I only recently discovered that the third, brilliant season of The Venture Bros. is running a great promo gimmick: The Amazing T-Shirt of the Week Club. Each week, after an episode is first broadcast, you can get a t-shirt based on that week's adventure. By the next week, the shirt is gone and another becomes available. Sadly, I only discovered this in week 7, but thankfully that was in time to nab the sweet Order of the Triad shirt. (Truth be told, the only other shirt I really wish I had is the one for the Guild of Calamitous Intent.)
The Order and the Guild only some of the many — nay, the endless — things about the show that are not only deliciously well-written, but apparently written precisely for my eclectic alternative-music/sci-fi/superhero-focused pop culture sensibility. It is, undoubtedly, pure animated perfection. Let's face it, have you ever seen another send-up of this particular medical condition?
That particular affliction is only one of the many experiences that I have in common with the episode's writer and show's co-creator, Doc Hammer. Others include the weddings of Doc's cousins — one of whom is my oldest, best friend — a variety of family get-togethers, and a few visits to hang out with Doc and his former wife in New York. Not that I’m bragging or anything. It's just another example of the many people with whom I’ve crossed paths in my life who've gone on to do a hell of a lot more glamorous things than I have.
Caution: The following video clip may cause graphic designers, art directors, and other creative functionaries to laugh and weep, perhaps simultaneously.
The room I’ve had a couple of times in my favorite little hotel in Brighton is called "Dotty", and I basically picked it because it's fun and bright orange and filled with festive polka dots. Like it was made especially for me. It's kooky, and I love it.
Every room in the hotel is decorated according to a different theme, and Dotty is based on the work of a Japanese artist called Yayoi Kusama, whose work revolves around a certain brilliant, all-consuming obsession with dots that she's had for most of her long life.
As fun as the Dotty room is, it's a little troubling that Kusama's work is an expression of her ideas of obsession, anxiety, and disease. Of course, you can't expect a novelty room in a little Brighton hotel to capture all the subtlety of a celebrated titan of modern art. But still, now that I"ve read a bit more about her work I may have to pick a different room next time if I want to have pleasant dreams. Maybe it's time to try the Rough Trade Records room, or the Lee "Scratch" Perry room.
Anyone who's ever done time in the suburbs should have a look at this sharp little essay from the New Yorker about the great American lawn, a totally artificial aspect of landscaping that’s turned into a bit of an environmental nightmare at this point, and has even turned into the focus of various kinds of communal bullying.
Back in Staten Island, where each yard had a postage-stamp size patch of turf that more often than not was groomed better than the average head of hair, we saw a lot of lawn-based hostility over the years. I always admired my parents for not taking the lawn too seriously. I feel vindicated to read that a lawn like ours — filled with its share of dandelions, crab grass, clover, and other "unwanted" bits of flora — is actually a more ecologically viable state of affairs. We never had a lush carpet of homogenous green like the most of our neighbors, and ours tended to be a little less tidy. The neighbors hated it.
To the neighbors on either side of it, the front lawn was practically a fetish. It was a pastime, an obligation, a status symbol. It was also never meant to be touched, except by mowers or fertilizers. Our house had two strips of grass on either side of the property, cut off from the main lawn by the driveway and the walkway up to the door we used. Over the years, those strips were annexed by the neighbors.
At first they just started tending the grass along with their own, but it got a little out of control once they started yelling at my nieces and nephews for setting foot on grass that was still part of our yard. Eventually, one of the neighbors started sending his son out early in the morning to mow our lawn when it got a little unruly. My folks never really minded, since it saved them some effort, but the underlying expectation that they ought to be towing the line always pissed me off. The other neighbors, well, they were just self-involved assholes about the whole thing.
But yeah, sign me up for the backlash.
This is a long clip, but it's truly sublime, a testament to verbal flair of one of the greatest confirmed bachelors to ever venture forth into outer space: Dr Zachary Smith!