Monday, February 27, 2006

More MySpace News

I'm making friends left and right on MySpace. I hadn't even been a member twenty-four hours before getting a message from someone with the enigmatic name of "." Ugh. . wants to be my friend, but I think I'll demur. Honestly, I've spent enough of my life not getting into clubs with names like (*) and Glottal Stop and other crap that screams, "How dare you mere mortals try to pronounce our name!" It's called the alphabet. Look into it.

Turns out that . is the alias of some band named Coppermine that's just trying to expand its six degrees of separation circle of acquaintances. I am disillusioned; they said they wanted to be my friend, but it turns out they're just looking for some free airplay. How could they toy with me like that?! And they're in the music business, no less, which is traditionally known for its upstanding and socially conscious corporate practices.

So I'm really more bothered by the whole period for a name thing than by Coppermine begging everyone on MySpace to listen to their music. (I do think it would be nice if people with music on their MySpace accounts could have the thing wait until I press play before it starts blaring music, though.) I appreciate that it's a bitch to break into the music biz, and from someone with a daily readership of about eight people to a band with around 130,000 "friends," I say whatever works. Pirate radio, holding Bertlesmann executives hostage at gunpoint, streaking across the American Idol stage — I don't care.

I was watching a report on CBS Sunday Morning, the news magazine that doesn't try to scare the crap out of you, about this debate in the music industry over whether it's ethical for musicians to license their work for commercials. I don't take sides over the issue per se; what thoroughly offends me is the idea that there's some sort of moral high ground in the music industry in the first place. Rock stars are pre-programmed to wrap the dilemma in terms like creative control, integrity, and exposure, like Hollywood is the land of euphemism. I'm not a huge fan of hip-hop or urban materialism, but at least I can respect Nelly for proudly admitting that he's just in it for the money and the tasteless pussy. Bruce Springsteen, for example, won't license his music for commercials, but has no problem making a quick buck off of putting "Growin' Up" in Adam Sandler's cinematic masterpiece Big Daddy. So, selling running shoes is bad, selling copies of the Big Daddy soudtrack is okay. I see how that works.

My favorite quote from the news report is about Tom Waits, who "has successfully sued to stop ad agencies from hiring Tom Waits sound-alikes. He's made a lot of money in settlements and set some new case law by being so dogged." This begs the question: what the hell are they trying to sell to a Tom Waits soundtrack?

And then there's U2 and that ubiquitous iPod commercial. When Bruce inducted Bono and those three guys who follow him around into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he made a little joke about how surprised he was at that commercial and how he thought U2 was selling out — until he discovered that U2 did that commercial for free. You heard right: they participated in a million-dollar ad campaign out of the goodness of their magnanimous little hearts. That, and having Apple pay to put another one of their unnecessary songs reminding us that nuclear war is bad on national television. And getting their own iPod line. And earning royalties every time some dork 80's memorabilia collector bought a U2 iPod. (But I'm sure a percentage of those royalties goes to support Angelina Jolie's random Ethiopian children, so it's cool.)

The thing is that I would totally give Bono the green light to pimp out his music — well, not Bono, because he's irritating — but I'd give many musicians license to sell out if only the idiotic public wasn't so eager to buy. I can kind of see the iPod and U2's latest pseudo-soulful yuppiefied tripe filling the same cultural niche. But I'm at a complete loss as to who's going to buy a Dirt Devil just because they saw one on TV dancing with Fred Astaire. And just because they played Sting's "Desert Rose" on that Jaguar commercial doesn't mean we have to hear it eight million times on the radio. Now I don't want to buy Sting's album or a Jaguar. Actually, I didn't want to buy Sting's album in the first place.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Wedding of the Century

The BBC posted the following article on its website today, and the headline, not too surprisingly, grabbed my attention:

Sudan man forced to 'marry' goat
A Sudanese man has been forced to take a goat as his "wife", after he was caught having sex with the animal.

The goat's owner, Mr Alifi, said he surprised the man with his goat and took him to a council of elders.

They ordered the man, Mr Tombe, to pay a dowry of 15,000 Sudanese dinars ($50) to Mr Alifi.

"We have given him the goat, and as far as we know they are still together," Mr Alifi said.

Mr Alifi, Hai Malakal in Upper Nile State, told the Juba Post newspaper that he heard a loud noise around midnight on 13 February and immediately rushed outside to find Mr Tombe with his goat.

"When I asked him: 'What are you doing there?', he fell off the back of the goat, so I captured and tied him up".

Mr Alifi then called elders to decide how to deal with the case.

"They said I should not take him to the police, but rather let him pay a dowry for my goat because he used it as his wife," Mr Alifi told the newspaper.
I have a bunch of questions for this Alifi guy, because where I come from — and I'm trying to be sensitive towards the genocidal, clitoris-hacking, zoophiliac Sudanese culture — if you're caught fucking an animal, someone generally keeps you away from that animal in the future. I guess they do things a bit differently over there. The first thing I've gotta know is, let's say that goat-fucker Tombe meets a woman and they fall in love. (She's presumably cool with the whole bestiality thing.) Does he need to divorce the goat before they get married? If they do get divorced, does the goat get half his stuff? I can't really imagine there being some sort of caprine prenup, with maybe a pig for a lawyer. Maybe he can get out of the marriage by letting the goat screw around with someone else.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Here's what's awesome about living in the twenty-first century: I joined MySpace today and in less than two minutes, I apparently made a new friend. It's this guy here, , who claims to be named Tom, and although I've never met him before, "My Friend Space" informs me that I have one friend and he's the one they've listed, so who am I to argue. Tom's Friend Space, incidentally, claims upwards of fifty-eight million friends (which means he's like BFF with almost .9% of the entire planet's population) so his parties must be totally off the hook. I bet they're a bit crowded though.

Here's the problem, Tom. I mentioned this once before, when I ran across a super-uterus trying to populate the world, but there's only twenty-four hours in a day. If you're lucky, maybe you'll live eighty years or so, and that works out to devoting about forty-three seconds of your life to each friend. I think I'll schedule my forty-three seconds with Tom maybe sometime in 2025.

Thankfully, MySpace is trying, struggling, to introduce me to "Cool New People," including The Matty, , and Scud, . For future reference, MySpace, there is and there will never be anyone cool who calls themselves Scud. But whatever. Scud's profile says that he's a 6'4" Leo, he's a college graduate, and evidently he's undecided as to whether he has children. Wow, it's eerie. I feel like I've known him my whole life.

As for The Matty, his general interests include — and I'd like to remind you that these are the cool new people — "chillin'" and superfluously replacing letters with apostrophes, and his ethnicity is "other." I'm not sure he could possibly be any more generic. I'm really disturbed about how he has fourteen more clearly insipid friends (like this guy, , who really enlightens the global village with his bulletin board post, "tom f*cken snapped on you matty! damn, gotta start this sh*t all over again! damn and you were all pumped up about the profile view count...") than I do.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I wound up coming home on the train sitting next to this dweeb reading Are You The One For Me? by Barbara De Angelis, also known as that smiley woman from those infomercials on at two in the morning. Barbara is, according to her book cover, a "relationship expert," and there's no way that her book cover could possibly make up random hyperbole like "bestselling author" and "over two zillion copies sold!" I will not be content until someone explains to me exact what it takes before someone can declare themselves a relationship expert. Is there some kind of accreditation program? Do you have to pass an exam or something?

Let's think about this for a minute: how does one become an expert on a subject? Like, if you wanted to be an expert on, say, metallurgy, you'd spend a lot of time in a mill, watching smelting and puddling, practicing until you became proficient, accumulating little bits and pieces of knowledge. This De Angelis chick spends her life drinking from the well of pick-up exposure, and the whole "relationship expert" thing is basically a euphemism for "slut."

Maybe that's a little harsh. "Sex expert" is a euphemism for "slut." There's still something a little ironic about taking relationship advice from someone who claims to have had a great variety of their own personal amalgamations; it sort of implies that she's either a cuckold or she's really awful with commitment. According to her website, "Barbara has been a pioneer in the field of personal transformation as one of the first people to popularize the idea of self-help in the 1980's," so thanks a lot, Barbara, for projecting your own damn issues onto the rest of society and making us all realize that we suck in your eyes. You suck! You might think I'm just acting out of some sort of jealous rage, kind of that feeling that washes over me every time Dr. Phil opens his redneck mouth, but take a look at Barbara's pictures. I'd say they're taken about twenty years ago, judging by the amount of volumizer in her hair, and the most recent thing on her CV is from 1994. Maybe she's not exactly growing old with confidence and grace?

Back to the dude sitting next to me reading Are You The One For Me?, I sort of feel like the answer to that question is going to wind up being a big fat no. First of all, this guy looked that kid on The X-Files who thought Mulder was a mandroid, except Train Guy was in business formal, which, for someone of that particular wedgie-prone build, isn't an improvement over a Space: Above and Beyond one-size-fits-all t-shirt. And he's getting girlfriend advice from an infomercial, which also means that he's probably watched one of Barbara's infomercials, and that was a half-hour of his life that he could've been, say, doing something romantic for this poor, poor girl. Oh, and did I mention that he was taking notes on a legal pad and these notes looked something like, "numbness about our relationship -- she's hiding something." So I'm thinking he might need the entire Barbara De Angelis inspirational library if he's gonna be saving this relationship.

Here's our Barbara De Angelis, PH.D. poorly-punctuated quote of the day. I'm sort of ambivalent as to whether it's a complete sentence. You know what's weird... I couldn't find on her website where Barbara's degree is from. Have you ever heard of anyone with a real doctorate who wasn't just salivating at the opportunity to brag about their education? Well, I'll bet you still haven't.Each time you choose to love, to reach out, to connect, and to feel you come alive.I thought it had something to do with having a heartbeat and brain signals or something, but I guess that's why I'm not a Ph.D.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Another Post About Starbucks, indicating that I haven't quite got this "getting out more" thing down yet.

Maybe it's just the caffeine (or the booze) but I'm getting this vibe from Starbucks that they've got some sort of new corporate friendliness initiative happening, and it's making me very uncomfortable. Over the last few weeks, I'm noticing more and more baristas asking for my name when I place my order — my "bar drink" — so when it's time to pick up my coffee concoction they don't have to call me over as "Tall Mocha." They can call me Jay, or actually "Jason," because I've discovered that when I tell people my real name, the following irritating conversation inevitably ensues:

Presumably Deaf Other Person: Your name, please?

Me: Jay.

PDOP: Excuse me?

Me: Jay.

PDOP: Ray?

Me: No, Jay.

PDOP: Dave?

Me: Jay.

PDOP: Rait?

Me: Jay.

PDOP: Okay, Rait, your coffee will be ready in a minute.
Maybe I'm not enunciating?

So I just make up a name, cause it honestly doesn't matter. I can be whoever I want Bill or Tom, or theoretically Susan, or Optimus Prime, Dick Assman,, or Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116, but not Rashawn or Tyrese, because that would be racist. I'm lucky that my given name is pretty much just a more popular name dumbed down for people too lazy to pronounce two whole syllables, and so after twenty-plus years of explaining that no, it really says "Jay" on my birth certificate — Starbucks, meet Jason. Whatever. It's not like I'm gonna become friends with the behind-the-counter help at Starbucks or anything.

Which is why it got really awkward this morning when the Starbucks counter girl told me that she recognized my face but forgot my name. Or my "name." As soon as I reminded the girl, the entire Starbucks staff was calling me by name: not just "Tall latte for Jason," but there's "Here's your latte, Jason" and "Have a nice weekend, Jason," and this whole superfluous name-wearing-out thing is especially disconcerting when it's not even your own name. Like, great kids, you know my name. I'm still not freaking tipping you.

Friday, February 17, 2006

I tried an experiment this morning where I secretly switched my regular four-dollar Starbucks coffee with this energy drink called Vault. Let's see if I could tell the difference.

Yes. Yes, something was amiss with my morning beverage, like it just wasn't waking me up the way a grande double no-whip soy mochachino would. And also, it's sort of the color of pee... or more precisely, it's this neon green color that your pee would be if you spent too much time at Chernobyl. I have to admit that I was a little hesitant about drinking this stuff, because I have a rule that says nothing gets ingested into my body that looks like it already came out of my body, but I didn't want the dollar I spent on this concoction to go to waste. Vault tastes kind of like Mountain Dew and Sprite had a baby, then raised that baby at Chernobyl. Every time I took a sip of Vault, I wasn't sure if I was going to burp up carbon dioxide or a mutated second nose.

I don't actually like soft drinks, or anything carbonated, so I expected Vault to be a somewhat gross, painful experience. These are the sacrifices one makes so that one can get only four and a half hours of sleep a night and still function during the day. The real test of any of these energy drinks is whether they behave as advertised and live up to their x-treme youth-friendly otherwise-meaningless names; essentially, I'm expecting to open the bottle and liquid crack pours out. So I'm gullible... I'm also thinking about maybe buying a bottle of that Axe Body Spray stuff. :(

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

My Annual Valentine's Day Wish For All You Lovers

Same as last year. One word: herpes.

Monday, February 13, 2006

I want to smack some sense into these Olympic freaks, those people with nothing better to think about than the medal count, who find the time to paint their faces the national colors and dance in the street and light off fireworks whenever one of their countrymen takes the gold. Like, I'm a big fan of curling, probably because it combines the tactical strategizing of the Olympic games with the edge-of-your-seat intensity of geometry. What, you wanna make something of it? What's your favorite event? Long-track speed skating? Dude, they're going like ten miles an hour — I think they're taking a leisurely stroll around the rink instead of racing. Two-man luge? I think I saw that on Jackass once. Biathalon? Come on, that's just a made-up sport. I could make up a winter sport too, if I wanted. Here, just off the top of my head: You cross-country ski for two kilometers, then you jump on a sled a. nd go downhill for, let's say, five-hundred meters, then you get off and build a snowman, and finally you grab yourself a washed-up celebrity trying to make a comeback and the two of you go ice dancing. Best time wins.

You know what would make a great winter Olympic sport? Motorcycle ice racing. The IOC is clearly trying to get more young viewers, adding all those Winter X-Games sports like snowboarding and skeleton to their roster. Why not combine the youth demographic with the people-who-like-to-watch-incredibly-bad-ideas-materialize demographic? They wouldn't even have to limit themselves to motorcycles; NASCAR on ice would be awesome. Really, just about any non-ice event — football, basketball, marching band — immediately becomes more interesting when traction is taken away.

But back to my point, I'm watching curling, U.S. versus Finland just when Fenson's rock curved and missed his stone and some uber-patriot in the audience screams like he's three seconds away from being trampled by a water buffalo. I'm not sure if it was an American sharing the agony of defeat or a Finn embracing the thrill of victory (although I'm thinking it's the latter since there's only five Americans who give a crap about curling and four of them are on the Olympic curling team), but either way, shut up, ass! Let's reserve the sports celebration for the people actually playing the damn game. Everybody else can applaud politely, because the fact that you happen to pay taxes to the same government as the guy who actually competed doesn't mean you get to take credit for the victory.

Also, winning a gold medal doesn't make your country cool. I guess this isn't such a big deal for the winter games, but what I'm thinking of specifically is Romania. Yes, you have a winning gymnastics team, but you have no government, no infrastructure, and no economy, so how about getting your damn priorities straight?

Friday, February 10, 2006

I Am Immune From Olympic Fever

I'll never understand what the big fuss is all about, especially with the Winter Olympics, the unloved bastard child of the international athletic competition world. At least for the summer games, they put a little effort into keeping me entertained, like CNBC puts that thoroughly unnecessary Donnie Deutsch on hold for a couple of weeks to show round-the-clock women's beach volleyball, which is only the most pandering sport this side of NASCAR. Maybe in 2008, the IOC can make mudwrestling and foxy boxing official Olympic sports.

But for the winter games, they don't even bother to try. Just look at this year's mascot thingies, Neve and Gliz. Neve, the doodad on the left, is a hydrocephalic snowball with, uh, arms and legs?! That's not going to confuse any poor Botswanan children who've never seen snow before. Gliz is an anthropomorphized ice cube. No, I'm not kidding, one of the Olympic mascots comes out of my refrigerator door. At this point, I'm just gonna come right out and say it: can we stop having goddamn ten-year-olds design the Olympic mascots, because they keep winding up being retarded. Like these things from the Athens games that I'm pretty sure I saw guest starring in an episode of "Gumby" fifteen years ago, or this hyperactive freakjob from Atlanta.

Credit where credit's due, though: According to the official Torino 2006 website, Neve and Gliz are "easy to use commercially," so they have the whole whoring themselves out thing going in their favor. That little observation deserves to be juxtaposed against this one, taken from an IOC press release titled "TORINO 2006: Preserving The Purity Of The Games." The IOC writes, without a hint of irony, "To preserve the purity of the Games, the IOC does not allow advertising hoardings on the field of play, resulting in a clean venue and broadcast." Do the members of the IOC even watch the Olympics, or are they too busy taking bribes and fixing ice skating competitions to notice the ubiquitous mentions of Coca-Cola and Mastercard in the Olympic Village?

I also would like to know what the hell is up with NBC's bipolar promotions for the Winter Games. They have this one ad that goes something like, "Once every four years, the world comes together in brotherhood and harmony," and then not even two minutes later, they show another ad that goes, "Four years ago, the U.S. won more gold medals than ever before. But this year, the U.S. is gonna kick the rest of the world's ass even harder, just like we did in Iraq. We're bringing freedom and snowboarders to your country, bitch! Boo-yah!"

