Your humble author. Please click to read the sign's text. You'll be happy you did.I want the first gibberish I mutter in 2009 to be published by Newsarama.com. Happy New Year, and welcome to Your Time Is Now Mine #7. We're aiming for 100. Can you imagine a hundred of these stupid columns under our belts? It's a total waste of everyone's time, and yet, by the time we reach, oh, April of 2010, we should be there. I'll bet we'll feel like very good friends by then. You'll know how I feel about fully cooked, ready-to-serve dehydrated bacon, and I'll know that you know, and we'll probably have to co-mingle at parties and have our kids marry each other. Communities are built this way. Or communes...
Speaking of our growing friendships, I joined Faceook last week. I love it. I never realized how many "Friends" I had! It's a little like the end of It's a Wonderful Life, but I didn't have to attempt suicide first. I'm really thrilled with the whole thing. I get applications for my friendship. I can approve them, or deny them. It's very simple. It's like being the boss of your own life, a concept I'm only just beginning to master. And then, if you approve them, they can bother you whenever they like, and you can bother them. I've been sending Bible verses to everyone whom I suspect may be surfing pornography at that very moment. "Hot Asian Teens?" Pop! A note from Ethan Van Sciver about how Jesus died for your sins! Or whatever. I just cut and paste from TheLord.com because my sermonizing is a crime of violence, not love. Anyhow, if any of this interests you, you should send in your application for my friendship posthaste.
I was sick all last week. I get sick once a year, and it's a cold that effs with my sinuses, inflames my asthma, and tears up my throat. Indeed, the concern grew when Flash editor Joey Cavalieri called me to express his profound joy at Flash: Rebirth, and I was only able to croak a feeble, "Yes, I'm awesome, what did you expect?" It was pitiful in many ways, and I think Joey sensed my discomfort and didn't ask for more pages. I want him to know that I sensed his sensitivity, and it was sensational. This is also a roundabout way of saying, "Oh, I missed a week of my column, but I have an excuse." And notice there wasn't a fill in artist...
Okay, on to some very important ITEMS. I've had lots of time to think about stuff this week and have some grave warnings to speak of!
ITEM: Obviously, like you, I watch a lot of daytime television. I'll expound on that in a moment, but first I think it's important for you to understand, or believe, that we're a lot alike. I'm not interested in standing out from the crowd, really, because that's something that I did accidentally for many years growing up. Expressing individuality, I've learned, is over-rated. It wasn't my fault that I wasn't wearing cool clothing and that I had absolutely no sense of style or grace as a teenager. Other people are to blame for that, and I'm sure I could point a few fingers if I had the inclination. And I don't have that inclination. But listen, when you wear black nail polish, eye makeup and hand-made clothing to school, a select group finds you, and the majority excludes you. The handful of girls then available to you require a lot of work and patience, and you have to read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. (What was her problem?!) I did rubbings of tombstones, and I'm not sure why. I got a love note from a girlfriend partially written in blood, and then her parents dropped her off at my house for good. I was 15.
Emo is what it is. If you must, you must. But frankly, now I just want to blend in and never be noticed again. Just another White Chunk Tuna of a human being in a Polo shirt. So nod your head in compliance and relate to me when I ask you, "You know how we all watch 14 hours of Maury Povich every week?" Yes. Of course you do. Well, if it wasn't for that, I wouldn't have noticed how no one wants to cry anymore.
Alright, some do. If you study the Maury Povich show carefully, you'll notice that the few that do shed real, thick, globular tears are the ones who are turning around in their seat having just watched the carefully produced "documentary of pain" that MoPo's staff produces for each victim on the monitor located behind them. People will be moved to tears by their own plight. There's that fantastic, tinkly piano music* playing softly over black and white re-enacted footage of some poor spotty cow finding unfamiliar panties in the laundry, and then hangwire shots of her boyfriend and the new girlfriend who owns the unfamiliar panties calling the poor spotty cow a whore. And then there's something about her child that has a third eye, but it's located in its cleft palette, and life is really hard. It's just really hard. This is enough to induce tears, because being victimized by a skinny jackass who missed a spot shaving is fun to cry about. It feels good.
