Procrastination Nation

Things that Robert is thinking about that keep him from accomplishing anything.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2003
Meta Artistry
I'm procrastinating on a paper that has to go out the door on Wednesday, but I thought typing this random thought up would get my juices flowing.

Over the break I went to see an exhibit at the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington, DC. I'll fill in the title info later, but basically the idea is that a modern sculptor/artist has created three-dimensional vignettes based on famous Impressionist paintings like Monet and Van Gogh. If you stand in one location, the vignette looks exactly like the original painting, but as you move around you gain perspective on the events, which perspective is provided by the sculptor. For example, if somebody has their back to viewer in the original painting, walking around in the sculpture space you get to see what expression is on the character's face.

While procrastinating previously, I was flipping through Roger Ebert's movie reviews and clicked on the Girl with a Pearl Earring review. This movie is based on a book that imagines the circumstances by which a painter came to paint one of his houseservants.

This all got me remembering such recent work as Alice Randall's The Wind Done Gone, in which the Tennessee author re-imagines Gone with the Wind from a houseslave's perspective. If I had more time or energy, I think I could come up with more examples.

I was impressed with the work involved in the Corcoran exhibit, and I'm sure that Scarlett Johansson does a wonderful job as the houseservant in Earring. My girlfriend interviewed Randall when she was being sued by GWTW's author's estate, and she says the book was pretty entertaining, if slight.

What I am curious about is, is this really art? Parody is a comedic art form, but there's something still slightly unsatisfying about it as Comedy because it's based on a template. It's the same reason that short-form improv is pretty unsatisfying. The formula does too much of the work (e.g., let me guess what super hero I am; now I'm happy, now I'm angry). It's mimicry, which is amusing but not gust-bustingly funny (though some super funny folks, like the Guest-Levy team, manage to get beyond the formula). The artists in the cases described above provide something novel and interesting, but because they're ultimately derivative of the original's creative impulse should we think of them as Artistic? I guess painting and literature are merely catching up with music, where artists have stolen licks and lyrics and beats for decades.

I don't know, maybe I'll flesh this out some more this week.

Sunday, December 21, 2003
Young Manhattanite Blogging
Visit the Young Manhattanite's website. In addition to his contributions to other sites, you can also view his HIlarious blog, The Other Page.

Land's End Terror Alert Level Raised to Terra Cotta
I was beginning to think the Land's End terror alert level would languish forever unchanged.

Saturday, December 20, 2003
Went to the Jim Gaffigan show Friday at the DC Improv. I was successful in lining up an interview. Since it's by email I'll plan to include tidbits at least on the site.

The show overall was really good. The guest warm-up act was funny and quick, a real double espresso for a lethargic crowd. The feature act had a fair bit of good material but seemed uncomfortable somehow on stage. The emcee, George Peacock, did some nice work. It's not often you get to hear someone include an Alan Thicke talk show credit in their bio.

Thursday, December 18, 2003
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
My confession for today is my addiction to Elimidate. Not the show so much, though I have started watching more than I prefer, but the voice of the "urban" man who says "Elimidate" when they come back from commercial. What a great job. The guy must get sweet royalties.

I'm likewise embarrassed by my interest in The Simple Life and The O.C. I have to say, I was nearly crying from laughter as Nicole tried fake her way through the tears to get out of paying for their stolen merchandise. I don't have much interest in most of the stories on O.C., but I love Seth's dilemma. We'll see how this all plays out, but for now Summer and Anna are today's Ginger and Mary Anne. I'm investing way too much thought in this.

I'll blog only intermittently during the next week or so as I'll be back home in Maryland. My big goals are to speak with the great Jim Gaffigan to set up an interview in the coming weeks and find a new job.


Monday, December 15, 2003
Six Tons Under
Keiko the Killer Whale died Friday of pneumonia. The 26 year old film star launched an immensely successful career with the surprise 1993 hit film Free Willy. But the success would prove fatal. The orca who leapt over an aquatic fence to the top of the world and into the public's heart went on a binge the likes of which no mammal had ever seen. This is the true story of that giant mammal who killed us all with his love for a young boy. Keiko, the E! True Hollywood Story.

After several years working as a stunt mammal on Jaws 3-D and The Abyss, Keiko got his break while vacationing in Mexico City. Simon Wincer, the much-heralded director of the Tom Selleck classic, Quigley Down Under: "I glimpsed that magnificent beast sunning himself in a lagoon just south of Acapulco. I had this vision of the gentle giant befriending a sad little boy, and the movie was born." That film would make Keiko a very rich fish-eater.

Things started out pleasantly enough as Keiko received a lucrative endorsement deal performing at SeaWorld, which left him fin-deep in herring and wet-suited humans. But constantly being mistaken for his on-screen character took its toll on this titanic actor. After repeated instances of inappropriate sexual advances on customers and aquarium staff, the fun-loving six-ton creature struck out on his own in 1998 to record an album of "songs of the sea." His hope of capitalizing on the trend of nature sounds of the late-90s were dispatched when his debut album, Willy or Wonty?, was panned by Entertainment Weekly as "the self-absorbed emotional ejaculation of a has-been film star." Keiko swam deep into a sea of despair.

Fueled by an addiction to plankton and herring, Keiko became a regular in the celebrity scene, splashing the tabloids in New York and L.A. with such notable hook-ups as Paris Hilton and Colin Farrell. But charges in 2001 of unlawful sexual touching of a baby seal brought him to a new low. He was broke, facing scores of paternity suits from extras in Whale Rider, and now serious jail time. Keiko had hit rock bottom.

His attorneys brokered a plea bargain that sent him to rehab in Norway, away from the party lights of New York and L.A. After drying out, his appearance on Hollywood Sqaures caught the attention of Hollywood moguls, and before long he was signed to remake the 1977 suspense classic Orca. "I was really looking forward to working with him," said Bo Derek, who would reprise her role as the whale's love interest.

But all that came to a crashing halt last Friday. So long, Keiko, an enormous Hollywood legend.

Apres Capture, le Deluge
While Saddam Hussein's capture is cause for celebration in many circles, as a television fan and comedian, I can't say that I look forward to this evening, or the next several weeks, of lame Hussein jokes. Anticipate comparison to O.J. Simpson (rehashing that tired series of jokes), Queer Eye references, mugshot jokes of the Winona-Campbell-Nolte variety, plus a bunch of secondary material for bad hotel jokes. Maybe some Bad Santa references. If TV Funhouse were still on the air, I wouldn't mind a visit from Hussein to the detective agency of Kidder, Downey & Heche. Maybe they'll deliver an episode to SNL.

Was anybody else nauseated by Leslie Stahl's interview with Donald Rumsfeld? I'm sure the network censors were relieved that Rumsfeld was beamed in via satellite instead of in the room as they would have been forced to decide whether to broadcast a blowjob on national television. It seemed pretty tacky for her to giggle at the suggestion that maybe the U.S. would have been better off he had been caught dead instead of alive. I don't mind asking the question, I do mind her sounding like a giggly school girl. What, is she bucking to become CBS's version of Andrea Mitchell (a.k.a. Mrs. Greenspan)?

Thursday, December 11, 2003
Her Majesty
Man, why isn't Queen Rania of Jordan getting Princess Di's publicity? Yowza! Somebody write People.

Update: Dear god, I clicked on this link again and it took me to Perry Ferrell and Dave Navarro on stage. Queens of a different sort, n'est-ce pas? Here's a link to her official site.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003
New Slant Available
For your reading pleasure, a new Slant is available. The Phone Sex and Page Seven articles are mine. Also, I need to write something about The Simple Life. I don't understand why FOX is negotiating for a follow-up with Paris, when Nicole is clearly the funny and interesting personality.

Monday, December 08, 2003
How Much Is That Celebrity in the Window?
I saw this article today at the LA Times about the perqs celebrities get for appearing at charity events. Pretty sweet deal. And I suppose this is above and beyond call girls and call boys.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I love to see the celebrities squirm at the appearance of impropriety. And I don't care to see the beneficiaries of charities get screwed. But, then again, charities are often terribly inefficient at getting money to their beneficiaries so it's hard to see this as that much worse. Charities have to look at this as an investment and evaluate the costs and benefits. If they don't spend $53,000 on David Schwimmer, do they collect whatever amount they raised?

Would it be better if the celebrities did not receive these gifts? Sure. Would it be nice if some of them weren't so obnoxious about it? You bet. But, price is a rationing mechanism. I'm sure these folks get hit up for a lot of celebrity events. They have jobs and don't have the time to learn about every single charity in the world to know whether it's well run. Also, the nature of their jobs implies huge opportunity costs. When you make $26 million a year working on a t.v. show plus all the media junkets and inane questions from Pat O'Brien, you probably value your free time a lot more than other people. To get them to take a personal night off (or give up some commercial opportunity), you have to pay. And you have to decide if it's worth it to your organization. If you don't want to pay, come up with a better pitch that will appeal to their sense of decency or find different celebrities who will listen.

The people who are the true whores in this situation I think are the rich donors who will only donate the money if they get to rub elbows with celebrities. I don't know what fraction of the donor population this is in terms of numbers, but I bet it's a large fraction of the total amount donated.

Friday, December 05, 2003
Where's the Cheese?
I was heading to lunch thinking about something to write about. I started to make a list of the top dumb t.v. characters of all time. Tony from Taxi, Joey from Friends, etc. Feel free to send me yours. But, while I was eating at the Chinese Buffet, it occurred to me: why is there no cheese in any Chinese food? Or at least American-ized Chinese food. I can't seem to recall it in Japanese, Thai, or Vietnamese either. It can't be a sacred cow situation since they seem to use a fair bit of beef. Can it be that the people who invented paper and fireworks never invented cheese? Just curious. Email if you have the answer.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003
More Me in Print
O.k., so it's just a letter to the editor, but it's fun: me complaining about the incredible disappearing Brezny's Real Astrology column.

Update: Ah, crap! Didn't realize this was another self-updating link. Below is the text I sent them:
I just wanted to take a quick moment to let you know that the Brezny's Real Astrology is still being printed in a readable font size. Granted, I am young and have to squint a little, but the letters are in fact decipherable and can be grouped into words and sentences.

I know how important reducing the prominence of this column has been to the Scene, so I would hate for you to think you had made the column unreadable when you hadn't. You may not know this, but I have been firmly behind the Scene's continued efforts to reduce the prominence of this column, from shifting the column from the main text into the classifieds, to the tendency to place it on the fold so that readers can't find the column just by thumbing through the paper, to the reduced newsprint acreage and fonts.

Since you are doing such a good job de-emphasizing this column already, I hesitate to offer advice. I wouldn't want to mess up the master plan. But what the heck, it's the season of giving, right? Have you investigated using disappearing ink? That probably seems drastic, but you could acclimate readers to the change over the next several months by passing out secret decoder pens, perhaps sponsored by some of your advertisers! Or maybe Brezny should transmit the horoscopes by sign language--true believers will feel the vibrations in the astral plane anyway--freeing you to sell all of the page as advertising.

Just some friendly suggestions. Keep up the great work!