You guys have a lot to bitch about. Our inaugural Invasive Species issue seems to have, um, grown out of control. The pretense was simple: We invited our readers and contributing writers to submit anonymous rants about all the unavoidable annoyances they encounter. And now our inbox is overflowing with vitriol.
The feds define "invasive species" as anything non-native to the ecosystem that causes economic, environmental, or human harm. We just opened the definition to cultural considerations, took a couple liberties, and let our readers and writers flail away. So, enjoy this little bit of nastiness. And remember: Go easy on the messenger. The majority of the following entries were written by our readers.
--- Chad Oliveiri
Sweetheart, I don't want to see your ass. Or your thong. I sure as hell don't want to see that tattoo. Do you have to walk like a wooden puppet to keep your trunk from spilling out your stretch-extra-lows? Do you need a tourniquet just to keep your pants from popping open? Yeah, I thought so. I shed a tear for all the poor, teenaged lovelies who will sacrifice the nerve endings in their legs because someone in charge of the young miss department told them they'd look better walking the mall with all their curves squeezed out the top of a denim paper-towel tube. It's an assault on the female form.
To my soon-to-be ex:
Take your smothering, obsessive, psychotic love and shove it in your smelly magnetic slippers. Yeah, those slippers that have the magnetic do-hickey in them that you can only hope will save you from crippling arthritis, when in fact they gave you that nasty toenail fungus. Each time you rolled over in bed to rub those nasty feet on me I had the fantasy of grabbing you, getting you into a head lock, and pile-driving your big, bald dome into a glass coffee table. Then spraying you over and over with pepper spray. It's over pal and I don't care if you carve my name into your arm with a razor blade or threaten to kill yourself with a bottle of Midol and a pack of NyQuil. Because I have met someone hotter and more well-endowed than you. Yeah, that's right chump. I'm stepping off the three-stroke train and riding the jumbo jet!
Some advice for all you would-be garage-sale-runners, by-owner-house-sellers, newsletter writers, and small-business starter-uppers: Close the clip art library and step away from the PowerPoint. We live in a city with a glut of talented graphic designers. Press $50 in one of their palms and see if they can at least confine your flyer/sign/website/newsletter to three different fonts. It is a lie that you can make anything look good with greeting-card software. Trust me: I have no idea what you are selling because I'm too busy having a seizure. In this world of do it yourself, our eyes are being bombarded with Wingdings and little men in helmets digging beneath "under construction" signs.
Britney and Kevin
Dear newlyweds: I finally had the opportunity to set aside a day and watch a Chaotic marathon. The way you two talk about love and sex while smacking gum is inspiring. Britney: I'm glad you found Kevin to be your pimp. Kevin: I'm glad you're pimping Britney as a career. But, mostly, I love the way you two have captured your relationship to digital video. White trash hasn't been this lovingly rendered since Harmony Korine's Gummo.
One must start sentences with capital letters. It's in the books. It's indisputable. Try starting a sentence in Microsoft Word without a capital and see what happens. It automatically capitalizes it for you, even if you want to keep it lowercase. Try typing in any e.e. cummings poem. A bevy of glaring green and red squiggles will sneer at you from the page. Spell-check, AutoCorrect, and automatic grammar revisions are standard issue tools with word processors like Microsoft Word. But when corrections are made automatically, how does one actually learn to write?
Someone threw rocks through five windows of my house on different days, and my home was burglarized. I can't say who is responsible. I do know that I have had confrontations with a street-corner drug dealer when his dealings get too close to me or my property. Perhaps the vandalism and burglary are his way of telling me to back off. He would have recruited a teenager to do his dirty work. Only an agile youngster could have climbed through my small kitchen window to enter my house. Judging by the evidence, the intruder could be someone I know. The most disturbing irony is that a young man whom I thought I could count on may be an accomplice to this violence. And I will never know for sure.
I don't have anything against Christians. I just don't want to be caught dead listening to their "pop" or "rock" music. And have you noticed how it sucks you in? You're driving along, scanning on the radio, you find something that's OK, you're pretty sure you've heard it before, you're humming along, and then BLAM! --- all of a sudden you've got "He is King," or "I lift my heart to you, Lord, yeah!" blasting from your radio. What the hell? And sometimes there are whole rock groups that turn out to be Christian. They're all over the regular radio, they even make videos. And then you see an interview and they're thanking God for the sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Am I the only one who didn't see that thing with Creed coming?
Dogs making a racket at midnight. Dogs snarling with impotent, irrational rage. Dogs drooling and exhaling their coprophiliac breath on strangers. Dogs defending their imaginary turf with claw and fang. Dogs are loathsome precisely because they resemble human beings. They certainly serve no useful purpose. They leave their stinking filth all over the place. They move around in unruly packs. They sniff each others' butts. They have embarrassing names (though not as embarrassing as Madison or Tyler). And loud, obnoxious noises issue continually from their mouths.
The name sounds vaguely Asian, but it's of German descent (having been Anglicized from Jüngling) and belongs to the oldest brewery in the United States. So why have I never heard of this now-ubiquitous brand of beer before last year, when Yuengling trucks started rolling through town and neon signs trumpeting the lager sprang up in bars? I'm not saying Yuengling is vile or unworthy of its newfound glory. But beer drinkers are behaving like Mom packed a Thermos full of it in their Hong Kong Phooey lunchbox on the first day of kindergarten and they've been mainlining it since. If I were ever looking to exert mind control over an entire country, I'd start with their self-medication.
Who says soccer has to be played to jock rock? There's no disputing the Rhinos' popularity, but we're willing to bet people aren't showing up at Frontier Field to hear the irritating club tracks and blaring announcements pumping through the PA during play. Former City Newspaper contributor Jon Popick certainly isn't a fan. And he's taken his obsession with Rhinos noise to hilarious heights, attending each home game with a decibel meter and charting the noise levels on meticulous graphs he's posted on www.sick-boy.com. Better tone it down, Rhinos. Or else Sickie's gonna get angry.
Up in the club
If I were an alien, or living somewhere in a small European town, and all I knew of American culture was what I saw on MTV 2, I would think that behind every door (outside of which is parked some enormous white SUV with farcically large rims) was just a cornucopia of exploding Crys bottles, dry ice, white leather couches, and women in bikinis gyrating on anything they can get their thighs around. Has anyone ever been in a club that actually looks like that? What happened to the hip-hop street scene, with the graffiti, break-dancing, boom boxes on shoulders, big clock necklaces and cool hats, and rappers crouching down into the camera? Ah, yesterday.
Cows of the road
When a car's driver believes it is okay to pass you while IN THE SAME LANE, they are too rude to own a license. I hope the blonde with the Dorothy Hamel haircut in the white car on 104 east going 80 mph learns how to get her kicks without scaring others half to death. A simple drive to Webster should not include being terrorized by selfish cows.
Words, like organisms, grow and change. They have their own natural habitats. And sometimes, they're imported to places they don't belong to serve as verbal ornamentation. This is about nouns that have been dragged across the part-of-speech barrier and forced to do duty as verbs, a practice known as verbing. As Calvin (of Calvin & Hobbes) so succinctly stated: "Verbing weirds language." I'm not sure where the blame for this phenomenon lies, but my money is on the jargon sector of the word economy. Take computer geeks: Almost nobody now remembers that before they arrived, "access" was something you gained, not something you did. But this is no laughing matter. Consider this cautionary tale attributed to one Peter Ellis, a verbicide survivor: "First they came for the verbs, and I said nothing because verbing weirds language. Then they arrival for the nouns, and I speech nothing because I no verbs."
If an M-1 tank took thalidomide and steroids, mated with a Lego set, and then gave birth on the Discovery Channel, the result would be the Hummer. For all the obvious reasons, Hummers are idiotic to the Nth degree. But good gas mileage, aesthetics, and common courtesy to other drivers don't make any difference to folks who are willing to drop tens of thousands on a hulking loutwagon. Drivers of these braindead behemoths could save a lot of money if they just bought a smaller car and hung signs around their necks that said "Yes, my penis is tiny. And no it doesn't work very well any more."
Cell phone cameras
In a word: Terrifying. It's gotten to the point where it's prudent to assume that whatever you do can be photographed at any time and sent to any place. I've never been the paranoid type, but I've witnessed enough people whipping out these tiny public nuisances that I am finally growing concerned over the presence of Big Brother... or at least Nosy Little Sister. Granted, cell phone cameras have their place (documenting auto accidents, etc.), but I have enough to worry about without wondering whether there's lip gloss all over my face or if my parents will somehow see what I'm up to. Mardi Gras beads aren't exactly free, you know.
It is flatly impossible these days to go a whole day in the company of other humans and not see four crooked fingers poised in midair. Usually they spring up when the speaker is using a cliché, cutesy slang, or is too brainless to understand how irony works. Often they're accompanied by a dim-witted self-satisfied grin. Always, they signal the fact that the speaker doesn't know how or when to use real quotation marks.
In response to your request for readers to identify and articulate feelings of invasion. I would like to submit my current top four:
The US has been invaded by an extremely savvy and corrupt reigning government. The Bush Administration has an arsenal of psychological weapons at its disposal that it deploys to keep enough of its citizens frightened into an infantile desire to have a father figure promise to keep us safe if we let him smoke people in the Middle East.
I feel invaded by the ever-present pressure to be "patriotic" as defined by the Bush Administration and a large segment of our population. I feel my right to have a dissenting opinion about the war and about our government in general is threatened.
I feel invaded by an army of American flags!
I feel our schools are being invaded by the military. And our children, especially those whose money is tight or grades are low, are being carted off to feed the war machine like herds of cattle.
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to vent.
Everywhere you look, something is smart. We kill civilians with smartbombs, shop for squeaky chew-toys at PETsMART, cover our bounced checks with SmartPay, and dispose of our natural wastes with SmartFlush. This is particularly annoying at a time when you can't go to a bookstore or library without seeing some work aimed at Dummies. Buddhism for Dummies, Rock and Roll for Dummies, Bartending for Dummies. All that they haven't covered with these witless little tomes is brain surgery for Dummies. So humans get dumb and technology gets smart. Get the message?
I wish I could own numerous "classic" cars, park them in my yard, and use their spare parts as flower pots. Oh, and I wish I could blast my TV and stereo while the cops stop by for their weekly visit because my boyfriend, who happens to be a drug dealer on parole, decides to threaten all the neighbors and their kids. But what I want most is for my morals to be passed on to my children so that they, too, will terrorize whole neighborhoods.
Fireworks are the pesto of the new millennium. Just as the miraculous blending of garlic, basil, cheese, and oil triggered a culinary obsession in the '80s that quickly lost its appeal, advances in pyrotechnology have put fireworks on the plate of every professional sporting event, town festival, and Little League opening day. I don't even care that hearing loss due to fireworks is on the rise or that frightened dogs run away during fireworks displays. As with hotel cable porn, it's just too much of a good thing. Improvements in electronic timing and fusing mean fireworks can be synchronized with music and make rudimentary shapes in the sky. Smiley faces. Hearts. Pyrotechnic experts are now working on ways to form letters. Nightly advertisements spelled out in fireworks can't be far behind.
I think we're all in favor of creating hometown jobs, and I am usually pleased to see buildings erected in which businesses can flourish. What I can't abide, however, is waste and a shocking lack of foresight. It seems lately that drugstores rather than dandelions have been infesting our vacant lots. But a brand-new Eckerd on Stone Road just closed after being open a mere couple of years, and there's a recently constructed Rite Aid on Empire Boulevard that is no more. I assume that the individuals making the decisions about the need for these services did some sort of study regarding viability, and I would also assume those people have been replaced by someone more qualified.
Concert ticket rip-offs
I hate to sound like Grandpa Simpson, but in my day, you plunked down your $15 (including service charges) and then walked uphill 30 miles through the snow, barefoot, so you could see Ozzy Osbourne and Metallica (with Cliff Burton!) at the War Memorial. Perhaps production costs have gone up, or maybe child support and alimony expenses are skyrocketing, but the Rolling Stones apparently think it's acceptable to charge up to $350 per ticket for their upcoming show in Albany. Concertgoers really shouldn't have to decide between buying a major appliance or watching Mick's 90-year-old bones creak around on stage.
I don't want a free pen, a "boonie hat," or a sports watch. Is that all a foreigner's life is worth to you brass? A sports watch? Is that what my life is worth to you? An Army T-shirt? You think I'm impressed with shiny buttons, firm hats, and a crisp salute? I look at you like I look at a parking-meter policeman. There is a human under there somewhere. I know it. I'm sorry they put you up to this, but you are the face of a racist, impersonal killing machine for the rich, and I despise your presence in my school. Invaded? That only happens once. I want to end the occupation.
They're everywhere! I see them at the mall, at street festivals, and at parades. They've set up headquarters on Main Street, and (gasp!) they even invade our schools on a regular basis. They spend millions of our tax dollars to advertise on TV. They lie! They make false promises to lure our children into their ranks! Once they've ensnared them, they send them on dangerous missions without adequate protection and expose them to horrific chemicals like depleted uranium. Our kids' chances of getting killed while doing their bidding are increasing every day. Yes, folks, it's the invasion of the military recruiters! Let's get them out of our schools and send them packing before they pack our kids in body bags.
First it was all about keeping your toddlers in the stroller long past the appropriate age. Seeing Little Lord Fauntleroy gaze imperiously at you from a stroller that could barely contain him, a glazed look of privilege on his face, was scary. Now children on leashes are back, the lethal kinks evidently having been worked out (oh well). So why does everyone get upset when I try to pet them? Hey, it's on a leash --- it's no longer human. Wasn't my idea.
Enough with the ribbons already! It was bad enough to see the AIDS Awareness red ribbons pasteurized into pink, purple, and yellow "awareness," but the magnetic ribbons with patriotic sayings like God Bless America slapped on the trunks of cars are impossible to escape. It's more than a little disturbing to see war merchandized like a movie. But my personal favorites are the Escalades and Hummers with ribbons that say "We Support Our Troops."
Of course there's gonna be nudity in a locker room. A man needs a place to let it all hang out. But keep in mind that with naked comes a need for additional personal space. Don't crowd your fellow naked man. Unless the shower room is packed, don't pick the shower next to the lone person in there and splash on him. Singing's OK, just leave some room. When toweling off by the mounted hairdryers, please don't stand on your tippy-toes and spread your ass cheeks to dry your crack. Nobody wants to see that. And please, no hacking lung butter into the sink. Swallow it like the rest of us, you gross slob you.
Cars and bikes
To drivers, bicycles are troublesome road hazards. Vice-versa for cyclists. It's only fair, then, that both should qualify as invasive species. (Just ask pedestrians!) An uneasy relationship anywhere, Rochester's bike-car situation is particularly bad due to the absence of bike lanes and the pervasiveness of that slothful suburban mindset that says "drive" no matter the distance. Local motorists seem genuinely mystified by how to react to bikes in the road, so we rule (grudgingly) in favor of cyclists. Drivers need to LOOK BOTH WAYS before making right turns, but cyclists can't have it both ways. If you claim the rights of vehicle and pedestrian, that only spells trouble.
Cross the city line into Brighton or Penfield and you'll find dozens of lawn signs in support of Rochester's mayoral candidates. Are they thinking regionally and wanting a strong city as the hub as the greater community? Or are these "burbanites by choice" telling us city folk how to vote? If so, it feels a bit patronizing. I'm confused.
Visit Alexander Street on any weekend night and you'll get to watch people drink themselves into a regressive state where they act like brain-damaged degenerate apes. (No offense to real apes.) And the mating rituals --- a grotesque parade of overly tanned, scantily-clad flesh and cheap desperation --- would've made Darwin proud.
Home design TV
The obsession with home design shows has given way to the erroneous deduction that anyone can design, everyone has good taste, and our personal space (those of us who are lucky enough to have one) could always use a little updating.
US foreign policy stinks. Using communism --- and now terrorism --- as an excuse, our government has done endless evil globally in our name, supporting tyrannical governments and obstructing benign governments unwilling to kiss up to corporate interests. The US has helped overthrow legitimate elected governments in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Chile. We have supported and abetted tyranny in El Salvador. State Departmentese says that this is "our backyard." Our backyard? To those who live there --- including the thousands of displaced, tortured, and disappeared --- it is home. And we have no business disrupting entire populations. I wonder what would happen to patriotic sentiment in this country if our citizenry was forced from its undeserved pillar of entitlement and became aware of the reality of US hegemony.
Try walking 10 blocks in any Rochester neighborhood without encountering an empty lot. It almost can't be done. And that's a shame, because in spots Rochester teases at being a fine walking city. In poor neighborhoods, though, it's more than a cosmetic matter. The combination of racist intent and bureaucratic ineptitude make blight nothing short of a crime against humanity.
Those extra cheery, parenthetically based smiley faces piss me right off. They remind me of those girls in high school who dotted their i's with hearts. They can all go to hell right along with folks who bang out those cyber-hackneyed abbreviations like "LOL" or "LMAO" in their e-mails. Not sure where this animosity comes from, lol, it just smacks of airheaded TGIF-ness... : )
Lake Ontario pollution
Rochester's spectacular sunsets are often attributed to pollution, but we pay for them in unseen ways. Pollution's effects on Lake Ontario can not be adequately summarized, but, to take one example, the mid-20th century eradication of Great Lakes trout was once attributed to two invasive species: sea lampreys and humans. It doesn't take a biologist to guess which organism did more damage.
You would think cover bands would be an invasive species in themselves, but in reality it's their fans. Musicians are just squirrels looking for a nut, and the demand for regurgitated Top 40 is unfortunately quite high. As long as someone wants to hear Journey or Nickelback or No Doubt or Stone Temple Pilots instead of something original, musicians will be there to rehash the homogenized status quo. Hell, it beats playing weddings. "Freebird!"
A few weeks ago I got the latest in rubber jewelry: the electric green Organ Donation Awareness bracelet. It honestly was my first bracelet; I wanted to get the yellow Livestrong bracelet, but yellow doesn't go with anything I own. I also thought about a red Red Cross bracelet that means blood donation or whatever, but those were over as soon as there was a blood drive at school --- everyone got one, and I was SO not going under the needle for something so passé. So I was totally stoked when I got the little green bracelet in the mail (all I had to do was sign this organ donor thing and forge my mom's signature). Only problem is the first day I wore it, one of those kids with every color had one --- you know, the kind of kid that backs lupus (purple), breast cancer (pink), prostate cancer (light blue), pancreatic cancer (also purple) and skin cancer (black, gross right?). I mean seriously, dude, pick a disease. You can't have all of them.
I'd just taken my dinner out of the microwave and set it down to get a cup for something to drink when a cockroach skittered across the counter. "Damn it to Hell!" I yelled, even though there wasn't anyone else around to hear. Ever since that slob downstairs moved in, I've had more bugs than a freakin' spy convention.
Bandwagonning isn't uncommon in Rochester. Kobe jerseys proliferated during the Lakers' recent three-peat. And during the '80s and '90s, masses of Rochesterians professed to love the Dolphins just because it was cool to be a rebel in Bills territory. But they weren't rebels. They were poseurs. Jumping on the bandwagon --- any bandwagon --- might be good for apparel companies, but it's insulting to true sports fans.
Rochester's invasive species: a naturalist's guide
The Yellow-Bellied Carper: A common pest which dwells in isolated rural areas but complains in a loud, distinctive, high-pitched whine about the city of Rochester --- its schools, parking, policing, taxes, housing, waste disposal, residents, etc. Rarely nests in urban environments, though sometimes circles city limits at speed, reluctant to alight lest some dangerous person or object appear. Despite complaints, always supports the status quo in terms of politics, civic leadership, beliefs.
The Pompous Owl: Near cousin of the Carper, who, not content with his relative's mere whining, helpfully hoots out a plethora of solutions to what he perceives as the problems of the city --- schools, parking, policing, taxes, housing, waste disposal, residents, etc. Generously leaves his droppings, redolent with gratuitous advice, in numerous letters to the editor and op-ed pieces in various publications, adding substantially to environmental and intellectual pollution. Like his cousin, also invariably supports the status quo.
The Scuttling Cockroach: This young and prolific species usually inhabits comfortable housing far beyond the ghettos, but frequently makes forays, in company with his mates, into some dangerous areas in order to obtain fruit unavailable if not forbidden in its own locale. In the pursuit of gratification in the form of banned substances, often encounters a peculiar form of insecticide, from police presence, unscrupulous purveyors, even local citizenry. A smug risk taker, the Scuttling Cockroach never seems to die out entirely, but returns again and again to the same feeding grounds.
The Loud, Proud Liberal: Castigates the city and its citizens for neglecting or mistreating minorities, women, the indigent, the homeless, etc. Nests in large, secluded housing in restricted neighborhoods, where minorities, the indigent, the homeless, etc. never set foot; nurtures its young, who often, amazingly, metamorphose into Scuttling Cockroaches, in private schools or those public schools for which the zoning board acts as the board of admissions. Usually well groomed and highly social, tends to flock around spacious, rolling meadows surrounded by heavy woods and dense thickets, interrupted by the occasional babbling brook, where he and his fellows swing sticks at small balls in order to place them in holes in the landscape.
Invasive species through the years
Non-native and arguably harmful species have been introduced to the pop-culture ecosystem for eons. Here's a look at some notable invasives from the last several years, complete with their contemporary status.
|Zoobas||Colorful zebra-stripped pants. Slightly slanted bottoms. Long on outside leg, shorter on inside. Elastic waist.||Mercifully eradicated.|
|Beepers||Portable electronic devices used to contact people via a pagingnetwork.||Eradicated and replaced by cell phones, PDAs, and the occasional (and frighteningly similar) pager.|
|Andrew Dice Clay||"Assault comedy" specialist whose sexist and racist routines made him a pop-culture phenomenon.||Relegated to sit-com purgatory and eventually eradicated.|
|"Can you hear me now?"||Verizon Wireless ad campaign responsible for upping business by 10 percent in 2002 and 15 percent in 2003.||Eradicated amid rumors of "hear me" guy developing a giant brain tumor.|
|Shizzle||Street slang for "sure." Introduced by rapper Snoop Dogg and created by E-40. Incorporates "-izzle" as a suffix for countless words.||Just overheard on the street yesterday. Dangerously close to becoming part of our natural landscape.|
|Boombox||AKA the ghettoblaster. Portable stereo system capable of playing radio stations or recorded music at high volume.||Evolved (and contained) to sports walkman then the Discman, and now the iPod.|
|Girl power||Phrase most commonly associated with the bubblegum British singing group the Spice Girls.||Eradicated. Replaced by Diva Syndrome.|
Almost too easy
The City Newspaper staff compiled its own list of invasive species which, of course, grew way too long. So we decided to catalog all the species that have become so invasive they require no description. But if we failed to mention any of these, we'd look foolish. If any of the following are unfamiliar to you, consider yourself unreasonably lucky.
- The Barnes Firm
- Gas prices
- Pop-up ads
- Tricked-out mufflers