Monthly Archives: April 2008

When did I start communicating exclusively in clichés?

So I was biking home in tailwind yesterday, pedaling like I had Attention Deficit Hamster Disorder and generally behaving like a human spinnaker.

 

At a red light, the beSpandexed guy next to me, in a good-natured way, said something along the lines of ‘You're very aggressive’ or ‘You take this very serious'. It’s hard to understand Danish through panting.

 

Without thinking, I replied, ‘you sound like my ex-wife.’

 

We shared an athletic little laugh with each other as the light turned green, then continued berating the bike lane and dinging pedestrians out of the way.

 

As soon as I got home, all I could think was "‘You sound like my ex-wife’?! Where the hell did that come from?"

 

Last week at a party, I was talking to some dude about fatherhood (this happens a lot here), and he asked if I had kids. I heard myself say ‘Not that I know of!’ before squinting at my own douchebaggery and apologizing.

 

What am I, on the links at the country club? Why does all my snappy banter come from ‘80s movies and my dad’s Garrison Keillor tapes we used to listen to on road trips?

 

I know I’ve only been out of official student-dom for three days now, but I thought it would take me at least slightly longer to become Bill Murray from ‘Rushmore’. I feel like I have to develop a taste for things like whisky and tweed now.

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I am patriotic as hell

… for Seattle.

Chris Rock said this at a show the other day: 

"I love Seattle 'cause it's the home of Starbucks … and the home of Sir Mix-A-Lot. 'Baby Got Back' is for amateurs. 'Posse on Broadway' is the cut."

Any non-Seattleites know what he's talking about?

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I PASSED MY DISSERTATION

I just got off the phone with my supervisor, who somehow managed to bury the magma of her me-hatred deep enough to award me a seven, the Danish equivalent of a … what? B? Who cares, I PASSED!

This ridiculous assignment has been like a rooftop sniper the last few months, assassinating every good mood and smiletime happyplan. 'What if I have to spend all summer rewriting my Goddamn dissertation?' I thought every time I booked an EasyJet weekend. 'What if my supervisory she-beast postpones my adulthood for another three months?'

Ahhh, I can relax now. Masters Degree Number Two was more of a pain in the ass than the first one, at least administratively, but it got me to Denmark, dammit, and may have actually taught me something. OK, nothing useful, but still.

Sigh, I'm spent. I'm gonna go pop open a cold can of celebration-juice and let this marinate for awhile.

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I’ve got sol, I’m superbad

The arrival of warmth and sun in Copenhagen always completely re-introduces the city. I was biking the other day around sunset (8 pm now, and only latening until July), and I realized how pretty this place is. I haven’t been struck by the loveliness of my foster-city in eons, and I think it’s simply because I haven't seen it in six months. It’s been dark, or raining, or cloudy most days, and I’ve been walking around in my Gore-Tex burrito, trying to keep the climate out. The definitive image of winter for me is always the top of my front bike tire, because it’s often too cold or too windy to look straight ahead when I’m on my way somewhere.

 

It turns out, though, that Copenhagen exists above the first story. And I own clothes that perform more than heat-trapping mummification. And there are colors in this city beyond the gray and sepia. These things only strike me when we finally get all full-spectrumy in the spring.

 

I’ve been reading ‘Gilead’ by Marilynne Robinson the last few weeks. It’s a slow, dusty kind of book, one that should be read to you by your grandpa in a rocking chair. It starts out

 

I told you last night that I might be gone sometime, and you said, Where, and I said, To be with the Good Lord, and you said Why, and I said, Because I’m old, and you said, I don’t think you’re old. And you put your hand in my hand and you said, You aren’t very old, as if that settled it. I told you you might have a very different life from mine, and from the life you’ve had with me, and that would be a wonderful thing, there are many ways to live a good life. And you said, Mama already told me that. And then you said, Don’t laugh! because you thought I was laughing at you. You reached up and put your fingers on my lips and gave me that look I never in my life saw on any other face besides your mother’s. It’s a kind of furious pride, very passionate and stern. I’m always a little surprised to find my eyebrows unsinged after I’ve suffered one of those looks. I will miss them.

 

I know, right!?

 

The book continues in this vein, a dying father writing to his adolescent son, through a few decades of the postwar Christian midwest. I’m not quite finished with it, but I feel a ‘Dancer in the Dark’ caliber moan-and-cry is waiting for me on the last page.

 

So this has been my spring so far. Long bike rides in the low-watt sun and droning geriat-lit. By the time summer rolls around, the only thing heavier than my mood will be my quadriceps.

