24 June 2010

From weirdo to badass in 3 minutes

I sooooo want to be this guy.

Look, I dance around all the time, arms flailing, legs kicking, and nobody ever joins in! What gives?!?! Continue reading this post >>

15 June 2010

Mr. Greene goes to Washington

Well, it's unlikely Alvin Greene will win in the general election, and he's not exactly an inspiring figure. Even if you aren't into politics, you should check out the bizarre goings-on in the South Carolina Democratic primary for US Senate.
In the race for United States Senate, political unknown Alvin M. Greene had walloped challenger Vic Rawl.

Around the state, Democratic activists were facing the smacking electoral truth that a non-campaigning, unemployed, black, country-living, coo-coo-for-Cocoa-Puffs nobody who’d been kicked out of the Army and was currently facing federal sex charges had just beaten — in the Democratic primary, and by 17 percentage points — a well-known former legislator, judge and current Charleston County councilman who’d raised a quarter of a million bucks for the race and for months been campaigning his ass off.
"Walloped" is right. Greene beat Rawl by 16 percentage points. There are several theories to explain the results, including GOP espionage, racial preference, and ballot tampering/malfunctions. Oh, democracy. Continue reading this post >>

14 June 2010

Casting your own biopic

You know the little game where you idly consider who would play you in the movie about your life? I like that game. It's fun/somewhat insightful to hear how people would like to view themselves. My big problem has been that I've never had a good answer for who would play me. Nobody's ever seemed right. I generally settle on Judi Dench. The Dame and I might not look alike on the outside, but we're practically identical on the inside.

Finally, though, I've come across an audition reel from an actor who is a perfect fit.

Continue reading this post >>

08 June 2010

Word Nerd: NY Times advanced vocab edition

When you double-click a word in an article at NYTimes.com, a question mark pops up. Click the question mark and you get the word's definition. Handy, I know. Well, it seems the good folks at the Gray Lady keep track of what words are looked up the most and have released the top 50 most looked-up words for 2010 thus far.

Here are the top 10 (each linked to its definition):
1) inchoate
2) profligacy
3) sui generis
4) austerity
5) profligate
6) baldenfreude (not an actual word)
7) opprobrium
8) apostates
9) solipsistic
10) obduracy
Out of the 50, I know 9 of them. I don't know if I should be pleased or embarrassed by those results. My brain has never done well with vocabulary -- I've been caught misusing words enough that I try to look-up and write down definitions when I come across handy looking new ones. That being said, I know that I've written down alacrity, inchoate, peripatetic, comity, and others in my notebook, but for the life of me, I can't recall what the hell they mean.

It's one of those things where, on one hand, eh, I can always use a dictionary and...whatever...fuck you, NY Times!, but on the other hand, maybe I'm just rationalizing my insecurities...and... ...fuck you, NY Times! Continue reading this post >>

My mom started a website about me!

Not really. But that was my first thought when I came across YouAreNotSoSmart.com yesterday (via Kottke.org). While it's not another attempt by my mom to kill my self-esteem, it is a pretty cool blog that looks at various social misconceptions we all have about how we view ourselves and how we interact with the world. It's written by journalist David McRaney. Typically, he uses psychological research and evolution to dissect the myth and pinpoint its origins.

Here's a little sample:
The Misconception: You prefer the things we own over the things we don’t because we made rational choices when we bought them.

The Truth: You prefer the things you own because you rationalize your past choices to protect your sense of self.

... If you have to rationalize why you bought a luxury item, you will probably find ways to see how it fits in with your self-image.

Branding builds on this by giving you the option to create the person you think you are through choosing to align yourself with the mystique of certain products.

Apple advertising, for instance, doesn’t mention how good their computers are. Instead, they give you examples of the sort of people who purchase those computers. The idea is to encourage you to say, “Yeah, I’m not some stuffy, conservative nerd. I have taste and talent and took art classes in college.”
There's a lot more to that post, so you should read the whole thing.

If you're like me, a couple of the posts will prompt you to say, "Well, certainly other blockheads out there do this stuff, but not me! My New Yorker subscription is purely for the good writing. Not because it reinforces how I want to view myself and where I fit in the world! Poppycock!!!" But take a took a good long think about it. In a way, I find pulling back the biological curtains of our social quirks to be kind of comforting. Like, Hey, maybe I'm not a lame loser who has a myriad of weird social hang-ups and insecurities. Maybe I'm like most people, and that's okay, because we're hard-wired that way. Alright....

(Note: My mom doesn't actually try to kill my self-esteem. It's just a fun little myth I like to perpetuate. All told, my mom is a good mom.) Continue reading this post >>

04 June 2010

Hey, it's that guy Brian Cox played in Adaptation

Like many amateur writers, I semi-frequently get sucked into the directionless realm of writing about writing. It's where someone says, Hey, here the five simple steps of becoming a successful writer! And I think, Gee whiz, maybe this will be how I find the magic key to the room of glorious flowing prose and natural dialogue that engages AND enlightens. Generally, though, these endeavors are pretty much a waste of time.

In reality, the best way to grow as a writer is to read good writing and then write. A lot. Maybe talk about that writing with a friend. And then re-write. And then write some more. And...repeat. (I know, a stunning lack of "check Facebook" and "play addicting flash games" steps in there.) The only real positive experiences I've had with writing about writing are Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and Story by Robert McKee.

Yeah, that Robert McKee, who was a character in Adaptation. ("...and God help you if you use voice-over in your work, my friends. God help you. That's flaccid, sloppy writing. Any idiot can write a voice-over narration to explain the thoughts of a character.") I confess, I've only read parts of McKee's Story in Barnes & Noble. I've found him to be a good dose of don't-try-to-be-too-poetic-just-tell-a-story.

The other day, I stumbled on an hour-long interview with McKee on BigThink.com. He covers a wide variety of topics, but as always, he grasps why good story-telling is important.
Human beings... a great critic said once, Kenneth Burke said, “Stories are equipment for living.” Human beings need storytelling in order to make sense out of life, in order to live as well and civilized as a human being can. And so they will go to the storyteller for meaningful emotional experiences that they cannot get from life.
Here's the full video:
Continue reading this post >>