Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Mets Totally Suck

I’m an absurdly huge Mets fan. I’m an absurdly huge sports fan in general, but the Mets, for all their futility and storied incompetence, occupy a station far exceeding that of my other rooting interests: the Jets, Rangers, and whichever NBA slam dunks the most. When the Mets lost Game 7 of the National League Championship series last year, not one, but two friends called me the moment it ended, both checking to make sure I was staving off suicide. When, six years before that, I witnessed, in person, the Mets winning the pennant, I swore I’d never lose the hat I wore to the game. That held true until this past November, when I lost my tattered, aged cap in a movie theater in Montreal. When I realized my head was bare, I ran from my hotel in the freezing cold to see if the theater had a lost and found. It did not. Life’s a bitch.

Still, I've been pretty stoic in the face of this season's Mets ignominy: when they started losing their grip on first place a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t particularly care. When I read that they’d dropped out of first place—and out of playoff position—I cursed a couple of times and walked away from the newspaper, wholly unscathed. Today, when they lost and the Phillies won, completing an unprecedented, historic collapse and ending their season, I laughed and thought about boobs. Strange, I thought, that these unforgiving vicissitudes hardly registered on my Mets Richter scale, but stranger still that anyone seems the least bit surprised. The Mets suck; that’s what they do. The Yankees win, the Cubs lose, the Red Sox hate the Yankees, and the Braves have good pitching. Every team in baseball has a fixed identity, one that transcends eras and generations. The Mets identity is that they suck.

The Mets sucked when they lost almost every game in 1962, their inaugural season. They sucked when Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry snorted their way out of the major leagues, and they sucked when Jeff Kent and Bobby Bonilla forgot how to play baseball in the early nineties. They sucked when Mike Piazza, Robin Ventura, Edgardo Alfonzo and co. couldn’t beat the Braves in Atlanta, and they sucked when they lost the Subway Series in 5 uncompetitive games to the Yankees. They sucked last year, when Pedro Martinez’s arm fell apart and Carlos Beltran inexplicably looked at strike three to end their season in the aforementioned series against the Cardinals. In fact, the Mets even sucked in 1986, when they only won the World Series because Bill Buckner took a page out of the Mets’ sucky playbook and let a simple ground ball roll through his legs.

And you know what happened this year? The Mets sucked. Carlos Delgado decided to eat feces for 162 games. Their pitching staff resembled an AARP convention. The Phillies swept them twice, they lost to a host of last-place teams, and they blew a canyon-esque division lead. In the final, ultimate coup d'esuck, they lost 8-1 to a crappy team in the last game of the year, the one contest that could have vaulted them into the playoffs and salvaged their season.

The recurring suck will undoubtedly continue next year, and the year after that, and the next 50 after that. Which explains why I wasn’t shocked at this year’s collapse—I would have been shocked if they had won down the stretch, if they had justified their bloated payroll and shocking ticket prices by putting together two solid, if not spectacular, weeks of baseball and cruising into the playoffs.

They can fire their manager, they can make a big trade, and they could even move into the new stadium that's being built across from their current, decrepit home. Whatever they do, it will suck, and I will be watching.

Stay Sucky, Mets
DJ Dissapointed

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Maybe I'll Ask Google for a Date

I'm having a one-sided conversation with Google. I ask questions, and it dispenses routes to answers. Is Britney Spears a genius? Yes, according to the Weekly World News. Am I a hottie? I could find out if I submitted my picture to . And when, might I ask, is Messiah coming? Turns out he’s almost 2,000 years late.

Inquisitive web browsing is a sedate, lonely pursuit: it’s like talking to an artificially intelligent brick wall. It’s slightly more personable than the class to which I’m currently being subjected. Above the clackety din of my typing, I can make out the professor lamenting that the American army used white phosphorous to fight the Iraqis in Fallujah. I haven’t yet asked Google whether employing that agent is immoral or not, but by my teacher’s grave tenor I gather that, at the very least, it’s socially unacceptable.

Which brings me to this: professors believe that a lot of things are unacceptable, be it sexual categorization, politicians in power, or school policy. These ombudsmen have the fortuitous fortune of teaching, which is the most fitting profession for a person with myriad strong beliefs that they don’t want challenged. For instance, my politics of terrorism teacher maintains that American military policy is unacceptable, but refuses to say why. The class convenes at 10:50 in the morning, so his claims are met with minimal resistance. Later in the day, my contemporary Middle East teacher thinks that the term “Middle East” is itself unacceptable. Right or wrong, she doesn’t garner—or get—feedback from us. Her conviction falls into the timeless rubric of “irrefutable opinion.”

I had an Israeli ex-patriot professor who thought that the state of Israel is a collection of Zionist aggressors and fanatical murderers (just for confusion’s sake, she wore an Israeli flag pendant every day). Her fire breathing elicited a response from exactly one person, who would rebut with something about Israel’s social welfare proficiency or absorption of desperate immigrant populations. Then the professor would mutter something about “Zionist fear mongers” and trail off back into her insipid lecture.

Was my professor a bitch? I don’t know, but when I asked Google the same question, I was redirected to fascinating discussion of the family by Bitch Ph.D. Enjoy.

Stay Silent, Google
DJ Phosphorous

Monday, September 24, 2007

I Wish I Were an Andrew Meyer Taser

I woke up at noon the other day. I forget which day it was, but I do recall that I was up late the previous night enjoying a TiVoed Californication and 6 packets of apple-cinnamon instant oatmeal. Envious early-risers conspire to make sleepers-in feel guilty about their circadian habits, but societal condemnation has little effect on me. I don’t own a radio. The only channel I watch is ESPN. I rarely know when I’ve run afoul of popular thinking. For instance, I think that Rihanna’s “Umbrella” is vapid, aimless swill, but I heard it while working on a story at Island-Def Jam Records, unaware at the time that it was a colossal radio hit. That’s how little I know about what’s hot and what’s not—and I’m a music journalist. I don’t know who Perez Hilton is (although I suspect he/she/it is not a hotel heir/heiress), and the only news story I can remember reading about in its entirety was also from the other day—the uproarious, magnificent tale of young Andrew Meyer screaming, “Don’t Taser me, bro,” to a group of University of Florida police officers.

Today was a bit different. I woke up at 2 in the afternoon. I had gone to sleep the previous night at 8:45, and planned on returning to my mattress for a nap in the vicinity of 3 o’clock. Yes, I was sleeping off Yom Kippur, like drugged adolescent sleeping off a bad acid trip. Of the 25 Yom Kippur hours, I slept for 17, read for 7, and prayed my version of the liturgy for 1. I dreamt about Alice in Chains (I think I was drinking bourbon with Layne Staley) and some imaginary girl named Alyssa, I finished the reading for my politics of terrorism class (al-Qaeda is bad), I read the first 50 pages of Catcher in the Rye (it still sucks) and the initial 100 of Ugly Americans, a Ben Mezrich non-fiction about American traders who raided the Asian markets for millions. I thought about G-D, and whether He really is present in my green living room, and wondered whether He’d care that my late afternoon services were conducted in boxers. I guessed not. I wore an old yarmulke, mostly to hold my hair back, but also as the temporal statement, “I am Jewish for these 25 hours.” I don’t know why a faded, stained soup-bowl had more religious valence than a circumcision, but these are the realities we live in when we're holed up in an empty house during the most consequential day of the Jewish year.

When the fast was over, and normal, sinful life commenced once again like the familiar soot that blackens a just-cleaned chimney, I felt it rather anti-climactic: shouldn’t there be some tangible change in me? Shouldn’t I have undergone a transformation? Shouldn’t there at least be music? So I went upstairs, started in on Elvis’s top 30 hits, and let my yarmulke sit atop my head for a few moments before I hid it back in the drawer. I made plans to drink with some friends, and then reminisced about Yom Kippurs past, wondering how this one stacked up. The answer is not important—it’s the idea that, after a long, semi-introspective day, there are still people who want you to join them in getting inebriated. It doesn’t matter if this Yom Kippur was better or worse or the same as others, since the true indicator of self-worth is whether a drunken cadre wants you among their ranks. If they do, you have to assume that all is forgiven, and you’re in for a decent year.

Stay Stigmatized, Sleepers-In
MC Late Morning

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I Hope They Serve Tucker Max Warm Beer in Hell

I’m relatively comfortable with people more fashionable than myself telling me what to wear. I have a long, proud history of wardrobe dependency, beginning with my mom and continuing through girlfriends, friends, peer pressure, drugs, and the media. I may mechanically dress myself in my adulthood, but I’m resigned to the subconscious fact that I will never, ever be free of some intervening garment influence. There’s always a female voice rattling off color combinations and caveats about the weather, and that’s fine. I don’t need to pick my own clothes to be happy.

I’m not comfortable, though, with people more fashionable than myself telling me what to read. And that’s the problem with Tucker Max. A University of Chicago and Duke Law School graduate, Max is a womanizing, alcoholic trust-fund baby with a serious identity issue and a New York Times bestseller. I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, a collection of shit-show vignettes from his nights on the town and tales of social mayhem, is a somewhat therapeutic read. The problem is that I did not find Max’s tome at Barnes & Noble or—I spied it to left of the counter in Urban Outfitters, situated among other suitably chic literature (sadly, Chuck Klosterman’s Killing Yourself to Live was the next book over). Drawn by its provocatively banal title, I sped through I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell’s first chapter, a suspiciously coherent account of a vomitous night that included failed Breathalyzer tests and pantless sushi consumption.

Max’s methodology is obvious: he co-opt’s the reader’s presumed obsession with drunken revelry and nudity, automatically producing two types of critics. The first group praises his machismo and thanks him for living the life they wish they themselves led, and the second berates him for debasing the human race. Both, coincidentally, are quoted on the back of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. Like a pop song built for radio play, Max’s faux-sensationalist essays are shaped for public consumption. The same can be said for Max's website, a collection of self-obsessed stories and rhetoric much like that which appears in his book (you can read the pantless sushi story here).

Max is a glorified pornographer. By appealing to licentiousness and nefarious impulses, he is exploiting all of us for his own fame and wealth (the wealth, that is, that doesn't come straight from his parents). He is, as he states in his website bio, "an asshole." An entertaining and somewhat empowered asshole, to be sure, but an asshole nonetheless.

I didn’t realize all this until it was too late, after I’d picked Max’s book off the shelf, read the first chapter, and thought about it for more than 15 seconds. And what’s worse, I’m writing about it afterwards and linking to his website. As far as Urban Outfitters and Max are concerned, it’s mission accomplished. The fashion intelligentsia, for all its vapid posturing, has proven more formidable than me, which leaves me thinking that perhaps I should let them decide what I read.

I hope they serve beer in hell.

Stay Stylish, Tucker
MC Max

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Chaste Housekeepers and Promiscuous Rappers

“A chaste housekeeper enamored with clean things—clean homes, bodies, and minds.” That sentence is scrawled in my daily planner’s September 3 pane. I wrote it while I was waiting to interview for a job, and, with nothing but a pen and my date book for company, I had an unrelenting drive to remember the phrase “a chaste housekeeper.” The second part of the sentence was a tad more forced, but the first part is pure. A chaste housekeeper is a stark image, at least as it manifests in my visualization. I picture a slightly overweight woman with bad skin and a white half-moon doily above her skirt standing hopelessly in a dark, empty room. The room has long, sheer curtains over latticed windows, and the view looks out on to a rollicking, green, hilly expanse.

That illustration is sad, inasmuch as we all can identify with solitude and aimlessness, and with feeling extremely small within an inadequately small world. With the Jewish New Year about to announce itself and 9/11 just having passed unremarkably, there is ample sobering imagery about, especially in a time when “sobering” is an ambiguous term. Few entities are categorically sad or jarring anymore, since violence and fatalistic religious rhetoric have saturated our psyche. Nothing fucks us up anymore, which is both adaptive and calloused, simultaneously seasonable and disheartening. Perhaps the image of a compulsively tidy celibate servant is stark not because it’s sad, but because it’s decisive—it makes us feel something specific.

New Year’s wishes lie within that same type of decisiveness. We usually hope for happiness, health, wisdom, and prosperity, and other states and institutions that have specific, aimed emotive character. Happiness, obviously, makes us happy, whereas health, wisdom and all the rest are directly correlated to happiness, as well. We never dream of emotionally unsure phenomena, and rightfully so. Even if we live in a gray world, we still dream in black and white, and that is the most reassuring thing I’ve thought of all day.

And now for some happiness: Timbaland Presents: Shock Value, the solo album from hip-hop’s hottest producer, just landed in my hands. After getting through half the record, here are my five favorite lyrics. No chaste housekeepers here.

1. “Bounce like your ass has the hiccups”

2. “I piss and take a shit on your beat for fun”

3. “Im tired of niggas
niggas is tired
u aint a G
i see bitch in ur eyes
if u close to me
u suposed to be
but most of u rap niggas is hoes to me"

4. "You got me fiending for your body parts"

5. "Come in my cipher put the blunt in the air
Let me seduce you, let me play in your hair"

Happy New Year.

Stay Celibate, Hired Help
DJ Doily

Monday, September 10, 2007

MTV: Celebrating Nothingness Since 1981

[Editor’s Note: I’m physically, intellectually, and emotionally unable to describe the Justin Timberlake FutureSex/LoveShow that aired on HBO last week. In addition, ever since I learned that the show was taped at Madison Square Garden in August, and that my own negligence was the only reason I couldn’t have been there, I’ve been slitting my wrists with the broken shards from my face. So I won’t write about it, but I do encourage everyone to watch it. It’s the closest thing to musical pornography since…well…FutureSex/LoveSounds came out.]

America is not an uncaring nation. Those who classify Americans as a lethargic, apathetic population couldn’t be more heinously misguided. Americans, in fact, care a great deal about a great many things, so our problem isn’t apathy—it’s that we care about MTV.

Contemporary studies show that MTV’s viewing audience has been steadily receding over the past few years. To the untrained eye, this phenomenon indicates that Music Televisions’s hegemony is coming untracked, but the opposite is actually true: the MTV mindset is so ingrained in us that we no longer have to watch it in order to see the world through its lens. Forget Chuck Klosterman’s argument that we process all of our friends as uni-trait automatons because of the Real World character archetypes, and forget how Michael Jackson worked hand-in-hand with MTV to revolutionize how we conceptualize entertainment. Forget, also, about Carson Daly and the ubiquitous MTV logo.

Forget those, and remember this: we exalt singular excellence (Total Request Live) over prolonged performance (Behind the Music). In a narrow way, MTV has propagated the single, the “hit,” as commercially viable. Initially, recording artists had always packaged a bunch of shitty songs around two or three hits and called the whole project an “album,” but the public still bought those albums. So the music world transitioned into the full/concept-album era, wherein musicians utilized the entire album—and not just a couple of tracks—to present quality material. We only have Dark Side of the Moon and Exile on Main St. because the buying public was in album-buying mode. If MTV had been around, however, Pink Floyd and the Stones would have thrown a couple of hits on a shit canvass and sold it for $18.99 plus tax.

MTV devalues wholeness. The single is more important—and far, far sexier—than the record. The part is more valuable than the whole. The MTV era (1981-present) has signalled a large-scale regression back to the days when you could move an entire body of work based on the merit of one or two remarkable selections. That’s become our basic attitude towards pretty much everything, from unstable, superficially pleasing architecture to our obsession with shoes. The single, sexy element is suddenly all that matters, while holistic thinking continues to fight for its survival. We’re obsessed with botox for the same reason that we won’t give organic food a chance: we don’t understand how individual elements comprise a whole. What we put in our lips and our stomachs bears the same gravity as the way we ingest music, and if we over-emphasize quick-fix expediency, we forgo the benefits that nature intended for us to enjoy. To blaspheme for just a second, I'll put it like this: God is organic, and MTV is injected with hormones; God buys albums, and MTV downloads the single.

Last night, MTV paid for its inattention to the larger picture. Their Video Music Awards used an unsuccessful and confusing broadcast strategy, as coverage cut in and out of separate parties (one hosted by Fall Out Boy, one by the Foo Fighters, one by Justin T-Lake and Timbaland) hosted at the Palms Hotel. Furthermore, a succession of artists performed in a blindingly rapid series of oddly staged performances, from Alicia Keys sporting her terrifying thighs to Chris Brown lip-synching and grabbing his crotch like Michael Jackson—all while small afroed dancers mimicked his movements.

For years, MTV has been purifying its toxic brand of single-celebration, and it finally caved in on itself at the VMA’s. It became impossible to discern one party from the next, or one performance from its predecessor, and the only thing that was abundantly apparent was that MTV didn't draw a distinction between them, either. Each single element has been so removed from its whole, so extracted from its context, that each has lost its respective identity. One couldn’t decrypt Akon from 50 Cent or Kanye from Jamie Foxx. The VMA’s—and MTV at large—were an homage to the forced type of success that modern entertainment heaps on disparate, incongruous parts, and the experiment failed.

Stay Single, MTV
DJ Dissatisfied

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

From Aliens to Los Angeles: Is David Duchovny Cool?

The world was much different in 2000. Sure, the Spanish were still guzzling Sangria and the Eastern hemisphere was lodged in a cement distrust of American sensibilities, but David Duchovny was a loser. Being cast as the male protagonist of a cult sci-fi TV series is not what made him a loser; rather, it was playing the “believer” opposite Gillian Anderson’s “skeptic” on The X-Files that placed Duchovny beneath the cool threshold. “Believing,” per se, was not cool in 2000. That was the year that Y2K was nothing more than a handy acronym and religious fanatics of all creeds were robbed of the Apocalypse, the Resurrection, the Messiah, and the End of Days. So Agent Fox Mulder, the stubbled ET believer so deftly portrayed by Duchovny, became the unspoken crucible for everyone’s frustrations in faith. He was a fool for believing. Not so with Agent Dana Scully—she was Mulder’s faithless foil, she was not convinced of extraterrestrial activity, and she was hot. There was a time when you could find as many fake nude pictures of Gillian Anderson as you could of Britney Spears. People were enamored and infatuated with her, and extended their fixation into a widespread undercurrent of talk that Mulder and Scully were busy making little terrestrials of their own.

One year later, the world resembled its 2000 edition: Duchovny was still attributing paranormal phenomena to alien life on FOX, and sci-fi was still out of vogue everywhere outside of virginal Magic the Gathering cells. Oddly, though, Duchovny’s reputation was salvaged by 9/11, since Americans were jolted into recognizing the existence of abnormality. The terrorists stirred alien imagery, since the only precedent for anything like possessed psychopaths eviscerating buildings with jumbo jets lay in movies like Independence Day and War of the Worlds, and even Men in Black. September 11th wrought such novel horror that normal citizens ratified the reality that our world is shaped by things that we can't possibly imagine. That’s how President Bush got us into Iraq, that’s how he got re-elected after doing so, and that’s how David Duchovny became cool. He was the guy who knew it all along. Perhaps he didn’t prophesize Al-Qaeda, but he knew something was up, and we felt dumb for doubting him. When the last X-Files episode aired in 2002, it was broadcast to a terrified, believing public, whose credulity negated its previous conviction that David Duchovny was laughable.

Thus, DD has been cool for exactly 6 years. Which is perfect, since it’s been in those 6 years that I’ve done the following: started writing, stopped believing in certain religious dictums, developed a propensity for walking around in my boxers with a glass of scotch, and wondered at length about why everyone in Los Angeles is addicted to plastic surgery. Essentially, in the six years that Duchovny’s had street cred, I’ve developed many of the base traits that he’s come to embody in Californication, his brand-new Showtime series.

In a polar departure from his Fox Mulder career, Duchovny plays Hank Moody, a brilliant author living in LA who drinks, covets his ex-girlfriend (with whom he has a 12-year-old daughter, Becca), and blogs for the fictional Hell-A magazine (owned by his ex’s current fiancĂ©e) about his distaste for Los Angeles’s cosmetically obsessed citizens. He is obnoxious, impetuous, dependent and immature. At the same time, he is brilliant, hopeful, helpful and wonderfully paternal. As you might imagine, Hank Moody is a very good television character.

For all their cosmetic differences, Mulder and Moody share an ability to see past the surface. For Agent Mulder, that vision manifested in his knowing, as he was so wont to declare, that “the truth is out there.” For Moody, it lies in so ably dissecting beneath the glitz and glam of rhinoplasty and Ferraris.

Stay Square, David
DJ Duchovny