fan will always remember . . . so maybe the Giants can forget the last two games and beat the Redskins next week and-- with help from Chicago and New Orleans-- make the play-offs, where the season begins anew . . . but as a fan it's going to be tough to forget the past two seasons of Giants' football (a 41-9 elimination loss to the Panthers last year and this year's collapse against the Eagles and 45-17 loss to the Packers with everything on the line) and so my advice is this: to enjoy the rest of the season, invoke the spirit of John Starks, who never let the past rattle him, even after five awful shots, he chucked the rock at the hoop again-- with no memory of what came before; root like an athlete, not like a fan and perhaps the Giants will gain new life in the play-offs.
Today we'll take a trip down memory lane and visit another Awkward Moment of Dave; this is Whitney's favorite and it took place in college . . . Whitney and I needed to volunteer for six hours of psychology testing in order to get credit for a Psych 102 class and it was coming down to the deadline so we signed up for what was available: an experiment for people who claimed to be "date anxious"; we convinced the professor that we were indeed "date anxious," which was probably true since neither of us really did much "dating," and as part of the experiment we actually went on "dates" with other "date anxious" folks and then filled out surveys about the experience; for our first "date" we picked up some underclassmen in Squirrel's little dirty car and our plan was to take them to the movies to see Harlem Nights-- which seemed to be an easy way to ensure that we wouldn't have to talk to the girls, which was important because we were both quite hungover from some serious partying the night before-- and it was extremely cold and the ground was covered with snow and ice, so we were all bundled up, Whitney driving, me sitting shotgun, the girls huddled in the back-- wondering about the two terse strangers that they were now at the mercy of-- and I must point out that sometime in the late night partying the night before, I had consumed a 7-11 microwave burrito, which I had doused with 7-11 chili and 7-11 jalapenos and 7-11 cheese, and I was having some stomach troubles and so I found it necessary to open my window and let some fresh air into the car, some very very cold fresh air, but also very very important fresh air, if this date was to continue without incident, but the girls in back took the brunt of the cold wind and yelled at me to shut the window, and Whitney turned and asked me what the hell I was doing and all I could think to say was: "Just wanted to check how cold it is out there."
Slavoj Zizek-- I couldn't handle the parallax effect that the different perspectives were creating in my brain . . . but in the end it didn't matter because the game went horribly awry for the Jets and we ended up watching some Braveheart, which is a movie I've never seen (and it looked kind of cheesy but everyone urged me to see it . . . maybe Jets fans really like Braveheart).
If you have kids or you're interested in modern art, then you should watch the documentary My Kid Could Paint That -- it's about a precocious four year old abstract painter named Marla Olmstead; the film investigates what defines art as much as the mystery of whether Marla painted her paintings or not-- but now there is a new documentary on the same theme and it is even better . . . it's called Exit Through the Gift Shop and it is ostensibly about documenting street art-- the obsessive Frenchman Thierry Guetta devotes his life to filming these ambitious and talented vandals on their midnight missions to make odd, skillful, often beautiful and essentially disposable art, but like all great documentaries (Capturing the Friedmans, Street Fight, Mr. Death, etc.) the film takes an unpredictable turn . . . Thierry Guetta transforms into "Mr. Brainwash" and the theme moves from the aesthetic to the absurd . . . I won't spoil it, but things might not be exactly what they seem . . . I'm giving it ten spray cans out of ten and I think Banksy-- the faceless and heralded street artist who directed-- will win an Oscar.
You may remember the Seinfeld episode where Elaine sends out a Christmas card with a picture of herself (taken by Kramer) that inadvertently exposes her nipple, and now our life imitates Larry David's art: Catherine had some trouble getting jubilant shots of our kids for this year's Christmas card, so instead she sent out a more realistic card with our boys engaged in their typical mischief, but she did get one joyous shot in front of the tree, but when Shutterfly sent us the finished cards, we noticed that in that in the one photo full of holiday cheer, Alex is exposing a runny booger . . . it's tough to see on the computer, but like the nipple, it's pretty obvious when you look at the card.
