December 30, 2011

December 24, 2011

December 21, 2011

Headline of the Year

He did it in the drawing room with the candlestick?

December 16, 2011

December 09, 2011

December 04, 2011

An Open Letter to Emerson College (Part of a Continuing Series)

Dear Emerson College,

That I am still on your faculty mailing list seven months after I taught my last class with you is only charmingly incompetent. However, that I am, it appears, simultaneously on your alumni shakedown phone list is infuriatingly incompetent.

Can you imagine how insulting it would have been had I actually still been teaching Freshman Writing (for $16,000 a year, with no benefits or job security), to be called on a Sunday afternoon and asked whether I would like to do my part to enhance the Emerson experience for its current students? Can you imagine how awkward it would have been for the FRESHMAN calling me if I had, in fact, currently been her teacher?

Seriously, Emerson, get it together. How hard is it to cross-check a couple of lists?


A. Ladd

P.S. I read with satisfaction your updated diversity plan last month, from which you have at last removed your offensive "white/foreign/other" categories, so kudos on that. Also, that leads me to believe that you do actually pay attention to the open—and, indeed, closed—letters of complaint I write you, so I hope this one does the trick.

December 02, 2011

December 01, 2011

Plus Ça Change...

From the New York Times: Florida A&M University Student’s Death Turns Spotlight on Hazing

Man, is that spotlight mounted in a lighthouse, or what?

How many times does an American college student have to die from hazing before:

(a) People actually do something to stop hazing, or
(b) (Other) people stop being shocked that American college students die from hazing?

I mean, come on. There was an episode of ER ten years ago about frat kids dying from hazing; the spotlight has been and gone, several times. And yeah, hazing is terrible and the deaths it causes are tragic. So adopt university rules to expel anyone caught hazing and dismantle the organization under whose aegis the hazing took place. What's that? It would be unthinkable to dismantle our money-making athletic teams proud traditions? I guess we'll just have to keep putting up with occasional hazing deaths, then.

(N.B. This story is not about an athletic team, but boy!, is it about money-making!)

Also, somebody should do a study examining why British university students rarely do stuff this retarded.

November 25, 2011

November 18, 2011

November 11, 2011

November 09, 2011

Oh, So That's What The Internet Is For

Don't ask me how I found this, but this Italian Jack Bauer fan blog is one of the funniest things I've seen all week. It's basically Chuck Norris facts, but with "Chuck Norris" replaced by "Jack Bauer", and the whole thing translated into Italian, complete with subtly Europeanised cultural references. For instance:
La Svizzera ha scelto di essere neutra per essere sicura di essere sempre e solo dalla parte di Jack Bauer. ("Switzerland decided to be neutral to make sure they would always be on Jack Bauer's side.")
Dopo aver torturato Copernico,Jack Bauer riuscì a fargli ammettere che il sistema solare non gira attorno al sole ma attorno a Jack Bauer. ("After torturing Copernicus, Jack Bauer forced him to admit that the solar system doesn't revolve around the sun—it revolves around Jack Bauer.")
But I think my favourite is still:
Jack Bauer non ha mai preso la licenza per guidare un elicottero,ma lo guida perfettamente.L’elicotterro ha paura di quello che potrebbe succedere se non coopera. ("Jack Bauer never got his helicopter pilot's license, but he can fly one perfectly anyway. The helicopter's afraid of what will happen if it doesn't cooperate.")
Also, I'm glad to see my early Italian exposure/college minor have finally come in handy.

November 04, 2011

October 28, 2011

October 25, 2011

Making A Meal Of It

I really don't want to attract yet more recycling traffic to my blog, but I really couldn't go without commenting on this.

From The New York Times: Lunch, Landfills and What I Tossed
It was warm and sunny on a recent Tuesday and the lunchtime crowd in Bryant Park was in full swarm. Hundreds of Midtown workers sat on the grass or at round outdoor tables sunbathing, talking on cellphones and typing away on laptops.

But mostly they ate — sushi, pizza, chicken pesto salads, turkey club sandwiches — and much of their food came in plastic containers that had no place to go but into the trash.

As any befuddled, frustrated and guilt-ridden environmentally conscious New Yorker knows, takeout food and its containers — salad bar and deli clamshells; plastic cups and utensils; yogurt containers; fancy three-compartment bento boxes — are the bane of this city’s would-be recyclers. They might reuse plastic shopping bags until they rip and religiously bundle every newspaper and magazine for recycling pickup, only to be undone by lunch.

“There’s nothing I can do,” said Doug Richardson, 25, an accountant eating a chicken salad from a deep plastic bowl.
Um, yes there is, person quoted in New York–section article that proceeds for another 2,500 words as if buying take-out for lunch every day is an unfortunate but completely inevitable facet of basic human biology: BRING YOUR OWN G-D LUNCH FROM HOME IN A REUSABLE CONTAINER.

What's that? No—you do have time. Plenty of time. Take the five minutes you spend standing in line at a fast food joint every lunch break and use it to make some sandwiches or scoop some leftovers into a tupperware in the morning, instead.

Oh, I see: you get the food delivered straight to your office precisely to save that precious time. Well, in that case, why don't you take the five minutes you spend every day feeling guilty about all the plastic crap with which you're clogging landfills, and use that to make yourself lunch?

By the way, if you don't think recycling is important that's fine with me, and knock yourself out ordering take-out three times a day. What pisses me off is this whiny liberal "oh-my-god-isn't-it-so-awful-what-we're-doing-to-the-planet-we-have-to-do-better-say-is-that-a-Thai-place" bullshit.

For God's sake, even if you just ordered extra take-out for dinner at night and then took the leftovers to work in a tupperware, you could at least drop the containers in your recycling bin at home instead of throwing them out in the disgustingly full trashcans in Bryant Park. Wait—what?
City officials say residents sort less than half of all materials that could be recycled [at home]; most items are improperly discarded in the trash.
FFS. Most sophisticated city in the world my eye.

October 21, 2011

October 14, 2011

October 13, 2011

It's A Vicious Circle Made Out of Three Arrows

Okay, so, in May of 2009 I wrote a post on this blog where I accused Saturday Night Live of recycling jokes. This seemed like such an innocuous, banal, and, ironically, unoriginal observation that I didn't think much of it. But then I started getting a bunch of Google traffic from searches for actual jokes about recycling, presumably from people writing the worst high school reports ever. So to indulge them, in June of 2009, I wrote another post with some actual jokes about recycling.

That was probably my downfall.

See, these jokes I wrote were bad. Intentionally bad, as a sort of meta-commentary on bad jokes. I just had a lot more spare time on my hands back then and thought I'd piss away a few minutes with some self-indulgent silliness.

Anyway, since then "recycling jokes" has pretty much constantly been my top search referral every month. Like, literally, each of the twenty-something months since June 2009, more people have come to my blog looking for recycling jokes than anything else. (This month my runner up search referrals were "anal retentive" and "kafkaesque," which seems strangely appropriate.)

And, I guess inevitably, an actual recycling website finally stumbled on that stupid post. AND MISSED THE WHOLE FREAKING POINT.

To wit, from ‘Recycling is No Joke’ Video Contest Launches:
Q. Did you hear the one about the aluminium recycling plant? A. It smelt!

Think you have a better recycling joke than this?
Hey, bite me. Of COURSE people have better recycling jokes than that, because none of my jokes were even really recycling jokes! They were pretentious postmodern meta-crap riffing on the predictability of a certain genre of humour. (Sorry about that, by the way.)

But since I'm apparently doomed to be read only by people who don't get that, here is an honest-to-God RECYCLING JOKE that I came up with all by myself:

Two plastic bottles walk into a bar with their dog, and the bartender says: "Sorry, we don't allow PET."

SPLABANGO! Now leave me the hell alone.

October 07, 2011

September 30, 2011

September 29, 2011

Arithmetic Fail

What a bargain!

September 23, 2011

September 21, 2011

Breaking News From The U.N. General Assembly

A broad delegation of over thirty developing countries interrupted proceedings at the United Nations General Assembly today, to protest their treatment at the hands of multinational corporations.

Ahmed Al-Medina, a delegate from Chad, spearheaded the demonstration. "It is simply unacceptable the way American business concerns continue to dominate the way Chadians live their everyday lives," he said.

That sentiment was echoed by a chorus of other African, South American, and Asian countries. "Enough is enough," said Davtavi Mirgonova, of Tajikistan. "Facebook has to stop fucking with the newsfeed layout. I have no idea anymore how to find out what my bitchy friend Kelly saw on the subway this morning."

"What the hell is this new 'things we think will interest you' feature?" added J.H. Ramasuvian, the Guyanese Secretary of the Interior Monologue. "Yeah, like I care about some high school friend I haven't seen in years having an argument with his wife!" Mr Ramsuvian proceeded to tweet his discontent.

Among American users of Facebook, reactions followed a different path. "I'm deeply concerned about Palestine's bid for membership in the U.N.," said Nick Painter, an IT analyst from Hoboken.

"OMG," added Pamela Dickinson, a freelance magazine writer from Iowa City. "Just saw that Somalia has the highest infant mortality rate in the world. WHY IS THIS STILL HAPPENING?"

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO, failed to respond to pokes.

September 16, 2011

September 09, 2011

September 02, 2011

August 26, 2011

August 25, 2011

The Message of Most Environmental Literature, Really

More fun with Information Is Beautiful (mouseover for punchline):

August 19, 2011

August 12, 2011

Is It "Hanging Out With Comedians All The Time While Occasionally Trashing Them For No Good Reason"?

On the radio this morning:
"Improvisation is rubbish. It's what you do when you're too lazy to write a script... Usually it's just someone and his girlfriend, and she can't improvise herself out of a paper bag... It's all just brain games... There's a term for something you do to make yourself feel good, and it's not improvisation."
Really, preeminent Fringe comedy critic Kate Copstick? Really? You're going to categorically dismiss an entire genre of comedy?

Tell you what: I will personally buy you a ticket to Showstopper, and then to Paul Merton's Impro Chums, and then I will even draft your apologetic retraction.

August 09, 2011

Gratuitous Qualifier of the Year Award

Spotted in today's Metro:

Yes, I imagine these white girls were on their way to church or chess club or the Brownies or something. Is that a BlackBerry in her hand? I'm sure she's only using it to update the police on where the rioters are going next.

Meanwhile, from the New York Times:
The postponements offered a dramatic reminder of the pressures on Mr. Cameron and his colleagues to guarantee a peaceful environment for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.
I believe they were also a dramatic reminder of HOW FUCKING AWFUL HIS STUPID AUSTERITY CUTS ARE! The OLYMPICS? Are you KIDDING me? ("Gosh, Tarquin, do you think my fencing tickets will still be valid after all this?") PERSPECTIVE, people!
Mr. Cameron, standing outside his office and residence at 10 Downing Street, said lawmakers would be called back from their summer recess for one day on Thursday to enable Parliament to assess the situation.
And I suspect most of that day will be spent trying to work out why all the rioters aren't also at their villas in Tuscany this month.

N.B. I have little sympathy for violence. But I have less sympathy for the people who think this entire thing is completely uncalled for, impossible to understand or justify, motivated by spite and/or stupidity, etc. If you ask me, the question everyone not rioting should be asking is: "If I, as a rational human being, feel like I would never be driven to act this way, what must life be like for these other rational human beings that they have?"

That, and: "Do you think my fencing tickets will still be valid after all this?"

August 05, 2011

Conversations With Greatness... once again on its two-week Fringe hiatus. It will return on August 19th.

In the meantime, I'm editing the new Underbelly blog, which you can find here. Please share, follow, tweet, tumbl, like, stumbleupon, digg, reddit—and, if you have any time left, maybe read a little, too.

July 29, 2011

July 26, 2011

But Really, What Was I Expecting?

When the first line in a movie is a masturbation joke, I don't expect great cinema. But man, I at least expect it not to go downhill from there. Not so the [commence joke made by most reviewers] aptly named [end joke] Horrible Bosses, which manages to plumb grotesque new troughs of misogyny and homophobia in its remaining ninety minutes.

Please note: the problem here is not that I can't take a joke. I even kind of like the premise, ridiculous though it is. But people have funny boss stories — heck, I have funny boss stories — that can stand without the gratuitous caricatures and exaggerations that the HB writers rely on.

Yeah, Kevin Spacey playing a dick is pretty funny, and Colin Farrell playing a dick (there I go again) is also pretty funny. But this isn't an SNL skit and the "this person is a dick" gag has quickly diminishing returns; in a movie caricatures eventually need to find some depth.

In the good ones, anyway. In the bad ones the filmmakers panic and just start ratcheting up the exaggeration — until you have Jennifer Aniston fellating a hot dog and Jamie Foxx as a video pirate named "Motherfucker". (This isn't some highbrow/lowbrow snobbery, by the way: I enjoyed I Love You, Man, which was also based on a thin premise and hopelessly exaggerated caricatures. But — ah-ha! — those caricatures eventually started acting like real people.)

But back to the misogyny and homophobia. Here are some things I think, as a rule, just don't need to happen in any movie, ever:

• Two men having an argument over who would be "more rape-able" in prison, especially when...

• The only female characters in the movie are instantly sexually available to the male characters at any time — as long as the male characters tell them they're pretty first.

• Any male characters who don't want to have sex with the (irredeemably-slutty-because-they-DO-want-to-have-sex) women are openly and repeatedly called gays, faggots, or pussies.

• Etc. Did I mention Jennifer Aniston fellates a hot dog?

The sad thing is, a lot of the stars of the movie are legitimately talented actors or legitimately talented comedians (or both), and with so many of them working together it's hard not to, natch, legitimately enjoy a scene every now and then. There are some moments here that I found genuinely entertaining — and this was at the height of my feminist disgust. If only they could have replaced the rape jokes (and the product placement, sweet Jesus the product placement!) with some actual storytelling, I would have been all set.

July 22, 2011

July 15, 2011

July 14, 2011

Tell Me More

From the New York Times: Bernanke Warns of ‘Calamity’ if Debt Deal Is Not Reached

So, with the deadline for raising the U.S. debt ceiling fast approaching, negotiations are growing—if you can possibly believe this—even more stubborn and partisan and unyielding. And one Republican senator seems to have identified why:
"Our problem is, we made a big deal about this for three months," said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina.

"How many Republicans have been on TV saying, 'I am not going to raise the debt limit,' " said Mr. Graham, including himself in the mix of those who did so. "We have no one to blame but ourselves."
Wait, so you mean there's more to governance than just appearing on news channels all the fucking time and generating soundbites you can use in an election campaign? FASCINATING.

Anyway, having dug themselves into this stupid, dick-swinging hole, and riling up all the nutbag Tea Party freshmen in the House in the process, the senior Republican brass are, natch, beginning to realize that they are at the bottom of a stupid, dick-swinging hole. So rather than channelling their energy into a constructive solution to the budget negotiations, they are wasting it trying to find a face-saving handhold with which they can hoist themselves towards non-culpability and re-election. Here's what they came up with:
An elaborate process where Congress would vote to disapprove instead of approve a debt limit request. That would allow the president to raise the debt ceiling via a successful veto of the disapproval.
It's like Kabuki fucking theatre! If the Republicans think it's such a bad idea not to raise the debt ceiling, why not just raise the debt ceiling?
[Republican leader Mitch] McConnell said in an interview with the conservative radio host Laura Ingraham... "All of the sudden we have co-ownership of the economy. That is a very bad position going into the election."
I believe it might also have consequences FOR THE FUCKING ECONOMY!

I'll be honest, though: the thing that I find most distasteful about the whole situation is that, as usual, rather than calling out any of this bullshit, the Democrats are sitting quietly and in fact suggesting that such a time-wasting, ridiculous piece of political manoeuvring is a "real option."

NO! NO IT IS NOT! BAD DEMOCRATS! BAD REPUBLICANS! YOU SLEEP OUTSIDE NOW! Hasn't it occurred to anyone that if a group of people—Democrats and Republicans alike—have led the country to the point where Moody's wants to downgrade its credit rating, maybe they DON'T ACTUALLY DESERVE TO BE RE-ELECTED?


July 08, 2011

July 01, 2011

June 28, 2011

Packaging Fail

See if you can guess what I ordered that arrived in this enormous box today.

How about now?

Last chance...

(Answer after the jump.)

Yup. Three 12x16 enlargements. What's the matter, Haven't you ever heard of an ENVELOPE?

June 24, 2011

June 23, 2011

Definitely the Low Road

From multiple outraged British news outlets: Couple's dream road trip in US turns to nightmare after pair are jailed
A SCOTTISH couple have told of their "traumatic" ordeal after being imprisoned in a US detention centre for inadvertently overstaying the terms of their visa during a dream road trip across the country.
So, basically what happened is: they were in the States on a standard ninety-day visa waiver; they crossed into Canada for a few days, and when they crossed back over to the States they thought the ninety days would restart—which is incorrect, as far as I can tell, though the U.S. government website(s) on the matter are spectacularly unhelpful. (The couple claim it was the border patrol's fault for not stamping their passport when they re-entered the U.S. from Canada.)

Anyway, after the initial ninety days were up, they happened to be driving along the Mexican border (what a trip!), when several border guards there arrested them as illegal aliens, questioned them for five hours, and then threw them in jail for five weeks until they could be deported.

Unfortunately, before they were arrested, they had already succeeded in stealing an unknown number of American jobs, driving up the cost of social services, raising the crime rate, trafficiking in illegal drugs, and destroying the pristine American borderlands with their trash and filth. They also, naturally, set some fires in Arizona.

Incidentally, another shocking revelation in this story is the state of Scottish journalism. One paper has the husband as 56, one as 57, and one as 75; one has them living in Inverness, one in Newtonmore (about 45 miles from Inverness), one in Newto*w*nmore, and one hedges its bets and says "the Highlands". (The Daily Mail just has them as "Britons," though I think that says more about the Daily Mail than it does about Scottish journalism.)

Anyway, while this couple was undoubtedly a little dim when it came to understanding U.S. immigration law, and technically CBP probably didn't do anything wrong, you have to wonder about a "functional" system that treats anyone this way. (Though it will be very sad if it takes two old white people getting mistreated to finally cause meaningful reform.) Sigh.

June 20, 2011

More Ahht

The latest addition to my continuing series of artsy (read: black and white) pictures of Boston, taken during the Bruins Stanley Cup victory parade this weekend.

June 19, 2011

HuffPo: Your Source For Unintentional Irony

Jon Stewart appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace today for a thoughtful, twenty-five-minute interview, which covered a number of different issues related to media bias, media activism, and his role (or non-role) in the political process. Here's how HuffPo covered it:

And also:

Now, technically it is 100% accurate to say that Stewart called Wallace insane. And later in the interview, once they'd moved to a different topic, he also had a few seconds that I would characterize as "going off" (he asked Wallace why polls "consistently" show Fox News viewers as the least well-informed of all Americans).

But Stewart also told Wallace that he respected him, and found him to be a tough and fair interviewer — and ultimately suggested that Wallace had been placed on Fox News as a reasonable and balanced counterpoint to its more extreme pundits (Beck, Hannity, etc.), precisely so that the network could point to him as "journalism" rather than "opinion."

The two also joked around and acted like good friends, as they also do when Wallace appears on The Daily Show.

So characterizing the interview as a "heated" "face off" (N.B. aren't all interviews "face offs," strictly speaking?), in which Stewart "goes off" and primarily pushes the opinion that Wallace is a nutbag is, well... Totally inaccurate and sensationalist.

On the other hand, here's something Stewart spends several minutes talking about:
24-hour news networks are built for one thing, and that's 9/11, and the type of gigantic news event that the type of apparatus that exists in this building and exists at the other 24-hour news networks is perfectly suited to cover.

In the absence of that, they're not just going to say "there's not that much that's urgent or important or conflicted that's happening today." [Instead, they say] "so we are going to gin up, we are going to bring forth more conflict and more sensationalism, because we want you to continue watching us 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, even when the news doesn't necessarily warrant that type of behavior."

...That's sensationalist and somewhat lazy. But I don't understand how that's partisan... It's a form of subtle misinformation.
Strangely, this quote (which I had to transcribe myself) did not appear in the HuffPo article, probably because the level of cognitive dissonance required for the writer to include it would have caused Manhattan to sink into the ocean.


June 17, 2011

June 10, 2011

June 09, 2011

Not Going To Make A Weiner Pun, Not Going To Make A Weiner Pun...

From BBC News: Anthony Weiner scandal: Democrats call for ethics probe

Poor, poor Anthony Weiner.

No, really: I'm on his side, here. He's just the victim of plain bad luck for gaining public office in the pre-sexting era. Had he known about the ridiculously easy, anonymous, irresistible opportunities to indulge his libido that would emerge within a decade of his election, maybe he would have thought twice about it.

Does that sound glib? Facetious? It's not meant to. Weiner's far from the only guy to send dirty pictures of himself over the internet, after all, and I'm not just talking about Brett Favre and that other congressman from a few months ago. Haven't you seen the news these days? Teens are doing it, too. College students are doing it. And I'm sure a whole bunch of other people Weiner/Lee/Favre's age are doing it, men and women alike. (Women, in point of fact, are making dirty movies — and no, celebrity sex tapes are of course not meant for public consumption, but then, neither were Weiner's pictures.)

And yes, okay, Weiner is married, and yes, okay, our public officials should know better. At least, that's the standard line. But honestly, Clinton did much worse, and he still got re-elected, salvaged his marriage, and is generally seen as a stand-up, charitable guy these days. Talk about mixed messages!

In any case, it seems evident to me that sending dirty pictures of yourself over the internet is, for better or for worse, just part of everyday life these days, and it would be more productive, instead of exploding in moral panic every time we're confronted with evidence that people actually LIKE doing this, to have a frank discussion about how we ought to adjust our values in response.

I'm not saying that all of what Weiner did is okay: sending unsolicited and unwanted dirty pictures of yourself in the predatory manner that Weiner occasionally seems to have done still feels wrong to me.

But — and this is doubtless my sociology degree talking — when the same thing happens THIS MANY TIMES in the course of a year or two, I tend to think that moral and sexual corruption among otherwise unrelated public figures is a less convincing explanation than a society that just can't get its head out of its ass about what it's really like. People enjoy sex, we provide thousands of different ways to indulge sexual urges, and then we get annoyed whenever someone doesn't stick to the one, highly circumscribed way of doing so that we inherited from a bunch of religious Victorians? How is that reasonable?

So, yes: poor Anthony Weiner. Yes, he pursued women too aggressively, and for that he should be punished. But otherwise his only crime is being a person who has a high sex drive and is also passionate enough about his values that he wanted to run for office and actually do something to change the world. What a dick, right?

June 03, 2011

June 02, 2011

It's Ahht, You Retahhd!

Since I'm probably moving to New York in the fall, I thought I'd spend the next few weeks taking some nostalgic, artsy-fartsy pictures of Boston to decorate my apartment(/cardboard box/underpass) there.

Also, since I'm still having a hard time updating my blog as frequently as I'd like, I thought I'd reproduce them here and kill two birds with one stone.

That expression has really taken on new meaning in this post–Angry Birds era.

(In the Bud Light line at Fenway)

(We start 'em young in Boston)

(Nice and Slow)

(Yawkey Way)


May 27, 2011