Monday, March 24, 2008

First Candidate for Worst Job Ever

Occupation: TSA employee who sits at security checkpoint exit making sure no one comes in that way. 

When I finally got to PDX after waiting 3 hours after missing my 6am flight from SJC, these are the thoughts that came to me when I walked past that guy.

1. This job sucks because he has no friends. He doesn't get to chat with fellow employees about their tired feet and their noisy neighbor and their plans for the weekend. You need at least one person there, like conquered territories in Axis and Allies, but you it's not a main area and you don't really need to worry about a big rush of people moving upstream wrong way past security. He's only there because it would be stupid to leave the "how about I keep my laptop in my bak and my jacket on my back and just walk past this empty stool." That guy is bored, his job is to look for something interestingly suspicious, but mostly just sits by himself quietly, not listening to music, not hearing gossip, not interacting socially at all. 

2. If he suddenly is useful, it is never for an exciting reason. I can't think of the last time the plan of the dangerous persons was to blatantly go the wrong way through a bureaucratic security checkpoint that requires you have 1. valid I.D. 2. valid ticket 3. no sharp or wet things. If that TSA man ever actively stops someone, its going to be an old person who is confused, a baby who is running aimlessly, or someone who wants to hug their loved one 5 steps sooner than the government would standardly prefer them to, someone trying to see their loved one around just a little more of the corner. what an everyday hero this man could be in his finest hour in this occupation.

3. What he does get to see, 90% of the time is people tired bored annoyed frumpy in a hurry preoccupied passing him from behind and the highlight of the job might become seeing other people reunited with their cousin/grandmother/son/college buddy/aunt but then, how many of those do you have to see to start thinking about who would come to greet you, who has, who hasn't in the past, who you would be willing to pick up, how lonely you are there with your walkie-talkie and stupid shapeless uniform pants with people noise all around for 8 hours a day. that is a hell made entirely from other people. Think about it the next time you watch the end of Love, Actually.

4. In broader terms, I feel like working at an airport has got to be the biggest depressing existential metaphore for anyone, working in a place where everyone is going places but you. You move the luggage for exotic places, sell souvenirs for your own town that you live in and don't think is so special, take tickets to places that require passport stamps without ever necessarily going to any of those destinations. Sure airline blah blah stewardesses and pilots go, but compared to the big pie chart of airport jobs, they are not actually there that much and do not make up the majority of jobs.

Anyway, I welcome further suggestions for bad (not gross) jobs. Jobs that will eventually destroy one's dignity, sense of self-worth, and/or hope in the kindness of humanity. I understand that the guy sitting at the security exit probably rotates into other jobs where he gets to pester and bore countless passengers, but any time in that seat is time wasted, no, time sucked out of one's lifesource, like the machine in Princess Bride. 

Suggested musical accompaniment for this post: TSA Gangstaz by Zack Selwyn. Warning: excessive boob grab/ wand up a skirt. 

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Cinematic Lifestyles

So I walked with Bryan to the St. John's Theater to see The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and it was raining. I had made previous comments about how I felt we were in a movie, and I decided that the rain would make more sense if we were in a romantic comedy. That isn't possible, gender preference-wise, but it did make sense at the time. 

The movie was good, I had heard about it for months from NPR Movie podcasts, it sounded fascinating from the beginning. The sewn eye was something I immediately looked away from, but the scene where his father calls him and neither can visit the other is heartbreaking in a terrible wonderful way. The alphabet is repetitive, but I had been told for months that it was amazing, so I did love it. 

Anyway, tonight Em and I went downtown via MAX to have a pool party. We went to the Boiler Room and Blitz, briefly passing Hobo's which had pool tables but also seemed like a film set, fancy and piano music and smoky but not too smoky. It just didn't seem like the place for two alcohol-drinking multilingual seniors to be having a crazy little time in. Anyway, that was kind of odd. BUT THEN.

As we were waiting for the Yellow Line to return to NoPo, a person approached us. "no, i don't have money for you" said my normal downtown voice. He said "if you know how to get around, please help these two cowboys get home." What? They were dressed as cowboys, adorable little plaid shirts and genuine hats that didn't care the older one was standing right under a waterfall from an awning. They didn't understand the MAX, they live in Clackamas. They were here at the Colliseum for a Rodeo. The older one's brother had punched his friend here and left them, stranded them. They were really genuinely cowboy people, and I gave the older one a bus pass. The other had one already. It felt good, and was minimal social experience with maximum output. Also I have a lot of bus passes so life is good.

Em and I almost went out to our pool party with fake names: Starlight (her) and Moonbeam (me) from Fairbanks, Alaska. There because we watched Into the Wild last night. Like the father-son scene from Diving Bell, the beginning of Into the Wild made me almost cry constantly, because I knew how it all ended, having read the book in solitude in Maguey Largo, Mexico. As the end grew nearer, I was less and less on the verge of tears and more anxious for when and in what circumstances they would show it. I understand why they ended with his death, but most of the facts I remember were from truths outside of his journal, things not known until after like the poisonous qualities of the seeds, the first visit his parents take to the bus, the fact that there was a way to cross the river only a few miles away and only because he refused  a map did he die. ... spoiler alert? I have no remorse.

Anyway, it's not like my Hispanic Cinema class is blowing me away, and it's not my first exposure to knowing more about movies than what you see without knowing shots and angles and soundtrack and movement and light. It's curious but I like it. I hope there's a happy ending, and that I get a better writer to resolve everything gracefully in the conclusion. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bands I Thought Were British

I have never not seen more concerts than I have this semester.

It all began with such hope, but one without a car only gets to do things after 10 if people with cars do too. Dresden Dolls, Nada Surf and Hot Hot Heat with Louis XIV have passed, and Gogol Bordello plays tonight. Later this week Rufus Wainwright (for a pretty penny) and Presidents of the United States of America play on the same day. The Bobs have a  concert on a Thursday, radio show day ( so that won't fly, which only leaves... VAMPIRE WEEKEND.

Vampire Weekend can go fuck itself a little, because they've been gradually destroying my concept of them since I first heard them. To be honest, I can't say that I knew them before they were famous. My music sources these days are: KEXP podcast song of the day, NPR Second Stage podcast, NPR Music segments podcast, bands from old Never Mind the Buzzcocks episodes and occasionally one brother or the other. Vampire Weekend came from KEXP, a Seattle radio station that has a pretty good mix of songs it delivers to my McBook. I usually am about 3 weeks behind, because I will listen to one and then 20 minutes later I'll realize there is no music playing and assume it was not memorable, or give up on my "hey! let's listen to new music!" mood. So I'm pretty harsh about the first 30 seconds and then decide from that. Vampire Weekend won me over, I believe with A-Punk. It's a nice little guitar, very clean with a ska beat that my brother Conn made me love through the Toasters.  Sounds like the rest of their material will be punk revival, and the singer's voice is inarticulate enough that I start to think they are from England. 

This continues when I fall in love with "Oxford Comma," not only because it's fun to swear, but because I actually know what an Oxford comma is, and I used one when I was in Oxford myself. (For breakfast we had eggs, toast, bacon, and cake. putting that comma before 'and' makes it Oxford-style.) Yay Oxford! Yay England! Yay Vampire Weekend! I also start to love Mansard Roof, though you really have to want to get past those first slow measures. I don't know what a Mansard roof is, maybe it's an English thing. I watch a LOT of British shows, and I still think the singer has an accent, so that slides by. I finally get to loving "The Kids Don't Stand a Chance" and now I can't just say I love one song and can deny the band as a whole, I'm hooked.

This magical dreamland of finding a modern British punk band ends only when I start to listen to the lyrics of A-Punk that I hear "Washington Heights," and realize that I know that's in double New York. When I read off the list of concerts to my friend Em, she immediately commits to Vampire Weekend because I've given her Oxford Comma and A-Punk. Great, because it's early and I still have my foolish hope it will be one of many. The absolute blow to this love affair was last Saturday when I watched SNL. 

I didn't know what they looked like, I didn't think they would be fabulous, but I was hoping. They play A-Punk, fine, but when he sings "look outside at the raincoats coming I say OH" and on the record it's really hip and cool and cool and hip and he punctuates "OH" so much that I hate it every time, and that was my favorite part of the song, especially with the background.  I get a good look at them, collared shirt under a sweater, sweater around the shoulders, and it kind of sickens me. Maybe it's just for this, since I now know they are from New York, this is a big gig and their mothers are nearby, but I really hate it. I start hoping that isn't normal. They are not Vampires. They do not look like they party on weekends. They look like a normal band that I don't have to care about. Dammit.

Then on Monday I stand waiting for the bus and NPR Music from a few weeks ago interviews them, talks about their early hype, blah blah. They describe they're wardrobe as WASPy, and that they have a lot of African influence. Wait wait wait, what happened to my amazing British new wave punk band? Bullshit. 

In lighter news, another band I thought was British, Louis XIV, continues to bring hot sex to their fake British rockery. I can't say I've heard they're whole new album "Dog and Pony Show," only the two off of their site but my GOD they make chauvinism and S&M sounds enviable. Recently I got "The Grand Apartment" from their self-titled EP, and holy gods, that first 35 seconds is just DRIPPING with rockgod sex. I've never been so supportive for the maltreatment of women. Louis XIV is really from San Diego, which I find ridiculous and impossible, but I guess it's good news that I will see them more often, up and down this left coast. 

I think that's all for this godforsaken Wednesday. Here's to a better tomorrow and a new band to lust after. Sláinte.