Thursday, May 4, 2017

(not a) book report

Huh. I meant to publish some version of this a week or two ago but turns out I didn't. This is all part of my promise to you--to innovate new, exciting ways to make this content less and less compelling.

I've had to read way more books than usual for work lately, and also have had a few travel things, and as a result have read nearly nothing for fun. PATHETIC. I'm even behind on the Chester Brown/Dave Sims whore feud, if that tells you anything. Desperate to catch up on that asap. (Is no one else in comics going to cover this whore feud? Do I have to do everything myself around here?? How does Tim Hodler always manage to pick the most boring parts when he links to whore feud??) To make things worse all the books I've had to read for work have sucked, except for the new Chris Hayes, which was pretty good. I recommend it. It left me feeling a little confused about Chris Hayes, though. Q: Is Chris Hayes hot? This is something I've always wondered about a little, and mostly came down on the side of him being smart-hot, and also somewhat hot-hot. But this book has all these anecdotes about his own white fragility that are...I don't know...sort of noble? (not the right word)...but also profoundly not hot, so I guess I'm revising my opinion. Ugh, I haven't felt this confused since the first time I heard Snowden talk.

Here are a few things I've been reading or thinking about lately.

Small Time Comics by Simon Hanselmann
Apparently Simon Hanselmann is doing gossip comics. I didn't even know gossip was a genre but I'm dying to know more because that is extremely my shit.

This particular gossip comic is making fun of All Time Comics, and I love it with everything I got. Has anyone here read Portraits? I'd very much like to know more about the gossip in that. Here's a piece of gossip I picked up from reading the comments at tcj dot com: Josh Bayer canceled his interview there after Dan Nadel wrote that one-paragraph review that everyone lost their minds over. I really wish Nadel would take a page from Hanselmann's book and gossip more in his posts. I know he's got it in him.

This is neither here nor there but one time ages ago Simon Hanselmann tweeted a picture of a literal plate full of puke (captioned "woke up and found this big plate of puke in the corner," or something to that effect) and I think about it all the time. Haunted by that plate of puke.

The Dirtbag Left's Man in Syria at NY Mag
Oh look, it's a long feature on @PissPigGranddad, a twitter user who I just assumed was fake but actually is a twentysomething who went to go fight in Syria for some reason. This article reads as parody but it's not. I don't know, I find the world to be extremely disorienting these days. Like...this is for real??
What I don't get about this article is that it never answers the most basic questions i have about @PissPigGranddad, such as had he ever even shot a gun before he went over there? And was he scared at all? What was up with his boxing ring? Is he just a violent person or what? The only part I found relatable was where he talked about how much he hates Prairie Home Companion.

I think ultimately this is a profile about someone who's trying very hard to be interesting, yet maybe the most interesting part is how people don't really acknowledge that about him at all. Is it altruistic to go fight in Syria if you don't have any military experience? Or just fucking stupid? Truly the world may never know.

David Lynch in the Beautiful World of Twin Peaks by Sean O'Neal
This isn't the best article on David Lynch I've ever read--some of those quotes weren't that interesting and putting them as epigraphs for the subsections is just lazy--but it really underlined my favorite thing about David Lynch, which is his weird wholesome attitude. When he describes something good as "money in the bank"--I love that! I love that so much. I'm rereading parts of Lynch on Lynch in preparation for May, and "money in the bank" is one of the first things he says in there, too. I really want to start saying "money in the bank" but I'm worried I can't pull it off. :(

Oh, this is actually an interesting thing I've had to read for work: Big Fish, DL's book on transcendental meditation. I've been thinking I'm going to try meditation one of these days? Bad nerves.

Louis CK and Dave Chapelle's new comedy specials
Well...I watched them. Or at least I watched almost all of the Louis CK one and the first episode of Chapelle. They're interesting to consider together. The premise of Louie's seems to be that he set out to be Offensive, so you can just about guess how that turned out. Like, one of the jokes is that he talks in a voice that sounds black person's voice, but then he says it was actually a Chinese person's voice. OK. I think this is what happens when you get too famous to test your material in front of a crowd. Like, maybe he still tests stuff out on people, but he's just too famous to bomb? That's my theory. The first 20 minutes were about abortion, and it was almost unbearable sitting there with other people, watching how not funny that was. Then there's a whole segment where he mimes fingering a girl. You might have thought his manager would say, hey man, you know, your name's still popping up here and there with all these pervert allegations, so you might not want to do this whole graphic thing about fingering a girl. A few months ago I saw an ad for an event in Chicago that was an air sex contest. Like an air guitar contest, but people fucking the air? This looked exactly like that ad, with the same "this is a joke but actually I'm being weirdly serious about it" vibe. The funny parts that I remember were about adopting a dog and this one really great bit about Magic Mike. I haven't even seen that movie, but I'm going to watch it now just so I can appreciate that bit more. I never understood why people were obsessed with that movie until I saw this bit.