Turn it around, however, and it's a different story. There's always a woman who wants, for some terrible and disturbed reason, to confess to her husband that she's broken the vows of her marriage and has cheated on him with eleven different men. This, my Facebook friends, is where you'll notice the phenomenon of which I sing. Her story will be told, and all the while, she'll dab at the very corners of her eyes with a tissue. This takes work. She dabs and wipes this moisture, not tears, but the moisture that keeps her eyeballs from drying out, periodically but frequently enough for you to notice. There are no tears to speak of. And I sit and marvel at this. What does it mean? It's one of a few things, psychologically. Either she's praying that actual tears will come, and this is some kind of Rain Dance style ritual that she hopes will lead to real, convincing tears, and real tears are helpful when explaining to your spouse that although, "You know I love you to death, right?", she's had sexual intercourse with his brother in the Men's Room of a Hardee's, or she simply doesn't want her make up to smear when she tells him this. She's on television, and that green eye makeup took twenty minutes to get just right.
Just cry. Look, cancel Entourage and ask me about it on camera. I'll weep openly. "Composure" is for people like Casey Anthony, the "Tot Mom" featured mostly on the beauteous Nancy Grace's show. Allegedly, and by allegedly, I mean most assuredly, she caused the death of her stunningly cute 3 year old daughter and threw her duct-tape bound corpse in the woods near her Orlando Florida home. Her story, which she waited a month to alert anyone to and which quickly unraveled, was that the nanny abducted her. She's unemployed, really, having lied about working for Universal Studios theme park for the past two years, and no one wondered how this 22 year old nit-wit could AFFORD full time care for her child, but whatever. The point is, all of the documentary footage of Casey Anthony ostensibly worried about her missing child, whose remains weren't found until recently, feature her doing this same annoying thing. Dabbing at the eyes with a tissue. She did it in a more interesting way, though. She'd hit each corner of each eye three times, at 33 degree angles, and then do a quick swipe across her lower eyelids. I rejoiced at this. It is the ballet of the soul-less, and she is a master of it.
But I'm noticing it more and more. I'm not against wiping away tears, I'm just in the camp that believes you should let them fall first. I want you all to stay alert for more examples of this, both on television and in your personal lives. And let me know where you see it!
(*) About the tinkly piano music: I spent a whole year as a teenager learning how to play the piano solely for the purpose of annoying other human beings. It doesn't take long to learn a few chords and then compose something sappy from there, and once you've mastered it, try this experiment out. While sitting with a piano or keyboard, call up someone who is pissed at you for some wrongdoing you perpetrated. It could just been a cheap, Casio keyboard, and if it is, use an electric piano sound. If you aren't much of a composer, you'll find endlessly repeating the opening to Debbie Gibson's Lost In Your Eyes works marvelously.
Okay, once they've answered the phone and you've introduced yourself, play a few bars, an octave or two higher than middle C, and go right into a lengthy, elaborate and saccharine apology for whatever you did wrong. Continue blathering and playing the tear-jerking music in the background until they curse at you and hang up. Laugh heartily, find a new friend, and repeat!
ITEM: Don't accidentally join a sales cult!
No, don't! Because I know you're thinking about it, and it's a terrible idea! Need a helpful personal anecdote?
Okay, I was 19 years old, which was the most pivotal and important year of my life. Unable and uninvited to attend the college of my choosing, which would have been any college, I had three choices available to me: Serve a Mormon Mission, continue working on this silly Cyberfrog thing I'd only just created, or immediately find real work. (The caricature and airbrush stands at the Mall had taken me as far as they could!) Living woman-less with another man for two years in Beirut didn't appeal to me, and Cyberfrog didn't seem all that promising, so I scanned the Want ads looking for a job that suited me: a brilliant but totally unqualified schlub from Jersey.
