Saturday, June 30, 2007

My Standup Comedy Routine For Today's Modern World

AIDS. Rape. Abortion. All these things are funny.

Thank you, you've been a great crowd!

Friday, June 29, 2007

My Name's Paul, And this Is Between Y'All

Today I found myself in one of the less hellish parts of Midtown--57th St. around Broadway. Still pretty hellish, but not the ninth circle of the Penn or Grand Central Station areas. (Every time I visit one of these profoundly awful sections of town, with their crowds of blue-shirted businessmen plethora of soul-destroying soup and sandwich lunch places , I feel a flutter in my chest for Brooklyn, suburbia, and the countryside.) By the way, I love New York.

Anyway, I was in the mood for a burger, and thought I'd hit up Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien hotel, which for my money offers one of the top three burgers in New Jack City (but that's another post for another time). The place is located in a small, almost hidden room in a roped-off corner of the hotel, and is always crowded with tourists and locals alike. You might say it's famous with people looking for a tasty, juicy burger smothered with ketchup, mayo, mustard, tomatoes, and onions. And today was no different--well, actually, it was even more crowded than usual. And yet I decided to stand in line for a good 25 minutes, trying to read my New Yorker while listening to a greasy dude behind me telling his teenage son about how much credit card debt the kid's mom/dude's ex-wife had racked up. Then I waited for another 15/20 minutes, standing shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of people on their lunch break, hardlly able to move, waiting for my burger. And you know what? IT WASN'T WORTH IT. No food is worth waiting for in those kind of conditions. The whole experience reminded me that people are cattle, and that even I am not immune to the cattlelike mentality occasionally. But why are people (even so-called savvy New Yorkers) so willing to wait in huge lines for things? I guess the mentality rewards people who are slightly more intelligent and get their lunch at, say, 1:30 instead of 12:30. So I guess I don't want it to stop or anything, because then it would all be a big guessing game, whereas now you can count on people being reliably dumb. But I don't really get it.

Hey, remember Insomniac with Dave Attell? That was a pretty reliabe B+ TV show in the halcyon days of 2002.

The Legend of Baggy Pants. That's what came into my head when I watched five minutes of "The Legend of Bagger Vance" tonight. It's not funny, but it made me smile (internally) I don't know.

Andy Kindler, an underrated stand-up comic, says that Jewish people hate Hitler, but they're also obsessed with him. "If you ever want to rob a Jewish person's house, just tell 'em there's a Hitler film festival down at the multiplex, and watch 'em file out." Wow. He's spot on there. Hitler totally fascinates me. Totally true, Kindler. Funny, but also true. Kind of like most good comedy.

Fart.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Terrorists 1, Spicoli 0

Whenever I read something in the Times, or a like-minded publication, about how a movie or an album is a product of our post-9/11 mindset, or how we live in a "culture of fear," I laugh (internally). The media loves nothing more than a convenient way to explain everything it reports on, a sort of unifying theory of culture. In my opinion, it routinely and unnecessarily projects the anxieties of the world onto every last corner of society. I'm not saying that Americans' attitudes haven't been altered at all in the last few years; they have. But art has always been about fear and loathing. People have always been fucked up and crazy. The themes of life are not very different than they have ever been. The world doesn't change nearly as much as a newspaper wants it to, but a grand statement makes for a snappy headline.

Having said all that, yesterday was kind of an eye-opener for me, and one case in which the theme of American impotence seemed valid. I attended my cousin's high school graduation (even though everyone knows the class of '07 is worthless) in suburban Ardsley, New York, where the gardens are well-manicured and the people are nice and Jewy. Every time I leave New York and go to the suburbs, whether it be pastoral Lexington, MA, Westchester, or anywhere else, I'm dumbstruck by how weird, wonderful, and soul-sucking the landscape and the lifestyle is. All those open spaces, the clean air, the stars in the sky, the neat little houses, the cars...it's like a wonderland coming from New Jack City, and I never, ever get over it.

Where was I? Right, the graduation. So, the first two speakers were the valedictorian and the salutatorian. I believe they both mentioned 9/11, and how "we live in an uncertain world." Hardly any humor was injected into either speech. Uh, congratulations class of '07!

But the strangest speech came from the superintendent, who started out by saying something like "There's a town...where the kids get up at 6 every morning, go to school until noon, go home until 2, then go back to school until 5, then do homework for hours in a row." Guess what? The school is in China. Watch out, America! Yes, "millions of people want what you want. It's competitive out there." Jesus Christ, what a downer! What happened to that dumb speech about wearing sunscreen?

Then he started talking about Freakonomics (still not sure why), and got another bestseller mention in --"As Tom Friedman told us, the world is not flat." Congratulations, you read books. I thought he was going to go on a riff about all the popular books of the age: "And as 'The Secret' tells us, you need to think positive to achieve your goals. Spirituality will be important on your journey, though some believe that 'God Is Not Great.' I also read 'Marley and Me.'"

Anyway, everybody thought the speech was a garbled, messy piece of work, and I thought it was downright hilarious how everybody's general theme seemed to be all about anxiety. If I were a NYT reporter covering this thing, I would probably write a lede (I said "lede!") saying that if Osama bin Laden had been attending this graduation (while hooked up to his dialysis machine, of course), he would have laughed (internally). My God, I'm almost 25 and I still write convoluted motherfucking sentences. Will this never change?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Unadulterated Bliss

Here's the sort of thing dancing around my mind at weddings, funerals, book readings (especially book readings), Yom Kippur services, at the grocery store, at work, during auto-erotic asphyxiation...really, most of the time. You can take your Picasso and stuff it in a sack. This is pure beauty, even though the video quality is lacking.



Also, this is pretty cool, even if it gets silly at the end.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Lemme Tell You A Couple Three Things

Ok, ok, I'll finally write the Sopranos post everyone has been begging me to write*. First of all, I can't believe it turned out the whole show was an elaborate dream. That last sequence showing Tony waking up to find that he was just another worker bee in a hive somewhere on the planet Blorg was incredible. That was a brave decision by David Chase, but he never cared about alienating his viewers--only about creating art. That's what made the show so great.

BUT SERIOUSLY. I should have written this post a bit earlier, because I have exhausted myself talking about the finale. Mostly I have been arguing with a friend of mine who feels cheated for watching the last season and a half of the show. He thinks The Sopranos was once great, but that this past season (and even before that), the conflicts have felt more forced than ever, the show has gone off on tangents (Tony's gambling and peyote, for instance) when it should have been wrapping up crucial plot points, and that David Chase did not "earn" his "art school ending." Well, I agree to a point. The last few episodes definitely felt choppy.. Plot arcs that were once cultivated over the course of many episodes were treated with much less subtlety. The conflict with New York did not feel fully developed to me, and Phil's justification for war not quite rational enough. And yet--the last season was enormously entertaining, so I can't say that the show did not do its job. It was not the show it once was, but it was still really damn good. And I thought the ending was great. I love the fact that it has created a debate and pissed off legions of New York Post readers who wanted "sometihng to happen."

Yes, I was both bemused and annoyed by the chorus of retards (possible band name?) who thought their cable went out at the end (seriously, come on) or fully expected someone to get shot at the end. I heard people complaining about this at a bar, and I wanted to shout "Have you watched this show over the past eight years???" Despite joking about it above, I'm going to say in all seriousness that The Sopranos was never about fulfilling viewer's expectations. It was always about putting the mundane over the contrived, so to think that the ending would be wrapped up in a neat little package was complete madness.

As for the "did Tony die?" question, well...it seems that theory has been lent some credence over the past few days. I was totally anti-death a few days ago, but I have softened up on the issue just a bit.

On a different note, I find it amusing when people overreach and think every single thing in the show is all part of the genius of David Chase. He put in three obscure actors from the series' past in the last scene to reward viewers! Each of the last nine episodes was an allegory for Dantes' circles of hell! If you play the last episode backwards it says that Paulie was wearing a wire!

Guess what? David Chase is human. People love nothing more than to mythologize people or entities, whether it be New York Yankees or Karl Rove. Once they have been deified, they are treated as if everything they do is some sort of grand plot--but as Curt Schilling wisely put it, "Mystique and Aura are dancers in a nightclub." David Chase probably just had a hard time ending the show. Happens to the best of us.

*Nobody begged me to write this.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Clearly Canadian dreaming

Yesterday, after a leisurely jog/walk through Prospect Park, I walked into a bodega on gritty Washington Avenue, looking specifically for a blue Powerade ("Mountain Blast" flavor--really refreshing), but knowing that the chances of finding one in my amenities-lacking neighborhood was slim. I was shocked, then, to find something much better in the soda case. CLEARLY CANADIAN! This carbonated, flavored water drink (best flavor: raspberry) was a staple of my childhood in the early '90's, when Nirvana was breaking and I lived a block away from a suburban convenience store. Never mind the Nirvana thing. Anyway, it was always a bit of a luxury--a dollar at the time--but well worth it. As I was drinking my CC yesterday, a friend suggested that perhaps the nearby bodega had been stockpiling the beverage since 1992, which given grocery stores' standards around here wasn't such a crazy idea. But given the picture of a circa 2007-Steve Nash on the back of the bottle, I concluded that it was safe to drink.

I had not been sure if Clearly Canadian still existed--I remember looking it up online a while back with inconclusive results--but here you have it--2006 was proclaimed to be the "renaissance" year for this unique and delicious beverage. And I, for one, am elated.