Mar 28, 2007

Brooks Brothers, Save the Children

These are actually two different topics, not a sentence in the imperative.

1. Brooks Brothers' latest ad campaign cracked me up when I saw a print version lying on the kitchen table at work. I couldn't get over the sense that they seem to be mocking the very people they're selling to. I mean, look at this:

What the heck kind of party is this? If you were on the beach and came upon these people, what would you think? You'd laugh, right? Especially Mr. Guy with the linen sports jacket and the v-neck with the stripes at the collar. I like how there are also Black Folks at this beach party, maybe some relatives of Barack Obama showed up.

2. There is a company called "Dialogue Direct" that hires gregarious young people to stalk the street corners in center city and try to get you to sign up for a monthly giving program to either Children's International, the World Wildlife Federation, or alternately Save the Children. They kind of rotate through the three of them every few months. Sometimes you'll see the same college-aged kid on the same corner for a few weeks at a time, but then they get burnt out from constant rejection and give up to go work at Whole Foods or something.

Today, this nice, crunchy looking guy (probably a summertime camp drama counsellor) approach me with the usual tactic. He stuck out his hand and told me his name, which is supposed to endear me to him, and then I'm supposed to tell him my name (forming a bond between us). He asked me if I was a teacher. I said no.

Him: What are you?
Me: Uh, I'm an architect.
Him: Oh, cool, so what does that mean?
Me: Excuse me?
Him: Do you draw up the plans?
Me: Sorta, yeh.
Him: Like Ayn Rand?
Me: Huh?
Him: You know, the Fountainhead?
Me: Right.
Him: Did you read that book?
Me: Yes. I'm not a Rand fan.
Him: Oh, heh heh, you mean you're not an objectivist?
Me: No. [start digging in my purse]
Him: I read it, I thought it was very interesting.
Me: [edging away] I thought that book was sorta horrifying. I have to go now...
Him: No! Wait! You thought Ellsworth was horrifying?
Me: Yeh, the whole book. Horrifying. Um, bye! [start jogging away and almost get hit by car, realize I am going the wrong way and go around block to avoid him]

That's sorta the end, but this is only one of a million interactions I've had with these kids. Sometimes I am nice and then say, "Good luck, I gotta go." Sometimes I talk to them for awhile, but not lately. Once, the day after I got a raise, I broke down and sponsored a child so now I'm already signed up for the monthly thing, but telling the kids that doesn't stop them, they usually ask me if wouldn't I in fact like to sponsor another child?

Another good one was the time I was sitting on a ledge waiting for something to happen, and I was watching the same guy try to work up conversations with all the people walking by. It was so depressing to see how many didn't even make eye contact with him. I called him over, which confused him. He sat down next to me, and I said,

Me: Why are you doing this?
Him: Huh?
Me: I mean, this has to be the WORST JOB EVER.
Him: It's not so bad.
Me: I would be totally demoralized by all the rejection.
Him: I don't take it personally.
Me: You shouldn't, I just still wouldn't be able to deal with it.
Him: Eh, I'm going back to school soon anyway.
Me: Do you get paid enough to make it worth it?
Him: Eh, not a lot.
Me: Well, good luck.
Him: Uh, thanks.

Later, through talking to yet another one of them, I found out that they get paid a small wage, and then they get a commission when they ensnare someone. Their main company gets paid the equivalent of two years of the contribution rate for every sponsorship. This means that until you have been paying the World Wildlife Federation for two whole years, the WWF doesn't even break EVEN from paying Dialogue Direct.

Somehow this depresses me more. We have nonprofits hiring a for-profit to get them subscriptions, and they don't even see any value from it for at least two years (assuming the person stays on that long). Plus, a whole mess of kids has to endure constant semi-social rejection on street corners. Plus, those of us who work around here have to deal with it. I don't know, I just don't think this whole scheme is a net positive for the world...

Mar 19, 2007

Getting Organized

Taxes need to be done, so I'm going to start organizing my papers. I need to fish out all the things I've saved, this time for the two of us since we will be filing jointly (not sure yet what that implies, tax burden-wise) -- W2s, 1099s, that paper that comes from the mortgage company, the sheet from PNC bank that says I earned $10 interest on my checking account this year, charitable donations, etc. Then I have to throw out all the other slips of paper I've saved that have nothing to do with any of that - for example, old bills that I already paid but felt the need to save for some unknown reason.

Then I gotta organize other things, because relatively soon we will move to the Hazel House. We'll need to do some purging over here in the G-Ho; I already made a box for the Goodwill, in which I placed some tag sale things TJ's mom got us (olive holder and toothpick dispenser, country cottage spoon-holder for the stove, fluorescent-painted candelabra made out of bread dough from Venezuela, etc.). We have a long way to go yet.

Then, if the organizing bug really hits me, I can go through and finish the thankyous from our wedding, start making lists of weird things we need to buy to accommodate a baby in our lives, and go throw out all the little tiny flosses and toothpastes we seem to have so many of from going to the dentist.

To top things off, I can organize some of the intangibles around here. For example, I will now summarize and categorize the games that the pets play, in order of their preference, just for my own records:

1. Barbarians at the Gate: This game is played by hanging out at our bedroom door and alternately whining or pawing the doorknob, or meowing depending on who you are. When TJ finally gets sick of it in the morning and goes to open the door, go ahead and bust in and race all around, causing chaos.

2. The Land of Not Carmen: For cats only. This is a game played by Nani about 75% of the time. It involves being where Carmen is not, usually accomplished by achieving a greater-than-floor-level altitude. Favorite locales in the Land include the "Nani Alter" (a stool she likes to lounge on), the bureau, the dining room table, and best of all, the top of the fridge.

3. Drawer: Also a cat-only game. Drawer is played when some human opens a drawer in the dresser and Nani jumps into my underwear and stays in there even though I'm allergic to her and will probably itch because of it. On occasion, TJ will forget she's in there and close the drawer. Heh heh.

4. Cats and Dogs: Similar to Barbarians except more interactive between the two of them. Carmen chases Nani all around and they both squeal and turn the rugs upside down.

5. Flat Surface: Nani used to play this a lot more often before we kicked the two of them out of the sleeping area. This game is played by stepping on TJ's chest when he is in a more-or-less horizontal position and flattening his torso with repeated kneading movements. When the torso is good and flat, and only then, Nani lays down with her dainty paws crossed and her butt right in TJ's nose. Purring adds to the effect.

6. Stick: Carmen's favorite. Probably self-explanatory.

7. Sit on my Face and Tell me that you Love Me: Carmen's signature move is to nip another dog's ankles until they get all distracted and irritated, and then do a switcharoo move and plant her butt on their face. This signifies a win.

8. I'm Ignoring You: Nani plays this game with Carmen quite often. She also plays it with me, which makes me upset because hey, I give her wet food and everything. She never, ever plays this game with TJ.

9. Accountant: Nani used to play this more often, but she's kind of grown disgusted with us and has lowered her expectations. She used to get wet food on the weekends as a special treat, so she'd religiously keep track of the days and then remind us when it was a weekend day. She even had this little green eye shade and some kind of ledger for keeping her dates straight. The only problem was that it was often actually a Thursday or a Wednesday when she'd demand that it was in fact Sunday, and if you dared to argue she'd shriek, "By my calculations it's SUNDAY!" and there was no arguing with her.

10. Entropy/Saving the World: Every time the two of them (or Carmen, as the case usually is) turn something upside down or inside out, or shred or disembowel anything with stuffing, or barf or crap somewhere inside, or tear open the trash, or punch holes in all the mail with her teeth, Carmen will have some overblown science-based excuse for it. If I remember right, the logic goes something like this: By increasing entropy in this localized region, the pets are actually trying to offset the increase of entropy in our world as a whole. Something about how if entropy tends to increase in general, then the only way to save the universe from expanding out of control is to account for all worldwide entropy right here in our house. I don't know, you have to ask her if you want more explanation. Frankly, I think the whole thing is bullshit.

Mar 12, 2007

A little sadness...

Capella reminded me yesterday that "I never post." I mean, obviously I POST, but I don't post with the regularity of some of the people out there whose blogs I read. I think part of my slacking came from this feeling of failure that followed the buildup of the whole "I gotta blog about our India trip" thing, and then my subsequent inability to follow through - some of you may have noticed that I never got past Pune. (Let's just say the rest was pretty fun - saw an elephant, ate dinner three times a day, drove in cars piloted by crazy people, survived to tell about it!)

Having a blog creates some pressure, and not because anyone really cares if I post my thoughts-of-the-day or not - I'm not worried about letting anyone down, here. It's that I obviously want an audience, and want people to come back and read my drivel and all that. So if I don't post that often, only the six of you diehards will come back to check on me here. Anyway, I guess there's not much more to say about this concept, I only wish that there had been blogging when I graduated from college and was much more likely to post something magically engaging every dayish.*

So: My sadness today comes from the recent news that Brad Delp is dead.

(I'll pause while you google him.)

As I was saying, Delp (former lead singer of Boston) died on the 9th, but TJ just sent me the Times article about it today. I can't say that I am horribly sad, because you may remember that I told you I'd never go to a 21st-century Boston show at the Tweeter Center anyway. My sadness isn't because Delp is dead and the world will never hear him sing again; it's actually more because he always looked like such a nice man, especially in his recent photos as a middle-aged regular guy. **

Take a look at this picture, you'll see what I mean - he's the guy on the left. Actually, they all look like kind of nice guys, but one could believe that Tom Scholz is probably smug behind that grin (top) and that the bass player (right), who I think is Fran Sheehan, could be one of those dickish characters like the bass player (Billy Crudup as "Russell") in "Almost Famous." Sib Hashian, the fro guy, is clearly everything at once: drummer, crazy man, afro picker, lover, fighter, chest-hair-cultivator, sensitive new age guru, etc.

Here's another one for you, this one is my favorite photo in all of place-name-rock history:

Some of you guys know how much listening to Boston's debut album gets me all worked up - you may have heard my melodramatic story about running the "Bay to Breakers" in San Francisco - getting weary near the end, coming over the rise to the sounds of More than a Feeling playing on some loudspeaker, getting the strength to carry on to the end.

Or maybe you know about the one and only painting I ever "painted," which was a nice large canvas gessoed all white with the words "I understand about indecision" lettered across the bottom (does Dan still own that? probably not, but it was funny to us at the time...).

One winter Dan and I drove from Tahoe down the eastern side of the Sierras. We played that album repeatedly in the car, and at some point Let Me Take You Home Tonight came on for the fortieth time. We happened to realize we were lost right around then, so we pulled up next to a bar, the only thing around on the one-lane road we had gotten on. As I left the car to go in and ask for directions, I hesitated for a moment because I really like that song and I was probably still singing along. Entering the bar (probably through swinging saloon doors, it was that cinematic), I heard my song ending on the jukebox. They were playing the same song. On the jukebox in the bar. Maybe you had to be there, but it was something else...

I know some people cannot really appreciate this, but listening to that album generally gives me superhuman strength to do the dumb things I gotta do. One night in the Hazel House, Christine and I were stripping wallpaper and since we were flagging, we put on the Debut Album. I think we finished scraping at 4 am that night, wondering if we needed to apologize to Ellen next door for all the singing and carrying on...

UPDATE: I forgot one story. At least one. One year when my sister was in, say, 8th grade, she wanted to go to a Depeche Mode show - as I recall it was in Long Beach or something. My mom figured that if we had to drive her down there, we might as well go to the show, too (my mom claimed she was curious because my sister was so obsessed with DM). "We" turned out to be me, my mom, and for some reason my cousin Cherie. Of course ADub split off ASAP and went down with Zach to try to get close to the front. The other three of us sat way up high, and I started feeling a little sorry for myself - how did I get in this arena sitting next to my mom at a Depeche Mode concert? How has this come to pass? When can we get out of here? I mean, I even liked DM, but somehow couldn't deal with the situation as a whole.

After some extended period of time, my sister came back and agreed to leave, and as we shuttled my teeny tiny mom through the crazy throngs, I wondered if we were ever going to get out of the parking lot alive. Then, all of a sudden, a convertible went by playing Peace of Mind as loud as could be, and the dawn came up in my brain and I hoisted my mom over my head and carried her to safety! True story.

* Maybe there was blogging but I wasn't paying attention? It was probably like online dating, in that it hadn't gone mainstream yet so only freaky people did it. As opposed to now, of course. Heh heh.

** Note, under "risk factors," he was a vegetarian.