7/30/2008

Now Whiter!

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon this stack of boxes in the back of our office.



It's a bunch of Xerox paper. You know, for printing shit on. Because that's how we roll. But look closer ...



This paper is whiter than ever, according to the packaging. Already, I am trembling at the whiteness within. It will be blisteringly white. It will be so vanilla as to make the snowy Swiss Alps appear positively chartreuse by comparison.

This also got me to thinking. Aren't there other things out there that deserve the same distinction as this excitingly over-radiant batch of dead trees?

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A Bad Boy Indeed

Sean "Puffy Daddy Diddy" Combs was born in Harlem and went to the historically black Howard University in Washington, D.C. Now he makes records with Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake and does Burger King commercials.



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Ketchup Fried Rice

Frightened by ethnic food? Have no fear! They now have ethnic restaurants that are unthreatening to the blandly boring brain. Their bizarrely foreign menu items are given wholesome American names, like Crispy Honey Chicken and Orange Peel Beef.



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Pound It

The first time I can remember seeing the pound performed was on "Da Ali G Show" in 2004, but I am pretty sure I saw and/or participated in a fist jab prior to that. Ordinarily, the fact that something had risen to my level of awareness would mean it had reached critical mass of whiteness, but ironically, it took a black married couple to turn the pound truly white. As evidence, I direct you to this article in USA Today about people bumping fists in the workplace, and whether this meaningless gesture can somehow be made less meaningless through the attentions of the nation's largest newspaper. Answer: no. (Pound fists in celebration.)



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But I'm Pretending To Be Vegan To Impress Chicks



Bacon-wrapped hot dogs would not ordinarily be liked by white people, but after the L.A. County Health Department moved to shut down the mostly Hispanic street vendors who sell them, they became instantly hip(ster). Blogs everywhere began asserting that their authors "have always loved" bacon-wrapped dogs. Libertarian rag Reason posted an online video with noted libertarian and angry white guy Drew Carey complaining about this heavy-handed government oppression, as if he always wandered down Alvarado Street to grab himself some bacon-wrapped hot dogs, tamales, churros, and fake green cards. Naturally, this makes sense because the publicity threw the bacon-wrapped hot dog (which I never saw a white person eating when I lived in L.A.) into several categories noted on famed white blog Stuff White People Like: Diversity, Being The Only White Person Around, Irony, Knowing What's Best for Poor People, and so forth.



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Super Lucky White China Becoming American Whiteness!

To be fair, this is mostly self-inflicted. China has been trying to become more white since Kim Jong-Il and Al Gore invented the Internet, thus exposing this nation of billions to endless ridicule for its poorly translated street signs. From eyelid surgery to aerobic pole dancing to Orange County, China, the PRC is winning a new "Now Whiter!" sticker on a daily basis.



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The Whitest Since McGwire's Rookie Season

And then there's this place. Ever since I moved there last year ...

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7/24/2008

Mr. Sandman, Bring Me An Incomprehensible Series Of Dramatic But Confusing Events

I am not sure what to make of the dream I had last week, except that there are several possible interpretations.

In my dream, I witnessed a pedestrian being struck by a speeding car. I was standing on the sidewalk, and I watched as a woman entered the crosswalk nearby. Then a car approached, and I could see that it was not going to stop at the stop sign. And then she was hit. It was not bloody or anything, but I remember calling 911, and being stymied by the operator, who promised to connect me with either the police or paramedics and never did. I ended up calling back again, and the same thing happened.


Flavor Flav was right.

I later went about my way, heading somewhere else with whoever I was hanging out with. It was morning, and we were in some leafy college town, possibly Berkeley, Portland, or Madison. I soon got a call from an unknown number (while I was still on hold with 911). The call was from the victim. She said she had asked the other witnesses, Who was that guy who saw me about to get hit and said nothing, just stood there, didn’t yell "Look out!" or anything, and they told her it was me. I protested briefly, but her moral indignation came through. I was a terrible human being. Then I woke up.


Watch out, indecipherable symbol from my disturbed unconscious!

I told this story to a group of co-workers as we went for coffee the following afternoon, and one told me that the emotion you feel in a dream is generally the emotion you are feeling in real life that creates that dream. This may or may not be true, but that is what she told me, and who am I to question someone who chose our employer's more costly PPO over the freebie Kaiser plan because it would pay for her therapist?

What I felt coming out of this dream is guilt. More specifically, I felt guilt over my failure to prevent someone from being hurt, and over the fact that I could have done more to make things right. I see two real-world scenarios that could be the cause of these feelings, and hence this dream.

The one that springs immediately to mind is my relatively recently failed relationship. Not surprisingly, I feel bad about being a source of pain for someone I care about, and for temporarily ruining her life. I had seen for a while that things were not going well, and since deciding to end it several months ago, I’ve been wracked with guilt that I didn’t do enough to try to turn things around, or that I should have figured out long ago how our relationship would end, and dealt with it back then instead of letting the situation get worse. So to get all Freudian, you could say the woman in the crosswalk was my former girlfriend; the car was the impending end of our relationship; the 911 call was my too-little-too-late attempt to fix things (by dumping her), which failed -- hence the inability to summon an ambulance; and her follow-up call was my own guilt.

The other possibility may be more likely, if only because it is more timely, and more connected to my actual life obsessions from the last few weeks. The union where I work is currently embroiled in a nasty battle with our international affiliate, which (to make an extremely long and wonky story short) is attempting to rip 65,000 of our members away from us and shove them against their will into another local union that has crummier contracts. If this fascinates you, I encourage you to check out www.seiuvoice.org for a whole bunch of propaganda that I wrote about this issue. Anyway, while myself and all my co-workers are fighting hard to prevent this travesty, the reality that we may very well lose has been lurking behind everything we do, since the deck is stacked against us. So it's possible to see the pedestrian as my beloved union members, the speeding car as the International Union that is about to ruin everything, and the 911 call as my frustrated attempts to stop this disaster, which it may be beyond my power to do.

There is also a third and more unsettling interpretation. What if my dream was not about guilt at all? What if it was actually about fear -- fear of something that may happen, or be happening right now? What if the dream was more about me? It was, after all, my dream. And this is, after all, my blog. So what's happening in my life that could spawn a dream like this one? Perhaps it is my uncertainty about my own direction in life, what with graduate school and failed relationships and part-time work and possibly unattainable goals.

I've always been rather culturally conservative with my own life -- I work office jobs, I don't take a lot of risks, I stay in one place and do the same thing for long periods of time. However, in the past 18 months I've changed careers, moved 400 miles, dumped my girlfriend, and gone back to school. I also turned 30. These things have a way of making you think about the big picture of your life. So maybe the woman in the crosswalk wasn't someone else. Maybe she was me. Maybe the dream is about my fears of what may happen to me after shaking up my previously placid and predictable existence, and how I might not be able to see it coming, or stop it, or get through to someone who can help me after it happens. Whatever it ends up being.

This is why dream interpretation is bullshit.

7/19/2008

Forget Adopt-A-Highway. Someone Adopt Our Parking Lot.

Part Two of the Things Found In My Work Parking Lot series. Part One is here.

It's Not Weed (Damn It)



The weeds growing in our parking lot need to be hit with Roundup or something.

For Perspective's Sake



You could, like, hide a body in there or something. A small one, anyway.

Not A Pineapple



This is some sort of fruit, or something. It is more rotten now than when I took the picture.

Look Closer. Not American Beauty.



This appears to just be some trash strewn about a weed-strewn parking lot. Lot of strewing going on here. But if we employ the handy zoom feature ...

Craigslist Casual Encounters?



I didn't feel like getting close enough to find out which variety of condom was in the wrapper.

Also Not Barbie's Size



No photo collage is complete without someone's disgusting underwear. This is a bra, for those of you not familiar with ladies' undergarments. But something is amiss.

Weird



It's still clasped. How did she get it off?

A-ha.



This must be why the straps are missing. I guess he just ripped it right off of her. I know it's difficult for most dudes to unhook a bra, but damn.

Classy Sign



Nothing says "official parking regulations" like a beat-up old sign leaning against a back wall. And peeling lead paint. Look closely and you can see the syringe again.

That's all from the parking lot, folks. Tune in next time, when we profile the files discovered on a laptop I bought on eBay. Big surprise: there's porn.

7/15/2008

Also, Cars. Sometimes Mine.

The following post consists of Things Spotted In My Work Parking Lot. It's part one of two. And unlike previous blog posts where I promised a Part Two, there will actually be a sequel to this one. Promise.

Although these photos were not all taken on the same day, all of these things are still in the parking lot right now. Because I checked. Today.

Barbie's Leg



Let's get this started off with a bang, shall we? Somewhere in Oakland, a little girl is playing with a one-legged Barbie. Somewhere near our parking lot.

Dead Squirrel



As far as I can tell, this was at one time a squirrel or a rat or something. It must have gotten run over, and then dried up during a heat wave. Gross.

Smirnoff Ice Bottle, Broken



The only question is, did they drink it all before smashing the bottle? Because that shit ain't so good.

Silent Headphones



This is a set of headphones, with the headphones cut off. So it's really just a cord. Useful.

Festive Balloons



To be fair, these balloons may very well be the responsibility of my employer. Our "colors," as it were, are purple and gold. No, I do not work for the Lakers. Do you think I would still be friends with you losers if I did?

Specific Reference



The Bay Area Black Yellow Pages, 2008. This is the only item I found in the parking lot that I actually touched. I flipped it over to see which yellow pages it was.

You Put Your Weed In It



This appears to be some sort of hacky-sack ripoff, because there's no other use for a ball made of synthetic leather and full of stuffing. I can only assume this is what the ball is made of, because I did not touch it.

It Skips Sometimes



Along with the other trash, next to some weeds, is a CD. I suspect it is no longer listenable.

But It's Not Barbie's Size



This is a sock.

Still Life With Heroin



So, what's that up against the wall, next to the broken shards of glass and the concrete stump?

Mainlining It



Yes, it's a disposable syringe, with the cap on. And just to clarify: this syringe has been sitting in our parking lot for more than a year. I wonder if I could still get AIDS from using it.

Part Two is coming in a few days.

7/09/2008

But What If You Lose The $100 Pen?

David Pogue at the New York Times has an article that profiles several products that are designed to help you keep track of everything you write down. Silly me, I thought paper is what let you keep track of everything you write down. No, it turns out that they make pens that capture your scribbles as a digital image and then either store them as JPEGs on a flash drive, or, like, automatically e-mail them to you or something. I don’t know the details because I couldn’t be bothered to read the entire story.

Such a pen has numerous uses and potential markets, but I’m not really sure which is the primary one. Is it for people who are so wired that they need every thought that occurs in their Starbucks-addled brains to be saved in electronic form, rather than on a piece of paper? I suppose, but those people already have BlackBerrys and iPhones and all sorts of other toys that let you type out your thoughts with ease. I, for one, composed an entire short story on my BlackBerry earlier this year while waiting for the subway. (Let's just say that this story killed when I read it to my colleagues back in May.)

Maybe the magic pen is for people who can’t be bothered to retype their hand-written notes into a computer. We’re all aware of how much more useful a Word document is than a piece of paper with the same words on it. I can’t delete my own illegible scrawls, or make them italics, or spell-check them at the click of a button. Not that I need to; my writing is perfect. Nonetheless, I again question how useful the digital pen is for these customers. It will take just as long to transfer a few JPEG files and re-read them as it would to unfold a post-it or cocktail napkin and retype it. And Pogue says the handwriting recognition software is not any good, so you’ll have to retype anyway.

However, I can offer a personal experience that provides another use for this piece of hardware, and that’s for making a backup copy of whatever you’re writing down. I cannot describe how annoyed I was in March when I lost the journal that I had been keeping for some six months, after leaving it at Central Library in downtown Los Angeles during spring break.


Have you seen me?

This was not a journal in the sense that it contained my deepest, most personal thoughts, mostly because I do not have any thoughts like that. No one will stumble upon my journal in the library stacks and be embarrassed on my behalf after they read about my schoolgirl crush on Jock McKevin, the captain of the football team. Even though he is really dreamy.

No, my journal was a repository of randomly jotted notes, mostly story ideas and some elaborated thoughts for essays and other writings. The loss of this document was devastating. The whole point of writing all those ideas down was so that I could return to them later on without having to remember them in my brain. My brain is barely able to remember what I told my boss to do ten minutes ago, let alone some crazy short story idea about a robot ninja dinosaur that I thought up while sitting on a plane to Burbank back in November. THAT'S WHY I FUCKING WROTE IT DOWN. SO I WOULDN'T HAVE TO REMEMBER.


Artist's rendering ©2008.

Ah, well. If only they had invented the USB pen before last March. Because, you see, I also had written down in that steno pad some fascinating ideas for posts on this very blog. But you will never get to enjoy them, my darling readers, because they are lost to eternity now, thanks to my bungling ineptitude and the unfriendliness of the Los Angeles Public Library's lost-and-found department.

And that's just sad.