Nicole's Deep Thoughts

Week Three.

In which your fearless editor spends most of the week in an incredibly bad mood. This section's kind of depressing. But she got a scanner!

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8/13/99 -- Happy Friday the 13th; BUSTed.

I'm making up for not writing yesterday by posting an extra-long entry today. Enjoy.

First of all, one self-indulgent complaint: I haven't been able to find a copy of Bust anywhere. Even the giant Borders out in Towson didn't have it. The Barnes and Noble today was especially annoying; they must have had 60 different women's "Beauty and Grooming" magazines, with the standard crap articles like "Oh No -- You've Got Cellulite! Can Your Marriage Be Saved?" and "Our Full-Figured Woman of the Year: Jennifer Lopez." It was hard not to start thinking bitter thoughts about how ironic it was that they'd have all these magazines telling women what was wrong, bad, and ugly about them, but not one lousy copy of a magazine where the women say "Fuck that shit."

Here's what I would have written about on Thursday if I hadn't fallen sound asleep on Wednesday night:

Q: What's one thing you should absolutely, definitely, most certainly NOT do if you're terrified of flying, but going on a plane trip in a couple of months?

A: Sit down and watch "Survival in the Sky", a documentary about plane crashes which was on the Learning Channel Wednesday night. Don't ask me where the "Survival" part of the title came from; there wasn't much surviving shown in this program.

I don't know what the hell I was thinking. I had the channel on as background noise while Bill and I sat down at my computer so he could teach me how to set up frames (more on that in a bit). The program came on while we were working, and by the time I finished making my first graphics for the frames, he was hooked and I was getting pulled in despite myself. I thought, "I really don't need to be watching something like that." Then I saved all my files, and went over to watch it.

Lord knows I've seen enough horrifying plane crash footage (one featured crash was the famed Air Florida crash in DC), but this documentary offered a gruesome twist: It played several of the recordings preserved by the black box. A title card at the end of the show informed us that although the NTSB doesn't release these to the public, the producers obtained the tapes through "other legitimate sources." Oh.

Forget the Blair Witch -- nothing put a chill up my spine quite like hearing those recordings. You hear these pilots blithely chatting back and forth, and all the while you know something they didn't: they were in the last minutes of their lives. In each case, things went awry so quickly that only seconds elapsed between the first sounds of alarms whooping ("Pull up! Pull up!") and the huge "BOOM" noises that signaled the end.

One last note: I read in the book "Flying the Unfriendly Skies," written by an anonymous pilot, that nine times out of ten, the last words ever spoken by the pilot as preserved by the black box are "Oh, shit!" Pilot X was right, to go by the footage here.

So now, I just can't wait for the big plane trip in a couple months. I went to England in 1989, and as this was back in the happy days before it was legal to beat smokers to death with rocks in public, I could smoke on the plane. I finished half a carton of Marlboros before we reached Heathrow.

Of course, now I can legally drink on planes. I wonder how many glasses of wine it would take to knock me out for the whole flight. And if I have to be in a crash, can it please be on the way *back*, Oh Powers That Be?

Yes, I know it's a stupid phobia. Yes, I know that statistically, you're far safer in a plane than in a car. (Particularly if you live and drive in Northern Virginia.) Knowing all that doesn't make a damn bit of difference, so please don't tell me all of it again. As one of the people in "The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years" put it, "When you're in a car and it breaks down, well, there you are. But if you're in a plane and it breaks down, there you ain't."

Frames. Yes, you heard right. Version ... ummm ... 4.0 of "Insomniaville" is coming up. I kinda pulled that number out of my ass, but I think there have been that many distinctly different versions of this site.

I'm experimenting with frames. I know I used to hate, hate, hate them, but in the last year or so, the sites I like that use them seem to use them well enough that they don't annoy me too much. In fact, I think they're pretty cool. If I can get the frameset document to look as spiffy as the image I'm carrying around in my head, it's a go.

Some of you might be happy to know that the black backgrounds will soon be history. I always liked them, and personally I don't think they're any harder to read than white backgrounds, and I find them far less offensive than I find some of the horrific webpage color combinations I stumble over on occasion. (And let's not even talk about ugly background graphics.) However, much in the way that wearing black clothing all the time seems to get peoples' backs up for no good reason, black backgrounds seem to irk a lot of web-design gurus who think you're trying too hard to be "cool." Whatever.

Also, I'm probably going to scale "Blah Blah Blah" back to semi-weekly status. Expecting you to read all this self-indulgent crap in my journal and in "Blah" is really expecting all you nice people to indulge me a bit too much, I think.

You're still here, right? Hey, where'd you go? Come back here!

8/11/99 -- I Shouldn't Be Writing This.

I've been stretched out on the sofa drifting in and out of various levels of sleep for the last 45 minutes. I know I should go to bed. I keep waking up and telling myself, "This is ridiculous. I'm tired. I have a busy weekend coming up. I should get it overwith and go in the bedroom and go to sleep." But I always use "should" when I know I ought to do something but I also know I'm not going to do it. "I should clean the bathroom today." "I should get this project done before my supervisor starts asking me how it's going." I should be in bed, but I'm sitting here writing this instead. Lucky you.

Testy people on the Metro today. Various people committed the unforgivable sin of standing on the left side of the escalator, and other various people were working themselves up into a heart attack over the utter injustice of it all. Okay, I'm the first to admit that I can whip myself up into a frenzy when someone else's clueless behavior is inconveniencing my royal self. But shit -- it's not like the damn thing isn't moving anyhow. Relax, people. You'll get there eventually, even on the escalators that seem like they're a mile long, like the one at the Dupont Circle Q Street exit. If you're in that much of a hurry, take the goddamn stairs, or the one broken escalator that's always stopped. I really hate it when people shoving their way past the left-side standers shove and push me on their way down, even though I'm standing on the legal side and not doing anything wrong. To tell you the truth, I'm kind of worrying that before long, the impatient folks will win out and you won't be able to stand on the escalator at all. Ever. If you're on it and you're not moving, it'll actually be legal for all the incredibly important people to trample you into Hamburger Helper, right there in the Farragut West entrance. Fight the power.

But no. Not this afternoon, on my way home. First, one woman caught behind the left-side standers bellowed "If you're standing on the left side of the escalator, you need to move!" Nobody paid much attention to her, except for one young man who turned around and gave her a look. I couldn't tell if it was a sympathetic look, or more of an "Excuse me, but can I see your 'Queen of the World' credentials? Because I didn't vote for you" kinda look. Then, another woman closer to the bottom actually started shoving the women blocking the way (including, again, the woman being a good Metro commuter and standing on the right side of the escalator). Keep in mind that we were about ten steps away from the landing at this point and Ms. Pushy probably bought herself a whole three seconds of time. I really hope that someday I'll see another Ms. Pushy shove someone on the escalator, cause an accident that makes at least one person get seriously hurt, and get her ass sued off. If she's that important, she must have all kinds of money and can probably spare a few million, right?

I know you're probably wondering why I take the whole thing so personally, and I swear that I don't stand in the "left lane." Ever. It's just that I really used to bridle when people who moved to this area as adults would start slagging the city and complaining about how incredibly rude and hostile the locals here are. And now, after witnessing little scenes like the above at least once a week, I can't defend the locals anymore. They are rude. Not even in a casual, clueless sort of way -- they're actively hostile. They really do act like they're more important than everyone else. God help you if you get in their way when they're on an Important People mission to get to an Important People meeting and do Really Important People things -- no amount of drycleaning will get those hoofprints out of your clothes.

Goodness, that's cheerful. I didn't used to be this down on people before I started taking Metro to work every day. Some days, I feel like I'm caught in a teeming petri dish of everyone's rude behavior, bad smells, and general obnoxiousness.

I should go to bed. No, screw that. I am going to bed.

8/10/99 -- The Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad Day.

I spent most of today in one of the unbelievably foul, hostile, cranky moods that engulf me from time to time. I woke up without any particular reason to be in a vile mood (unless you consider the simple reality of Monday to be sufficient provocation), but by the time I got to work, I was hating life.

As frequently happens, the rest of the world cooperated in making me feel even worse. When we left the apartment this morning, I found a downstairs neighbor sitting on the bottom of the staircase, clad only in shorts, covered in some kind of scary-looking rash, and moaning. He jumped up and ran inside when he saw us coming down the steps. I spent the ride to work getting phantom itchies everywhere and wondering what kind of weird airborne disease the neighbor gave me. A coworker made a sarcastic remark about something I said in a meeting, and although I doubt he meant to hurt my feelings, I spent the rest of the meeting stewing. "Oh, really? Wait'll you need something scanned ASAP, Mr. Hot Shot Editor. Maybe I'll get to it. Maybe I won't." Our staff assistant called in sick, so I was stuck doing the kind of stupid, time-wasting tasks we usually dump on her these days. I had a throbbing earache up until about 3:00, when I came back from buying a latté and tripped over the top step leading up to our office lobby. The smoldering pain in my shin and knee made me forget that my ear hurt.

The one thing I can say for today is that it was actually really, really nice outside. No humidity; very little of the oppressive heat that's been making life hellish for the last months. Me being me, I couldn't even fully enjoy the weather today. I kept wondering if the cooler temperatures were here to stay or if they were just Nature's way of teasing us a little before slamming us with another round of 98-degrees-with-200%-humidity days.

Another reason why I'm not having a big wedding (as if I needed another one): A cousin of mine who isn't particularly close to my side of the family just recently had a wedding, and now some of my relatives are cheesed off that they weren't invited, even though they only see this woman maybe once a year, and you can't tell me they would have gotten much out of "sharing in her special day." What is it about weddings that brings out the bloodthirsty competition and the selfishness with people? How come people don't have the right to invite whoever the hell they want (or nobody at all, if that's what they want) to their weddings?

Image of Joker from 'Arkham Asylum'My latest "Batman" acquisition: "Arkham Asylum." Absolutely gorgeous, haunting artwork in this one, with the scariest comic renditions of the Joker that I've ever seen. The panels vaguely remind me of the artwork from "Pink Floyd's The Wall." My only complaint is that the preciously artsy layout makes the story difficult to read. Then again, the story is hardly the point with this book.

I had on "That 70s Show" as background noise after "Seinfeld" (the rerun that precedes it on our local Fox affiliate) went off. I've never watched this show before, and I truly can't believe how awful it is. I had to walk over and hit the "Mute" button just now, because the inane dialogue kept blaring through my attempts to concentrate on this entry. Who thinks this shit is funny? These sitcom gags had to be old and tired in the 50s, much less now. Don't worry. I'll get off my high horse around 9:00, when it's time for WWF's "Raw is War," even though I'm noticing that WWF is coming perilously close to being hip to watch, Goddess forbid. Ben Stiller made an appearance a couple of weeks ago, and if you believe some of the posters on the hipper-than-thou message forums across the Internet, many of them just happened to be channel-surfing at the precise moment that Stiller was in the ring with Jeff Jarrett and Debra. What an astonishing coincidence. Heck, even Jesse "The Governor" Ventura is returning for a limited engagement starting tonight, even though just a few months ago he was slagging WWF in the press and trying to distance himself from his past as a wrestler.

Anyhow, the stinky mood is finally lifting, and it's time to settle in the recliner with a beer and let the clouds dissipate completely. Just in time to go to bed and head back to work tomorrow ... no. No sense in dwelling on that right now.

8/7/99 -- No Talking, Please.

Down here in Virginia, we get the NASA channel on cable. It's absolutely made-to-order for those times when there's nothing on the other 119 channels worth watching, but you can't bring yourself to turn the damn TV off. For a while there, its programming consisted mainly of views of Earth taken from various shuttle missions. It's like the opening of that old kid's show "Big Blue Marble," except that the shuttles just kept taking long, slow-panning views of the globe, which you see without any sound and interrupted only by the occasional title card to tell you what you're looking at ("Southwest United States. Viewed from Shuttle Mission Whatever, May 1989"). I find it bizarrely compelling. Sit down in front of it after a long day at work where everyone in your office competed to see who could be the biggest fuckhead, and before long you'll be on another plane of consciousness, thinking about how insignificant your life is when you're seeing Earth viewed from way, way up there, and you're so completely dwarfed by the vast continental expanses and the oceans and the cloud formations, maaaaan.

However, there appears to be a push to make the NASA channel into some bona fide science channel, because lately when I tune in they have actual science and space news shows, and if you ask me, it's extremely annoying. In turn, the annoyance makes me feel like a spoiled brat. I'm probably one of the first generations to take space travel completely for granted. They're launching another shuttle? Ho hum. It's only really noteworthy when something horrible happens, like the Challenger explosion. It's seen as a hair more newsworthy when a woman's heading the crew (you go, Eileen Collins!), but other than that, it's been done.

Joker victim.The latest book in my growing Batman collection: "The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told." I've had trouble finding this one, but when we were standing in line at Borders, Bill pointed at a shelf, and there it was. I snatched it up so fast Bill almost lost an arm. I couldn't restrain myself. I really like the Joker. If he were a real person, I might admit to having a crush on him, but I'm not at all prepared to admit that I have a crush on a character in a comic strip, so Joker will have to make do with "really like." (Does Bill sense this on some level? Is this why he's been coloring his hair green? Hm.)

The comic-strip Joker is one nasty dude -- the editor of the anthology points out that the Joker temporarily faded from Batman comics in the mid-50s, at the same time that Congress was trying to drive Bill Gaines and horror comics out of business. No wonder. Even in the tame older comics, the artists clearly got a bang out of drawing the Joker's various unfortunate victims with their dead mouths contorted into that unsettling death rictus, and even the relatively inept artists from the 40s captured that well enough to creep me out a little. But Joker does all the evil shit with such panache, such flair. Batman just seems way too lunky, blockish, and over-earnest by comparison. (And Robin? As if. Don't make me laugh.) I'll never know why in the hell they cast Jack Nicholson in that part in the first "Batman" movie. Hello? The Joker is invariably drawn as long, lean, and elegant looking. Nicholson's built like a freaking mailbox. The best thing I can say about that is that maybe Nicholson wasn't even the strangest casting choice in a movie featuring Michael Keaton as Batman/Bruce Wayne. Maybe.

Rascal was bent on tormenting Cleo tonight, so I finally pulled out his little catnip pillow and tossed it to him so Cleo could scuttle back to her safe zone under our end table while Rascal was all distracted. This always seems like a brilliant idea -- until Rascal lets the pillow loose and Mindy gets hold of it (which he always does, because he always watches Rascal and the pillow like a hawk). Rascal, who's normally a calm and placid cat, gets all cute and goofy on catnip. Mindy turns into Mr. Hyde -- he goes from his usual playful, Pikachu-like self to a fierce, growling beast. He won't give up the pillow -- you have to earn it. He trots around with the pillow in his mouth and his tail raised high to let you know he's captured quite the prize. Getting the pillow away from him is no small feat and usually involves the use of a long stick, or any implement I can use to knock the pillow away with one hand while distracting him with the other one.

I did it tonight without getting so much as a scratch, though, so I think I'm getting better at this multiple-cat mom thing. The next trick will be getting them out of our faces (and our bed) tomorrow morning at 6 am. Ah, Saturday.

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