UPDATE (again): Little Miss Mackie is a guest blogger over at Haughty By Nature and she’s written a pretty funny summary of the Real Housewives of Orange County Reunion Special. I’m more a RH of Atlanta fan — for obvious reasons — but nonetheless I give it to you because a) as mentioned, funny; and b) she’s a good egg and is all girly and stuff but is unafraid to play like a boy and I respect the hell out of that. I hope she keeps writing.
Quickly because I’m working…
Challenge of the day: Give credit where credit is due. If there is an irritant affecting you, make sure to be annoyed at the irritant, not the ancillary rash-like symptom. Nothing is cured by mistaking the symptom for the cause. Even if the rash seems to enjoy, um, being a rash (?). Also, recognize that this kind of vagueness is why people find you a little odd at times. Also also, self-awareness is good.
Challenge for the rest of life: do not seek the douche. It will never surprise you and not be douche because, by definition, douche is what it is. Failing to seek it just means the probability of encountering it goes down. Douche is a part of life. But seeking it increases frequency of douche negotiation. So, avoid places, people, conversations, websites, gatherings, etc. etc. where you know the douche lives. Because that which you seek so shall you find. Amen.
I post this “against my better judgment” but I’m a huge fan of Klosterman and so I think I’ll be going ahead and owning that (despite the almost guaranteed misperception that’s likely to occur as a result. Yeah, don’t ask.) I was recently re-reading his diatribe on writing in one of his books and had thought of posting it full-cloth about a month ago. I will at some point I’m sure. But enjoy this piece now. Klosterman’s brilliant.
Um…there might be something seriously wrong with people who are able to feel turned on during a riot. I’m just saying.
And now for the awesome. A new friend who likes to wear “strok”able pink socks took the following picture and I just cannot tell you how wonderful it is to have a friend with the presence of mind to realize that you don’t let something like this happen without making sure you take a picture of it. And then telling everyone about it.
Dateline: Gaithersburg, Md., approx. 1 pm on a workday, Highway 355.
Subject: Random goat running free like the wind with no explanation in sight
Awesome rank: 10/10
UPDATE: Sweeeeet. I found the Klosterman excerpt from Eating the Dinosaur online. As someone who writes — a lot — I’m amazed he was able to actually describe what the process is like. Dig it.
1 Sometimes writing is difficult. Sometimes writing is like pounding a brick wall with a ball-peen hammer in the hope that the barricade will evolve into a revolving door. Sometimes writing is like talking to a stranger who’s exactly like yourself in every possible way, only to realize that this stranger is boring as shit. In better moments, writing is the opposite of difficult—it’s as if your fingers meander arbitrarily in crosswise patterns and (suddenly) you find yourself reading something you didn’t realize you already knew. Most of the time, the process falls somewhere in between. But there’s one kind of writing that’s always easy: Picking out something obviously stupid and reiterating how stupid it obviously is. This is the lowest form of criticism, easily accomplished by anyone. And for most of my life, I have tried to avoid this. In fact, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time searching for the underrated value in ostensibly stupid things. I understand Turtle’s motivation and I would have watched Medellin in the theater. I read Mary Worth every day for a decade. I’ve seen Korn in concert three times and liked them once. I went to The Day After Tomorrow on opening night. I own a very expensive robot that doesn’t do anything. I am open to the possibility that everything has metaphorical merit, and I see no point in sardonically attacking the most predictable failures within any culture. I always prefer to do the opposite, even if my argument becomes insane by necessity.
But sometimes I can’t.
Sometimes I experience something so profoundly idiotic—and so deeply universal—that I cannot find any contrarian perspective, even for the sole purpose of playful contrarianism. These are not the things that are stupid for what they are; these are the things that are stupid for what they supposedly reflect about human nature. These are things that make me feel completely alone in the world, because I cannot fathom how the overwhelming majority of people ignores them entirely. These are not real problems (like climate change or African genocide), because those issues are complex and multifaceted; they’re also not intangible personal hypocrisies (like insincerity or greed), because those qualities are biological and understandable. These are things that exist only because they exist. We accept them, we give them a social meaning, and they become part of how we live. Yet these are the things that truly illustrate how ridiculous mankind can be. These are the things that prove just how confused people are (and will always be), and these are the things that are so stupid that they make me feel nothing. Not sadness. Not anger. Not guilt. Nothing.
These are the stupidest things our society has ever manufactured.
And—at least to me—there is one stupid idea that towers above all others. In practice, its impact is minor; in theory, it’s the most fucked-up media construction spawned by the twentieth century. And I’ve felt this way for (almost) my entire life.
I can’t think of anything philosophically stupider than laugh tracks.
2 Perhaps this seems like a shallow complaint to you. Perhaps you think that railing against canned laughter is like complaining that nuclear detonations are bad for the local bunny population. I don’t care. Go read a vampire novel. To me, laugh tracks are as stupid as we get. And, yes, I realize this phenomenon is being phased out by modernity. That’s good. There will be a day in the future when this essay will make no sense, because canned laughter will be as extinct as TV theme songs. It will only be used as a way to inform audiences that they’re supposed to be watching a fake TV show from the 1970s. But— right now, today—canned laughter is still a central component of escapist television. The most popular sitcom on TV, Two and a Half Men, still uses a laugh track, as does the (slightly) more credible How I Met Your Mother and the (significantly) less credible The Big Bang Theory. Forced laughter is also central to the three live-action syndicated shows that are broadcast more than any other, Friends, Home Improvement, and Seinfeld. Cheers will be repeated forever, as will the unseen people guffawing at its barroom banter. And I will always notice this, and it will never become reassuring or nostalgic or quaint. It will always seem stupid, because canned laughter represents the worst qualities of insecure people.
Now, I realize these qualities can be seen everywhere in life and within lots of complicated contexts. Insecurity is part of being alive. But it’s never less complicated than this. It’s never less complicated than a machine that tries to make you feel like you’re already enjoying something, simply because people you’ll never meet were convinced to laugh at something else entirely.