Sunday, March 31, 2013

Reality TV, James Joyce-style. (Sundays With The Classics)

More death, or near death, in today's installment of Joyce's Ulysses. But also sex! Of course! And they're intermingled, to make you uncomfortable.

A couple of guys at the outset of today's part are playing some kind of gambling thing.  On their way to the bookie's, they stop to demonstrate how Tom Rochford, a guy they know (?) saved someone, a man who had been stuck in a drainpipe,

the poor devil stuck down in it,  half choked with sewer gas.

They walk on and as they do

M'Coy dodged a banana peel with gentle pushes of his toe from the path to the gutter.  Fellow might damn easy get a nasty fall there coming along tight in the dark.

Which I thought was an extreme example of the death that waits everywhere in Bloom's life: slipping on a banana peel, the stock joke, is not funny, it's a "nasty fall" because even funny (?) things are killers in Ulyssesi.

Then there is a break from the death for one of the characters, I don't even know who at this point, it's just all a hodgepodge of people walking around, to tell a story that's prompted by watching a guy buy a book.

There is a guy buying a book, and the walkers comment on how the bookbuyer loves his books, and then one of them mentions the bookbuyer picking up a book about astronomy, and another says

I'll tell you a damn good one about comets' tails,

Which I just assumed was a 1910 off-color reference about women's butts.  Only I think I was wrong by about the length of a torso, as this guy launches into a story about a feast where Bloom, remember him, he's the main character and hasn't been around in a while, and Bloom's wife are at the feast, and then after they are all heading out, at

blue o'clock in the morning,

Which is a phrase I really liked and which I only just now realized might refer to "blue balls," given that there has been a party and given what happens next, as the guy says this:

Bloom and Chris Callinan were on one side of the car and I was with the wife on th eother.  We started singing...Every jolt the bloody car gave I had her bumping up against me.  Hell's delights! She has a fine pair, God bless her. Like that.

Yes.  God bless her fine pair!

Also, when the guy says "Like that" Joyce goes on in the paragraph:

He held his caved hands a cubit from him, frowning:
-- I was tucking the rug under her and settling her boa all the time. Know what I mean?
His hands moulded ample curves of air. He shut his eyes tight in delight, his body shrinking, and blew a sweet chirp from his lips.

You know, in case you were wondering how big Bloom's wife's fine pair was or what was going on there.

A cubit, by the way, is generally considered to be the length from your elbow to your hand, sometimes your index finger.  It comes from the word for "elbow," but also from the word for "lie down," so Joyce is being very clever, and also extremely generous, with the three cubits' of bosom.

Then there is the joke I didn't get, as the friend finishes up the story:

-- The lad stood to attention anyhow, he said with a sigh.  She's a gamey mare and no mistake.  Bloom was pointing out all the stars and the comets in the heavens to Chris Callinan and the jarvey: the great bear and Hercules and the dragon, and the whole jingbang lot. But, by God, I was lost, so to speak, in the milky way.  He knows them all, faith.  At last she spotted a weeny weeshy one miles away.  And what star is that, Poldy? says she.  By God, she had Bloom cornered.  That one, is it? says Chris Callinan, sure that's only  what you might call a pinprick.  By God, he wasn't far wide of the mark.

What, now? I don't get it at all, but it's funny because Joyce says so, in the next paragraph:

Lenehan stopped and leaned on the riverwall, panting with soft laughter.

I mean, I assume it's a joke at some guy's expense, as I am not completely unaware of the second meaning that could be ascribed to the word "pinprick," but at whose expense? Bloom's? The friend/date rapist?

It made me feel exactly like when I watch the British version of The Office: I know that something, somewhere, is a joke, but I don't know which part, or why, the joke is.

I actually think Bloom was the bookbuyer, though, because after that story,  it went back to Bloom's point of view, and he was buying a book.  Also, it goes back to death.  Bloom is looking at two books, "The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk" and "Aristotle's Masterpiece," and he thinks:

Crooked botched print.  Plates: infants cuddled in a ball in bloodred wombs like livers of slaughtered cows.

Got that? Forget all your levity of feeling up a friend's wife on a drunken trolleyride home.  It goes on:

Lots of them like that at this moment all over the world.  All butting with their skulls to get out of it.

Which is actually about birth but doesn't seem like that, does it? Not many people liken their newborn kids to the liver of a slaughtered cow.

The bookseller then gives him some other books, and Bloom decides to pick up a little Mommy Porn:

He read the other title:  Sweets of Sin.  More in her line.  Let us see:

He read where his finger opened:

-- All the dollarbills her husband gave her were spent in the stores on wondrous gowns and costliest frillies.  For him! for raoul!

Yes. This. Here. Try.

-- Her mouth glued on his in a luscious voluptuous kiss while his hands felt for the opulent curves outside her deshabill?

Yes. Take this. The end.

It's not "the end" exactly, but we've all been there, right, standing in the line at the grocery store ready to pick up that Aristotle book but you just happen instead to pick up a romance, too, and next thing you know you're lost in... let's say thoughts... and buying the porn.

We've all been there, but no need to be ashamed because, thanks to Joyce, you're just being literary.  It's like buying porn qualifies you for a B.A. in English, now.

Anyway, it is not long before we're back to death.  Bloom reads some more, imagines some sex, and then there's a brief interval as an old lady leaves court and then the bookseller is coughing like he's dying and Bloom watches him hawk up a massive loogy:

He raked his throat rudely, puked phlegm on the floor.  He put his boot on what he had spat, wiping his sole along it, and bent, showing a rawskinned crown, scantily haired.

That guy needs a marketing guru, someone who could tell him that puking phlegm onto the floor isn't possibly the best way to run a booksellers.  Look what happened to Borders when they tried that!

I tried to go see if "Sweets Of Sin" was a real book, because my anniversary is coming up and nothing says romance like outdated porn with a literary twist to it, but I couldn't find it anywhere on Google, which effectively means it does not exist, as all the results are of literary scholars quoting liberally from this part of Ulysses, imagine that!

(And imagine someday if Fifty Shades Of Gray is deemed a literary classic so that someone a hundred years from now is blogging about the 'classics' and giving Fifty Shades this treatment?  Will Fifty Shades' more explicit [I assume, I haven't read it] descriptions seem as quaint as deshabill and the comet's tails? Will that blogger blog using only his mind? Will humans have colonized the stars by then?)

(The answers are Yes, yes, and seven.)

The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk was, it turns out, a real book.  Here is the description of it:

The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, as Exhibited in a Narrative of Her Sufferings During a Residence of Five Years as a Novice and Two Years as a Black Nun, in the Hotel Dieu Nunnery in Montreal was first published in January 1836. Its coming was much anticipated, having been announced some months prior in the nativist newspaper, the American Protestant Vindicator. The book was written by a former nun who had escaped from the Hotel Dieu nunnery in Montreal. It promised to expose the iniquity of the Catholic convent system. The book was as sensational as it promised to be, and immediately became a rallying point for the nativist movement. According to theProtestant Vindicator, by the end of July, 1836 it had already sold over 26,000 copies. By the start of the Civil War, it would have sold 300,000 copies. It was reprinted, under varying titles by various publishing houses, at least half a dozen times just in 1836, and continued to be reprinted well into the twentieth century. A second work, Further Disclosures of Maria Monk, sold well also, and was reprinted several times, along with various other works refuting or supporting her claims. Quite an industry was born out of Maria Monk's story.

We are living in an age when people both decry and celebrate "reality."  Reality TV and memoirs dominate the pop culture, even inventing subgenres, such as the "faiulre" memoir popular among authors right now (The New Yorker reviewed three or four last week, nonfictiony books by authors who had failed to get published or failed to get more published, and then published a book about their failure to publish, which is the literary exact equivalent of Doritos planning to make a Doritos chip flavored like Doritos Tacos Locos, which are of course tacos flavored like Doritos, so now you can buy chips flavored like tacos flavored like chips to eat while you read a book by an author writing about how he couldn't get a book published, all of which means time and space have been inverted.  CURSE YOU HIGGS BOSON!

But back in Bloom's day The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk spawned an industry of tell-all revelatory reality, including forced sex with priests:

The Superior now informed me that having taken the black veil, it only remained that I should swear the three oaths customary on becoming a nun; and that some explanation would be necessary from her. I was now, she told me, to have access to every part of the edifice, even the cellar, where two of the sisters were imprisoned for causes that she did not mention. I must be informed that one of my great duties was to obey the priests in all things; and this I soon learnt, to my utter astonishment and horror, was to live in the practice of criminal intercourse with them.
And, like Jonathan Frey and that "Three Cups of Tea" author, Maria is a liar.  That site says:

The first thing you have to understand about the Awful Disclosures is that they are not true.

And goes on to say how Maria Monk's story was true, kind of, in that she had an awful life, beginning, the site says, with

a brain injury suffered when Maria was little more than a toddler: a slate pencil was rammed into her ear, penetrating her skull. From that time on, according to her mother's testimony, Maria was uncontrollable and subject to wild fantasies. Her only known contact with a Catholic institution was as an inmate of the Magdalene asylum in Montreal. When it was discovered that she had become pregnant while resident in the asylum, she was asked to remove herself from that institution. 

Some of that came from an affidavit from her mother.  

Anyway, Bloom is reading those books and considering between buying Awful Disclosures and the Aristotle book, but decides that he will buy the Sweets of Sin, and all of that happens just after Bloom's friends describe him as a real artsy guy:

He's a cultured allroundman, Bloom is [the friend said] seriously.  He's not one of your common or garden... you konw... There's a touch of the artist about old Bloom.

So Bloom's got his friends fooled, it seems.  But honestly,  given a chance, wouldn't we all read Awful Disclosures or Sweets of Sin over Aristotle? I know I would.

Saturday, March 30, 2013


Good for:

-- pumping your fist to as you jog the final mile of your three-mile jog today, while mouthing the words "Time Means Nothing!"

-- Beginning to organize all the various games your kids have into boxes and bags, then quitting to do something fun.

-- Eating a leftover hamburger. (We are out of pizza).

Friday, March 29, 2013

Three poems by Elizabeth Bishop (Poems 17, 18, and 19)

One Art

Hot actress: Aisha Tyler
The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like a disaster.

A Miracle for Breakfast

Hot Actor: Justin Theroux
At six o'clock we were waiting for coffee,
waiting for coffee and the charitable crumb
that was going to be served from a certain balcony
--like kings of old, or like a miracle.
It was still dark. One foot of the sun
steadied itself on a long ripple in the river.

The first ferry of the day had just crossed the river.
It was so cold we hoped that the coffee
would be very hot, seeing that the sun
was not going to warm us; and that the crumb
would be a loaf each, buttered, by a miracle.
At seven a man stepped out on the balcony.

He stood for a minute alone on the balcony
looking over our heads toward the river.
A servant handed him the makings of a miracle,
consisting of one lone cup of coffee
and one roll, which he proceeded to crumb,
his head, so to speak, in the clouds--along with the sun.

Was the man crazy? What under the sun
was he trying to do, up there on his balcony!
Each man received one rather hard crumb,
which some flicked scornfully into the river,
and, in a cup, one drop of the coffee.
Some of us stood around, waiting for the miracle.

I can tell what I saw next; it was not a miracle.
A beautiful villa stood in the sun
and from its doors came the smell of hot coffee.
In front, a baroque white plaster balcony
added by birds, who nest along the river,
--I saw it with one eye close to the crumb--

and galleries and marble chambers. My crumb
my mansion, made for me by a miracle,
through ages, by insects, birds, and the river
working the stone. Every day, in the sun,
at breakfast time I sit on my balcony
with my feet up, and drink gallons of coffee.

We licked up the crumb and swallowed the coffee.
A window across the river caught the sun
as if the miracle were working, on the wrong balcony.

A Summer’s Dream

Hot actress: Selena Gomez
To the sagging wharf
few ships could come.
The population numbered
two giants, an idiot, a dwarf,

a gentle storekeeper
asleep behind his counter,
and our kind landlady—
the dwarf was her dressmaker.

The idiot could be beguiled
by picking blackberries,
but then threw them away.
The shrunken seamstress smiled.

By the sea, lying
blue as a mackerel,
our boarding house was streaked
as though it had been crying.

Extraordinary geraniums
crowded the front windows,
the floors glittered with
assorted linoleums.

Every night we listened
for a horned owl.
In the horned lamp flame,
the wallpaper glistened.

The giant with the stammer
was the landlady’s son,
grumbling on the stairs
over an old grammar.

He was morose,
but she was cheerful.
The bedroom was cold,
the feather bed close.

We were awakened in the dark by
the somnambulist brook
nearing the sea,
still dreaming audibly.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Poems 14, 15, and 16: Poems from movies!

Funeral Blues (Song IX / from Two Songs for Hedli Anderson)
W.H. Auden

Hot Actor: Hugh Grant
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Auguries of Innocence
  by William Blake
Hot Actress: Angelina Jolie

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
A Robin Red breast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage
A Dove house filld with Doves & Pigeons
Shudders Hell thr' all its regions
A dog starvd at his Masters Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State
A Horse misusd upon the Road
Calls to Heaven for Human blood
Each outcry of the hunted Hare
A fibre from the Brain does tear
A Skylark wounded in the wing
A Cherubim does cease to sing
The Game Cock clipd & armd for fight
Does the Rising Sun affright
Every Wolfs & Lions howl
Raises from Hell a Human Soul
The wild deer, wandring here & there
Keeps the Human Soul from Care
The Lamb misusd breeds Public Strife
And yet forgives the Butchers knife
The Bat that flits at close of Eve
Has left the Brain that wont Believe
The Owl that calls upon the Night
Speaks the Unbelievers fright
He who shall hurt the little Wren
Shall never be belovd by Men
He who the Ox to wrath has movd
Shall never be by Woman lovd
The wanton Boy that kills the Fly
Shall feel the Spiders enmity
He who torments the Chafers Sprite
Weaves a Bower in endless Night
The Catterpiller on the Leaf
Repeats to thee thy Mothers grief
Kill not the Moth nor Butterfly
For the Last Judgment draweth nigh
He who shall train the Horse to War
Shall never pass the Polar Bar
The Beggars Dog & Widows Cat
Feed them & thou wilt grow fat
The Gnat that sings his Summers Song
Poison gets from Slanders tongue
The poison of the Snake & Newt
Is the sweat of Envys Foot
The poison of the Honey Bee
Is the Artists Jealousy
The Princes Robes & Beggars Rags
Are Toadstools on the Misers Bags
A Truth thats told with bad intent
Beats all the Lies you can invent
It is right it should be so
Man was made for Joy & Woe
And when this we rightly know
Thro the World we safely go
Joy & Woe are woven fine
A Clothing for the soul divine
Under every grief & pine
Runs a joy with silken twine
The Babe is more than swadling Bands
Throughout all these Human Lands
Tools were made & Born were hands
Every Farmer Understands
Every Tear from Every Eye
Becomes a Babe in Eternity
This is caught by Females bright
And returnd to its own delight
The Bleat the Bark Bellow & Roar
Are Waves that Beat on Heavens Shore
The Babe that weeps the Rod beneath
Writes Revenge in realms of Death
The Beggars Rags fluttering in Air
Does to Rags the Heavens tear
The Soldier armd with Sword & Gun
Palsied strikes the Summers Sun
The poor Mans Farthing is worth more
Than all the Gold on Africs Shore
One Mite wrung from the Labrers hands
Shall buy & sell the Misers Lands
Or if protected from on high
Does that whole Nation sell & buy
He who mocks the Infants Faith
Shall be mockd in Age & Death
He who shall teach the Child to Doubt
The rotting Grave shall neer get out
He who respects the Infants faith
Triumphs over Hell & Death
The Childs Toys & the Old Mans Reasons
Are the Fruits of the Two seasons
The Questioner who sits so sly
Shall never know how to Reply
He who replies to words of Doubt
Doth put the Light of Knowledge out
The Strongest Poison ever known
Came from Caesars Laurel Crown
Nought can Deform the Human Race
Like to the Armours iron brace
When Gold & Gems adorn the Plow
To peaceful Arts shall Envy Bow
A Riddle or the Crickets Cry
Is to Doubt a fit Reply
The Emmets Inch & Eagles Mile
Make Lame Philosophy to smile
He who Doubts from what he sees
Will neer Believe do what you Please
If the Sun & Moon should Doubt
Theyd immediately Go out
To be in a Passion you Good may Do
But no Good if a Passion is in you
The Whore & Gambler by the State
Licencd build that Nations Fate
The Harlots cry from Street to Street
Shall weave Old Englands winding Sheet
The Winners Shout the Losers Curse
Dance before dead Englands Hearse
Every Night & every Morn
Some to Misery are Born
Every Morn and every Night
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to Endless Night
We are led to Believe a Lie
When we see not Thro the Eye
Which was Born in a Night to perish in a Night
When the Soul Slept in Beams of Light
God Appears & God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in Night
But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day

Used in "In The Bedroom" and "Lara Croft, Tomb Raider."

We never know how high we are
  by Emily Dickinson

Hot Actor: Tobey Maguire
We never know how high we are
  Till we are called to rise;
And then, if we are true to plan,
  Our statures touch the skies—
The Heroism we recite
  Would be a daily thing,
Did not ourselves the Cubits warp
  For fear to be a King—

Used in Seabiscuit

Consumer Portfolio Services: a mystery no longer.

Did you ever wonder, when watching those commercials that promise to get someone financed for a new or used car even if they have bad credit or no credit, how the companies manage to do it and who is lending that money?

Okay, so it's just me, then? I did wonder, and that's how I found out about Consumer Portfolio Services -- that link, which you should check out, takes you to their Better Business Bureau page, where you can find out (as I did) that Consumer Portfolio Services is 'accredited', which means it has committed to meeting BBB standards in its business.

That business is auto lending.  Consumer Portfolio Services is how people get loans for cars when they have less-than-great credit.  What they do is they buy loans from dealers and securitize them, and then service those loans.  So they provide a service for buyers and dealers and lenders and investors, and make it all work out for everyone.  They're active in 45 states and have been in business since 1991, so it seems like they're doing something right.

See? Learn something every day.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

OK, I have done a Harlem Shake video so let's get on to the next thing I'll be too late and too lame for. (THIS is a THING?)

Dance crazes, always stupid, at least used to involve, you know, a dance.

So one day, when I heard that the "Harlem Shake" had come to Wisconsin via a University of Wisconsin something-or-other --I don't know what it was, as I am no more up on college things now, at age 44, then I was in college, when I didn't have time or money to get into college things because I had to work to buy food and pay rent.  College is a lot more fun, I imagine, if you do not have to do those things, but the future value of learning to paint one's face and mimic a trombone while screaming obscenities at a hockey player for an hour before going to do Jell-O shots is questionable, at best.-- anyway, the University of Wisconsin students in our city recently went to something-or-other, and there they did the "Harlem Shake," which was novel enough, I learned, to make the local news, which announced this event by saying "the Harlem Shake has come to UW," but I was trying to sleep at the time and so I didn't open my eyes to see what the "Harlem Shake" was.

SPOILER ALERT: It's not really anything.  But I didn't know that yet.  Later on, when I got curious about whether I'd really missed something -- maybe even a THING -- and so I looked it up, and, having spent a few minutes several weeks ago reading a blog on NPR's site, and having also made a reference to the "Harlem Shake" in not one, but two separate jokes at the office this week, I have now reached the level of expertise where I can explain to you what THIS THING:

The Harlem Shake

is all about.

What THIS THING is, in a nutshell:  It is almost a dance.

The "Harlem Shake," the way it is practiced right now, goes...

I was going to explain it in words, but why? This is the Internet! We've got access to music! Video! 3d imagery that implants memories right into your mind*

*except in the US, where our woeful commitment to building up tech infrastructure is only made worse by our decision to deregulate internet service providers so that the only real high-speed bandwidth is controlled by cable companies, which remain committed to requiring that at least 17 hours of "Myrtle Manor" be broadcast every day and so we cannot take full advantage of the Internet at present, here in our country.  But did you see those funny people in the trailer park! HA! I laugh because deregulation destroyed my future.

and so I will show it to you:

And that's it.  One person dances for 15 seconds or so, then everyone else does.  But they don't all do the same dance because that would be stupid.

How I, and Maybe You, Heard About THIS THING:  Well, I heard about it from our local news, which means by the time I heard about it, everyone else in the entire world had heard about it, because local news is always the last to get every story, aren't they?  What are those production meetings like?

PRODUCER:  Ok, what've we got for tonight's show?
ANCHOR:  Did you know people are moving into things called "Suburbs?" Apparently the return of soldiers from Europe in World War II is spurring something of a housing boom on the outskirts of cities.
PRODUCER: Sounds sketchy.  We don't want to scare people awake.
ANCHOR:  We could do the llama thing.

The only people who get a story about a THING after the local news are me.

But other people HAVE heard about this "Harlem Shake" thing, possibly from one of these little-known sources:

The Today Show

The Jimmy Fallon Show

Anderson Cooper

The Daily Show

Or Stephen Colbert, but I couldn't find that last one.

I didn't watch any of those videos.  I'm just saying that if you know where to look, and/or were alive in the past two months, you probably saw "The Harlem Shake."

When did THIS THING start?  For once, the experts agree: it was created by an accidental collision of the Higgs Boson with a "5 Hour Energy drink" that was left inside the CERN particle accelerator.  (I have only skimmed the news stories this week, so I'm kind of making some inferences here.)

That, or, this iteration of "The Harlem Shake" was first uploaded by a group calling itself "The Sunnycoast Skate," some kids from Queensland, Australia:

Huh. I would've expected more kangaroos.  Or poisonous spiders.  Or poisonous kangaroos.  Now, THAT would be a menace!

The kids from Queensland (or "queenskids") uploaded that on February 2, 2013, so THIS THING hit the big time at record speed.  The velocity at which this meme traveled is so high, it is probably responsible for the rest of the universe slowing down and therefore seeming older than we expected.  (That is what 'scientists' refer to as 'dark energy.')(Again: I only skimmed the stories.)

That video above has been viewed, as of this writing, 23,935,978 times since it was uploaded on February 2, which means that as of this exact moment

10:52 a.m. March 23, 2013

it has averaged five views per second since it was uploaded.  FIVE PER SECOND.

But then again, only 0.3% of the world has seen it yet.  So there's a lot of room for improvement.

When did THIS THING officially pass into pop culture?

As far as I can tell, instantaneously.  You know how 'scientists'  hate it when you ask them what created the Big Bang, where all that energy came from, and how they want to pretend it could just happen spontaneously, like one second there was nothing and the next second there was a Higgs Boson that exploded and eventually became the kind of universe where Twinkies exist and then don't and then maybe they'll come back again?

This "Harlem Shake" thing gives credence to that theory.  One second it did not exist, and the next second, it was simultaneously EVERYWHERE IN THE UNIVERSE, even RIGHT BEHIND YOU LOOK OUT!

Whew. That was close.

But truthfully, the passage into our collective consciousness probably happened when The Washington Post, which doesn't have much else to cover, being out there in the hinterlands of Washington, D.C., did a write-up that helped explain why you all like it so much:

Is it any wonder Harlem Shake videos have gone viral? It’s all in the jump cuts, which add that little jolt of magic. Plus, the song’s beat is hypnotic, the setups are quick and the routines only last half a minute.

Which is to say: you have no attention span.  Also, apparently the Washington Post hadn't actually watched any of the videos to that point, because the ones I watched had just the ONE jump cut.  But that may be a lot to a culture writer at the Post, where I imagine they are used to only watching movies that feature no cuts, whatsoever, just one long panning shot of a desolate eastern European city while that music that This American Life uses over every story set in New York plays mournfully.

(You know the music; it's the piece that kind of sounds like it should be playing over a Jewish wedding scene in a movie nobody watched.)

The Post article also gets to the bottom of the mystery behind the University of Georgia swim team's Harlem Shake video:

I didn't know there was a mystery, but the Post went after the real story with a vigor that would make Bob Woodward roll over in his grave if he wasn't so busy making up pretend threats from the Obama administration:

 If you’re wondering how they managed to stage this impressive underwater floor show,

NOTE: Nobody was.
clustered in what looks like a human coral reef of sinuous legs and flailing arms, turning flips and jogging in place with assorted props (sleeping bag, bike, broom, table and chairs), well: There wasn’t much to it.

NOTE: at this point, The Post might as well have said "but we need to fill up two more inches of space on this story.

“We just brought a bunch of crazy stuff to the pool,” says Conor Sweeney in an interview on the team’s website.
NOTE: The part of the story that is omitted is this: "Sweeney added, 'honestly, are you asking me how we got stuff underwater in a pool?"

He’s the clip’s solo aqua-dancer with the hard-working abs, wearing a “Star Wars” stormtrooper mask repurposed from Halloween.
"And in my fan fiction, he is also crazy in love with a Washington Post reporter doing a story about him.  After the story is published, he reveals that he is a billionaire with a penchant for bondage.  I call my story 'Fifty Shades Of The Old Gray Lady.' We... I mean, the fictional reporter who is not based on anyone in real life, get married and have a bunch of kids.  One of the kids is named "McKinley."

“We were just like, ‘Go underwater and hold your breath and do something crazy for 20 seconds.’”
Remember what I said about the future utility of things you learn in college? This guy is going to be the Secretary of Defense some day.  "I was just, like, 'go invade something for 20 years'."

Adds swimmer Jameson Hill, “There wasn’t really a whole lot of logistics. It was so last-second.”
And yet it looks planned to the minutest detail! you even remembered water in the pool!

Back to the reporter's intrepid reportage:

There you have the secret of the Shake. Simple. Silly. And don’t overthink it.

"I never overthink things.  Do you suppose I came on too strong about that guy's abs? I hope he didn't notice that my shirt is a little tight.  Why did I have that bagel for breakfast? They always leave me bloaty! CARBS, am I right? Do you think I should text him? My liberal arts degree is really paying off."

 Is THIS THING still going on?

No. Miley Cyrus' twerking overtook it.

But we can look forward to next week, when the Washington Post breaks down why we all love Matt Lauer's twerking abs so much.

Can you sum up the Harlem Shake for people who just skimmed this and want a quick takeaway?

Am I famous yet?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Your Saturday AFTERNOON Feel Good Song

Good for:

-- Not getting around to things on time.

-- Playing "Sky Racer" airplanes (if Mr Bunches will let you)

-- Looking at black-and-white photographs and pretending they were taken in the old days.

365 poems: 11, 12, 13

The universe is older, or younger (?) than we thought! I don't know. I didn't read the stories.  But William Shakespeare knows what good the universe is:

Hot Actor: Martin Henderson
(A Hunk O' The Week!)
Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck (Sonnet 14)

by William Shakespeare

Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck,
And yet methinks I have astronomy;
But not to tell of good or evil luck,
Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons' quality;
Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
Pointing to each his thunder, rain, and wind,
Or say with princes if it shall go well
By oft predict that I in heaven find.
But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,
And, constant stars, in them I read such art
As truth and beauty shall together thrive
If from thyself to store thou wouldst convert:
   Or else of thee this I prognosticate,
   Thy end is truth's and beauty's doom and date.

Snow continues to blanket Wisconsin and it was 12 degrees yesterday.  But it's always summer in poetry!

Hot actress: Natalie Portman
On the Grasshopper and the Cricket

  by John Keats
The poetry of earth is never dead:
   When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
   And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper's--he takes the lead
   In summer luxury,--he has never done
   With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
   On a lone winter evening, when the frost
      Has wrought silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket's song, in warmth increasing ever,
   And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
      The Grasshopper's among some grassy hills.

Besides, even if it is snowy, be happy! You are alive to witness the glory of a universe in which life-giving water rains from the heavens, and you can think about it.  For not thinking equals....

Hot actor: Henry Cavill
The Fly

by William Blake

Little fly,
Thy summer’s play
My thoughtless hand
Has brushed away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance
And drink and sing,
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength and breath,
And the want
Of thought is death,

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.


All the hotness today was picked by Sweetie, who tried to switch Amber Heard:

for Natalie Portman, but once picked, a hotness selection is nonrefundable.

Feel free to suggest your own hot actors/actresses to run with these.

Also: You know Andrew Leon as the award-winning author of the books "The House On The Corner" and "Shadow Spinner", the latter of which is being serialized and is awesome.  But he also writes poetry: Check out Andrew Leon's great poem by clicking here!

Or go start on his incredible, Stephen King-esque horror story, Shadow Spinner, by clicking this picture:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

He's right. I AM GOODER THAN THAT. (The Greatest Thing In The World, EVER!)

I just found out this guy exists this morning when his NCAA selections were featured on our local news.  At first, I was thinking "Man, local news just got way more worse than I thought it was."

Then, two seconds in, I was hooked, and I've now committed my life to watching every Kid President thing ever.  I want to hire this kid to walk around my office to simply be incredible.

This one is great:

And this was my introduction to Kid President:

Kid President for... um. President? OF EVERYTHING.

Outis gets this joke. (Sundays With The Classics)

I sat down this morning to read The Odyssey, and I got about three sentences into it before I had to pause and think about this because I do not get the joke here.

