The Canadian Club











{June 14, 2010}   Whatever

Math is hard.

I am back.



I was in India!

With a long stretch of stressful physiognomy research and my subsequent travels to one of the oldest and most hallowed civilizations, I had neglected the pleasures of professional football (where people don’t do crazy stunts with unloaded firearms in team locker rooms) for what must be over a month.  Yikes!  So, it was good today to squeeze in at least one game before my girlfriend, who is Indian, returns tomorrow.

Watching the Saints demolish Jesus-freak sore-loser Kurt Warner, I was at first alarmed.  Something had happened to the NFL.  Why were they talking about the earthquake in Haiti?  What’s up with that?  Not only did they offer advice on donating to rescue efforts, but they even interviewed a Haitian player on the Saints sidelines, asking him about his family.  Lost in all this, was the real message of football: support for our troops!  Seriously, this is the first time I’ve seen football announcers shirk their responsibility to remind us that the real reason we watch football is to remind ourselves of the freedoms being protected by our amazing young men (and some chicks) on Iraqi and Afghan soil.

Oh, and the other reason we watch football is to be reminded of how tough it is to be a white man in a world full of chicks who get on our case and people of color who are just weird.  Although this sometimes plays itself out on the field, most of this message is conveyed through advertising.  For example, it had been over a month since I saw this awesome ad about how much it would be awesome if women were potato-heads, so you could just dismember their faces and make them finally shut up.

I think only today, after a long time away from the U.S. boob tube, did I actually figure out that this is selling tires and not the trailer for the next Almodovar film.

It is always comforting to turn off the TV at the end of a football game secure with the knowledge that chicks are stupid and annoying. But football also goes hand-in-hand with race-anxiety, even where this concerns model minorities, such as your usually technically adept, funny-talking South Asians.  This superbowl ad from 2008 is the perfect demonstration:

Usually, you have to wait for the Simpsons later to a couple of hours later to find Indians this hilarious!

Of course, Ramesh, satisfyingly, is still working to meet the exacting expectations of a comfortably white middle manager.  But look what happens when you let these guys run the show.

OMFG!  Any frakin’ day and Indians are still adorably hilarious — but kind of dumb, too.  I mean, don’t they realize that they can’t dance?  Clearly, not amongst the more graceful, football-lovin’ people of this nation.  Thanks, Metro PCS!  It’s good to know that — since blacks always play the race card and never get the joke — we can still get good, innocent chuckles from Indians!

Speaking of which, I would just like to point out, now that I’ve been to India — so you can’t accuse me of making this a race thing, Dave — that more Indians look like Naveen Andrews than do Iraqis.  Yet television keeps on trying to cast Indians as some kind of undefined Middle Easterners!  I mean, are actual Arabs/Persians just not swarthy enough to represent shiftiness and inscrutability?  Or do they only want to cast Arabs in unambiguous terrorist roles, reserving good guy Middle Eastern roles for good guy, non-Muslim Indians?  What’s up with that?

Meanwhile, there are actually Indians who can pass for Iraqi:  those hunky, brooding Muslim Bollywood superstars of whom I’ve now grown quite fond!  Did you know that so many Indians now want to look Iraqi, that it is actually perceived as a precondition to being cast?  See for yourself:

Thankfully, those of us who watch football can just grab a beer, relax, and thank G_d for other people’s insecurities.

By the way, did I mention I was in India for the past two weeks?



{January 17, 2010}   Delhi-cious

Some tomb somewhere in Delhi

You were right, Dave.  This India country is pretty good.  Who knew you’re supposed to find the girl before obsessing about the country?  I suppose the last twenty years of my life would have unfolded quite differently if someone had told me then.  Not that I’m complaining about how things have worked out…

So my prolonged spell of romancing under the radar may have spared your highly functioning gag reflex for the past couple of weeks — though I do feel somewhat remiss about not providing a running commentary — but believe me, I sure tested mine.  Let me just say, I don’t plan on eating paan again anytime in this life.  Just remembering the texture as my teeth pierced through an assemblage of unknown ingredients, some of which were sweet and gooey and others savory and crunchy, all bundled in the tough betel leaf, sends shivers of disgust through my body.  Maybe had I, like you, known about something else for which India is famous, I might not have been so eager to seize the opportunity to try this common, local treat.  And the worst part is, I could tell, watching the man dip his fingers into various bags of unspecified spices and swab the leaf with unspecified salmon and maroon colored jellies that this spelled certain doom — that first big test of constitution when one travels abroad.

As it was, I was laid out for two days with severe chills and mild nausea.  Sure, that was bad, but at least it afforded me the opportunity to engage in two of my favorite activities:  puking and watching crap television.

Despite puking my guts out, I still managed to put on about 20 pounds.  Perhaps it’s because most of the Punjabi-style food served in Delhi is dripping with either butter or ghee.  Or perhaps it’s due to the sheer excellence of Bengali home-cooking. Just to offer you a glimpse into my heaven:  amazing aloo ghobi, saag with fenugrek and potatoes, mutton curry, deep fried eggplant, fried bitter melon, and, of course, fish in mustard curry.

The essential Bengali ingredient

Of course, the highlight of Bengali dining is not only the flavors — and it’s amazing what one can do with just turmeric — but also using one’s fingers.  I may not have learned how to cook during my stay, but, importantly, I retained how to say, “It’s good” in Bangla and managed to eat dal, rice, fish, and most everything else with my fingers.  It’s a very simple process of mashing things together — this is especially fun when there is potato — using three fingers as a scoop, and then one’s thumb serves to push the mashed food from scoop to mouth.  The rewards for this are yellow fingernails and a totally unselfconscious eating experience.  You will be surprised to know that I didn’t even need a finger bowl of lemon water, although these were offered at restaurants after the meal.  However, the feeling of being messy may have been a factor in how quickly I would eat everything.  While one can give up the idea of wiping one’s hands for a full meal, the salutary napkin and thorough handwashing at the end are always something to look forward to for this guy.



Well, Dave, the 7th Chokra of Ganeesha has been eclipsed by the night lotus for the past 5 flights of the bulbuli.  Or, for those of you who don’t speak Hindu, the network here has been down for the past five days.

Nevertheless, I wanted to make a brief surfacing to show how deeply I have penetrated the quotidian of this seemingly complex and layered culture by sharing this beautiful masterpiece of Indian art.

Indeed, here — as in all cultural manifestations of the aughts — it’s all about the geek getting the hot girl.

Now, off to the Taj Mahal!



What the kids are wearing now

What the kids were wearing then

I appreciate your concern for the health of my gag reflex, Russ, and I’m happy to report that it’s working splendidly.  No danger of consuming anything posing an obvious choking or poisoning hazard here, my friend, because I know for certain that I have no problem puking when puking is called for.  So yeah, you can quit it already with the VOMIT-INDUCING Facebook PDA in good conscience, knowing that your efforts have not been wasted.

Speaking of which, how’s India?  A little ironic that you’re there and I’m not, seeing as how I’ve always wanted to go to India, have been fascinated by Indian culture and religion and you — well, let’s just say that historically, you haven’t.  Take some pics for me, why dontcha?

Alright already, on to topics of more general interest (“HA!” says the Viennese man who stumbled on our blog while looking for Gerhard Richter jpegs).  I agree that we are due to post our various Best Things of the Aughts.  I had, in fact, been giving the topic a good thinking over prior to reading your post.  I’m trying to take myself back to the dawn of the millennium so I might better recall all the miraculous changes and improvements to my daily life that have since occurred, but it’s all a little hazy.  Lots and lots of time in a beautiful, if somewhat dilapidated painting studio at Penn.  An obscenely cheap apartment — seriously, I think it was $450 a month  — that was sort of collapsing around us, but was on a super-nice block in a great part of town.  It really is true that you get a little nostalgic for the shitty places you’ve lived once you start moving up in the world, isn’t it?

OK, so in the spirit of getting with the spirit, I’ll begin by offering up some of my favorite things from the Aughts.

1) TV

OMFG.  And I thought that the 90’s were the Golden Age of television, but then this decade came along.  Here is just a partial list of TV’s Aught Awesomeness — I’m sure that you have more to add.  The Sopranos*, The Wire, Deadwood, Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared, Lost, Gilmore Girls, Battlestar Galactica*, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Office (both of them), Arrested Development, Veronica Mars, Mad Men, 30 Rock, Mythbusters, Glee…  An embarrassment of riches, right, Russ?  TV is no longer merely superior to being alone with your thoughts except for the hour or two a week when the show you care about is on — it’s where the action is.  Saying “I don’t watch TV” now is like saying, “I don’t read novels”.  An amusingly quirky comment when uttered by the right sort of eccentric, but certainly not a sign of intellectual superiority.

(*overrated, but still good.)

2) OBAMA.  Frak the haters.  We’ve dreamed about electing someone this awesome since we could vote.  We thought it would be Clinton.  We waited, we canvassed, we went to 2000 Gore “Victory” parties (the memory of which still make us a little teary).  We got a health care bill, you lunatic lefties, so just shut up because I LOVE HIM AND STILL CAN’T BELIEVE HE’S OURS.

3) Teleportation.  I don’t get it, but I think it’s gotta be good.

Um, I’ll think of more stuff later.  100 things is a lot, Russ.

No live action video for this one.  Sorry folks.



{January 1, 2010}   Plus ça change…

Luann

Well, Dave, here it is, the big 2010 — and I’m still working hard testing everyone’s gag reflex.  Let’s just say, I’ve soooooo been there!

Right now, ‘there’ is Dubai, where I’m chillin’ at the airport.  Man, this airport — free Internet and all — is a fancy gem, worth the trip all in itself.  It would be better without the fleck of spittle that just hit my eye from the hacking fellow traveler lounging next to me.  Dude, does he not see all the signs about A(H1N1) at the transfer points?  Next time, I’m coming here before X-mas, since it is the ideal place to shop for gifts… But, I have to say, I’m a bit

Anyway, so they’re saying it’s a new decade — which brings me to my thoughts about the aughts… So, Dave, if you were going to make a list of the top 100 things from the past decade, what would you put on it?  Isn’t making lists what blogs are for?

