Quick-Fix Vanity Machine

Ego is the new rock star

Is “Pathetisad” a Word?

So, it’s a Friday night. Let’s get wild.

So far I’ve created a new budget for myself. My update needed an update since A) I haven’t even tried to stick to it since early November and B) I just had my performance review at work and got a raise. Now, I’m not going to give an exact figure, but suffice to say that I would have received a larger one-year anniversary raise at McDonald’s (dear fluffy God, I wish that wasn’t a joke). To put it another way, I got a larger raise when I manned a register at a liquor store. And that was in a white-bred college town offering no threat of robbery, so it’s not even like the raise included hazard pay.
Also, I went to the mall for about 45 minutes… alone. My wife went to bed tonight around 6:30 tonight and left me to my own devises (in all fairness, she gets up at 4:00AM during the week for work). I’ve decided that I’m far too old to be going to the mall after dark nowadays. I don’t know. Maybe if I lived in a town that offered it’s wayward youthes something to do on a weekend it wouldn’t be so bad, but as it is going to the mall on a weekend night is like visiting the reptile house at the Zoo and realizing it’s been overrun by social outcasts from the primate exhibit. On the upside I did manage to buy two records for under 20 bucks. Unfortunately, it took me 30 minutes to decide what to buy, and not because I was overwhelmed by the choices but because my town is the proud home of the world’s smallest and lamest F.Y.E. Yes, there are degrees of lameness when it comes to chain record stores (all two that are left).
After the mall I came home and applied to grad school, again. If everything goes well, this will be the second grad school I’ll attend in one year. My first attempt was as a one-semester guest student at an out of state university. Let’s just say that things didn’t work out. Although I aced the course, the program of study wasn’t what I was looking for. Plus I just can’t afford paying 3K for a single course. Anyway, the new school I want to attend has a program that’s perfect. So perfect in fact that I applied back in October. After paying my 50 dollar application fee and sending off my resume, I received an email informing me that the program only accepts students during the Summer semester and that I’d have to apply all over again. So, back in February I called the admissions office to find out if I’d have to pay the fee again. I left a message. Since no one called me back in a week, I emailed them. The next day I received a phone call returning the message I had left. The woman who called told me that I wouldn’t have to apply again at all and that my previous application would be held and forwarded to the appropriate person when the application period opened. Yay. That same afternoon I received an email reply to the email query I sent the day before. The man who emailed me informed that not only would I have to pay the fee again, I would have to apply all over again from the beginning. Damn. So last weekend I began to fill out the application again. The application page on the school’s website informed me that early registration didn’t begin until the 15th of March, so I figured I was ahead of the curve. Yay, again. I surfed a bit more and drifted over to the webpage of the actual program I was applying to. That page said that they required applications no later than February 1st.  Damn, again. Pissed off, I began yet a third web search, looking for some clarity. All I found was a “Graduate Renewal Application” which was only two pages long, required no fee and said that the ‘recommended’ application date was March 1st. Eh?. Frustrated, I gave up. On Tuesday, I called the admissions office again, hoping for a straight answer. I left a message asking if I needed to start the application process over or if I could just do the renewal application. I also questioned if I would have to send new copies of my transcripts and personal statement. I also emailed the same question. This time, I received a phone call from a new woman who told me that all I needed to do was fill in and mail the renewal application.  Nothing was mentioned in regards to money or additional paperwork, so I’m taking the renewal application route. Of my three options (do nothing, re-apply from the beginning or renew) I figure this one has the same chance of being correct as the others and it seems to me as striking a nice balance between what I want to do (just do nothing and hope that the admissions office will take care of everything for me) and what I think I should do (re-apply from the beginning, pay the fee again and send multiple copies of my transcripts).
In related news, today I received a letter from my previous grad school telling me that I was not going to be accepted as student for the coming semester. That doesn’t matter much as I never actually applied, but I feel it’s still hurtful.
I also posted a note to a friend on Facebook (aka Myspace for grown-ups). I have mixed feelings about online social networks. On the one hand it seems to me like cyber-social circles are a great way to reconnect with everyone you previously disconnected with for damn good reasons. On the other hand, the people I have gotten back in touch with (those of whom I knew in high-school) have all been perfectly pleasant and, in at least one case, are making me reconsider my “fuck any relationship more than 5 years old” stance. So, all in all, that post may just be the highlight of my evening.
But don’t think that I’m letting this off-the-hook craziness stop just because I’m almost done with this entry. Oh, no. As soon as I’m done here I’m going to expand upon my One Beer Rule (1BR). See, I have this test that I subject to everyone I know. The actual person being tested has no idea that they’re being evaluated, instead, the 1BR is a question I ask myself. “Could I sit down at a bar with this person and make it through one round with them?” In all fairness, it’s a fairly easy test to pass. In fact, since I’ve instituted this test only three people have failed it. Because, let’s be honest, even on my least tolerant night I can smile and put up with someone for as long as it takes me to suck down a beer (although the test is harder to pass in Ohio, where you can no longer smoke in bars, but more about how much Ohio sucks later). I’m starting to think though that the test isn’t specific enough. I mean, sure, most people are one beer simpatico, but what about two beers? Can I sit through someone else’s meandering, self-indulgent, not-funny-but-they-think-they-are stories through one beer, the wait to get a second and then for however long it takes to get through that second beer? That, I feel, is a much better test of my friends’ and acquaintances’ value as people. Also, I may institute a Three Beer Rule (3BR), but I’m willing to bet everyone passes that one, mostly because I’m a lightweight and at three beers I tend to fall in love with anyone within hugging reach.
So, all in all, tonight is still better than my freshman year of college where I used to spend entire weekends reading through the memorable quotes sections of various IMDB entries.


March 9, 2007 Posted by | Personal | 3 Comments

Dear Ann, Please Eat a Sandwich

So, Ann “Convert Them to Christianity” Coulter has said something naughty
again. And once again, people have leapt at the opportunity to be offended by her. By now this sequence of events has pretty much turned into a choreographed dance. Ann says something so jaw droppingly stupid and offensive that there’s no single word in recognized English that concisely sums it up and then, like precision clockwork, the airwaves, blogosphere and print channels light up with people getting all self-righteous. Seriously, as much as Coulter’s career get’s a boost every time she says something stuffensive, I have to imagine that every other pundit/politician’s career gets a bigger boost out of reacting to Ann.
Somewhere, someone must have done studies showing exactly how many more hits/share/points and eyeballs a person or organization can gain just by getting huffy every time Ann says something horrible. It’s probably like a little industry at this point with graphs, spreadsheets and executives worried over the bottom line just praying that someone, anyone, will shove a microphone in Coulter’s face and let the magic happen. Which really sucks all the fun out of the whole thing.
Besides, all this anger over what the woman says only obscures the real reason she infuriates. What’s really crazy-making about Ann Coulter is that she’s seemingly removed herself from the realm of polite society. She just plain doesn’t care if she’s offensive, and what’s more, she doesn’t seem to care how you feel. Public performance and entertainment, Ann Coulter’s two trades, are dialogues between the actress and the audience. Coulter has turned her craft into a monologue. She’s so in love with her voice that she’s mentally and emotionally divorced herself from us, her audience and (theoretically) reason for being. The difference between her and Howard Stern is that Stern clearly gets off the on the controversy he (used to be able to) creates, Coulter just doesn’t care. Likewise, while Tim Hardaway didn’t seem to understand why what he said was offensive, Ann just doesn’t give a shit. She’s given herself the freedom that we (in the third-person, universal sense) generally reserve only for young children and the mentally ill, i.e., the freedom to not know any better. And that’s the transgression that irks, not the mean-spirited personal attacks or the bone-headed take on foreign cultures, but that Ann has granted unto herself allowances that the culture in general doesn’t feel she deserves.
Which doesn’t make her any less of a bitch.

March 5, 2007 Posted by | Current Events | 3 Comments

It’s a Great Time to Be Alive

So, in the news recently:

(None of this is being made up and I’ll leave the snarky comments to you… well mostly)

First off: HAHAHAHAHA! Now, I want to be clear that I’m not laughing because of the slavery or the prejudice per se. Mostly, I just wish Strom were still alive so that there could be a big press conference where both he and Mr. Sharpton would meet on a rostrum. Al’s eyes would be filled with fear and doubt. Strom would stop short, look him up and down and doing his best Darth Vader say, “Al (wheeze) I am your third-cousin twice removed”. The best part would be that it wouldn’t really be his Darth Vader impression, but if still alive Strom Thrumond would be roughly 105 years old and I can’t imagine he could get out that whole sentance without having to catch his breath. Also, after saying that, everyone would assume that, since Darth Vader was voiced by James Earl Jones, Strom was somehow mocking Al Sharpton and black people in general. And we’d be right about it, probably.

Second: No, seriously, he’s more than three times the average weight of other children his age. Listen, I don’t want to be a prick here, but seriously the kid’s big. Like, real big. And no matter what you feel about him possibly be taken away from his family by the state (I’m mixed on the matter), can’t we all be happy for the child that he doesn’ live in America? I mean, sure, his mom let a news crew film him for a month and that sucks, no doubt. But come on, if Connor were a yank his parents would be pimping his wide, plump ass on every trashy day-time talk program that offered them free air fare, accomodations, 40 bucks and a family pass to Old Country Buffet. So, at least the kid’s got that going for him.

Third (and final, and reason why it might not be such a great time to be alive): America has Insane Clown Posse and an Aaron Carter best-of compilation, so it’s only fitting that Europe has Crazy Frog; a digitally animated, anthropomorphic motherfucker of a bad idea. Essentially, whoever’s behind Crazy Frog takes already established songs and creates absolutely insipid, sped-up dance remixes. On the latest version (which you can see the adverts for on late night television – mostly Adult Swim) there’s aparently a remix of the appalingly bad to begin with Italian techno number, “Blue”. If you don’t remember that song, well kudos to you. Please pity those of us who are stuck having to imagine how bad this Crazy Frog remix must be.

February 27, 2007 Posted by | Current Events | Leave a comment

February is National Klan Month

Well, maybe you’ve noticed and maybe you haven’t, but it’s February again. In a perfect world February would mean lots of snow, beer that requires no refrigerator to chill and a day that begins and ends before you even get to work.
Sadly though, for the most part, February seems to be about white people complaining that there’s no one out there to teach their history. Through the end of the month, I can look forward to reading newspaper columns pontificate on, hearing radio personalities expounding upon and over-privileged frat boys bitching about “Wah! Why isn’t there a white history month? Boo-hoo-hoo, why can’t I have white pride? Wah!”
Now, I’ve tried, believe me, I’ve tried. I’ve done everything in my power to convince my fellow white peopl, I argued against elitism so hard that I almost had my membership card revoked! No, really, here’s the transcript: (a note to my non-caucasian friends, the following is spoken in Ivory, sorry if it’s hard to follow)
Me: Hello, fellows. During this evening’s assemblage, I wish to propose a moratorium upon all declarations, utterances and scripts pertaining to the perceived inequalities and hurdles faced by persons of the WASP persuasion.
Collected Assortment of White People: Nay, nay!
So, as you can see, at least I brought it up. I mean, I want to do more, but when the bar is set to, “What’s wrong with white pride?” then really, any change is better than nothing. I guess it’s just frustrating having to explain to people that pride means something different when there’s a system in place that elevates one race over another. It’s almost frustrating enough to make me want to just give up.
Before I do however, there is one question I want to ask all the white people out there who take February as an opportunity to jump on some bizzaro-universe “why are all the chips stacked against me” bandwagon. Please name one culturally significant thing that a member of an African tribe did during the time of the Hundred Years War.
I would like to point out that if you’re dumb enough to think that nothing of significance occured on the African continent between 1337 and 1453 C.E. then you’re too dumb to be reading this blog, let alone get food to your mouth without assistance.
On the other hand, if you can’t think of anything, well, that’s probably proof that your high school history teacher (or at least the curriculum that constrained him/her) had a defnite white bias.
Now that I’ve asked my one question, I want to confess that I have a second question to ask: don’t you feel cheated that the various historical perspectives are taught as separate and distinct narratives rather than one large, cohesive story? Why is it that most students go through school learning just one interpretation of history for 11/12’s of the year and then, for just one month, are exposed to a different interpretation as if this one were the history of a totally different world? It’s not that black people are given a special, exclusive, privilege by getting one month set aside for their history, it’s that everyone is being cheated by the deep and artificial divisions of historical persepctives that result from narrow-minded white brains.
P.S. I’m sorry if this post seems a little all over the place; a little less than cohesive. I’ve sat down and tried to write this four or five times and this is the end, cumulative, result.