So I'm playing a game of darts at the Park Pub with my friend Mose on the Eve of Xmas Eve and the jukebox plays the song "Feliz Navidad," but it's not the typical Julio Feliciano version, and when the singer sings the eponymous opening I distinctly hear him say "Feliz s*ck my c*ck," which totally throws off my throw and I turn to Mose and he's laughing and I say: "Did you just hear that?" and Mose confirms that he heard the same festive invitation to fellatio that I heard, but upon further investigation it might have been some weird acoustical anomaly-- that when this particular song is played on the jukebox and you're standing near the dart-board at the Park Pub and certain shows are on the television and the bar is packed to a certain density, then that's what you hear . . . or maybe it was an Eve of Xmas Eve Miracle . . . either way, I'm certainly glad Mose was there to corroborate the incident, because when we went and sat down with the rest of the group at the bar and asked them if they heard what we heard, they looked at us like we were crazy.
Like Billy Pilgrim, the characters in Jennifer Egan's new novel A Visit From The Goon Squad have become unstuck in time . . . spastic in time, and like Vonnegut there are elements of post-modernism and sci-fi interwoven through the loosely connected (both in form and plot) tales of The Flaming Dildos and their associates; the book covers over forty years-- from the late 1970's into the near future-- and it covers this time-span in forms as various a story told in Power Point slides and an article written by one of the characters in the style of David Foster Wallace; the novel is rich and the though the plot is sometimes difficult to follow because of the form, the theme is apparent and powerful: time is a goon and it's coming for all of us, and, especially in the ever-changing styles and tempos of the music world, our inevitable decay will be shocking and painful, but maybe the wisdom we gain will make it all worth it: ten slide guitars out of ten.
Occasionally, when I am waiting in line to pay for groceries, I start ogling the cleavage of the cover models on magazines such as Vogue and Cosmo, and often I forget that these are not real three-dimensional women, and crane my neck to try to see further down their skimpy blouses . . . only to realize that I am looking at a two-dimensional representation and that no matter how I tilt my head, I'm not going to see a nipple.
Yesterday I decided I would return to the strange little cabin I found in the woods because I wanted to snap some pictures-- and despite discussions of the Long Island serial killer in the English office at the end of the day, I steeled myself for my hike-- but when I got near the downed trees I saw a black bicycle parked against a tree, and like the sticks and stones in The Blair Witch Project, a black bicycle-- which isn't very scary on the street, in context, is a good deal scarier when it's standing against a leafless tree in the middle of the woods . . . but, with nerves of steel, I approached the bike, which was weathered and had a duct taped seat and some weird contraptions on it, and then walked past it and into the downed trees; I figured that the hobos had company, and that was why the bike was parked a bit outside their hidden dwelling, and so I shut off my iPod and crept closer, to the entrance-way of the fort, snapped some pictures of the house with my cell phone . . . and then I got out of there; I'm not sure if anyone was home or not and you're going to have to wait to see the pictures because I can't figure out how to connect my cell-phone to my computer to download them (and I have a new plan: I'm going to go there after the first snow and then I'll know if there's anyone inside because I'll see footprints) so this story is to be continued . . .
Two weeks ago I was taking a walk by the lake near my parents' house and the trail was blocked by some fallen trees, which I climbed over and then I had to traverse a little dirt hill over a log and duck my head under a branch and then I turned a corner and-- suddenly . . . almost magically-- I was inside a little fort of downed trees and there was a low slung house hidden in this fort, about two feet high with a shingled roof and steps down to a dug out door, probably four feet down into the earth, so if you were inside the house, the ceiling might have been at the height of a grown man, and there was a little basement style window set in the wood walls but no light was on (which I pointed out to my wife as proof that no one was home, but she countered with this statement: "It's not like the house has electricity!" and I must admit that she's right) and when I first saw the house I was listening to a creepy techno song by Daft Punk from the new Tron soundtrack and I didn't have the common sense to take off my headphones, and so I kept thinking someone was behind me and I left the fort fairly quickly and started to walk back to my car, but then I turned around and went back, I felt a weird and anxious need to check it out more, though it reminded me of the final scene of The Blair Witch Project (or a meth-lab or the Unabomber's cabin) and so walked back-- with my headphones still blasting-- and I took one more good look: there were several bicycles and an assortment of bike parts within the confines of the fort and a rusty boat hull attached to the roof with a bike lock and there was a padlock on the solid looking wood door; finally, I got out of there, but I still feel compelled to go back and check it out again so if I disappear without a trace, you know where to start the search.
I have always been a Giants fan, but after yesterday's epic fourth quarter meltdown (why did Matt Dodge punt it to DeSean Jackson?) I have decided to stop watching professional sports altogether, and only watch sports movies, where the team you are rooting for either wins the big game (Hoosiers, Invictus, and almost every other sports movie) or if they do lose the big game (Rocky and The Bad News Bears) then they learn a valuable lesson . . . but there's no way I can watch another event where the plot summary is this: a team led by a dog-torturer persists against all odds in the fourth quarter because of heroic play by the aforementioned dog-torturer . . . that's an absurdly unsatisfying twist with no clear theme, moral or lesson . . . and I hope it's not a resurrection of this Absurd Miracle, which was a harbinger of hard times ahead.
Bill Bryson, in his new book At Home: A Short History of Private Life , gives several pages of startling statistics on the most dangerous place in the house (and the second leading cause of accidental death in the United States, behind car accidents but ahead of shark bites, flesh-eating viruses, and impalement) and if you guessed the kitchen or the bathroom, you are wrong . .. the most dangerous spot in your house is the stairs (and if you've seen the excellent documentary series The Staircase then you may have known this already) but I find this paradoxical because having stairs in your house is good for your heart and heart disease is the leading killer among men and women in the United States . . . so do you live in a ranch and miss out on the benefits of walking up and down stairs every day . . . or do you risk mishaps and live dangerously . . . I don't know the answer, but mainly what I wish is that we had an English word for this French phrase: 'esprit d'escalier, which generated the plot of a fantastic Seinfeld episode.
The greatest sequence in mash-up history begins at 1:24 in Girl Talk's rather profane song "Smash Your Head," when Biggie Smalls raps "Juicy" over Elton John's "Tiny Dancer," but that was only one moment (although all of Night Ripper is fantastic) and it seemed to me that this frantically looped and layered mash-up genre would be impossible to continue in an original, coherent, and listenable sense but Greg Gillis has done it again with his new album, "All Day," which is longer, more accessible, full of identifiable hooks and beats and lyrics and layers, amidst loads of clever and cleverly dirty hip-hop samples . . . and for a while I couldn't figure out what it all meant, all these samples twisted and distorted and smashed together in perfect rhythm and harmony, but on my tenth listen it hit me . . . Girl Talk means this: humans like music, lots of music, we remember it in pieces, we like it in fragments, and-- and this is in no way an insult-- maybe all the genres of popular music that we like-- from country, to hip-hop, to dance, to pop, to punk, to metal-- are more similar than we think.
So perhaps I had my fifteen minutes of fame last week; I was watching the Jets/New England game with some friends and I brought up the documentary American Teen and one of the guys said, "Oh yeah, I just read something about that," and then he thought for a moment and concluded, "on your blog," and I thought this was pretty cool, but not as cool as when a female co-worker, who is pretty hip and is my age-- so we're not talking about some young, naive student teacher here-- prefaced a story about her children with the phrase "I think this is sentence-worthy," which means that I think it's good enough to appear on your blog-- and the story certainly was sentence-worthy (it was about how her husband had to leave their four year old twins unattended in the audience of a soccer banquet while he spoke about his team, so he read them the riot act about being good, but when he looked out at them in the audience, they were touching tongues . . . not tongue kissing and not being terribly bad, but, nonetheless, sticking their tongues out-- ostensibly to measure them-- and touching them tongue-tip to tongue-tip, and apparently it's really hard to give a speech while watching your twin boys do this) but what I'm more interested in is the fact that when people speak to me now, they are trying to say something so entertaining that I feel compelled to use it on the blog, which is really nice because there are times when people bore me, so if there's some incentive to be more entertaining around me because of the modicum of fame that this blog creates, then I am all for it.
In his new book, At Home: A Short History of Private Life, Bill Bryson points out that the paints that the colonial Americans used weren't muted as we would expect-- the time when George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were decorating Mount Vernon and Monticello coincided with the advent of bright pigments, and so to show off how rich you were (remembering that houses were lit with candles) you wanted walls as bright as possible-- and when Mount Vernon began restoring the interiors to their original colors, people were appalled, and Bryson says that now Washington and Jefferson "come across as having the decorative instincts of hippies," and this reminds me of when I was in Egypt, traveling down the Nile and touring the many ancient, eroded and sun-bleached temples covered in faded hieroglyphics, and then got to enter Nefertari's tomb in the Valley of the Queens and see the perfectly preserved hieroglyphics, which were brightly painted and detailed, and, of course, had the same revelation: the place looked like a hippy trip-out den, far from my dusty imaginings of ancient Egypt . . . will historians eventually have the same epiphany about fashions from the 1980's?
On the car ride to Coco (the delicious Malaysian restaurant down Route 27), my six year old son Alex entertained us with an I Am Legend themed monologue: first he explained to his younger brother the devastation that nuclear bombs would cause if there was a war between spies, but that he had a plan: he would escape death by hiding under water and when he came out of the water there wouldn't be many animals left, except rats and he would have to eat the rats for a while, but luckily, but they would "evolve into other things that would get tastier and tastier."
I received a request to write a "Gheorghe-mas Song" over at Gheorghe: The Blog (we do The 12 Days of Gheorghe-mas there every year) and this was an assignment I couldn't refuse, especially because I could express some of my Xmas Anger in the lyrics: so check it out, if you dare.
Bill Bryson's new book At Home: A Short History of Private Life is certainly not short . . . I can't imagine the amount of research that went into it (nor can I imagine how he gets away without citing anything in the actual body of the book) and it is a treasure trove of information about how people lived throughout history, written in impeccable prose that makes you forget how tangential the topics often become; here are some of my favorite bits:
1) Thomas Jefferson bought 20,000 bottles of wine over one eight year period;
2) in the 1700's, English country clergymen subsidized by taxes and tithes had relatively few religious obligations-- and no one went to church-- and so in their spare time they produced an impressive array of intellectual accomplishments including my one of my favorite books-- The Life and Times of Tristram Shandy-- and other notable works such as An Essay on the Principle of Population (Thomas Malthus) and Bayes's Theorem (Thomas Bayes) until the The Church of England finally cracked down on them;
3) the ignorance of the female anatomy among medical men in Victorian England was so profound that Mary Toft, an illiterate rabbit breeder, convinced medical authorities that she was giving birth to live rabbits and perpetuated the hoax for a time before she admitted the fraud;
4) the baseball box score was invented by Henry Chadwick and "K" is short for "struck," which ends with a "K"
5) the treatment of working class children was abominably poor in nineteenth century England and this is exemplified by the fact that the founding of the Society of Preventing Cruelty to Animals preceded the founding of the parallel organization for children by sixty years;
6) in the 1790's it was all the rage to wear artificial moles, called mouches, and at the height of this mania, people's faces looked as if they were covered with flies, and in the 1780's it became "briefly fashionable to wear fake eyebrows made of mouse skin,"
7) I have pushed the boundaries of the sentence to its limit here, but the book is excellent, detailed, and long and deserves such a lengthy treatment . . . and in the end it reminds you that we live in wonderful times, as Bryson's main theme is that for most of history, the poor lived in horrible conditions with death looming around every corner of their dwellings, and the rich often lived absurdly, governed by bizarre styles, fashions, and social rules . . . and they didn't escape death, disease, unhygienic conditions, and general discomfort either . . . so-- if you can-- enjoy a hot shower and some clean water and a warm, lice free bed tonight with the knowledge that this wasn't always the case, but also knowing that all this convenience comes at a price-- it takes a citizen of Tanzania a year to produce the carbon emissions that the average American produces in twenty-eight hours.
If Santa Claus doesn't motivate your children to behave well, and instead of positive reinforcement, you wish to try positive punishment, then I recommend showing them the new Martin Scorcese film Shutter Island . . . and if your kids are anything like me, then they will think it's going to be a fun film-noir romp on a spooky island full of evil experiments and old Nazis, but that's not what it's about at all; it is actually about insanity and filicide . . . the movie may scare your children into being good for a couple of years, but it may also scare you: it is also an extremely disturbing and tragic; I told my wife that it was rather unrealistic and that a mother would never do that to her children, but she reminded me of this news story and this news story and I had to admit that she had me, and then I was even more disturbed and depressed and so I give this movie 8 million rats out of a possible 10 million, but with this caveat: DO NOT watch this movie if you are looking for a good time!
