A Bit About Me

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Along with my daily duties as founder and head writer of HumorMeOnline.com, in 2003, I took the Grand Prize in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (also known as the "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night" competition). I've also been a contributor to "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" and the web's "The Late Show with David Letterman". I also occupy my time writing three blogs, "Blogged Down at the Moment", "Brit Word of the Day" and "Production Numbers"...and my off-time is spent contemplating in an "on again/off again" fashion...my feable attempts at writing any one of a dozen books. I would love to write professionally one day...and by that I mean "actually get a paycheck".

26 September 2008

Adamant about...Adam Ant...and Other Such Fond 1980s Memories

Have you ever misplaced something and then found it later in a place you least expected? It could be hours, days or even months later and you think..."Oh THERE you are...you silly thing, how'd you end up here?"

Well, I lost something less tangible years ago - and, in a way, I found it the other day.

Through a random act of Internet association, someone happened upon my interactive comedy website because someone mentioned it to them. I, in turn, noticed their screen name and avatar...one thing led to another and I am now an active participant on an Adam Ant forum. I also found a group of people who rekindled something in me I lost long ago: memories of my youth.

You see...way back when, I was also one of another group of people - those who witnessed the advent of MTV. I was there from the get-go - from the days they stayed on the air just a few hours...to the days they went 24-hour format...to the days they went global...to, sadly, the days everyone complained they stopped playing music.

But, back in their youth...and back in MY youth - wow! Those were some exciting times.

Sure, there are a lot of people you will find who will tell you how much 80's music sucked and how MTV played a monumental part in its doing so. But -- there are also a LOT of people who cruise YouTube extolling the virtues of 80s music...video after video, wishing they lived during that time. Multitudes of people love the music and the antics going on in the videos.

Truth be told...MTV and 80s singers had a symbiotic relationship...MTV gained viewership by playing beautiful videos sung by beautiful people. Beautiful people flourished -- it was like the "Golden Age" of Hollywood all over again - but on a much smaller screen.

One of those beautiful people gracing their airwaves was unknown to me at the time. I lived in New Jersey, and altho I would listen to Philadelphia radio stations, they still managed to play only what was selling advertising, which equated to Top 40 rock format...with a few local favourites thrown in. Princeton University would broadcast a much more eclectic sound and through them I found the likes of REM, The Police, U2, Depeche Mode and The Cure...all well before they were mainstreamed over to the "popular" stations.

But people like Duran Duran, Madonna and Adam Ant were bypassed altogether...and without MTV around to find their niche - these talented, albeit beautiful, people...would have probably fallen by the wayside.

But a little less about them and more about me...

Duran Duran burst on the MTV scene about the same time as my hormones started bursting out of me. And while they undoubtedly were the fantasy of schoolgirls everywhere...eh...they weren't my cup of tea.

Then I caught my first glimpse of Adam. I remember it distinctly - I was hanging out at my friend, Cecelia's house, watching MTV, talking about boys, and making life-long plans we'd always put down on paper. I guess it was more official when you had it in writing. And somehow, ultimately, living in Los Angeles or England was always involved - as was "marrying a rock star". And when Adam swaggered into her living room that day - well, our lists got updated.

We then ran out, for the first and only time in my life - and bought one of those Teen Beat-type magazines. I can't recall the exact name of it - but I do remember Adam was featured prominently inside.

Then out came the make-up kits - we now had in front of us our "Rembrandt" if you will - to copy. We spent many hours trying to replicate that "masterpiece"...but honestly, I really think we spent more time drooling over Adam than drawing on our faces. Could anyone in their right mind blame us?

It goes without saying that we also bought up all the albums of his we could find...then promptly taped it over to cassette. Keep in mind these were the days pre-recorded cassettes sorely lacked any real quality recording...so when you bought the album you'd also buy a Maxcell tape and do it yourself. Then you'd sit down in front of the stereo with the lyric sheet (another reason you'd buy the album...they rarely provided them then in cassettes) and play that record until you had it memorized. And then you'd pop that tape in the car and play it everywhere you went. Yeah...you might say this whole regimen bordered on obsession - but, boy...what an obsession!

And what obsession would be complete without the 'coup de grace' of them all? The ultimate paying of respect? Yes, when Halloween rolled around, Cecelia and I went as Adam.

I had all but forgotten these things - as childhood memories make way for adult ones; and friends, sadly, come and go and then eventually drop out of contact altogether. People move, get married and start new families and new memories - the years pass by all too quickly and you stop making wish lists and make grocery lists instead.

And the only ones dressing up for Halloween are your children. Sure, you can always dress up as well (I know I still do)...but it's never going to be with the same innocence, fervour, and wonderment as when you were young. And now there you are...gazing upon your kids; the reflection of the doorstep jack-o-lanterns twinkling in their eyes, their quickening gait as they try to outrace the other kids to the door, and the sheer, unbridled passion only a new Halloween costume and the prospect of copious free candy can give a kid...and you can't help but reflect back to those carefree days of your youth and wonder how they went past so quickly.

Twenty years seem like ages when you're a kid - but are, in reality, a blink of the eye when you, yourself...much later...look back. That thing my mother always told me WAS true: "Before you know it, Mariann...20 years will have gone by..." She would say it so many times and I always, always dreaded hearing it. Funny the things you remember - and the things you don't. I can remember her saying it, well...like it was just yesterday...

...but...one thing I'm not dreading - is turning into my Mother, like some people do theirs; you see, I always dragged my Mom around wherever I went - and she listened to Peter Gabriel, Genesis, U2, Yes...and yes, Adam Ant as well. And one thing's for certain, if she were alive today, I'd still be dragging her around town with me, laughing, shopping and driving all over the place while listening to what's on the radio. And...she'd probably want me to turn it off. But probably not for any reason you might think, but because, like Adam sings -- "That music's lost its taste - so try another flavour..." And, my mother would be the first to agree. It IS time to try something different from what they've been playing on the radio (at least in this town) lately.

So, c'mon everyone...play something new...even IF that "new" thing just so happens to have hit it big back in the 80s.

21 September 2008

The Rift of Gab

I like to talk.

Everyone who knows me knows this.

This is how I start all practically all conversations when I meet someone: "Hi...blah blah (please insert actual words in place of the "blah blah"...as I don't actually SAY "blah blah") blah...by the way, I tend to NOT shut up. If you start talking to me...I can not and WILL not stop. And IF we ever talk on the phone...well, I had one call I made to a new friend in Hawaii from 12:30 - 7:00 a.m. the other nite. Yes, she is now my new "official record holder".

Poor thing.

So I think you get the picture.

Well, another friend I have (all my friends are not in any reasonable driving distance, by the way...possibly for a reason) called me today to let me know he just signed up for one of those unlimited long distance calling plans. And he was quick to toss in "...but I'm going to be watching a game tonite so don't call me".

Now, I'm not completely stupid - I know what the deal is and I told him: "You got this plan just so you can call to tell me not to call, huh?" Oh, sure - I know I call - I call a lot. Try to make me feel even more guilty about it than I already do. Take note that I stressed the word "try".

Are you one of those people who are always doing the dropping by someone's house or calling them up? After a while you think to yourself..."Self...if they really wanted to associate with you, they'd once in a while be on the receiving end...maybe, just maybe they are giving you a not too subtle hint?"

But then I remember what my friends always say..."I wish we lived closer as we could go over to each other's houses and hang out together". But then I counterthink with "well, maybe they are just saying this BECAUSE they don't live near me"...you know, the way people offer to help you when they never intend to - to begin with? Sorta like when people say "see you later" when you just met them - and you will never see them again as long as you live. So...it's my uneducated guess that if we lived closer we'd undoubtedly see some idiosyncrasy we do which grates on the other's nerves which we don't see over the phone and then we'd never go out again. You know - like when you go out with someone to a nice restaurant and they hold their knife like the killer in "Psycho"...only sticking straight up and down in a Neanderthalish manner? Or when someone uses their finger to scoot their food onto their fork at the very same restaurant...or reaches into their mouth repeatedly with what appears to be their entire hand to pick something out from between their back molars? Or...okay...okay...I'll stop...but you know...things like that which they never stop - yet they'd chastise their own child at the dinner table at home for doing the same thing.

I know what you are thinking: Who am I to talk about stopping since I never stop...talking? And don't I have some of my own idiosyncrasies? Yes, I do. But they are the good ones to have.

Don't believe me...give me a call and we'll talk about it. ;)

13 September 2008

Illegal Drug Pens

If you've been keeping up with any of my blogumns, you might know I've a penchant for pocketing pens. Drug company pens to be exact...but I've only "officially" stolen one. It's been my experience if you ask the receptionist or doctor for one of those pens they get by the truckload along with other miscellaneous drug company merchandise like clocks, mouse pads and squishy heads...they will more than likely accommodate you. Unfortunately, I have too many of these free pens lying all over the house, in my car and in my purses to count. I say it's unfortunate because I've been to that many doctors.

Now the way I see it - the pens are free...the drugs are pushed, the drug reps need to unload them and the doctors need to keep those reps busy, so I'm actually doing them a service by providing them more opportunities to drop more pens off. Plus, I'm pretty much paying a lot to see these people, the least they could do is "toss me a cookie" once in a while in the form of a pen.

And having one lying around along with 25 of its "clones" sitting in a drug provided coffee-cup is akin to dangling a carrot in front of Ole Bessie. Two guesses as to whether I'm the carrot or Ole Bessie (and keep the side remarks to yourselves). They won't ever miss ONE - they have a never ending supply of them...plus I DO bother to ask politely. There's plenty of people who just abscond with them without so much as a "howdy do" and a tip of their hat. You know, those hats they don't ever wear anymore - which I referred to in my prior "Men Without Hats" blog. (Yes...this is how I getcha interested in reading another blog...or hopefully get you interested.) As for those pens, in all shapes and sizes, colours and materials, each proudly sporting their drug name emblazoned on it...in near full regalia as it were. Some are very handsome indeed...and therein lies my fascination with drug pen acquisitions. This obsession of mine is purely based on getting something for nothing which is in a pretty package that is useful...especially useful to me, actually, because I sometimes write my blogumns with those very same pens. See? What better justification for an inanimate object infatuation could anyone want?

But it is a sad day indeed. I was gleefully, cheerfully, and oh so set-uppingly administering my "you just can't possibly deny me one little pen when you have hundreds in the back" I've used countless times before when out of her mouth I heard those nine little words that would change my life as I know it. "They aren't allowed to give us drug merchandise anymore." She continued, "These are the last of them...after we run out...we'll have to use our own." Insert one of those Hollywood "
Wilhelm Screams" here. Surely, she's just messing with me - she just won't pony up the pretty pen for pathetic me. How dare she...why, I bet she takes those things home and sells them on eBay. And I left.

What fortuitous event met me at the elevator...why it was a drug rep herself with her rolling carrying case of goodies...rolling because all those squishy heads, clocks and pens get rather heavy when you have to lug them around, office door to office door. The glamorous life of a drug rep...must be hard work. Lunches every day...rolling her little personal trolley into doctors' offices day in and day out, whilst a myriad of patients huff "why I never" in unison, and wait until you've uttered your rehearsed drug soliloquy speech - then you bound back out, hands waving and many "see you next weeks" being bantered about with as much enthusiasm as one can muster up for people you don't give one darn about.

So...I gazed longingly at her laden pack and, while never looking up to make eye contact, asked, "I just heard a horrible, vicious rumour...please tell me is not true! The receptionist wouldn't part with a pen...said you guys aren't hawking them anymore...surely she's having some type of mother hen complex with them...correct?"

"No...we aren't allowed to give them out anymore...it's a new law." So, I thought to myself...'bribery disguised in cylindrical plastic form...is...sniff...sniff...a thing of the past; it is, alas, no...sniff...more.'
While I never did condone them wining and dining and schmoozing and trinket-ing the physicians...I really had no problem taking pens promoting drugs I'd never take in my lifetime. My Viagra pens are one of my prized possessions...battles in this house have been won and lost just over coveting rights alone.

Now in case you are wondering just what is and isn't allowed and why the lowly pen has now become a professional pariah...here's a little breakdown, courtesy of the "Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals," Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, July 2008; that, come January 2009...will go into effect:

Educational items, such as anatomical models, worth less than $100.
"Modest" in-office or in-hospital meals with informational sessions by drug reps.
"Modest" restaurant meals as part of an informational session by an expert speaker.
Funding for CME programs.
Payments for bona fide consulting or advisory arrangements.
"Fair market value" payments for speaker training.
Funding for scholarships chosen by training institution.

Not acceptable

Reminder items such as pens, notepads, coffee mugs and
wall clocks. (New in 2009)
Restaurant meals with drug reps. (New in 2009)
CME grant funding based on marketing objectives. (New in 2009)
Sports equipment; tickets to sports or entertainment events.
Physician travel or lodging subsidies for meetings or CME.
Payments for sham consulting or advisory arrangements.
Financial support "in exchange for prescribing products or
for a commitment to continue prescribing products."
So, stock up on those "not acceptable" items while you still can get your little hands around them...as they might be worth a small fortune one day on eBay...if they don't rescind the laws. Or better yet, send them to me for addition to my own personal stockpile of drug-rep paraphernalia. Hey, those pens just might afford me the opportunity to send my daughter to Med School.

Ahhh...irony. Gotta love it.

03 September 2008

Interview to a Skill

If I can borrow a line from David Letterman...everyone "hold on to your wigs and keys" - I actually had a job interview, I think...the other day.

Oh, I know what you are thinking...even before you thought it - "you THINK?" Yes, I think - let me elaborate...just a little...

I went to drop off my resume - nope, I didn't email or FAX it - I did it the "old fashioned way"...I hand-carried it. And in the process, ended up sitting down and speaking with the woman who either ultimately decides who gets the job or, at the very least, plays some part in the decision. At least that's the impression I was led to believe.

About an hour later - I came back out. Far be it from me NOT to talk, but if had known I wasn't going to just drop my resume off and then leave, I would have at least brushed up on some things - like what exactly the place I just put in for a job...does. What an entity sounds like it might do by its name and what that entity does in real life are sometimes two totally different things; this was one of those times. So, I must say a felt a bit stupid for asking (what informed candidate would dare ask such a thing) - but I'm hoping that whole "there are NO stupid questions" adage will hold true this time, because honestly, I have indeed heard my share of stupid questions, so I know they're out there.

I also would have dressed nicer and put on a "better" aka "corporate face". Oh, you guys have it easy - pretty much the only thing you have to do to get ready is shave and make sure your tie matches. Women have the "whole package" process to attend to. From head to toe, most of us still do some obsessing, literally, from top to bottom and all points in between. We have a wide range of clothes to choose from (not just suits...which all look pretty much the same) - and shoes (here again, men's dress shoes don't usually deviate far from the others which look pretty much like all the rest). But women's shoes...geez...do you men have any idea how stressful and challenging it is to find "just the right shoe"...each time we dress up? Do you THINK we actually LIKE shopping for shoes?? Wait, let me rephrase that...and when I think of something to rephrase it with, I'll get back to you...unless, of course, there's a really great shoe sale or something in the meantime. But I digress once again...

Then, in the process of getting ready for a job interview - we must work hard to get that "first impression" look genuinely less than contrived. Sure, I know it's contrived, you know it's contrived, I know you know it's contrived...but it is the first impression and we want to make a genuine good one nonetheless.

Our hair...of course we need to do something to it, and because luck will befall us in the way it always does on such occasions, the more we try to get it right, the worse it ends up looking. Any other time when we have no such intentions to run into anyone...the hair will fall as if someone named Raoul had been working on it all day. When it counts, it's always someone named Igor. Trust me...this hair problem is not uncommon...look around you. You don't honestly think those women having those hairdos asked for them, do you? Even though that part of the hair is technically dead - doesn't mean it still doesn't hold a grudge against you for something...all grudges will be carried out at the most inopportune time, such as dates, interviews, and marriage photos.

Next are make-up issues. You never want to walk into a new place you haven't scoped out ahead of time without putting on some amount of make-up. Going sans make-up might be fine once you get the job...but during the pre-job feeling out process - it's best to go for natural kicked up a notch. You certainly don't want to come off being the office glamourpuss - as chances are you WILL be running into SOME women during this whole interview process - and bad vibes are the things you'd least want to be sending off. No one wants to be out-glammed, plus you'll come off looking so high maintenance they'll probably think your work takes second stage to make-up touch-ups. So...you have to find a nice balanced middle-ground until which time you are welcomed into their fold...then you can rely on the "office attractiveness bell curve" and you will eventually learn just where you fit in. Trying to ring that bell-curve when you make that all important first impression...well, one should never attempt this...because - it will take its toll on thee.

Okay, at this point in my blogumn, the men think I well crossed that "insane line" mentally drawn in the sand - and the women, hopefully, are agreeing with me, nudging some guy somewhere in their vicinity, going "SEE, you guys DO have it easier". You are not scrutinized like we are...you just will never know the woman's psyche ...of course, you can't figure out women period (oh, c'mon a whole nation of comics for ages can't be wrong), how can you be able to understand them on this very subtle level? We, alone, "get" all sorts of subtle cues we give off...some are harder to read...some aren't subtle at all...but at one point the judging procedure has already gone full swing and is now winding down. This is the point where you should not overstay your welcome - there must be time to let the would-be employers mull over what you did and didn't say and if you meshed or bonded at all...or if you are of such a personality you'd cause dissension in the ranks and even IF you could handle the work...even with the best ability, would anyone want you...given your personality or attitude type? These are questions which all must be weighed in - and it's a very precise balancing act. It's not like they can just take you back to the pet store if they didn't like you - it's a little more involved than that.

There's been places I've worked where certain personalities just didn't mesh...in fact wondering which job would be their best chosen field...well, let's just say - .some people are best left to their own devices, out of the way of the daily interaction, located in some back room where their attitude can learn contentment in containment and reflection as it were...as some people aren't exactly "people" people...no matter how many times they continue and persist to remind you that they are.

So, while I don't know how I fared or scored, I do believe , if nothing else, they will think I have no problem, whatsoever, being able to talk to anyone who works in he office, walks into the office, calls the office, or, really...anyone who actually breathes. That part at least, has been established...even without a walk-past mirror-check.