In May of 2008, You Learned:
SKIP IT - ACRONYM JOKES.
There are certain things that serve as irresistible bait for would-be jokers, and yet they have a proven track record of producing exactly zero laughs exactly 100% of the time. That's why I say "skip it."
Ever find yourself in a room with a bunch of people, often at work, and you stumble across a mysterious acronym? Someone will recite the acronym and wonder, "what does that mean?" The instant this happens, a weird silence usually falls over the room as everyone revs up their minds, racing to be the first to construct a goofball interpretation of the acronym. Then someone will blurt one out, and soon all the remaining quickwits will follow with their own version. AND NONE OF THEM WILL BE FUNNY.
Or, rather, I should say, they will be funny if you are the type of person who finds the following things uncontrollably funny:
- Mad Libs
- The card game, "Apples to Apples" (or, as I like to call it, The Enron of Party Games)
- Click and Clack
- Whose Line is it Anyway?
When an acronym is dropped on a group, I often sit back and remain quiet, knowing I am not going to contribute to this forthcoming disaster, while also bracing myself for the loud, animated death march that is sure to follow. Rounds of acronym humor give me the same stomach sickness I experience when I am trapped in a room full of musical theater enthusiasts. It's never a pleasant ride, and it's rarely a short one.
I see the appeal. There's bound to be something funny one could make out of an acronym like AHTFA, right? Wrong. Here's what you can make out of AHTFA: a bunch of silly words combined with no logic or context. In other words, comedy for toddlers. So please skip it.
p.s. Sorry if I seemed over Andy Rooney-esque here, and to show I'm not totally intractable, I would challenge you to prove me wrong. Create a joke based on what the acronym "AHFTA" stands for, send it to me, and I will (probably) post it here for all to see!
GUEST WRITER, UPDATE #3.
I had a sobering day today. After arriving home from a relaxing, Internet-free Memorial Day holiday yesterday, I checked tremble.com, eager to see what wisdom and musings my esteemed guest writer had contributed over the long weekend. (As regular readers of this site probably know, I was experiencing some "reliability issues" with my first guest writer, and trying to keep a cool head.) When I discovered the site had gone fallow since my last post, to say I was disappointed would be a great understatement. I was livid, and I quickly dashed off an emotionally-charged email, which I'm reprinting here only in the interest of full disclosure:
Hey, dawg. It's me. If the appearance of this email in your inbox filled you with a small measure of dread, and you're now reading it with a shameful flush prickling your skin, I will take that to mean you are not completely selfish and unreliable.
I am not one of those Hollywood suck-ups with whom you typically surround yourself so I am not going to put on a veneer smile, pat you on the back, and pretend everything's cool. It is far from cool, dawg. I feel angry and, more than that, I feel betrayed. It was your idea to do the guest writing thing, not mine; you reached out to me on Facebook, if you'll remember. Of course I was going to say yes--I've been a huge fan since TWWW--but now I look like a fucking idiot. I sang your praises on this site, and hyped you up considerably, and you couldn't even post a 50-word entry about your long film career, the Presidential election, the last episode of Top Chef, the huge shit your labradoodle dropped today, or whatever other pendantic shit occupies your mind throughout the day. Honestly, it wouldn't have mattered. Readers would have seen your name there, and that would have been reward enough. But you couldn't be bothered to do that, could you?
If you have a good explanation for this, I'd love to hear it because right now I feel like you totally douched me out, bro.
I was obviously not in total control of my emotions and, especially given the circumstances, I kind of regretted sending that email when I read it back later. However, I didn't regret it nearly as much as the email I sent a few hours later, when I still hadn't received a reply from him:
Are you hiding from me? You can't seriously be hiding from me right now, you fucking coward. You fucking weak, pathetic, passive-aggressive old man. It's one thing to be unable to fulfill your (infinitesimally small) commitment to this web site--one I needn't remind you that you made of your own free will--but to add an atomic dick-punch to injury by refusing to defend (yeah, right) or even acknowledge your obvious mistake…well, that's just unconscionable.
Are you familiar with the Yiddish term, "mensch?" I'm guessing you've probably heard it before, perhaps at one of your rich Hollywood Jew parties, and surely in reference to someone else. A mensch is a stand-up guy; a decent man i.e. the furthest thing in the world from you, you bedwetting, menstruating man-child.
If you were thinking of replying now, don't bother. In fact, lose my email address. Then, if you have any free time, I suggest you do the following:
1. Grab a hand mirror and use it to take a hard look at your withered vagina.
2. Slam your head in a limousine door until you sustain a Regarding Henry degree of brain damage, enough to help you regain your long-lost humanity.
3. Finally, upon arriving at the epiphany-like conclusion that now is the time to make amends with all the people you've mistreated, ignored, or disappointed over the years, eat a bullet.
Made of Honor? More like Made of Diarrhea. Nice legacy. Maybe you could use the blood money you earned from that role and hire a personal assistant to fulfill your guest blogging obligations.
You are dead to me,
Obviously, in light of recent events I learned only this morning, I am deeply, regretfully sorry about what I assure everyone was an honest and harmless over-reaction of sorts. And please let this post serve as a solemn tribute to a man for whose work I have only the greatest respect:
GUEST WRITER, UPDATE #2.
Ugh. OK, I have to confess this is getting a little embarrassing. My guest writer left me a lengthy voicemail yesterday morning apologizing for missing his start date, and assured me there would be a post from him on the site by 8pm P.S.T. yesterday. When I woke up this morning, incredibly eager to see what he'd written, all I saw was my previous post apologizing for his absence. Then I checked my cell phone, and found this txt message:
: ( so sorry dood. things r hectic. had 2 jet 2 burgundy last-minute. no wi-fi. u know how it is. look 4ward 2 getting startd 2day. peace.
If you're feeling frustrated, try to imagine how I feel about this. Fortunately, I do have his word and I don't have any reason not to expect a post today, so I can finally take a break from updating tremble.com and catch up on some much-neglected personal business. Hang in there, and thanks for your patience.
[Update: my guest editor had to push back a day because of some scheduling conflicts. I received the following txt message an hour ago: "doin a dbl 2day baller. bizness. 2morrow mos def. out." So, tomorrow?]
I am about to do something at tremble that I've never considering doing before: I'm going to be handing the site over to its first guest writer.
Guest writers are something I've often enjoyed on other single-author websites like kottke.org, but I've always been reluctant about trying it myself. I get a little protective about this site's voice because I've spent so many years meticulously shaping it, and then abandoning it for many months, and I worry about diluting or perverting the Tremble™ brand. What if my guest writer emphasizes his jokes with three exclamation points, instead of the signature seven I typically employ? Or what if the writer gets all bitchy about the wrong movies, or gets all excited about the wrong kinds of candies? Knowing that certain editorial decisions will be out of my hands is a little stressful to me, but after being contacted by this individual who casually suggested dropping in for a brief guest writing spot on tremble, I was honestly too floored to react with anything but an emphatic "YES!" This person has had an incredible year, and I'm simply honored he was able to find time for me.
OK, I will try to resist saying much else about it because I don't want to generate an impossible-to-fill reservoir of hype. Suffice it to say, beginning tomorrow this site will (at least temporarily) possess an unusually generous amount of gravitas.
ART HISTORY KNOWLEDGE GAP.
As of today GAP is offering a new line of artist-designed t-shirts, in honor of this year's Whitney Biennial show. The hook is, all of the famous artists who designed these t-shirts were at one time Biennial artists themselves. Hear that, 2008 Biennial artists? Some day, if you really make it, you might get to design a t-shirt for GAP. (Also, I have just about had it with The Gap wanting us to call it GAP. Why so special, The Gap?)
Because I strictly adhere to all of the expectations placed on my demographic, I first learned of this The Gap (icy burn!) promotion via the back cover of this week's New Yorker Magazine. (The New Yorker? What is it with everyone?) The issue's back cover was devoted to a full-page ad featuring Chuck Close, the Professor Xavier of New York's art world, wearing a self-designed The Gap t-shirt. I am a big fan of both Chuck Close and cotton, so I decided right away I was gonna buy that joint. And while I was at it, I bought the Barbara Kruger design, too, because she GETS IT. I did not purchase the Kenny Scharf-designed t-shirt but I do appreciate that he's using this The Gap partnership to help raise awareness for growing epidemic of cowboys with AIDS:
It's rare that The Gap does anything I'd consider interesting or cool--they are the only store I can think of that would sell Relaxed Fit Skinny Jeans--but I was genuinely impressed with this particular partnership. They're promoting the arts, and promoting good design. (Not you, Scharf.) It would just be a little cooler if they actually knew a bit more about art or the artists, as evidenced in their description of this pretty famous Chuck Close painting:
Here's how they describe the painting:
Hey, guess what, The Gap? That is actually a portrait of Philip Glass, someone Close has painted more than twenty times in the last forty years. That is probably why all of those paintings are titled, "Phil," instead of "self-portrait" or "Chuck" or "Me" or "What Has Two Thumbs And Loves Large-Scale Polaroids, Grids, And Philip Glass? THIS GUY." Oh, The Gap, I hope you have insurance because I just burned your website to the ground.*
*Says the person who is so pretentious he sees no problem busting The Gap's online copywriter on the depth of his knowledge of modern art history.
HOME TOWN FEELING.
Decided to spend this beautiful spring day lunching alone at Five Guys Burgers and Fries' West Village location. (Repping Barrow Street, y'all.) I even made the bold move of eating at one of those loner stools facing the sidewalk, where patrons are welcome to slowly chew their cud while gazing longingly out the window, like some kind of sad sack from an Edward Hopper painting. (Chubby Nighthawks at the Diner) From this vantage point, I was able to spend my lunch observing a very large group of high school kids (about 30-35 by my count) and a handful of adult chaperones herded together on the corner, and the crazy homeless man who was terrorizing all of them.
The crazy homeless man was creating quite a spectacle, kind of a specialty among crazy people. He was directing traffic (thanks, citizen!) and panhandling with the help of a cardboard sign engineered with multiple flaps that can be lifted and lowered in order to create a kind of shifting, extended narrative with multiple punchlines. For example, the message might read: "Spare some change for peace...of PIZZA!...GOD BLESS (SMILEY FACE)...i'll bite your face!" It's like some kind of project from Real Simple Magazine, if Real Simple Magazine specialized in D.I.Y. projects to help improve your chances of raising scratch for heroin and Hostess Fruit Pies.
In between his two primary responsibilities, the crazy homeless man found time to yell at the pack of adolescent tourists. The tourists held their position, most likely because that corner was some kind of unfortunate rendez-vous point on their way to see "Gutenberg: The Musical." So, instead, they responded to the crazy homeless man's aggressive taunts and entreaties by tightening their herd and finding all sorts of ways to avoid eye contact. Have you ever seen 35 people in a pack, each looking in a completely different direction? I have, and it's a pretty neat trick. In fact, I was probably enjoying it too much because I feel kind of pleased when New York demonstrates its capacity for lunacy. I don't mean the TV-ready, self-promoting lunacy of the Naked Cowboy but, rather, the vaguely menacing lunacy of the Naked Guy Applying Spray Deodorant on the Uptown 6 Train. I didn't want these people to be harmed in any way--I had one eye looking out for the police, and was surprised it took them as long as it did to show up--but I was sort of hoping the experience would at least cause a few of the high schoolers to return to their church youth group and share their harrowing experience. Maybe that way, in the future, the sidewalk around the East Village Cold Stone Creamery will be a little less crowded with tourists and I will be able to pass through on my way to the movies. That is my small, selfish wish.
EXCUSE ME, GUV'NER, I FANCY A CINNABON.
Last night a friend asked me if I was familiar with "Steampunk." I was, but not terribly. My understanding of steampunk was that it was kind of like Goth for video game enthusiasts. And, not unlike some of the more Edwardian (i.e. queer) aspects of Goth, I regarded steampunk with semi-detached curiosity. I've picked up a few details here and there--just enough to come to the conclusion, "Oh, neat. I want nothing to do with that!" It's sort of like when I walk past a furniture store that, from the street, appears to possess all the sleek and modern design touches I like. Then I step inside the door and realize, nestled among all the angular couches and geometric-patterned throw rugs, oh look--there's one of those chairs shaped like a lady's shoe. "I get where this is going," and I immediately turn around and exit the store pretty much knowing, where there's smoke there's fire, and by "smoke" I mean that shoe chair, and by "fire" I mean one of these. (And probably one of these, too.)
Then, just this morning I see this article in the New York Times about the rise of Steampunk. (And it must be on the rise because, according to their picture slideshow, they found no fewer than seven people in New York City who are into Steampunk, and a couple of heavyset girls who are into wearing old-fashioned welding goggles with their Ren Faire costumes.) Because the New York Times provides a smart guy context that helps legitimize wasting time reading about micro-trends, I got to learn a whole bunch more about steampunk today. I'll give this to you, steampunk guys--the asthetic is pretty neat. Bravo on all the sepia tones and tailored pants and stuff. But this strikes me as an annoyingly high-maintenance commitment, with more punishment than reward built into it. Forget the amount of time you'll invest cloaking your 40" plasma screen television set inside a frame of dusty burlap or rich, polished marble--once you're done, what are you even going to watch on TV? How many times do you have to cycle through your very limited collection of steampunk-approved DVDs--basically, Van Helsing, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Young Sherlock Holmes, and Howl's Moving Castle--before you realize you might have jumped on the wrong band-dirigible? And think of all the important life events you're likely to miss because you were too busy polishing your wooden ray gun, or adhering brass and nickel fixtures to your ipod nano?
It's such an inconvenient subculture, and very cost-prohibitive with in our current economy. With oil at over $100 a barrel, who has the kind of disposable income required to operate their gas-powered wristwatch and old fashioned peanut brittle oven? And if you ever get tired of the steampunk lifestyle--AND HOW COULD YOU???--good luck trying to sell your clockwork top hat on consignment. At least Goth kids who get tired of the scene can always dust off their old clothes for a Dracula Party, Edward Gorey retrospective or cocktails at Tim Burton's house. Ex-steampunkers are stuck with their old junk, except in one of the following very rare situations:
- The Museum of Zeppelins and Old-Fashioned Motorcyle Sidecars is looking for a tour guide
- An ambitious young director decides to expand Tom Petty's music video for "You Got Lucky" into a feature-length film, and desperately needs extras with their own wardrobe
- Kanye West reads that NY Times article and decides to piggyback on the trend six years from now, then pretend he invented it
- Jack the ripper finally perfects his time machine!
I guess steampunks should live it up for now, while they still can. At least there's the new Hellboy movie to look forward to, right? Too bad you can't buy tickets on Moviefone using your refurbished Strowger wooden wall phone.
" 'Allo...two admissions for 'League of Extraodinary Gentlemen Part 2: Extraorindarier Gentlemen', if you please. And please do tell, does your moving picture house provide a sheltered space where I one might park one's bathysphere?"
DUMBEST DUMMY OF THE '00s.
Recently, I taped one of those VH-1 talking head shows, where comedians and professional wrestlers and editors of Women’s Health Magazine narrate an essential list of cultural moments, such as the 20 Most Pregnant Ladies of the 1980s, or What Were Those Faggots Thinking?!? Part IV. I was a little conflicted about doing it for all sorts of reasons, both real and made up, but was gently talked into it by a friend at the network. She made the very excellent and difficult to ignore point that this would be silly fun, and probably no more harmful to my career than the Hitler uniform I choose to wear onstage at comedy shows, for shock value. (and comfort--the cotton moves remarkably well.)
I went in and, yes, it was actually kind of fun. The only difficult part was my reluctance to use certain kinds of colloquial words that might have pleased the producers. This was because 1) My great respect for the English language causes me to get terrible migraine headaches just from seeing slang like “hottie” or “blogroll” or “23 skidoo” written on a page, and 2) I feel super insincere trying to make that kind of youthful stuff come out of my mouth. (Please understand I realize this also makes me a tremendous prick. My reluctance to fist-bump only makes my interactions more awkward, and my insistence on avoiding emoticons and spelling out every little bit of Internet shorthand is probably only slightly less annoying to people than my insistence on repeatedly telling everyone about these delightful grammatical rules I follow.)
Now that I think about it, there was one other difficult part for me--I had no real memory of about 1/3 of the celebrities I’d been asked to discuss at length. I mean, I recognized their names (mostly), but couldn’t place most of their faces, couldn’t remember their pop songs, never watched their sitcoms, didn’t follow their modeling careers, etc. To their credit, the producers were very nice and did their best to re-awaken my interest in Gabrielle Reece and Toni Braxton, but I guess I was thinking about other things when the rest of the world was obsessing over those two. Actually, it did make me wonder what I was thinking about back then, if not Toni Braxton. Probably something awesome.
Oh wait. I just remembered one last part that was a little difficult for me. (My life is way harder than yours, Burma.) It was not easy to discuss certain things without betraying some measure of cruelty or contempt in my voice. Really, it’s harder than you’d think. For instance, if someone were to say the words “Jordan Knight” to you right now, how many truly positive things would you have to say about him? Keep in mind this isn’t you in the year 1989; this is you with almost 20 years perspective on the version of you that used to wear a gigantic NKOTB button pinned to the single strap holding up your acid-washed denim overalls. I understand and respect that VH-1 prefers upbeat or tongue-in-cheek jokes but, man, when you’re charged with generously offering an extra cultural minute to someone like Jordan Knight or Joey Lawrence, there really is such a fine line between tongue-in-cheek and knife-in-back. (or gun-in-own-mouth.)
Apart from navigating those concerns, I honestly did have a good time and my first thought after wrapping was, “I’d do this again, if the topic were something I’m more familiar/comfortable with.” (i.e. not '40 Reasons We Used to be Really Horny for Nick Lachey.') Sure, the experience was a little embarrassing and I definitely wrestled with my own highly self-conscious ideas about integrity, but what it really came down to was this: I got to goof around for an hour. I wasn't asked to wear a crazy hat, and no one suggested I sing a Gerardo song for grins. I just sat (slumped) in a chair and joked. Pretty painless, kinda fun. Until I saw the show.
Here's the thing…I sucked. Honestly, after watching the broadcast I was watching some of the other pundits speak very knowledgeably and sentimentally about the show's subjects and I started thinking, "Ohhhhh, that's what makes shows work. People who are really good at setting up video clips!" Also, people who are not shy about being very enthusiastic. And people with decent posture. Suddenly, any traces of embarrassment or compromised credibility were supplanted by a very strong sense that I looked chubby, had bad hair, poor posture, and weak eye contact. Also, maybe only about half or fewer of the topics on the program were ones I discussed during my taping. As a result, I didn't have a lot of screen time. After spending all that time deliberating about doing the show in the first place because it seemed a little shallow, I ended up disappointed that I was barely present in the broadcast and, when I was present, it was a really unappealing, nasal version of me. It proved an O'Henry-esque lesson in dramatic irony. And, with literary references like that one, if VH-1 ever produces a special called '40 Most Gifted Short Fiction Writers of All Time,' hopefully I will be asked back. But first, I'll be sure to take night courses in diction, nutrition, and The Alexander Technique.
When I first moved to NYC in the mid-nineties I spent most of my social time with a friend/co-worker named Tyler. While my personality tends to be a bit cautious, Tyler has always been a genuinely warm and open person. A guy. This easygoing nature caused him to attract all sorts of strange and interesting (and sometimes intolerable) characters back then, many of whom I adopted by proxy. One of the more fascinating people who orbited my life back then was a guy Tyler and I very casually referred to as 'Crazy Phil.' I honestly don't remember ever calling him anything else, because his eccentricity was so completely naked it naturally dominated and defined him. When you were out with Crazy Phil, no matter where you went the night was his right from go, and you just became one of his guests. He had a really overwhelming wiry, ADHD kind of energy-- super impulsive, always moving, nonstop chatter. I think he'd be very difficult to sketch.
Around the time we met, Crazy Phil had recently been laid off from a job as a mechanical engineer and, instead of pursuing for another engineering gig, he decided he would try to make a living playing in underground and mostly illegal backgammon games. I had no idea such things existed, but Crazy Phil insisted they did. (I must confess there were a lot of things Crazy Phil said that I didn't believe at first--including the fact that he held an engineering degree--but, miraculously, ever single implausible detail eventually proved completely true.) He spend all night at these clubs, which were filled mostly with older European and Asian men, all playing at pretty serious stakes, in relative backgammon terms. At least once, Crazy Phil flew to Istanbul because he'd been told there would be a very lucrative game there, hosted by some wealthy "pigeon." (That's what he'd call guys who loved to play the game and had lots of money, but were also pretty easy to clean out. Also, it should be noted that he referred to backgammon as "Gammon.")
Eventually, many of those games dried up and Phil turned to poker. His life seemed crazy to me, because he would be up $20,000 one month and down $15,000 the next. He didn't seem to care, though, and made a point of treating poker like a fulltime job. I remember him even telling me that he made sure to play 40 hours a week, just like a real job.
He was a lot of fun to bring to parties, and did this thing where he'd instantly treat any home as if it were his own. I never got the impression that he was consciously rude or had an offensive sense of entitlement; he just had no social safety valves between his thoughts and his actions. I've witnessed him take over someone's bar at their own party and, at another apartment party, after noticing there was an active fireplace, Phil just started loading it up with logs and recruited all kinds of strangers at the party to help him kindle and maintain the fire. All this without even thinking to ask the host if this was cool. People usually let him run roughshod over their parties or restaurants or bars, though, because I think most of us lack the energy to resist or restrain personalities like Crazy Phil's.
For a little while, Crazy Phil lived in a very small apartment in Chelsea with this Danish guy who spoke almost no English. He built an elaborate loft bed there, and painted all the walls either wine-red or black, like Dracula's bedroom or something. When we told him his landlord probably wouldn't be cool with having all the walls painted black, Crazy Phil just said, "Don't worry. I already know we're going to be here for a long time. The landlord just doesn't know that yet."
Crazy Phil once had a NYE party that he kept insisting was being professionally catered, and wouldn't let us leave until the catering arrived. Finally, Tyler and I decided we had to split because the party was a little too weird---most of the guests were non-English-speaking Europeans and old men Phil had met through the 'gammon scene, and Tyler and I were more interested in girls than hearing a 60 year-old guy strum an acoustic guitar in Crazy Phil's tiny kitchen. Just as we were leaving, Crazy Phil's buzzer rang. "That's the catering!" he shouted, and insisted we stay just a few minutes more. He ran downstairs and returned a minute later holding four or five pizza boxes. To this day I have no idea if Crazy Phil actually considered these pizzas equivalent to a professionally catered affair, or if he was just screwing with us the whole time. With him, it could have very easily gone either way.
When Tyler and I lost touch a few years back I also lost touch with Crazy Phil, and didn't hear about him again until this past weekend, over a Sunday afternoon drink with my optometrist. (I think my optometrist has always been pretty fascinated with Crazy Phil, which is not surprising to me at all. If you made a venn diagram of their respective personalities, the two circles would overlap so much they would almost appear as one.) Apparently, Phil moved to L.A. where he continued to play poker and, as the game became more of a national phenomenon, Crazy Phil emerged as one of poker's more colorful celebrities. He's accrued over $1.2 million in cash tournaments and has earned the nickname, "The Unabomber," because he usually wears a hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses at the poker table and, when a hand gets really stressful, has been known to pull the drawstring of his hood so tight that his face more or less disappears inside it. (You can read all about this on his Wikipedia page.)
My optometrist also told me Crazy Phil has been dating Jennifer Tilly for a while, and these days has his own televison show on some HD cable network, where he and a friend go around betting on everything they see. Honestly, none of this surprises me at all--just as I wasn't surprised when Crazy Phil dyed his hair an awful blonde on a whim, or when he had his New Year's Eve party catered by Domino's. It's nice to know he's found his way into the entertainment industry, where insanity is both tolerated and richly rewarded. (Ring a bell, Meryl Streep?)
HONEST FEEDBACK NEEDED.
I am trying to avoid turning this into some kind of tedious wedding blog (no offense, 'themostmagicaldayofmylife.blogspot.com'), but I really need your help this time. Just a little honest feedback is all I'm asking. Keep in mind that this is still a 'rough' draft--the typeface or colors might get tweaked a little before we go to print--but let me know what you think of our wedding invitation design:
It's not too fussy, is it?
TREMBLE.COM REKKERD REVUE CORNER.
The Roots - "Rising Down" (available for purchase at caldor.com)
Recommended for anyone who's ever wondered what it would be like to have a black man yell at them for 52 minutes straight. The perfect tonic for liberal guilt-addled whiteys with a sinking sensation they've had this coming to them for a long, long time. I give it "4 and a half trash cans thrown through the plate glass window of an Italian-American owned pizzeria."*