Monday, January 30, 2006 · posted at 5:41 PM
XXV. Today I am a quarter century old. And what Memorexed celebration do I have in store for this most auspicious day? Absolutely nothing.

Not since the days where I yearned for Cool Crimp Skipper (I had been archaically home crimping Teen Time Skipper's hair for years with a hot iron and disasterous burning plastic results) had I really felt compelled to celebrate my birthday.

My fashion muse from 1990-1992, when I wore t-shirt ties
and color-coordinated my scrunchie to slouch socks.

For one thing, being a month after Christmas, I never had time to accumulate a good "wish list." Presents were things I sort of wanted but not enough to rate on my Top 5 list I received from "Santa" thirty days prior. My favorite "Santa's not real!" moment, by the way, occurred when I opened the envelope Santa left me in my stocking and found a "Merry Christmas, Daughter!" card. Most curiously, my mom, Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny all had the same handwriting...

Then as I grew older, I shunned the idea of tchotchke gifts, which were cute but just cluttered shelves and ultimately all became dust bunnies. Then I shunned the idea of obligatory gifts because often times you can't find the "right" present and then just grab whatever tchotchke dust bunny or v-neck sweater the person already has in 5 different hues. Because of this rushed obligatory gift-giving, the quality of gifts has gone downhill as well - "Thanks... it's a muscle tee?" "A book? You shouldn't have. No, really, I haven't read since the 8th grade." And then you have to fake pretending to like it, and that's just way too much work, especially on your "special" day.

Aside from my opposition to the obligatory gift-giving culture, there's the whole celebration shenanigans. I don't like to party. I don't like to be center of attention. I don't like getting balloons tied to my hair and having clapping waiters wearing 80 pieces of flair sing "Happy Happy Birthday" and attracting an even larger audience to the fact that I have latex globes protruding from my head. In fact, only if I hated someone would I inflict a TGI Friday-type punishment upon them.

The only instance I would wish for a latex allergy.

Not to mention the fact that on birthdays we are often celebrating the wrong people. Birth is usually a passive experience for the birthee. I know I didn't have to do any work. If anything, we should all be applauding my mom for popping out a 9-plus pound baby.

Birthdays, similar to New Years, are often a time of self-evaluation and reflection. Where have you been, where are you going, what have you done... but I'm a ruminator when it comes to self-analysis. One who is constantly chewing and re-chewing thoughts until they are easily swallowed in digestible pieces. Yes - I am that annoying person who will ask you about an issue, nod thoughtfully, shoot the s**t for five minutes and then ask, "but what about... " and expect you to have jumped back to the train of thought with me.

And what have I discovered from my cogitation cud? I am now solidly ensconced in my mid-twenties having only accomplished two items on my objectives list - one of those being one I added on after the fact so I could cross something off. If everyone's life has a ripple effect on their surroundings, I feel I am casting my stones into a pool of jello.

This month we celebrated the anniversary of the day a great civil rights leader came into this world. Next month, a melancholy president and nation's first leader. Anything I think I may have accomplished pales in comparison to the potential of what a person can do in a lifetime. Perhaps I need to give up Sudoku in order to increase my productivity.

So when I have a bank holiday or ticker tape parade dedicated to the anniversary of my birth, I will celebrate alongside the giddy schoolchildren and disgruntled postal workers. Until then, for me, today is just another day.

Friday, January 27, 2006 · posted at 10:59 AM
Getting Off on Feminism

Admittedly, much of my frustration relates to my own experience. I've always found fierce, independent women attractive - women who say they want a man to support them emotionally, listen to them, and not fight them every step of the way. Yet in reality, these women often lost respect for me and for other men who tried to change our sexuality to meet these needs.

I'd try to play the game, moving in as the aggressive man and then showing a more sensitive side after I'd caught the person's attention. But more often than not, the result was frustrating. I didn't catch a clue until one night when I had an enlightening conversation with one of these women who called herself a feminist. I asked her why guys who tried to accomodate the political desires of straight feminists always seemed to lose out in the end. She said she thought it was because a lot of young straight women who confront gender issues through feminism are constantly trying to redefine themselves in relation to culture and other people in their lives. Therefore, if they pursue relationships with men, many consciously seek out a traditional man - not because it is the kind of man they have been taught to desire, but because he is familiar to them. He is strong, stable, predictable, and powerful. As the woman's identity shifts and changes, she can use the man she is dating as a reference point and source of strength and stability.

If she chooses to become involved with a feminist man who feels the same need to examine assumptions about gender (including his own masculinity) on a political and personal level, both partners are in a state of flux and instability. Both are searching for an understanding of their relationship, but each questions how that relationship is definied, even down to assumptions about men, women, sex, and commitment. Within this shifting matrix, straight feminist men who explore alternative ways of being sexual are often perceived as passive, weak, and in many cases, undesirable. In the end, it seems much easier to choose the traditional male.

       ~ Jason Schultz, "Getting Off on Feminism" from To Be Real

A book that makes you feel okay about
shaving your legs and learning to knit.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006 · posted at 1:28 PM
and how many subscriptions do you own? There's nothing like being told by a 22 year-old sometimes drama queen that you have emotional baggage on the crest of your quarter-centennial to give you a much-needed reality check.

At the risk of receiving a barage of "you suck" email, it really would be beneficial to get periodic feedback on flaws and wrongs. A report card or something. Even better yet, what if we all picked New Year's Resolutions for each other: clip toenails into trashcan not carpet, stop fake laughing - you're not fooling anyone, be less judgmental or at least more covertly so, drop the passive from passive-aggressive, take one for the team, read more, read less... oh the infinite possibilities!

You might think you know your weaknesses, but hey denial isn't just in Egypt (there is no good way to typographically use this joke).

Luckily, my sister says that she is sending me a magazine holder for all of my "issues," which apparently I garner like I do my New Yorkers and EWs.

Sunday, January 22, 2006 · posted at 9:17 AM
Contradictory victory. I love group word games. Catchphrase. Taboo. Squabble. Cranium. They're fun and at the same time, very telling of the players. You find out who the natural leaders (and cheerleaders) are. You see who cracks under pressure and who excels. You test relationships with competition. You find out who was a Mathlete and who was the drama kid. It's really a personality/IQ test under the guise of a game.

Yesterday we played Outburst Remix. This game is basically Family Feud (guess ten popular answers in the topic) except team members are simultaneously making guesses, hence the outing of the bursts. How it differs from Outburst the Original is unclear, but hey you get to use a pentagonal trapezohedron die reminiscent of Dungeons and Dragons (for the inner Carlos the Dwarf in you).

I have three gripes about the game:
  1. It uses 3-D technology, you know, "hiding" words by printing a red layer on top that can only be revealed by putting in the super secret red decoder. Granted 3-D is now so old that it is almost retro cool, but still.

  2. The answers, particularly #10, can be ridiculously obscure. Example: picking up dog doo is a "household chore" over ironing, kitty litter, and plumbing.

  3. Anytime you can, and do make a biblical version of a game, it's over, you've lost me. I can only imagine what the categories would be like... sexually oppressive verses? references to religious (and other) intolerance? songs that borrow from the text?

    It's like fun with the Flanderses!
    Where are Good Samaritan and Clothe the Leper?
Complaints aside, it's fun and apparently less threatening than my favorite, Catchphrase, which I'm told is too much pressure at the individual level. It was a close game, but we managed to scrape ahead, thanks in part to my solo performance on the Insynk (where they came up with the "k" for this loose topic hint I have no clue... Ecclesiastes x:x, perhaps?) card with the topic: Members of the boy bands *Nsync and Backstreet Boys.

Before the timer was even started I had already rattled off Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez, Lance Bass, Brian Littrell and Nick Carter. Then it was noted that surnames weren't even required, but come on, you can't say Howie without the "D." for Dorough.

It was a lightning quick round that ended faster than Kimberly Stewart and Laguna Beach's Talon's engagement. As I high-fived my teammate (yes, first glaring warning of dorkdom) over our dominant takeover, I thought to myself:

How is it possible to win, yet feel like a complete loser?

