Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The New Yorker: Volume LXXXV, NO. 35, November 2, 2009

Spotlight on “Wild, Wild Wes” by Richard Brody
 wes anderson 2
Liking Wes Anderson is fashionable. It’s trendy. All the cool kids are doing it. Before reading Richard Brody’s profile, I only vaguely acknowledged the connotations and assumptions tied to Wes Anderson fandom. It wasn’t until after reading the nine-page article that I began to feel self-conscious about my own admiration for the director. Brody writes:

Anderson’s idiosyncrasies, personal and artistic, resonated from the start with a certain segment of the population: hipsters—young bourgeois bohemians—who came of age with the Internet and took from it both a trendsetting attunement to pop culture and a chance to make quick money while remaining artists at heart. A generation born of a paradox, its members recognized themselves in the romantic ironies of Anderson’s movies, as well as in his embrace of the expressive power of luxury objects.

An Internet search shows me that Brody is a bearded older gentleman, both bespectacled and bald, so I think it’s safe to say that he isn’t a “young bourgeois bohemian;” this means that when he discusses the hipster ethos, this “trendsetting attunement to pop culture,” it isn’t self-reflexive; it’s objective—he genuinely believes that these are the defining characteristics of a Wes Anderson fan. Though I don’t consider myself a hipster—I’d say complete and utter nerd, if anything—there’s something very scary about Brody’s assertion. It’s discomfiting having some old man writing in a hoighty toighty magazine presume to know who you are; and even more discomfiting when you realize that he’s gotten it right. It’s almost enough to put you off of Wes Anderson movies. Almost.

Best Moment:
(discussing Anderson’s upcoming stop-motion animated film The Fantastic Mr. Fox) “Moreover, the figurines had tailored clothing, made with fabric. (Anderson designed the clothes himself, having his tailor send fabric samples. He has a suit made from the same corduroy as Mr. Fox’s)”

Movies name-checked by Anderson:
The Whole Town’s Talking, Les Enfants Terribles, Day of the Dolphin, Local Hero, The Tresure of the Sierra Madre, Murmur of the Heart, Day for Night, Phantom India, The river, Husbands, Dune, and Star Wars.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Jack Black 2

Jack Black 1

I watched Yo Gabba Gabba today instead of being productive and all I have to say is: Day. Well. Spent.

*Experiment #1*

In 1996, years before Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me, Chuck Klosterman ate nothing but Chic
ken McNuggets for a week. His experience is chronicled in “The Amazing McNugget Diet." In the introduction to the piece he says:

One could argue that McDonald’s is the vortex of American society. Granted, this would be a horribly weak argument. But McDonald’s is the epitome of fast food, and fast food is the epitome of accelerated culture. It is the intersection of obsessions: a media-driven chain restaurant that tries to feed America as fast and as often as possible. For seven consecutive days, I embraced this theory with every fabric of my existence. With the exception of McNuggets and sauce, no solid food entered my body. I ate absolutely nothing else.

This Halloween I’ve decided to follow in Klosterman's footsteps. Sort of. Today I will eat nothing but sugary treats (with a special emphasis on Peanut M&Ms).

I will also be watching episodes of Count Duckula, Eerie Indiana, and of course, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

Even though this is primarily just an excuse to pig out and lie around all day, if I had to place my plan within some sort of intellectual context, I’d say that this is an attempt to revert back to a state of mind when I didn’t obsess over consequences, when I didn’t know what a calorie was, and when I didn’t consider the sociological or intellectual merit of anything.

I don’t know what the end result will be—perhaps vomiting, perhaps swearing off of sweets forever, perhaps unparalleled joy—but I’ll be checking in over the course of the day to update my progress.

*Update: 5:22 pm*

Hours 1-3

Sweets Consumed:

1 Pumpkin Shaped Sugar Cookie

1 Black Cat Shaped Sugar Cookie

2 Fun Sized Peanut M&M Packs

2 Halloween Betty Crocker Fruit Snack Packs

1 Standard Sized Sandwich Baggie Full of Peanut M&Ms

DVDs watched:

Disc 2 of Count Duckula


As a kid you think that it’d be fun to be given a sack of candy and carte blanche; as an adult you see all of the problems inherent in this sort of scenario. I started eating at 2:00 this afternoon with child-like enthusiasm, gobbling down treat after treat, ignoring everything I’ve come to understand about the world. About an hour ago the inside of my mouth dried up and right now I can literally feel the sugar clinging to my tongue and the back of my throat. I know that if I tried to eat regular food—not that I’m going to—I wouldn’t be able to taste it. I’ve decided to take a break from the candy while I watch Eerie Indiana. Downstairs there’s this chocolate chip cookie cake that everyone is going to eat after dinner—we’re sort of sponsoring a little get together for all of the smaller members of the family. Since I won’t be eating dinner, I think I’ll use the time to drink plenty of water, maybe brush my teeth again, and hopefully in an hour or so I’ll be ready to enjoy that cookie cake.

*Update 8:08 pm*

Hours 4-6

Sweets Consumed:

2 slices of Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake


DVDs Watched:

Discs 2 and 3 of Eerie Indiana


I feel as though my stomach is full of air. Unfortunately, it isn’t. It’s all cookies and chocolate and candy-coated shells in there. I’ll probably be falling into some sugar-induced coma soon, so I won’t have to worry about continuing with the experiment. There is an upside to this, though, and that’s Eerie Indiana. I don’t think I understood how smart this show was when I was a kid. I rented The Secret World of Alex Mack last year and I couldn’t believe that I’d ever liked it; it’s horrible. But Eerie Indiana really holds up. I wonder what ever happened to Omri Katz. Not only does he have an awesome first name but he’s totally adorable with that 1990s haircut of his.

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

eerie indiana 4.JPG

Bet you didn't know that Tobey Maguire was in an episode of Eerie Indiana...

eerie indian 5.JPGor that his character wanted to get it on with an old lady.

*Final Update 10:56 pm*

Hours 7-9

Sweets Consumed:

1 Slice of Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

DVDs Watched:

It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Final Comments:

I don’t think I really proved anything with this experiment but I do feel kind of cheerful. I must be experiencing the “sugar high” that Coyote Shivers and RenĂ©e Zellweger sang about on that roof in Empire Records. My mouth tastes gross. My teeth feel weird.

*Nerd Inspected and Approved*

Book Review: Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman


Chuck Klosterman is responsible for validating my debilitating pop culture habit. After reading Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, I started to see entertainment journalism as a viable career option (for better or worse).

His essays are droll and chock-a-block full of curious interpretations of everyday objects and cultural phenomena; he’s amusing even when he’s criticizing something that I—unhip lady that I am—enjoy; and he’s insightful but not intimidatingly so—all of his books are conversational, sprinkled with slang and mild profanity, addressing issues that are accessible to the PhD-less.

Klosterman, I think, embodies a different kind of intellectualism, a more relatable kind. Armchair intellectualism. His essays impose a deeply philosophical, scholarly, and often, historical context upon banalities sans irony. We aren’t meant to laugh at an elaborate analysis of ABBA, we’re meant to laugh at how legitimate that analysis is—the It’s-funny-‘cause-it’s-true paradigm.

Since the release of his definitive work, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs in 2003, Klosterman has become a bit of a celebrity—ostensibly a part of all that pop culture debris he’s so apt to critique. In Eating the Dinosaur, his latest collection, he overtly addresses that issue in the book’s opening essay, “Something Instead of Nothing,” which is essentially a meditation on the art and practice of interviewing and being interviewed. In the essay, Klosterman who has contributed to Spin, The Washington Post, and Esquire, writes, “For the past five years, I’ve spent more time being interviewed than conducting interviews with other people. I am not complaining about this, nor am I proud of it—it’s just the way things worked out, mostly by chance. But the experience has been confusing.”

Eating the Dinosaur feels like Klosterman’s attempt to replicate the content, style, and success of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. But this isn’t something that he’s able to do. I’m not criticizing him, I’m just saying that his psychic distance has changed. He very literally cannot write the same way that he wrote back in 2003 for all of the reasons that none of us can write or think or behave the way we did in 2003, but also because he is, whether he wants to admit it or not, a celebrity. So while reading this book, there’s this mildly uncomfortable tension sort of haunting the margins. Despite my love for pop culture reportage—I almost would have preferred to read something completely devoted to his transformation into a public figure.

Although, there were a few things that weren’t working for me in Eating the Dinosaur—the discussion of sports, the rehashing of issues discussed in previous work, how meta the whole thing is—I did enjoy the book overall and would recommend it, especially to people who haven’t read Klosterman. There is an articulate, satisfyingly geeky dissection of time travel called “Tomorrow Never Knows” that should go down in history as the authoritative text on the subject.

When Klosterman is good, he’s really good.

Here's a clip of Klosterman and Marc Maron talking like a couple of glasses-wearing, smart people.


Any increase in mental capacity that I may have achieved earlier this week was surely diminished by tonight’s events. First Lance-uh-Lot and I ate these massive burritos.


So massive, in fact, that this poor little flour tortilla was unable to contain the innards.


Lance-uh-Lot washed his burrito down with a forty (my Cherry Coke Zero had bottle envy). And then we caught the 8:00 showing of Saw VI down in Emeryville. By now I feel like I’m just programmed to watch these Saw movies. They aren’t even good. This new one is by far the most gruesome and somehow, also, the most tedious. Like I said, I’m not exactly sure why I saw Saw VI but it wasn’t to sit through forty to fifty minutes of lame back-story. Now, I probably should be embarrassed to admit that I immediately recognized that one of the actresses in the movie was Tanedra from the Vh1 reality showScream Queens. And I probably should be down right ashamed to admit that a single tear ran down my cheek when Tanedra won the competition (and this role in Saw VI ). Truth be told, I'm getting a little choked up just thinking about it.

Oh well. I did read a book this week, so maybe that balances things out a bit.

I leave you with the best moment in VH1 history.

The New Yorker: Volume LXXXV, NO. 34, October 26, 2009

It’s my day off so I devoted the morning to reading The New Yorker. I went from back to front—starting with the film, music, and TV articles—but by the time I hit Dana Goodyear’s profile of James Cameron, I ran out of steam; I barely eked my way through. I’m not incredibly interested in politics to begin with but, being as exhausted and generally sick of reading this magazine as I was, I knew there was no way that I’d be able to tackle “Obama’s Predator War” even if it were about brutal interstellar trophy hunters.

Sections/Articles Read

Profiles—“Man of Extremes” By Dana Goodyear

(See Spotlight on “Man of Extremes”)

Fiction—“Procedure in Plain Air” By Jonathan Lethem

Why I read it:

I recently completed both The Fortress of Solitude and Motherless Brooklyn and I’m planning to go to a Jonathan Lethem book signing later this evening. He is a fantastic writer—I don’t think that I’ve ever encountered prose quite like his.

My one sentence gut reaction:

What just happened?

Best moment:

“The orange cone remained, like an ill-fitted condom stuck on its head.”

Pop Music—“The Life Span of Hip-Hop” By Sasha Frere-Jones

Why I read it:

I didn’t know that The New Yorker was into Jay-Z! I’m into Jay-Z!

My one sentence gut reaction:

I love you, Sasha Frere-Jones.

Best moment:

(There are so many choice quotes in this one, mainly due to Jones’s very intellectual and unironic analysis of illiterate sounding song titles.) “Wayne’s 2008 release, ‘The Carter III,’ which included ‘A Milli,’ a thick, psychedelic ramble tied to a thin metronomic canter, was the year’s biggest-selling album—and probably the last moment when hip-hop was both popular and improbably weird.”

On Television—“The Good Wife” By Nancy Franklin

Why I read it:

TV good. Me like TV. Yum.

My one sentence gut reaction:

Me like Josh Charles.

Best moment:

“Will Gardner (Josh Charles, who hasn’t been so well used since ‘Sports Night’ ended, nine years ago) balks at taking a case brought by a stripper . . .”

The Current Cinema—“Trouble in Eden: Antichrist” By Anthony Lane

Why I read it:

I’d been thinking about seeing this movie—I studied von Trier’s films in college and Charlotte Gainsbourg is just about my favorite actress—but I heard thatAntichrist was both graphic and horrible. So I wanted to see what Mr. Lane thought and then I also wanted to see if I liked him more than David Denby.

My one sentence gut reaction:

You gotta love a film review that gratuitously references D.H. Lawrence.

Best Moment:

(discussing Willem Dafoe) “First he had hot wax dripped onto his sternum by Madonna, in ‘Body of Evidence,’ then he suffered the intense humiliation of being beaten up by Tobey Maguire, in ‘Spider-Man,’ and now he has a log being used as a battering ram on his private parts.”

