Saturday, April 29, 2006

We Get Already: You're Against The War

My parents gave me the option of spending today in the city, at some boring NYU workshop on the ins and outs of copyright law, or doing yardwork with my anal retentive dad, so here I am in New York. I'm on my NYC Wi-Fi Cafe Tour '06, getting coffee at every internet cafe I come across in my travels and, unfortunately, massively underestimating the capacity of my bladder. NYC Wi-Fi Cafe Tour got cut short and replaced with NYC Wi-Fi Place With Bathrooms Cleaned More Than Once A Century Tour. It's a much shorter tour.

Problem is that at the same time as my Wi-Fi Bathroom Tour, there's an annoying anti-war protest marching down Broadway, blocking traffic (which, as a pedestrian, I don't give a damn about) and blocking me from getting to my men's room (which, as a pedestrian, I do care about). It's not that I'm for the war, and it's not that I'm against guys with goatees and ponytails who haven't showered in three days either — it's just that seeing this wave of ingenuous fools between me and my bathroom makes me despair for the human condition. Are these people actually naive enough to think that if they hold up a sign and yell some rhymes into a megaphone, Dubya will pull the troops out of Iraq?

I've got news for you protesters: no one in power cares about you, your peace sticker , or your stupid paper mache puppet. Your time would be better spent flying to Iran and giving their racist demagogue president a big hug and a stuffed animal that squeaks out "I love you" when it's squeezed. As usual, however, I have a plan for getting the Bush administration's attention, but you'll have to stop walking down the street and actually be useful if you want it to work: We take all the money being spent on signs and stickers and flyers, all the donations we're making to the Save Darfur Coalition and Amnesty Internation, pool it all together, and start buying up oil rigs in the Persian Gulf. You see, you gotta stop thinking about what you want and start thinking about what the guys who started this war want. Worked for Lysistrata. I'd also say that part of our anti-war plan should involve women across America refusing to fuck Don Rumsfeld, but I really can't imagine any woman wanting to sex up Rummy in the first place.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Prepare Your Kids Early For A Life Of Soul-Crushing Corporate Drudgery

Today is Take Our Daughters To Work Day, which, in my elementary school days, I believed was an inequity worse than the nineteenth-century struggle for suffrage and Title IX combined. How come they got to skip a day of school? Now that I'm actually in the working world, paying taxes and mailing out a COBRA check every month, the whole idea behind taking your kids to work just seems ill-conceived.

The thing is, and prepare to have your mind blown now, grown-up work sucks. Arrested Development aside, what exactly are our kids supposed to learn by following their parent or legal guardian around the office?

Parent: Well, you can see how Mommy fills out budget reports, enters data into Excel, then discusses last-minute product spec updates with our dipweed sales team, and at lunchtime, I punch the soda machine because it's been out of Mountain Dew since February.
Poor daughter: So, when's recess?
The whole point — reinforcing that girls don't have to be wives and houseslaves while their husbands rule the remote control — feels superfluous to me: antiquated mental hygeine filmstrips aside, I never heard anyone but the Catholic Church say being a girl made you unfit for any profession.

I can imagine that there are cases, like I'd bet there are more social and cultural encumbrances to a woman being a firefighter than a man, but I think the Ms. Foundation, in its zealotry for equality, forgot that most people never get their dream job regardless of their gender. You're either not smart enough to be a doctor or not lucky enough to be the next American Idol or don't have the connections to get into venture capital. I, for one, would rather spend my adult years making arts and crafts with glitter and have someone read me a story because we finished our lesson half an hour early than fill out a goddamn TPS report. At least as a homemaker, I wouldn't have a dotted-line boss to report to. Don't even get me started on devil's work of commuting.

Now I'm less bitter about the Take Our Offspring To Work Day back in elementary school. It was probably tedious for the daughters, unproductive for the office, and good for Steinem, who thrives on the blood and tears of the working class too busy to give a damn about Susan Faludi. I say let the kids enjoy their childhood (just as long as you keep them away from me). By the time they get through high school, they'll be jaded and disillusioned enough to move into the corporate world.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Safety Tip

I fell off the treadmill at the Y this evening, and I came away with two skinned knees and a little bit of wisdom. I was jogging with my iPod going, the little buds in my ears, listening to my heavy-duty workout music (which is the soundtrack to the movie Gladiator. It's duly motivating, and I'm all psyched up to wrestle a tiger except that my legs are about to burn off after three minutes of jogging), and suddenly my iPod just went flying across the gym. I guess I wasn't keeping up with the conveyer belt enough, but normally the iPod yanks the buds out of my ears instead of the other way around. I could be frozen in cryogenic suspension and those things would slip out of my ears.

But not this time. The iPod went one way, the earbuds went another, and I went a third way — down. Apparently none of the engineers who designed the treadmill foresaw the possibility of someone falling on the damn thing, so there's no safety cutoff switch. I'm just on my knees, struggling to pull myself up with the conveyer belt constantly slipping under me, and — this is the awesome part that made this whole shit worthwhile — the lady on the treadmill next to me is freaking out, screaming, "Push stop! Push stop!" Really, lady? You mean, there's a way to turn this monster off? Why didn't anyone tell me that?! You think maybe you could hit that button for me, seeing as how you're not being dragged away by a psychotic machine?

So no one hit the stop button — or I might have slammed my fist into the stop button, but the treadmill just kept on going anyway — and this only went on for fifteen seconds at most before I figured out the smart thing to do. I resigned myself to the treadmill and took a short trip down and off its crazy ass. Not hurt at all. In fact, my only injuries were from when I was fighting with the thing.

So there's a lesson for all of you: make sure you've got a spotter who'll actually shut down the machine if you get in trouble.

Monday, April 24, 2006

You Can't Have Your Meat-Flavored Candy and Eat It Too

Anne sent me a couple of really cool gifts from China last month, and they appeared on my doorstep today. I thought it was a bootlegged DVD from the size of the box, but it turns out its actually a lot nicer. It's calligraphy, and Anne tells me it means "dragon," and she points out that it sort of looks like a dragon, too.The only thing is that I can't figure out if it's upside-down or not. I think it's supposed to hang horizontally, but it's still a coin toss if I get it right. (Yes, there's a crack in the glass, but I'd like to see you travel seventy-five hundred miles in a tiny box and come out scratch-free.)

She also sent me what appears to be meat candy. Here's a picture; maybe you can figure out what exactly it's supposed to be. It's called "Niu Tou," and it's made by the very respectable sounding Guizhou Yonghong Food Co., Ltd. Maybe the relatively decent Engrish on the back of the package — or maybe the drawing of an obese kid with his tongue sticking out — will lend a clue to this mysterious foodstuff:

Ecological environment: Guizhou Yonghong Food Co., Ltd. lies in the south of Guizhou Plateau. Its natural environment enjoys exceptional advantage. The climate is pleasant. There is plenty of rainwater. [Note: This is why I originally thought Anne sent me some sort of crop seeds.] The grass is natural. The product is made with extra care with the traditional production technology and advanced equipment. It has passed the strict quarantine inspection. It is mellow, sweet and delicious. It has the unique flavour and rich nutrition.

Ingredients: choice beef, honey, white granulated sugar, table salt, vegetable oil, spices. [Note: This is why I now believe Anne sent me meat candy.]
Storage: Keep it in a shady, dry and airy place against high temperature, damp and sunlight.
Edible method: To be taken instantly after unsealing the bag, so as not to let it moisturized or be degenerative. [Note: This is why my second guess for what Anne sent me was some sort of homeopathic Chinese lozenges.]
Shelf life: 1 year
Production date: See the jetcode
Executive standard of the product: Q/YH01
Food product license code: QS5227 0401 0389

If you have any advice or opinion about our product, welcome to dial the free telephone after service: 800-8976188
I imagine the free telephone after service only works if you're in China.

