there are seven ancient pawnshops around the world

  • I went out for post jiu-jitsu drinks last night at 21 Nickels*, where someone raised an interesting question: of the two spectacularly shot existentialist Texas epics in Oscar contention this year, There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men, which is better? I struggled with this one for a bit before settling on the latter. Not that either movie really lacks anything, of course. They both feature the most breathtaking cinematography I’ve seen in years. One has a brilliant soundtrack, the other uses absolute silence to perfect effect. And both use the language of film in faultless service of their unapologetically bleak themes. But I could watch No Country for Old Men again before I could watch There Will Be Blood again. No Country has that Coen Bros’ trademark black humor, that whistling past the graveyard, to take the edge off its nihilism. The only laughter in Blood, to quote Orwell, is the laugh of triumph over a defeated foe; the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless.

    And other delightful thoughts for an overcast Friday.

  • Eating at a Wendy’s last weekend, I saw a promotional poster for their new Baconator sandwich. The tagline: “IT CAN SENSE YOUR FEAR.” My first thought was what an oddly direct marketing approach. Think on it: the idea of a burger being so mighty that it demands a cowed response requires a certain ironic outlook on the world. The type of mind that appreciates that ad – mine, for one; yours, hopefully – also appreciates the irony of contemplating Chuck Norris hiding a fist beneath his beard. The hip, fairly literate 18-45-year-old. The ad’s not meant for anyone else.

    Let me put it this way: if I took my grandmother out to Wendy’s, a darling 75-year-old woman with seven children, twenty-four grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and a South Texas accent so pronounced she inverts the h and the w in “what,” she would be profoundly confused by that ad. It might occupy our entire conversation. “Am I supposed to be afraid of that burger?”

    “No, Grandma.”

    “It doesn’t sound very appetizing.”

    “No, it’s …”

    And so forth.

    I suppose this is nothing new – hip, fairly literate 18-45-year-olds are the target demographic for most consumer goods. But I’ve never seen the mechanism so naked before. If you’re not able to both anthropomorphize and genuflect before a hamburger, we’re not even going to bother explaining it. Get the hell out of Wendy’s, old man.

  • Waking-nightmare hallucinations last night, for the first time in a while.  I was distinctly convinced that a green clawed thing was moving on the ceiling above my bed, positioning itself above my face. I could see it, with the same distinction that I see anything in the dark without my glasses on. I bolted out of bed, fumbled for the light switch (which for some reason wasn’t in its usual position next to the door), and ended up turning on the floor lamp. Nothing, of course. I took a minute to clear my head and tried to get back to sleep.
  • Nerds on Sports is having an all-day Pickstravaganza, talking up Sunday’s Big Game. Check in every hour between 11:00 and 4:00 to see a brand-new post from each NoS columnist. Or just wait until 4:00 to read them all. Either way.

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* The jiu-jitsu school regularly patronizes 21 Nickels after the monthly belt promotion. The owner recognizes us and clears out the back room for us, lining up a table ten seats to a side. “Set these guys up with an appetizer on me,” he instructs the waitress – an instruction he could just as easily convey in the kitchen, but I understand the importance of salesmanship. We’re so well-known that at this point we don’t even have to announce our arrival. I showed up 15 minutes late last night after an ATM run and was waiting in line for the bathroom; the waitress passed me, asked if I was with the jiu-jitsu folks and took my drink order. That’s service. I’m now recognized on sight at three different bars north of the Charles, so I suppose I’ve arrived, or something.

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