I was going to put the great accomplishment of grafting an ear onto a mouse… but then I discovered that that happened in the 90s.  So, isn’t there anything we can feel good about from the past ten years?

Well, since we’re — and by we, I mean me — in Dubai today, let me offer up the Palm Islands as one of the things we — and by we, I mean people — can be proud of from the 00s!



Well, Dave, someone heard my earlier plea about obtaining a free ticket to the Deli.  I mean, except for the free part.  And so it is that I am headed off to Hindustan today to see my Hindustani girlfriend!

But, I wouldn’t leave without throwing some questions your way, Dave… And so here are some things I was thinking about:

So, sifting through this compilation, I noticed this press release for something that calls itself  “Bezi Bra Discs,” basically subtle pasties.  This apparently resolves an age-old predicament

“With so many air-conditioned rooms, women wearing sleek bridal wear are seeing more than just wedding cake. They are seeing they outline of their nipples through their dresses,” says Anne Zuckerman, owner of Edith’s Inc. “This is not they way most brides — and their bridal party — want to stand out on such an important day as a wedding.”

Now, I have to admit to finding it a really bad sign that our contemporaries are horrified of this.  And yet, don’t you have some old acquaintance that “invented” and sold the same thing?  What were they called? Who has a patent on this?  And how could several people have the same bad idea at once? In essence, this invokes the Almodovar paradox, where what is presented as particularly sensitive to women, strikes me, rather, as sneering misogyny.

And, to answer your question, Dave, yes, I have seen three Almodovar films.  They basically have a drag queen‘s portrayal of the feminine mystique.  Perhaps it is in those grand gesticulations of mocking hyperbole that modern criticism reads feminism.  Or maybe I have it all wrong, and there is some confusion and distinction that I’m not making between movies that are feminist by nature, and those that are sensitive portrayals of women.

Moving along, I’m very curious about this thing called Momofuku.  Why is it extremely popular as a subject of Facebook status updates?  What is it?  Is its appeal related in some way to the popularity of those French Connection UK T-shirts?  Help me out here, Dave.

Finally, you have a kid, right?  Well, can you ask him what the deal is with all these poopyheads?

Well, that’s about enough out of me.  I best be shining my shoes and sliding my passport in its protective sleeve.  See ya on the other side of 2009!



{December 31, 2009}   Taint the Season…

So*, I broke from tradition this year and switched up the Chinese food for some righteous vindaloo.  Hell, I didn’t even get to the movies!  But you know who didn’t flip the script?  The frakkin’ NBA.  After spending all of the 08-09 campaign carrying water for big shoe and slowly setting in motion the hidden gears that would pit “Bruised ribs” against “Crybaby” in a Finals match-up of the most unbearable, self-serious ballers in the L, David Stern is at it again.  Rather than scheduling a X-mas day rematch of the previous Finals, the NBA chose again to inflict its aspired championship match-up on the viewing public — a significant portion of whom would much rather have seen Kevin Durant lead Oklahoma City against the High-flyin’ Hotlanta Hawks.  That would have been an East-West meeting of worthy rivals, with a little bit of brio…

What did I get instead, Dave?  A crap game between a bunch of whiners, all of which was a pretext to sell shoes via the most atrocious ad campaign in the history of footwear!!!!!!!! Yes, that’s right.  Nike brought back the frakkin’ MVPuppets!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So a contrived rivalry among the most self-congratulatory, self-serious athletes in the NBA begets the criminal perpetuation of the most self-serious, self-congratulatory and, overall, presumptuous commercials in the history of sports.

Now, I have a few things to say about this…

  1. Beware all ad campaigns that propose a television pilot as a sales pitch… This is a corollary to the Murphy Brown phenomenon of self-congratulatory television programming, which holds that once a series substitutes zeitgeist for character, it becomes unbearably pompous and unfunny — this is especially true for those series where the zeitgeist participates in my mother’s weltanschauung, for some reason… Obviously, these two categories can actually overlap.
  2. The idea that we should welcome back the MVPuppets  makes me want to puke.
  3. The MVPuppets don’t actually look anything like Kobe and Lebron.
  4. Most upsetting, the MVPuppets ads are blatantly trying to rip-off and thus, thrive on the magic of the greatest sports-related ad campaign EVER:

Neither of these guys will ever exude wit and charm like Lil’ Penny. And, of course, I hate being told which playas I’m supposed to like.  Go ahead.  Call me a playahata!

The other thing that happens when one watches sports is this immersion into the bizarre world of advertising aimed towards an exclusively male demographic.  It is sobering to have all my insecurities revealed to me in a way that usually only happens while watching Mad Men.

My specific takeaway from my X-mas day experience, however, was the realization that, while I may be capable of obsessive love for movie trailers — television series trailers have got to be the most depressing and nauseating form of advertisement.  Not only am I incapable of watching sitcoms — I think since they canceled Perfect Strangers — but I find it truly depressing the insistence on how much we’re supposed to love the characters in television shows.  I think television series trailers, ads — what have you — are kind of like dog owners who insist on you loving their dogs, even though you’ve never felt a sympathetic glint of appreciation for any canine in your entire life.  It’s just this absence of understanding that sometimes, what you have doesn’t have to be lovable.  In any case, I was wondering if Pajamas was going to watch this:

I thought the part about: “Cliff, they’re worthy clients! And I’m head litigation partner, so no matter what you say, I’m taking the damn case!” would really resonate.

So, it’s been almost seven months since I’ve had the Lifetime network… I think I feel the loss most acutely during the holidays…

*This post was initially prepared for publication on December 26.


{December 27, 2009}   Don’t get me started!

I’m ashamed to say it, Russ, but I’ve never actually seen an Almodovar film.  I know, lame, right?  In my defense, see Exhibit A; I also submit to you that since I usually watch movies and television while I’m working, subtitles are a bit distracting, so I’m really, really an ignoramus when it comes to Foreign Art Films.  Yeah, I know, cultural illiterate and all — believe me, I’ve been called worse by better.  OMG, this reminds me:  I’m rewatching Deadwood right now, thanks to a very thoughtful birthday gift from Pajamas, and it is so, so, so good — even better the second time because I have a slightly better understanding of the plot and can enjoy the amazing language more fully.  So I know that you’ve got NO TIME but maybe you can put that on your list, too?

No?

Fine.

So back to Almodovar.  Isn’t he supposed to be the guy who really loves and understands women?  Doesn’t, like, everybody say that?  Again, I can’t comment with any authority, since I base all my opinions these days on criticism, rather than on actual works of art or literature or whatever.  But hey, here’s my question for the (Boxing) day, Russ:  have YOU ever seen an Almodovar film?  Just asking.  What about you, Gentle Reader (especially Ty)?  What do you think?  Almodovar:  grody European misogynist or genius poet of the feminine experience?

None of this digression should suggest that I don’t share your opinion on the hideousness of Nine, which is just a big WTF all around.  I appreciate clever stunt casting as much as the next fellow, and I swear to you that no one loves the game of “Who would play the part of…?” more than I do, although, let’s face it, it’s never, ever clever to cast Kate Hudson in anything.  Moreover, I have more than an appreciation (an awe-struck reverence, perhaps?) for the casting of Fergie as La Saraghina, which is hilarious and great, given that sort of coarse, over-the-top, weirdly repellent sex appeal she has.  BUT.  On the other hand, even the inspired Fergie-casting is kind of a sad reflection on the state of Hollywood, isn’t it?  Like, they had to put someone whose yuckiness flies under the radar in that part, because you can’t actually put a woman on film who isn’t some ingenue/android, unless it’s in one of this lady’s films — and don’t even get me started on all the reviews that are saying it’s so refreshing to see a real middle-aged woman on film who hasn’t gone under the knife a million times, when she’s FRAKKING MERYL STREEP.  Seriously, MERYL STREEP‘s movie-star face = gritty realism now?

Um, what was I talking about?  Oh yeah, why don’t I remember going to see Natural Born Killers with you?  I totally believe that you hated it; I hated it, too (Pajamas actually liked it!  Don’t get me started!).  Nevertheless, I congratulate you on your prescience, even though I’ll have to take your word for it.  As for me, I haven’t followed the whole blog controversy too closely because it is LAME AND DEPRESSING.  Stupid lefties.  We don’t deserve to win.

How was your 25th?  How was the Chipmunks movie?  My Christmas was little bit

and a little bit

Happy Boxing Day, dude!



{December 24, 2009}   Schadenfreude goes to the movies

Dave, nothing could please me more right now — except maybe a free, round-trip ticket to the Deli — than this movie Nine being greeted like the piece of crap it is.  I mean, seriously, we’re almost out of the aughts, and we still have to put up with Latin-lover-mythologizing, misogyny-as-art bullshit being marketed to us as if we have the brains of big dumb people.

I mean, I thought only the French (and Almodovar… oh, and Bertolucci) were allowed to put out movies in which women stripping down passes for a thinking person’s entertainment… How could somebody see this movie idea and give it the greenlight??!!!??

Oh, and as you’ll notice, all the usual culprits are involved, Penelope “People get off knowing that I’m dumb as a brick and every character I play is dumb as a brick — but with an accent which makes it alright” Cruz; Nicole “I was in that Kubrick movie in which I emoted way too much” Kidman’; and, worst of all, Anthony “Can you make your characters die already — oh, and Juliet Binoche sucks, as does Kristin Scott Thomas” Minghella.

Now, I know, Dave, you have a personal axe to grind with Audrey Tautou (as do I, btw)… but she should at least be temporarily exonerated for not having anything to do with this flick.

Obviously, I exempt Marion Cotillard and Fergie from my opprobrium. The former due to her being awesome, the latter, because she taught me how to spell.

But back to why Nine is so appalling.  I think it may have something to do with Any Vow-bag European nostalgia.  Whaddya think Russ, will there be a time in the near future when our culture moves past our massive Jones for European accents, Robert Brassai and 1960s infantilism? In any case, I think this about sums it up:

Stacy Ferguson, known to pop-music fans as Fergie, is Saraghina, the village prostitute who provides the boy Guido with a glimpse of forbidden pleasures. Nice for him. The rest of us watch Ms. Ferguson stomp and gyrate through a number called “Be Italian,” which, like so much else in “Nine,” resembles a spread in a Victoria’s Secret catalog, only less tasteful. Ms. Hudson, for her part, struts through an embarrassing hymn to “Cinema Italiano” — with inane lyrics about “hip coffee bars” and Guido’s “neo-realism” — that recalls not Visconti or Antonioni (or even the Italian sex farces of the 1970s) but rather those lubricious Berlusconi-esque variety shows that baffle and titillate visitors from other countries who turn on their hotel-room television sets.

Right on!

On another, related note:  Do you remember when we went to see Natural Born Killers, Dave?  Do you remember that I hated it and thought it was stupid?  I like to think I have had some measure of vindication in the past few days.



{December 23, 2009}   Resentful… Put down… but Back!

OK, they don’t make this physiognomy thing for lightweights!

As you know, Dave, this past month and a half, I have been trying to muddle through some problems of an intellectual, smarty-pants nature.  Somehow, that had nothing to do with this blog.  And let me tell you somethin’… Over that kind of time, a guy can build up a lot of hatred and simmering resentment.

Well world, this is to tell y’all that I’m about to bust loose with some major hate bombs — oh yeah, and maybe some kudos, too.



{December 19, 2009}   You know what I hate?

Yeah, Russ, I’m with you:  this whole Senate thing is making me crazy.  I hate the Nelsons, I hate the Liebermans, I hate the Snowes and — uh oh, here it comes — I HATE HOWARD DEAN.  What makes stupid centrists think that it’s anything other than morally abhorrent to hold the process hostage to their vanity, and what makes stupid lefties think that some magical single-payer opportunity is going to pop up any time soon, when our country has been attempting and failing to deal with this health-care clusterfrak for decades (a century, by some reckoning)?

Really, the term “centrist” is pretty useless, no?  Included under that umbrella term are both the pragmatists (the “can’t we all just get along?” people)- and the contrarians (the “pox on both your houses” people) — and while both those groups are referred to as centrists, they don’t actually have so much in common, do they?  I say this because, as a relatively moderate leftie of the former persuasion, I want to KILL EVERYONE of the latter persuasion, some of whom are the totally leotarded swing-voter types that I still have trouble believing actually exist — onnly they do exist, because without them, our national elections wouldn’t be such a nightmare, right?

And while I’m on the cranky, ranty warpath:  what about Christmas?

I’m getting Footie Pajamas a real Lionel train set this year (Ages 8 and up?  Pshaw!  That’s just The Man trying to keep us down!) — so that’s rad, but the rest of it is kinda bollocks.  I feel like I can’t, in good conscience, file Christmas Cheer under Taking the Joke Too Far, especially when there are kids involved, because while I’m kind of an asshole, I’m not that big an asshole.  Plus, I have to be careful not to cede too much ground to Big Pajamas, who would probably avoid all ritualized celebrations if he had his druthers.  And yet.  And yet.  I had this idea that it would be magical fun again when I had a child to surprise with amazing, longed-for presents, but right now it mostly feels like one more thing I gotta do, you know?

What DO I like, you ask?  I’ll tell you, Russ (just in case you haven’t been able to guess by taking a quick look at our new decorating scheme around here).  I like the first snowstorm of the year.  Happy Hanukkah, my friend, and good luck finishing your phrenology paper.  I look forward to oodles of bloggy X-mas cheer from you next week.



{December 17, 2009}   Jed Bartlett FTW!!!!!!

Minimum Security
Dave, if you’re like me, you’re absolutely sick and tired of this HRC process.  Like WHEN THE HELL is it ever gonna end?  And, what’s up with Nate Silver?

By the way, I don’t think a bill with a public option would constitute fundamental reform either — it would be better, but it’s still tinkering around the edges of a flawed system.

I can’t believe that punk.  He should go back to collecting baseball cards. I mean, seriously, Nate Silver?!?!  Nate Silver can go Serve The Fiery Undertaker!!!!!!!!!! This massive give-away to his pals in Big Pharma and our Feudal Overlords Aetna and Cigna is going to be wrapped around Obama’s neck in 2012!!!!! I hope he’s already making his early retirement plans with Joe Liebensraum and Rahm The-Man-Who-Drools. I am sick — sick — of getting sold-out by…  centrist fat cats!!!!!!!!!! JED BARTLETT was the BEST PRESIDENT EVER!!!!! If he were still president, he would have known how to twist Olympia Snowe’s and Ben Nelson’s arms to get them to sign in blood for a frickin’ PUBLIC OPTION.



{December 8, 2009}   Absolutely fabulous.

I know, I know.  I’ve been terrible.  Not as bad as Russ, but still terrible.

Sorry.

I have a good excuse for my terribleness, though, and it’s this:  I went down to Miami for the art fair madness this last weekend.  Now, I know that scene is supposed to be glamorous and all (Campari!  Lavazza!  Lufthansa!) but for me, it resembled nothing so much as the seventh grade.  Lots of 1) standing around hoping someone would notice me 2) diligently (if awkwardly) attempting to participate in social rituals that I only dimly understood and 3) spending way too much time spent getting from one place to another (Miami seems a bit like L.A. in that respect).  And as if the adolescent-like awkwardness weren’t enough — well, let’s just say I’m pretty sure an incessant hacking cough is NOT GLAMOROUS, even if you are wearing a dress from Barney’s.

None of this is making sense to you, Russ?  Well, I should probably explain what this whole scene is about.  It all started back in the boom days with this fair called Art Basel.  The original was actually held in Basel, Switzerland, but then they added a companion fair in Miami Beach, and that turned out to be bigger than the original fair.  Are you with me so far?  Then, all these other fairs cropped up around Art Basel, turning the whole town of Miami into a crazy art zoo every December.  Essentially, they’re just like craft shows, or flea markets or whatever — galleries apply for a fair, and if they get accepted, they get a little booth in a maze of other booths in a big warehouse-y kind of space.  Then everyone stands around and hopes that rich people will come in and buy stuff.  This actually used to happen — rich people would walk up to a $5000 or $10,000 or $100,000 or $1,000,000 work of art and say, “I’ll take it,” and the gallerist would take it down and bubble wrap it.  No, seriously.

So my gallery had its own little booth at one of those fairs, and I went down to work it.

The “I’ll take it” scenario doesn’t occur so much any more, and it certainly didn’t happen for me this last weekend.  So, on some level, the whole event turned out to be one of one of those, hmm, what do you call them?  Oh, yes —

.

Still, it’s probably good that I went.  Actually, I got the feeling that my gallery wanted me to come down there for my own education as much as for any use I might be in helping promote the work.  That’s what I’m telling myself, at least, because I really could not have been any less helpful than I was.  Nervous fidgeting and pacing?  Check.  Transparently crestfallen face when anyone left the booth without giving my work a good look?  Check.  Uncontrollable, gagging, crying, red-faced coughing fits?

Check (I have a miserable cold).

I did get to go to a party that had a velvet rope line for the first time in my life, which was sort of exciting.  On the other hand, it kinda sucked, because it was sponsored by Campari so there were endless free Campari drinks and you had to pay for anything else.  And of course, who wants to pay for drinks when you can get them for free, even if you start to feel a little ill from all the sickly sweetness?  I am pretty sure I was the only person who actually liked Campari at the party, and even I was a little grossed out after a while.  Also, they didn’t have any food, which doesn’t make Lufthansa look so great, does it?  I mean, do you really want all those glamorous people (plus the red-faced lady coughing her guts out in the corner) to associate your airline with feeling hungry and cranky?

The biggest bright spot of the weekend?  Two women stopped me and asked if I was Loretta Lux.  Were they crazy?  Obviously.  But I’ll take what I can get.



{November 26, 2009}  

Well, Russ, I’m more or less done with the stuff I needed to get done this week.  All that remains is for me to pack and ship over the next couple of days, then get myself down to the tropics for what will undoubtedly be a strange, strange few days.  Oh, and I have to get something resembling grown-up clothes to wear for my event.  I’m enlisting the help of a far more fashion- and retail-savvy friend this weekend, thank goodness, because I just don’t think I can dress myself anymore.  My ideas about what to wear have been distorted over the last few months by my experiences teaching 21-year-old girls, who — have you noticed this? — don’t wear pants much nowadays.  And like every disturbing, American-Apparel-was-on-to-it-three-years-ago trend, it doesn’t look that bad to me anymore, you know?  All of which means that it won’t be long until I’m wearing this.

Hey, so apologies to my Facebook friends for the self-plagiarism here, but did you see that article from Salon that I posted, along with the response in Jezebel?  The original article discussed our culutre’s weird animosity towards mothers — in particular, educated, white, urban mothers who dare to take their kids out in public places and disturb people around them with kid noise — and sensibly suggested that there is an anti-feminist impulse underlying this animosity.  The Jezebel response — specifically, a sizable percentage of the comments — took some issue with this notion.  Quick, go read those articles.  Then come back.

This little tidbit from Jezebel made me homicidal.

It’s the combination of smugness and obliviousness, Berkeley ethics funded by serious money, of campaigning for liberal politicians while complaining about nanny problems.

Hey, you know what?  I campaign for liberal politicians.  I’ve also had nanny problems.  Seriously, I am so tired of this shit.  Why are otherwise left-leaning types so horrid and myopic when it comes to questions of feminism and motherhood?  It’s a good thing for cities, for public schools and for the environment that relatively affluent families are no longer fleeing urban areas in the same numbers.  It’s a good thing for women to avail themselves of whatever options they can to keep their careers alive during the very difficult early child-rearing years (if that’s what they want to do), as long as they treat child-care workers like professionals.  It’s a good thing for all of us to share our public spaces in a way that helps us learn to accommodate one another.  So why are liberal urbanites so resentful of kids?  Are they really that infantile?  One Jezebel commenter mentioned proudly that she hadn’t been taken to a restaurant until she was five, because her parents didn’t want to subject the other patrons to her antics.  Five fracking years until you’re allowed to take your child to a restaurant?  Are you kidding me?  I don’t take my child to five-course meals in white-tablecloth establishments, but jeez, are we really not supposed to go anywhere but Chuck E. Cheese? For all the screeching about strollers in bars, you’d think that the bars (OK, non-smoking gastropubs, really) we sometimes take our child to DIDN’T HAVE HIGH CHAIRS AVAILABLE.

So frack all y’all.  I’m going out for a pint with my 3-year-old.





Speaking of bringing the awesome sauce, Russ, thanks for that last post.  So if we can all agree that Facebook is like a high school cafeteria, when do you think senioritis will set in?  Or has it started already?  The thrill of finding all our elementary school friends is over; snowball fights and the like have disappeared; the Great Top 5 Mania of Early ’09 has passed and even Mafia Wars/Farmville/Whatever seem to have quieted down.  So is the experience going to be reinvented again, or has everybody moved over to Twitter — which I still don’t get, even though I have an account and all?  Is there someplace entirely different where the kids are now congregating, which we Olds are only going to find out about as it is on its way to becoming utterly passé?  I know there have been tons of articles about how people are closing down their accounts, but I think we can all agree that the New York Times Magazine isn’t the most reliable source for trend-spotting.  If Facebook is on the wane, though, please tell me that it will revive itself in some way.  Housebound weirdo that I am, I need the company.

You know what hasn’t died down?  The allure of trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with you through internet symptom searches.  How can this possibly be anything but useful and beneficial, I ask you?  Here’s my trouble.  Remember that weird chest-wall muscle pain I had a while back?  Well, I’ve been beset with these vague, crazy-lady symptoms ever since:  muscle aches, skin pain/hypersensitivity (feels like a sunburn but no redness or rash), a couple of low-grade fevers, occasional headaches and, yesterday and today, slight dizziness.

I know.  Victorian neurotic territory, right?  I figure it’s gotta be either stress plus over-work, or just the remnants of some weird but relatively harmless virus.  The fact that the discomfort is mild and so, so vague  (I’m totally able to function) makes me hesitant to go to the doctor.  I mean, that is such a dubious set of complaints.  Who wants to acknowledge to his doctor that he is a loon when he could just stew in internet-saturated bewilderment and then post about it on his blog?

This is why I’ve decided to hold off on making a doctor’s appointment until I come down with hysterical blindness.  I figure I am this close anyway, so why not wait until I can present with the full nutjob monty?  Plus, what can my doctor tell me that I can’t find on the internet?  There are zillions of forums full of people posting about their skin pain and they are all totally sane and helpful and not at all filled with people who are self-diagnosed with every single crazy problem in existence — or not in existence.

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity?  Ooooh, tell me more!*

*[An addendum:  yes, I’m sure someone has this.  I am equally sure that not everyone who thinks he or she has this actually has this.]



On a Claire Day

On a Claire Day has, over the past couple of weeks*, been sticking its nose into nobody’s business.  Claire’s boyfriend, Paul, has been exploring Facebook and finds it wanting.

Now, some comic strips bring the awesome sauce, while others are just plain scolds, shoring up society’s rear guard and staking out a plea for a return to decency. I say “decency” as opposed to traditional values, as the funnies tend to position themselves at the sitcom Left of the values vote, at a place where Life goes on, and Family matters.

Now it should be obvious to anybody reading this strip that co-creators Carla Ventresca and Henry Beckett must not have Facebook accounts (Carla, do you also go by “Carly“?) — either that, or they are being purposefully misleading.  Dave, we have seen some boring and lame status updates, but, really, Paul?  That’s what you imagine being a parody of Facebook posts?  Gee, you really are quite a boring twit.  I mean, talk about cutting close to the bone — you didn’t even get the gristle.  It’s like Dave and I are already sucking marrow and you’re still peeling artichokes.

And, then, of course, there’s the cryptic message from JER98… Excuse me, wouldn’t the proper FB argot go something like Jeremy Greenfarb commented on your status?  No, really, do you even do the basic leg work before you blab off about Facebook being an inane wast of time.  On a Claire Day, what is a waste of time is the 80 seconds I spend everyday reading your badly drawn strip on My Comics Comics.com merely in order to simulate the experience of poring over a print comics page… So, what can I say except that I hope Claire dumps Paul’s boring ass and then gets gobbled up by Cathy in some bizarre funnies accident:  “I eat insecure comic strip women when my mother-in-law visits for Thanksgiving…” Ha ha ha!

In any case, Dave, I think this meets up with your previous query about the kind of thing Facebook is, and what our critical positioning in the blogosphere represents in the broader world of online networking.  One of the most prevalent misconceptions about social networking is that it is a playground for narcissists.

