Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Errands

About once a month I get to leave the office to run errands downtown. Exciting, I know. I do get to leave the office pretty much whenever I please (sometimes it's even work related), but occasionally I have to pick up supplies at Ben Franklin and exchange some money for coins. I'm still waiting to hear from Syracuse.

Anyway, today was one of those days when I got to journey into town. The MO is consistent: Go to Ben Franklin first, pick up the supplies (usually four or five boxes of tissues), head to the post office (if necessary), then make the bank the last stop. The lanes go through tissues at about the same rate we go through quarters, which I think is kind of funny since the two are otherwise unrelated. I got the tissues, four boxes neatly placed in a plastic bag, and headed to the bank.

I go to First Merit to exchange the money since it is closer and I can hit the ATM if I need to check my personal accounts. As I reached the door, there was a sign that read "You are entering an irritant-free zone." Given the starkness of the sign and the choice of font, my first instinct was to check for hazmat crews entering or exiting. When I realized that this was actually a new promotion, I couldn't help but laugh. Even hazmat crews couldn't make First Merit irritant-free and I consider myself a satisfied customer.

I got up to the counter, placed my bag of tissues on the floor, opened the canvas deposit bag from the lanes and asked the teller for 13 rolls of quarters. "Wowwww," she said, as if I made a poopy all by myself. I think the fact that I pulled the money out of a bag and not my wallet is a sign that this isn't laundry money. She then went into this extended narration as she processed the transaction, including going through every detail of how she had to get an additional rack of quarters. See, NOT irritant-free.

After I gathered the quarters, I put them in the canvas bag and placed that in my Bomp messenger bag. Quarters are heavy, and as a result of being in a messenger bag I was walking a bit lopsided. Having the bag of tissues didn't help in the lopsidedness. Nor did the flash of realization that the only time I deal with the tellers in First Merit directly is when I am doing the quarter exchanges. With a bag full of kleenex boxes in my possession. Maybe it was because I was feeling a bit frumpy today but...I can't help but feel that I am projecting a really weird image. "Look, it's the kleenex guy who asks for lots of quarters." Eww, I just thought of the implications of that. Gross!

Maybe I'll switch up the order from now on.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

World's Tallest Midget

Back in second grade my class had a reading reward system. For every book you read and talked with the teacher about, you would earn a sticker on your name line. Once you fill your line, you would win a prize. If you read an extra long book, you would get bonus stickers so that you could fill your line faster. Being the competitive sort, and having finished the Boxcar Children books, I decided to take on the biggest book in the school's library: The Guinness Book of World Records. My teacher was a bit remiss on letting that count, given how the book is a little light on plot, but if I was able to talk intelligently about it she would give me the stickers.

You would think an experience like that would ingrain a sense of wonderment at the accomplishments of humanity. Perhaps if those accomplishments were things that should be celebrated I would agree with you. Way to go 1200 pound lady! Hip hip hooray guy with 23 foot long fingernails! You are my lucky star kid with 1001 tattoos! I know that the point of the book was a way to settle bar bets and, in some cases, generate them. But times have changed since second grade. While hyper-obesity is now less special as it is now our national pastime, I don't recall the records of yore involving how many cobras one can dangle from one's tongue or the greatest distance on can shoot milk from one's eyeball (you think I'm joking?).

