Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Annoying Boys of the Week: Ying-Yang Twins

I know; it's old news: the Ying-Yang twins have crazy offensive lyrics. But, I just can't put this one behind me. Perhaps because I just saw them on the VMAs, I felt compelled to go to their website . I was shocked to discover that the copy on said site basically gloats about their explicitly misogynist lyrics. Because it's funny, y'know. Like, funny ha ha. Because implied rape and violence is just sooo hilarious.

Here are some of the lyrics to the "whisper" song:

You fine, but I aint gone sweat ya
See I wanna fuck, tell me whats up
Walk around the club with yo thumb in ya mouth
Put my dick in, take your thumb out
There might be a lil kosher to deal with
Wet fat hoe's they dont spill shit
I keep a hoe hot when I'm puttin' in work
Wanna skeet skeet you bout to get your feelin's hurt
Cuz I'll beat dat cat with a dog
And knock da walls of a broad til she scrawl
Like (OOOOOH!)
Yea something like that, but it depends on the swing of the baseball bat
Fuck a bitch on da counter make the
Plates fall Back
On the floor she aint screamin she a nut so they crack
Fuck that bend over imma give you a smack

Ay bitch! wait til you see my dick
Wait til you see my dick
Ay bitch! wait til you see my dick
Imma beat dat pussy up
Ay bitch! wait til you see my dick
Wait you see my dick
Ay bitch! wait til you see my dick
Imma beat dat pussy up

Like B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM

Beat da pussy up, Beat da pussy up, Beat da pussy up, Beat da pussy up, Beat da pussy up, Beat da pussy up, Beat da pussy
Up, Beat da pussy up

Gross, huh? Oh, and here's some more from their song "Naggin'"

A lil more grip a lil less lip
before I pack my bag on you girl and dip
and a point of no return and you made it that way
buy the stuff that you say in and out everyday
hope you paying attention cause i got to mention
dissin me in front of your friends
trying to get a lil laugh in your crack in
I want to beat the **** in
hide behind your fake lil grin with your fake lil friend
use to then fake lil men
really ain'’t no man but you like how he pretend
I'm going to keeping sipping my Hen and smoking my herbs
and I'’m going to need a lot of grill cause of your nagging girl
the way you talking absurd
getting on my nerves
all in my ear about to make me hit the curve

Ugh! I'm so sick of this mainstream misogyny. Sick! When I asked my students what they like to read, almost all of the boys were like, "Maxim, he he." Of course all I did was raise my eyebrows and say "Maxim has words?" And because I'm so easily seduced by the slick production of most MTV offerings, I've found myself totally fascinated by Laguna Beach. What a weird little world. Anyway, like last season, the major story this time around involves a love-triangle. Of course it's two girls and one boy. And of course "the drama" in both triangles depend on making one of the girls seem either pathetic (first season's LC) or crazy psycho-naggy (this season's Jessica). And these boys are just so offensive and smug and ridiculous. Why? Why! Why? Why won't these boys go away?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

More Bak 2 Skool

Of all the back to school ad campaigns, I like this one the best. Especially the way the little mouse pointer turns into a pencil. And, well, the whole making a movie part. *

*But don't try to use a four letter word like we did or you'll be asked to re-type your dialogue. I feel so chastened.

You Know Their Parents are Hoping They'll be the Next Olsens

Tosh Twins,
Brenna and Bonwyn, flank Rachel Griffiths, aka Six Feet Under's Brenda (she ain't no Uncle Jesse).

Saturday, August 27, 2005

A Pocketful of Poesy

Isn't it pretty? This Connection of Everyone With Lungs is the newest book of poetry by Juliana Spahr. I *love* the look and feel of all the books in the NEW CALIFORNIA POETRY SERIES. All the books in the series have this sort of hybrid hard-cover / soft-cover design -- it's like extra-stiff cardstock with a smooth finish and a flap. *So gorgeous.* FYI: J.S. is also the author of the book with perhaps the best title ever: Fuck You - Aloha - I Love You. Also purchased is the American Poets Project edition of Amy Lowell, ed. by Honor Moore. I know some people think they're cheesy (and they're just snobs), but I really love the books from The Library of America. Their size makes them highly portable. Speaking of "cheesy" series, I can't tell you how much I love this. How cool is it that a borzoi -- a sleek and narrow-nosed dog -- is the face of Knopf ? *I loves it.* Anyway, they publish great anthologies that are perfect as gifts. For example, On Wings of Song, a collection of poems about birds, is really elegant (and as Emily Dickinson says, "there is no frigate like a book"*). And my personal fave? Of course it's Animal Poems. Just take a taste of the copy from their catalogue:

And these books are really pretty too! And they come with a slender ribbon bookmark! How can you resist? I've given many of these as gifts. Everyone loves a beautiful book that's filled with beautiful words. And this series is thoughtfully edited. There is even an anthology for the foodies.

*forgive me for linking to a bowlderized version of E.D.'s poem. I need to find a better web-source for her work.

**and even Bono thinks that you should have a poem in your pocket.

Friday, August 26, 2005


Our girl Jenny turned us on to this.

FDA postpones decision about Plan B

click map to link to article (Image courtesy AP).

Pensees Sauvages

As promised, I am continuing my series on right wing AM jackasses. There is one schmendrick whose show I can only listen to a few seconds at a time: Bay Area looney conservative Michael Savage. Though I am now a confirmed atheist, I grew up Jewish, and I am sad to say that Savage is still technically a co-religionist. In the old days of pre-neo-conservatism, intellectuals came in only one flavor: upper-crust society honky. Since Jews weren't allowed in the country clubs and private schools of the monied elites, it is no surprise that very few of them made it into the upper echelons of conservative politics. For many of us, William F. Buckley (or at least Joe Flaherty's hilarious renditions of WB on SCTV) still serves as the ideal-typical conservative caricature. A few moments of Savage conveys the distance that conservatism has traversed since the Podhoretzes and the Decters and the Kristols stormed the fortress. Savage delivers every zinger (his favorite: "Liberalism is a mental disorder!") as if he was auditioning for the role of Tevye the milkman. Every call for the execution style slaying of the ACLU is delivered in the sing-song cadences of a Talmudic pedant. The thing I hate most about MS? His horrible patronizing attitude towards listeners. He makes everyone call him "Dr. Savage," though I believe his medical credentials consist primarily of having spent the 1980s peddling homeopathic snake oil. He obsessively and ostentatiously dumbs down his already boneheaded insights in response to any challenge from a listener. When further reductionism is impossible without pantomime, he hangs up. Why do people subject themselves to this? I understand the callers who try, in vain, to disagree, but what of those who call in to reinforce Savage's delusions of brilliance?


We've noticed that we've been real skimpy on the celeb gossip lately. I don't know what it is, but these days all the gossip just seems so tired. It gets out of bed and yawns and stumbles bleary-eyed around the room. Anyway, the new Us Weekly just arrived, all bright and shiny and warm from the mailbox. Here are some of the more caffeinated nibbles for your chops. (Hey, I know that I'm indulging in the taboo mixed metaphor, so you can just shut it, L.T.)

Items of Chewy Curiosity:

1. The cover: How many times has this cover image of Jennifer Anniston has been used since the Brad break-up? They flip it, crop it, and re-use it. Over and over.

2. A "who wore it best?" item that compares Jennifer Love Hewitt to a very preggers Britney. Um, okay.

3. That outrageous book quote from Victoria Beckham. Here it is if you haven't seen it: "I haven't read a book in my life. I haven't got enough time. I prefer to listen to music, although I do love fashion magazines."

4. An *amazing* who wore it best two-page spread featuring the Simpson sisters. One of the compare boxes: "Black Tops, Cropped Jeans & Dog."

5. A picture of Jude Law and Sienna in which JL appears to be wearing clown shoes. He's so not as cool as a clown.
Turn 'em in cheater!!!

6. A piece on Martha Stewart featuring a picture of the domestic diva with a very very fluffy Chow-Chow named Paw-Paw and a bulldog named Francesca.

7. A ridiculous two-page spread asking stars when they lost their virginity. The only one that is vaguely interesting is from Tara Reid: "It was down at my Jersey Shore beach house . . .on the sand. It was disgusting. Four hundred mosquitoes. I had hives everywhere."

8. A piece on Pam Anderson's dogs wedding. Yes -- you read that right. Bow - wow.

Who wants a magazine that's simply devoted to the lifestyles of celebrity pets? I predict that it's just around the corner.

I wish dogs could talk. What do you think they would say about their celeb owners?

On a personal note . . .

I've now had enough poems accepted for publication to apply for one of these.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

She's Got A Ticket to Ride

We just got our tix for this.


Sad Billionaire waxes theoretical

AM Radio blowhardz, part three.

Today was going to be a feature on the evil dorkus maximus Michael Savage. But methinks that I have some additional pensees concerning the criticisms of one Lone Ranger, who was kind enough to stop by and comment yesterday. So I will put off the savaging of Savage until tomorrow.

Lone Ranger suggested to me that I ought to criticize the content of Laura Ingraham's talk, rather than skewer her public persona or style of argumentation. Now, it seems pretty old-skool to separate form and content in this way-- as if the background music, the "grain of the voice," the banter with the studio technicians, the speed of delivery, etc. were incidental to the transmission of messages, which are to be thought about as arriving via an invisible teletype simultaneously with the actual program. In the case of Ingraham, or any talk radio personality for that matter, apprehending the aesthetic gestalt requires careful attention to the complete package. This actually works in the favor of personalities like LI-- whose on-air speech translates poorly to the printed page. For evidence of this, one needs only to watch a segment or two of the Daily Show's "Great Moments in Punditry as Read By Children."

