Monday, November 30, 2009

a well-known limerick


There once was a man from Nantucket
Who was born with a remarkable physical deformity.
He found some advantages, however,
To this otherwise unfortunate situation,
And speculated about other such unexpectedly benefical birth defects.

[This came up when I Google Image–searched "limerick."]

more e-mail...now with a free Google Voice transcription-insanity bonus!

[from a recent e-mail correspondence between W.R. and me]

S.R.: ...haven't listened to your voicemail yet, but I can't wait to see what you actually said (see mystifying transcription below).

[click to enlarge*]

W.R.: No that's totally correct.



* The weird empty space is where I removed my real name, which is not actually "Short Round." I'm sorry that I lied to you.

old favorites

I'm getting lazy. Here are some pictures I already put up elsewhere back before Alt85 swept in and electrified the nation; I haven't even come up with new captions for them. Man, what a jerk.

I got my camera and specifically went back to this subway station (72nd Street B–C) so I could take this picture.

Whole rye bread: it's like getting a blowjob from a model.

Eraser plus chalk equals coffee. Came to class [back when I was a teacher], found this on my desk, called the police.

This cat is the editor-in-chief of The Nation.

With its top cut off, this looks like an ad for impotence. "Ruin Your Sex Life!"

A barber shop...downstairs?!?!

MAD FRESH

Clairs' dilemmas

(click to enlarge* from OED-condensed size)

Got these two messages in my spam folder a few years back. So what do we think: Sisters? Cousins?

I remember that at the time I felt there was some brilliantly witty thing to be said about this pair, but I am again at a loss (or at least again unwilling to exert much mental energy to figure something out). Maybe a comment to the effect that "the grass is always greener," or the old Greek suggestion (was it Sophocles'?) to "count no man happy until he's dead"—or even some riff on "Criss-cross! Swap murders!"?

Almost certainly none of those.

Maybe it just speaks for itself. You've got to sit and appreciate it for a while, like a work of fine art.

Or:

VENKMAN: We have to get these two together.
EGON: I think that would be extraordinarily dangerous.


* [insert obligatory "enlarge" joke here]

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Knight DJ Style Outstanding Husband and Fresh Prince

[Fun with online translators, after the music video.]



From: [Short Round]
Subject: Young M.C.C.C.P.
Date: September 10, 2003 11:22:57 PM EDT
To: E—, A—

Below please find "Bust a Move" lyrics translated into Russian and then back into English. Thank you.

Your better friend Harry's obtained fraternized Larry.
In 5 days from now, he goes it married.
It it nadeyetsya you it can it made it there if you you can,
because in the ceremony you you budete by the best person.
You is which you speak, "Neato," you will verify your libido,
and bank to tserkov in your new tuxedo.
Then bride goes for a walk upward exactly so that it would begin the wedding,
and one more than girl you not budete it obtained.
Therefore you you begin the thought, after this you begin it blinked.
To views bridesmaid and dumayete that you you budete podmigivayushch.
By it you dumayete you it wakes by form cute; therefore she winks back
And now you feel by actually solid because girl it wakes by the stacked.
Method skipping, you force bass, you look girl and your heart begins it was struck.
Spoken she he wants it danced because it it was loved groove,
And you znayete it made: you bust the motion.

You coming, toots. My name is Oji.

From: [Short Round]
Subject: Knight DJ Style Outstanding Husband and Fresh Prince
Date: September 17, 2003 12:12:04 PM EDT
To: J—

JAPANESE
It was understood, it is state here.
My parent went to the holiday of week
They left the key to brand-new Porsche.
Do they make the air?
Umm, it is good, naturally is not.
I take that for exactly small revolution
And show that perhaps in 23 friends.
I around the neighborhood exactly that cruise.
It is good, perhaps I should, is not.
Obtaining you obtain, naturally I should, is.
Payment note plotting is thick here:
I in the edge of my block pulled out in the corner.
That is when me looking at the step of the girl of this beautiful girlie.
I as I spoke, chose the telephone of my car because of perpetrate.
At body dimension of the girl this should be looked.
Depending upon me in order to pull interest to her my angle sounded the alarm exactly.
As for that because of me she said, "is?"
Me it could grow, said, "."
As for her? "Why," you said
I said, "you come, if you take, riding in a car of the guy."
She said, "have I how known that it is not the sickness?
The deranged insanity which can be several."
I said, "you coming, toots. My name is Oji.
On that, is insanity this kind of Porsche which?"
She agreed, we was in our manners.
She seeing very carefully, therefore was I, I must say.
We hit against MacDonald which was pulled in drive;
We order MAC whose two is large and fries whose two is large, become the coke.
She kicked her shoes on the floor.
She said "drive fast. As for speed me who am attached."
She put her hand on my knee; I put my foot on the gas;
We obtained majority whiplash, me left so fast.
You opened the roof of the sun, music it was high
And it was moving the hand of the girl this steadily on my [??].
She developed three buttons of her outing shirt for the present.
I why did not become aware in that patrol car, I who am presume.
It was good, I had done the 90 of Porsche where my mother is new,
In order and to make the shortage of this long story,
When the policeman the excess pulling me, I could to have;
I said, "there is no license in me, but it operates very well, the public official."
I possessed the heart seizure of that day almost:
I 12 years which are the girl old escape found!
I stored the car, it was obstructed
And there was no manner because of me the fact that it has been based is avoided.
My parent does not return from holiday in order to obtain me.
As for me on the other hand as for having my father rather than hitting against me, it is in the jail.
My parent me walked my grip which is obtained; As for me trip? "How oh high," the mother at the time of the ampere and the father you said
You did not speak those. I, "think that we would like to defend my my case," you said
But my father pushed me of the car exactly with my surface.
That was riding in a car which the foam/home is hard. I do not know I how continued.
Those took revolution: One while other 1 is operating, strikes me.
I me the mistake which was made exactly cannot believe that.
It is good, the parent puts time of problem of the same no.
So all children who cross the land you, entirely,
Take that from my: The parent does not understand by any means.

