Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Review of An Introduction

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A few weeks ago, we were in the Verizon store picking up a new phone. It took four (4) hours. Midway through recalculating the cost of our data plan, Allen, the Verizon guy, stops, his pen poised in the air. He exclaims, "Hey, I have a deal for you. If you get an Android tablet and you get 2 gigs of additional data, then it will cost you $120 less."

Tom's eyebrows take on a curl of suspicion. He confirms, "you're not just giving us an Android tablet and 2 extra gigs for free, you're actually paying us $120 to take them off your hands." 

Allen nods his head. 

Later, when we told Andy about our Verizon-filled afternoon, he surmised, "So basically you spent 1/2 hour getting the details of the deal straight and 3 1/2 hours trying to figure out the catch." 

Well put, Andy. And as result of the Verizon Suss-Out-The-Truth-in-Advertising Challenge, I have become attuned to catches. I've been looking out for them and just this morning, I  spotted one. I attended an event where everyone had to write a little introduction about themselves. Most people wrote about their interest in the topic of the event, The Limits of Human Reason, but Carine wrote, "I'm a rose with thorns, but I'm worth the effort."

Aha, I thought immediately. Finally some ad copy where the catch is front and center. 

A Review of the Introduction of Carine Showcasing the Catch.

I'm most familiar with the pharmaceutical industry, so I start there to model my review framework. In drug ads, there's always a catch— anal leakage, weight gain, irregular heartbeat, suicidal thoughts, death, etc. But the catch always hits you after the sunlit pasture scene where the lovely young thing cavorts through wildflowers after overcoming the heartbreak of scoliosis. You gain an appreciation for the pro before the con smacks you in the spine.

With this reference point, I study the Introduction of Carine in search of the Pro. She is a rose, which I take as a metaphor. And she's worth the effort. There is some begging of the question going on here. Is a rose really worth the effort? Who the hell is a rose anyway? Let's speculate:

A Rose is Someone who:

  • always has candy in her purse and she will give you some if you ask nicely.
  • will come over and fix your awning if it falls off your house.
  • will enrich your life with her stunning grasp of Immanuel Kant and the German Idealists.
  • will swap omelettes with you if you really don't like yours.
  • will overlook all your grammatical errors
  • can be counted on to show up at your magic party with a feisty trickosaurus.
I detect a problem. At an hour long event, there's plenty of time to rub up against a thorn and become a boy/girl with a thorn in his/her side (morrissey shout out), but not enough time to i-spy a rose. I will state for the record that metaphorical roses take a while to bloom in the garden of my red bleeding heart.

So here's my catch: I officially refuse to "make the effort." Thorny event attendees can keep their blood and their roses. Unless they are willing to give me an original Smithereens concert T-shirt, in which case I may or may not reconsider whether they're worth it.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

How to Write an Entitled and Shiftless Personal Non-Essay

There's a website called CourseHorse with like ten thousand adult school classes. You can learn to make kasha varnishkes or ride a horse or reupholster your couch. There's a whole section for writing classes. I decide to take one, mainly because I've never taken a writing class before and, judging by the curlicue of my so-called writing process, it's probably fairly evident I have no idea what I'm doing. 

Most of the class listings I discard based on my only two selection criteria— a solid mid-morning start time, and a location that does not require me to board a subway line I find annoying. I settle on a 10am class that is eighteen blocks from our apartment. Perfect. 

Energetic and Motivated Gotham City Writers
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The class gets off to a rocky start. A Gotham City Writer guy tells me "goodies" are for the taking in the lobby. I envision coffee and maybe a tiny muffin with raisins. My hopes flatten like a dead pigeon on the street. There is nothing on that pristine white table top but orderly rows of logo pens and pads. With a black look befitting someone so cruelly led astray, I slump into a seat in the classroom. The woman next to me crinkles around in a shopping bag and pulls out a slice of warm buttered bread and some kind of delicious fruit smoothy. I doodle morose pictures of coffee mugs on my new notepad with my new pen.

Melissa the Instructor shows up and writes An Introduction to the Personal Essay on the white board. Ah yes, the personal essay. I have no idea what a personal essay is, but it has a ring to it. Soon, I will proclaim, "Behold the personal essay I have penned" instead of "I cranked out this blog post and it's all about MEEEE." It will be a legitimate cover for the glorious narcissism I so enjoy. I am all ears.

