February 28, 2009


Can any neuroscientists reading (you know you are) please explain the following phenomena I have noted from my own brain, this week?

1) Why is it that if I try to do a crossword and listen to a podcast at the same time, I do neither very well, whereas when I do a sudoku and listen to a podcast at the same time I finish both pretty successfully but accidentally ride the T all the way to the end of the line?

2) Why is that when presented with the crossword clue "Old cars (2 wds)" I instinctively know that the correct answer is "Tin Lizzies", even though I have no idea what that means, what its etymology is, or where I ever heard it?

Thank you.

February 27, 2009

Conversations With Greatness CCXX

The management apologises for the delay in this week's CWG.

February 22, 2009

Highbrow Lede of the Day

From Newsvine: LA Opera's "Ring" cycle has less than golden start
LOS ANGELES — Staging a new production of Wagner's epic "Ring" cycle in the midst of a severe recession might seem as foolhardy as Wotan's decision to build a lavish new home for his fellow gods without knowing how he was going to pay for it.
My thoughts exactly.

February 21, 2009


You'll have to permit me a particularly irate rant, today, I'm afraid, because, as I was reminded last night when I tried to go to Sweetwater Cafe, this supposedly civilised country really has no fucking idea how to run an even half-decent drinking establishment.

Now, on the face of things, Sweetwater looks like it should be a pretty nice bar: it has a pleasantly decorated interior and good beer on tap and tasty food from a kitchen that's open 'til 1am. Unfortunately, it is also run by FECKLESS AMERICANS, which, as I believe I have already suggested, is a deeply unfortunate and inescapable smirch on its record. Because, see, although it might SEEM like a fairly simple task to charge people money in exchange for serving them alcohol, Americans manage bars about as well as they do fucking FEMA.

First: the drinking age, something I've lamented many times before and don't intend to dwell on long, though I would like to point out my usual problems with the whole 21-and-over thing. One, you can buy GUNS and enlist in the ARMED FORCES at eighteen in this country, and don't even try and tell me that a six-pack is more dangerous than a six-shooter. That is plain FUCKED UP. Two, everybody still starts drinking here when they're fucking SEVENTEEN anyway, and forcing them to keep it hidden from adults just makes it more dangerous. And three, let's not pretend that even fucking THIRTY-YEAR-OLDS know how to drink responsibly, half the time, so let's cut all this crap about maturity, thank you very much Ronald fucking Reagan.

Second: the ID policies. I'm sorry, but if you look under FORTY you have to prove you're over TWENTY-ONE? What the fuck is that all about? For God's sake, if you're twenty-one and you look like you're thirty-fucking-five, you deserve a drink or three.

And what's with all the limitations on what constitutes a "valid" ID? It drives me fucking insane that I have to carry my PASSPORT around with me everywhere I go just because they won't accept my British driver's license. Especially because it's not like they won't accept it because they don't know what it is — no, they look at the damn thing and say, "Oh, this is an OFFICIAL British driver's license, we can't accept that!" Why the fuck not, huh? It's an official British driver's license! You just said so your fucking self! And don't tell me it's easier to fake, because even in BRITAIN people don't fake British driver's licenses, so what makes you think some halfwit eighteen-year-old American with an inkjet could? Do you want me to wear a fucking kilt for you to prove that it's legit?

And yeah, sure, if it bothers me that much I could just go pay $20 for a Massachusetts "Liquor ID" (there's a completely not ridiculous concept) — but I resent the idea that I should have to pay $20 for a piece of plastic to get me into bars when I ALREADY HAVE A PERFECTLY LEGITIMATE GOVERNMENT-ISSUED ID!

Third: tipping bartenders. So, I should say that, after having spent an HOUR last night going home and back to get my passport because the fucking Sweetwater bouncers wouldn't let me in on my license — even though, irony of ironies, I was over a year OLDER than even the next oldest person I was with, and they all got in — I finally get to the bar, order a pitcher of beer, and am expected to tip the barmaid TWO FUCKING DOLLARS even though she didn't even give me a fucking GLASS. Which, you know, is a level of service so shitty that you wouldn't think it deserved a tip (I mean, HELLO, you're a BARTENDER, your ONE FUCKING JOB is to give customers GLASSES), except that, of course, American bar culture is so fucked up that if I HADN'T left a tip, I wouldn't have been able to catch her damn attention for the rest of the night. What the fuck is that all about, huh? Why can't people in this fucking country get it through their skulls that tips are meant to be a REWARD for GOOD SERVICE? They're not a God-given fucking right! You want to complain about shitty tips? Complain to your fucking legislators who refuse to enforce an adequate minimum wage on service staff — don't complain to me, because it's not my fucking job to pay your salary. It's a fucking joke.

Thank you. That is all.

(This post guest-edited by Christian Bale.)

February 20, 2009

February 19, 2009


I was writing something today (shocking, I know), and couldn't decide whether "all clear" should be an open or closed compound. So I clicked open my OED dashboard widget to check, and found this:

Oh dear.

February 17, 2009

Why I'm Glad I No Longer Study Sociology

From "The 'Mock-Macho' Situation Comedy: Hegemonic Masculinity And Its Reiteration" by Robert Hanke, which for some reason I assigned to my freshmen and will thus have to (*gulp*) attempt to explain in clear and understandable terms tomorrow:
A neoGramscian-Butlerian framework for thinking about si—
Actually, I'm just going to stop you there, Hanke. "NeoGramscian-Butlerian framework"? Just who the fuck do you think you are, anyway? Look, I've read Judith Butler, and I've read Antonio Gramsci, and neither of them say anything even close to comprehensible by ordinary human beings. So why on earth would you combine them to create a framework for thinking about anything? Why not combine Esperanto and Klingon to create a framework for thinking about omelettes?

A neoGramscian-Butlerian framework for thinking about sitcoms as gender comedies opens up a way to better understand this particular discursive strategy of (dis)avowal and how it enables male agency to reflexively (re)act and (re)affirm the force relations between masculinity and femininity disturbed during the sitcom "battle of the sexes" or challenged by the "bottom-up" power of comic performers like Roseanne.
Yeah, that was one sentence, and it was entirely devoid of any commas, semicolons, em dashes, or anything else that might allow a reader to take a breath and consider any of the umpteen weighty concepts you just threw around. No, apparently the only role punctuation plays here is to make the text seem like it's (sa)ying way (mo)re than it actually (i)s. Urgh.

Does anyone have a picture book that explains hegemony they'd like to loan me?

February 13, 2009

February 11, 2009


I'm heading off to Chicago for five or six days; while there, I will catch up with some friends I haven't seen in years, attend my first academic conference, see Art Spiegelman talk, and in between all of that will hopefully catch a glimpse of Rod Blagojevich and his enormous balls. I will also not be blogging, so in the meantime I thought I'd remind you what happened the last time I went to Chicago:
Next up I ducked into the Hancock Centre to get a view of the city from their 100th floor observation deck (I picked the Hancock Centre rather than the Sears Tower on my guidebook's recommendation, and because it has a dirty-sounding name). It was a lot like the CN Tower, in that you pay a lot of money to get to the top and upon arriving there you think: "So this is what the city looks like from high up. Huh... Well, that was fun, time to go, $12 well spent".

Actually, though, it was $12 well spent, because from the observation deck I spotted something I knew I had to visit: this freakin' huge McDonald's:

Will you look at the size of those golden arches?! They are breathtaking! Now, this — this is a McDonald's that says: "Go on then, eat at Burger King. I fucking DARE you."

Actually, the Rock 'n' Roll McDonald's, as my guidebook later informed me, not only has some big-ass branding on the outside, but also features table service, designer European decor, larger-than-usual price tags on all the menu items, and an adjunct museum showcasing memorabilia from the Fifties onwards. It even has a song written about it. It's enough to make you sob golden yellow tears.
CWG as usual, on Friday.

February 07, 2009

Werewolves Need Not Apply

Saw the following sign in a shop window not too long ago:

Sounds exhausting.

February 06, 2009

February 05, 2009


From BBC NEWS | UK: Queen's shop removes golliwog toy

For North American readers not familiar with golliwogs, the AP explains:
They were popular toys in Britain during the early part of the 20th century, but the doll and its name are now considered racist.
Largely because they are black-face minstrels and their name is more or less a synonym for a certain derogatory word for a black person.
A spokesman for the 20,000-acre estate said: "The management of the shop have said they did not intend to offend anyone by selling this product and have apologised if any offence has been caused."

Buckingham Palace has stressed that the Queen is not personally involved in deciding what is sold in the shop.
"Only Princes Philip, Charles, and Harry do that," explained a spokesperson.

Sorry, I guess I am zinging the royal family for being racist a little too enthusiastically this week — though to be fair, that's mostly because THEY KEEP GETTING THEMSELVES INTO RACISM SCANDALS! That, and we don't have the Queen Mum's drunken antics to distract us anymore.

February 03, 2009

Mirey Cylus

From AOL News: Miley Adds Racist Gag to Already Long List of Photo Scandals
Miley Cyrus has had her share of photo scandals . . . Her latest [is] a photo of Miley and her friends pulling back their eyelids to adopt an archaic, racist caricature of Asian people.
Hmmm... A racist who's used to being under intense public scrutiny... A recently single member of the royal family... I smell a match made in heaven! I mean, pulling your eyes into "Asian" slits is pretty much how Prince Philip greets people these days, isn't it?

February 01, 2009

Night of the Living Deduction

Saw this while filing my state taxes yesterday:

Clicked on the "More Information" link, as was unaware of the plague of apparently civic-minded zombies that has been visited on Boston, recently, and was hoping to get myself up to speed. But all I got was one sentence that essentially said "Dead people have to file tax returns, too," which I suppose is fair enough — and it certainly explains why they're always looking for brains.


Other Zombie/tax-related movie title puns:

"Resident Alien"
"28 Days Later Three: Extension To File"
"Scooby Due on Zombie Island"

…And, of course:

"Return of the Living Dead"