The Canadian Club











{December 17, 2009}   Jed Bartlett FTW!!!!!!

Minimum Security
Dave, if you’re like me, you’re absolutely sick and tired of this HRC process.  Like WHEN THE HELL is it ever gonna end?  And, what’s up with Nate Silver?

By the way, I don’t think a bill with a public option would constitute fundamental reform either — it would be better, but it’s still tinkering around the edges of a flawed system.

I can’t believe that punk.  He should go back to collecting baseball cards. I mean, seriously, Nate Silver?!?!  Nate Silver can go Serve The Fiery Undertaker!!!!!!!!!! This massive give-away to his pals in Big Pharma and our Feudal Overlords Aetna and Cigna is going to be wrapped around Obama’s neck in 2012!!!!! I hope he’s already making his early retirement plans with Joe Liebensraum and Rahm The-Man-Who-Drools. I am sick — sick — of getting sold-out by…  centrist fat cats!!!!!!!!!! JED BARTLETT was the BEST PRESIDENT EVER!!!!! If he were still president, he would have known how to twist Olympia Snowe’s and Ben Nelson’s arms to get them to sign in blood for a frickin’ PUBLIC OPTION.

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{November 26, 2009}  

Well, Russ, I’m more or less done with the stuff I needed to get done this week.  All that remains is for me to pack and ship over the next couple of days, then get myself down to the tropics for what will undoubtedly be a strange, strange few days.  Oh, and I have to get something resembling grown-up clothes to wear for my event.  I’m enlisting the help of a far more fashion- and retail-savvy friend this weekend, thank goodness, because I just don’t think I can dress myself anymore.  My ideas about what to wear have been distorted over the last few months by my experiences teaching 21-year-old girls, who — have you noticed this? — don’t wear pants much nowadays.  And like every disturbing, American-Apparel-was-on-to-it-three-years-ago trend, it doesn’t look that bad to me anymore, you know?  All of which means that it won’t be long until I’m wearing this.

Hey, so apologies to my Facebook friends for the self-plagiarism here, but did you see that article from Salon that I posted, along with the response in Jezebel?  The original article discussed our culutre’s weird animosity towards mothers — in particular, educated, white, urban mothers who dare to take their kids out in public places and disturb people around them with kid noise — and sensibly suggested that there is an anti-feminist impulse underlying this animosity.  The Jezebel response — specifically, a sizable percentage of the comments — took some issue with this notion.  Quick, go read those articles.  Then come back.

This little tidbit from Jezebel made me homicidal.

It’s the combination of smugness and obliviousness, Berkeley ethics funded by serious money, of campaigning for liberal politicians while complaining about nanny problems.

Hey, you know what?  I campaign for liberal politicians.  I’ve also had nanny problems.  Seriously, I am so tired of this shit.  Why are otherwise left-leaning types so horrid and myopic when it comes to questions of feminism and motherhood?  It’s a good thing for cities, for public schools and for the environment that relatively affluent families are no longer fleeing urban areas in the same numbers.  It’s a good thing for women to avail themselves of whatever options they can to keep their careers alive during the very difficult early child-rearing years (if that’s what they want to do), as long as they treat child-care workers like professionals.  It’s a good thing for all of us to share our public spaces in a way that helps us learn to accommodate one another.  So why are liberal urbanites so resentful of kids?  Are they really that infantile?  One Jezebel commenter mentioned proudly that she hadn’t been taken to a restaurant until she was five, because her parents didn’t want to subject the other patrons to her antics.  Five fracking years until you’re allowed to take your child to a restaurant?  Are you kidding me?  I don’t take my child to five-course meals in white-tablecloth establishments, but jeez, are we really not supposed to go anywhere but Chuck E. Cheese? For all the screeching about strollers in bars, you’d think that the bars (OK, non-smoking gastropubs, really) we sometimes take our child to DIDN’T HAVE HIGH CHAIRS AVAILABLE.

So frack all y’all.  I’m going out for a pint with my 3-year-old.



{November 16, 2009}   omg did u hear what he just said

stupidpeople

Russ, I know you’ve got your thing about David Sedaris, but that’s just too bad.  I am not ashamed to say that I love this passage from his story, “See You Again Yesterday.”

Potential boyfriends could not smoke Merit cigarettes, own or wear a pair of cowboy boots, or eat anything labeled either ‘lite’ or ‘heart smart.’ Speech was important, and disqualifying phrases included ‘I can’t find my nipple ring’ and ‘This one here was my first tattoo.’ All street names had to be said in full, meaning no ‘Fifty-ninth and Lex’ and definetly no ‘Mad Ave.’ They couldn’t drink more than I did, couldn’t write poetry in notebooks and read it out loud to an audience of strangers, and couldn’t use the words flick, freebie, cyberspace, progressive, or zeitgeist. They could not consider the human scalp an appropriate palette for self-expression, could not own a rainbow-striped flag, and could not say they had ‘discovered’ any shop or restaurant currently listed in the phone book. Age, race, and weight were unimportant. In terms of mutual interests, I figured we could spend the rest of our lives discussing how much we hated the aforementioned characteristics.

So you know how some words or phrases are either self-negating (e.g., “classy” or “no offense“) or self-betraying — in the sense that no one ever wears a shirt printed with a complaint about “stupid people” who is not, him- or herself, a stupid person?  Obviously, there are millions of little cues that give us insight into whether someone is OK or Not OK.  Cues that, we hope, evolve from the incredibly silly ones we looked for when we were younger (“OMG, he’s wearing Skechers!  Ew!”) into somewhat more important and telling ones (“OMG, he yelled at the waitress/drives a giant SUV/voted for Nader in 2000“).  We’re tuned into this stuff because, at least according to the genius ev-psych people, we had to learn to categorize people into Us and Them way back in the caveman days, or we’d get, like, speared, or whatever.

clanofthecavebear

Of course, some of those traits that we find intolerable boil down to aesthetics (like my ongoing appreciation for David Sedaris, whom you scorn).  Those are the ones that are ultimately forgivable, or even potentially lovable (think of the plot of every single screwball comedy).  Others, though, like the waitress example above, seem to point to actual defects of character and are thus “dealbreakers.”  And yeah, yeah, I recognize that using the word “dealbreaker” probably falls into the “dealbreaker” category.  (I’m, like, so whatever — you could do so much better.)

What I get hung up on, though, to the point of maniacal obsession — and I know you do, too, Russ, since it’s kind of the whole focus of our blog, and, let’s face it, our friendship — are the cues that fall into an ambiguous area, where the line between aesthetic and moral failings start to blur.  You know what I mean.  Excessive discussions of physical fitness, lingerie as Halloween costumes, over-use of “Any-vow-bag” cliches.  I’m sort of ashamed to admit that I love this aspect of Facebook, which is at its core just one big middle school cafeteria.  It’s so hard to resist the invitation to judge other people’s priorities, hobbies, taste and grammar (glass houses, pots and kettles, I get it).  And even as I’m scrutinizing, I know that I’m being scrutinized, and that I’m probably just about as lovely and fascinating now as I was in eighth grade.  As Russ’s Mom once said, “Nobody is his or her best self on Facebook.”  So you and I, Russ, with our fancy social networking and our blogging and all — are we, like, students of the human condition?  Or are we just middle-school brats?  Simply by virtue of our willing participation in the culture of oversharing, are we putting on the “stupid people” T-shirt?



{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 4, 2009}   Road to H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks

vomit

I suppose that makes me Bing, right?  But if that’s the case, how come you’re the one making everyone vomit with your spooning?

You know, Russ, we don’t talk politics much here at the Canadian Club, but today I just can’t help myself.  Now, I’m a little bit crabby today because, as the saying goes, “I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair…” We’ve got a transit strike going on that is this close to turning me into a Republican.  I seem to have pulled some weird muscle in my chest wall and now it HURTS TO BREATHE.  IT HURTS TO BREATHE, RUSS!!!!1@!! (Before you comment, Mom, YES, I will go to the doctor if it gets any worse and NO it’s not pleurisy, I felt it happen suddenly when I was running the other day.)  Also, I have a cold.  And did I mention the transit strike?

inky pic

SEPTA train on fire (from the Philadelphia Inquirer)

So anyway, what was I saying?  Oh.  Yes.  Politics.  WTF, Maine?!  I hate your guts right now almost as much as I hate TWU Local 234.  We’re talking Crushing Hate, not Hate Crush.  Seriously, Maine, that’s not like you guys!  You’re New Englanders.  You’re practically Canadians.  I was sure that you were going to be my ray of sunshine last night.  This guy said so, even.

I got married up there with you guys!

I thought you were cool.

It’s surprising to me that this is so upsetting.  I genuinely believed that Obama’s election had brought me to some state of inner calm with regard to electoral politics.  All those wacky ups and downs?  So silly!  Everything was moving, inevitably, all that election season, to where it was supposed to be moving.  “Why can’t he be more aggressive?” we asked, in a state of panic over the latest tracking polls (around which I used to schedule my day’s activities).  But, like, he was totally right and we were totally wrong and he won and we were all happy for a little while because maybe things really do have a way of working themselves out after all!

I know that it’s incredibly stupid of me to have applied that kind of thinking to, basically, everything that’s happened in the world of politics since then, but I think that’s probably what I’ve been doing.  It’s been hard not to let go, step away from the blogs and hum a little tune since the presidential election, since it allows me to function at a (marginally) higher level than I can when I’m paying too-close attention.  Which brings me back, tediously, to that same question:  How can I be interested in something without letting it take over my life?



{November 3, 2009}   Even Bob Hope had off days

bob_n_bing

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

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

Frazz

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

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

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

 



{October 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.]



{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?



{October 22, 2009}   The Brokeback work ethic

manhattans So, yeah.

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

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

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

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

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



{October 18, 2009}   The English Beat rule

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

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

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

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

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

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



et cetera