Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bloggo Redux

John Updike, at dinner with John Irving (from Slate)
Once, when he came to dinner, my middle son, Brendan, was in a phase of dressing up—disguises, voices with accents, bizarre enactments. Updike and I were having dinner when Brendan appeared in a kimono; he was holding a lit candle, and something that looked like (or was) a microphone. "Good evening," Brendan said. "This is the news in Japanese." And then he went into an incomprehensible imitation of Japanese news; it was pretty convincing. (I think Brendan must have been 8 or 10 at the time.)

That was all. Brendan left, with a bow, and we went back to our dinner. Updike had never met Brendan before.

When we were saying good night, Updike asked: "The news, in Japanese—is it a regular event?"

"No, just for us," I said; I couldn't think of what else to say. Brendan had never done it before, nor would he ever do it again.

"Well, that was … special," Updike said.

Social Networking News!
Burger King launched a campaign in which it would give a free Whopper to anybody on Facebook who would “unfriend” ten “friends.” According to a feature in the New York Times, “Facebook suspended the program because Burger King was sending notifications to the castoffs letting them know they’d been dropped for a sandwich (or, more accurately, a tenth of a sandwich).” Facebook policy apparently does not permit e-mail notifications to those who have been defriended, or to alert others that you have defriended somebody, and the Burger King campaign was suspended.

More Writer News!
In THE BELIEVER, a short story writer named Gary Lutz published a lecture he gave at Columbia University, called THE SENTENCE IS A LONELY PLACE, an analysis of sentences he considered wonderful, beautiful, etc. This was one of them, from a writer named Sam Lipsyte:

“Home, we drank a little wine, put on some of that sticky saxophone music we used to keep around to drown out the bitter squeaks in our hearts.”

That doesn’t seem like such a good sentence to me. I would cut “…to drown out the bitter squeaks in our hearts.” I have no idea what it means. If it means a literal heart, well, hearts don’t squeak. If it’s the “heart” that is “soul,” it’s unearned sentimentality. And besides, it’s inferred by the “sticky saxophone music” in the first place. Still, it’s the kind of sentence I would like, if I found it in a piece of pulp fiction.

Which reminds me…
A writer I love, Raymond Chandler, had this sentence in his story, “Wrong Pigeon,” which I recently re-read: “It was a quiet street in Bay City, if there are any quiet streets in this beatnik generation when you can’t get through a meal without some male or female stomach singer belching out a kind of love that is as old-fashioned as a bustle or some Hammond organ jazzing it up in the customer’s soup.”

The hell…? The sentence starts out as a standard detective noir trope, and then suddenly lurches into the voice of old man complaining about these kids today. Stomach singer? An organ in the soup?

Barbie News!
According to TOY MONSTER: THE BIG, BAD WORLD OF MATTEL, Jack Ryan, the designer of Barbie, was a swinger, patronized prositutes, attended orgies, and was once married to Zsa Zsa Gabor. Gwen Forea, who voiced the talking Barbie, claimed, "He once said to me he loved me being tall so he could stick his nose in my boobs when he hugged me.”

Happy birthday, over time.
John C. Dvorak in PC MAGAZINE:

“2009 marks the 30-year anniversary of the now-ubiquitous spreadsheet program. And society as a whole has deteriorated ever since its invention. It was the spreadsheet that triggered the PC revolution, with VisiCalc the original culprit. Can anyone say that we've actually benefited from its invention? Look around: I think we've suffered….

“And yes, while all the pundits and visionaries talk about business intelligence and modern practices and this and that, where's the evidence of improvement in the way business runs or works? Cars are shoddy, consumer goods are junk. Toxic substances are in the food supply. Lead is in toys. Most of what we buy is made cheaply elsewhere. At every level of the business scene today, some bean counter does a what-if calculation before making the decisions. The spineless CEO worries about what the shareholders would think if he disagreed with what the spreadsheet and the CFO told him to do. To make him feel better, the board will give the CEO a fat bonus for saving money.

“The what-if society has marched forward with little actual regard for the customer. If the customer has a complaint, she can call someone in India—someone doing customer support there because the spreadsheet told the company it could save 1 cent a year on phone costs. There's no way this idea would have evolved without spreadsheets.”

Burn your Excel. You have nothing to lose but your database.

Australia news!
(AP) Before there were cuddly koalas, hoards of flesh-eating kangaroos, "demon ducks" and marsupial lions roamed Australia's Outback, according to recent fossil discoveries by paleontologists.

Nigeria news!
(AP) … In a front-page article on Friday, the Vanguard newspaper said that two men tried to steal a Mazda car two days earlier in Kwara State, with one suspect transforming himself into a goat as vigilantes cornered him.

The U.S. House may vote to extend television’s digital conversion deadline to June 12th, because many Americans are supposedly still confused about the whole thing. I’m not confused, but I am angry. If I had my way, I’d still be watching shows on a twelve inch black and white that uses a coat hanger for an antenna.

A smattering of reader posts on a Minneapolis Star Tribune story about this, however, shows that I am alone in this.

There was this post: “…If these people have not prepared themselves in two years what makes you believe they are going to get it done in the next four months? Sounds to me like good old fashioned laziness or an unwillingness to change. I thought that Barack Hussein Obama was all about ‘change’, and he was behind this extension. I guess he only wants change that will benefit him and the liberals.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but if you already have a digital converter or cable, you will receive television just fine, right? So what’s their problem with the delay? They want to watch WIFE SWAP in 3D?

And this: “I'm always bitterly amused when the Leftist apologists say that one population or another can't access one thing or the other and throw up various excuses like language barriers. They don't seem to realize that they themselves are defacto, treating these populations like they are nothing but helpless morons. Good grief, if something is IMPORTANT, a refugee or minority population will sure as hell find out about it through word-of-mouth at the very least and develop their own solutions. Instead, we now coddle them like they were little children. I often wonder how my own Scandinavian and German immigrant ancestors ever survived without Leftist cocooning.”

Again, what does coddling minorities have to do with this? Is forcing a poor person to buy a digital converter really a conservative cause?

Most posts were like the above. But this poster made my same point: “Obama only asks for a delay because the economy is so bad that some people cannot afford the $80 to spend on a converter. Let alone afford to have cable. If you have the converter now, you're already getting the channels. Some areas have 64 channels with the least of 33 that I have seen. Major networks are already broadcasting in HD, so majoy shows wether you have the converter or not come in crystal clear. Plus, the government isn't issuing anymore coupons, there has been a delay in those also. So those of you that have the converter already, or have cable already, quit your b i t c h i n g.”

And finally: “it's not like the government is cutting off their oxygen or starving their children. And WTF!? Our gov is spending our tax money on giving coupons to pay for a luxury item? How about a rebate for us cable users since we now HAVE TO have cable (instead of choosing to have it and affording the luxury)!”

I hate us. Love television though.

Just watched THE DARK KNIGHT on our new (digital) television. I didn’t get it. Heath Ledger was all right. I liked the little snaky thing he did with his tongue. But he was, after all, just another over-the-top villain. Not enough Batman. The fight scenes were poorly choreographed and murky. And it was bleak. Who wants to see a bleak comic book movie? Well, millions, I guess. Must be a sign of the times. Plus: it was two and half hours long! And self-important! Good grief. Must every Hollywood action movie now be these lumbering glittery dinosaurs lurching from explosion to car chase to fistfight with patches of obvious dialogue stitching the scenes together? Just asking.


Blogger Blaize said...

I don't know, I thought Heath Ledger's "I so crazy!" thing was pretty stale. But that's probably because I'm actually crazy (I can fax over my diagnosis, if you wish), so I don't find crazy villains "fun" or, well, "fun."

In re: Raymond Chandler, the quote that gets me is "At three a.m., I was walking the floor listening to Khachaturian working in a tractor factory. He called it a violin concerto. I called it a loose fan belt and the hell with it."

11:16 PM  
Blogger BonzoGal said...

I often transform myself into a goat when the need arises. I would never use this power for evil, however. I support the vigilantes in their attempt to curb this goat-led crime-wave.

4:23 PM  

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