Wednesday, October 27, 2010

quick questions

Q. Have you seen Will Smith's nine-year-old daughter's music video? She's incredible. Watching it I could imagine myself in 2030 thinking, "Remember when she was brand new and nine years old—that 'hair back and forth' song?" Superstar material, I'm saying. Queen of Pop. (I don't fucking know.)

Willow's just going to whip her hair back and forth—straight to the bank.

Q. Why didn't anybody tell me that Community is good?? (NOTE: It is very possible that someone did tell me that Community is good. And another good question might be, "Having enjoyed Heat Vision and Jack and The Sarah Silverman Program, why wouldn't I have assumed on my own that Community might be good?" I'm a damned fool, a damned fool.) (ANOTHER NOTE: Generally I go for more for the Lizzy Caplan or Aubrey Plaza look, but Gillian Jacobs is pretty OK, too—I mean, she doesn't have to sweat it, either, I'm saying.)

Don't sweat it, Gillian. (via)

Q. Did you see that bit on "Weekend Update" last weekend where the guy said he was excited about Secretariat because he likes that in movies with animals in them, the animals don't know they're in a movie? I've always said that! And I was torn between being tickled (pink) to see something I like on national TV and being rankled (dark purple?) to see something I would have liked to do myself on national TV. No more waiting! The time is now! Live in the moment! Carpe diem! (And other clichés.)

No way of understanding that this is pretend.

[Answers written upside-down on the backside of the universe.]

Hi, I'm an atheist.

I think a lot of non-atheists are confused about what atheism even is. I've already talked about the agnosticism fallacy; that's not what concerns me today. What concerns me today is not believing in God.

Part of the reason this concerns me is that atheists are America's most hated minority (and that we, along with only children, are among the least acknowledgedly shat-upon people in our society)—but that's not going to be the focus right now. The focus right now is going to be on two simple facts, facts that should be simple, which I'm going to hit as succinctly as I can:

(1) atheism isn't about God being a jerk, and
(2) atheism isn't about not believing in anything.

(1) Way more often than I can really comprehend, I hear people suggest that not only a but the reason why people are atheists is that they can't understand why God would allow the Holocaust to happen, or car crashes to happen, or cancer to happen, etc., etc. Guess what? First of all, there is no logical problem there: if God exists, why couldn't He be capable of doing shitty things? Indeed, the Bible itself suggests that God is emotional, irrational, spiteful, wrathful, violent, "jealous," and extremely dangerous. (The reason why "God hates fags" is so offensive is not that it's inconceivable that the God of the Bible might dislike gay people: He seems to hate an awful lot of people for an awful lot of reasons!) Second of all, and more importantly—new paragraph for this, even—

—the reason why people don't believe in God is that they don't believe in God. To be perfectly frank (and, to some, offensive), belief in God is like belief in Santa Claus: some people (usually small children, in Santa's case) take it totally for granted, and other people take for granted that it's false. Your average atheist isn't an atheist because he thinks God is mean. Your average atheist is an atheist because he thinks God is a fairy tale.

Put it this way: being an atheist because of pain and suffering is like being a lesbian because men are scum. The only good reason to be a lesbian is that you're attracted to women, and the only good reason to be an atheist is that you don't believe in God.

Not what it's about.

(2) Maybe if you can understand that atheists just plain don't believe in God—not out of spite, but out of what, just to gesture toward diplomacy, I'll say they believe to be simple clear-headed rationality (and nonbrainwashedness: brainfilthiness, if you must)—you can also see that atheism does not imply immorality or amorality or unmorality or anything of the sort. Maybe you can understand that atheism implies that morality, since it exists, must have a source other than God.

Even if you disagree, even if you think that God does exist and atheists are mistaken or even satanically misled, can't you see how, hypothetically, if God didn't exist, then humankind's sense of morality must have originated somewhere other than God? I'm not asking you to agree: I'm asking you to imagine. Imagine a world in which God did not exist. Morality still exists as a concept, yes? Where did it come from if God doesn't exist? FROM HUMANITY.

The morality of an atheist is the morality of a person who believes that the God who gave us moral laws is essentially—forgive me for the metaphor here—a Muppet: when Kermit the Frog sings "The Rainbow Connection," we (I should hope) understand that actually that's the voice of Jim Henson and that Kermit himself is a puppet; similarly, from the atheist's perspective, the morality you attribute to God and divinity, an atheist will attribute to the human imagination that created God and divinity.  Again, I'm not asking you to accept this as true or agree, just to see that that's what an atheist believes.  I'm asking you to understand that when someone says, "I'm an atheist," that is not synonymous with, "I believe nothing is true and nothing means anything."

Under "Religious Views" on Facebook, I wrote "Q*bert." This is partly a joke, but it is also partly (I recently recognized) because if I write, "Atheist," I know that many people will think, "Oh, he thinks everything is permissible," or, "Oh, he rejects morality." And I don't want people to think that. It hit me recently that this is cowardly—but cowardly in much the same way that it was cowardly for Jews in an anti-Semitic society (not a violently anti-Semitic society, just a society that looks down on Jews) to pretend not to be Jewish. And the saddest part about this is that, even after recognizing this, I still didn't change it to atheist—because I want to avoid that misunderstanding.

But I guess I did write this.

Again, I'm not asking religious people to become atheists (although it would be nice). I'm just asking religious people to recognize what atheism is, and what it is not. Think we're wrong, think our views are the result of satanic deception, think we're going to Hell—just don't think that what we mean when we say we don't believe in God is that we think bad is good, or that we're angry at God. We just plum don't believe God exists.

While I'm making such reasonable and likely requests, let me also note that I would like $10 million and a house in the hills.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"It's people pretending there's ghosts in front of security cameras."

Yesterday I went and saw Fakeboring Nightvisioncrap 2. See below.

Is that fair? Nah, I think it's more funny than it is fair. But it makes a valid-enough point.

[Before getting on to that point, here's another video someone showed me after hearing me say I had expected the first Paranormal Activity to scare more of the bejesus out of me (Seinfeld voice: I was led to believe I would be left with much less bejesus! My bejesus levels are dangerously high!):

Thought about this video more than once during the crib scenes, I can tell you.]

What's unfair about that first video is that these movies are frequently scary. Like The Blair Witch Project (which I liked less than these movies, as it happens), they do a good job of milking the terror in the waiting and the expectation. You know something scary is going to happen, and that's scary.

That said, the stuff that does happen is [SPOILER ALERT, SPOILER ALERT] pretty unimpressive. With the exception of maybe the sped-up standing-over-the-bed that happens in the first one (which is more creepy than scary anyway), mostly what we've got in these two movies is loud bangs (which can make you jump), things falling down (sometimes with a loud bang), and doors opening (or—BANG!—closing), with the occasional person getting dragged across a floor—which really, when it comes down to it, isn't exactly what you'd label top-of-the-line horror. (Indeed, the scariest part of the floor-dragging in the second one isn't the dragging itself but the sped-up-video hour afterwards in which we know woman's in the basement and have no idea what's happening to her.)

You could say that what these movies do well aren't the notes but the space between the notes [please don't say that –ed.]. It comes down primarily to the suspense of waiting for something terrible you know is going to happen and the ambiguity of the actions of an unseen supernatural antagonist—both of which arguably amount to what's both right and wrong with the movie.

I'm not even saying the movies do a great job of this, just a good job: among others, David Lynch achieves pretty much the same effect at a much higher level and is much scarier. I'm just saying that the point being made in this parody video is a valid one but goes too far. (And, yes, quibbling over details with a parody video is pretty dumb. Yes, I'll concede that. Sure.)

One other mostly unrelated side note: as long as these ghost/demon movies make it about Christian occultism and assert that crucifixes are monster-kryptonite, I will forever have one foot out the belief-suspension door* and a pretty firm grasp on at least some of my bejesus.

This again. Too good.

* There is such a door.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Jackass 3D and the Southern California sky

A friend asked me recently what I thought of Jackass 3D and I said it was OK but also sometimes boring and depressing. But then, I was a little depressed when I saw it: two weeks of grey skies and darkness in L.A.? I mean, come on. My only consolation was bitching about it on Twitter (e.g.).*

But then today the sun came out, and, as I wrote on someone's wall (wow, in just a few short years that became a not-weird thing to say), it turned out my mood isn't affected by the weather, it is the weather—like my brain has the Weather Channel on in lieu of a personality; in Internetspeak, this would be called hotlinking.

Anyway, I took a picture of this billboard because it was probably my favorite part of the movie, and, P.S., Los Angeles is an earthly paradise—so beautiful, that sky, that I don't even really care that the picture I took doesn't capture it. IT WAS THERE.

(Click to enlarge.)

* Is bitching, as a verb, actually a misogynistic term—like gypped is quietly, secretly racist (and niggardly quietly, secretly isn't)?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

flagging the obvious

Here's a New Yorker cartoon that annoyed me:

Click to enlarge this hilarious satire.

Now, I'm no fan of these jokey Quirk Books horror/classics mash-ups (like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies)—partly because the joke immediately became stale, like immediately, and partly because I didn't get to it first (see The Tragickal History of Hamlet, Prince of Darkness)—but what we've got here is that lamest of comic failures: the attempt to parody something that is itself already essentially parody (q.v.). Off the top of my head, here are a few of the big problems with this cartoon:
  1. What do these titles add? If you're going to make fun of something, especially if it's already a joke, you've got to focus attention on what's wrong with it—probably by drawing that wrong thing out and exaggerating it, making it even more ridiculous than it already is. So McGriddle me this: is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Zombie more or less ridiculous than Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters? Certainly not more. (In fact, relatively speaking, it barely even deviates from the source material.) The Great Gatzbilla is something I can imagine someone actually pitching to Quirk Books; A Tale of Two Aliens is something I can imagine someone thinking better of actually pitching to Quirk Books. The titles in this cartoon (the titles that are this cartoon) not only don't adequately exaggerate and satirize the actual titles in the series—they don't even measure up. They're less clever. Quirk Books is a step ahead of them.
  2. The idea that the trend being mocked is about "revamping" classic books for the "youth"—I mainly see these books as hipster joke gifts. Maybe I'm wrong about that, but whatever the audience, the cartoonist or cartoonists and the New Yorker's cartoon editors seem to think that these books are the equivalent of those "No Fear Shakespeare" books or some dumbed-down substitute for the original, rather than an attempt at comedy—and this is plainly incorrect. When I'm picturing this cartoonist, I'm picturing Grampa Simpson ("That's right, I did the Iggy!").
  3. Relatedly—today's youth seem to want horror references that are no fresher than 1979.

I feel like maybe I've been shitting on The New Yorker too much lately—not that they'd care. But I do think there's cause to complain when the editors publish a cartoon that they either didn't get (maybe just never having heard of this Quirk Books series, in spite of their having been reviewed in The New Yorker) or didn't hold up to a particularly high standard of satirical excellence—approving out-and-out satirical laziness, in fact, for publication.

Really all I've got to say is, "Come on, people!"  When The New Yorker is being outwitted by Android Karenina, something has gone godawfully sideways.

You got Catfished!

I'm going to try to avoid spoilers here, especially since Catfish's entire marketing campaign seems to revolve around a demand for no spoilers: the fucking logline is "Don't let anyone tell you what it is" (vaguely reminiscent of those Psycho posters that emphasize that no one will be allowed into the theater after the movie has started).

Trouble is, that very marketing campaign appears to me—in retrospect, having seen the movie—to be nothing but a cynical, manipulative effort to con or scam potential viewers.

Again, it's tough to get into this without discussing the movie's content, and what I'm about to say might itself count as a spoiler, but I actually do not believe that knowing the content of the movie would ruin it in any meaningful way. In fact, the only thing ruined by knowing the content of the movie would be the odds that someone would knowingly buy tickets for it if it weren't the kind of movie he'd generally choose to see.

I liked Catfish. It's good. You should go see it. But you should also let people tell you what it is.

It probably just shows how naïve I am that I even think this is worth remarking upon, but they're not telling you to avoid spoilers because it'll spoil the movie: they're telling you to avoid spoilers because they think you might not go see the movie if you know what it is.

In other words, they're trying to catfish you.

SPOILER ALERT: She's a robot!!! [False.]

Unfortunate Word Choice™(?): "A Spray of DNA"

(N.Y. Times)

Whether this is funny or not probably depends entirely on whether you've heard DNA used synecdochically. I'd lay it out for anyone who isn't familiar with this relatively uncommon usage, but explaining a joke is bad enough when the punchline isn't what it is in this case. Suffice to say it probably would keep robbers away (depending on the robber).

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Elevator buttons'll kill ya, man.

Trainspotting (right before the Gravity's Rainbow rip-off scene)

"Elevator Buttons 40 Times Dirtier Than Toilet Seats, Says Study."

As a recovering germophobe (not a word)—with particular trouble, historically, in public restrooms—I thought I'd weigh in on this with two thoughts: one from the germophobe perspective and one from the recovering respective.

     Elevator buttons dirtier than toilet seats? So what? What has touched a toilet seat before you arrived is, mostly, other people's ass cheeks, and what you touch it with is, mostly, your own ass cheeks—and frankly you've got to be really neurotic to be too worried about that. (I'm not a medical doctor, but I'm pretty sure there aren't so many diseases are transmitted ass cheek to ass cheek.) Besides, you can always wipe a toilet seat down and/or lay down one of those paper ass protectors (in California, at least).
     I'll tell you what worries me in public restrooms: not things people touch with their ass cheeks, but things people touch with their hands. Why? Because they use their hands to wipe themselves! And at the risk of being revolting, let's not forget that "wipe themselves" is arguably a sanitized way of saying "wipe shit from their asses with a very thin and easily destructible piece of paper." They're interacting with shit, they're handling their genitals, and then, before washing their hands, some of them are touching door handles and almost all of them are touching faucets.
     So forget toilet seats. Here's what I want to know: what's dirtier, elevator buttons or public-restroom faucets and doorknobs?

     This introductory thought may itself in fact be a germophobe's delusion (have I mentioned that germophobe is not a word?), but I'm inclined to think that most people will read an article like the elevator-button article and think, "Oh, fuck, I've got to wash my hands after using the elevator!" This, I submit to you, is wrong.
     As I've mentioned before in stories about boogers and coins [¢, q.v. x2], realizing that there are germs where you didn't expect germs should have the effect not of giving you new things to worry about but instead of giving you fewer things to worry about—by a kind of reductio ad absurdum. If you're worrying about toilet seats and you're likelier to get sick from an elevator button, maybe what that really means is that you shouldn't be worried about toilet seats, either. Yes?
     I mean, you've been touching elevator buttons for years and you're fine. And toilet seats are safer. So...?

Don't stop using the phone, dummy.

The power of selective quoting.

Click to enlarge to read.

When I saw this subway ad, or whatever it was—clearly posted only for the suggestion that Hawking sees the history of science as an essentially religious or religion-friendly affair—my first thought was, "Huh, I bet Hawking's words were taken out of context and are totally misleading."

Why did I think that? Mainly because "may or may not be divinely inspired" is a strange way to put it: why not just "may be divinely inspired"? Seems like Hawking is responding to a leading question, leaving no particular reason to put the weight on may as opposed to may not. People are always very eager to find scientists who'll speak respectfully or even reverently of religion, and you've often really got to reach and stretch to pull that off: this one looked like a reach and a stretch.

Sure enough, a quick Google search turns this up from our supposedly God-friendly genius:
"What could define God [is thinking of God] as the embodiment of the laws of nature. However, this is not what most people would think of that God," Hawking told Sawyer. "They made a human-like being with whom one can have a personal relationship. When you look at the vast size of the universe and how insignificant an accidental human life is in it, that seems most impossible."

When Sawyer asked if there was a way to reconcile religion and science, Hawking said, "There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works."
Smart people who talk about religion almost always end up doing semantic acrobatics around the word God (or divinity). I'd love to see a poll or a study—does one exist?—asking people what that word means. I repeat: God has evolved to survive a changing intellectual climate. If you want to say that God is the laws of physics or is our sense of right and wrong or is the value in human existence, then, sure, fine, of course God exists. But you'll forgive me for noting that that's not what the word God used to mean, and as soon as it can just as easily be replaced by the Force (or turtle power, or whatever word you want or invent), the idea of divinity has perhaps been...devalued?

[Side note: In case you didn't see this already, atheists know more about religion than religious people. Oops.*]

God's brain stem and spinal cord (q.v.).
Thanks to Harper's for bringing this one to my attention.

* But knowing things is for godless heathens! (Phew—good save.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The New Yorker doesn't fact-check its film reviews.

Waitresses and shape-shifters put in the extra effort and find the facts. Why don't you?

I feel like I talk about this all the time,* but The New Yorker, famous for its fact-checking department, apparently doesn't bother even to consider facts, let alone check them, when popular culture is concerned—with a particular bias, it would seem, against the fantastic (meaning "remote from reality").

Here are a couple of gems from the Oct. 4 issue of The New Yorker [SPOILER ALERT, by the way]:

  1. Michael Raymond-James, we learn in a review of TV's Terriers, "played Rene, a laid-back Cajun vampire killer in 'True Blood.'"† Question: Did Rene kill a single vampire? I'm trying to remember. I think no. [Even if he did, this would be a little bit like explaining the Nazis to a fantastically (see above) ignorant person by saying, "They were famous for killing people who sheltered Jews." Rene's whole thing was killing "fangbangers," human beings who slept with vampires. Vampire killer? No.]
  2. In his review of the new American version of Let the Right One In, Anthony Lane writes, "Abby will not grow old, though why she stalled at this particular age, at once innocent and eternally cruel, we never learn." Yeah, it's a mystery. I'm thinking though that it might have something to do with the fact that she was turned into a fucking vampire? I mean, I'm not sure—I just think there might be a clue there.
OK, so the second one isn't exactly a fact-checking issue, but I feel it occupies the same ethical–aesthetic–metaphysical space. Also, they're both about vampires, I just realized. Far be it from me to suggest that the reason The New Yorker is careless with facts when vampires are concerned is that they actually are vampires. (But, honestly, have you seen Harold Ross out in daylight lately? No, you have not.)

Basic vampire biology is a mystery to Anthony Lane. (via)

* E.g., second Iron Man 2 footnote here, containing links to posts with links to posts with links to posts...and the highly functional wino recently reminded me of this (1st full ¶), too, which may or may not be in that long chain of links. (Whoa—chain of links. How about that).

† Never been too keen on The New Yorker's habit of putting movie titles in quotes, but what are you gonna do?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Post #701


All-time most-read Alt85 post:


A newer favorite:
(probably just because of the porn stars?)

Another new favorite:

Also up there (and among my favorites):
on Back to the Future Pts. 2 & 3


people get confused sometimes

Did you see the Banksy Simpsons "couch gag" (which I'm calling a "couch gag" here only because that's the spot it's filling)? The New York Times saw it, and it's as if their brains got stuck on the word sweatshop and could proceed no further. Here's the clip (which may get taken down before long, knowing Hulu and the networks, although it is perfectly legal):

Here's what the Times has to say: "the powerful opening-credit sequence...seems to reveal the torturous sweatshop responsible for the show's creation"—going on then to ask, "how, after all that mockery, have the producers behind [The Simpsons] been able to retain their jobs?"

Reading this, you might think—and I did think, before watching the clip—that there's some kind of gritty realism involved, or at least some suggestion that what's depicted actually bears some relationship to the actual conditions in Korea, where the show is animated. But—I mean, come on!

Al Jean, Simpsons show runner, seems a little bemused by the questions he's asked:

Q. Even compared to how "The Simpsons" has mocked Fox in the past, this seemed to push things to a different level. Are you sure there's no one higher up than you on the corporate ladder who's displeased with this?

A. I think that we should always be able to say the holes in our DVDs are poked by unhappy unicorns.

Case closed, yes? Hole satisfactorily poked in the Times's rather ludicrous starting-point assumption (slash, reality confusion)? Rephrase the joke, and basically Jean is saying, "No, because no sane human being could even begin to imagine that any of this is true in any way or on any level." So: question answered?

Q. Has Banksy's criticism made you reconsider any of the ways you do things at "The Simpsons" in terms of producing the show or its merchandise?

A. I have to say, it's very fanciful, far-fetched. None of the things he depicts are true. That statement should be self-evident, but I will emphatically state it.

OK, now Jean's been clear and explicit enough, I should think: not only is this all a fantastical joke, but it is an obviously fantastical joke. Right? Got it?

Q. A lot of the show's animation is produced in South Korea, but not under those conditions.

Not under—?! This is a question actually being asked? Seriously? Seriously? Please restate the question, just to be completely clear precisely what it is you're asking: you're asking for confirmation that the animation process does not involve (1) child labor, (2) skeletons, (3) toxic waste, (4) Temple of Doom–level conditions, (5) kittens being shredded for toy-stuffing, (6) panda slaves, (7) boxes sealed by dolphin heads, and (8) UNICORN abuse, fucking UNICORN abuse?! This is what you're asking? SERIOUSLY. This is your question?

A. No, absolutely not.

I honestly don't even know what to say. It can't be that the people responsible for these questions are just stupid; it's got to be that they're just so stuck on a particular story that they can't see straight. But either way: SERIOUSLY? Seriously!

the horror

Click to enlarge this sadly too-blurry photo (sorry).

Problems with this advertisement (a partial list):
  1. The belief, apparently, that backwards N's are scary.
  2. The realization that the scarecrow wasn't terrifying enough and resultant decision to give him owl eyes.
  3. The decision to include and cross out "The FUN is back."
  4. The quotes around what are surely not in fact blurbs from any kind of critics' reviews.
  5. The idea of daring us to scream. What?
  6. The idea that the inducing of nightmares and stopping of hearts would be a draw in any context, including Halloween-related attractions.
  7. The at sign.
Am I missing anything, here?

Monday, October 11, 2010

DeLoreans are extra.

(Click to enlarge.)

This ad is a mindfuck! So he's...what, leaning in from the future to kiss her in the present while she sits on a car that's parked in the past? I mean, her ass is at about half past three if I'm reading this right, and he's straddling five, leaning in for flirtatious engagement at four... with the sun shining up above 3:15 or so, casting a shadow most of the way to seven o'clock.

Why not? Why the hell not?

[P.S. He spends too much time on his hair. Maybe that's why this cute moment takes three hours?]

Would it kill you to pick up the phone?

OK, so we've got this list of guidelines/commands, and it goes (read 'em carefully, one by one, because note that these aren't a step-by-step chronological process, do not depend on each other, and therefore should be able to be looked at separately, each one as a standalone dictum):
  • Stay away from wild or stray animals at all times.
OK, that sounds reasonable.
  • Keep pets away from wild or stray animals.
Sure. Good point, good idea, good advice. What else?
  • Never get near a wild, stray, sick, or injured animal.
You know, maybe they could have combined this one with the first—just added sick and injured to the checklist—but I could just not be grasping the subtle semantic distinction between staying away and not getting near. And regardless, it can't help to be reminded. Seriously, folks: steer clear of wild animals! They're dangerous! Anything else you'd suggest, Parks Department?
  • Call 311 or notify a Parks employee.
[Sound of needle scratching across a record.] What? Now? Like...just to say hello, or for further instructions, or what? Note that there is no if clause here, no condition—not "If you see a wild animal" or anything like that—just, "Call 311." It's like those lists of dermatological services in subway ads: "Scar removal! Chemical peels! Warts!"

Sometimes you have to take time out to appreciate the little things.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

stupid on the lam

I've already talked about Diesel's stupid "stupid" ads, but this new one (new to me, anyway) is startling. I mean, could the cheerfulness of the ad—particularly that smile—possibly really mean that we're supposed to be identifying with the pedophile here??*

* Clearly that guy with the rabbit head is a child molester fleeing the cops—right?


I pizza Brooklyn, eh? Man, I do not pizza Brooklyn. I used to think people who claim to love that borough so much were suffering from a kind of real-estate Stockholm syndrome, but more and more I think it's people who don't like New York. I mean, I would rather live in Philadelphia than in Brooklyn, except for the fact that Brooklyn is so close to New York.* Aren't the hardest-core Brooklyn fans people who want to be in "the capital of the world" but also sort of wish they were somewhere else?

Now, to be fair, I'm almost certainly wrong—I mean, Brooklyn (which is my ancestral homeland, after all) obviously has its charm and its advantages. It's just that I mainly have unpleasant experiences there, and it's very easy to get very tired very fast of all the aggressive smugness that beams out in hysterical waves from much of a certain demographic of the Kings County citizenry.

Look: if I move back East not rich, I will probably live in Brooklyn, but that will be by necessity. If I start preaching about how much better Brooklyn is than Manhattan, please feel free to blast Brooklyn, and me along with it, right into outer space.†

* NOTE: Brooklyn was its own city until I think it was 1898 (not gonna check that). Manhattan is officially known as "New York, NY": it's New York County and the original New York City and the only borough that gets to identify itself as "New York" in the city field of a mailing address. UNRELATED BUT IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: There is no such address as "Manhattan, NY" or "New York City, NY."

† At which point outer space will become the place where all the cool kids live. Nobody lives on Earth. You live on Earth?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

style: miles & miles

I bought tickets to see Pavement a year ago, because I love Pavement, and then, seven months ago, I moved from one Coast to the other and no longer lived in the city Pavement was going to be performing in. So I gave my friend the tickets and, not having enough money, figured, "Ehh, what the hell"—I wouldn't go see Pavement.

Then the other day I was like, "What the fuck is wrong with me?"—and I bought tickets to see Pavement, a decision made easier by the fact that I've been doing all this temp work and making more money than usual. So last week I saw No Age, Sonic Youth, and Pavement at the Hollywood Bowl.

Watery, Domestic

The worst kind of concert is the kind of concert that sort of ruins a band for you: you can't even listen to them the same way anymore. The best kind also changes the music, but in the opposite direction. Pavement was good and at moments great—at a few points I found myself thinking, "Yes, yes, this is why they were my favorite band for a while." Afterwards, in the car, I listened to Watery, Domestic and thought, "Yes, yes."

But the real surprise winner was (were?) Sonic Youth. I've never quite loved this band: Dirty I like, and parts of their other albums sometime get me thinking, "Oh, right, this band is good," but generally I don't get too excited to listen to their music. This concert, though, transformed my understanding of Sonic Youth. And we shall see: could be I just like them live better than I like their albums—I was betting I was going to like their music better now because I was going to hear it different, but to be honest I haven't been listening to much Sonic Youth in the past week—but one thing's for clear:* Sonic Youth was amazing.

[I just realized that this is all the sort of thing I might have written after seeing a concert when I was 14 years old. What am I saying, "might have written"? Did write: "At one point near the end they all put on hats and fire came out of their heads. Also Anthony starts talking to Flea about the diahreah (or however you spell it) Flea had before the concert. ('How's your asshole, Flea?')" #MyJournal1992]

(via Google Image Search)

* Not an expression.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I Remember These Mnemonics but Don't Remember What They Refer To


  • Nearly All Lepidopterists Secretly Mingle with Bees
  • Paula's Sister Zelda Seldom Brews Coffee
  • My Extremely Talkative Landlord Enjoys Televised Sports
  • Victor Hugo Ate Matzoh Balls, Mick Jagger Prefers Chowder
  • Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Thursday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday
  • Can I Get a What What?
  • Lesbians Dislike Thomas Pynchon
  • Everyone Deserves Fudge. Everyone.

Still from Dickfers

[See also: similes.]

Sunday, October 3, 2010

the winning caption

Regular readers will know that I have problems with the New Yorker's cartoon-caption contest (see my most recent sally), but this recent "winner" is a real low:

There are, depending on how you count 'em, five major problems with this caption.

  1. It commits the cardinal caption-contest sin of totally ignoring crucial elements of the cartoon itself (e.g.). Would anything about the caption make any less sense if (a) this were not in an office or (b) it were not a cowboy? Wouldn't it make at least as much sense if it were, like, the president hiding behind his desk in the Oval Office?
  2. Relatedly, the trope that the cartoonist is clearly satirizing or at least playing with—"cowboys and Indians"—is, by virtue of the contestant's total disregard for the cowboy part, reduced to just "Indians": if it doesn't matter that that's a fucking cowboy, then the whole point winds up being, "Wuh-oh, Indians!"—which, frankly, in 2010 seems a little...let's say questionable?
  3. And so we arrive at "give them a casino." This is a joke about how Native Americans own and run casinos. I'm not even going to comment on that: I'm just going to note that the caption chosen (democratically, I gather, but also approved by the New Yorker editorial board) looks at a picture of Native American violence and says, "Hey, casinos, am I right?"
  4. What I will comment on is that, beyond the question of the appropriateness of a quick "Indians"-to-"casinos"-to-"Ha, ha!" succession, there's the additional problem that the reason Native Americans run casinos is not that anyone gave them casinos, but that the reservations they were stuck on after we took their land have different laws, and this was a good way for these people—who, and I'm no expert here, but I'm pretty sure they're generally not, like, thriving—to make a fucking buck.* So: Indians are attacking, and this guy (oh, he's a cowboy? OK, whatever) says, "Quick, give them a casino." I just want to be clear here about what the joke is.
  5. Worse than anything else is that it isn't fucking funny.

* And I'm sure some will think this goes too far—but, quite frankly, if I compare the go-to Indians-with-casinos stereotype to that old chestnut the greedy-Jew stereotype, might you agree that that's not an entirely pat or facile comparison if I point out that (as I understand it) the historical reason why Jews picked up that slanderous reputation is that there was a time when in Christian society Jews were the only people allowed to lend money with interest? That kind of banking was forbidden to "good Christians" and left to the already-hellbound Jews, and then the Jews were hated for it. I mean, the parallels there are there, and talking about "giving" casinos to Native Americans... well, whatever. Take it or leave it.

Friday, October 1, 2010

iPad vs. Kindle & Trojan condoms (a new name for this post because I realized I hadn't been paying attention and YouTube had picked the name for me)

A point I've made before: Apple's ads tend to focus on what their product actually does—which of course is way rarer than (if you think about it for two seconds) it really ought to be. Compare this iPad ad—

—to this Kindle ad—

—and marvel at the differences.

[Lately I've been feeling like I've got some kind of cognitive deficit and expect too much literal truth from people. Like I had this joke I was pretty pleased with (available in slightly, necessarily abbreviated form here), based on the observation that the name Trojan ought to call to mind not the prevention of invading sperm but in fact quite the opposite—like, why don't they just commission a jingle to be performed by Built to Spill?—but after a conversation with a friend it hit me that, duh, although in theory a condom ad ought to communicate safety, security, reliability, etc., in this, the real and actual world, obviously the way a condom ad is going to work is by suggesting that somehow this condom is going to get you happily laid. So my point about the name was essentially dunderheaded: to put it another way, yes, Trojan's an iffy name* if sperm-containment is the big point, and that should be the big point, but the big point is instead the getting in angle. Someone once suggested to me that you should never, ever underestimate the degree to which ad people have thought through every crazy subliminal angle, so I wouldn't even be surprised if on some level they want you to think about insemination. Presumably the condom part of condoms is a bit of a minus that these people have to overcome, so if there were any way at all to get away with it, I bet they'd be advertising it like, "Put some sperm inside your girl! Trojans."]'re pregnant.

But as for the iPad and the Kindle—I mean, I would never, ever buy a Kindle, and I'm an Apple fan, so I'm biased, but—there is only so much I can hate an ad that focuses exclusively on actual usage of the actual product, and there's only so not annoyed I can be at an ad that occasionally reminds you of the product's existence and focuses on the idea that you'll be transformed and transported into a delightful succession of magical worlds, which is, in the end—although we've been trained to scoff at this fact (which is a fact, note!) because we've grown so very used to it—a false claim, an untrue statement. So: fuck you Kindle, and keep up the good work, Apple. I'm still not going to own an iPad unless I win one.

* Because of the horse, I'm saying. Click the fucking link.