Wednesday, March 31, 2004

What's in a name?

"Number 6: Say you're having sex with your wife Kevin, but you're really thinking about supermodel Kevin Schiffer, and in the heat of passion, you yell out 'Kevin!' No problem."
—Top Ten Ways The World Would Be Better If Everyone Was Named Kevin, Late Show with David Letterman

In one Seinfeld episode, Kramer suggests to Mayor Dinkins' campaign advisor a new law where all New Yorkers would be required to wear nametags so we could pass meaningless pseudo-conversation to each other, "Hi ya, Sam. How're you doing, Joe?" Forget for a moment the false familiarity that we New Yorkers — at least those of us who score higher on the sanity test than Kramer does — go out of our way to avoid, has any one considered the enormous variety of bizarre New York names that we should all be just a little afraid to pronounce unassisted? There's umlauts and cedillas, silent consonants and crazy confusing vowel placements, not to mention that 'o' with the slash through it — "the chemical symbol for boron," in Jerry Seinfeld's words. (Its official name is "Latin capital/small O with stroke, although in Danish and Norweigan it's just Ø.")

And someone's name isn't the sort of thing you can screw up either. It encapsulates an entire person in a few phonemes — fuck up someone's name and it's like you bought them a kitschy, crappy, misgendered Christmas gift, which they'll open when they celebrate Hannukah. It's easier to just stay silent, or else stick with some childish nickname such as "dude," "bro," or, if it's been a bad day, "dickweed."

"Remember that a man's name is the sweetest sound to him in any language."
--Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

I guess the only redeeming quality of my name is that it's tough to screw up. Unfortunately, it's also a letter of the alphabet, and not even a popular letter at that. I should've been named "Eeee." Well, at least my parents weren't so nuts as to call me "Latin capital/small O with stroke" or "chemical symbol for boron," although in the latter case, I guess I could've been "Chem" for short.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

I discovered a new online game the other day: Snowbowling. It's the best game ever, at least among games that don't involve bloody flying body parts. I think it appeals to that part of me that wants to hit ice skaters with giant snowballs.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

This semester, I signed up for a Buddhist ethics class because I thought it would be sixteen weeks of Zen meditation, sound-of-one-hand-clapping, at-one-with-the-universe tranquility. The professor, Bob Thurman, is one of Columbia's "star" professors, the first Tibetan Buddhist monk (now ex-monk) from the West, and personal friends with the Dalai Lama; apparently, he's the celebrity within the Buddhist academia community that his daughter Uma is in the real world. In his mind, however, he's the real celebrity, and that entitles him to be pompous, intolerant, and pigheaded and, to be honest, for a Buddhist, he's a bit of an asshole. It can't help that his class is full of sycophants and toadies.

Anyway, the reason I told you that is so I could tell you this: Columbia receives millions of dollars in federal research grants for the purpose of torturing monkeys. PETA is duly up in arms over three experiments in particular. In one, monkeys smoke cigarettes in order to determine (a) whether smoking is bad for monkeys and (b) whether the audience of Comedy Central's "The Man Show" thinks cigarette-smoking monkeys are funny. Now, it's obvious to anybody with the intelligence and good taste to read my blog that the answers to those burning questions are (a) "monkeys don't smoke, silly" and (b) "yes, but smoking monkeys don't elicit the same false self-esteem that a midget in a beer keg does," but you have to understand that this is science and scientists don't read my blog. At least not yet.

The other two experiments involve surgically removing one of a monkey's eyeballs and then cackling maniacally, or performing a caesarian section on a pregnant monkey, implanting a metal plate in the monkey fetus's skull, and then stuffing the fetus back inside its poor mother. To what nefarious end this research will be put, I can only imagine. (Maybe they're looking for a way to keep monkey fetuses from getting through airport security.) PETA claims that this research serves no purpose whatsoever; I'm a bit skeptical of that position — no one gives away millions of dollars for something that serves no purpose whatsoever — but I have a feeling that whatever the end goal of this research is, it doesn't justify monkey torture.

