Sunday, December 30, 2007

You Heard It Here First

Partially inspired by this piece about television posted by my boss on Reality Sandwich, I would like to make a suggestion, and coin a phrase which I hope will catch on and help inspire others...

We're all extremely familiar with so-called "Reality TV" that genre of entertainment which puts "ordinary" people into semi-controlled but unscripted situations just to see what happens. The genre started out only slightly creepy, but to nobody's surprise quickly became unabashedly crass and exploitative, and ever increasingly divorced from "Reality." Of course, it IS real, in the sense that actual human beings do actually submit to the often outlandish things asked of them, whether it be to suck up to Donald Trump, or choke down a length of horse-rectum (which would YOU find more degrading?).

Well, not only does TV capture/reflect Reality but it also shapes it. People in the TV industry tend to discount the notion that their programming could possibly influence behavior. Yet, we all know that kids ape the "Jackass" guys despite being warned not to try this at home, not to mention the fact that the very existence of commercial TV is predicated on the belief (and the evidence) that the commercials will indeed influence consumer purchasing behavior on a mass scale. If you doubt TV's power to determine what real-life turns into, consider this: there had never been a single instance of a drive-by shooting amongst rural middle-American teens until shortly after MTV started airing gangsta rap videos. As frivolous and dismissible as you may think MTV-fluff is, it reaches greater numbers of impressionable kids than any other single television entity in the world. Would kids in rural Nebraska ever have come up with the "drive-by" on their own? I kinda doubt it.

So, in a sense, all TV is "reality" TV. Commercial TV is a real thing. It has an agenda, which is also real, and while presenting itself as shiny happy and pretty, it is actually unhealthy, anti-human and even anti-common-sense. If left alone, what sort of reality will TV create for us? A world where even a war-mongering chimpanzee can become president. Not my first choice of a world to live in, but here we are.

SO... what I think we need is something else for people to watch. There's plenty of video content that strives for a better way of life, pushes a healthier agenda, but it's still few and far between and there's no general umbrella term to unify it all, lending it greater weight... the strength of being easily identified as part of a genre, or even a movement. There needs to be a name for this good stuff, whether found on the web, or on the fringes of broadcast/cable. I propose calling it: Alternate Reality TV.

Let the phrase sink in. Think of the possibilities. Many people are already making Alternate Reality TV, whether they know it or not. If the phrase catches on, perhaps more people will be motivated to make Alternate Reality TV, with the full understanding of what it's all about. "Oh... I'm not merely trying to sell people on the idea of solar powered transportation. I'm helping to create an Alternate Reality!" And sure, somebody may hear the term and immediately think to take 10 total strangers and put them in a house in the forest together with nothing to eat or drink except for Ayahuasca, and-- wait a minute... I'd watch that show!

Alternate Reality TV: get with the reprogram.

Monday, December 17, 2007

My Urine was Acceptable

So, as predicted, my piss passed and thus the offer to do my freelance job in more of a full-on staff job kind of way is official!

To celebrate, I'm forgetting what I said in my last post and this weekend I'm licking a bunch of toads and then smoking crack from a pipe made outa the frozen severed head of Timothy Leary. At least, that's what the dude who sold it to me down by Cooper Union said it was made of. I was like, "Dude! Where'd you get that?!" and he was like "I made it myself," and I was like "they let you carve Timothy Leary's frozen severed head into a crack pipe?" and the dude was like "Hey man, you don't only have to smoke crack out of it. You could totally smoke crystal meth, or opium or a whole bunch of other things out of it," and I was like "Totally dude... okay you sold me. How much do you want for it?" and he said, "350 thousand dollars" and I was like, "Huh, right, well, y'see... the thing is I don't exactly got--" and he interrupted me, saying "Well how much you got?" and I was like, "18 bucks," and he seemed kinda pissed but then he saw a cop coming and was like "Okay fine, just give it to me and take the pipe" so we made the exchange and he immediately packed up everything on his little folding table and took off into the holiday throng of young Japanese kids. I went skipping home, giddy as a school-girl, with my new one-of-a-kind Leary-Head Crack-Pipe tucked neatly away in my Hunger Site messenger bag. (I guess it's more of a laptop bag, really.) And the great thing is... I only gave the guy 17 bucks! Now I just need to get me some high octane crack!

Anyway, I officially start the job I'm already doing on January 2nd. Too bad I'm gonna be all hopped up on lickable toad poison that day.

Woo Hoo!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Why I Don't Do Drugs Anymore

I, Jon Levin, don't do drugs anymore...

...any more than, say, the average touring funk band.

Just kidding. That's a Bill Hicks joke. And like Bill Hicks was, before cancer released him from earthly Bill Hicksitude, I'm a pro-drug person who doesn't do drugs any longer.

Why did I stop? I'll explain in a bit. Why is this on my mind at the moment? Because the people I currently work freelance for, offered me my job on an actual staff basis, with the health benefits and the vacation time and the thing. And despite my reluctance to join or belong to anything, I accepted their offer. But before it can be official, I must submit to a fairly extensive background check and pass a drug test.

So... yesterday, I went to the walk-in lab at Foresight Security on 35th St. and pissed in a cup. They patted me down to make sure I hadn't smuggled in somebody else's piss. I hadn't.

Now, you may be thinking all of this is way too Orwellian for comfort, and you'd be right. I mean, it's not like I'm going for a job as an airline pilot or anything. I'm a professional media creative (or a creative media professional) and people in creative positions in media are expected -- hell, encouraged -- to do drugs. A lot. I don't know anybody else in TV or film who had to pass a drug test to get hired. (Good thing too -- most would've failed.)

But my co-worker Rick explained to me that since our company is ultimately owned by Cablevision, and since Cablevision is a... Cable-TV-service company that employs dudes who drive vans and show up at your house and come into your house and poke around in your house and stuff, they pretty much have to make sure that the people they hire for such positions aren't drug-addled criminals. And apparently, they can't just screen the dudes going for the van-driving home-entering jobs. They gotta screen everybody. Including me. I suppose it's possible that they don't actually care what's in my urine sample and they just have to keep up appearances by making me take the test. But either way, I ain't worried about it, because I don't do drugs anymore and I'll pass the piss test with flying colors.

But there was a time, not too long ago, when that would NOT have been the case. Not. Even. Close.

And even if they do reserve the right to fire me for USING drugs, there ain't no way they'd be allowed to fire me for ADVOCATING the use of drugs. So with that in mind...




CHILDREN SHOULD BE ENCOURAGED TO DO DRUGS AS EARLY AS, SAY... 12 YEARS OF AGE, if supervised by their parents, who should also be doing drugs.

I THINK THAT NOT ONLY ARE DRUGS FUN TO DO, but that proper drug use among a certain percentage of the populace is necessary for the very survival of the human race. If drugs were legal and more people did them, we'd all be better off. Not only should the average citizen have the option to use whatever substances s/he likes, but for certain people in certain professions, regular use of certain substances should be MANDATORY.

Now, I'm not talking about ALL drugs here. I don't think people should be forced to smoke meth or shoot heroin or anything. But I think that regular use of: acid, ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms, marijuana, peyote, ecstasy, etc. should be unwaveringly required of anyone wishing to be a politician, school teacher, clergyman, law enforcer, judge, mental health care practitioner and probably a bunch of other things too.

Of course, my opinion is shaped by the overwhelmingly positive experiences I've had as a result of my drug use -- one especially overwhelmingly positive experience in particular. I won't go into the details, but it only involved a little bit of pot, was extremely enlightening and changed my entire life, for the better, forever.

Unfortunately, I wasn't living in a mature drug-culture with widely known, time-tested methods for guiding someone who has had such an experience. So, even though I didn't actually need a drug to induce mind-blowing mystical visions, insights and learning experiences, I still CRAVED the sheer awesome pleasure of it, and so began badly abusing the plant which I most closely associated with the transcendent experience -- marijuana -- attempting to re-create it.

I did learn about yoga and meditation, perhaps the most widely known techniques for helping humans achieve transcendence without drugs, but those techniques require something that drugs do not: discipline. Never been big on discipline.

So, I continued using, marijuana mostly, but mushrooms and acid and ecstasy too, and never did repeat that first unbelievable experience. Though other impressive, um, stuff did happen from time to time. But gradually, the good parts about getting high (on whatever) became less prevalent, and the harsher, less enjoyable aspects took over, until the drugs kinda stopped being any good to me at all. For a long time, I knew that my drug use was getting less and less effective, and that it was having a negative effect on my spiritual connectedness in general. But I was in denial. Despite all the obvious indications, I couldn't admit that I should probably stop using the drugs completely. Or at the very least, slow the fuck down.

But once the drugs did stop working, it wasn't really that difficult to quit, after all, I was quitting something that wasn't fun anymore. Unfortunately, by that point, I'd lost a great deal of the amazing gains I'd made. Hard to describe what I mean by that, so here's a pseudo-scientific hypothesis about how drugs work and why they stopped working for me:

Human beings (and all creatures) are physical manifestations of spiritual energy. The mechanism by which spiritual energy flows and interpenetrates our more mundane physical, mental and emotional lives, is called the Chakra System. Human beings have 7 major chakras, which correspond to specific points along the central nervous system, and are linked to specific endocrine organs (which are responsible for the most powerful bio-chemicals in the bloodstream, responding to and influencing our thoughts, feelings, emotions etc.)

The word "chakra" is sanskrit for "wheel" which doesn't really tell you anything about what a chakra really is, but rather just refers to the way the chakras appear (to those who can perceive them) and the way they behave (they rotate). A more useful, functional English translation of what chakras are would be something like "Energy Hearts." They are spiritual-energy-flow-regulating "organs." You know... sort of.

The chakras affect, and are affected by, everything we experience. This obviously includes drugs. Drugs act on the various physical systems of the body. They influence emotions. And they have profound impact on the chakra system. The most significant/fundamental effect of drugs is that they liberate certain subtle energies which are inherent in all humans, but which are generally dormant.

Awakening these latent energies feels good. On many levels. Perhaps you become gifted with especially keen insight into the emotional lives of those close to you. Or maybe you are inspired to write the finest poem of your life. Or maybe that burrito just tastes way too fucking good. Or maybe you suddenly grasp an overarching pattern in your own behavior which has been holding you back. Or maybe you suddenly grasp an overarching pattern in human history which has been holding us back. Or maybe you paint an incredible abstract painting that turns out to spell something in Arabic when held to a mirror. Or maybe sex is better than ever before. Or maybe you gain renewed appreciation for the genius of the last track on Revolver. Or maybe you and your friends just laugh and laugh and laugh.

But inevitably, there is a come-down, a slap-back. Sometimes we just need to rest and re-charge. But sometimes we feel like we've been run-over by a truck. Or want to jump off a cliff. The energies our drug use releases are then depleted. Dissipated. Lost. Proper drug use, safe, responsible and moderate, allows time for at least partial recovery of what is lost. Perhaps even total recovery. But I, Jon Levin, wasn't moderate. I just kept releasing the energy, and enjoying amazingly vivid, intense experiences, both sensory and extra-sensory. But all the while, these energies were being depleted and I wasn't allowing time for recovery.

Now there's not much left to recover. I did stop short of total depletion, but not by much. I am definitely left with a feeling of having "fallen from grace". Though, even now, I know that I'm not completely out of the game. I just have to work a bit harder than I used to and be very very VERY careful around all the people I love who continue to make drug-use a regular part of their lives.

Too bad for me. But if anyone out there learns from my mistake, so much the better.



peace, y'all.

Friday, December 7, 2007

I'm Old

I just realized how old I am. You see... this morning, I turned a corner in my life, and am now faced with a concrete unwavering signifier of my oldness. I used to be one way, and now I am another. Just this morning, I discovered that I, Jon Levin, now actually kind of like... raisins in my breakfast cereal.

Now get off of my lawn before I call the cops!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

There Should be a Law

I've worked in some swanky places, and some not-so-swanky places. The building I currently work in -- 11 Penn Plaza -- was built in 1923 and the lobby is actually pretty grand, in an old-school elegant way. So I was a little worried that with the onset of the Christmas Season, the people in charge of such things would decorate our lobby with holiday festoonery leaning toward the tackier, stupider end of the spectrum. The first morning I arrived to see the decorations in place, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they were all extremely tasteful and appropriately elegant for the architecture in question. A truly lovely first rate job, to make even the scroogiest cynic feel the joy of the season during that brief moment actually spent in the lobby, between one's commute through the cold and the bleak, and one's stressed-out office environment. I found myself actually envying the security guards stationed in the lobby all day.


They added the sound-system.

Playing the Christmas music.

Now... there's obviously a spectrum of Christmas music out there, with lovely tasteful Christmas music at one end, and horrible nauseating make-you-want-to-jam- ice-picks-into-your-ears Christmas music at the other.

Guess which end of the spectrum 100% of our lobby music is on.

The otherwise beautiful environment has been destroyed by sonic wallpaper made of turds. Christmas turds, but turds nonetheless.

So now, I speed through the lobby like Indiana Jones running out of that booby-trapped cave, so as not to get hit with any turd laced christmas song arrows shot from the open mouth of Celine Dion's death-head. An opportunity to impart a little aesthetic appreciation, some sanity and calm, replaced by yet one more crass stress-inducer, just because somebody in charge of something has got shit-for-taste in music.

When I'm King of New York, those people will not be allowed near the public iPod.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Florida... it figures

When my parents retired, they moved down to sunny Florida, like the rest of their ilk. If you've ever seen an episode of Seinfeld dealing with the retirement community that Jerry's parents live in, you've essentially met my folks, and visited them in their Florida home.

Which is more than I usually do. In the 12-or-so years they've been there, I've visited them... um... probably between 3 and 5 times. So that would be four. Four times. Let's just say four times.

It's not that I don't like visiting my folks. They're perfectly lovely people who are always quite nice to me, with the joy and the love and the thing.

And they feed me like I'm on my way to the electric chair.

But I don't get down to Florida much, mostly because... well... it's fuckin' Florida! The place just kinda gives me the willies. It's the kind of place where a 37 year old school teacher will be arrested for having sex with a 13-year-old boy in her class, who also happens to be her nephew.

But then, every once in a while, something happens in Florida that almost makes me want to go there more often. Like this.

I don't know what's funnier, the crime or the poor victim's name. Now, I'm not usually one to make fun of someone for something like his family name. Obviously, the guy had very little to do with it (unless you believe, as some do, that the soul chooses the earthly circumstances it will be born into shortly before birth). But I'm making an exception in this case because, well, just because.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Yet One More Reason...

to ride a bike...

Late last night, on my way home from a narrative spoken-word competition known as a Moth Slam, it seemed as if there were way more street crazies (and subway crazies) than usual. The last of many to approach me was a reasonably drunk-seeming, nearly toothless, oddly staring and surprisingly young-for-her- repulsiveness white woman. Apparently, she wanted to hang out.

She was walking about 15 paces behind me along West 44th Street from the subway exit heading toward 9th avenue, and kept calling after me, "Hey mister!? Hey honey!? Hey sugar!? Hello sir!? Hey sweetheart!? Hey mister?! Etc. Etc. Etc." Then she stopped. I walked in relative quiet for a while, until she started again, as if she were noticing me for the first time. So I stopped, turned around and was like "May I help you, crazy lady?" She asked: "Do you have the time?" which is an innocent enough question unless it's short for: "Do you have the time to get a little crazy with me in that alley behind the taco joint?"

"It's a quarter to two," I said.

She caught up, and then said all sorts of nice things about me. I ignored her and kept walking. She kept pace and asked where I was going. "Home," I said. This didn't register. She drunkenly persisted. I told her that I wasn't interested in her company, that she should leave me alone, but that she should have a good night and take care of herself. Clearly, I was being too polite. And equally clearly, she had never read "He's Just Not That Into You."

So when she actually reached out and touched me, affectionately/creepily grabbing my arm, I thought, "okay, I guess I have to make her leave" so I decided to use a small measure of the Jedi powers I keep under wraps.

I stopped walking and just looked at her with a firm little mental "push." A look of mild fear came across her face and she immediately let go of my arm. She backed away slowly, muttering "okay, okay, I'm gonna go now," then turned and disappeared into the Hell's Kitchen night.

I kinda felt bad for doing that to her, but I kept it as gentle as I could. As I continued on my way home, I thought, "Boy... they are really out in force tonight! Where are they all coming from?"

Then I realized there was nothing different about the city, or the number of crazoids, or the extent to which they were drawn to nice-guy me (to feed!), but rather that this was the first time in a long time that I was coming home late at night on foot. (And not listening to an iPod through big obvious headphones.)

Riding a bike circumvents all unwanted interactions with New York's insane class. All these months riding, I'd had no idea what a pleasant bonus I was receiving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Idea Guy

I like to think of myself as a pretty creative person. I haven't actually created much so far, not for lack inspiration, but more because I lack follow-through. What I'd really like, is to get paid to sit in a room, brainstorming with other creative types. A think-tank. I wanna be part of a think-tank. Get paid a shit-load of dough to think. Think up stuff. Cool stuff. Let somebody else worry about actually making the stuff. That's not my skill-set. We've all got our roles to play. Mine is coming up with ideers. Like these:

1. There should be a health-food restaurant in Hell's Kitchen, which cheekily calls itself "Health Kitchen." Give it a moment...

2. When Governor's Island is eventually developed, there should be a pedestrian- and bicycle-only bridge, akin to London's Millennium Bridge, connecting it with Red Hook Brooklyn. Other than a fire engine and an ambulance, there should be no automobiles allowed on Governor's island at all, ever.

3. There should be infrastructure in place to make it easy to cycle around the entire perimeter of Manhattan Island. The west side bike path takes care of almost half of that already, but the east side and northernmost and southernmost ends are all weird and discontinuous. This should be rectified.

4. NYC is a really windy place for the harsher months of the year. Thousands of little wind-turbine electric generators should be hanging off the sides of every freakin' building in town. Even better would be hundreds of thousands of these.

5. There should also be flywheel electric generators attached to every single door, whether revolving or swing-open, in every single building in America, and similar flywheel generators attached to every piece of exercise equipment in every gym. Put those fitness junkies to some good use.

6. People think that gigantic solar panel arrays could take up too much prime real estate. But the best places to put them are also where nobody wants to live -- in deserts (BRC notwithstanding). Also build solar arrays on supergigantic floating platforms in the oceans. Those could even navigate under their own power to avoid cloud cover, while still generating an enormous surplus of electricity that could be sent back to the mainland.

7. Every major city in America should be connected by a network of high speed electric mag-lev monorail trains. Flying might be a little faster, but depending on how far you're going, the total trip time might be comparable because the monorail won't have any lengthy security hassles since you'll be getting onto a vehicle which can't be intentionally crashed into anything. And you can see much more interesting views of the countryside from the window of a superfast train than from an airplane.

8. Somebody already invented the iPhone.

9. But, when you call someone from your iPhone, you should have the option to play any of your stored MP3's as background music which both you and the person you called can hear softly underneath your conversation. Steve Jobs was a stoner -- I can't believe I thought of this before he did.

10. To attract younger generations of people to classical music concerts, the music should be accompanied by cool trippy video projections and lasers.

That's all for now. I'll write more as they occur to me. Improve upon these or add ideas of your own in the comments!

Peace y'all!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Movie Pitching Guy

Before I did all the drugs, I used to be able to talk as fast as the main guy in this sketch. Now, I can only muster the occasional grunt. Don't do drugs, kiddies...

a little postscript

In my previous post, I basically called a young video tech guy an asshole. Well, as it turns out, he wasn't really an asshole. He was merely young. And the son of the owner of the venue.

This does explain a lot. He wasn't a bad guy. He just had the detachment of someone consistently shielded from consequences, most likely as a result of being born into ludicrous wealth (have you seen Capitale?). Or maybe he was just stoned. Either way, I can't really blame him. If I'd had his life, who knows what kind of monster I'd be? (Flying Spaghetti Monster?)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The "Millennials"

This post is long, but I think you'll find it well worth the reading effort...

Back in 1995, when I moved into NYC, I got my first real office job working as a creative coordinator for a corporate communications company. In typical business-jargon fashion, my title, "creative coordinator" was just a nice way of saying "gopher/whipping-boy." But what the hell did "corporate communications" mean? Sounded like an entire building full of people doing nothing but faxing memos. For my first month-and-a-half, I had no idea what the company did.

Turns out, "corporate communications" was a catch-all phrase for a whole bunch o' things that most often boiled down to employee motivation and training. Before having that job, it had never occurred to me that a Fortune 500 company might need to hire some outside agency to train their own people, or motivate them to do what they were already being paid to do. But on a nationwide level, corporate communications was a multi-billion-dollar-a-year business, so apparently, lots of upper-level manager types at Fortune 500 companies did in fact perceive such a need.

During my time in that job, there were a few different scenarios for which our services would commonly be sought.

Common Scenario #1
A large car company is about to launch a new line of light pick-up trucks. To them, this is a big deal. So, instead of just sending out a company-wide email about the new trucks, they're going to hold a big 3-day event. Aside from attracting media attention, the goals for the event are:

1. to celebrate the completion of the new truck line
2. to have fun and build company loyalty/morale
3. to educate their sales force about the features/specs/etc. of the new vehicles
4. to whip their sales people into an unstoppable frenzy of truck-selling

And in truth, the first three goals are really only to serve the last goal.

Common Scenario #2
A medium-sized pharmaceutical company has been struggling for a few years under incompetent management. They still have some very profitable drugs on the market but the ship has been sinking, and many of their more talented people have left, leaving the remaining employees in an even tougher position, surrounded by only their less capable peers. But then a larger company buys them outright. The incompetent managers are let go and rewarded for leaving with shocking amounts of money. The new heads decide to turn the two old companies into one new even larger company, poised to become a major player in the industry. An effort must be made to combine the two workforces and create a new identity for the one company that will emerge, with a new name, new logos, new business cards, new letterhead and a new paint-job in the crappers. They also need to streamline operations, cut costs and improve efficiency. Instead of just sending out an email, they're going to throw a big 3-day event!

After welcoming everyone to the event, they will have a big cocktail party to officially launch the new company (both to the press and to their own people). They'll make a big show of revealing the new company logo for the first time. It will look like art-deco roadkill, but everyone will applaud. The workers will all eat pieces of a cake shaped like the logo. The new company will then be inside them all. The icing of the cake will secretly be laced with one of the company's drugs, one which has been found to induce a mild relaxed euphoria, lower inhibitions and act as a truth serum. This will prime the employees for their next activity...

In what we creatively term "Getting to Know You" sessions, we provide a touchy-feely environment for executives to lull their underlings into revealing way too much about themselves and their co-workers, in order to help determine who might be expendable.

End of day 1.

On the overnight, a comprehensive analysis of the video-taped Getting To Know You sessions yields a preliminary list of people to consider terminating. Most of them are from the smaller company, but some are from the larger. Day 2 consists of "Team Building" exercises.

Day 2:
Under the guise of having fun and building healthy bonds of friendship and camaraderie between members of the two companies, workers in similar positions, in similar departments, etc. are pitted against each other in wacky games that test physical fitness, mental alertness, reflexes, general job knowledge and a variety of other metrics, some of which don't seem particularly relevant.

Some games force people to cooperate in structureless problem-solving tasks to see who naturally takes charge, who follows, who mocks, who sulks, etc.

Everyone is monitored at all times, but those individuals already on the potential layoff list are watched more closely to see if the initial assumptions bear out. They usually do.

Day 3:
Lots of Speechifying. Using media techniques culled from the worlds of arena-rock concerts, the Olympics and presidential politics, the new heads of the company make a series of gloriously overblown triumphal pronouncements about the new order going forward. The speeches are carefully worded to either impress or intimidate, depending on the listener's level of confidence in his/her own performance over the previous two days. Audience facial reactions are videotaped and the armrests of all the chairs in the amphitheater are fitted with electrodes measuring pulse-rate and galvanic skin response.

By the time everyone returns to the office, an exact list of layoffs has been compiled.


Other than some minor exaggeration, that's pretty much how things used to be in corporate America™.

But the other day in my office I overheard some co-workers on the other side of the cubicle partition discussing a recent 60-Minutes piece about how the younger generation of kids first entering the workforce these days is a bunch of coddled spoiled babies who've never faced any criticism. The kids who all got trophies at the end of the little-league season, just for showing up to the games. Marketing types have dubbed their generation the "Millennials." (Are you kidding with that shit? Alas, no.)

Supposedly, there are so many of these hyper-pampered children of the baby-boomers that they're changing the face of business by their sheer petulant demographic bulk. And the road they're taking us down is... well... incredibly silly and annoying. And petulant!

So, I watched the piece and thought, "Well, that's just not true. None of the young people I work with are such idiotic spoiled prima donnas. The young people I know, both in and out of the office, are just as smart and cool and hardworking and dedicated as anybody. At least, the smart cool hardworking dedicated ones are. Clearly, this 60-Minutes piece is an example of TV people just hyping something for the sake of sensationalism, because that's what keeps viewers staring at the TV screen. So really, there's nothing to worry about."

But then I attended the Moth Ball this past Monday night. I was responsible for providing some video material for the entertainment portion of the evening. I arrived early to check on the tech set-up and was informed that I was forbidden to touch any of the gear. Only the in-house tech guys could touch the stuff. Um... okay... May I ask why?

The reason for this was simple. If they are the only ones touching the equipment, then they can make sure nothing goes wrong, and if anything does go wrong, there won't be any ambiguity over who is responsible. Fine. I appreciate being shielded from the scorn that would result from a technical glitch ruining the huge super-elegant Gala Benefit show, in the presence of lots of rich & famous people and stars of the NYC literary world.

So, this meant that someone else, a person who didn't make the videos, would have to cue up the material to the right place at the right time, and press 'play' and 'pause' at the right times. Simple enough, except for the fact that the first of the little videos was a series of very short clips, each to be introduced live by the author George Green, founder of The Moth. The person pressing play/pause would need to be familiar with the material ahead of time in order to finesse the start-stops just right to go with George's remarks. The guy running the video player obviously didn't know the material ahead of time, whereas I had made the thing and rehearsed it with George already. So... I was to stand next to the guy running the video, and tell him when to press 'play' and when to press 'pause.' Ridiculous, obviously. Awkward, certainly. But not particularly difficult or problematic. All he'd have to do was start the disc at the beginning, and then press one button about a dozen times, on my cues. I couldn't imagine anything going wrong.

I'll admit I was a teeny-tiny bit put off by the fact that the young man, clearly a "Millennial" as defined by the 60-Minutes piece, didn't seem to be paying much attention to the show. He was IM-ing back and forth with friends, or some skank (I'm assuming) on his laptop much of the time, but I figured, "So what? It's not like I need him to perform a lung-transplant or anything. I just need him to push a button a few times, and only for a couple of minutes. A chimpanzee could be trained to do it."

Well, the show started, and everything was lovely. First there was some live music, then some brief host remarks and then it would be time for our thing. When the host introduced George Green, I alerted my Millennial Tech Guy that this was what we'd been waiting for. George went into his shpiel, introduced the first video clip, and I told techie to press 'play'. He did so, but for some reason he had the video cued up somewhere toward the end of the series of short clips, and instead of the first clip, the sixth one began to play.



I told Techie Guy that this was not the beginning of the disc. He said, "Yes it is."

I punched him over and over again in the face until he was dead. No.

I, who made the video, informed him that, no, in fact we were not at the beginning of the disc, and that he was an idiot pig-fucker who was currently killing me (or at the very least, ruining my evening, and possibly my reputation as well) and then I punched him over and over again in the face until he was dead. No.

He kept insisting that he was starting the disc at the beginning. Meanwhile, George cleverly ad-libbed to save the show from total ruin, while also buying me time to remind the tech guy of what the content at the actual beginning looked like when we ran through it before the show (oh yes -- we had even rehearsed the thing already). This managed to convince him to at least attempt to find the beginning of the disc and stop relying on his own personal made up notion of where to start the video. He ejected the disc, re-inserted it, and the disc did then start playing back at the real beginning. So he quickly pressed pause. I informed the guy directing the show that we were now finally in place to play the thing correctly. He got word to George on stage, who then re-introduced the video, and all proceeded normally from there. The comic timing was pretty much killed, but soon enough the show got back on its feet and everything was basically okay after that. Thankfully, it was an open bar event, and I took prodigious advantage of that for the rest of the night.

So... maybe 60-Minutes has got a point after all. The tech kid never apologized once. He blamed the gear though. I think that's how Rome fell.

But no... you can't fault an entire generation for being coddled dipshits who refuse to take responsibility for anything. It's not "Millennials" who are the problem. It's assholes. And you find them in every generation.

I know. I've been an asshole more than a few times myself.

Not lately I hope, but still.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Despite the fact that I'm writing a zombie movie, I am not affiliated with this piece of video in any way. I just dig it, and take it as yet more proof that Brooklyn is the best place in the world...

After watching that, don't you just wanna up and move to Brooklyn? The video promotes a book called "The Zen of Zombies" which I haven't read, but which I think should make a subtle cameo appearance in my movie, perhaps on a bookshelf behind the mad scientist in his living room laboratory. Only you lucky readers of this blog, or the very very very perceptive will ever notice it there and be able to appreciate it.


Friday, November 9, 2007

What I Do These Days

Today, I'll take a break from ranting about cycling, and share something else I'm passionate about: electric cars. One of the programs that we produce where I work at Equator HD is called Green Wheels. It takes a fun look at existing and emerging automotive technologies, new fuels, alternative energy in general etc. One of my many tasks is to cut the 27-minute episodes down to 3-minute "webisodes." You can find relatively high quality versions of them all on the Green Wheels website, but here is the most recent one:

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Bike Karma

As you know, my rear wheel was stolen. I did some quick research, called around a bit and discovered that replacing a rear wheel, complete with all those gears on the hub, would cost over $100. Since I only paid $80 for the entire bike, I was morally opposed to this. So I searched on Craigslist for another cheapo used bike for a surprisingly long time which included over a week of being yanked around by a bike seller who ended up selling the perfect bike for me to someone else for god-only-know-what reason.

Then I found a used Fuji crosstown: a solid-yet-inexpensive, basic hybrid commuter bike. Just what I felt I was looking for. I liked the thought of being able to ride around in a more upright sitting position because I figured it would be more physically comfortable and would also make it easier to take in and enjoy the scenery while riding along. I went to buy it. It was practically brand new. The owner had to move back to Ireland, and left it with his now former roommates to deal with. They were selling it mostly to get it out of their kitchen. But they were up on the fourth floor of a walk-up, so I couldn't test ride it. It also had almost no air in the tires, as it had just been sitting there for months. Still, it looked perfect, so I bought it. Paid more than I wanted to for a used bike, but I was so desperate by then (like any true addict) that I didn't care. Gimmee gimmee gimmee!

I dragged it out of their kitchen, down the stairs out onto the street and then had to find a way to fill the tires. So I called a few friends hoping someone could look up some bike shops on google for me, but nobody I called was home, or owned an iPhone. I was able to reach my friend Rich who used his Palm-pilot to call up a couple of bike shops near my exact location and I went to them both. Both closed. First one didn't have an air hose at all. Second one had an airhose, but it was behind a locked gate. So frustrating.

Then I had another thought: a gas station. Gas stations have air-pumps! Some are even for free! Not owning an automobile, I wasn't exactly up on where all the gas stations are, but I did happen to recall there being one on 10th ave. and 15th st., which was probably the closest one to my current position and only about a 20-minute walk. A schlep, but it worked great and only cost me 50 cents.

Once that was done, only then did I get to actually ride my new bike. It rode perfectly. Shifted quickly. Brakes worked well, etc. Everything great. But I immediately discovered the main difference between the more upright riding position and the more hunched over lower, forward leaning position...

Yes, upright is more comfortable. But hunched is much more agile. Much more. Turns out that for aggressive hard riding it's just way better. So, for most of my riding through town, I prefer hunched. It's quicker, easier to make turns, snap course corrections, more responsive all around. Now I've got a really good new-ish bike that might be nicer for leisurely strolls along the river, but for fighting my way through rush hour traffic to get to work... not so good.

And for bumpy pot-hole ridden NYC streets, the big fat knobby tires of mountain bikes are way more practical than the stiff light thin tires of road (and hybrid) bikes.

But still... I've got a bike.

So, the other day, it was my first full day with the new bike and I ride it to work. I lock it up where I used to lock up the old bike. Around 2pm I come out of the office to get a snack and I check on the bike. It's fine. Around 7:15 pm at the end of my work day I come out looking forward to a nice leisurely bike ride home, maybe up the west side bike path, and I see that the bike is facing the opposite direction from when I locked it up and the front wheel of the bike is, not stolen, but mangled. A bus must've jumped the curb a bit and crushed it.

I had the thing ONE DAY! Not even one full day! What the!?!

So I unlocked it, let the air out of the tire, removed the quick-release wheel, laid it on the sidewalk and stomped it back into a more wheel-shaped shape. I put it back on the bike and walked it all the way home, with a horrid sickening herky-jerky motion. I locked it to a sign by my apartment and it remained there until I found the time to get a new wheel. (I also had to replace the front brake.)

I think I was more enraged by the bus crushing this bike than by the theft of the wheel off the old bike.


Still, it's better than waiting for the F train.

Bikes rule!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Lowest Form of Life...

...on planet earth is not pond-scum or mold or some single-celled fungus. It is the bicycle thief. Or in this case, the guy who stole part of my bicycle.

My bike looked so sad there on the sidewalk, missing the rear wheel.

Now... I'm not the most emotional guy in the world. I might actually be one of the least. And for the most part, I'm pretty positive. No matter what's going on, I tend to put a positive spin on it in some way. For example, let's say I'm rushing to catch the subway and I get to the platform just as my train is pulling away... frustrating of course, but in those moments, I immediately think something along the lines of: "Well, I'll bet there's a good reason why I missed that train, like maybe I'll run into an old friend of mine who I haven't seen in years on the next train, or, if I had actually gotten onto that train, maybe I would've gotten sneezed on by some wretchedly ill passenger and caught a horrible flu. So, I am therefore pleased and thankful that I missed the train and must now wait 20 minutes on a hot subway platform that reeks of urine while a crazy drunk man yells incoherently at his invisible tormentors." Yes sir. Nothing fazes ol' Dr. Brainwave.

But when I saw half my bike stolen, I experienced an intense spike of negative emotion, probably for the first time in over 10 years. It subsided quickly, but for a brief moment I became psychotically enraged.

I was mad at the thief, obviously. But ultimately I was probably angrier at myself. The seat post and both wheels on that bike were quick-release, and I was only in the habit of locking the frame, front wheel and seat. Somehow, I convinced myself that removing the rear wheel would be too cumbersome to bother with. Holy crap was that a delusion. Of course someone's gonna come and fuck with a bike that hasn't moved in a few days, especially if a removable part of it is unprotected! What kind of idiot am I?

But what do you do when you realize that the target of your murderous rage is your own stupidity/laziness?

Thankfully I was able to quickly calm myself down with this special technique I've developed, which I call "Suppressing anger into a little ball of internal stress that will one day turn into the tumor that kills me." Just kidding. I think I punched a brick wall.

One funny -- sort of -- thing about this was that I'd been locking my bike up that exact same way on the street in front of my own apartment in Hell's Kitchen for MONTHS with no problems whatsoever. Among other things, Hell's Kitchen is, for those who don't know, the neighborhood which spawned the crack epidemic of the late '80's. It has gentrified a lot over the almost 13 years I've lived there, but compared to my brother's block on the clean, expensive, "safe" Upper East Side, my Hell's Kitchen block is a bit of what the real-estate agents call, "a shithole." Months of bike parking in gritty Hell's Kitchen with no problems in the slightest, and then rear wheel stolen after a few rainy days in the fancy neighborhood. So, at least the experience gave me yet one more reason (there are many) to dislike the Upper East Side. (No offense, Dave. I'll still come visit you.)

I unlocked the bike and dragged its incomplete carcass into my brother's building, grabbed the rest of my stuff, and took the subway home with the rest of the non-bike-riders. So painful.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Rite -- Wrong -- of Passage

For a while, I rode my bike everywhere and contemplated never even buying another subway metrocard.

But a few weeks ago, I had to crash at my brother's place -- a nice duplex apartment on Manhattan's annoying but safe Upper East Side -- for about a week. I had a big cotton duffel bag full of clothes with me, and you know, shaving stuff and shampoo and whatnot. The night I was all set to ride home, it started pouring rain. Like serious, torrential, biblical, knock-small-children-to-the-ground rain. So instead of riding my bike, with all my stuff getting soaked in a cotton bag, I borrowed an umbrella from my brother and took the subway, leaving my bike locked up in front of his swanky building. I also left some of my stuff at his place, because it turned out to be too much to carry in one trip (I'd added to the pile of stuff gradually over the several days I was crashing there for some reason). Anyway, I figured I'd come get the bike and the rest of my stuff the following evening after work.

But the next night, it rained again. And then I was busy and the UES is surprisingly far out of the way when you're not already on your bike (or in a cab), so I ended up putting it off for a few days during which I began to experience severe bike-withdrawal. Seriously. To say that I missed riding my bike would be an incredible understatement. Up till then, I hadn't really known how truly addicted I'd become. I mean, I hadn't experienced cravings for anything on that kind of scale since I had to give up smoking pot years ago. I needed to ride my bike. I was unable to concentrate on work. Walking -- walking! -- around town, I'd stop and stare at other people's bikes locked to street signs etc. with longing.

Finally, I had an evening with enough time free to head up to my brother's place, get the rest of my stuff, get back on my beloved bike and come home. When I got to his building, the rear wheel of my bike was gone.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Things I Love About Riding a Bike in NYC

- It's almost always the fastest way to get from A to B
- It doesn't cost anything
- It's great cardiovascular exercise (which I was in great need of, but now... best shape of my life)
- It doesn't have any negative impact on the environment
- It doesn't rely on foreign oil
- It provides a new lens through which to view and enjoy the urban landscape
- It's just fucking fun
- It makes you feel like a little kid again
- The occasional thrilling danger
- The feeling of sheer unabashedly smug superiority as you glide effortlessly up through lanes of untold hundreds of stopped cars when midtown automobile traffic is at a standstill ("so long, suckerz!")
- Riding a bike to work energizes you, speeds up your senses, forces you to anticipate the possible movements of a million things around you and greatly quickens your response time -- it sharpens your mind and prepares you for the challenges of a busy work-day better than all the coffee in the world
- The unspoken bond you share with other cyclists
- The joy of self-reliance
- Not having to wait for public transportation
- The only tools you need to take apart and re-assemble a bike are a screwdriver, pliers and a set of metric allen wrenches
- The west side bike path at sunset

The Greatest Invention Ever Invented!

No... it isn't Television.

No... not the Chicken McNugget.

It is the humble bicycle.

When I was in Portland, condisdered the most bike-friendly city in America, some friends felt I wasn't enjoying life there to the fullest, and urged me to get a bicycle. They said that not only would that make life in PDX way easier, and give me a much greater appreciation for the town, but I'd be bitten by the biking bug and become a cycling fanatic (like everybody else there) as well. That all sounded just fine to me.

I got a crappy used one off a homeless guy asking $5 (I gave him $6). And I rode a few places with friends on occasion. But it never really grabbed me. My reaction: "Eh."

A few months after I returned to NYC, my friends Martin and Elke invited me to join them on a Saturday outing to the Whitney Museum of American Art for the "Summer of Love" psychedelic art exhibit that had just opened. We were all in Brooklyn at the time, and they were planning to ride their bikes over the Brooklyn Bridge, then all the way uptown to the Whitney and asked if I could borrow someone's bike and ride with them, or if they should just meet me up there.

