A Hole in Pandora’s Box

August 12, 2011

So, the joy of technology (and trust me, I find few joys in technology beyond simple convenience and the comfort of warm face, warm hands, warm feet) is being able to find totally new hobbies that would have never existed before. Like customized radio.

I love Pandora. Pandora, if you’re unaware, is a Web site where you can make a radio station customized around a certain band or song you start with. Enter a band, singer, or song, and you have a whole list of songs playing for you that are (arguably) in some way related. Usually. Sometimes it strays. Like how I got from Otis Redding to the Dixie Cups once, I’ll never know. There are some kinks. Like how I got from The Kinks to Linda Ronstadt. But generally, it’s a pleasurable experience. Additionally, you can add variety to a station by adding the name of another band or singer you wish to incorporate, so Pandora can find songs that work between their two styles and smooge them into one Frankenstation.

And this morning, in order to keep myself occupied, I’ve been playing with my newfound hobby–seeing how long it can take Pandora to get from Tony Orlando/Dawn to the band Hole. Which, you know, just makes me giggle.

So far (and I’m writing this as I listen, so it’s like a play-by-play. Be excited, gentle reader. This is breaking news.), I’m still waiting for how they’re going to bridge that gap. I’ve had Tony Orlando’s Bless You, I suppose as my punishment for placing such a silly request in the first place. Then Roy Orbison’s Only the Lonely, followed by Sam Cooke’s Wonderful World, a darling song about the quest of a non-intellectual attempting the fair heart of the elusive smart chick. Sort of a “pre-Lloyd Dobler” Lloyd Dobler anthem.

And Sam Cooke is always marvelous. Let us not toss that aside.

Then It Never Rains in Southern California by Albert Hammond. Waaa, waaaaa, waaaa. This is also punishment for my silly request. Is it too much to ask for a simple Tie a Yellow Ribbon? Can I get a Knock Three Times? Anything? Throw me a Tony bone, here, Pandora.

…pretty sure there’s a better way to phrase that.

Holy hell—it just leapt from Albert Hammond in a rather jarring transition to Hole’s Celebrity Skin. Ha! Oh, please play Candida next. This is brilliant.

Okay, so we have Dumb by Nirvana following Hole, and then a little Key Largo by Bertie Higgins. Wow. The disturbing aspect of it was somehow unforeseen. Not gonna lie; it’s swiftly approaching “oh god, make it stop.” Ripping my mood back and forth between the two worlds. There really needs to be a dramatic record scratch sound in transition each time.

See? Hobby. This will amuse me for hours. It actually hurts. And some pain, you gorgeous people, is good pain.

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Overheard

July 28, 2011

A conversation, as I boarded the elevator down to the lobby in search of lunch today.

I got on in front of a hiring manager (whom I don’t know) from my company who was holding a clipboard of information, and an interviewee in a fancy suit who was (he thought smoothly but I thought nervously) attempting to make a final lasting impression of being–hey–a swell guy. The hiring manager was seemingly less than impressed. It went something like this:

Interviewee [as the elevator doors open on the 18th floor and we all get in]: “Man, something smells goooood downstairs.” [laughs for no reason]

Hiring manager: “………..yep. Not bad.” [we begin our descent]

Interviewee: “That’s, uh, another reason; I’d love to just work in the Loop. It’s just got to be so much better than Schaumberg. Nothing to do out there, you know? [clearly searching for common ground] It’s just terrible.”

Hiring manager: “……yeah, it’s probably….the best place to work in the city. The Loop.”

Interviewee: “Yeah, tell me about it. Tell me about it… Where do you live again, in the city?”

Hiring manager: “I don’t. I live in Barrington. …Right next to Schaumberg.”

Interviewee [suddenly more optimistically]: “Oh. …Yeah, alright, alright, well–” [door opens]

Hiring manager: “Well, thanks, and have a nice day. Your way out is to the right.”

Lovely. I think there’s nothing that amuses me more than other people’s awkwardness sometimes. I was just glad I got to be there for it. It was like my 30-second theatre break.

Really bet he gets that job…

Beer Me That Job

July 25, 2011

There are just so, so many things that bother me about the job search process.

For instance: why is it that nowadays, if you want to send in a resume to a job that’s located on a site that isn’t Craigslist, often they make you register with a multi-step process for their own stupid site, which then begins to send you more spam than exists in the entire state of Hawaii? News flash: If I’m looking for a job, I need to be checking my email account for serious job inquiries or, like, videos of kittens happily attacking watermelons sent from friends who want me to be less depressed about the dejecting work of job applications. I do not need it bulked up with requests for me to apply to jobs for which I would never apply and so, you know…I didn’t.

“Job available in your field: Prison Barber” Is it? Is it?

Or bulked up with ads directed at me, the job seeker. Alleged head-hunting agencies that—if really scammy—want you to pay to play, or—if merely sleazy, useless, and opportunistic—desire for you to go to their advertisement-marinated web page that no one actually uses to find jobs. Hey, glad that while I can’t find a job, you’re able to make lazy cash off advertisements springing up in my face like so many unwanted joke nut can snakes.

https://gomersasquatch.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/4e4f5-circussnake.jpg?w=344&h=373

Job peanuts.

Don’t believe me that they’re not there for you to apply to jobs? Actually attempt to apply to a job on one of those sites some time. More often than not, you can’t submit what you need to, it’s unnecessarily convoluted to the point that you end up just not applying, or you have to sign up for more advertisement abuse in order to submit a resume.

