Monday, January 28, 2013

I Can't Get No Satisfaction

So I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it seems our job market is poor. Barely a day goes by you don't see a headline like this:

[Your Name], Personally, Will Be Forced to Eat Own Fingers for Sustenance

Naturally this has me concerned. Not because of the lack of jobs, but because I fear that if this state of affairs persists, our society will lose track of something fundamental. We will lose track of the fact that jobs suck.

I think we can all agree that job hatred has long been the backbone of workplace culture. If you don't believe me, you can test out my claim via the following scientific experiment: first, walk into a familiar establishment, which we shall call T.J. Marshall's Lots Mart Store Place ("Crap for Less - Crap for You"). Now, study the employees, and you will notice a universal trait: they are all named Kayla. Is this strictly necessary? 

But never mind. I have strayed from my original point, which is this: they are all sullen and surly and consumed by job hatred violent enough to cause severe weather damage in Galveston, Texas (and you are located in Maine). If you dare to ask them a question, such as where to find the stationery,* they will leap forth roaring, hyena-style, in a concerted effort to eat your forearm whole. Assuming you escape unscathed and make no further moves toward the employee, s/he** will then calmly retreat to her own quiet corner, growling softly, to resume munching on her wildebeest carcass. 

And now we are facing the very real possibility, with the winnowing of the job market, that job hatred may itself die out. I don't know about you, but I don't want to live in that world, and I don't want my children to know it either.*** There are precious few things we can count on in this world, aside from surly employees, infomercials for things only the severely troubled would ever purchase, and Dunkin' Donuts. These are our national security blankets, our collective snuggle bears. It would be a massive rip in the fabric of our society were we to lose any one of them.

But I'm afraid the scarcer jobs become, the rosier and more romanticized our perceptions of them, until finally we long for them with the same sort of passionate yearning normally associated with hot burnin' monkey love, or sweet potato fries.

As far as I can see, there is but one solution to this problem: overcompensation, in the form of zealous job satisfaction. Before I go any further, let me clarify my position: I am sitting on the blue chair in the living room with one leg up and the other down. Now that we've cleared that up, I want to make clear that I am actually in favor of job satisfaction. I don't believe you should actually go around hating what you do, so much as I believe it's an integral part of workplace culture, like the water cooler in the hall that goes BLURP BLURP BLURP and the oft-opaque but viciously stated item of gossip about a co-worker ("OHMYGOD, DID YOU HEAR BETTY? SHE LIKE THINKS SHE'S ALL THAT").

Nonetheless, job satisfaction might be the way to go. Since this is on my mind lately, I've been going around taking notes, in hopes that I might improve the situation by sharing them with you, my public. Here they are. You're welcome.

1. You would probably do well to start finding mundane things unbearably exciting. There's a conductor on the Orange Line in Boston who seems to have this down pat. The other morning, he was announcing each station as if it was more exciting than Space Mountain and sexier than lust itself. Here is what he sounded like (I have done my best to transcribe accurately): "Lllllladies and gentlemen ... coming up .... our next stop ... DOWWWWWWWWN ... TOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWN ... KERRRRRRRRRRRRRRR-ROSSINGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!" Needless to say, this visibly cheered up the passengers, who were made to look upon arrival at Downtown Crossing as a major event in the history of the cosmos, at least until .05 seconds after they stepped off the train. I didn't stay on much longer myself, but I assume the conductor kept topping himself with each stop, until with his announcement of Forest Hills he made a multiple orgasm seem like a tetanus booster.

2. This is one I came up with myself. If you work in the post office, which has got to be one of the most grueling and unappealing jobs on Earth, especially if you are dealing with customers like me ("Don't you think that "Media Mail" stamp might be a tad sub-par? Maybe you should stick some clear tape over it so as to prevent further smearing"), you should feel free to "let loose" every so often. One good way would be to come to work one day (I suggest this be a summer day) wearing nothing but postage stamps covering every nanometer of your body, then run around the P.O. roaring at top volume: "I ... am ... STAMP-MAN!!! For JUSTICE!! For LIBERTY!! FOREVER!!!"**** I guarantee you will experience job satisfaction from that moment till the last breath you take at Bellevue.

Well, that's all I got so far. I hope I've done my part toward stabilizing our workplace culture even in these trying economic times. I know I was concerned.

* Wouldn't you like to know.
** I know you are wondering, and yes, the males are named Kayla too.
*** Fortunately, they're not born, which pretty much takes care of that.
**** Hahaha! See what I did there? "Forever"? Stamps? ... Never mind.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Singing Puppets in Gotham...

Happy news: in April, I'll be performing in a musical in The New York Children's Theater Festival! It's called "Cheater, Cheater, Pumpkin Eater" and it is performed, of course, by puppets.

Here is the Kickstarter page (I'm playing the yellow girlie, though not in this video). If there are those among you with a buck or two to donate to puppet theatre, we'd all be much obliged.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Love-Skate Relationship

I went ice skating for the first time in seven years, and I'm pleased to report I have retained my form. Granted, my form consists of lurching around spasmodically like a deranged prehominid with a severe nerve disorder. Still, form is form.

I have done exhaustive soul-searching as to why I am like this (bad at skating, but dangerously beautiful). Sometimes I meditate on it for nearly as long as it takes the Keurig to spit out the next cup of coffee. I've concluded that my skating ineptitude (defined by Merriam-Webster's as a "lack of eptitude") can be put down to a variety of reasons. These are as follows. (You know you want to know.)

First of all, there is the matter of my height. Generally speaking, I stand about five foot five, except for the year I was thirteen, at which time I stood 7'1" and liked a boy who was 4'2". But outside of those golden days I have always maintained my petite stature. Well, the moment I stepped on the ice, that changed. All of a sudden I reverted to a seven-foot behemoth, and my center of gravity, which usually stays in its proper spot like a good girl, shot up around my jawbone. This left all body parts below to flail around comically, no two flailing in the same direction. In fact, I believe that at one point, while my arms and legs were flailing at center rink, my torso was seen getting refreshments at the snack bar.*

A second reason for my ineptitude is: small children. On any given day, there are many of these at the rink, all of whom have already learned to do graceful layback spins and majestic jumps, and all of whom are uppity little snots. You may dismiss this as "sour grapes" if you like, but I assure you I base my dislike of these children on a highly mature and balanced rationale: they suck. Clearly they are out to give me an inferiority complex, or rather, to infuse my pre-existing inferiority complex with steroids until it makes the late Marlon Brando look like Lamb Chop.

The thing is, I could learn to skate too, if I were two feet tall like those children and Regis Philbin. They have nowhere to fall. The ice is right there, located at a nice, safe, comforting distance, right at child- and Regis-level. Whereas giantesses like me are doomed, per the laws of physics, to fall and break and groan and die. As you will no doubt remember if you too once briefly and vaguely studied physics without ever truly giving a shit, a falling body (mine) is governed by evil little forces called "newtons" that are named after the fact that they resemble Wayne Newton. The way it works is, the heavier the falling body in question, the more newtons there are involved in the fall. For instance, if you drop a saltine cracker, there are only about 18 newtons to speak of, whereas if you personally fall, there will be a billion gazillion skintillion little tiny Waynes involved.

So we can also attribute my skating deficiencies to the fact that the ice is too far away. If they ("they" is, or are, the Gods of the Ice)** would just move it closer to my center of gravity, we'd be in business. While I'm at it, I also move that the ice be transformed into a softer substance. Tapioca comes to mind.

Finally, I attribute my failings to delusions of grandeur. When I was little, I followed the sport of figure skating (I still do, with the kind of ferocity normally associated with a hyena at lunchtime) and I somehow believed that whatever I saw top-flight skaters do on TV, I could do too. This is of course true, assuming that we are talking about when they wipe their noses. But I truly believed I was headed for the Olympics by age 8, although I guess I would have been willing to settle for age 12.

I'll tell you something else that does nothing to extinguish these delusions. When you are at a public skating session and they play some sort of high octane, bumpa-bumping song sung by someone like Beyoncé - well, this is dangerous stuff for those of us as tend toward being demented. We immediately believe, on some wack-a-doodle level, that we are performing a frisky and rip-roaring exhibition number - no matter how pitiful and flea-bitten the level of our actual skating.

Thus we can see what a sorry state of affairs we are up against, and that's without even considering world hunger or poverty.*** Fortunately, I have a few brilliant suggestions for how to salvage the situation. Don't thank me.

1. We mandate universal enrollment in a harsh, rigorous, "tough-love" Learn-to-Skate program, wherein if you do well, you get a shiny new toy; and if you do badly, Nancy Kerrigan will bite you. This should separate the "men" from the "boys."****

2. Alternatively, you could enlist actual prehominids to skate around you, so as to level the playing field. These individuals can be found at your local GameStop establishment.

3. Or you could just learn to be confident in your own skin.

4. Hahahahaha, I didn't think I could get through that one with a straight face.

Oh, but take heart, my fellow clumsy ox.  For no matter how non-existent, how pathetic, how jaw-droppingly miserable your skating skills, if you continue your efforts with sheer, dogged persistence - never for one moment allowing your mind or body to stray from your cherished goal - then there can be no doubt that one magical day, in one shining moment, you will get royally pissed off and quit.

That's fine. There's no shame in quitting. All I can say is, some of us are quitters and some are fighters. I myself pledge to "keep on trucking" until the bitter end. I plan to do this via the strict regimen I have been following all along: namely, going skating only once every seven years. At this rate, I am sure to be ready for the Olympics at age 864. Age 868 at the latest.

* Of course it was flailing too. What did you think?
** Queen Frostine, from the Candy Land board game; and Phil, who drives the Zamboni.
*** Because, let's face it, when was the last time anybody followed these sports at the Olympics?
**** Or at least from their "fingers."

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Exit, Pursued by a Dalek

I just found this item on Facebook - reaffirming my long-held belief that, for sheer guts'n'gore, no one can touch old Titus A. For readable type, the original (bigger) post is here, on Pinterest.

And speaking of fundamental British culture, it turns out Royal Mail is going to be issuing a set of Doctor Who stamps. They say this is to commemorate the 50th anniversary, but frankly I think they've just been waiting for any excuse to put a Dalek on a stamp.

Also, this:

So nobody better ever try to tell ME the government wastes its money.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

So This is New Year's

New Year's Resolution #1: Spend more time with that most beloved junk drawer of my life, The Snark Ascending. So here goes.

A year ago this time, I rang in the New Year 2012 on an airplane. I was attempting to get from Boston back to Paris via Dublin on a flight populated by staff wearing comical New Year's headgear. Somehow this made me uneasy. I believe that on some primal, deeply human level, we don't want our aircraft personnel clad in novelty gear from iParty. We want our aircraft personnel crisp and professional and 100% non-fun, or, failing that, swarthy and barrel-chested and possibly named "Raoul." But maybe that's just me. Honestly, I've been slightly on edge about air travel ever since that one time, pulling into a gate at Dulles, I looked down to see two air-traffic controllers, with their lights, re-enacting a saber fight from Star Wars. The Aircraft Personnel of America: keeping you safe. Or at least keeping the force with you.

This time around, New Year's Eve night once again involved long-term public transportation, but with significantly less distance involved. I was on my usual Amtrak commuter train, only attempting to travel about 80 miles, but I might as well have been trying to get from Boston to Dublin to Paris to Reykjavik to Lincoln, Nebraska via Botswana with a layover in the South Pole. Technically it wasn't Amtrak's fault - there was a freight train broken down in front of us, so we couldn't move. When you can't move, you become a pile of blob, and I hate being a pile of blob. You get all bogged down in your blobby inertia and suddenly can't move yourself to do anything more mentally complex than pop your knuckles (well, some of them; doing the full set would be too ambitious). By the time you arrive at your destination, approximately 83,000 hours later that night, you are a big amorphous puddle of protein and clothes, and you have to be removed from the train with a wad of Bounty paper towels.

But I'm wrong for complaining about this sort of travel. After all, I could be complaining about much worse travel. I am thinking here of a certain nightmare airplane ride back in the spring of 2008. First we departed Raleigh-Durham, which you'd think would be a good omen. But then the Gods of Air Travel, who clearly get their inspiration from MTV, decided to make like Ashton Kutcher and "punk" our aircraft. First it got caught in various patches of "turbulence," which is a nice little word for what happens when the heavens get sudden-onset Irritable Bowel Syndrome. After getting whacked and whupped* about the solar system for some 45 minutes, once being catapulted as far as Alpha Centauri, our plane began - and this kind of thing can really get on your nerves, if you're the uptight sort - to shed plane parts. This is true. The plane was molting, like my childhood hermit crab, Regis, with the only difference being that Regis was slightly less prone to cruise at 33,000 feet. Fortunately we lived, although given that we had to land back at Raleigh-Durham, I wished in a sense that we had not. Also they didn't give us any plane vouchers ("Good for ONE (1) life-threatening Death Flight from Hell anywhere in the continental..."), whereas Amtrak always does, or at least they give you a complimentary mug.

So now that I'm looking at last night's train ride in a positive light, I'd like to start the new year off with some magical thinking. Here goes: last year started with that comical plane ride - not just because of the party gear, but also the amusing added detail of John Lennon piped in over the loudspeaker, singing "So This is Christmas" on New Year's - and then the year ended up bumpy, lumpy, strange and sad in places. Not that it was all bad; in fact, 2010, 2011 and 2012 have all been years for the books, in different ways. So I'm hoping 2013 continues the trend, and that the aggravating train ride was only a weird, bass-ackwards harbinger of excellent things to come. So I wish you exactly what I wish myself: may your 2013 be full of trains that actually move, and may your air traffic controllers resist the urge to re-enact Star Wars scenes until the plane has finished pulling in.

* These are different. To whack is an ablative conjunctive verb, as in, "Willa Jean done whacked him around and stuff." Whereas to whup is a dative urogenital dysfunctional verb, as in, "Whuppa whuppa have a cuppa."