Month: March 2002

  • like Sebastian Flyte said: if you look like you need it, people won’t want to give it to you.
    Also, baleful stares don�t help.

    Due to our fond memories of the Exton mall, Kate and I thought we’d try to get our wedding rings there. Hey, it’s a metal band, how ghetto can it get? Pretty ghetto, it turns out. It’s funny how you filter out things you’re not interested in, then as soon as you’re ready to shop for wedding rings you realize that there are FOURTEEN JEWELRY STORES at the Exton mall, all selling marquis-cut Princess Bands with plastic certification cards from the Independent Gemological Society and the Gemological Association of America, all of which sound-like-but-are-not-quite the real independent certification body whose name I forget.

    There’s no getting around it, we discovered: cheap jewelers are depressing. I wasn’t trying to be an asshole when I went in, and I certainly wasn’t trying to go slumming: if the Internet industry spits me out for good, the jewelers at the Exton mall will become the correct price point for me. However, the plastic placards proclaiming “Platinum: As Pure As Your Love”, and the outrageous, knuckle-duster size of the “Gentleman’s Classic Three-Diamond Wedding Band” were kind of hard to take. Also, most of the jewelry is manufactured by ArtCarved, the same company that manufactures high school class rings “…in durable, affordable gold-toned Electriumtm!”

    Kate wasn’t having any more fun than I was: apparently, mall jewelers and mattress salespeople take the same hard-sell kung fu classes. After fixing us with a baleful, sheeps-eye stare, a woman behind the counter demanded of us “What can I do to earn your business today?”, while a man in a polyester tie glared at her from the other side of the store, apparently ready to award her the set of steak knives or fire her, depending on our answer. The same lady, later: “the wedding is in June of this year? Oh, MY!” Not noticing us rolling our eyes, she continued: “You’ll need to buy the rings right away, to get them sized.”

    Get them sized? Get them sized? Jesus Christ, lady, we build space shuttles in this country! If this were a hardware store, you’d have all the sizes in stock, with different versions for right-hand-thread and left-hand thread-thread, plus a separate version with a Teflon liner! I’m 100% sure that ArtCarved keeps some kind of giant pre-sized ring warehouse in Kansas, with a huge staff in golf carts and fleets of UPS trucks idling at the loading dock.

    Which is to say, I guess, that she didn’t earn our business, and we’re going to give dissembling mall jewelers a miss in future. Unless we get a hankering for durable, affordable gold-toned Electriumtm.

    That night, at dinner, our personable college-aged waitress was much more successful in giving us the hard sell. “Would you like to try the baklava? If I sell the whole tray tonight, I get a free case of beer!”

    I had two pieces.

  • If you told me at seventeen that I�d be sentimental for a mall, I�d have biffed you in the nose.

    Kate and I both grew up in the same part of the country — Whitford, Pennsylvania, about thirty miles west of Philadelphia in the Great Valley. We both remember trips to the Exton Mall as kids, where there was the old-style Gap with the rope-and-creosote Western theme, the “Baker’s Garden” restaurant with enormous exotic wicker egg chairs, and large fiberglass sculptures of abstract, brightly colored seals (Kate thinks they were dinosaurs) in the kid’s court for sliding on. It was a pretty cool mall at the time, and it’s since undergone a renovation to tear out all the dark brown seventies brick facing and put in blond wood and glass.

    It’s a decent mall now, but it’s not near the top of the suburban mall pecking order. The King of Prussia mall has all the shiny stores: Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Nordstrom’s. Plymouth Meeting has all the outlets: Ikea, DKNY, and several running storefront-miles of others. The Exton mall is left with Things Remembered, selling cheaply engraved metal decanter hangtags, and Spencer Gifts, selling Fundies (“Underwear for two!”) and a small cardboard box marked “Mexican Horny Toad”, whose contents I’ll leave to your imagination (You’d be right.) Spencer’s is also where you go to get resin statues of bearded wizards holding crystal balls, every concievable variety of black light fixture, and the “Haulin’ Ass” poster. When I was ten, Spencer Gifts was like the older brother I never had, there to tell me lies about the Secret Mysteries of Adulthood.

