Saturday, February 28, 2009

everybody likes pictures

What if putting a comma after the subject of a sentence, was* grammatically indefensible? Where do these copywriters think they are, the 19th century?

This is a not particularly interesting version of a joke I documented the other day and not really worth bringing to anyone's attention...except for the fact that the helpful citizen crossed out the "Jefferson Market Garden" attribution, which might be a gesture of extreme disrespect (e.g., "Fuck you, Jefferson Market Garden!") or might be a hyper-diligence about the proper citation of quotations ("Well, this isn't really Jefferson Market Garden saying this, anymore")—and either one of those things is pretty funny.

Love/hate: love to see Lou Reed, hate to see him in an ad. What gives, Lou Reed? Do you just really like Supreme? Do you need to borrow some money?

* The ad's use of the indicative actually is not necessarily incorrect. We use the subjunctive in a conditional sentence ("If it were the case...") when we are indicating something contrary to fact ("If I were you") or something that may or may not be the case ("If you were to give me $100..."). But every once in a while you get an "If...then" sentence in which the subjunctive would be inappropriate. For example, if it turned out that Paul McCartney died in 1966, you might say, "Wait a minute...if Paul was dead in 1967, then who sang 'When I'm 64'?!"—that is if it were demonstrated conclusively that he was dead in 1967, in which case the "if" clause would be neither counterfactual nor suppositional. [Answer: Billy Shears.]

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Is ignorance bliss?

Who cares?

No, but seriously. Is the platitude true? I say no. I say the statement "ignorance is bliss" is only as true as the statement "McDonald's is good for you."

Reportedly they've stripped the analogy section from the SATs, but let's give this a shot. (To begin with, let's just be clear that by "good for you" I mean healthy & nutritious. I always used to insist that bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches were "good for the soul"; I don't want that manner of nonsense gumming up the analogical works.) So in what sense is McDonald's good for you? It's all about context. If the alternative is toxic waste, or if there are no alternatives, then sure, a Big Mac is manna: anything edible is indubitably* better for you than poison or starvation.

Similarly, ignorance can be said to be bliss in that it means, by definition, that we ignore painful facts. Bliss is pretty much the same word as blithe, it turns out, and blithe of course is an adjective meaning "heedless, careless" (Oxford English Dictionary), or "showing a casual or cheerful indifference" (Oxford American Dictionaries)—i.e., in a very basic sense, ignorance and bliss are linked by etymology, but the bliss in question is all about disregard for the facts: casual and careless. As discussed elsewhere, happiness originally has to do with good fortune (in the sense of luck or fate, not [necessarily] material wealth), which means that happiness and bliss are not necessarily allied: bliss could accompany senile delusions in the face of total ruination, whereas happiness (in its fullest original sense) could not. One simple answer, then, is that ignorance may be bliss but not happiness. But I think there's more to it. I'm sort of mixing metaphors here (more like mixing levels of etymology), so let's step back. The way in which ignorance can lead to bliss is the way in which bliss implies a lack of regard for the world around you. And... Hell, let's write this the way Plato would've.

SOCRATES Imagine, if you will, Testicles,** a span of desert cooked to burning by a merciless sun.***
TESTICLES Very well.
SOCRATES And—hell, let's throw in a dinosaur, too, who will eat you if you do not find shelter.
TESTICLES Terrifying, Socrates.
SOCRATES Imagine, now, a cave: neither the sun's brutal rays nor the dinosaur's ravenous jaws can penetrate its opening, and inside, too, is a cool, clean stream. A-and a refrigerator.
SOCRATES No matter: food, Testicles, let us imagine that there is an endless supply of food in the cave.
TESTICLES Where does it come from?
SOCRATES It doesn't matter, hydroponics or something. The point here isn't strict realism, Testicles; we're constructing an analogy.
TESTICLES Very good, Socrates.
SOCRATES You'll agree, Testicles, that it would be preferable to reside in this cave of good fortune rather than to die in the desert, roasted by the sun or devoured by the dinosaur.
TESTICLES Certainly.
SOCRATES Imagine, then, Testicles, that you are not in the cave—but nor are you in the desert. There is another cave nearby, a smaller cave, that also shields you from the sun (although at certain hours its light does creep rather perilously close along the floor of the cave toward where you lie) and keeps out the dinosaur (although he can wedge his face in there fairly well and thrash his nasty tongue quite horribly close to where you cower); it too has a stream (although not so cool and not so clean as the other—gives you the shits now and then, I'll be frank), and it too has food (but no refrigerator).
SOCRATES You will agree, Testicles, that this cave, though superior to the desert itself, is a poor substitute for the cave of good fortune.
TESTICLES Without doubt, Socrates.
SOCRATES And you will agree as well, good Testicles, that to switch caves might be advisable.
TESTICLES I would agree without hesitation, Socrates.
SOCRATES Even to cross the desert, to endure the sun and to face the dinosaur, would likely be a risk worth taking, to change caves.
TESTICLES Well, let me think.
SOCRATES Just say yes. I'm not paying you by the hour.
TESTICLES Yes, Socrates, absolutely.
SOCRATES You might face hardships while crossing the desert to the other cave, but upon reaching that cave you will have better shelter than you would if you remained.
TESTICLES I would not disagree, Socrates, even if I were thinking for myself.
SOCRATES Well, then, what would you say if I told you that the desert is the pain that knowledge can bring, that the lesser cave is an escape from pain through ignorance, and that the greater cave is the conquering of pain through greater knowledge, the state that mankind can reach upon successfully processing and coming to terms with the truth? Set free by it, as the apostle said?
TESTICLES [gasps, applauds]
SOCRATES And what would you say if I told you that your card is the queen of spades...and has been in your left front pocket all this time?
TESTICLES [marvels, cheers]
SOCRATES And what would you say if I made this hourglass...DISAPPEAR?
TESTICLES [screams, head explodes]

Hm...not sure how helpful that was. My point is simply that ignorance may mean the avoidance of pain, but there are better ways to be happy than merely to avoid pain. It is better, for example, to come to terms with loss than to go on blithely imagining that you have lost nothing. I realize that I have simply asserted something and have not proved it: plenty of people believe that you'd be just as well off a brain in a jar, that lies are as good as truth as long as they are not exposed, that perception is an illusion and consciousness a curse—all of which essentially mean that life is in no clear sense preferable to death, and even Camus saw life as preferable to death (at least until he drove into a tree). Maybe as a general rule we're better off articulating our positions in themselves rather than setting them against others in some kind of ideological deathmatch. Either way, I'd rather eat McDonald's for breakfast, lunch, and dinner than to die of hunger, and I'd rather not face a painful truth than be destroyed by it. But McDonald's is not the only source of sustenance on the planet (for now), and most painful truths do not destroy us. Ignorance isn't bliss: it's just better than agony.


* I can't actually use this word with a straight face. Here's why:

** Rhymes, sort of, with Sophocles. Yes, I am 12 years old. Have I denied it?
*** I haven't read Plato in more than a decade.

incontrovertible proof of the existence of God

...or at least of friendly iPhone gremlins.

("2:45 AM" is the name of a song, Mom.)

goodbye, little bug

The Chairman and I lived together for 4½ years. Before then, I'm sure I never would have guessed I'd live with a cat. And what a cat!

Here he is in 2004, fresh off the streets of Austin, Texas:

So how did it happen? As with so many things, it was all because of a woman. Indeed it was the classic story: boy meets girl, girl wants cat, cat repeatedly bites boy and girl, cat produces stink redolent of the finest cheese. We wanted one with personality, and we got one. Too much personality, perhaps. We adopted him when he was about four months old, from a family who'd found him on the street—we'll never know how he got there, what happened to him, how long he was homeless, what traumas he may have suffered. Some say he's more like a dog than a cat. Others say he's psychotic. I used to say he had some wires crossed. A psychoanalyst I know said that his behavior was "inappropriate." All true. We should have known, too: when we showed up at this family's house, he immediately started biting our toes. But licking, too. Anyway, what could we do? It was love at first sight.

Crazy: evidence below.

But at the same time, he is abnormally (inappropriately, for a cat) friendly, sociable, engaged, and affectionate. He was my little puppy dog. Someone in a Texas veterinarian's office praised my special lady friend and me for having adopted a black cat—apparently black cats often go unclaimed (because people are superstitious idiots)—but come on, this is one handsome devil!

(Predictably enough, he likes to get into boxes, regardless of whether he can actually fit.)

