Friday, February 29, 2008

Twixt the Neck and the Waist

At work everyone is required to wear an ID badge. I like wearing an ID badge. It makes me feel very important. Like I'm working at a secret government installation in the desert, or on The List at an exclusive New York nightclub. Except instead of snorting ecstasy and having gratuitous sex, I'm sitting at a desk all day doing legal research.

On the back of my badge in tiny print it says: "This card must be worn between the neck and waist while on [Employer] property." Some of the people who work in my building aren't very good lawyers, though, and wear it on their belt. This is not between the neck and waist, people. AT the waist is not BETWEEN the waist. I've written up a mathematical formula to help explain this:

Neck > Badge > Waist Neck ≥ Badge ≥ Waist

Yay math.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Partisans and Punditry

At work we have a big-screen TV set to CNN, and sometimes I catch glimpses of something called Glenn Beck, a show featuring the eponymous Glenn Beck. I had never heard of this show before I started working; but now that I've seen it, I'm not sure how I lived without it all these years. It's very Jonathan Swift for the 21st century. "Let's eat the babies!" Whenever I'm taking a break and the TV is muted I feel sad, because how else am I supposed to learn what to think?

Here are some of the things I enjoy about Glenn Beck and his show:

"G is for German..." The logo for his show is a giant G, which confused me before I realized he was so important (or his art department was so uncreative) that he should be identified only by his first initial. At first I thought he was just obsessed with the Packers.

Preaching to the choir. Most of the show is spent explaining why liberals and the people who vote for them are stupid, much of it done under the headline "Liberal Fascism," or sometimes under the more restrained "Liberal Fascism?" This is invariably followed by the "interview," in which Mr. Beck talks with a guest who completely agrees with him. It usually goes something like this:

Glenn Beck: Isn't it absolutely ridiculous that No Country For Old Men won Best Picture? Can you imagine anything more ludicrous? Isn't this just undeniable proof - UNDENIABLE PROOF - that our country is spinning out of control because of Hollywood liberals?
Rachel Smith, President of the George Clooney Fan Club: Oh, absolutely, Glenn. No Country had no business winning the Oscar for Best Picture. It was a terrible movie. I can think of far superior nominees who should have won.

I want you to hit me as hard as you can.
Something about this face just makes me want to punch it. You feel it, too, don't you?

The Reel America. My favorite part of the show is a segment called Real America. This is the part normally referred to as the "human interest" story, which is sort of misleading, since, while they are usually about humans, they are rarely particularly interesting. At the end of each segment Glenn looks into the camera and tells us, "This segment of Real America was brought to you by [corporate sponsor]," which always makes me feel good inside knowing that Shell Oil and Blackwater aren't really the evil corporations they're sometimes portrayed as. They're responsible corporate citizens. They care about you and me.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

What Would Keyser Soze Do?

Today on the way to work some guy in an SUV cut me off. Normally I don't mind. My reflexes are quick enough. But this time it was different. It was totally needless. There was plenty of space behind me. If he'd been driving a jumbo jet, there was plenty of space behind me. He did it just for the sake of cutting me off.

Because he was in an SUV, I got a nice big view of his license plate when he did it. Here's some advice: Never cut off someone who works in information services. Especially not legal information services. Because it's pretty easy for us them to find out where you live. Scary, no?

You probably think I'm a little bit crazy for looking up his address. Here's another probably: you're probably right. I'd like to justify it under the auspices of teaching him a life lesson. When you do something bad to someone, there are on occasion [totally and utterly unrelated] consequences. Put it another way: what happens...when you fuck a the ass.

But the truth is, it would just makes me feel better. And isn't that what life is all about? I know in my heart two wrongs don't make a right. But I'm pretty sure one guy doing a wrong and the other guy doing fuck-all about it doesn't make a right, either. So it's a metaphysical wash either way.

I haven't decided what I'm going to do yet. Maybe nothing. Certainly not anything crazy. It'll probably end up being something harmless. It's not the right weather for shaving cream. But perhaps a humorous bumper sticker? "I Brake for Fat Chicks." I'm open to other suggestions.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Irrespective + Regardless = Irregardless

Today in a meeting I think I used the word “irregardless.” I’m not sure. But if I did, I’m very disappointed in myself. Irregardless? Really? Did you perhaps just mean plain ole “regardless?” I think you might have.

It’s not even the misuse of “big” words (four syllables is my limit) that bothers me. It’s that the word doesn’t make any sense. Irregardless? As in, the opposite of regardless? So we should give it regard?

It's a simple equation, I guess: Irrespective + Regardless = Irregardless. Uber-regardless. A whatever-happens, do-not-give-this-thing-regard level of regardless.

And here comes your West Wing quote for the day!

Vice President Russell: The thing is, the Speaker is trying to propulgate a tax bill onto an appropriations package. We start allowing that, we’re never going to get budgets passed.
Leo: I’m pretty sure there’s no such word as "propulgate." Maybe he meant "propagate?" Or "promulgate?"

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Obama Girl, Eat Your Heart Out

Obama won two more primaries last night. I'm at a point where I'm at least 60% certain Barack Obama will be our next President. That number might not sound impressive, until you remember that there are three major contenders in the race. I'm officially more certain than not we'll all be saluting President Obama within a year. And that ain't bad.

I'm awake this early because I'm feeling depressed and couldn't sleep. But this news about Obama (and some Bicardi) has made me feel so much better. A friend of mine lists Obama as one of her five celebrities she's allowed to cheat on her boyfriend with, which I initially thought was kind of stupid (and a waste of a slot of the list) . Another girl says Obama is the first candidate in her political life who doesn't make her feel like she's compromising. And even though I can't have sex with him, I too have become a full-fledged convert. I'm drinking the Kool-Aid, straight from the carton. In fact, I think I'm in love with Barack Obama. I know I'm guilty of everything his detractors complain about. I am projecting all my aspirations onto him. I haven't really thought through all of his policies. But somehow I don't care. Every time Hillary criticizes him for being strong on speech and short on substance, I find myself getting defensive. Don't get bitchy just because no one wants to come to your party, Hillary.

Yes, this is just like being in love. This is like my heart getting hard.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Forced, Awkward, Intimate Situation That People Like To Call “Dating”

So it’s been about a month now since Dream Girl officially went out of my life forever (again). And it’s Valentine’s Day. And everybody keeps harassing me. So this weekend I figured “What the hell?” and went on my first real “date” since college. I met her on LiveLinks. J/K.

A couple months back I said searching for a new apartment was a little like dating. Here's another thing akin to dating: applying for a job. Both situations essentially involve me spending the whole time wallowing uncomfortably in my attempt to come off as smart, but not too smart, and certainly not like I'm trying to come off as smart; personable, but not like I'm trying to come off as personable; confident, but not like I'm trying to come off as confident. I’m sitting there and trying to listen to her, or at least make it seem like I’m listening to her, when the truth is the whole time I’m so utterly obsessed with myself and my attempts to impress her that I end up not caring about her at all. In short, I felt like Vince Vaughn in Wedding Crashers.

What impresses me about dating is how two people can spend so much time talking without having an actual conversation. We talked about the most banal shit. I really don’t care where you went to college. Or whether you think Simon Cowell is an asshole or just honest. What I really want to know is what you think about God, and the political season, and American leadership in a globally interdependent age that moves beyond triumphalism. I want to know how your brain handles complex issues. I don’t even particularly care where you land on the ideological spectrum (that’s not true) so much as I care about how you got there. Do you just think George Bush is an idiot, or can you articulate why?

But I can’t ask you any of that, because it’s all so taboo on a first date. So, Tory, tell me: what’s your favorite ice cream flavor again?

“There’s a new book, and we’re gonna write it. You can win if you run a smart, disciplined campaign, if you studiously say nothing…nothing that causes you trouble, nothing that's a gaffe…nothing that shows you might think the wrong thing…nothing that shows you can think. But it just isn't worthy of us, is it, Toby?...It isn't worthy of us, it isn't worthy of America, it isn't worthy of a great nation. We're gonna write a new book, right here, right now, this very moment. Today.”

Here's another thing I don't like about dating: You can't order chicken wings. Would someone please explain to me the POINT of a dinner that isn't comprised of chicken wings?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sorry So Sorry

Swami asked: What did I do to cause my mother to call me a shithead? Well, I thought it over. And I've decided I'm not going to tell you, if only out of the fear that you might agree with her. I will say it had to do with her cancer. And that we got her pathology results back yesterday, and the cancer doesn't appear to be systemic, and the doctors think they got all of the tumor in the lumpectomy, so it looks like this experience will end up being as "painless" as a cancer diagnosis can be. If I actually WAS a shithead, this would be the part where I'd say: So she should probably get over it.

I will also tell you that, despite being a shithead, I spent the rest of the week trying to find my mother an "I'm Sorry" card. When I was in the third grade I once walked home from baseball practice instead of waiting for my mother to pick me up, thus incurring her wrath (she had to spend the afternoon driving around Oak Park, concerned my picture would soon be on the side of a milk carton near you). When she eventually found me she felt bad about being pissed, so she gave me my first apology card. It had one rabbit lowering a carrot down a hole to another rabbit. I'm not sure if I still have it, but I remember it well. Before then, I didn't even know they made apology cards.

So I've spent this week trying to find my own apology card. I'm surprised at how difficult a task this is. They have cards for the stupidest shit. Thinking of You. Just for Laughs. There are even cards labeled "Hello." Was there really a need for Hello cards? Were there really so many people having difficulty expressing "hello"?

There are Get Well cards, Condolences cards, Sympathy cards. In short, there are many ways to let someone know you're feeling sorry for them. But not so many for letting someone know YOU are sorry. I guess I could just send her this song.

Friday, February 15, 2008

No, I Didn't?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Mama Don't Love Me No More

I recently received an email from my mother in which she basically called me a shithead. She didn’t use that exact word, but she came close (“disappointing,” “nasty,” “thoughtless,” etc). I don’t really know how to respond to it. And I’m not even talking emotionally here, although that’s certainly an aspect that deserves further examination. But in terms of content. How do reply when your cancer-diagnosed mother calls you a piece of shit? Do you agree with her? Certainly it’s an accusation that’s been leveled against me enough times that I’m in no particular position to deny it (when your own mother starts saying it, the evidence is mounting). Yet somehow agreeing with it seems trite. At the same time, “No, you’re wrong, and here’s why” also doesn’t feel appropriate. I’m at a loss on this one.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A President Whom There Were None To Praise...

Last night I was driving home feeling generally thankful for George W. Bush. For truly, how could we come to know the greatness of some Presidents if we were never graced with overwhelming mediocrity of others? A Washington, a Lincoln, a Roosevelt...these dwell among the Untrodden Ways: "Fair as a star, when only one is shining in the sky."

So I was thinking how we should all give thanks to the mediocre Presidents…George W. Bush…Warren G. Harding…

Then I realized!

George W. Bush…Warren G. Harding…
George W…Warren G…

Pure coincidence? Or divine provenance?


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mike Huckabee: ABORT!

Mike Huckabee was trolling for, well, whatever on Meet the Press Sunday. When asked by Tim Russert whether he agreed with conservative commentators that John McCain isn’t conservative enough to be the Republican candidate (the whole winning of Republican primaries thing is neither here nor there), he sidetracked into something I thought was very interesting, by starting off on the opposite side of an issue I support (pro-choice) and yet somehow reaching the same overarching conclusion I hold. Here’s the quote:

I do think that there are issues where he [McCain] takes sharp contrast with the mainstream of conservative thought, sometimes economically, sometimes on the social issues. And those are real sensitive issues for many of us. The life issue is a very sensitive issue for me, Tim. I think that that's a defining issue for me personally, and I think it is for many conservatives. Because we think that if you are wrong on the life question, it reflects a misunderstanding of the nature of our nation and the equality of human beings, that there is intrinsic worth and value in each of us, that the individual power and freedom that our founding fathers so believed in that they put their lives on the line for it, begins to deteriorate at the point when you start saying some lives are worth more than others.

If I felt like being sarcastic right now, this would be the point where I’d say: Ah! So anti-choice is actually PRO-freedom!

I thought this was an interesting argument for Huckabee to lay out, particularly for someone who’s fighting to be raised as the standard-bearer for a group of people who believe, among other things…

1. Certain individuals shouldn’t be allowed to marry.
2. Not everyone deserves health care.
3. The brown people belong back over the border.
4. We should, without any semblance of due process, round people up and stick them in Gitmo.

But I understand there’s more complexity and nuance to those positions than I just gave them. And that Huckabee doesn’t conform to his party on all those issues. So I’m willing to admit I don’t hold to anything I just said with any sort of real conviction.

What I disliked about his statement was that it started with a presumption, which unerringly inhibits the ultimately validity of his argument. Is a fetus an actual life, deserving of the same legal and moral protection as those of us who don’t get our meals through a cord? That’s the question, isn’t it?

NO, IT ISN'T. This issue has nothing to do with whether it’s a child or not. It’s about who gets to make that decision, particularly when we lack a clear consensus. Shouldn’t a society in the name of its own freedom empower the individual to make that decision for him- or herself, rather than having it dictated to them by their government? Isn’t that what America is really about? In a country born on a will to be free, what could be more fundamental than that?

Monday, February 11, 2008

How Come You Don't Call Me Anymore?

Ever since I started undergrad my parents and I have had this sort of unwritten rule that we always call each other on Sunday night. My mother doesn't like this rule, because she thinks it transforms the weekly parental conversation into a chore - one final item on my to-do list - rather than the fun-filled bonanza she thinks it should be. She thinks these calls should be spontaneous, impromptu, as if I were sitting in my apartment utterly consumed by the sudden desire to know what my parents are doing RIGHT NOW.

But I don't like it when people call me for extended conversations out of the blue. Maybe in high school I liked the attention, but now I just have shit to do. And if I don't, it's probably because I've set aside this time as Quiet Time. My time. A chance to finish this Hillary Clinton biography, or watch the Dukies. Or shampoo my hair.

Sometimes I decide to be like every girl I've ever had a relationship with and submit my parents to a test they don't know they're taking. This test usually involves me purposefully not calling them to see how long before they call me. They invariably fail. I don't work for the phone company, but my understanding is: the telephones, they workin' 'em both ways.

And here's where the conversation takes an awkward turn. Because when I first made the move to Minneapolis, I remember realizing that if I killed myself, it would probably be a solid three, four weeks before anybody noticed (fun fact: if you are thinking of killing yourself, this thought doesn't help). Think about it. You only see your landlord once a month to pay rent. Professors don't notice if you don't show up to class (except at the end of the semester when they're suddenly searching for a reason to lower your grade). My only lifeline was a weekly telephone conversation, and sometimes my parents are on a continent that doesn't get good reception.

The moral is, if there's someone you haven't talked to in a while, you should probably call them.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Law Revue Comes in the Niiiight

The other night I was at a bar holding one of those Guitar Hero contests. I used to be pretty indifferent to the whole Guitar Hero phenom. Then my neighbors got the game and decided 2:00 am on a Tuesday was a good time to play, so now the full wrath of my raging ire has been brought to bear. And even though I'm sure the game was designed and programmed by those crafty Japanese, Guitar Hero strikes me as a classic American pastime. Because, hey, kids! Want to play the guitar without all the hassle and bother of having to learn how to ACTUALLY play the guitar? Then boy have we got the game for you!

There's no West Wing quote for this, but I can offer you this:

Homer: Hey, how come you never play your guitar any more?
Bart: I'll tell you the truth, Dad. I wasn't good at it right away, so I quit. I hope you're not mad.
Homer: Son, come here! Of course I'm not mad. If something's hard to do, then it's not worth doing! You just stick that guitar in the closet next to your short-wave radio, your karate outfit, and your unicycle, and we'll go downstairs and watch TV.
Bart: What's on?
Homer: It doesn't matter.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

No Ticket Updated

I decided this post wasn't very funny, so I had to update it. I want to say I filled it with all sorts of unnecessary creatures and skyscrapers, but I'm afraid none of you will get it. So here's this.

Oh yeah, I ended up not going. There was only one ticket between the two of us, and I didn't feel like going alone. An Obama convention is like a sporting event: sure, you could watch your team play, but the whole point is getting drunk and going with your buddies. But I did catch the post-game coverage on YouTube.

Et cetera.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Can't Buy Him Love

Poor Mitt Romney. Nobody likes a Mor(m)on. What happened to the good ole days when you could just buy your way into (or out of) something? Where did those days go? How did it come to this?

You know what I'll miss most about Mitty Cent? All the comments about how presidential he looks. I never really knew what that meant. Does he look like this guy...

...or this guy....

...or even this guy?

How about him?

To be fair, he does remind me a little bit of a more chiseled version of this guy:

Long lost cousins?

Presidential, indeed.

"It always seemed to me like the President makes the voice, not the other way around." --The West Wing

Thursday, February 07, 2008

(Won't) See You at the Coffee Shop

+ =

There’s a Caribou Coffee in my building at work. I never go there, because there’s usually a line and it’s overpriced and I don’t like coffee made from caribou, but I do have to pass it on my way to get to the free crap stuff that my company offers (trust me, there’s a reason it’s free). Is there some sort of requirement that girls who work in coffee shops must be little cutie pies? I think so. It’s really such a cliché, with their aprons and polos and blond ponytails sticking out behind their baseball caps.

Speaking of cliché, Mike thinks I should start buying coffee I don’t want at Caribou just to strike up a conversation with some of them and see how far the sparks doth fly. Didn’t I already see like 12 Meg Ryan movies where that was the plot? I think there’s something kind of generally inappropriate about hitting on girls while they’re at work. The other day I was rockin' it at Banana Republic doing an exchange (they’re having a sale, if you aren't in the know) and not to brag, but the sales girl and I definitely had a moment. And I almost asked for her number, even preparing to pivot to the always-witty, “And if you say no, I’ll have to speak to your manager.” Then I remembered that would make me fucking awesome a cad.

But seriously, I did speak with her manager. Not giving out your number is just bad customer service.

In other news, as you can see, I just discovered always knew about and have decided to start using copiously the strikethrough feature.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Aragorn says: There Is Always Hope!

Oh, yeah. Something needs to be said about the whole "There has never been anything false about hope." There's no denying it was a stupid thing for Hillary to say, especially for someone who has built her campaign on how seasoned and experienced a politician she is. She walked into that one, and Barack brought it down on her.

But the line would inspire me more if I hadn't already heard it from Jimmy Smits on The West Wing three years ago. And if I was better informed, I could probably tell you where he ripped it off from, too. Granted, Jimmy Smits' character was clearly based on Obama, so I suppose it's only fair that Obama take a little from him. I just hope at the nominating convention he tells me how I should vote for the person who shares my ideals, my hopes, my dreams; vote for the person who most embodies what I believe we need to keep our nation strong and free.

Anyway, here's the full line from West Wing:

"I am here to tell you that hope is real. In a time of trials, in a world of challenges, hope is real. In a country where families go without health care, where some go without food - some don't even have a home to speak of- hope is real. In a time of global chaos and instability, where our faiths collide as often as our weapons, hope is real. Hope is what gives us the courage to take on our greatest challenges, to move forward together.

"We live in cynical times; I know that. But hope is not up for debate. There is a such a thing as false science; there is such a thing as false promises; I'm sure that I'll have my share of false starts in this campaign. But there is no such thing as false hope. There is only hope."

Also, counterpoint: I would suggest George Bush's belief that history will vindicate him would qualify as a false hope. As I said, sweeping broad statements and purple prose.

Yes, I Did...or "A Promise Called America"

Yesterday I voted in the Minnesota Caucus. It really ended up being very anticlimactic. I spent all day getting myself pumped, high on the drug that is Obama’s soaring rhetoric; left work early; drove to my precinct; cast my vote in what was, honestly, a very disorganized caucus; then went home. There wasn’t even any decent news coverage to watch until 11. It turns out I really needn’t have even shown up, since everybody except the kitchen sink voted for Obama in Minnesota.

I did have a TV moment as I was putting my ballot in the box: this cute girl and I were putting our ballots in at the same time; our hands touched; and we looked up at each other, and smiled. Then (as aforementioned) I turned around and went home. That’s the part they usually don’t show you on TV.

I’m not going to pretend I’m not a little disappointed in myself for getting all swept up in the Obama craze. Particularly the little things, like this video. I genuinely find myself inspired by Obama because wrote a song to one of his speeches. "Oh my god, yes, we CAN!" And I don’t trust that about myself.

But here’s the thing about Obama. Maybe he’s inexperienced and untested. Maybe he’s naïve. But when he opens his mouth, I believe. I want to follow him. And that, really, is one of the most fundamental attributes of a true leader. That’s how I’m justifying it to myself, anyway. As they say on (where else?) The West Wing, a leader without followers is just a guy taking a walk.

Listening to Obama’s speeches, I’ve begun to appreciate how easy it must be being his speechwriter. I mean, yes, the hours are terrible, and the pay is even worse. And apparently the kid who does it has no time to meet girls, so he can’t reap the most obvious benefit of his inspiring rhetoric. So in that sense, it must be a very hard job. But in terms of final work product? I enjoy Obama’s speeches, so I’m not knocking them, but I can be honest with myself. You take one part Broad Sweeping Statement, two parts triumphalism, add a dash of purple prose, and voila!, you got yourself a political speech:

Before there were the partisans and the pundits, the naysayers and the cynics, there was a promise: a promise handed down to us by the hard toil of our Fathers; a promise they called “America.” Today we take another step forward down the long road that leads to the fulfillment of their dream and the salvation of their struggles, in our pursuit of that fundamental promise: the promise we all call "America."

In closing, here are some of my growing concerns as Obama gains serious momentum:

1. Obama ends up winning the Presidency and becomes unable to deliver on any of his promises, thereby securing his place beside my ex-girlfriend as the World’s Greatest Bullshitter.

2. Obama is assassinated.

I’m sure just by putting the words “Obama” and “assassinate” in the same sentence, this post will be flagged by Langley.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Big C

So here's a little tidbit: over the weekend I found out my mother has cancer. She just dropped it in an email. "How's the apartment hunt going? The Super Bowl is stupid. By the way, I have cancer." Wow. The apartment hunt is not going well, but let's actually focus on you for a second. Cancer? She says she's not worried, which would make me feel better if she had something like the measles, instead of cancer.

She has something called invasive lobular cancer. I hate to say it, but this is the first time in my life Wikipedia has not come through for me. Their entry on lobular cancer is deplorable. It has all sorts of fun facts and figures, but here's the one I really want: the survival rate. Chances are if I'm looking up cancer, I want to know about the survival rate. I particularly want to know about how the survival rate has exponentially increased over the past ten years thanks to unprecedented advancements in technology. It should be in BIG, BOLD LETTERS at the beginning of the article. They do tell me that only 1 in 33 women will die because of breast cancer generally, so I suppose those odds are pretty good.