IF I DO NOTHING ELSE IN MY LIFE

…I will at least die happy knowing I’ve contributed to the public embarrassment of Mad Money host, Jim Cramer. Apparently, the most recent RADAR 100 list made its way to the offices of CNBC:


(please enjoy this video for the fleeting, precious moments before it’s taken down in accordance with a legal threat.)

I have it admit it kind of tickled me to hear a pair of buttoned-up financial talk show hosts read aloud stuff from this list, especially item #50: “This party reminds me of 9/11.” There were so many things to choose from, so I really can’t believe they chose that.

GAMER TAG

I promised myself I would never buy a piece of shit product from Microsoft, but then I fell in love with the Zune. OK, that’s not true. But I did sort of surrender (I can’t think of a better or more accurate word) to the Xbox360. (Screw off–I know I’m a nerd who is throwing my adult life away, but I am also an incorrigible nerd who is throwing his adult life away.)

Apart from how much I dislike its “gaming for babies” interface, and its unfathomably bad design and construction–which makes me so angry I sincerely wish I could meet the people who designed it just so I could hold the pinch-waisted, over-perforated Xbox360 in front of their faces, hiss, “How dare you?” then smash the console against the ground, shattering it like the shoddily constructed toy it is–it’s proven to be kind of fun once I start playing games on it. So that’s good.

One thing that’s very new to me is the addition of online gaming, and it’s the feature that made me relent to MS. Several of my friends have an Xbox360, and the ability to use the gaming system as a way of connecting with pals, and then shooting them in the face was just too great for me to resist.

When you setup your Xbox360, it’s a lot like setting up a computer–all that “blow into the cartridge, pop it in, flick the power switch, and play” stuff is no longer applicable. As part of the setup, you have to create a “gamertag,” which is how other people can identify you online. They see your gamertag whenever you’re logged in, and its the name that appears above your characters head whenever you’re playing in any kind of cooperative online game. Most people either use their real names or some kind of badass variant. Generally, the rule seems to be the more badass your gamertag, the more time you’ve spent living in the apartment above your parents’ garage. I’ve seen a lot of gamertags like “BigBadMofo” and “DiabloHelixx” and “Bad2ThaBonz” and “ChestExploder84.” My gamertag is “glenn close.”

Another aspect of online gaming that’s really new to me is “voice chat.” This means speaking to other gamers live, over a network, often during gameplay. And *that* necessitates wearing a headset that is so completely pathetic it requires you draw all the curtains in your home and cover your mirrors like a Jewish funeral, in order to engage in online gameplay without suffering a debilitating crisis of dignity. (I’ve only reached for the headset once so far, after promising myself and Lisa I never would, and after only a few minutes of messing around in a game called Gears of War, I had to stop because my eyes were involuntarily producing hot, blinding tears of shame–like some kind of biological dignity defense system.) People tend to use voice chat to shout orders to their “team,” taunt other players with homophobic slurs, or lament their character’s death with a loud, expletive-strewn interjection. The overall tone over voice chat is one of exaggerated machismo, usually undermined by a slushy, orthodontia-induced lateral lisp.

Even with limited experience in online play, it seems obvious to me that the only way to really, truly get the most out of gaming is to run around in violent, multi-player online shooters while pretending to be a raving, screeching, queen. Imagine joining a game of Halo 3 and finding yourself suddenly playing alongside, “glenn close,” a mincing, giggling soldier who sounds like a cross between Perez Hilton, Chris Crocker and Madame.

For some (obviously childish) reason, this seems like it would be the most fun imaginable. Every time my player is killed, I’d shriek like I’d just seen a mouse. And, upon being re-spawned on a level, I’d greedily announce, “Oh my, look at all this delicious man steak! I do declare!! I don’t know whether to chainsaw them to death or drag them to Ibiza for the weekend. Hellooooo…who wants to party?” I think about this a lot, actually. I’m sure I’m missing a deadline.

DOMESTICATED

I left my house this morning wearing a pale blue polo shirt, jeans, and black P.F. Flyers, with in-the-ear headphones inserted exactly where they belong. I had a laptop bag harnessed to my back, and in my left hand I carried a tangerine-colored environmentally conscious nylon shopping bag. Inside the bag was a change of shirt for a photo shoot later this evening.

On days like today, I feel like some kind of frail, shivering over-bred dog. It’s frustrating to feel this way–a soft-fleshed, near-sighted capitalist, incapable of holding my own in a serious street fight, and possibly incapable even of fleeing a fight because my sneakers were designed without solid arch support and force my gait into a kind of flat-footed duck walk. And all plugged in like that. Like a high-placing species on Darwin’s “high alert” evolutionary list. My style is thrown horribly into relief by the environment in which I live, which is populated by West Indian men with workboots caked in plaster and old timers with knobby walking sticks and hands cracked like decades of peeling paint. My feet smack-smack-smack the pavement without rhythm, as I proceed to the subway, past adults in Muslim prayer robes, past crackheads fingering the coin return slot on a payphone (a payphone that gets a surprising amount of play), past a guy sitting on a milk crate, and wait on the platform as a layer of self-conscious flop sweat glosses my face.

Over the last year, more and more domesticated animals have settled into my neighborhood. I wonder if the others see their style as I do–a ridiculous affront to tradition. Sometimes I see guys who are even more over-bred than me, and I roll my eyes at them, like a dachshund regarding a chihuahua and thinking, “give me a fucking break.” A couple weeks ago, while navigating the shadowy aisles of my local supermarket–a store so poorly designed and weirdly stocked that my love for it is unconditional, because there is no other choice–I turned a blind corner on the refrigerated dairy section and there, accompanying two semi-fashionable young ladies, was the most precious breed of white guy you could imagine. Skinny, feminine, short hair with long bangs drooping over his oversized glasses. Knee-length, slim fit denim cutoff shorts. Black dress socks and white canvas Pro-Keds. He was sitting on the floor of the aisle, artfully composing a digital photograph, perhaps for his blog, perhaps for his Flickr page, perhaps just to email his friends with a caption like, “omg how kitsch is this???” I was, and still am, highly judgmental and had a difficult time containing my scorn.

On Saturday night, I had a conversation with someone about how maybe style has become ridiculously isolating these days. This is especially true for men, I think. And I don’t know exactly how I feel about it. On one hand, I’m very happy to see people with an interesting sense of style. For instance, I’m really drawn to all the young, black kids I see wearing coordinated day-glo colors, like some kind of hip-hop butterflies. On the other, sometimes style feels less like a fun, personal expression and more like a total disregard for people who might weigh more than you, or have less money for cell phone technology than you, or might be more than five years older than you. When I see it in my neighborhood, my heart sinks a little. And when I see it in myself, I write very long blog posts about it.

THIS IS AWKWARD

I have once again collaborated with the very funny Mike Sacks, Ted Travelstead, and Jason Roeder for another “RADAR 100.” This one was even more fun than the first, and I’m honestly happier with the results. From the October issue of RADAR, here’s “This is Awkward: 100 Ice Breakers to Avoid.”

I’ll also post my “didn’t make the cut” list of ice-breakers later. For now, enjoy the winners; losers come second.

Also, after months of having no way to reach me, I’ve finally fixed the “contact” page to handle all of your most pressing issues. Thanks for alerting me to that fact, Mr. Slauson.

MY TATS

Thanks to all who came out to pack [brag] the TV Book Club show last night. It’s more fun when people are in attendance, laughing and such.

We even had a celebrity in the audience, which I find makes even the scabbiest whore of a show a little bit fancier. Out of respect for privacy, I won’t reveal the identity of the celebrity, but I will say I’m still angry at him for turning a cheek after his Tri-Lambda brother raped that sorority girl on the moon. OMG GAWKER STALKER!!!!

I had written a new piece for the show that had some visual elements which were pretty vital to its success, but had to abandon it when we discovered the venue’s projector was broken. It was kind of disappointing, but I had a back-up piece and, to make up for the rest of the time, I just freestyle rapped. (People love my rappings.)