Seriously, this is what my grey matter retains? Not the definition of egalitarian (which I always, always have to look up), not the quintessential example of a health behavior planning model (PRECEDE-PROCEED), or even for that matter how to spell quintessential. I hesitate when asked when the War of 1812 was because I suspect it to be a trick question. Boy band members (specifically boy bands, not just bands - ask me who the "other guys" in Coldplay are and you'll get a blank stare) and Ben and Jerry's flavors. That is the culmination of 18 years of school. And they say public education is in the dumps.

As a result of my coup, two friends are on the cusp of disowning me... Sadly, what's plagued me most about this incident is that I forgot to check who the obscure #10 was - Joey Fatone or Kevin Richardson?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 · posted at 5:54 PM
Legano, ni gray area. At Gene's wedding this past weekend, there was a little Q&A session with the newlyweds and one of the questions was to the tune of: Did you two start dating each other or were you "hanging out"?

Today there exist many potential synonyms, or would it be euphemisms, for dating: seeing, hanging out, hooking up and my personal favorite "talking to." For the most part, I am anti-label in general. Regarding relationships... what is is and needn't be defined by a Webster dictionary but only by the person(s) experiencing it. Dating really is an "umbrella term" open to loose interpretation.

I'm actually just not a big fan of dating in general. It always seems like a lot of gameplaying and deception. You put your best foot forward so that you can "trick" the person into accepting your worst foot too. And who knows if what you're feeling is really genuine or just the effects of dopamine?

Dating is a waiting game - you are waiting until you find some fundamental and irreconcilable difference in the other person (or they in you).

When that does happen, then you have to have "the talk." Granted there are many talks - the "I'm not going to have sex with you" talk, the "Define the Relationship (DTR)" talk (or as my sister calls it, the "State of the Union" address), the "I found a DD bra in your room and I'm only an A" talk... In this instance, I mean the "Let's just be friends" talk (although for most people, when they use that phrase, it's a blow off and they really mean "Let's not see each other in that way... or any way really").

If you really do want to still be friends, as I often do, this talk is especially difficult. You have to stay in one's good graces while saying "hey I don't like like you, but I like you." There should always be a prepared statement. Always. The generic "I think you're an awesome person, ______. I really like how you ______, ______, and ______... but I don't think we're right for each other romantically" speech with the blanks filled in. If pressed for why, be a diplomat, be Switzerland, be a professor "clarifying" a test question by reiterating the question, be a government official Beating Around the Bush... do not by any means tell the truth (e.g. you're cheap, you're too insecure, your jokes are really not that funny).

The talk is something that must be practiced, rehearsed, maybe scrawled on the inside of your wrist like a cheatsheet. Executed start to finish in 3 minutes, because dallying will only lead to cracks in the dam of "things that are annoying in a potential boyfriend but mildly tolerable in a regular friend."

This is just too much work. And I'd rather avoid it altogether.

This is why I'm a big fan of "hanging out." Sure it's ambiguous, but then you get to test the water before plunging in full force. You get to know the person before committing, see quirks and eccentricities, feel out political views, eavesdrop on how he speaks to his mother... And should you not like what you see, calmly retract your toe from the water. No harm, no foul, and most importantly, no awkward talk.

Plus if he turns out to be a complete tool who only happens to be semi-attractive when viewed with beer goggles, you can easily deny ever thinking of him in that way because hey, there was no hand-holding involved. And in this day and age, isn't that the true test of the "are we or aren't we" debate?

Friday, January 13, 2006 · posted at 3:27 PM
What's the number for 911?

Q: How many emergency vehicles does it take to investigate a missing Jeep?
A: However many the city has on tap.

I dont like who I am when I'm "home." Mostly I'm lazy and spend the day in my pajamas waching TiVo or staring at the computer willing the words to magically appear. I've been back nearly 4 weeks now and I fear I've hit a low - I've resorted to my mom's favorite pasttime of staring out the window to "look at the green trees" but really spying on the neighbors.

I've discovered that the black lab down the street likes to come take sh*ts on the lawn at about quarter past 10 in the morning. Also that my dad isn't the only one who likes to walk around swinging his arms backwards in full circles - the grandfather next door does too (Asian people, you know what I'm talking about). And that the golden retriever at the end of the block will never tire of chasing after a tennis ball. And mostly that as far as street scenes are concerned, my little cul-de-sac is about as exciting as watching strawberries rot Starbuckses pop up around the corner. When you live in Dairy Valley, a stolen newspaper makes the Crime Watch and remains the talk of the town for the next week, or until the next round of standardized tests come out, whichever comes first.

So when the police cruiser skidded to a halt in front of my neighbor's house and called for additional "back up," the excitement was enough to actually rouse me out of my seat (no small feat I assure you - my sloth knows no bounds).

What the heck is going on?

I'm sure I could have just gone and asked, but I didn't want to seem noisy (note the choice of the word "seem" because obviously what I was, was nosy). So instead I craned my head out of the window as best I could to discern what was going on.

Four cop cars, a ginormous fire truck, and interrogations of the equally nosy yet less covert neighbors, it's determined that all the hoopla is because this guy had moved his truck out of his garage. Seriously? This is what our tax dollars are going to?

And thus the story ends, the words as anticlimactic as the reality. Welcome to my life.

Thursday, January 12, 2006 · posted at 2:55 AM
I am dreaming for a purpose.
    ~ Innocent, Night Commuter

some idea of what hell might feel like. Tonight's episode of Lost revealed that the calm and moral Mr. Eko has a dark past as the leader of a militia group in Nigeria. Taken from his village as a child and forced to be a soldier, Mr. Eko's crimes spanned the gamut from threatening church clergy to smuggling drugs.

In 2003, a trio of young filmmakers from California went to Africa with their $100 craigslist camcorder intending to make a documentary about the war in Sudan. Instead they ended up in Uganda and discovered that children were being kidnapped and forced to become child soldiers for the rebel army. In order to avoid such a fate, the children commute each night to safety. The resulting documentary is called Invisible Children:Rough Cut and is available for purchase in DVD packs of two (1 to share with a friend - hint hint).

Invisible Children, Inc has also launched a bracelet campaign, much like the Lance Armstrong bands, except these bands are culturally and socially significant - made in Uganda and funding the otherwise unemployed. The founders suggest:
A new way of buying: Consumerism for Change. What if everything you bought was creating positive change in the world?

Keep doing what your doing. Express yourself, show your style, do what westerners do best: SHOP.
Sure puts the cuddle buddy band to shame.

In other injustices in Africa, if you missed Kanye's Diamonds from Sierra Leone video or need your political education in 30-second sound bites, watch Conflict Diamonds from the awesome creators at Free Range Graphics, makers of The Meatrix and Store Wars. Just something to think about with Blech Day fastly encroaching and the temptation to "frost" your significant other on your mind...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006 · posted at 1:32 AM
sh*t or get off the pot. Heather Graham's new sitcom Emily's Reasons Why Not premiered tonight to a smattering of chuckles and a whole bunch of groans. My relationship with Heather Graham has always been tumultuous - leaning towards hate in roles such as Rollergirl, Felicity Shagwell, Heath Ledger's girlfriend... then rocketing to love in her guest role as a loopy shrink on Scrubs. But after watching the pilot for this new show, my opinion is firmly planted on the hate side again.

The show, flawed by poor acting, bad jokes and stereotypical roles, actually has an interesting premise:
Emily's Reasons Why Not explores the world of Emily Sanders, a successful career woman who has terrific instincts in every arena of her life but one -- relationships... Determined now to make better choices, Emily employs a "Reasons Why Not" list-making system designed to serve as an internal warning on when it's time to cut bait and move on.
It's actually a pretty generous system - suitors are allowed 5 red flags before getting chucked. For those who are mathematically challenged, that's a whole two more than allowed in the 3 strikes policy and a fivefold increase from the auto-fail policy.

n., also v.
Any attitude, behavior, characteristic, or trait that results in immediate repulsion and degradation of status. Usually used in the context of dating and romantic relationships, but can be used in other judgmental context. Also know as "game over" or "fatal flaw."

Origin: from the DMV term "automatic failure" - a driving maneuver that, when executed during the behind-the-wheel exam, results in immediate termination of the exam.

