Friday, October 13, 2006

Hangin' Wit Ma Pepys

Are any of you at all familiar with Samuel Pepys' Diary? It's fantastic. For those of you who aren't familiar with him, Pepys (pronouced, "Peeps") was an English civil servant, naval secretary to the Admirality, and Member of Parliament in 17th Century London. He is best remembered for the diary that he kept from 1660 - 1669 in which he describes, first-hand, such historical events as the Second Anglo-Dutch War, the Great Plague, and The Great Fire of London. It makes for fascinating reading, and is a long-standing favorite of insufferable bookstore nerds like me, who have no girlfriends and no prospect of getting laid in the near future; who actually enjoyed Moby Dick and Walden and most likely talk to their cats. Anyhow, I was leafing through my illustrated Penguin edition of The Diary tonight while watching the Mets game, and I happened upon a passage that I felt moved to share with all of you.

7 October, 1663

They wrought in the morning and I did keep my bed; and my pain continued on me mightily, that I keeped within all day in great pain, and could break no wind nor have any stool after my physic had done working. So in the evening I took a coach to Mr. Hollyards, but he was not at home, and so home again. And whether the coach did me good or no I know not, but having a good fire in my chamber, I began to break six or seven small and great farts; and so to bed and lay in good ease all night, and pissed pretty well in the morning.

Now at this point it should be noted that Pepys had been out merrilee a-partying the night previous with one Mr. Deane and one Mr. Llewellyn, and was no doubt paying for his indulgences with a roaring hangover. He was also suffering from terrible sinus and nasal congestion, the result of "...a cold, which God Almighty in justice did give me while I sat lewdly sporting with Mrs. Lane the other day with the broken window at my neck." (27 September, 1663) It's a comfort to know, however, that a brisk evening carriage ride and a roaring fire are a practicable cure for beer gas, if somewhat outmoded and provincal.

Monday, June 12, 2006


Why is it that I loathe "urban fashion" with a passion usually reserved for child molesters, neo-conservatives, and the Yankees, and yet when a Japanese girl steps out of the house looking like this I'm so attracted to her that I feel like I just rediscovered that girls don't have cooties?

Look at her! I realize I'm about ten years too late, but can I take you to the prom?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Back From Sabbatical
Dear Me, Has It Been a Month?

A thousand pardons for the lack of posts over the past month. It's been quite a rollercoaster. As I'm sure many of you already know, I have recently started a new job back at the dear old Alma Mater, NYU, and am pleased to report that, aside from the addition of several new buildings, a handful of administrative restructurings, and one or two departmental re-namings, life at NYU remains the merry old humdrum of casual sporting, swilling Sherry and smoking cheroots with the Dons, singing madrigals, and lazilly punting on the East River that I remember so fondly. I am even informed that out men's basetball team finished a respectable 23rd in NCAA Division 16 this year; a figure sure to make the underclassmen at bold little upstarts like GMU quake and rattle in their Reeboks. Grim Grey Pallisades, indeed, George Mason. Beware the Violet storm...

At any rate, the whole experience has been rather consuming, as any new appointment is wont to be, and I've neglected this humble little patch of cyberspace for some time as a result. Well, as Douglas MacArthur once growled through a cloud of pipe tobacco smoke, "I have returned." Or something to that effect.

I just finished watching Oliver Hirschbiegel's "Downfall" (or "Der Untergang," to you German speakers out there). For anyone who doesn't use the "Best Foreign Film" segment of the Academy Awards as a chance to fire up a bag of microwave Kettle Corn, it was a nominee this past year along with "Tsotsi" and a few others. Although I wouldn't immediately recommend a film about the last weeks of WWII in Hitler's bunker as bedtime viewing (as I have just done...thanks Netflix), I can't say enough about the film itself. Really, realy excellent, and a bold departure for a German film industry that has historically shied away from Hitler portrayals for fear of any number of criticisms or reprisals.

I also found this passage today in Volume 7 of The Flasman Papers (I've touched on these before, with much praise), and it only goes to strengthen my belief that no one quite gets it like George MacDonald Fraser...

"You see, it's been the great illusion of our civilization that when the poor heathen saw our steamships and elections and drains and bottled beer, he'd realise what a benighted ass he'd been and come into the fold. But he don't. Oh, he'll take what he fancies, and can use (cheap booze and rifles, for example), but not on that account will he think we're better. He knows different." (Flashman and the Redskins, 1982)

Any writer who can get that idea across through a drunken, cowardly, womanising scoundrel of a protagonist (and for twelve volumes... and set in the mid 19th Century... and HUMOROUSLY) has got to be some kind of genius. And a timely genius, at that. I was pleased to see, last month, that Christopher Hitchens felt the same way.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Europe's Day of Reckoning

"Oh my goodness! There's a rather sizeable group of smartly-dressed, angry muslims in Picadilly! And they've brought signs! And they are chanting frightful slogans! And they are beckoning the downfall of Western culture! And they are threatening another 9... wait... what's that? Wha... 'YOUR 3/11 IS ON IT'S WAY?' Aaaahh hahahahahahahahahaha. Ha ha. Ha. Ha. Ahhhhhh hahahhahaha. Silly extremists. 3/11 is just TAX season. In America."

Keep laughing, Europe. When a highly organized sleeper cell of terrorists actually DOES unleash the relentless fury of 311's frat-friendly, Neraska rap-rock in your cities, we'll see who's laughing.

Remeber, you were warned.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Dear Ladies:

In my several years of book retail experience, I have become well aware of the near-rock star status afforded to those who, in the face of low wages, lack of social mobility, and absence of health insurance, bravely man the cluttered, Post-It littered counters of independent book outlets across America, driven by the belief that literature is a social, democratic animal and a conviction that the workplace is still an appropriate setting for playing old Spencer Davis Group records. It is a status that I am comfortable with, and one that, to a greater or lesser extent, I have exploited throughout the years, as the mood fits. Only egomaniacal creeps, the self-obsessed, and Vincent Gallo self-apply the "sex symbol" identity. However, if one happens to find themselves wearing those shoes as a vocational write-in, well, best to simply run with it, and enjoy fortnue's rewards gratefully. Especially if, as is the case with my store, the degree of regular female attentions is heightened to Jimmy Page-like proprtions by virtue of the fact that there are only two males on the entire staff. However...

I must state outright (and my co-worker Mike agrees with me here) that it is wholly unnecessary to deposit your frilly, crotchless negliges before our counter as a calling card before leaving the store. This is not the Copacabana, we are not in Las Vegas, and I am not Julio Iglesias (and, in spite of his dashing, Latin-American visage and exotic whiskers, nor is Mike). I understand that our presence can at times be intimidating, for it isn't every day that one finds themselves in the company of a real, honest-to-god bookstore clerk, but I would like to take this opportunity to shed the larger-than-life mythology for a moment and assure you that, behind the horn-rim glasses, Chuck Taylor All-Stars, and Sick Of It All pins, we are, in fact, an affable pair of honest Joes who enjoy a cold beer and an exchange of phone numbers as much as the next guy.

Not that we aren't flattered, of course.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

To Arms, Men of Conscience!

Like all cynics, I am occasionally given to spontaneous episodes of optimism and cheeriness, cracking a grin and simply radiating my good natured bonhomie upon the populace, thank-you-very-much-and-same-to-you-sir. Sometimes they last a little while; the duration of cup of coffee, a chat with a pretty girl, a nice walk to the train, catching "Over The Top" on TBS, what have you. It's pleasant, really, and that's why I'm always so put-off when something DASHES that private little euphioric morsel of contentedness into flotsam like a foundering East Indiaman off the Tierra Del Fuego.

A couple days ago I was experiencing one of these quick bursts of emotional lunch & recess. I had run out to grab a bite to eat and, returning to my store, saw that my friend Rebecca had holiday-themed the center of our window, making little hearts out of corrugated cardboard and wrapping paper and tacking them all over a collection of sensual massage primers and tantric sex guides. Aw. Thoughtful, somewhat irreverent (for the Battery), and subtly subversive, I loved it. I had already made up my mind to not become one of those emotional midgets who, finding themselves single in February, stamp and brood and rail against the entire institution of love and emotional exclusivity. They're a miserable lot, hardly worth talking to, really. At any rate, I sat down to enjoy my soup and leaf through this week's Time Out NY, and within ten minutes I had made it to page 18, where I discovered this little nugget of proof positive that there is, in fact, a Lucifer, and he is hard at work...

Objectivist Dating Service

As if it's not already sufficiently horriying that Ayn Rand devotees have etched out a little corner of the electronic public square for themselves (assuming that such developmentally stunted rascals are capable of maintaining a functionally social existence), they now have an open strategy for proliferation. It's enough to give me the shakes. Honestly, if you are at all in the mood to indulge in a bit of emotional sado-masochism in the near future, I highly recommend creating a login for this site and thumbing through this laundry list of winners. I couldn't help but think, "This isn't a dating's a government watch list that hasn't yet realized itself!"

Turns out there's a lot of this stuff out there, so I investigated. For a somewhat less unsettling chuckle, check out some of the Rhodes Scholars on Conservative Match. "Sweethearts, Not Bleeding Hearts." Incredible. What American Dream could possibly complete without a Chechen war bride? Why none, thanks to Chance For Love. A personal favorite of mine was Adult Discreet, an online resource for those married adults looking to explore adultry. Rotten with leprosy? Never fear, my oozing, ulcerous friend! Medical Love Connection has got you covered. You can't make this stuff up.

Regrettably, none of these intriguing websites provided me the Heloise to my winsome Abelard, and thus I will most likely be spending my Valentine's Day at the Palace, participating in warm Budweiser toasts and air guitarring to Slayer songs. Not so bad, I suppose, in the grand scheme of things at least.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Telling It Like It Is

This morning Murph texted me, "Do you hate 'telling it like it is?'" in response to a post-Superbowl barroom chat we had last night. I responded, yes, because more often than not, I don't agree that that is, in fact, how it is. Almost universally. Now, of course, some things are irrefutably "like it is." The sun rises in the East. That's just how it is. Johnny Damon has signed with the Yankees. That's just how it is. I am underpaid and undervalued at my dead-end job. That's just how it is. Usually, though, folks who invoke the "like it is" clause are apt to be qualifying one of their paranoid, uninformed conjectures that usually features some degree of bigotry and, often as not, outright violence. You know who I mean.

"No no, I mean, it's just a fact that Hollywood is controlled by gays, man. And they're trying to make your kids gay, as well. I mean, don't...hey man, I mean, I'm just telling it like it is."

"Man, seriously, I mean the whole Iraq thing, it's just... Seriously? We should just NUKE 'em, you know? Just nuke 'em. 'Cause they're never gonna...what? Oh come on, I mean, hey, I'm just telling it like it is."

Thank you. For that. Why you are not making six figures in a beltway think tank is beyond me, because you could really be an asset; an as-yet untapped reserve of decisive, Machiavellian straight shooting that our current political discourse is sorely lacking. And such colorful language, too!

"Telling it like it is" is also the cancer du jour of comedy right now, and I think that's a damn shame. It used to be props. Then giant sledgehammers. Now it's "tellin' it like it is," and what a loss. The moment a comedian defends his or her own work as "just telling it like it is" they cease to be a comedian. Period. End of story. The creative choice to not apologize, not pander, and not qualify what one says is the thin red line between performance and punditry (long may it hold fast). Richard Pryor was a great comedian. Lenny Bruce was a great comedian. Two of the most unapologetic performers to ever take the stage, and that made them visionary. Hell, Rodney Dangerfield MADE A CAREER of telling it like it is, but, in his simple brilliance, never needed to EXPLAIN that to his audience. He just smoked weed and made Caddyshack.

Anyway, the rest of the day was mind-numbingly dull, so I had a chance to mull this idea over in my head, and after a quick coffee run to Dunkin Donuts, gears began to mesh, and the distinction between "like it is" and "I am full of shit" began to come into focus. "But Jeremy!" you may say, "doesn't the suggestion that a 26 year old, single, insecure, underemployed poltroon like yourself knows how it is betray a certain degree of underlying hypocrisy?" Absolutely. But it's my damn blog. What are you, from The Smoking Gun? Here goes...

Like It Is
  • Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, and Rodney Dangerfield: all dead.
  • Old man winter has returned to New York City. Brrr.
  • Il Divo, Jaime Foxx, and POD are all on the Billboard Top 10. *shudder*
Maybe Like It Is
  • The Pittsburg Steelers have won the Superbowl 21-10. Sure, a well played game, but I still don't think Roethlisberger got the ball into the endzone, and there were a couple of erroneous holding calls on Seattle that sour the whole thing.
  • The Pogues will not have killed eachother or drank themselves to death before I go see them on March 18th. Dooooon't stop... belieeeeeeeving...!
  • I am considered "cool" by my peers.
Definitely Not Like It Is
  • Hollywood is controlled by a cabal of homosexuals, Jews, and communists who conspire with Al Qaeda to undermine your family values, strain your moral fibers, take away your Hummer, and make you watch Brokeback Mountain.
  • She's totally going to call me back.
  • Funny: