Rant


Everyone wants to be famous.  If anyone has ever looked you in eyes and said “You know, I don’t care for fame,” you were looking into the eyes of a liar. I think most people want that rush of having to make their way through a crowd of screaming adoring fans, to be invited to the most exclusive events, and to be asked their opinion on a multitude of topics while on camera for national broadcast.  What’s more, I don’t think such desires translate to an inflated ego or megalomania, rather it’s just a sign that you’re human.

Wanting to be famous is wanting to be valued more than your worth.  Don’t believe me? Okay, even if you despise Dane Cook (as you should) you know who he is, right? Now, without looking it up, can you tell me what Joseph Lister did? Give up? He discovered anti-septic surgery! Dude is the reason that millions upon millions of people were/are able to have lifesaving surgery without dying from infection, but instead of knowing that you know who Dane Cook is…Dane Cook.  Think about that. Honestly, let’s admit that there are very few famous people who deserve to be famous.  Oh, you disagree? Then how come more people can tell me who the hell “Snooky” is, but draw a blank when I ask them the same question about Abigail Adams…No, it’s not the little girl from Little Miss Sunshine.

Look, I’m not saying that being famous makes you overvalued scum.   I’m also not going to claim that I’m immune to craving fortune and glory.  I regularly have daydreams about being profiled on some TV news magazine for a variety of reasons—writing a literary bestseller, leading political/cultural movement, or foiling a terrorist plot in a Die Hard like scenario (It could happen!).  But in the past couple weeks certain events have made me think about what it means to be famous and I’m beginning to think that maybe it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Earlier this month, 80’s teen movie star Corey Haim died. Early reports seem to indicate that it was an accidental overdose of illegal prescription drugs. If anything Haim’s death illustrates the dark side of fame.  Money and notoriety can get you in the door of the most exclusive parties, but it can’t cure the addiction that may come with it.  Why is it that there is such a wealth of personal tales detailing drug and alcohol problems out of Hollywood that it’s practically become a cliché?  We applaud those that overcome it and empathize with those who don’t, yet we never question why it happens so readily.  Where does the idea that because you were in Lost Boys you can take half-bottle of oxycontin a day and not have a problem come from?

Meanwhile Lindsay Lohan filed a lawsuit against e-trade because one of the company’s commercial features a “milkaholic” talking baby named Lindsay.  Lohan’s lawsuit is a trifecta of fame-induced egomania.  Not only is she claiming she’s a first name star (she isn’t), but that people would recognize the commercial as referencing her (Uh…I don’t think anyone did until she suggested it), and thusly she’s entitled to $100 million (What the hell?!).   My friend Christine was actually excited at the news, because, as she says, “it pretty much gives me the green light to sue Stephen King for his book Christine. Aside from the obvious name similarity, I always thought that the characteristics of the character drew a clear parallel to my life.” Wait, wasn’t that the one about the car that came to life and killed people?   “Yep. That’s right. Clearly a rip off of my life,” she said, adding later: “Hello $100 Million!”

And most recently Sandra Bullock’s husband, apparently, cheated on her.  I’ll be honest here: I couldn’t care less about that fact.  But it seems most people do. And as much I can attest that Sandra Bullock staring in a film is the main reason I won’t go see it, even I don’t think she deserves to have all this played out in the media.  Hey, your husband cheated on you, that sucks. Oh, and EVERYONE in America knows about, mainly because of your recent career success.  I think that’s motivation enough for her to unleash Miss Congeniality 3 on the movie going public as payback.

This month alone we’ve seen that the excess of fame can last well past one’s success (Haim), the constant attention can lead to unbelievable heights of self-aggrandizing (Lohan), and that even your most embarrassing personal problem can’t stay private (Bullock).  And yet people will still resort to almost childish means for their 15-mintues of national attention, something I like to call “Balloon Boy Syndrome.  The most example of this: the guy in California who quite possibly faked his out of control Toyota Prius.

I think that, in the end, as much as I want to be famous, I just as badly want to have a life of substance. I want to be able to keep things in perspective, especially my own self-worth, and still have my privacy.  I still want fortune and glory, but if I never get it… well at least I have the consolation that it definitely has a downside.

[Pic via]

As a semi-professional writer—I get paid to write stuff I don’t care about and can’t make a living writing what I love—I have amassed some solid skills:  a decent ability to bring much needed snark when it’s needed (3/4 of the time it’s needed ALL the time), amazing propensity for listicles (it’s like a list, but its an article), and an absolute love affair with parenthesis (I’ve got nothing).  But I also have a shameful secret.  Something dark and hidden within my very soul—I can’t spell worth a damn.

