Sunday, May 30, 2010

gained in translation

Here's a post that won't be interesting to anyone who doesn't speak precisely as much (and as little) French as I do:

Human swine flu translates, apparently—at least in Québec—as grippe porcine chez l'être humain. Oh, man, so much about that delights me. In fact, just about every fucking word of it.

  1. grippe — Beautiful because it is, or at least used to be, a word in English: meant flu back when flu was something you'd be "carried off" by.
  2. porcine — Ha.
  3. chez — This is a very useful French device* and I love that it's used to refer not only to things in a home but also to viruses in a species.
  4. l'être humain — Everything about this delights me. Is être often used as a noun? If you don't know, usually être is a verb meaning to be. Humain means human; if you couldn't figure that out, you need to go to a doctor. So: l'être humain, meaning human being. Isn't that just the most delightful thing you've ever come across?

[I give this blog post like maybe a B- at best. It's just that the blog posts have been slow in coming lately. Everybody knows you can find further inanity, probably more frequently, over at Headfoot, right? Here's a link to all the original content, meaning the stuff I uploaded myself instead of merely reblogging:† Headfoot Originals®. That half of this "original" content that will come up if you click that link soon after I post this in fact comprises screenshots from movies that I did not myself make is immaterial, IMMATERIAL. God bless!]

*It's nice to have a single word communicating this: it fucking SUCKS to have to say, "I was over at so-and-so's apartment" when francophones can just go, "chez Untel." (Can you imagine if that something like that actually did fill me with rage?)

Tumblr seems to involve a lot of this "reblogging." I've got mixed feelings about that.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Attack of the Crab Monsters

[Here's something I found in I think it was 11th grade on the last page of a poetry book we got for English class; loved it and remembered it for 15 years; here it is; enjoy in good health; I love you.]

(via nevver)

Attack of the Crab Monsters

Even from the beach I could sense it—
lack of welcome, lack of abiding life,
like something in the air, a certain
lack of sound. Yesterday
there was a mountain out there.
Now it's gone. And look
at this radio, each tube neatly
sliced in half. Blow the place up!
That was my advice.
But after the storm and the earthquake,
after the tactic of the exploding plane
and the strategy of the sinking boat, it looked

like fate and I wanted to say, "Don't you see?
So what if you are a famous biochemist!
Lost with all hands is an old story."
Sure, we're on the edge
of an important breakthrough, everyone
hearing voices, everyone falling

into caves, and you're out
wandering through the jungle
in the middle of the night in your negligée.
Yes, we're way out there
on the edge of science, while the rest
of the island continues to disappear until

nothing's left except this
cliff in the middle of the ocean,
and you, in your bathing suit,
crouched behind the scuba tanks.
I'd like to tell you
not to be afraid, but I've lost

my voice. I'm not used to all these
legs, these claws, these feelers.
It's the old story, predictable
as fallout—the rearrangement of molecules.
And everyone is surprised
and no one understands

why each man tries to kill
the thing he loves, when the change
comes over him. So now you know
what I never found the time to say.
Sweetheart, put down your flamethrower.
You know I always loved you.

–Lawrence Raab

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

something I wrote on Aug. 23, 2007, and never finished

(via nevver)

Katje had dumped him after a year and a half, he didn't get along with his mother, and his career and sense of self were fuzzy and distorted like scrambled cable, so Nicolas was particularly receptive when he saw the ad in the back of The New Jersey Review of Books:

satisfaction guaranteed*

—and a phone number. Nicolas noted that the asterisk corresponded to no footnote or fine print, but it was as if the ad had been planted there for him to find; he could ask about the asterisk later.
He interrupted his breakfast, Entenmann's boxed donuts and coffee, and called Dr. Fillmore from the kitchen table. His cell phone was there with him already, next to the paper, in case Katje called. She hadn't called yet.
"Separation Center, how can I help you?" said the woman who answered.
"Sep— I'm calling about the ad in The New Jersey Review?"
"Which ad, sir?"
"Um...shed all your pounds? Dr. Fillmore?"
"He's all booked up for today, sir."
"It doesn't have to be today."
"Oh!—I have one appointment this afternoon."
"Um... Where are you located?"
"Times Square, sir. In Manhattan."
"Oh, OK...and when's the appointment?"
"Three thirty."
"I can't do three thirty."
"Four o'clock?"
"It would have to be earlier, like one o'clock. So—"
"All right, I'll put you down for one. Your name, sir?"
Nicolas scratched the ad with a fingernail as if it were a lottery ticket.
"Didn't you say you only had one appointment?"
"I'm sorry, sir, I don't understand the question. Your name?"
"You— OK, never mind. One o'clock?"
"Yes, sir. Your name?"
He told her—with an American pronunciation so he might not have to spell it: "Nicholas De Lamprey," he said, "but with a B."
Silence. Then, "Where's the B?"
"It's D-E-L, A-M-B, R-E."
"Del Ambry," she repeated.
"Yes," he said. "And it's Nicholas without an H."
"N-I-C, O-L-A, S."
"Nicholas," she said, "Nicholas D'Lamb-Breeze"—wrong in either language. The woman was retarded.
"Yes," said Nicolas. "And will I get to see the doctor?"
He scratched out the asterisk. "All right, then. One o'clock. And the address?"
Two hours later, showered and shaved and wearing his nicest shirt and shoes in case Dr. Fillmore was an attractive woman, Nicolas was walking up and down Ninth Avenue, trying to locate the building in question. Finally he realized that it could only be the building with the big gaudy marquee that said "LIVE NUDE GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS (18 OK!)," which took Nicolas aback. He actually looked all around him, as if for a hidden camera—not because he thought there might be a hidden camera, but because at some point apparently he'd had that action or gesture programmed into him as an appropriate response to this kind of surprise. Once he'd spotted the number, writ small above the glass door practically hidden in the back of what you might call the building's throat, like a uvula, still he craned his neck ostentatiously, or performatively, to see whether the building might be next door. It was not. It was here.
So he walked cautiously into the gravitational pull of this sex show and saw that just inside the glass doors and off to the side there was another glass door, this one with a kind of directory and buzzer system beside it. But before he could get there, he was accosted by a man so extremely fit as to have come full-circle, perhaps, back around to dangerously unwell.
"ID," said the man, who had no hair.
Nicolas had to show his passport.
"French, huh?" said the man, then shook his head as if he'd finally seen it all.
"Yes," said Nicolas, taking back the passport. "Thank you."
The only labeled buzzer on the console said "SEPARATION." This was handwritten. Nicolas looked and considered for too long, it seemed, because the bouncer twisted around on his stool to give him a look of incredulity bordering on unease. "Hey, Polly Voo," he said, "zee girls is in zere."
"I'm looking for Dr. Fillmore," said Nicolas, enunciating carefully just in case this gorilla might notice that Polly Voo spoke better English than he did, and apologize. "I have an appointment."
"Ain't no doctor in here," said gorilla, "'cept some of these girls got a PhD in cocksucking—strictly between you and me, y'understand!"
Nicolas worked hard to smile. "Yes...I saw an ad..."
"You're looking for those fruitcakes upstairs." The man reached out an enormous arm and buzzed SEPARATION; for a moment all Nicolas could see was a busty vampiress masturbating with a wooden stake. Then the arm and the tattoo were gone, and the door clicked, and Nicolas slipped in with a quiet and feeble "Thanks."
Inside were filthy metal stairs leading straight up. The door at the first landing had two signs on it: one, faded and covered in dust, said "MANAGMENT," sic, and the other, obviously the product of Microsoft Word, said, "SEPARATION CENTER—come on in." There was also a graffito encouraging visitors to have sex with their own mothers—a troubling idea that Nicolas stopped himself from imagining.
Nicolas came on in.
The door opened out, and Nicolas saw that this was necessarily the case: inside was the smallest conceivable vestibule, with another door directly in front of him—this one sporting a bank-teller's bulletproof window with a shade pulled down and an old-fashioned metal dome you could hit to ring for assistance (except that a small piece of paper taped to the shelf it was on said, "DO NOT RING")—and on either side of him a small painting, each one a tasteful watercolor sex scene: doggystyle to the right, reverse cowgirl to the left.
"Yes," said Nicolas to himself. He tried peeking under the shade, then cleared his throat. "Hello?" he said, then said it again a little louder. Finally he knocked on the bulletproof plastic. "Hello?" he said again.
The shade shot up with a bang, and Nicolas nearly leapt out of his trousers.
"You can ring the bell," said the girl behind the window, muffled by the plastic.
"It says do not ring," said Nicolas.
"It's a joke," she said, shaking her head at him and chewing gum with her mouth open. This girl was a few years younger than Nicolas. He liked her hair and lipstick. He liked that she was flanked by artful pornography. "Mr. Della...bra?" she said, reading from something on the other side of the door. "You our one o'clock?"
"I am," he said. "Nicolas Delambre," he added, trying out the French pronunciation on her to see if she liked it. She had no reaction at all that he could detect. "I have an appointment with Dr. Fillmore?"
She stared at him for a second, then laughed in a way that was at one fetching and classically vulgar. "Dr. Fillmore?" she repeated. "Doctor?"
"Yes," said Nicolas nervously.
"OK!" she said. "Hold on a sec."
She went half out of frame, accompanied by the sound of several bolts' ka-chunking, and then the door swung open. The first thing that Nicolas noticed was that he also enjoyed this young woman's skirt and shoes. The next thing he noticed was that they were not yet in a room, but only a hallway.
"OK, here we go." She began to lead him down the hall.
"Now, hold on," he said, refusing for a moment to follow. "Is this Fillmore not a doctor?"
"D.R.," she said.
"D-R," he repeated.
"D.R. Fillmore. That's his name."
"I see." Nicolas scrunched up his face to indicate disapproving consideration. "The ad would lead one to believe that the D-R meant Dr.," he said. "I'm even inclined to think it was intentionally misleading."
"Well, I don't know anything about that," said the girl, and she reached out to brush something off of Nicolas's shoulder, which brought about a melting in his face and chest. "Come on," she said. "I'll take you to his office."
The office was the first thing Nicolas had seen yet that seemed the slightest bit professional, and it filled him with relief. Atop the big mahogany desk were fancy picture frames, an expensive inbox–outbox set, books, papers, carved-wood bric-a-brac—a doctor's desk. The floor was carpeted. Things were framed on the wall: artwork, New Yorker cartoons—even a diploma, and from Yale University, no less!
Then there was the man himself, D.R. Fillmore. D.R. Fillmore, it turned out, was just the lower limit of what Nicolas could take seriously as a doctor or expert: he must have been in his lower forties, and looked like someone who might compete with Nicolas for women, but still registered as significantly older—came across as an adult, in short, rather than a peer (because Nicolas, although already clear of his thirties, was, manifestly, definitively, and absolutely, still far more jeune homme than homme).
D.R. Fillmore rose from his leather seat and said, "Hello, Mr. Delambre?" He pronounced the name correctly. They shook hands across the desk. "I'm D.R. Fillmore. I apologize for our offices: the rent simply can't be beat, and of course the savings we share with the client. You. Please—sit."
They sat. "I saw your ad," Nicolas told him, "in The New Jersey Review."
"Yes, yes," said D.R. Fillmore. "And you understand the procedure?"
Nicolas blinked. "Well—I don't know what the procedure is."
"Ah. Excuse me, I haven't actually seen this advertisement. What we do," he said, "is we hook you up to something that is essentially a virtual-reality console—you've heard of virtual reality; don't worry, this isn't any kind of game or trick—and simulate an out-of-body experience. Do you understand so far?"
"I—well, go on."
"The idea, you see, is that you will become separated from your body—in a very real sense, you understand, insofar as your connection to your body has everything to do with your perception of connection to your body. OK?"
"And once we've achieved this separation, we actually just let you do all the rest of the work."
After a brief pause, Nicolas sensed that D.R. Fillmore might be done talking and might believe that he had explained himself sufficiently, so Nicolas piped up: "I'm not sure what sort of work you mean," he said.
"Well, to be frank, you don't need to know. It isn't willful work or even conscious work so much as the natural process your brain will undertake when it has become separated, as I said, from your body. Not physically, of course! We won't be removing your brain or anything like that!"
D.R. Fillmore laughed. Nicolas tried to...

[That's all I've got. Not sure where I was going with it, but I do remember that it was based on an article I read about this thing where people actually were simulating out-of-body experiences—maybe a little like the way ECT induces seizures?—for some sort of therapeutic reason; while rereading this just now it occurred to me, though, that I'd kind of like it if Nicolas went under and woke up with his brain physically removed from his body. "Not physically, of course!" Cut to brain in jar.]


What Google Image Search has to say about Chelsea Handler.

To begin with, let me just lay right out here that I am not familiar with Chelsea Handler or her show and have not read Christopher Hitchens's article about how women aren't funny—although (1) I think I've heard that Handler's good, (2) I believe Hitchens to be extremely intelligent, and (3) I know from plentiful first-hand experience that women are funny.

That said:

In a recent article about Chelsea Handler in The New Yorker (which I get in L.A. much later than I got in New York), Nancy Franklin calls Hitchens's article "an eye-roller"* and then, soon afterwards, disqualifies herself from all discussion of what is and is not funny:

The title Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea (with which I have no particular problem†), according to Franklin, is superior to Handler's new "lame" book title, Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang (which frankly seems like 10% funnier to me) because it

created something new by breaking something old: it brushed aside the earnestness of Judy Blume's most famous young-adult novel, "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret," and replaced it with party-girl wildness and a robust disregard for the consequences—what Handler has called "an attitude of utter disrepair."


This would be like—and, again, I have no problem with Handler's title (and I was a big "Weird Al" fan back in the '80s), but this would be like if I wrote, "The genius of 'Weird Al' Yankovic's parody song 'Fat' is that it takes the unconvincing posturing of Michael Jackson's hit song 'Bad' and subtly undercuts it by shifting the focus from confrontational machismo onto the hilarious predicament of a morbidly obese person."‡

I'm sure Nancy Franklin is not an idiot. But Nancy Franklin is an idiot.

Havin' 23rds.

* In case it's unclear where this fits in, file it under "Unnecessarily undermining your argument" or "Giving ammunition to the bad guys by making the good guys look wrong." I mean...not yet. Read on.
† And which The New Yorker of course puts in quotes.
‡ Except worse (Even Worse)—because I just reread what I just wrote and realized I accidentally wrote something that's actually sort of true.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A day in the life.*

(via rrrick)

Is it clear that when I say auto-biograph-y, I mean it to be pronounced like an adjective, like "of or pertaining to an autobiograph"?

No matter!

  1. Intellectually I think car-based societies are bad news for all sorts of reasons, and I'm in love with New York's public-transportation system. But the intellect isn't really what matters in the end, is it? I mean, in terms of your personal experience and happiness. Fact is, I like driving around. This makes me that much likelier to enjoy Los Angeles, which I do.
  2. Because my writing partner and I want to write all sorts of awesome horror screenplays, I've been doing some homework: watched Friday the 13th Pts. 1–3, Nightmare on Elm Street 3–4, Halloween 2, Child's Play, Saw, Quarantine...and then these fucking insane foreign movies like Suicide Club, Martyrs, and The Human fucking Centipede.† That I'm not having bizarre nightmares regularly is some kind of miracle.
  3. I've always had trouble answering the question of where I live in L.A. because most generally "West Hollywood" seems to be most descriptive, although technically I do not live in West Hollywood. "The West Hollywood area" was a pretty good answer I heard recently, but I also just found out that the L.A. Times web site calls it "Beverly Grove"‡—which apparently just infuriates everybody. It occurs to me that I basically had the same problem back in New York because "NoLIta" is totally a made-up neighborhood: sometimes I used to say, "Between SoHo and the Lower East Side," and sometimes I'd just say, "Downtown...on Mulberry Street." No sane person would spend more than five seconds on this.
  4. I took an introductory improv class with the Upright Citizens Brigade, and today was my class's graduation show. It went pretty well, I think; thank you for asking!
  5. A couple of anomalous grey days earlier in the week demonstrated to me that my mood is 100% dependent upon the weather. And at one point I was thinking, "Fuck, so what do I do about this problem," and then I realized I've already done it: I've moved to Los Angeles. How I ever handled New York with its goddamned weather I have no idea. I think it might be a little like how I went to an all-boys' school for 12 years but, because I was six when I started, didn't quite understand what I was missing until I got to college. And my life has been co-ed ever since. The end.
Here's a picture of me with a friend.

* NOTE: Contents are edited and may not in fact accurately represent the events of a single calendar day.
† I submit that it is unfair to take a beautiful actress, have her be topless for a good part of the movie, but set it up so that you can't possibly enjoy that without reminding yourself it isn't real and taking yourself completely out of the reality of the movie. Not that the reality of this particular movie is a place you want to hang out very long anyway.
‡ Interestingly the L.A. Times web site also reports that Russian is the most common ancestry in this neighborhood (I'm a little Russian) and that Poland is the second most-common foreign place of birth (my roommate's from Poland). What do you know. Also, "The percentage of white people is among the city's highest." And I'm white—although a guy in my improv class recently said I looked Mexican. (Later he called me "a smart Jew.")

cousin to the rhetorical question

"Where was I," writes Jennifer Seager, "on the day that 'hihowareya' became one long word devoid of meaning? I must be asked at least 10 times a day how I am, but I have yet to find one person who actually wants to know."

Cute. Except that, even not having any idea how old this Jennifer Seager person is, I'm reasonably confident that the answer to the question of where she was when "How are you?" ceased to be a question is: not born yet. Not born yet! A sparkle in an eye, possibly even a potential sparkle inside a sparkle of an ancestor's eye...

...because* as I know from reading Emily Post's Etiquette back in 2004,† the most (or was it only?) "appropriate" upper-class greeting back in the day—apart from maybe I think the time-of-day nodders "Good morning," "Good afternoon," and "Good evening"—was "How do you do?" And the appropriate response to "How do you do?" was "Hello."

Point being‡ not that this makes sense or should be, but only that it is not news.

Now, to be fair, part of the reason I remember this shit from the etiquette book is that I was amused/annoyed by the fact that Emily Post or Peggy Post or whatever Post it was at the time was able to muster up a little irritation at people who said "How are you?" as a non-question greeting—when the difference between that and "How do you do?" is clearly superficial. (But does anyone here think Seager's point is that people should be saying "How do you do" instead of "How are you"? Anyone? No? OK, good.)

Anyway, what struck me about that weird little moment in the etiquette book was how arbitrary these "rules" are. But to reject them as totally devoid of meaning would be absurd. Etiquette treats itself as a kind of rule book when in fact it represents a kind of sociology or anthropology, doesn't it? Especially in its earliest editions, Etiquette's subtitle could have been: "How upper-class Americans behave, and what they look down on people for failing to do." The relationship to grammar is clear. In both cases, I think we tend to see in extremes: either something is written across the sky in fire or it's made-up and false. But things can be absolutely true in a particular context without being "absolute truths." The sentence "Come with John and I" is not cosmically problematic, one could certainly come up with justifications for it—plenty of people say it, is for sure—and, indeed, maybe it will become grammatically correct at some point; but to deny entirely that it breaks any rules would be absurd. I can tuck a basketball under my arm and sprint across the court with a stepladder, and I can say, "I have the right to do this," as I push the ball up through the hoop from underneath, but I can't really expect anyone to agree that I'm playing basketball.

This has gotten rambly. My point (if I have to have one) is that this "Hihowareya" article is fluff. What looks superficially like a question obviously is not a question, and hardly anyone thinks it's a question: in fact complaining that people ask it and don't wait for an answer is the kind of thing a stoned teenager would suddenly think to get upset about.§ Why doesn't some editor step in and say, "Well, you know, this isn't really about you tweak it a little so you're not acting like it's some new development and instead address it as..."?

On the other hand, my roommate's dog is barking insanely at a dog on the other side of a wall—these dogs hate each other (or love each other)—and that is clearly the most important thing that has ever happened in the history of the world: you can tell from the degree of passion they're both putting into it.

So that sort of puts things in perspective.

unrelated inspirational image via Headfoot

* That dot-dot-dot there is my way to try to recreate the grammatically nonstandard conversational staple the "because" sentence-starter without breaking grammatical rules; the result is I just look like an idiot in all directions. Great job!

† For the record, this is 100% thanks to my girlfriend at the time.

‡ Yeah, I should just go ahead and start every paragraph however the fuck I want. Because, and, point being...

§ "Why do people say 'Good morning'...without really thinking hard about whether the morning is actually good?!"

Thursday, May 20, 2010

This time the idiocy goes too far.

It is at this point well established that the official Electronic Arts policy on what is and is not a word (or a permissible word) is plain stupid and ludicrous. And you might think there was nothing else to be said on the subject—but look what's not a word now:

Jew? Jew is not a word?

Hey, non-Jews, guess what? Jew is not an offensive term!†—not unless it's used as an adjective or a verb (or if it's hissed). Guess what Jewish people call themselves and each other? Jews. The Jews! Yep! Jew, as a noun, is not a slur! It's just what we're called, folks!

I didn't even know people thought it was a slur until a few years back when I was writing report cards and said something like, "His essay demonstrated that he had not even understood that Shylock is a Jew"—and my (goyische) supervisor changed "a Jew" to "Jewish." Whaaa?

(click to enlarge the OED definition*)

What's funny about this (or let's not say funny, let's say noteworthy) is that the only thing that starts to smell vaguely anti-Semitic here is the correction. Electronic Arts' decision not to acknowledge that Jew is a word—and, more specifically, to identify it implicitly as an offensive word—is itself offensive.

The issue here is that, yes, anti-Semites do use the word Jew to refer to Jews. But unlike the seemingly analogous but not in fact analogous problem of racists using the N-word to refer to black people, Jew is actually the right word. This is not even one of those situations where it's like, "Well, black people sometimes use the N-word..." This is not a question of empowerment. In fact, we're dealing almost with the opposite.

That's why I find it not only silly but also offensive. I'm a Jew,‡ I'm happy with that word—so for a non-Jew to come around and declare that that word is offensive... It is, I hit the nail on the head, it's reverse-empowerment. Isn't empowerment like, "I'm gay and I'm hijacking the word queer," or "I'm a woman and I'm hijacking the word bitch"? Well, this is like, "I'm a Christian and I'm hijacking the word Jew."

Leave our word alone, goyim!!

* Or just get out your OED magnifying glass.
† This of course sidesteps my main issue with EA and their Boggle and Scrabble apps, which is that "offensive" words are still words and should not be cut out of word games.
‡ Actually, these days my answer to the question "Are you Jewish?" is sometimes more complicated than a straightforward yes—but if you needed a yes/no answer, if we were rounding up or down, I'd round it up to yes, for sure.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The cheeks you save might be your own.

As discussed on more than one occasion, I have been known to have trouble with public restrooms for neurotic reasons; I'm more or less over that now,* but I'm still always conscious of the ways in which a given public restroom is and is not friendly to the germ-crazy. In the late '90s, when I first visited California, I was struck by the fact that every public restroom I visited—every one, even the most revolting dive-bar piss-trough or gas-station shit-hole—had those little paper covers you can put down on toilet seats. And that's still true. There's got to be a law or something: these things are everywhere. This means you've never got to lay toilet paper down on a toilet seat (if that's how you're livin') because they've got something special for that. Nowhere near as nice as a flushless toilet or a motion-activated paper-towel dispenser, but not too shabby if you're a crazy person.

But so today I saw one of those things and was struck by something I'd never seen before—either because it's unique to this particular bathroom or because I'd just never looked carefully enough:

(click to inspect)

Life Guard. They call it Life Guard. Seriously? Life Guard?

Even at my worst, even when I was most neurotically freaked out about public-restroom germs, even then I don't think I would have been on board with the idea that a piece of paper you could lay on a toilet seat was guarding your fucking life. I mean...Herp Guard, maybe? Hep Guard? Ass Guard, more to the point? Those all work. But Life Guard—boy, that just takes it about three steps too far.

Are they being ironic? Are they making fun of me?



* Maybe more less than more...certainly more more less than more than more more than less. (You heard me.)

Monday, May 17, 2010


Facebook took down the favorites.* That's not true: Facebook made it so that anyone with even the vaguest vestigial preference for privacy (or something closer to privacy) would never, ever want to list favorites.† Which is maybe for the best—but either way, it's little more than a matter of principle for me at this point: whereas at one point (e.g., 1/23/05) one of the main appeals for me of a Friendster or a Facebook was listing favorites, now I've more or less risen above that particular character flaw.

Now let me undermine that last claim by listing some favorites. With Facebook out of the picture for these purposes, I figured maybe I'd put 'em up here on Alt85, where it'll be way...less...private...?

Whatever! Enough thinking! Let's do this thing!


...BOOKS: Gravity's Rainbow, The Catcher in the Rye, Miss Lonelyhearts, Portnoy's Complaint, Pale Fire, The Verificationist;‡ Donald Barthelme is one of my all-time favorite writers, more generally.

...MUSIC: The Beach Boys, The Beastie Boys, The Beatle Boys, Pavement, The Velvet Underground, Ween; Ram by Paul McCartney and Nashville Skyline are two of my favorite albums, and 40–50% of Doolittle by the Pixies§ would go on a mix tape of my favorite-ever music.

...MOVIES: Wes Anderson, the Coen Bros., Charlie Kaufman, much Gilliam, Woody Allen (1900s only); also, Ghostbusters, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Gremlins, and many other (but not all) of the movies I enjoyed in the 1980s will burn forever in my heart.

* Favorite books, favorite movies, etc.
† Amazingly, Facebook has made it so that instead of listing what you like, you are "liking" these things in the most public possible way; there is no longer any such thing on Facebook as a private list of favorites.
‡ One thing that always drove me crazy when making these lists was a neurotic, obsessive concern not unrelated to the grammatical question of parallelism:1 once I've started in with Gravity's Rainbow and other titles of books, how do I tell you that I also like the writing of Donald Barthelme—more generally? Do I have to pick a single book? Can I put in a semicolon instead of a comma and start listing writers? My solution here is to add a note: highly unsatisfactory, for the record. [N.B.: Only a lunatic would care about this. And no, that is not true of every weird thing that bothers only me.]
§ Definitely at least tracks 1, 2, 6, 11, 12, and 13, and probably more.

1 Which, if you Google "faulty parallelism," amazingly enough you will be directed here).a

a That's some DFW grammar, BTW.@$%&

@$%& Any long-time readers out there remember when I used to do all these fucking footnotes-to-footnotes-to-footnotes?

more muzak


Again—again again—songs have been going up on the Headfoot music page. I borrowed my friend's guitar and have started whipping off the occasional cover song on GarageBand: I'm not writing songs as I originally imagined I might, but at least new music is going up. I got this ball rolling with the Robbie Fulks song "Goodbye, Good-Lookin'";* the latest is "If I Fell," a John Lennon song off the Beatles' Hard Day's Night. Before that I think it was "She Fucks Me" by Ween—no: "The Christian Life," which I know from another cover version by the Byrds. Lately I've been getting off on the harmonies.

Anyway, I've got mixed feelings on exactly how not-good this stuff is,† but as I explained at the start, this is about combating George McFly syndrome—so go ahead, take a listen!‡


* Versione alternativa here. (Guitar solo sounds SICK.)
† I'm thinking, like, pretty awful but with bright flashes of decent?
‡ More to come, too: I figure I'll keep knocking these off until my buddy remembers to ask for his guitar back.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Caring what words mean is for nerds.

I'm reasonably excited about the new season of True Blood, so I'm reasonably excited by these ads, but not quite so excited that I forget what rehydrate means.

Hydro means water, folks. And as much as ad agencies would like you to think that it makes sense to "hydrate" with the liquid they've been paid to promote, hydration is something you do with water—not Gatorade, not blood: water.

So calling vampiric blood-sucking rehydrating is sort of like calling a zoot suit a tuxedo, or calling a handjob fellatio. (It's also sort of like when I got to college and discovered that all sorts of kids who said, "I'm from New York City," were from New Jersey.)

Sorry, folks: not all words are interchangeable.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

damning with faint praise

Look, I'm actually pretty excited to see MacGruber because I think it might be funny...*

...but "The funniest Saturday Night Live film since Wayne's World"? Really? So you're saying—what, that it's better than A Night at the Roxbury?

* And Wayne's World is even a good comparison to make because it's a funny movie based on a relatively contentless sketch that you wouldn't have guessed could make a good movie.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Let's get auto-biograph-y! [UPDATED]

Someone actually answered a question I asked—and said yes! So fasten your seatbelts, folks: you're on a rocketship to Planet Personal.

Get ready for blast-off!

  1. I found a new place to read: I can go out to this patio out back of where I live and read in the sun.
  2. I've got a big pimple on my cheek, but I'm leaving it alone and it's going away on its own.
  3. Tonight I think I'm going to watch Child's Play on DVD.

All right! That's it for now: check in for more juicy confessional revelations down the cyber-road. Here's a picture of me in the meantime to tide you on over:

Short Round

motherly love


Fromm on moms:

the relationship of mother and child is by its very nature one of inequality, where one needs all the help, and the other gives it. It is for this altruistic, unselfish character that motherly love has been considered the highest kind of love, and the most sacred of all emotional bonds... Actually, the vast majority of mothers are loving mothers as long as the infant is small and still completely dependent on them... Inasmuch as the infant is still felt to be a part of herself, her love and infatuation may be a satisfaction of her narcissism. Another motivation may be found in a mother’s wish for power, or possession... Motherly love for the growing child, love which wants nothing for oneself, is perhaps the most difficult form of love to be achieved, and all the more deceptive because of the ease with which a mother can love her small infant... a woman can be a truly loving mother only if she can love; if she is able to love her husband, other children, strangers, all human beings.

I'm not putting this up to be contrarian: what I took away from this passage when I first read it about eight years ago was that motherly love is among the noblest forms of love—because it's so hard and so goddamned rare.

A lot of so-called motherly love is nothing of the kind: when a mom can't let her kids grow up and move on, that isn't sweet or cute, but rather selfish and unfeeling. Fighting to keep your kids from truly "leaving the nest" only demonstrates that the love you supposedly feel for them is nothing but narcissism-by-proxy.

When a mom is actually able to help her kid grow into an independent adult who isn't going to be connected to her with an invisible umbilical—a process that must be nearly unthinkably difficult and painful—that is admirable, that deserves the kind of celebration that our bestows uncritically upon mothers as a group...because a baby does start as part of you, like magic, and eventually you have to let it go. I'm not sure I can even imagine.

OK, maybe I'm being a little contrarian.

(For the record, my mom is the best.*)


* But your mom is so fat...

Saturday, May 8, 2010

nostaliga vs. quality

Movies you like because you liked them when you were a kid vs. movies that are actually good:

Bustin' makes me feel good!

Back to the Future
Ferris Bueller's Day Off

The hilarious veggie gremlin from Gremlins 2.

Gremlins 2
Back to the Future Part III
Short Circuit

(I'm told Adventures in Babysitting is also not one to revisit. )

"You're Thor? I'm so Thor I can hardly walk."

more mini-reviews

Iron Man 2
Put Robert Downey Jr. in a movie, have it not totally suck, and I'm in. Same is true with Sam Rockwell. Put them both in a movie, throw in an insane Mickey Rourke and Scarlett Johansson in a catsuit, and I mean—come on.*† (Also, it's actually pretty well written.)

The Allegra Goodman story in a recent New Yorker
It was like 30% too short-storyey in a way that I tend to associate, maybe unfairly, with MFA programs, but the basic backbone of it was pretty great.

Please Give
I knew nothing about this movie when I saw it—hadn't even heard of it. That's rare for me. Anyway, it was good. A few scenes I could've done without; a few scenes were awesome. The grandmother was awesome.

A Nightmare on Elm Street
The reason a reboot might be a cool idea is that you get to make a cool older thing fresh and new—you almost get to simulate "watching it again for the first time." That is not what this reboot does. It's the worst possible combination of overdone and underconsidered: too polished and too sloppy.

The Bedwetter
Sarah Silverman's book gets a bit of a longer, rambly review.
I'm not sure she knows how to write a book—but I mean that in a good way. At first I was a little unsettled by what strikes me as a roughness about it, cohesionwise: I was expecting either a comedy book or, less likely but still totally within what made sense to me, a book about comedy (like Born Standing Up by Steve Martin); The Bedwetter is both, but by both I don't mean it's like a seamless mix or combination or even clearly back-and-forth: it's like a jumble. But that makes the book way more interesting, frankly. Do I really want to know the Sarah Silverman story? Answer: sort of. Do I really want to read a book of hilariousness written by Sarah Silverman? Well...yes. OK, so but The Bedwetter is (or I guess I should say that it feels like) what happened when Sarah Silverman set down to write a Sarah Silverman book. Am I making this distinction clear? She, being hilarious, is funny. She, having a career and life story, shares some of it. But really what it comes down to is a bit of a look into Sarah Silverman's head.
I guess really all I'm actually trying to say is that I want to sleep with Sarah Silverman.

The new Headfoot cover version of "Goodbye, Good-Lookin'"
I sing it better in the car and in the shower.

...and that's all, folks!


* ALSO: The sound is so good, so physical. The noise it makes when he powers up his hand and shoots those energy bolts or whatever they are out of it? You can totally feel it. That was true in the first one, too, but now there's Mickey Rourke's whips, too: man, you can feel that shit, you know exactly what it's like, it's so visceral. Brilliant.

† And now another edition of "The New Yorker Has the Worst Fucking Movie Reviews."
(1) Anthony Lane writes that "Bruce Wayne...appears to have learned his public-relations technique from Thomas Pynchon." Because...Thomas Pynchon is known for being a little stand-offish and difficult to get a handle on at his extravagant, garish parties and photo ops, you fucking idiot?
(2) In classic New Yorker style (e.g.), a factual error: Scarlett Johansson's character is never Tony's legal adviser: she goes from being "in legal" to being Tony's assistant—again, maybe not a big deal per se, but a magazine famous for its fact-checking department just doesn't give a shit whether its movie reviewers bother to get a goddamned thing right in their smug fucking reviews.
(3) Finally, and maybe more contentiously, Anthony Lane's just dead wrong about the big Cheadle fight: "Why have Colonel Rhodes (Don Cheadle), Stark's best friend, put on a rival metal suit and batter him, almost to death, for no discernible reason? The answer is that the audience craves its fix of fighting..." Here's the problem, and here's why it's worth picking a fight about: there are two reasons for the fight, and they're not only discernible but actually rather meaningful and relevant to the story in exactly the character-focused way Lane claims to care about. Reason one is that the government wants Tony's suit, and one thing that's actually quite admirable about this movie is the moral ambiguity it allows: it's not clear that Tony's right to want to keep the suit to himself, not clear he's not just being a megalomaniac (as evidenced by the fascinating choice to set Cheadle's arrival at a military base with the purloined suit to triumphant music—when else in a superhero movie is an act of deliberate defiance of the hero's will given the "Yay, we did it!" treatment?). Reason two is that Tony is being crazy, irresponsible, and self-destructive, abusing his power for—no, not personal gain, just personal entertainment: one thing he's good at (he tells the cameras) is pleasuring himself. Cheadle's character steals the suit and fights Tony because, as Cheadle's character says, Tony doesn't deserve to wear the suit. Usually (e.g., Superman III or Spider-Man 3) a superhero goes really bad, like now we've got a bad-guy version of the superhero, and obviously we're in trouble. Iron Man 2 gives us a depressed, drunken version of the superhero—and then demonstrates that, even drunk, he's still able to fight like a motherfucker, with total mastery of his suit. Fuckin' awesome! Fuckin' fascinating! Fuckin' subtle! And fuckin' Anthony Lane's only response is, "Well, people love to see fight scenes."
Fuck you, Anthony Lane, and fuck your smug, intellectually careless movie reviews.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Ram On

by Short Round (age 32)

1. "Marie" by Randy Newman
Ridiculously, unspeakably beautiful. I mean, are you kidding me with this shit? Rides so close to the edge of out-and-out schmaltz without falling in or even losing its balance for a second—which (as discussed) is maybe how masterpieces are born.

2. "Good Enough" by Cyndi Lauper
I refuse to call this song "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough"; I swear it wasn't called that when I owned the original Goonies soundtrack cassette. Anyway, my writing partner reminded me of the existence of this song and I've basically been listening to it on repeat ever since—particularly last month. Perfect for driving around sunny Los Angeles with your windows down. I'm in fucking California!


3. Ram by Sir Paul McCartney
Some of the stuff that's hard in a break-up, in the beginning, is inevitably the stupidest, most trivial shit—like some meaningless tentative plan you had, or realizing that you aren't going to have any reason to see her cousin ever again, that sort of thing. My theory about that is that it hits you because you can't defend against it: missing the person herself or the important stuff, that you can build up defenses against; what hammers you sometimes is the stuff you aren't ready for because it comes at you sideways...some tangential, minor association.
Much more commonly commented upon, and I think intellectually less interesting on account of being so obvious but still important, are the more direct assocations. One version of this is, like, you get sad when you hear some stranger at karaoke singing "Nothing Compares 2 U" when "Nothing Compares 2 U" used to be one of her karaoke staples (and this version doesn't compare 2 hers). But the biggest wallop, arguably, is something you not only associate with your ex but that you and your ex really kind of bonded over, specifically spent time with together—say, an album you not only listened to together but discussed together, pointed things out about to each other, etc., etc.
This is all just an introduction to my saying that Ram by Paul McCartney is so good that it doesn't even matter that it's deeply tangled up with a serious ex-girlfriend—doesn't even matter that she basically taught me to appreciate it: it's just too fucking good for me to care.
That's a big deal.
If all the Beatles' solo projects were as good as Ram and Plastic Ono Band...well, wouldn't we basically be living in an earthly paradise?*

* I am (see above: fucking California!).