flight back east, landed at 1 a.m., and I was bound to my ridiculous scheme of driving back to South Carolina. For work that morning. At 9 a.m. Ah, to be young and dumb.

During that long, lonesome, death march down I95, I knew madness. It emerged from the corners of every wood-paneled, smokey truckstop store in Virginia, where women inexplicably unbothered by the hands pointing to 4 a.m. on the Winston clock overhead pumped coins into slot machines I weren't sure were entirely legal; it was stocked on refrigerator shelves next to over sized, violently labeled bottles of what alleged to be energy drink that contained no evidence that their existence was known to federal health officials; it rode out of the radio on the waves of static penetrating the silence of North Carolina, somewhere just out of range of sunrise when I started chain smoking black box American Spirits just to threaten my body into remaining awake. I crossed a bridge and nearly let the madness win; trees were downed across the road and I began to swerve the Saturn in my harassed conscious state. Only they weren't trees — it was shadows, conspiring with my tiredness to resemble shape and menace.

I made it back home in a miserable state, still smelling like the inside of a pup tent warmed over with the stew of hipster sweat resin and the crunchy, dry desert air. I collapsed for the blessed relief of a nap. And, despite it all, I still made it to my meeting and wrote my story for the day.

All thanks to one dedicated Saturn who wouldn't give up on me, even in the darkest night, when the darkness of that terrible highway nearly overcame me. Also, it's got sweet suicide doors, which have yet to kill me, and are featured prominently in at least one Kanye song.

Thanks Saturn, and here's to 100,000 more.

(Um, but I'm hopeful it's not with me. I mean, gas engines? Still? Let's get a move on it, inventors. That's the real American Spirit we need.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Trivia team names for the week

-Sarah Palin's Aborted VP Run*
-Hootie Never Burned Us Like This
-If We Don't Get 38 Special In The Next Few Weeks, Someone's Getting Shot In The Face
-Hanna and the Hurricanes*
-Mother. Moose Hunter. Maverick.
-Jim Cantore: Portent of Death
-The Death of Jonathan and Birth of J. Edward
-We Guessed*
-Your Mom's got the Whitest Teeth ... (too offensive to publish here)**
-Jim Faber's Abandoned Box of His Childhood

*Used in actual competition.
**Name rewarded with free beers

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Time to Pretend

Look, during the week, on the clock, with the eyes of the print publishing world glaring at my choice in belt buckle, I don't mind wearing the monkey suit and doing the little dance to confound enough people into thinking I'm some sort of well-groomed, tucked-in member of society. Personally, I think choice of clothing has about as much to do with my ability to report and write a good story as what I ate for lunch. I probably actually do better reporting when I'm in jeans and sneakers because I feel more comfortable, less constrained and better able to relate to the average citizen. But I understand there are certain concessions necessary when traipsing through the prickly brier patch of the professional world, and I've come to deal with this through a secretly subversive combination of thrift store pants and hand-me-down collared shirts. I'll get even more gussied up for big events — congressional visits, major galas, and so forth. I wore a tux in college to an event featuring Bill Cosby.

But when I'm not on the clock, that's my time. And I will look as much like a harassed strain on society as I damn well please. It's the least I can do after paying penance to the anachronistic practice of tucking in a shirt for five days a week (OK, four days. Cas Fri to the rescue).

This, however, proves quite troublesome on Hilton Head Island, a town about as big as my high school gym class where I can barely go to the trash chute in my apartment building without running into someone I know. I try to lay low and can usually pass off as one of the anonymous waiters, caddies or check in clerks who make up the majority of the young people population here. If people ask me for more ranch dressing, I know I'm in the clear.