Lately, there has been a lot of talk among Dems about Berkeley linguist George Lakoff and the importance of "framing." I don't really know what this means, but I do think that the talk radio phenomenon calls for a return to the theories of the great Italian Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci. And if this seems far-fetched, consider this: (sometimes pop culture cooperates with radical critiques too perfectly) Rush Limbaugh himself was singing the praises of Gramsci as a sneaky theorist of conservative hegemony a couple of years ago. That's better than Marie Osmond singing a Hugo Ball Dadaist sound poem from 1916 on a variety TV show (which also really happened).

In particular, we should remember the use made of Gramsci by poststructuralist "radical democrats" Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. L and M are not much liked by the circles in which I run most of the time, in part because they seem to overemphasize the role of intellectuals in bringing about the overthrow of capitalism. But they did, in their classic work Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, lay out a perceptive analysis of the contemporary political scene.

What L and M were quick to realize, way back in the 1980s, was that the decentering of the certainties of Enlightenment rationalism (with the emergence of postmodernity, whenever that was) had a very specific effect on politics. It meant that the imaginary and symbolic registers of society were now characterized by flux and multiplictity. As a result, left/right conflict was no longer a war of fronts, with incremental gains and losses won or lost in specific struggles. Rather, the real power now lay in the ability to structure discourse by "drawing a line in the sand," or in L and M's favorite term (borrowed from Lacan) choosing a "quilting point" and thereby decisively structuring the fabric of discourse.

To take a concrete example (although the entire lead-up to the Iraq war and the Social Security "crisis" debate demonstrates the salience of this mode of analysis), consider Pat Robertson's call a couple of days ago, for the execution of the democratically elected leader of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez by the Us government. Robertson backpedalled yesterday, saying, in effect, "I just meant that since he had to be removed, taking him out would be cheaper than starting a war." Obviously PR has now started to make his own American quilt, patching together bits of Cold War Latin America realpolitik, manifest destiny, war on terror doublespeak, and evangelical zeal. And liberals will be dragged in to a tedious and tragic debate, which will probably result in all sorts of earnest talking heads on CNN lamenting the need to kill foreign leaders as a consequence of intractable contemporary dilemmas.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Memories of Meals Past

Haverchuk tagged me to recall some childhood food memories. I'm not a food blogger, and I'm not even a foodie, so I'm not even going to try to do any fancy food writing. And, as a woman, I've often been frustrated by the frequent attempts of the MSM to complicate my relationship with food. Treat yourself! Starve yourself! Treat yourself! Starve yourself! I've been aware of this for almost as long as I've been aware of anything. And since coverage of America's "obesity epidemic" almost eclipses that of Bradgelina and TomKat, I can only imagine that it's gotten worse for children. Not to mention that -- in most families -- there's at least one person who loves to talk about how fat/thin/big/petite/husky/buxom everyone else in the family is. And that usually leads to endlessly tedious discussions of what everyone's eating. Usually about 15 minutes into any family event I want to tell at least one person to shut the fuck up about bodies and/or how much or how little food everyone is eating. I'd rather talk about TomKat.

That said, I really do love good food and coffee and wine. As a child, I was fed plenty of delicious Italian foods like cannolis and spaghetti and lasagna; I was taken strawberry and blueberry and apple picking. We had a garden in the back yard. All the la-de-da so happy-golden childhood stuff.

So, because our culture is so messed up about food, my five childhood memories are a mix of the good and the bad.

1.) A bizarre psa-type commercial that used to air between cartoons reminding kiddies "don't drown your food." To this day, mayonnaise gives me the creeps.

2.) Being told by a probably well-meaning relative and sometimes even a stranger that I shouldn't take so many mashed potatoes / rolls / pieces of pie.

3.) That egg in the "this is your brain on drugs" commercial.

4.) My dad used to make homemade soft pretzels. They made the house smell all warm-yummy and were really really good. And my mom used to make blueberry pie after we went berry picking.

5.) At an ill-fated sleepover, my friend J and I attempted to make a chocolate cake "from scratch" without a recipe (I have sort of a history of doing this. I just can't shake the feeling that recipes make cooking so much more laborious and un-fun). Anyway, we basically dumped a canister of cocoa into a bowl, added some water and eggs and sugar and flour, stirred it all up, and tried to bake it. I'm not sure why it didn't really "cook." It basically oozed all over the oven, which meant we had to sort of shovel out the lumpy, steamy, brown batter with spatulas. You can probably imagine of what said concoction reminded us. To this day we giggle about "the baby-doo" cake. I know. So mature. We should've stuck to our easy bake ovens.

A Laura worse than the Doctor?

Mopey Buckxxx here, continuing my hard-hitting expose of the revanchist propagandists of the AM dial. Or, more precisely, partially remembered tidbits of right wing radio that I listened to while weeping and hitting my head repeatedly on the steering wheel on the way back from pyschedelically awful graduate seminars in US history.

Perhaps the worst thing I have ever heard is the show hosted by Laura Ingraham. It is quite surreal to hear her program come over the waves, because her theme song has a collage of soundbites that could be mistaken as "liberal" or "feminist" signifiers-- Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman," some riled-up protestor screaming "power to the people!", etc. But once she begins the chatter, it is obvious that she leans farther to the right than Edmund Burke. She makes Phyllis Schlafly look like Helene Cixous. Her hauteur makes Ann Coulter's noxious sense of self-importance seem almost "aw-shucks." Her bullying of guests makes Sean Hannity's manhandling of liberals seem like gentle Shiatsu. She has written a book that is actually called Shut Up & Sing: How the Elites in Hollywood, Politics...and the UN are Subverting America.

Isn't that title just what happens randomly when you let a monkey play with "neocon public intellectual" poetry fridge magnets? Her bio reveals the secret behind the apparent puzzle of her appropriation of leftist 1960s tropes. She is the first of the openly female neocon bleaters on the talk scene, and thus seeks to bask in a little revolutionary aura while she waxes poetic about George Bush's abdominals and indulges in such fresh drolleries as mocking Ted Kennedy's fondness for the dramglass. The things you say!

My guess is that she was packaged by her handlers as a youth-oriented, "hip" female voice. After all, her website includes links to her favorite albums, and none of them are by Pat Boone or the Whiffenpoofs. She likes Ben Folds! Well, that's it for the hip stuff. But she certainly plays up her street cred (she mentions her interview with U2's Bono in every single shred of press bumf). If interviewing Bono once makes you cool, what would that make Carson Daly? Sun Ra?

One can easily imagine her branding consultants sitting down with her CV, and coming up with her image: Dartmouth grad? Reagan staffer? Clarence Thomas gofer? You know, this lady could be a sort of whiter, more anal retentive, chunky-highlighted Angela Davis. The gauntlet has been thrown down liberals! Whaddaya got? Streisand? Bring it!!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Sad Billionaire Returns; AM Radio slumming

Hello everybody!

Back from holidayz! I went back to the institution to which I am academically affiliated today, a task I had been avoiding for a few months, and the first thing I heard was "I thought you were dead!" Fantastic. Soon I will have washed my hands of that dark satanic brain mill, and be an official Master. Watch out, Kasparov!

Props to FF for an eye-opening post on the hidden racial politics of teen lit.

We had a holiday in the midatlantic pleasure zones. America seems pretty exhausted.

On the way to skool today, I sampled the rightwing radio all-you-can-eat buffet, something I do whenever I drive to the Uni. First of all, it is unique to be living in central Texas, with so much access to the latter day Father Coughlins. Second, it prepares me to interact with people who agree with the sentiments expressed on these shows.

Over the past year (I am just now celebrating a year as a licensed driver! I am also now exactly double the age I was when I could first legally obtain a learner's permit) I have developed a sense of the cartography of the right-wing hate-chat landscape. Liberals and radicals should not think that just because the enterprise is hideous and vile (to take a classic barometer of normative ethics, right wing radio is basically always on the side of killing babies), it is simple and one-dimensional. No no no. The right wing talkers marshall a number of rhetorical techniques and styles of argument, many from non-conservative sources, and forge novel syntheses. I will write, in the coming days, about the cast of goons who pollute my ears on a daily basis.

First up: Rush Limbaugh. I know , Franken wrote the "big fat idiot" book years ago. I am not really breaking a story here. But: A) Franken is a patronizing blowhard, whose speech drips with northeast elitism. His liberalism is inscrutable; his politics constantly compromised by cheap sarcasm. We really can't rely on him for the final word. B) Rush continues to rant, and his listeners are devoted and fervent. We can't assume that just because we know he is a doofus we can ignore him.

Rush's politics are all about anger, intimidation and paternalism. The turgid artery, the clenched tooth, the engorged prostate. Contrast this with the soft-spoken, baptist minister speech of a Joe Simpson, or the technocratic/wonk obfuscations of a Fred Barnes or Dick Cheney. Rush comes on like a Preston Sturges stock screwball character, chest puffed, linen napkin shoved in his shirt collar, banging his cutlery on the china so the maid will bring more roast. Rush's fans call themselves "dittoheads" and call in to be patted on their heads for agreeing with the toastmaster or ridiculed for their stupidity.

Today Rush was talking about the protests in Crawford. He quickly moved from basically calling Cindy Sheehan Rosa Luxemborg's BFF to yelling about how conservatives should be praised for not having politicized Clinton's warmongering during the 90s and, by way of contrast, how treasonous liberals are for now daring to question the war in Iraq, 2000 bodybags in. Those who know a little history recall how humanitarian intervention in the Balkans was consistently stymied by isolationist, puritanical Republicans, who first drummed up the Lewisnky scandal and then claimed that Clinton was trying to "wag the dog" when he tried (lamely, belatedly) to intervene.

I am no big fan of the way that all went down, but to say that conservatives happily cooperated with Clinton's commanding-in-chief is like saying that the hyperactive bunny rabbit on the cereal box is sanguine, if not indifferent, about Cocoa Puffs.

Where the White Kids Are

My brain is rotting. All the tv and teen novels and frozen pizza. Really, it has been an exhausting summer of "research." I've read dozens of teen novels. I've even watched Laguna Beach. Many of them are quite interesting. And many of them are also somewhat predictable. Almost everything I've read has been incredibly entertaining (that's genre fiction for ya). And I can't say enough about the value of reading as diversion. That nose in a book thing is pretty soothing. Some of my recent faves? Smack by Melvin Burgess, Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger, Gingerbread by Rachel Cohn, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, and Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. I also read books like Lisa, Bright and Dark and Please Don't Kill the Freshman and Our Band Could Be Your Life. I even dipped into books on adolescence from the psychology section. And boy are they white.

I need to read more. All the books I've picked up from lurking on teen reads message boards and browsing listmanias composed by teens have been pretty similar: white, suburban, angsty. Over and over again. It raises some interesting questions about the audience for this genre. And, I've yet to encounter -- in any of these books -- a high school as diverse as my own. There's an article by Jonathan Kozol in the September issue of Harper's ("Still Separate, Still Unequal: America's educational apartheid," adapted from his forthcoming book The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America) about the re-segregation of public schools in urban America. It's depressing.

The governmentally administered diminishment in value of the children of the poor begins even before the age of five or six, when they begin their years of formal education in public schools. It starts during their infant and toddler year, when hundreds or thousands of children of the very poor in much of the United States are locked out of the opportunity for preschool education for no reason but the accident of birth and budgetry choices of the government, while children of the privileged are often given veritable feasts of rich developmental early education.

and later

The achievement gap between black and white children, which narrowed for three decades up until the late years of the 1980s -- the period in which school segregation steadily decreased -- started to widen once more in the early 1990s when the federal courts began the process of resegregation by dismantling the mandates of the Brown decisions. From that point on, the gap continued to widen or remain essentially unchanged; and while recently there has been a modest narrowing of the gap in reading scores for fourth grade children, the gap in secondary school remains as wide as ever.

I find it interesting that the high school I attended from 1989-1993 in the northeast suburbs of Columbia, SC, which had almost 3000 students and was 50% black, was what they called "re-zoned" in 1995 when a new high school opened. The new high school was opened to reduce "overcrowding." This of course, also drastically reduced the "diversity" at my old school. I wonder if the lack of diversity in the teen books I've been reading -- many of which are from the last five years -- is connected to the trend that Kozol descibes. My all time favorite teen read, Weetzie Bat, published in 1989, is by far the most diverse of the books I've read (though Born Confused does contain an interesting look at the experience of non-white immigrants and their children in the suburbs of New Jersey, and many current teen books deal very openly with sexuality. And I should say that most of the books do have either a Hispanic character or an Asian-American character in there somewhere. Also, I should note that the absence of minority characters in prime time television has been well-documented).

I just find it sad that in the wake of increasingly "edgy" and "progressive" teen reads (reads that even have parents gearing up to put Parental Advisory labels on the covers-- yikes) I haven't come across one that really takes up any of the issues in Kozol's article. And I want to know how many black teenagers read these books. And I want to know, simply, what black teenagers are reading, because there just are not very many of them in the books I've come across on the "teen fiction" shelves. And I don't see too many of them at the high school and university I've taught in (a public high school and a state university where most minority students are Hispanic) here in Hays County, Texas (a state that recently became a "majority minority" state). But I'm looking for them.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Sunday, August 14, 2005

As If You Needed Another Reason to Love the Internet

I just discovered this link on the Discovery Chanel Website.

While you're at it, go listen to Panda Panda Panda by Deerhoof.

And check out Panda Go Panda, which features the talents of Hayao Miyazaki.

"the postreading generation"

Barbara Ehrenreich has a funny and frightening article about "how to succeed in business"-type books in today's NYTBR. Interestingly, one of the main features of these books is their, er, terse language.

The few words that do appear in these books are likely to be bolded, bulleted or boxed. Lists are unavoidable. ''Now, Discover Your Strengths'' includes a list with 34 possible strength-related ''themes,'' from ''achiever'' to ''maximizer'' to ''woo.'' Chapters are often embedded with simple exercises you can perform at home, like this one from ''Secrets of the Millionaire Mind'': ''Place your hand on your heart and say . . . 'I admire rich people!' 'I bless rich people!' 'I love rich people!' 'And I'm going to be one of those rich people too!' '' In some cases, the author seems ready to abandon print altogether, ending the book with instructions to visit his Web site, purchase his nonbook products or attend his motivational seminars (and they are, in the current batch of business success books, always ''his''). For members of the postreading generation, ''How Full Is Your Bucket?'' and ''The 8th Habit'' tuck in a convenient CD.

I've always wondered about books like Who Moved My Cheese? When Lorelei and Rory take a little trip to Harvard in The Gilmore Girls, there is a moment when Rory, stunned by the size of the school's library, laments that she'll never read all the books in the world. Lorelei promptly reminds her that she can skip books like Tuesdays With Morrie and Who Moved My Cheese? I've never read either, and I can't say I've ever really wondered if I'm missing something. But Ehrenreich's survey makes me suspect that there's some corrollary between these books and the popularity of FOX news and right-wing radio. I mean, Who Moved My Cheese is no "Richard Cory."

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Missy, My Idol

The video for "Lose Control" is a mish mash of the sandy desert, gritty industrial materials, marionette-like dance moves, prairie dresses shimmying amidst grainy blinky-blink early film era flickers, black-light dancing, and an oscillating, tingly loop that makes one feel as though Missy is playing their own spine like some post-modern xylophone. First she's buried in sand, then she's rising out of it like a hip-hop Persephone, then she's holding a puppy (who I think is her "baby" -- a yorkie named Poncho) , then she's shaking it like a polaroid picture.

I *LOVE* HER. And, I hope she cleans up at the VMA's.
Like P. Diddy and the Beastie Boys, Missy is putting her name on something you can wear. Yeah, I'm totally buying some of those.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Perks of Being a Writer in Residence

One of my "jobs" this summer has been to copy hours and hours of video footage from readings and lectures and Q+A's that have occurred in these here parts to DVD. Most of the tapes are old and crusty. Adjectives some people are eager to apply to academia.

The tapes, however, are very interesting. And occasionally I'm amazed by how much and how little the "climate" of readings seems to have changed in the last couple of decades.

For example:

In a q+a from 1989, Margaret Atwood says that it took her 25 years to write Cat's Eye* She takes milk in her coffee. She seems rather bored with the whole q+a routine, probably because everyone is too afraid to ask real questions. She expresses extreme interest in going to see Ralph, the famous swimming pig. And she signs books. No electronic signatures in 1989.

Her fee today would be at least three times our annual budget. All the more reason to preserve the footage, I suppose.

*I highly recommend this book. The writing is fantastic. Moreover, like the wicked stepsisters, Cordelia is one of the original mean girls. But be warned: you'll never look at a ravine the same way again.

**Stay tuned for details re: Stanley Fish, John Barth, Sharon Olds, Hugh Kenner, and James Dickey (from 1979!).
This is a fascinating article about Hiroshima and Nagasaki .

Thursday, August 11, 2005

K-MART Joins the Club

Remember that rad Kim Wilde song called "Kids in America" (covered by the ever lovely The Muffs for the Clueless soundtrack)?

Well now its the backdrop for a new K-MART back-to-hell commercial. Gross.

Rock on, kids.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

This Book Made Me Cringe: PLEDGED

Enter "the secret life of sororites" in Alexandra Robbins' book Pledged.

What happens when mean girls go to college?

I am still reeling from:

-"circle the fat": pledges are blindfolded and ordered to strip. Frat boys proceed to draw on their bodies with permanent marker. The pledges are then led into a room with a full length mirror and told to remove their blindfolds so that they can see the areas of their bodies that the frat boys determined were "in need of improvement." It's no wonder the plumber is such a frequent visitor to sorority houses -- pipes are frequently corroded by or clogged with vommit. Shocker: sorority houses are hotbeds for eating disorders.

- the racism that is not only tolerated but sanctioned by historically white sororities and fraternities in the South. Not too long ago, two white students at the University of Alabama burned crosses on the lawn when a historically black fraternity tried to move into a house on "fraternity row."

- the sexism: everything in sorority life revolves around men. EVERYTHING. Girls receive recognition and special ceremonies when they get "pinned" or "engaged," but can expect little more than a bag of chips for having the highest GPA. Date rape is not uncommon. Nor is gang rape, affectionately referred to by frat brothers as "specs" (short for spectator).

the classism: better be rich -- dues range from several hundred to several thousand dollars. This doesn't include the cost of tickets, clothes, alcohol, drugs, or gifts that sisters are expected to buy.

- the homophobia: forget the fact that so many of the "rituals" in greek life are rife with homoerotics, homosexuality is frowned upon by many in the greek system.

- the hazing: goes beyond humiliation and into the territory of organized, systematized cruelty. It's an ugly, ugly world.

- the overall risky behavior: extreme promiscuity and drug use help girls appear "cool" and "fun."

- the DEATHS: every year kids die during dangerous hazing practices. And you can bet your bottom dollar that many others must come dangerously close.

UPDATE: Check out this thread at the Greek Life Forum.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Annoying Boy of the Week: Wes from the Real World is a Really Wretched Weasel


We haven't watched the Real World regularly since it was in London, and then it was mostly because I thought Oxford punker boy Neal was hot. But this season the show is in Austin, and since we live here, it seemed like it would be interesting to tune in.

But it wasn't interesting. It was embarrassing. I mean, this show is boring (and you know we have an iron stomach for MTV offerings). In fact, the only thing we've gained by watching this crap is another boy to loathe. And we are not alone.

When I've tried to imagine what old W was like as a youngun, I've pictured a gangly monkey (in a diaper) with a needle hanging out of his arm and swinging from a chandelier. Wes is sort of close to that. He is smug, entitled, and mean. A real chauvinist pig. It was his idea to keep a drawer full of girls' phone numbers so that he and the other male cast members could dip into it any time they need to assert their virility (I still can't believe that there are any women willing to hook up with these people). Ironically, however, he feels compelled to "warn" one of his female roommates when he finds out one of the men she is seeing is only going out with her "because he can." Never mind that he's doing the same thing to as many women as possible! He's just that stone age. A real bam-bam. I kept looking for a club. And I just know that there is going to be a pissing contest before the season wraps.

Check out some excerpts from his roommate q + a:

1. Why did you audition for The Real World?

I auditioned at first because I was trying to hook up with a girl. I went to the open call plastered and trashed everyone in the bar. Who would have known?

2. Describe a typical day in your life, pre-Real World.

Wake up at 4 (p.m.?). Stumble to class. Sit in back. Fall asleep. Lift weights. Party...Party...Party...
16. What's the one thing you want people to know about you after watching the show?

I am really into the entrepreneurial world and cannot wait to invest in my own business.

17. What's your favorite thing to do in Austin?

Go to Dizzy and dance with all the Austinite groupies. Also dancing with Johanna [another cast member] and making her rip her pants.
Charming. I don't know which is more horrifying: the fact that this asshole has "austinite groupies" or the creepy, implied violence in the phrase "rip her pants."

I'll end by noting that on the snippet of the last episode I watched, Wes got into the shower while two of his roommates were hooking up to, like -- y'know, be funny. What is wrong with this person??? Perhaps that whole hazing thing messed him up:

7. Before moving into The Real World house, what roommate experience did you have? Were you nervous about living with Seven Strangers?

One of my old roommates in my fraternity house got some pledge brothers together and taped me up with duct tape so I couldn't move, then poured hard alcohol down my throat.

So it could be that. But it's probably more likely that Wes is just an asshole. I'd call him a weasel** again, but I just don't think the weasel deserves it.

*My apologies to pigs of the world as well.
** And the above mentioned monkey don't deserve it either.

Find annoying boys of weeks past here, here, here, and here.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Life on the Night Side

Summer in Texas is hot. Very hot. And though we love to bathe in the oily humidity of the lazy south, the twilight respite and velvety night calm are especially comfortable. In summers past we were often too exhausted to properly enjoy this time, mostly because we had to wake up and go to work (ew!) early in the day. But this summer we are on our own schedule, a luxury so profound that we often have to pinch ourselves when, on the nightside of 8 in the morning, we are finishing up a scene for our novel or tweaking the poetry collection or watching the remains of an America's Next Top Model marathon. Skunk Hour indeed.

But we've noticed that life on the nightside isn't held in, er, the highest esteem. We won't go into details here, but we've seen the brief flicker of judgement in peoples' eyes when we confess the details of our schedule. Shame on all the judgers!!!!

So we take comfort in the fact that we are not alone. We have our Nocturnal Comrades, both animal and human.

For example:

The Raccoon

Both the SB and my mother have a disdain for this creature. The SB had a micro-second showdown with one in the laundry room of our old apartment building, and just the other night my mother referred to these creatures as "scoundrels," and remarked that she "saw three raccoons on the side of the road and they looked just like a pack of bandits!!!"

I'll admit raccoons can be pesky, but they have those cute little masks! And their fluffy ringed tails? Adorable! And I think its cute that they sleep in the hollow trunks of old trees. We have a raccoon who has been raiding the bird feeder, and he even left a trail of seeds in the driveway! This creature is now knows as "the greeeeeeedy raccoon." Plus, on one episode of Little House on the Prairie, Laura decides to try to keep a raccoon as a pet. She named him Jasper and he did this funny trick where he would peel a hard-boiled egg and eat it. Because this post is about happy raccoons, I won't recount how the episode ends.

The Opossum

Of course we prefer the spelling with an "O," because, y'know, why leave out an "o" if you don't hafta? And we love animals with pouches. A mama will also carry her babies on her back, and if you've ever seen this then you know it is pretty cute. And they have prehensile tails! Once, we saw a pretty little ghostface possum roaming around in our back yard with -- get this -- a little cat friend. Really, they seemed quite amicable in the cat not attacking the opossum part. Poor little opossums -- they have a very high mortality rate, mostly because they are very placid and not into confrontation. Thus, they often lose. And who can't relate to that?

And we love this Emily Dickinson poem about the bat. And Wallace Stevens wrote about owls (see Owl's Clover and "The Owl in the Sarcophagus").

And plenty of peeps have kept our schedule. And though we do sleep, and therefore aren't technically insomniacs, if we were then we'd have company. Anyway, John Keats often wrote poems at night. And check out this Mina Loy poem. And BUFFY had to stay up to slay her nocturnal nemeses.

Of course we have many other night friends. And, truth be told, the best description of our schedule is probably crepuscular. But we're doing what we can to rehabilitate the reps of the noctunral crowd.

Please check out the website of my new favorite band

The Long Telegram

Fluffy Foodstuffs

You Are an Espresso

At your best, you are: straight shooting, ambitious, and energetic

At your worst, you are: anxious and high strung

You drink coffee when: anytime you're not sleeping

Your caffeine addiction level: high
Veggie Pizza

Upscale and trendy.
You're the most likely to go for a gourmet pizza.
You have impeccable taste in everything.
You truly enjoy the finer things in life.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Shredicine is the Best Laughter

Hi, everybody!

Remember that episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" where Richard Lewis is trying to get Larry to help him be included in the next edition of "Bartlett's Quotations" ? Lewis insists that he is the original coiner of the phrase "the blank from hell" but nobody believes him. Well, I thought that episode was funny becase a) nobody can really claim credit for most of the really familiar quotations we use all the time, and b) that particular phrase ("from hell") is really played out and stupid.

Or so I thought. Because I have recently discovered the awesome heavy metal guitar instruction website, "Chops From Hell" ( This, in my opinion, is the best thing on the internet right now.

First off, you've got the fantastic fire-and-brimstone graphix. Then, the fact that one of the contributors of columns about playing very speedy Van Halen-style guitar is a 55-year old lutenist-of-the-cloth, one "Father Stanislaus" who also goes by the name of "shreddingpriest." Finally, the plethora of short videos of hirsute bedroom rockers demonstrating their most fabulous hot licks. To me, this is better than any minimalist music composition I have ever heard.

I should confess that I grew up loving the shred. I worshipped at the altar of Yngwie J. Malmsteen, Paul Gilbert and David T. Chastain. I didn't like the lyrics, the screaming, or the spandex. But the widdly-widdly-widdly? Fantastique.

Recall that the seminal "philosopher of the baroque" Leibnitz used to love taking court ladies into the garden to observe the wild multiplicity and individuality of each leaf and butterfly. So too with the self-proclaimed "neo-classical" shredders of the 1980s (who imagined a classical music canon consisting only of J.S. Bach and Nicolo Paganini, a move which should be embraced by all because: 1) it would drastically reduce the stress caused by too many plaster "great-composer-bust" figurines on pianos, and 2) it would remove all of the crappy Russian composers from orchestra repetoires), and their intricate tapestries of howling digital aerobix.
The pleasures of apprehending the difference between the widdly-widdly-widdly and the widdly-widdly-wangily also causes corset-bursting waves of aesthetic bliss. I feel faint, Viscount Von Shreddingham!.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

BRAISED AND CONFUSED (or, too much wine in the braised broccoli I just made?)

Mark Bittman throws down

So, I was reading my brother's blog,, and I came across a very provocative statement. I could look it up and quote it verbatim, but where would the sloth be in that? Anyways, my brother was describing braising something, and said that he had conclusively decided that he was throwing down the gauntlet re: the Bitman vs. Batali braising debate (to brown or not to brown).


So I googled "Batali Bittman braising debate" and came up with only one match, something called "e-gullet." What in Sam Hill is that? Some folks were talking about a Mark Bitman article from the New York Times about braising in a slow cooker, but no details.

Mark Bitman is the "Minimalist" who writes for the NY Times. Sometimes he talks about food on NPR and comes across as something of an enfant terrible. Or eminence grise. I really don't know French. He said that green peppers suck, and that 24 hour marinades are for patsies. Holla!

Mario Batali is the highly eloquent and impassioned ambassador of Italian cuisine on the Food Network. He kicks serious booty in the Iron Chef America cook-offs.

It just seems weird to me that Bitman would ever be righter about something than Batali. Does that make me a monster?

so there