How Dry I Am


I know how I got to thinking about antiperspirants for a big weekly piece and it isn’t because I got to 5 pm Thursday and realized, “Oh! I have a big weekly piece due!” and grabbed at the first thing that I saw. And, I guess, was in the bathroom or maybe taking stuff out of the supermarket bag. Or was in the supermarket, in which case I’m glad I wasn’t lost in the pet care aisle. I don’t know that I could do 250 words about aquarium gravel, never mind 700.

It took me time to get to using antiperspirants. I didn’t use them when I was a kid because kids are supposed to smell like that. I think it’s how parents track where we are when we aren’t screaming or crying or knocking something over. Anyway people don’t object to that, or they figure it’s hard enough getting us to wash any part of the body so why add to the pile of things we should be doing but aren’t?

As a teenager I started to realize I should wear something because by then I was a teenaged boy. That’s a fun time full of insecurity and defective judgements. One of the less defective judgements does come from an insecurity, though, wondering if everyone else thinks you smell like obsessively rewatching The Wrath Of Khan on VHS, cheap pizza flooded with enough garlic powder to soak up all the grease, and masturbation. It encourages one to try doing something to have less of an odor, although not necessarily showering every day because who wants to get up early enough for that? And who wants to shower at night when The Wrath Of Khan isn’t going to rewatch itself? I suppose technology might have changed that some, since there’s probably, like, Twitter feeds entirely built of Wrath of Khan characters watching movies at each other. But they’re definitely not watching the pan-and-scan version.

When I reached this point I was intrigued by Mitchum, because their commercials promised it was so effective you could skip a day. I’m up for doing anything that allows me to skip a day. I got really good at skipping a day. I also liked the part where they sold a little jar full of cream to slather on my body, instead of just a roll-on or stick or spray. There aren’t many scent-altering creams people get to put on and I suppose there’s probably reasons for that. I don’t want to know, though.

For a long time I looked for deodorants instead of antiperspirants because I was a science-oriented kid and so kind of stupid. My reasoning was that what is really objectionable about sweat is the scent, not the mere fact of sweating. And besides sweating serves some purpose; it’s not something the body does just to be impish and annoying. I was young and didn’t yet realize how much stuff the body does exclusively to be annoying, especially with joint pain. Anyway, this is the kind of thinking you get when you let kids grow up to be physics majors. Be more responsible!

That attitude changed when I got a job in Singapore. It’s a fine country, but it has the climate of the interior of a boiling tea kettle. I learned whenever I stepped outside for any reason to bring along a bottle of water or soda or tea or anything, replenishing my fluids as fast as they poured out my whole epidermis. I suppose I smelled all right, for all that I looked as if I’d been used to mop up a food court. Finally I came to admit that while the body might sweat in order to maintain its cool, it’s not actually good at that, and we have air conditioning now, and I switched over to antiperspirants maybe two years after I left Singapore.

I don’t notice Mitchum on the shelves anymore, nor any kind of cream in a jar as antiperspirant. Maybe we’re not trusted with creams like that anymore for which I don’t blame anyone. I instead buy whatever antiperspirant catches my eye and is probably on sale. This has worked very well except that time some careless shopper abandoned a tube of Parmesan cheese next to the Arm and Hammer. It was the same week I picked up a misplaced bottle of spaghetti sauce from the shampoo aisle, so everything worked out as well as it possibly could. What more does anyone ever want?

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index fell a point today as investors watched Someday You’ll Find Her, Charlie Brown for the first time in decades easily and noticed (1) it’s really bad, (2) yet was somehow nominated for an Emmy for some reason?, and (3) that Charlie Brown says “honey shot” way too many times for anyone to be the slighted bit comfortable with all this. Really, we’re impressed they got this much done, considering.

98

iTunes, At Sixteen


“No, iTunes,” my love said. “Who told you to play Pink Floyd?” It had interrupted its regular shuffle playlist, mostly Sparks songs, for this.

“You don’t ask iTunes to play Pink Floyd,” I said. “iTunes is sixteen years old. It just plays Pink Floyd naturally.” My love chuckled, and I realized, this was true. Suddenly the world made more sense than it had before, which is always a neat trick.

For example, nobody has known how to get iTunes to do anything on purpose for at least three years now. Even something that it can allegedly do, like put a new album on my iPod, is a process that requires upwards of three weeks, considerable screaming, and the need to repair the drywall after somebody punches two holes in it. I know this makes me sound a little temperamental but I think the drywall had considerably more dry and rather less wall than standard. Also it’s just putting an album onto the iPod like it kept saying it was doing, without actually doing it.

I recognize this behavior. I was sixteen once. In fact, I was sixteen some 365 times, although the times were all one after the other. That makes it a little hard to directly compare to being other ages. (I don’t want to brag, but I was fifteen 366 times, because I was born in a leap year after March.) My father could explain all sorts of things I should be doing, and I’d agree to the principle, without getting around to any of them except for watching Get Smart. Why should iTunes be any different?

But that means some exciting stuff for iTunes in the next couple years. I mean if it gets out of its sullen teenage years without everyone closing it into its bedroom and never telling when we move into a new house. For example, there’s two years from now when it goes off to college.

There iTunes will surely float into the student newspaper circle. Probably it’ll end up on one of the left-wing weeklies because those make for fun offices. There, with its relentlessly earnest attitude and generically positive view of authority figures it’ll be tagged by the staff as their leading suspect for the secret FBI plant. It’s flattering to a left-wing student weekly to think it rates a secret FBI plant.

iTunes won’t realize the rest of the staff suspects it’s the FBI plant, of course. It’s too naive for that sort of thing, what with how it goes all its undergraduate years without realizing some of the others on the staff were smoking the marihuana. iTunes never really deliberately sabotages the paper, which is disappointing to them. It indicates they aren’t being read enough.

Still, its presence takes the attention completely off the actual FBI plants. The first of these is the arts editor who dresses in heavy trenchcoats, throws around phrases like “sans the ennui, s’il vous plait” in earnest, and whose music preference is “people with British accents screaming obscenities in obscure time signatures”. The second is the quiet fellow who writes reasonable-sounding right-of-center-for-the-paper pieces and insists on how he lives by the code of the Klinzhai, not the Klingons, thank you. But he does wear the Klingon pin because they’re so much better-marketed. Neither of them suspects the other is an FBI plant. It’s easier that way. They’re trying to make the paper read enough to be worth sabotaging.

Probably iTunes will also major in something, which isn’t always a mistake, and perhaps go on to graduate school. If it asks me I support this, because grad school is the best time of life. It’s years of just hanging out with your friends. All you have to do is grade awful exam papers by freshmen and sometimes get glowered at by your advisor. iTunes is well set for that, what with how it gets nothing but glowered at anymore. It won’t actually do anything while in grad school, but that’s all right. The only thing you have to do in grad school is someday leave.

And then what might iTunes do after grad school? A temp job in a foreign country? Hiding out in a suburb of Ypsilanti, Michigan, before going back to more grad school? Reviewing British musicians who scream obscenities in obscure time signatures?

Well, it turns out I was completely wrong. iTunes came out in January of 2001. It’s only fourteen years old. That’s right, it’s actually younger than the Tony Shalhoub/Neil Patrick Harris sitcom Stark Raving Mad. There’s no guessing what its next couple of years will be like.

How I Overcame The Face In My Room


M J Wright was writing about the tendency of people to see patterns where there aren’t any. It’s put me in mind of something from back in my days as a teenage boy. I also spent my nights as a teenage boy, back then. It seemed the best use of my time. But you should bear in mind that as a teenage boy, I was nevertheless a teenage boy, so my judgement was bad. I don’t mean it was the kind of bad judgement that leads to stories which include non-metaphorical uses of the word “plummet”, or leave one barred from joining a military service or entering any Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips ever. My judgement was an ordinary, low-level sort of bad.

For example, I would spend hours typing in the programs listed in Compute!’s Gazette for the Commodore 64. See, back then a major draw for computer magazines was they’d give you the code for programs to do stuff like play versions of Arkanoid but with worse graphics and no sound. All you had to do was type in hundreds of two- or three-digit binary codes perfectly. Compute!’s Gazette was a really special magazine, because it insisted on putting an exclamation point just before the apostrophe s. I just know that offended copy editors, back when there were copy editors.

The work-to-play ratio got a lot better about a year after I got a Commodore 64 that was basically fine but some of the keys were wrong. That’s because I finally got a Datasette. This was a tape recorder optimized for use by the Commodore 64 by having a plug the right shape for it. So I could finally type in a program once and then re-use it sometime later. I know this doesn’t sound like much now, but remember the times. It was an era when the computer had sixteen colors, and three of them were grey.

Sometimes I’d even use them. Not necessarily. I once spent an evening typing in the code for the word processor SpeedScript 1.0, even though I had already typed in SpeedScript 3.2. Why would I do this? Well, I had the magazine with the code for SpeedScript 1.0 in it and it was just sitting there waiting for someone to type it in. And it wasn’t like my wrists could be expected to pick up a repetitive strain injury on their own. As I say, I was a teenaged boy.

Anyway. I had a small television set with rabbit-ear antennas in my bedroom. I hung aluminum foil on the ends of the ears to improve the reception a tiny bit. Mostly I wanted the thrill of having rabbit-ear antennas with panes of aluminum foil on the ends. I thought that made it more rabbit-ear antenna-y. Remember, teenaged boy.

One night I noticed that, through the light from outside, one of the sheets of foil had a clear human face in it. I realize I know what face, too: it was pretty obviously Destro, from G.I.Joe. And this annoyed me because I knew if I tried to draw a face it wouldn’t be anywhere near so well-formed as that. I never tried drawing Destro much. I did, some, in making my own awful comics. I had wanted to point out ways that minor procedural changes would have allowed many of Cobra’s evil schemes succeed. But I figured out drawing comics was easier if I just drew landscapes, word balloons, and explosions. The people could be skipped. And eventually I figured out that I had no responsibility for correcting Cobra’s blunders.

Still, this aluminium-foil Destro was there every night, teasing me. All my powers and slight concentration couldn’t do a face nearly as realistic or as expressive as this thing created by breezes and fiddling with the antenna. It wasn’t all I thought about in bed, but it was something to nag at me every night.

So finally one day I crumpled up the foil and flattened it out again. This eliminated the face for good, and I can draw a better Destro that that, I assume. I think this was the right thing to do, but remember, I was that teenaged boy.

I know what this has you all wondering. Of course I never typed in SpeedScript 2.0, because that was only offered as a special bonus to people who bought the Compute!’s Gazette Disk. So far as I know there was never anything for the public to type in.