I pray that I will never in my life be hungry enough to actually want to put a Niu Tou seed/lozenge/sweet thing in my mouth, but at the same time I'm overwhelmed by the awesomeness of owning a real-life unopened package of meat candy all the way from China. I've been in that Chinatown candy store a hundred times, totally grossed out by whatever sort of freakish shrimp or dried seaweed or scallion candy they're selling there, but now I'm absolutely thrilled by the ironic significance of me sharing a home with beef-flavored confection. I'm in the elite group of jaded individuals who get it, who buy kitsch and Hello Kitty action figures and have LFO on their iPods. I really couldn't be prouder, and that one year shelf life can go to hell, because I'll be auctioning these things off on eBay in the year 2042. Maybe I'll be able to trade it for a RoboSapien, or better yet, one of these things.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

I Missed My Saturday Night B-Movie on the Sci-Fi Channel. Insert Sarcastic Frowny Emoticon Here.

And they were showing some Tom Skerritt vehicle called Mammoth, too, about "a museum curator [who] helps authorities battle a woolly mammoth terrorizing a small Louisiana town." Actually, even better, it's really an alien that crash-landed into the natural history museum and morphs into the first thing it sees. I'd like to remind you now that someone wrote that gem down on a piece of paper, and probably made a lot of money for it, so remember that the next time the boss is riding you down in accounts receivable.

My usual Saturday night lying in bed was interrupted by the New Jersey Young Professionals, who were throwing something called a "Just Wing It" mixer at a club in New Brunswick. I hadn't been to a club since freshman orientation at college, so it's not exactly my sort of milieu, but I'll explain the concept if you're my mom and even less worldly than I am. (Mom: "A club? You mean a comedy club? A chess club? Why are you looking at me like that?") A nightclub is a big dark room with a bar at one end, retro European furniture around the perimeter, and color-changing mood lighting that looks like a rainbow on an acid trip. There's candles for ambience and a super-bright swiveling spotlight hanging off the ceiling for temporary blindness. They've got someone spinning tunes in the booth in the corner, the better to show off your unabashed fly Caucasian dance moves. You head out to the singles' mixer to meet new people, and I'm certain I would've gotten a whole yellow pages' worth of phone numbers if DJ Squiggles or whatever wasn't spinning a mixture of the hottest hip-hop and house hits in central New Jersey at a hundred bazillion decibels. Yes... it's Squiggles's fault that I didn't get lucky.

Truth is, despite having to wear a nametag, the whole night surpassed my expectations. I'd like to say that I really just went so I could mock the whole event afterwards, but I wore my new pair of trendy jeans, so maybe there's something subconscious going on. Still, I've learned that if you keep your hopes down for things, you can lead a pretty disappointment-free life, and with these sorts of social gatherings, as long as I don't wet my pants, pretty much anything meets or exceeds my expectations. Plus, the whole idea behind the "Just Wing It" theme was that there'd be "wing men" and "wing women" specially trained to go around making introductions. I don't know how they were trained, like if there's some sort of matchmaking boot camp they went to or what, but I really do need someone else to be a catalyst and facilitate the awkwardness. You know the wing people have the self-confidence and moxie to do that because they're all wearing super cheesy flashing necklaces but don't seem to mind that someone's looking to humble them.

I got there early and before I could even order a drink, this amiable but oblivious flashy necklace dude accosted me with the classic uncomfortable conversation starter, "What are you doing sitting here all by yourself?" Like there's an answer to that question that doesn't make me look like a total puss — "What? I'm by myself? I hadn't noticed! Thank you, good sir, for pointing out how aloof I am. How about you make this little discussion a bit more awkward by asking me what my sign is?" But I tell Blinky that I'm gonna be all mingling once I've got some liquor in my bloodstream. This gets rid of him for a little while, but I realize now that I need to come up with smarter retorts, ones that don't commit me to either introducing myself around or facing another one of Blinky's inevitable inane observations.

I pick up my drink, and now Blinky's coming over to make me friends, and I'd frankly be a whole lot less uncomfortable in this situation if I hadn't just accidentally stuck those mixed drink mini-straws up my nose while trying to drink as much black Russian in a single sip as humanly possible. I spill some on my shirt, but who cares — I just figured out why it's so dark in here! Blinky asks me what I do, and this would be an awesome time to be an astronaut or a NASCAR driver or, I don't know, the pope. Instead, I've gotta tell him that I'm a freelance web developer, which actually doesn't sound too bad compared to the lame jobs other people have — recruiting, database administration, facilities management, human resources. Of course, I haven't done web design for any sites that anybody might actually know about, so the conversation pretty much dies right there. No matter, it's Blinky's job to introduce me around, and in no time, I'm shaking hands with pretty much the computer geek squad that sat at my middle school lunch table. (No offense to anyone I ate lunch with in middle school, but it's not like any of us were playas or, uh, girls.)

Yeah, so I'm gonna need a second drink. I'm obsessed with figuring out what show they've got on TV there.

I spent the rest of the evening sort of aimlessly wandering from one side of the big dance room to the other, hoping I might remain inconspicuous. Occassionally I'd accidentally make eye contact with someone and it was weird — but I had to introduce myself cause it would've been more weird if I didn't. Name, hometown, approximate geography of my hometown (note to self: from now on, make sure you know which cardinal direction and how far Fanwood is from wherever the event is taking place), and I'm a web designer. Then I'm officially out of conversation, and I'm struggling to remember the conversation starter questions they laid out in The Fine Art of Small Talk, but the only one I can recall is "How can you tell if that melon is ripe?" which seems a little inappropriate.

The Pheonix, which I guess is a Boston area news rag, compiled their list of the least sexy men in the world, and I'm proud to announce that I'm not on it. That's right, ladies, there are at least a hundred dudes in the world less attractive than I am, so start lining up now. According to the Pheonix, Gilbert Gottfried is the least sexy man on the planet, which seems a little short-sighted when you consider that Carrot Top is number 16 on the list, Richard Simmons is number 14, Michael Jackson is number 11, and Osama bin Laden is number 8. I'm incredulous: people would rather sleep with Carrot Top than Gilbert Gottfried? You'd think that Gottfried wouldn't be all that bad with the lights out and his mouth shut, unless you've got some talking anthropomorphized bird fetish, in which case his nasal cawing is probably the biggest turn-on for you since Sesame Street. Carrot Top, on the other hand — fuck him once and you're shamed for life with the scarlet letter of prop comedy, and probably pre-paid phone cards reminding you to dial down the middle too.

What I don't find reassuring is that there's no way the list of unsexiest men on Earth can be complete without at least one dude who's had his hideous face blurred out on Cops. I think at least one of the idiots with their mugshot up on The Smoking Gun is less sexy than that ubiquitous MySpace dude (number 79), although I guess I'm really no expert.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

People Always Tell Me I Look 63% Like David Carradine

Have you seen yet? It's supposed to be a genealogy site, but it's got this great new timewaster: upload a photo of yourself and it'll tell you what celebrities you sort of resemble a tiny bit. So, I don't photograph very well, but here's the picture of me and my asinine smile that I uploaded, and here's a decrepit David Carradine, forty-six years my senior, to compare it to.

This doesn't make me feel at all good about my appearance. They could've at least found a picture of him from his Kwai Chang Caine days, when Carradine didn't look half dead.

Maybe I'll have better luck with another picture. Here's one with me and my parents — one of the few photos of my dad in existence — at graduation.

Mom will be happy to know that she looks 63% like Uma Thurman and 48% like Jessica Alba, and less happy to know that she looks 47% like Tommy Lasorda.

I don't even want to post the picture that has me resembling Gwyneth Paltrow (66%), Mira Sorvino (65%), Chloƫ Sevigny (ewww...), Mark Owen (60%), and Braveheart (59%).

Friday, April 14, 2006

You Must Be This Creepy To View The Exhibits...

I left work early today to check out Cadavers on Display, also known, less colorfully, as BODIES... The Exhibition. "Cadavers on Display" is a more succinct title for the show, though, because it boasts twenty-two real live human corpses on, well... display. I have one word to describe the show: de-licious! I mean, ew.

Has anybody else noticed the recent abrupt fall in terms of how far my entertainment dollar will get me? It's worse than buying gas. First, movies went up to ten bucks and then $11.25, then the Museum of Modern Art raised their admission to twenty bucks, and now we have Corpses & Friends charging me twenty-five dollars to get in. Kids under twelve get in for only nineteen bucks, which I guess is a bargain if you have some freak child who wants to see gastric polyps up close and personal. Still, if I'm gonna be gouged for an anatomy lesson, I might as well just go to med school, where they'll at least let me touch the cadavers. You're not even allowed to take pictures at Adipocere Sculptur-estival, although I did manage to get a few blurry shots with my cameraphone before some security nazi threatened to confiscate my phone. I present them here, for your edification, and just to rub it in the face of the Man.

Inside, we all look like this...
One of the things the BODIES exhibit teaches kids is that, even if you're totally flayed, you can still play football.
The corpses weren't that disturbing, being all formaldehyded and stuff, except for their bulging psycho-robot glass eyes and their toenails, which were all green and rotted and infested with that fungus monster thing from the TV commercials.
I'm still stewing, because I really think that for a twenty-five dollar admission, I ought to be allowed to take home a femur or something. Maybe have a sliding scale, like at the $300 Friend level, you get a tote bag and an entire preserved endocrine system.

Not that the show didn't have its moments. They removed the entire central nervous system — brain, spinal cord, nerves and all — from some guy who probably expected his body to be donated to a more worthy scientific pursuit. It wasn't that informative, but it was cool to look at. So was the circulatory system: they took the major organs out of some guy and dyed the veins and capillaries to make them easier to see. The whole "From Zygote To Fetus" part was pretty sweet, too. Oh, and the section on diseases. They had a kidney stone, and a brain with meningitis, and a prime example of penis cancer. (Like I said before, de-licious.) But the big problem with the show is that every single part of your insides looks exactly the freaking same! I couldn't tell my duodenum from my pineal gland. They both look vaguely like some round chunk of modeling clay that they served up in my college cafeteria. I'll stop with the food jokes now.

In the end, if you've seen one vivisected human being, you've seen them all. But someone at BODIES doesn't quite get that, because they'll give you four, cut up in all sorts of interesting, yet not very enlightening ways. I'd say the exhibit was worth maybe ten dollars max, and maybe a fifteen minute wait in line. (Oh my God, the ticket line was worse than at the fucking Shake Shack. It was also an hour or so long, but the guy and girl right in front of me were PDA-ing the whole goddamn time, like five inches from my face. Fortunately, there were also two obese kids in line slapfighting, and they were kind of distracting. But when I'm world dictator, those two lovebirds are gonna be slaving alongside that security asshole in the deepest, darkest plutonium mine I can find. The fat kids I'll make my court jesters.) Seriously, if you're really dying — ha! — to see what you'll look like after shuffling off this mortal coil, I'd say tour a mortuary instead. It's cheaper... and apparently, it's more romantic too.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Hamburger Makes Jay Testy!

Found the best burgers in the city yesterday, at this place called the Shake Shack. Also found the longest, slowest line in the city yesterday, also at the Shake Shack. It's this little hut in the park with a line that would make Disneyland executives feel insecure. I got on line a little after noon, which is early for lunchtime in New York City, and I pretty much just stood there.

It was ten minutes before the line even moved. Day became night and night became day again. Seasons changed. The yuppies behind me were blabbing on their Blackberries, "I didn't have my cell, and I couldn't find your work number so I thought I'd try your other work number but I got put through to voicemail. I texted you twice, but I don't know if I did it right..." I grew old and wrinkled, continents shifted, stars were born and stars exploded into dust. I was maybe a third of the way up to the Shack and two-thirds of the way towards killing the next asshole who wandered up to their friends in the middle of the line, completely oblivious to the "no backsies" rule.

I had evolved into a higher life form, with wheels for feet and a giant, pulsating brain by the time I made it to the order window. I ordered my burger, and then there's another freaking line you wait on with more tie-wearing yuppie scum while they make it. All in all, an hour and twenty minutes — and I didn't even order anything complicated like a cheeseburger or a double or anything. After the whole wait, it only took about two minutes to eat, but let me tell you, that was one good-ass hamburger. Secret combination of sirloin and brisket, special "Shack Sauce" that's supposed to be a mix of mayo and ketchup and something else. (I know, it sounds gross, but it's not.) I'd totally wait on line, say, half an hour max for a Shake Shack burger. Maybe forty minutes if there's no yuppies around.

Monday, April 10, 2006

I finally got around to renting Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, which is the kind of horror flick film geeks, sick of the moralistic and sugar-coated slasher genre, wet themselves over. Henry is pretty much a white-trash Silence of the Lambs, and I mean that in the most affectionate way possible, given that it's a dispassionate, minimalist character study of a vapid nihilist murderer. But the movie doesn't judge, and neither will I. That's what makes it... I won't say "scary," but haunting and lingering, and ultimately refreshing when set against Hollywood's current cadre of R-rated splatterfests that aspire to nothing more than cramming as many grotesque make-up effects into ninety minutes as possible. Henry, played by Michael Rooker (who, by the way, is awesome in Thief on FX), is the anti-Hannibal: he's not smart, or charming, or — even as a guy who makes murder part of his daily routine — remotely interesting in any way. There's no pop psychology behind the character; no psychology period, in fact. Just a guy in a vicious cycle of frustration and brutal murder who has no interest in getting out.

I wish I could've seen Henry back when it first came out, sometime between 1986 and 1990, before the Interweb and the twenty-four hour news networks and 9/11 made it impossible to stand outside of anything, as part of the audience. It's easy to see, as an academic exercise, why the film was stuck in ratings-board limbo for three years — we get squirmy when someone presents us with the dichotomy between evil and not-so-evil and refuses to take sides. It's one thing to show Henry putting a glass bottle through a prostitute's face (actually, in a nice touch, we only get audio of the murder and pictures of the aftermath — director John McNaughton saves the real voyeurism for later on), it's another thing to come out, take a look at the violence, and then refuse to say, "This is bad," as if the camera itself is complicit.

We eventually meet Henry's roommate and ex-jailmate Otis, a dim-witted hick who Henry introduces to his serial killing spree. Unlike Henry, Otis gets a visceral kick out of serial murder, and not even stoic McNaughton can stand by and direct indifferently when Otis videotapes the slaughter of a family. Henry, however, can, and he and Otis (and the viewer) watch this tape over and over again like it's porn. Henry takes over the director's role here, simply a part of what's going on, not liking it but not not liking it either, and in what's a kind of chilling meta-statement about the objective nature of film, McNaughton — and the audience — can only watch casually and any judgment you can make against bored, passive Henry has to be reflected in your own fascination with Henry's vocation. I don't see myself ever killing anyone, especially without any provocation (as if no one in the world ever provokes me), but I also don't see myself, if I did kill someone, freaking out over the damage my eternal soul sustained due to my new murderer status. I'd lose my shit at the thought of getting caught, and after many, many years of Law & Order and CSI, I've done a lot of fantasy homicide planning about what I'd burn and where I'd flee if I had to. (Note to TV villains: once you murder someone, you need to get out of Dodge.) But if I got over the idea that I'd be nabbed, then who knows...

So no wonder the MPAA got a bit skittish when McNaughton handed them the final cut. I'm personally hoping that a few of those raters had a few weeks of nightmares — especially over the infamous Good Samaritan scene and the videotaped family murder. Camcorders were pretty new back in 1986, and this was before the days of one idiot criminal after another keeping a video record of their crime sprees to later be used as evidence against them. Who'd want to watch Henry, much less record and relive all the death?

Which leads me to the most awesome part of the VHS: after the movie, after the end credits, the 1-800 number if you want to buy the official Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer t-shirt, in case you want to scare the nice old lady across the street. Or you're, you know, a psycho.

Sunday, April 9, 2006

I found this in some NYC hipster store, in one of those ubiquitous giveaway postcards-with-advertising racks they've all got over by the men's room. It's been tacked on my dorm room plasterboard wall since... I guess... 2002, in the hopes that I'd follow Mr. Peters's advice, get off my ass, and be more social. But alas, postcards make ineffectual goads and, back in college, I rarely left my room unless the clamor of my neighbors doing it was driving me crazy. So actually, senior year, I was out of my room a lot.

Four years later and a graduation later, and the Social Circles postcard is buried in a pile of all the other crap — the business cards, the Far Side cartoons, the pictures of people I haven't seen since high school — that used to be on my wall. I still haven't kept that New Year's resolution, and with most of my friends living far, far away and no floormates' caterwauling make-up sex forcing me out of my room, my social life has only gone downhill, which I didn't even think was possible. You learn something new.... and this is when Mom pointed me towards the New Jersey Young Professionals, an open group of, um, young professionals from New Jersey who have trouble meeting people in the social chaos of our home state. They host events that usually have the words "mixer" or "business card exchange" in their title, and I unduly get this sort of party-line infomercial vibe off of them:

Are you sick of the contrived, anonymous, ad-supported social networking. At NJYP, we have over 5500 young, hot professionals all looking for a good time.
Sorry, they're not prurient at all, unfortunately (cough, cough!). Mostly, they just put on awkward icebreaker events where everyone wears a "Hello, my name is" tag — like everyone gets together at a club in Hoboken, you get three or four pieces of Magnetic Poetry and then you have to mingle with other people and try to make sentences combining your words with theirs. Because that doesn't sound totally awkward if you're not in a second-grade English class.

Here's what I don't understand. If you don't have a problem going up to strangers and asking, "So what're your words?" then why do you need this stupid magnet mixer in the first place?

I'd been a NJYP member for about a month before finally running across an event that seemed relatively normal: game night at Brewed Awakenings in Metuchen. (I think "Brewed Awakenings" is an awful name for a coffee house, but according to Google, lots of proprietors disagree.) I figured I could drive to Metuchen, sort of pretend like I randomly stumbled into the place, and scope out the environment over an iced latte. If the happy pills I take decide that today, for once, they'll do their damn job, maybe I'll even join in the Scattergories.

The only thing is that you're supposed to bring a game. Make sure all the pieces are there. Well, that last part's pretty easy for me, because I'm freaking anal when it comes to keeping track of tiny objects children can choke on. The first part... not so much. See, the thing is, as a single child with no actual social life, I don't own a whole lot of board games and the games that I do own... well, I'd hate to be judged on what I brought to the party. There's go, the ancient Chinese game of putting stones on a board that no one but mathematicians and Darren Aronofsky has the patience for. There's a Trivial Pursuit where I memorized all the answers. There's Yahtzee... or, uh, travel Yahtzee. (I believe someone bought it for me in the days before God gave us Game Boy.) And there's Solarquest, which is basically Monopoly for nerds. The biggest difference is that, in Solarquest, everybody forgets the rules after an hour or so and gives up, whereas with Monopoly, you simply get into fisticuffs with your opponents after an hour or so.

My family also owns a bunch of games that were invented back in the seventies, when everyone was high on acid. Like "Probe," which Parker Brothers calls, without a hint of irony, "the most provocative game of words since the invention of the modern alphabet." Really. You pick a word and other people have to guess it! It's literally minutes of fun, and it's so provocative — national conflicts have started after one superpower challenged the spelling of another's word! (But apparently, there was an even more provocative word game using Sumerian cunieform that's been lost to history.) And somewhere in the bowels of our house is "The Plot To Assassinate Hitler," which takes weeks to play and pretty much makes Advanced Dungeons & Dragons look like Candy Land. I didn't think any of those were appropriate.

So I went gameless, and the whole thing was sort of anticlimactic. I didn't get involved or anything, and I don't really think I missed out on the excitement of Pictionary. Still, it's nice to know that there's people out there, and when those people come up with some other meet-and-greet that's not totally awkward, I might show up and watch.

Monday, April 3, 2006

The Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Awards were held on Sunday, because you're never too young to be pandered to by an evil brainwashing media conglomerate that doesn't know where to put its apostrophes. It's the only award show where kids — and pederasts prowling the website — vote for the winners, so it's like a civics lesson for them. The KCA teaches them about democracy: majority rules; and, since the electorate is made up of hyperactive rhesus monkeys, you wind up with some dumb douche like Lindsay Lohan for president and getting this radioactive cum and piss mixture dumped on you. I think the words "radioactive cum" should appear in every single Nickelodeon press release.

You'll be totally shocked to learn that the winners in just about every category are shows on Nickelodeon and their scenery-munching actors. Also, Will Smith, because apparently he's legally obligated to take home one orange blimp annually and then store it way in the back of the same closet he keeps D.J. Jazzy Jeff locked in. This brings up two important questions. First of all, who the fuck is Drake Bell, and why is he on my TV every time I channel surf between the Home & Garden Network and the Sci-Fi Channel? And second, you mean to tell me that eight-year-olds actually went to the movies to see the King of Queens get laid?

Thus we see why kids should never be given choices: they are stupid and will invariably make the wrong ones. I have to admit that I originally confused the KCA with Teen People magazine's Teen Choice Awards. It's really a misnomer — there's no actual choice because it looks like just about everyone who's ever been on Access Hollywood takes home an award. Hell, the winners' list is like two miles long, and I might have even won something. (Probably one of those technical awards they give out earlier in the evening.)

The thing is I was hoping I could get away under the delusion that it's just a stupid children's award show, and really it's not like the teenagers made any worse decisions than, say, the Hollywood Foreign Press. But on the other hand, shows like this are the reason Rob Schnieder — who hasn't said or done anything remotely funny since playing that copier guy on SNL like fifteen years ago, and even that wasn't all that funny — is still making movies, and even though pretty much all of the Golden Globes are handed out to the wrong nominee, at least those winners aren't making active contributions to humanity's decadence and the decline of civilization. This is why I'm against giving teenagers disposable income almost as much as I'm against straight marraige: those rotten kids apparently shop while they're freaking high, and now I can't watch Veronica Mars without seeing the ad for that movie where that Napoleon Dynamite doofus makes an ass of himself trying to play baseball.

Apparently, I'm in the minority though. There was a bill going through the California legislature that would've given teenagers the right to vote in state elections. Great, that's just what California needs, a million more idiots in the voting pool. Not that I believe all kids are stupid, and I find this quote from one of the bill's opponents kind of offensive, "There's a reason why 14-year-olds and 16-year-olds don't vote. They are not adults. They are not mature enough. They are easily deceived by political charlatans." I mean, dude, your state elected the Kindergarten Cop as governor, so shut up. It's just that we've all been through those dumb student council elections back in middle school, and the winner was always the popular kid who, it turned out, couldn't manage the awesome responsibility of organizing candy drives for the eighth-grade trip to Great Adventure, and I'd really prefer if we didn't bring that political ethos to the national stage where it actually matters.

Sunday, April 2, 2006

Death and Taxes

Well, here's my absolute favorite question on this year's tax return: "Are you deceased?" I know what they mean — they want you to check the box if you're filing for someone deceased — but I'm just going to inform the IRS right now that once I'm dead, I'm not paying taxes anymore. I don't care if it's illegal, cause what's the government gonna do to me? I'm dead. Are they gonna dig me up and throw my rotting corpse in some federal prison? I'd like to see that. Really, I would love to see taxpayer dollars spent exhuming my corpse and putting it on trial. I might even commit a crime on my deathbed just so that happens. I really hope there's a heaven and I get a good vantage point from there.

And I'm aware that I won't be able to take it with me, but I resent the hell out of having to pay for this war in Iraq ($251 billion and counting, despite initial projections of a $50 billion price tag) or no-bid contracts for a Chinese conglomerate to run nuclear detection equipment at U.S. ports or our multi-trillion dollar national debt. I'm not going to take the awfully brave position that taxes in America are too high... just that they're too high for me. I live pretty comfortably, but on paper, I'm below the poverty line so I'm a little surprised that TurboTax thinks I owe the government a thousand dollars. Especially since 61% of American corporations payed no taxes — but probably a good chunk of change to their lawyers hunting for loopholes in the tax code — during the boom years of 1996 to 2000.

I imagine in a world of moral certitudes, it would simply be unpatriotic to search for obscure deductions in your spare time or to hide your money in Vanuatu or Liechtenstein, but it's harder for me to come up with a good reason why I should pay taxes when Halliburton doesn't pay a dime.

Oh, and don't get me started on old people and the social security tax. Like, what has an old person ever done for me, besides holding up the bus for five minutes while they're trying to climb those three steps and pay their fare.