Saturday, May 23, 2015

Day 2 on the Campaign Trail: Lunch With Rinse Previous

As a child, I thought myself quite the prodigy for reading Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, which I’d discovered in my dad’s pornography collection. Dale’s assertion that people love being addressed by name stuck with me, but sometimes, as with persons with names I’m not sure I’ve heard right, or am pronouncing correctly, my desire to charm in this way causes me much distress. Such was the case yesterday when the head of the Republican National Committee phoned to invite me to lunch. I think his name is Rinse Previous, but I wasn’t sufficiently confident about that to address him as anything other than sir, which was very uncomfortable in view of his addressing me as John more relentlessly than a previously-owned automobile salesman might have.

 When I declared my candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination the other day, it was with tongue partially in cheek. I have lots of Bold New Ideas, and am less obviously intellectually challenged, corrupt, or deranged than any of the others who’d entered the race before me. Moreover, by being the only avowed socialist in the race, I feel that I offer Republicans a choice not only unavailable, but in fact inconceivable, before this past Monday. But my being a socialist is a two-edged sword, in that it pretty well precludes my being funded by the Kochs or Wall Street. All that aside, the shockingly enthusiastic reaction on the social media to the announcement of my candidacy had apparently made Rinse believe that I was a force to be reckoned with.

We met at one of those old-fashioned steakhouses of the sort I didn’t imagine existed anymore, one in which silver-haired fat cats with paunches sit in red banquettes washing down very rare steaks and creamed spinach with multiple martinis, and calling the waitresses, hired in substantial part for their cleavage, honey. Rinse was charm itself as he told me how much my candidacy delighted him for having already made The Discussion so much livelier. “I mean,” he said, starting his third vodka gimlet, “I deplore your ideas, but your having expressed them makes for lively debate, and lively debate is the oxygen of a vibrant democracy.”

I sent my onion rings back, as they were soggy. Since becoming addicted to the Food Network, I’ve been a very demanding restaurant patron. I pointedly didn’t call our server honey. I could see the gratitude in her eyes, and Rinse and I got down to what the British so love to call the nitty-gritty. The Republicans had spent literally billions of dollars since the Reagan years selling stupid Americans on the idea that if they just tolerated being the patsies of the rich with sufficient forebearance, they would themselves become rich one day. My railing with rare eloquence against income inequality stood a slim chance — but one The Party was disinclined to take — of that tiny minority of the electorate that pays attention to stop voting against its own best interests.

“So?” I asked, smirking Bushily, feeling every inch a Republican wheeler-dealer, and hating myself for it, “what have you got for me?” Had one of the cuter servers walked past at that instant, I might have pinched her ass, and then loudly demanded, “Whatsa matter, honey, you a lesbo or something?” if she protested.

“Wow,” he said, draining his gimlet, “you’re tougher than I’d expected.” He snapped his fingers to get our server over, ordered a fourth gimlet, and revealed that The Party was prepared to offer me the job of Gov. Bush’s running mat, or Sen. Cruz’s, or even Gov. Palin’s, if I would “play ball” — that is, repudiate all the beliefs I’ve expressed to this point and pretend that I regarded Gov. Bush, San. Cruz, or even Gov. Palin not only as someone who shouldn’t have been drowned in infancy, but as a viable political leader.

I told him I’d think about it, but I was lying. Lying is what we political candidates do, as witness my earlier reference to my dad’s porn collection My dad didn’t really have such a collection, at least one that I knew about.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Leverage This

Every day I receive around 14,000 emails from persons or organizations in the business of helping the unemployed find jobs. Some of them lead me to a site on which I can apply for various, uh, positions with a single click, others to sites that want me to fill out a questionnaire. In view of the fact that approximately one prospective employer in 100 acknowledges my having responded, I no longer bother with the latter.

One interesting thing I’ve noticed in the course of my seven months of job-hunting is that the traditional graphic designer is a dying breed. In his or her place, we now have — stand clear! — interaction designers and user experience designers, the referenced experience presumably being the target audience (I cannot be compelled to say “end user” — I cannot!) looking at that which has been designed, and then clicking somewhere.

