She Said Yes - Again

So, I asked my wife to marry me again. She said yes. I've had the ring for a month. She's known about it (long story, I barely told it in a previous post, go look for it), but has behaved and not asked when I was going to give it to her. We hiked to the top of Sentinel Dome today, and in front of the majestic Yosemite Falls, I decided to finally give it to her.


Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

Part of an assignment I'm on for AOLNews led me to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to drive some laps with Randy Buck from the Skip Barber Racing School. Sorry the writeup on this is so short, but I'm saving it for the piece. I will say this: it was a dream of nearly 20 years come true.

Enjoy the pics!

(if you can't see the slideshow above, click here)


Art of Akira at Pixar - PICS!

I still can't believe it, but last Friday, I was invited to Pixar to give a talk about the Art of Akira Exhibit and show some of the art. It was AMAZING. I have been blabbering ever since about it, mostly because it's the exact sort of thing I dreamed about when I was cooking up this little exhibit. My intent was to share this art with animators, artists, illustrators and film people. It's a piece of film history, and it's important that everyone and anyone with a background or interest in the medium get to see it.

Anyway, here's some photos from the whole shebang.


Art of Akira at Pixar

Holy. Crap.

That's all I can really say at this point. Well, that and the rest of this blog post. But I figured I'd start with that because it's what I said when I got the email inviting me to come to Pixar tomorrow morning (Friday) at 11:30 to talk about Art of Akira to the animators.

This is a huge milestone for me, because these guys are exactly the type of people I was hoping would be interested in the Art of Akira Exhibit -- industry pros who want to see the behind-the-scenes aspects of what made Akira tick. From what I understand, there will be people in attendance tomorrow who have never done handmade animation - they've used a computer their entire careers. It's for them that I put this thing together in the first place.

I feel it's incredibly vital that we as a society hold on to our ability to make things with our hands. I use a computer daily; I love my computer. It speeds things up tremendously and gives me a quality of output I can't achieve with handwritten or hand designed things. But the physical has something very magical about it... Especially when it's something as astonishing and groundbreaking as Akira.

That said, for the very first time since I started talking about Akira, I'm nervous. As I tweeted earlier today, I feel like me picking out things that the pros at Pixar would want to see is like a guy who plays Golden Tee all day at a bar telling Tiger Woods what clubs to use at Augusta. But I'm going to do my best to get stuff that isn't just "OH COOL THE BIKE!" or "NEAT EXPLOSION BRO!" I'm going to pick things that really show the heart behind the art - the sketches, the layouts, the painted backgrounds. I'm bringing two sets that have never ever seen the light of day just for the Pixar guys.

Wish me luck.

I'll try to Ustream the talk - no guarantees, but if it happens, it'll be on the Art of Akira blog.


Gay Christian Witnessing: Surrealism Defined

Sitting at Octane Coffee House in Atlanta, currently being witnessed to by members of the Gay Christian Alliance. Seriously, this is happening. Right now. I am writing this as they tell me about their church and why I should come and how open and non-judgemental it is.

I have already explained that the religion thing isn't my bag, and they've countered with how it wasn't for them either, due to all the stereotypical judgmental aspects and how judgmental it is. And their church isn't judgmental, and they're not judgmental. So they won't judge me. I should really come to the church.

I'm not so sure I even understand the whole concept here. Christ changed their life and turned them around, according to both of these guys. They were headed down the wrong path. And now they're "realigned."

What does that even mean? This is why I hang out in stereotypically gay environments - so I don't have to hear this shit. Homosexuals, you my homies! Don't be flippin' the script or other street slang I really shouldn't be using!

And for the record, it's not the fact that they're gay and Christian. It's the fact that they're gay and Christian and won't shut the fuck up about it and leave me alone in my straight heathenism. For a couple of non-judgmental dudes, these guys sure are disapproving of my lifestyle choice of being without religion by way of not relenting on their message.

***Update 3:03PM ***

Immediate question: Are they trolls?  I'm pretty sure they're not trolls. The one guy has a huge cross on his forearm, and they're not giving each other weird eye signs or whatever like friends who troll do when they troll.  Also, how cool would a reality show called TROLLIN IRL be? Cause I think it's pretty awesome, it's Tony Deconick's idea.

They moved to their own table, and as they stood up, I put on my cones of silence (headphones). I've accidentally caught one of the guys' eye once, and he smiled and nodded and mouthed something. I took off the headphones for a sec to be polite, and he said "Let me know if you want to talk more." I said "Sure, I'll do that."

Still not over it.


The Ship of Peacockeus

Talking to a gamer and game critic friend of mine, Evan, I began to realize that I'm getting old.

He was asking if I was excited for E3. My response: "Meh." He asked if I was excited about the ESPN + Microsoft deal, where games will be streamed over the 360. My response: "Huh?" I had to explain to him that I just don't keep up with gaming news anymore -- which is pretty strange, considering I've spent the last 20 or so years being a hardcore gamer who saw E3 the same way I saw Christmas when I was seven.

Along with things like taking longer to recover from hard workouts, starting to like things like "Greek Style Yogurt," not eating fast food, seeing grey hairs, and other tell-tale signs that your body's on a non-stop journey toward ruin, there's a number of changes I've made that have basically started ushering me toward the "old fogey" corral in the social demographic theme park.

The gaming thing, for one. Take Red Dead Redemption for example. I liked it a lot - I loved the story, I loved the gameplay. And when I sat longer than, say, 2 hours playing it, I began to fidget. There were two nights in particular where I forced myself to play longer than 2 or 3 hours, based solely on the fact that my entire identity as a "hardcore gamer" was at stake if I didn't put in a ton of hours to get to the end of this game. And when I reached the end of it (which took two and a half weeks, whereas in days of old, I'd be through it in a day or two), I took it out of the Xbox and haven't touched it since.

I still enjoy gaming. What I don't enjoy is the thought that there's other stuff I should be doing while I'm playing a game. And those thoughts don't really set in until right at the two hour mark - two hours is about the max I'm willing to spend doing any one thing that isn't considered productive. And if I do go over that two hour mark, it ends up eating into sleep time, as I am no longer capable of pushing things off until another day (things that matter, anyway).

I'm old.

As you get older you begin to realize you have far too many hoses from far too many sources filling your attention pool, and you're constantly having to turn them off or drain the pool. So, you eventually begin eliminating hoses. I've eliminated quite a few of them, one of them being any and all "industry news" about gaming, tech, etc. A few others: 24 hour news, watching sports as my main activity (I will keep them on in the background now), any and all discussion regarding religion or politics (the only two things I can think of that rank above gaming in terms of "completely useless wastes of time"), IRC and other general chat activities.

It's not that I don't like these things. I still like them a lot. I just don't feel comfortable anymore doing any of them for protracted periods of time. And that's where the whole identity crisis begins to play in my head - these are the things that made me "me" in my eyes. The things I most enjoyed, the things I filled my time with. These days, what I fill my time with is different. It's no less enjoyable; I love writing, I love researching topics for articles and essays, I love working out. But even my workouts are completely different than they were years ago. These days, I don't even lift weights on the main floor. I have completely shifted to a "fitness" oriented regimen and can't even tell you the last time I did a real bench press. Or, the last time I listened to Slayer, for that matter.

And therein lies the eternal issue that far greater men than me have pondered - am I the same guy, and will I be by the time I die? It's the Ship of Theseus puzzle, and it goes like this:
Over the years, the Athenians replaced each plank in the original ship of Theseus as it decayed, thereby keeping it in good repair. Eventually, there was not a single plank left of the original ship. So, did the Athenians still have one and the same ship that used to belong to Theseus?

As I get older, I start to see pieces of me in disrepair, so I replace them. I change them. I mold and shape them. And now, at 33, I like to think of myself as being the same guy I was at 18, at least at my core. But if you compare the actual time spent doing things between the two ages, the production value of those things, the level of interest... I'm not. None of us are. We change, we adapt, we grow.

At what point are we no longer who we were? Do our interests define us, or is there something much deeper driving those interests which persists our entire lives? And what happens when THAT thing changes?

Bah, too much thinking. I think I'll go play some Xbox. See you in 2 hours.


Notes on the World Cup

- Who is the fucking marketing genius who handed out 100,000 free horns to the fans for the World Cup? And did they do any research on the actual note struck when everyone blows the damn things in unison? It's supposed to "mimic the sound of a swarm of bees." WHY IS THIS A GOOD THING? And it's not so much like a swarm of bees as it is like a sine wave bouncing around my brain with a hidden signal from the government enticing me to either kill the sitting president of a small republic or eat a specific brand of pudding. I'm not quite clear which yet. They may yet be banned - here's hoping. And a German dude has built an audio filter to attenuate the sound of the vuvuzela. Apparently, the horn is "a vital part of South African soccer culture." So vital, it only began use in the late 90's. Get rid of it please.

- The New York Post has no idea what a "win" actually is.

- I've never even heard of n+1, a bi-yearly publication out of New York, but their writeup on the teams of the World Cup had me hooked. I've become a subscriber. Drew Curtis also pointed me to this similar-yet-even-funnier writeup from his local radio station's website. Horrible website, great article.

- I love how every SportsCenter addict I know is now an expert on soccer. The most annoying ones (usually New York Yankees or Dallas Cowboy fans who have never even been to either city) call it "football." I want to punch them in the neck. They know nothing outside of what the anchors on ESPN tell them to know, and even then, half of what they spout is mis-memorized. This is true about every sport they watch, by the way. 

Landon Donovan sure does get a lot of publicity for being a marginal performer. He's the only player from the US team that can't make it in any European league. 

- Even after losing a lot of weight, I look ridiculous in a soccer jersey.

- This Nike World Cup spot is the best commercial I've ever seen for anything, ever. It's even better than my previous favorite commercial, also by Nike (just below). The "Search and Destroy" commercial is on my iPod and iPhone. I watch it while running on a loop, no kidding. It's one of the single most inspiring videos I've seen, right up there with the training montage from Rocky IV. And it's been beat.

- Soccer, while fun to watch every 4 years, still escapes me as a sport I'd like to keep an interest in. I don't get it. Why the hell would you watch a slower-paced, hitless hockey? This is fun due to the international aspect, where we all get to bellow about how our pseudo-nationalities are the best at something. But as a sport, this is not a daily, monthly or even yearly interest. This is a sport where the majority of players worldwide receive a juice box and a Fruit Rollup after the game. It's second only to baseball in terms of things only children should do seriously.


Help Atlanta Humane Get $50,000 (Pretty Please)

As you all know (or should know, or might not know but will know in just a moment), I'm just the slightest bit partial to the Atlanta Humane Society. The reason is pretty simple -- I'm married to it. My wife does great work there, and they could use a cool $50,000 boost to the coffers.

Purina and Kroger are running a contest where a "Tale For The Pet Lover's Heart" from a participating shelter could win that shelter $50,000. The tale from Atlanta Humane? Our beloved blind dog, Ray Charles. I've written about Ray before, and Andrea wrote the story of how he became ours that pops up when you mouseover "Atlanta Humane Society". So if you like it, vote for Atlanta Humane and our boy Ray.

You'll have to give up an email address to do it, and you can vote once per day. This is where the fun comes in. As you may or may not know (or should know, or will know in just another moment), any and all Gmail addresses can have as many periods as you want to give them. This makes signing up for crap multiple times easy peasy. All you have to do is stick random periods into your name and boom, instant 2nd (or 3rd, or 100000th) signup. I'm not asking you to do this, just pointing you toward new knowledge :)


Who Wants A Friendship Cake?

My mother used to make this cake called a Friendship Cake. A friendship cake is basically a fruitcake that ferments for 30 days. I remember being very excited when my mom announced her intentions to bake these. They were delicious - and this is from a guy who HATES fruitcake. It had this intense flavor, like a poundcake soaked in fruit. It was delicious.

There was this whole superstition that rode along with the making of this cake. Apparently you were supposed to stick the sealed jar of starter under your bed for the 30 days it took to ferment, and it would absorb your dreams. If you have bad dreams, you're supposed to throw the batch out, because it's bad ju-ju.

The way my mom made it, it made 8 small cakes. You were supposed to give 7 away to friends and eat one yourself. Something about the dreams and the good vibes and the effort meant that there was a bond and a unity and whatever. It's yet another one of those weird southern things.

So I've decided to make this stuff. I'm not putting the jar under the bed, though - the cats would likely get drunk and sleep on my face and kill me. So who would like a friendship cake? If you would, hit me up with your address and stuff. I'll toss in a copy of my latest book, and maybe something else. We'll see how creative I'm feeling.

BUT THERE'S A CATCH: You have to send me one of your favorite food stuffs (no poison, please). And if you're not a baker, I'll accept another gift - if you're an artist, send me a drawing. If you're a writer, send me a story.


Two Simple Rules To Be My Friend

I was reading Mrs. Melissa Oyler's blog entry on friendship, and what being a best friend is. And of course, being the smartass I am, I posted that I think the "best" friend is the one who I like the best, because they buy me lots of things (this is true, by the way, but don't let my admission of this fact get in the way of the intent of this post).

Recent events in my life have really distilled a LOT of things down for me. And one of those things is friendship. I used to have all these complicated rules for friendship, most based on trust, and some based on intangibles that I somehow regarded as important. But what I've come to realize is that I actually have two very simple rules for friendship:

1) I feel good around you.
2) I never have to watch my back with you.

Number one simply means that who you are and what you do don't make me feel bad. Now there are many values for "bad" but the one I mean here is "bad about myself." This does not mean you always have to be light and funny and make me giggle like a chipmunk with a Ritz cracker. You can be depressed and in need of a shoulder to cry on and there I'll be, because it makes me feel good to help you. It's really unsophisticated and easy.

Number two is the most important of the two rules, and the rule is very carefully worded. I never have to fear that you will intentionally hurt me. You won't go out of your way to put me out of mine. You won't put me in front of a moving vehicle, especially one you started and lost control of. Accidents happen; people fuck up. That's not this. This is the very deliberate decision to advance at my expense. And note the word "never." This means NOT EVER. Not "I can trust you most of the time."

Friendship is simple. It's being who you are around someone whose being who they are, and the shit just works. It doesn't mean lending someone 500 bucks to get their car out of title pawn or helping a buddy move or anything more than simply being with people you like and trust, who like and trust you.

So if you want to be my friend, the door is wide open. Come on in. Just follow the rules, and we'll be super BFFs.


Fun Facts From 8 Fantastic Years

Today marks the eighth year my wife hasn't wised up and divorced me. I consider myself the luckiest man in the world, and while I wonder daily how long my lucky streak will last, I also don't let any of the amazing moments from the past eight years pass by as whimsy.

Did you know...

- That Andrea actually proposed to me? Well, not on-bended-knee, but in a sense - she made a bet that if she ate an entire dollop of wasabi, I'd buy her an engagement ring. I never in a million years thought she could go through with it, so I agreed. She ate the whole thing - and this is a woman for whom black pepper makes her sweat. The scene is one I'm saving for the next book (HEY LOOK WHAT I DID THERE, A HINT!). But the funniest part is that I had already ordered her ring, which was to be delivered the following month.

- We are renewing our vows this year. Andrea's wedding set is specifically designed to accomodate a ring on either side of the engagement ring - one for the wedding, one for the whatever-event-would-necessitate-my-buying-another-ring. She's been haranguing me for YEARS for that other ring, and we agreed we'd do it for the 10th anniversary. So this year, I got it in my head to surprise her 2 years early with renewed vows and the other ring. Well, one night 3 weeks ago, the story of Andrea's wasabi engagement came up over drinks with friends, and long story short, the table convinced her to try the whole thing again for the 2nd ring. She did. And she was JUST as pissed when she found out I already bought that, too.

- Andrea is the reason Mentally Incontinent (and all my other writing) even exists. There was a night some years back when I felt the entire project was really a huge waste of time. She saved it from being deleted. So thank her if you like the stuff, and blame her if you don't.

- The day of our wedding was also the first day of a MASSIVE construction project to redesign I-85 heading north, which led directly to our ceremony. The entire thing was delayed two hours to allow people to show up and be a part of things. I actually arrived about ten minutes before we were supposed to get married.

- I weighed 375 lbs the day of our wedding, and for our honeymoon, we went to Yosemite. Andrea wanted, more than anything, to do a massive 13 mile day hike across all four peaks at Yosemite, which is exactly what we did. It sucked soooooo much. For her anniversary present this year, I'm taking her back and we're doing the hike with the 110-lb-lighter version of myself.

- My Groom's cake was a hockey rink with the Rangers beating the Canucks for the '94 Stanley Cup.

- Andrea's wedding present to me is a jersey signed by the entire Rangers team the night Wayne Gretzky retired (including, of course, The Great One, right in the center). It's surrounded by items from Gretzky's career, from the Indianapolis Racers through the Rangers, all autographed by Wayne. If there's ever a house fire, and I have one minute to rescue everything from the home, that's the first thing out the door. I'll go back for Andrea next. For the record, my gift to her was a charm bracelet with all the flags of every country we had visited together up to that point. She thought it was sweet, and I did too until I got mine. I realized then I'll never be able to top this woman at anything, ever.

- When we got married, the country was at war with Iraq and Afghanistan and the economy was in the toilet. Nice that those two touchstones haven't changed in 8 years, they hold such fond memories.