Departed are the days of sending in an application directly to the company via email or in a very simple one- or two-step process. Dead and buried are the days of just going over the building and handing the resume in.

(Yeah, try this some time. Then as you leave, hide and watch the receptionist unenthusiastically use it as a great big wrapper for stale gum.) Just, really. In a vast majority of careers, the physical resume is all but obsolete in the eyes of an employer.

Which is fine. All I wanted to do was to email the damn thing in anyway. But it’s just never that simple.

There are other things I loathe about the job application process, too. For example, feeling like the worst sort of corporate whore, having to sell yourself on your cover letter to please the sadistic evil hiring machine of the non-desperate, already-job-havin’ HR dementors while they muse over your life’s accomplishments in the most trivial of manners and make capricious decisions about the fate of your life.

Or that’s at least what it feels like. I know and love a few hiring managers—family members and friends. That’s really not dementors. …that we know of… But I’m fairly certain that all the hiring managers who’ve gone over my resume and cover letter have been exactly like this. Evil suckers of hope and identity.

But most of all, what I cannot handle about the job search process is the interview. The terrible, horrible, stinking interview.

Very possibly it’s just that I’ve always been as inept with interviews as I have been with auditions or, say, blind dates. I lose all semblance of personality (or even what a human is and how it normally functions) when faced with the daunting task of “BE CHARMING AND SAY ONLY THE RIGHT THINGS.” What the hell? It’s like someone telling you, “Be funny.” Or, “Be interesting.” Or, “Be sexy.”  Uhhhhhh. Ummmmm. Buuuuuuuh. *blink, blink, rub eye, blink*

https://monarcaresblog.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/dog-stretch.jpg?w=198&h=168

“Is this sexy or interesting?”  “No, but it is funny.”

You can’t put someone on the spot like that and expect them to perform well. Least of all me. It’s like I completely lose the ability to comprehend the fundamental makeup of humor or normal speech patterns at that moment and instead sit thinking totally functional and moderately intelligent thoughts with a horrified expression on my face, unable to make them come out of my mouth. It’s amazing—another person’s power to abduct attributes you might otherwise rock when not having to try at them. In these situations, rather than funny, interesting, or sexy, I instead break down into a grotesque amalgamation of the antonyms of all three—a character I think of as Abused Meg.

Abused Meg has had handed to her some of the most ghastly, miserable experiences known to man or woman and is therefore now no longer able to talk with the usual shape or wetness of her former mouth, cannot consider numbers or manifest emotions with certainty, can’t find an appropriate volume at which to express her monosyllabic sentiments, has never seen the sun nor heard loud noises, is constantly on the verge of tears or hiding in her own arm crevice like a sad baby Dracula, and otherwise behaves just as an abused, neglected dog might. At best, she has no personality at all; at worst she’s strange and alienating with the ability to rob anyone else in the room of a sense of normalcy. I am not good at interviews.

And the thing with interviews is, you just can’t ask the freaking questions you want. Mainly—how much will I get paid, and what are my benefits? I don’t get why this is such a taboo. You’re not supposed to ask that until right before you get the job. Why are we all wasting so much time?!

I understand that employers want a person who is right for the job and dedicated to the work. I get that. That makes for a more pleasant work experience for all and a more dedicated worker. But here’s a thought that is applicable for every single person I’ve ever met—unless there’s something truly horrific about my current job, I am leaving my job to look for either comparable pay or a vertical move of some sort, like more pay and better benefits. If money weren’t important with regards to the job, I wouldn’t be working in the first place. I’d spend my time … I don’t know … rowing a fucking boat or painting pictures of me rowing fucking boats. I wouldn’t be sitting in a cubicle taking orders from people. Right? And you—the job dangler—are remarkably stupid in not acknowledging that out in the open and right away.

So why can’t I ask on the first interview—or hell, before I go take off work to waste my time and the potential new employer’s time—what the pay is going to be? Then let’s see if I’m a good fit. Because I tell you what—even if I really love a potential job, I—like most everyone else—do not live in a career utopia fantasy. I have rent and bills to pay. I have to eat. I have a life outside of work I’d like to continue living in a similar fashion or better. I need to find a new job that’s going to pay me what I need to make in order to do all these lovely lifey things. And nearly everything beyond that is a minor deciding factor. The order of importance has to be: 1.) Do I vaguely want to perform this job/am I qualified?  2.)Does it pay what I need/want to make?  3.) Literally anything else that might be a point of interest. It doesn’t matter.

Number 1 is taken care of when I apply. I got the job description, I’m interested so far. Number 2 should be next. Number 2 should always be next. There is no point proceeding if number 2 is a deal-breaker. PEOPLE—NUMBER 2!! Come on.

So, yeah. This is the aspect of our job culture that I think I find most aggravating and wasteful of everyone’s time and energy.  And so does Abused Meg. As she shambles off into the shadows, totally freaking out all who exist there with her wide-eyed weirdness.

**I should note that this is not about a current job search I’m doing. In fact, I’m on the brink of going down to part-time work in a month so I can start full-time grad school (Yaaaaaay!). But being around others who are currently looking for jobs, it brings me right back to that same old rant in my head. Why the senselessness? Why the time-suckage? You know what? Let’s all just quit our jobs and join a commune.

Or go back to grad school.

