Tuesday, December 30, 2008

happy holidays

mo money mo problems!

dear loyal reader(s?),

as we close out yet another banner year here at interweb detritus, we would like to wish you happy holidays or "whatever you choose to celebrate," as my neighbor said to me the other day.

2008 was a crazy fucking year. the economic bottom fell out from under us; america finally got rid of bush and managed to not replace him with someone even stupider; bernie madoff made marc dreier look like someone stealing a kid's lunch money; pavement reissued brighten the corners and i'm probably not going to buy it.

like c4ts, i was going to compile some awesome best/worst of 08 lists but if you haven't figured it out by now, i'm fairly lazy. here, some gift ideas for the procrastinators out there. i always aim to inform.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Year in Review

There are many ways I could celebrate and summarize this magnificent year gone-by, but you and I both know this kind of thing has to be done High-Fidelity style (see above), with a top-five list. Top five instances of someone mixing up "Obama" with "Osama" maybe? Top five viral videos featuring cats? Top five Blogger E lines, related or unrelated to her deep primal lust for David Brooks? Unfortunately, these things take time, and while I have that in deep oil reserves, they also take patience, of which I have none. So, in the end, you lose. Instead, I give you the top three songs our upstairs neighbor, a single woman in her late thirties, loved to blast weekday mid-mornings during my time on the dole. Happy new year.

3) The Indiana Jones theme song

2) Beyonce -- If I Were a Boy

1) Afroman -- Because I Got High

Monday, December 22, 2008


a couple of weeks ago this american life tried to tell 20 stories in 60 minutes. most were light, some affecting, but one left a strong impression. david rakoff recounted how he decided to quit his job at a japanese company developing a computer portal through which people can log on to virtually chat with each other and share information because he felt the technology would be a failure. of course, this was a preliminary version of the interwebs. then he went on to tell how he's completely missed the boat on other breakthroughs, like the time he went to see madonna in the 80s at danceteria and declared that she wasn't going anywhere. or how when he was an editor at a major publisher he passed on "men are from mars, women are from venus." i think he deemed this his negative ability to identify trends.

in turn, i started thinking about my own shortsightedness. it's more just laziness, really. after college (fall of 2001) i ran into a friend of mine in the east village. he mentioned that he and his band will be performing at a small cafe 3 blocks away from my apartment that weekend and that he could add my name to the list. i really meant it at the time when i told him that i would come by and watch. of course, saturday rolled around and i was feeling "tired." and besides, whose band actually gets anywhere? i never really heard from him again.

oh yeah, my friend's band? the scissor sisters. le sigh.

i'm not sure whether that's better or worse than my friend who decided to leave her internship at us magazine in advance of its proposed change from a monthly publication to a weekly, since "that's not gonna go anywhere."

or any of these.

Monday, December 15, 2008

i chu-chu-[steven] chuse you

yeah i know, it's a terrible joke. (for those of you who don't get it...how are we friends? kidding. here it is.)

i've been watching the cabinet appointment process with some interest. so far, he's vindicated eric shinseki and, in my mind, wen ho lee. we've distanced ourselves somewhat from automatically associating asian men in science with espionage (yeah, i know, bill richardson, who led the charge against lee, will be commerce secretary in the new administration. it's not a complete victory. let's just hope that he doesn't make all asians rebuild america's crumbling infrastructure). i also admit that steven chu sort of looks like a more handsome (?) version of your prototypical asian male nerd. one stereotype at a time, i suppose.

what's even better than having two asians safeguarding some of america's icons (military, energy/national security)? 3 asians? no, government officials from cities. yes, those un-real, un-american bastions of elitism. so far, eric holder, obama himself, timothy geithner, hillC, this dude arne duncan, shaun donovan, and rahmbo all hail from NYC and chicago. you can let me know if i've missed any.

my unshakable bias in favor of urban areas (loosely defined in my head as places with a certain level of population density, viable public transportation system, and a government with a at least some understanding of the need for public services and infrastructure) started when i moved from vancouver to atlanta and realized that sidewalks--sidewalks--were not a given. whether driven by race or some other misguided NIMBY-ism, atlantans generally eschewed investment in public property; certain counties refused to permit MARTA within their boundaries. i don't have any sophisticated thoughts on this. it's just mean to not give people who either cannot afford or do not want to drive a car an alternate mode of access.

with 2008 drawing to a close and possibly the best bush comedy skit behind us (this one? that one? too many to count), i really hope that this new administration, with their exposure to and faith in cities, will rebuild public infrastructure and give cities their due.

oh yes, for those who may think city folk are a bunch of snobs, people who live in single-family dwellings with fenced-in yards at the exclusion of all others shouldn't cast stones.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

President in Waining

Of the many remarkable aspects of Bush and his presidency perhaps most remarkable is the fact that his vices, the spirited protestations of his many detractors, and all the rest of it have become the white noise of our popular political culture. Yes, he's the worst; yes, he should have been impeached; yes, he's stupid and brazen. But at this point who has the energy to talk, let alone think, about the guy. So, it is with no regret that I offer my perfunctory closing remarks on the Bush Presidency:

Watching the video above, I can't help but think how is that a man with such good reflexes has such poor instincts?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

government cheese

while the US government is fixated on bailing out ho-hum industries like banking and maybe now the big 3, italy has its sights set on a much more "appetizing" idea: a rescue of parmigiano cheese makers! for real dudes, the government will buy up to 100,000 wheels to prop up demand. at a total expenditure of 50 million Euro, it's small potatoes compared to what kashkari & co are spending, but give me cheese over CDOs any day.

check out some "cheesy" photos in this slideshow.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

...and they pay her to write this?

i don't know who gail collins is and what she's about, but i know i've defended her to heidi before. i dunno, although her editorials are not very sophisticated they sometimes closely track my own thoughts, so to criticize her would be to criticize myself. or something.

but you know, maybe i'm not giving myself enough credit because even i didn't bother to think this thought:

Saxby Chambliss’s victory in Georgia means that Republicans will have at least 41 seats in the Senate, and if they stick together, the party has the capacity to stop a bill in its tracks.


oh well, still better than maureen dowd.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

best story of the week


Calling All Douche-staches

This is Tom Friedman's latest sad sack of racism and unreasonable generalizations.

Below is the (unedited -- Director's cut!) letter I submitted to the Times in response:

In his most recent op-ed piece, "Calling All Pakistanis," Thomas Friedman asks "ordinary" Pakistanis to gather in the streets to denounce the depraved lunatics who perpetrated the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai. On the surface, this is not an unreasonable request. After all, in the name of a shared faith several Pakistanis, it would seem, have murdered scores of innocents, and yet no outpouring of organized dissent has spilled forth onto the streets of Lahore and Karachi.

How can this be, Mr. Friedman wonders, given Pakistanis' easy devolution into violent street protest in the wake of the frivolous Danish cartoon affair. The only conclusion to be drawn from Mr. Friedman's words is that Pakistanis are irrational, petty, and disinterested in substantive affronts to their faith and to their nation. In reading his piece, I am reminded how empty our own streets have been in the wake of all that we know about Guantanamo; I am reminded how spirited the boycott of the Dixie Chicks was following their remarks about the President. I am reminded that we too are a people more inclined to protest words with which we disagree than violent acts committed in our name. Perhaps, there remains a question of degree, but in this regard are the Pakistanis very different from us?

And this is my letter were it a Lolcat:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

May I Talk the Facts of Life to You?

Some people say they'd like to grow old gracefully. This video is proof-positive there's nothing wrong with the other course.

Monday, December 1, 2008

November Drizzle

Right before the Thanksgiving holiday, I went into a temp agency in the hopes of securing some contract work, but emerged burdened anew. Mo money, mo problems? Afraid not. There I met with a cheery young woman with a large Chinese character tattooed on the top of her foot and who was under the impression that business dress remains business even when it leaves nothing to the imagination. No doubt her recently completed college career was full of serious study, but she was now tasked with something even more challenging: sorting out my life. I have seen these last several weeks as an extended lesson in humility, but I was shocked in that moment by how much there was still for me to learn. With troubled and liberally mascaraed eyes she reviewed my application, announcing, It says here you're interested in work as an attorney or associate or lawyer...Um, would you consider other categories, like, legal assistant? You don't have any certifications, do you?

Now I am not above being a legal assistant. I am not above doing good and honest work, but the truly humbling aspect of her proposal was this: Say, I swallow my pride, take on a temp job as a legal assistant; what happens when it comes out that I don't know how to do an electronic filing or type fast or bluebook properly? What happens when I get fired? I don't know, but that would have to be a bridge to be crossed later. Yes, I said. Yes, I would consider being a legal assistant. And no, no I have no paralegal certifications. I thanked her for her efforts on my behalf, prayed my application would not get lost amid all the Jaeger bombs she had planned for the weekend, and marched out into the cold November rain.

As I unlocked my bike, I tried to think out of the proverbial and hateful box: Take that kinda-sorta job offer in DC and have a long-distance marriage? Try to substitute teach? Lightning didn't strike. The clouds did not part. The sun did not peak out from over the hills. No, none of these things happened. But then my phone buzzed. It was a former colleague, offering me contract work on the case I was once the junior associate on. A reprieve, not a solution, but something.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gobble Gobble, Motherfucker

Some posts ago, I claimed that things were looking up for me on the job-front. Unfortunately, that assessment turned out to be a bit premature, but life trudges on, and here we are on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday, and the tumult in my professional life, while not resolved, I can happily say has been compartmentalized. I spent a month -- I realize now -- totally preoccupied with my misfortune. Somehow, I didn't manage to devour books, or go to the gym obsessively, or tear through Season 1 of Mad Men, or make moves on that novel I keep talking about. I brooded, I worried. I think the middle of October to the middle of November 2008 will go down as the Lost Weekend of my life, but now I'm fixated on being productive, on re-entering society. This blog is my cotillian, and you, reader, you are my dashing white-tied son of plantation aristocracy. As I am a society type now, I have started calling up people and seeing if they want to do lunch, catch a movie, go to a concert. If you have time to chat on the phone, let me know. I recently got a blue tooth machine and now the world is my oyster.

Yesterday, on 'Pockets' orders, I went to the grocery store to do the necessary, and had to face down one of the few things I did not miss in my self-imposed exile: the insufferable Northern Californian stereotype. How this place challenges my liberalism. I showed up at Berkeley Bowl, mission command center for East Bay smugness, and encountered the inevitable long lines and packed aisles. That I was expecting. What I was not were the two men -- and this shows how I am still an easterner in a strange land of organic produce and fixed-gear bicycles-- two perfectly sculpted and bare-domed men, arguing over whether or not to purchase a bag of sugar:

Man 1: Jeffrey, Where is that sugar from?
Man 2: Michael, I don't know. It doesn't say.
Man 1: If it's from Paraguay, we can buy it. But if it's from China...
Man 2: Well, it's probably from somewhere we don't want it to be, but we need sugar.
Man 1: I will not eat sugar from China! I will not eat agrochemicals.
Man 2: Well, I'm buying this. I am not hunting for Paraguayan sugar tonight...Also, they are out of brown sugar, so we've already got enough problems.
Woman: Well, you can just mix the regular sugar with molasses. You know, that's all brown sugar is...
Man 1: But I want naturally brown sugar!

When the Chinese make a gulag our of our western outposts, and feed us nothing buy processed foods and lead-coated toys, I'll wash down my despair with the knowledge that Michael will be getting the reeducation he deserves.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

happy thanksgiving!

you should be thankful that this officially marks my last post ever about sarah palin.

i like that the dude in the background used his body as a shield.

What We Talk About When We Stop Talking About the Election

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at 236.com.

Moose Chili

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Day at a Time, I Suppose (It's a Wire Reference)

I have now been unemployed for one month and one day.