CHINESE
Good, this situation.
My father item goes in a week vacation sum
They left behind the essential character to give brand-new Porsche.
They can mind?
Umm, is very good, certainly is not.
I will adopt it for young revolving
And is possible to display it to two three friends.
I cruise it nearby neighborhood.
Very good, I possibly should not.
Certainly I should.
Gives the notice, this thick plot:
I have pulled out to the quoin in mine block terminal.
That was I looks at this happy girlie girl to walk.
I pick up me carphone crime like I to converse.
You should look at this girl's bodily dimension.
I obtain her according to mine loudspeaker to note.
She said that, "is that for my?"
I said, "."
She said, "why?"
I said that, "progresses and adopts rides with the person."
She said that, how "I did know you are not the defect?
You can be some deranged lunatic."
I said that, "progresses, loudspeaker. My name is a prince.
Besides, the lunatic can have Porsche to like like this?"
She agrees with and us is in us on the way.
She searches extremely good and therefore is I, I must say.
We have hit MaC$donald, is pulled into the driver;
We have selected two big rubber waterproof cloths and two greatly fry in oil the thing and the coking.
She has kicked her shoe floor.
She fast said, "driver. The speed causes me to be frantic."
She puts hers hand on mine knee; I put mine foot in the gas;
We nearly obtained have whipped, I that fast left.
Sunday the roof has not tied, the music is high
And this girl's hand steadily acts my thigh.
She so far opened three buttons in hers shirt.
I guessed therefore I have not noted that police vehicle.
Very good, I make 90 in mine Aunt's newly built Porsche,
And makes this long story to be short,
When the police pulled my me to frighten;
I said that, "I do not have a permit, but I drive very well, captain."
I nearly have heart attack in that date:
I find the girl am 12 years becoming a fugitive!
I have been arrested, the automobile is detained
And does not have the mode to cause me to avoid earthing.
My father item must come back from the vacation obtains me.
I compared have me the father to hit me rather to be able to be in the jail.
My father item has come in, I obtained my clip; I said, "ampere-hour, mother, daddy, how your travelling schedule?"
They have not spoken. I said that, "I want to entreat me the situation,"
But my father has pushed me in the automobile by mine face.
That hardly rides the family. I did not know how I did survive.
They in turn: You perplex me work as another 11 actuations.
I am unable to believe it, I have made the error.
Very good, the father item is similarly does not have the question time also not to place.
So to you, all children all stretches across the real estate,
Adopts it from me: The father item did not understand.

Adopts it from me: the father item did not undertsand.

pretty sure it's not supposed to be that way

I mean, I don't have a doctorate in Traffic Science, but...


scenes from a marriage

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

two music videos



Yeah, no, these two videos go together, for sure. Think harder.

when it rains, it pours


  1. 16$ — "Steve? Carl? We've talked about this before! But I guess that TALKING DOESN'T DO ANYTHING!!!" [q.v.]
  2. Pre-fix — Oh, no. No, no, honey. No.

Monday, November 23, 2009

IMPORTANT UPDATE!!!!

I enjoyed the Don DeLillo story in the new New Yorker pretty well. Also the Sam Shepard story in last week's. Was it last week's?

"In our privatest mind," he said, "there is only chaos and blur. We invented logic to beat back our creatural selves. We assert or deny. We follow 'M' with 'N.'"
Our privatest mind, we thought. Did he really say that?
"The only laws that matter are laws of thought."
His fists were clenched on the tabletop, knuckles white.
"The rest is devil worship," he said.

Been getting a real kick out of The Man Without Qualities, getting close to finishing Vol. 1, and what do you know but I ran into my friend Froggy, whose recommendation is what pushed me over the edge to finally read the thing in the first place, and he told me not even to bother with Vol. 2!—which is sort of great news because (a) I'm psyched to read the unfinished Nabokov novel that just came out and (b) Vol. 2 is 100,000 pages long! The Nabokov: I'm torn between the desire to punch out all the little cards for ease of subway reading (put a rubber band around 'em and stick 'em in my pocket) and my fanatically protective attitude toward books. Is nothing sacred? Yes. Books are sacred.

Relatedly, here's something from one of America's top blogs:


[No, no, it's not actually related. I don't want you to blow a gasket trying to work it out.]

a maximcny

Another one of these guys. This one actually almost makes more sense than the others. Remember, kids: to end a word with an M without following it up with a CNY is the basest, most contemptible form of conformism.

Never conformcny!

w/ an X


OK, Becky, let me just make sure we're on the same page here:

I have to say that some fairly silly part of me is unfailingly delighted by this kind of public display—see Parker Posey in Dazed & Confused yelling I think it was "Lick me! All of you!"—but the kicker, in this case, is of course "w/ an X." With an X? What does it mean? I want to know!

When I was a teenager I remember first reading somewhere that one neat idea when going down on a girl is to "write" the alphabet with your tongue. Is that what we're talking about, Becky? If so, I suppose either the suggestion is that X is the best of all possible letters for the job, or Becky is definitely going to want you to make it through at least 24 letters. But I've got to say that somehow this doesn't feel like what the message is saying.

What else could it be? I'm brainstorming, here. X marks the spot? X as in "xoxo," like planting an X on somebody? (Well, I'm trying to brainstorm.) Maybe it's like a Zen koan and just doesn't really have a single answer—advice meant only to get you into the right spiritual frame of mind. Becky is a great philosopher.

[It would not really actually be acceptable for me to link to this. So please do not click on it.]

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Seriously, though.

[NOTE: I wrote this very late at night and am no longer 100% "with" myself on it. But out of respect for my ever so slightly younger self, I'm going to go ahead and post it anyway. This one's for you, crazy early-a.m. me!]

What would you do if you had access to a time machine? What would you change—assuming tears in the fabric of the space–time continuum are not an issue, and not worrying about paradoxes? Is there anything you'd go back and do differently? Would you try to alter the course of history, anything like that?

I think I'd just go back and make out with Joan of Arc. (This of course assumes that she's exactly like she was in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure—the aerobics-instructing Joan of Arc. I think it's reasonable to assume that that film's depiction of her was pretty close to the mark. Milla Jovovich would be OK, too.* I'm not sure about Renée Jeanne Falconetti. I'll have to think about that one. I can think about it as long as I want: I've got a time machine, suckers!)



* Especially if for some reason she were playing the role as Leeloo from The Fifth Element, sort of a movie mash-up.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"direct" is relative when the quotations are dirty [UPDATED]


OK, this makes me mad. If the New York Times is unwilling to print the word "fuck" or whatever it was—even if they think (as evidenced by the "slightly more colorful" modifier) that their prudishness is cute instead of incredibly embarrassing—then at least they could follow the basic grammatical rules of quotation and put "having sex" in brackets! Put aside the question of why in the world a newspaper couldn't print a "bad" word if someone they're reporting on said it. The fact that they don't suggests that "colorful" language is not only unprintable, in their eyes, but somehow not subject to the rules of normal language!—like enemy combatants who don't qualify as prisoners of war or something.

"I should be [having sex] with more girls" says, "We're rephrasing this sentence for whatever reason, stupid or not"; "I should be having sex with more girls," no brackets, suggests that these are the actual words he actually said—on a level somehow higher than factual accuracy, one would have to assume. These are supposed to be journalists! What's going on here? With "WHERER MY I HOP," at least the Times left out the quotation marks in their niced-up version, acknowledging that "Where's my pancakes" isn't actually what the guy said. Well, John Mayer didn't say "having sex." Why is it in quotes, folks?

Intellectually, and officially, I acknowledge that this (like everything else in the universe) doesn't matter. But it does make me want to hack the New York Times web site and replace all their images with hardcore pornography.


[UPDATED 12/13/09: Also, "anonymously modern"? Is that really what they mean? They mean "anonymous and modern" or "anonymous, modern," no? How can something be modern in an anonymous way? Is modernity a quality that's usually credited to a particular person by name?]

Friday, November 20, 2009

How I know I'm getting old, Episode XVIII [UPDATED]

I think this may be the first time I've really understood the expressions my grandparents used to have on their faces when they gave me the toys they knew I wanted but couldn't even begin to understand why I wanted them. Boys this year most desire "a series of cards and action figures inside spheres." OK, fine. Fine. Is it too early to move myself into an assisted-living community?


[12/7/09—I saw this news on TV last night and was amused:

I incorrectly believe that this validates my incomprehension. Mister Squiggles is covered in dangerous antimony! This is even funnier to me because I keep reading that word as antimatter. In other news, someone wrote me back in November, "BTW I think the hamster's nose (in your blog entry) looks like a squared off nipple." So it does, Mom. So it does.]

the trouble with Robin Williams: an example

  1. The title Weapons of Self Destruction (a) isn't funny, (b) makes no immediately evident sense, and (c) would have been timely, as a joke, in—what, 2003? 2004? There's about as much humor potential left in the WMD topic as...well, as there were WMDs in Iraq. (I'd work a little harder on that humorous analogy, but my whole point is that in the year 2009 it's just a fucking waste of time to do so.)
  2. "DANGER"? Is Robin Williams known to be a "dangerous" comedian? Was he even thought of in that way at the peak of his respect in the comedy world (which arguably had come and gone even before Good Morning Vietnam, more than 20 years ago)? In fact, the main thing that muzzling Robin Williams reminds me of is not the "dangerous" stuff he might say but his reputation for ripping off other comedians: in fact, covering his mouth makes a fair amount of sense in terms of stopping him from stealing other people's material. Not what they're going for in the ad, though, I don't think.
  3. I was going to say that he looks like he's made out of plastic, but he really looks more like he's made out of marshmallow, or taffy. Whether that's his fault (cosmetic surgery) or the fault of the advertisers (make-up, airbrushing) I don't know...but I am sort of inclined to think that there's often some aesthetic connection between the presentation and the material, which is why I've decided to go ahead and say this thing even though it's arguably mean-spirited: I think it captures something about what's wrong with Robin Williams in 2009.
[NOTE: I used to think Robin Williams was funny...based mainly on this old videotape my parents had of this stand-up thing he did in I want to say 1980, all coked-up and improvisationally frenetic. Was it so good, though? I haven't seen it in years, and the whole thing has soured in my memory. Now when I think of Robin Williams I mainly think of the Robin Williams episode of Tim & Eric (q.v.), which really nailed the coffin shut for me, Williamswise. This makes me less mad than sad, really, in the end.]

Thursday, November 19, 2009

language


Language. This movie is rated R because it includes, among other things, language. Yes, it is a talkie.

A few months ago I jotted this down after seeing it in the MPAA warning before a preview: "Thematic elements and some language." Just think about that. Things we need to be warned about include thematic elements and some language. My children can handle some language, but thematic elements? I don't want to expose them to thematic elements.

Euphemism bleeding into outright idiocy.

let's just call him "God"

Then there's this question: does it matter whether God exists?

[Crowcroft, via the Ben Street, albeit circuitously]

[via Huffington, thanks to Marvin]


Further reading: see here, here, and also here.

excerpt from a real-life e-mail correspondence

(or, What Matters)

S.R.: I finished reading my fuckín novel, mang, and am not really clear on what I should do with it.

W.R.: I can't even imagine reading a novel I had written. You should be proud of yourself, brah. What's next?

S.R.: What's next is basically I put my chips down and hope the roulette ball falls where I want it to while in the meantime I begin separating myself from my lifelong dreams and sense of self and start the exploratory process of figuring out how most successfully to set off into a life of mediocrity, compromise, and an acceptable minimum of dissatisfaction and self-loathing...basically a principle of life based on the assumption that not much in life has any inherent value beyond life itself, survival, basically, i.e., not dying, and maybe some kind of human contact, and otherwise just the hope that the steady march toward eventual inevitable death will be relatively bearable.

W.R.: Ok, fine, but this:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"That is a false statement."


OK:

  1. Factually inaccurate.
  2. At what particular time of day would it make sense that a train would be packed full of specifically starving commuters? Or really packed full of any kind of commuters, enough that even with a very friendly suspension of disbelief we could imagine that their collective stomach-rumblings would make a whole lot of noise? Only at a rush hour, no? That is, very possibly after breakfast and several hours before dinner? In other words, most of the time that you'd be reading this ad, it makes considerably less sense than it does at its occasional peak of coherence.
  3. Is the idea supposed to be cute? A roaring, screaming sound that is in fact the noise of, what, intestinal gas? This is supposed to make me want to buy food from you? It basically just makes me uncomfortable.
  4. It's so rare that a national chain is able to pander to New Yorkers about New York without sounding either completely insincere or completely idiotic that I'm not sure I've actually ever seen it accomplished successfully. I mean, essentially what this ad is saying is, "Hey! Subways! Am I right??" Yeah, I guess so. We're in New York all right. I am very impressed.
  5. A Dunkin' Donuts tuna sandwich? Why not just go to fuckin' O'Hurley's? Blecch.

[The subject line is a reference to this top-notch comedy.]

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Jesus Save :†:


I mean, yeah, I'm making fun of somebody's broken English, but maybe that's not petty in context, when what you're dealing with is unsolicited proselytizing (which is redundant). Maybe it accidentally demonstrates or highlights or draws out something of the ridiculousness inherent in this kind of communication: no, what you're telling everybody is not universal, not some shared absolute truth, and insofar as you're sure I need to hear your message, that it resonates as much in my universe as in yours, you're maybe just plain wrong.

Anyway, I like that what is supposed to be a profound statement of a cosmic truth, a sentence describing a fact about Jesus, winds up instead as an imperative, a direct order delivered to Jesus. Jesus, save!—the triple underlining underlining the silliness of the thing.

Or is the cross the direct object of the verb to save? In which case the sentence structure is analogous to "God save the queen"? Or maybe it's the preposition save, meaning except: Jesus save the cross. Reminds me of the bumper sticker I saw once, which said, "Jesus + love = peace"—an equation that of course also means that peace minus love equals Jesus, or that love minus peace divided by negative Jesus equals one...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bruce who?

A rare Google failure. So rare, in fact, that it's days later and I'm still reexamining this screenshot for some mistake I made. Springsteen. Did I misspell it? S-P-R-I-N-G, S-T-E-E-N. Steen, that's a weird way to spell it. But, you know, even if I had misspelled it...


No, I mean, the simplest explanation is that Google fucked up for one second. But still I'm left asking whether I had some sort of neurological hiccup and lost track of reality.

Such is the power and dominance of Google.

smile!

Creepier. Thanks.

let's get personal

click to enlarge this ineptly taken cell-phone photo


"After personally visiting more than 2,500 barley fields, our experts..."

What does it mean to do something "personally"? The only sense I can see in it is if it's in opposition to having someone else—a lackey, say—do it for you. The question then is what "our experts" means. If more than 2,500 barley fields were under consideration, presumably Budweiser's experts are legion, no? In which case the concept of their "personally visiting" all these places is strained—or, rather, more to the point, the concept of "experts" is.

Put it another way: someone had to visit personally, right? I mean, if you don't visit personally, it means you send someone else, and that person visits personally. So one way to make sure your experts visit personally is to deputize a bunch of lackeys as experts...

I mean, to be fair, I don't actually see any reason why a major corporation couldn't hire a buttload of experts; it's just that the word "personally" suggests that we should be blown away by the fact that the experts took the time to visit so many barley fields, which in turn suggests that these experts are, like, top-ranking executives, practically: at least that they're rare enough that you wouldn't expect them to go wherever Budweiser hurls them. And that, surely, is misleading.

Fortunately, it doesn't matter even the slightest bit...

weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable

A New Yorker article about why America has way more murders than most civilized countries mentions the theory that America got freedom too early: most countries became more democratic only after ages of strong government, such that by the time government backed down a little, people had developed a sense of government—something like that. In other words, for freedom and democracy to work, maybe you first need to have a certain kind of faith in government, or else you swing too far in the direction of lawlessness? So in the United States, which went straight into a more democratic system before the people had developed a sense of the rule of law, maybe there's a tendency for individualism to trump everything?

Penguin's got this nice series of little "great idea" books with neato covers. This one—this cover, I mean—which I saw in a bookstore the other day, seems relevant:


Fromm suggested that, in a way that is connected both to the evolution of humanity and to the ancient Hebrew story of the fall of man, each human being becomes free at great personal cost, losing the safety and comfort and sense of integration that comes from being dependent upon parents (or in the womb, or in Eden, or completely governed by instinct and at one with nature). In fact, freedom is so terrifying that most of us try to escape from it, fleeing and taking refuge in authoritarian systems of religion or government, or in orgiastic escapes like sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll. Fromm wrote that the main American method of freedom-avoidance was less Fascism than conformism: in theory we're all making choices and are responsible only to ourselves, but we avoid that responsibility by making the same choices everyone else makes, pre-approved choices, choices that have already been made for us.

Freedom from a unifying principle, or at least from guidelines, might translate into a tyranny of the whim, of the impulse, of the instinct. As Douglas Adams pointed out in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the truly infinite appears flat; similarly, infinite options can become no option, the way a free market can devolve into monopoly or a democracy can devolve into dictatorship. Maybe free will is particularly prone to eating itself. Freedom of choice in the absence of direction leads either to arbitrary, meaningless action or to paralysis.

Is that right?

Buber wrote that the decision is the most important thing—as he sees it, the way God realizes himself through us. But on a practical level, what does that amount to? No wonder Buber champions what feels like a very humanistic, existential philosophy and yet somehow winds up favoring ultra-Orthodox religion: hats and beards and food restrictions. As suggested in The Humbling, maybe part of what both appeals and appals about suicide is the way it might appear to be the only real choice that a person can make, the only thing he can truly control. Of course, that's all illusion, fueled by sentimentalism: only the melodrama of the decision makes it feel any less compromised than any other decision, like what to eat for breakfast or what shirt to put on in the morning. In the end, suicide is a mere gesture. I've always been very suspicious of gestures, but it's no surprise that they're so popular in this society: the gesture can seem like the closest thing we have to real action.

I still believe that freedom is of central importance, if only because it cannot really be avoided: all the fleeing from freedom that Fromm describes is itself illusory because all we are doing is disowning our responsibility, which can be hidden or ignored but never done away with. Freedom and responsibility are constants, and we can put them under the rug or drape restraints over them, or simply pretend they aren't there, but in the end that's what we are doing with them... This is why our literature values extreme experience, like war and disaster: if you're flying a plane through a Los Angeles that is collapsing all around you as the earth opens up to swallow it and then dumps it into the sea*—or, more realistically, if you're storming the beaches and everyone around you is being torn to pieces by relentless machine-gun fire—then you've still got a kind of fundamental freedom and personal responsibility but it's all rather abstract and basically doesn't matter. But do we focus on these situations because they teach us something profound or because we prefer them to the fearsome unresolvable ambiguity of the day-to-day? Do we long for disaster because disaster at least is an answer?


I have no idea where I'm going with all of this except that I believe religion's dominance in the world is the result of its being one of our only ways of trying to wrestle with these questions. Unfortunately, I think it's a crappy way...like if a flyswatter were your only tool for bailing out a sinking boat (you'd still probably try to use it, but you'd end up sinking—period). We need something, though. Or is the only way to live just to not worry about shit? Could the answer really be that it doesn't fucking matter?

It's certainly true that mood affects philosophy: when I'm feeling better about life, I don't generally ask these questions. Doesn't that mean the "philosophy" in question is bullshit? That it's a kind of very complicated rationalization? Is it that when you're in a good mood you ignore the unhappy truths, or that when you're in a bad mood you imagine that everything is terrible when it's really not?

Does that even matter either way?

Just put on a happy face!



* Best part of 2012. Worth the price of admission.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Future Mac OS X Code Names [UPDATED]


Ratter
Snagglepuss
Aristocat
Shoecrapper
MC Skat Kat
Ukrainian Jewcat
Ceiling Cat
Lolcat
Snarf-Snarf
Bobcat Goldthwait

confused, unhappy

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?


commentary on the commentary


In case it's hard to read what's going on here on this men's room wall (my cell phone's camera is not at its best in that kind of light), here it is for you again in gloriously legible computerized print:

Vandal #1: FACE THE BOOK
Vandal #2: Fuck you shit bag cunt face

Bravissimo! The night is won!

indecipherable street slang [UPDATED x2]

So the New York Times reports on this kid who was arrested for a robbery but was released because he had an alibi—in the form of a Facebook status update (cf.). That's cute and all, maybe a little interesting, but what stood out to me was the repeated emphasis on how totally incomprehensible the status update was:

"...the sentence, written in indecipherable street slang, was just another navel-gazing cryptic Facebook status update—words that were gobbledygook to anyone besides Mr. Bradford."

OK. Now, the Times included a small screenshot of the kid's Facebook page. Click to enlarge and check out the bottom:


It would appear that the cryptic, indecipherable gobbledygook in question reads, "ON THE PHONE WITH THIS FAT CHICK......WHERER MY I HOP."* So...really, New York Times? Is "WHERER MY I HOP" that mysterious? Look, it's true: there's only one IHOP in New York City, and it's in Brooklyn. But I'm from New York City, and I know what IHOP is. I'm not saying this is the most crystal-clear, easily understood expression imaginable, but "indecipherable street slang"? IHOP is a major chain with restaurants in all 50 states. Gimme a fuckin' break.

It's also funny—slash, troubling—that the Times translates "WHERER MY I HOP" as "Where's my pancakes" (as opposed to, say, "Where are my pancakes"). The most innocent explanation is that the status update really was just completely incomprehensible to these people, and they couldn't even begin to understand that WHERER = WHERE'RE = WHERE ARE, and they either had to turn the R into an S in order to wrap their minds around it or just accepted somebody else's translation on blind faith. (You might also claim that it's an advanced translator's choice, based on the assumption that IHOP is singular, such that the truest translation of "where are my [singular] IHOP" once "IHOP" is switched to the plural "pancakes" would be "where is my [plural] pancakes"...but what are the odds of that? And couldn't IHOP be plural?) A more worrying explanation is that they felt it necessary to insert subject–verb confusion just to communicate the "street" slanginess...which begins to smack of, what do you call it, condescension? There might be another word for it...

[BONUS: Why did they leave out "ON THE PHONE WITH THIS FAT CHICK"? Is it that you could be on the phone anywhere but not waiting for pancakes anywhere? But the main relevance of the alibi was not about what he said: it was about his having updated his status from a particular computer. No, I think they left out the thing about the fat chick because they just didn't know what to do with it. (Either that or all their experts working together still couldn't translate it into English.)]


* I found the guy on Facebook and double-checked. Yes, that's exactly what it says.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hamlet with the Pirates

[The following is a story I wrote five or six years ago about how much it stinks to be in a long-distance relationship.* For whatever reason I did the story as junk Barthelmismo and linked it to a favorite oft-forgotten fact about Hamlet: that Hamlet spends some time off-stage on a pirate ship.]

crappy sunduckless photo mash-up†


Hamlet with the Pirates

Hamlet, in a letter to Horatio:

Ere we were two days old at sea, a pirate of very warlike appointment gave us chase. Finding ourselves too slow of sail, we put on a compelled valour. In the grapple I boarded them. On the instant they got clear of our ship; so I alone became their prisoner... (Act IV, Scene 6)

*

Could you really blame the man? After all...
Hard to think with this water all around. Hamlet keeps having to remind himself who's who and what's what as though he were telling this story instead of recalling it. The anger itself he has to generate like a stage effect. Can it have been this way from the start? Talk to yourself long enough and you lose the thread. But what thread? Was there thread? And all this water...
After all (he resumes with force) his uncle simply saw what he wanted and took it. Look at it from the man's perspective: sure, it wasn't a good thing that he'd... But then what is "good"? Hamlet feels in no position to say. The issue is not so much a moral one, after all—although in that case what... What has he gotten himself so worked up about?
His father! Blast it, his father and mother and...
But it all seems so tired now when he says it, the same facts, the same words—just facts, just words—like a man clinging to some long-dead principle, stillborn, in the face of real meaninglessness. His father dead, yes, his mother in—but what difference? A ghost, perhaps, his father back from the... well...
Does he in fact care? Should he? Separate questions, sometimes relevant each to the other in either direction. There are the things you think you think and the things you think you don't think but do think, and a host more by his count, and what does it matter in the end what you thought or thought you thought or—?
Is this something he could turn off? What would he be if he turned it off?

*

The pirates were puzzled by this fellow Hamlet with his funny eyes and his way of talking. He was in his 20s, 30s, hard to tell, walking on their deck with a kind of—what was it, confidence?—such that they half wanted to flee from him, half wanted to string him up by an ankle and poke him with a broom. The captain took a long look at him and said, "Keep him," said, "I like the bastard, keep him," so they kept him.
Hamlet was amused somewhat by the monkeys and wanted to know why they had monkeys, and no one was quite sure how to answer. Why did they have monkeys? He always asked questions you wouldn't have thought to ask. Like what did they eat, the monkeys? The pirates all looked at each other dumbly. What kind of a man would think to ask a question like that?
Everything in the ship when Hamlet boarded took on a different meaning; all the pirates felt it. No one knew what to think about him, and it wasn't as if anyone were actually afraid of him (there was always the urge to go up behind him as he was staring out at the sea and pull his legs out from under him and flip him right over the rail, just to hear if he'd shout—or maybe wrestle him to the ground and sit on him), and yet nobody was going to touch him. Even wild Tom kept his distance, who'd buggered about every captive they'd ever taken; "Don't want to, Tom?" they asked him, and he said, "Aye, aye," but that was that, and afterwards awkward silence of a sort now common on the ship.
They showed Hamlet the brothel, and he asked why it cost money, who was charging money, who got the money, how did this come to be on a sailing vessel? There was no answer to these questions. "Look at 'em," they said, "look at the tasty girlies," but they knew that not a man on the ship had tasted the girlies as none could afford them, and for the first time this made them sad.
They chose to hide from him the three-ring circus.

*

And if after all the whole tragedy's nothing beyond his own sense of it?
Is it that he begins to forget what matters and has to remind himself, or is it instead that he says something about the world and hears himself say it and believes? What he tells himself—is it narration or creation? The pain he feels—is it born from injury, or does it invent injury to justify itself? Did he ever live without that pain? Is the problem something of which his thinking aims to plumb the depths, or something of which his thinking is the very fount?
The life of a seagull must be passing dull.
Could it be no more than that he misses his father? He misses the man—that is to say, the man is not with him. What he feels now—did he not feel it before, before he learned what had—? Do the facts do anything more than fill what space he'd kept already open since the man had died? Before? And now, might it not be that he's—all that he's—just keeping the space alive, the space between father and son? Just worrying it to keep it alive so it doesn't fade or dry or—close?
Does he, did he love the man? Could it— But that's not what this is about, love! Would that he could simply...
Amazing, though, that that's not what this is about. Not about love! Does he, did he? Well? He looks out at the water.
And what of Ophelia?
Ophelia Ophelia Ophelia Ophelia Ophelia Ophelia Ophelia Ophelia Ophelia Ophelia Ophelia Ophelia Ophelia Ophelia Ophelia Ophelia Ophelia Ophelia Ophelia Ophelia Ophelia Ophelia O

