Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Did you all see Hell's Kitchen on (where else) FOX last night? I didn't, but it’s not like that's gonna stop a pseudo-journalist like me from writing about it anyway. I, for one, would like to know when it was that British people all became such assholes. I always thought that "Spot o' tea, gov'ner?" Cockney crap was like the Ozark dialect from across the pond and, on the other end of the spectrum, nothing would make me happier than seeing that smug bastard James Bond — especially the humorless Roger Moore variant — die in a horrible kidney pie accident. But my feeling is that if American women are going to swoon over Brits, the least the Brits can do in return is put on that foppish Hugh Grant persona. You know the one, where he meets cute with Julia Roberts or Elizabeth Hurley or Renee Zellweger and falls out of the rowboat on their first date.

Of course, I'd really prefer the Ricky Gervais or Paul Merton species of Brit — physically unattractive and semi-understandable — who don't screw up the attractiveness curve for the rest of us. (Damn you, Matthew MacFayden, your accent and your rugged good looks!)

From this side of the Atlantic, it feels like Restoration time again, with the British shipping all of their obstreporous, self-satisfied people over to the New World so they won't kill the buzz in England. Remember Anne Robinson, hosting The Weakest Link, always finding new and creative ways to tell Americans, who to be honest were largely retarded, that they were retarded. And of course there's Simon Cowell, who enlightens us all with comments like, "That was awful. Just awful. I'd rather listen to a dying bullfrog vomit up its own rectum than your rendition of Piano Man." It used to bother me that he'd crush the hopes of these desparate kids, most of whom were really no less talented musically than certain pop stars who won't be named.

(Cough, cough, J. Lo... ahem, Ashlee Simpson... cough, gag, cough, that guy from Creed... ahem.)

Sorry, something stuck in my throat there.

Now Simon just drives me crazy by carrying kids belting out banal pop standards to a Hollywood recording apotheosis. (I do believe this is the only place where you'll find the word "apotheosis" in an article about the Hell's Kitchen TV show.) This is a guy who'd give Hayley Duff a recording contract and tell Bob Dylan to get a lozenge.

Okay, I'd tell Dylan to get a lozenge too.

Along comes Gordon Ramsay who follows in a proud FOX tradition of giving guys their own TV shows even though they're still working through childhood issues. While I'm writing about the poster child for Valium here, I need to mention the most pointless online poll ever, from the FOX website.

If you were training on Hell's Kitchen, who would you rather train under?
  • Attila the Hun
  • Genghis Khan
  • Henry VIII
  • Gordon Ramsay
Uh... well I'd probably learn a bit more from Ramsay, seeing as how he's an actual chef. Although with Attila and Genghis, the looting and pillaging and raping is probably pretty good. I mean, seriously.

Now, Ramsay's bio calls him "the most accomplished chef in Britian," which, stereotypes aside, is like saying someone has the healthiest teeth in Britian. His first restaurant earned two Michelin stars, which leads me to ask, "You mean the tire people?" Basically, Gordy's a thirty-seven year old ex-football (i.e. "soccer") star who's not so much a perfectionist as a man-toddler chimera throwing temper tantrums when things don't go his way. He doesn't need a sous-chef, whatever the hell that is, so much as he needs Nanny 911. In the premiere episode, Gordon refuses to let a meal leave his kitchen unless all of the dishes in the meal are perfect; if one's not right, his hapless proteges have to cook the whole meal over again. It takes a few hours before anything gets served. Naturally. The restaurant's first customers — obviously extras the producers hired — are getting antsy, the contestants are stressed, Gordon's yelling at them like so many angry New York City cabbies during gridlock, as if that's gonna help. Maybe Gordon thinks the passage of time is his chefs' fault. I don't know.

Here's what gets me. This ain't polite little England. This is America, baby. U! S! A! We don't give a fuck what you think of us, and we don't take crap from anyone. (I mean, I take crap from people all the time, but that's because I have low self-esteem.) We're bombing the shit out of a country that didn't even do anything to us, okay? Those French cheese-eating surrender monkeys didn't go along with us in Iraq and what did we do? We took their fried potato sticks and renamed them "Freedom Fries!" We renamed their egg-dipped toast "Freedom Toast!" We bought all their wine and poured it down the sewer, bitch!

...wait a second, there... thinking... oh, that didn't help, did it....

How hard did these Hell's Kitchen producers have to work to find the other ten Americans (aside from me) willing to put up with Gordon and his hypoglycemic rages? Jesus, kids, demand some fucking respect, give Gordy a time-out (if you're a liberal pussy) or a few whacks with your belt (if you're a psycho conservative). Maintain eye contact with him, speak in a firm voice and say, "No, Gordon. That's not how we behave." Take away his cutting boards and pressure cookers until he learns to control himself.

At least make some good TV and walk the hell out of there, people.

I'm not seeing much hope, though. In Britain, people literally get into screaming matches on the Parliament floor. Did you see the debates over there for the elections they just had? We had old ladies asking Dubya, "Would you please pray for Oregon?" They had one kid after another in the audience just berating Blair for the faulty intelligence on the Iraq war — probably not the best three hours of his life. It's not that I think we're passive over here; I think we're star-struck. Our American dreams are that we'll all get to be the next Donald Trump, the next American Idol, the next... uh... Fabio. (He had a reality show, too — Mr. Romance. Oh, what, you missed it? Sample Fabio line: "People always tell me, 'Fabio, you have the body of Hercules and the brains of Zeus,' to which I say, 'Thank you.'" Fabio, buddy, you have the head of a drag queen and you can't tell butter from margarine. No one's saying that shit to you. I think mostly people are calling you that chick who got cracked in the face with the goose.)

If these dumb shits could make it to the top, then why not me?

For starters, God doesn't like you the way he seems to like the Donald. Also, the space at the top is limited; even if we could all be the most distinguished chef in the Commonwealth, someone would still have to work the Fry-o-later at Burger King. But mostly, you're just not that talented — not necessarily artistically or businesswise or whatever, but in terms of marketing yourself. You're just not the type of asshole who'd throw a tantrum in front of fifteen adults and a national audience if that's what it takes to get to the top. Like they said on South Park, it's always between a giant douche and a turd sandwich cause they're the only ones who suck up enough to make it.

Now, while Gordon's getting his irate persona on, FOX also shows House, an almost-brilliant show where Hugh Laurie (another Brit, although you'd never tell from his acting) plays an acerbic doctor who berates and insults his colleagues, staff, and frequently his dying patients. And, to the credit of Laurie and the show's creator Bryan Singer, House's vitriol is refreshing and cathartic, especially opposed to Ramsay's childish outbursts. House gets away with his behavior (barely) because we appreciate that House is trying to do a logical, rational job within a system that wavers between the extremes of arbitrary bureaucracy and incapacitating, irrational emotion. All he wants to do is diagnose a disease, and he can't do that his patients lie out of fear or shame or whatever.

Ramsey, then, is the system of arbitrary bureaucracy — throwing out a perfectly good crab risotto because the penne with spicy aiolo it's supposed to be paired with isn't al dente enough — and the irrational emotion — do I even need to present an example here. Is the chicken really simultaneously too dry (i.e. overcooked) and undercooked, or does it just not stroke your massive ego enough, Gordo?

Worse yet, the whole thing's totally trivial. I'm New York's biggest (er... I mean poorest) food snob and I'm telling you that if the beef Wellington isn't perfect on opening night, it will be after your chef makes about six hundred of them. Besides, if you cared that much, Gordy McAngrypants, maybe you shouldn't have hired amateurs to staff your new hoity-toity restaurant. Lindsay Lohan's not gonna want her Chilean sea bass with wasabi cream cooked by someone who doesn't know radicchio from endive.

God, take a hint from Rocco DiSpirito.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Facebook Hates Me :(

I can't wait till maybe two or three years pass and this whole dumb post-graduation Facebook craze dies like so many virtual pets and Beanie Babies. Not that I don't appreciate the spirit and idea motivating the Facebook — helping folks who share(d) a campus keep in touch —— but the Facebook's just grown into a microcosm of my high school social life, which I was only too happy to get rid of once I started at Columbia. (Not that Columbia replaced it with anything better.)

Carolyn told the exciting news last night that Ankur was moving back to the East Coast in July. And I, always wary that the high school posse's having fun without me, had to debrief Carolyn, extract who else had this sensitive information among a high school clique that honestly should've matured years ago. I don't understand the phenomenon, but this sort of self-flagellation seems a hallmark of the pariah. James, who I've known since about seventh grade, has my psychology nailed. I'd call him up and ask what he did over the weekend, and he'll say, "I'll tell you, but you really don't want to know."

So I asked Carolyn, "How do you know?" She fell for my clever scheme.

Apparently Ankur posted the news on his Facebook profile page, and thus began a twenty-minute endeavor to ingratiate myself enough to the damn Facebook that it would show me Ankur's profile. I search for him and get nothing, I try linking via Carolyn's profile and get nothing, Carolyn gives me his exact address and I get redirected back to my profile. I curse off the Facebook, like I did so many Friday nights in high school. Carolyn can see Ankur's profile; Rebecca can (presumably) see Ankur's profile; I can't. Now, I know I shouldn't take it personally: what probably happened was that Ankur started receiving a ton of spam through Facebook so he enhanced his privacy settings to block the generic riff-raff of the world from finding his profile. Carolyn found his profile prior to his walling it off; I looked for it after.

But my feelings are hurt, being rejected by the Facebook.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

I finally got around to watching Hoop Dreams... I know, I know, eleven years late. I made the mistake of watching it at 11pm, which meant that I didn't finish till two in the morning and I didn't get enough the film out of my head to let me fall asleep until somewhere between four and five. Now, it's not like I care at all about basketball, but the filmmakers are so observant towards the ways race, class, and economics have conspired to screw these kids over — they're left in a position where if they miss a last-second free throw or three-pointer they'll have peaked before they graduated high school — that it's hard not to get into the game in a way that's just impossible otherwise, coming from a relatively upper-class suburban high school where nobody was betting all their chips on making it in the pros. I was also impressed by how aware William and Arthur, the two boys profiled, were of the system and how it used them.

Rich, white, suburban high schools send scouts — headhunters, really — out to the inner city to find these kids with basketball street smarts otherwise unheard of, as if everywhere along the American landscape there's either green spaces or basketball but never both. The schools invest, literally, in these urban basketball players. Near the end of the film, William comments that basketball at the suburban school, St. Joe's, wasn't a game so much as it's a job, although he says it like he imagines the NBA is different. When the basketball team does well, the sponsors start pouring their money into the school, and I doubt it's a coincidence that many of those sponsors are college recruiters looking for (surprise, surprise) tall black kids from the ghetto to play basketball.

I was impressed by how aware William and Arthur were, but I can't say I was particularly surprised. I've also been watching HBO's The Wire, focusing largely on another group of semi-ambitious kids, Baltimore drug dealers this time. There's so many tragedies — and this coming from an apathetic cynic — not the least of which is that these kids in the ghetto have so little optimism about their futures that they're reduced to dreaming about becoming basketball stars or drug lords or maybe rappers, and naturally most of them won't succeed at that. What piques my sympathy is that these kids are smart. They're businessmen. And as much as they've been excluded from the mainstream economy, they play the game as well as (and more ethically than, I might add) any MBA.

If Wallace, The Wire's first season protagonist (in my view) grew up in Fanwood, there'd be no question: He'd graduate from high school with above-modest grades, go to college, probably get a scholarship or two, graduate from college and be successful. I was touched when Shiela Agee, Arthur's mother, told the filmmakers what an accomplishment her son's graduating was because for me, it was a given. Even for the lazy-ass bumblefucks in my high school, graduation was a certainty. It's just a perk of growing up middle-class that you can graduate even if you don't really want to and don't really try.

For William and Arthur, for the Baltimore kids, the American promise is the exact opposite. Their dreams of making it to the NBA may be as far-fetched as my dream of becoming a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, but barring cancer or getting clobbered by a frieght train, I'm going to live comfortably with relatively little effort while the kids who grew up poor, whether they went to St. Joseph's Prep or inner-city Marshall High, will struggle to just get by despite St. Joe's "promise" to get them into college.

Every Hoop Dreams review I've read mentions Mrs. Agee's frustration where, facing the camera but speaking to the man behind it, she asks, "Do you all wonder sometime how I am living? How my children survive, and how they're living? It's enough to really make people want to go out there and just lash out and hurt somebody."

It's surprising that the urban violence in The Wire, and in the real world too, is as self-contained as it is. It's rarely an expression of the anger that it should be: here's these kids living in some abandoned project houses, no heat, no electricity, making $3.30 an hour for an incredibly slim shot at making it... not even necessarily to the top, but just to a place where you don't have to worry on a daily basis about getting robbed at gunpoint. Unlike Sheila and the filmmakers, I don't blame the basketball subculture and I don't specifically blame the St. Joe's Preps of the world, even after Arthur is expelled from St. Joe's because he can't pay. (Both he and William were offered utterly insignificant scholarships to St. Joe's. William can't pay either, but as the better player he has no trouble finding a "friend" of St. Joe's willing to sponsor him.) I will admit what the St. Joe's administration won't — that their interest in William and Arthur
only lasts as long as the boys keep bringing in the bucks, and no matter how much of their income comes from students' tuition, holding Arthur's transcript for ransom so he can't graduate from public school is a bastard thing to do.

I blame the larger confluence of forces, what David Simon, Baltimore crime reporter turned writer/creator of The Wire calls "the institution" and what most of us call "the system" or "the Man." It starts at the top: Maybe take those millions of dollars Nike's spending on the next high-school sensation to go straight to the NBA and put that money into William's or Arthur's community instead. Maybe make it so the ninety-minute-away private school isn't a better choice than the local public school.

Maybe there's not much that can be done to really raise these kids' ambition. They'll still dream of going to the NBA without having to put in the tedious, tiresome hard work it takes to get there. But then again, maybe if they've got other options that seem viable, they might shoot for those too.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

For some strange reason, the word "alopecoid" just popped into my head. I think I heard it at a spelling bee or something, and at the time I probably questioned whether it was a real word. It is. It's a synonym for "vulpine," which I'll let you figure out for yourself.

But because I think I'm a little too comprehensible, I've taken a huge interest in the online Dictionary of Difficult Words to proliferate my verbile tendencies and the sesquipedalian end of my vocabulary even as the language is reduced to sigla in the popular culture. Hopefully, someday I'll make English a complete impediment to communication.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Here's a brief article I found in the Record-Press, our town's other superfluous newspaper.

Cops make sure drivers buckle up

WESTFIELD — Chief Bernard Tracy has announced that the Westfield Police Department will be joining law enforcement agencies nationwide in the "Click It or Ticket" program.

Until June 5, the department will be conducting a campaign that incorporates zero-tolerance enforcement of safety belt laws to increase safety belt use and defend against serious injury or death in traffic crashes.

"Click It or Ticket" is a high-publicity law enforcement effort that gives people more of a reason to buckle up — the increased threat of a traffic ticket. Most people buckle up for safety. But for some, it is the threat of the ticket that spurs them to put on a safety belt....
Really? Who? I'd like to meet those fearless daredevils who are unfazed at the possibility of a horrible, bone-mangling car crash but shudder at the thought of a forty dollar traffic ticket. This is the problem with the pigs... er, I mean, authority figures — somehow, they convinced themselves that they can bully and scare the proletariat when in fact all they really have the power to do is irritate us with their senseless frivolity. I, for one, think it might be a good idea if the police went and fought actual crime instead of pretending to be Mom and harassing citizens who don't wear their seat belts or who go six miles over the speed limit or something. Next thing you know, the cops are gonna be telling us to turn that damn rap music down and to go to bed cause you have to get up early tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

There were these hippies standing outside the Whitney and one of them came up to me with a petition. "Would you like to help fight the Bush administration?" he asked. I shrugged him off, not because I don't believe the righties deserve to freeze in the ninth circle of Dante's Inferno, but because I didn't want to listen to a rant from some idealistic hemp-muncher.

Fight the power!

But seriously, dude — Dubya has control over the executive branch, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court and judiciary, the military war hawks, Saudi oil-humpers, and the evil corporate infrastructure. You have a clipboard and a windbreaker with the Sierra Club logo on it. Do the math.

Honesty Is The Best...

Here's a life lesson for you. I bought my train ticket in the morning and the guy gave me ten dollars extra in change. And I counted my money, found the extra ten dollar bill, and without vacillating at all I gave it back to the guy. Then I wondered why the hell did I do that? Extra ten bucks.... and this is coming from someone who regularly buys a ticket for two stops but stays on the train five or six stops just to keep the bastards at New Jersey Transit from getting their grubby little claws on my hard-earned cash.

My weakness here is that I'm honest, which isn't nearly as fun or lucrative as duplicity. I wouldn't even try to rationalize keeping the ten bucks ("It's nothing compared to the $180 million mismanaged over the past decade"). I have nothing but contempt for New Jersey Transit; their service is overpriced, unreliable, sporadic, and occasionally rude. They've rigged the game and I'm just out to beat the system. But there's that ridiculous idea that I should do the right thing even if no one benefits. I kind of wish I didn't realize about that extra ten bucks.

And there's the lesson in this experience: always blindly throw your change in your wallet.

Friday, May 20, 2005

It's Almost Like Men are From One Planet and Women are From Another...

First of all, let me say that I am male. You know, in case you couldn't tell from my picture.

I came across the November 2004 issue of Glamour magazine, with the salacious cover story "The 20 best sex ideas in the world" and the significantly less salacious story about "must-read news on your period, weight, birth control and more." But I'd like to draw your attention to the lower right there: 6 mystery moods guys get into and how to decode them.

Excuse me?!

The mystery moods guys get into? And there's six of them? I didn't actually read the article (because I was in public at the time) but I'm sorry — guys only have two moods, and neither is a big damn mystery. There's "spending time with you is so much more fun than exploring my repressed homosexual angst with my guy friends." And there's "did someone secretly replace your regular morning coffee with something that turns you into a cranky bitch?"

Now, I've been in several platonic relationships and even a romantic one in my time, so I can say that if anyone gets into irrational, hormonal mystery moods demanding explication, it's the other gender. And I think that no matter your chromosomes, you can agree with me on that one.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Against all expectations, Arrested Development got itself renewed for a third season! I'm fucking ecstatic. Maybe I'll reward FOX for their far-sighted promotion of the arts by purchasing a Season 1 DVD box set for $29.99.

Sexy Cheerleading Survives in Texas!

Good news for horny teenage boys in Texas! The Texas state Senate decided that sexy cheerleading isn't the worst thing you'll find in their mediocre state, and they killed a measure passed by the House that would've prohibited salacious cheerleading routines in public schools.

BTW: In case you're being educated in Texas, "salacious" means arousing lust.

Another Amazing First For Jay

May 19, 2005 8:46 PM — Jay burps hard enough to spurt food out his nose.

I always thought that was just a gastrointestinal urban legend...

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Facebook Me!

thefacebook.com wants you to check out my profile here: Facebook me! The whole "Facebook me!" line came from their website; if I were coming up with something pseudo-witty to write in there, it would at least sound a little dirty.

thefacebook.com is the online version of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, except that instead of Kevin Bacon, you have your college classmates — folks I'd normally say something snide about except I'll hold my tongue cause the people listed as my online friends are actually pretty cool. I reserve judgment about their online friends, though.

The exception to the above is, of course, Alma Mater, who somehow went from this — — to this cartoon slut here — .

thefacebook was the sort of thing that I got into for a few weeks of my life, thrilled about the opportunity to share my favorite books and relationship status with all my friends... until, of course, I realized that my friends don't give a crap. No, a few people fell under thefacebook's spell but by and large, my friends turned out to be much more well-adjusted than I was (am) and settled for real human interaction over the virtual same.

It feels like a pattern with this online social behavior: first it was chat rooms, there were those questionnaires and chain letters running every which way through AOL's email servers, then thefacebook and its egalitarian cousin Friendster. (Maybe blogs are next — that's why I'm pretty surprised I've kept this journal up for over a year.) The internet's just a tool to spur on non-virtual interaction; eventually it either works or you give up.

I Could Do Margaret Spelling's Job
(but I'd never muster up her intolerance)

The politically correct literature worries that "American children are ill-prepared to meet to the quickly-shifting challenges of the global economy than are their European and East Asian counterparts," but we all know that's just a euphemism for, "Your children are morons." Many, many so-called education experts and other bureaucrats, a few of whom are actually smarter than our ill-prepared children, have spent taxpayers' hard-earned money studying why our kids are so damn retarded, but I just made an astonishing discovery that can save them all the headaches:

The reason American kids are dumb as box of rocks is that it's 9:45 on a Wednesday morning and they're at Ronnybrook Farm, running around the Chelsea Market instead of in school, where they belong so I don't have to look at them. Unless we're raising a new generation of farmhands and milkmaids — and I don't think we're doing that in the middle of New York City — perhaps we should stick these kids behind desks, in classrooms... not in front of an ice cream store before ten in the morning.

Monday, May 16, 2005

"Fat chicks need love too. But they have to pay." — Family Guy

This morning's ridiculous, irrelevant celebrity news: are America's talentless starlets too thin?

Let's make it a multiple choice question.

  • A) Yes.
  • B) No.
  • C) I wonder whatever happened to Calista Flockhart.
  • D) Who gives a crap?
Of course, the correct answer is D, as if it would be such a huge loss for the culture if Lindsay Lohan starved herself to death. We, as patriotic Americans, can take solace in the fact that we'll always have Camryn Manheim and Kathy Kinney.

No, I get what has the nation's unfailingly overreacting parents and health experts worried. They're afraid that the media's constant barrage of anorexic celebutantes will turn their own teenage daughters from healthy, fleshy girls into binging and purging skeletons who'll look like they just emerged from a Thai refugee camp. That's the sort of thinking that makes my bullshit meter blow a fuse, and not only because I think Nicole Ritchie is eminently fuckable no matter what her weight. (I would, however, Lysol out Nicole's vagina prior to doing her, cause God only knows what's living in there.) I'm sensitive to the issue because our mass consciousness is so busy complaining about these celebrities' figures that no one bothers to fix the real problems pressuring teenage girls on the edge of an eating disorder, namely their bitchy, catty classmates.

Message to the nation's obtuse parents and educators: here's what's actually happening in your teenager's life. Kids hit puberty and they're faced with two conflicting pressures — there's a biological pressure to reproduce and a societal pressure to repress the biological one. Your kids pretend they're grown up, and the more well-adjusted among them are able to pull it off. They can, say, saunter into a club without getting carded or walk into a bank and apply for a small-business loan or write up a proposal for the Board of Education and have it be taken seriously. I think the literature calls these the "alpha males" and "alpha girls," but in school, they're just the popular kids.

Other kids aren't quite as, uh, composed. These are the kids you see playing Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit — living in a fantasy land vicariously through the story's outcast child hero. Or they spend thirty hours a week mastering Unreal Tournament Online — face-to-screen with a computer where they have complete control over everything. Or stealing younger kids' lunch money and flushing their heads in the toilet, which, surprisingly, never happened to me.... And some girls overcompensate for their immaturity and lack of adult cool by turning all trampy and begging to get laid like their elders.

Okay, not everybody goes all out, but that doesn't mean that we don't all want to lose the baby fat. And it's not like anyone in high school has a great personality or any other redeeming quality, either. As if there's a reason to have mindless sex anyway besides chowing down on eye candy.

That's the thing. Your teenagers might want to fuck Aaron Carter or Chad Michael Murray or the Olsen twins, but when it boils down to their real options, we're all just competing with our immediate peer group. Thank God. You want your daughters to eat healthy — or you want your sons to refrain from shooting up the school — you need to get them laid.
Let's imagine, for a moment, that teenage girls everywhere are starving themselves because Bijou Phillips has the figure of a curtain rod. (And by the way, who the fuck is Bijou Phillips anyway? Was she in anything that I give a rat's ass about, aside from Paris Hilton's Sidekick?) And let's all continue pretending that we care about the deleterious things the not-rich-and-famous inflict upon themselves. Then here's an idea: Take the skinny-ass models off the covers of those vapid softcore women's magazines.

It's capitalism gone insane, because no one wants Mischa Barton on a magazine cover, except for her mother and this guy, , NolĂ© Marin — stylist, America's Next Top Model judge, and fashion victim who's the reason at least eight red states hate gays. (Sean Hayes accounts for another three red states.) I, for one, am not particularly interested in seeing Mischa in the supermarket checkout line, and I'm straight. Guys don't buy Cosmopolitan or Lucky or Jane or Shape or YM or need I go on, and girls will buy Seventeen if there's a dead raccoon on the cover, just for the most embarrassing dating stories column. So why the hell not put a rather corpulent girl on the cover for once, or someone with a rash, or leprosy? It seems a bit hypocritical that the same media cretins who throw these Audrey Hepburn wannabes in our faces now try to placate the healthy-lifestyle lobby by bitching about emaciated our celebrities are. Geez, Access Hollywood, if you care about Tara Reid's eating disorders so much, I have a quick and easy solution. It involves a beer bong and a tub of lard.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Another Irritating, Overused Catch Phrase

I'm Rick James, bitch!

Oh, wait... nope, turns out the DNA test says I'm not. Sorry. Forget I said anything.

Friday, May 13, 2005

This Post Is NOT About Larry King

Right now, Larry King is interviewing that supermodel, Petra Nemcova, who was caught in the South Asian tsunami. Since beautiful people are more important than the rest of us, her tragedy gets a national television broadcast while the millions of funny-language speaking, weird skin-colored South Asian natives who watched their homeland get washed away while they were busy getting rich Western tourists another mojito don't get shit. Nemcova's boyfriend died in the tsunami which, when I'm not in existentialist mode, is too bad. But the other quarter million deaths the tsunami caused are no less tragic, and I think the lowest common denominator, self-aggrandizing, and (in the case of Starr Jones) gluttonous media tends to forget that.

When I am in existentialist mode, of course, the boyfriend's death was inevitable and at least he got to bone a supermodel before he went.

I'm sure that Nemcova's experience was gut-wrenching for her, but for me, the media consumer, it doesn't really stand out against the larger tragedy. Until Larry and his superfluous cream rinse got involved and somehow chose to make her the poster child for the tsunami. Maybe Maxim magazine was publishing the posters when they're not too busy writing up "Hot 100" lists. Another day, I might blame Larry
— just as how, every day, I blame Starr — but right now I'm more interested in how folks rise to prominence. Like with the whole Jennifer Wilbanks thing: why'd the media choose her to symbolize every woman who got cold feet before her wedding?

I had a vision of my future self a few days back, and now I'm worried that I'll be spending the rest of my life fixing folks' websites — maybe even forever fixing Ken's website — and I'll never rise above that. I really wonder what I have to do to become someone important in the world of, uh, commercial web design. I think the first thing I've gotta do is get out of the world of commercial web design.

My hero in this matter is Savonarola, who, in case you forgot your European history, ruled Florence after the populace kicked the Medici out of the city in 1491. Of course, Savonarola stood for everything I'm against — book burning, making sodomy a capital offense, public hectoring — but aside from that, we're pretty similar. We were both precocous kids, avid readers who secluded ourselves from the world after being unable to get a date. We both rail against the plutocrats ruining society and advocate our own plans for utopian bliss. The only real difference between us is that people listened to Savonarola... and that my plans for utopian bliss would actually lead to utopian bliss as opposed to student riots.

Still, if I could be where Savonarola was, that would be sweet. Of course, eventually the people of Florence hanged him — and burned him alive at the same time. But until that happened, I bet his life ruled!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

It's Wholesome

I picked up lunch today at the Whole Foods Market. Apparently these supermarkets are popping up all over the place, spurred on by whatever new organic, macrobiotic, vegan, raw food diet eating trends the Hollywood glamourati are forcing down the rest of our throats. In case you're still maintaining the cultural status quo — as opposed to the counter-cultural status quo — and you've never felt the need to shop at Whole Foods, I'll describe the place in a self-loathing, contemptuous manner.

Whole Foods sells pesticide-free vegetables and hormone-free beef and fair-trade coffee beans. Just about everything in the store has some sort of Gen-Y Green Party new age earth-friendly pseudo-spiritual modifier in its name, so they carry organic milk and skim milk and Moby's Vegan Hipster Soy Milk (no actual milk products in Milk), but go somewhere else if you want a plain old gallon of two-percent with a line drawing of a cow on the carton. You can pick up a Yoga International or Fit Pregnancy magazine at Whole Foods. And eat it probably, too. Basically, Whole Foods is the kind of place that gives liberals a bad name. Remember those sushi-eating, latte-drinking, gay-marrying, tax-and-spend liberals those old folks from Iowa bitched about in that commercial during the Democratic primaries? No, of course you don't. But those sushi-eating, latte-drinking, gay-marrying social progressives are exactly Whole Foods' target market.

That being said, I actually like Whole Foods, and I think most of their customers like it for the same reason I do: it's just another option. When I want Hostess Ding Dongs, I'll go to Stop & Shop; when I want a Hostess Ding Dong-like product made without economically exploiting the native people of Uruguay, I'll go to Whole Foods. Yes, I'm sure no one is solely used a means to an end at the utopia that is Whole Foods. So there's another reason to shop at Whole Foods: less capitalist guilt. I'm sure the cashiers at Whole Foods smile like crazy because their job is life fulfilling and they're paid really well, and not because they smoke pot every day before and after work or they're fantasizing about gunning down every person who walks into the store with a rolled-up non-stick yoga mat in a yoga-mat carrying case over their shoulder.

So I'm in Whole Foods today, and remembering that this is a place whose mission statement includes promoting sustainable agriculture and educating their customers about natural foods, what music do you think they have playing over the P.A. system? Enigma? Debussy? Enya?

No. "What A Girl Wants." Christina Freaking Aguilera! Granted, it's a song from before the days Christina perfected the art of being a skanky whore, but still... I have a CD of Gregorian chant if the management at Whole Foods wants to borrow it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

How Come These Fascinating Lines Never Appear In My Conversations?

For some reason, I just find it very tough to throw sentences like, "Janet said that no boyfriends were invited to her party. But she then made exceptions, for different reasons, for the boyfriends of every other girl who is invited to the party who has a boyfriend. Except for you. So I'm worried that she may not like you," or like, "I'm just out here trying to sell comedy club tickets to upper middle class white people. What are you doing?" into my daily conversations. Brilliant lines like those never follow naturally after "Hey, how're you doing?"

Jay Reads At Or Above An Eighth-Grade Level!

I haven't read a book since college because, well, I have access to a TV and an internet connection. I'm not proud to be an illiterate dunce, but a lot of my friends are the sort of folk who brag that they don't want watch TV, they read books — and I find that absolutely insufferable. Me, I become stymied by the huge selection of merchandise they've got there at Barnes and Noble, wind up choosing some popular mass-market potboiler that has the words now a #1 hit movie! on the cover, and then feel like a vapid bimbo.

A vapid bimbo who can read, but I still feel pretty damn stupid.

But I read an article in the New York Times Magazine about an economist named Steven Levitt, a guy who doesn't deal with the economy as much as the mathematics of cheating in the world of sumo wrestling and why crack dealers live at home with their mothers. The article got expanded into the over-subtitled Freakanomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. I picked up the book last Tuesday and pored over it during my interminable and pointless commute, as well as during the commercials of the most inane episode of Veronica Mars ever. (Personally, I was hoping for some sort of Pynchon-esque/Twin Peaks ending aware that it's not providing closure instead of something that just faked it.) Freakanomics is, in a word, cursory and fascinating.

Wait a second, there...

The fact is that Freakanomics isn't very well written, certainly not up to the standards of the New York Times Magazine. There's long, rather banal descriptions only tangentially related to the freaky study of Freakanomics, such as a story about how a sociology grad student got his hands on a street gang's financial ledgers or lists upon lists of the most popular boys' and girls' names sorted by decade, by race, by socioeconomic status. But then the book gets down to its theme: why the hell the hoi polloi does the crazy-ass things that it does, and Levitt's insights are really amazing. More importantly, it's the kind of book that points out how the conventional wisdom is for fools and if you're not relying on the empirical data, you're only deluding yourself and every other idiot who for some reason thinks you know what you're talking about. Freakanomics, despite being poorly written, is more eloquent than that.

So, if you can't tell, it's been a while since I've written a book report.

Monday, May 9, 2005

I went over to Grandma's house to drop off all the loot she got for Mothers' Day, and Grandma took that as an invitation to tell me a story highlighting how lazy my generation is and how hard-working her generation is. Or how hard-working they were, since these days all they do is collect Social Security and bitch about how lazy kids today are.

Grandma never misses an opportunity to remind me that when she emigrated to America, she was sixteen years old and didn't speak a word of English. Here's a sample conversation, which I should, by this time, know better than to start with Grandma:

Me: I called my friends to make plans for this weekend, but none of them called me back.

This isn't an infrequent occurrence.

Grandma: You should call them again, say why didn't you call me back?

Me: ...but I don't want to be a pest.

Grandma: Let me tell you a story. When I was sixteen, I first come to this country, I didn't speak any English. You think I wanted to go outside and have to talk to people. But my father, he made me. He made me go down to the grocery...

...followed by an interminable story that Grandma thinks is the most hilarious thing next to America's Funniest Home Videos. The original, Bob Saget incarnation of America's Funniest Home Videos. Grandma eats that shit up.

Today's story: Grandma asked me how much I was getting paid and I told her sixteen an hour. Then, kind of to be cute and kind of outta genuine curiosity, I asked her how much she got paid. Grandma spent fifteen years of her life working in the fast-paced 1940's-era ladies' undergarment industry, and apparently sewing very efficiently. To hear her tell it, Grandma's work ethic made her something of a celebrity in blue-collar Newark fashion circles. "Everywhere I went, every job I went in for, there was someone there who knew me from the factory and they said hire her, hire her, she's a good worker, because they all knew I was a good worker."

Then Grandma tells me about how her life would make a great story for an aspiring writer.

But all I could think about was where Grandma is now, because for all her hard work, she's alone, physically falling apart, barking up the wrong tree for a shot at ersatz fame, and despondent over the fact that her bloodline is no longer producing the same sort of work ethic it used to. A huge chunk of the greatest generation is just plain dead, which doesn't sound all that great to me. This might all sound like a great argument for hedonism, but it's not supposed to be. It's supposed to be me worrying about the long-term effects of life as a mindless corporate cog and how it doesn't really matter if you're a hard-working, devoted cog or just a cog who does the bare minimum to avoid getting fired.

I guess I'm pleading for a life that I can really throw myself into, like those young Hollywood actors who suddenly get discovered or a pair of college dropouts whose IPO just went public. I don't really have a clue where to start with all this, and since I'm the proud owner of a half-finished website, a half-decorated bedroom, about fifty half-read Great Novels, and a half-written play, I'm not sure I've got the ambition to not end up like Grandma anyway. And I do think that's how the cream rises to the top — two steps: ideas and ambition. My lineage shines in neither of those areas.

