Category Archives: irony

Mental Detox week

Via the Phlog:

Happy Mental Detox week! Yeah, so Mental Detox week began on Monday and I have yet to actually turn anything off – or at least the things that AdBusters, who launched the original TV Turn-Off week (now renamed Mental Detox Week) back in 1994, want me to. AdBusters has changed the guidelines to be both more forgiving and more inclusive. Sign of the times: I actually (unintentionally) haven’t turned on my TV at all this week, which means if it was still plain-old TV Turn-Off Week, I’d be all “Hey, no problem! I can go without TV easily,” but the Internet?! Here’s the thing, a job that requires staring at Snap Judgments and bus stop street art on the Internets all day + IFFB + newly downloaded episodes of My So-Called Life, which I can’t believe I’m still obsessing over, via Miro + Does seeing live music count? Because I’ve already done that twice this week = Too Many Complications for Mental Detoxification. FAIL.

Here’s what AdBusters wants me to do:

“Today you’re not going to listen to your iPod. You aren’t going to stare at a computer screen any more than you absolutely have to. Today you won’t worry about unanswered email, and you’re not going to login to Facebook. You’ll cut the time you spend on digital devices right down to the bone.

In the evening maybe you will watch your favorite TV show for an hour, but after that you switch off, have a conversation, wash the dishes, read for a bit, and just relax. You do that for five days, and then on Friday night you make a decision to unplug completely for the whole weekend.

For a couple of days you might feel like an addict in withdrawal: peevish, agitated, and distracted. But then something will happen. Your over-stimulated brain will cleanse itself. You’ll relax. You’ll feel calmer, more grounded.”

The fact that all of this is posted on a website (and now I’m reposting it on a blog) is sort of cloaked in irony – how are we supposed to spread the word about Mental Detox Week and actually detox at the same time? Smoke signals? Snail-mail chain letters? Don’t get me wrong, Mental Detox week would be great if I could take the week off and go camping at Yosemite, gather a group of friends and a cooler of cold beverages (but no road-tripping tunes, of course!!), but I can’t. I guess this is just my way of saying “Hi, My name is Caitlin, and I’m addicted to glorious, musical, visually-stimulating technology, AKA mental toxins.”

Get synonymous, kids!


Photo by moi

The irony is that the current raison d’être of Roget’s Thesaurus — as the source of term-paper wordage for panicked college students (and some journalists), or all-knowing oracle for frustrated crosswordists — is the antithesis (opposite, antipodean) of what Peter Roget intended when he published the book’s first edition in 1852.

According to Boston-based writer Joshua Kendall’s new biography, The Man Who Made Lists: Love, Death, Madness, and the Creation of Roget’s Thesaurus (Putnam, 304 pages, $25.95), Roget felt his life’s mission was to “bring order to the world,” via “clear communication.” He believed the world’s salvation depended on a communal abstinence from using the same insipid (drab, bromidic) words all the time, and that’s probably still a noble mission in an age where “kthxbye” is perfectly acceptable in everyday conversation. But Roget wanted thesaurus users to consider language choice and concept carefully, rather than use the guide as the verbal equivalent of a fast-food drive-thru for people who want to sound more intellectual (sage, academic).

Read the rest here.

This is what we talk about when we talk about “Best Of.”

I posted this on OTD yesterday:


We were gonna post a Journey video but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to do it.

Oh, listmania, you’re like Paris Hilton holding a plate of Oreos: contradictory, slightly off-putting, and yet fascinatingly addictive. Just when we think we’re listed out, we find ourselves reading another one, and nodding enthusiastically or wondering why anyone thinks the new Band of Horses album is Top 10-worthy. The best list-related reading of the week is undoubtedly Slate’s ongoing documentation of a musical conversation between Robert Christgau, Jody Rosen, and Ann Powers. If you’ve got an hour, it’s worth reading through, but if not, here’s our favorite part: On Sunday Rosen praised Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” as the song of the year, thanks to boosts from The Sopranos and drunken karaoke-ing college kids across the US (Rosen notes that “Don’t Stop Believin’” wasn’t critically acclaimed in 1981, leading him to deduce “There’s a “Don’t Stop Believin'” of 2007 out there somewhere; it’s probably some Nickelback song. Or maybe it’s Mims”). Powers agreed (“Journey is so relevant now”), and just our heads began to spin Christgau verbally smacked some sense into everyone, via his post on Monday: “Journey sucks. They sucked in 1981, they’ll suck in 2033, and they suck now. Who gives a fuck what Tony Soprano thinks?” Xgau, we love you, even though we have no idea how Soulja Boy’s Souljaboytellumdotcom ended up on your Top 30 albums of ‘07 list.

List-related blog item #2: Flipping through our roommate’s copy of Blender recently and we spotted Animal Collective’s Strawberry Jam at number 90 of the mag’s list of the 100 Greatest Indie-Rock albums Ever. “Way to go AC!” we thought. We might’ve picked Feels instead, but whatevs. Then we checked out Blender’s Best 25 Albums of 2007 and, amazingly, Animal Collective is not on there. Like, at all. WTF? Is Strawberry Jam so great and influential that we’re supposed to just feel it’s presence on there? Or is this a reality check that these lists – all of them, not just Blender’s – are kinda BS because (duh) it’s all a matter of (sometimes dissenting, even at the same publication) opinion. We’re not pointing fingers here – we just put the finishing touches on our best album lists, look for ‘em on the Internets soonish – but maybe Slate’s got the right idea in turning listmania into a friendly debate about musical happenings within the past year, rather than a set-in-stone, these are the best albums period, kind of thing. Or maybe that’s what Idolator’s comment section is for.

So now, my own best of list, which is in no way set in stone – in fact, I spent weeks debating it, and am still not positive about my choices. But, deadlines demanded I make a decision – you can also find the list, along with other Phoenix-contributor Top 10’s, here.

A few stipulations: 1) These are not in any order, 2) I’m counting Peter Bjorn and John’s Writer’s Block as 2006, even though Rolling Stone doesn’t think so, and 3) I would’ve put Grizzly Bear’s Friend EP, which I simply adore, on the list in a heartbeat if EPs were allowed.

THE TEN:

M.I.A. – Kala
Deerhoof – Friend Opportunity
Radiohead – In Rainbows
Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam
Yeasayer – All Hour Cymbals
Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna Are You the Destroyer?
Les Savy Fav – Let’s Stay Friends
The Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes A re the Dark Horse
LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha

Ashlee Simpson and AOL screw everyone over.

Via OTD:

Too carefree for sound quality?

In an attempt to keep up with the freeloading download-obsessed music fans of today, Universal has “leaked” Ashlee Simpson’s newest single, “Outta My Head,” off her a- yet unnamed third studio album, which will come out sometime in March. “Outta My Head’s” official iTunes release is December 11; and apparently Universal thought they’d drum up some buzz (and hopefully erase that whole SNL thing from everyone’s memory) by “leaking” the song on AOL. We use quotes around “leaked” for two reasons. First, is it really leaking if the label goes ahead and gives the song to a major website? The second, most maddening reason is that, on a sound quality level, the song sounds kind of like someone was recording it in a basement with one of those handheld crappy digital recorders we use for interviews at Phoenix HQ. Or maybe it was our mom’s old Sony boom box, with the Cocktail soundtrack still in the tape deck. The volume inexplicably rises and falls, and the vocals sound fuzzy and crackly, and not in the experimental, Grizzly Bear-type way. We got about halfway through before we wanted to yank our sound-enhancing headphones off and throw them across the room. What. The. Fuck. We’re gonna go ahead and guess that it’s not that AOL and Universal couldn’t scrounge up the dough for a decent mastering of this track; rather, it seems the thinking here is that fans will endure the crappy version until December 11, then race to iTunes for the “high quality” version. This faulty logic exemplifies major label thinking as a whole, but beyond that, it’s an insult to the fans. Ok, maybe it’s not so far off from Radiohead’s grand, apparently not planned plan, but at least Radiohead gave us a steady volume level, minus any unintentional crackling, on the first version of In Rainbows. When will the major labels get it?

LISTEN: (If you can endure it) Ashlee Simpson, “Outta My Head”

ALSO, I got to talk to Ted Leo recently, and it was awesome. Check it out here.

UPDATE: The sound quality now seems slightly better. Maybe AOL tweaked it a bit and I should get off of my jump to conclusions mat?

How to get an education, a family, and happiness

Courtesy of Salon.com 

From the Phlog:

My favorite blog of the moment, Feministing, reports today on the Bush administration’s national abstinence campaign, which is apparently in full swing, despite heaps of evidence proving that abstinence-only education doesn’t work. From a related entry on ThinkProgress:

“…this ‘information’ is not grounded in science. A recent federal report concluded that abstinence-only programs have had ‘no impacts on rates of sexual abstinence.’ Yet the latest public service announcement by 4parents.gov ‘encourages parents to talk with their kids about waiting to have sex.'”

Watch this video and try to resist the wide-eyed youngsters, pleading: “Tell me what you want from me – an education, a family, happiness,” because apparently those things are only available for the abstinent. Personally, my only proof that abstinence-only teachings don’t work is anecdotal: I attended a strict, all-girls Catholic high school in Baltimore, where they literally tested us on this stuff, i.e. “Sexual intercourse is for (fill in the blank).” The blank, as you might guess, was something along the lines of “a woman and a man who are married.” These tests were administered in religion classes, which nearly every student passed, most with A’s or B’s, and yet none of my friends were abstinent. And, on average from freshman year to senior year, at least two members of my 125-student class became pregnant per year.

This week’s This American Life takes a different approach. With the theme “How to Talk to Kids,” host Ira Glass talks to students who write and edit a publication and website called Sex Etc. (with the warning that he’s not going to be sexually explicit, but he is going to acknowledge that kids have sex), a place for teens to find information about safe sex, consult sexual health experts anonymously, find out where to get tested for STD’s, or where to turn in a crisis. Visit the website here (on TAL the students were quick to warn that it’s sexetc.org – other standard URL endings lead to pornography). Download the TAL podcast here, and listen through to the end – there’s a fun little segment by Dan Savage, and it’s (surprisingly) NOT about sex.

That whole Shriiimp thing

Photo courtesy of Shriiimp.com

A few things I’d like to point out, in light of some recent comments disapproving of this piece. First, the misspelling of “Juxtapoz” was a miscommunication between myself and my editor, and for that I’m sorry. I’m not sorry, however, for reporting the story to the best of my abilities. I am not a publicist, and I was not writing a press release to hype up Shriiimp. One of the ground rules for journalism is that a story should never be one-sided; a variety of points-of-view are always necessary. I interviewed a plethora of sources for this story, from a large group of Shriiimp-involved people, to art experts, graf experts, artists, and other people with strong opinions about the site. I reported back a variety of opinions, both for and against Shriiimp’s concept – i.e., those who take it quite seriously as art, those who find it to be misogynistic, and those who think it shouldn’t be taken so seriously.

I have no problem with people posting comments on the story. No journalistic career is free of personal criticism, not even for Deborah Solomon. If anything, I’m glad that it was something that got people talking. It’s a good thing when people are talking about art, or journalism about art, and obviously the anonymity of the Phoenix’s commenting system allows people who would never have the courage to e-mail or call me personally, and express their opinion to make biting and immature comments, with no risk of exposing who they are, or having to elaborate their opinions further. Having someone refer to my writing as “insanely horrible,” and a “steaming pile of shit” is not exactly pleasant but, as a co-worker put it to me today, “internet backlash is the first sign you’ve made it.”

A beautiful world?

Via the Phlog:

“It’s a Beautiful World” is such a bold expression of naïveté, especially in light of events from the past 24 hours, which intrigues us.  Why would Scion title their installation art tour, which open in Boston at Rhys Gallery tomorrow night, so optimistically?  Is it sarcastic? Spiritually significant? Narrow-minded? Ironic?  Judge for yourself – the exhibit opens with a soiree with the artists, tomorrow evening from 6-9 pm, and runs through August 18. More info here.

And a few images from the show that we swiped from the Internets:


R.Grimes


Travis Millard


Blek Le Rat


Dalek


Andrew Pommier


Blaine Fontana


Caia Koopman