Recently, I was writing a thank you note to a friend.  It was in pen on personalized stationery—because I’m a classy guy.  I was writing a sentence in which I thanked the recipient for picking where to eat.  After I’d finished, I noticed that something was off.  I had spelled restaurant with only one “a”.  I then had to rewrite the letter, checking each word in the dictionary before I committed it ink.  Later, I was working on an article that was close to being past its deadline, when I noticed a simple typo yet no red squiggly line underneath it.  Somehow the spell check in Word had been turned off and after I activated it, my draft became a lit in red squiggles highlighting each and every mistake.  “Oh man,” I said, “I can’t spell worth a damn.”

Now, whenever something tragic like this comes out, there is always the search for who is responsible.   How could someone make it through grade school, high school, college, and graduate school and not be able to spell the word “restaurant” off the top of his? Who is to blame for this?

You know who’s at fault?  Modern technology.  If there’s was no spell checker in word processing programs and web browsers (including that blessed autocorrect that somehow managed to know by writing  “collegue” I meant “colleague”) I would have learned to do it on my own.  And I’m not the only one.  The Internet is littered with evidence of people who suffer from similar intellectual deficiencies, either posting a Facebook status message or writing a sign.  Could it be that having spell check, like when an overuse of antibiotics creates a stronger drug-resistant bacteria, is too much of a good thing?

It’s not that I don’t appreciate spell check (oh, I do), I just wish that having it around didn’t mean when I write something it looks like it as written by a dyslexic 10-year-old.  But what can I do? Spend my free time reading the dictionary and going through flashcards for SAT vocab words?  I’m twenty-six, I think it may be a little too late to learn how to spell “onomatopoeia” without having to look it up through Google.  I think my only course of action is to double check everything though the computer and just be thankful that I’m not so bad that I use texting abbreviations.  K, Thx.

[Pic via]

Living in New York is different than living anywhere else in the U.S.  I don’t mean on a cultural level, of course there is that, but in an everyday sense.  Everyone living stacked on top of each other and an extensive public transit system makes owning a car pointless, most of the time.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing.  You save money on car payments and insurance (though, like everything else, it’s probably made up for in the cost of rent), you don’t have to worry about sobering up for the drive home from the bar, and you have a smug sense of self-satisfaction for being “eco-friendly.”  But sometimes, it really sucks.  You can’t jump in to your car and cruise over to a Wall-Mart or Target to pick a few things up.  You have to plan out what you want to buy, go to the different stores, and carry all that back to your apartment—and, if you’re like me (living in a walkup), up four flights of stairs.

So whenever they can, New Yorkers try to make things easier on themselves.  The city’s Chinese restaurants and pizza places employ an army of deliverymen that bring takeout to your door; any business that sells merchandise that can’t be easily carried out offer a complimentary delivery service; and one of the most popular grocery stores in the city is just a Web site.  If you’ve never heard of Fresh Direct, the concept is simple: order your groceries through their site and they bring them to your apartment. Yesterday, my roommate off handedly mentioned that it was how he would get his groceries from now on.  I had used the service years ago, but don’t anymore.  “What’s a good amount to tip the delivery guy?” He asked me.  “Do you think $5 is enough?”  I paused for moment to consider the question.  “Actually, I don’t think I think I ever tipped them,” I said. My roommate was shocked.  “Dude,” he said, “you have to tip.”

For the rest of the day, all I could think about was the act of tipping.  I kept replaying Steve Buscemi’s rant in Reservoir Dogs about throwing in a gratuity for your dinner.  In the film, Buscemi’s character, “Mr. Pink,” regales a table of career criminals just after breakfast on the morning of a heist on the inequality of tipping guidelines.  He points out that it’s good manners to tip a waitress, yet no one gives anything to someone working the register at McDonald’s. “I don’t tip because society says I have to,” he explains. “All right, if someone deserves a tip, if they really put forth an effort, I’ll give them something a little something extra. But this tipping automatically, it’s for the birds. As far as I’m concerned, they’re just doing their job.”

Okay, I don’t know what it’s like to be Fresh Direct driver.  Maybe it sucks.  Maybe they pay next to nothing and you need tips to get by.  But in all honesty: the job doesn’t seem all that different from Fed-Ex or UPS and we don’t tip them.  Is it because they’re delivering food?   What if you’re a diabetic and UPS guy brings you a package with your insulin that keeps you alive in it, do you tip him then?

A friend once told me that you tip to ensure good service for NEXT TIME.  And I get that for certain situations—try tipping a dollar or too more the next time you order from your favorite pizza place and you soon get a reputation among the delivery guys and they’ll get your order to you way quicker….and probably won’t spit in your food. But it still bugs me that there is this odd dichotomy about tipping, like slipping your barber five buck but leaving the dental hygienist hanging.  The only remedy I can think of is to not tip anyone (people will think you’re a cheapskate) or tip everyone (they’ll think you’re an obnoxious big shot).  In closing: tipping is weird.

[Pic via]

A couple days ago, I was having a rough day at work.  Without going into too much boring detail about what it is I specifically do to keep a roof over my head, I was filling in for a sick co-worker and had to deal all the other office drones (something I loathe).  To vent my frustration, I quickly jumped on Facebook and let loose via my status message.   It was short. It was succinct.  I referred to my co-workers as “mutants.”  I felt so much better afterwards.  Did you just shutter?  Do you think you know where this going?  Want to know what happened next? Nothing. Why? Cause I’m not a moron.

It seems that when the first adopters of Facebook, college kids, brought the social networking site with them to the workforce, older co-workers, bosses, and supervisors joined as well and a new era in office politics was born.  The internet is strewn with tales of Facebook causing workplace conflict, some even resulting in people losing their jobs, as in this rather infamous status update of one young lady with a reply from her boss:

So it’s understandable that people are apprehensive with commenting about their work on Facebook and whenever I post a rant about work I receive several comments that I should watch what I say about my employer.  One friend even suggested that it may cost me possible future positions elsewhere. A sentiment my mother also made a while back when I was being considered for a position with a rather prominent publishing company and she called to remind me to “clear off your Facebook anything offensive.” It made me imagine how that would play out in an interview:

Potential Employer: Well, we think you’re perfect for the job. It’s just that I’m a little concerned about something you wrote on your Facebook status a while back.
Me: Oh, was it the one from college where I said I was going to get so drunk that I was going to “take advantage of myself”?
Potential Employer: No.
Me: The one where I admit to also sleeping with Tiger Woods?
Potential Employer: Er, No…
Me: I know. It was when I called John Meyer “His Royal Doucheness, the King of Douchetania, land of the douche bags.” Wasn’t it?
Potential employer:

As hokey as it sounds, Facebook is supposed to be an outlet and I shouldn’t have to censure myself.  Everything I post on there is exactly what I say to my family and friends.  Yes, maybe I would never say it to the people I work for, but that’s why I’m not friends with them and keep my profile private (I’m only connected with two people I work with and they would never rat me out to management, mainly because they say the same things on their profiles).  The day I watch what I write on Facebook is the day I quit.

I hate current pop music.  This isn’t exactly a unique or groundbreaking sentiment; I’m sure many people agree with me.  It’s just that when you operate under the belief that quality popular music (with some exceptions) died in 1980, you don’t exactly keep up with what’s hip.  I tend to stick with stuff on my iPod and tune to NPR whenever I’m around a radio.  My girlfriend on the other hand likes current pop music and owns a clock radio.  So every time I sleep over, I’m blasted awake by obnoxious morning DJ’s and the latest hit songs.  Usually I just brush off these the chance encounters with the current music scene and go about my day.  But recently my brain has become infected with a particularly nauseating bit of modern musical horror that I’ve heard every time I sleep over and when I looked up the lyrics I found that they were bizarrely and comically nonsensical. So I decided to use my two English degrees to analyze it.

Before I begin, I want to be clear that just because a song is catchy (which this definitely is) doesn’t mean that it’s good (which it most surely is not).  The two are not mutually exclusive (something a lot of current songwriters seem to not be aware of); “Hotel California” by the Eagles, for example, is a good song that’s catchy, while Pearl Jam’s “Yellow Ledbetter”  is not catchy yet still a great song.

The tune in question, “Tik Tok”, sucks.  The, um, “artist” is “Ke$ha”.  How you do pronounce that? Key-dollar-sign-ah?  Is that Dutch? As soon as I saw this young lady’s title spelling and grammar, I knew things did not bode well.  Though, oddly enough, while I was trying to clear my head of this song’s insipidness, sites like Gawker and The Awl pronounced her the new pop princess and “Tik Tok” to be her inaugural hit.  If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the song, consider yourself lucky.  But if you want to know what I’m talking about, here:

Ke$ha’s autotune-tastic song is a first person rhyming dictionary heavy narrative of her day.  I’ve gone ahead and mixed my comments in with her lyrics.  Mostly they’re just notes on how I was feeling while listening to it.  Let’s begin.

