Monday, May 30, 2005

Now where did I put that flag?

It is a perfect day in Los Angeles. A breezy, sunny, seventy-two degrees. Exactly the taste of summer one needs to last the nine more school days until it arrives in earnest.

I went to a middle-school-throwback sleepover last night. Being the general curmudgeon that I am, I didn't even like sleepovers in middle school. I had a surprisingly good time last night. There was watching of Punky Brewster and Dirty Dancing. Friendship bracelets and picture frames were produced. I caught up on my photo albums. And yes, my team won the pillow fight.


Friday, May 27, 2005

Did you want fries with that scorn?

Concerned parents are up in arms about the new Carl’s Jr. commercial featuring a barely-clad Paris Hilton sudsing up a black Bentley to sell a hamburger, claiming the ad is soft-core porn promoting sexuality. My favorite objection is the one on the grounds that because the ad runs during Fox’s The OC, teens who watch The OC will to be exposed to this highly sexualized message before they are ready. Um, what exactly do these people think happens between commercials on The OC? A Carl’s Jr. rep says that these people need to "get a life" and that the ad simply portrays a “beautiful model in a swimsuit washing a car.” I think what he meant to say was a “beautiful celebrity model dullard in a leather cat swim suit washing a car herself. Mark your calendars, I’m going on record as agreeing with the conservative watchdog group. The ad is disgusting, but not for the reasons they think.

Let’s consider the demographic most likely to buy a variation on Carl’s Jr.’s “famous $6 burger.” Having driven past Carl’s Jr. establishments hundreds of times (and even once partaking in some variety of fried chicken parts from there), I have yet to spot a $300,000 Bentley purring in one of its drive throughs. This commercial brings all the hubris of Hilton’s The Simple Life to the middle of regularly scheduled programming. I watched approximately 18 minutes of season 2, episode 1 of The Simple Life before my involuntary dignity reflex propelled me off the couch in search of a book - - one with big, important words. The show opened with Hilton and partner-in-derision Nicole Richie on a shopping spree at a shoe store. (Hilton charges approximately a hundred grand to her credit card for her haul.) Ten minutes later, the pair is bumming gas money from commuters at a tollbooth. Hilton and Richie aren’t cajoling Bentley drivers with their girlish, fake-tanned wiles: the people who give them money are working-class, hourly-wage earners, on their drives home from jobs in which talent or skill was exchanged for money. Basically, they get money from the same type of people who are nice (naïve?) enough to host the duo while Hitlon and Richie take advantage of them, mock them, and finally leave, reminding themselves that they are, in fact better than the people who work for a living using skills other than ordering complicated coffee drinks, intensive pampering, and purchasing small dog accoutrements.

It’s no wonder I was speechless last year when my Big Brothers Big Sisters “little sister” told me that The Simple Life was her favorite show. A little girl whose immigrant, non English speaking, single mom commutes one hour each way by bus to a $9/hour job at a fast food restaurant enjoys watching two trust fund snobs ridicule regular people all over America? Where were the moralistic, family-values-touting watchdog groups then?

So no, I don’t like the commercial. I don’t like that it’s selling regular, hard-working, middle class people who still believe in the wholesomeness of beef a hamburger by telling them that they too can have the approval of this opportunistic sex kitten. Paris will like it all right. She’ll snigger all the way to the bank.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Invasion of the legitimate & other bizarre tales.

If you're reading this, chances are I read your blog and I know you haven't updated in two days. Hello cyberfriends-- I have precious time to waste and you're letting me down!

If this persistent slacking (and yes, this is indeed a pot/kettle issue) keeps up, I may be forced to resort to such venues as The Huffington Post for my errant clicking needs. Any thoughts on Arianna keeping a blog? I appreciate the regular people-->political elite direction that blogging has taken, but don't political commentators and celebrities already have both a voice and an audience? I'll be curious to see any Blackberry blunders from celebrity bloggers who contribute their thoughts without consulting their agents first.

Getting back to the inane, I'm reading The Woman Who Swallowed a Toothbrush and Other Bizarre Medical Cases. Despite having a very strong stomach (all my nearest and dearest can attest to my fondness for pus and blisters), I have met my match in this poorly-written hardback with large-ish print. Several of these anecdotes go too far, but the stories that don't make me gag play into my other favorite pastime, the "what-if" game. As a kid I was always afraid that an ambulance siren, car accident, or helicopter crash would spook my horse and result in a disfiguring trampling. This book is more about freakish ailments than freak accidents, but I'm certainly not passing it along to my grandmother, who (a) never let me use the bathroom at my morbidly obese violin teacher's house and (b) taught me to wash my hands up to my elbows.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

This shouldn't cause deadly rioting.

I read the following in Newsweek, but I don't think they'll have to retract it and answer for dozens of deaths in the Middle East (um, by the way, isn't a retraction kind of a moot point? Regardless of the veracity of the piece what exactly does "Oh, we take it back now" accomplish?):

"I'm proud of shows like "Baywatch" and "Knight Rider" because it's about saving lives, not taking lives. It's entertainment, it's tongue in cheek, it brings the world together. I think it's responsible for a lot of world peace."
---David Hasselhoff, on his artistic legacy, while
accepting the Bollywood Movie Award for interational
star of the year.


In other news I ran in the UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital fun run this morning. As expected, my favorite part was Topher Grace being the celebrity host. Also as expected, it wasn't a superb Topher Grace moment because, like any celebrity hosting gig, the job is pretty cheesy & scripted. I forgot I had signed up for the run until last night. I had to wear 3rd tier socks-- after "tall" athletic socks went out of style in the late 90s in favor of the ankle variety, I cut off the tops of all my hangers-on tall socks. I sported a pair of these custom jobs this morning. Fancy.

Tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 I'm giving a talk on my master's thesis to the whole Social area. I feel pretty good about my half of the deal -- I'm just nervous about the questions from the audience, especially those from professors who study very different things and want to know how everything relates to their pet paradigm.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Life: a reassessment

Top 3.5 reasons for pursuing graduate study at UCLA:

June (15 - 30), July, August, September

The quarter system makes for a really long summer break. Because I didn't get the internship at the Public Policy institute in San Francisco and because the jury's still out about how badly I'm getting fucked by UCLA next year, I found myself needing a break from LA and in a bad way. It also needed to be cheap.

I poked around for airfares to some of the places I'd like to visit-- we may have a winner: Roundtrip tickets to San Jose, Costa Rica are just $233 from LAX!! It's cheaper to go to Central America than it is to go to the center of America. It's cheaper to go to Central America than it is to buy an iPOD. Perfect!

So even though I've accepted a TAship and have a second (and possibly a third) job lined up until mid-August, I estimate that a solid six weeks remains to be spent out of the office-- and thus, life isn't so bad after all.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Halfway back from the dead

Monday morning I arrive at school, ready to write the talk on my master's project I have to give to the Social area next week. What happens when I settle in at my desk, computer plugged in and ready to go --- more specifically, what happens when I click on my Thunderbird and Firefox icons (everyone knows you can't get any work done without continual access to email and the internet)? If you guessed, "a wholelotta nothing" you're right.

Against my better judgement I took it to the IT people here, who, in addition to being super crabby even if you're one of the 10% of people who's computer they'll work on (if the department bought it), are really not Mac savvy. The dude was promoting Internet Explorer-- I don't think he's even heard of Mozilla. Geez. I'm trying to maintain a hip, smart, & corporation-hating persona here-- the last thing I need is more Microsoft. Punchline: they couldn't fix it, nor could I after spending several hours that night checking disks and permissions and lots of other nonsense. Yesterday my super Mac savvy friend takes a look and determines that it is indeed my operating system. This morning I reloaded OS X (that's like Windows for PC people) and was reunited with my beloved bookmarks. The internet was not even appealing as a means to waste time without them-- I took up crossword puzzles. Seriously. I'm halfway back in action now. I just have to figure out the magic words to make Thunderbird stop giving the cold shoulder to the 6 months of email that's hanging out in my computer.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Music, merry-making, and mayoral elections

It's been a busy few days. On Thursday I saw Eels (w/ strings) at the Roxy. I was expecting "E" (the singer & only permanent member of the band) to be super awkward/pretentious with the crowd. He wasn't exactly a charmer when he played a set on KCRW (the awesome NPR station in Santa Monica) on Monday. I decided that he's not super pretentious, but a genuine recluse. One of his new songs is even about it. He played with a band consisting mainly of super hot sirens playing large stringed instruments. A good time was had by me.

Friday night brought "Friday the Birthteenth" to our place. We had a party. It was fun. People came. People drank. People drank a lot. I didn't realize how much people drank until I stood in line with homeless people this morning to trade in all the bottles. In addition to the tens of pounds of beer, liquor, & wine bottles, I saw several *enormous* bottles of cheap wine I didn't remember seeing on Friday. I was pretty hung over on Saturday -- another reason to save the real party for a time other than one's special day. No one wants to fend calls from Grandma on a churning stomach.

LA people: VOTE ON TUESDAY!!!!

Conscientious Elitism offically endorses Flora Gil Krisolof for City Council and Antonio Villaraigosa for mayor.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

First they take away my money. . .

The outrage!

The injustice!

Betcha think I'm still talking about UCLA wanting to reduce the amount of money it LETS THE GOVERNMENT GIVE ME by 75% right?

Well, yeah.

But now my hackles are also raised because my landlord said I couldn't have a cat!!

I begged and pleaded and said I would do anything. I reminded her that she likes us and knows that we're the best tenants ever. Nothing. I complained about how it will be terrible to live here once they level the FOUR lots across the street to put in 3 story condos. Goodbye quiet residential street with good parking! Nada.

Now I'm miffed and want a cat even more.

Ideas for retaliation:

1. Submit a list of everything that's broken in our apartment-- including the 'cold' faucet in the downstairs bathroom that she wanted to wait to have fixed until something else broke.

2. Complain when hunky Australian handy men leave sheet rock dust on clothes in closet.

3. Give her number to the cat adoption lady who has already called me twice this week to try and get to visit the cat I liked at the Petco adoption fair.

4. Have one of my many "psychologists" provide a doctor's note about why I need a cat to protect my fragile mental health against such ills as depression, suicide, or particularly frightening, old lady homicide.

Other suggestions from the floor?

Monday, May 09, 2005

Drowsy detoxing

I decided to go sans caffeine today. I usually get a Pepsi from the awesome soda fountain/machine (featuring the ever-so-rare in LA Sonic-esque crushed ice) around noon, but sometimes I forget until 3 or 4 and then I'm not sleepy until 1, which is bad for waking up at 7. Around 2:30 I visited said soda machine and purchased a "Sierra Mist" instead, thinking the coldness would be a good substitute for the healing magic of caffeine. Well, the cold drink trick was fine and dandy for searching Craigslist for summer jobs, but the departmental colloquium series was another story. An anthropologist gave a talk about similarities between cultures about how shame is expressed. Last week, I commented to a friend how even though the presenter was a smart and savvy dude, his power point lacked finesse in a bad way as he used a white screen with black letters. This week the dude used an overhead!! How many people even remember those? Clearly, you know how this story ends. I pinched the inside of my elbows and bit my tongue in vain for the last half hour of the talk. At some point I remember thinking that the second the talk ended, I would run to my office and curl up on the couch for a quick nap. Bad call-- never think about naps you want to take when you're trying to fend off a nap! During the talk I tested my drowsiness by making a little note on the back of the paper in front of me. It confirmed my total nodding off when I tried to decipher it later. The worst about struggling to stay awake may be that while it's happening you always think no one can tell and that by keeping your head off the table and not drooling, you're really doing a great job. That's not true. They can tell.

Friday, May 06, 2005

More thoughts on contrived dating*

I recently posted about my first internet dating experience. Really, I think a large part of my dating experiences rely heavily on the internet, regardless of where I meet the guy (i.e., planning dates & webstalking).

About 18 months ago I went on a Hurry Date. Yep, yours truly paid clever people upwards of $30 to have not 1, but 20 awkward encounters in an hour! The speed date itself was quite enjoyable, if you're into that kind of friendly-acquaintance-challenge like I am. It's kind of like Greek recruitment except that you don't know their SAT scores beforehand.

Being a semipro friendly-acquaintance, I'm not good at withholding the charm from people I don't like/feel bad for. About 1 minute into my 3 minute date with Oscar he tells me, "Ahh - do you feel something like very special thing happen now? Like very strong connection?" Begin serious backpeddaling on my part.

Although the age range was from 21 - 29, some old (relatively) pervs snuck in. I met one of them for coffee the following week. I don't know why, I felt obligated because he was in the upper, reasonably-okay portion of my Hurry Date distribution.

Let's just say Helmut was throwing his A-game at the Hurry Date and the dim lighting had been working in his favor. Which, I might add, wasn't the first time I've been burned by that-- and both with people over 30! Public service (also gender stereotypic) announcment: If you're a dude on a date with a girl and you're talking about video games, chances are she wishes you weren't. If she says something like, "Yeah, that's just a whole differnet world I guess," PLEASE understand that she's talking about the gaming world, NOT expressing interest in the "worlds" of the video games you play. Do not, under any circumstances, describe these to her.

*I don't endorse it, but apparently I forget this about every 6 months or so when I'm between psuedo relationships.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Things overheard.

I can't believe I haven't written anything since APRIL!! May is my favorite month-- what am I thinking? Well, maybe I'm too poor to think, given I'm still stuck in bureaucratic purgatory, where all irreverent people who get pissed off at "the system" with it's "careful calculations" of how much of your fellowship you're entitled to keep have to go.

This is unfortunate because my birthday's coming up and I want to be in a good mood for it. And also I don't want to be poor for it.

Some asinine things I've overheard lately:

1. From a woman in this super remedial (but somehow still 'graduate') stats class I'm taking (I know, I know, pot/kettle. I've taken the same class taught 17Xs faster last year, but don't remember anything, so I figure this is better than nothing and besides, it makes me feel smart to be around these people who provoke me to insert pencils into my eyeballs out of boredom):

"Ummm...I was wondering. . . Is it possible to just understand the concept?"

2. From this dude on the bus one day who I originally mistook for a graduate student by his conversation w/ a woman about her dissertation, but turned out to be a 'returning student' who really isn't that old (i.e., he's 28 instead of 37). He was complaining about this TA (I think for a literature class) that he finds totally incompetent. Finally getting to the 'meat' of his argument, he says, "So in the margin she wrote, "Why so vague?" It wasn't vague! It was subtle!!"

Hooray for iPODs.