Wednesday, March 30, 2011

new or newish in the 2010s, a partial list


  • Now when we invite people to do things, we do it in an e-mail*—doing it over the phone has become very uncommon—and there is almost never any call to provide directions: in the age of Google Maps, "3100 Los Feliz Boulevard" is more than enough information.
  • I used to have physical photo albums with physical photos in them and also some framed photos. When I moved to my new apartment, I took an old wallet-sized photo of my parents from the early 1980s—wallet-sized for an actual wallet, back when I used to have actual photographs in my wallet, years ago—and put it in a wallet-sized refrigerator-magnet frame and put it on my refrigerator. This felt almost old-fashioned.
  • I don't know too many people who watch TV shows when they air. I do watch Community, Parks & Rec, and 30 Rock on Thursday night when I can, but how often do I watch them early enough in the evening that it isn't possible to fast-forward through the commercials? Never?
That's all for now. I'm supposed to be working.


* I hit "Publish Post" and then realized "in an e-mail" probably itself pegs me as an old man. Kids today are texting and IMing and shit, aren't they? Kids.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Something I've done a few times that really makes people mad, but they are wrong and I am right.

In order to explain this point, I'm going to do something I've never done before on Alt85 (to the best of my recollection): I'm going to draw some pictures.

Here is something that happens sometimes on roads—

(viewed from above)

—a left-turn lane. [What I failed to include in my drawing (Christ, I've blown it already) is the dotted white line that separates lanes you're allowed to move between—as opposed to double yellow lines, which of course you are not allowed to cross because what's on the other side of them is what we call "the oncoming lane."]

So the story here is: if you're cruising along the right side of the double yellow line, driving "up," and you want to make a left turn (at the intersection I also might have wanted to include in the drawing, but that we'll instead just assume, at the very top of the drawing) you get into that left-turn lane and either turn or wait to turn—like so:

Green blobs are law-abiding cars.

However, in Los Angeles, the norm seems to be a blithe and absolute disregard for the presence (or at least the meaning) of those double yellow lines. Particularly if traffic is backed up enough that a motorist will have to wait before changing into that turn lane, but even if not, cars will get over well in advance of the turn lane, getting into the turn lane before the turn lane technically exists—like so:

Red blobs are scofflaws.

Now, as discussed on a number of occasions—here, for instance—I don't really care about your breaking the law, per se. Due to a particular weakness of my character, it does bother me some if it appears that you're breaking the law and you think you aren't (see here for a more in-depth discussion of this personality flaw), but that's something I try to move past—and it's my problem, not yours. In short, cross whatever double yellow lines you want; just don't come crying to me if you get ticketed for it. (Why would you come crying to me about that? What a weird way to put it.) I don't really care what you do as long as you don't hurt anybody.

The real problem arises in a situation like this one:

The blue blob is my car. My car is not blue.

Every once in a while—like maybe two or three times since I moved to L.A. a year ago—this happens: I need to turn left, I approach the turn lane, and there's already a line of cars in the oncoming lane that have crossed a double yellow line and are now waiting (motionless: this would be at a red light) to cross the double yellow line again and enter the turn lane.

I repeat; I don't care how you've chosen to deal with the turn lane, and I don't care that you're breaking the law. However, now I have to figure out what to do about getting into that turn lane because (remember) I need to turn left. My two main choices are these:
  1. cross the double yellow line and wait behind the cars that are already queued up in the oncoming lane, or
  2. turn into the turn lane where I'm supposed to, effectively cutting off the other cars.
I'll tell you what: there are reasons why I'd do something flagrantly illegal, and one of those reasons is not because a bunch of other morons are already doing it and will be annoyed by my doing it the right way. I am going to enter that turn lane exactly where that turn lane begins:

The red blobs feel that they are being cut off and are angry.
OR—uh-oh, paramecia!

Oh, boy, do those cars get mad! From their perspective, here's what's happening: they are waiting responsibly in line and some selfish asshole is just driving up to the front and cutting them all off! Here's the problem: what's actually happening is that they are sitting in the oncoming lane for no compelling reason. They're not even allowed to cross that double yellow line and proceed! Essentially they're driving the wrong way down the street. Again, I don't care where you are or where you're going, but I'll be goddamned if I'm going to go out of my way to accommodate you while you do it. No, I'm sorry, a correction: I'll accommodate you as long as I don't have to break the law myself in order to do it.

I'm 100% sure that you, reading this, might disagree. "He shouldn't do that!" you might be saying. "He should just get in line like everyone else!" Here's the thing, though: you're an idiot.

Gossip Girl

Thursday, March 17, 2011

the happy nihilist

(or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Tsunami[?]*)

Holy MacKeral (pilot)

So how about this radiation plume that's supposed to hit Southern California tomorrow afternoon, huh? Looks like it poses no serious health risk—gonna lose its lethal power en route, they say—and in any case it's nothing compared to what's going on in Japan (where it's coming from). Speaking of which, I've had mixed feelings about the way everyone's been going on with their lives post-tsunami.† On the one hand, it's ludicrous that such a disaster gets a day or two's attention and then fades away—particularly when a catastrophe at least as large as the first is ongoing and possibly about to blow up (literally). On the other hand, aren't the people who are going on with their lives sort of the sane ones? And I don't mean callously sane, either: as long as there's nothing much to be done, how much sense does it make to spend your time worrying? I'm playing devil's advocate, here, but I'm playing it seriously. On Dec. 31, 2004, I quoted Nabokov in my journal—
He could perfectly well understand sensitive and intelligent thinkers not being able to sleep because of an earthquake in China; but, being what he was, he could not understand why these same people did not feel exactly the same spasm of rebellious grief when thinking of some similar calamity that had happened as many years ago as there were miles to China.
—and then went on to say, "I think that Nabokov is right. At the risk of sounding callous and flippant, I quote Monty Python: 'Things explode every day.'" As I understand Nabokov, he's saying that (unless you can help the people suffering, or know the people suffering) the suffering in Japan in 2011 is only accidentally more relevant to you, now, than the suffering in Pompeii in 79: in both cases, human beings are experiencing unimaginable catastrophe and dying in unthinkable numbers—and in both cases, you're not there. And as I understand my younger self's appropriation of Monty Python, there are people right now, in your own region and all around the world, dying of horrible illnesses and in accidents, being murdered and tortured and abused in ways as horrible as anything you can conceive if the only difference is our awareness of it, then...

Then I don't know what. But what I'm trying to say is, is the fact that Japan has been replaced by Rebecca Black on Twitter a sign that people are fools and monsters, or is it a sign of a totally reasonable human capacity to go on with life? As I almost tweeted the other day, "Is the idea here that if we stop making jokes on Twitter, the tsunami has won?"

[To be totally clear, I'm not comfortable with this blasé response (or lack of response). I do think it's a sign of superficiality, stupidity, and moral numbness. I'm just not sure I'm right about that. Maybe the religious folks are right, and we should just read the Bible?]

I've written before—here and possibly elsewhere—about my maybe counterintuitive sense that nihilism permits a more upbeat attitude toward life. And I don't mean in an ignorance-is-bliss way: quite the opposite. I'm talking about confronting the harsh, bleak realities of the universe as a way of accepting and moving past them—or not even moving past them: taking a certain kind of solace in them. This is, I suppose, related to what I said the other day about the importance of a sense of irony, but what it comes down to is the idea that, yes, everybody dies, and, yes, chaos is real and catastrophe happens, but here we still are, human beings, fragile and confused and totally on our own, with only each other to support us, no God, no absolutes...which means it is what we make it, maybe? Which means...

Well, I'm not going to exert too much intellectual effort trying to articulate this idea right now, partly because my brain is tired (more from disuse than from exhaustion, but either way) and partly because what I really sat down here to do was to give a few relevant examples of this attitude—both expressions of it and inspiration for it. But really all I've got is three things, one of which I wrote and one of which I can't find. Here they are:

Twitter (see also)

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: point here isn't the cover—or at least not the front cover. Back in my old life, when I had a million books, few of which were in boxes, I could have grabbed this thing off the shelf and looked at (or even scanned) the back cover, but now I can say only from memory that one of the ways in which this book blew my mind was that its back-cover synopsis said something like, "About the end of the world and happy-go-lucky days that followed." The end of the world and the happy-go-lucky days that followed! I read that when I was something like eight years old. That kind of thing influences (warps?) a young mind. The idea that the worst possible thing that could happen—the end of the world—was only the beginning of a cheerful adventure? That the destruction of the planet and the annihilation of the human race was the premise for a zany comedy?

You're going to die. So am I. All of us are.‡ If that seems unacceptable, then we've got a problem. Personally, I'm unwilling to deal with it by making up or believing lies about it. When my grandfather found out he had a month or so to live, it was like he woke up: he was more alive for those last weeks than he had been in years. That's my model. We're alive, and the fact that we're going to die makes that fact more meaningful, not less.

I think that's what I'm trying to say.

* Ugh. On so many levels: ugh. (I'm ughing myself.)
† Everyone...their. Et tu, Shorty?
‡ A Facebook friend posted an amazing video of his little son singing "Do You Realize??" in the bathtub: "Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?" Beautiful/hilarious/bizarre.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

don't read this one: it's boring and cranky [UPDATED/EVISCERATED]

portrait of the artist as a new father


What's my deal today?! Grouchtown U.S.A.! Maybe something about the ocean rising up and wiping out entire towns and killing people just puts me in a shitty mood.†

Alternate 1985
From now on, Alt85 will publish only hardcore pornography. Enjoy!

Let's get this party started.

* I didn't like this entry so I just fucking deleted it. There was a crazy extended sex metaphor in there, too, in which I compared maintaining my movie blog to trying to make a woman come. Now you don't get to read that. HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW??
† "Plagues and famine and pestilence / always seem to get me down..." –Yankovic, "Weird Al"

Monday, March 7, 2011

Oh, hello. [UPDATED]

I'm not here. This isn't happening.

I was on a grand jury in 2009, and they actually showed a training video in which Sam Waterston looks up from a book he's reading and is like, "I didn't see you there," before explaining how grand juries work. Do people have no sense of irony? [ANSWER: Yes, they don't.]

Hi. This blog has been pretty still lately. Just wanted to take a second to say that it will be back. I've just been spread pretty thin lately. (I'm sorry, OK?! Jesus!) In the meantime, my movie blog will be updated three times a week, on the regs, and on Twitter I basically can't fucking shut up (see also Favstar), so you can check that out if you're starved for Alt85ish dickholery.

God bless you, and God bless the United States.

Don't touch that dial! (via)

[UPDATE: It occurs to me that this blog contains a higher and higher percent of apology/explanation posts like this one. Someday, like the woodsman replacing lopped-off body parts with tin, that's all Alt85 will be: one big "We'll be back soon, promise!" Maybe that should be the new (third) subhead/slogan—that or just, "Sorry!"*]

* Or, "Now the second result when you Google 'blowjob 1985'!"