Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


I have just discovered the joy that is juicycampus tonight, and so have not gotten anything done. Truly, it is the best thing about U of I. It's like the DI's comments threads, but shorn of any particle of intelligence, and with more posts about frats and furries.

God Bless America.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I think I might have mentioned that before.

My Super Sweet 16 is everything that's wrong with America in a 23 minute package. Now, they make it wronger with My Super Sweet 16-Remix. This Remix (even setting aside for the moment the gross overuse of the term) is a terrible thing. It's clips they didn't use in the first episode with whatever spoiled brat, generally to the tune of "let's look at me shopping for diamonds."

It just goes to show, you know, never ask if things can get worse.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Top 5 Favorite Books

This list, friends, is constantly changing, but as of right now, it stands as (no order, just 5 books):
  1. The Fortress of Solitude, Jonathan Lethem. Really, it's three great books, each totally justifying its place on this list - the first for its writing, the second for its imagined world and economy, and the third for its pseudomemoir.
  2. From the Dust Returned, Ray Bradbury. I read this in 8th grade, after tackling Illustrated Man, and it stuck with me more, with its family of, I think, vampires.
  3. Nine Stories, J.D. Salinger - Special mention for the stories "For Esme, with Love and Squalor," "A Beautiful Day for Bananafish," and "De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period." Alternately, you could count all the Glass Family stories as one book and put it here instead, and shunt "For Esme" and "De Daumier-Smith" to a list of favorite short stories.
  4. Yes, We Have No: Adventures in the Other England, Nik Cohn. Sadly, criminally out of print. This is the book, read 3 times over a summer trip to St. Louis, that made me want to be a writer, in that bone-stupid, arrogant 15-year-old way. Given that Cohn admitted to having fabricated massive sections of "Saturday Night Fever," I'm a bit leery of putting this on the list, or trusting any of the people mentioned in the book to actually exist, but despite these doubts, it's one of the finest pieces of writing I've ever put in my brain. I can quote chunks of it from memory, and check at every used bookshop I go to for a copy. If it's non-fiction, it's one of the best pieces of nonfiction put out in the last century. If it's fiction, it needs to be put on the list of best fictional universes ever. The more I get drunk and walk around downtown Urbana and talk to the people at the bus stop, the more I incline towards the former.
  5. The Baroque Cycle, Neal Stephenson. I'm cheating a bit here, and counting the three volume, three-odd-thousand page monster as one book. I'm doing this for two reasons: I spend a good chunk of my waking hours researching the time period this book covers, and partially because of that (and more partially, because of Stephenson's skill), the character Daniel Waterhouse is as real to me as most actual human beings I know.

I love Marvin Gaye, I love covers.

Enjoy. I did.

Hot on the Heels

Reading the article from the last post reminded me how much I like Amy Winehouse, so I went on youtube and found this.

Yes, the sound quality isn't the best (it's a promotion for some other site), but it's still a neat video. Sometimes she looks like she's struggling to get through it, and sometimes she looks like she's having a blast.

Perez Hilton and Tyler Durden as great Tragedians.

Last week's Toronto Star had a great feature on celebrity-news-as-opera-or-tragedy. Now. I'm a pop culture junky, a cultural studies nerd, and a classical music fan, so my biases in posting this article are clear. The article itself, though, is pretty brilliant, and more than a little sad. Take this paragraph on Amy Winehouse:
Control is the key word in both opera and the "bad girls" celebrity narrative. The contemporary nunnery is rehab, the house of penitent women, where lost girls reclaim their virtue and self-control. Winehouse won't go there. Or she will. That's the plot of Act I. Let's hope it's not a one-act opera.

So, please, check out this article. It'd a decent read.

A science fictional day

Arthur C. Clarke CBE, SF author, futurist, and all-around paragon of 20th century excellence, died yesterday. Most widely known for his work on 2001: A Space Odyssey, he also proposed telecommunications satellites before they became reality. Spacecraft were named after his works, and he promulgated Clarke's Three Laws, which have generally stood the test of time.

So, I think it to be an appropriate, if sad, occasion to post some SF, a story that I found on Boingboing that combines time travel and wikipedia - which are, of course, two of my favorite pastimes.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

All I wanted was to sing the saddest song #2 - The Music of St. Blake

Blake Schwarzenbach holds a special place in the history of sad songs. Jawbreaker put out some damn sad music, as did Jets to Brazil, especially on their first album. It's a testament to Schwarzenbach's skill as a writer that these songs work.

Sea Foam Green - The real kick in the teeth for this song is the bridge: "Tried to drink you off my mind, I just got wasted. It only made the pain that much more acute - cute isn't strong enough a word, unintentionally gorgeous." Those two sentences capture, better than anything I've read, how it feels to want to give up on someone, but finding that the harder you try, the harder it is. That last bit where acute pain goes to unintentionally gorgeous, is brilliant; at the bottom of the bottle that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach and your desire get all mixed up, and you're no longer sure if you feel good or bad.

Accident Prone - Where "Sea Foam Green" suggest a specific moment - for me at least, there's a definite memory that I can see when I close my eyes - "Accident Prone" is a different, longer kind of sad. "It hasn't been my day for a couple years, what's a couple more?" Everything about this song - that plodding bassline, that deliberately slow guitar in the verses, - sounds beat up, and then it builds and builds, and just when it gets unbearable, it explodes into the final chorus: "a near miss or a close call, I keep a room at the hospital, I scratch my accidents to the wall...I got to you there was nothing left, I got to you, there was nothing left." It's heartbreaking. It's also the only song I've ever seen make my father tear up - his first words to me after hearing it were "powerful stuff." I agree.

Jets To Brazil:
Conrad - What happens when you borrow some melodic material from the one Beatles song capable of causing actual melancholy, and then add that to terribly sad words about suicide? You get a song that's amazingly tragic. The story of a girl who checks into a motel to kill herself, told in a flurry of images - "a week up front, asks not to be bothered," "readies herself, apologizing to the motel maids," "warming her wrists, in promising water," "double edged and super-blue, vertically letting the life from you" - pulls back, with the tune of "Nowhere Man" to paralyzed, watching angels, hovering near the shower-head maybe, knowing "only that they can't quite tear themselves from the view." It's that pull-back, watching the song with the angels, that makes it so devastating.

I Typed For Miles - Pure desperation. The strained vocals, for one, get that message across. It's a slow descent into insanity, from the comparisons about the narrator's craft - writing is "like figure skating, like asphyxiating" - to the denial of "leave me here to my devices, the call could come at any time," to "tied my ankles to the table legs with wire, he can't write so much as type" and the final, cathartic outburst of "they're playing love songs on your radio tonight, I don't get those songs on mine - you keep fucking up my life." It's not related to anything I remember, but it's a moving portrait.

Friday, March 14, 2008

All I wanted was to sing the saddest song #1.

There are sad songs. There have always been sad songs. Sad songs are good songs, we like listening to them because either we're sad ourselves, or we have been. Listen to a sad song when you're happy, and you feel a pang of sympathy (sometimes followed with a grudging sense of the singer ruining your fun). Listen to a sad song when you're sad, and you don't feel so alone. If I were more classically inclined or more of a douche-bag, I'd have a big section here on tragedy and catharsis and Nietzsche and everything, but I'm not. I'm just a big enough douche-bag to tell you that there's an entire book of the Bible dedicated to sad songs, the Lamentations of Jeremiah, and that settings of the O Vos Omnes (Oh, all you who pass by, stop and listen, see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow) were especially popular in the Renaissance.

I like sad songs. When I'm happy, sad songs elicit a pang of sympathy. When I'm sad, sad songs are sort of comforting. Everyone, secretly, has one sad song that they love.

I have many.

You may have seen this before.

Via the incredible BoingBoing comes this fantastic juvenile art/South Yorkshire angst mashup,

Yes, friends, that's Archie as possessed by Jarvis Cocker. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Things vaguely funny.

Luddite isn't recognized by Microsoft Word's spellchecker.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The fun keeps a-coming

Ok, this is a second bite at the apple as my lawyer friends (the people I watch on Law and Order) say, since I already commented on the article, but the DI (my favorite internet publication) printed a letter to the editor from one Travis Eliason, who I assume is a 19th century patrician. Now, he raises a fairly interesting point that comes up from time to time viz, "Isn't Unofficial a misrepresentation of Irish culture," and then completely douchebags it up by using the term "thought police." For those interested, the rule for using that term is "Don't, unless you are referring to a life or death situation." Political Correctness at a University (in this case, our school's almost endearingly incompetent attempts to address the massive racist-flavored ignorance displayed by multiple incidents over a fairly short period of time), is not a life or death situation.

Travis did raise a good points - what's acceptable, what's not, why UIUC got rid of the Chief, but Notre Dame got to keep the Fighting Irish - and then wasted them (not that I think he was really interested in them) by snarking about the PC strawman. He also decided to use the term "paddy wagon," which is, arguably, a racist term based on the fact that the paddies were either driving them or riding in them. Funny, isn't it?

For my mathy friends.

The DI's Unofficial By the Numbers. I'd like to point out that Wheaton College, Illinois' own madrasah, appears on the list of schools represented in the drinking citations. I wonder if that'll have repercussions back home.

Unofficial wrap-up

I, for one, continued my tradition of being deathly ill (via pathogens, not chemicals) for the third Unofficial in a row, so I missed out on what may be the last hurrah of a dying festival. Others were not so lucky.

C.O. Daniel's got closed down for being stupid. Whatever bag of fuckery was in charge there (who, since his livelihood depends on staying within Illinois Liquor Laws, should have known better) violated Illinois law by selling "all you can drink" wrist bands, which are medium-illegal in this great state. So, he gets no sympathy. Scott Cochrane, the owner of CO's and driving force behind Unofficial, gets points for not crying "persecution" to the DI yet.

Kam's, the bar next door to CO's, also got closed, but the DI didn't give me a reason to make fun of them.

From the same article, Champaign's deputy mayor makes a funny:
La Due added that the closings "struck a sober chord" with other liquor-licensed businesses, but were blown out of proportion by media.

"It was a sobering incident," he said. "No pun intended, but it sure works for one."

Well done, that man.

Like I said, I was in amazing pain for most of this holiday, so I have no fun drunk stories to share, or spleen to vent. I also have no expectation that I'll be healthy enough to celebrate next year, but one lives in hope.