Wednesday, December 31, 2008
here's a documentary on the making of one of my favorite films of all time, terry gilliam's Brazil. i first saw it at the buckhead cinema and draft house in atlanta (why aren't there more movie theaters where you can order beer and nachos and shit? that is the coolest concept ever.)
anyway. me and my friends went to see this late night showing of brazil, all of us terribly under age, got plowed on cheap beer along with eating a handful of mescaline. i remember walking out of the theater into the 2 am downtown atlanta morning, seeing the construction cranes, the shitty, bland, packed together office buildings and mini-malls, and thinking, we are living terry gilliam's nightmare.
happy new year, everyone, and hope you have a good time tonight. :)
Friday, December 19, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I'm not generally a big visual art guy; i write reasonably well, i sing and play guitar reasonably well, and i like to think i can act a bit. but i have never been able (or at least felt like was able to) draw or paint or anything like that. So it is rare when a visual artist really grabs ahold of me by the balls.
This artist, Miran Kim does that. I clicked on this site through metafilter, and i just can't tear my eyes away. There is something at once haunting and comforting about these paintings, something indescribable that makes me feel warm inside while simultaneously creeping me out. Hope you enjoy.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
It’s weird, the stupid shit you remember as you get older, shit you should have forgotten years ago, stupid little details that are utterly meaningless in and of themselves, but which for you hold some significance. I was fixing some eggs this evening (yes, if you must know, for dinner I was having a four-egg omelet with tater tots and some celery and carrots and shit. There. I have reached the absolute nadir of blogging shame: I have literally blogged about food I ate. You’re welcome.)
Anyway, as I was whipping the eggs (that’s not a euphemism) I remembered out of the blue this friend I had when I was a kid, maybe 6th grade, whose mom would make ‘special’ eggs by adding a little bit of cinnamon to them. Which I thought was utterly weird. See, this kid, Axel was really a friend of a friend -- a friend of two friends actually, two kids I was in classes with and who I guess my parents knew from Michigan State. I had just moved to East Lansing like the year before and didn’t know that many people, but I hung out with these guys Jay and Dan, and their friend Axel from the ‘old neighborhood’ (an extra two blocks down the street) who I didn’t know as well. The feeling I get as I look back is that this kid’s parents weren’t university folk, and so there might have been a class thing going on there -- upper middle versus lower middle, maybe? All I know is he had like 73 brothers and sisters and his mom always seemed like she was behind on cleaning and rather harried.
So I get invited to a sleepover at this kid’s house, along with Dan and Jay, and the next morning his mom makes eggs with some cinnamon, and I have never forgotten the smell or the taste. They say when you die that the last sense that goes is the sense of smell, and that seems right to me. There is no other sense that so instantly brings up images and memories for me.
But what all of this is coming around to is that I wonder: do we ever change? I mean, we get older, we learn new facts, we fall in and out of love -- but do we ever really CHANGE on a fundamental level? I think not. I think by the time we’re teenagers we are locked into the type of people we are going to be for life, more or less. I am still that shy kid who feels awkward in new situations -- more or less. I mean, I have learned skills that help me cope with discomfort and nervousness through time spent on the stage, but inside? I’m the same kid. Trust me. I wonder how many other aspects of our lives can be directly chased back to how we reacted and learned how to react to the world when we were kids.
When I die I expect I will smell cinnamon. Or perhaps bourbon. :) Not that I plan on dying anytime soon, lol.
Is it just me, or is this annual ‘season of giving’ one of the most frantic, annoying, irritating times of year? I mean, in a time when we are supposed to celebrate rebirth and renewal and giving and peace and joy and all that, do you not find that people behave shittier and more selfishly than at any other time of year? Don’t get me wrong -- all I have to do is buy some presents and fly back east every year to visit family, so I guess in a way I have it easy. I don’t have houseguests, I don’t have to prepare a big ol’ Christmas dinner or any of that.
What I’m talking about is the atmosphere out in the world in the weeks prior to Christmas. Is it just me or do drivers get more surly, do people seem more rushed, more irritated with each other, more crazed than usual? What is this insane pressure we put on ourselves every year?
And why do we call it a time of giving, a time of generosity when all we’re thinking about is how quickly we can score those deals and get the fuck out of the store? When all we’re doing is imagining the slow, painful death of the painfully slow cashier at Barnes and Noble as we wait in line behind twenty other irritated shoppers. (This is just me imagining the thoughts of others, I swear. I haven’t done a bit of shopping yet this year. :)
I’m just trying to remember how lucky I’ve got it, what a privilege it is to be alive in this time, and what incredible gifts I’ve been given, in terms of my friends, family, and my life. I’m not a religious person, but even if there isn’t a god I have been ‘blessed’ by something. I’m trying to remember compassion and hope and connecting with my fellow human beings, because the truth is, we are, all of us, blind and ignorant and doing the best we can with an impossible burden -- and I’m not talking about our shopping lists. All the rest is bullshit, and it don’t mean a thing.
Definitely, definitely NSFW. Or at least turn your speakers way down before you play it if there are people around. :)
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I’m re-reading Walker Percy’s “Love In the Ruins,” an awesome book about the crumbling of America as she once was. It’s ostensibly about a race war that isn’t so much a war as a capitulation, and about a doctor who is “abstracted from himself,” as he feels many Americans are. But he finds a way to cure these psychic ailments, to cure liberal ennui as well as conservative rage. Got me thinking about the dirty south again, where I haven’t been for a long time:
Driving south there is a distinct, sharp moment when you realize you are no longer in the north. You may not recognize it as it occurs, but you soon come to realize that it has happened. Coming from Michigan down through sad, old Indiana, then across into Kentucky, and there it is: something has changed. The northern rust belt has given way to something softer, less clanging and more sonorous. The fields are just as green, the landscape much the same, but something has changed.
In the west there’s not so clear a distinction, but I have made the drive to New Orleans from Colorado, and you can see some of the change, after you pass through Evil Texas, with its faux-southern deception. Texas is a fictional place; it doesn’t exist except in the minds of its proponents. It’s all suburbs and sprawl and concrete and scrub, a shithole of the mind.
Coming from the northeast especially there is something miraculous about driving south. There was a time coming down through Maryland and the Virginias, late at night, the only one still awake, when you crossed through some mythical veil and there you were. The ground fog clung warmly to the green, loamy earth; the dingy tension, the grime of the ancient northeast seemed to melt away. A broad white slab of new concrete expressway carries your lonely 4 am car down, down further into that old world, like a humid fairy tale storybox waiting to be opened. It’s a place waiting to reveal its secrets, but you have to know how to ask for them.
In a way, the south seems even older than the exhausted, soot-covered cities of the northeast that came before it. There was a gentility, a politeness -- however false -- that gave this place its charm, its mystery. There was hope here once, a feeling that a better world not only awaited the faithful after death, but could also be created here on earth. There was a dignity, a gravitas in the way things were done that is lost.
And a sense of sadness mixed in too. You get the feeling that the south always knew she was doomed, that the Big Sin she committed had spelled out her fate all along, and she knew punishment was inevitable. The sadness of the countryside is palpable. It is a land of death.
But driving south late at night, your only companion the radio because all your music seems tired and old, there is a moment when you can feel these ghosts of a more prosperous time reaching up out of the soft, fertile ground. You can hear them asking, whatever became of their way of life, how did it get reduced to a cartoon, a bad joke wherein ‘Southern’ became synonymous with ‘Ignorant,’ or ‘Racist?’ It was a proud country once, for all its faults, even in light of the Big Sin. There were good people here. But like everywhere else, it has now been reduced to a mockery of itself.
Sometimes, though, sometimes if you’re very quiet as you drive southward late at night, she still shares her secrets -- but only if you ask in just the right way.
Salting the earth.
The phrase ‘salting the earth’ is an ancient and overused one. The gist of the concept is that if one spreads salt over formerly productive fields, they won’t be able grow crops anymore. The origins of the term lie in a punishment employed by ancient cultures as a final slap in the face to the losers of a conflict. For instance, the Assyrians are said to have salted the earth surrounding certain cities that refused to pay tribute to them. And one ancient judge in Israel is said to have salted his own capital, Shechem, as punishment for an attempted rebellion against him. The Romans are said to have salted the earth surrounding Carthage as punishment for the prolonged Third Punic War, but scholars dispute this claim, as the Romans relied on North Africa as the ‘granary to the empire’ for centuries after. The Romans always knew which side their bread was buttered on.
Which brings me to my point. What the fuck are the douchebags in the outgoing administration and their myopic handmaidens in congress thinking? In a matter of weeks they have:
- opened up 150,000 new acres in the west to oil and gas drilling leases
- slipped a nice loophole on limiting exec pay into the very public $700 billion it shoveled to its buddies on Wall Street resulting in, you guessed it, no limits on exec pay
- admitted that Al Qaeda did not exist in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion, responding with ‘So what?’ (No, Bush literally said that on television.)
- decided that Detroit (and likely the rest of the economy) can sit and spin unless they’re willing to gut their union contracts
There’s a certain insane vindictiveness to all this behavior, when you consider that the $5 trillion surplus Bush inherited has already been turned into a $10 trillion deficit, and that despite that insane outlay, most Americans are worse off than they were 8 years ago. It’s almost too much to think that these guys are just so insanely greedy that squeezing more cash out of the taxpayers drives them to these levels of shamelessness.
It's like, you won, fuckers. What more do you want?
You raped the economy, you raped the Middle East, you raped our military, you raped the Constitution, you raped the memory of America's honor, you raped the poor and the middle class, you raped the environment, you raped the truth -- you raped the dignity of our very nation. YOUR nation too. What more could you possibly want?
Do you remember that moment in “The Dark Knight,” when Alfred is musing on The Joker’s possible motivations, and he says to Bruce Wayne, “Some people just like to watch the world burn?”
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
It's called passiveaggressivenotes.com. the notes people send in are hilarious. Once you start clicking through some of them, it's really hard to stop. :)
more people should post notes like this, actually, as cell phones are indeed vexing and insolent. nice choice of adjectives, there.
The pair of notes above is classic -- one person's passive-aggressive tendencies bring out PA in someone else, prompting a good old fashioned note war!
but the one below is awesome on so many levels: the fact that the manager had to program the message into the machine that prints the receipts, the fact that the back-handed pseudo-compliment is so...not a compliment, and the misspelling of 'tries.' classic.
it also makes me wonder: in what sense is she 'slow?' after all, she is called their 'special' employee of the month... (i've worked with a few 'special' people over the years, and believe me, they need all the encouragement they can get. :)
Monday, December 8, 2008
In Odessa, Texas, Cooper's group rented a house, outfitted it with surveillance equipment, and turned on a grow light often used by marijuana growers. But when the cops came swooping in less than 24 hours later to raid the house, what they found was two small Christmas trees peacefully growing under the lights, along with a poster telling them what was going on.
Here's the local news coverage of the story. Sry for the shitty sound.
Now, this is significant, and not just a publicity stunt, as the local news reporters tried to suggest, because it is illegal for cops to use thermal imaging cameras to seek out houses that use grow lights -- which are legal, by the way. Also, it is illegal for cops to lie on affidavits by claiming they have informants who have witnessed illegal activity at the location, leading to probable cause for raiding the house.
Here's the raw footage from Kop Busters of the very confused looking cops entering the house.
According to the Kop Busters web site, the cops first attempted to arrest their attorney, who was waiting for the raid, and refused to show them the affidavit which would explain how the cops came by their probable cause. Essentially, the question is: which is it? Did they lie, or compel an informant to lie about witnessing suspected illegal activity at the house? Or did they illegally use thermal imaging cameras to 'see' the heat signature from the grow lamps?
And the other significant 'take-home message' from this raid in particular is that there is an Odessa woman currently serving eight years in prison resulting from a bust in which a police informant swore in court that he planted the drugs on her, even passing a polygraph to that effect.
Again, your tax dollars at work. Imagine the injection of cash into this struggling economy if we were to repeal even just the marijuana laws, and tax the sales of same. Last Friday was the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. Maybe it's time we look into trying that again.
They're trying to infiltrate our precious bodily fluids!
Even in tough economic times, the war on drugs (read: war on sanity) remains a cash cow. Apparently it's important enough to patrol our norther border that Customs is going to start using a $10 million Predator drone to search for people crossing illegally and bringing in drugs. The planes can stay aloft for 18 hours, and fly at altitudes of up to 50,000 feet, so they can keep us safe from those nasty Canucks trying to cross our borders with their Great White Northern Lights weed. According to NY Times story, quoting John Stanton of the Customs and Border Protection Service:
Along the entire northern border, Customs and Border Protection officials make about 4,000 arrests and intercept about 40,000 pounds of illegal drugs each year.
For the moment, though, the flights from Grand Forks will remain mostly along the 300 miles of the upper edge of North Dakota and a slim part of Minnesota, Mr. Stanton said.
He went on to say that Customs was going to begin employing the drone flights "...because the planes had become available..." which just goes to show you, if you build it, they will come. If there's a technology available, the anti-drug fanatics will find a way and a justification to use it. To wit, in a delightfully Rumsfeldian quote
Asked whether he expected to uncover a significant problem with drugs, border crossings or terrorism in northern North Dakota, Mr. Stanton said no one was sure.
“We hope to actually use this aircraft to measure that,” he said. “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
Excellent. Your tax dollars at work.
General John Stanton of the Customs and Border Protection Service
Sunday, December 7, 2008
But i ran across this clip of some behind the scenes work as Marc Shaiman (who wrote "Hairspray" the musical among other things) gets actors like John C. Reilly, Jack Black, Maya Rudolph and Andy Richter into shape for the short film. Keith Olbermann did a short piece on the film, and if i remember correctly, Shaiman wrote the piece in a day, and they rehearsed and filmed it in another day. Pretty amazing stuff, and funny as hell. Enjoy.
added bonus: my favorite John C. Reilly sketch from FOD: "Satisfaction Guaranteed." (definitely NSFW) Pepperbee's cares about customer satisfaction. No, they really, really care. :)
Thursday, December 4, 2008
It has been posited (and largely debunked) that the Romans' extensive use of lead in water pipes, pottery glaze and cosmetics may have led, in part, to the end of the empire. The idea is that lead poisoning caused a vast, multi-generational, neurological degeneration so acute it led to malaise and finally madness across the empire.
And while further research shows that the Romans were at least aware of the ill effects of prolonged exposure to lead, it seems almost undeniable that SOMETHING happened to these people to cause them to just fade away, albeit over many centuries. Hell, it could be argued that the DECLINE of the Roman Empire lasted longer than this nation has even been in existence -- what makes us think we're going to go on forever? Or even much longer?
At any rate, reports of the excesses among the aristocratic classes of the Romans point to some sort of sickness at the heart of an empire that, for a time, controlled three-fourths of the known world.
Perhaps that very success is what begins the inevitable clock of entropy ticking for an empire. Perhaps individuals in an aristocratic class having almost literally anything they want leads to a sickness of the soul.
There is a jadedness of that sort at work today in this country, a sense that there is nothing new under the sun, that nothing is left that could possibly impress us. Lies become truth, the extraordinary becomes ordinary and ulterior motives become the only reasonable motivation for every action.
I started thinking about this 'end of empire' scenario and how it might work today in America when I re-read Phillip K. Dick's 'Valis' recently. He posits that the empire never really ended, that we humans were just unable to see it as continuous over centuries and millennia. (It's a long explanation -- read the book. It's amazing.)
But lately I've been thinking about the possible effects of the sickness that is at work over vast swaths of television, and in certain corners of the internet. In large part, these two means of transmitting media not only convey our culture to us -- they ARE our culture. Therefore they must be a fairly accurate barometer of who we are.
Now, I am by no means a Moral Majority type. I don't believe in whitewashing, in Disneyfying the world and pretending that everything is sunshine and roses. I believe there is a sickness at work there too, that people who can pretend that the world was just peachy in 1955 -- when people still got polio, institutional racism was the law of the land, and women were regarded as little more than objects to woo and marry in order to reproduce -- those people suffer from a blind kind of sickness, an ignorance of the soul. There is a deep sickness of denial in putting on blinders and pretending that humans aren't violent, sexual, visceral animals as well as poets and musicians and writers -- we are creators of beauty as well as 'creators of destruction,' as it were.
But perhaps there is a sickness in allowing ourselves to see too much as well. The other end of the scale, seeking out the most titillating, foul and degrading forms of entertainment cannot be without effect. It's at least possible that viewing these images and reading these words may at least create a sort of feedback loop that taps into the potential sickness in our souls and begets more of it. I'm talking about 'reality' television -- that vast bowl of shit and human self-degradation that pretty much IS television these days -- I'm talking about the chanboards, I'm talking about the hate-filled chat rooms, the hate-filled blogs -- I'm talking about the sheer, unprecedented quantity of dumbness and bile that surrounds us online and on television.
And I'm not saying that I'M somehow too cool or too smart or aloof to succumb to the guilty pleasure of these things. I just wonder what we are doing to ourselves when we do succumb.
There are times when I believe that humans in general are little more than monsters in disguise, that we are all Patrick Bateman in American Psycho: perfectly tailored, slathered in expensive oils and lotions, ripped from countless hours of working out -- a perfect beautiful form on the outside, but sick unto death at the heart.
And there are times I believe we are angels, creatures of potentiality that have a unique choice and ability to rise above our animal roots and become something almost god-like.
Perhaps there's a fine line, a place where we can -- while retaining an honest understanding of the very real underpinnings of our animal nature -- choose to rise above it, to react to our world and our fellow humans through something larger than revenge, or anger, or simple fear. Perhaps...
Or will the vast twin toilets of television and the internet, combined with easy consumerism promising us everything we could ever desire turn out to be our empire's lead paint?
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Dear Wacky Brit-Dude:
Jesus here. Hey, saw a story about how you decorate (desecrate?) your house with over $60,000 worth of lights and gadgets and stuff every Christmas. And how you’ve been acquiring decorations since you were ten, and how you start the decorating process in October in order to get it all finished by the time the holiday rolls around.
And hey, no one can say you haven’t worked hard on this. Seriously. I sure can’t fault you for your enthusiasm!
But here’s the thing: stop it. This is utterly ridiculous. And tacky as hell. Your house looks like someone ate Times Square, chased it with the Vegas Strip and puked the whole thing up on a small house.
I mean, what the hell are you thinking? Forget about how far you’ve strayed from the original story of Christmas -- remember the simple manger? The straw and donkeys and sheep and shit? What about the effects your house has on your neighbors? You have heard of global warming, right? Not to mention the cost of your monthly electric bill.
Goddamn, son, do me a favor and shut off the lights and send the money you would have spent on your power bill to a charity or a soup kitchen or something. That would be the more Me-like thing to do, my friend.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, thanks, but no thanks.
(via fark. and sry for the small pic--the only one avail on the orig story site. kjb out)
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Wow. See, this is the sort of thing that’s going to make it so hard for the Obama Administration to get anything done once the Bushies actually hand over the keys to our decrepit, rusted-out Oldsmobile Cutlass of a country. It’s not going to be obstructionist Republicans, kooky, wacked-out libruls, or even the broad swath of people across this country for whom the only category that fits is The Dumb -- you know, the ones who believe in secret muslims, magical socialism, jack-booted librul thugs going door-to-door to take away yer guns, bangulate yer daughters (and sons) and force yer women to have abortions.
No, I predict the real difficulties are going to come from Terribly Smart People, like Mr. David Brooks of the New York Times. This morning, on the ever-so-weighty and portentous Op-Ed page of the NYT, where so, so many TSP ply their terribly smart trade (see William Kristol, Thomas “Six More Months Should Just About Do It” Friedman et al, ad infinitum) Mr. Brooks’ column had the sub-hed:
“Barack Obama and his team should put into action a foreign policy doctrine that builds on some of the ideas developed during George W. Bush's term.”
Um, okay, wow. Where to begin? That is, after scooping up the brains that leaked out of my ears when my head went PFOOF upon reading that line. First of all, the notion that Obama’s team could develop a foreign policy doctrine that builds on that of the Bush Administration assumes that there ever was a foreign policy ‘doctrine’ at work over the last eight years. As near as I could tell, it was an ever-shifting phantasmagoria of imaginary WMDs, bad B-movie dialogue, and pissing away trillions in taxpayer dollars on dubious contracts for Bush/Cheney cronies.
Second, the use of the word ‘ideas’ in conjunction with the words ‘George W. Bush’s term’ is a contradiction in terms so volatile I suspect Mr. Brooks may have opened up a black hole of inanity so dense we’ll read that the entire island of Manhattan got swallowed up.
Essentially what Brooks is arguing for -- aside from an independent evaluation of his meds and possibly a CAT scan to check for undetected brain tumors -- is to carry on with the policies established on the ground by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. To punch up his point, Brooks uses this quote from Gates, who was apparently trying out his best Donald Rumsfeld impression:
“In recent years, the lines separating war, peace, diplomacy and development have become more blurred and no longer fit the neat organizational charts of the 20th century.”
Well, gosh, thank you for that insight. I suppose you’re also thinking outside the box in seeking proactive solutions by addressing the new paradigms presented by the changeover to new data streams and approaches to global interconnectedness?
And not only does Mr. Brooks go all ga-ga over this limp bit of nu-business gibberish, he fails to see or at least address the searing line in that phrase: “…the lines between war, peace, diplomacy, and development have become more blurred…”
You heard it here first, folks. War is Peace. Now, I must leave you to report to the Ministry of Truth to have my head wiped and everything I've read and written over the past eight years flushed down the memory hole. Hell, I might just jump in there myself.
David Brooks of the New York Times, just one more in the parade of Terribly Smart People who will help to keep those lunatics and hippie/muslim/abortionists in the Obama Administration in line, using logic.
Monday, December 1, 2008
These guys are full of win. A series of a dozen or so short (~30 sec.) videos depicting asshat bar customers and how people in the service industry would LIKE to deal with them.
here's a couple to get you started:
and my personal fave, the cellphone asshat. :)