26 January 2008

Metaphoria #2: The Metaphor Store

So I just got back from the metaphor store, where I purchased a lot of "cleaning products," so I can "clean up" my "living space."

Last summer I "shaved my head," so I'd have a "new" "look."

I'm trying to implement some bigpicture changes in my lifestyle. But so far I'm a lot better at symbolism than actual change. Better at rites than passage.

Fingers crossed.

Just in case take two doesn't take, I'm going to need some more metaphors. Let me know if you got any or I might wind up getting a tattoo or baptized.

23 January 2008

13 Ways of Looking at a Frozen Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich on Your Windshield

The other day, I found a frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwich, once-bitten, on the windshield of my car, parked outside of my building. I have questions.

1). Was this some kind of silly "tween" hooliganism? [There is some serious grownup sketchiness that happens on my block, but sandwich-throwing could be the sort of spontaneous chicanery that lowercase g's get into before their eyes go dark.]

2). Let's assume that no one would make a sandwich for the sole purpose of throwing it or resting it on someone's windshield (I think we are safe assuming that). SO THEN: Who eats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich outside on the street in Minnesota during the coldest week of the winter?

3). Maybe someone somehow was dumb/weird enough to do so - is it possible that they then commenced their preposterous picnic with a hopeful bite into their PB + J, only then being forced to face the (literally) cold, hard facts about winter and sandwiches ... and then, frustrated by their incredible lack of sense, tossed the sandwich blindly over their shoulder?

4). CONFESSION - there is an elementary school right across from my building, so kids do go there and they likely bring lunches with them. SO it is possible that some kid walked out of a bad Nickelodeon sitcom and inspected his lunch on the way to school and said "Peanut Butter and Jelly AGAIN?," made a funny face and then tossed it skyward, accompanied by that cartoon sound effect for tossing things.

5). What is the onomatopoeic equivalent of that sound effect?

6). If we go with the disgruntled schoolkid scenario, we still haven't accounted for the bite ... could someone, vagrant or just curious, have come along, noticed the peanut butter and jelly sandwich on my windshield and put aside all of their questions for a taste, taken a bite, been sated or unimpressed, and then put it right back where they found it?

7). Perhaps the sandwich contained some sort of GPS device slathered over and constituting THE LEAST well thought out way of tracking me possible. How stupid can these spies be - what, do they think I wouldn't notice a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on my windshield? Or that I would notice but just shrug and leave it there, assuming there's no way it could conceal a tracking device? You'll have to wake up a bit earlier in the morning to outwit me, gumshoe.

8). Or maybe I'm thinking a little bit too locally here ... maybe the sandwich fell from above and came from afar - some winter bird that had toted it beakwise a long ways, ever so carefully, and then lost it to a lapse in concentration.

9). Or maybe it presages an imminent event of biblical proportions (biblical contortions?), like the frogs in Magnolia and this is some kind of cosmic false start or a test run ... maybe it will rain peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Minneapolis with the kind of screwball wrath that I've always thought the bible was missing. You laugh? Well, the book says "We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us." Think about it. Think about it and watch your head.

10). Or what if, WHAT IF ... I put it there? What if I've been taking that Ambien sleeping drug, the one that makes people sleepwalk, sleepeat, and sleepdrive. And I got up and made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my sleep. And then went out to the car, but I had to put the sandwich down on the windshield in order to de-ice it and then I just forgot because, hell, I'm asleep anyway. And then I drove somewhere.

11). Where? Maybe I have some secret second life that I conduct in the early morning hours while being entirely asleep. Maybe I have a torrid affair with a woman whose husband was recently rendered quadriplegic after crashing his car (distracted by a peanut butter and jelly sandwich hitting his windshield). Maybe she loves him still and cries when she makes loves to me and the fact that I'm asleep the whole time gives me a silent, passionless demeanor and a surprisingly precise motor ability both of which help us conduct the affair with ruthless efficiency. Oh, hold on, wait ... I don't take Ambien.

12). I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
Are one.

I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the peanut butter and jelly sandwich is involved
In what I know.

[apologies to Wallace Stevens, the insurance salesman poet, Connecticut-born]

13). You're reading this laughing at me, aren't you? Here I am, spending time, spending effort thinking about how the peanut butter and jelly sandwich got on my windshield and all the while, YOU put it there. You put it there as a test, as a puzzle. It's a symbol. I totally get it. It means everything, but it means everything by virture of its utter meaninglessness. I'm with you. Heavy stuff. Have you been reading Chinese philosophy or listening to adult contemporary alternative music? You know what we should do? We should make a bunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and bite them and go around the city putting them on people's windshields in the middle of the night. It's like concept art - like a "happening" or something. Then they'd all wake up and find the sandwiches on their cars and sort of doubletake and think for a minute and then eventually that enlightenment thing, that "a-ha" would happen to them. And things would all be totally different.

14 January 2008

Epitomize Yourself - A Long Ride On The Precious Limited

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself.
I am large, I contain multitudes." -- Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

(Do I predict myself...)

Bear with me. I'm going to glue some things together.

FIRST: Concerning the Eminent Directors Anderson

It was a banner year for those of us softcore cinephiles (and I don't mean fans of "Emmanuelle in Rio") who prefer Contemporary American Indie/Auteur films to the French New Wave, which laps quietly at the southern shore of our Netflix queue: there were new films by young stalwarts Wes and P.T. Anderson (Darjeeling Limited and There Will Be Blood, respectively).

Both films are good. But PTA's TWBB is better. You can prefer apples to oranges.

And I wonder whether it's because Wes is building model ships inside of bottles, if his career isn't shaping up to be a Russian Nesting Doll with less and less room to move, so that he is relegated to constructing curios in miniature.

precious, adj.
1. a. Of great moral, spiritual, or other non-material value; beloved, held in high esteem ...
3. Aiming at or affecting refinement in manners, language, etc.; fastidious, particular. Now usu. depreciative: over-delicate, over-fastidious; affectedly refined in matters of taste, language, etc. (Oxford English Dictionary)

I propose that Wes Anderson Phase One ends after the first three films (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums) and that those of us who were so shook by those have to come to grips with Phase Two, in which some of the merits of those earlier works - elaborate set design, exhaustive soundtracking, and oceans of whimsy - are inflated at the cost of ... something. WA was always bothways precious, cool, at some distance from us. But there seemed to be blood pumping through those stories. And I'm beginning to surmise that there won't be blood anymore. Darjeeling was, well, limited. A train in vain.

Now PT Anderson's films up to this point had all been very similar (the non-essential Hard 8, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and Punch Drunk Love, where he admittedly took a couple of big swings, cutting his usual 3hr runtime in half and casting Adam Sandler). But TWBB is really nothing like them. And what it leaves behind is this sort of meta-ironic gimmickiness - which I loved but was very "of its moment" in the sense that Dave Eggers is of his ... the kind of thing you'd expect to be surprised by. But this new one, love it or like it, has a full head of steam. It's epic without frogs, without Aimee Mann, without ensemble, without prosthetic dongs.

Though each director / film deserves much more time, I'll train my untrained eye elsewhere, because this isn't a review from a hill, it's a question: what do we make of artists of all stripes trapped in their own style? AND SUBQUESTION: what does stylization do to what we'll call (for lack of better phrase) substance - the flesh, the bone, the hangnail, the teeming viscera of recognizability?

ADVOCATING FOR THE DEVIL, I'll proffer that the deservedly lauded No Country For Old Men is not very human. Before you hit me, let me say that I loved it and I think it might be the Coens' "best" film, but (and I can't testify whether this follows from McCarthy) it felt like allegory to me ... all about forces (pitchdark ones), violence in the abstract. Yes, Brolin and Jones seemed to be lit from within despite their heroic stoicism, but still.

(And it's a good and related question that's been asked about where the women are in these muscley works of art - TWBB and NCFOM. Even the new Apatovian regime, which I think has done a service to mainstream comedy, is blatant homosociality. The women are straight man to the male patter. Heigl said so herself.)

((Yes I realize that I have populated this post with pictures of men. Men I have straight crushes on. Certainly not part of the solution. Very well then ... ))

OFFSCREEN, this links to other conversations.

LISTEN: we played a game at the bar where you have to name the album that "epitomizes" the band's sound. For instance, despite your (and everyone else's) affection for The Bends, the answer for Radiohead is OK Computer. But is it a valid question? A good one? Do we resent bands extending themselves?


lyric, adj.
1. Of or pertaining to the lyre; adapted to the lyre, meant to be sung; pertaining to or characteristic of song. Now used as the name for short poems (whether or not intended to be sung), usually divided into stanzas or strophes, and directly expressing the poet's own thoughts and sentiments (OED, my emphasis)

What of lyrical obscurity? What in the hell is Stephen Malkmus ever talking about?Shaggy locks and crooked smile, we hardly knew ye. Dylan is the ur-sphinx here. But still there are claims that some of his albums are v. personal. Is it braver to strum with heart put to sleeve? Or the narrative songwriter, like The Decemberists' Colin Meloy ... can we find him amidst the wags and swains of his erudite period pieces? Do we prefer our indie rock lyrics so far underground, populated by erstwhile pomo poets? Then again, what's the alternative ... emo?

(FOOTNOTE - BEYOND EMODOME ((Emodome is a palindrome)) the most "emo" song I've ever heard might be the Bee Gees' "I Started A Joke")

ENDING THE JOKE: A really ready model for this question of access / stylization is the stand-up comedian. I have said that Patton Oswalt is better than Galifianakis or Mitch Hedberg because he comes across in his monologues, they work from a sort of very familiar racounteurism. I don't know if he would agree, but he seems to be him. The other guys tell jokes, often one-liners. Funny things they thought of, not stories. To me, the analogy is that the Simpsons will always be a better show than Family Guy though Family Guy is funnier. On FG the stories are a place to hang the gags. And this divide plays out both ways with the titans of standup. Both Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor made material of their real lives and problems. Then again, Andy Kaufman made a kind of performance art out of never being there, all guises.

Who do we want them to be?

04 January 2008

Metaphoria #1

Today's Metaphor Challenge:


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MY ENTRY: Surgical Gloves - To carry something hazardous or potentially infectious from a foreign textual corpus, picking it up carefully at both ends and incorporating it in a sanitary manner. Conversely, to handle something precious and fragile with due care and to avoid infecting it in the handling.