Saturday, January 30, 2010

Funeral Post #2

I just went to another funeral. Retrospectively the naming scheme I came up with for my first post about funerals almost seems like I was taunting the gods of irony into doing something to make its format suddenly utilitarian. Those gods being what they are, I can't reverse engineer the process by writing a post titled, "Fabulous Wealth Descends on Me," because then someone would throw a wad of coins off the 40th floor of a building I was passing under, a stray penny whizzing through the air and pulverizing the skull of whomever I was walking with, and then we'd be on Funeral Post #3 and Physics Post #1.

Whenever I read other people's blogs, I'm struck by how bizarre it is that the authors assume any part of their audience has the slightest interest in their lives. Even if a regular audience cares, the casual passersby surely can't, and it's not as if the authors' experiences are unique in human existence. When I started writing this thing, I issued myself a silent warning of, "Don't make this about you; not even you care some of the time." However, I feel that people I like dropping dead warrants something like exemption: after all, funerals are occasions when atheists go back to church and family members treat each other with more than neglect or contempt. Surely the exception extends to blogs. Then again, I'm sure the people whose personal blogs I can't stand employed this same process of rationalization, so really I'm no better than they are, except for the fact that I'm not fat or writing about my cats, video games or collectible figurines.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Happy Martin Luther King Day: Fuck You, Leno

The old maxim that you can judge a man's character by the company he keeps seemed to specifically bite Jay Leno in the ass over the last couple weeks. Semi-retired comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Paul Reiser spoke up in his defense, prompting some clever people to observe on Twitter that if they were overpaid comics who stopped being funny decades ago, they'd stick up for Leno, too.

Allowing Leno's friends to cast an instructive light on the man himself seemed fair when Reiser wrote a disingenuous op-ed piece for The Huffington Post called, "A Teachable Leno moment." With at least one of them declaring his personal knowledge of him to be a legitimate yardstick, analogy was let loose. Others doubtless crafted more generous comparisons, but to me Paul Reiser apologizing for Leno was a lot like Rudolf Hess parachuting into Scotland to try to explain that Hitler guy.

Reiser's one of those comics like Leno who a few people insist was absolutely brilliant but whose brilliance remains a mystery (or one of those remotely plausible facts) to just about everyone. You can find proof of it if you go looking, but most people aren't going to go looking since the evidence they have on hand doesn't make the effort seem worth it. Reiser abandoned his comic role early and often, beginning with Barry Levinson's Diner and reaching its apotheosis in the TV series Mad About You. Along the way he played supporting roles in several movies, including Aliens, in which his weaselly corporate whore character Burke was confronted and probably later impregnated by aliens to use his body as a generative husk for something more profitable to them. Retrospectively this role seems career-defining.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

NFL Wild Card Weekend: Cultural History and Murder Fantasies

It's NFL playoffs time, the wonderful five-week stretch of the year where telling our significant others that "every game is important" isn't a terrible lie and where three of those weekends feature two days back to back with perfect excuses to drink constantly and grill something that used to be alive, hopefully at the same time.

I originally planned to live-blog all four games of the wild card weekend until about halfway through the first one, where I realized the attempt would make me kill something and try to grill it just to break the frustration. Three of the four games were painful to watch.

Two reasons for that jump out:

1. Three of them were basically blowouts.
Blowouts rule when your team's doing them, but there's nothing fun about them if you're a neutral watcher. You have to feel some stake in it, like deeply loathing one of the teams or QBs. Of course, the announcers can't do this, and since it's the playoffs, nobody really goes daffily off-script talking about whatever occurrs to them. We have to take these very seriously and speculate baselessly about coming seasons for each franchise; losing focus is not an option. Thus the NFL wild card weekend turned into something like nine hours of quasi-indifferent solemnity, like being stuck at consecutive funerals for three bosses killed in some mass grilling mishap.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Southern College Football Fans Are the Biggest Bandwagoners in American Sports (BCS Game Edition)

A short while ago, I wrote about how southern college football fans are the frontrunning-est fans in the country. Beyond insulting other parts of the country in the name of southern pride and other regionalistic ugliness, beyond silly displays of tribalism, they basically want to root for winners, and rooting for teams from the south tends to provide that for them. Just as I was starting to wonder if I'd been a little too critical, the BCS Championship game happened.

