Archive for January, 2011

The Playlist Made Me Do It

Some posts that find their way to your eyes have been germinating in my mind for minutes hours days weeks fortnights months years before they finally break through the crazy clutter of my thought process and actualize themselves as words on your screen of choice.

And then there are those posts that just seem to materialize into existence by way of circumstance, inspiration, perspiration, medication, or because the Eye Gaze told me to do it.

This post in particular, dear readers and friends, is a combination of both of those methods.  Here’s how:

Back in the days when I could do everything I can’t do any more, a couple of my teacher friends and I decided to start a little three piece rock band at the school where we taught.  Eventually it morphed into a group that included several talented students as well but in the early days, it was just drummer Darrell Sasagawa, guitarist/vocalist Mike Dumbra, and me, the singing bass player who formed the nucleus of the middle school superband named Detention.

We practiced every Friday afternoon for a few hours learning a handful of tunes.  We played a couple of talent shows and on-campus graduation parties but our longest lasting (in terms of songs played) and largest attended (in terms of folks who were forced to listen to us) performance had to be the year we played at the Family Picnic.

The La Entrada Family Picnic is a time-honored tradition at our school that takes place on the campus blacktop during the first month or so of each new school year.  Every student who attends the school — and his or her family — is invited to the two hour shindig for dinner, dessert, and lots of fun, student-centered activities.  A good time is had by all.

Several of Darrell’s fourth graders were Girl Scouts who were trying to raise money for a philanthropic cause.   They asked Detention to play at the picnic and to help them get the word out to the gathered masses of the LE school community about their fundraising endeavor.

They didn’t have to ask us twice.  We were in.

In the practices leading up to the big gig, I vividly recall debating my fellow band mates about whether it was appropriate to sing the lyric of the Weezer song Beverly Hills the way it was written -- "My automobile is a piece of crap" -- or to skip the c word all together for this specific instance. Being the guy singing the song my position was to let it fly, baby.

All the pre-show posturing and proclamations of artistic intent and creative expression did me absolutely no good as I looked out into the audience that had gathered in front of our pseudo stage area and I locked eyes with the Superintendent of the school district. Needless to say, I didn't sing that my car was a piece of crap!

Now, thinking back to the top of this post I told you I would tell you how this post came to be written.  I think I said that the Eye Gaze made me do it.

Well, the actual story has been itching to see the light of day ever since it went down but it was what happened this morning that finally convinced me to put retina to screen.  As I was listening to my 1300+ song playlist on shuffle through the Dynavox while checking my email, the weirdest thing happened:  I heard two of the tunes we used to play in Detention — What I Like About You and I Wanna Be Sedated — back to back.  I was slightly disappointed to hear Lady Gaga rounding out the three song set only because the odds of having Beverly Hills come on randomly after the other two were fairly astronomical in scope.

I figured two out of three was enough of a sign from the Eye Gaze that I started blinking and clicking immediately.

And there you have it.


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Eyewitness to History

Longtime readers will remember back in 2009 when the Almanac (a weekly Menlo Park newspaper) published a story about my battle with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and how as a result of reading that article a film student at Stanford University contacted me and asked permission to shoot a short documentary about the Adventures of ALS Boy for his semester final.

Fast forward to 2010 and the student filmmaker has completed the Master’s program and returned home to his native Egypt.  Every once in awhile we will chat a bit on Facebook about our babies — his son was born several months after he finished the movie — and about how we are doing, about life in general, etcetera, etcetera.

Now skip ahead to this year, more specifically this past week, and you may have noticed that Egypt has been in the news of late.  I found this article to be helpful towards getting a basic idea of what is happening there.

I don’t know how involved he is in what is going on right now in Egypt since the government has pulled the plug on the internet but earlier in the week he posted hundreds of pictures on his Facebook page — a few of which I have reposted below.

I cannot fathom what it would be like to be in the middle of a revolutionary uprising.  Please stay safe, my friend.

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Hot on the heels of my Heteronym post the other day, my friend Gloria sent me some puns she had received via e-mail.  I thought it only appropriate to share them with all of you.  Along with Gloria, my favorite is the one about Gandhi.


The ability to make and understand puns is considered to be the highest level of language development. Here are the 10 first place winners in the International Pun Contest:

1. A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, “I’m sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.”

2. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other and says, “Dam!”

3. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can’t have your kayak and heat it too.

4. Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says, “I’ve lost my electron.” The other says, “Are you sure?” The first replies “Yes, I’m positive.”

5. Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? His goal: transcend dental medication.

6. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. “But why?”, they asked, as they moved off. “Because,” he said, “I can’t stand chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer.”

7. A woman delivers a set of identical twins and decides to give them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named “Ahmal.” The other goes to a family in Spain ; they name him “Juan.” Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal. Her husband responds, “They’re twins! If you’ve seen Juan, you’ve seen Ahmal.”

8. A group of friars were behind on their belfry payments, so they opened up a small florist shop to raise funds. Since everyone liked to buy flowers from the men of God, a rival florist across town thought the competition was unfair. He asked the good fathers to close down, but they would not. He went back and begged the friars to close. They ignored him. So, the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest and most vicious thug in town to “persuade” the friars to close. Hugh beat up the friars and trashed their store, saying he’d be back if they didn’t close up shop. Terrified, they did so, thereby proving that only Hugh can prevent florist friars.

9. Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and, with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him (Oh, dude, this is so bad, it’s good) a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

10. And finally, there was the person who sent ten different puns to friends, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.

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Heteronymphonic Spree

Two days ago, I finally figured out what to call them.  If words that are spelled differently — like there and their — and are pronounced the same way are referred to as homonyms, then why shouldn’t words that are spelled the same way and are pronounced differently — like read (REED) and read (RED) — be called heteronyms?  I couldn’t believe that in all the years I have been thinking about words like these — and its been quite a few — that I never made this obvious connection.

In the nearly two decades of my life that I spent as a student in various classrooms of Northern California, I had never once heard of the concept of heteronyms.  On the highly unlikely chance that I had discovered literary gold with my freshly coined descriptor, I typed my new word into google and discretely hoped for no matches.

Well, 85,000+ results later, I realized that I was not the first to discover the country called Heteronym.  It even has its own homepage.  That was created in 1996.  Wow, I guess I was a little late for this one, huh?

Since I’m never deterred for very long,  I clicked on the first link and checked out what was there.  It was an exhaustive collection of heteronyms listed alphabetically with definitions and pronunciations.  I was happy to see the half-dozen words on my mental list were included amongst the others.

So instead of just regurgitating the same old same old that has been on the web since Clinton won a second term, OJ’s civil trial, and Wistawa Szymborska won the Nobel Prize for Literature, I decided to create several heteronymphonic sentences for your reading pleasure.  As always, I invite you to contribute some of your own in the comments section.

Determined to never again hear that Stevie Nicks song again by ending his life in a most spectacular fashion, the white winged dove dove off the church steeple towards the concrete below.

“To what do you attribute your most prominent attribute?” the TMZ reporter asked the newly augmented Hollywood starlet as she exited the plastic surgeon’s office.

His shoes have never shined as brightly as they did since he moved to Warsaw thanks to the amazing and incredible Polish polish he bought off a street vendor.

The bass guitar playing big-mouthed bass was the envy of all the fish in the river for his ability to lay down the fattest of fat grooves.

The wheelchair bound invalid rolled himself into the registrar of voters after the election and told the bureaucrat behind the desk, “My vote will not be made invalid because of alleged voter fraud in my precinct!”

Even though he was normally a rebel, Billy Idol steadfastly refused to rebel against his inner punk rocker and play his greatest hits backed by a quintet of accordionists and some dude playing the cowbell.

For the sake of her friends who had already had a couple of shots while waiting for their sushi to arrive, Maheen hesitantly drank her sake.

Rather than resign and update his resume, he chose to resign the contract and resume his employment with the team.

When he was younger he got into a heated conflict with a friend over a contest to convert a house that was occupied by an escaped convict and his chihuahua into a Church of Excess Verbiage, he could not contest the fact that he was forced to conflict with his friend because he was indeed a new convert to the Church so much so that when the case went to trial years later, it was easy for a jury of his peers to convict him.*

*Sorry about that one.  Four in one is quite challenging.

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Don’t know why this bothers me so much but it does.  I think it has to do with my general disdain for the concept as a whole when they hoisted it upon us several years ago and the fact that they decided to bring it back for another go ’round just annoys the hell outta me.  And to top it off, they throw in the old switcheroo at the end.  It’s enough to make me want to never eat at Carl’s Jr again.  And considering that I consume 90% of my daily calories down my feeding tube, it’s a stone cold 100% lock that I will make good on my previous statement.

Here’s the beef:

Don’t Bother Me, I’m Eating.  Those five little innocuous words have bugged me since they were strung together and forced unmercifully through our retinas and down our throats a bunch of years ago by the good people at Happy Star HQ.  Not satisfied with an assault on two of my senses, the only sound the viewer is subjected to for a majority of the spot is the crispity crunchity explosion of the subject biting into his burger and sipping his drink.

I thought that they had moved on marketing-wise by replacing those commercials with ones featuring Paris Hilton washing her car and Hills star Audrina Patridge sunning herself on the beach.  I was perplexed by the guy seductively staring at his dashboard hula dancer while chowing down but I let it slide.  At least it wasn’t the Don’t Bother Me dude munching away.

And then they brought it back.  If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s what you missed:  A manly-looking man has pulled his vehicle to the side of the road and is silently — except for the thousand decibel bites — enjoying a picnic while leaning on the fender of his ride.  A basso profundo voice utters my least favorite phrase — aside from You’ve Got ALS — while the fine print rolls and the commercial ends.

The first couple times I saw it, I turned away out of pure reflex.  The next half-dozen times it appeared on my screen, I paid attention a bit more.  And that’s when I got annoyed.

Apparently they are advertising two burgers for five dollars in this spot.  I must have missed that fact the first handful of times I watched it.  Then, as I read the disclaimer that appeared at the bottom of the screen and I learned that the loaded with cheese and onion rings burger Mr DBM,IE is loudly masticating on in the preceding commercial is NOT the burger being offered in the two for five bucks deal, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

I’ve seen some shady stuff on tv in my day but this was a first for me.  Why wouldn’t they show the actual hamburger in the spot?  Is it inferior to the one they showed onscreen?  Is it less crunchity?  Was it a budget issue?  Too cheap to spring for some new footage?

Whatever the reason, it has really been bugging me since I noticed it.  Thanks for letting me vent a bit on the subject.  Have you seen it?  Does it bother you or should I watch less tv?

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As long as I’ve been a part of my family — and for clarity’s sake that would be the Picetti and the Bishop families — it manages to find its way into conversation at every familial gathering, large or small.  Someone always brings it up, someway somehow, and all family members present acknowledge the bringer-upper for bringing up what was brought up yet again.  Those of us who wear watches make note of the time and look around the room to confirm the hour and minute with others who have just done the same.  Typically it gets mentioned sometime during dinner but on the rare occasion it goes unspoken of until some point while we are finishing off our desserts.  Then we all listen intently to the story involving it and laugh our collective asses off because, I’ll be the first one to admit so, that hearing about it always cracks me up.

And now, I’m more excited than I should be to say that my little Emma has joined the club as well.

Just last week she told everybody who would listen to her about what she had seen outside near the driveway.  Every time she ventured out of doors she had to check and see if it was still there, where it was the last time and the time before that.  Even when it had aged a bit, Emma astutely noted and enthusiastically reported that it dried up and was no longer stinky, laughing the entire time. And then Papa came home from LA and threw it away so it ceased to be at the forefront of her mind.

But that doesn’t matter to me.  The fact remains that our darling EZP is officially one of us who thinks that hearing about it is pretty freakin’ hilarious.

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Labor of Love

It feels as if I haven’t posted anything here for weeks when in reality its only been a couple of days.  I’ve been working feverishly on a couple of projects:  One involves music and playlists and the other is a homework assignment from my wife.

My task was to write eight sentences using eight vocabulary words in such a way that the definition of the word must be apparent in the context of the sentence.

My assignment to you is to identify the vocab words and to laugh at my amazing wit and hilarious sentences.

1. Although it was intended to be an example of hyperbole, saying that Mr Akers was present to show the early hominids how to light a fire is just plain mean.

2. Emma was so adamant about staying up past her bedtime that she pulled out all of her A+, crowd-pleasing, “look at me, I’m so cute” material in an attempt to wow everybody.

3. Eating unrefrigerated, two week-old, leftover Su Hong Chinese food may be your definition of fine dining but I personally find the idea abominable. I much prefer PF Changs.

4. As his deadline for completing these sentences drew nearer and nearer, the procrastinating author could feel the ominous rumblings of his wife’s discontent if he did not finish in time.

5. I have been hearing this joke that goes if you say “gullible” very slowly, it will sound like “green beans.” I’ve been trying all day to get the joke but I can’t. Help!?!?

6. Once Magnus confessed to eating the entire box of fruit roll-ups from the teacher’s desk, the wrongfully accused Emma was immediately exonerated of any and all wrongdoing.

7. It may be a tired old cliché but you could bet your bottom dollar that if you make a mountain out of a molehill and you count your chickens before they hatch, every dog will have its day.

8. Since a steady diet of overly introspective emo and indie music was putting him in a melancholy funk, he decided to switch things up and listen to The Wiggles for the foreseeable future.

