Monday, August 31, 2009

Because you really don't want to take your laptop into the john


It was random but today I got an email (by mistake, I think) and someone sent me this news story with the headline:

Newsstand sales of US magazines drop 12 percent

NEW YORK (AP) -- Consumers are buying fewer magazines at newsstands given the deep recession and the availability of plenty of free reading material online. An industry group said Monday that single-copy sales tumbled 12 percent in the first half of this year compared with the same period in 2008. That followed a year-over-year decline of 11 percent during the second half of last year.

Some group called the Audit Bureau of Circulations (and don't you wish you had THAT job!) gave out these numbers

...Cosmopolitan is still the most popular magazine at newsstands, though sales fell nearly 8 percent to 1.6 million. In overall circulation figures, Playboy and TV Guide Magazine fared the worst, down 9 percent and 10 percent, respectively. People magazine's circulation fell nearly 5 percent and Reader's Digest saw a 3 percent decline.

And so here's the list - what America's reading. It may come as a surprise that we're still reading anything at all, but the magazine survives, more or less. This is a list of our most popular magazines right now, followed by a number of smart ass remarks:

1. AARP the Magazine (Ok, isn't this magazine, like, free? Something they send you when you join AARP, which is something you join so you can get discounts at Arby's? Should this count as a magazine at all? No.)
2. AARP Bulletin (Ok, more of the same shit, This list is really stupid so far.)
3. Reader's Digest (Stupidest magazine ever. Packed with inane advice, predictable humor, and maudlin sentimentality, all written with a third-grade vocabulary. When I have an appointment at Kaiser I devour it, nonetheless. So comforting.)
4. Better Homes and Gardens (They actually are still chopping down trees to print this?)
5. National Geographic (OK, first magazine on the list that is not a total embarassment to have in your home. And yet off the scale in boredom inducement. I mean, you've see one primitive culture, you've seen them all. If I want to see backward, unwashed tribes I can go to a Raiders game.)
6. Good Housekeeping (A magazine for people who find Better Homes and Gardens too challenging. )
7. Woman's Day (About 4 million people are still reading this. Hello? It's 2009.)
8. Family Circle (Are you fucking kidding me?)
9. Ladies' Home Journal (That's it, I'm taking poison. Goodbye, world.)
10. AAA Westways (This one comes free with AAA membership, right? Doesn't count.)
11. People (Utter waste of time with zero cultural or social value. How completely irresistable and brilliant!)
12. Game Informer (First one on the list that stumped me. As you might guess, it's a magazine about video games. Good to know not all people are wasting their time with Reader's Digest and are spending their time more wisely with --- oh, never mind...)
13. Time (former news magazine that is now sort of a preachy and annoying version of People, with "news" about things that happened two weeks ago and about which you already read everything relevant a week ago.)
14. Prevention (A magazine about - preventing things, I guess. I am all for that. Things should be prevented. I think.)
15. Taste of Home (Had to look this one up. It's a recipe/cooking mag. First recipe I saw had Roman Meal bread as a key ingredient. Where's that poison I was taking?)
16. Sports Illustrated (Finally a magazine worth having! Pictures of people playing sports for 51 weeks of the year, and nearly naked women for one week a year. Mirrors the average American male's ratio of sports watching time to sexy time - 51:1.)
17. TV Guide (Consider: This publication is the same thickness today where there are 937 TV channels as it was 30 years ago when there were three TV channels. Still, it's remains an essential tool for those who just can't figure out what's on the goddamn TV without a magazine.)
18. Cosmopolitan (Amazingly, the same magazine printed 12 times a year, just with a different cover and a new name for the quiz each time.)
19. Southern Living (What the hell is published in Southern Living? "Scatching Itchy Tick Bites: Up and Down or Side to Side?" - "Okra vs. Grits: A Redneck Side Dish Throwdown!" - "Getting Your Baptist On")
20. AAA VIA (More free crap.)
21. Newsweek (See Time)
22. Maxim (Originally a sort of Playboy for younger guys, with a painful monthly effort to be edgy and hip and current. What do you mean, "just like this blog?" That's just mean.)
23. AAA Going Places (Stop it with the AAA shit!)
24. AAA Living (I mean it!)
25. Playboy (Thank God this bold defender of the First Amendment survives so we can all just read it for the articles!)

So there you have it. No Atlantic, no New Yorker, no Wired, no Utne Reader, no Harper's, no Vanity Fair. Also, no Popular Mechanics, no Popular Science, no Psychology Today. This list is, with only a couple of exceptions, a direct relic from 1965. The more things change, the more they stay the same. I'd like to write more but there's some compelling reading in the latest issue of the AARP monthly - something about how to stay young through righteous indignation and sarcasm.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Mindless, the Witless, and Jean-Paul Sartre

When I was a senior in college majoring in theatre, my directing class project was a play called "No Exit" by Jean-Paul Sartre. This was a precious choice, a choice fraught with meaning, because I needed so much to do something outrageous and avant garde and non-Midwestern. This was the choice of a pretentious young guy who wore 1940s suit coats from the Goodwill and smoked Gitanes and Russian cigs with gold tips and came within a hair's breadth of donning a beret on several occasions. So for making a statement, "No Exit" filled the bill.

The play is about three people who find themselves in this - place - and gradually discover they are dead. (Kind of seems like a plot you've seen before, right? Like on "Twilight Zone" or something? But I think Sartre may have been first out of the gate with this setup.) There's a man and two women, and the man is tormented by the fact that one woman rejects him heterosexually and one rejects him homosexually, and the women reject each other, too, and it's all so very French because it's all so sexuality based and they all realize they are in Hell and Hell is a place where you are sexually frustrated for eternity, sort of like real life. Fun stuff! Barrel of laughs! Sarte is the not the kind of guy you'd want to have a beer with. Too much thinking, too much angst. Smile, J.P, is it all really that bad? Actually, for him I think it was. His thesis in "No Exit" was essentially that "Hell is other people."

Let's face it - the man was onto something here. Other people can create Hell in the living world in so many ways! By teasing, tormenting, withholding, withdrawing - by embracing, absorbing, assimilating, smothering - by ignoring, neglecting, negating - by judging, condemning, disapproving. And these are just the emotional Hells, not the financial Hell, physical Hell, or the other many and various Hells that we can become caught up in.

But, jeez, such a heavy opening! Am I channeling Sartre? I intend instead to speak of other, more mundane Hell makers in our world - namely, Mindless Pausers and Witless Phoners.

Mindless Pausers are a special subcategory of Slow Walkers (previously chastised here.) MPs are most often found offending me at the top or bottom of an escalator, staircase, or elevator ride. The MP gives no thought to the other people behind them on these conveyances - he/she just stops flat at the top of escalator, or one step from the elevator door, and stands and rubberbnecks around, and hasn't a care for the dozen(s) of others behind trying to get somewhere. Advice to the Mindless Pauser? Get your lame, thoughtless ass out of my way! I KNOW where I'm going, and if I don't, I KNOW I am going to act like I do and keep striding on somewhere. If you are truly confused, move off to the side and figure it the hell out. The Mindless Pause in the midst of a flowing crowd is comparable to stopping your car in the fast lane on the freeway to read your map. Pull off on the shoulder, you inconsiderate goofball! Seasoned travellers prefer to keep moving - ala "I'm lost but I'm making good time."

The Witless Phoner is a newly developed species of human who loses 98% of their bodily functions when their cell phone rings. Sometimes a Witless Phoner becomes a Mindless Pauser as a result of the "my phone is ringing!" paralysis - legs stop moving, body becomes rigid, WP digs in the pocket or the purse, traffic stacking up in every direction, phone finally comes out, call gets answered, WP stares off into the distance as if they're alone on the moon. This sequence of events seems to occur often in doorways. "Here's a good place for me to stand - right here in this doorway," muses the WP. Studies show it actually is possible to move while talking - it IS possible to explore one's pockets and maintain leg function - it IS feasible to be at least semi-aware of one's surroundings during periods of consciousness!

Alas, perhaps I ask too much of my fellow man.

Monday, August 3, 2009

How the snooze button brings joy into my life and other thoughts on sleeping alone


One of the most profound changes that occurs when you end a long term relationship is the sudden discovery that you are alone in the bed. This is assuming, naturally, that you slept in the same bed in the first place, and didn't have separate rooms, Rob and Laura Petrie twin beds, bunk beds, hammocks, or some other crazy arrangement (because married or otherwise partnered people who don't sleep together is just really weird to me.) And it assumes that you or your partner wasn't always on the road, passed out on the couch downstairs, or in jail most of the time. In other words, that you are used to having your SO (male, female, canine, feline, amphibian, whatever) in the bed with you a lot. And then suddenly you don't.

Early in a relationship there's nothing better than slipping between the sheets with that wonderful person of apparently questionable judgement who wants to share the bed with you. Nothing better than whispering under the covers, a little tickling, throwing a leg across, spooning. (Mental imagery note: at this stage we're focusing on human-on-human interaction and have eliminated the canine, feline, amphibian, and whatever from the picture - but then again, whatever floats your boat, you won't get any judgementalness from me.)

As time passes things change. Maybe it's not a turn on just to get into the bed anymore, maybe there's some snoring going on and some showering not going on, maybe somebody greases up their face every night or wears a mask, or starts having recurring dreams where you are the pinata. But there's still some comfort level to it. A familiar smell, rhythm of breathing, someone to cling to when you need it. As a character I played recently put it "...in the winter there was always someone there in the bed to warm up my cold feet on." (Wonder why she left him?)

And at an even later stage, you may discover (and your partner may discover it too) that what you do together in the bed is not sleeping at all anymore, but just an ongoing pursuit of sleeping, because the other person is tossing and turning or grinding their teeth or stealing the covers or is relentlessly gassy, and on some occasion you are along on a trip and have the best night's sleep in years and you wonder "maybe I could sleep again if I had the bed all to myself...?"

So then one day your LTR is over and you have no SO. Maybe you are now SOL or AOK or even LOL over this turn of events, but in any case you are AITB (Alone In The Bed. I made that one up myself.) This condition may result in depression, crying jags, self medication and other consequences, but one thing you cannot deny - you now have lordly control over the temperature, sound, the covers, the mattress real estate, and lo and behold, the alarm clock. I discovered this joy most recently, when I indulged in a full hour of snooze alarming. I always seem to get the very best sleep, and sometimes the coolest dreams, in the nine minutes of snooze alarm bonus time - but if you have a bed partner who doesn't share your POV on that one, it's trouble right here in pillowtop city.

When I tote up the balance sheet, it comes out this way - in my new solo world I am sometimes alone, sometimes frustrated (ever try to put a bandaid on your own back?) , always poor, but by God, I can hit that freaking snooze button as many times as I want! Little victories are important.