Lowbrow


By watching people eat hot dogs until they collapse! My friend and I ventured out to Coney Island earlier today to watch the annual Nathan’s Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest. We loitered on the pavement with about 35,000 other spectators while a barker in a straw boater made bad jokes; a guy got up on stage and proposed to his girlfriend (she accepted, and the barker married them on the spot, at which point I heard the girl’s mother’s heart breaking somewhere in Queens); an obese rapper, who was also a contestant and world-champion matzoh eater, did his thing; and faux cheerleaders awkwardly waved their pom-poms. This year was particularly exciting, as it was the rematch of Takeru Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut. For those of you who don’t follow these things, Kobayashi was the undefeated champion for six straight years, until Chestnut took him down last year. This year, they finished in a dead heat of 59 dogs each (in 10 minutes); Chestnut barely won in a one-minute eat-off. So exciting! For the stomach-churning visuals, click on the photo below.

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I generally ignore the Thursday Home & Garden section of the Times–I have an appreciation of good interior design, but when it comes to my own home, “decorating” means straightening the magazines on the coffee table and hanging a few pictures. But today this photo caught my eye:

This is from some designer showcase thing happening on the Upper East Side. At first I thought it was some wacky retro wallpaper (you children of the 70s will surely remember the shiny wallpaper that sometimes showed up in bathrooms), but then realized it’s the tops of tin cans. Creative! Of course, the acoustics must be dreadful, and woe betide anyone who leans up against that wall, but still. It’s cool to see something so DIY make it into a show house that’s probably otherwise filled with prohibitively expensive “premium” materials.

I’ve always thought my personal aesthetic was plain enough to defy labeling, but it seems I was wrong. On what is surely a very slow news day, the Observer has decided to run a lengthy trend piece that describes, in excruciating detail, the group to which I apparently belong: the Urbane Tomboy. To save you the trouble of reading the 1,000-plus words: We “UTs” love us some expensive jeans, cute t-shirts, oversized cardigans, messy hair, and minimal makeup. We work from home and/or in “creative industries.” We clean up right nice but only when we absolutely have to, and we complain about it the whole time. We drink beer and whiskey, aren’t afraid to get our hands dirty or our brows sweaty, and enjoy the occasional dirty joke. Guys like us because we don’t confuse them with elaborate beauty routines, complicated accessories, or brightly colored cocktails that end in -tini.

So when you see me marching down the street in my artfully ratty high-low uniform of t-shirt, cardigan, jeans, and trainers (some expensive, some not), the split ends of my nondescript brown ponytail bouncing with each step, manuscript peeking out of my plain yet pricey bag, take a moment to salute the Urbane Tomboy–someone who likes to be comfortable, modestly stylish, and has better things to do than to obsess over perfect hair and makeup (otherwise known as about 80% of the women in New York).

I have reached the saturation point with the trend of labeling things as if they were new versions of system software. A few weeks ago, I read a review of a play called Iphigenia 2.0. Before that came Orestes 2.0. A search through the archives of the New York Times arts section for the past year results in page after page: Pixies 2.0, Devo 2.0, Christmas 2.0, tribute album 2.0, five-second rule 2.0, college 2.0, freakonomics 2.0. And this is just in the arts section! Bloggers love to refer to themselves in versions, like they can reinvent themselves by applying a meaningless cliche to their screen names. It stopped being cute as soon as the first person did it, so please, lazy writers, cut it out.

As I was walking up Lafayette St. in SoHo yesterday afternoon, I came upon this billboard:

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Now, at first glance, it’s mildly amusing. But then I wondered: Who is the target market? Certainly not real socialites. Perhaps the women who are perpetually dieting, have their cosmetic derms on speed dial, and married their money, yet tell themselves they’re not one of *those* women? Snarky proles like me who make fun of plasticky trophy wives? Also, wtf with the caption “Voted #1 vodka of 2033”? I’m sorry, copywriters, that’s just plain cheesy. You’ve managed to alienate rich, poor, and anyone who isn’t a complete dork.

About this time last year, I read a review of Mike Judge’s Idiocracy that mentioned it was the most important film I’d probably never see. Fox released it as quietly as possible for a very short time in only a handful of cities, and then it went straight to video.

I forgot about the review until the other week, when I placed Idiocracy on my Netflix list and just got around to watching it tonight. It starts with a “case study” that shows one highly intelligent couple hemming and hawing about having children, and eventually dying childless. It contrasts these people with a, er, less intelligent couple who breed like fruit flies. The film then veers into science fiction, with an average guy (Wilson) participating in an Army science experiment to “hibernate” him for one year. The experiment goes awry, of course, and he wakes up 500 years later to a world ruled by drooling imbeciles and ravaged by drought, starvation, illiteracy, and violence. He’s also deemed to be the smartest man in the world.

Did I mention this is a comedy? It’s actually quite funny, although a little clumsy in places, and unsettlingly thought-provoking. While watching it I could see shades of that dystopian future in today’s society. The most disturbing observation it raises, of course, is that the world’s most intelligent and able people tend to procreate very sparingly, if at all, and that their influence on the world is slowly fading. The question that stems from that is whether any of us has the right to judge who reproduces and how much. Once I realized that was a central issue, I felt sort of ashamed of myself for laughing at the movie. Another review I read of this also mentioned it was the “feel-bad comedy of the year,” which sums it up perfectly.

This is what I would look like:

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Waste some time, make your own.

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