Friday, April 29, 2005

Yesterday was Dad's birthday, and this was the first time since I was born that I not only remembered his birthday but also remembered that it's traditional to get the birthday boy a card and a gift for his special day. The card was easy: I went to the Hallmark store, they had exactly six Shoebox cards that were for a dad's birthday, I chose the one that was most relevant to him. I remember it exactly. It went like this:

Some dads enjoy going fishing.
Other dads enjoy going hunting.

I'm glad you're the type of dad who understands that they have food in the store.
Ha ha ha! But it was still the best card I could find, considering that Dad doesn't hog the remote control, doesn't tell me to "go ask your mother," and doesn't fit in with any other paternal cliches that have been inspiring Hallmark card writers for generations. And Dad does understand that they have food in the store.

I used to always get Dad a card with Snoopy or Woodstock or some other Charles Schultz character saying something saccharine, but I think he's outgrowing those. He's a big boy now; he deserves a big boy card with a joke about golf or something on it.

The gift was a bit harder to come across, partly because no matter what the gift is, Dad will put it in a drawer somewhere apparently hoping that if he never takes it out of its original packaging, it might become a collectors' item. So Dad has, for example, an electric car ice scraper, never removed from its box; a Casio pocket organizer with a whole 64 kilobytes of memory, never opened; a mini-vacuum cleaner for getting rid of the detritus that accumulates inside your computer keyboard — both the keyboard and the mini-vac are collecting dust. There's a page-a-day calendar that he's never opened — I guess he's saving it in case the year 2003 ever comes around again. Even if you buy Dad a gift certificate or hand him a check, your gift stays in a dresser drawer, never to see the light of day.

Fortunately, I was going into lower Manhattan yesterday, so I thought I'd look in the store where you go when you're looking for bootleg prices and you don't give a crap if you're buying bootleg quality: Century 21. Now, Century 21 might just look like a ghetto version of Macy's (or an upscale version of Target) on their website, but in person it's Marrakesh by way of Calcutta. It's tourist-crowded, it's warm as fuck, it's full of brands that sound sort of familiar — instead of Hugo Boss's "Hugo" cologne, they've got effeminate dudes handing me samples of "Leading Man" cologne from some company called American Impressions. The employees all wear these lavendar aprons that make them look like third-world nurses, and I have never seen more half-open boxes of underwear in one place in my life.

I'm walking around the store, looking for something that doesn't have "Salvation Army" written all over it, and I was thinking of getting Dad a Rocawear baseball cap, but I don't see him getting the irony. Eventually, I found a rack of hands-free cell phone conversion kits, basically just an earpiece, microphone, and wire, listing for $12.99 but retailing for $9.99... and marked down to $6.99. Then, below them, more earpieces for $5.99 and below them, $4.99. Finally, on the other side of the rack, they had cell phone accessories, including wireless kits for $3.49. My train tickets cost more.

But I didn't buy one. I went for the $4.99 model. Because I'm not a cheapass.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Hastert and his evil Republican cronies finally relented and changed the House ethics rules to their pre-Tom Delay state. It only took four months and what the New York Times called "a pointed debate in which lawmakers traded blame for the ethics impasse" before Congress decided that cheaters never prosper... or at least that there should be massive amounts of document shredding and hard drive erasing before cheaters prosper.

Mom would look at the House proceedings and mutter, "I don't see what the big deal is, why they're even having this debate. Just tighten the ethics rules already." For her, it's a no-brainer. She said pretty much the same thing a few years back when Congress was deciding how much money lobbyists could bribe senators with before it became unseemly. The eminently forgettable senator from the populist state of Wisconsin proudly told Congress that in his state, "a representative couldn't even get a cup of coffee from a lobbyist." Poor disenfranchised cheese lobby. Then Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson — and there's a plantation-owning name if I ever heard one — from where else but the baroque state of Texas got up and told her colleagues that she liked it if she gave a speech for an organization and they thanked her with a bouquet of flowers.

That struck me as not really relevant, and I was hoping that some brash Congressman would respond, "Well, I like it when an attractive female lobbyist gives me a blowjob, but I don't really see how that helps my constituents." Of course, no one said that.

Back to my point, while Mom doesn't see why it's so hard to pass legislation holding our leaders accountable for their ethical lapses, I do. These folks in Congress, they're all friends. They probably go to the gym together, they double date at the Kennedy Center. They each tell their parents that they're gonna be studying at the other congressman's house so they can stay out all night drinking and committing petty vandalism and not passing universal health insurance. I'm sure that after the 402–20 vote essentially designed to force the Ethics Committee to look into Tom DeLay, it had to be awkward passing by him in the hallways or using the urinal next to him in the Congressional bathroom.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Other Folks's Problems

From the "Next Blog" button in the upper right-hand corner of the page, I randomly came across DTNS Blog, which is a list of Data Tech Network Solutions' boss Bill Hanley's complaints about his employees. It's also a hilarious, if unintentional, commentary on the sanitized, corporatized workplace, where the employees repress themselves in the noble name of landing accounts and then find themselves stuck with each other and the ridiculous, if not unpredictable, outcomes of their supposedly professional corporate culture. Hanley absolutely refuses to mask the contempt he has for his employees. For example, he doesn't just announce layoffs, but he announces in his blog that there will be layoffs. Mary's duties are "light-administrative" and he does not "think it necessary to ask Mary her opinion on big picture items."

This guy is probably getting paid more than I could ever hope to make.

Clearly Hanley's employees don't take him seriously at all. Recently, the employees have been taking to saying "shove it up your ass" to each other, which is the most benign thing you can possibly say that still counts as profanity. Nevertheless: "This is not acceptable." It turns out that there's a whole list of stuff that's unacceptable at DTNS: profanity, parking in the executive parking spaces, having Mary sit in on client meetings, criminal mischief, suggesting that Hanley isn't really working from home when he says he's working from home, violent crime, drug abuse, anyone exposed to contamination from the explosions on the Sao Paolo project donating blood, and whatever "Steve did today." So Hanley asks, quite reasonably, "Weather [sic] or not a client is on-site, please refrain from using profanity in the office." And here's the comments from Hanley's loyal troops.


Anonymous said...

Hey fuck you Hanley, you shit, HAH!

-Jessica, the slut

8:38 AM
Jessica said...

I am NOT a slut, and I did NOT say that!

8:52 AM
Anonymous said...

Yes I did!! Eat fuck Hanley!!!

- Jessica, the slutty slut

8:53 AM
Anonymous said...

She who smelt it dealt it

9:33 AM
Anonymous said...

If you're NOT a slut, then what about that shit at Olive Garden with yout tongue down HANLEY'S FUCKING THROAT???

9:35 AM
Hanley's Jealous Ass said...

Yeah, and I saw you in TGI fucking-Friday's with Lawrence's hand up your fucking short ass skirt!

9:42 AM
Manly Hanley said...

Could you sluts keep away from the got-damn resta-fucking-raunts, cause if you keep this shit up even the food courts gonna be fucking kicking your asses out soon.

And then WE're not even gonna get any freaking lunch, Dick, Slut

9:51 AM
Bill Hanley said...

Attention staff,

IT has informed me that anonymous users from the outside have unrestriced access to the site.

IT is working on cleaning this up.

Anyone not employed by DTNS, please DO NOT post to this site!

9:54 AM
I would've suggested to Hanley that he implement a swear jar policy at DTNS, but I guess he thinks he's doing fine without my help. As for the situation with Mary walking in on staff meetings, someone suggested — seriously, it seems — that they try and find some incentives for Mary to stay in the staff lounge. Hanley's response: "The staff lounge is off limits to interns and part-time. As a part time employee, Mary is not allowed access to the staff lounge." Yes, Hanley, forget about how Mary is costing you clients and stick to the guidelines in the corporate handbook, which clearly did not forsee Mary's aimless wandering.

Let's see, some other golden posts from DTNS corporate.... (Well, they're all golden, but let's pick out our favorites, shall we.)

Holy shit, oh my God... So here's a post where Bill wants everybody to welcome Mary to the organization that will apparently be sucking her soul. And Brad writes: "Welcome aboard Mary! (Please post this greeting on the staff room bulletin board for Mary and Sonia who don't have email)". The bulletin board in the same staff room that Mary's not allowed in! I say that for all DTNS corporate doubletalk about being welcoming and team-oriented, they might sound a little more sincere if they didn't exclude the new hire from the break room. Honestly, what's the harm?

Monday, April 11, 2005

Burning Bridges

A big thanks to Jessica and Tom for losing the Orlando account.

There will be a short staff meeting this afternoon to announce some demotions and restructuring.
Subtle, Bill. Subtle. Maybe you should take away their staff lounge privileges until Jessica and Tom shape up.

I'll leave the rest for you to enjoy. It's not really funny near the end, as something blows up in Sao Paolo and apparently someone dies, but the corporate response to it — publicly telling the employees not to speak with the media, for example — is still telling. For the record, Corporate seems like a bunch of controlling assholes, and I really can't believe that they're suprised when the employees turn out the same way.

Nice Guys Get Paid Less

According to a study in the possibly-prestigious Journal of Economic Psychology, nice people make less money at work than... well, the word they used on the news was "jerks," but a more appropriate term might be "egomaniacal sadistic obnoxious assholes who belong in hell so they don't inflict it on the rest of us." The study featured in the "Question of the Day" on CNN's American Morning, the little segment where the nation's idiots, cynics, and wannabe comedians email in their thoughts on the events of the day. Most of the folks who wrote in agreed with the study, citing examples in business such as Ken Lay and Martha Stewart, and in government such as that John Bolton evil-Muppet guy who's up to be our U.N. ambassador. I couldn't help but wonder whether these folks are underpaid because they'd rather sit at home writing into a morning news show than muster up some ambition and get to work early so they can bug their co-workers.

One woman they interviewed on the street said it's all cool because "karma balances everything out in the end." Yes, let's all get paid out in chi — gas is up to two bucks a gallon, but what is that in karma? Three Hail Marys and an act of compassion, or four Hail Marys Canadian?

Maybe this issue is hitting kind of close to home because I try my damnedest to be a nice guy, much as that's totally against my nature. I'd rather be passive-aggressive in the office, but I'm too timid. It's easier to appease the boss and keep my job than give in to my nature and hunt for a new one. But still, it seems like being nice doesn't really get you up the corporate ladder any more than being apathetic does. I was always nice at Sparknotes, but that just resulted in my getting crappier and crappier assignments, which I did with a forced smile on my face. And I was always passive-aggressive at the theatre, and they just left me alone. The only reasonably nice thing I ever did there — I complemented a co-worker in my blog by calling her "a decent human being" — got me fired.

I truly wish I could bring myself to be a complete bastard, at least when I wanted to be one. Not because they make more money, which they use to buy complete-bastard SUVs, in which they cut you off in traffic while complaining about the price of gas like a complete bastard. Just because if I'm going to be miserable in the office rat race, I might as well deserve it. Like with this project I'm working on for Ken right now, the one that's pretty much going to hell because the guy working on it before me left it a total wreck. I'd rather be cleaning up my own messes than cleaning up someone else's, especially if that someone else is sleeping better than I am.

Seriously, doesn't John Bolton (picture at right) look like an evil Muppet? But then again, pretty much everybody in the Bush administration looks like an evil Muppet. Cheney is evil Skeeter. Condi is evil Animal. Karl Rove looks kind of like an evil Grover. I want to put in some sort of joke like, "Everybody except Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. She's hot in that easy plump chick sort of way." But she's not. A Google search for sexy "members of the bush administration" turns up on 524 hits. Searching for sexy endoscopy nets you more hits, meaning that people would rather have a colon exam than date a Bush cabinet member. But can you really blame them?

Monday, April 25, 2005

The FCC Has Clearly Gotten To Howard Stern

Heard on Howard Stern tonight, ostensibly to a half-naked woman: Why are you wearing that shirt? We can't see the finest ass in the state. Um, Howard, you are aware that you broadcast over the radio, right? Technically, we wouldn't be able to see the finest ass in the state either way. I mean, I want to see the finest ass in the state, but it's just not gonna happen until they invent a device that broadcasts images in addition to sound. Howard should get to work on that.

This week is starting off a techno nightmare. I spent my weekend working for Ken, fixing this page way in the depths of his website that insists on telling you that your preferences haven't been updated when they have, in fact, been updated. It should've been a ten-minute fix, but since Microsoft is full of cretins who want to make your life difficult, it took me all weekend of saying, "How come it's not doing anything?" to figure out what files needed to be replaced to get the damn thing functioning. And I feel bad, because the guy's paying me, and he's not seeing any results.

Until this morning, that is. I finally found the master file, replaced the old version with my version, and the irritating error message started working. And everything else stopped working. Literally, everything.

I guess it might not be the absolute disaster that I'm painting it as, but I feel bad for Ken cause he's trying to run a business here and the damn website is getting in the way. I was candid and assumed something like this was going to happen eventually — the website is a tangle of files, 448 at last count, and I knew that screwing with one would probably break the others. I just don't like this frustration. It's... frustrating. :(

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Gratuitous Robot-on-Robot Sex

I rented the movie Ghost in the Shell by one Mamoru Oshî, which, if the title, director's name, and cover didn't give it away, is a work of Japanimation from the late nineties. The box even has a purple little "Japanimation" sticker on it. I've never been a fan of anime, or science fiction in genral, and it didn't take very long before the whole futuristic dystopia angle, drawn in dark, unsaturated hues and full of dialogue about "cybers" and "ghost hackers", became tiresome. Our present-day dystopia is much more agreeable, although the soundtrack kind of sucks. GitS (maybe we can come up with a better acroynm for it) has an amazing, hypnotic soundtrack that isolates the cyberworld from the action in the story, slows it down, and turns it towards introspection, as if you shouldn't get too caught up in the animated sex and violence to seriously ponder the issues of identity and humanity Oshî explores. It's the soundtrack that accompanies absinthe and Castaneda.

Problem is that science fiction and fantasy never really communicates what it means to communicate, sort of like a dissertation. Like there's this guy cyborg who wants to — and note the linguistic acrobatics here — "merge" with a female cyborg and the female worries about "losing her identity" by doing so. What does that even mean? No, really, what can that possibly mean? They're not alive so much as they're manufactured, so they have no more identity than a table or a coffee maker does.

And why would you even manufacture robots with specific genders? (I mean, aside from the obvious, perverse reason.) That's my biggest problem with the film: it hits these notes where they're obviously faking it. It's like something I would've written back in high school, detail for detail. There's the sophomoric pseudo-philosophy naively re-inventing the wheels G.E. Moore, Bertrand Russell, and John Searle already built. There's the gratuitious single white female nudity, the shame and fear of non-procreative sexuality keeping the characters from any real sex ("merging" only highlights the pussiness that went into the film design), going so far as to give the female leads men's faces as if Photoshop is more fun than masturbating. There's the violence and close-ups of big guns.

High-school-me, or present-day-me for that matter, could never have conceived of the stylization, which is where Oshî and his animators shine. The Postmodern Japan they present is always uncomfortable and intimidating, and technology creeps onto the scene even where it's not wanted. It's wet even when it's not raining. Wherever you are, the urban landscape is rotting and a sparkling crystal city hovers in the background, way out of reach. It's the one area where the film takes its hysterical realism seriously and the one area that really resonates.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Game Time Nation

I thought it was a dream come true. The blurb in New York Magazine called Game Time Nation the best new arcade in the city of 2004. They said it was "cool" and "cozy" and that it's a "lofty hall full of flat-screen Sonys, eighteen Xboxes and PlayStation 2s, comfy couches, video-game launch parties, and Japanese D.J./art nights." It's not.

Maybe I'd be a bit less grumpy about the place if those game controllers didn't have more buttons than NASA Mission Control. I remember the original Atari, with the sad phallic joystick and that one red button and there was no way you could possibly fuck that thing up. Even Mom could understand the Atari controller. Then Nintendo came out with two buttons, confusing the hell out of Mom, but at least Dad could figure it out. And for several years, there was game controller stasis... until they fit three buttons on Sega Genesis, six buttons on Super Nintendo, and thus began a nuclear arms race of who could fit the most buttons, triggers, and joysticks on a single controller. The XBox I was playing on had eight buttons, two triggers, two joysticks, and that up-down-left-right thing. I was trying to grow an extra hand to control them all, but I only paid for an hour.

The blurb I read said the place was run by a French guy, so I was expecting something maybe half café, half cabaret, half upscale brothel. You know those friends you had back in elementary school who weren't really cool but their parents were loaded and they had every video game known to man plus a pool table, a ping pong table, and a trampoline, and you could mooch off their desperation for human contact till late at night? I was expecting Game Time Nation to be like their basement, only cooler, cause they'd serve you coffee.

Game Time Nation, it turns out, is more like your lazy Cheeto-eating slacker friend's basement. They clearly got their cozy, comfy couches from the Salvation Army, and I don't want to know if the stuffing started leaking out before or after they bought them. I'm guessing they've decided there's no longer a point to vacuuming the place, or spackling the walls so it might not look like the building will collapse at any moment. All eighteen flat-screen TVs are clearly being financed, as well as the soda machine, cash register, and possibly the three-dollar Lucite coffee tables.

None of this seemed to bother any of the eleven-year-old boys who appear to be the majority of Game Time Nation's clientele. I, however, felt trashy. And quite dismayed that most of those kids could probably kick my ass in Halo 2.

I've done my fair share of duly bitching about the modern art world, so I thought it would be nice if, for once, I shared some of the artwork that I do like. I was at the MoMA today and I don't really know what came over me.

I don't think it's pretentious to say that visual artists see things, literally, different from the rest of us. Or at least they're supposed to. Good artists can share that vision with the lay public; great artists not only share that vision but turn it into something profound, larger than the piece of artwork. It's a mark of the mediocre conceptual artist to forget the sharing part of that — that's why they need an ivory tower blurb posted next to the piece explaining it. If you're going to do that, drop the visual arts and become a writer.

Here are some pieces that require no explanation.

Josiah McElheny's Modernity, Mirrored and Reflected Infinity (2003). This is, in my opinion, the piece in the museum that most deserves to be seen. The photograph misses a lot of the detail, the "infinity" part of the piece, and doesn't really do it justice. :(

Aristide Maillol's The River (1938–43). I think the sculpture is actually kind of banal. I've seen bathing female figures before. Not in real life. In art history class. But I like what I assume is more than just a curatorial decision: the fragile and ephemeral-looking reflection in the pool below.

I think it would be cool if the sign said look with your eyes, not with your hands instead.
Andreas Gursky's 99 Cent (1999). A good example of how non-artists like myself have trouble seeing the forest for the trees. The actual photo is eleven feet wide, so it's a bit more impressive.

Edward Hopper's Gas (1940). Hopper is the master of portraying American alienation. Kirchner kind of hits you over the head with it.

An Affront to God

Have you heard about these idiots setting up a shrine at a Chicago underpass? Apparently, a stain on the wall sort of kind of looks like the Virgin Mary holding a rosary, if you look at it through a digital camera and if you're deluded with religious fervor. Of course, if you have a brain, it's just salt residue left over from the winter snowfall.

I'm agnostic, but let's assume for the moment that God does, in fact, exist. Then calling an obscure mark on a viaduct a miracle should just be mortally insulting to Him. Here's the deal with God, you morons: God is mind-blowingly awesomely phenomenally powerful. In fact, He's so great that even that description is lacking. Words fail to describe how amazing God is; in Hebrew, it's sacrilege to even muster a mortal pronunciation of God's name. God could, just as a trivial example, make the word peace spontaneously appear in gold glitter on Dick Cheney's office desk. He could put an immediate end to the civil war in Zaire. Calling a salt stain on a wall a miracle is like... remember that Best Buy commercial where the middle-aged white collar guy imagines himself in Rocky III knocking out Mr. T in the ring? It's like that, only a put-down a trillion times worse.

Imagine what a better place the world would be if people diverted all the time and energy and money they put into the pope's funeral and the Terri Schiavo case and now the Virgin Mary wall stain towards helping other people. I think Jesus would like that. Just a hunch.

Now, you might argue that it really isn't hurting anybody to come pray by the image of the Virgin Mary. You might say that it reinforces people's faith and gives them hope. You'd be wrong. You'd make a pretty rational argument, but you'd still be wrong.

There was, for instance, a woman interviewed on CNN who stopped by to pray at the makeshift shrine before having a biopsy for a lump in her breast. The odds of it being cancer were "only" twenty percent. Good for her. But the odds would have been the same Virgin Mary or not.

What should give her hope is the promise of a cure for cancer thanks to stem cell research, which I would be surprised if she finds abhorrent. Or how about a national health insurance plan, so people can be treated without having to declare bankrupcy... which by the way you can no longer do, since those hypocrites in Congress who are quick to drop Jesus' name when they're rallying their fundamentalist base just sided with the usury lobby passing a bill to indenture folks who've fallen on hard times to the credit card industry. I'm sure Satan would be proud, Mr. DeLay.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Why Do They Call It "Happy Hour"?

This evening's the Columbia Young Alumni Happy Hour at this place called PS450. The monthly newse-mail from the alumni association called it "the new Gramercy hot spot," and I guess that caught my eye because I never really wanted to go to one of these things before. Heck, I never even wanted to read the alumni newsletter before.

The party's from six to question mark, but the drinks are cheap only till nine. I get to the bar a little before five-thirty. I tend to arrive at these things when the opening bell rings, way before the celebration is in full swing, and I made a mental note to wait until at least six-thirty before making my entrance. I figured I'd leave work at five-thirty, deposit my paycheck, find a place to grab a slice of pizza so that the alcohol wouldn't have me tumbling down Park Avenue, and get to the bar right as happy hour hit its peak. But then, it was a little was a little before five when Ken left to see a client, and he asked whoever was leaving the office around 5:30 to take the trash out to the dumpster. And I didn't laugh and tell him that I don't even touch my own trash. I just made sure to leave well before 5:30.

Since it's early, I decide I'll walk past PS450 and try to get some sense of the place. I can't really see in, thanks to the tinted windows, but I can see three guys, executive dress, ties, like nine feet taller than I am sitting at a table, and my hopes crash. I scrubbed my face with Clearasil for this occassion! But still, I don't think I can make it in unnoticed. I walk around Murray Hill for an hour or so.

It gets later, and I see more folks I recognize but who don't recognize me. I'm walking past the bar for the fourth or fifth time, and there's this girl standing outside on her cell phone, possibly talking to a weather recording, "...I'm not gonna go in and start drinking by myself." I'm frantically calling people, not really expecting anybody to answer, but I'm not gonna stand around talking to the cell phone itself. Someone opens the door and I hear a lot of clamor and I figure it's safe to go in.

It is. No one cards me, no one even notices. A fifteen-year-old could walk in here and get a gin and tonic; in fact, there probably were some fifteen-year-olds in there. I saw Laura Sherman and that guy from Hillel and that girl he's always with, but I wouldn't hesitate to say that most of the bar was not Columbia Young Alumni. Most of the bar wasn't even young. I'm standing in the middle of a huge throng around the alcohol center, and I'm not sure, but I think it was bring-your-own-stilts night. I'm a little kid jockeying to get closer to the bartender, and the whole thing is kind of futile because even if I can move these people out of the way, the bar itself is taller than I am and I'll just become another stool. Honestly, drunks, this is why they invented the queue.

And it's not like I'm naturally the pushy type, either. I'll stand in the back and wait patiently for someone to take my order. I think I turn a little more proactive when I actually am inebriated, but that's a nice Catch-22. (I thought of going to a different bar and getting a drink there in order to psych myself up for the hot spot happy hour.) I wander aimlessly for a little while, trying to look like I fit in, but without friends or alcohol, there's not much of a point. I'll do better standing outside like I'm waiting for someone.

PS450, the Young Alumni Happy Hour, was perfect. Just like college. I was all by myself, out of place, and sober.

I actually tried again in the bar, but it didn't go any better.

Now, I have no idea why I did next what I did next, but I'm proud that I didn't have a cell phone conversation with no one. I called Mom. Whenever I'm down, I can always count on Mom to say something emasculating and inappropriate, such as, "Why don't you try a fuzzy navel?" and then follow it up with something else emasculating and inappropriate, like perhaps, "I'm sure if you went inside, you could talk to somebody. Ask them where they've been living." Then she would likely say something emasculating and inappropriate, which is exactly what she did, in a depressing attempt to get me back into PS450. Seven minutes later, I realized was standing outside a college bar talking to Mommy, and at that point, I figured the night was pretty much a wash.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

We need to discuss two articles from the Thursday Styles section of the New York Times. First, there's this article about personal trainers getting too personal, coincidentally titled "When a Personal Trainer Gets Too Personal." I didn't technically read the article, but I was watching the trainers at the gym flirt with sweaty girls in tight clothes, so now I consider myself an expert on the subject. I've gotta admit that I have very little patience with attractive people — which is a theme you may have noticed running through my blog — especially when they're complaining about how hard the pulchitrudinous lifestyle is. Because honestly, that's why you drag your hot, hot ass out of bed in the morning and go to the gym: so that people of the appropriate gender will want to fuck you. It's not like it's their fault you're all picky about who touches you where.

The second article we've got to talk about is "Reach Out and Touch No One," about a recent trend of "cellphonies" yammering away on their cell phones in public places even though there's nobody on the other end of the line. Thank God! Finally, a line of pathetic behavior I haven't crossed.

The sociologists record the cell phone as a bizarre communications tool when we use or abuse it in public; we simultaneously communicate with someone distant on the other end and with the poor folks around us who have to listen to our inane conversation. I've pulled this trick before: everybody around's having a good time together and I'm feeling left out, I whip out the cell phone and call Anne, suddenly I'm having a blast with the rest of the crowd. Or at least I look like I am, which is three-quarters the battle. I've got my clique too, I'm saying, they're just not here right now.

I've even considered being a bit more direct with my cell phone. I was on the train the other day, for instance, and it was way before rush hour so the train was practically empty. And out of nowhere, this tubby, greasy, smelly guy sat down next to me, even though there were at least fifty other empty seats near no one. What is up with this? Why is it that only those unable to groom themselves have no need for personal space? I was thinking of calling somebody and telling them what was happening in real time: "You wouldn't believe this, the train is pretty much empty and this tub of lard has to sit down right next to me! And he smells, too. Yeah, like he just pissed himself." After which one of us would be so mortified we'd have to switch seats.

I can't wait till people start combining the talking to the ether on the cell phone trend with the wireless headset trend. And you thought it was tough now telling the crazy folks from the people who just need to look important.

Monday, April 18, 2005

If Anyone Happens To Know A Nielsen Family Or Two...

The Arrested Development season finale aired last night, so now starts the three-month nervous waiting game praying that FOX will renew the best show on television. Thanks to a plethora of stupid Americans who apparently need a little help finding the jokes in a sitcom, Arrested Development's ratings are unduly low, despite apparent, and to be honest, rather confusing, support from FOX. FOX has even set up an online petition to save the show, which I'm begging you to sign. Hell, even if you don't watch the show, you know if Arrested Development gets cancelled, it's just going to be replaced by yet another formulaic comedy about a single woman working at a magazine with a bunch of ostensibly wacky friends, and that's not going to be good for anybody.

On a side note, if you come across petitions to, say, free Tibet or stop the ethnic cleansing in the Darfur, feel free to sign those too.

There's some sort of filmmakers' society meeting at the community center in Millburn that Dad nagged me into checking out. The community center sits in the middle of a park, empty after twilight except for the stray couple making out by the brook, so it's more or less reminiscent of Camp Crystal Lake. I was half surprised that the community center building was unlocked and half surprised that no hockey-mask clad psycho with a machete chased me around the place. I found the meeting okay, listening for the sounds of middle-aged film nerds discussing thirty fps digital video and the latest issue of Reel Indies magazine. But the doors were closed and I got the feeling I wouldn't be able to sneak in, so instead I snuck out...

...and this woman put down her book and came out of the teen game room to ask if she could help me, to which there was the natural question: How the hell do they have a teen game room?

Here in Fanwood, at La Grande Park, the park near my house, we have a room. It's locked pretty much all the time, so even if there were a ping-pong table in there, the misbegotten teens of Fanwood could only stand outside the room and smoke weed. In fact, there's only like Topple and Mouse Trap in that room, and they're missing about half their pieces, which explains why the room is locked and why you apparently can't trust Fanwood's teens with anything nice, such as an air hockey table.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

A Letter To Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee

Dear Senator Roberts:

I saw the movie Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams last night, and even though I hadn't seen the original Spy Kids, I still found the movie pretty easy to follow. There is one thing I didn't understand, and I thought perhaps you could explain it to me. Why is the government squandering my hard-earned tax dollars hiring all these adult spies when the Spy Kids are just as good and probably a whole lot cheaper?

Once you rubber-stamp John Negroponte's confirmation as the new Director of National Intelligence, you might want to have him look into this. If he needs a starting point, I can suggest Agent Cody Banks and Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London, as well as LSD. I think he will agree that instead of relying on our satellite intelligence regarding North Korea, we can just send the Spy Kids there instead. That would probably confuse the living hell out of Kim Jong Il, and here in America we'd be spared Daryl Sabara's pathetic mouth-breathing over-enunciating attempts at acting.

Unless that's his cover, a kid who can't act.

Anyway, thanks for listening. If you ever need my advice on other matters, like who we should hire to deal with our nation's vampire slaying needs, don't hesitate to ask.


Jay Harris,
Patriotic American

You Cannot Win If You Don't Play...

I went to a poetry workshop this afternoon, by which I mean I drove to the location of the poetry workshop, walked around outside the building, and drove home. I also got chased around by a gigantic mutant bumblebee, and now that it's spring, you can expect a lot more stories about humongous insect abominations of God. Now, I went to this poetry workshop — or at least I planned on attending it — because my psychotherapist told me that I need to get out of my house and do things with like-minded people. He diagnoses my overall churlishness and pessimism as a symptom of my geekish lack of information and experience about the world, and it's not like I'm going to be growing as a person sitting up in my room and writing in my blog all day long.

Poetry workshop it was then. Mind you, I'm not all that into poetry, but I figured that there's really nothing else to do in Fanwood and the workshop's leader was Tom Plante, who is about as successful a poet as one can be in modern America without being Maya Angelou. Mr. Plante, a fellow Fanwood resident, runs a publication called "Exit 13" that has managed to snag some other big-name poets you've never heard of like Charles Bukowski, Gerald Stern and former poet laureate (not sure why we need one of those) Robert Pinsky. It seems like Mr. Plante would be a good person for an aspiring writer to get to know. I considered submitting some of my own poetry to Exit 13, but I get the feeling I'd be rejected despite my hometown advantage.

So I went to this poetry (click the link already, hint hint) workshop, and it wasn't a disaster. It was just that everybody there was at least twenty years older than me, and there were at most nine or ten people there so I couldn't even sit and hide in the back. Folks seemed to be on a first-name basis with Mr. Plante, although that might have just been because they're all neighbors and they probably borrow each other's typewriters and rhyming dictionaries all the time. Regardless, it was intimidating, although not quite as intimidating as the giant mutant bumblebee hanging around outside the building.

I guess most intimidating of all would've been being chased inside the poetry workshop by the bumblebee.

None of this helps my psyche though. I stay away because it's not crowded enough, or I stay away because it's too crowded and everybody looks like they're having a good time with their friends and I'm all alone. Everybody's either too old; or they've all brought their little kids, who are running around like they're on crack; or they're my age and all so much better-looking than me. (Sometimes at the gym, there's this guy who's about my age, about my weight, and twice my height, and he can only lift like three plates on the various exercise machines. Thank you, Jesus, for him.) My fellow amateur poets read their poetry and either it sucks and I'm wasting my time, or it's more vibrant, more mellifluous, more meaningful than anything my lame mind can produce and I feel like a waste of brain cells.

Back in the late nineties, I was into this whole "Chicken Soup For The Soul" movement that promoted living by a philosophy of inspirational platitudes and Ziggy cartoons, and it came to mind while driving to the poetry workshop I later wouldn't attend. I'm sure somewhere in the myriad variations on Chicken Soup, the aphorism that titles this post — You cannot win if you don't play — appears somewhere, challenging the easily-inspired among us to take control of our life experience, or some psychobabble like that. There is, of course, the converse — you also cannot lose if you don't play — but the Chicken Soupers of the world have a highly cultivated ability to disregard the logic that doesn't suit their immediate cause.

Which is why my new, five-hours-old life philosophy divides the human race into two fluid and malleable groups: the winners and the losers. The former plays this metaphorical game and expects to win, and the latter... well, you can figure it out. I seem to fall in the loser category, although I wouldn't mind getting out. The best I muster is a probationary release, like when I walk up to the counter at Starbucks, order a tall mocha frappuchino no-whip, and actually get the correct beverage for the advertised price. The good news is that this new philosophy just asks me to change the way I think about problems — instead of expecting to fail, I need to expect success. Maybe all the old folks at the poetry workshop would be thrilled to have a young whippersnapper in their midst, someone who could, say, move a folding chair across the room without snapping three or four bones.

The bad news is that this new philosophy asks me to change the way I think about problems.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

A member on this soft-core porn bulletin board recently posted that he's in the hospital being treated for cancer, along with fifty or so great links to fetish sites. Which strikes me as rather soulless: Even if the tumor is benign, when you're in the hospital, you're supposed to be praying and contemplating your mortality and resolving to live for the moment from now on instead of spending your time in front of the computer whacking off.

I guess it's still better than whiling away your days playing with the reclining bed and making spurious requests for more water just so a hot nurse will come visit you.

Friday, April 15, 2005

The Associated Press reports that a lawsuit against Eminem got thrown out of a Michigan court. The details don't matter here, all that's important is the Macomb County judge issuing the ruling did so in rap. And so you can an idea of the rap's quality, here's a picture of the judge:

Selected excerpts from the rap:

Mr. Bailey complains that his rep is trash
So he's seeking compensation in the form of cash.
Bailey thinks he's entitled to some monetary gain
Because Eminem used his name in vain.

The lyrics are stories no one would take as fact
They're an exaggeration of a childish act.
Any reasonable person could clearly see
That the lyrics could only be hyperbole.

It is therefore this Court's ultimate position
that Eminem is entitled to summary disposition.


Jay Visits Home Depot, Gets Scared Away by a Bandsaw

I found myself in dire need of a closet shelving system so I could complete this year-long project of organizing the big pile of junk and clutter in my room into little piles of junk and clutter. Normally, I wouldn't think twice about the entropy in my room until the mess starts violating the second law of thermodynamics, but I figured that I'd have to move stuff around anyway to deal with the impending mildew infestation that's threatening to consume my room and I might as well put everything back in some sort of order. What started as a few brown spots has grown into an entire ecosystem living on my bedroom wall. Since I know how much people love looking at pictures of mold, I include some now for your edification.

Being a metrosexual snob, I was all set to head out to The Container Store, ostensibly located at Menlo Park Mall, half an hour away, to find some sort of, uh, container that didn't look like crap. I can think of four stores (five, if you count Wal-Mart, which I don't) all within a ten minute drive from home that would have approximately what I'm looking for, but I'm only too happy to do some extra driving and some extra paying just so I can shop at the same place they shop on "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." As it turns out, however, there is no Container Store in Menlo Park Mall, or anywhere in central New Jersey, for that matter. I guess I was confusing it with the punnishly-named Hold Everything. Gee, how could anyone possibly make that mistake?

Instead, I found a coupon for Bed Bath & Beyond and, disappointed, headed out there. Don't get me wrong: there's a pretty long list of decent stuff you can find at Bed Bath & Beyond. It's just that storage units aren't on that list. I know this because we bought all of my dorm room furnishings and decorations in a single Bed Bath & Beyond shopping binge and then I spent two years of college dealing with this shoddy "Yaffa Block" modular stackable shelving system that wobbled whenever you put something heavier than a pencil on it. There's no way I'd trust my Yaffa shelves to hold all that crap you see in the picture on the left. Mom, who has apparently never heard of Ikea, told me that "every college student has Yaffa Blocks." But then again, she hasn't been in college since the days when everybodyd had a portable typewriter, so I don't really know what I was thinking listening to her.

Nevertheless, here I am at Bed Bath & Beyond where you have a whopping two options when it comes to storage units. There's a cheap clear plastic model with three drawers and a cheap wicker model with three drawers, so you've got your choice between north of the Mason-Dixon line white trash and south of the Mason-Dixon line white trash. Maybe they were out of stock today, but I've noticed that Bed Bath & Beyond also sells a mesh metal Euro-trash model.

Which is why I crossed the parking lot to Home Depot. As it turns out, if you buy something from Home Depot, they expect you to assemble it yourself. So I headed back to Bed Bath & Beyond.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


I found a recipe for scallop ceviche in my cookbook and "cooked" it up for dinner tonight, despite my mother's numerous reservations. Ceviche, if you're unfamiliar, is a staple of the raw food diet; instead of cooking the fish, you marinate it in lemon juice, orange juice, and lime juice for several hours. The citric acid breaks down the proteins in the fish, like heat would, and you're left with a meal with the texture and bacterial risk of home-made sushi.

The ceviche, parasites aside, was hardly a challenge to my incredibly-modest culinary skills. Step (1): Put fish in bowl. Step (2) Pour citrus juices over fish. Step (3): Cover with tin foil. Step (4) Put bowl, fish, juices, and tin foil in refrigerator until fish turns white. Step three is the most difficult, but the whole process is only a few notches harder than toasting Pop-Tarts.

In any case, the ceviche came out okay. Mind-blowingly citrus.

I'm happy to be able to use the phrase "mind-blowingly citrus" in a context that isn't an ad for Starburst.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Virtual Reality

Someone left the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times on the kitchen counter, and if your English isn't too good and you find the Times kind of intimidating, I suggest that Sunday Styles is the section to start with. It's like eighty percent pictures of old people in formalwear and ten percent pictures of young people in formalwear. Five percent ads for crap you can't afford.

Thing is, I can't figure out who in the hell is the audience for this. Like, on the back page, there's blurbs about selected couples who got married in the past week. They read like this:

Nicole Brill Jacobs, a daughter of Carole Jacobs and Dr. Anthony Jacobs of Birmingham, England, is to be married today to Brett Harris Wigdortz, a son of Judith Wigdortz and Lawrence Wigdortz of West Long Branch, N.J. Rabbi David Booth is to officiate at the Ocean Place Spa and Resort in Long Branch, N.J.
So I guess Carole and Dr. Anthony Jacobs will be reading this week's Sunday Styles section, not to mention Judith and Lawrence Wigdortz. The Times even included a picture of Nicole and Brett, wincing in love, just in case the in-laws forget what their kids look like on what I hope, judging from the picture, is not one of their better days.

Okay, the wedding "news" continues:
The bride, 32, is a reflexologist in private practice in London. She graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University in England and received a certificate in complementary health from the Central London School of Reflexology. Her father retired as a doctor of clinical chemistry at New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton, England.
Here's the thing. There are only two possible reasons to care about the bride's profession. Either (a) you know the bride or groom, in which case you're probably already aware of Nicole's exciting career in the fast-paced world of chiropody, or (b) you are an asshole using this poor couple's press release as in example in your blog. Don't blame me; I didn't put this in the newspaper.

Finally, a paragraph on the, well, you'll see...
The bridegroom, 31, is the founder and chief executive of Teach First, a British adaptation of the nonprofit organization Teach for America. He graduated from the University of Richmond and received a master's degree in economics from the University of Hawaii. His mother is an adjunct professor of English at Monmouth University in New Jersey. His father is a senior advertising executive at the Asbury Park Press in Neptune, N.J.
The bridegroom? Huh? Who says "bridegroom?"

Are they planning on hanging the honeymoon sheets out the window for everyone to see too?

No, that's not fair. It's not Nicole and Brett's fault that the NYT is particularly affected. A picture of a shack on the front page with the announcement "Trailer park homes like this one are going for millions." And "Evening Hours," their own classed-up version of Page Six, with photos of socialites together at ritzy parties you weren't invited to. Look, there's Ellsworth Kelly standing next to To Tell The Truth panelist Kitty Carlisle Hart. There's Georgette Mosbacher and a countenance of ennui that can only come from having to pose with Nancy Collins and Michael Tilson Thomas at Cipriani 42nd Street. The whole page is like a joke in The New Yorker that you're too poor white trash to get. Go to some shitty bar with mouth-burning vodka that Kristin Chenoweth wouldn't be caught dead at, loser.

It this weird vicarious Cinderella fantasy that it appeals to. It's one thing to check out the photos of a party you were at, remember how much fun it was when some guy there in a black top hat and hot pink cummerbund started humping the melting ice sculpture. (Not that that ever happened at any parties I was at. No, seriously.) It's another thing for someone to tell you about the ice humper, and it's still another rubbing-it-in thing to tell you about how this lunatic was humping the ice sculpture at the same time that you were at home cleaning up after the wicked stepsisters. Which is what baffles me.

Maybe the readers think there'll be a invitation lottery inside.

Friday, April 8, 2005

Those Healthy-Lifestyle Bastards Claim Another Victim!

I, for one, like pudgy little kids, and I'm glad our nation is bursting at the seams with them. Living at what I'll call the "wedgie" end of the gym class spectrum, I don't think our nation's childhood obesity problem is what the alarmists tell us, but the thought still amuses me. Fat little kids are always good for making fun of, and you don't feel guilty or anything because it's not like it's my fault the little porker eats nothing but junk food and thinks that Playstation is strenuous exercise. But the fat police who insist on telling you how to raise your children think differently, and if you haven't heard yet, they've got a warrant out on Cookie Monster.

If you come from a place that's Sesame Street free, Cookie Monster is a furry blue Muppet who, as his name implies, spends his days screaming "Me want cookie!" and scarfing down chocolate chip cookies, teaching little children about the combined joys of gluttony and instant gratification. He also teaches children which letter of the alphabet "cookie" begins with via his trademark Grammy-winning song, C is for Cookie. Cookie Monster, being a puppet and all, is able to eat an entire bakery's worth of cookies, not to mention possibly a few Keebler elves, without gaining a pound or raising his cholesterol a single point. This makes the Atkins folks totally freak. Think of all our impressionable youngsters and the horrible lessons they're getting from a character who has the word "monster" in his name: Carbs are good for you! Use the objective case pronoun "me" as the subject of a sentence!

This year, for Sesame Street's thirty-sixth season, its creators, the Children's Television Workshop, say they're bowing to politically correct bullshit pressure and making Cookie Monster healthier. He'll be singing a new song, patronizingly titled Cookie Are A Sometimes Food, and, like most health-food freaks, he'll be rubbing it in your face at every possible opportunity. "Me want tofu!" "How can you eat Big Mac? So many calories! So much sodium! Me hope you don't get heart attack!"

The childhood innocence started crumbling away when they told us we couldn't lick the spoon and bowl after mixing cake batter. Then they found that Twinkies apparently caused cancer or something, so they had to take those off the shelf. And now, here's the last straw, Children's Television Workshop is introducing a counterpoint to Cookie Monster's taste for junk food: the American Fruit Stand. If you're both over forty and incredibly imaginative, you won't need me to tell you that the American Fruit Stand is an American Bandstand parody, complete with singing eggplants and carrots just begging to be eaten because they're oh-so-healthy. It makes me sad, and kind of irritated because it's not like any of this crap is going to have the slightest effect on childhood obesity. You don't have to be a child psychologist — or even like kids for that matter — to realize that today's children aren't little piggies because of Cookie Monster any more than they're going around yammering squeakily in the third person asking to be tickled because Elmo does it. Kids eat cookies because cookies taste good, and kids don't eat brussel sprouts because, no matter how many Muppets you have singing about them, brussel sprouts taste like ass.

I think there is a real epidemic here in America, and it has nothing to do with pudgy third-graders waddling down the street. The problem is the hordes of negligent, indolent, and corpulent (I just threw that in for good measure) parents who load up their spoiled rotten kids with disposable income and then let them loose on the world to buy their Hostess Ding-Dongs and Ashlee Simpson ringtones. Message to American parents: stop being surprised when your unsupervised children go around acting childish!

In other Sesame Street news, apparently this season Oscar the Grouch enters a methadone clinic and tries to get himself cleaned up. Grover reconsiders his life and concludes that tequila is a sometimes drink. Also, the entire cast roasts and stuffs Big Bird on a very special Thanksgiving on Sesame Street episode.

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Beautiful Day

Finally. It's sunny out, breezy, with a high of seventy degrees. We've all waited long enough.

I was stuck in the office today, but I did get to go out for a walk at lunchtime, and that's when I noticed something I hadn't seen in a long, long time — skin. It's been like six months and day in, day out everyone on the street is a bloated pile of fur and down and Gore-Tex. Now suddenly everybody's got a normal human figure. It's like when they put the entire city of Philadelphia on a diet, only better cause no one had to do any actual work.

Which leads me to another observation: there's a whole lot of freaking ugly-ass people out there. I've got a fun summertime tip from me to you — if you don't have a good body, cover it the fuck up! For instance, you'll never see me strutting down the Seaside Heights boardwalk wearing a Speedo designed for Olympic competition, because I am considerate of my fellow man. Also, I am incredibly pale, beset with bacne, and self-conscious. And, to be honest, I'm not that considerate of my fellow man.

I believe we can divide mankind into five groups, based on our physical appearance. A fair percentage of humanity joins me in the first group: unattractive people who struggle to make do with what God gave us. Merciful God recognized our plight and granted us somewhere around nine-hundred reality make-over shows, and some flamboyant, gay fashion designer guy will eventually get to each one of us in turn so we can keep some lucky woman in her late thirties from becoming an old maid. You can tell that we're just romantics at heart.

Along with us are those in the second group: people who are ugly and don't know it yet. You've seen them, those blubbery girls who are like five percent pleated denim skirt and eighty-five percent cellulite and those guys living under more hair gel than all three of those guido Gotti kids combined. But they get along on their shining personalities. These folks usually wind up on softcore porn sites, cold sores and all.

The third group is the people who are too busy finding cures for AIDS or being the Dalai Lama to care about their personal appearance. Celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Bono think they're in this group, but they're not.

Fourth, we have the group of attractive women. I'll stop my bitching for a moment.

Finally, there's the attractive men. They can just die and stop screwing up the curve for the rest of us.

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

We learn from one of the commercial breaks that the entire cast of UPN's Veronica Mars is going to be at the Macy's in Herald Square this Saturday at one. Which leads to the following important question: Who the hell cares enough about Veronica Mars to actually leave their house, spend two bucks on a subway ride, and trek all the way over to Herald Square, and then wander through the acres and acres of misses and juniors that is The World's Largest Store (and also The World's Tackiest Store Per Capita) just to glimpse the cast of a UPN show. And it's not like Buffy, either, where you can dress up as your favorite character and try to impress the other geeks there.

Not that I mean to be cynical, but this is coming from someone who (a) likes Veronica Mars and (b) actually went to see Paris Hilton promote her book at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square. I was careful not to look directly at Paris because I was afraid I might catch something.

Okay, so I've just got to grab a friend and we have to go. I mean, to check out all the losers there, of course.

Monday, April 4, 2005

A Fungus Among Us

There's some crazy green mold stuff living off my bedroom walls, and it's starting to worry Mom. It doesn't bother me that much, although there's at least one species of mold that's the color of snot and forms little droplets on the wall, and that kind of grosses me out. I should, in fact, be very worried because our next door neighbors' house had to be torn down because of a toxic mold infestation, and I'm sure an image of the giant caution-taped off hole in the lot next door flashes in Mom's mind every time she sees the mold colonize a new section of my bedroom.

I got a spray bottle of Tilex and started taking care of the problem, but it's going to be a pretty big job because most of the mold is living behind boxes of crap I brought home from college ten months ago and never put away. It's not that I'm lazy, it's that... well, okay, I'm lazy. But I also don't have anyplace to put all the crap from college because all of my closets and drawers and shelves are filled with crap I brought home from high school four years and ten months ago and never threw away. So today's going to be the day I take all the stuff out of my closet, dust it off, look at it one last time... and put it in a big plastic box down in the basement where it'll sit for fifteen years. There's precedent for this: the G.I. Joe action figures (ahem! dolls! cough, cough!) Harold Burwell gave me for that birthday party where my parents made me invite my entire kindergarten class, a Sesame Street record player, enough Legos™ to build a scale model of Dallas, and something called Legions of Power whose logo makes it look even gayer than the name "Legions of Power" would suggest:

You never know what you'll find rummaging through your closet — aside from dust, you can be pretty sure you'll find dust. I discovered the "portable" typewriter Mom brought with her to college. In case you're young, a "typewriter" is a mechanical device old people who are afraid of computers use to type up papers, like a quill pen or a stylus and clay tablet. Now that I've unearthed Mom's old typewriter, we have two in our house. I found an unopened Lion King paint-by-numbers kit, which I can't possibly imagine myself buying. I found all of European history in outline form, which could conceivably come in handy someday.

Those last six words there — could conceivably come in handy someday — are going to be my downfall. There are companies in New York that folks hire to de-pack rat their homes because they've accumulated decades and decades worth of junk in their tiny studio apartments, every last scrap of which could conceivably come in handy someday. Who knows? Maybe someday, I'm on Jeopardy! and the answer is "Who is Metternich?" or "What was the Glorious Revolution?" and I'll be kicking myself for not having rescued those AP Euro notes from the basement.

Come to think of it, even that "Legions of Power" eighties spaceship thing could come in handy someday. On Ebay.

Nope, I checked Ebay, probably not. 8-(

Sunday, April 3, 2005

Lament For The Learning Channel

While everyone else is getting all teary-eyed over the not-that-untimely death of the Pope, I'm offering a belated eulogy for The Learning Channel, which passed away a few years and got reincarnated as TLC, the channel for people who know the alphabet but not how to read. They used to have a lot of fascinating and unforgettable educational programs, especially James Burke's Connections series and several Desmond Morris documentaries including The Human Animal and The Human Sexes. Nowadays, all they show are a bunch of variations on a theme, white-bread makeover shows imported from Britian and Americanized or shows with big tatooed guys building motorcycles. Not only did they drop the educational facet of their programming, but they got rid of the fascinating and unforgettable facets, too.

It blows because it's Sunday afternoon, which means there's not a damn thing on unless you're a fan of arena football or raw footage of cops arresting shirtless white trash or gay guys and straight women overhauling the wardrobes of straight guys and straight women. Someday soon we're gonna have five hundred channels, and it'll be possible to find homes for Andy Richter Controls the Universe and Paul Haggis's EZ Streets, but Sunday afternoon will roll around and there's still not gonna be anything on but NASCAR and two guys and a girl remodeling a house. Each on two-hundred fifty channels!

At least there's Animal Planet satisfying my need to watch fauna doing it.

Saturday, April 2, 2005

It's Popeless! Popeless, I Tell You!

Pope John Paul II is dead. I'm disappointed. I was enjoying how he'd bless everything in sight, and I was hoping he'd wind up in a persistent vegetative state; he'd have had a more karmically appropriate end that way.

It sort of surprises and disgusts me that I think this way: the Pope still is (was) a human being, albeit one who promulgates ignorance and intolerance. According to the liberal media, "the world mourns" tonight and throngs of the faithful a.k.a. mindless have converged on the Vatican to offer their condolences for a guy who is, unfortunately, too dead to accept them. What might have hit me initially is that, according to news reports, I'm apparently the only non-Muslim extremist who couldn't really care less that all is popeless (and also probably the only person who still thinks that pun is funny), but now I'm just depressed over what folks are actually mourning. I mean, thousands of people around the world die every day, and most of them don't pre-empt the ABC Saturday Evening Family Movie.

Thing is, Death — someone's no longer being on the planet — is a totally personal experience. They say there's six billion people in the world, but I'm only aware of maybe a hundred or so of them. I only like about ten or fifteen. The rest of those folks, when they disappear, I'll go on without missing a beat.

And I imagine theoretically empathizing with the mourners — the genuine mourners, with a bile-filled hole in their soul where the deceased once took hold — but I'm not aware of their existences either. Despite my cynicism, or maybe because of it, I honestly believe that God has no excuse for making people grieve who don't deserve having to grieve. And I know, intellectually, that, nevertheless, God's doing just that and there's nothing I can do about it besides speaking out against the Republican party. But I can't, you can't, a benevolent and loving God wouldn't want you to spend all your time feeling bad with the mourners of the world.

The people crowding in Saint Peter's Square, like the "millions around the world" supposedly praying for Terri Schiavo, aren't mourning anybody. The Pope, because he is, as Peter Griffin said, the freakin' Pope, isn't being mourned as a dude with a personality, with fashion sense, with hopes and dreams. The people outside the basilica are mourning the end of a symbol, the Church as Interpreted by JP Instead of JC. It's kind of sad, really. He had acolytes, but I don't think anybody could ever really call themselves the Pope's "friend."

Friday, April 1, 2005

Maybe He's Busy...?

The Vatican is asking all Catholics to up the intensity of our prayers for the Holy Father, like he's Tinkerbell and if we all applaud extra-hard, the myraid diseases that God sent to afflict the Pope will cure themselves. What hypocrisy! If the Pope is sick, then surely the Pope, of all people, has to believe that's God's will.

Or maybe God's not aware that JP is croaking — I mean, he's no one important, only the Pope — and it's up to some crazy granny who gives her social security checks to Billy Graham to give God the message.

The fact is that the Pope and his big, pointy hat-wearing lackeys preach faith and blindly following Church doctrine, but now that it's time for them to put up or shut up, they're begging the world to pray for them. Well, like they say, everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to do what it takes to get there.