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I’ve had this conversation

From Prolific Squalor [a blog of IM conversations]:

A: I drunk-dialed C Friday night, apparently.
A: My ex
B: Wow. You don’t remember doing this
B: ?
A: I DO NOT.
A: In fact, when discussing the night’s events with someone who was also there, I said, “Well, at least I didn’t drunk-dial C.”
B: Wow. That is catastrophic intoxication, when you don’t remember doing things
A: This is a lot of things.
A: First of all, I don’t have C’s number in my phone anymore, so I not only remembered it (not hard to believe) but dialed it accurately. This is on top of arranging for a place to stay and making a pretty long journey on foot to get there.
B: That’s funny
A: I also woke up and found I’d done my taxes.

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I know, right?!

A friend e-mails from Seattle:

I have a mac at work that I am writing on and I don't particularly mind it, but it only has one mouse button. What the fuck is that? It puts a major hitch in my spell-checking. My mouse at home has 5 buttons. How do people live like this?

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Trailers that say nothing whatsoever about the movies they’re advertising

Water Lilies

Remember how we used to complain that previews gave away the whole movie? I'm liking how recent trailers (especially for indie movies) are less and less concerned about plopping plot-nuggets in front of you. They tell you just enough to know who's in it, and flash a few of those palm-frond things with 'CANNES' or 'NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL' in them. 'I am indie!' they proclaim. 'Who cares what I'm about?'

This one doesn't seem as vague as the one above, but when you think about it, what is this movie really about?

Mister Foe

That's right, it's about Billy Elliott being hot and angsty. That's all you need to know, the studio has decided.
 

As we iPod People become more music-and-image obsessed, I wonder if we'll eventually reach the milestone where movies are just montages set to soundtracks. Shit, the last Wes Anderson movie is already halfway there. It's like how horror movies are  always scarier when you don't see the monster that's chasing the virgins through summer camp or whatever.  If the last five years of indie cinema are any indication, this works emotionally, too. 'Brokeback Mountain' had, what, nine lines of dialogue? 'Broken Flowers' was laconic, Gus Van Sant isn't remotely interested in how people talk, only the sun on their faces, and 'Lost in Translation's' cathartic moment came when one character whispered inaudibly in another's ear. It's like they're composed as trailers to the movie you're actually watching, in your head.
 

More power to 'em, I say. Just like you get sick of a song's too-literal lyrics after two listens ('Drove my Chevy to the levee…'), you can only see the same spelled-out plot a few fresh times before it goes stale.

What I'm really saying, I guess, is that that Frenchbian movie up top is never going to be as good as it is when it's out of order, two minutes long and set to Euro-synths.

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Roskilde Festival program announced

  • BAND OF HORSES: I’m whiny, syrupy and Southern, yet you like me.
  • BATTLES: I’m made of robots!
  • BONNIE 'PRINCE' BILLY: The only thing gayer and more irritating than my name is my voice, persona, music and stage presence.
  • CAT POWER: I hate my fans for having patience.
  • THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS: In spite of being repeatedly awesome, we have achieved a level of American irrelevance rivaled only by the Laserdisc.
  • DAN DEACON: I am the musical equivalent of ironic facial hair.
  • DIGITALISM: It’s still the late 1990s, right? I can still make Aaliyah sounds on the keyboard and set them to high-hats, right?
  • DSL: I am the soundtrack to those iPodded French kids flailing on YouTube.
  • EFTERKLANG: I am awesome and plinky, and it will be weird to see me perform in daylight.
  • FANFARA TIRANA: The Balkans are too rough for any bass in our music. Horns and drums 4 life!
  • JOSÉ GONZÁLEZ: I am The Voice That Launched a Thousand TV Advertisement Montages.
  • GOLDFRAPP: I deliberately alienated by gay fans this year by releasing a non-glam album. I will be beaten to death with a high heel before I can perform this year.
  • HOLY FUCK: People only like me so they can buy my T-shirts
  • HOT CHIP: If you subtract the irony from my lyrics and the synthesizers from my music, I’m actually Elliott Smith.
  • JAY-Z: The last three years of my career can be summed up by the fact that I rhymed ‘Charles Barkley’ with ‘Gnarls Barkley’ on my latest album.
  • JOAN AS A POLICE WOMAN: Don’t tell anyone I’m American. 
  • KINGS OF LEON: You thought I was cool until you found out I was Christian. Not in, like, a ‘Jesus is my homeboy’ way, either. I have, like, wafers with me right now. 
  • LYKKE LI: I am the 1,083rd Swedish chanteuse to become famous in Denmark.  
  • MGMT: And on the eighth day, God made us instantly and inexplicably famous.
  • M.I.A.: Not enough songs use gunshots as percussion.
  • RADIOHEAD: No, we’re still not gonna play ‘Creep’.  
  • THE RAVEONETTES: My dream gig is to play the Under the Sea Dance from ‘Back to the Future’
  • THE STREETS: I am the reason that a popped collar has become the internationally recognized mating dance of the douchebaggia americanus.
  • NEIL YOUNG: I was the embarrassing, undead keystone of a staccato, 70s Parallelogram of Suck called Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. People unfathomably tolerate both my music and my existence. 

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Remember those kids that used to come to your door with candy bars & magazine subscriptions?

Apparently it's all part of a child labor scam, and it's totally illegal, and sketchy, and untaxed, and just Naples as fuck.

I was reading a report on child labour in the U.S. today (Yes, I'm writing a human rights risk assessment of my own country. I'm a traitorous, homosexual Merkel-hugger. Deal with it.) and there's a whole warning website (called 'Sweatshop on the Streets') about those kids. 

The Child Labor Coalition estimates that as many as 50,000 children work as youth peddlers on any given day of the year. They sell magazine subscriptions, candy, and other consumer items door-to-door in residential neighborhoods and on city street corners. The CLC estimates that this industry makes as much as $1 billion annually in untaxed sales revenue.

I had no idea.

It's all coming together now. It was always the ghettoest kids that came to my house with the cardboard box full of candy, and the recipient charity always had a not-quite-right quality about it, like those Nikes you buy off a street-blanket. 

It was always doubly awkward for me, since a lot of times the Pol Pot Youth standing on my porch in a polo shirt went to my school, and had been bullying me just hours before. I usually took advantage of the slight home-team advantage to say something like, 'No I don't want to buy a Snickers, Trevor. Maybe I should call your boss and tell him that you spent second-recess throwing lunch trays at me like Frisbees.' This unfailingly resulted in combat escalation the next day, and I eventually started peephole-screening visitors after 6.

Anyway, thank you, Child Labor Coalition, for making me feel a little less guilty about saving my smug, teenage 35 cents. Maybe now I can find something to exonerate my family of giving trick-or-treaters handfuls of pennies instead of candy… 

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Maybe ‘the end of history’ just means we forgot it all

Tony Judt in the New York Review of Books:

We have good reason to be taken up just now with terrorism and its challenge. But before setting out on a hundred-year war to eradicate terrorists from the face of the earth, let us consider the following. Terrorists are nothing new. Even if we exclude assassinations or attempted assassinations of presidents and monarchs and confine ourselves to men and women who kill random unarmed civilians in pursuit of a political objective, terrorists have been with us for well over a century.

There have been anarchist terrorists, Russian terrorists, Indian terrorists, Arab terrorists, Basque terrorists, Malay terrorists, Tamil terrorists, and dozens of others besides. There have been and still are Christian terrorists, Jewish terrorists, and Muslim terrorists. There were Yugoslav ("partisan") terrorists settling scores in World War II; Zionist terrorists blowing up Arab marketplaces in Palestine before 1948; American-financed Irish terrorists in Margaret Thatcher's London; US-armed mujahideen terrorists in 1980s Afghanistan; and so on.

No one who has lived in Spain, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Japan, the UK, or France, not to speak of more habitually violent lands, could have failed to notice the omnipresence of terrorists— using guns, bombs, chemicals, cars, trains, planes, and much else—over the course of the twentieth century and beyond. The only thing that has changed in recent years is the unleashing in September 2001 of homicidal terrorism within the United States.

[…]

But the most serious mistake consists of taking the form for the content: defining all the various terrorists and terrorisms of our time, with their contrasting and sometimes conflicting objectives, by their actions alone. It would be rather as though one were to lump together the Italian Red Brigades, the German Baader-Meinhof gang, the Provisional IRA, the Basque ETA, Switzerland's Jura Separatists, and the National Front for the Liberation of Corsica; dismiss their differences as insignificant; label the resulting amalgam of ideological kneecappers, bomb throwers, and political murderers "European Extremism" (or "Christo-fascism," perhaps?)…and then declare uncompromising, open-ended armed warfare against it.

This abstracting of foes and threats from their context—this ease with which we have talked ourselves into believing that we are at war with "Islamofascists," "extremists" from a strange culture, who dwell in some distant "Islamistan," who hate us for who we are and seek to destroy "our way of life"—is a sure sign that we have forgotten the lesson of the twentieth century: the ease with which war and fear and dogma can bring us to demonize others, deny them a common humanity or the protection of our laws, and do unspeakable things to them.


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