Thursday, March 31, 2005

Some Anonymous Internet Radio Listener Insulted My Honor!

I don't normally contribute to those online bulletin boards. I'm happier hiding in the corner, reading what other weirdos with way too much time on their hands have to say than I am add my own thoughts. Not that I don't have them. But tonight, something happened that just demanded someone speak up. I bet you're wondering what happened (actually, if I had to put money on it, I'd bet that you weren't, but just play along here) — maybe some neo-Nazi was putting forth some specious Holocaust denial argument or the Catholic League is deliberately misinterpreting a study that supposedly claims condoms don't protect against AIDS. Don't get me wrong; both of those topics absolutely need the most vigorous barrage of logic and rhetoric the thinking mind can muster. Just not my thinking mind. My mind is needed elsewhere: putting people who force their fanatical love of the Allman Brothers down others' throats in their place.

I was listening to Radio Paradise, which has an amazing playlist. I genuinely enjoy listening to maybe seventy percent of what they play, and I tolerate another twenty-five percent with equinimity. But there's that last five percent that's stuff like these Peter Gabriel songs from the late eighties that last approximately as long as it takes to slow-roast a ten-pound ham or pieces of Stevie Ray Vaughn screeching for five minutes straight that make me just want to shove an awl in my ears and poke out my eardrums. Worse yet, it seems like a lot of Radio Paradise listeners grew up in the seventies, meaning that artists like Robert Plant and the Allman Brothers played at their senior proms and bring back all these memories so good they make my poor, deluded fellow listeners forget how utterly crappy the music is.

So, with that in mind, Radio Paradise was playing this Allman Brothers piece that's at least ten minutes long and that I believe our army uses to torture prisoners in Abu Ghraib. And I went to the Radio Paradise bulletin board, not to bitch, just to rate the song a one on a scale of one to ten. But then, the top post of the bulletin board is from some jackass calling himself "radiojunkie," like that gives him indie rock cred.

Yes. This is one of the finest live recordings ever made. This tune was the apogee of the Allmans. icon_music.gif icon_music.gif

And to all of you "is it over yet?" whiners, it's obvious that you're all a bunch of spoiled little kids who were coddled by your parents every time you whined "are we there yet" in the're the reason cars now have to come with DVD players. Can't you just look out the window and enjoy the view? Fortunately, I know you're not even reading this. You quit after the first paragraph, because it's too long.
Arrogant motherfucking asshole! I don't know about anyone else, but I, for one, am not spoiled, I never whined "are we there yet," I don't have a DVD player in my car, I read both lame paragraphs, and I am not a little kid.

I had to defend myself from this slander.

So, for the first time since a dork on the Sparknotes message board called me a communist two years ago, I posted something.
No, it's just that we didn't grow up in the seventies sky high on LSD, so we realize that thirty-seconds of ear-burning guitar riffs doesn't get any better when it's dragged out to fifteen minutes.

Oh, and for everybody who's secure enough to enjoy the Allman Brothers without worrying about what a bunch of spoiled little kids think of the music, it's obvious your parents raised you well.
Okay. Not the most eloquent thing I've ever written, but I think it does the job.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Please Drink Responsibly

Have you seen the new Budweiser ads? The skydiving ones? Well, in case you haven't...

There's some guys jumping out of an airplane. And the first guy goes, but then the second guy is afraid to jump. So the jumpmaster thinks he'll convince the guy by chucking a six-pack of Bud out the plane's door, which I'm sure is totally safe for the folks below. It doesn't work, but the plane's heretofore unseen pilot is so nuts for beer that he runs out of the cockpit and jumps out of the plane, without a parachute, after the beer. The guy who was afraid to skydive and the jumpmaster look at each other, bewildered, and then look at the cockpit, suddenly aware that no one's flying the plane.

Then the commercial ends. With a disclaimer. "Please drink responsibly."

Ex-cuuuuse me??!! You freakwads just showed me a guy committing suicide over a case of beer, and you're telling me to be responsible? Fuck you, Budweiser! From now on, I'm drinking till my liver tries to physically escape from my gastrointestinal tract.

That was probably Budweiser's intent in the first place.

By the way, have you seen Budweiser's website? You've gotta be twenty-one or older to enter the site, so there's this splash screen where they ask you for your birthdate. Like that's fooling anyone, as if there's sixteen-year-olds in America who've masterminded schemes to get themselves fake ID's, but — oh no! — what date to I need to put in to get into the Budweiser website?

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Children Should Be Seen and Not Heard (Preferably Not Seen, Either)

My parents took me to Easter dinner over at the house of this relative Patty. Patty is my second cousin, and I know this because twenty minutes of dinner were spent figuring that out, like it was the sixty-four thousand dollar question. Patty's family lives in Livingston, about half an hour away from where I live, so it makes sense that I haven't seen her in thirteen years. I'm not exactly what you'd call close to any of my extended family, which has caused much contention between my parents and me. After growing up with all these aunts and uncles and cousins out of my life, I've gotten kind of used to being the family reunion pariah, and not a little bit resentful as well. My grandmother and her sister lived with their families in the same three-family house in Newark, then they scattered across Essex County, then — right before I came into being — most of the family drew up stakes for the warmer climes of Arizona. Now I'm the one who has to hear from the parents all the time, "You should really get to know your cousins in Arizona. You know, they really are some very loving people. I think if you got to know them a bit better, you'd like them." Seriously, all the time.

Anyway, different relatives, same idea. It seems my mom's father had a sister named Lucy, and Lucy had a son named Ben, and Ben has a daughter named Patty, who my mom assured me was a very interesting person. Patty spent two years in Florida working for VISTA, where she learned to speak Haitian Creole, and now she devotes her time to civil rights causes in the Essex County area. Patty is married to Carlos, and Mom assured me, likewise, that Carlos is a very interesting person. And I imagine that Patty and Carlos could conceivably be interesting people if they weren't constantly placating their irrepressible kids.

I remember when I was younger and all the adults at the dinner table were having an interminable conversation, I'd just wander off on my own and watch TV or play video games or something. I never had any desire to be precocious in front of strangers, unlike these two girls, who opened the evening by trying to raffle off pretty much all of their possessions. Just about everything they were trying to get rid of was some stupid piece of crap that no one above the age of ten could've possibly wanted — I believe the best thing in the mix was a little plastic bunny they got from a box of Trix cereal — but that didn't stop them. I can imagine that you, as a well-mannered adult, might indulge these kids for a little while. But once they get down to raffling off a straw or a jellybean or lint (they called it an "Easter straw" and an "Easter jellybean" and "Easter lint") while you're trying to have a fascinating conversation about some old person's many diseases, you'd tell the girls to get themselves up to their room and watch Spongebob till it's time for dessert.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Considering the Tulip Revolution, I'm glad I don't have Condoleeza Rice's job, having to deal with all those press conferences and having to pronounce "Kyrgyzstan." Perhaps America can show its support for the opposition leaders by sending some vowels to the region.

A Completely Impartial Review of the American Remake of The Office

I'm sure that somewhere out there, there's a long, erudite explanation of why Americans suck at British comedy. Maybe it's that I can only understand eighty percent of what they're saying across the pond, maybe it's that Americans don't have the discipline to pull off the ultra-subtle, often long-winded humor of the original Office. I don't know. All I can say is that as awesome as I think Steve Carell is, I just miss David Brent. And as funny as the stapler-in-the-Jello bit was in the American show, I missed the longer, prolix joke where Tim chucks Gareth's stapler out the window.

Here's what I think kills the remake: the characters are actually funny. Michael's misplaced jokes are funny — like the "World's Greatest Boss" mug that he found at Spencer Gifts — but then, on top of that, they're pathetic in that they reflect something totally pitiable about Michael. In the British version, the jokes are just plain pathetic. David Brent is never funny in himself. What's funny is how desperate he is to be the world's coolest boss, how hard he tries, and, because of that, how it's obvious to everybody but him that he's going to fail miserably.

The genius of the original series wasn't merely in how alienating the anti-hero boss was but in how the boss was almost a mechanical piece of this alienating system. He could never be cool or friendly or worthwhile because the system isn't cool, friendly, or worthwhile, yet the system is the only thing he has to give any meaning to his life. Steve Carell doesn't exude that, at least not yet. I'd almost rather see him not try to recreate Ricky Gervais' performance and instead make his character more blatantly the dunderheaded self-important middleman persona he played (plays?) on The Daily Show. Because right now, he's just doing that anonymous guy from those Fed-Ex ads, and that's not working for anyone.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Best Reason I Have to Move Out of My Parents' House

The Columbia alumni magazine, Columbia College today, arrived in the mail. Yippee! An entire magazine devoted to fellow graduates who are more successful than I am. How could I have ever lived without this?

Also, I can hook up with old buddies from the Class of '39. (And I do mean old buddies.) David W. Mason '39 now owns a Christmas tree farm in Maine. Man, David, he was such a kidder. Like that time after that kegger, when David glued all of the dean's fountain pens to his desk. Or when he paid that out-of-work dude standing in a breadline fifteen cents to take his Lit Hum midterm for him. That was classic!

On a side note, I wonder if the homeless woman who wanders around Butler Library late at night — she gets in with her alumna ID — gets a copy of CCT. The "Ivy League IQ" test on the back page must warm her poverty-stricken heart.

Anyhoo, this month's cover story is "Min Makes Her Mark: Under the editorship of Janice Min '90, Us Weekly satisfies its growing legion of young readers with a mix of celebrities and fashion." Us Weekly. Wow, that's just like Atlantic Monthly, except it's weekly and it's for vapid, retarded people who cream themselves over critical world issues like "Angelina Exclusive: Billy Bob Wants Her Back!" I'm so proud of how my fellow alumnoid turned out — how about next month, CCT profiles a guy from the class of '85 who makes a living placing odds on cockfighting matches down in Tijuana?

(Ironically, Us Weekly has absolutely no relevance to "us." More like Them Weekly.)

The self-gratifying feature article in this month's CCT is "Dan Harris [no known relation] '01 Begins An Amazing Career." Subtle. Dan was a senior doing shots at The West End while I was a freshman, living alone in a room the size and temperature of a sauna, listening that goddamn garbage truck idle on Amsterdam Avenue outside my window for like half an hour at like one in the morning every single night. I'm not jealous at all then that Dan wrote and directed his first feature film, something you've probably never heard called "Imaginary Heroes" that a whopping one-third of critics liked. The meta-critical website described it as "a muddled, melodramatic and unconvincing drama." Amazing.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

I just happened to be at Barnes & Noble this evening — just browsing; my boycott continues — and coincidentally, Moby was there discussing his latest album and book and also signing stuff. I got there maybe half an hour before Moby did, and the whole B&N special guest discussion area was velvet-roped off, like Lizzie Grubman was gonna be showing up. There were like six or seven security guards, for what turned out to be a relatively small crowd, and they weren't letting anyone past the ropes who didn't have an orange wristband and a VIP badge around their neck.

I was infuriated. I was raised to believe that I was a very important person — or maybe that was "very special person" — yet here I am standing outside the ropes. Some of the folks there, I could tell how they got their special entrance pass. For example, there were like six people standing in the front who I guess worked for those piddling local magazines or maybe the Barnes & Noble corporate newsletter. They each had one of those professional cameras with the humongous flash and giant, phallic lens, and they were all taking pictures of each other and of the empty stage before Moby arrived. But other supposedly very important people just seemed like your average schlubs, albeit average schlubs with cell phones glued to their ears.

In protest, I refused to listen to any Moby songs, should the shuffle feature on my iPod choose to play one. It didn't.

When I take my rightful place as world dictator, we'll all live in an egalitarian utopia. Well, of course, I would be at the top of our non-existant caste system, but only because I'm the world dictator and, frankly, I deserve it for having to put up with indignities like this. And I guess my friends and family would be next in the pecking order. But that's it. Everyone else is equal.

Maybe we should give Mitchell Hurwitz bonus points for bringing joy and laughter to millions (okay, hundreds). But that's it. Everyone else is equal.

Jay Befriends A Goldfish

Since today was our first nice day all year, and since Tuesdays are free, I was at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden this afternoon. If you happen to be in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, the botanical garden is a great place to kill a few hours. It's like any other city park, only more colorful and fragrant. I think I like the place so much because I am the Plant Grim Reaper, and I'm impressed when people can get anything at all to grow. Also, they have a beautiful Japanese garden, and since I know how much people enjoy looking at strangers' pictures, I've got some for you.

I was at the garden's Lily Pool Terrace, a couple of man-made ponds where the Garden shows off some species of underwater plants, and I made a new friend. An ichthyoid friend. One of the goldfish community living in the Lily Pool swam over to me, its puckering goldfish mouth breaking the water surface. Naturally, I anthropomorphized the creature: he's ostracized from the other fish in his school but he's got a good heart and he wants to get in with the new biped in the area. I should know better. I spent about ten years raising fish, and even though they invariably have no personality whatsoever, I always impose emotions on the creatures. "Look how happy the clownfish is when he's swimming through the castle!"

Which is bullshit. The clownfish isn't happy. He probably thinks the castle is banal and kitschy.


Maybe a week and a half ago, I found myself a new job. I didn't mention it sooner partly cause I didn't have much amusing to say about it and partly cause I got fired from my old job for opening my big mouth. Anyway, I'm working for this guy Ken, who I think is a financial planner or analyst of some sort. I'm not one-hundred percent sure, and now that I've been working for him for a week and a half, I'm stuck in this catch-22: I feel kinda stupid for not asking sooner, so I keep quiet while time passes, which makes me feel even stupider for not asking sooner. If there's a loving God in heaven, he'll make Ken spontaneously explain exactly what he does. Ken's pretty gregarious, so there's an actual chance this divine intervention plan might pan out into something.

I'm mostly working on Ken's website, which you can check out here, should you be in need of any financial planning or analysis, if that is, in fact, when he does.

The good news is I received my first paycheck today, so I'm no longer in the red. Or the black. Whichever's the bad one. Ken would probably know which color I'm no longer in.

The weird news is that on my pay stub, it notes that Ken is paying me for "professional services," which sounds like a dirty euphemism but isn't. What made me stop for a moment is the fact that I certainly don't feel like a professional. Not only do I not wear a button-down shirt or a tie , but I head into my work bookish and bumbling, still sort of figuring things out. It's nervewracking, this guy having professional-grade expectations of me. There's a large part of me that wants to be back in school, where no one gave a damn if my programs didn't work and my papers sucked.

I guess if Shaquille O'Neal can compete as an amateur in the 2004 Summer Olympics, then I can be a professional computer consultant. Of course, Shaq actually played like an amateur, too.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

If I'm in a Cuban Coffeehouse, It's a "Barista;" At Starbucks, You're the Coffee Gofer

I gotta admit that it's not easy being able to see all the complexities and facets of a situation. Case in point: A few days ago, the New York Times published an article in the Metro section titled "No Need to Stew: A Few Tips to Cope With Life's Annoyances." The gist of the article is that Life, or that nebulous entity they called "the Man" back in the sixties, hands us all sort of sorts of insidious — and I use that word deliberately — little bothers, and naturally rebellous New Yorkers aren't gonna put up with that shit anymore. Just because Starbucks wants you to call their smallest size coffee a "tall" and their medium size coffee a "grande" doesn't mean you actually have to do it.

You know those little subscription cards that fall out of every issue of every magazine you get? If you send those back blank, then the magazine has to pay for the postage without getting a new subscriber. You can even fill those junk mail postage-paid envelopes with heavy bond paper or sheet metal so the mass mailer sending them out has to pay extra to get them back.

You can buy a little device that blocks other people's annoying public cell phone conversations. Instead of just hanging up on telemarketers, you can put your yappy three-year-old on the phone with the person trying to sign you up for a Mastercard.

You get the point.

Now, today, the Times published some letters to the editor regarding the article. Some of them were interesting; most were pretty banal. I can't say I have a lot of sympathy for one Blake Rowe of Ossining, New York, who has time to not only listen to telemarketers' pitches, but to turn the common dinnertime annoyance into "another opportunity for creative role playing." If you think talking to telemarketers sucks, imagine actually being at the other end of the phone, stuck in the office, cold calling, getting one hang-up after another, and now having to deal with this jackass pretending to be a "suspicious shut-in" or "big-hearted Texas rancher."

The letters that really struck me are from the folks who (claim they) are unperturbed by the myraid of Life's Annoyances. Here's what Matt Mizenko of San Fransisco has to say on the topic: "I find it humorous that most of the people quoted in [the article] seem to actually have no life. If they did, they'd not be wasting it on such trivial and inane matters as what Starbucks calls its sizes. If it is really that annoying, shop somewhere else..." And Susan Scotto of beautiful (really) South Hadley, Massachusetts weighs in: "How do I deal with life's petty annoyances? By enjoying the grande latte instead of simmering about calling it a grande; by reading the magazine and tossing the inserts in the trash; ditto for the junk mail.... As I see it, life's small annoyances are called petty for a reason."

Part of me wants to agree — the fact that the Dubyas of the world are trying to destroy Social Security sort of makes those magazine inserts less important in perspective. Life would be much, much, much less stressful if I just go to a coffeehouse that calls a small a "small," or better yet, one that calls a large a "small." But on the other hand, Starbucks can just as easily make their size names in line with the rest of America...

Which, to me, is why these so-called petty annoyances really aren't petty at all. It's not like Jimmy the semi-retarded "barista" at the Starbucks on Park Row (about fifty meters away from the Starbucks on Worth Street, by the way) woke up one day and decided to change the sizes. The Starbucks Corporate Brass, the Man — albeit one of the more munificent Men you'll find in our heavily incorporated society — spent a shitload of money not feeding the poor or building schools but finding ways to get your image-conscious ass paying three times more for your coffee than you would at the deli down the street. One of those ways was the creation of a little Starbucks counterculture, where you come in the door and you think you're in a hipster Seattle coffee joint with Kurt Cobain sipping his venti skim milk double mocha mochalatte at the table behind you and some suddenly-cool geeks from Microsoft taking a break from creating the twenty-first century to discuss Jonathan Safran Foer. The well-to-do liberal elite New Money aren't gonna call it a "large;" they're call it a "large" in European — a "venti."

Now, of course, you're in, like, Podunk City, surrounded by dumbfucks who call it "ex-presso." But no matter; Starbucks has tricked you and you're buying into the illusion. For God's sake, they call their smallest size a "tall!" Not a "small," not a "basso," not a "consise" or "humble" or "tiny." No, look, I'm getting a lot of coffee for three dollars and sixty-seven cents; I'm getting a tall! Take my money and give me more doublespeak!

What worries me even more is that if you can't tell that Starbucks is using you, how are you ever gonna tell when, say, the government is using you, lying about weapons of mass destruction or dropping fake news reports into the nightly news?

But it's the same idea with the magazine inserts. I sit down to read my magazine, I don't have any intention of getting up and throwing stuff in the trash. But it doesn't matter what I want to do, the magazine publisher is making me get up. The telemarketers are making me answer the phone and say, "Sorry, not interested," or pretend to be a cowboy or whatever. Whether you rebel or not, you're still being controlled, no less than during the Solidarity marches in Poland, when the government made the laborers leave work by six o'clock so they'd all be home in time to watch the state-sponsored news. (In Poland, everybody was home by curfew, but they all turned their televisions to face out their windows, so only the police patrolling the streets could watch them. Clever.)

When I call the damn cup of coffee what it really is, what I'm really doing is wresting a little bit of that control back from Starbucks. I'm not only seeing through their facade, but in the middle of that constructed atmosphere, I'm announcing that it's a facade.

But here's the thing. Starbucks smallest size, a "tall" really is larger than the smallest size you'll get at most places. A "grande" is relatively big, compared to other coffee places, and while I've never measured it, a "venti" does look like about twenty ounces. The only thing that makes the Starbucks terminology so grating is the ubiquitous monotony you find in the sizes at every non-Starbucks coffeehouse across America. Aside from Starbucks's insidious mind-fuck, the rest of society is busy counter-mind-fucking you. Au Bon Pain doesn't call their coffees petit, régulier, et grand because society's so conformist (and anti-French at the moment) they're afraid their little marionette customers will storm out of there without buying so much as a baguette. I don't see how that's an improvement, either.

My (partial) solution involves figuring out what really irritates me in this world and what pisses me off only because MTV told me it's supposed to piss me off. I never even considered the socio-political ramifications of ordering a tall mocha frappuchino before, and now that I have, I've decided it's not worth putting in the effort to make a conscious change. On the other hand, maybe I'll try to get myself on some Republican mailing lists, just so I can send them back loads of sheet metal.

This afternoon, I found what promises to the best direct-to-video B-movie ever in Palmer Video. It's called "Moto X Kids," so it's pretty clear that this alleged abomination is the product of a committee composed solely of middle-aged white guys who know nothing about motorcross or kids. No matter. We see from the cover that this movie stars Lorenzo Lamas, a hot chick, and an ape riding a motorcycle. So it's like "Renegade," but with a hot chick. Hotter than Lorenzo, I mean.

I gotta think this isn't one of Lorenzo's proudest moments, seeing how he lost his spot on the cover to a chimp.

As if this isn't awesome enough, the Internet Movie Database informs us that "Moto X Kids" also stars Joe Millionaire Evan Marriot and Gary Busey, who might or might not play the monkey.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Goodie! They're letting Terry Schiavo kick!

Okay, now I'm gonna say what everybody else weighing in on this poor woman's case is thinking. I don't know her, I don't like her, I don't give a shit about her.

If we could just look at her as a person, one who maybe wanted to be kept on life support and maybe didn't, and if her family put half the effort into trying to figure out what she'd have wanted that they put into their legal battles, then me and the talking point guys on the news and Dubya's brother and the right-wingers in Congress, we'd all be totally apathetic. The House Government Reform Committee would be too busy investigating Sammy Sosa to get involved.

But thanks to the extremist Christian fundamentalists in this God-forsaken country, Terri's been stripped of her humanity and turned into a cheap political symbol. So much as I resent the hell out of it, now I have to care about this woman. Passionately. That's why I'm thrilled they've taken the feeding tube out, and whatever objections I might have about her death (and I have a couple) have to be sublimated to the greater good — keeping at bay the hypocrites and Pharisees who preach a "culture of life" and then cut health care benefits for children living below the poverty line and send soldiers into Iraq without body armor. They're all about less government interference in our private lives until it comes to shoving the Bible down our throats, and then they're all into the Bible until the Word of God cuts into their profit margins.

It occurs to me that perhaps cheering someone's death isn't the ideal way to make a political point. I think it's largely a backlash against the Democrats' disheartening inability to grow a backbone since the Clinton impeachment hearings, which feel like a whole 'nother lifetime ago. Senior Democrat on the Government Reform Committee and wussy nice-guy Henry Waxman had this to say about the Dark Side and their flagrant abuse of power: "Congress is turning the Schiavo family's personal tragedy into a national political farce." Perfectly reasonable, but then again, perfectly reasonable debate doesn't change the hearts and minds of the Red State morons electing our leaders. "National political farce" — get out of your ivory tower, Henry! Take this golden opportunity to do what I just did: call the Republicans a bunch of child-murderers! Use Tom DeLay's name and the epithet "Osama-lover" in the same sentence!

At this rate, I'm surprised that I'm not in Congress...


It appears that wife-murderer Scott Peterson has received not one, but two, marraige proposals on his first day on death row. I, meanwhile, have received zero marraige proposals, despite — or, and holy shit, this is depressing, because of — the fact that I haven't murdered anyone. I don't even have a girlfriend.

How seriously desperate are these women? They couldn't find, say, a nice car thief or extortionist to propose to?

Maybe these women are proposing to him ironically. We can only hope.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Jay Mixes A Drink

It's time for another throat-searing and tongue-lacerating stream-of-consciousness foray into the exciting, inpenetrable world of alcohol. And I blow on my white Russian like it's a mug of hot soup. And I take a sip. And I cringe and shake involuntarily. And I think, damn ain't that Flava Flav awesome. He's like, so open and honest with the TV audience, and Brigitte is like that too. I totally wish I could be open like that, but first I've gotta get myself on one of them VH1 reality shows, maybe that one with the fat celebrities, and then I'm gonna fall in love with some giant mutant freak woman. Won't it be romantic; I'll tell the whole world about it, in confessional format.

I'm only about a quarter of the way through this drink.

And that's another thing, he says wagging his finger, I want you to listen to me, I think it's the govern-ment that's out to get you. They're all wearing their suits and fancy Armani ties and they're talking about baseball like it's the national debt or Iraqi prison scandal. It's, it's, it's like they want to LOOK like they're doing something but, but... oh, crap, I'm falling.

Pillows are my friends. I... think... sometimes pillows are my only friends. Like how they're soft and they catch you when you land on them.... Okay, I gotta admit that I'm only drinking now to keep myself uninhibited till Anne gets here late at night. I think I'd just fall asleep to the sweet, sweet strains of Conan O'Brien and write something half-coherent in the blog....

Still have like a third of the glass full. It's like my optimistic philosophy of life.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

You Know What's The Worst Thing About Dubya Nominating Wolfowitz For President of the World Bank?

Now I actually have to support Bono's bid for the job.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

I guess back maybe six or seven years ago, America faced an epidemic of small penises. The auto industry heard a struggling nation's call and responded with the SUV, a "sport-utility" vehicle, that is, in fact, neither. Instead, the SUV is a gluttonous, obnoxious, big-ass, redneck, military-grade land assault vehicle, which is perfect for the suburbs, where there's not one square inch of unpaved land. Just in case you need to go off-road to take the kiddies to school. Anyway, the SUV didn't cure America's penis shortage, so Detroit came out with the inappropriately-named "Hummer," an even-bigger soulless mechanical affront to God. Tiny-penised celebrities like Arnold "The Governator" Schwartzenegger and P. Diddy couldn't get enough of these behemoths. And then there's Xzibit's tricked-out Hummer with chrome rims and like ten flat-screen monitors and a six zillion watt sound system. I don't even want to think about how miniscule his penis must be.

By this time, road-hogging SUV drivers have climbed their way almost to the top of my list of people who need to get the fuck off the planet now, right below Republicans and right above the members of the G-Unit. That's why I'm thrilled about the report just released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that warns that maybe these SUV's aren't quite as safe as all those soccer moms think. Those gigantic motherfuckers are top-heavy and like flipping over in a crash because they're, well, gigantic. It's karmic almost.

Monday, March 14, 2005

I'm checking out the local Scotch Plains-Fanwood TV channel, which is sponsored by, of all folks, the high school, and I'm watching THE BEST program ever. There's this big black dude who claims to be from the Union County Narcotics Strike Force and in front of him there's a table of drug paraphrenalia. And he's standing there, just labelling all the drugs: "Next, I want to show you LSD. It comes on this piece of paper, and each of these blotches is called a 'blot.' You would cut off a blot and ingest it. LSD can also come on stamps. As you can see, these stamps have pictures of cartoon characters on them." Cut to a blurry rave and eighties techno music. Then cut to a segment where the narc shows us how to make a homemade crack pipe out of a prescription pill bottle, a straw, and some tin foil.

"Other names for ketamine are Special K, Vitamin K, Cat Tranquilizer, Cat Tranq, K, K-Hole, and K-Head..."

I get the point; he wants the kiddies to recognize when they're being offered drugs, or when someone's using, or when they're in a crackhouse, so they'll know when to run away and hide out in a parochial school. But there's some flaws in the execution. I half expect this guy to tell me where to get the best smack and where to get the best crystal.

That's a good idea — mix ecstasy with Vicks Vapo-Rub and smear it inside a surgical mask, so you can get high without the ecstasy clogging up your nasal passages. Those druggies; they're so creative. Thanks narc!

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Standardized Testing Becomes A Bigger Pain In The Ass

Today's the day those poor high school students get to take the new-and-unimproved, analogy-free SAT. Perhaps you're from a foreign country and you don't know what the SAT is, so I'll explain. The SAT is the (supposedly) standardized test high school students have to take in order to get into college; the acronym used to stand for "Scholastic Aptitude Test," but apparently that's a little too cerebrally taxing for America's high school juniors and seniors, so now it just stands for "SAT." The SAT supposedly reflects how well students will do in college, but that's a crock. In reality, the test measures how well you can read and stay focused on incredibly tedious and banal passages (which, as it turns out, is a pretty useful college skill) and how well you fill in little bubbles with a number two pencil (which is not).

All in all, the SAT measures how well you take a standardized test — and, should you get into an Ivy League school, measures your worth as a human being compared to your classmates.

The updated SAT is an hour longer than its predecessor, mostly because they've added the mind-rotting SAT II: Writing test to the experience. If I ever go on a postal-worker style machine-gun rampage, the SAT II: Writing test will be the reason for it. The test is (was) divided into three sections, two of which involved your familiarity with "standard written English." They'd give you five versions of the same sentence, and you needed to choose the one that sounded like it came from a native English speaker, as opposed to Yoda. Example:

A) Jim went to the grocery store to buy a quart of milk.
B) Jim, having been going to the grocery store, bought milk, of which he bought a quart.
C) The grocery store to buy a quart of milk is where Jim went.
D) Jim the grocery store he went for to buy a quart of milk.
E) Jim, he went to buy milk; a quart he had bought at the grocery store.
Figure it out yet? It might not be a perfectly accurate example — ETS would probably use some ethnic name like Carlos or Lateesha to placate minority groups, and their weird-ass pluperfect participle fetish is much more pronounced than I made it seem — but you can tell why it's so hard for me to resist jumping up in the middle of the test and screaming, "You fucking morons! You speak English! You've been speaking it for like seventeen years! How the hell could you possibly get that wrong???"

So they added that to the SAT's. They also added the written exam from the SAT II: Writing test, where students have twenty minutes to write a three-to-five paragraph essay on an insipid topic like, "Change can be positive because..." Your essay is scored on a six point scale, relative to a base essay, the type of robotic acadmic Stepford essay college professors like, where comforting, recycled motifs and a vocabulary slightly too elevated for the topic obfuscate a total lack of original thought. Joyce, Faulkner, or Ellison would bomb the essay; the writers for USA Today would score a six out of six. I guess it's good to get prospective college students prepared and disillusioned early.

Finally, finally, finally, the writers of the SAT got rid of what's frequently termed "the dreaded analogy" section, replacing it with yet another passage on a topic no one could possibly care about. They probably figured that being able to infer the relationship between concepts was no longer a useful skill in today's hectic modern world, while being able to answer the perennial question "The author of Passage 1 would most likely agree with the author of Passage 2 on which of the following" is crucial.

The real problem with the SAT's is that they don't test enough. What colleges need is a test that'll tell them if so-and-so will show up to class hung over every day, or if he'll cover the fire alarm so he can smoke in a non-smoking dorm. I'd like to see a test that separates the students trying to learn and improve themselves from the kids who see college as a twenty-four hour social club. Not that these college admissions officers would care about things like that.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Guess Who Evidently Had Mono...

Did you guess me? Cause if you did, you're right! Congratulations!

I had my blood tested last week because I've been feeling kinda fatigued lately, and by "lately," I mean since October 2003. The doctor's office called with the results this morning, and by this afternoon, my mom's been laying it on thick with the told-you-so's. "You might've had mono all through college. You see, I told you you should've gotten tested sooner." I don't know what's worse: the fact that Mom was right or the fact that even though Mom was right, there isn't a damn thing they can do for you if you've got mono.

Thing is, it always seemed like the folks who got mono were the trampy kids, swapping spit all night and day. Like it's God's way of telling you to save it till you're married, like herpes and chlamydia. Me, I didn't even have the fun of getting to first base. Even my exciting, sexy diseases are lame.

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

With Friends Like These...

Someone taped the above to a garbage can at the train station. I'm sure that Patsy, whoever the hell she is, is thrilled to death having the whole town know she's over the hill.

And was that the most flattering picture they could find of Patsy? She looks like she's about to fight a mountain lion for her dinner.

Nevertheless, it's still one step above having the restaurant waitstaff sing "Happy Birthday" to you, although judging from the type of friend poor Patsy seems to cultivate, I'm sure she had to suffer through that shit, too. Not like I should be complaining, though. Last January, Erica and Steve took me out for my birthday, but the four birthdays before that were celebrated alone, with a pile of homework. Now, the year before that, my eighteenth birthday, my friends threw me a surprise party at our local TGI Friday's, and I think it's worth remembering the good old days at TGI Friday's when those irritating chipper waiters and waitresses were covered head-to-toe in inane "pieces of flair."

Way back then, in 1999, if you were the TGI Friday's birthday boy, they didn't sing "Happy Birthday" to you. They made you stand on a chair and balance a champagne flute full of ketchup and whip cream on your head while they sang "Happy Birthday" to you. So if there's a lesson here, it's that no matter how well your friends humiliate you on your birthday, they could always do worse.

Monday, March 7, 2005

Jay Masters the Stairs

The American College of Sports Medicine, which I'm pretty sure isn't an accredited university, recommends that you work out three to five times a week, incorporating twenty to sixty minutes of cardiovascular exercise strenuous enough to raise your heart rate to sixty to ninety percent of your maximum heart rate. For some reason, I'm buying into this crap.

So now I go to the gym and spend half an hour on an exercise bike. I feel like a total techno-dependant ass, pedaling for thirty minutes and winding up in the exact same place I started. You know what they should do is hook the whole exercise bike up with two wheels so you could take it outside and ride around the neighborhood. This goes for pretty much all the other workout gizmos they've got at the Y, but the absolute worst, as I discovered today, is the Stairmaster.

Now, I've been to the Philadelphia Museum of Art a couple of times, so I know a thing or two about climbing up stairs. For example, I know that climbing up stairs is a lot harder than going down stairs. And I'll bet you that if I were blindfolded, I'd be able to tell if I were walking up a flight of stairs or if I were instead, say, going up a ramp. Maybe if I weren't so astute, the Stairmaster wouldn't have been such a disappointment. (And I won't even mention how God-awful tedious the stepper is.) The theory is that you press down on each step, but I put all my weight on the steps and just sort of sank to the ground until this monster machine hovered above me, laughing. It was a horrible simulation of a staircase, unless the staircase was made of Jell-O.

But that's not the point. The point is that we, as a society, need to get away from these mechanical torture devices because they're going to take over the world someday. Like people who actually spend perfectly good money on a home treadmill, people like my family, when you figure that walking is free. It's not like they haven't already taken our water...


Since it's Sunday and there's nothing on TV, I was watching My Coolest Years: The Geeks on VH1, where D-list celebrities, most of whom you've never heard of unless you watch tons of Best Week Ever and I Love the 80's, reminisce over their high school years. VH1 makes variants on these My Coolest Years shows featuring cliques like jocks and cheerleaders, rich kids, and metalheads. But I think the geeks episode is the only one I can really relate to, what with the twenty-sided dice, the calculator watch, the braces and weird skin conditions and glasses — dear God, the glasses! Entering third grade with thick-ass corrective spectacles pretty much brands you a geek for life.

I, too, in the company of fellow geeks, was getting all nostalgic for the cruel joke that was high school. It's strange, because I never noticed what a bipolar personality VH1 embodies; it's the only network on television where the likes of Jessi Klein, Andrew W.K., and John Tesh get as much screen time as Jennifer Lopez (or "J. Lo," as I've taken to calling her). Seriously, they run a show about high school geeks next to a show where Robin Leach narrates the "fabulous life" of the Olsen twins next to a show about obese celebrity has-beens. Which, in an odd, metaphoric way, made me even more nostalgic for the study in contrasts that was, and probably still is, high school. What I want to say is that it had its moments, but since I spent Friday at my alma mater feeling old and the weekend without any human contact, I can't say that.

I guess it doesn't seem all that bad when other people are talking about it, even though they're describing the same angst that plagued me just about every day of high school and well, well, well into college. It's like a checklist: Didn't know how to dress — check. Constant mortification in gym class — check. Hare-brained scheme to get cute girl to like me that included both (a) the classic geek fallacy of believing if I could just be her friend she'd see what a great big heart I've got and fall instantly in love and (b) making nice with her parents — check. Sitting alone at the once-in-a-blue-moon party, dry as if booze were the ebola virus, of course — check. Going dateless to the prom, then bitching about it to anyone who'd listen whether it be your best friend or the poor chemistry teacher assigned to chaperone the event — check. Video arcades, Dungeons and Dragons, buying your friends Christmas cards from The Nature Store — check. Needing a cop pose to you and your date for her junior prom photo ("Take your hand off her shoulder. What are you, her partner? Put it around her waist!") — check. Well, I'd never done it before...

But on second thought, holy shit was I fluttery actually freaking touching a girl — who wanted me touching her, no less. I guess that's the point in this whole exercise of geek nostalgia, finding those fleeting giddy moments that make waking up in the months-long funk that separates them worthwhile. And with that idea in my head, I'm going to bed. Good night.

Sunday, March 6, 2005

I wish I had a dog. Instead, I got Mom.

Now, I've been on this planet for a little over twenty-three years, and I've been hoping for a canine companion for most of that time. So I can pretty safely assume that if my mom's been relenting for this long, she's not going to give in today. It's become a running joke in our household, albeit one that was funnier back when I was about twelve.

When I get my own apartment, the first thing I'm gonna get is a dog, maybe even before I get myself a bed. This causes my parents consternation to no end, and I have to hear crazy, crazy things like, "You know what you have to do when you when you have a dog? You have to walk it."

"You know when you have a dog, you have to feed it and take care of it."

"You know when you have a dog, you have to clean up after it."

Here's the backstory: I've been begging my parents for a dog for as long as I can remember, and when I was about eight or nine, my parents relented, sort of. They let me get one of those ninety-nine cent goldfish they feed to pirahnas (really), which, in case you're in market for an animal companion, really can't compare to a dog or a cat or anything that can survive outside a glass container. Nevertheless, one goldfish gave way to another, which gave way to another, which gave way to another; this pattern of golfish death, flushing, and replacement — the beautiful circle of life — went on for years after I stopped caring about the damn fish.

So we tried to keep up my interest by switching from goldfish to tropical marine fish, those expensive, fragile, fluorescent fish which it's probably a horrible idea to buy online. These beautiful little bastards need even more attention than the goldfish. Their saltwater corrodes the aquarium. The tank's specific gravity, pH, and nitrate levels need monitoring. The fish are essentially high-maintance decor, and as algae turns absolutely everything in the tank green, they stop being even that.

Eventually, I stopped feeding the fish. Then I stopped feeding the fish, letting them die. Turns out tropical fish are surprisingly resilient; it took more than a year to starve the poor things. And during this time, the task of cleaning up after the fish and tolerating their odor fell to Mom, the animal lover.

I think she's still a bit resentful.

Friday, March 4, 2005

I Wonder How Much Professional Neologists Make...

I had an epiphany this morning.

I'm waiting for security to usher me through the lobby at this job interview, imagining myself putting up with these goddamn rent-a-cops every day just so I can spend nine to five at a small cubicle in a large, windowless room, wasting away my life at some thankless task a monkey could do. That's when it hit me: why people work. I guess some people actually do love what they do and others genuinely need every last cent their sad job pays, but the upper-middle-class, white-collar folks that I'm interviewing with: they come into work day after day after miserable day for the opportunity to chill out with their homies from the office. Beats spending the time alone at home, soap operas your only companion. I can personally attest to that.

So I went to this interview in the morning, and I came away deciding that the job wasn't quite right for me. Then I realized that I should probably wait for them to offer me the job before I turn it down. I do that a lot — often enough that I think it's worthwhile to coin a new eponym. From now on, pre-emptively rejecting something is called benski-ing, after one Melissa Benski, who, in tenth grade, turned me down for a date even though I never actually asked her out on a date. Shit like that does wonders for one's self-esteem.

We also need a word for pre-emptively benski-ing (lowercase, following other eponymous words like "bowdlerize" and "chauvinism") something, a sort of Knuth notation for my self-sabotage, because I pretty much turned down the second job that I interviewed for before the interview even happened. I'm not sure what the hell I was thinking applying for a job back at Columbia. I told the interviewers that working for — I believe my actual words were "helping out at" — my alma mater would be "real fulfilling," which was an outright lie. Not only is it a two hour commute each way, but heading back there for an afternoon reminded me that I have nothing but contempt for the place. I hate the way Columbia has a four-and-a-half billion dollar endowment but they're too cheap to buy two-ply toilet paper for the dorms. I hate how Columbia rejects over fifteen-thousand applicants each year — some of whom probably cry when they get that thin envelope in the mail — but then they welcome in a bunch of boorish, drunken football players. I hate how Columbia's administration pays lawyers thousands upon thousands of dollars to prevent the grad students from organizing, and I hate how Columbia subordinates my needs as a student to their administrative bureaucracy's monstrous reach.

I fucking hate the phony collegiality.

So I can't say I feel totally unjustified in double benski-ing, or whatever you want to call it, that job. The woman interviewing me actually seemed like a pretty decent, personable human being, but then the discussion got kind of depressing: "Working here, we're like a family. We get here early, and sometimes we stay late. Remember the blackout last year? We were here the whole time, getting the systems up and running, even before the power came back on. The people here, they don't have any other family, so we become their family."

Wow. That's what I'm saying about the real reason people drag themselves out of bed in the morning and head to work. It's too bad, because I, sadly, don't meet people very well. I've never made anything close to a friend on the job, except for the girl at the theatre over whom I subsequently got fired. I'd rather not be taken in — not that believe I never worked with any wonderful people who I might have meshed with, just that I can distinguish between my real friends and family and colleagues who, if they won the lottery today, would have nothing to do with the rest of the company tomorrow.

The interviewer's speech gets better though, and by "better" I mean "more revealing." She continues, "But I work on the corporate model. If you're working here, I expect you here on time. If you say you'll do something, you better have it done by tomorrow. Because if you make a mistake, it brings the whole family down, and I won't hesitate to fire you. That's why this position is open; I just fired someone..."

As I said before, wow. That's how you treat your family? You disown the black sheep?

Do people actually listen to themselves as they talk, or do they just rattle off this mindless corporate blather? Back in September 2003, Dan Weiss, the big boss at Sparknotes, called the whole company in for a conference about how we were all a big family, and I sniffed out the fetid stink of bullshit right then and there. Five months later, Sparknotes was in a budget crunch after hiring too many full-time employees, and Dan and company dumped me on the sidewalk. I hope he treats his kids like that, too: "I don't have enough money to support my extravagant Manhattan lifestyle and you little brats, so good luck finding foster care."

Steve Fossett Completes Another Idiotic Self-Indulgent Stunt, Yet Still Refuses to Die 8-(

Is it too much to ask of my fellow human beings that we stop giving a shit about this douchebag? Yes, it was amazing when Charles Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic or when Amelia Earhart flew from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but that's because back then, planes were new and relatively untested. They fell apart easily, and some people still thought they were flying demons. But, Steve (and this goes for you too, Richard Branson), it's been like ninety years since Kitty Hawk. We know planes can fly. We know they can fly around the world. It's not impressive anymore, okay?

You know, what would be impressive is if you guys could add a few more inches of leg room to Virgin Atlantic coach. Rebel billionaire my ass.

Thursday, March 3, 2005

Finally, something worth writing about happened in the world. And it involves gin.

Yesterday, Oscar Goodwin, the mayor of Las Vegas, America's Amsterdam, was reading to a group of fourth-graders when one of the precocious younguns asked him if he was stranded on a deserted island, what was the one thing he'd want with him. And proving that honesty is not always the best policy, Mayor Goodwin told them he'd want a bottle of gin. Later, a student asked him what his hobbies were, and Goodwin answered, "Drinking."

Needless to say, parents are outraged.

I'm sure they would've preferred Goodwin taught their children a lesson about telling a couple of lies when doing so is politically expedient. No, seriously, I'm sure they would have.

Anyway, I'm personally against fourth-graders drinking because, frankly, I want to be cooler than those little snots. Problem is that our schools' efforts to keep little kids from getting smashed are, by the time those bastards get into high school, largely ineffectual. Teachers try to scare their young students off the drink, but since the kids are too busy thinking about Pokemon and how they're responsible for their parents' impending divorce, the lessons just don't sink in. I, however, have come up with a good way to keep the kids away from alcohol, and its name is tequila. You have to realize that the kids are in those young formative years, when every trauma that happens to you gets locked in your brain for your therapist to extricate thirty years later. And in case you haven't experienced it, the sensation of imbibing hard liquor is like a colony of wasabi-infused fire ants marching down your throat. So instead of the traditional don't-drink-don't-do-drugs lectures, we just give the kids a shot of tequila and let them wonder why the hell anybody would willingly drink that stuff when soft drinks exist in the world.

Kid who gets the worm gets an A.