Jimmy Neilson is secretly Gunther from “Friends”
Jimmy Neilson is secretly Gunther from “Friends”
A perfect storm of questions hit me this weekend. It occurred to me that there’s not enough time or brain space to appreciate all the aesthetics that are out there for you to experience, so what’s worth following and what’s not? I’m not going to answer that question in the next paragraphs, I don’t have an answer. But here’s some topics I’m mulling over:
There are “Experts” in Everything
This question hit me while listening to Freakonomics podcast about how wine snobs may not have any idea what they’re talking about. And then my mind bounced right to the XKCD cartoon above — that if you follow anything intensely enough, you’ll eventually develop a more developed opinion of it. So… what’s worth knowing, what’s worth discarding, what’s worth devoting time to?
The Lowest Common Denomenator Theory
I touched on this a little on A Dead Kid post a while ago, suggesting that the more obscure your passions, the less connected you are to the rest of the world. I feel that a healthy understanding of popular culture, though potentially mind-numbing, is really important. I don’t want to be lost in dinner discussions about The Bachelor, or silent (verging on looking snobby) when the bar topic du jour is about Katy Perry’s relationship status. Crap culture is the new Weather — everyone experiences it, you can’t avoid it, and everyone has an opinion about it so it’s a perfectly fine topic to bring up when you have absolutely nothing else to talk about. Would you want to talk to someone who responded to your weather comment with, “Oh, yeah, I’m not really into the weather.”
What’s Worth Your Time?
How long does it take to watch a movie? Eat a meal? Read a book? I ask, because, in the last 10 years a new time-sucking phenomenon has appeared — the serial TV drama. Chuck Klosterman and Bill Simmons chatted a bit about this on Monday. Long-form TV drama is everywhere, and they take forever to get through. There was a time when someone would ask, “Have you ever seen <movie>?”, and you would say “no”, and they would be like “I can’t BELIEVE you haven’t seen <movie>.” You would then rent that movie (or borrow that CD or go to that restaurant) and experience it — that would take about 2 hours… even a book, which I would consider a real commitment, takes anywhere from a week to a month to complete. Serial cable TV shows are the extreme of commitment. They last for months; often years if they’re doing well. They are recommended by others who have no real idea how they will eventually end.
People don’t recommend albums based on the first two tracks of an LP, restaurants based on appetizers, or books based on prologues, but they do this sort of thing all the time for serial dramas. Every serial show is an insane commitment with no guaranteed satisfactory conclusion (hi Twin Peaks, Lost). Everyone is probably guilty of recommending a show that you, yourself won’t know how good or bad it will wind up being. I know I am. I told my friend a decade ago to get into Desperate Housewives. There are still people watching Grey’s Anatomy because, I can only imagine, that they’ve put too many hours into McDreamy to give up on it now. Anyway. I digress. I just dread dedicating that much time to one thing and watching it just… suck.
My uncle once said he wouldn’t buy a good sound system because he doesn’t have the ear that could recognize the difference between an good sound system and an excellent one. I could imagine the same goes for tastebuds, and any other sensory experience as well. This is logical. But it make me wonder who gets to appreciate the most things, and perhaps then determine what’s “the best” themselves — those fortunate enough to experience the most? Does a variety of experience from somone with no real taste trump the limited experience of someone who has incredible taste?
Art vs Necessity
Last section, I promise. This is the old form/function argument. I’ve read that if an art serves any real function, it ceases to be art. My questions is then, what happens when a basic necessity is elevated to something greater? When it comes to things like architecture, fashion, or cuisine — shelter, clothing, and food if we’re going Maslov here — are post-modern buildings, high fashion, or molecular gastronomy the epitome of art because they’ve transcended their functions, or are they invalid because they are objects that fail to meet the requirement of their initial reason to exist? Are foodies and fashionista’s kidding themselves, or are they following the most logical path?
I heard once, and now I forgot where, that hipsterism is officially dead: All hipsters have just become foodies.
That’s the kind of sweeping statement that begs to be analyzed (see: The Atlantic article on such things). It’s the kind of hyperbole you just have to sink your teeth into. Anyway, after thinking hard about it for maybe two minutes, I have to disagree.
I can say, with all confidence, that food is not the next bastion of hipsterdom — it is, quite obviously, sports. Think about it — if you were to to unfairly generalize hipster character traits the top of the list would have to be a love of irony, unapologetic geekiness, a carefully cultivated appreciation of pop culture, and a finely-tuned sense nostalgia. All of these things, to me, point directly to sports.
Here is a group of three names: Malcolm Gladwell, Dave Eggers, and Chuck Klosterman. If someone told you they were collaborating on a project together, what would you think it would be? A youth literary fundraiser? A roundtable on the plight of self-awareness in literature? A celebrity somolier app for your iPad? All these things seem more likely than the truth, which is that they are all editors at Bill Simmons’ ESPN-backed sports blog Grantland. Gladwell, Eggers and Klosterman — THE TRIUMVIRATE OF COFFEESHOP NAMECHECKING — all with a profound passion for sport. Also, check out Simmons’ recent podcast with John Walsh that focused solely on another hipster idol /sports fiend, Hunter Thompson.
Hipsters strive to let you know that they appreciate something you love on a much deeper level than you do — doing so validates that their passion is more authentic than yours. They also like to geek out. This is why hipsters love sabermetrics — it’s an way to say, “Yes, I enjoy this too, but my enjoyment of this is considerably deeper and more rewarding than yours.” This same argument has been made about everything from The Velvet Underground to The Muppets. And don’t get me going about Moneyball, or the fact that Moneyball was adapted by Aaron Sorkin. Everybody was jazzed about that one. The only bigger announcement for the hipster world would’ve been if Noah Baumbach directed a rotoscoped version of Kafka on the Shore.
Nostalgia is the lifeblood of the hipster. Everything you find in the attic that was packed up as a kid — it is now gold. Because the past = youth = innocence = authenticity. Sun-faded photos of kids on big wheels are the stuff of indie EPs! Parent’s gigantic plastic reading glasses are urban fashion de rigueur. That old replica jersey of Will Clark?! YES! Do you have that Dream Team T-shirt? That shit is TIGHT. It is FOR REAL! Wear it to LOLLA!
Okay. I doth protest too much. I like sports. I like Moneyball. I listen to Bill Simmons all the time. I may talk about football on this blog more than anything else. That said, I welcome the emergence of sports fanaticism as something that both jocks and art kids can love. Could I just throw out there that I even tried to start an Indie Rock fantasy league? True Story.
I figured tracking my fantasy football stats would help me make some good choices by end-of-season playoff time, i.e. now. Ummm, yeah. This graph just demonstrates how I’m definitely going to make the wrong choice this week….
I was in a brief discussion about how a lot of Mel Gibson movies seem to have Christ-like figures, or Christian messages in them. They also have lots of ‘splosians. Here’s a diagram so you can keep them straight.
Yeah. It’s the new buzz term. Any band you may have heard for the last three or so months has probably been called “chillwave”. Based on the description of said genre, a large amount of bands you may have liked for the last 5+ years may also may now be looped into the descriptor of “chillwave”. Nothing is beyond it’s grasp. Do you like Ariel Pink? Best Coast? Panda Bear? Boards of Canada? Beach House? m83? The Avalanches? Deerhunter? Broken Social Scene? Fennesz? Well my friend… you like chillwave.
“Wait,” you say, “all those bands existed years BEFORE this newfangled term.”
Yes, but all of that is irrelevant now. The wave is upon us.
I’m writing a few little posts about it, the first one is up now.
Also, I’ll post stuff here still, promise.
It’s dated now, but I felt like posting it here. Originally on Third Coast Digest… (alternate headlines were going to be either “Rocky: On Ice”, or “Subject to Style”)
American League versus National League. Lakers versus Celtics. The Greatest Show on Turf versus the 4-3. As all sports fans will ponder at some point, “Am I a purist, or am I a spectator?” Do you live to watch practice pay off in victory, or crave the unpredictability that raw athleticism can bring to sport? While who wins and who loses is recorded forever in the box score, a sports fan lives to discuss the game well past when it’s recorded in an almanac.
In an argument that will eternally rage, I now add figure skaters Russian Evgeni Plushenko and American Evan Lysacek into this list of diametrical opposition. At first glance, they have all the great traits of classic rivals — Johnson/Bird, Bjorn/McEnroe, Balboa/Drago — but has there ever been a stranger pair of rivals than at last night’s Olympic skate-off?
This is what was so intriguing: Skating scores are weighted based not only on what is achieved, but on how it is achieved. What we saw last night is two athletes performing the same required feats, but receiving a different score — as a rule. In the weird world of professional skating, this is how it works. Plushenko, the mulleted graceless athlete versus Lysacek, a slick-coiffed ice-dramatist are on equal footing. It’s such a strange, unique situation.
Imagine footballer Chad Ochocinco’s post-TD antics yielding him a favorable .3 point edge to sneak in front of a mundane Dallas Clark hand-the-football-to-the-ref celebration. Or Curt Schilling’s edgy sock decoration eeking out a nail-biting World Series game.
The question remains: Is it a “sport” if a game is subjectively scored, or worse yet, scored only by the well-informed elite? One would argue “no” if a golfer’s exaggerated fist-pump would take a stroke off their total. Meanwhile, mogul skiiers, gymnasts, all X-sporters and perhaps even the BCS would have to emphatically disagree.
The arguments will continue to rage, but as Plushenko’s mullet whirls as he lands his patented quadruple axle, and Lysacek glides by be-feathered in a Vera Wang onesie, ask yourself: Does rewarding dramatics devalue sports, or is it just the honest admission that we watch sports for the entertainment, not just the final score?
As the NFL Free Agent signing period begins on Friday, let’s take a quick look at the Chicago Bears’ [sarcasm] remarkable successes recognizing and nurturing free agent talent while compensating them fairly [/sarcasm].
In Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith’s tenure there has been one over-arching acquisition trend: The coaching staff hiring athletes that used to play in “their system” who turn out to be no good at all. (Highlighted in orange are some good transactions. Note the lack of orange.)
Let’s take a look at some of their transactions since 2007…
DT – Anthony Adams
S – Adam Archuleta *cut* *retired* (Former Ram (01-05) player for Lovie Smith and Gil Byrd)
DT – Darwin Walker *retired* (Former Eagle player for ST Coach Dave Toub)
DT – Matt Toeaina
RB – Kevin Jones *perennially injured* (Former Lion player for Rod Marinelli)
WR – Devin Aromashodu (Former Colt player for Tony Dungy)
WR – Brandon Lloyd *cut* (Former 49er WR during QB Coach Pep Hamilton’s tenure)
WR – Marty Booker *traded away in ’06 – re-signed in ’08 – cut in ’09* (Former Bear player for Lovie Smith)
Asst Head Coach / DL Coach – Rod Marinelli *0-16* (Former Buc coach with Lovie Smith)
TE – Michael Gaines *cut to make room for Gaines Adams* (former Lion player for Rod Marinelli)
DE – Gaines Adams *traded for 2010 2nd round draft pick, deceased* (former Buc player for Jon Gruden)
OLB – Tina Pisaismioa *injured in quarter 1, game 1* (former Ram player for Lovie Smith and Bob Babich)
T – Orlando Pace *waived March 2010* (played for Rams during Smith/Babich tenure)
QB – Brett Bassonez (played for Northwestern during coach Eric Washington’s tenure)
QB – Jay Cutler
G – Frank Omiyale
T – Kevin Shaffer
CB Coach – John Hoke (Former Missouri coach with Dave Toub, Harry Hiestand and Chris Tabor, ties to Lovie Smith)
S – Josh Bullokcs *benched*
DB – Glenn Earl (former player for DB Coach Jon Hoke)
LB – Cato June *signed then cut within 2 weeks* (Former Colt player for Tony Dungy)
CB – Rod Hood *signed 9/1/09, waived 9/4/09*
Senior Director of Pro Personnel Bobby Depaul *fired*
March 5th Update.
Wow. Twelve hours into the free agent market the Bears (who lack any real draft picks this year) snagged Panthers’ Defensive End Julius Peppers, Vikes’ Running Back Chester Taylor, and Rams’ TE Brandon Manumaleuna. So… if you’re keeping score… the trend really hasn’t changed, hopefully the outcome will.
2010 (To Be Continued…)
Offensive Line Coach – Mike Tice
Offensive Coordinator – Mike Martz (former Rams coach with Lovie Smith)
DE – Julius Peppers
RB – Chester Taylor (former Vikings player for Mike Tice)
TE – Brandon Manumaleuna (former Rams player for Mike Martz)
“But Brian,” you ask, “do you know what you’re doing?”
I think Carl Newman once said an original voice comes from being inept at mimicking your favorite artists. I’m inept! I can do this!