Anyway, here is the piece I couldn’t do last night. It’s called:

“Frequently Asked Questions About My Tattoos”

Question #1: My God, What Have You Done?
Here’s what I have done. I have made what some may consider a bold lifestyle choice, but what I consider the only choice for me. And further, to use an old lawyer’s trick I would like to answer your question with another question: Have you ever dared to dream? I mean, really dream? And, if so, at some point in your dream did a wise, talking penguin tell you that the secret to immortality involves having the words “Mr. Cool Ice” written as many times as your naked torso will accommodate and, whenever possible, having those words accompanied by a skeleton–preferably, a skeleton wearing sunglasses? If your answer is “no,” then I might ask you one more, pointed question: What have you done?

Question #2: What the fuck, dude? Are you shitting me?
No, I’m not “shitting you, dude.” This is the real deal. I would invite you to touch it and see for yourself exactly how real it is, but A) I’m not sure if you’re a girl or a dude, and I don’t want it to get weird; and B) I would require that you wear mittens or gloves when you touch Mr. Cool Ice because otherwise you just might get frostbite. Actually, that’s just some Mr. Cool Ice humor. In all seriousness, my skin temperature varies slightly, depending on the surrounding temperature. As such, my skin isn’t unusually cool to the touch, unless I’ve just stepped out of an unheated swimming pool or a cold lake, or have been shopping for steaks with my shirt off. Please note this answer also covers frequently asked question #18–“Do You Possess Any Unique Superhuman Powers, Apart From Being A Super Douche?”

Question #3: Did this take a long time, or did you just wake up one day and say, ‘What’s the most unambiguous way to communicate to the rest of the world that I am a total fucking idiot?’
I don’t know how many Mr. Cool Ice tattoos you have, but a project this ambitious doesn’t just happen overnight. First, there was the process of choosing a name. Believe it or not, Mr. Cool Ice was not my first choice, though I am 99.9% sure it was the right choice. Some other names I considered, but ultimately rejected for not being “cool ice” enough:

  • Mr. Cool
  • Mr. Ice
  • Dr. Cool Ice
  • Mr. Cold Temperature
  • Mr. Hot Fire
  • Mr. Sex
  • Mr. Hot Tub Party
  • Mr. Thirteen Unique Sexual Positions
  • Captain Partystarter of the S.S. Shitfaced
  • Mrs. Ben Affleck

Then came research. Weeks upon weeks spent selecting a font, referencing medical books for anatomical illustrations, and marking up the pages of a Sunglass Hut catalog, to make certain every detail would be perfectly realized.

Initially, my intention was to place the Mr. Cool Ice badge on either shoulder, and one covering my entire torso, twice–to encourage retention. Then I added a pair of forearm-sized ICE tattoos, for occasions where I would be required to wear short-sleeved shirts–an invitation to the opera, for example. Later, during an unseasonably cold April, I added two more Mr. Cool Ice skulls, one on either hand, to be visible during jacket weather.

Then, about six months later, I noticed something. Whenever I was standing at a public urinal shirtless or doing bare-chested push-ups on the beach, no one was shouting out my name. In those small but precious moment, my message wasn’t getting out. It had the potential to become a real problem. Fortunately, just three hours and $800 later, that problem became permanently solved.

I actually considered adding one more Mr. Cool Ice badge to my neck but then I decided it might give the wrong impression. After all, I am the CEO of a major corporation.

Question #4: What should people call you? Mr. Cool Ice? Or Mr. Ice? Or should we just call you Asshole McFuckwad?
Hey, there’s really no need to be so formal. People called my father Mr. Cool Ice. You can just call me “Cool.”

No, I’m just kidding. Please call me Mr. Cool Ice. Or, if you’d prefer, Todd Ice.

Question #5: Do you have any idea how hard I want to punch your face right now?

That’s precisely the kind of question that tests the very definition of my name. Fortunately for you, Cool Ice Heads will prevail.

Question #6: Do you have any regrets?
Ah, regrets. I do have a few. You see, back when I had the work done, I wore my hair much shorter, as was the style back then. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve grown out my hair and, as such, have deprived the world of something very special. In some ways I think those sunglasses, tattooed on the bottom half of my head, resting far lower than one would think appropriate or even physically possible, might hold the key to truly understanding the whole Mr. Cool Ice gestalt, and I regret that. I also regret having the words “FREE MANDELA” tattooed on my boner. Those two things, chiefly.

[Special thanks to Andrew Steele for his late-night inspiration, and for the "that's what people call my dad" joke, which I stole like a creep.]

I’M ALL GROWED UP

That title is 1000 times better if you imagine me, bags under eyes and full, grey-speckled beard, screeching the phrase in baby talk with a pronounced rhotacism on the word “growed.”

I have recently come to realize that many of the things that angered me when I was younger no longer bother me, but that there’s a whole new crop of things that do annoy me. And, coincidentally, many of those are the things I thought were awesome when I was younger. A couple I noticed, in particular:

The 2007 Me is No Longer Angry At:
- Burning Man
- Vegans
- The H.O.R.D.E. Tour
- Starbucks
- My Parents
- Karaoke
- Your tattoo(s)

But the 2007 Me Has Become Inexplicably Angry At:
- People who spend their time doing things they hate because they think there is something inherently quirky or funny about it
- Speaking in ironic air quotes
- Coffee shops that spend more time programming their iTunes playlist and picking out mismatched furniture than they spend learning how to make muffins, froth milk, or acknowledge customers waiting to order
- Parents who make their kids memorize the words to songs by Pavement
- White People
- Themed parties
- Your bike

TV BOOK CLUB, EPISODE TWO

I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to draw your attention to this:

I’m hosting a new episode of TV BOOK CLUB on Monday, September 17th. Hear original pieces written and performed by writers from some of TV’s funniest comedy shows. This show is CONAN vs. LORNE. Guests include:

ANDY BLITZ (“Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” and featured in one of my favorite remote pieces in Late Night history, “Pop Up Problem”)

DAN GOOR (“Late Night with Conan O’Brien”)

EMILY SPIVEY (“Saturday Night Live”)

BRYAN TUCKER (“Saturday Night Live” and this)

CBS/NYC PRESENTS…TODD LEVIN’S TV BOOK CLUB – Monday, September 17th
All shows @ 8:30 (doors @ 8:15)
@ MO PITKIN’S HOUSE OF SATISFACTION
34 Avenue A, Between 2nd and 3rd Streets

Tickets only $6! Available at www.ticketweb.com or at the door.

UGH

This rain is RUINING my 9/11!

BRITNEY, YOU’RE STILL BEAUTIFUL TO ME

I know what they’re saying, girl, but I thought you was wonderful. When your face filled the screen without warning, at the top of the VMA’s, and I stared into them naturally beautiful pupil-less, navy-blue eyes, all I could think was, “It’s Britney, bitch!!” AND THEN YOU SAID IT!!! Needless to say, I was seriously hyped-up. But then I was thinking, It’s been more than four years since she’s rocked the stage. I don’t know, y’all. Is she gonna bring it?

And then, guess what? It was brung. You lit it up, girl. You got the moves. I know you took some heat from the press. Said you looked like you was all messed up on pills. Said your weave was Halloween cheap. Said that only a guest on the Maury Povich show would have thought they looked good enough to wear a bikini at your size. Said you were dancing inside a slowed-down oxycontin cloud.

But I say you did it on purpose. You worked it all slow, like a fine-looking walrus, just to give America more time to envy you. For real, Brit. Let the haters hate, when they should celebrate.

LEAVE HER ALONE!!!!

THIS IS HOW WE INCREASE THE PEACE AT THE USPS

The latest reason I’ve warmed to my not-so-new-anymore neighborhood is that it’s the first place I’ve ever lived where a line-jumping incident at the post office has the potential to turn into a Denzel Washington Oscar clip.

Outside of universities, the post office is the only remaining place where Americans can truly experience Communism. Even the Department of Motor Vehicles has whizzed past the post office in terms of expedience, technological innovation and customer service–a fact that must be very sad news to the many horrible stand-up comics and advertising copywriters who still make the DMV their go-to place of comedic drudgery.

I’ve been to some awful post offices (brag) but the Adelphi outpost on Fulton Street is the ultimate farthammer on your would-be good day. It reminds me of the hayseed bank Nicholas Cage, John Goodman and William Forsythe rob in Raising Arizona. The Adelphi USPS, like my neighborhood, is full of old-timers in linen shirts trying to cash government checks, and illegals with neck tattoos sending money orders to their kin. (I’ve noticed that money orders are really very popular in my neighborhood, and I’m still not totally certain why. I’m sure there is some profound middle-class ignorance on my part, lurking behind my naiveté. Do old and lower income people simply not have checking accounts? Do certain kinds of people really not trust banks, and store their savings in Mason jars?) The female employee–they are all female–commandeering 1/5th of the available windows on any given day roll their eyes and complain openly about their lives to customers who have been waiting in a 15-person deep line for 30 minutes just to buy some commemorative stamps. Once, I heard this exchange:

CUSTOMER TRYING TO SHIP FOUR HEAVY BOXES OF EQUAL WEIGHT, EACH LABELED ‘WOMEN OF BRAZIL 2008 CALENDAR’: “Careful. These boxes are heavy.”

FEMALE POSTAL WORKER: “I don’t do nothing but lift heavy boxes. That’s the story of my life. The story of my life.”

CUSTOMER: “I hear you.”

POSTAL WORKER: “It’s the story of my life.”

Earlier this week, I was standing in a very long line of people waiting for an older gentleman to complete his social security check cashing/money order sending transaction combo, when the old man was approached by a young, robust black gentleman in a straw hat (not kidding) who I understood to be his son. It was very obvious the son was happy to see his dad and even happier to use his dad as an excuse to cut to the front of the line, in front of many ornery customers. Once the senior finished his business, the junior began his own, filling yet another money order. This injustice created a chorus of disgruntled murmurings from the line. A woman directly behind me clucked her tongue loudly, while a man who looked to be in his late sixties repeated over and over again, with steadily increasing volume, “don’t give a DAMN about nobody.” His pitch changed like a Pixies song, soft on either end, with a booming crescendo every time he hit the word “damn.” Although I felt a kind of solidarity with his angrer, I decided not to echo his loud complaints because I am terribly allergic to being face-punched.

After a minute or so of boos and hisses directed at Straw Hat’s wide and muscular back, he finally turned around slowly to face his detractors. He looked up and down the line and announced, “You gonna keep speaking out the side of your neck or you gonna face me like a man?” The old man in line immediately manned-up and took credit, and an argument followed, as Straw Hat stated his case and explained that he was joining his father in line and explained there was no difference between him asking his father to place a money order for him, and him placing one on his own. That would have been enough for me, but the old man held his ground and said, “but there is a difference.”

Straw hat got his back up a bit: “Tell me what the difference is, then, if you a man.”

“What you did is wrong. It’s damn wrong,” shot back the old man.

At that, Straw Hat turned his back on him, and went back to business for a moment, before interrupting his money order one more time. This time he turned not to the old man, but to all of us and said, his voice all bass and boom:

“There’s too much out there in the world trying to bring us down right now, for us to be fighting over nothing. We should be down in the trenches together, like brothers, fighting for what’s right.

“It was never my intention to offend you. It was never my intention to offend any of you and if I did, I apologize.”

I don’t know if he made all of that up on the spot or if he was quoting a speech from the film Glory, but it was a sincerely awesome moment and we were all hushed. Then Straw Hat extended his hand, and the old man met it, and they squashed their post office beef right then and there.

As Straw Hat finished his own business and left, I heard the old man mutter to the tongue-clucking woman in front of him, “He did the right thing.” He nodded, with great respect. “He did the right thing.” I nodded my head, too, thinking, “You are so wrong. That asshole jumped in line.” Thinking, but not saying.

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