Saturday, September 30, 2006

"Night of the Living Radio Star"
(A Pop Culture Exercise)

Three music videos that involve the awesomely tasteless insertion of an actor playing a dead rock musician. Further proof that no one can dare to be quite as stupid as Devo.

1. Devo "R U Experienced" -- Hendrix's coffin, the radioactive peace sign, Devo getting "high," no decade could hate the sixties more than the eighties and no band could make "R U Experienced" sound like a job interview, except Devo.

2. Electric Six "Radio Ga Ga" -- The video for this cover supposedly divided Queen's remaining members. Yes: Dick Valentine is dancing on Freddy Mercury's grave. Boo. However: He's doing it as Freddy Mercury, leotard, fake teeth, mustache, the works. High camp* homage or vicious, sarcastic cheese? You decide.

*To get you started, here's an essay on the differences from the Hermenaut.

3. Red Hot Chili Peppers "Dani California" -- The Anthony Kiedis dressing up as Kurt Cobain part of this (frankly) dull and masturbatory piece appears to have been what enraged fans. More alarming to me, other than the slow pacing, is how empty and self-satisfied this game of dress-up is. It's like when Hanna-Barbara sells 'Warholed' Fred Flintstone images on Universal Studios souvenir T-shirts. (Being fair, some of the Beatles parts are cute and Flea 's enthusiasm is winning.) To see this kind of thing done right, watch the Gnarls Barkley "Happy Faces" video.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Diagnosis Murder, Prognosis ... Death!

Jokes are my primary mnemonic device. If I was funnier, maybe I would remember more.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Mario Puzo's The Racist Senator Type Guy

College teammates of George Allen, the Republican senator recently infamous for calling a Democrat heckler of Indian ancestry "Macaca," talked to about his history of racial epithet usage. Oh! And hate crimes! I forgot about the hate crimes:
Shelton played football with Allen in the 1972 and 1973 seasons, according to the team media guides from those years. Shelton remembers Allen's attitudes about race surfacing early in their relationship. At one point, Shelton says, Allen nicknamed him "Wizard," after United Klans imperial wizard Robert Shelton. "He asked me if I was related at all," Shelton remembers. "I knew of that name, and I said absolutely not." Several former teammates confirmed that Shelton's team nickname was "Wizard," though no one contacted by Salon could confirm firsthand knowledge of the handle's origin. "Everyone called me 'Wizard' that knows me from those days," said Shelton. "My nickname stuck."

Shelton said he also remembers a disturbing deer hunting trip with Allen on land that was owned by the family of Billy Lanahan, a wide receiver on the team. After they had killed a deer, Shelton said he remembers Allen asking Lanahan where the local black residents lived. Shelton said Allen then drove the three of them to that neighborhood with the severed head of the deer. "He proceeded to take the doe's head and stuff it into a mailbox," Shelton said.
[Salon article via Maud Newton]

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Which is not to say that this performance isn't funny or that Slice isn't refreshing

There's a David Foster Wallace essay, E Pluribus Unum: Television and U. S. Fiction, in which he discusses some Joe Isuzu and Pepsi adverts as critical steps in U.S. television marketing from the earnestly-dishonest era to the winkingly-dishonest era. It was part of a larger argument about the intensive self-reflexivity of TV culture and its reflection in prose, but the ad thing was particularly interesting in that it became a huge tangent pertaining to the whole irony/authenticity/staged-authenticity cultural game everyone gets to play now-a-days. (wheeze, cough.)

In the essay, DWF makes the point that the purpose of this ad style is (obvs) to gratify viewers sense of superiority by inviting them to join the company in a smirking in-joke on the rest of the nation's stupid people. Then maybe identify with the brand or whatever. At least talk about the commercial at work in front of some putz who didn't see it.

So, here's the fun, reductive, and probably wrong part. In addition to being a by-product of the SNL parody commercial formula -- especially the ranting and raving Dan Akroyd bass-o-matic type stuff -- the 1980's ironic ads also got to employ up and coming SNL cast members.

I want to read an essay on the Orbitz gum ads. I wonder if there is one.

Friday, September 22, 2006

All the Presidents' Doodles

Praise for Presidential Doodles:

“This book sets a new standard not just for scholarly treatment of presidential doodles, but for Doodle Studies in general. David Greenberg’s introduction is, at one level, a masterpiece of pointless erudition, and, on another level, highly informative and entertaining. If you read only one book on presidential doodles this year, make it this one.”

–Michael Kinsley, weekly columnist for The Washington Post and Slate

BONUS: co-written by Rutgers own David Greenberg. Does this mean I will try to interview him one day? Yeah, it probably does.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Grease and Boogie Nights: A Comparative Approach

or, Why I trust Slant Magazine for my Film Reviews:
That Grease was the number-one box-office hit of 1978 just goes to show how hard audiences were willing to try to will the past into the present. Those droves weren't sending Grease up Rocky Horror-style, singing "Who put the coke in the bop-she-bop-she-bop." Similarly, Boogie Nights was directed by an Altman worshipper in a Tarantino era, using disco pyrotechnics and ribaldry-in-mainstream-drag to bring back the era of socially-conscious Hollywood films before '80s materialism and '90s indie hell took the fun out of being incredibly dour. Boogie Nights has its heart in the right place, but whines more than pucker-face Sandy. Grease has no heart and thus can't misplace it, but filling the gaping void is a nonstop arsenal of accidentally memorable non sequiturs, most of them as appropriately effervescent as the script would require if there actually were a script[...]

Secretly, I like it as much as I like deep-fried cheese curds, but when Grease gets remade two decades from now, it will be a Target commercial. And we'll all be fat.
'90s indie hell!? ribaldry-in-mainstream-drag!? I feel 100% linguistically in love w/ these people.[Link]

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Brad Neely rap about president George Washington

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Princeton Computer Scientists fail to provide evidence of evil people

Diebold spokesman David Bear did not return Salon's calls for comment on the Princeton study. In the past, he has denied that such security concerns are notable.

"[Our critics are] throwing out a 'what if' that's premised on a basis of an evil, nefarious person breaking the law," Bear told Newsweek after the March Emery County study. "For there to be a problem here," he further explained to the New York Times, "you're basically assuming a premise where you have some evil and nefarious election officials who would sneak in and introduce a piece of software … I don't believe these evil elections people exist."
[Link to rest of article]

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Secret Post Buried In The Past #001

Beautiful Energy-saving Bulbs Here; and "This Afghani cigarette lighter includes a rudimentary single image light that projects Ahmad Shah Masood."

Labels: ,

Wikipedia entry about the Chinese yuan.

Of no particular interest to anyone but me. [Link]

Monday, September 04, 2006

Exciting shit, that I'm enthusiastic about eventually getting the time to read

Thomas Frank, author of The Conquest of Cool and What's the Matter with Kansas? (here abbreviated to WMK), had a row recently with a Princeton professor about the latter book. I don't have time to read it yet or explain why anyone should, but I wanted to get the links up on the site, just in case I forget about them. You know, during the course of my hectic modern lifestyle.

(Ok. Basically TF believes that the 'moral values' and 'culture war' issues that have divided Republicans and Democrats is a smoke screen diverting the lower classes from the right's prima facie elitist economic policies. Larry Bartels a political scientist professor of Princeton disagrees and attempts to prove that Frank's 'distracted' lower classes actually do support laissez faire economic policies in "What's the Matter with What's the Matter with Kansas? {WMWMK}" Then TF rebutts him {WMWMWMK}. Exciting.)

Nation article [Link]

WMWMK Paper [Link]

WMWMWMK Paper [Link]

Sunday, September 03, 2006

George Saunders gets asked 120 questions

Any notable personage can answer twenty questions -- even Keith Richards. But only the exceptional ones can tackle more; like, six times more. Here at [AOL's blogospheric equivalent of a dad in Urban Outfitters clothes]The Feed, it's not about harvesting the thoughts of interesting people; it's about finding out how long they can tolerate One Hundred and Twenty Questions.

However, the real game quickly becomes:
1)How long before you start to suspect that George Saunders just wrote this thing all by himself? And,
2) How far into the 120 questions before fatigue sets in and you stop reading?
(I got to 44 before I stopped and began suspecting around 21.)
Reading the Feed feels like seeing McDonald's get all Starbucks with their coffee and all Au Bon with their salad options. George Saunders does his fair share of mugging in this too, and it isn't all that pretty. [Link]

PS- I had just finished reading CivilWarLand in Bad Decline when I found this via Google. Ok so far, but my favorite GS story is still "Winky" from Pastoralia. It's a parody of Tony Robbins style motivational speakers, specifically how their self-help methods tend to be hilarious universalizations of their really specific personal story. [I'm horrified at re-reading this post, because upon close inspection, it is very close to how I talk.]

Saturday, September 02, 2006

I <3 James Tiptree, Jr.


"Everybody needs soap."

Dr. Bronner-- pre-WWII German émigré, a "master chemist" from the Heilbronner family of soap makers, 60's counter-culture icon, and author of the insane New-Age ramblings on every bottle of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps--is now the subject of a documentary. From director, Sara Lamm:
In the Fall of 2000, I adapted and staged Dr. Bronner's unique soap label as part of a series of live comedic "found text" performances. When I wrote to the company asking for donated bottles of soap, I was shocked not just to receive a huge box, but also multiple phone calls from Ralph Bronner himself. [...]

In addition to documenting the history of an unusual family and a tingly soap, this film hopefully creates space to think about the possibilities of a business model that allows for both social responsibility and human interaction. From the beginning what most moved me about the Bronners was the entire family's shared ideal of "constructive capitalism," where, as Dr. Bronner long insisted, "You share the profit with the workers and the Earth." [...]
This is the strangest bit:
After my performances, he [Ralph Bronner, Dr. Bronner's son] stayed in touch--calling to thank me for the videotape, sending me a note card with a fifty-dollar bill ("My Random Act of Kindness! Go out to dinner on me!") In September 2001, he made a request: would I please take 15 cases of soap down to Ground Zero and hand them out to local residents? It seemed ludicrous, in the face of all of our confusion and grief, but Ralph was adamant. "I believe in working on the human level," he said, kind of convincing me, "Everyone needs soap."