Sunday, February 29, 2004

It's cool being back in a place where the Oscars aren't just an event, they're a big-ass traffic hassle.

In other local entertainment news today, I finally figured out (by accidentally eating lunch there) where Thai Elvis performs, so a field trip is no doubt imminent. And on that topic, is any substance better qualified for the term "Liquid Crack" than Thai Iced Tea? I mean, you know, other than actual liquified crack.

Friday, February 27, 2004

What's more depressing? The fact that I had the following exchange today with Shanna the co-worker who is a senior in college:

J: It's like, do you remember when Adam Sandler and David Spade used to do two guys from a religious cult on SNL?
S: Omigod, Adam Sandler used to be on Saturday Night Live?

or this (via Green Gourd):

You are... A Bar Code Reader!!!
Beep... $2.49!
You are a highly competent individual who has societal value whereever you go -- whether
you are in the busy stores of Madison Avenue or the outposts of Burkina Faso,
your ability to decipher the indecipherable brings praise and jealousy.
While some are put off by your occasional beeping, most find it subtly soothing.
Do not be afraid to assert yourself -- your timidity is by no means an asset.
To achieve success, however, never leave the philosophy of simple math
that got you where you are today: the checkout counter.
PS - I was serious about being assertive: that skirt really is 30% off!!!

Take the Personality Quiz, brought to you by Mr. Poon.

Monday, February 23, 2004

The outpouring of love on the news that I've been admitted to my 7th-choice school is really touching--a million thanks, all.

Now, on to leech-dom...

Sunday, February 22, 2004

So I've been thinking about some different things to blog about over the last several days but I pretty much threw them all out the window because Jeff brought in the mail this afternoon and I GOT MY FIRST BIG ENVELOPE!!!!!!

So I will do no worse than UCLA Law. YAY!

Friday, February 20, 2004

It's always something a little bit different when you commute on the bus in L.A. The first day I ever did so, there was a crazy muttering homeless Vietnam vet type dude who started screaming at the bus driver and then got off at the next stop. I haven't seen him again. Actually, over the last few months, about once a week I can count on seeing the only truly recurring character on the 14 line--the middle-aged black transvestite who sits in the back, wears a lot of beads, and eats oranges. He was on the bus again this morning, looking as fetching as ever. (Which is to say, not very--he may also be the homeless middle-aged black transvestite who wears beads and eats oranges.)

This evening, there were five teenagers sitting in the back with me.

Now, here I should digress by pointing out that one common occurrence is for me to be the white guy on the bus, along with some Koreans, numerous Hispanics and Filipinos, and a small number of black folk. I'm fine with that, and most people on the bus are live and let live anyway. No one ever seems to talk, or read, or do anything but sit and drift out into space. I read and, like everyone else, avoid eye contact.

Anyway, I was sitting there tonight reading my random history book, and these five kids are talking, and I start to realize that they're talking about me--because apparently I'm deaf too--and I realize that they've dropped the word "undercover" at least four times. So at some point I looked up, and they got a little bit quiet, and I (extremely self-consciously) muttered something about how they should do what they wanted because I wasn't undercover. A little bit of highly awkward small talk ensued, as I seriously hoped they would get off at the Metro train station (plausible, since at least half the people normally do). They did; as they were leaving, though, I noticed that at least two of them had taken out graffiti-writing markers or paint, but they ended up not using it. Mind you, numerous times my presence hasn't stopped people from writing graffiti on the bus seat, wall, pole, or door. But this one time my sheer existence served as a deterrent.

Just call me Joe The Graffiti Narc.

Monday, February 16, 2004

I promised to say more about Mommie Dearest, and I will, but I've been too busy tonight watching scare films at the Prelinger Archive. I would particularly recommend Are You Popular? from 1947 where we learn that one of the key factors of Caroline's popularity is that she "seems as interested in girls as well as boys". Also high on my list would be Perversion for Profit, where we learn the horrors of pornography and why porn is probably a Commie plot. Overall, this is a great site for a wide variety of old films that have fallen into the public domain--"hygiene films", old commercials, and anything else that was or could have been shown as a short on Mystery Science Theater.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Can I just say that the NBA All-Star Concert (now with game included) has officially jumped the shark, the dolphin, the whale, and possibly the whole damn ocean?! First there was Outkast performing their hits before getting back to their gig at Johnny Rocket's. Then Nelly Furtado butchered the beautiful O Canada by singing a verse in some Moonman language. Then the actual highlight was Christina Aguilera actually finding a way to modernize the Star-Spangled Banner and doing a pretty good job with it--she gave it a slight hip hop edge backed only by a drummer; trust me, somehow it worked.

Then, of course, I put on a movie, because there's no way I'm going to watch the first three quarters of a "game" where no one is particularly trying.

But then the moment we were all waiting for: they cut to Craig Sager on the sidelines, who's with a guy proposing, which is always nice, but then they pan over and he's proposing to STAR FREAKIN' JONES!!!!!! We then learn from the sideline report that they're been going out for four months, and that Star loves three things in life: (cut to evil voice in Joe's head: "please mention food, please mention food, please mention food...") basketball, her friends, and diamonds (cut to eviJh: "TWINKIES! you've gotta get TWINKIES in there"), so he's giving her a big-ass (eviJh: heh!) diamond.

Star accepted.

Apparently the game continued on after that, but I sprained my pons and had to go lie down.

This was unquestionably the cheesiest thing I saw today.

And that's saying something, because I watched Mommie Dearest this morning. More on that when (eviJh: IF!) I recover...

Friday, February 13, 2004

It's been a while since I've brought it out, so here comes the dot column thingy...

  • Last week I pretty much skipped working out because of a relatively minor cold. So this week I decided not to let that deter me on Monday and Tuesday. Then, undaunted, my sinuses decided to step it up a level. So for the rest of the week, I've been fighting the worst cold I've had in a while. I tend to get a lot of minor colds every winter, but this is the first big one I can remember in about 5 years. Lots of NyQuil and Vicks inhaler for me, and it hasn't let up yet.
  • Is the celebrity spelling bee currently airing just Fox's way of saying they're not even trying to get people to watch on Friday nights?
  • There's a new radio station in LA that I've been enjoying. It's Indie 103, and they're counter programming against KROQ by going a bit more independent/alternative and away from the mainstream rock, especially the rap metal-ish stuff. (Of course, I'll always have a place in my heart for KROQ as long as it's the home of Loveline.) But Indie 103 risks losing me as long as they continue with one practice I hate from radio stations--they never, ever, ever tell you the title and artist of the songs they play. Especially from an independent station playing music that's not ubiquitous, this drives me up a tree.
  • Hmmm, what to say of the latest Survivor? It's hard to pick on Jenna for leaving to be with her dying mother, but I do wonder if some information slipped through, despite Jeff Probst's protestation to the contrary. The loss of Jenna M. leaves Amber as the only Pittsburgh hottie left for me to root for--though my favorite player is still squirrelly Rob (not Boston Rob).
  • In case anyone was wondering if I'm going to TRASHionals, or for that matter where I'll be in mid-April, the answer is that I booked my tickets Tuesday night, so I'll be there.
  • Finally, time to rant a bit. I was trying to think of a holiday that seems to be a built-in downer for a large group of people because they are specifically excluded. Days like New Year's are for everyone. Christmas and Easter now have enough of a secular component to leave no one out, and they don't really even specifically cut down non-Christians. I guess you could make a case for Veteran's Day and pacifists, but that's still a stretch.
    So we're left, of course, with Valentine's Day. Does anyone else feel as if Valentine's is almost more designed to bum out single folk than it is to do anything positive for couples? Feb. 14 always seems to be one of the worst bummers of any given calendar year for me. (I suppose there is something I could do about that--but dealing with my near-pathological fear of dealing with women qua women is some other day's breakdown.) If you're single, not only are you alone, but you know you can't even think about trying to do something with any of your married, coupled, or even regularly-dating friends. If you find yourself surrounded mostly by those people, you'd better just resign yourself to a long weekend in front of the tube.
    Now, let's see how Sherman Helmsley does with l-a-c-h-r-y-m-o-s-e...

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

I suppose I start blinking tomorrow. So I have exactly one year from tonight to do anything I want to do before I'm 30. I'm open to suggestion...

Monday, February 09, 2004

Bizarre weekend. For one thing, I went out every night, which never happens. And then each night was strange in its own way. Friday night Jeff, Tom, Joe and I went to this freaky "brew pub" here in K-Town that was in no way, shape or form like any brew pub you've ever been to, except that they serve beer they brew on site. Otherwise, it was this big open space with a lot of neon, weird musical selections, and (if Tom's instincts were good) most of L.A. Korean mob. Music included such classic brew pub fare as "I Just Called to Say I Love You", "Silent Lucidity", and "that one that goes I'm blue da da dee da da da..." And a very strange, clearly phonetically rendered version of Happy Birthday. And really expensive food. Oh, but at least the beers were good.
Saturday I ended up going to this jazz club called The Baked Potato. It's a great place, nothing I ever would've expected in L.A.--wood paneled, kinda old, and seating maybe 100. I'd highly recommend it.
Earlier in the day, I saw Fog of War which apparently has been controversial. Robert McNamara gets a forum for his worldview, but also enough rope to hang himself, depending on your perspective. And his unwillingness to really get into Vietnam beyond a certain point is telling in and of itself. Regardless of what you think about his mostly unapologetic Cold War hawkishness, the film clearly shows him to be an intriguing an brilliant guy. And one of his comments was particularly pointed--regarding American unilateralism, he said that one thing he's learned (implication: a lesson of Vietnam) is that America should not be going to war unilaterally, and that if countries such as Germany, France, U.K., and Canada--countries that share our values--don't agree with the war, then we should re-examine our thinking.
Sunday night I went to a comedy show featuring, among others, Jackie Kashian, Victor Vernado, and website-free former CMU quiz-bowler David Taylor. The Valentine's theme of the show was comics telling their sexual horror stories, and I am disturbed to report that I now know the story of Mr. Taylor losing his virginity straight from the horse's mouth. I'm still shuddering a little. But I'm also happy to report that his career seems to be moving along, performing 6 nights a week at The Comedy Store. I have an open invitation to see him there sometime, so I hope to be reporting back about that sometime soon.

Friday, February 06, 2004

It turns out that The Clash got one wrong--Rudy can fail. Some of the best Last Words in Survivor history last night. Basically, Rudy implied that he knows people, and his former teammates had better watch their ass. Being a former Navy SEAL, that may actually be a credible threat. There's something about the idea of Jerri getting hunted down and snuffed out by a septugenarian in a wetsuit that makes me giggle like a schoolgirl.

L.A. Weekly has a big cover story and pull-out section this week on Koreatown, so I actually got to learn where some of the places to go in my own neighborhood are. Starting momentarily, so, peace out...

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Thanks for this toy, Craig...

create your own visited states map
or write about it on the open travel guide

...and much less impressively...

create your own visited country map

Oh yeah, real quick on Survivor All-Stars. Was anyone else expecting Colby to run out on screen during Tina's Final Words and beg her teammates and the producers to take him instead? Also, the only person I'd really like to see in there who isn't would be Brandon from the Africa season. Nothing says "fight for survival" like a mincing gay bartender who (in my favorite Survivor moment of all-time that didn't involve Jerri being voted off) referred to Frank's admittedly creepy deer horn luxury item as "playing with his deer antennas". I miss that sort of commentary.

I hate bandwagon fans in sports, but in politics it's good to know when to walk away and when to run, so I've removed the Dean links from the left-hand column. I haven't sorted out the whole Kerry-Edwards race, but either way I feel like we'll get a candidate I can get behind. In other words, anyone but Bush. Or Lieberman. (Yay!)

I'm not sure what more can be added to the Janet Jackson din, except that what frightens me a bit is the way people seem to be trying to pick this up in a generalized way to re-ignite the culture wars on the indecency/obscenity issue. On some level I can at least understand where true, classical conservatives are coming from on these things. We call consumption "consumption" because back in the 19th century people saw it as a really bad thing--a using up of scarce, unrenewable resources. As we have shifted from producer to consumer culture, that sense has gone away; we no longer have similar attitudes toward buying things and toward tuberculosis. But real cultural conservatives maintain some remnants of the old discomfort toward unfettered consumerism.

Most "conservatives" nowadays, though, are not of that kind. They are full-on Adam Smith capitalists--or at least they think they are, but they didn't get to the part where Smith warns about the evils of the joint-stock corporation. That's a side point, though. The point is that consumer capitalism is one of the pillars of contemporary right-wing thought. This pillar co-exists somewhat uneasily at times with another pillar, which is fundamentalist or at least conservative Christianity. I have to say that the marriage of these two right wings arms continues to confuse and bewilder me, even as I continue to try to think it through here.

Sex and drugs are two of the key places where these interests can clash. Obviously, the cultural conservatives don't like them (mandatory Oxycontin joke notwithstanding). But the logic of consumption doesn't work very well with prescribed boundaries. Paul (note updated link, finally) pointed out to me years ago the fundamental absurdity of the way we talk about drugs in this culture. It's like Sam Kinison's (or was it Bill Cosby's?) old bit about The Garden of Eden--telling Adam and Eve "you can eat off of any of the trees except...that one!" Consume, consume, consume, consume--except not those! Obviously sex is somewhat different here than drugs, but the logic isn't all that dissimilar: sell sex, sell sex, sell sex, but don't buy sex and don't engage in it except under certain circumstances.

Now, I'm not making any arguments about getting rid of consumer culture--it's not as if I long for subsistence agriculture, a Jeffersonian farmer's republic, a Marxist regime, or any other type of economic set-up that you could name. Consumer culture is about as good as it gets amongst the lot of them. My point here is on the other end instead--trying to maintain some notion of a limit (headlines today read "has popular culture gone too far?"--what exactly does "going to far" mean?) on id/libido/whatever while advancing no limits on consumption in general creates a basic tension and ultimately rupture that simply cannot hold.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

So we can't have issue ads, but we can turn the whole Super Bowl into a big commercial for President Bush's new space initiative? As long as we're clear...

There was a party last night for the teachers for the Major Test Preparation Company for which I sometimes teach. Nice little party, good food, smart people. And, perhaps most surprisingly, the first time in years and years I was at a party where the major libation was Jello shots. When I got home and said something about this, Jeff said, "You didn't have a Jello shot, did you?" I said of course not. I had half a dozen of them.

The three of us (Jeff's girlfriend is down for the weekend) ended up staying up late watching odd TV, most notably a couple of episodes of Elimidate. The formula seems pretty consistent: the first one to go is the quiet one, then the psycho, then the guy decides between the slutty one and the somewhat less slutty one. But I actually felt physically uncomfortable at the date discussion, because it was nothing but the four women making passive aggressive (and not-so passive aggressive) comments back and forth about each other. It seems like just about the most awkward social situation possible, and then you have to watch people make fun of you on TV. I'm not clear on why the women do it.

Now, from the guy's perspective, they always keep the slutty ones around, so I am pretty clear on why the guys do it.