Examples: I auto-failed him for not recycling. My auto-fails are eye crispies and owning Gigli.
Everyone's had the auto-fail discussion with friends, or even replayed with harrowing details the exposure of an auto-fail ("We were watching the movie and he was breathing so loudly it felt like I was sitting next to Darth Vader! I could almost hear the nose hairs rustling against each other"). In fact, the "auto-fail" conversation is almost guaranteed, pre-packaged fun (like Catchphrase!), unless of course the mob says nay to back hair and unfortunate genetics have left you with a dorsal side reminiscent of Sasquatch.

So how can a show about auto-fails, or toned down semi-fails anyway, be such a comedic disaster?

In the quest for mass public appeal, they've watered down the "reasons why not" to be generic "might not be the right person" (e.g. he's gay, he's your gynecologist) instead of "might not be the right person for you." We all have our list of ideal and not-so-ideal qualities, whether it's a hatred of toe socks or a disdain for toe sock haters, but it's our quirky personal preferences that make auto-fails laughable.

To get the audience entertained and invested, Emily needs to take a lesson from Chandler. Obsessive, deprecating and idiosyncratic? Sure. Funny? Always.

Monday, January 09, 2006 · posted at 3:22 PM
Nursery Tales. I've read The Nanny Diaries, thumbed through Admissions, chuckled at sitcom jokes about the competition for preschools in New York, but I never thought it was true. Surely it was all exaggerated for dramatic/comedic purposes... People can't be that ridiculous... right?

Then I saw this job posting:
I am signing my child up for nursery school at the Children's Aid Society on Sullivan street on Monday evening. As expected this is in high demand in Manhattan and I will need to get in line the day before registration begins.

I am looking for a responsible student to stand in line from 11:30pm on Monday evening to 7:30am on Tuesday morning. I will have a lawn chair and sleeping bag available. We can talk strategy on keeping warm if you are interested!

I don't know what makes me laugh more - the use of the word "I" in I will need to get in line the day before when clearly she means "not" or the talking of strategies to keep warm. Because really, who better to know how to "rough it" in the cold than the pampered Park Avenue elite...

Thursday, January 05, 2006 · posted at 1:29 AM
And then? No, no 'and then'! I'm always surprised when I ask people what they think of certain isues or theories and they reply, "I dunno, I never thought about it" or I ask them why they think a certain way and they say "I dunno, I just do."

It seems as though people are always so interested in folk psychology, figuring out the ways people behave, predicting how they'll act. This is the appeal of reality tv right? Seeing how people interact when you throw them together (Real World, Survivor) or when you break all social norms (Boiling Points). It makes sense to learn about psychology, as human interactions are necessary in all aspects of life.

But isn't it as (if not more) important to evaluate how you think and why? If psychology is the study of how people behave, philosophy can be considered the deeper question of why. So why is it that people don't know why they hold the opinions and attitudes that they do? Why do they never question the tenets which govern their everyday life?

Maybe because it's so complicated and hard to understand that you end up getting more confused and confusing others in the process (like me...I'll surely receive "your argument is weak" and "you got the defintion wrong" from those trained to even approach the subject).

I remember once I went on a twenty minute tirade about how people ultimately aren't born with a blank slate or choice or control and it's not fair... and at the very end of it while red-faced and catching my breath, the response I got was, "So?"

And I realized that my reiterating the inequalities of the world wasn't going to change anything. And if I believe that to be a truth, and the truth cannot be changed, then what? Which sounded a whole lot like the Serenity Prayer, and wow, those recovering alcoholics over at AA sure are onto something.

Maybe at the end of the proofs, theorems, and "A ยทB" expressions, the really important question is not why, but this:


Monday, January 02, 2006 · posted at 4:39 PM
A GPS for all time. In Movies and the Meaning of Life (I divine my ideological lessons from pop culture media), Jerry L. Walls writes a chapter called "Flying Without a Map: Chasing Amy and the Quest for Satisfying Relationships" in which he argues for moral absolutism, that God exists and the only voice in our heads we should listen to is that of His.

While I obviously don't adopt any of those values, he does raise some good points, mainly that if we create our own rules for morality, they remain highly subjective and unstable. This insecurity causes confusion and lack of focus, essentially "flying with a map" through the "world of life." How can people effectively navigate without a steady beacon or compass to orient themselves?

Perhaps Yann Martel would say I'm choosing immobility as a means of transportation, but the adage I consider my North Star is this:

The only certain thing in life is uncertainty.

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