Thursday, July 29, 2010

Upton Sinclair does NOT approve of your hot girl-on-girl action, he will tell you that much.

We have seen during the last ten years an endless procession of plays on Broadway, illustrating the methods of committing every conceivable crime; . . . we have become intimately acquainted with parricide, incest, and sadism, and the whole index of "Psychopathia Sexualis." There is nothing left but the rarer and more obscure forms of abnormality; and so this winter we see the sensational success of three plays dealing with "Lesbian love," and drama courses in young ladies' finishing schools in New York now include an explanation of what this is and how it works [CITATION NEEDED], and it really has high cultural value, being history and psychology and aesthetics as well as drama, and the very latest thing--yes, old dear, they say it was a Russian ambassador's daughter who made it fashionable in this country, and taught it to the daughter of a president, and he had to marry her off in a hurry.
--Money Writes!

One is reminded ineluctably of this.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Duck Comics: "Kitty-Go-Round"

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tips from Truck Drivers

Here's a thing that's funny, and it's kind of unfortunate that it's funny, but what am I supposed to DO about it? It is what it is. When the first line of an article reads "As far as retired truck driver Carl Barlet is concerned, the government is broken," you immediately think you're reading The Onion. Don't try to deny it.

Actually, I cannot argue with the basic thesis, but retired truck driver Carl Barlet seems to have a perhaps overly heterogeneous idea of what exactly is wrong with The Government. To wit:

1. We need solar energy.

2. Taxes are too high.

3. We have too many representatives.

4. All of these representatives have houses.

5. A middle school building is being turned into an administration building.

It's unfortunate that it's funny, however, because on a less superficial level, it's really not funny at all. People like Barlet sense, correctly, that something is fundamentally wrong with the country, the world, our lives--but, fully immersed in the capitalist system that is really to blame for our alienation, they have no critical framework from which to even begin to conceptualize what this "something" is; thus, this angst manifests itself in weird, incoherent ways like this. And thus, this nation will never improve in the fundamental ways it NEEDS to improve, because off we go, chasing after phantasms, not realizing that they're just distractions, while the real issues remain untouched, ever-present but totally intangible, like oxygen.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Not-Duck Comics: Floyd Gottfredson Library!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Duck Comics: "The Mysterious Crewless Ship"

Friday, July 23, 2010

The piper calls out a different rhyme/He cracks the whip and we step in time

Looking at Wikipedia pages for minor league baseball teams, as one does, I came across this one, for the Lakewood BlueClaws. It has clearly been heavily modified by some extreme BlueClaws fan, judging by the excessively specific information about attendance levels and promotions and like that. Like what? Like this:

On February 17, 2009, the Lakewood BlueClaws announced that instead of doing just Monday Kids Eat Free presented by ShopRite, they will be doing Kids Eat Free every game of the 2009 season. All children under the age of 12 will be presented with a voucher for a free hot dog, bag of chips, and fountain drink as they enter the gates.

If you crammed the page of every minor league team with all the minutiae of every one of their endless cheesy promotions, you would very soon have countless thousands of words, none of which would be of any use to anyone except possibly future historians trying to piece together what the quintessential minor league experience was like. This bit stands out:

Each season a group of fans choose one person on the BlueClaws to cheer for, and in 2008, these fans chose third baseman Travis "Moose" Mattair. These fans, who called themselves "Mooseketeers" in reference to Mattair's childhood nickname, cheered loudly for both Mattair and the team in general. They are known for displaying homemade signs and jerseys, and their novelty moose hats were a regular fixture at FirstEnergy Park throughout the 2008 season.

The details of the promotions are pointless, but at least they're official things that presumably happened. Whereas I have to ask: was ANYONE aside from this small group of fans themselves even aware that this cheering section existed? What is anyone possibly supposed to DO with this knowledge? And does it actually count as history--as opposed to just data, like everything is--if nobody knows about it and it's totally unverifiable? The question of what Wikipedia is actually supposed to BE looms large here.

Here's something that happened at a Crosscutters game this evening that will never appear on the Wikipedia page (unless someone takes this blog post as a dare), but could, by BlueClaws standards.

There's this teenage kid that you often see in the stands. He is evidently mildly (but only mildly) developmentally disabled. He's always been fairly voluble, shouting "YEAH!" anytime any Cutters player hits a ball, even if it's obviously a foul or an easy pop fly. He also likes to pump his hands in the air to the chants and things that they run over the loudspeakers.

Today, for whatever reason, he was in an unusually manic mood. He was constantly on his feet "dancing" (which consisted of the usual hand-pumping thing while standing), and he was loudly exhorting everyone around him to dance, because, as he explained, you need to dance so the Cutters can win. At first, everyone regarded him with tolerant bemusement, but by halfway through the game, he had a few dozen people in the back of the stands entirely wrapped around his finger, leading them in dancing and clapping and singling out ("Hey! You in the gray hat!") people who were not being sufficiently enthusiastic, with which singlings-out his followers would loudly agree. His section of the stadium was very noticeably louder than any other section. He could have started his own little cult had he been so inclined.

It was Mexican Stereotype Night at the ballpark, meaning people in sombreros and cheesy mariachi music and like that. After the seventh inning, they had a thing where the Cutters' interns went out onto the field and danced to the Macarena. This was not meant to be a fan-participation thing, but our young svengali dashed out into the field and danced with the interns. He wasn't in any way attempting to do the Macarena, mind you; he was doing his usual dance, to the inaudible-to-most music of Pan. This was probably technically grounds for ejection from the ballpark, but that was obviously not gonna happen. The interns clearly thought he was pretty awesome, which he was.

The game was a rout; the Cutters won 7-0. I like to think that this is no coincidence.

Coming Soon: Sartor Resartus with Dracoliches, just 'cause we CAN.

Look, credit where credit's due: when Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was first announced, it was at least a clever idea. You might not actually have wanted to read the book (I certainly didn't), but you could at least forward the press release to friends for mild laffs. So fine--I don't begrudge the originator of that idea his initial success.

But then...the publisher--and other publishers hoping to get in on some easy cash--just. Wouldn't. Stop. And this is where things get ugly. Here is a list of ACTUAL FUCKING BOOKS that you can ACTUALLY FUCKING BUY, assuming you're an ACTUAL FUCKING JACKASS:

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
Mansfield Park and Mummies
Emma and the Werewolves
Android Karenina
Jame Slayre
The Undead World of Oz
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim
Alice in Zombieland
Little Women and Werewolves
Romeo and Juliet and Vampires
The War of the Worlds Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies (talk about gilding the lily...)

Now, as a postmodernist, I can only complain so much about the concept. I think it's a pretty terrible one, yes, but hey--pastiche is a major characteristic of the moment, and if someone has a serious artistic Vision that involves mashing together literary texts with gothic horror tropes--well, who am I to naysay?

But that's really beside the point, isn't it? Because who thinks that's what's going on here? All these books were published within a year and a half of P&P&Z in a desperate and cynical cash-grab.

Now granted, we need to keep thing in perspective; as depredations of capitalism go, this is penny-ante stuff compared to oil spills and for-profit health insurance.

BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN IT DOESN'T ANNOY THE FUCK OUT OF ME. Because it is transparently obvious that this isn't done out of respect, let alone love: all of this is suffused with thick layers of self-satisfied irony. "Ha ha, look at me, look at how clever I am, doing this thing that has been done over and over and over; isn't it so totally crazy and random?" The entire enterprise is choked with a thick miasma of nauseous, sickly-green smugness. As in: "we're so cool and detached and ironic. We don't take anything seriously, and in fact don't even recognize a difference between serious and not. Look--a classic thing, but now with a hilarious undead twist! It's funny because it's so antithetical to the original in every way!" And, of course, all this done in the most relentlessly witless way possible. That Huckleberry Finn one has a subtitle, and that subtitle is: "Mark Twain's Classic with Crazy Zombie Goodness." If that doesn't make you want to engage in some vigorous throat-punching…well, you and I are very different people, is all I'll say.

In short, the authors of this idiocy are drunken fratboys who think it's hilarious to buy a dragon fruit at Ten PM on a Friday. And so are the readers, for that matter, assuming there ARE any readers. My god, how scrambled in the head do you have to BE to need all your literature filtered through a layer of weak internet-meme-level humor? And Jesus Christ, Anna Karenina? The mind reels just thinking of the level of devotion to one's self-image as self-consciously-jaded hipster that one would need to have to actually get all the way through a HIGH-larious remixed version of a thick Russian novel. I mean, you're sure not impressing anyone ELSE, so you'd sure as hell better be impressing YOURSELF. And you CANNOT convince me that you're NOT reading ironically, because I refuse to believe that anyone would unironically think that Tolstoy's masterpiece would benefit from stupid, bolted-on science-fiction elements.

I'm just glad that most of my preferred literature is safely within copyright. V. Vs. Vampires would result in a truly spectacular display of violence. Though given the postmodern's eager embrace of "low" culture, such a thing would probably just be redundant anyway.

To end on a less jaundiced note, if you clicked on the above link, you were exposed to Subnormality, which is the best webcomic I know (which is to say, the best (current) comic I know) by some margin. Most provide fleeting amusement at most, but this one is, to put it as clearly as I can, the real shit. You should read it assiduously.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Duck Comics: "Duck in Orbit"

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A bit...on the nose, wouldn't you say?

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I pasted in three different blog posts and got the same result. By contrast, I tried a few paragraphs from my nascent dissertation--written in a completely different register than I use here, obviously--and got...HP Lovecraft. The jokes just write themselves.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Duck Comics: Daisy Duck's Diary

And in other tales of morally dubious celebrities... 'bout Mel Gibson, eh? Of course, it would be better if famous people WOULDN'T reveal themselves to be insane racists/anti-Semites/misogynists, but is it bad of me to be glad that, if it HAD to happen, the star was Mr. Jesus-Torture-Porn? If so, I don't wanna be good. I'd love to see its Family Values Brigade fanbase react to this--though, if they do so at all, presumably it'll just be by suddenly going all new-criticism on us. That's no fun.

The best part of that audio (for a cynical definition of "best," admittedly) is the part where he starts ranting about how his ex-girlfriends breasts "look stupid"--really, the whole thing reveals him to have the mindset of a particularly malevolent toddler, but just the way he pronounces that, like a contemptuously bored valley girl, really just says all that needs to be said about this creep.

I would pledge to boycott his movies or some shit, but I don't think he's ever made a movie I'd want to see ANYWAY. Foiled again!

PS. As a vile, leftist bleeding-heart type, I have to concede the possibility that Gibson may have genuinely suffered some sort of psychotic break, in which case one should, I suppose, have a measure of sympathy for him--though if you wanna take that to its logical limit, you reach the point where you can't blame anyone for ANYTHING. Anyway, even if this is true, the hatefulness surely didn't come out of nowhere--I'm pretty sure that if *I* suddenly lost my mind, I wouldn't start fulminating about how much I hate women and minorities.

I am going to make a bold, courageous statement here.

I don't think Roman Polanski should just get away with child rape scot-free. At this time, I would ask that you please stand back and admire my moral courage.

Now, it's true that compared with the massive fucking malfeasance that goes on unpunished--encouraged, even--in this country every damn day, Polanski's offense--especially since it's such an OLD offense--seems rather picayune, and if THAT'S not a gruesome commentary on our times, I don't know what is. Still. Letting him get away with a really awful crime just plays into and reinforces the narrative: you can get away with absolutely ANYTHING if you have sufficient wealth, power, and/or celebrity. Roman Polanski rapes a thirteen-year-old, Tony Hayward rapes an ecosystem; whatever, it's all good! Punishing Polanski may seem like small beans compared to more global rapists like Hayward, but by encouraging the narrative to persist like this, we're encouraging the truth BEHIND the narrative, in however small a way. And...well, you know my politics; they are NOT such that I think this is a good thing, and I'm surprised that there are people of a leftish persuasion who apparently think it IS, or at least don't mind it enough for it to stop them from defend Polanski on vague aesthetic grounds. Dudes, you know I believe in the transcendent character of art, but this kind of exceptionalism will not fly, no matter WHERE it's coming from. Robert Brasillach was a novelist. He was executed for being a Nazi collaborator. I doubt that causes you a great deal of moral indignation (not that I approve of capital punishment, of course, but that's not really the point). So fermez la bouche!

That said, fuck, man, if he's going to get off scot-free and there's nothing we can do about it, I feel like it is TOTALLY FUCKING INCUMBENT on him to justify his continued freedom to whatever limited extent he can by making some really great movies. Seems only fair.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Jack Chick has betrayed us all.

So I wrote a post about this new Chick tract. It was a long and irritated post, and the main point of it was to lacerate ChickCo for completely fucking selling out. The central thesis was that they might be nutjobs, but there was no evidence until now that they were cynical nutjobs. If they got popular support, great; but it they didn't, it didn't matter--come hell or high water, they were gonna bring you the TRUTH about Papacy, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, Islam, Animism, gayness, Halloween, Dungeons and Dragons, and Devil Music, and if you didn't like it, tough shit--they knew what was right and what was wrong and they weren't gonna make any special effort to be more appealing to the likes of you.

And then we have THIS embarrassment, in which the actual Christ-y aspect takes second place to ranting about "socialism," and in which the paranoid fever dreams of teabagging Glenn Beck fans are cravenly pandered to. I compared it to "The Last Generation," which features an insane endtimes scenario that is actually in keeping with the general ChickCo philosophy, and I noted that I had never before seen a tract--that I can recall--in which the putative Christians actually resorted to violence and this was represented as a good thing, which I had to admit was actually kind of admirable. I also noted that they appeared to be fighting and dying in the name of capitalism rather than Christ, which would seem to rather defeat the point. For all their faults, I honestly never thought of the Chickster as worshipping supply-side-Jesus.

There's nothing wrong with trying to reach different demographics, I noted, but when the central message is completely distorted and basically sold out to do so--well, then you have a problem. I concluded by noting that, to my great surprise, I was actually, genuinely disappointed with ChickCo. In spite of the fact that I always read their shit ironically, apparently I had, without knowing it, developed a degree of respect for their warped integrity, which was now utterly shattered.

Then, I looked again and saw that "The Poor Revolutionist" was listed as being re-released, rather than new. Then, I did a little googling and found that it was originally released in 1972, making it one of the earliest tracts. Then, I got REALLY FUCKING ANNOYED because, bam, there went my entire thesis.

Still, it is interesting to note the extent to which our fringey rhetoric is the same as it's ever been. All the talking points feel like perfectly contemporary wingnuttery. Even the fact that the evil communorevolutionists are longhairs doesn't seem out of place, since our culture warriors are still, tiresomely, stuck in the sixties (note their bizarre fixation with Saul Alinsky, a man who died--how's this for a gruesome confluence?--the same year this tract came out).

Of course, the pandering to which I referred isn't completely irrelevant--it's pretty obvious that the reason the tract's being rereleased now is entirely because the rhetoric is such a perfect fit for our teabagging friends. Personally, I think I would not want to publicize the fact that I had written a dire warning about something that never even came slightly close to happening--but I guess the crazy can't be entirely eliminated from the equation. Still seems like a bad move, however. If this had been left in the dim recesses of the past, you could overlook its unfortunate tone by suggesting, plausibly, that Jack hadn't really found his voice yet. This is also undermined by, uh, stuff like this:

Jew could possibly be in charge of this revolution? I just can't figure it out! Anti-semitism is surprisingly rare in Chick tracts, given that anti-everything-else is all the fuck OVER the place, but this is pretty much right in the open. Could be another sign of nothing more than immaturity. I suppose if this were written today, this dude would be made into one of those dreaded Sons of Mahomet, and they'd be trying to inflict Islamocommunism on the country, which, as we all know, is the worst kind.

But whatever the case, fuck, man--they rereleased the goddamn thing. So they have to stand by it.

Still, look on the bright side: if it hadn't been, we would have been denied the deathless line "Oh man, this is awesome! He's killing his own brother!" accompanied by the stylings of the dreaded Folksinger. What are they up to, with those suspiciously acoustic guitars?


Friday, July 09, 2010

The Berenstain Bears Get Their Kicks


I've been paying close attention the World Cup for the first time this year, and I'm definitely hooked. I love the rhythm, the low-scoring, and the cosmopolitanism. For the record, I'm rooting for Germany tomorrow and the Netherlands on Sunday. The former seems pretty safe; the latter, less so. I don't have any SUPER-strong feelings at this point, though. I'm just glad that a new team will be the winners. I was pretty heavily rooting for Ghana to be the first African team to go all the way (or even make it to the semifinals); Suarez's handball was certainly the right choice from a totally cynical risk-benefit perspective, and probably any team would have done it, but it was STILL cynical and sour, and the fact is, "any" team didn't do it--Uruguay did. So fuck 'em.

People are known to say things like "crud--the US needs to win the World Cup so that soccer will gain a cultural foothold hereabouts." I don't think that's a particularly sensical attitude to take, however. It's like voting for third-party candidates on the basis that that's how real change will come. Two problems: first, the candidate won't win, because she has built no kind of substantial base (if she WERE elected, it would mean that the US electorate had changed to such an extent that it wouldn't BE the "instant win" that so many hope for); and second, even if she somehow DID get in (clerical error?), given the political climate and makeup of Congress, she would be able to accomplish exactly NONE of her radical agenda--she'd be forced to make infuriating "compromises" just like everyone else.

Same thing for soccer--you can't just expect a non-soccer-oriented country like the US to just snag the top trophy in the sport (the top trophy in ANY sport, actually, and it doesn't MATTER if some Americans want to insist that the Super Bowl holds that title--they're objectively wrong). You've gotta build up interest. You've got to get to the point where kids play the sport obsessively with stars in their eyes, the way they do basketball and baseball. Fucked if I know where you start, but just leapfrogging to the top of the international ranks is a non-starter. And even if the US DID somehow win it all, you're fooling yourself if you think this would make Americans into super-massive soccer fans. Sure, it would increase interest to some extent, but again, without the infrastructure in place, what it would actually accomplish in the long term would be very limited.

I played youth soccer for one season because I had a bunch of friends who did it. This...did not go so well. I was an introverted kid, and I never developed any rapport with, or even tolerance for, my teammates (well, there was one kid who was sort of okay, if I recall aright--drop in the bucket, though). Also, I lacked the necessary aggression (among other things). The season was eleven games. We lost ten straight. I skipped out on the last one. That one, we (or "we") won. So it goes.

PS. Obviously you don't have to LIKE soccer, but you people who go on about "who cares about soccer? When do the REAL sports start?" are exactly what is wrong with this country, and you make me embarrassed to share a nationality with you.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Tree-huggin, peace-lovin, pot-smokin, porn-watchin, lazy-ass hippies like me

Today I witnessed a bumper sticker that said:

That mainly made me think of this, naturally. One might also make the observation that this is just another bit of evidence that wingnuttery is more a "fuck you" than any kind of coherent ideology, but, while true, that's too banal to be particularly interesting.

For a moment, let's pretend to naïvely take this sticker at face value and respond to it as such. I would have to say: Mr. Republican, while I understand the basic gist of what you're trying to get at here, your rhetorical technique leaves something to be desired. I personally meet three of your four criteria, and all of my friends--rather tautologically--either meet the same three or don't have any problem with people who do. So while "Republican" could potentially cause us to slip into insane blood-fugues, it really seems like, as far as provocations go, this one is remarkably inefficient and could easily be modified to be much more effective at its stated goal.

That's what I'd say were I to take the sticker at face value. But of course, that's not even remotely what's going on here. What Mr. Republican's nebulous hordes of easily-pissed-off liberals actually get upset about is people who believe that white, straight, and male are the default conditions, and that people who meet them should have primacy over people who don't. So the none-too-deep subtext here is that by being these things, Mr. Republican is in opposition to non-white, non-straight, non-male. In other words, this bumper sticker could easily be modified to read "Racist, homophobic, Republican misogynist" without losing any of the essential meaning.

BUT WAIT! It doesn't actually say "racist, homophobic, misogynist," so even though this is the obvious implication, you libruls are just over-sensitive, PeeSee, blahdy blah blah for thinking so! Ha! So it's a twofer! You can piss off the libruls by being a bigoted dickhead and piss them off by pretending to believe that they're just hypersensitive, unlike real American manly men. The fact that they know you're full of shit, you know they know, and they know you know they know just adds that extra frisson of delightful dickishness!

You know, that's awfully rhetorically tricky--albeit in a blunt-instrument kind of way--for people who claim to be regler jes foax, unlike them fancy-dan libruls an their hifalutin book-larnin. It's also awfully assholish for people who allege themselves to be followers of Christ. But, of course, as we've known for quite some time now, it's foolish to pretend to imagine that wingnuts actually believe anything they say, except on a sub-rational id level.