Archive for July, 2009
Regular readers of Dangerous, Dirty, and Unfun know that I’m reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest this summer. To supplement my reading, I’ve been trying to catch up on some of Wallace’s long form narrative non-fiction, of which there’s a fair amount (though not enough for my tastes). I just wrapped up “Host,” a profile of conservative talk radio host John Ziegler he did for the Atlantic in 2005. In the process, I came across this little nugget, which itself is a relatively minor and un-followed-up-upon detail:
As of spring ‘04, though, the most frequent and concussive ads on KFI [Ziegler's L.A. radio station] are for mortgage and home-refi companies—Green Light Financial, HMS Capital, Home Field Financial, Benchmark Lending. Over and over. Pacific Home Financial, U.S. Mortgage Capital, Crestline Funding, Advantix Lending. Reverse mortgages, negative amortization, adjustable rates, APR, FICO … where did all these firms come from? What were these guys doing five years ago? Why is KFI’s audience seen as so especially ripe and ready for refi? Betterloans.com, lendingtree.com, Union Bank of California, on and on and on.
Yikes. 2004? Mortgage brokers? Is anyone else pulling their collar?
On an almost related note, I had never read anything of Wallace’s before he committed suicide last year, so my reaction to his death was the same sort of “What a terribly sad turn of events” shrug that most people have when a famous artist with whom they’re not remotely familiar, to borrow DFW’s phrase, eliminates their map for keeps. Now that I’m waist deep in Infinite Jest, I’m feeling a little sadder, for the same reason most people get sad when they realize that an artist with whom they’re becoming familiar won’t be writing anything else, ever.
I’m saddened for another reason, though, which I didn’t come to grips with until I finished this “Host” story. Isn’t the current economic crisis we’re in begging for a DFW byline or two?
This isn’t to say that there aren’t great writers tackling the story. I read everything Michael Lewis has to say about the crisis; all sorts of bloggers and commentators—political, economic, and otherwise—post and pontificate every day about the crisis. Matt Taibbi has skyrocketed to the top echelon of my favorite writers, largely on the back of his rabid and passionate denunciations of the Wall Street plutocrats who brought down the economy. We need a guy like Taibbi, who will write in Rolling Stone that Goldman Sachs is “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” Hell, I’m apt to agree with him.
But I think we need a writer like Wallace, too, and the Ziegler profile is proof. I personally think Ziegler is slime. (This interview he did with Nate Silver provides quite a bit of supporting evidence for that claim.) And nothing I read about his career trajectory in Wallace’s piece led me to change my opinion. What DFW did, though, was humanize the guy. He gave readers a look into the man’s past, exploring the motivation behind some of his more noxious attitudes, delving into the life of a talk radio host. In short, Wallace humanized the guy. Now Ziegler is just a lousy human, and not the monster I originally thought he was.
This may sound like a distinction without a difference, but I think it’s a pretty big deal. We talk about demonization, but in a lot of cases, I feel like our opponents, our critics, those that disagree with us, those we just don’t like, come ready-made as demons. I’ll only speak for myself (although I don’t think I’m really just speaking for myself), but there are plenty of people who I just dismiss out of hand because I find them to be despicable. The demons are already there; the hard work is in humanizing people. It’s like that needlepoint sampler quote attributed to Plato: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Hokey, but true!
Wallace does this all the time in Infinite Jest, taking all manner of drug addicts, burglars, vandals, alcoholics, murders, violent psychopaths, physically deformed freaks, and slackers, and presenting them as people that we could very well know, and in some cases, be. I’ve got an OK idea of where DFW would come down on the whole financial crisis (or maybe not; the guy was several orders of magnitude smarter than me, so who knows), but I’m also fairly certain that he would portray the crisis’s actors not as giant vampire squids, but as what they really are: humans.
I’ll have a lot more on Wallace and IJ once I actually finish it. So stay tuned.
Whoa, the Get Up Kids did a cover of “Close to Me”? Why was I not aware?
Obviously, I had to do a post about the big news of the day: David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez are reported to be on the list of 100-odd ballplayers who tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2003. Manny is, of course, old news, and I’ve pontificated on him not once but twice on this very blog.
Big Papi, though, now there is a juicy bit of news. (Pun intended, of course.) I’ve always had a special type of antipathy for David Ortiz. As you’re all well aware, I’m a bit of a Manny Ramirez fan (or at least I was; who knows what I think now). I never felt that fans up here in Boston truly appreciated how great a hitter Manny was, and how much he contributed to the team. When the pudgy guy from Minnesota came along and started beating the ball like it owed him money (58 home runs in six seasons with the Twins, 244 in seven with the Red Socks), he became one of the most beloved athletes this town has ever seen. I’d argue that Socks fans loved Papi more than Nomar, more than Pedro, more than Schilling, certainly more than Manny. He certainly earned that affection: the guy made the All Star Game in five seasons, led the league in home runs in 2006, and was a beast in the postseason.
And he killed the Yanks. But that’s neither here nor there.
What makes Ortiz’s fall from grace so precipitous and fill me to the gills with my favorite kind of freude is Papi’s world-class hypocrisy. Of all the blowhards railing against fellow players who use performance enhancing drugs, Ortiz was one of the most vociferous. ESPN’s Howard Bryant has a nice piece about it that I recommend you read in its entirety. But here are a few money quotes from Papi himself.
You’ve got the biggest guys in the game getting caught with this stuff, and that’s why they don’t think you can have mechanical problems or you can not have your mind in the wrong place or have injuries. It’s all steroids. That’s why I don’t talk about it. When I get turned around, people are going to say, ‘Oh, he’s back on it.’
Don’t come in once and test two or three guys. Test everybody, in season and out of season. And if you still use and you get caught, then you should be suspended for the whole year. I said that a long time ago, and nobody listened.
I know what it is for my son to have Big Papi as a father. There are a lot of people who do great things for him because he’s my son. His life is going to be easier because he’s the son of Big Papi.
And that is the biggest reason why I have never used steroids. Because then he would have to go to school and have to listen to all the kids say that his dad is dirty, a cheater, and everything for him would be taken away from him and he would be ruined. I make sure I don’t do those things, for him.
The Yankees have had a lot of guys who used PEDs. It sucks. Their success has been called into question, and rightly so. Of course, the most obnoxious of the sanctimonious high-horse sitter were Boston fans. (Remember when Manny got suspended earlier this season, and Socks fans tried to rationalize that he didn’t use the juice while he was with Boston? Does anybody else remember that?) Of course, there will be more rationalizations in the days to come; that’s to be expected. But it’s all going to be for naught, and I couldn’t be happier. Welcome to the mud, Boston. We’ve been waiting for you.
This most recent crazy wedding dance video is simply fascinating to me, for reasons that I’ll explain thusly. (Sorry for only including a link; the jamokes who posted this vid have lamely disabled the embed function.)
1) First, the facts. For those of you who haven’t clicked on the link and watched, we’re talking about a video of a wedding ceremony in Minnesota, where the 80s-shaded wedding party all dance down the aisle to Chris Brown’s “Forever.” The video was posted last week, and has proceeded to accrue ten and a half million views. People love this thing!
2) Second, the incredulous reaction. Ten and a half million views, for ANOTHER kooky dance-centric wedding video? Not to put
too fine a point
but as a viral trope
the “quirky couple does an eccentric dance at their wedding” video
ranks somewhere between here and here. I understand that this latest installment puts a new twist on an old favorite (the dance took place during the ceremony! Not the reception! Innovation!), but the spirit is generally the same. As a society, are millions of us still able to be captivated by the same tired viral tricks? One of the benefits of the Internet, in this writer’s humble and myopic opinion, is its ability to deliver us fresh, original content (you know, like a magic show for a chimp). Has the wedding dance video become like, the procedural drama of viral video? The mindless, thought un-provoking pablum that we sit through because it’s familiar, simple, and comes to us at regular intervals? I think we can do better. (Like more chimps in human clothes!)
3) Getting your wedding party to perform a choreographed dance is alright. Would anyone else have been more impressed if this couple had decided to make a professional dance crew their wedding party? You know, turn it around a bit. Eff your friends, we want a good-looking dance. I might be the only person on the Intertubes thinking this. Fine!
4) I read a blog called Hipster Runoff. Carles, the weird and anonymous and I-hope-he’s-just-a-satirical-genius-because-the-alternative-is-terrifying writer of HRO had a fun post about this very video. Here’s a money quote:
Life is very hard for most white people, because they are ’so ordinary.’ Their expectations of ‘how things should feel’ are constructed by watching 80s, 90s, and 00s cinema. Mainly movies like bromances, romantic comedies, comedies, and miscellaneous ‘bad ass movies.’ They just need life to ’seem like a movie’ or something. Seems like average white people don’t understand the insignificance of who they are as ‘1 person’, and don’t accept that they are just part of a larger white mass. They fight against this feeling of ‘being ordinary’ by trying to construct meaningful moments that seem like they are ’straight out of a movie.’
Do with that what you will. Especially the quote marks.
5) Speaking of links, here’s a follow-up about the famous couple’s travails after the video became a runaway Youtube smash. Apparently, they were played like small-town rubes. Sad face. Also, feel free to click through for that rundown of wedding video celebrities.
6) The song in the clip is “Forever” by Chris Brown. If you’re like me, you probably said “Hey, this sounds familiar.” If you’re also like me, you don’t listen to the radio and aren’t really paying attention to the music in dance clubs, so you couldn’t possibly recognize the song from there. But if you’re like me, you watch a ton of TV, and you watched this video and were like, “Hey! It’s the gum commercial song!” These people danced down the aisle to the Doublemint jingle. Incredible.
The whole thing is fascinating! Right?!
It says pretty much all you need to know about corruption in my beloved home state of New Jersey, that in an article outlining the recent history of crooked pols in the Garden State, the New York Times’s writer just couldn’t muster the column inches to even mention Bob Janiszewski or Sharpe James. I mean, these guys are hardcore slimeballs, and they still got left on the cutting-room floor. Incredible.
The most important part of this story comes in the quote from a Jersey City resident:
Many New Jersey residents are less impressed. In interviews around the state, several simply shrugged at the latest indictments, the third, fourth, or fifth wave in their lives.
“I don’t know if I wasn’t surprised because it’s New Jersey or because it’s politicians,” said Cynthia Rose, 30, a makeup artist who lives in Jersey City. “I hate to be so jaded,” she added.
“I hate to be so jaded” . . . but we are! My first reaction to the news of the huge corruption sweep in New Jersey last week was “I wonder how many of our guys they got.” (Our guys being Hudson County officials. We didn’t do too bad in this one!) Think about that, though. News broke of 44 people getting nicked in a years-long investigation involving bribery, money-laundering, and organ trafficking, and I immediately treated it the same way I treat the NFL draft: I wonder how many of our guys they got. (Our guys, in that analogy, being Boston College football players.)
All of this is to say, a sad number of New Jerseyans, myself included, are simply inured to graft. It’s a cliche to say that corruption is a way of life in politics in New Jersey, but it’s all I know. I hate to say I expect it; but at the very least, when some elected official gets busted for throwing a patronage job to a wildly unqualified crony or accepting a bribe in exchange for fast-tracking a development project, it’s not a surprise. Isn’t that horrible?
So instead of going out tonight, I bought a bottle of this.
What we’re dealing with is, of course, the Dogfish Head 120 Minute India Pale Ale, the creme de la creme of extreme beers, the pièce de résistance for all hopheads. I’ll let the good folks from Dogfish explain:
Too extreme to be called beer? Brewed to a colossal 45-degree plato, boiled for a full 2 hours while being continuously hopped with high-alpha American hops, then dry-hopped daily in the fermenter for a month & aged for another month on whole-leaf hops!!!
My pal Reeves (over at Meanderings, which you should read, because he’s a smart guy and a nifty writer) wrote a little bit about the ascent (and possible descent?) of glass in modern architecture. The stuff is everywhere, as anyone who has ever strolled through a financial district can attest. For some reason, people just seem to love their all-glass buildings.
I don’t mind glass buildings. I think they look cool, especially on a clear day with some sunshine and a few fluffy cumulus clouds reflecting off of them. But in terms of architecture, and aesthetics in general, they’re not all that engaging; it’s just glass! (Unless we’re supposed to interpret the shiny panes on all those financial towers as mirrors into our own cold, piggish, greedy souls. I doubt it.) All of this is to say, if new trends in architecture usurp glass, it wouldn’t bother me all that much.
Now, as the title of the post suggests, I’m not an architect, nor am I a particularly keen student of art history. But I was riding my bike through Post Office Square (a universally beloved public space in Boston’s financial district), and I wondered why we’re building structures like this, but we stopped building structures like this. That first building is, of course, the Frank Ghery–designed Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, built in 1997. The second is the John W. McCormack Post Office and Courthouse here in Boston, built in 1932. (Here’s a picture of the whole building.) I’ll reiterate again that I’m not any kind of trained art critic, but I think Gehry designs monstrosities. But the high muckity-mucks and tastemakers of architecture love him! Meanwhile, we’ve got a perfectly stately, visually appealing, functional 70-odd-year-old building in a style that nobody wants to build in anymore. Why? Because of the austerity foisted upon the universe by World War II? Doesn’t everybody love Art Deco? It’s the movement that gave us America’s Greatest Building.
The upshot of all this is, architectural movements come and go, but what’s the virtue of moving on to a style that resembles stuff that Voltron threw up, while we’ve got a perfectly acceptable, great-looking style just collecting dust. Buildings are meant to last; fifty years from now, do we want to be saddled with soulless glass monoliths and Lewis Carroll grotesqueries, or do we want to have buildings that reflect our soaring aspirations and high ideals?
“Crazy pills” is actually a somewhat disingenuous title for this post. Reading comments on newspaper stories doesn’t make me feel like crazy pills. It just makes me realize that the comments sections of newspaper stories are traditionally inhabited by assorted paranoids, malcontents, psychotics, misanthropes, insomniacs, Know-Nothings, misogynists, Whigs, nervous-Nellies, racists, low-blood-sugar-sufferers, megalomaniacs, impulse-control-deficients, sociopaths, wannabe demagogues, and racists. Same old same old.
What we have here is a really short piece, with a link to a longer piece, on a plan that the state of New Jersey has to encourage supermarkets to open locations in poor and relatively under-served communities. Now, given the connection between poverty and obesity (and all of the health problems that come along with high rates of obesity), the state has a strong interest in poor neighborhoods being provided with places where affordable, fresh food is available. It’s basically the state telling private industry “we have an interest in you providing a service that free market principles apparently prevent you from providing. Here’s a financial incentive to encourage you to change your behavior.” This sort of thing happens every day. Entirely uncontroversial.
Here’s what “stickygrips” has to say:
Tthere is a reason why there isnt a stop n’ rob in the middle of the hood.
And then we’ve got newrkpeeches:
Take down the bird feeders and the birds will leave and crap someplace else.
mrrealist checks in with this doozy:
There are no major stores in Newark for a reason.
It ain’t worth it for the Business, too much crime. I do understand that gangs have to eat too, but I dont think they are that interested in cooking homecooked meals. Got plenty of popeyes and mickey ds around for them.
I am sitting here envisioning a super walmart on broad street, would that be a site to see! the greeter would have to be dressed in armor, hold a machine gun and be wearing track shoes. “Welcome to Walmart of Newark”, please put this on for your protection”. “We have a drive by in aisle 6″ please bring a bucket”. and trust me their would be no self service registers…LMAO
And finally (not for the comments; there are dozens. Just finally for the ones I wanted to highlight), we have scrapthesys:
You see what you liberal idiots got with Coleslaw and B. Hussein Nobama the end of the free market. Next up mandatory health insurance from the government and tons of red tape to get medical procedures. Coming soon the government is going to tell us where to work, where to live and how much education we are allowed to have. Just keep voting blue you stupid people. Actually I think the colors should be switched and the democrats given the color they earned RED as in communist.
I found this one particularly funny and unhinged, considering we’re commenting on an article about the government funneling money into the market, instead of doing the more efficient, and arguably more “communist,” thing, and opening its own government-operated food distribution center. But I suppose today’s loonies take what they can get in terms of imaginary socialism.
Now, I could spend all day and all night copying and pasting the anonymous Internet comments of lunatics. I won’t. I just wanted to remind you, precious reader, that everywhere you go, there’s always some people that are just batshit insane. Be careful!
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