Saturday, December 29, 2007

Reconfiguring the SLAB canon: Behold, the Butter-Yellow SLAB (Saussure, Lacan, Althusser, and Barthes)

“SLAB theorists commonly counterpose ‘theory’ to ‘history,’ as if historical research could not also be theoretical. I propose a more informative opposition. SLAB theory and its offshoots, in their deepest assumptions and their concrete practices, have consolidated a new scholasticism, a ceaseless commentary on authoritative sources. Poetics, on the other hand, frankly offers scholarship--an open-ended, corrigible inquiry that respects the reciprocal claims of conceptual coherence and empirical adequacy. Lacking a substantive doctrine, it does not have the answers ready before anyone has asked the questions.”
- David Bordwell, Historical Poetics of Cinema

Nearly one year ago, TYHIVN featured a photographic essay of the breathtaking SLABs of Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. Today we introduce you to a new slab on the block, the Butter-Yellow SLAB.
Often outlandish in appearance and decoration, SLABs are expected to display their elaborate custom plumage not with speed, but with a slow, signature gait. The object, of course, is to cruise as slowly and demonstrably as possible so as to showcase as much as possible the amount that the driver is generally said to be "flossin’". Thus, the exploration of new vertical dimensions by way of hydraulics, so as to perform the extended aesthetic of movement without whizzing out of sight.

Hip-hop has developed special names for this automotive crawling. A SLAB is said to “creep” or “tip-toe” along. While I have never seen the Butter-Yellow SLAB in motion, it is safe to assume that this vehicle might “ooze” or “smear” down the block. In a way that would make you believe the hand of God were spreading it across the pavement with a hot knife.

A SLAB discovery of this magnitude forces the SLAB connoisseur to re-imagine the long-standing neighborhood SLAB canon. Not only does the butter-yellow SLAB stand as a serious Clinton Hill contender, its creamy pastel color threatens to overthrow everything we thought we knew about the SLAB-as-transcendent-acronym. As mentioned in the original SLAB post, this acronym dwarfs its own word components (Slow, Low, And, Bangin’) to achieve a descriptive whole greater than the sum of its parts. The Butter-Yellow SLAB embraces and enhances this effect by dressing itself as another well-known slab – a slab of shortening.

Ill-fitting panels cleave from each other and sag slowly to the asphalt, the rear wheel already swallowed by the smooth inexorable melting of the creamy body. If SLABs were designed to drive slow and low, and indeed they were, then the moist, oozing body of the Butter-Yellow slab is in a constant state of becoming.

* * *

In other SLAB news: The Golden Supreme Slab has been been spotted around the neighborhood sporting what appears to be a new paint job.


Did the Golden Supreme Slab get a new paint job? Closer inspection reveals: no, no it did not.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Contemporary Sonic Interloper

“The thing that both Herc and Jones did was release the music on the record from linear and temporal constraints. But Herc, Flash felt, was sloppy. The break went around, but it never came back on beat because Herc was dropping the needle all over the place. Flash saw Pete ‘DJ’ Jones seamlessly extending disco records by mixing two copies of the same record, and realized he could apply the same technique to the music he really loved—the breaks Herc was spinning. Flash wanted to lift these slices of recorded time out of the progression of time, to re-enclose a song’s break in a perfect new loop.”
- Jeff Chang, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop

In the beginning, Hip-Hop DJs dealt in smooth transitions, looped breaks, and unexpectedly delightful musical pairings. Sadly, this legacy of erasing music’s temporal constraints has been forgotten. Today, overdubbed shout-outs of record labels, rap partnerships, and even dates are all-too-common. The contemporary DJ has abandoned euphony for dissonance, swapping the skills of subtlety for the pure artifice of self-promotion.

The “added value” of a DJ’s performance on a mixtape, the radio, or in person now amounts to little more than a haphazard, disorienting assortment of sirens, airhorns, and gun-shots. While I will admit that nothing gets me pumped quite like the complexity of a high-fidelity gunshot (shell casings trickling to the floor have an especially bone-chilling effect), these sounds are surely a sign that the DJ is no longer the smooth operator he once was. He has become a frustrating interloper. A trigger-happy bullhorn-blaster.

And yet, the interruption and casual defacement that has become the currency of the mixtape game has also become an art form unto itself. Below, please find a couple of these DJ noises for your enjoyment. My hope is that by extracting these jarring, ephemeral disruptions from their background beats, they too can become…timeless.

Readers are encouraged to pass along their favorite DJ noises to be posted at TYHIVN!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Failed Publishing Ventures: "Does not a great business make"

“The process of the specialization of ‘literature’ to ‘creative’ or ‘imaginative’ works…is in part a major affirmative response, in the name of an essentially general human ‘creativity’, to the socially repressive and intellectually mechanical forms of a new social order: that of capitalism and especially industrial capitalism.”
- Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature

"It's a wonderful iconic brand. But we have struggled for years with advertiser commitment and this year was not a particularly good one. We believe future prospects are not much greater, so we can't sustain the business."
- Charles H. Townsend, president and CEO of Condé Nast

And so, a Haiku/Photo mash-up eulogy:

Neons strike contrast

With a sterile surrounding,

A messy coda

Sunday, October 07, 2007

I like candy, plus eulogy for the hyphen



"I need candy,
Bubblegum and taffy,
Get in my way, punk,
You gonna get your ass beat,
Nasty."
~MC Pee Pants

When the rough cave-hands of a cave-man slapped cave-pigment on a cave-wall, they did two related things. They:

1.) ushered in the beginning of the end of prehistory, mainly because they

2.) recorded, in the absence of written language, historical occurrence


What then if we assign depictive historiography, the most primitive of human historical techniques, the task of depicting one of the most primordial human urges--the urge to eat, for example, or the urge towards companionship with fellow humans, or the urge to rut, or the urge to have Jolly Ranchers and Starburst Tropical Fruit Chews rain from the sky directly into our gaping, indiscriminately churning mouth-hole? Some cave-man-ass-shit, that's what. Electric cave-painting is what; the pre-historical moment caught in the glowing pixelated gaze of digital history:






Cave art by Deniz Cebenoyan

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Failed Publishing Ventures: "Little Local Angle"


"Mark
no longer works here. We did not run your story as there was little local angle in it. Best regards, Liz R, managing editor"
- Liz R., Managing Editor


Queens Native Murphy Grabs Bonds’ Historic Blast
By Martin M

Matt Murphy of Elmhurst was just passing through San Francisco’s AT&T Park on his way to Australia when Barry Bonds’ 756th homerun tore through the sky and into his lap. Next thing he knew, he was on the bottom of a pile of desperate fans.

"I just curled up under a bleacher and immediately there was a 30-person dog pile," Murphy told the New York Daily News. "I kept yelling, 'I got it! I got it! ...Get the bleep off of me, get the bleep off of me!'"

Murphy, who wore a Mets jersey atop a Mets t-shirt to the Giants-Nationals game on the night of August 7th, defended the ball from a horde of rabid fans, one of whom claims to have recovered his shoe, until he was escorted away by SFPD on hand at the stadium.

"I feel like I won the lottery," Murphy said.

Authorities estimate the ball could be worth anywhere between 1/2 and 2 million dollars. Murphy, 22, has promised to split the proceeds from the ball with his friend who attended the game with him, Amir Kamal, 21.

Fans who were in attendance recall an ugly fight for the valuable souvenir.

“Coming out of the pile, [Murphy] looked pretty messed up,” recalls Lynne Podesta, a firefighter in the Hayward Fire Department in Alameda County, who celebrated her birthday at the game on August 7th. She was seated in the first row of the center field bleachers – where Bonds’ 435-foot record-breaking blast landed. The fifth-inning homerun places Bonds in sole possession of the number one spot on the all-time home-run list ahead of Hank Aaron.

“I didn’t know [Murphy] was the one who got it,” said Podesta. “I just thought he was some kid who had been in the fight.”

“The kid behind us, the ball hit off his hand. That’s what made it go cockeyed and allowed [Murphy] to get to it. As soon as the ball was hit I stood up with my glove to try to catch it but I was getting pushed away. Then they had the scrum, and everyone piled on top of each other. It was incredible.”

Matthew Pantell, a native San Franciscan and first-year University of California San Francisco medical school student, attended the game with his father and brother. He witnessed the historic moment from high above the action, perched on his seat in the very last row of the stadium in left field.

“The whole stadium was standing and chanting ‘Barry’ in between pitches,” said Pantell, who nearly missed the game to study for an Anatomy test. “As soon as the ball landed, down in the bleachers there was this visible wave of motion, this big ripple effect of people as everyone converged on the ball.”

“There’s something great in that he just happened to by passing through. It’s part of the magic of baseball that anything can happen,” said Pantell. “And if it had to be caught by someone from out of town, at least it wasn’t a Yankee fan.”

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Purloined Gyro

“What could be more convincing, moreover, than the gesture of laying one's cards face up on the table? So much so that we are momentarily persuaded that the magician has in fact demonstrated, as he promised, how his trick was performed, whereas he has only renewed it in still purer form: at which point we fathom the measure of the supremacy of the signifier in the subject…But a suspicion occurs to us: Might not this parade of erudition be destined to reveal to us the key words of our drama? Is not the magician repeating his trick before our eyes, without deceiving us this time about divulging his secret, but pressing his wager to the point of really explaining it to us without us seeing a thing? That would be the summit of the illusionist's art: through one of his fictive creations to truly delude us.”
- Jacques Lacan, Seminar on The Purloined Letter



I was first introduced to the precious Gyro Girl ad campaign by long-time friend and distinguished author of the hilarious Commedia Dell'Farte, Dr. Poopshadow. As younger gentlemen, we relished the opportunity to snicker knowingly over the air-brushed absurdity of these posters. While I can’t speak for the Doctor, I suspect our long-standing fascination with the Gyro Girl had less to do with adolescent lust and much more to do with an inaugural confrontation with Camp. These posters were probably funny for the same reason that retro “Spam” Miracle Meat t-shirts were funny for a thirteen-year-old in 1997.

This campy effect is achieved in part by the peculiar advertising parity amidst an ostensibly eclectic oligarchy of corporate Gyro suppliers. While more careful inspection reveals that this gal is specifically endorsing “Kronos,” this brand, like all Gyro brands, plays a nearly inaudible second fiddle to the “Gyro as basic foodstuff” declaration. This commercial team-up figures the Gyro as an essential food element rather than a food compound (which is what it is), effectively aligning the Gyro, despite containing a diverse array of ingredients and pre-packaged preparation, with the wholesome appeal and collaborative publicity of the raw and semi-raw materials market. Take milk, for example. Milk the food presents a unified, brandless front. A victory for milk is a victory for all milk brands. Meats have long pursued a similar strategy. Like a battalion of British redcoats, Beef (“it’s what’s for dinner”) and Pork (“the other white meat”), have honorably cast their lots together, launching a single, upright, frontal assault on the American public, whether by choice or because government subsidy mandates it. Gyros have chosen to deal in the same semi-brandless currency. The result is the feeling that one might wait in line to receive a bushel of gyros along with some toilet paper and bread.

Satisfied with this campy arithmetic, I put the issue to rest. Only recently have I stopped to consider my true delusion. This handsome woman (and really what other word but “handsome” can be applied to her flawless visage?) had obscured the real mechanism of the Gyro’s appeal beneath the symbolic act of revealing. On the surface, the Gyro Girl ads recall a simpler time when advertising was a straightforward and unself-conscious business – the kind I was quick to associate with campiness. I now see, however, that the imprint of the Gyro Girl ads on my own consciousness is the result of a more nefarious symbolic structure. Like Poe’s purloined letter, the most effective hiding place for this deceit was right out in the open.

Performing a Freudian double-clutch, the Gyro Girl superficially sells Gyros to you with her good looks. Meanwhile, she is actually selling you to Gyros. Her seductive smile, arched eyebrow, and prelapsarian skin call out to hungry men everywhere. What these men don’t see are the Gyro Girl’s jeans, fastened with a thin alligator-skin belt well above her midriff, in direct conversation with Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally.” What they don’t see is her wedding ring and another thing they don’t see is the toddler clamped to her leg. All along, her delicate form suggested she was about to take a bite! But she’s not about to take a bite! She is about to make you take a bite! The Gyro Girl is not Eve! She’s the snake!

After years of chuckling at the Gyro Girl’s pathetic innocence and naïveté, I have only now seen the illusionist’s art: that she is the one laughing.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Latin Rhythms Heat Up Summer Nights In Queens

"The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit, it is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much can you take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!" - Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa, Rocky Balboa
“In five years, we’ve only had two or three fights. It’s a very good average.”

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The White Noise of Atlantic Avenue


"Toyota Celica...A long moment passed before I realized this was the name of an automobile. The truth only amazed me more. The utterance was beautiful and mysterious, gold-shot with looming wonder. It was like the name of an ancient power in the sky, tablet-carved in cuneiform. It made me feel that something hovered. But how could this be? A simple brand name, an ordinary car. How could these near-nonsense words murmured in a child's restless sleep, make me sense a meaning, a presence? She was only repeating some TV voice. Toyota Corolla, Toyota Celica, Toyota Cressida. Supranational names, computer-generated, more or less univerally pronounceable. Part of every child's brain noise, the substatic regions too deep to probe. Whatever its source, the utterance struck me with the impact of a moment of splendid transcendence...I depend on my children for that."

- Don DeLillo, White Noise



Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Self-Parodic Filth: Only in New York

“It is not so much an empirical as an analytic judgment, not a historical statement, but a definition, to say that the intentional fallacy is a romantic one.”
- William K. Wimsatt Jr. and Monroe C. Beardsley, The Intentional Fallacy

“…the hand, cut off from any voice, borne by a pure gesture of inscription (and not of expression), traces a field without origin – or which, at least, has no other origin than language itself, language which ceaselessly calls into question all origins.”
- Roland Barthes, The Death of the Author


A new home in an old apartment and a windowsill in a communal airshaft. A plastic bottle cap, a q-tip, a cigarette butt, teeth-marked chewing gum in the shape of a worm, and a forgotten Funyun (peeking out from behind the gum). Romantic yes, but more so it would seem a profoundly human impulse to search for some intention behind this work of art.

This gritty tableau reeks of premeditation. Its feigned mélange of stereotypical filth items is a monument to the impossibility of intentional randomness. Its flavor is as artificial as the gum’s pink color. Perhaps the only things missing are a carefully-placed banana peel and a prophylactic wrapper.

However, the installation’s banality is its greatest triumph. It’s only message: someone had fun here – either in the great deceit of its arrangement, or the more unlikely possibility that each of these treats was actually savored and blithely discarded.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Timeless Raps, Vol. 3

Rap:

“Now lemme see you get that block work rolling
Lemme see you get that clockwork going
Fiends copping by the clockwork flowing
All day and all night
Till them S.W.A.T. cops rolling
Or that clock…stop…going
Tick…tock…tick…tock…(AYE!)
Homie,
Get on the grind like clockwork
Two for five or a dime, that's clockwork
Shorty,
You ain't gettin off the hook that easy
Lemme see that clockwork
She said look that's easy
Move it around, and around, and around, and around like a clock chick
To the sound, of the sound, of the sound of the clock's tick
Tick…tock…tick…tock…(AYE!)”

Rapper: Juelz Santana, "Clockwork", from his 2005 album What the Game's Been Missing!










Grounds for entry: It's about time

Explanation:

Flava Flav's depoliticized, impish antics struck a loony counterpoint to Chuck D's scathing indictment of the status quo. How curious, then, that Flav's comic relief gave birth to the enduring avatar of Public Enemy's polemic - the over-sized timepiece. Now a universal cultural touchstone, Flav reportedly first donned a clock around his neck to correct his chronic tardiness. This practical solution, however, soon became a symbol of long overdue revolution - a call to action and a cry for change - as if to say, “look, all of you, the hour is nigh!” Now a played-out party gag nearly on par with the-old-lamp-shade-on-the-head, the clock around the neck was once a compelling synecdoche for history and the radical reorganization of society.

A lot has changed in the rap game since those halcyon days, but timing remains a central conceit of hip-hop. On “Clockwork,” Santana punches his timecard in the annals of hip-hop history, re-imagining the meaning of the clock for 2005. Santana's flow presides over the wet, sultry ticking of the atomic clock. Hypnotized by his own beat, he manages to rhyme “clockwork” with little else other than itself. No matter, the repetition further underscores his inscription of the hustling experience within the inexorable ticking of the clock. It's surprising how sexy and energetic this song is, despite its nihilistic under girding.

For here the clock is no call to action, but rather the metronome of the streets and the engine of their automation. His clockwork does not call attention to our mortality, or the urgency of our responsibility, but rather celebrates through mimicry the hypnotic eroticism of apathy. Juelz abjures revolution in favor of carnal and material delights, exhorting homies and shorties alike to internalize the rhythm of the prevailing order of power. His mandate is simple: synchronize your watches, pump the block with crack on the 1st and the 15th of the month (when the welfare checks come in, like clockwork), and watch the money pile up. A crack fiend's fix, sirens ringing, a female's ass shaking, his own rich rhyme - the clock is the architect imposing order, unifying the multifarious aspects of this crazy life typified by risk and unreliability. As for revolutions, I counted at least 20 on that escalade's rims at the last stop light.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Notable Slovakian Cave Formations & the Foodstuffs they Do Resemble

at the behest of one M. K. Mulkeen:


Neapolitan Ice-Cream

American Bacon

Dried Chili-Peppers from the Subcontinent

Knobby Penis (delicacy in the Pacific)

Cake Icing and Black Beans Suspended in Zero-Gravity Field (this one is art)

Man-Meat



all photos taken by K. Spinali

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Theorybomb! The Anus/Onus of the Metaphorician

"Truths are … metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force…"
-Friedrich Nietzsche, “On Truth and Lying in an Extra-Moral Sense”

Let’s tweak the Nietzsch: As every novel metaphor is a propositional untruth, is bullshit, so a moral burden lingers upon the lips from which metaphor issues. This is the Anus/Onus of the Metaphorician. This burden does not pertain to the dead metaphors that limn the folk consciousness of our language. It may be that poets, too, are exempt from it, or at least answerable to different (not to say higher) ethical demands. The Anus/Onus of the Metaphorician casts its shadow on those who would tease out novel metaphors in the realm of what we’ll call “open discourse”, discourse which exists outside of any aesthetic frame, as one of many strident noema which are said to constitute the “real world” (whatever the hell that term means). Barstool chatter, boardroom conversations, and your intense negotiations with a young flyboy over how much this hand-job behind the dumpster is going to cost you—these are open discourse. Words uttered by actors, passages from novels, and the lyrics of songs are not.

How to take the following metaphor, then? (A man by the name of Henry Copeland is describing the flexibility and versatility of blogs versus traditional newspapers, even as newspapers belatedly rush to modernize):

“A newspaper is a boat, a highly evolved mechanism designed and built to float in water. Blogs are bikes, built to cruise in another environment. Now, you can pull a bunch of planking off a boat and add wheels and pedals, but that won't make it as light and maneuverable as a bike.”

I’ll tell you how to take this: despise it. This is a metaphor so unwieldy and shit-stained that it is hardly a metaphor. It is really more like a half-assed allegory, so byzantine and torturous are the paths of its logic. This is horrible.

The Anus/Onus of the Metaphorician consists of a single stipulation, or rather, an imperative: that in the realm of open discourse, metaphorical riffing should remain within ethical bounds. If metaphor is uncouth, it is as good as willful deceit; it retains the lapsarian stench of falsehood, which is the birthright of every novel metaphor. Mr. Copeland’s scabrous metaphorical abomination is as good as a lie—for it is a lie. The artfully spun metaphor, on the other hand, is loosed from the categories of discursive truth and untruth on the swooning upward draft of aesthetic revelation, in exactly the same way that fiction and poetry have fixed themselves in a firmament beyond the moral reproach of “truthiness”, as Colbert might put it.* The ethical metaphor in open discourse is in fact a brief and violent, regenerative flowering of the human verbal-aesthetic impulse, and all the more moral for it. So, readers, go forth and metaphor, but make sure they are good metaphors, or else you are a dirty, filthy, Copelandic liar, you mendacious strumpet. You brute.

Ok, so your metaphors must be apt, but who gets to adjudicate? Metaphorical morality, like general human morality, is a chaotic system of confused and sometimes conflicting subsystems. It begs an arbiter. Churches have their priests, temples their rabbis, mosques their imams. Who might be the preacher-man in the Pentacostal Idlewild Reformed 5th Day Adventist Church of Latter-Day Metaphor? Allow me to suggest myself for this job. Please. I think about metaphors a lot. I am neat and clean. I mean, I didn’t used to be, but I am now, so that shows how I overcame adversity. I also wrote my senior thesis on metaphors. Translation too, the thesis was about translation and metaphors. It was half about metaphors.

Please give me this.

*Does anyone else think that “truthiness” is a really useful word? I feel like it has a practical, neutral valance that “veracity” does not… is it media-hyped folly to embrace this spring chicken? Perhaps wise and thoughtful language-ist Joe should think on this.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

On the Birth Pangs of el Estilo, & Brief Meditation on the Anglo-Saxons

“The difficulty of the remainder of this vigorous annal is due, not to ‘the poverty of the English language,’ but to the fact that the writer did not consider the uninformed reader; what he meant was perfectly clear to himself.”
-Alfred J. Wyatt, in a footnote on “The Chronicle” in his Anglo-Saxon Reader


I have a part-time teaching job in provincial Lower Austrian town; I am not a busy man. My great swaths of leisure time are such that I decided I needed a hobby; I have decided that my hobby will be Old English. In Amsterdam a few weekends ago, I picked up a 1925 edition of A. J. Wyatt’s Anglo-Saxon Reader, an old-school chrestomathy of the first rate which, by its own account, contains “any suitable material that had not been drawn upon in earlier works of the same character; … a greater variety of contents than was to be found in some of the books in use,” and finally, “[Nothing] that was not intrinsically interesting”. Mr. Alfred J. Wyatt, you had me at “suitable”.

So after spending a few sweaty, monkish nights poring over Old English verb conjugation and noun declension tables, I opened this book filled with intrinsically interesting things. Its first selection is “The Chronicle”, a bloody narrative of feudal imbroglio in 8th and 9th century England. Before I had read even the first sentence of “The Chronicle” to its end, I was struck by its Style, struck on the head with it over and over again like as if Style were wielding a deadly blunt weapon, and I were its enemy. I give you my own ultra-literal rendering of the confusing, exhilarating first 17 lines:

“ 755. Here Cynewulf and the West-Saxon council deprived Sigebryht of his kingdom for wrongful deeds, except for Hampshire, and he had that until he slew that earl who had long lived by him. And then Cynewulf drove him off at the Weald, and there wounded him until a swineherd stabbed him on Privet channel; and he avenged the earl Cumbran. And Cynewulf often fought great fights with the Welsh. And 31 winters after he had had the kingdom, he wanted to drive off a prince who was called Cyneheard; and Cyneheard was the brother of Sigebryht. And then the prince learned of the king being with a small host in the company of women at Merton, and he surrounded him there and attacked the chamber from outside, before the men discovered him who were with the king. And then the king perceived that, and he went to the door, and then bravely defended himself, until he saw the prince, and then he rushed upon him and wounded him greatly; and all were fighting against the king, until they had slain him.”

This is one of the earliest prose artifacts in the history of our language. Isn’t it something? Look at that Estilo! It’s like a rhinoceros! Consider how reliant our author was on the word “and” to get a sentence or clause rolling. Homeboy uses it 17 times. (!) “And”, here, is a stylistic device doing the work of more advanced narrative techniques which apparently did not exist at this stage of our language’s prose development. It is indeed sort of poignant and touching to watch little old “and” rise above its lot as simple logical functionary, oft relied-upon but seldom reflected-upon, and wrap itself in the stinky animal skins of Old English prose Style. Instead of bothering with elaboration or causality, the author uses “and” to reassure the reader and perhaps himself that everything he’s saying is related. You can still witness this trick today, when a nervous public speaker is forced to relate a story or argument in front of a crowd. Our composer was also notably fond of “then” (x5) and “until” (x4), which together establish a comfortable but ultimately kind of boring and unfulfilling narrative herky-jerk. Indeed these tendencies towards narrative ease betray a distinctly oral flair; as though English prose in those times was being written by men still cautiously clinging to rhetorical conventions. This is nothing like the practiced gulf separating written and spoken English today, but it was the one of the first teetering steps towards establishing this difference—“The Chronicle”, then, represents English as a cell in the paroxysms of divisive mitosis. No, wait, reader; a metaphor even more wanton: when we read “The Chronicle”, we are watching over the violent birth pangs of our own written Estilo.*

As far as the tale itself is concerned, let the historical record show that King Cynewulf was an unremitting chump. First off, just speaking generally, the jackass simply could not seal the deal against lesser nobles. He “wounds” his enemy Sigebryht (after which a swineherd—a swineherd!—has to finish Sigebryht off down by the river), and he wounds Cyneheard “greatly” right before getting totally shanked. Let us pause now to consider the circumstances of his shanking. King Cynewulf is in bed thrilling his womens when merchants of death peddling coitus interruptus come calling. He senses their presence, leaps out of bed, girds himself, rushes to the door, lands a (non-fatal) lick on his rival, and then takes a long one in the gut. With his womens behind him, watching and screaming in bed. If I had to think of the worst possible way to go, in all possible universes, I think this is it.

Since young adulthood I’ve always had this image of the Anglo-Saxons spending most of their day writhing around lying down in the mud, grimacing and yelling in the mud, having violent, slappy sex in the mud, occasionally taking brief yelly breaks to stab someone they didn’t like. The first 17 lines of “The Chronicle”, insofar as it is a source to be relied upon, have confirmed my youthful suspicions almost to the letter. Without the mud though. But I fully expect to encounter mud in the next few days. I’ll keep you posted.

*One notices this reliance on such joiners as “and” or “for” in many ancient prose literatures; the development of human prose Style is in fact nothing if not the slow, gradual abandonment of conjunctions.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Of and Pertaining to Feline Atavism

“…remembrance must not proceed in the manner of a narrative or still less that of a report, but must, in the strictest epic and rhapsodic manner assay its spade in ever-new places, and in the old ones delve to ever-deeper layers.”
- Walter Benjamin, "A Berlin Chronicle," Reflections

I typically eschew hard-line pronouncements about the blog as medium, living as we are in the little guy’s adolescence. Heck, maybe the blog is just a little baby.

For example: one ideological pose I used to strike on blogs was a categorical opposition to any and all pet aggrandizement. I am a great lover of animals, but I find these tawdry displays usually come off as either exploitative or narcissistic. I have since come to the conclusion that ‘no pets’ is a silly rule. There is a time and place for everything.

This is Xena. She lives at “Hole in The Wall Deli” down the street where her imposing size keeps rodents at bay. She is a neighborhood hero and the biggest cat I have ever seen in person (those are gallon jugs of water below her). This is because the owners only feed her cold cuts.

I am most fascinated by Xena because she bears an eery resemblance to my first childhood cat, ‘Batcat,’ named for his large ears and my four-year-old obsession with the caped crusader. Batcat was leaner and more given to movement, but his fur bore the same markings. It is unnerving, to see my childhood cat in the eyes of a much larger living female cat. Browsing the back aisle for coffee filters, brownie mix, or vegetable oil, Xena’s eyes stare at me from her camouflaged girth, innocent and knowing, familiar and strange, heimlich and unheimlich. We have maintained a steady friendship, despite the fact that the sight of her explodes my interior experience of linear time and reality.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Grandparents.com, Epistolary Black Hole

“Is it a TTYL at the end of a message? That's ‘talk to you later.’ As a response to a joke or YouTube URL you might have e-mailed, LOL says, ‘I'm laughing out loud.’ As a signoff, it also means ‘lots of love.’ Juicy gossip? OMG can only be ‘oh my God,’ especially from a granddaughter of a certain age. LMK after a question means ‘let me know.’”
- “Tools and Tips for Decoding Text Messages,” by Judy DeMocker, Grandparents.com

The pursuit of full-time employment has led me down plenty of dead-ends, filthy back allies, and crippling shame-spirals, but perhaps the biggest kick in the pants so far has been my brief, sordid tryst with Grandparents.com. What impelled me to forward my employment history and a letter applying for a job as a Web Editor to a faceless man purporting to own and operate an internet start-up called Grandparents.com? The answer to this question remains something of a mystery to me. A cursory look at Grandparents.com will serve to elucidate my confusion and humiliation.

I’ve deluded myself with a few placatory answers. For one, there’s the ease and efficiency of job applications over email especially when you’re in a cookie-cutter cover letter rut. In my weaker moments, I’ve convinced myself this may have been a worthwhile opportunity not to be discounted. But ultimately, the only convincing answer I can give myself is Eldercore – a celebration and devout allegiance to all things elder. I applied to this job because I’ve always been into Eldercore – wind-breakers, wearing your pants high on the waist, and going out to dinner very early.

Below, I have reproduced the entirety of my email correspondence with Jeff Beil, founder of Grandparents.com.

from: Jeff Beil
to: Martin M
date: Jan 23, 2007 11:28 PM
subject: Web Editor Position at Grandparents.com

Martin,
Thank you for applying for the web editor position at grandparents.com. I'd love to talk to you about the job in person. Could you come in for an interview this week?
Best regards,
Jeff

An interview! I probably should have known something was suspicious when I received the preceding email at 11:30 at night – after all, older folks don’t stay up that late. Nonetheless, the following morning I shot back an excited reply:

from: Martin M
to: Jeff Beil
date: Jan 24, 2007 11:48 AM
subject: Re: Web Editor Position at Grandparents.com

Jeff,
That's great! I'm available to come in tomorrow (Thurs) in the morning, or any time on Friday. Let me know what works for you.
Looking forward,
Martin

I placed my Rockport Prowalkers by the door, perfectly aligned like little gentlemen at attention. I perched my freshly-pressed royal blue Members Only jacket on the arm of the house rocking chair. I buckled down in front of the computer with a raspberry phosphate for a long afternoon of inbox refreshing.

And then, nothing.

My disappointment came in the form of silence.

from: Martin M
to: Jeff Beil
date: Jan 29, 2007 12:28 PM
subject: Re: Web Editor Position at Grandparents.com

Jeff,
Just wondering about a possible interview time - any day this week works for me.
Thanks,
Martin


Still no reply. I watched as the content of Grandparents.com grew. Had another web editor been hired? If so, why shouldn’t Jeff at least email me to say ‘forget it?’

from: Martin M
to: Jeff Beil
date: Feb 7, 2007 12:43 PM
subject: Re: Web Editor Position at Grandparents.com

Hello Jeff,
Still curious about the interview at Grandparents.com. Please let me know.
Martin


Confused and dejected, I howled into the digital abyss. In some strange way, I felt I had been let down by an entire generation. And finally:

from: Martin M
to: Jeff Beil
date: Mar 6, 2007 3:26 PM
subject: Re: Web Editor Position at Grandparents.com

Jeff,

"To a tween or teen, especially, there's nothing like a grandparent. You're there for her when she needs you most, and you are a crucial adviser about everything from homework to making friends. But building that trust can often feel as arduous as the search for the Holy Grail." - Lambeth Hochwald, "Lean on me: Building trust with your grandchild," Grandparents.com

Still looking forward to the interview! TTYL! LOL!

I Remain,

Martin M

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Timeless Raps, Vol. 2

David Bowie (materializing suddenly): “Are you ready to go, small child?”

Small Child: “Where?”

David Bowie: “Outside all Time as you know it, little one.”

Small Child: “You mean to grandma and grandpa’s house?”

David Bowie (smiling gently, inscrutably): “No, little one, to


Rap:

[Ice Cube]
“I’m hard on ‘em,
yeah I’m ruthless.
You like a stress-sack,
boy you useless.
You know the side, trick.
Better get up on it.
Cuz it must be a single with Nate Dogg singin’ on it.

[…]

[Mack 10]
It ain’t a hit till Nate Dogg spit.”

Rappers: Ice Cube & Mack 10, “Gangsta Nation” (radio edit), off Westside Connection’s album Terrorist Threats








Grounds for entry
: truth

Explanation:

I admit that from a strictly technical standpoint, this song features no killer verses—the rhetorikal skillzz of the 3 members of the thuggy, unknowingly self-parodic Westside Connection range from pedestrian (Mack 10) to passable (W.C.) to legit (a fading Ice Cube). No, the song is all about those tooting keyboards—hot damn, those keyboards—and Nate Dogg*. And these here clarion lines at the end.

To hear the 3rd and 4th lines cited above is to come across a lovely unexpected spring flower beside the path during a February walk in the woods, one of those revealing little lines in a rap song which, surrounded by all the posturing, all the posing, all the dick-swinging, tells you just a sweet little something about the MC. In this case, we now categorically know what Ice Cube doesn’t use to relax when he’s on tour or on the set of one of his many movies: Stress-sacks! In fact we know his exact valuation of their worth: Useless! Such a grim verdict leads us to imagine that Ice Cube, at some very stressful point in his life, turned desperately to stress-sacks for sweet succor, sat down with stress-sacks for an intense few moments of heavy breathing and heart-pounding and squeezing, was let down horribly by stress-sacks, and has never forgiven stress-sacks for this.

The 7th line is just true. True. That is all. Robustly, powerfully, terrifyingly true in a way that our sickly postmodernity has not equipped us to deal with. It is The Nate Dogg Axiom, and in identifying it Ice Cube displays a searing, veridical awareness of the mechanisms of his trade, and also of life, kind of.

The final line comes right before the instrumental climax of the song, in which the keyboards—oooooh those keyboards—are just unleashed. Mack 10 utters this during one of those end-of-the-song conversational rants that rappers will do, where they’re just kind of talking smack at no one in particular. Oftentimes these rants are curious mixtures of unversified and versified natter—the rapper will chat in measured conversational prosodies one second and then totally slip in a little rhymed, iambic couplet the next. This is a great example of that: a slight variation on The Nate Dogg Axiom in the form of a condensed, nearly perfect gnomic verse such like children might learn and recite at grammar school. You know, like “A stitch in time saves nine,” or “The early bird gets the worm”. I want my children to learn and recite this line at grammar school.

For it is timeless.

*Link leads to the uncensored song's utterly baffling music video

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Right Back Where We Started From

The following article is from the now defunct Associated Press's ASAP






DOOMED TV -- 'The O.C.' takes a long look at itself

By MARTIN MULKEEN


What makes us who we are?

Is it an untouchable essence at our core that guides our actions, or does our environment sculpt our character?

Nature versus nurture—an age-old question, indeed.

Wrestling with it, and often punching it in the face, was Ryan of "The O.C."—a smart, respectful kid who just needed a change of scenery and some wealthy benefactors to fulfill his potential.

Likewise, the once-beloved, soon-to-be-deceased "O.C." is a charity case— a winner at heart, but not making many new friends while stuck in a Thursday night ratings war (read: massacre) with "Grey's Anatomy."

If surroundings killed "The O.C.," then its introspection made it what it was.

Despite its notorious attention to all things pop, the program remained even more fascinated by its own reflection, brimming with self-referentiality both vainglorious and self-deprecating. To eulogize this cannibalistic impulse, we offer a list of the show's most memorable moments in self-awareness.

While not the first show given to navel-gazing (lest we forget Seinfeld's "show about nothing"), never before has a mainstream television program so thoroughly borrowed from its own cultural impact to develop new material. Come the last episode, don't be surprised to see the whole Newport gang mourning over its own grave, the program finally having swallowed itself whole.

These are the great meta moments in "O.C." history.

---

KEEPING UP APPEARANCES

1. Ryan Atwood, Russell Crowe doppelganger: Coming back from a date, Ryan and Marissa stop to chat in front of the Cohen house. They have just seen "Master and Commander," and Marissa says: "I don't know, Russell Crowe—he just doesn't do anything for me. I mean, people say he's good looking ... but I don't see it." Despite Mischa Barton's less-than-convincing acting, she speaks volumes with a side-of-the-mouth smirk.

2. Big Korea takes on Big Japan: Summer's revenge prom date is the hottest pop star in Korea. The front man for Big Korea may not speak a word of English, but he is fluent in the insider nod. Adam Brody plays drums for a band by the name of Big Japan.

3. Mischa Barton salutes the Union Jack: British-born Mischa Barton helps steal back her sister's Montecito school crest with her feminine wiles, posing as a British stripper, and summoning a suspiciously authentic British accent.

4. On the ongoing, now-moribund relationship between Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson:

Seth: "Over-exposure Ryan, it's a major source of conflict in new relationships. Summerith, Sethimer? You understand what I'm saying?"

Ryan: "No no, but that's normal."

5. "I'm not reading that, that's like 'The Ring.' I don't want to die," says Seth, getting all intertextual on us. (Adam Brody was in "The Ring"!)

---

A SHOW WITHIN A SHOW, WITH ITS OWN SPIN-OFF SHOW

1. Ryan and Seth discuss Grady, from "The Valley":

Ryan: "He's kinda like you."

Seth: "What, handsome and charming?"

Ryan: "No. Geeky and sarcastic."

Seth: "Oh god, he is like me ... except with his own TV show."

2. "I wish I was from the Valley." - Summer.

3. "The Real Valley," the "O.C.'s" scathing riposte to MTV's "Laguna Beach."

---

FINGER ON THE PULSE OF ITS OWN CULTURAL BACKLASH

1. "Ooooh god, what if its starting ... the Chrismukkah backlash ... what if its getting too big and commercial. ... Dude, I knew this would happen, it's like it starts out as this really cool, cult holiday, you know, flying beneath the cultural radar—and then all of a sudden it crosses over and then there’s too much pressure. I mean truthfully, can it really be the next Thanksgiving—can it top Halloween?" - Seth, talking about something larger than fake holidays. Perhaps he is referring to the show's very own unique propensity toward blowing up indie rock acts? To wit:

2. The politics of listening: "Ugh! They're playing Death Cab on 'The Valley'? (I'm) never listening to them again." - Kaitlin Cooper echoes the sentiments of all those "underground" music fans at home.

---

IS THAT SETH ON THE COUCH NEXT TO ME?

1. Upon Zach's return from Italy, Seth characteristically drops a fourth-wall shattering line to make you wonder if he isn't watching the show with you. "Hey man, you came back ... people never leave and come back!"

California, there you go.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Upon Passing By a Communist Rally in my Childhood Town

"Communism doesn't work because people like to own stuff."
-Frank Zappa

picture of my childhood house in Münster

One sunny summer Saturday in 2006 I took a train out to visit Münster, Germany, the town where I spent a few years of my young life. My family lived in Münster, in theory, because of Communism—my dad was in the Army, and the American army had to be in Germany because… you know… because of the Reds. And as I was poking around the depressingly unfamiliar streets of my old town I stumbled upon a Communist rally in full swing. Now wait just one hot minute,” I said to myself in a moment of impulsive patriotic-nostalgic fervor, “I grew up in this town to get rid of you assholes.” But as I watched them enjoying their rally, the flash of anger cooled, and I walked on with shouts of “Down with the American butchers!” and “Israel has no right to exist!” pealing off the walls of the square, thinking to myself “Aww, let ‘em have their fun. Rallies are so much fun.

Though we spent the first years of our lives dumbly watching its spectacular headswell and collapse, Communism evokes a relatively weak and passed-on behavioral distemper in my American generation, not like the visceral fear and hatred of our foregoers. Sure, almost all Americans, regardless of age, share an essential dislike of the thing. The contemporary weakness of the communist ideology in America (especially in comparison to our cultural relatives, the Western European nations) is a running testament to this. Still, my generation learned its anti-Red catechism just and even as we learned to speak language—passively and without critical understanding—and right before we entered the phase of American life where we might have begun to regard its presence with synapse-setting, hormone-infused, culturally mediated intellectual loathing, it was gone, just like that, with a Wall. Unlike the previous three crops of Americans, we were a generation without a nemesis. This happy state of things would, of course, last only a decade.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A deft technological improvisation, of which I am proud, but for which I cannot take credit


"Whether you're making a mix tape, archiving vinyl, or recording from a live source, TDK audio tapes are pure performance perfection."
- The TDK website


One day, in 1999, I spent an entire Trigonometry period absorbing a classmate’s detailed instructions on how to download mp3 files. Later, at home, I navigated my Netscape browser to a primitively coded forum style website with neon green text on a black background. This site had errant html code and no search capabilities, but it did have music files. It had these little music files that took hours to download. Soon, my collected melodies squeaked from the pitiful single speaker of my Power Computing Mac Clone Tower.

And so it began. I joined Rapster, the Mac version of Napster designed for my obsolete operating system (OS 7.5, I think it was). I eventually amassed a small but respectable fleet of melodies to play over and over. The only one I remember was “Bling Bling,” by the Cash Money Millionaires.

This was all happening long before suggestively hip black silhouettes danced in front of psychedelic rainbow splatter spaces. My precious little tunes were hardly portable. CD burning had not yet come to the masses, or at least anyone I knew well. With patience uncommon in sixteen year-olds, we endured the hours of downloading, but we could never have our songs to go.

But then, a good friend, let’s call him Guillermo Hatleroy, had a great idea that rescued us from this tortuous technological purgatory. Borrowing an instrument from the Compact Disc era, Guillermo concocted a baroque marriage of analog and digital technologies, boldly introducing the infant mp3 era to its outmoded ancestor, the cassette tape. The result was a recording Rube Goldberg.

The set-up hinged upon a car audio cassette adapter. This looks like a regular TDK without the tape inside and a long headphone cord snaking from its corner. This headphone jack plugged into the sound out port on the computer, and the cassette adaptor at the end of the cord was inserted into one side of a dual tape deck. The other side of the dual tape deck held a blank tape. This is where the mix was made. Hit play on the mp3 player and the blank tape at the same time (the adapter tape was just left running constantly), wait for the song to finish, and presto: mp3s onto tapes. To this day I marvel at Guillermo’s ingenuity.

I relate this story with a great deal of pride that my friend and I inhabited a corner of recording history that is now completely forgotten, and was likely never known by more than a few. At the time, we were scientists, rebuking the established mode of planned obsolescence and forcing an elegantly brutal anachronism. Now our lot is cast with characters like Copernicus and Phrenology, our work disqualified and overthrown by superior theories and techniques. Today, we have nothing but our stories of frontier recording. But my friend’s historically contextualized genius lives on in my memory, as well as my mix tapes, many of which I still have.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A brief thought on Style

“She said that the time had come to discard the system of balance of power among sovereign states established by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.”

-William Pfaff, in the article "Manifest Destiny: A New Direction for America"


The single and only true aim of Style in written English is to stimulate in the reader a narcotic euphoria which might cause them to overlook the great many prepositions one is using.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Timeless Raps

Oh lordy it is so sweet when a rapper raps sweet raps. Surely on this we can all agree. Be you a casual or serious fan of the genre, you know that there’s nothing quite like the first time you hear an MC utter a golden couplet or flawless quatrain, and the subsequent joy in knowing you’ll be able to recall and revisit those lines whenever you wish, for they are timeless. It is in honor of these feelings, and of the MC’s that engender them, that I am proud to cut the ribbon with my main man MKM on an M. K. Mulkeen / Kevin C collaborative serial: Timeless Raps. TYHIVN presents:

Rap:

“Everbody talkin’ ‘bout pistols.
Gats is bo
ring.
Came with a new topic to flip you:
Vats of urine.

[…]

Born of the pleads that needs
the peeing geniuses.
Broads don’t see it since they don’t got these…

conveniences.”

Rapper: MF Doom (a.k.a. Danger Doom), “Vats of Urine”, off the album The Mouse and the Mask






Grounds for entry: trail-blazing juke-outs

Explanation:

MF Doom is one of my top 5 favorite rappers. No wait, top 3. No other MC works so conversationally, like someone just asked him a question and he decided to hold a sort of informal clever lecture on the subject and run a beat under it. Indeed on most Doom tracks one can infer an unposed question that he’s engaging with. In this case, the question is “Doom, what do you think about the violence in contemporary hip-hop?” The thing is, he always ends up answering some other question that no one would ever think to ask. Here, that question is “Doom, to what end can and do men piss in beverage containers?” The result is a minute-long poetic meditation on vats of urine.

These lines are pure Doom. It is difficult, within the context and constraints of a hip-hop track, to justify rapping about pee—he pulls it off in 4 lines. The opening really is an open-palmed slap at the lazy, blubbery body of contemporary hip-hop and a deft, extraordinarily funny separation from that corpus at the same time. Also golden is the second collection of lines quoted here, where Doom uses a favorite trick of his: the skip-a-beat misdirection. He (or rather his DJ, Danger Mouse) disrupts the flow of the song and then, because of the context and rhyming clues he’s given, leaves the listener no choice but to mentally conjure the word “penises” in the painful absence of a beat. Doom, of course, opts for the euphemism “conveniences”, makin’ you feel all dirty and silly for having conjured not just the word “penis”, but its still-lewder plural. What a rapscallion he is!

Oh and also, Doom refers to women here as “broads”, which recalls a glorious lost era in American cultural history when men wore hats, and spoke out of the side of their mouths, and the rhetorical question “See?” was an acceptable way to end a declarative sentence or command.

Totally aware-like of history, yet forward-thinking.

Timeless.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Of Boxed-up Junk and Slow Jams

"Show me your wiener."
-N. Beck


I have neither a TV nor the internet in my apartment. My exposure to American culture is limited to the approximately 1 hour I spend browsing on the computer at work every day and to what my friends tell me. I was for sure one of the last chumps around to see this (please click on the "this").


So I have heard two criticisms of this video, namely that:

1.) It’s 10 years too late. Mr. Show did it first in the mid-90’s.
2.) It isn’t funny.

The first is valid, the second is codswallop. This video is hilarious, if not the first of its kind. I am so taken by it I’d venture to say that it’s even funnier than the Mr. Show original (though just by a hair), and you won’t find me shaking my aegis in favor of SNL over Mr. Show too often. Maybe it’s just the presence of a bona-fide R&B superstar in the SNL version that gives it the edge; I’m not above admitting that. Maybe it’s just the phrase “dick in a box”; I’ll admit that too. But what this video and its ancestor manage to be, beyond merely funny, and beyond jabs at silly white R&B artists, are brilliant critiques of a dark period in R&B music: the 1990’s. The 90’s were The Decade that the Sex Done Gone and Left R&B. Allow me to explain.

R&B has, historically, been uniquely equipped and willing to deal subtly (and not so subtly) with human eroticism. We have on the one hand the place of sex—even if simply suggested—in the bluesman’s laundry list of gripes (My car up and died, I got no money, my old woman don’t love me no more). We have sex as cleverly disguised metaphor (the singer, upon returning home from being a cad, exclaims “Wait a minute something’s wrong here / My key won’t unlock the door”). We have sex as thinly-veiled-and-sort-of-grotesque metaphor (“Squeeze my lemon till the juice runs down my leg”… who has an erect penis that in any way resembles a lemon?). We have also beats, grooves, and arrangements that lend themselves to titillating rhythmical movements of the body, to what my friend Grape terms the sexydance.


So what happened? Well, Prince happened. I’ll admit right now that Prince is my single favorite recording artist of all time. But what he did was drop the tropes and really, really, make sex a lyrically explicit element of R&B. For the love of Pete, the man wrote a song called “Head”. And “Soft and Wet”. And “Cream”. And “Pussy Control”. Jesus. In a way, this is thrilling. In a way, it is kind of shitty, because it unwittingly paved the way for R. Kelly. But Prince’s music, though straight-up regarding the scrumpin’, proudly retained the sweaty grooves and licentious funk of its R&B influences—in a word, his music was sexy, and his lyrics could kill your grandmother, to boot.


Then R. Kelly happened (R. Kelly will stand metonymically for all shitty R&B artists of the 90’s, but I think he’s the real culprit anyways). Like Prince, R. Kelly too sang openly about the old in-‘n-out—in far less entertaining ways—but unlike Prince, he sucked the sex right out the music. He was at the forefront of the New Jack movement, a regrettable but ultimately influential sub-genre of R&B characterized by steady, plodding 4/4 beats, lots of synthesizers, and aimless, noodling male harmonies. In short, he’s the godfather of all the bloodless R&B slowjams my generation danced, groped, and hoped to at school dances in the 90’s. Think R. Kelly’s “Feelin’ on Yo Booty”. Or “Sex Me” (both Part 1 and Part 2). Or “Honey Love”. It’s ostensibly about sex, indeed it screams the name of the rose right in your face, but it’s accompanied by music that sounds like it could have been randomly generated by a computer program with a few input parameters. It’s about as stale, unromantic, and not-sexy as it gets. You can’t just sing about sex and be sexy.

So when, in their respective music videos set to crappy music, David Cross from Mr. Show looks directly into the camera, puts on his best O-face, and croons “Ewww-ewww-eww” while his lover reams him, and Justin Timberlake proffers his hardened dick in a box over a romantic Christmas dinner with his date, what are we seeing? We’re seeing what are intended to be erotic performances spoiled by absurd over-sexing; we’re seeing foregrounded, cheap horniness with nothing to back it up. Little funny allegories for what happened to much of R&B in the 90’s.

p.s.

Readers, if any of you has a penis that, when erect, resembles a lemon, please write in. I’m just curious if there’s anyone out there.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Slabs of Clinton Hill: A Photographic Essay

"I'm leanin' on a switch sittin' crooked in my slab, but I could still catch boppas if I drove a cab."

- Paul Wall, from Kanye West's
Drive Slow

‘Slab’ is a slang term applied to any full-sized luxury General Motors automobile predating 1980 - primarily Buicks, Oldsmobiles, and Cadillacs. It is an acronym that stands for “Slow Low And Bangin’”. Below you will find the slabs of Clinton Hill.

The Slab is a celebrated symbol of the dirty South as well as the low-ridin’ left coast (mainly Southern California), but low and behold, the Slab is also a staple of my Brooklyn neighborhood, Clinton Hill.

Slab is one of those really splendid kind of acronyms where the word formed by the collection of letters also very much achieves its own unique descriptive quality of the object in question. I am short on examples, now that I think about it. The San Francisco-based Theater Group, ACT (American Conservatory Theater) qualifies. The semi-esoteric baseball pitching statistic, WHIP (Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched) might qualify. I want to say Wu Tang’s ‘Cream’ (Cash Rules Everything Around Me), but I know that isn’t right. Laser (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) is probably something different entirely because the ‘Zherr’ sound of its second syllable is onomatopoeiatic. But so is the word ‘whip’ in its derivation, probably. But Slab is better than all of these. Maybe tied with Laser.

But I digress. Slabs can be candy-painted or outfitted with hydraulics to sink and rise in the back (the ‘switch’ to which Paul Wall refers toggles this low-riding action). Like any other car, they can also have rims. The Slabs pictured below have none of these luxury features.

Some brief notes on each Clinton Hill Slab:


Slab #1 – This orthographic projection gives one a real sense of the comical length of all Slabs. This is a two-door vehicle and yet it is parked in front of three houses. This slab also features a handsome drop-top.


Slab #2 – Given its general disrepair, some might say this automobile might be more aptly characterized as a ‘busted hooptie,’ rather than a Slab, which denotes some degree of care and upkeep. However, this is the only Slab here which is ‘riding on spokes’ as they say. Notice the spokes.


Slab #3 – This Slab is a fetching teal color, reminiscent less of a blue sky than a bottle of Alize. I hypothesize that this slab and slab #2 may share an owner given that they are often parked on the same block and both have blue masking tape holding the tail lights to the body of the car.


Slab #4 – This is the Golden Supreme Slab. The shapeliness of the front bumper is suggestive of a curly bracket, or a ‘brace’ as they are also sometimes called. You know the one – ‘}’ – it goes inside regular brackets, which goes inside parentheses. Granted, this car’s visual impact is greatly bolstered and offset by the back drop of gritty urban street art, not to mention a flattering angle, but that’s just the luck of the draw. The paint job is crazy gleamin’ and the body of the car obscures the top half of the back wheel leaving its long slabby contours intact. Golden Supreme Slab is the winner of the Clinton Hill Number One Slab Award. (This was a contest?)