Category Archives: Categorized

Something I learned last night


I wanted the Ang Lee 2003 Hulk to be good and it wasn’t. Everybody was right.



In which I assign gender to drinks and not to epithets

Dear Violet,

All manner of world-historical importance swirling about. By which I mean:

I hate to say this, but the professor is wrong and Starbucks is right.

Seems to me all Lynne Rosenthal had to do was say “no, thanks” the same way one might when the waiter at Not-Starbucks asks “cream and sugar?”

The Starbucks lingo is annoying, but in my experience I’ve never seen a customer required to use it. I often order lady-style drinks from them and the barista asks whether i want whipped cream. I have never been required to say “no whip” or “with whip” – “no, thanks” and “yes, please” have always sufficed.

I’m sure the barista was dick to Prof. Rosenthal, but it sure does seem like she was more of dick in the first place. And the third place.

Also, I’m so sorry no I’ve never seen Mad Men and also you’re wrong: I don’t have cable. Mysterious, I know.


Pub rock Friday (on a Saturday)

An important part of All Internet Traditions is that they actually require some maintenance. By which I mean: If I’m gonna have Pub-rock Friday, I better be putting up a pub-rock video on Friday. And I didn’t do that this week. So here’s one that doesn’t require a ton of background. Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, Rockpile. Beginner’s stuff. Enjoy:

So this is a thing? pt. 2

Dear Violet,

I don’t know if you remember anything about this, but I know that in some past life I was involved in a series of discussions of indeterminate seriousness on the subject of monkey torture. For some reason I am completely blanking on the context and it’s driving me nuts. Anyway: now, I know it’s all over all the different internets, but… never in a million years did I imagine that this was really a thing:

Monkeys hate flying squirrels, report monkey-annoyance experts

Japanese macaques will completely flip out when presented with flying squirrels, a new study in monkey-antagonism has found. The research could pave the way for advanced methods of enraging monkeys.

Monkey-annoyance experts?
Completely flip out?
A new study monkey-antagonism?

I have clearly wasted my academic life.


Godzilla v. board of education

Dear Violet,

I am most definitely enjoying all the law-talking. So, I was wondering about something. You said this about political news/discourse/libel (I think?):

…this is one of the few places where I think impact litigation can really bring about pretty strong social transformation. P.S. I also think SCOTUS is going to overturn the healthcare bill. What do those last 2 sentences have to do with each other?

When you say this, I can’t help but wonder whether you’re barking up a Gerry Rosenberg-shaped tree? This is one bit of law-talking I’ve encountered in my… um, studies (the other bit being kind of a lot of labor-relations law, so the NLRB jibber-jabber isn’t too far over my head), the argument in its simplest form being that the courts don’t bring about progressive social change. The evidence as I understand it is more or less as follows: Brown didn’t help civil rights (insofar as actual advancement required political mobilization & legislative action), Roe didn’t help abortion rights (insofar as it gave much more political momentum to opponents than supporters) and this Prop 8 litigation is similarly either too early or counter-productive.

The thing is, the same idea holds that the Supreme Court really can advance conservative social goals, which might be what you mean about the health care bill, no? This is the case because doing so usually means striking down progressive legislation, which I kind of interpret in the sense that legislation is hard to pass through congress and conservative goal and the striking-down are one and the same. A progressive goal on the other hand would be something like actually getting schools desegregated or actually getting people health care. But it’s all very unsatisfying because the court tried to do the former and failed and would’ve failed to do the latter as well, given the opportunity (whether they would have tried or not). So that still leaves me at Who Knows?

Also, there’s the idea that the court can interpret legislation within mainstream opinion or can knock down legislation outside mainstream opinion but can’t pull legislation outside the bounds of mainstream opinion. And no matter what Fox Liberty Ultra would have us believe, the health care law is perfectly mainstream and gettting more mainstream by the day.

Of course, I would have said this model was pretty convincing and means that it’s absurd to think the Affordable Care Act would be struck down, but I’m not sure I know how to plug Citizens United into the model. Is that law about process instead of social change? How does that change the court’s political economy? Indeed, that’s what worries me: the political economy of the court i so… kind of unpredictable? I think it’s easier to game out what kind of effects certain decisions would have, a la Rosenberg (although I suspect he’s not exactly correct about gay marriage litigation but whatever) than to tell what the decisions themselves will be. Me being me, the trouble as I see it is that the Supreme Court has four justices who appear willing to do almost anything that a critical mass of the zealous right deems a priority. Lifetime appointments are kind of supposed to solve this problem, but they also kinda exacerbate it sometimes (the idea that this occurred as well during the Warren Court etc, I think informs Rosenberg’s thesis, come to think of it).

And yes, yes you did explain the price of scorn. Do our readers need to know about delicious scorn? I’m not sure.


Pub-rock Friday

Dear Violet,

I’m glad you enjoyed the Queen clip. Space shanties are one of my favorite microgenres, so you can see why that Brian May jam speaks to me. In fact, as I may have mentioned to you earlier on the GYacht (h/t B&S friend BS), there’s a touching moment in The Making of A Night at the Opera where Brian May gets a little misty-eyed lamenting the fact that ’39 was never released as a single and thus never became the Hit he always felt it shoulda been. I agree, obv. (Besides, the tambourine is the hit-maker!)

Anyway, I want to talk about a slightly broader genre for a moment. As you know (or not), I spend some small number of my evenings playing pub-rock records at various establishments around the Non-Specific Midwestern Metropolis.

So naturally, a lot of people end up asking me “Hey so what exactly is pub-rock?”

I always have a little trouble answering that question. It always ends up being something like “mostly-but-not-limited-to second-tier post-glam pre-punk backwards-looking rock from the UK,” which is never quite satisfying to me. This seems like a decent little synopsis:

The whole premise of Pub Rock was to inject an atmosphere of “good-time” into a music scene that had begun to take itself far too seriously for its own health. Except for a few mavericks, most pub bands chose to mine three motherlodes. Hard-nosed R&B revivalism (Dr. Feelgood, Kilburn & The Highroads, Ace, Ducks Deluxe, The Winkies, Roogalator, Michigan Flyers); Fatback Funk (Kokomo, Clancy, FBI, Moon, Cado Belle, G.T. Moore & His Reggae Guitars, Palm Beach Express); Country Rock (The Brinsleys, Kursaal Flyers, Byzantium, Chilli Willi & the Red Hot Peppers).

I tend to take a slightly more expansive view and am willing to allow higher-profile arena-rock of Celtic (Thin Lizzy) or Aussie grill-rock (AC/DC) origin as well folks more often identified as glam (Cockney Rebel, Be Bop Deluxe), punk or new wave (Stranglers, Undertones), or 80s college rock (Big Dipper). This has the effect of sometimes reinforcing the notions of folks who hear “pub-rock” and think “jukebox favorites” or somesuch. But hey, it’s all pop music, right?

So, I think every Friday I’m gonna try to post a different pub-rock video. And I’m gonna start with maybe the weirdest one I could find. This is a French band called Little Bob Story. Honestly, I don’t know much of anything about this band or even if Little Bob Story is actually the name of the band or just, well, that little guy in front. But this is a cover of a Ducks Deluxe song and I think it can’t help but make your day better:

Rock & Roll,

Dear Violet,

Sartorially speaking, I do indeed still look pretty awesome all the time if I do say so myself.

What’s Hot Right Now with Rusty Schwartz?

  • Bow ties. As-Salamu Alaykum, folks. But actually it’s kinda hot out in the non-specific midwestern metropolis these days. So the bow ties are not exactly de moment. But expect those fuckers come winter. Not the skinny ones, either. Like, regular ones; Economist-for-Halloween-type bow ties. Write that shit down, stylebloggers (i know you’re reading).
  • Topsiders. Yeah, I could work at American Apparel. But mostly, when you plan on going into public service you’re gonna have folks trying to butter you up all the time and you have to be ready to go yachting at a moment’s notice. REMEMBER: not all bribes can be converted to hookers. Be prepared!
  • Aviator glasses, as always. These never went away. Ignore the big glasses backlash; it’s important to hide as much of your face as possible. Because if you are like most people you have a bad face and beady little eyes.* Embrace the mystery, &c.

What’s been bothering Rusty Schwartz?

  • H&M shirts. I was excited about these at first. The mediums actually seem to be the only shirts that actually fit me. By which I mean, I can (a) button the collar because apparently I have a huge fucking football-player neck or something and (b) I’m not swimming in the rest of the shirt like a little kid because ‘roid-rage neck notwithstanding I’m actually a pretty scrawny guy. So that’s all good right? NOPE! Because those shirts don’t have breast pockets. Not one. Not that left one that nice normal shirts have. I mean, where am I supposed to put the things I normally put in my shirtpocket? GET REAL indeed.

BTW & FWIW: Project Runway season 8 starts tomorrow.

Make it work or whatever,

*Not addressed to Violet, who is of course, a babe, but rather to the general public. It’s not personal; it’s just probability.

A list of feelings about artists and art


On the subject of beliefs about the death of art, the idea of art versus craft and (mostly) Werner Herzog, I’d like to share one of my favorite passages from Herzog on Herzog:

So you don’t subscribe to the belief that your films are in any way ‘art films’?

Absolutely not, they are no such thing. I dislike intensely even the concept of artists in this day and age. The last King of Egypt, King Farouk, completely obese in exile, wolfing one lamb leg after another, said something very beautiful: ‘There are no kings left in the world anymore, only the King of Hearts, the King of Diamonds, the King of Spades, and the King of Clubs.’ The whole concept of being an artist is also somehow outdated today. There is only one place left where you find artists: the circus. There you can find the trapeze artists , the jugglers, even the hunger artist. Film is not analysis, it is the agitation of the mind; cinema comes from the country fair and the circus, not from art or academicism. I truly feel that in the world of the painter or novelist or film director there are no artists. This is a concept that belongs to earlier centuries, where there was such a thing as virtue and pistol duels at dawn with men in love, and damsels fainting on couches.*

I have feelings about this. I haven’t decided if they are mixed or not. The first feeling is that I want to agree with it because Werner Herzog said it and, well, I’m a pathetic fanboy. The second feeling is that the last bit about pistols at dawn feels a little squishy to me… but… I also don’t feel like the romanticism of that bit tracks well with the rest of the sentiments and, Herzog being Herzog, I have trouble reading any nostalgia into it other than perhaps something like: “things have always been horrible and always will be horrible, but they will be differently so” (by which I basically mean that if the excerpted text means something different when you read it with Herzog’s voice in your head than when you don’t).

And it’s the constant element (everything was always horrible) rather than the evolutionary one (art was once a thing and it is no longer a thing) that reminds of something I spend a lot of time thinking about re: Art or Not Art. Namely: when I read complainy items about… well, musicians mostly… they seem to think that it is some kind of tragedy or even more annoyingly: newsworthy that they can’t make a living making music. But the thing is, some musicians can make money making music and there are very very few of them and it’s my sense that this was always the case – most musicians always couldn’t make money making music and had to do other things for socks & underwear &c.

So basically, if you like a lot of music and if you like obscure music, then plenty of your favorite musicians couldn’t make money being musicians for any extended period of time – in the sense that Metallica or Carole King could make money being musicians – and if you want to be like your favorite obscure band it’s just gonna be the case that you aren’t going to make enough money to live on for a very long time. Of course, if you like music (ok even maybe a lot of music) and the music you like is made by people who make money making music then the important thing to remember is that you the music you like is made by a tiny fraction of the population and being a musician is not really a viable career choice.

If you are realistic, then, and understand that being a professional musician means playing Greensleeves a lot of times for restaurant patrons (or similar), then by all means. But my point is that people downloading songs for free is not going to be what prevents you from being a rock star. What prevents you from being a rock star is the same thing that prevents me from being a major league baseball player. And there’s nothing really wrong with that. Writers do this too. I think this is what we were talking about? And what I mean by that is the I think it’s right of Doree Shafrir to point out that she is basically playing Greensleeves over and over again (in the cosmic sense) and I don’t really understand what that takes.

So what does it mean to be an artist? I find the Subway Sandwich Artist really informative to the Herzogian conception of the artist: namely that when everyone is an artist, then nothing is art. Or, explicated: when everyone is an artist, then everything is art, then art is nothing, then nothing is art. In other words, Art is meaningless and it becomes unimportant whether something is Art (because it is) but rather whether something is a sandwich or a painting or needlepoint or a song or sex or murder or steamed milk. There’s no particular value in calling it Art or Craft, I think, so much as there is a value in naming things what they are in such a way that words have some kind of meaning. Am I wrong?

Your friend,

*The whole book is like this. It is wonderful beyond wonderful.

Further readings in theoretical physics

Dear Violet,

Re: sentences that describe alternate realities, please observe this AP lede:

Olympic gold medalist Jennie Finch announced Tuesday that she will retire next month, bringing an end to a 10-year career in which she helped softball blossom in the United States.

I can’t quite see my way to explaining the second clause of this sentence even assuming extra Planck-length dimensions or whatever, so I’m gonna have to conjecture additional time-like dimensions and say: maybe?

Gimme my Nobel Prize (gimme it now),


Secret Gardens #1

But you know,

Sometimes I find little accidental corners of the internet – automatically-generated nooks and burrows – and I think: if i just stay here, I won’t have to go to work tomorrow or pay rent etc. etc… and soon enough everyone will forget they were even looking for me and it will be like I never existed and I will be perfectly content. Cozy little corners like this.

Oh but don’t worry I’m still just right here,