Category Archives: Myself

A discovery

I can stay home all day and find the willpower to drag myself to the gym. I can go to work and go to the gym afterward. But I cannot go to work, come home, and then find the willpower to drag myself to the gym.

Oh, well — I tried. If by “tried” I mean “thought about it for a few minutes.”

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Entourage loves me

I finally saw Sunday’s season premiere of HBO’s Entourage last night. Previously on Entourage, Queens boy made good Vinnie Chase won critical acclaim for starring in an indie flick called “Queens Boulevard.” Now Vince’s brother, Johnny Drama, has landed a leading role in a new NBC drama from Valley Stream native Ed Burns, “Five Towns.”

Is Entourage going to name a fictional project after every place I’ve ever lived? Here are some other names the writers might want to use for new TV shows and movies, and why they should seriously consider them:

Sutton Place. I got my apartment in this Manhattan neighborhood through New York real-estate monolith and serial gentrifier The Corcoran Group. Entourage star Adrian Grenier’s mother sells real estate for The Corcoran Group. Ergo, Adrian Grenier’s mother has probably sold real estate in Sutton Place.

Evanston. I went to college here, but Entourage scene stealer and critical darling Jeremy Piven grew up in this Chicago-abutting suburb, where his parents spent decades running a prestigious theater program that produced the Cusacks, among others.

Atwater Village. Vince and his pals undoubtedly spend some time in the celebrity-infused L.A. neighborhood of Los Feliz. Atwater Village is right next door, but grittier, and they totally go for that.

Also eligible: Greenwich Village, That Neighborhood in Brooklyn Where I Lived Until Age 2 and My Parents Can’t Even Remember What It Was Called, Merrick, Atlantic Beach (Little-known fact: Sonny lived there in The Godfather!).

Me: not an original thinker

Evidently, I’m a New Mysterian. I came up with this philosophy completely independently, honest — I had no idea anybody else had ever professed it or even thought of it. I guess everything has already been done, huh? It wasn’t until I stumbled across its Wikipedia article five minutes ago that I realized it was an actual, existing theory with an actual, existing name.

The situation is pretty dire. For one thing, “New Mysterianism” is a surpassingly dumb name that makes me think, above all, of ? & the Mysterians. And it only gets worse. One of the most prominent proponents of New Mysterianism is notorious jerk and admitted homophobe and racist John Derbyshire. And look at this guy, the world’s leading New Mysterian. Does he look like someone you can trust?

It’s enough to make me want to dump the idea, but sadly, I can’t — it just seems so obvious to me. I like to talk about it in terms of cats and calculus. My cat is one of the smartest animals I’ve ever encountered. She’s affectionate. She often exhibits behavior that seems strikingly human. But try as I might, I could never teach my cat differential calculus. At her evolutionary stage, she just doesn’t have the brain power to come close to comprehending it. That doesn’t mean that differential calculus doesn’t make sense, or that it isn’t real. Everybody who has a brain advanced enough to understand it knows that it’s perfectly logical and it works, and that it can explain countless puzzling mathematical problems. But my cat, a member of one of the most intelligent of the millions of species in the world, will never even come close to being able to fathom any of it.

Likewise, it’s arrogant and scientifically specious for us humans to assume that we exist at the highest possible plane of evolution. We can understand calculus, yes, but there must be truths about the universe that we still lack the brainpower to comprehend and will continue to do so for another million years or so. If there were things we couldn’t understand back when we thought at a cat level, what evidence is there to suggest there’s nothing we can’t figure out today?

There is one major problem in the world that nobody has ever been able to solve, and I seriously doubt that anyone — anyone that we would rightfully call a human being — will ever be able to solve. It’s perhaps the only fundamental problem shared by adherents of religious and atheistic philosophies: What happened in the beginning? I once saw a great episode of Kirk Cameron’s The Way of the Master in which one of the atheists being harassed on the street asked his inquisitors that very question. The fair-minded editors took it as an opportunity to cut him off and display Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” But that’s not good enough, which is what the atheist was undoubtedly trying to convey. Let’s say God created the heavens and the earth. Well, who or what created God? And who or what created that entity — and so on and so forth? Now, this is hardly an original question, and it’s been answered many times by many religious people over thousands of years: Nothing created God. He has always been and always will be. But if God has always been, why couldn’t a godless universe be eternal, too?

But we have to ask what came first, what happened at the beginning. We have to ask it because our brains can’t comprehend another scenario. We can talk about infinity, but we can’t really understand it. Maybe something did come first, and maybe that thing just happened, just came out of nothing, but that’s an impossible concept to us, too. Either way, we’re left with something beyond the reaches of our mind.

The concept that there are simply things we’re not advanced enough to understand, questions we can’t answer and never will, is the only logical conclusion.

I find it interesting that in the rudimentary research I’ve done on New Mysterianism, it seems to be principally an atheistic philosophy. Why can’t anybody, hardcore evangelical or militant god-hater, be a New Mysterian? Science and religion both leave important questions unanswered. Genesis 1:1 aside, neither one can really answer the fundamental “in the beginning” question. I would think the philosophy would be just as compatible with religion as with science — if not more so, because science by design seeks answers to all natural phenomena, whereas religion tends to be more comfortable with the unknown. Maybe that’s my original contribution to this whole line of thought. If I can’t invent it, at least I can contribute something good.

So I guess I’m a New Mysterian. Ugh. That’s going to take some getting used to. I guess I’ll go out now to buy some crystals and flowing sky-blue robes.

Can’t say I don’t have hobbies

Should I be a little embarrassed that I’m obsessed with German propaganda?

I like the Communist stuff as much as the Nazi stuff, if not more. As nefarious propaganda goes, it’s very accessible. It’s in the Latin alphabet in a language closely related to English, so you can kind of tell what’s going on, and it goes all the way up to 1989, making it so much less distant. As an American, it’s a lot easier to imagine yourself living in the GDR than in the Soviet Union. And I love their Orwellian attempts to seem warm and fuzzy and peace-loving.

Plus there’s the excellent site at Calvin College — I haven’t found a suitable equivalent for any other country’s propaganda (unless you count whitehouse.gov — hardy har har). The Calvin guy needs to update more, though. C’mon, I presume he’s getting paid for it!

Lowered fitness standards

A brief history of my gym membership:

2002: For my birthday, my image-obsessed mother buys me a series of personal-training sessions at the New York Health & Racquet Club, which comes with a free membership. The HRC is not New York’s most elegant gym — if it were, that would be quite the feat — but it is a bit of an upscale choice, as its highfalutin name would imply. Today, but not during my time there, its members have free access to a yacht. When I run out of gift sessions, I buy my own. When I can’t afford the sessions anymore, I still continue my membership until I can’t afford that anymore, either. I don’t remember exactly what I was paying, but a monthly membership at the HRC currently runs more than $100.

2004: I move to Forest Hills and join the local branch of the New York Sports Clubs. The NYSC is not nearly so prestigious as the HRC; it’s well-kept, moderately priced, dependable, ubiquitous. It’s hardly glam, but there are lots of spinning classes and towel service. If you ever need to use the bathroom while in the vicinity of one of their 700 or so locations, just flash your card and head right into the locker room. Through a special company plan, I sign a one-year contract with no initiation fee and a monthly payment of just under $75. Melissa and I eventually stop going, as people are wont to do with gyms, and cancel our membership shortly after the contract expires.

2007: At Melissa’s behest — and with her credit card — I sign up with QUEST Fitness, an independently owned gym located in the basement of a physical-rehabilitation clinic three blocks from my apartment. It’s cramped and my long arms threaten to hit the low ceiling while I’m doing military presses. The entryway houses a black leather coin-op chair with a sign advertising a three-minute massage for $1. There is, surprisingly, a pool and a sauna. A one-time charge of $330 for 13 months averages out to a little bit more than $25 per month.

You know the crazy thing about all this? I kind of like QUEST Fitness. I visited just before I signed up with the NYSC more than two years ago, because you can’t beat that location. I was profoundly unimpressed, particularly by the state and sparseness of their equipment. But they’ve remodeled (and raised their rates) since then, and it’s a lot more usable now. It’s actually kind of charming, this rough-and-tumble little gym where doing a leg press means having to make sure you’re not kicking the guy doing lat pull-downs two feet away. I would like the ceilings to be higher, and after one night, I already miss towel service, but there’s rarely a wait for a machine and the place is super, super unpretentious — and oh, that price!

I wish there were a city rec center within walking distance. I’m looking to lower my monthly fitness budget to $5, and rust just makes a workout more of a challenge. I can still shrink farther down while bulking up — I just know it.

Hey, did you read about me in Time Out New York?

Melissa and I are featured in an article that comes out today about “undiscovered neighborhoods” in Queens. We hosted a writer from Time Out New York overnight a few weeks ago, showed him around, went out for dinner and drinks, generally evangelized the Hills like they deserve to be evangelized. A good time was had by all, I hope. I can’t wait to see it, and rest assured I’ll be violating the no-personal-websites rule at work in order to constantly reload their site, waiting desperately for the piece to appear, making the publishers untold hundreds of dollars in online ad revenue. I’m a journalism major, after all. Here’s why people go into journalism:

10%: To change the world and eliminate social injustice/liberal bias/”heterosexism”/”Islamofascism
90%: To see their name in print

They’re going to mention this blog, they say. Hope you’re not disappointed! This is, after all, the Backburner, and it’s the Backburner for a reason. What’s more, since the wedding, there’s no front burner right now, though I’m working on that.

Do continue to drop in, but also realize that I, like, have a job and stuff.

Mystery face

There’s this face I make all the time, yet I have never in my life done it on purpose, and, in fact, I wouldn’t even know how to do it if I tried. This particular face is purely involuntary. However, whenever I do catch myself making it, usually in a photograph, I kinda like it. Observe me making the face at an inappropriate moment:

Mystery face