Wednesday, June 30, 2004

What am I supposed to say when someone tells me they majored in communications? And when they say it with a big, dumb, communications-major grin on their face like they just cured cancer or something?

Smile and nod, Jay. Smile and nod.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

My perpetually despondent gym career hit a new low at the YMCA this morning when, while struggling with an assisted chin-up, I spotted an elderly gentleman come in with an oxygen tank on wheels following him closely. Now, since I've returned to the Y after six or seven years in absentia, let me make a brief correction to my gym story-excuse: not all of the elderly people at the Y, and there is quite a large population of those proto-zombies there, can lift more weights than I can. Like, today, for example, there was this corpulent woman in her mid-to-late fifties, and she got exhausted after doing a plate and a half on the chest press. (Oooh, that sounds dirty — yet kind of nasty when used in the same sentence with "corpulent woman in her mid-to-late fifties"...)

But anyway, back to the old man of the hour. First, he's on the exercise bike, so there's no real basis for a Jay-to-elderly-man-with-personal-oxygen-supply comparison.... Part of me hoped he'd pass out so I could stop feeling insecure and taunt his exhausted body: "Boo-yah! Who's your gym master? Me, bitch! Yeah!" (I was going to write "drop dead" instead of "pass out," but I'm afraid that my reader doesn't share my moribund sense of humor here.) Next up, he's doing the pullover, which is a retarded machine — it's like an ab-roller with a seatbelt — and besides I'm too busy trying to figure out if that's Meghan Mele on the Stairmaster and if it is her, whether she remembers my name or is just smiling at me to be friendly and either way whether I should go over and say something that would probably sound awkward and pathetic to her. That reminds me, there's some high school yearbook pictures I need to look through.

And then, he starts on the chest fly and I count him doing one, two, three, four weights. That's the same number I do! He isn't stronger than me! Or, to put it another way, I am as strong as an old man who can no longer rely on the atmosphere to keep him alive.

Next time... next time, Jay, you're doing sixty sit-ups and twenty chin-ups and seven plates on the chest press.... I'll beat his emphysemic ass in weightlifting yet!

Also, there's this other at-least-in-his-sixties guy at the Y who does about fifteen plates on the chest press. He challenges my masculinity, but, you know what, I think he's on steroids. Maybe I should report him.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

In Memoriam

My aunt's dog, Snookie, died the other day. She was fourteen years old, drooling like a beagle, and barely able to walk anymore. I never got to know her as well as I would've liked — I don't see my aunt more than once every couple of years — but I know she was a sweetie who could reduce a grown adult to coddling baby-talk and kissing her shaggy face. Snookie will be missed.

 Posted by Hello

 Posted by Hello

 Posted by Hello

Friday, June 25, 2004

What's worse than being the sort of person who can never think of a good retort is being the sort of person who thinks of a good retort, only months or years too late, after the conversation has been forgotten to the annals of minutiae. Case in point — a morning by the Broadway Hall elevators:

Jay to Uma: Are you and Sung-Min alright? I heard you two screaming last night.

Uma: Yeah, he was showing me "Jackass: The Movie." It's so stupid. Who likes that stuff?

I forget what I said, but since I was trying to impress her, it probably came off sounding retarded and not nearly as piercing as what I should've said...

Jay: Well, darlin', it's an outlet for his latent homoerotic angst.

It's trenchant and true! 8-P

Thursday, June 24, 2004


Pre-adolescent "awkward age," my ass. We all went through junior high, so maybe it would be nice if we could all pick up the simple lesson that it might not be half as awkward if the education specialists and the developmental psychologists and the superintendant and board of education could just keep their damn mouths shut and quit making the generalizations. True, some of us struggled through an awkward phase in junior high — and it seems like some of us, ahem, haven't quite outgrown it yet — but the junior high I remember was a second home to the R.J. Milligans and Cara Bristols of Scotch Plains and Fanwood, too. The more urbane end of the awkward spectrum.

I spent lunchtime in middle school vacillating between two tables at the far end of the cafeteria, first sitting with the band-and-comic-book nerds and then sitting with my posse — my six classmates who were (are) even less socially adroit than I was (am). God, I hope they're still clumsy enough to make me look like Mr. Big. I don't need Josh Hamerman showing me up at our high school reunion.

The point is, when do I get to hit my stride? When does the fucking acne subside and the voice not squeak out when I try to get someone's attention? Every now and then, NASA makes some amazing discovery about space, and a spokes-weenie gets on television with his thick Drew Carey-glasses and his anodized astronaut pen sticking out of his shirt pocket and starts going into a wanking frenzy about pulsars and moon rocks. Science geek I am, yet not even a NASA-discovers-bacteria-on-Mars breakthrough can lift me from the funk washing over me when I see myself reflected in this middle aged dorkwad on the TV. No booze, no pot, no clubs, no sports — and it's all cool with me save for the fact that it ain't cool with anyone else.

And that's what I think this whole damn awkward age bullshit is about, and why, in a future life, I dream of coming back as a masked figure who bitch-slaps every uptight mother in the world who won't let her daughter wear lipstick and every dad who thinks MTV is a bad influence. (Don't worry, in a different life, I'll be a masked avenger who dishes out beatdowns to parents that can't control their bastard kids.) My co-collaborator Allison tells her lost and wandering college freshmen to "just be yourself," that's how you'll fit in and make friends. Wrong, wrong, wrong — it's like the seeing leading the seeing. I mean, how 'bout if "yourself" is a total asshole? Just be yourself? Sure, being an asshole never stopped anyone from getting ahead.... But what if you're just a pathetic loser? Then what are you supposed to do?

I'll tell you what to do, and this is why you should buy my soon-to-be-written book instead of Allison's: lose your inhibitions and be the person everyone else wants you to be. No, I don't mean invisible. I mean shamelessly entertaining, uplifting and encouraging and agreeable. Like half Tony Robbins, half Kelly Ripa, with just a pinch of the "Queer Eye" fashion guy thrown in for good measure.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The more I think about it, the less impressed I am with this guy who knows all the answers on "Jeopardy". Sure, it was cool watching him amass $9,200 before anyone else managed to buzz in once, but I think I got this guy pegged: He just rings in on every damn question, and I'm supposed to impressed that he knows the answers? I'm more impressed that he beats the other contestants to the buzzer.

After all, I know most of the "Jeopardy" answers, and most of the "Millionaire" answers, too, but apparently the challenge is getting to your buzzer before the other players. It's one thing to sit in front of the television and shout out answers; it's another to do it for real. I don't think that point has really sunk in — I fly out of my seat like its burning rubber when I answer a two-thousand dollar question that Ken the Jeopardy Genius missed: "Oh, what is 'Prince Maximillian I'? What is 'magnitude'? Fuck, yeah, I knew the answer and that guy didn't! Alex Trebek is my bitch!"

But I get the feeling if I was ever fortunate enough to actually get on Jeopardy or Millionaire, in front of a national audience, I'd denature into a bit more of a pussy. It's easy to shout out the wrong answer and call Alex Trebek your bitch from the safety of your bedroom, but I think I have too much shame to do that in public. They should make a pill for that.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Ain't nothing chomps at my self-sufficiency and masculinity like one of Grandma's coming-to-America stories. To hear Grandma tell it, she came to the country when she was sixteen, not knowing anybody, not speaking any English, as if she woke up one morning and found herself of Mars. But thanks to her wonderful personality and extremely old old-fashioned virtue, she pulled through to become the beloved queen of the bra-making factory where she slaved away for the next fifty-odd years.

"...And you, Grandson, why the hell can't you make friends?" is the tacit end to all of her stories.

Well, these irritating stories do give me a little bit of pleasure, thinking about how all of her friends are dead.

Sunday, June 20, 2004


What would I do if I found out I only had six months left to live?

I'd like to imagine that I'd live my life differently, with more passion and adrenaline, but it just doesn't compute. I could empty out my bank account, try to blow fifty-thousand yen the day before I died, and I'd simply fail. I'd make big plans — cross Europe on the Oriental Express; the richest, fattiest dinner at La Tour d'Argent; ride every roller coaster at every Six Flags in the country — but in the end, I'd probably just spend my last day on earth at a Barnes and Noble, skimming some computer book. I know how I want to blow my fortune, but I still don't quite know how to blow it.

It's sad. My life so far: I remember being alternately busy and frustrated or bored and frustrated. Okay, that's not completely true — I had my moments, much as it pains me to say it. But they're like sunny days in Seattle; you don't go there for the weather. The fact is, I always claimed that my reservations were some mode of self-protective foresight: don't get hammered cause you don't wanna live the rest of your life with a rotted liver, don't tell the greedy dickholes at Sparknotes what you really think of them laying you off cause you might need those bastards as references in the future. But now I think about it, I read all those Chicken Soup for the Soul books (for some reason, back in high school, all my friends thought I needed some spiritual salubrity; as a result, I now own pretty much the entire Chicken Soup for the Soul literature series, including three Chicken Soup journals and the travel-sized Chicken Soup), but it just doesn't work.

Fine, it's ridiculous to live like today's your last day on earth, cause chances are, it isn't. But I thought about it, and that's not the point. Even if I knew today were the end, I'd still live it timorously and apprehensively. I wouldn't live out my fantasies, kiss the Girl, play in the Championships, turn the world into my own personal Make-A-Wish Foundation (holy shit, I despise those goodie-two-shoes helping terminally ill children like suck-ups to God). But, I've been timid so long... now it's part of my constitution. There's no reason behind my behavior anymore, it's just who I am. And I find that very sad.

Friday, June 18, 2004

The Columbia Alumni Federation or something sent me an offer for a $25,000 life insurance policy, with no premiums for the first six months. I'm seriously considering taking it: I mean, if I die before January 18, I get a $25,000 windfall! It'll be like winning the lottery!

Oh, wait a second...

Thursday, June 17, 2004

I got hit by a bus...

...tire. I'm not really sure what happened. After the Dido half of the concert, Rian and I went for dinner. One second, I was walking up Third Avenue, the next something shoved me into a building, and the next there was a tire on top of me for some reason. People came out of the building, asking if I was okay — in general, New Yorkers are a pretty helpful bunch, provided you're not some snooty-ass retarded tourist trying to make over the city into the podunk you came from — and, aside from the fact that a bus tire just clobbered me, I was. I've got a few scratches and a bruise on my leg the color of the tire, but I sort of like the look. I might even keep the just-hit-by-a-smoking-bus-tire look after I heal; it's like I just came off the set of an action movie. I'll probably lie and tell people that I just stepped off the set of an action movie, too.

I hesitate to say it — Rian tells me I can win a bigger settlement if I keep playing the victim here — but it was the most exciting thing to happen to me all week. I wish somebody had been filming it.... On second thought, I'm glad that Rian's the only one who saw it, since I probably looked like quite the doofus. Nonetheless, I found a police officer, who called an ambulance, who called two more police officers, and the paperwork began. The healing did not, however, since all the EMT's did was have me sign a form. A word of advice: don't get sick in New York City.

The whole official angle caused some major confusion, since, as you can see from the pictures below, while the tire was prostrate on the sidewalk, the bus it came from drove off, sans a wheel. We tracked down the bus later; it was parked a few blocks away and not only had the tire fallen off, but so had the brake drum, and its axle was dragging on the ground. I, on the other hand, am not missing any pieces, and I made it much farther than the bus did. So: Jay 1, Bus 0. Victory!

The offending tire Posted by Hello

My triumphant victory over the tire! Posted by Hello

A Completely Impartial Review of the Dido/John Mayer Concert in Bryant Park

No matter what, the concert was a bargain. Anybody could wander into and out of the park, but the powers-that-be set aside a premium area for people who signed up for a Sony credit card, and I have to wonder how many people chose to risk their credit rating just to get up close to the stage. My estimate: a lot. I tried to sneak in, signing up for a Sony credit card with a fake name and social security number, but I failed shamefully when the kiosk girl asked me for ID. Turns out it didn't matter anyway; Rian and I walked into the premium area without so much as a glance from security.

The host for the event was 95.5 FM disc jockey and professional time-waster Rich Kaminsky. He seemed particularly concerned that the audience was having fun — he asked us in that manic music-industry voice if were having a good time whenever he appeared on stage. Well, Rich, we were having a good time, but to be honest, we didn't really come to see you (although it is interesting to put a face to the disembodied radio voice) and we certainly didn't come to watch advertisements for Sony products on the big screens. And although we didn't come to see this amazingly loaded protester doing his scary, spastic white-boy dance, he was by far the most entertaining part of the show. It's tough to describe this freakwad's movements, but he sort of alternated between pretending it was two-thirty in the morning at an iyengar yoga nightclub and pretending that the Holy Spirit entered his body and brought along uppers from heaven. Hilarious, but quite inappropriate — it wasn't a damn Creed concert.

(Off-topic, but thank God Creed finally broke the hell up. Although I guess, in their own strange way, they're kind of convincing in that God exists — remember that story in the Decameron where the Christian tries to convince the Jew to convert by sending him to Rome and letting him see all the miracles of Christianity?)

And then it poured... and if our those goddamn tall people obstructed our view before the umbrellas came out, we really couldn't see anything afterwards. Actually, that's not completely accurate: we could see a few things.


  • Six girls standing right in front of us. They'd forgotten their umbrellas, and were just getting wet. [insert horny emoticon here]

  • A couple hugging and kissing under their umbrella. Eeewww. Public displays of affection make me nauseous. Unless I'm participating in one.

  • Guys taking their shirts off. And apparently, whatever mentality frees frat boys to take their shirts off in the middle of a public park also frees them to rub their chests and play with their man-titties. 8-(
  • Food is some weird, weird stuff. For example, I got a roast lamb sandwich at Tartare for lunch today and, surprised by the fact that I'd unwittingly ordered the lunch special, I found myself goaded into getting a cup of cream of mushroom soup, too. Now, cream of mushrooms... the thought of eating flora makes me wanna puke — kind of like the thought of eating candy corn, except not quite as much — but I'm trying to be gastronomically open, and besides, the only other soup choice was vegetable orzo, which ain't much better.

    Anyway, I open the container, and cream of mushroom soup is this speckled, oily substance the color of, well, fungus. I got a few drops on my spoon, sniffed, and down the hatch: it actually tasted bisquey and good, hardly the mold spore mixture I expected. And if I'd only heard it was the soup du jour, I would've eaten more. But unfortunately, I knew... it's cow-juice and fungus soup. I couldn't bring myself to do anything but sip.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2004

    The Sport of Kings

    What's up with the national dodgeball fascination? Seems like we've all gotten nostalgic for elementary school gym class, but to be honest, dodgeball was (relatively) cute when you were in fourth grade and significantly less so when you're thirty-seven and unemployed. Besides, it's not like we've seen any major recurrence of adults riding Big Wheels™ bikes in circles or climbing on the monkey bars. (Well, there is the Al-Qaeda training video they keep showing us of the Afghani dude doing the monkey bars at that training camp.... Could the media please stop showing it? Seriously, we're not scared of that guy — he's doing the freaking monkey bars for Christ's sake. I bet after that he plays on a tire swing or something. Asshole.)

    See, my theory is that we're all so filled with rage and frustration and... uh, what's a synonym for "rage"... and fury that we fantasize about pegging total strangers with a red rubber ball. I mean, it's a bit more legal than beating them over the head with a two-by-four or hitting them with a Volvo.

    At least, that's my theory. I haven't actually played dodgeball since fifth grade, and in six years of dodgeball — which, I have to say, is the longest I've stuck with any sport — I've never been pegged and I only got one person out. In fourth grade, about two-thirds of the way through the year, I caught that British kid Oliver's ball — and he was good at the game — sending him to the sidelines and significantly boosting my dodgeball self-esteem. And now, come to think of it, my classmates did give me my dodgeball props, and I was no longer picked last for teams. I'd moved up, as if fourth-grade phys ed were the Billboard charts, to third or fourth from last.

    Gotta say as an aside that Mr. Dubrowski, the Coles School gym teacher, was suprisingly fair about picking team captains. And hypocrite that I was (am), as team captain, I always picked Oliver or Jason or Kevin Brenner or R.J. Milligan first too. I can sense your disapproval as I write this but, hey, I wanted to win.

    That's what I remember about dodgeball. It wasn't the hell most other people recall, but it certainly wasn't worth turning into a game show or a movie (okay, maybe a Ben Stiller-quality movie). I don't quite get the appeal because most of real dodgeball memories involve me hiding behind the multi-purpose room stage steps or proscenium with Becky Gindin. Mr. Dubrowski was too busy keeping track of which of the approximately five-thousand kickballs currently in play were slugging our classmates to notice the young love blossoming sub-rosa in the recesses of the gym. For some reason, I just don't feel like that's the point of dodgeball.

    No, the point of dodgeball is, as I said, taking out your anger at the world on some pathetic shlub who can't get out of the way fast enough. Problem is: right sentiment, wrong time. On the dodgeball range (Court? Field? "I'll meet you down at the karate rink!" -- Tom Servo), no one's actually in your way. Being a middle-aged dodgeball player would be infinitely less pitiful if, out of nowhere, you hurled a kickball at the greasy guy who always holds the elevator door open for his slow-ass friend or an old lady who insists on paying for her groceries in nickels and pennies. Think of how much more smoothly the world would operate if everyone carried around a large rubber ball for just such a situation!

    Final note: I guess some nerds, dweebs, dorks, and doofuses got themselves elected to New Jersey public office. As of November 18, 2002, dodgeball is illegal in the state of New Jersey.

    Sunday, June 13, 2004

    Mary-Kate and Ashley are finally legal. We could be celebrating... or we could be feeling bad for that girl who played Stephanie on "Full House." I mean, while the Olsens were making video after direct-to-video video, what has Jodie Sweetin been up to? Probably wishing she'd been born a twin, that's what.

    Saturday, June 12, 2004

    If there are two things I remember about my high school guidance counselor, the first was her astounding ineptitude and inability to answer routine questions regarding the high school microcosm. The second was her answer to one of those questions, something she told me about making friends that, in hindsight, reveals the full extent of her cluelessness. It was freshman year, and all my friends from middle school were too busy ingratiating themselves with the likes of Jess Biegelson and Dave Frank to remember that, excuse me, hell-lo???, we used to be friends. Cliques were forming, and I they were kind of leaving me out. I didn't have a therapist back then, and my parents are about as helpful in these matters as a fortune cookie, and I figured my guidance counselor was supposed to be some sort of advisor.

    So I went to her, I told her that I was having trouble making friends and everybody else already settled comfortably into their little groups. Here's what she said to me; I still remember her exact words. "Well, I know that even if I already had a group of friends, if another person wanted to be my friend, I would be friends with them."

    Okay, even at the time, that statement wasn't particularly helpful. I only realize just how out of touch my guidance counselor was now, after experiments with the high school Harry Potter misfits, the band geeks, the suitemates freshman year of college, the film students, the Asian Hum students, the creative writing students, and the neuro‑neighbors. It's not a big mystery; what I really don't understand is why nobody just bothered to tell me how to make friends.

    So, for the benefit of all you loners out there, I'll tell you how it's done.

    • Step 1: Find another person. This is critical, because no matter how much you try, your pet or XBox or doll collection will never make quite as satisfying a friend as another person. I'm telling you that from experience.
    • Step 2: Interact with that other person. This is the hard part. You might need to make some excuses here.
    • Step 3: Repeat step 2. A lot. Correction: this is the hard part, especially once you run out of excuses.
    Point is, making friends is, at least conceptually, nothing enigmatic. Just hang out with someone long enough for him or her to succumb to your winning personality.

    Thursday, June 10, 2004

    Call me...

    Something got into me last night and I looked up some of my old high school classmates on It appears that seven people have checked out my profile, which is seven more people than I ever expected to give a crap. Better yet, I'm pretty sure that at least five of those people aren't me. Unfortunately, we have something of a mystery on our hands, since it doesn't look like there's any to find out who those seven people were. So, if you are one of those people who checked out my profile, please e-mail me and let me know. I'm kind of curious.

    Also, who the hell was "Herbert Ropentstein"? If that's like a fake name or something, it doesn't have the same substitute-teacher giggle-factor as "I.P. Freeley".

    Wednesday, June 9, 2004


    One weekend back at home, I stumbled over this photo from my third grade birthday party. It was just sitting in my desk drawer, probably in more or less the same spot for the last twelve years or so. Funniest picture ever: my little friends and I, sitting at one of those faux picnic tables they had at that low-rent Sports Park USA-knockoff they had (still have?) there in Edison, with a pudgy, pouty Andrew Schwartz looking indignant into the camera. You've gotta remember that this was the kid, nine years old, who, at the Loewingers' birthday party a few months back, ate an entire medium-sized pan pizza. He was a little piggy.

    Naturally, since Andrew and I no longer keep in touch, I wanted to bust out this picture for the rest of my friends, so we could share an evil laugh at someone else's expense. So, I went to find this photo which, mind you, hadn't moved more than five inches in the past decade-and-then-some, and it's gone! Now how will Aneesa and Val and I make fun of the formerly obese?

    So, I'm searching for this lost photo. I'd post "Lost Photo" signs on all the electric poles around town, but I don't have a picture of the photo to use. Instead, I'm searching through all my albums, through loose photos in my desk drawer, through those envelopes you get from the photo developing places. It's fun, going back, re-discovering old memories — makes me feel like an archaeologist. It's less fun when I found something and then lost it again 'cause I'm like an archaeologist without a sensible organizational scheme.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2004

    Words of wisdom from that big dude on MTV's Pimp My Ride: "You can't pimp a ride, wittout a engine." Damn, that be poignant, yo.

    Can someone please explain the appeal of that specialty food store "Trader Joe's?" Is it that it's decorated like a supermarket and a gay yacht club had a baby together, with the hardwood shelves and life preservers hanging from the ceiling and cashiers all wearing luau-style shirts? Or is it all the low-carb, all-natural, organic vegan macrobiotic gluten and wheat germ crap they've got there? Either way, every time I go there, I feel like I've gotta wash the seaweed and driftwood off of me as soon as I get back home.

    Yet for some reason, people seem to love the place. Even my parents, who are so fad-oblivious that they think Britney Spears is a waitress at the Sun Tavern, have somehow jumped on the Trader Joe's bandwagon, and our house is full of an eclectic smattering of outpost food: Trader Joe's soy sauce and Trader Joe's cheap Australian wine. Trader Joe's veggie-burgers — and I don't think food counts as vegeterian if it tastes like it came out the wrong end of a farm animal. The chain has even expanded into consumables that science has vastly improved over nature's originals; I'd like to meet the Luddite who's buying Trader Joe's-brand all-natural soap or shampoo. And nothing in this world would make me happier than when the poor dog who's been fed Trader Joe's soy dog food rebels and eats his heartless master.

    Monday, June 7, 2004

    Not that I'm a huge C-SPAN fan, but...

    ...C-SPAN has never been more boring since Ronald Reagan died. Now, I know that whoever produces C-SPAN doesn't exactly have the world's greatest grasp of what's interesting and what's about as much fun as watching a pot of water boil, but do I really need to see a procession of jobless losers walking by a coffin? How does this enlighten the public?

    Besides, I don't understand the whole obsession with celebrity death thing anyway. I mean, if you died, President Reagan wouldn't be stopping by your funeral to mourn. He wouldn't even send a condolences card.

    Friday, June 4, 2004

    Another Reason Children Suck

    One of the great things about being a graduate — a high-school graduate — is that from eight in the morning to three in the afternoon, I get to do whatever I want. In particular, I no longer have to spend my time in that oppressive hellhole called school. (Nyahh, nyahh, Mom! You still have to go to school and I don't!) So why is it that whenever I go out during midday, I always see these frickin' kids everywhere. I mean, 10:30 on a Tuesday morning, and there are school-age children walking around, riding their bikes, going grocery shopping.... Summer hasn't started yet! I need to be free from those little cooties-infected bastards!

    Now today, I was at the Chelsea Market, which is a mall in New York City that primarily plays host to classy gourmet food shops. I sat down by the waterfall to get some work done, and in retrospect, this was probably not the best place to sit. Because there was this family there — a mother, a little girl, maybe three years old, and some other people — and for some reason, the little girl was crying. I tried to maintain my famous equanimity, but eventually I had to look and see what was wrong. And I looked over, and the little girl was standing in the middle of the mall, peeing on herself while I, her mother, and a mall janitor stared. No one moved.

    Little kids have no shame. Somebody should do something about that.

    Of course, that's not all. Now the janitor, who was obviously thrilled to death that this kid walked into his life, went up to the mother and asked her, "Why didn't you do something? Now I've gotta clean this up." And the mother — a fat, angry blob of disinterest — in her distaff wisdom replied, "What did you expect me to do?"

    Even dogs know not to do it inside...

    So the moral of this story is, dumb people should not be allowed to reproduce. I mean, if we put heavy restrictions on ugly people, then this is only a natural next step.

    Anyway, apparently the janitor had more important cleaning emergencies, and he decided the puddle of piss would evaporate all on its own. (Side note: it took a surprisingly long time to evaporate...) He didn't even bother to put out one of those yellow "Caution: Wet Floor" signs. People were stepping in it and rolling their strollers through it. Another happy ending, all thanks to kids.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2004

    A Completely Impartial Review of Dan Brown's Novel The Da Vinci Code... well as my own total lameness picking up a book and reading just because the rest of America is. God, I'm a sheep. And making things worse, I even went to the Da Vinci Code website and played the little "Can you break the Da Vinci Code???" game they've got set up there.

    I don't think that everybody necessarily loves a good conspiracy so much as everybody gets uppity when we hear bits and pieces of stuff that the ubiquitous "they" don't want us to know. We get that I'm-an-outsider feeling, that same feeling that creeps up on you when everybody else is at a party and you're sitting in front of your computer masturbating. Not that I'd have any familiarity with that.... But there's gripe number one: the book is freaking manipulative. Brown doesn't merely start the reader off ignorant, reflecting his protagonists' confusing, which is totally cool; he's gotta be an asshole and tell you he's keeping secrets. I'd include a quote here, but the book is already back on the shelf and I don't feel like getting it; besides, I'm no longer in college, so I just spout random bullshit without having to support my arguments. It's wonderful.

    In that spirit, I'll say that all the puzzle stuff was intriguing. Not as intriguing as, say, the puzzles in Myst or a crossword puzzle that you have to solve yourself, but intriguing nonetheless. Like any decent storyteller, Brown's psychic manipulation worked and I wanted to find out the solution to this puzzle and move on to the next. (Admittedly, the website didn't function psychologically in quite the same way — finding out the solution to each remarkably superfluous puzzle just felt like a perfectly good waste of my life.) The problem is that the book has, as William Safire puts it, a multi-dimensional plot and unidimensional characters. So, you don't really get involved with the characters; the book itself is essentially a verbal crime scene and you're a detective whose only concern is piecing the clues together. Who cares if the characters reach their goal, so long as you, the reader, reach yours.

    And here's where Brown gets stuck. As the reader, you become invested in the puzzle; when the book ends, the characters might live on, but the puzzle is decidedly over. (Until the sequel, naturally.) But you, dear reader, have nothing left to be invested in. Like the lady in the commercial says, the only thing better than doing the crossword puzzle is finishing the crossword puzzle — except here, you don't get the satisfaction of finishing the puzzle because you didn't actually do anything. Brown wrote the puzzle and solved it for you.

    Things are just as bad when the ending is open-ended, like with Pynchon's (infinitely superior) The Crying of Lot 49. Okay, you don't have to give up the puzzle just because the book's over, but you've pretty much lost all hope of progressing with it, too. Futility or emptyness, what a choice. It's almost enough to make me want to pick up Harry Potter.

    By the way, the butler did it.

    "Is he joking???" :-D