Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Jersey Shore’

In the 1990s, I once attended a poetry reading by Derek Walcott and Seamus Heaney in lower Manhattan. Both of them had already won their Nobel prizes in literature, and both had made indelible impressions on my young mind about the beauty of language, the possibilities of extended poetic works still being written in modern language, the hope for poetry in general.

Cost to see them both back to back: $5, a bit more than a Happy Meal. Can of waterproofing Scotchgard that year: about $8. The irony: priceless.

How could it be, I wondered, that two of the greatest living gifts to the English language cost less than the Verrazano Narrows bridge fare? (To Staten Island!) Something seemed horribly amiss. Sure, Walcott is a turgid, affectless speaker who does no justice to his own jaunty iambs when he speaks them out loud in his heavy basso profundo voice. But Heaney more than compensates. To hear him speak, “A rowan like a lipsticked girl” in his playful brogue with all his funny asides is a real hoot. Well worth $10 at least.

So when my wife mentioned last night to friends at dinner that the Jersey Shore‘s own Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi was speaking at Rutgers, I knew immediately that she would fetch more than any mere Nobel or Pulitzer prize winner. In fact, I could have written this OMG! story myself if I had just made a few phone calls. Supposedly Snooki, who likely doesn’t know who fought on whose side in World War I, is getting $32,000 to speak to kids who just finished their engineering and pharmaceutical science midterms. And as we know from efficient market theory, she is worth every penny, right?

Right?

Is it wrong to pay Snooki so much to speak to college students at a renowned university? Rutgers’ motto is, “Sun of righteousness, shine upon the West also.” Is it wrong to say, “Sun of righteousness, shine upon Snooki, also”? How about “Sun of righteousness, give the drummer some!”

As you know if you’re a regular Jersey Shore viewer, the morning sun shining on Snooki usually reveals only a full ashtray and a semen-stained cocktail dress. So what, exactly, will be illuminated on the Rutgers campus? Would Snooki, like Toni Morrison, both defend and attack the classical reading canon? Or would she just try to come up with variants on “Hold onto your dreams girls!” for an hour and a half? Would she recall that time JWoww peed behind the bar and use it as an allegorical statement on feminism and commodification? Would she remind people to stay in college and offer herself as a bad example? Would she remind us that Angelina is a back-stabbing whore and Rutgers students who even think of acting like Angelina better watch their step in her home town?

Would she talk to mostly business students about how to sell your brand and how powerful that brand can be if there’s a smell attached?

Really, what could Snooki tell Rutgers students that they don’t already know about drunk townies? Wasn’t it people like Snooki in high school who hastened a lot of us into college in the first place? Really, Rutgers, hasn’t she already done her job?

And that’s when it struck me:  It’s not the content of Snooki’s words that matter but Snooki herself. She has become a semion now. A walking representation of the post-industrial dream. With her proud provincialism, she leapfrogged over the moneyed swells and reminded them that all the money they are spending on college would have been better flushed down the toilet on one of the turnpike bathrooms as they made their way to the Shore, bitch.

You think I’m kidding, but consider that college tuition has been rising faster than everything–even stock appreciation–while salaries for most of us stall. The American dream of upward mobility still has a lot of power, but the perception of it and the reality of it are more at odds every year. When the people in the top 2% of income make 450 times more than those in the bottom 50%, when home ownership has become an unreachable aspiration in the new paradigm, and when retirement will likely be withheld longer as savings rates decline, you know for sure that the American dream seems ever more like a hustle, that it’s not guaranteed your children will be better off than you are, and that it’s time to look at moving to China or Brazil. (Look at the overseas currencies and you might get a sense of where your middle class is going.)

The idea that a good college education these days is going to deliver you the life that even your grandparents got is starting to seem pretty silly. Even law students are starting to think that the allure of their profession with its promise of high income is a scam. And of course, ask doctors how much they are making these days and if it’s what they expected.