I wish I could say that this time has been one of deep reflection, a time to pursue grace and samadhi, a time of quiet productivity, but it hasn't. I'm dumbstruck that the days have passed as quickly as they have , but in truth I've always been overwhelmed by the tyranny of free time. Having been exiled to house-husbandry, my mind has become a mudroom of domestic ambition: I think a lot about reorganizing the contents of the freezer, getting that picture framed, sweeping the leaves off the deck, but somehow at the end of each day none of these things seems to get accomplished -- or half of one does. One week of this kind of personal mismanagement I suppose is excusable; a month not so much. I am clearly unqualified for Martha Stewart's mantle, but perhaps I can return to Michigan and help run the auto industry into the ground.

Anyway, I have little to report in this post. I always thought that my job was going to turn me into an irredeemable bore, but without it, I don't seem to be any more fascinating. Still, for the sake of completeness, here's the backsell: my job leads have all soured; it turns out our house was burgled much more successfully that we'd initially realized (and let me just leave it at that); and 'Pockets lost her wallet today (en route to the airport).

I firmly believe that we are all makers of our own luck, so I am trying to figure out how we can remake ourselves out of this tangled string. Though I haven't quite yet figured it out, I will. But this all prologue to what I want to say. I want to end this cheerless post with an uplifting declaration of self-awareness: Some might turn to faith or embrace humility in trying times, but not me. I turn to schadenfreude. To wit: Elizabeth Wurtzel, who turned self-indulgence into a best-seller, who took a 160 LSAT to Yale Law School, who convinced David Boies to give her a flex-time job, failed the Bar Exam -- which is only funny when it happens to terrible people and/or celebrities -- and then has the gall to suggest that Yale improperly prepared her for the Exam when everyone knows she, like the rest of us, took a prep course to, you know, prep for the Bar. Alternatively, she suggests that she partied too hard when she should have been studying, which leads me to wonder, ftw, I thought you needed a flex-time job so that you could do all this writing, you fancy-pants writer? Also, what? I thought Yale didn't prepare you for the Exam? Which is it? Anyway, she is an epic fail -- again not because she failed the Bar, which good and decent and intelligent people often do, but because she is a lame, undeserving, ungracious celebrity -- and her failure makes me happy. That is to say, I'm still a terrible person. Because I have not done a lot of Prozac and gotten published and because I have not bedded David Foster Wallace, I'm jealous and mean, but that means I'm still me; so we can all rejoice. Yay for my petty, petty soul!

Also--and, yes, I'm going full-rant on this one--what's up with this? We, as a society, are kind of irked, yes, by Ayman al-Zawahiri's blood commitment to the destruction of America, but when he calls our Best Friendsident "a house negro" that's when we all start paying attention again?? It's like Qaeda HQ saw that it was heading towards the outer reaches of our cultural memory and decided to throw up a game changer to win the news cycle. This kind of makes me wish McCain was President. No one throws up a game changer like that decrepit motherfucker.

Vote. Rocked. Yet again.

Monday, November 10, 2008

unintended consequences--part 2

is the obama presidency already bumming me out?

before you unnecessarily rush to obama's defense, let me give you a list of all that either already has or probably will fall prey to obama's historic presidency:

1) pride in my citizenship - now that you all have a president who no longer embarrasses you, there go all the breathless "wow, you're so lucky to be canadian" comments directed at me. i no longer feel privileged to have the possibility of escaping the united states. let's face it: who wants to live in a country with a milquetoast leader who, in fact, is not actually the leader?

2) apathy - during the time i entered and left law school, it didn't seem to matter much what i did with my degree. the DOJ was overrun with underqualifed and overpartisan hacks, so why bother?

3) laziness - during dubya's two terms, i could care less about keeping up with the prominent bushies, like karl rove or monica goodling. who cares if john yoo is korean? look at his fat head, not to mention his abhorrent and tortured (ha!) interpretations of what constitutes torture. compared to those disappointments, having a job and being able to speak in complete sentences seemed like pretty significant accomplishments.

but now that there are intelligent, accomplished, young and motivated liberals who will make actual differences and potentially improve people's lives, man, i feel like a loser. nobody told me that i was supposed to remain optimistic during the bush years. wait til my parents discover just how many korean progressives there are.

4) voyeurism - who doesn't enjoy a good issue of us weekly or, if desperate, the new york post? but now everyone is obsessed with the obamas! as much as i think the obama girls are impossibly cute or that michelle obama dresses well, i feel kind of creepy watching the kids being dropped off at school...or their every move, really. well, it appears at least dlisted.com has remained obama-free.

and the worst of all...

5) hating on hipsters - obama's win got the billyburgers to collectively drop their knitting needles and crowd the streets with glee. fuck, who knew these people even knew how to smile?

anyway, i'm gonna resume watching those puppies now. it's the only thing keeping my spirits up nowadays. feel free to add to this list. i'm fairly certain we won't see an episode like "cooter" with the new administration.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Some Kind of Special Mustache

And, yes, this is how we Muslims do.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

We Was Robbed...

...Well, more like burgled. But more on that in a second. For now, let me just say...

ZOMG to the MAX, everybody! We did it!

Go buy yourself a case of Zima while you can. You deserve it. Personally, I'm just overwhelmed with feelings of peace on earth and good will to man. Yes, you hopey-dopey kids, all your joy has managed to infiltrate my cold, steel forcefield of cynicism and mix with my inner reserves of fatalism. Needless to say, I've been all awash with funny feelings these last couple of days, and I don't like it. That's why I can't wait till Obama's promised violent and ill-informed Afghani surge and his capitulations on energy. All will be right in the world when I can go back to hating the President. Meanwhile, I will continue to marvel at the fact that as of today, every state I have ever lived in -- California, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Virginia -- is a blue state.

Oh, and as for the burglary, that's in part why this post is late in coming. On Tuesday I was waging a losing battle with Washoe County poll workers as they refused to properly explain the difference between a provisional ballot and an official one to voters who found themselves at the wrong precinct. Meanwhile, back in the Bay, a resourceful, smallish person was shimmying his(/her) way through our back bathroom window, which had been left slightly ajar. This person then rifled his way through Pockets' dresser, emptied my gym bag (apparently for my swimming goggles), jacked one of my watches, and high-tailed it out of there on Pockets' bike with, I shit you not, a massive jar of pocket change that we've been talking about taking to Coinstar for like two years. Fortunately, he did not take my Mariokart. That would have been going over the line. (Strangely, he found the box for the Wii, and rummaged through it, but didn't go to the living room and take the Wii itself). 'Pockets came home to the mess, called the police, and only about 25 hours later an officer showed up at our door to take a statement.

Vote. Rocked. Again.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Always Be a Good Boy, Don't Ever Play with Guns

I'm in Reno to protect the vote and Reno 911 is on tv. That's all I got, people.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Can We Kick It?

Yes we can.

After a needlessly long ordeal, Pockets and I and a couple of friends scored tickets to yesterday's Friendly Fires/Lykke Li show. The ordeal, fyi, resulted from the fact that the tickets I had ordered were delivered to my former place of work, which I have been banished from, which fired its mail staff weeks ago, and which, apparently, also, fired the receptionist who's supposed to answer phones during business hours. This, people, is how you conduct an orderly dissolution. Anyway, after some haggling with Ticketweb, an organization that makes up for its lack of Ticketmaster-like clout with Ticketmaster-like intransigence, we secured our tickets and headed to the show.

Friendly Fires, a dancey, post-shoegazey rock act from St. Albans, a London suburban outlet made up primarily of pubs and abbeys, barrelled onto stage with massive hip-shaking energy. There were many highlights, but the guitarist playing his instrument with a Dustbuster was perhaps the most memorable. Go out and see them, if you have a chance. Such unself-conscious silly sweaty dancing surely makes the world a better place.

Next came Lykke Li, whose rise to fame has been documented in these pages. Her performance was largely disappointing -- while 'Pockets found her breast-heaving "hip-hop" dance moves amusing, her dancing proved a little much for me, as did her thin vocals and odd tendency to slam a cymbal occasionally. Scandinavian pop, I am now realizing, is best when paired with the polish of studio production. Anyway, here's what's interesting. During the encore to her set she introduced a song thusly: You all are hipsters. You'll know this one. Then she a capellad straight into the intro of an iconic song that indeed all should know and love, but a weird confusion set over the audience. I noticed it immediately, as immediately as I registered the foundational beats for Tribe's "Can I Kick It" (above) emanating through the speakers: the crowd of 20-something San Franciscans, raised on irony and little else, had no idea what hipster staple they were being exposed to. The annoying midget dance brigade that had saddled up next to us were left motionless. Finally, the discordant opening notes gave way to some totally haphazard rapping on Lykke's part, then a failed call-and-response with the essential question from 90's hip hop left dangling in the air:

Can I kick it? She asked.
Yes you can, only some responded.

There is much to love about the West Coast, but there is also much to loathe. This would never, ever, ever happen in New York City. And in that moment I missed the Boroughs like I haven't in a long time.

As the spectacle devolved, it occurred to me that there was a good deal of pro-Obama-message-mongering that could have been had from this moment as well. I mean, why not, can we kick it, or can he kick it? Sure, it would take some serious rhetorical skill to replace Mr Dinkins, will you please be my mayor? with the syllabically gratuitous Mr. Obama, will you please be my president? but the moment called for this, no? Sadder still than these missed opportunites was the revelation that the thought had in fact occurred to Lykke herself. The chorus she lamely attempted was soon aborted and what followed was this cheerleading closing:

Give me an O....O!
Give me a B....B!
Give me an O....O?
Give me an M....M!
Give me an A....A!

Vote. Rocked.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mutton on the Sides, Marley on the Chin

This is a picture of Drew Gooden, aka The Big Drizzle (his words, not mine, and not anyone else's). He used to have a soul patch on the back of his neck. Now he's just going overboard with the sexy. You thought you knew how to grow a beard, but you've been doing it wrong.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Partlow for Postmaster General

Chris Partlow and Detective Greggs at an Obama rally in North Carolina yesterday. The vote of the one guy who's into The Wire but couldn't decide between McCain and Obama has now been secured. Also, Bill Ayers is a problem but the coldest psychopath in West Baltimore stumping for Obama the McCain people let slide?


I'm doing my best to post something everyday -- something substantive. It's the least I can do. I mean, you bring home the turkey, and these days, I'm not bringing home the bacon. But sometimes my mindgrapes hurt. So, let's just enjoy the best scenes from The Wicker Man instead.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Old Dominion -- Part II

On Election Day, 2004, 'Pockets, some random tween-age boy, and I personed the Kerry table outside an Ann Arbor voting precinct. The air was cold and rife with hope. The exit polling leaked onto blogs early in the day and suggested wild possibilities -- notably, Virginia was tilting to Kerry. It is true -- as the aforementioned 'Pockets, blogger E, reader Owen and others will tell you-- that I had succumbed to the notion that Senator Kerry would dethrone the President that day. In fact I visited my feelings of hope on any and all and infected them duly. Of course, as we know, Virginia fell to the rogues that night --a full 8% margin eventually separated right from wrong -- and with it Ohio and anything that mattered. The taste of defeat, I have been told, was all the more bitter because of my evangelism. Kerry was a false prophet, and I spoke his gospel a bit too well. I had convinced even myself.

We now sally forth to a new election day, to a new dawn backlit by a supernova. The President is as marginal a lame duck as there has ever been. Prognosticators seem only interested in predicting how wide Senator Obama's margin of victory will be. I know I have been hesitant in these e-pages to embrace the New Testament that David Axelrod and the Obama Campaign have written in Obama's honor. I have resisted the notion that the obvious and remarkable symbolism of his potential victory is tantamount to substantive change. But I now publicly retreat from this position; While I believe Obama faces immense challenges in his first term and will have to make difficult choices that, at best, will serve to mitigate our national losses, not extend our gains, I can no longer deny the import of what he symbolizes. My former students, elementary school children in the Bush years, may just approach adulthood under the aegis of a man whose story and whose complexion are the same as theirs. This alone will not realign the systematic racism that impedes their progress, but it is a beginning.

I marvel at how this beginning came to be. When Senator Obama, and -- credit where credit is due -- Howard Dean spoke of a 50-state strategy, of abandoning the paradigm of post-Civil-Rights-era politics, I thought them neophytes in the tradition of the Democratic Party. But now, it would appear that New Mexico, Iowa, Nevada, Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, Montana, one of the Dakotas, and, undeniably, Virginia are ripe for the picking. Bravo to them.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. There is time still for defeat to be snatched from the jaws, nay, the esophagus of victory. But whether or not the final results speak it, the electorate has changed already in myriad ways. We have rejected the glib and pointless Governor of Alaska; we have rejected the demented and desperate schizophrenic Senator from Arizona. They are the Rosencranz and Guildenstern of our unfolding Hamlet. They are bit players, but this is not to say they are necessarily losers.

You see, this election is not about them, or the Economy or Iraq. On November 4th we will take stock of only one thing: exactly how bigoted our country really is. This election will measure that and that alone. Should the polls reflect reality, we will have something to celebrate. However, should our fear of black male power, should our collective anti-Muslim hysteria, guide our choice, we will not. If Obama loses, none of what I have said above is undermined, but hope will be a hard sell down the road, and bigotry will rule the day and days to come.

So on Election Day, once again, I will turn to my home state, my beloved Old Dominion, and watch with bated breath. Virginia brought indentured servitude to colonial America, laying the foundation for the slave trade. Now it has an opportunity to atone for its sins -- and it will. I resist predicting an outright Obama win, but that much I am willing to say.

ps -- The fish pictured is a wahoo.

Up, Up, and Sideways

Things are looking up.

I went on some job interviews this past week. While a job interview is not the same as a job -- and while none of those interviews has yet to result in a job -- I know this is the Era of Hope and Change, and having job interviews means this week was better than last week, when I had nothing.

On Friday, I interviewed for a position, the details of which I will deny you because I live in fear that this blog will find a tenth reader and that reader will expose my sins to the world. So please, indulge the vagaries. I will note this though: it was a public interest position, and I had high hopes that it would represent the end to my corporate ennui. I arrived at the interview with maybe a minute to spare, and performed a reverse Clark Kent on the sidewalk as I jogged into the building. As I did I happened upon the bow-tied gentleman who was to interview me. His look informed me that in his view one dresses not only for the interview, but also for the trip out to the interview. Nonetheless, I put his raised eyebrow reaction out of my mind and marched straight into elevator small talk. Things proceeded pleasantly as we entered his office. He then picked up his mail, opened it, and stood silently as he became engrossed in something. I was a bit flummoxed, but stranger things have happened to me in job interviews, so I took a seat and waited to be addressed. Eventually, I was. With this question: Tell me about yourself, and start 100 years ago.

Now I like Tristram Shandy as much as the next guy, but what can you say to this? I began, haltingly, to talk of my immigrant roots, about my parents and about my grandparents, wondering the whole while if I was really meant to answer this question literally or if I had missed something. My interrogator interrupted me, opined here and there, and led me on several diversions. At one point, in response to a stimulus, I said this: Americans long for a monarchical system. This is why we returned a second Bush to the White House, almost elected another Clinton, and are obsessed with Princess Diana.

Whether or not my wild displays of intellectual plumage, all completely bullshit, all intended for a man who knew muck and mire and yearned for it, whether or not it did the trick is a moot point. About one and a half hours into my job interview, I was very suddenly asked the most straightforward question I could be: Why do you want this job?

I offered my canned answer, rather elegantly I thought, but was informed over the course of about half an hour of excoriation that I was wrong. Now I should say in the course of this job, I would be representing some very unseemly people, and according to my interrogator, I should want to serve them not because justice demands that I do so -- which I more or less said -- but because humanity is debased and nihilism is the answer. This is literally what he said to me: I am a nihilist.

Where do you go from there, but out the door and very far away?

I left the interview feeling quite strongly that I had been subjected to a very particular kind of psycological examination, and feeling also that I would never again return to the site of it. I would not be asked to of course, but even if by some miracle I were, I would decline.

The balance of Friday I was out of sorts, but that evening I went to a friend's house for poker night. Now I don't much about the game. I had to be taught, and I had to refer constantly to my cheat sheet listing the hierarchy of the hands, but my naivete, my genuine lack of a strategy, managed to confuse everyone at the table, and they nakedly tried to bluff and bully their way into my pot. I saw through them. I cleaned everybody's clock and went home with $100 in my pocket.

Things are looking up indeed.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Into the Sunset

But what is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads?
--Albert Camus

As of Monday, October 20th, I will be gainlessly employed with

My Couch, a Bag of Cheetos & The Remote Control LLP

Please direct all client-related inquiries to that address.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Slow Descent

Tomorrow or the next day, I will addend this post with photographs, but for now I will try to say with words what corporate carnage mine eyes have beheld these last several days.

October 15, 2007 -- My first day of work.

October 15, 2008 -- I am now officially the senior ranking attorney on my floor. A law firm in dissolution may still be a law firm, but a law firm in dissolution without attorneys is something else altogether. Virtually everyone else has left for greener pastures -- all pastures are greener than the barren slate gray of capitalism's unvacuumed carpets. Some of us have no pastures to leave for.

On Monday, I returned from my trip back east to find that my neighbor no longer exists, at least, no longer exists in the form that I knew her to. We were friendly, but a post-it note attached to the boxes sitting outside her door and mine informs me that she has accepted a position at another law firm.

Today, the vendors in charge of coffee seized the coffee machines. They took with them the cups. The packets of sugar. Apparently, also the hand soap. The fridge remains stocked with unopen half-gallons of milk, but the expiration dates are marked for Friday. Perilously close, and I am lactose intolerant.

Yesterday, other vendors seized the printers. I sent documents to be printed, but the request dissipated into ether(net).

At noon today, our key cards stopped working, along with the elevators, and we were all seized with panic. When you've finally made peace with being locked out, it's a little funny to find yourself locked in. A few minutes later the cards started working again and so did the elevators. We noted the dark humor of all this.