Anyway, the former special lady friend moved out at the beginning of August and for the first time since then has a place of her own, so finally she's come for the Chairman (yes: after more than half a year of just him and me living together in the big city). He's off with her to our nation's capital to become President Obama's Secretary of Feline Affairs (or "cat czar"), and what can I say? I'm gonna miss the little monster.

Most of all I suppose I'll miss his falling asleep on top of me in one or another adorable position.

(cat or rabbit??)

There's not much else to say. It's no fun, saying goodbye—even when it's not a human being you're saying goodbye to. Or maybe more so: I'm actually writing this the night before (as I type he is in pretty much exactly the state documented below), and there's something particularly sad about the fact that he has no idea this is our last night. But what are you gonna do? Divorces are tough. At least he's not a kid!

So long, Stinky. As Zimmerman once sang, you're gonna make me lonesome when you go. (Of course, Zimmerman was singing to a marmot.)

Not a kid, at least.

Monday, February 23, 2009

the funnies

The other day I shared my captions for this fruit-skeleton cartoon.  Let's see what made it into the finals:

O.K.—I love that two of the three clearly assume that the woman was as alive as the two men when their life-raft adventure began...a reasonable assumption or a ludicrious one, depending on how you look at it.  I guess in a way this problem is an indictment of the cartoon itself: the woman is supposed to have not only died but also been reduced to a skeleton while the two men lived on, by...eating the fruit?*  In which case how big was that fucking hat at the beginning?  (Yes, I am picking apart the logic of a cartoon.)  But then this raises an amazing question: DID THESE MEN EAT HER??  New caption: "And now the fruit course."  (Andrea B. Hollingshead's caption is totally amazing if we imagine it as suggesting that these men started out as skeletons...but I doubt that's the idea.)

  1. "Holy crap, the cats are standing on each other's shoulders like some kind of totem pole."
  2. "Yes, I'll hold."
  3. "You know what?  Maybe you'd better bring your shotgun."
  4. "I bought four cats."
  5. "What are you wearing?"

* Not in T.J. Tu's version.

mmmmmm, pépites

The same food company will have different products in different countries.  Did you know this?  This is even though the world is flat.  So if you live in France, you can buy Kellogg's Extra with dark chocolate, but if you move back (earlier than planned) to the United States of America, where's your Kellogg's Extra then?  The only option available to Yankees is to pour Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chips into a bowl of Kashi Go-Lean Crunch.  But what is this, the Dark Ages?  What would our great-great-grandparents say if they saw us pouring chocolate chips into a bowl of Colon Blow?  (They'd say, "BRAINS!!!!"—because they're zombies.)

You know you love me.
Short Round

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Exhibit B[J]

(click to enlarge)

These ads, done by or at least featuring Terry Richardson, have dominated the Broadway–Lafayette subway station for at least a month or so—and yesterday I noticed and documented the moronic commentary, above, of another unhelpful citizen.  Possibly the only thing dumber than simplistically satirizing an ad that's already satirizing itself is making prurient jokes about an ad that's already clearly and intentionally prurient.  Oh, hey, this ad makes you think of oral sex?  Wow, I guess I see what you're obviously some kind of a comic genius!  How embarrassing to the advertisers that such an innocent image was made sexual by your incisive, irreverent gloss!*

Here's another picture by Terry Richardson for no reason at all, practically.

Harm & Chloë 4ever

* I'm tempted to say that only two kinds of person would make a joke like this and think it wasn't idiotically redundant: a total imbecile or a total Puritan.  Puritan?  Why Puritan?  Bear with me.  Our amateur satirist, in his evident failure to grasp that a blowjob was already implicit in the photograph, seems not to understand that sexy pictures are often—to varying degrees but not with a particularly high varianceabout sex.  (Amazing!)
     An illustrative digression:
     A friend recently suggested that décolletage has been more and more prevalent, at least in the City, and while I don't really keep track of fashion, the observation does seem accurate: I've certainly been seeing an awful lot of an awful lot of breasts, latelya (like, in public, I mean).  And here comes the rub:b many of these women do not seem comfortable with the décolletage, tugging continually at their shirts to cover up what the shirts (and, one might argue, their bodies?) are designed to advertise, which makes you kind of have to ask: Why are they wearing that, then?
     This should probably be a whole post in itself, and possibilities for grievous misunderstanding are all around me like a minefield—but what I'm getting at is that the new era of sexual schizophrenia,c where young girls are encouraged, simultaneously and with no evident awareness of contradiction, to protect their maidenheads and to dress like streetwalkers, is all about hypersexualization without content.  If you choose to advertise yourself sexually, that's fine—but know thyself!  I don't blame the confused madonnawhores themselves (although some stupidity seems to be at work, there); I blame a porno-Puritanical culture that is effectively knocking these poor fools around like, like, like corks in the ocean?
     The relevance to the defaced advertisement being simply (again) that the quiet tragedy of the vandal's apparent stupidity is that we live in a culture in which someone so ready with a BJ joke doesn't even know when a BJ joke is pretty much staring him in the face.d
     Again, this deserves more sustained attention...but I guess what I'm really saying is that it's a mistake to focus on the pornographication(?) of American culture without recognizing the Puritanism that counterintuitively enforces and enables it.

a And there the awfulness ends.
b Huh-huh, he said rub.
c I am misusing this word schizophrenia.
d Insert BJ joke here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

sign, sign, everywhere a sign

I took some pic-a-choors:

Again with the random italics.  What could be meant by it?  Like, nobody would have ever believed our crappy school system could pull off a feat like this?  ("That's right: New York City!"—just as one might reasonably have said "New York City is the safest big city in the country" when that was news, because it runs contrary to assumptions.)  Or is the ad speaking to tourists and essentially saying, "What has your busted-ass city accomplished?"  (As in, "My daddy won the Nobel Prize.")*

No standing.  Haw.

Well done, citizen!  (Click to enlarge, although the crappiness of the image shames me.)

Unhelpful citizen.  Whoever is responsible for this graffiti is a moron.  I don't know this comedian or his show, but a seven-year-old reader of Mad would be able to detect the irony in this advertisement.  Few things are more pathetic than attempted satire that is dumber than the thing it's satirizing; the really sad thing about the dude who added the prefix is that he didn't realize it was already there.

* Side note:  Is increasing graduation rates necessarily a good thing?  I should think that how graduation rates are increased is of central importance.  Is it that students are doing better in school, or is that graduation standards have lowered?  (Remember in the 1990s when they changed the scoring system for the SATs?  Unless I'm misremembering, they basically were like, "Yeah, kids are scoring too low—it's embarrassing—so we're just gonna, like, you know...raise the scores."  Good job, everyone!)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Harold Ross, you've done it again!

Good New Yorker this week! When I saw that there was a "new" story by Italo Calvino, I was suspicious: I tend to figure that if something by a very famous writer is being published more than 40 years after it was written—at least if the writer was famous in his own day—then it's probably going to be B- or C-level work. However, "The Daughters of the Moon" is entertaining, and I was tickled pink (I believe they say*) by the following segment, regarding an alternate New York City:

"That morning, the city was celebrating Consumer Thanksgiving Day. This feast came around every year, on a day in November, and had been set up to allow shoppers to display their gratitude toward the god Production, who tirelessly satisfied their every needs. The biggest department store in town organized a parade every year: an enormous balloon in the shape of a garishly colored doll was paraded through the main streets..."

Again, normally I'd be inclined to turn up my nose at such arguably heavy-handed satire, but what's so beautiful about this is that it's pretty much just straight description: he lets the event satirize itself, like something that continues to cook after you take it out of the oven(?). What a shame that Calvino wasn't writing a few decades later: these days he could have noted too that the garish balloons are in the shape not of anonymous dolls but of beloved corporate logos...**
And right after the Calvino, an article by Louis Menard about Alt85 favorite Donald Barthelme!

First, a handful of quibbles.

  1. To the extent that this article has a "thesis," it is that Barthelme is more a postmodernist in the sense of almost the ultra-modern than he is a postmodernist in the sense of the anti-modern: that he wished to continue the course set out by Joyce and continued by Beckett. Which is all well and good—I mean, I agree with that—but what bothers me is that the reason I agree with it is that I've read the essay in which Barthelme says so himself—and Menard doesn't in my opinion adequately acknowledge that this revelatory new reading ("Barthelme reconsidered," says the subhead) merely echoes the writer's own explicit claims. Not that you can't emphasize something that a writer already said, but shouldn't you at least focus on the fact that the writer said it instead of presenting it as some kind of novel new interpretation? (Or does Menard mention it and I missed it? I do tend to skim nonfiction.)
  2. Upon rereading Forty Stories last fall, I was surprised to find that the stories I liked best of all were the "straighter" ones, which Menard essentially dismisses in a sentence: "His writing became less experimental, but after 1975 the interest in literary experiment...was no longer the fashion"—as though these stories were cop- or even sell-outs, evidence of a bow to fashion. What makes those stories so great, what makes me see them as a Barthelme strengthened rather than a Barthelme cowed, is that they show restraint but still hum with what Pynchon once called Barthelmismo. (I'm trying to think of an analogy in music and the best I can come up with off the top of my head is Ween's going from the insanity of something like The Pod or Pure Guava to the so-ironic-it's-not-even-ironic-anymore 12 Golden Country Greats***—or, more to the point [since the irony is analogically out of place] something like "What Deaner Was Talkin' About," a straight, beautiful song that reveals rather than betrays the essence of the Ween brothers' songwriting.) Indeed in general I can't help but feel as if Menard, even though he says that there was emotion in his stories, is being a little too abstract and formalistic about Barthelme's work.
  3. Menard says that The Dead Father "is so nakedly a struggle to make a dark comedy of the author's relationship with his two fathers, Beckett and Donald, Sr., that it is painful to read. Even a Freudian might wince"; he then goes on to quote something funny that is much funnier in context. (Besides which—what, do you like your dark comedy not to make you wince? You take your dark comedy light?) What the fuck, Louis?
Anyway, the article was fine—I'm always glad to read something about old Don, as long as it isn't flat-out illiterate—but my favorite part is this incredible, damning quotation from an article he wrote in 1964: "Fiction after Joyce seems to have devoted itself to propaganda, to novels of social relationships, to short stories constructed mousetrap-like to supply, at the finish, a tiny insight typically having to do with innocence violated, or to works written as vehicles for saying no! in thunder." Barthelme is like a kung-fu master in plainclothes, shoved and threatened by an enormous drunken lout at a pub and then finally, with the slightest and most effortless of gestures (as if brushing lint from his sweater or shaking stiffness from his wrist), hurling all 300 lbs. of the guy—using the guy's own momentum, naturally—over the bar and into the mirror. In a sentence he's highlighted everything that is wrong with contemporary fiction. That mousetrap bit in particular: that is exactly what I hate about most short stories, and is (as it happens) exactly why I did a big rewrite of a short story two weeks ago: not that I did it right or well, necessarily, but I finally couldn't stand anymore how goddamned obvious the whole thing was. Nowadays we think obvious means predictable, but there's more to it than that. We shouldn't feel when we're reading something that we've read it before. I'm not saying I'm up to the challenge, necessarily—but if you're not willing to take the challenge, why even write? A lot of easier jobs pay a lot better.

* But what the fuck?
** Or was that true in the '60s, too, and Calvino missed (or chose to skip) that element?
*** For a particularly illustrative juxtaposition, listen to both the Pure Guava studio version and the 12 Golden Country Greats–era live version of "I Saw Gener Cryin' in His Sleep." Also good: "Pumpin' 4 the Man."

I am plastic.

72nd Street station, Feb. 2009.  Click 'em for enlargement.

Vastly improved.

I don't know about improved—but I respect it.

A preposterous claim.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


(click to enlarge)

I've never been a huge Nirvana fan (although I am eternally grateful to my 13-year-old self for falling in love with "Smells Like Teen Spirit"—grateful because that kid went on, thanks to guitar lessons and teenage insecurity, to enter a whole world of musical pretentiousness, bringing great shame upon my family).  They're good, I like a lot of their stuff, I don't disagree when people say they're great—they'd surely make it into my top 100—but I just don't have particularly strong feelings about them.

So feel free to ignore or to dismiss me as underinformed or irrelevant when I ask: how much of Nirvana's continued fame has to do with how fucking cool Kurt Cobain was?  I mean, look at him in this picture, obviously no later than 1994...and this may be circular logic since he's pretty much an icon and has certainly influenced our culture, but I feel like if somebody walked around looking like that today,* nobody would be like, "Aw, man, that's so 1990s."  They'd just be like, "That guy's kind of amazing."

I mean, I guess I'm sort of totally wrong because hipsterworld pretty much hit that look, or something like it, sometime in the last couple of years, so it wouldn't actually look all that fresh today—actually people would say, "Aw, man, that's so L.A.," or "That's so fuckin' Cobra Snake"—but I can't help it, I don't care if I'm wrong: KURT, I LOVE YOUR SUNGLASSES.

There, I said it.

* In some kind of a time-travelly vacuum where no one had ever seen this picture of Kurt Cobain...?

Monday, February 16, 2009

mnemonica, mnemonica, come light the menorah

One day, when I was a senior in high school, my Calculus teacher handed out mimeographs* of Math Christmas songs—like "Silent Night" but with new lyrics about algebra or something—and we spent part of the class singing them.  (Surely this was the day before Christmas Break Nondenominational Holiday Recess—hence the frivolity and the specific content.)  Back then, I thought it was hilarious to make mock accusations of anti-Semitism,** so I made a big stink about how there weren't any Math Hanukkah songs.  Dr. G said (wryly? wearily? patiently?), "[Short Round], if you want to write one yourself, go right ahead."  So I did, and I sang it at the end of the class period.  And now it comprises everything I remember about Calculus.

Goes a little something like this:

[to the tune of "O Hanukkah, O Hanukkah"]

dy/dx, dy/dx of x squared is 2x;
let's find the y-prime of x cubed: it's 3x
squared; it's very simple; it's as good as done,
when you take nx to the n-1.

* I'm not sure whether they were actually mimeographs...but that feels like something she might have actually done.
** At a school and in a city where I was able to grow up thinking that some people are Jewish and some people are Christians—like 50-50, the way babies learn that some kids are boys and some kids are girls—anti-Semitism had no more immediate reality for me than lion-fighting must have for [not-insane] American Christians, and I still chuckle when I remember how a classmate we sometimes used to call Ziti would, when yelled at by a teacher for being late to class, dramatically exclaim, "Is this because I'm Jewish?"—or how once, reporting to friends about how he had been kicked off of the lunch line by the school chaplain–cum–shadow headmaster (because our class wasn't allowed to get lunch yet), he quoted the chaplain (in the chaplain's presence) as having said, "Get off the line, Jew!"

no kinds of love are better than others

Late afternoon on an East Village sidewalk.  The helpful "Look here" with an arrow really makes it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

to wag about (like a loose tooth)

(click to enlarge—it's hard to read otherwise)

I was going back and forth about whether I thought this was really funny or just sort of obvious and even dull, but finally I decided that the "go ahead," along with the use of the verb to loiter in its imperative form, amounts to nothing less than pure comedy gold!

Please, go ahead—loiter on this property.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A woman looks feminine only if she [has] the right body shapes.

(click above to read in non-OED-condensed-edition size)

[Thanks to the eloquent spammer Alba Terrell and to the Musée Picasso (a favorite of mine) for their unwitting participation. For more (actual) art blogging, check out The Ben Street: not just a clever name.]


...and apparently Kim was going to donate the whole collection of videos to somebody on the condition that old Kim's members still be able to rent them, but then he ended up donating the shit to someone in Sicily...?

That's neither here nor there.*  A friend pointed out that going to video stores is often a miserable experience, but there's still something sad about the fact that they're going extinct.  Kim's, like Vulcan in Austin, was one of those places where you could find stuff you can't find anywhere else—not even on the internet—and it was...well, you know, I think my friend was wrong: what's miserable is poking around a Blockbuster trying to figure out what to rent; Kim's was the kind of place where you might even enjoy browsing for browsing's sake.  And it was the kind of place you were glad existed even when you weren't going there.

It would be one thing if it were going to be replaced by something similar—or even part of the same universe.  But it'll probably be a Chase bank.

* It's there: it's Sicily. –ed.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

too much, you took too much

Last night my MP3 player shuffled in "Hey Ya!" by OutKast.  I hadn't listened to it in years, I'd say, and—for the first time since maybe probably I guess it was 2004—I found myself thinking, "Hey: this is a really good song."  Which brings me to my question.  The song became unlistenable because it was so, so overplayed.  But of course, it was so, so overplayed because it was so, so good...right?  I think that's right.  Or was it that there was just something overplayable about it, and a truly great song would remain good no matter oversaturated the universe became with the sound of it?  I hear one gets tired of Feed the Animals after a while; I haven't gotten there yet, but then I have been inclined to listen to it over and over and over and over and over and over again,* so I can imagine its happening—but then, again, does that mean there's something wrong with it?  Another way to phrase this question: does the fact that one does not particularly want to hear "Hey Ya!" anymore have anything at all to say about the inherent value of the song "Hey Ya!"?**  (Side question: is there such a thing as the inherent value of a song?)

