The Canadian Club











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.

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{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 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 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.]



{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!

 

nerds

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{November 13, 2009}   You’re just too good to be true.

ihop

First item on my agenda:  a hearty greeting to our sudden influx of undoubtedly confused international readers.  Looking for information about the Princess Protection Program or Gerhard Richter?  Believe us, we’re just as surprised that you ended up here as you are.  But while you’re here, why not have a look around?  Do you like the Buzzcocks or the English Beat?  We sure do!  Perhaps you’d be interested to know that Russ and I enjoy international travel and have visited many of your lovely countries?  It’s true!  We loves us some Sachertorte!

You might also like to hear what I’ve got to say about the Youth of America these days.  First, I should explain that Russ and I are not Canadians, but rather Americans, who named our blog after a fine beverage frequently referenced in an even finer TV show.  Got that?  OK.  Here we go.

So we’re always hearing about how incompetent our American educational system is.  (No doubt you, Foreign Gerhard Richter Fan, have heard something about this as well.)   And yes, I have to say, we’re guilty as charged; it’s pretty awful, and lots of kids can’t find Iraq on a map, and they can’t do basic math and so on and so forth.

But Oh. My. God.

The elite youth?  The kind who attend Overlord Academy, where I’m teaching right now, or who went to Miss Miniver’s, where I used to teach?

Crikey.

These kids, Most Respected Citizen of Estonia!  These kids!  How are they so shiny-haired, poised, bright and affable?  How are they so clever and hard-working?  We just did a critique on their most recent Bedazzler project, for which I asked them to make a small assemblage (think Joseph Cornell box, or John Frederick Peto trompe l’oeil still life) comprised of whatever objects they wanted.  They were to base their Bedazzler projects on these assemblages.  Here is what shocked me, in increasing order of shockingness.

4)  The projects were really, really good.  I seriously don’t have any clue as to how they’re getting anything out of my absentminded babbling about what Footie Pajamas’s favorite songs are, but I’m really impressed.   Clearly, this is some kind of Platonic innate knowledge thing, because they’re not getting it from me.

3)   They work really, really hard.  They’re not just bragging about late hours for my benefit.  I overhear them asking questions like, “How late were you here last night?”  and the answer is typically something like 3 or 4 or 5 am.  They have the kind of inside jokes with one another that can only have developed over many shared hours in the Bedazzling studio.

2)  They think it’s totally normal to work this hard.  Many of their projects seem to contain narratives about how much stuff they’re doing.  Two students, totally independently, included medication bottles in their assemblages.  WTF?!?  Medication bottles!  They are pre-med brilliant painters who write for the paper!  They get up to go to the gym at 6:30 am!  Do you know what I was doing at 6:30 am in college?  Sleeping.  That’s what I was doing, my Milanese friend.  Sleeping.

1)  At age 20 or so, they unambiguously like their parents.  “My dad is much cooler than I am — he’s always telling me about new bands.”  They actually say things like this, Münchners!  Aren’t 20-year-olds still supposed to be rolling their eyes at their dads?

We chat a lot in Bedazzling class, as you may have guessed.

quilting bee

The ladies of Gee's Bend

So, my International Friends, what is going on?  Why are my students superior to me in every single way, except for the cool dad thing which I just find creepy?

I haven’t seen this video in 20 years.  Please tell me that’s not blackface.  Please?



{November 11, 2009}   Barf me out
boucher

Hercules and Omphale, Francois Boucher

OK, Russ, given how much I’ve been hounding you, I guess I owe you a prompt reply.

But not before I say, how ’bout that Mad Men?  I loved the wacky corporate caper plot.  And boy oh boy, I’m so over feeling sympathy for Betty.  This is a case where Dan Savage’s advice might have been useful:  just have the affair, Betty, get it out of your system, and don’t ruin your kids’ lives.  Because, eek, is that guy really going to be poor Sally’s stepdad?  You don’t even know him!  It’s just too awful to contemplate, although he’s probably going to deserve what he gets from that kid, who has gotten so. awesome. this season.

