Tuesday, March 28, 2006

I am ill.

This disease shit used to be fun back when I was in grade school and being sick meant I could stay in bed all day, watching TV and playing Nintendo, with Mom waiting on me hand and foot. Catching a cold was the best thing that could happen to you, unless it happened over Christmas break or on a snow day or something, or you were one of those freak kids who was trying for the perfect attendance award. Too bad as a grown-up, my sick days don't get as much sympathy. I have to make my own chicken broth and get my own boxes of tissues, and my bitching about how much my throat hurts falls on deaf ears.

But thank God we've got the internet, so now the hypochondriac in me can easily research all the ways in which this nominal cold could theoretically kill me. I don't know how I lived without knowing this could be strep throat that could eventually lead to rheumatic fever. Oh, yeah, I lived blissfully.

Friday, March 24, 2006

I made another stop on my international tea journey through New York City after work today, this time to a tiny teahouse in NYU-land called Tea Spot. I drink a lot of tea, but it's in Snapple form for the most part, so I tend to forget that tea not made from the best stuff on earth is quite bitter and makes my taste buds cry. No matter really: I went to Tea Spot because they have free wi-fi, and when I'm in a cafe with a wireless connection, nothing else matters. They could be serving week-old severed human head-on-a-stick, and I'd be like, "I can't believe I'm on the internet! I'm gonna instant message someone and say guess where I'm talking to you from!"

I guess I have two problems with Tea Spot. First, I couldn't find an electric outlet for my petulant laptop. Its battery has approximately the same life span of chocolate cake at a Weight Watchers convention — no battery means no laptop which means no wi-fi which means no internet which means I'm sitting alone at a table with a pot of leafy, bitter water. And second, the menu makes no sense whatsoever. Example: "regular tea" is $4.50 a pot and "premium tea" is $5.50. So I ask the counter girl what's the difference and — remember I have this job where I sometimes have to deal with people and their stupid, stupid questions, so I sympathize with customer service employees — but she answers, "The premium teas are more expensive."

Thank you for that insight, Counter Girl.

Of course, what I wanted to know is what makes each of their eighty special brews, all with informative names like Dragon's Well Superior and Anxi Oolong Select and Vithanakende, different from one another. Answer: they're all bitter and make you have to pee. No real difference.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I've gotta shout out to angry-looking yet amiable black dudes. I met one today at the train station, and he blew my mind. There was this guy who reminded me of an extra from a Nelly video hanging out and waving hi and saying good morning to each and every old lady waiting for the train there. It was amazing. There were no elderly freakouts, no pepper sprayings, no rape horns going off. It inspired me to greet whatever old people came near me; I figured that if a thuggish, growling black dude could be nice to the old folks without incident, then so could a timorous 5'5" white kid with glasses and a math textbook. I wished this one old man a good morning, and he grunted back. I'm very proud of me.

And now my verbal smackdown for all the people this past month who've told me this: "hey sorry i haven't gotten back to you since summertime, i've been real swamped at work." No no no. Nobody's that overwhelmed at the office. Hell, if the president can take time out of mismanaging the war in Iraq to fall off a Segway, then you can take a few minutes out of the past nine months to open up Outlook and reply to my email. Hell, I'll even make your busy, busy life easier by providing this handy-dandy link that automatically sends me a message and informs me of your continued existence, because I'm the sort of good friend who appreciates knowing that you're not dead.

People, you're now officially on notice. Four or five more years of this bull, and you run a good chance of getting taken off the Christmas card list.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Another tape I found in the back of our liquor closet is labelled Jay + Friends June 5 1983. I guess at a little under eighteen months old, I was already giving dissertations worth recording for posterity....

...or no, upon actual examination of the tape, it's somebody's birthday and the family is goading me into singing. It's very demeaning — not for me, since it's difficult to find anything demeaning when you still crap your pants on a daily basis — but for the drawling, babbling grown-ups in my family, repeating over and over again, in increasingly high-pitched voices, "Do you wanna sing Row, Row, Row Your Boat? Go ahead. Sing Row, Row, Row Your Boat. [singing] Row, row, row your boat... Now you sing!" This goes on for about fifteen minutes until I finally begin bleating out something that isn't a song so much as it's the random squeaks at random volumes that a drunk makes. Invariably, I've charmed everyone at the table, and debate ensues over whether I can watch Sesame Street. It goes something like this:

Mom: You can watch Sesame Street after you finish your milk.

Grandma: Lat-te. Can you say "latte"?

Adults with toddlers amuse themselves by asking their poor kids, who don't understand English or any other language, if they can repeat things. For all their cooing and shit, parents really treat their babies more like answering machines than actual humans.

Me: [squeak]

Grandma: Very good! Latte!

Me: [squeak]

Mom: Okay, Jay, finish your milk.

Me: [squeak]

Back then, they were really taping every stupid, meaningless thing I ever did. I have a tape here — an audio tape, mind you — of me drawing pictures or coloring a coloring book or something. Dad asks me what newspaper he's reading. We eat lunch. My soup is getting cold. "What newspaper is that? What newspaper is that? Tell us the name of that newspaper." I feel like my dad is trying to train an intransigent dog or something. But it sort of saddens me, since these days we've grown so damn jaded that my parents didn't even bother to videotape my graduation.

My favorite line from this tape...

Dad: So what newspaper is this?

Me: I don't know.

It actually sounds more like, "squeak."

Dad: You don't know? That's your answer for everything.

How prescient. It's like I'm already a teenager.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

I was rummaging way, way, way in the back of our liquor closet and came across the tapes from my middle school band concerts. Band was my only activity in middle school, and I was pretty damn proud of my mad skillz, so it really lights up my heart to know that my parents store the only physical remnants we have from those days in the same dusty closet they store bottles of tequila that haven't been opened since the Carter administration. Two millenia from now, archaeologists are going to unearth our house and find still half-full bottles of Grand Marnier in there next to videotapes from Christmas 1987.

I thought, "This will be some mellifluous fun!" and stopped dusting off bottles of rum. I figure it'll be another twenty or so years before I'm back in that closet, so I took down all the tapes I could carry.

The first problem is that these "cassette tapes" things will not play on my iPod. I try jamming them into the CD-ROM drives on my computers and my assortment of defunct Discmen, and they won't fit. They're like thick and rectangular with these holes in the middle. God, what primitive beasts we once were. Thankfully, my parents still have a clock radio from, well, the Carter administration, and after some fussing around with the thing, I'm listening to some sixth-grade memories in full monophonic analog sound.

Wow.... I have never felt so bad for parents in my life, having to listen through this cacophony, then smile and tell their kids we sounded amazing. It doesn't help that the tape, since we cared for it so well, deteriorated over time, or that the band was pretty much reduced to playing Broadway medleys dumbed-down for the most amateur of amateurs and trite, generic pieces with trite, generic titles like the bizarrely-quoted Alamo "Concert March" and Baywood Overture (the overture to "Baywood"?), and the non-sequitor Allegheny Overture: Welsh Folk Song. You gotta realize that these were the days before band competitions and "excellent" and "superior" ratings, and trophies and all that shit — the point of these concerts was to impress the parents enough to get them donating to the band boosters, and it didn't take a lot to impress these parents. I mean, some of them still had kids wetting the bed (not me, and I hate you for thinking that) so pretty much anything that didn't involve setting a house on fire got out their checkbooks.

Who the hell thought having a junior high string ensemble would be a good, harmonic idea? My ears! They burn!!!!

If I can get my audioblog to work, I'll post this whole damn concert so you can hear how truly horrendous my sixth-grade band was. I believe there's about forty people in the band, and throughout most of these songs, we're all playing like fifty different notes. Our sixth-grade jazz band came out sounding a bit better since there's only eighteen of us — for some reason, a third of the band was a flute section, so maybe we were trying to be the Jethro Tull of middle school jazz bands. We played "Sweet Georgia Brown," and I to this day remember my solo. I also remember not getting any applause for my thirty second solo. Not one damn motherfucker in the whole motherfucking audience clapped, and I know I wasn't great, but I played loud enough to be heard, hit all my notes and most of them in tune, and I'm in freaking sixth grade standing up and performing in front of the entire thankless school! Meanwhile, that goddamned load of shit Ian Doebber, in the school's other jazz band — the one we showed off at that asinine Hershey Park competition — he plays eight notes of "What I Did For Love" and the crowd, which on the tape sounds like it's all female groupies, goes fucking apeshit.

I wasn't sure I remembered that whole night correctly, but now it turns out that we have an audio tape, so I listened to it again. I play my solo and it's dead silence — the trombonist who was supposed to solo after me had stagefright or something and couldn't get anything out of his instrument but a spitty stutter — and I swear, I'll get the damn audioblog working and I'll post the tape. It's not like I'm bitter or anything.

I also found the concert from the year after, when I had to share my solos with Kristin Pastir, and good sport that I am, I did so begrudgingly. Back in middle school, I was one of those kids who got told, a lot, "Everybody's awkward in junior high," which translates to, "I know everybody's awkward in junior high, but damn you're awkward, freak. I'm a professional with a college degree and even I want to give you a wedgie." I didn't have a lot of friends, or more precisely, I had no friends. I stayed out of trouble, made nice with my teachers, kept to myself, and was basically an insignificant, insecure wisp of nothing, so I kind of treasured those four minutes of seventh-grade when everyone in the school would be listening to me. I think this point eludes a lot of adults who earnestly try to maintain a happy community of children, so I sort of wish they'd shut up with the inevitable condescending platitudes and listen for once.

Anyway, Kristin got the wind ensemble solo and I got the jazz band solo, and all was cool, except.... Now here I am, it's been eleven years, and I'm notice that the wind ensemble soloists are listed in the program but the jazz band soloists aren't. I'm mostly remembering middle school band, which I really loved at the time, as one screwing after another. I let out a litany of curses.

Oh my God, listen to Kristen squeak in the middle of her solo. Seriously, I'll post the damn thing.

Seventh-grade: we're sort of in tune. We suck more than last year's seventh-grade band. I sort of blow my solo because I'm playing a tenor sax for some reason and it's larger and heavier than I am. I get a tiny, tiny bit of applause, which I'd kind of deserve, except it's middle school and what're you expecting and would it kill you to stroke my ego a little? It was like a — jeez, who the hell was popular before the boy band era — like a Boyz II Men concert after Ian Doebber played his few notes last year. I think he was a soccer player, though. Fucking school board never cut their budget.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Boycott Westfield!

I've been making a kind of informal stand against the parking situation in Westfield for several years now — ever since my parents made me pay for my own parking, really — but today I'd like to make it official. I believe parking should be free for all to enjoy, and until the town of Westfield removes their overpriced parking meters, I will not patronize any of their businesses. I'll do my shopping at the new mini-mall they opened up at the north end of town, where they don't charge me for the privilege for shopping, and I urge my fellow central-Union-Countyites to follow my lead.

Of course, I'm going to struggle with my protest alone, because.... I don't really know why. The residents of Westfield are cheap bastards who don't like paying taxes and want out-of-towners to fund their city, but I don't see why the rest of us are all so eager to oblige. They could make those meters twenty bucks a minute, and people would still be too lazy to drive to the mall to shop at Banana Republic.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Good Thing My Cloning Machine Is In The Mail

In today's creepy eugenics news, the Washington Post reports that our nation's most prolific sperm donor, an anonymous pair of testicles dubbed "Donor 401" by his middleman, the Fairfax Cryobank in northeast Virginia, is retiring. Hanging up his hat, so to speak. Across the country, rich professional women who, one assumes, are too hideous and devoid of personality to find boyfriends, are disappointed and frantically swapping around whatever vials of this dude's spunk are still around chilling in their doctors' freezers. The rest of us inferior man-beasts can take slight solace in the knowledge that Fairfax Cryobank's plans to create a Donor 401 master race will have to be put on hold temporarily.

I don't have anything against sperm donation, and I'm just as excited as the next backwood hick about the incest possibilities that arise from this guy anonymously fathering eleven kids (that we know of). It's the women paying $425 for doctor or attorney semen — standard semen from someone less valuable to society is a bargain at $345 — who are disturbing, and not just in an "I'm so desperate for friends I must create life" way. They're disturbing in an "The apocalypse is upon us and mankind must defend the planet from a race of superbeings" kind of way. Here's a real-life quote from single mom Carla Schouten regarding the 401-uterus-container clique: "It's an emotional connection. We have a common base... we were all attracted to the same donor," which, usually when eleven women are attracted to the same man, there's some sort of humiliating rose ceremony or a lot of spitting and hair-pulling.

If you've never purchased sperm over the Internet, well, damn you're missing out on one of life's little pleasures. You get to genetically engineer your own baby, choosing his or her future race and ethnicity, and hedging your bets on its future height and hair type. I hate kids, so here's my search: I want a Caucasian kid — better job opportunities, less shit with the police to deal with, the usual benefits of being white — from a Chinese or Japanese background so the little bugger will be good at math, with wavy blond hair, green eyes, and less than five-foot-six. Oh, and Canadian. (Yeah, I don't really understand why Canadian is an option either.)

What? No records found! Where's my dream man?

Mr. Formula 401 is apparently the type of mimbo vacuous women swoon over. According to his profile, which, sadly, is no longer online for my entertainment, he's from the Washington metro area, he's of Teutonic heritage (someone German trying to create their own race of people? I can't believe it!), he's six-foot-four, has a masters' degree, is athletic, and... well, the article in the Post euphemizes, "is very close to his mother." He called her "a ray of light" in his personal essay, which reeks of Oedipus complex to me, but not to Schouten, because she is a vapid incubator who should not be allowed to reproduce.

It was one of those sweet details about a man that most women couldn't walk away from. "Such a nice guy," said Schouten, 43.
I'm sorry, Carla, but how exactly do you know he didn't fill out the metaphor by killing his father?

