Saturday, June 21, 2008

Suburban Cabernet

The wine tastes different in Jersey; it's smoother, and there's less bitterness, like I don't have anything to prove. In two days I've finished two bottles.

Coming home from college is weird because you're at once a visitor and a resident. I lived in this house for eighteen years, saw my family crumble and piece itself together the way that families always seem to manage, spent midnights in diners and noons snowed in. I've seen my basement get refurnished, a trampoline and basketball hoop find their way into my backyard, and the pictures in the upstairs hallway fade and curl around the edges. Coming home for the weekend, I get the sense of staying in a familiar bed and breakfast, where the owners know me well and the coffee's always prepared just the way I like it.

My mom, dad, and brother are at a Bar Mitzvah for the evening, so I have the house to myself. It's eerie; I used to be fine staying at home alone, but now I'm used to the sounds of lonely taxicabs trudging down Bond Street and desperate drunken voices shouting out at the break of dawn. I'm used to being three blocks from cigarettes and three floors above friends, but now I am surrounded by an old wooden fence and long, spanning stretches of suburban pavements. I haven't heard a sound besides the TV or the music from my laptop in hours. Every time I go upstairs and glance in my parents' bedroom, I expect to see a masked gunman glare at me, the way they do in horror films. Where am I?

Today I drove out to an outlet mall. The shopping went well--I bought a heavily marked-down shirt--but the place itself was contained chaos, the kind of people you find at Six Flags or waiting for the bus at the Port Authority. There were babies crying from strollers and large women in sweatpants, teenage girls looking for the skirt that will make them feel pretty, gangs of minorities banding around the stores that have become their stomping grounds; yet I was the only smoker. The way some people looked at me as I ashed outside Timberland, you'd think I was a cancer patient on my way to chemo. In a way, I might be. My point is that I felt like the only normal one, when clearly everyone else thought the exact opposite.

Lying here in my backyard, the porch light barely touching my reclined deckchair, I wonder what will happen to me after NYU. I don't think I'm going to grad school--why put off the inevitable?--so it's really a matter of where to start the rest of my life. Ideally, I'll be living in the city, but for all its impending debt and bureaucratic headaches, tuition provides a kind of safety net whereby I have an excuse for living in New York. Once I don't have to pay it anymore--or at least, once the new bills stop coming in and I can start paying off the loans--I can't help but feel that I won't really belong in the city.

The thought of coming back to my hometown,, I just can't. Doing my shopping at Quick Chek, making half-assed plans to go to the shore or the mall, all that ostracism and loneliness, the memories of high school stalking me--all these premonitions rush at me, and I hole myself up in the city and quickly make plans to go somewhere, anywhere, let's just go and get too drunk to remember.

That's the weirdest thing about being home. I feel like a Monopoly piece. Right now I'm not really in prison; I'm just visiting. I get to enjoy the luxuries of being home by choice instead of by necessity, or because my four Jersey friends are busy. It's nice not having to get dressed all day if I don't want to, which I guess I can do in the city as well, but when you live three blocks from Soho it's kind of hard to not want to impress the passersby. Yet there's something menacing about being home as well; every building and parked car I pass seems to stare at me, warning, You'll come crawling back. I will be your life again. And then what? Back to square one? Back to freshman year of high school and thinking of New York only as an idea?

I can't do that. I won't do that. But I also don't know if I want to barely get by in the city, if it's worth it. I know, I'm an English major. New York is where I belong. But in this age of the Internet running everything and everyone being a mouse-click away, isn't it possible that New York isn't the center of the world anymore? Maybe there is no center. Maybe my center is elsewhere, and I'll be one of those twentysomething city-hoppers, bouncing from loft to loft in increasingly western towns, trying to fit this stupid puzzle piece I've crafted for myself. But that's new friends and new deli owners and new makeout spots and new bars and new everything.

Maybe I should stop worrying. Maybe center, for now, is right here, on this deckchair, my glass of wine slowly emptying and the crickets in the trees starting to chime in. I just want to keep this feeling, make this temporary respite permanent, and keep even the tiniest droplet in my wine glass so I can convince myself it will never be empty.



