CategoryDiscoveries

Mom’s boyfriend is named Jerry

And he’s a museum curator, and his house (two authentic log cabins that he took apart and reconstructed with a new stone building between them) is filled with historical artifacts and ephemera. It is NOT exactly filled with light, because log cabins are not known for their vast expanses of window, but I tried to get a picture of one such artifact anyway.

The A-Bomb And You

It’s a framed flier full of survival tips for when you are struck by an atomic bomb, obviously from the 50s or 60s. These are unbelievably helpful tips; what’s really tragic is that they were kept secret.

Four Survival Secrets

Allow me to transcribe:

  1. Try to get shielded. Get down in a basement if there is one. Caught in the open, take shelter alongside a building or in a ditch or gutter.
  2. Drop flat on ground or floor. Flatten out at base of wall or bottom of bank.
  3. Bury your face in your arms. Hide eyes in crook of elbow. That will protect face from burns, flying objects, temporary blindness.
  4. Don’t rush outside right after a bombing. Wait a few minutes after an air burst, at least an hour if the bomb explodes on the ground, to let the radiation die down.

I can’t figure out which words to emphasize for amazingness. Is it the admonition about “temporary blindness?” The advice to people caught in the open under a nuclear weapon, which is to go flop in a ditch for convenient body-collection? The idea that you must wait at least an hour for radiation to die down?

Anyway, the best part is the name of the establishment that brought this important, life-saving information to you, dear reader.

Grimm Funeral Home

I’ve mentioned before, I think, that hospitals contain some pretty potent olfactory triggers for me. So when a daily donation thing for a pediatric palliative care home bubbled up through my twitters, this caught me:

“We’re very cautious about the ‘hospital’ smell, so we have smell patrols,” laughs Simons. “Usually we have brownies baking.”

Okay, Debbie Simmons of Ryan House. You get it. Here’s my wallet.

The thematic similarities worry me

Longtime ommatidiadvocate Tikitu de Jager wrote a great signoff story that you should go read right now! And then there’s this metatextual gem, from Rachel Spitler:

I once had a dream about catching up on Anacrusis.

In the first story, some curiously dorky heroes went on safari. In the second, they all got captured by the black-skinned “King of the Amazon.”

The third was from the viewpoint of someone’s stripped and bare bones, watching the king lounge in his giant throne and gnaw thoughtfully on a comrade’s femur.

It was awesome, but I also remember going, geez, isn’t this a little racist? Random tribal cannibalism? You really went there?

Then I woke up and realized it was me all along, and thought these words: WHOA, TWIST ENDING.

The lower-case I is symbolic

There was a time when I liked romantic comedy films. Yes, it’s true! Despite my status as a burly exemplar of stoic masculinity, I once enjoyed the mixture of clever dialogue and bittersweet tension one might see employed by an early-period Bullock, Roberts or Ryan. Then, in the late nineties, my testicles descended, and also romantic comedy went right down the shitter. In a mere five years, we went from While You were Sleeping and The Truth About Cats and Dogs to Legally Blonde and Kate and Leopold. Kate and Leopold, Liz Lemon.

Things have not improved since. The men are shrill, the women are boorish, the scripts are assembled from plot coupons and the banter is a nonsense collection of zero-liners. I saw The Proposal on an airplane a year and a half ago and I’m still angry about it. I’m not going to compare it to genocide except to say that it was worse than genocide, and dumber.

But hey! Around the same time that came out, a lady named Jac Schaeffer triple-threatened an indie movie called (unfortunately) TiMER. It has the one girl from Buffy in it, it got a tiny distribution deal, nobody saw it and it holds a 58% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s also the best romantic comedy I’ve seen in over a decade. Kara found it streaming on Netflix, and I offer the following three reasons to watch it if you like this kind of thing:

  • It passes Bechdel
  • If stuck in an elevator with the characters, I would not murder all of them inside five minutes
  • It posits a semi-science-fictional plot mechanic and actually explores some of its ramifications

I realize those bars are low enough to skate over, but I am not trying to damn with faint praise: it’s a fun movie and I was still thinking about it two days later. Its premise is that you can get a timer implanted in your arm. If your One True Love also has a timer, the two will automagically calculate the day you meet and start counting down to it. This is a big honking metaphor for a dominant cultural narrative applied to women, but the movie has the grace to hang a lampshade on that and then pull the Asimov trick and wonder how this can go wrong: one character has a blank timer and is on a crusade to get other people implanted, one has twenty years of waiting to look forward to, one has a timer go off way too soon, one gets a fake timer on the Internet, one has it painfully removed. And the ending isn’t as easy as you’re thinking!

Basically, this is a movie with smart jokes and kissing and it does a better job of exploring the conflict between free will and predestination than the Wachowskis did. My only improvement would be to put more than one nonwhite character in it, and also feed everyone involved a damn sandwich. (And not have the main character be named Oona. Hey, maybe Jac Schaeffer is a Wachowski.) Doubly recommended if you’re one of the nerds who liked Machine of Death.

“Who’s the agent in charge to get my sister-in-law into bed these days.”

In the grand tradition of Dada Everything, and appropriately via Adam Parrish, comes Josh Millard’s Previously, on the X-Files… It’s fun! In a few minutes of hitting refresh to perform my valuable human function of sorting random nonsense from random inspiration, I was able to generate some pretty great stuff, like Dana Lebowski, Scully’s Terrible Realization and Scully/Langly: Dance Remix. But the best part about it is that the transcripts from which it draws seem to include a great many standalone ellipses, which work beautifully in the context of textual noise. Besides creating these amazing awkward moments, you also get tense standoffs and very confused Mulders and this spectacular failure to communicate.

Someone make one of these for Next Generation now please yes.

Someday we will just have iPhones for brains

I mean, holy shit.

I hate Lev Grossman

What’s that? Lev Grossman wrote a vacuous cover article for Time? I am taken aback! The Stranger (and its sister publication here, the Mercury) grate on me with their preciousness from time to time, but I admire the execution of Noah Kalina’s mirror-parody. It would have fit right into Modern Humor Authority, and I don’t think I’ve ever said that before about something that actually showed up in print.

If none of the preceding makes sense to you, you can pretty much reduce this entire post to its title.

Epiphiniamb

I suddenly realized why I hate the “humor” in Shakespeare so much: comic timing depends on confounding your expectations of rhythm in speech, so nothing is funny in meter! Also Shakespeare was bad at jokes.

Pedagogues and Mountebanks

This is pretty spectacular.

“I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer – not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition – a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave.

That’s an excerpt from Erica Goldson’s valedictory address, which she wrote and issued earlier this year. Read the whole thing: it’s brief but convincing.

I wasn’t first in my class, but I was close, and I was aware of many of the issues Goldson raises even then–though less concerned, at a more self-centered time in my life, and mostly just happy that they were working in my favor. (Another thing we had in common: the textbook inspirational English teacher.) I’m less complacent these days, less willing to accept the cruel theater of fear and shame that we expect smart young people to suffer with piety. Our schools are bad, and their splash damage is everywhere.

I’m not sure what use I can be to education reform right now. It’s one of those issues that is never urgent but always important, and I need to figure out a path to involving myself in the cause. Erica Goldson’s example seems like a good start.

“Like a zombie, it keeps on living”

I was bagging on the Washington Post the other day for letting itself bend to the government’s whim. I stand by that, but I also want to give the institution its due: their two-year investigation of the American intelligence industry is amazing, and terrifies me.

“When hired, a typical analyst knows very little about the priority countries – Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan – and is not fluent in their languages. Still, the number of intelligence reports they produce on these key countries is overwhelming, say current and former intelligence officials who try to cull them every day. The ODNI doesn’t know exactly how many reports are issued each year, but in the process of trying to find out, the chief of analysis discovered 60 classified analytic Web sites still in operation that were supposed to have been closed down for lack of usefulness.

Even the analysts at the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which is supposed to be where the most sensitive, most difficult-to-obtain nuggets of information are fused together, get low marks from intelligence officials for not producing reports that are original, or at least better than the reports already written by the CIA, FBI, National Security Agency or Defense Intelligence Agency.

When Maj. Gen. John M. Custer was the director of intelligence at U.S. Central Command, he grew angry at how little helpful information came out of the NCTC. In 2007, he visited its director at the time, retired Vice Adm. John Scott Redd, to tell him so. “I told him that after 41/2 years, this organization had never produced one shred of information that helped me prosecute three wars!” he said loudly, leaning over the table during an interview.

Two years later, Custer, now head of the Army’s intelligence school at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., still gets red-faced recalling that day, which reminds him of his frustration with Washington’s bureaucracy. “Who has the mission of reducing redundancy and ensuring everybody doesn’t gravitate to the lowest-hanging fruit?” he said. “Who orchestrates what is produced so that everybody doesn’t produce the same thing?”

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