I found an advertisement that offered Hope. It said, "Jobs in Advertising! No experience required! Join our sales force! Call for interview!" Up until then, I hadn't realized that Madison Avenue was recruiting so indiscriminately! Advertising! That's for me. I'd bitchsmack Speedy the Alka Seltzer whatever and kick the Green Giant in the Nibblets. I just needed my mom to drive me to the address they gave me on the telephone...
So, you know where the Cherry Hill mall is, in Cherry Hill, New Jersey? Well, behind that, where that hotel is? Okay, back behind the hotel, where the train tracks that aren't in use anymore are? Down the road from those, you might find a row of garages and storage facilities that are mostly abandoned. The address revealed itself to be a storage shed that was attached to a large, empty garage. Inside of the storage shed, there was a makeshift office set up, and a well-dressed Jersey Irishman named Leonard. He was cordial, and asked me to sit down.
"Ethan, you seem like a bright, energetic kid. Somebody who knows what he wants and goes after it. That's why you're here, right? You succeed at everything you do, am I right?"
"Sort of, but lately I've been feeli..."
"Yeah, I know. Do you like beer, Ethan?"
"Everyone likes beer. And what would you say if I said that you could have 5 pitchers of beer for what it would cost for 1 pitcher of beer....at Shaney's Pizza?"
"It sells itself. It's a 400% return on an investment. In beer. No one is going to say no to that. And that's what we do here. We sell things that people don't refuse."
I was unclear of what he was talking about, but since I'm always unclear about what everyone's talking about, I decided to stop trying to interject in any way, and merely nodded my head. Were we advertising beer? Shaney's Pizza? I've never heard of Shaney's Pizza? What was going on?
Nodding my head like a dummy was just the thing he needed to see, though, because I passed the interview and was hired. I was to report to the garage area of the complex tomorrow morning for paid "training".
And I was right on time, 8 AM. "Training" was a stunning brainwashing session. The garage had been transformed. There were gym mats on the ground, and on the walls hung laminated inspirational posters with unintentionally creepy black and white photos of smiling people, and one word: "JUICE". Meaning...beer? What was going on? The room was full now, both with actors who were portraying new hires, actors playing longtime employees, and legitimate new hires of which I ranked. The genuine new hires were easy to spot. They were young dopes like me, wearing casual clothing, and looking mystified. The actors, who it seemed to us had been working for the company for a while now, were confident, attractive 20-somethings who bounced around the room clapping and saying "Wooo!"
Leonard strolled into the room with a clipboard, smiling, and waving his free hand in a downward motion, as if to settle us all down. Big things were in store, and Leonard held sway. We were asked to hold hands in a circle, and then introduce ourselves. We were invited, if we chose, to give a little testimonial about the business, but that obviously only pertained to those who'd been working there for longer than ten minutes. And a beautiful 25 year old blonde girl stepped forward.
"I just wanted to say that thanks to the company, I've reached the $35,000 mark so far this year, and it's only April!"
A portion of the crowd erupted in applause, and a few nodded and said, "Juice by that!" She continued.
"I know! I know! My mom said that this was a bad idea when I started. There were days when I wasn't 'juiced', and would only make five dollars. And she told me I was wasting my time! Well, I'm projecting six figures this year, just bought a new BMW, and will eventually become a partner in this million dollar business, so who's juiced now?!"
Thunderous applause followed with more "juiced by that"s and some stamping of feet. I was getting nervous. This was a strange morning so far, and I still wasn't sure of what we were all supposed to be doing. Leonard's face suddenly registered concern.
"Oh! I nearly forgot! Some of our newbies here might not know what our motto, "JUICE", means! Anyone want to explain?"
A ham-colored Caucasian fellow had just the thing. A pointer. He stepped backwards and pivoted towards us, touching one of the inspirational posters with it, right at the "J".
"J.U.I.C.E. stands for 'Join Us In Creating Excitement'! And that's what we are, here! Juiced!"
Applause. I puzzled over the use of the acronym, now that I knew what it meant, as an adjective, but didn't let it bother me. It was the least of my worries. Leonard looked pleased.
"That's right. And it takes excitement and juice to get out there and succeed, and that's what we need from each of you! Now we're going to pair up and assign routes, and KICK SOME ASS, JUICERS!!!"
There was a fluttering in my peripheral vision and my sinus cavity ached. People automatically paired up, and I noticed that the obvious newbies were automatically snatched up by the established employees, which only made sense to me later. This was more training. A tall, what I would term "doofy bastard" with huge Kennedy-esque teeth grabbed me by the arm.
"We're paired up. Oh, hell," he said, looking at a spiral bound book with a map that said "Assignments" on the front. "We've got to drive all the way out to Trenton. Damn it."
"Yeah, but to do what?" I asked, finally. "What are we supposed to do?"
"We're selling coupons door to door. I'll explain more in the car." He drove a white Peugeot hatchback, which was better than what I had, (nothing) but still made me want to bolt for the trees. We were selling coupons door to door. Beer coupons. Got it.
"The product is good." he told me en route. "They've got a deal with Shaney's Pizza, which is a growing franchise, for these beer coupons. We can sell them for twenty dollars, and keep 25% of what we make, and Shaney's actually pays the company to distribute them. Who would say no? It's five pichers of beer for the price of one, and if they don't drink, they can substitute for a soft drink! They sell themselves, you've just got to be excited about selling them."
"Is there a Shaney's Pizza in Trenton?" I asked, not unreasonably.
"Hell if I know. Probably." He said. He put in a Spin Doctors cassette tape.
Door to door work wasn't unfamiliar to me. I had several paper routes as a kid, my favorite being The Weekly Shopper, which was a free paper and a huge route. It was for younger kids, because it didn't require any "collection" work. You were paid by the company through the mail each week. I merely filled a stolen CVS shopping cart with 250 folded junkmail newspapers on Saturday mornings, threw them at houses and ran. I was being paid to litter. Because nobody wanted these papers, and some people didn't even bother cleaning them off their yard. They just piled up, the older ones yellowing, and occasionally people would come out on their porches and scream the F-word at me, shaking their fists. Someone fired a rifle from a window once, but that could have been about something else. The important thing was to be able to run while pushing a heavy shopping cart. And to laugh at full-grown adults shrieking "stop throwing this damn paper on my lawn, you sonnuva bitch." Later, I started delivering subscription papers and knocking on doors, so while this wasn't going to be much fun, I had experience and could humor this situation for a day.
Imagine what you would do if someone knocked on your door and tried to sell you a beer coupon for $20, and you can probably imagine what the day was like. Indeed, charmer that I was, I did sell one. I did make $5. I did return home to my laughing family. I didn't go to work the next day.
Because that night, Trent Kaniuga called me and told me that Hall of Heroes wanted to publish Cyberfrog, and would pay me $500 per issue. It was good timing.
I got a call from Leonard the next night, wondering why I didn't show up.
"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, Ethan. We will cut you off if you don't come back to work. You'll be cut off, do you understand?!"
And I realized that he makes this threatening call to a few people every day. I almost admired him. It was a sickening but clever little scam. And he got his five dollar day of work out of me!
I've still never seen a Shaney's Pizza.
ITEM: Beyonce is the most horrible pop star of all time. She's got a ridiculously stupid name, and "If I Were a Boy" makes me think Mark David Chapman had the right idea but the wrong target. Bad, bad, bad, baaad pop music.
Alright, enough of this. When you judge a book by the cover, then you judge the look by the lover. Please leave comments below, and I will see you all next week with more tabloid garbage.
My heart beats only for you,
Ethan Van SciverMake sure you time is fully lost: Your Time is Now Mine, 6 Your Time is Now Mine, 5 Your Time is Now Mine, 4