Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Me Love You Long Time, Cheap

I've had this back problem for a few years. It gets sore and stiff when I'm walking or standing for a long time, and my right thigh will get a little numbness. My wife had theorized that it is a slightly bulging disc, on top of just a regular old stiff back. I'd kind of resigned myself to just having to live with a back problem because there is not much that can be done medically for them anyway, barring major, painful and not always successful surgery.

Since I got married almost three years ago I now have health insurance for the first time since college (thanks Honey), so I actually get to go to the doctor when something is wrong instead of waiting to see if whatever it is goes away. I had my first check-up with my new doctor last month and mentioned my back problem, and she did not even hesitate to refer me for physical therapy, telling me that I shouldn't have to live with a back problem and that physical therapy could make it go away for good.

I had no idea. I've always thought of physical therapy as something people got for injuries or post-surgery, I didn't even think about it as something I could do to help my back problem. I'm glad I finally told my doctor. Lesson learned here is don't make assumptions about your medical condition, tell your doctor everything they should know.

Anyway, as could be expected, a lot of physical therapy cases are sports injuries. So the Russian physical therapist guy I drew seems bored because, instead of a torn ACL or "quad" problem, he's got a dorky guy with a sore back. And the room where the exercising takes place is covered with autographed pictures of jock types. There are tons of basketball players and football players with signed posters of them in action all over the place. A disproportionate of the football players seem to be New England Patriots, which seems odd considering we're in New York. I suppose it's not too surprising. Everything else about Boston sucks, so they must have crappy therapists too.

I'm feeling completely out of place there, and I'm looking around for something I can cling on and relate to. And then I see an Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater poster. Aha! OK, so they help artists too, I don't have to feel bad about being here. As I'm looking at the Ailey poster while I'm spending time on the stationary bike, I notice on the bottom that it says the Alvin Ailey season is sponsored by Philip Morris.

What the fuck?!?!

Elite dancer/athletes and they are being funded by Philip Morris? This was a poster from 1995, but still. It's just not right.

We are such a race of whores, us humans. I've got friends from college who have done Nike commercials. They make more in a day of work than a kid working in a Nike factory 15 hours a day in Indonesia makes in a year. But they don't care if they are helping in the oppression of an underclass as long as they get theirs. McDonald's commercials too.

Tennis players being sponsored by Virginia Slims, race cars (which are already evil in themselves, don't get me started) splashed with ads for tobacco and, of all things, alcohol. I'm all for drinking, but encouraging the marriage of cars and alcohol is a little messed up.

Doctors who endorse products in infomercials, despite the fact there is no evidence that they actually do anything, for the cheap price of a few thousand dollars and their integrity.

Fuck everybody else. Who cares who it effects? As long as I get mine.

It's pathetic.

And these people will look down on the street walkers in Vegas or a butt boys in Central Park giving hummers for 50 bucks a pop.

But that's an honest kind of whoring. And at least they are selling themselves out, not everybody but themselves.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

15 Seconds Is More Than Most People Deserve

Andy Warhol accomplished a lot in his life, from trippy films to his soup cans to his Marilyn portraits. But his most lasting legacy will probably be his "15 minutes of fame" prediction. Though I think he was slightly off. It's not that everyone will get their 15 minutes of fame, it is that everyone wants their 15 minutes and thinks they deserve it, regardless of not really having done anything to earn it. Seems to me that so-called "reality" TV has a lot, if not the most, to do with this.

As I've written before, I do a lot of temp work, that's what a theatre degree can do to some people. This week I've been working the reception desk at a well connected talent agency. By that I mean they have a lot of names here, and they are not the kind of agency that starts representing the guy fresh off the bus from the State U. theatre department. People like Dave Chappelle and Tony Kushner are repped by these guys.

On an interesting note, as the receptionist I have to look up talent in the database when someone calls to talk to their agent, so I've been finding out lots of people's home addresses. If I wanted to stalk Morgan Spurlock I totally could. Weirdest thing I've learned so far is that Ricki Lake's alias is Betty Boop.

Oh, and for those of you that assume that agents are inflated , scum-sucking bottom feeders, well, you are pretty much right on the money. These ass holes act like they are saving the world, when all they are doing is negotiating for somebody to get a role in National Treasure 2.

Anyway, I was working the desk a couple of of days ago and a call came in from this kind of nasally voiced guy. He asked me if we took on clients even if they weren't in the union yet. I told him I didn't think so. He then explained to me what he was calling for. See, he had just appeared on the 6th season audition portion of American Idol and now wants an agent to move forward.

What the fuck is with people? He auditioned for American Idol, was not picked, and now he thinks he should have an agent???

What the hell is next, someone tries to get a movie deal because they held up a "Hi Mom" sign outside the Today Show studio?

People should really get over this obsession with fame. It will not magically make your life worth something.

When the 15 minutes is over, you are still the same schmuck you were before.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Take A Seat

Ever thought about who you would want to play you in the movie about your life? Sure you have, don't lie. Well that's the topic being pondered by Prego for this week's Roundtable, an homage, if you will, to the Algonquin Roundtable. Every Thursday (yes, this week's came early) a different member takes the lead in a free flowing exchange of ideas. I am delighted to be a new guest at the table. I'll get my first crack at choosing the topic in a few weeks. In the meantime, go over to Rustbelt Ramblings and tell Prego why you should be represented by Fabio on celluloid, or digital video as I suppose it's all going to now.

For me, it would be Crispin Glover, hands down.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Last week my wife and I were up at the gym in our building (actually, it's in the building next to us, which we share a lobby, maintenance staff, door staff, etc. with, but I shouldn't always feel the need to over-explain every little detai....d'oh!), which is a great little perk that came with our apartment. It is a small gym with about two step machines, a couple of bikes, a weight-lifting four station contraption (no idea what it would be called), and four treadmills. And they all face a window on the 38th floor looking north from the lower part of the Upper East Side. It's a pretty decent place to work out, especially since it's free.

Now the four treadmills they have there are two pairs of competing brands. They are slightly different, the display screens don't look alike, the cup holders are different sizes and one kind has longer side bars than the other. But they're treadmills. You hit start, it moves, you walk or run. They seem to both be able to go the same speed and you can change the incline on all of them. You can run them in manual or in one of many pre-programed modes that will set the speed and incline for you. They both are capable of checking your heart rate by grabbing on the bars with both hands.

But for some reason the people who work out there have favorites. Now, I won't say that I don't have a preference when I go up there. I certainly have a first choice when I walk in to the room. But if the machines with the bigger cup holders and longer bars are taken, I just use one of the other ones. Some others, though, really want their favorite machine and will wait for it. We've seen it happen before, with this guy who will slowly pedal one of the bikes nearby until my wife and I get done with the ones he's waiting for. Ha almost knocked my wife over one time running on to the machine as she was getting off. A little obsessive I thought.

So anyway, last week right after we had gotten on to the two treadmills and started walking, an older couple walked in the room. They looked at us with some sort of shocked confusion and stood there for a minute. Then the woman came up and asked us how much longer we would be, which I thought was a kind of rude thing to do considering there were no other people in the gym at the moment, so every other machine in the place was empty including the other two treadmills. After we told her we just started and that we would probably be another half hour or so, she conferred with her husband and they walked out of the gym.

Now this just doesn't make any sense to me. I can't get my favorite machine so I just won't exercise? What, they would walk in to a movie and if their two favorite seats are taken they just say "fuck it" and don't watch the movie? People are weird. They eventually came back and waited around for us to be done.

I just loved it. I really love denying people of things they want. It makes me happy.

I often have to do temp work in my life, since no one is giving me a million dollars for my brilliant writing or my theatre directing. Mostly I do reception work because I have no office skills whatsoever and it's usually a job that gives you enough time to do things like write a blog. I also love it because there are many opportunities to deny people what they want. So many sales people call companies trying to get their business, and nobody ever wants to talk to them. So as a receptionist, one gets to tell them no all the time.

Can I speak with the person in charge of I.T? Not if you don't know their name you can't.
What's so and so's direct line? I can't tell you that.
Can you give me the email for the head of HR? Hell no!
Who purchases your office supplies? I could tell you that, but I won't.

It happens like that all day long. And if they get bitchy with me I can just hang up. It really is a beautiful situation. You're like a gatekeeper. And you can make people be nice to you if they want to get through.

My favorite thing to do is fuck with the copy machine scam people. If you haven't heard of this, here is a quick run-down. Somebody calls the office and says they are from "your copier company" (sometimes even say a name) and need to get the copier serial number. What supposedly happens if you give them this number is that a bunch of copy supplies will get shipped to the company and they will claim that of course you must have ordered it because you gave us the model number of your machine so we could send you the right supplies.

I'm not sure exactly what kind of moron this scam works on, but it must work a decent amount of times because those calls keep coming at just about every company I've ever been a temp receptionist.

Lots of receptionists will keep it polite and say something like, "I'm sorry I can't give that information out" or some other such thing. I usually hang up on them. A couple of times I've just come out and asked the person how often this scam works. I've never gotten an answer, they'll just hang up after I ask.

When I'm in a real good mood though, I say, "Sure, hold on one sec."

Then I put them on hold. And leave them there.

It's so much fun to see how long they'll actually wait. And I just love the thought of some guy sitting on the phone thinking he's found a sucker to give him the info he needs to pull a con job and then slowly realizing he's been duped himself.

One time a guy actually called back and told me that I left him on hold and that he still needed that number. I said, "Oh, sorry about that, let me get that for you."

Then I put him back on hold.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Jingo Bells

I watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report every night before I go to bed. Obviously, this doesn't make me special. It is just nice to end the evening with people making fun of those in power and other bloviating blow-hards. Now something I've discovered recently is that the O'Reilly Factor, on you-know-which-network, runs its late repeat of the day's show at the same hour that Jon and Stephen are making me giggle with glee.

I will often flip over to Bill-O during commercial breaks on Comedy Central to see what madness is spewing out of his leathery pumpkin head at that moment. Now mind you, I don't like to watch the crazy fucker. I prefer to get my info on the diseased lunacy he his spreading to the country from my friends over at Media Matters because, well, I really don't want to develop a brain aneurysm while I'm still in my 30s.

But there are times I just can't resist flipping over for a second. It's really fun during Colbert to go back and forth between the satire and the real, unbelievable as it is, thing. It really is a self-inflicted torture that I just can't seem to stop.

And this is really Girls Gone Wild's fault. The need to flip channels during late night on Comedy Central is really because of how many of those commercials they run. I swear, I think they sponsor the whole damn Colbert Report sometimes. They are like the Mutual of Omaha to Colbert's Marlin Perkins. I just have to switch channels because they are so vile. And I feel guilty whenever they are on the TV, even though my wife is asleep in the bedroom and I didn't put the dumb "college" girls on the TV on purpose. I just feel like I'm doing something wrong if they're on.

Anyway, to get back to the point. If you read Media Matters enough, you know how the dumbshit O'Reilly acts, with his bullying, screaming, half truths and all-out lies. But sometimes when you watch him yourself you can catch some of his more subtle propaganda and psychotic nonsense.

I flipped over for a minute last night and he was talking about OJ Simpson, because Newsweek has apparently gotten a hold of a chapter of his infamous book that was canceled, which O'Reilly still claims credit for getting axed. And he was going on and on with his grandstanding bullshit calling OJ vile and disgusting and at one point saying he wasn't "newsworthy," somehow missing the irony that he was covering it. And to punctuate his point on why OJ was vile and disgusting he said that "he killed two AMERICANS!"

Not two people. Not two innocents. Not two human beings. Two Americans. Like somehow that matters.

The ridiculousness of the extreme jingoism of people like O'Reilly has taken them so far off the edge that even a 12 year old murder gets framed in the context of terrorism and national identity. It's as if he's saying that if OJ killed them then maybe he'll kill you too, and we better support President Bush because only he can save you good Americans from the Juice.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe "he killed two Americans" was his way of saying "that good for nothing nigger killed two white people." So it could have been a racist O'Reilly moment and not a nationalist one. I guess I should give him the benefit of the doubt.

I really need to program my cable box to block FOX News.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

One Door Closes...

I had a job interview back in late November. It is one of those jobs that I really wanted, the kind that I would keep my eyes open for all the time. Something I've got experience in and I think I'm good at doing. It involves an industry that doesn't have a lot of permanent type positions, but a lot of contract work, which is what I am always doing. It's great work, and it pays well, but it isn't consistent. It involves using actors to play patients for medical students to be able to evaluate their communication, physical exam and diagnosis skills. The actors are independent contractors, obviously they don't need them every day for 40 hours a week. But one position that the schools or centers will have is a trainer/coordinator, and that's a job I've been trying to land for a while. I had a great interview for one in Cleveland, when my wife was considering a job offer from there. I think I had a great shot at it, but had to withdrawal my name when my wife picked the New York job. Don't worry, I'm not crying over not living in Cleveland.

But after we moved to New York I got wind of a job coming open at one of the medical schools here. So I finally had the interview and have just been waiting. And waiting. And fucking waiting. Finally, I got an offer last week to work a bunch of dates in the spring by another place that does standardized patient (that's what it's called) cases here. I had to let them know if I could take the dates so I had to email the other place to find out what was going on.

I didn't get the job. They had already offered the job to somebody else, but hadn't gotten around to telling me. Who knows how long that I was still hoping where there was no hope? That's the part that really burns. It takes like two minutes to write an email saying "Thanks, but fuck off." At least I could have moved on quickly and gotten over it. It's not like this was a job at Wal-Mart that two hundred people applied for. There were three people interviewed.

This is the second time in my life I had an interview for something that could have really altered the way my life was going to go. You know, something that would probably have been a gig you would like going to every day, would pay well and offer some kind of potential long-term security. The other one would have been teaching drama at a prep school in Seattle. That one only had two of us interviewed, but I also waited a ton of time there and then contacted them, only to find out they already hired the other person.

You know, when someone says at the end of an interview, or anything else for that matter, "we'll be in touch," they should be in fucking touch.

So I was down a little over the weekend. I called my friend Barb, who was my first boss in the standardized patient world, and wrote me a glowing recommendation for the job.

She reassured me that something good would come along for me. She also said that even though she knows I don't believe in fate, Barb's one of those people that knows that about me without having to read my blog, she is sure it happened for a reason and that it means something better is going to come along.

And I really want to believe that. I really, really do. But it's hard. I'm the kind of person that tends to believe that the reason it happened is that the world hates me and I'm not meant to have any success in life.

I'd like to think of this as one of those opportunity moments. You know, I just say to myself, "Well, I guess this is just one of those door closing, another opening moments, so I guess I'll just try to focus on writing that book idea I've got banging around in my head."

I want to be that guy. But then I just turn around and think, "Right, the publishers are going to just be lined-up around the block for that. 'Look there's a guy with a blog, and his friends say they like it, let's give him a book deal.' Sure that sounds plausible."

I try to remember what they say, that you can't succeed if you don't take risks. Of course if you don't take risks, you also don't face rejection. So there's that.

And nothing sucks worse than rejection.

It's amazing I survived being a theatre major.

Friday, January 05, 2007

God Of Thunder

I got a phone call the other day from one of my favorite people. Thor was pretty much the first person I became friends with in Seattle when I moved there after college. He lives in L.A. now, and I in New York, after detours through Chicago and the much reviled Boston of course. But in 1994 we were both new arrivals to the Emerald City, he came from Indiana that autumn and I got there a couple of months earlier fresh out of college in Illinois. Both of us picked a place as far as we could get from where we were from (and our families) and both ended up with jobs at a local pizza chain called Pagliacci, where 40th Street crosses Stone Way. I was a cook, he was a driver.

Owing to probably both our personalities, we naturally hated each other.

Eventually we came to see each other as kindred spirits. We both love music, though not always the same thing (I'll never understand his defense of Guns & Roses), but we hated a lot of the same stuff that we couldn't believe was popular. We discovered we had a pretty similar view of the world and that we both love Noam Chomsky and hated Ronald Reagan. We became known for calling each other bitch, or beeotch, as the vernacular of the 1990s white kids who think they're hip would have us saying it.

But what really bonded us was our general disdain for most other people.

Being two people in their twenties who were trying to make it in artistic professions (music and theatre, respectively), we naturally had a lot of crappy jobs, and they often involved the service industry or some kind of thing that would force us to deal with annoying people. We basically responded with some kind of abuse or smart-assiness. And we were really good at it. People really deserved it, too. When a guy comes to the coffee stand I worked at and asks for a double tall non-fat latte with THREE-QUARTERS OF A PACKET of sugar, how I supposed to not be rude to him? Really the big struggle is not to punch the elitist, yuppie, Seattle-passive-aggressive snot in the face. And that's exactly the type that won't leave a tip anyway.

Thor always understood exactly how I felt. His reaction would be exactly the same, and his annoyance level would match mine, which was, you know, the right level.

My favorite Thor story came when we were working at Pagliacci, our first Seattle oppressor. A really crappy job all the way around, except for one thing. Spinning dough was a lot of fun, a zen-like experience. But everything else about that place sucked. They had an "incentive" program among the drivers there. Drivers basically lived on tips, and they also got a commission per order which was mostly to cover their gas. The general commission was something like a quarter, but "top drivers" got 50 cents. These were comprised of the ass-kissers who gave a shit for some reason. When Thor was getting his review, the manager told him he was doing his job well (fast with the deliveries is the basic goal) but that he could be one of the "top drivers" if he had a better attitude. And Thor's answer pretty much defines why I love him so much. He said something along the line of, "How about you keep your quarter and I'll keep my attitude."

It was a great moment in the history of labor relations.

There was the time that we went to a party and decided as we were walking in that we should, as we phrased it, be bad. It mostly involved us getting drunk and challenging the beliefs and attitudes of the weird backward cap frat-boy types that were there. Thor was trying to explain to one of the morons that Disney cartoons were there to teach women that they were supposed to be obedient servants. The argument worked in to a fever pitch, due mostly to the frat-boy's inability to see the overlying messages in movies like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, until the guy said that when he would gladly show those movies to his daughter when he had one and Thor replied, "And she'll grow up to be as stupid as you."

And thought the guy's head was going to implode on itself. He probably spent days trying to shake off the newly formed in his head idea that maybe Disney cartoons aren't good for children after all.

It was a classic night. When we tore in there it was a hopping party , and when we left a couple hours later it was a stunned silent group of people with their heads hurting. It was magnificent. They never knew what hit them. People need the things they believe to be challenged more often, and Thor and I were always willing to answer the call.

When you are surrounded by the moron masses you need a comrade in arms. And Thor was always mine.

Of all my friends that live far away from me now, I miss Thor the most. This isn't to say that my other wonderful friends aren't missed, they are. But a lot of people find the way I am, I don't know, I guess quirky or edgy. I'm really not at all though. I just kind of say what I'm thinking. And the people that like me find it entertaining and maybe even think I'm witty. But Thor understands exactly where it comes from, and a lot of the time is thinking the exact same thing.

Like when I say that Katie Couric makes me want to jam an ice pick in my eye, others might giggle a little, but Thor will say, "No doubt."

I miss the little bitch.