Sunday, April 29, 2007

My First Fake News Article- An Onion Tribute Post*

Cosmopolitan Magazine to Fire Staff

Los Angeles, CA.- In an effort to remain competitive in an age where many publications within printed media at large are losing their readership to online alternatives, the executive board of Cosmopolitan Magazine has terminated the majority of its staff. The magazine, known and beloved in dorm rooms and sororities across the nation, will continue to operate on much the same scale as before, in spite of the substantive cuts in its work force.

"We realized that we really have settled into a comfortable groove in the past few years," said Gabriela Martinez-Lowenstein, Cosmopolitan's Editor-in-Chief. "Honestly, we've been running more or less the same sex advice column as a feature article ever since the Spring 2000 issue, and the only significant change in it from month to month is the number in the "Ways To Be Scorchingly Great in Bed" section. Oh, and we sometimes change the adverb that goes in front of "Great" in the title. I mean, why alter a winning formula?"

Martinez-Lowenstein said that the entire writing staff of the magazine has been fired with two months' severance pay, effective immediately. "I realized that the magazine could function the way it always has without the superfluous drawback of having to pay actual reporters or collumnists or whoever. I mean, no one here has actually had to write an original piece in over five years anyway. So from now on our employee roster will include the layout guys, the circulation department, the photoshop crew, and a new girl I just hired as head of development," said Martinez-Lowenstein.

The new head of development, recent college graduate Autumn Pallbright, intends to make maximum use of the freed up capital from the bloated salaries of the magazine's former creative element to expand Cosmopolitan's readership. "We totally think there's a big number of high school and college age guys who want this magazine to appeal to like, their social needs as well," said Pallbright, recently matriculated from Palm Springs Community College. Towards this end, the premier issue of the magazine's male-oriented joint publication will appear as of June 1, 2007. An anonymous source close to the magazine stated that since this new magazine, aptly named "MaCosmo" does not have the advantageous resource of articles from back issues, and, as with its sister publication, no writing staff, the first issue will consist of 157 pages of Jessica Alba photographed in various "Tasteful yet provocative" depictions, along with an add for Ax Deodorant. Neither subject was available for comment.

*Special Thanks to Chad Honsinger and Drew Nicholas, who provided, albeit unintentionally, some of the sparks for this composition.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


This quatrain by Robert Browning is, in my occasionally humble opinion, one of the finest representations of the English lyrical tradition. For whoever cares.

Parting at Morning

'Round the cape of a sudden came the sea,
And the sun looked over the mountain's rim,
And straight lay a path of gold for him,
And the need of a world of men for me.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Lewis on Friendship

For anyone who has not read C.S. Lewis' "The Four Loves," I highly recommend it, in particular the chapter on Friendship. Lewis remains a venerable source of commentary on the modern predicament because he sees that what we have let fall between the cracks of morality is something quite different, and more fundamentally valuable than Christians of the present era suppose it to be.

Quite a number of people in conservative circles lament the blase contemporary attitude expressed towards erotic love. Very few, however, express any concern that the modern individual has any less firm of a grasp on the value of fraternal affection. At the beginning of his essay, Lewis notes that while Romeo and Juliet, Hero and Leander, and Heloise and Abelard all have their parallels in modern literature, Roland and Oliver, Hamlet and Horatio, and David and Jonathan have not. In fact, says Lewis, there has been written no major work of literature at whose center is the emotion of brotherly love since Tennyson's "In Memoriam" (which was published around 1850, as memory serves).

I think Lewis makes an interesting point here, one that, while we have been busy lamenting the decay of the family and the decrepitude of marriage, we have neglected to notice.
Quite possibly, we haven't attended to the present devaluation of friendship because unlike with marriage and erotic love, we don't see it perverted or abused; more often, we see it ignored, or at other times misdefined. One commonality I've noticed is that people of my generation frequently call someone a friend when they would more accurately be described as an acquaintance. Apparently MySpace (may it rot in hell) makes boon comrades of us all. Intimacy, although access to it ought to be only a matter of tapping a few keys, is a strangely rare commodity these days. The drought of close acquaintance, which found its first major descriptor in the British novelist E.M. Forster, has found its way into the movies as well, with directors such as Sophia Coppola and Zach Braff making it almost their stock in trade.

We have come to the point where we see intimacy and friendship as almost inimacle to one another. When we discuss "intimacy" or use the word in conversation, it is almost invariably in reference to affection of a romantic nature. Peripherally, this has led to an unfortunate turn in our understanding of relationships not only among ourselves, but between historical figures, and characters in myth and in popular fiction; wherever we observe an intimacy between friends in narrative, our impulse is to label that closeness as erotic love masquerading as something less intriguing. Thus the relationship between, say, Aeneas and Achates arouses our suspicion, and allowing that, we grow that much more suspicious of our own motives in friendship, and the motives of those that we count as friends.

Lewis was right in saying that friendship has lost its voice; if Hamlet were alive today, he wouldn't be able to testify to Horatio that

Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice
And could of men distinguish, her election
Hath sealed thee for herself;

Nor get away with the request

Give me that man
That is not passion's slave, and I will wear him
In my heart's core, ay, in my heart of heart,
As I do thee.

At least not with an awkward silence thereafter.

I don't expect that conservatives will start adopting Lewis' concern with the dilution of friendship any time soon. It is not a fashionable cause, or one capable of raising much alarm. I wonder though, if we had a less clouded view of friendship, could that lead to a less corrupted view of marriage? It's clear that we commonly confuse the love natural to friends for the love natural to a husband and wife, but I think we are also sadly capable of the converse. Couples have on occasion tied the knot too much for the reason of "common interests" that include things like skiing, mountain climbing or Pilates,* ignoring a lack of common interest in one another. Common interest of the first kind is at the center of friendship, but at the outskirts of marriage. When we fail to see this, confusion follows on both sides of the equation. But when we do see and know the one, we may better exemplify both it and its counterpart.

*Female readers: Never believe a man who claims to like this form of exercise, unless he prefaces it with the phrase "Watching chicks doing. . ."

Monday, April 23, 2007

10 Classes of Irritating People

I Hope None Are Offended

1) Tanning Salon Patrons.

2) People who combine the activities of walking, breakfasting and text messaging.

3) People whose pronunciation of the word "liberal" is phonetically equivalent to L-E-B-R-H-U-L.

4) The guy who invented the Faux Hawk.

5) Womens' Studies majors who are themselves not women.

6) Guys who bring up the subject(s) of Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell or Debbie Harry at parties in order to get some action.

7) Girls who bring up Fugazi, Joe Strummer or Rocket From the Crypt for the same reason.

8) Anyone who has ever unironically uttered the phrase, "I personally prefer Joyce's earlier work."

9) Anyone who has ever referred to Slam Poetry as "An increasingly viable mode of self expression."

10) Documentarians.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

And the years will run like rabbits

As I Walked out one Evening

As I walked out one evening,
Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river
I heard a lover sing
Under the arch of a railway
"Love has no ending.

'I'll love you dear, I'll love you
Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
And salmon sing in the street,

'I'll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squaking
Like geese about the sky.

The years shall run like rabbits,
For in my arms I'll hold
The Flower of the Ages,
And the first love of the world.'

But all the clocks in the city
Began to whirr and chime:
'O let not Time deceive you,
You cannot conquer Time.

'In the burrows of the Nightmare
Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
And coughs when you would kiss.

'In headaches and in worry
Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
To-morrow or to-day.

'Into many a green valley
Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
And the diver's brilliant bow.

'O plunge your hands in the water,
Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare into the basin
And wonder what you've missed.

'The glacier knocks on the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
A lane to the land of the dead.

'Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
And Jill goes down on her back.

'O look, look in the mirror,
O look in your distress;
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.

'O stand, stand in the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbor
With all your crooked heart.'

It was late, late in the evening,
The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
And the deep river ran on.

-W.H. Auden

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Cynical Generalization Based on a Comment Heard in Passing

I was on campus a couple days ago and noticed a guy and a girl (She attired in what appeared the Hot Topic spring catalogue, he in conventional frat boy standard issues) yelling at each other on the admin lawn. Didn't catch much of the diatribe other than the part where he called her "Sexist." I had never observed a guy call a girl sexist before (except perhaps ironically), and what piqued my attention even more was the fact that he uttered the above descriptive while wearing a T-shirt with the phrase "Man Whore" flamboyantly italicized on its front.

Maybe this is incidental evidence that the only real change that comes from the eradication of societal gender roles is the imitation by either sex of each other's traditional vices. Talk about disappointment; I mean, c'mon, just when men were getting good at the whole sexism gig.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Consolation of Hypocrisy

"I'm a big fan of hypocrisy. At least a hypocrite knows how he ought to behave."
-P.J. O' Rourke

Of the few sins still commonly denounced, few attract as much condemnation as hypocrisy. We will forgive a person of most any offense except the willful misrepresentation of their perceived self; if, per se, a person who claims Christianity imposes those standards of behavior accordant with that position on another with no convincing submission to them on his own part, our first reaction is normally that "He has misrepresented himself," rather than the increasingly quaint "He has betrayed Christ."

Why the change? The above example illustrates the hypocrisy too common to those that try to seize the conventional moral high ground, but the coin is double sided; we apply the same judgment to one who postures himself as a cruder item than is the case. We expend the same ammunition on the middle class suburban teenager who would have is believe that he grew up in Compton and that the affected Blinglish he got off his cousin's Aesop Rock album is his natural dialect. While our response towards him usually involves more laughter and less of the derision we throw at the piatistic windbag in example A, our evaluation is similar: He has shown himself to be that which he is not.

Hypocrisy anymore can appear in the guise of anything on the socioeconomic gradient. It's no longer only the case that an immoral man counterfeits morality, but that poverty imitates wealth, and wealth imitates poverty. We not only are willing to tolerant the guy next to us, but come to prefer his status to our own, regardless of whether our imitation of him brings us up or down a notch in our visible status. It's one of democracy's odd quirks that it repudiates hypocrisy while providing it ground where it may thrive.

Democracy is like a parent who would rather be defied than breed anything dogmatic in its children, and consequently prefers to father bastardized anarchy over legitimately imposed order. It is to hypocrisy's detriment that it falls into the latter category; it dogmatizes where it pronounces itself exempt, and demands obedience where it likes to disobey. But if the hypocrite retains his authority, it's because he is theatrically convincing. When he establishes order, he must be careful not to undo that order by breaking character.

DeQuincey was wrong to include murder among the high arts. As Wilde said, "It is a crime for the vulgar classes." But hypocrisy is only for the artful. If it does not qualify as an aesthetic discipline, it is only because it doesn't need to ask us to suspend our disbelief; our disbelief, if the hypocrite is successful, has been done away with already. Lessing wrote in his Laocoon that the sculptures of Praxitiles revealed an indelible serenity of spirit, no matter how externally violent the depiction. Hypocrisy inverts this arrangement, with its plastic soul on the surface, and its grosser predilictions at the inscrutable center. None of the visible arts share this characteristic. It is too artful by half, and hence artifice.

At least it is a patrician sin. In an odd way, it fosters order, unlike more philistine offenses such as murder and rape. It is an impossible world to achieve, but an existance where hypocrisy was the only sin would be very pleasant. What the egalitarian does not understand is that there is a hierarchy of vices as well as virtues, and as with everything else, he has stood this natural arrangement on its head. I do not commend hypocrisy, but as vices go, it is sorely undervalued.

If only all sin were so subtle.

Monday, April 2, 2007

The CNN school of filmmaking

One thing I've noticed about the "Global Conscience Drama" genre of movies (Think Traffic, Syriana, Babel) is that those movies go out of their way for a semi-grainy, objective, news footage type of cinematography. This annoys me. Even more so than movies which look like their directors (Tony Scott/Michael Bay, e.g.) honed their craft on the MTV circuit back in the '80s.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Satire and Sadism

It isn't a regular occurence that revelations touching the Spirit of the Times address themselves to me while I'm watching reasonably dumb comedies, but it happened a few nights ago. I realized that part of the charm of this select enclave of fimography (read: Frat Pack movies), is the fact that while there are by now about a half a dozen entries in the subgenre, there is really only one film; that is, the one in which false masculinity is bound, gagged and paraded around for 90 minutes of Farrellian farse. Not that that this is altogether a bad thing. No doubt, the red blooded, ham fisted model of American manhood has in some ways been a corruptive representation, and the casual acknowledgement of the fact should hardly unbalance us. The problem with parody is not that it destroys idols, but rather that it doesn't build any new ones. Quite frankly, I don't have a problem with the dismemberment of the ashtoreth pole of so called American masculinity, though I would prefer it if certain lobby groups weren't entrusted with the operation. Outside of this stipulation, nolo contendere.

As for lowbrow satire, it is one of the three Great Levelers the present era has granted us, death and a curious soy milk socialism constituting the other two. It is the first of these that is the most discriminating in selecting its object; death is too wholesomely democratic to discriminate (pardon the truism), and as for the third, its all organic diet has removed from its system any remnant of vitriolic bile that it might otherwise unleash with any particularity. The aforementioned brand of satire only responds to what its cohorts have allowed too much privilege, e.g., some of America's more prosperous demographics.

It is one of the foremost evidences against classifying ours as a golden age that we direct so much of our effort towards mocking it. Effacement of a given social trend often precedes the trend itself, and we are left with very little to bow down to that has not already done homage before the great god Cultural Irony, whose sole injunction as yet remains, "Take up thy messenger bag and follow me, preferably while wearing hideous pants." But I digress.

Satire is a reductive art, and requires an object of abuse as well as one of imitation. The American view of masculinity provides it with both necessities; As an object of imitation, the idealized American male is a detatched, ungaurded character, and likely the only stereotype unconcerned with appearing stereotypical. His occasional clumsiness and philistinism provide the sufficient points of exposure. As an object of abuse, he is presented as the chief representative of the class most responsible for the sufferings of the disenfranchised. This is an accepted fact, and whatever else his resume might say is immaterial.

It is intriguing that the collective has chosen as its object of ridicule an individual who in the same place, less fifty years would be seen as if not its best, then certainly its most prototypical citizen. I should say here that the period referred to by the phrase "Less fifty years" does not cross my mind as defining a Pax Americana any more than the present does. The Eisenhower years were more of a peroxide age than a guilded one.

Whatever the case, society apparently feels the need to level two parts criticism on itself and its members for every one instance of external aggression it deals with. This isn't a source of terrible concern for me, only an indicator that our appointed time is closer than the cultural meliorists would have us believe. And in the end, we may find we have suffered more damage from the "Paper bullets of the brain" leveled by a host of our own pundits and comedians than from the aggressions of any Islamo-fascist terror cell.