I took a walk just now around the deserted landscape of the 32nd floor. Through the windows of the corner offices that were once everyone's envy the clouds burned amber over the Golden Gate Bridge, sailboats lolled in the Bay behind the TransAmerica Building. Things I thought to be immutable--furniture bolted to the walls, for instance--have been removed. In their wake are massive holes in the dry wall. Many offices are strewn with detritus. Many more are empty, save for an orphaned plant. Their leaves fulvous and forlorn. All were once occupied by people; in their place now are their identification cards, turned face up, beaming and full of hope, turned face up on curt letters of resignation, addressed to partners who also no longer work here.

I happened upon the office of one particulary malapert attorney. Her office decor, amusingly orientalist, replete with smiling Buddha, has given way to the hollow left behind by movers. On her desk, a resignation letter, her identification badge, and her business card, inverted with the following words inscribed in green, yes, but inscribed in a sad and unsteady hand:

"To whom much is given, much is expected." -- Luke, 12:48

Monday, October 13, 2008

guess who's a winner?

guess who won the nobel prize* for economics? everyone's favorite angry columnist and runner-up in the gawker hotties "men of the new york times" contest, paul krugman! (i said angry, not crazy.)

the wall street journal begrudgingly congratulated krugman in a lukewarm article that describes him as "a Princeton University scholar whose groundbreaking study on trade is less known to the public than his withering assessment of the Bush administration." the article reassures its readers that krugman wasn't being honored for his op-eds, citing not one, but two experts in the field as evidence. the journal also points out that the prize given to krugman "isn't technically a Nobel but the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel." ooooooooh take that krugman! so much for your groundbreaking research and analysis on trade patterns and location of economic activity!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Monday, October 6, 2008

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Band Montaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaage.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

the rising

with some vaguely urgent sense of purpose i went to northeast illadelphia to canvass for obama. of course, the fact that volunteers would receive priority tickets to a free springsteen concert helped. over 100 volunteers from nyc came. most of those i spoke with came from the BK and despite appearances, were surprisingly lacking in cynicism. i guess that's to be expected from a crowd that probably got up at 6am to drive or take the train down.

the neighborhood we canvassed was white (maybe there was one potentially hispanic person) and working class. many were senior citizens living on social security and several homes were multi-generational. most of the people we tried weren't home, but those with whom we spoke were largely well-informed and thoughtful.

well, let me correct myself. the day begain inauspiciously as one elderly couple told us they were undecided. the woman said outright, "we're christians and we don't trust that obama because he is a muslim." ask las latinas, but apparently i blanched at her comment. my brain froze for a moment and i tried to recover with a weak "well you know he and his family go to church every week--" "no no, that church, you saw that church. i don't believe it." so i tried an alternate angle, "well, you know senator biden is a churchgoing catholic and has been for a long time." she seemed to soften a little at the mention of biden. i pressed further, "i just don't think senator biden would trust someone he didn't think was honest and jeopardize his country if he really thought senator obama was dangerous." she also told me that she thought we were worse off than we were 8 years ago, but president clinton was horrible and ruined this country with his moral failures.

the undecided voters we spoke with vehemently agreed that bush was horrible for this country and things needed to change. some were unemployed, some were employed but didn't have health insurance, and all were very angry at the bailout. they didn't see how either candidate could fulfill any of their promises considering the government would fall deeper into debt. several of those we spoke with had voted for hillary in the primaries. the logic went something like this: 1) yes, i voted for hillary. 2) yes, i see that obama and hillary's policies are virtually identical. 3) yes, i like joe biden. 4) i just don't know if i can vote for obama.

i didn't follow the logic between 3 and 4, but the fact that mccain is a "maverick," whatever the hell that means at this point, and that they couldn't trust a black man and possible secret muslim meant they were left in a quandry. most everyone expressed deep cynicism at all of the presidents they had seen over the years who had promised them everything and delivered virtually nothing of direct impact. yet everyone adamantly told us that they vote in every election and they were certainly going to vote in this one.

one 19-year-old guy who lived with his parents (according to our spy sheet) answered the door holding his very young daughter. we asked him what he thought about the election and he said, "well, both candidates have their faults. i don't like that mccain doesn't want to give universal healthcare because, y'know, my daughter doesn't have any health insurance right now. but i don't want obama to take away people's guns."

as if the two were of equal merit! what do i know. i'm just a quasi-socialist and possibly elitist canadian. we told him that senator obama wants smarter regulations on guns so they won't be so readily available to everyone, but he had no interest in banning them. that seemed to placate him a little, but we left without any definitive conclusions.

thankfully, we asked one obama supporter (finally!) what contributed to his decision and he said "well, i don't think this country can go on with two wars in afghanistan and iraq. and you know, john mccain is quite old and has health problems and this palin just isn't smart enough." his answer was much more nuanced than that, but i just appreciated that a middle-aged person openly admitted his misgivings about mccain's age and at least one person was suspicious about palin's qualifications.

las latinas and i wanted to hug him.

the day ended on a high note. bruce springsteen gave a free concert in support of obama and voter registration. thanks to my superior tickets, i was probably closer to him than i ever will be. he played an acoustic set of about 8 or 9 songs, including "thunder road," "the ghost of tom joad," and of course, "the rising." he gave a heartfelt speech in the middle of the set about how we tried this four years ago and failed, but we were still going to try again because the country was on a dangerous course. there is something very unironic about my appreciation for bruce. he manages to exude authenticity with his aviator shades, flannel shirt and torn jeans despite his fame and wealth.

ed rendell and bob casey spoke before the concert and rendell issued an ominous but probably accurate warning that this campaign was going to get extremely ugly. sure enough, palin is accusing obama outright of cavorting with terrorists, albeit domestic ones.

so what now? i am pretty worried. the "othering" of obama is easy to do because his background is so exotic. i gave my dad a translated copy of "dreams of my father" and he said to me, "you know, i read the whole thing and i appreciated what he was saying, but i think he should have talked about his mother more. this is not going to help people relate to him much."

las latinas and i repeatedly emphasized to everyone that the democrats have always supported the middle class and these swing voters must not forget history. i just hope that this small handful of people who are going to decide all of our fates make the right choice.

