Saturday, March 05, 2005

Theory, Theory, Theory

I'm hip-deep in essays for class this weekend, so instead of writing a long post, here's a list of real, actual dissertation titles. All of these dissertations failed, by the way.

* Squirrel Imagery in Dante's Inferno

* The Great Unwashed: The Politics of Dust in Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath

* The Influence of "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" on Chaucer's "The Nun's Priest's Tale"

* The Envaginated Eye: A Post-Colonial Feminist Deconstruction of Ernest Hemingway's Nick Adams Stories

* Manifestations of the Implied Phallus in Edmund Spenser's The Fairie Queene

* The Comprehensive Compendium of Feminist Theorists in Puritan England
(this one apparently failed because it was three pages, double-spaced, in 16 point Courier font)

* Celebrations of Charles Dickens's Bleak House: I Finished a Book with, Like, 500 Pages!

* Three Apples High: Smurfian Influence and Gargamelian Imagery in Aeschylus's Orestia

This one's for all of you who like a good language joke:
* Post-Colonial Re-Evaluations of Modern Interpretations of Modern Day Postmodern Deconstructions of Modernism's Prefigurements of Post-Structural Antidisestablishmentarianism

And my personal favorite:
* Trumpeting the Walls of Academic Jericho: Exposing the Elitist Pedantry of Dr. Ludwig E. Vante, My Dissertation Director

Friday, March 04, 2005

The Stars Our Destination

Yesterday, millionaire Steve Fossett became the first man, at the age of 60, to circle the globe in an aircraft -- all 23,000 miles -- without once stopping to refuel. Now, forget that he's the same whacko who was previously obsessed with circling the globe in a balloon and think about the implications of this. He flew around the globe in 67 hours, by himself, and even though some fuel was lost on the way, his craft -- the GlobalFlyer -- made the round trip from Kansas to Kansas.

Last July, the 21st to be exact, Mike Melvill became the first man to enter sub-orbit in a private craft, the SpaceShipOne. He flew upwards for 62 miles, and experienced 3 minutes of weightless freefall completely outside of our planet's atmosphere. And he landed safely despite some damage to the craft.

We are a clever species. Ingenuity is inherent in us. We can write Moby Dick, we can map the human genome, we can look back from the mountain of civilization and see where we came from. And we can master the air. And none of this happened with governmental involvement. NASA is so outdated that it took another space disaster for them to realize their shuttles were 20 years out of date; actually, we have no right to blame NASA, it's their lack of funding. The "president" doesn't think they're important anymore. He can't see immediate monetary reward.

So, the good news is, we will get further into outer space. It'll just be very expensive. But I congratulate Steve Fossett and Mike Melvill, for showing us that when the government drops the ball, private citizens can pick it right back up.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Ashlee Reflux

I know I'm opening myself up for ridicule by other music fans, but I like Ashlee Simpson's music. Her show is another matter (boy, she just floats through life, don't she?), but I think her album was one of the best of last year in a music industry that is increasingly lame.

But can we please stop picking on her because she used acid reflux as an excuse for her shitty live singing? I have acid reflux, and it actually can be a serious problem. Before it was properly diagnosed I spent two weeks puking up everything I ate and drank (even water). It tears out the inside of your throat if not medicated, and with that and the extra acid from the vomit, I developed ulcerations on my larynx. Losing your voice is the easiest thing to deal with. I have taken Prilosec every day since summer 1998 (it used to be a $115 scrip drug), and without it I run the risk of developing throat cancer from the acid coming back to choke me. I wake up every morning coughing. So, yeah, it's kind of a serious problem with the digestive system.

And while I'm in a rant, these fucking commercials that say, "Prilosec isn't for immediate relief of heartburn? What's the point of that?" need to go the fuck away. Prilosec is basically a lifetime commitment for people with serious problems. You fat assholes who need to fix your little tummy ache because you over did it on black coffee and fried-egg-and-bacon-on-toast sandwiches with a sausage side, you guys have Maalox, Tums, and other little pieces of candy to make you fart away your indigestion. Some of us are sick, and some of us need to stop eating McDonald's every day for breakfast.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Who the Hell Is This Music Made For, Anyway?

At last, it's out -- the new Jennifer Lopez album! At least, that's what I'm supposed to be thinking, right? I mean, MTV Hits wouldn't spend the week playing only videos and TV specials revolving around one artist unless she was universally beloved, right? Right?

You tell me. From last Wednesday until just yesterday, MTV Hits, the only 24-hour music video channel to bear the MTV logo, played nothing but Jennifer Lopez videos, TV specials, and advertisements for her new album, Rebirth. There was a never-vanishing logo in the bottom righthand corner, counting down the days until this artistic milestone would be made available to the eager public.

