My friend Pascale’s goodbye cake (pictured above) is about as good as it gets. Her man Sean picked it up and it was a delight to us all. The party hats were a nice touch. 

I hate to see Pascale leave our work family, but she’s smart and is bouncing out to be a coder and move to the great state of Texas. If I was smarter, I might do the same. Unfortunately I can barely operate a computer. 

As a kid I never thought about people moving away. Now I have friends all over the country. If I had the means to fly around and visit everyone I would. Mostly I keep up through social media and the occasional visit back home.

If I was a billionaire I’d buy a cul de sac somewhere and invite everyone I cared about to live there. As a child, this is how I imagined heaven. Everyone I knew and loved in one place where they could hang out with me all the time. 

On my favorite show, Vikings, there are a lot of scenes where friends and family sit together in great halls, drinking mead, warming by huge fires. This is a great way to live. 

Maybe one day the world will figure out this is worth getting back to. Until then, I guess there’s Facebook. 

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SFGate just published the tragic story of 26-year old Stanford medical student, Maria Birukova. She was an avid mountain climber, but slipped and fell to her death traversing Bear Creek Spire in Inyo National Forest, just southeast of Yosemite.

Maria was an accomplished and respected academic with an undergraduate degree from Yale. She was finding success at Stanford and would likely have had a wonderful career. There’s no way to know how many lives she may have saved.

It’s a sad death for those she left behind, but she died on an adventure, a rare and beautiful thing.

The comments section of the story aren’t too bad now, but I imagine they will fill with the smug words of the sedentary. People who will never do anything. People who will never understand that mountains take lives, but give us heroes.

You can’t do anything for these people. They’ll never feel the urge to explore and challenge themselves at that level. I feel worse for the people who prefer comfort to experience than I do for the bright human who died on those high walls. It seems like she was really going for it in life and that should be celebrated.

I hope those who knew her find comfort. I hope we can all follow her example and live an adventurous incarnation.

 

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None of my younger friends have seen Tombstone and that’s a damned shame. It’s a great Western with a classic story and a tremendous cast. Kurt Russell stars as the infamous lawman Wyatt Earp. Sam Elliot (the cowboy from The Big Lebowski) plays Virgil Earp. Billy Zane gives a zany performance as a thespian.

This movie has Charlton Heston, Dana Delaney, Bill Paxton, Bill Bob Thornton, and a gang of other Hollywood notables, but no one stands out as much as Val Kilmer.

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Kilmer plays Doc Holiday, a gambling gun fighter who had a side career as a dentist. He came down with tuberculosis early into his career and went West hoping the arid weather would help his condition. His adventures involved at least nine gunfights, including the most famous one with the Earp at the OK Corral. He survived four attempts to hang him.

Holliday was extremely interesting, because of that, he’s a character that’s popped up quite a few times in film. No one has done a better job playing him than Val Kilmer. I don’t know how accurate a performance it is, but it’s magnetically weird.

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Kilmer sashays about, clowning, drinking, coughing, and speaking Latin. He’s constantly vacillating between erudition and insobriety. He has all the best lines.

Through most of the film Kilmer is covered in a shiny layer of sweat meant to show the effects of tuberculosis. The whole time he looks like he’s having a good time and smiling at an inside joke. It reminds me a lot of how Johnny Depp acted as Captain Jack Sparrow.

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I watched Tombstone again recently and it did not disappoint. One of the cool things about Westerns is they never really age too terribly. This flick came out right after Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven and is part of what I’d call the beginning of the gritty Western look. After the 90s the tone for them became darker, realer, meaner. The violence became more graphic.

Some of the dialog is a little goofy, though. The writers used a lot of legit Old West slang, which sounds awesome, but it’s so bizarre to the modern ear that it sounds a little like Yosemite Sam. Early scripts of the excellent HBO series Deadwood had similar diction, but it didn’t play well. The writers ended up using modern slang, resulting in more”motherfuckers” per scene than anything except Samuel L. Jackson movies.

Anyway, I’ve always been a fan of Val Kilmer and this is my favorite of his roles. It’s even better than his turn wearing the batsuit.

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Eating in large groups is usually not my thing. It’s hard to follow all the conversations. You can’t eat all of the thing that everyone’s supposed to be sharing. Splitting the check requires an abacus and a notary public. 

But sometimes, like tonight, big dinners are fun. Conversation comes easily. Stories are told to shock and delight. Alcohol flows. Guards are let down. 

I’m lucky to like who I work with. They are good people and I laugh hard almost every day. This social aspect of my job is important. Creativity requires fertile ground, even when it’s being harvested for corporate gains. 

This has been a good year so far. 

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It’s that time again. The one where I use 38 years of confusion to answer your burning questions. What the hell does that phrase even mean? Why burning? I went ahead and tried to look it up, but there weren’t any significantly verifiable answers.

The only origin I found that made any sense tied the expression back to the time when heretics were burned at the stake. When the Inquisitors asked their prisoners questions, it could mean the difference between simply having your nose and ears cut off or being burned. The questions were known as burning questions.

Now any question designed to reveal a person’s true beliefs is a burning question. If this story is to be believed, then it would be incorrect to use the phrase for other lines of questions. So heed the importance of your queries before applying this weighted designation. Or, you know, don’t. It’s no sweat off my balls.

On to your questions!

Is a house cleaner worth it? 

Fuck yes it is. Mrs. Lott and I had a housecleaner for our 400 square foot studio apartment and it was amazing. On the surface you’re paying someone to clean up after your nasty ass, what you’re really buying is free time and the elimination of arguments related to who should be scrubbing the toilet bowl.

Currently we are aggressively trying to stack cash in an effort to pay off our home as fast as possible (and get me a new motorcycle). Our place is bigger now, so it would be more to clean. We did try a new service, but the lady who we hired before was much better. Unfortunately she won’t cross the bridge. First world problems, son. They’re the worst.

You might have some stupid shame about hiring someone to clean up after you. Quit that dumb shit. The people who do this work are real deal entrepreneurs and if you can afford it, do it. You’re helping the economy. Our ex-housecleaner employs several people and put a kid through college. That’s amazing. She did a great job and we were stoked to give her money.

The harder thing is to figure out if it’s in your budget. We opted for once a week, which kept things very tidy as long as we were conscious of not fucking things up too bad. If any of my readers has ever travelled with Mrs. Lott, you will be able to hypothesize who the messy one is.

The formula I think works to decide on whether or not to hire a cleaner is as follows: Find out how long it takes to clean the house. Take your current hourly wage (after taxes) and apply it to that time. If the housecleaner is less than that, go for it. You’re just buying back time. Make sure you do something good with it.

If it costs you more than that, then you should consider quitting your job to become a housecleaner.

What is the loveliest thing a child has ever said to you?

Goodbye.

What is the biggest tip that you have ever received as an employee? 

The largest single tip I’ve received was $200 from a seriously generous dude who would regularly tip $100. People who’ve made good money and tip well just because they can are probably the karmic actors that keep this world from being swallowed in the great grinding maws of the god-like demons of the Kali Yuga.

Just in case you meant “what’s the best advice-tip?’ then it has to be something I was told by a true New Orleans original, Jerry Roppolo, owner of Rue De La Course Coffee. He was my boss and landlord during a pretty low point in my life and out of nowhere one day he just said “buddy, just be yourself and try your best and people will appreciate that and you will always have friends.” I don’t know why he said it because he wasn’t really a pep talk kind of dude, but it hit me right in the heart and I swear to god I almost cried. Like I said, it was a hard time.

He also said it was ok to keep a gun under the register as long as I didn’t tell anyone. So I did and I didn’t.

For 5XP, my vampire character, the current prince of Houma, needs a deep dark secret, that can come back to haunt him. What should the secret be?

For laypeople, what my friend here is inquiring about is a character in the Live Action Role Playing Game (RPG), Vampire: The Masquerade. When I was a teenager, this was my shit. It was such a fun game.

Basically you created a character to act out who was a member of an ancient vampire society. The vampires lived in secret alongside various other fantasy societies (faeries, werewolves, etc.). It’s just like True Blood because that show stole everything from this game.

Players get dressed up in costume and then play through an evening of intrigue. Alliances are formed. Duels are fought. Friends are betrayed. People are murdered. The balance of power shifts. You improvise your character based on his/her characteristics and skills. These are kept track of on a character sheet. Your powers and abilities grow as you gain experience. Just like in a video game.

Most of the people who played this game were geeky goth teenagers and the weird old headbanger perverts who tried to fuck them. It was an odd, sexually charged environment to come of age in. It’s also the reason the first three or four girls I dated were god damned goths. They’re the fucking worst/most fun.

As an aside, I recall being quite pleased at the darkness of Mrs. Lott’s album collection  the first time I went to her house as a gentleman caller. Total black heart.

Anyway, what you’re asking about is a character building question. You will gain points to improve your skills if you take on a weakness, namely a dark secret. This is a super fun one because it adds a layer of weirdness and danger to your interactions with other characters.

I’ve seen people choose things like “they have a werewolf wife” or they “drank the blood of another powerful vampire’s last living relative.” That sort of thing. For you, I think something monstrous and unique to Louisiana would be interesting. What if you used your influence at the gas company to engineer an explosion at a rival prince’s safe house. He survives, but you killed his progeny/lover.”

Or, you allowed a church to run a major sex trafficking ring that provided you with a rotating stock of fresh blood. You have had to suppress several stories of the reverend’s misdeeds.

Whatever it is, make sure it’s really dangerous. That’s the most fun way to play.

What is your best random conversation with a stranger?

I rode 30 minutes on a BART train from Oakland talking about The Twilight Zone and what science fiction meant to black people with a man who said he had been associated with the Black Panthers. He was so shocked I knew all the episodes he wanted to talk about.

Our mutual favorite is the episode Time Enough at Last. It’s about a man who loves reading, but has a very sad life. He survives an atomic explosion by sitting in a bank vault. He’s the lone survivor and has enough food and supplies to survive for years. But he doesn’t have anything to do and decides to kill himself. Right before he does, he sees the library in the distance. He goes there and rejoices to have all the time in the world to read, but he breaks his thick glasses and becomes well fucked and sad at life’s cruel irony.

It’s such a good episode. I never saw that guy on the train again, but I often imagine him as a youngster sitting in front of a black and white TV just mainlining all that televised weirdness, right in the middle of one of the strangest times to live in Oakland.

What is the most badass thing anyone has ever done? 

What a tough question. There are so many incredible deeds to choose from and so many well deserving choices. Pretty much any real person Tom Hanks has played would be cool. Most of my top choices are war stories I’ve heard. There’s no shortage of bravery on the battlefield. Any sacrifice would be a solid pick.

We’re just past the anniversary of 9/11 and I think you could make a strong case for the resistance that lead to the downing of United Airlines Flight 93. As I understand the story, passengers knew what was going to happen and acted to bring the plane under control, downing it away from its intended target. That is some serious balls.

Should I have to help my broke parents? 

This right here is a serious question that deserves a serious answer. I’d say go right to reading what Dave Ramsey has to say about broke parents. You don’t have to go broke saving them, but you might want to help them because you love them and you can. If that’s the case, they need to change. If you help, you’re in control now, which is weird for them. Ramsey calls it “powdered butt syndrome”; since they powdered your butt, they won’t take you seriously.

Go in hard on that Dave Ramsey stuff if you’re serious. His plans have totally changed my relationship with money. I think I might actually be able to retire wealthy, which is pretty neat. I’ve heard the stories of so many people who’ve done it with less than Mrs. Lott and I have. If they crushed it you can.

 

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Listening to another person inarticulately describe their dreams to you is one of the most tedious experiences you can have in this incarnation. So, fair warning, this blog is about dreams and my dream in particular, which will have almost no interest to anyone other than myself. However, it’s also about dream journaling, which can be interesting to creative types.

The visions you have when your eyes are closed have little meaning outside of your skull and for the most part, you just can’t capture the details, unless you practice. The only way I know to practice describing dreams is to either give someone a horrible ear beating each morning or keep a dream journal. Dream journals are popular in esoteric practices. I got the idea either from some corny Judy Blum style Wicca manual or from Aleister Crowley. I don’t remember well because it was around the age of 15 I started keeping them. It doesn’t matter.

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Keeping a dream journal is simple. Just have a notebook and pen near you when you wake up. The moment your eyes open, just start writing anything you remember. When you start, they’re going to look pretty lame: “I was in a car dealership with my boss and maybe a raccoon army was trying t get in?” As you stick with it, you start to recall way more detail. I haven’t really done this since my early 20s, but I recall getting into as many as seven pages of descriptions of certain dreams.

I think this practice is a great alternative to the early morning social media binge everyone seems to be engaging in these days. I know I’ve gotten into a bad habit of opening up my phone (which is my alarm clock) and going right to facebook and Instagram. It’s fun to see what’s going on in the world, but the conspiratorial part of my mind can’t help but feel like we are all being slowly programmed and conditioned, having our thoughts slowly molded by memes and videos. Days that I resist the urge to look at my phone often start off better for me. It could be coincidence, but images are powerful.

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I’m fairly agnostic on where dreams come from or what they mean for everyone. I’ve always found dream interpretation books to be incredibly lacking. How would an alligator possibly  mean the same thing to me, a Louisiana native, than to someone from Afghanistan? Mass culture has probably created a certain amount of homogeneity, but even still, it’s absurd to think you’re going to get one size fits all interpretations. I’ve read Jung and Freud on dreams and I just don’t buy the collective unconscious stuff for dreams.

One reason for that is how I dream. No matter how psychedelic or weird my night time travels are, they are almost always easy to hook up to a live concern or anxiety. Or even a movie I’ve watched.

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For instance, last night the setting of my dream was clearly a semi-ruined Detroit. Where did that come from? I got super high and watched It Follows again. The movie has a dreamlike quality and I imagine my subconscious found the imagery very easy to integrate. The dream was also focused on communal living, which has been on my mind a lot over the last year or two. So I have a setting, and the setting is populated with a bunch of impressions of people I’ve met in the last year up in Humboldt. Many of this group grew up on a commune in Tennessee, which I find endlessly fascinating. But my friends weren’t in my dreams, just the impression of them.

This morning I wrote down my dreams for three pages. Normally if I’ve been indulging in the Devil’s cabbage I have no memory of my dreams. This is one of the main negatives for me. I have very surreal, fun dreams and I hate to miss them. This weird side effect is one of the reasons pot can help people with PTSD, especially those with nightmares. It’s unclear if the plant is stopping the dreams or if they are happening and you just can’t remember them. Either way, a significant percentage of cannabis users experience dreamless knockout sleep. This can be huge for people who have trouble staying asleep through the night.

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Anyway, in my dream, there was a counter culture element that had decided to have a sort of Burning Man festival (I’ve never been) but in the ruins of Detroit. When I woke up this actually started to seem like a cool idea. What if instead of pouring all those resources into a temporary place, like Black Rock City, people came to the areas of Detroit where you’re supposed to be able to buy houses for $500 and started building crazy art neighborhoods?

I know there’s already some noise about Brooklyn types invading Detroit to do this, but it isn’t organized. Imagine if each Burning Man camp was responsible for a few houses or even a block. It would definitely make for a gloriously weird looking area.

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I’m aware of some of the complaints a plan like this might generate. Rich techies and hippy-yuppies taking over poor neighborhoods has stigma. But turning ruined buildings into art spaces ad revitalizing abandoned neighborhoods is cooler than letting them rot.

People are already doing similar things. The Heidelberg Project does neat art house stuff. I don’t know a lot about them. Their pictures are cool.

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The content of my dream is irrelevant. What is relevant is that instead of waking up and blobbing out before my day even began, I was thinking about the world in a different way. I can’t say I would’ve ever thought about this sort of plan if my brain hadn’t jumped a horror movie, my friends, and Burning Man into a temporary psychedelic experience made just for me.

I’m willing to bet anyone could do this and benefit from it. I’m going to try and spend the first 30 minutes of waking up on dream journaling. I don’t think there’s going to be anything magical or mystical happening, but I do imagine shifting the start of my day will have some effect on how the hours advance. Even on work days.

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I’m rewatching It Follows again after seeing director David Robert Mitchell’s first feature, The Myth of the American Sleepover. Watching both close together illuminates themes the director seems to focus on: uncertain sexuality, awkwardness, nostalgia. 

Both films take place in suburban Detroit. Both feature retro vibes. And each has an awkwardly attractive cast. These are Harmony Korine kids pawing their way through a Lisa Frank dystopia. 


It’s been years since I’ve watched horror. I’m sensing a pattern here. Synth music. Twee final girls in 90s Gap grunge. Dispensing with exposition. The burbs. 

There’s a lot of admiration for Kubrick. Technique and style are at an all time high. But what happens when these novelties wear off? Will there still be anything to be afraid of?