Wednesday, December 16, 2009

If There's a God, He's Embarrassed And It's No Secret Why

For Halloween this year, I decided to be pop-culture savvy and abandon my traditional "walk of shame" costume (short shorts, oversized t-shirt, messy hair and smeared makeup -- it's easy and fun!) and go as Kate Gosselin. That's my dear friend Alex on the right, as Jon (complete with Ed Hardy shirt.)

It was a funny costume, mainly because anyone who has seen me and Alex interact for extended periods of time can draw parallels between us and the Gosselins. But there's something to be said for the fact that Jon and Kate have pervaded the public mindset so much that they've been reduced to Halloween costumes. Trying to pull this costume together, I Googled "Kate Gosselin wig" and got 6 million hits. When your hairstyle is a national inside joke, you know something's wrong.

The Gosselins and their probably deeply disturbed brood are part of a phenomenon that my COMM 411H class likes to call "humilitainment" -- entertainment based solely on someone else's embarrassment. Humilitainment is nothing new -- after all, laughing at other people's foibles and falls from grace is about as human as it gets -- but these days it's everywhere, from the horrible audition episodes of American Idol to the Numa Numa dance to Mark Sanford's delightfully batty press conference confessing his infidelity.

In a lot of ways, the media is to blame for the pervasiveness of humiliation-fueled entertainment -- they basically capitalize on one of our basest instincts by offering up a heaping platter of shows featuring people so depraved they make us feel better about ourselves. At least we're not overweight train wrecks with poor singing skills and failed marriages, we say to ourselves. At least we're not as stupid as Paris Hilton or as messed up as the addicts on "Intervention."

I'm not sure what the solution to humilitainment is. I'm not sure if there is one, if only because watching people make fools of themselves is a grand tradition that would require a collective worldwide effort to stop. I do think that shows that really capitalize on human failure -- like "Jackass" and dreck like "Charm School" -- are unnecessary. If reality television is what we need to prove to ourselves that we're better than the unwashed masses, maybe we're not so much better than them after all.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? Solutions? Post 'em in the comment section, please.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Africa: Where Chris Matthews went on vacation this summer; also where he served when he was in the Peace Corps. See YOUR BOSS'S PERSONAL LIFE, CREEPY KNOWLEDGE OF.

My partner in crime, fellow indie-rock obsessive, and, among other things, the other half of the esteemed Collegionnaire scavenger-hunt team. See RIDICULOUS NEW YORK ADVENTURES, ENABLERS OF.

Babies, fat:

Banana chips: I ate a pack a week. See SCURVY, WAYS OF AVOIDING.

I never do it. See FAILURES, MINOR.

Brighton Beach:
Where a.) I was handed Shabbos candles by adorable Jewish men who beamed when I told them I was Catholic b.) everyone speaks Russian to the level where you feel like a foreigner c.) you can purchase an entire fish on a plate for lunch.

Bronx, the:
So gritty! So oddly quiet! Granted, I only saw about four blocks

Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
what I watch on rainy nights in and when I feel like ogling David Boreanaz. Which is to say, always.

Checking out:
I don't want to talk about it. See ERAS, ENDS OF.

Cheri: The worst bad movie you will ever see. See FAILURES, MAJOR.

Cyclone, the: Wooden roller coaster in Coney Island. See DEATH MACHINES, TERRIFYING.

Dancy, Hugh: I engaged in some mild creeping at a movie screening; he is as charming as you would expect. See HUSBANDS, FUTURE.

Earth Room, the: the most pointless modern art installation ever, because it is a.) literally nothing more than a room full of dirt and b.) closed for the summer.

Gramercy Park: Being a scruffy undergraduate/resident of anywhere besides the park itself, I am not allowed in and have to content myself with skulking outside its gates with the other plebeians on the sidewalk. Damn and blast. See DREAMS, CRUSHED.

Governor's Island: Good for a.) pretending you go to a New England liberal arts school b.) pretending you live in a post-apocalyptic nightmare world. c.) riding bikes without having to worry about being run over by taxis and such.

Hannigan, Lisa: Adorable-to-the-point-of-absurdity Irish singer-songwriter who puts on shockingly soporific concerts. See DISAPPOINTMENTS.

Hardball with Chris Matthews

High Line, the: Take a railroad trestle that runs straight through Manhattan, above the streets. Abandon the railroad trestle. Turn it into a giant park of awesome. Welcome to the High Line.

Kent Avenue:
Desolate street by the river in Brooklyn, home to an obscure concert venue, mysterious graffiti, and the scariest building you will ever see.

Lower East Side Tenement Museum, the: Learn about Irish immigrants; feel horrible for complaining about your closet of a dorm room. See GEEKERY, HISTORY-STYLE.

Mahmoun's Falafel:
Legendary falafel shop on McDougal Street that sells falafel sandwiches for $2.50; where I, invariably, eat on the weekends. See THE GODS, FOOD OF.

Because sometimes you end up at random hipster parties on (where else?) Kent Avenue that are inexplicably raising money for dogs who need surgeries. See DECISIONS, QUESTIONABLE.

Nutini, Paolo:
He's a Scottish singer-songwriter and he's on CRACK. His concerts are also entirely populated by tools who dance into you as you attempt to decipher his lyrics.

Our Lady of St. Carmel, Feast of: Cause of adorable street festivals in Brooklyn centered around, inexplicably, a giant rotating pillar with an entire Italian band on it, carried by a hundred men. See CATHOLICISM, WHY IT IS AWESOME.

I am really, really terrible at it. See FAILURES, UNMITIGATED.

PATH train:
I hate it and it hates me, by being confusing and slow and taking me to Jersey City when I wanted to go to Manhattan.

Potter, Harry:
Still as addictive as ever. Thanks, J.K. See OBSESSIONS, JUVENILE, UNABASHED.

Rain, preventing of:
Theory: if I bring my umbrella everywhere, the weather will remain consistently gorgeous, without fail.

Roofs: Parties are better on top of them. Also, the rooftop view in Brooklyn is the best thing you'll ever see.

Room, the:
The best bad movie you will ever see. Also, Cameron Diaz is a fan.

Scavenger hunts: When they include items such as "a baby in a hat," you know it's a good one.

Sea Isle City: Adorably touristy Jersey shore town; where I have spent two weeks of every summer since I was seven (with maybe two exceptions). See TRADITIONS.

Summer: This one's almost over.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Songs on Repeat: I'm Awake, At Last, Awake

It's weird writing a music post on a day like today, but since I don't actually listen to Michael Jackson on repeat (sorry, big guy), I don't feel too qualified to talk about his impact on my life, which is limited mainly to several disastrous attempts at moonwalking and being freaked out in general by his nose.

I will say one thing, however. The man could dance.

Moving on.

I was going to start off with something along the lines of "there are few songs that make me want to burst into spontaneous dancing," but this is not true. There are hundreds of songs that make me want to bust a move on subway platforms and such, but Bishop Allen's "Rain" is high at the top of that list.

Obviously, that lovely little bongo-drum-thing going on in the background has a lot to do with the whole dancing thing, but I am embarrassingly obsessed with Bishop Allen for a reason, and that's largely because all of their songs have a very carpe-diem kind of quality to them. It's why I play them when I'm trying to wake up in the morning and when I'm heading out to random indie shindigs and when I'm driving with the express purpose of getting lost. More than almost any other band I know, they manage to capture the sort of excited uncertainty that comes with being young and broke and in the middle of a massive city, which is more or less my summer right now. In short: well done, boys.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesday Newsday: Can't Keep It In

Twitter and I have sort of a love-hate relationship, mainly because my life is usually not interesting enough to lend itself to minute-by-minute microblogging (although this does not appear to deter almost everyone else on Twitter). However, I have to give it props today, because it's part of the reason Iranian protesters have managed to organize massive demonstrations over the country's disputed presidential election for the past two days.

Reading some of the posts from Iranians on Twitter makes me feel like the most vapid person in the world. My most recent Twitter entries are on spotting Rob Pattinson outside my dorm yesterday, while the latest missives from Tehran are on violence and arrests and protests. It's scary stuff, but it's also pretty cool to follow what might be a revolution in the making.

"Citizen journalism" is not one of my favorite concepts, mainly because over here, actual journalists do it better (and more ethically, Mayhill Fowler). But in a country where the press has been banned from reporting on the streets, where foreign journalists' press credentials have been revoked, where the government is reportedly starting to crack down on electronic media, citizen journalism might be Iran's last best hope.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

One By One All Day

I think I've written about five of these sort of apologetic posts since I started this blog, but because I a.) live in New York (well, temporarily) and b.) have a job (albeit unpaid), I am chalking my failure at blogging and life up to sheer busyness (yes, that is a word) and the following factors:

30 Rock. I work here. Bam.

Beaton, Kate. The reason I want to go to Canada as soon as possible/the reason I feel better for obsessing over obscure historical personages. Stalkee at my comics convention this weekend.

Blogging. What I do while I wait for my laundry to dry.

Boats, rowing across gorgeous lakes in upstate New York of. See WHY LIFE IS WORTHWHILE.

Broadcast personalities, the spotting of. So far, six.

Brooklyn, New York. Sometimes shadesville, always classy.

Comic and Cartoon Art, Museum of. Facilitator of the dorkiest thing I have done this summer, which is attend an indie comics convention, stalk down all my favorite webcomics artists, and freak out accordingly. See GEEKERY.

Decemberists, the. Best hyper-literate prog-rock indie-pop folk quintet around and apparently now powerful enough to sell out Radio City Music Hall Wednesday night for a concert of epic proportions. See SPASMODIC DANCING, CAUSES OF.

Goddard Hall. We have an elevator made out of plywood. Seriously. See RESIDENCE, PLACES OF.

Lemon, Liz. I am still secretly hoping to run into her. See IMPOSSIBLE DREAMS.

Manhattan subway system, the. I told a tourist how to get to Times Square the other week. See PRETENDING TO BE A NEW YORKER.

Maps of New York. Mine has disappeared.

Matthews, Chris. Technically, my boss, although I see him about once every few weeks because he films out of Washington and my internship is with Hardball's production team in New York. Drinks black coffee. Knows my name now, which is sweet.

Meconis, Dylan. Indie webcomic goddess and author of the brilliant Family Man. I met her last weekend, and it was fabulous.

MGMT, music videos of. Getting me through the week. See WILLIAMSBURG, THE ENTIRE POPULATION OF.

Mohonk Labyrinth, the. The most frightening thing I have ever done. See MOUNTAINS, CLIMBING OF and TERRIFYING DEATH CREVICES, SQUEEZING ONESELF THROUGH.

Novels, the reading of. Makes you look cooler on the subway.

Philadelphia Phillies, the. Who destroyed the Mets this week? Oh, right. See BASEBALL, THE DOMINATION OF.

Rain, the abundance of. It's June, not April. Come on. See APOCALYPSE, WEATHER OF THE.

Topic banners, the writing of. My job last week at Hardball. I am responsible for such gems as "The Looming Confirmation Battle" and "What's Next for the GOP?"

Village, the. Best place in the world. Besides Brooklyn. And Philly.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

These Brooklyn Stars Are Small And Strange

On my "things I enjoy about life" list, getting free crap is pretty high up there. This has generally resulted in my accumulation of a lot of useless items (I have more commemorative lanyards than I know what to do with) and a few good ones (I still wear t-shirts from random high-school volunteer projects).

This sort of thing tends to run in my family; my dad's favorite pastime at baseball games, besides keeping score with me, is to sign up for credit card offers that he immediately cancels, just to get the free t-shirts and tote bags they hand out once you sign up.

So when my friend Alex suggested going to a giant exchange of free stuff in Brooklyn today, the idea was just too good for me to pass up. So I took the F train out to Carroll Street, promptly got lost, wandered around the adorableness that is the Carroll Gardens neighborhood, concluded I will live there forever, and finally ended up where I was supposed to be, at BKLYN Yard's Score, said free crap extravaganza.

As an aspiring hipster, BKLYN Yard is pretty much my natural home. It's essentially a lot right on the Gowanus canal, with corrugated-tin garages and overgrown grass and that whole faded-industrial-glory vibe. Score featured everything from cheap tacos to piles and piles of retro clothing to ancient cassette tapes to broken record players. There was also a book section, which pretty much made my day.

People-watching is also pretty high on my aforementioned list, and BKLYN Yard pulled through on those counts, too. From the standard hipster boys in sweater vests and Chucks to the woman wearing a bumblebee costume (there is photographic evidence of this somewhere, I swear), it was a good day all around.

I made out pretty well in terms of actual free swag, too. I don't like shopping very much unless I have something specific in mind, but I can spend hours going through piles of random free stuff, which proved pretty successful at Score. I am now the proud owner of two new sweaters, some ironically ancient t-shirts, a pair of stripey shorts, a few artsy prints, a pile of books that should last me through the summer, and this piece of utter brilliance:

Yes we can.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesday Newsday: The Start of Something

Remember that shot from the opening credits of 30 Rock, where they zoom up the front of the GE Building in Rockefeller Center while jaunty music plays in the background? At some point, that shot likely goes past my window on the fourth floor, which, predictably, excites me to no end.

I've been making a valiant effort over the last few days to not gush too much about where I'm working this summer, but I am giving up all pretenses now because there's just no point anymore. 30 Rock (yes, they actually call it that) is just too awesome. For starters, it's just nice to be back in a newsroom -- any newsroom -- and the Hardball offices are pretty sweet. I get to swipe into the office with my official MSNBC intern badge (my ID comes complete with the worst picture of me ever taken), I have a computer with two monitors that will never cease to amaze me, and I get to walk past various tourists on the way up pretending I am Very Busy And Important. Score.

I've been a print journalism devotee for as long as I can remember, so trying out broadcast is daunting but really, really interesting. The deadlines are earlier -- instead of going to print at 2 a.m., we're on the air at 5 p.m., which can get harrowing but is kind of exciting. Mostly, though, broadcast is about collaboration -- with producers, anchors, tech people, camerapeople, and so on. A newspaper story goes through a long chain of editors before it goes to print. Getting a broadcast story on the air is not so linear -- it's like a giant web of people, all contributing to the same product at the same time. As evidenced by my terrible attempts at metaphors, I don't understand a lot of it, but I'm getting there.

When I'm not geeking out over the journalism-y goodness of it all, I have been keeping my eyes peeled for the famous ever since I found out that Saturday Night Live films a few floors above us and Brian Williams' office is a floor below me. (Hardball's own Chris Matthews films, unfortunately, from Washington.)

When you spend most of the year in central Pennsylvania, just being in the vicinity of television royalty is pretty damn exciting. And since random awkward encounters with broadcast personalities are kind of my thing (it's how I got this internship, after all), it's about time I started initiating awkward water-cooler conversations with my more famous NBC brethren. Lorne Michaels, you have been warned.