    So, while the Exton mall doesn’t have the best stuff, it’s the sentimental favorite. The local operators haven’t been priced out of the market in Exton. On weekends, you can see hot-rod kids from Coatesville at a rolling booth selling bright red car stereo speakers and SUV breather snorkels. And the life hasn’t been polished out of the store staff: the kids behind the counter at the Allied Hobby Shop have bright green hair and lip rings, and you better know how to tell a Gundam from the other kind of big-robot-fighting-thingy when you go in there. I don’t go in there, but I’m glad that their turf is sacred to big fighting robots, not to big Tiffany dollars.

  • I was getting jiggy with my wireless connection on the Amtrak train last night, connecting to my Bauer bulkmail server over a telnet connection, broadcasting the latest news about ABC’s plot lines (“Heavens! Death comes to Port Charles!“) Meanwhile, the train was crawling along at a snail’s pace — someone had been hit and killed on the tracks ahead. Eventually, we rolled past several large rescue vehicles, all their lights strobing. Ten feet from my window, I saw Amtrak workers zipping up a body bag and lifting it from the tracks (no kidding; I arrived at the precise TV Cop Show moment.) The engineer said that it was the second death on the tracks that day. Meanwhile, my bulkmail server kept chugging along, broadcasting messages through the air to a remote SMTP sever.

    Essay questions: choose one (20 points, 45 minutes):

    • React to the author’s juxtaposition of the trivial and the timeless. Is soap opera bulkmail idiotic and ridiculous when compared with “real” events, or do all areas of human endeavor have their own dignity?
    • Does the small backpacking tent in the montage below act as foreshadowing for the body bag on the tracks? Does the author wish, symbolically, to be hit by some sort of metaphorical train? If so, which train is it? Is it the Gravy Train?

    • Will the departing soul of the deceased mix with the CDPD bulkmail packets coming from the author’s Sierra Wireless AirCard antenna? Does it mean anything that these packets contain theories about who on the ABC soap Port Charles is going to die? Would it suck if these thousands of email transmissions blocked the soul from reaching heaven? If so, who will get haunted by an angry mutilated ghost: the author, Bauer Publishing, or Soaps In Depth newsletter readers?

  • More fun with an empty apartment:

    (animated GIF, ~300K):

  • I was torn, this morning, between writing about:

    1. The bad ten dollar bill a bagel-and-coffee vendor gave me this morning,
    2. The fact that the cafe attendant on the Acela Express train was watching a bootleg copy of “Showtime” on the big video screens, or
    3. The hard-core introspection I did in my empty apartment last night.

    All about Quaker Performance Anxiety >>

  • My friend Alejandro Rubio has decided to extend his stay in Antarctica, spending the winter (until late August) surrounded by galvanized aluminum, Polartec fleece, and cool-looking Star Wars vehicles. And shut off from postal mail, UPS, and deliveries. I think it’s super-cool; Alejandro’s at the age when young men should be gathering cool stories to bore their grandchildren with, and he’s stockpiling them like crazy. I have every confidence that, at some point in the future, Uncle Alejandro will pull into the driveway, and my (future) kids, attracted by the Irresistible Power of Coolness, will race out the door and cover his car like the baboons at Six Flags Wild Safari.

    That, and to get away from my own stories about Rommel Kott Cuellar, the Crazy Blond Mexican Plastic Surgeon With Ties to the Mafia.

    Anyway, check out his site:!

  • I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds.

    Well, no, but I did move several notches up the spammer ladder today, as I learned how to broadcast the lastest news about Nick Carter and the “cute boy collectible MEGA posters of Aaron, Fred Durst, Sub 41, O-Town, Eminem, and ‘N Sync”, available in this month’s issue of M Magazine. M is one of Bauer’s properties, and as the internet go-to guy, I’ve been tapped to run their bulkmail. So I exported all 114,000 email addresses from the website’s SQL database, imported them into the Worldcast program on my laptop, chose a DNS server, and spammed away. It’s churning right now, as a matter of fact, and has completed 26,000 of 114,000 users in about 45 minutes. About 10% (2158, right now) of the addresses are invalid, which seems like an average number.

    It’s not spam, really — this is an opt-in mailing list, with a clear “remove” link at the bottom, and my program validates the addresses before sending — but there’s something of a weak illicit thrill to it, like lighting up a cigarette at a high school reunion.

    Also: One-tenth of one percent of the people on this mailing list (112 of them) have the word “bootylicious” in their address.