Is it in MTV's interest to act as nothing more than an advertising conduit for an "artist" (do we have to keep calling EVERY singer that, especially one who doesn't write her own songs?) that people don't even like very much? Quick, what's your favorite Jennifer Lopez song? Can you even remember one? Name three. Here, I'll give you the new one, "Get Right," which has been shrilly blaring on VH1 for the last month or nine (it's hard to tell, when that music comes out, time slows). And "Jenny from the Block" doesn't count because of the media shitstorm over it. Still can't do it? Fuck, neither can I.

And that's just my point. No one gives a shit about Jennifer Lopez as a singer.

I happened to get my hands on a promo copy of this album a few days early, with the intention of listening to it ahead of time and ridiculing the hell out of it for the enjoyment of my girlfriend. Well, I listened to the goddamn thing. And here's my assessment, track by track.

1. "Get Right"
It opens with the blaring of a saxophone, four notes sounding over and over again exactly (the age of digital recording has been hard on us all) like the trumpet blast of Gabriel or the horn of Heimdall for almost a full minute. It is, frankly, music to signal the end of the world. But before Ragnarok can begin, we're subjected to the sound of Jennifer Lopez singing about... what? It's not really about anything, just music to dance to. Have lyrics ever been more irrelevant to music than they are now?
Implied Message: "We (meaning the media and I) can still patch up our relationship."

2. "Step Into My World"
A sensuous groove, a little tribal sounding, but the production is overbearing (par for the course). Tries for a transfixed "sexy" trance, but fails miserably.
Implied Message: "It's alright to stare at me, I'm sexy and hypnotic."

3. "Hold You Down" featuring Fat Joe, someone I don't want to imagine holding anyone down
I goddamn hate Fat Joe and his lazy mouth. It doesn't take any talent to rap these days, does it? You just have to mutter, yell "yeah" and "uh" a lot, and then wave your arms frantically while looking like you don't give a shit. That's all there is. Some people have real skill in their voice -- Eve, for example, Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg (whose new album is among the best I've ever heard of any genre), Big Boi and Andre 3000 -- but most of them are just ramblers for hire to "spice up" the track of some dance music or other. This is obviously going to be the next single. The only surprise on this one is that it contains an actual acknowledgement of J. Lo's actual Hispanic heritage; on the other hand, she only exploits it when it'll do something for her. Otherwise, did you ever notice that Italian men always play her father in movies? Who's she trying to fool? She jumped to stardom as Selena, and then turned her back on the Hispanic community completely.
Implied Message: "I'm still the same girl who was a pure dreamer back in the day," which also implies, "I've always treated people with the disgusting self-regard I do now."

4. "Whatever You Wanna Do"
This is the most compelling listen, but only because it heavily samples the classic Nite-Liters hit "Con-Funk-Shun." You can never go wrong with funk music -- remember the greatness of funk music, now dead like rock, punk, and soul? -- but the problem with sampling is that all you can think of is how much better the original song is. The lyrics are something about guys being turned on by the mere sight of J. Lo.
Implied Message: "I'm so sexy, even I want to fuck me."

5. "Cherry Pie"
Holy shit. This is one of only two songs co-written by Lopez herself, and is an attempt at coquettish attitude and blatant sexuality. It's irritatingly produced and oddly embarrassing. Though a line like "I can be your cherry pie, and you can be my cream on top" is worthy of Zappa, or at least Rob Halford, this song is simply idiotic.
Implied Message: "Bad boys get to fuck me." (Which is, incidentally, the message of the Destiny's Child song "Soldier" -- it's depressing when women glorify the thug life.)

6. "I Got U"
Meh. Unnoticeable background music that tries to rip some Indian rap musical flourishes from DJ Panjabi. It's just one pap platitude after another, generic words about true love, or something. Take out the beat and the orchestrations alone would guarantee lite rock radio play in 1983. Atlantic Starr flashbacks...
Implied Message: ????

7. "Still Around"
More Dionne Warwick sounding AOR slickness. For once, a positive song about love from an MTV "artist." This is actually the only decent song on the whole goddamn stupid album.
Implied Message: "Love can last a lifetime if you act like a goddamn adult."

8. "Ryde or Die"
I'm afraid I don't know how to "ryde" just yet. It seems to be about a guy who left and she's obssessed with him. Who cares? Annoying production.
Implied Message: "I have no control over my emotions, because that's what sells to women."

9. "I, Love"
The title is pretentious enough, but the production is annoying, the track is irritating, and it can't end fast enough. It seems silly for a 35 year-old woman to sing about how she can't tell a man how much she is enamored with him. It also contains the most embarrassing line on the album, "I love you like a queen would love a king." Ouch. I, unimpressed.
Implied Message: "You don't understand how much I love you, and it's all my fault."

10. "He'll Be Back"
Well, maybe it's meant to be inane. Or ironic. It's an anthem of misogyny punctuated by Arab horns and nice strings. The sentiment is horrible.
Implied Message: "Your man's not coming back, but it's somehow more healthy to keep hoping like a blind moron than face reality."

11. "(Can't Believe) This Is Me"
This is the other song co-written by Lopez, a strident song about the breakup of a relationship. People will be asking today, "Is this song about Ben Affleck?" Well, the thing about that is, whenever J. Lo sings about men on this album, it seems like she's really singing about her turbulent relationship with the media, which is easily more important to her than any hack movie star. And this needy, clingy, annoying attempt to create a Jim Steinman type opera piece is not the way to ingratiate yourself with the media once again. Pretentious, pompous, and hideous.
Implied Message: "How could you build me up to break me down?"

12. "Get Right" with Fabolous
Misspelling is cool, huh huh a-hyuck! Can we put a [sic] after these rappers' name's from now on? I mean, make it mandatory. Maybe they just don't know they're misspelling... This "re-mix" is really nothing more than Fabolous [sic] rambling badly over Lopez's vocal track in an attempt to either re-sell it or make it more serious. Terrible.
Implied Message: "J to tha L-o, just don't call me that to my face without giving me a lot of money and unearned fame."

And there it is: 48 minutes of sheer brutality against the human ear (what it does to a dog, I can't imagine). The sad part is, there are no real instrument credits, but a long, long list of publishing rights and producers. Doesn't anyone make albums anymore? There was once a time when one producer, or two, would oversee the entire process and make an album sound like a coherent artistic statement, rather than a half-assed singles collection of filler and two hits. Pop is no different than rock when it comes to production -- the flourishes are different, but the process is the same. Hell, even Thriller, the greatest pop album of all time, had just one producer: Quincy Jones. Look what hedging your bets gets you -- Jennifer Lopez.

Can anyone make the case for Jennifer Lopez? She thinks she's this generation's Barbra Streisand, and today's kids are so lame that she might be right. But she can't act and she can't sing. Her music is all forgettable even as it's being heard, and the one good movie she's in (Out of Sight) is in spite of her, not because of her. What does she have going for her? Well, she's incredibly sexy, which in today's world is seen as some sort of accomplishment. She has an amazing body, and any one of her videos serves as fine masturbation material (especially that Flashdance rip-off). But does that make a career? Even Marilyn Monroe had screen presence. For eternity, Jennifer Lopez is going to be the chick with the ass, and nothing else.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Black History Month Afterthought

"After the Egyptian and the Indian, the Greek and the Roman, the Teuton and the Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world -- a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels this two-ness -- an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings, the warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder."
-- W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, 1903

"I'm not black, but I know what it feels like."
-- Natalie Portman, Allure magazine, 2005

I swear I have no idea what to say to that...

The 10 Millionth Blog Comment on the Oscars

Well, it's all over now, bar the opinionated recaps. The real surprise of the 77th Academy Awards (it certainly wasn't the predictability of the winners) was that it lasted about 3 hours 17, and not the four hours it usually goes for. New time-saving devices cut down on walking time, killed all of the musical presentations except for the songs nominees, and generally made for a looser (yet very efficient and organized) show. So, rather than go into who deserved to win and who was robbed -- were there, ultimately, any surprises -- here's 20 observations on the show itself.

1. There were a lot of sexy women there this year. For years now, fashion has been too severe, too austere, and full of bland colors. This year, everything softened, and the women looked gorgeous in their soft colors, soft makeup, and long, wavy hair. Who was the best dressed? Well, that's just a code for who was the sexiest in my opinion. Salma Hayek, Zhang Ziyi, Gwyneth Paltrow, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Halle Berry, Annette Bening, Cate Blanchett, Hilary Swank, and Kate Winslet were all beautiful and stunning. Scarlett Johansson seemed to be channeling Marilyn Monroe with her tousled hair, red lips, and curvy hips. Gisele Bundchen had on some kind of Oscar maternity gown that made her look tres preggo. Virginia Madsen looked more stunning than she has since 1992, and Beyonce, it must be said, gave me a huge boner.

Since we're on the subject, the unsexiest women this year were the skeletal Renee Zellweger (fading into nothingness as she is), Natalie Portman (my girlfriend Becca said she was so thin you could see her heart beat), and Emmy Rossum (whoever the hell that is). Seriously, girls, Kate Moss is worried about your health.

2. Are Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal dating, or just siblings? Seriously, they looked engaged. And what do you think the chances are of several past Kirsten Dunst-Maggie hookups? Is it me, or is it just, like, wildly obvious?

3. Chris Rock is fucking funny.

4. Is it possible that Robin Williams could ever once show a little dignity and just present an award, instead of briefly making the moment about him and his litany of impressions (isn't it, really, kind of the same thing over and over again, anyway)?


5. I'm glad Brad Bird won. He's a major talent in film, and on further reflection, maybe The Incredibles really was the best movie of the year.

6. If Charlize Theron is so beautiful, why is it that her makeup at the Oscars always makes her look like Yao Ming?

7. No one will ever be likeable and funny at once like Johnny Carson was.

8. Mike Myers, despite the introduction given to him, is not "loveable." He's barely likeable. And while we're on the fake-tanned one, let's also point out the Counting Crows suck harder live than they do on tape (and that's pretty hard), and I fucking hate Shrek 2. Not that it's a bad movie, but let's get a grip, people.

9. You know, when you put director Sidney Lumet's work all together like that, he really has had a pretty good overall career output. Even if he is directing a movie with Vin Diesel. As a lawyer. Apparently, eloquence is overrated for lawyering... Also, Sidney Lumet's daughter has the body of an Amazon, and was the sexiest woman of the night.

10. Don't get me started on the supposed artistic merits of that Phantom of the Opera shit...

11. What a night for Spanish-language films. The first ever Best Foreign Language film for Spain, the Best Song winner, and I don't know if those rumors of the lesbian playtime of Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz are true, but I hope they are and I hope someone has video. Antonio Banderas is an awesome singer (see Evita if you don't believe me), but I still think Carlos Santana is overrated.

12. Why, alone of all the categories, did the nominees for Best Documentary (Short Subject) not applaud each other as their names were read? Way to be polite and gracious. Whoever the hell those two guys were that won, they were crass, tasteless assholes who couldn't shut up fast enough. Their speech marked the first and only time I turned the sound off. Yes, even on the Josh Groban "song."

13. Did I mention that Beyonce gave me a huge hard-on?

14. John Travolta's hairpiece is pretty obvious. So was Dustin Hoffman's drunkeness, for that matter.

15. There were six people I truly admired who died this past year (other than Johnny): Peter Ustinov, Paul Winfield, Jerry Goldsmith, Disney animator Frank Thomas, Rodney Dangerfield, and the great Russ Meyer. Any one of them is worth 800 Jude Laws.

16. Seriously, people, P. Diddy?

17. Sean Penn is a pompous, arrogant, humorless prick. You play dress-up and make-believe for a living, you schmuck. This asshole really thinks he's the new Brando -- another gassy, bloated, overrated actor. Acting is not noble; get a real job, punk.

18. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind should have been the fifth Oscar nominee for Best Picture. I'm glad Charlie Kaufman won for a non-Spike Jonze-ruined screenplay, and for a science fiction metanarrative postmodern screenplay at that. Fuck Sideways.

19. I've never seen The Motorcycle Diaries, but I'm very tired of it.

20. Million Dollar Baby was the best movie of the year other than The Incredibles and Fahrenheit 9/11. And special thanks to Hilary Swank for breaking the Best Actress mold by not breaking down into an embarrassing rant, Gwyneth Paltrow style. Though, of course, no one will ever be as shrill, pointless, and uncomfortable as unneccesary winner Halle Berry was two years ago...

Well, that's it, then. Other than a special shout-out to Julia Roberts's beautiful, round, creamy, lustrous, enormous post-childbirth boobs (marking the second of two times she's ever looked attractive), that was my Oscar broadcast.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Speak Out Against the Truth

Okay, look, everyone knows that smoking kills, right? I mean, is there anyone stupid enough to blame the tobacco industry? No one makes you smoke, and we all know it's bad for you. It's just that some of us don't care. And some people aren't going to quit no matter how much you try to shame them into it. So hey, just let them go.

Don't you find those Truth ads insulting? They try to make you feel like an asshole for smoking. So, not that anyone's reading this, but if you are and you hate the fact that Truth.com sees you as just another idiot who needs to be indoctrinated to their way of thinking -- the same propaganda the tobacco companies use, I must add -- then click the above link and tell them that, thanks to the insuling tone of their commercials, you go out once a month, buy 500 packs of cigarettes, and leave them lying around schoolyards. I'm not saying really do it, obviously. But just let them know.