Thursday, August 30, 2007

The French are So Perverted

Someone should make a list of hilarious dirty words, and “bukkake” should be on it. So should “porno." “Porno” is tragically funny, just like "Bono" is tragically semi-sexual and "Carrot Top" sounds like an STD. “Porno” is nowhere near as funny as “bukkake,” but it’s one of the funniest things we have in our everyday vernacular. The word “pornography” is extremely scientific, even austere, but “porno” sounds like an Italian delicacy—and, as luck would have it, sometimes that is the case. However, even in ultra-sexed 2007, dirty words are taboo, so blurting out “bukkake” or “gooch” or “taint” is in definitively poor taste.

Language’s largesse, though, lies in its regional specificity. So, while I may not be able to tell an American cab driver to take me to the corner of Vaginal Revenue and Anal Ring Toss, that does not hold true in a foreign country. I discovered this in November, when I hailed a cab from the Montreal airport to a friend’s apartment (you may recall this northward jaunt, as it gave rise to two blogs: “Montreal City” and “Kudos to Willie the Barber”). My cab driver was more than affable, and even gave me a reasonable fare-but he didn’t speak a word of English. It took me five minutes to realize he wanted to know where I was going, another five to try to tell him, and then another 30 seconds to write out the address and show it to him.

Now, if this guy were a weathered, savvy New York cab driver, he would have noted the language barrier and abandoned conversation. But, being the convivial Frenchman that he was, the driver asked me about all sorts of stuff…I think. All I know is that his French sentences ended with a question-type intonation, and I felt obligated to answer. The first few times he finished a question and expectantly peered in the rear-view mirror, anticipating my response, I offered him very loud, very confident platitudes, like, “I KNOW. YOU WIN SOME YOU LOSE SOME!” or, “YEAH, DUDE. LIFE IS LIKE THAT SOMETIMES!”

I realized, obviously, that he didn't understand a single word that came out of my mouth. So, for the last 10 minutes of the ride, I answered every question by screaming, “PINEAPPLE FONDLE DILDO!” Then I’d nod, meet his gaze in the in rear-view mirror, and repeat: "PINEAPPLE FONDLE DILDO!” He loved it; every time I announced “PINEAPPLE FONDLE DILDO!” his eyes got a little wider, his face made a victorious, indescribably entertained smile, and he clapped his hands as if I’d thawed the entire Province of Quebec. A series of words that would have gotten me flogged to death in New York won me a deep rapport in Montreal. The driver even cut me a break on the fare, which was pretty magnanimous, considering it was 11:30 at night and the worst kind of cold I’ve ever felt. Which means that, outside of my business, he was probably having a pretty slow shift.

And who says the French are all bad?

Stay Subzero, Montreal
DJ Dildo

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I Should Set You Up With My Cousin. She's 750,000, But She's Into Older Guys

There just isn’t enough time to listen to every song in the world. For someone who fancies himself a music connoisseur, I have very few songs on my computer—6,438, to be exact. Even so, the iTunes footer says it would take an hour more than 3 weeks to listen to all of them. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, and 3 goes into 52 approximately 17.3 times, I’ve calculated that I could only listen to approximately 111,592 songs per year if I unceasingly streamed music without so much as a 15-second masturbation break. That’s extremely disheartening, both because a number much, much lower than that is my APMI (Actual Possible Music Intake) and because masturbation is an indispensable behavior.

Anyway, I could realistically enjoy just a fraction of those 111,592 songs (say, for instance, 18,599, and that’s averaging four hours of listening per day for 365 days)—and this all is premised on the supposition that I could amass a collection of that size in the first place.

It is axiomatic of all the arts that a single individual could never familiarize him/herself with an entire history. No one could possibly read every book or gaze upon every painting. Therefore, any person’s knowledge of music or art or writing will inevitably be flawed, since everyone’s opinions and beliefs are the result of small, skewed sample sizes. Just as is the case in the scientific community, one may not hypothesize based upon a fatally undersized sample.

Say, for example, that I was familiar with 500,000 songs, but all of them were operatic arias, or bluegrass laments, or experimental clarinet concertos. Anyone would tell me that, despite the sheer volume of my collection, I would be in no position to posit anything about music at large. My sample, they would say, was skewed.

So what’s the practical difference between that hypothetical scenario and my current reality? Or all of our current realities? As things stand now, I know way less than half a million songs, and I couldn’t name a single person whose familiarity spans anywhere close to that amount. Still, we make unending ridiculous generalities about music, presumptuously and idiotically assuming we know a single thing about it. We may or we may not—but, in the ultimate of macro-impossibilities, we can’t even know whether or not we know anything. That indisputable truth translates to the following: shut the fuck up. Don’t premise your arguments by positing a "best album ever," and don't pretend you possess the unique, unheralded knowledge of which song is the greatest ever written. Were the Beatles the best band of all-time? Maybe, but not because you say so. There's no way you, me, or anyone else could really tell with any degree of finality, so it would be complete chance if you happened to be correct about the Fab Four.

Especially egregious are those who respond to "What kind of music do you listen to?" with, "Oh, I don't know. I like pretty much everything." Really? Are you a million years old? Because that's about how long it would take to listen to "everything." And, even if you did, you'd be more concerned with convincing your friends that you like all of it than with appreciating what you had. And that would make you a very stupid one-million-year-old.

That said, Justin Timberlake’s Futuresex/Loveshow is on HBO in six days. It’s going to be the best concert ever.

Stay Small, iTunes Library
MC My Love

Monday, August 27, 2007

Yeah, But is She Mac-Compatible?

I stumbled home around five o'clock this morning and convened an emergency meeting of the Briarwood Brain Trust. The hour-long symposium took place on our couch, with the TV on mute and the room half-awash with whatever sunlight managed to creep in by the time we finished. When the conference closed, Robusto and I had outlined an abstract, academic guideline for evaluating women, and we established four essential categories: intellect, competence, grace, and attractiveness. A man’s goal, obviously, is to score a four-for-four, or, at the very least, a three-for-four—assuming she’s got an over-abundance of one of those three to compensate for her weak facet. We also determined that “wisdom,” in the way that we assign it to savvy old women, is a combination of competence and grace. We adjourned while contemplating the possible permutations of those four elements, and considering the following question: were we missing something?

We must have been, because I wouldn’t feel very comfortable picking a significant other based on her batting average. Come to think of it, I don’t want to use numbers in any capacity to figure out how much I like somebody. I don’t want to think about four-for-four, 37 out of 40, Perfect Ten, 100%, 2 becoming 1, other half, or the One. Were the Briarwood system to turn on itself, it might say that it is thoroughly intellectual and generally competent, yet devoid of grace and attractiveness. It’s a two-for-four.

As Robusto is fond of saying, we often overlook the “amorphous” quality that sets people apart. It’s entirely plausible that one could be out on a date with a total four-for-four but be utterly disinterested. The opposite could also be true, and you could find yourself with somebody who barely passes the Briarwood test but somehow keeps your interest for hours and hours of non-intellectual, quasi-competent fun. The missing element, if you will, is compatibility, and I can’t believe that we burned through more than 60 minutes of profound deliberation without mentioning that getting along with a girl is an important part of being with her. Perhaps it was implied, or maybe it went without saying, but it’s important enough to be articulated.

Similarly, it bothers me that the best players in sports video games are demarcated by a high numerical rating. I still remember looking at Ken Griffey, Jr.’s rating of 99 in some baseball arcade game and thinking, This is it? A guy spends his whole life playing baseball and entertaining fans and smiling and rejuvenating the entire city of Seattle, and they sum up his entire existence with "99?” Granted, video games are intrinsically number-based; after all, computers operate on zeros and ones. In addition, it makes perfect sense to rank players by number, since it’s straightforward and clear and leaves no room for interpretation.

However, what bothers me about the numbers in sports games is what bothers me about the Briarwood test: both overlook compatibility. Ken Griffey, Jr. wasn’t a star simply because he could hit and field better than anyone else. He wasn’t merely a “99” to Seattle or his teammates. Seattle loved him. His karma worked with theirs. By contrast, you can take one look at the way New Yorkers abhor Alex Rodriguez (also an erstwhile Seattle star) and realize that it’s not sufficient to be a 99. You have to be the right 99. Or 40. Or four-for-four, or however the hell you want to count it.

