Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Stupid Petty Theater, Firing Me With No Material For a Book Deal!

Mom, bless her heart, cut this article out of the New York Times Thursday Styles section. The article — Interns? No Bloggers Need Apply — is about garrolous young people, oblivious to their own privacy and trying to share their lives with the world, getting internships and blabbing all their bosses' corporate secrets to anyone who'll read their blog. Corporate bosses, being the arrogant, corrupt cheaters that they are, are not too thrilled about this new breed of young interns coming into the office with their blogs, "many bringing with them an innocence and nonchalance about workplace rules and corporate culture."

Mom thinks I haven't learned my lesson: "Most experienced employees know: Thou Shalt Not Blab About the Company's Internal Business," even though I was fired from my super-lucrative job at the theater because someone didn't like an entry in my own blog. Much to her dismay, not only do I keep blogging away, but I'm actually kind of offended that my liberal mother, artist and union rep, actually supports this corporate stifling of the free exchange of ideas.

Fine, she doesn't — she supports me keeping my job. But so much for principles.

The article talks about this guy (don't click on the link — nothing against him personally, but I think his mention in the New York Times and on Gawker.com already bought his blog enough traffic), who was blogging about his experiences at Comedy Central until the corporate bosses told him to knock it off. Let's all be amused for a moment at the irony and hypocrisy: Viacom, Comedy Central's parent company and a multi-billion dollar media conglomerate, feels threatened by some 22-year-old dork behind a computer! Ha! The article, which I'm assuming was written by someone old and well up the corporate ladder, just blows off this forbidden blogging as the ramblings of lazy kids, too spoiled to understand our sacred corporate culture. Kids today "do not see their job [sic] as their identity," says some human resources lady, obviously troubled since employees trying to be more than a cog in a corporate machine makes her job that much harder.

The article goes on, warning corporations to take action against rebel bloggers, and reminding them that in America, freedom of the press is limited to those with a press: "It is important that corporations make a choice as to what type of blogging they will allow," said Alfred C. Frawley III, director of the intellectual property practice group at the law firm Preti Flaherty in Portland, Me. In the midst of an NSA eavesdropping scandal and the Enron vault-robbers being convicted yesterday and AT&T threatening to shut their political and corporate opponents out of their web gateways, I'm so relieved to know that Viacom gets the final say in terms what ideas are put out on the blogosphere. The company that makes Laguna Beach and My Super-Sweet 16 is definitely looking out for society's best interests.

So this bugs me. But what really bugs me is the real gist of the article: people my age making a living by spilling the corporate beans, with book deals and movie deals and more than eight people hearing about their job horrors. It seems like the lesson here isn't to let what happens in the office stay in the office — instead, it's to sensationalize and fictionalize whatever happens in the office until it's profitable. I wish I knew that back then, since my plan, after that bitch kicked me out of the theater, was to become famous and then rub it in her face. Well, live and learn.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Jay Goes Where God Never Intended Man To Go

I was all set to make a long-overdue visit to the Freakatorium this afternoon. The Freakatorium bills itself as the largest freak museum in the northeast, which is probably part self-aggrandizing hyperbole and part true — I mean, just how large of a freak museum do you have to be in order to be the largest in the northeast? It's not like it's a shopping mall or anything. I took a trip down to the Freakatorium back when I was in college, not because I have any particular interest in the sideshow but because I've already seen everything at the Metropolitan Museum of Art five or six times. When I got down to Clinton Street and found the place, which may as well have been on Tristan da Cunha for how goddamn out of the way it is, I taken aback: "Five dollar admission fee? Screw this." I don't really remember, but I probably wound up spending that afternoon at the Met's Shoin Room. Again.

I finally decided to go back as part of my new kick to break out of the routine that is my life, but like many of my planned desitnations, it seems like this one's no longer a hundred percent extant. 57 Clinton Street is now this enterprise at left, and judging by the hearts in the windows, it's not the Freakatorium. Either that or there's some sort of corporate merger between the freak museum and a junior misses retailer. It might not be too, too far-fetched, but — call me a purist here — I think the forays into the fashion market would kind of cut some of the Freakatorium's integrity and street cred.

