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Sep. 12th, 2010

humor

The other day on Metafilter, one user posed the question -- "Why is Groucho Marx still funny, but not Lenny Bruce?" Her explanation essentially being that generations of comedians have built on Bruce's style, making him appear less fresh, whereas Marx's brand of comedy has largely died out, making us less likely to compare him to other, similar practitioners.  I don't really agree with this analysis, but I think it's an interesting question.

First, I actually do think that Marx's style of comedy has made a comeback in recent years.  It should be familiar to anyone who watches Family Guy, the Simpsons, Futurama, or Venture Brothers.  I call this style "quick humor."  Think of their fast-paced, gag-laden, blink-and-you-missed-it jokes and background gags.  This is TOTALLY Groucho's style.  Seriously, watch Duck Soup.  Notice his sense of timing.  Notice his mastery of the witty rejoinder.  These aren't jokes with elaborate build-ups; they're quick, witty one-liners -- and they're HILARIOUS. 

Actually, if you want to compare Groucho to anybody, it should be his brothers, whose humor didn't age nearly as well.  I mean, you have Harpo, the least funny of the bunch, who did this weird silent clown thing.  That was funny?  Must have been a vaudeville thing.  And then you have the bizarre, quasi-racial humor of Chico.  Apparently, his whole "Italian" bit was a mainstay of their vaudeville act.  This isn't to say racial humor can't be funny (see Chapelle), but the way Chico does it is decidedly NOT funny.  No point in getting into Zeppo here; he was a straight man, plain and simple.  A sounding board for the others' humor.  I'm not saying the Marx brothers were never funny as a troupe; just that Groucho's humor aged better than the rest.

Now let's look at Lenny Bruce.  It's kinda difficult, because there doesn't seem to be that much surviving footage of his act -- at least not on Netflix.  In the one performance I've seen, he was mostly ranting about his troubles with the law.  It wasn't very funny.  However, I've read enough of his quotes to know that he was a witty, insightful guy who did have funny things to say.  Nonetheless, at first glance, it would seem that his cultural notoriety is somewhat disproportionate to his actual wit.  Why does everybody revere this guy so?  Carlin was a contemporary, and a LOT more funny.

I think Bruce was more significant as a boundary-pusher than as a humorist.  I mean, to our jaded ears, nothing he said was particularly controversial.  But to the straightlaced mid-century audience, this guy's act was like a slap in the face.  His comedy was such a part of its time that it's hard for anyone under 70 to appreciate it.  Even Carlin's "Seven Words" routine doesn't pack the same punch that (I imagine) it once did.  But Bruce paved the way for Carlin, and Carlin went on to say some much funnier things : particularly his dead-on (and completely hilarious) send-ups of the English language and our propensity for euphemisms.

And we see this kind of thing happening even now.  I remember (oh god I'm old) when The Simpsons first premiered.  It was edgy!  It was subversive!  It was totally of-a-piece with Groening's hilariously bitter Life in Hell series.  But who thinks of The Simpsons as edgy (or even remotely funny) now?  It's a relic.  A hold-over.  We watch it out of habit, if at all.  So what happened?  Well, South Park stole much of its boundary-pushing thunder.  Plus, South Park, for better or for worse, doesn't shy away from staking out social and political positions, whereas the Simpsons rarely made such statements, and when they did, were kinda all over the map.  Of course, now we have Family Guy, which is definitely one of the most boundary-pushing shows on the air.  Whether you like it or not (and I do!) you have to admit they set an entirely new bar for what is acceptable in mainstream entertainment.  South Park is suddenly that much less shocking.

So, in summation, I'll posit that Groucho Marx is funny again because his humor was stylistic, and style is, by nature, cyclical.  Lenny Bruce is no longer funny, because his humor derived from offending the sensibilities of a time long past. 

But here's the trick : morality is cyclical as well.  You can look back at world history -- hell, even American history -- and see the waxing and waning of various ideas of "decency."  So perhaps if we ever do have a New Victorian age, Bruce's humor will be relevant once more.

criticism

So I should probably explain the film rating system that I referenced in my last post.

First thing I should mention is that, when it comes to film, I'm easily amused.  This may seem ironic, considering how much of a snob I am about books.  However, it's really a matter of how much I have invested.  A book takes time; especially the ones I read.  So if I'm going to spend that much time and cognition on something, it had better be good : as in, both entertaining and nutritious.

Movies don't really expect that much from you.  You're pretty much the passive observer.  Granted, some films are meatier that others; if it's a really good film, you'll find yourself watching it again or maybe even discussing it with friends.  But for the most part, movies rarely expect more than a couple hours of your time.  I'm personally of the opinion that few movies deserve more than 90 minutes, and my level of expectation increases in proportion to the movie's length.

Having said that, I think most movies are pretty okay.  They're good enough to hold my attention, but not good enough to be particularly memorable.  I don't come out of the experience feeling 2 hours closer to my inevitable demise.  It's more of a rational cost/benefit analysis : I realize that I had a couple hours to burn, and I spent that time being vaguely entertained.  Now I can go on and do something else -- maybe grab a snack.  I would say about 80% of movies fall into this category.

And then there's the movies that are bad.  And I mean REALLY bad.  I don't mean movies like The Room that are so bad they're good.  I'm talking about movies that require the most extreme effort not to fall asleep or walk away entirely.  I'm talking about movies I cannot say a single good thing about.  Movies that fail, but not in any hilarious or interesting way -- the cinematic equivalent of an infomercial for a product that never existed.  It's hard for me to say what exactly it is that makes me feel this way about a film.  It's sort of like the Supreme Court's definition of pornography : I know it when I see it.  Some notable examples : Magnolia, Armageddon, Chasing Amy, Forrest Gump, Seven Pounds, Primer, Crash, and Look Who's Talking.   These are films that nobody should ever watch.  I'd say about 10% of all movies fit into this category.

And finally, we've got The Good : movies that I would actually recommend to somebody else.  I take these things very seriously; if I recommend a movie to you, I will stand behind it with every fiber of my being.  These are films that I would be willing to watch more than once -- something that I rarely do.  Some examples : Network, The Maltese Falcon, Belle de Jour, Fantastic Planet, War Games, Brazil, The Conversation, Dawn of the Dead, and Midnight Cowboy.  I'd say that about 10% of all movies are good enough to recommend to someone else.

So there you have it : my 10-10-80 rule of film.  I think it adequately sums up my opinion of the cinematic arts.

Sep. 10th, 2010

moon

(this entry is about a movie that I saw.  as such, it obviously contains spoilers.  viewer discretion is advised)

Could somebody please tell me what's so great about the movie Moon?  I mean, it was okay enough, but I don't understand the effusive praise that everybody's heaping onto it.

For one thing, I think the pacing was off.  Way, way, way too slow.  Too many scenes of him walking around the space station.  And yes, I get it, this is supposed to convey loneliness.  But really, like I wouldn't get it anyway?  People who've heard me rant on the subject will know that I think very few movies should be longer than 90 minutes.  A really good movie (or book, or meal, or painting, or whatever) should always leave you wanting more.  I feel like movies have gotten progressively longer over the past 15 years, to the point where even goofy comedies regularly clock in at over two hours.  Rarely am I left wanting more.  So yes, I think this movie could be shorter, and I think they could have trimmed a lot of the "Sam Rockwell walking around the space station" and "Sam Rockwell sitting there and being sad".

Second, I'm not so okay with the plot twists.  The clone thing I saw coming a mile away.  And the thing with the computer being good and not evil?  Well, okay, I didn't see that coming, but they squander this plot twist by leaving it completely unexplained.  I mean, at least we know that HAL violated his programming because of acute proximity to the God Child or whatever.  But why does GERTY help out Sam and do all kinds of shit his programmers would never want him to do?  We don't know.  We'll never know.  It doesn't make any sense.  When does a plot twist become a plot hole?  Well, they're treading dangerously close here.

And I'm not even going to talk about the whole flawed premise of the thing.  For one thing, why clones?  And why three years?  Is there some kind of radiation on the moon that kills people after three years?  Couldn't they just give the workers better protective gear?  Couldn't they just hire people to work the moon base, saving themselves all the technology and psychological manipulation necessary to create this sort of legion of brainwashed clones, not to mention the risk of being exposed for crimes against humanity?  Who the hell is running this company anyway!? 

Okay, okay, enough negging.  So what did I like about the movie?  Well, I liked Sam Rockwell.  I liked his acting.  I liked the dialogue.  Basically, I liked most of the scenes that had Sam interacting with ... Sam.  At first, I was bugged at how unsurprised they were to see each other.  I expected so much more "OH MY GOD HOLY SHIT I'M A CLONE WHAT THE FUCK!?"  But actually, I kinda liked the way the movie treated the situation.  I like how the two sort of grudgingly accept each other, while at the same time being constantly annoyed.  It seems realistic.  I mean, if you suddenly met your clone, you'd definitely look out for him, you'd feel common cause, etc, but at the same time, tell me you wouldn't be annoyed!  I mean, think of all the things you don't like about yourself, personified in a single person who looks like you, sounds like you, and for all intents and purposes, *is* you.  Pretty realistic.  So yeah, I liked that aspect of the film.

In all, it was a decent-enough film, not by any means revolutionary, and as such, it fits squarely into the "80" part of my 10-10-80 theory of film.

Sep. 2nd, 2010

i'll never know

sometimes i take ambien
not because i need to sleep
but because i like to stay awake
and write poetry
even though the bottle tells me not to

and sometimes
i wake up the next day
with no harm done
just a screenfull of random poetry
that was somehow written by me

but sometimes
i wake up the next day
and i don't know how I got into my bed

and i notice that
my neighbor's blinds are shut
and next to the couch is a pile of clothes
and the kitchen counter is stained brown with whiskey
and my neighbor's blinds stay shut for days after that
and i wonder

holy shit, did i really dance naked in front of my window eating a rice cake?

Aug. 31st, 2010

pineapples

The Obscene Pineapples : The Band That Couldn't Be The Band That Never Was

The Obscene Pineapples was formed in Panama Joe's head some time in 1992. He was bored in class and decided to make a humorous flyer for a fictional band. The flyer featured a grinning pineapple and the words "Don't censor me, set me free!"

It is not clear when Panama Joe decided to start the band, although it is believed to have happened shortly after showing the flyer to his longtime friend and brother-from-another-mother, Bird Thing. At this point, only Panama Joe had a musical instrument : a Series 10 guitar, purchased with some of his Bar Mitzvah money. Although he did not know how to play this guitar, legend has it that he could play the intro to Metallica's "The Unforgiven" without fucking it up, and he may have even known a scale or two. It is not known if he was aware of any chords, but it is clear that he did not care. Bird Thing soon purchased a bass; The Obscene Pineapples were ready to rock.

Except that they weren't. They didn't even have any songs.

That was, until one fateful night, when Panama Joe stayed over at Incredibite's house and stayed up late playing her mother's acoustic guitar. This was completely unknown to Incredibite's mother, who openly despised Panama Joe, and in fact once chased him out of her house with a broom. This incident was later known as The Great Ejection. It is unknown what Incredibite's mother is currently doing, but it is known that she eventually let Dino hang out at their house again, even though Panama Joe was (and still is) banned. This will later be known as Totally Fucking Unfair.