The New Yorker: Volume LXXXV, NO. 34, October 26, 2009


Spotlight on “Man of Extremes: The Return of James Cameron” By Dana Goodyear

It’s great that The New Yorker is devoting this much space to film. This James Cameron profile goes on for roughly 12 pages (and if you’ve ever read The New Yorker you’ll know that each page is comprised of 3 columns, so that’s a lot of teeny tiny text). But, and this is the important part, this is an article about James Cameron! As beloved as his tech-noir films are (and that’s The New Yorker’s term, not mine), this is the guy who made Titanic—a movie so unequivocally girly that it might as well have been called Fallopian Tubes. I understand that it was one of the hugest blockbusters in movie history, and yes, I did see it twice in the theater when I was a cornball 14-year-old girl, but I don’t need this much information about James Cameron, okay. I don’t need to know that he likes scuba diving or that his hair has grown over the course of a year or that he stopped drinking caffeine after Terminator 2. I mean, if this were a profile of Josh Charles, then yes, all of that stuff would be crucial. But James Cameron? C’mon.

Avatar may very well be the film that changes the way we understand 3D and movies in general, but this article is just too long. I know that the intended audience of this particular publication isn’t the sci-fi/fantasy nerd contingent. So who wanted this? We have a huge supply of James Cameron facts here, but was there really a demand? The answer is, no. No, there wasn’t.

Goodyear’s profile is superbly written (but what else would you expect, right?) and I want to read more of her work. Her writing is by far the most accessible of what I read this time around and the only reason I was able to finish the article was because of that accessibility. But jeez, the subject.

In the end James Cameron shows himself to be sort of douchey. I’ll probably seeAvatar, though.

Number of times scuba diving is mentioned: 6

Best moment:

“Hamilton was going to get scuba-certified, but the relationship unraveled too rapidly for that.”

Flotsam and Jetsam

•Cameron has been married five times.

•O.J. Simpson was in consideration for the role of the terminator.

•Cameron is a member of the Mars Society—an organization that advocates the human exploration and settlement of the planet.

•Cameron has a piece of shrapnel in his forearm, a souvenir from the Terminator 2 shoot.

The New Yorker: Volume LXXXV, NO. 34, October 26, 2009 reduce to atoms or fine particles (break apart; fragment; separate; disperse; scatter).

“This may be a fine time for hip-hop to atomize.”

ejectives n. voiceless consonants that are produced with simultaneous closure of the glottis.

“On cue, the actors began to make strange trilling sounds, ejectives and glottal stops and rolled ‘r’s: Na’vi.”

extremophilesn. “organisms that thrive in environments toxic to most life forms.”

gnomicadj. of, consisting of, or using aphorisms; sententious.

“Scruggly samples from soul records and rapid, gnomic bundles of rhymes about drug-selling and agitated encounters.”

hewingv. conform, adhere.

“The hole was steep and accurate, hewing to the spray-painted plan still visible in two corners where the lines of paint, meeting, had pooled and blurred.”

intransigencen. the quality or state of being intransigent. <--not helpful. (intransigent • adj. uncompromising; stubborn)

“She won’t leave, and the official finds himself increasingly respectful of her intransigence—and so does Kazan.”

irremediablyadv. that cannot be remedied.

“What he means isn’t just that that real-life case was a bad one but that it drew irremediably bad publicity.”

klaxonn. a type of loud horn formerly used on motor vehicles.

“He signs his missives ‘Jim out,’ and, when he’s working, a deep mechanical roar, like a Navy klaxon, summons him to the stage.”

metonymyn. a figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated.

“Hollywood metonymy for female characters is ‘handbags,’ also known as ‘girlfriend parts’—in other words, incidental sidekicks.”

noisomeadj. 1 harmful; noxious 2 evil smelling.

“What is more, the savagery that has earned the film its noisome reputation begins only after she has announced, ‘I’m cured, I’m fine.’”

Pilobolusn. a genus of fungi that commonly grows on herbivore dung.

“Zoe Saldana, who plays Neytiri stood among a group of actors wearing black unitards covered with reflective white dots : a retro vision of the computer age, Pilobolus style.”

preemptionn. acquisition by one person or party before the opportunity is offered to others.

“It made an effective preemption of any indigenous neighborhood protest, an easy trump.”

prelapsarianadj. characteristic of or belong to the time or state before the fall of humankind.

“Call me fanciful, but I think the name is on the loaded side, for it is here that the fall of man and the collapse of woman take place, and where the landscape . . . looks anything but prelapsarian.”

turbidadj. 1 muddy; thick; not clear 2 (of a style, etc.) confused; disordered.

“The director James Cameron is six feet two and fair, with paper-white hair and turbid blue-green eyes.”