That's Just The Booze Talking

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Redneck 7-Eleven

A big part of our job involves deleting spam from the widows of Nigerian military commandos who just so happen to have a couple million dollars lying around that they don’t want and are willing to give us a taste in exchange for some general information, like, say, our primary bank account number and the secret nickname we have bestowed on our genitalia. (The penis goes by the handle Powers Booth, while those in the know refer to our testicles as The Monitor and The Merrimack, collectively and individually. And in case you were wondering, yes, that is the weirdest fucking sentence we have read all week.)

But beyond the money scams and the pharmaceutical come-ons, we also receive a ton of electronic correspondence that really has nothing to do with our actual job whatsoever. This morning we received a note from the USO trumpeting two new additions to their roster of overseas talent, comedians Ron White and Robert Hawkins, who as the press release rather breathlessly informs us, are renowned for their work with observational funnyman Jeff Foxworthy (“You know you’re a redneck if you frequently have wildly erotic dreams that feature the spectral mustache of Dale ‘The Intimidator’ Earnhardt gently nuzzling against your trembling perineum”) and on something called The Blue Collar Comedy Tour. The release also informs us that White is widely recognized by the sobriquet “Tater Salad,”at which point we hit delete and curse God for granting us the tainted gift of literacy.

What the fuck, people? Apparently, these dudes are going to have Thanksgiving with U.S. troops in the twin hotbeds of Germany and Belgium, which is a fine gesture to be sure, and undeniably selfless. (Well, except for the self-promotional angle, which you know, whatever.) But we ask you: If you found yourself in a mess hall outside of Bremen, having the canned cranberry sauce passed to you by some fucker named Tater Salad, wouldn’t you want to go out and hop on a landmine or something? Wouldn’t that be the kind of thing that might nudge you toward volunteering to wear the orange jumpsuit in the latest installment of Al Qaeda Gone Wild? On the great Libran scale of fate, wouldn’t you be better off moldering quietly in a tomb than breaking bread with a dude who gets paychecks every week from The WB?

We also get every magazine published in these United States, including a fair amount of mainstream porn. It’s always a bit of a head-scratcher when you’re trying to abide by basic conduct guidelines as laid down by Human Resources and there’s a picture of an angry pudendum staring out at you from the latest issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray while you’re asking a co-worker where the hell is your goddamned change from that cup of coffee you sent her out for. Anyway, the December Playboy arrives, packed with the inevitable passel of not at all funny cartoons featuring Santa getting sucked off by whores of all stripes, when the weird guy who sits over by the copy machine skulks by our shabby cubicle.

“Dude,” he goes, “can people really even masturbate with that?”

A fine question, and one that opens up a Pandora’s Box of wildly inappropriate speculation as to what can and cannot be used as masturbatory fodder, which culminates in an oratorio on the wonders of the mysterious knee-bosoms of the Land O’ Lakes squaw. The weird guy bats 1.000 for the day with the pithy observation, “You know, there’s regular shame and then there’s the shame that comes from making porno out of a margarine box.”

To which we add, “And lastly there is the shame of pasting a picture of your own face over the face of an Indian girl with knees for breasts and then Roughing Up the Suspect like it owes you money or something.” At which point we agree to maybe not have conversations in the office ever again.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Annie Hall Leaves New York in the End/If I Press Rewind, Woody Gets Her Back Again

We just tried to call our SNF at her office, but accidentally rang her fax machine. It was like a ghost robot picked up the phone and chirped out the secret ending of The Crying Game. Anybody else wish they were dead?

This weekend we sawed through Geoff Dyer’s unconventional survey of photography, The Ongoing Moment, which draws much of its strength from the anecdotal. There’s a great story about Richard Avedon going down to Buenos Aires in 1975 to photograph Borges, only to discover that the writer’s beloved mother had died on that same morning. Rather than turning Avedon away and retreating into his grief, Borges goes through with the shoot, personalizing the proceedings with a reading from Kipling and the recitation of some sort of Anglo-Saxon elegy. Avedon does his whole blank-paper-background, splash-the-soul-of-the-subject-all-over-the-place foreground, but when he develops the film, he’s less than satisfied. The blind man seems to be holding something back, even in this moment of extremis. Later, Avedon reads a story by Paul Theroux in which the travel writer more or less has the same exact experience with Borges. It is then that Avedon realizes why the picture does not work, why the finished portrait was so empty of meaning––Borges had been playacting. The Kipling and the elegy were just something he could hand over as if they were freighted with meaning … but since they were just stray items in his personal catalogue of referents, they added up to nothing, as did the shot itself.

Because it’s a book about photography, The Ongoing Moment is perforce a treatise on the act of seeing. And while John Berger––a subject of Dyer’s first work of non-fiction––has mined this seam before, Dyer brings to his study an inspired randomness. An analysis of Stieglitz’s nudes gives way to observations on what it means to shoot an unmade bed. And while the connections between subjects and themes are often skeined together on the flimsiest of pretenses, Dyer is faithfully developing a thesis put forth by a man whose physical blindness is superceded by an almost hallucinatory mental clarity. Again, Borges, who in The Aleph testifies of a place where it is possible to see everything simultaneously without losing sense of the significance of each individual element on display. Such is the difference between “the ongoing moment” and the act of writing. Like trying to reveal the insights afforded by a profound drug experience, it’s impossible to capture the all-inclusive nature of his vision, Borges argues, because it is non-linear, and by extension, timeless. Writing is successive. Writing is a succession of A then B then Z, and as such writing is hopelessly tethered to the temporal.

There’s a whole lot of this kind of thing in the book––Dyer is freakishly bright, as anyone who’s ever read his earlier works can attest––but somehow The Ongoing Moment falls a bit short of the mark. We couldn’t put our finger on what was missing until we read the acknowledgments, where Dyer has explains that his wife read the work in progress and “kept saying she wished there was more of me in it. The reader will, I suspect, be glad that for once I didn't follow her advice.” And there’s the trouble: Dyer’s restraint, his reluctance to engage the reader as he did in the riff-laden But Beautiful and the hilarious and somehow poignant Yoga For People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It puts an unwanted layer between the writer and anyone who’s agreed to unpack and sift through his prose. More’s the pity: We can’t think of another contemporary writer who can hold down the often divergent roles of instructor and gadfly quite like Dyer.

Now before you start thinking, “Boy, Ol’ Sakebomb must have eaten two bowls of Smart Motherfucker™ flavored Cookie Crisp this morning,” we’re going to preemptively inform you that in fact we are so fucking stupid that we lost $500 gambling on football this weekend. Do you have any idea how much duct tape and ribbed Magnums $500 buys? Hey there New York Giants, next time you decide to fuck us in the ass, how’s about a little lube first? Because lower gastrointestinal tract blood totally does not count. Fuckity.

Also: More stupid. In an old notebook we unearthed this weekend during our semiannual LET’S PREVEENT THE APARTMENT FROM LOOKING LIKE TRAVIS BICKLE LIVES HERE cleaning event, we discovered this partial list of “Things We Are Thinking About Right Now.” These include:

-- Novelty mugs; making sure that even our least favorite gets used
-- Avoiding someone in the street by pretending to glance at wristwatch, whether you’re wearing one or not
-- How do the Kiwi shoe polish people stay in business?
-- Pez dispensers = dumb waiters (also: If they made a Buddy Hackett Pez dispenser, would you buy one?)
-- Why is it that we’re the only person in world history who can detect the uncanny resemblance between Barry Manilow and the guy who played Dr. Adam Bricker on The Love Boat
-- “Oh, that Tim Conway special’s on; we had better tape it.”
-- What if the people who invented Max Headroom are working on something else? Would we have to learn how to say the word “terrible” in all the world’s languages just to deal with the scope of the suckiness that would result?
-- The tooth-to-tattoo ration in Upstate New York is distressingly unfavorable.

See? We said we were dumb. Dumber than a monkey making pancakes, as they say in The South. [No they do not. – Ed.