Thursday, March 30, 2006

Suzy Stockmarket

I am absolutely a person who would hide their savings in their mattress, if that was a viable option and also if it wouldn't completely ruin the mattress. Matresses are expensive. You'd have to use your savings to get another, and then you'd have two mattresses and no money. Stupid. Thus, I reluctantly keep my money in a bank, the bank pays me 0.000000296% interest on my savings account, and that is fine. You don't even have to pay taxes on income equalling less than a billionth of a penny.

Well, I am surprised to learn that some brave souls go even further than entrusting their tuppence to the bank. It turns out that when you have a job you're supposed to like seriously save up or something? For retirement? And like, you are supposed to "grow" this money so that you can retire at the age of forty like the people on the cover of the pamphlet I was given on the subject. People who are white-water rafting, by the way, without lifejackets. Low risk-aversity crowd, apparently. I guess that's how they got rich so early. Or they sold their souls to the devil. Or Jack Abramoff. Or is there a difference. (Oooh, as they say, snap.)

I was told by my mother that starting a retirement plan now would be Wise, so when Eloise offered me one, I said, "Okay."

Foolish mortal.

Today I got a phone call from the company's financial man. We'll call him Peter, because that was his name. And here is how our conversation went:

Peter: The government encourages us to save so that we can pay for our retirement.
Me: Right.
Peter: Now, people don't usually wake up one morning all excited about saving for retirement--
Me: Oh, I don't know about that.
Peter: --well, most of my clients are not all excited about saving for retirement, but the closer you get, the more important it is to have enough to live on. How old are you, Simon?
Me: Twenty-three.


Peter: So you'll have some time.
Me: Yes.

This is how I came to be sitting at the dining room table with my father tonight, signing away enough of my paycheck to theoretically be able to buy myself a pre-owned pair of orthopedic shoes in 2055. I say theoretically because I firmly believe that if I invested my entire paycheck, even with 8% growth over 50 years, I would eventually be forced to eat the orthopedic shoes because . . . I am very poor. Evidence:

Me: What tax bracket am I in?
My father: What does your tax return say?
Me: Zero.
My father: Well, you didn't really make anything last year. I guess you'll be in the lowest tax bracket this year, but I don't know what that is.
Me: What if I just put a sad face after that question?
My father: That would be appropriate.

I hope the orthopedic shoes come in grape.

And as if I was not concerned enough, my father then told me about how some people instruct their financial advisors never to invest in anything having to do with tobacco or oil or Ruby Tuesday's or whatever area in which your moral outrage happens to fall, and suddenly I had this strange feeling. I thought to myself, this might be it. You might never be able to be a viable candidate for public office because you are starting a paper trail at this very moment. Eventually someone will discover you signed off on investing in, say, ZQ Babykilling, Inc., totally by accident because you do not know what the hell you are doing. Someday you'll have to give a press conference at which you will be forced to utter the financial equivalent of "But I didn't inhale" or "But I don't remember anything about being in that exclusive club at Yarvard" or "But that DWI arrest made room for Jesus Christ in my heart."

Let's stop for an update. So far, this savings plan has me eating used, though grape-flavored, orthopedic shoes and barring me from the political career I always dreamed of (on Wednesday nights at 9/8 central only, but still).

Then, this savings plan, much like Financial Man Peter, who actually made a joke about absconding to Mexico with my money, decided to terrify me further by requiring me to fill out a questionnaire detailing precisely how averse to risk I am. I think I can tell you I am PRETTY AVERSE TO RISK. At the very least, I do wear a life jacket. Around town. No, just kidding. Only in the car. Anyway, the questionnaire repeatedly asks, in eight different ways, "If there was a small chance you might get a mind-bogglingly enormous return on a $10,000 investment, and a much larger chance that you wouldn't, and would in fact go completely broke . . . would you invest?"

No. It will be such a pain to dig that $10,000 out from inside my mattress.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Nothing sums up Los Angeles more accurately than "Annie Hall" when Diane Keaton says "It's so clean out here" and Woody Allen replies "That's because they don't throw their garbage away, they turn it into television shows". You have no idea how many trash ideas are thrown around out here. And the people making these shows LOVE to advertise. When friends visit they often remark on the number of film and television related billboards we have. Each studio stakes out several blocks and advertises the hell out of their productions. As I was pumping gas this morning I realized how much I was going to miss the FOX collection of billboards, including, but not limited to the rather savage American Idol one posted above my favorite gas station.
It's best to go on a Thursday morning after they vote someone off. You can actually see men scale the billboard and paint over some poor kid's face, officially ending of their 15 minutes of fame. It's brutal. It's entertaining. It's reality television at it's finest.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

the internet knows all.

In college, we would consume large amounts of alcohol and attempt projects that involved skills like "coordination", "creativity" and "the ability to see straight". Why we threw back three bottles of wine and decided to finger paint my room, I will never know. It's not an endeavor I will attempt again, but college is good for lessons like that. On another occasion we decided to bake... The night is rather hazy, but I do remember the cookies catching fire and screaming "EVERYONE GRAB A UTENSIL" and people trying to fling flaming snickerdoodles into the sink. We were hungry and decided to eat the cookies anyway. Upon our initial taste test we realized we had rolled the dough in salt and paprika instead of cinnamon and sugar.

What triggered this tragic memory? Well, lately everything I eat has been tasting very, very salty. Things that have no business tasting salty... cookies for example, cookies I haven't had a hand in baking. I googled my symptom, "everything tastes salty" and learned I'm either dehydrated or I have brain lesions. I'm trying to decide if this diagnosis is better or worse than the plague.

I think I'll go drink some water.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Observations, Flights of Fancy, Blasphemy, and Vulgarities, Not Necessarily in that Order

Flight of Fancy
Item, there is a gas pump one town over that has a flawed LCD display and instead of **authorizing** my debit card, it blandly notifies me that it is ** uthorizing** it. Whenever I see this I fully expect the card to seduce Igraine of Cornwall, kill her husband, and spawn that poor, tortured creature of misery, King Arthur, and I kind of want to mumble to the gas pump, "Please stop Utherizing my card. I do not need an Uther, unless he's going to stand quietly beside me all the time and hold my money." Then I picture John Cleese (evidently he equals Uther in my head) following me around with a sack of gold, bumping into me, spilling it, picking it up, spilling it again, and then sitting down to have a tantrum, before going off by coconut to seduce more women and father accursed offspring. And then I would cry out, "O! if only I hadn't accidentally Utherized my debit card!"

Item, the best book title in the world is Wirnt von Gravenberg's Wigalois. I am pretty sure it's German but how the hell do you pronounce Wigalois in German? So I pronounce it French-like. For those of you who don't speak French, that would make it more or less "wiggle-wah." Those of you who do speak French, please pretend that I am right about that.

Item, the best name in the world is Ewart Oakshott. No special instruction necessary.

Item, today I learned that Otto does not save anything he does on his computer because he doesn't know where it goes when it gets saved. I made fun of him, and then I used the fax machine wrong and got an e-mail from the recipient asking me whether I could please send it again because the pages were blank. Karma, it is real.

Item, today Lindsey sent me a link to the thousand books most commonly found in libraries; you know: the Bible, Homer, Virgil, Calvin and Hobbes, etc. Having taken a look at the top 300 or so, I feel moved to say something truly terrible. SHAKESPEARE REALLY ANNOYS ME. It's like, ease up, dude. You don't have to knock us unconscious with your genius. "What is in that word honour? what is that honour? air. A trim reckoning!" What a jerk.

Item, I've gone off both bread and chocolate. Either it's a phase or the apocalypse is coming.

Item, e-mail received from fellow West Winger, Katie P., after last night's episode.

Subject: ?????
First line: What the crap was that supposed to be?

This about sums it up. I felt that the episode left some questions unanswered, questions which I shall ennumerate now. Donna, where did you go? What if Josh had wanted to accidentally make out with you again? Bruno, why did you allow that to be done to your hair? Santos, why are you so dull? Hawkeye, why didn't you rewrite your lines so that they didn't make you look like a mediocre actor, which you are not? Jon Bon Jovi?! DEBORA CAHN, DID YOU GET LOCKED IN THE SECRET SERVICE VAN WITH BONO? HOW COULD YOU LET THIS HAPPEN? Oh, and Toby, I love you. That's not a question.

Let me just say, us girls in the forums (huggles!) [Becky, that's for you] were pret-ty bored during that dismal episode and the only thing that cheered me up (aside from getting that e-mail from Katie P.) was that someone on the forum linked to a picture of "our schmoo, Josh", looking utterly pwned, with this single, brilliant, perfect word: dipshit. I haven't heard anyone be called a dipshit since seventh grade, but boy does it fit Josh. How telling. Don't you all want to see the show now?

I will be very impressed with anyone who followed all of this. Probably not impressed enough to give you that proverbial cookie people are always talking about, but I might say "well done, you" and maybe kind of punch you in the arm.

That's all.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I will soon become a shipper, like them.

Right now I am downloading music videos made by West Wing fans featuring certain star-crossed West Wing characters. But the songs are so bad I have to mute them, so really I am just downloading silent film clips. I am, in effect, collapsing a pretty intelligent drama into a soap opera of heartbreak and tragedy, of hyper-expressive eye movements and ten different shades of repression, and, oddly enough, a lot of people looking spiffy in outerwear.

It's so great!

I think this is what they call "the first step in a long downward spiral into fangirldom." It's very much like the wraithing pro-cess, only instead of passing into the shadow world, I'll just get really, really annoying. The next thing that will happen is I'll "delurk" and start posting on shipper threads in West Wing forums. Under a name like "JealousofJaMo." Then I'll start saying "squee" a lot. In a fit of delerium -- a smack high, you might say -- it will come to me that editing together a string of fairly random, low-res clips and laying a Celine Dion ballad over it is the best idea I've ever had. That will be hitting rock bottom.

This is all Ivan's fault. I specifically remember her saying to me, one prophetic day in high school, "You should become a speech writer like Sam Seaborn. Have you ever seen The West Wing?"

Thanks, Ivan. Super. NOW I AM A SLAVE TO ITS WILL.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Vikings Take the Capitol, then Give it Back

On Sunday, 19 February 2006, a horde of Norse invaders touched down at Dulles Airport in Virginia and proceeded by coach into the Nation Capitol Region, whereupon they took the subway to central D.C. and trundled four or five blocks with suitcases to the headquarters of their political-insider comrade, who in order to protect her identity shall be referred to as A Lover of Trotsky and Other Dead Philosophers. The next day, the Vikings and A Lover of Trotsky and Other Dead Philosophers met up with their old friend She Who Makes Obscene Sounds with Mars Mud, and here is what they plundered, in chronological order.

Tuesday: National Zoo

A Lover of Trotsky and Other Dead Philosophers had plundered tickets allowing the Vikings and She Who Makes Obscene Sounds with Mars Mud to see the baby panda recently born at the National Zoo. This was of particular interest to the Vikings as they had been hearing about the panda from Ivan. Over in the land of fleas and smog, Ivan had been editing a TV special on the panda for weeks, which drove her mad for a period.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:
Ivan: pandas
Ivan: running amok
Ivan: mating everywhere

Naturally the insanity-inducing panda baby became of interest, and so the Vikings went to plunder it.

Sitting in this tree, like a very large furry coconut, is a panda cub with superb balance. In front, Viking warrior Svartr, showing his enthusiasm.

Svartr found that being photographed fed his vanity so efficiently that he encouraged all the Vikings to join in. Next up: Haukr in front of the capybara cage in the elephant house.

Unlike cheerful Svartr, Haukr doesn’t look very happy. This is because the zoo does not appear to recognize the marketability of giant South American water-hogs, the largest rodent on earth. Why should a capybara be in the elephant house? Why do the elephants get names, and the capybara does not? And why, in the quarter-hour that Haukr stood mesmerized by the enormous cousin of the guinea pig, did no less than four people say variations of, “What is that, some kind of rat?” Haukr feels capybaras do not get the credit they deserve for being the darlingest creatures on earth (Haukr’s words), as evidenced in Bill Peet’s wonderful and tragically out-of-print book Capyboppy, which the populace would do well to check out of the library and read and immediately become converted to the cult of the capybara.

Most darlingest.
Unrelated: This picture is totally unedited. Witness the power of Odin. And sunlight probably frying the lens of my camera. Neat!

Thursday: National Gallery Exhibit Cézanne in Provence

Óláfr, pictured here in front of one of his favorite Cézanne pieces, The Bay from L’Estaque, thought Cezanne’s use of color “was thoughtful.” Pressed, he said the piece was “excavatory, immersive, a contraction of the spirit, a descent.” Óláfr then wept heartily and had to be taken to a corner to regain composure, mumbling about the “nullity of the extracircumferential phenonemena.” Svartr had to be removed to a quiet corner as well, but that was because he found it too, too funny that Cézanne’s eloquent description of his own new, impressionist style was “ballsy.”

Friday: Smithsonian American History Museum & Monuments

A Lover of Trotsky and Other Dead Philosophers and She Who Makes Obscene Sounds with Mars Mud, represented here by Tyrfingr and Úlfarr, conceded to being photographed in front of the sign that said “Whatever Happened to Polio?” because golly, those were the good old days, back when sometimes kids would wake up paralyzed for no apparent reason. Cheers to that. The poster shows Elvis being happily vaccinated. In some archive somewhere there is probably another picture showing that they needed a second dose for his hair alone.

Then Tyrfingr also wanted to be photographed in front of the Smithsonian’s token Disney artifacts: the Dumbo and teacups rides from Disney World.

Tyrfingr is levitating in this picture. Shh.
Tyrfingr remembers how, as a very young child, these rides were such favorites with him that he once threw a royal fit when made to get off the Dumbo ride after his fifth or sixth turn. The life of the Viking child is often full of such privations, and he wiped away a bitter tear before becoming distracted by all kinds of Nationally Important Things, like the Original Kermit and Mr. Roger’s Sweater and the First Teddy Bear.

Little known fact: Oscar the Grouch is considered by Vikings to have come straight from Valhalla.
Also on display: the Star-Spangled Banner and a lot of dresses and Abraham Lincoln’s hat. When Tyrfingr commented that the hat looked a little worse for wear, it was pointed out to him that the hat had “been through a lot” such as the sudden murder of its owner, but Tyrfingr still insists that there is no excuse for neglect in one’s personal appearance, and Tyrfingr should know.

The Smithsonian’s gift shop, incidentally, sells Mars Mud. It does not say so on the label, but if you add some liquor and give them both to a certain one of the Vikings’ friends, the combination creates She Who Makes Obscene Sounds with Mars Mud. Her middle name is And Laughs and Laughs.

But before all that happened, the Vikings walked around the Washington Monument and through the World War II monument and down to the Lincoln Memorial, stopping to see both the Vietnam and Korean Memorials, through all of which the Vikings were very well-behaved because it was too cold to pillage properly, and if you can’t put your heart into pillaging, you oughtn’t to do it at all.

Óláfr, here being very naughty and climbing on Abraham Lincoln, said the experience of seeing the monuments “was thoughtful.” He expanded to say, that the “nullity of the extracircumferential phenonemena” was “excavatory, immersive, a contraction of the spirit, a descent.” It transpired that he is prone to quote Beckett when moved. Haukr, ever the optimist, said he thought of Anna Laetitia Barbauld’s anti-war masterpiece Eighteen Hundred and Eleven, in which Fortune forsakes corrupt England for the innocent new republic, America:

But fairest flowers expand but to decay;
The worm is in thy core, thy glories pass away;
Arts, arms and wealth destroy the fruits they bring;
Commerce, like beauty, knows no second spring.
Crime walks thy streets, Fraud earns her unblest bread,
O'er want and woe thy gorgeous robe is spread,
And angel charities in vain oppose:
With grandeur's growth the mass of misery grows.

Haukr continued on to say he was indifferently curious to see for what country Fortune would forsake America.

His dire sentiments, however, fell away upon the momentous occasion of Einarr being made an Invasive Weed Control DEPUTY. The event occurred unexpectedly at the National Botanic Garden when Einarr was handed the following item:

Einarr takes his new position very seriously.

