Friday, November 30, 2007

Mainlining Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

I've made a huge mistake. I bought myself a copy of Morrowind and now I can't stop playing it. If you need me, I'll be in Balmora, pawning dishes, goblets, and vases so I can increase my alchemy skill and maybe afford some spells.

Two days ago I got lost on my way to Mt. Zand. I ran across an escaped Argonian slave and decided to have mercy on the fool (he really is a fool: he says weird things. But maybe that's just the language barrier. And maybe it's because he was emotionally abused as a slave and I'm just an insensitive jerk). Now the two of us are on our way to Ebonheart.

I can't tell if I contracted a disease while in the creepy mountains, but for some reason my character kept wanting to ask the Ashlanders (mountain elves) about disturbing dreams. A bit later I read in a book about vampires (in the game) that people who are becoming vampires report having disturbing dreams. To be on the safe side, I drank a cure disease potion. I don't want to become a vampire. Maybe another time.

If I sound like I have no idea what's going on in the game, it's because I don't. But I love it just the same. Don't try to talk to me when I'm playing. I'm a zombie. Don't even come around once I move on to Oblivion (Elder Scrolls IV). I'm behind the times, but I predict that I'll find its name perfectly descriptive. Stoker will feel like he no longer exists to me once I begin playing it. I'm disgusting. Don't look at me. Yes, that's drool. I forgot to swallow, so sue me.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mohammed Teddy Bear and Other Interesting Tidbits

Yesterday I wrote this hilarious post about scientists and how they plan to kill a bunch of rats on Rat Island (I read about it on They're mad because there are no more chocolate lilies and birds on this particular island. I proposed renaming scientists a-holes because it's more fitting. Anyway, you should have seen it. It was choice. A gem.

But I decided not to publish the post because I didn't finish writing it and also because I lost interest in the subject soon after I began writing it. In this day and age, who has control over their attention span? And anyway, I was at work when I wrote it (during lunch, of course) and then I started working and pressure and deadlines and the hey hey hey. I've had this enormous project weighing down on me for several months. As you may have noticed, I now have gray hair. I blame the project.

Soon it will be done. The project. It irritates me to feel so much stress regarding something at work. I'll be frank and say that I don't think I get paid enough to feel pressure. Increase my pay by a few dollars and then I'll feel worthy of the pressure. As it is, I may as well be running a hot dog stand here. However, the wiener man down the street probably earns more moola than me. I think I'll go make hot dogs.

So, can you believe this thing in Sudan? The teacher. The teddy bear. The children and Mohammed. I've seen a picture of the teacher and I have to say, she looks as malicious as a baby seal. I can't believe there's actually a place in the world where someone COULD be punished for something as innocent as naming a teddy bear. I've known several stuffed animals named after religious celebrities and other icons. In fact, isn't it MORE offensive to have an entire culture named Mohammed (every Muslim man, practically) than a comforting, cuddly teddy bear? Men are wicked and lustful and capable of horrific acts. A teddy bear is inanimate and if nothing else, capable of great heroism. Who does a child adore more than their teddy bear?

Anyway, I don't see this thing blowing over without bloodshed. However, I really hope the woman gets to go home without the lashes. 40 lashes would probably kill me, I'm such a wimp (only funny if you know how burly I am. They call me "Lady"). In the meantime, I guess we should all be careful about what we say. That's the message they're sending, right?

There's a new "season" of Futurama out. I guess it's supposed to air on Comedy Central, but it's already available on dvd. That's what happens when you have diehard fans. Your series goes off the air. The fans keep on lovin' you, and then bam! Some network cashes in. Something like that. I'm just hoping something similar happens for Arrested Development. And the same cast comes back. And it runs for at least five more season. And then there are spin-offs for each character.

"He's still thinking about bees."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How to Catch 10 Colds in One Year: Work in a Nashville Studio

Stoker has a cold. Again. Last night I asked him if his manager/boss noticed that Stoker was sick and Stoker said he didn't think so, and anyway, his boss is sick too. And then I belted Stoker. Knocked him flat on his back.

Just kidding. But I did swat him on the kidney, because it's my way and because I was so mad at the absolute moronic behavior of these ridiculous workaholics I'm surrounded by. Since coming to Nashville, Stoker has been sick with a cold about five times. We've been here a year and a half. Before that we were in Mesa for about 9 months and Stoker didn't get sick once, and before that we dated for about 9 months and I don't recall him being sick then. He was like a horse. Horses never get sick, right?

Then we come to Nashville and all hell breaks lose. Have you been to Nashville? Next to Sin City, Nashville is the second most happening town for the devil. The devil hangs out here. It's his crib, or whatever the kids call it these days (that's only funny if you know the real Nicole, I'm only 29, so young!). Nashville, or Nashvegas, as it is called in some circles, is Sin City 2. Hello! What's-your-name Frank-something-or-other, hint hint, second graphic novel Sin City 2, set in a rainy, autumny Nashville. Former Bell South tower, great lines! Great contrast, Gateway bridge!

Anyway, once here, hell broke loose. It was 60-70 hours a week at the job. 8 am to 2 am. How many hours is that? 9…10…11…15…18! It wasn't that drastic EVERY day, by any means. But there were several days where Stoker was at work from 8 until 1, 2, 3 in the morning, and on the days it wasn't that late he was still there 12 hours or more. And he wasn't getting paid. It was an internship. Magical words. Ship and intern. Meant to be together. More powerful in the modern world than relationship.

Currently a typical workweek for Stoker is 60-70 hours a week. The days have no structure. He doesn't really get a lunch. He's always at that studio, which is no bigger than a closet. (Only the BIG studios are bigger than a closet. Most studios in Nashville are not the big studios. The small studios are where it's at. Sad fact: most big studios are going out of business.)

And his boss is a great guy, an amazing businessman and I like him very much. But I question the wisdom in going to work sick, ESPECIALLY when your workspace is the size of a kitchen pantry and it's guaranteed that there will be more than five people shoved into that space. On a busy day, there are several engineers, anywhere from 5-12 musicians, the client -- who might bring an entourage --, the staff members who comprise 3-5 bodies, and the interns, who make up 2-3 of the bodies breathing the infected air.

Because Stoker is ALWAYS run down, he is GUARANTEED to catch whatever is brought into the studio by the warm, viral human vector. The vector I'm blaming this round is his boss. I've never been able to blame him before. One time the staff guys kept the same cold going round and round. I think Bob brought it in (Bob's gone now so I can tell you his name). Then the other dude got it. Then Stoker got it. Then Bob got it again, and so on.
It doesn't help matters that Stoker can't really call in sick. It's not a job where you've got back-ups. You can't call in sick. There are no safety nets. They don't even have insurance. It's like a flipping SWEAT SHOP.

I love Stoker's job. I admire his tenacity. I'm amazed that he's persevered and forged a path for himself. It really kills me to see him succeed. But there are times when I'm convinced the engineers have gotten a raw deal. The session players have a union and there are rules the studios have to follow about scheduling. If the players choose to work outside the rules, that's their right. The songwriters have a union, too, which protects their rights. The faces of the music, the stars, don't need a union because they're sort of the pets of the label. Their biggest problem is looking good. And let's face it, it would be embarrassing to have a union for celebrities.*

But the success of all of these groups rest on the skill of the engineer. And the engineer earns a pittance and gets walked on by the producers and the songwriters. The session players have their union, so they know that the producer won't be making them work past 10 pm, or whenever. But after the players are gone, the engineer keeps plugging away until the songwriter or the producer lets them go.

I'm not sure why no one has started a union for the engineers of Nashville. Probably because the machine would stop working if the producers and the songwriters couldn't squeeze every penny out of that day rate they're paying. It's pathetic, really. The most outrageous thing is the gall of some of the songwriters who buy a Protools rig so that they don't have to book studio time, and then they call an engineer to ask for help! It's like deciding to do your own dentistry and then calling the dentist because you don't know how to fix a cavity. What the hell?!

Most engineers have the grace to help out, but they're really biting their tongue. What they're most likely thinking is, "Hey, man, you're taking the food out of my mouth, yet you want me to chew it for you? Here's a little sugar to make it go down sweet." Add a few expletives. It's all political, right?

Anyway, I guess the point is, Stoker has his dream job and that's why he deals with the crap. I'm the one on the sideline watching him succeed, but I also have to watch him take the hits and it sucks. I want to help out. I just can't, Grasshopper. He has to do it himself and if he wants something to change, like going to work with a cold, he has to instigate that change. I just hope that I don’t catch his cold.

*In no way do I claim this as fact. This is information I've gleaned from being here in Nashville. For all I know the celebrities could have a union. And for all I know engineers don't feel like they're getting a raw deal. I don't represent anyone but myself, not even Stoker, who loves what he does.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Two Streets: the Rundown on Nashville

There are a couple of streets in Nashville that I really love. If you ask most people, I'd bet they'd say Broadway or West End or 21st by Vanderbilt and the Hillsboro Village portion of 21st, and I'd call those people crowd whores and snooty academics (I want to go back to college. But I still believe in the snooty academic).

Broadway is cool, I guess, if you're looking for tourists and irritating goods that cost little and fall apart quickly -- I've never actually bought anything on Broadway, except for some ice cream. Though the buy one pair of boots get two free deal at Boot Corral still beckons me, I've yet to indulge. The Ernest Tubbs record shop is for the tourist. The Mojos on Broadway is for tourists, however, the Mojos near Division street is for the locals. The only time Nashvillians actually hang out on Broadway, is when they've gone to a Predators game or they've attended the Opry at the Ryman. But even then, regular Nashville people usually don't go to the Opry much. I suppose there's a small group of college kid barflies who hang out at Wildhorse Saloon and Tootsies.

But honestly, if you're in Nashville as a tourist, the last place you're going to spot Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman is on Broadway. Although they DID grace the Frist Egyptian exhibit, I think that was a rare jaunt out of their Green Hills enclave (this weekend I was going south on I-65 and a black Bentley went screaming by. I'm pretty sure it was Keith Urban).

I must be a traditionalist or something of that nature -- adhering to what tradition, I'm not sure -- but the streets I love are old and a bit sketchy. Maybe that's why I love them. At lunch I took a drive down 8th Avenue. I love that stretch of road. There are lots of old rusty buildings and train bridges (train bridges? I'm sure there's a specific NAME for train bridges, but one doesn't come to mind and I've no time to go chasing down a word), and walk-in clinics for the homeless, and big fortress-like buildings that are banks and credit unions (you WILL JOIN the credit union). Some of these sketchy buildings have been turned into chic joints like Flyte, the snobby wine bar and whatnot, never been there, don't want to go, snobby bugs me and I'd probably choke on a piece of cheese.

Grimey's, the independent music store is on 8th. Grimey's is as pretentious as the wine bar, however, if you want to shop for hard to find music, sorry, you've got to go to Grimey's. One thing I like about 8th is how it rises and dips and you go past a hilltop cemetery with old stone steps leading up to it. At least I think it's a cemetery. Anyway, for a split second I feel like I'm in some Eastern European city. There you go. What I love about Nashville is that I can pretend I'm somewhere else. No, that's not it. And anyway, half the time I live in my head and when I'm there, somehow I'm still in Utah, my native land, land that I love, "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty…."

Further down 8th you find a cluster of antique shops that I've never been in, and an exotic car dealership, and what looks like the remains of an old movie theater. I'm not sure what it was, for all I know it could have been a strip joint (Nashville has a strip joint for every 10 people, which equals 54,552 strip clubs), I need to ask a native. But there are a bunch of art galleries mashed together with the Berry Hill vet, a check cashing place, and the Athens Family Restaurant, which I've also never been to, but I've heard is great.

The other street I love is a real shocker, I believe. It's known as Nolensville Pike-- I like the bit of it that goes from 440 down to Harding road. I like this section because it's the most Mexican. The best place to eat Mexican food in Nashville is at a joint called Taquerio La Hacienda, or something like that, which means, I believe, House of Tacos. I could be wrong, I don't really speak Spanish, I've just assimilated Spanish.

Let's say you take the Nolensville exit off of 440, and you head away from downtown. You're heading downhill, and the city fades. Suddenly, it's like you're in a small border town. You pass the Phonoluxe store, which, I guess sells records and cd's. I don't really know what Phonoluxe is unless it's Spanish for music, but it's very cool because the store is housed in an old red brick building with a giant sign painted on the side of the building that says "PHONOLUXE." You pass La Illusion, the bridal shop and western wear joint (!), hilarious because I think in English that means, "the illusion." Or maybe even "the delusion."

Keep going. You pass the first Krispy Kreme donut shop, just off Nolensville on Thompson Lane (it really IS the first, all you Krispy Kreme lovers, and haters [in case you want to take it out for taking over the donut world]). You pass the Tire Recappers shop (they STILL recap tires, amazing!), and my personal favorite, Dan Company -- no one really knows what they do at Dan Company. It's in a small non-descript building and the curtains are always closed. I believe it's a front. Maybe they sell olive oil….

Even further down you pass another Mexican restaurant called Hacienda, the international market (there are about ten, plus a restaurant called Istanbul, a handful of carnicerias and panaderias), the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere (isn't that a great name, Grassmere?), the gorgeous Taco Bell, and Gorilla Mufflers with the tiny-hipped hand-painted gorilla on the side (he's ripped a muffler right off a car and is waving it above his head). My all time favorite shop is called Happy Days alterations, which just barely beats out Mr. Business Card.

Who comes up with these business names? I don't know, but I say it's loveable. I used to love Gallatin road in East Nashville, but then I realized, NO, no, it's Nolensville Pike all the way. In case you're curious, however, there's a Mexican restaurant on Gallatin in a hand-painted yellow brick building with a sweaty, red, upright bull on the side of the building. I believe he's handing you your tacos, and there's smoke billowing out of his flared nostrils. Someday I'd like to see who'd win, the Gorilla or Toro. Really, you have to see these streets to really appreciate their intrinsic beauty.

I almost forgot my favorite tire shop in Nashville, which just happens to be on Nolensville. I've never bought any tires there, but I'm sure they'd be classy. The shop is in yet another red brick building, with an all glass front and white columns supporting the fa├žade. If I'm guessing correctly, this was once a bank. Now it's a tire shop. What they SHOULD have done was go halfsies. Bank on one side, tire shop on the other. That way you could have your tires rotated WHILE you're depositing your check.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Moving Made Harder

My advice to you is, when you buy a house, don't wait a month to move in. Unless you have to. Unless, in your excitement the day after closing, you tear up all the carpet and linoleum to refinish the hardwood floors, and you rip down all the ugly paneling in the "den" and frame a wall to put up new, modern drywall (as opposed to plaster, I guess), and moving in would mean not finishing the floors. Because you really ought to finish those damn floors before you move in.

I guess waiting a month is rough, because instead of the house being a home, the house is a project that you carry with you to and from work and your real home. It wears one out, I think. But we didn't know that until we'd done it. No one offered any advice, really, and if they had we probably would have told them hush up, we know what we're doing.

Also, if you're not living in the house, it's real easy for a dripping bathroom faucet to turn into a gushing fountain that could potentially flood the entire basement. What? Oh, yeah, yeah, that happened to us. But see, we thought the dripping faucet wasn't anything. We thought the puddle of water in the basement was from the toilet. Later that night, we figured out it was the sink (turned off the faucet, everything dried out).

The next day, when we stopped by to put up drywall, the toilet had flooded and the basement was a mess again. It was the tank, see, it never stopped filling. We turned off the valve to the toilet, but the next day it had flooded again (ghostly? The valve WAS turned off). Three days in a row. It's like a sign from God or something. He deals in threes, you see.

If we'd been living there, those enormous water problems wouldn't have ballooned like they did. We would have caught them at the trickle stage, right?

So, we moved in all the way on Wednesday. Or rather, we moved everything out of the apartment and into the house. We were up until 3 am on Wednesday night doing all that, you know, vacuuming the apartment before we left so they didn't think we were quite so piggish when they came to clean it up for the next tenant.

Something that took longer than we'd expected was moving the cats. They were very frightened. We only had one cat kennel, so we held the other two in our laps. Well, Bastet rode in my arms, Sobek rode on Stoker's shoulder. He really loved riding in the car. Sobek did, that is. (Stoker likes riding in cars, too.)

Bastet is pretty good at riding in the car with me because she's so well traveled. She's been from Mesa, AZ to Salt Lake, and from Mesa to Nashville. She's also ridden on a plane with us. She's a jet-setter, that cat. A hippo jet-setter (I don't know, something about her screams hippo. She's a hulking creature. Beautiful and hulking). Polly (short for Neopolitan, like the ice cream) rode in the kennel -- she's still quite skittish.

The cats hissed a lot in the house, at first. The previous owners had cats who left behind lots of terrible smells. So I think the cats were waiting to be jumped by enormous tom cats or something. That or I'm right about the devil room and there ARE ghosts in the house. Cats can see ghosts, don't you know?

Anyway, it took us longer than we thought to calm the cats down, and even when we left they weren't calm. When we returned from buying new cat litter, Sobek was burrowed between some pillows on the couch. He was like a kid hiding from thunder (I used to hide from thunder under the velvet throw pillows on my mom's couch, so that's how I can make that comparison). When Sobek saw Stoker, he ran into his arms. It was like a Kleenex commercial or a Cat Fancy sponsored music video for "Reunited." It really tugged at the heart strings.

The cats are doing better, the odd thing is that suddenly they're all sleeping on our bed with us and so I can't move at night, lest I kick a cat off the bed. Bastet has successfully rubbed against every possible object, to claim them, as the supreme cat in the household. I think she worked herself into such a frenzy from marauding about the house, shooting out her scent, that now she has a cat cold. Her little eye was a bit oozy last night, poor thing. I told her to rest today. Get some sleep. Recuperate.

Anyway, moving was the most horrible thing I've had to endure for a long time. I thought the glue-scraping was rough, and it was. I thought the sanding was a burden, and it was (especially the devil room. I NEVER thought we'd get through all that black tar. And it WAS tar. I've had it confirmed by several sources). I thought filling the nail holes with stainable filler was rough, and it was. But moving stands as the number one shitty thing a person has to do in their lifetime.

It could have been worse, I could have been 8 months pregnant with a two year old, two cats and a dog, and it could have been from DC to Miami, or Southern California to Miami, or Miami to Denver. Take your pick. Luckily it was from one side of the circle that is Nashville-Davidson, to the other side.

P.S. The floors look excellent, and who can complain about new appliances? Especially a side-by-side fridge when all you've had your entire adult life has been the top-freezer monstrosities apartment complexes offer. The beasts!