Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Here's a plug for the novelty music of Jonathan Coulton, who I found on iFilm with a hilarious, astute video of the wild office lives of low-end corporate programmer-analysts. I suggest subscribing to the free Thing-A-Week podcast, because not all the songs are that catchy or good. Coulton's remake of "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-a-Lot (note: Sir Mix-a-Lot was never dubbed a real knight) is great. I mean, the joke gets old fast, but it's not like you paid anything for it.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

If You See Something...

You know those signs in the subway that say, "If you see something, say something?" Well, yesterday, I saw something. I was on the PATH coming home during rush hour and this guy wearing a ski mask — he looked like he was two steps away from robbing a bank — gets on the train, standing right in front of me. I'm trying to be cool about it, but he's fidgeting the whole time, covering up as much of his face as possible. Then he takes his cell phone out of his pocket — middle of a tunnel, right: no signal — and he's playing with it, with this ski mask over his head. Once the train's out in the daylight, he calls someone and he's talking on the phone in... well, I don't want to guess what language it is, but it's not one that I understand. Oh, and did I mention this guy was Middle Eastern? No? Well, it's probably not that important anyway.

So I guess I've got to turn in my Democratic National Committee membership card now. Is Glenn Beck looking for an intern?

I'm really conflicted, which is a problem, since I've been told we're at war. I'd like to think that the fact the guy was Middle Eastern didn't have anything to do with it — about two years ago, there was a white guy in his sixties on the subway wearing a bulletproof vest, and I was thinking about saying "something" to "someone" about it, but then I got to my stop and went on with my life — but no matter how you rationalize it, there's no way to push this guy's ethnicity out of your mind. Here's what the MTA's website wants the public to be on the lookout for: "Be wary of suspicious behavior. Take notice of people in bulky or inappropriate clothing." All I know of suspicious behavior is what Jack Bauer beats people up for in his black-and-white world, and it's winter, so everybody's gonna be wearing bulky clothing. But I couldn't think of a good, innocuous reason for this guy to be wearing a ski mask on a heated underground train. I came up with (a) he's a ninja, (b) he's incredibly culturally tone-deaf, or (c) he's up to something nefarious. The middle one sounded best in my mind, but it's not like the third option was too far behind.

And of course, there's the liberal part of me thinking, "You do realize that you're just stereotyping this guy because he's dressing and acting differently from everybody else. Stereotyping is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong!" You'd feel like such an ass if you called the cops on him just because he didn't conform... although, I kind of feel like, given how he's dressed, I wouldn't feel like a huge injustice happened if a police officer searched him for depleted uranium.

In the end, bystander apathy won over, and I didn't hear anything on the news about a PATH train blowing up over Newark Bay, so I guess I did the right thing.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

I went down to Atlantic City last night, trying to make friends with the New Jersey Young Professionals on the long, long bus ride south. It went better than expected: I thought I'd make no friends and lose money, but instead I made no friends and won money. Ka-ching! And really, if you happen to be on a hot streak at craps, you've got a whole tableful of new best friends.

I actually wasn't going to go because I knew the bus ride would be long and lonely. I wish I could spend my life on a deserted island, staring out at the sea, because I hate those events where you know you'll regret it if you go but you'll also regret it if you don't go, and you have to solve that remorse calculus dilemma. There was a trip to Atlantic City last summer that I chickened out on — did the math wrong — so I had to go on this one.

I have to say that I prefer the senior citizens' bus, even though there's no food allowed, and it's dry, and it comes with some crappy movie you never wanted to see that keeps distracting you from your book. The old people, they come to gamble, and my favorite part of the whole trip is at the casino's bus depot, when you're not allowed to move from your seat until the greeter's done welcoming you and raffling off the free buffet. The seniors get all uppity, like they know they're losing ground in the race between them and Death to the Lucky Sevens machine. Young professionals, they shift around in their seats, but since they came to hang out with their friends and not to feed coins to a blinking machine, there's not the same urgency. On the plus side, with the young professionals, I didn't have to spend the whole ride listening to reasons why my generation sucks.

Since I wasn't traveling with the old people for once, I got to see Atlantic City after dark, when it turns from a seedy, low-rent gambling outfit into a slutty, low-rent gambling outfit. The NJYP rented out the Foundation Room for our New Years party mingling (yes, a month after New Years... or maybe eleven months before New Years 2008!) and then Club Worship for late-night dancing, but I couldn't help being amused by the proliferation of cocktail waitresses slumming across the House of Blues floor after ten.... Oh, wait, they aren't cocktail waitresses. I know that Atlantic City is never going to be as classy as some places, but when you're outfit says, "Why did I even bother with clothes?" maybe you can take a good, hard look at your wardrobe choices.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

I'm on the train this morning and there's this relatively hot woman with big tits reading Maxim magazine. I just have to fucking stare....

