Don’t come into my store and demand I help you find the “absolute funniest costume ever,” the one that if anyone saw you they’d think it was “totally stupid and awesome,” and then not give me any help. You ended up getting silly, cartoon printed scrubs.
Dickface: those are silly. People are going to look at you and go, “huh. That’s kinda weird.” They won’t think you’re funny because, well, you aren’t funny. You need a tired, overworked, irritable retail employee who couldn’t give two shits if they paid him (which they are) to be your sense of humor for you. You need me to tell you what is funny so that you can go to your frat party and people can praise you. You are garbage.
You know what I always find a bit scary? That type of person who can engage in socially conciencious activities, but only really feel them on a structural level. I suppose it’s picky, but it’s like being forced to do social work by judge ruling, only the judge is your own misguided feeling of needing to belong to something. If you really like helping people, go for it. If you like being part of something more than the thing itself, join a book club.
I have returned to full internet capacity, which I can’t say will make my life better, but will at least facilitate my procrastination. Several gasping thoughts as my head bursts out of the water:
I’m thinking of starting a garage rock band. I need to play with my amp again.
I rather liked the season finale of Mad Men. Of course it’s insane and heart-breaking, LIFE is insane and heart-breaking sometimes. The wonder of the show is that, when things like that happen, it’s not a question (for me at least) of whether it was “out of character.” I’m just excited to see where it goes from here.
Eastbound and Down is pretty great this season, though I have this sneaking suspicion the guys writing it might be geniuses who aren’t cut out for what they’re doing or don’t have their heart in the comedy. There’s something about this show that seems off-kilter: the first season was SO MUCH about the bravado and indomitable spirit of Kenny Powers, tempered by having a really outrageous (and outrageously funny) cast around him. Most of my friends adored the show for this reason: Kenny Powers, as washed up and sad as he was, had that charm and confidence that took no shit. Throwing him into Mexico did something to the formula, something I support, but can’t quite figure out. This season is bleaker, sadder. It’s not Kenny Ascending, it’s still his tumbling down. Again, I’m curious where it goes.
Boardwalk Empire has been keeping my interested admirably. I like Steve Buschemi’s character a lot; I’m glad their avoiding the badass, cunning villain that HBO has a tendency to plug astonishing actors into (Al Swearengen, Avon Barksdale, Brother Justin) and craft a looser, more moral, more complex character to showcase their big name. To be honest, I’m not even sure he IS a villain or if the word even applies. Sure he’s a bootlegger, minor gangster, and has some rage issues. But he’s just so… upright? Buschemi plays him really straight, giving him that sort of nebbish, hobbled appeal that I think is, in a way, sort of brave.
I’ve been enjoying Neil Young’s new album. That song “Hitchiker” is pretty mind-blowing.
Having a day off is both a wonderful thing and utterly baffling. What the hell do I do?
Does it ever weird you out when the plastic shopping bag you get from dollar stores feel dusty? As though coated with the shattered dreams of those who shop there, ground into a fine powder and scattered on the wind?
We’ve moved into the apartment in Ann Arbor. It’s suitably huge and will have a bitchin’ office/guest room/music studio.
I also got a job, which is good because my unemployment was set to run out next week. Definitely feeling better regarding my financials. The wage is somewhat paltry, however, I make rent in a week. Assuming, y’know, I don’t get fired or something.
It has been suggested several times by various parties that I see the successes of others as some kind of personal assault. This is true.
I suspect (confirmed by my mother who, while not nearly as prone to bitterness, understands the root of the feeling) that this is a Jewish thing. While I’m not exactly sure what in Judaism it stems from, I’d be inclined to agree. There’s this bitter cocktail of academia, neurosis, and general noisiness that we Jews inherit. Most Jews I think escape the vortex of bitterness by carefully monitoring each of these aspects respectfully. Many Jews even turn this to their advantage by cutting down on the self-doubt component, turning the remaining elements into a energizing mixture that compels them to succeed, if only to spite others. Still, get the proportions wrong, and you run the risk of becoming a bitter little fuck whose sense of self-worth takes a blow every time someone else (either close friend, vague acquaintance, or total stranger) due to no fault of their own, succeeds.
This theory of radical self importance hinges on the idea that that success is a finite commodity, banked somewhere in the collective experience to be deposited and withdrawn by the truly exemplary. Someone’s success half a world away somehow taps into this bak and inhibits the ability for ANYONE to succeed, the ANYONE in this case translating to ME.
More specifically, I look at the achievement of others and, even when I’m not outright resentful, I suffer pangs of, “Why wasn’t that me?”
