Monday, March 30, 2009

Divide and Conquer

If you haven't noticed yet, The Wounded Mosquito has been going through some growing pains lately. I basically thought, "hey, if I can maintain a low readership with one blog, why not spread it even thinner with four?" Seriously, though, in an effort to make my writing a little more subject-specific, I've decided to take a few of my major themes and give them their own forums. That way, if any of them picks up any steam, I could actually get them into something other than a generic blog roll, and then maybe I can stop making jokes about my low readership.

Part of this has to do with one of the other big reasons I haven't posted to the Mosquito much lately. For the last two and a half years I've been working on a non-fiction project, and at the end of last year my efforts to finish it have increased greatly. Now, in order to convince a publisher to get my little project in print, it might help if I had a bit more credibility as a writer. As in, an actual audience.

(This is a big hint here, folks...if you've ever considered becoming one of my official "followers", now would be a good time).

I'm also anticipating that by subdividing my blog, I might also increase my productivity, meaning more posts of a shorter length. For the most part this blog has served as a conduit for continuing my full-length columns, which is another reason I don't post as often. But maybe it's time to fire off a little more frequently.

Anyhoo, here's a quick introduction to the spawn of the Wounded Mosquito:

The Wannabe Jock

This blog will carry all my exclusively sports-related posts, most of which I expect will be about the Utah Jazz, since they are pretty much the only sports team I carry any substantial loyalty to these days. But I'll also include the occasional anecdote from my semi-athletic past, which will justify the continued inclusion of images like this one from my Jr. Jazz days.

The Obligatory Hendrix Perm

This one is the music blog. It will carry reviews of any concert I go to (side note: I'm already lined up to see Franz Ferdinand, Travis, Smokey Robinson, and Eric Clapton/Steve Winwood...good days ahead, baby), as well as any music-specific commentaries I feel compelled to write.

Celluloid Nirvana

This is the one where I'll post all my movie reviews and commentaries. I might change the name of this one; I'm not sure I like it. The first name I used was "Cinirvana", as in "Cinema-Nirvana", but I thought that was too obscure. I kind of want to use a title that uses the word "Mondo", but then in the process of checking for title availability I found this on Wikipedia:

"Mondo films, often called shockumentaries, are quasi-documentary films that focus on sensationalized topics, such as exotic customs from around the world or gruesome death footage. Similar to shock exploitation, the goal of Mondo films is to be shocking to the audience not only because they deal with taboo subject matter. The first and most well-known mondo film is Mondo Cane (A Dog's World). Others include Shocking Asia and the Faces of Death series."

Since I've never actually seen any official Mondo films, it might be a bit hypocritical for me to name my blog after it. I'll give it some more thought. Stay posted.

Of course, this blog will continue to see regular posting on any topic that doesn't feel like it falls exclusively under one of the other three headings. I guess I could make another blog and devote it especially to dating gripes and moaning about my social life, but who would want to read that? You have to draw the line somewhere.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tacos Rule!

Kobayashi has his hot dogs. Wimpy and Hamburglar are burger men. But as for me and my house, I am a taco guy. Hard shell, no sour cream, no cheese. It’s all about the beef, the tomatoes, and the salsa, plus some lettuce for color. Some guys can take you to school at the Godfather’s Pizza buffet; but chances are I can take you under the table any day when tacos are on the menu.

I’m not sure when the fascination with tacos began. Could be from back in the 80’s, when there were only a couple of Taco Bell’s in the valley, back before the rat dog ads, when a run to the border was a special occasion for the old familio. Of course, we were still having tacos and Spanish rice at the family table on a regular basis even then, so maybe my mania stretches all the way to the 70’s.

All I know is that the mania probably peaked in 1997, when I started the “10 Taco Challenge” on the South Side of Chicago. Fed up with my lack of female post, I declared to all my roommates that I would personally buy ten tacos for the man who managed to get ten girls to write me. Heaps got the closest, with nine, but I bought him the tacos anyway.

A couple of years later Ryan Patterson, Breto and I shared a memorable evening working our way through a couple dozen of Del Taco’s finest while playing Star Wars Trivial Pursuit and listening to Pink Floyd’s “Atom Heart Mother” album. A couple of years after that, my buddy Brandon tried to name me “Taco” in an attempt to give me a half-decent nickname, but it never quite stuck. When I was living in a townhouse in Bountiful with some friends, I even made a primitive short film about making tacos.

Every once in a while, someone tries to convert me to the soft shell team. My dad is always trying to get me down to this stand in downtown Salt Lake that hands them out on the street like they’re going out of style. But no one has managed to turn me on to modern country music, and no one is going to turn me on to soft shell tacos, either.

There’s just something inherently wrong with the soft shell. I have no beef with tortillas; it’s just that to me, a tortilla with beef and hot sauce is a burrito, not a taco. If I want a burrito, I’ll order a burrito. Even the name “taco” suggests a crunch association.

Not too crazy about the meat variations, either. Chicken I can hack, but not fish. My sister likes the fish tacos at Red Iguana. I love Red Iguana, as it is well documented, but I don’t really like their fish tacos.

I don’t hit Taco Bell too often, and I try to avoid getting caught up in the Del Taco rut as much as I can manage. Usually, for me, homemade tacos are the way to go. All I need is some fresh ground beef, some salsa, and a dozen shells to keep me happy. There’s nothing that can match a homemade taco in late August when the tomatoes are right off the vine and the shells are fresh.

I used to get the 24-packs of mini-shells so I could pound tacos like I was drinking shots, but I don’t always see the mini-shells for sale anymore. I’ve also had to limit the quantity of my personal taco-fests, both in quantity and frequency. I used to throw down a full pound of ground beef in a single Fest, but these days I’m down to a half-pound at best. My buddy Sam used to throw down a full pound of bacon at a time; I wonder if he’s down to a half-pound yet. I’m pretty sure he isn’t dead.

A few years ago, during the protests in Salt Lake over illegal immigration policy, I remember seeing this sign that said, “No Illegals, No Burritos”. I can sympathize with both sides of this issue, but when it comes to Reconquista, my tummy says "surrender." Because I’m about as close as you’re going to get to a walking Aztlan.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Wasteland

Mormon Standard Time was one thing, but this was ridiculous. It was about five minutes before sacrament meeting was supposed to start, and as Jared and I sat in his silver Civic outside the chapel, there wasn’t a single other car in sight.

“They must have changed the schedule because of the Temple Dedication,” he said.

We’d swung out to visit a ward at the south end of the Salt Lake Valley that was rumored to hold a liberal age policy for its members. But that was a wash now, because apparently no one had opted to show up. So we considered our options. We could go to the “Mature Singles” ward that met in Salt Lake. We could go to the University Institute and try to find a ward where no one would recognize us, and preferably wouldn’t cover the University dorms. Or we could drive back to Bountiful and go to the family ward I’d been attending since January.

“You realize, Jared,” I said, “we are at the absolute nadir of our single existence.”

There we were, thirty miles from home, two overage single religious nomads in an empty church parking lot. In the aftermath of the Great Geriatric Cleansing of 2008, life had not been kind. I’d been attending a family ward for almost three months, a friendly and outgoing ward which would have been ideal as a newlywed, but as a single guy in his early thirties felt more like the last stop for services on the way to social oblivion. Social opportunities that had begun to feel redundant in 2008 remained so in 2009, only now they popped up half as often, and many felt like surreal reunions of social groups from years past that had been decimated by job transfers, weddings, and death. My jokes about starting a biker gang for U32 exiles were always half-serious, and now they were 75% serious. As those early idealistic days after the mission began to feel farther and farther away, the romantic notion of taking to the open highway on a chromed-out piece of Americana had become more and more seductive. After all, what would we be leaving behind?

Eventually we decided to make for the Institute, and as we passed another lonely car entering the vacant parking lot, Jared was tempted to make the classic throat-slashing gesture the young child in “Schindler’s List” delivered as he stood outside the train leaving for Auschwitz. We were able to make it to one of the wards on campus, but as we settled in to hear speakers wax eloquent on their memories of high school and the assortment of farewells and homecomings they’d been attending, we realized that we’d landed in a dorm ward.

Our cause was not helped by my recent decision to augment my shaved head with a socially defiant red beard. Jared suggested that if anyone bothered us, we might explain that he was there to see a younger sibling speak, or that I was there to serve someone with a court summons.

But no one did, and so after an abbreviated meeting, we fled for the parking lot and made north for Davis County, only pausing for a young woman who didn’t seem to understand the complex protocols of the roundabout. It wasn’t the greatest Sunday, but it was far from the worst, and besides, we had a new week, a new temple, and a new spring ahead of us. Perhaps social deliverance wasn’t far behind.

Even if it came on two wheels and a V-Twin engine.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Apartment Has Landed

This weekend marked the launch of a new project I'm involved in called "Apartment 204". We're a humor group that will be writing sketch comedy and posting clips and music videos online, hopefully every month or so.

We've officially posted our first clip, a music video called "Livin' in the 801." Be sure to leave comments, and let us know what you think.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Curious Case of the Calculating Computer

I think I may have figured out why I’m going bald. Three years into my membership at X-Cel/Gold’s Gym, I finally cashed in my free trainer consultation, and his computer told me I have the health of a 43-year-old.