Normally, I would've been too lazy to borrow a bike and ride along with them, but I'd just heard the guy behind No Impact Man, interviewed on NPR, and found it inspiring. It also happened to be an unusually nice day for that time of year and the thought of a bike ride was more appealing than being cooped up underground riding the subway (which I also usually enjoy).

My friend Petra has a really nice hybrid bike, and since she is tall, the bike is even comfortable for me to ride. Best of all, she was happy to let me borrow it for the day. So I met M&E at the foot of the stairs to the Brooklyn Bridge bike path, and off we went.

That was when I was, in fact, bitten by the biking bug. Instantly hooked. Totally, utterly, irreversibly... addicted.

The next day, I sat at my computer rubbing my aching legs, yet scouring craigslist for a cheap but half-way decent used bike that would fit me. A russian guy out on Staten Island was selling an old mountain bike, a Giant Rincon, in just beat-up enough shape to feel right, for $80 or so. Bingo.

I rode the ferry over. He picked me up at the terminal. I tried out the bike. It was good enough. Bought it. He drove me and the bike back to the ferry and I arrived in Manhattan with the ability to ride the rest of the way home under my own power. It was freakin' glorious.

Eventually, I hack-sawed the handlebars to make them much narrower, bought a more comfortable seat, got lots of serious locks, and started feeling like the thing was really mine.

A boy and his bike.

So happy.

I was starting to think I might never buy a metrocard again...

[more next time]

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Shared a Stage with Ian Faith

Last night, I was in a Moth show at an unusual venue, in front of an unusual crowd. The Moth was hired by a large real estate company that shall remain nameless but which is the very same large real estate company that I've blogged about in the past (an amazing coincidence, until you realize that they control every property in the world*) to entertain their own people, while celebrating a new super luxury mid-rise in historic Greenwich Village, called One Jackson Square, a nifty scale model of which was displayed in the bar-area of the lovely venue, the Manhattan Penthouse (whose website is one of the worst I've ever seen).

Given the crowd and the nature of the show, the theme was West Village Stories. I was tapped to tell a story I'd told once before, many years ago. One of the other storytellers in the show, was one Tony Hendra, who played Ian Faith, the manager of the band Spinal Tap, in the movie "This is Spinal Tap," one of my favorite movies growing up, and probably still. So that was kind of a crazy. By which I mean awesome. By which I don't mean "large and inspiring fear."

Also fun was that the show was co-hosted by Amy Sedaris and Andy Borowitz who were both hilarious. Going way beyond the call of duty, Amy baked 300 cupcakes for the audience, and stuck little ghost and witch and pumpkin, um, things, into them.

Next time: bikes. Definitely. Got lots to say on the sbject.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Back in the New York Groove

Hey everybody. If you were into my old blog, you'll be pleased to know that I'm picking the blogging shit back up. If you are new to my writing, you might not be familiar with how sarcastic I sometimes feel like being. So, assuming I remember to, I'm gonna borrow a bit from Kurt Vonnegut's playbook and put an asterisk (*) after things you don't need to take so seriously (though, technically that should be every single sentence I write*). I'm hoping this won't be quite as nauseating as the "wink" emoticon: ";)".

Prior to my time in Portland Oregon, I never would've thought it necessary to call attention to sarcasm. But having spent a good deal of quality time with west coast folks, I've learned there are lots of people out in the world who, despite being perfectly nice, intelligent and fun to be around, simply don't understand sarcasm. Hopefully, attending to the needs of the Irony Deficient Individuals Out There* won't diminish reading pleasure for the rest of you.




Anyhow... so much has happened since last I posted anything on the web, that it's just not practical to attempt relating it all. Instead, settle for some highlights:

- I'm living in my old Hell's Kitchen apartment with my excellent friends Catherine and Josh. They are newlyweds. The place is... small. You do the math. Good thing I've trained them not to mind when I masturbate in front of them.*

- I'm working as an Associate Producer for something called Equator HD. This is pretty much the first regular day-job I've had in 7 years. It's been quite an adjustment having to be in a place, at a time, doing stuff, for other people, with other people. I'd gotten used to only having to deal with the incompetence of one person: me. But now? Several persons! Good thing my co-workers don't seem to mind when I masturbate in front of them.* Then again, I find I can't always count on co-workers to speak up about things that might be embarrassing. You know... like when you come home after a whole day of work and in your bathroom mirror you notice that you have a piece of spinach the size of a hamster stuck in your teeth, right where it has been for the last 6 hours, ever since the salad you had at lunch, and nobody, not a single one of the hundreds of your co-workers who saw you, and the spinach, said a word about it. Well, for all I know, it's the same with the masturbating.*

- The job is right across 7th avenue from Madison Square Garden/Penn Station, which is conveniently located only 13 short blocks south and 2 long blocks east of my apartment. This is good in that I can walk there in 20-30 minutes even on no sleep and no caffeine, should I wake up at, say, 9am and need to just throw my pants on and run out the door. In almost every other respect, it is bad. For instance: there aren't any really good places to get lunch near the office, and the whole area is overrun with commuters 100% of the time. Fortunately, the commuters don't seem to mind when I masturbate in front of them.*

- I now ride a bicycle everywhere I go. This merits a blog post all its own.

- I haven't forgotten about the zombie movie script. Been getting encouraging feedback on what I've written thus far, so as soon as my body/mind finishes adjusting to the whole midtown manhattan media-empire thing again, and I stop needing to take so many naps, I'll get back to cranking on that shit too.

Okay. That's all for now.

Next time: bicycle stuff.

Oh, and don't worry... I'll have your money soon.

(Notice how there wasn't an asterisk after that last sentence?)