Friday, October 3, 2008

pens...glorious pens!!

isn't it a little unsettling how happy nancy pelosi looks considering (a) she's giving away all of our money and (b) her state is on the verge of bankruptcy? click on the photo if you want the full effect. anyway, if you're not totally bummed out yet, read this article about the little meeting that possibly ruined our financial system. voluntary oversight! we should all be so lucky.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


the news is a huge downer nowadays--our toilet economy, our ineffective leadership, the fact that i can't vote in the canadian election because you have to have left canada with the intention of living elsewhere less than five years ago...

anyway, much to my surprise piracy beyond the interwebs still exists! not only that, they have a spokesman! i wonder if they too wear eyeliner.

Totally Awess

Watch CBS Videos Online

So, this afternoon the guy who sells framed prints of middling artwork and vintage posters outside my building shuttered his doors. I went out on a fro-yo run, and caught him muttering his frustrations about "the economy" after some post-fratty douche passed on a discounted photograph of a bunch of wine bottles on a ledge festooned with vines. Then, I walked over to WaMu to get some money and some guy behind me yelled, "Do those things still work? Did they put old J.P. Morgan's face on the receipts yet?" Then I went over to the dry cleaners to pick up my suit pants, and yeah, as suspected, there was nothing they could do about the color fading on the back pocket. These are very troubling times, people. So thank god for the video above. Apparently every mushroom cloud has a silver lining.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hating on the G-Train

Okay, enough with the Debbie Downer posts. Here's Jack Donaghy interviewing for a job at a dot com ("A little help there, Men's Wearhouse.") after Don Guise goes into a coma and Jack's future at GE gets thrown into turmoil. This is taken from the deleted scenes section from the Season 2 DVD of 30 Rock.

Monday, September 29, 2008

After the Reckoning

I left you, dear readers/shy commenters, a bit in the lurch on Thursday. Indeed I--and my colleagues--were haled into a meeting in the main conference room later that day. The chairs had been removed, ominously, to fit all the people. We packed in, and spilled over to the smaller rooms nearby. As I stood amidst the nervous chatter, I looked around and saw, with great embarrassment, how many people work at the firm I had never before laid eyes on: IT people, kitchen workers, mail room guys emerged from the lower floors and stood shoulder to shoulder with attorneys to hear the formal news of their termination. I suppose when the executioner's blade falls, there is no class, there is no creed, that separates us. The chairman appeared and wasted little time in announcing that the firm was taking steps to dissolve (with a formal vote for dissolution scheduled for the next day).

The news was greeted with a mix of stunned silence and bitter smiles. Something can be a long-time-coming, but still knock the wind out of you. Soon, the smiles began to vanish, the silence turned to sighs, and as the San Francisco office's managing partner delivered his eulogy, a slow dirge about the venerable firm he joined before I was born, the sighs turned into tears: the same secretaries who had been sobbing at their desks before passed out tissue paper and hid their eyes behind sunglasses -- perhaps that is not remarkable. What is remarkable though, at least to me, is this: scores of grown men, luminaries in their field, weeping in the arms of any who would have them. I have seen nothing like it before.

I continue to work. A law firm in dissolution is still a law firm. Business winds down, and euthanization is set for November 28th. I work on cases that will find new homes elsewhere. I work hard for people whose good opinion will have no bearing on my career. I receive emails from partners about job leads. I trip over boxes, heading to the men's room. I sit at my desk as representatives of potential sub-lessees poke their heads in to my office, sizing up the space, but ignoring the human being seated before them. I will be at work tomorrow morning, but yesterday I was having some problems with my computer and called the IT helpdesk, only to find I had reached a disconnected number.

These are strange times.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

"One Day We Will All Look Back at This and Laugh."

Today at 1 PM I expect to be fired.

Okay, laid-off.

That is, I expect to be another one of those faceless drones who volunteered to have his hopes and dreams shredded for the advancement of Corporate America (and the advancement of my own pocketbook), but who never expected this.

Over the course of the last one and a half weeks -- the hospice period for the dying firm at which I work -- I have asked myself, David-Byrne-like, how did I get here? But there are few answers. I had a wealth of choices, and I thought I chose wisely, but alas...

Law firms can fall victim to the whims of the economy, it is true, but it is rare for them to dissolve outright. There is a larger misfeasance at play here. Now, I have my own thoughts about management, about greed, about out-sized ambition, but this is not the forum in which to share them. I am angry, yes, I am confused about what lies ahead -- never in the last 25 years have I not been enrolled in school or employed -- but, my election posts notwithstanding, I am an optimist, and I expect that this too shall pass. This job, this strange 11-month odyssey, was in some respects a charade. It's not what I'm meant to do, I know, and maybe now I will be forced to think hard about what it is that I want out of my professional life.

Don't feel sorry for me. Just two weeks ago I was sitting in a financial planning seminar, organized by the firm, listening to a pleasant lady talk about the best strategies for buying a second house or financing private school for your kids. I remember sitting there and having one of those moments of clarity that exist only in facile television programs. This is all just, just so wrong. Then, a weirder thought -- one probably better suited for HBO -- gripped me: If the revolution gathered on the streets below, spilled forth through the lobby, up the elevator, and slaughtered us all, it would be justified. No one needs to be talking about second homes. No one needs to send their kids to private school. When this becomes your everyday reality, maybe, just maybe, you have forfeited that which makes you part of a common humanity. But I digress...