February 20, 2007 Posted by | Race | 1 Comment

God Redefines Definition of “Gay”

So, yesterday I ran across a news article that makes me glad I have a blog.

Do we all remember Rev. Ted Haggard? Yeah, for awhile there life was pretty sweet for Teddy(bear) Haggard. Respected pastor, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, happy family man and petter of puppies (I’m assuming), Haggard had it all. Everything sort of came undone however when it came to light that Ted Haggard also enjoyed snorting meth off the hard dicks of male prostitutes. Just imagine how bad it would have been had he enjoyed snorting meth off the hard dicks of (mostly)female prostitutes.
Anyway, Haggard is back in the presses because, ta-dah, he’s now officially ex-gay. Leaving behind whether or not it’s possible to permanently and totally realign one’s sexual orientation, what’s really amazing here is that apparently Ted became straight after only three weeks of spiritual purification. Now, any respectable ex-gay organization (snort-ha) will tell you upfront that the dequeerification process will take upwards of three years. So, for Haggard to do it in less than a month is nothing short of a, well, miracle.
I’m not saying Mr. Haggard isn’t straight now. No matter how likely it is that he’ really the same old speed-freak homo he was when he was preaching Revelations and speaking in tongues (who probably zipped through Betty Ford over a long weekend) I won’t for a minute suggest that his remarkable transformation isn’t sincere. I mean, God forbid (probably literally) that the man lie about his “recovery” merely in a shallow attempt to recover his former comfortable social standing.
No, no. I’m above that. Well, sort of. Not really. Okay, anyway. There’s a phenomena at work here that I’ve noticed runs rampant throughout the fundamentalist members of our great nation. Every so often a member of the illustrious inner circle gets himself into some trouble and instantly the remaining Pontiffs of Piousness rush to his defense. In doing so, they abandon any grasp they might have had upon reality. When Congressman Foley got into some hot water over what he wanted to do with pages in a tub of hot water, his buddy James Dobson rushed to his side by arguing, “I just hate to think that we’re approaching the point where a person is judged by the values he claims”. That might not be word-for-word correct, but that’s the sentiments he expressed on his radio show back in October.
And now, with Ted Haggard we have Rev. Tim Ralph claiming that “[Haggard] is completely heterosexual. This is something he discovered. It was the acting-out situations where things took place. It wasn’t a constant thing.”
If I’m reading that correctly, it means that I can claim to be a vegetarian and only “act” at being a carnivore when I eat meat (which is every meal). It also means, apparently, that in God’s eyes, I’m not a sinner. I’m just a highly accomplished performance artist who sins in the situations where temptation takes place. But God’s cool, he knows my sinning isn’t a constant thing. So, thanks for that.

February 13, 2007 Posted by | Religion | 1 Comment

If This Is Culture Then Count Me In

So, some things have happened lately that seem more important than they probably are.

Okay, so I know everyone else has covered this to death, but Anna Nicole Smith died. I don’t know, but this feels like some sort of alternate reality cultural watershed moment. I mean, it seems like it should be important, but really it’s not at all. But no matter how frequently you remind yourself of that it’s still there, hanging on despite our best efforts.
Now, for my money (and, okay, this is overly harsh I admit), it seems that ANS should have croaked herself right after the Supreme Court hearing. Think about it, no really. The TrimSpa ads would have had to use CGI technology to render her curvascious figure like some sort of busty, trashy John Wayne (and they would have). Her first son’s death would have been fall-out from her turbulent and heady life. Also, her second child would have been a great incubator baby. Plus, test-tube kid would have been a great protege for Francis Bean Cobain.
Also, and I may only believe this because I’m drunk right now, how post-modern is the nickname ANS? I mean, first of all, who else is known only by their full intials? Second of all, it’s so self-referential as to be immediately redundant and at the same time completely encapsulates exactly what Anna meant to us. Think about it like this, if you nick name a friend “Spanky” because you once caught him tied to a bed beaing beaten by a transexual stripper, then that name represents something fundamental about your friend, his personality and who he is. To just refer to someone as their initials however suggests that they are nothing more than themselves. They are divorced from any sort of context or environment and merely represent themselves. And being separated from any external factors, they themelves represent nothing, which makes them a pefect cipher for us. All in all, I think that’s a pretty good legacy for a gold-digger.

Second observation: My wife today stopped at a Walden’s bookstore and pre-ordered her copy of the seventh (and final) Harry Potter book. Apparently, when she reserved it, the clerk asked her if she wanted Snape to end up being a good guy or a bad guy. Being an optimist (snort of laughter here), my beautiful bride decided that she wanted Snape vindicated and clothed in white. After stating her preference she was given a bumper sticker that read “Snap is a Hero”. She then asked what she would have gotten if she wished Snape to be a villian. That bumper sticker apparently reads, “Snape is a Very Bad Man”. I think the period between now and the release of Harry Potter and the Closet of Shame (or whatever) is going to be this generation’s “Who shot J.R.” moment. More literary? Yes. More consequential? Not at all.

February 11, 2007 Posted by | Society | 2 Comments

Understanding Me(dia)

So, I was recently sans internet for about four days. I wasn’t overly traumatized by not being “connected”, at the time. It was only after getting hooked back up that I started to have a mini flip-out.
After my connection was re-established, the first thing I did was check my emails. First, my personal email. Nothing big there. A quick hello from a college friend. A meeting notice from a writing group I haven’t been a part of for six months now and an alarming amount of porno-spam. After cleaning up that mess I moved on to my professional email. Apparently the grad school I attended last semester won’t send my transcript to the grad school I want to attend next semester because they never received my transcript from my undergrad alma mater. Also, a no-name insurance company wants to hire me as an “independent field representative’. This means that they want me to hawk their coverage policies to strangers. It’s cold calling canvasing for commissions and I get that damn email twice a week. Still, none of it was a big deal.
After my emailing was out of the way I proceeded to www.rateyourmusic.com where I posted a few new music reviews and checked to see if there were any interesting discussions going on across the boards. There weren’t.
Next up was www.answerbag.com to post a new question and see if there were any I could answer (there weren’t, but that didn’t stop me).
Onward, always onward, to www.amazon.com to check on an order I had placed before temporarily losing access to the world wide web.
Finally, I made a stop by http://www.writing.com to see if I wanted to set-up an account with them. I did, but since at the moment my desktop computer’s on the fritz and quite possibly electronically shredding, dismantling and otherwise devouring my fiction, I’ve decided to hold off until I can actually upload some stuff.
All in all, I spent over an hour just getting caught up on my own life. I occurred to me that I use each of the site’s I visited to express a different aspect of me. My personal email is to be social. My professional email is to network. Rateyourmusic.com allows me to appreciate music communally (no one around me, physically, likes the kind of music I do) while Answerbag.com allows me to alternately show off or prostrate myself (apparently to me knowledge is a bit of an S/M thing – also I don’t have the stamina to post to Wikipedia). Amazon.com is where I express myself in the marketplace; let my wallet do the talking. And now there’s Writing.com where I’ll seek approval and criticism on the merits of my writing. (And then there’s WordPress.com. Which is apparently the site that gets whatever’s left of me after the others are done picking strips of my personality off like vultures snacking on a corpse. Or something like that.)
My next thought was, ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be so much easier if there was just one website where I could do all this?’ Of course, there used to be. They were called homepages and everyone had one (or so it seemed in 1997).
It was that thought, the one about homepages that made me spazz a little. See, homepages are entirely a square notion. They’re something only people of the last tech generation “get”. Just like only hippies “get” Vanilla Fudge. Homepages are relics and the future is decentralization. I know this, mentally, but deep down, in my gut where it counts, I’m a fossile. This was quite an arresting thought for me. After all, I’m the jackass who feels like a sell-out becuase I didn’t kill myself on my 24th birthday like I swore I would when I was still in high school.
Okay, here’s where I think it gets interesting. No matter how many web sites I become a member of. No matter how many different and varried forums I post to, I will always think of myself as a single, unified whole. I contain many contradictions and hypocrisies, but I’m okay with that. In fact, I am (as well as, I’m guessing, everyone my age) probably more aware and more accepting of my idiosyncrasies than older generations. For this I thank television. Sure, older generations had television, but they didn’t grow up with 300 hundred channels, specialty cable stations and people of color in prominent roles (well, more so anyway). Marshall McLuhan (from whom I’ve bitten the title of this post) posited that television would remove the concept of cause and effect from the minds of children who grow up with it, just as books impose a sequential, orderly thought pattern. Likewise, I argue that with ever increasing and constantly fracturing choices (new channels hit the airwaves while old, or slightly less new, shows disapear) on our sets, people my age grew up with a better understanding, or at least acceptance, of conflicting personality traits being housed within a single body.
So what about people younger than me? People who grew up with the internet the same way I grew up with cable? After all, my family didn’t get connected to the internet until I was 13, old enough to have a fixed idea of what personality was, even if my definition of my own personality was still in flux. I was probably the last privileged white male to come up with a screen name, so I just sort of assume that anyone five or more years younger than me was shaped by the internet in ways that I wasn’t. How will these people, who’s idea of concept will be, at least partly, formed by the internet and it’s million of sites, each one promising to help you express you. Or, at least, a very narrowly defined, ridgedly enforced aspect of you.
If this line of though doesn’t interest you, please feel free to blame me. I assure you that it is interesting, I’m just doing a poor job explaining the underlying concepts that make this idea so fascinating. Part of the problem is that I’m not quite smart enough to understand it myself and the other part is that I’m not visionary enough to see beyond myself and my cultural constructs. If I could, then I probably would have been able to come up with different handles for each of the websites I visit, rather than sticking with the tired, but surprisingly likable ‘Xclamation’ moniker.

January 29, 2007 Posted by | Cyberspace | 1 Comment

Me and My Quarter-Life Crisis

My first job ever was as a clerk at a small, independent book store. One day, while going through a new shippment I ran across a book about people in their 20’s and the attendent quarter-life crisis.
I remember scoffing at the book. After all, who had ever heard of anything as indulgent? To my naive and sheltered mind a “crisis” was something that plauged politicians and rapidly aging boomers with too much money. What, I thought, was a 20-something with their whole life ahead of them and a world of possibilities in front of them doing with something like that?
I knew that Generation X was pampered and self-absorbed, but come on! A quarter-life crisis? I was beginning to agree with Bart Simpson when he said, “What we need is another Vietnam to thin their ranks out.” (Full disclosure: depending on who’s writing the thesis paper, I may qualify as the last of the Gen X cohort… I disagree on the grounds that I’m too young to remember a pop culture without Nirvana and I don’t get the appeal of either loving Starbucks or protesting it. Also, I can’t think of any Generation X characteristics that don’t involve Seattle, proving that everything I know about them I got from Singles and Reality Bites – two movies I’ve never actually seen.) The whole idea of a quarter-life crisis just proved that all those angry, bitter apples didn’t fall far from their neurotic, gimme-gimme-gimme trees.
A few years later I got out of college and into the “real world” (and yes, I’m one of those people who overuse quoatation marks and parentheses). I worked at a pizza joint, sold windows door-to-door, clerked at a courthouse and then got a layout job at a small specialized newspaper. I’ve joined and dropped out of two different writing groups, lived with five different roommates and spent a semester in grad school at a college best known for it’s varried veneral diseases. Along the way I got engaged, married 19 days later and moved twice.
I’m now nearly 25 and that whole quarter-life crisis thing doesn’t seem so far fetched any more.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think people who whine about having no direction are full of shit. But on the other hand that strange, certain ennui does lurk in the corners of my (landlord’s) house and suns itself on the grassy median of the freeway I take to work.
I’ve named his Goes To becuase I hate Ernest.

January 21, 2007 Posted by | Personal | 1 Comment