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January 29, 2008

what this blog needs is more posts about Rabelais

A person leaving the name SFP posted a comment on a recent post of mine, and I thought I'd re-post it here because it is just the sort of linguistic trivia I relish:
The Spanish for 'gargantuan' is 'pantagruelica'. Rabelais wrote about two giants, Gargantua and Pantagruel. We picked one giant, the Spanish picked the other.

And while we're on a Spanish language kick: in 2004 I posted about the Spanish version of the Army's "An Army of One," and in 2005 about the Spanish words for "escalator" and "pregnant," and in 2006 about the Spanish word for "unicorn."

January 27, 2008

Why did I spend half an hour making a digital avatar of myself?

Apparently, I'm fourteen years old and procrastinating about doing my algebra.

Get a Voki now!

January 25, 2008

Williamsburg Spelling Bee Theme Song

This is my first-ever internet singing video:

I make no claims to being a singer; I wrote the lyrics to the song, my co-host bobbyblue composed the music, and for the first several seasons he sang it alone, until finally he demanded that I join him. I am also shaking egg-shakers.

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with my complements

My mom sent me this article, Twins Earn Matching Perfect ACT Scores, and the page was accompanied by this ad:


To "complement" is to coordinate with or make whole; to "compliment" is to say something nice about. An essay that "compliments" your test scores would be a quite silly and solipsistic essay.

Would you trust these people with your college essay?

This is just one reason why New York's parents trust me with this task instead.

January 23, 2008

seen in Midtown

Illogical Semitic headwear of the day: velvet yarmulke* and earmuffs.

Look, if God wants you to cover your head with a tiny hat, wearing a larger hat would simply be exceeding the requirements.

* Good name for Klezmer band

January 22, 2008

BaconSalt - for naughty, naughty kosher vegetarians

BaconSalt is exactly what it sounds like.

I told my brother about it, and he wrote back:

"I think I just threw up in my mouth a little. I wonder if they could have made that taste like bacon."

January 21, 2008

Monday Evening Stand-Up at Pete's

Last Monday's video features Melissa Surach, Brooke Van Poppelin, Tom Myers, Dave O'Gara, and Brad Aldous, as well as me reading my piece, "A Representative Pastiche of the 61 Replies I Received to My Room-Rental Offer on Craigslist."

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January 20, 2008

newsflash: I now have bangs

Photos by Stacie Joy from Thursday night's In the Flesh Reading Series, hosted by Rachel Kramer Bussel.

January 18, 2008

does he know something we don't?

This evening in Times Square, I saw a street vendor selling campaign buttons for the 2008 election.

The only choices?





article in W magazine

This is the agency I donated/sold my eggs through:

Daddy's Little Helpers
Thanks in part to surrogacy coordinators Growing Generations, gay Hollywood is in the midst of a baby boom.

I feel especially awesome being a contributor to "gay Hollywood."


January 16, 2008

Tourism is up! Fuck.

Tourism is up in NYC! George Fertitta, "chief executive of city tourism office NYC & Company", offers a reason:
"The city is more vibrant, cleaner and safer - and it's just more exciting than ever before."
It is not possible for something to be cleaner and safer and also more exciting. This is why no one has used a dental dam since the original AIDS scare.

Maybe the reason is that, the more you make Times Square look like an Asheville, NC shopping mall, the more visitors you get from Asheville, NC.

"Oh, look, our Foot Locker isn't nearly that edgy!"


the New York primary is February 5th

When Obama won Iowa, the Intrepid Young Journalist called me from the west coast and clued me in on how it had all gone down; the demographics of who voted for Hillary (older women, old party loyalists) and who voted for Obama (people under 40; the two black people who live in Iowa) confirmed everybody's expectations (well-covered on Feministing) that young women were breaking rank with Second-Wave feminists, who really do plan on voting for the female candidate for that reason alone.

A few days later, back in New York, the Intrepid Young Journalist, who was registered as an independent, was running up against the deadline to switch his affiliation to Democrat so he could vote in the primary; he discovered that it was the last night, and that rather than try to postmark the form, it was safer to go to the registrar's office, which would be open until midnight, and wait in line.

Aside from the fact that states around the country are reporting recordbreaking numbers of voter registrations clearly sent in just before the deadline to vote in the primaries, the line at the NYC office, the Intrepid Young Journalist reported, was made up entirely of young white guys and middle-aged-to-older black men: a pretty good profile of Obama voters. In any case, even in NY in the clutches of the Clinton machine, a sizable contingent is planning (as am I) to vote in primaries for the first time ever.

The IYJ also notes that New York is a shared-delegate state, so even if Hillary, being our Senator, is destined to best Obama, your primary vote still matters, because the delegates are split up in proportion to the votes each candidate receives (in contrast, Republicans in New York run a winner-takes-all primary). Here is a nice little article that explains how everything works.

And finally, I realize that in writing this post, I've made a number of assumptions about those reading my blog. I'm fine with that. (My European and Canadian readers, of whom I have a rather delightful number based on the Comments, may go take a coffee break).


January 15, 2008

a brief note from the Kips Bay Starbucks

Today a black woman asked how I got my hair so black. I felt like I had accomplished something, even though I totally just use $7 bottles of dye from Duane Reade, and try not to wreck the grout in my shower when rinsing it out.


January 12, 2008

"Ballin......going home in white strecthes"

I occasionally read a discussion list about comedy in New York. Recently, someone posted this finely-crafted prose about the comedy industry; I found it quite astute:
I havent written in while ... But dont only difference between cats who have been doing comedy for a while and me is because I come out there and say "I am the CEO" On no bull shit... Putting on $20,000 watches I will be damned if some bull shit comedy manager dictate who I am what Ive become. People in here thought I gone mad with all that I shit I spit a few years ago. But Now I am doing what I set out to do. Fuck all "I need a favor" "Can I get 5 minutes on the set" Nah fuck that..... Just doing my thang in NYC and Santa Barbara and still going to school with 18 credits and charging people $40000 for people to be on my shit. Dont erase cause some people need to hear this shit. All of you guys are talented but dont have your hand out waiting for a deal. There is a reason I got the 4 bedroom 3 bath out there in Cali and tall light skin chicks and all the niggas that wanted me banned from this site cant do a shit about it. Stay away from funny n**** and remember you are the CEO of your life. No bringers ..... and stupid ass comedy managers in their 400 sq foot manhattan apartment. Straight ballin
Lest anyone think I reprinted this just to comment on its grammar, I'd like to begin by saying that I agree enthusiastically with the spirit of this commentary. I reiterate: being pathetic is not going to help your comedy career!

Now, I am not certain if the author here means "ballin" in the sense of basketball; in the sense of sexual intercourse, which peripherally involves balls; or in the sense of garnering greater levels of social and economic power, which could be metaphorically referenced by either basketball or intercourse; but I am behind the message regardless. After any of these things, a ride home is required, and why not in a white stretch limo? It is nice to have one's vehicle coordinate with the economic stratum of one's timepiece.

I think that this writer makes significant reference to the laws of supply and demand and the balance of power inherent in the comedy industry. If you always "have your hand out waiting for a deal", or are begging just to get on stage and do a five-minute set for free, you will be perceived as someone who has little to offer and little power to wield.

Having marketable non-comedy skills -- and a $20,000 watch, and tall, light-skinned chicks -- does wonders for conveying to others that one is not desperate, and that the balance of power is more equally distributed. If Cali still desired to perform as a stand-up comic after having attained economic success in an unrelated field, I imagine he would find the power dynamic to be agreeably different. If only there were a way to broadcast more readily that I am the owner of several dozen pairs of brand-name high heels, obtained through entrepreneurial acumen, and meticulously arranged in their display case.

"Fuck all 'I need a favor'"! Why have I never before expressed that thought in such a concise and perspicacious manner? You can rest assured that I will say this to others several times today, throughout the week, and at unspecified points in the near and far future.


January 11, 2008

Gulliver's Travels at the Mad Money premiere


January 10, 2008

this post gave me an excuse to type backwards

I just learned that, in Arabic, you read from right to left, but you continue to write numbers the way English speakers would write them.

To demonstrate in English, if you have 22.35 cups of sugar, you'd write this:

.ragus fo spuc 22.35 evah I

And not this:

.ragus fo spuc 53.22 evah I

The thought is that you continue reading the number in the same direction as the rest of the text, but that, naturally, when reading a number, you'd want to start with the smallest part and move on to the biggest part! Of course!

I just thought that was kind of cool.

Somewhat germanely, most other nations seem to address their envelopes beginning with the nation and ending with the street address or name -- from big to small. Our unusual ordering seems in keeping with American individualist tendencies. As though Ayn Rand ran the post office.

January 9, 2008

Spanish speakers are never "under the weather"

The signs have been appearing, in both English and Spanish, in the NYC subway system.

The English one says "Feeling under the weather?" and then contains some text about how, if you are not feeling well, it's better to stay in the station and ask for help than to get on the train and risk holding up the whole system when you pass out/die/hemorrhage. The graphic is of an umbrella, with some, er ... spheres hovering above it, which is unrelated to any use I've ever had for an umbrella.

Update: The spheres above the umbrella are giant aspirin tablets.

The Spanish language version contains the same graphic, except the text says "Not feeling well?" because the expression "under the weather" does not so much exist in Spanish. Meaning that any Spanish speakers reading this poster are just going to be like What the fuck is up with that umbrella?"


January 6, 2008

I'm being published in a thing with some famous funny people

Monkeybicycle Issue Five, guest-edited by Eric Spitznagel

Click here to preorder

Looking for something to read after you put the kids to bed? Then Issue Five of Monkeybicycle is for you. It's bursting at the seams with humor that is not for innocent minds or faint hearts.

Our fifth issue is filled with the kind of humor that would make any good man blush, and it's delivered from some of the best in the business. Just take a look at this killer line-up:

Sarah Silverman, Patton Oswalt, Myfanwy Collins, Johnny Ryan, Davy Rothbart, Wendy Molyneux, Aaron Burch, Bret Scott, Elizabeth Ellen, Matt Craig, Timothy Bennet, Pete Grosz, Liliana V. Blum, Katie Schwartz, Tyler Smith, Michael Frissore, Antonius Wiriadjaja, Amy Guth, J. Marcus Weekley, Matt Summers-Sparks, C. J. Kershner, Ben Tanzer, Jennifer Dziura, Peter Bognanni, Charlie Anders, David Hart, Noria Jablonski, Bob Fingerman, Vince LiCata, Jack Pendarvis, Christopher Monks, and an introduction by David Cross.

p.s. - That cover graphic actually depicts a creepy old dude using tweezers to remove a Wonder Woman doll's underwear, and then smelling the underwear. This is in no way a reference to my Wonder Woman thing.

Jen and Carolyn in LA (long-lost envelope edition)

I am going through some old paperwork, and found an envelope from the Ford Great Escape, an experience I blogged about during which comedian Carolyn Castiglia and I were flown out to LA by the Ford Motor Company to drive Ford Escapes and get wined and dined, following which we came back home and blogged about it a lot (photo by Carolyn, via timer).

Carolyn and I were in the car and she was driving, and I said something she thought was funny, and she demanded I write it down, so it ended up on this envelope. The conversation reads:
Jen: It's a system of checks and balances. While you represent unfettered creativity, I represent German efficiency.

Carolyn: Are you German?

Jen: No, i just felt like I needed an adjective.


January 3, 2008

sit-ins against fascism and folk songs against autocracy

So, Saudi women's rights activists are campaigning to lift the ban on driving for women (link from Feministing).

They are doing this by collecting names on a petition ... and presenting the petition to the king.

I think the very idea of a "petition" implies a context of democratic government, one in which the collected opinions of many individual citizens are presumed to mean something, both morally, because the citizens are the government, as well as quantitatively, in terms of the number of votes an elected representative stands to lose by failing to meet the petition's demands. In other words, a petition implies that someone has reason to give a shit.

Now, certainly, the women's rights activists themselves don't have a whole lot of options, so I don't mean to denigrate their attempts. However, presenting a petition to the king is sort of like staging a boycott against your slave trafficker; there are larger, more systemic problems here.

I'm not sure feminism can even mean much of anything in the context of a non-constitutional* monarchy; the arguments for it generally proceed from an understanding of natural rights for all humans.

*The Saudi monarchy claims that the Quran is their constitution; I think Jefferson would find this idea somewhat wanting.

last Virginia photo

In addition to the pandas, and Onancock, I'd like to present this:

Yes, a taxidermist had a little fun (in case you can't quite see, it also has duck feet). I took this photo inside a Maryland seafood restaurant where I was waiting for a to-go order of a crabcake sandwich and hush puppies.

January 1, 2008

Go to Onancock! Try not to step in suspicious puddles.

On my recent drive to Virginia and back, I took this photo:

Onancock! For those of foggy Biblical memories, Onan is the fellow who lends his name to "onanism," a word for masturbation, and his story is the basis of many modern-day Christians' condemnation of the practice. Of course, the Bible says no such thing, but that's not terribly surprising.

Allow me to digress a moment and talk about the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the main "anti-gay" tale in the Bible.
In brief, Lot is a good guy who lives in the wicked city of Sodom. Two strange men come into town and Lot offers them a place to stay. He doesn't know it, but the men are angels. When a gang-raping mob comes to Lot's door, demanding to rape the angels, Lot responds by instead offering his virgin daughters to be gang-raped. The angels finally step in and blind the potential rapists, so that they become tired trying to find the door to Lot's house. God then decides to destroy the people of Sodom, saving only Lot and his family, and giving them the arbitrary requirement that they shouldn't look back. Lot's wife does look back, and she is turned into a pillar of salt. Lot and his daughters survive, although that must've been awkward, considering that Lot had just recently offered his daughters to a gang-raping mob.
Just for kicks, here is a children's version of the story:
"Lot! We want to meet your guests," [the mob] shouted from outside the door. "Send them out so we can say hello." But they were lying. They really wanted to have fun doing terrible things to Lot’s guests.
"Have fun doing terrible things" makes it sound kind of sexy, doesn't it?

Anyway, this is the story from which much of the Biblical condemnation of homosexuality comes.

In a helpful act of exegesis, allow me to suggest several other, more appropriate morals to the story:
  1. Rape is bad!

  2. In the case of "gay rape," it's really the "rape" part that's the problem.

  3. Fathers who offer their daughters to be gang-raped by mobs should hardly be rewarded by "God."

  4. If for some terrible reason you are forced to either turn over your daughters or some strangers to a gang-raping mob, you should probably turn over the strangers. In Lot's case the strangers happened to be angels, but Lot didn't know that. Ergo, see #3 above.

  5. Rapists deserve to be blinded by magic.

  6. Even if you aren't gay, "God" might turn you into a pillar of salt for an arbitrary reason.
( offers both liberal and conservative perspectives on this story. The site also makes the fine point that if the entire gang-raping mob had been gay, it wouldn't have made much sense for Lot to even offer up his daughters in the first place; additionally, the site points out that, since women married at quite a young age, Lot's "virgin daughters" probably would have been around 14 years old).

And now, back to the story of Onan:
And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar. And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord slew him. And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the Lord: wherefore he slew him also.
Boy, that God just smites like a bitch!

Side note: "Er" shares a name (well, minus an additional "r") with this Mooninite, from Aqua Teen Hunger Force:

Anyway, Onan wasn't masturbating; he was having sex with his widowed sister-in-law for the purpose of getting her pregnant, but then pulling out. Which just seems rude.

(Of course, he had a logical reason -- Tamar was the widow of his older brother, so succeeding in producing an heir that would be "counted" as his brother's would mean that that son would be the family's firstborn, rather than a son Onan might have later that would be counted as his own. Incidentally, the story gets weirder, as after Onan's death, Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute to get Er and Onan's father, Judah, to impregnate her, and from her illegitimate twins ultimately come David, Solomon, and Joseph, foster-parent of Jesus).

If Onan had had enough mojo to impregnate Tamar, keep his own wife (had he had one) as constantly pregnant as possible so as to produce soldiers for Israel, and also masturbate a bit on the side, it seems we wouldn't have had a problem. No need for half of Salt Lake City to tie their jerk-off hands to the bedpost at night.

Anyway, "Onancock" is a hilarious name for a small Virginia town. (It is, of course, a Native American name, in this case meaning "foggy place." The official town website is careful to indicate that the name is pronounced "oh NAN cock").

The Eastern Shore of Virginia also has a small town called "Assateague," which is neither here nor there.


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