0

Surely You Joust

No weekend is ever complete around my parents’ house without the local Jewish periodical, which in Baltimore is bears the ever-so-creative title of The Jewish Times. Technically, it’s Baltimore Jewish Times, and around here, it’s known as the BJT, for short. And speaking of short, is it ever these days; the economy has administered a beating to print publications, and what used to be a thick volume is now smaller than some of the folders I got when I was apartment hunting.

Though they’ve had some good stories over the years, they’re not exactly known for their editing process. Growing up, it was a Friday-evening post-dinner game, “find the errors in The Jewish Times.” Usually, there were only a few, and sometimes they were funny. But sometimes, completely wrong. For example, when my family’s synagogue hired a new rabbi a few years back, someone wrote a lovely article about him and congratulated him on his new position as rabbi of Ner Israel. Except…the synagogue’s name is Ner Tamid. Ner Israel is a school, specifically a yeshiva, that is just as well respected as Ner Tamid, but is not at all related despite having a somewhat similar name. Anyone who’s Jewish and from Baltimore could tell you that. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it was just once – everyone makes mistakes – however, it was sprinkled throughout the whole article. Whoops. Sometimes the most interesting things in there are the letters to the editor pointing out the flaws and mistakes. Those are always fun.

Anyway, this week, I opened up to this article, entitled “Maryland’s State Sport Takes to the Holy Land,” by Simone Ellin.

“Wonderful!” I thought, as I prepared to read a lovely piece about our illustrious and unique state sport.

But there were no foils or fillies to be found: it was about lacrosse.

WHAT?

Our state sport is not lacrosse, it is jousting. Every fourth-grader in Maryland knows that. Even my mother, who in all her years of teaching never made it past the third grade, knew that’s what our state sport was. That’s one of the few things that we have that makes us cool. Sure, we have an awesome flag, great shellfish (from what I’ve been told), and daytime talk show host Kathie Lee Gifford, but jousting is what gives us the edge; it makes up for our boring license plates, our crappily-designed state quarter, and the fact that there is no clear consensus on how to even pronounce the name of our state. Unlike most major sports, however, jousting never really took off recreationally. None of our schools have jousting teams. Dick’s and other fine sporting goods retailers do not carry lances in their stock. And, sadly, even though equestrian events have a place at the Olympics, jousting has never been one of them.

This led me to wonder: what would it be like if we took our state sport as seriously as our state bird, the Baltimore Oriole? The Baltimore Oriole has not only lent its colorful wings but its name to our sports community, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the state who isn’t aware that our state’s baseball team = our state bird. We’ve already got the horse entertainment market partially covered with the Preakness Stakes, so expanding our horizons to jousting can’t be that much of a stretch. What would our state’s jousting team name be? The Maryland Marauders? And of course, there would need to be a commissioned league or something, so we could lord over (no pun intended) the New York Knicker-Knights (pun…intended?). Schools would need more green space in order to keep the horses. There would be jousting scholarships. There could be all sorts of medieval merchandise sold at games, like big turkey legs, and you’d have to dress up in period attire to attend, because that is what you do, obviously. And of course, there’d be the first thrust, done by some famous celebrity associated with horses, like…Benedict Cumberbatch from War Horse. Kids could join in the fun too; we’d have Little Leagues for aspiring knights in shining armor. In these times of equal opportunity, the sport would be open to women and girls as well. Reruns of The Saddle Club would have ratings that went through the roof. All disputes would be settled on horseback. Instead of voting for mayor or governor, there would be a duel. Somehow, I think Stephanie Rawlings-Blake could totally hold her own.

Back in the real world, I glazed through the article and then decided to look up Ms. Ellin. According to her Facebook, she’s not even a born and bred Marylander, she’s from – you guessed it – New York. And yes, that did need both highlight and underlining because this explains a lot. Apparently she’s lived here since 1997, but she’s clearly still got a lot to learn. What she definitely needs is a fourth-grade teacher – or a fourth-grader – to look over her work.

Although, to be fair, later that night my dad and I looked it up and though jousting has been our official sport since 1962, lacrosse has been our official team sport since 2003, by which point I was already a sophomore in high school and therefore past the point in my life where I was taught such information. Even though Ms. Ellin squeaks by on a technicality the title is still incorrect, it should say “Maryland’s State Team Sport Takes To The Holy Land.” That would solve the problem aptly even if it did destroy the flow of the title or cost the JT an extra eighty-five cents in color printing per issue. However, this doesn’t address the overarching problem with this situation.

I still want to see an article about Israel’s next Ivanhoe.

Works Cited:

Ellin, Simone. “Maryland’s State Sport [sic] Takes To The Holy Land.” 2 January 2014. Baltimore Jewish Times. <http://jewishtimes.com/marylands-state-sport-takes-to-the-holy-land/#.UsjgGPRDs_Y>

4

Things I Don’t Like: Car Shopping

Today, I agreed to go look at cars with my mom.

I thought it would be fun.

Even though I just found out I have a 4.0 GPA in my doctoral program, my brain just did not think this through.

I remember when my dad took me to look for a new (used) car. I mean, used car salesmen are a different species than new car salesmen, but they’re still both from the same genus. The first place I looked, the car salesmen acted like complete buffoons. They passed me off to one another like I was going to sleep away camp for the first time and they were the counselors. After driving two cars that I didn’t like, with statistics and car facts being casually tossed in a constant stream in my ear. Okay, more like lobbed. When I went to leave, the guy actually said, “let me take you upfront so I can give you your license and we can all say our goodbyes.” Okay, I get what you were driving at (no pun intended) but just take some hints – I’m not interested, so just give me my license and we’ll call it even. I ended up going to a different place where they were nice to me but not overly nice, and ended up buying the first car I tried.

We were “only going to look at two places.” Two times the fun.

At the first place, we were met by this younger guy who seemed kind. My mom asked all the questions and I just kind of stood there for moral support. His appointment came in, so he tagged out for this old guy with both hair and teeth missing, who had a deep voice – not a pleasant bass, more of a “can I get you a drink of water?” voice. We tested the car, and even though he was a new car salesmen, he still didn’t shut up for the whole drive. We left, since my mom wasn’t thrilled with the car, and went to the next place.

The second place, a Toyota dealership, was actually the same place her previous car had come from, so they knew her there. She even had the card of the guy, and called him to ensure that he was there.

2

In A Pickle

After spending a good portion of the last three days in the house (and most of that time asleep), I actually got out of the house and went to Corner Bakery for a sandwich, and then over to Starbucks for a caramel macchiato. Opening the plastic bag, I took out the sandwich I ordered, which came with a bag of chips, and wrapped in a thin, paper napkin inside the plastic container containing the sandwich, was a spear of a pickle.

Most sandwich orders (in America, at least; well, save for Subway) include chips and a pickle. Usually if those items are listed on the menu, I say, no thanks. Most times, they are not, and it’s only after you’ve ordered, received, paid for, and eaten part of the sandwich, that you realize that the pickle is there. Sometimes it’s a whole pickle, but usually it’s just a spear, and usually a mushy spear. I don’t know quite where this tradition originated, but it was probably at a delicatessen somewhere in New York City.

I have mixed feelings about this.

First off, I have nothing against pickles. Yes, they’re high in sodium, don’t really have much in the way of nutritional value, and are about as close to the vegetable family as popcorn, but when pickled correctly, they can be tasty. I’m not too fond of sweet pickles, but dill pickles can be a nice snack once in a while.

But the juicy dill pickle is a far cry from the average deli pickle, which is usually mushy, gross, and tasteless. I am almost convinced that every sandwich shop just has a bucket of these awful, soggy pickles, just like every pizza place has the same tasteless salad, with huge tomato chunks too big to fit in your mouth and tiny shreds of carrots and red cabbage that either get stuck in your teeth, or, if you’re on the go, end up in your lap or on your shirt. Sandwich shops don’t even bother to present the pickles nicely; usually they’re wadded in either cling wrap or a soggy paper napkin.

Taking it out of the sandwich container with contempt, I contemplated what to do with it; eat it, or do something else with it? Eating it has its disadvantages, as I’ve stated above. There are a few things you can do with that undesirable pickle. You can throw it away, but like I previously stated in the plastic cup lid conspiracy post, that would be wasteful. Unlike the lid, this pickle is actual, edible food, so it makes the act a bit more wasteful. On the other hand, who would eat that pickle? If you have a friend that enjoys eating them, and they’re sitting at your table, then you’re in luck. If not, there are very few options. Waving it in the air and yelling “My pickle’s up for grabs!” will get you more than one blank stare, and may get you kicked out of the restaurant. You could always give it back, claiming that you didn’t order it, thereby getting it off your hands with a clean conscience, but somehow I think that it’ll end up in the garbage, even if it is still wrapped in plastic. Any way you slice, you’re either going to have to face that briny cucumber and make a decision that you can live with.

Anyway.

I unwrapped the pickle from its soggy napkin, some of which tore off and remained stuck to it, resulting in me having to peel it off with my fingertips. Trying to forget the sodium content and the bland taste, I sucked it up and sucked it down.

Wow, that is a terrible ending to a story.

Deli pickles are gross and should cease to exist.

But you can always have mine.

Take it.

Please.

0

Anecdote on a Downward Spiral turned Mini-Crisis

One of those things that gets me down is when things go wrong. That kind of gets everyone down, of course, but making things seem like the absolute worst seems like something that habitually happens.

So, the mini-crisis of the day?

I flew home to Maryland. That’s not the crisis (well, except for the overpriced airport pizza from Wolfgang Puck, the mocha frappuccino I spilled on the floor of the Duty Free, and coming out in departures instead of arrivals for some reason, confounding my parents). After four hours in the air, it was time for four hours in the car; first to Chevy Chase to say hi and bye to all the family members I haven’t seen in a year or more (sans my sister who I saw in March, and my cousin Jenn who randomly showed up in Madison a month ago), we turned the car around, crossing Maryland and Delaware and back into Maryland again, arriving at the beach house in Ocean City, where I sit typing this, and no further along on my paper (crap crap crap..::hand to forehead::) After a disappointing Thanksgiving dinner (deli sandwiches, donuts, and some drinks purchased at the Royal Farms in Bridgeville, Delaware) eaten mostly in the car, we got here and as I went to show my mother my brand new iPad…boom. Dark. Dead. Not turning on. I have a paper to do…WTF. Dad looks up the closest Apple store, and though there are computer stores here in town, the two closest Apple stores are in Annapolis, MD, and Newark, DE. And it’s also Thanksgiving. Dad says that we can go back to Baltimore tomorrow or the next day, and I can even go back to Madison if need be. Then, I turn on the TV, and we find out that the cable’s been turned off because it’s winter.

At this point, my mood is just sour. I felt bad for leaving my laptop at home and having nothing to write my paper with but a pen and paper. I can’t do anything but sit on the couch and scrunch my eyes. No crying, fortunately, but I just felt disconnected. Lost. How am I going to get my paper done? I’m not, and I’m going to fail the class, and then fail out of grad school, and then…

So I called Rachel for help. She suggested holding the two buttons on the iPad to reset it. WALLA.

Things immediately get better. My face loosens up, my jaw unclenches, my appetite returns, and now I can do my paper. Or at least find other things to distract me. We can stay here in Ocean City until Saturday night/Sunday morning as planned, and all is right with the world. I still have a paper to do, but now I can actually do it.

This story had no point but at least now I can rest easier tonight knowing that things are working. Also, I’m so mentally drained I can’t think of anything creative to write about, and I haven’t even finished a book so I can’t even do a book review.

In other news, my mother just told me that my father woke her up at 5:00 this morning with a gigantic fart, after which she couldn’t fall back asleep. More details as the story breaks.

2

On Judging A Book By Its Cover

In an unexpected turn of events, this post is exactly how the title sounds.

This afternoon, I spent an hour that I should have been working on my paper browsing Half-Price Books. If you haven’t experienced the glory of Half-Price Books, or live in a city/country where there is none, find the nearest one and go now. Or, when it opens, since it’s almost midnight here in Wisconsin.

Half Price Books (Lego Version)

Half Price Books (Lego Version) (Photo credit: Diorama Sky)

With ebooks, eBay, and Amazon.com, the bookstore suffered a pretty terrible death. All the little ones died first, then Waldenbooks, Gordon’s, pretty much paring them down to Barnes & Noble and the occasional Borders. But somehow, Half-Price Books emerged like a phoenix from the proverbial pile of ash.

When you go into one of their stores, you never know what you’re going to find. It might be a long-lost childhood favorite, a completely obscure title, or even a box of Edward Gorey note cards. And everything’s – you guessed it – half price. And some things are even less.

So today when I went to Half-Price Books, I looked at covers.

Yes, covers.

An old adage says, “never judge a book by its cover.” Well, they’re wrong.

::gasp::

It’s true. The art of the book cover says something about the book. I’ll start with the types of books I usually buy. For fiction and literature, bright colored covers usually mean chick-lit, or something else light and fuzzy. I can go for these types of books, except when I buy them without reading much about it from the back cover and it turns out to be a Christian Young Adult novel. (This has happened.) For a play, usually the cover will be your standard Samuel French or Dramatists pastel. I always wondered about how those colors got picked for each title. That would be the most fun job ever. Biographies and memoirs usually have the author (or whoever’s being ghostwritten about) on the cover, a move that is vain, but then again, he or she is kind of what the book’s about. Still, there are some wonderful biographies/memoirs with pictures on the cover that do not contain the visage of the subject. Mysteries come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors, but usually if it’s got blood or guns on the cover, it’s not as thrilling as the author would like to you think it is. My favorite mysteries are of the “cozy” genre, not too graphic or violent but fun to follow (and figure out, if you’re that type of reader). For example, Susan Wittig Albert’s China Bayles series is named after plants, the corresponding one of which is featured on the cover, and Laura Childs’ Tea Shop mysteries are done up in a tasteful still-life with a matching color palate throughout. You know you’ve got a hit series when any of your books can be spotted from a mile away. Yes, I’m talking to you, Sue Grafton. Fantasy and sci-fi novels have incredibly detailed covers, emblematic of how intense you have to focus in order to follow them. Travel guides often feature a photo of something that is either too abstract to recognize without a caption, or a picture of something you will most likely never witness if you travel to that place, like the sunrise over Mt. Fuji in Japan, the wild elephants of South Africa, or an unpolluted, moonlit view of any large city in America.  Pop lit often features a black cover with a single image like a mask or a candle or a sewing machine or something, as if to say, “you must be Victoria Beckham in order to open me.” And then there’s your romance novel covers, which run the gamut from beautiful to inane to not-safe-to-leave-lying-around-the-house-during-your-kid’s-sixth-birthday-party. The higher budget the novel and the more bankable the novel, the hunkier the guy/the prettier the girl. Some of them end up looking pretty ridiculous – in fact, there are websites such as this one where you can ogle, gawk, and poke fun at the most awful covers from around the world.

The worst ones of all?

Movie tie-in covers. It’s a sad day when you need freakin’ Leonardo DiCaprio to sell The Great Gatsby, a piece of art with reputation Leo can only dream of even coming close to.

0

Platinum Child

You’ve heard of the Golden Child, right? All-American, popular, wealthy, straight As in high school, perfect attendance, grade point average, teeth, and hair?

And that phrase “born with a silver spoon in your mouth?” As in, the top 1%?

Well, this series of interconnected memories is about a person I went to high school with who was neither one of these.

He was worse.

Meet…The Platinum Child.

Disclaimer: For fear of being sued, I’ll just call him Platinum. If you happened to have gone to high school with me or are slightly older or younger, you may or may not know who I’m talking about.

Platinum showed up in my high school in 7th grade. He came equipped with a laptop. He said he had a “learning disability,” but it was basically to show off that he was loaded and not shy about it. Also, that his parents would get for him everything that he wanted and more. His parents also must have given generously to the school, because his behavior was tolerated by just about every teacher. This was in the time before laptops, so everyone was naturally jealous of how we’d be taking notes in history and he’d be playing around with his webcam.

The first time I knew something really wasn’t kosher here was in 8th grade. By this point, we all had laptops and since it was the golden age of AOL Instant Messenger (long before Facebook!), we were constantly chatting on it. So constantly, in fact, that the school completely blocked anything having to do with AIM or AOL. Fair enough, given that five years later, the rest of the world would too, so I guess they were ahead of the curve. For me and most of my other classmates, it was like “well played, school. It was fun while it lasted,” and went back to taking our notes and writing our papers. Platinum and I were in the same science class, and as the teacher was walking around the room while talking about something having to do with physiology, Platinum’s screen caught her eye. His Yahoo! was open (a no-no), and the search term? She helpfully enlightened the rest of us. “AOL Firewall Hacking Technology.” BUSTED. Infuriated, she stopped class and called the principal over the intercom. Well, actually the vice-principal. He came down and took Platinum out of the class for about 90 seconds, and sent him back into the room, saying “we talked about it, and he won’t do it again.” Okay, maaaaybe a first strike, but had it been me? Who knows.

Next stop: 10th grade. Same science class together, same teacher, same room even. It’s first period, and we’re taking a chemistry test. I’m not the best science student, but by this point in my high school career, I’ve figured out what to study and how to take this teacher’s test so that I will get an A (aka, the normal high school student thing). Writing, writing, writing, la dee da…then a tap on my shoulder. It’s the science teacher, and she takes my test away and leads me outside the classroom. I am about to pee in my pants, wondering what I did wrong, when she sits me in a desk, saying “Platinum was sitting behind you copying your answers, so for the rest of the semester, you can take your exams in the hallway so nobody will copy you.”

WTF?

I didn’t really care that much at the time, I was just happy that I wasn’t really in any trouble (even though it sure felt like it!) and what do you know, I did well on the test and got to have my own little bubble while taking it. Later on, I realized that I’d been completely scapegoated by Ms. Science Teacher. For one thing, HE was the one cheating, so shouldn’t HE have been excused from the room, the class, the school? As far as I know, nothing happened to Platty.

And every science test until the end of 10th grade, I had to sit in the hall like a naughty puppy. And it doesn’t even stop there.

Fast forward to 11th grade. By then, Platinum’s got cheating down to an art. His strategy? Whenever we had a test in any period before lunch, he would say something to the teacher along the lines of “I don’t feel ready to take the test, can I take it in the library during lunch?” Of course, the teachers would say yes, and of course, before lunch, he’d have a cheat sheet ready, or an old copy of the same test. The librarian (read: barbarian) was supposed to “watch” student test-takers in this situation, but she usually had better things to do. No, not tequila, but usually harassing all the students, but that’s a story for another time.

Anyway, Platinum’s cheating was a known fact among the students by this point, and for one guy in our grade, it ground his gears so much that he set up a sting operation. Camera phones were not too common by this point in time, at least not among us high school students, but he had one – no word on whether it was his or his parents’.

I’ll call him Cam.

So here’s what happened:

Platinum did his normal lunch-test-taking thing. As he entered the library, Cam was already there, just hanging out at a computer nonchalantly, doing his thing. Platinum pulled into a study carrel, took out several pieces of paper, and started with the dirty deed. While he was setting up shop, Cam had pulled a book out of a nearby bookshelf a short distance away, and was pretending to read, but instead focused his camera on Platinum and acquired the incriminating evidence. That night, he uploaded them onto his computer, enlarged them, cropped them, and made them black-and-white to really bring out the contrast. The pictures clearly showed Platinum with his test on the desk, a pencil in his right hand, and another piece of paper marked with a big bold A across the top. It’s almost like Platty wasn’t even trying to hide it. The next day, Cam brings in the pictures and shows them to a few students along with an anonymously written letter addressed to our principal (who was a complete moron) explaining exactly what was going on in the pictures, as if it wasn’t evident enough. Between classes, he pulled aside some students, showed them everything, and asked them to sign along the bottom, so Cam could maintain his identity should the plan backfire. As head of the high school photography staff, I was impressed with the results, and this combined with my complete dislike of Platinum made me grab the first writing utensil I saw (it was a black pen, I remember) and sign my name in the boldest letters I could. By the end of the day, he’d gotten a bunch of signatures from students, and at least one teacher, who all promised to keep his secret. He slipped the items into a blank manila envelope and under the door of our principal’s office. Mission complete.

The result?

Well, the next day, we went to school. It was a normal day, and then…

…we went home.

Nothing happened.

Nothing.

Granted, we don’t know if he’d had some sort of parent-teacher conference, or had an out-of-school requirement, but as far as we could see, nothing, nada, zip.

And that’s not even the worst part.

Here we are, first semester, senior year. Platinum and I are in the same second period class taught by Rabbi Awfulbaum. Rabbi Awfulbaum was probably not a horrible person, but he also had a pulpit that semester, therefore rendering his unable to teach 75% of his classes. So, it was basically either study hall or take a quiz on the homework and readings under the “watchful” eye of a sub.

So, one day, Rabbi Awfulbaum is out on official rabbi business (big shocker) and we’re given a quiz, overseen by today’s patsy, Rabbi Naiveman. The quiz is relatively short. Among the first to finish are Platinum and a friend of his. He goes to turn in his paper, and asks if he and his friend can go get a drink. “Sure,” says Rabbi Naiveman (spoiler alert: bad move). The rest of us keep working.

Time ticks by, and most of us are done with the quiz and are either doing homework or just sitting and talking. Rabbi Naiveman realizes he hasn’t seen either of the boys since the first ten minutes of the ninety-minute period, and he’s starting to wonder how getting a drink could take so long. Another student leaves the room for the same purpose and comes back a few minutes later, upon which Rabbi Naiveman asks him if he’s seen the two of them, to which the student says no. He asks one or two of the boys in class if they could go find Platinum and Friend, who are probably just roaming the halls or making trouble. They return after a walk around the school, and like the guy before, they haven’t seen them. It’s been an hour at this point, and Rabbi Naiveman is getting nervous. He intercoms the main office, asking them to make an announcement for Platinum and Friend to return to the main office. He lets us out a few minutes early so he can go to the main office and explain that two students left class and didn’t come back.

Third period happens, then lunch, then fourth period. Several more announcements go over the intercom. The two students are officially missing. Fifth period comes and goes, and no one can say that they’ve seen them either in or out of school, and nobody knows where they went.

I don’t actually know exactly how things unfolded after that. I believe that the police came, or at least a call was made. Students and teachers were genuinely worried. School ended, and we all went home, wondering what became of Platinum and Friend. Rabbi Naiveman was probably crying off in a corner somewhere, or at least redoing his resume and looking at the want ads.

The next day, I went to school, and still knew nothing, but that they weren’t there. As usual, the school did a crappy job of covering up what actually happened, but word got around that they’d been found, at a 7-11. Just hanging out, or whatever it is that scummy 18-year-olds do when they cut school and nearly give the administration a heart attack.

Here are two versions of what I heard happened:

1) Someone (a parent, or a student who’d left early that day) had seen them at the 7-11, and either called in a tip or came to school to give them the news, whereupon one of their parents or someone from the school went out to said 7-11, found them there, and took them home. And then spanked them and sent them to bed without supper.

2) They actually came back to school after the school day had ended but before everyone had left, and walked in as if nothing happened, got busted, and sent straight home to get spanked and sent to bed without supper.

Either way, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Although Platinum’s Friend rejoined us for the remainder of the year, claiming “it wasn’t his idea,” and getting to graduate with us but not attend graduation, this was the end for Platinum. He was finally gone. Kicked out. Expelled. Game over.

I didn’t shed one tear for him, but I did wonder what would happen to his life now that his permanent record included getting kicked out of a private high school, where he lied, cheated, and broke the rules constantly. Plus, he had a horrible personality. And he was not nice, either. I wondered if I’d see him serving me pizza, or bagging groceries down at the store.

Well…I was wrong.

In 2005, Facebook happened. As college freshmen, all of us added each other as friends. I searched Platinum’s name…and learned that he was indeed attending college, a private university somewhere in New York.

An actual university.

WHAT THE HELL?

He wasn’t the Devil Incarnate, but you tell me: if you or I pulled all the crap that he did, where would we be right now? Probably in prison, or working at a K-Mart somewhere.

And all because his mommy and daddy had enough money to get his record expunged, or at least the connections to get him into a university.

I don’t like to use the word “hate” anymore, but I’m at about one level separated from using the word. I dislike this. I dislike him. I dislike him. This is just plain wrong.

Am I just jealous? No, not in the least. I had my own issues in high school, but managed to get myself together enough to survive without much carnage. Am I bitter? Not really, no. Yeah, I was made to feel like a dog, but since high school, I’ve gotten to go to university, graduate with honors, spend a year overseas, and be awarded things based on merit, talent, and hard work, rather than a trust fund. So, how do I feel? Other than disgusted at him, his family, our school, and the system that rewards people who behave badly if they can afford to pony up the green, I kind of feel sorry for him. I wonder if he’s reflected on anything he’s done, anything he’s done. I wonder if he wished he’d done things differently, and regretted. I wonder if he’s found fulfillment in something, and if he’s become a better person.

And then I usually think of something else. Crap, it’s 1 AM, I’m still on the couch in my sweats and I need to shower and get into bed so I can get some reading done or something.

The last time I ever saw him was at a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike. My dad and I were driving from Amherst to Baltimore during a break, and while stuck in a horrible clog of traffic, my bladder decided to turn into the Hindenburg, so we drove illegally on a shoulder until we got to a rest stop, whereupon I ran through the building, clutching my stomach, to the nearest toilet. While I was running, he was walking in the other direction and I’m sure he didn’t notice me but I immediately recognized him. Only now he was much taller, thicker in the chest and arms, had a little more facial hair, and clad in a standard scumbag-possibly-still-living-in-the-90s ensemble: oversized white wife beater, baggy jeans, cap turned to the side, and a Jewish star on a chain around his neck, walking with the swagger of someone who used the word swagger in daily conversation. It was just a brief glimpse, but it told me all I needed to know about who Platinum was today.

Anyway. I made it to the bathroom on time, and had such a relieving post-urination afterglow that I forgot all about what I just saw.

0

Foodies? What?

First of all, I’d like to dedicate today’s post to my friend Joann, a loyal reader of my blog, so happy birthday, Joann!

The rest of this post has absolutely nothing to do with you at all though.

Ranting is not a hobby of mine – I try not to let little things bother me too much anymore, but sometimes things frustrate me because I don’t quite understand them. So don’t take this as a complaint, but rather as something that I find puzzling, pretentious, and overall, just odd.

Foodie.

So I’ve heard this term being thrown around for awhile, and don’t quite know what it means, but it makes absolutely no sense to me. All of us are humans, and all of us need to eat food to survive. It doesn’t matter whether you have a lobster dinner or a cup of beans – food is food. Sustenance, nourishment, fuel for your brain and body. As far as I know, most people like eating at least one type of food. Even finicky four-year-olds will eventually break down and eat something. Unless you’re allergic to every food in the world, are on a feeding tube,or are on hunger strike, chances are, you’re consuming food at some point during your day. Lately I’ve been eating tiny bits and pieces of things when I get around to it, but yeah, I eat, hopefully at least a few times a day. Simply put, everyone likes food.

What I don’t get is, why people call themselves foodies. What is a foodie? What does it mean? Someone who likes to eat food? I eat food. You eat food. Former teen pop star Deborah Gibson eats food. So…doesn’t that make all of us foodies? Which destroys the purpose of the specialized term?

“But wait, Jacob, I have refined tastes in food.”

Um, doesn’t everyone? Just because you enjoy sushi, iced caramel macchiatos, and pigs-in-a-blanket does mean that someone else, somewhere else in the world (who doesn’t call themselves a foodie) doesn’t? I think that everyone appreciates well-cooked food. It’s not like you go to a restaurant and say, “yeah, I’ll have the uncooked meat, with the inedible slop sauce on the side, and something that’s so burnt that you can’t tell if it’s food or a decomposing animal? Oh, and a Mountain Dew.” People like eating food. Most people, when given the chance to eat exotic, expensive, or delicious food, wouldn’t be so picky or turn it down. They’d eat it. They’d either enjoy it, or not enjoy it, but either way, they’d shut up about it. Besides, not all foods are inherently better tasting than others – everyone possesses a different palate. I’ve eaten pizza and hamburgers that were out of this world, and had cute, tiny, and ultimately tasteless salads and fancy desserts that were beautiful but dry, or spongy, or if I was on that episode of Friends, filled with meat, but, that doesn’t make any sort of food more valuable than any other. Just because the food costs more or requires more effort to make, that doesn’t put you above or below anyone else. It all comes out of you the same way anyway.

“But what about professional food critics/wine critics?”

Okay…now that’s a profession, not a quality of a person. That person may be paid to write reviews of places like Olive Garden (if you haven’t read the review of the first Olive Garden in Grand Forks, North Dakota, you are missing out on one of the simplest joys of life, no joke), they aren’t necessarily always eating high-end haute-cuisine every night. Food critics probably eat some meals much like the rest of us – hurriedly and with our fingers – and some may even enjoy Burger King or Subway, any day of the week. And chances are, if you’re reading this and you call yourself a foodie, you’re probably not a food or wine critic in your daily life – you’re just a person with preferences for certain types of food.

So, I went to Professor Wikipedia, where I found this definition:

foodie is a gourmet, or a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages. A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out for convenience or hunger. While gourmet and epicure can be used as synonyms they have fallen out of favor and bring to mind a stodgy or snobbish attitude. (Wikipedia.org)

Hmmm. Sometimes I like to go out to new restaurants and try new foods. That’s how most people decide what they like and what they don’t like. It’s called using your right of choice to select what you put in your mouth. And that last sentence, about gourmet and epicure falling out of favor? Please. Those words actually sound like you know what you’re talking about when it comes to how you like your food. And the word foodie? Not a bit less “stodgy or snobbish.”

Also on the Wikipedia page, it had a link, under a section entitled “Criticism of the word.” So apparently, I’m not alone. This link led me to a blog post by James Norton on Salon.com called “Chow Down, Dude”. In it, Norton interviews a guy named Chris Onstad, who apparently writes a comic strip about food, and cute animals, which I will read one day and spend several hours ignoring all other responsibilities. In the interview, this exchange happened:

NORTON: Speaking personally as a blogger who once invoked the word “foodie” when writing about your strip, I’m now painfully aware that this is not a term you care for. What’s your distaste for the word “foodie”?

ONSTAD: The first time I ever heard a friend say it, the hair on the back of my neck stood up, my gut twisted, and I felt angry for some reason. Why do we need this fake new word? There are so many words that already describe the concept of people who like food, or enjoy cooking, or enjoy knowing about cooking. “Foodie”: It’s like the infantile diminutive — you put a “y” on the end of everything to make it childlike. We don’t need it. It’s embarrassing. “I’m a foodie.” Oh my God (Norton).

Chris Onstad, I don’t know you, but THANK YOU. “Oh my God” kind of says it all. I’m all for hipster-ness, but it is indeed embarrassing in its pretentiousness. It doesn’t make you sound smarter, it actually makes you sound like kind of a jerk, almost implying that you’re so special that you don’t eat normal-people food but instead you eat sparkly-unicorn-magic food that flies out of a giant kitchen in the sky staffed by angels and served to you by Jesus onto a tiny little snowflake-shaped seven-grain “artisan” cracker. No. That is not true. You eat food, and then you go on with your life. Simple as that. Get over yourself, people.

And if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to eat a hot, steaming plate of boiled inedibles, with an exquisite creme brulee for dessert.

Mmm, creme brulee.

Works Cited

Norton, James. “Chow Down, Dude.” Salon.com10 April 2007. <http://www.salon.com/2007/04/10/onstad_qa/>.

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Types of People I Dislike On Facebook

These are some types of people I dislike on Facebook.

 

1) The Facebook Guru.

Example: “Life’s not about how many breaths you take, it’s about the moments that take your breath away.”  – Someone ❤

So many of my friends do this all the time, and I don’t get it. It’s like, are you the next great American (or insert nationality here) guru? Have you made some intense epiphany, and instead of sharing what it is, post some crappy platitude about it? That’s why Facebook has a “quotes” section in your profile, you moron. Especially when two or more quotes are posted in a row. Well, now what am I supposed to believe? And…do you actually know who this person is, or if they actually said the quote? There was a cool BuzzFeed the other day about misattributed and misappropriated quotes, from Shakespeare to Audrey Hepburn. Marilyn Monroe seems to be the biggest scapegoat – she probably wasn’t that witty in real life. I mean, she started out as a factory worker. A welder, I believe. Then she was an actress. Welder + pinup girl actress does not = great guru of a generation. And posting some probably made-up quote makes you look like an idiot. Look, I can make up a quote too!

“This world is not only one where we can look up at the future, but dig up the past.” – Elmer Helfensprudle ❤ archaelogy ❤

“A pencil may not be a pen, but it has a point.” – Mary Cecilia Potter-Wallace, 18th century English poet

“A lover is like a brassiere: he should be soft, he should support and uplift you, and when he is released in bed, you should feel free.” – um…Marilyn Monroe?

2) The Facebook Prayer Warrior

Example: “My prayers go out to Nigeria – 54 dead today 😦 6.10.13 😦 ”

Ok, so most of these are probably pretty sincere. Hurricane Sandy, Sandy Hook, Boston, etc. Some are not so important. But first – do you really care that much? Second – are you really praying? Third – Did you even spend time meditating on anything today? Fourth – does it make you a better person? Fifth – Are you doing it just because everyone else is? Answers: 1) No, probably not, just doing it because it seems appropriate, everyone else is doing it, and maybe someone will give me a like. 2) and 3) I know most of my friends pretty well, and some I can conceivably see praying every day, but most, probably not. 4) No. It does not change anything that happened, and it does not make you a better person. It usually makes you look a little desperate for attention, in my opinion. 5) Yes. It’s okay to put important news on Facebook, but just clogging up the feed by repeating 86 other peoples’ statuses without even offering me any new information, news-wise or personal, is a waste of feed space for me. Ugh. I can’t even. Moving on.

3) Posting that Your Life is Awesome

Example: “My life is so awesome right now. I love my job. So blessed <3”

BUT IS IT? Because mine might be, or it might not. If it is, then whatever. If it’s not, well then, screw you. Bragging about how awesome your life is is something that shouldn’t be done in real life, so why do it here? Actually, in real life, people usually tell you more about how much their life sucks, rather than sitting around basking in their own glow all day – but apparently Facebook is the place to vaguely bask. This happens mostly with my young actor friends. Being in the theatre field but not an actor (well, primarily) and reading these posts from you – ok, so you’re doing something that you like and worked hard for…good for you? You don’t see people like “I cut an old lady’s hair today and made her smile – I love being a hairdresser,” or “Changed a tire for someone on the freeway. He said thank you. AAA = best life ever,” but some of those people may enjoy their jobs just as much as you do, but they shut the hell up about it. Also, some of us losers don’t get to have these opportunities and don’t want to live vicariously through your ridiculously amazing life and your awesome Facebook statuses. Rarely do I post anything about dramaturgy being “effing amazing” or “so incredible” unless I do something really, really cool like that time I carried rocket shells through the streets of Jerusalem for the Israeli government. Either tell us something cool about what happened to you, or just shut up. Well, mostly, just shut up, because no one cares that you got to ride a horse or dance dressed up like a swan or die in a sword fight. It’s not a sin to be happy, but keep it in your pants a little more often, people. Also, “blessed?” Overused and on the dislike list. Meh.

In short? Status does not = status symbol.

This rant has been brought to you by Facebook and annoying people on it.

Also, adding to the words/phrases I dislike list: “working backwards,” “polish,” “fella/fellow,” “I’m beat,” “straight play.”

Oh, and even though I did get to do dramaturgy today, and make a presentation to actors, two things I enjoy doing and I went to school to learn (read: largely teach myself) how to do and want to keep continue doing, today sucked.