In the time since I have been trying to explain the results:

1. The computer wants me to hire a personal trainer

This is a totally rational argument, given that the purpose of the consultation is to get me to sign up for a personal trainer. It is also rational because I use my body all the time for all sorts of stuff, and I know that I at LEAST have the health of a 42-year-old.

2. My current workouts are aging me

In the last few months, as my schedule has opened up, I have started visiting the gym more consistently, and, in my mind’s eye, more effectively. However, it could be that my slavish dedication to the bench press is actually hurting my overall health. So while it’s cool to be able to bench press a small foreign automobile, I may have to sacrifice that claim to fame for the greater good.

3. I recently grew a beard

In the last few years I have reached a curious stage of life where growing my hair out always makes me look older. This is especially true on the top of my head, where neglected shaving further highlights my bald spot, but it also works on my face. In recent weeks I have grown a modest beard, partially out of reverence for Joaquin Phoenix and partially out of disgust at the current status of my social life, and I’m pretty sure that beard makes me look a good decade older. So it’s possible that the computer took my facial hair into account and said to itself, “Hey, this guy is lying about his age. There’s no way anyone could grow a Kick-A beard like that under 40. I’d better say he’s got the health of a 43-year-old, then get back to work undermining the numbers on Wall Street.”

4. My current eating habits are atrocious

This point is deserving of a special, largely unread column of its own, but I will summarize: my eating habits suck. Bad food at erratic times. But the thing is, the stuff I eat TASTES GOOD. And I still say the Barbacoa Burrito Bowl is healthier than eating two junior hamburgers and a large fry at Wendy’s, no matter what the trainer guy says.

5. My current sleeping habits are atrocious

Sometime in the last month or so I decided to re-watch all of the “Lost” episodes starting with Season One. As I have worked on this Personal Life Goal, I have noticed two things: First, I tend to go to bed closer to 2AM instead of 1AM, and second, there is not a single character on the show who doesn’t have a significant daddy issue.

Jack: Alcoholic, overbearing father who dies in Australia and may have been resurrected on island.

Kate: Blew up abusive father, though she thought he was only her stepfather at the time.

Locke: Father is a con man who stole Locke’s kidney and pushed him out an eighth-story window (not simultaneously).

Sawyer: Father killed mother and shot self after being conned by Locke’s father.

Charlie: Working-class father who discouraged his artistic interests.

Claire: Father is also Jack’s dad, via intercontinental adultery.

Sun: Father is either a Korean automotive kingpin who has government reps killed or is connected to the Korean mafia. Probably both.

Jin: Former button-man for Sun’s father, his own father is actually a really good guy, though Jin is ashamed that he’s a fisherman and doesn’t know that his mother is a prostitute.

Hurley: Father is Cheech Marin.

Sayid: No mention of his father, but it’s safe to say that after spending the 1990’s as a torturer in the Republican Guard and a stint after leaving the Island as an assassin for Ben, Sayid’s relationship with his father is at least strained.

Michael: We never meet his father; rather, HE is the father issue with telepathic super-human savant son, Walt.

Ben: Father blamed him for causing the death of his mother in childbirth, so Ben drove him to the top of a tropical mesa in a Volkswagen Bus and gassed him to death while listening to Three Dog Night.

Desmond/Penny: We don’t know Desmond’s father (at least as far as I know), but his father-in-law is a multi-millionaire (billionaire?) industrialist who was totally mean to him when he asked permission to marry his daughter. Plus he exhumed hundreds of bodies from a graveyard in Asia to fill a dummy airplane he planted in the ocean to distract search parties while he sent a freighter full of mercenaries to exterminate everyone on the island.

Vincent the Dog: Never knew his father.

I could go on, but you get the point. Either the “Lost” writers have serious issues with their own fathers, or the whole show is trying to make some kind of social comment on the current condition of the family, perhaps connected to absentee fathers or single-parent strains. All I know is it makes me super-grateful for my own dad.

6. The date on my birth certificate was doctored to improve my chances of becoming a pitching phenom in little league.

Yeah, I think we can rule this one out.

7. 43 is actually an improvement

It’s possible that the health glass is really half-full. In the course of discussion with my prospective trainer, he mentioned (without provocation) that failure to get enough sleep actually “ages” you. It just so happens that I recently came out of an extended stint as a television producer where I worked from 1 to 10AM and averaged about four hours of sleep per day (in the afternoon, no less). With that in mind, I’m guessing that if you had measured my health at the time the show was cancelled, the computer would have told me I was 117 years old, which means 43 is a dramatic improvement.

Viva the power of positive thinking. Viva the power of the beard.