It’s likely that the cast of Jersey Shore is smarter than we give them credit for. Supposedly, they are monetizing their celebrity with rich endorsement deals and making hay while the sun shines. But that is part of the sick, horrible lesson here: How many of us can reap wheat from personality? Is personality really going to be the next great American export, like cars, oil and IPods? How much of it do we have? When will it run out? How soon must I turn my son into a personality after he arrives if I am to start creating a nest egg? It seems like getting him to react to a sneeze on a YouTube video is the only way to fund his future. (Thirteen million views? Not too shabby!)

Snooki is coming to Rutgers, I surmise, to remind people of this very thing. “Study hard,” says Snooki, “But party harder.” May I suggest ending with “Pull my finger”?

She couldn’t be any worse than Derek Walcott.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

My wife has been addicted to the show “Jersey Shore” on MTV since she caught the first season in reruns on the Web. From the very first sight of Snooki getting slapped, to the very second sight of Snooki getting slapped, to the boys’ search for women who aren’t “grenades,” to every drunken brawl, Stephanie has been hooked.

She’s so hooked, that she’s been keeping up with the regular reviews written by our friend Bill Cammack. Not to be outdone, I’ve decided to review the show myself so that I can take more interest in my wife’s hobbies.

So to recap, here’s my review of last week’s episode:

It sucked. This show fucking blows chunks. This show is like watching monkeys throw feces at each other. Every time I watch it, I feel my soul degraded in the way John Milton did when he described dogs eating Satan’s bowels on the lake of fire at the beginning of “Paradise Lost.” Last week, one of the drama queens hit another one in the face. The week before that, one of the drama queens hit another one in the face. The big guy who I will call after his dictionary name, “The Position With Respect To Conditions and Circumstances,” made a face and invented some new acronym for his activities. These include DTF, which means a girl who’s “down to fuck.” And GTL, for the boys’ favorite hobby of “gym, tan laundry.” I submit a new acronym: GIAR, or “give it a rest.” For the woman known as JWoww, I proffer the more fitting sobriquet “J Duh.”

The plot is as follows: the seven main roommates and their annual swing position roommate sit and gossip about something that might have been said on the phone and that might have been said about them. The roommates, having no self-esteem, assume something bad was said about them behind their backs because none of them have any worthwhile qualities and it’s easier for them to project their self-hatred on the other limited, brutish people in the room. One girl has a big rack.

One guy is the nice guy. I have not figured out why he’s earned this title yet except that maybe it’s because he doesn’t come up with acronyms. Whenever anybody is in doubt, he or she reveals sinews and breasts, a gesture now as anticipated and customary as a curtsy in court or the lighting of the Olympic torch.

My review of last week’s episode: It sucked. The one before that? It blew. Before that? Rim worthy. Before that? Sewer scummy. Before that? Bathypelagic in its utter depths of depravity.

I hope that summary provides a suitable reason to keep breath bated among my wife and other people who for some reason can’t afford a trip to the Bronx Zoo to see things of more interest.

Look out for season 4. They’re going to Rome!

(Check out Bill Cammack’s site, too! He’s a renaissance man: dating guru, musician, film editor and man about town.)

Read Full Post »

4 NBC

A man is forced to eat his own entrails. If you can write a plot around this idea, then you’ve got a job at “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”

24 E! Entertainment Television
Steal, strip, sex your way into fame.

13 PBS
If Oscar Wilde were on Facebook, his status updates would be so witty they would shame you from ever making another one yourself … and other observations by Bill Moyers.

25 MTV
“Hell is Other Guidos”: The Situation, Snookie, Pauly D and JWoww are all stuck together in a room they can’t get out of. And you are paralyzed watching them.

27 The Food Network
Mystery Movie of the Week: The secret sauce is daddy!

36 ABC Family
An innocent squeeze on the cheek cannot be taken at face value in this Anne Sexton biopic.

13 PBS
Anne Sexton: “A woman who loves a woman is forever young.”

24 Lifetime
This lifetime movie on Anne Sexton skews toward women age 30 to 50.

14 CNN
The woman who loves Larry King is forever young.

28 Fox News
A woman who loves Rush Limbaugh is forever quiet, because he can’t hear a word she’s saying.

28 Fox News
Reporter Juan Williams was fired from NPR just for going on Fox News, reports Juan Williams on Fox News.

28 Fox News
A woman is stabbed in Idaho. Coming up: six hours of uninformed conjecture about what it might mean.

28 Fox News
Why it’s unconstitutional to force people to buy health care insurance, car insurance, home owner’s insurance, Social Security, postage stamps or access to the New Jersey Turnpike.