Yesterday, I believe I hit rock-bottom for the week, as I discovered a job posting that specified that the successful candidate would “leverage user-experience and graphic-design methodologies to help re-imagine new human-centered user experiences, products and services through collaborative problem solving with a multidisciplinary team." To which my reaction (as a few of you, to whom I apologize, know already) was: Leverage this, you language-sullying, soul-sucking fuckbags.

Give those who use language as a tool of obfuscation, bamboozlement, and hoodwinkery a very wide berth. Never trust anyone who uses leverage as a verb. Blow loud raspberries at any public speaker who deploys the locution “I’d like to take this opportunity to…” Never trust anyone who uses the word synergy more than once per decade. Never trust anyone who says utilize where use (rhymes with bruise) would work just fine. Be very wary, Larry, Terry, Jerry, and Mary, of anyone for whom methods just isn’t good enough, and only methodologies will do. 

It starts at the top. American politicians are apparently vigorously warned never to use words that Joe the Plumber might not recognize, but the problem clearly isn’t one of multisyllabilicness, as they are expected to end their orations with such gaseous fatuities as, “May God bless the United States of America.” Never just America, you see, and never the USA, but always all nine syllables, to up the, uh, portent quotient. God help us, and shame on you, Mr. President, whom we know to know better. 

I had a job interview in the San Fernando Valley 72 hours ago, with a company whose offices are in a business park in Van Nuys, which has been called the Valley's version of  Queens. The company’s reception area’s ghastly bright blue walls contained monstrous cornball art in frames that wanted to be perceived as very ritzy. The receptionist made me affix to my breast a sticker specifying my name and whom I was there to see, even though it turned out that I wasn’t actually admitted to the offices proper, but interviewed in a lightless, depression-inducing conference room adjacent to the reception area. I was this close to ripping the sticker off, asking the receptionist to tell the human resources manager who’d invited me in that I’d sooner starve than work in such an environment when the art director emerged and turned out to be an extremely nice guy with whom I felt an instant rapport, even after he said, “Tell me about you.”

In my celebrated one-man show, Wm. Floggin’ Buckley, I asserted that calling it Human Resources rather than Personnel was the height of pretension. How very far we’ve come.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Campaign Trail: Day 1

Seeking the Republican presidential nomination has turned out to be a lot more fun than I’d expected. Like most people, I enjoy attention. Unlike most people, I have an implacable pathological appetite for it, so I hugely enjoyed spending the day on the phone yesterday with the media, though the Fox News intern who seemed to be intent on proving my candidacy a sham wasn’t much fun. When it turned out she’d heard of my having recently volunteered to do graphic design for the Bernie Sanders, I thought my goose was cooked, but it turned out that I am able to think quickly on my feet, and told her that I’m hoping the Democrats will nominate Bernie because he’ll be so easy for us Republicans to beat. She speculated pointedly that my avid advocacy for what I call alternative heterosexuality, but which many people call sickening perverted kinky sex, might doom my candidacy, but I asserted that we Republicans (I managed not to giggle as those words tumbled from my lovely sensual lips) need to think in terms of greater inclusiveness if we intend to keep pace with the Dems, who eagerly embrace deviance in every form.

Our conversation turned out to be the most beneficial of the day for me, as, when she asked at the end whom she should contact with any further questions, I invited her just to call me. She said, off the record, that if my candidacy were indeed serious, I would need a staff of aides, advisors, and acolytes. I guess the tone in which I assured her I was in the process of recruiting exactly such a coterie made clear that I hadn’t a clue as to how to do so, and she gave me the phone number of a former sorority sister of hers, Tiffani, whom I might want to consider for my chief of staff.

Tiffani turned out to be the sort of person who hasn’t been out of college long enough to stop using totally twice in every sentence, but seemed to share my vision for America’s future, and needed a job, her internship at Goldman not having resulted in a job offer. I said I wouldn’t be able to pay her until after this coming weekend’s big bake sales in Mason City, Iowa, and Columbus, Ohio. She said her intuition was that I was good for it, and arranged for me to make my first public appearance as a candidate, at the opening of the new 99 Cents Only store on La Tijera Blvd. in Westchester, as the unremarkable little community just north of LAX confusingly calls itself. I composed a short speech on the way over in spite of the fact that my Uber driver kept wanting to sell me toot, and wouldn’t take no for an answer.

There were maybe 25 people gathered in front of the new store, which was a supermarket back when I was growing up (to whatever small extent I may be said to have grown up) in nearby Playa del Rey. None applauded and a couple groaned when the store manager, a Mr. Sandoval, introduced me in his semi-penetrable Central American accent. He didn’t seem delighted with my noting that the popularity of the 99 Cents Only, uh, concept confirms that the middle class is disappearing, or with my saying that one of the principal missions of my presidency will be to ensure that all Americans be able to spend $7.99 on the same earbuds for which he’s charging 99 cents. 

As I was speaking, Tiffani persuaded someone in the audience to agree to take a couple of photos of me with his cellphone, and a young Latina with a baby for me to be seen kissing. My fretting aloud that such a photograph might alienate persons in the border states — Texas, North Dakota, Vermont, and so on — made Tiffani whoop softly with pleasure. “Now you’re starting to think like a real candidate,” she said, and I wondered if something very precious had died within me.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

I Am Running for President

As you have probably heard by now I have decided to seek the Republican nomination for president in next year’s election. Hearing this, several people have remarked, “Oh, John, honestly. How quixotic!” though not aloud, as quixotic is one of those words that everyone’s read but no one has actually ever heard spoken aloud. Pedantic showoff as I am, I would probably go with key-HO-tic, whereas many would go for the more meat-‘n’-potatoes quicks-OT-ic. But can we please get back to the theme at hand? I am well aware that I lack Jeb Bush’s recognizability, Marco Rubio’s boyish good looks, Carly Fiorina's stature in the business community, both Gov. Huckabee’s cute surname, which sounds as though dreamed up by the same firm responsible for Applebee’s, and his personal relationship with God, and the still-undeclared Gov. Palin’s natural rapport with ordinary, very stupid Americans, but nonetheless feel that my nudging all my opponents slightly to the left in itself justifies my candidacy.

My first act as president will be to have Henry Kissinger, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, and Ted Nugent arrested and sent in chains to Guantanamo. My second or third will be to repeal the War on Drugs. My third or fourth will be to decriminalize all drugs, and to treat addicts as we treat those with irritable bowel syndrome or psoriasis — as victims of a health problem. I believe that we will save billions of dollars that we can use repairing our roads and educating our young if we stop fighting wars in the Middle East, and instead build schools and hospitals, on a non-quid pro quo basis. Let’s see how many suicide bombers the jihadists are able to recruit among young Arabs who have been educated at schools we built, and whose parents are being treated for irritable bowel syndrome, psoriasis, and what-have-you at American-built hospitals.

I do not advocate hanging my fellow politicians who simultaneously describe themselves as avid Christians and advocate making life ever harder for the weak and ill and disadvantaged. That’s a vicious canard promulgated — yes, my friends, promulgated! — by one of my opponents, or a cabal of my opponents. I favor nothing more drastic than incarceration for those persons, for whom we will make room in our many, many fine penitentiaries by freeing all those busted for possession of marijuana, which I will smoke proudly in the Oval Office with my proposed appointee for Secretary of State Willie Nelson.

I will not pardon a turkey on the day before Thanksgiving. It is my view that turkeys are guilty only of being monstrously unattractive, though probably not to each other. (Is it not entirely feasible that, in a turkey’s eyes, Scarlet Johanssen, to name but a few, is monstrously unattractive?) I will ask Congress to declare a national Desertion Day, on which any serviceperson who wants to can exchange his sword for a ploughshare, whatever that is, and his uniform for a voucher redeemable at American Apparel. I will propose legislation requiring the CEOs of huge corporations either to provide room and board to one homeless person for every 2500 square feet in their own principal residences, or to compel their corporations to pay tax at the same rate you and I do.

I believe that gay Americans should be allowed to marry each other, and that any divorced person who asserts that marriage equality threatens the sanctity of marriage should be deported. Having myself had a first marriage that started out really nice but then turned to shit, I know first hand that there’s nothing inherently sanctimonious about marriage, and of course am here misusing the word for comic effect. I will cause Guy Fieri to be disappeared, never again to bray, "That's off the hook!" on my formerly beloved Food Network. 

I believe that we should welcome Mexican and Central American refugees/immigrants with open arms, as they are generally very hard workers. I’m not so sure it wouldn’t be a very good idea to deport 10 conservative Republicans for every such person we allow to cross our southern border, as it would prevent overcrowding, and get rid of lots of conservative Republicans. Not, of course, that I’m unaware that I (desperately!) need the support of Republicans of all shapes and sizes.

I will not end speeches by saying, "God bless the United States of America," because that's gaseous rhetoric at its worst. If the sanctimonious riot in the streets because of this, I might be talked into "God bless, every one," as in A Christmas Carol, though I believe Christmas to be nobody's birthday, and a brazen retailing ploy, and damned annoying, except on those rare occasions when someone thinks to give me a wonderful present.

Monday, May 18, 2015

I Meet a Celebrity! (What Doth It Parfitt a Man?)

When I first moved to the United Kingdom in 2002 to hang around with my new bride, we discovered that we inhabited the same apartment building (or, as the locals preferred it, block of flats) as Mr. Rick Parfitt of Status Quo. This doesn’t sound like much to an American, as the Quo were never terribly popular here, but in the UK, they’re a very big deal indeed, to the tune of Rick’s large flat having overlooked the Thames, in which his own little yacht, named after one of Quo’s countless UK hits, was moored. He and his ex-wife Patty, with whom he’d gotten back together, often invited us to hang with them at their favorite posh restaurant on the river, The Wharf. Rick would typically get very drunk on vodka, smoke cigarettes in spite of his having had a problem with his heart not long before, treat Patty a little awfully, and tell me how much he loved me, even though he didn’t really know me.

Perhaps a year later, I put together a little troupe, Clear & Present Rangers, to perform the scripted sketch comedy revue I’d written, at a pub in south London, and a little local who’d appointed himself my lieutenant invited a Member of Parliament called Simon Hughes to see the show. Simon turned up with his boyfriend, fell asleep around two minutes into the opening sketch, and then came backstage afterward to tell us how very much he’d enjoyed it. Had there been a baby present, he doubtless would have awarded him or her a big politician’s smooch.

Yesterday I attended a friend’s birthday party in a swanky neighborhood not far from the university we both attended, and there met my first notable celebrity in over a decade, a former member of a group that changed the course of popular music in our time. Having procured a large plateful of complimentary sushi, I told my natural shyness to STFU, sauntered over to him as bold as you please, and introduced myself. I addressed him as Mr. Dolenz, but he said to call him Mickey. 

We talked about his being a skilled furniture-maker, and about how he and one of his four daughters make furniture together. He was cordial, but didn’t tell me he loved me, either because he was as sober as a judge, or because he was content with the love of his beautiful and charming wife, Donna, whom I later chatted with at length and learned to be a lapsed American Airlines flight attendant. I told Donna about how my own beautiful and charming wife, the former Claire Fletcher, of north London, used to fantasize about marrying Mickey herself at the height of Monkeemania, when she was nine years old. I did not tell Mickey himself.

(I will not pretend that I don't regard The Monkees' "Dolphin Song" as sublimely beautiful, though I think someone might have worked very much harder on the words. And as the beautiful and charming former Claire Fletcher has pointed out, it contains a wonderful vocal homage to Paul McCartney, as heard in "Lovely Rita.")

I find that I continue to lack some very basic social skills. Specifically, I don’t know how, after chatting with someone at a party, one takes leave of that person without hurting his or her feelings. Many regard me as an asshole —at least when they think about me at all — but I am a highly empathetic asshole who doesn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings by seeming to have tired of them. When Mrs. Dolenz and I ran out of things to say to each other, I said, “I think I’d better rehydrate,” though I wasn’t actually thirsty, and she said, “Go,” but I worried that I was wounding her a little bit by being the one to withdraw from our exchange. Earlier, I’d had a pleasant extended chat with the birthday boy’s former business partner, and he’d been the one to excuse himself. I discovered that I’d sooner be the one abandoned than take a chance of hurting someone.

Ain’t I a prince?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Why Professional Football Players Have Ludicrous Given Names

I live in central Los Angeles in a gated community called Park La Brea. There are something like 14,000 of us here. Many of us are Korean, and many others are Indian, the Miwok and Tolowa tribes being particularly well represented. Much of the signage in the community is in both English and Korean. The Indians, about whom I was only kidding a moment ago (they’re the Taj Mahal, rather than indigenous, kind), are on their own. To make the gates lift, one need only wave cordially at the security person in the guard kiosk. None of them can be expected to recognize all 14,000 of us, and they have apparently chosen to err on the side of hospitality.

We are generally a humble people, we Park La Breans, which may explain why I was the object of so many censorious glances yesterday when I returned late in the  afternoon from the Rodeo Drive (as in Beverly Hills) Bed Bath ‘n’ Beyond with my new ermine bedspread. Most Park La Breans disdain conspicuous consumption, but it was my birthday this past week, and after a year during which I’d beaten myself to a pulp pretty regularly, I felt that I should be generous with myself for a change. It isn’t, after all, as though I’d gone for the far more expensive (specific numbers would only make you hate me) chinchilla.

I had an interesting conversation with the salesperson in BBB’s endangered species bedspread section before making my purchase. It turned out that she, as I am too, is fascinated by the distribution of given names in the various professional sports. In baseball, whose players continue to slobber all over themselves in homage to the tobacco-chewing stars of eras long past, most non-Latino players, including the black ones, have sensible, familiar given names, as witness the Los Angeles Dodgers’ three black stars being named Carl, Howie, and  Jimmy. It’s always been my understanding that Latinos name their children after saints, but lately strange Y-names (Yasmani, Yasiel, Yonder) seem to have proliferated among them to the extent that one wonders if there will be a single Carlos, Jose, or Pablo left in 10 years. The NBA has its share of LeBrons and Udonises, but the large majority of players have names you’ve encountered before. It’s in the National Football League that you find a great many players with names like L’Various and D’Brickashaw.

You will be relieved to learn that I have a theory about this phenomenon. All non-net sports demand a certain level of physical courage, but none more than football, in which one can suffer a concussion or paralyzing spinal injury at pretty much any moment, except those during which play is interrupted so those watching at home can be tricked into believing that it’s manly and pleasurable to drink something called Bud Lite. A young man who is enrolled at a ghastly inner-city school with a name like L’Various must develop extraordinary toughness from the jump, or spend his educational career being taunted or even anally raped. My hunch is that said toughness propels them toward the sport in which they need it most.

Once having gotten my new bedspread (which cost a cool $1763.21 with tax and tip, but you only live once) upstairs and on my bed, I watched a documentary about Joe Namath, and a biopic, starring Queen Latifah, about Bessie Smith. I was struck by the current, in-his-early-70s Namath’s rotten posture and appalling sartorial choices, and saw a little of myself in his obvious adoration of his daughters, though I of course have but one, who doesn’t speak to me. His are surely the most beautiful eyes in the history of American sports, and I wonder if his brown-eyed girls feel genetically short-sheeted, as I'm pretty sure I would.

I shouldn't neglect to mention that I find very odd that black Americans give their children Islamic names like Sharif and Rahim and Jamal in view of the fact that it was Muslim slave traders who sold their ancestors into slavery. Such names seem equally popular among NFL wide receivers and safeties (generally the fastest players on any given team) and NBA point guards. It is very rare to encounter an NFL lineman with an Islamic name.