Friday, December 31, 2010

The Essential Weirdness of Christmas Music

After some time in the employ of some of America's finest retail clothing establishments, I went off Christmas music. I didn't stop liking it for what it was, but spending 240 hours with it blaring in the background, in the six-week period around Christmas, eliminated my ability to take much joy in it for a few years.

I imagine I otherwise might have gone to a store to buy CDs of Christmas songs, but over-saturation drove the impulse from me, for a couple of seasons. Besides, like any good family member, I spent most Christmases with family. Having my own copy of James Galway flautin' the bejesus out of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" was unnecessary.

So this year, as host of Christmas festivities, I had nowhere to turn when it came to listening to music I had long since come to enjoy again. I turned on the cable box and cued up the "SOUNDS OF THE SEASONS" channel. If you've purchased a digital cable package anywhere in America in the last decade, you know exactly what kind of channel I'm talking about. You also know exactly why the Christmas music I listened to might be plainly weird.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Idi Amin: 'Wal-Mart: the Ultimate Welfare Queen'

Note: unlike many guest pieces on Et tu, Mr. Destructo? today's article comes from a real, live person. Idi Amin Dada has a Bachelor's degree in political science, the rank of Field Marshal and was the last ruler of a free Uganda. Since his exile at the hands of imperialists, he has busied himself researching topics ranging from politics to philately. Fans can find him engaging in lively debates on FreeRepublic, Redstate, AIPAC, and Stormfront, where he blends in seamlessly. He has not eaten anyone since 1980.

Rolling Back Lives... One State Budget at a Time

You'd be forgiven for not hearing about a recent bill proposed by a Democratic state legislator in Ohio that targeted businesses whose employees are compensated so poorly that they rely on public aid. No story besides this transcriptless audio report on Northeast Ohio Public Radio seems to exist.

With continuing dire warnings from deficit hawks that found their voice the instant Barack Obama won the Presidency, with the Ohio state budget in such dire shape, and with newly-elected fiscal conservatives licking their lips in anticipation of taking office, a chance to reduce the state budget gap seems like it would gleefully be seized. But if you're Ohio state Representative Bob Hagan (D), such an offering has been rejected without a single sensible reason consistent with the political ideology of the Republican party, which doesn't publicly state that the only welfare it favors is the corporate form.

Friday, December 17, 2010

SomethingAwful: In Defense of Gringo Star

Possibly the ultimate talisman of uncoolness when it comes to music is finding out someone's dad likes it. As a result, the term "Dad Rock" has sprung up in online music-discussion communities as a cultural dealbreaker and devastating dismissal of the worth of a piece of music. Unfortunately, the term is almost meaningless. It's a term that defies age, aging and the musical content itself.

Nothing brought this to the fore quite like trying to talk about the Atlanta-based garage rock band Gringo Star, who manage to both be awesome and to have a sound that, when described online, invites the "Dad Rock" condemnation like no other. Click here to read the article and enjoy yet another example of why Pitchfork Media is full of shit.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wailing Walls: Flame Out

Note: As tensions again rise in the Middle East, we, the good people of Et tu, Mr. Destructo? turn for insight to General Rehavam "Gandhi" Ze'evi, former Israeli Minister of Tourism. Having faked his assassination in the Mt. Scopus Hyatt Hotel, the General has been in deep cover, in Judea and Samaria, posing as an American goy pursuing graduate studies in the Middle East and slowly learning Arabic, focusing especially on settlement activity in East Jerusalem. In his free time, he enjoys saying very little about himself, because he's terrified of Kachist/Islamist extremist internet aficionados.

Eight Hazy Fights and the Inferno of 2011

The novice might be alarmed the first time they reach high ground in Israel, at David's Citadel or the Baha'i Gardens, and see black smoke in the distance. There's no stanching it though; it's a natural phenomenon, as dry, weedy ground catches fire under the Mediterranean sun. One of the most contested and targeted sites for Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem, Mufti's Grove, is a scorched hillside, its olive trees charred cinder and the ground perpetually black, crunchy underfoot. It's as common as a racist cab driver or shwarma-induced diarrhea.

But Israel has a bad habit of confusing the routine for the permanent. Last week, an uncontrollable brush fire engulfed Mount Carmel, overlooking Haifa, Israel's most beautiful city. An evacuating prison bus careened off the road, roasting dozens of guards to death in the fast-moving flames. The inferno killed forty-one people, including the Haifa police chief. On the second day of the inferno, a spokesman for the city’s Fire Department admitted: "We have completely lost control of the fire."

Despite ample warnings that the Israeli home front was ill-prepared for such a disaster — forest fires fed by Hezbollah missiles had wreaked havoc in 2006 — the disaster completely surprised the government. And it came just as the shamelessly far-right wing Revisionist Likudnik government had finally appeared to outflank Barack Obama. Bibi Netanyahu, once frightened by Obama's focus on illegal Israeli settlements, had, with the GOP takeover of the House and the stalling of peace talks, finally appeared to slough the U.S. off his back. As the Obama brood sat down to Thanksgiving dinner, Bibi began Hanukkah picking apart roasted dove in a warm salon. And as the Carmel burned, he had to chew crow, appealing to the international community — even Turkey — for help.

Fortunately, with the fire extinguished, it appears Bibi has rediscovered his taste for vinegary "fuck yous" aimed at the chief executive of Israel's patron power. In exchange for a measly three-month settlement "freeze" (the previous one was barely observed through much of the West Bank, in spite of the importance placed upon it), Bibi's hawks clawed out a massive "incentive package" of military aid. In other words, in exchange for three months of knocking down a few hilltop settler trailer hovels (East Jerusalem settlement, incidentally, has been completely taken off the table by Obama as part of the freeze), Bibi would do America the favor of indulging in substance-less talks with a nearly lifeless partner. And all at the reasonable price of a few billion dollars in military aid from a nation with a deficit deeper than the Jordan Valley. Never mind that the package's twenty factory-fresh F-35 fighter jets, the most advanced warplanes in the world, have one glaring use to the Israeli Air Force, and it involves the nuclear program of a certain neighborhood theocracy. Terrifyingly destructive arms in exchange for the fleeting pretension of peace talks. And even that concession wasn't good enough for Netanyahu's government; they turned down Obama. Peace talks have officially failed.

Israel will be celebrating a much cooler holiday in the coming weeks, easily one of the most fun of all monotheistic religions: Hanukkah, the celebration of the Second Temple's rededication. As the story goes, having defeated the oppressive Syrians, the Second Temple's menorah burned miraculously for eight days, giving Jews just enough time to press fresh oil. It was one of the biggest squeakers in Jewish history, surpassed only by the defeat of Gore/Lieberman. But just as Haifa residents awoke last week to the unfamiliar and alarming odor of burning cedars, let us resolve to breathe in the bracing salve of failure. Each night, as a candle is lit, there is another wildfire waiting to break out, acrid fumes set to waft through the corridors of power.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

'Everything Is Going to Be Great'

The cover of Rachel Shukert's Everything Is Going to Be Great speaks to the reader in the same way that the "Don't Panic!" cover of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is probably meant to. Her memoir evokes the anxieties of the collegiate and post-collegiate, groups for which the dread of embarrassment, confusion and failure — of having tripped coming out of life's starting gate — is far more real than for fictional space travelers. They need some assurance that the journey will be okay, and so does the reader, both in a general existential sense and because so much of her book can induce cringes of recognition and sympathy.

Shukert is a klutz and a serial bad-decision maker. Despite a going-nowhere acting career (or because of it), she takes off to Europe with a touring company, performing as an extra in a play that sounds annihilatingly dull, the sort of tendentious theater that you imagine Europeans and thin New Yorkers alone like because it helps them to hate themselves and to hate the people who hate it. She travels to Vienna and has a quaint May-November affair with a Viennese man. She takes advantage of an unstamped passport (and thus unlimited time in Europe) and stays with two gay friends in Amsterdam for what seems like months. While there, she gets involved with a man already in a long-term relationship, stands in front of the Anne Frank house passing out coupons for bad American comedy, has a wrenching but meaningful moment with her visiting parents and finally stumbles across a happy ending.

That last item is meant literally, but given much of the book's content, it's perfectly understandable that someone might mistake it for a handjob euphemism. Part of what makes Everything Is Going to Be Great so rife with anxiety at times is that many embarrassing moments are graphically sexual. In the midst of a dental emergency, a jealous ex-girlfriend shrieks at Shukert before she's whisked through a dark doorway and, basically, tongue-assaulted at both ends by a pair of Italian partners-in-fucking. During her Viennese sojourn, she discovers what an uncircumcised penis is like, in the most profound and orally immediate way possible. The former event betrays a shockingly undeveloped danger sense, and the latter shows a surprising inexperience. Both episodes are the sorts of things the book's title is for: Rachel Shukert emphatically and reassuringly pledges a positive outcome because, in many parts of the story, she does some pretty stupid and worrisome shit.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Some Suggestions for Madden NFL '12

On Sunday night, as the Indianapolis Colts hosted the San Diego Chargers, I watched in amazement as San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers took off and ran up the left side of the field. It was a smart play; Indianapolis' coverage in the secondary was all over his receivers but was also drawn far back enough to allow him about ten easy rushing yards. What was startling to watch, though, was that Rivers squared his shoulders and ran toward the left sideline for a few steps, turned at the waist to make his shoulders face upfield, as if looking to make a throw, then squared his shoulders to the left again, then lifted his head and looked upfield again, then back to the left, then back upfield — again and again, seemingly after every second step.

Right then, I had one simple epiphany: "He needs to do jazz hands."

It was one of those plays that seems totally normal until you watch a lot of football. To the disinterested person at the sports bar, to the wife stuck with this shit on, in the background, for yet another Sunday, it was just predictable. Rivers was going to get the first down. Other people weren't there; he ran. That was that. It was how he ran that looked ridiculous. Just as he appeared seriously focused on the sideline, his whole body twisted upfield and seemed uplifted, as if he were gleefully shouting, "HEL-LO!" If he was playing against anybody, it was the Jets — not the team from New Jersey but the gang from West Side Story. If you told me that he'd actually been snapping his fingers left and right in rhythm, I would have to believe you.

Friday, November 26, 2010

'Glee' Sucks

Today is Black Friday, the day we usually reserve for empty condemnation of consumer culture, usually delivered via something like an iPhone, while watching a college football game brought to us by a beer, designed to make administrations and coaches money and in no way meant to determine which institution has the superior academic program. Then we do half of our Christmas shopping on deep discount on, or we sneak off to the Levi's outlet, getting half-off on the jeans that accentuate our butts and/or packages.

I was searching for a metaphor for protestations of social value ladled over vacantly hedonistic self-indulgence, of prepackaged moral fiber disguising spun-sugar emptiness, and immediately any point I had about Black Friday was derailed by my realizing, "Oh, I'm actually thinking about Glee."

I've written before about Glee, but not in any detail. There's plenty to object to, about the show, but I was primarily stunned that it was nominated for an Outstanding Comedy Emmy despite not actually being funny. I wrote:

Friday, November 19, 2010

An Open Letter to Famous Russian Translator Richard Pevear

Dear Mr. Pevear,

Sir, please find enclosed the content of your latest email to me. Simply put, this is inexcusable. It has gone too far.

I admit to being fooled by the first one. A hyperlink modestly titled Petersburg could very well have directed me to a new translation of Bely's novel. Honestly, the double-entendre didn't even occur to me at the time. A subsequent email entitled "Bang Britzka" appeared similarly innocuous.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The AL Cy Young Award: Time for Dumb End-of-Year Statistics

Note: I wrote most of this a month ago, but work and liveblogging the postseason delayed my getting back to it. The AL Cy Young Award winner will be announced later today, meaning this is the last day some of this piece applies. Apologies for tardiness.

The days leading up to and following the World Series can provide the worst part of the baseball journalism season, when daily beat writers know that their teams have been eliminated from contention, or the "hot stove league" hasn't heated up enough yet to be plausibly interesting. Without games left to play and many possible outcomes, they turn their attention to seasonal awards to fill out column space, telling feel-good stories about breakout players, ginning up nonexistent controversies or ideas "so crazy they just might work" to create dialogue and, most commonly, ladling out great chunks of conventional wisdom.

Easily the best example of the latter this year comes in the debate over the American League Cy Young Award. The leading candidates for best pitcher in the league are the Yankees' CC Sabathia and the Mariners' "King" Felix Hernandez, with some votes for the Tampa Bay Rays' David Price thrown in. This shouldn't even be a contest. King Felix beats these other two guys in every single significant metric you can think of: earned run average, walks and hits given up per inning pitched, total strikeouts, strikeouts per nine innings pitched, adjusted ERA, adjusted wins, win probability, wins above replacement ("WAR," i.e. how many more wins did he contribute than a replacement pitcher) and total innings pitched and batters faced. These last two are important. A pitcher who comes into a game and strikes out one batter and then retires would have flawless statistics. That King Felix put up these superlative statistics despite facing the most batters and pitching the most innings of any starter puts his statistical dominance beyond doubt.

If you don't have a baseball brain, that is — which is actually a gut, the point from which true baseball originates. Baseball is gutty, gassy. It's why they serve hot dogs in all the stadiums. Anyway, this distinction matters, because a plurality (if not majority) of professional baseball writers, and thus awards voters, still evaluate players from the gut or by using statistics that don't isolate player performance. This is where the arguments for Sabathia and Price come in. Baseball writers note that Sabathia led the league in games won, with 21, while Hernandez had a paltry 13. But this ignores three pretty big factors:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

National Novel Writing Month: 'In the Beginning Was the All-Spark Cube'

Explain to anyone what National Novel Writing Month is, and there's a good chance that person will say, "Oooh, yeah. That idn't good." Getting people writing and thinking harder about story and characterization is a good thing and, longterm, should only engender a stronger appreciation for literature. Undoubtedly, the organizers of "NaNoWriMo" have their hearts in the right place. That said, meeting their goals via a project that demands 50,000 words in 30 days from people who may have gone years without writing more per day than an email yields more accidentally funny stuff than anything else.

Among people who take writing seriously, who realize that it's work, the default responses range from weak encouragement to discreet eyerolling. If you're looking for a more substantive response, it's likely to be a sincere wish that all the attention for NaNoWriMo could be directed at, say, funding the sort of community-college creative writing workshops that might actually employ people who take writing seriously.

In the short term, though, sympathetic teasing or mockery dominate the reactions. (I asked for a blurb from a published author I know — one who both participated in NaNoWriMo and who is patient enough to have enjoyed teaching high school — and even his politely begging off contained the concession that it yields a lot of terrible work as well as people who take it way too seriously and start self-identifying as "Author.") NaNoWriMo pieces tend toward self-insertion fan-fic, the genre-heavy and stereotypical. There are girls rewriting the story of their doomed college relationship; only this time it works out. There are boys turning themselves into crime-fighters who have sex. Where the sexes meet, there are wizards and aliens and monocled men in morning coats with pneumatic arms getting down to lovemaking in the Babbage-Omicron Zeppelin.

Monday, November 15, 2010

'In the Graveyard of Empires'

Poor Seth G. Jones. He's got to feel like he's got the worst timing on the planet. He began researching In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan when the conflict was mostly absent from the American consciousness, the ugly older warchild from a failed first marriage of terror and overreaction.

By the time his book was published in 2009, however, the 2008 American election and overconfidence in the Iraqi "surge" had returned Afghanistan to the forefront of military and anti-terror debate. Instead of having the established book that armchair policy wonks would rush to buy to sound credible when joining the conversation, his text seemed like another voice suddenly added to an existing conversation.

Worse still, his thesis for correcting American errors in Afghanistan relies heavily on current counterinsurgency theory, which not only met sharp criticism prior to and during "the surge," but which increasingly fell out of favor even with conservative pundits like George Will. Not only had he lost the chance to be speaking out about an overlooked war, he was now addressing it in terms of strategic policy that was losing the initiative against domestic opposition.

As if a final insult, in 2010, with a paperback edition and an expanded afterword, Jones and other Afghanistan experts were blindsided by the Wikileaks Afghan data, 92,000 documents that would necessarily call into question the conclusions of every "Afghan War" history preceding their release. To put this in perspective, the Pentagon Papers irrevocably changed the historiography of the Vietnam war with only 7,000 pages of information. The Wikileaks papers comprise 85,000 more documents, to say nothing of individual page counts.

Seth G. Jones's book is a lot like the nation it's about: progressively and relentlessly fucked. Although, to be fair, he has brought some of it on himself.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Stu Scott and The Ultimate Hustler

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching Monday Night Football and got a phone call from a buddy. I paused the DVR and tried to cheerily say hello when my eye caught the TV screen, and I started laughing uncontrollably. I could hardly get a word out and eventually settled for taking a picture of the screen and texting it to my friend.

As you can guess from the title, the screen froze on an image of ESPN personality Stu Scott. I wasn't laughing at his eye. I don't enjoy making fun of it; it's just a thing, a condition so normal by now that I think of Thom Yorke as having a Stu Scott eye. There are other things to mock Stu for, like thinking that he would be a great Sportscenter anchor not by following Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann's lead and writing witty copy that fans turned into catchphrases, but rather by skipping the wit and fan parts, deciding on catchphrases himself and then running them into the ground. No, what I was laughing at was his huge, fabulously repulsive tie.

After I got off the phone, I shared this picture with other contributors to (and friends of) this site. Some people saw to it that a few eye jokes made their way into the piece. As a guy named The Bi Bandit put it: "[Given] Scott's tendency to say booya I'd like to encourage that stray football [that injured his eye] to maim harder in the future. But I feel really bad that I'm still laughing about a guy getting his eye all fucked up from a football-throwing machine." Agreed.

Still, that didn't stop anyone. Enjoy. (Click to embiggen.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Good Riddance, Joe Morgan; or, 'We Won't Really Be Safe Until We're Sure the Head Has Died'

On Monday, ESPN announced that it would not invite Jon Miller and Joe Morgan back for a 21st season as play-by-play and color-commentary men for their flagship baseball show, Sunday Night Baseball. Response across blogs and message boards ran the gamut from celebratory to orgasmic. Wishing that Joe Morgan would somehow please shut up has been common practice amongst fans for nearly a decade, to the extent that I'm sure some enterprising viewer has tried to deliver a pizza to the announce booth to contrive a way to at least temporarily stuff Morgan's word hole.

Morgan exemplifies old-school baseball thought. For intelligent and progressive fans, he's an antique impeding smart new approaches to understanding the game. For those afraid of change, for traditionalists, for the incurious, he's a relic that must be preserved, locked in the booth and left to talk until he dies. Even then his body should be encased in lucite, some tiny Easter Island head monument to calling the game the right way: gritty, devoid of senses, wrong. Naturally, it didn't take long for the defenders of the old school to lament his release. Because I have both cool friends and awesome readers, it also didn't take long for a guy named Nate to pass along a link to a truly disastrous piece of sports editorial.

The author in question is Milton Kent, one of those poor sorts saddled with two first names that could be read forward or backward and sound lame either way. Rounding out the bookishly forlorn picture his name conjures is the fact that under his byline he's listed as "National Reporter." It's just a sad distinction made on a major website, so unnecessary that it seems more like an affirmation than anything else. It brings to mind Wile E. Coyote holding out his business card labeled, "Super Genius," or those sorts of waterproofed pants that toddlers wear, the ones with names like "Big Boy Pants." Milton Kent is a big boy now. He's readed all over the America by grownups. If only he'd aimed his editorial at them as well.

When he sent in the link, Nate asked for only one thing: "Please go after this guy." With pleasure.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Profiles in Florida: Countdown to Rick Scott

Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott is entertaining. The man's career is so defined by devouring hospitals, he sometimes fittingly resembles Leonard Betts, the X-Files character who lived off cancer. Other times he looks like a loose-necked alien that someone stuck in an ill-fitting latex man suit that he's only recently learned to operate. But it's when you look closely at him that his value emerges. Even by the noxiously cynical standards of Florida politics, Scott's candidacy offers something uniquely imperious, baseless and stupid.

