Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A prune isn't really a vegetable. Cabbage is a vegetable. [UPDATED]

[I wrote this last night and choose now to post without reevaluating its content—as I've done at least once before.]

Just spent a minute trying to decide whether I was right that the Mothers' "Call Any Vegetable" is better than the Beach Boys' "Vegetables"—and starting too to wonder which came first and whether it was possible that "Call Any Vegetable" was a kind of parody of "Vegetables" the way We're Only in It for the Money is a kind of parody of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (probably not since I think of the Smile stuff as being post-Pepper [and Absolutely Free is pre-Money],* in which case then though was "Vegetables" maybe Brian Wilson's crazy response to an already way out-there musician, possibly pushing him even further over the edge?)—but then I realized the real answer was that the part of me that likes the Beach Boys is not the same part of me that likes Frank Zappa, and that maybe the difference between those two parts of me is that the one part loves and understands music and the other part is a writer—because what I love about Zappa when I love Zappa is maybe not so much the music as what he's doing with the music...? I think the way I loved that shit when I loved that shit (late '90s) was the way I love a great comedy film: I basically spend the whole thing like, "Did you hear that? Was that not hilarious? Are we in agreement here that what we just saw was one of the funniest things ever?" That's no longer how I enjoy music, but I think it used to be. (Now I enjoy music like this: "YEEEAAAAAHHH!!!!)

It is very possible that everything above is gibberish, a bunch of refrigerator-magnet letters thrown together in a jumble in a bucket like Scrabble letters. Well, not that possible.

Weird...I feel like both of these guys look at me.† But then I'm tripping balls like Santa Monica Pac-Man right now, so who knows??

[SIDE NOTE / ADDENDUM / COUNTERARGUMENT / CIRCLE-CLOSER: Thomas Pynchon, whom I used to associate very closely in my mind with Frank Zappa, reportedly came around to loving the Beach Boys. ON A NIGHT JUST LIKE THIS ONE]

* Actually, it turns out that in fact both were released in 1967, although "Vegetables" was recorded during the Smile sessions, some of which went down in 1966, so it's still probably first.
† UPDATE: This was supposed to say look like me. I preserve the typo for purposes of historical perspective.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Lobster? You lobster Maine? That's what you do?

This old problem. The heart is not an arbitrary symbol! And that is not only a plausible Joyce Carol Oates book title, but also a truth worth remembering when conceiving T-shirts and bumper stickers. [See also.]

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bustin' makes me feel good? [UPDATED]

I actually don't love this sketch, so...what the fuck? I'll tell you what the fuck: this sketch is pretty much "saying" exactly what I was saying a while back about the ghosts in Ghostbusterscheck it out!

[Do you get what I mean when I say "saying"? A lot of jokes or sketches—not all, but many—have a kind of noncomedic statement they're making: they happen to be saying it in a funny way, or through comedy, but what they're saying (or pointing out) is not inherently or necessarily humorous. (This may apply only to satire, but I'm not interested in giving that any thought at all right now; work it out yourself.) This, by the way, is why, for example, when Sarah Silverman makes "racist" jokes, they're usually actually pretty PC (because the subject of the joke, the object of ridicule, is racism, not the race in question), whereas her jokes about God (as on the too-soon-canceled Sarah Silverman Program) actually are on the blasphemous side. The parentheses-in-brackets here make this piece here pretty well illegible; also, it's already badly written to begin with and I'm not even sure what point I'm making anymore. What is going on? Don't read this. Is it too late to say don't read this?]

UPDATE: "Your boos are not scaring me! I know most of you are not ghosts!" –Tracy Jordan

open letter to drivers in Los Angeles (and elsewhere)

Google Image search: "angry driver" (via)

The following is essentially just an extension of this tweet, but here goes:

Cutting someone off—which is dangerous, and in response to which anger is totally understandable—means pulling in front of someone else such that that person has to swerve, brake hard, or even brake at all to avoid hitting you.

Now, here are a couple of things that do not count as cutting someone off:
  • pulling in front of someone such that that person does not have to slow down even at all (this is called "passing"), and
  • continuing to drive at a steady speed in a lane that someone else, in an entirely different lane, would change lanes into if you were not already there.
These things anger only Cro Magnon man.

Here: I've got a story for you! This morning I was driving on Santa Monica, in the right lane, going at a steady speed—with cruise control, I think exactly 4 mph above the speed limit—and one, maybe 1½ car lengths ahead of me, in the left lane, were two cars, one tailgating the other. The one in front started slowing down to make a left turn; the tailgater put on his right-turn blinker. [IMPORTANT NOTE: The tailgater did not begin to turn.] I did not slow down but just continued driving in my lane—and as I passed, the tailgater honked. At me? Yes, it turned out—because when the tailgater then swerved wildly into the right-hand lane behind me, he turned on his high beams, and then, when we got to an intersection and I was sitting in the left-turn lane there, he pulled up next to me (with space ahead of him) in order to gesture at me. I gave him a laughing "what the fuck" face and I think mouthed the word, "What?" (What I should have done was make a cuckoo-bananas circling gesture with my finger, but you know those things always come to you just one minute too late.)

But the question is: what did he think I had done wrong? I guess maybe if I had specifically sped up to prevent him from changing lanes, that could have been a bit of a dick move; did he think that's what I had done? (It isn't.) But, you know, honestly, I bet what happened was much simpler than that: he wanted to change lanes, and I was driving where he wanted to be, so in his head—like someone with narcissistic personality disorder (maybe not just "like")—he read this as something hostile that I was doing to him. But, in effect, the crime I actually was guilty of, the shitty thing I had done that merited a vehicular temper tantrum, was this: not specifically braking hard in case he wanted to cut me off.

As I've said before (here, and also sort of here), I have trouble with the pairing of error and indignation—and, quite frankly, it's something I have to get over. I think I've taken great strides in getting over it, as it happens, but then of course this post itself indicates that I have a ways to go. Except that I think there's some value in noting publicly, as a kind of reminder, that there are things that happen on the road that are in fact shitty and dangerous, and then there are things that happen on the road that are issues only (if at all) of pride. Take your pride out of it, people. Confine your rage to situations of danger. (And/or learn to accept your small penis: getting into pissing contests isn't going to make the thing any bigger, my friend.)

BONUS NOTE: If you speed up because you don't want someone else, who is going faster than you, to be in front of you, then you are a fucking idiot. Please refrain from reproducing. The species thanks you!

Monday, November 15, 2010

P.S. This is at a school.

Unauthorized vehicles will be "TOWED AWAY." So what do we think: do the quotes mean that unauthorized vehicles actually won't be towed away (like, "Wink! Naw, go ahead, we didn't see nothin'!")—or does it mean that something much, much worse than towing is going to happen, like it's a totalitarian euphemism referring to a dark, sinister, unspeakable fate ("I'm sorry, ma'am. Your husband has been...'towed away.'" "NOOOO!!!!")?

[In other news, "vehicle owners expense" doesn't make any sense without an apostrophe somewhere in there, but I couldn't figure out how to crack wise about that. Did I mention this sign was up at a school?]

parental guidance is suggested


Megamind has been rated PG—"For action and some language." Action and some language, huh? So basically what you're saying is that this is a talkie?

Parents, be advised!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

in short...

I read Philip Roth's new book. He is ludicrously prolific—his annual novels these days are essentially novellas printed on small-enough pages that the publisher can get away with hardcovering 'em, but that's OK, he's basically our greatest living writer, he can do what he wants—and he's also consistently good. I didn't love all of Nemesis and at one point (the Indian campfire) even found myself losing interest, but God damn can this motherfucker write. (Predictably enough, I got a kick out of God's being called "a sick fuck and an evil genius.")
     In short, Roth can shit out literary brilliance in his sleep—bad news being he shits in his sleep, oops. [I make joke!]

This motherfucker can write.

The Time Machine Did It
I started reading John Swartzwelder's apparently self-published and under-edited (breath for breathe on the first page) "HUMOR/MYSTERY" novel, and I'm only 7½ pages into it, but it's pretty funny, as you would guess (Swartzwelder's a Simpsons writer—"59 Episodes," says this novel's cover—and, for a short while there, in what I thought were very dark days indeed for the series, his name was just about always the one you'd see on the [I thought] few-and-far-between actually funny episodes): it's made me laugh out loud already, which is not all that common even for good on-the-page comedy. It's too bad that he has to self-publish, though. I was just telling some friends that it's only a slight exaggeration for me to say that The Simpsons, at its best, is on a level not with the best sitcoms, not with television comedy that transcends television comedy, but the highest output of human genius: I'm not entirely kidding (I said) when I say that I put the best Simpsons on a level with William Shakespeare.
     In short, John Swartzwelder should be a billionaire. GIVE HIM RICHES.