Chapelle's first special was decent, though there was something unsettling about how he spent the entire set stroking his stomach like a pregnant woman. It seems to have generated a lot more negative buzz than the Louis special, which is interesting. Three stars on Netflix, which seems harsh. The trans jokes you've heard about are bad. Real bad. I'm not sure if people actually found those funny (in his audience, where it flashes to people laughing, it sure looks like they do...) or if people just feel a strong sense of goodwill towards Dave Chapelle, and just feel happy to see him on a stage and are going to laugh at his jokes no matter what. One of his (many) bad trans riffs is about how trans people have it so easy? Like...that's your joke? Even if you set aside political correctness, these are bad jokes in that most humor is about being observational, and these are just incorrect observations. To me the problem with both of these specials is that they feel out of touch. Louie, I think maybe he's just getting old, and going through that phase of a straight white dude's comedy career where he feels like he's got something to prove, offensiveness wise. (I think personally I found those 'why doesn't my wife want to fuck' jokes from much earlier in his career a lot more offensive, but oh well.) Chapelle...some of what he played as "out of touch" felt more deliberate to me. Like when transposed the letters of LGBTQ--that really felt like he was doing that on purpose. Chapelle's a very smart guy and I think it's a mistake to assume he said any of that out of pure ignorance or whatever. Anyway my favorite part of the Chapelle special was this complex story about how much his son admires Kevin Hart. There were a lot of levels to it, emotionally. On the surface it's a story about how Chapelle feels jealous but the whole unspoken thing that makes the bit is that he's superior to Kevin Hart. Chapelle knows it, and he knows that we know it too. I was really into that. One thing I really enjoy about Chapelle 2.0 is that he's really into his own excellence. It'd be nice if he'd stop being such a dick though. That, and stroking his stomach. That really bugs me for some reason.

Magnetic Fields 50 Song Memoir tour
In what may be the absolute dorkiest thing I've ever done (lol, yeah right), a few weeks ago I made a list of my favorite Magnetic Fields songs. No real reason--I guess that's my idea of fun. Actually it was an interesting exercise. You really get to know yourself, picking out your favorite MF songs. Mainly I learned that I'm even more insufferable than I imagined. I definitely don't recommend this exercise.

Yet another way in which the Magnetic Fields make me feel bad about myself is that I've never felt so old at a show in my entire life as the two nights I spent at this concert. First of all there were actual multiple generations of families who attended this show together, and at least two actual children in attendance. I saw one family that was plainly grandparents, parents, and kids having a big night out together. I guess some people might find that cute but to me it was totally unacceptable. Also, both nights there was an intermission? Admittedly I was into that part but still.

The whole thing with this tour is they're playing the album straight through, in its entirety, over the course of two nights. I hadn't yet heard the album and I think that was a good decision, because there are a lot of little jokes that were funnier that way. There's, for instance, a very sweet song about a melodramatic cat that he chased around as a toddler and all these funny songs about when he became obsessed with synthesizers as a teenager. There was a song about how much he hates Sasha Frere-Jones that really spoke to me. There's a lot to be said about the autobiographical aspect. Even though Merritt is a lot more interested in fiction than a lot of songwriters, I think there's always been a lot of him in his songs. Like, if you never heard him talk, but you listened to his entire catalog, I think you could piece together a fairly accurate portrait of who Stephin Merritt is? Anyway.

the Chicago years from David Sedaris's forthcoming diary
Also relevant to anyone who's interested in autobiography: David Sedaris is about to publish his diaries.

I love David Sedaris and I very much look forward to reading his diary.

"All Your Favorite Cartoon Characters Are Black" by Sarah Hagi
This is the most fascinating thing I've read in a essay about which cartoon characters that black people understand to be black, which Hagi posits has something to do with a lack of diversity in kids' entertainment. Makes sense. My favorite part was the writer's list of black cartoon characters:
Some of these make a lot of sense (eg, Babar), but Elmo? Luigi?? I find the latter especially interesting since he's human. I wish this author would write a book on this and expand on this list in detail, because I want to know more.

Mallory Ortberg on thrash grass
I'm really enjoying Mallory Ortberg's newsletter. TinyLetter is such a nice format for some writers, isn't it? I think it has to be the right fit. I could never do one. In a recent one she linked to this thrash grass video, which is bluegrass and thrash metal hybrid, and it's the funniest thing I've seen in a while:

"It's so gloriously and beautifully dumb," she writes, "and there is a gorgeous sort of intently focused male dumbness that feels like comes directly from God to entertain me, and this is that kind of male dumbness. I firmly believe these dudes to be God's jesters."

"The Faces Behind Craigslist's 'Strictly Platonic' Personal Ads @ the New Yorker
A photographer took portraits of people to be paired with the text from their craigslist ads.

Fascinating, melancholy, etc.

"Nick Cave: I have turned a corner and wandered on to a vast landscape" @ the Guardian
An interesting piece about what Nick Cave's been up to lately. I noticed in that movie he had last year that the way he talks about life now is verrrry similar to the way I see it:

Also in one of the dumb books I had to read for my job (a memoir about meditation by that smarmy guy on Nightline), I had the weird realization that my entire worldview is basically Buddhism minus all the supernatural parts?? Seems like that's maybe something I should've realized, but whatever. You learn something new every day.


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