Designer Baby Names

NOW

~ Omg, these are soooo funny! You guys are gonna be such great parents. ~

Qwerty: It’s just, you know, we live in technological times, and I feel– I’m sorry, we feel that our child should express that.

Schlitz: Ha ha! Schlitz is so fucking gross! I mean, as a drink. As a baby name, it’s fucking tits!

Danzig Cleopatra: We think the name adequately symbolizes man’s constant diametric struggle between fighting and fucking in modern cultural power dynamics…What? Oh, it’s a girl.

Qbert: Remember Qbert? We totally want our kid to remember Qbert. It’s just so playful, and he should never forget his sense of play.

Boring: We’re planning on her name being ironic.

Humbert Humbert: This baby is going to get me so much librarian pussy.

Q: I just think people overthink the whole name thing, and I want my kid to really stand out. Also, I mean, James Bond, right?

35 YEARS LATER

~ Kids say the darnedest things… ~

Qwerty: I just go by Q. I got really into computers when I was 13, and I really wish I didn’t, because I…(sigh)…I hate working in the I.T. industry.

Schlitz: I’ve been married three times.

Danzig Cleopatra: I feel my name adequately symbolizes man’s constant diametric struggle between fighting and fucking in modern cultural power dynamics… Excuse me? That’s an extremely rude question.

Qbert: I just go by Q. I dunno, I think my folks thought I’d be like 10 years old forever, which would make them like, I dunno, 40 forever or something. Because they got really stressed with finances when I was in high school, and my dad only wanted me to be in jazz band, and I just don’t like jazz music that much, but… I’m sorry, I know that stuff I just said is kind of irrelevant, but I just found out they could have put away money, like, good money for my college, but just didn’t, and who knows why. And I’ve been carrying this debt, and, so, it’s kind of, I’m kind of thinking about all this stuff, and… anyway, I don’t really talk to them too much anymore. I get the sense I make them feel old now, but that could be just my take-away from it.

Boring: Yeah, it’s cool. Yeah. Sure.

Humbert Humbert: First off, I fucking hate that book. I just want to say that, fucking first and foremost. I know people think it’s a classic, and beautiful, because I’ve heard it my whole fucking life, but, personally, I think it’s disgusting and puerile and just flat-out immoral. I mean, the guy sleeps with children! And no, before you ask, it’s not funny, I do not sleep with children, okay? Just, don’t even ask. And I’ve had this, like, literary discussion with almost everyone I know, so, no, there is no arguing me out of it… On the plus side, I do get a fair amount of librarian pussy.

Q: Of course I go by Q. Why wouldn’t I? It’s my name. What do you want me to go by, “sheep” or something? You’d probably like that. You and my ex-husband, and my kids… No, no one gets the James Bond reference. They wouldn’t anyway, since I’m a girl.

Published in: on January 10, 2011 at 1:13 am  Leave a Comment  

The Cracks

“What about the people who fall through the cracks?” she said.

Yes, what about the people who fall through the cracks. Where are these cracks? Have they always been there, unavoidable bottomless pits penciled into the original schematic with achtung warnings via an outpost of orange cones, “Jesus Christ, whatever you do, don’t step here, just keep moving”? Or were they formed after the fact, disrupting the previously clean and ever-extending concrete, the world’s pressures shivering fissures due to intense swings of heat and freeze, feast and famine, quakes and foot traffic?

And these people, these people who fell through these cracks, where were they headed when they suddenly dropped from view, swished through the cragged canyons of life with cartoon speed lines and vertical hair, while the rest of us herd onward,  eyes forward, hats crisp, shoulders slouched from the weight of alternating shades of gray overcoats, trudging down that broad New York sidewalk none the wiser, except for those Brave Few, those Brave Few who cock their heads at the sudden gust of downward wind and wonder, “What about the people who fall through the cracks?

What about them, indeed?

Published in: on January 9, 2011 at 11:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Roman Polanski is a rapist; or, why Chinatown doesn’t matter

Roman Polanski is a child rapist. And Michael Vick killed dogs for pleasure. These are the facts, and they are undisputed.

Shame – SHAME – on anyone who defends those actions.

This doesn’t mean Polanski hasn’t gone through incredible, unspeakable horror and trauma in his life. Born in Paris in 1933, he and his ethnically Jewish but religiously agnostic parents moved to Krakow in 1939, only to be quarantined to ghettos by the ensuing Nazi invasion. Although Roman was able to escape the ghetto in 1943, his parents were not so lucky. His father was sent to the Mauthausen death camp and fought to survive through it, reuniting with Roman shortly after the war. His mother was sent to Auschwitz and was murdered.  The swelling ideology that overtook a nation and turned otherwise moral but weak minds into monsters has yet to leave our world; Mrs. Polanski’s murderers are reborn every day, and her son will never escape that.

As if this karmic punishment weren’t enough, Polanski also had to suffer through the murder of his wife, Sharon Tate, and unborn son. Polanski met Tate while filming The Fearless Vampire Killers back in 1967, and while neither apparently thought much of the other when they first began working together, by the completion of the film they were romantically living together in London. According to many, the relationship was a passionate one that gave Polanski some of the joy he most certainly lost during the holocaust. Of course, all that would change when, in 1969, while Polanski was abroad prepping a film, members of the Charles Manson cult entered the unlocked house Tate and Polanski shared in Bel Aire and ritualistically murdered Tate, her three friends, an unwitting visitor, and the unborn son that had rested 8 months in Tate’s womb. According to police reports and Tate’s murderer, Susan Atkins, not only was Tate stabbed 16 times while pleading for mercy, no less than 5 of those stab wounds alone were fatal. Polanski’s loss was magnified when a predatory press began to speculate, prior to the arrest of the Manson cult members, that Polanski’s hit film Rosemary’s Baby clearly pointed to strange satanist rituals and orgies the couple would host behind closed doors. Of course, the press was sure these self-inflicted practices were to blame for Tate’s death. Of course, these allegations were completely unfounded and debased by the arrests.

No one, not even a least-favored enemy, should have to be dragged through one of these horrific episodes, much less both. It’s too much to fathom. This kind of history can’t help but leave wounds too deep to remove, too wide to sew shut. Too rooted in the image of the feminine to be forgotten.

And yet, Roman Polanski is a child rapist. And Michael Vick killed dogs for pleasure.

According to court transcripts, on March 10, 1977, Roman Polanski picked up 13-year-old Samantha Gailey (now Geimer) for a picture shoot commissioned by French Vogue Magazine and centered around teenage female models. This was not the first time Polanski had photographed Gailey; little over two weeks prior, they had one previous session together on a hill by Gailey’s house, during which Polanski persuaded Gailey to remove her shirt for topless photos. According to later statements, most immediately seen in the 2008 documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, Geimer recalled how she was thrilled to work with the great Roman Polanski, by this time the world famous director of the modern classic Chinatown. However, let us put aside reflections upon the incident and return to the court-recorded account of the incident. Polanski first picked up Gailey from her house in the late afternoon, took her to an unidentified house for one round of photographs, but with about 5 people residing on that property decided to retreat to Jack Nicholson’s home just down the street on Mulholland. There, Polanski and Gailey encountered one dark-haired woman (unnamed but suspected to be Anjelica Houston, Nicholson’s girlfriend at the time). Polanski spoke to the dark-haired woman, then retrieved a bottle of champagne from the refrigerator, asking the 13-year-old Gailey whether he should open it or not. She said she didn’t care. He opened the bottle, poured three glasses. The dark-haired woman drank half her glass, then left for work. Polanski began to photograph Gailey with the champagne glass in hand, periodically refilling it to the point where Gailey could not remember how much she finally had. At this point, Polanski had again convinced her into topless photos.

Polanski then asked Gailey to continue posing in the outdoor jacuzzi. Before they stepped outside, Gailey placed a call to her mother, during which Polanski assumed the phone and assured the mother that she did not need to come pick up her daughter, that Polanksi would provide her with a ride home. Gailey then retreated to the bathroom, where Polanski joined her, presenting a pill split in three parts. Similar to the interaction involving the champagne, Polanski asked her if it was a Quaalude. She said yes. She had seen a couple before, and had experimented with one roughly about 2 or 3 years prior. He asked if he’d be able to drive if he took one. She didn’t know. He asked if he should take it. She didn’t know. He decided to take one. He asked if she wanted one. She said okay. She later said to authorities that she wouldn’t have taken one if she weren’t as drunk on champagne as she was.

Gailey, lacking a bathing suit and not wanting to get her dress wet, decided to go into the jacuzzi in her underwear. Not having a bra with her, this meant panties only. Polanski persuaded her to take the panties off as well. Gailey complied, later testifying to her fear of him. Polanski snapped a series of pictures, then retreated to the house, then returned without clothes, then joined her in the jacuzzi. Gailey became uncomfortable, and expressed her desire to leave the jacuzzi. Polanski beckoned her to join him at his end. She resisted, even saying her asthma was acting up when, in truth, she was not and had never before suffered from asthma. She simply wanted an excuse to get out. His persistence brought her over, but feeling uncomfortable as he ran his hands along the sides of her waist, she finally pulled herself out of the water and into a towel. Polanski retreated to the pool, beckoned her in, and to satisfy his request, she dove in and swam one length of the pool – again, both are completely naked – before getting out and back into the towel.

Gailey returned to bathroom to dry off and put her panties back on. Polanski joined her, concerned about her asthma. She asked to be driven home immediately. He said he would take her shortly. First, he wanted her to join him in the bedroom. With no other way home, she obliged him, sitting on a couch in the bedroom. Polanski joined her there. He asked if she was okay. She said she wanted to go home. He said she would feel better. He then started kissing her. She said no, but being afraid and intoxicated, she was not violent about it. He assured her he would take her home soon, then he removed the towel around her torso, then her panties, and began giving her oral sex. She again said no, but he did not stop. He then put his penis in her vagina and began having intercourse with her, during which he asked first if she was on the pill – no – and when she had her last period – two or three weeks prior. He said that he wouldn’t ejaculate inside her, then asked if she would prefer him to go through her anus. She said no. Despite her answer, he lifted her legs and put his penis in her anus. In speaking to authorities, she did not resist much because she was still afraid of him.

At this time, the dark-haired woman knocked on the door and asked if Polanski was in there. Polanski retreated to the door, cracked it an inch while he spoke with the woman, allowing Gailey to put her panties back on and walk toward the door. Polanski walked her back to the bed and, pulling her panties down, resumed anal intercourse with her up through his climax. Semen was left on her backside and in her panties. She pulled the panties back on, entered the bathroom, re-dressed herself, combed her hair, walked down the hall, said hello to the dark-haired woman lounging in the living room, left the house, and entered the car, waiting for Polanski to join her and drive her home.

These are the facts, and they are undisputed.

So Roman Polanski is a child rapist. And Michael Vick murdered dogs for pleasure.

Roman Polanski went through hell and back twice in his lifetime to be one of the finest directors the film industry has ever known. Rosemary’s Baby, Repulsion, Chinatown, these films are some of my favorites, and will continue to be considered as such. Chinatown will never come down from my shelf except to either load into my DVD player or loan out to those unexposed to its brilliance. But his talents do not nor should not cloud the fact that he used the privileges of his race, gender, age and artistic status to unduly manipulate a mentally-developing minor into a sexual act in which she did not want to engage. This makes him a rapist, pure and simple. This is not a question of morals, or even of a liberated European colliding against American Puritanism (and even if it was, the two cultures are incomparable: a 13-year-old French girl will have a vastly different emotional maturity than a 13-year-old American, and our respective laws must reflect that). Perhaps that argument might have held water if the act was consensual. But it was not. It was rape by any definition of the word.

For this act, Polanski first pleaded innocent to all six charges:

1) furnishing drugs to a minor;
2) lewd or lascivious acts to a child under 14 years of age;
3) unlawful sexual intercourse;
4) rape by use of drugs;
5) perversion;
6) sodomy.

The plea held until the undeniably incriminating evidence of the panties surfaced. This not only makes him a rapist but a liar as well. So at this point, he accepted a plea deal as set forth by Gailey’s attorney and agreed upon by the prosecution that saw Polanski cop to the weakest of the 6: unlawful sexual intercourse. (That sodomy was ranked a more punishable crime than statutory rape is somewhat disturbing, but at least it is no longer a crime at all.) Unfortunately, from here on out, the presiding judge, the now infamous Laurence J. Rittenband, completely boggled the case with his strange, disturbing, and illegal theatrics meant to sway the swarm of publicity into his personal favor. However, all that said, Rittenband still only wanted Polanski to serve 90 days in Chino State Prison for his mandatory psych evaluation. If Rittenband was to be trusted, and this is debatable, he would not have sentenced Polanski to any more jail time. However, because Chino let him out after a mere 42 days of evaluation (according to the prosecuting attorney in the case, although nobody serves the full 90 days, nobody only serves 42), Rittenband did not want to look the fool in the eyes of the press-filtered public, and told both sets of attorneys that he would sentence Polanski to a lengthier jail sentence but repeal the sentence after the first 48 days were served, thereby bringing the total days of incarceration up to 90. Upon hearing the judge’s intention, Polanski did not want to risk a multi-year sentence subject to Rittenband’s fluctuating moods, so he drove to LAX, booked a one-way ticket to London, and never came back. Now we add “flight from justice” to the charges against him.

He loses his mother to a holocaust institutionalized by murderous lunatics. He becomes a successful and respected film director. He loses his wife and unborn child to a cult of murderous lunatics. He continues to gain great acclaim in his artistic career. He rapes a 13-year-old girl. He flees to Europe for 31 years. And now he is caught again in Switzerland, hoping to attend the Zurich Film Festival to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award. Instead, he sits in a jail cell, awaiting extradition to the United States for further legal action.

And the film community writes a petition for his release with no less than 110 names attached to them. Names like Martin Scorsese. Tilda Swinton. Darren Aronofsky. Debra Winger. Alexander Payne. Film artists I have both enjoyed and, more important and rare, respected.

Roman Polanski is an artist. A survivor of intense trauma. And he is a rapist. He raped a 13-year-old girl.

Never have I been more sickened to be a member of the film community.

Martin Scorsese I sadly understand, because his love of film and the film community surely must have blinded him from the facts of the case. But Tilda Swinton? Debra Winger? These women are supposed to be feminists. They are supposed to stand up for the rights of women all over the world. And here they are, defending a rapist. More than that, an admitted rapist. Why? Because the case is 30 years old. Because the victim, Samantha Geimer, has called for the charges to be dropped. Because film festivals must be international safe havens for artists.

All of these excuses are bullshit. Why?

Because Polanski did not stand to receive his punishment for the crimes he committed 30 years ago and must do so now. Knowing full well what the sentence could be when he made his plea bargain, his fleeing was not one of evading persecution but of cowardice.

Because if we listened to the forgiving pleas of every victim, then nearly every abusive husband would walk free.

Because film festivals must be safe havens for the work of filmmakers, not necessarily the filmmakers themselves. And last time I checked, Polanski wasn’t exactly a censured individual. I can still check out virtually any film of his readily available on DVD. It is also worth mentioning that he certainly hasn’t had a lack of work in the past 30 years, especially considering his 2002 Oscar for directing The Pianist.

Because Michael Vick killed dogs for his pleasure. And no one came to defend him based on his athletic achievements or checkered past when his court date arrived.

And yet, Michael Vick is still allowed to play football in the NFL, currently on the roster for the Philadelphia Eagles. Personally, I found this surprising. Not because I don’t think the man deserves to play. Simply because I didn’t think there would be a team who would want him or a fan base who would support him. I was wrong on both counts. And maybe I should have been. After all, he is a good player. But do we separate the man from his achievements? Where do we draw that line?

There are many differences between Michael Vick and Roman Polanski, but the most striking one to me is not the contrast in their race or class or profession. The main difference to me is that Michael Vick served his time. He stood for sentencing and went to prison for an act we as a culture deem reprehensible and destructive. And I must have a relative respect for that.

Where are the film artists who will hold Polanski responsible for his actions? Admitting his guilt does not hand-in-hand lead to indicting his body of  work, particularly because he does not play out these pedophiliac fantasies in his films. But to defend him with regards to his art is to say that the benefit he brings to society outweighs the destruction he has wrought as a rapist. If one were to look myopically at the individual achievements, that person might foolishly argue such a point. But to do so would overlook the role of rape in this – or any – culture. To do so would be to support the dominant male hegemony dependent on using rape as a power-check for women. If this were a murder case, there would be no question of Polansi’s guilt; we all understand the destructive nature of murder. But because so often girls are “asking” for it – after all, you see the way they dress. If they didn’t want it, they wouldn’t be so provocative, right? Besides, they probably like it when it happens anyway, they just won’t admit it because they’re too frigid. And where was her mother in all this? Oh yeah, and it involved sex, drugs, and cameras, and that’s just what happens sometimes.

So people are asking to overlook it. They are asking to overlook the inherent misogyny of the case, the way it tells women that not only are they partly to blame but that it’s basically okay to get raped by an artist as long as he’s a good artist. (For certainly, if this were someone less artistically respected, say, Michael Bay, would there be the same cultural outcry for his release?) Forget the fact that each of these “arguments” completely leaves out the fact that a crime was committed by a perpetrator. The girl didn’t ask for it, the mom wasn’t the person who broke the law, and artists do not live in another moral universe. There is a mythology to the struggling artist that includes emotional turmoil/torture that can only lead to alcoholic binges, misogynist tendencies, and bursts of sheer creative brilliance. Many look to this as an excuse for the artist in ways they do not with other types of people, particularly athletes. Particularly athletes of color.

In the aforementioned documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, a friend of Polanski’s asserted that Polanski was the perfect bogeyman for the press: he was short, he was dark haired, he had a thick accent. He was a perfect embodiment of the “other”. And if he wasn’t those things, then the trial would have gone much differently.

He’s not incorrect about that. If Polanski wasn’t small and foreign but poor and black, he’d be in jail to this day and we would never have heard about it, much less enjoyed a revered documentary about him. But something tells me that’s not what the friend was getting at.

Polanski was able to get away because he had money to immediately buy a transatlantic plane ticket. Because he had professional connections that would allow him continued work and income. Because he had status as an artist and knew he would be forgiven by the artistic community, and maybe even the culture at large. Hell, even his victim has forgiven him, and I am impressed with her courage to do so.

But personally, for me, I have not forgiven him, for he has not served his time. He has used his wealth and status as a shield from justice, just as many have before him, and many will continue to do.

And Michael Vick killed dogs for his pleasure. And served his time. And now plays football for the Philadelphia Eagles. And we can now decide whether we care to patron him and his team.

As for me, well, I don’t really like football in general, so I probably won’t be watching. But some people will, and bully for them. In the meantime, I may kick back and watch Chinatown for the 20th time.

art in america

The following is the transcript of an undergraduate key note commencement address given by as yet unknown British linguistics professor Winston Conner Diggory Bowles IV. The university in question and year of graduation is irrelevant, as, quite frankly, is Mr. Bowles himself. Indeed, he should be considered more as a particular accent, and less as a real and temporal character… or even caricature.

Ahem. Good afternoon graduates, educators, parental units, friendly associates. I stand here before you, humbled by your achievements, excited by your imminent endeavors, and most importantly, jealous of the naivete your forthcoming sheepskin will provide you in this world where you foolishly believe knowledge and intelligence are prized above all else.

Surely this hideous but nonetheless realistic assessment of your futures spoken by such an authority as myself will rile more than a few of the attending mothers and fathers who, either out of social obligation, classist priorities, or that rare genuine love of knowledge, have financed these last four, five, or even in some unfortunate cases six-plus years of matriculation. But I fear that this world of ours has lent itself more towards, well, not the lower end of the spectrum, as some alarmist social critics would like you to believe. No, my dear children, it seems that this world, and in particular your grand country of America, has taken the decidedly middle brow approach to all aspects we can consider cultural.

I am speaking before a liberal arts college, so please allow me the example of the institution of art, and in particular the notion of high art. When one speaks of High Art, one is typically met with the crooked nostril of indignation from his fellow American. Of course, there is a disdain of all things that reek or even sniff of class strata, normally fueled by a healthy dose of both envy and resentment. You here in America would love to think that your society is a classless one, but the truth of the matter is that the American dream, once considered a simple symbol of meritocratic social order, has mutated into a financial one, one that provides the hope of one day being so comfortably and uniquely wealthy that a person may elevate himself to a degree where he might adequately cushion himself from the aforementioned sneer of the lower peers.

However, the classist disdain afforded to the two simple words “High Art” is infused with no such envy, no such resentment; after all, it is quite rare that one actively aspires to be a “high artist”. No. Rather, it is simply a snub, as if the snubber knew better than to appreciate the arrogant folly that is High Art, done so while standing in front of a framed poster reprint of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” purchased at their local Aaron Brothers. Perhaps we could ascribe this sentiment to the cultural residue of dadaism or, its afterbirth, post-modernism, with their confluence and confusion of the high and low arts – for, indeed, when a urinal can be displayed in the galleries of the Tate Modern, what are we then to say about the Mona Lisa?

But I cannot believe this lack of respect for the high arts rests solely at the feet of the postmodern aesthetic, for while America may be the quintessential postmodern country, with Las Vegas being its crowning capital – a city that is perhaps challenged only by Tokyo – we must remember that Dadaism started in the back-room bars of Zurich and grew to flourish in the jazz clubs of Paris, two cities which indeed continue to have the highest regard – and the largest collections – of high art perhaps anywhere in the world. No, this disdain is uniquely American, and it is inextricable with the country’s notion of the artist himself.

As previously stated, the underlying goal of any American who strives to pick him or herself up by the bootstraps is ultimately to accumulate enough wealth in order to… what? Achieve the respect, or more likely envy, of his or her peers? Reach a place where the the respect or envy of peerage is irrelevant? Perhaps. But what is guarded as most sacred in this country, the currency that is both revered and reviled, is that of being one’s own master. As a country that not only works the most hours, days and weeks in the entire Western world, but also has seen its communities condense under the thumbs of monopolizing corporations such as SBC, Viacom and Citigroup, that dream of owning one’s own business, setting one’s own hours, delighting in one’s own work has not only become less promising but indeed has become rather stifling in its improbability.

So what does that American dreamer, always playing strictly by capitalism’s rules yet just as often butting up against institutional barriers and false economic promises, think of the bohemian artist, lounging in her studio loft, waking-sleeping-fornicating as her desires dictate, and giving free, unmitigated expression to her own dreams?

“Get a real job, hippy.”

You see, it is not that the artist is necessarily of a higher economic class than the average American; indeed, I need not stand here, authority that I am, and remind you of the competitive difficulty and financial paucity the art market readily supplies. Rather, the artist is of a perceived leisure class, exploiting the ends meant only to be afforded by the exclusive means of money. That she finds the temporal space to externalize her inner desires without the accumulation of wealth or the centuries-old superstructure most commonly known as the corporate ladder is a slap in the face to the modern American dream. The act of creation, considered a leisure activity, is only legitimized when it is monetized; and, of course, the higher the price tag, the more legitimate the artist. Never mind that some of the greatest Renaissance artists lived in squalor, and not all by tragic circumstances. Consider Gaudi, whose self-imposed vow of poverty provided him the mind frame to create Barcelona’s most breathtaking and innovative architecture, both in facade and structure. Consider also Bernini, whose impossibly corporeal marble statues were handsomely patronized by the Medici family, whose parlor dealings within both the Florentine government and the Vatican kept power centralized for over two centuries.

I do not mean to glamorize the state of poverty, for anyone who has experienced it will tell you that there is no honor in it. However, I do mean to say that we thus find ourselves in a country, however temporary my own case may be, where only those who might afford a higher education (and know how to use it) appreciate the high arts, while those who either squander their opportunities of university teachings or avoid them altogether are left to sneer down their noses at some of mankind’s finest creations. It is these people, these fallen members of the intelligentsia, who turn to find value in and elevate some of the lower arts to the aforementioned middlebrow. It becomes little wonder then why the most populist of all art forms, the cinema,  oscillates to the lower-middle common denominator, not quite the horrifying dirt lowest, when attempting to reach the greatest number of people.

The irony of course is that high art has always been created in an attempt to lift humanity’s spirit, to show the human how he or she might find beauty in both the mundane and the extraordinary of existence on this earth and beyond. It has been used to illustrate and display the inner life, to create a psychic community wherein we all recognize our universal humanity. All this while the low art simply entertains, providing absolutely necessary but nonetheless simple diversions from self-examination or exultation.

But all is not lost, my dears. For, as I began, those of you who have attained the skills to appreciate knowledge, intelligence, high art, and the high artist, as you leave these ivory gates you carry with you the flaming sword of naivete in your grip. Use it swiftly and strongly in the creation and patronage of a high culture. Provide the rest of us with something to grasp toward. You can still bring it to the masses and show that it means no harm, carries no arrogance, that in fact it is here to help, even elevate. But I implore you, do so quickly, before the demands of maturity and financial responsibility dour the flame. I leave it up to you. And please, do not dismiss me solely due to my cultured mode of speaking. For though I myself might reek of classist trappings, must that dilute the truth of my message?

Once again, my congratulations to the graduates, and may the light of knowledge shine brightly on you and from you to us all. I thank you.

Published in: on June 28, 2009 at 9:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

the amorality of the internet

SCENE 1: A beautiful hotel room on Lake Cuomo, Italy. The drapes hanging around the four poster bed gently sway in the light breeze that waltzes through the open balcony doors leading to the wrought-iron railing overlooking the setting sun that dances on the water. Rose petals napping on the lush oriental rug leading up to the door are suddenly awoken when MARCO and FRANCESCA, both in their early 30’s, burst into the room, kissing and pawing at each other with such ferocity that it is difficult to tell where the man ends and the woman begins. Marco runs his fingers through Francesca’s curly black hair, then with the attention span of a gazelle, he pushes his palms down around the base of her spine, clawing the loose sundress higher up the back of her thigh. Francesca frantically separates the buttons of Marco’s shirt, thrusting her hands past the thinly haired chest, in between the blue polyester and his muscular ribs, and pulls him tight enough to push her breasts up north of her sternum.

Oh yeah, and they close the door behind them.

Marco nibbles on Francesca’s ear, giving her just enough time to glance down at the rose petals below her feet.

(note: all dialogue has been translated from the original Italian romance novel.)

FRANCESCA: Oh my God. Did you do this?

MARCO: (in between nibbles) Of course. Who else would it be?

She runs a hand at the nape of his neck, tries to take all of him in with her smile.

MARCO: It’s our anniversary. I had to do something special.

FRANCESCA: You already are special. Now take me to the bed.

Marco picks her up, floats her the eight feet before landing her on the white down comforter. He pulls off his shirt, lies next to her, his chest glistening from the sweat of carrying her. She pulls her dress high, reveals the slightly less olive complexion of her upper thigh.

MARCO: My God, Francesca. I don’t know how you do it, but this is the most beautiful you have ever looked.

FRANCESCA: You’re just in love. Wait until you see me when I’m 60.

He laughs, then nuzzles her, until they kiss again, tongues flicking against lips, Marco’s hand slipping up under her dress towards her breasts. She gasps, stretches her neck for him to suck on.

FRANCESCA: I want this to last forever.

Marco pauses mid-hickey. And with a devilish smirk, he spins off the bed, dives into his suitcase, and finally emerges with a small digital camera.

MARCO: It can.

FRANCESCA: (through a giggle) For your private collection, Mr. Hefner?

MARCO: For our private collection. Who do you think I am?

He takes a picture. She laughs at first, but then…

FRANCESCA: Close the doors.

Marco savors the flicker in her eyes before gently pushing the balcony doors closed, shutting out nature’s soundtrack. The room suddenly becomes eerily quiet, but the silence quickly transforms from ominous to secretive, almost playfully dangerous, as Francesca relaxes into coyly seductive poses with each subsequent snap. Then her panties slide down her shins, leaving in their wake a soft strip of hair above a thin pair of lips. The dress is the next casualty. Finally, her bra finds a more comfortable home on the floor, leaving her just as the all-knowing, all-loving God intended her to be. And Marco keeps snapping with the camera, inching closer and closer with every new pose from his beloved, until he is on top of her…

And the draperies resume their rustling, this time without the help of the lake breeze.

SCENE 2: Marco’s apartment. It’s small, might be considered a studio except the kitchen is separated and the bathroom is made of real granite. There are hardwood floors underneath the Murphy bed– until Marco violently throws the bed up into the wall.

The room isn’t the only thing that shudders from the impact; Francesca allows a small cry, then rushes for her purse from the computer desk in the corner. Marco is immediately remorseful.

MARCO: I’m sorry. Please don’t leave.

FRANCESCA: You’re acting like a child.

MARCO: I’m sorry I got angry. What do you expect from me!

FRANCESCA: To handle this like an adult! Things happen. No one intends them to.

MARCO: Don’t act like you’re some anonymous victim of fate. You chased him! You seduced him!

FRANCESCA: I was following my feelings!

MARCO: You were following his dick! Go on, go back to your new man! Get out! I never want to see you again!

FRANCESCA: And you won’t!

And like all good endings to infidelities, she slams the door behind her. Marco collapses into the chair at the computer desk, buries his head in his hands, and accidentally knocks the wireless mouse onto the floor. The monitor blinks awake at the commotion, wide-eyed with a desktop picture of Marco and Francesca standing arm in arm on the hotel balcony, the litheness of her dress frozen in the lake breeze. Marco can’t bare to look at it.

SCENE 3: Ryan’s office. A little bungalow in Hollywood that’s been converted to an even littler work space. The day is winding down, and the sun has dipped low enough to disappear from the nearby window, leaving the room in a kind of artificial limbo between daylight and twilight – save for the glow of the macbook in front of RYAN, an ethically upstanding 29-year-old who has never intentionally insulted anyone to their face, always argued for the equality of all citizens, and recently authored this blog.

(NOTE: Ryan does not speak Italian. Well, he kinda does, because he did a semester there as an undergrad, but that was years ago, so now he only speaks it in his dreams and is constantly surprised by how fluent he is. If only he could make dreams realities! Anyway, he’s speaking English here, so no translations.)

RYAN: Fuck, I hate macs.

Just as he mutters this minor opinion, an email pops into his personal inbox from good friend DAVE, also an ethically upstanding citizen of 29 years: “Dude, check out these two websites. Fucking hilarious…”

Ryan clicks on the first one – “Look at this fucking hipster“. Picture after picture of disgusting hipsters with wry, satirical captions that address the emptiness of the hipster aesthetic. Having just recently written a blog article denouncing the hipster’s fashion stache as a poor cover-up of socio-economic guilt, Ryan laughs triumphantly at this wealth of portraits that so accurately and acutely display said phenomenon.

RYAN: Dude, this shit is priceless. (re: a picture of a shithead wearing glasses with pull down “shades” – get it?) Yeah, that guy is such a fuck. Alright, so what’s this other one Dave sent?

Ryan then clicks on the second one – “Guess her muff”. (note: notice the lack of link.) On this particular website, he finds also a litany of pictures, not of disgusting hipster scum, but rather of women of various shapes, sizes, ages, races and assumed socio-economic backgrounds. More often than not, these women are under 40 years of age, and typically alone in the picture, though there is the occasional snap of a woman flanked by a few friends, perhaps some family members, or even the blacked-out face of a man who is only assumed to be her one-time boyfriend. The chances of this anonymous man being her one-time and not current boyfriend are exceptionally high considering, as the site suggests, the visitor is then asked, “Do you think you can guess how a babe keeps her muff based on her how (sic) she dresses? Does your co-worker’s carpet match the drapes? Is that geeky girl in your class secretly a sex kitten who shaves her twat bald? The answers might surprise you…”

RYAN: What the shit is this?

He finds the first picture, subtitled “Girl #249”: a candid portrait of a woman of perhaps Pacific Islander descent, dressed in what appears to be a prom dress. She stands in a living room with wood paneling and a brick fireplace surrounded by framed Sears family portraits. Her mouth hesitates between neutral and what must be the requested smile for the camera.

Under the picture lies the link, “See the answer [here]”.

RYAN: Alright.

Ryan clicks on the link, and is immediately redirected to a new browser tab with a full sized picture of the woman in question, this time standing in front of a closed closet door by an apartment kitchen, wearing only an unbuttoned, long sleeved canvas shirt that barely covers her breasts but certainly does not cover anything else, including and most specifically her cleanly shaven vagina (with a tattoo that reads “lick me” imprinted just above it).

RYAN: Whoa!

Blushing, Ryan rushes the mouse cursor up to the little round “x” of this new browser tab and immediately finds himself back staring face to face with that halfway smile and the dress that he immediately reconsiders to be a bridesmaid’s gown.

RYAN: Well, that was unexpected.

But he realizes that he is not just referring to the shocking nature of the site, but also in regards to the central query the site posits. Seriously, would he ever have guessed that this seemingly innocent, sweet-natured girl – no, no, WOMAN – might sheer her down-there to her barest self, much less have a Lewis Carrol-like demand inked into that flesh? What kind of muff was he considering this woman to have?

RYAN: Huh.

He clicks on the next one – “Girl #247”. (He soon finds, through the FAQ section, that the lack of “Girl #248” is attributed to the fact that “this site isn’t here to make anybody look bad. If you are the owner of an image show (sic) here and would like it to be removed, please leave a message in the comment section of the post in question and it will be removed.”) Girl #247 is a blonde, sitting with a sly, below-the-eyebrows look in what appears to be a tropical hotel.

RYAN: Hmm… Looks kinda saucy. Maybe dirty. I’m gonna say tuft of peach fuzz.

A click on the “see the answer [here]” link reveals the woman lying back in a bed, her dress bunched from both directions around her mid-section, her legs casually spread eagle, one dangling off the edge of the mattress, revealing, once again, a cleanly shaven vaj.

RYAN: Oh!!! Man, no way!

With not much else to do at work, Ryan suddenly finds the game interesting, clicking on woman after woman, trying to guess through the look in the eyes, the nationality, the assumed class, the weight, the appearance of tattoos (or lack thereof), the hair color, etc., what shape that pubic bush is gonna be.

RYAN: Okay, so I guess the less attractive a woman is, the more of a chance she’s gonna be completely shaven.

This proves true more often than not – perhaps because a woman who appears below the standard of beauty feels she must control any part of her body she can to ascribe to that aforementioned standard – but it should come as no surprise that this line of thinking does not lead to the contrapositive; of course, the women who more holistically strive toward the porn star look complete the role with their visually nubile pussies. Ryan quickly discovers that the most difficult women to predict are those that fall in the 5-8 range of the 1-10 scale. And that is where the game becomes interesting. Some he thinks would be fairly bushy have slimmed down to the landing strip. Some he supposes to have cultivated a small tuft end up surprising with a broad but tightly trimmed box. And some he assumes would be a triangle deliver exactly that. Oh, what a way to burn the final hour of work, by looking at candid pictures of real naked women!

RYAN: Hmmm…

But then the pangs of guilt start settling in. And for the record, none of this guilt has to do with the appropriateness of observing nudity in the workplace – theoretically, he could kill a pregnant hooker on his desk and none of his coworkers would bat much of an eye, being too consumed with raping corpses as they are. No, the gnawing pit creeping up from his stomach and bouncing against his diaphragm is born of the fact that no one, not a single soul outside of the subject and her photographer, should be looking at these pictures. Clearly, none – or at least the overwhelming bulk – of these women ever expected to be the subject of ridicule and/or lechery, never devised to be amateur internet porn stars subject to user comments like, “Blech. Saggy tits and chunky thighs. And would it kill her ass to smile? Boring and plain,” or, “Yeah. I’d fuck her six ways to Sunday. She’d be walking bowlegged for 2 weeks afterwards.” And clearly never once did they imagine that this snapshot, which was surely assumed only to make a one-stop trip from their lover’s 8 gig sandisk to the secret folder buried deep in his laptop entitled “letters from grandma 2004”, to be the fodder of a game, much less a fucking blog. These are moments of intimacy, taken with the bravado that only occurs when one feels safest at their most vulnerable. These are records of one human being sharing more than just her body with another person. Within these freeze frames lies a trust that should never be broken no matter what the impetus, a vulnerability that should never be ridiculed or ignored, and a sense of imbalanced power through voyeurism that should never be indulged. Not to mention the obviously objectifying dehumanization inherent in this type of voyeurism, inviting its audience to extricate personality from the photographic subjects and instead whittle her social, cultural, even interpersonal value down to the cut of her pubic jib. How can someone feel so heartless, so immoral as to solicit and post these pictures in such a cavalier way? And how can someone patronize such a website, validating its existence simply by clicking on the links?

RYAN: Eeehhhhhh…

Ryan moves the cursor back to the circled “x” of the website’s tab, hovering his thumb just above that goddamn Macbook’s giant singular mouse button…

But he doesn’t click off. After all, he doesn’t know anything about the guy who runs this website (assuming it’s a guy). In fact, he knows so little about the mind(s) behind the wizard’s curtain, the site might as well have been manifested by the internet itself. Besides, there are pictures of naked women here. And Ryan’s reptilian cortex does enjoy processing pictures of naked women. Or at least, it enjoys processing them anonymously. For who’s to ever know that Ryan Meyer, male caucasian age 29 brown hair green eyes glasses 182 pounds 5’9″, was a passing visitor? Certainly there are computer whizzes who could find the IP address or something more computer complicated that would correctly identify the wake of his websurfing path and compromise his moral ambiguity on the matter. But the chances of Steve Wozniak ever walking into this office and doing a quick “command-find” search are none-to-noner. As long as he keeps this secret to himself, leaves no trace of a user name on the site, conveniently omits this episode from his daily “how was work?” soap opera, not to mention the browser history, without a witness to testify as to the occurrence, then it may as well have never happened. Furthermore, if no one is there to shame him, to prod awake this inherent sense of guilt in him, then who’s to say that there even should be a sense of shame? Who’s to say what’s right and wrong, what’s moral and immoral? Who shall say any of this?

RYAN: (sigh) 10 minutes til 6. Just a couple more.

Ryan finds “Girl #242”. The “Safe For Work” picture is of a dark-haired beauty standing on a beautiful hotel balcony, her dress frozen from the lake breezing in from the background, her arm wrapped around the waist of her black-dot anonymous ex-boyfriend, who truthfully looks like a piece of Eurotrash anyway, judging from the plunging neckline of his blue polyester shirt. As Ryan hovers the cursor over the “see answer [here]”…

RYAN: Landing strip.

Published in: on May 5, 2009 at 1:00 am  Comments (2)  
Tags:

Ryan Meyer has a general distaste for microblogging.

As I can only assume those daring to read this blog must know, Facebook semi-recently restructured its interface to more closely resemble the ultimate in instant communication and microblogging, Twitter. Oh, I’m sorry, this story is so 2 months ago? Well, would it still have been relevant if it were so 2 days ago? I pray, hear me out here before you flip channels to the promise of a hopefully flashier webpage, because time and the flow of information is the very subject of my inquiry here.

Being a somewhat avid Facebook user (mostly because I find myself with significant downtime at work), I was somewhat disappointed by this move away from the personalized, customizable social newspaper the Facebook homepage once was to the blur of instant status updates, wall p0stings and hyperlinks that characterize the microblogosphere (was that a word before now? Of course it was. Nothing is original anymore). I couldn’t quite put my finger on my ire until I read this article detailing the very nature of time on Facebook, namely that it was built upon pre-established relationships and past occurrences, while Twitter more heavily relies on this precise moment as spoken from whomever you find most interesting, regardless of a shared personal history.

Now, I should mention that I’ve never had a profile on Twitter – I’ve never been excited about the th0ught of it – and my only experience with it was to bounce around a few friends’ profiles just to get that twittery taste, to find out why these super intelligent/interesting/provocative people I know and enjoy feel the need to either endlessly broadcast their thoughts to no one or passively communicate with their fellow twitterers, to use my new found articulation of my frustrations with the microblogging application in order to greater understand its insurgent place in our culture. But then I read this article that purports to explain how one should be using Twitter to its greatest efffect. If you no longer have the attention span to click on the link and read the article, let me sum it up for you: Twitter is there to keep you up to date. Period. Big surprise, right? Yes, there are legitimate CNN/NPR newsfeeds that can give you up-to-the-fucking-micro-second updates on your favorite news stories (“9:18am: Craigslist murderer seemed like a nice guy; 9:22am: Craigslist murderer had pictures of puppies in his apartment.”), but, really, how important is it to stay that up-to-date? Will the world crumble if we the public hear about North Korea’s reinstatement of its nuclear program tomorrow morning as opposed to in 5 minutes? Oh my God, what on earth will we do without that information? Or, perhaps the better question to ask is, what on earth will we do with that information?

I already have a hard time figuring out what to do with news stories about people starving/dying/getting kidnapped in countries to which I have no clear or effective access. But when I’m given a headline as breaking news 5 minutes after it happens, the subtext is that I must know this information immediately in order to function in my daily life (car crash, brush fire), or at least because there may be something I can do to bring about its resolution (Amber alerts, elections). So when Wolf Blitzer twitters about the 25th case of swine flu found in some remote Chinese province before the story even ends up on the Situation Room, I just end up feeling neutered, useless, like there’s some kind of action I should be taking when there isn’t any. Like it’s not enough just to feel empathy for the person who contracted the illness.

Of course, it’s different when it comes to friends and personalities publishing humorous thoughts, interesting details, etc. But even with friends, it happens with such overwhelming frequency in such an impersonal manner that I guess I just don’t see much of a benefit for it. I do find entertaining the tidbit trivia it provides, or even the very tiny prison windows it allows into the tastes or even personality of the author, but in the end it just feels cheap and easy. Like information without a context. Ideas without explanations. In the end, this extended network of “friends” and their status updates – even the hard news stories from CNN – are made into entertainment for the short attention spanned. It’s the need to constantly feel connected to a fog of internet profiles without actively doing anything to make that connection meaningful or substantive.

Perhaps someone can enlighten me as to what they personally see to be the honest, real world benefits of such an application as Twitter beyond just the need to be up-to-date, because to this guy it just seems like the one night stand of communication forms: fun and loose, spontaneous, maybe even a little dangerous, but ultimately hollow and purposeless once you wake up in the morning. It’s almost as if people are willfully trying to obliterate their corporeal sense of self in favor of inviting a series of  “friends” classified as thus mostly for the sake of convenience but also out of necessity for the application to work (would you want to broadcast what you’re eating for lunch to 256 “acquaintances”?) to have constant and unmitigated access not so much to their thoughts as to the minutiae of their actions.

So if all we do is share the facts of where we are, what we just ate, who we are about to see, what url is the most lol, isn’t that like giving away your body without your mind? Isn’t that a little like prostitution?

I know to whom I’m speaking when I blog here: myself. I don’t pretend to know everyone or even anyone who is reading this, and as I said in my first entry, I mostly write to figure out and articulate why I care about the things I think about. It’s why I like writing longer entries, allowing myself the time and space to explore the nooks and crannies of my opinions. And I publish to give myself a sense of completion, an excuse to move on to other thoughts, and also to (hopefully though not too frequently) receive alternate perspectives on the subject from other readers. However, when we microblog, we’re not really figuring anything out, exploring a thought or even a specific personal connection, so who are we talking to? And even if we can identify the recipient(s), should we be talking as much as we are? Sure, someone in Buffalo is more than able to tweet a stranger – or even an old high school acquaintance – in Houston, but as Mr. Thoreau asked, what happens if all they have to share is that one of them has a whooping cough?

This may sound like I’m calling for the abolition of microblogging, when in fact that is far from the truth. I would never ask to eliminate any channel of communication from a free society. Furthermore, I firmly believe in the powers of the immediate internet, though I more firmly feel that the internet should act as an addendum to and not a replacement of true human interaction. What I fear here is a pollution of information streams with stories and headlines, either personal or political, that I am told are relevant simply because they are new, because they are now, even if said headline provides zero intellectual nourishment. Because in doing so, it becomes so much harder to decipher between that which is important and that which is, quite frankly, not.

Published in: on April 23, 2009 at 3:47 am  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , ,

the promise of missing the postseason

It was always going to be an uphill battle for the Kings to make the playoffs this year. Sure, we had that slivered glimmer of hope at the end of January/beginning of February, given all the more potency considering historically that’s the time of year when you start wondering how much scratch you could pull down for the remainder of your season tickets (of coure, if you’re a true fan, you never finish that wonder… partly because you know the kind of hit you’d take). But in the end, the team just didn’t have the juice to cross that finish line, jump those four hurdles otherwise known as St. Louis, Minnesota, Edmonton, and – fuck me – Anaheim. I hate fucking Anaheim.

But while many people might be disheartened by getting so close and yet so far, I for one am ecstatic by the fact that our boys in black didn’t cross the threshold into postseason territory. It’s not some masochistic desire left over from last years bomb to the bottom. See, for a team as young as ours, I want them to stay hungry for next year. I want them to have seen that door crack open, see the crooked finger taunt them into coming just a little bit closer, only to have them fall down the trap door underneath the rug, slide down the chute, and end up in the Pacific division dungeon with – gasp – the Phoenix Coyotes (another team I disdain). If they know how close they got after rebuilding/rebounding from such a horrible ’07-’08 season, then the appetite to go all the way in ’09-’10 will only be fed by the feeling that it doesn’t have to be a dream anymore.

See, the Kings have already made huge strides in the organization, and while I gotta give my propers to GM Dean Lombardi, the man I really want to kiss on the mouth is head coach Terry Murray. He took a team with arguably the worst defense – worst penalty kill, 2nd worst goals against numbers with 175 – and in one season pushed all the numbers up into the top 10 – 7th best penalty kill, 10th best goals against with 139. His focus on the defensive system and the “home base” spots clustered in front of their defending net gave the Kings a solid chance to win every night, especially after the deadweight of goaltender LaBarbera was shuffled off to Vancouver (for a measly 7th round draft pick – ouch!) and Ersberg, then Quick – especially Quick – were allowed to come into their own between the pipes. The aptly-named Quick proved himself to be a formidable rookie goaltender, in a way paying off the promise that Jonathan Bernier all-too-quickly instilled in fans after twin wins last season over the “defending cup champion” Ducks (man, I still hate saying that) that quickly became distant memories after subsequent 4-5-6 goals allowed losses.

And while Quick ended this season with a winning record, it wasn’t his play that kept the Kings from moving into that 8th seed in the west. It was the lack of offense. Perhaps it was only due to the attention to defense and checking  that was installed in the previous off-season, or the push for two-way play from previous goal-scoring superstars like Kopitar and O’Sullivan (who was sent to Edmonton in a trade that will always break my heart a little – Justin Williams better earn his keep next year). Either way, the Kings failed to generate the offense necessary to overcome the 1-goal deficits of which they found themselves all too frequently on the short end.

But, again, this is good news. While your best offense is actualy, despite the popular phrase, a good offense, you can’t build an offense from the center circle alone. It’s got to come from the blue line, and with the foundation already intact, especially considering the bright young futures of  Jack Johnson, Matt Greene, Kyle Quincy and, of course, Drew Doughty – who incidentally was just named to Team Canada for the IIHF World Champions and will most likely stick around for the Olympics next year in Vancouver – the road to a full team of 20 and 30 goal scorers isn’t off the map. We’ve already got Frolov, who had a team-leading 32 goals this year. Plus, considering Kopitar, Brown and Williams all had over 30 goals a piece last year (with both Kopi and Brownie scoring in the high 20’s this year), you’ve got some big guns in your arsenal who could definitely benefit from a little more offensive support and playmaking. And the weaponry doesn’t end there. Jarret Stoll and Michel Handzus have been stepping up their play both in the goals and face-off categories. Wayne Simmonds has continued his surprise rookie streak, scoring 3 goals in his final 5 games. Oscar Moller still shows significant promise, despite the major setback after being injured during his release to play as captain for Team Sweden in the World Junior Leage Championship last December. And our blue line boys have been playing their part, too, namely with major numbers in the assist column from Quincey, Doughty and Jack.

So what I’m saying here is the foundation is set. Quick is coming back, with Ersberg waiting in the wings. Doughty and Jack are holding the D. So let’s finish this remodel of the best hockey club south of San Jose (yeah, I’ll say it: I love San Jose, and I loved ’em before they got good… which happened, might I mention, under the guidance of then-GM – you guessed it – Dean Lombardi). Let’s pound in those pilings, lay up some dry wall and put the roof on this sucker. Let’s mix our metaphors and give these boys upfront some guns and a posse to back ’em up. And let’s take this pistol-packing homestead all the way to Lord Stanley’s cup. Build off the proven system and use the hunger from the disappointing finish to take us into an ’09-’10 playoff run and a ’10-’11 finals championship. And you can quote me on that.

~~~

But in the meantime, we got ’08-’09 playoffs starting up tonight, so I’m gonna give a few cents on the current matchups. This is all western conference stuff, since I don’t have as many opinions on the east (except to say that the pittsburg/philly match-up is going to be the SHIT, and the caps are going to best the east and push their way into the finals, against… well, read and see):

1) Blackhawks v Flames – the easiest call of the bunch for me. Blackhawks have the young guns in Toews and Kane. Flames have the hot hands in Camalleri and Iginla. Hawks are getting solid play from Kabibulin in net. But the Flames’ Kiprusoff leads the league in wins. I’ve loved the Hawks since the Ed Belfour days, but, come on, I don’t think these guys are quite ready for prime time. Expect a showing not dissimilar to the freshman Penguins falling to the 5th year senior Wings last year, except a little faster. Flames in 4. Yup. They’re gonna take it in Chi-town.

2) Wings v Jackets – It may seem from the above comments that I have an affinity for the boys from motor city. In fact, I have a general disdain for the Wings, mostly because I hate the arrogance of their self-proclaimed moniker “Hockeytown”. Really? Not Montreal, or Edmonton? Is it just because you have to get an impoverished community excited enough to pay for your overpriced tickets? Whatevs. I will say this about Detroit, though: they have an intense line-up of guys to defend their reigning title of champion. Thankfully, Osgood has been more like Os-okay recently, perhaps faltering just enough to give these surging Jackets the sliver of space to swoop in for the upset. It’s their first post-season hunt, and a hungry Rick Nash I think will prove himself to be a pillar around which the rest of the offense can rally. And let’s not even begin to forget the anchor that is Steve Mason, the upstart goaltender who leads this season’s rookies in shut-outs and will most likely take home the Calder trophy for best rookie (as much as I’d like Doughty to win it). Although, man, Detroit has such a deep line-up… Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Lidstrom, Hossa, Franzen… aargh. Wings in 7.

3) Canucks v Blues – I secretly love the Canucks, and Roberto Luongo has been, as Bob Seger put it, like a rock in net (okay, I added the “in net” part). But the Blues are another upstart team that could upset their higher-seeded opponent. And the Canucks did falter quite a bit around the All-Star break, even after Luongo returned from his injury. While both teams have been pretty solid, I’ve always been a fan of Blues coach Andy Murrary since a) he coached the Kings to their last playoff appearance, and b) he reminds me of my grandfather. Now, perhaps you might say that family resemblance does not a playoff victory guarantee. I’d say, you obviously never met my grandfather. Blues are hungrier. I’m calling upset. Blues in 6.

4) Sharks v Ducks – did I mention I hate the Ducks? Never have I hated a sports franchise with such fervor and focus. They’re named after a fucking movie, for christ’s sake. And they’re just thuggish. They think they can just waltz in to Southern California – Kings territory – and just act like they own the place? Man, I hate the Ducks! Alright, back to the task at hand: San Jose just has too many weapons with too many veteran players putting in some of the best minutes of their careers: Blake and Roenick were both lackluster in their individual years down in L.A. but have found a way to turn it on up north. And Claude Lemieux still laying checks and getting in fights at the age of 43 after 6 years of retirement? I’m sorry, what’s that, son? Yeah, that’s what I thought. You sit back down and eat your Gerbers. Plus, with Marleau finally leading by example, Thornton consistently using his magic touch, and Nabi staying strong in the cage, the Ducks are going to have to rely on something other than George Parros’ mustache to get them out of this one. Sharks in 5.

Oh yeah, and while we’re on the subject of the Sharks, let’s talk Stanley Cup, because that’s what Marleau is going to be hoisting when they finish off the Capitals in 6 games. You can tell all your friends that you heard it here first.

That’s all for now, kids. Let’s rock this postseason.

Published in: on April 15, 2009 at 12:18 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: , ,

Le Moustache

Over the past two months or so, I’ve been trying to figure out how the mustache became such a cultural gag. It seems like you can’t crack a magazine or flick on a TV show without stumbling into a wry aside, a visual pun, or an overzealous boast about the whiskers that are still most frequently sheared from a man’s upper lip. Not three months ago, the New York Times – as in the “All the news that’s fit to print” New York Times – printed an article about the stache’s resurgence. Hell, even last baseball season NY Yankee Jason Giambi grew a rally ‘stache that allegedly gave him supernatural powers to hit home runs. Makes you think that maybe the only reason Dumbo didn’t spirit glue his magic feather under his nose was because of the constant risk of sneezing.

The mustache. It's how they got an elephant to fly.

The mustache. It's how they got an elephant to fly.

This social curiosity has been on my radar recently for 2 reasons. The first and most personal (and perhaps least relevant) is the fact that my friends and I have been cracking mustache jokes since, yeah, I’ll say it, before mustache jokes were cool. It dates back to 2004, when, at the conclusion of a grad school writing class, my friend ended his screenplay about a stand-up comic with what he considered to be the throw-away joke, “And all I learned from the whole ordeal is never trust a man with a mustache.” The laughter in the room rippled throughout, but it wasn’t until long after the class dispersed that the truth behind why we were laughing slowly began to pool over our collective unconscious. “Yeah, what is up with the mustache?” “Why on earth does anyone think they look good with a mustache?” “Don’t truckers, low-lifes, and middle-aged Republican dads love mustaches?” Just the word – mustache – and its alternative spelling – moustache – sound ridiculous, with the goofy moo to start, then capping it all off with the squishy stache. It’s like you can’t help but flash your eyes wide, make a monkey face and twirl invisible whiskers when you say it.

Soon, the mirth derived from deriding the mustache bonded many of the male students of the class, with riffs like: “Oh, check that guy out. You know everything you need to know about him. He’s a liar and a thief with no God and no country.” Alright, we thought it was funny, especially as we continued to fine tune our dedication to the high art of alcoholism. But imagine, simply imagine our surprse when, of all places, SportsCenter cracked a joke sometime in 2k5 that went something like, A: “Uh-oh. He’s got a stache. You know what that means.” B: “Yup. Not a fair fight.” Egads, man! Had someone from the holiest of sports news programs been secretly wiretapping our drunken snark fests? Could we have a rat in our midst? (Personally, I thought it was Cramer.) Surely, these former comics cum sports anchors could not have found the mustache humorous of ther own observation… could they?

Alas, they had. And they were not the only ones. Mustache jokes popped up on websites, in magazines, in Will Ferrel movies. Entertainment Weekly did a top 10 movie mustaches (I’m pretty sure Tom Selleck from Quigley Down Under was in the top 5). The cool kids from Silverlake, Brooklyn, and North Oakland had developed something dubbed the “fashion stache”. Suddenly, a hairy lip was so funny, it was hip to show that you were physically in on the joke. And it appeared that Cramer was off the hook.

portrait of the blogger with a mustache. It should be noted that the stache was shorn after a painstaking 3 hours of looking like a criminal.

portrait of the blogger with a mustache. It should be noted that the stache was shorn after a painstaking 3 hours of looking like a criminal in my own home.

At first, we rejoiced in the sudden zeitgeist we appeared to have started. But then it became too much, like the kid who tries too hard to be liked, then says one joke that for once makes all his friends legitimately laugh, then proceeds to make that his only go-to joke for the next 10 months in his struggling desire to recapture that one moment of glory and acceptance. Sad, I know. But despite our sympathies for the little twerp, we couldn’t help but get sick of how much the mustache kept sprouting up in casual conversation… and how much it was being enjoyed by everyone else. See, the other half of our disdain was that the mustache was our joke, but now it seemed Mz. Stache had suddenly realized, with this new found confidence and attention, that she was way too pretty to spend four nights of the week with us and us alone. Damn, payback’s a whore.

But I could live with the ESPN guys. I could accept the top 10 lists. I could even look the other way while Will Ferrel cooed over my adulterous lover. But what I couldn’t suffer, what I still cannot suffer, is the hipster and his fucking fashion stache. (If you’re still counting, this is reason #2). Now, if you will – and you better – allow me to tell you why.

Hairy hipster scum.

Hairy hipster scum.

To get all fundamental up in this bitch, it is important to realize that, more so than any other facial hair configuration, the mustache is a clear and decisive choice. To explain through contrast: the beard in all its forms, while perhaps also considered a choice, can ultimately be chalked up to/rationalized by a) laziness (“What if I don’t have the $7 to buy new razors, Mom?”), b) need for warmth (“It’s not for me, doc. My wife here is the one with chapped cheeks.”), or c) a clear signifier of the owner’s ascendancy to, or even through, sexual maturity (“M4M – bears only”). Facial hair is one of the many, but perhaps the most visibly striking, signs of a man’s ability to start making babies. Furthermore, a man may shape or groom his beard into different forms to ascribe to a particular cultural aesthetic, but ultimately the ratio of exposed skin to beard will always heavily favor the latter.

Not so with the mustache. The upkeep to maintain the solitude of the stache seems inordinate to the benefits detailed above. Certainly, no one keeps a mustache due to a lack of motivation/finances to shave. Nor can it provide a commensurate amount of facial warmth to effort of upkeep. And the mustache as a sign of virility ultimately seems, in evolutionary terms, less potent than a full, manly beard. And yet, in regards to this last point, we have the porn stache. So how does something like that happen?

Now, should you read any further, I must qualify the following as mere conjecture, completely unsupported by any historical or empirical evidence found anywhere outside my own observations. But you don’t come to the blogosphere for facts, do you? Anyway, to continue, my guess is that the stache was once considered a sign of higher class living simply because it displayed how its possessor had both the means and education for self grooming. Indeed, just one look at any oil-on-canvass portrait of a French aristocrat in any given museum will tell you that the wealthiest subjects always seem to be those with the largest and most ornately waxed mustaches. Only in barbarian England do the kings have full bloody beards, while the cultured Gauls relish their curly-q’ed whiskers.

Of course, with any class conscious society, whether it be monarchical or capitalist, the lower classes will do their utmost to emulate their economic superiors in hopes of at least appearing of a higher stature. Consequently, what was once considered a mark of high breeding inevitably becomes a trope of the woefully downtrodden. Consider, for example the place of the mustache in American society not 5 years ago: either as a sign of authority (cops, upper management, Republican dads) or white trash (truckers, porn stars, thieves and liars).

It’s this second grouping that I believe appeals to the hipters found in the more metropolitan cities of our great nation. Consider the hipster aesthetic overall – second-hand clothing, mopeds, poor neighborhoods that consequently become slowly gentrified. All signs of poverty. It’s no secret or surprise that the bulk of hipsters, or to be more kind to individuals, the hipster aesthetic, with its fetishization of poverty, fringe cultural trivia, and “irony”, is born from a leisure class afforded by wealth. How else could the hipster community afford the time to seek out the most obscure music (“What, you’ve never heard of Nouvelle Vague? They’re only saving the music world from the capitalist bubble-gum bullshit.”) or the edgiest beat poet (“What, you’ve never heard of Ruth Forman? She’s only saving the poetry world from the capitalist bubble-gum bullshit.”) if they couldn’t, well, afford the time to do those things?** Furthermore, this fetishization of information and taste begets a cultural capital that is more valuable than money – taste is, after all, centered around social class signifiers such as the intangible ability to appreciate particular art forms and artists, which is in turn perceived to be acquired only through high, and expensive, education – thereby creating an isolated upper class within what is considered to be the counter culture (this term has a constantly evolving definition, but more on that for another entry).

Of course, because the hipster is overeducated and class conscious, s/he does not want to physically appear to be of a leisure class (because that wouldn’t be keeping it real, yo), so the best way to combat that social perception is to appear belonging to a poverty class. As the actor/performance artist Danny Hoch put it in his one-man show Taking Over (and I’m paraphrasing here): “The rich kids are dressing poor to look like they got street cred. And the poor kids are dressing normal so they can look rich.” Hence, the mustache. It’s for this reason, I believe, that it has even achieved the moniker of “fashion stache”. It completes a look, an ensemble of poverty, as a sign, in Mr. Hoch’s paraphrased words, of street cred.

Maybe it goes without saying that anyone who has actually experienced true poverty, of whom I can thankfully say I am not one, will tell you that there is no honor or virtue in it. And for this reason, I find the fashion stache more than insufferable. I find it insulting. I want to be clear that I am not targeting any one person here. I have several friends who have or have had mustaches, and I have to admit they all look/ed good. But I also know, perhaps because they are my friends, that they are not wearing the stache as a way of dressing down or looking a part. Nor are they doing it as an act of “irony”, or more specifically, an act of doing something without actually admitting that you like doing it. Instead, what I am targeting here is a cultural phenomenon, a social aesthetic, a choice. When a hipster makes a choice to grow the stache in order to go with his truck-stop hat and (factory faded) “Detroit is 4 lovers” t-shirt, he’s not just making the choice of going through the relative trouble of shaving the rest of his face; he’s making a choice to show some kind of solidarity with a class he has no business identifying with as a way of assuaging a new form of upper-class-counter-culture guilt. And for that, I say, shave that damned dirty peach fuzz off your face. Be a real man. And leave the mustache to the people who know what to do with it… namely your overbearing boss and the guy who’s gonna mug you outside your Echo Park apartment. And Tom Selleck.

don't mess with the best.

don't mess with the best.

**I should mention that I greatly enjoy both Nouvelle Vague and Ruth Forman, which hopefully goes to show that it isn’t about the specific things you enjoy, but rather how you present them – and yourself – to society.

Published in: on March 31, 2009 at 9:50 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , ,

topicality-go-lucky

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here, and although I did make it part of my mission to only write when I feel I have something to say, the odd part here is that I’ve actually had things to say. I have something like three entries started, one about the hipster fetish over mustaches, one about the impact of the word “nigger” (yeah, even writing it is tough), and one about the Sean Avery controversy a while back and the place of women – and particularly the body, both male and female – in men’s sports. But for some reason I’ve been unable to bring myself to actually complete these thoughts to the point where they remain important to my current state of mind. Even this Amtrak train of thought, this one right now, is beginning to lose steam for me, coming to a slow, creaking halt somewhere in the flatlands of Kansas… or maybe Missouri.

I guess with our constant stream of information, ranging from CNN.com to the status update on Facebook, the need to stay current has microscoped from the weekly to the daily to the minute. I’ve been constantly feeling behind the 8-ball, as if the thoughts I’m thinking at 5:16pm not only aren’t relevant by 5:17pm, but were already thought, articulated, and expressed by someone with much faster processing at 5:15pm. How do you stay current in an era when now is so last minute?

I guess certain philosophies are perennial, so no matter when you think them, they are fundamentally so universal that they speak to virtually any moment in the history of time. But those ideas are so few and far between that I constantly feel like I’m chasing after myself if I’m neither a) thinking of a larger point about the human condition (or, failing that, the role Google plays in our daily lives), nor b) capturing the zeitgeist before the zeit even has the time to come up with a geist.

Yeah, I’m being too hard on myself. But I find it interesting that I even have the resources to be this type of hard on myself. Information is not a limitless commodity, and in this day and age, when the supply can’t quite keep up with the (manufactured) demand, when an exponentially multiplying litter of information salesmen are trying to peddle the same amount of stock, it’s hard not to get down on yourself for not yet building a better internet mousetrap.

So, to save myself from these doldrums, I will now spout what is ultimately a completely useless opinion that I have yet to really see anywhere else. You ready for it? Your brain salivating yet? Okay, here it comes:

Angelina Fucking Jolie is up for best actress for Changeling?! Are you serious? Her performance is everything I hate about the Oscars: it’s a Performance with a capital P. It goes from smiling to crying to shouting to yearning; but, to use the semiotic terms, it’s a bunch of signifiers without the signified. It’s all the tropes of a great performance without the actual heart or core of an actual great performance. What further chaps my hide is that there are more than a few other great performances out there that were totally overlooked by the Hollywood elite in lieu of this critical darling – how about Sally Hawkins from Happy-Go-Lucky for starters? Is it because it’s a comic performance in what is ostensibly a plotless movie that she was so sorely overlooked? Her rendition of Poppy is a total delight that has all the depth and complexity of a normal human being, and further than that, a normal human woman. But because Poppy’s outlook is a decidedly brighter one than most of her fictional sisters this year, because she chooses to meet her challenges with rose-colored glasses, it might seem to the passive viewer that she is simpler, less challenged. On the contrary, it takes great depth and perception to play a character so happy with life despite all the dangers and horrors which we are constantly surrounded by, reported to, updated with. It’s because of that challenge that I am deeply disappointed that someone as hackneyed as Angelina could possibly receive a higher recognition than Ms. Hawkins. The Academy voters (of whom my boss is one – but I have no influence here) need to look past the screaming tears for once and allow best female actresses to be something more than the hooker/neglected housewife/Nazi deathcamp guard (okay, that’s a new one) and actually allow them to be, well, happy-go-lucky.

And that’s my topical rant. There. I feel much better now. And now, in my current afterglow, I’m slowly considering that the reason I like Poppy so much is because she supercedes (but doesn’t ignore) the world around her – all the noise, pressures, streams of information – and chooses to be cheerful. Maybe I could take a cue from her. I think I will.

sallyhawkins

Published in: on January 24, 2009 at 1:57 am  Comments (1)  

holiday rant 2: what the fuck happened to Thanksgiving?

The entry below hails from my old MySpace blog, dated 11.29.2006. I felt it was still somewhat relevant. The “2” references an earlier version of the Halloween blog I have since re-edited and posted below as a “new” entry. Maybe that’s cheating? I also think this may be the last of my old MySpace blogs, so here’s to exhausting the past!

There were spiders and witches and huge Spirit costume stores, and then like a kid who isn’t so good at hopscotch, it feels like we leaped from Halloween and accidentally stepped on Thanksgiving on our way to Christmas. Ooops?!

I know Thanksgiving has its drawbacks, in that it is a holiday both steeped in the blood of indigenous Americans and glorifying the forthcoming codification of manifest destiny established by the tomfoolery of our lily white ancestors (have you stopped reading yet?), but we can also recontextualize the holiday as a union of people – family, friends, and otherwise – in a declaration of appreciation (thanks for the verbage, Jesse Jackson!) for being alive, for enjoying opportunities available to us in this country, and to remind ourselves of how we can always make things better for those who cannot enjoy those same opportunities no matter how grateful we are for the things we already have.

But no. You can’t really buy a whole lot of stuff for Thanksgiving. You get a turkey, and I guess some cranberries… but potatoes are pretty cheap, and gravy just doesn’t have the same sex appeal in advertisements as that sleek, curvy XBox 360. So it seems Thanksgiving is largely forgotten in the cultural landscape as a holiday worth celebrating in the public space. I suppose this is consequently opening up a whole other argument concerning the way public space is giving way to commercial space (how many people think the Grove is a really great place to just hang out? How many people actively think the same of your local park?), but I could go on that rant for years…and I will. (note: and I have and will continue to.) Woe to the people who actually have to talk to me on a regular basis.

We in America forget that life is ultimately pretty simple, and that we operate off three basic urges: to eat, to sleep, to fuck. That’s it. There are needs that spring out of those urges, but one of them is not the acquisition of ridiculous wealth, nor is it to spend more of our lives defining our freedom as buying power and ourselves as consumers. It’s true, we have such nice things in this country. Great stores, clothes in every size, computers for every need, food at every corner. Forget the fact that corporate conglomerates are taking over our free airwaves or repackaging radical and alternative ideology as a “hip individualized counter-culture lifestyle” that can be bought at Urban Outfitters, the Mac store, and Taco Bell.

I’m not saying I’m not grateful for all the freedoms we have living in America, economic or otherwise. The majority of the people here don’t agree with our military involvement in Iraq (we haven’t really gotten to our economic involvement , but that’s looking to be more for the alternative history books), and has consequently elected people they trust to create change in our role in the country’s reconstruction. Hey man, you can’t do that in North Korea, because North Korea no longer has a president. Fuck, they don’t even have a presiden-cy. That whole farce died when Kim Jong-il abolished the position after the last president, his father, also happened to go teets up. So consequently, North Koreans can’t have elections because, quite simply, there is no presidency. Sorry. Not to mention here in America a woman doesn’t have to spend five years in jail for having a consensual extramarital affair like she would in Pakistan. (Men, you’ll always be okay, don’t you worry your pretty little heads.) And I’m guessing if you’re reading this blog, you’ve got a computer and an internet connection and you’re doing pretty well for yourself. Or at least well enough to fulfill no less than two of your three basic urges… and if you’re fulfilling all three, be very grateful.

There’s so much to be thankful for. We do have a lot of liberty. And there are a lot of people both within and outside our borders who don’t have the same freedoms we enjoy, and we can do something about it if we want to. But it seems like the bottom line is you can’t market gratitude and growth the same way you can market necessity and desire. Which is just too damn bad for us. But who knows? Maybe turkeys all over the country are rejoicing. And I can’t really argue with that.

Published in: on December 2, 2008 at 8:16 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , ,