September 2011 Archives

poll: does susie have cancer?

What I mostly remember from my graduate-level Economics class at Ohio State was a cascading series of oh nos.

John, realizing that he had to take a graduate-level Econ class: "Oh no."

John, walking into the summer class and seeing 400 Japanese students and one empty chair. "Oh no!"

John, reading the syllabus and determining that yes, this class would be graded on a curve: "Oh no!!!"

John, hearing the Greek professor's indecipherable accent for the first time: (faceplant into desk, plaintive wailing)

It was the hardest C- I ever earned in my life. The Japanese kids actually hired a translator to transcribe the lectures. As for me, well, it all remained Greek to me.

I also remember the professor calling me "very Republican" for saying that the gasoline tax disproportionately hurt poor people, which was news to me. And here I'd thought I was just poor.

I recall this class today because I also remember something useful: a recession is two consecutive quarters of negative GDP, and a depression is when it extends to six. This is eminently objective and measurable. So why are CNN and People magazine using public opinion polls to determine whether we're in a recession?

This is not the Sexiest Man Alive competition, folks. Diagnosis by poll respondents is beyond irrelevant. If you contract cancer, are you diagnosing that by Internet poll too?

this week in racism

I half-watched 60 Minutes this week while I struggled to install a screen door. There was a standard piece about some ridiculous American hate-group. They call themselves "Nazis," to coin a phrase. They want an all-white America.

Gripping, original stuff. Where do these folks ever get their ideas?

This particular piece centered on a newbie Nazi being murdered by his ten year old son. The guy is dead, the son is in juvie, and the kids are being raised by their paternal grandmother, the thinking apparently being that she did such a bang-up job raising Kid 1.0 that she earned an encore.

colonel_klink.jpgThere isn't a sympathetic character to be found in the lot, of course. But something did surprise me: I found myself suppressing laughter. I know a lot of construction workers who fell upon hard times when the housing bubble burst, and many of them had to learn a new line of work. But I know of only one guy who responded by shaving his head, donning a full SS military costume, and railing about racial purity. Yep. Just the one. Worked out great for him, too.

It was the costumes that pushed me into involuntary giggles. Or maybe it was their lusty sieg heils. It's like watching a convention of 12 year olds who are trying oh so hard to prove their badassedness. 12 year olds with a costume budget. I was so riveted by the ridiculousness of their pageantry, I couldn't even hear what they were saying. I'm sure it was really articulate, though.

• • •

Epilogue—Stupidly, I looked at the online comments and found the official rebuttal from some Nazi spokesper—oh, who gives a shit. First and most importantly, being a good American, he claimed victimhood. Just like Hitler before them, they've been unfairly stereotyped by the American media.

Of course, the media finds the "Hollywood version Nazis" much more interesting
And then the guy signs it with his name and the location of his organization: Burbank, CA.

See what I mean? You giggled, didn't you?

Goddammmit, mainstream media! We're Burbank Nazis! That's seven whole miles from Hollywood Nazis!

running out the clock

"You'll know you're getting older," my brother told me decades ago, "When your sports heroes start to retire."

I'll do him one better.

I was watching what's left of my Ohio State team on Saturday. Mike Vrabel is now an assistant coach. I watched him star at Ohio State. My Steelers drafted him, and I watched him play out his contract before leaving for the Patriots, where he won a bunch of rings. I watched him slowly grow old and ineffective, then retire. Now I'm watching his next career. And this entire arc happened since I left grad school.

Next week, I shop for cemetery plots.

the rings are for backhanding the mouthy kid

We're interviewing document designers right now, which means we're looking at a lot of design samples, which is, by the way, infinitely more interesting than looking at editing samples. One sample in particular delighted us.

ruby.PNG

"Yeah, when I think of a single mother, that's exactly the image in my mind," Amy said, ticking off the poise, the coif, the jewelry, the dress. "And for god's sake, what mother has a white couch?!"

"I was raised by a single mother," I agreed, imagining Mom, in sweatpants, crying while cooking Texas hash again. "This is like a photo right out of my family album, it is."

I moved to Metamuville for the waters, yes, but also for the isolation. I'd had my fill of rich, white Microsoft types whining about pre-schools that cost 8x more than my college education. (Yes, that's a real number.) There's not much I can do about "white" in the Pacific Northwest, but "rich" and "Microsoft," I did something about. I put a 15 mile expanse of water between me and them.

It had the desired effect but was not without its costs. Seeing friends takes more effort, now, and I'm never casually invited to anything anymore. There are no impromptu movies. No drinks after work. No "Say, we're BBQing tonight. Want me to throw a burger on for you?" I didn't anticipate the loss of that stuff, but it only makes sense, right? That's the baby thrown out with the bathwater.

But there's a darker consequence I'm only now becoming aware of. For the last year, I've worked from home on a team of telecommuters. I have one co-worker in the state of Washington. Meetings are a thing of the past. In short, I have consolidated control over nearly every aspect of my life. I completely control my environment. If something bothers me, it is my fault. I should have it removed. I do have it removed. I live a soft life of comfort, nearly devoid of discomfort, conflict or assholes.

Nearly.

Then I have to buy a couch, and I'm thrust into a place that is now somewhat alien to me. That place is "the real world." Assholes and agitators abound, and I find myself increasingly ill-equipped to deal with them. I find their very presence in my life disorienting, and oh, do I resent their breathing my air. It turns out that tolerance is a muscle that can atrophy. I am flabby in a way few dream. When it comes to dealing with these sorts of folks, I am a wheezing, cramping, stumbling mess. I'm Gabrielle Andersen-Scheiss (1:09 here).

My grocery store is presently remodeling. I am annoyed by this. Last night I was agitated because I couldn't find Brie. Yes, I was actually angry that someone moved my cheese. I suddenly felt ancient. Is this what happens to old folks? Good lord. Is this what made Percy Percy?

this week in racism

In quite the commentary on where I live, I had driven 45 minutes to get Thai take-out and decided to fill up at the gas station next-door. And I don't mean "the next building." I mean "they share a wall."

Having filled the tank, I was faced with a decision. Should I move the car ten feet and park it, or should I just leave it at the pump and dash inside to grab my grub? Deciding that it was no more an imposition than my using the gas station's restroom, I left my car at the pump. I hadn't even made it into the restaurant when the gas station's owner was screaming at me in Arabic.

I do not speak Arabic, so I shall substitute the only Arabic words I know.

"Allahu akbar! Falafel! Falafel!" he yelled, pointing at my car.

Sure, I could have patiently explained my restroom logic to the man. Sure, I could have ignored him. Or I could have insulted some country he's not actually from. But I didn't. I came up with the perfect solution. I'm so excited to share it with you, I can't type fast enough. I have no explanation for my inspiration, other than I felt the hand of God touch me in that moment.

"¿Que?" I said. "No hablo ingles. ¿Habla español?"

"Marg bar Amrika?" he replied, clearly baffled by a white guy using the upside-down question mark thing.

"¿Que tienes in tu boca, Juan?" I said, channeling my high school Spanish teacher. "¿Este chicle in tu boca?"

"Marg bar Israel?" he replied, getting flustered. That's when I went in for the death blow.

"Entonces, neustra aspiradora esta in la biblioteca universidad."

He threw up his hands in frustration and stormed back into the gas station. I got my food and left, still basking in god's divine touch.

And so, dear reader, this is my gift to you. Use it only for good.

indifference

When a football player goes down, it's not uncommon for the other players, from both teams, to kneel together and pray.

9df9622b502df28b4c1748ef4d6963af.jpg

And then there's also this.

benf.PNG

What does the body language say to you? What I hear:

Seahawks: "Man, those red-eye flights mess me up. It'll be five days before my sleep is right, you know?"

Steelers: "Careful, Maurkice. You almost stepped in something."

this week in racism

When I was very young, around five, I enjoyed the Disney movie Song of the South. I remember little of it except that it had great cartoons separated by interminable stretches of talky live action. Oh, and the song "Zippity Doo Dah."

And then one day, quietly, Song of the South was gone. Banned. Pulled from the public by its own studio. It is racist, they said. Offensive. It will never be reissued.

Brer Bear? Racist? I really couldn't see how, but my memories were murky at best. Was this just political correctness run amok? Decades passed, and then one day while certainly not looking at downloadable movies I saw it: the Song of the South torrent. Click. Gimme. I want to know.

I waited until Madam and Eve weren't around—just in case this thing really was Birth of a Nation—and I watched it the other night. Well, I watched part of it.

Ho-ly shit. My parents had me watch this?! It's a minstrel show. All that's missing is the blackface. It was like the old Amos 'n' Andy shows. In fact, per IMDB, some of the actors came from Amos 'n' Andy. I watched it with jaw fully agape, wondering what on earth my mother was thinking.

And then a familiar feeling set in: stupifying boredom. My god, those live action scenes. Oy. How can something this offensive be so dull?

casting calls

There's nothing as reliable as your international readers to remind you that you've written three posts in a row about American football.

• • •

Meryl Streep is playing Margaret Thatcher, which means it's time for another round of The English Complaining about Americans Portraying the English, which isn't as utterly compelling a movement as it sounds. On their protest placards Streep joins Paltrow, Zellwegger, Blanchett, and my personal favorite, the Harry Potter kids back before they were cast but were presumed to be Americans, so they were protested proactively.

Meanwhile, quietly, Daniel Day Lewis plays Lincoln. Gambon, Branagh, Hopkins and Hopkins again were LBJ, FDR, Nixon and Adams. British actors are now playing Superman, Batman and Spider-Man.

I would protest, but I'm too busy admiring our national self-confidence to care.

mark sanchez

I see that NY Jets QB (and all-around princess) Mark Sanchez proclaimed the Jets' defense even better than that of the '85 Bears. Presumably he says this based on his being born in 1986 and thus being something of an expert on the era.

fearless prediction for 2012 nfl draft

If Peyton Manning's neck surgery means that the Colts tank and get to draft Andrew Luck, I will plotz.

(fame + money) > rapes

It's football season, and that means I spend my workdays listening to Pittsburgh sports radio. My favorite part is the commercial where the Very Solemn White Announcer proclaims that a "study indicated that illegal immigration is against the law."

It's not often that hate makes me guffaw, but there ya go.

On the other end of the spectrum, an excited woman called about Roethlisberger's wedding ring. She noticed he was wearing tape over it during a game, and she wondered breathlessly—you could hear her swooning as her voice went up an octave—"Is that because Ben doesn't want to take it off..?"

I will never be able to unhear her breathy, panting, hopeful, stupid giggle.

sales 090

Continuing our discussion about overly entitled salesmen

Fed up with my neverending search for furniture, on Saturday I went to an upscale leather furniture store on Seattle's eastside. I'll eventually start hemorrhaging money just to make a nuisance problem go away, and I knew I was nearing that point.

I walked into the store and had to step around a cluster of salesmen and customers and a homeless person that were clogging the entrance. That suited me. No humping salesman to shake off my leg. I headed off to the side.

"WHAT CAN I HELP YOU FOLKS FIND TODAY?" I heard someone bellow behind me. Noting the plural, I continued to walk. Then I heard a large person hustling behind me, trying to catch up.

"WHAT CAN I HELP YOU FIND?" he yelled at my back, now much closer. I turned around. It was the homeless person. Rather, it was what I'd thought was a homeless person but is really just "shabby yeti chic."

yeti.jpgMy hackles were already up. I don't like being screamed at, least of all by yetis bearing down on me.

"I'm fine, thanks. Just browsing," I said, turning around and continuing to walk away.

"WHAT ARE YOU SPECIFICALLY LOOKING FOR?"

I turned around again and snapped "Not a relationship."

"NOT A RELATIONSHIP? I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS!"

Of this, I had no doubt. "It means I wish to be left alone."

Thus did this propel him into a rambling, monosyllabic bitchfest about my rudeness, about how he wasn't looking for relationships, about how he owned this store and was trying for a "sense of community" that apparently is somehow different from looking for relationships, and about how I shouldn't take my bad day out on other people.

A bad day? I thought I'd had a marvelous day, filled with pink sunrises and ferry orcas. Until 30 seconds earlier, anyway.

I tried to reason with him. "Do you not pay attention to body language? I walked away from you."

"THERE WAS NO BODY LANGUAGE."

Ah. So there's the problem. How liberating it must be to traipse through life free from the intellectual constraints of self-awareness.

Now let's examine just how excruciatingly bad he is at his chosen profession. I had just embarked on a five hour round-trip involving two ferry rides, just to give him giant stacks of money. I was even prepared to overpay him just so I could stop shopping. I was, in short, as motivated a buyer as buyers come. Poised to buy. Desperate to buy. Yet he managed to repel me out of his store within 30 seconds of my arrival. Put another way, I was in his store 1 second for every 10 minutes I had invested in giving him a sale.

That's immortal.

• • •

I obviously looked him up when I got home. He looked pretty much like in the photo, except that his hair and beard flew out in every direction, as if suspended in mid-explosion. Tidbits:

On his Facebook, he describes himself as an ageless sex god.

The man who so stridently defended his community from me actually lives in an entirely different community from that of the strip-mall furniture store.

Although he is indeed the owner of the store, it was with the help of a federal business loan. As a stockholder, I would very much like him to stop chasing off customers.

sales 080

I think we can all agree on the basic construct of a sale. There are two parties.

Guy 1 possesses cash.
Guy 2 possesses a product.
Guy 1 wishes to exchange cash for that product.
Guy 2 wishes...
Actually, this is where my comprehension breaks down. I would think that Guy 2's goal is to exchange his product for cash. I'm finding this not to be the case. Guy 2 seems far more interested in humping Guy 1's leg until it bleeds, wasting Guy 1's time with inane blather and economic-profiling questions, and, god help me, issuing the conditions under which he will accept Guy 1's cash.

Last month, I employed four contractors to remediate my mold problem:

  1. the diagnosis guy, who mailed me a bill and has been paid for a month
  2. the demo guy, who mailed me a bill and has been paid for three weeks
  3. the drywall guy, who mailed me a bill and has been paid for two weeks
  4. the window guy, who I had to ask to mail me a bill
He refused. He doesn't mail bills, he says. He delivers them in person. I should call him and make an appointment for him to come into my home.

I found this request incredibly easy to ignore, figuring he would eventually mail me the $2000 bill. Then he emailed, asking when he could come over. Then he called again, saying he was "getting concerned" about my lack of response to him inviting himself over. Then I called him and eviscerated him for wasting my scant free time. Now he says he's mailing me the freaking piece of paper, like I originally asked and like any other business would have a month ago. I am certain he thinks me an asshole.

We have crossed into some bizarre plane of existence where people actually manage to think "Yeah, I'll take your money. But only if you do a few things for me first. Quid pro quo."

Tomorrow: Sales 090

no, it's not me

Responses to yesterday's question ran 5:1 on the side of "tacky," and the dissents largely seemed to assume I'm the one who's engaged. Nope. I assure you, should I ever find myself engaged again, there will be no "Come, let you adore me" engagement party.

No, I was asking because I blew off a friend's engagement party. I can't wrap my head around the concept, particularly with the collective fifth engagement. The fifth time 'round, are we still celebrating love?

poll

You're 45. So is your fiance. Between you, you've been divorced three times already. Do you throw yourselves a collective fifth engagement party?

At what point does this become embarrassing?

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