I’ll take this up with the Briarwood Brain Trust immediately, and something tells me we will sleep in tomorrow after we undoubtedly spend hours discussing compatibility. I don’t think New York will miss us—if it could be so cruel to a 99, what do you suppose it thinks of a bunch of guys who don't even play baseball?

Stay Snarky, Yankee Stadium
DJ David Wright

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

One Man Guy, One Track Mind

A friend of mine read somewhere that an “intellectual” is someone who loves anything as much as sex. My reflexive response was, “Well, I’m not an intellectual.” Since then, I’ve been on the lookout for signs of intellectualism, in both others and myself. I deduced that there are very few things that could equal sex in their appeal, since those things would have to be physically appealing, socially valued, intellectually enrapturing, and one would have to think about those particular topics multiple times each minute. In fact, it became clear this afternoon that there is but one thing—one glorious, sonic event—that can rival sex, and, in turn, make me an intellectual (whether I want to be one or not): vocal harmony. That’s right—I said it, and three back-up singers said it homophonically. I said it, and it sounds glorious.

(Writer’s note: You know what’s really cool? The word “homophonically,” which means “characterized by the movement of accompanying parts in the same rhythm as the melody,” can be broken up into “homophonic ally,” which is so mind-blowing that I might reconsider whether or not I like Maroon 5.)

(Writer’s note #2: The Justin Timberlake “Futuresex/Loveshow” is airing on HBO on September 3rd. If it’s technologically possible, I’m setting my DVR to record it twice.)

First off, this argument is ridiculous. Vocal harmony is nowhere near as interesting, pleasurable, important, vital, talked-about, or attractive as sex. But what it does have, and what makes it similar to sex, is that it occupies significant real estate in my mind. If the average human male thinks about sex once every seven seconds (that’s the most recent number I heard, although it’s probably more frequent than that), then this human male is singing and harmonizing just as often. There can’t be five seconds that ever go by without me either hearing harmony in my head or actually singing it aloud. I can trace this phenomenon’s lineage back to elementary school, when kids thought I was weird for singing to myself on the lunch line. Those are the same kids who, 15 years later, think I’m weird for having a massive child pornography collection. But I digress.

I never thought that singing to myself was weird; conversely, I thought it was my best option, since nobody else knew which harmonies I was hearing. To this day, the singers I love are the ones who hit the accompanying notes that make the most sense to me. And that’s where sex intersects with harmony: just like professional pornography, professional singing is about presenting your audience with the most sensical course of action. The most popular porn stars and the most popular singers elicit the same reaction: “If I had the physical attributes to [sing/be in porn], this is exactly what I would do.”

Which brings me to the most guilty of all my guilty pleasures—One Man Guy by Rufus Wainwright. Instead of telling you about it, I’ll just copy/paste the chorus:

'Cause I'm a one man guy in the morning
Same in the afternoon
One man guy when the sun goes down
I whistle me a one man tune

One man guy a one man guy
Only kind of guy to be
I'm a one man guy
I'm a one man guy
I'm a one man guy is me

Now, if you read the whole song, you’ll see it’s not about gay relationships. While Wainwright is the one of the more openly gay celebrities, One Man Guy is about self-reliance. It’s the take-power manifesto that Wainwright needed to write, since he’s had a very difficult life. He was raped and almost killed when he was 14, went temporarily blind from crystal meth a few years later, and spent a hellacious period in rehab. However, since he’s so unabashedly gay, and because he trumpets his relationships in interviews and the press, One Man Guy appears to be an ode to homosexual monogamy. Or, at least, that’s what it seemed to me for some time, and that’s why it was a guilty pleasure. The song became, in fact, a guilty obsession: I fucking LOVE One Man Guy. The harmonies on the chorus are brilliant, and the final twirling vortex on the last line (“I’m a one man guy is me”) is precisely what I need to hear.

Before I realized that the song was about self-reliance, I had this revelation: singing One Man Guy actually reinforces my heterosexuality, inasmuch as I can comfortably sample a song about homosexual monogamy and never get past the thought, “Hey, these harmonies in the chorus are great.” It may as well be a song about Kellogg’s cereal or paint thinner. Rufus Wainwright might be a one man guy, but I have a one track mind—and all I think about is vocal harmony.

When I first discovered One Man Guy buried towards the end of 2001’s Poses, I sang the chorus over and over to myself in public places: in libraries and shopping malls, on the streets and in the subways. I realized that, to anyone who doesn’t know the song, I probably sounded like a raving homosexual singing my undying loyalty to my lover. But I just couldn’t help myself. The song rocked my world. I thought about it every seven seconds.

Maybe even more.

Stay on the Seventh, Rufus
MC Monogamy

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Life is Butt, a Carnival

There is nothing more dehumanizing than a carnival. I know this because a) I’ve experienced identity loss at multiple carnivals, and b) I’m staring at a carnival right now, and all I see is a faceless, technicolor mass of little children indoctrinated in depravity. That carnival intelligentsia are wily enough to purposely rob children of their humanness is dubious; at most, one could propound that those in charge of carnivals—and in this specific, empirical case, the Central Park Carnival—are tangentially aware of this phenomenon. However, it is reasonable to assume that, in the long and celebrated history of mass entertainment, more than one individual approached a carnival administrator and said, “You know, this entire idiom of entertainment is soulless, malevolent, deplorably inhuman, and speciously recreational. Get the fuck out of my town.” It follows that said carnival administrator probably replied with something like, “Care for some cotton candy?” or, “I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you. I was tending to my storehouse of misappropriated Christmas spirit.”

Carnivals are anti-fun. Even discounting any malicious intent or effect, they’re simply idiotic. Kids line up for rides that have absolutely nothing to do with the base instincts for fun and games—the kids hardly run or move around, they often have to wait in adult-sized lines, they rarely get their first choice for where they’d like to sit on a particular ride, and many times they have to surrender their shoes at the door. And when I was a kid, I loved my shoes. I got one pair a year, and I wasn’t keen on contributing them to an amorphous heap of footwear that may or may not still be there when I was done. In this sense, a carnival is not just anti-fun, but it’s anti-kid; technically, if you’d reduce each carnival activity to their purest, unadulterated essences, none of them convincingly correlate to things that children enjoy.

From the opposite perspective, one might be tempted to use all the evidence cited above as proof that carnivals provide an early lesson in maturity and delayed gratification. Yes, the kids have to wait on line, but—one might argue—that’s the way the world works. They might be limited in mobility, but most working adults are similarly constricted. Waiting in line for a pleasurable experience, moreover, is an early childhood metaphor for resisting instant gratification. Taking your shoes off is rife with life lessons: being sanitary, devaluing materialism, uniformity, and egalitarianism (if everyone takes off his/her shoes, then everyone is equal. The kids with the more expensive sneakers can’t pull rank on those without). Carnivals are exercises, one might surmise, in structured, rules-based fun, and that can’t be a bad thing. A bit of a drag, perhaps, but the kids don’t seem to mind.

However, anyone who thinks that is a profound dumbass. Carnivals are not pint-sized life lessons; they’re fucking carnivals. They should be about having fun, pooing your pants, being young, and thinking about how happy you are that you’re not in school. Suggesting that they subliminally embed profound, Zen-type truths about pleasure and healthy living is about as inane as suggesting that ferris wheels rock anybody's world, or supposing that kids who are all psyched up to pound cotton candy and fart on each other’s faces are in any mental place to absorb a Taoist ethos about patience and fairness. Thus, the one possible purpose that carnivals might have served has gone the way of Linday Lohan’s liver, and we are left to ponder, yet again, exactly what it is that carnivals do.

The answer: they destroy souls. They dehumanize. They are anti-kid, yet, because they fail to teach kids anything about the real world, they are also anti-adult. They are anti-fun, yet, for the same reason, they aren’t patently serious. Carnivals exist in an existential vaccum, in the non-space that lies between meaningfulness and purposeful nothingness. If carnival organizers openly professed either a mission statement or, conversely, something like, “These mean nothing, and that’s the point. It’s just for fun,” that would be fine. Then carnivals would either be meaningful or, purposefully, zero. Yet carnivals come with the societal idea that kids should be there, that kids must attend them when they’re young. It’s the same thing as emotionally abusive parents forcing their sons to play sports and their daughters to play violin and do ballet—a carnival is a mandatory activity that, in and of itself, means nothing at all. As inherently meaningful events, carnivals don’t even register.

And that is why carnivals are dehumanizing. Kids walk in under the impression that they have to be there, but are ultimately presented with something that has no character. Kids rely on adults to guide their development, yet time and again they’re herded onto carousels and Fun Slides and, sadly, leave with nothing. They don’t develop, and their souls rot. If kids aren’t growing, they’re receding. And in a place that’s anti-kid, anti-adult, and spiritually non-existent, you can bet your ass they're not growing. They’re being forced to play in a place with no intrinsic value, and they’re being taught that a place with nothing to teach them is a necessary place to be.

So please, Carnies everywhere: shut down your machine and give kids their souls back. And then embalm yourselves in feces.

Stay Slippery, Fun Slide
DJ Dehumanized

Friday, August 17, 2007

No Sweat...Well, Maybe a Little

The sweat and grime of a surprisingly inaccessible—yet friendly—Astoria, NY is settling in deep formations just below my eyes. My proverbial “bags” are full of wayworn soot, courtesy of the two hours I spent with Jack-O speeding about the bar and club district in Queens’ most reasonably priced district. About two years ago, I read an article in the NY Times about the few places in New York City that offered cheap rent, and Astoria topped a list that included, among other places, Riverdale and Alphabet City. Thinking that Astoria's financial reasonableness and proximity to Manhattan (15-20 minutes to Midtown) would foster a well-to-do professional community absolutely enthralled to be saving money on a premium location—and, therefore, willing to indiscriminately tip bartenders—I took Jack-O along on a job-hunting mission.

Those assumptions about Astoria's bar culture may or may not be correct. I still have no idea. I spent the first hour and a half of my journey discovering that, although I live in Queens, I have to take a subway into Manhattan just to catch the N or W back to Astoria. While the trip demoralized me and the humidity exhausted the rest of my faculties, I rued my decision to wear a black button-down shirt over a thick, black, cotton t-shirt. When the train finally arrived at Astoria Boulevard—and once I spotted Jack-O studying the classifieds under a Christopher Columbus statue—I was already about go home. The mental disquiet involved in deciding to push on was excruciating, but we did, in fact, make our way to downtown Astoria.

The first thing we noticed is that, unlike in four-and-a-half of New York City’s five boroughs, not everybody in Astoria wants to kill you. In fact, the kind souls we solicited outside of bars and lounges were more than happy to give directions, offer advice, and wish me luck. Furthermore, despite the fact that I didn’t get to speak to a single bar manager or owner—in close to 10 attempts—all the patrons, bartenders, and waitresses I met were exceedingly polite. Most were also exceedingly attractive. I have no idea why the rent prices in Astoria are so low—it’s a veritable Eden of attractive, young people minutes outside of Manhattan and saturated with restaurants, bars, movie theaters, banks, employment opportunities, and subway stops. It’s within a few miles of two airports. It has a dirt-cheap, kick-ass music rehearsal studio (, and its name—“Astoria”—sounds like the princess in a Victorian fairy tale. Why anybody would opt to pay more to live in Flatbush is beyond me.

The lessons from tonight are obvious: never wear two layers of thick material during the summer, never look for a bartending job without copies of your resume, never rely on the subway (or acid) for an expeditious trip, never take Jack-O anywhere unless he’s full of Red Bull, never buy Listerine breath strips if they cost more than one dollar, never pay Manhattan prices to live in an environmentally appalling pocket of Brooklyn, never finish the book you’re reading if it will leave you with nothing to do on the trip home, and never, ever put three hamburgers on a gas grill without making sure there is propane left in the tank.

And never come in from a summer night without taking a shower. I smell like Flatbush.

Stay Swampy, New York
DJ Deoderant

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I'm Marrying the Sea

Yet another member of my high school class is getting married. This time, the nuptials will take place at a posh, Caucasian country club in northern NJ, a locale almost offensive in its obviousness: of course you’d get married there. It’s gorgeous, convenient, and innocuously unmemorable, which seem to be the three pertinent wedding venue criteria in 2007. These days, the only way to gauge a wedding’s efficacy is to review, in retrospect, how many negatives were averted. Did anyone die? Did anyone get hurt? Was anyone unexpectedly offended? Did the bride/groom get lost on the way? If not, the ceremony was a success. The industry has fashioned itself in such a way that its cardinal concerns are warding off worst-case scenarios and preemptively thwarting disasters. Weddings have become restrained, uncreative celebrations. People put more thought into what color their cars will be than how to best exemplify the uniqueness that delivered a particular couple to eternal companionship.

The problem is not that people don’t believe in relationships; all it takes is one family dinner to disprove that notion. Furthermore, it’s not that people have stopped paying for weddings—nuptials are just as expensive as ever, and the prohibitive costs never seem to stop anybody. Rather, it’s as if, after spending tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours planning every meticulous detail, the planners stop short of addressing the larger picture. Things like how the ceremony might reflect the couples’ personality, or how to keep the guests from masturbating in the bathroom to pass the time, or how to make sure slightly underage kids can procure alcohol—things that are fun, if not necessarily related to dresses and flowers, fall by the wayside.

What’s left, typically, is a corporate event. Scrupulously planned, punctiliously discharged, and flawlessly executed, yet somewhat lacking for spirit. And spontaneity. And pretty much everything else that people envision when they open a close friend’s wedding invitation. It’s absurd that most weddings are more socially uncomfortable than a Hezbollah interrogation room. Even the "free food and booze" rationale loses its charm when those items come wrapped in such an unappealing package.

We have to revamp weddings (and corporate events). We have to merge the bachelor party with the wedding itself. We have to drink a little more. We have to stop giving such a shit. We have to reward the bride and groom for putting up with overbearing parents and hectic schedules. We have to entertain ourselves. We have to transform wedding ceremonies into events at least as engaging as watching TV. We have to curse out loud, cry in front of strangers, burn the tablecloths, and steal silverware. We have to act like Generation X’ers who just listened to “Nevermind” for the first time.

If we don’t, we’ll only have ourselves to blame. And to touch in the bathroom.

Stay Snooty, Country Club
MC Men’s Room

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Oh, Keep Your Shirt On

The most abused privilege in the world—including democracy, freedom of religion, health, and money—is male above-the-waist nakedness. Theoretically, males should be granted carte blanche to doff their shirts whenever they please, since, theoretically, carte blanche implies discretion—it necessarily entails that people possess, and employ, proper judgment. However, that is clearly not the case. As with all things, we can look to Kevin Spacey for guidance. In American Beauty (indisputably the 90’s best movie, and a key factor in imbuing casual pot smoking and borderline pedophilia/psychosis with a weighty cultural cachet), Spacey plays an inexplicably liberated family man who takes an affinity to working out in his garage. He removes his shirt while bench pressing, performing pull-ups, and sitting in his nest chair and smoking joints. He does, however, put on his shirt inside the house. This is a man who quits his job, blackmails his boss, throws a plate of asparagus against the wall, and buys pot from his next door neighbor’s son. He’s a deviant badass. He’s Everyman's hero. He’s worse than an iconoclast. But he wears his fucking shirt inside. Look: Kevin Spacey might be a badass, but he’s not an idiot.

Nor is he an obtuse, inconsiderate asshole, like all the shirtless narcissists on 5th Avenue in Manhattan. Summertime in New York is open season on fashion protocol, and the shirtless, sunglassed streetwalkers are the most severe offenders. Rule number 1 in the male wardrobe guide is this: if you’re in a public space and you’re wearing more clothing on your face than on your chest, you’re probably doing something wrong. Plus, these particular transgressors also violate rule number 2: if you’re shirtless in public, don’t pretend you don’t know it; it’s pompous and annoying. The only thing worse than revealing excess chest is pretending you have no idea you’ve somehow been separated from your shirt. That means you shouldn't strike up a conversation with a stranger on the street and expect them to appreciate your sweaty, probably malodorous trunk. Don’t ask for directions, don’t smile self-assuredly, don’t walk into a deli, don’t hail a cab, don’t ask a concierge for help, and don’t get on my subway car. Am I ghettoizing the shirtless? No doubt. But someone has to do it.

Obviously, shirtlessness is not intrinsically evil (and for females, well, that goes without saying). Neither, necessarily, are calories or jigsaws, but our society tends to misuse all three. Central in this problem is self-worship and entitlement—virtually nobody goes shirtless in a crowded urban location because of the weather, or because they’re afflicted with a rare disease that makes wearing a shirt unbearably painful. It’s all about flaunting what the shirtless person believes should be worshipped on a mass level, much the same way Pam Anderson hasn’t left home without showing cleavage for at least two decades. The difference between Pamela and a given shirtless man, however, is that Pamela exists purely sexually; in a very particular existential way, her function is to show a little tit. If she didn’t, she would no longer have a social utility. Shirtless man x, though, doesn’t have that job—he’s a computer programmer, or a car mechanic, or maybe even a venture capitalist. He is not a sex symbol. In general, men are not sex symbols, and the ones who are have been clearly designated: Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Tyrese, Mick Jagger, etc. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re not on the list. So, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re wearing a shirt.

So when is it OK for a guy to get some Vitamin D on his pasty torso? Good question. The beach, obviously, is fine—in fact, a corollary to the male wardrobe guide is that you should be shirtless at the beach. It’s almost required. That corollary also applies in a locker room, sauna, bathhouse, or anywhere else where some degree of nudity is customary. Also, it’s perfectly within your rights to toss your t (or v, or polo, or button down) in your home—the reason Spacey kept on his shirt in American Beauty is that strangers were shuffling in and out of his house, and it was reasonable to expect that someone who wouldn’t want to see his bare chest would come through at any moment (that, and the script called for it, but it’s not unreasonable to interpolate a system of mores in a well-written drama). Shirts-and-skins basketball games? Go for it. But don’t dare be the guy in an all-shirts game who can’t keep his clothes on.

You’re not Pam Anderson, and you’ll never sleep with Tommy Lee. Or even Bret Michaels. So keep your shirt on, or I’ll get Kevin Spacey’s ex-military neighbor to kiss you, and then shoot you shortly thereafter while your topless ass is looking at an aged family photo.

Stay Symbolic, Plastic Bag Rustling in the Wind
DJ Dressed

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Sports, Books, and A Given Cereal

I’m back in Klosterland.

There’s a lot to be said for each of the individual entities of sex, drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, but leave it Chuck Klosterman to heap them all together in a disjointed low-brow opus. The former SPIN and GQ writer is, along with Bill Simmons (my literary godfather), one of the few people whose work I can read without begrudging his talent or recognizing a repetitive, derivative sequence of recurring themes and vocabulary. Klosterman and Simmons both feed into a ceaseless, original conduit that serves the blogs, books, and columns that unfailingly amuse (Simmons) and engage (Klosterman) their respective audiences (me).

I suspect that neither writer is nearly as mind-blowing as I take them to be. Even if you factor in my self-aggrandizement, however, there’s a lot of room for quality. Of the two, Simmons is, by far, more openly fanatical about his interests, if only because Klosterman relies heavily on hipster skepticism and detached intellectualism, so you never get the sense that he’s crazy about anything—even the things he professes to be unable to live without. That list, by the way, is limited to music: the KISS solo albums, his CD collection in general, and absolutely NOTHING by Coldplay. Klosterman despises Coldplay. If I recall correctly, in the first chapter of “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs,” Klosterman calls Coldplay “just about the shittiest fucking band ever.” Klosterman also hides his self-obsession behind a wall of self-effacement, which would be obnoxious if he didn’t do such a poor job doing it. As it is, he's kind of endearing.

As opposed to Klosterman, Simmons’ biggest problem is that he’s too passionate. Like Steve Carell’s character in “The Office” says at a job interview, his problem is that he cares too much. For all the entertainment value in Simmons’ paranormal love affair with Boston sports and the NBA, there were certain times this year that he just couldn’t get off a topic, be it Kevin Durant, the Celtics’ abysmal season, or the disappointing NBA playoffs. Paradoxically, Simmons’ greatest flaw is also his genius: when he repeats himself over and over, he achieves a longitudinal entrancement, such that the reader gets just as obsessed over a period of months. Klosterman cannot do that—when you read him, you don’t get involved with the things he’s involved with; rather, you get involved with him being involved with things. You get addicted to Klosterman’s general state of being addicted. Simmons, though, sells you so completely on his passions that you adopt them. This year, for instance, I became totally enraged that the Celtics didn’t fire their head coach, even though, independent of Simmons, I don’t give two shits about Doc Rivers. I probably couldn’t cite one relevant fact or statistic impugning Rivers’ capacity as coach, but I’m pissed that he still has a job.

Ultimately, Simmons is your friend, and Klosterman is your smart professor. Simmons is appropriately titled “The Sports Guy,” while Klosterman is called…well…a published author. Still, just like in real life, you need both types of people—someone who speaks with you and someone who speaks to you. And just like their great social symbiosis, Klosterman and Simmons complement each other on a personal basis for me. Simmons is currently on a break from while he writes a book; coincidentally, I recently borrowed “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs” from my local library, which means that while I won’t get my northeast sports fix for a while, I’m re-familiarizing myself with rock 'n roll trivia. Klosterland is warm and inviting, and it will keep the seat warm for when The Sports Guy emerges from his authorship and gets me all fired up about things I don’t care about.

Stay Soggy, Cocoa Puffs
DJ Doc Rivers

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Music to Get Down To

Depression music is a pernicious endeavor, since there’s an inevitable, imperceptible transition from catharsis to causation: one second, you’re listening to Ben Harper’s acoustic catalogue to help cope with your pain; the next, Ben Harper’s acoustic catalogue is elongating your depression because it’s so fucking sad. But all you, the depressed listener, can discern is that you were depressed then, and you’re still depressed now—you cannot tell that your actual melancholy is over, and that Ben Harper’s girly falsetto is the sole cause of your being down. It’s a scientific truth, just like gravity or farts being flammable: depression music only makes you more depressed.

That said, there’s so much good depression music that being upset is way worth it, just for the soundtrack. But finding the right dirge can be difficult—hence, here’s a can’t-miss guide to tracking down the crying anthem that matches your tears:

1. Anything white, geeky, male teenagers love on a creepy, cultish level is depressing.
This includes Alice in Chains, the Smashing Pumpkins, Lamb of God, Radiohead, Nirvana, Sufjan Stevens, and Dream Theater. There are countless other bands in the same category; white, geeky, male teenagers are real sluts about loving music.
Exceptions: Sublime, jambands.

2. Music with singing/songwriting and one or more acoustic guitars is depressing.
This refers to the aforementioned Harper, Damien Rice, half of Jack Johnson’s songs, the Grateful Dead, and Hank Williams.
Exceptions: The other half of Jack Johnson’s songs.

3. Non-jazz female singers are depressing.
Attention Imogen Heap, Grace Slick, Janis Joplin, Grace Potter, Joni Mitchell, Dido, Alison Krauss, Ani DiFranco, Stevie Nicks, Regina Spektor, and that chick from the Cranberries: Get over yourselves. Besides, only half of you are attractive.
Exceptions: Alanis Morissette, Daughtry.

4. “Beautiful” songs are depressing.
Cortez the Killer, Fake Plastic Trees, Fade to Black, Rat Race, Sugaree, Soul Meets Body, Such Great Heights, I Can’t Stop Loving You, and Helpless are all personal favorites. They could also make me cry while I was watching four girls undress and snorting lines of gold cocaine. Wild Horses couldn’t help my mood.
Exceptions: Sorry, what was I saying? I was pulling $64,000 worth of bullion blow out of my nose.

5. Justin Timberlake is depressing.

Word has it he’s dating Jessica Alba. I hate myself. No exceptions.

To be more specific about effective melodic moroseness, I went on record a few blogs ago as calling Coldplay’s “X&Y” a terrible piece of music. I’m sticking to that—it’s an awful, awful, predictable, formulaic, awful, patronizing, awful album. However, I underestimated its value as a depression album, as a collection of songs you unleash just before you reach for the valium and dive in to mindless streaming TV on Any semi- to normally-balanced human being would be too distracted by X&Y’s negatives to appreciate its woebegone-ness. Heavy-hearted people, though, hear music solely as emotion, and X&Y is a monumental downer, right up there with Damien Rice’s “O” (a killer album) and The Postal Service’s “Give Up” (even more brilliant than it is sad). Unfortunately, X&Y doesn’t have the chops to keep up with “O” or “Give Up,” but it’ll do just as well with a handle of cough syrup and 20 minutes of erotic web surfing.

Stay Sullen, San Diego
DJ Depression