More superficial stupidity from the women who got their turkey basters on a vial of this uber-sperm: "He was tall and so am I," explained Carolyn George, 34, of Oklahoma... "He seemed likeable." That's like when you talk to some guy on the phone and then tell your girlfriends that he sounded hot. And Louisa Weix, 43, "was attracted to 401 because of his genetic health, athletic ability (college football star) and because he tanned well. 'Athleticism was more important to me than intelligence,' she said. There's a kid who'll be working in a loading dock in his twenties.

Behind this inane quest for the physically perfect family, there's a sad oblivousness to the impersonal alienation innate to online semen-hunting. I can see that there might be fewer emotional burdens when you don't know the child's father and he doesn't even know about the child's existence, but that's not what's driving these women. They're imagining an actual relationship with Mr. German College Football Guy — one woman who couldn't get 401 seed "reluctantly settled for her second choice," like her one and only soulmate is marrying the bitch down the street. Schouten thinks she's "attracted" to this guy even though she's never met him outside of her fantasies. Good for her: she literally created him, she probably even named him something like Hans or Lars or something.

But I take solace in knowing that deep down, these 401 women are really alone, reaching out to each other over the Internet as if they'll really make some connection through their randomly dispersed half-sibling children. Meanwhile, I'm here waiting, virile and, as far as I know, disease-free. I know I'm not perfect, and I'm not six foot four, but I do have one thing over 401. I'll tell you my name.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Our Stunningly Competent Government At Work

Have you ever watched one of those TV shows like Alias or The Unit, about America's irreproachable secret agents and the machinations of keeping an identity clandestine despite the information harvesters of the modern world, and wondered how true to life that is, with the disguises and the forged papers and Rachel Nichols' stupid, stupid fake British accent? The Chicago Tribune did, and it turns out that the actual CIA might take a lesson from our Hollywood spies keeping their fictional covert identities secret from America's fictional enemies. The Tribune did some kind of Google search for "undercover CIA agents" and got found the names of more than 2,600 CIA operatives, in addition to their addresses and satellite photos of their homes.

So when I try Googling myself, hoping for a little free publicity, and get eighteen million results for imitation Jay Harrises, I'm a little tempted to look one of these spooks up and e-mail them, what's your trick for getting your online presence out in the database ether? For me, you have to do these bizarre random searches, like "chernobyl snowman" or "ramsay's of oregon" or "slut blog." On the plus side, from my Google self-search, I learned a lot. It turns out that I'm evidently a football coach, an electrical engineer, a professor of Jewish studies at Harvard, and the co-star of the movie Cybernator. Who knew?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Update: "Parvenue" is a Word!

I feel a need to correct a mistake that was made in the 1994 Scipps-Howard Spelling Bee when Dr. Alex Cameron claimed that "there doesn't seem to be any such word" as parvenue. Well, Cameron, a little friend of mine named Merriam-Webster has something to say about that. A parvenue is "[a woman] that has recently or suddenly risen to an unaccustomed position of wealth or power and has not yet gained the prestige, dignity, or manner associated with it." So there!

I totally showed Cameron... aside from the fact that he's been dead for two years.

Friday, March 10, 2006

I quit work early today to head out to The Armory Show: The International Fair of Fine Art this afternoon. Everybody who was anybody who'd spend twenty-thousand dollars on a painting a chimpanzee could make was there. You've got your standard Eurotrash. You've got your punk Eurotrash, easily identifiable by their hair, a motley abstract expressionist tapestry of radioactive color that mimics the ostentation of every other superficial counter-culture ninny ever. And you've got your New York literati dipshit reading Vanity Fair, but if you peek over their shoulders it turns out they're just ogling Annie Leibovitz's nude celebrity portraits. And yes, I've always resented the cultural effete for their pseudo-erudite ramblings and their Coldplay ringtones, but I never knew the depths my contempt for them could reach until I was in the midst of New York's entire vainglorious art scene strutting around, literally, as a crowd.

You would not believe how many times this afternoon some art snob walked right into me. Like, we're walking in opposite directions and we saw each other — and I'm sure everybody on the planet has had this experience; so one person moves a few inches to one side and the other person moves a few inches the other way, or you do that awkward little sidewalk dance, but the point is that both of you realize that you've gotta get out of each other's way. I'd see that I'm about to collide with Thousand-Dollar Suit Affected Guy and he sees that he's going to hit me. I alter my trajectory maybe a foot to the right (and by the way, people, can we all just agree and make right the official direction to move in order to avoid sidewalk collisions?) and he just keeps on walking straight and, naturally, bumps into me. It got to the point where I'd see someone coming at me, and I'd just stand still, figuring that maybe coordinating two people's paths was a little too taxing for them. All they'd have to do is walk around, and these idiots would still crash into me!

They weren't trying to push me out of the way in some sort of imperious "Move, commoner!" manner. In fact, I was a little put off at with the my first collector collision, but eventually there became something sad and bookish in these people bumping into me. I'm not sure what it was — if they just have poor spatial reasoning skills, or they're like horses and can't see what's right straight in front of them, or maybe they're unaware that I am a corporeal being and thus they can not walk right through me. I think I should paint a picture explaining this concept. I could probably sell it to them for a good deal of money.

Anyway, I was at the Armory Show and I made the fatal mistake of underestimating how little I care about contemporary art. Or art. I spent time at every single one of the 175 exhibitions, but after about an hour trudging around the huge, huge space with my backpack and laptop and dinosaur of a digital camera, I couldn't muster up much interest. Besides, everyone else was taking notes and chatting with the gallery curators, so there was more than enough enthusiasm to go around. Let's get this out of the way: There were exactly two clever pieces in the whole show. Here's one of them at left, in 2.1 megapixel glory. I don't know who made it or what it's called, but I know it has a cousin. Replace the sink with a bathtub, the soil in the sink with polished rocks, and the lights with working shower nozzles, and you've got an entire bathroom that's no longer functional but sort of resembles a garden. I wouldn't want it in my house, because it would be weird always pooing next to that thing, but it might be cool in someone else's house.

I feel a little guilty for judging this piece a little too quickly.I thought someone was trying to pass bottles of wine off as art. In fact, it's a chessboard. Not really art. Not even really something you couldn't make yourself at home. But in any case, my bad.

Other positive about the Armory Show: not a ton of heavy-handed anti-American imperialism "George Bush is the real terrorist" crap. We do have this thing below, because, like I said before, Eurotrash...
Gee, I can not figure out what the artist is trying to say about America. I am dumb. It's like the artist first heard about symbolism yesterday and is making up for thirty lost years.

For the most part, though, the stuff on the floor was pretty banal. There was a lot of stuff, especially in the realm of photography, that could best be described as "nice." Compared to most museum exhibitions, the Armory Show was thankfully short on grotesquerie, eyesores, and abstract meta-expressionism ("It's all about the question of where the art begins, whether it's relegated to the hand of the artist and to what extent, if any, the viewer participates in the creation of the work.") and bigger on merchandisable pieces, things that look nice on a sitting room wall and impress Dominick Dunne. Like this sculpture here, which is kind of funky and pastel, but I think we all agree isn't complete without the Hanson poster.

Final thought, which I ran across in the bathroom. Looks like somebody's stuff didn't get accepted into the show...

Thursday, March 9, 2006

A High-Energy Roller Coaster Ride of a Post... This Is Definitely A Post For The Ages!

I was recently inspired by the story of one Earl Dittman to use my writing talents for lucrative evil. Earl Dittman claims to be a film critic for something called "Wireless Magazines," and although you've never heard of him or his publication, you've definitely read his work. Whenever a movie studio (in particular, Paramount) can't find a critic with integrity to provide some glib, consumer-friendly praise chock-full of superfluous exclamation points and hyperbole for their latest abysmal tripe, they turn to Dittman. Dittman doesn't have bad taste so much as he has zero taste whatsoever; he simply loves whatever pablum the entertainment industry shoves down his throat. Doesn't matter if it's Citizen Kane or Catwoman ("100% pure fun and excitement! Berry's performance is sensational. Catwoman is eye-popping."), Dittman would give every movie an Oscar just for showing up if he could.

I figure there's no reason the Dittmans and Harry Knowleses and Rex Reeds of the world should hold a monopoly on vapid, non-communicative film criticism. I'm perfectly fine with Gene Shalit, however, holding a monopoly on white-boy afros, bowties, suspenders, and throwing puns into his reviews as if his audience is still nine years old. Here's a call out to Warner Brothers and Disney and all the other studios (all four of them): I'll write your quote blurbs for a quarter of what Dittman's charging. Look, I'll do a few examples. "Firewall is a non-stop thrill ride from start to finish! ...This is Harrison Ford's best performance since Indiana Jones!" Or how about this one? "Hilarious! Kristen Davis fills the screen with joy! The Shaggy Dog is Tim Allen's best performance ever!" See Studios, you can have those for free. No money down, no press junkets, no having dinner with the stars, no strings attached.

I don't even have to see the movies. Like, I wouldn't watch Firewall if TNT branded it a "new classic" and showed it for free every night this weekend, but I bet I'm not wrong about this being Ford's best performance since Last Crusade. What's he been in since 1989? Hollywood Homicide? Air Force One? He's one of the biggest stars in the world, but I bet his demo reel is nothing but The Fugitive and What Lies Beneath. And it's not like it would be that hard for The Shaggy Dog to be Tim Allen's best work cause really his only other parts have been a reluctant Santa and a guy who crams a motorcycle engine into some mundane household appliance like a blender every single fucking week. We get it dude, you're emasculated. Maybe if you got a real job it would help your self-esteem.

Another note to the studios: you can ignore that whole previous paragraph. Just stick with putting the stuff about Kristen Davis lighting up the screen in your ads.

This whole junket whore line of work seems pretty good, except for the derision it garners from killjoys who don't fully appreciate the symbiosis between studio and ersatz critic. Killjoys, such as myself (although hopefully this will change once the studios' marketing divisions recognize my considerable quote-whoring genius), especially when I'm underestimating the American public. Americans are smart enough to figure out which trite, offensive horror flick or droll comedy they want to see without any help from Dittman's blurbs. Dittman's critics aren't wrong when they call him a hack, it's just that who cares that he sells his opinions, which happen to conveniently converge with the studio's marketing interests. As if there were people actually on the fence as to whether or not they'd see Boat Trip: "Some random guy I've never heard of from some random magazine I've never heard of thinks it's 'one crazy and daring romantic comedy.' Anybody who writes in that robotic, contrived manner can't possibly be wrong. We'd better check it out. We'll have to push Welcome to Mooseport back to next weekend." Face it, if you saw Boat Trip, you did it for one of three reasons — (1) there was nothing else playing and your DVD player was broken, (2) you forgot about Snow Dogs and you figured that if it had Cuba Gooding, Jr. in it then it couldn't be that bad, or (3) you are insecure with your sexuality and therefore you believe that queers and their queer antics are downright fucking hilarious — and none of those reasons have anything to do with Dittman.

Don't get me wrong. I resent Dittman for having his asinine opinions in the first place, and I resent that Dittman's asinine opinions are worth way more to the studios than my (possibly asinine) opinions, but I don't resent him for publishing his opinions any more than I resent those people on the TV commercials who tell me that they like Pepsi more than Coke and try to peer pressure me into feeling the same way. It's advertising, it's annoying, but thankfully it's not all that difficult to filter out. Unfortunately, it does seem to be kind of difficult to profit insidiously from.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

I'd love to read this week's West Palm Beach police blotter because recording artist and PBS darling Yanni got his crazy New Age self arrested for domestic battery. We all saw this coming sooner or later, right? All you have to do is pay attention to the lyrics from Reflections Into the Imagination off his Midnight Dreams album:

"That bitch be mouthin' off and I smack her face, / throw her on the bed and tap that ass. / Stupid tramp's gotta get the first aid just in case / while I play my synths in the middle of the grass."
God, how do those idiot rappers do it? Is my rhyming dictionary missing like a hundred words?

Anyway, it looks like now that Yanni's thugging, I'm gonna need to take a second look at that Reflections of Passion CD.

Monday, March 6, 2006

A Completely Impartial Review of the 78th Annual Academy Awards

I didn't watch 'em.

I like Jon Stewart a lot and the day I saw The Daily Show taped live was like the funniest day of my life, but it's obvious Gil Cates only hired Stewart to pander to me, and I resent that. Not to mention how Grizzly Man wasn't up for a best documentary Oscar, The Squid and the Whale was totally snubbed, and for the sixth year in a row, the Academy failed to notice my own subtle supporting performance in Some Random Japanese Tourist Video. Between this and being passed over for People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive — again — I'm starting to get pretty damn disillusioned with Hollywood.

Friday, March 3, 2006

Erica and I, quite inadvertently, found ourselves in this upscale Soho boutique called Lounge, where I felt three-hundred percent out of place. I have what might be generously termed a "minimalist" wardrobe — no bright colors, no vintage anything, and Heaven forbid I own a pair of cufflinks. I'm all about Old Navy, despite their asinine TV commercials, and even then sometimes I'm overwhelmed by the performance fleece or distressed khakis or whatever the apparel of the week is. At least my questionable fashion sense is pretty much always on sale.

Sometimes I venture into the Gap or Express or Abercrombie and I just pine for the days when Mom used to stock my wardrobe at Caldor. Shopping for clothes was simpler back then, basically because no matter what you bought from Caldor, it was guaranteed to be flannel and hideous. I could never tell the difference anyway, and as long as everything that was supposed to be covered up was covered up, I was indifferent.

Erica and I just stumbled into Lounge after our afternoon at the Casablanca Tea Room. What's weird about Casablanca is you walk in and it's all decked out like the Middle East, with the lacy curtains, the harem chairs, the arabesques, except there's this room in the back with racks and shelves of denim. So you're in there, trying to figure stuff out, thinking, "Well, they put some effort into making this place seem authentic. Look at that, they've got a little rose water fountain over there.... Are they selling jeans in the back?" Yes, they are. It turns out that Casablanca is tiny and Lounge is huge — it takes up a whole city block — so those in the know are really thinking something more like, "Yeah, I came here feeling like spending seven-hundred bucks on a Eurotrash fugly, froofy Michiko Koshino cooter-revealing dress for bulemics, but it turns out that what I really want is a ten-dollar cup of tea. What, you mean I have to cross the street to get to Starbucks?!"

People in Lounge had style, which isn't necessarily good since most Americans are douchewads who could best serve humanity by shutting up and blending into the background. Erica went to try some stuff on, just one or two... or three things, and fight a moral struggle with her credit cards and an eighty-six dollar blouse that was probably made by some prepubescent El Salvadorian girl making twelve cents a day behind a sewing machine. I wandered around, taking in the downtempo trance Euroshit music selection they're selling, nodding to the DJ, who looked kind of like Z.Z. Top with a beard manicure, acutely aware of how I was way too underaccessorized to belong in Lounge. Everything — even the metrosexual menswear — had some sequins or glitter or some sort of emasculating pattern sewn on, and you could tell the guys who were gonna wind up walking out of the store with something apart from the guys who were just there to make some fashionista chick happy. Like this one dude I ran into, with the one diamond earring and the fedora, the belt with its gaudy oversized buckle, the tie but no jacket, the abstract pseudo-Aboriginal silver necklace. I know anybody who dresses like that is naturally a total fucking superficial asshole, but I felt more than a little naked at that moment.

I sort of wished we'd gone to an adult bookstore after that to get the scent and aura of Lounge out of my hair. Oh, look, there's a guy not even bothering to hide the fact that he's paging through Barely Legal. I feel much more urbane now.

I Go On A First Date... Except Minus the "Date" Part. And the "First" Part.

Inside my small circle of friends, I'm usually put in charge of where we go and what we do to hang out. For the most part, I like my de facto role as New York tour guide — I'm a huge culture snob, and my friends... well, let's just say they tolerate ubiquitous mediocrity better than I do, and I admire them for that. I wasn't in the city for very long before I became as notorious as I'll ever be for keeping a list of NYC recreation — food, drink, and happenings — that's inexpensive but still good for impressing the peers. My friends at Columbia rarely left the campus, so I became a sort of lame urban Marco Polo, with stories of the art gallery filled with dirt or the rice pudding restaurant, and they tell me I ought to publish my urban expeditions. The people at the New York Magazine summer college internship program and also those at the Time Out New York editorial internships thought differently, which is why I'm perpetually bitter.

The downside to playing plan-maker is that there's a bit of pressure when it comes to being responsible for someone else's fun. I've learned some lessons, and now my recommendations come with explicit repudiations of any guarantees, implied or otherwise, as to my their quality, appropriateness, or existence. Still, I like having an excuse to show people a good time, and I was psyched when Erica came down from Boston yesterday and let me pick a place to hang out. I started off searching with the obvious — bars — but I was actually kind of inspired by that scene in Wonderfalls where Eric takes Jaye to the zoo for their first date (how totally fucking cute!), and I decided I wanted to do something with Erica a little less pedestrian than drinking and trying to talk over house music. Problem is: I don't really get out that much, especially not with other people, so I only had one somewhat inspired idea, and I'm not enough of a sadist to bring someone else to the Bronx Zoo on a cold, windy day.

This is where the whole "first date" thing comes in. You see, if you Google "things to do nyc", you get this collection of banal tourist attractions. But, if you Google "first date ideas", you get suggestions for things a properly socialized human being might actually want to spend their time doing. From my eight minutes of research, it appears that people enjoy billiards, bowling, movies, mini-golf, and flea markets. Women are suckers for palm readers. Men like go-karting. And then there's CoolestDates.com, for those poor souls who are destined to be abstinent and not by choice. It's pretty much a compendium of the worst date ideas ever, stuff that makes that sanitized 1950's cootie-catching mental hygeine crap seem romantic by comparison. Like, let's say you're too cheap to pay for a real date but you still want to show your woman a good time. CoolestDates.com has some suggestions for you, such as, and I'm not making this up:

Go window shopping. Discuss what you would buy if you had lots of money.

Catch frogs. Then have a frog-jumping contest. Award prizes for the largest frog and the longest jump. Then bring your girlfriend/cousin back home to her father/brother.

Take your date to visit the police station. Look at their gun or criminal collections. Act out a conjugal visit fantasy. Do it like the governor's not gonna grant you clemency.

And the number one ridiculous date idea is... Baby-sit for a young couple so they can have a night out alone. Seriously, there's some couple out there who's making a sexless, jejune date out of letting another couple get laid.
Oh my God, one of their ideas is, seriously, "Tour a mortuary." I have a feeling there's a lot of comedy gold, and even more romance plutonium, hidden in the bowels of CoolestDate.com.

In the end, pretty much all of the first date ideas were dumb and Erica and I went to this tea lounge in Soho called Casablanca Tea Room. It's a small lounge and tapas bar, Marrakech by way of Project Runway, with what would be the dickiest mission statement in the history of mission statements — "This Casablanca is akin to Rick's Cafe of the movie, only a modern version located in Soho and catering to the wealthy, the famous, and the infamous." — except this is downtown New York and every restaurant, bar, and gallery in the neighborhood puts out ridiculous haughty press releases. Maybe they all share the same blowhard publicist. Ignoring the effusive marketing and the waiter who made me wonder if he was totally snooty or if I just wasn't used to being treated well, I have to say that the place was pretty nice. I don't think God can create the ambience that makes paying seven dollars for tea and six-fifty for three tiny unpronouncable goat cheese pastries seem like a good bargain, but I'm a sucker for mood lighting and stylish bathrooms with the faucets screwed into the walls, so I can't complain. Also, the tea was pretty good. Sweet, hot, and infused.

Thursday, March 2, 2006

I Wish I Were Charismatic And Evil...

...instead of just plain evil, which I'm not all that good at to start with. See, the other day, I discovered the now-defunct nighttime soap Profit, and even though it's the most melodramatic thing put on television since Kimberly Shaw ripped her wig off (uh, no, I never watched Melrose Place...) and it's full of these unnecessary, heavy-handed computer generated effects that make Tron look state-of-the-art, the show's motivated me to take a new look at my place in the corporate world, where I want to go, and the importance of accumulating dirt on my colleagues. Profit is the story of creatively-named Jim Profit, middle-manager and sociopath, and the blackmail, murder, incest, tennis, and other machinations he uses to climb the corporate ladder, all while smiling, flirting, and sleeping naked in a cardboard box. I vacillate as to whether it's supposed to be a character study examining the effects of Jim's unrepentat scheming and exploitation of those around him, or whether Jim is the antihero in a satire lampooning not so much America's corporate venality but it's corporate pettiness, where any asshole suck-up in a suit and tie facade will be let into the sanctum. Either way, what matters most, I believe, isn't one's skill at the job — most of our skilled labor is being done by computers anyway — but one's skill at cajoling others to do one's bidding.

Hence the whole charisma thing, and I need to take lessons.

I'm not sure what the secret to success is, although Lord knows, as the youngest product of the self-help revolution, I've tried to find out. I was reading The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People back in fifth grade, like some junior existentialist, if I could only learn time management or how to prioritize or the art of compromise, I'd be the big muckety-muck of elementary school. That never happened. It dawns on me, now in my later years, that success-in-a-book is a crutch, and an unsteady one at that. Success is a measure of how much you take from other people and how little they take from you in comparison, and that's depressing, not in the least because I feel guilty when I take a seat on the subway away from some old lady. I'm sure that I feel a lot worse about dipping into the scarce subway seating pool than the elderly do about taking away my hard-earned Social Security, and that's not the attitude of someone who's getting ahead in life.

At the risk of sounding like one of those jackasses who proudly tells you some unpleasant truth and then refuses to apologize because he was "only telling you the truth," the whole business scene, ever since the first man beat some other guy over the head with a rock and demanded tribute, is all about taking that to which you're entitled. Well, thank God we, as a species, have moved past the feats of strength method of deciding who's best. This is America, where everybody's entitled to everything! Maybe back in 1996, when Jim Profit was scheming, there was a notion of balance; Profit's abusive childhood entitles him to the presidency of acquisitions. Kids dealing drugs in South Baltimore ought to have diamond-studded braces on their teeth and a posse of strippers, and Jack Welch deserved a ninety-four million dollar salary for... what, exactly? It speaks to the general fungibility of our human natures that everybody has their sob story, their overinflated ego, and their same need to push people around that I could be in Donald Trump's chair, unapologetically firing reality-show nitwits, and no one would even notice the difference. Hell, millions of working class Americans have been bankrupt fewer times than Trump, so I'm not sure what he has beyond the gift of self-promotion.

I don't know which is worse: this collective unconscious that says I'm allowed to do anything to win cause I'm just that awesome, or the reality which is that you're really nothing special at all — just good for making photocopies and writing up TPS reports, caring for someone else's children and making their dinner reservations. I wish I could come to terms with the former, because this whole waiting around for people to hand me things just doesn't seem to be a very solid business plan.