Thursday, August 30, 2012

But It's True! It's True!

Jennifer Rubin just can't stand that Paul Ryan is being called out for the myriad lies in his speech last night: "But the 'lies' turn out not to be lies at all. They are not even misrepresentations or exaggerations." Don't you see? It's not just true. It's true-true. It's is. It is!

Glad we cleared up. Of course, a lot of people beg to differ. A lot. Including her employer.

Friday, April 29, 2011

In Defense of Hating the Royal Wedding

Aside from the loop of Kate and William's vows playing on NPR this morning, I've been able to avoid most of the coverage of the royal wedding, and besides a few pithy grumblings from friends, I've also escaped the backlash. The response to the backlash, however, has been harder to avoid. The consensus isn't so much that I should care about the royal wedding as it is that I'm a jerk for finding it annoying.

Dave Weigel writes, "[V]eneration or celebrity-worship of some monarch who has no power over you seems mostly harmless."

It may be true that the wedding itself is just harmless pageantry, but as one friend aptly put it, "Both stories that dominated the news this week accept as entirely logical that power and title should depend on circumstances of your birth." Of course, the popular commentators have hardly ignored the British class system during the run-up to the nuptials. In fact, they've created a strong counter-narrative, claiming that Kate and William are ushering in a new era of "classless monarchy." As though there were such a thing. As though the phrase weren't so clearly an oxymoron.

The feminist critique of those decrying the wedding is harsher. Writes Amanda Hess:

The truth is that the royal wedding is this year's Superbowl of girl culture, the media has bended over backwards to cover the highly feminine event, and that tends to inspire a gut negative reaction in people. Why? Because feminine silliness is degraded in our culture, while masculine silliness is vaulted.

I can't say there's nothing to this. Regardless of my preference for the Superbowl, the beer, bacon, and body paint that accompany football games are certainly no less silly than cucumber sandwiches and funny hats. And yet, I think this is cheap shot. After all, the Superbowl says nothing about the system of class in this country or any other. The whole point of sports is arbitrary competition. The outcome of a game has no bearing on any contemporary cultural issue.

On the other hand, I did go see the last Roman Polanski movie, despite fully believing him to be a rapist who should be jailed. So is celebrating the royal wedding a tacit endorsement of classism? Perhaps not. But the subtext is worth bearing in mind.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Monday, November 01, 2010

Hipsterism and Childhood

Fiction Advocate responds to Mark Greif's New York piece with a post about hipsters and their obsession with childhood:

[The] observation – that much of what is “hip” in art today is overly concerned with the stuff of childhood – has been running through my posts on this blog for a while. There was the skepticism I showed for people like Neil Gaiman (Coraline) and Dave Eggers, again, with Spike Jonze (Where the While Things Are) who translate kids’ stories into big movies that are supposed to appeal to adults. . . . Lately it’s been hip for adults to make and consume art that’s essentially for children. I don’t know if the hipster is dead, as Greif says, but I hope this part of hipsterism is dead.

I'm working on a longer response to the Greif essay, but I think this illustrates why hipsters are so hard to define. There is certainly a strain of hipsterism that is concerned with parodying/glorifying things from childhood (think feathered headdresses), but the way in which various groups that we label "hipsters" have been concerned with childhood has changed substantially in the last decade. It's difficult to pinpoint a unified vision.

Meanwhile, within American culture in general, there is an obsession with youth that has grown in the last decade. Youth has been over-inflated for a long time, but the last ten years have seen its value balloon. We've seen the quarter-life crisis, the mainstreaming of twee, the rise of YA books for adults, and the casual office. The once stark line between adults and children has been blurred significantly. We can no longer rely on adults to dress and behave differently from children.

I don't have a larger point to make here, but the obsession with childhood isn't unique to hipsterism. If anything, it seems to be the dominant culture bleeding into subculture.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Video

Le Loup, "Planes Like Vultures"

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Videos

Deerhunter, "Helicopter"

Crystal Castles, Celestica

The Hundred in the Hands, "Pigeons"

Friday, May 21, 2010

Hometown News: Where Else Can You Get This Sort of High Quality Racism?

To this day, I maintain an addiction to reading the letters in my hometown newspaper, which, considering that most letters are brimming with unadulterated idiocy, is a little surprising. Still there's something curious about how stupid ostensibly literate people can be.* Take for example this gleaming specimen of critical thinking by Mr. Ricky Tumlin, which starts off thus:

Can anyone please explain to me just exactly what is transpiring in this nation? It is beginning to appear like the years leading up to the rise of Nazi Germany in the early 1930s.

It is no longer fashionable to be patriotic.

Finally! After the better part of century of historical research, psychological and sociological theorizing, political science, and debate, someone has cracked the code: the Nazis just didn't love their country enough to stop killing Jews. What follows is a xenophobic screed against immigrants. The mind reels . . .

* I mean "literate" literally, meaning I'm assuming they didn't dictate their letters to someone else, but who knows?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What Makes a Great Jacket?

Via my friend/coworker/mentor Keith Hayes, who has three covers in AIGA's latest 50 Books/50 Covers, comes a post by Peter Mendelsund (one of my favorite non-Keith-Hayes designers) about the jacket for Infinite Jest. Mendelsund gives a great summation of what makes a good book cover:

Book jacket design should concern itself with, in my estimation, equal parts enticement ("Come buy this book") and exegesis ("This is what this book is about, more or less.") A good cover doesn't let one category trump the other. A good cover should not resort to cliché in order to accomplish either. But the real key here, in both categories (enticement and exegesis) is the designer's ability to work the sweet-spot between giving-away-the-farm, and deliberate obfuscation.

Book jackets that tell you too much, suck. Book jackets that try to change the subject also suck, and are furthermore, too easy.

Mendelsund goes on to explain why Wallace's suggestion (a design based around a photo of the making of Fritz Lang's Metropolis) would have been a huge mistake (too heavy-handed, too many cultural associations, not really what the book is about). On the other hand . . .

[. . .] a perfectly blue sky... A sky that only an advertiser could have dreamed up- a sky that could have been subsidized...A sky that stands in for satisfaction, but a satisfaction that is almost sinister in its perfection...(and, of course, HUGE type, because, well, that's just what's called for)...I think that was a very elegant solution. It tells you something very important, but leaves everything to the imagination.

What's curious about this cover in particular is that I've never quite thought about it. I judge covers all the time, but this one has always just had a sense of authority to it. I look at it and think, That is the cover for Infinite Jest, excluding in my mind the possibility of any other cover (though, in fact, there are three variations on the same theme in print). Which I suppose is a measure itself of the cover's greatness.