Going Back…

March 31, 2007

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With Nate on the way to Elm City to watch Awakenings, Ghost, and Goodfellas, thus bringing our look back at 1990 (easily one of the 3 worst years of movies we’ve seen so far) to a close, it seemed like the perfect time to indulge in a lovely breakfast of endive salads, random trivia, and a conspiracy uncovered (and a word or two).

We’ll start, as an ode to classics major Nate, with the ancient Mediterranean world. Too widely beloved to merit a “YS Endorses” piece, cheese nonetheless possesses a rich history. For example, it’s first historical mention is by Xenophon. Also, as of 1988, a full 13% of the US population believed that the moon was made out of cheese (source and, while not actually a source (?), this educational article on writing styles has a lot of fun with a “moon made out of cheese” theory).

ibiteyoureyes, a cock-sure celebrant of tomfoolery and chicanery, writes in with today’s wotd: scofflaw. “Scofflaw” is an invented word through and through, the winner of a 1924 Boston Herald (and you thought the Herald never added to society!) word contest to come up for a term for “the ‘lawless drinker’ of illegally made or illegally obtained liquor.” H.L. Mencken wrote that the word entered immediate currency. With the end of prohibition, the word comes to mean, “One who treats the law with contempt, esp. a person who avoids various kinds of not easily enforceable laws. Also attrib.” An OED quote from 1951 refers to parking tickets. ibiteyoureyes (?) appended a new occurrence of the word to his bequest: “A scofflaw who came to be known as the gin and tonic bandit went to the same restaurant each Wednesday, ordered two drinks and a rib-eye steak, then skipped out on his $25.96 bill” (full article). Skipping out on a bill is certainly treating laws with contempt, and we here at YS enjoy the fact that this usage was associated with alcohol, the word’s Ur meaning.

And lastly, the non-coincidence of the day. Here is Columbia University Professor of English, Cultural Theorist, and Cosmopolitan extraordinaire Bruce Robbins.

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And here is “the Minimalist” Mark Bittman?13bittxl.jpg

Could it be that the author of “The Sweatshop Sublime” and “How to Cook Everything” are one and the same? Why hasn’t the mainstream media focused on this subversion? Perhaps Gayatri Spivak, who long stood behind Edward Said in terms of Columbia prominence, is behind this deception. The newly appointed University Professor would certainly lose her place in the limelight if Robbins was revealed as a Cultural Theorist and world famous Chef. The real loser here? Columbia students, who can’t take “Temporizing: Time and Politics (and Delicious Food!) in the Humanities and Human Rights (and the Kitchen!)”. For shame, Columbia! Let the truth be known!

I wasn’t going to comment on this (as the current situation is so universally known), but it isn’t every day when ‘designed’lateral, left for dead in the depths of a Burmese opium den, reaches out to his fellow Saladeers and suggests a topic for discussion. Hopefully someday he’ll reach out for help as well. Anyway, back to the question at hand–(or really not. One of my worst lectures in college was devoted to what Freud meant by the word ‘question.’ Did he want an answer, or was it more along the lines of a rhetorical question. Such are the problems of making entire sessions about single sentences. Take this as a synecdoche for Deconstruction)–: the sorry state of the CTA Elevated. It’s even attracted the attention of the New York Times, which, as in the case of most of its national coverage, means it’s been in the news for some time, and thus, no longer new in any real sense of the term.

While the CTA’s North (and Northwest. See ibiteyoureyes for more information about ordinal directions) Side infrastructure has been crumbling for some time now (see reason one in this post) things are about to get a lot worse in Chicago.

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This is a picture of the Belmont stop of the El. It’s one of the busiest stops in the system, serving as the major connection point for the Brown line (the one with all the hipsters:

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), the Red Line (the system’s busiest), and the Purple Line (which offers much needed express service from Evanston to Lakeview-Downtown). Belmont has four tracks, all of which are regularly used by CTA trains. But as part of the Brown Line Capacity project, one of the tracks is about to be taken out (for two years!), reducing the total number of trains that can travel this busiest of intersections. The CTA likens this to road work, and has told people to avoid travelling during rush hours (of course! why didn’t I think of that! ibiteyourcommonsense!). Unfortunately, this will do absolutely nothing to mitigate the problem for commuters.

So what can be done? First, be smarter commuters. Check the CTA Status Page compiled by Tony Coppoletta, railfan extraordinaire; read CTA Tattler and the CTA transit group on Yahoo!; and try the “bus only” option at the RTA trip planner when deciding on your method of transport.

But, on a macro level, is there anything to be done?

1) Support the Chicago Olympics. Probably the only way for the CTA to get the money it needs to really fix the system.

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I Bite Your Celebrity

March 29, 2007

It’s not every day that the IMDb Resume of the Day features a person that you’ve actually met (unless you yourself are a celebrity, or rich, or of the creepy-stalker-ihavenolife type).

But today is not every day. Today is (today!) and ibiteyoureyes just happens to have met little miss ilooksexyinmy IMDbphotobecausemynoseisasfarawayfromyouas(Kim)possible.

Look. (See?). I’m not out to get this particular celebrity. I just think that celebrity itself is funny. And I wanted to bite it, just once, while I have the opportunity. And this particular person just happens to be rather biteable…

Here’s the part of the entry where I lose my readers if I don’t explain where this is coming from.

When I was a younger, drunker, smokier ibiteyoureyes…I went to class in between visits to the local bar. Thats where I met (sigh, nostalgia, pause) her
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What do you do when you’re a former “It” boy, you got fired from your last television show, your new one is failing, and you seem to have no concept of being funny? If you’re Aaron Sorkin you decide to make a musical out of the Flaming Lip’s album Yoshimi Battles Pink Robots! I guess I should be excited…? This news probably means that Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (or, in French, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) probably isn’t going to get picked up for a second season (or, in English, “series”). Despite the many failings of Studio 60 (see, for instance, here, here, and here) we here at Yesterday’s Salad are noted admirers of Mr. Sorkin’s earlier work; some of the Saladeers are even members in the Yahoo! Group “West Wing Enthusiasts.” I’d like to see the show stay on a little longer to see if it can convert its many strengths into a good show.

On the other hand…my first reaction to hearing that Aaron Sorkin was going to make a musical out of Yoshimi was that Sorkin, full of hubris, would probably be writing all new music for the show. He’s probably also planning on turning the Pink Robots into allegories for the right to privacy.

Is this the right career move for Mr. Sorkin? I’m not sure. Here’s a list of a few projects I think Sorkin should consider.

1) Staffwriter for 30 Rock. The NBC Sketch shows combine!

2) Creator of the new TV show “Nations.”

3) Journalist for Rolling Stone magazine, 1976-1979. Get to meet the Clash, Chrissie Hynde, Sex Pistols, David Byrne. Get tons of free records.

4) Archivist for the His Majesty, The King of Belgium.

5) Saladeer. Because everyone deserves the chance to address their critics head-on.

Also, a special bonus list: 5 things that absolutely should not be turned into musicals by Aaron Sorkin.

1) David Lynch’s Lost Highway. Because only Olga Neuwirth may turn it into an opera.

2) Iron Chef America. It’s hard to resist the temptation sometimes.

3) Franco Moretti’s Atlas of the European Novel. I’m only mentioning this because I forgot to include it on my list of my most favoritest criticism. Really phenomenal.

4) The Book of Jonah.

5) Yesterday’s Salad. Serious drama only.

Ibiteyoureyes, in deference to the sex goddess Lucinda Williams, decided to go on Amazon (.com) today to buy the Compact Disc of the album West.

Unbeknownst to me, but beknownst to my computer, I had recently almost bought another album, Elvis Costello’s North. It is worth pointing out, at this point, and next to the circle, and above that triangle – a woman’s…you know…can be like the Bermuda Triangle (and that can sometimes be a good thing) that if I had a gun pointed at my eyes, and the gun-toter said that he would not pull the trigger if I slept with a man, that it would take me a fair amount of time to decide which man to do it with, Elvis Costello, Springsteen, or Paul Newman circa 1969 (Redford doesn’t look too bad either). Maybe D.H. Lawrence, circa 1912, could be included as well, except I think he might like it too much, and creep me out. I might choose the gun in that case. This whole point has gone on too far. Ibiteonlytheboobs.

The real point is that I had been meaning to buy that Elvis album (or so my computer claimed), so I went ahead and purchased it along with West. Three hours then went by before I realized that I had just ordered two Compact Discs titled North, and West.

So, somebody buy me this album.

And, this album.

And this movie. (Don’t really! I already have it!)

And, most importantly – THIS. (Do their uniforms say “BIMBO?”)

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Two lists, although in a sense this will be a third. My list of my most favorite pieces of criticism made me realize just how much I consider myself a student of narratology, even though none of my analyses of literature really pursue narratological questions, and hardly use narratological tools. The second list is Nathan and mine’s quest to watch every Best Picture and Best Director nominee; indeed, it was the subject of our very first post. As we don’t get many opportunities to see each other, Nathan and I are trying to breeze through 1990 during my brief sojourn in the New York environs (I’m trying to convince him to join me in Elm City for a Saturday of films and apizza). To that end, we’ve watched three of our seven films: Reversal of Fortune, Godfather III, and The Grifters. Of these, two of the films bear a serious influence problem, or as I prefer to see it, an inability to defamiliarize.

In the essay, “Art as Technique,” the Russian Formalist Victor Shklovsky described the process of defamiliarization. He wrote that “The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar,’ to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged.” The best art is the art that moves us away from the realm of everyday experience, either in language or in elements. One of Shklovsky’s biggest points is that once something has been seen several times, it is no longer noticed, or it is no longer remarkable. Images can easily become type scenes and tropes, losing their unique meaning. Shklovsky warns against this tendency toward repetition, urging instead defamilarization.

The Grifters is emblematic of a particular subgenre of film-making, what I will call (for lack of knowledge of the actual term) “The Fawn Film.” A fawn film is an intentional ode to another director/writer or to a specific genre/time period/medium. More specifically, a fawn film attempts to be a recreation of its object. The Grifters, which earned its director, Stephen Frears, a Best Director nomination, is a recreation of “B” Film Noir movies: it mimics the visual style and plot elements of these movies. Here is an indelible image from the film.

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If you walked into a bowling alley, and saw only pins, lanes, and an army of pregnant women…but no bowling balls…would you be suspicious?

More, if everything did in fact check out…are you a problem solver?