Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Bearista Agenda

Do People Still Use the Bandana Code?

We got a Starbucks in the hood a couple of years ago, and I became slowly, insidiously inculcated into their cult of ridiculously fancy cawfee drinks. It doesn't hurt that everyone plies me with *$s gift cards at holiday times or when I do favors for them. And since they actually filled a grande-sized void in the No-Man ghetto (we didn't have any local cafes that were open before or after work) I had no qualms about drinking the koolaid latte and becoming one of them.

As most of you know, Starbucks sells peripheral tchotchkes like mugs, horrible horrible CDs, and bears dressed in seasonal costumes, or as other animals, because that's what bears do in the wild. The smallish plush bears are called bearistas because that's funny if you're the *$s marketing veep. They've had the adorable goth bearista--a bear wearing a skeleton suit--the bizarre Easter Lamb Bearista (bizarre because really, what bear would dress itself up as a sacrifice? They're not that dumb), the kitschy Holiday Snowglobe Bearista. This season's bearista was the Gardener Bearista, a cute tan bear dressed in jeans, and a sun hat (not to be confused with the Constant Gardener Bearista, who had a gun disguised as a spade). How adorable! The bear also had an apron, and a pale blue handkerchief/bandana-looking thing in its back pocket.

What? What does that bear need a handkerchief for? Does a bear not want to wipe snot on his sleeve? And why in the back pocket? Surely it could have been designed to go into the pocket in the apron. Well, some of you may be aware of something called the bandana code, and now I will tell you that this link is NOT SAFE FOR WORK, nor is any discussion of the bandana code. Do not under any circumstances bring up the bandana code at a business lunch or especially not when having brunch with your parents.

How widely known is the bandana (sometimes called the hanky) code? These days not very. I think the heyday of the code was the 70s. I learned about it when I went to visit my aunt in San Francisco and I used to go for walks so I could smoke. I was 13. I'd walk around up and down Castro Street and once I finished my Malboro Light I'd wander into Hot Flash, an adorable store that sold condoms and dildos and pillows shaped like breasts, and publications. Informative publications! With things about local bands and bars and the hanky code. If you learn about the hanky code when you're 13, you never forget it. The hanky code teaches you about behaviors you can't even believe people think about, let alone participate in. They do what with what? How does it fit?

Anyway, the gardener bearista has a pale blue hanky in its back left pocket. At least what the bear wants isn't too outrageous, although red with black stripes may have been more appropriate.

Most of the Starbucks are sadly sold out of the gardener bearista, but you can find the on ebay if you have any friends who are aficionados of the hanky code.

Now, I'm not saying the gardener bearista designer is aware of the hanky code. However, most designers I know are well-versed in pop-cultural references. I'm just saying is all.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Live Book Blogging

Today’s Book: The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman

I’m a big fan of the concept of live blogging. No, I’m lying. I think it’s self-indulgent and it indicates that the blogger has a much bigger sense of self than is usually warranted. Also, sometimes it’s better to sit and think about things. That’s what I learned, every time I did something stupid when I was a kid. Binky, go in your room and think about what you’ve done. Usually I came to the conclusion that I didn’t go far enough, and perhaps if I had thought things out beforehand I wouldn’t be sitting in my room thinking about things. I’d be at the hospital or the police station thinking about things.

That said, I have decided to join the world of live bloggers. Not because I think what I have to say “on the fly” is that interesting, but it’s just easier than having to consider my essay and structure it and so on. That’s such a lot of work! I’ve already live-blogged Puppy-Bowl II, but actually, that was a lie. I wasn’t really live-blogging. I was tivo-blogging. So, I guess that makes me a real journalist now!

My first live blogging experiment will be John Hodgman’s The Areas of My Expertise. Of course, this led me into a sticky corner—how to live-blog a book? I suppose I could bring a tape recorder with me when I read on the subway, and record my thoughts as I read, but I don’t have enough hands. Also, then I’d join the ranks of crazy people who talking into tape recorders about books on the subway.

So my solution was to simulate live-blogging, by trying to remember what I thought while I was reading on the subway, and also listening to Chris Weingarten’s best of 2005 mixtape CD. I know that’s kind of an oxymoron—there was no “best of” in 2005! And the CD bears that out beautifully.

At the beginning of the book, Mr. Hodgman invites the reader to write if he/she finds any actual facts that have accidentally gotten into the book. Unfortunately, there are too many facts, so I have decided to keep a list of the errors to those facts, most of which I think were entirely unintentional.

1. Mr. Hodgman, your name is misspelled. It should be Hodgeman. That’s on the cover. Oh, did I tell you we’re going in sequential order by age? We are.

2. How is it that my edition is the 4th printing? Really?

3. This book is paginated in the European fashion. That’s a bug, I believe, and not a feature.

4. I was not reading your Good Evening chapter in the evening, nor did I have a window to gaze out of. Now I feel as cheated as when I found out that the vinyl version of De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising was missing a song that was listed on the jacket. I’ve forgotten which song, but it was the best one.

Page 34: my cats say that illustration is photoshopped.

Page 36: The zipcode for the fake PO Box is incorrect. It should be 10116.

7. Damn, this song by The Streets f. Kano, Donae’o, Lady Sovereign and Tinchy Stryder sucks. Also, why did it take so many of them to make such a terrible song?

8. Lady, make your kid sit still. Also, next time? Go a little lighter on the parfum.

Table. 9: You cannot be a lawful neutral Paladin. You have to be lawful good.

OK. More to be added.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Live Puppybowl II blogging

For all of you out there who are not fans of the best TV on cable for the depressed and demented, Animal Planet, perhaps Puppybowl requires an explanation. Puppybowl, which conicidentally runs against the Superbowl, is an entire day of puppies running around on a tiny football field filled with things puppies enjoy--squeaky toys, water, and other puppies. There are instant replays, an occassional foul, and a bowlcam where we get to see puppy tongue up close and personal. I guess that's the puppy equivilent of being in the lockeroom. Now, after watching 20 minutes or so (OK, AN HOUR) of Puppybowl last year, I would have bet good money that there would be not a Puppybowl this year. Sure, 8 hours of 2 hour loops of cavorting bulldog and terrier babies was adorable, but that's not really entertainment, not even for a cable channel that's one step above public access. So, imagine my surprise to see that Puppybowl TWO was on all day on Animal Planet! Was I thrilled? Intrigued? Not exactly, but I was bored, so I did tune into Puppybowl TWO.

First off, TWO, like most sequels, is a poor substitute for the original. Gone are the adorable LITTLE puppies--this years crop seemed to be made up of almost exclusively adolescent hunting dogs, including no less that two springer spaniels, two beagles, a chow, and an angry and highly aggressive poodle who obviously felt out of place and isolated. Can you imagine his tantrum in the green room, on the phone to his agent?? "You promised me frenchies and puggles, and I'm competing with these butch monsters looking for ducks and foxes? If I make it out here alive, you are so fired, Sparky." I must at this point directly address the show's producers--if Puppybowl is an alternative to the Superbowl, why populate the playing field with dogs that appeal to people to watch the Superbowl? Are you mocking me, Puppybowl producers? I am not a 9 month old standard poodle--I am not to be mocked.

I was about to turn away, when lo! and behold, they began the halftime show. WITH KITTIES. Thank BAST. Kitties are much more entertaining than puppies, and even the producers, cruel people that they are, seemed to know this. The kitties get an upbeat disco, and then swing, soundtrack, while the puppies had some weird musak version of "Turkey in the Straw." For 20 minutes or so the kittens cavorted and gamboled, swatted at things, and practiced the art of surprise attack. And this is what truly separates the puppies from the kittens--the kittens are just much sneakier, and that makes them seem smarter. But the kittens didn't seem to enjoy the "finale," which consisted of a 5 minute confetti drop. It seemed as if some of the kittens were in danger of getting smothered by confetti.

But producers, again I am addressing you directly, there is no point in going back to the puppies after the halftime show. I changed the channel and watched a dating show starring Lisa Loeb. And I didn't even like "Stay"! Although you may want to add that to your Puppybowl III soundtrack. I hear that's popular with the dogs.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Million Dry, Permanently Smashed Pieces

Of course it's been on a desktop sticky for months to write about my favorite scoopy genre of fiction--the addiction memoir. Girl, did you say fiction? Didn't you mean...? Wait for it.

I knew the Frey story depicted in A Million Little Pieces was fake. If you've ever known anyone who went through rehab, or was a passenger on a plane for that matter, you'd know it too. It felt fake, and was poorly written, and so as fiction it was a failure. As non-fiction, it was gritty and real. So, hey, whatever, no one has any integrity these days. Why should that stop someone from trying to sell a book? More than the lie, though, I was offended by the weird Capitalization throughout the book, and the two dimensional characters--the mafia don with a heart of gold, the boxer with a heart of gold, the hooker with the heart of gold, the beaver with the tail of... etc. But I was never going to do the research to find out. I mean, why? I got a job, I'm not tryin to hear that! Thank god the guys at The Smoking Gun did it for me. But I'm pretty sure most addiction memoirs are cross-genre amagams of fact and fiction, with the former being the least of the mix.

The addiction memoir tends to be a compendium of increasingly excitingly and dangerous experiences from the POV of a priviledged upper-middle class white person. They will tell you they are telling you this as a caution--don't try this at home!--but what they are really doing is bragging. Can you believe I drank a whole bottle of $10 champagne? My parents would be so ashamed that my addiction took me to those depths. I threw up all over my Marcs!! Eventually, at some point in the writing process, your editor is going to force you to up the ante, and that's where the fiction comes in. Falling asleep mid-blowjob becomes full-blown gay prostitution, and a warning from someone in the parking lot of the in-and-out becomes the time you killed a guy for looking at you funny.

I've read a lot of these, because I enjoy making myself angry. I used to read Dondi when I was a child for the same reason, and each word balloon would bring me closer to wanting to poke Dondi's little dot eyes outta his mushy, round cranium with a sharp no. 2 pencil. I read Dry, which was so boring that Augusten Burroughs had to make the HIV dude the focus of the book, because his own liquor drinking wasn't interesting enough. I read Rick Moody's The Black Veil, and all I can recall is some passages from a diary from the 18th century. And Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood? That girl doesn't even consider herself an alcoholic. That girl can't wipe the vomit off the shoes of my teenage friends, half of whom ended up hospitalized for the old "alcoholic coma" before 10th grade. That girl was no drunken than I ever was, and I never once considered that bile, bad sex, and not knowing where your bra was the next day were interesting topics for a book.

Most people's addictions are not that interesting, but if you want some juicy addiction prose, try Jerry Stahl's Permanent Midnight. He might be bragging too, but he tempers it with enough self-deprecation that you almost feel sorry for the guy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Bitterest xmas

When I was a tiny child, I had many rivals for my grandparents’ affection. Rival no. 1 was my overly-adored brother, the first male heir. Yes, I was the first born, but he was the first male. Have you ever been a female child in a South American immigrant family? It’s not so bad, if your mother is the South American one. They have a complex pattern of loyalties and relationships, the Chileans do. Female children are very close to their mothers, and the males are raised (and praised, and exalted) by the fathers. My father being the Chilean one was ecstatic upon the birth of the boy, so much so that he forbade my mother (the evil American) to have an additional child. He was done. My mother, being American, paid little attention to either of us, except when we fought. Because that was as entertaining as my mother’s favorite tv show, the roller derby. So, already I was deprived. But the first year of my life I had no competition for my paternal grandmother’s affection, especially since I was fortunate enough to look like their side of the family.

But all that changed when my aunt, my father’s twin and my grandmother’s beloved only daughter, had her first little girl, a perfect blond, blue eyed chubby baby. Sure, she looked more like a baby Barbie than a South American but that didn’t matter. What did matter is that I’d been replaced. And just to rub it in, a year later my aunt had another little girl who looked just like my grandmother.

Needless to say, I loved them and hated them. They were pretty and perfect and tinier than me so I could make them do things and hit them and they’d never tell. But their Barbies had fur coats, courtesy of my grandmother’s old minks and ridiculously creative sewing ability. And obviously at holidays they cleaned up. But the harshest lesson I ever learned at their hands was the lesson of Little Miss No Name.

Little Miss No Name was a doll manufactured by Mattel in the mid-60s. It was based on the Keane big-eyed kids paintings that every kool kid had in their rooms back then (not me, but my cousins had two different sets of them). She was a homeless barefoot begger child dressed in a patched burlap sack with ratty hair and a single tear that dripped from one of her huge eye, shivering on her sad, dejected cheek. Her giant head hung heavy on her emaciated child’s body. I swear that if you lifted up the dress you could see her ribs. One grubby palm was turned up, begging for any small change or spare food you might have. She was the embodiment of the archetypal homeless child. Even a stick of gum would have delighted poor Little Miss No Name. Who would want such a doll? Well, we would. We all wanted Little Miss No Name. We wanted to give her a home, a bath, brush her ratty hair, have Grandma make her a fur sack to replace her torn burlap.

As per usual, the gift petitioning would have begun in October. We first would have scoped out our desired toys, enticed by tv commercials and ads in newspapers, and begun our insideous campaigns of "hints" and cajoles. I’m sure there were other things I wanted (Operation, Flintstones Bowling, Hess Truck), but nothing I needed as much as Little Miss No Name.

There was almost no chance of Santa bringing me my desired doll. We lived in the projects, and I think at this time my father was walking nights at the PO and going to school during the day, studying some crazy thing called “computer science.” Working at the PO afforded him insights into what his future may be if he didn’t finish college; everyone else on his shift was crazy--from the mumbler to the guy who recited Shakespeare--and sorting letters would be a fast track to insanity. So even though the pay was decent, all his money was put aside to get us out of the projects, and get him into a good job. Each week, my mother was presented with one special treat--a Baby Watson Cheesecake from D’Auitos. For this she raised two kids on very little money, and suffered through reading “The Skin of Our Teeth” outloud to my father when he was sick with nephritis. I”m still not sure why a CompSci major had to read Thornton Wilder, but my mother can still recite parts of it.

I didn’t understand poverty, or saving for the future. All I knew is that Uncle Chuck didn’t have such a great job, but my cousins had everything--Operation, a Mrs. Beasley doll, a Hoppity Horse! A color tv! Surely Little Miss No Name didn’t cost as much as a color TV.

You must already know that Santa didn’t leave me a Little Miss No Name under our Charlie Brown tree in the West Brighton Projects. I probably got 101 Dalmations ColorForms, and Flintstones Bowling. But imagine my surprise when I got to my grandparent’s house and saw that Santa left, not one, but TWO, Little Miss No Name dolls, one for each of my horrible, spoiled rotten cousins. And left them at Grandma’s house, and I was there while they opened those packages and saw the looks of surprise and elation spread across their perfect faces.

And then. And then. You won’t even believe what happened, it’s so ridiculous. To this day I can hardly believe it myself. My cousins each positioned their Little Miss No Names’ hands in outstretched beggar pose, and went around to each relative, and collected quarters. QUARTERS. Not only did they have my doll, but now they had MONEY.

I would like to say that this story has a happy ending, some sort of redemption or satisfying denoument. It does not. My cousins remained beautiful and continue to get dolls and quarters, while I have to walk miles to work in sub-freezing temperatures and console myself with Flintstones Bowling.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Put Thor Back in Yuletide*

I was doing some googles and wikis recently looking for appropriate terminology for my cat's holiday cards. My cat's name is Poly and, yes, we already used "Happy Poly-days" last year. It seemed too soon to recycle. Being a not-xtian myself, I prefer my Winter Solstice celebration greetings to be non-x-mas'y. Despite Ronald Reagan's declaration in the 80s of American being a "Christian Country," I find more and more that my friends believe a variety of things about a god or gods who treat them in a variety of fashions, but we all can get excited about a holiday that celebrates the return of the sun.

In case you've been lucky enough to avoid it, you probably know that Bill O'Reilly and others of his ilk each year complain that the liberals and the hippies are trying to stop good Americans from celebrating the birth of their lord. What those who rally around these imaginary slights don't know is that the Christians usurped a variety of pre-christian solstice celebrations, added some coca-cola, and called it Christmas. Take, for example, the Mithraists of ancient Rome. Their celebration takes place three days after the Solstice (roughly December 25). On the Solstice, the sun stands still--that's what Solstice means. Three days after, the sun is reborn to collect his TWELEVE DISCIPLES (12 signs of the Zodiac) and walk the earth again.

They've stolen the word "yule" outright. Yule (or hjol in Old Norse) refers to the moment the sun begins to turn after it's low point (the solstice). It's clear that the Yule Log was taken from the Northern Europeans--there was not a lot of log burning in the Bible. Even the traditional Christman pig was taken from the Icelandic Yule celebration, where a pig was sacrificed for their god Freyr. Why else would we eat a pig on the day a great Jew was born? Because of those goddamn pagans.

The Christians borrowed a lot from the old religions, and who can blame them? There's no reason to reinvent holidays when ones already exist, and how better to convert the pagans than to be celebrating the return of the sun and to really be celebrating the birth of Jesus? See, you godless heathens, you can still have your glorious pig and wonderful log and 12 disciples!

We all know the Christians were persecuted and eaten back in the day. I feel like the Christians are the hot, successful supermodel who breaks down on The Surreal World and cries about how everyone teased her when she was a kid. Perhaps they need some therapy to let go of this complex they still carry with them.

* there's a really interesting article online here

Monday, November 14, 2005

Year-end Wrap Up of the Vexing

There are alot of things that but the shit outta me. I am a very cantankerous person. But at least I'm cranky now, and won't have far to go when I get older. Consider this practice for my crabby old age.

1. The use of the word "hobo" to describe homeless people. A hobo is specifically a migrating vagrant, and there is a connotation of a hobo being someone who has chosen this lifestyle. A homeless person is someone who lives out on the streets, and not by choice. I see this word used copiously on a certain "I overheard something" website, and since I happen to know that one of the editors is a Republican and a fan of Ayn Rand, I suspect shenanigans in the form of trying to belittle the homeless. Anyhow, I really don't want to see this word re-enter the lexicon in its current neo-con form. We need to make it our duty to correct people!

2. The use of the word "co-ed" when referring to women attending college. Uh, it's 2005, people. I can't think of one university that has recently begun to admit women where this term might be applicable. Again, this is another archaic word that has taken on an essense of deprecation. The men are "eds" and the women "co-eds"? It's like we're just hanging out, waiting to meet the right ed. Which brings u to no. 3.

3. Housewife screeds.
There have been a plethora of tomes lately about the joys of being a housewife, all written by women who should know better, as EVERY ONE OF THEM HAS A JOB OUTSIDE THE HOME. Believe me, there is not ONE person I know who would not like to be supported by a more affluent partner and left at home to supervise the nanny and do some charity work in between tennis matches, but this is not a reality for most people. Hang it up, ladies. No one cares to hear the rich upper class opinion on how the rest of us should live our lives. You are as obsolete as co-eds. Which brings us, oddly, to no 4.

4. The Shocker.
Not shocking, but annoying. And why? Because as a gesture it is meaningless, and I don't have time for meaningless hand gestures. Let me break it down for you, kiddies. The middle finger has a meaning. It means "fuck you." The thumb between the index and middle fingers? Means "gotcher nose." The shocker? It refers to an act, but there is no contextual meaning. Does it mean "I would like to perform this act on the person to whom my fingers are pointing?" No, it does not. All it means is "I am cooler than my mom." And as such I have no time for this. The Lindy is much more entertaining, and that's hard to believe that references to a two-year-old photo of torture is funnier.

Note: entry no. 4 is where I particularly feel like a crabby old person. the kids today, they can't even come up with a meaningful GESTURE, geez, they're so moronic. it's not like the devil horns!

5. New York Times reporting scandals. OMG, can they just stop this already? I think my high school newspaper had higher standards.