30 CNN
In this latest episode of Crossfire, David and Maddie finally kiss.

31 Current TV
Because of a music rights legal dispute, this biopic on Kurt Cobain features the music of the Dwarves, Zeke, and the Theater of Sheep.

36 Health Network
If you feel as if you can’t concentrate, focus on daily tasks, meet mental challenges, organize your thoughts or retrieve your perspicacity, then the best thing you could possibly be doing right now is watching television.

4 KFOR Oklahoma City
My sister was on this channel the other night! Really! She sat on the journalist panel for the Oklahoma gubernatorial debates.

4 KFOR Oklahoma City
Unfortunately, you have to hate Barack Obama, health care reform, the federal government, roads, bridges and people who get sick if you want to be governor of Oklahoma.

82 Bloomberg
You are unemployed because American companies find you too expensive, and don’t want to waste their vital cash reserves on you and weaken their earnings per share. So if you are smart and can put two and two together, you will vote against the Democrats in two weeks.

54 AMC
“Mad Men” is over for the season, which means it’s best just to turn the television off altogether.

Read Full Post »

There’s no getting around it: America is divided. We’ve become more polarized, less tolerant of one another’s ideas and points of view. Less likely to reach across the divide of discourse, less likely to see the ironies of, seek alternatives to or break the paradigms of our own thoughts, less likely to live outside the echo chamber where we repeat the thoughts of our family and friends without thinking for ourselves, where we can’t synthesize seemingly incompatible political ideas. We’ve moved farther apart than ever, refusing to discuss things in a way that might bring us together.

Of course, I’m talking about the tragedy of last night’s Emmy Awards.

Oh sure, Jimmy Fallon was funny wandering the hall like a minstrel and breaking the proscenium stage to sing with Julianna Margulies and Stephen Colbert. Yes, a lot of quality shows were justly rewarded. You don’t even care that they are still calling January Jones a leading lady when she has gotten less air time on Mad Men this year than some of the extras.

But TV has, like America, become polarized, and when you look past the opulence of this gala event, all you see is cleavage … a wider gap than ever between quality and crap on television. The Emmys now have a category for best reality TV show. For those of you who enjoy oxymorons (or just morons)–here is your category. It must be embarrassing for wordsmiths in a writer’s medium to watch the Vandals, Saracens and Goths with their vulgar, vomiting beasts of burden ride across the red carpet and leave horse turds everywhere.

What used to be called television is today called “scripted television.” These are the things that stir our spirit, fire our imaginations. You might now call them paintings, and reality TV, contrariwise, is a mirror. Is a mirror on society interesting? I guess it depends on how interesting the people in them are. Mostly, I see people on reality TV picking their noses. And when it comes to, say, the Jersey Shore, I find the stuff in my own nose more interesting.

Emmy night lays bare this cleavage (sorry, couldn’t resist), where the best of our artists, like Matthew Weiner, who has tickled our fancy with Mad Men, sit cheek by jowl with Kim Kardashian, who tickles just ass men.  Where Tina Fey, who writes so many jokes on every page of 30 Rock that she makes the paper turn black, competes against the likes of Snooki, who, inside and out, is just turning black.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics suggests all systems are in a constant state of flux moving toward disorder. If you’ve read the work of Ilya Prigogine, the great Nobel laureate winning chemist, you realize that once these chaotic systems reach a level of polarization, they seek a quick, violent means of finding order again. Volatile chemical states reach disorder and strange things take place. Geopolitical disorder also allows weird things to take place. Imagine the Spanish Civil War. First, the political center disappeared in Spain, and pretty soon you had a breakdown in representative government in which each side refused to recognize the other. Then you had skirmishes, three years of conflict and discord and violence, and eventually a return to stasis and conformity in the form of a 40 year fascist dictatorship. Sometimes, amid discord, strange things emerge (like the paradox of an “anarchist government” in Barcelona).

