Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy surprise

After leaving work and going to the gym (I managed to leave the locker room unscathed) I wound up becoming thoroughly crankified by people on the street and in the subway stations. Not tourists, either, from what I could tell, just regular idiots. It's crowded out there, of course, it's New Year's Eve, but that doesn't excuse the woman who stopped immediately upon reaching the bottom of the stairs in Grand Central, set her rolly bag down at my feet, and then began to look at her map. Lady, you've made it as far as the subway platform, so I assume you know which train your taking; do you really need to figure out the next step right now? When I stopped short, kicking her bag, the man behind me of course bumped into me, knocking me forward into Clueless Tourist Woman, who had the nerve to turn around and glare at me like it was my fault. The streets just reek with people tonight whose sole purpose seems to be to piss me off. Don't even get me started on the woman -- young, and by all appearances not a tourist at all -- who stopped short on the way into a building and simultaneously moved her cigarette away from her body so that my healthy distance was not only abruptly shortened, but I nearly caught fire as well.

Aaaaanyway, I came home to find a package waiting for me. No, not the new Palm. Last week I dropped and then stepped on my headphones, breaking one of the little ear thingies (they were the kind without a head or neck band that hook over your ears) and rendering them useless. I switched to a backup pair and went to Amazon to reorder then old ones. Free shipping was no longer an option on the ones I'd had for some reason, which sort of negates the Amazon discount, so I started clicking around to look at other options. I found these, which are very similar to my old ones but promised a "tangle-free cord with slider." Since my old headphones were always getting hopelessly tangled, this was a bonus and I bought them.

What I didn't know until they arrived, is that the "1.5 meter cord" is actually optional. This doesn't sound like a big deal but it's actually fabulous. The wire attached to the earpieces themselves is very short, with a straight plug, similar to the standard iPod ear buds. In other words, I can use them with my iPod remote without needing my Container Store cord bubble or risking serious injury from a snag. And I can carry the extension cord in my gym bag for when I need a little extra reach to plug into the TVs on the cardio machines. The cord casings have a weird texture to them, which I guess is how they're tangle-free, but it's fun even if it serves no practical purpose.

I know this is incredibly dull and mundane, but sometimes it really is just the littlest things that excite me and improve my mood.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Continuing Adventures in Web Design

Three posts in one day? What's going on??

This is just a quick one to note that I'm continuing to tinker with the new design of the JC, and I think I'm just about done as far as my tastes are concerned. In response to complaints about contrast and legibility, I made the font a bit bigger, lightened the blue and green a shade or two each, and changed the post text from grey (which, for the record, was the only default color from the Blogger template (besides the black) I didn't change initially) to white. I've added some spaces between sections of the lists in the sidebar to un-cramp things as well. Personally, I think it all looks rather spiffy, and I thank everyone who gave me feedback on it. Please continue to do so, especially if something other than my prose is giving you a headache!

New York Sports Complaints

Not to get all Bridget Jones here, but this is just not the time of year to be trying to keep weight off. There are too many holiday parties and functions to go to and it's just not practical. So I've been eschewing any kind of formal diet in favor of a more traditional version of "healthy" (when, that is, I'm not at parties or in Boy's mom's House of Carbs). Trail mix instead of a cookie when my energy flags in the afternoon; salads, wraps or sushi for lunch most days; Lean Cuisine or soup (and, okay, the occasional bacon burger) for dinner. And since I've been fighting a cold -- remarkably succesfully -- for weeks, lots of vitamin- (and calorie- and sugar-) laden fruit juice (Tropicana "Immunity Defense" and Odwala "Mo' Beta" are especially tasty).

This week has been bad, but I've also been taking advantage of that new gym membership a lot. Which is awesome, and has given me a chance to explore different branches and get into a routine. But, being who I am, it's also given me a chance to begin my list of grievances.

The locker rooms at New York Sports Clubs are apparently designed for tiny people with few personal posessions. Boy thinks I'm silly for complaining about this, but at my old slightly ghetto YMCA, the lockers were full height, and had a shelf near the top and copious hooks. At NYSC, the lockers are half height (which I hated in middle school and I still hate now), and have no shelf. There's still a hook or two, but in winter especially if you hang your coat on it it bunches up at the bottom of the locker. And then where do you put your bag? What about shoes? I don't like working out with my glasses on and my eyes aren't so bad that I can't handle that, but without a shelf do they just go on the bottom of the locker? I don't want to crush them with my sneakers when I go shower. Nor do I want to put my sneakers on top of my clean clothes. In a tall locker, all the clothes can hang, shoes and bags can go on the floor, and small items live on the shelf. I guess it does sound a little silly, and I realize they have to squeeze as many people as possible into their locker rooms, but there's really a lot of stuff to juggle, to say nothing of the traffic nightmare that happens if you're unfortunate enough to wind up changing at the same time as the person above or below you! I bought a second lock and have started taking two lockers on top of each other. This seems like a horrible breach of gym etiquette, although I have yet to see it crowded enough for me to really feel quilty about it. Still, I'm waiting for some corporate prick on steroids to yell at me about it.

Elsewhere in Munchkin Land, the towels at NYSC are child-sized. There's no limit on how many you can take, so it's not a problem getting dry, but I don't think I will ever lose enough weight to be able to fit one of these things around my waist. I'm not terribly comfortable being completely naked in public, let alone walking around that way, and while I realize this is perfectly acceptible in a locker room, I'd really like it if I could cover up just a teensy bit more. Sometimes I think I've managed to secure it long enough to, say, lock my locker and make it to the showers, only to have it pop open and fall at my feet -- almost certainly while I'm bending over to pick up my shoes or something equally embarrassing.

I'm just neurotic enough that this may keep me from the gym, and that is clearly not the right solution!

Wasps' Nest

I'm not all that Jewish, really. I mean, not like I'd somehow manage to fool the Reich, and my ethnicity and New-York-ness run pretty high, but I go to synagogue once or twice a year, if that, I was practically weaned on bacon, and I'm woefully ignorant about much of my people's history. Even so, I had never really experienced Christmas before. Schedules and over-crowded houses have kept me from spending the holiday with Boy's family in the past (last year I traded places with his sister's boyfriend and arrived on the 26th), but this year I got the Full Gentile.

Like my family, Boy's is not especially religous. There was some church on Christmas Eve, but I didn't go. I was sort of curious to go, actually, but the group who went to the earlier service was far too rushed to leave the house, and primarily motivated by the fact that Boy's four-year-old niece had recently asked Mommy why she never goes to church, and by the time the other half of the family left for the midnight service I was far too drunk and full to go anywhere but bed.

Yes, Boy's rituals revolve almost entirely around food, booze, and gifts, and that's exactly how I like my holidays! Christmas Eve dinner consists (always, I'm told) of steak and lobster tail. The irony of eating trayf (though like I said, I always have) as part of a Christmas celebration was not lost on me! There was plenty of wine, cookies, and chocolate for days, and a small child (the aforementioned niece) who I can actually tolerate (she's precocious enough that I can relate to her like a real person, but not so precocious that I want to smack her -- and, as her uncle shaves his head she refers to me as "The Adam With Hair," which I find endlessly amusing).

Dinner on the 25th was a more traditional affair of turkey and trimmings, but before that there was a mountain of presents to get through. I'm not sure now why Boy was so taken aback by Chanukah with my mom, since everyone seemed to make out quite well at his house as well. The presents spilled out from under the tree all over the living room, and more arrived "from Santa" after Niece had gone to bed. Boy calls it the Temple of Greed (happily, not judgmentally), but one must factor in how many people there were there. In addition to my first real Christmas, I was also getting a dose of suburban life on a scale I'd never experienced before, as well as being more or less officially part of a relatively large family. My gift list has grown exponentially from when I was a single, only child with a single mother. Now there's Boy's parents, his moms' boyfriend, two sisters, brother-in-law, and niece. Brother-in-Law's mom was there too.

So many people! So much loot! Boy's family is big into board games (I guess that's easier when there are so many of you -- I enjoy them too but rarely have anyone to play with!) and they got me the TV edition of Scene It!, that trivia game where some of the questions are on DVD like a Video Daily Double. Good good stuff. Also in the family pile were the new Pop Culture Edition of Trivial Pursuit, which also has a DVD component and goes much faster than a traditional game (wedge questions are on the DVD and after a certain point are up for grabs by anyone if the person who's turn it is hasn't answered correctly), and Cranium, which just might be the best game ever (high point: I had to get my team to say "karate" by using my boyfriend as a charades puppet, and I made wax-on/wax-off and paint-fence motions to do it; low point: being so shocked at Boy's younger sister's blatant cheating that I called her out on it...when she was on my team).

All of Boy's big gifts were household items that I'll get to use too, so that worked out well for me (the same thing happened at Chanukah, when Mom gave me Bed, Bath and Beyond and Container Store gift certificates that we'll use together). Our kitchen now has one of those rabbit corkscrews, a George Foreman Next Grilleration (which, despite the retarded name makes me very happy because the grill plates now come off for cleaning, unlike Boy's old one which was a pain to de-grease and kinda skeeved me out), and a Melitta One:One coffee maker, which might just be the coolest kitchen appliance I've ever seen. I'm not a big coffee drinker, but I may have to become one now that we have this baby.

Boy got me Alias season 2 on DVD, and both of his sisters (separately) got me Eats, Shoots and Leaves: A Zero-Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, which surely says something more about me and how well they know me than just the fact that it was on my 300-item Amazon Wish List.

And then we ate some more. And then some more. But that's a topic for another post.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

No goodwill toward UPS in the New Year!

Okay, people, just for the record, tomorrow is NOT a holiday! At least not during business hours. Banks are open, the mail is being delivered, it's a holiday eve.

Unless, of course, you work for UPS and you have my shiny new Chrismukah present to myself T3 Palm Pilot on your truck because you failed to deliver it today (my bulding has like 90 units in it, would it have been so hard to find a trustworthy-looking neighbor?) and you won't try again to deliver it tomorrow and I can't go pick it up because there are no deliveries and the station is closed even though tomorrow is not, in fact, an actual fucking holiday!

Waah.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Something Good

I'll get back to complaining about my own petty problems shortly, but first I wanted to share with everyone that the good people at Amazon have made it incredibly easy to donate to the Red Cross for the relief effort in Southeast Asia by clicking here.


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Monday, December 27, 2004

When it's time to change...

...you've got to rearrange who you are into what you're gonna be.

I was hoping to get a real post up today, but since I didn't I decided to unveil Judgment Call's new look for the new year a few days early.

I was messing around with Blogger's newer templates to find the code for an automatic Recent Posts list, and I realized I was bored with my old look and quite taken with one of the new ones. A bit of tinkering to figure out how some of the new code works and make it my own, and -- click! -- Extreme Makeover: Blog Edition.

As always, feedback is most welcome, especially if you have constructive ideas for improvements, or if you're having trouble with a particular screen size or browser.

I've gotten a bit backed up on proper posting with work and the holidays, but I plan to be back in full swing later this week!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Mucous of the Night

Okay, I'm short on time but two quick things about the Phantom of the Opera movie. First of all, if you're not casting name movie stars anyway, why not cast people who can act and sing? Some of the acting is pretty good, and so is some of the singing -- and in one (and only one) shocking case both are good in a single performer -- but shouldn't Christine be more expressive than the Phantom's creepy mannequin of her and not the other way around? I mean, if they'd cast Antonio Banderas as the Phantom (which was discussed) and Madonna as Christine (which, god willing, was not, though now that I think about it she'd make a fabulously meta Carlotta), I wouldn't complain because, hey, that's Hollywood and you have to sell tickets. But why cast a Phantom who no one's ever heard of who also can't sing and waves his arms around like a high school Romeo?

And speaking of the Phantom, here's thing number two: When his mask is removed on stage, his face is really fucked up. Like, you can see parts of his skull. Even with the mask on it's clear that one side of his mouth is all weird and the idea of Christine having to kiss him is revolting. This is especially impressive when you consider that the makeup has to be applied and removed eight times a week, he has to sing through it, and the design is over 15 years old. On film, with all the money, CGI, and lip-syncing at their disposal, the Phantom's disfigurement is... not so terrible. In fact, it's barely noticeable. Get yourself some moisturizer and a new hair product and get over your issues, dude!

There was actually a great deal about the movie that I liked, and I don't even really like the show. I just think I might have liked it better with Antonio Banderas and Madonna.

The holiday inappropriateness continues

Thanks to Faustus for sending me this link. Because nothing says Christmas like terrifying children.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Satan Claus

As promised, here are pictures of the Creepiest Santa Ever.

He and his demon-spawn live outside a Latino restaurant around the corner from my apartment building. Here they are (click the pics for larger/clearer versions):


Let's look at some detail, shall we?

At best, Santa is a little drunk. At worst, that gleam in his eye is a little more sinister. I especially like how his eyes aren't quite pointing in the same direction, and the left one seems to be sneaking a peek at the little boy. Naughty, indeed!


Though the children don't look so sweet and innocent. On the street, I was sure they were screaming their poor little heads off, but in the photo the girl looks a little like Linda Blair in The Exorcist, doesn't she? The boy does look a little frightened, maybe because Santa is pressing both children firmly against his crotch.


And people get upset about a tree??

Monday, December 20, 2004

Gifts that keep on giving

I knew it would happen eventually, despite all my humbuggery. I've finally caught the holiday spirit like a virus. Though really, this is the week to catch it, not October. My conversion has nothing to do with the sudden cold snap and dusting of snow here in New York. No, my friends, it's all about The OC. last week's Chrismukah episode was the first one of the season that's fully lived up to everything that made me fall in love with the show last season. It was a perfect blend of comedy, schmaltz, and absurd soap opera twists and turns. In a thoroughly mediocre TV season (more on that in a post to come soon) it was a brightly shining star.

Okay, it isn't all about The OC. While I watched (on Saturday), I wrapped presents, and I think it was the combination that put me over the edge. Saturday was my mom's 65th birthday, and since we hadn't had time to actually egt together during any of the eight days Chanukah, there was a whole lot of gift-giving going on.

Adding to the fun, it was Boy's first Chanukah experience. (Of course, since the holiday was actually over we didn't light candles or engage in any religous ritual whatsoever, but that seems appropriate given last week's rant.) When I was a kid, my family's tradition was to give one gift on each night of Chanukah. Now that I no longer live at home we do everything on one night, but we still always exchange eight gifts. Mom even numbers them and insists that I open them in a particular order, as if they were still being portioned out over a week (typically, the biggest item is first, and they get smaller and smaller from there).

Anyway, Boy and Mom have exchanged holiday and birthday gifts before, but this was the first time he came over to the house for the whole ritual. It never even crossed either of our minds that Mom would have eight packages for him too, but there they were! I think this means he's officially part of the extended family now. Afterwards he kept saying, "I made out like a bandit!" "Welcome to Chanukah, my goyish friend," I replied.

In a weird way (due largely to the way the Jewish calendar landed this year) Boy and I have been having a perfect Chrismukah (as Seth says, "8 nights of presents followed by one night of lots of presents"). We exchanged gifts on the first night of Chanukah, then did some more this weekend, squarely in between the two holidays, and we'll be with his mom for Christmas itself where there will be even more, plus his mom and niece and sisetrs. We're both on a budget this year, but spreading it all out makes it more exciting and so far we've both been really pleased with everything we've gotten.

It's been really nice to be reminded of the true meaning of the season. Presents.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Wait, Christmas is a religous holiday?

Bill O'Reilly has taken it upon himself to "save Christmas." How nice.

Look, everybody needs to chill the fuck out. And I do mean everybody. Church and state are meant to be separate in this country. That means (among many other far more important things) no overtly religious imagery on government property. So no Baby Jesus in school or at City Hall. But hey, you know what? That Christmas tree is pretty. And pagan. It's not like Jim Caviezel is nailed to it, suffering. Let it go. I'd rather see a tasteful nativity than the scary-ass child-molesting Santa outside the deli down the block (I'll take pictures over the weekend and post).

I went to a secular private high school that was probably about 70% Jewish, maybe more. We had a holiday assembly every year in which the chorus sang 6 or 7 Christmas songs and 1 or 2 Chanukah songs, and nobody blinked. We did Secret Santas, and nobody ever demanded a change to Hiding Chanukah Harry. We were celebrating a secular winter-holiday-mishmosh, and what could be more American than that? There are many more good Christmas songs than good Chanukah songs (or bad ones for that matter), and while we did avoid anything too Jesusy, ultimately it was about listening to pretty music. I'd rather hear "Silent Night" than "I Have A Little Dreidl" any day. There's no good Chanukah music because Chanukah isn't traditionally an "important" holiday. Pretty much every religion in the world has a holiday that acts as an excuse to light lights during the darkest part of the year. Christians chose to make this their holiest day, but the idea of Chanukah as "the Jewish Christmas" is purely an accident of the calendar and the secularization of both holidays. Traditionally, gift-giving is small or nonexistent. Of course I love my eight nights of presents, but that's not really what it's about. Nor should that be what Christmas is about.

I support Macy's decision to instruct its clerks to say "Happy Holidays," not because I'm offended by Christmas (hello, the entire Herald Square store is draped in garlands and lights and wreaths) but because I think it's a lovely gesture of the season to be as inclusive as possible, and hoping that people have happy holidays -- whichever holiday or holidays it is that they celebrate -- does just that. But if someone wishes me a "Merry Christmas," I'm not going to turn around and say "Fuck you, I'm Jewish stop oppressing me!" I'm going to thank them, because I do hope to have a merry Christmas. And a merry New Year's. And a merry Groundhog Day. Hell, Merry Arbor Day to everyone! I don't think wishing someone well should ever be frowned upon.

O'Reilly and his band seem to be defending the trappings of Christmas more than anything else. What's more important, a high school production of Dickens, or going to church to reflect on the birth of your supposed Lord? Jerry Falwell goes after the "radical secularists and school board do-gooders determined to 'bring about their own Godless version of this nation,'" but hasn't that already happened? I think it's safe to say that for most of us, religion is all but gone from Chrismahanukwanzakah (perhaps the speed with which this word from a cell phone commercial, and "Chrismukah" from The OC have caught on is evidence enough), replaced by trips to...Macy's. Using religion for political gain is certainly nothing new, but O'Reilly and Co. are making a mountain out of a molehill and I find the hypocrisy of this particular battle revolting.

Nobody I know wants to ban Christmas or Christianity. I don't want a nativity on government property, or children in public school being forced to sing "O Little Town of Bethlehem," but is anybody really complaining about trees and lights and pretty things wishing goodwill towards men? I think both sides need to get over it and remember the true spirit of the season.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Is it Friday yet?

You would think that labeling, stuffing, sealing, and posting 2,000 company Christmas cards would make the day go faster.

You'd be so very very wrong.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Blogministrative notes

MAK and I were both bored at work yesterday and we were instant messaging, and he mentioned that he was putting drop-down menus into his sidebar because it was too long. My sidebar is too long as well, so I decided to copy him You'll now find pull-downs for the old archive and links lists. If anyone knows how to make them open new windows the way the links used to (preferably without a javascript pop-up that will be blocked by many browsers), please let me (and MAK) know!

I've also given up on the BlogWave Studio/.Mac version of Judgment Call, since no one was visiting it, and now that I'm temping it's much easier to use Blogger than to have to be at my own computer to post. Oh well, it was a fun experiment. Blogger powers that be, if you're reading this, how about giving us categories, huh?

Shockingly easy!

My gym fears proved unfounded. My typical image of the scary sales guy is schlubby, chubby, and a little bit greasy. But at a gym I expect them to be buff, tank topped and spandexed, and totally intimidating. So I was actually put at ease by a gym sales guy who was schlubby, chubby, and a little bit greasy. I started off trying to get the discount for Actors' Equity, which inspired him to tell me that he was a theater major in college and ran an off-off-Broadway company for a few years in the 90s, and he totally appreciated how underppreciated stage managers are. Great, so how about a better rate? The joke didn't get me a deal, but dropping my boyfriend's name did. While I'm not sure how I feel about the practice of simply taking my word for it that someone is my friend and looking him up in the computer and telling me exactly what he pays, since it got me a fabulous deal I'm not going to quibble. I was out in ten minutes.

I figured it would be easier to do all this on lunch than after work when I assume the place will be more crowded, and I was so pleased with myself, and displeased with the weather on my way back to the office, that I treated myself to a Holiday Turkey Sandwich from Cosi. This is a delightful sandwich with turkey, cranberry sauce, and stuffing. In other words, it is bread with bread on it.

Good thing I got that gym membership!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Working out working out

Okay, so the diet hasn't been going so well. Wait, let me rephrase that in a way that doesn't imply that it's the diet's fault: I have not been sticking to my diet. At all. Not even trying. There, who says honesty's not the best policy? I've also decided it's time to suck it up and join a real gym. Not that my old gym, the Long Island City YMCA in Queens, wasn't "real" per se -- I actually prefer much of their equipment to the chains I've visited, and they have good classes and a nice big pool, but the lack of towels and nice-smelling products in the showers (one brought one's own), along with the prevalence of children and surly teenagers in the basketball league definitely reminds you you're at a Y.

But that's not really a problem. The thing is, I've stopped going. The Y was in walking distance to my old apartment -- a long-ish walk, but hey, the point is to exercise, right? -- and while my new neighborhood is only five minutes by train from the old one, I've found I'm far less likely to get on the subway just to go to the gym. Of course, this doesn't make joining a gym in Manhattan any more sensible, except that it looks like I'm going to be in the city 5 or 6 days a week at least through January, and I have a lead on a good job that would start in February, so I'll be here anyway. Because when I've been on the train in rush hour, the other thing I really don't want to do is get off six stops from home and then have to get back on again all sweaty. On top of all that, my much-beloved yoga teacher (who I hadn't seen in months anyway) skipped town, so there's no sentimental connection anymore either.

So I figure if I join a chain I can go on the way home from work, or between work and rehearsal or maybe at lunch if I'm feeling particularly corporate, and find some new classes that I like.

The most obvious problem with this plan is that it will probably cost me at least twice what I pay now, and there's no guarantee I'll go with any more frequency. The bigger issue is that I hate salespeople even more than "Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time." (Okay, now that I've foolishly gotten that "song" stuck in my head, I realize that may not be entirely true.) I don't mean sales clerks or service personnell in general; I have no problem asking for help in a store or bitching out a bad waiter. I'm talking about real salespeople. Hucksters, hawkers, pitchmen, bell-ringers, cheap jacks, dealers, medicine men, outcriers, peddlers, pushers, spielers (thank you thesaurus.com). Since I know what I want when I buy electronics, and I don't expect to need a car or a really good suit any time soon, I can generally avoid situations where people are actively trying to convince me to buy something I don't want or need, or, worse yet, where I have to haggle.

And gyms, as far as I can tell, are the worst. They're notorious for giving you free passes to get you to join, and that's fine, but if I'm on the first day of a 30-day pass, I really don't want to have to have a 20 minute conversation in a sales office before I've even worked out! This actually happened to me, and when I explained that I might want to have this conversation again at the end of my trial period, since the whole point was for me to try the place (and its other branches) out, the salesperson appeared completely baffled. She tried to entice me by showing me how to use the club's website which, while very nice, is hardly rocket science.

Also, it's just plain shady how they don't publish their rates, tell you there's a promotion but won't tell you what it is, and insist that you go and meet with someone in person to get any information. I asked three friends today what they pay for NYSC, and got three different answers, with a spread of $30 per month. That's insane!

It's enough to give me a really good excuse to not work out, so wish me luck. Maybe I'll bring the Roomba with me and threaten to sic it on them if they push me too hard.

At last, a solution for everyone!

Can't we all just get along? Here's a rather brilliant solution for the "Do They Know It's Christmas" haters: Band Aid Dilemma.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Eeeeeevilllll

Speaking of being awakened by the phone, when did telemarketers become so evil? I mean, I thought they couldn't get any more evil years ago, and when I wasn't looking they totally did it.

I've just had my cell phone for over a year, and before that my land line number was in the Do Not Call Registry, so it's been a while since I've had to deal with the filthy little beasts. Now we have a new number, and it takes three months for the DNCR to kick in, so our defenses are down, briefly.

All of the messages on the machine, and the handful of calls I've actually picked up, have been from recordings. And not just any recordings, smart recordings that can somehow tell the difference between a human answering and a machine answering and wait for the beep.

If there's any silver lining around the dark cloud of telemarketers, it's the deep satisfaction that comes from yelling at and/or hanging up on them. These machines have taken away my joy!! But seriously, it also means I can't put a stop to them by saying I'm in the DNCR and asking them not to call again. We got called twice yesterday by a local music school inviting us to a free introductory lesson for our child. I'd love to be able to tell them (maybe even politely) that we don't have a child (I don't think Radish would do too well at the piano, what with his lack of attention span and opposable thumbs), but the lady in the recording (who still manages to trip over her words) just can't be reasoned with.

Aw, screw reason! Fucking robots are calling me now! What if they're in cahoots with the Roomba??

It's always refreshing to find someone more pissed off than I

And here she is. (Thanks to MCM for the link.)

Monday, December 06, 2004

Do They Know It's A Moral Quandry?

Despite my recent rant against holiday music, there's one song I'm a complete sucker for, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" That's because my affection for 80s cheese outweighs my disdain for holiday cheese (though not enough for me to ever like the Waitresses' or Paul McCartney's entries into the genre). And because DTKIC was historic. It was, as far as I know, the first all-star charity single of its kind, and it set the stage for Live Aid, Farm Aid, "We Are The World," Hands Across America, and the ill-fated 90s version of "Give Peace A Chance." I also happen to think it's a decent song (though I can't argue with anyone who disagrees with me), and it features some of my favorite artists, a surprising number of which (U2, Duran Duran, Boy George, George Michael, Sting, et. al.) have had enduring careers.

So when I heard Bob Geldof had created Band Aid 20 to address the fact that Africa still needs our help, and rerecord a modern version of the song, I got all excited. I didn't realize it had been released yet until I read this article about a flap that sprung up over downloading the single in the UK. Music download services were marking up the track because it was for charity, and Apple refused, citing its policy of never pricing iTunes tracks over 79p. When accused of being miserly, Apple decided to sell the track for 79p and simply donate money to Band Aid for each download, thus making themselves look like angels and undercutting the competition. Anyway, I got all excited that it was out and opened my own copy of iTunes to get it. One small problem: It's not available in the US.

So I downloaded it on LimeWire.

Now, generally, I don't do the illegal music download thing, finding the ease and security of iTunes worth 99 cents. But I also don't think a song here and there is a big threat to the fabric of our society or the behemoth music industry. But this song is for charity. So while I'm not taking 99 cents out of the pockets of Dido, I am taking it out of the pockets of Ethiopian children! Well, if they had pockets. Metaphorical pockets. Anyway, I went to Band Aid's website, but there doesn't seem to be a way to contribute in US Dollars. It's all a little bit upsetting.

The song's not half bad though! The synthesized "clanging chimes of doom" accompaniment of the original has been replaced by a very tasteful piano/bass arrangement. The voices I recognize (as with the original, there are many Brits who aren't known here) are all people I like, if I'm not exactly a fan (Chris Martin, Dido, Robbie Williams). The one odd casting choice is having Bono (and only Bono) reprise his line from the original. It's always been a troublesome lyric -- "Well tonight, thank god it's them instead of you" -- and the fact that Bono sounds like absolute shite this time around doesn't help matters at all. Also questionable is the dreadful guitar solo/duel that seems to have taken the place of the endless chorus of "Feed the world" from the original.

It's a good cover over all, which makes me feel all the more guilty that I didn't pay for it! Apparently Bob Geldof thinks that only Brits are interested in feeding the world and letting them know it's Christmastime again!

Friday, December 03, 2004

It has landed

My mom, god bless her, has given us a Roomba as a housewarming present.

Now that it's in actually in the house, Boy and I have completely reversed our positions on the little monster.

"The way the charging light is blinking," Boy said, "it looks like it's thinking."

"...About ways to kill us," I said.

"About ways to clean," said Pollyanna.

"Ways to clean up our bodies."

Maybe it's the unmitigated disaster of the LitterMaid that has me worried, but seeing it live and in person is so different from the commercials...it's so big...and red.

Well, if you don't hear from me again, you'll know what happened. At least the apartment will be clean.

I may have to kill myself...

...if I hear another goddamn Christmas song before December 24th. Contrary to my crumudgeonly facade, I really do like the holidays. Hello, there are presents involved! People give me shit for no real reason! Who wouldn't love that? And I'm ready. I wasn't before, but I am now. It's cold (possibly flurries tomorrow!), Chanukah starts in a week, parties abound, decorations are pretty and make me smile, and on a purely technical level, it's December.

But enough is enough. New York has terrible FM radio (which has always surprised me, 'cause it's, you know, New York, and we're supposed to have good everything except manners and air) and I hardly ever listen to it. When I do, it's often around other people (at work, say, when there's no other means to entertain ourselves), so I tend to gravitate toward the bland and inoffensive adult-skewing Top 40 station (more Sheryl Crow, less Jessica Simpson, and a reasonably entertaining and almost intelligent morning show), or the bland and inoffensive "light" station (hits of the 70s, 80s, 90s and today!). (Other options include the younger-skewing Top 40 station that plays bands with names like Hoobastank that make me feel very old indeed, a dance station that's bad enough in the background at the gym, an R&B station whose DJs do things to the English Language that I wouldn't wish on Osama Bin Laden, and a "classic rock" station that apparently only owns four albums.)

Both of these stations -- not one, but both -- switched to an all-Christmas format on Thanksgiving. Is that really necessary? TWO radio stations in a single broadcast area playing 24/7 Christmas music? Who on earth thought that was a good idea? People seem to forget several key points here. One, that most holiday music is bad. Sure, we all have our favorites (of the modern ones, "Do They Know It's Christmas" is mine, and the U2 version of "...Baby, Please Come Home"), but even a classic carol can be ruined by a bad arrangement or Mandy Moore. Second, there just aren't enough holiday songs to fill a month. Sure, there are multiple recordings of the same songs, but those wear thin. And especially since in our travels we hear holiday music in many different sources, we tend to hear the same handful of the most popular numbers endlessly. Third, who wants to listen to one and only one style of music (and an awfully specific one, at that!) for an entire month?

The radio, at least, can be turned off or tuned out. It's shopping that kills me. And not just in the obvious Christmasy places like Macy's (not that I would ever set foot in Macy's this time of year), it's drug stores and supermarkets and Staples. There's no escape at all.

It was bad enough "Jingle Bell Rock" (perhaps the most hateful modern holiday song this side of "Christmas Shoes") was playing in Bath and Body Works, but one of the sales clerks had the chutzpah to actually jingle some bells at me. I nearly hit her. Lest I be accused of complete Scroogery, one of the items in my basket (and actually, the best bludgeoning weapon there) was a pine scented candle. I've got the fucking holiday spirit, dammit!

I didn't even notice until I got back to the office that my shopping bag says "I'm a Santa" on the side of it. No, actually, I am not a Santa. Leaving aside that I'm Jewish, I did not, in fact, buy a single gift at Bath and Body Works. I bought three items for myself. I am only a little bit chubby, am most certainly not jolly, and will freely admit that little people creep me out a little bit. How dare you label me, Bath and Body Works?

Give me my presents and stop singing already. I can't take another 23 days of this.

So this is what it's like to work a 5-day 9-5 workweek...

grmph hrm mrphn shmrpn