Monday, January 31, 2011

I Got a Tumblr

You might have noticed that I created a Tumblr a few months ago. If not, the new Tumblr widget makes the existence of a Mr. Destructo Tumblr somewhat more obvious. You might also ask why one exists, and in this respect you and I would happen to have a lot in common. I don't really understand the purpose of a Tumblr. After using it for some months, I even looked up their article on Wikipedia just to make sure I wasn't missing anything.

Wikipedia says* it's a microblogging site, but of course so is Twitter. Given the paucity of per-article content most people toss up on their pages, Blogger probably counts for one as well, although I'm sure most people don't see it that way. Microblogging seems to definitionally reside on the intent side of behavior. Your average person running "MayasKittyGarden.blogspot.com" might only be able to burp out 250 words at once, but the company providing her webspace had a grander intention at one point in time.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Genre Fiction, Rennie Airth and the Blitz

During some sleepless nights this holiday, I found myself too tense to read anything with big words. Improving books about North Korea or the American Revolution satisfied for a paragraph before my mind drifted off, and I wound up turning pages with no clue as to their contents. Eventually, I settled on a trilogy of detective stories from Rennie Airth. After speeding through them over two nights, I felt what seems like a unique reaction to a trilogy of novels: that the second was by far the best of all.

Now, if you know a Star Wars fan or are one yourself, this is not necessarily a radical idea regarding film, but it's not something I've heard stated often about books (at least in part because good books rarely have a sequel and almost never have two of them). The argument in favor of The Empire Strikes Back is that it offers the richest character study, broadens the moral and spiritual parameters of its universe and increases the stakes for everyone. What's interesting about the Airth books, though, is that despite all of them featuring the same characters going over virtually the same plot for the same stakes, the second book tries the least to convince you of how grave they are and, in that process, creates a richer story for those same characters.

Of course, immediately after thinking of writing this down, I thought about a response I'd received to another piece I'd written about historical detective fiction. Midway through last year, I got in an argument on a message board with a guy who's read this site off and on. I suggested that a book he liked didn't really count as "literature," to which he replied (I'm paraphrasing), "What the hell would you know about it? All you do is review mystery novels." Ouch.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Even More Things I Want to Do When I Grow Up

We here at Et tu, Mr. Destructo? have but one aim every year: to pioneer new strategies and set new benchmarks in being awesome, by employing new rad dynamics. At the beginning of each year, we establish standards for our comportment and limits on the human body's ability to always be totally crushing it, and each year we surpass them.

In 2009, we smoked myrrh with Lil John and righted the centuries of wrongs created by grave-robbing by grave-donating. (The secret: little paper coffins handed out to trick-or-treaters, who then asked for coins. Thanks, kids!) In 2010, we reenacted Fox in Socks with a rescued and diseased animal, took Brittany Murphy's death virginity and created MILF day.

Indeed, if a shortcoming can be found in our ambitions for ourselves and for Mr. Destructo as a journalistic organ, it is that we may be running out of potential goals due to the shortcomings of the physical universe. May that time never come. May we press on today. May you join us or die. Can you do any less?

Even More Things I Want to Do When I Grow Up:
I'm gonna tell everybody you drink Dr. Thunder.

I want to make all steampunk clothing accessories suddenly viable working machinery. I don't care how many people are scalded with burning oil and dropped to the ground by hundreds of pounds of metal.

I want to sneak into an elementary school and hide notes in every lunch bag that read, "Your father and I are getting divorced."

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Petals Fall Twice

Today's shameless linkage comes from Canadian cartoonist and comic-book artist Chip Zdarsky, allegedly from his "One Page Series," in which he posts one-page excerpts from various written media. I say allegedly, because a quick scan through his Tumblr didn't reveal any other entries in the one-page series. It's still a good gag either way.

If you read any one-page in media res selection from a scat-erotica scene involving someone with a developmental disability, make it this one: The Petals Fall Twice (click to embiggen):

Monday, January 10, 2011

Harry Potter and the NFL Wild Card Weekend

Somewhere around hour #6 of the first day of NFL Wild Card weekend, I began to suspect that I'd been cured of my loathing of sports announcers.

Nearly two years spent luxuriating in the NFL Red Zone channel's absence of commercials and its frenetic jumps from game to game and from big play to big play meant that I'd experienced unmediated football. When big important things are happening in the game is when most announcers are too focused to go on inane time-filling mental jags. I had been spared about 30 weeks' worth of ads about THE ONLY TRUCK WITH A HEMI, Lipitor and dick medicine, and also "end zone" reporting from the obese Tony Siragusa, who needs to have a heart attack from mistaking his dick medicine for Lipitor — then have his corpse dragged into a ditch by a truck.

I was cheerful and, at times, a little bit rueful. This was fun. Who could fail to have total fun while watching football, and why had I failed at that so long? Could it be that I hadn't given people a fair shake?—that so much familiarity over so many years bred such contempt that I willfully blinded myself even to some announcers' good qualities? Were they actually good people, and was I actually just the jerk?

On the second day, during the fourth game of the weekend, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman dispelled all my doubts in less than three minutes. They didn't just suck; they sucked expeditiously. They sucked like they'd just gotten hired at Suck Co. by the Director of Suckery, and they were still in their 30 day probationary period wherein they could be terminated instantly for failure to suck hard, suck often and suck with vigor. Their ratio of minutes spent talking to minutes in which they were sucking approached one. They were truly doing yeoman's work, if "yeoman" is old English for the blowjob caddy on a ship that's falling apart because the people who built and run it are all assholes.

What I had forgotten to take into account was that minor but cherished delight of the NFL playoffs: that networks send out their best people to cover games because their limited broadcasting access allows them to know which is the game to cover. (For instance, of the four games this weekend, NBC covered the first two, while CBS and FOX covered the next two.) Generally, the people who have been around the longest are the people who viewers complain about the least, so networks send out the veterans expecting to satisfy the viewership.

This can still get screwed up, though. FOX Sports, for instance, is categorically horrible, which is how their premier announcing team can be universally regarded as the worst one on their payroll. Buck and Aikman have reached the top of the pyramid — and with any luck they will be entombed in it soon — but it's as if Egyptian civilization was based on the glory and immortality of turds. FOX Sports' national football (and baseball) empire is a ziggurat of cowpats lorded over by retards.

Let's go to the games.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Baby, It's Rape Inside

Last week, I wrote a piece about the odd performances, bleak personal stories and essentially off-putting nature of Christmas music. It's the only genre where you can find beloved child-beaters (Bing Crosby), drug addicts (Judy Garland), country heroes and drug addicts (Johnny Cash), mafia friends (Frank Sinatra), people who you wouldn't even remember without Saturday Night Live sketches (Steve and Edyie) or Simpsons references (Robert Goulet) and yet find all of them giving voice to the nicest and warmest impulses for all of us.

It's basically like spending the night with family. Only family can sing and not sound like shit.

In that piece, I brought up the song, "Baby, It's Cold Outside." I am not the first person to notice that it sounds like "The Date Rape Song." My take on the lyrics was to riff on them and try to modernize them, to make it sound like the unsatisfying but determined plea of one virgin to another virgin, silly but not at all menacing. Days later, a friend got in touch with me and told me that she'd just read the lyrics to my version, the lyrics to the original version and laughed her ass off.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Huck Finn and the Nigger in the Woodpile

Note: Mark Brendle is a media critic for BarnesandNoble.com, a short-fiction writer and the author of the Criterion Recollection series for Et tu, Mr. Destructo?. Today he takes a break from reviewing classic cinema to address a word volatile enough to create powerful anxiety and debate for parents' groups, school representatives and even booksellers. You can follow him on Twitter.

Recently NewSouth Books, an impossibly ironic name, partnered with a Mark Twain scholar named Alan Gribben to publish an edition of Mark Twain’s classic Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The noteworthy thing about this edition is that it completely removes the word "nigger" from the book.

While some may see this as a harmless attempt to render Twain’s novel accessible to younger children, in fact it does a two-fold harm and sets a dangerous precedent for the publishing industry. First, manipulating a text after the fact, especially one as well known and well-liked as Huckleberry Finn, is a disservice to the author and more importantly to the work itself. The second, more grievous harm caused by this attempt to make the novel "politically correct" consists of a revisionist mentality toward American history.

Gribben, the brains behind this edition, claims that the idea for changing the book came to him as he gave public readings of Huck Finn and substituted the word "slave" for "nigger" as he spoke. However, his hesitation to speak this word aloud, in front of an audience of listeners, illustrates the very reason why it must remain in the novel. The very embarrassment Gribben, and most anyone, feels when using the word "nigger" is a direct result of a complex and terrible history that will be a part of our country forever. "Nigger" and "slave" are in no way synonymous — just ask a racist whose ancestors came to America in indentured servitude. While it’s true that slavery is the central issue around which the word "nigger" was developed, it can hardly be said that "slave" carries the same connotations as "nigger."