Sunday, August 27, 2006

The First Week of Class: Lessons Learned

It's inconvenient to live far away from class.
I really need to have the Internet in my room.
Sanskrit is hard as a motherfucker.
The DTH will not print the word "motherfucking" in Letters to the Editor, but will listen to your complaints regarding the layout of the crossword puzzle.

I can't believe they actually ran it in the paper. I was doubly surprised that they actually fixed it. Good for them. Go DTH.
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Friday, August 18, 2006

Summer in Summary: An Annual Address

This summer was nothing compared to last summer. Last summer I had the pleasure of Moscow and its decadent delights, and this summer all I had was Cullowhee and its enduring ennui punctuated with erratic excitement. Which was okay, really.

I worked on organizing a summit on energy independence, read a lot, hung out with people on occasion, and watched a shit load of movies.

I’m a movie junkie. Fuck DVDs, I love going to the theaters on opening night when the crowd is excited. Jackson County has the advantage of Quin Theaters, the best movie theater I’ve ever been in. A four screen affair (used to be three, but a few years back they expanded), it is the hub of all public social activity in town, putting the competition of the bowling alley to shame. Quin is one of the few places where I really feel the small town thing: you will always meet your friends or acquaintances there. Before the movies start, people walk up and down the aisles, visiting. Opening nights, there’s always a long line of people lined up to go see whatever is opening that week while crowds of young teenagers hang out by the payphones and smoke before they go home. After the movies, people hang out by their cars with the people they met there to figure out the rest of their night. It’s noisy, rowdy, and there is always a Deputy stationed with parking lot duty on the weekend.

It’s an old theater, but with new seats and a new sound system. Ticket price: $5 for an evening show with cheap popcorn and drinks. You can not beat that shit. So when I’m home (Winter and Summer Breaks: Oscar and Blockbuster Seasons, respectively), I go 2-3 times a week, often alone. As bad as it is to have to go sit alone at the movies, the employees there, embarrassingly, know me, and the ones who I recognize from high school make fun of me. Whatever’s showing, I see it. I’m a movie omnivore. I don’t necessarily like it all, but I see it all. The film is often beside the point: I just like to go to the movies.

There are some movies of course that I get excited to see, that I make a point out of seeing immediately. I spend my free time looking at trailers and movie schedules. I read dumb news sites and blogs. And since the beginning of summer, I knew it was coming. The creeping sense of inevitability and my overdeveloped sense of narrative flow led me to one logical conclusion. The summer had been building up to one thing and I knew what I had to do.

Maybe it was merely a coincidence of timing of release dates and move-in days, but there was only one way I could cap this summer.

Snakes on a Motherfucking Plane.

I saw it tonight and it did not disappoint: It was the perfect cap, doing exactly what it was supposed to do: showing us beyond horrific gratuitousness there is a sublime area of genius. Snakes on a Plane delivers everything that my expectations could have promised.

You should see it. You will have fun, I promise. I could talk about why, but I don’t want to ruin any of the movies many fun surprises. I will instead offer these few items that you may not have considered:

The music video during the credits: Stay. It has an aesthetic previously achieved only by European acts such as Gunther and his Magnificent Mustache (“Ooooo! You touch my tra-la-la. My ding-ding-dong.”).


“Snakes on my dick!”

My summer is complete, and now, back to Chapel Hill.
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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Another Confession

Once, I confessed some of my Facebook sins. Now here is another confession. It is one for which I feel I must apologize in advance.

I Google myself at least once a week out of sheer vanity and paranoia. I use blogsearch, my full name, my friends names, my nick names, whatever it takes to lead me to a page where people talk about me. I have, on more than one occasion read a friends’ nominally private journal.

When I do this, it is a full invasion. They have posted it in a public forum, but they hadn’t used their own name or posted the address anywhere. While I might make a reasonable case that I was well within my bounds to read it, I know they would not see it that way.

I wish I could say I read the whole thing, because I take a deep interest in my friends’ and acquaintances’ lives. The truth of the matter is that I rapidly scan each page. Ctrl+F, type in my name, look for any mention of myself: complete narcissism. I don’t care if they are feeling down lately and I didn’t know that their uncle/dog/grandmother died: I want to know what they think about me. After I exhaust my vanity (not as inexhaustible as the legends say), I move on, and try to read everything else, hoping I can find something that they would prefer that I didn’t know.

I check the writings of my family, all my close friends, all my distant friends, and people I despise. I will never act on this knowledge, no matter how lurid, perverse, or sad. An old teacher suffers from crushing depression, an old friend has been drinking too much, and nobody knows what to do now that their father has died. I won’t tell anyone, I will keep it hidden in my hoard. I accumulate this information, only because I am greedy for other people’s secrets and I love to know that which I shouldn’t.

My own satisfaction at having stolen the secrets fills me with slow spreading warmth, an internal smug grin. The weight of secrets, however, is sometimes heavier than we can comfortable bear: a principle that enables my habit and spurred this confession:

The sin of Adam is kept alive by his sons.
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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

How To Make An Ass Of Yourself Part One

Have you ever been in a public situation like say, a party? Have you wanted to shame yourself and your friends and your family?

Well of course! We all have! But, how do you do this using music? Well, the answer is quite simple, with a few of these methods, personally tested by me, you will never be able to show your face around town again.

1. Sing
This sounds obvious, but to really knock this out of the park, you have to know the right songs to sing. You have to know all the words, and you have to do it with emotion. My personal recommendations for this are blowing people away with one of the following heartfelt pieces. Lip-synching is okay.

Stay – Lisa Loeb: There are a lot of lyrics, but it’s totally worth it. Wear your mid-nineties young girl dressing old for effect clothes (cardigans, plastic rims, etc.). Also, be careful to keep a straight face the entire time.

Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler: This one can be done alone or with a partner. It used to be gold, but its charm has since diminished since people who love Old School have co-opted it as their own.

I Don’t Want To Wait – Paula Cole: Dawson’s Creek isn’t as firmly in people’s minds as it once was. Time this right and you catch everyone by surprise, but blow them away. More people know this song, so it has a tendency to start sing-a-longs, at least for the chorus. Know the verses, because no one else knows them. I’ve had the most success with this one.

Sometimes – Britney Spears
I think this was the second single off the first album. Everyone knows it, but the surprise factor for this movie is ridiculously high. It’s just a horribly terrific song that everyone wishes they forgot. Know all the words and astonish your friends.

2. Air Guitar
Everyone needs to have a few air guitar routines under their belt. These should be extensive, fully choreographed, and bitchin’ Mostly these should be drawn from the canon of “classic” rock that gets played on the radio ad infinitum. Don’t do a Television song: you will get tired at the five minute mark and despite how cool it is in theory, no one will like it. Your technical accuracy needs not be great for whatever you pick, but you must be out of breath by the end, and people should cheer. Singing is optional.

Pinball Wizard – The Who: You need to know how to do the windmill for the opening part of this song. I recommend standing on a table with your head down and then suddenly bursting into action. This one has won me applause. You don’t get points for originality, but done right, it’s a stunner.

Master of Puppets – Metallica: This can be challenging, but the punctuated breaks and bits of silence make this really impressive if you do it right. Jump around, keep your strumming hand a fist until the solo, and don’t be afraid to wail. If you are a girl and do this well, then you are in like Flynn.

Heartbreaker – Led Zeppelin: And Led Zeppelin song will do so long as you take the time to really nail the solos. I prefer this song because it has a really absurd solo right at the end that you can just go completely apeshit on, and then the song will end abruptly. It’s pretty brilliant.

Creep – Radiohead: You don’t really need a full routine for this. I’m just bringing it up because its embarrassing when people do the CLUNK-CLUNK at the wrong time. Seriously people, get that shit figured out.

3. Rap
This one can actually impress people if you do it well and they aren’t expecting it (you are white). This is harder than normal singing in terms of sheer amounts of lyrics as well as tongue-twisting, but to me it’s easier to remember. For the others, the track playing in the background is pretty much necessary (even for singing), but if you can bust it out without music, you get bonus points.

The Next Episode and Nothing But A G Thang – Dr. Dre and Snoop: You just need to know these, the lyrics are easy and they have been on air forever. Naturally these work best for a partner, but you can easily do them alone if you want. Also, on The Next Episode devote particular attention to the Smoke Weed Everyday closing, and you will get tons of applause.

Straight Outta Compton – NWA: Does miracles for one’s street cred.

B.O.B. – Outkast: Learn all the lyrics for this, be able to perform it at full speed, and that’s it. You win. Game Over (Flip, Flip). The song comes up often enough at parties that you can do this often and really impress everyone. It’s hard, twisty and ridiculously fun. Strongly recommended for embarrassing yourself if you can figure out when to breathe.
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Thursday, August 03, 2006

You Sir, Are No Chuck Norris

Let me apologize in advance for the kitsch overdose. I know the SOAP Critical Reader was unnecessary and I’m sure I’m not going to win any friends with this following matter. However, I feel it is necessary that someone address this matter with all due speed.

Gawker has run a post called “David Hasselhoff: Momentary King of Celeb Kitsch” that contains the following line “Now that everyone seems to have calmed down about Chuck Norris, David Hasselhoff has re-re-re-emerged as the fleeting kitsch masculinity icon of the moment.” The article goes on to report that Hasselhoff has proclaimed himself King of the Internet.

I have a problem with this and I will now use the following moments of your time to address the pressing concern. What follows are a series of graphs showing why these claims are false and Chuck Norris is still the fleeting kitsch masculinity icon of the moment.

I wish I was kidding.

First we check out what Google trends says about Hasselhoff and we can see pretty clearly that his star is rising.

Now we plot it against Chuck Norris.

The Hoff is crushed by general traffic, though occasionally he gets an edge in media mentions. Sure Chuck Norris is falling in the public consciousness, but he is still miles above the Hoff, whose chart looks like a flat line compared to Chuck’s.

Is this just Google? Well, let’s check Blogpulse? First DH’s buzz:

He’s clearly climbing. Time to compare it with Norris.

Norris’s buzz is falling, but he still pretty much kicks the ass of the Hoffster. David beats Chuck on three separate days, but every other day, everyone’s favorite Texas Ranger remains king.

So there. Psuedostatistical proof that Chuck Norris’s reign is not over yet. QED and amen.

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The Introductory “Snakes on a Plane” Critical Reader

In the field of media studies, there are many pressing questions and continual crises. What is the future of Hollywood? What form will the new media take? Are record sales doomed to fall to record lows while illegal downloading and the sale of singles take over as the new paradigm? What are the implications of reality programming on the future of creative and artistic film and television?

However, there is one question that is most prominent in the minds of all those concerned with the development of the arts in these United States: What are these motherfucking snakes doing on this motherfucking plane?

I have assembled this critical reader to contain the preeminent scholarship and essays on the impact and meaning of the upcoming film “Snakes on a Plane,” starring Samuel L. Jackson.

Popshots: Snakes, Planes, and the triumph of Ironic Appreciation by Glenn McDonald details an initial appraisement of Snakes on a Plane, its history, and the history of the associated internet phenomena. It also features a number of video segments showing the fan cult of the film.

The “Snakes on a Plane” Problem by acclaimed author and memoirist Chuck Klosterman is a detailed critique of the negative implications of the film for the broader culture.

Asshole Whose Entire Career Based On Appreciating The Lowbrow Wants To Pull Up The Ladder is representative of the numerous critiques of the Klosterman article and spends its time dissecting the problems with it while defending the role of “Snakes on a Plane” in the culture at large.

Hissy fit by Aemilia Scott takes a more nuanced role to the position of “Snakes on a Plane” and the Klosterman criticism, finding a middle path that accounts addresses the Klosterman critique’s concerns and then posits a different interpretation.
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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Don't Worry: Commas Are Still In

So there is an interesting article on Wired about Bart Kosko’s book on noise. The book shows some interesting things, like how a little bit of random noise can actually make things sound clear plus a description of what pink noise actually is (it’s not necessarily riotgrrl music). The last comment bewilders me though.

I noticed there aren’t any commas in your book. Is this your way of cutting back on punctuation noise?

Commas are a kind of channel noise. You’re not getting to the verb fast enough. Why make us wait? The comma is on its way out. Use small words. The perfect illustration is a swear phrase: Go to hell! Screw you!

Wait, what?

Commas are on their way out? Really? I had heard that the Oxford comma had crept out of AP style and that was gradually becoming standard, but that’s one limited usage of comma. The comma is hardly useless, and I think it serves some important clarifying roles in written language, primarily by preventing ambiguity where the sentence might be unclear.

Exhibit A: “I love fucking Maggie Gyllenhall and apple pie.” vs. “I love fucking, Maggie Gyllenhall, and apple pie.”

The latter sentence has one clear meaning: “There are three separate things I love: sexual intercourse, actress Maggie Gyllenhall, and pastry with apple filling.” The first sentence is, however, problematic. Aside from the fact which it implies that I love fucking Maggie Gyllenhall (something I can’t personally attest to, but would, in fact, probably enjoy), it also can be easily interpreted that I enjoy sexual relations with apple pie ala Jason Biggs (again, I can’t personally attest to this, but this time I suspect I wouldn’t enjoy it as much as Maggie Gyllenhall).

This whole list thing is pretty obvious and important use for the comma. I actually (mid-writing this) realized that I had used it before in the title of the post “Fuck, Mom, and Baseball: Wherein the Comma is Important.”

Exhibit B: “I’m a cowboy bitch.” vs. “I’m a cowboy, bitch”

The latter is the intended meaning: an aggressive assertion of one’s masculinity evidenced through your fulfillment of the cowboy stereotype and the subsequent belittling of the person you are addressing. Without a comma, however, there is nothing to do but prepare for the subsequent and inevitable barrage of Brokeback Mountain jokes.

I just think commas are too useful to be on their way out. As for the rest of his silliness about using small words and getting to the verb faster, it seems to run counter to his comments about the comma. He seems to be striving for clarity in writing (though I’m not necessarily sure his advice is any good). In any case, calling for the culling of clarifying commas seems to run counter to this philosophy.

With that in mind, I think it’s safe to write off his practice of no commas as a petty literary pretension. It’s like Selby using foreslashes instead of apostrophes: a gimmicky device of a mediocre writer trying to divert attention away from the quality of their work.

Not that I’m trying to say Kosko’s book is bad or that his prose is rotten. I’m just saying that his punctuation policies are a pretentious affectation of dubious merit.
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