Wednesday, February 28, 2001
My job still sucks, and I've spent most of my workday looking for sites dedicated to crappy jobs (and getting paid for it -- ha!). The most obnoxious re-route, though, has to be ihatework.com, as it directs you to an on-line lottery site. Sneaky, yes, but besides the obvious financial implications, it has nothing to do with hating your job.
I tried worksucks.com, which is about hating your job, but is kind of lame (although they do sell t-shirts). I looked up ihatemyjob.com, which turned out to be a sub-par job search site. What I enjoyed more was mybosssucks.com, a site dedicated to bad bosses across the US. You can even enter yours! Maybe I'll enter mine.
Tuesday, February 27, 2001
Dan Levine (no relation) wrote this cool article on Ironminds about the perks of work. I guess it's these perks that have kept me at the job. You know...little things like health insurance, paid days off (yesyesohgodyes), and not having to feel like I'm scaming the government by collecting unemployment. While I'd love to walk out and quit right now, I know I can't do that until I get another job I'll probably hate. Vicious circle ha ha ha. Too bad health insurance costs so much when you're not with a real employer, because freelancing is much better. @
Monday, February 26, 2001
You know the ones I mean. The 12 CDs for the price of one with nothing more to buy ever, or get 15 CDs for free when you buy just six more at regular club prices. Sure, I know that nothing is "free," and while the cost of the CD may technically be zero, the shipping and handling on each CD I order makes me think that the companies send their merchandise next-day air from some remote third world country. (Shipping in the US just isn't that much.) But still, I get suckered in.
Recently, I got something in the mail from Columbia House inviting me to cancel my current membership and re-enlist. This would entitle me to another 12 free CDs when I buy six at regular club prices (currently like $25 a CD or something like that), plus I could buy one now for only seven bucks and then get two more free. I know I shouldn't have been lured into their scheme, but I couldn't resist their shiny pamphelet. I signed up.
I'm also a member of BMG's music club, so you can imagine the amount of junk mail I get. Once your name goes into one of these databases, you start getting all kinds of rip-off offers. I guess these people figure that if you're a sucker once, you'll be a sucker again. So here I am with lots of CDs that I sort of want but wouldn't actually buy in a store (hello Sugar Hill Gang's Greatest Hits) and a trash can full of offers for high-interest credit cards and catalogs of poorly made merchandise. (Actually, the catalogs go in the recycle bin, but you get the point.)
So back to my problem: I've been a member of at least one of these clubs (and sometimes both) consistently for at least the past ten years. It's scary, because that's a lot of CDs that I probably wouldn't have bought otherwise. While I consider myself a music "collector," I often think I'm collecting the wrong things, since most of what these clubs offer is greatest hits discs, and to paraphrase the Kids in the Hall, real fans don't buy greatest hits collections, man. (These greatest hits CDs are also a cheap way to get more cash to the record company, but that's another story.) So I start to wonder if I'm paying all this money and just collecting for collection's sake, rather than collecting anything I really want. Still, I've got 15 shiny new CDs, and I'm going to go rip the shrink wrap off of them right now.
I'm not sure where I was going with this, but it's been cathartic to get it out. @
Sunday, February 25, 2001
While I was gone, I received an email from someone I didn't know. No, it wasn't spam; rather, it was a woman who was trying to reach someone else named Amy Levine. This isn't the first time I've gotten an email meant for someone else with my name, and I always feel kind of bad sending a reply of, "Sorry, but I don't know you." I especially worry that I actually do know the person and have just forgotten, since I don't want to insult anyone.
I'm always amazed at how much personal information gets divulged in these wrongly sent letters. I guess I shouldn't be, since the sender thinks I'm a friend or relative, but I end up learning a fairly good amount about these people, and I don't think it would be difficult to string them along and pretend that I'm the person they think I am, or the person they think they've reached, or whatever.
I've thought about starting an Amy Levine webchat group, or something, just so that we can all be in touch in case one of us gets an email meant for another Amy Levine. So, if there are any Amy Levines reading this, or if you're reading this and know another Amy Levine, drop me a line. We need to get this straighted out...and maybe print up Amy Levine t-shirts or something. @
Thursday, February 22, 2001
This got me thinking about the whole sending-a-poem thing, and the personal aspect of it, and how this site's business completely eliminates the personal touch. Say you're enamored with someone and want to write this someone a love poem. Well, you'd write it yourself, wouldn't you? Having someone else write it makes it seem trivial -- and probably increases the likelihood that the person with whom you're enamored will be attracted to your writer rather than you. It's the Cyranno principle, if you will. You can't have other people do your emotional dirty work.
That's all I want to say on this topic. Like I said, I think this site is crapcrapcrap. In other news, the New York trip is falling through. Might go to Buffalo for a few days. @
Wednesday, February 21, 2001
No exciting sites today. No time to hunt for them. Just tired. Very very tired. @
Tuesday, February 20, 2001
Added an mp3 file on the Ubiquitus page. Ubiquitus is my band, and the tune I put up is called "Mothership Suite." Ch-ch-ch-ch-check it out...and let me know what you think (or if you have problems listening to it). @
Monday, February 19, 2001
Long and tiring day today. Went to a press conference on the state of downtown Kalamazoo. It was 45 minutes long, when all they really needed to say was, "Look, we're a mid-size city in Michigan and we're doing the best we can." At least they had free punch and cookies. @
I think if I were to build a theme park based upon the landscape and culture of California, I might build it as far away from California as possible. I mean, when you're in California, you can actually see these things -- the real, live versions of them. Maybe in St. John, Newfoundland, it would be exciting to go to a California-themed park. In California, you're in California, so why bother seeing a scaled down rendition of it?
Disney looks at it differently, and put theirs in the southern part of the Golden State. So, you can go to California and see the Golden Gate Bridge, the redwoods, the corner of Hollywood and Vine, etc. etc., or you can go to California and see Disney's version of these things. What would be really weird is if they put a version of Disneyland inside California Adventure, since Disneyland is in California. It would be Disney's "Disney-ed" version of it self -- meta-Disney. I'm feeling lightheaded just thinking about it.
I remember someone telling me a few years ago about this poll some social scientists took about Americans' opinions of Epcot Center in Florida and the actual countries included in the Epcot displays. It turned out that the majority of the people polled would rather visit Epcot's version of Mexico, Italy, or China than actually go to Mexico, Italy, or China. It's a little frightening to think that so many Americans are willing to accept Disney's presentation of a country as that country, and don't realize that it's just a hodge-podge of stereotypes thrown together to get as much tourist money as possible. It's been a while, but when my parents took me and my brothers to Epcot Center when I was nine, I distinctly remember that the Epcot Mexico had a sombrero shop, a taco stand, and a weird boat ride (a la "It's a Small World") with flamenco playing in the background. So, a whole mass of American tourists go about their lives thinking that this is all Mexico has to offer, and never bother to visit the country itself. (Well, that's not entirely true -- Cancun has a huge spring break operation in place, so spring breakers know Mexico as Epcot, Corona, and Señor Frog's.) Thank you, Roy and Walt.
I'll be going to Disney World (in Orlando) in May. I'm sure I'll have more to say on this topic upon my return. @
Saturday, February 17, 2001
Friday, February 16, 2001
Anyway, when my friend told me about her frustration with jazz, I started talking about the first song that turned me on to the whole genre and made me realize that there was an entire body of music -- really cool, hip, timeless music -- about which I knew next to nothing. It was "My Favorite Things" by John Coltrane. I heard it on WBFO, Buffalo's NPR affiliate and a very cool station because it plays jazz when there isn't any national programming.
The first time I heard it, at around age 19, I of course recognized the song. I'd seen "The Sound of Music" about ten thousand times and had an LP of the soundtrack when I was a kid; I'm a little embarrassed to admit that that song was my favorite from the movie. I had never really thought about how the song might be done differently, since I had heard Julie Andrews's version so much. But hearing Trane blow the melody line over the piano, drums, and bass before launching into a solo transformed the song for me. Rather than keeping with the ba-DA-DA simplicity of the movie version, his version had swing. It made me listen closely to the additional notes and flares peppered throughout the head -- exactly what my friend didn't like doing.
I think listening to and learning about jazz these past few years has made me a better listener of music, and consequently, a better listener period. At the risk of sounding pseudo-inspirational, I think jazz offers many metaphors for living:
Thursday, February 15, 2001
Bad: Some burgerbrain rear-ended me on my way to pick them up! Damage to my car was limited to a small scratch under the bumper, and it's a good thing, because it's brand new! My back is a little achy, but otherwise everything seems to be in place and in working order.
Wednesday, February 14, 2001
Let's start with pizza. Before I went to college, I had never even had chain pizza. Because there are hundreds of good family-owned pizzerias, places like Dominoes have never lasted long where I grew up. We had a Pizza Hut for a year or two, but once people realized how awful and slimy the pizza was, the place boarded up and closed. As far as mass-produced chain pizza goes, I don't mind Papa John's, although I need to qualify: as take out food, it's decent, but as pizza, it's weird to me. I still haven't tried Little Caesar's. Chicago is nearby, and deep dish pizza is tasty, but I don't consider it pizza so much as I consider it knife-and-fork dough lasagna. Different category altogether. What I'd really like is some big, thin crust, "NY Style" pizza -- and I'm not talking about that Pizza Hut Big New Yorker garbage with its obnoxious commercials. What I'm talking about is the real deal. Authentic, whatever that means. Ans some online retailers, I've learned, will deliver one to my door.
Check it out: New York First will sell me two supposedly fresh Ray's pizzas. But it costs $49, or roughly $25 a pizza. It's pricey, but it's not thoroughly insane until you realize that they charge you $35.25 to ship it overnight! So, to get these two pizzas -- two circles of flour, tomato, and cheese -- I'm basically going to spend almost $85, and I just can't afford that. If you can afford that, you probably live in NY and get your pizza at some restaurant with the word "bistro" in its name.
City stuff sells a New York pizza from J-2 for $19.95. The price includes second day delivery; for next day, it's eight bucks more. Still a lot, but this one is kosher. (That, by the way, means you pay more and it tastes worse.)
There is one decent bagel place in Kalamazoo. It's called Klein's and I recommend it with only one reservation: they no longer sell pumpernickel. A bagel travesty, but this is, after all, the midwest. If I really wanted some real, live H&H bagels, New York First will sell me some. It's a gift pack, so I'd get cream cheese and lox with it. And NYC Food will even sell me bialys!
Both New York First and City Stuff will sell you cheesecakes from Junior's, and the latter will also sell you an egg cream "kit," but in terms of NY food on the web, what surprises me the most is that you can order Sabrett hot dogs (the kind they sell on the street out of those umbrella booths) at NY Hotdog. While I don't eat hotdogs, it seems to me that part of the enjoyment of eating a New York City hotdog is that you get to eat it in New York City. I mean, you wouldn't eat cotton candy unless you were at a carnival, or maybe a circus or family-type sporting event, so why would you eat a boiled hotdog at home? They don't taste good, they're just part of being in New York. Hotdogs are convenient and, in a city where everything costs too much, relatively cheap. And provided you're not a vegetarian or one of those no-red-or-weird-processed-meat people (like me), there's something undeniably cool about walking through downtown with a dirty water dog in your hand. I understand that some people who don't want to spend a lot of money on dinner, or think too hard about cooking, will occasionally boil hotdogs for a meal, but ordering expensive designer NY hotdogs from a website just seems a little silly. And don't get me started on how the online retailer is trying to exploit people's NY nostalgia because they don't realize that NY hotdogs aren't anything special when you eat them in Idaho.
In completely other news: there was a small fire in the restaurant on the first floor of my building today! Some live ash got spit onto the roof, and the fumes gave me a nasty headache, but I didn't get to go home early. We didn't even have to evacuate. Drat. @
Tuesday, February 13, 2001
I think Steve Jobs is a fascinating person. Sure, he's not the best at motivating people (80 hour work weeks -- what the hell?), but the man knows how to sell computers. Example? Look at what happened to the company when Jobs resigned/was let go. Worse than Apple losing all but a devoted few users was that the computers, which were supposed to be "the intersection of technology and humanity," got ugly. They looked like PCs, when I think the whole point of MacIntosh was to be the anti-PC. The computers lost all clout and evolved into pricey flesh-colored pizza boxes. Jobs comes back, the iMac is released, and Macs are classy again.
You have to have respect for a man who realizes that computers don't necessarily have to look like computers. @
Monday, February 12, 2001
I'm trying to think what the past 16 years would have been like if the manufacture of VCRs had been shut down, and, subsequently, if places like Blockbuster never existed. Movies on video and DVD would probably not even exist, since devices to play them would be illegal. Can you imagine not being able to rent a movie on a Friday night? You'd be at the mercy of whatever HBO or Cinemax was running; granted there are like 40 movie channels now, but you still wouldn't have much control over what you could watch. And it's not like you could pause the movie to go to the bathroom.
Just like VCRs enhance our enjoyment of movies, I think Napster enhances our enjoyment -- and purchase -- of music. While I've been known to buy CDs based on the strength of reviews alone, I usually like to hear a little of what I'm buying, whether it's a single on the radio, listening to a friend's copy, or whatever. Napster gave me and probably a million others the opportunity to hear a few songs and then decide if we wanted to purchase the CD and support the artist (via the record company and all the record company's promoters). I might feel a little bad for the record company execs who are crying foul if they didn't charge $18 for a CD and gave the artist whose talent is on the CD 14¢, or whatever the artist's shoddy percentage is.
MSNBC has put up this nifty timeline of the history of MP3 files, the right to copy songs, and the subsequent lawsuits. Most ironic, to me anyway, is Sony both taking part in the lawsuit against MP3s and marketing a Sony MP3 player. I think their part in the lawsuit is what's called shooting yourself in the foot.
Here's hoping Napster lives on -- or that Sony execs blow their legs off. Preferably the former. @
My favorite part of performing -- and I think most people who have been on stage will say similar things -- is when the crowd is just completely into what you are doing. We had everyone in the room focused on us and dancing. We also promoted ourselves like mad, and handed out our March through May schedule on quarter sheets; we probably just doubled our crowd. We also encouraged an MC battle, with our MCs leading. It's amazing how many people at a random party can just flow ideas freestyle.
The bad part: I've never understood the whole "party house" lifestyle. The way I see it, you have a house (or apartment, or some kind of living quarters), and that's your space. From time to time you invite people over to share your space, and you may even have roommates, but at least there's still some amount of square footage that's yours. Now: I'm all for having the gang over for a party, and sure, they can bring a friend of theirs with whom I may not yet be acquainted. However, letting anyone and everyone in to your space and charging them $5 a piece and then giving them a plastic Solo cup to hold the watery keg lager being pumped out in the basement just isn't something I can relate to. And, unfortunately, that's what last night was.
Nine guys live in the house we played in. Imagine the mess and gunk that one college guy makes, then multiply that by nine, and then invite all the college age guys in town, and have them all bring their current best girl. Understand that these nine guys want their house kept as reasonably together as possible (within the college guy standard), and also understand that these nine guys don't want any cops dragging them off for a night in jail (where the concept of personal space doesn't exist). So, these nine guys nailed carpet remnants over the windows to keep sights and sounds from reaching the street, and taped flattened boxes to the floor to preserve what's left of their dark colored, "stain-proofed" carpet. This is what we were dealing with.
It was hot, which I expect when we perform, either from stage lights or just lots of people crammed together. We were in the corner of a room on the first floor, and with the room so jammed with people, the only way for us to get out if we had to was to crowd surf over the mass of drunken 20 year olds. All the lights were out, so I really couldn't see anything. At one point, a guy I know from work came up to me and said hi, and I had to yell in his ear, yes, hello, but I can't see you so I don't really know who you are. The show went late, I got home at 3:30, took a shower, and went to sleep.
Next Saturday's show is at a club. We play for 45 minutes, they have decent beer, walking on the floor doesn't feel like you're walking on boxes, and there's an exit right behind the stage. I can't wait. @
Saturday, February 10, 2001
Unfortuntately, this isn't the only mistreated dog in my neighborhood. Some people whose backyard is within earshot of my bedroom have two or three pitbulls. All summer, every night, they put the dogs in their backyard, which is the size of a hopscotch board and has no grass. If you've never been woken up by the sound of yapping pitbulls, consider yourself lukcy. One minute I'm sleeping, and the next I'm on the phone to the Kalamazoo Police non-emergency number trying to get them to send Animal Control to take these dogs away. Usually a squad car shows up, I get a 3:00 am lecture about how the most they can do is issue a $50 ticket, and then I stick earplugs in to try and get a few hours of sleep before work. The lecture really infuriates another woman on my street, who tells the cops that if she were out in the middle of the yard barking at 2:00 am, they'd arrest her, but if her dog was out barking at 2:00 am, she'd only have to pay fifty bucks.
What bothers me about the whole dog thing is that the owners just let the animals stay out there when they have to know that they're not happy, and when they also must know that their neighbors must not like hearing the sounds of pissed-off canine when they're trying to get some sleep. Maybe they're just disturbingly ignorant, or not so bright, or cruel, or whatever. It amazes me that people voluntarily have an animal in their home and then just let it bark and bark and bark -- although I'm sure lots of people treat their kids even worse.
I'm making a weak point here. I really do need this daily writing practice. @
Friday, February 9, 2001
Hopefully, I'm not so out of shape that it's gone forever. I'm going to treat amyscoop.com as a writing nautilis, just to keep the ideas flexed. Maybe I'll even entertain someone too. Who knows? @
AOL Instant messenger: DasScoop