The Canadian Club

On a Claire Day

On a Claire Day has, over the past couple of weeks*, been sticking its nose into nobody’s business.  Claire’s boyfriend, Paul, has been exploring Facebook and finds it wanting.

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 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

{October 18, 2009}   My Pixie, My Jaded Princess


Let’s just say, Dave, that Garden State was so fine a film that they had to remake it twice!

Once for WASPs:

And once more for history buffs:

Appearing in theaters between 2004 and 2005, these three movies were not original in their portrayal of the now-famed Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) trope, but did articulate within a unique cultural moment a single shared structure that endows the MPDG with a unique capacity to evacuate the Oedipus complex — just as the Oedipal President par excellence had subjugated the country to his blind whims.

Why not, at the time, wish for magic?  Why not enact a romance of denial rather than a drama of confrontation and reconciliation?  Yes, Dave, you’re right, by gum!  We needed to be more About a Boy and less enabling of the Natalie Portmans in our lives.  And, yet, time and again, we have seen privilege and ersatz sentimentality forge ahead and have married our fates to the lie of felicity owed. Or, as Pete Campbell says, “Why does it have to be like this? Why can’t I get anything good all at once?”

And therein lies the irony of the quote that you so aptly brought to light, and that bears repeating:

I was a jaded and cynical 27-year-old who came of age in the swinging ’90s of dot-com-boom Manhattan.

Really? Jaded and cynical?  Based on several face-to-face encounters with this utterance, it seems to translate for the layperson as “I went to [liberal arts college or Ivy League school here], and I should either be making more money or have sold the right to my screenplay/novel by now.”  It seems to be this same unquestioned acceptance of a kind of skewed meritocracy myth that likewise blinds one to the leeks beside the baguette.  The same people think that Natalie Portman is smart because she goes to Harvard.

People think that Natalie Portman is smart.

It is hard to blame the gatekeepers for such a failure of imagination.  For one thing, I don’t believe they are just shaping content for what they think will please — they have been nurtured on the same mythology.  Yes, the writers themselves should know better — but how do we account for such a massive number of them not knowing better?  If you were to poll every bohemian New Yorker about Vienna, I am sure that we’d get a monotonous collage of Opera, Sachertorte and Gustav Klimt (who never, mind you, was one to turn down monotonous collages).  Personally, I would like to single out high school French teachers for vilification — however, I have too much respect for my own teachers to tolerate grouping them in with the lot. I would also like to blame the Chicago Art Institute for its massive collection of Impressionism — but that is neither here nor there.

I have some other ideas, that I’d like to hash out over time… but, I think for now, given that Mad Men is on tonight — and I think we love that program so, precisely because it tackles the root of this problem — we can really blame Conrad Hilton.

By the way, would you say “Any Vow-bag” is a good summative acronym for your excellent formulation Autumn-in-New-York/Vows-Column/French-ladies-carrying-baguettes-on-bicycles worldview?

et cetera