The Names Machine

A friend recently implied that I might be using some sort of expensive software to generate the Random Fake Band Names of the Day that I post on Facebook and Twitter. (Fresh band names appear Monday through Friday at 3:45 PM—unless something doesn’t work like it’s supposed to.)

Before that rumor spreads any further, please allow me to take this opportunity to nip that in the bud right here, right now: I do not now, nor have I at any time, used any technology or software—other than the mushy coils between my ears and the rhythms of everyday conversation—to generate band names. Friends that I used to work with years ago can attest to this fact, and even verify the origin of what became a game that we played on a near-daily basis: “Yeah, that’s your band name of the day right there.” (They would even tell you that I was the game’s creator.)

People tell me all the time, “Hey, I’ve got a band name for you…” Often, sadly, they do not. In order to qualify as a band name, a certain rhythm must be achieved in the syllables, and once the name grows beyond a particular length, often you must yield the field and transition into the arena of album titles. (Album titles can be as long and as unreasonable as you like.) The best band names are those which are not only relatively short, but which also contain some degree of ambiguity. Of course it’s not always possible to achieve ideal band name parity with such stringent conditions, so the rules are a little lenient.

Although I can by no means conclusively prove that I don’t cheat to generate band names—it’s really a question of character and integrity, which is why I invoked the support of witnesses present at the inception of the band name of the day—here are just a few examples from band names I have posted in the past, along with the explanation of how they were born:

  • Accidental Battle. On a recent visit to Greece, we were confined for lengthy periods to (never-unpleasant) tour buses. Many times, to get to someplace great, you have to ride for a while. (Go figure.) Anyway, on one of the longer rides, our fabulous tour guide showed us a couple of DVDs on the in-bus entertainment system. One of them was a History Channel production about the original, true story of a rogue Spartan general facing off against impossible odds in a narrow canyon, a moment in history which was the likely inspiration for the blood-gore-and-boobie-fest graphic novel and subsequent film, 300. The narrator of this documentary at one point remarked how this general found himself in this awkward position—where he had no choice but to fight—quite by accident, and only through sheer determination and strategic prowess did he win the day. An Accidental Battle.
  • The Buffalo’s Apple. Our great State Fair of Oklahoma was held just a month ago, in mid-September. Although it has become absurdly expensive and uncomfortably crowded in recent years, there exists no substitute I am aware of for mullet and pierced navel sightings, so I still consider it a must-attend. I took my 9-year-old son and my 5-year-old daughter, and my sister and brother-in-law and three lovely nieces joined us. At the very end of our stay, as we were walking toward the exit gate, everyone wanted to have a look at a mangy buffalo inside a fenced-in area. So we ambled over to ogle him. There, by his hooves, was a rather large and visibly soft pile of buffalo chips (feces), and within just a few inches of it was—you guessed it: an apple. The apple had a large bite out of it already, as though he had been munching on it earlier and had inadvertently dropped it, losing it in his hay. We laughed as we watched him sniffing all around, as though he were searching for it, placing bets on whether he would actually eat the apple if he found it. He did find it. He did not eat it. It was The Buffalo’s Apple.
  • Roasting a Drone. Recently I read an article online about some military technology which employs pairing a sophisticated tracking system with a high-powered laser to superheat and therefore ignite missiles and similar propulsive explosive devices to the point that they detonate before reaching their targets. In the military contractor’s demonstration before the happy government committee who writes checks, they successfully shot a small radio-controlled missile, sort of like a Predator drone, out of the sky with their “laser.” Somewhere in the copy of the article, the author described the process of heating the flying implement as essentially “roasting” it in midair. Thus, Roasting a Drone.

I hope that my de-mystifying this process for you does not diminish your enjoyment of the Random Fake Band Name of the Day. Rather, I seek to include you in the game with sufficient means that you may become fiercely competitive at it yourselves.

Also, if you haven’t noticed it before, because I love you—all five of you who read my blog—every title of every post I’ve ever written for this blog…is a Random Fake Band Name. Yes. I am awesome. And as always: You’re welcome.

What’s YOUR random fake band name for today? (Be careful—I’ll be judging, and I may relegate your entry to the dreaded album title category instead.) Do you have a favorite random fake band name of the day that you remember from those I’ve posted? If you’re not following me on Twitter or on Facebook, for the love of cows, why not? What’s WRONG with you? I mean, seriously!

Random Survey

So… Recently some of you have told me—and you know who you are, although you probably shouldn’t be too quick to act all smug, because you’ll think it’s you, but it’s actually been more than one of you, so you’re not the only one, and therefore you’re not nearly as special as you think you are, so stop thinking so self-importantly—that you would be more inclined to read, and perhaps even read it more often, if I posted with less frequency.

Believe me, I feel your pain. Sometimes, the burden of responsibility I feel to make certain that I provide you with ample obnoxious humor every Monday, Wednesday and Friday is almost more than I can bear some weeks. The pressure and anxiety has been sufficient that my investments alone are helping to keep solvent Pepsico, the manufacturers of the delightful Mountain Dew Code Red. Which, in a random aside, you know has to actually be really healthy and good for you, because just look at the picture of how fit this chick is on the Code Red info page:

Sweet Nectar of Life

So anyways, what’s up? I know the stuff I write is too many words. But that’s genuinely because in my opinion it takes a while to tell a good story—especially to tell it well. I have a target word count that I shoot for (and then conveniently overshoot by a substantial margin—except for this time, when I labored to hit it square on the nose; can you guess what it is?) each time I sit down to write for you.

So now it’s your turn to write, at least a little. I need your feedback. I need your help.  Please tell me: How much is too much? How often is too often? Would you guys be cool with just two posts a week? One?  What’s that magic number? (If I write two, it will most likely be on Mondays and Thursdays. If I write one, it will most definitely be on Monday.) If I write less often, I can write more. (I’ll bet you thought I was going to say “better,” didn’t you?) Well, maybe that, too.

Please either comment below with your feedback, or let me know on Facebook, or let me know on Twitter. And if you know other people who read, please let them know that I’m asking today. I want as many people as possible (or at least who care) to let me know how I can serve you.

Is three days a week too much?

Why do I always feel obligated to ask questions in italics? (It’s actually a strategy based on ample research, you know—the idea being to engage you with leading questions that invite you to participate and contribute your voice to a so-called “conversation.”)  Do you think that’s poppycock? Do you even know what “poppycock” means? Say it aloud, right now where you are, ESPECIALLY if other people are around. It feels good to say, doesn’t it? You’re very naughty.

My Skinny Jeans

Have you ever noticed that people refer to certain elements of their wardrobe with adjectives attached that relocate complete responsibility onto the clothing, rather than onto themselves? What I’m describing is I’m pretty sure called transference, but I think that’s only when it refers to essentially blaming other people for your weaknesses, which is not actually the same thing as placing it on inanimate objects. What I mean is like this: “I’m trying to get back into my skinny jeans in time for _insert random special event here_.”

And of course it’s not the jeans that are skinny. (Or not.) It’s me.

Now, just to be clear, when I refer to my own skinny jeans, I’m not talking about inappropriate young cool-pastor or super-mega-hip megachurch worship pastor skinny jeans. My skinny jeans do not contain Lycra (nor any other stretchy fabric), nor do they conform so tightly to my person that wearing them would place me right at home in a photo shoot with my knees drawn up to my chest that will inevitably debut on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine. Nor do I pair my so-called skinny jeans with a V-neck of, let’s say, 70% opacity or so, which plunges perilously close within striking distance of my navel. I simply mean an altogether ordinary, cheap pair of jeans from Old Navy that are in a size not too far off from what I was able to wear when I graduated from high school. (I would tell you what that size is, but I have been sworn by several people important in my life that I will no longer disclose my weight or sizes on the Internet. And anyways, that’s of course none of your business.)

I can actually (sort of) squeeze into my skinny jeans at the moment, although I haven’t run for weeks because I’ve been ill and busy, so it would be profanely inappropriate to do so. In my closet, I have a skinny suit and a fat suit, and an assortment of skinny shirts and fat shirts. Most of the time I don’t call them by those classifications, but certainly I’m making silent mental decisions when I choose what I’m going to wear on a given day. Basically, at the moment, if you get married, I’m gonna show up overdressed. But if you die, well, I’ll blend right in with everybody else. (My current fat suit is black, and my current skinny suit is brown.) If I could manage to say no to a few more Quarter Pounders with Cheese and yes and to a couple hundred more miles running, I’ll be able to tip that back the other way. (Honestly, that’s been not going too well in either department lately.)

You know what it seems I don’t have any of right now? Any clothes that I’d count as just “in-between.” Mentally flipping through everything hanging in my closet, I can’t think of a thing that’s just straight-up adequate. Or even reasonable for that matter. Only fat or skinny.

But that’s probably just me.

Do you have some favorite “fat” clothes? (I won’t even ask about skinny clothes, because of course everyone has favorites of those.) What are you willing to put yourself through to get into the clothes you want?

Ghost Chaser

This is the fifth and final installment in an informal series, The Vermont Animal Diaries, about the pets Kendra and I tended when we lived for a year in Vermont. Part One was Fat Stella. Part Two was Dumb Andrew. Part Three was Crazy Oscar. Part Four was Evil Bala.

One night during our first week living in Vermont, Kendra and I were sitting quietly on the couch in the living room, watching television. Each of the animals was sprawled in his or her usual favorite comfy spots, just pleasantly lazing.

Now, they say that animals have a kind of “sixth sense,” that they can tell when something huge is going to go down, like a volcanic eruption, an earthquake, a tsunami. They say also that most animals are in touch with a dimension that most humans can never feel—an afterlife, a parallel existence if you will, the spirit realms. So when animals start to freak out, smart people take notice. You can take full advantage of their highly attuned senses going off, leveraging that for your own survival.

Pretty much all at once, everybody (and by everybody, I mean all the cats and the dog) scrambled first to their feet and then to the floor, and then all stampeded as a unit for the front hall and directly up the stairs. (This still being early in our stay, we had not yet blocked the stairs with the baby gate to contain Oscar.) There was no barking, no growling, no meowing—just a cacophony of desperate panting, claws, and a herd of little footpads slipping and sliding across the wood floor, then clacking up the wooden stairs.

Kendra and I just sat there dumbly, still on the couch, spellbound, blinking at each other, our mouths gaping. “What was that all abou…?”

And then just as suddenly, there was a loud BANG! somewhere over our heads, and the entire crash of beasts came thrashing down the stairs just as quickly, just as frantically as they had gone up. From our spot still on the couch, we could hear them piling up on top of each other in the front entry hall, and then we witnessed one of the most bizarre images ever etched in my memory: Some freakish, giant, dark butterfly-like thing fluttered across the living room, herding our entire cowardly cavalry in front of it, pretty much directly in front of us. They were falling all over each other, trying desperately to escape the demon beast, scrambling into the kitchen and cowering into various hiding spots. And the entity vanished into the dark behind them, just as quickly as it had materialized.

This entire event, from the first moment everybody leapt up to the run up the stairs, the crash, the falling back down, and the running into the kitchen to hide, all took place in the span of literally less than two minutes. I got up to investigate, flipping on every light within reach. And I found…absolutely nothing.

After several minutes, having gathered her courage, and no doubt discouraged with my own obvious lack of progress, Kendra joined in the hunt. And she found it. There, perched inelegantly, dangling from a knitted white blanket hanging over the back of a chair, was…a bat. And it was a cuh-reepy son of a gun, no bigger than a small mouse.

And then ensued a comedy of errors involving a broom and a bucket. Have you ever heard the phrase “hysterical laughter”? That’s a real thing. For the next ten minutes or so, Kendra flailed around on the couch, with her feet drawn up, mingling terror with shame, trying to contain her bladder, cackling as I tried first to smack the vile beast to the floor, then to beat it to death, then to get it into the bucket. Once the deed was done, I took the body unceremoniously outside to the compost heap, where I disposed of it.

The very next evening, Jean and Dan, whose pets and home we were to be caring for over the next ten months, called to check in on us. They were staying at Jean’s parents, and they were leaving the very next morning, bound for India. I told them the story of what had just happened the night before. Silence on their end. My mind raced. Do they think we’re crazy? ARE we crazy? Did that really even happen? Was it a pet, and I killed it?

And then Jean said to Dan (who was on another phone): “Can you believe that? That’s crazy!”

And Dan said, “Yeah, I would never have believed it. There was no reason even to tell them about that.”

And then Jean proceeded to explain that they had lived in that house for several years, and one evening during the first week they lived in the house, essentially the same thing had happened to them. A bat had gotten in and terrorized all the pets, they had searched for it and finally found it hanging on the back of a chair, killed it, and gotten rid of it. It didn’t occur to them to warn us about such an eventuality, because it had only happened the one time, and it had been years before.

When my own turn came, I’m just glad I was man enough to rise to the occasion.

Have you ever had a bat in your house? How did it turn out? What about some other freaky devil beast that scared your pets? Why do bats even exist? I mean… really.

Evil Bala

This is the fourth in an informal series, The Vermont Animal Diaries, about the pets Kendra and I tended when we lived for a year in Vermont. Part One was Fat Stella. Part Two was Dumb Andrew. Part Three was Crazy Oscar. Monday will be the final installment, a wild story about everybody.

If Evil were a cat, it would embody Bala. On our first day in Vermont, as the animals’ people were introducing us to everybody, Jean (the wife) referred to Bala using terms like “regal old lady” and “sophisticated” and “intelligent.” What Jean neglected to mention were important tips like “sprays pillows with urine” and “claws and bites if approached” and “God help you if you fall asleep in the same room she’s in.”

She did say that Bala was “particular” and “picky.” Bala had been Jean’s first cat, and they had been together for a long time. Because she was older and had already endured all of the family’s changes (adding a husband, moving, adding a dog, two cats, and eventually a baby), Bala had a tendency to act “stressed” when her routine changed. You know, like your family leaving the country for a year and abandoning you in the care of two young strangers who smell like dirt from the South. Because of her longstanding girl-bonding with Jean, Jean fully expected Bala to eventually warm up to Kendra and become “her” cat. That turned out to be wishful thinking at best.

Vermont Cats

Of all of the cats, Bala had the thickest coat, and she really needed regular brushing to keep from getting mats in her fur. We tried more than once to approach her, figuring she’d welcome the attention and grooming. Turns out it was more like trying to safety-pin a bell to a dragon’s tail. We gave up time after time.

Finally, when the knots all over Bala’s body were too far gone for us to pretend it was okay anymore, Kendra hatched a foolproof plan. We would follow her into the bathroom where the litterbox was, close the door, let her finish her business, throw a beach towel over her like a net to trap her, and then work together to cut the knots out of her coat with scissors. Astonishingly, it went down almost exactly like that.

Unfortunately, from Bala’s perspective, it was probably something more akin to the sort of shenanigans that once took place at Gitmo. I got the towel over her head and managed to pin each of her legs, keeping her ominous claws contained. I let her face out and tried to make her as comfortable as possible, while Kendra patted her down for knots. When we’d find one, we’d work the towel to expose just that spot, and Kendra would snip it off with scissors and then brush it out. Complicating the proceedings was that Kendra was laughing maniacally pretty much the entire time—equally unsettling for both me and the cat. It took about 45 minutes, but we got her all fixed up.

Our most terrifying experience with Bala was one morning when Kendra was asleep in our bed, wearing not much clothing. Kendra woke me, which ordinarily under such circumstances would be a good thing. In this case, not so much. She was poking me under the covers, trembling. I opened one eye, only to see Bala seated cozily on Kendra’s chest, face to face with her. I covered myself with blankets, just certain this was how they were going to find our bodies. Bala purred softly. After several minutes, Kendra worked up enough courage to slip a hand out and tried stroking her. Bala purred more urgently. Kendra pet her some more. After about ten minutes or so, Bala was satisfied, and she hopped up and left. Crisis averted.

That turnaround was in 1996, the same year we left Vermont, and Bala was already old then. We went back for a visit several years later, and Jean reported (sadly) that Bala had passed on. And I imagined that hell was just a little warmer, a little furrier, a little clawier.

Did you ever have a pet that you were just certain was demon-spawn? What about someone else’s evil pet? What’s the craziest thing you ever had to do to an animal?(—For its own good, of course.)

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