Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mike in Cartoon Form...

Big news (and, if you'll pardon me, some horn tooting)...

Today, for the first time ever, a piece by me ran in the Boston Globe. Check out this Coupling column about my virginity. For those who don't know, Coupling is a column about all things love that runs on the back page of the Sunday Magazine each week.

I'm pretty excited about it. So, if you missed it on the news stands (because my Mom bought 150 copies), check it out in digital form.

Here's the first two paragraphs to when your appetite for non-sexual action!

I have my own apartment and do not live in my parents' basement. I own zero collectible figurines but do have a growing collection of handcrafts gathered from a fair amount of world travel. I do not attend Star Wars conventions but will frequent Sox bars when I'm outside New England. I prefer designer jeans and Chuck Taylors to short-sleeved shirts and pocket protectors. While I can introduce myself in several languages, I cannot spell my name in binary code.

I am a virgin. Wholly wholesome and always abstinent, my life is sans sex. I'm 25 years old, a healthy male in the prime of life, and yet I'm completely OK with this lifelong state of sexual inactivity. No, really.

Movin' on Up (and Out)

"To every thing, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plan, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down and time to build up..." - Chronicles 3:1-3

And a time to move...

I've been found out, discovered and now, evicted. For those of you that read this previous post on my living situation, you'll know that I'm basically squatting. I rent a one-bedroom apartment that's zoned as a commercial property. The place has a shower and a kitchen area, a bedroom and a living room. It's a pretty sweet deal and I pay way below market rate.

But there are drawbacks. For one, I don't have an oven, so I've been cooking on a pair of practically useless, plug-in, electric burners and in a small toaster oven for 8 months now. Do you have any idea how hard it is to saw a frozen pizza in half? I've sliced my thumbs more than one time and that is NOT cool.

The other main drawback is that I have to pretend like I don't live here. Shades are drawn at sundown, I sneak out to pick up my paper and my landlord doesn't like me parking right in front of my door (I have to park on the other side of the lot, where the "real" residents park). It's a bit annoying. But, hey, it's cheap!

As annoying as it is to have to move, I'm ready. There's been enough sneaking around and enough crappy meals cooked because I don't have the right things to work with.

So, if anyone's free next Sunday, want to lift some boxes? Ha...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Death by Chinese Food...

Today's words of wisdom: don't steal from China.

This story appeared in today's NY Times. Liu Zhihua, Beijing's former vice mayor and director of the city's agency that supervised the Olympic-related construction projects, faces execution for skimming about $1 million. Through an assortment of bribes and down-right, hand-in-the-cookie-jar theft, Liu took enough money to pay for a whole lot of nice vacations that he and his mistress enjoyed.

Corruption was fairly widespread while I was in Beijing. This was most apparent when it came to the food at Olympic venues. The organizing committee had alloted about $5 per person, per meal for venue organizers to spend on its volunteers. That amount, in China, is a fortune - some of the best meals I had there (in nice restaurants) didn't even cost that much.

So, did we eat like kings while working?


The food was, for the most part, inedible and indistinguishable. We were served plastic trays of food, which has been microwaved in order for the flavors of the plastic to mix with the the flavors of the gray, unidentifiable chunks of meat and veggies to create the perfect blend of gag-inducing crap. The only thing that was consistently digestible on a daily basis was the block of white rice they served up - and even that tasted like I'd rolled up a newspaper and started chewing on the end of it.

Someone, somewhere along the chain of command, was skimming a ton of money off the top from the food budget. I'm guessing he (or she) was funding several mistresses at several chateaus and I can only hope that he'll be caught. Then again, I think the death penalty is too strong a punishment for embezzlement. Maybe they should just make him eat the food.

He'd probably die anyway.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day - Feed the Needy...

Today is Blog Action Day. Now that I'm getting into blogging a bit more (if you were here, you could watch me growing nerdier as I type - I just added the Zippo and Lightsaber apps to my iPhone yesterday, as proof), I thought it would be good to participate in some more blogger-type activities. The ones that don't involve anime conventions or LAN-parties.

Blog Action Day
is a set date each year where bloggers worldwide write about a particular topic in order to spawn discussion or bring attention to an overlooked issue. This year, the topic is poverty.

I don't want to beat you over the head or anything, but I do want to encourage you to take some time/money to think about others the next time you go grocery shopping. It sounds weird, but it's actually possible to have a positive impact on the world while you're picking up life's staples like eggs, bread, beer and Annie's Organic Mac & Cheese.

As our economy heads into the tanks (on paper, anyway - I'm still not convinced we're going into recession next week), people are starting to freak about about their finances. In a way, it's a good thing - it's better to live on a budget. But it's bad in the sense that the first section people hack off their money pie is the section labeled "charitable donations." As budgets tighten in the home, they dwindle and die at the different charities and non-profits.

Since we're heading into the cold-weather, holiday season, that especially affects local soup kitchens and food pantries, which mostly rely on small donations of food or money to stock their shelves. Their demand (with Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets to make) is going up at the same time that supply is going down. Take a look at this article about the needs of local food pantries here in New Hampshire.

So, the next time you're at the grocery store, why not spend an extra $20 and fill a bag with canned goods or non-perishable items? It'll only hit your wallet slightly and won't cost you extra time, since you can usually leave them at the checkout line for the non-profits to collect later. Filling the stomachs of a family in need, especially over the holidays, can make you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside.

So, in the spirit of Blog Action Day, I encourage you all to think what you can do for those in need. I'm Mike Nagel, and I approve this message.

A Nagel News Sighting...

My mom called me the other day to let me know that the Foster's Daily Democrat (a local paper here on the Seacoast) ran a story about me. Um, weird... but I can at least add "guest lecturer" to my resume. Nevermind that it was for my mom's high school rhetoric class.

I'll pop the first paragraph down below, so you can get the gist. If you're interested, you can read the full article about my visit here.

Local writer shares stories about Olympic coverage with Good Shepherd students

BARRINGTON — Freelance writer and journalist, Mike Nagel, of Newmarket, recently shared stories with Good Shepherd School students about experiences covering the Olympics in Beijing this summer.

This might be the first-ever article featuring me that my last name is spelled right. It's Nagel-like-bagel-with-an-N, folks!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Once Upon a Time, I was a Page...

I had to post this, if only to point out that I could've been featured in the NY Times, too, if I had waited four years to apply to the Page Program.

Thankfully, though, I didn’t. I don’t think I could stand making $10 an hour again. Once you hit $11.25 per hour, there is no turning back.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it before, but my first job out of college was with NBC Universal's Page Program. For those of you that know the show 30 Rock, you know about the program through Kenneth the Page. It was about the same experience for me, only I got to interact with Tina Fey much, much less. Tina - call me, I miss you.

The program was a great way to get a taste of TV. It was also a great way to experience the humility of being a tour guide to the unwashed masses, the sting of punches as you fight for position with hobos in the bread line (you can’t even wipe yourself for $10 bucks an hour in NYC – and the diaper rash is terrible) and the stank that only an unwashed uniform kept closeted in a metal locker for six months brings to the table.

In all seriousness, though, being a Page was a terrific experience. I made terrific friends and had some amazing experiences:
  • Saw U2 perform live, in-studio at SNL
  • Rode elevators with Tim Russert, Conan O'Brien, Matt Lauer and other famous people glued to BlackBerries
  • Stood on the ice rink for the Christmas tree lighting in Rockefeller Center
  • Posed for dozens of pictures with happy tourists who always thought my jokes were funny, even though I’d told them literally hundreds of times
  • Crashed stories with Dateline
  • Found the cheapest beers in the city. And the cheapest slices of pizza. And the cheapest crack.
Check out this article on the Page Program in today's NY Times. Not much has changed about the program – except for the small fact that the uniforms are now provided by Brooks Brothers as opposed to the Goodwill on Staten Island.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Mike's Case for Manliness...

We've all heard the expression "a man's man" before. Perhaps not in everyday usage (unless you like to pepper your conversations with phrases like "square," "boogie-woogie" or "the bee's knees"), but it's out there. No one knows for sure what it means, exactly. But we can definitely spot what it's not. In that sense, it's a little like the Supreme Court's ruling on porn - "I'll know it when I see it."

For an example, just take a look at my snapshot atop this post. That's me. And yes, I'm wearing a v-neck t-shirt, capris, a messenger bag and am sitting on top of a girl's bicycle (that has fenders and a bell) with my pet stuffed duck. Not manly.

Not in the least.

Not even close.

My China roomie Marc shared with me a story about how he and his roommates used to make cases for their own manliness and against the others'. Just a way for a bunch of guys to bust each others' balls and have a little fun with it. He gave me some examples - "Eating spicy food, manly; 'Does this have rosemary in it?' not manly."

Every now and then, while we were bumming around Beijing, we'd have the "manly" conversation. Eating things like donkey and scorpion or opening a beer on a desk were definitely manly things. Pretty much everything else that I did on a daily basis was not.

The conversation came to a climax one day with the following exchange:

Me - "Marc, do you think this shirt is too close in town to the capris?" (Said while wearing the same bottoms in the picture and a golf shirt).

Marc (laughing) - "Man, if we wrote down a case against your manliness, it would be six feet long and that question would be right at the top."

*Sigh* Like Pinocchio longed to no longer be a wooden puppet, I sometimes wish that true manhood would come my way... Typically, this happens when I'm staring perplexedly at a rack of free weights or someone nearby starts a conversation about motorcycle engines while I gaze off into space wondering when the last time I plucked my eyebrows was.

But for the most part, I'm totally fine with my "not manly" status. I prefer to think of it as being "in touch with my softer side." Or "thinking outside the gender box." Or "being totally awesome."

There are, however, a few "definitely manly" things I need to know more about, so I've set up a few bullet points on Mike's Chest Hairs' (both of them) Checklist to Machismo. Without further ado, here they are:
  • Learn stuff about cars - I'm currently in the market for a used car. Sonja's Jeep is basically one pothole away from spontaneously combustion, so we're shopping around for a replacement. I can spot different car models, but that's the extent of my knowledge. If you asked me what "twin cam," meant, I'd probably say it was the Olson Twins on CCTV.
  • Learn to drive stick - Along the same lines, I don't drive manual transmissions. This lapse is unacceptable. You may now call me Nancy. But just once.
  • Mix good martinis - I can mix martinis. They taste like lighter fluid, but I can mix them. Next step... do it well.
  • Get on my dancing shoes - Okay, I'm going to have to make an argument on this one here, but when a guy knows how to ballroom dance well, he's manly. He's graceful and athletic, suave and sexy. I'm a ball to dance with on the floor, but I'm more in the "flail" category than "foxtrot."
  • Figure out weights - Once I get around to joining a gym around here, the next move is to hire a personal trainer to teach me how to properly lift free weights. When I do work out, I avoid that section like the plauge - mainly because I don't want roid raged meatheads poking fun at my technique and the fact I'm struggling to lift 15 pounds. If I at least know what I'm doing, I only have to worry about Dr. Jaggerbombs laughing at the 15 pounds.
That's it. Five easy steps to manhood. Or at least a semi-manhood state that falls somewhere between Jamie Lee Curtis' on one end and Chuck Norris on the other. Wherever I wind up falling, it'll be the bee's knees! That, I promise you.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Hey Mike - where have you been?

I've been AWOL for the last few weeks, so I thought I'd give you a little update and catch you up onto my life's developments over the past weeks. It'll probably be boring, but it's better than logging into your 401k to see how much money you're losing or listening to talking heads discuss bailout plans that no one understands, right?

-The Big News: I'm employed.-

Yup, that's right. I have a job (started on Monday). And I'm officially a salaried, professional writer. A cool, second-year startup hired me to be an "online producer," which means I'm ghostwriting blogs, generating site content and trying to appear as artsy as possible at all times around the office. I've only been there three days, but it's already a blast. It's nice to be able to put my degree to more use than as a decorated placemat (which is hasn't been performing well... kind of thin and it allowed spaghetti sauce to leak through).

I haven't been posting here because I spent most of my days scouring Monster, CareerBuilder and Craigslist to find jobs to apply for that I didn't even want and logging in to my bank accounts in the hope that I'd gotten a Monopoly "Bank Error in Your Favor" card dropped into my checking. That never happened.

-I've been giving wedding toasts-

Longtime buddy/partner in crime, Rob, got married to a lovely girl who's way out of his league down in Newport, RI last weekend. Sonja and I went down there for three days and it was a lot of fun. Rob's family generously invited us to stay at their rented beach house and, although it rained most of the time, we really enjoyed ourselves. If anyone's looking to do a long weekend getaway somewhere on the East Coast, you could do a lot worse than staying in the historic town of Newport. There are beaches, a cool cliff walk through mansion-ridden neighborhoods, a fun downtown area with bars and shops and loads of restaurants. Being there made me want to buy plaid pants, cardigans and boat shoes, but I settled on a t-shirt instead.

-Discovering old youth pastors that have gone on to become professional gamblers.-

Brian, my brother, called me the other night and told me to switch over to ESPN. I did and there, sitting atop the chip leader board after day 3 of the World Series of Poker, was none other than Jeremiah Smith. Since I last saw him, Miah has left being a pastor, moved to Vegas and now works for Full Tilt poker and plays professionally. Rock on. He wound up finishing 45th in this year's WSOP.

I still remember the time he called me a "little turd." He's always been inspirational that way.

-Reliving the College Years-

WICB, my alma mater's main radio station, is up for a mtvU Woodie Award as the nation's top radio station. For anyone that's a former Bomber or just likes great music, you can go vote for them. Competition is going to be tough, as they're up against Emerson's WERS, which is also an awesome station with a much larger listener base. Check out either site for some great music while you're at work - they both stream worldwide.

That's all that's up with me. What's up with you?

The lesson, as always... Mike's an idiot.

Just a little anecdote from the VP debate last night. Sonja and I were hanging out on the couch, watching Gov. Palin and Sen. Biden go back-and-forth, critiquing their answers and making judgments on their presentation. It was fun - a little adult break from the SportsCenter/Red Sox/Football that usually permeates the airwaves in my apartment.

So there we were, snuggled up on the couch. There was a break in conversation as we watched Palin answer a question and then, quietly, Sonja says, "Are you oogling her?"

(I was a dead man and didn't even know it.)

Without thinking (which is how I usually do things), I said, "No, I'm not oogling her. I think she's hot, but I'm not oogling."

Wrong. Answer. Idiot. Mike.

Let's just say that we didn't watch a single sentence more of the debate.

So, my advice to any of you guys who are watching or involved with any part of the political realm this fall. Do not mention that you find any candidate from either side remotely attractive. I don't care who's got a new hairdo or whether Barak looks yummy in khaki, just shut up about it. Cast your vote only on the politics and do not weigh in on any other debatable topics; you won't win.

In the spirit of the political season, I would now like to post a retraction from my press secretary:

Mike was under mental duress during last night's debate and therefore may have made vocal a lapse in judgment. He respects both parties and both candidates and thinks all of them are handsome all around, even if he can appreciate the quaint accent of a certain Alaskan governor (but that is mostly due to Tina Fey's dead-on inpersonation and not an actual taste for midwestern oooh, ahhhs and aaaais, dooncha knooow?). Governor Palin, although a handsome, older woman, is by no means "hot." Additionally, Rachel McAdams, Jessica Simpson, Natalie Portman, et al are also not "hot." Going forward, Mike will try to pause to give thought before voicing opinions while always respecting the feelings of other females who may be in the vicinity, earshot or within range of SMS text messaging.