Which Continent Sang What?

The Guardian and several other news outlets have – predictably, yet brilliantly – had ‘Who’s line is it?’ contests where you have to guess whether a given quote was uttered by Charlie Sheen or Muammar Gaddafi. I tried this one and got only 6 of 10 right.

Shortly, however, my mind began to wander and consider other less obvious topics that one could apply this same game to. A natural fit seemed to be matching pretentious lyrics with the three major rock bands that have had the gall to name themselves after continents.

Let’s meet the Candidates:

1. America

2. Europe

3. Asia

Now, their espoused philosophies:


I’m gonna miss you, yes, I will
No matter who you are I’ll love you still
For my life is my conscience, the seeds I sow
And I just wanted to let you know


And from the wreckage I will arise
Cast the ashes back in their eyes
See the fire I will defend
Just keep on burning right to the end


You know it ain’t easy
Running out of thrills
You know it ain’t easy
When you don’t know what you want.

Answers in next post!


Edit: Looks like the diminutive island of Japan just trumped these bloated continent-bands for epic lyrical source material.

Good times

Around the corner from the studio where I work, there’s a nondescript pizza/pasta place where I go sometimes to pick up take-away food for lunch. The owner, an nice Albanian guy, used to make valiant attempts to engage me in conversation while I waited for my food, but we had nothing in common other than the fact that we both had iPhones before you could buy them in Czech, so we would have the same conversation every time where he would ask me if I had upgraded to some new operating system or bought some new app and I would always say, no, I haven’t. Luckily, he’s since delegated counter service to a crew of Czechs who don’t bother to make conversation, so lately I’ve been free to stare at the walls, which are covered in those framed booze ads that are the default decor of restaurants that can’t be bothered to establish any particular kind of atmosphere.

This is how I’ve come to develop a weird begrudging fascination with the Cointreau poster shown above (sorry the photo is so terrible, but I can’t find the image online and I can’t exactly ask to borrow a step ladder to photograph their poster). Sure, on a conceptual level, it’s completely hackneyed and predictable. But, the execution: it’s so…….. good.  How convincingly the principals seem to be Having A Good Time. How many hundreds of shots must have been taken that afternoon to get this one photo. How rung out the three models must have been at the end.

Since it’s really hard to see what’s going on in this photo, I’ll describe it for you: the woman on the left winks and smiles and holds a drink out to you invitingly, all at the same time. The woman on the right howls in hedonistic delight. Meanwhile, the guy in the middle is pure caddishness unpunished. His hand dangles irresponsibly as his expression says Don’t hate me because I’m feckless. The insouciant atmosphere is ratcheted up another notch by the evidence that its clearly daytime, and by the ingeniously cheesy tag-line: ‘Voulez-vous Cointreau avec moi?’.

I don’t even know what Cointreau is, and yet there’s a tiny part of me that wants to drop everything and join these three for a quick bender in Montmarte. At least, until my pizza shows up and I tear myself away from their seductive invitations. Well done, Cointreau.

Life's gay paegent

Favorite new Czech word: Zázrak. Means ‘miracle’. I can’t tell you how much enjoyment I’m getting out of this one. The next time something mildly surprising or fortunate happens, lift one hand, say ‘ZAAAAAZ-RAK!’ with great zest and make a face like Doug Henning (above). If you’re in a public place, just say it under your breath and only go half-Henning. I guarantee you’ll enjoy yourself in either case.

Favorite new air travel horror story: the Daily News article that TK posted about a flight where someone brought raw meat onboard and the passengers wound up being sprinkled by maggots falling out of the overhead luggage containers. Aside from the basic mind-altering, horrifying parameters of the story, a few other notable things here: as TK mentions, the fact that the Daily News story absurdly includes a generic stock photo of maggots not related to the ones on the flight just to get the point across; second, the detail that horrified passengers complained to the flight crew and were robotically asked to ‘please take your seats and remain calm’– I love this. My friend is flying from Mexico City to Prague next week and is terrified of flying– I can’t wait to run this scenario by him.

Favorite spring/summer holiday calendar: Czech Republic’s, naturally. First, let me introduce you to something called ‘Easter Monday’– it’s just like Easter Sunday, but you get a day off work. Second, there’s a weirdo configuration where we get May 1st and May 8th off for separate holidays– as these are exactly a week apart, you wind up sort of inadvertantly re-living the same holiday a second time through one week later.

But, best of all, thanks to Saints Cyril and Methodius, a FOUR day weekend around the 4th of July. This meant I had enough time for a proper weekend of oozing around Prague in blasting heat and watching World Cup in beer gardens, followed by a second separate weekend, as it were, at a friend’s cottage, enjoying family fun time and village idyl stuff.


After I blogged about Chuck Klosterman’s Eating the Dinosaur a few months ago, a reader named Katie suggested I read his first book of essays and sweetened the deal by mentioning that it includes an essay on the Sims, the virtual reality game that seemingly enslaved the entire female Midwest a few years back. So, during my SF trip, I read a friend’s copy of Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs and was riveted by the whole thing, especially the Sims essay, Billy Sim:

I am not a benevolent god.

I am watching myself write in a puddle of my own urine, and I offer no response. I have not slept or eaten for days. My cries go unrecognized and my loneliness is ignored. I am watching myself endure a torture worse than death, yet I decline every opportunity to end this self-imposed nightmare. Darkness… imprisoning me… all that I see, absolute horror. I cannot live, I cannot die, trapped in myself; my body is my holding cell.

I am the master and I am the puppet. And I am not the type of person who still plays video games.

So go the opening paragraphs of the essay, foreshadowing Klosterman’s eventual boredom with the game and subsequent decision to neglect his SimSelf while the latter writhes in his own pee.

The first thing I can immediately tell from this passage is that Klosterman and I are about the same age (he was born a year before me, in 1972). The tell is the phrase ‘video games’, which only men currently between the ages of about 33 and 39 use. Younger people call them ‘computer games’ or just ‘games’. Older people can’t refer to them coherently at all. The women I know don’t mention them unless its in the context of the final flaw that persuaded them not to date some guy they were perviously thinking about dabbling in (e.g. On top of it all, he sits at home and plays video games). We late-Gen-X males are the only people who became fully accustomed to the idea of manipulating a character on a screen before the advent of the personal computer age.

Next, I also immediately identify with the co-mingled curiosity and contempt that Klosterman expresses towards gaming (‘It’s fun, but– somehow– vaguely pathetic’). For my part, the contempt partly serves to mask a fearful respect that I have for the gaming industry and its potential to enslave me. I have only played one game in my adult life (Civilization), but that’s less out of lack of interest and more out of a wary realization that I love games in general and can easily picture myself getting sucked in if I strayed past a certain threshold. This dread manifested itself in a particular anti-social habit that I developed towards a guy I used to share an apartment with, who worked at Electronic Arts as a producer for the Sims. The roommate had an Xbox lying around that he would bring out (albeit only quite rarely) to show his friends what he was doing at work. After they would invariably disappear and leave the console lying on the floor in front of the TV, I would always respectfully pick it up and place it on top of the tallest bookshelf in the living room– the most inaccessible shared spot in the house. Such was my determination not to become an addict.

Klosterman writes at great– and persuasive– length about the bizarre and abstracted aspects of the game, but one personal experience I had involving the above-mentioned Sims-producer roommate really drove home for me how weird the whole thing is. One Saturday, my roommate spent the whole day at his office furiously working to correct a mistake one of his programmers had made. The programmer was supposed to have designd a disco ball for a dance club environment. Instead of creating the disco ball from scratch, the programmer had taken a lawn sprinkler and decided to modify it (this apparently being a common approach, according to my roommate). But, the programmer had done a really lazy job of it, so the ‘disco ball’ was still acting more like a lawn sprinkler and spraying dancers with water. My roommate stomped home at about 7pm having lost an entire sunny Saturday to getting the disco ball to act like a disco ball. He was so deeply immersed in the problem and so enraged about it that he managed to relate the entire scenario back to me without expressing the slightest awareness of what an absurdly meta way this was to spend one’s Saturday. If I wasn’t thoroughly creeped out frightened by virtual-reality game play until now, this lawn-sprinkler/disco-ball anecdote totally scared me straight as shit.

Authorial self-doubt and torment note: I previously promised myself that I would boycott the ‘#FAIL’ construction in this blog, as I think it’s the lamest, most overused, mind-rotting meme currently in circulation. But, I couldn’t think of a single other title for this post that works nearly as well. So, there you have it.

The Subtitled Hitler Video Meme

I am somewhat ashamed to use the term “meme,” which I have been resisting for years. I’ve tried to group it into the category of pointless, space-filler terms like “outside of the box” or “on a going forward basis,” but it has become increasingly clear to me that “meme” is, in fact, a concise and distinct term that captures a phenomenom that otherwise can be described only with a lot more words.

The Urban Dictionary offers these five definitions for “meme”:

1 : an idea, belief or belief system, or pattern of behavior that spreads throughout a culture either vertically by cultural inheritance (as by parents to children) or horizontally by cultural acquisition (as by peers, information media, and entertainment media)

2 : a pervasive thought or thought pattern that replicates itself via cultural means; a parasitic code, a virus of the mind especially contagious to children and the impressionable

3 : the fundamental unit of information, analogous to the gene in emerging evolutionary theory of culture
– meme pool (n.) : all memes of a culture or individual
– memetic (adj.) : relating to memes
– memetics (n.) : the study of memes

4 : in blogspeak, an idea that is spread from blog to blog

5 : an internet information generator, especially of random or contentless information

My favorite sorts of memes are those that start from some basic “text,” such as a short video, event or comment that “catches fire” in popular culture, and then build on it, creating new and increasingly bizarre derivations. So for example there is the Kanye West/Taylor Swift meme, where new words are plugged, “Mad Libs”-style, into Kanye’s infamous rant at the MTV Music Awards, or the “Yo Dog!” meme where the same thing is done to the host of ‘Pimp My Ride’s” infamous trope, “Yo dawg, I heard you like ______, so I put an __________ in your car so you can ________ while you drive!” (See the excellent website “Know Your Meme” for hilarious mini-episodes on memes, done by Dharma-initiative-like people in labcoats).

But my favorite meme of all is the “Hitler Subtitle” meme, in which people take a famously over-the-top scene from the movie Downfall, where Hitler freaks out at his generals, and add subtitles suggesting that Hitler is instead getting mad about something else altogether. The first one I remember seeing cast Hitler as Hillary Clinton, with the generals attempting to break the news to her that Obama was on an unstoppable course to securing the Democratic nomination. But it’s been done over and over again, on countless different topics ranging from problems with Windows Vista to a planned trip to Burning Man, and every time somebody sends me a new one, I laugh even harder than the last time. I have no idea why — the mystery of a successful meme is why it doesn’t fizzle out, but instead gains momentum as it evolves. In this case, there is something about the scene with its buffoonish German ranting that lends itself to literally any conceivable expression of outrage. And, of course, the more insignificant the topic, the sillier it seems in the context of Hitler and his generals. But what I don’t understand is my sense that it is funnier each time in part because of the experience of having seeing all of the other versions.

Here is the latest iteration:


(“Know Your Meme’s” explanation here.)

Little Mouth Cat, Where Have You Been Hiding?

OK, I’m really excited to post this, although– WARNING– it’s incredibly crude and full of South Park-type sexual humor. If you’re not into that kind of thing, please move along to the more thinky, family-oriented content elsewhere in this blog…

Back in May of 2008, I was forwarded a hilariously offensive story written by a woman who decides to pass the time during the writers’ strike by sleeping with all three then-candidates for president. The origins of the story are something of a mystery to me: apparently, it was written by a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend who writes for TV or screen… a comic genius, in any case, albeit of a highly puerile nature.

Just a few days ago, I discovered this site xtranormal.com that lets you easily make an animation from any text you choose to copy-and-paste. This text seemed like the perfect thing to turn into an raunchy animated monologue (although the 2008 campaign storyline is obviously pretty dated at this point). Anyway, without further ado, here’s ‘Little Mouth Cat, Where Have You Been Hiding?



I was delighted to read the New Yorker profile (subscription required) of Bryan and Bryan, the identical twin doubles tennis stars. I’ve long been fascinated with Bryan and Bryan, although I have to say that it’s the same sort of ambiguous fascination that I have with the music of Perry Como where I’m legitimately uncertain to what extent I really appreciate them and to what extent I find them fascinatingly corny, where the dividing line lies between these feelings, and whether that dividing line is actually real or meaningful in the first place. It’s all somewhat confusing. On the plus side, they seem like legitimately nice guys, they’ve almost double-handedly kept doubles tennis alive as a sport, plus they have the cool twin E.S.P. thing going on where they make the same moves on the court at the same time without knowing they’re doing it and defeat more individually-talented tandems of singles stars through their single-organism style of play.

On the other hand, there’s just something about them that exudes a sense of all-American ham. Perhaps this feeling has its roots in the observation of their clean-cut twinny appearance, or in their boring names (‘Mike’ and ‘Bob’). But, whatever its origin, your suspicion feels well-founded by the time you read the New Yorker’s commentary on their musical activities: ‘… the twins ran through one of their own, tennis-themed power ballads– “I can’t be broken again. I’ve got to hold on now.”‘ Yikes. That’s up their with Dirk Diggler and Chest Rockwell’s fledgling recording career in Boogie Nights.

The real thing that mesmerized me about Bryan and Bryan in the first place was their signature on-court chestbump celebration, a quirk that marries both their lovable exuberance and harder-to-take-seriously sides together in one glorious, goofy expression. [Grammatical note: ‘Chest bump’ is officially spelled as two words, but I’m putting them together for editorial effect, to make it seem like a familiar part of our cultural landscape.] Part of the magic of the chestbump is that they seem to launch into it via the same twin E.S.P.– it’s not like they exchange a knowing glance and go into it, or like one brother leans towards the other suggestively to initiate it. It’s more like, they win a point  and suddenly – bang! – chests are bumping.

As an homage to Bryan and Bryan, my friend Patrick and I adopted the chestbump as a legitimately-enjoyable-but-also-basically-just-goofing-around move during a trip we took to Portugal a few years ago. We tried to develop the same chestbump-E.S.P. that the Bryans’ display. But mostly, it was just fun to gratuitously celebrate things that don’t really merit celebration during our trip. Our top 3 dumb chestbumps, in reverse order:

3. Getting completely lost on steep, remote hills in the Portugese countryside and then finding the path back to safety just as we were entirely running out of energy… chestbump!

2. When our on-flight drink service arrived after we were belted into our seats. Nothing is sillier than doing a chestbump when you’re physically restrained around the waist.

1. A chestbump (I can’t remember the provocation) executed in a doorway, causing Patrick to smash his head into the doorjamb. Rank amateurism, I know.

To summarize: the chestbump is a physically exhilarating gesture that promotes camaraderie, and I highly recommend it. You can’t let yourself be restrained by social self-consciousness from executing it in public. That’s just society telling you what you can’t do, man.

Short attention span theater


One of the things I like about design is that you wind up doing a lot of different types of work for a lot of different clients. In this sense, the job acts as a kind of zany docent of the world, leading you into various different realms of human enterprise and giving you fleeting examples of the types of people, attitudes, jargon, attitudes, attire etc. that populate each. One week, you’re doing a project for a box factory; the next week, a clown college; and so on. This is nice gimmick in terms of incorporating a constant (if superficial) level of variety to the job… you’re never exactly doing the same thing every day (unless you decide take a job for that box factory as their creative director, in which case you most definitely are).

One memorable realization of this perk happened for me in March of 2005, when I was working with a studio that had taken on an identity and packaging job for a new line of soaps and scrubs to be called Pomegranate Body. On our first day of work, I was sent off on my bike with a camera and two tasks: (1) buy a real pomegranate; (2) take photos of competing bath and body products in the nearby branch of Sephora, the hideous chain cosmetics store. Task 1 proved to be absolutely impossible in the middle of March (apparently the antithesis of pomegranate season); task 2 became imperiled when a beefy security guy told me that it’s prohibited to take product photos in Sephora stores. Being a somewhat lazy and passive person, I’m generally inclined to comply with such orders, but in this specific case is struck me that I had no need to go back to Sephora for the rest of my life, and that I had a very real and substantial need to get product shots. So, I continued taking photos for a few minutes in surreptitious ‘spy mode’, nonchalantly snapping very poor, blurry shots while keeping the camera out of eyeshot and pretending to be conscientiously shopping. Inevitably,  the security guy caught on and marched me (firmly, but civilly, I must say) out of the store to the curiosity of other patrons. Once I jumped on my bike, it occurred to me that I’d spent an few hours ‘on the clock’ shopping for a nonexistent fruit of ill-repute and getting thrown out of a perfume store. Beats workin’!

From time to time, my experiences give me a renewed appreciation for these random, short-attention-span-theater aspects of the designer’s job. Consider the juxtaposition of meetings I’ve had in the last 24 hours: yesterday, a middle-aged Chinese couple who market canned pork products to Central European countries; today, former supermodel Tereza Maxova’s charity foundation. Vive la difference!

(Photo credit: Tereza Maxova, by Flickr user Neon / 24)