Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Kool Aid, courtesy Jamestown Dep't of Travel & TourismWell, it is deepest, darkest summer, and the good people here at Disquieting Modern Trends are drunk with sweaty disgust. Sure, summer is great if you’re a school-kid and everything about your life is dictated by your hatred for the quadratic formula1, but for the rest of us this season of ant-infested picnics, high humidity, hurricane-haunted haze, and endlessly overblown and disappointing multiplex screenfodder is a long march through pseudo-recreational hell.

There. We said it: Summer is overrated. Summer is not what it used to be. Summer is kind of like a three-month version of Christmastime—a time that is supposed to cause unfettered joy in good, well-adjusted, Valerie Plame-outing Americans but, in fact, causes any reasonably intelligent person to feel precisely the opposite, wondering throughout, What is the matter with me that I don’t love the sun-drenched days of July, the grilled hot-dog dinners, the chlorine-soaked afternoons at the pool? There’s nothing wrong with you, baby. You’re normal. You’re sane. You’re … us.2

Without further ado, hither come the lamentable tendencies that are turning summer into the most disquieting of seasons.

The Singing of “God Bless America” During the Seventh Inning Stretch
Those of us here at the D.M.T. love baseball. We love the lazy pace of the game, leaving us plenty of time for bullshitting with friends and pissing off that guy next to us who is studiously scratching away at a scorecard with one of those pencils approximately the size of a gerbil’s dingdong. We love the fact that so many ballplayers look like they could stand to lose a few pounds, and we love the fact that there is a team with the name “Padres.” The seventh-inning stretch is a cherished tradition in the elegant game of summer, not to mention the last time in most stadiums when you can get up to get another beer. So, this new post-9/11 tradition of singing “God Bless America” during the stretch is seriously crimping our style. How are we supposed to slip out for a final Bud Ice when everyone else is holding their hand over their heart? And, no offense to Irving Berlin3, but we prefer almost any other song from Tin Pan Alley than this one. Any chance we could all sing “Nice Work if You Can Get It” at the next game? 4 Better yet, let’s stick to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” which has the advantages of (a) actually being about baseball, and (b) NOT pretending to be about patriotism when it’s really about the death-grip that 9/11 and terrorism currently have over our collective sense of national exemption and superiority.

The Overwhelming Preponderance of Central A.C. Even in Cities That Are Not Really That Hot in the Summer, Leading to General Decline in Moral Fortitude of Today’s Youth
(We shall now partake in the venerable tradition of “When WE Were Kids,” unashamedly. Gird up your loins. We’re going in.)

When WE were kids, you couldn’t leave The Heat outside like the sweaty hat you just mowed the lawn in. It came inside with you. The only inside that could protect you from the heat was some mythical Terabithia-type cave which, although we read about it, never really materialized in our actual, factual day-to-days as kids. 5 The closet was O.K., but it was not cooler. No. Hot outside = more hot inside. Moreover, hot meant your house smelled different. Not bad, necessarily, but unmistakably different, like the thing came to life and the very walls became redolent with dinners and upholstery accidents of long ago. Only way to deal was to strip to your PJ bottoms and sleep in the hall outside your bedroom, full-face to the huge panel fan, which together with the rug burn guaranteed you some raw red cheeks in the a.m. This experience makes us better people than the soft and beknighted youth of today, who experience little more than a light smack of sun on the shoulders of their A.F. jerseys upon alighting from the Yukon and ducking up the steps into the front door to play Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas in the steady 68 degrees that is the birthright of the middle class these days. Makes us sick.

Impossibility of Purchasing High-Powered Explosive Fireworks at Any Cost Even in Redneck States
We have tried, and can confirm that, in this great nation, (a) you can AT NO PRICE get anything that RESEMBLES the M-80s our friend used to kill trout with by lighting them and letting them burn down almost to their fingers before chucking it in the creek to create an apocalyptic explosion and splash and throw up like three dead crappies6 and (b) you can simultaneously buy enough little shit-ass sparklers to make like a Romper Room version of a W.M.D., if you had enough Room in your Romper for like a bazillion of them. What gives? Who’s regulating the home explosives industry? We find any disparity in our retail opportunities state-to-state highly disquieting7 but hoped that when homogenization of the firework supply finally came to pass it would favor BOOM, not fizzle. In the meantime, of course, even men in clown suits whose cars are coated with 1,000% magnifications of their carefully typed plans to stalk and kill celebrities can buy handguns and hollow-point ammo without so much as a waiting period. And all we wanna do is destroy mailboxes or go fishin’.

M.G.D. Still Packaged in Solar-Contraindicated Black Can Thereby Ensuring Warm Beer in Approximately 30 Seconds
O.K., this one is not really ours, and we remember seeing it elaborated at length in one of those forwarded e-mails you get and delete8. But it must be noted. The upshot is this: does it make sense to put the most popular picnic, boat, out-in-the-sun-all-day beer in the world in a jet-black can? The e-mail—a purported exchange with a Miller executive—said: Duh, exactly! That way when it gets warm in 30 seconds you shotgun it and get another. We just don’t think beer marketers are that savvy. They’re just dumb. Next you’ll tell us they spiked the cigarettes with something addictive … .

Everybody Wearing Hawaiian Shirts Instead of Just (A) Hawaiians, (B) Robin Williams, and (C) The Guy on the Corner in Your Town Who Has No Job and Nobody Knows Why
Hawaiian ShirtWe love a good Hawaiian shirt. The Hawaiian shirt says, loud and clear, “I do not even have to pretend to care!” Men attending particularly carefree bachelor parties should wear them. Comedians, actual Hawaiians, and that guy with the skinny but really dark cigar who looks sort of like Jimmy Buffet and claims to have a power boat whenever you see him at parties, they can all wear them. 9 Everyone else—back off. If you wear them tucked into your pants, it’s a giveaway that you are really an accountant, merely faking being laidback. If you properly wear it not tucked, then it kind of seems like you’re trying to hide your tummy. And if you’re wearing the bogus all-cotton ones sold by Land’s End, then you are probably defiling some ancient tradition of the native Pacific peoples. Our recommendation: stick to Steely Dan T-shirts all summer.

Bomb Pops Any Color but Red-White-and-Blue
We saw one that was like orange and turquoise and this yellow-gold last week. Shit you not. Ew! Communists! Who’s the desk jockey at Good Humor who called that “value-added”?

No One Drinks Fucking Kool-Aid Anymore
Hey, Kool-Aid!If you are reading humor on the Internet, then perhaps you are, by definition, too young to remember an era when mothers actually mixed big glass pitchers of Kool-Aid for kids on summer days, and we all came screaming across the yard to drink the stuff, realizing that getting hopped up on additives, preservatives, sugar, and food coloring was, frankly, the best chemical high we could hope to enjoy at the age of ten.10 Nowadays, this particular pleasure seems to have been eliminated. Mothers serve their children Powerade or, heaven forbid, actual juice. We preferred the days when parents properly saw it as their job to enable their children’s ignorance-fueled preference for non-nutritious comestibles as a kind of protein-deficient obstacle course. Only the strong kids could survive, thus ensuring the flourishing of the species. Us, well, we are plenty old enough to remember this. We even remember trying to draw the iconic Kool-Aid smiley face on the side of the pitcher in the childish belief that this would make the Kool-Aid taste better. We lament the passing of a bygone era when there was no hip-hop, when porn was in a magazine behind your friend’s dad’s nightstand, and when your mother’s hair was as impenetrable and elaborately crafted as a Borges story. Oh, do we.

Too Many Kids on “Swim Teams” and “Dive Teams” Instead of Doing Cannonballs with Their Friends
Enough with the organized sports. At least give kids their summers back. Let them play. Let fly the halcyon days of youth, unsullied by competition, dread, fear, loathing. No point in mentioning the bats. Poor bastards will see them soon enough.

1The quadratic formula: x equals negative b plus-or-minus radical b squared minus four times a times c, all over two times a. Take that, motherfucker. We wear our nerdy pasts as badges of pride and will not have you doubting us. Now: pass the Kool-Aid.
Quad2 It should be noted, again, that one of We Two Disquieted Ones teaches school--algebra, natch, see FN 1 supra--and is therefore, without dispute, "off" for great weeks on end, drinking banana daiquiris, watching a Planet of the Apes marathon on the Sci Fi Channel while his great miserable Newfoundland seethes in a puddle of drooly despair beneath him. The other one has a job, you know; he actually has to steal time at work to write this stuff, not just put down the coconut shell and wipe his beard, and would not mind one or two more chlorine-soaked afternoons, on balance. Hmph.
3We find it somewhat ironic that "G.B.A."--a song the post-9/11 adoption of which we are pretty sure has been promoted by the nutty Protestant religious right--was written by an immigrant Jew who married a Catholic. We like to think that Mr. Berlin's God is somehow more tolerant than the one that will soon be taught in all American schools under the regime currently running this fine nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
4There is another creeping and unexplained and probably Homeland Security-related thing going on at ballparks today that makes our skin crawl with disquietude. If you order something that comes in a bottle--say, for instance, a cool bottle of Dasani (see previous edition of D.M.T. re: the marketing of bottled water, though we have to say that drinking water from ballpark water fountains does seem creepy)--the concession workers are now required to forcibly take the cap off for you and then to confiscate the cap. Forced to return to your $50 seats with obstructed views without the caps, there is splishing and splashing going on. That's O.K., but we want to know: Precisely what mischief are Americans likely to cause with plastic bottle caps? Could it be that al Qaeda issued a gag-memo regarding the creation of W.M.D. using the things, which memo was--to hilarious uproar in the bin Laden household--allowed to be intercepted? Next time you see Karl Rove, ask him to leak you this information, O.K.?
Nancy Drew & the Something Something5 Point of order: Bridge to Terabithia is a girls' book, so of course neither of us has actually read it, and find our ability to name-check it offhand like that further evidence of our mystically deep literary/educational creds. One of us, however, has read ~45 Nancy Drew mysteries, overcome by the engaging hair-flip of the pert strawberry-blond sleuthess, accompanied unfailingly by the boyish brunette George, the pleasingly plump Bess, and her unflappably cool boyfriend of the convertible roadster, Ned Nickerson. Hardy Boys suck so hard. One of us has also read Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, inexplicably having been led to the girls' Judy Blume coming-of-age jeremiad by an inept school librarian. We still don't know about nocturnal emissions, but are all over the menstrual cramps. Just ask us.
6 O.K., not our friends, because we were way too fey, but this scary guy let us hang out with him once for five minutes on a scout campout, long enough to witness the deliciously illicit and grown-up adventure detailed above, honest.
7 Excepting the distribution density of the Stuckey's Pecan Log, which can pretty much stay in South Carolina where it belongs.
8 Of course, if this e-mail really existed we could find it on, which we can't, but we can take this non-subsidized opportunity to say that the second-best way to waste time on the Internet is on O.K., third-best. Don't go in there without a canteen; you're gonna be a while.
9: Regarding Jimmy Buffet. Um, are we alone in just, like, not getting him? I mean, this guy has built an entire empire (not just the music but also restaurants, clothing lines, Internet radio, a movie production company--we are not making this shit up: on a single hit song and laid-back attitude. We have been to Key West and we have tasted the goofy good life, but it still seems to us like a thinner-than-plausible reed on which to hang massive wealth and success. We implore any "Parrotheads" out there to write to us to explain this phenomenon. We don't get it.
10 Wait a minute: you're that wanker in the A.F. jersey playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, aren't you? Can you text-message us how to get to the secret naked parts?

Nick's Guff
Aussie Love In my office building the other day, I looked up at the you-have-no-option-but-to-stare-mindlessly-at-me-news clips screen in the elevator and felt exceedingly empty. No, it's not because I'm Australian. I felt empty for Captivision, the editor/information-gathering Oompa Loompas who feed Captivision...
Meet Your Subway Sandwich Artist Hello, I am Manesh! I pick the bread. I am Manesh the bread picker! You tell me what type of bread you want for your sandwich and I pick it out for you!
How To
A Field Guide to Selected Western Artists So it’s been a while since that undergrad art history class where you staggered in hung over and fell asleep after the second slide was shown. Or maybe you managed to forget a little bit too much about that relationship...

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