Friday, December 14, 2007

My Last Act As A College Student

Yes, I am graduating tomorrow and this is the last thing I will ever do as a college student. And as such, it will be extremely lazy, un-thought out, and half-assed.

Slaughter-house Five is a weird novel, this is a given. I've made several attempts to decipher what Vonnegut was getting at with all the Trafalmadorian elements and what they "really" mean. The aspect that interested me the most is the fact that the aliens can see in the fourth dimension and thus know what's going to happen to someone just by looking at them. I don't know if I necessarily believe in fate or destiny or whatever, but that very idea seems to reinforce the notion that things are predetermined for us. As a free willed sentient being I'd like to believe that I can jump out of this window right here and nobody knew I was going to do that. I'd like to believe that I can make very irrational decisions the rest of my life and totally screw up all the cosmic blueprints just because I'm some crazy motherfucker and they weren't counting on that. The fact that the aliens are entirely passive only reinforces the idea that they probably couldn't do anything about it if they tried. That, or they just don't care anymore. Actually I'm not even sure if Vonnegut meant anything by the Trafalmadorians and their fourth dimension sight. Maybe they were just a device to keep the readers from asking "well if he could have saved the guy, why didn't he?" Well the aliens told him not to. Simple. There's an excellent chance I'm reading way too far into it and Vonnegut just one day said to himself "You know what would be funny? Aliens."

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Fake News

I just read the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert interview done in Rolling Stone last year, I think. It was pretty much what I expected, they were hilarious especially together. It was really impressive how much they play off each other and crack jokes to avoid a serious conversation with this reporter. I've decided to post the first question to show you what I'm talking about:

A fake news show, "The Daily Show", spawned a fake commentator, Colbert, who makes his own fake reality defending the fake reality of a real president, and has government officials on who know the joke but are still willing to be mocked by someone fake. Your shows are like mirrors within mirrors, using a cycle of fakery to get the truth. You've tapped into a sense in society that nothing, from reality to Bushworld, is real anymore. Do you guys ever get confused by your hall of mirrors?

STEWART: I didn't know we were going to have to be high to do this interview.

COLBERT: I think we see it less as a hall of mirrors and more as one of those slenderizing mirrors you can buy that you see in catalogs that make you feel better about yourself before you go out the door.

The rest of the interview sort of carries on like that, joke after joke in response to a serious question. It's masterful actually. The pair do say though that they're not out to save the world or to make the political process accountable or any of the lofty goals that people accuse them of or esteem them for depending on who you're talking to. After all, how can they? They have no accountability whatsoever. It's the fake news, it's a joke. Colbert admits that he makes things up all the time, and yet people trust him more than the authority figures.

I recently saw a video of Colbert on Bill O'Reilly's show with O'Reilly attacking him for changing his last name from Col-bert to Col-bear (in true cheap shot O'Reilly fashion). The reporter asks him about this and he gives a perfectly reasonable explanation. So I got to thinking about why he didn't just explain himself on O'Reilly instead of dancing around the question and offering himself up for a human sacrifice to Bill's gods or some such thing. I think it's probably because he knows O'Reilly's game and that he could never attain someone like that's approval, so why even try? Long story short, he made O'Reilly look like an ass, and then did it again the next day when O'Reilly went on his show. It kind of reminded me of when Stewart went on Fox News and called down Hannity & Combs for "hurting America", and walked away leaving them looking like fools. Very, very impressive

Monday, December 3, 2007

Bureaucratic Cannibalism

For my long-delayed Mark Twain post I chose the story Cannibalism in the Cars. I had no criteria for doing so, I chose the most interesting title on the first page of the index. Anyhow it worked out pretty good for me because I really liked this story. Quickly, this story is about a train full of guys who get caught in a snowstorm and either have to eat each other or starve to death. To determine who gets eaten they elect a committee and officers and such and make it really official.

I think Twain could be doing a few things with this story. My first guess is he's commenting on the inhumanity of politics and bureaucracy, where these people aren't really concerned about the people they're sentencing to be eaten, they're just caught up in the process of doing it "by the book". My second guess is that it's a comment on people's willingness to submit to an authority. This is evidenced in the story by the fact that the people who were being "elected" to be eaten didn't put up any sort of fuss, short of voting against themselves. Either or, the story was just outright funny in the nomination and election proceedings, especially when they get to debating on how skinny or tough-looking this or that person is. Everyone gets caught up in the task at hand and never takes a step back to admit to themselves that they're talking about killing someone. I think this story is definitely trying to make a statement, but the end is confusing, it turns out to be one of those deus ex machina, it was all a dream kind of endings that piss everyone off. Including me.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Millionaire Hedonist

I chose an opinion article on The Onion about a guy who describes himself as "ultra-rich", and whose favorite food is the Ritz cracker. The article can be found here:

I wondered around The Onion for a while before choosing an article to write about. I'd looked at it before, but never explored the site. I gotta say I'm really surprised at how much content there is. There's radio/podcasts and they've even got their own morning-show segment. I guess it's a whole lot more popular than I knew. A majority of their articles aren't ironic exactly, just satirical (like a tell-all book about how wrestling fans are actually fake). Anyway, most of the articles I read and videos I watched were really funny, so I'm probably gonna visit the site more often. Anyhow, onto the article.

It's supposedly written by a guy named H. Reginald Worthington III, complete with a headshot of him in a tuxedo. His elevated language and florid similes for some reason are really hilarious because he's describing a Ritz cracker. Anytime someone compares a snack cracker to a "homemade satin tuxedo" I will laugh, sir. The article also pokes fun at upper-crust old-timey racism by the author saying that simply thinking about ritzes recalls images of "White jacketed Negroes issuing forth from kitchens bearing silver serving trays". This is clearly comedy of manners as one would assume that this is how his millionaire hedonist buddies chat when in private. It gets even funnier when he muses on being offered a normal saltine, as if doing so diminishes his position to a street urchin or something. I don't mean to regurgitate the article, but, I dunno it's funny. Anyway, I think the article is poking fun at rich-people-food and how it's usually terrible. People don't eat caviar and pate because it tastes good, they eat it because it's expensive and implies status. And here's a guy who could, presumably, have any exotic, slave labor cracker he wants, and he chooses Ritz because it tastes good.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Girl Next Door

I chose the David Sedaris story about the trashy mom and the little girl.

Basically, I thought it was meh. I mean, it was sort of funny but not really. I think it mirrors everyone's worst nightmare when it comes to moving in somewhere and trying to fit in. It's really a bad feeling when you know you've been shunned permanently and the only choice you have is exile. I know people like the mother and daughter in this story, and in that respect, Sedaris did a great job characterizing them. The make-you-think-they-like-you-until-you- inadvertently-piss-them-off-and-then-they-turn-on-you sort of self-absorbed/self-pitying abnormal people you hope to never have to have anything to do with. And all this while being lectured by your mother. Sucks.

But the whole time I was reading this story, I'm like, "why do you think I want to read about your shitty neighbors?" Yeah, it's sorta funny, but I can tell you a sorta funny story about my trip to the grocery store. Are they going to print it in the New Yorker? Probably not. I guess I was fooled by Can't Kill The Rooster. I really liked that one, it was hilarious. But everything else you've given us to read by him is this "Hey, guess what happened to me this one time" sort of self-deprecating autobiographical humor. Not that it's bad, per se, I just don't really care to read it.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Simpsons Episode I Like

Okay, I can't claim the following episode to be my favorite Simpsons, honestly I haven't watched that show in a very, very long time. When I was a kid, however, I was a rabid fan like anyone else. I'm pretty sure I stopped watching it well before everyone says it started going downhill. Truly, I can't be completely convinced that the show just suddenly got bad, or if we simply grew out of the humor. So, I looked this episode up on YouTube, I laughed, and now I'm writing about it:

This episode dealt with the issue of outsourcing, it opens up with a really ridiculous corporate film touting the benefits of outsourcing to the workers of the factory. Example: upon learning that their jobs are going to be outsourced, the employees in the film start drinking beer and saying how great it is that they'll have more time to play the lottery "Ka-ching!!". This is basically satirizing "the spin", and obviously exaggerating it. When asked if this means if they're going to be losing their jobs, Mr. Burns replies "Oh no, your jobs are safe. They'll just be done by someone else from now on". Horrible.

From here the scene shifts to Mr. Burns introducing himself to his new workers in India. Firstly, he climbs out of a snake basket at the beginning of the scene, which was both wrong and hilarious. And then proceeds to explain how the power they generate in India will be transferred, with undersea cables, back to America. This is satirizing the situation of the countries who received outsourced jobs. Their people benefit little from the work, because American companies don't pay them as well, and their countries don't benefit from the jobs, because they're foreign-based. American companies don't reinvest in India.

Furthermore, Lenny and Carl have a scene in Moe's bar where they comment on the foreign electricity, Moe replies "So what, your beer's German and the TV's Japanese". I believe this is a social commentary aimed at the people who are all hopped up on buying American products, and simultaneously ignoring the fact that almost nothing is made in America any longer. Also in this scene Moe points out that the only thing in the bar made in America, is his shotgun. Self-explanatory.

After this the show takes a weird sort of Apocalypse Now! turn, and isn't funny anymore. But the show basically ends with Homer telling the Indian workers about benefits/overtime/etc. and Mr. Burns moving the plant back to where the workers "are even more desperate and ignorant.....Springfield". In short, it was an enjoyable topical Simpsons episode.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

How Have I Not Heard About This Guy?

Normally I've got a pretty good bead on comic writers. At least the more known ones. I read three stories (or excerpts, I guess they should be called), by David Sedaris and was very entertained. Reading his bio, apparently he's right at the top of his game, I suppose I shoud start paying more attention.

The two stories posted on the blog were very different from the handout we received in class, so I guess I'll tackle those together. I'm reasonably certain they're true stories, although I can't be sure without delving into wikipedia, which I despise doing. The stories are humorous, clearly, I liked how he bolded/italicized the speech coach's S's to show how incredibly annoying she was. And the struggle to resist the southern drawl I thought was hilarious. I suppose there's a question going around if this is actually satire or just humor. I'd have to say I'm leaning more towards the latter, I don't feel he's necessarily making fun of anything in particular or attacking some...obscure social norm or event. It just seems too, well, honest.

My favorite by far is You Can't Kill The Rooster. The thought of some white kid with a "high-pitched and girlish" voice saying some of this stuff is alone enough to make me laugh out loud. How he calls his father bitch and still ends up being a good guy still confounds me. I loved it.