How You Say

Last night, talking with Jess, I said something about nihilism. I said it ‘nee-hilism’, which prompted her to say, “I thought that was nye-hilism”. According to Google, both of us are correct, which Jess found wildly disappointing: “Now how is one of us going to lord it over the other?”

So it seemed apropos, later that evening, when I discovered both Pronunciation Book and Pronounciation Manual.

The first teaches non-native speakers how to pronounce tricky-looking English words:

The second, while visually indistinguishable, teaches non-native speakers how to butcher those words in hugely embarrassing ways.

Given my own history of pranks (cf.), I must admit this made me laugh to the point of nearly wetting myself. And, like any good prank, it also made me think. Given that we rely ever-more on the Internet as a source of definitive information – on anything from pronunciations to legal and medical matters – it’s more than a bit surprising how little we worry about separating the truthy from the actually true.

Quiet Visionaries

My long-standing (and occasionally long-lost) friend [name redacted] reminded me that we registered way back in early 2006.

Take that, Trey Parker.

Blame Our Mummy

What happens when my brother and I are left with an hour free and several leftover rolls of toilet paper deemed insufficiently soft for actual wiping use:


Dry Humor

Continuing the ‘social experimentation’ fun, as of this morning, I’ve started writing messages backwards on my large apartment windows with a dry-erase marker, curious to see if they generate a response from the lawyers (for whom it should read forward) in the skyscraper across the street.

First up:

“For a good time call [my brother’s cell number]”

Though he’s out of town for the weekend, I suspect I should nonetheless hear back from him rather quickly if this works.

Dick Move

1. Sit at the bar.

2. Look for a table full of women.

3. Get the bartender to fill a bunch of highball glasses with ice water, garnishing each with a piece of fruit.

4. Get a waitress to bring the garnished ice water to the table of women; have her tell them that the the drinks are “compliments of the man at the bar.”

5. Graciously acknowledge with a small wave and nod.

6. Wait for them to realize you’ve sent them water; let the hilarity ensue.

All Your Women are Belong to Me

I have, since its inception, heartily resisted joining MySpace, in large part because I liked it better back in 1997, when it was still called GeoCities.

Still, there’s something vaguely impressive about MySpace’s neo-Luddite approach, its bravery in re-championing the blink tag and eye-searingly fluorescent background art that completely obscures actual text.

Recently, an increasing number of filmmakers have been asking if and how MySpace fits into Cyan’s movie marketing plans. So, thinking there might be use in having a presence on the site myself, a few days back, I took the plunge and joined.

Initially, I intended to copy my profile directly from Friendster. But, as it was late at night, it seemed far funnier to forego any charm, and simply paint myself as the sort of misanthrope that, honestly, I usually am.

For my ‘about me’ section, I put up this:

I’m an obnoxious asshole. I like to play the push-your-buttons game, I derive joy from being difficult, and I like laughing at the expense of stupid people.

Sometimes, people assume that, below the selfish jerk shell, I’m really a good guy. But, in fact, I’m like an asshole onion: peel away the outer layer and all you have is more asshole.

Then, for ‘who I’d like to meet’:

Anyone who thinks they can hold my interest and keep up with my smartass attitude.

My standards are high. In fact, I probably won’t even email you back unless you say something wildly entertaining or intriguing. Yes, that includes you.

All of which, I figured, would put a pre-emptive kibosh on any MySpace socializing.

Apparently, no.

It seems, instead, that the profile is just obnoxious enough to trigger women’s love of challenge, their desire to find guys as diamonds in the rough that they alone can hone into something more broadly recognized as precious gem.

In the past few days, I’ve received more than a handful of emails from women – and, disproportionately so, from rather attractive ones – basically trying to figure out if I’m actually that obnoxious in real life.

So, lest any such women back-research their way to this site, wondering whether my attitude is simply some recent invention, I point to a post from almost precisely a year back, which I will here reprint in its entirety.

Filed April 14, 2005 in Disclosures.

In response to the emailed question I most frequently receive:

Q. Are you really this much of a pretentious asshole in real life?

A. Pretty much.

At least I’m consistent.

Pity the Fu

While I’d contemplated doing it at Sundance, only to be talked out of the idea by Scott and Rob, it wasn’t until this morning that I whipped out a razor and took the plunge.

I now sport a – still somewhat scruffy, though evidencing limitless potential – Fu Manchu.

My brother has pointed out that it makes me look either Australian, or like the world’s preppiest Hell’s Angel.

Either way, I can’t lose.

Guy Get-Ups

With Halloween just around the corner, my brother helpfully shared three costume ideas for creatively challenged yet lecherous and politically incorrect male youths (i.e. his Fraternity brothers); I present them for anyone who doesn’t similarly live in Denver, and can therefore shamelessly rip off his suggestions:

1. Plastic Surgeon: Buy, borrow or steal a set of medical scrubs. Scrawl ‘free breast exams’ on a piece of cardboard.

2. God’s Gift to Women: wrap a bow and ribbon around your neck.

3. Proselytizing Mormon: Dress in a dark suit, white shirt and conservative tie. Buy a copy of the Book of Mormon. Knock on people’s doors, but instead of saying ‘trick or treat’, ask if they’d have time to talk about a ‘book that’s really changed your life’.

Blimp Pilots

I spent most of last week with Rob Barnum, a new hire who’ll be managing the West Coast office of Cyan Pictures + Long Tail Releasing, who was in town to get up to speed on both companies. While still in college, Rob served as an exec at EscapeHomes, helping to take the company through several large venture capital rounds and a recent merger. He then started a production company to escape from the world of tech and into the world of film. Plus, he screenwrites, and blogs, and drinks heavily.

So, in short, I hired him because, in true narcissistic style, I like people like myself.

It wasn’t until Friday night, however, that I realized how dangerous having both of us in the same room would be. Because Friday night, we headed down to the West Village, hit the first crowded bar off the subway steps, and decided it was imperative that we spend the evening picking up random women.

Now, picking up women in bars is a chump’s game. It puts you into competition with every single other guy in the bar. Worse, it puts you on par with every single other guy in the bar, makes you the sketchy sort of guy who spends Friday night hitting on random women.

Sure, the girls are ostensibly there because they want the attention, having layered on makeup and cocktail dresses. But, deep down, every girl would much rather date a guy she’d met at the park or through a friend or in the yogurt aisle of the supermarket. The Fat Black Pussycat just lacks tell-your-grandkids-about-how-you-met charm.

So, if you’re looking to meet women at a bar, the main thing is to not be like all of the other sketchy guys surrounding you. You’ve got to be different, in a good way. You’ve got to think outside the booty box.

Rum and Coke’s in hand, Rob and I sat down at the first bar to discuss that conundrum, and to scope out the options. To our immediate right was a group of three girls, sitting together, dutifully brushing off a chain of successive hopefuls coming over with their smoothest entrances. They seemed as good a choice as anyone else.

Before I had the chance to reason my way out of it, I excused myself from Rob and headed over. “I’m sorry to interrupt,” I said, receiving icy stares. “But I was wondering which you think are cooler: blimps or hot-air balloons.”

“What?”, one of them asked.

“Blimps or hot air balloons – which is cooler. You.” I pointed to the one in the middle.

“Blimps, I guess,” she said, slightly confused. I got another blimp vote, then one for hot-air balloons.

“Thanks,” I said. “That’s all I needed.” I walked back to Rob, sat down, and checked my watch.

Thirty-four seconds later, the most intrepid of the three walked over.

“Now we’re curious,” she said. “Why did you want to know that?”

“It’s not that important,” I replied, and went back to talking with Rob.

“You can’t just ask us that,” she continued. “You have to tell me why you wanted to know.”

“Well,” I started, then looked to Rob, who nodded approval. “We’re going to be racing from New York to Chicago. Either in blimps or hot air balloons, and we wanted to see if one was cooler than the other.”

“Racing to Chicago?” the girl asked, dubious.

“Well,” Rob jumped in. “My grandfather passed away recently, and gave me an old hot-air balloon in his will. I was thinking about repairing it, and then I thought, if Josh buys one too, we could race.”

“Right,” I continued. “But I figured Rob could probably get some trade-in value on the balloon if we wanted to switch to blimps and race those instead.”

Rob and I nodded nonchalantly, like that pretty much summed it all up.

“You have to come with me to tell that to my friends,” the girl said. We were in.

Over the course of the evening, at several bars and with several groups of women, we worked our way through variations on the theme. Perhaps Rob was going to be in a hot-air balloon and I’d be in a blimp, and did they think that would put one of us at a disadvantage? Or, we had already bought the blimps, but we were in town to see if Blimpie would be a corporate sponsor of our race.

While we’d come in totally deadpan, we tried to slowly edge the story over the top, to let the girls in on it. The good ones got it, and played along, happy to be inside a shared joke. The slower ones never seemed to catch on, but remained credulous and interested.

Either way, after a while, we’d excuse ourselves, bow off invitations to join them at subsequent bars, decline phone numbers. We weren’t really there to pick up women. We just wanted the thrill of the chase.

Which, I would guess, is almost as exciting as racing hot-air balloons.