Monthly Archives: September 2008

Gay rights movement fail

Would all the states have granted same-sex partnership benefits in the last eight years if we had just called them 'subprime marriages'?

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Nuance can be funny

It's nice that the left-wing is starting to take back the 'telling it like it is' wing of stand-up comedy. Maybe someday we'll get AM radio back.

Political Correctness

UPDATE:
Incidentally, here's David Foster Wallace on political correctness. Specifically a right-wing talk-show host who felt oppressed because he was fired from a job for using the word 'nigger' numerous times during a broadcast.

Like many other post-Limbaugh hosts, John Ziegler seems unable to differentiate between (1) cowardly, hypocritical acquiescence to the tyranny of Political Correctness and (2) judicious, compassionate caution about using words that cause pain to large groups of human beings, especially when there are several less upsetting words that can be used.

Even though there is plenty of stuff for reasonable people to dislike about Political Correctness as a dogma, there is also something creepy about the brutal, self-righteous glee with which Mr. Ziegler and other conservative hosts defy all PC conventions. If it causes you real pain to hear or see something, and I make it a point to inflict that thing on you merely because I object to your reasons for finding it painful, then there's something wrong with my sense of proportion, or my recognition of your basic humanity, or both.

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‘A wilderness of steeples peeping on tiptoe through their sea-coal canopy’

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Unique incident may indicate trend: Headlines from today’s Daily Mail

It's comforting to know that regardless of what's going on in the world, British tabloids keep running variations on the same nine stories.

  1. One of major city’s numerous crimes slightly more interesting than others
    Phantom stab horror: Knifeman in opera mask bursts into college

  2. Minor celebrity worthy of scorn
    Stressed Carol [Vorderman, the British Vanna White,] piles on pounds

  3. Routine tragedy wrung for all emotion
    Evil mother killed my little princess: A father’s fury

  4. Retarded carnival trickery legitimized
    A £4.5 million pound lottery win – just as the gypsy said

  5. Quotation marks used feloniously
    Energy drinks ‘need caffeine alert on cans’
    ‘Risk averse’ culture is creating a cruel society
    Children ‘need lifestyle lessons’

  6. Moldy story made relevant when placed after alarming phrase and colon
    The atomic timebomb: Were cancer victims killed by radiation from 1908?

  7. Marathon subheadline crescendoes in inanity
    GREETINGS FROM VULGAR BRITAIN: When Allison Pearson went to buy a birthday card for her mum, she was horrified by what she found – cards so offensive and obscene she felt ashamed of her country. And the sorry truth is, most are bought by women.

  8. Adjective used nonsensically
    Internet gunman kills ten at school

  9. Palaeolithic-era pun repeated in new millennium
    Why Women are Dyeing to be Blonde

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How to survive your first business trip

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Don't panic. Look, you're going to suck at this. Remember the first time you went skiing? How you could barely stand up by the end of the day, but you were all proud, like, 'I've got this shit down', and now that you're Peekaboo Street-level you look back and feel like a cocky, frost-assed twatmonster? That's how you are now, making small-talk in the hotel lobby. Trust.

Cut and run. If a schmooze-versation is going downhill, or you've realized that the 21-year-old gazing lovingly at your business card is going to be spamming you about internships for the next three weeks, bounce. Don't make up an excuse ('I'd better wash my hands. The pollution in Europe is slumular.'), just say 'it was nice talking to you' and beeline for the conversations where you exist.

Dress like an adult. You're not trying to look cool, or sexy, or funky, or youthful. You're trying to look professional, which is the opposite of all of those things. Look at yourself in the mirror. Would president Bush (the first one), Dan Rather or Tony Soprano wear what you're wearing? If not, rock back to Brooks Brothers for a fatter tie.

Don't say shit at meetings just to say shit. Everyone can see through this. Have you seen those Sarah Palin interviews where she tries to talk about other countries? That's who you are right now.

Never skip social events. This is where most of the actual work gets done and, more importantly, impressions are made. If you really want to power-network, find one of the VIPocrats and strive to act like a younger version of them. Old people function on a diet of self-importance and bottomless contempt for the generation that came after them. The only exception to this is young people who remind them of themselves. Be the change this John Galt wants to see in the world. Throw in a mini-lament about how no one writes letters on paper anymore, and you'll be in his rolodex before 'Matlock' is over.

During social events, be the one at the table doing the least talking. This doesn't mean you're invisible, but try to draw other people out. People will remember you as inquisitive and 'fun to talk to' (this means you let them chatter away while you nodded). You might even learn something.

Save the drama for your mama. When in doubt, it's probably better to be too withholding than too forthcoming. As much as you'd like to tell people about your dog's drip-shits, or why you don't watch as much porn as you used to, the laughs you get now probably aren't worth the irreparable holes in your credibility ozone layer.

On that note, keep booze and drugs to a minimum. The wallaby of enjoyment you get out of that fourth beer is not worth the kangaroo of embarrassment you're risking ('I'm just working this job until I can quit and become a dancer'). It's better to be remembered as the weirdo who only drank cranberry juice than the grandpa who declared his red-eyed love for the bargirl.

Don't ever arrive late or leave early at meetings. Being the chair-slider leaves a larger impression than anything else you're likely to say or do. If you absolutely must leave, take your phone out, like you had it on vibrate, pretend to answer it and commence whispering incredibly important-sounding things until you're out the door. You'll still look rude, but Busy Rude is better than Can't Be Bothered Rude.

Finally, be interested. There must be some reason you're doing your job. Feigned interest is the cubic zirconia of social interaction, and If you're just acting the way you think business people are expected to act, you're not fooling anyone. Even if you end up having the same conversation with 10 different people, at least it's the one where you have something to say. If you can't muster up any enthusiasm at all for the people you're about to meet and the information you're about to receive, go work at Starbucks. At least then you wouldn't be wearing that stupid tie.

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I’m gone next week

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I miss David Foster Wallace

because he reminded me of that friend everyone wishes they had, the one whose sniper-aim perspective on any conceivable topic reduces you to 'mmm hmm … you're totally right, dude.' You might roll your eyes every now and then, at the almost unrealistic articulateness of it all, but you're glad you know someone whose hamster-wheel has a family of chipmunks in it.

I never get emotional over the deaths of famous people, and I can't say I felt my-cat-just-got-hit-by-a-car sad when I read that Wallace hung himself on Saturday, but it's just a fucking shame that we won't get any more books or essays from this dude. No, I couldn't finish 'Infinite Jest', just like everyone else, and yes, I thought the footnotes thing became a bit of a gimmick. But DFW was one of the best-ever observers of a crowded room, and one of the only New Yorker-style journalists still trying to write stories that weren't about what they said they were about. Like this 2005 Rolling Stone story on McCain, which started with

Since You're Reading "Rolling Stone," the chances are you're an American between say 18 and 35, which demographically makes you a Young Voter. And no generation of Young Voters has ever cared less about politics and politicians than yours.

and managed to squeeze this passage in between tour bus observarrhea


It's hard to get good answers to why Young Voters are so uninterested in politics. This is probably because it's next to impossible to get someone to think hard about why he's not interested in something. The boredom itself preempts inquiry; the fact of the feeling's enough. Surely one reason, though, is that politics is not cool. Or say, rather, that cool, interesting, alive people do not seem to be the ones who are drawn to the Political Process.

Think back to the sort of kids in high school or college who were into running for student office: dweeby, overgroomed, obsequious to authority, ambitious in a sad way. Eager to play the Game. The kind of kids other kids would want to beat up if it didn't seem so pointless and dull.

And now consider some of 2000's adult versions of these very same kids: Al Gore, best described by CNN sound tech Mark A. as "amazingly lifelike"; Steve Forbes, with his wet forehead and loony giggle; G.W. Bush's patrician smirk and mangled cant; even Clinton himself with his big red fake-friendly face and "I feel your pain." Men who aren't enough like human beings even to dislike — what one feels when they loom into view is just an overwhelming lack of interest, the sort of deep disengagement that is so often a defense against pain. Against sadness.

In fact the likeliest reason why so many of us care so little about politics is that modern politicians make us sad, hurt us in ways that are hard even to name, much less to talk about. It's way easier to roll your eyes and not give a shit.

In my post about 'A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again,' Wallace's essay collection, I noted that most of his journalism consists of Wallace as an ambassador of Them, watching the in-crowd get down to business. That perspective, of never feeling completely in-place in a room, is one of the only themes I took away from that book of disjointed observations and experiences, and it's the core of what makes a good fiction writer or journalist. You can't note the absurdities of everyday life if you're a whistling participant in them. I would also imagine that it makes an unquestioning, fully satisfied life very difficult.

So I, in my sick haze, have been reading DFW articles all day. Here's four of the best ones. And between cups of tea and coughs and red-eyed blinks, I'll tip out some Pepto-Bismol to all the digressions I'll never get to devour.

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License to ill

Ever since I moved to Denmark I get sick precisely every three months, like it's on my to-do list. It's exactly the same every time: My throat starts to hurt one evening (inevitably right before a weekend when I'm heavily busy or socially obligated) and I chug water and vitamins to mitigate the impending bodily shutdown. The next morning I wake up feeling like I've been on a monthlong meth, cigarette and leather bender. I don't have a TV, so I bum around the house and the Internet, trying to watch and read things my palsied concentration can absorb. Yesterday this was 'The Incredibles', The Onion and The Alchemist. Today I may attempt proper movies, news or books, I don't know.

How is it that I live in a country where bestiality is legal, yet DayQuil has to be purchased from a corner hoodie-wearer? 

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Hang in there, Texas

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Just because my brother and my parents read this blog

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