Monday, June 30, 2008

Past Week's Ledger

Days covered: 6/25/08–6/30/08
Miles traveled (airplane): 3,240
Miles traveled (bus + taxi): 536
Weddings attended: 2
Rehearsal dinners attended: 1
Strings of lights strung: 10
Cars driven: 2
Wedding brunches attended: 1.5
Tuxedos worn: 1
Suits worn: 1
Dates: 1
Diet Cokes drunk: About 196
Club sodas drunk: See above
Cigarettes smoked: Indeterminate
Dances danced: 10 (approx.)
Fun had: Lots
Times read Infinite Jest, spring 1997 to present: 2.269 (and counting)
Favorite passage from third re-reading (thus far):
Though Schacht buys quarterly urine like the rest of them [Quick backstory: Schacht, like “the rest of them,” is a student at an elite tennis academy, and is subject to quarterly drug-screenings; hence—since Schacht and the rest of them use “substances” (some, as we’ll see, more than others)—the need to buy “clean” urine to use in said tests—ed.], it seems to Pemulis that Schacht ingests the occasional chemical that way grownups who sometimes forget to finish their cocktails drink liquor: to make a tense but fundamentally OK interior life interestingly different but no more, no element of relief; a kind of tourism; and Schacht doesn’t even have to worry about obsessive training like Inc or Stice or get sick so often from the physical stress of constant ‘drines like Troeltsch or suffer from thinly disguised psychological fallout like Inc or Struck or Pemulis himself. The way Pemulis and Troeltsch and Struck and Axford ingest substances and recover from substances and have a whole jargony argot based around various substances gives Schacht the creeps, a bit, but since the knee injury broke and remade him at sixteen he’s learned to go his own interior way and let others go theirs. Like most very large men, he’s getting comfortable early with the fact that his place in the world is very small and his real impact on other persons even smaller — which is a big reason he can sometimes forget to finish his portion of a given substance, so interested does he become in the way he’s already started to feel. He’s one of these people who don’t need much, much less much more.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

In the future

In the future, every goddamn thing on the face of this planet will be classifiable under one of four categories: luxury, artisan, organic, or gourmet. Case in point: This fucking ice cream truck, which as of today is plying the streets of SoHo with its overpriced, precious wares.

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin Has Left the Building

Rest in peace, George Carlin. You were a funny guy, and one of the rare comedians that really could kind of twist a listener's thinking, expose the absurdity and hypocrisy of those in power.

To wit, from Carlin's famous "Seven Words You Can't Say on Television" bit:

I love words. I thank you for hearing my words. I want to tell you something about words that I uh, I think is important. I I say, they're my work, they're my play, they're my passion. Words are all we have really.

We have thoughts, but thoughts are fluid. You know, [humming in a spacey way]. And, then we assign a word to a thought, [clicks tongue like snapping into place]. And we're stuck with that word for that thought. So be careful with words. I like to think, yeah, the same words that hurt can heal. It's a matter of how you pick them.

There are some people that aren't into all the words. There are some people who would have you not use certain words. Yeah, there are 400,000 words in the English language, and there are seven of them that you can't say on television. What a ratio that is. 399,993 to seven. They must really be bad. They'd have to be outrageous, to be separated from a group that large. All of you over here, you seven. Bad words. That's what they told us they were, remember? 'That's a bad word.' 'Awwww.' There are no bad words. Bad thoughts. Bad Intentions.

And words, you know the seven don't you? Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, and Tits, huh? Those are the heavy seven. Those are the ones that will infect your soul, curve your spine and keep the country from winning the war.

Listen to the whole thing here:

Friday, June 20, 2008

Everybody Here Comes from Somewhere

Last night I saw R.E.M. play at Madison Square Garden. It was the first time I’d seen them in concert since the summer of 1999. They played these songs:

Living Well Is The Best Revenge
These Days
What's The Frequency, Kenneth?
Bad Day
Hollow Man
Man-Sized Wreath
Leaving New York
Disturbance At The Heron House
(Don't Go Back To) Rockville
Driver 8
The One I Love
Until The Day Is Done
Let Me In
Horse To Water
Pretty Persuasion
Orange Crush
I'm Gonna DJ

Supernatural Superserious
Losing My Religion
Begin The Begin
Fall On Me
Man On The Moon

It was a great show. Lots of old chestnuts, including three songs from Reckoning, my dark-horse favorite early-period album of theirs, and “Let Me In,” off of 1995’s much-maligned Monster, done up in multiple acoustic guitar and organ (the original is just a ton of melodic feedback). Michael Stipe is a consummate showman. The crowd was pretty good, but you could tell some people were annoyed that they weren’t playing “their hits” (i.e., “Losing My Religion,” which they did play during the encore, thus allowing the two mooks in front of me to leave).

Which kind of leads me to this: To have such a huge fanbase, even if it’s leftover from the mid-90s when they had hit albums Automatic for the People and Out of Time, is bizarre for a band as weird as R.E.M. I mean they are a really fucking weird band: They are dorks. Weird dorks. Mike Mills is a dork, the kind of guy that the mook in front of me probably used to beat up in high school. Michael Stipe is gay — not usually a cheered-for-by-jocks demographic — and sings about summer camp and aluminum tasting like fear. I suppose Peter Buck is relatively normal. But how did this band ever get this big?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Jean Teasdale on Airlines

This op-ed, by Suzanne Barlyn, is just about the stupidest thing I've ever read about the airline industry. It really reminds me of The Onion's fake columnist Jean Teasdale ("I don't have to tell you Jeanketeers that Christmas is just around the corner, which means it's time for—you got it—TV Christmas specials."). Barlyn writes:
Just when it seemed that air travel couldn't be any more demoralizing, three major carriers announced plans to charge most coach customers $15 to check a first bag.

That's right. American Airlines, United Airlines and US Airways have made a decision to bring the industry's already pitiful customer satisfaction ratings down yet another notch. Passengers who dare to travel with -- gasp -- necessities, such as clothing and diapers, will now have to pay for the privilege, beginning this week.

What's next? A surcharge for the air that I breathe in the cabin?
Zing! Also: Diapers? How many diapers are you bringing? Why do you need so many diapers? Don't they sell diapers wherever it is you are going? (Note: These $15 checked bag fees are only applicable to domestic, not international, travel.) Anyway, Barlyn goes on:
Airlines are, understandably, struggling to remain profitable amid record fuel prices. I can deal with cutting routes to save money. I can even accept raising fares -- probably because airfares already seem so complicated that I would, admittedly, have a hard time understanding when I'm paying an extra $15 for a ticket.

But nickel-and-diming my family for baggage is absurd. If only I could enjoy the privileges of a corner office in exchange for making such stupid decisions.
First of all, the airlines are not "struggling to remain profitable"; they are struggling not to totally and completely flat run out of money. The only airline that is profitable is Southwest, and that is largely because the fuel it is using, because of hedge purchases against future fuel prices, costs about $50 a barrel, as opposed to the $140 a barrel other airlines are paying right now.

Secondly, about your family? Shut the fuck up. You shouldn't've had so many kids, and expect to fly to Florida for $200 for all five of you. It's unrealistic, and it's not the airlines' fault. Moving on:
Checking one bag each for my five-person family can now add $150 round-trip to our already pricy travel expenses. Imagine, paying extra for the hassle of checking your luggage, and then hunting it down when you arrive. I expect service when I fork over extra cash -- such as an expedited baggage claim process. But finding your luggage when you arrive at your destination is often an adventure of its own, and now we're paying more for the same old madness.

I intend to get around luggage fees, and the hassle of claiming our bags, by carrying on every last pair of socks.
What did I just say about your family!? Seriously, enough. And I love this, too: "Imagine, paying extra for the hassle of checking your luggage." Imagine! Imagine having to pay FIFTEEN DOLLARS so that you can put a bag on a flight that goes across the country in three hours! I can't! The horror, the horror.

And that's great: You intend to get around luggage fees by carrying on every last pair of socks. Wonderful. Thanks for fucking it up for the rest of us. Now, not only will we have to contend with your squalling five-ring circus of a family, we will also have to deal with your mountains of diapers and socks spilling out of overhead compartments.

Oy. I could go on but I won't. Read it for yourself. Just such a distasteful, annoying sense of entitlement.

Best Typo Ever

Check this out:
A former Delta Air Lines employee and two TSA security officers have both pleaded guilty to charges that they were involved in drug smuggling. According to the charges levied against the three former airline industry employees, they were involved in a heroine and cocaine smuggling operation based on Atlanta’s Harstfield-Jackson Airport.
That's right: They were smuggling Joan of Arc, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Batgirl.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Fair & balanced & racist

Once and for all, this is why FOX News is a racist piece of shit network:

Michael Calderone, for, writes:
Since Salon's Alex Koppelman caught Fox News characterizing Michelle Obama as "Obama's Baby Mama," there's been an uproar over use of such an offensive term.

“A producer on the program exercised poor judgment in using this chyron during the segment,” Fox's Senior Vice President of Programming Bill Shine said in a statement to Politico.

In addition to being insulting, the phrase "baby mama" is also inaccurate. The Urban Dictionary defines "baby mama" as"the mother of your child(ren), whom you did not marry and with whom you are not currently involved."

Although Shine doesn't name anyone responsible, the show's producer is Jessica Herzberg. A Fox staffer said that others internally were bothered by describing the potential first lady and very accomplished women — as the senator's "baby mama."

Unfortunately for the network, this comes just days after Fox's E.D. Hill addressed her use of the phrase "terrorist fist jab" on-air in reference to the famous Michelle-Barack fist bump (or pound) made just before his celebratory speech in St. Paul.
That is all.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

More disallowed words (now with suffixes!)

Esquire magazine recently published a piece on epithets, specifically those of the swear word variety. The package included an admonition to quit using the word "douchebag"—the argument being that we are stripping it of its meaning by using it so much, and that if we keep doing so it won't have the necessary sting when we really need it. I agree that we should quit using the word, but for different reasons: Namely, that a grown person should not be using any childish, gleeful, of-the-minute swear word. Here, Paul writes to the Corinthians:
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
Damn straight. If the level of a man's hatred for another person does not rise above "douchebag," then he should hold his tongue. Douchebags are, by definition, not even worth acknowledging—and like the crazy preacher on your college campus, with whom students would futilely try to engage and debate, the best offense is no offense at all. If a man really needs to tell another man off, there are plenty of fine, still-harsh words on offer. It's all about tone.

Addendum: All of the cousins of douchebag are also disallowed: douchetard, asshat, etc. (Basically just read Gawker: Whatever they call someone there, or in the comments section, don't say it. Ever.)

Other disallowed words/suffixes:
  • Any reformulation that uses "-erati"; i.e., "glitterati," "literati," etc. Just fucking quit it.
  • Any reformulation that uses "-ista"; i.e., "fashionista," "Clintonista." Everybody's gotta be famous.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Let me just say this:

Any Hillary supporter that votes for McCain (or no one) in November is a party traitor and should be excommunicated, and maybe deported. (Where's Putin when you need him?)

Watching the election returns last night, US News & World Report columnist and CNN panelist Gloria Borger said that she'd received an email from a Hillary supporter—in justification of Hillary's combative non-concession speech—saying that it was "her night." (Just to demonstrate that this wasn't a random lunatic supporter saying this, Terry McAuliffe, Clinton's campaign chairman, echoed this sentiment today on CNN's American Morning. John Roberts asked McAuliffe why Clinton didn't concede, and he responded, "In fairness, it was her night.")

"Her night"? Are you batshit insane? That's enough! Enough about yourself! Last night on CNN, when New Yorker writer and fellow panelist Jeffery Toobin heard Borger say that, he just about choked, remarking on the Clintons' "deranged narcissism." And you know what? As much as I love and have loved the Clintons, I'm well on my way to agreeing with Toobin.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

What I've Been Reading

1. Last week’s New York Magazine cover story, by Adam Sternbergh, about the Brooklyn real estate blog Brownstoner and the commenting imp who goes by the Seussian name (as the piece’s illustrations brilliantly convey) “The What.” The piece, linked here, is a perfect example of excellent magazine writing: Ostensibly it’s about the tiniest of subjects—the comments section of a niche blog—but really it’s about so much more: class anxiety and hatred, fear, racism, gentrification, money, renters vs. owners, and more. The excellent soft lede—and this is a great idea, really—is nothing more than an aggregate of comments from the site, all mashed together.

Note: The What’s blog-commenting “signature” is Robert Duvall’s famous line from Apocalypse Now: “Someday this war’s gonna end.” It’s unfortunate that Sternbergh doesn’t point out the way that Duvall says this line in the movie, which is in a wistful fashion that betrays his fondness for the war, from which he draws so much of his self-image and meaning. Would have added another good wrinkle to the article—The What loves the war, and maybe many involved on the Brownstoner blog do, too.

2. Emily Gould’s New York Times Magazine cover story from two Sundays ago, “Post-Blog Confidential.” In it, Emily, a former Gawker blogger, writes about starting a personal blog of her own, and then the ecstatic highs and disillusioning lows of her time as a snark blogger for hire with Nick Denton’s evil empire. It’s a bit self-involved (as I suppose any 10-page article about blogging must be), but it’s well-written and provides some insight into the acrimonious world of blogging. Emily writes this about her former employer:
Sometimes Gawker felt like a source of essential, exclusive information, tailored to the needs of people just like me. Other times, reading Gawker left me feeling hollow and moody, as if I’d just absentmindedly polished off an entire bag of sickly sweet candy.
In the parlance, I feel her. That’s the precise reason why I cold-turkey quit reading Gawker a few years ago, save for the occasional post forwarded to me by a co-worker or a friend. I switched to Gothamist, a much more optimistic and (I feel) healthy diversion, about all aspects of New York City. I highly recommend it.

3. The Ends of the Earth: The Finest Writing on the Arctic and the Antarctic, edited by Elizabeth Kolbert and Francis Spufford. Lately I’ve been easing back into what I’ll call Ice-lit, and I’ve been remembering what I like so much about it. It’s not the subject matter per se, it’s more the way in which the poles are like those weirdly magnetized places on the planet where cylinders roll uphill and compasses go crazy: They are places where the normal laws of the planet break down, and therefore I believe they are great “becoming” places. See this passage from Robert Peary, for example, from his (disupted) account of being the first to reach the North Pole:
It was hard to realize that, in the first miles of this brief march, we had been traveling due north, while, on the last few miles of the same march, we had been traveling south, although we had all the time been traveling precisely in the same direction. It would be difficult to imagine a better illustration of the fact that most things are relative.
… at some moment during these marches and countermarches, I had passed over or very near the point where north and south and east and west blend into one.
Brilliant. I felt the same way when I was on Antarctica, even though I did not reach that continent’s equivalent point. But I remember sitting on top of Observation Hill once, with someone, crouched in the lee of a rock and quietly looking out onto the frozen Ross Sea, which stretched in a solid white sheet to the horizon. All was still and silent and white, and a growing sense of unmooredness—from life, from the flow of time, from place, from purpose—spread throughout my body. It was like a hole opened up in the fabric of reality, and for a moment I could see through and beyond this hole into the heart of the universe's monolithic silence.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Poor Hill

From an article in today's Times:
“There’s nobody taking Hillary’s side but Hillary people,” said Donald Fowler of South Carolina, a former national party chairman and one of Mrs. Clinton’s most prominent supporters, referring to her campaign’s suggestions that she might seek to challenge the way the party resolved the fight this weekend over seating the Michigan and Florida delegations. “It’s too bad. She deserves better than this.”
Aw, how sad: No one is taking poor, pitiful MILLIONAIRE SENATOR Hillary Clinton's SIDE. (What is this, grade school?)

I like her and her supporters less and less each day. The rules of the contest were established before the contest began; you can't just go changing them mid-game when it suits you—that's a basic tenet of sportsmanship. Nor can you claim to have won the popular vote when you do not count voters in the states that held caucuses. (How, Senator Clinton, does that square with your "count every vote" mantra? Also: Shame on you for invoking the specter of Florida in 2000 for your own personal gain.)

Regarding the Dems' decision to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations, but with only a half-vote each—I think they made a good decision. This is not disenfranchisement, either—this is a political party's internal nomination process. I would have preferred for Michigan's delegation to not be seated at all, because how can this be fair—Obama's name wasn't even on the ballot—but I'm willing to accept compromise in the spirit of party unity. Hillary and her supporters should demonstrate that they are willing to do the same—and soon.