The Canadian Club











{June 14, 2010}   Whatever

Math is hard.

I am back.

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I was in India!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



{January 1, 2010}   Plus ça change…

Luann

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



{December 31, 2009}   Taint the Season…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


{December 24, 2009}   Schadenfreude goes to the movies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right on!

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



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

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

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

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



{December 8, 2009}   Absolutely fabulous.

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

Sorry.

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

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

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

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

.

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

Check (I have a miserable cold).

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

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



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

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

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

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

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity?  Ooooh, tell me more!*

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



On a Claire Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



{November 13, 2009}   Subscribe!

 

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{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 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 31, 2009}   I’m too sexy for this holiday

sexy_pirate_hat

You know, Dave, I’m glad you asked.  In fact, I have been brimming with impotent rage — to quote a coinage — since about a week or two ago, when I realized that there would be this holiday at the end of the month.  Fortunately, I have found some succor in this brilliant series of articles in my old, beloved and much missed Washington City Paper.  It sort of gets straight to the heart of the matter. And I have been meaning to treat at length my displeasure here on our blog, and yet kept running up against the wall of other people‘s expectations.  As if!  Can’t I just keep the stipend and you wake me up in six years and tell me if I’ve won anything?

In any case, I think the worst of it came it last Sunday when I read this Op-Ed piece in the Times.  At first, I was surprised to see Peter Mayle alive.  I guess it must be that wonderful French red wine, fermented on the time-worn clichés of French villagers and their shocked bewilderment at AngloSaxon customs.  I would have to guess that the startling success of his Year in Provence series has likely shaped an entire generation or two of gatekeepers.  But honestly, did we need one more frackin’ article about how Halloween is catching on in continental Europe?  Can we stop congratulating ourselves on the continuing victories of the British Empire?  Does the New York Times have to open its pages to every writer coming out with a book? (Fortunately, the answer to that, is no, it doesn’t.)

OK.  The coffee only begins to kick in around mid-way through my second rant.  I’ll try to focus, forthwith.

In answer to your question, it should be pretty clear that any adult celebration of Halloween is taking the joke too far.  The only time it isn’t is when the adults in question invite me to their party.  Then, they are granted a momentary reprieve.  But the first time someone walks in the door wearing lingerie as a costume, count me out.

The Meaning of Lila

You grew up in the Valley, so you might have had an entirely different experience — but I don’t recall the fact of life whereby being an adult meant making up occasions to strip down to one’s underwear until our college years.  In addition to the misnomered Pimps and Hos parties (I hear they were giving that shit-my-pants away!) and the uniquely well thought-out stagings of poorly thought-out plays, there were the Halloween parties that became increasingly indistinguishable from the aforementioned Pimps and Hos parties.  Given this context, then, it is difficult for me to tell whether Halloween began to take on its current lupanaresque dimension in the early 90s, or whether my parents had just shielded me from it during my delicate childhood and adolescent years.  (Thanks, Mom!)

Speaking of these latter, I think it should be noted that perhaps my current distaste for the holiday also stems from the extent to which I thought it was rad during a couple of years of high school.  Believe me, had you been there, you would also want to distance yourself from that phase of life.  Now, however, listening over and over to Samhain (with a little Coven thrown in — remember how you hated that album?) via the Youtube for about the last twelve hours, I am beginning to feel quite tenderly toward that period of credence in the coolness of wearing black leather, kohl eyeliner, and chicken blood.  Perhaps, also, the inability to take that aesthetic fully seriously combined with the distaste it elicited in me for skimpy, bunny-eared costumes, protected me throughout college from succumbing to any unfortunate entanglements with the ladies.

Now, I envy your being able to approach this holiday from a parent’s perspective, as it seems that the holiday shoud cater to the 4 to 13-year-old crowd almost exclusively.  After that, really, what else is it but glorified paganism?  Still, you are faced with this problem, expressed so succinctly over the past week by Luann, of what to hand out to trick-or-treaters in this era of health-counscious paranoia.

Luann

Can candy still be a viable way to treat kids?  I have to ask that question or else I’ll end up wearing down my enamel by crunching tubes of Spree.  So, what’ll it be, Dave?  Are you handing out old children’s books?

Now, as you have noted, given that I have actually been invited someplace for the first time in about seven years, I am obliged to do some costume thing.  Unfortunately, when I moved, I left behind the disparate elements of the home-made glam rocker costume that won me 25 bucks when I was waiting tables.  And I still hold as a firm principle that never should one be forced to shell out more than ten bucks for a costume.  Which leaves me with few options at this late date.  I have alternatively passed through my mind taping balloons and fake vomit in strategic places and going as “sexy balloon boy”; also just getting blue greasepaint (We all know how much I love face-painting!) and going as Grouchy Smurf — but then I worry that I might be confused with Vishnu, which would be blasphemous.  So, digging through my possessions that could turn an OK costume, I have found a green salwar kameez and a pasthun hat.  Understanding fully that this is not a costume, I thought of taking along the acoustic guitar that SMP recuperated from my childhood home and calling myself Cat Stevens/Yusuf.  So:  Thumbs Up?  Thumbs Down?  Whaddya say?

My only other thought, in keeping with the true spirit of the holiday goes something like this:



ghost

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

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

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

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



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

steve5

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

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

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

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

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



{October 27, 2009}   Your feedback is important

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

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

Does that breakdown say terrible things about us?



{October 26, 2009}   You’re no Einstein, Baby!

real_genius

In regards to your earlier post about the diminishing returns on your cultural IQ, I think reader pjs (Pyjamas?) made an important point:

What is stupid is thinking that liking movies is a worthwhile way to be smart.

I believe that this gets to the root of the rot that is eating away at our meritocracy.  We have this belief that watching things makes one smarter.  However, as recently attested to in this important piece in the Times covering refunds offered by Disney for its Baby Einstein videos, this is not ever so:

“We see it as an acknowledgment by the leading baby video company that baby videos are not educational, and we hope other baby media companies will follow suit by offering refunds,” said Susan Linn, director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

You know what they say:  What doesn’t work at ten months, doesn’t work any better at thirty years!  I think this is a massive concession that media consumption is a poor substitute for actual smarts.  Lucky for us, actual smarts is measured by attending an awesome undergraduate institution of higher education — whether small liberal arts college or Ivy League.

This criteria is really what counts as far as whether your bound copy of other people’s To Do Lists gets published or thrown in the trash.  This is what counts when editors go looking for strippers — er, burlesque dancers — to write memoirs about the seedy underbelly of something or other.  It lets you wear hats that would otherwise be offensively garish, and, most importantly, it really pushes you over that tenuous line between saying something stupid and saying something ironic.

The great thing about the undergraduate degree is that, once procured, it can never be taken away.  Thus, no matter how few movies or — yes, pjs — Eagles games you watch, you are always entitled to be heard out and respected.  If not, what would be the point of us blogging?  So, no Dave.  Your smart card will never be revoked.  Not now, not ever.  So cancel the Netflix account and get to work on those sweaters!

[NDLR:  In the interest of other pressing obligations, many hyperlinks have been temporarily left out, feel free to imagine them.]



et cetera