Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Zen and the Art of Milkshake Madness.

Yesterday at work, I could not get those damnable lyrics to the Kelis song "Milkshake" out of my head:

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard,
And they're like,
It’s better than yours,
Damn right its better than yours.
I can teach you,
But I have to charge.

Reasoning that if I was going to have to suffer like this then I wanted some company, I spent a good part of the afternoon IM'ing these same lyrics to other assistants throughout the agency, hoping the song would dig itself as deep into their brains as it had mine. And wouldn’t you know it? It worked. At one point, I had half the assistants on just my hallway alone, muttering angrily (yet softly) to themselves, "La la-la la la,” as they rolled calls, filed paperwork, and tried desperately not to let their agent bosses catch them chanting that irresistible mantra-from-hell. I just grinned the sweet grin of self-satisfaction and went back to my work.

I just may be starting to snap. Or, perhaps I have passed beyond the mental boundary of merely not caring anymore, and reached another state of consciousness. Oh, I'm still laboring away dutifully, but there is now a sense of giddiness - almost glee - behind my actions. This is a whole new level of apathy… but here's the irony: now that I am no longer feverishly invested in my work, I'm doing it better than I ever have before. My confidence and performance levels are up absurdly high, and I'm multi-tasking like a fiend. Others are noticing this change within me, and assume that it's merely excitement at my impending departure. This may be a factor, but it can’t be the only one; I’ve left jobs before (oh, so many), and while I may have been euphoric shortly before leaving, I've never been uber-productive.

Hell, when I’m done with the Peace Corps, I might come back to this agency and apply for another assistant position... Someone needs to keep things lively in the halls with a healthy combination of inner peace and insolence.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Clarification: Business vs. Pleasure.

Some of my friends are finally starting to pay attention to the fact that in very short order I will no longer be in this country (USA), or even on this continent (North America). As they ponder this, they are also beginning to pore over some of the finer details of my situation.

Yes, I am working in a program titled "Girls' Education and Empowerment," and yet I, your humble Dabbler, am not (nor have I ever been) a woman, so my assignment is a little ironic in that respect. To my credit, I did actually bring up this concern to my placement officers when I accepted the invitation, something along the lines of: "You do realize I'm a guy, right?" They do.

Additionally, a number of my college friends are getting a real kick out of my assignment location, because in the past I have dated several women of color, and I myself am (very) white. *Gasp* So, now I am going to join the Peace Corps to work with young, underprivileged, African women for 2 years. Yeah, laugh it up, you freakin' comedians. Suspicious coincidences notwithstanding, I swear to you, Gentle Reader, that I am going to be good. Or at least try really hard. I am not going overseas in order to get laid; I am going to learn, and to take some pride for once in the work that I am doing. If I wanted to get laid, I could just walk the few blocks up to Sunset Boulevard from my apartment any time of night, wave a few 20s, and find out if awkward British movie stars really do have all the fun.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Definition of "Civil War."

Officials in the Bush Administration are fond of using the same argument tactics popular in preschool playgrounds everywhere: if someone says something you don't like, you immediately counter it with the answer "NO," with no need for piddling details (such as logic or evidence) to back up your point. They might as well start adding insults to their arguments, along the lines of "poopy-mouth" and "stupid-head." The President, Vice President, and Secretary of Defense all insist, in spite of three years of a bloody stalemate with an insurgency that shows no signs of giving up, that the nation of Iraq is not currently in the throes of civil war. In fact, they claim, the country is making great strides towards democracy and stability. This naturally begs the question, for all those not thoroughly familiar with the term: what exactly is the definition of "civil war?"

The most commonly accepted definition appears to be fairly broad, according to Princeton University's WordNet ("a war between factions in the same country") or Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online ("a war between opposing groups of citizens of the same country"). However, to really give this issue a thorough assessment, I will turn to a much more detailed and particular definition of "civil war," as supplied by the acclaimed news site,

"A war between factions of the same country; there are five criteria for international recognition of this status: the contestants must control territory, have a functioning government, enjoy some foreign recognition, have identifiable regular armed forces, and engage in major military operations."

Now let's go down the checklist for criteria, shall we? The contestant currently known as "the insurgency" does indeed control territory, as multiple areas in Iraq are cited as being militant strongholds. I dare say the insurgency also enjoys a great deal of foreign recognition, not the least from our own President, who references the group in nearly every speech he makes. As far as engaging in major military operations... well, that all depends on what you define "major" to be. Do daily bombings and ambushes (not to mention regular discovery of mass executions) count? The last two requirements for certified civil war status - possession of a functioning government and identifiable regular armed forces - are where we get a little hung up. To my knowledge (although the CIA or NSA may dispute me on this one), we have no idea if or how the insurgency is organized; it could be made up of independent groups all working separately towards a shared goal, or it could be an elaborate organization with an intricate chain of command. Furthermore, the difficulty our troops regularly experience in distinguishing enemy combatants from civilians is perhaps the chief reason why we are having difficulty overcoming the insurgency. Still, I would argue that the "legitimate" Iraqi government is itself hardly a functioning one, and the insurgency's forces' resistance to formal identification is perhaps the largest contributing reason to their continued existence and effectiveness. Thus, I am inclined to cast my vote in giving the conflict in Iraq the official title of civil war. Knowing our President, however, I am sure he would rush to point out that because two out of the five requisite distinctions for bestowing this label are not present, then it cannot be termed as such.

The Bush Administration is indeed waging a successful war: one of semantics and euphemisms.

Bottom line: no matter which end of the political spectrum you subscribe to, you really must admit that our country is currently being run by jackasses.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Casualties of Coffee.

Coffee: 1
Dabbler: 0

It has happened again: I am seated at my desk at work, trying hard to clean the stains on my tie, and my left hand is sporting yet another burn mark.

I have this "thing," wherein when I carry hot beverages, I must spill them. Usually on myself. I am not joking, and I am not exaggerating: literally every time I go out to buy coffee, at least some of it ends up out of the cup and on my shoes. This is not a compulsion -- it is not as though I feel some sort of need to bathe my hands in searing hot coffee; nor do I believe I have a subconscious desire to punish or hurt myself (well, at least not with coffee). It is simply one of those laws of nature, much like the famous Murphy's Law: "If Dabbler is holding a cup of some hot liquid - be it coffee, tea, or chicken noodle soup - then he must spill a portion of said liquid, preferably upon his own person." And it really is only with hot stuff. Cold drinks? No problem... I can carry several at a time, with no fear of dropping or spillage (unless they're alcoholic, and I've had a few).

And yet, I love my morning coffee. I love it so much, in fact, that I am willing to suffer this masochistic ritual on a daily basis. It is as though God is telling me: "You can have your coffee... but you must pay for it in blood."

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sign of the Times.

Query: if Imette St. Guillen, the New York City grad student whose recent murder has created a shockwave of media coverage, had been less attractive, would the crime have been less horrendous? Every time her story comes up in the televised news, the reporters repeatedly emphasize how beautiful she was, immediately following up with how horrific her slaying was. Is the message they are trying to convey that ugly people do not have as much a right to live? Or is it just not as tragic when they die?

Please do not mistake my sarcasm for lack of sympathy for Imette, or for her poor family. I am honestly appalled, not only by how her life was ended, but also simply that it was. The fact that she had just finished studying to pursue a career in criminal justice just makes the whole affair more heartbreaking. However, I am also disturbed by the media frenzy that has resulted from her murder, and the obvious relish some of these news anchors appear to take in the gory details of the affair. Yes, people, I know that a combined package of sex and death sells, but can you at least pretend that you are not enjoying it so much?

The Sweet Link of Success.

Ladies, gentlemen, and the guy who mistakenly opened this webpage thinking it was a porn site: I have received a link from a genuine blogebrity! Larry, the brains behind This Is What We Do Now, has heard my plaintive electronic cry for love and acceptance, and has generously offered to link to this here weblog. I am flattered, honored, overcome, and ecstatic (and pretty happy, too), and so I thought I would publicly acknowledge his gesture. Oh, and you should probably check out his blog... love him or hate him, the man always gets an extreme reaction from his audience, and he's a damn good writer. That being said, you really should check out all of the pages I have linked to, because I am a truly discerning (i.e., stuck-up) reader, and these guys and gals all have interesting and/or hilarious things to say.

Okay, enough with the blogger love. I need to get back to work. By "work," of course, I mean "surfing the gossip sites to find out if it was Jessica Simpson who did that thing with this guy in the bathroom stall of that club, or if it was really Paris Hilton with that other guy... all the while simultaneously juggling phone calls and typing up actually relevant documents for my boss." You know that point you get to at a job where you begin to resent being asked to perform the tasks you were allegedly hired to do? Yeah, me neither.

Monday, March 20, 2006

A City Scorned.

Like any angry girlfriend who makes known her displeasure at the end of a relationship, Los Angeles has just thrown her equivalent of a frying pan at me in our domestic dispute. Over this past weekend (i.e., the past 48 hours), I have been involved in 2 vehicular accidents, both coincidentally on my way to breakfast. This is what I get for waking up early and trying to be productive on a weekend. Needless to say, I was especially wary this morning as I walked to Coffee Bean from the office to pick up a bite to eat; I find that things tend to happen in 3's, and the cosmic irony of me getting hit by a car - while perhaps hilarious - is rather low on my "Things to Do Before I leave Hollywood" List.

Oh, LA... can we not progress to the next stage of breaking up, that of denial and one last romp in the hay "for old time's sake?" Know this: although I may be moving on to see other cities, you will always have a special place in my heart. We've had our fun, haven't we? Remember the time I sneaked up to the Hollywood Sign, and then the LAPD chased me in a helicopter; or my birthday party last year where I made a drunken fool of myself on the roof of the Formosa Cafe in front of all of my coworkers, and then proceeded to cheerfully tear apart that local burger joint; or when I decided it would be fun and not at all potentially disastrous or awkward to date a fellow assistant at my agency? Yes, we will always have the memories... and unfortunately, the pictures to prove it, too. But this is something I have to do by myself now. As much as it hurts me to hurt you, I have to be selfish and see if there's someone else out there who fits me better.

And hey, we can always still be friends, right?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

"Oh Africa, Brave Africa."

"It was... a laugh riot." -Patrick Bateman, American Psycho

It is official: I am going to be a Peace Corps Volunteer. Last week I received and accepted an invitation to serve in a small, land-locked country in West Africa, to work in their relatively new Girls' Education and Empowerment program. In essence, my job will be to assist in improving the literacy rate of women in the area, by working with schools and community groups to improve access to, and the quality of, education for girls. My secondary objective will be to serve as an AIDS awareness educator, something that apparently all Peace Corps Volunteers in Africa take on as a responsibility. Needless to say, I will be receiving a few months of on-site training before I am released into the figurative wild to go forth and do good.

Right now I am simultaneously excited and terrified. My family has been very supportive, as have the few friends who know thus far. Even The Guy Snoring Above Me is excited for me (he has been extra loud as of late to show his enthusiasm). Now that it's officially official that I'm going (officially), I feel very adrift -- the fact that in several weeks I will be leaving this country for 2 years does not seem real at all, even though I have given notice at work and am making preparations to pack my apartment and sell all my furniture. Speaking of which, anyone want to buy a bed? Some chairs? No? It's all quality Ikea... nothing but the best!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

There is No Way This Town is Giving Me an Eating Disorder.

Lately a few of my friends back east have expressed concern over some recent photos of me they have seen. You know, the usual jealous, anti-Hollywood reactionary garbage: "You’ve dropped a lot of weight fast,” “You don’t look so well,” “Are you sleeping at all,” etc.

And, of course, the best one: "Do you have an eating disorder?"

Everyone, please, calm down. I do not have an eating disorder. So what if when I first moved here I hated diet coke, and now I drink it regularly? I’m just broadening my horizons, and I have discovered that diet coke is an acquired taste; the 0 grams of sugar is just an extra benefit. Plus, the caffeine kick you get from drinking about 6 cans of the stuff is better than crystal meth -- which, while we’re on the subject, is a great way to kill your appetite if you feel like you need to lose a lot of weight in short order... although I have found that cigarettes are a much cheaper appetite suppressant, plus you look really cool when you stand around smoking them -- at least, all the stars in movies look cool when they're smoking, which is great because I'm in Hollywood so when I smoke I probably look like a star. Unfortunately, I'm too damn FAT right now to be a star, which is why I have to smoke even more cigarettes, or meth if it's payday and I can afford it, but if I can't I have to go back to guzzling big gulps of diet coke. Which tastes great, incidentally, even though it is an acquired taste.

Disclaimer: I am in no way making light of anyone suffering from a true eating disorder; it is no laughing matter. In addition, I am not knocking anyone who likes diet coke, or who smokes. Also, crystal meth really does help you lose weight.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Introductions are in order, I suppose.

Since some people appear to actually be reading this thing, I should probably take a moment to give a little more detailed description of who I am and why I am writing here. I debated for months about whether or not to start a blog. Everyone thinks they have something to say, everyone wants to be heard... but did I really have what it took to be an engaging writer? The answer is I still don't know. I got myself a blogsite at the beginning of the year, but only sat on it until just a couple weeks ago, when I was at work and my frustration with my ongoing application to the Peace Corps had reached its boiling point. With no other viable/legal way to vent my anger, I wrote my first blog entry, aka "Stupid GODDAMN Peace Corps." And a couple weeks and a few entries later, here we are.

A little more about this humble Dabbler, should you care... in my current day job, I work as an assistant at one of the more powerful talent agencies in Hollywood, where I spend most of my day answering phones and helping my boss look over entertainment contracts for our clients. I do this without a law degree, so I'm not as qualified as I could (or probably should) be. I don't find the work especially stimulating, but I have learned a lot about contract negotiation, and I figured working in a big agency would be a good jumping point into a more interesting job in show biz. I have been living in Hollywood for just over a year now -- before that I lived in New York City (okay, Brooklyn), temping and working in theater and television production. I started my application to the Peace Corps while I was still in NYC, but put it on hold when I moved out here because I had always been curious about life in Los Angeles. Half a year into life in California, I re-opened my application: I realized that if I didn't at least try the Peace Corps I would forever wonder "what if," and if I really miss the entertainment industry I will still be young enough to jump back in upon my return.

I don't want to bore my newfound audience to tears, so I will leave the exposition here. Should any of you have further questions, feel free to leave me a comment. I promise to do my very best not to be boring, or too angry, or try too hard to be clever. Being very codependent, I will pretty much do anything to ensure you do not leave me. I am truly flattered that you took the time to visit my blog, and I hope that it lives up to both of our expectations.

Most sincerely,

A Blushing Dabbler

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Word or Three on American Diplomacy.

According to today:

"WASHINGTON (AP) -- Vice President Dick Cheney said Tuesday that Iran will not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon and warned 'the United States is keeping all options on the table in addressing the irresponsible conduct of the regime.'"

So nice to know that we're considering all our options, that we're going to go through all possible routes of diplomacy before we invade them. Because we are going invade them. As we did with Iraq, after going through every other single, possible, plausible solution. That whole thing where the Iraqi government wanted to talk? Yeah, we knew that was just a cunning ploy, a "diversion," if you will. So we're going to invade Iran, and just like in Iraq the country will fall (er, I mean "be liberated") in a matter of weeks. Just like in Iraq, the people will welcome our troops with open arms and rose petals strewn at their feet, with nary an uzi nor a grenade launcher amongst them. Just like in Iraq, an unjust tyranny will again fall, and a shining bastion of democracy and stability will again rise. And please, don't worry your little head about such inconsequential matters such as "Where the hell are we going to get enough manpower to pull this invasion off?!" or "You know, the last time we pulled this shit it didn't work out that well, maybe we should rethink and revise... perhaps using an actual plan." Because we are the United Fucking States of America, and simply put, we rock. Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker, and all that jazz.

Don't get me wrong. I am not a fan of Iran. Hell, I very recently threw a tantrum when the Peace Corps attempted to place me almost right next to them. I think that country is run by a government with dangerous goals, and the implications of those guys getting their hands on a nuke scare me very, very much. I just think we should perhaps gather some international support before we go around making threats like this, because eventually we will be called on to back up those threats, and frankly now is not a good time, neither practically nor politically. It seems to me that a lot of the rest of the world hates our guts right now, and the last thing that will restore everyone's trust and respect for America is us invading yet another sovereign nation and forcibly imposing our will and ideals on a wholly different (and unwilling) culture.

Perhaps we should reflect on the results of our actions from the past four and a half years, take some time to truly consider all those options we're keeping on the table, and do this right. Let's lead the world by our example, not by force.

Or let's let the CIA do its job and sabotage this whole nuclear program secretly and silently, instead of loudly swaggering around and proclaiming our intentions like a global John Wayne. Whichever America you want to be.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Traveling Rant.

Pet peeve: have you ever noticed how everyone and their mother puts "traveling" under their interests or hobbies? Who exactly are all these amazing pioneers who haven't even reached the drinking age (that's 21 for all you non-Americans and college kids out there) yet? I mean, sure, I bet we would all like to travel, but who among us actually does it often enough to say "yeah, I've got a lot of hobbies: I like golfing, finger-painting, poetry, and a couple times a week I like to travel... oh, to Europe mostly." So, is it really a hobby, or is it more of a goal? I will admit, I am guilty of putting some similarly annoying and arbitrary hobbies on my list, like saying I enjoy watching movies. Who doesn't? Everyone puts that on their interests list. To rip off the comic, Dane Cook: "Who doesn't like movies? Who has ever said, 'Hey, you wanna go see a movie?' 'Fuck that and fuck you, movies! The whole idea of it, it's just wrong and fake and no.'" (Thanks, Dane, you had me in hysterics with that bit.) But at least I'm actually doing that activity which I claim as a pastime!

Prove it to me. Prove to me that you love traveling and that you actually do it. I want to see the photographs of you enjoying international foods with international people, and I want to see your plane and train ticket stubs, too. If you can't, then take that damn "traveling" off of your list. And don't get all cute and technical -- "travel" means the same thing as "traveling."

Or maybe I'm just bitter because you're all traveling and I'm not.

It's the same thing with writing. Don't tell me you're a writer, so when I say, "Great! I would love to see what you've written," your reply is "Well, uh, I haven't actually written anything yet." If you don't write, then you are NOT a writer. Get it? A writer is a very special thing... I aspire to be a writer, but I certainly don't feel ready to call myself one at this point. Don't sully the name of that calling, just because you want to sound cool at a bar. I can't begin to tell you how many "screenwriters" are out here.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Mystery of the Semicolon.

Okay, I will finally admit it: I honestly have no idea how to use this grammatical tool accurately, but I love it. I use it all the time, arbitrarily assigning semicolons to various sentences, feeling my sophistication grow with each alluring symbol planted.

I live in fear of being called out on my inappropriate use of the majestic semicolon, that someone will notice it and realize that I do not even have a grade school-level education in punctuation and grammar. Sure, I may have nearly gone to the National Spelling Bee when I was 11, but I cannot form a proper sentence.

Does anyone know what these things do? I have made an effort to understand them, I really have, reading multiple grammatical texts in my quest for knowledge; however, the result is always the same: upon looking up the definition of semicolons and their uses, I nod knowingly and sagely, close the book with satisfaction, and then immediately forget what the hell it was I just read.

In the end, however, I think I would prefer it if no one spoils the mystery for me. I will sleep more easily at night (The Guy Snoring Above Me notwithstanding) knowing that there is yet a little magic in the world, something I cannot explain.

; ; ;

P.S. The one instance in which I used the sensual semicolon in this post is appropriate. I cheated because I wanted to impress you.