Anyway, that fateful night, Panama Joe discovered the power chord. This moment gave birth to the Pineapples' entire ouvre; partly because it was the first time Panama Joe made anything that sounded like music, and partly because he never really got beyond that stage of guitar playing. He would, over the course of several years (and many, many drummers) apply that power chord to every string and fret, fruitlessly hoping for another "a ha" moment that would never come. He would later trade his guitar to a dexedrine addict for a ride to a Rainbow Gathering, and through an odd series of coincidences, this guitar would (years later) wind up in the repair shop of one of the Pineapples' (many) drummers. Cue Twilight Zone Music.

Nonetheless, the indefatigable Panama Joe went on to write a vast number of songs that were actually kinda witty at the time. Probably the most memorable was Nuclear Tan, a song that fiercely derided the patrons of suntanning salons. This song would become well-known and hated by any friends' parents gullible enough to let the Pineapples practice in their basement. On one notable occasion, Tears1322's parents thought that the song was actually Mary Had a Little Lamb. This is because the song did not resemble any actual music, except for the last 10 seconds, where the Pineapples had tacked on the melody for Mary Had a Little Lamb. The reasons for this songwriting decision remain unknown, although it has been verified that, when performed, this portion of the song did in fact sound like Mary Had A Little Lamb.

At some point, Panama Joe met Sourdough, a guy who actually knew how to play the guitar. They, along with Bird Thing, and I dunno, some other guys I guess, formed the only version of The Obscene Pineapples to play a gig. They never actually practiced together, and although it can be surmised that all the members had been in the same room at some point, it is not known (and is in fact doubted) that they had musical instruments with them at the time.

The Pineapples' only show took place at Bastille's, a now-defunct all-ages club in Chesterfield. The Pineapples took the stage with Bird Thing sporting white face makeup. Sources say he did this to emulate Robert Smith, although it is conjectured that this sudden change of costume was actually an attempt to Get Chicks. It is not thought that this gig led to any Chicks, for anyone.

The show was a chaotic mess, with members randomly walking off the stage in disgust, and others randomly coming onstage and fiddling around with the instruments, only to slink off minutes later, dejected. Panama Joe shouted some of his lyrics, although the music was unfamiliar and entirely unlike his power chords and johnny-one-note solos. It was hinted (strongly) that Panama Joe and Bird Thing leave the stage. Having had Enough of This Crap, either Bird Thing or Panama Joe (sources are unclear on which) decided it was time for the show's climax. A Commodore 64 was flung bodily into the mosh pit. (This was the 90s, so basically every show had a mosh pit. Like, I remember being at an Indigo Girls show that had a mosh pit. So a mosh pit, in this case, was no indication of any actual enjoyment, exuberance, or even music.) The Commodore 64 was successfully smashed to bits, so it cannot be said that this show accomplished nothing. The Pineapples did, in fact, completely destroy this unsuspecting computer.

And then on the way out of the parking lot, Sourdough hit a cop's Porsche. Oops.

That summer, Panama Joe moved in with Napoleon at his Mom's place in Florissant. Napoleon's mom is a wonderful person who was kind to Panama Joe, even though he was (by all accounts) kind of a punk at the time. Napoleon became the band's first dedicated drummer, even though he did not know how to play the drums, and in fact mostly ruined Panama Joe's drum set. There was no beat-keeping that took place in this band, although this probably went unnoticed, as it was years before any of the Pineapples became acquainted with the notion of a beat. The boys were later joined on vocals by Scott The Impaler. Nobody really knows where he came from. Sources have been interrogated, memories have been searched, BBS chat logs exhumed, all to no avail. Among a subset of Obscene Pineapples scholars, there is a debate as to whether or not Scott The Impaler existed at all. However, to mainstream professors of Obscene Pineapples Studies, this argument is considered laughable at best. Scott the Impaler was actually really good, and really got into the music.

What followed was weeks of intense practice, in preparation for a gig at Hopeless's Warehouse. (I mean, Hopeless's warehouse. When I capitalize it, that makes it sound like an actual venue, when, in fact, it really was just Hopeless's loft, which happened to be in a warehouse.) This would have been the Pineapples' second gig, but alas, the party never happened, probably because somebody ripped off Hopeless, which, according to various police reports, happened on a number of occasions, owing to Hopeless being a really nice guy and this world being really kind of a shitty place sometimes. The Pineapples broke up, Panama Joe moved back to Chesterfield, and nobody knows what the hell happened to Scott the Impaler.

At some point, Parkway Central announced a battle of the bands. This was exciting news, because pretty much anyone could audition. The Pineapples could sign up, and, at least until people heard them play, could be thought of as a real band. It may even lead to a second gig! All they needed was to submit a demo and show up for an audition.

By this time, the Pineapples were on their 4th (5th?) drummer, Bruno Isn't Home. Bruno earned his nickname because his mother didn't approve of him hanging out with Panama Joe, and every time Panama Joe tried to summon him to practice, his mother would answer the phone and announce that Bruno Isn't Home. According to studio logs and band historians, Bruno had a habit of not showing up to practice, although it is thought that he did show up at least once.

Bruno Isn't Home failed to show up on the day they were supposed to cut their demo. Somehow, the Pineapples cajoled Polyester Punk Steve into help them out by playing drums. Although this process did lead to some frustration -- Steve can be heard at the beginning of the demo warning us, "okay, but this is the last time!" -- it did lead to the recording of a barely listenable demo. The Pineapples wound up using their last take of the day, since it turned out that Steve was being serious.

Audition day came, and Bruno promptly failed to show up -- his reason being an alleged accident involving a broken pair of eyeglasses and the subsequent introduction of a glass shard to his eye. This incident has not been corroborated by any St. Louis Area hospital, and in fact Bruno went on to pass a number of difficult driving tests and eye exams, casting doubt upon his whole story.

It is hazily recollected that one of the members of the band 138 stepped in to help out with drumming duties. (sources suggest Kevin) This was especially kind, seeing as that the Pineapples were technically his band's competition. The help was greatly appreciated, without which the Pineapples would have missed yet another opportunity to not play a second gig. More on this later.

Weeks later, to the surprise of absolutely everybody, the Pineapples were chosen to appear at Battle of the Bands. This was going to be it! The big break! A gig that would not involve broken computers, wrecked sports cars, or absent members -- a new first! Plans were made! Songs were written! Friends were told!

All to no avail. Shortly after, Panama Joe was caught smoking Something That Wasn't Tobacco on school grounds, in probably the most predictable spot available. Current and future students of Parkway Central Senior High are advised by music scholars to avoid igniting illegal substances behind the soccer backstop, because The Fuzz Is Totally Onto That Shit. And although Panama Joe clearly could have survived with his academic record intact, he at this point had become thoroughly sick of the school where he had been a social outcast basically from day one, really the bottom of the social ladder, had suffered untold humiliation at the hands of its students (including an incident now known as The Great Betrayal), and was thoroughly uninspired by the academic curriculum, which was really sad, considering that he spent much of his spare time programming computers for fun, although perhaps not too surprising, considering that the school's only programming course was a BASIC class taught on Apple IIe computers, which even in 1995 were badly outdated. In short, Panama Joe dropped out of school. This disqualified the Pineapples from the Battle of the Bands.

138, however, did appear at Battle of the Bands, and went on to win the school's hearts and minds, proving once and for all that PCH did have a place for punk rock, even if it didn't have a place for the Obscene Pineapples. 138 featured rising stars Matt and Kevin, who went on to play in a number of successful bands in the St. Louis Area. You could say this was their first step towards a successful career in music -- and they deserved it : they were damn nice guys who actually knew how to play their instruments.