Josh and I have a strange sense of humor, but perhaps some of you can appreciate it. This morning we were digging into our past to unearth some of the Youtube videos we used to watch religiously and were confronted with the startling fact that they're still fucking hilarious. Here are our top favs:

1. Louis CK Animation: Combining graphic animation (plus a tophat that comes out of NOWHERE) with familial resentment is the new humorous coming of age novel.

2. Thomas Hampson's "Shenandoah" Performed on GMA: With a baritone that could "circle the universe," and posture like that socially awkward kid in your high school who didn't learn how to masturbate until junior year, Hampson brings tears to my eyes with his Songs about America.

3. Anything Can Happen on Halloween: I'm pretty sure this is from some bizarre occult made for TV movie from the 90's (Josh's note: it's from The Worst Witch, it was indeed made for TV, and it also has Charlotte Rae of Facts of Life fame. It is as glorious as it sounds), but skip forward to 3:30 for the strangest/most hilarious moments, or to 3:50 for a little surprise.

4. Patrick Stewart Sings the Alphabet: I don't even like Star Trek but LOL at when someone tosses him a cane.

5. 2 Legged Horse: A new find. As Josh puts it, "Every time I think I'm over it I look back at the screen and it's still funny."


I am Neurotic(er)

I think I am Neurotic is supposed to comfort us by providing a platform where neurotics can claim solidarity and share the freaky OCD-esque things we do so we don't have to feel alone. Because really, OCD can be pretty lonely. I have to do the weirdest things - like count to three before I get into the shower, and knock on things three times in sets of three, and repeat all these mini prayers in my head three times before I can go to sleep, and when running all the numbers have to have 3's in them such as 3 miles=33 minutes, etc... and let's not even get started on my rituals dealing with food.

But the problem with I am Neurotic is that it doesn't make me feel less alone, in fact, it just adds fuel to the OCD fire. All of these people have great reasons for why they do the things they do. Such as not eating off of restaurant plates/silverware (I never even considered how many germs they must have, despite the dishwasher) or being unable to see a clock change to the next minute without it bringing bad luck. I mean, the reasons aren't that logical, but for someone whose OCD is rooted in a myriad of practically unnecessary superstitions, it completely makes sense to me. So instead of appreciating my fellow neurotics, it just ends up making me more neurotic, as I subconsciously adopt their strange habits as well. I guess it's kind of like a bunch of crackheads hanging out - the more you surround yourself with people with similar problems, the worse your problems get.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Michelle Obama May Understand Internet Traditions, But I Kind of Don't

I'm generally a pretty fast learner when it comes to technology, though I'm no Lifehacker addict like David and Mazi. But there are some internet things I just never got. People have explained them to me but I still can't wrap my head around them. Here are the top 4:

1. Podcast: My friend Matt once told me this is a big, long MP3. But I don't get it? Why would I want a big long MP3? Can't you just divide things into chapters like songs on a CD? And how and why do people create podcasts? Who uses these things? Help!

2. Twitter: I honestly cannot understand what a Twitter is. I feel like a Grandma in a Victoria's Secret. Isn't it just status updates? Why would you not just use Facebook for this? And didn't people get all weirded out by Facebook statuses when they were first implemented? As in - ew now everyone will know what I'm up to all the time! Why would you want to voluntarily feed into that with a website devoted to helping people stalk you?

3. RSS Feed: What does RSS stand for? I think this lets me read all my blogs at once, which actually sounds really nice, but what does it mean and how can I get one?

4. Digg: Is this kind of like the thumbs up you can click while stumbling? Why are people obsessed with getting "diggs?" What does this do for you? UGH! These are the kind of things I should be learning in college instead of the history of economic and religious development in Iran.


Gloucester's Sex Ed Program: Pregnant With Problems

I'm sure by now you've all heard about the pregnancy pact made by upwards of 17 high school girls in Gloucester, MA to get pregnant and then raise the babies together. And yeah, one of the girls was impregnanted by a 22 year old homeless man, which proves that this has nothing to do with sexual desire, and everything to do with a desire for love. So snark aside, I have to say that this is kind of really heartbreaking. One Gloucester High School grad, who popped out a baby freshman year, said that the girls did it because they thought it'd be "cool" to have someone who would always love them. Is that not the saddest thing you've ever heard? A huge chunk of people in Gloucester live perilously below the poverty line, and you have to assume these girls are coming from atypical and potentially harmful family backgrounds. And clearly their relationships with men have soured, or they feel that they have, and they're only teenagers. I mean, it breaks my heart, really it does, because the truth is I can understand their logic. I'm not condoning it, obviously it's terrible, and it's definitely not the way I think, but if you're a young girl with a broken family, maybe a history of sexual abuse and unfulfilling relationships with the men in your life, including boyfriends and fathers, then I can honestly wrap my head around why they would want to do this. I know it sounds crazy, and they're clearly romanticizing the idea of having a child, but I can't blame them for just wanting someone to love them unconditionally. I mean, isn't that kind of what we all want?

If anything good comes out of this, hopefully there will be a radical transformation of the sex education system in Gloucester. I don't think that the administration should be accused of coddling young mothers - those who get pregnant deserve all the help they can get - but they definitely need a more comprehensive sex ed program that extends beyond freshman year. And it needs to teach lessons about the consequences of unprotected sex, not just about contraception. Hopefully this story will spark continued reforms to the abstinence-only rhetoric that treats our bodies like secrets we're not allowed to talk about or experiment with. These girls obviously weren't taught the repercussions of teenage motherhood, and now, unfortunately, all 17 of them will be suffering the consequences.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Lessons From My Coffee Cart Guy

The other day I forgot my wallet at home, because it was one of those days where things you’ve been anticipating for eternity end up crumbling and falling dead in your lap, so you wake up and make coffee and drag your tired bones to the closet but GOD YOU HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR and GOD YOU JUST TRIPPED OVER YOUR ETHERNET CORD AND CHIPPED YOUR PEDICURE and OH YEAH IT’S RAINING.

So as I was approaching my coffee cart guy I began digging around in my bag for my non-existent wallet. My coffee cart guy always starts making my order whenever he sees me headed towards him so he already had my coffee ready by the time I got there. “I forgot my wallet,” I cooed sheepishly, like a child who just spilled juice on her Easter dress the week before Easter. I kind of figured he’d give me my coffee for free. He usually gives me things for free, like stale bagels or muffins, which I then gleefully distribute among my lucky coworkers. My coffee cart guy noticed I was visibly distressed, and yes, of course, on the verge of tears, and he grabbed a $10 bill from his money box and said, “Here. Is this what you need?” I practically broke down and hugged him. He is the nicest man alive. I ended up just taking my iced coffee but not the $10, and paying him back for the coffee when Ashley was nice enough to bring me my wallet later.

But it made me realize that there are some incredibly kind people in this world. People who have the ability to look past the bullshit and just care about each other because that’s what life is essentially about. I mean, that’s been my problem all along. I care too much about everyone. I cry thinking about it sometimes. I might act like I don’t care, but the breadth of my affection for other people, even those I don’t know, is astounding. I get upset when people cry on TV or if someone looks sad on the subway. Once I even cried because I was walking by this church basement along the Bowery and they were having a birthday party there and the balloons had run out of helium and sunken to the floor and the voices sounded flat like the humanity had been syringed out of them. I cried about that right on the street! Truly!

And it has always always always ended up dicking me over, because it’s unnatural for someone to love other people this much, and this honestly, and so I just end up being constantly disappointed by what I perceive as everyone else’s inability to care for me with equal measure. And I fuck things up because of this. It’s like I’m constantly putting my neck out and handing the executioner the axe. “Cut me here,” I say, making a thick line across my neck with my finger. “This is how you can really hurt me.”

And I don’t even know my coffee cart guy’s name, but I know all about his children, and that he’s from Egypt, and that his son scored a 730 on the math SAT’s. He knows that I work at the alumni office and that my ex-boyfriend’s a douche bag and that I’m studying in Paris next year. Every morning when I see his face I want to hug him because he represents a kind of stability that New York perpetually threatens to rip out from under me. New York's chaos can be so terrifying to someone who adores and relies upon routine as much as I do. But I do see my coffee cart guy every day, and I always well up with this intense empathy and affection. I frequently have to stifle the desire to ask for a hug. A goddamn hug from my goddamn coffee cart guy. I may as well just wear a sign on my back that broadcasts how utterly lonely I am.

But really, he is like this still point in the turning world. No matter the shitstorm brewing around me, he is there to hand me my coffee and discuss the weather and show me pictures of his kids. And the day he tried to hand me that $10 I was on the verge of trying to become this terrible person. Yes, I was making a concerted effort to become an asshole, because I am tired of being treated poorly by other people. How come EVERYONE ELSE gets to be the asshole? I want to be more selfish. Which is laughable because my family would probably say that I am selfish, God am I selfish, I’m so selfish they could just die. But being inherently selfish and thinking a lot about life, your life, and what it means, are two completely different things.

And I've allowed every guy I've ever been with to walk all over me. It doesn’t make sense! I generally have the self-preservation to stand up for myself, but with men I just melt inside and want to bake them cookies and comb their hair out of their eyes and become this over-domesticized, maternal person who gives them blowjobs whenever they goddamn please. What the fuck? What the fuck is wrong with me? Why can’t I be more of a bitch? I feel like I used to be more of a bitch but then I just became this puddle.

But the thing is, I don’t WANT to be a bitch. I don’t! I’d honestly rather resign myself to a life of being disappointed by other people - and yes, even by myself - because to be hardened and cruel is to be... hardened and cruel. You can’t love anyone that way, not even yourself. So when my coffee cart guy tried to lend me $10 I completely realized that he’s the kind of person I should be modeling myself after. I should generally protect myself more because I do just always get hurt, because I have this old, sensitive soul that sometimes I really do wish I could just get rid of, but honestly I’d rather be me than some asshole who doesn’t have the ability or the desire to care about anyone. Perhaps I care too much or too deeply, perhaps this brings me more pain than pleasure at this point in my life, but I wouldn’t want to become unfeeling, either.

I am not perfect, I am so far from perfect that it’s hilarious. But I think, when it comes to my relationships with other people, I need to take the advice of my coffee cart guy and keep lending everyone $10 bucks.


J&J is Now... a Hills Blog?

I love The Hills. As evidenced here and here and probably other places, too. So I guess I write about it enough to be considered a "Hills Blog" on Seen On. This makes me LOL. I mean, I write about sex and feminism and culture and Important Literary Fights and our blog gets picked up for talking about a minor character on a seriously declining reality show. Wooooo! Whatevs, not like we can turn down "publicity."


The Most Important Party of Our Time

What are you guys doing Friday night? Well, Ned and I are going to TAKE BACK THE INTERNET. Gessen has put down his sword and picked up a 40 oz in the name of The Most Important Literary Fight Of Our Time and invited everyone to the n+1 offices to - I'm assuming - get drunk and engage in some intense verbal sparring. The event is in Brooklyn =/ but I'm picturing an open bar and pretty literary boys reading galleys, so I will suck up my hatred for the F train and head on over there. It's time I put to bed my existential funk concerning Gawker vs. n+1. I kind of just want everyone to put aside their bitching and affection for erudition and get drunk and get creative. Am I asking too much?


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My New Job Teaches Me Valuable Lessons

Such as:

When white people are embroiled in romantic crises, the genre is romance.

When black people are embroiled in romantic crises, the genre is street lit.

Pretty soon, Mexican women will be crying over their cheating boyfriends in the greatest and latest lawnmower novels.


Places Not to Hit on Me

Hi, my name is Jessica, and I'm a creep magnet. I have blonde hair and an affection for short dresses which automatically makes me a target for every mustached, construction working guido with a penchant for sexual harassment. Once I tried to count the amount of times I got hit on in one day and I lost count. Don't get me wrong, I'm not foolish enough to think this has anything to do with my looks. I honestly believe it is simply that I am young and blonde and walking down the street in New York. I'm sure you fellow New Yorker girls can attest.

The trouble is that people hit on me in the most god-awful places. I could handle it if it were in a Starbucks or while browsing the new non-fiction section at the library or even in the produce aisle at Whole Foods. But the places below, no matter how swank and suave and sexy you are, warrant an automatic NO to the question, "Yo mami, let me take you out?"

1. The Gym

I am not a cute runner. I am an intense-I-will-make-it-to-this-next-mile-if-it-kills-me runner. I spill water on my shirt when I try to drink from my (stolen) NYU water bottle. My face and chest get really red like I'm having an allergic reaction. I glisten. It's not even that I know I don't look sexy - because I actually have respect for men who deign to hit on me when I'm not looking my best - but I don't feel sexy in the slightest. And so the thought of having to sit through a mind-numbing two hours of drinks with you while you subtly look at my tits and fantasize about fucking me behind the bar is absolutely horrifying.

2. The Elevator at Work

Hello, older alumni gentleman looking to obtain an Alumni Card. My, what bushy eyebrows you have. Would I like to have drinks with you later this evening, despite the obvious 30 year age gap? I'm going to have to respond with a NO. And boy are you going to be embarrassed when you realized that I'm the person who makes your fucking Alumni Card which means you will have to sit in shamed silence while I scurry from computer-to-printer-and-back making up an ID you will flash a total of two times in your entire life.

3. The Subway Platform While My Train Swiftly Approaches

I know my ass looks mighty fine as I'm boarding the 6 train, but did you really think something real was going to come of you shouting, "You're so beautiful! Go out with me!" as the doors slam in your face? I mean, if you were really dedicated, you'd think you'd at least get on the train. A+ if it was the wrong train, I mean, I'd feel obligated to date you just because effort like that should not go unnoticed. But if you're going to simply shout things like "Blondie!" or "Gorgeous!" while I stare bewildered up from some shitty book I borrowed from the NY Public Library because I'm too poor to buy my own books, then, well, I guess we both deserve to be alone, buddy.


NY Mag's Continuous Struggle for Relevancy

Hey, did you guys know people can become famous just by using the internet? I know! Me neither! Luckily New York Mag covers this BRAND NEW TOTALLY ORIGINAL PHENOMENON THAT HAS NEVER BEEN EXAMINED OR DISCUSSED BEFORE.

I'm being sarcastic.


My New Hero

The Observer released a fabulous article chronicling the life of one Kelly Cutrone, who first popped onto the radar with her appearance on MTV's The Hills. I've loved her from the moment she stepped onto the screen. She is what every woman should be: fierce, forward, domineering, respectable, sarcastic, dark, powerful and irreverent. She met her first husband after leaving a gram of coke in his sportscoat by accident. She flitted around with Andy Warhol cohorts in the 70's and 80's. But it really only took this quote for me to decide that she's my new idol:

Ms. Cutrone suddenly blared “Rapper’s Delight” from her laptop and lit a cigarette at her desk.

Oh, it's love.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Case of the Mondays on a Tuesday


So I’ve been kind of sad lately. I mean, Tim Russert died, and I had to go home to spend the weekend with my family. And you know how, if you look hard enough, everything can seem kind of sad? Well I went to a baseball game with my Dad and my sister for Father’s Day and there was this guy and his son sitting behind us, and you could tell he just projected all of his dreams and hopes onto his son, because he was too fat or too poor or too awkward to play baseball when he was young, so the second his son learned how to walk he slapped a baseball glove on his hand and made him learn the Phillies' lineup by heart. And even though the kid seemed to honestly enjoy baseball, and this bonding exercise with his father wasn’t yet soured by age and resentment, it still seemed kind of sad to me, because it was only a matter of time before it would be soured by age and resentment.

