Monthly Archives: September 2008

“Man, I am IN the bell jar.”

I’ve moved a lot.  As in I’ve easily moved more times than the years I’ve lived on this earth.  Since I graduated in 2006, I’ve moved eight times.  So I get restless and I lose track of things and I blur my times together every now and then.  But surprisingly enough, there’s one summer that will always be perfect to me.  Perhaps the most surprising part about it is that, at the time, it seemed like something I never would have wanted.

The summer after I graduated from college, I was stuck in town.  The thing is, and this isn’t really something I tell people, I hadn’t technically graduated from college.  My registrar’s office had conveniently forgotten to remind me about an archaic degree requirement that I had assumed was taken care of from the plethora of history classes I had already taken.  Turns out, it wasn’t.  So there I was, summer after senior year, with all of my classmates off making their mark on the world, and me working at a bar and taking a class on South East Asia from a professor we named “High School Football Coach.”  No, it wasn’t a term of endearment.  This guy looked, talked, and taught like a fucking high school football coach.

So with all of this, you’d think I was miserable.  That I was going nuts and couldn’t stand being there and just wanted to get out.  And at the time, you would be kind of right.  I was worried about one thing and one thing only – getting a job.  As the summer progressed, though, I found myself just soaking it all up.  There wasn’t much to dislike about my time that summer.  I took a shitty class, yes, but it took up all of 3 weeks of my life and was one of the easiest I had ever encountered. I spent a lot of time at a bar, yes, but my co-workers were amazing, customers were just as fun, and I got drunk for free on a regular basis.

I embraced what I had that summer.  I spent almost every day at the local river, bronzing my skin, playing in the water, and reading with friends.  I guarded lives at the school’s pool and swam a few laps to keep in shape.  I ran a few miles a day through the town, burning its images into my brain for later, more reminiscent times.  I made new friends, bonding over awesomely bad movies and the desolate nature of a college town in summer.  But most of all, I spent time with myself.

I am a social creature by nature, and anyone who knows me realizes that’s not too hard to figure out.  I hide a lot of my personality from people, though, and have genuine introspective binges from time to time.  I need to hide from people, to get away, to have time to myself to reflect or decompress or just avoid the bullshit people expect of you.  In the house I lived in that summer, right next to campus in one of the most laid-back neighborhoods I’ve ever encountered, there was a wonderful garage.  A spacious place with double doors that swung out into the tiny driveway, my housemates and I made an executive decision that this room would never house a car.  We opted for couches, lights, a coffee table, and a small CD player instead.  Once my class was over, and on my off days, I would usually have time to kill.  A lot of my friends were in class or had jobs, and since I worked at a bar, I never had to be at work during the day, so I had a lot of my free time during the morning and afternoon.  The garage kind of became my own personal hideout from the world; I named it “the bell jar.”

To be sure, a lot of time was just spent lounging on the couch, listening to music and reading a book.  I had a voracious appetite for books that summer, and motored my way through several at the beach or in my garage.  Sometimes, though, my mind just needed to blank, and I would smoke some cigarettes, throw on some music, open those doors, and watch the world go by.  And that is by far one of my favorite memories of my entire life.  Lying on that couch, doors swung wide open, I’d have a cigarette in one hand and the other arm as a pillow behind my head. I would literally watch the clouds roll by in the sky, as the wind blew through the trees, and I would daydream about what I needed, what I wanted from life.

I discovered a lot of things that summer – new people, new places, new cocktails, new books, new bands…and how independent I really am.  I may love going out and meeting new people and having a great time at a party, but I really know now that I need to have that space.  Whenever I hear “World Spins Madly On” by the Weepies, I flash back to that summer, to that room, to that couch.  And I can see the clouds roll by as the trees sway back and forth.  It’s then that, while I yearn for times past, I know everything will be alright.

I let the day go by
I always say goodbye
I watch the stars from my window sill
The whole world is moving and I’m standing still

I thought of you and where you’d gone
And the world spins madly on…


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

How to Win: Just Destroy the Competition

The six people who regularly read my blog should know by now that I’m obsessed with reality TV. As in, it’s probably unhealthy how much reality TV I watch and follow on a regular basis. I read a blog dealing with the subject several times a day and actively care about the fact that The Amazing Race has won six straight Emmy’s for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program when it no longer deserves it. In fact, I think it’s quite clear that Top Chef, Survivor, or even Project Runway have surpassed it in quality. I yelled out loud when Jeff Probst (deservedly) won the first Emmy for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program on Sunday night. As a result, it should come as no surprise that I am creepily excited about the new Survivor debuting tomorrow night.

I have never missed an episode of Survivor. Ever. In sixteen seasons, I have watched every single person leave the show, whether they quit, got med-evaced, had their torch snuffed, or won the entire show. To be brutally honest, I’ve even used seasons’ theme songs for work out mixes. Shockingly enough, high energy tribal voices set to fast-paced drum beats are great for running. I can name every single contestant, every single tribe (with colors to boot), and every single winner in the history of the show. So I feel it’s safe to say I am sufficiently stoked for the new cast of 18 castaways to throw themselves into the midst of the best social and mental challenge on TV today. And relying on the precedent that I established in the Uncle Becky post, I am all kinds of awesome, so no one is allowed to judge me on any criteria reserved for your average friend.

To be sure, I would love to actually be a contestant on Survivor. I can’t imagine something that would be more fun than spending seven or eight weeks in an exotic location, challenging yourself to literally destroy everyone around you on the way to winning a million dollars.* My motivation to play the game wouldn’t really have anything to do with the money. I’m not gonna lie, half a mil would definitely help out with student loans and getting myself started once I left graduate school. However, if I were completely honest, my psychotic need to win and compete would be my ultimate motivation to even apply for the spot. I want the bragging rights that go along with crawling my way to the top of 15, 17, 19 other competitors who were there to stop me on my way to winning. I want the pride that would go along with knowing that I was the best player out there.

So let’s get one thing straight, here and now. That game is not about being nice, it’s about lying. It’s a game that involves keeping yourself one step ahead of every other player out there from the very beginning. That said, all the people that say they would “lie, cheat, and steal” to win the money are fucking delusional. Everyone is there to lie, and there isn’t a single winner in the past sixteen seasons that can honestly say they never lied to another contestant in the game. As for cheating or stealing, it’s practically impossible in the context of the game. The only rules are you can’t punch someone and you can’t conspire to split the money. Explain to me how one would cheat under those circumstances.

This game is built on being ruthless, on throwing other people under the bus in order to get yourself ahead. The glory of the game is that it’s all social, it’s all a fundamentally political game. The trick to winning is that you have to get rid of everyone in the game and have them like you in the end. At the very least, they have to hate you less than the other person or persons sitting next to you at final Tribal Council. There is no bad winner of Survivor, because there is no set way to win the game. Every person who won the game did so because the jury who played the game with them voted for their victory. It may have been close (Hatch versus Kelly, Tina versus Colby) or one could have totally dominated (Earl and Jenna come to mind), but the jury decided that their winner truly played the game best.

So how would I play? Here’s a quick list of the finest points of strategy –

– I wouldn’t be the leader, but I sure as hell wouldn’t put myself on the outs. I’d set myself up as the fun guy, the one with two or three other people in a clique.
– I would be loyal to one person and one person only, and I’d use the other two as pocket votes, distractions or targets for the other players to go after instead of me.
– The key to winning is the ability to adapt.  You can never rely too heavily on a winning streak.
– Never, ever go out of your way to piss people off. It’s never necessary and it almost always comes back to bite your ass in the end.
– When it comes to winning challenges, go all out for a few so you’re not skating through, but don’t make yourself seem like a threat to other players.
– As for those last two immunities? You bet I would be all over them.