For a time, I thought that FB could be said to have the collegial forum quality of a water cooler: a place to regale people you vaguely like with your love for television and the Wizards, your irritation at gay marriage repeal initiatives and whether or not you scored over the weekend.

However, I believe that you have truly seized upon the right metaphor for this new space which we and our peers are carving out with the help of annoying app generators.  It is indeed a school cafeteria — although more of a high school — rather than a middle school as you have suggested — lunchroom.  It is the supreme terrain of face-presenting, the apprehensive fashioning of an adult persona, and that nagging interior voice begging all saints that your best friend from 5th grade who has become a pimpled reprobate hesher doesn’t think he can sit at your table.  Yeah — eww!  Of course, there’s also the blabbing about food, gym class and, naturally, gross PDA.

And, where do we fit into all of this?  Well, I think that, unlike the armchair anthropology of On a Claire Day (talk about wearing the “stupid people” T-shirt) we are actually assuming a sound critical stance as participant observers in our research terrain.  That, I believe contributes mightily to the utmost radness of our blog here.  And, yet, at the same time, are we not also anthropologists much as the effete high school boys just turned 18, going to the strip club — you know, for anthropological purposes?  Yeah, just to see what it’s like… We may scoff at the dirty girls and the sad old men, but, when we get home at 2 AM (‘rents are out of town, see) and pop open the Bartles & James, we have to admit that we were just a little turned on by the whole thing…

*This post was initially intended for publication on Thursday, November 12



{November 16, 2009}   omg did u hear what he just said

stupidpeople

Russ, I know you’ve got your thing about David Sedaris, but that’s just too bad.  I am not ashamed to say that I love this passage from his story, “See You Again Yesterday.”

Potential boyfriends could not smoke Merit cigarettes, own or wear a pair of cowboy boots, or eat anything labeled either ‘lite’ or ‘heart smart.’ Speech was important, and disqualifying phrases included ‘I can’t find my nipple ring’ and ‘This one here was my first tattoo.’ All street names had to be said in full, meaning no ‘Fifty-ninth and Lex’ and definetly no ‘Mad Ave.’ They couldn’t drink more than I did, couldn’t write poetry in notebooks and read it out loud to an audience of strangers, and couldn’t use the words flick, freebie, cyberspace, progressive, or zeitgeist. They could not consider the human scalp an appropriate palette for self-expression, could not own a rainbow-striped flag, and could not say they had ‘discovered’ any shop or restaurant currently listed in the phone book. Age, race, and weight were unimportant. In terms of mutual interests, I figured we could spend the rest of our lives discussing how much we hated the aforementioned characteristics.

So you know how some words or phrases are either self-negating (e.g., “classy” or “no offense“) or self-betraying — in the sense that no one ever wears a shirt printed with a complaint about “stupid people” who is not, him- or herself, a stupid person?  Obviously, there are millions of little cues that give us insight into whether someone is OK or Not OK.  Cues that, we hope, evolve from the incredibly silly ones we looked for when we were younger (“OMG, he’s wearing Skechers!  Ew!”) into somewhat more important and telling ones (“OMG, he yelled at the waitress/drives a giant SUV/voted for Nader in 2000“).  We’re tuned into this stuff because, at least according to the genius ev-psych people, we had to learn to categorize people into Us and Them way back in the caveman days, or we’d get, like, speared, or whatever.

clanofthecavebear

Of course, some of those traits that we find intolerable boil down to aesthetics (like my ongoing appreciation for David Sedaris, whom you scorn).  Those are the ones that are ultimately forgivable, or even potentially lovable (think of the plot of every single screwball comedy).  Others, though, like the waitress example above, seem to point to actual defects of character and are thus “dealbreakers.”  And yeah, yeah, I recognize that using the word “dealbreaker” probably falls into the “dealbreaker” category.  (I’m, like, so whatever — you could do so much better.)

What I get hung up on, though, to the point of maniacal obsession — and I know you do, too, Russ, since it’s kind of the whole focus of our blog, and, let’s face it, our friendship — are the cues that fall into an ambiguous area, where the line between aesthetic and moral failings start to blur.  You know what I mean.  Excessive discussions of physical fitness, lingerie as Halloween costumes, over-use of “Any-vow-bag” cliches.  I’m sort of ashamed to admit that I love this aspect of Facebook, which is at its core just one big middle school cafeteria.  It’s so hard to resist the invitation to judge other people’s priorities, hobbies, taste and grammar (glass houses, pots and kettles, I get it).  And even as I’m scrutinizing, I know that I’m being scrutinized, and that I’m probably just about as lovely and fascinating now as I was in eighth grade.  As Russ’s Mom once said, “Nobody is his or her best self on Facebook.”  So you and I, Russ, with our fancy social networking and our blogging and all — are we, like, students of the human condition?  Or are we just middle-school brats?  Simply by virtue of our willing participation in the culture of oversharing, are we putting on the “stupid people” T-shirt?



{November 13, 2009}   Subscribe!

 

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