Recently in criticism Category

Remember when Maria Bartiromo was hot?

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you are all a bunch of idiots

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MTV does not have a “new logo” — it’s not even a revised or “refreshed.”

It’s the same damned logo. It’s just cropped to a widescreen format, JUST LIKE THE OLD SQUARISH TELEVISIONS YOU USED TO WATCH MTV ON ARE NOW WIDESCREEN.

[Yes, i realize the negative-space stroke on the v is removed, but I’m standing ground that it doesn’t constitute a revision, only the removal of what then becomes after the crop a distracting element.]

MTV has had the same “official” logo since 1981, and I put that word in marks because FROM DAY ONE IT WAS AN AMORPHOUS, NON-STATIC BRANDING. Indeed, they took pride in the fact that the logo never looked the same twice, though the cake be it made with different ingredients WAS ALWAYS COOKED IN THE SAME PAN.

Next, you idiots are making a huge deal of the cropping of the words “MUSIC TELEVISION” and feeling fresh, mighty, and orgasmic that your bitching about “MTV NEVER PLAYS VIDEOS ANYMORE” has been quietly acknowledged by the network.

If MTV was supposed to be about music videos, it would have been named MVTV. The M means MUSIC, and in 1981, the primary external (i.e. non-radio) music promotional avenue was the short-form video.

That hasn’t been the case for a very long time. Indeed, ONLY THREE YEARS AFTER MTV LANDED ON THE MOON the new promotional tool for music was discovered, or invented, by Michael Mann in his executive production of Miami Vice. Do you not remember USA Today PRINTING A LIST OF THE SONGS THAT WOULD APPEAR ON THAT NIGHT’S EPISODE?

[Note to readers who were not yet born in 1984: I’m not talking to you. In fact, I’m not really talking to any of you who read this.]

Of course, Brandon Tartikoff, the most brilliant human in television history, came up with the idea for the show, and titled his idea “MTV Cops” in his memo.

The point is, we’ve been a long time coming in the shift of music promotion from short-form video to dramatic (and, later, reality) television inclusion. It’s kind of hilarious that Michael Mann had to PAY THE RECORD COMPANIES TO USE THEIR MUSIC, but I doubt many others have had to do so ever since.

And guess what? MTV’s programming now is engaging viewers with the exact same music promotion that they started with 29 years ago. Hell, I’d argue that there is MORE music content on MTV now than there was in the 1980s. Every single program on MTV has a soundtrack — where was the soundtrack on Remote Control?

Go back and watch the first (and best) season of The Real World. Then watch an episode of Jersey Shore and tell me which one is exposing you to more music.

MTV is still music television, their logo is the same as it ever was, and if you think for one minute that cable subscribers aren’t subsidizing the promotion of corporate music to themselves any less now than they did in 1981 then you’re nuts.

My, he is accomplished

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  1. That really tells us nothing about this guy. After all, I edited an underground newspaper when I was a senior in high school.

  2. That fact is something that, by definition, is something that has to be self-disclosed, and if it’s to the degree that it is being listed in a Chyron sidebar, well, he must be awfully proud of it.

  3. Yeah, I’m proud of my underground newspaper too, but I don’t list it in my Vita.

We love Deadspin and fat people

Thanks to Deadspin for the 30fps praise this morning.

I tend to keep MSNBC on all day while I do other things, and it’s usually muted. So when I glance at it and see this, my imagination runs wild with the possibilities of what they could possibly be discussing:

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Talk about a margin of error

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Andrea Kremer, S & M fetishist

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Jenny Slate says "fuck" on SNL (w/video)

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Poor Jenny Slate. Saying “fuck” is not the best way to impress people in your first appearance as a featured player on Saturday Night Live, especially when the sketch is entirely based around how many times they say the word “friggin.’”

Today is the anniversary of our nation declaring its independence from Great Britain. It is not, however, “America’s birthday.” Let’s break this phrase down a bit.

Listen to the annual July 4th song while you read.

When the word “America” is used in a phrase like “America’s birthday,” it is a metonym for “United States of America.” Obviously, the geographic hemisphere that accounts for the Americas had a birthday several million years ago.

The United States of America as a nation did not exist until the ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America. We have come to understand Constitution as a word meaning “the document that outlines the basic laws and organization of something” but at the time, they really meant that this was what constituted the new nation they were creating.

The United States of America was born 17 September 1789. That’s its birthday. From the moment independence was declared in July 1776 until that date, the thirteen independent colonies were nation-states, autonomous and sovereign, loosely connected first by the Continental Congresses and then the Articles of Confederation. And while the phrase “united States of America” appears in the Declaration of Independence, it was not referring to any such organization, but instead the fact that the States had decided unanimously to declare their independence.

We must remind ourselves that the word STATE means a self-organized governmental entity.

July 4th is the anniversary of our (using our loosely since only a few of us have ancestors who actually acquired their independence on that day, or at least declared it) independence. Our independence, once it was finished being fought-for, enabled us to give birth to a nation that was the United States of America.

July 4th is an anniversary. September 17th is the birthday. Both are important.

Also, today is the day gluttons gather in New York. You already know how I feel about this event, and who I will be cheering for.

michael jackson is dead -- MTV -- followup

MTV is now running Michael Jackson videos, with no commentary, interruption (save for commercials) or otherwise. Better yet, they’re the longer, lesser-known cuts from some of his more overlooked releases.

Very classy. It’s also THE SAME DAMN THING THEY DID IN 1994 WHEN KURT COBAIN DIED. You remember. They just ran the Nirvana Unplugged performance over and over again.

Still, they are slightly off the hook.

So Michael Jackson is dead. There are plenty of jokes to be made (two famous white women die on the same day, amirite?) but this is what pisses me off about this whole affair.

When I heard Jackson had been rushed to the hospital, and was probably dead, I yelled out to the Grapefruit Gal, asking what channel MTV was. Then I switched to it, and found this:


I tried MTV2. I tried VH1. Nothing. But really, even MTV2 is a disgrace.

MTV would not exist without Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson would not exist without MTV. One of them is gone, and the other one might as well be. That MTV is so brazenly ignoring this story (in b4 “it’s on MTV News,” if such a channel exists, I don’t get it) goes to show how far our culture has gone; the entertainment news has migrated to our “real” news media, and the entertainment news media now doesn’t inform us of anything — entertainment or otherwise.

Once upon a time, Kurt Loder walked American teens through Operation Desert Storm.

Here at Fox, all black people look alike


If you missed the Yankees vs Phillies game on Fox Saturday afternoon, you missed them spending half the game with a camera aimed at a man they claimed was the father of Phillies rookie John Mayberry Jr. As it turns out, the man was not the father of John Mayberry, Jr. John Mayberry’s father is from Detroit, whereas this man was clearly, well, maybe he was from Detroit too, but his Panama gear would suggest at the very least HE WAS NOT JOHN MAYBERRY’S FATHER.

Obviously LeBron James’ game-winning three-pointer is getting a lot of attention. It should, but the meaning of it all is being a bit lost. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve seen James hit that shot at least a dozen times in his career. Indeed, it wasn’t even the most spectacular shot of this past season. The context of the shot does not by itself make the shot any more miraculous (or any less).

Last night’s game-winner is important because it fundamentally changed LeBron James’ character for one moment. James has always been the quintessential cool man, whether he be fronting someone, posterizing someone, or hitting 80-foot buzzer beaters.

Yet last night, he was not, not, not cool. He was, indeed, frenzied.

The response is why last night’s shot is monumental. It’s why it’s historic. Not how he got open, or that it won a must-win game. It’s the shot that in one moment made a man both superhuman and brutally regular-human.

soda, pop, soda pop, phosphate, fizzy drinks

Every Mountain Dew clone tastes like Mello Yello. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but for some reason every fake Mountain Dew tastes the same: like Mello Yello.

Even Mountain Dew Throwback doesn’t taste like Mountain Dew.

Selena Roberts has been blasted for using anonymous sources in her Alex Rodriguez steroids-and-other-allegations book, The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez.

Why, then, is the media running with the news that Manny Ramirez used HCG, and that he tested positive for steroids?

Yahoo!Sports, attributing a source close to Ramirez, reported that the substance for which Ramirez tested positive was a sexual-enhancement drug prescribed to address erectile dysfunction. But multiple news sources, including the Associated Press and, quoted anonymous sources that Ramirez tested positive for the female fertility drug HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin.

Nobody is questioning THESE anonymous sources.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not defending Manny Ramirez by any means. I’m defending Selena Roberts and the necessity of anonymous sources. I’m also trying to highlight the reason I think Roberts is getting attacked the way she is — blatant sexism. I don’t quite know how to make this argument, though. The only way to get around it, I suppose, is to simply highlight the hypocrisy in yesterday’s furor over Manny Ramirez, and leave it at that. If it isn’t a vindication for Selena Roberts, well, it ought to be.

adventures in bad typography, volume one

It may shock you. It might even… horrify you. This is a full-page advertisement from the inside cover of the December 1969 issue of Baseball Digest.

Let’s break it down.


  1. It uses Standard. You remember Standard from such roles as the base typeface for Helvetica or possibly what the New York Subway system used before they switched to Helvetica.

  2. Classic wasteful three-ink process for shadowed background. You only saw this in the late ’60s-early ’70s.


  1. A different, non-Standard sans serif for the text.

  2. Three different leading sizes, none of which look right. The top head is okay. The subhead is smushed together. And the text is too far apart.

  3. Head runs into the kangaroo line art on one side, text runs into it on the other.

  4. “strongest, most abrasive resistant leather known.” It’s an abrasive leather? I suppose that would be helpful if you’re a pitcher who likes to cheat.

  5. Full justification without paragraph leading. This not only makes the last graf look wrong, it puts two differently-kerned versions of “MacGregor” on successive lines!


  7. “…why so many pro’s choose…” So this was a problem 40 years ago. Good to know. YOU GOT IT RIGHT IN THE PREVIOUS SENTENCE, COPYWRITER!

  8. This last one isn’t a huge deal, but in an international magazine, why are you giving cross-streets as your address? Shouldn’t you put the actual address? Or could you still be that vague with the 1969 United States Postal Service?

I love this age of design and type. I had no idea things could look so awful at the same time.

I like MSNBC. It is on my television probably 12 hours a day. However, they need a new Chyron operator. I see a spelling mistake almost every day on lower-thirds, and here are two particularly annoying ones from this week.


I think Balgo is funny, because it’s a typo. I want to burn down MSNBC’s headquarters because of “Sneak Peak,” because that WASN’T a typo. That’s someone who makes a lot of money and went to school JUST TO LEARN HOW TO DO THAT. And yet they spelled “peek” incorrectly.

A “sneak peak” would be, I presume, the top of your shoe. Or perhaps while riding a bike up a mountain, you suddenly find yourself at the top unexpectedly.

Regardless, these MSNBC spelling errors are nothing new, and really pale in comparison to a previous lower-third error.

herp derp i am a real torr

If you’ve been watching television lately, you’ve no doubt seen this terrifying spot:

I don’t really know where to start with this. For one, the actress is creepy and robotic, with eyes that burn with the power of a million demons.

Her voice is clearly overdubbed, but I cannot believe the voiceover is better than her actual reading of the lines. It sounds like computer-synthesized speech, or a very careful reading by a non-native English speaker. And don’t get me started about her insistence that the word “realtor” is actually two words. REAL TOR. It’s like the association of realtors is so angry at idiots who pronounce the word “realitor” that they are pressed to be pedantic about it.

There are a couple versions of the spot, the most recent citing some random study that “eight in ten economists say home prices will go up in the next five years.” Really? I didn’t know that all economists were experts on realty. This isn’t a “four in five dentists” question. I’d argue a small percentage of economists have even a fleeting experience with home sales economics.

Anyway, this ad just freaks me out, and the woman is so terrifying she gives me nightmares. I don’t really see the point of realtors anymore, so I understand the industry fighting to make themselves more prominent. But all this spot does is tell me that realtors are automatons hell-bent on that 7%.

Brainy stuff

David Post wrote a very extensive article about my Microsoft Songsmith work and copywrite implications on Volokh yesterday.

Five hilarious minutes with John Ziegler

John Ziegler appeared on MSNBC today to pimp his “How Obama Got Elected” website. (No, I am not going to link to it.) He proceeded to start a war with MSNBC’s David Shuster, claiming that MSNBC engaged in “character assassination.” It is utterly hilarious how batshit insane John Ziegler is.

Palin supporter John Ziegler goes crazy live on MSNBC

tostitos are hypocrites

Attention, lady in the Tostitos ad:

Before you get all high and mighty about the “THIRTEEN INGREDIENTS!??” in the generic tortilla chips, perhaps you should consider the two bottles of Mountain Dew in your shopping cart.

a truly great commercial

Quaker Steak & Lube is a popular wings establishment. It used to be based in Pennsylvania (hence “Quaker”) but has spread across the country, drawing people who love wings but hate sports (and hence avoid the superior BW3’s). There’s one in Pinellas Park, and thus this ad ran at 3am on Fox Sports Florida one night after a Rays game. It’s priceless, and features Colts cornerback Marlin Jackson.

Soon after this commercial premiered, Jackson went down with a season-ending injury.