The flipside of this—contrapositive?—is the experience of seeing a band live and then not being able to listen to them anymore, by which I mean that the concert is so irritating, or irritating in precisely such a way, that for a while you no longer take pleasure in the recorded music.  I felt this way when I saw:

  1. Mr. Bungle,
  2. They Might Be Giants, whose fans were so irritating that I was embarrassed to have liked Flood, Lincoln, and John Henry during the year 1996,
  3. the Pixies, even, a little, partly because the fans were disappointing (which of course, as above, is totally unfair to the band, but so it goes), partly because my expectations were so damned high, partly because no reunion tour can ever truly live up, and partly because halfway through the second of the shows I saw (at Stubb's) I thought to myself, "You know what?  I'd be just as happy going home and throwing Surfer Rosa or Doolittle on the hi-fi,"*** and
  4. Tim & Eric, not musicians but comedians, whose television series I thought was hilarious until I was made uncomfortable by their live performance, which I did not think was hilarious.

This all links to the question I asked in my "journal" in 2005: is there a difference between the music we like and the music we say or even think we like?  I was driving yesterday, and when I drive I listen to music, and when I listen to music I often sing along (loudly), and it occurred to me (again) that the music I sing along to with the most passion is not necessarily the same as the music I'd list as my very favorite—there's a lot of overlap, but it is not precisely the same list.  What music do I sing along with with the most passion?  A list, very incomplete:

  • 20th-century Weezer
  • 1960s Rolling Stones
  • Pavement
  • the Kinks
  • LCD Soundsystem
  • James Brown
  • the Beatles
  • the Beach Boys
  • the Beastie Boys
  • the Velvet Underground

I don't know...I guess this is kind of a list of my favorite music.  My point, though, which I have not demonstrated but will simply assert, is that my top 2 stated favorites might not be my top 2 favorites to sing along with.

Ah, forget I said anything.  Look at the pictures.  There's boobies in one of 'em.

* Lyrics: "Weird Al" Yankovic.
** After much discussion with people who could reasonably be called experts, and finally the consultation of an authoritative tome (I'm going to call it a tome), I concluded that when quoting something that includes a question mark or exclamation point (which goes inside quotes, unlike a comma or a period, in American English) but then following that quotation up with a question mark or exclamation point, one drops a punctuation mark, either the one inside the quotes or the one outside the quotes, as appropriate.  But what do you do when it's gotta be a question and you've just used the same quotation again and again with the punctuation included?  It would have looked weird to say "'Hey Ya'?" after saying "Hey Ya!" again and again and again.  Or is it that a title isn't a quotation?
*** I'm not sure that I own a "hi-fi."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

work & family

I seem to have gotten the hang of my p.m.'s,* finally, but my a.m.'s are a mess.  In the afternoon and early evening I work and work; in the morning I tend to wander around my apartment confusedly like an animal with part of its brain experimentally removed—set the alarm for 8 a.m., get out of bed 2½ hours later, don't go to the gym, don't do the laundry, don't get an earlier start this time, don't read my friend's novel or my other friend's screenplay,** don't clean the apartment, don't go for a nice walk...

Today I'm not going to get any work done at all, ante- or post-meridiem, because I'm picking up my grandmother from her brother's place in Brooklyn and driving her to Pennsylvania in my parents' car.  I don't mind, though: I get a kick out of my grandmother.  Here she is with one of my parents, one of my cousins' parents,*** and one of my grandfathers—the one who was her husband.  He died last year in July.

(click to enlarge, nosy)

* Leaving out the apostrophe would result in unacceptable ambiguity,a as does sometimes happen when you want to make a letter or an initialism plural—but still I cringe every time I have to do this.
** I have two friends.
*** I'm being vague about my biographical information, but I don't want you to feel slighted, so here are a couple of very specific personal facts: (1) I'm 1.9 meters tall and weigh 81 kilograms. (2) I do not in fact use the metric system.

a I have not gotten the hang of my PMS.

Monday, February 9, 2009

yeah, no, I don't feel sorry for you [UPDATED]

The New York Times has an article explaining why $500,000 is actually not very much for a New York City "master of the universe" to live on.  Taking it strictly informationally (like, how the hell could someone even spend that much money? Brewster's Millions–style), it's very illuminating.  However, if the point is for us to think, "Wow, yeah, that's just not a reasonable thing to ask, to have to live like that," then let me just extend a big middle finger on behalf of everyone who's never made anywhere close to even six figures in a year: the article assumes a number of fantastic things, like that one must have a $1.5 million apartment, a $4 million beach house, several gowns a year (OK) at more than $10,000/gown (huh), a chauffeur, and regular tutoring for the kids—and again, I'm ready to accept that this is standard for a certain kind of person and that living on $500,000/year might require a major lifestyle change, but I am not ready to accept that that lifestyle change is an unreasonable hardship, particularly in this economy...particularly for executives whose salaries are going to be paid by the taxpayers because their companies have failed!  If the taxpayers started paying my rent, I wouldn't expect you to feel sorry for me if I had to get a roommate and move farther away from a subway stop.  

The article included one piece of information with direct relevance to the little people: "a new study from the Center for an Urban Future, a nonprofit research group in Manhattan, estmates that it takes $123,322 to enjoy the same middle-class life as someone earning $50,000 in Houston."  [Tugs nervously at collar.]  And since the average median* per-capita income in Houston in 1999 (according to was $20,101, and since the Urban Future people's figures would suggest that $20,101 in Houston is worth less than $49,578 in New York (for reasons that the newly returned Dr. Math could surely explain better than I,** unless he disagrees, in which case I challenge him to a duel)...  Well, New York is fuckin' expensive.  Not news.

[It just hit me—the article also assumes that you've got to spend $45,000/year on a nanny...but if both parents are working, then you've got another source of income and therefore more than $500,000/year to live on.  No?  While if only one parent is working, then a nanny is hardly a strict requirement...]

* Average median?
** And not just because he's from Houston!a

a Just kidding.  Don't tell Dr. Math he's from Houston.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

complacencies of the peignoir

(click to enlarge)

Love it.

[Side note:  Has anyone else been bothered by the fact that this movie poster italicizes the word not in the title?  Reminds me of—wasn't there some Monty Python skit in which John Cleese's character is talking about acting and keeps saying the same line over and over (maybe "To be or not to be"?) with the emphasis on different words, totally arbitrarily?  (He's just not that into you.  He's just not that into you.  He's just not that into you...)  Anyway: nonsense.]

no no: fuck ME

I'm embarrassed to say that I kind of like this ad.  It must be that it has just enough ironic layers and reversals* to confuse and disorient me: I mean, it's basically just such an audacious and nonsensical claim, it warms my heart.  "THE ONLY TRUE THING."  Amazing, no?  Especially since gold digging, hustling, and pretending are the essence of advertising—and since putting liquor forward as the one right in a world of wrong is fantastically irresponsible, even as a joke.  It's pretty funny, I've got to concede.  It's like if a brothel advertised with copy that read, "In a dark world of sin, sleaze, and the exploitation of women, Top Shelf Poon Tang is the one ray of light."  You've got to respect it—fills you with a kind of admiration—or at least, you know, I enjoy it.

Of course, in the end, that just makes me even madder at the ad—for having played me like Connect Four.

* What, like one? –ed.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


This is my favorite thing in the whole world:

Part of what I like about it is that I've always fantasized about doing a "real" novelization of some big Hollywood movie—like doing Beverly Hills Cop but making it high literature, like really really good.  Another part is the same thing—whatever it might be—that made me sort of freak out when I found this book in a Paris bookstore:

I hadn't realized that the movie had been based on a novel, and after reading the novel I was basically just confused—because the novel and the movie are pretty much exactly the same, and I just had no idea whether it was that everything good about the movie was from the book (i.e., it's just a very very faithful adaptation) or that the movie made a flat book come to life (i.e., it's just great acting and direction).  I concluded it was impossible to tell: I was just too familiar with the film to see the book straight.  (Sorry, Charlie.)

The unifying factor between those two reasons (literary novelization, surprise source material) is: I really want to read those novels!  My requests, by the way, Spacesick, are: Brewster's Millions and Revenge of the Nerds.  Go!