Now, Buddhists believe that all sentient life is to be respected because, in one or another past life, every sentient creature was at one time your mother. (So that means in a past life, your father was your mother. Eeeewwww.) And Bob Thurman's reaction to the news that Columbia was sponsoring monkey torture was characterized by the non-violent Green Party fervor that characterizes just about everything he says or does. In class, he told us that he sent a letter to some faculty research advisory committee that reports directly to Satan, er, I mean Columbia's president Lee Bollinger (I sometimes confuse him with Satan), saying that if Columbia did not withdraw its support of monkey torture, he would have to resort to quote activist channels unquote. Specifically, he would lock himself in a cage in the middle of College Walk until the monkeys were free.

God, it still makes me laugh.

Okay, first of all, if you really believe that it's immoral to keep monkeys caged in a lab for the purpose of giving them cigarettes or ripping out their eyeballs or implanting metal plates in their poor simian fetus skulls, then wouldn't you also believe that it is moral to break into the lab late at night, free the monkeys, and send them to a refuge where they can live out the rest of their grossly deformed lives in peace? Why waste time sending letters to an apathetic administration when monkeys are being mutilated as we speak? Oh, yeah, my idealism almost made me forget: consequences.

But, but... he's going to lock himself in a cage in the middle of a public street (and order a hamburger, just so the PETA people don't start thinking they can take advantage of him). Am I the only one who sees something a little ironic here? I mean, if I were evil enough to torture monkeys for my own amusement — and I'm not, okay? — then I'd definitely be evil enough to torture monkeys for the pleasure of walking to work every day and passing this distinguished professor, fifty-something years old, a wild man with a lazy right eye screaming at me from inside a cage, possibly throwing his own waste around. Gee, it's almost enough to make me hope they come up with some more repugnant experiments they can perform on monkeys, or better yet, the audience of "The Man Show."

Besides, with Thurman locked in a cage — no class. 8-)

Friday, March 26, 2004


"I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore!" As anyone who knows me can attest, it's true. I didn't stick my head out the window at yell into the city because, well, it would just seem insane. Maybe it really is a popular sentiment, maybe it resounds with the legions of the disenfranchised and alienated and exasperated, but when there's just one person yelling into the night — when it's just me, all alone — nobody wants to hear about it. Which sort of defeats the point seeing as that's why we're mad as hell.

So I posted the quote on my away message, since it's not like I'm on television or anything. But maybe someday.

Okay, so I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore. Now what? I understand how the mere act of yelling at the world is significant: it's an act of defiance, it's a decision to reclaim one's humanity from the humanoid assembly line, it's a Marxist-Kantian-existentialist proclamation, "I refuse to be objectified, I am more than a means to an end, I choose to make my mark on the world."

But -- then -- what? I posted my little away message, and, and I recited my new mantra, and then... I still seem to be taking it.

My fight against the establishment isn't going very well.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

"Oh, no, Passions is stupid. They're all just a waste of time," Erica told me. "Except for Days of Our Lives. You get so into it, you really want to know what happens to these characters. I'm telling you, Jay, I'm gonna get you hooked." Seems unlikely, thank God. I always kind of assumed that these soap operas were a sort of serialized chick flick, the softest of softcore porn for repressed housewives. But I had no idea how little I'd care about the melodramatic town of Salem, it's botox addicted inhabitants, and the anti-duende permeating the whole damn show.

And I'd like to spoil something for the fans. I know why Marlena's killing off the entire cast: they're freaking irritating as hell. All of them — the senile gray-wigged woman talking to history's worst special-effect ghost; Celeste the whiny, timorous psychic; Shirtless Guy and Pregnant Woman With Flour In Her Hair; Hope the boxy-headed, mildly competent police detective who's always in a meeting wink, wink — have an amazing ability to drive normal people who aren't on ecstacy crazy with their histrionics and exposition. I'm sure it comes with being rich and self-absorbed.

"I think you're the murderer, Marlena."
"Oh yeah?"
"Yeah, and I'm gonna prove it." Next time on Days of Our Lives

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Sylvia: So, tell me how your play's going.

Jay: Oh, it's done. I finished it! Well, the first draft, anyway.

Sylvia: Hey, that's great! What's next?

Jay: Second draft. 8-)

Dr. Schlessinger: Tell me about Sylvia.

Jay: Well, let's see... Sylvia is from Mexico by way of Los Angeles. When you see TV dramas about people who live in L.A., Sylvia's like that: she's outspoken and vivacious, she gets around like things don't stick to her, and next week will be a whole new adventure. She was approached by the Rose Bowl Parade Or Something people in California to be one of their Rose Princesses or whatever they have, but they wanted her to be "more Mexican" and she turned them down. She strikes me as someone who doesn't need the ego-stroking. She's the president of Columbia's Chicana Causus, although I'm not sure what that is, and she does all this volunteer non-profit work — stuff for immigrants, I think, probably other stuff too — and she knows all these Columbia bigwigs. She's a lot less disenfranchised than I am. She's the type of person I never thought I'd be friends with.

Dr. Schlessinger: Why not?

Jay: Well, cause I'm a loser. And she's popular. There's probably a lesson somewhere in there about not judging people, but I don't think I'm going to learn it.

Monday, March 22, 2004

As insipid as class elections are, let's all agree to the following: even though it's not like there are any real issues in the election, you still can't run on a platform entirely devoted to bringing the Intrepid party back to Columbia. Now, before we go any further, I'm going to state for the record that I'm entirely against the administration's cancelling the Intrepid party. Even though I've never actually gone, I understand that one night a year, Columbia undergrads, less than two weeks from getting their Ivy League degrees, get drunk early in the evening, head out to the Intrepid and drink some more, and then, around three in the morning, stagger across the West Side Highway and get hit by an eighteen-wheeler. I say good for them, but for some reason, the Columbia bigwigs had a problem with this and cancelled the event.

And so, into the election season comes the "Party Hum" party, promising to bring back the Intrepid party.

Here's an idea. Maybe if, heaven forbid, people could behave themselves, the administration wouldn't have to cancel the party.

Lousy kids.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

The 246th Graduating Class requests the pleasure of your company at the

Senior Class Dinner
Monday, April 26, 2004
8:00 p.m.
South Lawn Tent

Five course meal and wine will be served.
Dress is semi-formal. Reservations are absolutely required.

RSVP online, individually or in groups of 5 or 10, by
Monday, April 19

Let's see how many things are wrong with this...

Exhibit A: "the pleasure of my company?" Obviously the 246th senior class doesn't know me very well. It's not like I'm making plans to sully and dampen what will surely be an affected, jovial affair. Yet.

I mean, I might have suggested having a Carrie-themed prom, but it's not like I actually brought the pig's blood or anything. It's just hard to bring pleasure and frivolity to a group of people who don't even snicker when you tell them that Carrie thing. Please. And when I come to the party with the pleasure of my company, don't ignore me. That just makes me want to use my telekinetic powers to kill people.

And it's semi-formal. Nothing makes me a source of pleasure like a tie choking me.

Location: a tent on the South Lawn. A tent???? What, are we going camping? You know, how come I keep getting the less-than-ambitious event planners? I bet the NYU seniors get their graduation meal at Atelier or Nobu, we get the state park. I mean, at the junior prom, at least we had a real floor.

Reservations are absolutely, postively, one thousand percent — no, one million percent — required.

Fine, but I've got a solution. I'm throwing a party, and it's gonna be killer. This Saturday, at a very swanky, exclusive location. Free booze, clothing optional (for the girls, I mean). Sending out notices to the whole senior class: "Awesome party. Saturday night. You're not invited."

Best part is I don't even have to throw a party. See how all you like feeling insignificant.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Having a bumper sticker on your car has to be the ultimate sign of a lack of faith in humanity. Not that there isn't something sublimely ridiculous about trying to broadcast four-inch high message from the back of a vehicle going sixty-five miles and hour, but is there really anyone on the planet whose mind is so weak as to be seriously influenced by one of these ads? "Well, the guy I'm tailgating is voting for Kucinich. Sounds good to me!"

Friday, March 19, 2004

Tragedy is Easy... Comity is Hard

I'm a people person, by which I mean, "I am a person, and I haven't throttled the living daylights out of anyone yet, even though they most likely deserve it." I should probably add that to my resume.

Part of me, the part of me that dreams of being world dictator — and not some pussy world dictator, either, who'd tell James Bond his plans to obliterate the world before sending him off to some ridiculous Rube Goldberg-style death contraption that would inevitably have a loose screw or faulty transister, allowing Bond to escape with some lame one-liner, but the type of world dictator who'd shoot Bond before throwing him into the shark pit because I honestly couldn't care less whether the sharks liked their dinner struggling or not — wonders what dropping this passive-agressive veil of comity and world peace for a moment would be like. I could call my fellow human beings on their rudeness, their antisocial behavior, and their downright inability to follow the Golden Rule before fantasizing about sending them to the catch-all plutonium mines.

I'm not sure what would happen.

I imagine that people would budge. There would be a catharsis: I'm no longer insignificant; I yelled, "Move, asshole!" and this asshole got out of my way with only a mutter, lamenting his own new-found insignificance in my world. People would treat me. With respect. What a wonderful world.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Sung-Min arrived back in the dorm last night, and I ran into Uma this morning on the way out to get breakfast. This is very disappointing — my neighbors returning just as I was getting used to having the hallway all to myself. I was thinking of turning Uma's room into some sort of party space, maybe bring in a sound system and some strobe lights. And Sung-Min's room, I'd just use for storage. Specifically, for storing all the things I keep borrowing from Uma.

I'm not sure whether it was my love of animals or my contempt for people that made spending a snowy pay-what-you-wish Wednesday afternoon at the Bronx Zoo a perfect yesterday. Most of my zoo memories come from the annual elementary school field trips to Scotch Plains' own Terry Lou Zoo, which was more like a North Korean animal prison than a refuge, at least until they shut the poor place down. A corpse-and-manure miasma permeated the entire zoo, as well as the surrounding neighborhood, and if I felt that Fanwood and Scotch Plains were confining, I have an unlimited reserve of sympathy for the Terry Lou elephant held in a cage slightly smaller than my dorm room.

Not that the zoo was really full of bad memories or anything; when you're in second grade, you're too impressed with the fact that you're feeding a giraffe to give a crap about animal cruelty. It's just that the Bronx Zoo animals seem less domesticated, like they haven't resigned themselves to being put on display in a lame New Jersey town. Some of the animals, like the gharials and tropical birds, weren't even behind plexiglass, and there was only a single thin wire and a ditch separating the humans from the Sumatran rhinoceros. Around closing time, I struck up a conversation with an ornithologist carrying a long, metal ornithology stick. It's always nice to have someone who can point things out to you: the male hornbill was regurgitating food for his chicks and the birds can be kept out in the open because they tend to fly toward the skylights in the ceiling and because they have no roosting areas and nowhere to land outside of their exhibit. Fascinating stuff. It's the type of place that makes you re-consider your career choice, until you realize that you'd probably make a pretty bad zoologist, considering how at one point in the day, you said to no one in particular, "Oh, my God, they're humping! Get the camera!"

And this seems like an appropriate time to address the gay penguin controversy at the Central Park Zoo. In my opinion, what two consenting adult sphenisciforms do on a fake glacier in front of hundreds of tourists too scared to travel to the Bronx is between them, their zookeeper, and God. If only we all were so lucky to find a penguin-for-life...

