Thursday, October 13


1. In 1980, Paul Fussell wrote an incredible rant on the subject of “anti-tourists.”

"Before tourism there was travel," Fussell wrote, "and before travel there was exploration... . I am assuming that travel is now impossible and that tourism is all we have left." This gives rise to the anti-tourist, who suffers from a "uniquely modern form of self-contempt." As Fussell explained,

It is hard to be a snob and a tourist at the same time. A way to combine both roles is to become an anti-tourist. Despite the suffering he undergoes, the anti-tourist is not to be confused with the traveler: his motive is not inquiry but self-protection and vanity. . . . The anti-tourist's persuasion that he is really a traveler instead of a tourist is both a symptom and a cause of what the British journalist Alan Brien has designated tourist angst, defined as "a gnawing suspicion that after all . . . you are still a tourist like every other tourist." . . . But the anti-tourist deludes only himself. We are all tourists now, and there is no escape.

Read more of it here.

2. European Men Are So Much More Romantic Than American Men

3. In Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad, there’s a famous excerpt about pretentious ‘anti-tourist’ types. Here's a great excerpt that, if nothing else, proves that the phenomenon of juniors coming back from a semester overseas and calling their dorm rooms "flats" is nothing new:

We wish to learn all the curious, outlandish ways of all the different countries, so that we can ‘show off’ and astonish people when we get home. We wish to excite the envy of our own untraveled friends with our strange foreign fashions which we can’t shake off...The gentle reader will never, never know what a consummate ass he can become, until he goes abroad. I speak now, of course, in the supposition that the gentle reader has not been abroad, and therefore is not already a consummate ass.

Wednesday, October 5

Books I Want To Get Around To Reading One Day

The Holy Bible

The Iliad



The History (Either “The Landmark Herodotus” or the 1858 translation of George Rawlinson or the 1998 translation by Robin Waterfield)

The Koran (Al-Qur'an)

The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night


The Divine Comedy

Giovanni Boccaccio
The Decameron

Niccolò Machiavelli
The Prince

Baldassare Castiglione
The Book of the Courtier

Benvenuto Cellini

William Shakespeare
The Plays
The Sonnets

Miguel de Cervantes
Don Quixote

Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales

John Milton
Paradise Lost
Paradise Regained

Jonathan Swift
Gulliver's Travels

James Boswell
Life of Johnson

Edward Gibbon
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Oliver Goldsmith
The Vicar of Wakefield

Richard Brinsley
The School of Scandal

Daniel Defoe
Moll Flanders
Robinson Crusoe

Henry Fielding
The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling

Laurence Sterne
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

François de La Rochefoucauld

The Misanthrope
Don Juan


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Faust, Parts One and Two
The Sorrows of Young Werther

Victor Hugo
Les Misérables
Notre-Dame of Paris

On Love
The Charterhouse of Parma

Gustave Flaubert
Madame Bovary
Sentimental Education

Henrik Ibsen
Peer Gynt
Hedda Gabler

Lord Byron
Don Juan

Sir Walter Scott

Mary Shelley

Charles Dickens
The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club
David Copperfield
The Adventures of Oliver Twist
A Tale of Two Cities
Hard Times
Nicholas Nickleby
Great Expectations
Our Mutual Friend

Thomas Carlyle
Sartor Resartus

Anthony Trollope
The Barsetshire Novels
The Palliser Novels
Orley Farm
The Way We Live Now

Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre

Emily Brontë
Wuthering Heights

William Makepeace Thackeray
The History of Henry Esmond
Book Of Snobs
Barry Lyndon

Oscar Wilde
The Picture of Dorian Gray

George Eliot
The Mill on the Floss

Robert Louis Stevenson
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The Black Arrow

Bram Stoker

Aleksandr Pushkin
Eugene Onegin

Nikolay Gogol
Dead Souls

Mikhail Lermontov
A Hero of Our Time

Ivan Turgenev
Fathers and Sons

Fyodor Dostoevsky
Notes from the Underground
Crime and Punishment
The Idiot
The Brothers Karamazov

Leo Tolstoy
War and Peace

Anton Chekhov
The Major Plays

Walt Whitman
Leaves of Grass, first edition
Leaves of Grass, third edition

Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Scarlet Letter

Frederick Douglass
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

Henry Adams
The Education of Henry Adams

Louisa May Alcott
Little Women

William Dean Howells
The Rise of Silas Lapham

Stephen Crane
The Red Badge of Courage

Henry James
The Portrait of a Lady

Marcel Proust
Remembrance of Things Past (In Search of Lost Time)

Jean-Paul Sartre
No Exit

Albert Camus
The Stranger
The Plague

George Bernard Shaw

Thomas Hardy
The Return of the Native
Far From the Madding Crowd
Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Jude the Obscure

Rudyard Kipling

Joseph Conrad
Lord Jim
The Secret Agent
Heart Of Darkness

E. M. Forster
Howard's End
A Passage to India

D. H. Lawrence
Sons and Lovers

Virginia Woolf
Mrs. Dalloway
To the Lighthouse
Orlando: A Biography

James Joyce
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Samuel Beckett
Waiting for Godot
Krapp's Last Game

Graham Greene
The Power and the Glory

Christopher Isherwood
The Berlin Stories

Doris Lessing
The Golden Notebook

Flann O'Brien
The Third Policeman

Harold Pinter
The Homecoming

George Orwell
Collected Essays

Franz Kafka
The Trial

Bertolt Brecht
The Threepenny Opera
Mother Courage and Her Children

Thomas Mann
The Magic Mountain
Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man

Günter Grass
The Tin Drum

Boris Pasternak
Doctor Zhivago

V. S. Naipaul
A Bend in the River
A House for Mr. Biswas

Malcolm Lowry
Under the Volcano

Edith Wharton
Collected Short Stories
The Age of Innocence
The House of Mirth

Willa Cather
My Ántonia

Edgar Lee Masters
Spoon River Anthology

Theodore Dreiser
Sister Carrie
An American Tragedy

Sherwood Anderson
Winesburg, Ohio
Death in the Woods and Other Stories

Sinclair Lewis

John Dos Passos

Eugene O'Neil
The Iceman Cometh
Long Day's Journey Into Night

William Faulkner
As I Lay Dying
Light in August
Absalom, Absalom!
The Sound and the Fury

John Steinbeck
The Grapes of Wrath

Zora Neale Hurston
Their Eyes Were Watching God

Richard Wright
Native Son

Robert Penn Warren
All the King's Men

Paul Bowles
The Sheltering Sky

James Agee
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

Saul Bellow
Seize the Day
The Adventures of Augie March

John Cheever
The Stories
Bullet Park

Ralph Ellison
Invisible Man

Truman Capote
In Cold Blood

Carson McCullers
The Ballad of the Sad Cafe

Flannery O'Connor
Complete Stories

Vladimir Nabokov

Robert Stone
A Flag for Sunrise

David Mamet
American Buffalo

Monday, October 3

Body Like Beyoncé, Face Like André...

In Denis Johnson’s Already Dead: A California Gothic, the narrator tells us he’s found that ugly women with great bodies never have trouble getting dates because every man thinks he has a shot with them.

(Or something like that…it’s been a while since I read it. And don’t consider this mention to be a recommendation…for better Johnson books, read Jesus’ Son, then Fiskadoro, Angels, or The Stars At Noon.)

In America, the best term for an ugly woman with a great body is “butterface.” As in, “everything looks good…but ‘er face.” The only real problem with this phrase—aside from the wildly insulting fact that it exists—is that calling someone a butterface is likely to be misinterpreted as “possessing a fat face” by people who want to pretend like they know what you’re talking about. If, like me, you’re a well-known wit with a deserved reputation as a latter-day Oscar Wilde, you have to put up with these sorts of hanger-ons and must tailor your bon mots accordingly.

Somewhat related to this is “summerteeth.” (No, not the Wilco album that is criminally overshadowed by their later work.) As in: "She has summerteeth...sum 'er teeth are yellow, sum 'er teeth are green."

As a pre-tween, I would often hear these sorts of women (or, conceivably, men) described as “50 Yard Beauty Queens,” which should be self-explanatory. I assumed the phrase was universal, but a search for "50 yard beauty" yields lots of sports references ("McNabb lofted a 50 yard beauty") but only two results that references a 50YBQ:
  • The first is a Farkish hax0r message board, and
  • the second defines the phrase as a woman “that when they get close you have to run back 50 yards in order to view.” Note that not only is this the wrong definition, it also makes no fucking sense.
Perhaps you remember that the movie Clueless used the term “Monets” for people who look good from a distance but not up-close. Personally, I always found this to be not just unrealistic but something that forcibly took you out of the reality of the movie…the smarmy reference made you realize that you weren’t watching witty teenagers, but actors in their mid-twenties reading lines written by professional screenwriters.

(Also: a funnier reference would have been the pointillist painter Seurat.)

Anyway, it turns out that the “pretty body / ugly face” dichotomy is a far-ranging phenomenon, transcending geographical, cultural, and linguistic borders.

(NB: I really am interested in this topic out of an academic curiousity; I'm not planning on yelling any of these terms out of my T-Bird on the way to my next kegger.)

In Japan, the term for "a girl who appears pretty when seen from behind, but not when seen from the front" is bakku-shan. Note that this phrase is much more precise than the others, in that it signifies a difference between back and front, not just between body and face.

In Spain they call ugly girls with good bodies gambas, which is Spanish for shrimp. The explanation is that, like a shrimp, the body is delicious but you throw away the head.

In North London, the term for someone with a great body is “buff.” (Also, Streets fans, “fit”.) But the term for ugliness is “butters.” (This makes me wonder if “butterface” is originally a British invention.) Therefore, the slang term for a buff woman who is sadly butters is…buffters.

Another British variation is “Body by Baywatch, Face by CrimeWatch". (CrimeWatch is the UK’s version of America’s Most Wanted, and it frequently features hideous mug shots.)

In hip-hop, there’s the term “tip drill”, which supposedly means a woman with, specifically, a great ass but an ugly face. This usage was popularized in the Nelly song and infamous video of the same name.

However, the meaning of the term is a bit controversial, because there’s another definition as well: “pulling a train”…that is, uh, lining up to, er, gang-bang a woman. This definition comes from basketball, where a “tip drill” is when players line up to practice their free-throws. That definition makes sense, albeit horrifyingly so, because I can understand the evolution of the term.

But how did “tip drill” acquire its secondary, butterface meaning? Personally, I think Nelly (who claims he learned the term from a stripper) just got the phrase wrong, and then cemented the incorrect usage with his hit single. I’d be open to other explanations, however.


Now that I review this list, I realize that there are actually differences between some of them. For example, bakku-shan references a dichotomy between front and back, while 50 Yard Beauty Queen is a contrast between far-away and up-close. Perhaps we could draw up some sort of taxonomy from this lesson:

Ways That Women Can Be Revealed As Disappointing
-top to bottom
-back to front
-far and close


Finally, there's a term for a young man or woman who only seems attractive and thin because their picture was taken many years ago, or in obscuring darkness, or with an extreme close-up, or from an odd angle: a MySpace user.