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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: May 10-May 16, 2003

Friday, May 16, 2003:

If you're in a position where you could part with a little money, this couple's apartment burned down, and they lost all their worldly possessions (including, horrifyingly, their puppy). So some kind people in the Television Without Pity family set up a donation fund here, where you can send them a little money to help them get back on their feet, if you're able to and you feel like it. Tell 'em Willie sent you, and they'll act very confused.

More later, maybe.

CURRENT MUSIC: A Rush of Blood to the Head by Coldplay.
CURRENT MOOD: Really sad about that puppy.
TIME: 9:08 PM

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Wednesday, May 14, 2003:

A couple odd coincidences today. At work, I was talking about my job fair experience- most likely using many of the same "clever" turns of phrase I wrote yesterday, because I have a tendency to cannibalize myself that way- and Jon and I realized that we both were suckered into attending one of those Primerica recruitment meetings a few years back. We had a good chuckle at our youthful naivete. Then, when I went to the restroom as I was leaving the store for the day, I noticed that someone had stuck his Primerica business card to the soap dispenser by the sink. Not a huge coincidence, but it did make me cock my eyebrow in a befuddled fashion. As for the card-owner, either this poor guy is just so flat-out desperate for clients that he drops business cards everywhere like some cursed hybrid of Johnny Appleseed, Willy Loman, and Patrick Bateman, or he's so out of his league in the financial planning business that he thinks trolling for clients in public restrooms is a great way to "grow your client base." Either way, I'd advise those seeking sound insurance advice to steer clear. Of this guy, yes, but also Primerica entirely, because as I pointed out yesterday, their entire operation seems predicated on the notion of behaving in as unscrupulous a manner as possible without technically being illegal, much like John Edward, or chiropractors.

Also today, the song "I Kissed a Girl" by Jill Sobule randomly popped into my head, though I hadn't even thought about that song- or Jill herself- in at least a couple years. I remembered it as being kinda cute, so I downloaded it and was quickly reminded of how rose-colored my memory gets sometimes. Later tonight, I killed some time by performing an Ask Jeeves search on the question "What happens if you eat a desiccant?" (This was prompted by the fact that I am bored beyond belief, and I have a desiccant packet sitting on my desk. At some point, I'm going to try to use it to create a logo for my record label, Desiccant Records: Do Not Eat!) Jeeves responded by taking me to... a Jill Sobule newsgroup.

So yeah. Coincidences. Ehh. I'll spare you the obligatory references to The Matrix, The Celestine Prophecy, or the Twilight Zone theme song.

TIME: 10:22 PM

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Tuesday, May 13, 2003:  

I know I've already sent this link to a bunch of you, but for anyone else who's reading this, I have discovered the most unintentionally hilarious website in the history of man. Here's the story: there's a website called The Rip-Off Report, which was apparently designed as a means of letting pissed-off consumers air their unpleasant experiences with various products, to keep the populace informed of shady business practices, shoddy workmanship, etc. For instance, if you bought a Gateway computer and it didn't work properly (which it wouldn't), you could post your story on this site so maybe someone else wouldn't make the same mistake you made. A fine idea, in my opinion. In fact, I discovered the site when I did a search for that link about Primerica's scam-heavy practices that I posted earlier.

However, they apparently have an exceedingly lax system of screening the complaints they get, because some complaints get through that aren't necessarily about businesses or corporations... For example, this report was posted about Walt Christy and Nancy Silva of Tupper Lake, New York (just two people the author doesn't care for):

"I for one think that walt is having a mid-life crisis. I would love to see walts face when he realizes that he traded in filet mignon for tunafish salad. Nancy could not hold a candle to Cathy as a wife or mother. Cathy would have never done this to walt or her girls. We all know nancy would.

Once a cheater always a cheater. Lets see how long this last. Everything is so exciting when your sneaking around. You can always pretend that they are so much better than your own spouse. But the real story is you have no idea who that person is until you live with them. Sometimes not even then. Just ask cathy and ron. I hope the little hearts can be saved out of all this. But I'm sure that there will be scars.

To walt I say go home if you can. You have no idea how good you have it. The fact that she would never have done this to your family,is the most any man can ask for. She is a great woman(cathy) and there are many that know that. You just better pray that someone has not already set their sights on her. Because I am sure there is someone who will treat her like the queen she is."

I found this hilarious in and of itself... but evidently, the majority of the citizens of Tupper Lake, New York have been using this website as a forum for airing their personal vendettas against one another, because there's an entire subcategory on the site devoted to that city! It features such awesome screeds as:


·"Tarbox [Trailer Park] Fish Stick Stealing Low Lifes Dirty SOB's," and my favorite,

·"Stalker Judy Ramsey, Tupper Lake trailer park trash." (Wherein Judy Ramsey herself writes to complain that this is a "defermation" of her character.)

I've been laughing uncontrollably for the past half hour, because this is so unimaginably absurd. Here's the link to the Tupper Lake section. [Update 3/27/12: Dead link. Sorry.] Seriously- you'll love it.

TIME: 9:01 PM

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I just got back from a "career fair" at the Embassy Suites hotel, and it was the biggest effing waste of my time since that Matthew Lesko seminar about making your own postage stamps. ("Chances are, they won't even notice!" *insane tittering*) Granted, it wound up being only a waste of an hour or so, but I still feel rather gypped for making the effort to put on a suit, wear a sensible tie- that is, the Meet the Beatles one and not the South Park one with all the mutilated cows- make copies of my resume, drive out to the place, and pay the $5.00 registration fee when there was nothing approaching an acceptable job even offered. About a dozen businesses were present, each with a room where they were conducting on-the-spot interviews for job openings that were listed outside their respective doors.

It was impossibly depressing, because most of the businesses were basically looking for telemarketers (or "sales" positions, which I assume also means telemarketers), and yet they all had semi-lengthy lines of people clad in business attire, clutching their resumes and trying not to seem desperate. It reminded me of that part in The Hudsucker Proxy where all the unemployed people gather around the career services storefront to watch job listings flip around like a pachinko machine on which their livelihood depends. There were also a couple insurance companies looking for underwriters (no thanks), one company looking for various engineers, and some subsidiary of Primerica, which I instantly passed up because they are the biggest scam company operating in the United States. That's a tip, kids: if you ever get a call from a Primerica recruiter, don't waste your time. I interviewed with them last year after they gave me the impression that they were looking for full-time marketing employees, but it turned out they actually meant "people who are willing to spend their time 'recruiting' their friends and loved ones in a way that, when viewed from a certain angle, is pyramid-shaped."

So I basically wandered around in a suit for awhile and didn't get paid for it. They gave me a free CareerBuilder.com pen, however. It works about as well as you'd expect a ballpoint pen to work, though it's not as attractive as the translucent green pen I seem to have acquired from the Effexor XR folks somehow. I also received free copies of today's Detroit News and Detroit Free Press- the periodicals of choice among people seeking uninformed editorials written by hack columnists.

Fairly pissed. Not in the fun way.
TIME: 5:42 PM.

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Saturday, May 10, 2003:

This afternoon, I got to meet my cousins' new dog, Mulligan. She's a shihpoo- half shih tzu and half poodle. Frankly, I think they missed out on what could've been a fabulously entertaining breed name there. Mulligan is about the most adorable puppy I've ever met, but she's only a few months old, so she doesn't really have much of a personality yet, unless canine narcolepsy counts as a personality trait. She spent most of the evening asleep in various places: in my lap, in her doggie bed, on the kitchen floor, underneath the chaise lounge outside, etc. That's alright. She's cuddly and loving enough that I had a blast with her anyway.

MTV or VH1 is currently airing a special about the sexiest performers of all time, and Jennifer Lopez just got her ups, apparently under some vastly expanded new definition of "sexy" that encompasses haughtiness, abrasiveness, and a total lack of sexy qualities. The sycophantic commentator just said that her appeal is "not just where she is now, but also where she came from, and she hasn't forgotten that." I'm sure someone said that about Vanilla Ice at some point too. Hell, someone's probably saying it about The Strokes as we speak. But do these people- MTV commentators, copywriters of People magazine, the entire staff of E! Entertainment Television, et al- really and truly believe that J. Lo is all about her "roots"? Seriously, given all we know about her, which is way too much, I don't understand why these pseudo-journalists persist in perpetuating this myth. Didn't they see that FOX News report last year where the reporter announced that most of the people from Jenny's old block would rather "give her a curb job than a blowjob"?

I understand that the entertainment industry likes to bloviate about anyone they can sell as a rags-to-riches, American Dream sort of success story, but you know, Jennifer Lopez is not exactly Abe Lincoln, if you've noticed. It's not like she became this household name and this megaselling "artist" (and I'm using that word with the help of finger quotation marks the size of the Statue of Liberty's hands) through a lot of hard work and talent. She's a competent singer, but a quick channel-surfing glimpse of American Idol shows that there is no shortage of people who can sing technically well, but couldn't express in a 45-minute set the passion, creativity, or emotion that Chan Marshall can get across with a single sigh. No, that's not why we know J. Lo. We're familiar with her because she was a vain actress who suddenly decided she "needed" a music career, and some music-by-committee producers needed a face to put on the cover of their generic, hi-NRG dance CD, and she was vaguely exotic (ethnic but not ethnic enough to potentially alienate those consumers who still fear non-white people and are worried about contamination of their race) enough to allow them to claim that they makes "Latin-influenced" dance music. Thus, a partnership was born.

She's spent her time hitching her wagon to people more famous than she in the hopes of boosting her career, and you can read "hitching her wagon" as a sexual metaphor if you'd like. And most of all, she must have the best damn public relations manager in the history of mankind, if it's not indeed Satan himself, because we've been beseiged with nothing but article after deadening article about her for the past three years, informing us that she is pretty and she is sexy and she is talented and she is that mythologized Next Big Thing, with no evidence to support those claims. But when you attach double-sided tape to your nipples on Oscar night, I suppose you've demonstrated that you're shameless enough to throw easy editorial hooks to entertainment reporters as long as they'll reciprocate by spinning it as "elegance" or "sexiness."

It should be interesting to see what Jersey Girl turns out like. Though I admire and enjoy Kevin Smith's previous work a great deal, he hasn't really had a chance to demonstrate that he can write dialogue for actors that can't pull off his convoluted syntax and lengthy, hyperarticulate monologues. Which J. Lo can't. I couldn't even suspend disbelief of her character for the length of the Maid in Manhattan trailer. I mean, when Smith is writing for Ben Affleck or Jason Lee or Chris Rock, he's writing for professionals whose inherent charm is in their timing and their clever actorly takes on Smith's already clever dialogue. Even when the performances themselves aren't great, as with the cast of Clerks, it's obvious he's dealing with intelligent people who clearly understand the words that are coming out of their mouths, and can deliver them semi-believably even if most of the other aspects of the thespian craft elude them. Crimony, even Jason Mewes has had more than his share of moments where he's stepped up and let loose with glimmers of profane performing brilliance, but Lopez has not. Ever. Granted, I haven't seen most of her oeuvre- nor shall I- but I have yet to see her deliver a single line that doesn't sound as coached, empty-headed, and insincere as a Pizza Hut employee spitting the obligatory "Have a nice day" after you've spent five minutes bitching him out for putting pepperoni on your vegetarian pizza. 

It's true that great directors can pull great performances from substandard actors. Cameron Crowe did it with Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire. Paul Thomas Anderson did it with Tom Cruise in Magnolia. But Kevin Smith, by his own admission, is not a great director. He gets better with each film, but the stars of his films are always the words themselves. The "writer" role always trumps the "director" role. Nothing wrong with being a fine wordsmith, but I don't know if he's disciplined enough to tailor his script- which is to say, sacrifice his own observational eloquence and dumb down his vocabulary- to the sort of character that Lopez might be able to perform in a passable fashion. I'm really reviewing the movie before it's even close to being released, I know, but pairing Lopez with Smith is among the worst actor-director choices I've heard since Stanley Kubrick teamed up with Tom Cruise. There's admittedly a chance, however slim, that maybe she'll be great in the film, and I'll eat my words in that event, but it sounds like a tuxedo made out of shit to me, and I don't need to walk around all day wearing one to know that the experience is going to be unpleasant.

I know it sounds like I'm expending an awful lot of energy on a woman who is as much a target for punchlines as she is celebrated by the media. Why not just tell a quick butt joke and be done with it? Because I'm really tired of being told to care about and adore these people who are basically famous for being famous, without having a single thing going for them. Especially when you've got people out there like Maura Tierney, who really is both genuinely sexy and genuinely talented (just look at the lived-in, nuanced work she's done even on this nearly interminable season of ER!), being all but ignored by the public at large. It's not that I'm on a desperate quest to help Maura Tierney achieve superstar status or anything, but that sort of disparity is symptomatic of what's happened to entertainment in general, where it's as if no one who actually possesses creativity or talent has a prayer at all anymore. Just like the way Avril Lavigne is being hailed as embodying the spirit of punk while a reinvigorated Bad Religion has been reduced to taking a support slot on tour with Blink-182. Remember when we used to have mainstream stars who were smart enough to have something to say? Like John Lennon, Meryl Streep, and R.E.M. at the peaks of their popularity? Can you imagine that ever happening again? Not to go all Steve Allen on you or anything, but I crave substance, and am becoming increasingly frustrated by not only the paucity of it in our popular entertainers, but also the way the standards are being moved to a point where someone as unfocused and bland as Oprah can qualify as "deep," where someone as idiotic as Jamie Kennedy can be seen as "edgy," and where someone as thoroughly useless as Jennifer Lopez becomes America's ubiquitous obsession.

But I digress. Back to the MTV-or-VH1 thing, I guess Madonna is number-one sexiest of all time. As I obviously can't add much to Mark's recent essay on her, I'd just like to point out that, having been raised two miles from Rochester Hills, the town where Madonna grew up, I can vouch for the fact that not everyone in suburban metro Detroit pretends that a bad British accent is his or her natural mode of speaking. Granted, I've done it, mostly to see if I could fool customers at the bookstore (till I realized that you could power an interplanetary passenger train with the gullibility of local consumers), but most people I know do not. Thought I'd clear that up.

CURRENT MUSIC: Arthur by the Kinks
Righteously angry at celebrities.
11:52 PM

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I had a productive morning. Went to Comp USA and bought some printer cartridges, paid off my credit card bill for last month (which, disturbingly, was more than I earned last month), wrote an actual snail mail letter to my technophobe friend Alan in Kalamazoo, and went shopping with my brother to buy our mom a birdbath for Mother's Day. That's like a week's worth of activity!

This afternoon, my extended family (aunts, uncles, etc.) is getting together to celebrate Mother's Day. Yes, I know it's actually tomorrow, but I'm guessing the rest of my family follows some unorthodox Druidian calendar or something. Actually, we're probably celebrating today just so my dad, brother, and uncle have an excuse to get together and watch the Pistons game tonight. My brother dresses up in a Ben Wallace afro wig for the games, in much the same way that he wears one of those ridiculous "cheesehead" foam hats during Packers games. It's actually kind of nice now that he lives in Ann Arbor, so I can enjoy sporting events without Carrot Top-reject props. (Basketball bores me silly, however, so tonight I shall be watching Trading Spaces with my cousins.)

After all the griping I did about my credit card bill this month, I probably shouldn't be thinking about bidding on this jumpsuit. And is "Dickies" a brand, or is this merchandise produced by the punk band The Dickies?

CURRENT MUSIC: Lunatic Harness by u-ziq.
1:54 PM

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