This came up when I Google Image searched "John Swartzwelder." Who knew?

American Democracy 2010
Hertzberg nailed it in this week's New Yorker:
By the time the flames reached their height, the arsonists had slunk off, and only the firemen were left for people to take out their ire on...Frightened by joblessness, [voters] rewarded the party that not only opposed the stimulus but also blocked the extension of unemployment benefits. Alarmed by a ballooning national debt, they rewarded the party that not only transformed budget surpluses into budget deficits but also proposes to inflate the debt by hundreds of billions with a permanent tax cut for the least needy two per cent. Frustrated by what they see as inaction, they rewarded the party that not only fought every effort to mitigate the crisis but also forced the watering down of whatever it couldn't block.
   ...part of the problem, it must be said, is public ignorance... some two thirds of likely voters believed that, under Obama and the Democrats, middle-class taxes have gone up, [and] the economy has shrunk... Reality tells a different story. For ninety-five per cent of us, taxes are actually lower, cut by around four hundred dollars a year for individuals and twice that for families... The economy has been growing, however feebly, for five straight quarters...
In short, democracy in a world of ignorance and misinformation can be a very messy fuck-up indeed.

Tea parties: absurdist otherworlds where logic and proportion have fallen softly dead.

There was something else...
Oh, right: this is probably the worst kind of Alt85 post, the random disconnected comments. How am I gonna get a book deal from this shit?
     Wait...hold the phone... Ding-dong, blog scout, book deal!
     How Am I Gonna Get a Book Deal from THIS S**t?! : 25 Years of "Alt85" Laffs—in bookstores everywhere, Fall 2011!
     [Idiot. –ed.]

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The New York Times loses its mind. [UPDATED]

In the article "Bubbles of Energy Are Found in Galaxy," I found something that just floored me. Honestly, I was essentially paralyzed by it for a good 10 seconds (a long time to be essentially paralyzed: count it off). Now, I think it must be a flat-out mistake, so it might not even be there anymore by the time you look, if you look, but I took a screenshot of it. Here:

(click to enlarge the insanity)

A black hole "known to reside, like Jabba the Hutt, at the center of the Milky Way" [emphasis mine]? What? What? What the hell are they talking about?!

I would assume there's some astronomical body that somebody named "Jabba the Hutt," but the article actually has a hyperlink to this image, so it would appear they're actually talking about the Star Wars character. And as even someone who has never seen those movies could tell you, Jabba the Hutt and every other character and event in the Star Wars stories are to be found in a galaxy far, far away. No? I.e., not the Milky Way? No?? Is this wrong? Does the Times know something we don't know?

What could they possibly mean? Jabba the Hutt is known to reside at the center of the Milky Way? What? What is going on?? WHAT IS HAPPENING?

This is not a rhetorical question. If anyone knows, seriously, please tell me. (But if it's just what it appears to be—that the person writing this article has no fucking idea what he's talking about—then all is hilarious and I am very glad indeed.)

Jabba is known to have had the shit strangled out of him by a rebellious sex slave.

[UPDATE: It was pointed out to me that probably the Times meant to suggest that what is Hutt-like is the black hole itself, not the black hole's location—but in that case the comparison is just grammatically (instead of cosmographically) unsound: although terminology has always been my weakest point,* I'm fairly sure what you've got here, then, is a misplaced modifier (as opposed to a misplaced gangster).]

* As I'm sure I've mentioned before—but is it worth finding the link, really?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

This week's winning caption!

Problems with this caption:

  1. Do wedding rehearsals ever actually have the bride in her wedding gown? I may be wrong about this, but I'm pretty sure the answer is as close to "no" as any "Does x ever happen?" answer can come. Point being, this is a picture of a wedding, not a rehearsal, which means we've got yet another caption that totally disregards the content of the cartoon in order to make a joke (q.v., e.g.)—which, if the joke were funny, might be OK, but...
  2. The joke, "let's keep Heather off the vodka," takes the "unusual thing" of the cartoon (the bride on the groom's back) and deals with it by saying, "She's drunk!"—which itself reduces to, "Her behavior is unusual and inappropriate!" It's tough to imagine a less imaginative joke. Seriously: what does it add? It's little more than an acknowledgement that something in the cartoon is strange—which is itself little more than an acknowledgement that it is a cartoon.
  3. This third point is maybe really just an extension of the second. Instead of giving this caption an award, an appropriate response would have been just to say, "Yes, you got it! You correctly identified the incongruous part of this cartoon and flagged it!"—at which point the contest's true colors are revealed: something not too far removed from those Highlights magazine games where you're supposed to circle hidden objects in a drawing.

[IMPORTANT NOTE: I feel bad talking trash about the people who write these things, so to be clear, I don't blame them at all—I blame the editors, the contest, and the very concept. If a hospital held a raffle and let some random person perform open-heart surgery, it would be the hospital's fault when the patient died; similarly, you don't blame the citizenry for not being comedy writers: you blame a supposedly high-quality publication for opening its comedy writing up to the citizenry. I'm sure this feature is very popular, New Yorker, but at what point does integrity trump popularity? You're the fucking New Yorker!]

[See also, most recently, here and, more exhaustively, here.]

Friday, November 5, 2010

best Beatles album of the '70s

Double-LP...like Speakerboxxx & The Love Below.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Comedy writing by committee: reliably hilarious, week after week!

This week's Cartoon Caption Contest (q.v.):

Entry #3: "A lot of pizzas are going to be free today."

I submit to you that this proposed caption is neither significantly different from nor funnier than the hypothetical caption, "How about this traffic!"

This cartoon actually kind of stands out because I think what's going on is the feature's perennial problem of the contestants' ignoring what, in discussing sketch comedy, you might call the unusual thing, the element of the image that makes it potentially funny (generally these cartoons will feature either an absurd element or at least an incongruous element that demands to be addressed and humorously accounted for, and more often than you can believe, The New Yorker runs entries that completely and utterly ignore that element)—

—except that here you can't really blame 'em for ignoring it because what is it?  What's the unusual thing?  Stand-still traffic, OK, that's pretty normal... I'm guessing the cartoon's thrust, call it, is supposed to have something to do with the guys in the car, but what? Dark suits, sunglasses...are they supposed to be secret service or something? What makes this not just a drawing of a daily occurrence? No wonder people are writing stuff like, "Among other services, pizza delivery will be delayed by this inconvenience!"

Eventually The New Yorker is just going to start running drawings of people's faces, like, "All right: have at it!" Like some woman wearing sunglasses, and people will write in, "I know it's not sunny out, but these sunglasses cost a fortune!" Can't wait for that golden age of suckage. Bring it on!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Quick! We have to kill the boy!

An old favorite.


Nowhere Boy. I know that the Internet has been sitting on the edge of its cyber-seat waiting to hear what I thought of this movie. I liked it! It rekindled my never-wholly-extinguished Beatlemania. I think if I went back in time and John Lennon asked me to sit in his lap, I'd point to my pants and say, "On or off?" [Important note: This movie is much more about John's relationship with his mother than it is about the Beatles—but it still basically qualifies as Beatles porn. Additional note: I saw it with someone who doesn't much care for the Beatles, and she liked it, too. So. One last note: I was slow to see this because The New Yorker said it was boring—when am I going to stop paying attention to The New Yorker's film reviews? What is wrong with me?]


The thinspreading. I've mentioned before that other online creative channels sometimes drain this blog of its content; well, I've cut way back on Tumblr but spend a lot of my Internet energy on Twitter these days. I sort of decided not to blog about the blog anymore, but I thought I'd mention this just so people who like Alt85 can get more stupid bullshit when the Alt85 stupid-bullshit well is running dry by clicking here.

Eastbound & Down. It's funny! Everyone said it was funny, and I should have known it was probably funny, but it took me forever to even consider watching it because I thought it was a baseball show (and one of my character flaws is a pathological aversion to sports, traceable at least in part to P.E.-related PTSD). It's not a baseball show. It's a good, funny, and frequently hilarious show. Here's a picture of Pac-Man eating a can of meatballs: