Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI is Count Chocula

Yesterday, while enjoying my morning coffee and perusing my daily dose of fashion, news, and gossip, I came across an image that shall haunt me for the rest of my days:

And then I realized: Pope Benedict XVI truly is Count Chocula. Let me offer you my evidence:

Frightening, isn't it?

Now, I want to take a minute to defending myself. Believe it or not, I actually grew up in the Catholic church. I was even an alter boy for several years (surprise surprise, I know). I actively participated in the Catholic church until I realized two things: 1. there really was no place for me in the Catholic church and 2. Religion and "faith" are comfort mechanisms for the boring to rationalize their existence.

Now, when I say there is no place for me in the Catholic church, I say this because the Catholic church spent the majority of its history burning people like me at the stake. Even in modern times the Catholic church proclaims that they accept "homosexuals" (which is, by the way, a derogatory term) as long as they never act on their homosexual impulses. This is kind of like telling a chair that they can be a chair, as long as they don't let anyone sit on them. Huh... actually that metaphor works on more levels than I anticipated! Oh, sure, there are some forms of organized faith or religion that do accept da gays, but that leads me to my second point.

Religion and "faith" are comfort mechanisms for the boring to rationalize their existence. Seems inflammatory, I know, but I can't help myself! Now, I wouldn't categorize myself as an atheist, but that is just because I don't like to categorize myself in general. Personally, I think it's arrogant for anyone, religious or not, to assume they can explain our existence and exactly what will happen to us when we die. So this is my fundamental problem with both religion AND atheism.

I don't know who we are, I don't know what we are, I don't know where we're going, and I don't know what happens when we die. I actually find this lack of knowledge to be very fulfilling. If I had the answer to all these questions, then what would be my motivation to try to acquire new knowledge?

Anyway, back to my main thesis: Pope Benedict XVI is Count Chocula.
Pope Benedict creeps me out. I'm sorry, but I can't help myself! As I said, I grew up in the Catholic church with the head of the church being Pope John Paul II.
Doesn't he just look like someone who should be your grandfather? He looks like the nicest man in the world. So he passed away, as people tend to do, and the Catholic church chose to replace him with this?:
Gee, that'll help improve your image!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Who is Don Draper?

Mad Men, Season 4 debuted this weekend, and I could not be happier. Episode 1 was everything I hoped it would be, but it left me with a lingering question in my mind: "Who is Don Draper?"

This was the opening line to season 4 and it left me curious. Not only of who is Don Draper, but more of the existential question of who are any of us? Who are we? Don, sensing the enormity of the question, responded with an introspective "How do people answer that?" And I'm left with a similar response. How does one answer that?

Can we self-define ourselves, or rather are we defined by outside factors beyond our comprehension: the work we do, our communications with others, how we choose to spend out time, our relationships with others, etc. Don responds to the question deftly with "I'm from the midwest. We're taught it's not polite to talk about yourself." Although this is true, it's also a classic deflection technique.

So this leads me to the overarching question of "Who am I?" How will my life be defined? Is it possible to boil my life down to a few short sentences that can be easily conveyed? Why would I ever want that to be the case?

Personally, I think who we are is defined by what we do rather than a reliance on some self-identified mentally-masturbatory concept. Rather than me saying "I'm a ninja!", I'd rather rely on my friends to tell me "No you're not, you're totally a pirate." (In that situation, by the way, I'd much rather be the pirate than the ninja. Something about being trapped on a boat with a bunch of seamen...)

What are your thoughts? Who is Don Draper? Are we defined by ourselves or something more? If so, what? Our actions? Our interactions? The size of our reproductive organs?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

15 Reasons Why I Wish I Lived in the Mad Men Universe

Season four of Mad Men premiers this weekend on AMC, and I must say that I could not be more excited. I love Mad Men... a lot, and I have watched it since the beginning. There is just something attractive about the show that continues to draw me in. I think it's a combination of the intoxicating nature of the time period with the compelling and improbable characters. Perhaps it's just all those men in three-piece suits and hats... mmm... I'll take a slice of Jon Hamm any day!

If you've never seen Mad Men, you need to stop what you're doing right now, got out and rent the first three seasons, and not emerge from your house until you have caught up. The premiere is Sunday! Get your ass in gear!

Several times an hour I think to myself "I really wish I lived in the Mad Men Universe!" For a while we are going to ignore the logistical problems of a gay man surviving in 1963 and pretend it would be utopian for me. Here are my top 15 reasons for wanting to be on Madison Avenue in 1963 New York City.

15. The office bar
Ah, how I long for the days when getting completely smashed at work was not only seen as socially acceptable, but practically a requisite to being an upwardly mobile young professional. Speaking honestly, I think I work a bit better with a whiskey or two in me!

Seeing the decline of liquor and cigarettes in an office setting makes me very fearful of the fate of coffee. In 50 years will it be seen as taboo to have a cup of coffee in the morning? The effects of coffee on the body are very similar to those of cigarettes, so it is very troubling for me. However, in the mean time, I will sip my black coffee and long for a day when I could reach into my desk, pull out a bottle of whiskey, and add a little pick-me-up to my daily cup-o-joe.

14. The office couch
Now, I really cannot understand why we eliminated comfortable furniture in offices. Why did we trade in our couches, armchairs, and coffee tables for metal tables and industrial chairs? Did we think comfort lacked professionalism? Imagine closing your office door during your lunch hour and just laying down for a quick cat nap. Doesn't that sound fantastic? I'm personally in the process of retro-izing my own office: currently my desk and chair date to the '60's, now I'm just working on replacing the institutional table/chairs with a more comfortable alternative. I highly suggest this route. The Aeron chairs may be comfortable, but man, are they ugly! Toss it out in favor of searching through office storage for that perfect 1960's gem.

13. Hats
Can you imagine a time when it was seen as socially unacceptable for a man to NOT wear a hat to work? There is a formality and yet ease to a fedora that makes me wish this look never would have went out of style. That being said, if fedoras were as prevalent today as they were in the 1960's, I would probably spend half my paycheck on hats. The other half would go to #12,

12. The business suit
First of all, I'd like to say that I really love business casual. My working environment is such that I could come to work any day of the week in jeans and no one would bat an eye. Half of the time during the summers I'll wear my Man-pris (male capris) to work, and it's seen as socially acceptable. That being said, I think we've lost something in abolishing the suit to job interviews and only the day-to-day wear of the big wigs at the very top. Something about a well-fitted, freshly pressed suit just screams confidence and success. Not to mention the fact that I think there is nothing that flatters a man more than a well fitted suit. Again, this would be detrimental to my bank account, but sometimes I do wish I could wear a suit every day to work.

11. Bad Parenting
Let me just say, I love January Jones. I think she does fantastically in the role of Betty Draper and I think she, out of all the women except for one, pulls off the 1960's drag the best. That being said, if Betty's parenting techniques were held to modern standards, she would have had her children removed from the household years ago, and probably would have been sterilized by the US Government. However, it makes me long for the day when children were seen as more of a burden and unfortunate byproduct of marriage than as unique and special individu--PUKE! When a little child abuse was seen as natural and you could hire someone to basically raise your children for you. When television was seen as an acceptable babysitter and you could lock children in closets when they misbehave. Betty Draper is fabulous and mothers worldwide should strive to be just like her!

10. Peggy Olson
Peggy Olson, played by Elisabeth Moss, is fabulous. She is quite possibly my favorite character on the show because of the level of complexity and interest in her character. She's young, very smart, and extremely ambitious. This would not be uncommon in the early '60's were Peggy a man, but the fact that she isn't complicates everything. Also, Peggy's strict Catholic upbringing and how that conflicts with her current life as a Mad Woman adds a lot of depth to her character. I think I like Peggy so much because I can relate to her so much. Also, we never completely know what's going on with Peggy. I'm not going to add any spoilers here, but because of relationships and plot developments that were never fully explained, Peggy is a bit of an enigma. I also love Peggy because she's gorgeous, but you almost never see it. She generally tries to hide her beauty and fabulous body while at the office, but when she shows it off... CABOW!

9. The Steno Pool
Imagine a time prior to modern inventions like the Xerox machine, photocopier, scanner, computer, printer, when all of this work had to be done by hand. When dozens of women sat at desks all day with the sole job of typing and copying and taking notes. When every office had a "girl" whose practical job was the clerical work of the man (or woman, in Peggy's case), but whose unofficial job was to do everything from getting coffee to making up excuses to your wife of why you are not in the office. Sexist and degrading? Absolutely. Secretly kind of fabulous?... perhaps.

By the way, just to make things clear, in a scenario like this, I do not see myself as one of the men in charge, I see myself a Jon Hamm's "girl." Mmm... I'd take his "calls" any day of the week!

