As you know, Dave, this past month and a half, I have been trying to muddle through some problems of an intellectual, smarty-pants nature. Somehow, that had nothing to do with this blog. And let me tell you somethin’… Over that kind of time, a guy can build up a lot of hatred and simmering resentment.
Now, some comic strips bring the awesome sauce, while others are just plain scolds, shoring up society’s rear guard and staking out a plea for a return to decency. I say “decency” as opposed to traditional values, as the funnies tend to position themselves at the sitcom Left of the values vote, at a place where Life goes on, and Family matters.
Now it should be obvious to anybody reading this strip that co-creators Carla Ventresca and Henry Beckett must not have Facebook accounts (Carla, do you also go by “Carly“?) — either that, or they are being purposefully misleading. Dave, we have seen some boring and lame status updates, but, really, Paul? That’s what you imagine being a parody of Facebook posts? Gee, you really are quite a boring twit. I mean, talk about cutting close to the bone — you didn’t even get the gristle. It’s like Dave and I are already sucking marrow and you’re still peeling artichokes.
And, then, of course, there’s the cryptic message from JER98… Excuse me, wouldn’t the proper FB argot go something like Jeremy Greenfarb commented on your status? No, really, do you even do the basic leg work before you blab off about Facebook being an inane wast of time. On a Claire Day, what is a waste of time is the 80 seconds I spend everyday reading your badly drawn strip on My Comics Comics.com merely in order to simulate the experience of poring over a print comics page… So, what can I say except that I hope Claire dumps Paul’s boring ass and then gets gobbled up by Cathy in some bizarre funnies accident: “I eat insecure comic strip women when my mother-in-law visits for Thanksgiving…” Ha ha ha!
In any case, Dave, I think this meets up with your previous query about the kind of thing Facebook is, and what our critical positioning in the blogosphere represents in the broader world of online networking. One of the most prevalent misconceptions about social networking is that it is a playground for narcissists.
For a time, I thought that FB could be said to have the collegial forum quality of a water cooler: a place to regale people you vaguely like with your love for television and the Wizards, your irritation at gay marriage repeal initiatives and whether or not you scored over the weekend.
However, I believe that you have truly seized upon the right metaphor for this new space which we and our peers are carving out with the help of annoying app generators. It is indeed a school cafeteria — although more of a high school — rather than a middle school as you have suggested — lunchroom. It is the supreme terrain of face-presenting, the apprehensive fashioning of an adult persona, and that nagging interior voice begging all saints that your best friend from 5th grade who has become a pimpled reprobate hesher doesn’t think he can sit at your table. Yeah — eww! Of course, there’s also the blabbing about food, gym class and, naturally, gross PDA.
And, where do we fit into all of this? Well, I think that, unlike the armchair anthropology of On a Claire Day (talk about wearing the “stupid people” T-shirt) we are actually assuming a sound critical stance as participant observers in our research terrain. That, I believe contributes mightily to the utmost radness of our blog here. And, yet, at the same time, are we not also anthropologists much as the effete high school boys just turned 18, going to the strip club — you know, for anthropological purposes? Yeah, just to see what it’s like… We may scoff at the dirty girls and the sad old men, but, when we get home at 2 AM (‘rents are out of town, see) and pop open the Bartles & James, we have to admit that we were just a little turned on by the whole thing…
*This post was initially intended for publication on Thursday, November 12
Russ, I know you’ve got your thing about David Sedaris, but that’s just too bad. I am not ashamed to say that I love this passage from his story, “See You Again Yesterday.”
Potential boyfriends could not smoke Merit cigarettes, own or wear a pair of cowboy boots, or eat anything labeled either ‘lite’ or ‘heart smart.’ Speech was important, and disqualifying phrases included ‘I can’t find my nipple ring’ and ‘This one here was my first tattoo.’ All street names had to be said in full, meaning no ‘Fifty-ninth and Lex’ and definetly no ‘Mad Ave.’ They couldn’t drink more than I did, couldn’t write poetry in notebooks and read it out loud to an audience of strangers, and couldn’t use the words flick, freebie, cyberspace, progressive, or zeitgeist. They could not consider the human scalp an appropriate palette for self-expression, could not own a rainbow-striped flag, and could not say they had ‘discovered’ any shop or restaurant currently listed in the phone book. Age, race, and weight were unimportant. In terms of mutual interests, I figured we could spend the rest of our lives discussing how much we hated the aforementioned characteristics.
