Sunday, March 30, 2008

Making Out with

Hey, my profile got its first hit! It happened just before I upgraded to Profile 2.0, so I'm giving credit to Harrigan's portrait for this one. I can't really explain it, cause it's just an image but fits me, or I fit it, or something. I think my blanket fort photo that I use for this blog's profile captures my personality more fully: working, isolated, shrouded, but enjoying the child-like pretend of it all.

But people look at the content of the picture, rather than the decision to express yourself with one photo over another, so the blanket fort one comes out on the third(?) date. My computer-generated match doesn't have a photo on her profile; there's a little box that says something like "Photo will be available after the first date." Which, by then, it won't be quite as useful, will it?

Photo not available. That can't be a good sign, can it? It's not like your photo isn't in the yearbook because you were out that day; this subtext was a choice. I'm trying not to read into it, especially since on my proactive side, I'm not being the profound person we should all aspire to. I'm certain we'd — I would, and most of you would, too — make better decisions blind. sent a profile of this one really cute girl who I have absolutely nothing in common with (I guess the computer disagrees), and I'm having this primitive hormonal struggle to not press the "I'm Interested" button next to her pic. I'm sure I've rejected a few good matches, too, because they weren't what I'm looking for, literally.

Here's a link to an interesting article on first impressions, how accurate they are, and how quickly we make up our minds about someone.

The expectations, too, aren't working for me. You don't strike up a rapport with anybody, and there's no "take it slow" option. All of my previous girlfriends were my friends first... and of course, by "all," I mean "both," including the one who I never technically met, and I guess we were just friends for a week or so before making our tacit AOL commitment to each other ("You've Got Puppy Love!") but still, my point. There's less chance of rejection — always a fear — and it seems more organic. You two already like each other more than you like anybody else, so why not date?

This game of jumping right in because a computer told you to doesn't leave me feeling quite right. Don't guys become actors on their first date, feigning normalcy, interest, all kinds of crap they think the woman wants? And since the facade matches what she's been socialized to expect, she thinks that's his real personality. Sounds like an exhausting way to have a relationship. I'm not necessarily big on honesty — I'm for recognizing when mendacity is appropriate — seems like a first date would be the perfect time to be yourself. All you've got to lose is someone who wouldn't tolerate you well anyway. (Also self-esteem.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Profile. (Love me!)

My profile was... not the way I want to portray myself. The website folks throw this personal essay at you and won't let you finish the questionnaire until you finish it, and I did my extemporaneous best, but that wasn't very good. Full of making a first impression awkwardness, which fades off after some getting to know you. Here's what I came up with:

I introduce myself as a bit of a mystery. I'm shy and it takes a little effort to lure me out of my shell, but I become outgoing, carefree and really sweet once I'm lured out of my shell. Right now, I'm an aspiring writer, but I design websites and write Java code to pay the bills, because crumpled-up second and third drafts aren't legal currency. My humor is dry and sarcastic and occasionally pushes boundaries a little too hard. I love animals, not so much kids, play the piano, and bake the world's best cinnamon-kahlua brownies, not that I like to brag or anything. I get off on learning new things and exercising my mind, so I've grown into a profound well of useless (and sometimes useful) knowledge. I'm open-minded, or at least I try my best to be, but also pretty picky -- life is short, so why spend it on things that aren't good, right? But at the same time, you never know where you'll find stuff you like.

Likes: tropical fish, fast elevators on the way up, those fringe sports they show on ESPN2, Nintendo Wii, empty amusement parks, the smart car, Wile E. Coyote, Venice in the early morning...

Dislikes: ferns, socks, Wal-Mart, fast elevators on the way down, passive-aggressiveness, the word I missed in the fourth-grade spelling bee ("villain"), ten-lane highways, movies that have the main character's name in their title...

Here's the part where I describe who I'm looking for. I could list a bunch of standard traits: honesty, sense of humor, independence, etc., but that's what everybody says because they have no idea what to put down here. My sense is that you can have an meaningful, intimate relationship with just about anyone, and your soulmate is somebody who shares your emotional maturity, who's different enough that they make you a better person and similar enough that you make them a better person. That's vague. Sorry. I did say I was a bit of a mystery.

It's not the world's shiniest sales pitch, but I feel like it gives you a good sense of who I am. I had a hell of a time writing it, even after some brainstorming sessions, because it's not like you're introducing yourself to anybody and it's a super one-way conversation. What I did was go to and pretend to be the person I'm looking for — twenty-six year old woman seeking twenty-four to twenty-eight year old man — and get a sense of what other dudes are selling.

This, accidentally, became a really fascinating glimpse into other people's psyches. Oh yeah, the other thing I did cause I wasn't really thinking about it, was I typed in Fanwood as my location and among what the Romance-O-Matic™ spit back were profiles of a few people I've known since I was wee high. Not great friends or anything, folks I'd say to if I saw them in the post office or if I needed to know what last night's homework was or whatever. But I only know them through the persona they show in public, and it's interesting to see the contrast between the straightforward facade that I know (or interpret) and the mess of contradictions that they believe about themselves. No way in hell he's "kind of shy." He's the biggest sycophant ever and he "values independence in a woman." Bullshit!

You know you're supposed to put your best foot forward, but you're also protected behind the anonymity of a username and IP address, so the profile winds up being a mix of how you actually see yourself and how you want to be seen, and the balancing act between the two. My hypothesis is that the pretense in somebody's public facade is inversely proportional to their profile's ratio of punctuation to misspellings.

My favorite, least expected motifs in guys' profiles (not sure if it holds for the girls') is the subtle apologetic tone that sneaks in. "I'm not sure what to write. I've never done online dating before, I'm no good at talking about myself." Lowering expectations, and boy does that sound nice. I probably slipped in some temptation to do that in my own profile, trying to come off as good enough to date but so good that she'll be disappointed when I my nervous, stuttery first date doesn't live up to the hype preceding it. Many of the profiles, almost all of the profiles are so generic and bland that they're almost meaningless. "Sweet, sensitive" guy who "also has a wild side" enjoys "a night out on the town" but also sometimes "wants to chill at home" — editorial note: no matter what's on a list of thing's he'll do, play sports, travel, go to museums, fly on a trapeze, whatever... "chill out at home" is always last on the list. — Looking for a "cute girl" who "has integrity and independence" and "values honesty" with a "good sense of humor" and "up for anything."

How is that useful? It's like contrasting to a dating profile that says, "Yup, I'm a loner who quit his job and spends all his free time stocking my basement with bottled water and canned food. I'm on the hunt for a disrespectful, stern lady with low self-esteem to repopulate the world after the dirty bomb." I'm a little curious how that profile would fare; this is a world where death row inmates receive marriage proposals and fringe weirdos make a living selling fallout shelters to other gun-toting backwoods crazies. I guess what I'm saying is that maybe there's someone for everyone.

I really don't want to know. I'm little afraid the millennialist profile would get more responses than mine.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Getting Away From It All

I don't know if I told you, but I'm planning a vacation. Somewhere. Anywhere. It doesn't matter. Siberia or Patagonia or a secluded spot in the Pacific for all I care. Not that there aren't better places, but as long as there's prepared food, a bed, and it's not here, I think I'll be happy. (Aside: I left out the part about food and a bed in my first draft, then thought better about tempting God to crash my plane, Cast Away style, in the middle of the ocean, spending my last two weeks alive in a life raft, fighting sunstroke and subsisting on turtle blood.) Looking back through my notes, I've been planning a trip since November — and then looking at my calendar, it turns out that was five months ago, so I have an annoying nagging thought that by the time I'm actually ready to travel, I'll be booking tickets on a Star Trek teleportation device. Which will be slightly less onerous than flying.

I used to have this globe in my room, and I'd point and spin it and fly wherever my finger landed, but then the political landscape changed (stupid Cold War ending!) and it was no longer possible to travel to beautiful Yugoslavia. So the globe got trashed. Here's my new travel criteria, aside from the destination being "anywhere:" It's got to be someplace easy, for a green circle traveler, because I'm not going to be bribing border guards or spending twelve hours on a bathroom-less train or anything. Someplace cheap, too, which eliminates most of... everywhere, thanks to rising oil prices and a pathetic dollar. I eventually settled on Buenos Aires, Argentina, the Paris of Latin America. Tourists flock to Buenos Aires to see the widest street in the world and... other stuff, I guess.

When I went to Italy — my calendar claims it was a year and a half ago — I went solo, as evidenced by these dopey pictures of me pointing the camera at myself. I know most people travel with their friends or family, but, much as that sounds like fun, it doesn't really work for me. My family hasn't left the New York metropolitan area in six or seven years now, and I have enough trouble planning a trip with my friends to the movies, let alone another continent. Traveling alone has its benefits, "daytime" benefits — namely I can go where I want, when I want, and tolerate however much foot ache and exhaustion I want (which turns out to be a lot). But the advantages solo traveling has in the daytime are balanced out by the nighttime limitations, when the tourist stuff, the crap you just have to look at, shuts down and the social scene comes alive.

This time, I thought I'd sacrifice the itinerary planning that I really do enjoy and look for a tour group, especially going someplace where I've never been before, don't have relatives, and haven't spoken a word of the language since Sesame Street. I found some companies running these demographically targeted tours, ages eighteen to thirty-five, and I'm going with the one that has the most attractive people in its brochure. Also, the one that had the common sense to refer me to a travel agent... who's now got me convinced that the Euro's not that strong and it's possible to do Europe on a hundred bucks a day while still having all that food and bed and not being stranded in the middle of the ocean discerning travelers like myself expect.

Now I'm looking for the most gloat-worthy trip I can find. England and France are automatically out because everybody's been there (except me). What I'm thinking is maybe Berlin to Budapest with stops in Prague, Bratislava, and Vienna: "Suck it, peers! Bet you can't say you spent a day in the Republic of Slovakia!" How Robert Ludlum of me. Or another promising possibility is the Russian Adventure, starting in Riga, Latvia and passing through Russia, Helsinki, and finally Stockholm, although I don't see the point in going to Sweden if you're not spending a night in the Ice Hotel.

The ultimate trip for rubbing it in your friends' noses, though, has got to be Virgin Galactic, where that fucking tool Richard Branson will take you into space. I should really scrape together the $20,000 deposit and book now, because it won't be nearly as cool once commercial space travel goes mainstream.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

News: Greedy Corporation Gets Too Greedy, Taken Over by Another Greedy Corporation

The reports I'm hearing make it sound like the collapse of Bear Stearns (NYSE: BSC) is a national tragedy: Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson had to work over the weekend, people! JPMorgan (NYSE: JPM) continued its hundred year old tradition of robber baron-dom and bought out Bear Stearns, which was worth ten billion dollars at the start of the year, for about two-hundred thirty million dollars, which happens to be less than the value of Bear Stearn's office tower. And JPMorgan, which is a multi-billion dollar corporation in its own right, made this acquisition through a government grant — your taxpayer dollars at work. That's the real bullshit: "Secretary Henry, why JPMorgan? You could've given me $230 million dollars and I would've spent it on Bear Stearns." I might have taken a couple hundred out of that gift for a new iPod or something.

I have zero sympathy for Bear Stearns' 14,000 now-redundant employees, who were all riding high during the real estate boom, buying junk mortgages (sort of) with money that didn't exist (sort of). Poor traders, losing their six-figure bonuses, and their country club memberships. There's a twinge of regret for Bear's non-trading staff, but I consider them to be enablers who share responsibility for the mortgage crisis.

Monday, March 17, 2008


I've noticed that just how major a holiday is in the American cultural lexicon is directly proportional to how shameless your stereotypical fat, loud, obnoxious Americans' celebration is. Christmas is, of course, the big one, and you can tell because it's the only holiday we celebrate by illuminating our houses until they're visible from space. Easter is on the other end of the spectrum; I wonder how it worked out that it's okay to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ wearing a red and green snowman sweater that plays "Jingle Bells" and drinking a rum-cream cocktail, but the gaudiest thing you're allowed to have for His resurrection is shredded cellophane. And I also want to know how St. Patrick's Day made it into the pantheon of Holidays It's Okay To Wear A Stupid Sequined Hat on.

It's cool if you're Irish and celebrating because it's your patron saint's feast day, but America, in its way, has dumbed down Ireland's great contributions to civilization to shamrock stickers and singing "Danny Boy" off-key. This might not come off so clearly when I write, but I actually like other cultures, especially in contrast to my own non-descript ethnology, the "melting pot" or "salad bowl" or mishmash of ideas only connected as they fall under the description of "diversity." That being said, I don't understand the Irish-American mythology (or, contrasting, my own Italian-American mythology). First-generation Irish immigrants, I imagine, would carry their culture with them, but we're celebrating today because of the diaspora, the tragedy that Frank McCourt generalizes from even though he's a century or two removed. Once your cultural identity has been co-opted to sell colored marshmallows to kids, you've pretty much assimilated, thanks.

But once your culture's become fodder for facetious race war horror (sample culturally sensitive line: "I'll take it from you, homie, you'll see, cause you know the Leprechaun is the real O.G."), the meaning of the holiday disintegrates. It's Halloween without the witches, or Memorial Day without the flag, or Father's Day. (I exclude Christmas here because, although it's become utterly secular, I don't see people spontaneously giving each other gifts on any other day of the year.) St. Patrick's Day is an excuse for frat boys to drink at ten in the morning, as if frat boys need an excuse to drink at ten in the morning. Culture, that heterogeneous life experience shared among different peoples, may be dying already, but I feel like its this dishonesty that's killing it.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Big News: Politician Has Sex!

I don't know if you heard, but it appears New York governor Eliot Spitzer is "linked" — that's the word the media's clung to — to a prostitution ring. Lord help us! The man violated the sacred bond between him and his wife, and that just proves that he's incapable of running the state government, because those two concepts are totally related. You know who'd make a great executive leader? The guy I have in mind has never been involved in a sex scandal, although he has a few other kerfuffles in his career: there was this minor forgery thing, these incidents in prisons he set up, and he sort of oversaw these decrepit veterans' hospitals, and there was this time he put this horse judge in charge of FEMA, and he accidentally compromised national security by leaking the identity of a CIA agent, and once or twice or three times he bribed the press, and he kind of subverted our democracy and our system of checks and balances, but not a single sex scandal. Except this one. And this one.

See, the difference between the Bush scandals and Spitzer's high-end hookers is that when Bush fires eight U.S. Attorneys because they refuse to advance his political agenda, that matters. Not only does it directly affect the Democrats who are unjustly persecuted — I mean, prosecuted — but also the body politic, as the representatives inject their own partisanship into our government. Spitzer, on the other hand, might have hurt his family — not that the New York Post was complaining when that Moment of Truth lady threw away her marriage on FOX — but it's completely separate from the state government and its role in the citizen's lives. Spitzer's indiscretions don't threaten anyone else's marriage, do they?

As usual, our sex-phobic culture overreacted to what's irrelevant and continues to ignore real, albeit less lurid, issues. Maybe people will pay more attention to the economic crisis if we surround it with strippers.

Along the same lines of public actions that matter and private behavior that doesn't, I don't see why we're not legalizing prostitution in the first case. Somebody wants to purchase sex, someone else wants to get paid for it — why should anyone else be getting involved, telling them to stop? Calling him a hypocrite is fair enough, but it's not like Spitzer is the first politician ever to say one thing and do the opposite.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


I get e-mails from this Netparty organization that brings young professionals (and me) to an after-work club for drinking, coat checking and business card exchanging, often in that order. I don't go for the networking so much as the high-end nightclub, and also to share my hilarious, ironic business cards. Last night, Netparty held their event at Marquee, the "quintessential ultralounge," whatever that means. I don't buy it, because Marquee has its name on the front door and I think the quintessential ultralounge would try its hardest to stay a secret from me, like I'd need a gay makeover and a guide from to find the damn place.

My sense is that, no matter how exclusive the club is, if you're there early enough and dressed like you have money, they'll let you in. Netparty started at six; I arrived at 4:15. You get there early, you find the place, see the layout, no surprises. You get to practice your skulking skills, too — I set up surveillance across the street, curious about how early the line would materialize. (Well, not quite: First I walked around the neighborhood, all warehouses cum galleries, looking for a Starbucks. Then I lowered my expectations and looked for anyplace to sit down. Then I raised my expectations and looked for someplace to sit where I wouldn't get rained on. Then, failing all three, I decided to ponder the question of how early is early enough.) Aside from the people working the event, the first arrivals came at 5:47 — interesting, since at the last Netparty dance club blowout, the line was stretching around the corner by thirteen minutes to opening.

So, speaking of confirmation bias, I was the only person there by myself. Everyone else was either with their friends, calling their friends, or texting their friends. To fit in, I called that special number on your cell phone that tells you how many minutes you've used up, then thirty seconds later got a text back so it looked like I was legitimately waiting for someone. Man, that's retarded.

One thing I picked up on, though, was that no one was networking. There were a few people in sales going around the room, making small talk, collecting my hilarious, ironic business cards, but for the most part, everyone kind of stuck with the little group they came in with, kind of defeating the whole point of this exercise.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Jumping to Conclusions

I updated my blog's title after reading through some of the old crap I wrote and realizing, or coming to terms with, that my thoughts are less fascinating than they are... uh, impetuous. Honest, too, and organic, but since I bitch on other people's impulsive, rash gut reactions, it's fair that I at least recognize spewing my own rote responses drawn from a functional narrative rather than reality, then justified post hoc: Well, they are morons. At least I'm not wrong there.

In my defense, I usually write these commentaries in public, naturally surrounded by jackasses. Like these two people at the table next to me, having their twelve-inch conversation but with their playground voices: God, I'm right freaking like three feet away from them! Are they even aware that I can hear every single stupid word of their stupid conversation? Are you familiar at all with how sound works? And I don't give a damn about Wendy or the audition she just landed or how she's getting back together with Jim because it has absolutely nothing to do with me so why are you invading my personal space with your twaddle! I'm not up in your face, even though I could, but I'm not because unlike some people I could mention I'm not a solipsistic inconsiderate piece of...

Sorry. Sort of a habit.

Seems like there's a correlation between this need to spew my impulsive thoughts and those thoughts turning out... not exactly wrong, but simplified and devoid of the nuance that makes living as an imperfect being among other imperfect beings interesting. Like these two chatterboxes next to me, who would probably be decent people if they'd just take the conversation somewhere else. Or who I'd probably even like if they were talking with me.

I suffer from a confirmation bias — the other day I ran into the subway station just as the train was pulling out and, "Shit, I always just miss the damn train!" — I'm sure I knew on some subconscious level. No matter how strongly I've concluded the universe is out to screw me, I cannot reconcile that the trains are trailing me, scheduling their arrivals and departures as to not coincide perfectly with mine — speaking of solipsism!

This means I'm working on questioning all of my assumptions, though that's easier to do when I don't have other people's inane blather a few feet away from me. Microsoft Excel and I are going to track my experience, whether it's positive, negative, or overall neutral. I expect that it'll turn out to be more or less neutral, maybe a bit on the self-fulfilling prophecy negative side, but I believe I'll validate my own sense of victimhood of divine impishness. I also believe I'll have cause to question my methodology.

Results to follow.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Time Management

I have zero time management skills. Can anybody help me out with some advice on how to cram maybe twenty-six or twenty-eight hours into my day? I don't mean the common stuff, like action plans or setting goals and priorities and putting them to paper. And I'm certainly not talking about cutting back on four hours of TV and four separate hours of porn I look at every day (sometimes they're not separate). Along with my hour and a half commute each way, I don't get a whole lot of sleep.

But I say that, no cutting into fun time, without being ingenuous or sardonic. For instance, I caught that Amy Winehouse video on VH1 — the one where she's a dazed whore, writhing on the floor to an awesome beat — and those four hours of TV a day clicked with me for a second. In between partying, getting soused, snorting coke, and recovering from partying, getting soused, and snorting coke, where does she find the time to film a video? Not to mention writing, recording, performing, and drinking more.

Point is, it's possible. I've read that Stephen Covey self-help crap: put first things first, but his advice was either too inane or not inane enough to be helpful. (The big problem I run into is the First Thing gets tripped up in Murphy's Law, and once the whole mess is worked out, there's not enough time for the Second and Third Things.) So, ideas?