Overall, I would dominate every single person out there because I would be the most adaptive player, the most manipulative player, the one who would be borderline sociopathic in my lack of loyalty or concern for other people. You have to see the players as they are – pawns that will get your name written on a million dollar check when it counts. Who you are in that game is not who you are in real life, and the people who know you best will know that. Who cares what America thinks?

Sound heartless? I couldn’t really care less, especially if it means I win.

* More like $565,000 or so. For serious, how much do they get?


Filed under Uncategorized

Hold On a Second…

I love this email…

I’m a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight…

* If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you’re ‘exotic, different.’

* Grow up in Alaska eating moose burgers, a quintessential American story.

* If your name is Barack you’re a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.

* Name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you’re a maverick.

* Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable.

* Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you’re well grounded.

* If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate’s Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran’s Affairs committees, you don’t have any real leadership experience.

* If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you’re qualified to become the country’s second highest ranking executive.

* If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches, you’re not a real Christian.

* If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife and married the heiress the next month, you’re a Christian.

* If you teach responsible, age appropriate sex education, including the proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.

* If, while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state’s school system while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant, you’re very responsible.

* If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family’s values don’t represent America’s.

* If you’re husband is nicknamed ‘First Dude’, with at least one DWI conviction and no college education, who didn’t register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Happy Go Lucky

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I’m a huge, huge movie snob.  I have easily seen one or two thousand films in my 24 years on this planet and voraciously devour more and more every year.  I had my eye on the upcoming Oscar-baiting flicks easily since last year, but sat down tonight to pore more carefully over 2008’s crop and make a list of ones I wanted to see.  I can’t wait for Doubt or Revolutionary Road or even Frost/Nixon.  But then one popped out on the list (of very unlikely Best Picture contenders and big threats for Best Actress contenders) and I found myself clicking on a link for the trailer.  This glorious sight is what waited for me on the other end:

How can you not fall in love?  The story is positively heart-warming and the film itself is getting rave reviews.  Basically, school teacher Poppy is irrepressibly cheery and refuses to let anything get her down.  Even when her bicycle, which she so happily rides through the busy streets of London is stolen, her first thought is only, “I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye.” She decides to finally get driving lessons and ends up with Scott, who’s as uptight as she is laid-back.  I don’t know about you, but I smell hilarity on its way.

I’m not usually a fan of cheery movies that exist for the sole sake of bringing a Hallmark card to life, but this one is simply too infectious.  There’s another trailer available on the site that was made for the American release that’s a little bit less sentimental but no less charming.  As for the reviews, Sally Hawkins already won the Best Actress award at the Berlin Film Festival, and is starting to garner buzz in the States about another nomination.  To be honest, it will probably be that no talent botulism depository Nicole Kidman who steals her spot for her role in Australia, but it never hurt anyone to dream.

So who’s in?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

How Nerdy is Too Nerdy?

As a fully realized and self-aware geek, I sometimes find myself judging other people on the extent of their crippling social awkwardness.  Yes, I am obsessed with the four elements and briefly considered a related tattoo.  Yes, I participated in Academic Challenge (some of you may know it as Quiz Bowl) for seven years, four of which found me as the captain of two separate teams.  Yes, I watch the History Channel for fun on a regular basis.  Yes, I read textbooks in my leisure time for no reason other than the fact that I enjoy learning.  However, I still find myself blown away by just how nerdy some people are in this day and age and how desperate they are to shield their dorkier tendencies.

I’ve noticed that the school at which I attend graduate school has a real problem with the social awkwardness of its undergraduate population.  Some students vehemently deny their inherent nerdiness and are surprised when it works itself out in surprising ways.  Many may try too hard to prove themselves and end up belligerently drunk at a fraternity party and vomit in front of the brothers.  Others may end up living a double life in a desperate attempt to hide their World of Warcraft leagues.  Really, it’s quite sad, since the simple fact of attending a top tier school betrays your level of intelligence.

My undergrad was literally full of nerds.  I shit you not, a classmate was so successful as a freshman that he was ranked at the top of the sophomore class.  This same student would drink himself to black out at his fraternity on the weekend and curl up on the couch, spewing forth physics formulae in the fetal position.  Our school was notorious for social retardation, aggressive geeks, and an uncanny embracing of jorts.  I, for one, was attacked by a handful of pugnacious D&D freaks as a sophomore.  When I asked them to return the furniture they had taken from the study lounge (in and of itself an overly bookish concept), the Dungeon Master literally threw the chair at me.  Needless to say, I was taken aback by just how furious the ginger sci fi psycho was in response to me.

So I really started to pay attention on campus, and while there were isolated pockets of frustration like the “Chair Incident,” the overall feeling was one of acceptance and understanding.  We would call each other out on awkward moments, usually by utilizing the “awkward turtle” or “TMI turkey,” but there was barely ever sincere malice behind the gestures.  We even created a specific term for a student from our school that represented the stereotype of egregious social ineptitude, whether they wore a bathrobe to the dining hall or snorted while laughing.  By graduation, we had come to terms with the fact that simply attending our institution was an announcement of one’s own inherent nerdiness.  All of us were nerds, it just came to a matter of degrees – no pun intended.  We didn’t necessarily hide our love of Jeopardy! or knowledge of Harry Potter; some of us were just naturally more adept at employing other conversation topics.

So as I live with new first year students and work with a range extending to people in their mid-fifties, I’ve noticed the culture of the geek on this college campus.  If the school itself just came to support the latent awkwardness of students it attracts, it’d be a much happier place.  The judgment, ostracizing, and belittlement would practically die out.  Ironically, I judge the nerds here for how desperately they try to hide how they are from each other.  It doesn’t matter if your obsession is Lord of the Rings, X-Men comics, Jane Austen novels, or Halo video games, everyone that goes here is a total and utter geek.  When it comes down to it, at the end, nerdar will always win out; we can’t help but find each other.


Filed under Uncategorized

Quarter Life Crisis

John Mayer songs aside, I feel like the quarter life crisis is a legitimate concern for myriad twenty-somethings out there right now. I’m honestly not even kidding – it’s a documented epidemic amongst our generation, and books have been written on the subject matter. For most people suffering from one, it has to do with adjusting to the real world after leaving college. The vast majority of their lives up until that point had been dedicated to academic competition, striving for grades, fighting to beat out their fellow students, and knowing, for the most part, exactly what is needed of them in order to succeed in the classroom. Even the less ambitious students have an understanding of what hoops they have to jump through in order to advance further through life. If they go to class, pay attention, complete their assignments, and pass their tests, they should, for all intents and purposes, be able to move on to the next semester or year of their education.

But don’t you understand
I already have a plan
I’m waiting for my real life to begin

Once they finish, a growing number of twenty-somethings are lost as to what to do next. Maybe they hate their job or maybe they’re unsure of whether or not they should apply to graduate school. Maybe they’re having an especially difficult transition from college into the harsh realities of 21st century America. There’s a widespread feeling of being overwhelmed by the changes that are synonymous with life outside of the collegiate bubble. Massive insecurities abound as the new professional fails to find a job at their perceived intellectual level and constantly feels like all of their peers are performing better than they are. In short, the quarter life crisis fucking blows.

