Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Catching the HSM fever two years later

Due to circumstances largely beyond my control (which I won’t get into because no one would believe me anyway), I ended up watching High School Musical tonight… by myself. And I have to say, it’s fantastically wholesome fun. Positive messages, multiculti faces and age-appropriate (albeit unrealistic) clothing abound. It’s very encouraging that kids today—the age of Grand Theft Auto and Paris Hilton—are obsessed with this movie.

It’s basically an extended episode of MTV’s Made—extended and enhanced with sparkles, song and dance, and exaggerated facial expressions. It seems everyone in this high school has some closeted ambition that’s contradictory to “what they know,” the clique they belong to, etc. But guess what—by the end of the movie, you realize you can be whatever you want! We’re all different in our own special ways! And we’re in this together!

Unfortunately, this kind of optimism will only lead to disappointment later in life because you can’t, in fact, be anything you want—unless, perhaps, your parents happen to be very rich—although if that’s the case you probably only want to be “normal,” or at least that’s what you’ll tell Us Weekly after rehab. But nevertheless, HSM did deliver the warm and fuzzies, and if it helps one football star embrace his homosexuality rather than give wedgies to the drama club president, then I’m all for it.

Plus, it really doesn’t get much better than this basketball dance number. In “Get’cha Head in the Game,” heartthrob Zac Efron tries to shake his secret desire to try out for the musical—while his teammates dance in a synchronized circle around him. If I hadn’t been so distracted by his dreaminess, I would have maybe wondered why Zac was so worried about what his friends would think of “the real” him—they’re about as intimidating as the prancing, snapping gangsters of West Side Story—and just as entertaining. Enjoy!


Monday, December 15, 2008

Does not play well with others

I thoroughly enjoyed the individualistic meritocracy of school, with the minor exception of when it was interrupted by the dreaded group project. Socially awkward since birth, I complained about each and every one of them, and I always heard the same reasoning: Learning to work with others helps prepare students for the “real world,” where idiot collaboration is inevitable. While the bit about dealing with other people is unfortunately true, I think, like most of my liberal arts education, group projects fell short in preparing me for Corporate America—or at least the very bottom rungs with which I'm familiar.

First of all, they had due dates. Conditioned by 16 years of schooling, when I first entered the workforce, looming deadlines filled me with a familiar sense of anxiety. When I stayed late to finish my part or feverishly called MIA co-workers to check on the status of theirs, however, I became increasingly frustrated. It took me a while, but I came to realize that, like almost everything else in Corporate America, deadlines are merely suggestions. Consequently, projects don’t “end” so much as “evolve,” allowing for levels upon levels upon loops of feedback, suggestions, comments, reviews and approvals. In addition to incorporating everyone’s “two cents” (in hopes of creating a mosaic of currency that might be worth something somewhere), this method has the added benefit of spreading responsibility so thinly that no one is left red-handed when someone inevitably drops the ball.

And secondly, we were given a grade. Sigh… I miss getting papers back from the teacher… the anticipation, the validation; that was the life. After graduation, however, I soon learned the best I could hope for is an e-mail response that goes something like: “Looks great. Sending on to Idiot McMoron and Nitpicky Von Controlling—will forward their feedback.” And for my sanity’s sake, I’ve had to stop equating “Thanks, but we’ve decided to go in a different direction” with a big fat F (suppose I'll save that designation for Fired). Actually, I'm encouraged when I get any response—sometimes projects simply disappear into the black Outlook hole of minimized archive folders, forgotten or killed, never to be heard from again. I was a little excited for my first “professional” review because I heard it incorporated an actual grading system. I was quickly brought down to earth, however, when my supervisor sheepishly flew through my evaluation and explained that HR instructed managers not to give perfect scores, and that pretty much everyone was getting a standard minuscule percent raise.

I’m trying to think how group projects could have been structured to better prepare me to not want to drive myself off the road ahead… Perhaps instead of rewarding students with praise and encouragement, teachers should give everyone Cs, blame the economy and then take credit for all their work.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Fun New Toy!

According to my manager, this functionality isn't "new," but I just discovered the user created cards on someecards.com, and it has already provided hours of entertainment. I'd like to share my first creations -- you can even pass one on, if you care enough to hit send.





Monday, December 1, 2008

Chuck’s sparkly blazer steals Nastia’s scene

Ah… tonight’s Gossip Girl… I’ve been looking forward to it for so many reasons:

  • Last week the elation I felt upon claiming a television in my building’s gym and turning it to the CW was quickly destroyed when I realized, mid-stride, that One Tree Hill, possibly the worst show in the history of teen-turned-weird-fast-forward drama, had robbed the 7 p.m. CST time slot.
  • The Snowflake Ball! A combination of my two favorite themes—prom and Christmas!
  • And last but not least, a guest appearance by the fantabulous Nastia Liukin!

Sadly, I was let down for many more reasons:

  • Apparently Nastia didn’t learn anything from Kerri Strug’s disastrous appearance on 90210. Minus the helium voice, Nastia’s performance was a lot like Kerri’s—random and brief. I believe her two lonely lines consisted of: “Are you Chuck Bass?” and “Oh…” Also, she looked funny with her long hair and dress. I prefer the sassy pony and hot pink leotard.
  • Dan may have crossed over to my list of characters I can’t stand (Jenny and Serena). He and Serena are SO RIDICULOUS. Either get back together or stop with the sappy, uncomfortable conversations! Tonight they talked about how special their first time was. Ick!
  • Have I mentioned that I can’t stand Jenny Humphrey?? Her hair, her brooding, her eyeliner… Can’t. Take it. Any. More.
  • Serena’s voice has not gotten any less annoying (ooh, I did like when her new boyfriend’s ex was making fun of her though).
  • Vanessa’s “humiliating” moment was not even that bad—Serena should have been more embarrassed by her Thanksgiving outfit.

And finally, didn’t the ads for tonight’s episode imply there was going to be some sort of disaster? “If you only had one night to live, who would you spend it with?” Huh? Who had one night to live? Did I miss something? Don’t get me wrong, I hate disaster episodes (such obvious filler when writers are out of ideas), but I don’t appreciate being mislead.

There was an accident at the VERY END, but I think it involved the old dude. It’s like when everyone was saying one of the Desperate Housewives cast members was going to die a couple of seasons ago, and it ended up being the annoying old lady. No one cares about the parents. What a scam. And I don’t even think they showed a preview of next week.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pretending to be adults

I've always thought Corporate America reminded me of junior high school... and a few days ago in my office kitchen, I got physical proof:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Baby it's creepy inside

So I’m totally psycho obsessed with holidays—especially Christmas (!)—and I can’t deny it… I’ve been listening to my Christmas station on Pandora for a couple of weeks now. Normal people get annoyed with the infiltration of Christmas merchandise and music creeping earlier and earlier into the fall every year, but I love it. Every last second of it—up until TBS stops looping A Christmas Story (can’t get enough of Ralphie!).

But my premature holiday bliss was interrupted the other day when for some reason, after all these years, I realized how creepy the song “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is.


Lyrics | - Baby It’s Cold Outside lyrics

Some of the more disturbing lines:

Unfortunate Female: The neighbors might thinkCreepy Dude: Baby, it's bad out there

UF: Say, what's in this drink (um, I think it’s called Rohypnol)CD: No cabs to be had out there

UF: I wish I knew howCD: Your eyes are like starlight now

UF: To break this spellCD: I'll take your hat, your hair looks swell

UF: I ought to say no, no, no, sirCD: Mind if I move a little closer (ah yes, moving closer is exactly what you do when you hear “no.”)

UF: At least I'm gonna say that I tried (Oh jeez…)CD: What's the sense in hurting my pride

UF: I really can't stayCD: Baby don't hold out (Ick!)

And he keeps pushing…

UF: I simply must goCD: Baby, it's cold outside

UF: The answer is no CD: Ooh baby, it's cold outside

UF: My sister will be suspiciousCD: Man, your lips look so delicious

UF: My brother will be there at the doorCD: Waves upon a tropical shore

UF: My maiden aunt's mind is viciousCD: Gosh your lips look delicious (Uh, I think she heard that one before...)

UF: Well maybe just a half a drink moreCD: Never such a blizzard before

Um… disturbing much? And according to Wikipedia, the woman’s part is called “The Mouse,” and the man’s part is called “The Wolf.” Double ick! Now, I realize the song was written in 1944, when norms regarding female sexuality (or rather, lack thereof) really lent themselves to miscommunication and/or date rape, but while I find most old-school holiday songs to be quite quaint and warm and fuzzy, I think this particular throwback should be retired.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

HR PR in a downturn

A couple of weeks ago, I was unpleasantly surprised when I trotted into my office kitchen to purchase my usual 25-cent bag of nacho cheese Doritos to accompany my usual six-inch turkey on wheat. The quarter I had carried all the way from my cube on the other side of my floor (past the closest “kitchen,” which should really just be called “crappy coffee area” because it lacks definitive elements such as a microwave, toaster, vending machine and CNN) was not going to be sufficient. With no warning, the price of my florescent snack had inflated more than 300 percent. As if my desktop lunch wasn’t depressing enough to begin with.

When I started my job, the vending machines were presented as quite the perk—because, I was told—they were filled with cheap and healthy options. While I wouldn’t exactly call my weekly, sometimes daily Doritos and Twix fixes “healthy,” they were in fact quite cheap. And I quickly got into the habit of forgoing Subway’s meal deal to buy chips from the trusty vending machine for less.

But it seems those days are over… after weeks of chaos and confusion and $1.40 Pop-Tarts, I just noticed an interesting note displayed on the vending machine. Under the company logo, in the company font, with company heads and subheads clarifying the message—my colleagues and I are being given a two-fold explanation for the snack price hike: 1) It’s part of an ongoing program to promote healthy living—even though I had been told the former options were healthy; and 2) It’s to unify pricing in offices across the nation—apparently consistent M&M prices help traveling employees feel more at home.

Hm… part of an ongoing program to promote healthy living… interesting that Phase Vending Machine Hijack aligned quite nicely with the economy tanking… also interesting that Doritos and M&Ms are still available… Really the only “healthy” additions I’ve noticed are VitaminWater (which may actually not be that healthy) and suspicious-looking tuna crackers.

Seriously now, I am a little pissed that I can’t get Doritos for a quarter anymore, but I’m mostly just annoyed with the poor PR surrounding the price hike. First, there was silence—never a good idea. People are going to notice, and they are going to start complaining (even to HR, according to a friend of a friend who wasn’t prepared with any talking points to respond with), and with no information from above, they are going to start rumors. Then, there was this fluffy, BS explanation—I think my cubemates and I would appreciate some honesty: The market sucks right now, and there’s going to be some belt tightening all around. They were honest when explaining travel restrictions—why should the vending machine strategy be any different? (Do studies show people get more emotional about food?)

So I’d recommend saving the printing costs on those vending machine notes and just sending us an honest e-mail, maybe with the subject line: “Would you rather lose your job or pay 80 cents for Doritos?” That would shut me up.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

No-Spin Zone

Dear Right Wing Nutjobs,

Please remove the following from your vocabulary when pushing your agenda, defending yourself or whining:

These words were created to combat real problems, and your manipulation of them makes me sad.

Signed,

Someone who values denotation and historical context

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Hills compels me to write in all caps

I was just forced to watch a rerun of last night’s Hills episode because The Biggest Loser is TAKING OVER NETWORK TV. I’m not going to pretend I don’t like the show, but I’m definitely not one to (ahem) let a call from one of my best friends go to voicemail because it’s 9:05 on Monday night. I usually watch reruns (marathons if I’m lucky) during comatose weekend days because before two-hour monstrosities infiltrated primetime, there used to be better shows on during the week.

Anyway, the point is I haven’t seen every episode. Are they all as ridiculous as “I Want You To Be With Me”? Ooor… is it just a big, big mistake for me to watch this particular reality show when I’m not still drunk from the night before?

O. M. G. what is WRONG with Audrina?? She dumped a HOT Aussie who is totally into her for Justin Bobby or whatever the f that turd’s name is. And even worse, she can’t even be honest about why she did it—just admit that you like bad boys, Audrina! Just admit you like being treated like crap! This is not a new phenomenon. But no, she tells her co-worker that he “said all the right things” during a conversation that apparently convinced her that it will be different this time.

In case you are not drunk, I’ll save you from having to watch the episode and give you a sampling of what the little skull-capped goober said, or rather, mumbled:

  • “I’ll pretty much always be there for you.”
  • “90 percent of the time I’m with you is right on.”
  • “When I think about you, I don’t think of anything negative.”

Uh… WHAT? This conversation is perhaps the best defense against the accusation that The Hills is scripted. On the bright side, at least I have an answer for Charlize Theron, who doesn’t understand why “this f-ing show is huge.” I think it’s because we like watching skinny, rich, unfairly lucky twits make bad decisions. They may have giant designer sunglasses and blindingly white teeth, but they act just as ridiculous as we do (if not more)—except their mistakes are broadcasted across cable and the Web for our entertainment.

Related sidenote: I’m now watching The Real Housewives of Atlanta for the second time tonight (“Bring On The Bling”), and I need to point out how disturbingly creepy the lovefest between Kim and Sheree is—I almost puked a little in my mouth during the spa scene. Blech—I need to go read a book... ooor proof this blog until it’s time for Chelsea Lately.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sell-Out and the City

I’m about a month late on this “news,” but I recently bought the Sex and the City movie to complete my collection, and watching it this week reminded me of how annoyed I am that author Candace Bushnell is writing a teen novel about Carrie Bradshaw’s high school experience. Even before I read about this project, I’ve been saying I would LOVE there to be a prequel about how the girls met in New York when they were in their 20s, but I think a book for teens is kind of f-ed up.

The show even addressed this issue in episode 15 of the third season, “Hot Child in the City,” when Samantha has to organize a Bat Mitzvah for a brat who could pass for Blair Waldorf’s little sister: (Apologies for the amateur photography.)

video

While the show may be crass, this episode draws the line between sexy/smart and slutty/sad—when kids who are too young to understand sexuality try to use it to their advantage like they see on TV, they’re more likely to end up doing things they regret and allowing themselves to be taken advantage of. By now turning around and actively marketing Sex and the City to young adults, I think the brand is selling out.

It’s true that I watched the HBO show when I was in high school… and it’s true that teens and tweens today are watching and doing all kinds of disturbing, f-ed up things… so I guess what bothers me isn’t that it’s irresponsible of the brand to take advantage of an inappropriate market—although it is—what bothers me is that it’s lame. The Sex and the City movie is like the Carrie necklace: deliciously over-the-top. But this teen book thing is like Aiden’s first engagement ring: all wrong. Distracted by her unplanned pregnancy and (let’s be honest) being the least stylish of the foursome, Miranda defends her part in picking out the disastrous gold ring by comparing it to the gold necklace. But fabulous in one context can become tacky in another.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Columbus Day?

I have to admit, I was annoyed all day today to be at work while multiple friends and family members had Columbus Day off. I really could have used an extra day to recover from a weekend of pretending I was back in college. But unlike New Year's, the purpose of Columbus Day is not for me to nurse my hangoverits purpose is to honor an egomaniac who miscalculated a journey to Asia, lied to his backers about the land he came upon, and enslaved and murdered countless natives without provocation.

Howard Zinn quotes the celebrated hero's log on the first page of A People's History of the United States. Columbus wrote of the Bahama Islands' Arawak men and women who greeted him and his sailors:
"They...brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks' bells. They willingly traded everything they owned.... They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features.... They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance.... They would make fine servants.... With fifty men we could subjugate them and make them do whatever we want."
While wanting to celebrate Columbus Day by sleeping in and watching trash TV all day would certainly honor the selfish history of our great nation, the human in me is happy I worked through this ridiculous holiday. Now, what are we going to do about Thanksgiving next month?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

What came first—the nut or the flake?

In partaking in and observing many relationships (not all… wouldn’t want to make any rash generalizations…), I have to wonder: Did the crazy girlfriend beget the unreliable boyfriend, or was it the other way around? It’s a difficult process to deconstruct, as each party tends to hide unattractive tendencies in the early courtship stages.

Consider early dates, for example. As they’re (still) usually initiated by the male, it’s up to him to make a decision, plan a date and actually follow through—this may actually involve such amazing feats as looking up movie times, making reservations and arriving on time. And these early dates are often punctuated with spontaneous lunches, pop-ins or meet-ups, which are whole-heartedly welcomed by the female—as a result of her initial excitement and interest outweighing her need for schedules and structure, as well as her desire to be seen as a “cool chick.”

After a certain amount of time, however, this blissful charade begins to unravel. But whose fault is it? Did he decide to watch hours upon hours upon days of football with his “buddies” and forget to call because she started a wine-induced fight over nothing the night before? Or did she start the wine-induced fight over nothing because he had blown off a dinner date the weekend before to extend a hometown visit? And why did he extend his trip? To escape his crazy girlfriend? Or was it his disregard for plans and lack of consideration that drove his girlfriend off the edge?

It’s a snowball of a situation that can only be treated with open and honest communication … text messages unfortunately tend to exacerbate the symptoms. And a cure? I don’t think they’ve found one yet. But as for the cause, perhaps “what came first” is a trick question. I think maybe the Goddess begot the nut and the flake at the same time for the same purpose—the fraternal twins were supposed to grow up and foster understanding, acceptance and respect for same-sex relationships. Leave it up to the hopeless heterosexuals to make the worst of good intentions.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Grocery Guilt

I often experience grocery guilt, and I don’t think I’m alone. At the store after work today, I actually felt pretty good about my basket of bananas, oatmeal, tomato soup, broccoli, skim milk and sugar-free gum (even though I’d only gone for bananas), but the gentleman in front of me was acting rather strange. When I got in line behind him, he took a step back, and I (overdramatically) scooted to avoid being stepped on. He glanced at me sheepishly, avoiding eye contact, and mumbled something to the effect of, “I just have this stuff,” motioning to his sad little pile of sustenance.

What’s this guy’s deal? I wondered, before I focused in on his items: a can of chili, an array of brightly colored packages of frozen Jewel-brand burritos and what looked like candy I didn’t have time to identify (as I sensed my staring was making him even more uncomfortable). As I (unsuccessfully) tried to stop myself from judging, I realized he might be feeling a bit like I was last night when, in my hungover state, I just couldn’t make it the extra few blocks to the grocery store and instead bought a bag of pretzels, a tub of whipped cream cheese and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s at Walgreens. As the cashier rang me up, I wondered if he knew this was my Sunday dinner…

Seeing the same guilty look in someone else’s face made me kind of sad. Maybe this dude had just had a rough day and was as horrified by the idea of cooking and dishes as I was last night. Frozen burritos are his choice, and he should have the right to purchase them without shame. I’m well aware of the fact that the things I feel self conscious about are the faults I’m most judgmental of in others—so I’m making a resolution to stop critiquing fellow shoppers’ choices. Except for checkbooks. Using checkbooks in this day and age is simply ridiculous, and I will continue to shoot dirty looks and sigh loudly when the person in front of me breaks out the pony express of payments and I’m trying to get home in time for the beginning of Gossip Girl.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Heard on the Strip…or at the Hard Rock

“Whose is this? I’m gonna drink it.”

A: “She’s fatter than me.” B: “REALLY??”

“I wanna be your daughter’s daddy.”

“He’s getting his ass juice all over the place!”

“Why didn’t you guys wake me up??”

“I’m not hungry, but I could eat.”

“Is there anything else you’d like to complain about?”

“I don’t really want to sit by you—I’m seriously sick of you guys.”

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I’ll take my Vegas without a side of butt floss, thanks.

Although Vegas pretty much represents everything I think is wrong with the world… I. Love. It. (Just one example of the hypocrisy that permeates my existence.) When I go, I usually manage to empty everything from my brain except the pursuit of fun, and can even find the very best in things that would normally send me over the familiar edge: silicone (duck lips and underboob provide hours of entertainment), bachelor parties (shift the conversation from last night's strip club to the proposal story), seizure-inducing casino atmospheres (slot machine zombies make me feel more alive), etc.


But on the long weekend I just got back from, two idiots broke through my pleasant oblivion, sending me on more than one tirade that had no place in The Land of Fun. We first encountered them when we checked into the Hard Rock and went to the pool on Saturday. It wasn’t packed, as the big day to go to the Hard Rock pool is for Rehab on Sunday, but there were a decent amount of people nodding to music that was quiet enough that you could talk, rather than shout, when making conversation.


So my point here is that it wasn’t a crazy party; yet, as soon as we made our way to the main pool area, we couldn’t help but notice two men, sporting thongs, mullet wigs and 70s sunglasses, doing a ridiculous kind of monkey dance. They hopped and gyrated around the pool, back and forth, up and down different levels, grinding up against any group of women they crossed paths with, some of whom seemed amused, most of whom seemed annoyed and/or disgusted. And one of the mullet men had a dollar bill tucked into his butt floss. (Didn't his mother ever tell him how filthy money is?? Ew.)


It was like a never-ending train wreck—except I could definitely look away. One of my friends wondered aloud if the duo would be back for Rehab on Sunday, and you better believe they were. (Saturday was probably a dress rehearsal.) Even though their appearance the next day was a bit more understandable, as everyone puts on their Sunday best for Rehab (high heels and bikinis that look more like underwear than swimsuits, teeny tiny spandex swim trunks, etc.), I found them even more annoying the second time around—even before one of them rubbed his bare backside up against my leg while I was trying to order a drink.


It’s my belief that silly outfits are just plain lazy substitutes for personalities. Instead of learning how to strike up a conversation, these two thought all they needed to do was throw on a couple of thongs and mullets and dance around like buffoons. Nonstop. I can’t decide if they were trying too hard or not enough, but jeez—it’s Vegas, REHAB in Vegas—a place where this feminist makes BFFs with bachelor parties. Please, leave the costumes at home next time. We were all having enough fun, more, in fact, before your bouncing banana hammocks entered the picture.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Corporate Personality Disorder

Last summer as part of its “Office Politics Playbook,” BNET ran a feature called “Office Politicos: A Field Guide,” which included creatures such as “The Snake,” “The Art Chick/Band Guy,” “The Sidekick,” “The Class President,” etc. I remember finding them entertaining, but maybe a tad simplistic. The types I find most, uh, interesting to work with are those whose personalities possess a perplexing combination of dichotomous characteristics. For example:

The Disinterested Egomaniac

Definition: Although she attends most brainstorming meetings and conference calls begrudgingly and participates in the former with a look of boredom and the latter on mute, once this cube dweller perceives any sort of ownership over a project, she falls deeply in love with her own work and is unreasonably offended by any criticism, constructive or otherwise. Although she pokes fun at others who act like minor issues are matters of life and death, a last-minute m-dash deletion can send her on an angry emoticon rampage and perhaps a two-hour mental health/coffee break.

Traits: Petulant, Arrogant, Insecure

Habitat: A limbo between cruising WritersMarket.com at the office and getting up in the middle of the night to finish work projects remotely.

The Overworked Helping Hand

Definition: Despite constantly complaining about all the work he has to do, this office personality cannot resist a cry for help. He feels personally responsible for fixing everyone’s problems but his own. Although he refuses offers to take things off of his plate while he’s yapping about his ever-rising blood pressure, he won’t let the slightest gripe go by without dropping what he’s doing to find solutions to co-workers’ issues—which often means piling their unfinished tasks onto his own wobbling tower.

Traits: Happy-Go-Lucky, Frantic, Obsessive Compulsive

Habitat: On the phone, helping someone retrieve a deleted file (even though there’s nothing in the neighborhood of “tech support” in his job description), while simultaneously IMing another co-worker about how annoyed and stressed out he is.

The Lazy Control Freak

Definition: Although this corporate character prefers to remain MIA during the planning and beginning stages of a project, she insists on jumping in at the very end to either put her stamp on it with extremely minor and largely meaningless input, or discount hours/days/weeks of others’ work by insisting on a change of direction at the last minute. She has a special talent for taking credit for the project’s completion while blaming any missed deadlines on the incompetence of others.

Characteristics: Sluggish, Ambitious, Curt

Habitat: Difficult to locate but will suddenly appear at the top e-mail strings, usually directly above a phrase like, “Good to go!” Her message will say something to the effect of, “Looks good, but…” and end with, “Thanks.” Period.

Oh the strange and capricious creatures that roam the cubicle maze… Guess which one I am…

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Taste of her own medicine?

It's surfaced that Republican running mate Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter is five months pregnant... how interesting... so far the reaction from Democrats has been to respect the privacy of Palin's family, and the reaction from Republicans has been to stand behind Palin as a "real person" and someone who "walks her talk." A quote from CNN.com:
"I think, if anything, it shows the Republican Party is a real American party," said Rex Teter, another Texas delegate. "Every family has to deal with children, and sometimes children make decisions that parents wish they would not have been made, and things happen. But I think children are a blessing from God."
Hm... yes, Palin certainly does represent the America pro-life extremists like herself have created. According to the same CNN.com article, Palin supports abstinence-only education. She also opposes abortion even in the case of rape or incest and is a member of "Feminists" for Life. (Needed to add quotation marks because that phrase makes absolutely no sense to me.) The mainstream media is dancing around all of this information due to a sudden respect for privacy, but we all see the irony here, right? "Pro-life," anti-sex education, anti-contraception extremists refuse to see the ineffectiveness of abstinence-only education in schools-- even when the failure of abstinence-only education in their own homes is staring them in the face-- and making headlines.

According to a Today Show segment that aired this morning, teen pregnancy rates are on the rise in the U.S., and three in 10 girls become pregnant by the age of 20. And why is that? They're not using protection! Shocker! If schools aren't going to teach teens about safe, healthy sex, and their parents might not, who will? Virgin/whore role models like Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson? I'm going to guess no... f-ed up, oppressive, unhealthy ideas of sexuality-- now those the media's doing a great job of teaching. Clearly.

So yay for family privacy and all that... but when a public figure's personal life directly exemplifies the failure and hypocrisy of her political platforms, I do believe it's worth pointing out. After all, the personal is political-- Palin should recognize that rhetoric-- she apparently considers herself a feminist.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Singlism

Last Friday was enlightening. I was sitting at the bar, turned toward a few friends on my left, when a rando on my right tapped my shoulder and quite politely, actually, apologized for bothering me, but said he’d seen me walk in, blahdy blah, etc… and then ended his opener with, “So, how is a girl like you single?” UGH. That is maybe my absolute MOST HATED LINE.

I do believe it’s usually intended to be a compliment… but it is, in actuality, an insult. The underlying assumption is that singleness is an unfortunate condition everyone should avoid at all costs. It’s also a rather personal question to ask someone you hardly know. What kind of answer do people expect? “Well, I have daddy issues,” or “Under this makeup I look like a troll”??

But as my eyes began to roll up and I took a deep breath, preparing to launch into my usual speech (actually I find that question rather offensive, perhaps I choose to be single because I quite like dictating my own schedule, I’d rather not be in a bland or dysfunctional relationship, etc.), I realized something. For the first time in over a year, when asked why I was single, I simply answered with an expression that quickly turned from annoyance to befuddlement: “I’m not.” Accompanying an uncomfortable silence, my expression was then reflected back to me in the face of my new friend.

It had never occurred to me before that moment what’s perhaps most infuriating about that dreaded question: the ASSumption that someone is single. Was it because I was sitting at a bar with a group of girls? Was it because I turned toward a stranger when he tapped me on the shoulder? Was it because I was at a $15 all-you-can-drink-and-eat special at Durkins? Oh, maybe that did have something to do with it…

Friday, August 22, 2008

Athletics imitate life

My ex forwarded me this article, “Sex and the Olympic city,” from the Times Online today. From the lead photo (my eyes!), I figured it was just going to be more of the usual inappropriateness that boys like to send around the Internet, especially on Fridays, but it’s actually really interesting. And it’s told in first person by former Olympian Matthew Syed, with personal anecdotes—my fav. Most of the story is simply an entertaining peephole into the Olympic Village, which apparently functions a lot like a co-ed freshman dorm during the first week of college. Who knew? I’ll never watch the Olympics quite the same way again…

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, however, the most interesting part of the article, to me, was quickly brushed over:
“It is worth noting an intriguing dichotomy between the sexes in respect of all this coupling. The chaps who win gold medals - even those as geeky as Michael Phelps - are the principal objects of desire for many female athletes. There is something about sporting success that makes a certain type of woman go crazy … But - and this is the thing - success does not work both ways. Gold-medal winning female athletes are not looked upon by male athletes with any more desire than those who flunked out in the first round. It is sometimes even considered a defect, as if there is something downright unfeminine about all that striving, fist pumping and incontinent sweating. Sport, in this respect, is a reflection of wider society, where male success is a universal desirable whereas female success is sexually ambiguous. I do not condone this phenomenon, merely note it.”
Nice observation, Matthew! I wished he would go on, in his deliciously British prose, but instead he starts writing about athletes’ smoking habits. And the “certain type of woman” comment—I won’t even get into that. So it looks as though we can add one more either/or to female existence: Olympic Champion OR Village Vamp. Meanwhile, Phelps gets to have it all.

Monday, August 18, 2008

“So, what’s going on between you two??”

If a tree falls in the forest, and there’s no one there to hear it, does it really make a sound? Well in my opinion, it should be up to the tree to decide. Isn’t the tree more aware of its own actions than any outsider? Do things not actually happen unless they’re recognized by others?

That certainly seems to be the case with relationships. Two people can’t simply enjoy each other’s company—after a while, the others start asking questions—and you’re forced to have The Talk. This usually happens after suffering through one too many awkward silences surrounding introductions to friends of friends, when some oblivious drunk jabs his finger at you and blurts out, “Is this your GIRLFRIEND?”

You’d think you could just introduce people by their names, but apparently you can only avoid the G and B labels for so long. The others must know your status! Ambiguity just won’t do! And if you dodge their questions for too long, refusing labels or playing too long in minor league labels, frustration will mount and pretty soon your relationship as you thought you knew it will cease to exist, either because you or your counterpart has caved, or because the others have given up and completely dismissed it.

Perhaps this is why weddings have turned into such a spectacle. They’re really not about the couple or love or commitment at all. They’re about public declaration. They’re about putting an end to answering nosy questions—so you have a big show of it and then you wear around a band of physical evidence so the others will no longer have to wonder. Of course then they will probably start asking you when you’re going to start procreating…

So if a relationship exists between two people, but their friends and family can’t label it, does it really count? Apparently not. And does a turn under the microscope keep you from grilling your loved ones the next time you’re on the other side? Not so much. We all need the entertainment.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Little girls in pretty boxes

I realized tonight while watching the Olympics that I apparently know nothing about my “favorite sport”—women’s gymnastics. (I guess that tells you something about how much I like sports...) First of all, I was completely confused by the new scoring system. Second, I guess the Romanians suck now.