Besides, four words: hot lesbian penguin pair-bonding!

News flash: Al-Qaeda does not endorse Gay Penguin for president. Instead, as might be expected, Al-Qaeda endorses Bush.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Funny, I was passing through the old Sparknotes neighborhood today, and for a moment there, I thought about stopping by and visiting the old crew, or as I call them now, "those greedy little assholes who'd probably sell their own children if it could earn them a buck or two." And then I thought, "But what would I say?" I'd have to tell them what I've been up to since they ignominiously laid me off:

"Well, guys, I have to say, things are going pretty well since I saw you all last. I've been getting out, taking advantage of the city, you know. Especially when it's nice out, sort of like it is today. I mean, it's sunny and it's not too cold, really a perfect day for reading in the park or window shopping in the West Village. And it's really nice to be able to take advantage of these beautiful days, too, and not be all trapped in a stuffy little office like, well, like this. Really experience everything life has to offer, you know, waking up in the morning exuberant to be alive. You don't really get much of that feeling when you spend eight hours a day staring at a computer or in meetings with suit-and-tie wearing corporate drones or answering the phone for a boss who's old enough to do that kind of stuff for himself. But that's just my opinion. Oh well, once you retire, thirty-five or forty years from now, you and your walking cane and your Metamucil will have plenty of time to relax and enjoy life. Or at least, you'll all have time to relax and enjoy life. Anyway, I'll let all of you get back to work now — gotta make a lot of money for somebody else..."

Sparknotes sucks! 8-)

Modern Art II

If there's anything the contemporary art world needs more of, it's Eurotrash. That's why my visit to P.S.1 in Queens was so disappointing: on a typical day, New York's Eurotrash community is too busy primping each other in dim Spring Street bars to head out to Long Island City, and I can sit peacefully in James Turrell's Meeting room or wander the museum's labyrinthine stairwells without running into a single lanky Cooper Union-grad with girly hair and girly glasses yammering about his opening in Barcelona next week. But no such luck yesterday; it was the International Visiting Artists Open Studio Day, and the place was a beehive swarming with Eurotrash and their unfiltered cigarette smoke.

You know, I was just thinking maybe I'm miffed that these pompous, driveling, wispy artist-types seem to have the social skills that I lack, and yet they remain bereft of the shame and puerile haplessness that oozes out of me. Or maybe the art community is just a clique of self-important bastards who wouldn't know bad art if it sat on them. Either way.

So, in this spirit of contempt, I'd like to propose my new rules for art galleries:

  1. Kids under eight pay triple. Just because the damn thing came out of your body doesn't mean it's cute, and it certainly doesn't mean I want to hear the damn thing screaming. Besides which, what the hell is a little kid going to get out of an art museum anyway, besides possible post-expressionism trauma. If you wanna fuck your kid up for life, read the little pain in the neck Naked Lunch as a bedtime story.

  2. No making out inside the installations. This one ought to be obvious, but alas, there were a few young members of the Eurotrash community who figured that just because Justin Lowe's otherwise evocative installation had plush cushions and a thick rug lining the floor, it was an ideal spot for a heavy-petting session. As a corollary to this rule, if you're not allowed to take photographs there, you're not allowed to make out there, either. In fact, how about we make this one really simple: until I'm getting some, no making out, anywhere, anytime, with anyone. Period.

  3. No more twenty-minute video pieces where every one of the last 1,196 seconds is exactly the same as the first four. We can find better uses for celluloid than this, can't we?

  4. If I can make it, and I can't understand why it's hanging in a museum, then it doesn't belong in a museum. This includes lame conceptual art, like Jin-Hua Shi's going around Manhattan measuring the lengths of things with a pair of dirty underwear, as well as color fields, proto-expressionism, and random scribble on canvas. And don't try telling me that you're "trying to break the rules of light and shadow, tenebrity and chiaroscuro" or you're "exploring the disconnect between 'reality' versus reality-no-quotes." Honestly, you're just embarrassing yourself, and you're not fooling anyone. Except already brain-damaged art critics.
  5. Just because it's a drawing of people doing it, doesn't make it art. At least Playboy pretends to have content.