Let me throw one more dice
I know that I can win
I’m waiting for my real life to begin

Mine is starting to hit me, but it’s not the same as the average American’s experience. It’s not so much that I feel aimless or less successful than my peers. With my situation, I’m having a terribly difficult time adjusting to graduate school. I didn’t expect it to be exactly like undergrad, where I had a robust social life of parties, dinners, philanthropies, and adventures. I knew there would be an adjustment to seeing school more as a full time job than something else I was doing in addition to my extracurriculars. What I never saw coming was the sheer volume of work expected of me. This semester, I have three separate people expecting me to publish, two presentations of about an hour apiece, an entire residence hall of about 112 people to maintain, and a student organization to guide. Given the fact that I’m surrounded by the same amount of parties and nights out as I had undergrad, it’s downright depressing that this vast level of work impedes me from simply going to a football game tailgate or joining some friends for a drink downtown.

Any minute now, my ship is coming in
I’ll keep checking the horizon
And I’ll check my machine, there’s sure to be that call

I’m not trying to pull my Debbie Downer card, but it is a very strange predicament here. I’m 24 and in charge of my own residence hall, so I can’t slash shouldn’t go out with undergrads. I have little to no desire to go out with people from my own cohort because of their severe social retardation. And going out with the professional staff is uncomfortable and blurs too many lines for me. To be brutally honest, I’ve basically just resigned myself to a semester in my room and the library as I trudge through the minefield that is my masters program.  So I sign off on my most depressing post of all time, hoping that it hasn’t significantly changed my readers’ view of this blog. I have to go read another 100 pages for work, then sit on three separate meetings from noon through nine tonight, and teach myself literally hundreds of pages of information so I can run training for several undergrad students. I hate to say it, but to paraphrase Smokey Robinson – there ain’t too much sadder than the tears of a clown.

Don’t you understand
I already have a plan
I’m waiting for my real life to begin

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Rise of Uncle Becky

Because I’m hilarious and amazing, you as a reader are not really allowed to judge me.  As a result of this glorious concept, I can do and say things that mere mortals can’t usually get away with in a social setting.  On Tuesday night, I exercised this privilege by watching the premiere episodes of 90210 with some friends of mine.  I reverted to a completely collegiate frame of mind with two classmates from graduate school.  We grabbed some chips and dip, a few beers, and crashed on the couch with a few vicious and cynical eyes.  We were open to enjoying the show, but we pretty much expected the worst.

Luckily, the show didn’t disappoint, at least when it came to moments of ridicule.  From the characters to the writing to the hideous and wooden actors, our commentary was ripe with vitriol.  We attacked the clothes, the waif-like bodies, the mediocre looks, and the clumsy delivery.  Then the theme song started.  Where was Brandon’s fake double punch to Dylan’s chin?  Where was the classic camaraderie, the sunglasses machismo, the group shots, or my favorite part – the transition from black and white dud to colorful, smiling beauty?  Instead, we got a flustered amalgamation of a Neutrogena commercial and an ad for Assisted Living once they threw in the beach shots and laughing head of Lucille Bluth.  Or are we supposed to call her the version with all the booze and none of the bite – Tabitha Wilson?  For two hours, we rarely stopped laughing as we found ourselves dragged through the most asinine plots and horrendous acting.

As a few more beers started to take hold, we focused a lot of our hatred onto Lori Loughlin, the former Aunt Becky from Full House and the current fugly mom on 90210.  The show involved a rather superfluous plot line of “Annie,” or the new Brenda who looked wayyy too much like LL, taking a private jet ride to San Fran for a date with the richest guy in school.  When her Lucille/Tabitha got in a car wreck, the parentals flipped their shit on her.  My classmates howled at the screen, relentlessly teasing the parents for being such pyschos about their daughter, and one rhetorically asked, “Who does that?”  I hit my friend on the knee and, as my voice shockingly dropped several octaves, I responded with “Uncle Becky.”  As we cried through our laughter, the phrase “Uncle Becky” elicited uncontrollable laughter.  To be honest, it still does.

And so, after we polished off several beers, an entire can of dip, a bag of chips, and two hours of our life, the only thing we really took away from that night was a new found appreciation for each others’ humor.  Well, that and the phrase “Uncle Becky” to describe anything creepy for the rest of our lives.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized