Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dear Bratty High School Kid, or "Your Outfit Is Stupid and So Are You"

Dear Little High School Snot-Nosed Brat Wearing Skinny Jeans and Vans,

Your outfit looks stupid. Not only is it stupid, it makes you look fat.

I'm sorry, but when I subbed for your English class today, I couldn't help but notice how inexcusably rude you were throughout the entire period. It's funny that in our modern world, where the advances of the Internet, and Wikipedia, and Books are all easily at your disposal, the simple task of watching a movie has somehow become impossible. School, if it escaped you, is a place where people go to learn things. All kinds of things. You'd really be surprised if you ever cared to put down your X-Box controller and crack open a book. Oh, I'm sorry. Books are the heavy things they give you at the library. They have words printed on them and they are made of paper.
I know it's difficult to last an entire period without the use of your iPhone, but it's not necessary to have in class. Your incessant use of technology has numbed your already undersized brain, leaving you incapable of producing a full sentence, much less a coherent thought. Granted, you've been on ADD medication since you were seven years old, but that's no excuse for shouting "WHAT?" when I called your name politely while taking roll this morning. The proper way to respond when the teacher, or substitute teacher, calls your name is to say, "Here," or "Present," audibly, but not so loud you hurt my ears or those of your peers.

Yes, I realize the movie we were assigned to watch was somewhat boring, and not something you'd chose to watch yourself. This does not matter. You are a student. That means, when you are asked to do something, like sit quietly and watch a movie for a couple of hours, you do it. You shut your ugly, pimply, dirty face, and you do it. Don't talk back to me when I ask you to be quiet. The first time when I asked you to please be quiet, I said "Please." Then, thirty seconds later, when you decided my request wasn't worth paying attention to, I told you to shut up. I find it quite entertaining that my use of the phrase "Shut up" comes as any kind of shock to you. You're being a little shit, isn't that your goal? My language could be harsher, you skinny fuck, but as a responsible adult, I chose to refrain. Unlike you. You are an over-indulged little bitch and I hope I never see you again.

But I digress. I meant to insult your outfit, and I got a little sidetracked. Forgive me. Where was I? Oh yes, your skinny jeans. They look terrible. When I was a child, we wore leggings, only to realize years later how unforgivably bad we looked. I still grimace at the days when my jeans fit me so tight my legs looked like suffocating pythons. If my pants fit me the way yours do, I'd cry. Let me remind you that you are a boy. Of course, it's hard for me to tell because your hair is so damn long. Don't get me wrong, long hair is all well and good. It's just that you look awful with long hair. Your mother should impose her female sense of style on you and insist that you cut that nappy, wannabe-surfer dust mop you have sitting on your head. Next to your friends, you do not stand out. Vans should send your generation thank-you cards for keeping their brand relevant. Without your lemming-like tendency to conform, their original style sneaker would have been fashionably obsolete years ago. I don't know who made up this new skinnnies/Vans combination, but they ought to be publicly humiliated and shamed into telling you that the postmodern, post-Punk, pre-pubescent militia you've joined is a consipiracy designed to get you to buy new back-to-school clothes.

I want to believe that you'll grow out of this nasty phase you're in to become a more productive, compassionate adult. I want to think that one day you'll look back on these years with a clearer perspective and realize what a shit you were. I want to believe in a better future for our nation, but you're making it really hard.

I hope you stop texting and start having normal human conversations with people. I hope you choose to learn something while you're in school instead of blindly try to impress your totally unimpressive friends. I hope you choose to use birth control.

As your sub, my hopes for you are many, and I pray you will heed the call when the challenges of the future are thrust toward you. I just hope you iPod doesn't get in the way.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I Used To Hate Guitar Hero But Now I Like It or, What Else Am I Missing Out On?

The kind of people who play video games in their spare time are usually not "my" kind of people.

If you know me at all, you know I make this kind of sweeping generalization a lot, and I make no apologies for it. More often than not, gamers exhibit qualities that just don't jive with me. When I think of a "typical" video game playing dude-person, I think: Anti-social, pimply, over-mothered and under-sexed nerd. Video games aren't sexy. They aren't attractive. They don't score points with Lisa Zine. I find gaming extremely geeky, and not in a Rivers Cuomo circa The Blue Album kind of way. I'm (sorta) sorry for feeling this way, but mostly I'm not.

So why then, do I love Guitar Hero?

My sister got a Wii for Christmas, and ever since, I've been addicted to this stupidly awesome game, and it has me questioning my values. Why now, God? Why must you make me eat my words? Why let my addictive personality disprove years of firm belief?

I am drowning in my own hypocrisy.

As a kid, video games were the farthest thing from my mind. Young Lisa preferred embossing personalized stationery and constructing flimsy tables out of wood scraps. Young Lisa wove friendship bracelets (for herself), and learned how to sew pajama pants.* Young Lisa devoted her youth to practical skills. Life-enriching skills. Amish skills. Video games? Puh-leaze. Such activities provided nothing of any tangible value, and in my laughably small circle of childhood friends, Handset-Alacrity and Ability-to-sit-in-one-place-for-hours-at-a-time did not garner much esteem or respect. But then again, neither did doing extra-credit book reports. Shit.

In 1995, the same year I wrote three unassigned essays on The Earth's Layers, Sharks, and Frogs, I played Sonic the Hedgehog on my friends' Sega Genesis. This phase lasted perhaps 3 months. I can count the number of times I played on one hand. I was pathetic at this game.

At age 15 my mom thought it appropriate to buy my sister and me a Nintendo 64. She'd heard, no doubt on Oprah, that Nintendo 64s were very popular among kids our age. Apparently she had forgotten that she was the mother of two daughters. Daughters who had never before expressed any interest in video games. Mom threw in Mario Kart (which was OK I guess) and a game that accompanied "A Bug's Life." As in the Pixar movie. Just like you're thinking, it completely sucked. If I recall correctly, in order to beat a level, you had to find a golden seed or something. For the remainder of our Christmas vacation I searched and searched for the golden seed, arduously making it to Level 2. It frustrated the bejeezus out of me until one day, our 5 year old neighbor came over and beat the game within the span of an hour. Bullshit.

In college, I took a course that explored communicative elements of video games (I think?) and in it the professor described the habits of World of Warcraft players in China. There are kids out there who won't bathe or eat because they can't stand the thought of leaving Warcraftland. Actual jobs have been created by players who need to take breaks from their virtual world, but refuse to miss whatever cyber-battle might happen in their absence. They hire people to play for them. Avatar stand-ins. What the hell. People have even killed themselves over shit that happened in Second Life. The real world is hard enough, people. Why get suicidal over things that...aren't...real? I don't get it, and likely never will.

Such was the extent of my relationship with video games, until Guitar Hero. When the game first came out, I absolutely hated it when friends would interrupt a perfectly rousing conversation only to stare, zombie-like, at the television set and hit buttons on a fake, cheap looking virtual instrument. I'd storm out of the room like a little child, saying things like, "I hate Guitar Hero. Your guitar looks stupid. This party sucks, etc." But all that's changed now. Because I'm actually pretty good at Guitar Hero. I like music, and I've always liked buttons. And when it comes to new things, I'll usually get hooked on those with which I show an immediate proficiency. So lucky me. I have something to do on Friday nights.

I realize I'm very late in jumping on the bandwagon. I'm always late to the bandwagon. I was late for Sex and the City. Late for LOST. I only just now started playing with Pogs. But so what. Better late than never, I say. If anything, Guitar Hero has taught me a lesson to be less hateful and to realize that I'm probably good at a lot of things I haven't tried. Like cocaine.

It beats sewing pajama pants.

*I can prove it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Possibilities Are Not Endless, or Recession Job Hunting is a Bitch

This goddamn recession is killing my spirit.

Lucky for me, I live at home. Actually, the 'luckiness' of this is questionable at this point, since I'm not quite sure if I'm happy about the situation, but at least my bills aren't as high. Anyway, lately I've realized that substitute teaching provides a pretty pathetic cash-flow, and even my really fancy private tutoring gig isn't leaving my pockets full. In a town saturated with over-eager high school kids and Post-Lay-Off Recessionites, the job pool is shallow. So what's a girl to do?

In just a few days into this New Year I have already exhausted the very short list of potential employers I could stand to work for and have moved on to much browner pastures. Yesterday when I stopped into Borders, the employees informed me that their store had recently laid off 5 employees. Pretty bad odds, I'd say. Of course it doesn't help that earlier that morning I'd heard on NPR* that Borders is in danger of falling off the NYSE. I wonder how long ago I would have been kicked off the NYSE. Clearly, I'm not the only one whose stock is low.

Basically I need a job and there isn't much out there. According to Careerbuilder and Craigslist, I've assembled a short list of possibilities, and they are laughable. I will tell you which one I eventually choose.

Here are my options (in no particular order):

1. Receptionist - Western Dental Services. Apparently in order to do this job, I must be a team-player. I didn't realize that answering phones in a pleasant dental-esque voice required me to have experience playing sports. I applied for this job today. I want to cry.

2. Waitress - Red Robin. Until yesterday, I had not set foot in a Red Robin since high school. This restaurant has been in operation for at least 15 years in the same Folsom location, which means people DO eat there. I don't know who these people are, but they are out there somewhere keeping this godawful place alive. Desperate in my search, I walked in yesterday hoping to talk to someone about getting a job. I had to psych myself up in the parking lot, repeating to myself quietly "You are not too good for this." When three minutes later no one had greeted me at the podium, I walked out. I am not sorry.

3. Store Manager - Home Consignments. I love used furniture, so this seems like a natural fit.

4. Burrito Maker - Chipotle. I'm frequently mistaken for being Mexican, so it's entirely likely that I'd be an excellent burrito maker. I love Chipotle, and could get free burritos while on the job. Of course, I prefer burrito bowls, but I'm sure I could also get those for free.

5. Food Service Worker - In-N-Out Burger. $10.00/hr plus benefits for full time employees. It sounds OK, until I imagine having to take orders for Double-Doubles and Animal Style Fries from local high school kids who I'll be tutoring later that day. Plus wearing that dorky hat makes me want to cringe. And I'd get really fat. I'm thinking this one won't work out.

6. Media Buyer Assistant - ExpressMedia. Sounds cool, right? It might even be cool. I did a little research, and it looks like the company buys airtime for Longform Media clients (a.k.a. Infomercials). What could be cooler than calling local news stations to book midnight time-slots for thirty minute Proactiv infomercials? The answer is nothing. Nothing is cooler than that.

So, friends, things aren't looking so good. It's a grim reality that I'm sure I'll come to terms with, even if I do end up deep frying potatoes, or selling used coffee tables. Money is money, and it's too bad we all need it so badly, because without it losing your job wouldn't really be an issue. I've had to come to grips with the fact that even with a college degree, I'm really not too good for anything. And that hurts.

If you have any suggestions, please send them my way. I'm open to persuasion, and at this point I'll consider almost anything - with the exception of sign spinning.

Happy Recession.

*Don't you hate it when people drop NPR into casual conversation? It's so snobby and elitist. I do it all the time.