The Looks You Get On Summer Days

I walked downstairs at 2:30 in the afternoon and the air conditioning repairman gave me a really weird look when I said hi. Maybe I was being overly sensitive, but whatever the expression on his face was, it wasn’t friendly. Perhaps he was pissed still from a couple months ago when I called the management company to have him fix the air conditioning. He seemed to be working really hard while I was killing time. Then a couple weeks later when I saw him fixing someone else’s unit and he asked me how the air conditioning was running, I was honest and told him, “It’s still not that cold.”

Perhaps he took that as a criticism of his life’s work?

Maybe he was angry at me that while he was working in the hot sun fixing someone else’s air conditioning, I, with towel and goggles in hand, was obviously walking to a swimming pool seemingly living a life of leisure.

Then again maybe he was weirded out by the bathing suit I was wearing. It’s one of those jammers that keep you streamlined in the water, but when you’re walking the two blocks to the pool in the surface world makes you look like a creep with a penchant for too tight bicycle shorts.

As I was about to think about something else, I for some reason scratched my head. I noticed there was an extra weight on it. Oh yeah, my daughter was bugging me to put a pink bow barrette in my hair and I forgot to take it out.

That would explain his look.

The First Question

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I’ve been interviewing rock stars for a couple years now and I can figure out from the first question if it’s going to be a waste of time. I got the idea for the introductory question from a British music journalist. He said his first question was always, “Where and when were you born?”

He said it takes his subject out of their mindset of trying to sell you on whatever they’re publicizing and into who they were before they found fame. That seemed to make sense so I took a variation on it and always ask, “When did you first fall in love with music?”

If they say, “I’ve always loved music.” I know I’m screwed.

Well, not necessarily. Sometimes I can prod them by asking, “Do you have any specific memories of the first time music really affected you?” And they might open up. But there have been a number of people who will just say, “I’ve always loved it, man.” and I know there’s no way I’ll get an interesting quote out of them about anything.

Fortunately, most people will travel back to a distant past and reminisce about their parent’s record collection or a radio station playing the Beatles or the first guitar they got.

Sizing Them Up – Ant-Man and Jurassic World

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Either my standards have gotten lower or the big budget movies this summer have gotten better.

It’s a distinct possibility that after watching all the terrible flicks the past few summers that I might have suffered brain damage and viewing a blank screen might elicit some laughs and startles out of me, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t enjoy Ant-Man and Jurassic World.

Ant-Man is probably the least known comic book character to get his own movie since Tank Girl. He shrinks to a centimeter tall and has the ability to order around ants. Stan Lee found his creation so lame that after a few appearances in the 1960’s he decided to reverse course and changed the character’s codename to Giant Man.

But still the character has over 50 years of history and the new movie picks and chooses wisely which aspects to utilize from it. It has some inventive special effects showcasing what it would be like to have to dodge rats, toy train sets, and dancing feet when you’re the size of an ant, but I think what I liked best about this movie is it didn’t make the stakes too high. Too often in these comic book movies, the fate of the world or the universe is at the hero’s hands. It was refreshing to watch one of these Marvel Comics movies where even if Ant-Man failed his mission to stop an evil industrialist from selling the shrinking technology not that many people would have lost sleep over it.

Jurassic World also benefited from shrinking it’s worldview. I liked the original Michael Crichton book the franchise was based on, Jurassic Park, but the previous movies always let me down. 3-D technology has advanced enough now that the plot or lack of characterization in it’s human characters won’t matter. There’s a tiny bit of exposition showing the human characters who we’re supposed to be rooting for, but Jurassic World wisely does not waste too much time on them. Instead it wows us with dinosaurs. The main villain is a genetically modified superdinosaur that raises all kind of hell. It seems at times he can’t be killed, but since all the action takes place on a dinosaur theme park set in the middle of the ocean, even if it kills every tourist in its sights, we don’t have to worry about it conquering the world and making slaves of us all. Narrowing its focus makes for a better experience and immerses you in the movie like the flicks of summers past had forgotten to do.

One great thing about Ant-Man and Jurassic World was neither movie tested your endurance. Both lasted for about two hours. For the longest time summer movies have treated audiences like they don’t have an attention span. We don’t, so it should now be a rule that no movie based on a comic book, theme park ride, or toy should have a running time of over 120 minutes.

Flags

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Nine people died a couple weeks back and everyone’s acting like it’s the Confederate flag that killed them.

Eloquent statesmen like the rapper Jay Z who famously said he had “99 problems but a bitch ain’t one” demanded, ““The Confederate Flag needs to come down. It represents violence and racism. It is offensive to millions.” No one can doubt that statement, nor can they doubt Jay Z is often photographed wearing Che Guevara t-shirts or spitting out the n word in his lyrics with a frequency that would make a Klan leader blush.

Are we, Jay Z included, really willing to live in a world where we must be sensitive to all? For it’s not just the swastika and old Dixie that makes people uncomfortable.

If we’re going to take down the Confederate flag and truly be consistent, there is no doubt we should also take down the American flag. Those stripes represent thirteen colonies, many of which were slave holding territories and all compromised that the slaves only counted as three-fifths of a person. Those thirteen colonies and many of the states represented by stars also contributed to a genocide of millions of Native Americans, poured Napalm on East Asia and drones all over the Middle East. The most modern variation of the flag designed in 1960 has flown over homosexuals decried as criminals and African-Americans segregated to drink from different water fountains.

In fact the more you think about it, the more it’s obvious it wouldn’t be a bad idea to start over and create a new flag to represent America.

Betsy Ross wouldn’t mind.

Even if she did it’s not like she came from a country that allowed her to vote on the matter.

A small contingent of the population might be offended at the idea of throwing a flag away by saying the flag is part of our history. But if we established the precedent that if anyone is offended by a flag, it should come down, no flag should be safe.

Of course, the counterargument is this would be overkill.

A flag has never killed anyone.

No, it was a gun that massacred those nine people a couple weeks back. And while we pat ourselves on the back for Walmart no longer offering to sell confederate flags, you can still feel comfortable to walk into that same store and buy as many guns as you damn well please.

Secondary Language

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My Spanish is second rate. Intoxication generally improves my conversational skills, or at the very least lowers my inhibition towards making up words. Of sane mind I feel silly adding random o’s and a’s to the end of words. When tipsy “dinosauro” seems a reasonable translation for dinosaur.

Generally the first sentence spoken to me in Spanish I can understand and respond. It is with the third or fourth volley in the dialogue where my brain can no longer keep up. My default position when I lose track of what is being said is to nod my head and say, “si”, occasionally peppering in a shake of my head and a “Wow”.

One time my linguistic pride got me in an awkward situation. I went to Nicaragua with a buddy. The buses that transported you from city to city were the old yellow school bus variety. On our way back to Managua one bus was packed, so I could not sit near my friend. A local man began speaking to me. He asked where I was from. I told him the US. He said some other things which I did not fully understand. As I did not wish to represent my country as an ignorant American I proceeded to nod at his words.

I kept my ears open for something I might comprehend. Finally I was able to catch up, or I thought I did, when he asked, “¿Te gusta Pink Floyd?”

Ah, yes, do I like Pink Floyd? The great British psychedelic band. Of course, I did. So I responded, “Si mucho.” He smiled. “Y Led Zeppelin. Y Los Beatles.” I thought I might get some bonus points by furthering the conversation by asking if he knew how to play guitar. “¿Tocas la guitarra?”

Now it was his turn to look at me confused. Then he repeated again, “No. ¿Te gusta Pink Floyd?” He then pushed out the inside of his cheek with his tongue and moved his closed fist back and forth as though he was performing a lewd act. This time I did not answer him. I got up and walked to an empty seat in the back of the bus with no further intention of practicing my conversational Spanish.

It also took me a while to listen to Pink Floyd again.

Rev Up The Search Engine – 2015 Model

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I have been slacking with putting up new material this past year. Evidently I have slowly been running out of things to say. Fortunately, I never tire of being self-referential. So here comes my annual easiest to write column, Rev up the Search Engine. The following are ten actual terms people typed into Google or other miscellaneous search engines that landed them on http://www.pablochiste.com.

10) “amateur women in sling shot bikinis”

9)  “Tom Selleck chest hair grooming”

8 ) “spanish badonkadonk”

7)  “creatures that freak out the entire planet”

6)  “old woman birthday jokes”

5)  “beware of falling coconut”

4)  “little young teen with big butt”

3)  “manatees are sexy”

2)  “three babies drinking beer”

1)  “Why do rape scenes give me a boner?”

Once again my sincerest apologies for ending up here and I hope you were able to find what you were looking for.

Good Samaritan

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I’m pushing my daughter in her stroller while talking on the phone. A woman calls out to me. “Señor!”

Obviously she couldn’t be talking to me, but for some reason I turn around anyway. She’s about fifty and five foot flat walking out of an apartment also on the telephone.  “Señor, can you help me out?”

“Me?”

“Yes, can you help me?”

I figured she wanted me to lift something. “I’ve got my daughter here.”

“That’s OK. You speak Spanish?”

“No.”

“That’s OK. Look inside the apartment. Is it messy?”

I tell my friend on the phone to hold on for a second. It’s a studio apartment she wants me to look at. It’s cluttered. I tell her, “It’s not that bad.”

“Look inside the sink.” she tells me.

There are some dirty dishes piled up in there. “It’s sloppy.”

She talks into the telephone. “It’s sloppy. I take a man off the street and he says for himself, it’s sloppy. Thank you.” she tells me and sends me on my way.

Marvelous? – Avengers: Age of Ultron and Daredevil

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My expectations couldn’t have been lower going into Avengers:Age of Ultron. The last few Marvel comics based movies have been terrible. Guardians of the Galaxy confused pop culture references for having a sense of humor. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was nothing more than a loud two and a half hour commercial for the next Marvel movies.

So I went into the theater dreading that Avengers:Age of Ultron would be another cynical spit in the eye of the stories and characters I’ve invested so much time and money into.  What a surprise then to find myself enjoying the hell out of the sequel. Not that it’s perfect, there’s a time wasting romance and a couple gratuitous sexual double entendres that seemed ridiculous for a movie made for kids. Worst off they’ve destroyed my favorite character, the wise cracking womanizing, archer Hawkeye so completely I almost think they only added the character to the roster because they hated him and wanted to publicly humiliate him.

But I am willing to forgive these sins because they got so much right. My biggest complaint with comic book movies has been their makers unwillingness to see the forest for the trees. They’ve been so busy trying to make epic franchises, that the individual movies have felt like nothing but a set-up for the next sequel. Avengers:Age of Ultron has plenty of hints of what is to come, fortunately though it is its own creature with a beginning, middle, and end. It introduces new characters while giving each established character something to do (except for poor Hawkeye who was once a street smart purple masked wearing ex-carnie and now is… ok maybe I’m not willing to forgive them for the way they portrayed him). Instead of feeling like a way station for bigger things like the first Avengers movie did, this felt like a main event. They offer longtime fans so many faithful touches from the comic books that I wondered at times whether people unfamiliar with the source material would be able to follow what was going on.

I enjoyed it so much I have to wonder if I have gotten soft. Had taking nine months off from superhero movies (not counting Birdman) made me less critical? But then I remembered I recently spent thirteen hours watching the great Daredevil TV show on Netflix.

After watching Daredevil I was convinced episodic television was the right way to adapt comic books, rather than movies. It’s a format that is more conducive to the cliffhanger ending that is so central to superhero comic books. With television instead of having to wait months or years, you only have to wait until the next week (or in Daredevil’s case seconds) to see how the hero gets out of whatever bind he found himself in at the end of an episode. Daredevil is lucky to have had some of the best stories in comic history, but when they made a movie with Ben Affleck as the character they got it all wrong. The TV show was wise enough to stay true to those comics’ spirit. This first season is mostly based on Frank Miller’s creations making it even grittier and more violent than what came out of his sick mind decades earlier. There are epic fight scenes and great explorations of what can make a man a hero and alternately what can make a man a villain.

Daredevil and Avengers:Age of Ultron were so good I’m almost allowing myself to get excited to see Ant-man.

Thursdays in the Garden

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In all the ways I saw my future unfolding, none of those fates involved spending Thursday mornings with ten housewives and their toddler offspring.

To be fair it was not supposed to be this way. Not that I should be spending my Thursday mornings as a pirate or as the president of the United States, but rather it was My Love Interest who was intended to be here. She had quit her job to take of our daughter, and so she signed them up for a Mommy and me gardening class at the local botanical garden. But then she got a part time job with hours too good to be true, with one caveat. It interfered with this class. And so there is one Daddy imposing his presence.

I was not nervous going into it. In previous lives I had put myself in many awkward positions. I had spoken in public in front of strangers, I had hitchhiked, But very rarely had I felt that I had landed on some strange alien colony as in this class. The Mommys do not laugh at my attempts at humor. They look at me in horror when my daughter trips and instead of running over to her and picking her up telling her, “That’s OK you can get up.”

My daughter and I got to the garden early on our first day. There’s a fake Japanese bridge surrounded by real bamboo that she likes to throw rocks off of into a ten inch deep pond. There is another pond with koi and turtles I have to plead with her not to throw rocks into.

Eventually the Mommys show up with their strollers. The teacher introduced herself and said she heard I would be joining them. Each week had a different theme. The first week I was there was vegetables, so we sang a song saying hello to each child involving their favorite vegetable. We chomp green beans to Dexter and shuck corn to Violet. I had noticed this before, but it became clear that kids today no longer have the traditional names from our youth. There are no more Johns, or Marys, or Michaels.

The teacher has activities planned. One week it was planting a bean in a cup to take home, another time it was yoga, but with all these toddlers it very quickly delves into absolute chaos. In spite of the obvious discomfort the others have by my presence it’s a pleasant enough way to spend part of a morning once a week.

The final day of the class, something strange happened though. I parked the car in a garage where we can get free parking. I pulled my daughter out of the car and walked over to the elevator. The door opened and at a little after nine am on a Thursday morning, the elevator had another passenger. A man dressed as a woman. Not a modest woman either. This 50 year old gray haired man, was wearing a bustier that revealed his hairy chest along with a pink poodle skirt.

I didn’t know what the protocol was in this enlightened day and age. Should I have kept my child away from the stranger danger or was I in this era of Bruce Jenner supposed to act like this was an everyday experience? I chose the latter. I said “Good Morning” and my daughter watched from the glass window as we descended.

If this was a dream it would be obvious what it symbolized, discomfort with my gender role. But this was reality, this actually happened, so there was no cosmic meaning to this situation. It was just another Thursday morning on my way to the garden to be amongst the housewives and toddlers.

Not a 2015 NBA Playoffs Preview

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It’s late April and for the first time in years I couldn’t care less. I have no anticipation, nor dread for the NBA playoffs. I only feel indifference.

Partly because I know only one of two teams can win the championship this year, the Cleveland Cavaliers or the San Antonio Spurs. This conclusion comes from looking back at the last 35 years of NBA history. The only championship team during that span that did not have a truly transcendent otherworldly all time great player are the 2004 Detroit Pistons. Every other team from Magic Johnson and Kareem’s 1980’s LA Lakers to Dr. J’s Philadelphia 76ers to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls to Dirk Nowitzki’s Dallas Mavericks all had a player that was impossible to stop. With Kevin Durant injured the only players that qualify are LeBron James with Cleveland and Tim Duncan with San Antonio. The media has tried to portray Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors as just such a player, and he is a hell of a shooter but I’ve seen his story before in another Stephen who was too short to come up big in the playoffs in Steve Nash. These Warriors remind me a lot of Nash’s Phoenix Suns and are destined when a bigger defender like James or the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard guarding Curry at the end of games to have their hearts broken in the playoffs.

But the main reason I don’t care about the playoffs is I have no dog in the race. My Miami Heat stunk it up this year, leaving me with only two options of who to root for in the playoffs, whoever is playing against LeBronedict Arnold James’ Cleveland Cavaliers or the New Orleans Pelicans since they feature the only ex-Heat player not playing for Cleveland, the young fella, Norris Cole.

When I look at teams that made the playoffs instead of the Miami Heat like the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks and I see how much more talent the Heat roster had my immediate reaction for this year’s failures is to blame the coach, Erik Spoelstra. For years I hated on the guy, but after coaching Heat teams that won two championships I started to believe he wasn’t as stupid as he seemed. After this past trainwreck of a season where they could only win 37 games to 45 losses I wondered if Spoelstra’s previous incompetence lowered my expectations. Looking back at The LeBron years I still believe an excellent coach should have led that team to 4 championships during the 4 years as well as every regular season winning 60 games. Those Heat teams did the exact minimum not to look like underachievers through the lens of history with 2 championships and a single 60 win season.

But God, I miss that team.

Every game was an adventure, each quarter assuring a jaw dropping play of athleticism. This season’s Heat roster did not have a savant like LeBron James, nor a 3 point marksman like Ray Allen. From the start of the season  you could see this Heat team was not a championship contender. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade had their moments, but the off-season acquisitions like Josh McRoberts and Luol Deng were bums. Everyone could see it, which is why I’m willing to give Spoelstra the benefit of the doubt this season because there’s a good chance the Heat were intentionally awful.

See, in order to sign LeBron James to a maximum 6 year contract many moons ago, the Heat had to give up a first round draft pick. Little did the Heat know, that James would break out of his contract after 4 years and the Heat would be giving up a draft pick for nothing. There was one caveat, if the Heat were one of the league’s 10 worst teams they could keep the pick. And what do you know? With 37 wins the Heat are one of the 10 worst teams. So perhaps what looked like terrible end of game play calling and substitutions that made no sense were actually building for the future. Maybe this mysterious season ending ailment that forced Chris Bosh to sit out the last half of the season was caused by Draftitis. Now the Heat have what seems like a Hall of Fame center in Hassan Whiteside, an all-star point guard they traded for in Goran Dragic, along with a top 10 pick (previous #10 picks include all-stars like Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson, Caron Butler, and Paul George).

Hopefully next year will be brighter. Wake me up when it comes, cause this year’s playoffs looks like a snoozer.