Weekly Opinion Poll: Two Thumbs Down

From: Seamus
To: Jenny
Subject: Karaoke

Hey – are you in for karaoke tonight? We’re going at 9:00. Don’t disappoint me again!
From: Jenny
To: Seamus
Subject: Re: Karaoke

So… here’s the thing. I’ve got to work a tradeshow tonight and there’s a late night cocktail reception deal afterwards. Corporate stuff. Lots of suits. Don’t think I’ll get out in time. Sing something pretty for me.
PS – Stop yelling at me!
From: Seamus
To: Jenny
CC: Natasha
Subject: Fwd: Re: Karaoke

I don’t know why I even bother. You are tipping the scales in LFQ right now. That’s Lame Friend Quotient. Who do you think you are? You’ve let us all down.
Nat – I’m really frustrated with Jenny’s lack of participation. She doesn’t go to karaoke. She didn’t come to my Jim Jarmusch movie marathon. I’ve decided to host a film festival in her honor called “Films Jenny Hates.” I’m going to pay her $100 to sit through it. Be there.
From: Jenny
To: Seamus
CC: Natasha
Subject: Re: Fwd: Re: Karaoke

I think I can already name two movies you’ll put on the “Films Jenny Hates” lineup. But really, why would you do that? If I’m so lame, why do you even want to hang out with me? Maybe you’re really high on the STMWTDQ (that’s Stop Telling Me What To Do Quotient). Did you ever think of that?
PS – Let’s not fight anymore, okay?

So this is where my friendship with Seamus stands right now. He has resorted to paying me for my companionship, yet simultaneously wants to punish me during our time together. I’m starting to think we might need counseling.
He did get me thinking, though, about what movies might make the Films Jenny Hates Film Festival. Because here’s the thing – I swear that I don’t try to be contrary, but there are just certain movies that the whole world loves, and that everyone swears I will adore, but that I just despise. One prime example? It’s a Wonderful Life.
I will admit that I’ve never suffered through the entire movie, but I’ve seen at least an hour of it, and honestly, when Jimmy Stewart is running down the street screaming “Merry Christmas everyone! Merry Christmas!” at the end, it makes me want to go all Elvis and shoot out the TV while popping sleeping pills and eating a fluffernutter sandwich.
[Ironically, I adore the movie, Miracle on 34th Street. I mean, come on! How can anyone resist that adorable little Natalie Wood?]
Another hobby of Seamus’ is doing his imitation of Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman because it quite literally pushes me to the brink of madness. At least once every couple months, something will remind him of this movie and he’ll immediately start staring out into space, pretending to be blind, and quoting the lines, “Got your head so caught up in the sugar business, you forgot the taste of real honey.”
“I’m too old. I’m too tired. I’m too fuckin’ blind.”
Or simply
“Hoo ha!”
So all this to say, being called out for my own lameness, and the threat of having to watch my least favorite movies made me remember that it is HIGH time for another Weekly Opinion Poll! It’s been ages since I’ve heard what you all think, so now is your chance.
Question: Which critically-acclaimed, perennial fan favorite movie makes you want to scream, “What is wrong with you people?! This movie is a colossal piece of crap!” while ripping out fistfuls of your own hair?
A. It’s a Wonderful Life
B. Scent of a Woman
C. Garden State (Must. Kill. Natalie Portman.)
D. Swimming Pool (Foolishly bought this on DVD based on positive reviews alone. $17.99 and two hours of my life I’ll never get back again.)
E. Vanilla Sky (Must. Kill. Tom Cruise.)
F. Sideways (Don’t even get me started.)
G. Other (please explain)

You can dish it out, but…

To the person who found me by Googling “Jenny is really fat:”
Oh yeah? Well, then maybe… maybe you’re just dumb. Boom! Snap!

TequilaCon 2005

The plans were made months ago, it seemed, and I became more impatient with each passing week. I had somehow cleverly convinced Jill from Egg in Spoon and Brandon from One Child Left Behind that Chicago should play host to our inaugural TequilaCon.

But little did I know the stress that would accompany this invitation: What would we do? Where would I take them? How much would we drink? Would I recognize them from their pictures? Would they feel betrayed to learn I was really a middle-aged Asian man?

I looked at this as a sort of social experiment – finally meeting people I had come to know only via the Internet. It was like match.com, except that instead of learning that they loved the Cubs and long walks on the beach, I came to know them through months of beautifully crafted and wonderfully humorous essays on their respective blogs. And as an added bonus, I would also get to meet Brandon’s mythical wife, Alex, whose Transylvanian accent has grown familiar to those who frequent his site.

But most importantly, there would be much tequila and photo-documentation. So, I suppose in that respect, this would be a lot like my match.com experiences.

The obsessive planner in me fought hard not to over-structure the weekend. I wasn’t quite aware of how obvious a personal trait this was, until minutes after meeting Jill, when I rattled off about 30 different things we could do, at which point she said, “You really like lists, don’t you?”

Yes. Yes, I do like lists. In fact, I like to:
• Make them
• Read them
• Cross them off
• Highlight them
• Rewrite them
• Bullet them
• Throw them out
• Make new ones

So while respecting the pre-established boundaries of “What Happens in Chicago Stays in Chicago,” I offer up this list of brief vignettes from our weekend with the aforementioned photo-documentation.

Scene 1: Sitting around a table, perusing the menu at a tequila bar.

Jenny: “So they have something like 80 different types of tequila here. And they’ll throw you out if you order Jose Cuervo.”

Jill: “I was at this one place in Atlanta that had shots of tequila for $100 each. I wonder if they have that kind here.”

Brandon: “$100? Dang. I wonder if they’d take $30 to let me just lick the shotglass.”


Scene 2: Hiding in foyer of Wrigley Building to escape the torrential rain that started three minutes after we disembarked from our architectural river cruise.

Jill: “See… I told you I was funnier in writing!”

Jenny: “Sadly, I thought I was funnier in person.”

Brandon: “When did I say I was funny?”

Alex : “I theenk you are all just trying too hard.”


Scene 3: Dinner in Lincoln Park with Jill, Brandon and The Romanians (Alex, Alex’s sister Cristina, and Cristina’s friend)

Cristina: “So I’m teaching class and this leetle boy comes up to me and says, ‘You’re from Transylvania? You know, I can tell by your pointy teeth.’ So then I’m like, ‘Ohmigod! Do I really have pointy teeth?’ I guess maybe I do.”

Jenny: “No, you don’t have poi-“

Cristina: “You know, it’s like in America there are only two things you know about Romanians, and that’s Nadia Comaneci and vampires.”

Jenny: “Nadia Comaneci was a vampire? No wonder she had such good balance.”


Scene 4: Sitting at a coffee shop reviewing photos on my digital camera.

Jenny: “Wow. Half these pictures came out really blurry. I really need to learn how to use this thing. And what the heck is this a picture of? Who took this one?”

Jill: “Uh, yeah, that would be when you took a picture of the back of the cab driver’s head.”

Jenny: “I did? Oh, that’s just unfortunate. I should never be allowed to operate high tech equipment after two glasses of wine and two tequila cosmopolitans.”


Scene 5: Sitting in Millennium Park, under the shadow of the giant bean, drinking Jameson & ginger ale and Johnny Walker Black & soda

Jenny: “So do you get a lot of trackback spam? God! It’s driving me nuts ever since I moved to Movable Type. And I swear, I have to block like 50 new IP’s a week!”

Jill: “No, I don’t really get any, but I use Haloscan. They’re pretty good. I’m still trying to clean up my design and make it more user friendly. I was thinking of switching to a new host, but Blogger’s been really good to me so far.”

Brandon: “Yeah, I was having a lot of problems with my server because I was always going over my bandwidth, until I switched over to hosting my photos on Flickr. Now I have no issues at all.”

[reflective pause]

Jill: “My god, we are dorks.”

Jenny: “Yeah, but no one else needs to know that.”

The Big Reveal

Okay, sorry gang. I was so caught up in my newfound celebrity lifestyle that I totally forgot to update you on the results of the last Mystery Photo Quiz. Not like it even matters, though, since you guys pretty much got all the answers in the first 10 minutes. [Enter Jenny carrying bowl of sour grapes]
Here are some things I’ve learned through this experience:
1. You are all really, really clever.
2. Just because something looks cool doesn’t mean it’s hard to figure out.
3. I need to stop taking pictures of things that are within arm’s reach of my keyboard.
4. You can all be on my team when we play Cranium.
As promised, I want to recognize a few individuals for their unique contributions to this contest. But I don’t want the rest of you to get mad at these people just because they currently hold a special place in my heart. I’m very fickle, so next week we’ll probably get into a fight over something I thought they said, but didn’t really say, and then you’ll be my favorites.
Dave from Blogography. He later confessed that he was imagining himself as a contestant on Family Feud. Good answer! Good answer!
Award for Most Confusing Answer
Shari from Eclectic for “Kitty Curry Comb.” What the-?
Award for Good Citizenship
Jessica from Daughter of Opinion and Asia from Deconstructionist for not peeking.
Award for Being the Only Person to Get #7 Correct, Thereby Spoiling My Pleasure of Having at Least One That Stumped Everyone
Rarity from A Rare View
The awards could go on all night, but then I’d have to cue the band, cut all the acceptance speeches short, and generally piss everyone off. So I’ll leave it at that. Thanks so much for playing, everyone! Oh, and the answers?
They’re here:

Celebrity Sighting #2

Dear Vivian –
You know how you’re always promising me that if I come to New York, you’ll find me all kinds of celebrities to stare at? Well, I think that I might need to move to LA because get this! In a span of less than 24 hours, I not only sat next to the adorable and charming “Cockroach” from The Cosby Show, but on my return flight, guess who was sitting behind me in the gate, waiting to board my same flight? Guess! Okay, you’ll never guess.
Larry David from Curb Your Enthusiasm! Hello? Um, like, bazillion time Emmy nominee Larry David? Yes, that Larry David. I know! Can you even stand it! He didn’t sit by me like Cockroach did, mostly because Mr. David was in first class, and I was in Aisle 38, but he seemed really nice, too. Really nice, just like Cockroach, except he wasn’t wearing any suede that I could tell.
In LA, things are different than New York. In New York, it always takes you a long time to point out a celebrity to me, and then when you do, it’s usually the back of someone’s head, like that time we saw that anchorwoman from CNN. But in LA, the stars are just like you and me. They’re not always running somewhere. They wear suede. They spill cranberry juice. They sit in gates for delayed planes. They’re good people, Viv.
I’m thinking of moving to LA now, or at least flying there a lot. I think if I started to see some of these people on the planes a couple times, maybe we could become friends. Like, if Larry David saw me again on that same flight, I bet he might talk to me. Or maybe he would even ask me my advice on a joke he wrote.
“I think it’s pretty funny, but maybe you’re trying a little too hard. Just let the humor flow organically – that’s when you’re at your best, Larry!”
“Hey, thanks for the advice Jen! You know, the first time I saw you in LA, I just knew you would be a good sounding board. Here’s my cell phone – call me anytime you want to talk.”
Anyway, just wanted to fill you in on my trip. I can’t wait to go back!

Urgent Update from L.A.!

Celebrity Sighting #1:
Carl Anthony Payne – aka “Cockroach” from the Cosby Show
That’s right, one Mr. Carl Anthony Payne (II) sat next to me on the flight from Chicago to LA. I can report the following details:
1. He was dressed in an extremely stylish manner. There was much suede.
2. He wore a very fancy watch and a big diamond earring.
3. He drank cranberry juice and knocked the can over onto his lap.
4. He did not watch the movie, Kicking & Screaming, starring Will Ferrell. This was a wise choice.
5. He carried a bright blue suitcase.
6. He is in love with me.
Please, please let this not be my last celebrity sighting, because I know that even with the picture, 75% of you are still going, “Carl who?”
I’ll try to deliver.
Be good.

Photo Quiz #2

More games already? Well, I’ve got to admit – I had so much fun reading all the creative answers to last week’s Photo Quiz that I wanted to do another one. And I’m including more photos this time because I don’t want you to get bored while I’m gone. Didn’t I mention? I have to fly to L.A. for a three-hour meeting next week. It’s almost like I’m James Bond, I live such a glamorous lifestyle. Anyone know a good place in L.A. to rent a speedboat with flamethrowers on the side?
I’m heading out Sunday night and flying back Monday afternoon, which gives me a very limited amount of time in which to encounter my requisite number of mildly insane travelers. I just really, really hope that it’s nothing like my last trip to D.C.
If it’s not too frustrating, I think I won’t post the answers to these until I get back on Tuesday. Is that annoying? Nah… you’ll have them all figured out by noon today anyway. Special recognition will go to the most outrageous, yet still plausible, wrong answer.
See y’all on Tuesday!

Salt on the Wounds

Oh, the bitter irony. My mother sent me my recent horoscope from AOL. The universe obviously did want me to be a juror.
Pisces (Feb 19-Mar 20) Pisces are generous, friendly, sensitive, popular, artistic, versatile, compassionate and spiritual. You will do well in any of the arts: drama, literature, painting, music, but your compassion also makes you well suited for philanthropy and judicial positions.
And I also can’t believe how spot-on they were with all of my other characteristics! I’ve never felt this understood before. Finally someone appreciates me for the generous, friendly, sensitive, popular, artistic, versatile, compassionate, spiritual, philanthropic, judicious musician that I am.
Cold comfort, my friends. Cold comfort.

An Open Letter to My Cats

Dear Punch and Judy,
I know that it may seem strange of me to write you a letter when we live in the same house, but it’s late and you are both sleeping, and I need to get this off my chest. When I read this to you tomorrow, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, okay?
I really care about you both, and I think we get along real well. But there’s just something you do that really upsets me, so I want to talk about it. I know I should have brought it up sooner, since you’ve been doing this for the past five years, but I just didn’t know how to tell you.
So here goes: a lot of times when you sleep, you don’t close your eyes all the way. You both tend to keep them about a quarter of the way open, and I can see your eyeballs moving back and forth as you dream about chasing flies. (But of course, you only dream about chasing flies, because lord knows you didn’t do anything about the real one that was buzzing around the kitchen the other day.)
Anyway, in addition to being able to see your eyeballs moving, I can also sometimes see your third eyelid come out. Just so you know, to humans, third eyelids are really gross. We don’t have them. Frankly, I get along just fine with only two eyelids, so I don’t really know why you need so many. They make you look like you are dead, or have a disease. Please only use two eyelids in the future.
If you would rather write me back, let me know and I’ll leave my computer on while I’m at work tomorrow. Please don’t get mad about this or puke on my bed, okay? I just wanted you to know.
p.s. It also kind of bothers me when you drink out of the bathroom sink, but I guess I understand.
p.p.s. I still think you’re a good boy and a pretty girl.

Out of Order: Part 2 of 2

Chapter Five: The Hunger
I have already eaten one bag of raspberry filled cookies, and worry about seeming gluttonous if I get something else. I haven’t seen any other potential jurors eat two things from the vending machine.
The clerk told us that the three jury selections occur at 9:00am, 10:30am, and 1:30pm. The first two have now passed, and no one from my room has been called. It is now 11:30 – will they give us lunch? I heard mention of a cafeteria. I wonder if they might have egg salad. I would like egg salad on toast, and perhaps an iced tea right now. That would be very nice.
Why aren’t more people eating snacks? Are they trying to prove a point? I think about the two peppermint patties in my backpack and wonder if they are smushed. No matter, I will still eat them. But I must hold out a bit longer. A foreperson is strong of will.
Chapter Six: The Fatigue
Lack of sleep due to workmares and late-night phone conversations has left me weak. As I look around the room, I see I am not the only one. A young man in a pale blue polo shirt has stretched across four seats and is napping atop a pile of newspapers. A middle aged woman in a mustard-colored sweater set sinks deep into her chair, trying desperately to find a comfortable position. Heads are bobbing as people doze off.
Why won’t someone turn on a TV? The lady said we could, as long as we were respectful of our fellow potential jurors. Doesn’t anyone want to watch daytime television? The news? Inside Edition? A PBS nature show? Why are you all so quiet? No one is talking! How will we ever deliberate if you are all mute?!
I am screaming inside my head right now I am screaming inside my head right now I am screaming inside my head right now.
Chapter Seven: The Recharging
I have to get away. I just need my space. I feel so trapped.
I look down and notice that my laptop battery is about to die. I have to find an outlet qui
Chapter Eight: The Eating
A kind-eyed woman with short reddish hair grabs the PA microphone and tells us all that we can leave for lunch now if we like. We have to be back in time for the 1:30pm jury selection slot. She then warns us that they often “lose” jurors during lunch. She tells us that abandoning your civic duty is an offense punishable by a fine, or even by prosecution. I nod my head in agreement as I glance over at the woman in pink. She’s a flight risk. A foreperson never leaves her post.
Four hours of not speaking has taken its toll on me, so within minutes of leaving the courthouse for lunch, I start calling my friends. Dee-Dee and Vivian do not pick up, so I leave messages. I resent that they are not available.
Next, I call my friend Georgia, and when she picks up, I don’t say hello. I just sigh and say, “Jury duty is boring.”
She laughs, “Is it? Why are you calling me? Are you done already?”
“No, just on lunch break. They haven’t even called anyone from our pool yet. I’m driving around the metropolis of Rolling Meadows to find somewhere to eat. Oh! Hey – there’s a Pizza Hut. Oh – and a Quizno’s!”
“Ooh – Quizno’s is good. I love their ads with the little hamster guy.”
“Me too. I mostly like when he says, ‘They got a pepper bar!’ I thought they took those off the air?”
“Did they? Well, it’s still a great commercial.”
“Yeah. Okay, well, I’m gonna go get a toasted sub. It’s the toasting that makes all the difference, you know.”
“That’s what I hear. Good luck!”
“Thanks. Talk to you later.”
Chapter Nine: The Disappointment
It’s 1:43pm. The third and final jury call has come and gone, yet we all remain. We are told that we need to stay here until 2:30pm just in case, but then we are free to go.
A wiry man with an eagle tattoo on his hairy forearm turned the TV on about an hour ago, and the entire room flocked toward its warm glow. We all sit transfixed, watching Ambush Makeover and Live Like a Star. An episode of Texas Justice comes on, and we see the case of a woman whose hair was burned off when a beautician tried to straighten it.
She is suing for $2,500 and the beautician is countersuing her for $500 because the stress of the lawsuit has caused her to miss work. It makes me wish I were on a jury right now, because even I know that this countersuit has no merit.
A news blurb comes on about Andre Agassi’s latest victory at the US Open, and the tattooed man leans over and tells me that he watched Agassi’s match yesterday. His voice carries no inflection when he says, “I saw him play last night. It was amazing. He was down two games, and then came back to win it all. He’s 35.”
I open my eyes wider and nod as I say, “Really? Yeah, he’s really good.”
“My neighbor is a tiny little Chinese man and he plays tennis three, four times a week.”
“Wow. That’s great exercise.”
“Yeah. Especially for an 83 year old guy. He gets around, I tell you. Tiny little guy.”
I hesitate to offer any more than this because my instincts tell me that the tattooed man could be a talker. He may have been waiting patiently for the past five hours for someone like me to engage in conversation. I can’t be that person. Not now. Not at 1:57pm.
As the clerk informs us that we are free to leave, she calls us up to the desk to collect our paycheck for the day. I have mixed feelings as I accept my check for $17.20. I haven’t really done anything to earn this money. I didn’t even get interviewed. My company paid me for my time, and I wasn’t even able to help forward the wheels of justice.
I would have been a good foreperson. I just know I would have.
But now I am leaving the courtroom feeling a bit rejected. It’s like being stood up for a date. I was so ready to finally make a name for myself in the Cook County justice system. I dressed nicely, but not too nicely; I read the summons three times, taking care not to miss any important details; I even brushed up on my shorthand skills so that I could quickly take down all the critical notes from the trial.
I am the last person to leave the room. I carefully fold the check in half, and then in half again. As I unzip the pocket on my backpack, I discover the two peppermint patties I had been rationing all day. They are not smushed. I pause to look back at the jury room once more before exiting through the glass doors, then slowly unwrap my candy as I ride the escalator down.