October 2007

So, I’m the on-call this week. I hate being the on-call. I hate everyone who calls and I hate everyone at the helpdesk who forwards those calls to me. If I could kill with my mind, my every on-call would have a body count. I would be the greatest murderer of all time. Jim Jones would look like a Care Bear next to me.

At any rate, I have two stories to tell:

First: Friday I’m talking to a client about some work he wants to do on Saturday. We’re trying to schedule a time. I grit my teeth and tell him that whenever is good for him is good for me. He picks a time that means it will be impossible for me to go to brunch and finally meet a friend’s girlfriend – whom I failed to meet last time she was in town because I was on-call. Then he says, and I quote, “Well, really, just as long as we can be done early in the afternoon, any time works. I’ve got plans to get shit-faced at 3, so we have to be done by then.

Ah, yes, I told him. In that case, we needed to do it around 1 because I had brunch plans. Fair’s fair.

That day, once we were on the call, things went well and truly south. I was trying to figure out why The Thing We Were Doing wasn’t working when it occurred to me that The Thing We Were Doing didn’t make much sense in the first place. I very casually asked him why we were doing this and he said, “Because my boss is a fucking manager and doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing, that’s why.

My response was the only word I could produce in that moment: “…Okay!”

Second story: we have a ticketing system that is based largely around email. When a ticket gets created, it automatically emails a copy of itself to the client involved. They can reply to that email and update the ticket themselves if need be. When we update the ticket it emails a new copy of the ticket log to the client. So on and so forth. It’s quite the clever little ticketing system in that it will spot quoted text from itself in a reply email and excise that so that a ticket log remains a fairly continuous conversation without a lot of quoted text from earlier entries.

Today a client emails us an error message they had received about an email they had sent that had been tagged as disallowed by the standards of their firewall. They sent the email with the following text at the top:

Do not sand me any email

So, a ticket gets cut. What does it do? Send that very email right back to the client. So they reply:

Do not sand me any email

…which causes them to get an email copy of the ticket log. Again. Several rotations of this later we get one last email response from them:


I laughed until I cried. I could just picture them sitting there sending us an email and immediately getting a reply back that simply quoted what they’d just sent and them, in turn, picturing us sitting there with an evil gleam in our collective eye and shooting them a response as quickly as possible, rubbing our hands together at the thought of their annoyance.

What was the very next ticket in the queue? That same client had tried to send their email again, gotten the rejection message again and forwarded it to us – generating another ticket and another automated response right back to them. This time their plea for silence read:

do not sand me any email do not

I laughed so hard I had to go outside. I still don’t know what we did with those tickets. I don’t care. Whatever it was, if we didn’t print and frame them to go on a wall then what we did was wrong.

We had Fair day today; the assembled attendees consisted of me, The Boyf, Bascha, Pants Wilder, Anna, Katastrophes, Mr. Pink Eyes, Vonscratch and Jen. We ate Fair food (gods I can’t even list what I ate, but it did include the surprisingly fantastic Cheerwine fudge), we rode rides, we tromped around the Village of Yesteryear where I once again bought things for my altar.

There’s something about buying ritual tools from the person who actually made them and getting to, you know, chat with them for a few minutes and look over their stock and talk about where they’re from and what they do. The woman from whom I bought the kaleidescope (hellooooooo meditative abstracts) commented that I “must be a collector” because the one I bought is somehow unusual but I assured her that no, I am not. I’d bet a nickel she says that to everyone but it was charming nonetheless.

I put up a few random phone pics from the Fair. Yes, these are iPhone pictures. The iPhone: no better a camera than any other phone out there. Still, good enough that I didn’t want to lug a real camera anywhere.

Also, deep fried PB&J was kind of underwhelming, just as an FYI.

One final State Fair note: I saw only two or three stickers for Republican candidates or the Republican Party but I saw lots and lots of folks with stickers from the Democratic Party booth. In fact, as I took the picture of the prize-winning pumpkin a guy waited patiently and then asked where I’d gotten my “I’m the Decider: Dems in ’08” sticker because he, as he put it, “just [had] to have one.” Fingers crossed that I see that reflected again next year.

Two quick things: I finally worked up the nerve to link my 2006 NaNo, even though I hated it upon its completion. I re-read some of it tonight and actually really like the first couple of opening scenes and couldn’t gin up any huge objections when I grabbed scenes or pages at random from later in the book. 2006 was the year I went on a noir bender and actively tried to imitate with my NaNo as an extended writing exercise; in short, mixed results but what the hell. Maybe it’s a disaster, I can’t tell, but it’s my disaster. I describe it on my NaNoWriMo page as “a sort of urban Edwardian fantasy noir detective adventure mystery” which should tell you right away that large quantities of caffeine produce activity but not focus.

Speaking of NaNo, the second thing is that I know what I’m going to write this year. It’ll be a murder mystery involving a bunch of redneck vampires and starring Withrow (from a short story I wrote earlier this year on a lark). Tentative title: Tooth and Nail. Too cheeseball, or just cheeseball enough? The scene I’m most looking forward to writing is Withrow’s second visit to the abandoned X-ray film factory based on the X-ray film factory where my father worked for 30+ years. Ridiculous-But-True Fact: the plant, which operated in total darkness 24/7 due to the unexposed film everywhere, is/was in Transylvania County.

I spent the vast majority of this weekend sitting in the dark staring at a screen but this weekend it was not my computer screen. Amazing! A few thoughts after having seen the choice selections on offer at ESCAPISM! at the Carolina Theatre of Durham:

Black Sheep: How did a world as terrible as ours produce something this perfect? Possibly the funniest movie I have ever seen. I’m not joking. I loved it. Perfect in every way. Flesh-eating sheep, weresheep, hot, hot Kiwi men. Perfection. I can’t begin to tell you why it’s good. You just have to watch it.

Netherbeast, Incorporated: How did a world that contains Dave Foley manage to produce this dreck? An ambitious failure at its best. A lot of great ideas on display and some stellar performances but the sound is awful, the lighting is awful, the editing is awful and from scene to scene it’s hard to believe that it was filmed with any sort of whole story in mind. I bet it looked great on paper. I bet it was hilarious when they were sitting around brainstorming it, high as a Georgia pine and seeing twice as many stars. I just wish it were consistent, watchable and that they’d given Dave Foley something to do. Actually, what I wish is that they could reshoot it with the same cast and an entirely different crew and a budget of some substance.

Apocalypse Oz: The premise is that it’s an action short (~25 minutes) in which all dialogue comes from either Apocalypse Now or The Wizard of Oz. The story itself, such as it is, leaves a lot of room for the viewer’s imagination in a way that completely worked for me; I was ready to declare it an important piece of work about one of the least-examined questions of race relations in modern America. The Boyf felt that it was a good short that had some troubled spots. I thought it was almost flawless. I’ll admit that the Wicked Witch hams it up in an uncomfortably pinched sort of way but otherwise I loved it. I would watch it again and again.

The Norman Rockwell Code: The opening credits are the funniest thing in it and they don’t feature any of the actors or any of the plot. This should be indicative that the rest of it is just a waste. I can’t believe someone filmed this. The gag is that Barney Fife’s community college symbologist son has to investigate a crime that occurs at the Norman Rockwell Museum, attempting a spoof on The Da Vinci Code. It is just dreadful from start to finish. The only sounds in the theatre were the cries of disbelief from the couple seated behind us. I kept having to fight the urge to laugh at them. The movie never even tempted a smile out of me.

Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan: It’s a digitally remastered 25th anniversary print that had never been shown before this weekend and it is beautiful. Memo to the cackleboxes in the balcony: you are assholes. I didn’t come to listen to you flirt with each other. Everyone outside was talking about you after the movie. You are assholes. When Biscuit has to be the one to provide me with a more sensible frame of mind in which to examine your behavior then it is a bad, bad scene, my friends. The end.

Tron: Another 25th anniversary showing. Gods, what a beautiful movie. I’d long forgotten what a Tron reunion Babylon 5 turned out to be. The inner child oohed and ahhed appropriately. The inner 33-year-old wonders whether Jeff Bridges got the only over-the-shoulder crotch flap because he was showing too much or too little batch in that leotard. Pants Wilder rightly suggested that if it had been too little batch that Bridges could have simply stuffed it. Point to Jeff Bridges’ movie-wrecking manhood.

Cthulhu: It’s based on a story that wasn’t about Cthulhu, but I can deal. Word is that the movie was great but the sound quality was terrible. Another after-the-fact editing disaster? I would find that deeply disappointing. I didn’t get to see it but I have high hopes that an opportunity to change that will present itself soon.

The Monster Squad: What a cheeseball dorkfest. I loved it. I loved it as a kid and I love it now. Plus, cast reunion, right there on the stage! I love nothing more than when the army shows up and asks for Eugene. Gods, it gives me goosebumps thinking about it. That is a movie that manages to find the Childlike Wonder button and give it a good, hard mash. I doubt everyone holds it in such regard but it just works for me. I’m in the goddamn club, ain’t I? remains one of the best lines ever delivered on screen.

Endurance Challenge: Mordred’s Isle: A short featuring one of the cast of Futurama; to be precise, two shorts included in the same set that gave us Apocalypse Oz, The Norman Rockwell Code and The Toll (a cute but forgettable mockumentary featuring some really excellent CGI). Endurance Challenge was hilarious and the only thing in there to help Oz pull the stinking corpse of The Norman Rockwell Code behind it.

The Carolina really goes above and beyond to cater to its target audience with these film festivals and this year’s ESCAPISM! was no different. For all that I was disappointed in Netherbeast and for all that I can’t believe anyone would dare submit The Norman Rockwell Code to anyone for anything other than a bonfire, I wouldn’t have gotten a chance to see any of these without the hard work of the theatre staff. I have nothing but appreciation for the fine, fine work they do and the great time I and many friends had at the theatre over the course of the weekend.