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.