Here is what happened:: remember, Odysseus stabbed Polypheme in the eye with a log, which maybe is the genesis of our saying that something is "better than getting poked in the eye with a sharp stick."

Let's think about that first: how did that become a saying?

This page, which seems to promise an answer to that question, not only doesn't answer it at all, but makes things worse by suggesting that "poke in the eye with a sharp stick" is indigenous to Australia, so yeah I get that, there's nothing else to do down there except wait until you die from the giant spiders that infest everyone's house to the point where even kids just accept that they will die in a SpiderGeddon:

But beyond that, that site claims that there are similar sayings in Canada and the US (literally, "us"), which it claims are:

Canada:  "Better than a kick in the ass with a frozen boot."

US:  "Better than a slap across the belly with a wet fish."

And now I'm just mad.  Because (A) those three things are in no way comparable. De-eyeing versus getting kicked with a frozen boot or slapped with a fish? No.  And (B) I have lived in the US for 99.9% of my life, and I have never heard anyone say that something was "better than a slap across the belly with a wet fish."  Never.  I sincerely doubt that is a saying, and I think the person who posted it on the Internet it deranged.

That said, I plan on using that saying as often as possible.

Anyway, Polypheme got poked in the eye with a sharp stick, leading to today's installment of The Odyssey in which two lines in I got confused and outraged (literally, "my ordinary state of existence") (or "nonplussed") (Oh, man, I only just realized that my reaction to the differing definitions of nonplussed was itself a definition of being nonplussed.  I AM AWESOME.)

Today's installment begins, and ends, with a few lines, because in those few lines, Polypheme calls for help from all the Cyclops around on the island, bellowing out with his pain and hurt from inside his cave which remember is blocked by a rock and is dark.  And as his friends gather, Polypheme says:

"Oh, friends, I die! and Outis gives the blow."

and the other Cyclops reply:

"If no man harm thee, but thou art alone,
And sickness feel'st, it is the stroke of Jove,
And thou must bear it...."

And Odysseus thinks to himself:

" my heart I laugh'd"

Let me pause again to say: okay, why get rid of the "e"?  Laughed is one syllable.  One. Using the apostrophe, which I've previously noted is a poetic dodge because we all pronounce the other syllable:



but we give the poet credit for fitting into the meter, so it's a poetic TKO, using the apostrophe is not necessary for laughed because nobody pronounces it


It's just


So this is not a Homer problem, because I doubt that he apostrophized the original Greek word, which is


According to Google, which ought to know.  This is a problem on the part of the translator, and I don't know who he is, so let's move on to the original point before you get bored and go home.

The original point is that after Polypheme says "Outis" stabbed him, "Outis" being Odysseus' alias in the cave, the other Cyclops tell him that he was hurt by nobody and Odysseus thinks:

"...I laugh'd [NOTE: ARRRRRRGGGH]
that by the fiction only of a name,
Slight stratagem! I had deceived them all."

And I had to stop and think, because I don't get it.

Outis must mean something that is entirely lost on us, right? Like when my dad makes any joke about anything, the frame of reference isn't there.

DAD:  "So your car isn't working?"

ME:  "Yeah."

DAD:  "Sounds like an Eisenhower thing to me!" [Laughs.]

ME: "This is why I don't visit."

So I paused and determined to look up the Outis reference.

And it turns out it's easy.

And stupid.

"Outis" is Greek for nobody, so Polypheme is literally yelling at his friends that he is dying and "Nobody" did it to him, and so they say "Well, then, that's your problem so maybe pray to Neptune to help you out," which raises several important questions:

1.  Why didn't Polypheme recognize that "Outis" meant "nobody" when Odysseus first claimed that was his name?

2.  Why didn't the Cyclops try to help Polypheme anyway? What is it about Greek culture, or Cyclops culture anyway, that you only help people who have been killed by a third party and not those who are suffering from some internal ailment?  "Did someone do this to you? No? Then I've got to go, Modern Family is starting and it's the one where Cam and Mitch at first seem to fight against gay stereotypes, only to then embrace them." (Literally: Every show.)

3.  Why would Edgar Allan Poe write a denunciation of William Wordsworth and then turn around and write an anonymous defense of him, as Wikipedia claims happened?

Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) In the New York Evening Mirror (January 14, 1845), Edgar Allan Poe launched an article denouncing the well-known poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow as a plagiarist. Longfellow remained silent on the matter, but a defender for Longfellow did appear, an anonymous writer who signed his letters only as "Outis," meaning "nobody." A great deal of speculation has centered around the identity of Outis, several scholars agree that he was none other than Poe himself.[citation needed] They believe that Poe himself wrote the defense of Longfellow, so Poe and Outis are the same person.

Poe has done some supercrazy things, in his life.  But that seems weird even for him.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

365 poems 9 & 10

Inert Perfection

 by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Hot actor: Alex Pettyfer
“Inert Perfection, let me chip your shell.
You cannot break it through with that soft beak.
What if you broke it never, and it befell
You should not issue thence, should never speak?”

Perfection in the egg, a fluid thing,
Grows solid in due course, and there exists;
Knowing no urge to struggle forth and sing;
Complete, though shell-bound. But the mind insists

It shall be hatched ... to this ulterior end:
That it be bound by Function, that it be
Less than Perfection, having to expend
Some force on a nostalgia to be free.

Hot actress: Scarlett Johannsen.

Why I Am Afraid of Turning the Page

 by Cate Marvin

Spokes, spooks: your tinsel hair weaves the wheel
that streams through my dreams of battle. Another
apocalypse, and your weird blondeness cycling in
and out of the march: down in a bunker, we hunker,
can hear the boots from miles off clop. We tend to
our flowers in the meantime. And in the meantime,
a daughter is born. She begins as a mere inch, lost
in the folds of a sheet; it's horror to lose her before
she's yet born. Night nurses embody the darkness.
Only your brain remains, floating in a jar that sits
in a lab far off, some place away, and terribly far.
Your skull no longer exists, its ash has been lifted
to wind from a mountain's top by brothers, friends.
I am no friend. According to them. Accordion, the
child pulls its witching wind between its opposite
handles: the lungs of the thing grieve, and that is
its noise. She writhes the floor in tantrum. When
you climbed the sides of the house spider-wise to
let yourself in, unlocked the front door, let me in
to climb up into your attic the last time I saw you
that infected cat rubbed its face against my hand.
Wanting to keep it. No, you said. We are friends.
I wear my green jacket with the furred hood. You
pushed me against chain-length. Today is the day
that the planet circles the night we began. A child
is born. Night nurses coagulate her glassed-in crib.
Your organs, distant, still float the darkness of jars.


A note: The actual point of this ongoing project is to come up with 365 poems that rhyme, and I thought long and hard about including poem 10 here, but finally opted to do so because while it's not set up with the rhymes at the end of lines the way we expect with "formal" poetry, the wordplay and internal rhymes still mark it as a poem rather than as prose-styling-itself-a-poem.

"Another apocalypse, and your weird blondeness,"


"down in a bunker, we hunker"


"Only your brain remains, floating in a jar that sits
in a lab far off, some place away, and terribly far"

are all rhymes of sorts, that latter being easier to see if you wrote it like this:

Only your brain remains, 
floating in a jar 
that sits in a lab far off, 
some place away, 
and terribly far

And look at this, too:

Your skull no longer exists, its ash has been lifted
to wind from a mountain's top by brothers, friends.
I am no friend. According to them. Accordion

Rewritten, it could be:

Your skull no longer exists, 
its ash has been lifted
to wind 
from a mountain's top by brothers, friends.
I am no friend. 
According to them.

So I say it rhymes.  The real test is: read aloud, does the rhythm take on a greater meaning? I think that's a good test for poetry: Is it better, read aloud? Great prose is not necessarily any more powerful when read aloud.  Great poetry, I think, is.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I probably shoulda gone with Tweets about the Pope. THAT is a humor gold mine. (Celebrity Tweets About...)

Are Celebrities (note that I capitalized it, as is proper when speaking of Those Who May Be Better Than Us) better than us? Are They wiser? Funnier? Better looking?

The answers: No, no, and yes, but it's the lighting.  It's time for Celebrity Tweets About..., the fun game you can play at home, only it's not a game and you don't play it and you're probably reading this at work!  This installment is all about the most important thing in the world right now, which is "MARCH MADNESS," also known as "Basketball."  Specifically, college basketball.  Specifically, colleges you can't afford to attend playing a game you never were very good at in front of people who will someday be your boss but who for today have painted their faces red-and-gold and are very, very drunk.

Anyway, here is a look at what Celebrities are saying about "March Madness," which is a term I've decided to just go ahead and use because I don't think that a phrase CAN be copyrighted in such a way as to keep me from "reporting" on a "news" "event," and so MARCH MADNESS MARCH MADNESS MARCH MADNESS.*

*My secret plan is that when the NCAA or whoever sues me, I will tell Patricia Cornwell that the lawsuit has all her money and she'll sue them back!  GENIUS.

First up, because he is who I found first, is a rapper named "Common," who tweeted this:

I did not embed the picture, because the picture is actually a video that you can see on Common's website.  I didn't watch the video either, because, well, I don't know who Common is, or why he's a Monk for March Madness, and I didn't want to find out.  I feel like maybe my life is better without me knowing that.  After all, my brain is already filled with useless information.  I can name, like, four Bob Seger songs off the top of my head, and for various reasons that drives me nuts, in part because I can never find my keys.

"Why, brain," I want to yell at myself, "Why would you remember that Against The Wind exists but make me late for work?"

And now you are humming Against The Wind.

Here is what the "Sons Of Clemson" have to say about March Madness:

I don't know who the "Sons Of Clemson" are.  Probably a reality show.  But they have NAILED IT.  That is the ESSENCE OF A TOURNAMENT.  "Win or go home" indeed.  You have showed the rest of the world, Sons of Clemson, what it means to get a Clemson Education.  "Clemson: WE KNOW HOW TOURNAMENTS ARE RUN," you might well say.

It wasn't always the case that you had to "Win Or Go Home" in the NCAA Tournament, though.  It used to be that losers were forced to marry the Earl's daughter.  Her SECOND daughter, so you didn't inherit the Earldom.  You just got an ugly daughter, whom you had to share with your teammates. And you probably ate turnips because back then they didn't know any better.  Things are much improved now.

Robert Flores says:

HA HA it's funny because he works at ESPN, and those two things are sports-related things that are not actually basketball things!  It's also funny because he's publicly admitting he's very bad at his job!  That is what they call in sports "a two-fer."

Jesse Williams -- I'm VERY MUCH expanding the definition of "Celebrity" here but THIS. IS. AMERICA. says:

He has 347,000+ followers!  347,000 people want to know what Jesse Williams has to say about things!  And I don't even know who he is, probably because my stupid brain is full of Bob Seger lyrics.

Jesse's Twitter site says he is "Not a doctor but plays one on TV" and then something about being a sneakerphile.  Can I retroactively revoke "Celebrity Status?" Judges? No? Moving on, then.

If you don't want to bet against Jesse Williams and his sneakerphilia -- he has to introduce himself to all the Foot Locker stores in the neighborhood when he moves in -- you could use your betting to help a good cause, a la Kurt Warner:

Kurt Warner might honestly be one of the coolest stories ever in American history, leaving aside important people when I say that.  He was a stock boy in a grocery store telling other people he was going to win the Super Bowl, and then he went and DID THAT. If Kurt Warner wants four bucks from you, GIVE IT TO HIM.

That is, of course, leaving aside important people.  While Kurt Warner's athletic achievements are quite admirable, let's keep in mind that winning at sports does nothing to improve the world, ever, period.  So, admirable. But pointless.

Which brings me to Darrell Waltrip, who is a NASCAR driver, I think? WHY DO I KNOW THINGS LIKE THAT? The other day I walked into the kitchen and couldn't remember why I'd done that.  There wasn't even any pizza left, as it turns out.  But I KNOW WHO DARRELL WALTRIP IS, kind of.  He says:

That is, I think, supposed to entice you into watching car racing.  But saying "run-off" doesn't make me want to watch a race.  It makes me think I need a Kleenex(TM) brand tissue.  (THIS JOKE SPONSORED BY KLEENEX, the official tissue of March Madness! KLEENEX: It's what's in your wallet!)

Hey, it's Rob Flores again!

I get it!  Because he's bad at the thing he gets paid to tell you about! OH HO HO HO.  Rob Flores, you are a rising star.

Colin Quinn has a two-fer (remember, that's a sports term):

Colin Quinn had TWO things to say about the NCAA tournament.  Also, he is alive.  And apparently soliciting house-cleaning jobs.

Tom Crabtree is a Green Bay Packer.  You would know him if you know who "tight ends" are on the Green Bay Packers, or if you know half-orcs.

I am assuming those are jokes.  I have to assume that because it's not readily apparent that they are jokes.  "If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck" isn't just an old saying.  It's also a way of deciding if something is a duck.  So ersatz jokes ought to at least resemble real jokes, ought they not? They ought.

Also, there is a "Levon James" on Twitter, "Levon James Budding", who says he lives in Las Vegas.  This is his latest Tweet:

It's at least as funny as anything tweeted by Tom Crabtree.

Here is the Drudge Report's take on the NCAA tournament:

I saw that statistic about 9.2 quintillion times, so it is apparently the fact du jour (literally, "the only fact we know") of this year's tournament.  A quintillion is 10 to the 18th power, or a 10 followed by 18 zeroes:


It doesn't look so big like that, does it?  I could take it.

It's nice to see the Drudge Report still out there trying to be relevant.

Just seeing if you're paying attention.
Nate Silver weighs in, statistically:

I looked at the link to try to figure it out, and what you need to know is this: Nate Silver says that everyone's pretty much equally likely to win or not win the NCAA tournament.  STATISTICAL MAGICKRY.  He does predict that Louisville will win it all.  Or at least that portion of "all" that is represented by the NCAA Tournament.

I like the faux (literally: "neato") modesty of the "ICYMI" intro.  You know, Nate Silver isn't trying to bug you with what he thinks about stuff, even though that's how he gets paid.  Nate Silver doesn't really care whether you know what Nate Silver thinks about stuff at all, really, he's not all in-your-face about it.  It's just that if you happen to care about what Nate Silver thinks, and you happen to follow Nate Silver on Twitter but even though both of those are true you also happened to miss that Nate Silver was thinking stuff about stuff, then, hey, Nate Silver is just giving you a gentle nudge to remind you that the thing you care about is in existence, that "thing" being "Nate Silver's thoughts."

Diane Sawyer puts things in perspective:

Those things are all equally important!  This is how I responded to her:

JaceFosterInk wasn't falling for Diane's pro-NCAA, pro-Assad propaganda:

JaceFosterInk is all over that Syrian story that you've kept meaning to read up on only you never do.  Also her site notes that she has won "national awards," but never mentions what those awards are.  I bet it's not an NCAA Tournament trophy!

Want more from the "Sons Of Clemson"? Here you GO:

The college football playoffs, you might want to know, will be determined by a selection committee, which will meet at the end of the season and determine which teams get into the post-season.  Which is COMPLETELY UNLIKE the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, where which teams get into the post-season is determined by a meeting of a selection committee at the end of the season.


Bubba Watson, golfer, throws down the slightly-tacky, one-handed glove:

I think I got what it takes to beat anyone who uses "u" in place of "you" on Twitter. The link takes you to an ESPN site that lets you get into Bubba Watson's bracket group and personally challenge Bubba Watson with your picks.  5,393 people so far think that the NCAA Tournament ONLY has meaning to them if they get to compare their results to Bubba's.  I like the group's motto:

Group Motto: "Challenge professional golfer Bubba Watson"

NOTE: That is not a motto. Or is it? Let's use it in a hypothetical scenario.

MAN: Doctor, I just found out I have a terminal illness brought on by picking up a piece of chewing gum thrown out by a man on a bus, and chewing on it.
 DOCTOR: Gross.
 MAN: I know, right? Anyway, I find myself challenged every day with the question "How can I possibly get up and face this day knowing I am going to die, and also all the flavor was gone anyway?"
 DOCTOR: I'm not sure why I'm in this skit.
 MAN: So you know what I do? I simply look at the sunrise, and repeat to myself one little phrase.
 DOCTOR: "Challenge professional golfer Bubba Watson."
 MAN: What? No. That's stupid. I say "At least I am married to a supermodel."

Note: "Doctor" in that skit was played by Amy Poehler.

Patrick Peterson, a punt returner for the Arizona Cardinals, gets it:

You're kind of flying in the dark there, because Patrick Peterson, Punt Returner, does not provide a link to his bracket.  DOES HE HAVE LOUISVILLE WINNING? You'll never know.

Awesomely, 235 people retweeted that already.  Patrick Peterson, Punt Returner, gets no respect.

Ben Hoffman of "The Ben Show", which will have three more episodes at least until Comedy Central realizes just how cheaply it can air American Dad reruns and get the same ratings, will only entertain you with mock redneck ("mockneck")(?) songs if his team isn't in the Tournament:

Lucky (?) for you (?) Kentucky didn't make it. He swears in the song that link goes to. That's what makes it funny. Robert Flores, take note.

True story: I simply wanted to do a callback to Robert Flores, who is obviously the star of this inaugural post in this category, but then I learned that Robert Flores was once fired for saying saying "f*ck" on the air, even though he didn't mean to.  Nice to see he landed on his feet!  And this:

Is a picture that comes up when you google-image-search "Robert Flores Fired."