Wednesday, August 31, 2005

And you thought I was the one with no respect for my fellow Americans' intelligence...?

Okay, I'm here at the library with my laptop, trying to get online to this site, I found it on Craigslist (they're looking for interns), and although it sounds tawdry, I don't think it's porn. But I wanted to see if they're worthy of my talent and genius, so I went to the site and ran into the New York Public Library's adult content filter, which is, in fact, mandated by our nanny state.

In order for the Library to remain eligible for certain federal funding, commercial filtering software has been installed on the Library's Internet connection. The filter is designed to protect against visual depictions of obscenity, child pornography, and materials that are “harmful to minors” and is required by the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA). All Library users are expected to adhere to the Library's Policy on Public Use of the Internet.

Contact the Library at to request that a site be unblocked or to suggest that a site be blocked. Other feedback regarding filtering is also welcome.

If you are 17 years of age or older and would like to have the filtering software disabled for a period of 10 minutes, please read and confirm the following certification: I hereby certify that I am 17 years of age or older and that I am requesting that the Library disable the Internet filtering software to permit my access to the Internet for bona fide research or other lawful purposes.
And there's a button that says something like "I certify that am 17 years of age or older" and another one that says "I am not 17 years of age or older". And for adults who can't take responsibility for themselves, there's a third button that says "I am 17 years of age or older but I would like to keep the filtering software enabled."

Now I know our school systems are complete shit, but if our kids can't figure out how to get past this porn filter, then it's no wonder all of our technical jobs are going overseas. I feel bad for the kids who are honest and, because of it, remain disenfranchised. They're the ones who need the porn the most!

By the way, Federal Government, even if you wise up and get rid of the "Click me to de-activate the porn blocker" button, I'm sure there's a book somewhere that'll give me a step-by-step on getting around this software. But I don't know where I would find one. If only there were some building where you could borrow books, some sort of library maybe. Oh, wait...

I'm Feeling Philanthropic

I guess by now we've all seen the pictures coming out of New Orleans, which is essentially the world's largest and most polluted swimming pool right now, not to mention Mississippi and Alabama. People are saying things like how the damage is "shocking" or "incredible," and the truth is that it's not. Nature is very big and powerful and totally indifferent to us. That's why most of the people living down along the Gulf Coast got the hell out of there before the storm hit. And I kind of feel bad for the folks who died when Katrina blew the roofs they were taking refuge on into the marshland, but as someone who used to hide out in our basement when it was partly cloudy outside, I'm not really sure what the hell they were doing there.

Nonetheless, the pictures of the hurricane damage and the subsequent levee breaches clearly got to me and even though I normally wouldn't give a Louisiana redneck the time of day, I made a donation to the Red Cross. It'll be good for my karma. I kind of believed I was too misanthropic to think that since my house is currently in fewer than a thousand pieces and hasn't morphed into an aquarium, I ought to do something for the people stuck in that toxic swamp. Although I have to say that I feel kind of, um... guilty. It was only eight months ago when CNN brought us pretty much the exact same images of flattened and submerged towns, only this time it was on the other side of the world and the people had some strange skin affliction that could best be described as "not being Caucasian," and I thought: That's awful, but what am I supposed to be doing about it?

I guess in all fairness, at that time, I didn't exactly have a job that paid anything, and after spending my salary on bus fare, lunch, and taxes, there really wasn't much left to help rebuild the tourist industry on the Maldives.

So I'm probably the only person in the world who can feel liberal guilt for donating to charity, but thankfully I'll always have the pleasure of knowing that I could always be worse. There's Frequently Asked Questions on the Red Cross's website, and one of the questions is, seriously, "Can I cancel a donation?" I hope I never meet the heartless bastard who clicks that link, waving money in front of the Red Cross and then taking it back. Jackass.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

What the fuck is wrong with egomaniacal illusionist slash anorexic goth chick Criss Angel? He goes around Las Vegas performing x-treme magic in front of tourists on the street like having an SUV drive over him while he lies on a bed of nails and walking down the side of a skyscraper without a harness and all sorts of other stunts that make David Blaine look like a total pussy sitting in a glass box. Okay, so Criss Angel, and there's no way in hell that's his real name, does this episode of his A&E show Mindfreak called "Burned Alive" where (duh) he sets himself on fire. The website's carney-style description reads:

Facing one of our biggest fears, Criss attempts to be burned alive.... Criss sets up a spectacular stunt where he is set ablaze two separate times. First a partial body burn test by the Aladdin Hotel pool in Las Vegas, [sic] that lasts over 20 seconds. Then a full 46 second body burn with no hands or face protection that shoots 20 ft. flames off Criss at temperatures above 1500 degrees in front of a huge crowd on Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas.
Now first of all, one of our biggest fears? Nuclear terrorism, public speaking, spiders. Not so much having nighmares about some Hollywood "fire master" chasing me with an acetylene torch. And second, what the website doesn't mention is that Crissy is setting himself aflame on his mom's birthday, and that the fire stunt is his gift to her. What the hell did this poor woman do to Chris in his formative years to deserve getting a suicide attempt for a birthday gift?

I'd hate to see Mother's Day in the Angel household: "Open your present, Mom. It's a dozen roses and an attempted matricide."
Also, Bravo Channel, just because the film is called Independence Day doesn't mean it's an independent film. Or a good one.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Yesterday, in a fit of boredom, I thought I'd amuse myself with, that matchmaking website that promises to hook you up based on "the twenty-nine dimensions crucial to relationship success." That old dude comes on the TV commercials with all those happily married couples he's helped set up thanks to eHarmony's free individualized personality profiles, and I'm thinking, "Damn, I need to get me a free individualized personality profile."

So you've seen those annoying online personality tests, right? They used to be popular back in the heydey of the Internet, before people thought to use the medium for more significant projects. You'd rate yourself on these various traits — Are you enthusiastic? Are you lenient? Are you over-caffienated? — and after some computer math, you'd get a printout describing your personality. It's like a shrink, but in multiple choice.

Same kind of idea with eHarmony. There's about two-hundred rate-yourself questions and then just to throw you off, every now and then they ask a free-response question. I had to somehow determine, say, how sexy I am on a scale of 1 (not at all) to 7 (extremely) and there's no temptation to fudge the numbers just a little bit.

I tried to answer pretty honestly because, as I'm sure the personality test could've told you, I'm obsessive about things like that. It took about an hour to finish and I clicked "Submit" to get a list of hot, compatible single women and here's what eHarmony came up with:

Unable to Match You at this Time

eHarmony is based upon a complex matching system developed through extensive research with married couples. One of the requirements for successful matching is that participants to fall within certain defined profiles. If we find that we will not be able to match a user using these profiles, we feel it is only fair to inform them early in the process.

We are so convinced of the importance of creating compatible matches to help people establish happy, lasting relationships that we sometimes choose not to provide service rather than risk an uncertain match.
Yes, that's right, I'm such a freak that eHarmony won't even try to find someone for me. A cold, unfeeling machine tells you how your odds of finding a soulmate among the three billion potentials on this planet are so small it wouldn't even bother to look — if you think that's not depressing....

Anyway, the personality profile that I was so curious about basically told me stuff that I already knew. Which, come to think of it, how self-unaware do you have to be before you've got a computer psychoanalyzing you?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Home Depot Mistakes Me for Someone Who's Not Lazy

I've never seen this before, but it looks like Home Depot is taking do-it-yourself to a whole new level. It used to be that, after hoofing it through that whole hardware city they've got set up there, you could relax while a minimum-wage employee ran all your purchases past the checkout scanner. But these days, with modern technology and all, Home Depot's implemented a new self-serve checkout, the so-called "Fast-Last Checkout," which is only nine or ten times slower than the regular checkout.

There's two problems. The first is that it seems like people who buy things at Home Depot have never seen the inside of a supermarket, and they're totally flummoxed by the concept of wiping a barcode across a laser scanner. So we've got this one guy there who's buying like eighty-five wrenches and can't figure out how to pay for the first one. And the second problem is that, as hard as this is to believe, the machine is actually dumber than the under-educated humans it's replaced. It also has an attitude, which I've generally come to expect from those whose lives are devoted to shitty jobs, and it bosses you around. "Remove item from bagging zone," it says, even though I don't have any items in the bagging zone.

Now, to be fair, Home Depot did have a human cashier, but he was all the way down at the other end of the store, which is in another area code. Not that there wasn't a whole batallion of cash registers between the self-serve and him either, but it's pretty clear that these big chain stores are weaning us towards this transcendentalist ideal of self-reliance, where we fork over loads of cash to some mega-conglomerate in thanks for the opportunity to live more like our forefathers, who didn't have automatic robot vacuum cleaners or fancy Chinese food delivery.

But the thing is, I like my current level of indolence. Yes, when I was like six, I fantasized about playing with the laser scanner at the cash register — what'll happen if I tattoo a barcode on my hand and scan it? How much will I be worth? However, now I have better things to with my life than spend it arguing with a fickle checkout machine. Or at least, I'd like to get paid for that.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Jay Adds Entries To His Shit List

I hear that back in the good ol' days, there was this shopkeeper's adage about how the customer was always right. I wonder whatever happened to that belief, because I'm tired of handing my money over to some store or restaurant or movie theater only to be accosted by some lackey trying to enforce a rule that the management arbitrarily dreamed up solely to, in all likelihood, irritate me. Like, a few months ago I went to the Museum of Modern Art, which has an twenty dollar admission fee. First of all, twenty bucks? That's like two movie tickets, or a month's worth of Netflix, or three spicy tuna rolls plus a young-adult discounted ticket to the New York City Opera. For twenty bucks, you ought to be allowed to take home — maybe not a Cezanne or a Picasso — but at least some abstruse installation piece or a photo print of something that looks like a vagina but isn't.

Anyway, I was on the top floor of the museum, and the architecture of the museum lets you stand on a balcony on the top floor and look down to the bottom floor. This seemed, to my briefly modern-art trained eye, like it would make an awesome snapshot, like something by Andreas Gursky, only cheap and hackneyed. So I got my camera out and hung over the balcony railing, and then this MoMA security nazi stopped me, saying that photography wasn't allowed on the sixth floor. Every other floor, fine, but apparently this floor had national security secrets or something on it and we just couldn't risk having those fall into the hands of Japanese tour groups.

This would've been a good time to practice nebbishly saying "No English" with an unplacable foreign accent. "Oh, you take picture?" Instead I just kind of walked away disappointed.

Not much you can really do about that, but I'm totally stymied by these restaurants that threaten to kick me out after I've spent my money there. There's this place in the East Village called "UT/DT" and I went there one day cause they've got free wi-fi. And today, Ankur and I were getting coffee at Le Pain Quotidien, which I believe is French for The Bread... Quotidien. It's a snootier, more overpriced, more French variant on Starbucks, and we probably shouldn't have been surprised when we walked in and the hostess snapped at us, "Do whatever you want!" I can't even start to put that in context here. Anyway, there's about a hundred seats (with giant communal tables) in the place, and maybe six of them were filled. But a sign helpfully informed us that "tables are for waiter service only."

Confused, Ankur and I ordered up at the counter since it made slightly more sense to us, but then we made the mistake of sitting at one of the many, many empty tables with our forbidden take-out mutant coffee beverages. And we're talking, having a grand time subverting the social order, when the take-out counter guy comes by and, barely holding back centuries of French rage, informs us that "for future reference" these tables are really for waiter service only, but he's gonna be generous and not kick us out. Which was really cool of him since, "for future reference," if he goes out of his way to alienate his clientele, they're not gonna be coming back in the future.

Same thing with UT/DT, where there's a drink-an-hour minimum. They actually have a sign on their counter: "We're in business to make money. If you're using our wi-fi, you need to buy at least one drink every hour." I didn't really want anything to drink, but I was more than happy to buy something just so I'd look like I fit in. And I can understand their wanting to make money, but how freaking short-sighted is this management? (Answer: an hour's worth of short-sightedness.) I wish I were the type of person who could explain business economics to these managers: (a) there's a good probability that, at some point in the future, I'm going to be thirsty again and (b) when I am, you're going to want my money but (c) if you kick me out, you won't be getting it. Simple, right?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Do Insipid Journalists Go To Heaven?

August 16, 2005 8:32 AM — NBC's Today show breaks the most Earth-shattering news story ever. Bigger than the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Bigger than 9/11. Life will never be the same now that the artist formerly known as P. Diddy will be, henceforth, known simply as "Diddy."

I, along with the IRS, will continue to call him Sean because he lives in the Hamptons next door to Martha Stewart and Steven Spielberg and that makes Puffy (a) at least as white as I am and (b) totally ineligible for a puerile krumping rap nickname. I might also call him Captain Media Whore if it's a slow news week for Donald Trump.

Since Douchey there never does anything arbitrarily, he told Katie and Matt what's up with the name change. I hoped this would be a sign that Sean was going into witness protection; but no, he did it for the fans: "I felt like the 'P' was getting between me and my fans and now we're closer," Skiddy said with a completely straight face. It seems like Dummy's fans are a bit confused over what to chant mindlessly at his concerts. Quoth Mr. Flashy Tie: "During concerts, half the crowd is saying 'P. Diddy' — half the crowd is chanting 'Diddy' — now everybody can just chant 'Diddy.'" He's a sort of hip-hop Gandhi, uniting those who would chant "P. Diddy" with those who would chant "Diddy," and threatening to kill everybody who doesn't vote. We should really send him to Iraq to help them hammer out their constitution.

Monday, August 15, 2005

In National and International News...

The Democrats sent me another preaching-to-the-choir email about ethically-challenged Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who's now facing fraud charges down in Florida that, technically, don't have anything to do with the charges against him that the Senate is investigating. Nonetheless, it's a day for ineffectual celebration among us politically-challenged Democrats. Exposed scandal makes us very happy — the bigger the dollar signs and the more racist, the better:

In what was probably the most lucrative lobbying scam in the history of American politics, the two of them [Abramoff and partner Mike Scanlon] reportedly made off with approximately $80 million from a host of Indian tribes that they fleeced, all the while referring to them as "monkeys" and "troglodytes" in private emails.
Come on guys, everybody knows you're supposed to call them Native Americans.
Also, it looks like Israel is relocating some of its citizens out of the West Bank, hopefully in an attempt to help me not have to wake up to some irritating morning news story about people in that part of the world blowing the shit out of something. Having gone to a college that values "diversity," I'm almost proud to say that I know very little about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and I care even less. People at Columbia tend to be very passionate about the topic, to the point where some of the Jewish students on campus claimed that a Muslim, pro-Palestinian professor was "hostile" to them, and they tried to have his tenure revoked. You couldn't walk down College Walk without being accosted by protesters telling you how many Palestinian children the Israeli army killed yesterday and then a group of counter-protesters reminding you of how the Israeli army had to kill those Palestinian children because the Palestinians killed Israeli children first. This is what passes for academic debate at an overpriced liberal arts college.

Realizing that neither side really gives a shit about the children, I wish someone would take Solomon's split-the-baby-in-half approach: force everyone out of the damn area, salt the earth, and send the Israelis and Palestinians back to kindergarten so they can learn to share.

Now there's Israelis living in these West Bank settlements who, inexplicably, don't want to leave their no-man's-land for, say, a place with fewer suicide bombers. They're fanatical about some weird sort of Jewish Manifest Destiny, convinced that the Invisible Man In The Sky wants them to occupy the prime real estate that is Gaza. ("Look, I'll be honest, there's a bit of a crime problem outside. But you're in a secure, gated community that's divinely blessed, so you really are getting a good deal here. Let's draw up the papers, okay.") I mean, let's say you're living in the South Bronx and the government offers to pay you to move the fuck out of there. You don't come up with some sort of "God wants me to live in the projects" excuse — you thank God for getting you someplace else.

But like I said, I really don't sympathize with either the Palestinians or the Israelis, so that puts me in a good position to come up with another solution. This one's less radical than making the disputed territories into the world's nuclear waste dump, turning them from mostly uninhabitable to totally uninhabitable. Since both the Israelis and Palestinians believe that God left the land specifically for them, why don't we just lock them all in a room somewhere and have them ask God. I'm sure He'll eventually answer, right? It's not like He doesn't exist or anything.... He's probably just got a lot on his mind, like helping short-tempered NBA players make their jump shots or helping old ladies choose lottery numbers.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Low Standards

What's pissing me off about the pussies heading up the Democratic party this week? Well, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out this email to its members with the overly optimistic subject "No Republican Is Safe". The DCCC is glowing with praise for Paul Hackett's campaign. Paul Hackett's losing campaign.

I've never seen anyone so damn cocky after getting their ass handed to them. The gist of the email is that the Democrats aren't the humongous losers you thought they were. They're just average losers. Instead of falling an expected forty points behind in this special election, Hackett only lost by four. But he's clearly in denial, acting like he won the whole thing and put the Republicans in their place: "After the chips have fallen in November of 2006, I hope we can look back at my race as the first page in a new chapter in history. A chapter where accountability and integrity were brought back to our government. A chapter where deceit and influence-peddling were not taken for granted from those in power."

Well we can't, Paul. Clearly, these same dumb Ohio fucks who put Dubya back in the White House the second time around aren't impressed by ethics scandals and missing taxpayer revenue. Deceit and influence-peddling: still pretty much taken for granted. Hackett should've accused his opponent of being a gay Satanist bondage-freak, something that really gets these morons riled up.

Jay Is A Piece of Tailor-Meat

Probably my least favorite place in the world is the Men's Wearhouse, the punnish men's clothing store where they turn you from a slob who can't dress himself into a slob who can't dress himself but is wearing a suit and, of course, sandals. I, for one, don't think about my appearance all that often. Because it depresses me. That's not to say that I don't have fashion goals — much to the contrary, having a bunch of innocuous gay friends and innocuous girly-girl friends in high school has left me with a quite clear impression of how I want to look: like the shy, sensitive guy from some California boy band. He writes poetry in his spare time and even when he's handing out autographs to a throng of screaming fans, you can see it in his eyes that you're the only one for him. He wants to go all the way with you, but only if you're comfortable and ready for it, and afterwards he wants to let you go tell your girlfriends and your vapid gay friends all about it.

I don't think they make clothes that'll turn me into that, though.

Instead, I go to the Men's Wearhouse, and there's always some little priss my age all decked out in a three-piece suit who's always too happy to help me. This is incredibly awkward, naturally, and I don't want this guy to realize that I don't know shit when it comes to business formal.

Me: I need to buy a sportsjacket.

Overdressed Salesguy: Okay, what are you matching it with?

Me: Mom, what am I matching it with?

And from that moment on, I was basically the Men's Wearhouse bitch. The salesman started bringing out these comically ridiculous suits, crap that only half-blind old men would be caught wearing. A navy and black herringbone number. A double-breasted white monstrosity. Maybe the salesman mistook me for Tom Wolfe. The salespeople would forcably put a suit on me, like a straitjacket, then they'd place me in front of a mirror and ask how I thought I looked. And I'm too polite to say, "Stupid." It's weird, because I have a team of "wardrobe specialists" hovering around me, tailors marking and pinning me up, salesguys wrapping measuring tapes around my stomach and my neck. This is what celebrities must feel like. It's totally uncomfortable.

Frankly, I'm considering becoming a nudist.

Monday, August 8, 2005

Two DVD Reviews

I swear I have the worst freaking luck with those DVD commentary tracks. A few weeks ago, I rented Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, which is subtitled so you don't confuse it with all those other dodgeball-themed movies out there. Dodgeball has its moments, in particular a cameo by rubber-bracelet maven Lance Armstrong and a miscast but still amusing Jason Bateman playing a sportscaster with a bottomless supply of vapid observations. But, like pretty much all of those Ben Stiller/Owen Wilson/Vince Vaughn/Will Ferrell PG-13 gross-out comedies, Dodgeball is a one-joke, derivative bore. Look — Ben Stiller is playing "manic." What a stretch for him! I can't think of anybody else in the Stiller lineage notable for playing over-the-top manic characters. No one.

But Dodgeball is the sort of movie where you think that even if the movie's not that funny, then at least the commentary will be amusing. The actors at least look like they're having fun on screen, so they can probably be naturally humorous without the conceit of Vince Vaughn playing the straight man to Stiller's crazy egomania. But nope. The geniuses at 20th Century FOX marketing thought that Dodgeball, the most conventional comedy of the year, needed a pointless avant-garde commentary track. The first half of the commentary is structured as an (obviously scripted) argument between director Rawson Thurber Marshall, sycophant Vaughn, diva Stiller, and recording booth sound engineers Matt and Jeff. By the second half of the movie, Marshall, Vaughn, and Stiller have all walked out on the commentary so Matt and Jeff decide they'll just play the commentary track to There's Something About Mary instead. So when I said that the commentary was "pointless," I really fucking meant it. Total waste of an hour and a half of my life.

Now, last night, I rented A Very Long Engagement by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. It's a French film, in case you couldn't guess. Basically, I'm never thrilled about having to read the damn movie, especially as I was trying to eat dinner at the time and pick through my food for all the crap I don't eat. But, like everybody else, I loved Jeunet's previous film Amelie, so I picked this one up from Palmer. It's well-made, even if it's easier to keep track of the characters in Anna Karenina than this movie, and Jeunet uses the same visual whimsy and attention to odd yet telling details that made Amelie so charming. But A Very Long Engagement is more the misbegotten bastard child of Amelie and the dull Kubrick World War I masterpiece Paths of Glory, and the storytelling just doesn't mesh very well with the story being told.

But after the movie, I went to watch it again with the director's commentary, and the freaking commentary is in French!!!! Goddamn it, I know that you art-house theatre lovers cream yourself over subtitles, but couldn't the American DVD release at least have the commentary in English? What happened to the director and actors just sitting in a room and riffing off the film, like giving us a glimpse of the Hollywood process.... Maybe I'll have to wash off mentally with the commentary to Alone in the Dark.

Sunday, August 7, 2005

I haven't written anything in a little over a week, and that's because I believe I've totally lost my ability to communicate. It started last Thursday, when I got a call from this tech recruiter named Mike. Mike wanted to place me at some Wall Street firm called Knight Financial Equity Capital Market Trading Something Something Something. Mike was inhumanly motivated towards this goal, and he apparently mistook me for someone equally motivated.

Which was kind of awkward, bullshitting to Mike like I was dying to work at Knight. It got worse after the interview, when I accidentally managed to negotiate an extra ten-thousand dollars for myself. I was meeting with the Knight human resources lady and she asked me where else I was interviewing. The honest answer to that question was, "Nowhere else." But that wasn't the correct answer. Not wanting to look like a total shlub, I told Human Resources Lady that I had interviews scheduled at "Merrill" and "Goldman" and that's why the Knight people thought they'd sweeten the deal for me. That's a perfect example of what I'm going to call the George Tenet Law of Prevarication.

Problem is that Mike the Recruiter found out about Knight's offer and he couldn't have been more excited. Mike called me right after the interview and he called again later that day to see how I was coming along on making a decision.

And then he started phone-stalking me.

That Monday, Mike must have called my cell phone about thirty times and he left me six messages, all of which started off, "JAAAAAAYYYYYY!" like he hasn't seen me in a long time and he's trying to sell me a used car. More calls on Tuesday, and then on Wednesday, he actually called me not once, not twice, but three times at work. The first time I didn't realize it was him, cause I figured that no recruiter would be so tactless as to actually call a prospect up at his current job, so I was stuck there talking to him, listening to him try and sell me on this position. I had one of those imaginary interviews I told the Knight human resources lady about that day, so I bought myself a few hours of peace with that lie. But by mid-afternoon, Mike's calling my cell phone and my work number every half-hour.

Now, most of the time, I'm the person making the phone calls every half-hour, so I had no idea how freaking exhausting it is ducking someone's calls, especially when they've got their number blocked from caller ID. To be honest, the pressure of just trying to decide whether to accept Knight's offer was difficult enough to manage, and Mike harassing me was too much. I was simply wiped out. I emailed Mike that afternoon and turned down the job (and told him for future reference that he came on kind of strong) and went home feeling like shit, having given up what's probably the best offer I'll get for what's probably the stupidest reason imaginable.

Mike, obviously, didn't quite understand the concept of "you're coming on too strong," because he called and emailed a few more times begging me to reconsider. It's not going to happen. I've spent the past week in bed, hiding under the blankets in case the phone rings.