I found the commentators’ conversation about the Romanian team almost more annoying than the F.I.G.’s confiscation of the perfect 10. Basically, the two reasons they gave for Romania's downfall were: 1) Nadia Comaneci no longer inspires young girls (vague and random explanation I didn’t understand until I Googled the issue and found this one, lonely and fairly old article), and 2) the gymnasts are no longer the uber-disciplined robots they used to be.

To elaborate on the second explanation, first one commentator reminisced about how the old Romanian teams never stopped working, comparing them with disdain to the current team, who she apparently saw chatting around the chalk box during practice. Gasp! What lazy wastes of spandex! Then the other commentator mentioned after one of the gymnasts fell and must have been hugged or something by her coach (I was Googling and didn’t see) that in the old days, a gymnast who messed up would never get a high five or hug or anything from her coach (perhaps she would just get an electric shock?). Then he quickly added something like, “I’m not saying that’s the way it should be—I’m just saying…” as an afterthought. Hm.

According to the CHINAdaily.com article I found, Octavian Belu and Mariana Bitang, Romanian coaches of the last Olympic team, “faced criticism over their iron discipline and allegations of psychological abuse and demanding cuts from gymnasts' prize money.” Hm. I’m not saying child abuse and exploitation don’t produce champions—I’m just saying… it’s pretty f-ed up.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A night to remember

My friend and I had a chatty cab driver on the way home from the bar Saturday night. The first thing he said was, “Did you have fun tonight? Did you get hit on by a lot of guys?” I think it was his bluntness that bothered me most. Usually people ask things like, “Were there a lot of people out?” or “Did you meet any cute boys?” They usually don’t plop that direct correlation out there so obtusely: Did you have a good night, i.e. did boys pay attention to you, and/or hump your rear somewhat rhythmically to a Rihanna song, and/or invite you back to the frat house?

Whether delicately verbalized or not, this singular idea of what constitutes a successful night appears to be widespread. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been catching up with a (female) friend I don’t see very often when we’re interrupted by some rando who says something like, “Boy you girls are just chatting away!” or “You guys just been sittin’ here chatting all night?” or “You ladies look like you’re having a heated debate!” What about those observations compels these men to cut in? Must be the ASSumption that even though we appear to be having a good time, our situation could only be improved by a representative of the male gender.

Even worse, when having drinks with two or three friends, I’ve been stopped mid-sentence by randos who just waltz up to our table and stand there, staring. “Well, hello there,” one of us is eventually forced to say in an attempt to squelch the awkwardness. But of course it only gets worse because the rando really has nothing to contribute. He apparently expects us to be so grateful to him for saving us from our heinously female night that we will be more than happy to entertain him with spontaneous conversation.

Now, I’m not saying I never go out to perhaps meet a new boy, or maybe run into an old one… but the funny thing about that is when I’m sitting on a barstool, eyes wandering, only sporadically exchanging bits of celebrity gossip with a friend I see all the time, randos seem less likely to physically approach, but instead—if anything—do strange things like send over tap water and kiddie cocktails. It’s as if they feel more comfortable interrupting conversation than boredom.

My point, though, is that there are numerous ways to have a fun night, and they certainly don’t all revolve around getting “hit on.” Why must that be the main measure of success? And why, while we're on the subject, is that phrase so unpleasant? A smattering of events I consider to be equally, if not more indicative of a successful night out:

  • Karaokeing “Manic Monday” with a friend of a friend you randomly ran into.

  • Winning a dance-off with your shopping cart skillz and lifeless robot stare.

  • Hustling a gaggle of Orange County ingrates in beer pong.

  • Making it through a night of multi-level bars without falling down any stairs.

  • Discovering that Ian’s is serving up BBQ chicken pineapple AND tomato pesto pizza. And eating both without guilt.

Plus, you know what they say: You’re more likely to stumble across The One while you’re busy doing the robot, or something like that… actually perfecting the robot and attracting men are usually more of an either/or sort of deal… but nevertheless a choice every woman must have the right to make for herself and her own night.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pigeons & Role Models

When my sister told me she'd bought a book for my niece that I had to read to her, I thought it was just going to be about some fabulous aunt who saves the world with her super shopping powers or something, but The Pigeon Has Feelings, Too! by Mo Willems surpassed all expectations. It stars a sassy pigeon who doesn't appreciate being told to smile by a bus driver. "Why should I?" Pigeon asks, "Do I get on your bus and tell you how to drive?!"

Excessive punctuation and a killer 'tude: I like this Pigeon character! What a great role model for my niece! I have a feeling she doesn't like randos telling her to smile any more than I do. Unfortunately, Pigeon does end up getting outsmarted (sorry to ruin the ending, but the cardboard book is only 10 pages long...)-- now if only I could figure out how to outsmart my niece when I want her to smile for a picture and she's looking at me like she is so over the paparazzi. Fourteen months of being a girl and she's already rebelling against smiling on demand. Maybe she should be my role model.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Be your biggest fan


Perhaps the self-esteem movement wasn’t all for naught—and perhaps we don’t all need to go through the five stages of post-collegiate grief—because apparently all those compliment collages and gold star stickers actually did prepare my generation for something: reality television!

My favorite part of this clip from E! News on a popular class on how to become a reality star is the list of tips to impress casting directors (highlighted across the screen in bubble letters), one of which is “Be your biggest fan by starting sentences with ‘I’”. This is fantastic. I know the golden rule of writing a cover letter when applying for a “real” job is to avoid beginning too many sentences with the word “I.” (“I’m interested in this position because...”) No, must demonstrate your humility and keen interest in Corporate Corporation X, and somehow at the same time focus on what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.

I always thought that was BS… and it was so hard to fandangle value from my non-experience while visions of health insurance (!) salary (!) and paid time off (!) were dancing in my head. So forget the “real world.” Who needs it when you can play a real person on TV?!

The other tips, for those of you who can’t access YouTube at work (more reason to ditch this “real world” that oppresses us), are “Speak slowly” (always a good one), “Work it all the time,” “Ride the wave of celebrity” and “Carry a makeup kit with you—because you want to shine, but you don’t want to shine.” (Oh boy.)

I feel like a good chunk of my generation has been groomed for this job since birth… but I guess a class would only further secure a destiny in reality television humiliation, er, stardom, I mean…

Thursday, July 17, 2008

It's gotta be some kinda disorder...

Yesterday the Today Show featured a story on “Nature Deficit Disorder.” Apparently kids today aren’t spending enough time playing outdoors, experiencing nature. According to the segment, “Studies show kids with early exposure to the outdoors have less stress, better concentration, more creativity and higher self-esteem than their more shut-in friends.”

Sounds like a good argument… but I related more to an essay I read today in I Was Told There’d Be Cake, by Sloane Crosley (my new favorite book), called “Bastard Out of Westchester.” Crosley writes of her suburban childhood, “Suburbia is too close to the country to have anything real to do and too close to the city to admit you have nothing real to do. Its purpose is to make it so you can identify with everything. We obviously grew up identifying with nothing.”

So yeah, Nature Deficit Disorder might be a real problem (well, maybe not because if it was a real problem we’d be calling it NDD, wouldn’t we?), but I’m thinking maybe we should be more concerned with GIDD, Geographic Identity Deficit Disorder. I just know GIDD has the chops to become a real disorder—it makes the perfect acronym—one you can turn into a real word because it has a vowel in the middle of it, like radar. Soon people won’t even remember what it stands for! When a tween sporting black lipstick, heavy eyeliner and a Hannah Montana baby tee cuts in front of you in line at the mall, you’ll just shake your head and say to your shopping buddy, “gidd… what a shame.”

Crosley goes on to discuss how perhaps her unique name, Sloane, was the only identifier she could latch on to: “Like a lunatic in the psyche ward with only smocks and slippers for clothes, my name is the one definite thing I own…Occasionally there will be a character with my name on TV or in the movies. I find this incredibly distracting. I should hope this is not so much the fault of my vanity as it is the fault of my untrained hearing. I assume, when I hear the sound of my name, that it is referring to me. It’s like watching commercials on the Spanish channel and comprehending nothing except the word 'Coca-Cola.'"

This was fascinating to me because Amy is such a ridiculously common name. According to Social Security Online, it was only the 10th most popular the year I was born, but I don’t believe it. (Crystal? Number nine? Please...) I grew up with my last initial permanently attached to my first name because there was always another Amy in my class, and there were no fewer than five Amys on my dorm floor my freshman year of college. (So of course we all had to have nicknames. I campaigned for Hottie but somehow ended up with Bubba… I suppose I should be glad Crazy Amy went to the girl across the hall who was afraid of fruit.)

I’ve become so detached from my name that I don’t even answer to it anymore. When I hear someone yell it on the street, I assume they’re talking to someone else. My college boyfriend’s previous girlfriend was named Amy as well, so I endured being called “Number Two” for almost a year… and the dude I’m (kinda) seeing now has a friend who’s dating an Amy so I’m being called by my last name, or my college town… which is a long story for another blog.

So is that why I’m so lost in contradiction? My suburban (Midwestern, no less) roots? Crosley’s unique name helped her overcome her GIDD. It seems I’m screwed. Well, at least I’ll know how to save the next generation, should I ever reproduce—raise them in the city… or the country… or name them something like… Dancing Queen. Wouldn’t even need a last name with an identifier like that.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Does the early bird get the worm?

What is it about being early that impresses people at work so much? I’m not excluding myself. It impresses me too. Maybe because it’s something I find extremely difficult to pull off on a regular basis. Every morning I tell myself I need to keep progressing toward dressing myself and moving toward the door, but most days I notice the Today Show has started looping stories, and I realize I’m going to have to sheepishly roll in who knows how long after my entire team, yet again.

But I’m starting to think the whole getting in early thing is overrated. Yesterday I had to get to work for an 8:30 a.m. call, which thankfully I can usually manage to do when I have something to motivate me. And I had even drank a few beers at the Cubs game the night before [patting self on back]. So this morning I guess I felt entitled to a little extra time … and I ended up leaving my apartment about 15 minutes later than my usual panic time—when I won't even go back for my travel mug if I’ve discovered I’ve left it sitting on my counter as I step into my building's elevator. Which happens a lot.

So I was strangely relaxed while I was waiting to cross the street to get to my bus stop—didn’t even tempt my fate with a game of George Costanza-esque street frogger when I saw my bus approaching, like I usually do. I did, however, start to get nervous when I was only halfway across the street and another bus appeared right behind it. Oh crap, I thought. I’m going to miss this one too, and then I’ll definitely be waiting forever for the next one. Deflated, I made my way to the empty bus stop, took a seat and opened my book. When I happened to glance up a minute later, though, I couldn’t believe my eyes! A THIRD bus was approaching. And it was practically empty! I boarded and not only got a seat, but had an empty seat next to me to put my mounds of stuff on—something I’ve fantasized about while I’m usually standing, smooshed up against fellow commuters, trying to pretend I don’t realize the corner of my giant bag is poking some unsuspecting suit’s “private” area every time the bus lurches, which is about every 32 seconds.

AND since we were able to cruise by a few empty stops, I actually ended up arriving at my office only a few minutes later than I usually do—AND instead of a mass of people waiting downstairs for the elevators, I saw there were only two people, getting on the first elevator to my right (!) as I swiped my security badge and went through the turnstile, and they held the door for me so I hopped right on and up. Slid into my cube probably only a minute and a half after I normally do—in a much better mood.

Yesterday, on the other hand, I boarded a packed bus, which became more and more packed as we approached the Loop—and got to listen to not only the bus driver yell at us to “MOVE TOWARD THE BACK PLEASE, MOVE TOWARD THE BACK” every five minutes, but also some cowboy who decided to take it upon himself to help herd his fellow commuters, shouting things like, “Come on people don’t be shy. We’re all just trying to get to work,” and “Hope we all remembered to put on our Dial today.” Thanks, buddy, for telling us all what to do, because we don’t all take this bus EVERY MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY. And by the way, you don’t “put on” Dial, and you’re not funny—probably not ever—certainly not at 8 a.m.

But I did arrive at work on time for my call … and here’s about how it went:

8:30—Dialing in.

8:32—Silence.

8:35—“Hello … Hello … Thanks everyone for joining … I know my screen is black too … We’re having some technical difficulty with Live Meeting … Bear with us for a few minutes.”

8:40—“Thank you for your patience … Still working on the Live Meeting … By the way we’re going to record this presentation … Does everyone have the exercise we sent with the invite?”

8:45—“Does everyone have the exercise we asked you to do? …. What exercise? … It was in the invite.”

8:47—“Does everyone have the exercise?... Well, at least this gives you time to complete the exercise.”

8:50—“Okay we’ve got Live Meeting going now. Thanks everyone for your patience. We’ve decided not to record today.”

Twenty minutes I could have spent sleeping (I had completed the exercise the day before, as instructed) ... although I did enjoy seeing the shock in my co-workers’ faces when they came in to find I had arrived before them. After I told one of them it was because I had an 8:30 call, he said, “Oh, I thought maybe you’d just wandered over from Wrigley Field.” Now, that alone is almost worth getting out of bed a few minutes early for.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Blue Light Special

I know we’re all familiar with drinking games—Flip Cup, Beer Pong, Hockey, Circle of Death, etc.—so I’d like to share with you a new favorite after-drinking game of mine: Blue Light Special. You might be wondering: What’s an after-drinking game, and why would you want to play one?

Well… at the end of a summer week spent celebrating at the pool, beach, bar and bar at the beach (God Bless Corporate America and PTO), there may come an afternoon when some of your friends are hungover, some of your friends are drunk from breakfast at Stanley’s and some of your friends are new and happen to have fantastic ideas of how to pass the time—and you all magically come together and decide to do something different—a magical activity called Blue Light Special. Important: this is not to be confused with Red Light Special—the former has quite the opposite effect as the fantastic TLC song and video. Here are the rules:

  1. Everyone in the group puts their name and clothing size in a hat.
  2. Everyone pulls out a name. If someone chooses their own name, they have to pick again.
  3. Find the nearest Kmart.
  4. Players have 15 minutes and $29.99 to buy the person they picked an outfit to wear out that night.

Some special items to look out for: mom jeans/capris/shorts, muumuus, slip-on canvas shoes, bejeweled belts, visors, and long pajama shirts and baby t’s that say things like “Not Listening!” and “I’m No Angel.” Another tip: Stay focused. Some players might be tempted to use part of their 15 minutes to go to a nearby grocery store and pick up cases of Old Style and Busch Light, hastily purchasing clothes that are actually attractive. This would be a mistake. And finally, my most important tip would be to head out, after an amateur fashion show, to an establishment with outside seating—so everyone in the neighborhood can admire your new threads. My favorite comment of the day: “Hey, I think my grandma has that shirt!” Priceless.

How do you determine the winner? Well, like the aforementioned drinking games, “winning” is pretty inconsequential (and kind of defeats the purpose). But if you have to choose one—would be un-American not to—I guess it would be the person who picks out the most unattractive outfit, although I think the person who has to wear the most unattractive outfit should get some sort of consolation prize. So… I’ll keep checkin’ my mailbox.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Villain or Victim?

Due to my daily, rather loud coughing fits and love for complaining, my co-workers have traced the plague that’s making its way around my office to me. They’re calling me Typhoid Amy. Before I was given this lovely new nickname, I did go to one of those Take Care clinics at Walgreens (which are surprisingly nice!)—against my mother’s advice, might I add, who thought I was just being over-dramatic as usual. The nurse practitioner told me I just had some kind of cold or virus and sent me home with a couple of bottles of over-the-counter medicine and “grandma’s advice” to get more sleep and whatnot.

So I’ve been drinking lots of orange juice and not going out during the week… and I worked from home one day. Despite these attempts to kick my cold, however, I’m still getting accusatory looks whenever someone coughs (one co-worker even claimed I got his dog sick, an animal I've never met...), and now they’re bugging me to find a primary care physician—I guess because they’re tired of listening to me cough up phlegm all day…might I suggest headphones?

But I actually think my new nickname is fitting—because like me, revisionist historians say Typhoid Mary didn’t deserve all of the heat she got back in the day, as she was a victim of circumstance. The public turned against “Typhoid” Mary Mallon when she went back to working as a cook after she knew she was a carrier of Typhoid, but historian Judith Walzer Leavitt argues: “To be sure, Mary Mallon was not entirely blameless when she knowingly returned to cooking in 1915, but the blame must be more broadly shared. Much of what Mallon did can be explained by events greater than herself and beyond her control. It is only in the full context of her life and the actions of the health officials and the media that we can understand the personal position of Mary Mallon and people like her.” Being a single woman and an Irish immigrant in the early twentieth century, Mary did not have at her disposal many ways to support herself, and after she was quarantined, “she was not permitted to work at a job that had sustained her, but she was not retrained for any comparable work.”

So just as circumstance must share at least some of the blame placed on Mary, I believe it should share the blame I’ve been saddled with as well. Consider the facts of my life, a century later in Corporate America:

  • I spend a great deal of my waking hours inside of an office building, inside of a cubicle, one cube away from the window. According to new research, the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D, “has been shown to help regulate the body’s disease-fighting immune system.And low vitamin D levels have been linked to heart disease and other health problems.
  • I spend most of my day sitting on my ass in front of my laptop, with the occasional break to walk to the kitchen or conference room to stuff my face with free pizza, brownies and other miscellaneous treats, offered up at least once a week if we have some sort of meeting or training…or it’s Tuesday. Obviously, this diet and lack of exercise does not do a body good.
  • To recover from the passive aggression and spinning hamster wheels experienced during the work week, I often consume a few too many alcoholic beverages. According to my mother and nurse practitioner, this corporate recovery is perhaps prolonging my plague recovery…


So are we villains or victims? It’s quite a predicament, in my opinion.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

It’s waaaay better than the truth. It’s advertising.

A couple of months ago I noticed a sign displayed outside of a diner around the corner from my apartment advertising “healthy breakfasts” alongside a picture of typical diner breakfast food: bacon, eggs, sausage, waffles, etc. It made me chuckle—a hearty breakfast maybe, but a healthy breakfast? I don’t think so. And who goes to a diner for a healthy breakfast anyway? Big breakfasts are all about indulging—for me it’s usually to top off or recover from a night out. The “Open 24 Hours” sign was what converted me from neighbor to customer.

The banner’s tagline seemed like a bad idea to me (and maybe the owner as well—it wasn’t there when I looked for it today) until I started noticing similar, i.e. blatantly false messaging in larger, more sophisticated campaigns, like the Wendy’s commercial below:




“It’s waaaay better than fast food. It’s Wendy’s.” Huh? But Wendy’s IS fast food… isn’t it? In fact, it’s the third-largest hamburger fast food chain, according to Wikipedia. And I’m actually a tad concerned that their burgers are never frozen—I don’t think they’re slaughtering cows back there in the kitchen—how sanitary is it that the meat they’re using isn’t frozen while it’s in transport from wherever it’s coming from? When I buy chicken breasts at the grocery store, they go straight into my freezer when I get home. Wobbly raw meat creeps me out.

And then there’s the Botox commercial that employs the catchy jingle “Express yourself!” What? Isn’t the whole point of Botox to paralyze, with toxin injections, the muscles that create lines and wrinkles on your face—the same muscles that EXPRESS EMOTIONS? Isn’t the entertainment value of watching slick foreheaded, expressionless soap stars struggle through crying scenes the silver lining of our youth-obsessed culture?

I couldn’t find the ad on YouTube, but botoxcosmetic.com is almost as ridiculous:

The main text on the right reads: “It’s all about freedom of expression...” Does the ellipsis serve as acknowledgement of the absurdity of this campaign? I like to use ellipses to punctuate ridiculous things I write—well, to punctuate pretty much everything I write…

I suppose the “Will I be able to make facial expressions? Find out more.” link is supposed to ease fears consumers might have about Botox, something a sub-page of a company’s Web site is great for… but it’s odd that Allergan (maker of Botox) would actually highlight this negative effect/connotation of its product in its marketing efforts (and the link only provides more vague, contradictory information). Users can see the product’s effect for themselves in a Before & After Gallery, which for me pretty much just affirmed the assumptions I had already made about Botox. The Befores show more expression and more wrinkles, and the Afters show less expression and less wrinkles. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

But the madness doesn’t stop there! Apparently the League of Women Voters and Allergan have teamed up “to encourage women to express themselves through the political process and by making choices about how they live.” Well that’s super. I thought the gobs of time and money I spend worrying about my appearance were distracting me from more important issues like sexism and empowerment, but apparently succumbing to oppressive beauty ideals IS empowering! Thanks, Allergan!

Either the brains behind these campaigns were experiencing some sort of corporate meltdown (a condition I’m familiar with), or perhaps their line of thought was that consumers have developed a resistance to the usual flowery, misleading advertising language, so they are trying something new by just throwing ridiculously false messaging out there—replacing puffery with absurdity. And maybe it’s a brilliant strategy … it certainly got my attention.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Paint-by-numbers pickup art

Last Friday was another interesting night at the bar. A guy who approached my friend and me managed to give me two odd insults in a matter of minutes. First he told me he was sure I was a teacher because I looked “homely.” After I asked him what that was supposed to mean, he said, “You know, you look like you stay at home and read a lot of books.” Hm. Were the rest of his pickup skills as lame as his vocabulary? For some reason I stuck around to find out. Next he asked me if I was Jewish. I said no, but people ask me that all the time. A lot of people think I’m either Jewish or Italian, I told him, but I’m actually neither. And he responded, “Oh I’m just trying to say you’re ordinary looking.” Huh? That was when I decided to put the unfortunate conversation out of its misery.

I was telling the story to a male friend the next day, and he said maybe the guy at the bar had been reading The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists. In the book, Neil Strauss, formerly “a self-described chick repellent,” apparently tells the story of how he was assigned to “investigate a community of pickup artists,” through which he learned and successfully used techniques he shares with readers. According to my friend, one of these techniques is to give women backhanded compliments. Another is to approach the less attractive woman in a group. According to Amazon, another is to "intrigue a beautiful woman by pretending to be unaffected by her charm."

My friend really got a kick out of the ordinary looking comment. “Maybe I should take it a step further,” he said, “and just go up to girls and punch them in the head.” (I know I should probably know better, but I thought that was hilarious.) When we were out later, I decided we should just fully embrace this gradeschool approach and suggested to my friend that he go up to a random girl and give her a wet willy. (I didn’t really think he’d do it…) She did not react positively at first (shocker), but I did notice she hung around where we were standing for a while afterward. Maybe her interest was sparked… or more likely she was waiting for an explanation.

So might some men actually experience success using some sort of reverse psychology to pick up women? I’m afraid that might be the case, now that I’m thinking about it. About a month ago, a guy discarded his empty beer bottle right in front of me, which I thought was rude, but I did end up talking to him when he approached me again and actually spoke. And I ended up going out with him… a few times… I think it might be a tactic that’s hard to pull off though, and maybe not the best option for the socially awkward, who are probably the ones taking advice from books like The Game, unfortunately.

Monday, June 2, 2008

SATC movie satisfies, SATC media coverage annoys

Much like I approach everything else in my life, my expectations were low, excitement high for the Sex and the City movie. It is most definitely my favorite show EVER—I have the fabulously hot pink velvet box set and can pretty much recite every episode by heart—and I knew the movie could never be as groundbreaking and outrageous as the HBO series, but I also knew seeing the characters five years later would be tons of fun.

What I wasn’t prepared for were some of the reactions to the movie and its success. Why is the media so shocked that it beat Indiana Jones in box office sales? Indiana Jones has been open for a week, and Sex and the City fans have been counting down the days until the SATC movie premiere for years. Matt Lauer, who I normally love, annoyingly told Meredith Vieira on The Today Show this morning that he thinks he’s figured it out: Men must have bought tickets to Sex and the City with their wives and girlfriends and then snuck out and gone to see Indiana Jones instead. I guess that’s supposed to be funny?

Why do so many men hate Sex and the City so much? This blog goes through a list of things men would rather do than go see the movie, which includes being mauled by one of Michael Vick’s pit bulls, although it stops at being shot: “We would definitely choose seeing Sex and the City over being shot. Sex and the City promises to be a somewhat tacky, thoroughly ridiculous movie that we would like some parts of and hate other parts of. Getting shot is scary and can kill you!” (Okay I admit that is funny.) Another article gives guys five excuses to get out of seeing SATC: “If you go see Sex and the City in theaters you’re going to be laughed at by all of the guys who managed to get out of it.”

I guess I’m surprised by these reactions to the movie (probably shouldn't be) because when it was just a crazy little show back in the day, guys seemed to like it … or at least the guys I hung out with. I remember turning the show on at a party in high school and heard no protests. The guy who was throwing the party (i.e., the guy whose parents were out of town) said he liked watching it because he could find out how girls think (I guess that could be problematic as well, but I appreciated the enthusiasm). And my college boyfriend loved the show. He even downloaded the intro music to be my ringtone on his phone :) Actually, I got a text message from him Friday (Well technically Saturday morning. There may have been alcohol involved...) asking me how the movie was, assuming I’d gone on opening night. He wanted to know what happened because he was pretty sure he wasn’t “allowed” to see it in the theater, being a guy and all, no matter how metrosexual.

The only explanation I can think of is that Sex and the City got too big. When it was on the cutting edge, maybe Average Joe found it to be an interesting peephole into a certain kind of woman’s psyche, but as its popularity exploded, it became clear that A LOT of women connected with it, and for some reason that’s scary—that it’s not just about “a certain kind of woman.” Or maybe it’s just the knee-jerk reaction that anything labeled “feminine” must be hated by “real men,” while women are considered “cool” for liking stereotypically “masculine” sports and movies, which is why women aren’t embarrassed to go see Indiana Jones, but men are embarrassed to go see Sex and the City.

Nevertheless, women did “flex their box-office muscle” with its $55 million opening weekend, which might help begin to convince the movie industry that half of the population should not be considered “a niche market.” Now, if only we can come together like that for other, perhaps more productive endeavors… Cosmos & Campaigning has a nice ring to it…

Saturday, May 24, 2008

WTF? Part 3

I have a new "drink" to add to the list of dumb crap guys send over at bars: Shirley Temples! Last night I was sitting at a table with two friends, and the waitress brought over three drinks and said they were "on the guy at the end of the bar." We asked what they were, and she just said we would like them... but they were tall, pink and fizzy, and topped with cherries... my friend asked her if they were Shirley Temples, and promptly sent them back after the waitress uncomfortably answered in the affirmative.

So... is that an insult? Was he saying we look too young to be in a bar? I do look like I'm 16... Or did he think it would be funny if we thought the kiddie cocktails contained alcohol? Or was it an idiotic attempt to hit on us? WTF?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Definitely creepy!

A recent CNN.com article asked whether catcalling is creepy or a compliment (thanks to Zipporah and Abby for sending it to me within minutes of eachother ;) If I'm offended by random men telling me to smile, you can imagine how I feel about catcalling, but I wasn't surprised that women "take both sides" of the issue... maybe just surprised so many had no problem admitting it...

Interviewee Kimberly Fairchild, an assistant professor of psychology, made an excellent point when she said "there seems to be some evidence that it increases self-objectification." I think it's probably a chicken/egg situation. Women who take it as a compliment (and I'm not entirely excluding myself-- it's impossible to live in this culture without somewhat absorbing it) already "look at themselves as body parts instead of as full, whole, intelligent human beings"-- or at least align their self worth a bit too much with their appearance-- and then catcalling serves as an affirmation of that self-objectification-- and then if the catcaller elicits a positive response, that affirms his f-ed up view of women. [Sigh] ... it's a vicious cycle, isn't it?

Another thing that bothered me was the "women are asking for it by wearing short skirts, low-cut tops, etc." arguments made by readers. First of all, it never ceases to amaze me that this excuse is still being used... It's the same f-ed up justification neanderthals have been using for sexual assault probably since the beginning of textiles. Some men wonder if the feminist whining will ever stop; I wonder will the victim blaming ever stop??? And second, it's not even true. I get more comments and catcalls from random men on the street when I'm bundled up-- and unshowered-- than when I'm all dolled up for a night out (and let me just say, I don't dress for warmth on Saturday nights).

Just this afternoon I was walking back from picking up a Tasty Turkey for lunch, and a man I passed on the sidewalk shouted at me, "I could fall in love with you! easily!" Hm. I was wearing flip-flops, bleach-stained cargo pants, a tank top under a t-shirt under a sweatshirt and no makeup-- and I hadn't showered in two days, greasy, unbrushed hair piled atrociously on top of my head.

I remember one year my college roommates dressed as Double Dare contestants for Halloween. They printed the logo on $10 sweatsuits from Wal-Mart, which they wore with safety goggles. But despite sporting these awesomely unattractive outfits in a sea of naughty nurses and sexy security guards, they were still groped (breasts, butt, crotch, you name it) by many a drunken college boy during the annual parade down State Street.

Can we PLEASE stop blaming women when men behave badly? This sort of behavior stems from the belief of some men (not all) that women have a place-- as objects to be gawked at-- and should be put in their place-- by reminding them via creepy looks, gestures, remarks, etc.

On the other hand, I did agree with a reader's point that there are degrees of creepiness. From the instances above, for example, the man telling me he "could fall in love with me" was obviously less creepy than frat boys grabbing my friends' private parts. And here's another recent example: I was riding back from a hangover-cure lunch with a friend I was visiting (one of the Double Dare contestants, in fact!) yesterday when two cars full of boys started yelling at us. (BTW we were both sitting in the car, sporting unshowered up-dos and giant sunglasses-- for me this was just day one-- she showered this morning before driving me to the airport.) The first guy who stuck his head out of the window simply shouted something like, "I love you!" and I actually laughed. Wasn't really creeped out. But then a few minutes later another guy in a second car shouted something similar and then stuck his tongue out and shook his head so it wiggled ... quite creepily. That made me feel uncomfortable.

So to conclude this rant, which I swear had a logical outline when I started it, I would most definitely say that catcalls-- or more generally street harassment-- is creepy. And while there are varying degrees of creepiness, the most "innocent" are certainly not complimentary, they are simply ... stupid. And to the couple of arguments I read that basically said women only consider catcalls creepy when they come from unattractive men, I would have to admit I'm stumped: I thought all catcalls came from unattractive men.
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