Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Politics of 30 Rock

Maybe it's my brain (according to all the recent science, everything political can be explained by brains: MRIs expose how amygdala activity determines if you're a Republican, skin conductivity proves you're an Independent), maybe I'm just "hard-wired" this way, but I actually think 30 Rock is a pretty liberal show.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Update! Rupert Pupkin apologises

Hey De Niro, say it ain't so!

The former King of Comedy makes a perfectly good joke about the media-blight of minority-preparedness ("Are we ready for a gay bishop?" "Are we ready for an Asian NBA player?") and suddenly a bunch of globular, jowly white guys are acting like he just found the burial plots of their dearly beloved ancestors, unearthed them, and urinated into the empty holes while doing his very own De Niro impression.

His apology is somewhat politically-savvy, as De Niro tries to ensure that it is obvious his main concern is Michelle Obama.

"My remarks, although spoken with satirical jest, were not meant to offend or embarrass anyone -- especially the first lady," De Niro said in a statement.

I'm not sure what to make of a 'satirical jest', much less how one speaks with satirical jest, and we've dealt with the bizarre issue of intent before: a great joke suddenly hinges on some excavation of intent; but the three grotesqueries remain: the joke was not racist, and somehow a bunch of white guys are victims of ersatz racism; the Obamas will always bow to the moral authority of right wing demagogues; and, gosh, aren't these old white goats great defenders of their ladies' honour?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Gingrich Who Stole Race

I'm done, I'm through, I've had it. Really, I give up. You know that really cute saying by Tom Lehrer about how awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Kissinger made satire obsolete? At a certain point, you just reach the end of your rope and you say, it's over. Lehrer continued to write satire, he continued to work in parody, he refused to give up; I, on the other hand, think there is no more point having any sort of conversation about comedy.

Newt Gingrich, a man sculpted by God from leftovers from Rush Limbaugh's right buttock, has demanded apologies for a joke Robert De Niro made at a fundraiser. Gingrich called the joke inexcusable; he wants President Obama to apologise. And you know what? Because the fundraiser was attended by Michelle Obama, and because the joke involved her, Michelle Obama's people . . . agreed, and called the joke 'inappropriate.' They caved in, they agreed with Gingrich, and they threw De Niro out of the back of a bus, so to speak.

That's the country, and that's this presidency, in a squirrel-gnawed nutshell.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Well judged

It's important to know what's what on the internet. News organizations, including ones that are not overtly propaganda wings of the Republican party, are perfectly happy to promote frank nationalist propaganda disguised as the public service of 'opinion', although they're also entirely willing to disseminate Republican party propaganda; things that are NSFW tend to be disappointingly SFW, but are still NSFW, reflecting how low the bar is set on what is considered suitable or not suitable for work, which, come to think of it, is not a bad thing: hey, just over a week until Mad Men is back; the best things are still ones you read in print, but it's exciting that you're not limited to print, even if when you read it on a blog, you're constantly following links, most of which are not edifying; and anyway, I was looking up the correct spelling of e-mail/email and came across this, which is helpful but also, I thought, very funny in a well-judged way. It was nice to come across something that wasn't trying too hard and yet had a lovely touch with a good line, quoted or its own.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sarah and her Lesbian Niece

It's really great finding a clip of a comedian at her peak and getting the chance to see her do one of those near perfect acts where every line is perfectly weighted, perfectly sharpened - the line is often long passed before you see how deeply you've been slit. In this case, there's an added bonus. The audience really doesn't seem to like her very much; it's a very generous audience, you can tell that much, but they're not really that keen. For most of the video, I'm wondering if they detest her or simply don't get her. Still, there's a gorgeously horrible moment towards the end when the audience is finally coming around and they really get hooked.

An alert member of the elite readers of this blog sent me this link to a paper, "What makes humour aesthetic?"

I'm not going to lie, I'm not going to make idiots of you, I'm not going to take you on a ride on my spangled unicycle down stupid lane . . . I only skimmed this paper. Barely. I haven't studied it deeply, I am not presenting you with a comprehensive rebuttal, I'm not hitching you on a spangled unicycle and taking you down brilliant analysis lane.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Sad Day for Melancholia

Absolutely no Oscar nominations for the Best Film of 2011, starring the persons who deserved Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor? Sigh.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Without a Hitch

I had a rather pleasant image of Hitchens walking through the pearly gates, scowling at the angels and shaking his head with disgust at a very long, smug queue of the bovine deist-departed waiting to have their first meeting with God; St Peter puts an arm around his shoulder and says, "Well, on the bright side", as he steers Hitchens to a celestial bar where the Scotch is good, cigarettes are lit with stars, and the conversation is about to get better.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Choleric Purple

One of the things about writing that can be really annoying is when other people do it.

I hasten to add: there are some people out there who write very well and I am really glad they do. Haruki Murakami. Philip Roth. I could name literally hundreds more. But the rest? Like little ticker-machines producing airribbons of language in a continuous chattering stream, the invisible snake-like wordribbons evaporating into a coffee-scented breeze around our chests; horribly, a great many of these coils are translated into print and then pasted across our visors.

Friday, November 18, 2011

They're baa-aack

Imagine I have my hands lightly on your shoulders, my face only inches from your own; I'm looking straight into your eyes, you can smell my licorice-scented breath as I say to you, "You know the joke's on you, right? You get that, don't you?"

A few days ago, a reporter with a news camera was roughed up by a cop operating as some sort of bodyguard for Herman Cain. He pushed her into Cain's campaign bus and then clotheslined her. The cop's commanding officer justified his vigorous oaf's assault as concern for the safety of Herman Cain; Lt. McHugh of the Coral Springs Police Department went on to add that "the officer, Sgt William Reid, suffered a hyper-extended elbow." Aha! The cop (whose name was not given in the news report until this point, when his suffering deserved a proper noun and a subjectivity) was the real victim here. His elbow was hyper-extended as he knocked the reporter off her feet. Can you imagine what sort of damage she did to the cartilage and ligaments in his elbow as she hurled herself into his arm?

It's comic.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mockupy Wall Street

It has been crushingly unsurprising to witness the rampantly dishonest, patronising, and snarky coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement(s), from the freebie rags (the AM and Metro syndicates) to the populist servants of the rich. The New York Post has been chomping at the bit, frothing over their front pages:

OWS are "shits"; they're "animals". Fox Nation managed to transmit one article with a story that cuts to the chase, turning them them into shitting animals:

NYers Furious at Protesters: 'Neighbors Don't Defecate in Streets'.
Even in outlets one might expect to be sympathetic, journalists and writers are straining to distance themselves from the soiled, spoiled youth. Hendrik Hertzberg ended an otherwise curious and partly sympathetic lunchtime stroll through Zuccotti Park with a sour burp of condescension:
If Occupy Wall Street can continue to behave with nonviolent restraint, if it can avoid hijack by a flaky fringe, if it can shake the center-left out of its funk, if it can embolden Democratic politicians (very much including President Obama, who, lately and belatedly, has begun to show signs of fight), then preoccupied Main Street will truly owe OWES. Big ifs all. It’s too early to tell, but not too late to hope.
In the next week's New Yorker, Lizzie Widdicombe made frequent use of cutesy brackets in her bubbly trip to a cartoon Zuccotti Park. Yes, Lizzie, it is "erroneous" to say that Michael Bloomberg is the richest man in the United States; he's actually the second richest man in New York, and only the twelfth richest man in the United States.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Yankee Fan with the Golden Gun

What exactly is the "news value" of a picture of a dead body that is not already contained in the information that said person is dead?
Do such images add "news value" to descriptions like:

In a cellphone video that went viral on the Internet, the deposed Libyan leader is seen splayed on the hood of a truck and then stumbling amid a frenzied crowd, seemingly begging for mercy. He is next seen on the ground, with fighters grabbing his hair. Blood pours down his head, drenching his golden brown khakis, as the crowd shouts, “God is great!”

When the news first came out about Gaddafi's execution, the photographs and video images did - not despite, but as evidence for, the analyses of Barthes and Sontag - provide a sense of confirmation, but this sense of confirmation may be adding something other than what I would understand by "news value"; its value lies elsewhere.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Outer Mong-don't-go-there

Okay, so my arm was twisted by an alert reader, I'll enter the fray.

Apparently, twitter has been a-flutter after Ricky Gervais tweeted a series of jokes in which he plays with the word "mong." Previously, we dealt with profoundly mean-spirited, nasty, spiteful jokes about disability (Ofcom and About A Boy), but this has a different quality to it.

As I'm sure you all know, "mong" is a term of derision for people with mental retardation, especially people with Down Syndrome. The "stigmata" of Down Syndrome can include macroglossia (a big tongue, hence elegant impersonations that involve putting your tongue under your lower lip and going "nhhhuhhhh"), the rather more imaginatively-named "simian crease" ("get your simian crease off of me, you damned dirty ape"), and, of course, prominent epicanthal folds, which spurred the popularisation of the term "mongoloid", cleverly contracted to "mong". There is nothing affectionate or endearing about the word "mong"; it's a crass and pejorative diminutive of a weirdly racist characterisation of a feature associated with a number of conditions associated with mental retardation. A whole history of dismissive, contemptuous, belittling, and arrogantly misconstrued cruelty is captured in that term.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

In the news

Does anybody else think this report might be the first, innocent indication of our eventual demise?


An alert reader directed me to this, a wonderful example about the uses and abuses of language, with a very amusing core question: were they joking when they insisted that 'punani' was a "sandwich sold locally and is made of Italian bread with cheese and tomato which is heated up"? One has to admire the several conceits in the line - the notion that it is a local custom, the concession to tenuous Italian origins in Italian bread, and the culinary explanation that it is heated up, all in all displaying a lovely ignorance of panini. Comedy is a wonderful guise for innocence, through uncertainly brilliant relays of stupidity, gullibility, and distraction.

Religious Fiction Double Feature

I just emerged from the Film Forum, which was packed with men in their (to be generous) late thirties, with retreating hair lines and expanding waist lines (it was nice to stand out from the crowd for once), where I saw a double feature - Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant (1992) and William Friedkin's Cruising (1980) - that was supposed to be showing there on September 11, 2001. I considered the arbitrary significance of that fact, and it was a touching thing to replay those films (indeed, they're replaying the series that was showing then, NYPD). It's another New York and the same New York; both films are from a different era, somehow more in contact with each other than with us now, although that might be true of any two points in the relatively recent past; but it would be hard to imagine either film being made today, and I'm not sure that's a sign of progress.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Say what?

Not having bothered to blog in a while (during which time, this blog escaped and went feral, submitting posts under its own name on bizarre astronomical and eskimo-porn web-sites; I wrangled it back this morning with the promise of cookies, and then subdued it with a benzodiazapene-spiced cracker), I had no real inclination to blog today. If I didn't have anything to say, why say it?

That was obviously not the motivating question for the syndicated cartoonists in the Sunday Newspapers, who today banded together for the first time since they met up during lunchbreak in the maths classroom, played Dungeons and Dragons, and wondered what girls were, a few dozen years ago. And that includes the girls. Anyway, they put out a collective commemoration, in which they pretty much had nothing to say, and said it en masse.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sunday Recommendation

It is looking increasingly unlikely that I will complete my Hall Pass analysis before this blog - rather crassly in my opinion - goes on vacation again, this time not for sordid adventures but because it wants to spend some time "meditating" and so will be in a secluded spa on a mountaintop somewhere, drinking rainwater and communing with itself. No doubt it will return cleansed, emptied, and, I'm sure, will consist only of entries about new vegan recipes and self-purification rituals. Fucking blogs.

However, I would like to recommend Hall Pass and Friends With Benefits, as I hope to deal with these in the near future, providing, of course, this blog is not devoted to mantras and ecstatic reports about how it is now having the best sex of its life with some holistic homeopathic blog, without even reaching orgasm.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Making a Good Expression

A very alert reader e-mailed me this, asking "Why are impressions funny? Don't they show us things we already know?" And I was all like "Are you e-mailin' me? Are you e-mailin' me? 'Cause I don't see nobody else in your 'sent to' line" and then I was all like [in gravelly voice:] "Ith a wery intuhwesthing quethun. [stroke chin with back of forefingers] Makel, what do you think? Thud we ask Fweddoh?" and then I left work, wondering what is so funny about impressions, and was almost hit by a car in the street, and I was all like "I'm walkin' here, I'm walkin' here", and then I took the train home and it was running late but I did eventually get home.

[That last bit should be read as though it was being said by George from Gilbert and George.]

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Light That's Going Out

Happiness is always the same, but there are an infinite number of ways of being unhappy. While that's not quite an original thought, I was reminded today of another way of being unhappy; it's not a sorrowful feeling, it's not melancholic, it's not the dizzy nausea of loss, or a dank depression or despair, it's got nothing to do with pity or sympathy; it's much milder, much more pointless, less an experience of unhappiness than a sort of existential yawn that somehow aches. At what point does one stop being a fan and cut those precious, invisible strands of devotion and dedication and admiration that bind you to somebody from afar? What does it even mean to stop being a fan? Is there a point where someone's actions so influence you that you're turned off by their art as well? I'm not talking about those avid watercolourists who face the dilemma of being great admirers of Hitler's oeuvre and yet must struggle to reconcile the art with the man; I actually don't know if such a group really exists, but I like to think that they do, and that their annual newsletter is fraught with aesthetic-ethical debates. No, it's Morrissey again, a man who would apparently now like to be both famous and righteous and holy. The man has rather insistently put himself into all sorts of awkward positions over the past few decades in a manner that has been reliably truculent and often associated with animal rights (although, as I'm sure everybody has noticed, there's a peculiar, irrepressible and boringly regular strand of xenophobia and racism laced in with his animal rights rhetoric); in his dotage, Morrissey has become a sort of petulant, fey version of Elizabeth Costello, but without her hesitation and, I'm sorry to say, lacking her charm.

As an alert reader pointed out with disgust, in an e-mail poisonously titled "I've changed my verdict to guilty", and as I'm sure everybody is now aware, Morrissey compared what happened in Norway to the fast food industry; or rather, he turned the comparison on its head and said that what happened in Norway "is nothing compared to what McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Shit every day". The alert reader is giving away his Morrissey tickets for the forthcoming concert; sans tickets, sans opportunity, I'm not facing a similar ethical quandary.

I don't think I need to offer any incisive commentary on what Morrissey said; for a man who has long prided himself on his wit, his comment lacks any whatsoever. That his comment lacks many other things as well can be left unsaid. But he lost a lot of people who really enjoyed defending him through thick and thin; we were, in fact, a sort of subspecies, and we're fast going extinct.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Importance of Being Santorum

An alert reader notified me about a segue, or a sequel, to one of the great comic political bitch-slaps of modern times, Dan Savage's take-down of the puckerbutted, sweaty-browed Pennsylvania Bigot, Rick Santorum, previously discussed in the blog; you can find the sequel here. Anybody interested in the political use of language will enjoy this comic twist to a story I still find amusing; I've tried to interest some people in considering this an act of speak, as opposed to unspeak, but they just look at me like a little part of them died when I spoke. It's not an unusual experience for me.

Keep checking in; I promise, over the next few days, a post on impressions and at least one on Hall Pass.