The Canadian Club











{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 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 30, 2009}   I feel it coming together

hollywood-sign-address1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Am I right or am I right?



{October 29, 2009}   On Clarity of Purpose

Big Nate

The small but important lesson Nate teaches us in this comic strip is that, to get anything in this life, you need to figure out which wizard you are. Well, Dave, which wizard are we?

A lot has been said recently about the distinct possibility that people hate this blog, that, perhaps, we may be taking this joke too far, and that our audience is quite solidly 70% Dave and Russ.  I believe it’s important, then, to briefly discuss our goals in beginning this blog:

  1. It is our solemn intent to get a book contract for an elaborated version of the content of this blog by December 2010.
  2. The movie deal should follow shortly and The Canadian Club:  The Movie should appear on screens for the summer blockbuster season of 2013.

I don’t think this could be any clearer.  And remember, reader, if you do not read this blog, you are letting Tucker Max win.

Now, it has come to my attention that most book-deal-achieving blogs have one commonality: A Gimmick.  Tucker Max has a penis.  Cake Wrecks talks pretty consistently about cakes that are wrecked. Stuff White People Like talks pretty consistently about that stuff that white people apparently like. Some chick cooks a lot — like once a day.  Another chick asks people to send her lists that you have made.

Now, you’re saying to yourself, “That’s a nice exposition, Russ, but where’s your gimmick?”  What’s the single-minded theme behind this blog that will keep me riveted to your pixels?”

So, I’ve been scratching my brain, trying to figure out what will push us over the cusp of fame and fortune (if cusp fame and fortune do have), and I’ve come up with the following idea.  Bear with me:

So, two pals, Dave and Russ, feeling stuck in boring careers about which they are quite passionate, watch Mad Men.  Suddenly, they realize that the Mad Men season is over, and they wonder what will fill their lives with drama and exquisite aesthetics until Mad Men Season 4.  Russ stumbles upon his old, timeworn copy of Stendhal’s La Chartreuse de Parme.  Hmm — he says to himself — does anybody really take the time to read Stendhal anymore?  He then sends Dave a message over Facebook saying, basically, “Hmm, does anybody really take the time to read Stendhal anymore?” Dave replies back, “You know, I think I’ve told you this before, but I really barely ever read anymore except the same battered, dusty classics I read growing up.  So, yeah, actually, I just cracked open The Red and the Black the other day.”

All of a sudden, it comes to them.  They have to take a year just reading the complete works of Stendhal (including his history of Italian painting) and describe the specific Stendhalien emotions that beset them each day.  A couple of months into their experiment, their feeling of empowerment becomes so magical, that Stendhal’s ghost appears to Russ.  “Russ,” Stendhal says, “You have to help me find the reincarnated soul of my very last romance…”  Thus begins an exciting adventure across France and Italie, where Dave and Russ accompany the ghost of Marie-Henri Beyle on a journey that reveals to them life’s mysteries and helps a dead French author find love and fame one last, bittersweet time.

So, tell us, reader, is that what you want to read on this blog? Is that the kind of wizardry it’ll take to get you to pay attention to us?



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

steve5

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

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

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

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

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



{October 27, 2009}   Your feedback is important

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

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

Does that breakdown say terrible things about us?



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


{October 26, 2009}   Me hate myself

Bizarro1

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

k thx.

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

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

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

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



{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.]



Just something on my mind…



Luann

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

Are hate crushes for reals? Whatever!

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

Oops!

Oops!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

bummers title

mailbox bummer

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

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

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

Here’s more.

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

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

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

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



et cetera