27 January 2010

How to Get a Green Job

You're probably into going green and helping the planet, because if you're not, everyone will think you're an asshole. One tricky part is finding a job that's green. I know mine's not, and yours probably isn't either, because business are mostly built on a series of inefficiencies meant to give mid-level managers something to do. But today, I'm going to tell you who has the greenest job in America and a remarkably low number of mid-level managers: bums.

Aside from their habit of pulling an overfull shopping cart behind them and pushing another cart out in front while on their bike heading the wrong direction in traffic, thereby causing swerving by motorists and very slightly increasing greenhouse gas emissions as a result, bums are the greenest people on earth. Here's why:

  • They use green transport. No fossil fuels used when riding stolen bikes!
  • They recycle all day by going around and recycling bottles and cans many of us were already going to recycle.
  • No showers means conserving water
  • Bags used for transport of bottles and cans often reused to save on having to steal plastic bags
  • Single set of clothing fosters growth of new microflora and microfauna replacing species lost to rising temperatures
  • They always use the whole cigarette
  • Going paperless by not receiving pay checks
So, do you want to help the earth? Here's what you do: sell your stuff, steal a shopping cart, and learn some schtick about needing a gas can or just needing eighty-five cents to buy a garbage plate. Pick through the trash for bottles and cans and snacks, and haul your ass dangerously down the wrong side of the road to redeem those bottles and cans so you can buy some Colt 45. Do it for the planet. Do it for the children.

20 January 2010

How to Ruin Late Night

I don't know if you've ever seen NBC's Tonight Show, but starting next week, i wouldn't recommend it, because it will most likely be terrible. And the reason it will be terrible is because Jay Leno will be hosting it. Again. Instead of Conan O'Brien.

A couple of weeks ago, NBC said they'd move Jay Leno out of prime time back to the opening late night time slot and push O'Brien's iteration of the Tonight Show back to midnight. This is, of course, an unfair, unpopular and sudden decision on the part of NBC. I accept all that, and you can find on most entertainment blogs an analysis of the situation detailing the why and how, but it's not the point I'd like to make. The point I'd like to make is that NBC has made an intentional decision to avoid creating meaningful culture.

I'm no fan of Jay Leno. Granted, his stand-up is meant for a generation (or two) prior to my own. I've never known him as a stand-up, but I can appreciate his sense of comedy in the clips I have seen. In truth, I've only ever known Leno as the host of the Tonight Show, which I know from my elders as a show that was hilarious when Johnny Carson was at the helm.

Mostly I caught the beginning as I switched to Late Show, or the tail end as I tuned in for Late Night. However, I have seen enough full episodes to have decided so long ago that Jay Leno was not funny that I've come to believe it's something I've known implicitly my whole life, like how to not breathe when I drink something or that the Beatles are some of the finest songwriters to have lived.

What's important is the reason Jay Leno is not funny, which is that Jay Leno is far too nice and far too likable. The reason people find him nice and likable is that he is sort of like them, and most people are remarkably unfunny. Most people snicker a little when someone at the office responds to anything being said with, "Sounds like a personal problem!" Again, most people are not funny. In fact, they're probably laughing in an attempt to ease the unspoken social tension created by working with people you either hate or don't know.

This is why Jay Leno is not funny and why Conan O'Brien is. Conan actively makes fun of just about anyone, and most often, himself. Jay Leno makes jokes that people at offices laugh at, which means that the function of his show and his comedy has been and will be to ease the general tension in America created by our ever-increasing sense of alienation from our neighbors or active dislike towards them.

To cite one example, on the Tonight Show, Leno did a segment called "Headlines" in which he would read actual headlines submitted by, I assume, fans of the show. Conan, on the other hand, had a similar segment in which he simply made up headlines. In no way was anyone under the impression these were real headlines, but factuality doesn't make something funny. The real life situation the comedy speaks to and critiques is the connection to reality which makes the comedy meaningful.

And since this means that Leno's habit of hi-fiving audience members is the only ironic thing Leno ever did on the Tonight Show. In identifying physically with his audience, Leno solidified his symbolic position as the person who normalizes their already existing opinions on culture. Conan, on the other hand, routinely mocks audience members and guests and pokes fun at his coworkers. In doing so, he actually exposes aspects of himself to criticism, and in turn exposes the value of our own character traits to criticism and self-criticism.

So, while Leno maintains a certain cultural status quo, O'Brien actually engages and changes culture. And that is what makes NBC the vehicle signifying the ruin of our culture, or at least, of our television culture. By choosing Leno over Conan, NBC is choosing to maintain some kind of vague traditional social agreement as to what is acceptably funny (which, let's face it, a masturbating bear is decidedly not), instead of choosing to take a risk in creating and critiquing culture.

Of course, who hosts which late night show probably isn't ultimately all that important. However, what those hosts signify in terms our attitudes and cultural values is. Choose culture. Choose Coco.

13 January 2010

YEEEEAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!

This is the shit, you guys.

There's a good chance you don't know it yet, but CSI: Miami is the most entertaining show on television. I know a lot of people who would reflexively say that I am wrong. Those people do not understand television.

Television has never once been about reality, even the Discovery channel or PBS. On television, nobody is really themselves, and no situation isn't contrived and constructed. The one possible exception is local cable access, in which people are only ever honest and genuine and sincere. For this reason, local cable access is completely unpopular.

If the last decade has taught us one thing, it is that people love to speculate as to what the last decade has taught us. But if the last decade has taught us two things, the second is that reality television is the apogee of the entertainment industry.

Reality TV is, admittedly, really terrible. It is full of vapid people having inane conversations about banal topics. Worse than reality TV are people who want to be on reality TV. But listen, if you want to name your son after a bird of prey and then pretend to send him flying across the state in a pretend UFO, I'm not going to judge you. But the state of Colorado probably is.

What's interesting about CSI: Miami is that it is just as terrible as reality TV and in some ways, is even worse by not being reality TV. The dialogue is forced, the situations absurd, the characters flat and annoying, and honestly, everything is just fucking orange all the fucking time. I have no idea why. Maybe the sun is perpetually setting, maybe the show is set in some post-apocalyptic nightmare in which hiring David Caruso to do anything is somehow a viable option, maybe the effects budget is inexplicably large.

So, you ask, if CSI: Miami is worse than reality TV, what could possibly make it more entertaining? Simply put, it exposes the reality behind television far batter than reality TV does. And, it still gets promoted as regular ol' fantasy TV. Just as Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets (if you believe that, anyway), CSI: Miami fulfills both fantasy TV and reality TV.

The reason we like fantasy TV is that we like to imagine a vastly different, unreal world. The reason we like reality TV is that we like to imagine that people who we are willing to believe are like us are completely terrible and boring and actually worse than ourselves, even if we know the whole thing is a sham. On CSI: Miami, we are presented with a different world in which often bizarre and provocative crimes are solved within a relatively short time, almost everyone is good-looking, and pale redheads never tan. We all agree this is completely unreal but might be vaguely awesome.

CSI: Miami is also so blatantly bad that what we are presented with are not the failures of the actors, as in reality TV. The failures of actors on reality TV are completely and transparently scripted, and we all agree this is somehow entertaining. On CSI: Miami, what are important are the failures of the actual people making CSI: Miami— including David Caruso— who are doing their damnedest to produce something with a modicum of quality.

Is it sad? Maybe.

Admirable? I'd say so.

Entertaining? Hell YEEEEAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!

06 January 2010

Watch Less Football, Play More Fantasy

I've only played football a couple of times in my entire life, which is why I haven't played more football in my life. But football— American football, as if we were all still making that distinction— is enjoyable primarily by not playing it. In fact, football is becoming increasingly enjoyed by mostly not even watching it.

I'm referring, of course, to fantasy football, which is an amazing game for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that it takes more time to administer than a regular match of the game on which it relies. This is especially impressive since every football game consists of 15-minute quarters crammed into a 3-hour span.

Fantasy football allows a player to pretend to be a team owner, pretend to draft players who actually do play football and pretend to have a meaningful understanding of statistics. Of course, all the calculations are performed by computers and all the raw data gathered elsewhere. Many leagues allow for random computer-generated drafts. The only thing a participant needs to do is sign up and come up with a team name which will intimidate and/or confuse their supposed opponents.

Given that a large portion of those participating don't understand football, let alone fully understand the very game they are playing, that the average of nine hours a week spent playing the game are spent on the internet, that participants assume an identity and position they do not posses nor occupy in real life and that the game involves an unappealing number of calculations, it is accurate to say that fantasy football is actually almost exactly like Dungeons & Dragons for people who like pizza rolls.

Which is to say it is exactly like Dungeons & Dragons, save that it requires very little imagination.

So, I suppose what I'm trying to express is that, while I've never been a football fan, it is a little disappointing that what is allegedly a a very manly game (football) has spawned what is a decidedly unmanly game (fantasy football). And not only that, but given the lack of creativity, concentration, physical ability, mental capacity, or anything short of an internet connection, fantasy football is possibly the least manly game, ever.

Even behind Dungeons & Dragons. Even behind Girl Talk.

Play on.