My new favorite blog

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HT: Deadspin.

Mark Titus is an Ohio State basketball player. Normally this would make me hate him. In fact, I sort of do. But regardless, dude has an amazing blog that you all should have in your newsreaders. This 19-or-something-year-old-kid has a sense of humor like I did when I was 19, which is to say, brilliant.

I was informed by my mom that one of the Butler cheerleaders was my second or third cousin thrice removed or something like that. So essentially, we aren’t related at all. Nonetheless, I was fearful that I would find one of the Butler cheerleaders attractive, only to discover that she was the one that is related to me. That would have undoubtedly led to a realization similar to this. It was a chance that simply wasn’t worth taking and I was forced to turn to an alternative form of entertainment during the game—the game itself.

Butler is a team that understands a fundamental truth about every Caucasian basketball player—we love short shorts. You could be saying to yourself, “But Mark, I’m white and I like baggier shorts” to which I respond with “You are not only a liar, but a disgrace to Kurt Rambis.”

Why is prom restricted to high school? I know there are frat/sorority formals on college campuses across the country, but where can a college kid slow dance to Lonestar’s “Amazed” with a co-ed in a sequined dress? Nowhere. Except the local high school prom. And you’d have to be crazy to roll those pedophile dice.

Seriously, I love this guy. Check him out.

some things remain unexplained

I am astonished they actually allow this man on live broadcast television.

how lucid

Of course, the movie employs as its chief medium a brand of humor that appeals to the most childish and vulgar in its viewers. At its core, however, “Borat” attempts an ironic commentary of “modern” American culture, contrasting the backwardness of its protagonist with the social ills that afflict supposedly sophisticated society. The movie challenges its viewers to confront not only the bizarre and offensive Borat character himself, but the equally bizarre and offensive reactions he elicits from “ordinary” Americans. Indeed, its message lies in that juxtaposition and the implicit accusation that “the time will come when it will disgust you to look in a mirror.”

From a literary review of Borat? Perhaps an academic journal article in the critical-cultural field?


From Judge Loretta Preska of the U.S. District Court for Manhattan, dismissing the lawsuit against 20th Century Fox from the guy who runs effeminately away from Baron Cohen's pursuits on the city streets of New York.

Glad to see SOMEBODY understood the point of the movie. Kudos, Judge Preska.

ow ow ow ow ow

CBS just showed an excellent 60 Minutes episode featuring Tuesday's primaries and the miserable state of American health care coverage. They followed it up with Big Brother. The juxtaposition was unexpected and severe. I am suffering intellectual whiplash.

The Grapefruit Gal informs me they do this every week. Please, if you know someone who watches CBS Sunday nights, take them for an EEG. They might be flatlining in the grey matter.

Your last-minute Academy Award predictions

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Best actor: Day-Lewis in the best screaming-about-a-missing-son scene since Mel Gibson demanded, GIMME BACK MY SON! My pick: Johnny Depp.

Best supporting actor: Javier Bardem for just being... creepy. My pick: Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Best actress: Cate Blanchett. My pick: YOU KNOW IT'S ELLEN PAGE, SUCKAS

Best supporting actress: Tilda Swinton. My pick: Amy Ryan.

Cinematography: No Country For Old Men. My pick: ditto. Deakins manages to avoid splitting the vote and gets recognition as the greatest living camera's eye.

Director: Joel & Ethan Coen. This is the year they get their mainstream seal of approval. Let's hope they forget about it quickly. And yeah, they're my pick.

Documentary: Sicko. I didn't see the other four. But can't you wait to see what Moore has to say about Castro's retirement? Oh, man, I'm tense in the pants.

Editing: Bourne Ultimateum. They love Christopher Rouse, and he deserves it.

Music: Worst lineup here in decades. I don't care which song from "Enchanted" wins.

Best Picture: No Country For Old Men. I told you, they're going to lavish upon the Coens. My Pick: Juno.

Sound editing: Bourne. My pick: Ratatouille, and if you've seen it, watching and listening to what happens in the kitchen, you'll know.

Sound mixing: 3:10 to Yuma. Also my pick.

Visual effects: Transformers. My pick: I guess? That movie sucked though.

Adapted screenplay: No Country For Old Men. My pick: There Will Be Blood (what? Going against the Coens? Yes. Why? The Coens had an easy path laid for them by Cormac McCarthy, that's why. PTA adapted his from a book that was like 100 years old.)

Original screenplay: Juno. My pick: Duh. I can't wait to see what Diablo Cody has to say, and how many seconds of delay she'll need to avoid breaking any FCC regulations.

7:59, and I'm not editing a thing. Check your RSS feed if you don't believe me. Enjoy the show, kiddos.


Andrew Siciliano, showing why Jim Rome's show actually improves when he guest-hosts:

"Soulja Boy" is officially the worst song to be played on the radio in ten years [...] musical stinkin' genius.

I had a dream last night that I hooked up with Ellen Page. That part was pretty cool. Then I dreamed she got pregnant, which wasn't cool, but was also way too meta for my little dream-brain to handle. It's about that point I realized I was dreaming. That was cool, because it opened the door for some fantastic Lucid Dreaming action. Alas, it wasn't to be. I was so excited about my lucidity that my brain couldn't handle all the demands (and really, I was pretty content with Ellen Page anyway) and I woke up.

Juno is a strange movie. Every critic, even the ones I trust like Roger Ebert, classifies it as a comedy -- and almost apologetically so. How can a film that is a comedy be on the top of so many critics' "Best of 2007" lists, they wondered?

That answer, of course, is simple. Juno isn't a comedy. It's a drama that has funny moments -- LIKE ANY PROPER DRAMA. Today's dramas are so... dramatic that they forget they also have to be interesting. Humor has its place in any genre, but the genre itself is dependent upon what drives the plot. That's where No Country For Old Men fell through. The characteristic Coen Bros. sardonicism was missing (it was, of course, a tremendous film; I only laughed once, though.) Comedies can be easily recognized by the side trips characters take for the sake of laughs; Juno has none of these. Not a single shot in that film is unnecessary. Not a single lingering moment is extraneous.

Was it the best movie of 2007? Absolutely. (Was 2007 a lousy year in cinema? Definitely.) I would have utilized Michael Cera more, at the cost of his being permanently typecast for the rest of his very young career. Ellen Page has portrayed a pregnant teenager, a superhero, and a kidnapping victim. Michael Cera has portrayed an awkward nerd, an awkward nerd, and, in Juno, an awkward nerd-jock. (He's a runner. On second thought, considering I never knew a runner who wasn't more nerd than jock, I'll drop the qualifier.)

I'm sure he's more skilled than that, and I really do find him one of the more exciting young actors working today.

As for me, I'm going back to bed for a little Snooze time with Ellen.

regarding American Gladiators

1. I went to college with Siren. She was hot then. She is still hot now.


3. American Gladiators should be lauded for helping smash false stereotypes. In the final women's round, we discovered that black women can swim extremely well, while former Marines can't (which may explain our current inability to win any wars).

TV shows I've seen in their entirety

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The following is a list of television shows of which I am reasonably sure I have seen every regular-season episode:

Veronica Mars
The Simpsons
Family Guy
Arrested Development
Kyle XY
Boston Legal
Dawson's Creek
Saved By The Bell
The West Wing
Studio 60 (like that was hard, it didn't even last a full season)
Out Of Control "CUT IT OUT!"
Parker Lewis Can't Lose
Beavis & Butt-head
Square One Television
Clarissa Explains It All
The John Larroquette Show
Ned and Stacey
Two Guys, A Girl, and A Pizza Place
South Park

My head asplode: Tay Zonday is a household name

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He was no one. Then, hackers on steroids saw the lulz (a corruption of lol). It was a torrent of chocolate rain... but I cannot even come up with words to describe this.

I don't know if I want to stab myself or go on an /i/nvasion. The VH1 Summer Break thing was weird enough; Carson Daly's Rickrolling was weird enough. This is... troubling.

Hackers on steroids are not the Web's coolseekers. They are quite the opposite. Lest it be forgotten, kingmakers can also be revolutionaries, and I weep for the future of the Internet if this is how things are going.

If none of this made any sense to you, I apologize. I'm just in shock, and it's been 12 hours now.

John Scalzi visits the Creation Museum

John Scalzi is one of the best bloggers (and science fiction novelists) out there [disclaimer: the dude did send me an autographed copy of his book on writing] but this post on his visit to the Creation Museum in Kentucky is truly amazing -- or just skip to the annotated slideshow (I encourage you to maximize your browser and turn on the captions). It's funny and kind of scary.

I believe in God, sure, but Creationists are just crazy.

It's only been 20 years

Two decades ago...

Wesley Snipes was a no-name .

Quincy Jones was a crippled drug dealer.

Martin Scorcese was directing music videos.

And Michael Jackson was Bad.

#1 song on the Billboard 100, October 31, 1987.

We need a new Michael.

Attention Tim Kring

I enjoy Heroes. But how did you manage to get this far without anyone telling you that 400 years ago neither English nor Japanese were spoken the way they are today?

Hiro would be as misunderstood as someone speaking French to a group of Swahili-speakers.

What is going on here?!??

The Grapefruit Gal and I were watching TV the other night -- barely paying attention, really -- when I recognized immediately a song that was playing during this Jeep ad:

Yes, that's Steve Poltz, with whom I've been interacting in some fashion for several years now. That's the first single from his album Chinese Vacation, by the way, and you should totally buy it.

So that was pretty amazing, and I hope Steve makes lots of money on the deal. But it gets better! The other night during The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, I caught this Volvo ad:

That is, of course, the unmistakable voice of Stephin Merritt, whom you might know from the Magnetic Fields or other projects.

The question, of course, that is raised regards whether these two gentlemen, whom I admire greatly, are "sellouts."

I don't feel that way, but others on the blogosphere disagree.

I wuz ripped off

I've talked to a lot of people about my dreams, my screenplay ideas, and my pie-in-the-sky hopes of making a movie some day. So I had this idea for a scene, maybe from a Mocksession movie, where the camera is dollying across the sullen, empty faces of people sitting at a bar, first their faces, then their drinks, then their feet, curled up in the bar stools. Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" is playing, and then at the appropriate moment, all the people in the bar start playing the air drums.

I have told many people the details of this genius scene, and maybe I've told too many people.

My first response is "how have I not heard of a new show starring Jerry O'Connell?" My second is, THEY RIPPED ME OFF.

Damn you, ABC!!!!


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Art Garfunkel, Charles Grodin, Alan Arkin, Martin Sheen, and John Voight. How, exactly, did they screw this movie up?

Bonds' #755: A Media Criticism

So I edited together a video of Barry Bonds' 755th home run last night, as called by five different announcers.

Watch it! It's interesting. I think the most telling part I had to edit out because it came too late; the Padres radio announcer (who, you'll see, is clearly the most critical) says, once the game resumes, "And now to more important things, the game's tied at 1-1."

Movie review: The Simpsons Movie

So I attended the 12:01 showing of The Simpsons Movie because, well, I felt like being a part of something.

The AMC Theatre Oldsmar was packed -- a 500-seat sellout was in order, and the crowds ranged from parents with young kids to people my age, which is to say that it was all people my age or their kids. I was there early enough to secure a pretty decent seat, only to have the two seats next to me be occupied by an amazingly unattractive couple who spent the entire movie making out. Yes, they were making out during the Simpsons movie.

Anyway, I'd provide a better review of the movie except that it broke only a few minutes into the picture. It opens with the requisite Itchy & Scratchy picture, followed by an admonition of people who would pay money for something they can get on TV for free, and the lovely Lydian mode of Danny Elfman's "Simpsons Theme" which elicited a roar of applause from the crowd. A cameo by Green Day started the picture proper, and then the screen went black and the theatre lights came up.

Another roar ensued, this one of boos. The screen remained black and I started singing, loudly,


That got a laugh out of a lot of people. Fifteen minutes later, a full-scale riot was underway, with numerous red-hots being tossed at the screen, screaming, cursing, and lots of craning around backward to look at the projectionist's booth. Here I quote Duane Decker's 1947 book Good Field, No Hit (for the second time on this blog) where he speaks about hecklers at a baseball game:

They crane their necks to look for the heckler. They never see anything, but they always crane their necks.

Alas, there was nothing to see, and no usher or manager came out to explain what was happening to the crowd. After about twenty minutes the film resumed, to applause, though about 30 seconds past where the film had broke (and after what appeared to be the setup to a fairly large joke) leading the makeout couple next to me to yell, "rewind it!" and I turned to them and said "it's not a videotape, you can't rewind it" and I'd have said more except I realized the film was much quieter than when it had started, and this is a problem for comedy films, because the laughter covered up a lot of the lines of the film from this point on.

I was reminded of this moment from the series (click through if your RSS reader doesn't show YouTube clips:

So as far as I could tell, The Simpsons Movie was very funny, but I missed a lot of it for the aforementioned reasons, and I encourage you to see it, just make sure the theatre is loud and/or empty.

The decline of rap, kinda

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I like the number seventeen. It's prime, was worn by luminescent figures like Brian Sipe, is the age of the titled girl in the Winger song, the number of wallpaper groups, and the year ancient Rome's Alex Trebek Livy died.

Thus in order to prove my point I will take us back seventeen years, to 1990. Specifically, to November 13th, 1990, the day Tim Berners-Lee wrote the world's first web page. George Bush was president (just like he is today!!! ZOMG) and the Virgin Mary was telling us the world had begun to end.

But this is not a post about the web or Tim Berners-Lee or George Bush or people high on peyote. It is a post about crappy music, and how in seventeen years, the nature of music has changed in a dangerous and creepy manner. I may be sounding like a curmudgeon, and I may be asking you to get off my lawn. But by looking at the #2 song on the Billboard Hot 100 on November 13th, 1990, compared to the #2 song on the Billboard Hot 100 on July 6th, 2007, we can learn a lot about where American culture has gone -- and where it's going. Oh, and if you're going to argue that 1990 was a particularly bad year for music, I point you to the top five songs for the year on the Hot 100 -- Wilson Phillips "Hold On," Roxette "It Must Have Been Love," Sinead O'Connor "Nothing Compares 2 U," Bell Biv Devoe "Poison," and Madonna "Vogue." You wouldn't skip a single one of them if they came up on your iPod shuffle. Admit it.

#2 song in 1990 : "Pray," by MC Hammer

#2 song today: "Party Like A Rock Star" by Shop Boys

First let's look at the similarities between the two songs:

* Title of song repeated ad nauseam (more than 100 times for "Pray," 49 times in "Party")
* Scantily-clad women
* "Rap"
* References to being down on one's knees
* Horrible lyrics

There are, however, significant differences. Let's look at a sample of the lyrics from "Pray."

Time and time and time and time again
I kept on knocking,but these people wouldn't let me in
I tried and tried and tried and tried to make a way
But nothing happened till that day I prayed

...and those from "Party Like A Rock Star."

bitches wanna marry me
they see me they just might panic
my ice make em go down quick
like the Titanic!

And, so, the differences:

* Titles of songs: Dichotomy of holy vs. sinful behavior
* Scantily clad women: Praying in one, stripping in the other

Listening to "Pray" today, it doesn't even sound like a pop song. It sounds like contemporary Christian music, except it WASN'T. It was a major hit single. It, and its remix, were on heavy rotation on MTV. It was a song about NOT SMOKING WEED. "Party Like A Rock Star" is about SMOKING AS MUCH WEED AS POSSIBLE. "Pray" was popular and it had a video ABOUT PRAYING and featured Hammer BREAKING UP A FIGHT (also popular in 1983). Huh?

Now, I am not a cannibiphobe by any means. I don't project this change in mores as the downfall of American morality or culture, and, frankly, I want to make it clear that I would never press for any sort of censorship by any means. But Christ, people! In one generation we've gone from "We got to pray just to make it today" to "Hoe don't you know I fuck wit fine dimonds" as the pinnacle of American music production.

If you can explain exactly how we got from there to here, I'd love to hear it.

TV review: Kyle XY


"Have you seen [insert television show here]?"

While I watch a lot of television, and will defend that behavior, I probably think the show you're asking me about sucks, whether I've seen it or not. 90% of television sucks. The list of television that does not suck is short, and consists mainly of the following (this list is very short as most good television programs have been canceled):

ESPN College GamedayBoston LegalFamily Guy
The OfficeER (it does NOT suck)Numb3rs
The Daily ShowThe Colbert ReportNBC Nightly News
A show to be named later

You'd think that if there was a television show on a major network like ABC, I'd have heard about it. I would also tell you, having never seen it, that it sucks.

Somehow, a show named Kyle XY slipped under my radar for an entire year. It ran a full 10 episode summer season in 2006, and the 2007 season premiered a few weeks ago. I'm only on episode six so far (I found the damn thing on a site involving ninjas or Swedish pirates or something) and it's already breaking my head open and carving out pieces with a spork.

And that's a good thing.

The ABC website makes Kyle XY sound like a science-fiction program, as does the title (note to producers, we read words and phrases from the outside in, meaning at first glance, the title appears to refer to butt lubricant), but it is not science fiction, and that is why I think it does not suck.

Hello, I'm Matt Dallas, and I'm 24 years old. The actress who plays my love interest on the show is sixteen, but that's totally cool, because we film in Canada.
Kyle (six episodes in, the XY part has not been explained, but I will assume it refers to his sex chromosomes, or perhaps his amazing mathematics skills) is a fit, alleged 16-year-old who is found naked in a forest with complete amnesia and a lack of language skills. A lovely upper-middle-class family of a psychologist, computer nerd, 16-year-old ugly girl and 14-year-old pipsqueak (who later goes skinny dipping with a girl "his age" played by an actress clearly... more developed) takes him in "temporarily." He knows nothing of our strange world, yet instead of becoming an unfrozen caveman lawyer, he becomes...


Maybe Kyle XY is supposed to be science-fiction, or a drama about teens, but at its heart it's a show about ethnography. Kyle provides voiceovers (clearly long after the fact, as his voiceovers accompany the several episodes in which he has no use of verbal language) describing the strange world he's observing. Better yet, he does it on such a minute basis that he is a veritable Edmund Husserl -- yes, it's phenomenology in action!

Wait, no, it's episode six and now he's using a Ouija board.

Did I mention "young" Kyle has no navel? It's true. His stomach is quite literally flat. He can't swim, until he takes a swim lesson and becomes Mark Spitz. He doesn't know anything, until he reads the World Book in one afternoon. His sensory perception is amazing (which makes him a badass ethno-phenomenologist). Oh, and he knows Kung Fu. As in, Keanu Reeves, "I know Kung Fu." No, really, that's pretty much how it happened. But let's meet the rest of the family.

Hello, I'm April Matson, and I'm ugly.
April Matson plays Lori, the elder Trager sibling, and she somehow manages to be a) popular and b) dating the hot, rich stud despite that she is butt-ugly. She even loses her virginity on-camera, which is way less hot than televised teen deflowerings ought to be. The disaster is further exacerbated by how often she's found in a bikini on the show. Her "boyfriend" is Declan, a dumbass jock who just ran over somebody in his car. He could do so much better than this fat, stupid ho.

I don't feel like describing the rest of the family. I do want to talk about the hot neighbor girl, whom is presented as Kyle's "love interest" of sorts (she instigates his first boner! Yes, this show takes on all sorts of teen issues! It's like an afterschool special where everyone drinks and has sex, without the awkward "ramifications" and "lessons" and "educational value"!)

Hello, I'm Kirsten Prout, and I'm hot. ERR, I mean, I'm sixteen.
Meet Amanda, the piano-playing life-saving smart girl next door. She takes a liking to Kyle even after he breaks into her house, essentially violates her, and tries valiantly to break up her relationship with a nameless loser. High school sucks. Amanda has a touching scene with Kyle in his bathtub, which is really kind of crossing lines of proper television when you consider that Kyle sleeps in the bathtub.

Oh, snap. Episode seven, Kyle is the second coming of Peter Press Maravich. And now Amanda's boyfriend is recruiting him to join the star basketball team. (The basketball team is in the "finals." The high school year just started last week. I guess time goes faster during the abbreviated summer season.)

I'll check back in with you all after I'm caught up. Sorry for the TL, hope you didn't ;DR me. Oh, and tomorrow we'll look at Flight of the Conchords.

Myspace has issues

I hate Myspace. I've never tried to hide that fact. I feel about Myspace similarly to how I feel about Barry Bonds: if I was big, and I saw Myspace on the street, I'd punch him in the face. Maybe I'd hit him in the face with a full can of mace. I'd definitely kick Myspace in the knees. Having a Myspace is almost a necessity, alas, and thus I have a personal myspace, a music Myspace, and a comedy Myspace. I might just get rid of my Myspaces, though, because I'm getting awfully tired of the constant spam. Don't believe me?

That was my Gmail inbox this morning. At least dealing with Myspace spammers, scammers, and porno..ers is easier now than it used to be. It used to be that when you received a friend request from a scammer, you had to go to their page and "report" them to Myspace. You had to write up a review, and there was the giant WARNING THIS DOES NOT GO TO TOM message and you felt like you were reporting on the party next door not because they were too loud but because you weren't invited. Now you can just click the friend request as "spam." Still, though, it's pretty much rendered using Myspace for anything useful, well, useless.

And now Facebook is becoming more and more like Myspace every day -- with good reason, as Zuckerberg needs to create a profitable enterprise so as to get the $2 billion he wants from Yahoo! to sell Facebook. Facebook blows, too, now, but at least the site works more often than not. Myspace is fundamentally broken, and is possibly the most popular disaster since the reign of Caligula.

Movie review: SiCKO

Michael Moore's new documentary SiCKO opens next Friday, and as with all Moore features, it raises more questions than it answers. Questions like:

* Why are all the letters but "i" capitalized? (Brad has an idea.)
* Why are Americans living in France so happy? They don't have college football there.
* Why are French women so very very sexy?
* Why do we have $70 billion to blow up Iraq but nothing for health care?
* Why was Michael Moore allowed to make a film about health care when he is far from the pinnacle of health? Why not Marky Mark Wahlberg, who is a veritable Adonis (review on his recent Shooter coming soon)?

Note to self: do not Google Image
Search for "sicko"
...among others. Certainly, SiCKO is Moore's most universally-appealing topic so far in his work; Roger & Me spoke mainly to people who live in the dirty hellhole of Flint, and Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 were overtly political, and completely true. That's not to say that SiCKO doesn't lay into politicians; Bush, Bush Sr., Hillary, and others all get their comeuppances. Yet Moore's latest film is inherently different insofar as it's not condescending, it's not satirical, and it's not antagonistic. That makes it sound like it's also boring. If anything, it's rather pleasant.

The New York Times review (use bugmenot) says that of Moore's films, it is the "funniest and the most tightly edited."

Most tightly edited, yes -- the two hours pass by as if they were thirty minutes. Funny? I'm not sure about that. Yes, there are a few belly laughs -- I nearly puked up my popcorn when the narrative turned to Fidel Castro's Cuba, though that might have been because I soaked each kernel in "butter flavored topping," which, if you haven't noticed yet, is actually fresh Mobil 1 Synthetic 5w50.

Instead, I cried. In Bowling for Columbine, I cried from laugher. In Fahrenheit 9/11, I cried because I was scared. In SiCKO, I cried because I was moved. You know, moved. Like I was in Miracle or Epic Movie or Pretty Cool Too. I won't ruin these moments for you. I want you to see the movie.

Will anything change as a result of Moore's rhetoric? Probably not. America is run by the corporations that elect our politicans and make up our 401(k) accounts. That won't change until the electorate changes and decides to start holding politicans to a test of reason and logic -- and that won't happen until we start educating children in a manner that encourages these principles.

I hope Moore's next movie is about how utterly embarassing education is in the United States. SiCKO discusses how far behind the rest of the developed world we are in medicine -- but the gap is even worse when it comes to education. You hearing me, fatty?

Movie review: Bridge to Terabithia


For reasons unknown even to me, I watched the recent film Bridge to Terabithia today. Based on the 1977 book by Katherine Paterson, it stars a handful of young actors you'll likely never see again, and Zooey Deschanel who may or may not be hotter than her sister Emily, depending on the circumstances.

Maybe you read the book when you were younger. If you did, and have since forgotten, or if you didn't, which is even more likely, here is a breakdown of the plot. I will spoil the ending for you as a public service to provide you even less incentive to ever watch the film than you may have had already.

There is a boy who is in the fifth grade and like many fifth graders is teased for being poor and kind of a wuss. He gets beaten in a footrace by a girl, further enhancing his wussiness, though to his credit the girl (named Leslie) appears to be at least five years older than him.

She's only sevenTEEEEEEEEEEEEEN!
It actually turns out that she is the same age (or so the filmmakers would have us believe, but trust me, it will not be the first time they throw believability to the wind) and they become friends, mainly due to their being more attractive than anyone else in the school, one which is inhabited by all number of miscreants and inbred fools. The setting of the film is not specified, but from the appearance of its characters, it takes place somewhere in West Virginia, or perhaps west Virginia.

(Okay, fine. It's in Virginia. You don't need to know that, but if you read the book, you already know that.)

So the bullies in this redneck haven have a kink for watersports, as evidenced by the queen bee getting her rocks off by watching the little kids pee their pants. Meanwhile, our erstwhile hero is living the hard knocks of having parents who haven't discovered contraception or meaningful employment.

To combat these issues, the two kids get high on myriad drugs (perhaps Hillbilly Heroin, more likely LSD) and venture into the forest behind their houses, where they hallucinate about all sorts of fanciful creatures. More often than not, they end up "fighting" their illusory demons before coming down out of their drug-addled trances and returning home for supper.

Bad trip, man. Bad trip.
The girl-woman seems to be the enabler of young Jess, practically quoting Timothy Leary as she encourages him to "close your eyes but keep your mind wide open."

Of course, like any cautionary tale about drug abuse and rejecting God (Leslie openly professes being an atheist) there is tragedy, as the girl trips without her cruising buddy and drowns in a river, one she probably thought was frozen over or filled with plaid elephants. Jess lashes out, punching a kid in the face, and his teacher tells him to avoid the demons of the cursed, as little girls who go to Hell always come back to haunt the living.

The story ends with Jess introducing his baby sister to the world of drugs, crowning her "Princess of Terabithia" and building a bridge (of dubious quality, given both his lack of engineering prowress and the quality school systems found in the Appalachians) across the stream where his hippie friend lost her life.

Zooey Deschanel, whom I haven't mentioned again in this review due to her role being entirely meaningless, save for introducing the children to yet another drug-influenced artist (Steve Earle), is marginally hot in her role as a young, unmarried music teacher. We are led to believe she seduces young Jess, but as this is a PG-rated film that part is left to our imagination. Either way, the film could have done without her, and I'm pretty sure she's only here to give fathers something to look forward to during the children's escapades in the forest.

In all, you will be better served to simply take drugs yourself and go walking in the woods, as at least that way you have no one to blame but yourself for the bad trip that will inevitably result. Drugs are bad, mmkay?

What we've been up to

| 1 Comment

We've been luxuriously pondering such things and semiotics (including a truly fabulous hazy-dream in which various advertising characters sit at a bar and discuss their symbolic, indexical, or iconic natures) and wondering about our own abilities to actually function. Here's what's been going on with the side project at Sticks of Fire:

USF ranks high in music piracy, but not as high as Ohio

Tampa sportstalk host Steve Duemig is a bigot

Florida enjoys botching executions

Who went to see Norbit?


Norbit opened with $33.7 million, easily beating the rest of the competition this weekend.

What the hell? Am I the only one who saw every TV trailer for this movie and thought, "F*ck, this movie looks damned stupid"?

I know I'm not, because 81 of 89 professional critics aggregated at Rotten Tomatoes panned the film. Who the hell went to go see this movie? IT LOOKS LIKE THE STUPIDEST THING IN HISTORY. I can see why kids might go see an even more critically-rejected film like Epic Movie because it is a "teen flick."

Norbit is not a teen flick. It is a stupid flick, that has absolutely nothing of interest in it save Thandie Newton, and even then that's a stretch. Yet it earned $33 million in one weekend? Huh?

Is America really that retarded?

Meanwhile, I was watching Mike Judge's Idiocracy. It would seem that, yes, we are that retarded. (Full review coming soon.)

Ted Haggard announced Tuesday he'd been "cured" of his homosexuality after a three-week "intensive seminar."

That same night, the plot of ABC's Boston Legal featured recurring character Judge Brown (played by the tremendous actor Henry Gibson, of Laugh-In and Blues Brothers fame) seeking to cure his own homosexuality by attending a similar camp. (It doesn't work, and he seeks the help of Denny Crane in recovering damages from the "therapists.")

Three days later, NBC's Law & Order (sadly now moved to Friday nights opposite Numb3rs) highlighted a story nearly identical to that of Haggard's, only having his wife killing the meth-happy male prostitute.

(Incidentally, and I say this every week, the easiest job in show business is writing for Dick Wolf. Open up the Post and go from there. They don't even use the phrase "ripped from the headlines" anymore because it's just assumed at this point.)

I know season scheduling is planned months in advance... I think. So I suppose it's just convenient that two popular dramas had storylines revolving around a real-life development (and one that garnered a lot of its own attention from both the mainstream press and the late-night talking heads)?

For what it's worth, they were both excellent episodes, though I'm partial to Boston Legal myself, if only because Denny Crane is the best character on television since Hawkeye Pierce. Or perhaps...

TOP FIVE TV CHARACTERS SINCE 1980 (in no particular order)

Hawkeye Pierce
Denny Crane
Quinn Mallory (seasons one and two, Sliders)
Veronica Mars (season one)
Bill McNeal (Phil Hartman's character on NewsRadio)

Honorable Mention:

Jack Tripper (duh)
Alex P. Keaton
Magnum, P.I.
Dr. Craig (from St. Elsewhere)

As for that last item, I just realized that William Daniels is a month away from 80 years old. 80! Mr. Feeny, John Adams, the voice of KITT is 80. 80 YEARS OLD!

The dude played Dustin Hoffman's FATHER in The Graduate for crying out loud!

You know what's really awesome, though? He's one of the figure skating judges in the upcoming Blades of Glory.


Henry Gibson:

William Daniels:

It's hot as hell in Philadelphia!

Things you realize in intellectual pursuits

I accidentally left the AC adapter to my Macbook at work Monday night. This left me with nothing to do Monday night, so I finally picked up a copy of Chuck Klosterman's brilliant Killing Yourself to Live loaned to me by one of my students. I didn't set it down until I'd finished it a few hours later.

Chuck Klosterman is probably the greatest living writer in America. He has aptly taken over for Hunter S. Thompson, despite having little in common with Thompson other than a penchant for road trips, drug abuse, and assignments from magazines to travel to odd places.

Hmm. So maybe they have a bit more in common than I thought. Yet Thompson was a true ethnographer, always capturing the very essence of what he experienced. Klosterman is a classic autoethnographer, and Killing Yourself is probably the greatest autoethnography written by a white, straight, middle-class (upbringing) Midwestern male in history.

Maybe I shouldn't have decided a white, straight, middle-class Midwestern male was incapable of writing good autoethnography. Maybe I coulda been a contendah.

ANYWAY, reading Klosterman makes a man (or woman, for that matter) realize two very important attributes about the people in their lives.

1. They make me much less happy than other people I could be spending time with.
2. They make me much less unhappy than other people I could be spending time with.

Note I did not say "one of two." I said two. Klosterman consistently makes me realize that bliss is nearly always accompanied by periods of misery, and to deprive one's self of both by engaging with individuals who take you to neither extreme is to deprive one's self of the emotional tension that's necessary to really interpret works of contemporary culture.

Klosterman generally leads me to the conclusion that everything I do is a waste of time, and I really ought to just spend more time listening to the Pixies by myself in my bedroom. And he's right, because he's always right.

BTW, if you're wondering how I typed this... i pulled the EW server out of the closet and installed X on it. It's never had X on it and I was quite content to keep things that way. Yet I really needed to check my email, as my phone doesn't work either. So I installed X.

Firefox 2.0 in Linux is the most gorgeous browser ever. Why can't it look like that on OS X? Or Windows, even?

I'm not exactly in the 60 Minutes demographic. I do, however, watch the program on a weekly basis. I feel it's important; I feel it's part of being an American to watch the program.

I don't know if I'm going to watch the program anymore. Why? Tonight Steve Kroft brought me a story that was, in essence, a five-minute-long advertisement for Best Buy's Geek Squad, one of the most ludicrously unnecessary organizations in world history.

Let's go to the videotape. (Transcript can be read for yourself here.

Oh, and you'll need to click the jump since this is gonna be a bit long.

American Idiot

Today ABC News and myriad other sources are asking if Fox's American Idol is "too mean."

"You look like one of those creatures that live in the woods with those massive eyes," infamous judge Simon Cowell told one "Idol" hopeful.

That's not that mean. These people got their 15 seconds of fame -- what more were they expecting? "American Karaoke" is probably the most insipid program in the history of American television, and I'm only being somewhat facetious in saying that, as Fox has certainly lowered the bar on numerous occasions... but the fact that nearly a third of American televisions were tuned in to the show's season premiere leads me to a handful of conclusions.

1. Americans like smack talk.

Americans have consistently proven ourselves to be increasingly milquetoasty, letting their words speak for what used to be their fists. Americans love the smack. Need proof? Let's see how many blog postings have been covering the increasingly-ugly love affair between Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell:

10,370 according to Technorati. Yes, a human being at some point wrote up the smack being tossed between the two huge losers more then TEN THOUSAND TIMES.

Americans love smack. They love heckling, too, as I found out during my weekly Tuesday night performance at the Hangout.

I had just finished my paean to a divorced woman with kids, Kid Things.

"Are you done?" a drunk man asked from across the room.
"When's Darryl coming back," asked an even more drunk woman sitting near me. (Darryl being the guy who I sit in for when he takes a smoke break.)

I asked drunk man if he would like to play.

"I don't know how to play."
"They what makes you such a f*ckin' expert?" I retorted, and then improvised a song to impress the brunette Croatian girl whom I was hitting on despite her being on a date, with a guy, who was sitting right there. My song expounded upon how much greater Macedonia, my homeland, is compared to Croatia. I don't quite recall the lyrics, though I do remember saying something like:

"In Macedonia we roast our lamb in hot lard,
In Croatia you find Drazen Petrovic in your yard"

...or something similarly uncouth. Oh, I was making a point here.

2. Americans love to see people more pathetic than them.

I am not saying Americans are pathetic; rather, I think we happen to be freakin' awesome. However, I think that the American television-viewing public perceives themselves to be pathetic. Thus, being exposed to even bigger losers than we think ourselves to be is, by reference, a self-esteem boost. It's my assumption that people use programs in which other humans are degraded as a kind of visual Prozac, and perhaps a bit of coke or speed too. (Americans love drugs, remember? We invented all the cool ones.)

Seriously, it blows my mind why people would rot their brains with such tripe when they could simply go to their local club on karaoke night and see people equally-as-talented and equally-as-rotten go at it, and with a smoky room (except in Ohio) to boot! After all, no matter whether it's the opening week or the final round of Idol, you're never going to see anything as entertaining as a dude channeling Joe Cocker.

Yeeeeeeah, okay, that was pretty unwatchable. But, hey, it encapsulates of what my last night consisted.

It's A Wonderful Life? | SNL rocks my world


Aside: SNL's Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, and Kristen Wiig just started the show with a kickass "Santa's My Boyfriend" bit. They sounded great, looked great (even without Hottest Woman Ever Tina Fey, the current cast of SNL is unbelievably hot female-wise) and it was the sort of thing they do on Studio 60 that I wish they had more of on the real thing. The "Chipmunks Song" bit of Timberlake's monologue was clever and well-done, too. "Cup Of Soup," not so much.)

Aside #2: "Cock In A Box" is better than anything I could ever come up with for my twisted Christmas songs. I should just retire now. OH SH*T IT'S THE BARRY GIBB SHOW... THEY BROUGHT BACK JIMMY FALLON

My mother collects those Bedford Falls Village models, buys a new one every year. They go on top of the piano and are part of her elaborate holiday decorations, along with an enormous Advent wreath on the lawn (that lights another candle each Sunday), the sentry angel in the foyer, and myriad decorations I can't even begin to describe. She is not Christmas-psycho, like the Lindsay Brothers, but she really embraces the season, and I can respect that. I like Christmas, too, even if in Florida, it Don't Feel Like Christmas At All.

While Holiday Inn is the holiday flick of choice in my parents' household, I do make it a point to watch the annual presentation of It's A Wonderful Life on NBC. Tonight, with a crowd of ten in our small Clearwater household, a dead man in my kitchen, his car in my garage, I escaped the party to run back to my room every few minutes for the Frank Capra classic.

I started thinking tonight that there aren't a lot of lessons to be learned from this film. The American Film Institute has dubbed Life the "Most Inspiring Film" of all time. I disagree. I'm sure other critics have probably written books about the subject, but here's my major issues:

1. Evil does not get its comeuppance.

As I've learned in my research of film history, the "Code" in place during the 1940's put significant creative limits on directors; curse words, nudity, extended kisses, and unsavory behavior were all verboten. So, too, was the portrayal of evil or crime without the perpetrator receiving his or her just desserts. Why, then, does Mr. Potter get away with stealing the $8,000 ($82,000 in today's dollars)? He even gets in a snide "Happy New Year -- in JAIL" remark at the end. The Code would suggest an outcome for Mr. Potter: perhaps he dies of syphilis or is found to have attended Communist Party meetings and is sent to re-education camp. Either way, he stays rich, and considering his already strong position in the financial community, he'll probably be the man the black woman goes to when she finally does need that divorce.

Also, how many small towns in New York in the 1940's had black people?

2. George is a failure.

George is a driven man; he is a man with a goal, and any proper protagonist (especially in a film deemed the Most Inspiring Ever) ought to have the agency to achieve his goal. We are reminded throughout the film of his goal: to travel and see the world. Alas, he is burdened by his ideology and is prevented from achieving his goal by a major character flaw: personal ethics.

He's also now in debt to everyone in town, so he can forget about his tab at Mancini's Bar; Guido's only taking cash now. Can you imagine what his friends and neighbors would say if he finally took that trip around the world? "That bastard," they'd say, "He still owes me $17.50 but he can afford to go to Rome? Son of a bitch."

George, given his characterization throughout the first half of the film, wants this single goal. He doesn't get it. He fails.

What, then, are the most inspiring films? Let's break that gerund down.

M-W suggests "inspire" means to move or motivate by some non-physical force. "Influence" is the core derivation. Certainly, I can't see anyone being inspired to do anything after watching It's A Wonderful Life (except maybe to steal $80,000 since you'll clearly get away with it). Movies that are actually inspiring:

Wonder Boys (Michael Douglas' portrayal of a pot-smoking professor who hits on his students is a major reason I'm in academia)
Super-Size Me (put a long stop to my fast-food eating)
The Biggest Loser (not a movie, but actually inspires people to put a long stop to their fast-food eating)
Rudy (lead to a spike in applications to Notre Dame, in one actually quantifiable example of inspiration)
The Birth Of A Nation (essentially resurrected the Ku Klux Klan)
Saturday Night Fever (the soundtrack itself changed music for four years and kept decent bands like Queen from being the mega-bands they ought to have been)

I will still watch It's A Wonderful Life every year. Donna Reed is amazingly hot and Capra's direction is outstanding. I just disagree that it's an inspriring film.

Jennifer and I have an on-and-off ritual of watching reality television programs on the DVR on Tuesday and Thursday -- depending on what time of year it is and what show is currently on our radar. This year, the day was Thursday and the show was the third edition of The Biggest Loser.

Of course, the season finale was on last night which meant we were watching it today. Erik, the unbearably fat man, won the $250,000 prize by losing more than half of his original 400+ elbees. Impressive, certainly. The dude lost 52% of his body weight and can still ambulate.

Jennifer and I get into arguments on the show, and regularly set up prop bets to see who will lose, who will win, and who will fall below the "yellow line." I hate the yellow line. It means nothing. They just as easily could say "Stay out of the bottom two," but instead they use the yellow line terminology. It drives me crazy and Jennifer laughs at me.

Also, I have a nomination for California's representative to The Biggest Loser 4: Caroline Rhea. Seriously, who thought she'd be a good idea to host a show about losing weight? Caroline Rhea hosting The Biggest Loser is like if Jeopardy! replaced the retiring Alex Trebek with, say, K-Fed.

Seriously, folks. Let's look at Caroline Rhea ten years ago:

And now:

Jennifer informs me Caroline Rhea "used to be fat." Used to be?

Anyway, I like Caroline Rhea. She's not why I hate the show. I hate the show because it's based on a faulty premise: that losing weight is what makes a person healthy.

The entire game is based on who can lose the most weight, when weight loss is only one half of a person's overall fitness health. Indeed, contestants like Wylie who were fat not because of genetics but because of being lazy were at a disadvantage in the game -- he started building muscle which made him look all sorts of great but actually kept him from losing enough weight to win in the end.

Compare this to just hugely fat f*ck Erik, the winner, who clearly has a family history of being fat f*cks. I do not mean to slight Erik. When they announced how much weight he'd lost, I balled my eyes out. Actually, I don't want to admit to that, but Jennifer made it a point to make me promise to post on my blog that I cried at the end of The Biggest Loser. Thanks, Jenn. You're a great roommate.

Anyway, if the show wanted to be legitimate in my eyes, they'd measure not weight but body fat percentage. It's not an issue as much for the women as it is for the men; Wylie was victimized most by it, but final castoff Jaron was a true tragedy of the nature. He couldn't stay above the vaunted YELLOW LINE because he kept building MUSCLE. Which WEIGHS MORE THAN FAT. AND IS MORE HEALTHY.

So that's why I hate The Biggest Loser. Also, the chick trainer on there looks just like Lesbian Bartender and that kind of creeps me out. I hope their next edition features body fat percentage, if not exclusively than as part of a formula. I think Erik would have still won -- he clearly built some muscle in the process, did you see him from the back while hugging Kai? Dude has LATISSIMUS DORSI.

WTF is on my TV screen

John Stamos is kicking ass all over the place. Right now. On my TV. Kicking. Ass. Beating the hell out of them.

Damn this Meigs Gold, it's making me see things...

What is real?


In light of the whole Lonelygirl15 hoax, we've been asking ourselves what, exactly, is real? Our screens glow with images, and images are arguments -- claims and warrants to their own reality.

I'd been waiting all summer for NBC to premiere Aaron Sorkin's new Studio 60 on Sunset Strip. The program was, of course, the best thing on television since Sorkin left The West Wing. The program, if you're not familiar with it, portrays a "Saturday Night Life" copycat program. The show, like SNL, has a musical guest -- and the one shown on Monday night's premiere was a hip-hop act called "Three 6 Mafia."

Longtime readers know I am not entirely in touch with the hip-hop community, but I was sure this had to be a fabricated act. After all, they were TERRIBLE. The lyrics made me laugh out loud, they were such parody.

I'm in the club posted up (up) got my arms folded
Blunt in my mouth and these haters I'm scopin I'm just
Twistin my body from side 2 side (I'm just)
Twistin my body from side 2 side

Perhaps the fact Felicity Huffman was portraying herself should have alerted me to the chance "Three 6 Mafia" could have been a real act. But their appearance, looking like a bunch of janitors, led me to conclude they were an exaggeration of the current state of hip-hop.


So, yeah, that's Three 6 Mafia. They're a real band. With a really, really hilariously bad song. Yet it's the second verse -- the one they never get to on the Studio 60 premiere -- that's even more frightening.

See ho I don't dance (dance)
In the city where I'm from I wear the pants (wear the pants)
These bitches think they cool (cool)
I got the dick so I make the rules (make the rules)
I got a big ol cock (big ol cock)
I love a bitch with a big ol glock (big ol glock)
She love suckin up cum (cum)
I think I'mma give her some (some)
These niggaz in here think I'm a ho (I'm a ho)
Cuz I'm quiet and ain't on the dance flo (dance flo)
But if one of 'em try me (try me)
I'mma be the new ink in his diary (diary)
I bet my click thicker than his (his)
We gon leave him on the floor in tears (tears)
Plus I got a big tone (tone)
Y'all suckaz betta leave me alone (leave me alone)

But rap isn't all about sexism and objectification. Not at all.

Rap sucks.

Willie Nelson arrested on Dale Mabry?

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Willie Nelson has been arrested on charges of drug possession.

Trooper Willie Williams says troopers smelled a strong odor of marijuana when the driver opened the bus door.

During a search of the bus, Williams say approximately 1 1/2 pounds of marijuana and approximately 2/10 of a pound of mushrooms were located on the bus.


Something tells me Trooper Willie Williams was also responsible for my favorite local traffic sign.

The baby with no name

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I'm not sure where I'm landing on the whole "Did John Karr kill JonBenet" case. I have, however, recognized an interesting and disturbing characteristic of the depiction of an infamous and long-ago crime.

From the New York Times:

It was not immediately clear when investigators began focusing on Mr. Karr as a potential suspect in a widely talked about case that some commentators had compared to the kidnapping and killing of the Lindbergh baby in 1932.

You've been hearing this a lot, right? That JonBenet was the most famous kidnapping/killing since "the Lindbergh Baby."

Why, 74 years later, are we still using such archaic terminology? THE LINDBERGH BABY HAD A NAME! Its name was, in the parlance of our times, CHARLES JR. Or just "Junior."

I realize the possibility of confusion relating to the name being the same, but that confusion exists every time a Jr. picks up the home phone (or when yours truly visits a gated community where both Sr. and Jr. live, and the gate officer calls the wrong house). Yet "Charles Lindbergh Jr." (technically he was III but in the parlance of their times Junior was exactly that: Charles Jr.) appears... nowhere. It's always "Lindbergh baby."

How many people today know the Lindbergh baby was male? Nobody, unless you've read the fantastic book Crime of the Century (formerly known as The Airman and the Carpenter) by Ludovic Kennedy. It's easily the best book on the trial and execution of Bruno Richard Hauptmann. The movie starring Stephen Rea and Isabella Rosselini is fantastic as well.

Anyway, my point is this: it's 2006, and yet the media is still neutering poor Charles Lindbergh, Jr. by calling him "the Lindbergh baby." The child was nearly two years old!

Background on the Lindbergh, Jr. kidnapping

Best. Soda. Ever.

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My Best Soda Ever list is rarely modified.

Junior High: Cherry 7up
High School: Kick (remember this post? Probably not, since it was like the second or third post I ever made)
College: Faygo Orange
Grad School: Schweppe's Ginger Ale
2003-2005: Canada Dry Cranberry Ginger Ale
2005-2006: Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi
2006, August:

Diet Pepsi Jazz: Strawberries & Cream

Seriously, this stuff is freakin' awesome. It makes Wild Cherry taste like Faygo Diet Moon Mist. Find it now, unless you live somewhere it's not sold, which might be everywhere (I had to search like hell to get that link).... anyway, I could totally see the traditional Wimbledon snack being taken over by Diet Pepsi Jazz: Strawberries & Cream. It tastes like those "[X] and cream" suckers that were popular back in the early 1990s.

You know, the Lifesaver ones. They were only the best suckers ever. They're probably not made anymore.

The Greatest Mystery

How is Rita Cosby still employed? I quite literally immediately change the channel whenever she comes on -- it's basically a reflex action.

With a few exceptions, I hate contemporary rap music. I hesitate to use the word "music," considering it more along the lines of noise created by unintelligent thugs. I come from a much stronger hip-hop background than any of my friends, who refuse to listen to the genre on face. My favorite record of 2004, The Perceptionists' Black Dialogue, is hip-hop, and I have dozens of rap and R&B records in my CD case. Yet the music I listened to in the mid-90s is gone, and the music I listen to now isn't mainstream. It's unfortunate pop music went in this direction, but the truth of the matter is that contemporary rap promotes murder, drug use, and the abuse of women. That's not a generalization; after all, let's sample some of the lyrics from the #1 song on Billboard's R & B and Rap charts, "It's Goin' Down" by Yung Joc.

Catch me in the hood posted at the sto
Pistol in my lap on the phone countin dough

I suppose you could argue his dough was acquired while in the legitimate job as store security guard.

Bitches in the back
Black beamer coups
Girls like girls time to recruit

It's not nice to call women "bitches," or to make them sit in the back of two-door cars. Do you know how hard it is to climb in back of a coupe while wearing heels? Do you? (I don't, so I really am curious to know.)

I ride real slow no need to speed
I keep my hands clean cuz I never touch dope

Here we go aga... wha? You mean he's serving as a traffic-law-abiding, anti-drug role model? Maybe I should rethink my position on contemporary rap. It sounds like Joc doesn't affiliate himself with the kind of crowds that suggest to young Americans that brazenly shooting people is okay.

Block/Bad Boy Entertainment rapper Yung Joc appeared on an Atlanta radio station Wednesday (May 3) to set the record straight regarding a recent shooting that left one member of Atlanta rapper T.I.’s entourage dead and three others wounded. [...] Gunfire was exchanged as two dark SUV’s chased the rapper’s van on Interstate 75, where the van blew a tire and came to a stop. Johnson was killed, while two members of the rapper’s entourage suffered minor wounds. One woman remains hospitalized.

Erm... whoops.

Anyway, this all has a point, because last night up in Gainesville, Tampa rapper Plies and his entourage whipped out handguns and fired into the audience during a show. Why? Let's go to the story.

We might as well be debating perestroika


On Monday, June 12th, Major League Baseball suspended Jason Grimsley 50 games for his role in a federal investigation involving human growth hormone (HGH).

The suspension of the already-unemployed Grimsley -- a folk hero of mine for his role in the Mission Impossible-style replacement of Albert "Joey" Belle's bat in 1999 -- precipitated a torrent of attention toward the substance now considered a bigger threat to fair play in professional sport than steroids, which, unlike HGH, can be detected in testing. Baseball's launched its own investigation into HGH abuse, and sports talk radio has latched onto the HGH debate as its primary topic of conversation.

Thing is, they're all about 20 years late into the conversation. This isn't a matter of closing the barn door after the horse has escaped, it's more an issue of returning to the farm after it's been a Wal-Mart for a few decades.

In 1988, I was a ten-year-old fifth grader at St. Augustine Catholic School, a tiny K-8 institution in my hometown of Napoleon, Ohio. My father, coach of football, basketball, and tennis, also directed the NHS speech team, having been introduced to forensics in college and turning out to be quite successful at the activity. Eager to introduce me to competitive speech, he brought me to the high school one evening to observe practice. One of the young team members was a boy who was my first real role model, a St. Augustine alum named Matt Gunter. Matt would later go on to graduate from Notre Dame and find a successful career in accounting. Four years ahead of me in school, Matt exhibited academic and athletic leadership that I really wanted to emulate. That evening, though, Matt was a freshman practicing a persuasive speech he'd written about the abuse of a substance called human growth hormone. He presented anecdotes about people suffering from pituitary gland disorders that stunted their growth -- mentioning a diminuitive fifth grade classmate of mine named Melanie -- and how HGH was ending up in the hands of professional athletes instead of people like Melanie, who actually needed it.

The speech provided solutions on institutional and legislative levels, suggesting reform in the methods of manufacturing and distribution, and I was moved by the idea that public speaking could target a specific social problem and provide ways for the public to act on a solution.

That was 18 years ago, and we're just now bringing the HGH debate to a national level.

Why weren't we listening to people like Matt back then? Denial about the lengths to which athletes will go to enhance their abilties is one reason. The August 23, 1983 New York Times featured an article discussing the possibility of doping issues creeping into the upcoming 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. At the time, the USOC head of drug testing was a West German named Dr. Manifred Donike. Donike dismissed the value of HGH, explaining work to stop its proliferation would be useless, and future drug scandals were unlikely:

Dr. Donike said those days might be over. He said drug problems in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics should be minute. He dismissed claims for the effectiveness of HGH (human growth hormone), supposedly the newest wonder drug for athletes. ''Chances are small,'' he said, ''that's there's anything else out there.''

HGH was one of the first genetically-engineered substances, and the first to result from the Genentech organization, which enthusiastically promoted its synthesis at the cost of research into its possible abuse (April 18, 1984 Financial Times).

Genentech is now the world's leading biotech firm with a value of $82 billion.

In 1989, West German (forgive my consistent use of the term, I'm dealing with a bit of ostalgie today) magazine Stern published a report that Seoul Olympic tri-gold medalist Florence Griffith Joyner had received HGH from a fellow runner. Joyner laughed off the allegations.

The 1992 death of NFL star Lyle Alzado brought new attention to the debate. Alzado maintained his fatal brain tumor was due to his years of steroid abuse, though individuals familiar with Alzado's regimen have maintained he switched to HGH after the NFL's introduction of drug testing in 1987. As HGH directly affects the behavior of the pituitary gland, situated at the base of the brain, it's not a stretch to assume HGH might have been a contributor to his cancer.

Joyner herself died in 1998, having experienced a major brain seizure. Joyner retired from competition immediately after the '88 Olympics, and suffered major seizures starting in 1990 and continuing on until her death.

Did HGH kill Alzado and Joyner? Is it more than a "natural body substance" as suggested in a 1990 New England Journal of Health article? Are the side effects more severe than enlarged facial features and "gigantism"?

I'm not laying out those arguments here. What I am saying is that the current investigations being undertaken by Congress and Major League Baseball are laughable. HGH has been a problem in professional sports for more than 20 years, and it shouldn't have taken the search of a journeyman reliever's house to instigate the investigation of its abuse. It's time for sports organizations to confront their denial and for the public to ask why it's taken so phenomenally long to get to the bottom of the issue.

This has been #3 in a series of "30 in 30" essays.

Hell week & the Nike Father's Day spot

It's Hell Week, in which I have two massive papers to write, 400 pages of 109 East Palace to read and analyze, and a semester's worth of "Seminar on the American Southwest" to study in preparation for Thursday's final. I have to give my own final, too, and lecture for three hours tomorrow, but that's the least of my worries right now.

I've been doing work all day, and have had the television on; first, World Cup Soccer, then the U.S. Open, and now the NBA Finals. Nike's been running a spot all day for Father's Day, featuring the Zombies' This Will Be Our Year and various home movie clips of Tiger Woods with his father, who died a month ago and whose importance to his career can't possibly be overestimated. [Watch the ad here.] Woods, so distraught by the loss of his father, took time off since the May 3rd passing and only this weekend entered the U.S. Open, where he failed miserably -- missing the cut in a major for the first time in his career.

So in light of all this, Nike's throwing an ad with a song I will always associate with loss (OK Go's cover of This Will Be Our Year was Track One on the "Future Soundtrack of America" sent to all of us who donated in the pre-2004 election months) along with seeing a kid with his dad, a dad who just died, and...

It's horrible.

I know Nike is trying to pay tribute to "dads everywhere," but, frankly, I find the commercial horrifying. I'm not emotionally affected by much of anything, but I find this spot so phenomenally depressing (and I've seen it about ten times already today) that I literally get teary-eyed every time it starts, and not in the good way of being "touched" but in the fearful, scared, "God, I love my dad, I cannot fathom what I would do without him, I'm very frightened now" way.

I'm sure some think the spot is touching and a tribute. I find it morbid and frightful.

Back to work.

O Brother, Where Art Thou Paper?


I started this blog to post my papers and essays. I haven't been posting them with the proper promptness.

Here's the one I wrote today about the Coen Brothers' O Brother, Where Art Thou?

A question for anyone with an answer

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Okay, so a Weapon of Mass Destruction was found nearby at a porn shop up Rt. 301. I can't figure something out:


Killed five. Weapon of Mass Destruction

Weird chemical mix at the porn shop:

Killed zero. Weapon of Mass Destruction

TEC-DC9 used by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold:

Killed 12. Not a Weapon of Mass Destruction

This is how we do it


We'll recap the Grey's Anatomy finale when we have a chance, but for the most part, I'm simply say that if Shonda wants to learn how to write a season finale, she could look at last night's ER. shit.

I realize I've made the differentiation in the past about why Grey's isn't and shouldn't be ER, and I certainly hated the Super Bowl bomb scare episode, but, Christ, after Monday's letdown, to have ... I dunno, there were about five real "oh, shit" moments last night, and I wish Television Without Pity still recapped ER but they stopped a looooooong time ago. Go find it on the torrent sites and thank me later. I gotta spend all day packing.

And with one swift stroke, it was over

Was anyone else disappointed that we didn't get to see Toby's reaction?

I'm pretty non-functional right now. The fact I was up at seven this morning, after last night's wedding, drove three hours, boarded a plane, and drove another three hours, followed by saying goodbye to what's really been a rock in my personal world of entertainment... well, yeah. I'm pretty numb right now. And I have to be up at 6:30 tomorrow morning to teach. So we'll chat about the past few weeks... later. Topics include Opening Day, the trip to Atlanta (a post was already written about that, but lost to the world of me not saving Movable Type drafts), depression, heartbreak, professional rejection, losing my roommate, my pending homelessness, and a truly fantastic weekend in the Nasty for Greg and Jenna's wedding. And yeah, I have some comments on the end of the intelligent television era.

Oh, and if you caught the teaser for Studio 60, I can report this: Sorkin is back from the 'shrooms (or maybe back on them) and it's going to be amazing. How do I know? Check out this line from the pilot episode:

WES (beat) What happens if I say no? What if I go on air with the sketch?
JERRY I'm not gonna answer that.
WES Why?
JERRY 'Cause if you still had the muscle to do it you wouldn't have asked.

The entire episode is the classic fast-paced, biting dialogue that's the Sorkin hallmark. I'm psyched. And getting to watch Brad Whitfield scrape out Sorkin's alliteration for the first time in four years is gonna be the best thing ever. What's even better is what happens immediately after that dialogue -- it relates to my lamentation of the death of intelligent television.

Bed time. I'll comment on Grey's Anatomy a year from now or something. And what's with all the inspirational music in the latest Da Vinci Code TV trailers? It's not like it's a story about the triumph of the human spirit or something. It's an action thriller. Unless they plan on having Langdon do his hourlong lectures where he gets all the "facts" wrong while being chased by a killer... like in the book. But I'm pretty sure the movie's only two hours long, so that's doubtful. The history of the sacred feminine's really not all that important, anyway.

Coca-Cola Blak: revisited


It looks like I'm not the only one reviewing Coca-Cola Blak. The Impulsive Buy, Lord Jezo, I Ate A Pie, and News You Can Eat have been talking about it too. Also, The End Is Now.

New posts coming soon, I promise. I still haven't reviewed opening day, and that was weeks ago.

Product Review: Coca-Cola Blak


With a $100 gift card burning in my pocket, I went grocery shopping at Target and came across the wonderful product known as Coca-Cola Blāk.Yes, with the line over the a. That might not show up correctly on your monitor. I'm sure my first-grade teacher Mrs. Inkrott told us what that line was called when we did phonics but I did not pay attention to one minute of my first grade class. I was enveloped in reading Encyclopedia Brown books and daydreaming about Robin Evans from TV's Riptide. Anyway, the line is there to inform you it is not pronounced "black" as in Big Blak Afrika of the Mau Maus:

...but "blake" as in Robert Blake.

Why they named a beverage after the In Cold Blood actor I'll never know. But the line above the A is there clear as day! See?

I felt the pangs of apprehension that I recognized well from pondering involvement with a Bush Voter... or a lesbian... or a student. But it was a scant $4.99 for a four-pack, so I thought I'd bite the bullet and do you all a favor in reviewing the fine product. With industrial pipecleaners I pushed down my inhibitions and placed the brown package in my red receptacle. (That last line is here just to garner google hits from creatively-languaged perv searchers.)

Kareem Wilson bobblehead approves. Will I? Click the jump to find out.



Maggie Gyllenhaal knocked up, engaged

This is REALLY a bad week for me as far as girls I have crushes on goes. And all in time for my trip to Atlanta tomorrow morning! Meh. Maybe a change in scenery will be good for me.

I guess this 2003 prediction isn't to be:

Attention, Meredith

He's not going to pick you,

He's not going to choose you,

He's not going to love you.

I don't need to hear your pathetic pleas in every week's recap, especially when we're constantly having reruns thrown at us.

I, however, will search worldwide for my big-eyed husky-breathed brunette Ivy League doctor. Soooooo ... gimme a call sometime?

Myriad ruminations

What do the following have in common?

Billy Packer
Paris Hilton

Prompted by this, FHM's 100 Sexiest Women 2006, I have to ask the question. Furthermore, #11 Hilton actually FELL from #3 last year! Huh? Who actually finds her even tolerable, let alone sexy? It's the same thing as Billy Packer; if nobody likes him, why is he CBS' lead analyst?

I'm sure the answer is one I really don't want to know. I'm sure there's a subset, a majority, even, that I'm not aware of. The mass of humanity with which I am so disconnected I am not even aware they sleep nightly dreaming of the ACC and a skanky blonde ho.

Meanwhile, this woman was ticketed for a lewd bumper sticker. Her violation? She's "Tired of all the BUSHit." Let's confront the definition of "lewd," shall we? Oh Henry Campbell Black? Is that you?

adj., adv. references to conduct which includes people living together who are known not to be married, entertainment which aims at arousing the libido or primarily sexual sensation, open solicitation for prostitution or indecent exposure of genitalia (which is itself a crime).

Or maybe go to the source, Swearingen v. U.S. (1896)?

calculated to corrupt and debauch the minds and morals of those into whose hands it might fall

Yeah, that bumper sticker's bad news, right? Unfortunately, even if you can make that tenuous link, the lewd bumper sticker law was overturned back in 1991. How, pray tell, does one enforce a law that hasn't been on the books in fifteen years?

Grier, the police officer and an ACLU attorney will meet in court next month when Grier contests the misdemeanor charge, which carries a $100 fine.

THE CASE HASN'T EVEN BEEN DROPPED. Though I have to say I'm a bit perturbed by it all. A whole hell of a lot more than $100 of my ACLU money is going to go to fighting that fine.

I have a badass commercial to show you all, but YouTube is taking forever to process it. So it'll have to wait.

Wonderful news

So [info]sickdogg has asked me to be one of his groomsmen for his November wedding to Jennifer, and I have accepted! It is, finally, the first wedding I will be participating in ever. I am 27, and I realize most people have been in several weddings to this point. My friends have been kind enough to, like me, remain single, or at least un-betrothed to this point.

I am psyched about this opportunity, mainly because I am t3h hotness in a tuxedo.

I'm sorry, but I just can't buy 24 anymore. After all the terrorism that has happened in its world, it blows my mind that people would be so willing to comply with terrorists obviously bent on mass murder. Oh, and the lead story on my Fox news is that they found a Nazi in Gulfport. Huuuuuh? I found a whole bunch in Brooksville.

We're in the last week of spring training. I think I'll be able to make it to games Thursday and Friday, see the latest Jobsite show, and make my way to Gainesville Saturday to drop in on my forensics pals. I feel bad that I can't spend the weekend there judging and doing things I ought to be doing, but I have to get back to town Sunday to write a paper on Veronica Mars I'll be presenting in two weeks in Atlanta.

...and William Hung is on Arrested Development while Ron Howard openly rips off Kevin Smith for the idea of Judge Reinhold as an actual judge. What... is the world... coming too.

Also, stop saying GMU over UConn is the biggest NCAA upset ever. Statistically it wasn't even the biggest upset of this year's tournament. (That honor goes to Montana over Nevada.)

A Cornucopia of Nonsense

1. WKU frat accused of hazing incident involving sex with a kid. They don't call it Wacky because of the school's name. (There's a goatse joke in here somewhere.)

2. Speaking of frats, one of my students invited me to give a talk at his fraternity (Alpha Kappa Psi) about the importance of public speaking in business. I've never given a talk before. My father pretty much does this for a living. Whatsoever shall I discuss?

3. I am in a smidge of trouble. Well, I have trouble with the trouble. It's rather as if I responded to the question, "How long have you been beating your wife?" with, "Only since she quit trafficking heroin for me."

4. Two words: Russian curlers. I sort of have crushes on the Americans Cassie Johnson and DEFINITELY Jessica Schultz. Mmm.

5. No, seriously, the blonde Russian? I'd have her babies.

6. My obsession with The KLF is out of hand. I've managed to find a torrent with pretty much everything they ever released; every single, every video, everything. These guys were so freaking weird. And awesome. I played 3 AM Eternal (Live at the S.S.L.) for my Persuasion students Wednesday. They looked on, bemused, being entirely unfamiliar with the act that sold more records worldwide than any other in 1991.

7. Meetings suck, and the one I have at 3:30 today takes the cake of suckitude. Not because I mind meetings as much as it is a pain in the ass to have to drive to campus on a Friday afternoon, and DRIVE BACK at 5pm.

8. Who knew 768 megs of RAM wouldn't be enough?

What. Are. They. Doing?


Cartoon Network has now shown the seven year old short Boo Boo Runs Wild at the 1am slot of [adult swim] for eight straight weeks. They could be showing an episode of Space Ghost: Coast To Coast or The Brak Show or maybe, just maybe, Cartoon Planet but no. They show the truly horrible Boo Boo Runs Wild, OVER AND OVER AGAIN. Their bump cards only state "we want you to learn every word." Well, thanks Cartoon Network, but it's so horrible I can't really bear to watch it.

If anyone has any idea what they're trying to accomplish with this nonsense, I'd like to know.

Back to work.

That was disappointing

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I came home from the bar where my friends and I had watched this year's Super Bowl (the annual ad review for which will be coming, most likely, Thursday), and settled down for the megahyped episode of Grey's Anatomy that I'd been looking forward to for so long. And by "so long," I mean a week.

How disappointed I was.

Why I love living in the big city

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The last two evenings, I have had the luxury of motoring downtown to the beautiful Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Jobsite Theater is pulling double-duty right now, with a front end of Suzan-Lori Parks' Topdog/Underdog and a nightcap of Michael Blieden's Phyro-Giants!.

Thursday was Topdog/Underdog. A darkly comic look at two brothers in a ramshackle apartment in some unnamed metropolis, it's the story of an ex-hustler of three-card monte and his younger sibling, a petty thief who dreams of a future dealing the same game. It's been reviewed in several places by people much more talented than I at theatre criticism, so I won't go into details. There's really only one word to describe Jobsite's production: intense. The script, which won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize, is rapid-fire and gorgeous poetry. The actors, longtime spoken word artist and comic "ranney" and young actor/2nd grade teacher Derek Lance Jefferson, are amazing at bringing Parks' words to life, and the sparse set's masterfully done by USF grad Brian Smallheer. I was fortunate to talk to the director, Paul Potenza, at intermission and briefly after the show, where he expressed his gratitude for my support. Support is not a strong enough word to describe what this performance deserves. It's really, really, really good, folks. I have to urge you to check it out before it closes next weekend. Tickets are 50% off with a college ID, so there's really no excuse for you to miss it. Please, please, please do yourself a favor and see this show. We really don't deserve stuff this good in a town like ours.

Last night, after a boring meeting, an impromptu happy hour, USF basketball game, and dinner with my friend Jillian, her husband, brother, and his wife, I again ran down I-275 to the TBPAC. Upon arriving, I saw "ranney" and Jefferson talking to friends outside the theater, and I spoke with each briefly about the previous night's performance. I'm not a starf*cker by any means, but I love that I was able to impress upon these gentlemen my appreciation for their craft. I made it a point to bring up [info]obetz to Jefferson, an alum of Morehouse College's drama program.

I then headed into the theatre for Phyro-Giants!. Paul Potenza had introduced me the night before to Ryan McCarthy, who plays Melvin in this show about four... we'll call them friends... finishing dinner at a restaurant. It's a short show, 70 minutes with no intermission, and again there are myriad reviews so I won't go into all that. [info]maladr1n showed up to introduce the show, and I tried to stick around afterward to see if he was around but it was raining and so I went home. Director Kari Keller was standing in for the waitress role (and did a great job) so I didn't get to talk to her, either, but I must impress upon you all that this show is breathtaking in the sense that you'll laugh so hard you won't have any breath yet. Shawn Paonessa, who did a phenomenal job in co-writing and starring in this past summer's March of the Kitefliers (about which a little bird told me some news might be coming) is hilarious himself, but it's really McCarthy who steals the show. He's the kind of actor I'd like to be someday. Kat Stevenson and Summer Bohnenkamp-Jenkins are crisp and endearing.

It's the directing, though, that keeps this show together. I've coached plays for a long time, and I know how difficult it is to keep dialogue coming quickly yet still have it appear natural. Jobsite's Phyro-Giants! is phenomenal in this aspect. It's particularly important with the different audience reactions I'm sure they're getting every night. I grew up in the theater, my mom being a director and occasional actor, so I have a weird appreciation for it. I've now seen two shows directed by Kari Keller, and I pretty much have a huge crush on her because of it. I wonder if she's single.

There's a week left of both shows. Do yourself a favor and find a night to see both. Check your times at the Jobsite Theater web site and make a evening of it. For half the price of a ticket to Wicked you can see two great shows from right-up-close. Bring some friends. You won't be disappointed, and if you are, I'll personally refund your money. We're amazingly fortunate to have people who work this hard in the Bay area.

Blogging, writing, and audience

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[info]aeforge has has an excellent essay on the drive to blog and a bending-back (a reflexive turn, perhaps?) of the Internet to its discussion-based roots.

Read it. Now.

On unions, doctors, and Thanksgiving turkeys

Tonight's Grey's Anatomy featured a nurse's strike as the umbrella plot device. While I wasn't happy with its portrayal, considering it fairly trite and one-dimensional, there were issues raised by it that stirred a few responses in me.

How many people ruin themselves by laying out money on trinkets of frivolous utility? What pleases these lovers of toys is not so much the utility, as the aptness of the machines which are fitted to promote it. All their pockets are stuffed with little conveniencies. They contrive new pockets, unknown in the clothes of other people, in order to carry a greater number. They walk about loaded with a multitude of baubles, in weight and sometimes in value not inferior to an ordinary Jew's-box, some of which may sometimes be of some little use, but all of which might at all times be very well spared, and of which the whole utility is certainly not worth the fatigue of bearing the burden.

-Adam Smith, 1759.From This Blog Sits At The

Is Grey's Anatomy any good?

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I caught up on some television today while sweating off a hangover from last night's bash at [info]tinafizz's. I am several months behind; episodes build up in the TV directory of my server, waiting for my Xbox to order them up like hearts when you're holding all red AKQJJ.

I couldn't decide if I was in the mood for Veronica Mars, Law & Order, Alias, The Office, Arrested Development, Numb3rs, or any of the other myriad programs I download weekly due to the cable company's piss-poor DVR being a piece of crap. So I decided to catch the last three of Grey's Anatomy, and pondered whether or not I think it's a good television program.

A TV show, like any narrative, is held up to scrutiny along two lines of cognition: Narrative coherence and narrative fidelity. Narrative coherence refers to whether the story "holds together" and makes sense in the world. Do the characters behave in rational, or if not rational, realistic manners? Do computers/hacking really work the way represented in the story? (That's a big stumbling block for me, and after watching a woman on Numb3rs WAVE A MAGNETIC WAND over a broken hard drive platter, extracting a .jpg in the process, I might have to stop watching the show.) Narrative fidelity is the nature by which the story "rings true," or reflects our own life experiences. Can we identify with the characters, and see our own thoughts and emotions in theirs?

It's in this analysis that I have to bring up the question posed in today's subject line. A more pragmatic person might simply ask, "Do you watch the show?" to which I'd obviously answer "Yes" and thus it must be "good" because I don't, as a rational human being, watch bad television. (The pragmatist does not realize I voluntarily watch The Biggest Loser and even those late night commercials for the loathed Girls Gone Wild. Perhaps we need to reconsider the concept of rationality.)

Anyway, let's look at the show through the first dimension, narrative coherence.

The vast majority of the program (at least in this, its first full season) has dealt with the complexity of the sexual relationships occurring amongst the show's characters, who essentially are banging each other with regularity. They are all phenomenally attractive human beings, easily engaging with each other but with the expected results. Even the "lovable loser" cliche of George O'Malley is cute. It's not ER by any means; while the medical situations due move the plot occasionally, this show is about the relationships amongst the characters -- and nearly the entire show takes place inside the hospital where they're surgical interns.

Narrative coherence would mean I would have to buy into the idea that people placed into this situation would inevitably end up screwing each other. I've been working full-time as a professional for seven years now. While I work in the field diametrically-opposed (in terms of intensity of work) to medicine, I can't say I've observed co-workers going at it with such fervor and passion. Maybe I'm blind; maybe I don't get the invites to those parties. Most importantly, the utterly single nature of each character is particularly out-of-line with my observations of the world. I don't buy that all these gorgeous doctors emerged from med school without a one of them being in a serious relationship. (Then again, I dated a med student a while, and knowing the life she lived, perhaps it's not that absurd after all.)

Regardless, this is either a commentary on the lack of narrative coherence for Grey's Anatomy or on the lack of my having ever been on the "Everybody's Having Lots Of Sex" train.

As for fidelity, I think the show comes through a bit better. A recent episode dealt with the boons and banes of solitude; the reactions to which amongst the characters I certainly found reflective of the way I see things. There's a spectrum line upon which lies the dot that represents our comfort with being alone. At one end we have the Ted Kaczinskis of the world, and at the other, the hypersocial. While the show in its first season focused closely on the title character, the second season has been fairly even-handed in taking a more omniscient perspective (making Meredith Grey's occasional voiceovers a bit of a paradox, but anyway). It's been to the benefit of O'Malley, ever-longing after Meredith -- the only girl for whom he wears a heart on his sleeve, but obscured by the black armband of self-doubt. Even Alex -- the future cosmetic surgeon and embodiment of the cold, heartless surgical cliche -- suffers his first major mistake in the manner you or I would: with anguish and dejection.

I've always wondered why programs about the most exclusive and least-identifiable occupations (medicine, law, politics) are the most popular on television. It would seem that to create narrative fidelity, writers are challenged further to make these very unique characters behave in the manner a common viewer would, with the same goals, hopes, and aspirations. Of course, dramatic programs about more commonplace situations occasionally succeed; Boston Public, Six Feet Under, Joan of Arcadia (ignoring the metaphysical dimension), and others. Alas, most "everyday American" programs are relegated to the half-hour sitcom format, where they flourish.

Some critics respond to this by saying, "If people wanted to watch dramatic television about their lives, they wouldn't have to watch television. They could just watch life." In her book on Irish television drama, Helena Sheehan of Dublin City University says the key to good writing for a TV drama is the same as good writing in any narrative: evocation. Viewers don't need to identify with a television character's occupation, living situation, or degree of wealth; they simply need to have emotions that they recognize evoked by the story. In that, I have to question whether or not we (the people in my academic genre) have been privileging autoethnography to a degree. I'm not entirely sold, anymore, that autoethnography is any better than fiction writing; nay, I don't even know if it's even different. So should I abandon autoethnography and go into fiction writing? (Television writing?) I don't know if I'm that creative. I'd like to think I am. What I know is this: I'm not reading autoethnographies and yelling, "What an asshole!" I'm not reading autoethnographies and writing about them here. I *am*, however, reading autoethnographies and saying, "I hope I'm never this self-involved and pretentious."

I think we all need to watch more, not less, television. We just need to be more conscientious of what we're getting out of it.

Quick Grammy nominations reax

Record of the year:
Mariah Carey (haven't heard it)
Gorillaz (don't even know who they are, though if they have De La Soul, it can't be bad)
Green Day (good song, but probably the 4th best cut on that LP)
Gwen Stefani (dear god shoot me with B-A-N-A-N-A-S)
Kanye West (my pick)

Album of the year:
Mariah Carey (see above), Paul McCartney (ditto), Gwen Stefani (gag), U2 (auto-nomination), Kanye West (my pick)

Song of the year:
(I either don't like or am not familiar with any of the choices here)

Best new artist:
Ciara (who?), Fall out Boy (sucks), Keane (boring), John Legend (who?), SugarLand (who?)

Rock Performance by Group:
Coldplay (good song), Foo Fighters (average), Franz Ferdinand ([info]_mathlete approves), The Killers (meh), U2 (boring)

Rock Song:
Foo Fighters (meh), Weezer (seriously? the song is okay I guess), U2 (blah), Bruce (okay I guess), Coldplay (my pick)

Urban/Alternative Performance:
I'll go with Mos Def since I have never heard of these other people.

Honestly, nearly all these records were fantastic this year. I couldn't begin to pick one over the other. Or I will: Lee Ann Womack. Note that Big & Rich, those totally homosexual guys, got a nomination for best group performance. Cincinnati Chili forever!

My money is on Eddie Blazonczyk's Versatones, my all-time favorite polka band. Though Jimmy Sturr has like 40 grammies already, so he's the favorite.

Spoken Word:
Tough competition here. Garrison Keillor, Al Franken, Barack Obama, and George Carlin will fight it out. Sean Penn will stand on the sidelines and claim bigotry.

Compilation Soundtrack:
Beyond the Sea, Napoleon Dynamite (CANNED HEAT BABY), Dylan, Ray, Six Feet Under. You know who my pick is... the underdog.

More later.

Inalienable rights

Your semi-regular television update:

Veronica Mars just had sex and I feel a little less innocent than I did yesterday. I'm only a few weeks behind, and anxious to get caught up just in time to go away for Boston in a week and fall behind again.

Oh, now she's hacking an iPod Shuffle. And wearing a plaid skirt. Where... where were those girls in high school. Where are those girls now?

Actually, It's not enough to overcome the sappiness of her being with Duncan this whole season. I realize why they have to do this; high school girls WANT Veronica to be with the cute, rich boy; high school girls are the target market for this show. 27-year-old men who want Veronica to be the spunky single girl who doesn't walk around holding hands with her boyfriend are really not their demographic. Especially ones who watch downloaded HD versions without commercials anyway.

Meanwhile, Alias has added a hot blonde to replace the two other female agents who've become incapacitated, one via zombiehood and one via Ben Affleck.

ohhhhhh Doctor! She's 1337 hax0r too.

Yeah, Mssr. Abrams knows what he's doing. I'm five episodes into the season and still not sure what the story arc is, but I can dig whatever's going down. It certainly doesn't require any thinking whatsoever.

...Which brings us to Sunday's live The West Wing debate. What a debacle. I don't mean to allege it was anything but fabulous, but like any Aaron Sorkin brainchild, TWW is built on rapid-fire speech patterns and nary a pause in the dialogue. Alas, with the live format, stumbles, pauses, and ackwardness were abound. Furthermore, while the script called for Santos to have a much stronger debate than Vinick, the superior acting skills of Alan Alda made it appear the opposite. At the same time, the idea was awesome, and it's a rarity to see full-format scripted live television. So it's worth it just for that. Yet as far as the TWW canon, this episode ranks near the bottom.

[info]kinky_carpet's nineteen and no longer eighteen and I feel a little less innocent than I did yesterday.

An inside tip

Them that's got are them that gets, and I ain't seen nothin' yet. - Ray Charles

No school tomorrow, due to... a lot of planned rain overnight. True masters of meteorology, them that's got. So I'm passing the time catching up on the television I missed tonight due to watching the baseball game and working on my album. But I'm inclined to fill you in on something I just picked up on -- courtesy repeated recommendations from Tony.

It's called Veronica Mars, and you ought to be watching it. Joss Whedon says it's "the best thing ever." And since I could never get into Buffy myself, I'm inclined to agree. Veronica Mars is, in essence, the anti-OC. Same set of characters, but written at a bit higher of a grade level. It's AAA to the OC's Top 40. It's like Dawson's Creek back in the days when Williamson was running the show (not surprising, since creator Rob Thomas cut his teeth writing episodes for the Creek's first season). Speaking of Thomas, he also wrote the episode of Space Ghost: Coast to Coast with Terry Jones (the one with the bizarre last-second Glen Phillips cameo) and worked for Channel One. His original background is, of course, journalism. He's like what I'd be if I had aspirations! He even wrote four teen novels!

...getting back to Mars. The soundtrack is kickass (I'm only four episodes into the first season, and I've already heard the Old 97's) and the dialogue trumps the occasional acting lapses. It's what Aaron Sorkin would write if his career sank to new lows due to mushroom overconsumption. It's for those of us who read the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown when we were kids. And did I mention Kristen Bell is the hottest thing since my car's A/C quit working?

yum. She's like a blonde [info]kinky_carpet.

Now, you could tune in to UPN Wednesdays at nine to watch it, too, but since it's extremely serialized I'm going to recommend you seek out your local video store for the season one DVD set or your favorite bittorrent search engine for the complete first season in (gloriously HDTV-capped) divx format. Grab a few beers, pop some kernels, and enjoy a pleasure for which even the most lapsed Catholic won't feel guilt. I don't have school tomorrow, so I think I'll knock off a few more episodes tonight. After Grey's Anatomy finishes on the DVR, at least.

Speaking of, are major network hour dramas still 44 minutes long? This particular episode seems to have a few more commercials than I'm used to. And since Time Warner disables commercial skip on their DVRs, I get to manually scan through every single spot aimed at the 18-35 female audience.

All quiet on the northeastern front.

Singin' those campfire songs

Women don't want their men to be smart.

They might think they do, or they might tell us they do, but they don't.

What do women want?


See, if there's anything that exclusively listening to country music over the past three weeks has taught me, it's insight into the psyche of the average woman. And that woman is not into a smart white-collar guy type. They want cowboys. They want guys who are quiet, strong, and tough. Guys who don't talk back, but do what they're told loyally and in order. This shouldn't be a surprise; in fact, [info]langster's been telling me this for years. But it never really clicked with me why until recently. It's way more simple than anyone ever thought. Perhaps I can let Lee Ann Womack explain:

Don't have to wow me like a long beard Shakespeare/Just talk plain talk right here in my ear
If you aspire to sophistication/I'll tell you now you're in the wrong location
Get out of here before this country girl gets to you

(written by Mark Sanders & Ed Hill), wait a minute. Why are two men writing about what a woman wants? See, that just complicates things even further. Clearly, Sanders & Hill have gotten over that barrier of female psychology. After all, they also wrote Faith Hill's "It Matters To Me."

Anyway, my point is, I'm totally in the wrong business, and have been from the beginning. Not like I can help it; our personalities shape our careers more than anything else, natch, and I'd just be the bookworm cowboy Lee Ann Womack wouldn't want anyway.

"But Tim," you say. "You're an academe. You're more into the intelligent, bookwormish girls anyway. In fact, you even have a thing for girls who wear black plastic frame glasses!"

...okay, so I do have a thing for the glasses. But if you think I'm not the Cowgirl type, then you don't know me very well.


Happy 100th birthday to the equation e=mc^2. Read more about it.

Grammar lesson

"The people we're talking about are not refugees. They are Americans," Bush stated. (Reuters)

Let us examine what is happening here.

First, let's break down that word "refugee." Its root is, of course, refuge. From the Latin refugium, "to escape," refuge is defined by Merriam-Webster as "shelter or protection from danger or distress/a place that provides shelter or protection." Thus, a refugee is an individual seeking shelter or protection from danger or distress.

Bush's argument for the rejection of "refugee" is Claim/Warrant A (individuals fleeing Katrina's damage /{ 'refugees' but individuals fleeing Katrina's damage {'Americans') is fallacious for a few reasons:

1. The rejection implies class 'refugees' and 'Americans' are parallel and mutually exclusive. Not so on either point.

a) Class 'Refugees' refers to all humans who are currently fleeing in search of shelter or protection. This is a conditional, behavior-contingent class. Class 'Americans' refers to humans who are citizens of the United States (colloquially). This is a nonconditional, politically-defined class. Thus they are not parallel.

b) It is fully possible to be both an American and a refugee. Indeed, by definition, American women who seek anonymous protection and shelter from domestic violence in facilities designed for this purpose are humans seeking refuge, and thus members of class 'Refugee.' They do not abandon their citizenship upon entrance of the home (and in fact become members of class 'Refugees' the moment they seek refuge; whether they find it or not is inconsequential). Thus class 'Refugees' and class 'Americans' are not mutually exclusive classes.

2. Hurricane Katrina evacuees are, by definition, members of class 'Refugees.' See above.

3. It is most certainly the case that several if not thousands of Katrina refugees/evacuees are not Americans at all, but citizens of a foreign country. Thus warrant 'They are Americans' to claim 'They are not refugees' lacks the required backing to be valid. That is, to say, unless Bush has unilaterally inferred citizenship upon those foreign nationals who are currently fleeing the damage.

One little statement. So many problems. (And before you post... yes, I realize Rev. Jesse Jackson has taken umbrage with the attribution of class 'Refugees' as well, but his argument isn't a logical claim, like Bush's -- it's a pathos claim contingent on perceptual meaning of the word 'refugee.' A similar example would be Nixon's "I am not a crook" which did not make a claim of innocence but rather an argument against the rhetoric inherent in the loaded term, 'crook.')
Current Mood: nerdy

I hope that come Friday, you'll see things my way

Woke You Up girl informed me last night, one day after I sang the song I wrote about her in front of an audience for the first time, that she was moving away this weekend because she found a better job (lots of demand for hyperbaric professionals out there, apparently.)

I know I really trivialize her by calling her Woke You Up girl or whatever, but, honestly, she's the only girl I've met in my nine months here that I've actually *liked*. (Let alone the only one I've been naked with.) So there's something sad about it, I guess. I know I pretty much had no chance with her after waking her up, but she was still someone I saw on occasion, and always knew when she was in the bar if I heard Round Here playing on the jukebox. In fact, when it came on last night, I immediately jumped up from the table and went in search of her.

So that's kind of a bummer. I guess I'll have to go in search of a new crush. I hope it doesn't take another nine months.

I watch a lot of movies and television shows. My friends put me down for this, being the elite academes they are. Shit, a lot of my friends don't even have televisions at all. Meanwhile, I pretty much catch every episode of Alias, 24, the West Wing, CSI, Law & Order, ER, Numb3rs, Boston Legal, Grey's Anatomy, the Simpsons, Family Guy, Arrested Development, and the Daily Show. Not to mention the nightly news, PTI, Sportscenter, and other dailies.

My DVR and TV bittorrent sites are my friend, as I'm rarely around when my programmes are on. For the most part, I spend saturdays from morning to when i go out at night catching up on my week's TV, while my friends read books.

I think TV shows are just as valid as a fiction book. Sure, there's a point to which people ought to read more; until about age 22, I think people ought to be reading constantly. The influence of reading on spelling, grammar, and vocabulary skills is consistently underrated. I think my skills in those areas are fine. I watch television for the narrative.

And I think the narratives are just as evocative as any story I could read.

I was moved, heavily, by Thursday's ER episode -- for a lot of reasons. First, I've been on Wrigleyville balconies just like the one that collapses in that episode, and wondered at the time if it was safe for so many of us to be out there. Second, it's pretty fucking sad that Carter is leaving. We're not fortunate in this age of free agency to have the luxury of watching an actor refine a character for such a long stretch of time. I'm not familiar enough with TV to know, but I'm guessing that playing the same character on the same show for eleven years is one of the longer runs.

For similar reasons, I was bummed at the end of Episode III last night. Not because it wasn't a good film; it was terrific. (Though I think Natalie Portman needed to look older; she really didn't appear to have aged since Episode 1). I was bummed because that was it, and it was such a rise up to become re-enveloped into the narrative, and while I realize there is an entire universe of extensions from the canon created by novelists, and indeed I even read several of them when in high school, it's not *real* to me. As I escaped the theatre, I wanted to be looking forward to the next stage. There is none (unless this alleged tv show becomes a reality).

I think the narratives television programmes can provide are overlooked, and I'll stand by the many mindless hours I sit in front of the tube. They're far from mindless.

Gender Trouble

There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender... Identity is performatively constituted by the very 'expressions' that are said to be its results. - Judith Butler

I love Judith Butler. I may disagree with her a lot, but what she writes is so brilliant your mouth just gapes open in awe at her transcendence. She's so amazing. I hope to some day be intelligent enough to really "get" what she's talking about.

Last semester, I took my first course in feminist methodology, and was introduced to Butler's work (for the most part, my previous research dealt with public rhetoric and nonsense like that, and having no feminist scholars on the staff of my previous workplace, I was pretty clueless. I was raised to believe I was a feminist, my mother having grown up in Toledo and in Steinem's shadow, but I had no theory background to back up this self-attribution.) Before I had this LJ, I did a lot of writing about gender, and my issues with it. I don't have gender issues personally, but other people have issues with my gender. It's a perception problem. The writing (which I have somewhere, and will put the essays I wrote here if I find them) dealt with the years I've navigated an odd public assumption that people have had since I was in high school. Despite my streak of hypermasculine heterosexuality, a large section of the public believes, upon meeting me, that I'm gay. Once upon a time, this was a problem for me, but around the age of seventeen or so I came to grips with it and laughed it off at the least and took advantage of it at the most.

Yet I'm placed in this section in between; I dress too nice to be a straight guy, but not nicely enough to pass sometimes. I use long sentences and complicated words, but with a deep, robust voice. My previous occupation is almost exclusively staffed by gay men, many of whom to this day refuse to believe I'm straight (to several of their's dismay). Straight folks lift their eyebrow; lesbians glare with distrust. I say with relative assurity that despite my mild-manneredness, I am a silhouette, a cast representation of something, but one that in the right lighting can be both deceptive and threatening.

Regardless of this public (im)perception, I perform me. Tim. I'm fortunate to be someone who really likes me, and continue to float in the in-between despite however long it's been since I last got laid (I quit counting months ago). I still read The Advocate and wear sweater vests and do whatever I'm driven to do, casting whatever public perception of my performative essence might be to the wind.

This all has a point.

Tonight I went looking for a coffee house I'd heard hosts Monday night open mics. I drove up and down Busch Ave. looking for the place, before finding a small building with a bunch of people out front. As I approached the structure, the scent of clove cigarettes confirmed I'd found the coffee shop.

I coughed up six bucks for a bottomless, grabbed the nearest magazine (which happened to be, of course, The Advocate) and took a seat on a sofa near the performance area. It's a cool place, but probably your typical bohemian coffee shop.

I soon realized that, apparently, a necessary quality for a Tampa Bohemian is homosexuality. Every individual in the shop was accompanied by a partner of the same sex. Cool, I thought; as young as the Tampa Bay area might be, it's sadly still Florida, and alternative lifestyles aren't as welcome in public spaces as, say, Ann Arbor or Athens or anywhere else I've lived. (Zanesville notwithstanding.) Yet, despite my choice of reading material, I was in that middle space, marked, with the stigma of a white, straight, male; an icon of the hegemony.

And the lesbians still eyed me suspiciously.

The rest of the night consisted of me slurping down coffee (which was quite good) and listening to the performers (who were quite bad). I decided, after hearing the third atonally-mumbled "song" in a row, that next Monday, I would bring my geetar and rock these people's world.

Then again, as my songs tend to be an outlet for my aforementioned hypermasculine heterosexuality, maybe not.


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