So you know how some words or phrases are either self-negating (e.g., “classy” or “no offense“) or self-betraying — in the sense that no one ever wears a shirt printed with a complaint about “stupid people” who is not, him- or herself, a stupid person? Obviously, there are millions of little cues that give us insight into whether someone is OK or Not OK. Cues that, we hope, evolve from the incredibly silly ones we looked for when we were younger (“OMG, he’s wearing Skechers! Ew!”) into somewhat more important and telling ones (“OMG, he yelled at the waitress/drives a giant SUV/voted for Nader in 2000“). We’re tuned into this stuff because, at least according to the genius ev-psych people, we had to learn to categorize people into Us and Them way back in the caveman days, or we’d get, like, speared, or whatever.
Of course, some of those traits that we find intolerable boil down to aesthetics (like my ongoing appreciation for David Sedaris, whom you scorn). Those are the ones that are ultimately forgivable, or even potentially lovable (think of the plot of every single screwball comedy). Others, though, like the waitress example above, seem to point to actual defects of character and are thus “dealbreakers.” And yeah, yeah, I recognize that using the word “dealbreaker” probably falls into the “dealbreaker” category. (I’m, like, so whatever — you could do so much better.)
What I get hung up on, though, to the point of maniacal obsession — and I know you do, too, Russ, since it’s kind of the whole focus of our blog, and, let’s face it, our friendship — are the cues that fall into an ambiguous area, where the line between aesthetic and moral failings start to blur. You know what I mean. Excessive discussions of physical fitness, lingerie as Halloween costumes, over-use of “Any-vow-bag” cliches. I’m sort of ashamed to admit that I love this aspect of Facebook, which is at its core just one big middle school cafeteria. It’s so hard to resist the invitation to judge other people’s priorities, hobbies, taste and grammar (glass houses, pots and kettles, I get it). And even as I’m scrutinizing, I know that I’m being scrutinized, and that I’m probably just about as lovely and fascinating now as I was in eighth grade. As Russ’s Mom once said, “Nobody is his or her best self on Facebook.” So you and I, Russ, with our fancy social networking and our blogging and all — are we, like, students of the human condition? Or are we just middle-school brats? Simply by virtue of our willing participation in the culture of oversharing, are we putting on the “stupid people” T-shirt?
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Hmm. Those are some good ideas you’ve thrown out there, Russ, but I’m not sure that they would pass muster under the Academic Integrity Guidelines at Overlord Academy — which state, uh, something about how you can’t submit the same work for two classes, blah blah blah. I wasn’t really paying much attention at that meeting, to be honest. But seeing as how you already have to read Stendahl for your job, isn’t that, like, totally no fair? Why don’t we both set out to do some long, quasi-conceptual sweatshirt project so that I can be the one who gets to coast on my already-established interests?
Actually, since I was thinking that a movie deal would have to involve some kind of personal conflict and redemption arc, there may be cinema gold to be found here in this little disagreement over what kind of wizards we should be. So how about this: a movie based on a book based on a blog about what we should be blogging about! I know, right? Kind of like Adaptation, or some other movie that probably came out after I stopped watching movies.
So that’s a little too risky, you say? Well, then, I’ve got other ideas, and plenty of them. The more conventional story arcs involve either a buddy theme (I’d say a road trip, but hasn’t that been done to death?) or a quirky Facebook/Twitter/whatever-era rom com thingie. I realize I’d have to be a secondary character in the rom com, since, dedicated as I am to this undertaking, I’m not quite ready to abandon my spouse and kid in pursuit of even an inevitable and ultra-lucrative book/movie deal. In fact, I might even prefer being a snappy sidekick or wingman character. The only question is, am I more this type or this type?
That was a trick question, of course, since everybody knows I am both those people rolled into one.
Anyway, the more I think about it, the more certain I am that if our blogging experience helps you find True Love with your own MPDG, our path to fame and fortune will be a smooth one. Also, you know how obsessed I am with internet dating, so maybe that could figure into the mix somehow. Oooh, oooh, I know, I know! We set up some situation where, like, you have an internet dating profile and I somehow, like, pick the girls? Or something? And it somehow has to do with our blog? I’m a little fuzzy on the details, and maybe it’s just the old-fashioneds talking, but I have this gut feeling that this could work. Maybe as a reality show?
God, we’re amazing when we put our heads together. That expensive education of ours really paid off, Russ.
Am I right or am I right?
The small but important lesson Nate teaches us in this comic strip is that, to get anything in this life, you need to figure out which wizard you are. Well, Dave, which wizard are we?
A lot has been said recently about the distinct possibility that people hate this blog, that, perhaps, we may be taking this joke too far, and that our audience is quite solidly 70% Dave and Russ. I believe it’s important, then, to briefly discuss our goals in beginning this blog:
- It is our solemn intent to get a book contract for an elaborated version of the content of this blog by December 2010.
- The movie deal should follow shortly and The Canadian Club: The Movie should appear on screens for the summer blockbuster season of 2013.
I don’t think this could be any clearer. And remember, reader, if you do not read this blog, you are letting Tucker Max win.
Now, it has come to my attention that most book-deal-achieving blogs have one commonality: A Gimmick. Tucker Max has a penis. Cake Wrecks talks pretty consistently about cakes that are wrecked. Stuff White People Like talks pretty consistently about that stuff that white people apparently like. Some chick cooks a lot — like once a day. Another chick asks people to send her lists that you have made.
Now, you’re saying to yourself, “That’s a nice exposition, Russ, but where’s your gimmick?” What’s the single-minded theme behind this blog that will keep me riveted to your pixels?”
So, I’ve been scratching my brain, trying to figure out what will push us over the cusp of fame and fortune (if cusp fame and fortune do have), and I’ve come up with the following idea. Bear with me:
So, two pals, Dave and Russ, feeling stuck in boring careers about which they are quite passionate, watch Mad Men. Suddenly, they realize that the Mad Men season is over, and they wonder what will fill their lives with drama and exquisite aesthetics until Mad Men Season 4. Russ stumbles upon his old, timeworn copy of Stendhal’s La Chartreuse de Parme. Hmm — he says to himself — does anybody really take the time to read Stendhal anymore? He then sends Dave a message over Facebook saying, basically, “Hmm, does anybody really take the time to read Stendhal anymore?” Dave replies back, “You know, I think I’ve told you this before, but I really barely ever read anymore except the same battered, dusty classics I read growing up. So, yeah, actually, I just cracked open The Red and the Black the other day.”
All of a sudden, it comes to them. They have to take a year just reading the complete works of Stendhal (including his history of Italian painting) and describe the specific Stendhalien emotions that beset them each day. A couple of months into their experiment, their feeling of empowerment becomes so magical, that Stendhal’s ghost appears to Russ. “Russ,” Stendhal says, “You have to help me find the reincarnated soul of my very last romance…” Thus begins an exciting adventure across France and Italie, where Dave and Russ accompany the ghost of Marie-Henri Beyle on a journey that reveals to them life’s mysteries and helps a dead French author find love and fame one last, bittersweet time.
So, tell us, reader, is that what you want to read on this blog? Is that the kind of wizardry it’ll take to get you to pay attention to us?
So it’s come to this already, eh? Yesterday was hella lame, friends — we know.
In our defense, all this chatter can be hard to sustain. In much the same way that spending an entire weekend consuming nothing but beer and cider donuts can seem like an amusing idea on Friday morning, but totally vomitorius by, well, a little later on Friday morning, writing a blog for no good reason is in practice not exactly what it is in theory. Which is to say that we’re sort of busy and lazy and everything always takes longer than you think it’s going to. And Russ and I — it’s OK that I’m telling them this, right, Russ? — sometimes have issues with biting off more than we can chew. Eyes being bigger than stomachs.
In addition to the beer and cider donuts weekend — during which (I’m gonna go a little crazy here and pretend that someone might be reading this who doesn’t already know this story) Russ and I decided for some inexplicable reason that it would be Totally Rad to celebrate the completion of our undergraduate theses with (you guessed it) a weekend of nothing but beer and cider donuts, which Russ actually went out and bought, but then Dave was already ill after one meal and had to bow out, which made Russ get mad at him and then iirc we had a bunch of donuts on our hands — there was also some dumb intermural basketball thing we got really excited about but bailed on, and that time we bought all that stuff for a picnic at the end of the semester but everyone had already gone back home. There was the mixed schnitzel platter for two incident in Vienna. And also, apparently, Russ’s marriage (just for the record, I wasn’t a big fan of that joke). And our podcast, which died on the vine because we couldn’t stay focused long enough to talk about one thing. Which I know will come as a shock to anyone reading this right now. I could go on and on, obviously.
So sometimes, taking the joke too far is completely awesome and fun and fulfilling — like our band was — and sometimes it’s just disappointing and embarrassing, like, um, a bunch of other stuff was. Russ is a little more extroverted than I am, so I’m not sure that he is quite as equivocating as I am about these things. It’s a pretty universal feeling, though, that ambivalent longing for wacky excess, and I think it has lot to do with why so many Olds tend to get soooo nostalgic about college. The chance to behave stupidly over and over again with relatively little blowback has its appeal, doesn’t it? Especially now, with the grown-up world crashing in on us in various ways. It’s nice to imagine that there was a time when we got to act like total idiots all the time without embarrassment or consequence, even though that time didn’t really exist at all.
None of which is to say that I view this blog as one big joke gone too far — or, if it is one big joke gone too far, that I think it’s the bad kind of joke gone too far. Really, I think I just wanted to talk about beer and donuts.
So. I’ve heard a couple of complaints that this blog is, “like, so whatever,” in the sense that it’s hard to follow and who has time to read all those hyperlinks anyway? I’d estimate that our goals with this little endeavor break down roughly as follows: 70% = Russ and Dave amusing themselves/each other; 20% = Russ and Dave trying/failing to amuse 3 or 4 friends; 9% = trying to impress the chicks and 1% = I wonder what the Japanese person who was looking for information about Brendan Fraser thought when he/she found us?
Does that breakdown say terrible things about us?
Funny you should mention the jogging/blogging connection, Dave. Last night, I actually went running for the first time in about two weeks (and I’m not even trying to impress chicks). Oddly enough, I found again yesterday that I work better, not only while running but, as with my last blogging experience, while blogging. I think there’s something about replacing distracted and unfocused time during which one might read Matthew Yglesias or — more often — look up music videos on Youtube, with time that one is actually trying to gather and compose one’s thoughts around said music videos. This then carries over into the rest of my work.
So, it’s very much the same experience of head-clearing that you get while running (sorry, Dave, guys just don’t “jog”). The key is, I guess, not spending three hours on any single blog post.
Now, as for your questions of the day, since it seems you have posed them in order of reverse difficulty, I will seek to answer them in reverse order.
First off, OMDG! You don’t know — but probably can guess — how many times I have wanted to post this song to FB! I had it stuck in my head several times this past week already, including last night. I think its evocation predates Glee, but it makes sense that Glee would have now exacerbated its tenacity. All I can say is “Kudos” to you, Dave, for having found the single most extraordinary Youtube video of Break my Stride. Mustache and unitards alike will be spinning in my head for the foreseeable future. And, obviously, the answer to your question (4) is “NO, you will never get this song out of your head!” However, I do not think the brain destroying is necessarily Glee-induced…
Actually, I was just asking myself yesterday: Should I let my mother know about this blog? She was one of the most loyal readers of my past blogging effort, if not always the most civil of commenters — Unlike you, though, I am not FB friends with my mother, so I would have to go out of my way to tell her about this blog, and I am not quite sure if I am ready to do that. But, yes, “Your mama!” is indeed reading this blog already (3). The question is, when will Ty get with the program?!?
So, I told you yesterday, that I was potential going to live the principle of “WTF-ever” by catching some gay performance art. I was actually kind of looking forward to being appalled by people in tight-fitting clothes making obscure jerky movements that often would involve their hands chopping the air, swirls, and heads tilting to the side in a kind of Lobdellian tour de force. However, that is not what Dead Boys delivered.
This was (2), in fact, a straight-up (no pun intended ha ha) musical vaguely inspired by the hanging of homosexuals in Iran — although this inspiration only emerged within the last fifteen minutes of something that seemed overlong, although, apparently, it was in keeping with its theme of “awakening.” Still, I never want to hear another musical number that contains lyrics such as “performing gender”, “post-structural feminism” and “Foucault” I shit-my-pants you not! What ended up happening was a series of vignettes centered around a gay performance artist and his hippy-medium landlord that culminated with a psychic channeling that led to a stirring denouement where it was revealed that our hero could in fact have political consciousness AND the dishy Asian saxophone player. Oh, and a couple of BDSM scenes were thrown in to thicken the broth. If this seems a bit muddled to you, believe me, it was much worse for people who were actually there.
You will probably say, “Russ, that sounds like totally not your thing. What were you doing there?” Well, that’s a valid question. All I can say is that a classmate of mine was performing in the piece, and, you know, I’m the kind of guy that when someone tells me, “I’m doing this musical-thingy, you should come see it” or, “I’m writing this awesome blog, you should read it.” Well, I DELIVER THE GOODS. I SHOW MY SUPPORT. I GET WITH THE PROGRAM. I guess these are rare qualities these days. (By the way, this does not hold for reading poetry, sorry…)
Still, the major tragedy is that currently, in Berkeley, there is a musical called Dead Boys as well as a rock opera staging of — get the barf bag — Green Day’s American Idiot, but there is NO ROCK OPERA BASED ON THE MUSIC OF THE DEAD BOYS. I’m thinking I need to find a crew that will help me remedy this problem.
Finally, I don’t know about you, but I only ever consult Cakewrecks when I need a lil’ pick me up. But, now that they have a book deal, I think (1) we should boycott the site until we get ours. Further, being a high school poseur, I think that’s a completely valid question.
I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling an eerie sense of empathy with Big Nate, right now.