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I’m having a musical meltdown at work.  Not a fun, jazz-hands and highly choreographed spontaneous dance number style musical meltdown, but the plain old boring kind where I can’t find anything to listen to that doesn’t make me want to stab pencils into my ears.  Or Sharpie fine point permanent markers, which is what I actually write with.

The crux of the problem is that there is only a limited amount of music deemed “work appropriate” for our office/cheery gift store.  Apparently our core demographic of middle aged women (who aren’t my mother) have no appreciation for the musical stylings of Rob Zombie!  Or any sort of rock n roll from the 1950s to the 1970s, which is funny to me because most of them probably listened to it growing up or maybe even had to rebel against their parents to buy a Mick Jagger crotch shot (aka Sticky Fingers).  At what point did anything stronger than Norah Jones become unpalatable?  Then again, maybe these same women spent the 60s listening to Mitch Miller and Pat Boone and abhorring those over-sexed moptops. 

Anyway, as I said there aren’t many options for work music.  We have satellite radio, which contains bazillions of stations; unfortunately, only a few of them are safe for our customers’ ears.  Our owner likes Coffee House, which features such soft rock codswallop as John Mayer and horrific instrumental renditions of formerly good rock songs and even instrumentals of already acoustic songs by the likes of Simon & Garfunkel (I prefer Garfunkel & Oates).  It should go without saying that this station makes me want to employ the stabby Sharpie.  Boss Lady also approves of the Sinatra station, and I originally thought this would be an excellent alternative to stabbing myself, as I love Ole Blue Eyes, but it turns out the Sinatra station plays far less Frank than it does weepy Broadway ballads and an unholy amount of South Pacific.  (“Happy Talk” makes me want to cry.  Irony?) 

This leaves me with “40s on 4,” a pretty good mix of swing, big band, and delightfully dated propaganda songs (of which “Hot Time in the Town of Berlin” is my favorite, containing as it does the line “we’re going to change that ‘heil’ to ‘give me some skin!’”).  Now, I like the Andrews Sisters as much as the next gal, and I can’t hear “Papa Loves Mambo” without doing a little dance, but there’s only so much one can hear of a single genre of music without craving some variety.  Also, despite seemingly having 10 years worth of music to choose from, the 40s station plays a rotation of the same songs day in and day out, and when you listen for 8 straight hours at a time, it starts to grate on the nerves.

Come on, I reminded myself, you have bazillions of stations!  Surely there must be something else you can listen to!  So this week I’ve been working my way through the likeliest contenders.  The Loft, despite being described as “contemporary eclectic” played an obscene amount of reggae (and I can only go Bob Marley deep into reggae) on Tuesday, then did nothing but talk talk talk on Tuesday.  The first song I heard on The Bridge was by Fleetwood Mac, instant disqualification.  Radio Margaritaville?  We can probably skip that one.  Love Songs?  Gag.  Escape?  Break out the Sharpies!  So guess what I’m still listening to?  The 40s on 4!  Oh well.  Truer lyrics were never written than “There Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens.”  

T

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Yeah, Reality Bites

As one could easily discern from previous rants on this page, I’m trying to figure out what to do with my life.  Elders are supposed to ooze wisdom, so I’ve been asking various people in different fields what they recommend.  So far this has garnered useless “advice” like follow your heart and it’ll all work itself out.  Much as it annoys me, I expected that kind of answer.  I was prepared with retorts like, “But what if your heart doesn’t know what it wants?  What it you don’t have dreams to believe in the power of?”  I was not, however, prepared to respond to the following advice, which will most likely go down in the annals of T history as some of the most useless and vaguely insulting advice ever received: “Why don’t you just get married?”

Seriously?  Why don’t I just get married?  Well, for starters, that’s not a career.  But, the advice-giver argued, if I had someone supporting me, I could pursue all the things I’ve dismissed as being impractical careers, like writing and ghost hunting.  I believe this is roughly how the conversation went:

Me: “So he can leave me for someone younger and prettier once he gets sick of me?”

AG (advice-giver): “Stop being so negative.”

Me: “I don’t want to depend on someone else for my livelihood.  That’s not practical.  And it’s not a career!”

AG: “But think how much happier you’d be with someone to take care of you!”

Me: “It’s not the 1950s!”

It especially disturbed me that this advice was coming from a successful business woman who’d made a name for herself through hard work, dedication and, let’s be honest, a healthy dose of following her dreams.  Aren’t successful women supposed to encourage the next generation to take up the mantle of feminism and glass ceiling-shattering and equal pay for equal work, etc etc?  I guess she didn’t get that memo.    

I could dismiss this as an isolated incident, except variations on this same “find a man and you’ll be happy” scheme seem to be following me around.  This came to my attention last night while viewing the uninteresting film Post Grad.  The main character played by Rory…er, Alexis Bledel finishes college with honors and expects her degree to immediately open doors for her.  Instead, she discovers that hundreds of other eager young applicants are vying for every dream job, and life won’t be nearly as easy as she predicted.  (Duh.)  What disappointed me about this movie, aside from the fact that it wasn’t very good excepting the presence of the wonderful Jane Lynch, was that our heroine finds happiness not in another field, or by going to grad school or taking on a lower-paying job, but by falling in love with her guitar playing best friend (if you didn’t see this coming within the first few minutes of the film, I feel no guilt at spoiling the plot for you). 

I couldn’t help but compare this film unfavorably to my favorite post graduation story, Reality Bites.  But then I realized that as much as I love Reality Bites, the ending is basically the same: honor student Winona Ryder realizes she’s in love with her guitar playing best friend.  Rather than landing a great job or internship, she lands Ethan Hawke (not too shabby, though).  End of story. 

Perhaps the point these films are trying to make is not that finding a cute guy is the key to happiness, but that a career isn’t the answer, either.  Perhaps the point is to surround yourself with people you love and discover what makes you happy, and once you do that, the career stuff will sort itself out. 

So I guess we’re back to following your dreams.  Sigh.

T

It’s lonely being an atheist.  It’s really a believer’s world.  Just saying the word “atheist” puts people on edge.  Believe me, I know.  The reaction I receive the most, though it’s entirely illogical, is “do you worship the devil?”  Well see, the devil is a Biblical character, the evil counterweight to the goodness of God.  You can’t very well believe in the devil (let alone worship it) and not also believe in God.  So no, can’t say I do worship the devil.  Being an atheist doesn’t mean I champion evil and destructive forces in the universe; it simply means I don’t believe in God.  I can’t.  I genuinely admire people born with strong faith.  With the exception of extremists who like to use the Bible to justify all sorts of terrible things, most people who believe in God take great comfort in it.  I would love to have some force in my life to cling to in times of distress or uncertainty; the idea that some benevolent force is interested in my well being is truly lovely.  But the problem is, I just don’t believe it.  I tried for most of my youth to reconcile what I heard in church and confirmation classes with what I really felt, but it couldn’t be done.  I want to believe, but I don’t.  So where does that leave me?

A pet peeve of mine is being told I’m going to hell for not believing in God (gee, why would that bother me?).  I’ve developed a couple of responses to this that no one’s been able to refute yet:

1.  If you believe that God created everything on earth, then when I was made, God apparently left out the faith component.  Why would I be punished for something completely beyond my control and maybe even predetermined for me by God?

2.  So even if I live my life as best as I can, trying to always do the right thing and not harm anyone, I’ll still burn in hell with deeply awful people like Hitler just because I don’t get anything out of going to church?  How does that make sense?

Really, if a person could choose to live in a world with an all-loving, all-knowing creator rather than an empty, vaguely meaningless existence, who would choose to be an atheist?  Just as the Christians and Muslims I know (I don’t know any Jews or I’d include them, too) didn’t choose to believe in God, I didn’t choose not to.  So take it easy on us atheists.  We’re in the minority, we don’t have a cool best friend like Jesus looking out for us, and this is the final stop on our journey.

T

  1. Humming – Hear that nice song playing on the radio right now?  Yeah, we can’t hear it either.  Because you’re humming.  Off key.  Stop it.
  2. People who call into radio shows without thinking through what they’re going to say first — “Yeah, uh, hi.  I have a comment to make?  About the topic you’re discussing?  I, uh, think that, uh, it’s wrong?  You know?”
  3. Pinky rings, particularly on men – Unless you’re in the mafia or loosely connected to it as well as prodigiously talented like Frank Sinatra, this accessory is not for you.  Kindly remove it from your finger.
  4. Leaving Christmas decorations up all year long – Sure, you could argue that they’ll eventually be current again, but that’s no excuse for leaving your Christmas decorations up all summer long.  They’re not special and pretty in July, folks.
  5. Overly “helpful” sales associates – Saying hello and asking if we need any assistance is perfectly acceptable and pleasant.  Continuing to hound us after we’ve said no thanks is not.
  6. Cell phone use in the library – This one should be a no-brainer but sadly it’s not, because someone is loudly chatting away on their phone every time we enter the library.  Does the word “shhhhh” mean nothing to you?   
  7. The return of 90s style – It makes us feel horribly old to have the fashion of our youth come around again.  Mini backpacks and platform sneakers?  We’re old enough to know better now, and we refuse to give in.
  8. The cost of replacement parts – How is it that a replacement drum for a printer costs more than the printer itself?  You end up having to scrap the whole thing and buy a new one, which is downright wasteful.  They just don’t make ‘em like they used to.  (And yes, we’re aware this sentiment makes us sound like octogenarians.)
  9. Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins splitting up – We are still upset about this.  Never getting married was supposed to preserve them from divorcing after decades of non-connubial bliss!
  10. Other people’s conversations – Is there anything more boring?  Dear lady behind T in line at the theatre: your friend must really adore you to listen to your excruciatingly detailed, fifteen minute anecdote about your trip to Target that afternoon.        
  1. Gnomes – How silently they sit there, observing us day in and day out.  How much they must know and yet how little they reveal.  Inscrutable.  Irresistible! 
  2. Cole Porter – Pretty sure he was a robot from the future.  How else do you explain the prolific output and ridiculously witty lyricism of this songwriter?  Robot for sure.
  3. Peanut butter – Quite possibly the most versatile and delicious spread ever created!  Peanut butter is the perfect accompaniment to English muffins, bagels, pancakes, bread, crackers, etc.  Mmmm.
  4. Air conditioning – How in Jefferson’s name did people exist in the summer before central air?
  5. Dean Winters – He was heartbreaking as Sarah Connor’s jilted fiancé on Terminator, and then he turned around and made us laugh through our cringes as Liz’s insufferable boyfriend Dennis on 30 Rock.  Now we get to see him every commercial break as Mayhem, dropping trees on cars.  Well done, sir.
  6. Mad Men – Yes, this show receives heaps of praise from critics, but you know what?  It deserves every word.  Sexy Joan!  That lovable scoundrel Don!  Crazypants worse-mother-ever Betty!  But someone needs to punch Pete Campbell in the face.    
  7. Rufus Sewell – This man should never be out of period clothing, the broody bastard!  There’s something just slightly off about his face.  We’ve never been able to put a finger on it, but it only makes him sexier.
  8. Joan Jett – The shag haircut!  The leather pants!  The snarl!  Oh yeah, and she’s a pretty good musician, too.
  9. “Background artists” – Thanks to Ricky Gervais’ brilliant show Extras, we have a newfound appreciation for those thankless actors who populate scenes and strive in vain for one speaking line.  When they’re doing their job well, we shouldn’t (and don’t) even notice them.
  10. Greek – By all rights, this show should be stupid and pretty redundant after years of frat boy films, but it someone manages to be sweet, funny and—gasp—intelligent.  T ♥ Cappie!  

Is That All There Is?

I have no idea what I want to do with my life.  Actually that’s not true.  I know what I want to do: I want to go to concerts, read as many books as possible, watch at least one movie every day, have dinner with friends…  You get the idea.  But as for what I want to “do with my life” in the career sense, I’m at a loss.  The best I can come up with is a governess for a mysterious, attractively broody gentleman who lives in a crumbling estate on the moors, but those positions are so hard to come by!  Also, I’m not crazy about kids.  Or living in time periods without air conditioning. 

So assuming that becoming Jane Eyre is not a viable career path, I’m left with few options that genuinely appeal to me.  Maybe the problem is that I expect my career to appeal to me.  Millions of people go to work everyday for the sole purpose of obtaining a paycheck, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s just that when I try to peek ahead through the shadowy gauze veiling my future, the thought of spending several decades just getting by Monday-Friday so I can attend the occasional concert or go out with my friends on the weekend makes me want to throw up.  There’s got to be more to life than that, right?  And if there isn’t, then why did I spend gobs of money obtaining a degree and why oh why in Lincoln’s name am I even considering going back for an advanced degree?!  Would a Master’s guarantee me more interesting job options than I have now, or would I still be suffering from the same malaise only with the added burden of an even bigger student loan debt?   

I have a nauseating suspicion that this is it as far as the satisfaction of life goes, so I might as well start getting used to it.  At least until Mr. Rochester accepts my application.

T

  1. Meteorologists with opinions – Your job is to predict the weather, okay?  Not to force your opinions about what a beautiful day it’s going to be down our throats.  Perhaps not everyone agrees with you about how “perfect” 86 degrees and sunshine is.  Ever think about that?
  2. “Beach reads” – This is how big, meaty novels released in the summer are described, but this expression makes no sense to us.  Beaches are noisy and crowded, demanding frivolous, throwaway entertainment.  Do people actually lie out in the sun all day reading Dickens?  If so, it’d be more accurate to call it a “skin cancer read.”
  3. Kerchief and knapsack – Why do authors and television writers employ these words as though real people actually say them out loud?  No one uses these words.  It’s impossible to say either one without sounding like an ass.
  4. Preggers – Pregnancy is sappy and cutesy enough without using this stupid nickname.  (Note: we will allow an exception for ironic usage.  Obvi.)
  5. Back to school ads in the summer – Can’t you let those poor kids have at least one blissful month without reminding them of the imminent demise of their freedom and happiness?
  6. Gum snapping – Also, gum chewing in general.  There is nothing classy or attractive about incessant mastication.  If we can see or hear your gum, it’s time to spit it out.
  7. Women applying makeup while driving – Ladies, you make all of womankind look bad when you do this.  You’re also endangering the drivers around you, not to mention smudging your mascara.  Knock it off.
  8. Posthumous duets – Whose bright idea was it to take an old track of Sinatra’s glorious crooning and muck it all up by inserting an entirely unnecessary echo by a modern singer?  We expect this crap from the likes of Enrique Iglesias, but Bono, you should know better!
  9. Personal space invaders – You know these people: they brush shoulders with you at the bookstore, they sit directly beside you even though the whole restaurant is empty, and they lean over you to look at whatever you saw first.  They have no respect for personal space bubbles, and they must be stopped.
  10. Loud talkers – There is no reason to shout into your cell phone.  They can hear you just fine.  There is also no need to force your conversation on the entire restaurant.  Inside voices, please!
  1. Piper Perabo – She’s cute, talented, funny and friends with K’s imaginary bff Lena Headey.  It’s about time someone gave her a show of her own!
  2. Satirical social commentary – Who needs dry, straight-laced statistics when you can get the point across so much more effectively in a funny, well written satire like Natural Born Killers?
  3. Garfunkel & Oates – Such wisdom and spot-on observations sung (sometimes rapped) by two genius young women who have a sly way with words.  Pregnant women are smug!  Thank you, ladies, for finally saying what needed to be said.
  4. Cloth bags – Paper or plastic?  Neither!
  5. Minnesota Public Radio – Where else can you get Prairie Home Companion, Car Talk, up-to-the-minute news updates, balanced political commentary, and (huzzah!) literary discussions all in one place?  Yeah, we’re nerds.
  6. Paul Rudd – Dearest Paul Rudd, we’ve loved you since we first met you in Clueless all those years ago and, if such a thing is possible, you’ve only gotten cuter and funnier since then.  We bet you smell good, too.  Please come give us a hug.  Love, T&K.
  7. Apples to Apples – You say “sexy,” I put down…”Nazi”?  This game is possibly the best way to dig into someone’s disturbed psyche since Freud got all up in psychoanalysis.
  8. Bowling – The Pandas’ sport of choice!  Our games usually degenerate into childish name calling and spontaneous 60s-inspired dance parties, but we still manage to fit a few poorly shot frames in.
  9. Victorian-era gothic romance – Is your lover digging up your grave because you keep haunting him?  Are you being tormented by the impetuous gentleman who employs you as a governess?  Or trying to hide your secret, illegitimate child?  Chances are you’re in a gothic romance!
  10. Juliette Lewis – Someone had to carry on the spandex-wearing, riot grrrl spirit of rock n’ roll, and that person is…actress Juliette Lewis?  Yes!

Shortcuts

Generally, there are none.  Shortcuts, that is.  At least not when it comes to being healthy, which is something I have very grudgingly come to accept over the last few years.  Perhaps it’s due to this hard-won acceptance that I’m so irked by unhealthy products masquerading as good for you essentials.  Vitamin Water, for instance.  Call me old fashioned, but I just don’t think a liquid calling itself water ought to contain 125 calories per bottle and an entire paragraph of ingredients; in fact, anything longer than the word “water” is too many ingredients! 

I can’t tell you how many women I see wearing those new toning sneakers while sucking down whipped cream and chocolate shavings topped drinks.  I guess toning shoes are better than nothing, but do they really think those FitFlops are going to cancel out the tablespoons of sugar they’re ingesting?  The only thing that’s going to do that is exercise, but exercising is a pain in the ass, so it’s no wonder all of these seemingly effortless weight loss inventions have glutted the market.  Why get all gross and sweaty doing cardio when you can just strap a vibrating device to your stomach while you watch TV?  There’s a part of me that really wants to believe those shortcuts actually work, but then I come back to reality: if it’s too easy, it’s not going to work. 

Recently, someone recommended I check out the book Women, Food and God.  Having read this book, the lady said she now understood that she was gaining weight because she was binge eating to fill a spiritual and emotional space in her life.  Now, I haven’t read this book, so I’m hoping the author’s explanation isn’t that ridiculous and simplified, because I hate it when people break complex psychological principals behind serious, legitimate disorders down into motivations for everyday behavior.  Someone who occasionally indulges in a little too much dessert and feels guilty about it later is simply not in the same boat as a person with an actual eating disorder.  To suggest otherwise is to lessen the awful, life consuming impact disorders have on people’s lives.  It’s like someone claiming they’re OCD because they like to organize their closet by color.

Anyway, books like Women, Food and God (or, more accurately, the interpretations of the people who read them) serve to remove personal responsibility from the equation.  Perhaps you’ve been gaining weight not because you’re hungry for God but because you’re drinking 800 extra calories a day in your supposedly healthy beverages and the only workout your track pants get is walking to your deck chair.  No, that can’t be it!  This attitude annoys me because I know so many people who religiously watch their caloric intake and work hard to burn off extra pounds but still can’t achieve their goals.  Or people for whom medical conditions prevent them from the kind of vigorous exercise necessary for weight loss.  They’ve earned the right to complain about it, unlike people who jump on each successive fitness craze looking for easy answers.

Or maybe I’m wrong, and I’m wasting my time at the gym.  Perhaps the answer lies in a pew rather than on the treadmill.  But I doubt it.  

T

  1. Maxi dresses – Maybe we’re just not stylish enough to pick up on the appeal of this trend, but to our uneducated eyes, it looks like you’re wearing a sheet.  Isn’t the point of wearing a summer dress to keep you cool?  How are you doing that by tangling your legs up in fabric?
  2. South Pacific – Ugh.  It’s the kiss of death for a musical: awful songs!  Someone once told T she only dislikes this musical because she’s never had an enchanted evening or had to wash a man out of her hair.  T counts herself lucky.
  3. Actors talking about their craft – We love movies, and we love reading interviews with our favorite actors, but the second they start talking about their craft, we groan in disgust and turn the page.  You get paid obscene amounts of money to play make believe for a living.  Don’t get pompous on us.
  4. High fructose corn syrup – Why does my bread have corn syrup in it?  Why do flavored “waters” have it?  Why does EVERYTHING have corn syrup in it?  No wonder we’re becoming such a hefty nation!
  5. Characters’ sleeping attire – Who goes to bed with their hair styled, in full makeup, wearing a push-up bra?  Fictional characters, that’s who!
  6. Whimsy for sale! – We pick on cutesy gift shoppes (insert K’s cringe here) all the time, so you might think there’d be nothing left for us to mock.  Ha!  Think again!  Our current fascination is with a little store in town that lists “whimsy” as part of its sundries.  How does one purchase whimsy?  By the gallon?  Is it bottled?  Canned?
  7. Sophomore effort – Come on, rock journalists.  Must you always refer to a band’s second album as their “sophomore effort”?  Can’t you just say “second album”?  Apparently not, though we realize we might be the only people bothered by this.  That’s why we have each other.
  8. Ticketmaster fees – How can you possibly justify a “convenience” charge when there’s no other way to buy tickets?  That’s not convenient, that’s a monopoly!
  9. Natch – Enough already!  Stop trying to make “natch” happen, journalists!  It’s not going to happen.  Also, you don’t sound hip when you use this.  You sound stupid.  We thought it was about time someone told you.
  10. Jesus bumper stickers – What is it about Christians that they feel the need to plaster evidence of their faith on everything?  You don’t see “Got Muhammad?” bumper stickers.  As far as we know, you don’t get into Heaven on the basis of how many Jesus figurines, stickers, bracelets, and tee shirts you own, but maybe the rules have changed since our last theology class.