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Between Time Zones

As an homage to Elvis Costello, the title of this post was almost called Man Out of Time but I decided against it only because I didn’t want to give anyone the wrong impression about how I am perceiving the state of my health these days — which not so coincidentally has been on the upswing since my primary care physician prescribed me the miracle drug Flonase for my now former case of postnasal drip.

Then I briefly considered naming this post In The Zone, partially in deference to the title of Britney’s fourth album but mostly for Emma, who, during a visit to the injection clinic after a recent checkup with her pediatrician, exemplified bravery for all the other boys and girls in the waiting area by not crying, screaming, or otherwise losing her mind — as she had every single time previously — while getting her shots.

While both of those phrases were in the running for the mythical catbird seat high atop the other 250+ words that comprise the body of this missive, they ultimately failed to encapsulate the true feel and spirit of what I wanted to get across to you today:  What would it be like to live in the part of Tennessee right on the dividing line of the Central and Eastern time zones and you constantly had to toggle between the two different times of day?  Would you wear two watches?  The clock on your cell phone would be working overtime trying to keep up with where you were.  I can only imagine the nightly migration westward around last call time in the clubs, pubs, taverns, watering holes, and dive bars to the east.

And don’t even get me started about how crazy tv would be there…

Let's see if you can find the mustachioed, xylophone playing version of me in this photo of the Capuchino Mustang Marching Band performing at halftime in 1986.

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The Last to Know

Why is it that when something cool happens in the world that I am the last one to hear about it?

Now I’m not talking about seeing the Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity when they were overexposed or tuning in to Tosh.0 prior to its nightly reruns.

For the record, I missed all three of those boats too.

The cultural event to which I am referring as to have missed out on hearing about when it happened was this whole astrological signs as we know them are wrong thing I just found out about an hour ago.  I noticed a couple casual references to it on my Facebook news feed and thought it was odd that this was even a topic of conversation at all.  So I googled awhile and found out what was going on astrologically and astronomically speaking.

Here is one of the reports I found.  Google yourself if you want more.

Am I a Pisces now or do I remain an Aries?  The only way I would change is if my birthday fell under the new sign, Ophiuchus.

Since I’m too lazy/hungry/busy to create a poll for this perfect-for-a-survey topic, I open up the floor for your commentary.

This is a backstage photo of my first band, Pilot. We performed live one time at the Band Showcase in the Capuchino High School Auditorium in 1985. We broke up in order to pursue solo careers, mine being the end of my sophomore year.

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Retraction – To anyone who was misled by my statements in item five of yesterday’s post regarding Fehmeen’s enthusiasm for the game of football, I apologize.  Nothing even remotely like the way I described it went down, in fact, the opposite was true.  She had her fingers in her ears and was loudly singing La la la la la la la la la throughout the duration of Ray Woodson’s sports update on KNBR.  Also untrue was my statement regarding the greenlit fantasy football money.  Perhaps I will plead my case via public poll as reader Eric suggested in the comments section.  All I know is this:  The only thing I love more than I love my wife is winding her up with silly shenanigans like this.  Thank you for playing along with me, babe.

Movie Club – Thursday Afternoon Movie Club resumes tomorrow, January 13, with the 11:20 AM screening of The King’s Speech.  Take an early lunch break and join us for this critically acclaimed Oscar hopeful.  I will personally pay for your ticket if it is as terrible as our last selection, How Do You Know.

What Was I Thinking – It takes a lot of guts to open yourself up to certain ridicule by posting old pictures of your younger self on the internet.  And it is another level of intestinal fortitude to ask the public to vote for the worst one.

I apologize in advance if these photos frighten your children or cause any damage to your eyes, screen, or emotional well-being.

Looking resplendent in his red tank top, Mid-80’s Jason parted his hair right down the middle, wore relatively large glasses, and appeared to have a full-grown caterpillar on his upper lip.  In his defense, that stache bought him a seat at Lake Tahoe casino blackjack tables five years before he was of legal age.

The early-90’s version of Jason was living the dream of the modern day hippie by going to Grateful Dead shows, attending the occasional class at school, and fighting against the man, man.  Harsh reality came a-calling some six months later in the form of graduation and the move home to try and find a job.

Times were rough on mid-to-late-90’s Jason, as seen in the picture to the left.  He was a pack-a-day cigarette smoker who was not terribly concerned that his driver’s license photo bore a disturbing resemblance to Ted Kaczynski when the authorities brought him in out of the woods.

Now that you’ve seen them all, please take a second and vote for the worst.  Thank you.

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