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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mideast tour: off to Djibouti at 5am!

Gotta go!

We leave for Djibouti in a few hours. Might be a few days before I can post all the videos and photos I've shot.

Djibouti is the hottest place on Earth, and guys tonight have been telling me it's a hellhole all around. Of course, armed men in a hellhole need jokes.


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Mideast tour: I have been sleeping in a tent in Qatar

Staying in a hotel in Kuwait spoiled us. We had showers connected to our very bedrooms! We had internet access and carpet and could go to the bathroom in the middle of the night without stumbling thirty yards or more across toasty-hot rocks and sand.

I haven't posted in thirty-six hours or so, but for good reason.

Here was my yesterday:

Our security detail gave us a 3am call time for a 7am flight to Bahrain. We meet in the lobby, settle our hotel bill, and are ushered into a dark SUV. For the first time, I notice our friendly security guy Steve using a mirror on a stick to check under our car for bombs.

We drive to the "military side" of Kuwait International Airport. That meant driving through lots of concrete barriers to a big open tarmac with lots of security signs and one special sign warning not only against taking photographs, but also against "drawing or any graphical representation." No sketching!

There's a waiting room that, like the majority of buildings on base, is basically an air-conditioned, bathroomless trailer; a 130 degree walk is required to get to the latrines, which means you never see yourself in a mirror except when you're sweaty and pissed off. We wait. We are treated very nicely by the staff. We learn that we are going to Qatar, not Bahrain. We also learn that our 7am plane arrived at 3:30am, dropped off four passengers, thus making room for us -- and then promptly took off at 4am. No one knows why. We wait around for options. Lots of people call lots of people. Our security says, "Welcome to military organization."

Turns out we've missed the only flight to Qatar that morning. We all got up around 2am, so we're exhausted; security takes us back to Camp Arafjan in Kuwait, where we check into the barracks, sign out sets of linens, and sleep on bunk beds in a giant open bay where the military women have strung blankets from bunk to bunk to create a bit of privacy.

We are woken up a few hours later and told we have a flight. We head back to the same airport (NO DRAWING!), get our luggage scanned, and are driven across the tarmac to a tiny, tiny plane. It was about 127 degrees out; standing directly next to an airplane with the engine on, it must've been 150. My entire Jen is burning. I urgently need to get on the plane, or I will cry. I start hopping back and forth like I have to go to the bathroom, which is apparently what I do when I feel like I'm in a microwave, about to explode.

Our pilots introduce themselves. Our plane is a Lear jet! And we are the only passengers! How the hell much did the government spend to deliver some jokes to our troops in Qatar?

We fly across the Persian Gulf and land in Qatar. We've left behind our handlers in Kuwait, and we have no idea who will be meeting us or where we'll be going from there. A driver arrives and we're loaded onto an ancient buses -- perhaps those actually used to take the Beatles on tour in the early sixties and kept unrepaired for authenticity's sake. They are the same buses that cart in Indian laborers to the bases two dozen at a time, a result of the privatization of war and the fact that Kuwaitis (and Qataris), in the words of our security, "don't work." Nearly everyone in these countries who ever sells you something or cleans the bathrooms you use is Indian. The Kuwaitis and Qataris are, as a result of the grand accident of nature that gave them oil, repellently arrogant.

We're taken to the Immigration station at Al Udeid Airbase, where we have to leave our luggage outside and sit for a long time in a large open bay with chairs arranged in neat rows. A plane of airmen has just come in, some of them a bit sexy in their flight suits, and they are in line ahead of us. I notice a few large posters and wall hangings -- one of them even made of a bedsheet -- with messages like "MADISON JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL SUPPORTS OUR TROOPS," and scribbled signatures all around. I think how snide I've been in the past -- I may have been party to such a project in elementary school, and what an obvious and sentimental thing to make, and who would want it? I'd never put such a thing in my house. But in a cold, open metal bay, dust in the air, the whole base a speck in the middle of a painfully uninhabitable desert, a bedsheet full of children's signatures is the sweetest thing imaginable.

I fall asleep in a chair and am woken by an Air Force woman who informs me that I need to cover my arms: "It's Qatari law." I stumble outside to my suitcase for a jacket. When we finally sign our immigration paperwork, I see that among the items prohibited by Qatari law is "Pornography (including swimsuit, muscle, and fitness magazines)." I think of the chiseled abs of the model on the cover of the Muscle & Fitness Hers in my backpack. My luggage goes through Customs without incident. We're on Al Udeid Airbase.

We'd originally been told we wouldn't have to do shows on the same day as our travel, but sometime on that day before we boarded the Lear jet, someone asked "Hey, would you do a show tonight at 20:30?" Of course! we replied. Later I remarked that, if you'd told us we had to do a show on zero sleep after being jerked around on flights, we'd have complained; if you ask us, though, we immediately step up to the call of duty. We're easily swayed!

The show was our first indoor show. We arrived just in time -- the audience was already seated and applauded as we entered the auditorium and ran up the side stairs, carrying backpacks, to backstage. After the show, we just sat down on the edge of the stage to sign photos. It was informal and felt organic.

We were shown to our tent. After Kuwait, we were itching for a more "military" experience, but this was the worst night of sleep of my life.

More soon -- I've just done my second show in Qatar at As Sayliyah Army base, I've been blogging from backstage, and it's time for a meet & greet.

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Mideast tour: feeling nostalgic for black dudes

We had a day off in between Kuwait and Qatar, and we were forbidden to leave the hotel "complex," meaning the hotel and the attached shopping mall.

After seeing a multitude of men in dishdashas and women in burqas, I was on the down escalator and spotted, on the up escalator, a totally normal black guy wearing a baseball cap and Bluetooth earpiece!

I gave him this look like "Hi!!!! Don't I know you from ... America?"

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mideast tour: Four Comedians See Some Camels

A candid video featuring fellow comics Laura Rosenberg, Christina Lopez, and Chris Freeman.

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Mideast tour: scenes from a mall

Attached to the Kuwait Swiss-Belhotel is a shopping mall. This morning, that shopping mall was mostly full of Indian and East Asian vendors. This evening, it is totally full of women in burqas.

I really wanted to take a picture of a woman in a burqa buying something from Burger King, but I'm not sure my camera's 2 GB memory card has enough space for an entire human soul.

Literally half of the stores in the mall are shoe stores, and twenty-five percent of those shoes are metallic. Because if you wear a burqa all day, what's the most important part of your outfit? That's right. Gold hooker shoes!

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Mideast tour: a related note from Molly Crabapple, who wandered around Morocco alone as a teenager

"In Arabic, the word for alone is the same as the word for lonely. Fatima Mernissi, a Moroccan feminist writer, said that freedom seemed synonymous with the nuclear family, which removed women from the dictatorship of their mothers-in-law and allowed romance between spouses. I wonder what Western feminists would make of that."


Monday, August 27, 2007

Mideast tour: A Brief List

Items I have been asked by members of the US military to autograph:
  • several camo Army hats
  • one t-shirt
  • two guitars
  • one fresh tattoo
  • one Marine pectoral muscle

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mideast tour: Camp Buehring, Kuwait

We've been seeing a lot of this.

These are the result of a government contract. They are not as popular as McDonald's. Soldiers who sleep in tents and have to relieve themselves in porta-potties nevertheless have access to Chicken McNuggets and Frappucinos. Those are some strange priorities.

Autograph and photo session after the show.

More of the same. Soldiers who are just passing through often don't have a place to put their guns, and are thus required to carry them at all times. Including to comedy shows, and chow. The dining halls have signs about where to point your muzzle when you sit down to eat.

Signing hats! Wrote lots of "Stay safe!"

Someone had me sign an Iranian bill. The guy was sending autographed foreign money to his kids, kind of a 2-for-1 souvenir. Kid Rock had come through and signed an Iraqi bill for him.

We shot M-16s in a simulation exercise.

You really do have to reload these things all the freaking time. You might kind of think that the most powerful military in the world would magically have shoot-'em-up guns like in the movies, guns that never have to be reloaded unless it's a crucial plot moment for the hero, but real guns don't work that way. You have to carry lots of magazine clips and people shoot at you while you are reloading and the gun is really heavy after the first five minutes.

I really try not to be the kind of person who worries about how her ass looks when trying to shoot simulated terrorists.

Here's an example of the targets at which we were shooting. This was one of the live-action simulations that also tested you on ethics, as opposed to the video-game style ones in which you are supposed to shoot anything that moves.

Anthony is a Naval dentist who was helping out with the tour. He took the shooting photos above.

As comics, it's important to keep in mind the mood of our audience; sometimes it's a holiday show, or it's a Friday night and people are happy to be chilling after work, or it's a blizzard outside and the few people there really, really wanted to be at the show. Or whatever.

Some of the camps in Kuwait are used primarily for training, and some as waystations and supply stations on the way to and from Iraq. Buehring has few permanent troops; for most soldiers, it's a first stop in the Mideast before being shipped off to one's real destination.

In brief: an audience leaving for Iraq in the morning laughs less.

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Mideast tour: video from a Kuwaiti Starbucks

Mideast tour: you do not know the meaning of "hot"

I'm online right now in the USO tent at Camp Virginia, Kuwait. I'll post more photos when I get back to my own computer, but you might be interested in Chris Freeman's tour coverage here.

