Archive for November, 2010
How was everyone’s Thanksgiving? Pleasant, I hope! Did you miss me? Probably not, but I missed you all desperately. I hope after all the turkey and pie and beer, you left room for some Gossip Girl. On with the diary!
:01 GG’s Thanksgiving Day monologue: “I’ll be back for just desserts.” Dinner puns!
Hey, did Blair just say she celebrates the Beaujolais nouveau? My folks throw a Beaujolais party every year!
:02 Dorota is teaching her baby Polish! I love it!
:04 I wouldn’t feed tofu sage stuffing to the dog. And I don’t even like the dog.
Walk right in, it’s around the back. Just a half a mile from the L train track. Via the OWCODDU: “Vanessa is wearing the same Native American–patterned fleece that Arlo Guthrie wore at the Thanksgiving Day Parade.” It’s more or less true!
:07 So is Juliet Sharpe kidnapping and drugging Serena to develop a feeling of dependence so that Serena will put Juliet on her health insurance? Because I feel like we might have seen this plot on Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
:14 Oh, this is great. They’re playing this soft acoustic music while Serena is in the hospital so that all of the people involved in Serena’s kidnapping feel especially like assholes. Can you hear that, Vanessa and Jenny?
:16 Nate’s mom is the Little J of this show’s adults.
:17 Then again, Nate is a bit of a naïf. I don’t really know what to believe about the Captain, honestly.
:19 Involuntary admission to a psychiatric hospital? This show is getting pretty heavy.
:23 Which insufferably twee indie duo does this “Up on the Housetop” Hyundai commercial? I need to know so I never purchase any of their songs, and shun any of my friends who like them.
:26 Dan thinks something else is up here. He was always the clever one in this crowd.
:27 Being a slimy villain herself, don’t you think Little J would recognize another slimy villain in Juliet. But I guess not!
:30 I mean, look at Jenny! She walks like a fucking mantis.
And now Vanessa is ratting out Jenny? Because Juliet convinced her that Dan was being drawn to Serena? Hey V, maybe Dan likes Serena because she’s not a callow weenie.
:34 I love how Serena and Dan are treating breaking out of a mental hospital like some sort of jaunty escapade. “Running away is what guilty people do,” he goes. Haha! Hoho!
:37 Dan to Lily: “At least I’m looking at her and not myself.” Sick burn, Lonely Boy. You made her cry!
:38 Dangerous, Dirty, Unfun is a big fan of the strung-out-looking, immersed-in-shadow Serena. That’s for the record.
So, what? Juliet sends a picture of a blonde in a mask doing some blow, and people automatically assume it’s Serena? And Serena believes this? Way to make Dan look like a jerk, S.
Also, is the entire conceit of Gossip Girl some sort of commentary on the leaking of sensitive state secrets? Is Gossip Girl actually the New York Times? Is Juliet Sharpe actually Julian Assange? Is Serena Van Der Woodsen the State Department? Think about it!
:44 Dan to Serena: “I wasn’t wrong to believe in you.” Come on, Eric! Dan earned that smooch!
:46 Ooooh . . . Juliet is turning into an uncontrollable monster. I can get behind that. Especially if there;s more black eyeliner involved.
:51 One prison visit and Nate’s mom isn’t divorcing the Captain? She seems like a pretty impulsive decision-maker.
:54 The best thing is for you to go and stay gone, Jenny. It’s a true fact.
:56 Ha! Good job, chatty prison guard. You just ruined Nate’s holiday.
“Just because we can’t be friends doesn’t mean we aren’t.” Did anyone else’s living room get really dusty when Chuck opened Blair’s note?
Regular readers of Dangerous, Dirty, and Unfun know that The Awl, a blog about culture, TV, news, science, sports, and whatnot, is one of my favorite websites. It’s just a lot of fun! They’ve been doing a series of recipes from various contributors called “The Real American Thanksgiving Cookbook,” featuring offbeat or family recipes for Thanksgiving food. So I thought, what the hell, maybe I’ll give this a shot and submit something, never in a million years thinking that the editors of the site, who are actual real professional editors, would ever think of running something I wrote.
But what do you know? Here’s my recipe for easy lemon meringue pie! I’m obviously beyond thrilled to be up there. I write stuff here on the blog because I like it, and I get to write in a style and about subject matter that I pick. For other people to say “this is something that we like and is good enough to go on our site” is really a feather in the cap, and gives me a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling as I depart to hop on a bus for the interminable Thanksgiving commute down to Jersey. I’m bustin’ over here! Bustin’!
In the spirit of the David Foster Wallace Fortnight, I’m obligated to pass along this Newsweek piece by Seth Colter Walls, who schlepped down to Austin to dig through the David Foster Wallace archive, housed at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. It’s a quick read, and interesting, because apparently Wallace, unlike many (most?) great writers, didn’t keep very much correspondence. The bulk of what’s illuminating in the archive is the stacks and stacks of other people’s books, which Wallace proceeded to HEAVILY annotate, compelling Walls to muse “It will be fittingly postmodern if an archive without personal correspondence and heavy on other writers’ original texts can recast an author’s reputation.”
It sort of reminds me of a possibly apocryphal, possibly entirely made-up by me, anecdote that I recall maybe hearing in class one time. A friend lent a rare Shakespeare folio to his buddy, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who proceeded to devour it, eventually returning it, riddled with marginal notes. Your first reaction is “ZOMG, you can’t just mark up one of the early folios!” Your second reaction is “Wait a sec, now this dude has the complete plays of Shakespeare, customized by Sam Coleridge. Lucky!” Take a look through the books in the collection. What was Wallace scribbling in the margins of Huckleberry Finn, or The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor, or Garner’s Dictionary of Modern American Usage, which he famously and magisterially reviewed in “Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the Wars Over Usage” in Harper’s magazine? The mouth waters!
The Newsweek piece is accompanied by a slideshow of a few artifacts from the archive, the most charming and heartwarming of which is this little story by a 9-year-old David Wallace. It’s about a tea kettle puzzling through an existential crisis. The kettle’s name is Richard Calhoon Pot. Awwwww!
Regular readers of Dangerous, Dirty, and Unfun know that I’m secretly a professional writing and editing guy. Interested in some of the stuff I’ve written recently? Here’s a profile of UFC fighter Kenny Florian; a story about late-night student programming at BC; and three short bits about student research projects at the Lynch School of Education.
And if you want to read something that wasn’t written by me but is still really good, here’s an exploration of the Jane Jacobs Collection, housed at Boston College’s Burns Library. You’ll recall that Jane Jacobs was the writer of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, one of the seminal texts in the fields of urban planning and public policy. Jacobs was notoriously suspicious of the academy in general, but still saw fit to leave her papers at Boston College. It’s a great story!
Well, cover is a strong word, considering this is the guy that actually wrote the song, but here’s Bruce Springsteen, with parts of the E Street Band and the Roots (?), performing “Because the Night” . . .
. . . which was actually made famous by the badass Patti Smith way back in 1978.
So I just got back from an author event at the Brookline Booksmith. Matt Taibbi was doing a signing for his new book, Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America. A lot of mainstream progressive commentators will talk about how entertaining they find Taibbi to be, but there’ll also be some sort of qualifier about how hyperbolic and moralistic he is, how he fudges facts, how he contributes to a radical discourse. I won’t do that. If the dude is right about even half the stuff he writes about, we’re doomed.
It was a thoroughly depressing evening. (Taibbi even relayed the anecdote that when he was writing the book, his editor asked him to put together a “but here’s the good news,” which turned out to be so unconvincing as to be axed from the book altogether.) There are many reasons, but the overarching one is something he outlines in the book’s first chapter:
Our world isn’t about ideology anymore. It’s about complexity. We live in a complex bureaucratic state with complex laws and complex business practices, and the few organizations with the corporate will power to master these complexities will inevitably own the political power.
The financial crisis in particular, and the economy and power structures that enabled it in general, are just too damn complicated for the average person to comprehend. And that’s not me thinking the average person is a moron. It’s just huge, complicated, abstract, esoteric stuff. I don’t know if it’s fair to say that we can’t be blamed for ignoring it and allowing ourselves to be played by moneyed elites, but it’s certainly understandable that things like credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations would go over most of our heads. How are we supposed to know what to do and how to act when even the people we elect to represent us don’t grasp the problem?
I obviously don’t have the answers. But I’m trying. There’s a short bit about securitization in a recent Rolling Stone piece that Taibbi wrote that I think is very helpful, and might help you intuitively think through some of the more insidious things at play in the world today. Some of you might be more familiar with the concept of securitization, but it’s at the heart of our recent crisis. Here’s the way it used to be:
In the old days, when you took out a mortgage, it was probably through a local bank or a credit union, and whoever gave you your loan held on to it for life. If you lost your job or got too sick to work and suddenly had trouble making your payments, you could call a human being and work things out. It was in the banker’s interest, as well as yours, to make a modified payment schedule. From his point of view, it was better that you pay something than nothing at all.
Once it became possible for thousands of individual mortgages to be packaged into AAA-rated securities, though, lenders began selling mortgages to banks, who pooled them together and sold them to institutional investors. Point being, the bond between lender and borrower was broken.
In many cases, banks like JP Morgan are merely the servicers of all these home loans, charged with collecting your money every month and paying every penny of it into the trust, which is the real owner of your mortgage. If you pay less than the whole amount, JP Morgan is now obligated to pay the trust the remainder out of its own pocket. When you fall behind, your bank falls behind, too. The only way it gets off the hook is if the house is foreclosed on and sold.
That’s what this foreclosure crisis is all about: fleeing the scene of the crime.
To make a long story short, the incentives are fucked. In the halcyon days of Mayberry, if you couldn’t pay your full monthly rate, it was in the bank’s best interest for you to pay whatever you could. Today, if you can’t pay your full monthly rate, it’s in the bank’s best interest to get you out and get someone in who can pay. If you clicked through and read the Rolling Stone piece, you’ll see that it’s become insanely easy for that to happen. Just imagine what kind of bad behavior that could encourage.
Tonight’s high society event that gives the gang a pretense to all get together and look fabulous at the same time was a New York Ballet benefit. On with the diary!
:00 So apparently, Colin, who I’ll be referring to by his full academic title from now on, is “the dude from Mad Men,” as the Other Official Roommate of DD&U informs me.
:01 Serena, lamenting her plight with Professor Forester: “All I can think about is how much I want to be on his arm at the ballet.” Is that all you can think about, S? I find that incredibly difficult to believe.
:03 Hey, Vanessa is telling everyone how crazy Juliet is. You guys should believe her. Oh wait, you don’t? Is that because V’s judgment is fucking terrible?
Hmm, apparently, Juliet’s brother Ben pleaded guilty. That definitely means he did whatever it is he was accused of doing. I don’t know who I like less out of this little triangle.
:04 I love how Rufus’s life revolves around waffles nowadays.
Chuck, on Nate returning Juliet’s Punisher War Journal #6, her copy of Fletch, and the remote control to her TV: “Closure, the unattainable goal. In my personal experience, the closest I’ve come to getting it is through massive amounts of hate sex, but that’s just me.”
Blair: What if someone sees?
Chuck: You don’t like that any more?
:08 You know Dan wants Serena back desperately, because a literary elitist like him wouldn’t be seen dead even holding a business self help book, let alone actually reading it.
:13 Blair, on Serena and Professor Forrester’s plan to go away for the weekend: “Do you forget what happens to you on vacations? There’s a reason you never get a tan line.”
:17 I like Nate trying to play the bad cop here, with this interrogation of Juliet. Who is about to lie to him again. And he’ll believe it. Because he always thinks the best of everyone, even though everyone in his life, including his own family, has betrayed him at some point.
And how condescending is Juliet. I used to shop at Woodbury Common! I used to live in a fifth floor walkup!
Nate: “I’m a big believer in second chances” (!)
:26 Blair in the tub, Serena sitting on the tub in a silk kimono. Nothing to see here, folks.
:29 Dorota, to Chuck, after Blair rebuffs his sexual advances: “KGB can’t get me to talk, Chuck Bass has no chance.” Firstly, Dorota! Second of all, I dunno, Dorota! Chuck can be very persuasive.
Vanessa spied on Juliet through Foursquare? This episode is not gonna stand the test of time. Also, Vanessa is a moron.
Gossip Girl: “It looks like the chip on Vanessa’s shoulder just went digital.” Hehehe.
:36 Aww, poor Dan. How many times is Lonely Boy going to see his girl gaze longingly at another guy? He should now hatch an elaborate but hilariously boneheaded plan to bring Professor Forester down. That’s his new style, no?
:38 Dan: “Nate was last week’s beard.” I love it.
:40 I’ve heard about trimming the hedges, Vanessa, but you’re over here scorching the earth! Don’t you want ANY friends?
:44 Just saw an ad for Burlesque. So, is this Moulin Rouge? Or Showgirls? Or Coyote Ugly?
:47 Blah. This scene with the dean is absurd. Every time the woman leaves the house, she’s harassed by stuck up brats.
:49 Are they gonna sit here and make me feel bad for Juliet? Because, you know, irregardless of Serena and Professor Forester’s little rules, it’s still true that they were involved, and I’m not sure that there’s a bright line between “trading grades for sex” and “trading grades for the prospect of sex.” And Vanessa is right, Serena gets away with murder on a more or less weekly basis. But I also can’t stand Juliet. So . . .
:54 So Professor Forester gave up his teaching position at Columbia for . . . nothing?
Dan reminds me so much of myself it’s actually disturbing. I’ve had a girl convince me to drop everything I’ve been doing and run out to meet her on more than a few occasions.
. . . and now he’s gonna run into Serena and Nate and draw all manner of conclusions!
:56 Blair: What do you think our count is?
Chuck: Us a million, the world zero.
:58 I was really expecting Juliet to be skyping with Georgina Sparks. As it stands, I don’t really think Juliet’s revenge is going to go so well if she’s in league with b-rate jokes like Little J and Vanessa.
Regular readers of Dangerous, Dirty, and Unfun know where I stand when it comes to politics, so you can imagine my initial reaction to yesterday’s elections. But, you know, I’m bright enough to know that while yesterday was bad, it wasn’t the end of the world. I also know that the next couple years are going to be rough. So I’m down in the dumps.
Here are two pretty well-written pieces about two great ones we lost yesterday. Salon’s Steve Kornacki has a post-mortem on the political career of Nancy Pelosi, who I’ll be naming my second daughter after. And then here’s a piece on Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold, a statesmen that James Madison could only have dreamed we would have 220 years after he helped craft the Constitution.
I’ve talked about my buddy Reeves before, the writer of the Meanderings blog. Unfortunately, that blog is no more, which is a shame, because it was always a favorite one of mine. I’m sure a lot of you out there are reading this because you’re my pals and you’re being nice, but Meanderings is the kind of blog I would read irregardless of who wrote it. (Reminded me of blogs like Brainiac or Kottke, which are both in my Google Reader.)
Anyway, it’s not all doom and gloom, because his writing is appearing in some more, um, higher profile venues. This here is a Talk of the Town piece he just had in this week’s issue of the New Yorker, pictured to your left. It’s about a Long Island fundraiser for Michel Martelly, a Caribbean pop singer and one of the 19 candidates running for president of Haiti. I won’t excerpt any of it, because it’s short enough to read and enjoy yourself. Do it!
The writing that I do professionally, I try to think of it as modeled on Talk of the Town. These kinds of stories are tough! You’ve got to be short and punchy, but also get enough exposition in there so that your reader isn’t completely lost. I feel like I never do a great job, but I’m also a pessimist. In the meantime, I’m pumped that I know a guy that can do the real thing. So, congratulations, friend. Keep it up.
A dear friend of mine informed me the other day that she heard the Juliet storyline is going to carry on into the spring. Which would be fine, if they would just tell us what the hell is going on! Let’s see if any light is shed on the sitch this week, shall we?
:01 Serena, after hearing Colin is descended from lobstermen: “I love The Deadliest Catch.” Those are crabs, you fool!
If not having sex for a few weeks caused swelling violins and echo-y voices in your head, the soundtrack of my life would be 68 Haydn string quartets on a continuous loop from the bottom of Carlsbad Caverns.
:04 Rufus, on why he and Lily will be celebrating their anniversary alone: “Jenny has a big test she has to study for and she can’t make it back to the city. It doesn’t feel right having a family celebration without her.” How many more times do you have to throw her out of your house before you realize that Jenny is the worst, Rufus?
:06 Chuck, during negotiations with Blair: “You can’t have Fashion Week in Paris and Milan. You have to choose.” Chuck’s tone there was perfect Bass.
Blair, on Serena and her new beau: “You are one macchiato from making the same mistake you always make.” If Serena and Colin having sex before the end of the semester were a company, I would invest my lift savings in it. Good thing it’s not. Because I have no life savings.
:08 Eric is right, Dan. Chuck and Blair will eat you alive.
:13 If there’s anyone you can trust, Serena, it’s the rando that just showed up this season and has already betrayed you and your friends.
Have we ever figured out how Ben is getting e-mails in prison?
:15 Serena’s favorite book is The Beautiful and Damned? If that’s true, I’m a little impressed. I never made it through that one.
:17 Chuck, on Dan’s bungling: “You really don’t know how to stage a run in, do you? Cut to the chase.”
“The intricacies of our war games are too complex for a prole like you to comprehend.” Dan is just getting BURNED this ep.
Juliet: “Some people are such prudes.”
Serena: “Heh. Yeah.” Lol @ this.
“Nate thought he and Humphrey were thick as thieves. Turns out Humphrey’s a thief, and Nate’s just thick.” Ha! Nate IS thick, Gossip Girl.
:24 This is a conversation I was having with the Official Washington Correspondent of Dangerous, Dirty, and Unfun.
OWCODDU: Here’s what happened
Colin committed some sort of crime
But he is rich
Juliet and her brother are poor!
Timmy: So Ben took the fall?
OWCODDU: Ben took the fall for the crime so that Colin would pay for Juliet’s education!
Timmy: I’m gonna put this in DD&U.
:27 Eleanor, after Blair insulted her dress for the evening: “Actually, dear, I picked it out.” Pwned! Don’t ever talk to Dorota like that again.
:32 Is the dean of Columbia Karen Hayes from 24? (10:28: IMDB says yes!)
Is Blair ever going to find out that that minion betrayed her to chuck?
:34 Dan is all pissed at Nate for hanging out with Serena, because he forgot that he went behind Nate’s back and read Blair and Chuck’s treaty.
:35 Blair, dismissing Serena’s defense of Juliet: “If I want to hear fiction, I’ll go talk to Jonathan Franzen. In fact . . .” I know this is a name-droppy show, but I find it hard to believe that Franzen would go to Blair’s birthday party.
:39 Nate: I just saw something in the kitchen! It must be about me! Allow me to jump to wild conclusions!
Minions, on Rita’s surprise: “A Jack Bass sex tape? A Nelly Yuki snuff film?” Ha!
:42 Haha! Slapstick! Apparently, I’m supposed to know that the woman who got chocolate spilled on her is Rachel Zoe? Who is apparently some kind of stylist?
:47 Colin is a complete squirrelmaster. What is Serena doing with this guy? He makes Tripp Van Der Bilt look like Gerard butler.
:49 Rufus to his kid: “I’m the one who’s sorry. I’m sorry you became one of them.” Pwned!
:52 Is Blair really so concerned about this silly karaoke video?
Speaking of Cyrus, where is he? I miss that guy!
:55 Dan and Vanessa should just do it. Right?
:56 Serena to Colin: “The new me really wants to wait.” How many new Serenas have there been? Half a dozen, right?
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