i am a pretentious hack.

       i'm not dead!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

boo, nbc! boo!



i am, have always been, and will always be a diehard conan supporter. i am sick to my stomach about the big ol' shaft nbc is currently trying to give him. jump ship, conan. they don't deserve you. come back to new york. join forces with john hodgman and start a hilarious sitcom about ivy-educated comedy writers who are so tragically underappreciated that they are forced to moonlight as clerks at the strand, or maybe kidrobot. HIRE ME AS CURATOR OF YOUR TIE COLLECTION. you will not be sorry.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

the unpriveleged, single, working new york female: a half-day in the life

november 4, 2009

i got home around 1:00 a.m. and found a large, unidentified male sleeping on the floor in front of my door--not the door to my building but the door to my fourth-floor apartment. he was snoring loudly and didn't seem to notice me at all as i leaped over his leg and scurried into my apartment, but i think you can probably understand that it made me a little uncomfortable to know that he was there. there are children in my building, and nosy pets. also, i could still hear him snoring once i was inside, and i thought the racket might keep me up. i called the police, who arrived pretty promptly but stood in my hallway for at least half an hour haggling with the man about whether or not he wanted to walk outside with them. from what i overheard, which was everything, he was a schizophrenic who was living in a shelter but had taken his medication late and then had "some" beer, and decided he was too tired to make it all the way home. when asked how he got inside the building, he claimed to know and be friends with everyone who lived there, and then said he was thinking of a building across the street and couldn't remember how he got into mine. once he was in, though, apparently he found my front door to be the most welcoming of all the front doors he came across. that's nice, i guess, that my entryway feels warm and homey. at least, it would be, if i wanted anyone to come near my apartment, ever. i got to sleep around 3:30 a.m.

i left my house at 7:45 a.m. to move my car for alternate-side parking. thinking it would take me maybe thirty minutes at most to find a spot, i didn't bother to clean up or even change out of my pajamas, since i planned to shower when i got back. ninety minutes later, i gave up and double-parked two blocks from my apartment to wait for the street sweeper to pass so i could put my car right back where it had been at 7:45. i got back to my apartment at 9:35--five minutes after i was supposed to have arrived at work--and threw on clothes that, i realize now, don't really make any sense. i did not brush my teeth or wash my face, choosing instead to stuff my toothbrush, toothpaste, and a jar of astringent scrub pads into my bag and run out the door. at 10:15 a.m., on the train somewhere under downtown manhattan and still fifteen minutes from my destination, i realized that i had not peed since i'd woken up, and that that was rapidly becoming an extremely unfortunate oversight.

at 12:45 p.m. i ate the remnants of a sandwich that had been sitting out on my desk for 24 hours. i praised myself for not having wept at any point in this calendar day.

at 12:52 p.m., i read this, and i thought, yes. nothing more; just that--yes.

at 1:13 p.m., a cold stillness, part numbness, part calm, settled upon me, and i finally was able to address the three dozen angry, impatient e-mails that i had been staring at blankly for the past two hours. yes, dr. haughty, i did forget to attach the cover sheet. no, i do not deserve to work here or to live. yes, i will sleep uncovered on the hard floor tonight and meditate on my wrongs, if i survive the food poisoning i have undoubtedly contracted from my soggy and aged half-sandwich.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

i just want to say one thing . . .


that's me, after seeing antichrist. just kidding. kind of.




in case you are thinking of seeing it, i will do what i can to keep overt spoilers to a minimum, but i feel obligated to warn you that antichrist is pretty awful. i want to be clear and honest about that. it's the blair witch project with slightly higher production values and an overenunciated moral, neither of which improves it. well, no, it is not really the blair witch project, because the blair witch project is quite good. ironically, even though blair witch had no true script, it is the better-written movie of the two. in fact, it is more than a little unfair for me to use the blair witch project for comparison, as it is in another, superior league entirely. it knows that it is a ghost story, it doesn't try to be anything else, and it succeeds beautifully. antichrist is lame both as the horror its director insists it be and as the psychological-philosophical-theological prod to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex he seems to want it to be. when it isn't making you sick, it isn't doing much of anything at all. its turning points are clunky and ham-fisted, it lacks momentum, the characters are stereotypes, the dialogue is flat. it does, sadly, have an ominous soundtrack refrain that kicks in whenever something SPOOKY is happening, just in case you weren't picking up on it. some people seem to think there is some innovative camerawork and art direction, but i must have been blinking or rolling my eyes or burying my face in my hands during those sequences, as i found none of it visually captivating. it left me feeling . . . well, damaged, and in no mood to defend lars von trier against any sort of attack, personal or professional, despite the beauty of some of his earlier films. but i do hate me some injustice, and i have to say that i think that reviewers of this movie who are up in arms over von trier's perceived misogyny are sort of missing the point. i shall defend my thesis forthwith, and in doing so i shall have to pull things from all over the work, including toward the end. just some fair warning there. *ahem*

briefest possible background synopsis: charlotte gainsbourg and willem dafoe are married and have no names. they have a son, a toddler, who does have a name. his name is nic. nic dies while his parents are gettin' it on. hilarity involving poorly animated woodland creatures and what may or may not be dream sequences ensues.

so. gainsbourg's character is a woman who has immersed herself in critical study of the centuries-long tendency to view sexual, unrepressed, free-thinking and -spirited women as wicked, in order to write a dissertation combating said view. but submerge yourself in mud and it's tough not to get dirty. when her own sexuality gets tangled up with a tragic loss, she blames herself and becomes a bit haunted by all those notions of women's innate evil, and she goes a little mad--with grief, with regret, with self-loathing, what have you. she believes the part of her nature that allows her to revel in wild sex is the same part that essentially killed her baby, and this tying-together, which underlies all of the witch hunting from this movie back to the dawn of civilization, makes her feel, you know, witchy. but we aren't meant to agree with her, or to assume her views are von trier's. the tragedy is that her husband, a cognitive-behavioral therapist who at least in his own mind is a paradigm of logic and understanding and clinical knowledge about human grief and madness, does start to think she might be on to something, and follows her right down that path to crazytown. granted, what she puts him through would bring anyone to the brink--and i'm sure that if you've heard anything about this movie, this putting-through is the bit you've heard about--but it's a METAPHOR. they represent the often losing war that civilized intellect wages against primitive nature. i'm not just tossing out pretentious yet baseless analysis here; there is a conversation sequence in the movie that all but reaches out of the screen and slaps you in the face with this point. dafoe, who is too confident in his scholarly understanding of gainsbourg's girly fragility and her mental state and processes to admit that he might not be the best person to treat his own wife (read: arrogant as all get-out and the textbook domineering patriarchal misogynist), allows her to retreat farther and farther into her own mania without ever waking up to what's happening. this makes him the villain, does it not? i think it does. a grieving woman can be, or become, a crazy woman, and a crazy woman will probably get even crazier if you drag her out into the middle of the woods and make her listen to acorns falling on a tin roof day in and day out, but odds are she isn't the devil. the devil doesn't have to be in the vicinity in order for you to catch that woman's crazy if you are also grieving and subject to incessant acorn plink-plink-plinks. if you are a trained mental health professional, you should know this, and if you decide to pretend that you don't know this, you are responsible for any resulting bloodshed. i think you are responsible even if you just forget, as it's your job to remember. it is easy to blame the devil, and probably the devil doesn't mind the finger-pointing, but i bet we all know what's really going down. and von trier knows it, too. the movie, i think, is warning us, in what i felt was a pretty obvious fashion, not to be so facile and primal and stupid, even though at our best we are basically just a gloppy mound of those traits with a schmear of secondary-schooled frosting. who's the REAL antichrist, oooOOOOooooo. or something.

whatever. the movie is dreck, no question, but when von trier says it is not woman-hating dreck, i am inclined to believe him. i wish i could recommend that you see it and decide for yourself, but . . . i can't. i just can't.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

david firth is strummin' my pain with his flash toons

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

we have a remedy! we have!

our economy's cries can be heard all around the world--even in the condé nast building, which is usually a fortress invulnerable to such woes, safeguarded by all manner of magic enchantments against the plight of the common, un-prada-clad citizen. but no more! apparently, when the financial sector screws itself, tragedy ensues for advance publications:

Condé Nast Publications named a new publisher for The New Yorker on Thursday and put the magazine’s previous publisher in charge of Internet ad sales for the entire company. The move is part of a continuing reorganization as the company grapples with the magazine industry’s plunging ad revenue. . . .

