16 November, 2010

My friend, Babor

Living in this communication-saturated world, unsolicited commercial email (UCE or "spam") is pretty much inevitable. It no longer shocks me when I receive emails from one "Kesha Willow" advertising the sale of "Incredib1e penislong pill" or emails from a person who is named "me" with the subject line "mr. emflynn, get super prices." Why would I address myself with a formal title in my own email, and an incorrect one at that? That's just ridiculous, Mr. Spammer.

The majority of this spam is simple, penis-enhancing messages or codeine offers (discounted at 99 percent!) that don't humanize the sender in any way. I can deal with these types of emails. (And by me, I mean google's spam folder, which neatly disposes of nearly all of the spam within 30 days. Simple, efficient, hands-off. Spam me all day long, spammers! I gots my google team on it.)

But then my facebook messages were infiltrated, and it touched me in a way I didn't fully anticipate.

It was October 2nd, 2010. A Saturday. I received a private message from one "Babor" with the simple subject line, "business letter from Babor, Retired principal officer, Grameen Bank." Here is what Babor told me.

"To: Emily

From: Md. Babor Ali
Managing Director
House-177, Road-10, Block-F,
Bashundhara Residential Area,
Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Email: baborali@gmail.com,
Phone: 01190298727

Dear Emily,

How are you? This is Md. Babor Ali I was your coordinator during your internship at Grameen Bank, in Bangladesh. I got retirement on August, 08, 2010. I start garments business. I am exporting garments from Bangladesh to USA, Europe, Canada, Australia and Africa. As you were my intern please help me to find a buyer from your country or you could start business. It’s a profitable business.
I am providing my business profile bellow.
Profile of our Organization

House-177, Road-10, Block-F,
Bashundhara Residential Area,
Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Email: baborali@gmail.com,
Phone: 01190298727"

"Wow," I thought to myself. "That is a lot of contact information. Seems legit..." I mulled it over for a second. Then I called my sister.

"Did I ever have an internship at Grameen Bank?"
"What? What are you talking about?"
"Oh, nothing. Just curious... have you ever heard me mention the name Babor Ali?"

The fact that this guy had actually found me on facebook is impressive enough. All those privacy settings I set up long ago have to mean something, right? (...right?) Maybe I should be one of the first investors in his budding garments business. Whenever you are on the cusp of the opportunity of a lifetime and yet, at the end of the day, ultimately decide against it, there is always that nagging question: what if? What... if?

What if I invested some of my non-existent money in an out-of-the-blue solicitation from an internship that I never held in a country I've never been to by a man I've never heard of? What if I legitimately became his intern, and helped him build a, as he put it, "business profile," a profile that has more substance than just the name of his "business" with its address? This could be the opportunity of a lifetime. All thanks to Babor!

But, as it usually goes with all things on facebook, I got distracted. I spent an embarrassing amount of time sifting through other people's facebook photos. Sometime later, I signed off. I went about my life.

Because the power of the facebook is stronger than us mere mortals can resist, later that night I signed back on. I checked out the "top news" section that always brims with the daily inanities from friends and acquaintances both close and... not so close. While scoping about, I noticed something. It was a message, a new message for me! What could it possibly say?

"Emily this is Md. Babor Ali. I was doing my job at the Nobel winner organization Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. On August 08, 2010 I got retirement and start garments business. Here in Bangladesh people are poor. For that a lot of man power is cheap here. People established garments factory and sending their product to USA, Europe, Canada, Australia and Africa.
After getting retirement I started this business here and collecting product from factory and sending to those countries. Above mentioned organization I established and doing well. Now I need your help. I have a lot of interns of the globe, they could start importing garment product that produced by the hand touch of the poor people. So now my new initiative is also with the poor people.
• To eradicate poverty,
• To create employment opportunity.
• To meet the appropriate expectations of clients.
• To add substantial contribution into the national exchequer.

• Knit Fabric: Single Jersey, Heavy Jersey, Pique, Lacoste, Interlock, Eight lock design, Rib, Pleated design, Rib, French terry, Fleece, Collar and cuff of Cotton, Viscose, Modal, Cotton viscose, Viloft, Polyester, Cotton Polyester, CVC, Synthetic, fiber & micro fiber, x-static, and also made of polyamide, tactel, Coolmax, Suplex etc. by making order to renewable garments factory.
• Garments: T-shirt, Polo shirts, Sweat-shirt, Golf-shirt, Tank tops, Kids wear, Jogging suits, Runners pant, Skirolly, Functional wear, Fashion dress, Under garments, Sports wear etc. by making order to renewable garments factory.
• Garments: long sleeves, shorts sleeves, Denim long pants, Kargo short pant for mens, ladies, boys, girls, kids by making order to renewable garments factory.

I am looking forward to hearing from you soon.
Thank you once again.
Best Regards,


How, in the name of all that is good and holy, could I attempt to deny Md. Babor Ali my assistance with his new initiative, "the poor people?" Only a truly selfish person would deny importing such "garment product" made by the "hand touch of the poor people" to the United States. Isn't that what our grand country is based upon? But yet, if his cause was so right, why did it all suddenly feel so wrong?

This new email brought forth too many questions. What was a "national exchequer?" Why would he assume that I would know what a "Viloft" or a"Skirolly" was? Why did he spell the word cargo with a "k?"

The more I read, the more I started to notice other things. Why didn't his verb tenses match throughout the sentence? Why didn't he mention my alleged internship at the Grameen Bank anymore?

"Babooooor!" I shouted, shaking my fist at the heavens above. "Why must you do these things to me!?" 

I did not respond to his request. And ever since, my facebook messages have been eerily absent of one Md. Babor Ali from Grameen Bank. Did I mean nothing to him? Did he take me for a fool? Since it's notoriously difficult to get any direct answers from Facebook, I may never be able to answer these questions for myself. I suppose I could try to contact him directly. I mean, I do have all his contact information. I'm just not sure I am ready to trust again...

So if you're interested in investing in a "profitable garments business," let me know. I know a guy.

14 November, 2010

The Jaded Writer

Though I haven't been doing a lot of actual writing lately, I've been thinking a lot about writing, and that has to count for something. As a soccer coach once informed me, the mental game is 90 percent of the whole thing. So, by the standard of sports clichés, I'm practically all the way there. The tangible evidence of this writing habit of mine comes in the form of one half-written coming-of-age novel, one fleshed out sketch of a dystopian end-of-the-world type novel, and one nearly complete but as-of-yet unedited satirical memoir. There are also the thousands of scraps of paper that are currently falling out from my desk drawers into my lap. They contain scribbled turns of phrases in blue and black (and sometimes pink!) ink that I wrote on bits of newspaper and backs of programs as a reminder of some intriguing story idea or polysyllabic word that I thought sounded fancy. With all this inspiration literally spilling out around me, what more could a fledgling writer possibly need in order to produce that dream of the next great American novel?

The answer, my friends, is whiskey. As a housewarming gift, my friend Tyler bought a bottle of Johhnie Walker Red. Being more of a connoisseur of the Trader Joe's 2010 Charles Shaw variety, I recognized that I may not encounter such a thing anytime again in my near future. So, upon receiving the gift, I promptly hid it from the other house guests in a tall, out-of-reach cupboard behind a container of glow sticks and some unused plastic plates. While I may not have earned the "shares well with others" sticker that day, I had big plans for that Johnnie Red, things far grander than simply being used as shots before the customary Saturday night excursion to the local chinese food restaurant slash top-40 dance club.

For the record, I neither condone nor condemn drinking. Alcohol, when used responsibly, can be a fun, recreational, and (let me emphasize) social undertaking, especially when it comes in the form of five colorful straws inside a dragon-painted scorpion bowl at the aforementioned "restaurant." But with this bottle of Mr. Walker, I wanted it to be different. More meaningful. Less Bieber lyrics, more Brontë prose. Like many other great writers before me, I decided that whiskey was going to help get me there.

In college, my friend Lori convinced me that whiskey and water was the drink of choice of college students, hardened alcoholics, and fledgling writers alike.

"The water hydrates you, and you still get drunk," she told me. Her logic was sound. My hangover-free Sunday mornings were pleasant. Everyone won.

Then there's Faulkner, who was quoted as saying, "the tools I need for my work are paper, tobacco, food, and a little whiskey." What kind of young writer goes against nobel-prize winning American novel-writing William Faulkner? I may be young, but I'm not stupid. 

But, you might ask yourself, aren't you just romanticizing hard alcohol because you are a 23-year old with too many hopes and dreams and not enough real world practicality to know that you shouldn't be drinking alcohol by yourself on some random Tuesday night? To which I would reply: absolutely. Sure, whiskey is not always unicorns and rainbows, but everyone deludes themselves in some form or other. It's like when teenage girls layer on dark eyeliner to make themselves feel like they look older, or when one of my ex-boyfriends used to put on dress shirts when he had to write a final paper. Everyone subscribes to different ways of thinking that help them to transform who they are into who they want to be. For me, a glass of whiskey conjures up the vision of hunkering down over a pad of paper on a snowy wintery night, a drink on the table in front of me, a fireplace at my back, and the entire night free to pretend to be a hardened, wizened, jaded writer exploring the world through words and letting my inner muse wander where she may. Being presented with a bottle of whiskey moved these visions from the back of my mind to my kitchen table.

So thank you, Tyler, for enabling and abetting my writing habit through whiskey. One day, you just may have a book dedication aimed at you in the form of cryptic inside jokes. I'll just have to drink more whiskey to become clever enough to think of something first. And before that, actually finish a novel. But first things first.

09 November, 2010

Everyone's an (Anonymous) Critic

Yesterday will forever go down in history as the day that this blog received its first negative anonymous comment. Oh sure, you might say, I've been fortunate to fly relatively under the radar and to have all of my fantastically hilarious anecdotes and genuine insights be hidden from popular society on some obscure pun-inspired blog nestled deep inside the google blogosphere. It might even be considered surprisingly lucky, astonishing really, if one were to compare the comments that have appeared on this very blog against a standard Youtube-style comment riddled with amusing mis-spellings and racist undertunes. The fact that I have written for this blog (relatively) regularly for over a year and have survived with only a 151:1 nice-to-mean comment ratio is nothing to shake a stick at. In a way, anonymous comments legitimize this blog. Someone, somewhere, cares enough to post! And it's not my mom! (Sorry, mom. I love your comments.)

The original post, a tongue-in-cheek analysis of the lyrics to Taylor Swift's "Love Story," was intended to be funny (or at least mildly amusing). Even if (especially if?) the comment was anonymous, that first internet betrayal still stings. As Sheryl Crow so wisely croons, "the first cut is the deepest."

However, holding myself to be the type of person that strives for justice above all else, I thought to myself, "Hey, Em. Let's get a little crazy up in here. What if this anonymous commentator was right. Why don't I step back and re-assess my role in the inundated drivel that is the world wide web? What would be the harm in fact-checking my lyrics analysis with a specific Act and Scene from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet that was provided by the anonymous commenter, an Act and Scene which might reveal my wrongful interpretation of Taylor Swift's pop-country classic?"

And so, dear reader, I did just that. Thanks to the marvel of the modern age, SparkNotes can give all the literary answers that a girl with a blog could ever possibly need (or want). Now, instead of drawing upon my less-than-kodak memory from when I read that most notable of Shakespeare's plays way back in junior high, all can be explained to me in clear, concise, bullet-point form. Thanks, Sparknotes!

Before we get to the comment, let us first review that original offending post that triggered an anonymous single-entity backlash. In the analysis, the only resources used were the lyrics to the aforementioned pop song, "Love Story." At more than one point in my analysis, I implied that Taylor Swift's literary allusions were perhaps ever the slightest bit off the mark from the literary references' more commonly understood meaning. To save you, fellow reader, the time, here were my main points. (I am copying what I said in the original blog post, because a) I had it right the first time and b) I am lazy.)

Taylor Swift lyrics, Love Story:

And I said, "Romeo, take me somewhere we can be alone./ I'll be waiting, all that's left to do is run.
You be the prince, and I'll be the princess,/ It's a love story, baby, just say, 'yes'."

The commentary that was originally posted alongside the lyrics:

"If you follow Shakespeare's logic, unrealistic expectations will only end in double suicide. Take heed, young Taylor. Also important, princes and princesses are an entirely different metaphor from Romeo and Juliet. Most princes and princesses had arranged marriages that were intended to unite kingdoms and promote royal agendas. Yes, now there's a love story to base your life around."

Taylor Swift lyrics, Love Story:

'Cause you were Romeo, I was a scarlet letter,
And my daddy said, "Stay away from Juliet."/ But you were everything to me,
Begging you, "Please don't go". 

The commentary that appeared alongside the lyrics:

"I may not have been the happiest with the Romeo and Juliet metaphor, but those emotions feel like puppy love compared to how I feel about the Scarlett Letter reference. Starcrossed lovers- fine. Ok. You're a teenage girl. But has the girl, or any person in her family or friend circle, even her staff for that matter, ever read the Scarlett Letter?

Let's review: the
Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Protagonist Hester Prynne committed adultery and then carried the resulting child while being marred by an outcast reputation and trying to repent for her sins. Hawthorne sure enjoyed himself a good love story.

It's not just the fact that the whole Scarlett Letter thing was just a completely ill-used metaphor, it is the idea that it written explicitly to be an interchangeable allusion with the Romeo and Juliet and prince/princesses lyrics. My IQ, it rolls along the floor, slowly, away from me.

Now, for your viewing pleasure, here is the anonymous comment in full.

"You are entirely wrong romeo and juliet would have had arranged marriages hence paris and capulets Act 3 Scene 5 outrage of Juliet not following this. shut up"

Let us, as scholars, attempt to dissect it. For the sake of argument, let's assume that the words "not following this" was intended to be a separate statement from the "arranged marriages" critique. Here, I am forced to dock one point from Anonymous Commenter (AC) for their complete disregard of conventional sentence structure and possessive forms. (Even if they did use the word "hence.") However, I cannot deny AC's point that Romeo and Juliet, though not princes and princesses as the Swift song hints, would have had arranged marriages. So one point awarded back to them. If you're following, AC has a total sum of love. (Deliberate double entendre tennis/"Love Story" pun. Carry on.)

Let us go to the action of Act 3 Scene 5 that AC references as the crux of both their argument and my wrongful interpretation. Here's 11 pages of Shakespeare condense into one riveting paragraph:

Romeo and Juliet wake up the day they got secretly married and after Romeo kills Juliet's cousin, Tybalt (even though she didn't know that. Marriage dealbreaker.) Juliet wants Romeo to stay. Then Romeo wants to stay, but Juliet wants him to go. Romeo leaves so the Capulets won't kill him. Juliet is sad. Juliet's mom comes in and breaks the news that her dad arranged a marriage between Juliet and Paris later that day. Juliet says no, they fight, and Juliet weeps a lot. The Nurse tells Juliet that Paris is better than Romeo. Juliet gets mad. She tells the Nurse that she's going to Friar Lawrence's to repent for her sins, but as we later find out (SPOILER ALERT) Juliet actually goes there to commit suicide because she thinks her life with Romeo is over. End scene.


While I do agree that Juliet's dad asked her to stay away from Juliet, as Taylor Swift did sweetly sing about, I still fail to see the deeper connection to Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter. Forbidden love, perhaps? Still, the details of both relationships seems like apples and oranges to me. And how does it fit into the the prince and princesses allusion? The fact remains that just because they sound relatively romantic when you sing about them and your target audience doesn't really know what they mean, it doesn't mean the lyrics actually make sense. So if an anonymous commenter on some unknown blog argues that a certain lyrical analysis doesn't make sense, but offers an argument that in itself does not make sense, does that mean I win?

Of course it does! It's my blog. I hope we all learned something today, kids. I know I sure did.
And that lesson is that SparkNotes has amazing "study break articles" like PDA: When Is It Ok? and The Secret Crush Test. Screw Shakespeare and Swift, I'll be here for hours.