Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Shh, the House is Bugged... Better Call the Exterminator!

First, it must be known that the following story is 100% free of any form of fabrication or exaggeration. In fact, there are no means by which one may subjectively interpret the event that occurred. Now, I don't mean to build this up to larger-than-life proportions, because the occasion that took place on December 28, 2009 at 6:42 p.m. only lasted approximately four minutes and some of you might find this story completely unremarkable, as you might believe the same could be true for you as did the lunatic who invaded my peaceful existence on one cold, blustery, winter's night.

A phone call came-in from a number unfamiliar to me. So I yelled, "Does anyone know this number? 496-22xx?" Nope. I answered it anyway. I've been trying to be conscious and gain control of my technologically-induced, anti-social habits that often dictate whether or not I feel like answering the phone. If the Caller I.D. says something like, "Outbound Only 888-333-3333," I never answer the call out of the sheer stubbornness in believing that if someone (or entity) is going to call my home, I should be able to return the call with the number shown. Other times, well, I'm busy and I can't come to the phone, or I just don't want to talk. Right, so this time, I answered the bloody phone.


"Hi, may I speak to J, please?" returned an older woman's voice, older than mine, anyway.

"He's not available, may I leave him a message?" I politely said.

"Yes, this is So-and-So (she gave her first and last name) and I was hoping J could help me with a problem. You see, I, we, have a computer problem. Well, we think it's a computer problem. Anyway, I called the police and they said I need a computer expert to help me. J has helped us in the past and this is really an urgent matter- it's really urgent. And please, this is an emergency, it's of the utmost importance. You see, I believe my computer is bugged."

"Oh," I said, "you mean you believe there is some kind of keystroke-logging software or spyware on your computer?"

"No," she said, "someone has bugged my computer or the room and they are listening to everything that happens. My daughter, Kristen, well J knows her, she had a friend come over and he wasn't someone I trusted. I really didn't know this guy and he seemed kind of strange to me. I'm pretty sure he did it."

Someone brought out the crazy and unleashed it on me... and the only way to combat crazy sometimes is to mirror the madness.

Oh, "they're" listening to you? How dare they! You must be so scared and feel so violated! Well, you're fortunate to have called me, as my friend Moe Fullov has a company that will come out to your house with Super-Hot-Infrared-Transmitters, otherwise known as S-H-I-T, and they will scramble the signal, so whoever is listening to you, will no longer be able.

But rather than act out the fantasy of heading over to her house with metal detectors and material to encase her house or computer room in a Faraday Cage, I thought it best to run like Hell and appease She Who Howls at the Moon by saying, "I'll be happy to give J the message."

J said he's dealt with this lady before and was very grateful I lied and said he wasn't home. The next time she calls, if ever again, I will tell her that I heard Bug Spray works well, especially the kind for flying insects.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Once We Conversate, You Will Be Illumified

So, precisely one month ago, I landed a new job. It was a position for which I was overqualified and would be underpaid, but that I took because of what I deemed as being the non-profit's societal benevolence. On the second morning of work, my boss, a youngish African-American woman said in response to one of my task-related questions, "We are going to have a meeting at one (o'clock) and then we'll conversate some more." We'll do what? Do you mean converse? Oh, right, that's a brand of sneaker.

I quit that job after five days. No amount of scare tactics would work. You are lucky to even have a job in this economy, there is a 15% unemployment rate in the county. What about the holidays? You need money for gifts for the kids!

For many reasons including being too far from home and discovering, only after being hired, that I would be responsible for educating volunteers 2 nights a week, 2 months out of the year for 3 additional hours, on top of my regular work day without comp-time or extra pay, I also realized that my boss, with the same amount of education as I, was a solecist who would implacably chip away at my need to feign respect for her semblable authority.

Aside from bringing up negative feelings that made me wonder how in the Hell this woman could possibly be anyone's boss, it also had the opposite effect- I am going to conjure up my own list of bullshit words! Feel free to add to the list, but here is what I have so far:

1. Deprivate
2. Condemnate
3. Reasonified
4. Agreeance
5. Confirmate
6. Economified
7. Vocabulate and Vocabulize
8. Informate
9. Computate
10. Illumified
11. Confrontated
12. Romantical
13. Stupidify
14. Embarrassful
15. Referented

Hit me with some goodies and soon you, too, can be the arbiter elegantiarum, perpetuating and mocking the fine art of grammar.

Friday, November 20, 2009

When I Paint My Masterpiece

Generally, I like to think I have an open mind. While I enjoy using verbal, critical sarcasm as a means of humor, ultimately, my goal is to remain objective. I try not to judge, but I also have very strong opinions. Which equates, for me, to meaning that each person has an equal right to personal choice, freedom, and happiness. It also means that these are inherent rights that are extended, as a categorical imperative, to all human beings and that I personally feel responsible to ensure that all people realize these rights. I'm sure our founding fathers would all have agreed.

Lately, I've been reading various, off-beat news sources that state Baxter Pharmaceuticals engineered the H1N1 virus several years ago, but I had no evidence the rumor was true... until now... and here too. It seems that Baxter engineered the virus while at the same time, it was also manufacturing a vaccine. In the U.S. patent document, Baxter says it created virus in labs in order to test the vaccine it was trying to patent. Also, back in August 2009, Joseph Moshe, an Israeli microbiologist, called into an L.A. radio show stating that he wanted to evidence to a State's Attorney that Baxter was shipping tainted vaccine as a bioweapon. It has also been reported that Baxter is infecting people, when in February of 2009, Bloomberg reported that Baxter “accidentally” sent vaccine material containing both live Avian bird flu and seasonal flu to multiple laboratories worldwide. Further, the NY Times reported that Obama invested in Baxter (an Illinois-based company) in the amount of 50K while he was a senator and that he passed some legislation regarding increased federal funding to combat avian flu. I also found this news video where scientist, Dr. Adrian Gibbs, who engineered the Tamiflu vaccine, says the H1N1 was engineered and is not some randomly occurring phenomenal instance of 3 viruses all coming together by chance (the Spanish flu, one component to H1N1 hasn't been seen in nearly a century).

My concern is simply that people are more concerned with acquiring material wealth than they are in believing that life is equal, no matter who we are and where we come from. Further, as a result of this greed, people will be injured three-fold; first, injury comes from infecting people with a virus, whether invasively or passive-aggressively (actually injecting a virus or through airborne means) and secondly, injury comes when a declared world-wide pandemic results in shoddy vaccine production that has little quality control and oversight, and lastly, injury is sustained when we, as free people are forced to take a vaccine either as mandated by law, or because we feel threatened and afraid that our loved ones are at risk for contracting the virus (some kids under 10 will have potentially taken 4 flu shots- 2 for seasonal flu and 2 for H1N1 because of the vaccines' limited efficacy in young children).
I'm no conspiracy theorist, but I do find that many, different sources of information are valuable when one is formulating opinions for the purpose of making informed, personal choice decisions. I approach information with a guarded cynicism and try, though difficult, to refrain from making decisions when I may be emotionally influenced- for good or bad. In this case, however, a lot of folks are just as skeptical as I. We're not crazy, in fact, our government leaders and people who profit from the pharmaceutical industry have done this in the past. And throughout the history of the United States, its citizens have been pharmaceutical and biological chemical guinea pigs. Is it so farfetched to think a company and its investors are more interested in filling their pockets than they are in saving human lives?

Is it just coincidence that 3 viruses, which contains one that hasn't plagued us since 1918, came together in some viral pool to mysteriously create what we now know as H1N1? Is it just coincidence that the virus has spread so widely and quickly since May of '09?

I, like many of you, want to believe that people have our best interest as human beings at heart, but I also have to be realistic. I must take the same advice I give to my children when they are worried about others liking them (we act differently when we do not follow our hearts and we forget who we truly are): Not everyone has to like you and not everyone loves you the way that you wish or believe they should. Be who you are: kind, wonderful, loving, creative, and beautiful.

No one should have the right to thwart our health and happiness as living entities who really only wish to live peacefully. This extends far beyond the topic of immunizations and pervades our entire existence as conscious executors of free-will.

As my freshman college English professor said, "Always question authority...," and I have always lived true to those words. We only have this body one time, we should be able to live fully- using all of our amazing senses to experience the world around us, rather than living one of death, suffering and fear. We all share the same responsibility to each other, as the human condition of freeing ourselves from enslavement has been our task since the beginning our human civilization.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hi, My Name Is Jungle Girl- A Discussion About Self-Identity and Society

Two nights ago, on Halloween, my friends and I attended an "undergroundish" party in Philadelphia that some would characterize as being a rave... it was in a huge warehouse, at a location that was kept hidden until the day of the party. There were performance artists, DJs mixing electronic music and playing programmed beats from computers (
very few use vinyl records anymore, sadly), a rose petal, geodesic dome where one could feel the velvety, light petals falling like rain drops all over one's body, roller skating girls with hula hoops, wicked witches pedaling their bikes, tents, a lounge and grotto with exhibitionists baring their physical lust for one another on filthy mattresses and linens, drunk people, high people, clueless people, bright people, artistic people, beautiful people and some very confused people, all coming together as princesses, gypsies, elves, fetishists, vampires, and cheerleaders, devils, angels and me.

