While I Was Sleeping

While I Was Sleeping

A little dream interpretation for you. I haven't been remembering anything of my dreams for some time now. I used to and they were vivid and often hilarious (to me at least). Some may recall such classics as "Parker is the Eyemaster" and "Hope Next Year Is More Like Brazil." But those days of unconscious fecundity are gone. Since I no longer have access to them anymore, when one slips through and gets remembered, even in fragments, I might as well throw it out there for interpretation. Actually, this one is not all that complex, but I really have nothing else to say today.

It starts out on a rooftop in Ithaca, where I went to school. The people there are ones who I vaguely remember. Our time at school overlapped a bit, but they were all younger than me. I try to strike up conversation about people who played significant roles in my college experience, but they only mutter, "Oh yeah, him. I heard a him." Or, "Huh?" My nostalgia wanes.

After a while I go (or am instantly transported) to campus where I stand outside a classroom. Teaching inside is my graduate school advisor. He glances over to me and abruptly ends the class and skips over to me. My advisor, while being a rigorous and brilliant scholar, looks like Big Bird with a salt and pepper Jewfro. Skipping does not give his presence the proper intellectual heft. We walk towards his office and he begins trying to convince me to return to graduate school and continue my work in humorology. Now, I was not a terrible student and he is an excellent teacher, but the most considerable interest that he ever took in my academic work was to insure that I properly enunciated the umlaut in Max Müller's name. I don't think I ever did get it just right. But he kept asking me back, wanting me to continue this important work.

Now, while all of this is going on, my father suddenly appears sitting next to me on the couch in my advisor's office, eating a doughnut (powder a-flyin'), and telling me that we need to get to the San Diego airport
(dream logic got us to SD) even though I didn't have a flight out of there for hours. Eventually we left with me having pangs for academia, though I know that returning would be a horrible mistake. The dream ended with us driving around and around San Diego in a slowly tightening spiral until we reached the airport for my eight hour flight to NYC (five hours in the air + three hours lost to time zones).


How She Almost Became My Buggles (Part II)

How She Almost Became My Buggles:
The untold story of a lost debaclyptic segment

(Part II)

I’ll totally understand if you don’t like her. She’s not for everyone. She’s earnest and cute, but some of her lyrics are pretty adolescent, her modulation between soft girlish quaver and wildchild scream can be formulaic, and, as the ButterNugget fashion critic pointed out, her personal sense of style borrows a tad heavily from bike messenger chic. Hey, shut up. She’s my would-be imaginary girlfriend, not yours. You don’t have to imaginary date her.

Emma Louise “Scout” Niblett first came to my attention for the best reason of all: marketing. A silly name gets you places. And, by all accounts, Niblett is her real last name. Her music, I’ll admit, is not all that spectacular. Pretty minimalist. But I listen quite a lot. Most of the songs are just her on drums or guitar (or both – see pic 2 below) as she warbles and howls away. The comparisons are usually made to Cat Power, but since I only starting listening to Cat Power because I read that she sounded like Scout, I don’t find the resemblance too edifying.

Voila, Scout!

I think I’m a sucker for her lyrics. There are certain kinds of sappy, crappy images and phrasings that I am easy prey to. I think it’s commonly known as the Hair Metal Paradox – that seeming contradiction that causes the Youth Gone Wild to turn to mush when someone plays “I Remember You.” So when Scout serves up some cliché of young love (“And we drove across the bridge / And we missed the exit / For Treasure Island / But I was so excited / Just to be in your car / Oh fuck Treasure Island / Oh fuck Treasure Island") or makes some statement that is so matter-of-fact that it’s almost ridiculous (“And truth be told / I don’t recall / The moment you body became exquisite to me") I tend to listen. Why? Hmmmm. Why?

Though it’s probably best that I don’t, I have to admit that part of the attraction is also that her voice goes from shy schoolgirl to feral lithium patient at the drop of a hat. I know, I know. All you little Freuds out there can stop pointing me towards the couch, I'm well aware of all the perversions that come when the quiet girl next door meets Linda Blair. Keep in mind that Ms. Niblett is actually older than me. Why aren’t you calling that cradle robber a big ol’ howling perv?

Scout at Schuba's...playing guitar at the drums for some reason

Anyway… I’d like to add a bit about the actual show. I got to see Scout Niblett this past Friday at Schuba’s. Scout was good. Not great. Part of the problem was that it started slow (basically the first few songs she sang were the slower, non-screamy ones, plus the band right before her, Nethers, was slow, moody crap). When she finally sat down to the drums to sing “Pom Poms” ("Does anyone know a cute girl with some pom poms?/'Cos everyone needs someone to spell out their name" – move over Bob Dylan!), things started to pick up nicely. If the shitty ass mics didn’t keep going off it might have been awesome. I could have done without her shaggy, hippie occasional drummer who she introduced as Devendra. I think that was an inside joke of some sort.

A screamy one

For those of you who prefer freaky guys to petite bike messenger singers, the opening act was a sight to behold. Tim Fite can, I suppose, be described as alt-country with a hint of twangy rap. He sang moderately sensical songs about trying to find love and setting barns on fire because he heard the cows laughing at him. Real universal stuff. But it ain’t about the music.

His shtick was worth the price of admission. Tim is, well, the ButterNugget music editor said it best, Appalachian-looking. He played guitar and sang with movement and expressions that were so spastic and inbred that one wondered if it were possible for Joe Cocker and Sling Blade to have a lovechild.

See what I mean?

Meanwhile his brother sat on some milk crates and pressed buttons on a laptop. The laptop controlled video which was projected onto a screen behind them. The screen is where the awesome lived. The video clips were of Tim Fite sitting in a wheelchair on the far left of the frame in front of an empty white background. He was playing an instrument, guitar or keyboard depending on the song, and singing in synch with the song being played live. On the screen he incorporated all the tics and vacant stares of his moonshine-soaked autistic persona. Honestly, even though we were all worried that the Tim on screen might run off-camera and start banging his head against the wall, he was much easier to watch that than it was to stare too long at the in-person Tim Fite.

The prevailing theory was that this was pure performance art, especially considering that he seemed relatively normal when he was packing up his guitar and he carefully put on overalls over his ill-fitting, West Virginia Sunday-best suit immediately after leaving the stage. No matter. There was something about him that made his every move socially awkward and maximally disconcerting. Anyone who has seen the movie Chuck and Buck knows that kind of observer discomfort. Still, it was entertaining and I’d see him again. Just as long as he stays away from my imaginary rock star non-girlfriend.

Dapper Tim


A Sports Interlude

A Sports Interlude

I just want to congratulate the schools who made it to the Final Four in my Bracket: U Conn, Pittsburgh, Iowa, and Boston College. I don't care what the scores or the papers or reality say, you guys are the true winners. Thank you for showing us the true meaning of competition and for making me 100% successful in not picking the 2006 Final Four.


How She Almost Became My Buggles (Part I)

How She Almost Became My Buggles:
The untold story of a lost debaclyptic segment

(Part I)

Everyone likes regular features, right? Stuff that happens in cycles gives us something to look forward to. They make us feel safe because it proves the world is reliable. I, for instance, like the "Good Eating" section of the Chicago Tribune. Others like to be told about nutty things that Andy Rooney noticed during the week on 60 Minutes. Still others get all hot when their computer does its weekly virus scan. (“C’mon Norton, find those naughty, naughty viruses. Grrrrr.) So, I was going to do a regular segment on my blog. It was going to be called "Imaginary Rock Star Girlfriend of the Month." Regularly, I was going to gush absurdly about some female rocker who was supposed to be my temporary companion in a way that others would hopefully understand to be ironic and self-effacing. Or maybe they would interpret it as creepy, which would probably not be entirely unjustified.

Part of the reason this would-be stroke of genius never got started was that it is, at its heart, kinda pathetic and would likely be an impediment to finding a real live girlfriend. Worse still was the prospect that I would immerse myself in the feature so much that I would pull a Nurse Betty and drop the "imaginary" from "imaginary rock star girlfriend." To paraphrase a frequent farkism, jailarity might ensue.

The other thing that kept me from implementing this was the pressure that of course went along with picking the right woman to be the first Imaginary Rock Star Girlfriend of the Month. You know, the one who would set the tone of the feature and really make sure to set a true gold standard for all future honorees to aspire to. I know what you're saying, "evandebacle, if you are worried about setting a benchmark for the quality of your imaginary girlfriend, then maybe the priority you give to you life issues may not quite be in order." I say, "Maybe, but you clearly know nothing about the importance of firsts in American culture." When I was a kid I asked my father whether or not Jackie Robinson was chosen by the Brooklyn Dodgers to break the color barrier in baseball because he was the absolute best player available. The answer was "No." Robinson was an excellent player, to be sure, but he was, more importantly, tough enough to take the inevitable racist abuse and do it with enough composure and dignity to prove to the more ignorant corners of society that African-Americans could play in the white Majors.

MTV is another fine example. Choosing “Video Killed the Radio Star” as their premiere was prescient. Was the fact that “You Better Run” by Pat Benatar was the second video of any consequence? Fuck no. Though, at the time, she might have made an excellent Imaginary Rock Star Girlfriend of the month. No matter. I had my charge. I needed the right rockin’ lady to start things off right.

Narrowing it down was the tough part. All I knew was that it couldn’t be Stevie Nicks (inside joke alert). My first inclination was to go with Kathleen Hanna. She had been a pioneer with Bikini Kill and therefore could handle all the pressures and scrutiny which would surely follow the First Rock Star Girlfriend of the Month. I very much enjoy her music. What guy wouldn’t be want his best imaginary girl to sing him lines like “I hope the food tastes better in heaven / I know there's lots of rad queer boys up there.” Maybe that wasn’t the best one to choose. Hmmmm. Anyway, without objectifying her, which Ms. Hanna assuredly would not approve of, I will say that she is an attractive (and strong) woman. And, to give her some added cred, she is dating a Beastie Boy. As we all know, the Beasties provided young Jewish boys like myself with role models when we needed one the most. They saved us from a life of Woody Allen nebbishism. So KH seemed like a good choice. But maybe not a great one. Too obvious I thought.

Imaginary Rock Star Girlfriend of the Month hopeful Kathleen Hanna in her early days...before she knew crushing debaclyptic rejection

I also considered Karen O. of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. She’s a little bit more of the moment than Hanna. She is kinda sexy, in spite of the fact that almost every photo I’ve ever seen of her seems to capture her making herself as slutty and unattractive as possible. In the end, I felt that she would not carry the title gracefully. As I have said before, Karen O seems to be a “VH1’s Behind the Music” waiting to happen.

I ran through some others, but. my choice, it turned out, was a bit more obscure, a singer who a few people have heard of, but most hadn’t. And one who seemed to have a far more consistently positive spin on the world than some might expect from me. Cute and perky. Somewhat different on the fashion front, but altogether the right fit. Who is it? The answer when we return…


Kohl's Follow-Up

Kohl's Follow-Up

I neglected to mention that two of the premium wheelchair lines marketed by the company Colors in Motion and clearly aimed at the X-Games generation are the "Spazz" and "Spazz-G." ("No compromise. Ultra-Lightweight.
Ultra-Hip. Ultra-Adjustable. Ultra-Durable. Ultra-Affordable. Ultra-Positioning. Ultra-Stylish.") Given the slang usage of "spaz" to mean "from spastic, the disability," it seems that we have another derogatory inversion underway.

Also, I was informed by South Siiiide Morita that Kohl's may be appealing to residents of a nearby nursing facility, which she has heard referred to as "Cabrini Greenberg."


How Kohl's Rolls

How Kohl's rolls*

For no particular reason I have found myself inundated with portrayals of people in wheelchairs. This is not a bad thing per se. In fact, it wouldn't be a thing at all if it hadn't gotten so damned weird. The good news is that portrayals of para/quadriplegics, especially of young people who are wheelchair-bound, are much better than they used to be. Maybe I'm remembering incorrectly, but it always seemed that any early recollection that I have of any movie, television show, PSA, or educational poster which included anyone with a disability of any kind has that After School Special stench we all know well.

Luckily, with the new millennium we as a culture have learned that equal and fair treatment need not always go hand-in-hand with a stiflingly PC, everyone's-a-winner mentality. I actually first came to this conclusion with regard to portrayals of disabilities when I encountered the cartoonist John Callahan in junior high school. Callahan was left a quadriplegic after a car accident in the 1970's. Since then he has been all about the un-PC.

Don't worry I'll get to my point soon.

And then Murderball really did away with the "everyone's a winner" mentality by showing how much ass can be kicked from a wheelchair. Of course, I would make the argument that the presence of a zombie wheeling around outside of the Winchester pub in Shaun of the Dead is actually more revolutionary movie moment, but that is a debate for another day. The important thing is that Murderball is not simply a cinema depiction (and I'd hazard a guess that Shaun isn't either). Nope. As with everyone else who wants to be badass in our culture, the wheelchair-bound as free as anyone else to consume an Xtreme identity, and equally free to look ridiculous in doing so. If offer pimpin' your ride with wheelchair spinners are proof positive as that. But our freedom these days are, above all else, is the freedom to consume so why not? I just hope no one goes for the neon runner lights under the seat.

Now I get to the point, and I ask you all for help in explaining the following: what the fuck is going on in this picture. I was in a Kohl's department store last weekend when I came upon the scene below.

All I really want to know (and I could have posed this question without the rambling preface) is why is there a mannequin in a wheelchair? It's not a cool mannequin either. She's dowdy and she has a dowdy friend. Her chair isn't cool. It's a classic hospital emergency room model, black with "Kohl's" stenciled in spray paint on the back. How do they want the customer to react? Is there a care facility nearby and are they just catering to a very specific population? Does this mean that I can come back in a few months and see her parked in her chair sporting the fall line?

Please post any and all theories about this odd display.

*all apologies to Gwendolyn for basically stealing her title and topic


A Caveat Emptor Quickie

A Caveat Emptor Quickie

This may be the oddest buyer beware experience I've had. It was a friend's birthday this week and I figured that I had to get him a pretty decent gift since he is both a good friend and one who keeps me well-stocked with free stuff quite consistently. I decided on a rather grown up guy gift: a nice bottle of scotch. Scotch knowledge is not my strong suit, so I sought the advice of the round, messy-haired proprietor with the reddish Brimley-esque mustache and the big ol' wire glasses at the liquor store. I told him my requirements and he honed in.

"Glenfiddich is good for your price, but really The Balvenie is a great 12 year old for the value."

Awesome. As I whip out the plastic I am really, really pleased that my purchase is authentic-sounding even though I've never heard of it, which in turn is good since it makes it uncommon. Then, as my card is being swiped, my Single Malt Swami off-handed says, "Well, at least I've heard that one is good. I haven't used the stuff in 18 years...since I started taking lithium."

[sound effect of needle being dragged across a record]


Fred the Fucker

Fred the Fucker

This is one of those "I-read-the-news-today-oh-boy" posts. I had the distinct displeasure of checking the news online this morning and finding a story about my nominee for America's Most Revolting Human Being, Rev. Fred Phelps. For those not familiar with Reverend Phelps, he is the hate-mongering douche bag force behind God Hates Fags, the information vehicle of the Westboro Baptist Church. Phelps is also the organizer of the Church-sponsored ultra-compassionate caravan of homophobes who have spent 15+ years protesting the funerals of AIDS victims, hate-crime victims such as Matthew Shepard, and now those of soldiers who have been killed in combat fighting under the flag of out "fag-enabler" nation. In sum, GHF's is "dedicated to preaching the Gospel truth about the soul-damning, nation-destroying notion that 'It is OK to be gay.'" Time well spent I'm sure. Furthermore, regarding the catchy name, Phelps writes "'GOD HATES FAGS' -- though elliptical -- is a profound theological statement, which the world needs to hear more than it needs oxygen, water and bread." (Emphasis and effete tinting provided by me to highlight Rev. Phelps' world-class, restaurant-quality lunacy.) In addition to his nomination for America's Most Revolting Human Being, Mr. Phelps is nominated in the category of Best Adaptation of a Profound Theological Statement for a Redneck Bumper Sticker.

I will admit that I did find one part of his website interesting. Not surprisingly it's in the etymology section. Tucked neatly between his jibber and his jabber, he proffers a theory about the origins of "faggot" to refer to homosexuals. To the shock of all readers God, always ready with a bon mot, came up with it:

"I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord." Amos 4:11. The word translated "firebrand" is the Hebrew word "uwd," which comes from a Hebrew verb meaning "to rake together" (or, "to gather together"). In short, the Hebrew word "uwd" is talking about burning sticks of wood that are gathered together. That is what the English word "faggot" means. Amos 4:11 could just as easily be translated "...ye were as a faggot plucked out of the burning..."

Not a bad guess. Way to go Phelpsy! Of course, as soon as you click over to "Fag Facts" you get winners like:
  • Fags...19 times more likely to die in a traffic accident
  • Depending on the city, 39-59% of fags are infected with intestinal parasites like worms, flukes and amoebae, which is common in filthy third world countries
  • The median age of death of dykes is 45 (only 24% live past age 65). The median age of death of a married heterosexual woman is 79.
But does this really earn him my nomination for America's Most Revolting Human Being? There are plenty of bigots out there. He's not even a credible threat to people's rights on a large scale. After all, his church is composed of relatives and he's never going to lead the Christian Right in America spending his weekends protesting "the Old Dying Heretic Billy Graham." Plus, no one should be surprised anymore by the irony of using religion to promote hate. Hell, Phelps doesn't even pretend to be doing all this in the name of Christ's Love so it's not even that ironic. He comes right out and says that no one can be Christian while ignoring the hate of God in the Bible. Too bad "Christ is Love" is not up this year in that bumper sticker category. It would have made for quite a showdown.

No, I abhor this guy because, against my better judgment, I would love the opportunity to try to reason through his arguments with him. This would go poorly, of course, because I tend to be short with the stupid and illogical classes of our society. I would just get really angry and probably call him a decrepit retard who, while not actually a homosexual, is certainly vaguely titillated by the dark, godless world he imagines gays inhabiting, one where a firebrand may plucked out of the burning and inserted gently up his ass.




Since this blog is actually named for an Oscar-winning film, I guess I should throw out a few observations from last night's broadcast:
  • Jon Stewart's line about Oscar's Tribute to Montages was, hands down, the best observation of the night. Reading on in search of more acute insight is a waste of your time.
  • Can someone please take Jessica Alba to the zoo?
  • I couldn't get the notion out of my head that Michelle Williams' dress was made entirely of pickled daikon.
  • OK, I do have one comment about the montages. If the Academy would cut out just one montage, they could free up 30 extra seconds for screwballs like the guys who made March of the Penguins to make us all giggle.
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman was uncanny in Capote. Go watch him.
  • My only real disappointment was that Good Night, and Good Luck got shut out. Sure, Crash was an (kinda) unflinching look at the complexities of racism in America. I just happen to think that the country really needs to go see a movie that highlights the fact that the press wasn't always a brigade of ineloquent, ineffectual sensationalist pussies, too cowardly to scrutinize those in power.
  • But why end on angry note when we can take another look at Michelle Williams in her lovely gown by Dolce and Benihana?


Thick Description

Thick Description

These are a couple of thoughts inspired, though by no means about, a friend of mine. So before I start getting hate mail or death threats or simply called a jerkface, I want everyone (especially the person in question's significant other) to know that this entry is about language and togetherness. It is not about me objectifying select womanly part - though I admittedly may stray from my more noble intentions for the sake of a joke. Specifically, this is about the language used to describe females who are not naturally waifish, nor inclined to shoot up enough heroin and/or stick their fingers far enough down their throat enough times to simulate waifishness. Also I will not be making any judgements as to the content of trunk junk, nor will I attempt to formulate that sexiest of ratios of cushion-to-pushin'.

A friend of mine was recently told that she was "thick" but that this was fine because it meant that she was, in the most complimentary of senses, "juicy." That someone may be called "thick" is not all that interesting from a linguistic point of view, but juicy is because it's metaphorical and therefore reveals a web of cognitive associations. It should be pointed out that the giver of this succulent complement was African-American. This will have grand social and political implications by the end of this posting.

I began to wonder about encodings of full-figuredness in other languages and cultures. Naturally, I turned to good ol' Yiddish. Nobody is more aphorism- and analogy-happy than we Jews after all. Kvetching alone keeps us all way more linguistically vigorous than the average bear.

The logical term to consult was
zaftig. Urban dictionary (the semantic source for the sedentary surfer) offers four definitions and examples which are of varying usefulness and taste:

1. buxom; a woman with a well-developed figure
She was a zaftig, dewy-eyed lass.

2. Deliciously plump, or carrying your extra weight very well.
All the guys dig my big hips, my succulent boobs and my juicy avalanche behind. They freak out every time I say I'm going on a diet...

3. (Yiddish) plump and juicy
He's got a new zaftigah girlfriend.

4. Synonym for fat, chunky, beefish, large, plump, etc., often used in personal ads.
Single zaftig looking for fun or just tacos.

Well how 'bout dem juicy apples - look at #2 and #3! Turns out that zaftig comes from zaftik which literally means "juicy" and has its roots in the Middle High German saft which meant "juice or sap."

Now, I will grant that this linguistic parallel is not perfect and actually seems to refer to two distinct takes on femininity.
Zaftig is used more refer to women who are bosomy, thus representing the nurturing aspects of motherhood. "Juicy" seems to focus more on what common parlance currently calls "bootyliciousness." From this we can infer that, the African-American English term refers not to the nurturing liquid of mother's milk as representing by bosominess, but rather to the analogy of the posterior to a ripe fruit or melon and...Oh how should I put this?...a propensity for said fruit to yield natural reducers of copulatory friction. But let us not despair or succumb to distraction. There is common ground to be found.

What I am saying is that this is an opportunity for the Black and Jewish communities to come together. Yesterday I heard an interview with Bernard Henri-Levy, French (and absurdly French-sounding) intellectual and author of American Vertigo. One of the points he made about America was that, while political correctness is generally good in that it directly confront the encoding of racism and prejudice in language, it also has had the deleterious side effect of creating a culture of victimhood oneupsmanship. This is precisely what keeps Jewish and Black communities to work more closely to secure social justice. My Holocaust trumps your slavery. The Warsaw Ghetto is gone, but people still live in the decaying projects. Et cetera. Of course, this is nothing new. The powers that be, when they get tired of simple scape-goating, love to turn minorities against each other. But it needn't be that way.

So today, thanks to the common language, that Jews and African-American share, I am proposing to organize the Million Juice March. Blacks and Jews marching arm-and-arm. It worked for the Freedom Rides and voter registration; it can work now.