Sunday, July 13, 2008

wereallnumberone #5: its been 666 days since I first read Chuck Klosterman

“Cultural Popcure” or “Ream of (Cultural)Consciousness”

Early on in "Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs," which I am re-re-reading [1], Chuck Klosterman tells an unfunny joke that he claims works on 90% of the women he goes out with on the first date. The joke is unimportant (it involves the Amish and the Devil and metal zippers), as is the funny one he tells a few pages later, which involves a woman mistaking the word "carnivore" for "cannibal" and Klosterman's ensuing sexual frustration. What's also unimportant is his comparison of himself to Woody Allen (apt) and his blame of John Cusack for his dating troubles [2]. What's truly important about Klosterman is that he resonates with our generation -- his raw cynicism, his contrasting hypermaleness (you know, the desperation to get laid and all) and cathartic caricaturish hyperfemininity (seriously, when a person feels this much, male or female, it becomes impossible to do anything, other than feel). He resonates with us because the line between entertainment, media, and our "real" lives have become inexorably and impossibly blurred. And because sitcoms become metaphors and frames for our real real lives anyway -- in fact, we often cant unintertwine them, which really only leaves two kinds of people [3] -- people who are aware that they do this (such as me … I have often been known to say, after a witty retort or otherwise quasi clever observation, that "I should write sitcoms") and people who aren't aware that they do this -- but do it anyway. The person who claims "I don't watch TV" as if to claim some kind of "I wont let the media distort my view of the world" is a mere meme (or more accurately, la meme chose) of counter cultural curmudgeonly anti-technocrats they became amorous of on TV or in the movies.

People like me, who are quasi encyclopedically familiar with popular culture, to the point of obsession, to the point of defining the very means of their lives by their similarity to pivotal moments in pop culture history[4] are of the former kind.

Klosterman's noting of this is nothing new (if nothing else, cats like McLuhan, Postman, Adorno, Baudrillard, and the like predict this integration and eventual superimposition of not real life upon our real lives). His demonstration of it is nothing new either (see Rob Gordon in High Fidelity, a story about fear of commitment, hating your job, falling in love, and other pop favorites -- seriously, this is the subtitle, or if you want a "real life" example, simply think of that one friend you have whose favorite metaphors involve sitcoms/movies example below and outside of the parenthesis:)

Dude 1: Dude, your hair is f'ed up. Did you use too much hair gel or did a sheep ejaculate on your head?
Dude 2: First of all, that's a really vivid metaphor, did you read that in Manifold Superlativity? [5]? Second of all, its no worse than Ben Stiller in There's Something About Mary. Maybe a hottie like Cameron Diaz comes along and runs her fingers through it! Besides, it looks really good on Jim from the Office, and he's hookin up with the three hottest girls on that show!" [6]

See? That dude totally did what I said he would in the previous sentences. Trust me, that exact conversation has been had. Except for the acknowledgement of my blog.

So here's the deal about Chuck K. He's a good writer. And clever. And cynical, which he calls "pragmatic" the same way that I call my nappy hair "curly" and my penis "no more important an appendage than my spleen." But no one minds. And maybe that's the problem.

Maybe you've read him on Page 2. If not, go on, I'm not threatened: Hurry. ESPNInsider and its effin elitism will preclude you from reading this unless you become an insider.

The thing is, I shouldn't care what Klosterman, a pasty white goofy remarkably unathletic dork (his words, I'm paraphrasing) has to say about sport. I should also avoid his pratter about relationships, given his utter and uncanny ability to maintain one (again his words). The same way I shouldn't hearken Bush's advice on apt use of the English lexicon or Paris Hilton's advice on not being totally cockeyed. The same way you guys should totally totally stop reading my analyses of writers who pose as frustrated and falsely modest when they really think they know whats going on way more than they'd ever let on. Not even if they offer this advice by making constant references to popular culture in a way that resonates with us. Eff the media … it isn't the message.

Klosterman reads like a Family Guy episode (which I also adore) making constant non sequitirish references to pop culture to keep us entertained but ultimately not pushing us any further than the beginning of the punchline, where we already were in the first place. Its funny. It truly is. And interesting. But we're no better for it. Except we've learned to craftily use wikipedia when a reference is made that we aren't quite familiar with (or nod approvingly sans knowledge of the aforementioned pop-culture item).

And, as Klosterman says himself … its interesting, but in the end not totally profound. And millions of Americans agree, to the tune of $19.99 (paperback) a pop.

So Klosterman is either as not profound as he claims, as cynical as you imagine, and in the end only a diversion from real life (the sort of escapist consumerism Marx and Engels nightmarishly predict) or he is aware that pop culture soaked quasi profundity masked as not-cynicism and plenary self-indulgence[7] will sell like hot cakes, and for this, he should be censured at least as vigorously as the million pieces guy. I dig Klosterman, but I don't think I should. I don't think any of us should. He's like McDonald's French Fries -- so effin good you'd donkey punch an elderly woman (and yes, I know what a donkey punch is, and what you'd have to do first in order to be in position to donkey punch an elderly person … I calculated all of that) if she cut you in line while you were waiting to purchase his next book. Even when Morgan Spurlock (before: and after: warns you specifically not to. Or maybe Klosterman is actually defining our current condition by embodying it so melodramatically. I mean, who is going to reference pop culture, on average, 3-5 times every sentence and expect us to think this is normal behavior?

And seriously, who has time for this? Varsity Blues is on. And I totally played with a guy like Billy Bob, totally have turned down scores [8] of women in "cool whip bikinis [9]" and my momma did my recruiting, too. You win this round, Klosterman. No rererereading.

1 I read it for the first time a year ago. I decided to re-read it recently because the first time felt like it confirmed me more than it challenged me, which I chalked up to not reading closely enough. The second reading embarrassed and disheartened me, because really, that confirmed me? Confirmed. In a way that religion and the support of friends could not? Really? That guy? That argument? I'm re-re-reading it because I need to confirm that it no longer confirms me. P.S., I digged really long footnotes way before I knew Klosterman did. I'm invoking Eliot here, not him*.
*So what I'm footnoting the footnote. Eliot's project was grand, but a total study in the importance of strategy, purpose, and audience when developing a rhetorical strategy. Let's bring back the importance of the love of literary classics via poetry. Wow. While at it, lets bring back America's love and respect of women and femininity by casting a music video featuring Paris Hilton singing "I am woman, hear me ride some random dude while a night vision cam records it" (directed by R. Kelly and Dean Martin).

2 Ok so I kinda do this, too. Anyone who knows me well knows that I once encountered Rosario Dawson in a NYC bar and inadvertently flirted with her … and I think she kinda didn't know how to respond, but she still flirted back. The reason she totally didn't go for me? Probably because she Hollywooded me … fitting me into an all too neat pigeonhole … as Anthony Anderson on Atkins, or a big boned LL Cool J (I tried to find a picture of him with a) his shirt on and b) not licking his lips and was on pages 451-475 on Google before I gave up. I began the previous sentence at 9:15 pm and finished it at 10:04. I also purchased "Bad" on CD in the meantime

3 Just kidding, the third kind of person is the person who really really likes Larry the Cable Guy. This is a third kind of person entirely.

4 Seriously, my first kiss was in the woods. The song "Harvest Moon" played in the distance. The moment was sponsored by JOOP! Perfume, which she wore. It was right out of Dawson's Creek for God's sake.

5 Yeah, I just big upped myself in my own blog. No worse than Saul Williams' big up of himself in Dead Emcee Scrolls, in which he attributes his meteoric rise to fame as a spoken word artist to the discovery of a Dead Sea scrolls like document stuffed into a Krylon ™ can in an underground subway, and then subsequently translating them. Sidebar 1: Saul Williams is a little, um, purple for a Mormon, no? Sidebar 2: Saul Williams would totally totally effin pwn Joe Smith in an emcee battle.

6 Something about that stick in the tailpiped Angela does it for me …

7 Quite possibly the most amazing neologism I have ever created, meaning "when someone absolves himself completely of his own sin/vices by learning that indulging in them is in fact, not sinful at all, because everyone else is doing it" or "finding virtue in your vices," as Ben Franklin once said.

8 And by scores (see next sentence), I mean that I have also been with scores of women, cool whip or no. And by scores, a "score" equals 3, right? Because then, technically, I'm not lying.


And finally, do you guys get from this that I enjoy reading Klosterman? Trust me, if I dont dig you, I dont write about you. Ever read my blog on John Stuart Mill? Exactly.

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