.... Uh, anyway, did you all check out Maxim's 50 Lamest Things of All Time or were you too busy ogling the exclusive Victoria's Secret fashion shoot and "reading" about secret sex exclamation-point? Before you ask, no, hackneyed countdown lists of the upper-middle class's most shameful exploits clogging up the pages of what's essentially a soft-core porn magazine somehow didn't make the 50 Lamest Things of All Time list. I guess it must be number fifty-one. Ironically, however, soft-core porn is number twelve, so go figure.

I just don't understand the point of this. My best guess is they had this five-page photo spread of some Croatian chick in her underpants but an hour before Maxim went to press, the editors discovered she had a penis. There was a scramble and someone was like, "You know, men wearing helmets and white-collar bikers have been getting a free ride way too long. Someone ought to knock them down a few pegs with a two-sentence insult." Thank you, Maxim, for taking on subjects that Playboy dares not touch, like pets in handbags and Utah. It's good to know someone is looking out for the common frat-man.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Friday, January 19, 2007

For The Title of Most Horrible Person Ever...

...I'd like to nominate antiques dealer Karl Kemp, who just earned himself a permanent spot in the Class Warfare Hall of Fame by filing a million dollar lawsuit against the homeless. So, congratulations, weirdo who filmed Bumfights, for now being only the second most horrible person ever. This must be a proud, proud day for you.

Karl owns Karl Kemp & Associates at 833 Madison Avenue near 69th Street, which the lawsuit rather gratuitously notes is "within the heart of New York's most exclusive Madison Avenue shopping district." How dare these homeless eyesores wander into the heart of New York's most exclusive shopping district! Especially at 833 Madison Avenue, near 69th Street. The nerve! There are people with an obscene amount of money living around here, 833 Madison Avenue, and they shouldn't have to look at squatters who "dress in what appears to be old, worn and unsanitary clothing" and who "can often be found sleeping on the sidewalk." Dude: they're freaking homeless, you goddamn moron! I'm sure they'd love to waste their time shopping inside Gucci and Armani than guzzling beer outside, huddled together over a subway grate for warmth, but they don't have any money. If it bothers you so much, you're wealthy — build the poor bastards a fucking home!

Truth is, I hope Kemp wins his lawsuit, only because I would kill to watch this enormous douchebag try to collect his million dollar judgment from the homeless.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ten staff members at a Sacramento radio station were fired the other after a woman died taking part in an on-air contest where the idiot who drank the most water without peeing would win a Nintendo Wii. It turns out that drinking massive amounts of water and not urinating isn't healthy. Who knew? Oh, yeah, that's right: everybody alive.

The latest news out of Sacramento is that the local sheriff has opened a homicide investigation relating to the incident and the stupid, stupid victim's family is suing the radio station. Everybody is full of my favorite American emotion — outrage in hindsight. She had a family! She had three kids! She was in the contest to win the Wii for her three adorable munchkins! It's the kids that will keep this woman out of Darwin Award territory (besides, she's already passed on her mentally deficient DNA, so I guess that point is moot). I actually feel a little bad for her children, that they had such a dumb, insecure parent desperate to win her family's love that she was willing to take part in a non-pissing contest to win a toy for them.

And to me, that she was in this contest on her own volition is the key, and the posthumous ire is even more insulting to this poor woman than I could ever be. I'm going to drop the philosophical objections temporarily and assume that, like me, this woman had a free will and her death wasn't just one of the random freakish acts of physics that happens in the world but something she had the power to choose or not choose. I don't think the DJ's hypnotized her by dangling the Wii in front of her eyes, did they? Get over it: eighteen other people in the contest decided to answer nature's call and not die, no reason this woman couldn't do the same and go home, maybe without a Wii, but with a valuable lesson learned. (Hopefully.)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

My Heroes at Tekserve

I'm having some rotten luck with my computer gizmos lately. First, there was the iPod coma to deal with, and then I spent all day yesterday trying to get my laptop to regurgitate the DVD it was choking on. I'm waiting for the next disaster, like my monitor falls off the keyboard, or the mouse explodes, or a deranged help desk guy gets his brain encoded in my local area network during a freak lightning storm and goes on a mad killing spree through America Online. I'm pretty sure the limited warranty doesn't cover that.