My family's good at being dutiful and moralistic. Not traits to take one far in life. :-(

Friday, May 6, 2005

Grandma Doesn't Get Pissed — She's "Disappointed"

I can tell you right now that I'm not gonna be getting Grandma anything for Mother's Day... besides a card, that is. She shouldn't complain though since this is going to be the first year I even remembered that there is a Mother's Day. I have a horrible track record with this sort of thing — even worse than Mom's record of remembering how every day is children's day. Even the years that I do remember about Mother's Day tend to be pretty disastrous — sophomore year of college, for instance, I bought Grandma a Mother's Day card but forgot to give it to her until July.

There's other issues involved too: namely, my pretty-much 24/7 taking Mom for granted and Mom's co-dependent emasculating and infantalizing behavior towards me. They don't really make a Hallmark card that succinctly encapsulates the complicated dynamic that might exist between two people and how it's easier to just become frustrated with our relationship than improve our relationship.

Either way, I bought Mom a gift today: a set of glasses from the Museum of Modern Art Design Store. I was all set to piss Mom off this Sunday by giving her only a card, but I was in the store anyway to buy Anne a graduation gift... and even though Mom's never been big on spending her hard-earned money on whimsical non-essentials for me, she expects me to spend my money on her. (Note the resentment simmering.) I mean, all she ever did was give birth to me and it's not like I even asked her to do that. You'd never see me bitching if I were never born.

Worse yet, Mom wants me to get a Mother's Day gift for Grandma, who, just in case you were wondering, is not even my mother. Look, I'll never have much sympathy for Mother's Day (or Father's Day), but if you are gonna celebrate the holiday, how about we just restrict it to an appreciation of howour own mothers affected us. I can see stepmothers or foster mothers or even some sort of symbolic mother figure, but let's let someone else handle the grandmothers and godmothers and the rest of the matrilineage that just had to eject their genetic material into the world.

Thursday, May 5, 2005

I Didn't Even Know MTV Did Real News

As if we didn't have enough reasons to stay the fuck out of Texas (i.e. Enron, Tom Delay, Walker), legislators down in the Lone Star State have passed a bill that prohibits salacious cheerleading at public school-sponsored events. I guess that Texas's mathletes have been more and more distracted over the last few years, having trouble focusing on their cosines and tangents with all those short skirts and halter tops bumping and grinding over their calculators, and one lawmaker, Al Edwards, decided to take action. This is a quote from Al where he reveals what a pervert he is: "I feel very strongly that the inappropriate, sexy dance routines I've been seeing for a few years now are unacceptable."

Hold on, now, Al! You've been seeing these "unacceptable" dance routines for a few years now? I'm heterosexual and horny yet I've managed to go my whole life without seeing an entire cheerleading routine.

Al continued, "I think it's sickening, these young, nubile cheerleaders I see every weekend shaking their firm asses in my face, and it's disgusting how I cum all over myself when I spy on them at practice from behind the bleachers in the gym after school."

No, what Al really said is a bit more politic:
"It's not conducive to good, healthy, moral cultural development." The truth is, Al, that living in Texas isn't conducive to good, healthy, moral cultural development. Oh, would you like some propane and a confederate flag with that gun you just purchased?

Monday, May 2, 2005

On the eve of North Korea's apparent nuclear missile test, there's an almost comical amount of name-calling between Washington and Pyongyang. Dubya's chief of staff, Andrew Card, showed off his trash-talking skills by calling Kim Jong Il "not a good person." Oh, snap! The North Koreans, whose flamboyant and poorly-translated English media releases are always hilarious, called Bush a "hooligan" and a "philistine." It's like these guys never went to kindergarten: Sticks and stones and nuclear/nucular weapons may break my bones but names will never hurt me.

What's really fucked up is that both leaders are malevolent and absolutely right.

Now, if the U.S. and North Korea weren't run by egomaniacal psychos, Bush and Kim would realize that the best way to avoid a nuclear holocaust is to get themselves back to the six-party talks. But North Korea won't resume diplomacy until Condi apologizes for calling their beloved repressive homeland an "outpost of tyranny," which ain't ever happenin'. And the U.S. won't resume diplomacy unless North Korea dismantles its nukes first, which... honestly... come on, do these people want to be obliterated in an atomic fireball?

Maybe I'm not a born negotiator, but what I'd like to see is both sides make reasonable demands, or better yet, demands that make the other side look crazy to decline. For instance, if I were advising Kim Jong Il, I'd have him demand twenty bucks from Dubya before he'll return to the table. That way, if he gets his twenty bucks, he can say that Bush capitulated and if he doesn't he can claim that Bush is so callous he won't even spend twenty bucks to avert a nucular disaster. I'd also tell the Dear Leader to put some color into that olive green wardrobe of his, cut down on the hair gel, get much much smaller glasses — maybe from Lenscrafters instead of a marmish librarian, and maybe lose a few pounds. Also, if he could stop oppressing the populace and maybe give them food and electricity, that would be just dandy.