Wednesday, November 26, 2008
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.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
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
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.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
...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
Sunday, November 2, 2008
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!