Sunday, December 14, 2008

Actual conversation at work yesterday:

An older gentleman (okay, gentleman may or may not be the best way to describe him) comes to the register and orders "a cup of the blackest coffee" we've got.

Me: "Okay, sir, that'll be $1.34."
Him: "Hmm, all I've got is a five."
Me: "I think we can work with that."
Him: "Yeah, I'll probably need those ones later tonight."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

FOX's Secret Millionaire

I just watched an episode of FOX's new show, "Secret Millionaire," in which Myles Kovaks, a self-made millionaire, lives for a week in undercover poverty with his wife, Cynthia, in Watts, Calif., one of the more infamous cities in the state.

The Kovaks were required to live on a "welfare" budget of $110. If anyone asked why there were cameras, they were told by the film crew that Miles and Cynthia were the subject of a documentary about Watts.

After the week is over, Miles and Cynthia dress up in their millionaire finery and present $50,000 checks to three of the people they decided were most deserving (a church, a home for women recently out of prison, and an extra-curricular horseback riding program designed to keep kids off the streets.)

As you might expect, tears flowed over the money, and the Kovaks' dishonesty was essentially forgotten when the checkbook appeared. To be sure, 50 large is no small donation (especially out of their own pockets), but the whole thing left me with some lingering questions about what happened to those people after the show and about reality television in general.

The whole thing had a contrived vibe. Is the viewer really supposed to believe that, on their own, Miles and Cynthia immediately created lasting friendships with the people of Watts that would have allowed them meaningful access into their lives?

Why did they need to lie at all? It seemed like an easy way to create a dramatic ending. When Miles was admitting the trickery, there were real feelings of betrayal in the eyes of their new friends--brief glimmers that, despite skillful editing, weren't missed by the camera. Furthermore, what happened to the people after they received the money? How were they treated by the other members of their community who weren't so lucky? How has this affected their lives, their perceptions of the rich and famous?

I think it would be interesting from a journalistic perspective to tag along and see exactly how much of the "reality" is helped along by bureaucratic film crews. Maybe provide a detailed account of the inner-workings of a program like this, breaking down what's facilitated and what's real. Hmm, story idea?




Tuesday, November 18, 2008

To-do lists

I was told recently that the oldest child in a family has a tendency to make to-do lists, either physical or mental. I'm the youngest, but I still compulsively engage in the same habit. Take that, science!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The fair

The other day, I was at the supermarket and happened upon a rather provocative conversation. A man and woman were standing in the rice aisle having a dispute of some sort, looking very provincial. Apparently he had something unjust, and she was vociferating, "T'ain't fair! T'ain't fair!"

And the he came back with this zinger:

"The taint fair? Yeah, I've been there. The rides are fun, but the smell is terrible!"

Friday, November 7, 2008

Must have been a late night

This is from the end of my 8 a.m. biology class on Wednesday. I stayed until the beginning of the next class, but they weren't showing any signs of waking up. I wonder how what kind of a scene they made when they did.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

America's response to the president-elect

The aftermath of the election, the nation's truest reality television show, might be best captured by the last lines of the Truman Show:

Security Guard #1: You want another slice?
Security Guard #2: No, I'm okay.
Security Guard #1: What else is on?
Security Guard #2: Yeah, let's see what else is on.
Security Guard #1: Where's the T.V. Guide?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ваш туалет разводит Большевиков?

Last night I had a dream that America impulsively started a war with Russia.

In an attempt at self-preservation, I decided to emigrate to Russia through an agency on the country's east coast. I got there through a tunnel that began in western Europe. Once I got there, I began speaking with an immigration intern (who seemed to also be American) about lots of questions I had regarding safety, mobility, and whether or not I had to take sides.

While we were talking, the intern's supervisor came up and started complaining because it was closing time, and he couldn't go home until everyone else was working. He was stereotypically Russian: mustached, short, beer belly, definitely drunk. He was wearing a cotton, crew-neck sweatshirt and had longish gray hair that was rumpled and only slightly covering his bald spot.

At this point, I interjected with a question for the supervisor about some concern I had. He responded by gesturing out the window. There were large animals outside that you might hope to find on a safari, one of which was an alligator that had a green cloth suit on that was supposed to make him look like a dinosaur. The supervisor asked if I thought that a country with animals like that would ever let something bad happen to me.

At that point, everyone decided to go home and left me at the agency. Since I had no place to go, I curled up in the agency's bomb shelter, which was just a wooden crate. To let you know what day you sealed yourself inside, it had a coin with the date engraved on it which I think it was August 29, 2009. A prophesy perhaps?

*****

On an unrelated note, I think it would be nice to go to sleep early tonight and wake up with a new president. It's kind of like Christmas.

*****

On yet another note, is it too soon for McCarthyism to be funny? If anyone says yes, he or she is probably a Communist pig and should be blacklisted and/or shot on site. Same thing for the dirty socialists.

Which reminds me: I wish there were a punctuation mark for sarcasm. Duncan, one of my old high school classmates, had an idea for this. He called it the "sarc," and it was a small circle that went at the end of the sentence (like a period.) I think he was on to something.

Vote today!

Suffrage: It's your democratic right, so do it (unless you have some kind of good reason not to.)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bacchanalian Mondays: This guy

Kyle MacDonald. He bartered his way from a paperclip to a house in just 14 trades. Now, he's trying to trade the house.

I first heard about this a couple of years ago, and I used to think it was the coolest thing ever. Now I'm just pissed off that I wasn't this creative. Why can't I think of a way to get something for (essentially) nothing and then turn it into a book and make a bunch of money? Sigh.

Ok, I still think it's pretty cool.

This guy also decided to be a freelance mail carrier, delivering mail to people all over the world. Other people have done this, though, including my sister and brother-in-law.

See, there's a barrel on Floreana Island in the Galapagos. They call it "Post Office Barrel" and there's a tradition that goes with it. You're supposed to address a postcard and put it in the barrel. Then, you take another postcard (or more) out of the barrel that's addressed to someone who lives in a city that you plan on visiting, and you deliver it to that person personally. They could receive it weeks, months or years later after it was written.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Obama Nation

Carnahan Quad is quiet today, but the pockmarked grass still gives ample testimony to 40,000 pairs of feet that stood there on Thursday night, raptly listening to the man who could be the next president of the United States.

Mizzou went nuts; people started lining up about 7 hours before Obama started speaking. I hung out there for a couple of hours watching the hustle and bustle and taking a few photos. When I left at 6:30 p.m., the snakey line was on its way to being a mile long.

I can't shake the feeling that, no matter how the election turns out, Obama will always be the candidate that, at least from a narrative perspective, should have won the presidency.

As I was taking pictures of them setting up the security checkpoint, a couple of guards told me to stop. I asked if I was somehow prohibited from taking pictures, and one guy replied, "Well legally you can, but this is national security here and if you post these images on the Internet you're feeding information to terrorists."



Thursday, October 30, 2008

The experiment is this

The cliched No-Shave November is approaching.

Cliches are no fun, so I figured I'd up the ante to No-Change November. Now, I'm not really going to wear only one pair of clothes, but I do plan on wearing the same outfit--I'll just have multiples. To mollify some people, I'm thinking of making some of the shirts in different colors so that it's at least evident that I'm maintaining hygiene. Call it a social experiment; call it ease; call it what you will.

The reasons for this blatant ploy for attention?
  1. It saves time. What would it be like to not have to pick out what you're going to wear every day? It's a foray into the world of the civillian uniform.
  2. How will people react? Will the response be negative because of our adopted social requirement for diverse dress? Why do we have that, and what's the big deal?
  3. I've always wondered what life would be like with the unvarying wardrobe of a cartoon character.
At first it seemed narcissistic to draw attention to myself in this way, but then I thought, "Isn't it more narcissistic to spend so much time picking out clothes so that you can impress people?" Besides, it was Norman Mailer who wrote, "I think we keep ourselves writing by allowing the core of our vanity never to be scratched if we can help it."

This summer I developed a slight interest in fashion and dressing with taste, and now I think it's time that I explored the opposite end of the compass. Sometimes I subject myself to seemingly meaningless experiments because it gives me something to write about.

And it turns out that I'm not the only one. A.J. Jacobs, editor at large at Esquire, makes his living doing this kind of thing. A few years ago, he read the entire Encylopaedia Britannica and chronicled the experience in his book "The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World." Another time, he was completely honest with everyone for a month, and what's more, he said whatever he was thinking--no filter. The month of honesty, I'm certain, was more detrimental than what I'm undertaking. After that, he spent a year trying to live as biblically as possible (e.g. not trimming the sides of his beard and stoning adulterers). That experience is now a book called "The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible."

Coincidentally, as if to validate my experiment, today I just heard him in a podcast from The Moth talking about the time he outsourced his personal life to India in 2005. My biggest concern is that I'll run into an unforeseen event that will create serious problems for the integrity of this experiment. But then I think, "What would A.J. do?" Then I think, "Yeah, but he's getting paid."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

United States of Disgrace

The Times reported yesterday that the United States launched an air strike on a village in Syria. The U.S. government explained it as a "warning" to the Syrian government that it needs to ratchet up the pressure on foreign extremists who are staging offensive operations into Iraq.

“You have to clean up the global threat that is in your backyard — and if you don’t do that, we are left with no choice but to take these matters into our own hands," an American official anonymously said in an interview with the Times.

Syria has said that an undisclosed number of civilians were killed in the attack, which targeted a man called Abu Ghadiyah. Ghadiyah, who was supposedly training militants for an intended attack into Iraq, was allegedly killed either during the assault or after he was in U.S. custody.

I'd like to turn the tables for a moment. Let us suppose that it was Syria who bombed a small town in our country--perhaps Columbia, Mo.--because they disagreed with policies being enacted by our government. We would be outraged.

Yet why is it that we give ourselves the right to violently tout our agenda on other countries? Come to think of it, how is it that we have military forces stationed in scores of other countries (including other superpowers) but amusedly deny foreign military bases on our soil? Why do we have weapons of mass destruction but issue frenzied ultimatums to other countries that they must put an immediate end to their nuclear programs?

I'll ask one more time: What if someone did what we did to Syria and staged an attack on our country, shrugging it off as a warning? Oh wait, someone did. I think we call it September 11, 2001.

I'm bitterly disappointed with my nation's leaders, and I find the complaceny displayed by my nation's people to be a grave concern. I am outraged.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The HBO presidential debate

Update: I had some problems getting the embedded video to show up, so here it is from a different source.

To express how excited I am that there is only one more week before we all get to take a break from the election mayhem, here's a well done video by The Onion satirizing the endless analysis following presidential debates. Its witty script and sincere delivery make it one of the funniest commentaries on the election I've seen yet. The part where John McCain answers the question about fiscal discipline by pistol whipping the stripper is just brilliant.

Fair warning: There are two vulgar words, so those who want to preserve their aural purity may choose to steer clear. But if you don't fall into that category, it's seriously worth your two minutes. Enjoy.



Monday, October 27, 2008

Bacchanalian Mondays: Boston


This week, I want to party with the city of Boston. Boston's got all things that are good. It's the city where people honk at each other when they're just sitting at red lights.

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are not technically from Boston, but they wrote and starred in "Good Will Hunting," which is set in Boston so they might as well be from there. How you like them apples?

The Red Sox are Boston's team, and this year most of them sported healthy beards. Facial hair is something I'm a big fan of. The only problem is that I'm having a hard time growing any. Someday. Someday.

But the biggest reason I'm into Boston is because it's the hometown of Mark Wahlberg. He produces Entourage. He also starred in "The Departed," which is set in...Boston. Wahlberg's got a pretty shifty background, but I'd definitely want him on my side. And he apparently knows how to party like mad--maybe too mad.

Say hi to your mother for me.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Beating that long dead nag

In 11 days, all this election madness might, if we're lucky, calm down a little. But until then, the pitch is only going to get more feverish. I hate to fall prey to this, but it's hard not to do that here.

Since I've had more involvement with Republicans (which, as it happens, is not a dirty word), this may focus more on the G.O.P. Don't be fooled; it doesn't mean I'm a Democrat (also not such a dirty word).

I think it may be safe to say--with the most general blanket-statement possible--that Republicans know more about Barack Obama than they do about John McCain. And the opposite is true for Democrats.

The explanation for this is simple: Team players want to find reasons to disagree with the opposition. Not surprisingly, they end up becoming more familiar with the other nominee's dangerous policies and scandalous past (read: devilry) without applying the same scrutiny to their own chosen one.

But why? Not everyone acts this way.

In a recent profile of Sarah Palin, Philip Gourevitch reported this interesting tidbit:

"While Republicans hold most of the state’s top political posts, only twenty-five per cent of Alaskan voters are registered Republicans. Fifteen per cent are Democrats, and three per cent belong to the Alaska Independence Party—the extremist states’ rights, quasi-secessionist faction to which Todd Palin once pledged his allegiance. A solid majority of Alaska’s electorate claims no party affiliation. Alaskans kept telling me that Alaskans vote for the person, not the party."
What if voters in the rest of this country relied less on allegiance and more on equally objective investigation of the candidates? What a novel idea that would be! Even if I were a straight-ticket voter, I would want to make sure that I choose a candidate with as few chinks in his or her armor as possible.

Most of the political mail I get has Republican origins and is all about the latest muck on Obama. With Obama's talk of spreading the wealth, why is it that Republicans are so willing to overlook McCain's socialist leanings? It's astounding to me.

All I really want is for people to stop subscribing to lurid partisan rubbish and start approaching the election like responsible members of society.

Those highly concerned with the American political process should take half of their research time and devote it to finding out about Barack Obama. They should take the other half and spend it investigating John McCain. Suffrage is one of the most important rights we have, and it's irresponsible to approach it in such a flippant, my-team-is-better-than-your-team manner.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bacchanalian Mondays: Ray LaMontagne

Ray LaMontagne has to be one of the most mysterious celebrities that's become famous lately. It's said that singer-songwriter was inspired to pursue a musical career when he heard a Stephen Stills song in the early morning on his way to work at a shoe factory in Lewiston, Maine. He decided to quit his job, and in 1999 he went on tour, but he still worked as a carpenter on the side.

With his wife, two children and his heavy heart, Mr. LaMontagne (we're not on a first-name basis) doesn't really strike me as someone who does a lot of partying, but my curiosity is so piqued about him.

A skittish artist, he sometimes performs his concert in the dark to separate himself from the audience. And look at that beard. So reticent and enigmatic. I want one.

In his Oct. 17 article in the Times, Pete Paphides explored LaMontagne's success and style. Check it out. He tells the story much better than I could ever hope to:
"The very act of singing – a tender blues rasp of exquisite world-weariness – seems to make him appear. And sure enough, when he stops singing, he is barely there at all. If the song is anything to go by – it’s a hushed paean to nature going about its business, oblivious to human eyes – perhaps the 35-year-old LaMontagne seems that way to the animals too.

...But the truth is that LaMontagne’s popularity presents a paradox that he has yet to untangle. His crippling introversion is what lends his broken-winged folk-soul its power."
LaMontagne's third album, "Gossip in the Grain," was released on Oct. 14. He's playing at the Uptown in Kansas City tomorrow evening, and I wish I were going.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The human spectrum

I like running the register at the coffee shop where I work because it means that I get to interact with people.

Poet Walt Whitman explored the idea of "urban affection:" Sharing meaningful experiences with people you've never met and will likely never meet again. I've been really intrigued by this idea because it plays out frequently at my job. Here's an example.

We sell these tasty apple dumpling desserts that feature a baked, sliced apple with cinnamon and other delectable delights inside a pastry shell with butterscotch sauce drizzled on top. The other day, two middle-aged women came up to the register, and one of them shot a wanting glance at the dessert case. Deciding not to buy one, she placed her order and left the register.

Her friend came up next and ordered a cup of coffee and a cookie. Then she added confidentially, "And put one those apple dumplings on there for my friend."

Working in the coffee shop has shown me that basic kindness can go a long way in just making people feel good about themselves. It just makes daily life more pleasant. People that come in are often stressed out or in a hurry, and going out of your way to do something simple for them can be an unexpected surprise that gets them to forget about the worries of the grind.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The trouble with politics

Surprise! The United States has agreed to withdraw from Iraq by 2011.

People have been criticizing Obama because he wants a time line to get to a point in Iraq where withdrawal is possible. Conversely, McCain is praised in some circles because he has none.

Anyone who had the opportunity to watch the vice-presidential debate two weeks ago might remember when Joe Biden called out Sarah Palin for McCain's dissenting vote on a bill that would have provided body armor, supplies and funding for troops in Iraq. (Who knows if that annecdote was actually true? NPR reported the day after the debate that some of the facts might not have been exactly, um, accurate.)

Palin's explanation was that McCain was fully justified because the bill introduced a time line for removing American troops from the conflict. At first, you want to agree: "Hey! A time line? That's not right!"

But then you stop and think. Isn't the lack of an exit strategy what got us into this mess in the first place? Let's look at personal goals. When is it ever smart to not have a desired schedule to get things done?

If I want to run a marathon, I will never succeed if I just hope the proper training happens by the day of the race. I need to have tangible goals that include a time frame: 10 miles by a certain date...15 the next week...20 the next, and so on. By the end of the time period, maybe I would be capable of running the marathon.

Perhaps what Obama wants is for certain goals to be accomplished so that it's possible for us to drastically reduce the amount of personnel we have in Iraq. No one's suggesting that we just suddenly stop fighting the war. (Can we still call it that?)

And I think that's what we should be talking about here: Having tangible goals and deadlines for Iraqis to start taking responsibility so we can get to a point where it's feasible to withdraw. Of course, this should be determined by military experts, and I think that Obama is smart enough to realize this.

McCain and Palin are sold the idea that a time line of goals in Iraq is a bad thing, and inexplicably, the American people bought it.

The bothersome thing about the presidential election is that, at best, we're electing the most middle-of-the-road candidate--the nominee that appeals most to the broadest spectrum of Americans' vastly different belief sets.

At worst, we're electing a liar: someone who will say the necessary things and hops through the necessary rings to get the vote while he or she really intends to do things their way upon election.

The worst

Still thinking about the house hierarchy, I Googled the word "worst," and stumbled across these beauties, which were apparently a part of someone's ranking of worst album covers.

And yes, the one on the right says, "Devastatin' Dave...The Turntable Slave."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

House Hierarchy '08

I'm a big fan of challenges, and today, the competition began.

I realized recently that I should probably be making more of an effort to bond with the guys in my house, so I suggested that we develop a house hierarchy to determine who is the best in the house and who is the worst.

I got this idea from my brother Israel, who used to live with some people that all had similar body types. They weighed themselves from week to week, and whoever was the fattest got to make the rules. I always thought it would be fun to live in that kind of an environment.

I live in a house of overly competitive people, so I'm hoping for good things with this. Either we will be wonderfully united or horribly divided. We'll see.

My first idea was that we could take one Saturday a month and participate in pointless competitions. (The first suggestion was that we stage a 30-mile race to a nearby town. Means of transportation were undecided.) This evolved into an idea for random, spontaneous competition throughout the week.

I'm overly excited about this prospect, and I've been thinking about it all day.

One challenge per roommate per week. At least half of the roommates must be present for a competition to be considered a house challenge. Spontaneity is key. The first challenge was to see who could stand on one leg the longest. Contact was allowed. Zach was the best at this challenge, and I was the worst.

Additionally, you can challenge the person ranked directly above you or below you so that you can move up a spot or assert your dominance respectively. This duel of sorts would work just like it did between two gentlemen in the olden days. You challenge your opponent, and because you are so sure that you are better than him, you allow him to choose the weapon. Kind of a, "Look, I'm better than you, and to prove it, you can pick the activity that I am better at" sort of a thing. If one of you refuses to participate, that person forfeits.

So, to redeem myself from my rank of worst roommate, I challenged Chad to a duel. He chose finger-jousting. I won. I'm now fourth. Whew.

Chad says that I'm going to be that guy that speeds up just to beat the old man to the bus stop. Then I will turn around and inform him that he's just moved down a spot in the hierarchy of life. I think Chad's just bitter.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bacchanalian Mondays: Cajun Style!

James Carville. Whenever Carville could come on television during the Clinton years or Bush's campaign for president, I remember that my mother would cringe and change the channel. James Carville is, apparently, a bad man.

Why? Nooo idea (except for his face.) It also may have something to do with the fact that he was the lead strategist in Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. That fact is probably enough to seal his reputation's fate in conservative circles.

But the really neat thing about Carville is that in 1993 he actually married Mary Matalin, a woman who was one of George H.W. Bush's top political consultants. They have two daughters. How they manage to maintain a harmonious relationship while being active in two diametrically opposed political ideologies is beyond me. But I think that's awesome.

Not only is Carville super into politics, but he's also somehow channeled his success into the film world, appearing in such shows and movies as "Old School," "Wedding Crashers," "Family Guy," and "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford."

So far, the last two BM installments have come from 30 Rock. Maybe next week I'll write an entry about how I should be partying with Tina Fey (in character as Sarah Palin?)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Bacchanalian Mondays: Heelys

Season 2, Episode 7 of NBC's hit show 30 Rock featured the main character, Liz Lemon, dating a vastly younger man.

In some additional comic relief, one of her coworkers jumps on the wagon and begins "dating" a boy of high school (or maybe junior high?) age. In one of the their many petty arguments, the kid gets fed up with her and zooms off down the hallway by lifting his toes and shifting his weight onto the wheels in the heels of his shoes.

Frustrated, the woman cries out, "What did I tell you about wearing your Heelys in the office?"

The Heely craze was one of the latest trends in kid accessories a couple of years ago. They got so hot that at some point you probably ran into a proud owner zipping around the smooth, tiled floors of your local mall.

In a 2007 article on MSNBC.com, doctors blame the shoe for an increase in injuries to children and strongly urge users to wear protective gear. Psh--yeah right. Like any kid is going to look dumb by walking around with a helmet and wrist guards are. The whole point of having Heelys is to remain low-profile until you're ready to glide away ostentaciously.

These kids are rebels--true badasses that say, "We're too hard for pads." Kind of like skaters but in more of a designer way. Why wouldn't I want to party with them? Of course this limits me to a pretty young crowd, but who says kids don't know how to have a good time?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Salmagundi


Salmagundi is "a general mixture; a miscellaneous collection," and it usually involves eggs, chopped meat, seasoning and other goodies. This is what I had for breakfast today, and it was oh-so-good.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bacchanalian Mondays: Michael Caine

Michael Caine, otherwise known as Sir Maurice Joseph Micklewhite, Jr., CBE, is a baller. And he's British.

He's a supporter of Chelsea FC, and as a fan "chill out music," has created a mix compilation called "Cained." Righteous.

He was also named GQ's Man of the Year.

As a side note, the guest speaker in my journalism class right now reminds me a little of Ricky Gervais, who is a funny, funny man and also British. Unfortunately, dear lecturer only reminds me of him in looks.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bacchanalian Mondays: The fathers of the modern cavalier

Phineas Mollod and Jason Tesauro co-penned "The Modern Gentleman," the authoritative handbook for any contemporary male who is interested in resurrecting the ideal of the gentleman, armed with class, refined panache and debonair comportment.

Their book addresses all the things you need to know about conducting yourself appropriately in today's society: tipping, entertaining, styling--as well as some of the more rakish activities that might accompany "hosting large or intimate gatherings in pyjamas."

These fellows would be ideal candidates for carousing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The pen is mightier

I'm the kind of person that exhaustively researches when I get interested in something, which should explain why I've spent a considerable portion of my day learning about fountain pens.

The inception of this latest fleeting obsession is rather roundabout. Matt Eich, recent winner of the College Photographer of the Year, has a tattoo on his inner arm of the rule of thirds. That got me thinking about what tattoo would adequately commemorate my proposed profession. I thought perhaps a fountain pen might be appropriate (or, just as intriguing but noticeably more geeky: an Ethernet port.)

I had no idea that there was such a market for luxury writing instruments. And by luxury, I mean prices that skyrocket into the thousands. The pen on the right, the Cartier Santos, is so expensive that the FahrneysPens.com doesn't even volunteer the price. Don't worry; I e-mailed them to find out:

It costs a cool $3,460.

The pen at the top is the Lamy Safari. At $25, it's about the cheapest you can expect to spend on one, but as long as you don't lose it, you recoup the cost quickly with the cheapness of ink versus the expense of frequently replacing lost Pilot G2-07s.

The fountain pens employ a nib that relies on gravity and capillary action to transfer the ink to the paper. The nib allows perfect control of the intensity of your scrawl. Owners and aficionados swear that words written with a fountain pen look more alive than the tacky ballpoint. Many people also believe that handwriting improves with the use of a fountain pen.

Classiness is the other reason I would be inclined to buy a fountain pen. I suppose it's a symbolically apt possession to have, given my desired career path. Also, they are very European--students are encouraged to purchase them, and ASDA, Walmart's arm in the British isles, sells disposables at a very reasonable price.

Therefore, having a fountain pen automatically boosts my pretentiousness points.

This is the Cartier Panthére, and there were only 500 made, so I don't even want to guess how much it costs.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Bacchanalian (Tuesdays?): PSH

Since I forgot yesterday, here today is Philip Seymour Hoffman, who, according to Perez Hilton, has recently been cast in the next Batman movie.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Material goods bring me happiness

This is unabashedly a journey in to corporeal obsession, but here are some products and items that will absolutely, definitely, probably make my life better (but unfortunately are out of my price range at the moment):


Volkswagen Beetle from Northern Ireland.


The black MacBook.


Cardigan from Banana Republic.


And this stellar 1950 Rolex Oyster wristwatch. If you're interested in salivating over high-quality pieces of chronometry, hop over to CoolVintageWatches.com.

This doesn't bode well for my affinity for minimalism. But if I were to actually follow through with these items, no matter what happened, I'd know I've got that vehicle/computer/clothing/watch/fill-in-the-blank problem covered.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Boyish certitude picks Obama

A mother and her son walked into the coffee shop yesterday, apparently to study together. The boy, who couldn't have been more than about 13, had a bookishness and subtle frailty about him that reminded me a little of Haley Joel Osment in some of his earlier films.

My coworker Christopher complimented him on his oversized "Obama '08" T-shirt, and the boy, with all possible earnestness and conviction, responded in his prepubescent squeak, "He's going to win."

His certainty, which reminded me of a child's surety that an ailing pet is going to pull through, was the most touching thing I've seen all week.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Couch Challenge '08: Final stretch

And I'm done.

What began 24 long hours ago is at an end, which is a good thing because I'm not sure how many more Comedy Central re-runs I can take. Apart from some minor shenanigans from Patrick and Peter, the challenge went fairly smoothly.

A quick breakdown of how I spent my day on the couch:
I think of all the 24-hour challenges, this one is probably easiest, which means that there are bigger and better heights to achieve. Suggestions are welcome. Now I'm going to go play "We Are The Champions" and take a much needed shower.

Bacchanalian Mondays: Airtight Messiah

Believe it or not, there is a gathering of the most talented air guitarists present in the world today at a fierce competition held in Finland.

Recently, a group of cinematographers created a documentary commemorating this inspirational event. That film, "Air Guitar Nation," highlights the excellence of this era's experts.

One of the most striking practitioners of this fine art is called the Airtight Messiah. After Googling him, I can find very little, but the mystery is part of what makes me think he rules. He is strangely elusive, yet hauntingly present in the air guitar scene, and with a name like "Airtight Messiah," how could he not be a perfect candidate for partying?

After watching the trailer below, I'm sure you'll agree that these guys probably know how to throw a good party.



Sunday, August 31, 2008

Couch Challenge '08: Two-hour update


I'm two hours in.

There are certain contingencies that you have to plan for when attempting a feat like this. What happens when you have to eat? When you get bored? When you have to go to the bathroom?

With that in mind, I did do some planning ahead, but I'm interested to find out what unforeseen difficulties arise. Here's the basic list of essentials that I brought with me to the couch:

Xbox.
Computer.
Sheet and sleeping bag.
An assortment of magazines and books.
Juice, cereal, wheat thins, chips and salsa.
A plastic bottle for obvious reasons. Go big or go home.

The major item I lack, however, is a remote. Unfortunately, this the most important element for this challenge. Without a remote, how am I going to switch from DVD to television to video game? Hopefully, I can get someone change it for me, but if all else fails I did bring a cane to try and reach T.V.

Here are a few other interesting 24-hour challenge possibilities:
  • In Wal-Mart
  • On the toilet
  • Without sitting down
  • Without opening your eyes
  • Without talking
  • Naked
Entourage just ended, and I think I might have to pee.

Couch Challenge '08

The 24-hour couch challenge is upon me. With LoLita as my witness, it began at 3:56 p.m.

The rules are simple. All you have to do is exist on the couch for a full day without getting up. You can sleep, read, play video games, surf the Internet, watch television or movies--but leisure activities only, please.

Stay tuned for updates; Entourage is on.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

On bringing it back

The other day, I was pedaling to class when I encountered a "bro" wearing a flat-billed, fitted hat--you know, the kind with the sticker still on it--and I was overcome by a sudden urge to flick his it off as I rode by.

Then it hit me: What if we had the grade-school institution of "bully" in college? I won't continue exhaustively with this train of thought, but I was amused by the possibilities. I've always wanted to be in a fight, and that would be the perfect opportunity.



Other things I'd like to see brought back:


High fives.


Overalls--my main attire in fifth and sixth grade.





Skip-It.

Also, the elevator rule. One of my few complaints about state school is that it seems that giant herds of people have no concept of how to move around. They come into class before people get a chance to exit, and they walk mindlessly in the middle of the road. /End rant.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Bacchanalian Mondays: The most interesting man in the world

I present to you the most interesting man in the world.


There are various perspectives on exactly what characteristics the most interesting man in the world would possess. Some would say he is an a specialist--an expert in his field. Perhaps he is well-traveled or a true gentleman, the picture of class and refinement. Others would say that he must simply be eclectic and mysterious. Here is one interpretation, and perhaps he is all of these things.




Stay thirsty, my friends.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Manspeak

Sports. It's the universal man language.

The beautiful thing about it is that (usually) no matter what fellow male you meet, you can bridge the conversational gap by a well placed, "So did you see the game last night?" This can provide a subject that will sustain prolonged discussion.

I, however, am far behind the rest of my brethren. Despite attending a month-long, rabidly athletic camp for 10 summers, I remain pathetically devoid of knowledge about any sport except soccer.

Examples: My NFL knowledge barely has room for a vague knowledge of who Barry Sanders is and why he was notable. My NBA knowledge is solely dependent on the 1993 video game classic, "NBA Jam." This means that the only players I am even slightly familiar with are Moses Malone, John Stockton, Scottie Pippen Dennis Rodman, and a few others.

My brother recently salvage an awkward lunchtime rendezvous with an acquaintance by discussing the highs and lows of cycling in the Tour de France and the merits of the North Carolina Tarheels. After seeing the power of sports in action, I am convinced that an integral part of becoming a man is developing a basic foundation of pertinent sports trivia.

Friday, August 22, 2008

That'll cost him about a tenth of a point right there

In the spirit of the Olympics, more video comedy from the 1980s. Paul Hunt performs a gymnastics comedy routine:



Thursday, August 21, 2008

And then, of course, releasing the vultures

Couldn't help writing another post along the Monty Python trend. Here is one man's interpretation of what to do with the lower classes:





I suppose it's a good thing neither of the two candidates for president espouse these beliefs. But what good comedy.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Commentary makes everything funnier

Recent discovery #787: Commentary makes routine or casual activities funnier. Frisbee golf, eating, making coffee, novel writing?



Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Shorties

British singer Estelle is apparently into shorties, which spells good news for me. Check it out:
"I just met this 5'7" guy who's just my type..."
I'm just her type!




Monday, August 18, 2008

Bacchanalian Mondays: Croatian 'Stache Bash

Introducing Bacchanalian Mondays. Here's the plan: Every Monday, I'll highlight a new person (or group of people) that I would love to party with. Sounds like a great way to start the week to me.

(Photo--Kristian Dowling/Getty Images)

First up: The Croatian men's water polo team.

The number one-ranked national team of Croatia decided to put aside the razor--for their upper lips at least--when goalkeeper Josip Pavic showed up to training camp with a healthy 'stache. The whole team decided to follow suit, partly to honor their coach, who is appearing in his ninth Olympics, and partly to give themselves a few extra ounces of luck. It's hard to imagine a party with these gents not being awesome. Any group of fellows that owns mustaches like these is alright in my book. Hurrah.

(Photo--William West/AFP)

"It's for good luck, but we can't talk about it--it's a secret; if I tell you, it will ruin it," Igor Hinic said in an interview with Reuters.

(Photo from NBC footage.)

Another fun fact about the sport: In 1984, Terry Schroeder (now the current U.S. water polo coach) was chosen to have his body be the model for a generic statue of an Olympian because of all the American athletes, he was said to have the best physique. Another great reason to play water polo.

That being said, America dominated Croatia on Saturday, defeating them 7-5 in one of the greatest upsets of the 2008 Games so far.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

How to have better optical intercourse in just one hour

The television in our living room lacks a remote, which explains why I am watching "The Hills." When I turned it on and sat down, I realized that it was already on channel 57, a.k.a. MTV. Unfortunately, I was already solidly ensconced on the couch and obviously couldn't be bothered to get up and find something else.

Whilst waiting for someone to walk by so I could ask them to change the channel for me, the unthinkable happened. A marathon re-cap of "The Hills" came on, and I was forced to watch it for the rest of the afternoon. Season Four premieres tomorrow, which explains the all-day debauchery today, and despite my rancor toward reality television in general, and especially the SoCal kind, I couldn't stop watching.

"The Hills" and its prequel, "Laguna Beach," never cease to amaze me because they both succeed at two things: 1), Fueling the irrational obsession with Cali glamor and 2), sensationalizing conflict and poorly equipping their viewers for properly dealing with it in their own lives.

"My favorite thing about 'The Hills' is the drama." --Whitney Thompson, recent winner of "America's Next Top Model"

"'The Hills' is like crack [or porn for girls, perhaps?]," dramaholic gossip blogger Perez Hilton said during a segment that relived the top ten most thrilling moments of the show. "When Lauren chose Justin over going to Paris, the entire world said, 'What the f--- are you thinking?'"
Enough said. "The Hills" is full of people that are pros at creating discord and then responding to it poorly. Beyond their cash and pretty faces, these young ladies are famous largely for making bad decisions, because making good ones just doesn't equate to entertaining television.

Lauren Conrad, the star of the show, has been doing just that on national television for the last four years. Four years of lovers' trysts and friendships (if you can call them that) falling apart. Four years of viewers smacking their foreheads in disbelief.

But that's what makes the show the highest-rated night program and keeps 3.6 million pairs of eyes tuning in every week, greedily having optical intercourse with the drama-oozing lives of several 20-something kids that lead overly charmed lives.
"They feel like the cast is their best friend." --Perez Hilton
And past all of the artificial drama--which, thanks to the show, has become not so artificial anymore--is a fake reality that very few people in America desperately crave but can't actually relate to.
People get "to live this dream, aspirational L.A. life that they would never normally get to see." --Melanie Bromley, West Coast bureau chief for "Us Weekly"
That said, the fourth season airs tomorrow at 9 p.m., and I'll be on my couch, eyes peeled.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

8



The anticipation is killing me. 9:58 p.m. come quickly!