I have learned over the years to conceal this terminal case of bad wiring. My friends and family know about it because well, I don’t think it’s possible to accept my without knowing who my bedfellow is. When make small efforts to reveal this to supposedly well-adujsted strangers, I’m usually greeted with confused stares and some plaitude like, “You know, someone else’s success doesn’t take anything away from you.”
This sort of sentiment sets makes my teeth ache. It’s stating the obvious. Of course it’s all in my head. Of course the accomplishments of people who have never met me aren’t motivated by a desire to show me up. Is it really required that someone disabuse me of my bloated sense of self-worth?
You know what? Fuck off. Who wants to be well-adjusted? Who’d want to be well-adjusted when they can see HOW MUCH FUCKING FUN I’M HAVING???
Thus, when I watched The Social Network, the only thing I could think as the final credits rolled was, “Fuck. Mark Zuckerberg is the world’s youngest billionaire. What the fuck have I done with my life?”
The movie itself is, of course, a minor work of genius, or rather, geniuses. Despite being the lesser of the two recent films about facebook (Catfish is a far more dynamic exploration of the social network and its insidious role in our lives) it’s astonishingly watchable for a film that is functionally about computer programming and civil suits, David Fincher kills on directing and making it engaging. Trent Reznor’s soundtrack is dynamic and unique, yet oddly fitting. I can’t think of any film in the last few years that truly sounds like it.
I’m less impressed with Aaron Sorkin’s script, although I recognize that from a craft perspective, it’s a really awesome feat. In a world where the mean IQ is somewhere in the high one-hundreds and maybe 80% of the cast attends Harvard, the incessant sparking babble doesn’t seem grossly out of place, yet gets a bit tiresome.
The cast is great. Justin Timberlake gives a nice, washed out take on Napster inventor Sean Fanning (inhanced by seeing a major music star of the era say lines like “I’ve killed the record industry”) and Andrew Garfield is probably the most likable Harvard business major ever put to film.
Jesse Eisenberg gives an exemplary performance here. He’s a actor that I have a real fondness for but that I could easily see becoming tiresome. He’s done the Michael Cera thing and tapped into the whole modern nebbish thing which I suppose is entertaining, but is a fine line to walk. Unlike MC, Eisenberg has a tendency to take roles and characters with more emotional depth, not relying so much on his halting, awkward naivete. Here, he absolutely MURDERS the role, turning that awkwardness into calculating, unintentional nastiness. In every scene, you get the impression he’s only half-listening to you, already several steps ahead, his eyes shifting, unable to meet your gaze. It’s that twisted, bitter genius that gets let loose by Jesse Eisenberg that makes the whole film the thrilling character study.
One minor note about the cast: Rashida Jones almost ruins it for me. She, for some inexplicable reason, NEVER works for me. I feel like there’s something about her that just chews the scenery, that tan leathery face and hoarse voice. Despite having a pretty minor role here, she just draws attention to herself in a way I find unsavory.
Maybe I’m just biased because Sorkin has her deliver the most irritating line in the script. At the end of the film, after Mark has settled with his former business partners, she says to him, “You’re not an asshole, Mark. You’re just trying so hard to be one.”
This line, above all, rings so incredibly false after the all events of the movie and seems to me like a slap-dash, last minute redemption for our main character. It makes for a nice bookend with the statement by Mark’s ex in the opening (“You’re going to go through life thinking girls don;t like you because you’re a nerd. It’s because you’re an asshole.”) and suggests the evolution of a character and completion of his narrative arc, but it’s just plain bullshit. The fact is, Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t have to try to be an asshole, nor is he one by default: he just isn’t equipped to stop himself from becoming one. At the end of the film he’s right where he was at the beginning, only several billion dollars richer. He’s still pining for the girl he royally dicked over and frankly doesn’t deserve to get back. He was never trying to dick over his friend and CFO of Facebook, merely moving too fast for him. Whether or not he’s still an asshole or ever was is a moot point. He just wholly insensitive and isn’t afraid of breaking things if he thinks he can make them better.
In all, the movie is pretty wonderful, if a bit trifling for the heavyweights involved. It’s hard to say if this is due to the trifling nature of its subject, but regardless, well worth seeing.
Tomorrow is national coming out day. Do you think it’s in poor taste to come out as a totally awesome dude? It is something I’ve struggled with over the years. My friends and family don’t understand. I’m often discriminated against by people who are threatened by my awesomeness.
I guess, even though it can sometimes be a burden, I don’t regret being born this way. Thus, in honor of national coming out day, I am coming out to my social network, friends, family, and various Internet gawkers as one totally awesome dude, one of the awesomest around. I’m loud, I’m proud, I’m the best.
Seriously though, gay dudes and dudettes (in addition to bisexuals, trans, gender queer, and the like) are pretty awesome as well. In the light of the rash of recent suicides of gay teens, I think it’s a worthy thing to celebrate and speak openly about various sexual preferences, even if they can’t be as awesome as yours truly. The good news is that culture and society always moves forward (or at least in concentric circles). This open acceptance of people of multivarious sexualities is inevitable. Still, we need to do our part every day in chipping away at the walls that separate us.
There is something unquestionably fascinating about the movie. It’s difficult to address since both the film and the marketing push behind it seem to be obsessed with the idea of there being this shroud of mystery that gives this little flick it’s charm. I confess it’s not a bad campaign since there is something certainly exciting and exhilarating about seeing a film you know virtually nothing about.
Still, the campaign is flawed for two reasons: ONE, every single person who I’ve heard talk about the film seems to be unable to decide whether or not this ignorance going into it actually enhanced their viewing. And TWO, every single piece of marketing behind the film is purposely misleading.
I guess I take exception to this second fact because of where I fall on the first. The fact is, the film has been from the trailers (which are comprised of one of the creepiest scenes from the movies set to menacing music), to the press (which call the film, “The best Hitchcock film Hitchcock never made!”), to the poster (a classic horror/thriller poster in black and red) made out to be either a thriller or outright horror flick. It’s neither.
The film is actually a pretty astonishing documentary about the distortion of identity through social networking and the slow, deliberate unraveling of the webs we can weave in the modern age. It tracks Nev (smarmy dance photographer) trying to get to the bottom of the mysteries surrounding a midwest family including (presumably) a child painting prodigy, a sexy and flirtatious 16 year old (who Nev has a virtual affair with), and a beautiful dancer mother.
I’m loath to give it all away, but I think it’s really wonderful documentary, capturing the depths of human sadness (and sickness) without getting too exploitational of its subjects, who are better characters than anyone could ever write. It’s a tad trifling and not quite expertly pulled off, and the “lead” Nev comes off as a real naive douchebag, but I think the film sells itself short by relying on this sort of “GOTCHA” brand of thriller sensationalism, this “YOU’VE GOT TO SEE IT TO BELIEVE IT!!” aura.
Of course you have to see it to believe it: it’s just so… unbelievable. It’s unbelievable that these people exist, unbelievable that this confluence of events would go down, unbelievable that these dues captured it ON CAMERA. The difference is, it’s not unbelievable because it’s so thrilling or horrific or even unexpected. Rather, it’s something you would never think could occur but lives on the outskirts of expectation; the most extreme, insane example of what we are capable of in the age of social networking and facebook. It’s beautiful and haunting and sad and painfully tragic, that kind of tragic that seems almost too much for reality.
Three Fingers: a Hollywood "Documentary" in Graphic Novel form
In my never-ending pursuit of new and exciting comic book stores to affix myself to, leech-like, and try and synthesize a social life, as McGiver might make a bomb from a car radio, some twine, and chewing gum (in this case, the car radio would be played by awkward over-sharing; twine would be open dislike of other people; and chewing gum limited knowledge of relevant, relatable subjects), I returned to my favorite comic shop in Burbank, House of Secrets. Like most of my raves, it hits all the major pleasure centers for my geekiness (unbagged/boarded comics for easy reading; comics organized by publisher; great selection of trades; not real manga-heavy; unpretentious; big selection of indie comics/artist collections; totally adorable and charming countergirl).
After several days of pursuing, chatting with staff, and general loitering, I decided (in open defiance to my current situation as an unemployed, homeless loser) to pick up a graphic novel (ughhhhh, that fucking WORD) that I’d been eyeballing for days: THREE FINGERS, by Rich Koslowski (Published by the great indie publisher Top Shelf in 2002).
It had been calling to me for days as I casually looked over the gorgeous art and intriguing subject matter. As I brought it to the counter, the cashier (not my new friend and secret love Comic book Store Girl, an affection that has been trending in my life for going on a decade now) cheerfully proclaimed, “Oh, there’s some funny stuff in there.”
Having read the book, hungrily consuming page after beautiful page, I would beg to differ. True, there are a few funny moments, and it’s bare bones outline seems light, but the real heart of the book is a tale of ugliness and despair. I say this with the deepest admiration for the author and illustrator, Rich Koslowski, because instead of just being about the gloom, he’s created something both sadly beautiful and grotesque. In a way, the book is about this fundamental contrast: the ultimate tale of the darkness that lurks beneath the surface of nostalgia and slowly rises from the murky depth through the passing of time.
The book is framed (with incredible simplicity and pitch-perfect execution) like a Ken Burns documentary about the rise and fall of the career of Ricky the Rat (a Mickey Mouse surrogate). The world is similar to that of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” where “Toons” (cartoon characters and anthropomorphic “funny animals”) and Humans co-exist, but far, far darker. The book starts in the 20s and 30s, when Toon actors are consigned to ethnic ghettos and basically whitewashed out of the entertainment industry. An enterprising Dizzy Walters (Walt Disney, for those keeping up), discovering Ricky playing piano on the Toon vaudeville circuit and the two form a theatrical partnership which results in Ricky rocketing to stardom, all told via talking-head style testimonials by fellow Toon actors and film historians many years after the fact.
The real push of the “documentary” is less about Ricky and his fame, and more about fellow unemployed Toons trying to follow in his footsteps and finding the barrier to be insurmountable. This turns many Toons to a disturbing, bizarre form of self mutilation called “The Ritual” wherein one of their fingers is removed to emulate Ricky’s three fingered hand.
It truly is an astonishing work. The character designs and illustrations are great, seamlessly transitioning from grainy, old time photographs to bubbly, rounded cartoons, to the sagging, grim deformity of age.
My only qualms with it is that the book is a slim little thing and that the creative potential of the work remains pretty much untapped. The world Koslowski creates is so vivid and enthralling that I can’t help but want more. Still, I suppose it speaks to the artists modesty (or simple cleverness) that he gives just a peak into this world, framed through the lens of this tragedy.
“I think the feeling right now with criticism and reviews is that it’s rare that someone is actually critical. It seems more about discovering it, and you judge for yourself whether you like it or not. Before, you used to have to spend seventeen bucks on a CD so you wanted someone to tell you if it was good or not. Now, you don’t need a review, you just download it and throw it away. [My] quote was kind of taken out of context. I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone’s feelings, or insult anyone at all. Music is entirely subjective. I was thinking that for myself, for songwriting and what I like to listen to, to help motivate me as a songwriter, as a musician, there are certain things I lean towards and certain things I don’t. I can’t imagine that every single person feels the same way about every single thing that they do.”—
The “discovery vs. criticism” thing is very on-point. One of my lingering aggravations lately is that more emphasis is placed on finding the next new whatever than in seriously following career artists.
Perhaps it’s redundant to commend a commendation, but I’m gonna do it anyway. I wouldn’t say that the quote was taken “out of context” (in the original interview, she brings up BC apropos of NOTHING), but I think her critique both of BC (BC being both on the nose and simultaneously emotionally disingenuous) and the state of modern music criticism being more focused on “breaking” a band than, you know, criticizing is pretty spot on.
Music, as a commodity, has been wholly devalued. That means the question of, “Should I spend my hard earned $$$ on this?” is no longer relevant and the role of criticism is evolving. Still, even without the financial question in play, there’s something valuable to honest criticism I believe. In fact, I can only see it becoming more nuanced and artful now that critics aren’t hailed as cultural tastemakers who can single handedly “make” a band.
One thing I don’t care for here though: the back-peddling of “Music is Subjective.” Obviously music and music crit is subjective. We’re adults at this point in the history of human civilization and art. We’ve established that people have different tastes, one man’s trash is another man’s gilded dildo, etc. I sincerely hope that when an artist says they find a certain thing in music “unacceptable” or distasteful, that we as a society aren’t complete drooling morons and can realize that that artist is speaking subjectively. It’s just short-hand.
Thus, Dumb People: Stop making artists/critics say this shit. It makes us look dumb in front of the cool kids.
Artists/Critics: Stop saying that shit. It insults our intelligence. Natch.
OK, I’m sick of living out if a van. I’m sick of feeling lonely and lost and worrying about the 110 degree heat ruining my records and my guitars. I’m sick of not playing music and spending money I don’t have.
That in mind, I’m hauling my ass to Ann Arbor and digging in my heels against the brutal winter. My plan is to take classes, write, submit to writing fellowships, work a job, save money, and play music with my better half. Then, once I’ve done this for a bit, I’m going to venture out west, hopefully able to take with me the love and support I need to establish a life out there. Because, for the time being, I just don’t have it in me to be here alone, with nothing to show for myself but a big red van that says “First United Methodist Church Of Altoona, PA.”
The best part about this is how INCREDIBLY REDUNDANT it is. OK, now I LIKE the Gaslight Anthem. I really do. But this just seems like… baiting the critics, I dunno. Daring fans like myself, who enjoy them for copping the whole anthemic Springsteen formula, to get sick of the shenanigans.
I don’t know why this irks me so much. I love the song. I love Gaslight Anthem. It just seems like shooting fish in a barrel, a completely unnecessary and obvious cover of a great song by the most obvious band you’d expect to cover it. It’s an exercise in overkill and yet it’s totally underwhelming.
Is this something people actually want? The Gaslight Anthem to cover the Boss? Why not have Conor Oberst cover Dylan? Wolfmother cover Led Zepplin? Fuck, let’s have Creed cover Pearl Jam. That should be fucking GREAT.