Wake up in the morning feeling like P Diddy
[P Diddy speaking] Hey, what up girl?

Wait….is P. Diddy there? Is she waking up with him?  And what does it mean to say that you feel like him? You feel like a media whoring past his prime music producer who rode the coattails of his talented friend that was murdered?  I’m confused.

Grab my glasses, I’m out the door, I’m gonna hit this city
Before I leave, brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack
‘Cause when I leave for the night, I ain’t coming back

What? Leaving for the night?  She just said she was waking up in morning.  And shouldn’t the line about brushing her teeth come BEFORE the one about heading out the door?  Also, I’m pretty sure most dentists don’t recommend using Jack Daniels as tooth paste…bourbon has too much sugar.  Use Vodka, it’s the breakfast booze.

I’m talking pedicure on our toes, toes
Trying on all our clothes, clothes
Boys blowing up our phones, phones
Drop-topping, playing our favorite CDs
Pulling up to the parties
Trying to get a little bit tipsy

Whew, I love it when musicians blatantly explain what they’re “talking” about.  It saves me the trouble of having to try and understand the subtleties of suggestion or symbolism.  From this passage, we learn that Ke$ha (God, I think my IQ dropped just typing that name) is singing yet another party girl anthem (I’m sure that’s just what humanity needs right now), in which the priorities are partying, music, boys, drinking, and getting pedicures “on our toes” (as apposed to pedicures anywhere else?).  Thankfully we’re now onto the chorus.

Don’t stop, make it pop
DJ, blow my speakers up
Tonight, I’mma fight
‘Til we see the sunlight
Tick tock on the clock
But the party don’t stop, no [Yodel]

When did music digress to just singing orders?  Here’s she’s telling everyone to keep partying, the DJ to keep playing music, and proclaims that she’ll continue the struggle of whatever the hell her idea of partying is.  Did she take the room hostage? Is she holding a gun on everyone?  I’m sorry but this doesn’t make me want to have a good time.  Jesus, this chick makes getting drunk and dancing seem like working on a chain gang.  A sense that’s doubled by the fact that she immediately repeats the chorus.

Ain’t got a care in world, but got plenty of beer
Ain’t got no money in my pocket, but I’m already here
And now, the dudes are lining up cause they hear we got swagger
But we kick em to the curb unless they look like Mick Jagger

Wouldn’t having plenty of beer be the reason you don’t have a care in the world? Also guys don’t line up because they hear a girl has swagger (lets be honest, that’s a weird word choice), usually it’s because she’s easy and won’t reject them for not looking like Mick Jagger (which I’m going to assume means when Jagger was in his prime in the 1960’s and not now…that would be an old man.)

I’m talking about everybody getting crunk, crunk
Boys tryin’ to touch my junk, junk
Gonna smack him if he getting too drunk, drunk

The only type of person I’ve heard use the phrase “junk” are frat guys talking about their genitals.  It sounds like she’s admitting to being what the Internet is claiming about Lady Gaga.

Now, now, we go until they kick us out, out
Or the police shut us down, down
Police shut us down, down
Po-po shut us…

Goddamnit.  Now I’m just confused.  I thought we were going until dawn, now it’s until the cops shut us down.  What kind of party is this?  A meth party?

[Chorus] x2

DJ, you build me up
You break me down
My heart, it pounds
Yeah, you got me

Why the fuck….


With my hands up
You got me now
You got that sound
Yeah, you got me

Am I listening…

DJ, you build me up
You break me down
My heart, it pounds
Yeah, you got me

To this song?

With my hands up
Put your hands up
Put your hands up

Now, the party doesn’t start ’til I walk in

Oh, shut up!

[Chorus] x2

Thankfully, the end.

Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile, but I’ve been busy dealing with some horrible life-changing news.  That’s what this post is about.   It’s hard to write these words, so here it goes: I’m loosing my hair.

Now to be fair, I’ve know this was coming for sometime, my mother’s father is bald (he’s also who I blame for this…damn genetics) and my front hairline has been making a strategic retreat since college.  But things have taken a dramatic turn for the worse.  I awoke one morning just after Christmas; it was fairly early and the apartment was dimly lit and almost deathly silent.  I stumbled into the bathroom and flipped on the light switch and, blinded by the fluorescent lights, felt my way to the toilet to pee.  On my way back, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.  It was not good.  My tussled “bed head “ revealed the two paths of flesh cutting their way from my forehead to my scalp were closer than I was aware and… there in the very back of the crown of my head was a thin spot—a definite bald patch in its early infancy.  “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” I screamed as I fell to my knees.  Followed by a “Not yet!” and “I’m too young!”

When I told my girlfriend about it in an urgent harsh whisper—as if I were telling her about some deep secret (like “I was the driver of an unsolved hit and run” or “I own a DVD of the romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama starring Reese Witherspoon.”)—She was not surprised.  “Yeah,” she said, “It’s always worse right when you get up in the mornings.” Wait… she knew about this? She knew how badly unaware I was of just how thinning my hair was getting?  “Baby,” she cooed to comfort me, “I don’t care.” Don’t care? THAT’S NOT THE PROPER RESPONSE!  She was supposed to tell me that it didn’t look that bad.  “But then what will I say to you when it gets worse?” She asked.   IT’S GOING TO GET WORSE??!!

I quickly went through the five stage of grief.  First, denying that it was that thin at all.   The bright bathroom lights in my apartment made the thin spots seem thinner than they actually were (Yeah, that logic makes sense).  Which was quickly followed by anger at how unfair it was that I was loosing my hair at 26 and raging at just how many bald men I see EVERYWHERE I GO.  Then there was bargaining. I searched for a “cure” like I was the parent of a child dying from some rare disease.  I bought Rogaine and practiced new ways to comb the part of my haircut to hide the growing thin spot.  I even visited the Hair Club for Men’s web site.  This was swiftly followed by a bought of depression in which I wore my bathrobe for days on end and caught up on the entire last season of “Lost”.  I found myself identifying most with the character John Locke, who (if you don’t watch the show) looks like this:

And finally, just now, I’ve accepted it.  I figure I’ve got at least one or two more years with my beautiful hair.  Then, it’s time to shave it down to a low buzz cut (I should also be in fantastic physical shape by then, because there is no way I’m going to be fat AND bald). In the words of a friend going through something similar, “You’ve got to own it.”

Pics via and via.

Last Weekend:

The reports came across the airwave like the warning of an encroaching invading army.  Snow was coming (more specifically, a blizzard).   It is moving surely without haste– an armada of clouds sailing across thousands of Doppler screens to cover the entire Eastern seaboard in their flakes of cold white death. It…is…coming .

“It’s going to be a big one,” the weathermen said, his large bright teeth gleamed an unnatural whiteness on the television screen, foreshadowing the coming snowfall.  I sprung up from my perch on the couch, legs evenly apart, arms held up to block or strike a blow—I was in the “ready” position I learned from my six months of Judo when I was a kid.  A glance over to my girlfriend confirmed that she too had jumped into the posture from the other end of the sofa. The “women’s interests” magazine she’d been perusing tossed into the corner.   “I’ll get previsions, you secure and ready the perimeter,” she said in a flat even tone that had a tint of hurry to it.  “Copy,” I responded.

While she headed out to the grocery store, I made sure the windows were locked with no draft making it past the weather stripping, mad sure the gas heaters were working, dug out the electric space heater in case the building boiler crapping out, and a hatchet to break apart furniture for firewood if the electricity went out.   I then gathered as many weapons to defend my home for when society crumbed under the cold weight of snow.  A hammer, extra sharp steak knives, and a crossbow (yeah, I own a crossbow).  Just as I was finishing filling up as many spare containers I could find with water for when the pipes froze, my girlfriend burst in with bags of groceries, mainly canned and dried food so it wouldn’t go bad.  We then settled in, ready for the coming winter dystopia to come.

And you know what? NOTHING HAPPENED!  It snowed a lot, stopped, I did my laundry and then went to work the next day.   Despite all the warnings and everyone’s fear, it was not bid deal.   It never is. The few times that I’ve experienced being snowed it, it went something like this: I looked out and said, “It’s really coming down out there.”   Then I watched TV and about an hour later looked back outside and discovered that the roads had been rendered impassable and my family’s car was buried.  “Oh, I guess, we’re snowed in,” I said turning back to the TV. THAT’S IT!  Unless you live in some desolate rural area of America, being snowed just means you don’t go out until it stops snowing.

This is modern America damnit!  It’s not the mid 19th century on the prairies. The majority of our population has regulated itself to the suburbs, areas with paved street and governing bureaucracies, and thus have snowplows!  Seriously, it’s not that big a deal people.   So next time a big snowstorm is coming, please remain calm…or I’ll be forced to use my crossbow.

Pic via

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