Who would have thought that Tebow would become a musical inspiration?
Please forward all your Tom Brady songs....
AS OPPOSED TO... NOT FUNNY:
When can we rely on Entertainment
Weekly for a thoughtful review? This
time. Word from the pollsters is, it's liberals who like the sitcoms none of the rest of us can watch. They like "sarcasm." Too bad for those of us who like funny.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
A RomCom Boob Movie
I REVIEW. Might make me sound old, but I never liked boob movies. I
even liked the guys who liked boob movies. They were invariably the
punished their families with softball schedules that would only have
been defensible if they were playing shortstop for the Yankees. I'm not
being a prig. If you're going to show sex, show sex. Don't annoy us
with bouncy shower scenes and disingenuous off-topping. Don't pretend
the best aspect of female nudity is catching them unawares That's a
mug's game. Cheerleaders in the shower with nerds watching through a
hole in the wall? Count me out.
Then there's the RomCom (i.e., romantic comedy). Much worse than boob
movies. First, you never get to see any boobs. Second, you're somehow
supposed to understand the female point of view. That's even more
ridiculous than cheerleaders not covering up in the shower when the
coach walks in.
For all the grief I give you, I occasionally offer up a gift. Cashback
my early gift in 2012. Let me count the ways:
1) It's actually a good movie.
Sensitive and like that. She'll be able to relate to the characters and
2) Boobs. Plenty. And bush. Plenty. Not in a leering way but an
admiring OMG way she might even forgive if you keep talking about the
3) Ultimately, a pure chick flick. The final scene is the closest thing
you'll ever find outside of airport bookstores to female pornography.
It's all about me, me, me.
Needless to say, don't show her this post. Just buy, rent, or stream the
Some watching tips with your beloved. When she says, "So this is why you wanted to† see
this movie," you respond, energetically, "Don't you get it? He's in
love and can't get over it. He
doesn't care about tits & ass (maybe you should phrase this
better)† He's in Hell."†
I mean, these moments are
coming. Be a Boy Scout. Prepared. If you get to the end, she will love
you BECAUSE of all the nude scenes before. I promise.
Right. Like you would do that.
Who's your best friend? InstaPunk. But you always knew that. Didn't you?
Monday, January 09, 2012
Here Comes the
FRIEND, NEW MISSIVE. ...Consciousness, plasticity, evolution of the
race, and our
crucial moment in human history (but arenít they all). Conversation at
the Grown-up Table again.
The kids are bored not because they need more from life; they need
less from life. They arenít paying attention because they cannot pay
attention anymore. Iíll say boredom denotes the functional breakdown of
linear neural activity. It means that circuits have opened, currents
disperse, and the energy which animates our conscious life spills into
the spaces between. Like an aqueduct fails and the water of life is
wasted on the surrounding terrain. That water was headed somewhere and
now it's gone.
Boredom. The word is only about two hundred years old. It does not
predate the newspaper. Perhaps it is a result of the newspaper. Extend
the concept from there. Where does that leave us after the internet?
Well the kids donít stand a chance against the internet. Do any of us?
Maybe if we fight. First we have to know what weíre fighting. Then we
have to fashion a plan.
Hereís what you got me thinking about.
Last year I read of a neuroscientist with a controversial view on
autism (but arenít they all). The question on autism is: perhaps a
sizable segment of the population has the genetic potential for
autistic behavior, but whatís the environmental trigger that activates
the condition, actualizing an autistic existence. Why is the incidence
rate up? Chemicals in vaccines? False. (That was a hoax.)
This guy noticed a connection with overexposure to white noise
during a critical period of brain development. Kids in apartments next
to a freeway, kids intentionally exposed to white noise machines for
better sleeping. He pressed the theory with rats---constant white noise
auditory stimulation---it worked without equivocation. His biochemical
explanation was this:
He identified the neurotrophin called BDNF, which is understood to
play a crucial role in reinforcing plastic change. BDNF is released
when neurons fire together (that is, when connections are being made in
the brain, literally) and it facilitates growth, wiring the neurons
together so that they continue to reliably fire together in the future.
It also builds up a fatty coat around the neuron, allowing the
electrical signals to run faster. Even more importantly, BDNF turns on
the Nucleus Basilis---a part of the brain that allows us to focus
attention---and it keeps this focal-enhancement device turned on for
the entire period of activity. Finally, once the connections are made,
BDNF shuts down the critical learning window. Pattern acquisition is
over and the new ďmuscleĒ can rest.
His suspicion was that in cases of autism something was triggering a
massive, premature release of BDNF. Instead of keying on and
reinforcing important neural connections, this flood of neurotrophins
was reinforcing ALL neural connections, most of which should have
remained meaningless and unrecognized by the brain. The result: scores
of undifferentiated maps in the brain. Loads of worthless connections
that will torture the autistic person for a lifetime. They hear one
sound and the entirety of the auditory cortex map starts firing. Their
skin is touched and the whole sensory cortex map lights up.
In short: he postulated that overexposure to white noise triggered a
pitiless tsunami of the neurotrophin BDNF. After the flood, the
topographical maps in the brain were leveled. The neural terrain became
undifferentiated and the brain could not make distinctions.
Obviously, I am no neurobiologist; I am a dilettante. I donít know
how this particular theory on autism will turn out---maybe it falls
aparts later. But the larger concept resonated with me, in part because
it made me think of Julian Jaynes. (Iíd be remiss not to mention that
Jaynesí 36-year old book fares quite well alongside the past decade of
brain science. Not that professional academics care, but I do.)
In Jaynes, consciousness is [like] a place. A linguistically
delineated mental analog of the physical world (which includes, of
course, everyone elseís private mental spaces, in infinite regression).
We can navigate this place, spatially and temporally---into the past,
into the future. In fact, absent a belief in the absolute authority of
a divine voice, navigating this mental space through time is our only
way to be, survive, maybe even flourish. Thus the import of
consciousness (and perhaps our sometimes estimation of it as an
The only alternative to pressing ahead, painfully, as autonomous
conscious beings is a regression to some modern form of Jaynesí
bicameral mentality. I see this regression going on all around us. When
you scratch a certain type of Christian, for instance, and realize that
they much prefer the Old Testament God to Jesus, you are looking at it.
The Old Testament God is suitable for no modern human more mature than
the average two-year-old. Even a three-year-old consciousness can run
circles around that capricious tyrant. But consciousness is
hard---getting even harder in the face of increasingly available
complexity---and so Yahweh persists. And Islam is gaining market share.
And so on, all in futile pursuit of the irrevocably retreating
ancestral voices of certainty.
But if we leave off the grown-ups for whom the world has become too
complex and consciousness has become hard--what of the youngsters who
were incubated in a bath of informational white noise? With the
auto-suggesting Search Algorithm always at hand and the banality of
social updates endlessly channeling their synaptic forays from
something greater into the one thing dull and familiar. What rough
beast comprises the neural loops of that life? How much vertical
deviation is even possible on the topographical maps of their brains?
Are they conscious at all? Or are they prepped for a devious form of
slavery: docile bicameral servility to the ďthird-halfĒ of their brain,
the Algorithm and its Advertising Partners. I know not, but I surmise.
Once upon a time these matters were just exciting intellectual
exercises for me. Games played in my own head, by myself or with a few
friends. Then I had children. Now itís a fucking war. What you tend not
to say too loudly at parties among fellow parents is: Holy shit, do you
see how plastic these little brains are?! Parents of young children are
tired, confused, and stretched thin -- itís easier for them to believe
that they gave birth to little personalities that will just become what
they are. On their own, without too much fiddling. Good luck with that.
You may choose not to fuck with it, but everything else will.
A sadist can even decide to create the best golfer or tennis player
in the world, though itíll be achieved at the unforgivable cost of a
lost and tortured Tiger Woods or Andre Agassi. But if we dial the
myopic ambition back a few hundred clicks to something much less
insane, we find that the stakes are still life or death. We are carving
the grooves in their brains, actively or passively, our choice. And
they will ride those grooves around and around and around and around.
When Iím feeling hopeful, I marvel at the plasticity and resilience
of the 3-year-old and 1-year-old brains [minds] bouncing around our
little home, factor in the recent findings about enduring brain
plasticity throughout life, and consider that language, art, empathy,
and all the beacons of higher civilization can again be made into a
prevailing contagion. That consciousness can persist, spread, continue
to develop, and thrive. And that we humans, as the lucky
standard-bearers of the infinite space called consciousness, will
struggle through the ordeal with all the fortitude and perseverance our
primitive ancestors displayed in getting us this far. Even when we
canít see the Why (which, for many of us, is always).
Thatís when Iím feeling hopeful. Other nights it is, letís say,
darker -- and through the north window of my baby girlís bedroom I can
hear the long, cold silence of a universe that no longer harbors a mind
to observe it. And then I sing quietly: Row row row your boat / Gently
down the stream / Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily / Life is but a
dream within a dream within a dream within a dream.
But anyway . . . Happy New Year, RL, cartographer of highly
differentiated mental maps. May this year involve fewer insults between
us than the last.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: "M" is a musician, poet, writer, sailor, and now father
who shows up intermittently in the comments, usually when he has taken
umbrage at one of RL's outrageous assertions, but not always.]
Hmm. Do Atheists Ever, Ever,
Wonder If Just Possibly Maybe...?!!
knows the route to immortality is sarcasm. Right?
EXPERTS ARE STILL LAUGHING. Not trying to start a big fight here.
Just asking. Do they ever, uh, GULP hard and say to themselves, "Self,
are we perhaps missing something important in the scheme of
He wouldn't make some kind of
splashy statement to SNL, would he?
NAH. They know better. NO
DOUBT ABOUT IT, DOG! Had you going for a minute there, though, didn't I?
This post is also by way of a personal apology. First time in my
longish life I've known what the term "knee injury" meant. Couldn't even
get into this posting chair since my last post till today. (You can hear
it go POP. Sickening.) But I didn't take any exotic pain medication. Why I'm not
placing any stock whatever in the Internet fever about Tebow's 316
yards passing, his 31.6 yards per completion average and his favorite
Biblical eyeblack verse "John 3.16." If he'd thrown for 3.16 yards per pass,
then we'd have to talk. Until then I'll just scream slightly whenever a
window draft or door zephyr contacts my rightwing fundamentalist knee.
Are we clear? But I'm still probable for the couch in next week's Broncos-Patriots
game. Onward Christian Soldiers and all that. Got it?
When I picked up the book Nine
Stories, by J. D. Salinger, my
objective was to slap Salinger down. This objective was triggered
by the documentary film Catching
Salinger: The Search for the Reclusive Author J. D. Salinger,
which is excellent and in no way can be blamed for my malicious intent.
The documentary is about a Frenchman who wanders around New Hampshire
innocently asking people for directions to Salinger's home. It's
not completely about Salinger and it does not really intend to solve
anything, as the ending makes clear.† The movie is modest,
understated, and will cause you to imagine yourself as a companion of
Frenchman on his mission,. It will also cause you to
think. For me, it triggered a mean intent.
The reason for the mean intent the film triggered, however, is unique
to me. Like everyone else, I read The
Catcher in the Rye in my youth; but, unlike most people I knew,
I read it voluntarily, not for some course, and therefore with an open
mind.† But, in fact -- and also
unlike most people I knew -- I
didn't like it.
At the time I couldn't articulate why; when I gave the book a
thumbs-down, people looked at me as if I was retarded. I remember
particularly the reaction of the girlfriend who lent me the book to
read. Her expression upon hearing my verdict was memorable, and
it cost me if you know what I mean. Only much later did it dawn on me
that I was reacting to the main character, whom I loathed, and not to
the book as a piece of writing. I still cringe when I think back to my
inability to articulate this elementary distinction. But I was onto
Holden Caulfield bugged the crap out of me and still does.† He
represented and even idealized the dysfunction that is so common now.
Ennui is one word for it. I thought a person like Caulfield was absurd
and contemptible. He had big advantages in life and a large web of
people who wanted to help him and see him succeed, but he dismissed it
casually and didn't value it, like a prototype Ferris Bueller, whom I
also can't stand. It angered me that Caulfield could reject so many
people without even paying them the respect of explaining himself. It
was obvious he was free to reject everything only because he knew those
people would always be there to pick him up. In short, he was a phony.
Around the same time, I also read 1984
and The Trial, both of which
featured protagonists who struggled against impossible situations and,
despite it all, still trudged on with life; Catcher was exactly the opposite,
featuring a protagonist with no real obstacles in life who nevertheless
made a mess of his life. And doing it for no greater cause than ennui. That did not resonate with
It angered me that no one got angry at him in the book; it angered me
that the attitude caught on and that it became cool to be cool. Never
hot, never cold. But, because I also realized that Caulfield was based
to some degree on the author himself, being angry at Caulfield was the
same as being angry at Salinger, more or less. It was Salinger who
needed to be held to account for what he'd created. Further: I also had
the new thought that such an unrealistic and unsympathetic character
must be the product of an overrated author. So when I saw this
documentary and it brought all that back to me -- and with the book
conveniently on a shelf with the dust-cover fading down its exposed spine -- I
set out for a little revenge on the author. In light of all this, I
thought it would be easy to take down J. D. Salinger. The collection
called Nine Stories was my
of few photos of Salinger as an adult.
Well, that was wrong, a retarded idea. I abandoned my mission with the
very first story, A Great Day for
Bananafish, the shortest in the book. All the stories put me in
a different place, with Uncle Wiggly
in Connecticut being my favorite, for reasons I mentioned
earlier in IP comments. Not only was it immediately obvious that the
author deserved his status, I found myself lamenting, like so many
devoted Salinger fans, that he wrote so little.
So I'm writing now to recommend him to all of you who may have
overlooked him, deliberately avoided him, or simply not heard of him.
If you read these stories, please do not give in to the temptation to
read quickly. The individual works are very short, so take your time;
you must absorb rather than read, because the economy of words is so
impressive that you'll miss a lot otherwise. What I kept doing was
re-reading paragraphs because the mental images that were created were
so out of proportion to the amount of text. I kept looking for the
particular words that could account for the vividness of my mental
images, but they simply couldn't be pinned down in that way. It has to
be some kind of magic. I promptly lost the desire to take down a man
who could do that.
I also realized I could no longer blame Salinger for the
ennui -- "boredom" seems to be the word of the day for it on this site
[ED: We delight in making up brand new words for cultural phenomena
here.] -- that is so pervasive in our society. It resides somewhere
between obedience and rebellion but is neither; it's a cop-out.
Salinger only identified the newest incarnation of something that's
probably as old as the devil. He saw the corrosive element that was
growing in an affluent society whose youth knew no hardship and didn't
care to learn or even hear about it. Catcher
was, in hindsight, a cautionary tale. One told long ago.
The question that remains is, why have so many youngsters celebrated it
and so few adults recognized the alarm it was
sounding? For sixty years.