Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Two interesting things I read on the Internet this morning, which have that sweet-sour quality of dry schadenfreude/amused horror in the style of Harper's info-curation:

1. Via the blog of Jordan Ellenberg, a math professor in Wisconsin, "The Half-Life of Alanis Morissette":
Interesting fact: each of the four Alanis Morissette albums since Jagged Little Pill has sold fewer than half as many copies as the previous one. That’s an impressive streak! Can she do it again with her forthcoming August release? I just listened to the new single and it seems possible.
I heard said single in the car on the way back from a recent hike at Isabelle Glacier, and it was indeed pretty bad. But you know, I kind of like the single "Hands Clean" (from the album after the album after Jagged Little Pill, which by the way I can honestly say I never owned).

2. Via Ellen Burstyn's Wikipedia page (we watched Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore last night):
In 1964, she married fellow actor Neil Burstyn, but the union was turbulent. Neil Burstyn was schizophrenic; he would have episodes of violence, and eventually left her. He attempted to come back to her, but she rejected him, ultimately divorcing him in 1972. In her autobiography, Lessons in Becoming Myself, Burstyn revealed that he stalked her over a period of six years after she divorced him. He eventually broke into her house and raped her, but no charges were filed, as spousal rape was not yet legally a crime. He committed suicide in 1978, upon which his parents sent Burstyn a telegram stating "Congratulations, you've won another Oscar; Neil killed himself."
In my mind I keep trying to turn the name "Ellen Burstyn" into a Tom Swifty, a la: "Well I won an Oscar," Ellen burst in. Sounds like Neil's life lends itself more to the joke, if anyone knew who he was.


  1. Is it bad that what sticks out to me in that last bit is the part about the parents? Because my first thought was, "God, I'm so glad my parents are creeps like that. And I'm so glad my in-laws aren't creeps like that."

    1. It's very peculiar, but also interesting to think about telegrams as a genre and how they might bypass intentions in ways that even an email can't. Like they probably didn't realize how absurd the juxtaposition was.

  2. I would say that Alanis is on the right side of the war to make the world safe for non-awful pop music (a war that Alanis continues to wage). Actually, I would go further: Jagged Little Pill is legitimately good, and there's no shame in failing to replicate its success. When I was an adolescent, JLP was inescapable, which was a good thing - relief from whatever Sheryl Crow crap would have been playing otherwise.

    1. Alanis and Sheryl Crow occupy similar territory in my mind -- just OK musicians whose essential mediocrity is exaggerated by overexposure. I mean, I think "All I Wanna Do" is a pretty interesting song, ruined by being UBIQUITOUS for a year. (I know a guy who knows the guy who wrote the poem the song is based on -- made him a decent amount of money as you can imagine. That, my friends, is living the dream.)