This wouldn't be the last time that the Pineapples and 138 would cross paths. 138 would later cover an Obscene Pineapples song called "Likes and Dislikes : the Ferret Song" For those unfamiliar with this timeless classic, it was Panama Joe's passionate endorsement of ferrets as loving and suitable pets, and his strong disregard for those who would say otherwise. (Panama Joe is no longer in favor of ferrets.)

As for the Pineapples, things would continue on for a few more years. No-Nickname Chris joined as a drummer, and Dead Friend Glenn was recruited as a vocalist. Of all the Pineapples incarnations, this was certainly the one that most sounded like music. Glenn's over-the-top, histrionic wail was a good match for the Pineapples' discordant, power-chord-driven punk.  No-Nickname Chris actually knew how to play the drums, and in fact it is unknown why someone with Chris's talent even hung out with the Pineapples.  A number of films addressing this question are currently in production; among these, "He Needed a Drum Set : The No-Nickname Chris Story" and "He Was Generous With His Weed : The Panama Joe Story" seem to be the most historically accurate.

At one point, a recording was made. Only one copy ever existed. According to irritated neighbors and law enforcement officials, this tape could be heard blasting from any number of mid-1980s Toyota Camry automobiles owned by Panama Joe. It is unknown what happened to this tape, although it is conjectured that it somehow wound up in the possession of the brother of some chick named Becky who Panama Joe made out with at the Loop. No further information on said tape was ever forthcoming from some chick named Becky, or her brother, who I think was some kind of skate punk kid.

The current literature is unclear on why this incarnation of the band broke up, although Bird Thing's enrollment in college and Chris's Getting Sick of Panama Joe's Shit may have played a role. And although there may have been a few scattered jam sessions with other musicians over the years, this marked the last attempt by anybody to form a band called The Obscene Pineapples. And we can be reasonably sure of that, because we've totally googled it.

Epilogue

Bird Thing and Panama Joe later went on to successful careers in the software industry, ending up in Silicon Valley and San Francisco, respectively. There is documentary evidence that Bird Thing eventually learned how to play stringed instruments, and in fact can be witnessed doing so at parties thrown by his Silicon Valley startup. Panama Joe never did learn how to play the guitar, although he did become quite skilled at playing obscure Middle Eastern drums. He's played in a bizarre assortment of bands, from melancholy chamber pop to Latin-tinged free jazz to alt-country shoegaze to live electronic bootie funk. Witnesses say that he's actually pretty good.

Aug. 30th, 2010

racism

It's always embarrassing to see somebody using outdated, offensive terminology.

Case in point.

Sometimes I get my lunch at a place called Soma Chicken in Rincon Center.  They make a delightful salad composed of chicken, greens, mandarin oranges, scallions, sliced almonds, fried Chinese noodles, corkscrew pasta, shredded carrots, and a delicious honey sesame dressing.  However, they've chosen to burden this wonderful salad with the unfortunate moniker "Oriental Chicken Salad."

And I'm like, really?  Oriental?  What is this, the 70s?  I mean, at least give it a nationality or physical location.  Do we really need to define this salad in terms of its relation to the West?  Doesn't that mean they should also have an Occidental Chicken Salad?

And of course, it doesn't help that the woman who works the register is actually Asian, causing me to use this outdated term when talking to an Asian.  Seriously, the first time I ordered it, I got to the register, and she asked, "which salad?"  And instinctively, I responded, "the Asian Chicken Salad."  To which she corrected me and said, "oh, the Oriental Chicken Salad."  AWKWARD.  So now I call it the Oriental Chicken Salad, just so as not to make the situation even more awkward.

I mean, help me out here.  Am I taking crazy pills or something?  Isn't "Oriental" sort of on par with "Colored" or "Negro?"

Anyway, what I really should do is learn how to make the salad myself.  $10.50 for a salad is kind of absurd.

Aug. 28th, 2010

irony

So, apparently, Microsoft is totally cool with the open-source .NET runtime for Android, whereas Oracle is pitching a fit over the Android SDK's "heavy use of Java."  Wouldn't it just be hilarious if .NET became the hacker's platform of choice for Android, and Java the Evil Corporate Fiend platform?

war

Okay, now this is just sad.  Last night, Paris Hilton was arrested on suspicion of cocaine possession.  And I'm sorry, but that's just wrong.  People should not be arrested for having a good time.  They should be arrested for being stupid and annoying and famous for all the wrong reasons.  Won't somebody please make that illegal?  Besides, I don't really even mind Paris Hilton that much anymore, ever since she starred in Repo : The Genetic Opera -- a cult comedy/horror/musical wherein she played a hilarious self-conscious parody of herself.  (to give you an idea, at one point, her character, a vain, spoiled, plastic-surgery-addicted heiress, loses her face during a public performance.  as in, it falls clean off her head.  you have to see it to believe it)  Anyway -- god I can't believe I'm saying this, but -- I hope everything turns out alright for Paris.  Is it just me, or does it seem like she'd actually be kinda fun to hang out with?  I don't know why, but I have this vision of hanging out with her and a bunch of drag queens at a tiki bar in San Fransico, drinking fruity drinks and hearing her make fun of her celebrity friends.  Tell me you don't think that would be kinda fun!

pronouns

Over at Metafilter, a delightfully pointless conversation about why there is no "true" gender-neutral pronoun in English.  Specifically, why every attempt to introduce one has failed.  As usual, the denizens of Metafilter are completely missing the point by being overly-academic.

A small (but vocal) group of people continuously wonders why we have rejected all attempts to introduce a gender-neutral pronoun.  "Why," they ask, "has this not happened, when there is so obviously a need for one?"  And really, the question answers itself.  Attempts to introduce these new words have failed because language just doesn't work that way.

Words catch on virally.  One person uses it, others like it, and it catches on.  I suspect most slang words are originated by teenagers and criminals -- people who benefit materially by using words to identify themselves with a subgroup.  So the word takes on a certain cachet, because let's face it, most people are basically poseurs. 

Really, the only time that "there is a need for this word" actually drives the creation and acceptance of a new word is through jargon.  And most jargon originates from one's work or otherwise serious occupation.  When you're at work, there's a need to communicate precisely and efficiently.  So in other words, people use new jargon terms because they're paid to do it.

Language is a grass-roots effort.  Even when things like brand names make it into our vocabulary, it still happens from the ground-up.  Nobody at Kimberly-Clark tried to market the word "Kleenex."  They just marketed Kleenex.  And people were so familiar with the product (and the product itself was so generic) that it was easier to just call all tissue Kleenex.

I guess certain terms will fall in and out of favor for social reasons.  In the last 40 years, we've picked up a whole slew of gender-neutral names for professions.  But this was more out of necessity than anything else.  When you have female firefighters, it's just downright inaccurate to call them firemen.

So what about this gender-neutral pronoun that they keep trying to get us to use?  There's no cachet in it; the only people it will help you identify with are irritating pedants.  Nobody's paying you to use it.  It's not something that you (or your nose) will have frequent contact with.  And furthermore, you won't even offend anybody by not using it -- aside from the aforementioned pedants. 

So basically, it's useless, does nothing for you, and won't even save you from an awkward situation.  And still they wonder why we don't use it?  Feh.

Aug. 27th, 2010

advertising

There's something particularly hateful and alienating about commercials.  When you're watching a show or listening to internet radio, you kind of feel like you have some company, even if it isn't real.  When a commercial comes on, you become acutely aware of exactly how alone you are.  I can't exactly describe what does this -- perhaps it's something about the sound mixing, or the tone of the announcers' voice.  Sort of like how you can tell something's a soap opera in less than a second by the unexpectedly high frame rate.  Wouldn't surprise me if it was on purpose, either, as it's in advertisers' interests to make you feel scared and insecure.  I mean, that's pretty much been the goal of all advertising, anyway.

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