Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dog and Pony Show

(Photo forwarded via email by my mom)

Meet the world's biggest puppy (above right), 282 lb Hercules.

Question: Where does a 282 lb dog sleep?
Answer: Wherever the f&%! he wants.
+++This photo has been an interesting web phenomenon in that it is often attributed to Hercules. However, Hercules won the distinction in 2001, as reported by the Boston Herald.

He is pictured below with owner.

Modern Celebrity and the Real in Reality TV

"Is there an easier position to take in polite society than to patronize reality TV?" asks Michael Hirschorn of VH1 in The Case for Reality TV for this month's The Atlantic. According to him reality shows "have the visceral impact of documentary reportage without the self-importance and...where documentaries must construct their narratives from found matter, reality TV can place real people in artificial surroundings designed for maximum emotional impact."

This is something that has been done on reality shows from their inception. Cast members of the Real World are not allowed to have cell phones and watch TV. Big Brother made this phenomenon its entire plot driver. And girls in The Bachelor are kept cloistered to raise their emotional attachment to the title character. But things become more interesting when the line between reality and real life and the celebrity culture all blur. Which is why my favorite reality show is the Laguna Beach spin-off The Hills. In some ways the main characters are real...they have jobs, relationships, and go to actual places in New York and LA. But nothing about them can be definitively construed as authentic.

This became apparent when an article about Spencer Pratt and Brody Jenner was printed in Details Magazine, titled "Master of his own celebrity: Brody Jenner knows just who to screw to sit pretty on the B-list." It's really a fascinating read and extremely revealing about the nature of celebrity in our society. Bascially Pratt and Jenner are two young, rich, and attractive man-children who are also just savvy enough to realize that its no longer what you do, its who you are next to that makes you famous. Pratt says matter-of-factly in the article “Basically, I made it, like, my mission to try to go on a date with every girl on The Hills.” And it's working, Jenner and Pratt have an entourage and financial backers willing to keep them living the high life for no other reason that they have hooked up with other psuedo-celebrities whose only real talent is partying (Jenner has been linked with Nicole Ritchie, Lindsay Lohan, Kristin Cavallari, and Lauren Conrad).

So with that said, I think I should provide a service to all readers, The Face Journal-Picayune's Guide to Becoming Young Rich and Famous:

1) Be young, good-looking, have money and live in NY or LA
2) Be able to sip Grey Goose and smile while talking to obscenely hot girls
3) Have someone buy you a fleet of Benzs, Bentleys, and Beemers

Follow those three steps and before you know it you'll be in Us Magazine.

The best thing about getting famous from reality television is that you can simultaneously embrace and eschew your celebrity somehow without biting the hand that feeds you. The uber-cop out for reality stars is that "they dont show you everything that happened." Which misses the point. Character may be what you do when no one is looking. But it's the big moments - like a first date or a job interview, or LC calling out her friends (“He's a sucky person!”) that make up your life, and how you react to them is who you really are.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Pack It

I had meant to do more postings this week, however going out to college night at the Place on Tuesday, and the final C's game of the year last night I had precious little time to write amid working and drinking, though I promise Ive got good stuff in the bag. I meant to do some tonight as I laid low, but then I noticed that Escape From NY is on ondemand (Ernest Borgine, Shaft, and Snake Pliskin!). So have fun, drink, and enjoy spring. Oh yeah, and you all know what to do this weekend (subject line).

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Follies of a Presidential Campaign

I just got a chance to watch “Journeys with George,” Alexandra Pelosi’s engaging and revealing documentary of George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign. It’s shot almost entirely on a handheld camcorder by Pelosi (and yes, she is the daughter of the current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi which makes Bush’s casual and convivial relationship with her and much of the press corps all the more ironic).

Have you ever seen a skate or snowboarding video? You know how they have those filler scenes where the talent is in a bus or hotel room and just nucking around? That aptly describes the majority of this doc; only the talent is a freewheeling future President. And that’s what kind of gets me. Then-Governor Bush was a bull-shitter in the most sincere sense of the word (as concerned with “Alex’s” potential relationship with a Newsweek writer as staying on message) and is actually kind of likable. But he couldn’t have come off less Presidential, and Pelosi’s footage would not have inspired confidence in the American electorate, and everyone around Bush seems to understand this (Karen Hughes’ eye rolls are palpable).

The best insight “Journeys with George” provides though is a first person account of life as a journalist on a presidential campaign. It’s exhausting and exhilarating, and fueled by coffee, alcohol, and bologna and cheese sandwiches (Bush’s favorite). It’s about being part of something really big that you have absolutely no control over, being forced to work 24 hour days for little pay and even less credit. In case you aren’t a really politico or interested in this type of thing, you’ll have to trust me that the political reporter is an incredible creature: socially awkward, alcohol dependent, and can go for days without sleep or showering. The joke of being treated as cattle was overused like a racial joke at a Duke frat party. But the real joke is that for the most part the press corps are extras in the theater that is presidential politics.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

RIP Vonnegut

(Photo courtesy of The Indianapolis Star. Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922)

Up until yesterday, if you were walking down the streets of New York and bumped into a frumpy, wiry, dishevled, old man mutterring to himself, you may not have thought much of it. This archetype is almost ubiquitous in the city. But you could have just bumped into one of the most innovative, sardonic, and influential American writers of the last 50 years. Kurt Vonnegut was cut from the same cloth as other post-WWII great American novelists...middle class childhood, Ivy League education, and of course the war. The thing was that as a Hoosier boy, didnt quite fit in with the rest of the literary community. He was too young to be in the beat generation, and too tempered by the horrors of war to see their frivolties as important. Maybe he wasnt cool enough to hang with the hard drinking, high miling Norman Mailer, who in an January article for Esquire, Tom Junod wrote "this is a guy who used to beat the shit out of people, or at least try. This is a guy who got into a big fight with Gore Vidal-Gore Vidal!-and who, when he threw a party back in 1960 to announce that he was running for mayor of New York, got drunk and stabbed his wife." That wasnt Vonnegut. Kurt Vonnegut seemed like one of the characters in his book - living in a small apartment, surrounded by obscure science fiction books, at the same time a prisoner and warden of his own radical notions.

But Vonnegut wasnt just a character, he was a thinker and a writer. He will be best remembered for Slaughterhouse-V and Breakfast of Champions (by the way...Slaughterhouse-V is where the character in the novel weathered the fire bombing of Dresden as a German POW, Vonnegut himself had witnessed the attack, and the breakfast of champions is a martini). But Cat's Cradle, the opening of which is re-printed here without permission:

The Day the World Ended

Call me Jonah. My parents did, or nearly did. They called me John.

Jonah--John--if I had been a Sam, I would have been Jonah still--not because I have been unlucky for others, but because somebody or something has compelled me to be certain places at certain times, without fail. Conveyances and motives, both conventional and bizarre, have been provided. And, according to plan, at each appointed second, at each appointed place this Jonah was there.


When I was a younger man--two wives ago, 250,000 cigarettes ago, 3,000 quarts of booze ago . . .

When I was a much younger man, I began to collect material for a book to be called The Day the World Ended.

The book was to be factual.

The book was to be an account of what important Americans had done on the day when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

It was to be a Christian book. I was a Christian then.

I am a Bokononist now.

I would have been a Bokononist then, if there had been anyone to teach me the bittersweet lies of Bokonon. But Bokononism was unknown beyond the gravel beaches and coral knives that ring this little island in the Caribbean Sea, the Republic of San Lorenzo.

We Bokononists believe that humanity is organized into teams, teams that do God's Will without ever discovering what they are doing. Such a team is called a karass by Bokonon, and the instrument, the kan-kan, that bought me into my own particular karass was the book I never finished, the book to be called The Day the World Ended.

Cat's Cradle is Vonnegut's attempt at the Big Question: how to reconcile humanist beliefs with the forces we cant explain? He is a self-described humanist who writes about God, aliens, and a omnipotent writers manipulating both the environments and actions of characters. His characters struggle against things they cannot control - the end of the world in Cat's Cradle, prison and perpetual motion in Hocus Pocus, yet resolution is always short and relief only comes at the end.

"So it goes."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

C's, Baby, C's

(Photo courtesy of Taken in October, at a pre-season game. In the background right of Bassy's head head are two co-workers and myself. The photo ran on the frontpage in an article related to his question by NYC police in the Fabolous shooting. Whatever happened with that?)

A promotion had viewers (should that be plural) of the Celts –Sixers game in the fourth quarter text vote, on whether if Celtics get either Oden or Durant that they will win A) 30-40 B) 40 -50 C)50+ games text season.

They’ve won 23 this year! Why isn’t that one of the text options. Doc will still be the coach. Ainge will still be the GM. Who knows that they wont trade Green and Jefferson for upcoming free agent Grant Hill and one of Scallabrine’s cousins. There's no one over 24 on the (by the way the Celts look like they have a rotation because they only have 8 players available) rotation of Jefferson, Gomes, Green, Rondo, Telfair, Powe, Perkins, and Pinkney.

So what does it matter if they get Durant or Oden, or Jo Noah…or worse in May. The way I see it is that like a lot of things, it could go either, a long way either way. But there is reason to be hopeful. This past year they were a Mike Dunleavy and decent coach from contending in the East. So who wouldn’t be optomistic with Ratliff’s expiring deal and Rondo a year older.

By the way, Doc didn’t rule out signing another guy off the street to play Friday! I can't wait to go.

Oh and Dice-K pitched decently at his Fenway opener as King Felix (along with Johan Santana the Petronas Towers of my fantasy team) threw a complete game shut out (1 hit, 2 walks, 6 Ks) by killing the Sox dreadful bottom half. I'm looking at you Tek, Crisp (.143) and Pedroia (but I'll give you a little more slack).

(Photo: Google Images. Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 
were featured prominently in the sexy Catherine Zeta-Jones, Sean Connery
 flick, Entrapment. You know the one that used Y2K as a plot device.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


(Photo is exclusive Face Journal-Picayune content)

4 year old German Shepard, lives in NH, drinks from the toilet when parents arent looking, was bred by the Hells Angels in Quebec. When not barking at deer, squirrels, birds, and the reflection of aluminum foil on the ceiling, he can be found eating carrots and sleeping in the breezeway.

Ranger is the perfect example of the American dog. Most dogs in America have pretty good lives and are at times treated as siblings, children, and masters. Good article was run last Sunday in the NYTimes Magazine by Charles Siebert, detailing a week at a dog pound (colloquially) in Austin. It talked about how psychological profiling is now used as a tool in deciding which dogs are suitable for adoption...including using mock situations in a trailer to see how dogs react. The tough part though is that the longer a dog stays in an environment like a shelter, the more they will act anti-socially or even dangerously. But worse than that, the cards are stacked against most dogs to begin with. Many pure-bred dogs are built for work of some kind - from hunting to mushing to what my own puppy does: herding. So dogs misbehave when these instincts are not give a chance to be exercised.

Which is why I always love going back home to play with him. He loves to run and chase the soccer and tennis balls, and then not give them up and then wrestle for them. And he seems happier after it, like the tongue out panting is a smile.

As much as I miss having a dog, I knew theres now way I could own one now. 1) I have a closet of an apartment in Cambridge 2) I am routinely gone from 8 am to midnight 3) I do a pretty crappy job of taking care of myself, let alone an animal.

Note: I wish I could link to newspaper articles, but it seems bogus that they restrict access after only a week. Just have to credit the authors and hope no one sues me.... wait, its the internet, and maybe 10 people will read this, and there are picture of women doing unmentionable/unnatural things with Diet Coke and Mentos on the internet.

Coming up, Zero Impact and Bourgeois Environmentalism

Sunday, April 8, 2007

The Long View and the Big Questions

People like to talk about the "big questions." There are different types: existential, historical. Tom Brokaw said "that it's not the questions that get us in trouble, it's the answers." Which is why its not a bad thing to sometimes not have a conclusion. Sometimes asking them and getting other people to think about them is enough. This is probably the goal of real journalism (but I wouldnt know, I didnt go to Newhouse).

So here is what I got to thinking when I heard about Cheney lurking behind some bushes. I was going to link to it but the only version of it I could find had some audio commentary: "Creep" by Radiohead. That might have violated some of the professionalism Im trying to put forth. (Though I dont believe we have the need to use apostrophe anymore except where it's necessary to distinguish between words. Like "Im" is not a word so the apostrophe isnt necessary to distinguish it from "I'm." It can just be said that way, same with isnt. "Dont" and "wont" are a little more gray. Wont is a different word than "won't" but is used infrequently. I dont think dont is a word but Im not planning on doing a dictionary check on a tangent about typographic style.)

Past presidencies are know only by the mediums ability to record them. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is recited by middle school social studies students because that’s how people received the message, by repeating it from newspapers. With FDR, the Depression and WWII are seen in still pictures and audio from the radio. In post-War America, though we have video clips. Which gets us a more raw, human perception of our leaders. Kennedy’s Inauguration and assassination and Nixon’s farewell from footsteps of the helicopter double peace sign wave were captured by grainy footage though. Now, we have HD and 24-hour cable news services giving us a vast vault of clips, which are now available free, on demand, and largely without commercial editing. There will be a few defining moments of President Bush, and we will remember them in the format of our time: the internet clip. A great medium for moments from 20 seconds to 2 minutes. The arc of Bush Presidency is clear in these moments. The bull horn at ground zero, Mission Accomplished, Cheney in the bushes, and however he leaves office. I wont make any predictions.

Two more things from a great roundtable “Meet the Press” today, 4.8.07. Note: Im paraphrasing.

David Gregory (NBC News Washington):
Obama is rasing money on enthusiasm, Clinton on past debts.

Chuck Todd (NBC Political Director:
Bush is doing a potential disservice to the Democrats by vetoing a plan for pull-out. If the plan fails and Iraq falls into deeper violence and a civil war (maybe by May or June of '08...), the Democrats will be at fault as much as the Republicans.

Commiting to a blog

I ready to commit to a new blog. I tried to write one a couple months ago, but found the whole thing a little weird. There were a couple things that bothered me...first I dont like using the first person too much...and there's a real limit to how much you can talk about yourself without saying "I" 4 times in a paragraph. Second I am really wary of the long-lasting effects of people posting too much personal information, from both and emotional and personal economic standpoint. Remember that movie "The Game?" Now someone could do it to a random person who's blog they read. Nuts to that.

So having said that I decided what that this blog will not be: a running diary of what I am doing or what is going on in my life. Those things are many times way to ridiculous for me to want any historical record of other than hearsay. And chances are if it was really ridiculous I'll tell you anyway. Some exceptions would be anything that would warrant issuing a press release if I was famous: birth/wedding/death announcements, career advancement, and similar.

Here's what it will be: A view on politics, culture, and sports from the perspective of a young professional in Cambridge, i.e. my face. As such I'll try to write clearly and professionally but briefly and informally (as is the style of the times). And I'll also try to throw in some pics and youtube links. Again, I dont want to write about myself, but nuck your might happen.

Cross your fingers...coming soon might be a picture of my dog, Ranger.

In the mean time here's my first real post.