Friday, January 26, 2007

Start it Up

Today's launch of Windows Vista has already started bringing the detractors out of the Angry Nerd woodwork, roaring about bugs and patches, especially those hyper-paranoid internet denizens that constantly fret about being watched, or observed, or recorded, the ones that use the phrase "Orwellian" and genuinely do not expect you to stab them with a utensil. Though I've found that my friends of this type are typically the absolute last people I would expect to be performing any sort of incriminating, or even interesting, activities in their off-hours--I would be shocked if any of them even leave dishes in the sink overnight--I admit that it lends them a certain air of mystery, like they might come home after a long day at work, take off their cuff links and unbind their breasts, then sit down with a cup of cocoa and a snuff film.

Someone's got a case of the Mondays...

Now, I'm not against my webdoings being recorded for future use; at one point while writing my college thesis, the only thing that kept me from lashing the other end of my school tie to the overhead light fixture was checking my Ebay feedback for the brief buoy of being described as A+++++. But considering the fact that I am a moth to any NSFW flame that gets passed my way, I don't see how anything named a "cookie" would be the thing that brings the government to my door. When friends complain that they're worried that their work's IT department will pick up the use of swear words or references to actual social events taking place outside of their office, I apologize, then write a Tourette's-like stream of filter-trippers (fuck shit sex Hitler bestial heroin manga) in transparent text at the bottom of the email. It's not that I think computers aren't smart- Clippy's intuition as to when I'm writing a letter is uncanny, and Joshua figured out how to win a global thermonuclear war back when I was still writing "BOOBIES" upside down on my calculator- it's just I don't think the people monitoring them care.

Of course, I'm not saying that the new wave of recommendations systems are infallible-you post one sarcastic fake review of a friend's book on Java algorithms, and Amazon thinks you're Bill Gates for the next four years- but all in all, they're pretty spot-on about most of their suggestions. When I go to my Netflix account and find that they think I'd like some of my already-favorite movies , I feel momentarily validated, like I've done something right, followed the correct course of human existence or something. I think my ultimate fear is to login to Netflix and find that the "Movies You'll Heart" section looks like this:

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Who Wants to Live Forever?

Reading some light armchair philosophizing this week, and there's a fun little dissection of immortality, one of the few philosophical experiments in the book that actually ends in an answer and not some big old rusty trombone for Hume. For our society and entertainment industry being what it is, a lot's actually been said on the subject- hell, even Indiana Jones weighed in on it, and that's hard to do when you speak only in pithy one-liners and gutteral sex moans-but, like the book, they seem to end up on the same page; namely, boo, immortality.

Dishwasher safe.

What gives? Immortality sounds pretty top-notch to me. I was forced to read Tuck Everlasting in grade school just like everyone else, and though I now question why the NYS school system was forcing me to confront my own death at the age of ten while neglecting to go over the ins and outs of "biology" until several years later, it still seems like they were laying down some pretty premature foundation. The moral of this book kind of hit you in the face at a young age, and didn't leave a lot of room for musing on the pro-immortality side of the argument (I believe the succinct-nay, eloquent- thesis of my review was "You get bored if you live forever so don't.") In the same way that repeated childhood readings of "Grimm's Fairy Tales" ("horrifying your kids straight since 1812") hammered home the point that giving up my firstborn in exchange for some gold-spun-from-straw is a bad idea without really exploring the positive fiscal aspects of the bargain, I mildly resent the fact that these assumptions were placed in my head at such a young age and with so little debate.

This story wouldn't have been as compelling if his name was "Mike".

Susan Ertz said "Millions long for immortality who don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon." To which I say, well, if you don't like football, then maybe immortality isn't really your bag. Also to which I say, "Who the fuck is Susan Ertz?" I think Highlander had a nice little breakdown of what one should do with their immortality, which is to drink, screw, and prank your way through the centuries, with the occasional beheading of an enemy; also, antiquing. I'm sure there's religious implications and all, and watching your loved ones die again and again probably doesn't tickle , but come on. The whole "get shot, get right back up again, T2-style" wouldn't get old for ice ages, not to mention lesser Uncle victories and the ability to save mankind and whatnot. It's a pretty sweet life when you become a superhero out of boredom.

Anyway, you know how the stories go, this all ends with me pleading with the devil at some point.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Elegy for an Old Lady

Elegy more in the reflective sense, as my grandmother is not dead- in fact, it was recently stated point blank that after my cousin graduates in May, it will officially be my turn to provide the event/milestone for which she must stay alive, which is only fair, given that my cousin has managed to stretch a graphic design degree at the community college into a six-year affair- but she is a cool, cool old lady, my favorite as a matter of fact, and she deserves to have her praises sung on a little-read blog that she does not know exists, and never will, as the act of trying to explain the heady concept of a blog to a woman who can't quite wrap her head around the "Redial" function of her phone must surely already be reserved for someone else's purgatorial task.

My grandmother believes that every single morsel of food must be removed from its original packaging and rewrapped in SaranWrap or another acceptable sealant; to ask her the reasoning behind this results in a look of abject horror so utterly convincing that you actually begin to believe that you might as well have been pissing on your cold cuts all these years for all the good the deli wrapping is doing you. In this vein, though, she also shares my appreciation for the wide world of questionable meats and processed foods. To whit, her latest care package:

Prepackaged tuna steak, salmon, beef jerky, Tyson's "Buffalo Style Chicken Chunks" (made with all dark meat!), and the viande de resistance, Bite Size Teriyaki Snacks, which is essentially Pupperoni for humans.

Firstly, I love picturing my grandmother wheeling around the supermarket with the shopping list of a WWII trench soldier. Second, dark meat chicken jerky? Who even knew such a thing existed? I'm half expecting the next package to just contain a bag of beaks and hooves. Thirdly, she also included Necco Wafers in the shipment, perfectly and subtly asserting her old ladiness. The woman knows her way around a care package.

I'm a big fan of things that unabashedly embrace their stereotypes- Europeans who smoke with their fingers held straight, hot dog vendors who say "Whaddaya want?", dogs that lick themselves- so the fact that although my grandmother could, and often does, strike fear in the hearts of men for as little as forgetting to double a coupon, she still enjoys scratchoff lotto tickets, watering her plants, and sending pastel Hallmark cards could not be more delightful. At the relatively tender age of 61, the woman strapped herself to a young man and a parachute and jumped out of a plane; now at 71, she's got some heart problems and has difficulty walking for distance, but steadfastly refuses to "look like one of the cripples" (during one particularly long visit last October, I convinced her to go to bingo at Foxwoods Casino by pointing out that at her age, things were only going to go downhill, and having just had her hair done, she was, in fact, looking the best she ever would for the rest of her life, so why not take to the streets?). Over Thanksgiving, when my mother produced a wheelchair from the back of her flaming chariot and insisted that she use it within the mall, my grandmother instead placed her oxygen tank in the chair and pushed it around herself, so it looked as though she was some sort of orderly who had lost their senile old person. One of the many members of the Buns and Liquor family in possession of a Handicapped Parking pass ("cripple pass"), she tells me that when a member of her friend group dies, those little old ladies clamor to put dibs on first the parking pass, then the clothes, and things get ugly. Fake IDs for old people- who knew?

The woman WHITEOUTS HER POSTITS. That is devotion to a literary cause. I'm so lazy I frequently write on my own hands rather than locating paper; this puts me to shame. All this on top of the text of the note, which reads:

"Jen- Put peanut butter on these for breakfast. Yum, Yum!! Also, I found Smucker Uncrustables GRILLED CHEESE!! "Micro" oops!"

If I ever find someone else in this world who is so excited by the prospect of premade, crustless, microwavable grilled cheeses that they give it the "all caps, double exclamation point" treatment, I'll have to immediately sneak up behind them and strangle them with a piano wire, because the world does not have enough room for such awesomeness. These are the same Post-its that she hands me each time I visit, asking me to label things that I want when she dies, oblivious to the fact that a. it's weird to claim one's worldly possessions the same way that one keeps their office workers from eating their lunch and b. the legality of the whole endeavor is questionable at best. Of course, she's also stated that when she does kick it, we should just cremate her in whatever box is handy, then toss the ashes in a coffee can, which puts me in the unenviable position of either looking like a dick in front of the funeral director or not fulfilling an old lady's dying wish.

Another example of my grandmother's undeniable coolness, as if one was needed:

Text reads:
"Didn't want to walk to the den to get a smaller envelope."

SHE APOLOGIZES FOR WASTING ENVELOPE SPACE. As I've pointed out to her, the very act of writing across the envelope, apologizing for wasting its intangible contents, justified the use of the larger envelope in itself, but when it comes down to getting into a metaphysical discussion with your granddaughter or watching Judge Judy, well, I'm big enough to know my place in the pecking order.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Outgoing baggage

Last weekend I was (sarcastic adjective here) enough to have my purse stolen, a watershed moment in any girl's life, though one I had been hoping to put off til old age, when I would snatch back the purse and begin hitting the thief over the head, surprising him with my spunk. I hadn't realized purse theft still happened in NYC, and in this day and age, I don't really see much of a profit in it, but I suppose they can always bring it back to the Artful Dodger or whatever it is people do when they steal knockoff purses from the kinds of bars that offer such specials as "Hey, you, come here. Drink this."

I'm not sure a top hat and ascot are the best way for a pickpocket to "blend in" with the crowd.

While not worried about someone assuming my name or credit line- woe to the person that plays the identity theft lottery and comes up as me- I was definitely concerned with the fact that I had lost my keys. Wanting nothing more than to sleep in my own bed and slit my wrists with my own knives, my friends John and Lee forced entry into the building and I called my landlords, a 70+ Polish couple who have managed to conquer the NYC real estate market despite an inability to conjugate verbs in anything other than the present tense. After a brief phone conversation, I walked to meet the man half of the couple, adopting the proper level of shame that a girl must exhibit when meeting up with a 70-year-old man at 2 AM wearing the world's shortest skirt ("Nice shoes," I said sarcastically to John earlier. "Nice vagina," said he. Touche.), and brought him back to my apartment. Though by the grace of God and Arthritis I was able to beat him up the stairs without exposing anything, and had managed to craft a pretty sympathetic little sob story that danced around the fact that I had been hanging out in dive bars dressed as someone who would be described in a court of law as "asking for it", the opening of my apartment door grandly revealed the remnants of a couple of earlier hours spent entertaining at my apartment, and the night's activities could not have been any more obvious unless Peter O'Toole himself was standing in my kitchen refilling his highball. After sending him on his way, my credit check effectively nullified, my friends extraordinaire bought me a slice of pizza that made my troubles seem so far away, pressed twenties in my hand, and went their merry way.

Skirt: Hydrogen isotope

The next morning, after purchasing a cup of coffee the size of my torso and briefly revelling in a Sunday morning in which my mother had no way of feverishly contacting me to dispense such wisdoms as "Don't eat poison" and "(TLC Show) says that you can make a small space seem bigger through the creative use of shelves!", I hurried through the rounds of reclaiming my life, including the purchase of a sleek little cell phone number that I manhandled for the rest of the afternoon. On Monday, as I was on the phone with the last of my card companies, the bar called- they'd found my purse with everything in it, in stark contrast to the previous morning's visit and query, at which I was told they had not found my purse with everything in it. While for some people, this represents a restored faith in humanity, a fuzzy of warmth for fellow mankind, I was pissed to have to have gone through the hassle, and even more pissed when I found that the only things missing from the purse were the cash and the somewhat expensive new concealer I had just purchased, which meant the perpetrator was either female or a mime.

"Wait a minute! I'm going to die alone! Silently."

Even worse, I was now faced with the Sophie's Choice of phones. I'd grown oddly attached to the new one over the course of two days, like when they let you take the classroom hamster home for the weekend and come Monday morning, and you found yourself contemplating going all Gere. I never had any problems with the old phone, we had a strong working relationship, but as soon as it was out of sight, this new phone was the flexible blonde secretary, all sleek and contoured, and any devotion I had to the old battleaxe melted away. There's the new ad slogan right there: "Samsung: Phones so good you'll find yourself making longwinded, creepily sexual comparisons about them."

Anyways, I decided to go the self-flagellatory route and return the pretty new phone. If I were a better person, I'd probably learn a lesson from all this, but, you know, eh.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Phrases That When Used in My Presence Will Get You Punched in the Face

1. "fin de siecle "
2. "I only read nonfiction."
3. (incessant sound of nearby coworker's Japanese-inspired ringtone)*
4. "I'd like to smell the cork first."
5. "Please punch me in the face."
6. "Motherfudger"
7. "I just find his music so....transcendant."
8. "Well, I am a Scorpio, you know."
9. "So anyway, after I finished raping that kid..."
10. "Is this organic?"

*Soon. Soon.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Year's Self-Realizations

1. I look retarded in earmuffs.
2. You know you have bad taste in music when you find the Gap Rap catchy.
3. Oddly and unjustly, it seems far less awkward to ask the question "Is that your real hair?" than to answer it.
4. If there is a difference between prosecco and champagne, I will be damned if I care.
5.If someone asks you if you floss regularly, you will never, ever go wrong by just saying "yes".
6. I'm so happy I overcame the irrational fear of mushrooms that stemmed from the death of the king in the Babar series.
7. Pens are not to be used for stirring, no matter how ergonomically effective they are, and no matter how close they are to the beverage at hand.
8. I still harbor a great deal of resentment towards my mother for wrongfully teaching me that one needs to wash a pair of pants after 1-2 wearings.
9. Sometimes when someone asks you what you do for a living, it's better just to shake your head, put your finger to your lips, and say "Let's not spoil the moment."
10. There is no easier place to get into borderline violent fights about sports than an airport bar.