We've been averaging 600-700 people per show, and 126 degrees during the day. I have been given a Marine hat, which I'm totally wearing all the time when I get back to Williamsburg.

All of the bases have either a Starbucks or a Cool Beans coffee, which seems lovely and comforting. Except that they are in trailers, air-conditioned to about 97 degrees, which when you first step in seems like a humane temperature -- fully 20-30 degrees cooler than outside -- until you sit down with your coffee and realize that you probably shouldn't be drinking caffeine in 97 degree heat, much less 125 degree heat.

One Lieutenant Commander described the heat as "like putting your head in an oven and getting a bucket of sand thrown in your face."

I would describe it like this: You know the uncomfortable feeling of blow-drying your hair on a hot summer day? Now imagine blow-drying your entire body, for perhaps 20 minutes solid. Imagine the skin on your face tightening and drying up. You think you're not sweating, but then you realize that you think that because every inch of skin on your entire body is sweating at once, so you haven't noticed. Yesterday, it was 126, and Laura and I had our jewelry melt onto our skin.

Next time you blowdry, point that thing into your face, and then your armpits, and think of me. Or, you know, of the troops. Obviously.

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Mideast tour: my powers of inference know no match!

Had a great show at Camp Ali Al-Salem, but they've kept us too busy for me to have much time to post. Here's a little something for now:

This is a sticker on my hotel room nightstand.
I'm pretty sure this is to tell you which way to pray.

Interestingly, the toilet also faces in the direction of Mecca, which I always thought was a no-no.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

today's top photos: M-16 edition!

An M-16 shooting simulation at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. You have to reload those things every damn minute.

The Charlie's Angels of comedy? My bitches are awesome.

Mideast tour: serious things, and vegetable things, and another 120 degree day on which I could feel my lips sunburning through my lipstick

For new readers: I am currently on an Armed Forces Entertainment tour of the Middle East, beginning in Kuwait, with three other comics.

Camp Beuhring, 15 miles south of the Iraqi border, is many tents and some number of utterly flat, mostly bathroomless buildings in the absolute middle of nowhere, an hour's drive through terribly empty desert. The idea of being stranded there -- either literally, through some roadside accident, or simply in the sense of being stationed there for some months -- was terrifying. All the water is trucked in; the very fact of having water and being able to survive on such a patch of land seemed obviously unnatural.

Beuhring is a training camp, mostly -- a waystation for new troops on their way to Iraq. The audience was a little quiet; afterwards, an officer explained that most of the guys in the audience are shipping off to Iraq tomorrow, and "20-30 of them are going to get blown up just getting there. Their minds are elsewhere." There's nothing to say to that. As alcohol is illegal in Kuwait, our audience was sober in both senses of the word.

We were treated to a tour of a tent-based clinic in which we observed materials for the treatment of both scorpion bites and chlamydia, a dental office, and most enjoyably the shooting range, in which we shot M-16s in simulation exercises. A Naval dentist named Anthony took charge of my camera and took many photos while I shot baddies in video-game-like desert and then night-vision exercises, and then in a vert differnt exercise called "SHOOT OR DON'T SHOOT," in which you watch a narrated scenario in which live actors portray a situation in which you, the shooter, are at risk of shooting innocent people, or inappropriately shooting a bad guy before he has drawn a weapon. When you do such a thing -- shoot someone who has merely punched someone else, or yelled in Arabic -- the exercise stops and flashes the words "DEFEND YOUR ACTIONS."

After the show, we went right back to the airport (three nights in a row there!) to finally get Christina's luggage. And we saw a corn stand! Some months ago, the Intrepid Young Journalist had happened to mention that, during his time in Lebanon, corn was impossible to avoid. "The Lebanese will put it on anything -- pizza, sandwiches, hamburgers. You have to specify: NO CORN." It seems the phenomenon extends to Kuwait. We each bought a cup of corn. It was really just corn. It had butter, salt and pepper, and lemon juice, but seriously, people were lining up for corn. At a place called ... "Mr. Corn." The Mr. Corn stand also sold nachos (i.e., corn chips) and "corn smoothies," but everyone just seemed to be getting corn. Laura said she'd line up for really any "single-vegetable stand."

One of our security guys loosened up and started telling us that lots of Kuwaiti guys have gay sex but are married to women and don't think of themselves as gay. I pointed out that -- from ancient Greece to modern-day South America -- that actually is pretty much the global norm. Christina saw men holding hands and kissing, even there at the airport (which isn't always indicative of a sexual relationship, but clearly sometimes is).

Also on the sociocultural front, I've been talking about Christopher Hitchens fairly well nonstop, as things he's said about Islam keep coming up, and Christina just mentioned she saw Hitchens' new book "god is Not Great" on sale at the PX, which makes me happy, as it balances out the giant wall of religious pamphlets provided in Beuhring's recreation room. Sure, that makes religion free and atheism a thing that must be paid for, but then again, people more appreciate things that cost. Which makes this post come kind of full-circle.

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Kuwaiti fun facts

Gas in Kuwait costs sixty cents per gallon.

Paper money comes in "1/2 dinar" and "1/3 dinar" increments.

Camels also come in white and black. Not just "camel."

I'm in Virginia's Daily Press

Mideast tour: a bunch of Kuwait!

Today I did the following:
  • Asked employees at the Swiss-Belhotel Kuwait where the fitness center was, and kept getting directed to breakfast instead. Finally the word "gym" worked, but the gym consisted of plastic, home-quality cardio machines, 4 of the 6 of which were non-operable, and all of which contained a logo reading "AS SEEN ON TV!" Did 20 minutes on a rickety bike and gave up.

  • Ate a delicious complimentary hotel breakfast of falafel, hummus, foul mudamas, fried cauliflower, mushrooms, roasted tomatoes with cheese, chicken sausage, fruit salad, dates, figs, nuts, and halvah. Okay, I didn't personally eat all of those things; some were my roommate Christina Lopez's. But it was awesome. All the coffee here is hardcore.

  • Attempted to order an iced coffee at Starbucks. Although the Starbucks looks EXACTLY like an American Starbucks -- and it was 113 degrees outside -- there is no iced coffee. (There are many iced Frappucino beverages, but no cooler of pre-made iced coffee). After receiving a hot coffee and explaining the mistake, the guy made me an iced Americano, which was fantastic. Christina wanted to take pictures of herself in the Starbucks in a veil and clown nose. An old Kuwaiti businessman was very amused and wanted to take pictures with us. I signed my first autograph of the day, to Ahid.

  • Went to the base, nearly died (specifically of a medical condition called "melting") walking across a gravel lot between two buildings -- I had no idea such heat was possible. Ate some perfectly nice food in the dining hall; Laura Rosenberg and I agreed that it was much like college. As I reached into a case to get a bottle of water, one dude at a whole table of Army dudes asked "Are you going to be funny tonight?" I turned and said "I'm sure as fuck gonna try."

  • We weren't allowed to take photos on base, but there was a kind of amazing sign that said "WE NEED LEADERSHIP NOT LIKERSHIP."

  • Was presented with a certificate and commemorative coin-item by one Commander Gant at our "briefing." Posed for photos.

  • Went to PX, got some Kuwaiti Dinars from the ATM, bought a gorgeous scarf, then got so many compliments on it I went back and bought more. The Kuwaiti vendor demonstrated on himself how the scarves could be tied as sarongs and beach coverups. I wanted to film him doing this, but felt it would be exploitative. Instead shot silly videos populated entirely by Americans.

  • Was driven out to the part of the base that's all tents and porta-potties. Hung out in air-conditioned trailer behind the stage for four hours. Developed heat exhaustion, which was not made better by the fact that every trip to the bathroom required a 40-yard, 113-degree walk across hot gravel. Have put great wear and tear on my new patent-leather flats.

  • The comedy show went down at 1900, on a big outdoor stage in front of some bleachers. Alcohol is illegal in Kuwait, even on base, but it was a great crowd despite their being entirely sober. Did my new material about the Pentagon censoring our political jokes, and my wanting to keep the censor on his feet ("You know what I think about the Surge? ...That drink is better than Mountain Dew!")

  • Was ushered off to the gym for the autograph- and photo session. Signed autographs til I ran out of photos. Notable meetings included one guy who went to my high school (Cox class of '90), one guy who wanted a photo signed to his wife, who reads my blog, and one guy who'd read me on McSweeney's before the show was even advertised. Oh, and one of the guys from the dining hall to whom I had said "Sure as fuck gonna try."

  • The officer leading us around -- whom we were encouraged to call simply "Gunner" -- allowed me to head over, in my high heels, to the pull-up bar. He thought I was joking about wanting to slam out a few pull-ups. After I did seven, he told me that even female Marines don't have to do that, that most woman "aren't built to be able to lift themselves," and that the standard for female Marines is a 70-second flexed arm hang. So I got back on the bar and did a 70-second flexed-arm hang. I am now qualified to be a female Marine at least twice over.

  • Then we all went to the Kuwait International Airport (see airport Harley Davidson outlet above) where my roommate tried to track down her lost luggage. I ate some mixed grill at the airport, although I could've had KFC, Fuddruckers, or a variety of other Western items. I saw a woman in niqab (the veil that leaves only the eyes showing) eating with her husband, using one hand to hold the veil up a bit while she spooned food into her mouth with the other hand. Wouldn't want to expose that chin while eating!
I took pictures of many of these things, but it's time to meet our handlers downstairs in and head to another base for the day.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mideast tour: large corporations have made Kuwait look much like everywhere else

The theme for me so far in Kuwait is how much megacorporations have homogenized the entire world.

There was, of course, a McDonald's at the airport. And a Starbucks, and even a Claire's (see previous post on this little-girl jewelry store).

There was a Nathan's! Just like Coney Island. Although it is kind of funny to get a "kosher beef" frank in Kuwait.

Here's a KFC.

Next to the "nonalcoholic malt beverage" from the minibar are two sodas that, despite their Arabic lettering, are effortlessly recognizable by any Westerner.

New Yorkers like to make fun of tourists who come all the way to the city just to eat at the Times Square Red Lobster (where no New Yorker would ever set foot). Apparently it is possible to do this throughout the rest of the world.

I'm headed onto the base today to do my first show in Kuwait. Pictures tonight, my loves! (Here's an Arabic Circuit City, and here's an Arabic Gap, and here's an Arabic Hardee's...)

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Mideast tour: I am in Kuwait!

I am in the Swiss Belhotel Plaza in Kuwait -- and, in fact, forbidden to leave the "compound." Alcohol is entirely illegal in this country; my minibar containes sodas and Toblerone.

That's fellow comics Chris and Laura on their way down the stairs.

Eh, looks pretty much like JFK.

Except for this.

Favorite picture EVER.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

packing for the Middle East

Timothy Ferriss of the Four-Hour Workweek wrote this lovely post on How to Travel the World with 10 Pounds or Less (Plus: How to Negotiate Convertibles and Luxury Treehouses).

I started packing with the best of intentions.

And then it became obvious that Timothy Ferriss probably does not feel any less himself if he does not use conditioner. More importantly, he does not wear contact lenses, or have any suspicions of menstruating. And once you've packed all that, you might as well throw in some eyeshadow, twenty-five Luna bars, and the Dove firming lotion.

And then the Pentagon informs that I will need to bring my own pillow to Iraq. I guess it didn't sound like a particularly cushy place.

Monday, August 20, 2007

apropos to my departure tomorrow for Iraq: linear thinking gets you places

At my show at Pete's a few weeks ago, I was telling comic Charlie Kasov about the incident in which I tried to convince a deeply-hip hipster in Williamsburg of the value of logic and linear thinking. I gave up when he declared:

"It's LOGIC that got us into the Iraq War!"

Charlie wrote to say:
I was reading the definition of dada art and dadaism on Wikipedia.... My jaw dropped when I read these two lines, which reminded me of that story you told me about the hipster and the Iraq war. Apparently, he was a dadaist.

"Dada thought that reason and logic had led people into the horrors of war, so the only route to salvation was to reject logic and embrace anarchy and irrationality."
I kind of want to create an event called the Bedford Mini-Mall Debate Tournament. Or at least a comedy sketch about such an event.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

today's New York Post

Saturday, August 18, 2007

My mother thought that, in light of the Armed Forces Entertainment tour on which I am soon to depart, the world ought to see this:

Me in 1981, in front of our fence in Connecticut.
My dad was stationed at the base in Groton.

I am aware that this is not standard military dress in Iraq. It's not like the thing still fits.

the bank's new security questions make me feel secure indeed

All of my online banking and credit card accounts have taken to demanding that I select new security questions and answers. Occasionally they'll settle for a "mother's maiden name," but the ubiquity of that question has undoubtedly made it lose some of its encryption power.

Now the bank wants to know the town I grew up in, my high school mascot, my father's middle name, the names of my elementary school, of my first pet, of my best friend.

I like this. It makes me feel special. Like I'm on a first date with the bank, and it's going really well.

"And what's the name of your mother's youngest sibling? Really? That's so interesting!"

And then WaMu and I hold hands across a cafe table. "It's like you've known me forever," I say.

You wouldn't believe the interest rates.

Friday, August 17, 2007

what people write on bathroom walls

I perhaps can understand what prompts a person to declare her love for a paramour in marker form on a bathroom stall wall. But what prompts a person to write this?

"Be honest about your class background"

Who in the bathroom is not being honest about her class background? What piece of white trash pulled down her pants to reveal Lacoste underwear?

(The reply reads: "My trust fund ran out.") This is from Dojo on West 4th, notably close to NYU.

On a totally ungermane note: "Ceiling cat is watching you masturbate."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ford blogger event: things you can do in a Ford Escape

I'm still wrapping up my blog coverage of my last trip, when Ford sent me and 16 other bloggers to LA and let us drive Ford Escapes around.

When I entered my "cabana room" at the Hotel Roosevelt, I laughed... because I wouldn't be having sex in this room -- and just look at it! It's clearly for having sex in. The lights didn't even turn all the way up -- the dimmers went from "pitch black" to "sexy." Mandatory mood lighting!

Okay, I totally didn't photograph the space-age lamps and exposed concrete. I think I already said this on the blog, but I finally pegged the look as "sex cabana ... in SPACE!"

I didn't mean to give my entire blog audience a come-hither look. That's just wrong.

I perused the Ford Escape product literature on the way home. It was in my goodie bag along with the snacks (and an unfortunate butter knife -- scroll down for that one).

It's weird trying to sell SUVs to young hipsters who care about the environment. You can give them iPod hookups:

But also assure them that's it's okay to drive over as much of nature as possible, as long as you are not leaving greenhouse gases behind:

Of course, most SUVs are, in practice, driven by soccer moms, who do precious little offroading.

Is it even legal to drive a car off the road? How would you know who has the right of way?

The other New York bloggers and I had a brief discourse about the merits of driving versus the subway. In my book, driving's primary advantage is that you can leave things -- for instance, a gym bag -- in your car, and then you can go to the gym anytime you want without having to lug the bag around all damn day. Or, for instance, if you purchased a new trash can and then wanted to go to the gym, or a restaurant, you could just leave the trash can in the car, rather than trying to stuff your new possession in a gym locker or discreetly stack your purse and packages near your restaurant chair.

The discussion quickly devolved into whether the subway would be improved by the addition of cupholders. Ford Escapes most certainly have cupholders, whereas the train has homeless people (often holding cups).


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

in case you're wondering why I'm not en route to Riyadh

The Pentagon has delayed our departure for the Mideast tour. First due to Saudi security concerns, and then again for no official reason.

The Pentagon only gives orders. Not reasons.

- Jen, at home

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shirts for teens: a lesson in mutual exclusivity

From Joyce Leslie on West 8th:

You can be the hot friend. You can be the single friend. But you can't be both.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

North Fork is broken

The North Fork bank in Bayside, Queens has a sign that flashes the time and temperature.

It was hot at 10:42.

But not THAT hot.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Jen's Mideast Tour!

In case any of you thought my previous mentions of "Iraq" were a joke: they are not! I have an airline ticket to Frankfurt, and then Bahrain, and then Saudi Arabia, and so on and so forth. Lufthansa says so, and so does the Pentagon.

I am going on a Mideast tour, to entertain the troops, along with fellow comics Laura Rosenberg, Christina Lopez, and Chris Freeman. We shall be meeting up in Frankfurt, where I will exchange my hotpants for some kind of voluminous skirt before arriving in Riyadh.

If you are a member of the US military deployed in the Mideast and somehow viewing JenIsFamous through the firewall -- which would really make you some kind of incredible, porn-seeking computer hacker -- here is where you can see me:

August 17
Show in Saudi Arabia, Eskon Village

This is a badass flag. It has a sword on it. A sword for slaying infidels. I can't wait to secretly swear and blog about feminism from Saudi Arabia.

August 20-23
Shows in Iraq, Location TBD

This is the Iraqi flag. If you squint, the Arabic character second from left looks a little like an illustrated high heel from the cover of a Candace Bushnell novel.

August 25-27
Shows in Kuwait, Location TBD

Kuwait's flag looks a little like Italy's, but with a big black trapezoid. This reminds me of both pasta and geometry.

August 29
Show in Qatar, Auab

August 30
Show in Qatar, Assayliaha

This flag has teeth. And not much else.

September 1
Show in Djibouti, CP Lemonier

Djibouti is in Africa, and is also an Islamic nation, located right across the water from Saudi Arabia. Temperatures are expected to be well over a hundred. Plus, there are hot winds! There is nothing comical about this flag.

September 3-4
Shows in Bahrain, Location TBD

Look familiar? It's Qatar, with fewer teeth. Bahrain is a tiny island off the coast of Saudi Arabia. It is wealthy, hip, contains Michael Jackson's mansion, and is also where Saudis go to dance and screw.

That's it! Don't these guys look ready to laugh?

Hmmn -- maybe I'll tell my angry jokes.


Maybe I should've had some pictures taken like this:

Except that I am incapable of smiling in a non-sarcastic way. And for some other reasons. But whatever.

Grr again!

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The Williamsburg Spelling Bee is FAMOUS IN JAPAN

Click to enlarge

Tokyo Shimbun (which has a New York bureau) sent a reporter to see us about a month ago, and I conducted an interview with a Japanese reporter in the hall outside the bee.

And now, here we are ... famous in Japan! I am extending my arm in ... glory!

Ford blogger event: the butterknife incident

Carolyn, here looking confused on a Delta flight, has begun posting about our trip to LA, in which the Ford company put us up in the Hotel Roosevelt, carted us around Hollywood, and sent us off in Ford Escapes to sightsee in unusual ways.

Here is an unflattering picture of me in a Ford Escape. All photos from here on will be snatched off Carolyn's blog, because I didn't bring a camera.

You can't tell here, but the upholstery is made of recycled post-industrial waste. Specifically, the bits of plastic made in the plastic factory that get cut off and fall on the floor while plastic water bottles are being made.

Carolyn's airline jeremiad reminded me of the thing that happened to me on the way back from LA:

I'm at LAX, going through security, congratulating myself on being such a seasoned traveler. My shoes (flats, easy to get on and off) are in a bin along with a plastic bag containing sub-three-ounce containers of lotion, lip gloss, and mascara, my laptop is in another bin, and none of the snack items packed in my purse could remotely qualify as a forbidden "gel."

(Last time I flew, I became very angry at the large woman from TSA who confiscated my 20-grams-of-protein, ultra-low-carb, 100 calories of Sylvester Stallone-endorsed can of chocolate protein pudding. But I digress).

The guy operating the conveyor belt stops the belt with my bag -- the goody bag I had received from Ford, containing a Ford travel mug, t-shirts, and all manner of snacks -- inside the x-ray chamber. He calls over another guy to look at the monitor. The second guy is a sort of policeman-looking dude with a mustache. He pulls me and the bag aside, reaches in, and pulls out a knife.

I stammer. And -- as you ought know by now -- I rarely stammer.

"That's not mine!" I say. "I mean, this is a goody bag from Ford. Ford gave it to me."

"You mean you don't know who packed your bag?!


He runs his finger up and down the serrated edge. It's a butter knife. He shrugs. "I don't have a problem with this," he said.

I joke weakly, trying to establish rapport: "Unless I'm going to butter someone to death." (Dying last words: "I can't believe it WAS butter!")

Finally I remember having taken my bags into the hotel diner that morning, sat on a tall stool at the counter with my bags on the floor below me, and opened a bundle of silverware wrapped in a cloth napkin -- flinging the silverware everywhere. It was a little embarrassing, so I pretended it never happened and grabbed the next roll of silverware, which I unwrapped more carefully. Why did I have to fling a knife into my bag rather than, say, a spoon? No one questions a spoon.

Once I realize this, I explain to the TSA officer why I had the Hotel Roosevelt diner's knife (even though he has already given me permission to proceed, knife in hand).

"It's a good thing you didn't have the steak and eggs," he says.


Thursday, August 9, 2007

Note to people who are trying to talk fancily:

Stop saying "from whence."

"Whence" means "from where." You are saying "from from where." Sort of like saying "ATM machine."


Jenisfamous news items

I just did an interview about the spelling bee for the New York Post. Watch out for an article about us!

We appeared some weeks ago in Tokyo Shimbun, and I'm waiting to receive a copy of that to share on the blog.

I leave next week for Iraq! (Seriously, did I mention Iraq?)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Ford blogger event: wrap-up still coming

Other bloggers from the event have posted photosets, but Carolyn and I like to take our time. (Insert joke about available diversions in Amsterdam).

Somewhere in Carolyn's camera is a photo of me doing the "crane pose" on top of a Ford Escape.



god is not great on the 1 train

Almost everyone is annoyed by subway preachers. The vast majority of subway preachers are intrusive and disruptive, spew logical fallacies, and annoy the shit out of everyone (even the religious, who are just being made to look ridiculous).

A gay acquaintance of mine who is also involved in theater was once on a subway when a preacher started saying something about gay people going to hell, and the friend said "Sir, if you don't stop that, I'm going to break out in show tunes." The preacher amped up his anti-gay screed -- and was greeted by a loud, on-key showtunes performance that lasted several stops, as long as the preaching. (If only I knew the playlist!)

Yesterday I was on the train reading Christopher Hitchens' god is Not Great when some singing panhandlers introduced themselves as "God's Grace." I tilted my book up so the cover was visible. A business dude seemed to notice and smile.

Anyway, I was thinking about something that might be helpful in case of further encounters with the really annoying brand of subway preacher (not a capella groups) -- the loud, yelling kind who keep trying to make eye contact and ask questions, preventing anyone on the train from conversing or reading, and who make people leave the subway car and move into other cars.

I'd like to get some kind of recording device that broadcasts REALLY LOUDLY, and prerecord a message on it, preferably in a male voice to add a little misdirection, and then I could just reach into my purse and set the device off, and a booming voice would say something like "HELLO! THIS IS THE VOICE OF SECULAR HUMANISM, HERE TO SHARE A SOME INFORMATION ABOUT THE ENLIGHTENMENT."

Benjamin Franklin appears in the French Court during the Revolution.
He knew what he was doing. After the Enlightenment, we'll do Nietzsche!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Dog the Bounty Hunter's wife is ... bountiful

The Intrepid Young Journalist commented the other day, germane to nothing, "You know who really needs a breast reduction? Dog the Bounty Hunter's wife."

He went on to describe breasts that were so large as to be "without dimension or contour," spilling everywhere, up in her armpits, creating a side silhoutte both comical and boner-killing.

I looked this shit up. This is Beth "Dog's wife" Campbell:

They are definitely bigger than her head. And her head isn't small!

She looks nice here. That wedding dress is definitely custom-made.

And indeed, here's the fitting!
Those things totally are up in her armpits.

The side view that some find "hilarious."

The woman has a great many internet fans who, indeed, like her breasts very much. It seems that she does, in fact, have implants, but she has enough body fat as to make that non-obvious.

Apparently, Beth is also a bounty hunter. My only question is: Aren't bounty hunters supposed to be ... inconspicuous?

Monday, August 6, 2007

This ad is only four words, yet contains a major grammatical error

Where you at, WaMu?

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Ford blogger event: taste the glamour!

To recap, I was selected as one of 17 bloggers to be flown to LA for a promotional event having to do with the Ford Escape, as part of a campaign regarding the deleterious effects of boredom.

This is me chilling with some bloggers in the penthouse of the Hotel Roosevelt.

And on the roof. The two guys to my left are from UCB sketch group Elephant Larry.

"Hey Carolyn, now that we are observing the filming of a Ford commercial on a 'dude ranch' themed film set, would you like to dance like lesbians?"

"Why yes, Jen, yes I would."

I am available for further blogger promotions at any time. Just call my agent.


Thursday, August 2, 2007

Ford blogger event: brief update

Carolyn and I saw David Arquette and drove a Ford Escape a lot. There was a nude photo shoot in the hotel pool this morning. Later we drove to an Old West movie set to watch a Ford commercial being filmed. Being on a film set reminded me that even big stars have to pee in trailers. And live in trailers. Brad and Angelina? Got together in a trailer. That sounds kind of seedy now, doesn't it?

The vegan hotdog at Pink's contains no hot dog whatsoever (only toppings), which is very vegan-circa-1991. Carolyn donated her small stuffed Kermit the Frog* to a small child at Pink's. I kept mine because I'm selfish that way. Selfish for the plushies.

Tomorrow I fly back to New York and Carolyn flies to Amsterdam. In two weeks, I leave for Iraq. When Carolyn and I parted half an hour ago in the Hotel Roosevelt hall, she said "Have fun in Iraq," and I said "No one has ever said that before."

I shall post pictures as soon as Carolyn uploads them.

* Kermit sold out to Ford. Hybrid SUV = green, get it? Also, Kermit likes the green, if you know what I mean. You should see the commercials that dude does in Japan.


Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Ford blogger event: parties are better with palm trees

I am in Los Angeles for the Ford blogger event (see previous post), staying in the legendary Roosevelt Hotel, in a cabana room right off the pool, and by "pool," I mean "expanse of water with a DJ stationed at one corner and around which people are sitting on swanky pool furniture and sort of dancing with their upper bodies to INXS' greatest hits."

It is fabulous.

However, the Ford Motor Company has flown a bunch of bloggers into LA ... and gotten them mostly too drunk to blog.

Carolyn Castiglia is with me (along with a couple of sketch comedians from Elephant Larry). If you give Carolyn enough free drinks, she says things like "Dude, that palm tree is fuckin' awesome.

Ford has hooked me up with booze and a porn cabana.
Thanks, blog readers, for making this dream possible!
LA is sweet. How does anyone get any work done here?
How is everyone not pulling a Lindsay Lohan?
New to-do list: buy hybrid SUV, LA apartment,
fake tits, home tanning bed, coke habit.

I've been informed that the minibar is fair game. Ooh, now the DJ is playing Justin Timberlake! I'm going to sleep with my balcony door open ... it will be as though I have passed out at the party, except on a cushy hotel bed, next to a porno-style faux bearskin rug.

My hotel room looks like what a porn set would look like if pornos had bigger budgets and more taste, and were also set simultaneously in the seventies and in the future, and next to beaches ... in space.

Off to wash down a $9 Dean and Delucca Rice Krispie Treat with Veuve Cliquot,


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