Sometimes, however, it is impossible to remain unmasked. Last Saturday, for instance, walking up the pharmacy counter at Walgreens, me looking entirely unpresentable in the cargo shorts that have become stiff with fatigue from the strain of their unrelenting tour of service without leave time this summer, topped with my red Miss Teen USA 1980 paegent thrift store shirt, my hair erupting in its traditional Saturday morning revolt without the application of shower water or product, my eyes probably still glazed with residue of the last beer Friday night. As I got to the counter, I caught the middle of the conversation between the clerk and an oldster: "...well, there's just so many (Mylastname)s in the world, you never know..."

He thanked her and walked away. Then I tell her I'm picking up prescriptions, and my name is also Mylastname, and she laughs at the odd coincidence. The oldster turns on his heel, aroused with sudden curiosity. His name was Ted Mylastname, which I remembered because he was from Massachusetts and had that chowda-filled Ted Kennedy accent. "Hey, are you Chris Mylastname?"
Who the feck is Chris Mylastname? I'll crush him.

No, I told him, providing my full name. Ted's eyes grew wide, recognizing the name from the bylines in the newspaper.
"Oh ho!" he said. "I read your stories all the time! People always ask me if we're related!"
Why then, I thought, did he first ask me if I was Chris Mylastname? Probably, I figured, because he discounted this clearly hungover derelict as some inconsequential beach bum who only got out of bed long enough to pick up a morning after pill for the hooker he picked up last night, now lying in a passed-out mess on his air mattress back at home. Oh but you were wrong, Ted. I even wear a tie some days.

Later that same day, I'm at the thrift store, buying what I must say was a rather nice blue-button down shirt that at one time probably fetched a decent price tag on a store rack somewhere. It looked nearly brand new, and cost me a pricey $3. The woman who rang me up took notice. "Wow, this is a nice shirt. Are you going to wear it with a suit?"

No, just a shirt for work, I told her. "Oh, where do you work?" I always wince when this quesiton comes up, as it does often on Hilton Head, because people ask it here to affix you to some part of the familiar geography of the island. It's like asking what dorm you live in in college. Often people get the answer of a particular restaurant or store, and they can relate to shopping or eating there once, offer to say hi next time they're in there, etc. When you tell people you work for the newspaper, they start treating you differently. I told one of my roommate's friends a few years back that I worked there and his response was, "Like, delivering the papers?" When I met one of Andy's dad's friends last summer, she told was in shock at recognizing my name. "I thought you were an old man!" she said, though not unkindly.

I braced myself and told the clerk the truth, then she probed as to what I cover, what my name was, and so forth. Since I've worked here for 45 years now, she had seen my name around, read my stories, all that. I ducked out of the conversation before it turned to specific town topics. But I can't help picturing that she went home, saw her husband reading the paper and said, "Honey, I met that Mylastname reporter today. Did you know is a homeless person? He has to buy his shirts in the thrift store and everything. I'm surprised they even let him into official buildings, he looked like one of those bohemians I heard about on Fox News."

Then her husband would huff, crumble the paper up and toss it into the fireplace (they keep their fire running in the summer, because it's powered by gas, and they want to help reduce the nation's exorbitant oil surplus) and exclaim: "Well, that's the last time we read that rag! I thought there were still standards in this country! Bohemians ... next thing you'll be telling me that he has long hair. Quite absurd, quite."

It's interactions like this, and the high likelihood of running into sources around every corner, that keep me on my toes. It's why I know not to get stupid wasted at a bar if there's a source lurking about, to chose carefully who to cut off in traffic out of fear that it will one day be the mayor, and why I tucked the copy of "Dreams from My Father" I was buying at Barnes and Noble the other day into my newspaper when I saw one of the angry, liberal-media accusing, military haircut old Republicans headed my way (He said, "Hi," by the way, also not unkindly).

The worst of these situations came my first year here, at the St. Patrick's Day parade, easily the most enjoyable and community building free event on the island all year. My condition was respectable, but I was with my roommate John, whose job as a waiter did not give him the same public considerations I had. He was 10 miles beyond wasted, had a dripping plastic beer yard hanging from his neck, and was wearing a set of beads with plastic marijuana leaves hanging from it. "I really hope I don't run into any sources," I thought, taking a sip from my beer. Then I turned around in the bar parking lot we were standing in and saw THE ENTIRE TOWN COUNCIL and our statehouse representative lining up in their convertibles before entering the parade route.

Figures, I thought. I had come in disguise with sunglasses and sweatshirt, and pulled my cap down over my face.

Then, two years later at the same parade, I got drunk on the side of the route and screamed at the town manager to throw me some freaking candy as he passed by. He did. My shirt was not tucked in at the time. I mean, there's only so much pretending one person can do.

Bonus: Listen to MGMT's "Time to Pretend" It's in a movie trailer so it's probably going to be annoyingly popular soon. But they get it.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Exceptional Publicity

Effing. Fantastic. Just got this e-mail back from Ted Leo's folk:

From: Touch and Go Quarterstick
Sent: Mon 9/8/2008 2:34 PM
Subject: Re: Ted Leo comes to the posh rock

Hey T -

GREAT to hear from you. Teddy isn't really doing press but I'll make an exception for you! Hilton Head needstaknow! :)

Will 9/15 work for you?

That's right: Ted Leo isn't doing interviews, but they're making an exception for the small newspaper on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Because, even though it may kill us, reducing our bodies to chunky ash residue that will be used to fertilize the fairway of the 8th hole at Heron Point, we're going to force this place to accept the punk. LEARN IT. KNOW IT. LIVE IT.

If I can quote the ever estimable Jeff Vrabel:

Also, even if they didn't set up the interview, I still have his cell phone number in my phone from our interview two years ago. Stalker much? Maybe a little. But I've never called it, not even drunk.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Bright Eyes, Small City?

Fresh off the news that Ted Leo is coming to Hilton Head, we found out Friday that Conor Oberst will play here in November. Repeat: that's two Pitchfork favorites playing on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina within a month of each other. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE??? We're through the looking glass here, people.

I swear to blog, if this place turns into the new Williamsburg the minute I move away, I will come back and go all sickhouse on every bed-headed person I see. Then I'll take up golf and yell at these bastards to turn that infernal racket down because I can't hear the sound of my yacht drying. Next come the cranky letters to the editor. Oh you think you've seen cranky letters to the editor before, but just you wait. The words "shocked and appalled" will be armed with an unprecedented sense of outrage that will send fear rippling through every ironic T-shirt in a 50-mile radius.

In related news, we're running Four Weeks of Ted Leo in The Guide to lead up to the show. Why? Because we don't want to embarrass Hilton Head by having Ted and the boys play to a crowd of six local newspaper reporters.

Reason No. 1: This may be the first punk show in the history of Hilton Head.

The Disappointing Protection of Prayer

An actual e-mail received today from our landlady. She is the polar opposite of our previous landlady, who, four months on, has yet to respond to a single one of our inquiries about our security deposit, and is now delinquent on responding to the small claims suit sent to her address. Reproduced in its entirety as sent to my roommate, minus full names:
Hi J,

We were keeping a close eye on T.S. Hanna and Paul and I had made the
decision that we were not going to make a special trip to arrive
before this storm. We are still in IL and had not planned to leave
for HH until the end of September due to an upcoming family reunion in
Madison, WI. I will let you know as our final plans take shape, but
estimate that we will arrive at HH about October 1st. We are keeping
a close eye on Ike and will decide this weekend whether Paul needs to
get to HH to do any window boarding before Ike's landfall.

Unfortunately, I may have left T's personal e-mail address at our HH
home and I only have his business e-mail address with me and I didn't
want to bother him at work with this information. Would you please
be so kind to let him know that we are thinking of you both and pray
that you will be safe!

Please let us know as soon as possible if anything needs our immediate
attention after Hanna's fury passes. For your convenience, here are
two IL phone contacts: (555) 555-5555—Sue's cell and (555)
555-555—Paul's cell.

We did receive September's rent and thank you very much.

Take care and drive safe on wet, flooded roads! We had Gustav's
system here yesterday and it rained all day. The rain was steady,
wind mild, but no thunderstorms.

Thank you, J.


Sue and Paul

Important note: this storm was the crappiest crap fest that ever crapped on our shores. It rained. Not even all that hard. I barely noticed any wind. And lots of people got to get off work early anyway, including our newspaper's advertising department. Hanna, you disappoint me. I thought you'd at least be interesting.
My editors had me out live blogging the storm all day, an idea that would have been interesting had their been any storm to web log about (and had our web site's software been more up to date to handle such an exercise).

Most significant update
of the day:
Since returning from the drenching I got at the beach, the buttons on my cell phone have decided they will no longer respond to me. I can only take incoming calls. Hanna claims its first victim! Except for, um, you know, all those people in Haiti. Yikes.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Beware the Rhombus of Ambivalence

My favorite hurricane term by far: The Cone of Uncertainty. It just sounds so ... so ... calamitously chaotic. Say it in that deep, portentous, "thunder throat" Don LaFontaine voice: "In a world where everything is certain, one cone will change the face of predictability ... forever."

CUT TO Hilton Head Island, exterior, day:

Civilian 1: "Watch out! A gigantic geometric embodiment of precariousness is headed this way!"
Civilian 2: "If only we knew where it was going!"

This is not to be confused with the Cone of Silence, or the Fortress of Solitude or the Sea of Tranquility, the Rhombus of Ambivalence, the Quadrilateral Conundrum or (a rare, yet unspeakably terrible weather event) Schrödinger's Dodecahedron.

The Cone of Uncertainty is also the most accurate geometric-related term to define my life right now. I'm, like, 100 miles deep into the cone, being constantly rapped on the skull by the shifting black lines of the edges. Just like the storm, there's all the exogenous (VOCAB WHAT) factors at work. But at least I'm not on Hispanola. They never get the Cone of Uncertainty. All they ever see is the Cube of Unspeakable Devastation and Mud Slides.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

To Arms! To Arms!

Hurricane Strike Force Action Team: ASSEMBLE!

We've been teased by storms before, so everyone is preparing for this one while trying not to get too worked up into a frenzy. But it does certainly appear Hurricane Hanna (Carroll) is on track to jam herself right up our noses by the weekend. Everyone here is amping up towards full newspaper disaster battle mode — filling the car with gas; buying bottled water; sending templates to our sister paper in Columbia; sparring each other in preparation for a bare-knuckle fight with Geraldo, the usual. Then, when Go Time arrives, everyone gets sent off into their different teams and battle stations to form a perimeter of reporting around this tropical beast. It's kinda like Voltron. Five teams of reporters, each with their separate missions, dispatched to locate the five hidden robot lions in Beaufort County that will join together to form one newspaper. Go team!

I've been meandering through thoughts all day trying to figure out what I would take if we have to evacuate. The good thing about being young and perpetually transient is you don't have much stuff to worry about. I know I'll grab my computer, photo albums and journals. I might also want to bring to safety a few of the more irreplaceably ironic thrift store T-shirts, my Super Nintendo, some Kerouac, paper versions of clips (though who knows why) and the rest of the bottle of Absinthe sitting in my cupboard. It could, after all, be a very boring time sitting in the emergency operations center waiting for the storm to clear.

Then again, business reporter (and apparent amateur meteorologist) Jim Faber keeps telling me this storm is a piece of trash that he won't even think twice about. He's predicting light rain, tops, just like what happened with Ernesto in 2006 when everyone freaked out only to be greeted by a sprinkling of a storm. He will not, he informed me, be packing up his life-size George H.W. Bush cutout, because he refuses to give this storm the satisfaction of watching him evacuate.

But I'm packing up my Voltron lion key anyway. Just to be safe.