Monday, January 01, 2007

In Which I Go All Ansel Adams on Your Shit

Christmas treated me well this year, bringing me an irresistably adorable little digicam, Trivial Pursuit (Genus VI!), a wad of sweet green, and some atomic alarm clock that my mother ordered from her Big Catalog of Needlessly Complicated Gadgets and Oddities. Considering that my morning routine consists of an hour long conversation with my snooze button, in which I trade off increasingly necessary hygienic-upkeep activities in exchange for nine minute naps, I'm not really sure I need a (radioactive) timepiece that utilizes the same technology used by the world's preeminent nuclear physicists, but gift horse/mouth, etc.

As I've only had the camera for a week, the only things I've had a chance to obtain pictures of, aside from a surprisingly entertaining experiment with stop-motion animation and a godawful New Year's Eve closeup taken by some renegade photographer in which I'm making a face that can only be described as "baby's first taste of pickled ass", are my childhood home in Northern NY, a microscopically small and unbelievably cluttered one-level that until two years ago had the distinction of being the only non-cartoon orange house in existence. Having lived away from home for ten years, it's always a treat to go through the pile of destruction that is the house and realize that when the 'rents do finally kick it, the will will most likely read "To Rubber: Your problem now. "

(Disclaimer: Yes, obviously the pictures conjure up the phrase "white trash". It's been open season on that joke for nigh a decade, but if you feel you have something new to contribute that isn't just a mangling of a Larry the Cable Guy routine, I'm nothing if not open to good insults)

Now that, that's a Northern NY garage if I ever saw one, and I didn't even capture the toolbench/weightlifting apparatus/punching bag half of the room. This was the scene of my father and mine's annual reunion upon coming back from the airport, where I was greeted with "Hey! Can you help me with this? It's a two-man job," and where I left with my jeans and sneakers soaked in gasoline. The moral here: Though the non-mouth end of the siphon may seem like the sweeter deal, looks can be deceiving.

Our couch. Rather, mine, as the parents have their own recliners, so this is more of a repository for AV equipment (361 days a year) and my ass (4 days a year). The latest in a long line of hand-me-down sofas, this couch has the distinction of a. being the most indescribably horrible piece of furniture I have ever seen in my entire life b. having had my grandmother die on it. You'd think this little tidbit of magical thinking would have precluded my father from accepting the donation, but hey, free couch.

My bedroom, now reappropriated for general storage and spillover from the rest of the house. A breakdown:

1. A stuffed animal ferret (gift from a friend). I do a terrific ferret impression. Seriously. The urge to throw me into a tub with the Dude is overwhelming.

2. This was the window spot that until two years ago housed this sticker:
Now, arson is no laughing matter (unless you set Steven Wright on fire- that guy's hilarious). But I always felt the slight twinge to strike up a match near the old oily rag pile just to see the look on the fireman's face when he heroically busted through the window and found a fully-grown 25 year-old woman asleep beneath the Carebear comforter.
3. Curio cabinets. Parents of the world, the best way to get your child to do anything you ask is to cultivate in them a desire to collect miniature unicorn figurines. As long as you remain their only means to the fix, they're putty in your hands.
4. Bug strip and Off. Thanks to a particularly severe family allergy to mosquitoes, these are fixtures in all four rooms of the house, and the smell of DEET still brings those awkward teenage years rushing back. I think this might even have been my baby mobile.
5. Bunk beds for an only child. Why? Still don't have a clue. Still fun to jump off of, though.
6. Light saber (dad's). I would ask why, but that would imply that there actually is a sensible answer to the question, beyond "The Rebel Alliance needed my help."
7. Precariously balanced telescope (dad's). When accidentally and somewhat painfully pinned beneath this while rifling through my suitcase, I remember thinking "Wow. Now this is a geeky way to go."

My childhood bookcase, bearer of years of fairy tales, Sweet Valley High novels, and maudlin teenage literature. A closeup, if you will:

Ah yes, I remember those cold winter nights when my dad would sit me down on his lap and read to me from my favorite book, "Urinalysis and Body Fluids". Isn't it every little girl's dream to meet her prince/overcome acute urate nephropathy?