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

The Fine Art of Small Talk

Mom — ugh, Mom — found this book in the library called The Fine Art Of Small Talk, a self-help classic that will teach me to make inane, worthless conversation with strangers, or, failing that, will remind me that those of us who don't hold up our ends of the conversation are inconsiderate louts. That's pretty much the entire message of the book: half the book is this "get out there and go for it" pep rally and half the book is stories about the terminally shy and how the more garrolous among us don't consider them fit to join society. Thus, Fine Art of Small Talk book, meet mockery.

I actually had pretty high hopes for the small talk book, despite my previous adventures in the art of conversation. A few days back, Dad was telling Mom and me about some random women he struck up a conversation with at an art museum, and my reaction was, "Whoa, Dad, somebody looked around the room and decided you'd be the most interesting person around to talk with? How did that happen?" Mom, who wasn't at the museum with Dad, answered my question with an analysis straight out of FAoST: Dad made eye contact with this woman, he introduced himself, and he started the conversation with an icebreaker. I guess I was in some sort of shock at that time, because what Mom said made sense. Perhaps it's been such a long time since I made eye contact with anyone that I'd temporarily forgotten how difficult it is, how there's that uncomfortable balancing act between a normal attempt to socialize and "why the hell are you staring at me?"

Maybe there is a way around that awkwardness that doesn't involve a television producer or anything, but it's certainly not in FAoST. For instance, there's a list of fifty icebreaker topics in the book — and I'm always having trouble coming up with new and exciting things to say, so no one appreciates a good icebreaker like I do — but not one of them is less contrived than "what's your sign?". Here's a couple, and it's not my fault that they're totally devoid of context:

  • What would you like to come back as in the next life?
  • Tell me about the first car you ever bought.
  • Describe the scariest person you ever met.
  • How can you tell if that melon is ripe?
(No, I didn't just make that last one up.)
Apparently, there are people in the world having the following conversation: "Hi, Random Woman Drinking Alone in a Bar. My name's Jim. What aroma brings forth a special memory?" And the fact that someone, somewhere is getting lucky with that line just depresses me even more.

Monday, February 6, 2006

Again, why I hate everybody: The New York Times has an article about the new corporate leadership at Paramount, the company that's contributed such priceless artistic visions as Sahara and Laguna Beach to the American culture. I'm going to quote the Times' one-sentence summary of the article, "Brad Grey has a plan for reviving Paramount, which includes buying good scripts and betting heavily on talented executives and filmmakers."

Brad Grey is getting a seven-figure paycheck for the brilliant idea of buying quality raw materials and having competent people make their products. Re-ally. I can see why Hollywood is so tough to break into; it takes a total visionary way ahead of his time to come up with a plan like that. What was Paramount's old business plan? Turning fetid, mediocre scripts over to some CEO's hack nephew to direct? Letting insufferable teenage idiots ad lib a self-indulgent show about themselves? Oh, right... that was their old business plan.

I have a proposal for the shareholders at Paramount. I'll come up with similarly clever ideas to revitalize your studio, such as keeping your producers away from nitrous oxide before they go and greelight an "Untitled Battle of the Network Stars" movie, and all I'd ask in return is, say, a hundred bucks and maybe a couple sneak preview passes to Zodiac.

Saturday, February 4, 2006

Another Example of Why Humans Are The Dumbest Creatures on This Earth

Somehow, this thing caused a stampede where eighty-eight people DIED!!! It's a Philippine text-message game show called, meaningfully, Wowowee, and I defy anyone to tell me what the hell language it's in. English? Tagalog? Spanish? Stop giving me hope that I'll be able to figure out what's happening on this show!

Also, the top prize on Wowowee is a million pesos, which is about $384. In fact, according to poorly-written Wikipedia article, audience members actually have to donate money to be on the show! So, cheap much? I mean, that's like them rioting outside the Lingo studios. It's not just sad, it's pathetic, especially when our country has jackasses making fifty grand for eating buffalo cock on Fear Factor. Yes, I suppose we could demean ourselves more by bringing Fear Factor to the Philippines and slashing a few zeroes off that grand prize, but I have an idea for a game show called Let's Build The Philippenes An Economic Infrastructure So They Don't Have To Trample Themselves To Win $400.

Thursday, February 2, 2006

The GRE's are administered in what is probably the most depressing corporate office park I've ever seen. It's this building that just exudes gray, and you can't help but feel that your whole identity is being crushed the moment you walk in. I am reduced to my recall of obscure vocabulary and those careless mistakes I make when I do quick arithmetic calculatorless, and it would be very depressing except it's kind of cool that I get to wear noise-dampening earphones. Okay, it's cool for like fifteen minutes, and then I'm glad I don't have a job working on an airport runway.

ETS is big on test security — like, if the federal government were as concerned about security as ETS is, we'd have won the war on terror back in like 1987. You've gotta put all your personal things in a little gym locker, then you sign your life away with these confidentiality agreements, so I can't tell you that the answer to question one is B and the answer to question two is E. You empty your pockets, you give them your driver's license and passport, they take your photo digitally and your fingerprints and your retinal scan and DNA and I thought I might even have to provide those info-nazis with a stool sample. Hell, I think by this time, I might have wanted to give them a stool sample. The best I could do was flip off the closed-circuit camera watching me test over my shoulder.

Okay, there's official GRE scratch paper that they give you (it says "official scratch paper" on it) and they wouldn't even let me bring mechanical pencils into the test. I had to use ETS approved plain-old pencils, which weren't even freaking sharp, and I should really bitch more about that. Some of the prohibited items made sense, like no cell phones or dictionaries or PDA's, but how the fuck am I supposed to cheat with a mechanical pencil?! No, I really want to know. I meet want to meet the Gen-Y'er who was clever enough to beat the test with a mechanical pencil, and I think he should get bonus points for ingenuity. (He should also lose points for being too lazy to study but not lazy enough to think up this trick.)

It did, however, get me thinking about cheating, and I wonder what would happen if you walked into the test room wearing a shirt covered with vocabulary words and definitions on it. "Uh, Mr. Proctor-Man, I could change my shirt, but everything in my wardrobe is either decorated with math formulas or pre-written essays. What can I say, it's the latest fashion?" Or maybe I could tattoo formulas on my arms and hands... what are they gonna do?

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

I'm taking the GRE tomorrow, so I'm naturally livid. In my mind, ETS has orchestrated this huge standardized testing scam on the academic community, convincing our intellectually vacant educational leaders that my scholastic history can be meaningfully reduced to a few essays and some multiple choice questions. I am white, cosmopolitan, upper middle class, so I don't care that much about the tests' cultural bias, or students spending thousands on test-prep (like I did with the SAT's — huge waste of my parents' money), or the tests' original purpose as tools for social engineering a master race; however, I am a solipsist and I'm only too happy to get riled up at the way ETS is gonna waste two and a hours of my life asking vacuous questions with absolutely zero relevance to anything I could possibly learn in grad school. Like one day, my professor's gonna ask me, "Mr. Harris, which of the five following words is the best antonym for 'fulminate?'"

Being born in the era of that machine that reads bubbles filled in with number two pencil, I'm pretty familiar with the standardized test and I've had plenty of time to cultivate a seething disdain everything standardized testing: those monotonous instructions ("Choose the answer that BEST describes blah blah blah," with BEST in like capital letters and bold, because there's always one special kid who really ought to have an IEP who's filling in the WORST answer choices), finishing the test in ten minutes and then having to spend the next fifty minutes "checking my work," and how all of the sentences are about Julio or Tyrese and how they always include that same goddamn passage from The Joy Luck Club to give the test a veneer of ethnic diversity. It's the most condescending experience: apparently, whoever writes these things believes that we're all retarded, but they'll just let the colleges deal with inflating our grades and industry deal with shipping our jobs off to better-educated, less-expensive Vietnamese workers. Seriously, on that test they gave us in high school that we had to pass to graduate, one of the questions was something like, "Tamika has three quarters and a dime. How much money does Tamika have? A) 35¢ B) 85¢ C) 95¢ D) cow E) $250.00"

Things haven't improved. The GRE, for instance, has two essays on it, ostensibly because grad schools have been complaining about colleges granting degrees to idiots who can not write. Which, okay, if English isn't your native language and you graduated from college with some sort of math or science degree, I can see how you might get through secondary school without knowing all the ins and outs of the language. But if you grew up in America and you spent sixteen years writing English in school, that fucking Bachelor of Arts ought to mean that you can string together a subject and a preposition in a complete thought. Maybe you get a Master's when you can demonstrate your understanding of the intricacies of direct and indirect objects. Instead I've gotta respond to, "It is primarily through formal education that a culture tries to perpetuate the ideas it favors and discredit the ideas it fears." Yeah, there's a topic that'll receive a thorough treatment in five paragraphs.