*

He was underimpressed by the video arcade and the bullfight, which is not to say he was unresponsive; it's just that his response wasn't what they'd hoped for.
"Arrr," they told him, "booty, it's booty," but they found the answer satisfied them less even than him. What was booty, when all was said and done?
The captain called an emergency meeting when Hamlet was gazing (as he did) off into the empty horizon. Had they shown him the automaton? the sculpture garden? the festive dancing bedbug swarm? Had they let him see the waterfall? the prairie dogs? the Ark? the Grail? the Giacometti? Had they exposed him to the rare-books library or the singing shark or tossed him, blast it, into the bottomless pit?
They had done these things, yes. (His response to the pit had been particularly frustrating.)
Had they shown him yet the song and dance?
They had; he'd critiqued it. And what did they feed the monkeys, the pirates wanted to know. What had they fed the monkeys? The monkeys seemed awfully thin and listless now they'd stopped to think.
The captain called the pirates scurvy, and he spat and shouted, but in the end he was just as lost as the rest of them. They all sat in silence; there was a certain comfort in that.

*

If all the tragedy is but a placeholder, something to fill or to occupy or to be the hole that was the king— But which? Did the tragedy fill or keep open the hole? And how should a man prefer his holes: filled or kept open? When everyone's going to die in the end regardless.
All this water around. Can't expect a man—

*

"To Denmark and be rid of him!"
"Arrr!!?"

Alas, poor Willy...


* That's mostly true, arguably true. I am pretty sure I wrote this story on Valentine's Day.
This one worked out much better. But it's the thought that counts?

Is the enemy of my enemy my friend?

Is the prosecutor of my prosecutor my defense attorney?

Is the mugger of my mugger my secret Santa?

Is the laxative of my laxative my anti-diarrheal?

Is the stalker of my stalker my cute next-door neighbor who wears that T-shirt as a nightie and never closes her shades?

Is the baby of my baby my friend's annoying and not-at-all-cute baby?

Is the tapeworm of my tapeworm my nutritionist? (Unlikely.)

Is the parole officer of my parole officer my jumpy getaway-car driver?

Is the sex partner of my sex partner my physically repulsive brother-in-law?

Is the college-guidance counselor of my college-guidance counselor my marijuana-delivery guy?

Is the accountant of my accountant the man who just broke my knees with a metal pipe?

Is the dentist of my dentist my captive Keebler-elf slave-chef, who cooks delicious sweets in tiny chains?

Is the psychoanalyst of my psychoanalyst my overbearing mother?

...Or is the psychoanalyst of my psychoanalyst my psychoanalyst?

Bdt! Bbddt! Bibididit. BigBoydidit. BIG BOY DID IT.

Friday, November 6, 2009

unpopular opinions

Here are some beliefs I hold that most people seem to disagree with:
  • Best thing Mike Judge ever did? Beavis & Butt-Head. The TV show, not the movie.
  • Putting lemon in glasses of water when not specifically asked to do so is totally unacceptable; restaurants that do so should be firebombed. (I didn't order lemon water! But you just ordered a firebomb.)
  • How about washing your hands before going to the bathroom? If there's anything I don't want to touch with germy hands, it's my privates.
  • It's stupid to be upset by the outcome of a sporting event.*
  • Hillary would have lost.
  • Dark chocolate is at least 100,000 times better than milk chocolate.
  • Shakespeare: better on the page than on the stage.
  • Sex without love: full of meaning, what are you talking about?
  • District 9 was a bad movie.
  • Michael Chabon is a bad writer. (Q.v.)
  • Israel ≠ Judaism. (Q.v.)
  • A sense of irony is indispensable. (Q.v.)
  • You're not an agnostic, you're an atheist. (Q.v.)
  • Firemen can be real assholes.
If you share a bed with a mogwai, he's your boyfriend.


* I didn't have any opinion at all about the World Series until getting stuck on the downtown douchebag express this morning with a crowd of idiot Yankee fans. Now I guess I root for the Mets.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

hot wheels

Please note that this license plate* is attached to the front of this car with twine. I like (a) the fact of it, (b) the image of its flapping around crazily on the highway,† (c) the image of the motorist squatted down tying it on, and (d) the particular combination of this particular set-up with this particular car.

Great job!



* Obscured (less for the sake of a stranger's privacy than for the sake of privacy in general) by the sun duck, who does all my Photoshoppery.
† If you click to enlarge, you can see what I think might be scratch marks from, presumably, just this phenomenon. Although I took the picture, I didn't notice the marks until just now, so I can't be sure.