Tag Archives: awful giraffes

Writer and Comedian Paul Provenzas Pretty Awful Giraffe 4 22 11

Giraffe Art By Comedian and Filmmaker Paul Provenza

Paul Provenza is a comedian, filmmaker and writer perhaps best known for his long list of acting roles and 2005 documentary The Aristocrats, which is about the infamous joke of the same name. For those who may be not familiar with it,

Comedian and Filmmaker Paul Provenza

“The Aristocrats” is a longstanding transgressive joke amongst comedians, in which the setup and punchline are almost always the same (or similar). It is the joke’s midsection – which may be as long as the one telling it prefers and is often completely improvised – that makes or breaks a particular rendition [Wikipedia].

For those in the audience comfortable with vulgarity in its many films, it’s something that I would recommend; for the queasy, you should probably refrain. Here’s the trailer [SFW]:

So following my traumatic experience with Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder, I have actually become a little nervous when soliciting giraffes (and yes, I am not blind to the irony of this). Thus I have been working to develop new approaches that will (hopefully) make me feel like less of a tool in my quest to Catch ‘Em All. Obviously it’s a work in progress, but my experience with Provenza may have led me on to the slyest approach yet ….

One of the guests at the 2011 America Atheists Convention, Provenza did a brief reading from his book ¡Satiristas! (2010). Catching him as he was leaving the room, I pulled him aside to ask a few questions about his work (his documentary was a Holy Grail of Naughty in my neighborhood). Slowly edging himself away to make a book signing, I seized the opportunity and asked him if I could have his autograph. Happy to do so, he wrote a nice note (“Fight the Imaginary Power!”) punctuated with what I can only assume to be his name. While he still had the pen in hand, I decided to strike:

“… And draw me a giraffe?”

He looked up from the paper, “what?”

“A giraffe. It’s for the internet.”

He just looked at me. What else was there to say?

I’ve never tried to do the Aristocrats joke myself, but I’m sure it would go something like this: “A family of giraffes walk into a talent agency hoping to be a part of the best agency in the country, capable of scheduling a meeting without much delay (they’re fucking giraffes i.e. hard to miss) one agent asks to see their act … [UPON REFLECTION – DELETED] … And that’s why this giraffe’s neck hurts.”

1: "I think I left it on the grill too long.” 2: “Yeah, this is an Awful Giraffe.”

Blogger and Deep Sea Biologist “Southern Fried Scientist”

Late on Thursday (or was it a very early Friday?) I was surprised to find a mention to the @AwfulGiraffes  twitter account (a mention and its context now lost to my ignorance of the site’s functions) from @SFriedScientist from SouthernFriedScience.com, a science blog run by three Carolinian graduate students with an interest in marine biology. Thinking it may be a long shot, I figured I’d extend an invitation to him to contribute to the website. It didn’t take long to get the following reply:

@SFriedScientist: @AwfulGiraffes at the rate @kzelnio and I are drinking, there is real potential for a DNS/SFS collaborative giraffe.”

Shortly thereafter I received this – what I can only perceive to be a threat:

1: "I think I left it on the grill too long.” 2: “Yeah, this is an Awful Giraffe.”

1: "I think I left it on the grill too long.” 2: “Yeah, this is an Awful Giraffe.”

Offensive. Fucking offensive.

I am sick and tired of people portraying scenes of giraffes being mercilessly slaughtered. No one would like to see a dead giraffe. Even more so, no one wants to see someone eating said dead giraffe. Whether one is T.C. Boyle, a mammoth excavator [giraffe still to come] or a someone who studies “population structure and connectivity of deep-sea hydrothermal vent endemic invertebrates in the Western Pacific,”  it’s still tasteless.