Before, during and immediately following it, most of the people I know on Facebook and many of the people I know on Twitter updated their thoughts about the two teams and who deserved to win, and reading it was like experiencing a live-action commentary on and performance of the earlier college football piece I'd written. Screenshots or copied-and-pasted text from tweets or Facebook updates will get dull fast, so rather than bore you, I'll just summarize:

Let's go, One Part of the South! Because it's the south and the other part of the south isn't really the south, or something.
I know a lot of people from the south, very few of whom are from Texas, and very few of whom root for Alabama. In spite of that, all but one of them interested in the game posted something in support of Alabama, from mere rooting interest to rabid cheering and shit-talking. And almost all of them posted an explanation why: "GO SEC."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Funeral Post #1

A friend of mine died the other day. She wasn't a very close friend — we started out as antagonists and only moved years later and, it turns out, too late toward unguarded fondness for each other — and naturally it's upsetting that she wasn't and now can't be. I'm not going to the funeral, although I suppose I could.

So far, if pressed, I've explained begging off with the truthful reply that I don't want to introduce myself to her mother and have her mother only remember me as the guy who got in something like an old-fashioned epistolary feud with her daughter where we each accused the other of being an addict and a criminal. But I'd also hate to go there and be confronted by lines of mourners of longer friendship and greater intimacy, and worry that my being sad was a luxury of affect I had not earned, some pose I was enjoying, some voyeuristic grab for the raw and genuine. Although I suppose if that were my motive, writing this is no less emotionally predatory.

Maybe I'm overthinking it. I've never especially understood funerals, beyond what I'd like mine to be: Pogues playing loud enough that people could have intimate conversations where they wouldn't have to worry about "he was a bit of a prick" being overheard, lots of ashtrays and no smoke detectors, Jameson dispensed not too far away from anyone's chair, a sensible abundance of handrails and bannisters for those who'd eventually need them to get around. I've never been able to picture myself lying in a coffin without thinking of at least one friend of mine rushing up to it, not to fling his body across mine in some cold final embrace, but rather to say, "Fuck, I just got here! Sorry, man. No—don't get up." In fact, most of the time my vision of it just descends into ludicrously inappropriate abuse:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

More Things I Want to Do When I Grow Up

The end of every year provides us an arbitrary but constant measure of what we've done. In this span, we've triumphed over X or failed to attend to Y. Imagining that the distinction of a year's time signifies anything special in itself is foolish. It's just a useful tool against which we may look at our behavior and say, "Yes—and I was too."

Last year I set myself a list of goals of Things I Want[ed] to Do When I Gr[ew] Up. I can say with absolute confidence and sincerity that I accomplished all of them without the slightest hesitancy or difficulty. This, however, presents its own set of problems.

After all, it's a man of meager talents who rests on his laurels, who looks at himself in the mirror and says, "The body—the hair—the eyes and smile—yes, these are all perfection writ obnoxiously large, a prominent human billboard of consumingly sexy that must drive others to resentful nausea," without once thinking, How can I make this insufferably sexier? It's a man with an only faintly lit inner life who can take pleasure in gifting a treasure chest of salvage filled with a shark to someone without thinking, Is there a way I can prank someone into being eaten by the shark?

These are new steps I must take — that we all, figuratively at least, must take on our own lest we stagnate and start to smell funny. To accomplish so much so readily and do nought else invites only some kind of circulatory disease, when what we need is the disease of more. Do more, eat more, stick more things of ours in more other things. This more I pledge. And more. Come with me.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Gay French GWAR, or: 'Hello, 2010'

There's literally no way you read those three words and didn't want to know what they were talking about. It's important to kick 2010 off on this site in the best way possible, and those words are it. Let's aim high. Let's light up the night and sear a blinding scar of pure glam rock into the day. Let's talk about Rockets.

Or "The Rockets." I don't know; apparently and the Italian Wikipedia aren't entirely sure themselves. I have no idea how I ran across this. My only guess was that I got in another pop-culture throwdown with a buddy of mine who directs music videos and occasionally tosses me a writing-related bone. (I totally came up with a video idea Jack White rejected! OMG!) This happens now and again: we're both drunk/tired and don't feel like writing or coming up with anything, and the Youtube one-upmanship suddenly bursts out. It's a testament to how protracted these things become that I think it's reasonable to suspect I may have found this and forgotten completely. Whatever its origin, it's fucking sublime: