Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Live richly

Someone scrawled a series of shitty little homilies on the sidewalk of St. Mark's Place today: "Become your dream," "You are your best investment," etc. Such is the state of the world today that I briefly wondered if Citibank's excruciating ad campaign was somehow behind this. The, uh, wince, "viral" marketers have been up to this for years now: fake graffiti selling Humvees & Time magazine, Gorillaz impersonators selling Dodges, ad nauseum. I'd be so much happier if I found out that the entire Citibank campaign was the work of street artists. Hey, how about this one: "The only deposits you make should be fecal. Citibank. Live richly." Do I have the tone & feel down yet?

Monday, August 29, 2005


Just a brief note to alert you that Jim Leyritz comes in a close second to F.P. Santangelo as the World's Worst Color Commentator. Ok, it wasn't exactly a genuine Orioles broadcast-- more like a casual feed provided by a technical team of retarded squirrels-- but come on, Jim. You might want to water down your bourbon with some ice.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Creamy, nourishing irony

A number of popular songs have meanings that are ignored or misunderstood by most people; meanwhile, Corn Chips & Pie looks on smugly, wearing an insufferable and slightly deranged grin, hand stuffed down the front of his trousers.

The most common and oft-cited example of this is "YMCA," which is cheerfully sung & danced by beefy homophobes with Oakley shades worn atop hats, NASCAR-style. Oh, the creamy irony: the song's about anonymous anal sex. But there's more: "Mercedes Benz" by Janis Joplin was famously used in a television advertisement for Mercedes-- in blatant disregard of the song's original intention, which was to promote the clubbing of harp seals in Newfoundland. "Every Breath You Take" by The Police is another example, as it's often assumed to be a dreamy love song. Quite to the contrary: it's yet another song promoting animal-directed violence, this time toward pine martens. "Alison"? Narwhals. "Margaritaville" is often mistaken for a melancholy tune about time misspent. In actuality, it was intended as the template for a thousand shitty Mexican restaurants serving head-sized margaritas, catering to ruddy frat boys & facilitating date rape. By way of contrast, every song ever written by Death Cab for Cutie sounds just like it was intended: whining.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Beautiful Animal Face

I occasionally display what a friend has helpfully dubbed the Beautiful Animal Face. If your imagination is aided by familiar proxies, picture any acquaintance with unfortunate hippie tendencies. The Beautiful Animal Face plaintively asks, "Look, we're both smart-asses. Right? But can't I just shelve the sneering for a bit? Are we really so jaded? Can't I just drop the ironic bullshit, right here, and gaze a bit into the auric light of the setting sun, the strong wind driving my eyes into a flattering squint? Can't I set my jaw, and quietly assert-- without fear of mockery or sardonic reprisal-- that the orca is a beautiful animal?"

The answer comes whistling from the barren hills: "No, you douchebag."

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Johnnie LeMaster

"Boo" on your jersey
No batspeed, wispy moustache
Crocus bulbs glisten.

A picture is worth seventeen syllables.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Single entendre

The great Breakfast Burrito Tour of the Southwest has ended, and you can make of that what you will. This is what I make of it: eggs, meat, cheese, potatoes or beans, and perhaps chilis, wrapped in a flour tortilla and topped with (usually green) chili sauce. It is simplicity itself, and utter genius. Of course, we're all familiar with the BB, as one may find a facsimile of the BB in most major cities, but said facsimiles are neither as delicious nor as prevalent as in, say, Colorado. The reason must surely be one of the following: (a) pigheaded, irrational, violent stupidity; (b) desperate shortages of deliciousness across the country; (c) lack of entitlements leading to low effective demand, as articulated by Amartya Sen; (d) hoarding by America's enemies.

Choosing a favorite breakfast burrito is like choosing a favorite child: it's easy to do, but you feel guilty about it, and there's lots of whining. The winner goes to the El Grande Cafe in Cortez, CO; it's been there for about 100 years. Honorable mentions go to The Chuckhole (especially because it's named The Chuckhole) in Grand Lake and The Olive Branch in Colorado Springs. But god bless you, every one.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Learn French with Bazooka Joe

If you're disappointed by the diamond-hard gumlike substance in the colorful wrapper, you can at least improve your language skills. Apparently Bazooka Joe has taken it upon himself to become the Berlitz of the drippy-nose set. If any child can learn a single word of French with these wrappers, I'll doff my cap to the tyke. If any child enjoys the gum, I'll doff my entire head.

BJ: Mortimer, why are you sewing those labels marked "cotton" on your woolen clothes? (Mortimer, pour-quoi couds-tu ces etiquettes marquees 'coton' sur tes vetements en laine?)

Mortimer: I want to fool the moths! (Je veux duper les mites!)

Last panel: BJ emits beads of sweat and raises his eyebrows in delighted surprise. Applause, high-fives, beef jerky, garlands. Ticker-tape parade down Wall Street. Twenty-one gun salute. Celebratory H-bomb explosions on remote atolls. Ecstatic, frenzied Dionysian mobs overturn motor vehicles in a riotous orgy. Cities burn in an apocalypse of hilarity.

Herzog nuggets with chipotle-fennel pesto

Just back from the Four Corners area & finally finished Herzog after a several-week hiatus.

Some good stuff (mind, the first three are excerpts from unsent letters written by a good, half-cracked man):

First: "Seeing you, your white turtle-necked shirt and dinner jacket, your Edwardian mustache, your damp lips, the back hair trained over your bald spot, your barren paunch, apish buttocks... I recognized with joy how much I abhorred you."

Next: "The historical process, putting clothes on our backs, shoes on the feet, meat in the mouth, does infinitely more for us by the indifferent method than anyone does by intention... And since these good commodities are the gifts of anonymous planning and labor, what intentional goodness can achieve (when the good are amateurs) becomes the question."

Particularly appropriate here: "There comes a time when every ridiculous son of Adam wishes to arise before the rest, with all his quirks and twitches and tics, all the glory of his self-adored ugliness, his grinning teeth, his sharp nose, his madly twisted reason, saying to the rest-- in an overflow of narcissism which he interprets as benevolence-- 'I am here to witness. I am come to be your exemplar.'"

Lastly: "A man could do worse than to love his monkey."

Sunday, August 14, 2005


I'm not really cut out for travel blogging. It's too much of a pain in the ass; besides, who could possibly be interested in my moose sightings? Even for a blog, that's pretty high on the navel-gazing scale.

Hey, I saw a coupla moose. And some bighorn sheep.

My mixed feelings toward the kind of patronizing Red State travelogues often practiced by pubs like the NYT won't prevent me from engaging in some of my own. Take, for example, the entire cardboard display in a Utah gas station offering tchotchkes associated with Larry the Cable Guy's favorite catchphrase. Or the camouflaged plastic bucket with padded seat that swivels silently so you don't scare off the elk. And what's with the brightly colored plastic clogs worn by all kids here? Or are they worn everywhere? Since I tend to avoid consorting with those loathsome, filthy disease vectors euphemistically dubbed "children," I may be out of the loop on this one. It is fun watching them do some mutton busting, however.

Anyway. I love the Southwest & try to come here every year.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Away without leave

I'll be taming mustangs and cacomistles in the desert for the next coupla weeks. I'll try to post once or twice before I return on the 18th, so just click "refresh" every ten seconds or so.

Wanda Tinasky

Wanda Tinasky was Thomas Pynchon, and now she's a murderer and failed poet.

The Anderson Valley Advertiser is a small and cranky weekly newspaper from foggy Mendocino County, a coupla hours north of San Francisco. It caters to the surprisingly compatible blend of libertarianism & leftism that flourishes where loggers consort with '60s radicals among the redwoods & driftwood. By now, the AVA is quasi-legendary, and its writers are well aware of its appeal among lefty-yuppie patrons of the odd Bay Area bookstore that sells it for a buck or two.

Articles in the AVA have conformed to a reassuringly stable distribution over the past twenty years: polemics targeting Ed Meese & his ideological/aesthetic brethren, anti-offshore-drilling rants, occasional conservative contrarianism, breathtakingly vituperative takes on local politics, sports talk, and bad poetry. The "big city" media tend to regard the AVA with an isn't-that-quirky-and-isn't-NorCal-crazy condescension that's only justified 36% of the time.

Back in the '80s, someone claiming to be a bag lady named Wanda Tinasky began writing letters to the AVA. And the letters were pretty good: rambling, cruel, idiosyncratic, and funny, with lots of fancy words. Tinasky attacked local artists, joked about pop culture, tore down city councilmembers & the like, joshed with editor Bruce Anderson, and responded with a lovely poem to a gauntlet that had been thrown down (essentially, "ok, Ms. Fancypants, if you're so mean to other poets, why don't you submit a poem of your own?"). Tinasky's identity was a happy, harmless local mystery for a while.

Thomas Pynchon's Vineland was published in 1988. Bruce Anderson read it, noted its setting in a Northern California region not unlike Mendocino County, noted some textual & stylistic similarities, and declared that Tinasky was Pynchon. Leaping up in support of this theory were the usual assortment of literary obsessives, conspiracy theorists, local boosters, and cranks, no two of which are mutually exclusive categories. Tinasky herself coyly denied it. And then the letters stopped.

The Pynchon theory held a certain amount of sway when I first heard about the Tinasky letters in the '90s. Because I liked his books, because the notion was kind of neat, and because it appealed to my sense of regional pride (Pynchon had written to the AVA? Really?), I leaned toward believing the hype & read the collected letters with that tacit assumption.

Well, it wasn't Pynchon. It was probably a guy named Tom Hawkins, who wrote some Beatish poetry, eventually settling in Mendocino county where he stole & scammed for a living, apparently. So says the textual analysis of Don Foster, the guy who outed Joe Klein as the author of Primary Colors. Why did the letters stop? A bit of unpleasantness: Hawkins killed his wife & drove off a cliff.

Whether or not Hawkins actually wrote the letters, it seems obvious to me now that they're not the work of Pynchon. I'm so easily swayed. And now, to my great discredit, the letters also seem a lot less clever. Of course, they're still great fun to read. There are worse fates than becoming immersed in the petty squabbles of mid-1980s Mendocino county. Slightly pathetically, each throwaway reference-- with Pynchon's possible authorship looming in the editor's mind-- is reverently footnoted.

A brief quote: "I watch beakbusting on TV, mostly in hopes that two punchies will go berserk at the same time & beat the shit out of Michael Buffer."

I think the book, edited by TR Factor, is out of print. Probly on Ebay. What isn't?

Monday, August 01, 2005


Have you heard of this stouthearted Base-ball club, the Oakland Athletics? Tearing it up after a miserable first two months of the season. If you're unfamiliar with the A's, please note:

  • The Athletics are the only baseball team whose name is a type of physical activity, unless I'm unaware of minor league teams like the Scranton Leisure or the Billings Toil.
  • If you're from the Bay Area, watching the Giants this year is like watching a live, on-the-field version of The Aristocrats, only not funny. Imagine the Bruce Vilanch or Smothers Brothers versions. ("...then Pedro Feliz mounts Kirk Reuter...") And despite what a few rabid drum-beaters in Oakland will tell you, there's no crosstown rivalry, so feel free to jump back & forth at the slightest shift of the standings like a miserable goddamn bandwagoneer. I do.
  • The Athletics have a proud history: they were once the Kansas City Athletics; before that, the Philadelphia Athletics; and, in the 1800s, the Wilkes-Barre Mustachioed Nine. The Mustachioed Nine featured colorful characters such as "Gentleman Jim" Dandy, Hoss Breeches, and the legendary Charlemagne DuBois. DuBois pioneered the bipedal fielding stance favored in the modern era.
  • Small payroll, plucky, Moneyball, blah blah. Actually, the only possible reason to dislike the A's is that this angle is overplayed.
  • The crowd at the Coliseum broke into the catchy and timeless chant of "Saarloos! Saarloos!" yesterday.