Instead, I sweated a lot, got some overpriced blended coffee drink at a teeny tiny cafe that smelled like the Mexican dive across the street, then double-checked the address. Nope, I had the address right, and when I passed by 57 Clinton Street again, they hadn't torn down the boutique and put up a freak museum in the hour between my visits. Rats.

I was at the entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge and I guess I wasn't exhausted or sunburned enough, so I decided I'd walk across it. Five or six years ago, I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and got some really nice pictures......okay, I remember the picture being a lot nicer than that, but anyway I had two hours till my train and my camera all primed and batteried-up for the Freakatorium, and I figured what the hell. The Williamsburg Bridge might not be the landmark that the Brooklyn Bridge is; it might not be as aesthetically pleasing or historically or architecturally interesting, but it's still a huge structure suspended over a body of water. How bad could it be?

Vertigo. Turns out that if God wanted me a hundred and thirty feet above the East River, He would've made me a bird. I'm not really afraid of heights — aside from the panophobia, of course — but there's something a little disconcerting about being a few meters over an eight-lane highway, a hundred or so feet above a river, and having the ground beneath your feet rumbling and jittering. I had to keep forcing that black-and-white video of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge out of my mind.

The bridge turned into this drawn-out epistemological quandry for me every time a motorcycle passed by and started a miniature earthquake under my feet or I looked up to quickly and lost my equilibrium for a second: I knew — whatever that means — that the bridge won't collapse and I knew that I wasn't going to develop the necessary mutant powers it would take for me to pass through the steel fences enclosing the pedestrian walkway and fall into the East River... but what good is that knowledge if I'm going to behave like the possibility of a bridge collapse is a fuzzy proposition? Can I really say that I even remotely understand the physics behind a suspension bridge if I'm going to involuntarily grab the guard rail every time a bicyclist or a jogger passes me, or can I really say that I appreciate the possibility that I'll die of a heart attack on the bridge (which is much more likely than the bridge collapsing) if I'm not carrying nitroglycerin pills with me across the river? I don't know — damn you bridge, for making me ponder deep questions!

I can't say I'm that impressed by the pictures, partly because I think I seriously underestimated how wide-angle my camera lens is, partly because the afternoon sunlight doesn't quite leave the same visual effect in May that it does in December, when I was on the Brooklyn Bridge, and partly because of that steel fence that's keeping me from losing my balance and falling onto the expressway. Nevertheless, here are a few of my favorites.

The prototypical snapshot of one of the bridge's towers.

A closer-up of the tower.
And the prototypical one-point perspective snapshot.
I was on my way back across the bridge into Manhattan before realizing that I never bothered to look straight up.
My favorite picture. I was standing directly under the west tower, and the sun seemed to scatter over the mesh workmen's netting.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Fake News From Fake America

My RSS reader brought this article to my attention, and I could not be more proud of it and, simultaneously, more disappointed in our nation's media. It's from the San Fransisco Gate by way of the AP, and its headline is, I shit you not, "Jack Bauer Saves Day on Finale of '24'." Ugh. It's bad enough when CNN reports on the life-changing news that only 33.06% of Americans prefer Eliot Yamin over Katherine McPhee and that old dude who's gonna be doing "Just For Men" hair color commercials in a year or two, but at least they're real people doing stuff in the real world. I hate to shatter some people's illusions here — and if you're one of those idiots whose head will explode when you find out that John Edward doesn't really talk to your dead relatives, Dan Brown is a big, fat liar, and your parents just made up all that crap about the Tooth Fairy, you should cover the room you're in with plastic sheeting and then keep reading — Jack Bauer is fictional, Associated Press. I'm totally cool with E! Online rehashing our country's memes as if we haven't already heard them a thousand times by the water cooler — "Did you guys see Desperate Housewives last night when Bree finally snapped? How she murdered Susan, chopped up her body, slow-roasted it, and served it to Lynette and Gabrielle at a dinner party?" Yes, look how we're all united as Americans and united in our love for Marcia Cross on a rampage. (By the way, that would make a fucking awesome episode of Desperate Housewives, and if I see that on TV, all of Marc Cherry's sins of mediocrity will be immediately forgiven.) But when those same TV junkies are shocked to see Teri Hatcher alive and well, posing in FHM magazine, it's time to throw away the remote and re-join the actual planet.

It's not like truth and fiction haven't already been twisted around enough: apparently this pheremone spray will make me irresistable to women, carbs are either bad for you or good for you or the complex carbohydrates are good but the refined carbs are bad or something, and Karen Ryan — "I'm not a journalist but I play one on TV" — has a Medicare plan the Bush administration would like to sell you. The AP might think they're just catching people up, but we're really too dumb to fall for that. You mean Jack beat the bad guys? I seriously did not see that one coming!!! And I bet he'll get into some other shit come January! No, I thought that season six would be two dozen episodes revolving around Jack's decomposing corpse. Okay, nothing could've ever redeemed Charmed, but if J.J. Abrams really wanted to pull off an amazing series finale of Alias, he'd have duly killed Sydney off. Maybe have Marshall sautee her and serve her up to the rest of the principals. Basically, unless it's a Roadrunner cartoon, anthropophagy improves pretty much anything.

But if it's not going to surprise me, tell me something I didn't already know, tell me something true, what's the point of even having the news? The whole quilting-bee atmosphere, where we get a liberal and conservative repeating their inane talking points and no one challenges them cause everyone's entitled to their opinion and you can't hurt anyone's damn feelings nowadays by telling them that they're full of it, isn't illuminating or useful or worth my damn time. If I wanted to know what happened in imaginary 24-land, I'd watch the show... or I'd do like I do in the real world and just assume that the writers couldn't come up with anything new after having Keifer's irritating daughter kidnapped for like the fifth time. You mean to tell me that one of the axis of evil is developing WMD's — where have I heard that before? It's an election year and gays are trying to get married and hippies are burning the flag (really?) and the government isn't tracking our phone calls but it's "protecting us from terrorists." Maybe one of these days, they'll be able to write an actual news story about someone, somewhere having an original idea, because that really doesn't happen every day.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Pop culture makes me angry again, this time because some overpaid associate producer in Hollywood had the brilliant idea of having Michael Mann direct the big-budget Miami Vice remake. This is totally aside from the fact that they're remaking Miami Vice in the first place, which I'm at peace with, even though Miami Vice barely deserves to be digitally remastered onto DVD, much less the silver screen. I despair for what's next, like maybe they'll get Scorcese directing The A-Team 2000? Take solace, though: sooner or later, Hollywood will have milked all the potential movie ideas out of VH1's I Love The... series, and they'll have to find another source of crappy Owen Wilson/Ben Stiller comedies. I think once we hit Chia Pet: The Movie, it'll be game over.

What really caught my eye is, doesn't the trailer look a little too, I don't know, dark and heavy to be the Miami Vice I occasionally catch a few seconds of on TV Land, with the pastel leisure suits and alligator-skin shoes and the scantily clad big-haired women on speedboats. Don't get me wrong: neither Bad Boys nor Bad Boys II needed to be made and/or watched, and the whole morally unequivocating buddy-cop action comedy thing has aged worse than, well, Don Johnson. I don't have any problem with Michael Mann's brooding drama taking the Miami drug war as a backdrop to explore the alienation and nihilism in urban America — but I've already seen Heat.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I ran into a bit of an underpants situation this morning... namely, I had no underpants. Laundry takes at least an hour and a half from soak cycle to spin dry, and I had a train to catch. During crises like this, I find guidance and wisdom from a classic acronym, four simple letters: WWMD. What Would MacGyver Do? I first asked myself what would Jesus do, but then I thought that people probably didn't wear underpants back in the year zero A.D., so this would be a moot point for Jesus. I guess also don't know for sure that MacGyver wore (wears?) underpants either, not that I'm dying to find out or anything, but I'm just going with it for my story.

I decided that MacGyver would probably fashion some sort of skidmark-scrubbing gadget out of a Brillo pad, a blender, and, let's say, some duct tape. But we're not really handy people in the Harris household, and despite its myriad uses, we don't keep duct tape around. I had to improvise, but my solution would make much worse television, because it involved a washing machine and a hair dryer, which is kind of lame. I sort of wish I experimented to see if the microwave might be a speedier way to dry laundry, sort of like it does for chicken, but I currently don't have a lot of underpants to spare. I will report, however, that the hair dryer was a lot slower than I thought it would be.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


After singles' night a few weeks back, I decided it would probably be a good idea if I started doing more things outside my comfort zone. Which is how I found myself across from Tompkins Square Park at alt.coffee yesterday, which I'm a little surprised to see has a mere 127 more Myspace friends than I do. The whole alt.coffee atmosphere screams East Village, with the Simpsons pinball machine over by the door, "lots of funky lamps," every wall painted another basic Crayola color. But there's a cry for help underneath The Psychedelic Furs and Belle & Sebastian blaring on the stereo — I mean, take a look at the some of the idiots who left comments for the coffeeshop:

OMG i wanna go to ur shop. btw this is the notorious drew fuzzle of the coffee shop boys, so thats a pretty big honor. Yknow, just in case u havent heard of the CSB.
And I think we've found our first good argument ever in favor of gentrification, because Drew "Caps Lock Confuses Me" Fuzzle epitomizes the alt.coffee clientele: burned-out grunge losers who can't figure out why their garage band that's "like a mix of Sonic Youth and Radiohead, but more soulful" hasn't gotten booked at the Indigo Club yet. Here's a hint, dude with a skull on your sports bag and hiragana tattooed on your arm: Most bands that quote-unquote make it know more than two chords. Instead of constantly updating your band's lame Myspace page, spend the time discovering a minor seventh or something.

The thing about alt.coffee, unlike the slackers who frequent the place and mooch off their wi-fi (which is why I was there, although I'm not a total freeloader — I bought the cheapest thing on the menu), is that I know what sort of look they were going for — the poor, disaffected kid look. Like, I'll bet anything they found their comfy couches and those funky lamps in a trash pile on St. Mark's Place, and rather than thinking, "No wonder this hideous thing is off on the sidewalk," the interior designer the pseduo-goth, pseudo-stoner, pseudo-skateroid management hired went, "Hey, free lamp! Look, the bulbs are red and it's not even Halloween!" They're too lazy to coordinate or upholster the furniture they picked up on the street, and it's not like any of the kids in there care, so who am I to complain?

Oh yeah, somebody who hates mediocrity. Okay, kitsch burns my eyes and makes my aesthetic cortex want to jump out of my head, run across the room, and set itself on fire, but I get that it's a style — it's not my style — but some people are into it. Still, even if your furniture's ugly, you can at least let me try to pretend that it's not a mite-infested piece of crap, right? I mean, aren't there any hypochondriac rockers out there?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Yes, I know, it's been a week without a post and I've been a bad, bad blogger. Spank me later.

I've done a good amount of griping in the past about the random schoolkids I run into while I'm at the movies or the mall or Starbucks in the middle of a weekday... you know, when a young professional like me is supposed to be at work. The middle of the day, from when General Hospital comes on until Judge Judy is done belittling poor people, should be just as adults-only as that weird "video" store with cardboard over its front windows. Not that I behave any differently around the little bastards — like, there's nothing more fun than teaching a six-year-old the c-word or telling a story about your first cunnilingus disaster while there's a gawky kid within earshot — but I just have a low tolerance for their puerile shit, like their ringtones and their Kristen Cavalleri (seriously, children, merely existing and living in Laguna Beach doesn't count as talent!), and I figure the amount of time they spend getting an education now will someday correlate nicely with their productivity as my slaves once I declare myself world dictator.

I'm not at all bitter about having parents and teachers that made me attend school five whole days a week, every week, nine months, year after year, learning for the hundredth time how to solve a quadratic equation or circling all the pronouns in a sentence and then drawing arrows pointing to their antecedents. Boy, that was certainly time well-spent, cause it's pretty much every day that I graph polynomials and I'm like, "Thank you, Miss Tanzola, for writing binomials on an overhead projector because without your wise math tutelage... oh, wait, I own a fifty-dollar calculator that pretty much makes you and your slide rule obsolete."

But I was driving by North Plainfield High the other day around lunchtime — I'm such a dork; we played them in Science Bee, and possibly football — and there's all these students milling outside the campus like ants, in their cars or walking home down Grove Street, and four years of my own micromanaging, condescending teacher demons overwhelmed my emotions: Did I go to the only fucking high school in the country where they actually mandated their students' presence from the Pledge of Allegiance until the 2:30 bell? We weren't allowed to leave the school or go out to our cars or anything. I don't even think they'd let us outside if the building was burning down... like some dude with long hair and black painted fingernails might light up a cigarette or something and then the whole universe will explode.

Not that I begrudge the kids for wanting to be kids; I begrudge the adults for either indulging their callow fantasies or going off the other end of the rocker, treating the kids like mindless automatons who'll break down and start spraypainting the bathroom stalls and stealing speed limit signs if they're not constantly being supervised and pointlessly engaged in rote memorization. There's something called moderation, and I've got a feeling if teachers and parents and those other trusted adults treated the kids somewhere in between juvenile deliquents and like every day's their super-sweet sixteen, we might still have a chance at raising a society that doesn't bow down to the altar of narcissism, materialism, and solipsism.

Sunday, May 7, 2006


I hereby invite you to check out my new, improved and re-designed website. I'd been planning a site remodel for a while now, largely because, from the disastrous code I have to deal with at work, I've discovered the simple joys of conforming to published standards. Also, like an idiot, I accidentally deleted the old site. Serves me right for not keeping a backup.

Friday, May 5, 2006

Best part about being sick and having to go to the doctor: free samples provided by our nation's ultra-magnanimous pharmaceutical companies. I got some Nasacort allergy spray stuff from the good people at Aventis, Singulair from the fine folks at Merck, and an assortment of lozenges generously donated by Halls. I can see no possible ulterior motive for this munificence, and it completely reverses my previous opinions on the pharmaceutical industry.

Maybe there's a homeopathic hemp dude out there who can cure me with something I produce on my own, like that conflicted alienation-slash-guilt feeling that modern medicine side effects in me. Drug companies hand out their shitloads of free stuff to my doctor — everything from the pen she takes notes with (sponsored by Levicor™) to the 3-D model of the respiratory system on her desk (donated by Flonase™) to the all-expenses-paid symposia in Zurich — and, when I'm not in denial, I absolutely know all those goodie bags are having an effect on my treatment. I can't just worry about my doctor's standard human error, now I've gotta get into whatever subconscious shit's fucking with my diagnosis. I mean, if Merck were to send an ex-Miss Florida drug rep to take me out to dinner and sell me on whatever new pill they're working on, the next day I'd be handing out strychnine Vioxx like they were Tic-Tacs.

The catch is, of course, that I don't know a damn thing about my body, other than that it's a prodigious mucous producer, so I've gotta put my trust in this doctor along with the pharmaceutical industry's claws. (Not to mention the reassuring news that doctors, with the exception of surgeons, grow less competent over time.) At least if I walk into a used car dealership, it's implied that the dealer's job is to take as much money from me as he can, and my job is to walk out with the most valuable product he's selling that I can afford. In the good old days, before the government started pretending that global warming was a lie and before House taught me how ignorant I am, before I started paying for my own prescriptions, I could take the whole doctor-patient knowledge gap for granted and swallow my pills. These days, I just feel sick.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

David Blaine Is A Giant, Lazy Tool

So-called "street magician" David Blaine, who thinks he's so cool with his goatee and his quaalude-drawl speech patterns and the way he uses "street" as an adjective, is in the middle of his latest (publicity) stunt, "Drowned Alive." He's hanging out, scuba diving in a giant fishbowl for eight days — so I have to point out that he's not technically being drowned — and for reasons I can't comprehend, this display has crossed the void from stupid and pointless to newsworthy, which appears to be a growing trend in the cutthroat world of egomaniacal magic. Six years ago, I visited Blaine at Good Morning America when he proved something or other by freezing himself in a block of ice for a week, and today I thought I might get re-acquainted with the man inside the bubble. Maybe he'd remember me as that one gawker who didn't have an inane homemade poster of encouragement.

I actually sort of enjoyed Blaine in his Street Magic and Magic Man TV specials. (I guess ABC thought it's important to remind us that the man spending an hour performing card tricks and making things disappear is a magician.) Okay, even back before he met Donald Trump at a creepy attention whores' conference at the Hyatt, Blaine was irritating, histrionic, and apparently convinced that Isis, Queen of the Gods really had endowed him with magic powers. Dude, we're not six; we know it's legerdemain and you really don't have to patronize us by flying off to Haiti and pretending you're channelling the voodoo spirits. Ass. However, the people off the street that Blaine harassed with his relatively trivial illusions were really, really gullible and stupid — like Leprechaun in Alabama-level stupid — and Blaine was always a little too impressed with his own tricks, as if he wasn't quite confident he practiced enough, that it just made for good family television.

Recently though, Blaine's thrilling and daring exploits have been, well, lame. He froze himself in a block of ice for three days, he stood on a pole for two days, he buried himself under the sidewalk (sample press release: "After day one, reporters noted that Blaine turned to his side." Magic!), and he sat in a plexiglass box for a month and a half. Blaine's illusions pretty much consist of him sitting somewhere for a long time while a line of easily-entertained onlookers grows around him, which isn't magic.

Also, it's not interesting, and Blaine's new-age freakshow crap about how he's so cool cause he's gone for a week without food or how he'll have to piss in a catheter is irritating. First of all, dude, get your self-aggrandizing ass on Wikipedia and look up "Ethiopia" or "hematuria" and shut up. Stop making the pre-show hype into the show, asshole, and make something disappear or saw someone in half or, uh... what else do magicians even do? Eat your own arm, David — I'd seriously pay money to see that.

Monday, May 1, 2006

A Completely Impartial Review of Starbucks' New Green Tea Latte

I'd like to begin by mentioning that this review is in no way biased by the fact that half my latte sloshed out of the cup, through the lid, and onto my shirt in the two block walk between Starbucks and work. With that out of the way, I'd also like to mention that I'm not an idiot: I'm aware that even though I might like two flavors each on their own, they might not make such a good pair when thrown in the blender together. For example, I like pork and I like ice cream, but I don't think I'd like pork ice cream. Same goes with the green tea and steamed milk combination. Why not throw some horseradish or orange juice or maybe toothpaste in there just to capture the whole rainbow of astringent tastes?

The green tea latte itself is just a little too sugary to not fall into the "saccharine" category and a little too milky to not fall into the "bland" category. It's like they're fighting each other in my mouth and what's left is the taste of early-morning and after-dinner beverage carnage, dead on my tongue. It's not sharp enough to make me gag, but the green tea latte isn't exactly pleasant either. I sort of imagine this is what the meat candy will taste like if I leave it in the package for twenty years, then disregard all of the bizarre safety warnings on the things and pop em in my mouth.