Dear readers, as you may already be well aware, I am not someone one could call a “scientist.” Sure, I know what you’re thinking, my literate internet pal: “But you’re a political scientist and you’re a part time lecturer on theoretical physics!” And you’re absolutely right, friend, but my biologicy background extends as far as reading Richard Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth (2009) and a score of 1 on an high school AP exam. The reason why I am saying all of this is because I would like to believe that I am someone who should not be drawing snarky cartoons regarding esoteric divisions of biology that are way over my head:

"I keep boiling but these fuckers dont die."

Oh, I’m so funny!

Assuming every picture I found on Google (“Hydorthermal Vent Animals” to be an actual hydrothermal vent animal (including the Cyclops Kitten and James Cameron), I can only extend, on behalf of the world, a sincere thanks to SFriedScientist for holding back from the public’s eye the creatures perhaps best confined to an H.P. Lovecraft tale. (But not too much thanks since you totally – to the misfortune of all – failed on the James Cameron front).

Author Sam Lipsyte's Pretty Awful Giraffe 4-8-11

Novelist Sam Lipsyte Can’t Draw a Giraffe

Sam Lipsyte (facebook) is a writer whose writings have appeared in a wide array of publications including Slate, The Washington Post, GQ, Esquire and Playboy. Hailed for his creative use of language and black humor, Lipsyte was in Minnesota recently as part of a tour for the paperback release of his 2010 novel The Ask (Amazon; NYT’s book review). Though I had not actually read much of his work (or more specifically: any) I happened to be in town, still high from meeting Michio Kaku, and thought I would stop by. Having read some reviews of his latest book, he seemed like an interesting enough guy to shamelessly exploit for a cheap website.

Sam Lipsyte by Ethan Hill

Photo Credit: Ethan Hill (Also, he does not look nearly this sour in person).

When I attend most book readings, I’ll admit that more often than not I have failed to read much of the author’s work. Often, as an aspiring writer, I’m more interesting in the conversations that follow when one gets an opportunity to really pick the person’s brain and learn more about the writing process and Leviathan-nature of the publishing industry. (For anyone considering adopting the title of “published author” I would strongly encourage you to find someone on a tour so that they may try to convince you otherwise).

Finding him at a Magers and Quinn Booksellers event, when he took to the podium before a small crowd of 15 to 20, he presented himself as a fairly straightforward guy (like the kind of guy who would say, without a long introduction, “I’m just going to read a few lines and then call it a night”) Also, he was not the kind of guy willing to sell his book short: “[The Ask is] a book about how shitty life is and how it only gets shittier.”

He had my attention.

Being a big Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk fan this was sure to be right up my alley. And now that I have started by God I’ll be damned if Details Magazine isn’t right when they say that “With his third novel, about the painfully hilarious adventures of a failed painter in a dead-end job, he should finally get the acclaim he deserves.” Honestly, it’s pretty fucking good, and the fact that I do not expect to pick up any homework until I’ve reached the back cover should be evidence enough for this claim. If you have time on your hand, Deadspin.com has the first chapter of the book online (if anyone is seriously interested in reading it, I’d be happy to lend my copy).

At the risk of being sued for copyright infringement, I’ll post a brief excerpt I came across yesterday since I think it effectively captures Lipsyte’s sense of humor:

“… I’m all for capital punishment. I’m a huge death penalty guy. I like everything about it. And don’t tell me how it’s more expensive to the taxpayer than life sentences. Because if you ask me, we should pony up a little more. We should feel the cost of our ritual, revel in it. It was probably a drain on the Aztec economy to capture and drug all those people and carve out their living hearts, but are you going to tell me it wasn’t worth it? Yes, sir, the death penalty is where it’s at. Is there a chance innocent people die? I should fucking hope so! Innocent people die constantly in this world. Why should things be better for those scumbags in lockdown?”

“But you said they were innocent.”

“Innocent? Please. No thanks, buddy. Keep that knee-jerk liberal crap on your side of the aisle. I’m not ashamed of the sacrifice a balls-out civilization must make to survive ….” The Ask, p. 82-83.

So it was with only mild surprise that, when I made the ask, he looked confused behind his Coke-bottle glasses, a smile stretching across his face. I, frankly, did not expect any hesitance on his part since I was under the assumption that he was asked this question fairly frequently. I asked again.

“Well … Well, I guess … so.”

What followed would, in retrospect, be a clear sign that he is certainly someone who should not be drawing giraffes.

Author Sam Lipsyte's Pretty Awful Giraffe 4-8-11

Almost forgetting that this was an actual book signing (as was almost the case with T.C. Boyle), I presented my copy of his book in which I can only assume is an official endorsement for PrettyAwfulGiraffes.com:

Sam Lipsyte's inscription to Josh Preston's copy of The Ask (4-8-11)

"To Josh, Good ask with the giraffe thing. Sam Lipsyte"

Roger Nygard's Giraffe

Writer and Director Roger Nygard

The University of Minnesota-Morris (UMM) had the pleasure of hosting Roger Nygard, director, writer and producer (perhaps best known for his 1997 documentary Trekkies) who screened his most recent film The Nature of Existence (2010) to an overflow crowd of students and faculty alike. In Nygard’s own words, Existence is a film where he “wrote the toughest 85 questions I could think of, about our purpose and the nature of existence, and then asked hundreds of people all over the globe, such as: Indian holy man Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (The Art of Living), evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), 24th generation Chinese Taoist Master Zhang Chengda, Stanford physicist Leonard Susskind (co-discoverer of string theory), wrestler Rob Adonis (founder of Ultimate Christian Wrestling), confrontational evangelist Brother Jed Smock, novelist Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game), director Irvin Kershner (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back), Stonehenge Druids Rollo Maughfling & King Arthur Pendragon and many more…”

Overall the film was not too bad even if he refused to challenge or interrogate the logic of those he interviewed, a point he made clear in the Q-and-A following the film by pointing out that his film is meant only to make the viewer think and come to their own conclusion. PZ Myers, UMM professor and author of the science blog Pharyngula, was in attendance, voiced his opinion and did not seem impressed by Nygard’s hands off style. In fact, the only reflection of his own beliefs the director made clear was the fact that he is moral relativist, the notion that “because there is no universal moral standard by which to judge others, we ought to tolerate the behavior of others – even when it runs counter to our personal or cultural moral standards”, which at face value is not an entirely harmful idea. After all, what is wrong with there being more tolerance in the world? Although such a notion can be agreeable to certain degrees it grants no excuse for reticence and does not justify inaction when there is a clear, unethical wrong being committed.

Take for example a brief exchange that happened during the Q-and-A.

When asked whether or not it would be acceptable for a culture to torture babies, Nygard responded socratically: “From what frame of reference?” stressing in his answer (and the small debate that followed between he and students) the fact that given the subjectivity of morality no culture has a right to dictate what is moral for another. In fact, when asked by a student whether or not his experience working on the film proved to him that “the world would have been a better place if there was no such thing as religion since all of the awful things that have been justified by it would not have happened” such as the Inquisition, the crusades, and so on. To this Nygard replied by again asking the student to define “what frame of reference” he was using. Clarifying his philosophy, Nygard said that while those things that have been committed in the name of religion were bad, to know good is to know what is bad.

I can’t say I agree – I happen to believe we can know what is good without killing the Jews – but that’s just my own opinion.

I wish I could say here that as the tension in the room began to build a member of the GDBWSNBDG editorial board turned the subject to giraffes, but the truth is Nygard’s moral relativism was an issue in most of the venues in which he spoke. Earlier in the day he participated in a roundtable discussion and apparently slipped into a debate with one of the university’s philosophy professors who wrote his thesis, which will soon be published as a book, on ethics. It was actually during this debate when Lucas Felts interjected during a pause … and asked for a giraffe …

Roger Nygard's Giraffe

… Or fucking dinosaur or something.