And then on the train back to New York I started writing this really shitty beginning to what I foolishly believed could be The Next Great American Novel and it was horribly written and clich├ęd and I thought: I’m losing my touch. That is, if I ever had a touch. And all these kids were commuting from Hamilton to New Brunswick, and they were studying, and talking about Kanye West and I was just kind of alone typing up this shitty manuscript that will never see the light of day because though I haven’t deleted it yet, I probably will when I get home from this fucking mind numbing office job.

And then I got verbally abused by someone for no reason, someone I used to care about, and though I’m not perfect I certainly don’t deserve to be spoken to in that manner. But I felt defenseless and helpless and all those –less words, except for fearless, because I was, admittedly, afraid. I am ruinous, sometimes it feels like everything I touch turns to shit, so I just sit in my room and try not to touch things and listen to Liz Pappademas sing in her clear falsetto about lovers moving West to start consolidated lives and my heart makes this fist and tries to punch its way through my chest but I am too lazy and sad to muster up the courage to let it.

And it’s just like disappointment after disappointment, because apparently even at this point I haven’t learned to stop placing my happiness in other people. Maybe Ali Lohan had it right when she wisely told E! News, “You can’t trust anyone but your family,” which is kind of sad, though, because I don’t even really trust my family. I really only trust myself, but I’m beginning to see I’m kind of this horrible person, or at least I feel that way at this point, so I sit in the bathroom stall at work and cry, and I think about jumping out the window but then I realize I’m too much of a pussy to even do that, and besides, if I were to commit suicide – which, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have the balls for so don’t go calling the Wellness hotline – I would at least want to be wearing something cuter than what I’ve got on today. Like one of those Topshop dresses in my last post. Because if I’m going to leave this earth with nothing but a Gallatin Review poem and several pointless AIM conversations and the myriad of ways I accidentally fuck up other peoples’ lives in a subconscious attempt to fuck up my own, then I may as well look pretty while I’m doing it, right? I mean, isn’t that like the epitome of American culture right now? – Self destructive on the inside, perfect on the outside. Not that I’m perfect on the outside, but you get the point.

And I'm reading this book right now, Indecision by Ben Kunkel, where the protagonist's main problem is that he just can never make decisions, so he gets prescribed a pill that is supposed to make him more decisive. And it strikes me that my problem isn't indecision, it's simply that I consistently and chronically make the wrong decision, and why is there not a pill for that? My moral compass is off or something, and always points in the direction of YOU WILL END UP SAD AND ALONE, and if there's a little pill that I take every morning that is supposed to make me not feel this way, there should also be one that helps me to not make the decisions that put me in this situation in the first place.

And it’s like rain on your wedding day or a traffic jam when you’re already late and all of that shit. It’s not irony, it has nothing to do with irony, it’s just the way life is: vaguely disappointing. And we choose to see the things we want to see, all of us, always selective vision. I knew said verbally abusive person had the potential to be verbally abusive, but I pretended it wasn’t true because I saw other things, too. Things that seemed more important at the time but really just blinded me to the truth. How can I be so attracted to honesty and yet so willing to believe in lies? And I thought I had a good head on my shoulders and a solid idea of who I am, but I was fooling myself, and I still am, but maybe we all are?


Topshop's New York Fall '08 Line Makes Me Foam at the Mouth

Earlier I announced (rather belatedly) that beloved London-based clothing chain Topshop would be opening a store in SoHo on Broadway between Broome and Grand. Well the Fall 2008 line has just been released and I practically began seizing at my desk. The main word that echoed through my mind and pretty much defines this line is STRUCTURED: corseted mini-dresses that flare out at the waist, tailored sportscoats paired with delicate silk and chiffon dresses, lots of black, navy and white, and even some sequins. And with all the plaids, I definitely sense a Vivienne Westwood touch. For clothes that generally don't cost more than 100 pounds/item in London, these look exquisite and expensively made. I cannot wait to get my hands on the pale pink collared dress with the layered bottom. Below are some of my favorite looks:


Guilty Pleasures

As anyone who browses my iPod for more than five seconds can attest, I like bad music. Not entirely bad--don't worry, music snobs, I have plenty of Pitchfork-approved indie shit--but many of my favorite songs are also some of the worst music to ever be produced, ever. In this feature I'll describe the songs I love to hate and hate to love. And just remember--no matter how bad they are, they're still what I'm probably listening to on my cigarette breaks.

1. Rod Stewart, "Young Turks." Let me say right off the bat that words cannot describe how bad this song is. Even though I'll be using words to do just that, keep in mind that the only way to truly appreciate this song's awesome mediocrity is to listen for yourself.

That said, this is horrible. From the cheesy synth line that sounds like a ShopRite remix of "Take On Me" to Stewart's terribly limited vocal range, everything about this screams "We did a lot of blow and then had two days to make a single." Undoubtedly, the best/worst aspect of this song is the lyrics. Stewart tells us the story of Bobby--with his "head full of dreams"--and Patti (yes, Patti), two young lovers who decide to abandon their families and his the open road together.

Stewart gives us a bunch of gems, like when he tells us that "time is a thief when you're undecided" or a "fistful of sand" when it "slips right through your hands." Displaying the poetic sensibilities of an eight-grader, Stewart proceeds to inform us that "they headed for the coast in a blissful manner," somehow rhyming that with, "Happiness was found in each other's arms, as expected." Then, after commanding these "young turks" (perhaps Peter Bjorn and John's titular inspiration, but God I hope not) to be free about twenty times, Stewart lays the biggest news of all on us--Patti gave birth to a baby! Nothing says "youthful recklessness" like the horrors of teenage parenting. Young turks, be free tonight! I just hope that baby isn't riding the pickup truck that Bobby drives "like a lunatic."

2. Phil Collins, "You'll Be In My Heart." If music be the food of love, then this song is maple syrup. Warm, gooey, adult-contemporary maple syrup. Oh, and by the way, this is the Phil version. Which means it's totally rockin'! Just kidding, it means that it's overlong and probably brings in cheesy strings during the last chorus. Which it totally does!

You know that voice your grandpa makes when he's frustrated and scared by new technology? That kind of gutteral "Yaaah!" as he dismisses these damn kids and their hip-hop and their backwards caps? Yeah, that's what Phil's singing voice sounds like. All the time. When he sings, "No ma-hatter what they say," you may think he's having a heart attack, which would kind of work within the song, since it's about his heart. Ha.

Phil also imparts his middle-aged wisdom on the listener, telling us that "When destiny calls you, you must be strong." Because nothing says strength like a synth-and-strings-drenched Disney sountrack, Phil. And I'm pretty sure he commands his girl, "Don't listen to them, 'cause what do they know?" because everyone around her is warning her not to get with Phil Collins. And that's a piece of advice we can all take to heart.

3. Alanis Morissette, "Thank U." Now, I love my Alanis. Jagged Little Pills is one of my favorite 90s albums. That said, this is no "You Oughta Know." Or, um, "U Oughta Know." Right away, the "U" in the title tips you off that this is gonna be some new-age bullshit holier-than-thou deal, and Alanis doesn't disappoint! For reasons that remain unclear, she thanks India for helping her get off antibiotics, and thanks disillusionment for helping her stop blaming her boyfriend for dangling invisible carrots in front of her. Or something.

Because that's the thing--you have no idea what the hell she's saying. She sings in a half yodel, half I'm-giving-birth kind of shriek, which is ironic, since she goes on to thank silence. We're thankful for silnce, too--the silnce that comes when the song is over.

Don't get me wrong, it's a pretty song, and that opening synthesizer-as-raindrops thing works well. But the whole thing reeks of the same kind of faux-Mother-Earth-ness that you'll find in the "New Age" section of any given Barnes & Noble. It's like people who think they're spiritual for listening to Enya. It's like people who think they're one with the land by eating tofu. It's like rain on your wedding day.

Blech. Just awful. I will obviously listen to all these songs later today.