Tuesday, May 30, 2006


I'm not sure when it happened. I don't think there was one moment. More like watching someone trip and fall on their face in slow motion. "It" is America in decline.

It now looks as though a group of United States Marines massacred twenty-four Iraqi civilians-- including women and children--last November. This is on top of the more than 30,000 detainees, those held in Guantánamo without charge or access to the Courts, the humiliations of Abu Ghraib, "extraordinary rendition", the disappeared, et cetera, ad nauseam. I've been ashamed to be an American at least as far back as the first Gulf War. But never more so than now.

To quote Oprah quoting Maya Angelou, "When you know better, you do better." It's a cliché to talk about modern technology, rapid communications, near-instantaneous dissemination of information. We should know better.

Borrowing Tom Brokaw's phrase, we have had our Greatest Generation, and it has passed. America's best days are now behind it. Not that it was ever perfect. No country is blameless. But we are so vocal about our ideals, as if we are the first to have thought of them. Like the child-nation we are.

The promise of America has been broken, and with it, my heart. We do know better. That is our Tragic Flaw.

Monday, May 29, 2006

My Life with Bad English

I discovered this video blog, "My Life with Bad English". It's by a Russian guy named Andrei Litvinov. He's an excellent storyteller.

It's Just Over

Last June, I decided to sign up with a matchmaking service called "It's Just Lunch" (IJL). They bill themselves as a dating resource for busy upscale professionals.

My initial interview was with a "director". We talked about what I wanted, what worked before and what didn't. I even brought a printout of a rather specific personal ad I had used, to make it even more clear what I was after. They took my photo to use for themselves; no potential date ever gets to see another's photo.

They say their matchmakers meet to discuss which of their clients would be a good fit, then call both parties to set up the date.

My first date was with a woman I had already seen on an on-line dating service, and had rejected. OK, so they couldn't know that.

Another person they described as "outdoorsy and very into sports". I reminded IJL that I'm indoorsy and don't care about sports. They said, "Just go on the date, see how it goes, then give us your feedback."

So I went. The next day I called IJL with my feedback: "She's too outdoorsy and into sports."

Meanwhile, that's one of my 12-16 dates promised for the length of the year's contract. They were having a special when I signed up. Only $1295.00. What a deal. This means that each date costs me about $81.00 just to show up.

Others didn't match the physical type I was interested in, or energy level, or interests, or I didn't find them attractive. "Attraction is a subjective thing," they said. I agreed, but said that there is a bell curve, with a few people that everyone agrees is very attractive, and a few people that everyone agrees is very unattractive, and everyone else somewhere in between. They said they'd try better to pick people they thought were attractive.

The next date I went on, I remember getting out of the car and walking to the front door of the restaurant. I looked over and saw a woman in the parking lot heading my way. I thought, "You've got to be kidding." Turns out, yep, it was my date. Very unattractive, in many ways.

At one point, they set me up with three women in one month. I told them, "At this rate, I'll be done before Christmas. Are you trying to get rid of me?" Of course they assured me that they were not. Eventually, I put my membership on hold, just so time would pass and they wouldn't be scraping the bottom of the barrel.

One date I went on lasted all of three minutes. I went into the restaurant, was seated at her table, made a stab at smalltalk and glanced at the menu. Then she offered, "Do you want to just end this? I'm not feeling anything here." She got up and left. Dinner was "to go" that night.

When I called IJL, they asked how my date went. I said this was the worst yet. Immediately, they were on the defensive: "Now, Greg, she's an attractive woman!" I told them what happened, and they replied, "It's not that we don't believe you, but we want to hear her side of the story." A little while later, they called back to apologize, commiserate, and offer me a comp date.

After my 16th date was up, they called with a 17th date, I guess to throw me a bone because of my previous complaints. No luck.

In the entire year, I had two decent experiences. One lasted a matter of hours: nice lunch, good conversation, walk back to her car, some smooching, a call from her during her drive back home saying how much she enjoyed our date and how much she was looking forward to seeing me again, then...nothing. I suspect alien abduction, but I can't be sure.

The other was early on in the process. They told me I'd love her, that everyone did. So I met her. She was stunning and sexy and friendly and sweet and smart. And a stage actress. We hit it off immediately and had strong chemistry. We went on a couple more dates, and then...and then...an old flame was moving to town, and she wanted to rekindle it. Can't do anything about that. Can't blame IJL. They're still together. Consolation prize: she said out of all the guys she had met through IJL, I was the only one she had wanted to see again. Well, Miss N, if it doesn't work out, call me. :)

All in all, was it worth the money? Ultimately, no. Yes, I met one phenomenal woman that I probably would never have met otherwise. But almost all of the rest of the "matches" were not right for me, even when I was extremely specific about what I was looking for. Do I think they tried their best? No. I think they were motivated to (1) get my money and (2) fulfill the contract ASAP. I think nice people work there, but it is a business.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who feels this way: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2006/02/ijl.html.

Otherwise, out of all the succesful dates/relationships I've had, about half have come from dating services and half have come from just running into them in "real life".

So, no, IJL, before you ask (and I know that you won't), I'm not interested in renewing my contract.