I watched Dark City on Blu-Ray the other night . . . possibly for the second time . . . it's a science-fiction film directed by Alex Proyas that is strangely similar to The Matrix (though it was released a year before in 1998) but more interesting than this comparison is the fact that I felt as if I was living parallel with the movie while watching it-- the movie begins with a naked man in a room (Rufus Sewell) with a murdered call-girl, and he has no memory of what happened to the girl or of the last three weeks of his life and he has only very dim memories of his past, and he slowly realizes-- as he makes his way through his very dark city, that aliens are manipulating not only his memories but the actual world he is living in; the movie is excellent and really looks spectacular on Blu-Ray, but I could only vaguely remember watching it in the past, and not when or where, and then Catherine came home and she couldn't remember watching it with me, and I rarely watch movies alone and it's not on my Netflix history nor have I rated it and there were only certain things that I remembered . . . like Shell Beach . . . and so I am wondering if I never really saw the movie at all, and if Kiefer Sutherland inserted it into my brain with one of his steam-punk memory injections, but now that I've got it recorded here on this blog, I'll be able to refer back to this post and foil the aliens that have been manipulating my brain (and there are the usual internet theories about how The Matrix stole from Dark City, but I find this highly unlikely, since the script for The Matrix was finished when they were shooting Dark City, and as one nut pointed out, all these ideas originated with the movie Tron . . . but at that point you might as well say that all of these type films-- ranging from The Game and The Usual Suspects and The Sixth Sense all the way to Bladerunner-- are an allegory for Plato's cave and forget who stole what from whom and just enjoy the special effects).
Soon after I promised my wife and students that I would exhibit more Christmas spirit, I was sorely tested on my pledge-- and I would like to think that I passed with flying colors: first, when I went to my parents to pick up my children, my mom roped me into setting up their new plastic tree . . . which I did with minimal grumbling (and without mention of the environmental hazards of PVC, dioxin, ethylene dichloride, vinyl chloride, and lead poisoning) but my mom did not like the new tree once it was erected, so I then disassembled the new tree, fit it back into the box, put the box in her car so she could return it, and lugged the old plastic tree up from the basement and assembled that one; second, after surviving that ordeal without a meltdown, I then returned home to find my wife struggling with a string of lights-- she had wound them around the porch and shrubs only to find that when she plugged them in, they did not all light, and I counseled her to simply buy some new lights and-- so I wouldn't lose my patience and melt down-- I used a scissors to remove the non-working strands and tossed them in the garbage, and then when the new string of lights my wife purchased did not all light, I removed each tiny bulb in the string until I hit upon the dead bulb and I replaced that one with a live bulb, fixing the entire string, and again, I did this with minimal grumbling so Santa Claus better bring me a lot of good loot this year because I deserve it.
I was showing my son Ian how the name "KitKat" utilizes the double "K" sound, when his older brother Alex reminded us that "Cat" is usually spelled with a "C" but in this instance the candy-makers spelled it with a "K" to ensure that you knew you weren't "eating a dead chocolate-covered hairless cat."
Some of my students were appalled the other day when I revealed my Grinch-like attitude towards Christmas; I don't remember what set me off, but it always happens, the littlest reminder can send me on a long rant about wrapping paper and Christmas trees and the environment, about how Santa Claus has defeated Jesus and how awful music has defeated them both, about consumption, materialism, and the pressure to buy everyone some sort of unnecessary object, etcetera . . . and I'm not allowed to mention these feelings anywhere else-- I try to keep them from my kids and my wife will punch me in the face if I mention them to her and no one in the English office needs to hear these opinion again so I end up preaching to a captive audience . . . but my students have convinced me to have a better attitude and I even promised to help Catherine with the lights and I'm going to try to buy non-material gifts, although I did have a great idea for a personalized gift that doesn't waste any resources or cause any extra pollution: I present all of my loved ones with a personalized list of Dewey Decimal numbers that refer to books I think they would like to read . . . e.g. I might give myself Dewey Decimal number 813.54 21.
At times Nanette Burstein's documentary American Teen seems staged, and it times it seems like Mean Girls, but eventually the film makes you remember just how dramatic high school really is-- the romance and sports and college application process and cliques-- and just how heavy the future and the past (i.e. parents) weigh on the American teen; perhaps the scenes that appear to be contrived are actually just awkward, painful, and melodramatic, and from the perspective of age, they feel too raw and ugly to be real . . . you'll have to watch it and judge for yourself, but beware of the feelings this movie will dredge up: nostalgia and it's ugly counterpart, regret.
After watching the first season of Madmen, I made the claim that the scene when Don Draper renames the Kodak wheel slide projector the "carousel" is the greatest moment in TV history-- but I am prone to hyperbole-- so it was a pleasant surprise when my friend who called me "insane" when I originally made the claim, said that he recently heard Dennis Miller interview Jon Hamm, and Miller expressed the same sentiment about that carousel moment . . . but I think Dennis Miller is kind of annoying . . . so I'm changing my greatest moment in TV history to when the cast of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia did a live performance of "The Nightman Cometh."
I have taken the first post of Sentence of Dave, "I am shopping for a new digital camera because my wife has a habit of leaving things on the roof of our car," and followed the instructions I found on kottke.org called Growing Sentences with David Foster Wallace and here is the Wallacized result: "I am going shopping for a shiny new camera--a shiny new digital camera to replace our shiny old perfectly good digital camera-- because-- and this has happened before-- my lovely and beautiful spouse has a predilection for delicately balancing things between the roof and the billeted struts of our car, such as her keys, a hot cup of coffee, a memory stick full of MP3 and RTF files, and a Styrofoam container of left-over Chow Fun, and then blithely driving away, the aforementioned thing precariously perched until she changes her speed rapidly enough and the object's momentum pitches it forward or backward onto the pavement, where it is destroyed by other vehicles," and I recommend that you take one of your sentences and try it; you'd be surprised how easy it is to be obscure and convoluted (and some fans of this blog might say-- and they might be right-- that I have drifted in the direction of David Foster Wallace . . . my earlier posts were certainly more concise and perhaps this exercise will send me back on the path of precision and austerity . . . or perhaps not).
My five year old son Ian has some cute verbal peccadilloes: he says "usually" instead of "actually" as a transition (e.g. usually, I have to pee right now . . . usually, I'll have a cookie instead of licorice) and when we play chess and he inevitably starts to lose badly-- he's great at setting up the pieces and moving them correctly, but he gives away a lot of material in suicidal attacks-- then his eyes fill with tears and he says-- repeatedly-- "I'm done for, I'm done for," which makes me wonder if this is good for him mentally . . . but there's no way I'm going to let him win . . . I handicap him three or four strong pieces, but he still has no end game, so I tell him all the suffering and defeat will be worth it in the end, because, maybe, someday (like my friend Rob) he'll be President of the Chess Club (see the image above for the kind of babes you can pull as a high-ranking chess club official).
My son Alex was eating at his usual lethargic pace-- everyone was long finished with dinner and he had barely started-- so I said to his younger brother Ian, "Let's go see if we can stream The Life of Mammals on Netflix," which I hoped would motivate Alex to finish his dinner, but instead he went into hysterics and Ian, feeling bad for his brother, whispered to him that he was going to stall the video by going to the bathroom for a really long time (Catherine overheard this plan and told me and we thought it was cute that he was actually doing something to help his older brother) but after Ian got out of the bathroom Alex still wasn't done with dinner and Ian was ready to watch the video but he couldn't find the piece of Halloween candy that he had selected so he coerced me into helping him look for it and I couldn't find it either, which was ridiculous, because he was just holding it and I said to him "You're driving me crazy! Where did you put it?" and finally he found it under a pillow on our little saddle stool-- which is a really weird place to leave your candy-- and it wasn't until later (with help from my wife) that I realized that this ruse, the candy-losing ruse, was also part of his stalling plan, but Ian was such a good actor that I didn't realize that I was actually falling for his plan . . . and the next morning when I asked him about it, he confessed that it was all a ruse (although he did not use the word ruse) and I am sure that when we look back, this will be the moment that we lost control.