OK.  Now on to your questions about Facebook PDA.  You’re right that I am, perhaps unfairly and irrationally, suspicious of excessive displays of affection — at least among non-brand-spanking-new couples (I’m putting you on notice, Russ).  It’s a bit like those meta-conversations you and I discussed recently:  when two people have recently gotten together, they can be delightful; if you’re having a talk with your spouse of 20 years about the state of your relationship, though, chances are things aren’t going too well.  Now, I don’t require that couples restrict their public interactions to incessant bickering and mockery (I guess it’s more of a recommendation?) but I do admit that I raise an eyebrow over too-frequent “I sure love my awesome hubby” posts.  Because, like, shouldn’t that go without saying?  It’s like men who always introduce their wives as “my beautiful wife.”  I know, I know, every couple is different, but let’s just say that in my marriage, that might be cause for a meta-conversation.

So what should you and — uh oh, I don’t feel right about coming up with a nickname for your new lady love — do, Russ?  Be exactly like me.  I mean, you could do worse, right?  Because, darn it, I just love my handsome hubby.

Or, you know, better yet, be like this.



{November 7, 2009}   Here I go again on my own…

I can’t embed the original video, but I feel like the unplugged version captures my mood a little better today, anyway.  Subdued but optimistic, I guess.  Sluggish but determined.  Guarded, but friendly.  How’s my weird chest-wall muscle injury?  Thank you for asking, Russ.  I’m feeling a lot better today.

So there’s been a lot of hullabaloo lately about love and texting, hasn’t there?  What do you think about the New York Magazine article?  Is that actually something?  Because it really just seems like a big, stupid nothing — I don’t see how you can extrapolate anything meaningful about Our Culture Today from those examples.  As for David Brooks’s piece, well, he just sounds weird and off target in his op-ed — but then again, he is reliably wrong about everything, albeit in varying degrees.  Much as Ta-Nehisi Coates is reliably on target.

So at the risk of boring you all (hi Mom, hi Ty) with a return to a subject I touched on a while ago, this has all got me thinking again about electronic text as a primary means of communication between people, and about how that changes the quality of our relationships.  (By text, I’m not just referring to text messages on phones, but also to IM and email and social networking stuff.)  I’ve heard it argued that it’s a distancing or protective device, and also that it facilitates intimacy.  Then there’s that ongoing question about whether it’s making us more, or less, slutty.  As you know, I’ve been in the “courtly love” camp, but then again, it’s not like I know a lot of people who are into hookups, so my view is probably skewed.

As you know, Russ, I love me some IM.  My first experiences with it were way back in Olden Tymes, when I used some primitive version of the technology to stay in touch with my then-boyfriend, who was on a fellowship in another country.  I remember it being sort of nice but also making me feel really sad, because it seemed like such a weird and artificial way to communicate.  I bet, though, that I felt that way just because it was so new and so different from anything that I’d done before.  If I were in the same circumstances now, I think I’d find it a lot less depressing.

I don’t think that it’s just romantic relationships that have been changed by a renewed emphasis on text, though.  I definitely have friends with whom I “click” better through written language.  Perhaps it’s because these media make introvert + introvert friendships easier to nurture…?  There was some dumb thing that I heard on Dan Savage’s podcast recently about how the Pill might be Screwing Up Human Evolution because women on hormonal birth control don’t ovulate, and during the time when women are ovulating they prefer big Neanderthal guys, so maybe women are winding up with wimpier guys than they would otherwise and it’s going to destroy the gene pool or whatever.  That argument seems really questionable to me for a lot of reasons, but I do wonder whether these text-based technologies are facilitating connections between people who might otherwise be too shy or nerdy to get things going on their own.  So do you think that if I suggest that Facebook is altering the course of human evolution, I can get my dumb theory on the news, too?



{November 4, 2009}   Road to H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks

vomit

I suppose that makes me Bing, right?  But if that’s the case, how come you’re the one making everyone vomit with your spooning?

