The Canadian Club

{November 11, 2009}   Barf me out

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.


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.

{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.


Talk about dying the heat death!

{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.


{October 20, 2009}   Is it safe?


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:


  • 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.


  • 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.

{October 18, 2009}   The English Beat rule

TwoToneWell, Dave, no surprises here. After careful review of the entirety of the lyrics, it does indeed seem to be about a guy with a wandering eye.  To think that all these years, while identifying and savoring the simple beauty of specific lines (for example, “rings but none on that finger” and “words like conviction can turn into a sentence”) that capture concrete sentiments, I had never once put everything together into this narrative of frustrated infidelity. It figures, though.  Along with Pete Shelley, I think the Roger and Wakeling team have always had a knack for combining swell melodies with polished yet unassuming words that unearth rich emotional truths (e.g. “I’m in love again. This time’s true I’m sure.“). And somehow, I was always under the impression that Tenderness was just a variation on the theme of the self-deprecating and timorous romantic so aptly described in Too Nice to Talk To.

While, earlier in the day, I may have disagreed with you about whether or not Tenderness (from 1984) is the greatest single in history — I would have offered up this or that as evidence to the contrary — I think the fact that it has been stuck in my mind since it first came out clearly persuades me to align with your opinion.  And that is without even mentioning the hard and fast English Beat ruleEverything anybody from the English Beat was ever involved in is flawless.

Although… what’s with Dave Wakeling touring as the English Beat these days?

As for your concern about the lyrics from Tenderness on your Facebook profile, I think there’s a good argument for great lyrics to be taken on their own without having to assume their context… Just to prove the point, I have now revised my Facebook profile to include lyrics from The English Beat’s “auto-erotic” song Hit It:

And, frankly, I don’t find it embarrassing at all.

Speaking of embarrassing, what’s up with Andy Capp becoming a beer snob all of a sudden?!?
Andy Capp

I couldn't make it at Police Academy so now I have to go camping with this frickin' robot.

I couldn't make it at Police Academy so now I have to go camping with this frickin' robot.

Funny you should mention the jogging/blogging connection, Dave. Last night, I actually went running for the first time in about two weeks (and I’m not even trying to impress chicks).  Oddly enough, I found again yesterday that I work better, not only while running but, as with my last blogging experience, while blogging.  I think there’s something about replacing distracted and unfocused time during which one might read Matthew Yglesias or — more often — look up music videos on Youtube, with time that one is actually trying to gather and compose one’s thoughts around said music videos.  This then carries over into the rest of my work.

So, it’s very much the same experience of head-clearing that you get while running (sorry, Dave, guys just don’t “jog”).  The key is, I guess, not spending three hours on any single blog post.

Now, as for your questions of the day, since it seems you have posed them in order of reverse difficulty, I will seek to answer them in reverse order.

First off, OMDG!  You don’t know — but probably can guess — how many times I have wanted to post this song to FB!  I had it stuck in my head several times this past week already, including last night.  I think its evocation predates Glee, but it makes sense that Glee would have now exacerbated its tenacity.  All I can say is “Kudos” to you, Dave, for having found the single most extraordinary Youtube video of Break my Stride.  Mustache and unitards alike will be spinning in my head for the foreseeable future.  And, obviously, the answer to your question (4) is “NO, you will never get this song out of your head!” However, I do not think the brain destroying is necessarily Glee-induced…

Actually, I was just asking myself yesterday:  Should I let my mother know about this blog?  She was one of the most loyal readers of my past blogging effort, if not always the most civil of commenters — Unlike you, though, I am not FB friends with my mother, so I would have to go out of my way to tell her about this blog, and I am not quite sure if I am ready to do that.  But, yes, “Your mama!” is indeed reading this blog already (3).  The question is, when will Ty get with the program?!?

So, I told you yesterday, that I was potential going to live the principle of “WTF-ever” by catching some gay performance art.  I was actually kind of looking forward to being appalled by people in tight-fitting clothes making obscure jerky movements that often would involve their hands chopping the air, swirls, and heads tilting to the side in a kind of Lobdellian tour de force.  However, that is not what Dead Boys delivered.

This was (2), in fact, a straight-up (no pun intended ha ha) musical vaguely inspired by the hanging of homosexuals in Iran — although this inspiration only emerged within the last fifteen minutes of something that seemed overlong, although, apparently, it was in keeping with its theme of “awakening.”  Still, I never want to hear another musical number that contains lyrics such as “performing gender”, “post-structural feminism” and “Foucault” I shit-my-pants you not!  What ended up happening was a series of vignettes centered around a gay performance artist and his hippy-medium landlord that culminated with a psychic channeling that led to a stirring denouement where it was revealed that our hero could in fact have political consciousness AND the dishy Asian saxophone player.  Oh, and a couple of BDSM scenes were thrown in to thicken the broth.  If this seems a bit muddled to you, believe me, it was much worse for people who were actually there.

You will probably say, “Russ, that sounds like totally not your thing.  What were you doing there?”  Well, that’s a valid question.  All I can say is that a classmate of mine was performing in the piece, and, you know, I’m the kind of guy that when someone tells me, “I’m doing this musical-thingy, you should come see it” or, “I’m writing this awesome blog, you should read it.”  Well, I DELIVER THE GOODS.  I SHOW MY SUPPORT. I GET WITH THE PROGRAM.  I guess these are rare qualities these days.  (By the way, this does not hold for reading poetry, sorry…)

Still, the major tragedy is that currently, in Berkeley, there is a musical called Dead Boys as well as a rock opera staging of — get the barf bag — Green Day’s American Idiot, but there is NO ROCK OPERA BASED ON THE MUSIC OF THE DEAD BOYS.  I’m thinking I need to find a crew that will help me remedy this problem.

Finally, I don’t know about you, but I only ever consult Cakewrecks when I need a lil’ pick me up.  But, now that they have a book deal, I think (1) we should boycott the site until we get ours.  Further, being a high school poseur, I think that’s a completely valid question.
Big Nate
I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling an eerie sense of empathy with Big Nate, right now.

{October 16, 2009}   you said it was for a show

And what a show it was, Dave!  Anything that ends with barf obviously cannot be a hoax (1).  Have you ever faked barfing, Dave?  Did he otherwise gag himself — were it with a spoon? I don’t think so.  That looks like honest to G_d’s truth to me, Dave.

None of that says, of course, that this isn’t a publicity stunt.  Or stupid.  It is clearly both.  Fortunately, I was down in the basement printing stuff when this whole thing went down, so my first exposure to Balloon Boy was in its more lyrical, vaguely distressed overtones:

I mean, whatever the merits of the situation, we’ll always have the metaphor.

As for the principle of “Whatever” (2) — I was thinking of maybe blowing off the whole morning to blog, half-assing the afternoon, and, then, maybe catching some gay performance art tonite.  Also, I could always just Shit My Pants and write about it on Facebook for good measure.  On second thought…

Yes yes yes.  All of our friends will read this (3).  They may even think less of us after reading — as if that were even possible.

So… What’s up with Andy Capp today?

Andy Capp

I mean, the misogyny is right about where it should be — although I think Andy usually directs his hatred of women more towards individuals — his wife or mother-in-law, for example — than articulates it as a general frame of reference for dealing with the world.  What I find really problematic is the insertion of the figure of a marriage counselor into the Fish ‘n’ Chips, Bangers ‘n’ Mash swinging lillipudlian universe of the strip.  At once, it seems to be mugging to a therapy-starved American readership and hardly plausible that whatshername could drag Andy into counseling…

et cetera