Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Lesson In Online Auctioning (An Extremely Dramatized, barely Spell-Checked, Mind-Dump of Today's Events In Difficult to Understand Chapters)


Every great, epic journey has a long and substantial back-story; this one does not for it is neither great nor epic. The back-story, the character motivations, it was all so simple. I got a record player for Christmas. You see, I grew up listening to records and I loved everything about them.

[Fill in your own nostalgic monologue about records and vintage things, here].

So, to mix with the bags of random finds my father had already given me, I began hunting down my favorite albums on vinyl, the classics that I wanted to be the hidden gems of my collection. I knew it would be a challenge; some were limited edition releases, maybe even out-of-print making them pricy even if I did happen upon them, but whatever. It was an endeavor purely for fun. 

Seven days ago it became something more when I found a jewel I had once given up hope of ever finding. An item that with frightening honesty I can describe as the rarest of my heart’s desires: Sigur Ros, Takk… 2 Vinyl LPs and Etched 10" Record, Deluxe Sleeve. 2005. EMI Original. 

This was the day everything changed and my eyes were opened.

Chapter One: What is Auction?
Online auctions, like gambling, are dangerous. I didn’t know this because I’d never participated in one before. The closest I had come was in tenth grade when I volunteered to be a waitress at my high school’s silent auction sponsored by E.S.P.R.I.T. All I remember from that night was walking smack into the center beam of these double doors while carrying a massive, china heavy tray, with four shallow bowls of soups on it. Disaster was averted by some divine act of unmerited favor, but that was it; spilling soup was as close to the process as I’d been.

I was ignorant then.

Now, things previously hidden were made plain to me. Now, I understand the adrenaline, the sudden terror, and the subtle loss of control in the spiraling vortex that is first-time online auctioning.

This tale, which I will in no way attempt to keep brief, as I am feeling long-winded from all my musing, started 7 days ago when by some act of fate or happenstance, eBay brought to me my desired item, my prec—thing I wanted.

The Takk... vinyl set had only been posted one hour before I searched for it. Zero bids, zero views. It was like I walked in on it getting dressed for sale. What SERENDIPITY! I thought. Then it began in the pit of my stomach, the feeling that something was wrong. A strange and evil foulness fell over joy and the long waited for joining of me to my precious Takk… vinyls. This perfect union was being marred by some dark trickery.

My spider sense was tingling.

Like many, I'd had an eBay account for a number of years but I used it only on items with the “Buy Now” option available. I treated eBay like Amazon for bargain shoppers. And as turned out it was the absence of this button that I was perceiving, for this item there was no “Buy Now” option only the path to placing a bid.

I felt my hopes wane. I didn’t like the idea of bidding on any item, but particularly one which held such powerful sway over me. Bidding and waiting was new and foreign territory and frankly it seemed like a terribly uncomfortable and bothersome ordeal. I wanted no part of it, but I had no choice.

I knew I had to rationalize my plan.

Chapter Two: Into The Crevasse

Though I didn’t want to be in the auction, it would only last for 7 days and I would get in first right at the beginning and keep and eye on things. If I were outbid within a reasonable price, I would try my hand at it again. I then discovered how to set my Max Bid (the level-headed price a mentally stable adult would be willing to part with in order to procure the auction item in question) and then I would wait. If my maximum bid were surpassed I would bow out. It all seemed safe, sanitized and transparent.

“I know exactly what I’m getting into here.”

Even as a novice, that was the logic that led me to take that first step, and with that first step give roots to the seed that would grow to occupy my every waking moment for the next week.

The first two days I checked the website hourly. Common sense reigned briefly and I cut off my supply. I had set my Max Bid and that was that. I had set it right?

At the end of the third day I checked and realized to my near coronary that I had been outbid, but the highest bid was only at $1.80. I investigated further and determined that what had likely happened was that I had entered my Max Bid and then like failing to hit Send on a Text Message, I must not have confirmed the action. Since no one had placed a higher bid until that day I still thought I was winning. This time, I made sure my bid was set. However, this moment of doubt, this misstep allowed the paranoia that common sense had laid to rest to rise up again and begin doing the Macarena in my stomach.

I downloaded the eBay app to my iPhone.

Down I went. I had to make certain that I had cut myself off from all rational points of escape and that I could take this maddening frenzy with me wherever I went. We were bound one to the other.

Three more days passed and every time I looked at my phone I saw that reassuring green notification bar. “You’re the Highest Bidder!” it cheered, the only imaginary bystander in my corner.

“One more day of this,” I told myself. There had been 15 more bids and though the overall price had gone up I was still well within my Max Bid buffer. "Relax. People must realizing by now that their bids keep getting rejected because they can’t win. It's mine and they can't take it from me.”

The water was stagnant. Comfort began to reach its arm out towards me. I still checked the status of my bid religiously. I only refrained from checking it while actually in church as doing so seemed as though it would bring about some devastating blow of swift retribution and I would lose the auction some-crazy-how, just for my selfishness. We couldn’t risk that. I that is, couldn't risk it.

Chapter Three: The Last Day

This morning when I awoke I knew, before looking at any timepiece, that there were four hours left in the auction and I was right.

I couldn’t trust the fact that I had been the unchallenged victor for almost the entire duration of the auction’s lifespan. This last day, these final hours put a knot in my stomach that should have served as fair warning for what lay ahead--and it did--but it couldn't prepare me.

When one hour became 59 minutes I took a screen shot of my browser. It was happening, I was really going to win AND come in way under what I was willing to pay. I made some tea, busied myself and when I returned to my computer, less than twenty minutes remained. I checked my Internet connection. It had been known to fade in recent days and I wasn’t going to take that risk of not being able to see my win in real time.

Five minutes to the end of the auction. The countdown clock's numbers turned red because it felt my heart wasn’t far enough up my throat. I was beginning to show what appeared to be physical signs of anxiety and possibly dehydration, but that had nothing to do with the auction.

At sixty seconds I felt hope nudge me in the ribcage. Could I begin to smile now? Was the first time bidder about to come away with her prize unchallenged?
It was twenty-four seconds to the close of the auction when my green notification bar turned a damning red. I read the words while swallowing my small intestine. “You have been outbid.”

Chapter Four: White Hot Blindness

With twenty-four seconds left to play I was about to get pulled from the game. This is when the veil began to withdraw and I saw this for what it truly was, a sneak attack. The enemy had lulled me into days of peace and plenty; now in the darkest moments before dawn I saw the trap set before me. Naivety mocked me.

A more experienced bidder would have known what to expect, but who was I? I was a minnow swimming with sharks. At the height of my clarity I realized bitterly that after a commanding lead I was going to lose the race by seconds. Like milk about to expire I felt myself starting to turn.

The old song, The Gambler started to hum in my ears. “You gotta know when to fold’em” I started the phase in my head and finished the thought out loud since living alone provides you the luxury of talking to yourself out loud all the time thus increasing the reality or documentary feel of your miserable existence.

Then darkness took me and I became ferocious, consumed by the most basic of animal instincts to fight back. What Max Bid? Suddenly, it wasn’t even about the item I was bidding on. All at once it was about defending my keep. Destroying my enemy. The prize was mine. How dare they, some eight other vultures swoop in and try to snatch her from my grasp. 

At 17 seconds I upped my offer.


It took too many clicks to confirm.

At 14 seconds I upped my offer yet again.

Rejection and Panic.

I threw caution to the wind. My gambler took over and I submitted my last bid with 7 seconds to auction closed. I pressed the Confirm Bid button and waited. It was out of my hands now but I still I was blinded.  There were so many factors swirling through my mind as I watched the digits decline.


What if this person has no limit?


Was this a machine or just some bloke who had successfully completed Mavis Beacon and could put my 64 words-a-minute to shame?


Had I come this far to lose now?  I was gambling that whoever was on the other side of the screen would underestimate me and shoot low in the final seconds. Had I shot too high?


I stepped out of my body for a while, waiting with my Mac's spinning pinwheel. The vinyls were an afterthought. Now I just wanted to win. I wanted to vanquish my foe, to finish on top.


Wait, these dollar amounts are in British Pounds, are you doing this conversation math in your head, correctly?


I burned with power, fear, helplessness, rage until the clock hit zero, still unsure if my last bid had gone through. Had I done enough?

Chapter Five: Winners and Losers

For those who know this taste and seek its sweet nectar regularly maybe today’s battle was trivial. Just one more in a win or lose shoot out. NBD. But I was the underdog. It was my first time in the games and I couldn't go out so cruelly.

I refreshed my browser and only needed to see the color of the bar across my screen to break into shivers. My hands trembled a little, I held them out to verify that they were in fact moving on their own. Then I read the message to myself.

“You’ve won this auction!”  

The banner announced my victory, but it was completely unaware that only now that I had won could I see what I had lost in those last twenty-four seconds. It was all revealed to me.

It all made so much sense. It was never about getting out in front. The last minute didn’t even matter. All the damage had been done in the last twenty-four seconds. In the last seven seconds I understood why it made sense to auction items off in the first place instead of just setting a high price on them and letting them be, even if they are worth it. Winning an auction comes down to timing, stealth and fast WIFI connection. That was what I didn't understand before and that was why it only took an instance to undo my control and resolve. Boundary setting got blown out of the water.

During those seconds, in which I did not breathe, I rallied back from my sneak attack, claimed my prize, became the victor and understood why some people just shouldn't roll the dice at all. Like Gollum, I claimed my precious whilst falling in after her. I ended the day more than $100.00 beyond the level-headed price a mentally stable adult would be willing to part with in order to procure an auction item in question. 

Epilogue: Know Your Foreign Exchange Rates

So, what is the moral of this tale, the lesson to be learnt? Well, firstly I never said there was one so you are quite presumptuous for expecting a decent wrap-up. But however, as both the victor and the victim of my own greed I can warn you: be wary of the White Hot Blindness of the last few seconds. 

As someone who likes once in a while to practice self-control, I can tell you that it makes no sense to make a plan you know you’ll abandon at the first sign of trouble. If that’s the case, keep walking.

Oh! If you’re bidding on something in GBPs and you’re paying in USDs, do not attempt to do that math in your head as the clock winds down and you search for your home keys. Your calculations will be off.

Finally, from the nerd who will finally own all three records included in the Takk…’s Deluxe LP set in 6-10 business days: I guess, choose your battles wisely. Sometimes it's okay to step outside of yourself and do something crazy for a something so random that it makes no sense to anyone else but you. 

Today was the best day of my life

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Bit of Unsolicited Advice Regarding Your Television Watching

Listen, if you consider yourself to be any kind of television connoisseur (or even just someone with relatively high viewing standards and a low tolerance for the Fox network) you would be amiss to go any further in your search for truly brilliant television if you have not already watched the original UK series Life on Mars. Yes, there is an American reinterpretation of the series by the same name, but I urge you, by all that is good and proper and acceptable in polite society not to dilute this masterfully crafted experience with a counterfeit. For what is perfect in its original state needs no reinvention.

I don't know what currently rests atop your totem pole for award-winning television, but as I just finished watching the final episode of--what I now consider to be the standard by which all television must be judged--I feel compelled to declare your pole-topper rubbish.

Life on Mars first aired in the United Kingdom back in 2006-2007, but I only recently became enamored of it this year when my TV Guide, Kristi brought it to my attention. As she cautioned me, I caution you: Life on Mars will absorb you into its psychedelic mind-ride faster than you can admit to only trying meth once.

Your ears will adjust, your pupils will dilate, your heartbeat will race and over the course of 16 quick-witted, hard-hitting, socially unsettling episodes this intelligent British procedural will kick your ass and remix what you thought to be the formula for gripping TV.

I don't know what element of the show will seal the deal for you. Maybe it'll be the 1970's backdrop or the era's impeccable soundtrack. Maybe it'll just be the revival of leather jackets and broad collars. But whatever it is, it will catch you off guard. Then from the first crime scene to the last stomach-churning moments Life on Mars will take you somewhere remarkable.

Somewhere you may just spend the rest of your channel-surfing days trying to get back to.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Dear Diary, The Pigeons are Relentless

So, when I was younger I kept a journal. It was an almost daily collection of my thoughts, fears, excitements, and disappointments all intermingled page by page with the clippings of Seventeen magazine and Rolling Stone. 

If nothing about having filled those pages brings me a hush of pleasant reminiscing, I am at least comforted by the worthwhile and honest subject matter I covered. At fourteen, I was wrestling with the issues of nations. Debating the wilds of the human heart against the head and the little life experience I had in my--even then--chubby gut. Present day, I don't really journal. But, when I do sit down to write to blog--as I have given rare indulgence to doing--the only things I can effortlessly spout off about are usually criminal in their frivolity and likely the cause of my passing fury. 

Today, it's the pigeons turn.

For the second Saturday in a row, Air-Force-trained pigeons have gunned the passenger-side of my vehicle starting at the headlights and polishing off the mess with excellent trunk coverage. 

Consider this cry delivered to them: Why pigeons, WHY?!

The first time it was marginally humorous, now I'm just appalled! And yes, someone has already tried to convince me that since birds lack strong sphincter muscles that the attacks cannot be deliberate. But I know a hate crime when I see one and Lieutenant White Dung has it out for me. That's a fact. 

To the Pigeons:

Listen here, flock of birds I have never seen, and your infamous leader. Your days of target pooping are numbered and I will stop at nothing to bring this fight to your doorstep, birds! NOTHING. NOTHING!!!

A little melodramatic? I didn't think so either. Besides, my attention span is far too short to allow me any sort of proper follow through on my threats. It it also guaranteed that something far more infuriating will get my goat while I'm setting up surveillance equipment for the pigeons. At least now I know that if they, the pigeons, read this blog they will find themselves formally acquainted with the depths of my wrath, and I suppose that is enough.

Also, was part of that line from The Bourne Identity? Three maybe?

Alas, unimportant. The more important thing is that I lower by blood pressure by looking on the bright side. That bright side being that at least the birdies were being mindful of their diet this time around. Last week's order was of an entirely different consistency. 

Damn birds.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Does Anyone Know What 'Literally' Means Anymore?

Is now a good time to rant about something of genuine non-importance? I wasn't sure. Based on my father's example growing up I am left to assume that the best times are during the 6 o'clock news and 'when-it-pertains-to-nothing-else,' but I wanted a second opinion. Too bad I can't hear you advising me not to continue. So, onward.

Recently, I have made an observation that irks me immensely. So immensely does it irk me that I would gladly have forfeited the original observation just to be rid of the damn thing altogether!  I don't know if this is the fault of texting, or instant messenging or computers or Al Gore but I have noticed that people--mostly young adults--seem to have lost the original translation of the word, "literally." 

Now, I'm going to make up some history to explain my point.

You see back in uh... Egyptian times the word 'literally' meant something to the effect of, 'in a very strict sense.'  This way, when the little servant dude ran into the Pharaoh's court, bowed, struck his breast and declared--

"Great Pharaoh, reign forever! Your chariot has been trampled under the hoofs of a thousand pre-historic elephants! It has literally been flattened into a single piece of iron no longer fit for your royal transport!"

 --Pharaoh, time-conscious prude that he was,  didn't need to be all like, 

"Whaaaa? Like fo really, really?"

Cause he knew servant dude wasn't playing around. He said literally, which back then meant 'I have already qualified what I said, please continue with the appropriate emotional response.'

Today, in an effort to further waste my precious time, the people who most frequently use the word 'literally' use it with the expectation that I then should have to inquire if by 'literally' they meant 'lit-er-ally' or nothing of the sort. This is a step I find all too annoying and redundant. This is a step I find all too annoying and redundant. 

See what I did there? Precisely. Now, I rant:

If you, the speaker take it upon yourself to use the word 'literally,' why is it then MY responsibility to follow up to make sure that I understand correctly what YOU meant to say? This is ridiculous. Widen your vocabulary. The movie didn't make you literally cry your eyes out. You still have your eyeballs and they are in your head. The movie made you cry a lot -- say that! This way I can go back to being genuinely enthralled in a story that utilizes a word that in short means 'THIS  ACTUALLY HAPPENED." Otherwise you are robbing me of the visuals that inevitably accompany your statement.  

Therefore, the next time someone yells,

"Oh my god, I was so mad, I like literally-shit a brick!" 

You ask that jackass for proof.  


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Netflix Killed the Video Store

There are a number of potential blog entries that float through my mind on a daily basis. The majority of them go untapped on account of sheer laziness really. It's almost a shame that the initiating spark for unsung blog posts such as, "You--Tiny Human, to Whom do you Belong?" are given into my hands to be delivered to the world at large. But alas, a few nuggets make it through. I happened upon one such nugget on the bus today as we passed a BLOCKBUSTER VIDEO. 

Now, aside from the fact that this particular location failed to replace the bulbs on a few crucial letters (the storefront actually read _LO_K_USTER __DEO) there was no real reason for it to catch my attention other than the fact that seeing it, sad and vacant as it was, made me realize that as a contemporary American consumer--the 'video store' is simply a concept I have no more use for. Commence bulldozing.

Be honest, who uses video stores? Most people who still have video store memberships are busy moving to different counties to escape the criminal fines. Let's face it, there just aren't reasons to drive to a building to rent a movie when society has declared, "Packaging be damned! Just gimme the square paper thingy with the clear plastic circle."

And I'm not saying this is anything new. I, in no way, was an early-adaptor to the online movie rental phenomenon. Yet, just a few short weeks of Netflix enrollment has restructured the entire way in which I come into contact with post-theater flicks with enthusiasm that far exceeded my expectations. "What's that Inner-Self? Time to check the mail? The movies I cued up yesterday are here? O delightful morn!" 

It's magic, I tell you. Maybe evil magic.

But some critics (read as, unbelievers drowning in a sea of instant-gratification filth) will complain that it's too long to wait 24-hours to get a movie. What if you are called upon to entertain a group of unannounced slackers? You can't tell them they have to wait until tomorrow to see '27 Pounds' or whatever that new Will Smith tear-jerker is. Certainly, now one must rush to a Hollywood Movie Emporium or Mr. Filmtastic, right? Incorrect, again. While Netflix holds the 'video store' in a headlock, Redbox goes straight for the nads. 

Tough, scrappy and available everywhere, the Redbox movie rental kiosk sniffs twice, wipes its upper lip and asks, "You want ya movie? I got ya movie right heera." 

Though rapidly becoming a common watering hole for lowlifes and change collectors, Redbox offers the selection and the immediacy demanded by the quick-fix movie consumer. Besides, you can forgive yourself for rushing into the world's worst movie rental decision EVER if you only paid a dollar (a day) for it. 

Okay, so here's the last straw. The last reason America needs video stores. Video games! Surely, the three racks of previously scratched copies of Extreme Tournament Golf will keep them coming back for more, right? O dagger in my breast! I guess now would be a bad time to bring up Game Fly dot com, where you can even rent the gaming console?

Your honor, I rest my case. 

There you have it folks, a solid three-point defense. Netflix killed the Video Store. Now, give it a slap on the wrist and send it off to play with iTunes.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A pessimistic Sunday leads to pleasant memories

Do you ever have those Sundays when you wake up far too late in the day to accomplish anything worthwhile? Those are exactly the kinds of Sundays I am used to having.

They aren’t all bad news. By loosing half a day in slumber you save up on those precious calories (yes! 789 left!). But the downside is by the time you get moving everything seems dull at best. The warm sunny skies give way to a neutral weekend gloom, and every television station reminds you that unless you have an interest in golf or poorly written situation comedies you need not tune in. Even your multicolored Cap’n Crunch seem downgraded to a murky Private Chewy. The next thing you know, without your consent, it’s become Sunday Afternoon with your favorite Pessimist, you.

That could have been ‘all she wrote’ for me today, that is until an unmotivated dig through a spool of unmarked cds lead me to a rare gem: what might as well had been a musical time capsule from 2003, the year I graduated from high school.

Suddenly, instead of mindlessly populating a PHP database to the hum of my disaster-prone dishwasher, I was reliving moments from the summer I gained my independence. Musing about Commencement weekend to some poppy anthem by Vitamin C, laughing at my own embarrassment for finding the need to capture whatever drivel Vertical Horizon was putting out at that time. All at once, warm and jovial inside a bubble of melodies and memories and seventeen year old bliss.

How bright and unexpected the moments we happen upon when content to bask in mediocrity.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Presence of childen at WALL-E makes for less enjoyable viewing

So, this is one of those blogs that manifested itself as a single thought only.

I wrote that sentence, the title of this blog, a few summers back when WALL E was wheeling his little treads across the hearts of Americans everywhere. The inspiration for such a comment spawned from the time I went to see the feature early on a Sunday afternoon, evidently before the bedtimes of a relatively talkative batch of tiny humans.

In general, it seems that most people are unopposed to things like "child-like wonder" and "merry-making" and what not, and let it be known that I too am in favor of those things when executed under strict supervision within the proper arena. My point? A movie theater is not the proper arena.

Also--animated classics aren't just for YOU, little people. Go find a grown-up to read this next part and listen carefully, as your tired mothers obviously neglected to tell you this:

First of all, children, not everyone likes you. In fact, there are a great many of us who find you to be selfish, abrasive, unsanitary carriers of disease and bacteria which is largely due to the fact that you are consistently covered in old food. Also, as this is really the point I'm trying to make, you really possess an air of entitlement that bypasses cocky and lands you ass-first within the realm of the just plain absurd. It's not your theater and you have no right to carry on as if it were.

Secondly, just because a movie doesn't have human beings or real sets or Keanu Reeves in, doesn't mean it was made especially for you. As a matter of fact, (and you're going to want to hold on to your Pull-Ups for this one) cartoons were never made for you. Grown-ups have been using them to talk politics, social sciences and trade sexual innuendos over your heads for decades now. Well, I would imagine since their inception in fact (look closely at the cover of The Little Mermaid when you're older). I don't care if you found something WALL E related in your cereal box. Eventually, you're going to have a conversation with some adult about landfills and recycling and Peter Gabriel and then you will know that they would have won.

Or even more likely, you won't.

There. Now, does any of that make sense to you, oh underdeveloped little being? You can send your mothers away now as I hope the rest of this tirade reaches you by the vehicle of an unsettling feeling or the urge to suck your thumb. Maybe next time you'll think twice about yammering on with your insolent questions and detracting from my enjoyment of the mute, robot lovers.

Yes. I'm OLD.

[Update: I like children now.]