Life's our oyster and we're gonna suck that bitch down with a champagne chaser.

  • Behavioral Therapist
  • MA Developmental Psychology, Columbia
  • BS Psychobiology/ French, UCLA

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    by George R.R. Martin

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Saturday, June 30, 2007  
A little over a year ago, I wrote about something afflicts all of us: spam. We've all gotten the sexually explicit emails telling us about "Youkranian teenz whu wont 2 fuk us haaard." There are also the emails which suggest that they know something more about one's erectile state than the bearer of the erection himself (or herself). Then there are the boring emails about raising our mortgage rates. And then there's the astonishingly elaborate ones narrating stories about Nigerian Princes (is Nigeria a monarchy?) who have sent the recipient of the email a vast inheritance, because news of that sort usually comes through email and is typically sorted into the Bulk email folder. Some emails I must read twice because it doesn't seem like spam at first, such as this one which I received recently:
Hello my new friend!!!
Excuse if I disturb you. You e-mail to me was given by the girl from a
site I wish to learn you better. My name is Olga. What
to say? Really, do not know what can I tell about myself to person who
I even have never seen... But I'll try. To me 32 years. I have a
daughter. her name Alina. To her of 7 years. I like to go to cinema,
to listen to music. I like music. I play on a piano. My friends speak
about me, that I the interesting and cheerful person. I send you the
photo. I hope that I have interested you. I shall wait yours for the
letter. Olga
While I was flattered at first that Olga, having found me through "the girl" from wanted to learn me better, and while an inclusion of a picture, which I did not download fearing it was laced with a virus of some sort (which was the first tip-off that this was not love at first type) was a plus, there was something about her that rubbed me the wrong way. While I thought, "Hey, I like to cinema and music too!"... what turned me off was the daughter factor. While I'm sure Alina is a sweet enough girl, and I love kids, I can barely take care of myself and, Olga, sweetheart, I'm not ready for that sort of committment. While I'm sure I could have helped you with your Greencard needs, I kinda have video games I need to be playing right now. I'll be waiting in line to see Transformers if you need me.

You would think in this era of the iPhone *cough*overhyped*cough* and of Transformers: The Movie (geekgasm!) that spam would be curbed. But really, when you think about it, spam exists outside of email. There's the telemarketers who call just as the fork is being inserted in that piece of steak that's just the right temperature, there's the Mormons (who are from Mars) who knock on people's doors at 8 am, there's the flier whores at UCLA (which I, and many of you, don't have to deal with any longer)...and really it's those real-life spammers that are the toughest to deal with. Spam emails can be unsubscribed to (like that ever works) or simply deleted. Even when I try to humor some of the spam by emailing them back, it has no effect.

Hello Pasha,

Just wanted to let you know I am in the office today and ready to help you with your Ford Mustang request. Please give me a call or reply to this email and I can answer any questions you have.

Calvin Richmond
Internet Director

To which I smugly reply:

Hi Calvin,
Thanks for emailing me but I seriously have no idea what request you're referring to. Is there something wrong with my Mustang that I don't know about? Thanks.

Pasha Bahsoun

To which they assholely reply:

Hi Pasha,

I had a quick question about your request on the Ford Mustang and just wanted to see if it would be a good time to give you a call? Also, do you know if you qualify for any special incentives? Please let me know – I’m in the office now and can respond quickly.


Calvin Richmond
Your Internet Manager

It just goes round and round with no end in sight. I have taken my Mustang there so I assume that they are legitimate, but when Calvin doesn't have the decency to legitimately respond to me regarding my beloved Mustang, I lose all respect for the emailer, spammer or not.

When the notorious askers for money at UCLA come up to me, I typically draw the slick "I'm on my cell phone gesture can't talk right now" or something similar, but when there's no time for such an action, I start talking to them. Sometimes they're amiable and we have a fun conversation for a couple minutes until I shut down their so-called cause before class...or they become hostile.

"Hey son can I have a minute of your time?"
"Uhh...I'm actually going to class right now."
"It won't take you care about homeless people?"
"Look, you can't ask me a question like that and expect me to say no. That's entrapment."
"Do you have a couple dollars to spare for our cause?"
"And where would my dollars go for this cause?"
"Well, here's a flier that can tell you about our organization..."
"I really have to go to class now, I'm sorry."
"If you don't wanna give me nothin just say don't hafta lie."
"I'm not lying! Watch, I'm walking into class....Look!"
"I'm walking into the building now! Look!"

You might wonder where my newly found sass comes from and why I antagonize these people. The old me would have pity on them for having to run around asking selfish college students for money. The new me would rather engage them in conversation to see how long they go before they get frustrated and leave me alone.

This approach seems to work in person, except for the Jesus freaks...they just won't let up. They whip out the Bible and everything. I even tried saying I'm Jewish once. That did not work. It's on the phone that the approach hasn't worked out for me. I always imagine fun exchanges like on Seinfeld:

"Hi! Have you considered changing your long-distance plan?"
"Yes I have actually but I'm about to sit down to dinner...why don't you give me your home number and I'll call you back?"
"Ummm I don't think we're supposed to do that.."
"Why, because you don't want people calling you at home bothering you?"
"Umm I suppose..."
"Well now you know how I feel."

No, it doesn't happen that way. When the kindly people at the UCLA Alumni Association called me at 8pm, when I was leaving a late meeting on campus, half-asleep and dazed, and they ask me to give them money for some convoluted reason involving a so-called class gift, I'm too caught off guard to blow them off. So I humor them and have them explain what wonderful things will happen to me if I give them $250. All my dreams will come true, the chancellor will come to my house, the vice chancellor will give me his wife, I get a job automatically sounds great, Phil. Oh, it's no obligation? Ok fine send it to me. So I pledged $250 so I could hang up the damn phone and drive home. It's no obligation, after all.

Two months later, I open the Daily Bruin to the page listing all the donators to the Class Gift. I skim through it just to see if I knew any of the suckers who donated money....under "Chancellor's Circle," the highest donator level possible, I see the 6th or 7th name down: Pasha Bahsoun. I SO did not give $250 or more to these jackasses. They already extorted enough money out of me. I laugh and throw the paper out. A couple weeks later, the phone calls start. "Our fiscal year is ending and we haven't received your pledge yet." Whatever man, you said no obligation. I feel like I'm being hounded by the mob. What're they gonna do, rescind my diploma? They can't do that....

...can they? I'll keep screening their spammy phonecalls until they finally give up and my pledge is thrown out. My dreams won't come true as expected, but it's ok...they weren't going to anyway.

Spam comes at us at all ends of the spectrum, and it's up to us to figure out how to sort it out into our Junk folder. From Russian mail-order brides to poor children in Bosnia to the Alumni Association, we're surrounded by bullshit. You just have to become cynical enough to outsmart them...but not too cynical...otherwise you'll end up published in a college newspaper with a bill for $250 and a lonely vice chancellor's wife.

3:20 AM


Wednesday, June 20, 2007  
You Can't Spell Opportunity Without Pity
As I sit here, an unemployed graduate of UCLA (with one class left to take in the summer), I am left with the memories of 4 years of occasional torture, occasional pleasure, opportunities gained and opportunities lost. In my years at UCLA, I've had chances to have jobs (that I've been fired from), internships (that I've been underqualified for) and other opportunities which had little or no chance of advancing my career or education for that matter.

I recently found a flier/postcard I'd saved for no apparent reason, other than novelty, from last year entitled: "Life in the sex industry: A real look by people who have been there and how Jesus offers true pleasure, forgiveness and hope." I remember being asked by an enthusiastic Asian fellow offering me a can of Rockstar along with the flier, "You wanna see pornstars speak in Young Hall?!" I thought, in my remedial mind, "Hell yeah I do!" Then I saw the flier and saw that the pornstars were now known as "JC's Girls Girls Girls." I thought I might go just for the experience of seeing pornstars turned nuns speak in a chemistry lecture hall. But I decided I didn't want to drive back to campus that night. So instead I saved the flier. Just as the Girls Girls Girls received an opportunity from Jesus to...stop having sex (?), I rescinded an offer to see these ex-pornstars speak. No big loss. My life carried on.

A couple weeks ago as I was talking to one of my friends in front of the library, I was approached abruptly by an androgynous person (who later turned out to be a female).

"Uh, excuse me, but are you busy this week?"
"Um...what do you mean?"
"I was just looking for a hair model..."
"I work at Vidal Sassoon in Westwood..."
"I need to cut someone's hair...and I need a male hair model.... and I was wondering if you wanted to be my hair model."
" hair? Well...I just had it pretty short so I'm trying to grow it out."
"Oh you're trying to grow it out."
"Yeah I'm trying to grow it out."
"Ok I understand. Thanks."
"Sorry. I'm flattered though?"

At first I thought, "My job worries are over! I can be a model!" But then I thought, "Oh shit...I don't wanna be a model." Then, "Who is this creature asking me at random to cut my hair? I like my hair....Is there even a Vidal Sassoon in Westwood?" Lost opportunity to be a hair model. Gained opportunity to have an awkward exchange with an interesting character.

As I've been trying to find a job of some sort for next year, I've gone from presenting myself as a qualified individual in the field of absolute desperation. I've gone from being a First Class European Escort to a Homeless Brazilian Leper turning tricks under the New Jersey Turnpike (what?). I'm used to telling my boring story of, "Oh I'm taking a year off to apply to graduate school and planning on researching with a professor in the psychology department to gain research experience and better preparation for graduate school blah blah blah." I've found that now that I'm going for the pity approach, I'm getting more offers for research jobs than I did when I was confident and boastful. After dropping off my lab report during finals week, one of the TAs asked me "what I was doing next." After telling him my usual story without any adjectives or complete sentences, he offered me a job to work in his electrophysiology lab attaching electrodes to people and recording...something. I met with a professor right after using the same approach and he offered me a job operating on rats and attaching electrodes (psychologists love electrodes) in their brains for a study on anorexia (Calista Flockrat). When I finally begin applying for graduate school, I've decided that the best approach was not to say how much experience I've gained or what great grades I've earned (HA) but to discuss my hardships and follies. Pity is something that seems to work in persuading people. Sure it's a form of manipulation but it's a win-win situation. The employer or recruiter fills their job position with a handsome young buck and the employee gets a job.

It just goes to show that when you go looking for opportunities, they never appear. You just have to be prepared to wait for opportunities to fall in your lap. The sad puppy dog face does wonders on job recruiters, as well as any family or health problems you've been having. They just eat it up. I mean how could my advice not prove to be right. Look at how many jobs I've not been fired from and how many paid gigs I've had....

On second thought, there probably isn't a key to finding employment. It's more of a right place, right time kind of thing. Or maybe it's a what's good for the goose, is good for the gander kind of thing. In any case, if anyone is looking for an enthusiastic, recent graduate of UCLA to be someone's work monkey for anything psychology related, he is well experienced in working for no pay, watching TV, marching, procrastinating then working really hard at the last minute and Microsoft Excel.

5:21 AM


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