Archive for June, 2009
I love it! Maybe this will be another running feature, but if not, no matter. I watch a lot of TV, so I see a lot of commercials, and as a consequence, I accumulate a lot of favorites. Here’s a hilarious one from Gamefly.com. I promise I’m not a schill for them!
I love things getting smashed!
I have a draft post floating around featuring my rambling pontifications on Twitter, but since that post will probably never be completed (you’d be amazed at how lacking in discipline I am as a writer. Or maybe you wouldn’t be), here’s the Readers’ Digest version: Twitter is good for some things, lame for others, let’s not get carried away, but let’s not be completely dismissive for no reason.
One thing I find Twitter useful for is out of town headlines. I read the Globe and the Times, but up here in the Hub of the Universe, I don’t get too much exposure to news from back home in Jersey. That’s where NJ.com’s Twitter feed comes in. Every day, I get 30-something headlines from the Star Ledger and other local papers. The Twitter format allows me to blow through them all pretty quickly, but every now and again, one catches my attention, for one of two reasons: its compelling news angle, or its batshit craziness.
Hence the new feature, which I feel is a long time coming: the NJ.com Tweet of the Day. There might not be one every day. And there might be more than one on some days, like today. But the basic idea is, I’m going to pass along to you, my treasured and loyal reader, the wackiest Tweet of the day from my home state’s news site. Here’s two:
Man holds up gas station in Jersey City with handgun, potato http://bit.ly/pYyrC
about 11 hours ago from twitterfeed
Runaway bulls in Boonton cause traffic jams http://bit.ly/S5kWV
about 5 hours ago from twitterfeed
So illustrator and children’s book author Maira Kalman is doing this monthly blog about American democracy for the Times called “And the Pursuit of Happiness.” This month’s installment is about Thomas Jefferson, and it’s a treat. It’s simple and singsongy, but by the end you find you’ve been reading about incredibly weighty and grown-up issues.
Like many people (probably like you too, precious reader) I’ve always had an ambivalence toward our third president, and Ms. Kalman addresses that ambivalence (although not quite enough, for my tastes). After all, Thomas Jefferson, like many wealthy Virginians of his time, was a slave-owner; the arrogance involved with penning the words “all men are created equal” while simultaneously presuming that one human can be owned by another makes Jefferson an all-time hypocrite. There are plenty of people I respect as thinkers who find him to be irredeemable as a result. I have a hard time writing him off completely, though (and Ms. Kalman tells you why). If we’ve ever had anything coming close to a polymath in America, it’s Jefferson. Anyway, he’s a lot more complex and formidable of a man, for good and for ill, than we were taught about in grammar school.
I pass this along for two reasons: firstly, because I thought the Tristam Shandy bit at the end was positively heartbreaking. Secondly, because there’s a dynamite fact about, and fun lil portrait of, every pollock’s boy, Tadeusz Kościuszko. (Homework assignment, dear reader: read his Wikipedia page, and then, in the comments, convince me that TK didn’t eat nails for breakfast and tacks for snacks.)
Also, HT 2 EK on this.
So I bought a bike this weekend, in order to ride to work in the mornings. I’ve been meaning to do this for years, dating back to when I lived in Allston. Problem is, I never had anywhere to put a bike. I never felt good locking one up outside in Allston, and then when I moved to the Theater District, I lived on the fifth floor of a walkup in a crummy neighborhood. Now that I’m in the North End, I can store a bike in the basement of my building. I rode it around yesterday, and I tested out a route to work today (and went to the grocery store). It was pretty good!
Here’s a map of the bike path I’m going to use for most of the way. I picked it up at the Museum of Science, and took it all the way to Western Ave. in Allston. I took Western to Market Street, then made a right onto Washington at Brighton Center, then onto Foster Street to Commonwealth. I gotta say, I think I hit every hill possible once I got away from the river. I might try to get onto Commonwealth a little earlier. We’ll see.
But the bike. Here she is.
Isn’t she beautiful? Nice wide saddle. Rack. Fenders. Oh, those fenders. She’s just a gorgeous bike. I’ve got a pannier (that’s bike-speak for “bag”) that fits right on the rack, and fits a decent haul of groceries. I’ve got a good lock, lights, the whole nine. I’ve got that opium-like high that only comes from owning new stuff, and I gotta tell ya, treasured reader, I’m bustin’.
So Michael Jackson died of a heart attack today. Just a really crazy and upsetting bit of news. I won’t go ahead and say that this is the best song he ever sang, but it’s definitely my favorite.
Listen to a little “I Want You Back.”
Regular readers of Dangerous, Dirty, and Unfun are familiar with my nostalgic love for Blink 182. (Irregular readers can catch up here.) So after four years, Blink has gotten back together, and will be embarking on a summer reunion tour, if they haven’t already started. Which is great, but much to the shock of certain readers, I have no interest in getting tickets. I haven’t heard a lot of good things about them as a live band, and Blink’s recent TV appearances have left a LOT to be desired. So I’ll take a pass.
This is all sort of immaterial to the true point of this post, which is that Weezer is opening up for Blink on this tour. At first I was like, of course. Great tour! But then I thought about it a little. Weezer is opening for Blink 182? Really? I mean, I’m not quite sure how many more records one band has sold more than the other, although my instinct is that the count favors Blink. But am I alone in thinking this lineup is weird? Isn’t this like Metallica opening up for Tool? Dare I say, like Springsteen opening up for Bon Jovi?
Weezer is like the Chipper Jones of bands. Other flashier bands come along and put up good numbers, and Weezer sort of falls by the wayside. Then one day you look back and realize that all Weezer has done all these years is bat .310, drive in 110 runs, and hit 30 dingers. Their catalog is wall to wall hits! Their new stuff is still good! They shouldn’t be opening for anyone!
I had a tough time choosing a video for this installment of Music Is My Imaginary Friend, since not only does the band have great singles, but they actually put good effort into their videos. (Witness the viral mashup for “Pork and Beans,” or the Elisha Cuthbert cameo in “Perfect Situation,” or the band’s Muppet Show appearance in “Keep Fishin’.” In fact, just go here and watch all of Weezer’s videos.) This one, though, is in the 90s pantheon, and forever hold a special place in my heart.
Listen to a little “El Scorcho.”
And by this, I mean this. I’ll be joining a bunch of strangers in reading David Foster Wallace’s tome Infinite Jest over the course of the summer.
When I was a Boy Scout, I learned a few things about leadership. One of those things is the importance of accountability. I posted that last Classic DD&U to remind you, my precious reader, that I have once before embarked on a long and arduous literary journey. Here’s a progress report.
That’s 67 pages worth of Swann’s Way in like, two years. Not good.
But that leads me to another thing I learned in the Scouts: goals should be both measurable and attainable. Now, I would never say that reading all of Remembrance is unattainable, but how do you measure it? By definition, I haven’t failed yet: I’ve got the rest of my life to finish this thing. So maybe someday, I will.
The charm of Infinite Summer is that it sets a measurable and attainable goal. Seventy-five pages a week? Easy! And there’s a built-in support structure. I’ve already read 25 pages in a day and a half. And by the end of the summer, I’ll have read one of those books that everyone says you should read, but you would probably never do outside of a class or a book club with thousands of members.
Then again, the thing is like, a thousand pages, so feel free to take everything I just said with the requisite grain of salt.
Why I decided to read Remembrance of Things Past
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
When I was a junior in high school, the honors English curriculum was American literature, pretty much from start to yesterday. It turned out to be just as rigorous a class as any English course I took in college; we read a lot of books. That being said, the texts we covered were, more or less, restricted to the big guns of the proverbial canon (pun, as always, intended): Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman, Twain, James, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Steinbeck. It was a good sampling, but hardly an exhaustive survey of the rich tapestry of American literature.
That’s where the Blue Book came in. The Blue Book was, essentially, a series of course packets that everyone in the class got. It was filled with excerpts from and secondary sources about authors that we weren’t reading. We didn’t read anything by Ezra Pound, but we knew he was an influential poet. We didn’t read The Jungle, but we knew that Upton Sinclair was a pretty righteous dude. Theodore Dreiser sticks out in my mind for some reason, if only because I had never heard of him before, and very rarely heard of him since (until I took a Dreiser class in college. Suffice it to say, An American Tragedy made a third of my semester a tragedy). But I knew he was influential, and I felt confident in my authority to speak to that fact.
What does this have to do with Marcel Proust? Well, Remembrance of Things Past (or more accurately [and more lame, in this blogger’s myopic opinion], In Search of Lost Time) is sort of the granddaddy of Sister Carrie–type books: many more people speak to its virtues and influence than have actually read it. Everybody (or, at least, everybody who chooses to have an opinion on this sort of thing) accepts Proust’s masterwork as a paragon of modernist literature and, possibly, the best novel of the 20th century. All the right people say so. But how many people have actually read it? For real. It’s like, 4,000 pages! Honestly, I just bought volume one, Swann’s Way, with absolutely no idea what it’s about. It’s a matter of trusting “all the right people,” but more than that, it’s about becoming the right person.
I’ve heard Ulysses described as the Mount Everest of 20th century literature, but that’s not quite accurate. I’ve read Ulysses (sort of); it’s a long, dense, challenging book. But there are more challenging books (you don’t even have to leave Joyce’s repertoire to find a more challenging book. You know what I’m talking about). It’s dense, but readable: Not to pile on Dreiser, but An American Tragedy is the sloggiest slog that one could slog through. And it’s long, but complaining about a book’s length seems, to me, to be incredibly juvenile. Add to that the fact that Ulysses is firmly ensconced in the culture (to wit: I just wrote a story about Bloomsday in Boston), and you’ve got, perhaps, the Mount McKinley of 20th century literature.
That would make Remembrance something like the Marianas Trench. (Maybe that’s not so accurate. Has anyone ever been down there? I think so, right?) Maybe I’m over-, or mis-, stating things here, but wouldn’t that in itself be telling? That a voracious reader and university-trained English degree-holder doesn’t know the slightest thing about the supposedly best book of the century? So either I’m an idiot, or literary victim, or completely on the ball. Either way, I’m embarking on this journey. What I’ll learn, and where it’ll take me, is anyone’s guess. I’ll keep all of you, my precious readers, in the loop.
In the office today, we got to talking a bit about shows we watched as kids. We went through the usual suspects (Gummi Bears, The Wuzzles, anything on the Disney Afternoon, all the Nicktoons, Gumby, etc.). Naturally, the conversation turned to The Secret World of Alex Mack. Great show. Smart show. And if you’re a boy reading this and you didn’t have a crush on Larisa Oleynik, well, you probably didn’t even watch the show. There’s no other explanation!
I IMDBed Ms. Oleynik, naturally, to see if she’s been in anything worthwhile recently. Couple of B-looking movies (I remember watching the second half of 100 Girls at 3 in the morning one time. Weird flick. Or maybe I was just like, completely out of it. Or drunk), couple of spots on TV shows. Definitely not a terrible living, but other actors have done more with less. I wonder what Hollywood is thinking. There’s an entire generation of young men out there right now desperately in love with Alex Mack who would shell out 11 bucks to see whatever the hell she was in. And I’m not even talking about anything crude or demeaning. I mean, if Alex Mack were the lead in a romantic comedy, or in a Judd Apatow–esque flick, is there any doubt that men aged 23 to 28 would totally flock to see it? This isn’t Beebe Bluff (obviously, she’s a cartoon, but I’m not the only one that liked her!) or Clarissa (ever see Drive Me Crazy, with Melissa Joan Hart and the guy from Entourage? I’m not sure that men aged 23 to 28 were flocking to see it) we’re talking about. This is ALEX MACK!
I don’t know how good of an actress Larisa Oleynik is. Could be that she’s terrible. But it’s like watching the NFL or NBA draft, when commentators talk about upside. Maybe a guy isn’t tremendous at route-running, or is a lackadaisical defender. But if he’s got raw physical potential, teams will roll the dice on him, and hope that he catches on. This is the same thing, but think of it in terms of the box office. You can teach Alex Mack to act! Or cast her in something that doesn’t require any chops. Why wouldn’t you take a flyer on Alex Mack? She’s got a built-in following of devoted and nostalgic fans, just waiting to be awakened and reminded that Alex Mack was their first TV crush. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!
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