The night proved to be an extraordinarily valuable experience for my partner and me, for, in having a last-minute stroke of genius, he thought of a costume idea for both of us, "We should go as our own Facebook profiles."

"What a great idea," I said. Little did I know just how great an idea it would turn-out to be.

So, we went to a professional shop that enlarged our screen-shots with a Pro Photoshop plug-in and laser-printed the profiles onto a 30" x 36" piece of sign-quality, foam, whiteboard, punched a hole in both corners, and looped through some twine so we could wear the sign around our necks.

Because my partner and I are both keen observers of human nature, we quickly understood the complex, social phenomenon that was occurring from people's reaction to us, their perceptions of us, and our reaction to them in a way that I may find very difficult to describe, but I will try my best. I've decided that the best manner in which to explain what happened is to first give itemized examples of encounters we had with many of the party goers, then I will summarize my analysis:

1) The Ego- "Oh, you're both your Facebook pages? So what makes you so special?"
My mirrored-answer was, "The same thing that makes you special." The Moon's position was influenced by its movement through the constellation Aries, so the feeling in the air was Aries-like: people were egotistical, arrogant and oppositely creative, and childlike. My answer seemed to satisfy her question when she replied, "Wow, that's the best answer I've ever heard." LOL

2) The Clueless- "Are you a Dot-Com?" and "So are you guys advertising for the DJ?"

3) The Suspicious- "What are you protesting?" and "Those aren't your real names, right? I NEVER use my real name."

4) The Appreciative- "Great idea! I wish I had thought of that!" and "Can I take your picture? Will you friend me on Facebook if I look you up?" and "Can I actually read your pages? Let me use my light to see!"

5) The Repeaters- "I just poked you- and again, and again, and again!" (actually poking us). "What's your Status Update now?" and "Oh, here they come, here come those people with their 'posts' again."

What most fascinated me was the sudden realization that most of the people were living a paradoxical, almost schizophrenic, existence. For instance, most people have nicknames, but only in the party scene. Now, I know plenty of people who have adopted new names that are quite unconventional- but they own the names. Generally speaking, everyone calls them by their adopted names through all facets of their lives. While for most, it's difficult to tell grandma to refer to one's self as "Dancing Galaxylight", most of the people I met, only use these nicknames in one arena. One young man of about 20 years old said, "I have a Facebook page, but I don't use my real name. I don't want anyone from work to know about
me or find me."

Certainly, I have felt the same way. And I, myself, have been guilty of using nicknames; however, "Jungle Girl", for instance, is a name I've used for about ten years, generally when I am writing. It first described a type of music I enjoy and later, took on a new meaning regarding my love for the Amazon's rich and wonderful botanical secrets. In fact, people use pseudonyms regularly and it does not make one mentally ill, shallow or confused in the least. But in this context, the context of the party, something was very strange.

Party-goers say, "We come here to express our true selves."

I disagree... partially.

Sociologist/philosopher George Herbert Mead devised the idea of social interactionism; whereby, one's behavior is shaped by one's language and physical, environmental cues which are controlled by one's thoughts, ultimately To Mead, there is a generalized self that exists as a member of society and that is shaped by the external community. This self is what Mead called the "Me." We behave according to the social cues and norms of the community. However, while using social cues to guide behavior, one also has the ability to choose one's behavior. Mead called this, the "I". The "I" is what prompts us to make our own decisions, outside of the societal current. According to the same article, Freud went a step further to state that the determined "I" can make a decision that the "Me" eventually adopts, as in the way of pioneers or folks whose new ideas or discoveries forge a new path for all... so the "Me" becomes changeable and fluid.

In my mind, the logical conclusion must also be that the "Me" is the foundation of the "self"- it is our given name, our family, our community, and the lessons the world has taught us. The "Me" makes us self-aware, not be confused with self-conscious, by understanding that we are a part of something greater- that not only are we never alone, but that we must also consider others' right to exert their own "I". Because our individual experiences shape the "I", there cannot be an individual "right" or "wrong", but there can be a societal, "Me", right and wrong from which we gather our social norms, mores, and taboos.

So, while sitting at the rave with my legal name printed across my chest and with strangers knowing my name and even calling me by that name (I not knowing theirs), I suddenly felt unusually comfortable.

I was comfortable because I was Me.

I wondered if the "Dancing Galaxylights" in the room would have taken-off their clothes, dressed in drag, had sex, vomited, cursed, and were so high they couldn't speak would behave that way around Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa? Would they teach their kids that it is okay to be naked if grotesquely overweight, just because they should love their bodies, despite what others in society believe? Maybe some would.

But I'm wagering that the pseudonyms and the pseudo-selves who are students, financial advisors, professors, lawyers, doctors, bankers, are all Tom, Mary, Bob, and Jane in their everyday lives. It is unlikely that a lawyer named "Dancing Galaxylights" would be very successful.

When talking with a very bright party guest, he said, "In an aggregate community, let's say in a small community, everyone would know everyone. There would be no secrets. We would know all there is to know about who the best cobbler, baker, or farmer is and we would go to that person to obtain goods and services in order to satisfy our needs." Bingo.

At the party, the people who claimed to be expressing their true selves, in this particular setting, didn't even know each other's real names much of the time. They were shocked that we would dare use ours and some thought it downright boring to not come-up with a groovy monicker.

Aside from people who hide behavior according to an ever-changeable penal system that now punishes, but that someday might change, to me, the party people who wouldn't offer up their real names (and many did offer them after seeing ours) and who behaved so vastly different than they normally would if a part of regular society, were suffering. We do it all the time in society... take politicians for example, societal behavioral standards are much higher for those in positions of authority than for the common person, so they hide their true selves; otherwise, people might not like them and it would jeopardize their careers or personal lives.

Our society, in its age of technology, believes that somehow privacy should exist... but should it and is that realistic? Further, does a "threat" really exist or is it constructed by paranoid deviants who would rather hide behind computer social networks, only allowing some people to know who they are and what they have to offer the rest of us?

Perhaps we should all wear our profiles around our necks.

And a good rule of thumb for all you younger people who wouldn't normally strip naked in front of others unless you're high as a kite, love yourself, even if no one taught you- But first, that means, knowing yourself and what is best for you. Before you embarrass and lose yourselves further, ask this question: "Would I behave this way in front of my parents?"

If the answer is, "Yes," Hell, go for it. Get naked and have mom and dad join you and call you whatever the heck you wish. If not, perhaps, your real name ain't so bad after all.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Feeling Lucky? The Internet- A Curse or A Blessing?

Internet, what a bizarre human invention. I suppose humanity, having created a vast, interwoven,
social construct in the first place, would find a means of communicating to the entire Earth in a nano-second, eventually. The Information Superhighway gets us where we we want to go with the click of a button. Suddenly, access to information that formerly required the seeker to employ the manual, physical effort of going to the library, writing and mailing letters and cards, talking face-to-face and over the phone is available in a flash. We can accomplish so much more, can't we?

Well, just think about. We literally have the whole world in the palms of our hands and we never have to open the front door. What a blessing, indeed.

In terms of a prima facie stance on the benefits of the Internet, one may certainly agree that access to information, once limited by geographic location and attainable resources, is now completely bridged.

However, when we push the envelope (That's a paper enclosure one uses for privacy and proper handling of snail-mail) a bit more, we note that unforeseen problems arise such as the Digital Divide, the breeding of pervasive anti-social communication practices, and having people find us after years of us being engaged in the most successful vanishing acts of all time.

Look, I am the worst perpetrator, guilty of finding people to whom I haven't seen or spoken in upward of 29 years... being only 34 years old, you can see the problem. It's like some unannounced, unexpected stranger knocking on my door at 3 a.m. and I'm in my underwear with drool easing down my chin, and this person says, "Hi, remember me? Mind if I come in for a while and look in your fridge for something to eat? Oh, and I could really use a new pair of comfy socks from your drawer, you don't mind, right? I mean, after all, we did know each other at one time! Doesn't that mean something to you? If it doesn't, it SHOULD!"

God, how narcissistic of me. I'm so sorry. How dare I post pictures of people in their most awkward states from 20 years ago?

Because it's funny.

So, if you happen to be the lucky one whom I contacted, thank you for accepting my friend request and not ignoring me after forgetting who the Hell I was in the first place. Regarding those pics, I'm a sport, so if you have any fat pics of me from high school, let'er rip.

I would never give-up the feeling of finding someone I love or who I missed the chance to let him/her know I thought well of and wished the best to her/him, even if we were dumb kids who fought and hated each other. The greatest thing about spinning the Internet Luck Wheel, is that I can share memories... some were fond while others were shit; nonetheless, here I am, a part of each moment making-up the whole me.

Two days ago, I found artwork that my kindergarten class made for my 5th birthday. Each kid drew what they wished I would get. And now, as a parent, some of them made me cry when I realized the energy that was put into these little masterpieces was immense and was filled with innocence from a time before cynicism and jaded beliefs.

Some of the kids knew how to spell their complete names, first and last. I decided to look for them on Facebook. Of the four I found, three responded immediately to my email that included a photo of the artwork they made for me at Vineland Elementary School in Kendall, Florida.

Just as it warmed my heart, it seemed to have done the same for the folks I contacted. So, just like all of life, the Middle Path is always the best option when conducting ourselves throughout society- even if we're hiding safely behind our computers. It's not the Internet that's to be hated, it's the user!

Friday, October 23, 2009

I Cann Spel Rel Gud!!

Yesterday, when my 5th grade daughter arrived home from school, as I do everyday, I checked her homework folder. The contents of the folder were two photocopied worksheets: one was math that was introducing the kids to algebraic equations, and the second was a spelling worksheet that gave their words for the week with the task to write the words two-times.

After I write this blog and calm down, I am heading to the school. Which, by the way, is considered a "Choice School". Here in New Jersey, that means that parents from outlying school districts can choose to pay somewhere around $4,000 per pupil to send their kids to an educational facility that is supposed to provide them with a better-than-average learning experience. The artwork shown above is an actual poster shown on the NJ Dept. of Education website and ironically, is the same school my children attend.

In 5th grade, my child's spelling list includes words like "there", "their" and "its", "it's". When I was in 5th grade at Rhawnhurst Elementary, our teachers gave us serious vocabulary words such as "belligerent"and "irate"... and because I was taught these words, I am aware that it's precisely what I am now.

My child's teacher, if this were a country that gave a shit, would be shot for worrying more about running a Talent Show than her students' education. My kid is programming her MacBook and writing movie scripts while you teach her words that my 7-year old knew in first grade. You wonder why our kids are unable to compete with children from around the world when this is kind of garbage they're teaching? That's because you're all a product of the same institutions.

If I wanted a mental slave for a kid, I wouldn't have taught her to read at age 3 and would have waited, like so many parents do, to let teachers do the job, believing that my duties as a parent entail giving my darlings a trendy wardrobe and cute hair.

So, fuck you, America, for the systematic dumbing-down of our youth.


At the same time I was mulling over the vocab words, I was also filling-out an application to audition for a popular show. Here are two pages from the application:

So, how many thousands of people have filled-out this application? If I'm not chosen to go through, they should at least hire me to proofread their documents.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chekov was my Doctor

I love foreign accents. In fact, every chance I get to speak in an accent other than my native northeast-but-slightly-more-like-a-news-journalist accent, that's precisely what I do... British, Scottish, Hindi, French, Italian, German, Chinese, even southern... you name it. And around my house, we all have fun speaking to each other, "You left your jacket en zee ozah hroom," is something I might say while raising my left brow while pointing in the proper direction.

Yesterday, I had a doctor's appointment and was seen by someone new. He read my name, I stood and followed him through the door and then down the hall, he only said, "Just this way." I mean, it sounded normal enough. Until... we entered the exam room and he sounded just like Pavel Chekov from Star Trek, "Ples tak off your clots from de hwaist up."

Oh my God, seriously?

My knee-jerk reaction was to immediately answer him back using the precise accent he'd thrown at me. Within one-nanosecond, I literally thought about repeating him, the pros and cons of doing so, and whether I could get a laugh- when I realized that it's probably not funny to a person who couldn't help but have an accent... so I showed restraint, which by the way, I hate doing.

Turns out, he was Albanian. I had to ask and not so tactfully or grammatically correct as to say, "Your accent is lovely..." Something other than, "Where are you from?" would have been nicer.

Well, soon enough, Chekov had me naked on a cold table in a dark hroom and was probing my chest... it was the accent, it made me hot and had Nothing to do with the fact that he was examining my heart.

A heart full of love for accents.