The Canadian Club











{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!

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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 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.



{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 10, 2009}   Modern Love

Andy Capp

I don’t know about you, but I think Andy Capp herein provides conclusive evidence that technology is ruining modern love.  Indeed how can you not hate your wife, if you can’t escape her for a few moments at the local pub?

Well, Dave, I’ve gotta hand it to ya:  Your last post provides much food for thought.

To coin a rhetorical flourish to which I was first introduced at our old intellectual stomping grounds, since MY GIRLFRIEND and I both approach physiognomy through a Language and Literacy frame of reference, we spend most of our time thinking about the authenticity of technology-mediated languages and their potential contribution to developing literacy and L2 proficiency.

weird_science

Russ's first girlfriend... finally.

As a result, we pretty obsessively experiment with Facebook and texting as forms of flirtation and PDA.  So far, these experiments have yielded a fairly significant amount of second-hand barf and neglect for basic responsibilities: in other words, quite an old-fashioned courtship that may not have been possible without written and multimedia supports.  So, yes, I agree with you, Dave, and further feel the need to mention that David Brooks gets much more credit for being interesting than he merits.

I don’t think we can leave this issue there, however, and I would further like to use this occasion of my shamefaced and overdue return to the blog, to raise the question of Facebook PDA.  I know you have an interesting theory on this somehow being — at least, in established couples — in inverse relationship to connubial bliss.  But, more generally, when, if ever, is Facebook PDA acceptable?  And what limits would you set on such a new practice?  We need your advice on this, Dave.

NDLR:  I have no idea what’s going on in this video, but, I frackin’ love this joint.



{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!

 



{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?



{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 24, 2009}   Oh, and another thing…

Hazmat-team

Quickly, before I don the suit and start on some pre-houseguest cleanup.

Russ’s mom, in typically succinct fashion, got straight to the heart of of the Lars Von Trier issue when she said “He stinks.”  I know that people have made the argument, as you alluded to, that the over-the-top martyrdom theme in his work can be interpreted as a feminist critique, rather than mere over-aestheticized, European-style misogyny.  Certainly, I’ve winced when I’ve heard people say that they can’t stand Mad Men because they don’t like seeing the racism and misogyny (really, I’ve heard this!).  But you can make the same claim about anything, can’t you?  Is the Saw series a brilliantly subversive critique of movie violence?  Is G.I. Joe:  The Rise of Cobra actually pure genius (I suspect yes, but that’s probably based on my weird, undying love for this guy).  Do we just make the distinction based on whether the director is European, as you suggested in your Brown Bunny comparison?  That might be the key, actually:  this is sly art, this is drivel.  This is vile, this is darkly clever.  You know what I mean, Russ.

So are movie critics just blinded by their infatuation with Fronch fries, Fronch dressing and Puroo?



{October 23, 2009}   Everything I cannot see

antichrist_xlg

So, I have been telling myself since seeing The Kingdom in two, three hour installments in Brussels in 1995 that I would see the next Lars Von Trier movie every time one came out.  And, for whatever reason… it just never happened.  And now there’s this:

The viewer hovers between genuine shock—whatever your tolerance for on-screen gore, what He and She do to each other’s and their own bodies is sickening to watch—and the eye-rolling resignation one might feel at a teenage son’s gothcore concert. You win, Lars—if I’m the bourgeoisie, consider me épatée.

And also this:

There has already been some debate among critics about whether “Antichrist” is grossly misogynistic or slyly feminist, an argument ultimately as fruitless as the question posed by the movie about the nature of women (see above). That talking fox has given the movie a handy catchphrase — “Chaos reigns!” — but a more apt one is delivered by Ms. Gainsbourg among bouts of howling, sobbing and penis smashing: “None of this is any use at all.”

And yet, there’s something so tempting — like the Devil? — about this new movie.  Could it be that I’m letting my love of Charlotte Gainsbourg overwhelm my judgment here?

So, my question for you, Dave, is:  If you were me, would you go see Antichrist?  And if so, would you strategically walk out?

What’s truly intriguing is that the genital mutilation has caught so much attention that the Brown Bunny-esque exigencies placed upon Defoe and Gainsbourg in the opening sequence have raised few eyebrows.  It’s as if the American movie critic can just shrug and say, “Ah, those Europeans!”



{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 22, 2009}   No, it’s not safe.

palin

Talk about dying the heat death!



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}   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}   The remix

While I’m here, not reading Flaubert… and after leaving you in the lurch yesterday, I thought I might take on the task of starting us off with some questions today — saving, of course, your meditations on Betty Draper and Pixie Princesses for a broader Mad Men discussion…

First off, what do you make of this?  Having maintained a blissful contrarianism by being the only person I know who doesn’t even pretend to listen to NPR, I had no idea that there was a controversy brewing over the extent to which the things that NPR listeners think is cool actually suck.  Yet, this seems rather like a parody of a conversation you’d have with that guy you live with:

NPR is fond of rockers like Living Colour (R), BLK JKS (F)—black performers with the good sense to embrace a musical style associated with whites. (The 1970s power-trio Death qualifies for an improbable [D,O,R] on account of the untimely demise of two of its members.) NPR is fascinated by black musicians with sensational human-interest back stories and physical handicaps, like “Song of the Day” honorees Staff Benda Bilili (F), “a group of paraplegic street musicians who entertain from their base near the … zoological gardens” in Kinshasa, Congo.

However, this makes me feel even better about all those conversations I wasn’t able to have with my co-workers in DC.

Yesterday, you brought up the question of talking about staying fit.  Another scourge of Facebook is cuisine posts: status updates that either discuss a recent culinary experience in a restaurant that is out of most people’s price ranges or, more frequently, about what that person has just cooked.  This is often aggravated by the inclusion of photos of said dish.

fish

Now, we both like to spend a fair amount of time in the kitchen — so what should be considered acceptable guidelines for discussing things culinary?

Finally, what’s up with Andy Capp?  Is the woman being sarcastic here?  Because it seem to me that the whole reason James Bond has never settled down is because he really would be like Andy Capp once all hitched up.
Andy Capp



{October 20, 2009}   Is it safe?

the_running_man

Truth be told, Dave, everybody loves a runner.  Nobody likes the gym.

I mean, it’s kind of like, everybody (except for me) loves clean teeth, but nobody likes orthodontia.

First of all, gyms are smelly.  They smell like mildew and Axe body spray — the worst combination of sweet and sour this side of Chinese fast food.  Also, you have to let other people see you naked. That is very unpleasant and is reminiscent of the high school locker room, where someone is always going to get made fun of for not changing underpants or is going to smell all through math because he was afraid to take showers with other guys.

But, more importantly, it is unnatural for people to like machines.  The gym is, in fact, a series of contrived situations in which you use different contraptions to do what you should be able to do all by yourself.  You’re not supposed to ride a bike just to watch television while listening to music.  You’re not supposed to walk without going anywhere.  You’re not supposed to lift things just to prove you have money.  This is why every time someone talks about the gym, someone else always feels guilty.

The guilty party understands that these activities are corrupting of what it means to be a social animal and, further, that they denature us as humans.

That is why we find on K Street, in Washington, DC, a physical fitness complex that lets you look in at everybody on their exercise bikes, just as they look out at you.  It is set there as a sobering reminder of the corrupting influence of lucre on our natural political order, and, further, the humbling reality of our dependence upon the contrivances of government to organize ourselves socially.

Moreover, it is humiliating for us to have to take classes to arrive at something our ancestors were able to do by beating peasants, building pyramids, or batting about the heads of goats with sticks.  Spin? SPIN! SPIN?!?  How could we have turned a word of such childlike wonder into an activity of voluntary soulless destruction?

Running, on the other hand, is how we connect with our forbears. It reminds us of our heritage and speaks to the Apollonian order of civilization.  There is something grand about running.  Natural. Mythical. Sublime.

I am not insensitive to the fact, of course, that we both have within our midst a fair number of people who regularly participate in marathons and thus must seriously occupy themselves with training.  And, just as I’d like their respect for and attention to my serious television-watching hobby, I believe they are owed the same.

In short, then, here are a few DOs and DON’Ts of talking about fitness:

DON’T

  • Use the word ‘spin’.
  • Use the word Nautilus or Soloflex.
  • Use the word ‘fitness’ unless it is used as a neologism for discussing your toddler’s temperament.
  • Talk about going to a ‘fitness class’ (school, yuck!).
  • Discuss yoga, unless it is a way to enter into a discussion about chicks.
  • Mention your personal trainer — unless you are Gilbert Arenas.
  • Mention self-deprecatingly how long it’s been since you’ve been to the gym (people can always tell).
  • Talk about how often you go to the gym.
  • Talk about your gym membership.
  • Post status updates about when you are going to or coming back from the gym.
  • Discuss the number of push-ups, laps, presses, etc., that you have or can do.
  • Discuss bike-riding: there’s always someone who doesn’t know how to ride a bike and will feel bad.

DO

  • Request support for any amateur or professional sports activity in which you will imminently be taking part.
  • Set up a time to meet someone else at the gym (unless you have to mention the word ‘fitness,’ ‘spin’ or ‘class’).
  • Talk about running, unless you have to enter into the specifics of your running times.
  • Talk about those times you played pick-up, full-court basketball with people who were from ten to twenty years younger than you, and how you thought you were going to die after roughly ten minutes.

I think that we can all agree that these are reasonable guidelines that embrace what is beautiful about other people and seek to extract it from the mire of corruption.



et cetera