You know, Russ, we don’t talk politics much here at the Canadian Club, but today I just can’t help myself.  Now, I’m a little bit crabby today because, as the saying goes, “I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair…” We’ve got a transit strike going on that is this close to turning me into a Republican.  I seem to have pulled some weird muscle in my chest wall and now it HURTS TO BREATHE.  IT HURTS TO BREATHE, RUSS!!!!1@!! (Before you comment, Mom, YES, I will go to the doctor if it gets any worse and NO it’s not pleurisy, I felt it happen suddenly when I was running the other day.)  Also, I have a cold.  And did I mention the transit strike?

inky pic

SEPTA train on fire (from the Philadelphia Inquirer)

So anyway, what was I saying?  Oh.  Yes.  Politics.  WTF, Maine?!  I hate your guts right now almost as much as I hate TWU Local 234.  We’re talking Crushing Hate, not Hate Crush.  Seriously, Maine, that’s not like you guys!  You’re New Englanders.  You’re practically Canadians.  I was sure that you were going to be my ray of sunshine last night.  This guy said so, even.

I got married up there with you guys!

I thought you were cool.

It’s surprising to me that this is so upsetting.  I genuinely believed that Obama’s election had brought me to some state of inner calm with regard to electoral politics.  All those wacky ups and downs?  So silly!  Everything was moving, inevitably, all that election season, to where it was supposed to be moving.  “Why can’t he be more aggressive?” we asked, in a state of panic over the latest tracking polls (around which I used to schedule my day’s activities).  But, like, he was totally right and we were totally wrong and he won and we were all happy for a little while because maybe things really do have a way of working themselves out after all!

I know that it’s incredibly stupid of me to have applied that kind of thinking to, basically, everything that’s happened in the world of politics since then, but I think that’s probably what I’ve been doing.  It’s been hard not to let go, step away from the blogs and hum a little tune since the presidential election, since it allows me to function at a (marginally) higher level than I can when I’m paying too-close attention.  Which brings me back, tediously, to that same question:  How can I be interested in something without letting it take over my life?



{November 2, 2009}   I am not a number!

Laugh3

So hey there, Russ, how was your Halloween weekend?  What did you wind up being, anyway?

I went to a movie this weekend, which was so exciting for me that I started giggling uncontrollably during the previews and remained more or less rapt throughout the entire film.  You know that scene from Sullivan’s Travels where the convicts are watching the Mickey Mouse cartoon and laughing their heads off?  And it’s such a great scene, but then you’re like, whoa, wait, did grown-ups ever used to think Mickey Mouse was that funny?  (Because, trust me, I’ve seen some of these recently with this guy and they are moderately amusing at best.)  Anyway, I was like those convicts in the movie.  I was like one of those moviegoers who supposedly ran screaming from the Lumiere Brothers’ train film.  I could have watched anything on the big screen and been delighted, I think.  OK, you’re right, maybe not anything.

So it turns out that it can be fun to leave the house and be in the actual, physical world with other human beings (other human beings besides Pajamas and Footie Pajamas, I mean).  As your mom so aptly put it — and kudos to her for her stream of insight! — a lot of my gripes about humankind result from “not actually having left the house for Halloween in many years (don’t deny it!), and are based wholly on [my] readings of Us Weekly in grocery-store lines.”  That is, if by “Halloween” you mean, “any reason except for class or to pick up FP,” and by “Us Weekly in grocery-store lines” you mean, “Jezebel in your studio while eating a solitary apple-and-peanut-butter lunch.”  So yes, Russ’s Mom, your point is well taken.  I welcome your perspective from the outside.

Speaking of the Outside, do you think this is completely misguided, or potentially awesome?  I’m leaning towards the former, but mostly because of my distaste for Jim Caviezel.

So that’s what I learned this weekend.  What did you learn, Russ?



ghost

I’ve been thinking about Halloween, Russ.  Back when I was teaching the young ‘uns at Miss Miniver’s Finishing School, it was more or less assumed that all of the teachers would wear festive attire on Halloween.  Not wanting to be a stick-in-the-mud, I would always do a little something, but generally it would be along the lines of orange and black clothing.  Or striped witchy tights.  Some teachers, though, would go completely nuts, wearing, like, crazy ax-murderer outfits or huge get-ups that made them completely unrecognizable.

I had mixed feelings about this situation, as I do now.  This guy tends to take the view that all forms of celebration, including Halloween and Christmas, are for little babies — but not for really little babies because they don’t know any better so why bother?  (I’m still trying to pin him down on all of this, but from what I have been able to piece together from his various rants, there is a brief window between the ages of four and five during which modest celebrations are appropriate.)  I admit, I am somewhat sympathetic to his perspective:  there is definitely a tone of voice in which certain adults say, “Halloween is my favorite holiday,” that freaks me out a little.  And as I said, I could never quite bring myself to spend weeks on a costume that the Miss Miniver’s girls would just mock behind my back anyway.  But I certainly don’t begrudge adults the right to put on costumes for a party that won’t be attended by children, and I genuinely love that a couple of our neighbors go really crazy decorating for the local kids.

I can’t quite put my finger on when I find grown-ups Taking the Joke Too Far, Halloween Style kind of charming, and when I find it a bit sad/creepy/desperate.  I know that I get a little obsessed with these threading-the-needle questions (romantic letters = rad!  amateur musician writing woman a mushy song = vomit!) but, you know, whatever.  I get obsessed with everything that I don’t forget within thirty seconds, but somehow, you still tolerate me.

So I ask you, Russ:  what are you gonna be this year?  I’m going to be Person Answering the Door with a Bowl of Candy.



{October 30, 2009}   I feel it coming together

hollywood-sign-address1

Hmm.  Those are some good ideas you’ve thrown out there, Russ, but I’m not sure that they would pass muster under the Academic Integrity Guidelines at Overlord Academy — which state, uh, something about how you can’t submit the same work for two classes, blah blah blah.  I wasn’t really paying much attention at that meeting, to be honest.  But seeing as how you already have to read Stendahl for your job, isn’t that, like, totally no fair?  Why don’t we both set out to do some long, quasi-conceptual sweatshirt project so that I can be the one who gets to coast on my already-established interests?

Actually, since I was thinking that a movie deal would have to involve some kind of personal conflict and redemption arc, there may be cinema gold to be found here in this little disagreement over what kind of wizards we should be.  So how about this:  a movie based on a book based on a blog about what we should be blogging about!  I know, right?  Kind of like Adaptation, or some other movie that probably came out after I stopped watching movies.

So that’s a little too risky, you say?  Well, then, I’ve got other ideas, and plenty of them.  The more conventional story arcs  involve either a buddy theme (I’d say a road trip, but hasn’t that been done to death?) or a quirky Facebook/Twitter/whatever-era rom com thingie.  I realize I’d have to be a secondary character in the rom com, since, dedicated as I am to this undertaking, I’m not quite ready to abandon my spouse and kid in pursuit of even an inevitable and ultra-lucrative book/movie deal.  In fact, I might even prefer being a snappy sidekick or wingman character.  The only question is, am I more this type or this type?

That was a trick question, of course, since everybody knows I am both those people rolled into one.

Anyway, the more I think about it, the more certain I am that if our blogging experience helps you find True Love with your own MPDG, our path to fame and fortune will be a smooth one.  Also, you know how obsessed I am with internet dating, so maybe that could figure into the mix somehow.  Oooh, oooh, I know, I know!  We set up some situation where, like, you have an internet dating profile and I somehow, like, pick the girls?  Or something?  And it somehow has to do with our blog?  I’m a little fuzzy on the details, and maybe it’s just the old-fashioneds talking, but I have this gut feeling that this could work.  Maybe as a reality show?

God, we’re amazing when we put our heads together.  That expensive education of ours really paid off, Russ.

Am I right or am I right?



{October 28, 2009}   On taking the joke too far

steve5

So it’s come to this already, eh?  Yesterday was hella lame, friends — we know.

In our defense, all this chatter can be hard to sustain.  In much the same way that spending an entire weekend consuming nothing but beer and cider donuts can seem like an amusing idea on Friday morning, but totally vomitorius by, well, a little later on Friday morning, writing a blog for no good reason is in practice not exactly what it is in theory.  Which is to say that we’re sort of busy and lazy and everything always takes longer than you think it’s going to.  And Russ and I — it’s OK that I’m telling them this, right, Russ? — sometimes have issues with biting off more than we can chew.  Eyes being bigger than stomachs.

In addition to the beer and cider donuts weekend — during which (I’m gonna go a little crazy here and pretend that someone might be reading this who doesn’t already know this story) Russ and I decided for some inexplicable reason that it would be Totally Rad to celebrate the completion of our undergraduate theses with (you guessed it) a weekend of nothing but beer and cider donuts, which Russ actually went out and bought, but then Dave was already ill after one meal and had to bow out, which made Russ get mad at him and then iirc we had a bunch of donuts on our hands — there was also some dumb intermural basketball thing we got really excited about but bailed on, and that time we bought all that stuff for a picnic at the end of the semester but everyone had already gone back home.  There was the mixed schnitzel platter for two incident in Vienna.  And also, apparently, Russ’s marriage (just for the record, I wasn’t a big fan of that joke).  And our podcast, which died on the vine because we couldn’t stay focused long enough to talk about one thing.  Which I know will come as a shock to anyone reading this right now.  I could go on and on, obviously.

So sometimes, taking the joke too far is completely awesome and fun and fulfilling — like our band was — and sometimes it’s just disappointing and embarrassing, like, um, a bunch of other stuff was.  Russ is a little more extroverted than I am, so I’m not sure that he is quite as equivocating as I am about these things. It’s a pretty universal feeling, though, that ambivalent longing for wacky excess, and I think it has lot to do with why so many Olds tend to get soooo nostalgic about college.  The chance to behave stupidly over and over again with relatively little blowback has its appeal, doesn’t it?  Especially now, with the grown-up world crashing in on us in various ways.  It’s nice to imagine that there was a time when we got to act like total idiots all the time without embarrassment or consequence, even though that time didn’t really exist at all.

None of which is to say that I view this blog as one big joke gone too far — or, if it is one big joke gone too far, that I think it’s the bad kind of joke gone too far.  Really, I think I just wanted to talk about beer and donuts.



{October 27, 2009}   Your feedback is important

A quick question on my way out (because our future overlords need someone to teach them all about proper rhinestoning technique if they’re going to be well rounded grown-ups.)

So.  I’ve heard a couple of complaints that this blog is, “like, so whatever,” in the sense that it’s hard to follow and who has time to read all those hyperlinks anyway?  I’d estimate that our goals with this little endeavor break down roughly as follows:  70% = Russ and Dave amusing themselves/each other; 20% = Russ and Dave trying/failing to amuse 3 or 4 friends; 9% = trying to impress the chicks and 1% = I wonder what the Japanese person who was looking for information about Brendan Fraser thought when he/she found us?

Does that breakdown say terrible things about us?



{October 27, 2009}   While we’re on the subject…


{October 26, 2009}   Me hate myself

Bizarro1

Holy frackin’ crop, Russ.  I guess I should have expected that the hate crush issue would set you off, but geez!  So, um, can I just state for the record?  That the opinions expressed by Russ?  Are, you know, not necessarily those of Dave?

k thx.

I do agree with you that those Jezebel girls fracked up the concept of the crush and its beautiful antithesis.  But I think that they got close, which is why it’s all so maddening.

Take the crush.  The “seeing my best self reflected in your eyes” experience is a real romantic phenomenon, but doesn’t that come later?  Crushes exist completely independent from any relationship that you might have with the other person.  Because he/she has to know you exist before he/she can make you feel sparkling and witty and Peter O’Toole-ish.  Unless you’re totally crazy.

The hate crush, though — maybe a little trickier?  I think you’re right that it’s about what you fear others may see in you, but can you really draw a clear distinction between that and what you genuinely dislike or need to suppress in yourself?  How is your loathing of the beret-wearing Bizarro Russ really different from hating something in yourself that could sprout into beret wearing if you weren’t careful?  I don’t think it really is.

But that, imho, gets at what they’ve got wrong about the hate crush.  How is it a bad thing to use your vision of someone — however cartoonish and ungenerous — to try and figure out what you don’t want to be like?  I would argue that it can be really, really great to realize — with or without the dry heaving — that you don’t want to be the kind of girl who’d fall for that kind of guy, or the kind of guy who’d be into that kind of book, or the kind of guy who’d make that kind of art, or the kind of girl who’d post that kind of picture?



et cetera