Lisa Hughes, The New Yorker’s new vice president and publisher . . . takes over a magazine clearly in need of help. The New Yorker’s ad pages dropped 26.8 percent in 2008, far more than other Condé Nast titles, and more than double the industrywide decline of 11.7 percent. Financial services ads, a New Yorker mainstay, were among the hardest-hit categories last year.

The New Yorker was operating in the black in early 2008, but not by the end of the year, according to company executives who were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss finances.


welcome, lisa hughes! may you do my favorite weekly proud. and as a concerned citizen and devoted reader of your foundering publication, i would very much like to do my part to assist in the rescue effort. in that spirit, a suggestion:

FIRE SASHA FRERE-JONES. HE IS A SUCKING WOUND IN THE ABDOMEN OF THE NEW YORKER AND A KNIFE IN THE EYE OF ANY AND ALL SELF-RESPECTING MUSIC ENTHUSIASTS.

come on, lisa. come on. you know it's true. how can anyone who trash-talks pavement for their lyrical obscurity, and indie music in general for its disinterest in prominent rhythm and musical tradition, one week and then raves about animal collective for their penchant for chaos and near-total absence of linguistic sense, rhythm, or melody the next ever expect to be taken seriously? did he think we wouldn't notice? well, here's what i think: every once in a while when sasha tries to skeev on some sweet young thing at webster hall, said thing gives him a once-over, rolls its eyes, and says, "whatevs, old man." this causes a knee-jerk wholesale rejection of youth and indie culture for being ridiculous and inscrutable, followed by a renewed effort to convince said culture that he is still in the game. but it's all crap. CRAP. and we know it's crap—that's right, we're on to you, you fraud!—because he is at least a year behind the curve on profiling anyone of interest. by march of 2008 everyone in america knew who amy winehouse was and what kind of shape her liver was in. no, there was not anything surprising about her being awarded five grammys; nor was there anything surprising in sasha's profile of her, which he very gamely admitted came out about a billion years after her album exploded and her notoriety became fodder for leno and letterman. what would be surprising is if he ever, EVER reviewed ANY album or act before it was old hat, or said anything in that review that wasn't an uninspired, slightly snootier regurgitation of things that were already generally known, even by me, when i am so far from hip that i still rhapsodize about the golden era of radio (i.e., 1991–1997) and occasionally wake up craving counting crows' recovering the satellites. even i can tell, sasha, that everyone at the new yorker ought to be telling you to piss up a rope. i would draw on some of your more recent articles for evidence, but i more or less gave up reading them some time ago. i bet i'm not alone.

that's approximately two pages of every issue, lisa, that you are practically throwing away. two whole pages. with a circulation of between one and two million, i mean, that really adds up. and it's not like he's going to change. the pattern is proven. you have to cut him loose. you just have to. really, it isn't about me; it's about the new yorker. it is an eighty-four-year-old institution, and i know you don't want it failing on your watch. it survived the depression, for christ's sake.

just, do the right thing, lisa. we're all counting on you now. it's in your hands.




p.s. while you are doing right things, perhaps you should take this opportunity to reconsider nancy franklin's tenure. it could be that i don't watch enough television, but i'm pretty sure it's that she's unbearable.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

well, shit.

i know death comes to us all, but . . . even john updike? really? somehow i had thought he might actually find a way out of it.

i'm sorry now, john, that i never left that present at your door. we had our spats, like anyone will, but i always loved you at least a little, and usually more than that. no more lead weights for you, i guess. so more for us.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

the taste is completely different from a gummi bear, yet somehow familiar . . .


i couldn't say a word about it until i was sure it had really happened, for fear of jinxes. i've been cowering in corners with my toes and fingers crossed, lighting candles and turning in clockwise circles, doing my best to keep my tiny black cat from crossing my path at thirteen minutes past the hour—but everything's o.k. now. this


is really finally over. look at those smug bastards in their matching awful ties, like tweedle satan and tweedle satan's evil monkey. but no more! they're done! they're being tossed out on their asses onto the curb of pennsylvania avenue nw as i type. [cue dancing and confetti] hooray! if a little black rain cloud follows me around all day every day for the rest of the year, i won't even care; in my head there is such a parade. i honestly do feel so optimistic.

but no free pass, new guys! you better work. seriously, sashay, shante, make love to a plan for nationwide enforcement of a transition to environmentally sound energy production modeled after california's renewables portfolio standard. 'cause i can work the voodoo both ways.

Monday, September 15, 2008

all your burning lights in the fog shone bright lit our missteps and we saw them and we saw

Thursday, May 08, 2008

vacation week at the new yorker zoology fact-checking desk

may 12, 2008, p. 59:

In his living room, Myhrvold has a life-size T. rex skeleton, surrounded by all manner of other dinosaur artifacts. One of those is a cast of a nest of oviraptor eggs, each the size of an eggplant. You'd think a bird that big would have one egg, or maybe two. That's the general rule: the larger the animal, the lower the fecundity. But it didn't. For Myhrvold, it was one of the many ways in which dinosaurs could teach us about ourselves. "You know how many eggs were in that nest?" Myhrvold asked. "Thirty-two."

and you know how many birds are in a room with thirty-two ovulating oviraptors? none, because oviraptors are reptiles, like just about all the other freaking dinosaurs, and they were relatively small dinosaurs in their time and environment, and larger animals have lower fecundity because they have longer gestation periods, but reptiles and other animals that lay eggs don't really have to worry about that (on average, an ostrich—an actual bird that is actually large—lays just over one egg a week, and each egg takes about forty days to hatch, so at any given moment during breeding season there might be five or six eggs from one bird in any nest [but ostriches share nests, so there would probably be more like twenty or thirty eggs total in any one nest, and there might be as many as sixty]), and reptiles tend to lay eggs in large clutches rather than one or two at a time, although most paleontologists are pretty sure that oviraptors, being bird-like, but not birds, formed and laid two eggs at a time and laid multiple pairs sequentially in a single nest, and yes, i am furrowing my nerdy brow at malcolm gladwell, and it pains me greatly, but, damn it, you can't start an article talking about a quantum physicist who goes on dinosaur hunts and get my heart all in an uproar and then do something like this and expect to just get away with it, especially not when i've waited five bloody months for you to do it, gladwell, you weenie. you could have left out this entire paragraph and made your point just as well, if not better, and i wouldn't want to swat you with a rolled-up magazine. sometimes you get so greedy for a higher-resonance close that i think i'll have to start calling you mcfuzz.

she was a bird, by the way. ask your myhrvold about that.


postscript, may 8, 1:59 PM: i had to distance myself from this article for an hour or so, to regain my objectivity, but i have come back and finished it, and it, you know, it's fine. it's a very good point, really, that people have a hard time distinguishing scientific innovation from artistic creation, and they should be distinguished: scientific advancement builds on preexisting knowledge, and in that sense every invention is a collaboration. but while artists typically have myriad influences, imagination can function in a near-vacuum. so while it might be art for someone who's never seen a telephone to think, "wouldn't it be neat if there were some kind of machine that allowed me to talk to someone far away," that visionary won't get anywhere without the aid of some other person, or several people, who knows how sounds and machines work, and there is decidedly less "art" in the construction. i think the degree of genius in either case is about equal, though (i know that i, regardless of my era or company, would never, over the course of an entire lifetime, either think up a telephone or manage to build one from its unassembled parts), and if someone has a brilliant idea independently, it shouldn't be considered any less brilliant if it turns out someone else had it, too. this is the problem with equating all invention with art: the originality factor, which doesn't apply equally in both realms, can get in the way of people's recognition of truly impressive accomplishments. it's also the problem with patents; if you come up with an idea and patent it just for the sake of planting a flag, of saying "i made this" even when you haven't actually made anything, and someone else later comes up with the same idea and has the support and means to take it further than you have, or has already gone further, do you really deserve more credit? surely you don't deserve sole credit, if you aren't capable of turning your idea into a practical reality without the knowledge and assistance of others. if you and some other person independently come up with the same idea before anyone has built anything, does either of you deserve more credit than the other? there's often so much emphasis on timing, but that really isn't relevant at all when it comes to gauging the merit of the notion or relative input into an invention. and yet we are taught that every new thing has one source, that it was one person sitting under a tree or on a hill or in a bathtub who all alone saw the answer that no one else could see. i wish we could be more communal. i know i always come back to the ants, but the truth is they're tops when it comes to societal paradigms. which ant decided to build a hill? who the hell cares? now all the ants have hills,* and it's awesome. people, you know, they're sort of silly animals. some of them even think that anything with feathers that lays eggs must be a bird. but they can't all be natural scientists; some of them have to be writers, and that's good, too. it would be better if they devoted more than one column out of twenty-four to their very good point, but i have a feeling that there are a lot more pages where these came from.



* i know that not all ants live in hills, but i had to wrap this thing up. it isn't like i don't know how writers fall into these traps.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

joon can read!




















paperback; © 2007 by melville house publishing

i'm poor, and libraries have strange, inconvenient hours, so sometimes i read books in sporadic one-hour installments during trips to the union square barnes & noble. the barnes & noble has four floors. on the second or third floor, there's a café with a big sign at its entrance prohibiting patrons from bringing in food from outside vendors, but on the fourth floor, where the fiction is, i can sit on the floor or in a folding chair in the section where readings are held and eat anything i want. that’s not true; technically, i'm not allowed to eat in these places, but no one has ever stopped me. once i brought in a sandwich and a beer and sat on the small stage in the front of the room, because i liked the way the light was coming in through the window over it. it’s as if by acting with enough confidence and nonchalance, i can persuade the people around me that i know more about the rules than they do. but all i know is that sometimes, even though there are people everywhere who might object to it, i want to be the way i would be if no one else were around.

is that more? or is the rule that i should be trying to act as if other people are around even when i'm alone? when i act like no one can see me, does it become self-fulfilling?

anyway, i have decided that this is the only way to read this book—in erratic and unannounced bursts, alone in a place that is not my home, in flagrant and yet utterly unchecked violation of the rules of social conduct, surrounded by strangers who are having hushed and incredibly serious conversations about things that strike me as wholly meaningless. really, i think it’s the only way to understand this book.

in eeeee eee eeee’s two hundred or so pages, characters drift in and out, with little or no fuss made over their entrances or exits. some of them have extensive back stories; some of them seem to have no history whatsoever. some of them play main roles for a chapter or two, dominating the entire plot, and then vanish and are never mentioned again. some of them are children. some of them are bears. some of them are so unspeakably isolated and untethered that they can’t visualize their own thoughts or desires clearly enough in their own minds to devote an action to them and instead wander numbly from one stationary object to another, looking, turning away, seeing nothing, responding to nothing. this is a lot like the reading room of a popular manhattan book store, and every public space is a microcosm representative of the broader, surrounding population. so eeeee eee eeee is about twenty-something-year-old pizza-deliverymen who have ironic and seemingly purposeless conversations with their friends, and it is about dolphins who live in an underground city and sometimes bludgeon celebrities, and it is about hamsters trying to explain the underground city to strangers in a park. but through these things, through their randomness and disconnectedness and the flatness with which the characters in the novel receive them, it becomes a spot-on telling of the state of society. it may be my generation's catcher in the rye.

we think we’re bored, but maybe we aren’t, and either way we aren’t sure how to fix it. we try things that don’t work, but we think they should have worked, so we don’t admit that they didn’t; then we are bored and depressed, and we can’t admit that either. we don’t know what to say instead, and we aren’t sure who to talk to, but we’re afraid to stop talking. sometimes we do terrible things and don’t know why; we regret them, we cry about them, and we do them again. sometimes the only way you can think of to tell your sister that you love her and you’re lonely and you want to be her friend is to sit on her head. sometimes people die and no one talks about it at all, and it feels incredibly strange, to know that someone has died and no one is talking about it, and you want to ask everyone why they aren’t talking about it, but you know that you will never ask and that no one will ever explain it, and it makes you desperate. it makes you so desperate that you cover a moose’s head with a blanket and punch it in the face, and when it says, “thank you,” you want to give it a cookie and kill it and drown, you love it and envy it so much.

eeeee eee eeee is about an invisible person in the center of a crowd of millions of people listening to one person nearby saying, “i’m so tired today. every time i try to think about something, i forget and think about something else,” and wondering, “am i tired? is that what’s wrong?” and writing, “i’m so tired today,” and knowing it isn’t the answer, and thinking about someone who isn't there, and moving to a different seat. that person disappears for two weeks and then comes back, and no one mentions it. someone stands on a chair and throws a bottle, and someone starts to cry, and other people look up and think, “i wonder if that would make me happy,” and then go back to their books.

you, all alone in the corner, with the untied sneaker and the hat hair—this book made me want to offer you my sandwich. i wanted to give you a hug. but you never looked up.

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