First, notice his campaign slogan: change. Virtually every candidate for office in America offers some riff on this word, if not hope, progress, honor, etc. Scott's campaign, however, promises change from "Washington" and "Obama," two things that have nothing to do with Florida and against which he primarily seems to be running. Opposing them is literally his biggest response to Florida's problems. He will address problems ranging from crippling budget shortfalls, collapsing property values and a public school system best described as "massively goddamn thunder-fucked" through a comprehensive program of directing formidable mind-beams against the President and the general D.C. Metro area. Duck and cover, beltway elitists.

Scott also pledges change by governing with Republican values and running the state like a business. Florida has had a Republican governor since 1998 and a Republican-controlled House since 1996. What's more, the Florida GOP and GOP Lite — viz. Florida's fiscally conservative Democrats, like his opponent Alex Sink — have attempted to run the state like a business for two decades. As is the case whenever conservatives run government like a business, they have succeeded, assuming their intended destination was "into the ground." Republicans run their precious government-business things like those bubble guys ran their insubstantial vaporware companies. They produce nothing, make a lot of loud, aspirational noises about ideas; then eventually someone does due diligence on the books; it turns out they've been bankrupt for decades, and they burned the petty cash on fancy chairs and coke.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Wailing Walls: An Introduction

Note: As tensions again rise in the Middle East, we, the good people of Et tu, Mr. Destructo? turn for insight to General Rehavam "Gandhi" Ze'evi, former Israeli Minister of Tourism. Having faked his assassination in the Mt. Scopus Hyatt Hotel at the start of the Second Intifada, the General has been in deep cover, in Judea and Samaria, posing as an American goy pursuing graduate studies in the Middle East and slowly learning Arabic, focusing especially on settlement activity in East Jerusalem. In his free time, he enjoys saying very little about himself, because he's terrified of Kachist/Islamist extremist internet aficionados.

'Now the Aktion Begins'

"Let me tell you about what I saw every morning."

Arieh gingerly stirred his cappuccino with a silver sugar spoon. He was less like the sober, Glock-toting wheeler-dealer I’d seen on Arutz Sheva than a soggy springer spaniel. It was winter in Jerusalem; the Western Wall Plaza was slick with rain. Arieh looked snug in his olive wool sweater and chocolate-colored corduroy slacks, sipping from an impossibly fluffy mug of cappucino. Even his black felt kippah, pinned over his thinning hair, looked soft. One of my companions, a jocular Moroccan, had wagered me twenty shekels Arieh had at least eight kids; I was sticking at six.

The man before us didn’t betray any such vitality, lisping as he answered, "Six kids." His gentle, open-handed gestures toward the window were the airy movements of my sincere, gay high school guidance counselor. I could almost picture Arieh and me stretched out on the Mount of Olives, sharing a Dannon Activia yogurt and running through SAT prep.

"Every day, walking from French Hill to Mount Scopus" — at this, he gestured beyond the obstructive silver dome of Al Aqsa Mosque, unbelievably close to the plate glass windows of the bistro where we sat — "I looked down at the Temple Mount. And every day, I remembered what it said in Tanakh. Once the Third Temple is built, the fresh water beneath the temple — you know of the tunnels beneath? The fresh water will flow out of the Dome of the Rock, east," he gestured once again towards the Mount of Olives, "down, down, down through Judea and Samaria, down the slopes and into the Dead Sea, which will be made fresh again. The Jordan will flow with this water."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Criterion Recollection: a Close Reading

Note: We, the good people of Et tu, Mr. Destructo? are proud to present Criterion Recollection, an analysis of the popular Criterion Collection of historic and unique achievements in film. Your guide is Mark Brendle, a former media critic for and a short-fiction writer. Brendle lives in the Pacific Northwest in a small post-recycled yurt adjacent to America's largest family-owned retail video and book store, Art Trough. When not writing or staring purposefully at culture, Brendle works as a fair-trade coffee beanist. You can follow him on Twitter.

In Bourgeois Hell—Between Discreet and Discrete: Spine #102: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)

Luis Buñuel’s satire of modern capitalist life, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, operates on several levels. It is satiric social commentary but also a picaresque farce and an absurd comedy of errors. These levels bind together around the core of the bourgeois consumer-capitalist lifestyle, exploring both desire and the bourgeois subject's inability to satiate it at any meaningful level. For him, desire is always just missed — postponed, interrupted, or otherwise barred — but always with the promise of future satiety. This manipulation of desire acts as the engine maintaining the semi-perpetual state of late capitalism.

This Tantalus-like arrangement is fitting, for Buñuel sees bourgeois existence as a kind of hell, similar to Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit, except instead of being other people, Buñuel’s hell is the gaze of other people. The concept of the gaze, of being observed, suggests the key word of film’s title, "Discreet." Discretion serves at least a two-fold purpose for Buñuel’s hapless protagonists: it removes their acting upon their desires from the gaze of the observer and allows them to take their place within the prescribed symbolic order. This double-life represents the cornerstone of consumer-capitalist existence: compartmentalization. The film could just as easily be named The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie.

Because the looming fears and momentous events of bourgeois existence are often so quotidian and discrete from others' experience, it seems only too fitting to look at this film with an intense focus. The following is a thorough, scene-by-scene analysis of the film and how it exposes the truths of bourgeois existence.

The film's protagonists, to use the word loosely, are six upper-class bourgeoisie, three men and three women. One of the men, Rafael, serves as an ambassador to Miranda; the others are French businessmen. The two businessmen, Francois Thevenot and Henri Senechal, are married to two of the women, Simone and Alice, respectively. Simone’s sister Florence completes the sextet. However, characterization is not so important. These six people represent an entire class and as such are vague, symbolic and nearly interchangeable. Only the ambassador's specific role gives him any differentiation, and as will be shown later, this differentiation plagues him throughout the film.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Face of Yankee Fandom

Because it's become a habit in the last few days, I kept up a running post of last night's game, the Rangers at the Yankees for ALCS Game 4. It was an interesting game. The shaky AJ Burnett turned in a competent performance before a stupid intentional walk and homer gave the Rangers the go-ahead run. From there, Josh Hamilton engaged in his own one-man home run derby, and the Rangers put the game well out of reach.

However, today many people will surely be talking about the disputed fan interference in the bottom of the second inning, which made the rest of the game seem merely conventional, despite the 10-3 score. The Rangers' going up 3-1 on the Yankees makes for good times in Texas and dire forebodings in New York, but the terrible officiating speaks to concerns held by all fans of baseball. And while that's worth exploring, it's important not to forget that the interference in right field not only threw baseball's replay problems into high relief, it did the same with the image of Yankee fandom.

With one out and no men on, Yankees second baseman and candidate for 2010 league MVP Robinson Cano lofted a ball to right field. It seemed to come down on the barrier between the seats and the playing field, atop the wall, and go into the stands, whereupon it was ruled a home run. But Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz argued that he was interfered with, preventing him from reaching an eminently catchable ball and making an out. Replays showed that a fan in a Derek Jeter jersey who caught the ball put his hands out directly above Cruz's glove, while a second fan immediately thereafter put his hands directly on Cruz's glove and pushed it.

MLB Playoffs: (Not Really) NLCS Game 3, via Chatlogs

As soon as I knew I was going to do a few more playoff blogs this year, I sent an email to my buddy JShap, who last showed up in "The Emmys Are for Idiots, Part II," and asked if he was interested in joining in. Last year, during the second game of the World Series, he and I wound up commenting on the game via AIM, and it was easily the best part of the piece and the most fun I had writing about the postseason. Because I still find myself quoting from it — and think it has two of the best lines ever printed on this site — I figured there was no way another chat couldn't make the Championship Series at least a little more fun.

I was right, but inadvertently, we wound up overshadowing the game, almost bailing on it completely. That probably happened for a few reasons:
1. JShap had to do some work, which meant that he had to choose what to de-prioritize. Work wasn't an option, and since he was ostensibly there to chat with me, the game wound up less scrutinized.
2. I was up until eight that morning doing work and managed to get about three and a half hours' sleep. Basically, my brain was too sluggish to really follow too much at once.
3. Joe Buck and Tim McCarver were normal and on-point. I've covered them when they've been off-the-rails nutty, staggeringly stupid, offensively disinterested and plain mediocre. This was not only one of their better games, it might be one of the best that I've heard them call.
4. I was a little burned out on baseball in general, from having written two pieces and 6,000+ words about it the day before.
5. The game was quick, efficient and pretty conventional. The innings flew by, and nothing untoward happened. Apart from a few unfortunate errors for the Phillies, this wasn't a game where you could point to anything particularly momentous or worthy of contention.
In short, NLCS Game 3 was one of those ballgames where you can understand everything that happened by just reading a box score. There wasn't something visually odd that needed interpretation, nor was the announcing or presentation mistaken enough that it would be important to note in a way that an ESPN article would not.

Because of that, the few notes I took were mostly useless. They're play-by-play stuff, the sort of thing ESPN does better and that you don't need to hear from me. At the end of the game, well over 90% of what I'd written came in the form of chat. I'll go ahead and try to ground some of that conversation in terms of action on the screen, but much if it is untethered to the game drama. If you hate chatlogs, my apologies, but it's best you punch out now.

We open with the national anthem performed by a member of Death Cab for Cutie, putting his band's unique spin on the material, which is to say acoustical, stylistically inert, vocally sub-competent, and deadly fucking dull, dull, dull. His presence here also guarantees that of his wife, Zooey Deschanel, a Manic Pixie Dream Girl best known for playing the same tissue paper-thin waifish characters, making tissue paper-thin music of forgettable quality and being so genuinely banal that a website once asked (and answered), "Is Zooey Deschanel the Most Boring Person Alive?"

Anyway, I'm thinking these things when JShap finally swans in:
ME: You're late. The national anthem was sung by a douchebag from Death Cab for Cutie. The one married to Zooey Deschanel. Which is why, supposedly, Zooey Deschanel is singing "God Bless America" later. Really. The Land of the Twee and the Home of the Reedy, Weak and Affected.
JSHAP: I'd rather ride in a Death Cab for Cutie than listen to that!
ME: You realize you just backhandedly called yourself cute? I like this decision, though. It's like the people in the Giants' front office were programming the singing for this game and thought, "Wait, what if people in America don't know they're playing this game in San Francisco?" "Good point. Do you think we could have someone perform the national anthem as a series of pops and clicks?" "Yes, and let's have it sung by a tree." "The Stanford Cardinal is busy that day. Just go down to the Mission and straw poll people about what indie piece of crap they most want to hear."
JSHAP: What I love about Zooey and America both is that they're just so down to earth and relatable.
ME: I remember one time being on this plane going somewhere. I didn't know. I think I was trying to find myself, you know? Anyway, I had this really long layover at Midway, maybe four hours. I just wanted to be left by myself to work things out, but I met this really amazing country that wouldn't leave me alone until I came out of my shell and helped it perform an acoustic guitar song by clapping my hands and letting it see me smile. That country was America.
JSHAP: America totally got me into the Shins and taught me not to sweat the bullshit.
ME: America smiled at me, and I pulled a thin sundress over America's head and saw its tiny breasts, and it self-consciously covered the faint chestnut down of its pubic hair with a small hand girlish hand that had chewed fingernails and chipped polish.
JSHAP: My laughter is stifled by my erection. It's usually the other way around.
ME: I got uncomfortable typing that.
JSHAP: Well it was tastefully done, and the story called for it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

MLB Playoffs: Rangers/Yankees ALCS Game 3

Game 3 was over for maybe three minutes before my instant message client started popping with the sounds of people who never talk to me about baseball IMming me to talk about baseball. Texas Rangers starter Cliff Lee was sublime. No, on second thought, he was just vicious. Or, as a guy I know named Jim put it:
JIM: In three starts, Cliff Lee has thrown 34 Ks and walked one batter.
ME: I know.
JIM: If your blog about his pitching doesnt include the word "nasty," you should find a better synonym that sounds nastier than nasty.
ME: Filthy.
JIM: Pornographic. Although you're going to be posting about balls being thrown, so that may cross the line.
ME: Ahahaha.
JIM: Just say that it was "some Harry Potter golden-snitch-type shit."
It was. Cliff Lee threw his cutter as if he had bewitched it, striking out 13 Yankee batters and holding them to two hits — one a broken-bat blooper — through eight innings. But if you saw the game, you know that, and you're here for something else. You want the abuse, and the commercials and announcer scorn.

Call me Mr. Sharon Jones and dap-king me, motherfucker! Blog it! BLOG IT! Bwooooosh!


Your cretins for this game appear courtesy of TBS. On play by play we have Ernie Johnson, with John Smoltz and Ron "Hello, Darling!" on color. By the end of the game, Smoltz will have appeared funny and rational, Darling will remain unchanged, and Johnson will have his mic cut off for a prolonged attempt at an Orson Welles impression.

This has been a thing with every bit of bumper music for every TBS game this postseason, but can someone explain to me what the fuck Kid Rock's "I WAS BAWRN FREE? I WAS BAWRN FREE? I WAS BAWRN FREE?" has to do with baseball? Seriously, just read this shit. If the rest of the album is anything like this, I'm pretty sure this is the first time someone ever cut an LP with the aim of selling Chevy trucks on TV for half a decade and spending the rest of his life having his face airbrushed on American flag tank tops. Also, my kid brother can probably grow a better 'stache than Kid Rock. Fuck anybody who gets in a truck with or because of him. You can't trust him, not with that Frenchie-stache action.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Profiles in Florida: Bill McCollum

I've always considered being a Republican for the last 30 years to be somewhat idiotproof. I just figured it'd have to be. Remaining electable never seemed especially difficult, so long as one avoided having sex with children or coloreds and refused to display the hobgoblin of the small-minded: a consistency to not appear foolish by reasoning out an issue first and finding a conclusion about it second.

Other than that, you could just fax lobbying groups your Direct Deposit info and take a nap. This is probably why I like Bill McCollum, because somehow he fucked up the formula for empty parroting, sweetheart lobbying and venial constant sleaze that everyone seems to tolerate from the GOP. Somehow, he managed to keep losing, in 2000, 2004 and finally in a primary this year. On top of that, he did it in Florida, where GOP corruption is pretty much considered:
a. a sport;
b. an essential lubricant for the governing process — almost exactly like the function of Mexico's PRI, only don't tell these people that, because Mexicans are the worst people ever (unless they smell like orange rinds);
c. such a non-story that probably half the lawmakers in Tallahassee greeted The Daily Beast's naming Florida as one of the nation's most corrupt states with a massive dose of white-man's overbite and a belt-high firing of the index-finger gun.
This was the easy stuff to inoculate against, the unsweatable small stuff. Florida and corruption is still like the Playboy Club before AIDS. Florida can suffer anything, apparently, but Bill McCollum.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Rays 2010 Post-Mortem: Someone Started a Few Playoff Games and Two Crime Scenes Broke Out

If Boston's performance in the 2004 American League Championship Series taught us nothing else, it's that even a team down to single-game elimination can surge back to win it all. I have no doubt that, given a time machine and some clever disguises, the 2004 Red Sox could have done that in the ALDS this year. Unfortunately, the team I'm talking about is the 2010 Tampa Bay Rays, and obviously it's over. For regular fans watching at home, it might have been over the moment Rocco Baldelli limply struck out with the bases loaded in game one.

For most web-savvy fans it probably ended the moment their RSS feed binged and brought the news of the starting rotation for the ALDS. Manager Joe Maddon slated James Shields to start game two, something that writer Joe Posnanski outlined as a BAD IDEA pretty neatly:

[He’s] starting James Shields in Game 2? My buddy Ed Price has a piece up at Fanhouse quoting Maddon saying that while Shields’ more obvious numbers like ERA and home runs allowed and such were dreadful (he led the league in runs, hits and homers allowed), his “deeper numbers” were better. And his xFIP — what is basically his expected ERA if you take fielding out of the equation – is a very good 3.72, better, in fact, than CC Sabathia’s.

I certainly appreciate the nod to xFIP, but I can’t help but think that the REAL reason why the Rays are starting Shields is because of that absurd “Big Game Shields” nickname that someone stuck on him. And while I love Maddon being unconventional, I can’t help but worry that he’s overdoing it. Joe Maddon is really smart. I just hope he doesn’t think he’s smarter than that.
For fans of old Warner Brothers cartoons, the title says it all. Wile E. Coyote bore the title "Super Genius" around on a business card whenever urbanely introducing himself to somebody, and still he spent every waking moment of his life being incidentally murdered by himself due to a dumb bird.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Profiles in Florida: Unholy Unions

Democratic candidate for Florida governor Alex Sink recently caused a stir among Republicans and law-enforcement officials with a barrage of ads touting her endorsement by the Florida policeman's union. Though she received the endorsement months ago, the ads are the first time many are hearing it, which means that the rest of the state must now cope with a few people recognizing that the apocalypse is upon them. This is the first time in 20 years that a Democratic gubernatorial candidate has earned the nod.

The St. Petersburg Times has more:
Rick Cochran, vice president of Tampa's police union and a registered Republican, explains the union's reasoning:

The Florida Police Benevolent Association doesn't want Republican candidate Rick Scott to become governor because Scott supports pension reductions and the privatization of prisons.

That would cause prison guards to be laid off, and it would affect officers' pension plans, said Florida union deputy executive director Matt Puckett.

Cochran said that some local members have visited the union's office this week to ask why their group would endorse a Democrat. The party has generally carried the perception of being soft on crime.

"When we explain it, the majority get it," he said of the endorsement. "I've had a few people say that they're a Republican, and they just can't do it."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

MLB Playoffs: Rays ALDS Game 1 & Roy Halladay's Gem

Welcome to the postseason. I promised a reader that I would do at least one full day of "liveblogs" of the MLB Divisional Series playoff games, so yesterday found me setting aside a 12-hour block of time to endure such indignities as drinking beer, eating Thai food, drinking iced tea, eating sausages, watching a no-hitter and sitting down. I also typed.

I can't promise that I will do a full day of these again, so let's play ball!


Oh, we can't do that yet. We have to wait. It's time for the absence of analysis couched in vague non-answers and predictions so over-qualified that they declare nothing. This year TBS airs all the divisional games, which means that we open in the TBS studio, with your hosts, Cal Ripken, David Wells, Dennis Eckersley and some other guy who I would like to murder.

Offscreen (I just mistyped that as "offscream"), Cal Ripken hits balls in a batting cage at the edge of the studio. Awesome. He's way too old to play at anything like a major league level, and some boy cowers behind a net throwing him meatball pitches. We might as well be watching your drunk dad potato a bunch of fat, slow lobs for all the heroics on display here.

MLB Playoffs: Yankees/Twins ALDS Game 1

For earlier playoff games, please see MLB Playoffs: Rays ALDS Game 1 & Roy Halladay's Gem.


After filling time to end the broadcast of the Reds/Phillies game, we have to go back to the TBS studio to fill time before the Yankees/Twins game. Because one of the most amazing things that can ever happen in baseball just happened, everyone in the studio feels he has to stamp his wisdom on it and offer some announcing stab at immortality. David Wells tells us all about how he knew Roy Halladay when he first came up with the Toronto Blue Jays and showed so much promise; then Halladay went back down to the minors and came out to throw a perfect game and have this kind of performance.

This is a really interesting summary, because Wells has just made 1998 and 2010 sound like they happened a few weeks apart. It's kind of like Kirk Douglas saying, "Well, I knew my son Michael had determination because once I showed him how to walk, he just wouldn't stop walking. That's how he graduated high school and produced One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and now he's finished filming the new Wall Street movie." I know Shakespeare used to compress time like this in many of his plays, but in this case a really dumb Falstaff just poached Doc Brown's DeLorean and used it to park on Octavian to keep him from murdering Prince Hal.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Answer the Petition, Ms. O'Donnell!

I have taken the liberty of writing a petition for concerned American voters, regarding Republican Christine O'Donnell and her candidacy for senator from the great state of Delaware. If you have been following this site, you likely remember our earlier misgivings, and these misgivings have only intensified as we've encountered more details about her personal history.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

You Are Christine O'Donnell

You've probably heard a lot about Delaware Republican senate candidate Christine O'Donnell in the last couple weeks. She gives everyone you know on Facebook a daily video that they can paste into their feed to seem politically "with it." Plus, she neatly helps the Democratic party make sure you never hear about its spinelessly walking back even faint promises to restore effective progressive taxation — like how they gutted and bailed on their attempt to kill the carried interest tax break. Pocket change you can believe in.

O'Donnell's so fucking nutty that she's almost a perfect distraction. First there was the video of her anti-masturbation opinion. Then it turned out that her passionate Christianity hit a speedbump a few years back when she was one of those loopy dorm-room-type witches. In 2006, perhaps because of witchcraft, she knew of classified Chinese plans to take over the United States. She thinks evolution is a myth because monkeys don't evolve pipes into their hands and turn into Presbyterians for no reason. Then there was the video where she admitted that she failed to become a hare krishna because she loved meatballs too much. And she claimed to have attended Oxford University in England, when in fact she didn't get her pedestrian American BA until a short while ago. Also, apparently somewhere along the line somebody asserted that her father was the official Philadelphia affiliate's Bozo the Clown, when he was actually just a substitute Bozo. Fine, whatever.

Anyhow, now O'Donnell has a video out to set the record straight, one in which she asserts, "I'm not a witch.... I'm you." Watch:

Monday, October 4, 2010

Progressives Burn Down House

Conservatives were just beginning to irritably push back against the liberal message-board argument that any "True Conservative" should move to Somalia to enjoy life in libertarian paradise. There were rumbling asides in blogs, the sorts of things that would reach full throat as soon as National Review could get their shit together and crib something from the Von Mises Institute.

Then some red state citizen had to go and have this happen to him:
Tennessee County’s Subscription-Based Firefighters Watch As Family Home Burns Down

The conservative vision was on full display last week in Obion County, Tennessee. In this rural section of Tennessee, Gene Cranick’s home caught on fire. As the Cranicks fled their home, their neighbors alerted the county’s firefighters, who soon arrived at the scene. Yet when the firefighters arrived, they refused to put out the fire, saying that the family failed to pay the annual subscription fee to the fire department. Because the county’s fire services for rural residences is based on household subscription fees, the firefighters, fully equipped to help the Cranicks, stood by and watched as the home burned to the ground.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Alan Greenspan: I Saw Black Jesus' BMW

Note: we, the good people of Et tu, Mr. Destructo?, like to broaden our coverage of the national discourse by occasionally turning to voices and viewpoints not represented by our regular contributors. To address a luxury automobile of potentially divine provenance, we turn to former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who previously wrote about his sexual adventures with Ayn Rand, explained our Ten Favorite Albums of the Decade and offered Birther Queen Orly Taitz asylum in his bedroom.

I Will Holy Ghostride This Whip

The other day, I'm rolling through a neighborhood I don't normally visit, keeping the car kinda slow, worrying about pre-teens ripping out of driveways on motorized scooters, piece-of-shit teenagers throwing crap into the road and trying to fuck up my ride, idiot toddlers crabwalking into traffic, the usual bullshit.

I'm a good driver. I roll like fucking velvet. I'm cautious on narrow residential streets, especially when there are bigass trucks blocking half of them and making it even more likely than I'm gonna pancake someone's HONORS STUDENT AT PICKNOSE ELEMENTARY. I'm cautious, but I'm sexy. I'm playing Otis Redding at the time.

Just as I'm keeping my fingers on the wheel all clit-slippery supple and coasting past another car parked way off the curb, I spot something. It's this:

Like, holy shit. HOLY SHIT. What the fuck is that? I dunno, so I turn to my co-pilot, Jesus, and I'm like, "Yo, is that your car, Man, Son of Man?" and he's all, "Fuck no!"

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Frank Gaffney Returns on an Arabian Horse Made of Bullshit

Frank J. Gaffney, friend of the site and the president of the Center for Security Policy, is in the news again. You might remember his "center" as being the "Center of Abstracted Flaming" or the "Center for Torch-Bearing Yahoos." Frank Gaffney is ready to defend America from Islam with aggressive imagineering and bleak forebodings, like a fatal Disney ride set to a Peter Murphy record.

His credentials allowed him to testify in court that the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, Tennessee would represent a beachhead of Islamicism in the heartland of America, beating the drums of a tidal wave of Sharia against the cradle of our Christian hearths like a wolf in a velvet glove. Here's the fun stuff (emphasis mine):

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

NFL Week One Thoughts: The Tardy, Musical and Doomed

(Continued from last week's delayed Super Bowl retrospective and Drew Brees loathing.)

Of course, the 2010 NFL season would have to open with Drew Brees facing off against Brett Favre, which offered viewers a coinflip of morally repellent shitbags. Rooting for Brees over Favre felt like choosing polio to defeat pellagra.

Just five years ago, I wouldn't have breathed a negative word about Favre as a person — as a quarterback, plenty, namely "GUNSLINGS" — but four years of demanding that teams openly woo him away from retirement, reneging on his own promises and throwing fans in multiple cities under a bus, and I can't think of anything nice to say about him.

I understand that all sports fans to a certain extent are only rooting for laundry, but Favre's decade and a half in Green Bay, plus the citizens' ownership of the team and thus greater example of the democratizing of fandom, felt like there was a legitimate relationship there. Seeing him discard all that adulation and patience without anything but the most cursory of Thank Yous and with open enthusiasm for playing for a direct rival eroded all sympathy for him. He's an incredible narcissist whose only excuse might be that he never developed beyond the emotional maturity of a child. As one friend described him, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the anthropomorphized penis, Brett Favre."

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fuck Drew Brees: Leftover Thoughts from the Super Bowl

For years I coped with the inescapable fact that, deep down, I liked Peyton Manning yet enjoyed watching him lose. His anger and frustration made me cheer during the game, but during commercials, as soon as he yelled "CUT THAT MEAT," I thought the guy was fun. And I felt guilty. Bad. Why did Peyton Manning have to be likable?

He's incredibly gifted, intensely dedicated to improving himself and fanatically devoted to the game. I couldn't mock that, because that's what I'd like from any player who played for a team I supported. The advantages he enjoyed certainly weren't his fault. He didn't build the dome he played in and give himself the comfort of a climate-controlled environment that favored passing or the astroturf that sped up the game and aided his downfield attack. He didn't draft the players surrounding him or create his unbelievable luck in having guaranteed or potential Hall of Fame wide receivers and tight ends to hit in the slot and with deep balls. (The preceding will be the gayest sentence in this piece.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Criterion Recollection: 9/08/10

Note: We, the good people of Et tu, Mr. Destructo? are proud to present Criterion Recollection, an analysis of the popular Criterion Collection of historic and unique achievements in film. Your guide is Mark Brendle, a former media critic for and a short-fiction writer. Brendle lives in the Pacific Northwest in a small post-recycled yurt adjacent to America's largest family-owned retail video and book store, Art Trough. When not writing or staring purposefully at culture, Brendle works as a fair-trade coffee beanist. You can follow him on Twitter.

Gimme Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll and Shelter: Spine #99, Gimme Shelter (1970)

Gimme Shelter frequently carries the label "the Anti-Woodstock." Many viewers and critics claim it documents the exact moment that the peaceful, innocent 1960s came to an end. Those simplistic interpretations of a complex documentary miss the point entirely. What Gimme Shelter accomplishes isn't the depiction of a turning point at all. Rather, it reveals the hidden underside of the entire hippie movement and shows that beneath the love-all, carefree surface, there was always an extreme violent tension. The dynamics at work at the Rolling Stones' Altamont concert are so complicated that multiple viewings of this movie are crucial in order to begin to sort out the apparent chaos and understand exactly what was going on.

Gimme Shelter is the cinema verité (or direct cinema, if you want to nitpick) rock documentary extraordinaire by the famous Maysles brothers, Albert and David, along with collaborator Charlotte Zwerin, about the Rolling Stones' 1969 US tour and its disastrous culmination in the poorly planned free concert at the Altamont Speedway in northern California that led to several deaths, the most remarkable of which was the stabbing of an (armed) African-American by a member of the Hells Angels.

The film's structure consists of three main parts: live footage of the Rolling Stones' performances during the tour, documentary footage of the process and happenings of the concert, and finally the most interesting piece, footage of the Rolling Stones watching the other two parts of the film in an editing bay, with their initial reactions to the material. This meta-layer of the documentary provides a whole different tone to the film than if it were omitted. However, like all aspects of direct cinema, it provides at best only a partial glimpse into reality.

It's no news that observing something changes it, but this simple fact renders the entire idea of direct cinema and documentary filmmaking in general a kind of imaginary concept. Sticking a camera in someone's face is a surefire way to modify their behavior. If the directors' goal is to capture truth on film, he works against his own interests the minute he pulls out a camera. But what's really important to understand is that people are always acting as if a camera is rolling. Jacques Lacan's concept of the Other (with a big "O") is the arbitrary, third-party gaze of the social-symbolic system. It is for this abstract entity that people "perform" their daily lives. So documentary film isn't just one step removed from reality, it's two: it's people pretending to be a certain way, different from the way they normally pretend to be.

Friday, September 3, 2010

SomethingAwful: The Emmys Are for Idiots, Part I

Unless you're the low man on the totem pole at William Morris or Creative Artists Agency and hoping a darkhorse-candidate client is about to walk away with the gold, you probably have no business caring at all about the Emmys. (Well, maybe you design atrocious-looking dresses.) They're historically hidebound, arbitrary and mostly gutless. So, if you're a sophisticated person with intelligence and taste, you've probably been having pointless, impassioned and highly detailed internet arguments about them for the last week anyway.

The Emmys are for idiots, and because I love television and so easily get sucked into arbitrary and pointless evaluative contests, they're just the thing for me. Click below, on the last remaining BORT license plate in stock, to find out why the history of the Emmys has me thinking about torture, Night Court, edelweiss and a centuries-old pandemic of Helen Hunt. Then check back next week for Part II, in which I explain why the 2010 awards were just as bad as every other year.

Continued in Part II.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mother Always Said to Say Thank You

The most recent "White America's Inconvenience Tantrum" piece yielded a lot of new readers and positive attention from various outlets, and it seems fitting to stop to say thank you. I don't know anything about the readers personally, but I do know that the websites linking to us were, in general, more intelligent and mature and far less apt to make casual jokes about genitals. Luckily, all of them happen to be quite good, so I don't feel the slightest shame in encouraging all of you to return the favor and check them out:

The Poor Man Institute
This site sort of unsettles me, since the images at the top are all recognizable from message boards, and because of that I associate them with a couple of people I know. Obviously, the people in charge over there aren't people I know — although they seem like nice people anyway. Especially curv3ball, the only guy who's doing the linking. Actually, you know what?—screw the rest of them; I have no way of knowing if they're cool at all. Anyway, between the images and the out-of-the-blue good words, I still have to wonder what their game is. (There's not really an "about" section.) Are they trying to make me think that they're people I know? Do they like hockey and cosplay? Is that what the pictures mean?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

'MY BUTCH PREZ': This Never Gets Old

Because they're libertarians and only people at Newsweek seem to think it's worthwhile listening to them, the staff at Reason magazine usually come off as over-earnest. If they're not taking themselves seriously, there's a very real danger that no one is. True, they publish flippant blog posts and quick observations that make them seem hip and re-tweetable and the sort of thing you might remember, but they do so with that thumb-on-the-scale seriousness that lets you know, we are seriously being unserious here. Like, for instance, being a male author and adopting the pose of a woman who'd kill all men.

It's a strangely paradoxical behavior, but that's par for the course with libertarianism. You know, like free-thinking ideologues, decentralists who love the military, anti-government enablers of the worst excesses of the Bush II administration. The effect is of someone who knows how things work but who can't execute them because of some clumsy refusal to adapt guidebooks to reality. Like, for instance, knowing comic timing and irony and what makes a joke about sports funny, but calling the room's attention to a joke by saying, "Ahem, it is my intention now to tell you a joke about sports." Or like anything else about libertarianism.

But at least insofar as the former is concerned, check out this killer dig about how Barack Obama isn't a man because of [sports thing], while George W. Bush is a man because of [sports thing], in an article literally titled "Who Is More Macho":

Monday, August 30, 2010

White America's Inconvenience Tantrum, Part V: We Start the Pogrom at Ground Zero

Previous Posts: Part IVPart IIIParts I & II

At some point, it's acceptable to give up and shriek, "What the fuck is going on?"

The Daily Show has spent the last few weeks brutally lampooning conservative critics of the Park51 Community Center (the so-called Ground Zero Mosque) simply by playing clips of themselves juxtaposed against earlier clips of themselves. For example: showing conservatives condemning Park51 organizer Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf as a dangerous radical, then noting that he was twice tapped by George W. Bush as a global ambassador for moderate, interfaith-tolerant and pro-American Islam.

In other cases, the show has taken conservative critics seriously by using their own guilt-by-association tactics and examining how those loose standards prove that the same critics are as threatening to national security as any radical imam. In one hilarious instance, Jon Stewart and writers noted that FOX News, whose personalities are obsessed with finding out where the money for the mosque is coming from, had decided that its origins are dangerous and anti-American, linked to a man who funds extremist madrassas worldwide. Of course, the man in question is Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, owner of 7.0% of NewsCorp, FOX News' parent company. This argument is likely to disappear.

This instant disposal of history is hardly a new phenomenon in conservative politics. The famous handshake between Saddam Hussein and Donald Rumsfeld wasn't so much defended as strenuously ignored as an irrelevancy. "Where is the money?" is a vital argument until the moment it isn't. Imam Rauf stops being one of "the good ones" as soon as a non-conservative supports him. In political circles, the ratio of satirical content to real life and the total content of real life fast approaches one. Historicity is only important in the final judgment, which none of us will be around to see. The day-to-day inconsistencies mean nothing. This is global policy written by Damon Lindleof and Carlton Cuse, and you just have to believe that all this backtracking and sidestepping will mean something when the final black screen comes over the American Epoch with history's verdict: W O N.