Thursday, July 28, 2005

Bored of the Dance
(Like no one's ever used that pun before...)

I'm really getting sick and tired of these TV shows where I'm supposed to lie on the couch scratching my crotch while I watch people dance in front of judges. Don't get me wrong: even though I'm incredibly white and am therefore basically limited to a single spastic dance move, I generally love dancing. Generally. Partly because there's something hardwired deep down that makes moving at the same speed as a particular rythym fun, and partly because — I don't know why — girls generally don't want me touching them. This is one of those lessons from the junior prom, like how to pin on a corset without puncturing your date's artery, that you take with you for the rest of your life: The trick is to sit at a table right off the dance floor, looking extraordinarily pathetic with big droopy doe eyes, and since girls (unlike guys) have souls, they'll take pity on you and ask you to dance. Yes, it's only a step above hiring an escort, but it's still miles above slipping GHB in someone's tequila shooter. (Which, by the way, is a show NBC is working on to follow Fear Factor next fall.)

It's not that I mind how there's ballroom dancing competitions and krumping competitions and Asian kids playing Dance Dance Revolution competitions on TV. I mind that they're so popular, that so many Americans have nothing better to do with their lives than sit on the sidelines watching other people dance. (Or try to dance.) It's like when ESPN2 broadcasts regional bass fishing qualifiers on Saturday morning, and there's lazy-ass faux outdoorsmen still lying in bed who aren't even fishing but watching fishing. I watch celebrity poker, but at least I'm disappointed that I don't have enough friends to hold my own home games. This really bothers me.

When did we become so boring and vacuous as a society that watching regular people do regular things became entertaining? Television used to be there for vicarious thrills most of us would never be lucky (or unlucky, depending...) to experience: stuff involving hot girls or guns or, preferably, both. Now they show the banal, pointless lives of your friends and neighbors, and no one's being satiric about it either. Here's American Idol, where they'll fulfill the most fantastical fame-and-fortune dreams of someone who's still a thirteen-year-old at heart; there's So You Think You Can Dance, where folks'll clomp around on stage trying to become a professional... dancer? The days of the Fame triple-threat are gone; now let's see how well you can perform just one skill that's usually regulated to the background anyway. Seriously, how many famous dancers can you think of? And Kevin Federline doesn't count.

I knew things were getting bad when I got sucked into The Sims, the latest and most popular in Maxis's line of real-life simulator computer games. You create a character, or a family of characters, and then you direct them to live a boring suburban existence. You can tell them to have breakfast or clean their bathroom or sit down in a recliner, so it's basically Dungeons and Dragons for people who don't like having their imaginations taxed too heavily. I'd spend hours in front of the computer screen watching these characters in their electronic sleep or manifesting conversations of ones and zeroes (my Sims liked to talk about the weather) and then I'd complain about how I couldn't make friends.

Thankfully, I've grown up a little (but only a little) since my Sims addiction. Now if I feel some sort of dance groove, I head out to a club... or more likely, I dance in my room with the door closed, making an ass out of myself when no one's watching except our Orwellian government. And then I turn on the TV and enjoy gay guys making over a hapless straight dude.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Hesitant but very proud of myself, I turned down my first ever full-time job offer this morning. The company's a dot-com start-up called "ShopWiki," and since their job offer included ten-thousand stock options, I hope that's the last you ever hear of them. The guys at ShopWiki were pretty much the first interviewers I've run into who asked the sort of questions you might ask of someone who actually completed four years at an accredited college, so I have to give them props for that. With most of these interviews, some condescending jackass who's probably got a degree from a school that advertises on those windows that pop-up when you go to asks me questions like: "What does the Caps Lock button do?" "Have you cleaned the gunk out of your mouse lately?"Which I'm invariably too anxious and flustered to answer correctly.

But I guess I went on these interviews at ShopWiki and I didn't come off like the idiot I'm afraid I'll come off as. ShopWiki makes a search engine for online shopping, which is surprisingly difficult if you think about it (or even if you don't think about). Ever seen a catalog you can't make heads or tails of, such as my personal favorite, the Ikea catalog? That's because, as a human being, you naturally recognize patterns among similar things and this dyslexic abstract-art Ikea catalog doesn't fit into any mold you've ever seen. Who the hell names their products like they name their kids? Anyway, since a computer's too dumb to recognize patterns without a little help, the ShopWiki folks need someone to teach their search engine how to extract data from any conceivable online catalog design.

I don't know if I'd be good at it or not, but this artificial intelligence, regex meta-pattern mathematics grabs me the way that football and beer grabs guys who aren't planning on auditioning for "Beauty and the Geek." But I'm not gonna have to wish I paid more attention in discrete math class because, as cool as the ShopWiki guys might be, holy shit are they cheap-asses. Now, they think they're being generous because they asked me how much I was looking for, and I said forty-five thousand, and they're offering fifty. What they didn't ask was how much of my week I wanted to spend in the office for that money. They just assumed I was this computer nerd with no social life and I'd be thrilled to spend sixty or eighty or even a hundred hours a week masturbating over Java code.

Fine, I have no social life but that doesn't mean I want to spend it coding.

Okay, I spend many Friday and Saturday nights alone, coding. And masturbating. But not to the code.

I'm blessed with the unfortunate ability to do the math, and after dividing and carrying the one it turns out that they were offering somewhere between ten and seventeen dollars an hour. Meanwhile, those snooty three-piece-suit kids putting in sixteen-hour days at Goldman or Merrill or as a junior associate in a law firm are making six figures and hitting on hot women with access to exclusive anti-egalitarian, anti-American clubs. Nice try, dudes.

Oh yeah, and when I asked them about benefits — Jay need Roth IRA with qualified employer matching contributions — they looked at me like I just asked them to eat their own spleens.

So I sent the guys an e-mail turning down the job and wishing them best of luck in filling the position. But I didn't mean it. With what they're offering, I really hope they get stuck with some community college intern.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Jay Contemplates Humiliating Himself on a Reality Show

I heard that they're casting for the second season of Beauty and the Geek, and I'm thinking it might be amusing to audition. Even though I'm incredibly attractive, I think I'd go for the role of "geek." I've got the glasses, the penchant for reading the — online — encyclopedia, the social awkwardness. It could be fun, shacking up with some dumb as crap beer spokesmodel and having Brian McFayden ask me questions about Paris Hilton. I'd get to go into that private intereview room and all my friends and family and total strangers would see me on TV with that Kyron saying: "Jay, 24. Never had sex with a woman"

Anyway, New York City auditions are August 22, so by then I'll probably have this crazy idea out of my head.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Even though I spent one and a half post-midnight hours in the train station in Trenton, New Jersey with only Eels keeping me company, I could not have had a happier yesterday. I went to Philadelphia — all by myself! — for a visit with my friend Aneesa. It's been a year, maybe thirteen months, since we've seen each other and I was absolutely thrilled we'd be meeting up (although in a very subdued, masculine way). Now, I don't muster up enthusiasm like that very easily; in fact, it's got to be at least five years since I was absolutely thrilled about anything, so that's really saying something.

On a side note, does the city of Trenton website really need a visitors' guide? Are the hotels really filling up with tourists dying to visit the home of the Mercer County Cultural Commission and birthplace of Trojan condoms?

My excuse was that They Might Be Giants was throwing a free show at this place called Penn's Landing, and the show was great. The train got into Philly around noon, and it was typical Mid-Atlantic summer weather: the sort of weather that your fifth-grade teacher tells you about when she's reminding you how Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson all wore like five layers of wool to the Constitutional Convention and worked sweating in a sealed-off building, like the Founding Fathers weren't admirable enough without enduring the heat. So Aneesa and I spent the afternoon walking from one shady spot to the next, stopping pretty frequently for air conditioning and ice cold drinks — it's more or less the same stuff we did when we lived within walking distance of each other. I guess the miles-long hikes work out nicely for us because Aneesa is an enigma wrapped in a riddle hidden among a million puzzle pieces, which is a metaphor I wish I'd thought up but I didn't. I'm probably the same mystery to her that she is to me. So, let's see, we've known each other for about ten years now, but we're still discovering each other and I'm still surprised how perfectly all her pieces fit together.

About two hours before the concert, we were hanging out at one of Philly's art-house movie theaters trying to choose between seeing March of the Penguins, which is somehow the biggest movie of the week (so suck it, The Island!), and Crash, which we ended up seeing. Paul Haggis, the director of Crash, is one of those Hollywood people I feel bad for, or at least I used to, because his good work, this TV show called Due South about friendly Canadians, got cancelled after three years while his shlocky, patronizing co-creation, Walker, Texas Ranger, would not freaking die. But now that he's won an Oscar for the Million Dollar Baby screenplay, maybe Hollywood's starting to redeem itself despite the Summer of Remakes. Crash is flawed but provocative, and Haggis's direction is incredibly confident even though the opening monologue is ridiculously cheesy. I'm glad I saw it.

Okay, the concert. Let me try to draw a picture of it for you. They were giving away free orange They Might Be Giants foam fingers, like you get at a baseball game if you have no taste. One guy in the audience, instead of putting the foam finger on his hand like a guy who isn't a total geek, put the finger on the brim of his baseball cap. Which is exactly what you'd expect the kind of person who winds up being a They Might Be Giants fan to do. Now multiply that by about a thousand. It was basically a Battlestar Galactica conference minus the costumes and with better music. I fit right in.

So now I'm going to try to go less than a year without hearing from Aneesa again. I only hope that I'll keep being absolutely thrilled; I'm going to have to work at it. I suppose there's a lesson in there somewhere about taking your friends for granted, but I'm not sure that I'm going to learn it.

Friday, July 22, 2005

In response to the terrorism in London, they started "random" bag searches in the New York City subway system. I wasn't exactly sure how I felt about the idea —— not that anybody consulted me or anything —— until I saw former NYC police commissioner and civil rights violator Howard Safir on CNN this morning saying the stupidest thing I have ever heard someone say on the topic of national security that didn't involve color-coding something. Safir said that the random checks makes it harder for a terrorist to successfully attack the subway system, so "the terrorists will choose another target."

Are you freaking kidding me???!!!

The idea, Mr. Safir, is to keep the terrorists from attacking any targets. It doesn't help if I get off the subway safely only to be blown up at the mall and trapped under ten feet of costume jewelry and novelty fuzzy slippers for a week, surviving on nothing but the scraps of Cinnabun and Panda Express that happened to land within arms' reach. However, I think I have a solution to this whole terrorist problem that'll make everybody happy: disenfranchised Islamic fundamentalists, uber-patriotic oil gluttons, people like me who just want to get through their day without having to think about international politics.

Here's my plan. First, we gather up all the suicide bombers and lock them in Wal-Marts around the country with giant bags of fertilizer. This way, they all get to kill themselves while destroying a superfluous symbol of American decadence. There won't be any other casualties because the day before, we give everybody who buys the crap at Wal-Mart cheap tickets to Afghanistan. "Attention Wal-Mart shoppers, for today only, receive a free set of Dale Earhardt, Jr. commemorative dinnerware with the purchase of any two five-dollar plane tickets to a desert wasteland in the middle of nowhere." This will make all those redneck militia weirdos happy because while Afghanistan may be known for many things, its gun control laws aren't one of them. Meanwhile, with all our homemade crazies on the other side of the world, we won't be seeing any religious groups protest while America legalizes gay marriage. And since we've gotten rid of Wal-Mart, nobody's going to be getting a ten-dollar knockoff DVD player for a wedding gift.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Best Nap Ever

Last night, instead of my standard evening television binge, I thought I'd culture myself with the two-disc DVD set of the movie — er, I mean, the film — La Dolce Vita. I had never seen any of Fellini's psychedelically incomprehensible neo-symbolist work before, and I don't enjoy being culturally illiterate, so this was more or less inevitable. Now, I've taken Film 101, so I was totally prepared to not be entertained, but I couldn't have imagined how amazingly dull Fellini is. La Dolce Vita is a three-hour examination of the empty, decadent lives of Rome's fading celebrities and aristocracy, although people who like to read into things also see it as an allegory of the seven deadly sins or the corrupt Italian political system. I was just trying to puzzle through the all-important question: why did someone think it was necessary to put this on film?

I never want to be one of those deficient assholes who looks forward to shelling out ten bucks for a Michael Bay movie, but it's stuff like La Dolce Vita that turns "arthouse" into a four-letter word. What passes for its plot is a tabloid journalist running from one lavish party to another, and since it takes place in the sixties and everybody's high, each party has its own special interpretive dance number set to the standard B-movie acid jazz soundtrack. So you're not watching it to see what happens or to identify with the protagonist's growth; you're watching La Dolce Vita because you sort of skimmed this article on Fellini that your film professor gave you to read and now you've got to write a fifteen page paper on the word "Fellini-esque." Every now and then you think, "So each episode really does begin at dusk and end at dawn. Very clever, Federico. You prove a most worthy adversary."

Monday, July 18, 2005

My mother's been worried sick about me ever since I started taking a daily nap in the middle of the day, which has been like six years now. At first, she was mostly bitching about how I lost three or four hours of productivity every day to the sweet confines of sleep, but then I got a blood test and found out that I had mono, and now Mom's afraid that I've got lupus or ebola or chronic fatigue something. I wanted to calm her nerves and get her to stop telling me all these Epstein-Barr horror stories where poor kids who never got their mono fully treated wound up in an iron lung, so we went to the doctor.

I guess I've stumped the doctor, because the best advice she could give me involved the old standards, exercise and healthy eating (ha!), and a wacky New Age idea: stop hedonistically doing my work in bed. Whatever freaky metabolism's happening to me probably doesn't care how much time I spend awake on my matress.

Totally irrelevant, but it turns out that I've got high cholesterol, pretty much like the rest of America. Which explains why the doctor gave me a totally condescending, clip art-filled pamphlet with the title Understanding Fats & Cholesterol and maybe a third-grade reading level. First of all, who the hell is there in America who needs to learn about cholesterol from a freaking pamphlet? Thank God I got this photocopied fat summary because I've never seen a local news broadcast or a Lipitor commercial or read Parade magazine or been in a bookstore.

Surprisingly, this pamphlet recommends that I exercise and that I aim for a "healthy weight." I'm glad a tree died for that advice. The pamphlet also shills for Benecol and Eggbeaters and other mutant foods cooked up in a lab. I'm not even going to count the number of times I Can't Believe It's Not Butter puts in an appearance as a cholesterol fighter. And of course, the "Food Pyramid," which recommends I eat a minimum of 15 servings of food a day.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

A Completely Impartial Review of "Open Water"

Every stupid review of Open Water I've come across has some clichéd remark in it about how you'll be afraid to go in the water after seeing the movie and comparing it to Jaws. It's more like Jaws 4: The Revenge, which is inexplicably playing on AMC for the third time this month. You and your kid are being haunted by a psycho shark: that's why God gave us Nebraska. I can't swim anyway, so I picked up the movie, future ocean diving plans be damned. Less braindead reviewers compared the movie to Touching the Void and The Blair Witch Project, both of which pulled off the man-versus-indifferent-nature minimalist horror genre pretty effectively.

I think the Blair Witch comparison is apt: both movies just wear you down with the poorly-drawn characters' incessant bickering and the occassional plot element. At least Blair Witch had conceit, and you were watching real people who were really scared. Open Water's leads, Daniel Travis and Blanchard Ryan, are nothing but histrionic. Roger Ebert finds an existential message in all the melodrama, more or less the same message that Gus van Sant subtly pounded down his audience's throat in Gerry. I think Roger's looking too hard. I don't see much more than two people complaining about the sharks biting them. And it's not like Daniel and Susan, trapped out at sea, are very likeable people. That's okay, except the movie isn't observant enough to make me care about them otherwise.

Their pre-lost at sea life is just sketchily drawn: Daniel and Susan aren't exactly yuppies in a marital slump as they're caricatures of yuppies in a marital slump. Susan's too exhausted for sex. Daniel doesn't want to stick with the group. Their vacation doesn't feel so much like a perfunctory part of their relationship as a perfunctory part of the movie itself. The plot just wouldn't be complete if they didn't have an argument, about three-quarters of the way through the film, where they each blame each other for their situation. Which is storytelling perverted. Three-quarters of the way through the film, they need to make their final push for personal growth, even if that growth is, by Ebert's standards, "irrelevant." But Daniel and Susan don't grow as characters; they never come in awe of nature, or of irony, or of their relationship (well, maybe that last one, but we don't care about their relationship). And then, unlike with Touching the Void, we never get to share their awe.

It's plain clumsy filmmaking, and I don't think it's just because most of the shooting was done in a dinky boat without a crew. The dialogue feels off, the editing is jumpy and sudden, and don't even get me started about the most confusing soundtrack ever. I did, however, like the beautiful but nevertheless banal imagery during the thunderstorm, and after fifty minutes of medium two-shots, I was pleasantly surprised when the camera gave me a nice overhead angle. But I just had higher hopes, and I can't help but be a little disappointed.

Friday, July 15, 2005

I guess I was feeling lonely Friday night while everybody else was out picking up their Harry Potter pre-orders, and I saw that ad on TV for, with the actor pretending to be a doctor who matches you up with your soulmate based on twenty-nine psychological vectors or whatever. Fake doctor guy says it's free, too, and I'm kind of bored, so I thought I might just see what the fuss is all about. I also thought it might be kind of amusing to see what sorts of freaks might pick out for me, seeing as how I just wrote a post analyzing the myriad ways my angst manifests itself.

Yet is, somehow, incredibly saddening. I selected the options that best represent me: I am a "man" (it was the option that best represented me) seeking "women" between "20" and "25" located in "Fanwood, NJ". And I clicked Submit and before the personal ads even came up, I thought, "Hmm... wouldn't this be weird if I ran across someone I know here." Yes, yes it would be. But that wasn't a problem. Instead the problem is that what pops up is a collage of the lovelorn, trying not to look lovelorn. It's not working. There's fifteen pictures on my first page of results, and here's the breakdown: 12 need red-eye reduction, 2 are in bikinis and already coming on too strong, 1 looks like a professional headshot, 1 is holding her cameraphone a little too low, and 4 look like they weren't aware someone was taking their picture. But "lovebug916" here is cute.

So basically is a forum for people to demonstrate that they don't know how to take digital photos. Jesus Christ people, you might want to actually look at the picture before posting it. If it makes you look creepy or pallid or lopsided, take the damn picture again!

We can narrow the search down, and I'm just sort of curious here, so don't start judging me. Height: between 5 feet and 5 feet 7 inches. Body type: other. Let's see what happens. Wow. There's actually one woman in central New Jersey willing to claim her body type as "other." That's a turn-on right there.

Okay, but screw other people: the thing I care about is my own personality profile with the 29 vectors or whatever. Here's my favorite question on the profile so far: What's your best feature? And I'm looking down the list going no, no, nope, no, hah, no... till we get down to the bottom: "A sweet part not on the list." Oooh, so risqué. I mean, where's "personality"? (From the guy who just posted an analysis of the myriad ways his angst manifests itself.) I reluctantly select "belly button."

Wow, I just made it through the entire questionnaire and I've never been more disillusioned in my life. That's not true; I've led a pretty disillusioning existence. Basically, after I psychoanalyzed myself down to the core, reminds you that they won't actually let you contact your soulmate unless you pay them. Grrrrr. How dare charge me $29.95 for my destiny!


Turns out that Justin had no idea he's my high school arch-nemesis. For about five minutes, he seemed pretty proud of himself. I don't think it's anything to be proud about — not because being my arch-nemesis is a bad thing but because I'm such a misanthrope that it really doesn't take all that much to earn a ticket to my future plutonium mines. That all being said, I'm sure that Justin's got better things to worry about than whether I like him, and he's probably gone from not knowing about this rivalry I've conjured up for us to not caring about it, which is even more pathetic for me. It's sort of like Batman telling one of Gotham City's criminals, "You know, you're such an incompetent boob that we're not even gonna bother with your inept crime wave. Robin and I, we're gonna do some grocery shopping, maybe head over to the laundromat, and there's some light bulbs in the Batcave that need changing. Your lame ass will probably just wind up in jail on it's own."

But for a bright, shining moment, Justin told me he "still doesn't know what I did to you." I am such a hormonal woman right now, but: Exactly. Here's an example of what I'll call the George Dubya Bush Patriotic Speech Fallacy: that I can't hate on people unless they've done something to me. Bullshit. I bet that ninety percent of the contempt in the world isn't born of any kind of overt action from the hated. Racism, misogyny, homophobia, those douchebags who blew up the London subways and buses. Some dude has an inferiority complex and he just starts hating on whoever happens to exacerbate it. Let's say you're afraid of women because you're horny and not getting any and that hurts. You become a misogynist. Or you're struggling to support yourself financially and you turn racist, taking out your frustration on groups traditionally discriminated against. The terrorists don't hate freedom, as some of our presidents (cough, cough) claim; they hate decadence, and who better personifies decadence than Americans?

My acrimony is more pedestrian (and much less interesting) than that. Justin didn't get to fill my arch-nemesis niche by doing anything; he's my arch-nemesis because of what he represents. This is where the whole Batman metaphor looks like it's breaking down. He's the epitome of myself with an urbane, insouciant lifestyle, something that's totally alien and apparently unattainable for me. No existential crises, none of this passive-aggressive nonsense. The sweet life.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Demosthenes Would Be Proud... or Bored

My psychiatrist told me I should check out an organization called Toastmasters, where members becoming confident public speakers by making speech after speech till they're no longer stunned standing in front of about twenty-five people and talking about something insipid. I went to my local Toastmasters club this evening, which is held in an old-folks home in Westfield. They have a dog at that old-folks home, and I petted her, and that was the highlight of the whole Toastmasters meeting. Otherwise, the whole thing sort of reminded me of college: it was hot and sticky and people wouldn't shut up about crap I couldn't possibly care less about.

I was sort of wandering around the old-folks home, looking for the meeting, when I met Charlie, the chairman of Toastmasters of Westfield. He's into speech-making, and when I sit down at an empty table on the side, he sits down next to me and explains the whole ridiculous Toastmasters procedure. Debi is this week's official toastmaster, and she gets to pick a theme for the meeting. This week's theme is "Sun Power, Fun Power" and before each person makes their speech, Debi introduces them by telling us why they like the sun, like we care. I mean, it's mildly cute and puerile the first three or four times, but after two hours of sitting in the heat and sweat, you just want to gag her every time she introduces someone by saying so-and-so "likes vitamin D."

The speeches ranged from the inane and boring to the non-sensical and boring. Seriously, the most interesting speech was some guy named Tom explaining about roller blading safety gear. One guy gave a detailed description of each of his pairs of glasses. A woman talked about her new grill. A man told us why he liked vanilla ice cream, and although he really had nothing to say on the topic, he still managed to yammer on for two minutes. A woman gave a speech that was supposed to be about knowing your audience but digressed into a mess of lame clip art and generally obvious public speaking advice. Charlie gave a speech about the overuse of perfect tenses in public speaking. And I'm trying to sit there, falling into the background, but for some freaking reason every goddamn speech had to start off: "Good evening, fellow Toastmasters... and honored guest..." staring right at me.

If I ever had to make a speech for these lamers, I'd make sure to pick the most boring, most tedious topics I could possibly think of: Pynchon's novels or symbolic logic or the powers and traits of various Pokemon. Just so they'd have some idea of what their club was actually like.

But I'm not going back. At the end of the meeting, Charlie made his closing speech and asked me what I thought of the meeting. "It was fun," I lied. See, that's what knowing your audience is all about.

Jay Initiates His Addiction to Energy Drinks

Even though I'm pretty much always halfway to slumberland, I've stayed away from the recent caffinated energy drink fad. I was suspicious, and I think my suspicions were more or less justified when Nelly unabashedly came out with a "hip-hop energy drink" called Pimpjuice (ironic true Pimpjuice news article here) and Lil' Jon came out with Crunk!!! exclamation-point exclamation-point explanation-point. We've also got Monster, Rockstar, Hype, Shark, and XS, so apparently the guy who comes up with names for street drugs has a day job. But on Tuesday, I met Lenore and became instantly jealous of her boundless energy, and I thought why not try a little experiment.

I went with a classic, Red Bull, this Austrian drink starring in TV commercials featuring the antithesis of crude, loudmouthed, overcaffinated rappers. In America they advertise to the vanilla-background, line drawing demographic but back in Austria, Red Bull sponsors all these Matterhorn cliff divers and skateboarders and rock climbers and had I known that, I might have gone with Shark or possibly Crunk!!! because I'm white and don't really know what that means. But I went with Red Bull and I'm glad I did since they also sponsor, uh, ex-treme origami, a sport always in desperate financial need.

Now, before I take my first sip of Red Bull in front of the entire blogosphere, let's talk about what I shall be ingesting for science. Red Bull contains 80 milligrams of caffeine, 600 milligrams of glucuronolactone, and an entire gram's worth of something called taurine. Yum. This is from the Red Bull website: Red Bull Energy Drink is a functional product developed especially for periods of increased mental and physical exertion. Red Bull sounds a lot like a reality show. Improves concentration and reaction speed. Improves vigilance. Improves emotional status. Whatever that means. The website also tells us that, "All ingredients used for Red Bull® Energy Drink are synthetically produced." Just like a reality show.

Okay, I'm ready to try out this mutant Gatorade. In three... two... one....

Oh, God, that's gross! It has the distinct taste and odor of someone else's chewed bubble gum, kind of what you'd imagine something called "Pimpjuice" might taste like. Red Bull is more saccharine than a thousand Halloweens and every episode of Seventh Heaven ever made combined. Maybe Red Bull gives you wings, but if you take more than a few sips of the stuff, it also gives you nausea. I poured the rest of the can down the sink, so if Red Bull works like it claims, I'm expecting that in a week or so, Fanwood will be overrun by hyperactive sewer monsters with improved concentration and reaction speed, vigilance, and emotional status.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Too Early...

It's been a while since I've written anything, but my life as of late has been a pointless tedious routine, less than interesting, except of course for my perpetual existential crisis. I got shaken out of my zombie state this morning, so I'll break my streak of not writing in the blog. (My streak of not writing anything well in the blog will probably remain intact, in case you were worried.) I have to wake up at 6:30 in the morning to get to the train by 8:07 in the morning, to get into work a little after 9:30. Three miserable hours — not to mention the eight or so hours following. I have nothing but sympathy for the people who make the commute every day.*

This morning, I'm at the train station and Alex is there and Justin shows up, duly cranky, like he's been woken up three hours too early, and somehow he's still more freaking personable than I am, so it's like now I know how Batman villains must feel. Not that I didn't know before — perpetual existential crisis, right? Alex is chipper, which is pretty much his personality, but he's still too buoyant for before-eight in the morning, and I point this out to him. He asks me if I've met Lenore — of course I haven't — but Lenore is his friend he met waiting for the train and Justin tells me "she's just a ball of energy."

Naturally, who should show up but Lenore. She's thrilled to death to see Justin and Alex again, and she's thrilled to death to show them a picture of her and her boyfriend, and she doesn't know who I am but she misappropriates her excitement and she's thrilled to death to shake my hand. She's practically jumping up and down, telling us about her favorite teachers and her bagel and how "Express for Men" was better when it was just "Express" and her plans for Restaurant Week and how she's gonna take the midnight make-out train home.... Lenore seems like a nice enough person, but holy shit, existential crisis here! Don't need you to be quite so vivacious before I've had my coffee and discovered the meaning of life.

I sense I've just met somebody else who'll eventually get sent to slave away in my imaginary plutonium mines, although not before she gives up her formula to whatever cocktail of Red Bull and crack she obviously has for breakfast every morning. Where have all the cerebral, brooding people gone? Those of us thinking Anne and I used to go to Restaurant Week, Anne and I used to take the make-out train home... Maybe we can trade: a little bit of my existential crisis for a little bit of her hyperactive celerity, but I don't think God allows that.

*Except for Justin Ross, because he was my high school arch-nemesis.

Thursday, July 7, 2005

Like We Need More Reasons To Be On The Reefer

How great is this money-making opportunity I found on Craigslist?

Research Volunteers

Reply to: see below
Date: 2005-07-07, 11:53AM EDT

Healthy male and female MARIJUANA SMOKERS (21-45) needed to evaluate the effects of medication on mood and task performance. Requires 8 visits to the NYS Psychiatric Institute (near Columbia Presbyterian Hospital). Compensation for time: $560. Call (212) 543-5175 for information.

Job location is near Columbia Presbyterian
Compensation: $700
Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.
Phone calls about this job are ok.
Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.
Reposting this message elsewhere is NOT OK.

  • Job location is near Columbia Presbyterian
  • no -- Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.
  • yes -- Phone calls about this job are ok.
  • no -- Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.
  • no -- Reposting this message elsewhere is NOT OK.


I thought now that I graduated, I'd be done with Columbia's fucking bullshit, but I'm not. Columbia had this job posting on Craigslist for a computer person to help digitize their electronic publications, and despite my total disdain for my alma mater, I'd be great for the position. Here's the job requirements:

Bachelor's Degree or equivalent required. Two years' of related experience required.
Required technical experience: "C" or "Java" language programming (or suitable equivalent) and UNIX software development. Experience with UNIX systems administration in an Internet connected site. Good oral and written communication skills required. Ability to perform all phases of systems programming and administration. Ability to work independently required.
Bachelor's degree in Computer Science. Experience with web server administration, XML tools, Unix shell scripting, CGI and/or servlet programming, XSLT, Perl, and data base programming and/or administration.

Which is all pretty standard stuff. The two years of related experience thing kind of put me off, but I figured that, hey, I spent four years in Columbia's computer science department gaining experience that's somehow related to whatever the hell this job is. Besides, Columbia trained me. It's unfathomable that Columbia'd train its students in such a way that they'd remain unqualified for Columbia's own entry level positions. Right?

So I checked the status of my application this morning, and what do you think it says there? Does not meet minimum qualifications.

But I bet they still want my money. Next time the alumni association comes calling, I should tell them that since my education left me so ill-prepared for the job market, I don't have any. They can, however, have all the contempt they can handle.

Wednesday, July 6, 2005


Here's what I had to listen to for my whole damn commute — this morning and afternoon — inane teenage cell phone yap, peppered with trendy MTV-talk and ring tones. I wanted to gag these chatterboxes sitting next to me, something to shut them up so I could finish my miserable, overpriced train ride in relative peace. Maybe the gamma rays or whatever leaking out of the cell phone would give them a brain aneurysm mid-sentence fragment. These cell phones are supposed to cause cancer or something, aren't they?

The problem, as I see it, isn't that cell phones spew radiation; it's that they don't spew enough of it. I don't know why it is, but with all the things out there that could kill you — ebola virus, running with the bulls, irate person next to you on the train driven mad by your incessant yakking — the only that seems to scare the shit out of Americans is cancer. Like, I was at the train station in Somerville yesterday, and there's an eastbound track and a westbound track and a chain-link fence separating the two. So this guy standing on the westbound platform and his buddy's on the eastbound platform, and the guy wants to talk to his buddy but he doesn't want to use his cell phone because, hell, those things cause cancer. Instead, this genius walks up to the fence and, standing on the tracks, screams over to his buddy. Meanwhile, the train's a-comin', but this guy seems to have other priorities.

My feelings on the whole matter are let the guy get creamed by the train and hand his pieces a Darwin Award afterwards. But that would probably make my train late, and it was really freaking humid outside, so I was glad a few good samaritans yelled at the guy and got him to amble off the tracks. But seriously, I bet if you were smoking near that guy, he'd give you a weird look like, dude, do you want to get lung cancer or something?

Now we've got these loquacious girls on their cell phones, and something needs to be done mitigate all these unlimited anytime minutes and free text and photo messaging and nationwide wireless networks. Like leaving a chunk of uranium in the phone. Then you wouldn't want to have the thing clipped onto your belt.

Monday, July 4, 2005

My mom, thank God, isn't nearly as attractive as the mothers on Desperate Housewives. She's a short, squat woman who, when I compared her to, say, Eva Longoria or Nicolette Sheridan, reminds me that she's older than the Desperate Housewives cast and her child came from her uterus instead of an open casting call. Like that's an excuse.

This bothers me, because I want to be a writer and I really feel like I could write for Desperate Housewives. I only started watching the show over the summer — I'm thinking that something better was in its time slot during the regular season — but two things are definitely standing out about the series. The first is how well I'd fit into Mark Cherry's glossy suburbia and the trite ennui of Wisteria Lane. Minus all the hot housewives, of course, because the difference between white suburban moms and white urban moms is that in the suburbs, once you have kids, wherever you go you inevitably drag around cellulite and split ends and melanoma and clothes from Target — not to mention your little brats. God, there's a lot of corpulent blob moms around here.

And I have the best qualification for the job of Desperate Housewives writer: The utter banality that defines Fanwood makes it easy to imagine my neighbors as murderers and adulterers and thieves and druggies. Ugly murderers and adulterers, et cetera, but as a writer, it's not like I'd actually have to film them.

The other thing I noticed about Desperate Housewives is how clumsy and mediocre the writing is, like the South Pacific beyond-the-grave style narration turns ordinary observations into profound observations. "When I was alive I maintained many different identities. Lover, wife and ultimately victim. Yes, labels are important to the living..." introing an episode that has nothing to do with condensing acquaintances' identities into a blurb. That's the moment I realized this was the job for me — I mean, have you read my blog?

Writing is tough, says the kid who's disappointed that a rum and coke didn't cure his writer's block for the evening, but it's a lot easier when you substitue genuine awareness and emotion for blatantly constructed and manipulative hogwash. I'm great at that, and (liberal) politicians ought to hire me to work the masses into an uncontrollable frenzy. But in my spare time, between saving the nation from dastardly right-wingers and slowly but surely writing the winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, I could write lines like, "What type of person would send such a note? Was it an enemy? Of course. But what kind? An aquaintance? A stranger? Or how about a neighbour who lives a few feet away?" I'd include the baritone "DUM DUM DUMMMMM" right in the dialog for our especially retarded viewers.

Same freaking deal with The DaVinci Code, when Dan Brown ruined my dreams of becoming a hack novelist who has best-sellers at the airport. I know that as much as I try, as much as I agonize over every word and every phrase and every comma and semicolon and period, my words will never be as lucid as Michael Chabon's or Jonathan Franzen's. But I also know that even on my sickest days, I'd never puke out something like, "As a parachute opens, air resistance slows its wearer down. Little did Robert Langdon know that, within twenty-four hours, this simple fact would save his life." I know you're six hours into your ten-hour flight, Lazy Reader, Dan Brown is saying, and I know the in-flight movie is Heartbreakers, with Jennifer Love Hewitt's cleavage digitally fuzzed out, but for the love of God, pay attention to that previous sentence there! Do you need me to repeat it? Cause I will. Now, I've got tons of ideas in my head, many of them springing from my fantasies regarding my murdering, adulterous, drug-addled neighbors, that could be turned into what William Safire called a story with "multi-dimensional plot, unidimensional characters."

I could've been freaking famous, and they'd turn my shitty novel into a shitty big-budget movie starring Julie Delpy as the hot, plot-convenient cryptographer cum guardian of the divine lineage. (Sorry if I just spoiled The DaVinci Code for you, but if you didn't see the ending coming from two-hundred pages away, then I don't even know why Dan Brown bothers shoving his storytelling down your throat.) Thanks a lot Dan, you and your unconstipated wordsmithing abilities.

My only hope now is to hold out for five years or so before releasing my first mass-market gnostic suspense novel. I'm sure it will be a success. I'm relying on America's religious pseudo-revival, a paranoid and secretive executive branch, and the growing wealth gap in America to touch the inner conspiracy theorist in everyone, not to mention some sweet-ass reviews calling my book "the most suspenseful novel since The DaVinci Code."

Saturday, July 2, 2005

Another Sign of the Apocalypse

I'm in agreement with Rosie O'Donnell.

It looks like Rosie and Oprah are involved in some sort of passive-aggressive celebrity catfight, and I guess the only thing worse than standing behind Rosie is taking sides with Oprah. Personally, I can't wait until a psychotic Tom Cruise, off his dopamine and convinced that he's a howler monkey, mauls Oprah and eats her face. In case you don't have a TV shoving Us Weekly in your face every second of the day, a swanky Paris boutique confused Oprah with a non-celebrity and refused to let her into the store. Oprah, with a full sense of entitlement you'd think growing up in the slums would knock out of you, thought she'd bitch to her masses of loyal zombie fans about "the most humiliating moment of [her] life."

Now Rosie.... poor, misguided, let me tell a joke sent in by a six-year-old Rosie, responded on her blog. Only thing is that Rosie's blog is written in something that's supposed to be poetry, so her condemnation of celebrity pretentiousness gets lost in lines like: "gayle said it was really really bad / she used really twice / she saw it - she was there" and "shout out to brooke / stand tall girl / u saved a lot of women / by telling ur truth".

And you wonder why the gay rights movement isn't going anywhere. Rosie, if you want to be taken seriously, you need to put away the Magnetic Poetry set and learn how to form a proper sentence.