Monday, December 31, 2007

Thank you, please call again

Actual excerpt from my conversation with Dell last week, when they were pushing me to renew the warranty on my 1-year-old laptop:

Salesman: Don’t you want to protect your investment? What would you do if your laptop broke down?
Me: Well, I imagine I’d have to buy another laptop that wasn’t a Dell.
Salesman: And you think that’s a good risk to take?
Me: Weighed against the risk of the laptop actually breaking down after a year, yes, I do.
Salesman: Well, what about your car? Don’t you keep that insured?
Me: True, but I’m far less likely to kill someone with my laptop.

I think I may have deviated slightly from their script on that answer.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How was your day, Honey?

"Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion." --Georg Wilhelm

I haven't the faintest idea who Georg Wilhelm is, but I'm guessing he and Taylor Mali have read some of the same books. If your job makes you get up in the morning and say this stuff, lucky you. If not...well, you're most of us.

Incidentally, Teacher's Day in the U.S. is in May, but seriously, why wait? Teach somebody something today.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

New Position Filled

Ah! Back from vacation and ready for the demotivating world of the office again. Not even the funny, quirky office from The Office, or the so-soul-sucking-it's-funny office of Office Space, but the real, live, You're-Here-Because-You-Like-To-Eat-And-Have-Insurance Office.

Good times.

But hey, it gives me something to write about. Which is kind of like saying, "I save a lot of time on tying my shoes since that chainsaw accident!", but it's what I've got.

Right before I left for vacation, a large man walked into our office. It seems that he and his partner shared another office in the building, but they were being displaced by the sale of that suite. Did we have any space that we could sublet to them?

Since five of us were currently languishing in a space built to hold sixteen, it was safe to say that, yeah, we might. I took his card and told him we'd talk it over and get back to him. Then I headed into the kitchen for lunch, where two of the three owners already were.

"Who was that?" one of them asked.

"That was..." I checked the card--"Monte Coleman." (Not his real name)

"That name sounds familiar. Monte Coleman?"

A quick Googling showed us that the large man who had visited us had, in fact, played linebacker for the Washington Redskins. And now he wanted to come live with us.

I wanted this to happen. Nevermind that the sitcom potential would be off the charts. Ever since the days of Terry Tate, I've known that I wanted to work someplace that had an Office Linebacker. Also, it didn't hurt that continuing to finance enough office space to contain all of our hopes and dreams was expensive, and a subtenant would ease some of that burden.

When our CEO got back to the office and heard about the meeting, she was beside herself. A quick aside: though she knows nothing at all about football, she's had a strange fascination with football players ever since stealing an autographed football at a marketing lunch. She immediately took Monte's business card and ran to his office to have him autograph it for her. This established our starting negotiating position.

Shortly thereafter, a meeting with Terry--er, Monte--was set up for the following Monday. That was the start of my vacation, much to my disappointment--would he use "I'll refrain from tackling you...mostly" as a bargaining chip? I did prep a list of bullet points for them to address, though, having had some experience with subleases at previous jobs. After the meeting, a co-worker e-mailed me the terms they'd reached:

Monte and his partner would get two of our seven window offices; we would supply furniture; we would reconfigure our network to give them access to our printer; and we would continue to cover all utilities, janitorial expenses, and maintenance charges. In return, we would get the privilege of paying them $300 a month.


Funny, I hadn't thought that "turn a profit" was a necessary bullet point.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Friday, October 05, 2007

Serve chilled

So, a few months ago, I was given the task of writing a job ad for our company. We were looking to hire Java developers--something currently more in demand than air fresheners at a chili cook-off. To add hay to this stack, we need people with Top Secret clearances. The people who meet these two criteria have their pick of literally dozens of companies in the area. So how do we make them pick us?

My idea was to tempt them with hookers and blow, then blackmail them with the resulting video (or just sell copies of the video to meet our cash flow needs). My backup idea was to write a cleverly worded job ad that made us seem like a hip, fun place to work. That idea (the backup) was going great; I wrote something I was more or less happy with, and something that my boss was happy with. We were one big happy until we passed it by the CEO. Her comment:

"It's good, just take out all the funny parts."

Really? You want to make it exactly like every other ad out there? What, were you afraid we might get some resumes?

Fast-forward to this week, when the CEO is out on yet another vacation ("But I'm available by cell phone, so I don't really have to use vacation time,") and we once again desperately need Java programmers. And my boss came to me and said, "Mr. Overlord, I want you to come up with a really fresh, engaging ad, something that will grab attention and make people think, 'Hey, I want to work there!'." And I tap Ctrl twice to bring up the Google Desktop prompt, type in "megalomaniacal office manager", and bring up that job ad that I was so proud of.

We're running it next week. But for you, loyal reader (readers?), here's a sneak preview. And hey, if you're reading this and know someone who fits the description...if you care about them, don't show it to them.

Hey, you!

You have a security clearance and a resume that includes the word “Java” without being followed by the words “coffee shop where I worked between semesters.” With those two things, you have your choice of dozens of jobs posted here and elsewhere. Why should you choose this one?

Easy: because you want to work here. We just haven’t had a chance to prove that to you yet. We’d like to correct that.

We’ll start with a competitive salary. Add excellent benefits, including 100% company-paid medical insurance, dental, life, disability, paid vacation and sick leave, 401(k) with company match, FSA, parking or metro allowance, and tuition reimbursement. Throw in the flexibility, tractability, and attentiveness of a small company. And top it all off with a megalomaniacal office manager who possesses a penchant for using words from his word-a-day calendar when writing job postings.

What do we ask in return? Right now we’re looking for the following:

Software Developers
Specifically, developers with experience developing web-based Java applications in an Oracle environment. The work entails developing capabilities for an SOA, creating standards-based portlets for inclusion into a portal environment, and interacting with stakeholders, preparing documentation, and providing thoughtful leadership on various development issues. In other words, the qualified candidate will be able to communicate with people and computers equally well. Or at least have organized a 40-person raid in WoW.

Applications Programmers
Does the job description above sound like where you want to be in two or three years? Don’t worry, we have junior-level Java positions too, developing intelligence applications in an Oracle environment. If you’ve done that before and would like to do it again while building towards something more, this is the position for you.

Technical Writer
Does describing the work done in the above positions interest you more than doing it? We’re looking for someone who will serve as contract documentation specialist and will support the instantiation of a matrixed approach to technical documentation. Requires, among other things, at least 3 years of experience in software development documentation and the ability to come up with a better phrase than “the instantiation of a matrixed approach to technical documentation.”

General Qualifications
• Proven ability to work well in teams
• Ability and desire to learn new skills
• Ability to represent our company well when dealing with the customer
• Lack of rabid weasels attached to your face
• Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science or related discipline.
• Active Top Secret clearance

Did we succeed? Do you want to work here? Then we invite you to forward your cover letter and resume. We look forward to working with you.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Heroes: Four Months Later

*Checks calendar* it is. Props to them for getting that little detail right. And I'm glad they didn't feel the need for the same sense of realism for the episode "Five Years Gone" (or "Six Months Ago", for that matter, although that would've been cooler to see).

OK, so Heroes. If you haven't watched the first episode yet, this will probably contain spoilers. If you have, it won't. If you don't care, you're not one of the three regular readers of this blog, so I guess I don't know what to tell you. You were expecting maybe office-related humor? OK, here's something for you to use around the water cooler:

You: Hey, did you hear Marcel Marceau died this weekend?
Co-worker: No!
You: (Shaking head sadly) That's how good he was.


Co-worker: Yes! So sad.
You: I know. Should we observe a moment of noise?

OK, so for the rest of you, here is the thought that sums up everything I think about the show to date:

Love the ideas, but they got the archery wrong.

Let's do the obligatory preamble. I am a fan of Heroes. I love the premise. I love that it's made sci-fi shows suddenly cool, just like reality shows were after Survivor, even if it means that we'll be flooded with a bunch of sci-fi equivalents of "Temptation Island" and "The Swan". There were active debates in my household as to which of "Heroes" or "24" to watch live and which to DVR. (The excessive number of commercials in "Heroes" did nothing to help it here--something I would like to thank Nissan for correcting, if only for one week.) I still have last season's finale in coveted "Save Until I Delete" status. I love the characters, not in a jailbaited "Is it legal for me to admire those?" way, but in a "I'm genuinely interested in what happens to these people to the point where I'll yell at them when they do stupid things" way. I'm excited to see that Werner Brandes is still working.

But here's why 24 won the pole position in the live-vs.-DVR debate, why I always walk away from "Heroes" with a firm "but..." following "That was great!"

Japanese archery looks funny.

I know this, partly because I am a tremendous nerd, but mostly because I, like most, have a great talent for remembering bits of information that will never, ever, ever be of practical value. In this case, some portion of my brain devoted itself to the book Zen in the Art of Archery in my sophomore year of college. Specifically, it remembers two things:

1) Breathing is very important; and
2) Japanese archery looks funny.

It looks nothing like what you'd expect. It looks kind of like you just woke up and are stretching without yet having realized that there's a bow and arrow in your hands. There's a fun little animated .gif of it on the site, or you can see it on the YouTubes.

If you were paying attention when the archers fired on Hiro and Kensai (although, honestly, I don't know why you would), you would have seen that they looked like they learned archery from Kevin Costner. I don't fault the actors here. I don't even think I can fault the director. I recognize that this is a stupid, annoying, nitpicky thing on the level of accusing Michael Dorn of accenting the wrong syllable in his Klingon war cry.

To me, though, it's just a symptom of the larger problem with "Heroes": the writing is just...well, good. Too many times last season, I felt like they were dumbing characters down to drag out a big reveal (like Niki/Jessica taking about 5 episodes longer to figure out her bipolarism than anyone with a brain) or inventing inexplicable plot twists because they'd written themselves into a corner (Hiro's missing powers). Little things that could've been done better, but weren't; little details that needed just a little more attention, but didn't get it.

Like the fact that Japanese archery looks funny.

I'm still in for the long haul, and I'll probably write about it again. But I'd hoped that, once they had proof that they could succeed, NBC would lavish money and Joss Whedon on the show, and it doesn't look like they did. And so it looks like I'll keep leaving each episode with a firm "but..." after my "That was awesome!"

Then again, who ever knew that watching TV could give you a firm "but"? (Rim shot)

Friday, September 21, 2007

On Writing

Good stuff over at Pick The Brain. My favorite quote is from Mark Twain:

Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very;” your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain

Even if I'm very, very guilty of breaking the rule very, very, very often.

I'm not going to go on a big long rant about kids these days, primarily because I'm lazy, but I do hope that the difference between "chatting in text" and "writing" is not lost in my lifetime. I think chatting has its place, and I like the Shakespearian aspect of making language evolve to meet your needs. I love using "book" in place of "cool" (it's certainly no worse than some of the other words I've seen used for "cool").

I just hope that I never see my son use "Ur" on a term paper about anything other than the periodic table or ancient Mesopotamian cities. If he does, I may have to get Full Frontal on him.

(Please click the link to see that that statement is very, very, very much less sick than it sounds.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

You Make The Call

Is anyone else reading this even remotely old enough to remember that TV spot? (Or should I just stop that question after "this"?) They would show a potentially controversial sports play (like, say, A-Rod slapping Arroyo during the 2004 ALCS, or A-Rod shouting at the Toronto infielder during a routine pop-up, or A-Rod killing and eating babies and copping an attitude), then stop the film just before the crucial referee's ruling, and an impressive announcer voice would say, "You make the call." Then they would cut to commercial, and come back afterwards to give you the correct ruling, so you could celebrate like a madman if you were correct, or pat each other on the butt if you were wrong.

I have nothing so exciting as sports plays to offer you, but I do have HR nightmares. Lots and lots of HR nightmares. Why don't you take a crack at a few:

1. Your IT department has just found a large cache of pornographic images on the company server. They traced the folder to one of your managers, whom you have confronted. Which of these responses are you least expecting?

a) "Uhhhh..."
b) "Someone must have hacked my user ID and put those there to frame me!"
c) "Oh, those? Yeah, those are mine. What's your point?"
d) "Does this mean I won't be getting the additional server space I requested?"

You make the call!

2. Which of the following might be considered Justifiable Stealing?

a) Eating condiments out of the office fridge because you forgot lunch and are too cheap to buy any.
b) Using the company's FedEx account to overnight a birthday card to Europe because you put off sending it until the day before.
c) "Borrowing" the conference room TV for your Super Bowl party, so you won't miss any action while going to the kitchen for more bean dip.
d) Approving a round of low-priced stock options for the Compensation Committee, which in turn approves a 33% pay increase for you.

You make the call!

3. After months of poor performance, late arrivals, threatened lawsuits, unsubstantiated disability claims ("I am sensitive to criticism! It's a documented medical condition and you have to be nicer to me!"), management has had it. You have built an ironclad case to let your problem employee go. The employee knows it's coming. What should you wear to the termination meeting?

a) Business suit
b) Kevlar vest
c) Bomb Disposal Suit
d) Something that will hide the bloodstains

You make the call!

4. Rank these statements from "Most likely to provoke a harassment lawsuit" to "Least likely to provoke a harassment lawsuit."

a) "Well, of course you can't see're Korean."
b) "What do you mean, you won't move those files? Are you afraid you'll break a nail?"
c) "Hey, once you go Asian, you never go Caucasian."
d) "My little grandson is just the cutest thing...and let me tell you, that boy has a whompin' penis! Do you want to see some pictures?"

You make the call!

5. Which of these is the least appropriate statement for a corporate officer to make during the hiring process?

a) "You know that candidate is clinically insane, right?"
b) "If we hired you, do you have any plans to become pregnant in the next year or two?"
c) "I'd really rather not hire an Asian person, I have a lot of trouble understanding what they're saying."
d) "You know, marriage is really just a social construct that goes against all our genetic programming. We're hard-wired to cheat on my spouse...I mean, our spouses."

You make the call!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Friday, August 03, 2007

Government efficiency

Spot the hilarity in this sentence:

"The benefits of applying electronically is that (1) Alleviates paperwork burden (2) Walks you through the entire submittal process thus reducing errors (4) Verifies the submission of required documents (5) Ensures speedy and secure delivery."

(Source: GSA eOffer FAQ Forum)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Day After Independence Day

July 5.

The virus worked. Across the planet, alien motherships are crashing to Earth like so many K-Fed follow-up albums. People of every nation are celebrating with cheers, heavy drinking, and various forms of interpretive dance.

What next?

There's no question that Independence Day was a huge success, grossing over $300 million dollars in the U.S., and better than three quarters of a billion dollars worldwide. Why, then, has there been no sequel? Only Titanic has grossed more without either being or spawning a sequel, and let's face it--there wasn't much they could do after that one. ("So, after 150 years, Jack's frozen corpse is found by a passing freighter, which just happens to have a beautiful young woman aboard who's unhappily engaged to the Chief Engineer, and they thaw him out and…hey, where are you going?")

Where, then, is the love for ID4?

In fact, plans for a sequel were bandied about the Fox studio in the summer of 1998. When it came time to approach the principal characters of the first movie, though, they ran into a few snags...

President Thomas J. Whitmore – Riding a wave of post-alien-invasion popularity most incumbents only dream about, President Whitmore cruised to a landslide victory that November. The first months of his second term, overseeing the rebuilding of the nation and the recovery of alien technology, were a smashing success, and there was even a groundswell of movement to amend the Constitution in order to allow him to run for a third term. Unfortunately, the administration was rocked by a scandal from within his own family (see below), and that movement never gained enough momentum to reach Washington.

President Whitmore served out the remainder of his second term and went on to lead a fairly typical post-office life of book tours, library openings, and extremely lucrative public appearances. Even then, though, he was not done being a part of America's political process. His stint as part of McDonald's “Healthy McLiving” campaign, exhorting customers with the words “ our day of independence...independence from trans fats!” actually caused the Senate to pass a bill limiting the types of engagements for which a former President could accept a speaking fee.

Capt. Steven Hiller – After completing his enlistment, Captain Hiller went on to join the NYPD. It would not be the last time he dealt with extraterrestrials, however. His previous experience with aliens, as well as his exemplary record as a police officer, brought him to the attention of a secretive government agency charged with human-alien relations. He was regarded as one of the best of the best of the best—with honors!

He obtained his law degree through a correspondence course and practiced criminal law for a time, but a particularly dangerous case involving organized crime forced Captain Hiller into the witness protection program. He tried his hand at both professional golfing and professional boxing, but his success with both put him in too much danger of being recognized. Eventually, he returned to law enforcement with the secretive government agency that had initially recruited him. At last report, he was heading up a new homicide division that specialized in investigating crimes allegedly committed by artificial intelligence.

David Levinson and Constance Spano – As with most romances born of crises and reality shows, theirs faded after six months. David returned quietly to obscurity, though he would eventually be arrested for writing viruses directed would-be cable thieves. Connie returned to her position as White House Press Secretary, where she spent many late nights working closely with the President, working to rebuild the country after the invasion. Ironically, the candle David had accused her of having for the President years before now finally had a chance to burn, and she may well have been the first First Lady to marry a sitting President were it not for...

First Lady Marilyn Whitmore – Reanimated using alien technology found in the wreckage of the mothership, she became the first zombie First Lady (or second, if you believe the rumors about Pat Nixon). She would, unfortunately, prove the undoing of her husband's administration, as her hunger for brains eventually led her to eat one foreign ambassador too many. Nobody noticed when Canada's disappeared, and eating France's may have even upped her approval rating, but Trinidad and Tobago's crossed the line. She was tried, convicted, and sentenced to chasing by torch-wielding mobs, followed by chainsawing, followed by shotgunning. She plans to appeal.

Julius Levinson – What, another movie you're making? Oy! My feet, they're still aching from that movie! And my image! Hundreds of thousands of people going to see the first one, and me looking like I just rolled out of bed! You couldn't get a wardrobe that didn't look like it was picked up off the floor that morning? You spend millions of dollars making the alien ships look just right, you couldn't even buy me a comb? And what's this, who do you think you are, Mr. Big Man with the big sequel? Eleven years, you don't call, you don't write, now you just show up on my door expecting me to dance for your big sequel? In my day, we respected our elders more than that! And another thing I'll tell you...

Russell Casse, Tiffany the Ditzy Stripper Stereotype, and All Those People Standing on Top of Skyscrapers to Greet the Aliens – Their atoms, my friend, are blowin' in the wind...their atoms are blowin' in the wind...

Unnamed Commanding Officer (Dan Lauria) – Dan went back to his quiet family life in the suburbs, raising three children to the precocious narration of the youngest boy.

Captain Jimmy Wilder - Though he would never know it, his death in the first alien engagement saved him from an even worse fate—-life as a lounge singer off the Vegas Strip.

Major Mitchell – Jealous at the way congratulations and appreciation were lavished on practically everyone but him, Major Mitchell stole a high-ranking female officer's identification and, in spite of the improbability of a man having a name like “Jayne”, was able to bluff his way through security and swipe one of the alien spaceships. From there, he headed out into the galaxy to make his way as a mercenary, figuring that, one way or another, he'd find a way to be a Big Damn Hero.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Names you wouldn't expect to see in a headline together:

Wes Craven and Pauly Shore

Do you think there's any chance they could settle this in movie form? I think I would actually pay to see Pauly Shore terrorized for two hours and eventually decapitated. Less if it was just a movie, but that would still be worth a rental.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Rejected campaign slogan

You know, if they had had the guts to go with the obvious - "He'll clean up this town!" - he might've won.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Ruling the Road

I've been living outside of Washington, DC for closing on two years, now. It has its pros and cons, but ultimately, I know that I will be leaving here in one of two ways:

  • In the front seat of my nearly empty pickup, having already packed and shipped the 8.4 metric tons of crap we've acquired since having a child; or
  • In the back seat of a police cruiser, having finally snapped and beaten another driver to death with the hood of his own car.

Seriously, those are the only two choices. And I wouldn't want to lay odds on which one it will be right now.

I understand that different areas of the country have their little driving quirks. Boston drivers are aggressive, but generally kind; if you can convince them that you have no regard for your own safety, they'll usually take pity on you and back off. I chalk this up to the democratic nature of the state. In Rhode Island, the person turning left across traffic has the right to block oncoming traffic for as much time as it takes to complete the turn; this is because Rhode Island has a very high percentage of senior citizens, and they all drive enormous old boats for cars that can stand up to being broadsided repeatedly. Some places insist that the first car making a left after a red light should go before the oncoming traffic starts, and others will gleefully T-bone someone who tries to get away with that. And so on. These are all local interpretations of the rules of the road, and once you've learned them, you can expect to see them followed by the majority of drivers in your locale. I'm perfectly fine with this.

In my time in Northern Virginia, commuting 60 miles a day, I've only learned one local driving rule. That is:

Rule #1: Be the biggest dink you can, to everyone you can, at every opportunity.

No, seriously. And stop before you say, "Don't be such a pantywaist, every place has drivers like that." Yes, every place has drivers like that. And if all of those drivers got together and elected their presidents, and then those presidents got together and elected their Supreme Chancellor, and then that Supreme Chancellor had himself cloned a million times and forced each of the clones to watch nothing but Pauly Shore movies while listening to Bobcat Goldthwait and Roseanne sing "A Horse With No Name" the entire time they were growing up, then gave them all cars and set them loose in a 10' by 10' room, you would have a good approximation of the kinds of drivers we have here.

Take my commute (no really, please). There's one place along the route where the road widens to add a left-turn lane. This was done, presumably, so that the average driver would not be inconvenienced by a fellow driver ahead of him who must wait for the oncoming traffic to pass before making a left turn. A fine idea, to be sure, and very thoughtful of the VA DOT.

That's the theory, anyway. In practice, it works somewhat differently. You see, the left turn is into a church parking lot, which gets very little traffic for at least six (and possibly seven) days of the week. What this left-turn lane becomes, then, is a 200-foot passing lane for any frustrated NASCAR wannabe with an overcompensating car to pull out and race one or two car lengths ahead, only to cut back into traffic and force everyone behind him to jam on their brakes. I see this happen once or twice a week. And that's just when I'm driving by.

So what are your options in this situation? You can try to straddle both lanes, and count on there being enough oncoming traffic to keep Jerk Gordon from pulling around you anyway. You can speed up and tailgate the car in front of you, but then you're hoping that the person in front of you does the same, or Bobby LaButthead will just cut in front of him, and then you're really in trouble when the brake lights come on. Or you can sit there and take it while Dick Trickle (wait a minute, that really is a NASCAR driver's name?) cuts you off. Might as well offer to let him kick your dog and have sex with your wife while you're at it.

I've tried all of these options, and no amount of "Serenity now!"s can make them palatable. We need fresh thinking on this problem. We need an idea that allows us to act out our aggressions in a generally safe (and by that I mean "safe for me") manner. That is why, today, I propose:

Paintball Diplomacy.

A friend and I first worked this out in Boston, never realizing just how much it was needed elsewhere. The basic concept is simple: Every new car comes with a paintball gun. When you renew your registration, you get a certain allotment of paintballs. To keep things relatively under control, these paintballs will be unique in some fashion such that you are not able to obtain more on your own. Then, whenever another driver does something that annoys you, rather than curse or honk your horn, you just pull out your trusty gat and squeeze off as many rounds as it takes to make you feel better. No permanent damage is done, your blood pressure stays nice and low, and everybody goes home happy.

There are so many benefits to this system, I don't even know where to begin:
  • Drivers who claim to not know that they're offensive now have no excuse. If you come home with a couple stray hits on your vehicle, it's probably just a normal day. If you come home with your vehicle completely repainted--guess what, dude. You're the dink.
  • Rather than knocking a couple bucks off your insurance, a safe driving record would let you buy upgrades for your paintball gun, like laser sights, bigger magazine capacity, or--prize of prizes--fully automatic fire. Conversely, drivers who rack up tickets will have their gun downgraded as far as it takes for them to get the message, even if that's all the way down to a stick and a rubber band.
  • Carpooling before: letting weird strangers into your car to do your duty to the environment and get into a marginally faster lane that other people are sneaking into anyway. Carpooling after: three more gunners FTW!
  • The system inherently discriminates against convertible drivers. Isn't that what everyone wants anyway?
I'm convinced that Paintball Diplomacy would be a great leap forward for our country. If I'm ever elected to public office, I would make this the second piece of legislation I push forward, right after the one that lets me slap stupid people whenever I think they need it. I'm still working on the exact wording for that one.

Join with me! Let's take back our streets!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Get on Down

So it turns out that it's possible there may be someone out there who reads this from time to time. Who knew?

In that case, I owe it to him or her to update this at least once every two months. And since I have no particularly good ideas at the moment, I'll take three draws from my Handy Bag of Popular Writing Cliches, and combine whatever I get to form an idea for this post. For those of you who write, I highly recommend keeping such a bag handy; you never know when you may need a cliche on short notice. Just look at the last few seasons of The Simpsons. Or, actually, don't.

OK, drawing now...

"Top Ten List".

OK, those aren't bad, I can always form an opinion or ten on demand.


Predictions can be fun. Well, unless you have to write them down and leave them somewhere for people to see and poke fun at you later. But hey, law of averages says that I'll be right some of the time, right? Just so long as it's not about something that's left completely up to the whims of the lowest common denominator, like NASCAR fans or the FOX network.

"American Idol".


Well, if that's what I've got to work with, that's what I've got to work with. At least I know that only the one person reading this will ever know how wrong I was.

Here we go, in the order in which I'm predicting their departure, your American Idol Top Ten:

10. Chris Sligh - Already gone, so this is not so much a prediction as an excuse to use the following quote:

"So, by that rationale, if a pig had a better personality, it would cease to be a filthy animal."
"Well we'd have to be talkin' about one charmin' motherfuckin' pig. I mean he'd have to be ten times more charmin' than that Arnold on Green Acres, you know what I'm sayin'?"

Sorry, Chris. You were charming in the beginning, but in the end, personality will only get you so far.

On a side note, Chris (and I feel like I can talk to you on a first-name basis because "Mr. Sligh" sounds too much like a weird Mutiny on the Bounty reference), your best bet right now for future success is to shut the hell up and stop with the "Yeah, I was, like, totally going to quit anyway, because I didn't really want to win" nonsense. It's like calling your ex-girlfriend and telling her that it doesn't matter that she didn't return your previous thirty-five messages, because you're breaking up with her. You showed her! Just disappear from view for a while and wait for your chance to open the tour with a stand-up routine. You'll kill 'em.

9. Gina Glocksen - This one disappoints me, because I like Gina and I think she's better than this. Ah, well.

8. Phil Stacey - On the plus side, now he can concentrate full-time on preparing for his role in the Yul Brynner biography.

7. Haley Scarnato - Haley, top seven? I know! But I have to give her credit for figuring out the formula that got Katharine McPhee to the finals: showcase your best assets and don't sing objectionably bad. Unfortunately, a nice pair of gams will never take you as far as a nice pair of hooters. (That's a tip from your Uncle Overlord, kids, write that down.)

As long as I'm making bold predictions into space, I'll predict Haley's wardrobe for her last few episodes: I'm thinking a dress slit up to there for Tony Bennett week, a miniskirt or hot pants for Latin week, and Daisy Dukes for her final appearance on Country week. That'll be it though, barring some sort of full monty wardrobe malfunction.

6. Sanjaya Malakar - Sanjaya, top six? Well, Howard Stern has a lot of loyal fans, although apparently not as many as Sirius quite literally bargained for. That said, some of them are even capable of dialing a telephone, as evidenced by his show. And this is not completely without precedent; Jon Peter Lewis made the top eight by channeling Napoleon Dynamite. Heck, Scott Freakin' Savol was top five just by getting in touch with his inner blackness. I don't think it's a reach to put Sanjaya here unless the hairstylist somehow runs out of ideas. With a French twist, dreadlocks, a beehive, and Pippi Longstocking yet to go, I think he can pull it off.

Anyone else think the stylists are just screwing with America and Sanjaya at this point? The hair's the obvious clue, but even wardrobe--I mean, the dude wore a sweater with thumbholes in the sleeves. Thumbholes! I can't decide if there's some sort of backstage pool going to see who can talk him into the most ridiculous getup, or if they've embraced his "So bad he's good" status and are pushing it as far as they can. The only other thing I can think of is that his older sister is giving him tips while still secretly seething with jealousy. Maybe it's a little from all three columns.

Anyway, Sanjaya lasts until May sweeps start, thousands of knuckleheads who think that they're screwing with American Idol keep watching and voting for the wost, and Simon laughs all the way to the bank. It's the American dream.

5. Justin Timberfake - Honestly, I find myself liking Chris in spite of me. I just wish he would stop moving when he sings. At all.

4. Blake Lewis - Week four always sends someone home too soon. (See Gray, Tamyra; Gracin, Joshua; London, LaToya (though only barely too soon); and Daughtry, Chris.) On the bright side, they usually end up doing pretty well for themselves. (See almost all of the above...sorry, LaToya.) Blake will have moved from "Dark Horse" to "Front Runner" just in time to be "Example To Those Who Didn't Vote For Him Because He Was The Front Runner".

3. LaKisha Jones - This feels about right. Sorry, LaKisha, but ultimately, we are a shallow, shallow people.

2. Jordin Sparks - While I don't like the Season 3 parallels (talented youngster vs. hard-working and talented veteran in the finals), what can I say? This is where you've brought us, people.

And that means that your 2007 American Idol winner is:

1. Melinda Doolittle - Ooo, way to pick the favorite to win! Ooo, big shocker! Ooo, why don't you go a little further out on that limb and actually break contact with the trunk, you loser!

Yeah, yeah, I hear your scathing remarks, Lone Reader of this Blog. (And let me tell you, Mom, those hurt.) But seriously, how could you pick anyone else?

  • She's in the top three, if not the top one, in terms of talent;
  • she has experience and stage presence;
  • she consistently chooses her songs well;
  • she grew up in Oklahoma and resides in Nashville (the South *always* wins Idol); and
  • as long as she doesn't overplay the "Aw, shucks" thing for too much longer, there's nothing about her personality that could turn voters off.
Give her Haley's legs and Katharine's boobs, and you'd have the perfect American Idol contestant. As it is, she should have more than enough to take this season.

Now I'm off to have my bracket destroyed by Tony Bennett week. Laters!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Too Soon?

How long do I have to wait before I can comfortably look at naked pictures of Anna Nicole Smith again? A week? A month? Is there some sort of sliding scale based on the results of the autopsy?

- Accidental drug overdose: Tragedy. Three months.
- Deliberate drug overdose: Crazy chicks are hot. One week.
- Choked on own vomit: Rock star way to go! Hot. Vomit! Not hot. Split the difference. Four weeks.
- Murdered in elaborate paternity suit scheme: Weird. Wait for TV movie, hope that it comes out on pay cable instead.
- Unforseen congenital defect: Sad. Go back to surfing for supposed Britney lesbian pics.

I just don't know.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

From the archives, with Love

When was the moment you first discovered that the person you'd pledged the rest of your life to is crazy? For me, it was when we addressed our wedding invitations. Let me tell you, if you're going to get married, this is where you should start. If you, as a couple, can't survive this process, you might as well call the whole thing off. Where to live, when to have kids, how to pronounce "tomato", it's all a bunch of hooey. There are far more serious issues which you, as a couple, must deal with.

I'm talking, of course, about buying the right stamps.

I thought I was doing the right thing. I was at the Post Office the week before, and as I finished my transaction, the clerk asked me if I would like to buy any stamps today. Normally, I would pretend to agonize for a while before reluctantly saying no (hey, I don't want to even RISK starting a random spree of violence. Heck, I've let girlfriends down harder than I turn down my local postal worker, and I have the falsetto range to prove it); anyway, this time, I said, "Sure, I'll take a roll of a hundred stamps, please Mr. nice totally non-disgruntled Postal Employee." I thought this was pure genius. Here I was, thinking A FULL WEEK AHEAD (well, two days, really, but that's practically a week), and I was thinking about US, as a COUPLE, looking toward OUR FUTURE LIFE TOGETHER. If that wasn't worth some nookie on the weekend, I didn't know what would be. I made sure my fiancee knew all about the stamps at the next opportunity.

So imagine my surprise when she bought, not a hundred, but TWO HUNDRED AND FORTY stamps later that same week. I was confused. "But...but I...but...I have a hundred," I stammered, seeing my $37 investment in nookie turning into so much Enron stock.

"Oh, we can't use THOSE stamps, silly," she said, patting me affectionately on the head, much as you would a puppy that managed to pee on the carpet near the door rather than in the middle of the room. "They're not Love stamps."

Love stamps? I was vaguely familiar with these. Instead of toy trains or breast cancer or fat Elvis, they had some form or another of "love" on them. Not even the good forms, like Radar Love or a Groovy Kind of Love or even Courtney Love (available in self-adhesive only--would you put your tongue anywhere on that?). To the best of my knowledge, though, they were still worth thirty-seven cents apiece.

Unwilling to seek out the professional help that my fiancee so obviously needed, I thought I would consult with a representative sample of the female population. So I polled all of the recently married female employees in my office.

"Love stamps?" she responded. "No, I wouldn't give you a hard time for not getting Love stamps. The invitations will probably cost sixty cents to mail, though. The response cards, too. So I'd kick your ass for not getting the right amount of postage."

Let me get this straight: you're telling me that it's going to cost me $1.20 just to find out that Uncle Edgar is going to be coming to embarrass me with the story of "The Noodle Incident" again? Are you kidding? Who came up with this idea?

Fortunately, disaster was narrowly averted when the Post Office was able to produce sixty-cent Love stamps. But that's not the point.

Isn't it time to change? This is a new millenium! Emily Post is past! Miss Manners is missing the mark! Why can't we just e-mail our invitations? Click, click, click, and everybody's invited. We'll know by next week who's coming or not! People, it's time to start a revolution! Write to your newspapers! Write to your congressperson! Write to the President!

I'll even supply the first 340 stamps!