But I like to think Prigogine could also have been talking about television. In a state of disorder, broadcast viewers flee to cable. Cable viewers flee to TiVo. TiVo viewers flee to the Internet and handheld devices. There is no conformity of quality or censorship. We live in a wild west, where a medium that used to be strictly regulated for the family now features regular nudity and sexual situations because the money people have become desperate. We now hear the word “shit” a lot. JWoww will show you her tits. Desperation can lead to phenomenal art (as it did when Hollywood movies underwent similar change in the 1960s). But it can also lead to people breaking the law to get on television. Sooner or later, the system will seek stasis and one side will win. The exhibition or the exhibitionists.

My fear is that people who want to watch something that aspires to be good are going to seek it elsewhere outside of television. Which is sad, because good television can be seriously great (like it is on Mad Men, 30 Rock, the Sopranos, etc.) When the good shows start to disappear from regular TV, the people who stay behind will turn it into a 24-hour spy camera. The Sony Masturbation Helper.

It’s great to see Mad Men and Breaking Bad and Lost win so many awards for their quality, but the Emmys remind you of this disorder between us–that the good shows aren’t the ones getting the ratings. Most regular people find it comforting for some reason to watch people threaten each other on Hell’s Kitchen, beat each other on Jerry Springer, or screw up their big moment on American Idol rather than try to work out that obscure Dorian Gray reference on Mad Men (Note to Weiner: nicely played!).  It’s the same reason that high school gossip is so compelling–it allows you to live vicariously rather than live. It allows you to validate yourself and measure your own worth by the failure of others. It asks you to judge everything and do nothing. Which is very, very, very attractive.

I like to think of this as using TV to live outside of your body. It’s one of the themes of a song I wrote called “TV Head.” Technology is changing our brains, doing the organizing for us so that we can do the intuitive work of life ourselves. But it’s also allowing mankind to follow a spiritual impulse he’s had since he wandered out of the African savannas–to not be himself. When he cannot reconcile the substance that is spirit with the substance that is flesh (and when he can’t see how, as some have argued, that the two are biologically interrelated), he seeks to escape and live inside Jonah’s whale. He becomes obsessed with ghosts. With the idea demonic possession. He seeks heaven, as if there he will find answers as an angel he can’t find now in the encyclopedia. Rather than seeking heroes, he will seek Ryan Seacrest.

So the cleavage is not just within Christina Hendricks’ generous embonpoint. The rift in the Emmys is within us. Life is short and none of us wants to say we spent the entire journey watching Kim Kardashian achieve our dreams for us when she has no discernible skills or talents. The thing I like about a show like Mad Men, for instance, is that it’s so smart it makes me do the work. It makes me live in my head. It forces me to do something other than just sit there. And, unlike most of the other manifestly awful things on television, it reminds me that sitting is exactly what I’m doing. I have to ask myself, “Could I be more interesting than Don Draper if I tried?”

Ask yourself. What’s in your nose?

You can listen to my song “TV Head” here: TV Head

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Read Full Post »

Snooki is overtaxed. MTV

One of my favorite shows on television (let’s be fair, 50% of what I watch on TV) is “The Soup,” with Joel McHale, the kind of show that the brilliant (if right now sadly ill) cultural critic Christopher Hitchens might call “low humor,” but one that actually gives its viewers a way to deconstruct the shows that currently pass for cultural communication–mainly the malady of reality TV for which there seem to be no antibodies. For some reason, these shows fulfill a need in our psychology to watch a lot of emotionally limited and brutish people fight, fuck, fall in love, and get drunk without ever having to balance a check book or pay the cable bill. Why do we watch? Maybe it’s because we know that the sloe-eyed, pneumatic, contumacious and inebriated Snooki is slowly (very slowly) gaining the path to wisdom. This makes her picaresque journey useful to us in invisible ways. We now know how not to behave and hopefully not to hit a lady in the face, even if we think she has it coming.

There is another conversation going on in America that’s not on cable TV, but you are likely familiar with it if you have a living grandparent with access to e-mail, a back channel of communication where Americans buy their penis creme as well as similarly specious topical anodynes from anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist. Often these e-mails are spiced with the names of legitimate news organizations so that they look like properly vetted journalism. But they aren’t. In reality, they are usually written directly by special interest groups and are meant to fool the rank and file into making Chicken Little decisions about their money. My late mother, a tax preparer and bankruptcy attorney, told me that people were coming to her asking to irresponsibly liquidate their holdings because of what they read in these e-mails (and saw on Fox News)–decisions that could have destroyed them financially.

Thursday an e-mail came across my desk talking about the expiration of the Bush tax cuts in 2011. The e-mail informs the reader that marginal tax rates are set to rise and that folks at all income levels will see increases next year, that their family farms will all of a sudden be subject to a 55% estate tax, that normal folks will see penalties for being married, having children and owning businesses. In other words, we’d be going back to the tax schedules of the Clinton era. Advertised as one of the largest tax hikes facing average Americans in U.S. history, these increases promise a new recession because they will overburden U.S. businesses, murder stock prices, kill investment and strangle innovation.

In other words, all the stuff that happened during the Internet boom. And who should you blame for the new recession? That’s a no-brainer. Democrats! They tax and spend, after all.

Or do they? The Democrats actually have a bill to continue the Bush era cuts–at least for 98% of us. It would keep marginal tax rates at the same level for all but the top two brackets, the highest of which will go back up to 39.6%. In fact, the rich will still see a small tax benefit because of the way income margins are staggered (they see the cuts at the lower rates, too, until they reach $200,000).

The Republican version of this bill extends the cuts for everybody, of course, which increases the deficit by more than $36 billion and relinquishes almost that entire amount to millionaires, according to a report by the Joint Committee on Taxation. If you are a millionaire, I respectfully say to you that you are sitting on this money these days anyway more than you are investing it, and you don’t need it.

You don’t hear much about the Democrats’ extension from your grandparents because Americans tend to hew to the prevailing political narrative the same way they do to Snooki’s progress through the vomit-skinned hot tubs of Jersey and Miami. It is much easier to repeat the meme that Democrats tax and spend. It is a story line that writes itself in our heads and thus we fail to break down the numbers, even when they show the story is patently false. The Democrats are your mother. They want to save the world but can’t. They are idealists who will spend your money for failed ideas of the public good. They are the reason for the recession. (Hopefully you don’t remember back that far.)

Storytelling is one of the quickest ways people learn. But it also allows people to program us. What if I told you that I knew for a fact Snooki, in her darkest moments, turns to quiet contemplation and reads Baudelaire; if that were true, you would likely not accept that news, and MTV would fire her. We all need her instead to be drunk, vulgar and provincial because then it feels better when somebody hits her in the face. Two thousand plus years ago, we were the same way, only we wanted to hit that smack-talking bitch Antigone. These days, we want to smack Barack Obama in the face. We want to punish him for his eternal ideal of commonwealth. The desire is so strong we aren’t even smart enough to notice that the freakin’ taxes haven’t even risen yet. We argue smugly that the stimulus package failed because that fits the welfare mother storyline but we don’t acknowledge that obscenely low tax rates haven’t helped either.

The truth of Grover Norquist’s statement, cramped as it is, is that the Bush tax cuts, if left to expire, would indeed bring us back to Clinton-era tax levels. What he won’t tell you, obsessed as he is with chimeras, is that Bush’s tax cuts mostly helped the wealthy in the first place. What he won’t tell you is that Clinton-era taxation helped us balance the budget. What he also won’t tell you is that most of what we have to pay for is two wars that Americans overwhelmingly approved in 2001 and 2003. The U.S. government is not taking YOUR money. The U.S. government is asking you to pay for something you already bought. OK, to be fair, maybe it has put one other item on layaway–better health care. Why? You said for years you wanted that too.

But nobody can deny that your taxes will definitely rise if a gridlocked Congress cannot come to agreement. And it’s not because of oppression but because of game theory. Republicans themselves have a vested interest in killing the Democratic version of the tax cut extension. Because then they can claim it was an example of Democrats taxing and spending, which you know, is as true as the story of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree or Jesus walking on water. They only want you to go along with the Republican version, which will require the government to keep borrowing from the Chinese to pay our teachers, repave our roads and keep former employees of our nation’s manufacturing base from living in Hoovervilles. Why do Republicans want to keep borrowing? Because they like unsustainable short term solutions and because Americans don’t really understand what their economy is made of right now: credit based on past economic strength. Sooner or later, Peter Luger is not going to take our white credit card.

If you don’t believe,  you have only to realize that some roads in this country are going back to dirt, teachers are being laid off, and unemployment benefits are being threatened.

If you do understand this, you must be able to fight this storyline wherever you encounter it (from Republicans or “centrist” Democrats alike): “Your tax bill is not going up under Obama, Grandpa. But frankly, it should.”

If you don’t understand this, there’s a crab lice infested hot tub I’d love to sell you in Little Silver.

Read Full Post »

2 CBS
Survivor: Lord of the Flies. Tonight, the tribes finally do away with Piggy.

3 FOX
American Idol: Everybody sings like Duffy this year and has diabetes.

3 FOX
Dead spouses and criminal records up the wow factor on Houseand American Idol both.

3 FOX
Ellen DeGeneres, Howard Stern and Grandpa from “Hee Haw” love Crystal Bowersox.

4 Vh-1
Beautiful and Infected (reality)

5 ABC Family
Keeping Up with the Palins

6 NBC
Palin Fear Factor

7 Vh-1
Palin of Love

8 Bravo
Growing Up Palin

9 Discovery
How Little Palins Are Made

10 History Channel
A new game show: Genocide or Not Genocide?

11 CNN
A new wrinkle in the New York governor scandal: David Paterson is also apparently deaf.

12 700 Club
A spot news report: While God apparently vacations on other side of the world, a catastrophic earthquake strikes Chile.

13 MTV
Punch Snooki in the face once, shame on you. Punch Snooki in the face twice, shame on Snooki.

14 Lifetime Movie
At the sound of the crying, the self-knowledge will begin.

14 Lifetime Movie
Mark Harmon: Not dead.

15 Discovery
Because of environmental clean-up efforts, biodiversity returns to New York Harbor–just in time for global warming to flood and kill everything.

16 Bloomberg
A look at the companies that by virtue of their sheer size can be the biggest alternative energy producers and the biggest polluters at the same time.

17 700 Club
Economic Outlook: Why Christians Should Hoard Gold

18 Animal Planet
Dolphins Talking Shit

19 Spike TV
A new reality show: “Douche Town”

20 Cinemax
Beaver Trapping with the Palins

Read Full Post »

–*Snooki

–*JWoww

–*The Situation

–*Pauly Q

–*Ootsie

–*Salmonella Bob

–*Vittles

–*Fuck Face

–*Oatmeal Pete

–*Sidewinder Sally

–*Back Door Sue

–*Grandma Hattie

–*The Issue

–*The Problem

–*Orange Alert

–*Orange Tan Alert

–*Melanoma Mary

–*Tits

–*Spooge

–*Race Bait Vin

–*Nightmare Steve

–*Zulu Dawn

–*Staten Island Bob

–*Boom Boom

–*”Uncomfortable Silence” Frank

–*J Duh

–*Fixodent and Forget It

–*Mau Mau

–*Your Place Or Mine

–*Diphtheria Chuck

–*The Awesomeness

–*Guido the Killer Pimp

–*”Sid” In Quotation Marks

–*Sid Without Quotation Marks

–*The Situation With Mange

–*The Situation With Crabs

–*The Accidental Dismemberment Situation

–*Pauly-Tony

–*Tony-Pauly

–*Angie From Exit 82

–*Angie From Exit 86

–*Ichabod

–*Staten Island Scurvy

–*Pauly No Club Foot (In Memory of Pauly Club Foot, who now sleeps forever in quick lime)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »