Monday, March 31, 2008

Sweet Sixteen Suspicions Finally Validated

I always suspected that the families on My Super Sweet Sixteen were money launderers. As far as I could tell, there are only two reasons people throw parties like that:
1. This is the lifestyle in which they're accustomed. Strike that. Even when the royals arrive in helicopter, they don't make everyone come out and scream, nor do they make showy displays of their assets.
The new #1:

1. Pathological need to show off
2. Excess of funds due to shady business practices.

The answer is #2. ding ding ding ding ding ding ding. Some guy sold oil securities to oil wells that had no oil in them, then used the investment money to buy cars, purses, etc., for his daughter whose hicksville friends probably didn't even realize they weren't looking at canal street knockoffs.

Gawker wrote about it here.
The video to watch "how many Vuitton purses would this oil well buy, Daddy?" here.
NYTimes article here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Drillbit Taylor and Jeanine Basinger

I really enjoy Dana Stevens’ movie reviews on Slate. She manages to reference old classics (like Preston Sturges films) in meaningful ways without sounding pretentious, nor alienating the large portion of her readership that presumably has no knowledge of Sturges’ work.

Today, in her review of Drillbit Taylor, she completely contradicted the ‘thesis’ of Jeanine Basinger’s comedy class: she said the topics Drillbit Taylor chose for humor were inappropriate, and that they were treated with too much levity. Jeanine would have fallen over.

Jeanine opened her first class with a comedy about Nazis and this introduction to the film:

“Hitler is not funny! Hitler killed millions of people! He is NOT FUNNY!”

After seeing To Be or Not to Be, and subsequent comedies featuring the Nazis and various war atrocities, she would put us in the seat of the filmmaker, asking us, “How do we make Hitler funny?”

For Jeanine, comedy was about taking serious, unfunny subjects, and creating margins of safety for the viewer where humor could be inserted and make these grave, unsuitable topics into comedy. The examples are infinite: a cheating spouse turns into a million screwball comedies, nuclear annihilation becomes Dr. Strangelove, teenage pregnancy becomes Juno, a war hero imposter becomes Hail, the Conquering Hero!. Compare this to Dana Stevens’ next comment about Drillbit Taylor:

“Homeless Army vet, living alone in tent, conspires to deceive and steal from children. This is a comedy?”

Of course.

The rest of Stevens’ negative commentary proves that, for her, the margins of safety were not set at a level where she felt comfortable laughing at the ‘marginalized social status that passed for a character quirk’. She indicts Apatow’s films for letting the characters go to the edge and back without getting hurt enough: “The seriousness of his characters' mistakes often seems to exceed the penance they pay.” She says these films invite her specific criticism by billing themselves as moral fables.

I can’t speak to this specific film, since I haven’t seen it (and probably won’t until it reruns on TBS a few years from now) but I do think she has something with the (frustrating) open-endedness of some comedy films—the omission of abortion as a subject of humor in Knocked Up, for example. I love dead baby jokes as much as the next guy; these were left out. Wisely, I think, yet Apatow also received criticism for not making a stand on this subject.

Omission has a long history in comedy. Lubitsch was the “director of closed doors,” the complicit audience giggling over what they assumed happened next. The Sturges film Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1940), in which a girl gets drunk, married, and knocked up in one night, similarly dances around a touchy subject—not about abortion, but about her unwed state. She doesn’t know who her husband is, and must go through a whole set of screwball setups to engineer another marriage to make sure her babies (septuplets) don’t bear the bastard stain. Her character never actually meditates on how horrid this possibility would be, instead getting all caught up on how to get a real husband (the original husband there as a margin of safety for the prurient 1940 censors and audience).

I admire Apatow’s films for their freshness: the aw-shucks, apologetic adherence to moral values in Forty-Year Old Virgin and Superbad is a welcome pendulum swing away from the graphic humor of American Pie. I’m sure this iteration of the genre will eventually tire and lead to a new wave of gross-out comedies. I hope I get a few more 40-Year Old Virgins and Knocked Ups before this wave is over.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Reality Shows: 2; Hipsters w/Headbands: 0

So Wednesday night I caught both ANTM and Top Chef. Both shows kicked off girls rocking the hipster headband look. Coincidence? I think not.

While I couldn't find screenshots (internet! you failed me!),

Amis and Nimma were the girls that got kicked off.

ANTM made a big deal about the fact that this girl slept until the last minute before panel, then came in a hoodie and a headband.

While Nimma was actually a conservative Muslim who went to bed early before the first challenge, I get the impression maybe the judges throught she was someone else based on the purple sweatband she sported during the challenge. I thought she looked cool, and was sad to see her kicked off so early.

In other news, Jess just sent me a text message saying
"I have my date tomorrow with the confederate soldier"

I won't explain the circumstances around this for those not in the know, but I think this boy-nickname ties with my other favorite text message (also in the Top 10 TMIs, as long as I'm being all Vh1 about it):

"I just had sex with Dracula in my parents house"

So Verdict:
-Hipster style leads to elimination in the reality TV world

-In real life we girls have SO much more creative names than "Mr. Big"

Saturday, March 1, 2008


This is my mood right now: that feeling when you look at an old picture and remember the time fondly, but also notice you're wearing a painfully awkward outfit, or were really secretly unhappy at that moment, or kind of fat-looking. I believe wistful/regretful/nostalgic sums up my brooding. A second metaphor, which makes more sense as I get into my wesceleb section of the post: here.

What led to this evening in by myself brooding all started with staying up until 6am yesterday. I went out to a familiar bar (Fat Black..) and had some oddly normal conversations with people with whom awkwardness is more the norm. I had some Mamoun's falafel, a bad idea, with too much hot sauce, and ended up kind of awake and hyper and watching random Food Network shows and eating Ben and Jerry's way past when the content had transitioned into paid programming. I woke up at 2pm, had some caffeine and chocolate soy milk, and went for a swim at the NYSC in Times Square.

Turns out it's in a decently nice hotel, and you have to walk through the lobby and up an escalator, past a restaurant, bar, and conference room before you can even get to the right elevator bank. Or at least that's what I did since I was kind of lost.

Since I was hungover and unshowered, I had worked it by throwing on some hipster casj (head scarf, dollar sunglasses, buffalo plaid) and felt a bit out of place. I told my Mom this and she said people would think I was a star. This made me think of my Steve-O sighting at the Dream Hotel. He walked into the elevator, shirtless save the flannel shirt tied around his neck like a prep, flanked by his linebacker of a bodyguard. I need me one of those.

After a swim, steam room detox, and a trip to TJ's, Anna texted me back to say she was feeling depressed and not leaving her apartment. I kind of took on that mood myself, and spent some internet time trolling personals websites. Actually I am thinking of joining-joining This cute boy who is a medical resident (anesthesiology !) emailed me after I winked at him, but I can't read the email unless I pay. BOO!

Then I decided to catch up on Wesleying, which had a post about a MGMT article in Nylon. I remembed listening to their song "Kids" a lot a couple years ago, but I've stumbled across quite a few times in the past few months. First their song "Time to Pretend" was the free download of the week on iTunes, then I noticed that song was in the Top 100 Songs of 2007 on Pitchfork, then this. I checked out their site,, their myspace (added them as one of my friends), and then finally got around to watching the insanely-long-to-download music video. Directed by Ray Tintori. It's absolutely fabulous: the visual effects, the costuming, and, importantly for a music video, the relation between the diegeis of the lyrics and its visual and narative mimesis in the video. While the lyrics ironically call to the singers' desire to live rock star lives (even weirder since now they kind of are rock stars), the music video follows another fantasy, with people wearing hipster-shaman going on a cross of a 60's psychedelic/Native American mescaline spirit quest. I liked that it culminated in a hunt; the archery shots were well-composed, and reminded me of Ray's Sight and Sound film, which had quite possibly the best low-angle shot of cardboard sword fighting I have ever seen. I think this might be a directorial motif :). Also, a lot of the extras are people I recognize - I'm like, isn't that one guy the quiet person from my epidemiology class?

Seeing this tremendous talent, much of it still raw, only exacerbated this wistful feeling I've been having. Then, of course, the following lyrics made it worse:

"Yeah it's overwhelming, but what else can we do?
Get jobs in offices and wake up for the morning commute?"

I have a job in an office. I wake up for the morning commute.

This makes me feel sad.

I also stumbled across this article, In AdAge (back into my current profession!). Turns out this music video was so good, now Ray's being repped by the same people who represent Michel Gondry. Ridiculous. Also, two other Wesleyan senior thesis films were on NYMag, including Egg, which I saw my Freshman year and have been dying to see again ever since. (note: youtube-sized screen does not do the 16mm justice)

So all this, and other random stuff, like seeing the Stone twins in a Dell computer commercial during the Oscars (kind of a big deal, people know us..) and finding out some other Wes guy won Beauty and the Geek, and seeing ANTM alum Kim Stolz doing random stuff for the election on MTV - hey, I want to be famous too! Seriously, though, I will never be as cool as those peeps. I'll have to think about this one...maybe it's Time to Pretend?


I'm feeling rough, I'm feeling raw, I'm in the prime of my life...