Friday, September 26, 2008

The Problem of Synecdoche

Poll question that popped up on my screen watching the MySpace coverage of the presidential debates (paraphrase):

Do you think that another 9/11 will happen on US soil?

I sure hope so. Every year, right after September 1oth.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ponder this:

Why is it that when you're on a date, suddenly everything seems cheaper? Like two scoops of ice cream at Baskin Robbins is something like three bucks, which I'd never ever spend on my own. But suddenly I'm on a date and three bucks is nothing. Go wild! Put whipped cream and nuts on that shit if you want. I'll pick up the tab for everyone. Then when I'm alone again I will think long and hard about shelling out sixty cents for a candy bar.

The world is vast...

Question asked to me today at lunch:

"At what age do American students start to use mechanical pencils?"

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


A Fact About Our Bodies

Victims of Havenffeld-Snarksburg Syndrome, a congenital neurological disorder, are unable to understand or display self-deception. Otherwise normal HSS patients find simple statements like "Be honest with yourself..." or "He's pulled the wool over his own eyes," completely incomprehensible. Oddly enough, HSS seems to coincide with deep depressive tendencies. Using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRIs) neuro-scientists studying HSS are trying to pin-point the part of the brain devoted to self-deception. Hopefully they will develop a drug to help those of us who are wholly or partially unable to slip into states of pleasant self-delusion.

Monday, September 22, 2008

My Financial Plan

Well, US 'Mericans, it's been a bad couple of weeks. DFW's dead, the stock market has officially come unloosed from any tethers that once held it to the Beachhead Of Empirical Evidence causing stock prices to do a fairly good visual impression of my emotional maturity level at a high falootin' party (unpredictable huge rises and falls, with a severe downward trend), and added on top of that people don't seem to want to buy books, which makes my dream of eating with the money people paid me for my books seem unrealistic, so there's little left to do these days but wait for the upcoming season of 30 Rock.

Given these circumstances, US 'Mericans, I give you my Brendan Mackie-Brand Financial Plan. If John McCain wins the election, that's it, I'm short selling the US. You heard me right. Naked short selling, too.

I'll put my short order in naked. Take that, disappointing 2008!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Snip From The New Yorker

The happy effect that Babar has on us, and our imaginations, comes from this knowledge—from the child’s strong sense that, while it is a very good thing to be an elephant, still, the life of an elephant is dangerous, wild, and painful. It is therefore a safer thing to be an elephant in a house near a park.



Okay, reading the Times' comparison of the campaigns' stances on science issues presented a moment which illustrates the frustration of this presidential election cycle. They compare McCain and Obama's climate change policies thusly:

In terms of 1990 levels of carbon emissions, Mr. McCain would ultimately have the nation’s output drop by 60 percent and Mr. Obama by 80 percent.

BUT THEY NEVER MENTION THE MECHANISM FOR CONTROLLING THESE CARBON EMISSIONS. Which is, of course, you know, KINDA IMPORTANT. And the candidates have very different plans. McCain, for one, favors the public auction of carbon credits, which, as I understand it, is just a huge money giveaway which won't actually help reduce emissions at all, in comparison to an actual cap and trade scheme.

It's not like explaining anything like this would take more than ten words. It seems disingenuous at best to compare the two candidates and yet somehow escape any actual comparisons between the two. Perhaps, when you get a detailed enough comparison of policies so that people can actually judge the merits of them it violates journalistic objectivity or something. Because the facts would obviously favor one side. How else do we explain the continued belief that Alaskan oil drilling would have any effect at all on domestic gas prices?

UPDATE 10/6: Umm , it seems that I got confused about the differences between McCain and Obama's plan. Obama does favor the auctioning of carbon credits. I know that there are substantive differences between the two plans, only I am, unfortunatly, unclear as to what those differences are. Also, somewhat lazily, I will use this ignorance to further bolster my original point: we need more policy information in our news sources.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

David Foster Wallace Dead

As far as public figures go, this death feels personal to an embarrassing extent. Usually I am somewhat callous towards death, especially about the death of people who one does not actually know personally. But it's not just insensitivity to the public lamentations around Heath Ledger and Princes Di--barring it befalling close friends and family members, death fails to move me. Throw a friend in my lap, inconsolable that her sister's best friend died, and I'll look at them with the condescending incomprehension fitting the observation of forgotten and ecstatic religious rites of some minor deity of the Roman pantheon. But then I read that this author has died, David Foster Wallace--who I have never met and who I have had only the most tangential personal relationship with--I can't do anything but fall to my bed.

Enough of this personal stuff. Well, one more thing. In my senior year of college when I was worrying whether or not I should try to "make it as a writer" I wrote David Foster Wallace with a story of mine. I got a postcard back a couple months later, and he said that my style was "clear and unpretentious" (I can remember that) and he wished me luck in a way that I interpreted as meaning that he saw some promise in me. My number two most recurring fantasy about my novel (number one is having ex-girlfriends and -crushes call me and tell me how my they like me) is that I would get it published and sent it off to DFW and he'd read it and appreciate it and we could become friends.

Of course that's not going to happen.

But that brief brush with the man himself is not enough to warrant my feeling upset by his death. Even taking into account the place that DFW's writing held in my own personal story, his death is not enough to make me fall on my bed and not want to get up and, at a Korean Thanksgiving I was attending, invited by the Tae Bo teacher I have a ridiculous crush on, his death should not make me nearly sob over the tiggim that "My favorite author has just killed himself"--a sentence which elicited nothing but bemused glances from my dining companions, English- and non-English-speaking alike.

The thing that makes Wallace's death so poignant is that it shouldn't of happened. First, we all wanted more. Wallace's was the kind of writing that was perfectly compulsive. The loss of his voice, of the chance of another novel, that's baffling to me.

But there's more, and here's where we might have to get a bit more personal again. Wallace seemed to have struggled with the demons that come with being a smart, sensitive person in the world. And he'd seemed to really conquer them. An aside that will make sense further in this paragraph: You know how you can tell the difference between someone who gets Wallace and someone who doesn't? Someone who doesn't get him will talk about his verbal acuity (or, pretentiousness) those footnotes, that flair. Someone who gets him will talk about his observational acuity. How he seemed to be able to frankly talk about the dark corners of life with such off-putting, shocking accuracy. Like he just peered into your secret, crazy thoughts, described them just right, and told you what to do about it. And so he peered into those crazy thoughts, understood them, and didn't like what he saw.

Is it a cliche to say that the choice of our lives is whether to live or whether to off ourselves? It's something I've thought about. Does the periodic bed-bound wordless sadness that sometimes strikes me--is it worth sitting through to get to the other bits? To get to those times that rank with eating chocolate cake or hearing that your friend gets promoted or sitting at Korean Thanksgiving and having the Tae Bo instructor who may or may not want to date you hold your hand. Does the banal difficulty of life merit the pleasures? Now, sometimes I haven't dared think about that reckoning. But most times I think, pretty solidly, that the pleasures by far outweigh the indignities.

But Wallace, who I respect, who I understand, who I thought got this stuff better than most people out there--he thought otherwise. He thought that life was just too painful to keep going.

And so Wallace's suicide makes me afraid!

I'm not angry at him. I'm not going to throw around any pablum about how it's grossly selfish to kill yourself or anything like that and I'm not going to try to call him crazy for doing what he did. Because if you can't understand why he'd do it, then you're not trying hard enough. And even though those things are true, that suicide is selfish and never the right answer, just saying that doesn't make sense of his death, it doesn't give any sort of comfort.

The tough part is thinking that with all his sensitivity and intelligence, this was his answer. Not another book, no more courses teaching students, not even an easy life reading somewhere eating cake. A rope around his neck. That was his answer. And it's that answer which hurts. Like if you hiked up a huge mountain to meet an enlightened master and asked him what you should do with your life and he turned his eyes towards you and slowly, proudly, asked you what brand shoes you wore.

Monday, September 1, 2008


What's Liz Lemon doing with Colonel Tigh?

... Oh wait.

UPDATE: Huh? (via waxy).