The DVD was a rental so I was more than a little desperate to extract it from my computer. I turns out that the list of things you can shove into one of these slot-loading DVD drives is pretty short. Pliers won't even get near the slot, and tweezers — which I'm sure are great for the health of the DVD — only pulled out some of the white fuzz protecting the opening from, well, jerks sticking things that aren't DVD's into the DVD player. I settled on credit cards, which you can apparently use to keep the DVD from spinning, however that's supposed to help. Worked for plenty of other people, but not me, and after a few hours, I was all set to unscrew the whole laptop and perform a discectomy, and my computer would be in a hundred little pieces right now except I couldn't find a T4 screwdriver, whatever that is.

I had to take the computer in for repairs, again. I was incredibly not thrilled about going back to the Apple Store, where they'd make me wait a couple of hours for my Genius Bar appointment before telling me that the Digital Millenium Copyright Act prevented them from removing the DVD from the drive, but would I like to buy a whole new computer? Thank God I live near New York and I work near Tekserve, which is the world's friendliest Apple geek haven ever. It's almost like the distinction between the people who buy Apple products because they're stylish and trendy and the computer geeks who buy Apple because their 32-bit MIPS dual-core processor outstrips the Pentium variable word-length processors. Some people just know what they're talking about.

Tekserve is ridiculously efficient. Granted, I went pretty early in the morning, but I had to wait less than a minute to see a specialist. Less than five minutes for her to squeeze the disc out of the computer, test several more discs to make sure the drive is working, and recommend that I not buy a new drive unless this one starts failing consistently. Total cost: nothing. Awesome. Well, now when the DVD drive does fall apart, I know where I'm going to get a new one.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Love, Tactically

I'm not falling for this Love Tactics crap. Forget about the initial creepiness the book exudes, the first few chapters — before we get to the parts about manipulating your beloved into emotional co-dependence and then shaking their confidence and esteem by turning aloof like a dickweed — are just a collection of ridiculous, feel-good platitudes that leave me stewing in my misanthropy. "You can do it!" I feel like I've got Bela Karolyi as my dating coach, and I feel like your confidence in my dating abilities would be awesome if I wanted to date you, Love Tactics. But the flattery is more than a little perfunctory, like when my mom tells me how adorable I am — I'm twenty-five and she's still toddler-talking to me, so this might be part of the problem right here &mdash — and it might mean a little more coming from someone who didn't share half my DNA.

My favorite Love Tactic so far is number four, "Talk With Confidence." First of all, if I could talk with confidence, I wouldn't be lying on my bed reading Love Tactics. I would be out at a bar, hittin' up some honeys, which is a term I heard some dumbass on an MTV show use. He said it very confidently. I'm trying to sop up some of Love Tactics' enthusiasm and encouragement, but it all gets shot to hell by clumsy passages like this: "Starting a conversation need not be that difficult. In fact, once you get over your initial reluctance, you'll find making conversation an effective instrument to help you win the one you want." Really? Talking to her will help me win her heart? Thank you for the brilliant revelation, Love Tactics, because all this time I've been watching her through binoculars and rooting through her trash, and that hasn't gotten me anywhere!

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Miracle of the Resurrected iPod

Today I sacrifice three baby goats at the altar for, lo, my iPod hath been deceased yet the gods have miraculously brought it back to life! All this despite my lack of faith and turning toward the Apple Genius Bar heathens.

I left my iPod on long enough for the (main) battery to drain fully and apparently this resets some internal iPod doohickey, which uncorrupts the thingamajig and lets the whatsit run freely. Plug it in again, and we're good to go. And to think that Apple wanted me to erase the whole damn device!

Monday, January 8, 2007

Requiem for a Lost iPod

My iPod died the other day. Moment of silence, please. I'm actually in a Fristian state of denial about it, so I took the device to the "Genius Bar" at the Apple Store this afternoon for some last-ditch life-support. There's this thing you can do called "restoring" the iPod, supposedly the panacea for all your iPod comas, but restoring the iPod erases all of the music on it and I spent a lot of time downloading that music in a manner that's one-hundred percent in compliance with Russian copyright law. My hypothesis, and maybe it's just wishful thinking, is that the master boot record is corrupt and most or all of the music on the iPod is still intact.

Although the download gestapo will give you shit over it, it's really not that difficult moving your music from a living, breathing iPod to your computer. There's plenty of third-party software that will do it for you, or there's the Unix back-end in OS X, or if you just open the iPod external USB drive in Windows and show hidden files, your library will appear. So we all realize that stuff like this isn't exactly sanctioned by any supposedly legitimate computing authority, but then again, neither is all sorts of geek computer-pimping like overclocking or registry hacking or encasing your iPod in rosewood.

This is the Apple Store in Soho, one of my favorite places to work because the store has an abundance of electric outlets for loiterers. I have low standards, and there are plenty of places in the neighborhood where you can freeload off a wireless network without the 2:00 presentation "How to use iPhoto" happening in the background. The Genius Bartenders, are, like real bartenders, not hired based on how well they can do their job but on how much they look like Justin Long. In terms of diagnosing my iPod, I'd guess they were less Dr. Gregory House and more Dr. Meredith Gray. In terms of physical attractiveness, they're probably somewhere in the Zach Braff range.

My game plan was to put on my best nerd voice — my glasses and acne help with this — and just ask for what (I thought) I needed, which is a iPod driver installed on my computer. "Driver." It's like ordering a mojito: the odds are around eighty percent that they'll have no idea what you're talking about, fifteen percent that they'll screw it up, and five percent that you'll actually get what you want. But my request kind of came out, after an hour waiting in the Apple store, as, "My iPod won't mount. It says it needs to be restored, but I don't want to restore it and lose all the music."

I'm certain they cover in this Apple Genius Bartending Manual, and the company's official response is, "As an Apple employee, I can't help you copy your music from the iPod to the computer," — which isn't what I asked — along with a contemptuous glare, like I just asked her to help me dispose of the body. Then she shakes the iPod, cause maybe it's only sleeping with the hard drive spinning and snoring, and she tells me that it sounds like the hard drive's dead, which it totally does not sound like. Then she asks if I want to buy a new iPod (for what, all my music's on my old iPod), tells me I could hire a data recovery service to pull my music off the device for thousands of dollars, and castigates me, again according to the official Apple Genius Bartending Manual. "You're supposed to have your music in iTunes." Which I totally will whenever Apple's ready to subsidize my premium hard disk space. What's that, Steve Jobs? No?

The moral of this story is never go to the Apple Genius Bar because the people there are jerks. And not the kind of jerks who mock your tech ignorance but then fix your problem just to show off. They're the kind of jerks who embrace ignorance and spew scorn at anyone trying to exercise control over a machine that they paid a couple hundred dollars for. I tried to send a nasty note to Apple's customer service, but apparently they've been getting too many angry letters and have taken their email address off their website, so I'm putting the note here, where they'll never see it. You're not the music police, Apple. Nor are you the hard drive police or my mom, who's convinced that I'm an ignoramus and she knows what's best for me. Just give me the tools, thank you very much, and I'll solve the problems myself.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

You Can't Spell "Impossible" Without "Possible"

Back in my Columbia days, the liberal peace-loving, Saddam-hugging, diversity-championing student population was all about hating on Yale, and I could never figure out why. I know that we hated on Harvard because of their larger endowment, and our trustees all bought fancy European sports cars to compensate. But I'm not sure what Yale ever did to us, aside from clearly failing to educate our nation's president and maybe winning a football game or two. (Also, at our high school's college night back when I was applying, the representative from Yale was a real douchebag.) But Yale senior Aleksey Vayner isn't doing his school, or the Ivy League, or white people with a sense of entitlement any favors with his job application to UBS, which included his eleven-page resume eleven-page resume and this semi-inspirational video that looks like something they show on the public access cable channel every four hours.

It's called "Impossible is Nothing," and if you can't figure out what the hell that means, then you're in for a treat: seven minutes of those meaningless platitudes they put on a poster in the break room, endurance or perseverance, with like a picture of a soaring eagle or a guy running up a mountain, mixed with unintelligible blabber, suspicious editing, and Aleksey's tennis serve. I'd like to take a moment to deconstruct Aleksey's love letter to himself, starting with the rambling mock interview in the beginning. Disembodied Voice asks, "Aleksey, you're known as someone who's studied the principles of personal development for a long time. Applying these principles to yourself, you've coincidentally become a model of personal development and inspiration to many around you. Although success is different to every individual, it is [a] generally accepted that people are much happier when they grow, develop, and are good at what they do. How do some people like yourself become very proficient in the fields much faster than most?" You can sort of tell that, by the last sentence there, Disembodied Voice Guy is desperate for breath and just throwing random commas everywhere.

Aleksey non-responds, "Well, thank you." To the scripted question that he obviously wrote! I'm not even going to attempt to punctuate the rest of what constitutes his answer: "I guess the first thing the person needs to understand is that success is a mental transformation. It's not an external event. To be successful, you must first know exactly what you want to achieve. Second, you need to commit to the sacrifices that it will take to achieve your goal. And third, of course you must believe beyond any reasonable doubt that you will achieve your goals." I originally assumed that this whole exchange was, well, written down beforehand. Because it's on video. And Aleksey and his buddies had that luxury. But now that I've actually transcribed the exchange and I'm looking at it in black and white, I'm not so sure. Aleksey, dude, you went to Yale; between the crazy incoherent gloating of the question, the torpid David Brent-like banality of the answer, and "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we," I'm starting to think that Yale has the fucking world's worst rhetoric classes ever.

Now comes the Feats of Strength, two minutes of Aleksey's audition tape for that strongman competition they show on ESPN2. I'm not even going to argue with the point (I think) he's voice-overing this segment, which the Roman poet Juvenal put much, much, much more succinctly. All I'm going to say is I hope the guy in human resources who got this tape is among America's legions of the obese.

Some brilliant cinematography here: Who wants to bet that's not Aleksey bench pressing 495 pounds? Who wants to bet that's not even 495 pounds?

What I really wanted to share, however, wasn't Aleksey's video, but Michael Cera's parody, which perfectly captures Aleksey's contempt for all inferior man-beasts who aren't Aleksey and his masturbatory ego-stroking till the dick that is this prissy Yale investment banking wanna-be chafes. Maybe it's hearing George Michael Bluth call the rest of us losers, but I feel like Michael Cera captures the complex insecurity of Aleksey Vayner better than Aleksey Vayner does. "Impossible is the Opposite of Possible" even contains a kernel of truth, since "impossible" is, in fact, the opposite of "possible."

Anyway, Aleksey's video did set him apart from the thousands of other applicants who just sent in one-page resumes, and it made him a big hit on Wall Street — just, as you've probably guessed by the way this video made it all the way to iFilm, not in the way Aleksey intended. His self-aggrandizement and overboard egomania made him an instant target of ridicule in the investment banking world, even more humiliated than, say, the working class. Now, I don't like Aleksey. I'd love to be able to cheer, "Bus: 1! Aleksey: 0!" But there's something incongruous about derivatives traders calling anyone out for flying way over the line from ambitious to smug to imperious. It's not like the Buddha works the swing shift over at UBS; it's full of people who get horribly rich by helping the obscenely rich become even richer, now complaining that this Yalie may be able to look down his nose at Swarthmore graduates, but he hasn't earned the Investment Bankers' Right to be contemptuous of the common man yet.

That's why I think that I'm, beyond a reasonable doubt, a much more qualified person to take Aleksey down a couple of pegs, and I'm going to make my own video resume slash inspirational bodybuilding movie slash excuse to show a somewhat attractive chick in a short skirt. I was having a little trouble coming up with a title that would convey how amazing I am and my powers to change the definitions of words and defy the laws of logic. My first thought was "Impossible is the Same as Possible," sort of like how "inflammable" is the same as "flammable." (Boy, wasn't it hilarious the first time we made that mistake and spent the next five months in skin grafts!) It turns out, however, that "impossible" is not the same as "possible," and no one at Columbia bothered to teach me how either consistent or inconsistent — I'm no longer sure which — the English language is. If only I'd been accepted to Harvard! I'm sure they would've educated me properly with their larger endowment.

Then I decided to go with "There's No 'I' in Impossible," but alas, there's not one but two I's in impossible, as well as "me," "mobile," and "plobies." So I'm stuck with the title of this post, an immutable truth for the ages, a hilarious pun, and a little more coherent than Aleksey's title.

This took two hours. I needed a nap.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

I don't think all of us appreciate how difficult this whole new year's resolutions deal is. Like at the Y this morning, where they have a big yellow note taped to the sign-in desk that says, "MY NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION IS TO REMEMBER MY ID!" You know, it's tough enough to drag my ass to the gym in the first place; I don't need the jackass behind the desk complaining that now she's got to type my name into the computer, too.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Nothing makes me happier than seeing people get what they deserve, and so with that in mind, I present my new favoritest viral video ever. Ladies and gentlemen, I present Car Stolen While Ghost Riding.And I don't want to be disillusioned and hear any shit about how it's fake.