We go around the class and introduce ourselves. The woman next to me was up at 4am to catch a train from DC to take this class. The two across the room come from Toronto and Melbourne respectively, both gobbling up a month in this city taking classes and inspiring themselves visa vis cultural pursuits and minor clubbing. The lure of this town brought the dude in the black T-shirt here by way of Michigan. Two locals sit by the windows, Manhattanites born and raised.

Every single one of my classmates is here for reasons more to do with personal essays and less to do with logistical convenience. This becomes obvious when Melissa the Instructor scribbles a topic on the board and tells us to write about it for 15 minutes. Immediately I begin to write about something else. A prescribed topic transforms every other topic into forbidden fruit and I am helpless to resist. At the end of the 15 minutes, Melissa the Instructor wants us all to read what we've written aloud. This is unanticipated. 

Everybody else wrote a few paragraphs bordering on worthwhile. I announce that I had approached the topic more metaphorically and pass. It occurs to me that this is a genuine class with genuine students. I feel a little sweaty but it might be because I had hauled ass up the sidewalk the whole way to midtown instead of riding a Citibike. I just didn't feel like going through the incredibly minor hassle of docking so near Penn Station so early in the mid-morning.

Is this squirrel farting noxiously?
photo credit:
After that, Melissa the Instructor dissects the personal essay. There is one essential ingredient. She writes Nut Graf on the board.  I snicker like my spirit animal, which happens to be a fourteen-year-old boy. While Melissa the Instructor explains the Nut Graf, I picture some sort of perverted EKG machine.

Eventually, Melissa stops talking and announces a lunch break, I still have no idea what a Nut Graf is but do not have time to worry about it because my attention is immediately diverted by the chick from Toronto.

Her name is Theresa and she says loudly, "There is a bodega up the street I like, if anyone wants to join me there to grab a bite." My eyebrows skyrocket. She's been in this town for three weeks and is sitting next to two people who have lived in NYC for at least sixty years by the look of them. This is apparently irrelevant. Theresa has had 21 full days to evaluate the vicinity and qualify a DELI she likes better than the other fifty on the block. I am not surprised. Earlier, she had taught us all where to find the best soul food in Harlem so I am already aware of her subject matter expertise.

I go to lunch with one of the New Yorkers who took this class because she's writing a memoir about living in Harlem in the 60's and how much it's changed since then. On a scrap of paper, she jots down for me the names of her two favorite soul food joints. 

Four hours later, Theresa has produced a half-decent personal essay and I remain confused by the Nut Graf. I can say I learned enough to know the words you see before you are not a personal essay. My new aim is to become the Grandma Moses of prose. The work I produce shall be somewhat pleasing if you overlook all the blobby paintwork.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Things that are Disappointing


Since when do they taste like chalk with a crunchy exoskeleton? It's like eating a handful of flashy beetles that have been dehydrated with their legs amputated.

That 2nd bag of Vanilla tea from Harney & Sons. 

The second bag did not live up to my memory of the first bag. 

The new Karen O disk.

You'd need to be really into Pippi Longstocking cosplay to get it up for a second listen.
(Nonetheless my girlcrush on Karen O stands strong.)

Jeffrey Campbell Boots from NastyGal.

The city ripped them to shreds, the posers. Online, they looked stoic enough to take on this town. Nothing doing. They wilted like a bug-eyed tourist completely unraveled by a sweltering 6 train platform at rush hour. Such a disappointment.
Completely disappointing
Jeffrey Campbell
boots purveyed by NastyGal

iPads and iPhones and Computer Monitors.

All this blue light terrorizing my humanoid biorhythms. Tom said there's an app for that. I'll be looking into it.

A podcast I thought was about audio gear but turned out to be a DJ music show.

It took 45 annoying seconds to delete the 3 episodes I'd downloaded before the truth came out.

Rock hard Lip Balm.

Lip balm is unsatisfactory when a swipe of it pulls your lips right off your face. Lip balm should offer moisturization, not a way to jowl in slow motion. 
Jowler photo credit: