5/20/16

Donald Trump's The Art of the Deal (Ch. 1-3, Abridged): A Sonnet Sequence

Chapter 1. "Dealing: A Week in the Life"

I don’t do it for the money. I do
It do it to do it. Deals are my art
Form. I call Don Imus to thank him. I
Tell Imus he’s the greatest. But what the

Hell? I’ll wing it and things will work out. I’m
Not too big on parties, because I can’t
Stand small talk. I like the casino business.
My wife, Ivana, stops in to say good-bye.

I still give Ivana a hard time.
Ivana may be the most organized
Person I know. In reality, I’m not too likely
To get involved. This story just won’t quit.

I almost never stay up late enough
To watch Letterman, but I know he’s hot.

Chapter 2. "Trump Cards: The Elements of the Deal"

My style of deal-making is quite simple
And straightforward. It’s in the genes. I think
Of it almost as a controlled neurosis.
In fact, I believe in the power of

Negative thinking. Some people criticize
Stallone, but you’ve got to give him credit.
The other people I don’t take too seriously
Are the critics. If these critics

Ever tried to become developers,
They’d be terrible failures. It’s also
Nice to get good reviews. The dollar
Always talks in the end. I don’t kid myself.

By contrast, Bob Guccione of Penthouse
Has been trying for the past seven years.

Chapter 3. "Growing Up"

His story is classic Horatio
Alger. Instinctively, my father began
To think bigger. My parents had no
Pretensions. My father had never sheltered me.

I punched my music teacher because I
Didn’t think he knew anything about
Music and I almost got expelled. I’m
Not proud of that. I like to stir things up.

I flirted briefly with the idea of
Attending film school. But in the end I
Decided real estate was a much
Better business. We got rid of the bad tenants.

Looking back, I realize now that I got
Some of my sense of showmanship from my mother.

3/5/16

What I Imagine My Grandmother Imagines When She Thinks of Bernie Sanders Supporters

I can't wait 'til Bernie wins. Can't wait to live in a nation on the brink. I will don the uniform of khaki jodhpurs, heft the sickle, and join my non-Christian, sex-positive, trans-friendly, bi-flexible, ethnically indeterminate brothers and sisters in the ranks of the new national guard -- a million fingers on the iron hand, each guided by one will, all ready to fly with perfect, savage violence at the merest whim of Generalissimus Sanders.

In time, we fly. We serve our function, as a tool must. We fulfill the Will of the People: ecstatic, tireless, tantric stomping, a communal orgy of boots on necks: rich kid necks; executive necks; chiropractor necks; celebrity chef necks. Guy Fieri. Emeril Lagasse.

See the of methedrine-sharp special forces of our Red American Army, the Spetsnaz. Each man and woman -- don't ask, don't tell -- is an aristocrat hunter, the elite of elite. Each wears a humble yarn loop as a lanyard. Many lanyards dangle grotesque badges, worn proudly -- mostly ears, a few noses, stumpy and bloodstained. Some of us are more decorated than others. But we are one force, as a force of nature. We obey one law, as a natural law: Confiscate and Redistribute. Action and reaction. Storm clouds gather; rain falls.

Confiscate: So-called legal tender. Paper money. Commodities. Luxury goods. Needless things. The fetishes of Mammon. A dead mink coat from a professional decadent. An antique wristwatch from an angel investor. Italian frames from a psychiatrist's spectacles. Now public property. Clouds, waiting to break.

Onto my lanyard, I thread three fresh medals.

We take mansions. The man who owns, who dreams he owns, a palatial estate must be shocked back to consciousness. Cuff his hands and feet in the bathtub, turn the tap on as hot as you like, and add, like vegetables to soup stock, a dozen roof rats -- declawed or not, defanged or not, you choose. This is a deep bath -- sauna jets, space for two, decadent, ostentatious. I wish I could equip each rat's forelegs with water wings, tiny and rat-sized.

Rats are gifted swimmers. But I like the thought.

Power to the People. Down with Oligarchs. Kill Whitey.

Sanders / Farrakhan 2016.

2/28/16

#Idiocracy: still not a documentary, bro

So the screenwriter of Idiocracy, Etan Cohen (who is not Ethan Coen, though it's an easy mistake to make, and one that led me to believe for many years that one of the Coen brothers wrote episodes of King of the Hill), goes on twitter and he says,



He says this because Idiocracy is a sci-fi satire about a dystopian future where the President is stupid and everyone else is stupid, too, and he takes this counterfactual situation to parallel our current, actual situation because Donald Trump... and so forth. The tweet then gets picked up by lots of news outlets, who deem it newsworthy, and so it bombards my -- and perhaps your -- various social media feeds.

I would like to float the idea that this thing Etan Cohen said is significantly less clever than it seems to think it is, for at least a couple of reasons.

Let's start pedantic: Idiocracy is still not a documentary. And in fairness, Etan Cohen never actually says it is one, when he reports he never thought it would become one. But plausible deniability aside, I hope we can agree that documentaries are, by definition, about things that already happened. If you make a documentary about the future, you are a goddamn necromancer, or else an innocent Trojan woman gifted with the power of prophecy, but also cursed never to be believed, by the god Apollo, as punishment for refusing to sleep with the god Apollo, which is the actual-mythical story of Cassandra of Troy, whose generally situation is pretty amazingly captured by the FML expression on Frederick Sandys's "Cassandra":
And to characterize a prophetic foretelling of imminent catastrophe as "a documentary" is to bury the lede, i.e., that you are a wizard or a witch or at any rate have special and probably sacred powers with which we all must reckon.

If this quibbling over definitions seems humorlessly literal, recall the words of our late philosopher-laureate, Mitch Hedberg:
Idiocracy was made in the mid-2000s, at which point, of course, the President of These United States was a Rhodes fucking Scholar named George W. Bush, who nicknamed his Chief of Staff "Turd Blossom," and whose education platform included the lapidary insight, "Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?" and who once rehearsed in public the timeless folk axiom, "Fool me once, shame on... shame on you. Fool me... You can't get fooled again." (Disclosure: George W. Bush was not a Rhodes Scholar.) This was nearly as stupid as that time, a rough decade before, our whole national consciousness was embroiled in a controversy that centered on a President's penis,

which in turn was about as stupid as the time, another rough decade before, a President went on television and said, "A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not." Ronald Reagan was King Truthiness.

This nation's political thunderdome has survived idiots of every conceivable stripe doing stupid shit in every imaginable flavor and variety. It is either hubris or laziness to imagine that we have reached Peak Idiot. I feel confident in saying this because, for instance, in 1790, a bipartisan committee resolved that any attempt by Congress "to attempt to manumit" slaves, or anyone who might become a slave by importation or birth, was unconstitutional until 1808. They decided that, in other words, not only was slavery legal and constitutional, but that trying to make slavery illegal was unconstitutional. Isn't that just too stupid? In 1910, to take another example, when a black boxer named Jack Johnson beat a white boxer named Jim Jeffries, white people were so angry that they rioted in more than 50 U.S. cities, and killed dozens of black people for some reason that at the time must have seemed to them very compelling.
These were monumentally stupid times to be alive. There have perhaps been stupider. There will surely be stupider still.

But maybe the knee-jerk anti-populism that says "we're dumber now than we've ever been before!" is the smart set's apocalypse, the cynical flipside of the grimly optimistic (and, to me, entirely unintelligible) compulsion to
Make America Great Like It Used to Be: slavery Civil War Jim Crowe, you know the routine of national triumphs, uninterrupted until 1999 at least. Great like when our first generation of truly gifted robber barons bought, bribed, and grifted themselves into heritable monopolies on steel and oil and infrastructure and then named universities (Vanderbilt!) and concert halls (Carnegie!) and urban palaces (the proto-Trump, Rockefeller!) after themselves so we would remember them fondly for fucking us forever.
"Merry Christmas! We own everything!" -the Rockefellers
Or the First Great War, or Prohibition, or else the Great Depression. Or when we took vengeance on the Japanese military by atomically bombing the Japanese citizenry. Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia. MLK, JFK, RFK. Watergate! Watts and Harlem. Stagflation. Gordon Gecko. The Iran Contra, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq again. Just the very highest highs, the stuff of which a million chants of "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" have been built, like great choral pyramids, ascending to the heavens.

For decency's sake, let's not let the stupidity of our current situation, which is ample but not unprecedented, blind us to the truly revolutionary thing about democracy: it makes stupidity -- yours, mine, anybody's -- politically viable, even vital. Here's something Gordon Wood -- to historian Will Hunting mocks that ponytail goober for regurgitating in the Harvard bar -- said, a thing I really quite like, about what Americans realized when they thought about what they had wrought: “If men were all alike, equal in their rights and in their interestedness, then there were no specially qualified gentlemen who stood apart from the whole society with a superior and disinterested perspective. All people were the same: all were ordinary and all were best represented by ordinary people. That was democracy." As if to say, What a wonderful mistake we have made!

Then again, we don't live in a democracy. We live in a republic, where representative leaders are supposed to be chosen from the "natural aristocracy of talent," the common pool of our best and brightest. So maybe we're totally fucked. I dunno. I drank too much coffee for dinner.

6/26/14

Ann Coulter is not so much wrong as stupid about soccer

Responding to Ann Coulter is like what shooting fish in a barrel would be like if fish were immortal and guns had no effect on them: easy but pointless; fun for a second, but ultimately futile. Every inch of her is covered with the criticism-resistant armor of narcissism, Teflon-grade shamelessness, Kevlar-quality self-confidence so unearned as to be unfathomable. She just wrote a terrible article, bizarrely divided into a series of bullet points, about soccer. Now look -- I don't care if people don't like soccer. I don't care if people don't like anything. Unless people don't like the things they don't like in the style of assholes. I don't like Ann Coulter. I don't like her so much it makes me an asshole. She sucks me into this wormhole of loathing where I loathe her so much that it makes me loathe myself. It's like all your bullets ricochet off the impervious fish and caromb around the room before lodging in your own ass.

So, in a sisyphean exercise in trying to get to the bottom of what I don't like about myself for not liking Ann Coulter, here is what I can't stand about this fucking silly Ann Coulter article.

According to Ann Coulter,

  • In soccer, the blame is dispersed and almost no one scores anyway. There are no heroes, no losers, no accountability, and no child's fragile self-esteem is bruised.
Ann Coulter is crazy, here, in two distinct ways. First, the point of "team sports" is not, primarily, "individual glory" and the ruthless gutting of losers and the goats who it fuck up for everybody else. Sure, this is a part of sports, but if what you're looking for is one man left holding the bag, then individual sports are the sports for you -- and I'm not sure Ann Coulter is ready to get on board with tennis, boxing, amateur wrestling, or golf, where the athlete is actually alone in responsibility and glory. And yet, she keeps making recourse to football, of all things -- just about the most tightly orchestrated, highly organized team sport there is, and the only sport where every player has to line up in a line and stand totally still in exactly the position mandated by the rules until the leader-player says a word, at which point every player takes precisely as many steps as were diagrammed for them by the middle-management, a bourgeois class of coaches whose iron-fisted control over the player's movements is positively Stalinist.

More importantly, there is -- in point of fact -- an almost lunatic level of individual accountability in soccer, and especially soccer at the international level. Most famously, in 1994, Columbia defender Andrés Escobar was murdered after he scored an own-goal in the World Cup. He accidentally kicked the ball into his team's net, and he was murdered for it. Not only is soccer absolutely chock-full of personal responsibility, it is so chock-full of personal responsibility as to be, all too often, morally indefensible and repugnant.

But Coulter wants more! Way more.
  • The prospect of either personal humiliation or major injury is required to count as a sport. Most sports are sublimated warfare. As Lady Thatcher reportedly said after Germany had beaten England in some major soccer game: Don't worry. After all, twice in this century we beat them at their national game.
This is incoherent. The implication seems to be that personal humiliation and major injury are not part of soccer, which is on both counts demonstrably false. But then Coulter argues that most sports are sublimated warfare, and to prove it, she offers the example that soccer is, in fact, a form of sublimated warfare. 
  • Baseball and basketball present a constant threat of personal disgrace. In hockey, there are three or four fights a game — and it's not a stroll on beach to be on ice with a puck flying around at 100 miles per hour. After a football game, ambulances carry off the wounded. After a soccer game, every player gets a ribbon and a juice box.
This is, quite possibly, the least sufficient metric imaginable for evaluating the merit of an athletic contest. You know what else offers the constant threat of personal disgrace and violence? ABC's WipeOut. NBC's Fear Factor. Coulter's weird, atavistic bloodlust is precisely what's supposed to be sublimated out of warfare. Otherwise we've got the Roman Coliseum with its lion-eating Christians and Russell Crowes screaming "Are you not entertained?!" 

In 1962, welterweight champion Benny Paret called Emile Griffith a "marricone" (faggot) before their third fight. Griffith -- who was gay, but not exactly out, being as he was a professional athlete in the 1960s -- was humiliated. In the twelfth round, Griffith hammered Paret with dozens of unanswered headshots, including 18 punches in 6 seconds while Paret was slumped against the turnbuckle, unmoving and unresponsive. After ten days in a coma, Paret died. The fight was broadcast on ABC. Millions of people watched Benny Paret get pummeled to death by a man he had humiliated.

These are not the things we want in sports.

Any increasing interest in sports that lead to this kind of pain, shame, and death can only be a sign of the nation's moral decay. 

Junior Seau was one of the "wounded" casualties after hundreds of the professional football games he played in. According to Seau's teammate and friend, Aaron Turner, "Any time you play a sport that requires an ambulance to be on-site, it's inherently a fucking dangerous game, right? 'Getting your bell rung' was the euphemism, and I think we all took pride in it. If you didn't light somebody up or get lit up in a collision, there was a sense that we weren't doing our jobs." After years of depression and insomnia, Junior Seau shot himself to death. Researchers who studied his brain discovered definitive signs of CTE, a degenerative neurological condition caused by repetitive head trauma. The fucking terrifying symptoms CTE include "memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, suicidality, parkinsonism, and eventually progressive dementia." 

Why does this woman want more things like this to happen? 

Why is she so callous?

This isn't exactly a rhetorical question. My (admittedly speculative) guess is that she's kind of a fucking sociopath who gets off on the bad feelings, pain, and shame of other people -- especially strangers. I'm not being intolerant, here -- it's not that I don't tolerate people like Coulter so much as I'm grimly fascinated and baffled and a little repulsed by them. They have the right to exist. They're just so... gross

When Ann Coulter doesn't like something, that thing is immoral and un-American. That means Ann Coulter's caprices, tastes, and predilections are, for Ann Coulter, the guiding lights of Americanness. The biggest supposed problem with soccer -- the refrain that has droned on and on, to incredibly boring effect -- is that soccer is boring. 
  • Do they even have MVPs in soccer? Everyone just runs up and down the field and, every once in a while, a ball accidentally goes in. That's when we're supposed to go wild. I'm already asleep.
They do have MVPs in soccer. In fact, there is a fairly clear consensus on the greatest players of all time. It goes:
  1. Pelé
  2. Diego Marradona
The ball only seems to go in accidentally because Coulter doesn't know what she's watching; her criticism is basically similar in spirit to those people who think baseball is boring because they don't know what's going on when they watch it, or those people who think calculus is boring because they don't know how to do it. There's nothing wrong with thinking either of these two things, in my view, until you try to foist them on other people like you're Jesus sermonizing on the fucking Mount.

Actually, maybe the best analogy for Coulter's view of soccer is a non-gambler's view of poker: "What's the point, it's all random luck, nobody has any idea what's going on and it's just a chaos of numbers." Except Stu Ungar won the World Series of Poker 3 times and made probably $30 million dollars playing cards in his career. 

There's actually a name for this kind of uninitiated disdain -- the Dunning Kruger Effect. In the most basic terms, what happens is: a person who is shit, and has no idea what it takes to be good, at something assumes it can't be that hard. My mom, for instance, whom I love very much, insists that no NBA basketball player should ever miss a free-throw, because they're "free points." She has, god love her, absolutely no flying fucking idea what on earth she's talking about, and absolutely no conception of what a mind-bendingly difficult thing she is witnessing every time she sees anyone make any shot in front of 20,000 screaming assholes. 

But having no idea what the fuck she's talking about is, for Coulter, a badge. It's a credential of her Americanness. Ann Coulter, to quote Chris Rock, loves to not know. Not knowing anything about soccer lets Ann Coulter feel superior to it, even though Ann Coulter, of all people, shouldn't feel superior to anything in the world for any reason.

Here's a complete sentence from Coulter's article, one of the coffin nails she uses to shore up her case against the beautiful game:
  • It's foreign.
Point of fact, soccer from England. But the point isn't the origin, for Coulter. Foreignness is a class- and race-based criteria for discrimination: you know who to hate by knowing what they like! After all: 
  • If more "Americans" are watching soccer today, it's only because of the demographic switch effected by Teddy Kennedy's 1965 immigration law. I promise you: No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer. One can only hope that, in addition to learning English, these new Americans will drop their soccer fetish with time.
Liking soccer is a cultural aberration that will be boiled off in the melting pot. A fondness for soccer is, in fact, incompatible with being a Real American. The same way you know a computer isn't a person because it fails the Turing Test, you know a person isn't a Real American because they like the most popular game in the world. To be a Real American, you have to love watching Real Men (never women) play HARD-HITTING, PHYSICAL games... or baseball. 

One of the awesomest parts of Coulter's unwound rant is her oblique takedown of the metric system. 
  • Soccer is like the metric system, which liberals also adore because it's European. Naturally, the metric system emerged from the French Revolution, during the brief intervals when they weren't committing mass murder by guillotine.

    Despite being subjected to Chinese-style brainwashing in the public schools to use centimeters and Celsius, ask any American for the temperature, and he'll say something like "70 degrees." Ask how far Boston is from New York City, he'll say it's about 200 miles.

    Liberals get angry and tell us that the metric system is more "rational" than the measurements everyone understands. This is ridiculous. An inch is the width of a man's thumb, a foot the length of his foot, a yard the length of his belt. That's easy to visualize. How do you visualize 147.2 centimeters?
The switcheroo is precious. "Liberals get angry" and say the metric system is "more 'rational,'" but that's "ridiculous," because the real reason they like it is because "it's European." Liberals are under the weirdly hybrid thrall of "Chinese-style" social engineering and "European," I don't know, anarchism? Constitutional Democracy? The failed project of Revolutionary violence and terror? Whatever it is, it can't be good! But don't sweat it, because "any American" uses the U.S. system of measures, despite the fact that it is actually a holdover from provincial, pre-Enlightenment Europe. 

Seriously, check out the wikipedia article for the foot. The foot, which is as long as a man's foot, is clearly more rational than a universal standard of measure: "Historically the foot, which was used in Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, England, Scotland and many Continental European countries and which varied from country to country and in some cases from city to city, was part local systems of units. Its length was usually between 250 mm and 335 mm and was generally, but not always, subdivided into 12 inches or 16 digits." Which is why architects, carpenters, and civil engineers never go anywhere without "a man's thumb," "his foot," and a "belt." Because they really want to get things exactly right.

Seriously, though, what do people see in Ann Coulter? She's like your college friend's girlfriend whose appeal you just can't fathom, but your friend is like "dude, she's a completely different person when we're alone together," except there is no "alone together" version of Ann Coulter -- she is just, purely and simply, this awful ipecac dram of a public persona. Go away, Ann Coulter. In the immortal words of Edward Albee, you make me puke.

4/11/14

L'esprit de l'escalier

In some ways the most interesting people to deal with, for me, are the ones whose two most pronounced feelings towards me are, so far as I can tell, disdain and fear.


They are interesting, partly, because whenever I see them, it's a surprise to both of us -- we rarely plan to meet up, these people I scare and disgust -- and the way they choose to cope with the situation is by very, very studiously ignoring me. You know, the kind of ignoring that takes way more concentration than actually paying attention to someone -- making sure you're always keeping them in your peripherals so you can make sure you never actually have to focus on them.

There's a girl I had a crush on for like ten minutes a year ago. I don't know her very well. She seems very nice. Point of fact, I really don't know her at all. She's charming, and that's usually good enough for me. The barebones backstory here is that, the day after I met her, I asked her out via facebook message; she responded guardedly but not forbiddingly; and then I didn't respond for like a year, during which year we basically didn't interact with one another because MEN ARE FROM MARS AMIRIGHT, though when we ran into each other was generally polite and decorous, if sort of tense, because MEN ARE FROM MARS AMIRIGHT. Then, one day, I had a very bad day indeed, and a very unpleasant conversation, during which conversation I had a couple of beers. When I got home, I saw that she had liked something I had written on the facebook machine, which she had never done before. And I thought to myself -- though I reserve the right to disown this whole line of thought with the benefit of hindsight -- well, that was nice of her and makes me feel good; I will write her a message to make her feel good about herself! 

The effect of the message I wrote seems to have been precisely the opposite of that intended. Though I will not analyze why this is the case, I will include, in its entirety, the message itself, to enable the armchair diagnosis (and assuage the curiosity) of the reader:
Hey [redacted]. I'm writing to say that, when the above exchange happened, almost a year ago, I was asking you out because I totally thought you were rad, and also completely adorable. I didn't respond because it made me anxious, because I thought that it was totally sweet and also completely unexpected that you did respond, and frankly I just kind of savored it and didn't want to screw it up. I am writing now to say that -- while I don't think you should ever go out with me, because you are way too pretty for me, and I'm not stupid -- it remains the case that you are totally rad, and every time I see you I'm like, wow, she's awesome and adorable, and also says really interesting things. All I'm trying to do, here, is acknowledge your objective level of radness. Well played, and be well, and good day!
I imagine you can see how the good-hearted but somewhat vertiginous and swirling motives in back of this missive could, depending on the recipient, make it fly astray and hit the "I am confused and he is a stalker what the fuck" part of the brain instead of the "Aw what a nice little unremembered act of kindness and of love" part of the heart. 

Anyway, the upshot of this message is that I cannot have an interaction with [redacted], now, that does not result in:
  1. Her just stone-cold, straight-up ignoring me
  2. My feelings being hurt
  3. Me giggling uncontrollably right after it's over
Once, for example, while she was studying in the lounge, I walked in through the door directly behind her and said "Hey!" She reflexively said "Hey!" back. But then, when turned around and saw it was me who had said "Hey!" the automatic affectation of good humor and camaraderie just instantly crumbled out of her face and her posture, and she swiveled back to scowl at her laptop with an unbreakable focus until I left the room. I had had every intention of sitting in the lounge and reading (in the chairs, incidentally, directly in the path of what would have been her sightline if she had looked up from the screenglow) but it seemed too much like social terrorism, so I just pretended to look in my mailbox -- which has not actually contained mail for something like two years -- and bolted. And then, I collapsed into a chortling heap in the hallway. And, at the same time, felt like a real piece of shit.

Today, on the other hand, I was sitting in the lounge reading, headphones over one ear the way I do sometimes when I would rather interact with people than a musty old book, when she walked in. I gave her the ol' reflexive "Hey!" greeting and it was met with -- or rather, I guess, decidedly not met with -- the contemptuous silence one associates with the caste system in India, or the treasurer of the A/V Club trying to get a ride home from the homecoming queen. 

So why is this funny, to me?

Because this reaction -- this posture of obviously counterfeit zenlike disinterest -- presents to the ignored party an absolute ocean of possibilities, simply because, when it's so obvious that someone is paying painfully close attention to you, but so obviously does not want to be paying any attention to you, and is not willing to seem to be paying any attention to you, you can do ALMOST WHATEVER YOU WANT with absolutely no consequences, and with absolutely no reaction from the ignoring party. It's a social carte blanche, and they're just giving it to you, begging you to take it, with no conception of its pricelessness. As long as you don't ask that person a direct question -- "What time is the talk later?" -- or indicate that person's concrete state of being -- "Your fly is unzipped, you dumb bastard" -- you can get away with everything. If they refuse to look at the register, it's the perfect crime every time.

In the maybe three seconds it took her to run the gauntlet from door to mailbox to door, I thought of the following things that I really wanted to blurt out, apropos of nothing:
  • "I like hamburgers better than I like hotdogs, but today I want a hotdog!"
  • "I smell amazing because of clean laundry!"
  • "It's such a nice day, it makes me want to fucking blow my brains out!"
I didn't say any of these things, because I am not the worst person -- I am merely a terrible person. I let her off the hook kind of easy -- just said "Bye!" in the dopey, mocking voice of the untipped bartender -- because I don't want her to dislike me more, or to think I'm scarier, than she already does. But I resent her resentment and I'm afraid of her fear, so obviously I dwelled on the situation for some minutes after she left, chuckling to myself merrily and sadly, self-loathingly and misanthropically. And, while I was sitting there, unable to read for the mild adrenaline rush that comes with a good, solid spurning, I came up with the following other things I could have, and in some ways would have really relished, said to her, all of which, I imagine, she would have just pretended not to hear, because people are crazy and interacting with them is a nightmare clusterfuck of anxiety, unspoken rules, and implied boundaries that are deep and black as the Styx:
  • "The Ultimate Warrior died, but he'll live on, in the hearts and minds of millions."
  • "Haven't wet the bed in a while, but I can't imagine the last time was the last time."
  • "If I had a million dollars in ones, I would make it rain on the Quad."
  • "It's hard not to admire Oprah, but what has she really done for people of color?"
  • "Artie Lange, R.D. Laing, K.D. Lang -- wow, that's weird."
  • "I can eat a whole box of popsicles, but maybe not all in one day."
I will be coming up with more of them throughout the afternoon, because people are crazy and interacting with them is a nightmare clusterfuck.

8/18/13

Singer; Actor; Weaselly Soul-Patch Grower: The Authoritative Marc Anthony Timeline

1968 (age 0) 
Anthony enters the world slimy, naked, and possibly undercover, as Marco Antonio Muñiz

1995 (age 27) 
After growing to his full height of 5'7", Anthony is mercilessly out-acted by Bunk from The Wire as U.S. Secret Service Cyber-Terrorism Division Special Agent Ray Kee in the futuristic cyber-thriller Hackers, which goes on to be voted Sight and Sound's perennial #1 greatest movie of all time, and also 2-5 probably

1996 (age 28)
Anthony looks eerily older and more haggard than his classmates as high-schooler Juan Lacas, a murderous and sort of rape-y drug gang kingpin, in the accidentally-franchise-launching film The Substitute (which, unlike The Substitute 2: School's Out, The Substitute 3: Winner Takes All, and The Substitute 4: Failure Is Not An Option, does not star Treat Williams)

2000 (age 32) 
Anthony is awarded music's highest honor when his single, "I Need to Know," is chosen for inclusion on NOW: That's What I Call Music, Vol. 4

2006 (age 38) 
Anthony marries the surprisingly height- and age-appropriate, 5'5", 37-year-old Jennifer Muñiz, née Lopez, who strikes most observers as much too tall and young and also pretty and famous for him

2009 (age 41) 
Anthony first displays an interest in the National Football League when he purchases a small stake in the Miami Dolphins franchise with wife Jennifer Muñiz, née Lopez, who seriously looks taller than he does in those heels; also I feel like they had some babies or something

2012 (age 44) 
Anthony divorces Jennifer Lopez, née Muñiz; their twins go missing and are widely presumed dead

2012 (age 44) 
Anthony accepts a dare from his cool new roommates, Noah and Landon, to fill his mouth simultaneously with Pop Rocks and warm Coke; after a brief rampage, he goes missing and is widely presumed dead

2013 (age 45)
After assuming a new identity and undergoing a controversial anti-aging gene-therapy procedure, Anthony is selected by the Baltimore Ravens as 23-year-old, six-foot tall defensive prospect Marc Anthony in the 7th round of the NFL draft (247th overall)

1/7/12

The Worst Commercial Ever Made: Chevy Silverado

In this commercial, a man is asked which house is his. He says, "The one with the Silverado out front." So far, there's no real problem here. A Silverado is a pretty singular marker -- I don't see a lot of people driving them, and can't imagine why anyone would -- and a good way to identify something as distinct from other things, like "the woman with the hairy goiter" or "the dog with the huge balls, you know the one I mean."

Then, friendlily enough, the interrogator asks, "What do you do?" The man -- our hero -- says, "Well," and seems on the verge of answering the question like not-an-asshole. At which point, the commercial smash-cuts to a montage of the man doing the following things: Swimming; pulling dirt bikes with his truck; driving his family and singing; playing paintball; wearing a hardhat and throwing lumber in the back of the truck; fishing; chopping a log; washing his hands with a hose; loading the back of his truck with hay; playing chess with an old guy; pulling a boat; lighting a barbecue; and having dinner with his wife, who is giving him the googly-eyes. Then, he says, "Ayyyyye," trails off, furrows his brows, and looks down, discouraged, overwhelmed by the glut of possibilities. Then, Tim Allen tells us something about how manly and efficient the Chevy Silverado is, and then the anti-actor who plays the jock on Numb3rs gives you some specifics about a sale because his rate per hour in the recording booth is way more reasonable than Tim Allen's, and finally Tim Allen comes back and there's something about "From work site to home front, Chevy runs deep," which if you think about it doesn't make any sense at all. Does Chevy burrow under the ground to get from one of those things to the other? Is Chevy an underground river, and is the entire neighborhood going to collapse into it when it erodes the cave ceiling?

Ok, so ultimately the message the commercial is trying to convey is the ol' 'Merkin corporate standby, "If you buy our product you're a rugged individual who, like Thoreau, cannot be bound up by definitions or constrained by the strictures of society. And like Whitman, you contain multitudes. You're not like everybody else, everybody else being sheep and ciphers." In this, the commercial is only as egregiously awful as just about every other commercial ever made. It becomes uniquely terrible in trying to be specific about the unique multiplicity of the asshole -- our hero -- in question.

A couple of points. First, the two men are at a children's party. The interrogator is drinking out of a clear kitchen cup; the Silverado doucher is drinking out of a blue flippie-cup. So he's probably wasted in the middle of the afternoon at a kid's birthday party, so fuck that guy.

Second, no American of average-or-better intelligence doesn't know that when someone asks "What do you do?" the question is actually shorthand for "how do you make money, what do you do for a living, please don't walk me through a list of all the things you actually do with your life like walk, eat, breathe, drink water, and smirk at your own cleverness." This last, you will have noticed, is exactly the function of the montage.

It seems to me there are three options here: First, the man is unemployed, and so he's trying to come up with a way to answer the question that doesn't cause him public humiliation, exacerbated by the fact that he's just moved into a bougey new suburb and owns a brand new truck; second, he doesn't understand the utilitarian function of the question "what do you do" and thinks it is an open, metaphysical question -- "what do you really do, y'know?" -- and is therefore the kind of person I can't imagine anyone enjoying to be around; and third, that he understands perfectly well what the question implies, but smugly thinks that his job, his career, the source of his income, doesn't encompass his identity, so the question insults his personal special-snowflakeness, and he is therefore the kind of person I can't imagine anyone enjoying to be around.

For the sake of argument, we'll assume he has a job, and are left with options 2 and 3. Based on the list of options presented by the montage, there are two new options: 1) he is a construction worker (loading lumber), or 2) he works in some agro-business or livestock capacity (loading hay). He is not, that is to say, in all likelihood a professional swimmer, a professional dirt bike rider, professional chauffer for his own family, a professional paintball player, a professional fisherman, a professional lumberjack who specializes in splitting a single log at a time by hand, a professional hand-washer, a chess grandmaster, a barbecue chef, or a kept man. Why, then, he doesn't simply answer that he is either a) a construction worker or b) in agro-business in some capacity isn't easy to say without making him look like a terrible, terrible person.

Let's also remember that the man is new to the neighborhood -- his house still has the "sold" sign out front. He's making a first impression at somebody else's party in this back-and-forth. And it actually flashes through his mind to say, "Well, sometimes I eat dinner with my wife and then I probably fuck her based on the look she's giving me," and, "I play chess with an old guy," and, "Me and my asshole friends won a paintball tournament and then we got all rowdy about it, it was sweet." He thinks about saying "I own a boat and some dirt bikes and I pull them with my truck." This is an infant who, when you ask him his name, tells you that he's Adam and he's five-and-a-half and he has 112 Pokemon cards exactly wrapped up in a rubber band want to see them? This is the waitress-who-says-she-is-an-actress elevated to the nth degree, and made even worse by the fact that this guy doesn't define himself by an aspiration, a goal to someday reach, but by perfectly trivial day-to-day activities that nobody outside of his little clan of mouth-breathers could possibly give a shit about.

But the worst part about this commercial, to me, is the implication that this guy, who does all this trivial shit, is inherently deeper than the other guy, who is a fucking schlub, too, obviously. The other guy probably drives, like, a Honda Camry or a Ford Accord or something, and is just as entrenched in the breeding, nose-wiping middle-class as Silverado Man. He has enough disposable income to have a cute little montage of his own where he, I dunno, sits in an expensive La-Z-Boy and drinks brandy out of a crystal snifter and hits an expensive golf ball with an expensive golf club and goes to a jazz concert and slaps his daughter for back-talking and blindfolds his wife after they come up with a safe-word. All of this is possible. But it's not necessary. You know why? Because as awful as this man no doubt is -- the commercial invites us to disdain him, so we might as well play by its rules -- he doesn't need this montage. Because when somebody asks him what he does, he says "I'm an accountant" or "I'm a pharmacist" or "I run numbers for the mafia." And he does this because he is, against all odds, the less awful man in this awful, awful commercial: The Worst Commercial Ever Made.

2/28/11

M'lady is possessed of haunches

A Lover's Plaint,

By

The Good Sir Mix-A-Lot

I am given to rotund backsides. I, duty-bound against prevarication by the strictures of honor, trust none amongst my peers-at-court can repudiate the honorarium of tumescent attention he pays when a lady, svelte of belly and plentiful of thigh, strikes his fancy. These gentlemen halt, no matter their endeavors, upon observing this lady's derriere, squeezed pleasingly and with no room to spare, into her pantaloons. For myself -- when in the presence of such damsels, my fixation is almost monomaniacal. I would not only like to engage these peerwomen in sexual congress, but also to capture the image of their orbitual posteriors for obituary posterity.

When my chums, confederates, and confidants note me in this comportment of desire, they attempt to give me pause by prophesying hexes and mongering doom. I, however, am unable to attend to their advertisements as the sapid hindquarters inspire me with a lasciviousness rather difficult to brook.

Oh woman, since it is the case that the flesh of your rump has the look and feel of something soft as felt or suede, I invite you to exploit my attentions and affections for the use of my equipage, for you are not a common whore of the street. You are something more.

I have seen these vaunted women performing saltations; such sights render me inimical to the conventional proprieties of courtship, as when a lady is glistening with perspiration, moist as the morning dew, and in such spirits as a well-bred mustang, high of blood in the mating season.

I find myself fatigued by certain recent popular periodicals, endorsing the position that buttocks of attenuated convexity are attractive. On the contrary, put the question to the representative man of equatorial complexion and, I pledge, his response will be, "The marked convexity of her buttocks is paramount!" So brethren, fellows, is your paramour possessed of adequate hips for birthing? If indeed she is pleasingly shapely, enjoin her to waggle her goodly rump.

M'lady is possessed of haunches!

Her countenance is of a sweet, angelic city; her privity of a land of hardwood trees.

It is to my preference that the anatomical oddities in question be both spherical and bountiful, and whilst engaged in bardic oratory I become enraptured, ravished, ecstatic -- all but deprived of my humanity. But soft, friend, it might be controversial, nay outrageous to opine that it would be desirous to me to retreat with this paragon of femininity to mine own abode and, so to say, make the beast with two backs, if you will.

This truth is not to be had by the blue-books of our time, and not to be found in them. The embellishments undergone by these publications in the pursuit of voluptuary delight instead give the impression of playthings.

What is wanted, on the contrary, is authenticity, density, and a preponderance of moisture. And yet not without danger, for I, the good Sir Mix-A-Lot, am often afflicted with doubt and botheration by these aphrodisiacal lures.

Even as we speak, I turn my attention to musical tableaus preferred by the occidental rabble, and in them see coquettes with thighs so emaciated that their knees percuss in the manner of bone rattles. These coquettes are less to my taste than, for example, the esteemed track-and-field athlete Jackie Joyner--Kersee.

An aside, to the women of corporeal solidity and ethereal mystery: My desire is to fornicate with you. I will neither upbraid you verbally nor abuse you physically, but it is my duty to be forthright, and therefore to tell you my desire is to fornicate with you for many hours, perhaps until the sun rises. You are sexually desirable, and I desire you sexually.

Many philistines will disapprove of my lover's plaint because they fornicate with these women in question but once; I on the other hand, due to my abundance and mesomorphism, am more inclined to create heat through repetitious rubbing of tumid flesh and the slapping of bone on bone for sustained, hedonic duration. If you, fair lady, are possessed of these qualities, demonstrate them outwardly and you will be rewarded with the ululations of even the fairest of youths.

Some men's concubines, in the pursuit of shapeliness, employ the routines of Jane Fonda, and, for the purposes of rhyme, drive popular and economical Japanese automobiles. Yet backside of the former, Ms. Fonda, is bereft of the power afforded by the locomotive engine of the latter, a Honda, and as such, the longing of my serpentine phallus is unprovoked by this undesirable want of curvature. I grant the importance of exercise, and cast no prohibitions upon it as long as it comes in the form of side-bends or sit-ups. However, I enjoin and remonstrate, to perform exercises such as those demonstrated by Ms. Fonda might have the loathsome result of slimming the callipygous fundament in question.

There may even be those diabolical tricksters and madmen who argue that sizable haunches are less valuable than lead run through the alchemist's alembic and, in their phrenzy, part with you as lovers. In a way, I even thank these men -- their castoffs are my treasure, my dread pirate's booty!

Though the aforementioned popular periodicals confuse your copious voluptuousness with corpulence, I cannot agree with this assessment. Your stomach does not protrude, but your hips and breasts protrude mightily, and I want to have sex with you. The overly-linear ladies proffered by these periodicals are not to the taste of the times; rather, a woman who has not been denied a diet high in starches and complex carbohydrates is to the liking of the modern man.

Even some men who prefer these zatfig ladies, as is proper, are nothing but fools and charlatans. Though practiced and successful in the ways of wooing, these mongrels smite their embonpoint maidens with fists. But again, the rakes' refuse is my reward, and even as the unfortunate women nurse their wounds and anoint their bruises, I anxiously approach with the intention of engaging them in prurient caresses.

In conclusion, damsels and peeresses: If your hindquarters are orotund, and you are desirous of engaging with me in lubricious and shocking contretemps, dial 1-900-Mix-A-Lot and divulge to me the perverse and demoniac motive and content of your phantasies.

M'lady is possessed of haunches.

2/18/11

Your Life Stitched Shut

In a hysterical Wired UK article about social networking called Your Life Torn Open: Sharing is a trap, Andrew Keen decries the "increasingly ubiquitous social network -- fuelled by our billions of confessional tweets and narcissistic updates -- that is invading the 'sacred precincts' of private and domestic life." He wants us to know that he thinks narcissism is bad, and that exposing strangers and would-be voyeurs to the machinations of our private lives is sacrilege, defilement of the holy ground that makes and keeps us human.

But he also wants us to know what a fucking cultured world-traveler he is, so he begins the article with this: "Every so often, when I'm in Amsterdam, I visit the Rijksmuseum to remind myself about the history of privacy. I go there to gaze at a picture called The Woman in Blue Reading a Letter, which was painted by Jan Vermeer in 1663." See, he's in Amsterdam a lot, but sometimes when he's in Amsterdam -- he'd like us to know -- he goes to "the Rijksmuseum," which, he would further like us to know, he refers to as if he only speaks with people who know what that is. It wouldn't be enough to tell us that this painting exists; he has to set the scene, placing himself front and center, standing with his fist pressed thoughtfully to his chin, contemplating reverently this monument of Great Art. Because Andrew Keen, you understand, is very sophisticated.

The painting, Keen tells us, "is of an unidentified Dutch woman avidly (?) reading a letter. Vermeer's picture, to borrow a phrase from privacy advocates Louis Brandeis and Samuel Warren, is a celebration of the 'sacred precincts of private and domestic life'. It's as if the artist had kept his distance in order to capture the young woman, cocooned in her private world, at her least socially visible." This painting, in which a girl who doesn't know she's being watched is captured in a moment of privacy, is a "celebration" of not invading private spaces. I guess you've got to show a kid what his bathing area is before you can tell him that it's wrong for strangers to touch him there. Painting is one way to do it, but I tend to celebrate this blessed sacredness by watching women towel off while sitting on a tree-limb just outside their bathroom windows.

So Vermeer's painting keeps its distance "in order to capture" this poor woman "cocooned in her private world," which is basically the equivalent of preserving the magic of its transformation into a butterfly by tearing open a chrysalis and freezing a caterpillar with liquid nitrogen. Nothing celebrates what you love quite like killing what you love, embalming its corpse, pinning it to a wall, and inviting any dilettante with enough money to fly into Schiphol International Airport to take a look.

But Andrew Keen isn't just an appreciator of the arts and a champion of privacy -- he's a student of philosophy (and an ogler of corpses) as well. Oh, and he's still a fucking sophisticated, jetsetting, globetrotting playboy, he'd like us very much to know, and he's still strongly opposed to narcissism. "Every so often, when I'm in London, I visit University College to remind myself about the future of privacy. I go there to visit the tomb of the utilitarian social reformer Jeremy Bentham." See, sometimes he's in London -- but he's in London a lot, and only sometimes when he's in London does he vouchsafe his bougie taste and sophistication, and also his intense concern over the issues of the day that will be up to him to diagnose and, if this article is successful, maybe even cure, by communing with the dead body of a man he regards as his ideological enemy. Because, you see, Jeremy Bentham didn't believe in privacy, so it's not at all creepy for Andrew Keen, who says that looking into the private lives of other people is a kind of secular sin, to stand, fist pressed thoughtfully to chin, to gander at the "glass-and-wood mausoleum... from which the philosopher's waxy corpse has been watching over us for the last 150 years." Dead people don't have private lives. You can't rape a corpse.

Keen also demonstrates that I'm not the only writer in the world who can come up with misleading analogies: The compromised "real life" we're left with after the encroachment of omnipresent digital networking "could have been choreographed by Bentham." Moreover, Mark Zuckerberg's idea of "sharing," Keen writes, "could have been invented by Kafka." I like this misleading analogy very much: "Just as Josef K unwittingly shared all his known and unknown information with the authorities, so we are now all sharing our most intimate spiritual, economic and medical information with all the myriad 'free' social-media services, products and platforms." Except for the superficial differences -- like Joseph K being denied jurisprudential due process, being forced to undergo all kinds of meaningless and bizarre rituals that make it all but impossible for him to carry on with the job he hates at a shitty bank, and, in the end, being convicted for an unspecified crime and then stabbed to death by anonymous officials as punishment for this obscure guilt -- I am persuaded. Perhaps Kafka was secretly working on a manuscript he destroyed before his death called The Social Network, in which a number of shallow-yet-clever people search for meaning in their lives, against all odds and in the face of the strangling authority of the Law of the Father.

Keen further doomsays, "Today's digital social network is a trap. Today's cult of the social, peddled by an unholy alliance of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and communitarian idealists, is rooted in a misunderstanding of the human condition. The truth is that we aren't naturally social beings. Instead, as Vermeer reminds us in The Woman in Blue, human happiness is really about being left alone." This, of course, is preposterously stupid, and is based the idea that lasseiz-faire liberty -- "being left alone" -- is the opposite of being "social." If Keen is setting himself in diametrical opposition to the sociality offered by networking, then his ideal of human happiness -- and his idea of the truth of the human condition (!) -- is that we don't want to be watched or touched by anyone. The ideal manifestation of our humanity is solitary confinement, in which prisoners suffer "memory loss to severe anxiety to hallucinations to delusions and, under the severest cases of sensory deprivation, people go crazy" (CNN). This craziness, according to a different psychiatrist, is a "a specific syndrome" due to "inadequate, noxious and/or restricted environmental and social stimulation. In more severe cases, this syndrome is associated with agitation, self-destructive behavior, and overt psychotic disorganization."

The Woman in Blue, we should remember, isn't left alone -- she just doesn't know she's being watched (by Vermeer and by us, voyeurs all). She is reading a letter, and enjoying the social contact that can be created -- miraculously -- in the void left by the absence of loved ones. Social networks, sinister as they can be, also let us feel watched by people we care about; and the feeling of their eyes on us is, not to put too fine a point on it, a reason to go on living. Keen asks, "What if the digital revolution, because of its disregard for the right of individual privacy, becomes a new dark ages? And what if all that is left of individual privacy by the end of the 21st century exists in museums alongside Vermeer's Woman in Blue? Then what?" Then we'll go on living our lives, just like they did in the "dark ages." And when the next renaissance comes, they'll have persecution and crusades, just like they did the last time. And if this is the beginning of the apocalypse, Keen will just be lucky to have blindfoldedly pinned the tale on the ass of the donkey every other fearmonger in history has missed.

10/17/10

High Theory: Accessible at Last!

The prose style of what is known as literary theory -- a hodgepodge of German metaphysics and French gibberish spun out by a loose coterie of gay continental philosophers, post-gendered beard-strokers, half-mad babblers, and the odd full-on hypocrite -- is about as preposterous as a three-legged triceratops gouging with its horns at a whirlwind of duck feathers. (Witness, for instance, Judith Butler's infamous Bad Writing Contest-winning sentence for 1998.)

This style is adopted, argues evolutionist-cum-jester and disliker of theory Richard Dawkins, by "intellectual impostor[s] with nothing to say, but with strong ambitions to succeed in academic life." In a legendary depantsing of theory, reformed hoaxers Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont declare that a work of uncut Theory-with-a-capital-T is lucky to squeak out "a handful of intelligible sentences -- sometimes banal, sometimes erroneous" -- like so many pearls cast before, gobbled up, and shit out by swine. Semifamous (serious) philosopher Thomas Nagel isn't sure which piston drives theory's engine more forcefully: "invincible stupidity," or "the desire to cow the audience with fraudulent displays of theoretical sophistication." In fact, no one seems to be sure whether theory is the work of a dangerous cabal hellbent on undermining the very fabric of intellectual discourse, or a b-squad of Mr. Beans whose ineptitude would almost be charming only they could stop drooling all over their MedicAlert bracelets that warn of allergies to peanuts and lawn-grass.

Indeed, the rage for order shared by these unmaskers -- this desire for words to make sense -- wouldn't be nearly as interesting if the venom wasn't in part meant to conceal the deep anxiety that perhaps there exists an almost-unimaginable third way, somewhere between diabolical evil and developmental disability -- what if this theory stuff isn't total horseshit? What if it's brilliant and I just don't get it?! When it's invoked, this anxiety is brushed aside with a mirthful chortle, as if these hatchetmen were conceding, as an afterthought, "Of course, everybody knows it's true that OJ Simpson is technically innocent, according to the Constitution -- but come on."

Noam Chomsky, who has had Serious Documentaries made about him and is referenced in Good Will Hunting, and whose intellectual credentials are therefore unimpeachable, has offered the most concise example of the confused combination of rage and insecurity, condescension and defensiveness that characterizes any really rollicking anti-theory screed: "No one who says they do understand can explain it to me and I haven't a clue as to how to proceed to overcome my failures. That leaves one of two possibilities: (a) some new advance in intellectual life has been made, perhaps some sudden genetic mutation, which has created a form of 'theory' that is beyond quantum theory, topology, etc., in depth and profundity; or (b) ... I won't spell it out." It's a dazzling rhetorical strategy -- Chomsky plays the wide-eyed naif who is loathe to think an entire international industry of professional writers, thinkers, teachers, and students is... well... it's too horrible even to say!

But if he is capable of scoring from the goalie box, he is also adept at playing offense-as-defense, crossing and striking so as not to be struck. Of seminal theory bigwig Jacques Derrida, Chomsky says, "I found the scholarship appalling, based on pathetic misreading; and the argument, such as it was, failed to come close to the kinds of standards I’ve been familiar with since virtually childhood. Well, maybe I missed something: could be, but suspicions remain." You see? Even as a baby -- or close enough -- Chomsky would have been hip to the con. Derrida's work is appalling. Pathetic. A failure. Unless it's actually really good. Doubt it though.

This dexterous double-doubt -- "is it good or does it suck, and either way, why am I so mad about it?" -- wobbles on the crux of that age-old problem, the problem which is very nearly theory's only subject of concern: Is the meaning of a given statement comprehensible in all its facets and tints, or does some of its significance evade ready comprehension? Put another way, "Does this here word-caterpillar mean something smarter than what it looks like?"

Well, in a half-assed attempt to clear up this confusion, to tear down the language barrier between self-evident Dawkinsian or readily-intelligible Chomskese and the Nonglish of English departments worldwide, I have gone beyond the pale and violated the unspoken pact that binds all of us who make our living, no matter how obliquely, through the incantations and ululations of the unkempt and savage hobo-philosophy known as high theory. I have taken it upon myself to Benedict Arnold the whole theory enterprise by translating select paragraphs by certain theoretical luminaries -- without losing an iota of intended meaning (jk lol) -- into voices that might be less alien to those casual readers repelled by theory's uncircumcised pomp and smooth-shaven circumstance. In so doing I hope to allow self-loathing positivists, pragmatists in the throes of a dark night of the soul, and scientists on their brain-period to accept the brilliance, profundity, and salubrious revolutionary power of theory, as God intended, or to reject it wholesale once and for all, without the self-conscious pussyfooting of men wearing skirts for the first time publicly.

On with the show. First, the abstruse theoreticians in their own words. Next, their words banged and yanked into the everyday speech of unicorns and pegasusi.

  • Theodor Adorno, sourpuss: "Cultivated philistines are in the habit of requiring that a work of art 'give' them something. They no longer take umbrage that works are radical, but fall back on the shamelessly modest assertion that they do not understand. This eliminates even opposition, their last negative relationship to truth, and the offending object is smilingly catalogued among its kind, consumer commodities that can be chosen or refused without even having to take responsibility for doing so."
  • Theodor Adorno, as translated into an embittered-but-lazy art school traditionalist: "Posers who say they care about art but really don't care about art, man, all they want to do is take, they don't want to give anything back. But they're too stupid, or too scared to be wrong, even to be mad that this gallery is showing poop sculptures and blood paintings. They just stand there looking at some installation, like some mobile made out of used tampons glued to turtle bones, and they're all, 'I don't get it.' They don't even call bullshit. They're just like 'well, that's not really my thing.' That's bullshit, man. They don't even take a stand for anything. That's why the art is dying."

  • Giorgio Agamben, crypto-fascist: "Being in force without significance:...What, after all, is the structure of the sovereign ban if not that of a law that is in force but does not signify? Everywhere on earth men live today in the ban of a law and a tradition that are maintained solely as the 'zero point' of their own content, and that include men within them in the form of a pure relation of abandonment. All societies and all cultures today (it does not matter whether they are democratic or totalitarian, conservative or progressive) have entered into a legitmation crisis in which law (we mean by this the entire text of tradition in its regulative form, whether the Jewish Torah or the Islamic Shariah, Christiam dogma or the profane nomos) is in force as the pure 'Nothing of Revelation.' But this is precisely the structure of the sovereign relation, and the nihilism in which we are living is, from this perspective, nothing but the coming to light of this relation as such" (Homo Sacer, 51).
  • Giorgio Agamben, as translated into a caricature of an Appalachian wingnut: "The gubmint just do what it want for no good reason. The gubmint always hangin' 'round behind you, but you can't see it, you don't know when it be making you do something and you don't even know it's making you do it. Everybody in the world being run by gubmints, and gubmints don't care none 'bout people -- just suck us dry. Everywhere in the world, Muslims and liberals and fascists and pinkos, all the same. They take away your freedoms. Gubmint's the enemy of the common man. It don't care none. Never did."

  • Walter Benjamin, tragic tramp: "What does language communicate? It communicates the mental being corresponding to it. It is fundamental that this mental being communicates itself in language and not through language. Languages, therefore, have no speaker, if this means someone who communicates through these languages. Mental being communicates itself in, not through a language, which means that it is not outwardly identical with linguistic being. Mental being is identical with linguistic being only insofar as it is capable of communication. What is communicable in a mental entity is its linguistic entity. Language therefore communicates the particular linguistic being of things, but their mental being only insofar as this is directly included in their linguistic being, insofar as it is capable of being communicated."
  • Walter Benjamin, as translated into a stoned dude who just put down an acoustic guitar at 3 in the morning: "It's like, we think we say stuff with language. But what does language say? What if what language says is itself. Like, do you ever feel like when you say something, it's not like you're talking with language, it's like language is talking with you? Like, what if language is like, this body, and we're all just like little cells in it. No, think about it -- like, sperm is part of us, but at the same time sperm are these little animals in our bodies. What if we're just language's sperm? So like, what we think we mean isn't really what we mean, because like we're just on a mission for language, and we can't see the bigger picture. So like, when we say stuff, we mean what we think we mean, but we also mean, like, way more. Because, like, language means all this other stuff, too."

  • Paul de Man, Nazi-sympathizer who Jews sympathized with, fan of irony: "In the study of literature, the question of the self appears in a bewildering network of often contradictory relationships among a plurality of subjects. It appears first of all, as in the Third Critique of Kant, in the act of judgment that takes place in the mind of the reader; it appears next in the apparently intersubjective relationships that are established between the author and the reader; it governs the intentional relationship that exists, within the work, between the constitutive subject and the constituted language; it can be sought, finally, in the relationship that the subject establishes, through the mediation of the work, with itself. From the start, we have at least four possible and distinct types of self: the self that judges, the self that reads, the self that writes, and the self that reads itself. The question of finding the common level on which all these selves meet and thus of establishing the unity of a literary consciousness stands at the beginning of the main methodological difficulties that plague literary studies."
  • Paul de Man, as translated into a middle school English teacher so careful to be precise that she almost becomes confusing: "In this class we're all going to put on different hats and go to a lot of faraway lands without leaving our seats! You're all going to have opinions about what you read. But what's funny about reading is, someone else's words are in your head! Think about that -- you're thinking in your head, but you're thinking somebody else's thoughts! That'll tickle your noodle! So we're all going to have to try to figure out what the author was trying to say in his book, and what it means to us. But also, it's important to think of what it the writer thought his book meant. So we're going to have to put on four hats in all. We're going to be reading, and thinking about what we read, and writing about what we think, and even thinking about what we think! Did that blow your mind? Believe you me, it's not easy to wear those hats all at the same time! Have you ever put on four hats and looked at yourself in the mirror? It might be a fashion no-no, but it's an English yes-yes!"

  • Jacques Derrida, grand wizard of nonsensical sense: "The two concepts (friend/enemy) consequently intersect and ceaselessly change places. They intertwine, as though they loved each other, all along a spiralled hyperbole: the declared enemy (Blake declares the enemy by ordering him to declare himself: be my enemy), the true enemy, is a better friend than the friend. For the enemy can hate or wage war on me in the name of friendship, for Friendships sake, out of friendship for friendship; if in sum he respects the true name of friendship, he will respect my own name. He will hear what my name should, even if it does not, properly name: the irreplaceable singularity which bears it, and to which the enemy then bears himself and refers. If he hears my order, if he addresses me, me myself, he respects me, at hate's distance, me beyond me, beyond my own consciousness. And if he desires my death, at least he desires it, perhaps, him mine, singularly. The declared friend would not accomplish as much in simply declaring himself a friend while missing out on the name: that which imparts the name both to friendship and to singularity. That which deserves the name."
  • Jacques Derrida, as translated into a teenage girl who wants you to think she's more distraught, and more thoughtful, than she really is: "Omigod, sometimes I hate my friends so much. I know it sounds totally stupid but I feel like my enemies are the only people I can trust. It's like, I trust my friends one minute but then they stab me in the back. Ashley is totally acting like we're total BFFs, but ten seconds later she went through my bag while I wasn't looking and she's using my lipgloss again without asking, which is just super disrespectful. It's my property and she doesn't even have the common courtesy to ask if it's ok, and I've already told her not to do it a bajillion times. She totally would ask if we weren't such good friends, so it's like, what good are friends anyway? But like, when Blake told me I was his worst enemy when we were playing badminton in gym, I totally trusted him. I know it sounds retarded or whatever, but it's true. It's like, at least I know where I stand with Blake. I feel like Ashley just hangs out with me because people think she's cool, she does it just to be seen with me, so she doesn't look like such a spazz like she did when she was all fat and had acne last year before I showed her how to put on foundation and not eat three Fruit by the Foots every day at lunch. But Blake like totally hates me and he doesn't even care how it makes him look. It's so honest that sometimes I almost feel like he's, like, in love with me. He doesn't go rooting through my bag and taking my stuff and pretending he didn't think I would be mad. Even if he did, at least he'd just be doing it to piss me off. He'd be thinking of me and not just how everybody thinks he's totally popular because I let him smoke with me in my car during open period. God, Ashley is such a bitch!"