Thursday, August 25, 2011


Just as I was finally getting over my survivor's guilt from Tuesday's devastating earthquake, I start hearing all this noise about Hurricane Irene coming up from the south for a historic weekend visit. Two rare East Coast natural disasters in one week? Would somebody please take their cat off the keyboard with the disaster menu open (when will I stop making esoteric SimCity 2000 references? Maybe when a giant alien comes down and attacks me). I have a sinking feeling that this upcoming hurricane won't be as mild as Tuesday's earthquake (then again a light rain on Sunday morning would have been a stronger display than Tuesday's earthquake).

Even at this point, the prospect of the storm has shuttled one of my plans, my friend's yearly summer bbq party near the Jersey Shore, from what was looking like an unusually busy weekend. I still have three more social obligations (facebook invites, so you know it's serious business) that have specifically alerted everyone that they will still go on despite conditions, so I'll have to see how things pan out.

But really, you didn't come here to read about my weekend plans. When the concept of an earthquake and a hurricane (or typhoon, for those of you in the Northwest Pacific Ocean west of the dateline) working in tandem to cause great destruction, you, like I, immediately thought about the great former WWE Tag Team champion team of the late John "Earthquake" Tenta and Fred "Typhoon" Ottman; better known as "The Natural Disasters". As a kid, I thought this team was just about as powerful and unstoppable as their respective natural disasters. You pair the two biggest and heaviest wrestlers of the pre-Yokozuna era and really who could possibly stop them? Certainly not a pair of jobbers like Kato and Barry Horowitz. Every time they had a match, young me was legitimately concerned about the lives of the members of any tag team foolish or suicidal enough to agree to fight them; I think we all knew where we were that dark day when Earthquake nearly killed the Hulkster with his repeated "Earthquake Splashes" (seriously what young Hulkamaniac would not be shaken to their core after watching a non responsive Hogan being taken out by paramedics). While they did cut an impressive path of strained ring ropes and squashed wrestler on the way to winning the tag championship belts; in the end their existence as a team surprisingly turned out to be as brief as they were destructive, lasting only 2 years.

So I guess the lesson here is always have flashlights with fresh batteries for emergencies in your home.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

There Was An Earthquake In This Town

Apparently that mild moving sensation that I felt this afternoon at work wasn't due to my shoddy office chair nor caused by my cubicle neighbor twitching their leg. Supposedly that brief, ethereal feeling was the long distance effect of a moderately strong earthquake in Virginia. Having now gone through my first earthquake, I'd have to say the experience was pretty underwhelming. I probably would not have noticed anything if it hadn't been for people around the office getting up and a check of my facebook newsfeed revealing multiple updates of simultaneous earthquake speculation among friends. Of course, an earthquake is one of the most devastating of natural disasters (Haiti, Japan, SimCity 2000) and it is pretty insensitive of me to complain about the mildness of my first earthquake experience; but I did still expect something more for my first earthquake.

I especially expected more given the completely disproportionate response my office gave to it. There was a formal announcement of potential evacuation and cancelling the rest of the day which eventually fizzled out (but apparently some buildings in the city actually did empty). For at least a good hour everyone appeared to be too shaken and frazzled to get back to work (hey, can't complain about a free break). I can only imagine all the cynical residents of California, Japan, and other fault lying regions chortling at our relatively gross overreaction to a incident of seismic activity that probably happens to them everyday. They probably look at us the same way we look at people in the South who freak out when a rare inch of snow falls in the region.

The other interesting thing about my light earthquake experience is that when it occurred I had the above "Earthquake Song" by The Little Girls in my head since Sunday, after hearing it on my friend Lisa's mix CD while coming home from a weekend road trip. Suffice to say the earthquake experience has only further entrenched the song into my brain. It's just a delightfully catchy piece of early 80s New Wave quirk. If I ever achieved one of my dream jobs of slightly exploitative pop music svengali I would create a female group based entirely on this sound. It would be cute girls, standard rock band set up (maybe I'll throw in an organ, too); singing cheery, lighthearted songs about dark and often gruesome subject matter. Had this song had not been almost completely forgotten by time it would most definitely be banned on the radio every time a devastating earthquake occurred just as Julie Brown's "The Homecoming Queen's Got A Gun" would be banned every time there was a school shooting.

Man, 80's kids had problems.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Zoo Knew?

I was recently sorting through the perpetual flow of Groupon and Living Social promotional deal emails that had accumulated in my inbox over the previous weeks (you buy one pair of discounted movie tickets once and you're marked for life) and amid the 75% off tango lessons, $15 for $30 random restaurant credit offers, and free first months of yoga classes, I was completely shocked to find a discounted offer for a one-year subscription to Zoobooks Magazine.

I had to briefly check my calendar just to make sure that some unseen cosmic force hadn't randomly transported me back to 1993. Sure enough, as it had been for the past eight months, it was still 2011. It was still 2011 where printed media was being assailed on all fronts with the newspaper and magazine industry engaged in a particularly conspicuous slow death spiral. It was still 2011 where every Borders bookstore had just gone completely out of business, while Kindles and other eReaders were entering the mainstream. It was still 2011 where even a young adolescent could have easy access to all the accumulated information of the internet over their smartphone. It was still 2011 and I was staring at an offer for Zoobooks magazine; the educational monthly animal magazine for kids whose commercials looked outdated and lame even to my 9 year old self in 1993.

How could any kid over the age of 5 have any possible interest in a magazine subscription to Zoobooks? Forgetting the fact that it is competing against Xboxes, digital cable TV, Angry Birds, and the internet for their actual attention; even if a kid was way into animals, what could Zoobooks possibly provide, with its thin collection of frozen nature photographs and drawings with captions delivered at the relatively glacial pace of one animal a month, that an interactive website or a DVRed Discovery channel documentary watched on an iPad couldn't? Even back in the 90s when they were more relevant I never knew any kid who actually had a superscription beyond that ubiquitous first free Elephants issue (which I assume is the most printed single magazine issue in the history of publishing). I always figured Zoobooks were almost exclusively subscribed to by pediatricians for their waiting rooms, alongside Highlights (which is also amazingly still in print).

Although writing this little cranky observation about the differences between my adolescent years and how outdated and incongruous an item from that period, like Zoobooks, now appears in the present has made me feel older than I've ever felt, it's still sort of nice to see this ancient creature of the 90s still somehow managing to thrive in this harsh environment of the present. To think that perhaps I may actually be able to give my child the free elephants issue of Zoobooks is a mind blowing but not unagreeable notion. Now if they could only bring back Disney Adventures.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

What the Fax?

I had the superfluous task of sending an "official fax" to my bank earlier this week and, like many modern individuals who don't have easy access to an office fax machine and no longer have landlines in their home, I had to go a nearby copy place and pay the exploitative price of $1.50 a page to use an ancient monolithic fax machine made circa 1992. We just retired the space shuttle and have long since gotten over Joe Piscapo and yet this living fossil from the over three decades ago still somehow remains in our 21st century homes alongside our flat screens and iPads, is a fixture of even the slickest, modern office, and is still sold (do companies even bother to make new models anymore?) alongside the latest tech gear at Staples.

Try as we might, it appears that contemporary society still cannot completely obsolete the dusty fax machine. I think it's quite ironic that of all the farout retro visions of 2015 as shown in "Back to the Future II" from hover cars to up to the second weather prediction to $50 bottles of Pepsi, the one thing they may still end up unintentionally getting right will be the continued relevance of fax machines (although they may not be as ubiquitous as to be in every room of the house). So given the seemingly invincible, obsolescence proof, recession proof, public need for basic faxing services combined with the sharp decline of people actually having fax machines in their homes, there might be a market for an outlet store whose whole purpose is to provide reasonably priced faxing services (like a laundromat for faxes).

I'll take care of the name if you're willing to provide the capital, time, labor, and is okay with assuming all the risks. Take your choice:
  1. Just The Fax
  2. Reasonable Facsimile
  3. Faxonomy
  4. Faximum Overdrive
  5. Faxination
  6. The Fax Man
  7. F.A.X. (Fax Access eXchange)
  8. Fax In The Box
  9. Fax Solo
  10. Yes We Have Fax Machines Here
  11. The Faxin' Invasion
  12. Death and Faxes
  13. Lord Faxondale's Faxtastic Faxdom
  14. Fax On The Run
  15. Fax City, USA, Population You