The Canadian Club











{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.

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{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.



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 13, 2009}   Subscribe!

 

nerds

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{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 3, 2009}   Even Bob Hope had off days

bob_n_bing

Remember when there was that guy Russ who used to contribute to this blog?  Wonder what happened to him…

I hear he’s hiding his head in shame over something — maybe a little hypocritical — he said about Halloween and parties.  Boy, Russ’s Mom really gave him what for!  There certainly was a creative set of costumes and very little flesh.  Perhaps staying sober during such an event ensures that one’s memories are more positive.  I guess the lesson I learned was quite opposite from that set forth in Frazz, below:

Frazz

Now, to address your concern about The Prisoner remake, I think we can only conclude that all remakes of mod British classic television is destined for failure, essentially because Hollywood has a particular knack for screwing up both camp and offbeat adventure.  This reminds me of a lecture I attended recently that veered quite unexpectedly into a tragi-comic over-analysis of Little Miss Sunshine. (More on that later)

However, another reason why The Prisoner thingy will fail is, as you have noted, Jim Cazazwhatever.  This guy has a serious Billy Crudup problem.  Not to say that Billy Crudup does not really have a Billy Crudup problem of his own.  Here’s a guy who totally crudded up the early prognostics of a ‘serious acting’ career!  Still, the unique position of Jim Xaxasville is that nobody wants to watch him in bad movies when they could watch Billy Crudup in bad movies instead.

All that to say, however, that someone told me I have to prepare for class in a few minutes, which will be relatively more arduous than remembering that I used to participate in a vibrant and clever blog.  Yet, I have a feeling that Bob will be hitting the road with Bing again, and quite soon!

 



{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.



Luann

Check out Luann and Tiffany.  Does Luann have a hate crush on Tiffany?  Probably. Does Luann hate herself? Go figure. Is this hilarious? Yes.

Are hate crushes for reals? Whatever!

Whoever is selling the hate crush meme should go stick her head out the nearest window and vomit. That’s what she makes me want to do.  But I didn’t make it that far…  Blech.

Oops!

Oops!

Not for the first time and definitely not for the last, I’m totally with you on this one, Dave.  Do these people have any clue what they’re talking about?  The hate crush marketeers have the emotional finesse of “I love my fiancee, but I’m not in love with him.”  To quote again what you brought up:

If a crush is about seeing the best version of yourself as you envision it, a “hate crush” is about the worst.

Two things.  One, I have not heard that BS about you hate in others what you don’t like about yourself since — like — fourth frickin’ grade!  Two, must we explain everything through the prism of narcissism?  I think we’ve spoken before about the odd and subtle generational disconnect between us and the Jezebel crowd, namely manifested in matters of sentiment — where there is, on the part of a latter, a certain tendency to take themselves waaaaaay too seriously and to, in general, dismiss nuance and casuistic. Is it because they have been brought up on wonky non-fiction and the Internet?  I won’t speculate.  All I can say is — again — if these chicks read anything like Stendhal we would not be having this conversation. I mean, not only did they get the hate part wrong — put they even fracked up the much more traditional concept of the crush.

Yeah, I give up, folks:  I really hate the fact that I’m a wannabe fetish model.  I’m extremely insecure about how I look in leather.  I fear, at times, that my love of hip radical European Marxists militias who kill people combined with my healthy, thoughtful skepticism of affirmative action, may not necessarily express a coherent weltanschauung.  You’re right. It’s all about me.

Look at Luann.  Yeah.  Up there.  At the top of this post.  Does she hate Tiffany because she hates the superficial broad in herself?  No, she hates Tiffany, because she’s a stuck-up, preening, lousy lady who is acting all possessive of the Australian exchange student and — worse than that, she looks enough like Luann, that this latter worries that people will associate blond cartoon characters with a fracked up sense of community service.  Her position, then, is two-fold:  1) It is a proud, confident disassociation with the superficial similarities shared with Tiffany, while at the same time 2) a strict sense of moral censure best expressed with the word “scoff.”

Like, a lot of the people I hate are people who resemble me — say, picture a slightly shorter Peter O’Toole (when young, of course) with a nose for fresh bread and fine truffles and a certain ability to speak French and other languages, not least while talking about the weather in fine metaphoric terms that beget dreamy expressions in the eyes of the ladies.  Well, so, you take that kind of person: Lovable, right?  But then, say he learned his French in Quebec, drinks fine wine instead of manhattans, thinks Arcade Fire rocks, and thinks that Obama compromised liberal ideals when he let Van Jones go.  And throw in a few carrots and chicks in the mix.  This, my friends, is the perfect recipe for a hate crush:  Again, not the incarnation of your worst faults but, rather, everything ersatz and pretentious that one fears could potentially be associated to your charming person and everything morally wrong that occurs in your vicinity.

Now it would be nice to pathologize and to remedy our capacity for moral censure.  But then who would be there to do such a tough job?  Do we just let these stupid poseurs hang around with a bunch of carrots and chicks without pointing and laughing?

Hate is fun!  Hate is cathartic.  And it keeps giving.

Oh, and a couple more points, Dave.  There was no like, and, thus, no dry-heave-inducing epiphany.  Just another joke gone too far.  That’s my official version, and I’m sticking to it.  Also, I think there is something odd about the fact that I don’t Google stalk my friends.  I thing you’re right that that should be the exception, not the rule.  Whatever.



{October 25, 2009}   I don’t want to get over you

bummers title

mailbox bummer

Don’t you hate it when a meme shows up that almost really, really resonates with you, but seems to fall just short of the mark in some way?  That comes maddeningly close to describing some defining experience?  Close enough that you feel like you’re kind of stuck with the term?

What could I be talking about, Russ?  Well, I’ll tell you.  It’s thehate crush.”

Your symptoms
You are obsessed with this person who really bothers you.  You can’t help but read her blog on Facebook/ Twitter. When you run into her, and sometimes you look for opportunities to run into her, your pulse races. You can hear your heartbeat pounding in your head.  You pray for her downfall and plot to outshine her.

Here’s more.

It is true, these relationships have much of the unpleasant intensity of a crush, the element of obsession, the need to bring it up at all times – and, most important, next to nothing to do with the object thereof. A “hate crush” is about you, about projections and insecurities. If a crush is about seeing the best version of yourself as you envision it, a “hate crush” is about the worst. I know many a friend – male and female – who’s fallen prey to the classic scenario, such feelings about an ex’s new partner, something social networking, Twitter and Google help exactly not at all. It becomes a reciprocal relationship – comparing themselves to pictures and interests and resumes and musical tastes. One cliched quote can provide an unwholesome sense of validation, even as it feeds the mania. And as in many a crush, they don’t always know you exist.

You and I, Russ, we’ve had our share of obsessive preoccupations with people that we didn’t like.  Or people that we possibly kind of liked and kind of didn’t like at the same time.  And people that we pretended to like, or not to like, because it seemed really funny.  And people that we used to like but stopped liking — often in a moment of dry-heave-inducing epiphany.  I like to think, in fact, that you and I have turned this kind of negative devotion into an art form.

But all the descriptions I’ve read seem to miss something elemental about the hate crush, at least as I’ve experienced it.  There is so much giddy fun to be had in, oh, I dunno, obsessively researching your bff’s hateful wife on Google and emailing the choicest links to your mutual friends.  And there seems to be an implicit assumption in these articles that any kind of obsession is inherently unhealthy and destructive — when in fact, I think that my hate crushes are fun, and possibly even cathartic.

Then again, I find it disturbing when people tell me they don’t Google stalk their friends.  My god, people, are you not human?  Don’t you have any curiosity at all?



vomit

OK, given that I could barely make it through that New York Magazine piece, I’m probably not the best person to turn to on this one.  I mean — actually, no, I really have nothing to say.  Unless you’re asking what stance toward Lars Von Trier would be the most amusingly perverse, in which case I say, Go!  See it!  Manifestos aside, this film seems so antithetical to your Perfect School aesthetic (motto:  Nothing Messy, Nothing Ugly) that I am kind of intrigued by the idea of your managing to work liking it into your general world view.  Also, Charlotte Gainsbourg is just so adorable.

Wait, that might not be a plus here.

Now I have something else to say, but it’s only tangentially related, and it’s this.  Somehow I have stopped caring about movies, or about almost any other form of culture except for television.  Certainly, it has something to do with this guy and my inability to leave the house, but I feel like it’s a larger problem.  I barely read anymore, and when I do it’s some rag, or some “great novel” that I’ve already read 5 times.  I rarely get out to the sweatshirt expos, unless it’s to see a friend’s work, and I can’t be bothered to watch a real movie from Netflix.  At what point in this gradual decline towards total cultural illiteracy do I just throw in the towel and accept that it’s time to give up my chair at the smarty-pants’ table?  How long can one coast on being someone who used to know things about movies and books?  Does this happen to all parents, and if so, is it permanent?

Gentle Reader?  Am I stupid yet?

Insert sad caption here.

Insert sad caption here.



shoes_offAs you suggested, I wanted to address Betty’s letters at some point… But speaking of Mad Men…

My fondest desire has finally come true! Mark Sanford, whose affair captured my imagination for all its literary sturm und drang — the struggle with faith, norms of marriage and power, passionate letters, and heady exoticism — all that I love about French literature, well, he has finally set about to writing.  And, naturally, his first effort, as with all good, up-and-comers, is a book review.

But not just any book review… he discusses his readings of Ayn Rand.  A paean to the objectivist ethos of one Bertram Cooper? Pshaw!

In fact, bearing a similar chaotic ingenuousness to his confessions, the review often falters, holds back from tackling difficult concepts and paves a fairly rustic path with crude cobble-stones.  Reading like a high school essay, Sanford’s piece limits itself for the most part to a commented summary of the key works, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, with some clumsy observations:

What happens, of course, is that the government collapses, and Galt emerges to reorder society along strictly free-market lines. Granted, the plot is farfetched, but that doesn’t mean it’s not enormously influential.

We learn that Sanford came to Rand relatively late:

When I first read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged in the 1980s, I was blown away. Those books portray the power of the free individual in ways I had never thought about before.

In the 1980s, he had already finished college.  There really seems like no excuse to visit with Ayn Rand after the age of 17.  If you aren’t hooked on nerd-revenge fantasies by then, it’s most likely that they don’t apply to you.  One can only imagine that the books were forced upon him by some club at business school, kind of like taking up golf.

In the end, though, the most touching part of Sanford’s review is his final evocation of human frailty:

There is one more major flaw in Rand’s thinking. She believed that man is perfectible—a view she shared with the Soviet collectivists she hated. The geniuses and industrial titans who retire to Galt’s hidden valley create a perfect society based on reason and pure individualism; and Galt himself, in the 57-page speech near the book’s end, explicitly denies the existence of original sin. The idea that man is perfectible has been disproved by 10,000 years of history. Men and women are imperfect, or “fallen,” which is why I believe there is a role for limited government in making sure that my rights end where yours begin.

While the political lesson that Sanford draws from this inheritance of sin appears tacked on out of political convenience, his insistence upon the corruption of our flesh is touching and shows some glimmer of promise should he find someone to actually edit his work.

As I said when the scandal first broke — and it applies even more so, now — I would jump at the chance to ghostwrite Mark Sanford’s memoirs.  Mark, have your people call me.



{October 22, 2009}   The Brokeback work ethic

manhattans So, yeah.

Dave, I appreciate your insights into suffering for incentives that we don’t even hold in high regard.  While I have a vague understanding of the all-consuming nature of your craft, mine doesn’t even really feel like work.  This, here, feels like work to me — which perhaps explains the tremendous difficulty I am currently encountering in reading faces.  There is a bizarre disconnect between phases of interpretation and production that results in large swathes of my time being all at once pleasurable and yet unsatisfying.

Naturally, then, my inclination is always toward throwing career aside for something comfortable and something fulfilling.  Especially, given my repugnance to working alone and the natural disposition of an attention whore, taking orders at some fancy restaurant is my idea of a good time.  But then, after a while, your hands start to peel away from your obsession with standards of cleanliness, and you begin bossing people around for forgetting the pepper grinder, not running food, or filling in their tips during a busy shift.  It starts out as a joke — wouldn’t it be fun if I took this really seriously?  But then you realize that you cannot separate these nagging perfectionist impulses from anything you do… And, then, at the end of the day, it is hard to enjoy yourself, because you’ve become just as rabid and fanatical and detail-obsessed, as you would be if you were doing the thing that comes most naturally, that will never leave you alone…

I don’t know if this can be called ambition, per se.  I think two things, rather, are at play here.  On the one hand, having autonomy is really the only way for us to pursue making those fine, dazzling sweaters, or pushing the envelope of physiognomy at the level at which it would be satisfying for us. Yet, increased autonomy is necessarily wrapped up with an influx of carrots.  On the other hand, intrinsic motivation only gets one so far if one tends toward having ridiculously high expectations of oneself and others.  At least where I’m concerned, then, rolling in approval, attention and, yes, carrots, is really the only way to temper my own expectations and moderate the critical narrative that otherwise motivates me. In that sense, prestige is not a bad thing at all.  Laughable, sure.  But also reassuring.

So, yes.  To answer your question, ambition is for suckers.  But the unhappiness of being obsessed — even in spite of oneself — with something without having the free rein to pursue it is much more pernicious.  And I think it is that point at which stress and prestige both cede their terrain to the joys not so much of living in human society but of the harmony between craft and mind. Which is kind of how I feel about this blog…

And, btw, I totally do not go in for either growing vegetables or long bike rides!



{October 21, 2009}   Dying the heat death
pretty colors make us live long

pretty colors make us live long

To be honest, Dave, these questions have just never come to mind.  I have just never spent sixteen hours straight in a haze of suffering, seeking resources within myself to arrive at a point where I could either eat, write or read something edifying and that would advance me to those carrots of which donkeys so often bray.  So, I’m gonna have to give it some thought and get back to you later in the day, once I’m done rolling through the prestigious and linear investigations that must occupy the next few hours of my time.

With that, however, I leave you with one small question.  Which do you think is better:  This video, or watching one of the better episodes of the Avengers (Diana Rigg edition) while eating gelato at Capogiro?



ambition

I was reading your brilliant post on fitness again, Russ, and thinking about how unlikely it is that I will ever run a marathon.  This guy’s objections aside, I just can’t imagine ever suffering like that for a hobby.

But then there’s my Primary Career.  For which I do, you know, suffer, and make other people suffer.  I neglect my husband, my child and my social life — in addition to completely abandoning basic standards of cleanliness and order.  I love what I do and all, but why the hell am I working so hard?



My field, like yours, is stupidly prestige-conscious, and is filled with lots and lots of people competing for the same little rewards.  There are a lot of calculations to be made about lines added to the CV, about the relative glamor of one venue versus another, about schmoozing and self-promotion.  I would like to think that I’m not motivated by external rewards, that I really just care about Sweatshirts for Sweatshirts’ sake, but, come on — who am I kidding?  I like the occasional carrot just as much as the next donkey.  You know what I mean, Russ.  I really think you do.

Which leads me to the following question.  Is ambition for suckers?  Take day jobs.  When it comes to those, I have greatly preferred low-level administrative jobs to the more standard custom-sweatshirt maker’s career path.  Filing pays a little less per hour than teaching, obviously, but not that much less, and there’s very little stress involved.  And yet, try as I might to muster up the right kind of punk-rock moxie when talking about “what I do,” I always feel a little self-conscious if my day job is one that seems unworthy of my Prestigious Education.

So, Russ.  Would we be happier spending our time tending bar, growing vegetables and taking long bike rides — with some time taken out for a little blogging and a little sweatshirt-decorating, of course — if only we could get ourselves into the proper frame of mind?



{October 20, 2009}   Der Blaue Engel axiom

Named in honor of Laif (not to be confused with that Euro-trash kid Leith) from German class, who came up with the ageless question:

Why would the man want to dance with the ugly woman?

This axiom states that Ugly People® should make all possible efforts to avoid making news.



{October 20, 2009}   Stuff white people like

Re the NPR black musicians thing:  tell us something we DON’T know, Slate Magazine, you multi-culti internet hotspot, you.  [ETA:  Internet hotspot?  That’s where you get wi-fi, isn’t it?  What the hell am I talking about?]  So, I mean, yeah.  Totally.  Whatever.  NPR is for white people, I am a white person, I like a lot of those white-person bands and I don’t think David Sedaris sucks (even if I don’t, like, belly laugh when I hear that Billy Holiday thing for the gazillionth time).

Now, as for your other question:  OMFG, I totally had a big long tangent about this in my physical fitness post, but I decided to save it for later because I like to keep things short and sweet.

I’m really of two minds on this one.  On the one hand, can’t we assume that our Facebook peers are somewhat on board with all of our farmers market garbage?  We all get weird stuff in our CSA shares and sometimes other people know what to do with all of that green garlic (hint — don’t make this if you enjoy the company of other human beings), so maybe it’s not so bad to talk about that kind of thing?  On the other hand — I dunno, I don’t see another hand here, but that’s mostly because I’m already burdened by a near-crippling sense of shame over everything I do or say in front of other people and want not to feel stupid about yet one more thing.

When it comes to restaurants, I would suggest that we merely be guided by the question of whether or not we have anything interesting to say about said restaurant; however, that principle, if more generally applied, would mean that none of us ever posted a status update ever again, right?

So I think that we can all agree on the following:  we like white people stuff.  We are also incredibly boring and predictable.  Let’s give ourselves a break and just enjoy our food and our shitty indie bands.

garfield_lasagna



{October 20, 2009}   Sigh…

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

lonely teardrops



Rose Is Rose

Dave, today I feel like the pumpkin dragging you down. Sigh…

I’m working on a couple of deadlines today and will get to posting sometime in the PM.  Meanwhile, I’m gonna to make like Ta-Nehisi, and open up this thread…



{October 18, 2009}   Who are you?


et cetera