Oddly enough, he seems to be under the impression that the “Invasive Weeds” are social conservatives, which misunderstanding can lead to nothing but his eventual arrest for assault.

Sunday: No, You Cannot Take a Club in Your Carry-On

Having successfully plundered the zoo, a number of museums and their gift shops, the Library of Congress, and the White House (from a distance of course; otherwise they shoot you), the Vikings sadly parted with She Who Makes Obscene Sounds with Mars Mud and A Lover of Trotsky and Other Dead Philosophers and went back to their desk jobs, saying to each other, “Alas. But we shall always have the Capitol!” which of course translates as NARGH PANDAS NARGH!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


I bought Hugh last Friday and at the time he was a very handsome Cyclamen plant. Long straight flowers pointing toward the sky, deep leaves of green, a complex root system. Hugh was an excellent specimen. Past tense. Can I just start this post with my plant death count? I have five plants in my room, half of which are in various stages of death and dying, bringing my total number of plants killed to six-- two lost to spider mites, two to over-watering, one to replanting and one to the Forces that Control the Universe because I swear I didn't do anything wrong. But Hugh seemed hearty- that's why I bought him! And I wanted to give him a good home, so I put him in the window to get some quality morning light. I went to bed and when I woke up and opened the blinds, Hugh looked like this: actually, that's Hugh on the mend, originally he looked like an Orca Whale in captivity, flowers propped up on the ground for support. So here's Hugh looking like a mistreated SeaWorld resident and here's Ivan smacking her head and saying over and over "why, Hugh, why?!" But Ivan, always the optimist, thought "ok, window bad, lets put Hugh on the balcony" which got us to exhibit one. And then I put him indoors in a dark corner and that got me to exhibit two:
"Hugh the Sun Hating, Fluorescent Light Loving, Miracle Plant".
But who knows, by tomorrow all his leaves could fall off and he could sprout flesh eating fungi, he seems like that kind of plant. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, March 03, 2006

things you don't want to hear at your first pool workout after a three year hiatus...

"hey, nice to meet you! great day to start... we're doing a one mile swim... for time!"

Thursday, March 02, 2006

moving on

today I went downstairs and told my landlord, in 30 days, i'm outta here. "but why?" said helen, a sweet 70-year-old who has been nothing but wonderful to me for the last year and two months. I explained things just weren't working out with the roommates, that my repeated attempts to do things like "clean" were being thwarted by idiots who can't keep iced tea in a glass instead feeling the need spread it all over the floor. or cook popcorn in oil and then leave the oil all over the stove.

And that my repeated attempts to do things like "sleep" were being thwarted by idiots who watch movies like "saving private ryan" and "apocalypse now" and "rambo 7" at 3am. movies that make me to wake up in a cold sweat, thinking I'm not in my expensive, cozy room on the west side, but in the middle of normandy beach. "can't you look the other way?" she said. I could, but the short one has a cat, a cat he is intent on killing, but it's alive right now and that's all that matters. this cat has fleas, lots of fleas. idiot roommate has done nothing about this. oh! wait! i forgot! he sprayed the floor with a flea killer and then let the cat walk around on it! problem solved! but they're still in the house (the roommates and the fleas) and i hear they are known carriers of the bubonic plague (the fleas... and possibly the roommates. one does have a nasty cough) and i refuse the die from the plague! i deserve better than the plague! i want dysentary or brain leisons at the very least!

But poor Sol and Helen just looked at me like I was ruining god's master plan. "You're never going to find a better place. We keep the rent low for you. I say 'lets not raise the rent for the young ones, it will not make us any richer, they need the money more'" and then Sol pipes in, Sol who lived through Auschwitz and loves to tell me "could be worse" because literally, it could be, says "and the lemons! we give you all the lemons you want!" and at this point my heart breaks and I promise to try and work things out with the boys.

But really, things can't be worked out. You can only change a guy who plays online poker 9 hours a day so much. It's time to move on. I don't think I'll ever find an apartment where the landlords care so much and the lemons are doled out so freely, but at least I won't die of the plague.