As I turned on the news I caught the end of some Guinness World Record special. They were certifying a new record: LIVE!! Thing is, I can't tell you really what record is being attempted. Some British lady (who is not Cat Deeley, not by a long shot) checking in with Sir Robin from Spamalot about whether the conditions are safe. He's confident, although conditions aren't 100%. NotCat starts talking about the final preparations as the camera gets into position. A guy on a motorbike, whose name is Clint, is staring down what looks like a tunnel of fire? His pit crew is kind of standing around not doing much and Clint is just sitting on his idling bike. EXCITING! A world record is about to be made/broken? I mean, made/broken! Clint gets the go, revs the engine and starts moving. Then he goes through the tunnel of some length, and upon exiting does an intentional wipeout on his bike so that he slides away from the gas tank that is about to be engulfed in flames. Then the crew with the fire extinguishers ruin what would have been the more interesting part of this stunt. Clint tries to stand up while the triumphant theme music starts to play. NotCat starts to interview the disgustingly sweaty Clint. She informs him that he succeeded at...whatever it was he was attempting. Someone hands him a certificate. NotCat: "Just before you were there, did you feel like you could do it?" Clint: "Yeah, it took a lot" NotCat pulls the mic away as he starts his answer so she can quickly put in a plug for American Gladiators (last round before the Final 8, y'all!).

So congrats Clint! You are tonight's World's Tallest Midget!

Oh, and the big news story: Kitty Porn. Gross.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Suckerpunch

I've been perusing my resume quite a bit recently and have noticed a few things. Specifically, items that are missing. I don't know how many words per minute I can type and I don't think future employers need to know that I can say "Je m'appelle poisson gateau" with a straight face. The biggest item that is currently absent is my ability to blindside people at a moment's notice. It is quite fantastic the knack I have for confounding others when I say something with absolute sincerity and conviction, causing a general feeling of panic when I say that "no, I'm not joking".

There was the time I went to visit my sister Mary to discuss colleges and other post high school plans. When I returned home from my visit and told my mom that my choices did not include Henry Ford Community College (think LCCC, without the charming "LoCo CoCo" nickname) but did include places like Oberlin and Vassar, we almost swerved off the interstate.

Or the first time I went to a gay bar, tagging along with Emily, Brad, and one of Brad's friends. Emily made a joke about how the drag queens love the straight boys, causing Brad's friend to bluntly ask "Oh, are you straight?" "No." I responded, about as bluntly. Emily and Brad were not anticipating that.

Or the time that I finally told the crush about said crushing. I'm still processing that one -- did I suckerpunch him or myself? Like with most suckerpunches, the feeling of surprise and "the hell?" lingers a lot more than any pain or injury actually caused. The pain here being that nonrequited thing I was babbling about a couple months ago (which, really, I SOOOOOO called that). I'm still surprised that I actually went through with saying anything as that is usually not my style. Like, at ALL. As with my other gobsmacks, this one really is for the best and I see nothing but good things coming about as a result. Although the surprise trumps the pain, you do feel the hurt and tingling for a little bit but eventually you will forget how it hurts. (Aside: As far as I can tell, everything is completely cool between the crush and I, so no ill feelings. Just nonrequitedness.)

At the same time, a veil has been lifted and I'm starting to see things that I need to change. Such as how to present myself with more subtlety than a sledgehammer. Or, failing that, a way to make my blindsiding ability marketable.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Silver

Back in my day, gasoline was only 89 cents, postage was only a quarter and uh, uh, uh, oh dear, how my mind does wander. I just can't remember things like I used to.

Where was I? Oh yes, I am now 25. A quarter century. "Can you believe it?! Finally old enough to rent a car! AHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHH! Oh, it's good to laugh." (Thanks, 30 Rock). Anyway, I had the day off from work and not a lot going on (yay). The plan for dinner was to go into Cleveland, meet Sarah, and gorge ourselves on meat at this Brazilian steakhouse called Brasa.

Oh. My. GOD. Okay, so you show up and after getting seated you are invited to peruse the salad bar. You are also given instructions on how to use the red/green coaster at your table. When you are ready for meat you flip the coaster to the green side. When you need to take a breather (the maitre d' strongly insinuated that the experience is a marathon and not a sprint) you flip the coaster to the red side. As Sarah and I headed to the salad bar, a large basket with very tiny pieces of bread was placed on our table. Okay?

The salad bar had an amazing assortment of veggie and flavor combinations. I felt the need to sample as much as I could, but not too much because of the main meal to come. As we ate our veggies, we both tried the bread bits. Those things were little bombs of buttery bready deliciousness. After the salad sampling, we were ready to flip the coaster.

So the way this works is servers walk around with swords of meat, 16 different cuts in all. They will stop at your table and ask if you want a slice of whatever is on their particular blade. I'm not a real meat connoisseur; I couldn't tell you the difference between a tenderloin and prime rib and flank steak. As a result, you just have to try everything. If there is something you don't want, you can just pass and they will cycle back again eventually. My two favorites: Turkey wrapped in Bacon (!!!) and the Parmesan encrusted Filet Mignon. The whole experience was mindblowing, though it is not really a good deal for those of the vegetarian persuasion. Oh geez, I'm drooling all over the keyboard just thinking about it.

After Sarah and I rolled ourselves back to the train station, we started planning the rest of the evening. You see, I invited the friends who are in Oberlin to take part in the Silver Anniversary Soiree at the Feve. I included in the Facebook invite the following: "Optional theme: Dress as your favourite Spice Girl or UN Ambassador". Truth be told, I only included that as a joke...and to see how much influence I have over people. I wasn't even really planning on participating until Brian started asking me for my opinion on various costume ideas. Meghan also offered suggestions for any potential costume I might wear. Oh dear.

We stopped at Sarah's so she could change into a Posh type dress and to give me a track suit that belonged to her grandfather so I could channel Sporty. We eventually got to the Feve at about 10 and the place was much more hopping than I would have expected. When Brian, Meghan, Sarah, and James (all in costume) arrived, it was scandalous. First off, the huge group sitting in the center of the upstairs portion were all the Voice majors
on campus for Winter Term...a group that Meghan and James knew all too well. Although the two of them were wearing clothes more revealing than they are accustomed to (though not at all obscene or sleazy), Brian's dress certainly drew a lot of attention. Understandable.

After a couple of drinks, the group had one last thing they wanted to do and it required a performance space. Eep. The Feve was not going cooperative with their requests, and though the bandstand in Tappan was suggested it was far too cold, so we ended up going to Brian/Meghan/Sarah's place. I'm not sure how to describe this part, so I'll let this video do the work:



So yeah. Happy Birthday.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Ghoul Pool

Dear Ann Landers,

I work in an office where at least once a week someone approaches me about joining a pool. If it isn't the Rose bowl , a professional football fame or the Kentucky Derby, it's the All-Star Game or the World Series.
Gambling is against my principles but I have never criticized those who do it. I just say "No" and let it go. Something new has come up, however, and I wonder if I should say something.
Five of my co-workers have formed a pool in which each of them has listed the names of 100 famous people who may during 1964. When one of these people dies, the ones who had his name add points to their scores by deducting the age of the deceased from 100.
Recently a well-known American died. Mr. X came bounding into the office all smiles and announced triumphantly, "He was on my list."
Under the rules it says, "If the player himself dies, 10 points should be added to his score. If at the end of the year he is the winner, the proceeds of the pool should be spent for flowers for his grave, unless the surviving players should vote to have a party."
What do you think of this?

D. F. (1964)

Dear D. F.,

What you describe is a rehashed version of the old ghoul pool.

Anyone who would make a game out of death is a tasteless clod.

Back in the early sixties there was a news report about an Irish actor or dancer or something who was hit by a car. He didn't die at the scene, but his odds were grim. My dad and a co-worker talked about the story --- and made a wager on whether the guy would make it to the end of the week. My dad, K. M. (aka "D.F.") eventually turned this into the Ghoul Pool.

I didn't know about the Ann Landers correspondence until this weekend. We had the memorial service for my dad back in Dearborn. It was essentially an Irish wake, with this game playing far more of a centerpiece than I would have expected. Despite all of the visitors, relatives, and well-wishers, it is a trifle odd that this game was such a focal point. The guy lived for 74 years, had 7 kids, but this is apparently his legacy. Whatevs, I guess.

The Ghoul Pool wasn't the only game he devised. There was the Personality Pool, which involved guessing how often a preselected list of celebs would end up in the news and for what. News items included marriages, divorces, babies, vehicle accidents, hospitalization, death, and if they appeared on the cover of Time, People, or Newsweek. Some points issues required a bit of research. Time had a cover once with 5 celebrity caricatures. The drawings weren't very good, thereby requiring a letter to the magazine to figure out who 3 of the caricatures were supposed to represent. There was also one week where Walter Cronkite needed the week off to rest his voice. Dad wrote a letter to CBS to find out if Cronkite required hospitalization that week (he did not, but thank you for your concern). Many of the players were intrigued by how they were now reading the newspaper in a completely different way. Missing a two line, space-filling squib about Liz Taylor getting hospitalized for pneumonia could mean missing out on some points.

Another game was the Predictions Pool (which I wouldn't mind trying to revive). 25 predictions for the year were offered and players had to guess whether they would come true. Each prediction was "Yes" or "No" (to avoid being subject to interpretation) and were designed to be determined every couple of weeks to keep people interested.

For example:
  • "Hillary Clinton will win the New Hampshire Primary by at least 4 percentage points."
  • "The combined score of both teams in the Super Bowl will be equal to or greater than 35."
  • "The winner of American Idol will be male."
  • "The price of oil will reach $150/barrel by September 1st."
  • "Paris Hilton will announce that she is pregnant on or before October 15."
It is so weird hearing all these stories. First off, it is interesting to find out where a number of my innate interests, such as propaganda letter-writing and intricate games, come from. Also, all of these games took place before the internet. The news came from newspapers or the evening newscasts, all communication took place via snail mail. The only technological devices used were an electric typewriter and a mimeograph machine. And people from all over the country were playing.

I'm just bothered by how this was the only aspect that people talked about. It wasn't until 2 a.m., when Pat and Eileen and I were sitting in Kathy's kitchen, that the discussion of the Ken McComb we knew began. Although we have developed our own coping mechanisms, a product of trying to survive our respective childhoods, it is troubling that the first two-thirds of this sentence exist. The fact that "survive" is the word that best describes seven childhoods is insane. Stranger still, my experience was vastly different than my siblings'. They got more of the rage-filled-psychotic-break flavor while I got the improperly-medicated-fully-descended-into-depression variety. None of this came up at the party.

This whole weekend I have felt...conflicted. Perhaps the ghost of Ann Landers can offer some advice.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

HoYay

Spandex, bad facial hair, "wrasslin'", domination, water play, muscle worship, homoeroticism, bad stereotypes and unmitigated cheesiness? Ah yes, the triumphant return of American Gladiators. It was actually a lot worse than I expected it to be, but this show is one of those products where the worse it gets, the more entertaining it becomes. Of course, I have a soft spot for obstacle course based competition: it looks like a lot of fun though I wouldn't last more than 5 seconds.

So, the show started with the introduction of the class of Gladiators. The stupid nicknames have returned, though I wonder how they were settled upon. For example, "Wolf" (he of the aforementioned bad facial hair), how did that persona come about? Did he audition for the role of Wolf, or was he christened upon seeing how fugly a beard he could grow? Then there's "Militia", which I think is the worst name of the bunch. First off, I tend to think of gun-toting drunk rednecks rather than a warrior when I hear the word. Also, it would seem that fellow Gladiator "Justice" should instead be named "Judiciary" or "Adjudication Committee of the PTA", if we're going for consistency. However, the show sunk its hooks into me when they introduced the final Gladiator all Monster Truck Rally style: "Say hello to HELLGA!" Oh yes, a large, blond-braided, German-inspired character with that spelling. Show 1, Mike 0.

The actual competitions are more or less the same as the original show. There are some new events but they fit the theme just fine. A number of events take place over a pool of water instead of padded mats, so that's kind of cool. What's not so cool: the hosts. Laila Ali and Hulk Hogan. Seriously. I liked Laila on Dancing with the Stars, but that doesn't qualify her as an adequate interviewer after events. Honestly, she doesn't really add anything to the show.

Hogan, on the other hand, is beyond help. I got the feeling about halfway through that the show might be just one step away from being too complicated for the Hulkster. During one of his interviews, the camera switched from the contender to Hulk and he had a look on his face like he was clearing a blockage from his occipital lobe or something. I wish I knew how to screengrab so I could share my joy with you.
The other major problem I have with Hogan is his liberal use of the term "Brother". I'm guessing he is expected to ad lib a lot of his patter but it is a trait of someone who is not accustomed to public speaking on the fly to latch onto a word, which I think is the case here. In one exchange, he used the word "Brother" four times. In fairness, he does use the term "Sister" when talking to the female contenders, so at least he is conscious of his security word. Soldier on, Brother Hogan, it's a long road to the semi-finals.

They did revamp the Eliminator, and it is hellacious. It starts with an 8 foot wall/rope climb (example of how I would fail after 5 seconds). Then the contenders dive into the pool where a wall of fire is lit above the middle (they have to swim under). Contenders exit the pool by climbing up a 30 foot cargo net. At the top, they will ride this barrel roll thing that looks like fun down about 10 feet. They then have to do the hand bike [though strategically, since this is timed, it would seem that dropping off the bike and climbing the scaffold ladder would actually be faster] followed by a walk down a balance beam. Then they climb up a padded pyramid and ride down a zip line. The contenders then have to run up a treadmill (which looks to be at a much steeper angle than in the original version). Once they reach the top, they climb up one more ledge and crash through a wall to stop the clock. I'm exhausted just typing that.

This show is 100% guilty pleasure television and I recommend it to all.

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Saturday, January 5, 2008

Lipstick on a Pig

Applying for grad school = not hot.

Really, the whole process has been pretty daunting. Even more so now that I'm actually following through and doing it, instead of my usual method of talking a big game and then hiding in the bathroom until the coast is clear. This whole process was a lot easier in high school. Back then I had awesome grades, extracurriculars that didn't require a paragraph of explanation, and an army of of people who could write awesome recommendations. And the common application. Oh, how I miss that xeroxable form. Especially since it implied that I had as many options as I had copies.

Now, not so much. I'm applying for television studies to the one school that has a program that matches my interests perfectly. And it is the #1 school. And I'm also applying to its advertising program (top 10). I can't help but feel that I may be overreaching. It has taken me forever to write personal statements -- one for each program. The advertising one has me particularly freaked because I have it set in my mind that if I can't sell myself to the school then I will be beyond any help the program could provide. I think I did alright with it, much better than with my television studies one. The TV one is so gushy but I don't know if I have much more I can add. I just need to remember that a bad PS will keep you out, but a good PS won't get you in and my PS is not bad.

The supplemental documents are really killing me.

Resume: I'm actually really okay with mine, I just don't know how "Bowling Center Manager" is going to read.

Grades as Index of Abilities: This is where I get into trouble. I was a B student at Oberlin, and I have no idea how that translates in academia. In the grand scheme of things (as in, the Universe) I think a B average is a major accomplishment. It is nowhere near the 3.4 that Syracuse uses as a benchmark.

Academic Honors/Leadership: Yeah, you don't get academic honors or special recognition with a B average.
So I have to focus on all the co-op stuff which is going to require a lot of context. I feel like my application is so text-heavy already.

Qualifications for Teaching Assistantship: This is where my ExCo will come in handy. Though again, texty.

The good news is I'm almost done. I think. I hope? I'm not brimming with confidence, but I've had that feeling quite a few times and things have turned out OK. Usually a B+.

Geez, Oberlin really destroyed my self-confidence. Just for that, I might go to work late...at some point...maybe.

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