Modern Art

Can we all just agree that contemporary art is a waste of everyone's time and brain cells?

But I don't want to talk about art, really. It's just that I spent the day on my feet at those so-called bastions of high culture -- art museums, although I personally don't see how anyplace where some pissy, crying toddler in a stroller gets in for free while intelligent adults have to pay an entrance fee could be called cultured -- and I got more than my fill of oil paint splatters on canvas, thank you very much. There was a show at the Met: Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration. The prints were worthwhile; the process and collaboration, not so much. After all, if you've seen one lithograph plate, you've seen them all -- it's a bit like opening your car's hood, taking out the transmission, and then hoping it does something interesting.

In fact, since the Met has two large rooms full of what amounts to a total of seven or eight different prints, it's more like taking out the transmissions of every car on a dealer's lot and hoping that one of them will do something interesting. I suppose that I could be overwhelmed by the detail and effort Close put into his work, but I'm not. He's an artist, that's his job, and it sure beats some guy who works for an investment firm and has to write a hundred and fifty page annual shareholders report.

Maybe I'm just misanthropic. 8-)

Saturday, March 13, 2004

There's a cafe on St. Marks Place where you can get a cappuccino... and a tattoo. How beautifully East Village. Next thing you know, they'll open some place where you get crackers and fois gras as an appetizer for your clitoris piercing.

Friday, March 12, 2004

7:05 -- Jay arrives at the gym, wearing sweatpants. He feels self-conscious.

7:09 -- Jay is exhausted.

7:15 -- Jay decides he needs some variety in his workout routine.

When I was in high school, my mom joined the gym at the local YMCA, and she "encouraged" me to come along and exercise with her. It's been something like eight years, and my mom still goes to the gym regularly. I, on the other, quit after about three weeks. You see, of course when you go to the gym, there will always be those enormous hyperactive-pituitary guys who can lift the entire stack of weights with one hand. And there are the inevitable stick-figure women who carry their non-stick yoga mats with them at all times and, when they're not busy doing downward facing dog or brave warrior pose or stretching their leg behind their head, they're blabbing incessantly about the miracle of wheat germ smoothies. And the guy who can't figure out the NordikTrak for the life of him. But... but, but, but since the YMCA isn't one of those real gyms that you see advertised on TV, there are also a lot of elderly people, sweatbands around their withering figures, hobbling into the gym with their walkers, over to the machine I was just using, and lifting more weight than I was. That was just never very good for my already frail ego.

7:22 -- Bad news: Jay feels like he's going to puke. Good news: Jay is too nauseous to feel self-conscious about his sweatpants. He still feels self-conscious about his posture, though, not to mention the fact that the gym is a good place to get a hard-on.

7:28 -- Jay decides it's time to leave. He's been here twenty-three minutes, even though the guy with great abs on the TV commercial says it only takes eight minutes.

7:29 -- Stretching. Jay doesn't really know why it's important, but he's overcome with this vague feeling that he should do it. Maybe that's what they mean by "runner's high."

7:31 -- Jay stands around in the gym, realizing that he doesn't know how to stretch. He fakes it.

That's the catch-22, you know? I don't particularly like being a wuss who's been known to get that clammy feeling simply walking to the gym, but I'd rather be a wuss than a wuss in an environment where everybody's reminding him just how much of a wuss he really is.

Oh, I almost forgot... 6:56 -- Jay eats three brownies, kind of defeating the whole purpose of exercising in the first place.


So you've arrived at my blog. I take this to mean that you're morbidly interested in every trifling detail of my life. Please don't start stalking me. And enjoy the reading.