And What’s So Stinking About It?

by MATT STOKES | FEBRUARY 6, 2011

1. Everyone is crazy but me

You know how it’s fashionable to scoff and say, “That’s a dated reference,” if somebody mentions a song that came out two years ago? Yeah. I hate that shit.

Remember Blazing Saddles? It was a huge hit when it came out in 1974 and survives to this day as one of the all-time comedy classics. You love this movie. Everyone does. Well in this movie there’s a scene in which a clichéd Mexican bandit says, “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!” in a direct parody of the 1948 movie The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Think about that. Mel Brooks was referencing a 26-year-old movie, and nobody in the audience complained. No studio execs said, “Um, I think we might be alienating the female/18-26 demographic,” and no d-bag from the Buffalo Exchange said, “Pff! Get with the times, Pops.” (And I’m basing that on hard evidence, as you’ve come to expect.) This would be like a Vince Vaughan/Kevin James movie about stepbrother conjoined twins referring to a movie from 1983.

That would never happen, not in the Facebook/Twitter Era, because we have no memory. And why not? When there are too many options, it’s simply easier to chew everything up, shit it out, and get on to the next thing. There’s no time to let anything sit.

Want proof? Did you know that Avatar is now the highest-grossing box office movie of all time? It’s true, and shocking. It was an enormous movie, as big a phenomenon as something can become. And nobody remembers it. How many conversations have you had in the past year about that movie? How many Avatar quotes have you dropped here and there into your everyday speech? Have you thought one time about that movie since you saw it 14 months ago?

I’m guessing you probably haven’t. I certainly haven’t, although to be fair, I slept through half of that movie (Because it sucked.). Now, consider the movie Titanic, which for the past decade and a half was the highest-earning movie ever. It was the benchmark of success for what a movie could achieve, and it dominated conversation for years after its release, first in serious dialogue and then (more famously) in mockery. References to that movie showed up in a million other movies and TV shows.

Could anything come out today and strike a chord that massive? I doubt it. The most culturally significant movie of 2010 was The Social Network, and even that craze was pretty underwhelming. I just don’t think that, going forward, there are going to be phenomena that resonate with the masses as their once were. We’re too distracted.

2. This Facebook thing has to go away soon, right? Right??

I value privacy tremendously. Not necessarily my own, even—I don’t obsess over keeping secrets; in fact, I’m surprised when I see how easily and willingly I’ll tell people things about myself, as long as I’m asked.

It’s other people’s privacy that concerns me. And this is not so much because I don’t like to pry (Although I don’t. I don’t even like to ask my close friends questions about their personal lives because I don’t think anything’s any of my business. And I know this raises my dick quotient, or DQ, because it makes me seem like I don’t care.), but more because I’ve always wanted to be Steve McQueen.

And let me tell you about Steve McQueen. Steve McQueen doesn’t ask questions. He doesn’t care about how much your girlfriend annoys you. Or how pissed you got at work today at the villain who took the last of the apple jelly when they knew you wanted some! Steve McQueen is his own man, he don’t got no mind no how for any of your nonsense.

That’s why I’m Steve McQueen. Cause I mind my P’s and Q’s. Whatever that means. And I think we can all agree that if Steve McQueen were alive today, Steve McQueen’d be blogging about floor heaters and Indian food. Am I right?

3. Apple owns my soul

We all know why Apple is evil: Because its products are so great AT FIRST. Nothing like that brand-new iPhone for feeling great about how far we’ve come as a species. But then, of course, it all goes to shit.

Nothing breaks like an Apple product. For example, there is no better set of headphones in the free world than Apple’s iPod earbuds. Okay, maybe Dr. Dre’s $8000 studio headphones. But come on, you know what I mean. I can’t use non-iPod headphones. I just can’t. And this is serious business for me, because I spend approximately 16 hours a day with these buds stuffed in my ears. (You know those people at the gym who don’t need to listen to music while they work out? They don’t have headphones on, they’re not reading a book or the newspaper, they aren’t playing with their phone. They’re just working out. With nothing going on, just a smug little smile perched upon their face. These people I evil, pure evil, and I envy them) But since they’re made by Apple, they break after six weeks, so I keep having to shell out $28 for a new pair.

The most recent pair I bought presents an odd case, because they’re identical to every other pair of Apple earbuds I’ve owned in my life. And yet the left bud won’t stay put in my ear. To my knowledge the shape and contents of my inner ear have not changed in the past four days. And yet every time I push the bud into my ear it is expelled.

You know how a mama bird will reject its baby if the baby bird comes into close contact with a person? Like, when a little kid finds a bird’s nest and then watches the egg hatch, the mother will come back and think the baby bird contaminated? So she rejects her baby and refuses to care for it. Well that’s what’s happening with my ears right now—my brain is rejecting the new headphones.

4. Why I’m the worst drinking buddy of all time

I was at a bar a few nights ago with a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in a while. We were drinking half-price tequila shots and talking about season four of Mad Men when I realized after ending a speech about Don Draper’s spotty yet ultimately inspiring job performance that my friend hadn’t spoken in about ten minutes. I looked at him, saw he was holding his head up by his tasseled hair, and he said in his, eh, chemically-altered state (unrelated to the tequila), “Keep doing that thing where you talk. I like that thing.”

Talk? Me? I guess I gotta do what I gotta do, and so on. And so this is basically the next two hours:

So I was reading about koala bears today. 

So they installed new printers at my office, and each one has a picture of a US President on it, right? To indicate which printer it is. And can you believe which printer I got? Grant. GRANT! Can you believe that shit? Ulysses F. Grant. I know you thought it was Ulysses S. Grant, but it’s not. The F stands for ‘Fucking’. Might as well give me Millard Fillmore. I can’t remember the last time I was this upset.

So when I move to Australia to open a New York bakery—or is it move to New York to open an Australian bakery?—huh, either way, when I move, I’m done with this e-mailing and text messaging crap. You know what’s gonna be my thing? Letters. And I’m gonna write them with a feather-quill pen. Or at least a typewriter. Good idea?

Closest relative of the wombat! Did you know that a full-grown wombat can charge with such powerful force it’s capable of knocking down an undersized teen?

I believe you can judge a city on two crucial characteristics: One, by the quality of the wheels on its Wal-Mart shopping carts, and Two, by the efficacy of its dollar-bill-sucking apparati on the vending machines. New Orleans blows.

Did you know in Australia shrimp are called ‘prawns’? So that whole ‘Shrimp on the barbie’ thing isn’t accurate.

Oh my gosh, you’ll never BELIEVE what happened to me at Book Club yesterday.

If you ask me, the Ricky Gervais appearance as David Brent on the American Office was contrived, forced, and awkward. Pull the plug on that show already, am I right? Hello?

And they’re not bears, you know? They’re marsupials. A lot of people think they’re bears.

If I worked at Whole Foods Mart, you know what would stop me from wearing one of those buttons that says, ‘I rode my bike to work today!!!’? I’ll tell you what: A little thing called PRIDE.

5. That’s right, book club.

Because that’s the sexy life I lead. We read The Help.

6. Lame license plate of the week

Well okay, this week it’s not a license plate. And once again, I didn’t get a picture, because once again I nearly killed myself and several other motorists scrambling to take a picture on my phone. But I made very detailed mental notes of what I saw: It was a giant red pickup truck, and the back window was covered entirely by a sticker. The background of the sticker was a waving American flag. On the right section of the window was a picture of John Wayne, and on the left was this message: Now why in the hell should I have to press -1- for English?

I have not yet confirmed whether or not the Duke (birth name: Marion) actually said this.

7. Or, how I learned the meaning of the word ‘Babushka’

I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately, so one night to combat the insomnia I did what we all do when we can’t sleep: I popped A Clockwork Orange into the DVD player. I hadn’t seen the movie since high school, when I courageously declared the movie “overrated” to Mandeville High School’s hipster contingent, at risk of getting pelted by a hailstorm of hackysack balls.

Anyway, upon returning to the movie after seven years or so, I was struck by two things: One, that Malcolm McDowell’s performance is fantastic. In fact, for all the movie’s disturbing imagery and bizarre musical score and the weird language, his acting carries the movie. It’s what makes it so watchable. It’s really an underrated performance, and maybe I’ll have to stop thinking of him as the guy who said, “I’m a British person” at the beginning of the South Park episode “Pip.”

My second thought is, This is supposed to be the future? Because if so, the future is apparently 1971. With ceramic penises.

Which leads me to this question: It seems obvious in retrospect where we were heading technologically with taking the internet mobile. But did people see this happening even ten years ago? Because even back then, if you were away from your home computer you might as well have been in the Oregon Territory waiting for supplies in a covered wagon.

So what’s coming next? Does anybody know?

8. It’s annoying when people say, “The great thing about Seinfeld is…” but, the great thing about Seinfeld is:

I’ve distilled why Seinfeld is such a great TV show into two scenes:

One – Elaine is explaining to Jerry and Kramer why she is a good person, attempting to justify some recent bad behavior: “When I shoo squirrels away, I always say, ‘Get out of here.’ I never, ever throw things at them and try to injure them like other people.”

Two – Jerry is trying to console George after George fails to perform while holding CongressI)Holding Congress” is my new favorite euphemism for sex, because I imagine it’s something Joe McCarthy would say to Mrs. McCarthy as she washed the dishes: “Dear? Whaddya say we go upstairs and hold Congress?” with a woman: “George, it happens to all men. It happened to Houdini!”

9. The logic of the sleeping poor man

It’s also annoying when people bitch about the weather.

Allow me to bitch about the weather: It’s cold as balls.

Now, every time one of these cold-as-balls spells engulfs this part of the country, I reason with myself that it’s going to go away in a few days, that it’ll be 85 degrees and misquitoey again in no time, and that it’s pointless to buy a new heating system for my apartment, because, come on.

However. I don’t think I can go on much longer. I’m going to die.

Last night, you see, I didn’t bother checking that stupid Weather Channel app on my stupid iPhone to see the stupid forecast for the stupid weather. Yesterday it was 65 degrees and sunny. What empirical evidence had I that said weather would not continue today? None, says I! So of course I didn’t set up my floor heaters in a perimeter around my bed because it’s a complicated and intricate process (I live in a dump, see. If you plug two heaters in in the same room, the fuse will blow and the electricity will go off. So I have to run extension chords from room to room, but the heaters melt the extension chords every few days and I’ve ended up spending ~$890 replacing them this winter.). Instead, I just put on the one heater, and when I woke up at 4:30 covered in sleet, I started to wrestle with the possibilities in my mind: Go get another blanket, perhaps? No, because that would involve standing up, and if I stand up I’m awake for the rest of the night. And what’s another blanket gonna do anyway? Set up the heaters and extension chords? Again, I didn’t want to get up and be up the rest of the night.

There was nothing I could do, really, because I was afraid of waking up. So of course I spent the next two hours in misery, thinking about how I didn’t want to lose any more sleep, watching the clock tick ever closer to seven.

Which, obviously, is insane.

AH but then I came up with a solution! I picked the heater up from the floor (And, FYI, this isn’t one of those heaters from the 1950s that glows red and shoots out sparks and lights your curtains on fire, it’s just one of those oscillating fans that blows hot air.) and placed it in the bed with me, under the covers. Me and the heater cuddled.

And this was the single greatest feeling I’d ever felt, oh my brothers. I was cursing myself for being so stupid as to live 23 years on this planet without thinking to bring a heater into the conjugal bed. It was heaven. Paradise. Nirvana. Inner peace. It was fucking ecstasy. 

Until eight minutes later, when it automatically shut off because it was getting overheated, and it has fire hazard detection or some shit. Then it wouldn’t turn back on. It was trying to protect me. Well I don’t want protection, I tell you!

This is damn exciting stuff, I know. Don’t worry, you’re almost to 10.

10. Why I quit top tens

2010 marked the first year on my blog that I haven’t done my Top-Ten Albums of the Year post. I was about seven CDs in before I realized I didn’t even like ten albums that year. So I decided I quit it. The reader response was deafening! Okay, not really. But the point is, I’ve gotten fed up with album rankings because they’re the most frustrating. Every listmaker looks not to list his favorite albums but to name an eclectic enough group for maximum hipsterishcoolness. That’s why every top-ten albums list includes Wilco and Kanye West.

Which is fine, I guess, but since nobody thinks these lists mean anything, why not just give your personal ten favorite albums? Isn’t that more interesting anyway? There’s a great music blog I read almost every day called Obscure Sound, and their album rankings are exactly what you’d expect—they’ve got the obligatory African drum circle record, the gangster rap, the surf pop, and ten different acoustic folk bands. I call shenanigans. I posit they don’t actually like the all the music they claim to.

Their number-one album of 2010 was Plastic Beach by Gorillaz. I’ve never really gotten into the Gorillaz; they seem like a band I should like since the main guy behind them, Damon Albarn, is also the singer of one of my favorite bands ever, Blur. But I’ve never heard a song by them I wanted to hear again, even that “Sunshine in a bag” one. On a whim, though, I took a leap of faith and downloaded Plastic Beach to give it a lesson (God bless bit torrents). The verdict: Not too bad, I guess. The best songs on it remind me of Blur songs I would never listen to. So there you go.

And on that note, let’s head into the work week on an uplifting Blur number:

Footnotes   [ + ]

I. Holding Congress” is my new favorite euphemism for sex, because I imagine it’s something Joe McCarthy would say to Mrs. McCarthy as she washed the dishes: “Dear? Whaddya say we go upstairs and hold Congress?”