Oh dear god, I’ve finally reached the end of these old blog posts (the ones I wished to actually keep). Here you have it–post number six of six that I have pulled from the murky depths of my former blog, washed off, and set here.

This one is from 2006. Pause with me to see if you can remember it. Back before our hovercrafts and our robot nannies. Back when we still lived on the ground. Before our food was given to us in the form of small, flavored pills. Ah, 2006. How I faintly remember what a tree looked like.

Okay, moving on. Here’s my final post of yesteryear, a snippet of me in 2006. I give you Origin of the Phrase “Nose to the Grindstone”:

The phrase “put your nose to the grindstone” is commonly used today to mean “get to work.” Its origin has been traced back 5,000 years (by the etymological research department of UCLA) to when humanity relied on grindstones to sharpen all their tools, teeth, and household items. Carpenters of yore had made a startling finding about the sedimentary stone sandstone, and thus began using it solely to make the grindstones that sharpened their tools and other items.

The properties of sandstone were first discovered by renowned carpenter and gymnast William Van Metermeyer, who unearthed the fact that the stone, when grinding against something else, gave off a surprisingly invigorating lavender aroma (for which the stone is now best known). Carpenters began using it to build grindstones, because they found that it helped them to better focus and to stay more alert. When they would begin to feel fatigued, they would simply put their noses close to the grindstone and inhale the scent of the stone for energy, and then get back to work (hence the phrase).

As a related side note, this was also the birth of the popular new age practice of aromatherapy.

…this is all true.

So many possibilities.

Do you know how many samples of my frightening genetic code would be out there if I could sell my sperm? Not that I have sperm. That sounded like I’m speaking of my sperm like I have sperm, like it already exists. Or will ever exist. For the record, not that I’ve ever extensively microscope-checked anything that’s left my body in one way or another, but being that I’m female and all, I’m relatively certain I don’t have sperm. I’m not, like, secretly hording anyone else’s or anything, either. That would be creepy, and that’s not how I meant my opening sentence. In sum, I have no sperm.

I feel like that was unnecessarily complicated.

But that’s the point. It would be so much easier if I did have sperm. That’s like a nonstop ATM attached to your body. Need a buck? Grab a magazine. AND it’s helping people who really want babies to have babies. AND it would be spreading my seed so that I may some day have a thousand me’s to carry out my nefarious– I mean, nothing. My nefarious…group of…pacifist gardeners…who desire nothing more than to plant flowers all over the world.

What? Nothing. What’s over there?  *walks away*

Nothing to see here.

Obsessions Bite.

May 26, 2011

Okay, so here is what’s been going on. Here is what I’ve been thinking about every time I look like I’m listening for the past year. Here is what’s been distracting me from writing during my free time. Here is that comment or anecdote ready to burst from my anxious lips; from my hot, erupting brain. The thing that I’ve been visibly holding back in conversation so much of the time. Here is the thing I find it hardest to admit about myself.

**And I feel the need to put forth such a sensitive, revealing exposure of self as a penitent offering for not writing for so many months. Bless you, both of you, who read this. You shall now be rewarded with a large nugget of scandalous truth.**

Here it is. I, myself—she who is too cool for school, too hip for yo’ lip, too fab to…um…grab (and of course, I quote only myself here)—I am a mostly closeted Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanatic. FANATIC. Like, it’s fallen off into complete pathology.

I say “mostly closeted” because, while I will tell people I enjoy the show and occasionally engage in a little light Buffy chatter with like-minded individuals, I do not generally divulge the degree to which I am involved with this show. Even my darling male companion—he who introduced me to the long-gone television drama—only knows snippets of the reality of my sickness. He has grasped the stalactites and stalagmites of my geekdom where this is concerned, but he’s never seen inside the whole big, scary cave.

*waves from inside the cave*  Hi baby. Don’t judge me, mkay?   *vampire bats fly about over my head*

How did this happen, you may ask? Fair question, fair question.

So, I have resisted watching the show for years. As an awkward-appearance, slightly weird, and overly theatrical teen girl existing outside the skinny popular girl social orbit, when the show originally aired, I never felt drawn to the momentary glimpses I had had of the show’s protagonist. Sarah Michelle Gellar—a beautiful, tiny, perky teen girl (who at least starts out as a cheerleader). A cheerleader. No, please. Cheerleaders have always given me the wig. (Yeah, I see you, other Buffy fans who just enjoyed my use of the word “wig” here.)

You see, without having seen the show, I knew this archetypal girl at school, and…well…to put it delicately, she seemed to me a vile, heinous, Satan-incarnate bitch. And at 14, I was far too busy watching Dawson’s Creek to bother with a show that had the outright over-the-top special effects you see in the first few seasons of Buffy. I mean, come on. The Master looks like they put Mr. Bigglesworth’s head on Dr. Evil’s body.

So I never watched it.

Years later (about a year and three months ago, to be exact), I suddenly find myself as an adult (kind of), mostly living with my darling male companion, and this puts us both in the position of having shared programming for entertainment in the evenings. And hey—he just so happens to have all seven seasons of Buffy on DVD. He asked me if I would watch the first season with him, see if I could get into it (since he had seen the series once before and enjoyed it). And since the dear man had sat through every movie from my collection I could think to inflict upon him, I gladly obliged.

Well, gladly is the wrong word. Truthfully, I just thought it would be sort of unsupportive if I didn’t give it a good old try.

So, over the next few weeks, we watched the first season. Thankfully it is short, because the first season is not exactly the series’ finest work. This, of course, will be up for dispute among other Buffy fans, but I stand by it. The monsters in season one can be silly, the drama can be overplayed, and the special effects are old enough now to be more adorable than scary. However, as Joss Whedon is widely regarded for his winning dialogue, it was at least amusing, and I did really begin a love affair with the primary characters. So we moved on to season two.

Month after month, I watched diligently as Buffy, a character I grew to admire immensely for her integrity and general adorableness; Willow, who had my favorite ‘isms of the entire run; Xander, who I would so have dated in high school; and Giles, who I would so have dated right now (actually, Tara too); went on to defeat the Big Bad in story arch after story arch. Some plot lines were regrettable (*coughTheInitiativecough*), some were really compelling, and some ended up being sort of terrifying. That last season was dark, man.

It took us from February until about October to be finished with all seven seasons, during which I—no joke—became preoccupied enough to start subconsciously scanning a room for wooden pointy things the moment I walked in. That, gentle reader, was the beginning.

Two days after we witnessed the end of this show, to which I had devoted the at-home evenings of my every week, I found myself waking up in cold sweats, walking around with the shakes, hallucinating about vampire babies crawling on my ceiling and rotating their heads to look at me, experiencing unyielding hellmouthless restlessness, anxiety, and depression. General malaise. The Buffy and Angel love theme haunted my dreams. I listened to the Once More with Feeling soundtrack several times for a little bump, but it only barely took the edge off. I found myself feeling isolated and alone without my friends. Not, like, my actual friends. But without Tara and Willow. And Giles. And Oz. And Spike. It was full-blown withdrawal, and I was fairly certain it might injure me to stay that way too long.

And then it hit me like a stake to the heart. Oh my god. I had become a total and complete Buffy nerd; I mean absolutely to the core.

So, in order to alleviate my pain, and now that I had identified what I was, I made the decision to begin the show all over again. All the way back to the beginning. I work at a desk job where I can listen to things on my headphones, so I just started streaming it (intravenously) through my Netflix while I worked. I did this mostly in secret. I had literally just watched the entire series, so I was able to merely listen to it and watch what was going on in my memory with crystal clarity. And oh god, was that a relief. The world was back to normal. Joyce was still mothering. Tara was alive and waiting to be discovered. Giles was still a father figure. Angel’s neck wasn’t all thick and obnoxious. I could watch Faith get stabbed again (she annoyed the crap out of me). For that matter, the Mayor wasn’t a blown-up snake yet. (I love him beyond reason.) All was right.

Until I ran through the entire series again. Second time. This time I got through it in three months. Three months, back-to-back episodes. What a high. So, upon finishing season seven, I experienced the same problem. Sweats. Cravings. The fervent desire to see someone turn to dust after a well-timed pun or quip. But I knew what to do this time.

Season one, episode one—we meet again. I went through the entire series a third time. Three times through the entire series within a matter of a year and a few months and  change. I started noticing crazy, little things I might never have noticed. For instance, nearly all the monsters—if you listen to just the audio—are voiced by the Tasmanian Devil, as far as I can tell. Really. Listen to it. I found plot points I had never noticed before. In fact, I unearthed plot hole after plot hole. I know things no socially functional person should ever really know.

And just this Monday was the day I finished run number three.

Now. I sit here, on my computer, staring at the Netflix page I keep open and waiting on my far left tab. How many days will I wait? How many days will I pretend I’m done?

By the time you read this, dear reader, I wager I am already knee-deep in early high school vampire slayer angst.

It’s far too late for me.

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It was a hell of an Easter weekend for me, I have to say. For various reasons. I got to have an MRI. That was fun. I got radioactive goo injected into my veins during it; perhaps this is why I’ve pissed myself every time I’ve gotten a cell phone call or sat too close to the TV in the last two days? Huh. Dunno. Mental note to look into that.

And if you’ve never had this whole MRI process done, do try. It’s thrilling. They wrap you in thin white blankets up to your neck like a sort of sterile mummy and keep you as cold as possible, I assume because the unholy giant mouth machine into which they’re feeding you prefers the kind of sub-zero room temperatures featured in heart-warming classics like Alive. Then they give you earplugs and put enough sound-muffling cloth around your head to keep out the worst of the clamoring bedlam noise, which I find akin to an angry mob banging on the machine with wrenches and sledgehammers. And they bury you into the unholy giant mouth machine up to around your hands, with the sides slightly too snug for your arms on either side and the top a couple inches from your face. Taphophobics everywhere, pop your Xanax—this is your coffin for the next hour. And then they tell you they’re going to begin (which sounds like a command from one of Charlie Brown’s teachers), and here descends the angry mob banging on the machine with wrenches and sledgehammers. Or so I figure. Then they pull you out of the unholy mouth coffin machine after you’ve contemplated your own death for 45 minutes, inject you with the radioactive goo—and I’m a notorious fainting, vomiting needle-phobe, so this is extra special—and shove you back into the machine for another 15 minutes. This is to let your brain cook a little longer. Finally, you get out and put the metal jewelry back in your body. You look at the nurse warily when she says, “Drink lots of water the next few days to…uh…flush that stuff out of your system quickly,” and check your day planner just to see if it is, in fact, Phobia Day, and you had simply forgotten. Sign up today! See what you’re made of.

…No, literally, you get to look at what your brain is made of.

But mostly, it was noteworthy because I got to dye and paint gorgeous, sexy, wonderful Easter eggs with my darling gentleman companion. And then make deviled eggs for the first time. Bedeviled eggs. Well, I guess my sister made part of them. Or most of them. But I boiled the eggs, damn it, and I’m pretty sure I was the one who bedeviled them.

Deviled eggs. This needs a more dramatic name. Hmm. Sataniceggs? Lucifeggs? Beelzebeggs? All superior words. While my sister was I was working on making the deviled eggs, I got to wondering why they’re called that. They seem harmless enough, and eating one has never whipped me into a hedonistic, clothes-ripping-off, sexually depraved, demonic and shrieking frenzy. Not like eating apples…

Apparently it’s a cooking term that dates back centuries, and it merely refers to the eggs having a little spice to them. I guess spice = hot = devil, and so these eggs with spice were deviled eggs (or feel free to term them divinity eggs now, if you wish to bring them to a church picnic or something).

Interesting. Well. Had I known that it was simply about spice, I wouldn’t have invoked the dark forces into the sweet relish. Really, this should be a special note in the recipe directions. I mean, sorry, relatives, for that unpleasant evil egg experience. Honestly, it would have been fine if someone had remembered to get the salt blessed this year. So, I blame you guys.

Tangent. Back on track now. So this whole eggy process was a totally fun one. The thing is, I haven’t dyed eggs in years, so it was really fucking lovely. My darling gentleman companion and I had about 15 eggs to play with, and we dyed, and sponge-painted, and then hand-painted egg after glorious egg. This was such a charming good time, I might just coax him into doing it every weekend. We’ll have cholesterol problems that could take down horses or other large, sweaty beasts, but we’ll have created 52 batches of perfect, gleefully temporary edible art. Good plan.

By the by, I will post pictures as soon as I get them developed, probably this week. See, back in the day, people used to use cameras that were run on this thin, shiny stuff called film. You could go to the store and buy a cardboard-covered camera with film in it, and take pictures. Then you’d wait for your pictures to come out of a machine all overexposed and crappy, and you’d gladly pay too much for them. Being the antique-lover, I used one such product to capture our magical Beelzebegg day, so I have to wait for them to be ready to put online. Next post. Promise.

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Pop Star Dating Service

March 18, 2010

at your service.

Excellent quality. This is a real photo, ladies and gentlemen, taken only a few years before the King of Pop’s untimely death. True story. Don’t bother looking it up.

I was driving on my way to the train this morning, when The Girl Is Mine by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney came on the radio. Remember that one?

All right, fine, no radio station in its right mind plays The Girl Is Mine; I actively chose to listen to it on my Michael Jackson History cd. Jeez. Cut me a break, yeah? So, I like music I can happily snap to in the wee hours of morning. I do. And you do, too.

But I was really listening to the song this time, and listening to the lyrics finally as an adult (Thriller came out a year before I was born, actually). And this girl they’re passively fighting over like two very lame things—I mean, what a bitch. Yeah, seriously. She’s all telling Paul he’s her forever lover (which, really, he needs to just chill about because it’s not like he doesn’t have Linda waiting at some vegetarian restaurant for him somewhere anyway) and telling Michael—whom I think we can all agree was a very confused man already—that after loving him she couldn’t love another. Can you say mixed signals? Honestly. Ditch the girl. She’s clearly a liar.

I suggest you bark up another tree, gentlemen. Hey, how’s about Olivia Newton John? I mean, she would be hopelessly devoted to you. I see some real potential there. Or, you know what—maybe Bonnie Tyler, who needs someone to warm her up a bit after her heart was totally eclipsed. Which hurts, let me tell you. She’s probably all too happy for a rebound. And that charming girl Rhianna will even let you stand under her umbrella. Ella. Ella. And hey, my girl Regina Spektor actually has a song called Fidelity. That’s a step in a more positive direction, if that’s what you’re looking for (which I assume is the case, since you clearly state you both cannot have her, that it’s one or the other—I DARE YOU TO NOT BE BOPPING ALONG TO THIS SONG NOW).

Or…hmm…who else? Yvonne Elliman, for instance, doesn’t want anyone at all if she can’t have you. How’s that for commitment? Commitment whether you’re willing or not, fellas. Damn.

And Kylie Minogue is so obsessed with you, she can’t get you out of her head, so that’s something. But then…yeah, you know what? That sounds a little clingy there. Nevermind. That’s all you need—her pulling an Australian Glenn Close on you, and then your rabbit’s dead, and it’s a big messy ordeal; no. Nevermind, nevermind, nevermind.

Okay, so, Paula Abdul is forever your girl. If you like your girl sloshy, sloppy drunk and winking at you at odd moments. Or if you’re looking for a more maintenance-free partner, Whitney Houston will just be your baby tonight. Your baby, nonetheless. You gotta respect that.

You’re going to want to steer clear of the man-eaters Daryll Hall and John Oates were dating. You’d just run into the same problem. Avoid Carly Simon, who is on to you and will call you out on all your vain bullshit (and rightly so), and that would just be embarrassing, considering the egos on both of you. And if you’re looking for a girl who really only has eyes for you, also probably avoid more sexually empowered women like Madonna, who would only end up showing you the difference between being like a virgin and being an actual virgin. Mmhmm, I’m like a virgin too, only with a much more active sex life… *high five* *high five*

Ooo, no wait—better idea. One of you can date Brandy and one can date Monica. Then they can stop fighting over the boy who’s jerking them around, and you four can collectively heal your intimacy issues together.

Or, failing that, I hear the chick from the Divinyls likes to touch herself. Rock. Don’t forget to invite Cyndi Lauper.

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Miss Near-Miss

March 8, 2010

Here’s one little arcane morsel of wisdom about the universe I seem to have acquired during my short stay here in this life: pretty much anything attempted before 10 AM is going to have a few practice runs before it is accomplished. And this is all the way from the important things, like work tasks, down to the minutia of the morning. It is compulsive. I am unable to skip the practice runs. I will perform any given action a healthy few times before I do it correctly.

I mean, I was in theatre. I know the importance of dress rehearsal. I assume this is what this is cosmically all about, why I am destined—why many of us are destined—to do this. Yeah, that’s right. I’ve overheard you talking. It’s not just me.

For instance, in order to fully prepare to grasp what time it is at any point in the morning, I need to go through a few reps first (I assume to get the motions down perfectly). Okay, the train is coming into the station. Is it on time? I glance down at the time on my phone. Okay… I could really go for a bagel. I walk halfway to the office. Wait, was it on time? Am I going to be on time? What time did the phone say? I look again, nod but store no information to my memory, put the phone away, and ooo—shiny thing! Shiny thiiiing!!! Now I’m about to cross the street to my building. Wait, so was I on time? What time of day is it? Did I fall asleep and it’s afternoon now? No way of possibly knowing. I glance again, satisfied, but not storing the information. …So why do beagles look nothing like Snoopy? Does Woodstock migrate? I get to the elevator. Um, seriously though. What time is it? I peer at my phone again and put it in my pocket, then feel my scalp for evidence of head injuries. I now have gotten five steps away from my desk. Have I arrived here at the same time I always do? I check my phone in the final stretch just before I sit down to my cubicle where I will be surrounded by no less than three things that will all tell me the time, but now the time on my phone finally sticks. 8:52 AM, right there on the front of my cell phone. Yup, normal time.

See, and I have to assume I would never have been able to have gotten the time if I hadn’t done all that rehearsing of the precise hand movements it takes to read my phone clock. Thanks, universe.

The same applies to things like the first step out of bed, which often bears repeating for good measure. Alright, Hofer—stand. *stands up, teeters* Noooope, sit right back down again. Possibly curl back up into former sleep pretzel position in order to have a totally fresh restart. Okay. Now, stand. *stands up, dismount* Nailed it! Thank god I practiced.

Even retrieving my key pass (which electronically grants me access to the doors at work) from my pocket so’s I can buzz myself into my job seems to require daily honing, oddly enough. Like, I get inside the building and reach into my pocket to grab my key pass. I instead pull out my left glove and hold it in my hand all the way to the elevator. Okay, good, Hofer. That is a similar motion to grabbing your key pass. I notice I’m holding a glove and put it back in my pocket. Shaking my head, I now reach into my pocket and pull out my bus pass, holding it firmly in my hand. I press the button for my floor and begin my ascent. Okay, closer now. We have part of the word correct—“pass”. Good! Dry run #2 accomplished. Now, put it away. I realize I’m holding my bus pass, sigh heavily, and put it back in my pocket, thinking about the things I have to do when I get to my desk. Meanwhile, I now pull out my car keys and prepare them to open the door to my office on the 18th floor. Hmm. Nope. No. Alright, the other part of the word is now present—“key”. Excellent job, Hofer! You are now prepared to correctly pull out your key pass. It dawns on me as I get to the clear glass doors which guard my office that I’m standing there holding a set of car keys, like an idiot. I plunge them back into my pocket, this time able to pull out my key pass with nary a problem.

See? Practice.

Oy.

This Post May Kill You

March 3, 2010

So take it on a full stomach.

Well now, the thing is, I had been writing an entry that began with a discussion of the popular phrase regarding the definition of insanity—you know the one. The one that’s been floating around in common usage since about the mid-90s, often winding up in business seminars as a means to promote other businessy things, like “thinking outside the box.” It is as follows, and note that its wording has been paraphrased many times over the years, so it possibly bears the wear and tear of conversational license: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Various sources will attribute it to the likes of Albert Einstein and Mark Twain. Long-dead, very learned guys with (surprisingly similar) crazy white hair seem like incredibly trustworthy originators, don’t they? (Can’t you just see the first moron to create this mix-up: “Einstein said it. Hmmmm, yes. Or was it Mark Twain? Dammit, their pictures are SO SIMILAR!   They’re pretty much the same thing.”) Other sources will say that both of these are incorrect, and that the origin is likely Rita Mae Brown in her 1983 book Sudden Death. Which puts its inception much more recently, not shockingly.

Ya see, from my tender teenage years, I was practically raised on this phrase. My dad does tend to recite it like a mantra when the situation calls for it, and while I understand how it’s a helpful reminder to try something new (calling to mind images of silly people who realize a foreigner can’t understand English, so they just continue to repeat the same English phrase at the foreigner, only louder), that particular bit of paternal dogmatic endowment always stuck in my craw. Do I have a craw? I’m not sure. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I have a craw. That is where that phrase has embedded itself.

And my profound apologies for the discrepancy, father, if you read this. I just never happened to like this one.

I had started this entry off that way, intending to make some point, and then I put this entry—half-finished—off to the side to cool for a few days. I was about to pick it back up again, when wing-nut Joseph Stack decided to do a kamikaze off his good judgment and steer his airplane into an IRS building last month, effectively killing himself and tragically one other person who worked inside the building. The reason this had tripped me up is that he had written a suicide “manifesto” before going through with his actions, as I’m sure you’re aware. In it, he had said, “I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different. I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.”    …Mmmhmm.    O_o

Well…crap. Since this was plastered all over the news, discussing this phrase now possibly falls under the “too soon” category, or potentially will not be able to stand on its own as a separate discussion, because people are all focusing on his message. Furthermore, I am generally not in favor of giving this guy any more spotlight than was necessary to simply report the tragedy of his innocent victim, nor do I wish to seem like I’m having a rational discussion about the recent words of a kook with an airplane.

And then I decided to—you know what? Fuck it.—finish it and post it, since really the phrase is only the initial part of this entry. And furthermore, I think this guy actually illustrates why this phrase sort of sits ill with me. And that reason is that it is an over-generalized phrase which is not literally correct. “Insanity” is a strong word, and an important one, considering that it’s accepted a sound reason to completely dismiss a person’s statements or actions as unintentional or unable to be helped, ergo rendering the originator inculpable. Weighty stuff. So it somewhat irks me when it’s lobbed about to fit whatever little thing people deem silly or possessing of a low ROI. And god knows we’re a society obsessed with ROI. (Though, of course, my annoyance refers to formal or didactic uses of the word “insanity,” not when people are using conversational connotations of it. I’m not about censoring things that make language colorful; like, it really affects me very little when people are all, “Dude, did you check out the wicked hot bartender? His body is insane!” Sure, whatever. Why not. I refer to people using it when speaking with authority on something.)

Yeah. Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting to get different results is the definition of redundancy with a learning curve. Or something along those lines, not insanity. By contrast, the actual definition of insanity is, usually, unsoundness of mind often affecting legal responsibility. To illustrate—giving money you don’t wish to give to the IRS for your entire adult life and expecting the system, which you find unfavorable, to change on its own is “redundancy with probably a steep learning curve” (the “steep learning curve” bit lying in the expectation of change part, not the recurring behavior. You are, sadly, legally bound to continue paying your taxes, I am sorry to inform you). Alternatively, Mr. Stack’s assumption that the way to clearly break this dismally futile pattern is suicide/homicide with a side helping of structural demolition of a government building is “insanity.” Note the difference. (Also note that when a legally insane person utters, “I am finally ready to stop this insanity,” it means they are about to take a bath in it.)

Okay, so the real purpose of this entry, aside from my nitpicking over this modern definition not being the definition of insanity but rather an occasional indication of it, is that this definition of insanity phrase has gotten so oversaturated in popular American culture that we forget sometimes that doing the same thing over and over again is the definition of “practice.” In that, sometimes it merely makes you better at whatever behavior you’re repeating, and that leads to different results, too. I think the prevalence of this definition of insanity phrase is a great indicator of how the notion of patience has completely slipped through the cracks of our modern, instant-gratification society, but that’s neither here nor there. Really, it had me thinking about the Tower of Hanoi.     …and why wouldn’t it?

The Tower of Hanoi shows us the importance of doing something over and over again, because it illustrates that we build muscle memory. Even if our psychological process isn’t learning anything from repetition—although it often does—our physical process learns for us. Which is all kinds of neat.

https://i1.wp.com/mathworld.wolfram.com/images/eps-gif/TowersofHanoiSolution_700.gif

The Tower of Hanoi (above) is a puzzle where one has to figure out how to get the four ascending-sized pieces of a puzzle from their pyramid shape on the first nozzle (in a set of three nozzles) to the third nozzle in that same final pyramid shape, one piece at a time (see the link for an illustration of how it’s done and hopefully a less ridiculous understanding of it than I was able to give you).

This puzzle generally takes awhile for people who aren’t Good Will Hunting to figure out. What was interesting here was that they found that amnesiacs doing the puzzle day after day eventually improved their ability to solve it competently, when they didn’t ever remember doing the puzzle before, or even the person administering the puzzle. These experiments were used by psychologists to show that we have muscle memory: increased levels of physical precision through repetitive behavior, in addition to our experience-based memory. Cool.

And then a barrage of existential questions hit me (and pardon me if they twist about in a rather labyrinthine way here). Aside from building muscle memory, which we seldom do intentionally, why do we do things again and again when, the probable majority of the time, it isn’t yielding results? I assert that doing this is not insane (as some would prefer to hyperbolize) because repetition is such a common human behavior—common enough that a vague cultural definition-of-insanity phrase had to be created and reiterated ad nauseam to discourage it. Is our proclivity toward repetition derived from a desire to preserve the action in our memories, rather than from stubbornness or stupidity?

And what is the purpose of making memories, other than merely learning to avoid danger—or is that it? No, certainly there’s something having to do with a memory’s purpose that distances humans’ minds from those of mere animals, which operate on instinct. We strive so hard to preserve certain memories, even ones that are ultimately detrimental to our health (whether we do so consciously or not), so surely there’s more to our collecting of memories than the instinctual survival of the species.

I consulted an interesting article on cryonics (of all things), about how memory intertwines itself with identity and whether preserving memory is the most important part of sustaining life, in the hopes of better understanding why we make and keep memories:

“To some people, preservation of memory is the most essential task of cryonics, whereas others regard feeling as being more critical. I am somewhat skeptical of both these views, but I do not have an alternative thesis — I am searching for one. If memory is critical to identity, why do I perceive that in the last year I have added memories, but not altered my identity? If some memories are more critical for identity than others, what are those critical memories and where do they reside? It may be true that to abolish all my memories would abolish my identity — but it is also true that stopping my heart abolishes my identity. That does not prove that my heart is the essence of my identity.”

I don’t know that I agree with this person’s dismissal of the firm bond between identity and memory, but at least it got me thinking of how they were interrelated. If the reason we do something again and again actually is moreover to make a memory, as I had hypothesized, are we doing it therefore to extend or preserve our identities? Isn’t that why we say doing menial tasks again and again builds character? Or is that just a platitude to alleviate the unpleasantness of it?

Memory is altered over time, as we know, and it is often shaped by personal perception. Does this indicate that over time my identity actually shifts, and that’s what causes my memory to alter? Could be. A progressed or evolved state of personal identity yields a changed perception in me and accordingly adjusts my memories to fit that perception? Or even, adversely, if my memories simply modify over time due to other factors—and many will—will it cause my identity to correlationally shift over time if memory and identity are inseparable? I mean…my tastes change over time, and they are integral to my identity.

To give an oversimplified example, I used to like to wear lots of dangly, clanky jewelry hanging all over myself. It made me happy. It made me feel comfortable. Now I like less stuff hanging all over me. So my tastes have evolved. How I prefer to present myself has evolved. How I see myself has evolved. And ergo there’s been a slight shift in my identity, right? I would testify so. Our tastes are just an expression of who we are or who we want to be—identity. And clearly identity has the ability to evolve. Again, I realize this is over-simplified, but it accomplishes my point.

On the other hand, certain aversions which memory has taught my body to create have evolved over time. For example, I got sick once eating tuna and couldn’t eat it for about a year, even though I know that all tuna isn’t going to make me sick. It’s a common defense mechanism of your body. But now I love tuna again. This indicates to me that my unconscious memory had created a taste aversion to preserve my body from whatever in that tuna made me sick, and that the particular unconscious memory seems to have left me along with the aversion. Bam!—memory alteration. (Oh god. Did I just become the Emeril Lagasse of mind-numbing conversation topics?) So, considering that identity and memory both evolve and assuming that the two are interwoven, does identity alter memory, or the other way around? Is it the chicken or the egg?

Furthermore, assuming identity is attached to memory, if I wish and wish for a painful or uncomfortable memory to be erased from my mind, is it because I merely don’t wish to carry it with me, or is it, more deeply, because I seek to alter myself?

More importantly, can identity exist without memory? Think of amnesiacs, for instance, or Alzheimer’s patients. Are they without identity? Much of our identity has to do with how we uniquely react to circumstances, our individual process of doing things, how we learn, and how we grow. While memory strongly affects each of these, the absence of memory wouldn’t leave us without these abilities. An auditory learner who gets clunked on the head by a falling ACME anvil may become an amnesiac (…you know…if they live through the subsequent cartoon-like effect of being hammered a full meter into the ground with just their appendages sticking out in alarm, the 4-inch bald lump that later rises from their head, and, naturally, all their teeth falling out like so many piano keys), but I would wager they’ll still likely be an auditory learner (short having incurred brain damage beyond amnesia) after the anvil event, as opposed to a visual learner (on the heavy assumption that their ability to see, hear, or learn hasn’t been altered by the cranial reception of an anvil). That’s because it’s ingrained in their identity, I think, the way their genes have determined they’re neurologically wired.

Dig it:

“Spiders can weave intricate spiderwebs, but this complex behavior is not learned — it is built-in neurological machinery. A female bird that is hatched and reared in isolation from other birds is still capable of building a perfect nest…”

“Even when learning does occur, neurological wiring may dictate which experiences result in learning and which do not. Many birds learn to form a strong emotional bonding at birth to any nearby distinctive and animate object — a process known as imprinting. Many animals develop strong aversion to a tasty food following a single experience of nausea after eating it.”

Our actions are a part of who we are, and they are present whether or not our memory is. Like the Tower of Hanoi. A person who had lost their memory midway through life was able to ingrain a behavior without neurological or psychological memory—their muscles learned to do something, and to do it a certain way. The person has no accessible memory of ever doing this.

Does this person have identity? Is their identity forever stunted from altering itself after they quit making new memories? Or does a neurological wiring to perceive muscle memory show that their hard-wiring is crafting an identity for that person, accessible memory or not? Are their behaviors, reactions, and sensibilities being stored somewhere other than the “tangible” memory, thus perpetuating who they are without their consciousness? Are we then predestined to be who we are, at least somewhat? Clearly our genetics can’t account for the circumstances and events in our lives that will occur and spark a change in us, but does our hard-wiring determine which of these experiences we will learn from and which we won’t on an individualized basis—whether we’ll experience pain, pleasure, or fear from the experiences?

The answer, darling class, is I don’t know. Possibly our identities can remain somewhat intact without the aid of memory. Possibly they’re also strongly influenced by memory, and we continue to make memories or strive to memorize in order to have a more well-rounded shape to our individual selves. Perhaps doing the same thing over and over again is comfortable for us because it triggers the feeling that we’re memorizing, which gives us the psychological ease that our identities will be preserved. Or maybe we do it because practice makes perfect. Regardless, repetition is not the definition of insanity; it is very human and very common. And sometimes, it’s the only thing that yields progress.

Whew. Who needs a nap?

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