Remember that old song, “What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding”? I don't. Well, I know it vaguely enough to cite it here, and I think Elvis Costello sings it, so even a cursory knowledge of it makes me pretty hip. Anyway, I'm all for peace and love, but I place a really high premium on understanding. Not even understanding as it is used in the song, I could care less about understanding other cultures or ideas, but understanding as in... y'know, getting stuff. Like, I understand why ambulances have ECNALUBMA written on them, so when you look in your rear view mirror, you see AMBULANCE and you know it's not just a white van with sirens, you'd best get out of the way. I understand many erudite references on The Simpsons. Like when they go to a party celebrating Reader's Digest, the banner out front reads, “Brevity is... wit.” That refers to Polonius in Hamlet saying, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” They make a reference to the brevity of wit even briefer in an attempt to be wittier! I know nothing is less funny than explaining a joke, but ain't that a laff and a half?Apart from being insufferable to others, understanding things like these fills me with pride, so it really dills my pickle when I just don't understand a simple thing.
Dream: Understand the following things: a wine ad, a thermos, a Hallowe'en costume, a steakhouse.
Goal: Achievable. By sharing these conundrums (conundra?) with you, maybe you will “get” what I'm not “getting”, share with me why these things are they way they are, and I in turn will “get” them, and become even more irritating than before. It's the circle of life.
Plan: Examine these things in detail in order to understand them.
So there's this advertisement for wine a few blocks from my home. I see it every time I go to the grocery store or the liquor store, so at least twice daily, and I just don't get it. This would work even better if I could find the stupid ad online to link you to it, but when I type the text of the ad to search for it, even Google goes, “What the hell does that mean?” It's for a company called something like K Wineries, or K Vineyards or K Estates. Someplace that makes wine called K. The image on the ad is a bottle of K Wine and a glass beside it of chilled white. Got it, makes sense so far. But the text reads, “Ohhh... K. You've upgraped.” What? I can kind of see what they mean by “upgraped.” It's a take on the term “upgraded” but because wine is made from grapes, and presumably this wine from better grapes, they're using “upgraped.” But “Ohhh...K”? Is that like “Okay”? I get that the company is K, but why not just “O.K?” And even then, the expression “Okay, you've upgraped” is nonsensical. Like the advertisers are passive-aggressively doubting the wine. “Okay, so you're a better wine, fuck your mother.” And the “Ohhh...k” for “Okay” is even weirder! You use that “ohhh...” when you're really taken aback, not when something's just okay. As in, “Ohhh wow. Three assault charges? Cross him off the Christmas card list.” Or when you're lying to someone. “Ohhh look at you! That new haircut really is just... wow!” And the slow “okay” is the worst “okay” you can get! As in, “Henry's going to drive us to the concert and soon as he finishes a small mound of cocaine!” “Ohhhkaaay.” So what the hell is this ad trying to say? Maybe it's such bad copy that everyone reads it and thinks, “Now what does that mean?” But I'm worried that “Ohhh...K. You've upgraped” makes perfect sense to everyone but me. Thoughts?
So I bought a thermos recently. I guess it's more of a travel mug, I got it from Tim Horton's and I know it wouldn't survive a mountain climb or anything, but I just like the word thermos. Anyway, I've only had it for about two weeks now, I just use it to take coffee with me to work in the morning. I wash it both after I finish my coffee at work and again at home at the end of the day, but it smells like a mouse took a shit in there and died. What? What is wrong with thermoses?? Why do they all smell so effing gross? I am super diligent about the cleaning and upkeep of this one. I wash it twice and even store it upside down like a cast-iron pot, thinking that any residue I didn't get while washing it would just drip out. Nope! It's like a wizard creeps in to my kitchen at night, mixes tuna with an old egg in there and lets it sit under a heat lamp. All my thermoses (thermi?) have been like that. My last one was a great silver one that the Saturday Night Live logo on it that a friend had sent me from New York. I used the same level of care with that one, but would alternate between putting coffee in it, and soup. So I could kind of understand the escalating grossery there. But this one is just coffee! What is going on here?
So there's this place that sells Hallowe'en costumes that I pass on my walk to work. They don't just sell Hallowe'en costumes, Honest Ed's is one of those catch-all, buy a dog bed and tampons and radishes in one stop kind of stores, but they have big old-timey display windows, and one of them is filled with their Hallowe'en costumes. One such costume is a guy in a suit with an Obama mask for a head. The mask is super-offensive, though, with giant buck teeth and big lips and gums, but then below the mask, popping out of the suit jacket is another, understated Obama mask. The second mask is a more realistic, not-exaggerated version of his face. So the full effect of the costume is President Barack Obama peeking out of a suit which is too tall for him, because he has an offensive mask of his face above his real face, that's actually also a mask. What? I really, really don't get it. Would somebody wear this costume, and to what effect? Would people see it and go, “That's a really offensive image—oh wait, his real face is down here and it's lovely! Ha ha ha! I get it!” The tricky part for me is the fact that the top mask is even being sold there, much less on display. But then I wonder, am I offended because the exaggerated features of the top Obama mask insult Obama? Or am I reading into it the stereotypical features of black people and therefore projecting my own racial sensitivity? I wouldn't get this upset over a badly coiffed Trump-mask, or a gap-toothed David Lettermask, but this Obama mask really gets me antsy. I would love to discuss this with my friend Jared who is an Obama supporter and a black man but we are already on very thin ice. He's more of an acquaintance, really, because of a series of weird encounters that keep us from being close. Once, in a group, we were discussing the show True Blood and how hot all the people on that show were and I said, “I like the brother!” I meant that I liked Jason Stackhouse, the lead character's brother who always walks around with his shirt off, but Jared said, “You like the brother?” He thought I meant I liked the black guy on the show, that I liked “the brother.” So of course I floundered wildly, “Oh no no no! I meant Sookie's brother! Oh my god! No! I mean, not that I don't like Lafayette, the African American gentleman! I do! He's the best! I change my answer, can I change my answer? I didn't even notice that he was black, I don't see people like that, I just... I love him! I love him!” Then another time, we were both at the same movie, though not together, called Another Year, which is an understated British drama about an ageing couple. In a climactic scene, Jerri confronts Mary, a single woman friend of the couple who shows up unannounced to their dinner party. “I do wish you would have called, Mary. It's simply discourteous!” And Mary cries softly. Well the movie thrilled me, but not Jared, who said simply, “That was boring as shit.” I'm not suggesting the difference of opinion was a race thing, but it was the whitest movie ever made. Incidentally, True Blood is another phenomenon I don't understand. I started watching for the aforementioned shirtless man, but gave up when the woman who looks like Shania Twain started vibrating in a forest and the bartender turned into a dog. Yes, people who don't watch True Blood, this is the shit that happens on that show.
So I live near a steakhouse that is called Mr. Onions. I wish I could record this vocally so you could hear my intonation and disbelief here. Why would you have a steakhouse, a place which specializes in serving delicious cuts of prime meat and call it Mr.... Onions? Can the onions possibly be the best part of the restaurant? If so, you're doing it wrong!
Today's entry works well as a companion piece to last week's about my obsessive need to be constantly right. That coupled with my slight, barely noticeable tendency to overthink things might make me a bad party guest, but surely means that I'm a meticulous and thorough blogger. So I hope you can think about these things and get back to me, lest I remain an ignorant and perpetually confused person. What's so funny 'bout that?