8. Sal Romano
The character of Sal Romano (played by the fabulous gay actor, Bryan Batt) was one of my favorites on the show, and I think the show suffered when he left. It felt like much of season three involved trimming the cast to only a few characters on which the writers wanted to focus, and I feel that the elimination of Sal was a very poor decision. As his sexuality is coming more and more to the forefront of his professional career, I think it would be interesting to see how his personal life would evolve--specifically his relationship with his darling little wife. Also, I feel it is fascinating to get a glimpse of what it was like to be a gay man in the 1960's.

I was hoping that the changes at the end of season three would give the writers and excuse to bring Sal back for season four, enveloped as the Art Director in the new firm, but from what I have read from interviews of Bryan, it just doesn't look like it's going to happen. Oh well, at least we have the reruns through which we can remember his fabulous character.

7. Smoking being ubiquitous
Listen, smoking is bad for you. We get it. It's been hammered into our heads for the past 30 years. Second-hand smoke is bad for you. We get it. It's been hammered into our heads for the past 20 years. That being said, there is a whole lot in our environment that is a whole lot worst for us than cigarette smoke. On the campus where I work, smoking has been banned. However, there is also a coal-fired power plant on campus that belches copious amounts of carcinogenic gasses into the atmosphere daily. So isn't it a bit hypocritical of us to vilify smoking while deathly grasping our fossil fuels? I personally do not smoke, but I think it is impeding my personal liberties to be so strict about where one can and cannot smoke.

6. The sensual lure of the "older" woman
One of my least favorite parts of our current society is the fact that a woman is basically thrown away as a sex symbol once she reaches the age of 35. I think there is a sensuality and a sexuality to a woman beyond this age that is incredibly attractive... and I don't even like women! Oh sure, there are the "cougars" in today's society, but they are seen as more of a joke. There is an air of desperation about the "cougar" that was just not around this sensual and sexual older woman a few generations ago. Mad Men is chalked full of these kinds of women: Bobbie Barrett (pictured above), Rachel Menken, Mona Sterling (who is fabulous, by the way) just to name a few. These woman are fabulous and probably would be ignored in our current society.

5. The LACK of modern technology
Listen, I love computers. I love the internet. I love my iPhone. That being said, it feels like things today are almost a little too easy. It makes me long for a day when to do research, you had to physically go to a library. When to run a statistical analysis, you needed a calculator. When there was a reason for accounting tape. Nowadays I have a little machine on top of my desk that does everything I need. Within 10 years, my job will probably be completely obsolete. It's a bit overwhelming.

4. Wining and Dining
Business today just feels so... businesslike. By that I mean it just feels so formal and stuffy. It's as if people vying for business want you to choose them based on their merits instead of the quality of the lunch they give you. What happened to the romance of it all? To professionals taking clients out and getting them hammered or taking them to strip clubs? It's just all so dry and boring!

3. No one exercise and everyone looks perfect
Because, come on, who wouldn't want to live in a world where a 6-pack takes no effort whatsoever.

2. Gluttony
Wouldn't it be fabulous to live in a world without trans fats? A world without blood-alcohol content? A world where you could eat and drink whatever you wanted and it was seen as perfectly normal? Our world today is far too healthy. We've stopped eating all the good parts of the animals! Some have stopped eating animals altogether!

There were such things as "vegetarians" in 1964, but it was by no means seen as being socially acceptable. Wouldn't it be fantastic to travel to a world where you could have steak for all three meals in one day? Where you could have an Irish coffee for breakfast, three martinis for lunch, and a bottle of wine with dinner? Where the average American smoked a pack of cigarettes a day? We're all too damn healthy!

1. Joan Fucking Holloway

You didn't think I was going to do it, did you?

Joan Fucking Holloway

God, they don't make women like that anymore. Actually, I don't know if they ever made women like that, but I'd like to think so. Joan is the kind of woman who would turn a man like Sal Romano straight. Gay men have the talent of making women look incredibly sexy, and I can only imagine how flaming the queen must have been who came up with Joan.

Joan is in an interesting point in history. She's right at the point when women like her went out of fashion. With the death of Marilyn Monroe and the rise of models like Twiggy, Joan's sex appeal will soon be traded for something of a very different woman. I'm very interested to see what happens to Joan within the next few years as her sex appeal is more and more dated.

That being said, there is SO MUCH MORE to Joan Holloway than her raw sex appeal. Her professional competence as well as her almost instinctual knowledge of men make her an incredibly interesting character and probably the main reason why I cannot get enough Mad Men.

What did I miss? Why do you love Mad Men (because I know you do!)?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Money saving tips for Pretentious Douche-bags (like me!)

Every once in a while, I think about my financial situation and grimace. Like many people today, I am in the predicament of being over-educated and under-funded.

I was talking with my guy-friend, Corey, the other day, whining about my dire financial situation and how he should buy me pretty things. He then said to me "What are you talking about? You have your own house, have a nice car, and are successfully paying off your debts. I think you're doing pretty well!" I think he said this mostly to shut me up, but he really was on to something. He made me think of my life over the past decade or so and some techniques I have developed to live comfortably on a budget. Today I would love to share some of those tips with you. Now, I'm not a financial wizard or an economist (as I stated in a previous post, I don't even balance my checkbook), but I live in a comfortable lifestyle and do so on a pretty tight budget, so I think I do pretty well!

  • Coffee
I love Starbucks. Way too much. Like, an unnecessary amount. Like, to the point where I need to be on Intervention, desperately gripping a white paper cup. Like, to the point where if a coffee drink could file charges against me for assault, I would have a 500 feet restraining order against me and have to inform my neighbors when I move. Starbucks can be a huge budget buster. My favorite drink is a Venti Vanilla Latte with soy. Delicious? Yes. Costly? Yes (nearly $5). Fattening? Yes. However, there is an answer! About two years ago, I discovered the joys of the Americano. An Americano is basically espresso and hot water. It is a fraction of the cost of any other Starbucks drink (only about $2.50 for a Venti). It's a different taste, and it is definitely not a Latte, but if you enjoy your designer coffee drinks and are on a budget, it really is the way to go.

When I started working full time, I really had a problem getting up early enough to make my own coffee at home. It didn't help matters that when I started, I had to be at work at 7:30 AM every morning (a torture no one should be required to endure), so I started most mornings with my Starbucks trip. I was visiting home one weekend and lamenting on my coffee-based morning woes when my Mom (whom I blame for my obsessive coffee addiction) said to me "Well, I have this extra coffee maker, why don't you put it in your office?" At that exact moment, the clouds parted and angels sang a glorious song.
  • Food
First of all, let me just say that I love to cook. I think it's fun and it lets me be creative. However, it takes time and energy, both of which I generally lack. Therefore, I rely a lot on restaurants and even *gasp* fast food from time to time (although, for me, "fast food" generally consists of Subway or Quizno's, so still staying generally healthy). This can be really expensive, especially if indulged upon multiple times a day. I have learned to follow a strict rule when it comes to eating out: only do so once per day, at the most.

Breakfast: That would be coffee for me, which I have already covered. Every once in a while I need to spike it with some whiskey, but that's a necessary expense--especially during new student orientation.

Lunch: Generally, I save my "eating out" rule for my evening meal. I'm lucky in that I've trained my body to not really get that hungry during the day. I always try to keep a box of cereal (I love the Kashi products, and there is usually a kind on sale since the unwashed masses generally prefer their sugary, heavily processed cereals) in my office and a carton of Soy Milk (again, you can usually find some on sale because the Iowa yokels thinks it isn't milk if it doesn't come from a cow) in my little office dorm fridge. Unfortunately for both the thickness of my waist and wallet, there is a cafe almost directly one floor below my office. I have trained myself to, at most, only get a cup of soup from the cafe for lunch, but generally will sustain on my cereal, or some oatmeal I always keep in my desk.

Evening meal: This is my indulgence. Generally I will get take out, but there is even an economical way to do this. Subway and Quizno's both now have a great $5 menu, which is really all you need for a full meal. Every few weeks I'll also indulge on Burger King or McDonalds, but I'd rather pretend that I didn't, so I won't talk about that!
  • Grooming products
I don't think I need to lecture anyone reading this blog on personal hygiene. I believe anyone who would read a blog posted by me would shower daily, wash clothes frequently, brush teeth, use hair product, etc. etc. etc. Quality grooming products matter, too. At least they do in my opinion. I've tried for years to avoid Wal-Mart. I dislike their business practices and their approach towards LGBTQ employees, publications, products, etc. That being said, it really doesn't get much cheaper than Wal-Mart for the basic grooming supplies. We aren't just talking about a few dollars here or there, either, this is a significant savings. That being said, there are a few things that I will only buy at Target: shampoo/conditioner (I LOVE the American Crew products), aftershave lotion, and fancy-shmancy organic deodorant. I think it's important to identify the personal grooming products that are most important to you and go for quality there; but for the rest, go ahead and pull on your baseball cap, sunglasses, and oversized hoodie--hood up--and go slumin' to Wal-Mart. At least it's a step up from the Dollar Store.
  • Clothes
I'm a gay man. (Gasps all around, I know!) I hate to admit it, but I am sometimes a walking stereotype. One way that this is true is how important my clothes are to me. I currently have three closets full of clothes at home with the plan of turning my spare bedroom into a large walk-in closet. However, there is a way to go clothes shopping, not break the bank, and still be stylish.

Clothing from the Gap generally best fits my clothing aesthetic. I like their simple lines, heavy use of cotton, and focus on the button-down/kakis paring for men. I feel comfortable in their clothing and think it looks good on me. The great thing about the Gap is that about four times a year they have ridiculous clearance sales. Basically, what happens is that they get their next season's stock in and have to get rid of their entire stock from the last season. I have gotten some absolutely incredible deals just by paying attention to what time of year it is and being familiar with the Gap calendar. This isn't just true of the Gap, most major retail stores will have sales like this at different points in the year. The trick is to pay attention, talk to the staff, and really take advantage of these sales when they come around. I have a large stock of button-down shirts (probably around 50-75), but most of them I got from around $9-$12 apiece at these sale events. It helps that I'm a relatively unpopular size (size small shirts), so there is generally a large stock to get rid of at the end of the season.
  • Housing
There is a big push right now amongst young professionals to purchase their housing rather than renting. However, in my opinion, this isn't always the most economical option. Generally, you can find renting rates at quality places that are far cheaper than mortgage payments. Also, in renting, I do not have to worry about all the incidental costs that are involved in owning a property. For example, when my gutter collapses (like it did last winter), I can just call my landlord and they fix it, usually the same day. Or, if I lock myself out of the house (which happens more frequently than I would like to admit), I can walk to my landlord's office and pick up the spare key.

It's true that you are not building equity through renting, but I hate the saying that renting is just "throwing your money away." That isn't true. You are getting something in return: you are getting a place to live. Here's the basic truth: everything costs money. You could pay rent or be homeless. Given those choices, I choose to pay rent. I think I get a good deal too. I'm currently renting a two bedroom house, with a two car garage in the historic district of downtown. All my housing costs, including utilities, do not exceed $1,000 per month. I get such a good deal because it is an older house that is not in the best condition, but it works for my purposes, and with the addition of a coat of paint (for which my landlord paid) I think it looks great!
  • Be proactive
Like most people, I have a number of reoccurring monthly bills (rent, car payments, student loan payments, hookers, crack, etc.). Most of these payments are automatically deducted from my checking account (which I highly recommend; it saves you the worry of writing checks on time every month and many places will also give you a rebate for "going green," or reducing their mailing costs). For a long time, I would look at my online statements every once in a while and be absolutely shocked that money was just disappearing from my account. Then I got smart, read through my account statements, and made a list of every single bill I have, how much it is, and exactly what day of the month it is going to come out of my account. I also set reminders on my Outlook and iPhone calendars. This way I always know how much money I absolutely need to have in my account and can put the extra either into savings or towards paying off my credit card, car, student loan, future plastic surgery.

Anyway, just a little practicality for your Monday morning! I promise I'll get back to the quality Lindsay Lohan/Mel Gibson posts later on in the week!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Why I think Lindsay Lohan is a Genius

Lindsay Lohan is a genius (ducks rocks thrown by angry mob). No, seriously. I think Lindsay Lohan has made some savvy personal and career choices that have set her up to make a lot of money and actually be an actress and person who is taken seriously by the public and the media.

Yes, I mean THIS Lindsay Lohan

Here's the deal: Lindsay Lohan has hit rock bottom. Or at least we think Lindsay Lohan has hit rock bottom. I've said that several times in the past, and then Lindsay has gotten out her shovel and proven that she could go even lower. However, having obscenities painted on her fingernails while in court is a new all-time low. It's hard for me to imagine how she could go any lower. Perhaps if she defecated in the Rose Garden at the White House and used Bo Obama as toilet paper while cursing out Malia and Sasha, but I doubt that would happen because no competent Secret Service agent would allow LiLo within 500 miles of any world leader, even Ahmadinejad.

So we've determined that Lindsay has hit, or is near, rock bottom. She has become a kind of circus side show. Personally, I try to avoid celebrity gossip, but it has even become impossible for me to avoid her antics because they have spilled over into the legitimate news sources. So pretty much everyone in the United States is aware of who Lindsay is and of some, if not all, of her personal, financial, family, and legal troubles of late. If Lindsay were to make a major motion picture right now, think about how many people would go out to see her, just for the freak factor. Part of the draw to Lindsay Lohan is the fact that she established her career in making very kid-friendly movies, and she is now contrasting that kid-friendly career with very non-kid-friendly life choices. So think about how many MORE people would want to see Lindsay in a role highly contrasting the work of her earlier career--say as former adult film star Linda Lovelace.

Linda Lovelace is a compelling character in herself. I do not agree with the politics or religious based viewpoints of her later life, but no one can disagree that her story is extremely compelling. Were the casting director to choose a mainstream actress to play this role, say, Rose McGowan (who was originally considered for the role), no one would bat an eye. Rose McGowan is an accomplished actress whose career and personal life have stayed relatively untarnished and out of the public eye. This would just be seen as another role for Rose McGowan; however, with the filter of Lindsay Lohan added to the role, the movie is seen as being more of a self-narrative. It's seen as a cathartic experience for Lindsay to exorcise her personal demons in a very public stage. It's the perfect marketing campaign and a great way to get millions of people (including me) into the movie theatre.

Now: would Rose McGowan be the better actress for the role? Probably. I ADORE Rose McGowan. However, Rose hasn't been scandalous enough. C'mon, Rose! Get yourself a middle-aged girlfriend! Masturbate in a movie theatre! Call a female police officer "Sugar-tits!" Do something! Hollywood is BEGGING you!

This isn't a new phenomenon, it's something that's been happening throughout history. Examples: Charlie Sheen, Amy Winehouse, Winona Ryder, Pee-wee Herman (who is having a fantastic comeback right now), Drew Barrymore, George Michael, etc. etc. etc. This isn't a modern phenomenon either: Oscar Wilde become Wilde-ly (excuse the pun) popular after his male philandering ways were made public. Unfortunately this happened after his death, but genius nonetheless.

Exception to the rule: Mel Gibson

Mel Gibson is a jerk. I have no respect for someone who causes or supports violence towards women. He is a racist, xenophobic ass and I hope he disappears. In his mind, he thinks that "What Women Want" is a slap to the face while she is holding his child and that a society the supports religious plurality would lead to an "Apocalypto." (Aren't I creative?)

My love affair with Amy Winehouse

I love Amy Winehouse. I really, really do! Amy Winehouse is another person who is extremely primed for a comeback. I love Amy Winehouse so much because of her disregard for public and distain for fame. She does not try to be polite and she does not put on a facade in public. She is who she is, regardless of anyone else. I see a little bit of these qualities in Lady Gaga (whom I adore), but it's much more intentional and fabricated. Amy Winehouse is the real deal and she is fabulous.

I remember an instance while I was still in grad school and Amy was at the peak of her insanity. One morning my coworker, Ashley, came into the office and said to me "Did you hear about Amy Winehouse? She trashed a bar last night and screamed to the bartender 'Do you know who I f@!king am!'" My response was "Really?!? That's FANTASTIC!" It's fantastic because it's basically Amy saying "This is who I am. If you don't like it, go screw yourself."

So LiLo, don't be disheartened by your 90 day contempt of court jail sentence, I still think you're fabulous! I see a future for you where you arise from the ashes as none other than Linda Deep Throat Lovelace herself! You are beautiful, no matter what they say, and words won't... gargle... gargle... gargle!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Finding a second job and NOT hating your life

I work two jobs, which can be extremely difficult sometimes. However, for new professionals, we often do not have a choice in the matter. Many of my friends are fairly fresh out of college/grad school, and find the pressures of student loan, car, mortgage, insurance payments to warrant a part-time job to supplement our earnings. That being said, a second job is not necessarily a death sentence to your social life and does not need to be something you dread. I've been working two jobs for nearly two years now, and plan on doing so for at least another two years, and my social life is as fulfilling as it has ever been! Here are some things I have learned over the years.
  • Do something you enjoy.
Sounds simple enough, right? Well, for many people, it isn't. Many of my friends have found themselves in a financial crunch and rushed to find the first job they could. Well, being a cashier at Wal-Mart has a ceiling of mental stimulation, and probably does not have the longevity needed to provide you with a stable secondary source of income. Although it would give you a plethora of material for another one of my favorite blogs: People of Wal-Mart.

Take your time and be proactive. Try to anticipate your financial situation and realize when you are going to need the supplemental income. Then take your time and search for something you will enjoy. As my blog title infers, I work part-time at a small burrito shop on nights and weekends. I know this doesn't sound mentally stimulating, but I work with very interesting people (many of whom have more tattoos/piercing than can be counted on all fingers and toes), the clientele is respectful and hippielicious, and I can spend a good majority of my time laughing at drunk people. It's also helped me be more assertive and taught me how to say no.
  • There is life outside of Starbucks.
I love Starbucks. A lot. Like, so much that I wish Iowa would legalize person/coffee drink marriages. That being said, when looking for a second job, I intentionally avoided Starbucks. I did so for a couple of reasons: 1) I would spend all my paycheck on coffee drinks whilst destroying my liver and 2) it would have been extremely cliche of me. I enjoy doing things a bit out of the norm or unexpected. This is generally because I like to push myself out of my comfort zone. It exposes me to a culture of which I have previously been unaware and helps me learn new things.

So when you are searching for a second job, do something you normally wouldn't do. This doesn't necessarily mean DON'T work at Starbucks, it just means that I should not work at Starbucks (or any bookstore/coffee shop/bar).
  • Scheduling is key.
While working two jobs, it is extremely important to leave yourself time to have a life. For the first year I worked at the Burrito, I would work overnight Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday evenings. These times worked with my schedule, but left me working 7 days a week and constantly having to talk myself out of walking off a bridge. I now only work overnights on Friday, a couple evening shifts during the week, and have every Sunday off. This gives me the ability to work as much as I was before (actually more so) and still have time to socialize, a day to sleep in, and the very important priority of going to church EVERY week! (DId I mention my version of church is drinking at the gay bar? Yeah, that's important. I genuflect a lot when I'm there so I figure it should count as church)
  • Have you considered freelancing?
I have a lot of friends who have real-world jobs during the day and supplement their incomes by freelancing with different activities in the evening. For example, I did a lot of dance in college (I know, how much more stereotypical could I be? Oh, did I mention I was a Theatre major? DING DING DING) so now they work at night for dance studios teaching a class or two. For those of you like me who are higher-educated, you may consider adjunct teaching at a community college. You are paid a fraction of the salary of a full-time faculty member, but it still helps. Also things like tutoring or piano lessons, but those get a little messy while doing your taxes.
  • Be realistic and firm.
Once you've found that second job of your dreams, it is important that you be very realistic with your goals for the second job and very firm with your expectations of that second job. Apparently I'm considered a responsible adult (which is very scary considering I don't even know how/have the desire to balance my checkbook), so I amassed a good amount of responsibility at my second job very quickly. I soon found myself in a manager position with people asking me right and left to take on additional shifts every week. Finally it got to the point where I said "I can have no responsibilities outside of weekly schedule" and "I cannot pick up any additional shifts or ever come in early." Once I set my boundaries and was realistic of my expectations of the second job, the workload and stress decreased dramatically.
  • Have fun! Make friends!
Remember: this is your "free time" from your first job. It is important that you have fun and enjoy yourself while you're working your second job. Work somewhere that you find intriguing with people you find interesting. Working with friends is a lot more fun and productive than working with strangers.

I hope you find these tips useful! Remember: let me know if you'd like me to talk about anything specifically. Have a great day! And LEAVE COMMENTS if you like what I have to say! I'd like to think I'm not just writing to myself here!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Male Shaving and You

I'm a hairy guy. For a long time I pretended like I wasn't; in gay culture being hairy is often historically (and by historically, I mean in the past 15 years since we have the attention span of moths) scoffed at. Hairless young boys were seen as preferable, so that's what I pretended to be. However, as gay culture has evolved, being hairy is now not only okay, but awesome! That being said, I've spent a good amount of time and money shaving my lovely little face. Throughout the years, I've discovered a number of secrets, do's, and a LOT of do not's in regards to shaving one's face.

Let me explain a little bit about myself. Not only am I a hairy guy, but the hair I have is thick. Especially around my face. It also grows very fast. It is also very dark. If I go more than two days without shaving, I look like a homeless, or straight, person. So over the years I have learned a lot about shaving and evolved my techniques. I think I'm at about the perfect place right now, but I'm sure I will continue to evolve and, in a few years, look back at my current techniques and shutter. However, this is a snapshot of where I am now.

I am continually amazed at how many of my male friends who do not know how to shave properly. I think there is a misconception that fathers everywhere are showing their sons how to correctly shave. In my experience, this, along with sex education, proper eating habits, and how to be heterosexual, is just something that is being lost in the generation gap and we are left to learn all of these things (sans heterosexuality... gross!) on our own. I hope you find these tips helpful and even if you don't, I hope you find them entertaining!

  • You do NOT need to shave every day!
This, in my opinion, is the biggest and most harmful misconception about shaving. You should
NEVER shave every day. It is not healthy for your skin. Remember: when you are shaving, you are basically removing all of the natural oils along with thin layers of skin from your face. Shaving every day can be very harmful for your health. If you work somewhere that says you need to shave every day, get a note from a dermatologist saying that you do not. Trust me, they will write you a note. I personally only shave three times a week: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and my skin has never been in better health.

Pictured: my two day old beard
  • Always shower prior to shaving
It is very important to shave only after a hot, steamy shower. The heat and steam from the shower softens the facial hair and also makes your facial hair stand on end, which makes it easier for the razor to catch. If you cannot shower before you shave, take a towel and soak it in very warm (but not scalding) water. Wrap your face in the towel and sit for a minute or two. This is not as good as showering before shaving, but it's better than nothing at all.
  • SHARP razors!
Using sharp razors while shaving is incredibly important. Whenever I hear someone complaining of tugging or pulling while they shave, I just want to run up to them, shake them, and scream "CHANGE YOUR RAZOR!" However, the judge said one more restraining order and it's jail time for me, so I refrain. Even so, change your razors often! I know there is a desire to make razors last as long as possible because they are so damned expensive, but it is important to change your razor every week or every week and a half, at the most. Trust me: it makes a big difference to the health of your skin!
  • Number of razors
Just how many Mach's are they going to come out with? At some point, enough is enough. The dirty truth is that, for the healthiest shave, you should use a single razor cartridge. For those of us with curly facial hair, it reduces the risk of ingrown hairs. However, this just doesn't work for me. My facial hair is too thick and grows too fast. To get a close enough shave with a single razor cartridge, I usually have to go over the same area two or three times, which completely negates the purpose of the single-razor cartridge. Let's put it this way: you should only use as many razors as you need. If a single-razor cartridge works for you, stick to it. For me, the magical number is three. As I said, I'm a hairy bastard, so I cannot imagine the wolf-man out there who requires a four or even five razor cartridge.
  • Shaving creams: the big myth
I have a secret to share with you: Shaving creams really don't matter that much. Oh sure, the
big name companies out there would like you to think they do, but they really don't. Basically the shaving cream is there to serve two purposes: 1. provide a lubricant so the razor will glide on your skin, and 2. cause the facial hairs to remain standing on end. I personally gravitate towards the white foamy shaving creams because it helps me to clearly see where I have and have not shaven (which helps with facial hair) and it makes me nostalgic for a time when a barber would have lathered this puffy white foam on my face and I wouldn't be forced to do things for myself! Damn, I'm a lazy bitch! So save your money on the expensive shaving creams and put it towards buying razors more often.

Pictured: Fluffy white shaving cream, drawn around goatee which I am currently sporting
  • Use HOT water!
This is a pretty common sense point that took me far too long to figure out: When you are shaving, heat up the razor using hot water and then wash off your razor using hot water. It makes a huge difference!
  • Shave with the grain
This is something I've always known and always tried to do: ALWAYS shave WITH the grain (meaning, generally, shaving DOWN and never up). Now, I say that I've always tried to do this. The reason I say try is because not all my facial hair has a downward sloping grain. On the bottom, right hand side of my neck, my facial hair sweeps around and the grain faces towards the side instead of at a downward slope. For years I had razor bumps on the lower right hand side of my neck and couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. Now I shave at a sideways angle on the right hand side of my neck, and I haven't had a razor bump or ingrown hair since! Body hair gets more complicated and the photos are quite x-rated. I think I'll save that one for my special blog.
Pictured: Sideways neck shaving
  • Aftershave lotion
Putting lotion on your face after shaving is incredibly important. Much more important than shaving cream. This is so important because this is what replaces the moisture on your face. As I previously stated, shaving is basically removing all the natural oil from your skin. While no lotion product is going to be as good as your own natural oils, it's better than nothing. I've found the Kiehl's products to be hands-down best in this department, but they are also extremely expensive. I use a Target brand product called Every Man Jack. It isn't as good as Kiehl's, but it's still boutique quality at Target prices. They even have versions with an SPF, which is also vital to skin health. The less tan you let your face get, the fewer wrinkles you will have in the long run.

Also, apply face lotion daily, even if you do not shave, and apply to your entire face. This is another thing that is incredibly common-sense that took me far too long to figure out. Putting after shave lotion on your entire face every day will keep you looking fresh, and reduce under-eye bags and wrinkles everywhere. I still want Botox (even though I'm not even 30!), but the urge isn't as great as it used to be. I'm starting to dig my forehead lines!

I used to absolutely hate shaving. I thought it was painful and I never wanted to do it. However, now it doesn't bother me that much. That's why, I believe, following these tips lead to as perfect a shave as you could possibly have.

So... that's about it! Your guide to the perfect shave! Have a great day, PGB fans!