The above quote has become sort of a mantra here. It's the only appropriate thing to say to people who are sharing in this experience with you. I have heard it from many colleagues, but right now, there are secretaries, who have spent 20, 30, years toiling here, but can't manage to find a private place to cry, so they sit at their desks, with tears streaming down their face, trying to check headings on somebody's motion to dismiss. When I look back at all of this, that -- more than anything else -- will be what I remember.

ps -- Should you feel compelled to comment, please do not mention the name of The Firm at Which I Will be Working for a Few More Hours.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

who can it be now?

i went to a party on friday attended by a fairly typical 20-to-30 something crowd: journalists, lawyers, dudes (and token ladies) in finance, etc. what we all shared was a genuine sense of apprehension and fear about our jobs and our respective industries. one woman took a buy-out from her newspaper, which sam zell and the tribune company recently bought, and moved to new york. she reassessed her industry and the viability of print media in general and decided to leave journalism altogether. another woman who works at a prominent credit card company told me that she and her coworkers essentially stopped doing anything at work because they all wanted to be the first to be laid off with the (rumored) 4-month severance package. and of course, a lawyer and i whispered to each other, "so...are you busy nowadays?"

when my sister left her job at lehman brothers 2 years ago she received a letter stating that she held [REDACTED] shares in her name. this was news to her and she decided to just let the shares sit since they were valued at over $70/share at that point and, y'know, lehman has been in existence for over 150 years. we joked that this was her path to retirement. what are lehman shares worth today? a little over 3 dollars. and by the time i wake up tomorrow the company may no longer exist. unbelievable.

i whined and bitched when the fed rescued bear stearns. with my limited knowlege and more based on some level of principle, i'm relieved that the fed didn't finance another bailout. and i'm not exactly sympathetic to bankers and their cushy earnings; i'm fairly certain most will find their way.

despite all this, i await with both curiosity and dread at what will happen to the financial markets and, as a consequence, new york city.

anyway, here's some solace from a masterpiece.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

David Foster Wallace, 1962-2008

The late 90's were heady days. Like a lot of young collegians I discovered writers--like Dave Eggers, Chuck Palahniuk, and, of course, David Foster Wallace--who made me understand for the first time what it meant to be ironic, to write in a post-modern vein, to trample on conventional ideas of voice and linearity. When I was 17 I read On the Road and Catcher in the Rye, and thought, so what? When I was 18 I read Broom of the System, and wasn't sure if I liked what I was reading, but "so what? was the furthest thing from my mind. Self-reference, meta-narrative, ironic dissociation, and footnotes are hallmarks of Wallace's work, but perhaps the one lesson I took from him--the one lesson I took to heart--is that you can be prolix and intellectual and at the same time luxuriate in the word "fuck" in its myriad non-sexual forms. (E.g., "[T]he rhetoric of the enterprise is fucked.") Faithful readers of this blog know I have made a habit of this classic tendency of Wallace's.

Now I never finished Infinite Jest (and yes, blog reader, Owen, one day I will return your copy), I sort of hated Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, but, you, David Foster Wallace could write the fuck out of an essay. (See below.)

Today you hanged yourself, and though I don't know what drives a man to that, I hope you have found peace.

(Here's an interview of DFW that The Believer did and here's his absolutely iconic piece on the now-unrecognizable next President of our country.)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Helen Keller Watches The Matrix

So, this has been a very confusing week for me. I found myself in the camp of people who think McCain's post-Convention bounce would prove to be totally ephemeral, especially in the battleground states Obama's targeting, but then polls from New Mexico and elsewhere started to suggest that I've misapprehended this race entirely.

I still think that Palin mania has topped off. A whole bunch of people jumped onto the Republican ticket in the wake of the announcement, but at least some of them will get buyer's remorse before November 4th. Whatever enthusiasm she's generated can only go down from here. Although, let's be serious, it doesn't seem to be going down. And more to the point, in the last weeks, the Republicans have done exactly what we expected them to, and the Democrats have reacted in kind--that is, to say ineffectually. We may wring our hands and bang our heads, as the wretched lies in McCain's latest ads unfold, but how is it possible that in the last 20 years, the Democratic Party hasn't learned that a constructive majority of the country votes from the gut?

The other day I spoke to my dad, who is sitting thousands of miles away in a country so mismanaged it's in a massive energy crisis, in a country now ruled by a man who won office on name recognition alone, in a country held together by the weakest of threads. How Pakistan is like America is the subject of another post, I assure you. As I was saying, I spoke to my dad and he said he doesn't understand how Democrats became this way. JFK hustled his way into the White House. His knuckles bled blue after that election. Where is that party now? I had no answer for him, and couldn't explain to him why people here actually thought Obama was the heir to the Kennedy mantle.

I had two or three days of optimism, yes, but I came to realize this election is lost when I saw Obama on Keith Olbermann's show say, "The American people aren't stupid. They are going to get it." It's not just that he said it -- he meant it. But they -- that is to say, we -- are stupid. We are demonstrably and unabashedly stupid. We don't get how our leaders' environmental poilcies mean our descendants will have to conquer Mars for the species to continue. We don't get that fiscal policy isn't just for eggheads. 13% of us think Obama's a Muslim. Fully, 100% of us, apparently, think John McCain is a war hero because he didn't know how to fly his plane and got tortured for five and a half years as a result. And countless hordes of us will never, ever, ever vote for a black man.

Still, the hope-mongers insist that Obama is The Matrix. He is transformative, impossibly cool, burgeoning with ideas, a visceral and intellectual mindfuck. He will free us from the grime of our daily lives. But the American people are Helen Keller, deaf and blind to all that he may be.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Drill, Baby, Drill

O.M. god. Do you think they make this for Wii? Because if they do, then I know what 'Pockets is getting for her birthday.

links i like

as written earlier, i have given up any hope. i'm not doing it to be a partypooper or to be contrarian or to jump on a bandwagon. i am just not feeling it anymore. "it" has been replaced with an overwhelming sense of doom.

so here are some funny/informative links. yay.

1) everyone luvs the guv! i really hope he ascends to a bigger platform than even new york bc he really is the straight talk express.
2) i don't find anderson cooper all that attractive, but i dare you to not laugh at this video.
3) here's some more fodder for those of us who think sarah palin is a fucking idiot who makes me ashamed to be a woman. and/or a hockey fan.
4) you should read this. painkiller addiction? check. daddy issues? check. crazy? check.

oh yeah, the greatest news of all: 30 rock is returning on october 30. i'll just put the season premiere on loop to get me through election day.