SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t read Game of Thrones or seen the first season, this post contains major spoilers. Also, I refer to the series throughout as Game of Thrones rather than A Song of Ice and Fire ‘cause it’s just easier.
This post is an ode to Game of Thrones, but more specifically, it is an ode to a very specific plot point and its significance — the killing of Ned Stark.
One of the great joys of the fantasy/sci-fi genre is the “holy shit” moment. And for my money, the killing of Ned Stark is my favorite “holy shit” moment in any fictional work. I’ve tried to determine why it had such an impact. Obviously, the killing of a character that you believe to be the protagonist of the story is shocking, and that clearly has a lot to do with it. It also functions as a very powerful anyone can die moment, a maneuver which the best of this genre typically must wield well.
But I think the dramatic impact of this particular death runs deeper and has a larger significance both to the series and to the genre itself. I think the killing of Ned Stark functions as a subversion, actually a shattering, of the dominant cultural perspective in fantasy and science fiction and really most genres — i.e. the white, male, heterosexual perspective.
First, it is important to define the genre that Game of Thrones seemingly falls into. It initially appears to fall into a specific and recurring type of fantasy and science-fiction — an ensemble with a dominant protagonist — think Star Wars, Firefly, The Wheel of Time, Lord of the Rings (which perhaps has duel protagonists in Frodo and Aragorn), both Buffy and Angel, Y: The Last Man, The Walking Dead, etc. This prototype is also evident in other genre shows like Deadwood where survival and morality play key components.
These stories typically feature white male protagonists as the dominant perspective despite a group of supporting players who are more diverse and often more interesting. These supporting players are important to the story and even function as main characters, but at the end of the day, the weight of the world rests on the protagonist’s shoulders, although they may get help from their friends. It’s up to Luke to destroy the Death Star, Rand to fight the Dark One, Angel to stave off the latest apocalypse. The exception of course is Buffy, which was, from the beginning, a conscious attempt to subvert the genre.
So when we begin Game of Thrones, while it is immediately clear that this is an attempt at a grittier, darker genre piece — incest! horse beheadings! child brides! — it nevertheless feels familiar at its core. Ned Stark is the obvious protagonist with an ensemble of well-drawn and more diverse side characters populating the world. Ned has the most chapters in the book. On the television series he is played by the most famous actor. He also emerges as the person in the best position to take on the characters we view as antagonists. If someone’s going to set this kingdom straight, it’s going to be Ned.
And Ned of course has many of the hallmarks of a typical hero — he’s a man of honor, but also physically capable, a good father and a good husband. He has power, but he wields it justly. He’s the epitome of what a heroic man is supposed to be. He fights the good fight, even when it’s hard, maybe even when he shouldn’t. But this is what a hero does.
And usually, the anyone can die plot device feeds into this. Main characters may be killed, but the dominant protagonist does not die, and in fact the deaths of main characters, often those close to him, are important because it establishes what the hero must endure in order to keep fighting. The idea tends to be look, these guys are fighting a war, and in wars people die, but that’s what makes our hero so noble — he keeps fighting even when it’s hard and even when it hurts.
So when Ned is killed, it is of course shocking because he was our protagonist, but its significance extends beyond a mere shocking plot point. It’s a wrecking ball crashing into our ideas of what this genre is and whose stories get to be told and fully realized.
Because once Ned is killed, the world is blown wide open. There is no dominant perspective in the book anymore. Everyone’s perspective now has an equal right and claim to the story, whether it’s a dwarf, a child, or a woman. These are no longer the diverse supporting players to a dominant center. Every character is the hero of his or her own story, and we may like or dislike their perspectives, but every character is on equal footing. Ned’s death doesn’t just signify that no one is safe and anyone can die. It also signifies that anyone has the potential to step up and fill his void, to emerge as the one who makes history, and as the series expands in scope and perspectives, this becomes even more clear.
This shift is so effective because Game of Thrones, the books in particular, employs the use of character perspective as the vehicle through which the story is told. The books are divided into chapters named after the characters, in which that character’s point of view narrates the story. Other books employ this tactic to varying degrees. The Wheel of Time series certainly has a wide array of character perspectives through which the story is told. But again, we always know that Rand is going to be the one who ultimately has to battle The Dark One for the fate of the world.
In contrast, in Game of Thrones and the series at large, when a new character perspective is introduced, our immediate reaction may be that we want to get back to our old favorites, but we quickly adapt to these new characters and become interested in them because we realize that that character, whether or not he or she fits the traditional trappings of a genre hero, could be the one who ends up shaping history or turning the story on its head.
This is not to say that the internal world of Game of Thrones has lost its white male bias, and in fact this is one of the prevalent themes of the book — characters struggling against the cultural confines of the world. It is also not to say that the story has done away with the white heterosexual male perspective. There are still many great characters who fit this mold. However, none of them represent the dominant perspective.
And I think this is one of the great strengths of the series and what makes it so unique. George R.R. Martin has consciously populated his books with every manner of person — the deformed, the ugly, the crippled, the gay, the dishonorable, the unfit, the underage — many of whom rarely get to have their perspectives explored in fictional works. When we do get to see such characters, they are always either relegated to supporting players, or, if they do get main billing and the dominant perspective, it is in a drama where the lead actor will win an Oscar for playing such a deformed person. But they don’t get to be heroes in a story such as this. And in Game of Thrones they aren’t heroes exactly. They’re just treated as equally relevant.
Game of Thrones is of course not the first work to embrace alternate perspectives in this genre. There are several mainstream examples of genre works that offer a dominant female perspectives (non-white and gay perspectives as the dominant one seem to be rarer). Again, Buffy is an obvious one. But what Buffy is doing is different. First, it was clear from the beginning that Buffy was offering a new perspective. But second, Buffy maintains a dominant perspective — it replaces the usual male one with that of a teenage girl — but Buffy is still the hero of the story, and the Scoobie gang, while main characters, are the support.
What’s different about Game of Thrones is that it is set up to make you believe that it is a heroic fantasy story, albeit a grittier one. We know it is possible that Ned Stark may die, but we do not expect him to die before another dominant heroic perspective is set up — perhaps Jon Snow or Robb or maybe even Arya or Dany. So when Game of Thrones smashes through our expectations and kills Ned, it’s not just that the dominant male perspective is destroyed to be replaced by something else, it’s that every perspective is now viable. It becomes a truly egalitarian fantasy book. Which, considering that Game of Thrones is one of the most well-regarded and mainstream works in the fantasy genre, a genre dubbed “boy fiction” by a New York Times reviewer, is pretty awesome.
By Douglas Adams, 1999, via www.douglasadams.com (originally titled, “How to Stop Worrying and Love the Internet”)
A couple of years or so ago I was a guest on Start The Week, and I was authoritatively informed by a very distinguished journalist that the whole Internet thing was just a silly fad like ham radio in the fifties, and that if I thought any different I was really a bit naïve. It is a very British trait – natural, perhaps, for a country which has lost an empire and found Mr Blobby – to be so suspicious of change.
But the change is real. I don’t think anybody would argue now that the Internet isn’t becoming a major factor in our lives. However, it’s very new to us. Newsreaders still feel it is worth a special and rather worrying mention if, for instance, a crime was planned by people ‘over the Internet.’ They don’t bother to mention when criminals use the telephone or the M4, or discuss their dastardly plans ‘over a cup of tea,’ though each of these was new and controversial in their day.
Then there’s the peculiar way in which certain BBC presenters and journalists (yes, Humphrys Snr., I’m looking at you) pronounce internet addresses. It goes ‘www DOT … bbc DOT… co DOT… uk SLASH… today SLASH…’ etc., and carries the implication that they have no idea what any of this new-fangled stuff is about, but that you lot out there will probably know what it means.
I suppose earlier generations had to sit through all this huffing and puffing with the invention of television, the phone, cinema, radio, the car, the bicycle, printing, the wheel and so on, but you would think we would learn the way these things work, which is this:
1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;
2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;
3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.
Apply this list to movies, rock music, word processors and mobile phones to work out how old you are.
This subjective view plays odd tricks on us, of course. For instance, ‘interactivity’ is one of those neologisms that Mr Humphrys likes to dangle between a pair of verbal tweezers, but the reason we suddenly need such a word is that during this century we have for the first time been dominated by non-interactive forms of entertainment: cinema, radio, recorded music and television. Before they came along all entertainment was interactive: theatre, music, sport – the performers and audience were there together, and even a respectfully silent audience exerted a powerful shaping presence on the unfolding of whatever drama they were there for. We didn’t need a special word for interactivity in the same way that we don’t (yet) need a special word for people with only one head.
I expect that history will show ‘normal’ mainstream twentieth century media to be the aberration in all this. ‘Please, miss, you mean they could only just sit there and watch? They couldn’t do anything? Didn’t everybody feel terribly isolated or alienated or ignored?’
‘Yes, child, that’s why they all went mad. Before the Restoration.’
‘What was the Restoration again, please, miss?’
‘The end of the twentieth century, child. When we started to get interactivity back.’
Because the Internet is so new we still don’t really understand what it is. We mistake it for a type of publishing or broadcasting, because that’s what we’re used to. So people complain that there’s a lot of rubbish online, or that it’s dominated by Americans, or that you can’t necessarily trust what you read on the web. Imagine trying to apply any of those criticisms to what you hear on the telephone. Of course you can’t ‘trust’ what people tell you on the web anymore than you can ‘trust’ what people tell you on megaphones, postcards or in restaurants. Working out the social politics of who you can trust and why is, quite literally, what a very large part of our brain has evolved to do. For some batty reason we turn off this natural scepticism when we see things in any medium which require a lot of work or resources to work in, or in which we can’t easily answer back – like newspapers, television or granite. Hence ‘carved in stone.’ What should concern us is not that we can’t take what we read on the internet on trust – of course you can’t, it’s just people talking – but that we ever got into the dangerous habit of believing what we read in the newspapers or saw on the TV – a mistake that no one who has met an actual journalist would ever make. One of the most important things you learn from the internet is that there is no ‘them’ out there. It’s just an awful lot of ‘us’.
Of course, there’s a great deal wrong with the Internet. For one thing, only a minute proportion of the world’s population is so far connected. I recently heard some pundit on the radio arguing that the internet would always be just another unbridgeable gulf between the rich and the poor for the following reasons – that computers would always be expensive in themselves, that you had to buy lots of extras like modems, and you had to keep upgrading your software. The list sounds impressive but doesn’t stand up to a moment’s scrutiny. The cost of powerful computers, which used to be around the level of jet aircraft, is now down amongst the colour television sets and still dropping like a stone. Modems these days are mostly built-in, and standalone models have become such cheap commodities that companies, like Hayes, whose sole business was manufacturing them are beginning to go bust.. Internet software from Microsoft or Netscape is famously free. Phone charges in the UK are still high but dropping. In the US local calls are free. In other words the cost of connection is rapidly approaching zero, and for a very simple reason: the value of the web increases with every single additional person who joins it. It’s in everybody’s interest for costs to keep dropping closer and closer to nothing until every last person on the planet is connected.
Another problem with the net is that it’s still ‘technology’, and ‘technology’, as the computer scientist Bran Ferren memorably defined it, is ‘stuff that doesn’t work yet.’ We no longer think of chairs as technology, we just think of them as chairs. But there was a time when we hadn’t worked out how many legs chairs should have, how tall they should be, and they would often ‘crash’ when we tried to use them. Before long, computers will be as trivial and plentiful as chairs (and a couple of decades or so after that, as sheets of paper or grains of sand) and we will cease to be aware of the things. In fact I’m sure we will look back on this last decade and wonder how we could ever have mistaken what we were doing with them for ‘productivity.’
But the biggest problem is that we are still the first generation of users, and for all that we may have invented the net, we still don’t really get it. In ‘The Language Instinct’, Stephen Pinker explains the generational difference between pidgin and creole languages. A pidgin language is what you get when you put together a bunch of people – typically slaves – who have already grown up with their own language but don’t know each others’. They manage to cobble together a rough and ready lingo made up of bits of each. It lets them get on with things, but has almost no grammatical structure at all.
However, the first generation of children born to the community takes these fractured lumps of language and transforms them into something new, with a rich and organic grammar and vocabulary, which is what we call a Creole. Grammar is just a natural function of children’s brains, and they apply it to whatever they find.
The same thing is happening in communication technology. Most of us are stumbling along in a kind of pidgin version of it, squinting myopically at things the size of fridges on our desks, not quite understanding where email goes, and cursing at the beeps of mobile phones. Our children, however, are doing something completely different. Risto Linturi, research fellow of the Helsinki Telephone Corporation, quoted in Wired magazine, describes the extraordinary behaviour kids in the streets of Helsinki, all carrying cellphones with messaging capabilities. They are not exchanging important business information, they’re just chattering, staying in touch. “We are herd animals,” he says. “These kids are connected to their herd – they always know where it’s moving.” Pervasive wireless communication, he believes will “bring us back to behaviour patterns that were natural to us and destroy behaviour patterns that were brought about by the limitations of technology.”
We are natural villagers. For most of mankind’s history we have lived in very small communities in which we knew everybody and everybody knew us. But gradually there grew to be far too many of us, and our communities became too large and disparate for us to be able to feel a part of them, and our technologies were unequal to the task of drawing us together. But that is changing.
Interactivity. Many-to-many communications. Pervasive networking. These are cumbersome new terms for elements in our lives so fundamental that, before we lost them, we didn’t even know to have names for them.
By Steve R., 2005, via Amazon.com (originally titled “quasi-religious, psuedo-inspirational, seriously inane drivel”)
Contrived. Pretentious. Juvenile. That’s just the introduction, in which the author discusses his amazement at the popularity this book has gained. It is equally astonishing for any reader who is able to endure more than five pages of: “The Soul of the World spoke to the Heart of the Boy as he prayed to the God of the Dessert who commanded the Spirit of the Wind…” I found myself praying to the God of Literature that the boy’s beloved sheep would stampeded and trample him to death, sparing me from the Demons of Boredom. If you liked the Celestine Prophecy you’ll love The Alchemist. You can read it while you’re waiting for the mothership to return. Otherwise, take a pass and read something more intellectually engaging, like the tax code.
A Scammer Hacked my high school Friend’s facebook account and asked me for money. I asked for love in return. And got it. Transcript below. If she really is stranded in London, I feel real bad about this.
m (scammer): Hello, how are you doing???
lj: hey how are you
m: not good at the moment
lj: oh no whatsup
m: my family and i went to london uk for vacation but unfortunately we got mugged at gun and nifepoint last night
lj: omg! that’s awful is everyone ok?
m: all our cash and credit card was stolen including cell phone:
lj: jeeze! that’s horrible!
m: it was a brutal and scary experience. i was hurt on my right hand but thank god we still got our life and passport saved here with us.
lj: thank god for that! how much longer are you there?
m: our return flight leaves in a few hours from now but w are having some problems setting our hotel bills here… please i need your help now
lj: great but the one condition is we take things back as they were. you leave your husband. you know thatn’s not who you really are. we belong together. and i’ll save you now as i always do but i need a token of your love.
m: you can have it wired to me via western union all you need is my name and location
lj: i think you’re just using me. you don’t love me anymore. remember how you used to send me poetry?
m: please i have limited time here. i am freaked out and mentally unbalanced and can’t think straight. i was hit with a club at the back of the neck. please help me i have limited time here.
lj: not until you tell me how you really feel. in poetry. like you used to.
m: i love you more than you know. just wish you didn’t have to go. just want one more day with you. and i know that’s what you would have wanted to. i miss you more and more each day. there is so much more we have to say. i know i will see you again but my life is just starting to begin. you may not be here with me… but thoughts of you are always in my heart… i miss you!
lj: do you remember how smooth my skin is how shiny my hair and when we kissed the first time you said my lips were like morning dew?
m: you’re my perfect partner, sweet lover, trusted friend. we’re safe within our love. a love that will never end.
m: should i give you the info you need to have the money wired me?
lj: When you’re back in the stated let’s go to the red roof inn
I’ll do things to you to make you remember
m: ok. should i give you the info you need to have the money wired me ???
lj: So you still have your cheerleader outfit?
m: yes..should i give you the info you need to have the money wired me ???
lj: You do? I still have my marching bans outfit the one you said made my ass look like two perfect cantaloupes
And i still have my piccolo. You know how you likes that
I’ll make you get to high c baby
m: 46 Norfolk Square London W2 1RT, United Kingdom
got he info???
how long will it take you to have the money wired to me???
lj: Fine! It’s over! I never want to talk to you again! You were just using me!!!
m: OMG..are you helping me or what??
lj: Tell me I have a big bad piccolo
m: you do
how long will it take you to have the money wired to me???
I don’t care what colour you are. I don’t care where you’re from. I don’t care what you do for a living. I don’t care what class you are, how you dress, what you smoke or drink or who you know or whom you’ve fucked.
I hate you all. I hate every last living, breathing, snot and feces producing, promiscuously copulating, celebrity obsessed, opinionated one of you. From right here in Toronto right around the planet and back, coast to coast, nationwide and internationally. Every. Single. Last. One. Of. You.
Fuck love. Fuck your insipid grasping at some abstract concept of chemical imbalances and reasonless actions, fumbling around in the crowd trying to find some cinematic supposition for real human interaction. Fuck lust, too. Fuck you all, from the lowlife dirtbags that think dropping trou and waving the little soldier in a sloppy arc is a pick-up line to the sniveling of the desperate ‘nice guys’ who never get the girl due to a total lack of testosterone grown stones. Fuck you all, from the crazy, under dressed sluts that judge a persons character by the price of their shirt, right down to the fat, flabby chicks that think personality is enough.
Fuck you drivers, for thinking that a yellow light is a sign that says ‘step on the gas’. Fuck you wheelmen and women that think it’s okay to sit in a left hand turn in the middle of morning traffic, even though there is a protected left in the intersections before and after where you need to make your turn. Fuck you too cyclists - you’re not exempt from the traffic laws just because your peddling, you miserable spandex covered neon reflective fucks. Fuck you too, pedestrians. Use the fucking crosswalk if you don’t want to get hit, and use it before the little countdown clock says ‘3’. You don’t have enough goddamn time to lope across four lanes of traffic.
Fuck you chick on your cellphone. Fuck you attitude packed minimum-wager that makes my coffee. Fuck you cops that spend all their time handing out speeding tickets. Fuck you douche bag doing ten over the limit in the passing lane on the highway. Fuck you lady using exact change at the counter at the grocery store. Fuck you kids having a conversation in the doorway. And fuck you also for not getting the fuck out of your designated handicapped seat when a pregnant or elderly person gets on the fucking bus.
Fuck taxes. Fuck welfare. Fuck the whole selfish, over politicized and party driven government system. I’m sick and fucking tired of policies and new laws with seven hundred bylaws that nobody but you and your cabinet reads. Fuck you councilors and your stupid ‘district improvement’ plans. Fuck you unions, for asking for so much and giving nothing more that what you already give. Fuck the whole process that allows people who are supposed to be working for us work for interests that only benefit the next campaign. Fuck your short-sightedness, your rush to the bandwagons, and your incessant arguing over fuck all. Fuck the parties, fuck the conventions, and fuck your campaigns. Do some real fucking work for a change.
Fuck you bottles of water. You’re water. You’re not worth two fucking dollars. Fuck you trendsetters, fuck you fashionistas. Fuck your little dogs and and your idiotic outfits. Fuck your high heels in the snow. Fuck your five dollar coffees and your fifteen dollar veggie burgers. Fuck your health kick, your diet or your fucking new interest in kickboxing or sushi.
Fuck your culture. Fuck your race. Fuck your sense of entitlement. Fuck your sense of uniqueness. Fuck you all for the belief that you have something unique and interesting to contribute. Fuck you for filling the internet with your useless garbage. Fuck your blogs, your wikis, your forums. Fuck your name calling. And most of all, fuck whatever you believe. It’s all wrong. Fuck it.
Fuck your complaints. Fuck your addictions. Fuck your dependencies. Fuck your pain. Fuck your tears. Fuck selling whatever it is you sell. Fuck your manipulation of others. Fuck movies. Fuck fucking. Fuck everything you own. Fuck your allergies. Fuck your stupid commons sense. Fuck your spelling and fuck your lack of education, or your ignorance, whatever is applicable.
I don’t give a fuck. Shut the fuck up and just get on with it.
If, heaven forbid, I had to limit my bird watching to a single month each year, it could only be April. For starters, you can’t beat April for bird song. This is the time when male birds throw caution to the wind, loudly announcing their presence in an all-out effort to get a date, a mate, and some real estate.
While a jazz trio or a string quartet might suffice for a winter bird performance, only a full orchestra will do in April. The concert begins with the resident wrens, cardinals, chickadees, mockingbirds, and brown thrashers warbling their melodies, while woodpeckers pound out the percussion line.
Each day, as the neo-tropical migrants blow into town, some new “instrument” is added — the reedy “spee, spee” of the blue-gray gnatcatcher; the explosive “wheep” of the great-crested flycatcher; the bubbling trills and clicks of a dozen purple martins. During April, I can rest my eyes and follow my ears, to the raspy “three-A” of a yellow-throated vireo, or the thin, wandering warble of a painted bunting.
Ah, the painted bunting! Now that is a bird worth watching. In fact, a plethora of “eye candy” birds make their annual Low Country appearances each April. Who could refrain from an “ooh” or an “ahh” at the appearance of a scarlet tanager, an indigo bunting, a Baltimore oriole, or a rose-breasted grosbeak?
Along with all that singing comes nest building and egg laying. Carolina wrens seem to have a competition each year to see which pair can come up with the most unusual nest site. Hanging plants are always popular, as are kayak ledges, bicycle helmets, and anything sitting unused in a shed.
Another April attraction is the colonial nesting extravaganza of the long-legged wading birds. Herons, egrets, ibis and wood storks gather in swampy wetlands to model the latest in fancy dress for spring. Showy, white plumes — dubbed “aigrettes” in French — are the attire of choice for snowy and great egrets. Tri-colored herons don a tan mantle and sporty white head plume, while white ibis announce their ardor with intensely pink down-curved bills and matching legs. For wood storks, their black feathers take on a metallic green cast while white sides turn a blushing peach. They finish off the outfit with feet turned startlingly pink.
While most of the ducks that spend the winter here are headed north to breed, the year-round resident wood ducks, mallards, and mottled ducks play their own version of the mating game. Small groups of wood ducks engage in a little competitive flaunt and chase behavior.
Male wood ducks are decidedly handsome, but they won’t win the “best husband” award. He leaves his hard-working mate to incubate her 6-15 eggs for 25 to 35 days. One day after the young ducklings hatch, they leave the nest cavity and follow mama to the water. April is a great time to see baby ducklings, which the female alone tends for five to six weeks.
April is also a great month for birds at the beach. Red knots, sanderlings, black-bellied plovers, ruddy turnstones, dunlin, and dowitchers are dressing up in their breeding best and layering on the fat, in preparation for the long flight to the Arctic. Laughing gulls don their snappy black helmets, while royal terns and black skimmers noisily court with fish.
And if all the above activity weren’t enough to make me want to spend the entire month of April doing nothing but watching birds, there are still are few lingering winter visitors to be found. White-throated sparrows can be heard singing their sweet “oh, Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody” while ruby-crowned kinglets and yellow-rumped warblers do a little practice courting before they too head north. Adding to the excitement, the male American goldfinches are finally showing their true colors.
Two people so close as you and I, man. Like blood brothers. I can’t believe you sold me out for nothing. You sold me out over jealousy.
But when I look around, I see a few confused people. Some of your people, man. The ones that aren’t Hulkamaniacs. Well for those people let me lay it out straight for you. Some straight talk.
God created the Heaven. He created the Earth. He created all the Hulkamaniacs. Then he created a set of 24-inch pythons, brother. And the reason for it is to straighten people up like you, Mr. Wonderful. People that don’t have their priorities in order, who don’t realize who the boss is, man.
Well for you, Mr. Wonderful, your time is here tonight, brother. And when I think about it, you know, the old Mr. Wonderful’s back like you got a new paint job or something. Big deal. I’m the old battered down, broken down Hulkster that just keeps running better than ever, man.
Loyalty is what it’s all about. Ultimate trust. The bond between me and my Hulkamaniacs. And old Mr. Wonderful, I’m gonna smoke right by you. But just remember one thing, dude. You’re an old dog, man, that can’t even wag his own tail. There’s no way you’re ever going to beat me.
This shall be written. The Hulkster said it shall be done. Your time is now, Mr. Wonderful.
The dumbing down of society continues unabated. We live in a world where irredeemable pap like The Black Eyed Peas’ “The Time (Dirty Bit)” tops the charts, where Peaches Geldof not only has a career but is paid to appear on telly and, like, talk about stuff, and stuff.
We live in a world where people make gameshows about squeezing through funny-shaped holes or repeatedly falling in water. These programmes are watched by millions more people than compelling, mature dramas like Mad Men and Rubicon. To quote professional sourface Charlton Brooker: the idiots are winning.
If we could pinpoint a single moment when the entire world descended into this sinkhole of stupidity, it would be the release of Angry Birds. This is a game that has apparently been downloaded over 100 million times. To put it into context, that’s as many records as The Who or Metallica or Deep Purple have ever sold.
Recently, Eurogamer contributor Simon Parkin Tweeted the profoundly depressing fact that “every 30 days, humanity spends the same amount of time playing Angry Birds as it took to build Wikipedia to date.” 200 million minutes a day.
That’s 200 million minutes a day playing a random, frustrating puzzle game with a fundamentally broken control scheme, a baffling score structure and no reward system to speak of. The world has officially gone mental. The idiots, I repeat, are winning.
There’s no sense of progression. Levels might get slightly tougher, but once you’ve seen all the different bird types that’s it.
That’s not to say I don’t understand why Angry Birds has bewitched so many. As much as I hate the game – and I really, truly despise it – it’s easy to see why it might appeal.
For starters, we’re hardwired to enjoy the sight of things falling down. I’d be massively distrustful of anyone who watches footage of buildings being demolished and doesn’t think something along the lines of, “That’s pretty awesome.”
It’s easier and more fun to destroy than to create. Angry Birds’ ostensibly simple physics puzzles play on that mentality for all they’re worth, setting up what outwardly look like fairly delicate, flimsy structures for you and your furious feathered friends to destroy.
It helps that your enemy is so detestable. Those pigs are genuinely hateful swine, nicking your flock’s eggs seemingly without rhyme or reason and smugly smirking when you don’t quite manage to destroy them.
If tapped in mid-air to increase their velocity, the yellow birds can smash through obstacles. When they feel like it, anyway.
They’re spectacularly amoral, not once mourning their fallen friends, seemingly non-plussed by the fact that their piggy chums have just been turned into mincemeat. If they survive, they smile and snort out a little chuckle. You have failed.
And, of course, you will fail. Time and time again. Not because the game is cruel but scrupulously fair – like, for example, Demon’s Souls – but because it is designed to make you fail. It is a game cynically constructed to frustrate you just enough so that you’ll keep trying to defeat the pigs.
And when you do? Well, there are more and more levels to attempt, because Rovio keeps adding new themed stages for you to download. The pigs just keep coming. Think about that: you’re fighting a battle you can never truly win.
It doesn’t help that you’re hardly in a position to succeed in the first place, so heavily are the odds weighted towards your porcine foes. The structures they inhabit are invariably nowhere near as feeble as they initially seem, all but requiring you to fire your birds at the pixel-wide weak point that will send them walls a-tumblin’.
And that’s before you get to the buggers with the granite headwear. You could, I suppose, admit the game is fairly realistic in that respect – catapult a bird at a sheet of ice or a slab of concrete at high speed and it’s not hard to guess which is going to come off worse.
All of which would be fine, except it’s impossible to determine that perfect shot. Getting it right is simply a matter of perseverance and educated guesswork: you plug away and plug away until all the pigs are destroyed and you can move on.
With no way of knowing the trajectory or power of your last shot, you poke lazily and impotently at the screen, trying to locate the exact point of release the game requires you to find.
It’s like being asked to hit a bullseye in darts, only the dart is replaced by a cocktail sausage with a pin in the end, the oche is 50 feet away from the board, the board is made from blancmange and you have to throw with your feet. In the dark. In a wind tunnel. On Mars.
But the rewards for completing such a Sisyphean task are worth the effort, right? Not a chance. You get a few half-hearted whoops from the remaining birds, a silly little jingle plays, and you’re given a grade between one and three stars.
Hallowe’en stages add thrilling new features like ‘more orange and black graphics’.
Yet the scoring system seems to be governed by an arcane set of rules which probably not even the developer can entirely fathom. Wipe out all pigs with a couple of perfectly-aimed launches and you might get a piffling single star. Bludgeon your way through with a flukey final fling that somehow dislodges that tiny piece of wood above the one remaining pig? Three stars.
I’ve played stages over and over, trying to figure out exactly how it works, and the scientific conclusion I finally arrived at is this: the game simply makes it up.
So, it’s random. Random games can be fun. But most games with a hefty element of luck at their core at least attempt to deflect the player’s attention away from the fact.
Take Popcap’s equally moreish Peggle, for example. It has a far superior setup to Angry Birds, at least affording you the illusion of fine control to guide your shot, even if its eventual trajectory is nigh-on impossible to predict.
But even if it didn’t, it’d still have the slo-mo zoom on that final peg, the thunderous drum roll, those fireworks and that stirring rendition of Beethoven’s Ode To Joy to celebrate successful completion of a level.
The iPad version offers you a wider view of the level, while increasing the margin of error for each shot.
Angry Birds has none of that. There are no audiovisual pyrotechnics, no fanfares, just a shrug and an arbitrary score and you’re back to the level select screen. “You won?” it says. “Meh. Keep playing, sucker.”
It’s not as if its visual identity is particularly strong. The birds themselves have become icons simply through ubiquity; they’re not characters, just units of ammunition of different shapes and colours who happen to share a similarly narked-off expression.
Otherwise you’re playing an entirely ordinary Flash game, the kind of throwaway nonsense you would usually waste ten minutes of your lunch break on and then completely forget you’d ever played.
It’s barely even a game, more a modern executive toy to give your thumbs something to do when you’re feeling particularly bored and feeble and bleh. Because there’s barely any skill involved, there’s no satisfaction to repeating the same mundane actions.
Plus, the wildly uneven difficulty level ensures you never feel like you’re improving. Periodically Rovio will chuck in the odd ludicrously easy level in an attempt to throw the player a bone, but that just makes you feel like you’re being patronised.
But what annoys me most about Angry Birds is that it’s consistently held up as a shining beacon of quality game design, apparently for no other reason than the fact that it’s popular. This fact is wheeled out every time anyone tries to say something nice about it.
Just about the only quality you could reasonably attribute to Angry Birds is that somehow, despite everything, it compels people to play on. Rovio has blundered upon that secret formula, the magical tipping point that has you teetering on the brink of throwing your iWhatsit across the room but bringing you back from the edge every time.
That it’s addictive is almost undoubtable. But then crystal meth is addictive, yet no-one’s falling over themselves to garland it with Drug of the Year awards.
It’s understandable that most iOS developers are looking to create the next Angry Birds. People have to put food on the table, and a franchise that permeates the mainstream consciousness to the extent the Prime Minister has declared himself a fan (really, if there’s a better argument not to play a game than the fact that beady-eyed berk likes it, I’ve not seen one) is obviously a desirable target to aim for.
But it’s impossible not to worry that it’s going to inspire a whole generation of bedroom coders to simply try to copy the formula, creating an ill-advised metaphor of copycat games that have a contemptuous attitude towards their players, keeping them just frustrated enough not to switch off and play something else instead.
I’d much rather developers were looking to make the new Trainyard, the new Drop 7, the new Solipskier – though Tiny Wings creator Andreas Illiger is kind of already there with that last one – rather than face an impossibly bleak future of Angry Birds clones.
Let’s have games that reward and respect their users without cynically trying to squeeze more money out of them. Games that can stand up to repeat plays without the crutch of sporadically released copy-pasted extra stages masquerading as fresh ‘themed’ content. Games that don’t actively endeavour to prevent half their players from reaching the end.
Oh yes. If you’re struggling to beat a stage on Angry Birds, you can always – for a small fee, of course - resort to cheating.
Rovio’s Peter Vesterbacka spoke proudly at GDC of the fact that 40 per cent of Angry Birds players had purchased the Mighty Eagle feature. This is essentially a smart bomb that instantly clears the level you’re stuck on. Vesterbacka said he hoped to increase that total to 50 per cent.
In summary: a game-maker wants his game to be so frustrating that half its users are forced to pay for a cheat code so they can progress. The prosecution rests. If you’re playing Angry Birds right now – and the law of averages suggests you probably are, because you’re 1500 words in and starting to flag and ooh look they’ve just released those new Rio levels – then please, please stop.
Go outside. Phone your parents. Wash the car. Kick the dog. Do something, anything other than playing this stupid, miserable, cynical game which has somehow managed to enslave you and the rest of the inhabitants of Planet Apple. You might just thank me for it later.
In Part 1 of my seven part series “An Ode to Rebecca Black’s Friday” I discussed the appeal of Black’s pure and heartfelt approach to the mundane. Now that “Friday” has reached 100,000,000 hits on YouTube, it’s time for further exploration into what makes “Friday” so special.
“Friday” has recently been treated to a number of comedic deconstructions of its lyrics. Rebecca Black herself recorded a Funny or Die video to explain among other things how the choice between the front seat and the back seat was really a metaphor for American foreign policy. And Dana Vachon of the The Awl eloquently unmasked “Friday” for the radical revolutionary text it is.
However, the humor in these discussions is that they treat a song perceived to be the worst example of a stupid pop video with such unearned seriousness. However, “Friday” is in fact something far more than a stupid pop video. “Friday” is the perfect, if albeit unwitting, satire of a stupid pop video.
The big criticism of pop music is that it’s manufactured, designed in a laboratory to get as many plays as possible by Ryan Seacrest, without having any actual artistic worth. The artists are puppets — they don’t write their own music or even have great voices. They’ve just somehow managed to find the right puppet-masters to pull their strings and market their image.
“Friday” plays into this perfectly. As The Huffington Post commented, “If aliens watched a highlight video of pop music videos and tried to make their own this would be the result.”
First and foremost, Rebecca Black is the perfect zombified embodiment of a teen pop star. She’s pretty enough to pass for a teen pop star, yet you immediately notice something is not quite right with her. From her autotuned voice to her oddly glazed over stare, it’s as if the pop music factory had finally just given up on real live humans and just assembled a robot impersonator. Watch the very opening of “Friday” — Black’s eyes open, she robotically sits up in bed and starts singing — and there is more than a passing resemblance to Vicki from “Small Wonder.”
The video goes on to brilliantly deconstruct almost every ridiculous pop video trope there is, which, as previously discussed, is highlighted through the strange disconnect between lyrics almost Dadaesque in their assemblage of banalities and the heartfelt emotion of the music. What Black’s lyrics are doing is narrating a typical pop music video, stripping away the artifice, exposing the essence, and revealing the black hole of meaning beneath.
We start with Black narrating her morning — she’s gotta wake up, have her bowl, get down to the bus stop. And this is how countless pop songs begin, with the real world preparatory period before you meet your friends and the party starts. And lo and behold as Black’s friends pull up in a car, Black continues to narrate — she sees her friends, some are in the front seat, some are in the back seat, and now she has to decide which seat to take. While most of this is usually unspoken in a music video, “Friday” brings the action to the forefront. This is actually exactly what is going on in most music videos. “Friday” is just being upfront about it.
Then we get to the chorus where, once again, “Friday” strips everything down to its essence, capturing the hollow spirit of countless pop song choruses — it’s Friday, we’re looking forward to the weekend, and, in my favorite moment of pop satire, zombie children robotically chant, “Partyin’ partyin’ yeah, fun fun fun fun” over and over.
“Friday” goes on to check off a number of other pop music video cliches — riding in an open convertible, the gathering of cars, the house party, etc. Then Black infamously informs us of the order of the days of the week. Is there a more perfect bridge satire than this? Who ever likes the bridge? It always just seems like a boring and needless interlude inserted only because songwriting 101 says it has to be there. But amen to“Friday.” It’s like if you want a useless bridge, we’ll give you a useless bridge.
And then, it takes it one step further by having fat Usher perform a satire of bizarre rap interludes in white teenybopper music. The song finally ends with Black chanting the chorus over and over, while in the background she continuously wails in her most heartfelt zombie wail, “Friiiidddaaaay, ohhhh.”
And ultimately, this is also what makes “Friday” work. Because even though Black is the perfect embodiment of a manufactured pop star robot, she’s also a robot that seems to be trying really really hard. And that too is a necessary part of our relationship to pop music and pop artists. That even despite the pop music machine, we still root for our pop star Pinnochios, hoping that there is a real artist in there trying to break free and rise above the machine.
by Martin Luther King Jr., 1968 (excerpt from “The Drum Major Instinct”)
If you want to be important, wonderful.
If you want to be recognized, wonderful.
If you want to be great, wonderful.
But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s the new definition of greatness.
And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.
You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.
In the eternal debate between Superman vs. Batman — who would win, who’s better, who would you rather be, who would you rather sleep with — it’s pretty clear that Batman has won the coolness war theses days, even if Superman would obviously kick his ass, The Dark Knight Returns be damned. After all, Batman is complicated and brooding. He’s got a dark past and no powers, which makes him all the more heroic and badass, right?
Bullshit, I say.
Batman is one of those guys that at first you think is all deep and mysterious and sexy, but then it turns out he’s just an asshole. Which is not to say I don’t like the Batman oeuvre. I just don’t like Batman.
My problem with Batman is that he cloaks his actions under the guise of trying to fight crime, help Gotham, and generally make the world a better place, but it’s not about those things at all. It’s really just all about him. Becoming a one man vigilante crimefighter is an idiotic solution to the problems that Batman supposedly cares about. Now, if you’ve got superpowers that can easily save lives or fight crime on a significant scale, then you should be out using your powers for good. If you don’t, you’re kind of an asshole. But Batman doesn’t have any superpowers. You know what he does have?
Billions of fucking dollars.
Do you know what Batman could do with that money if he really wanted to help Gotham? But instead he dresses up like a bat and punches bad guys in dark alleyways. If Batman were poor, perhaps becoming a crimefighter would be the best he could offer Gotham. But Batman is not poor, and if he really cared about Gotham City, he’d spend all the time and money he spends being Batman on actually trying to help fix Gotham. And yeah, yeah, he has the Wayne Foundation, but the clear focus of his time and money is Batman, which is a pretty inefficient way to go about solving crime and corruption.
Batman just wants to dress up and feel like a bad ass and hit some criminals. And that’s fine. But that’s about Batman. That’s not about Gotham or crime or justice. And ultimately, if Batman were just a fucked up guy playacting his hero/vengeance fantasies on the streets along with Gotham’s other wack-jobs, then I’d be cool with that, even putting aside the fact that he’s probably inciting as much crime as he’s stopping. But the thing that really puts Batman over the top on the asshole meter is that he has to be so self-righteous about it all.
Like can Batman please stop brooding over how tough it is to be Batman and make all these hard choices. As set forth above, he doesn’t have to be Batman if he doesn’t want to be, and he could actually use his time in a far more productive manner. He doesn’t get to pull the with great power comes great responsibility it’s so hard to be a superhero card. So if he wants to be Batman, fine, be Batman, but stop whining about it.
Instead Batman has basically constructed his own delusional fantasy world where he ascribes artificial weight to his own actions in order to feel important. His constant moral quandaries over whether he should kill the Joker? Who cares. I mean his big difficult dilemma is whether he can kill a deranged serial killer who has killed hundreds of people and destroyed the lives of many more? At least if you’re going to be a vigilante, don’t be a wuss about it.
I’m not saying Batman should just kill the Joker in cold blood if he can easily apprehend him. But he doesn’t have to go out of his way to save him. If they’re in a fight, no one’s going to mind if Batman shoots the Joker in the face with his grappling gun. In fact killing the Joker might be the one beneficial thing Batman could do for Gotham, yet he could never ever do that because he’s too noble. Except this nobility is just part of his delusional self-image. Batman’s not noble. He’s a creepy loser who needs to be honest with himself — he doest’t kill the Joker because he likes having the Joker around. The Joker completes Batman as much as Batman completes the Joker.
And look, maybe we should cut Batman some slack. Seeing your parents murdered before your eyes is pretty rough. But you know what? Grow up, get some therapy, and move on. You know who had it worse than Batman? Pretty much every orphan ever.
But they’re not all out on the streets beating up people to make themselves feel better. And it’s not because of lack of money or because they aren’t heroic enough. It’s because it’s a stupid, insane, narcissistic reaction. Bruce Wayne’s parents getting killed isn’t the reason Bruce Wayne becomes Batman. It’s the excuse.
Batman isn’t heroic. He’s an overgrown child with a hero complex, so trapped in his delusions of grandeur that he can’t become a productive or functioning person.
When I was a freshman in college, a chain-smoking film student I befriended declared that we must attend a midnight showing of filmmaker Kevin Smith’s Catholic extravaganza Dogma. I agreed because I thought the kid was dreamy. I hadn’t liked or understood Clerks,Mallrats or Chasing Amy, and I certainly didn’t expect to like or understand Smith’s latest film.
Two hours later, I emerged from the theater crying.
"Uh, are you okay?" my companion asked.
"That was beautiful," I said, tears running down my face. "I didn’t know you could swear and talk about God and have it feel like that."
He rolled his eyes.
"You only liked that movie because you’re a Catholic from New Jersey," he said. "I need to show you some real art."
And while his 2-minute freshman midterm film about his bookshelf had been the best in his class, the kid was dead wrong. The fact that Smith was also a post-papist product of a nowhere Jersey town was inspiring, but there was far more to my reaction than that.
When I saw Dogma, I finally got Kevin Smith. Here was a guy who genuinely loved his characters in a way that few storytellers in any medium do. Dogma showed me a fellow foul-mouthed weirdo of faith who was confused and angry and hopelessly, eternally in love with the messy process of figuring out where (and if) divinity and humanity intersect. And for all the hypersexual banter and outrageous imagery, here was a heterosexual male artist with a clear respect and love for women.
In Smith’s world, it was okay to laugh at the darkness, at the light, and at everything in between. You could even laugh at God. If God existed, he/she was probably laughing back, anyway.
From that day on, I’ve been a Kevin Smith fan. I still haven’t seen all his films, but over the years I’ve found myself increasingly fascinated by the non-film aspects of his mini-empire.
Smith’s been online forever, and his View Askew message board has long been a thriving community. Through his popular cross-country Q&A tours, his active Twitter presence, his Red Bank, NJ comic book shop, and especially his multi-tentacled podcast universe (of particular note is the “Plus One” podcast featuring Smith and his ferociously clever wife, Jennifer Schwalbach), Smith provides a brilliant model for any artist seeking to make his or her mark in today’s fragmented, hyper-paced cultural landscape. His much-publicized mission to self-release the fundamentalist-skewering horror film Red State in one city at a time (with a later wide release) is the logical extension of a career that has always been built on a grassroots DIY aesthetic.
Kevin Smith provided the model on which I’ve based my own professional life. Now, I’m not a filmmaker. I’m a comic, which is another word for “con artist.” Inexplicably, I have made a career out of tricking people into paying me to write or say things that I think are funny. My audience is much smaller than Smith’s, but it’s big enough to fool my parents into thinking their eldest has some kind of semi-respectable career. That’s a win.
I try to follow Smith’s template, whether I’m talking to TV viewers, college students, comedy fans, political nerds on Wonkette or Indecision, advice-seekers on Formspring, folks on Twitter, fellow-travelers on Facebook, or the gloriously insane masses on YouTube. Today, many people (especially the under-40 ones) expect a previously-unimaginable level of interactivity with artists. It isn’t tied to promotion for specific events, either. They want to be able to reach their artist regardless of whether there’s a new product dropping soon.
Kevin Smith taught me everything I know about how to grow an audience and build an army of fellow weirdos. The short version of the lesson is this: Be as open as you can about as much as you can, because people crave honesty in art the way a sunflower craves the light. Give them who you really are, and they’ll turn their faces to you time and time again.
As I bought my $124 ticket online to see Red State plus a live Smith Q&A at Radio City Music Hall, I thought of the doubtful teen who’d unenthusiastically waited in line to buy a ticket to that screening of Dogma. That girl sure as hell didn’t want to be a comedian. If I recall correctly, she wanted to be a college professor (this after less than a semester of actual college). I knew exactly what she’d say if she could see me now. It’s a sentiment I have no doubt many of my friends and many of Smith’s critics would make today.
"You spent one hundred and twenty four f%*#ing dollars on a ticket to a Kevin Smith movie?”
I sure did, kiddo. Don’t worry; when you grow up, you’ll understand.
It seems to me that it was far from right for the Professor of English Literature at Yale, the Professor of English Literature in Columbia, and Wilkie Collins to deliver opinions on Cooper’s literature without having read some of it. It would have been much more decorous to keep silent and let persons talk who have read Cooper.
Cooper’s art has some defects. In one place in “Deerslayer,” and in the restricted space of two-thirds of a page, Cooper has scored 114 offenses against literary art out of a possible 115. It breaks the record.
There are nineteen rules governing literary art in domain of romantic fiction — some say twenty-two. In “Deerslayer,” Cooper violated eighteen of them. These eighteen require:
1. That a tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere. But the “Deerslayer” tale accomplishes nothing and arrives in air.
2. They require that the episodes in a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help to develop it. But as the “Deerslayer” tale is not a tale, and accomplishes nothing and arrives nowhere, the episodes have no rightful place in the work, since there was nothing for them to develop.
3. They require that the personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others. But this detail has often been overlooked in the “Deerslayer” tale.
4. They require that the personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there. But this detail also has been overlooked in the “Deerslayer” tale.
5. The require that when the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject at hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say. But this requirement has been ignored from the beginning of the “Deerslayer” tale to the end of it.
6. They require that when the author describes the character of a personage in the tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description. But this law gets little or no attention in the “Deerslayer” tale, as Natty Bumppo’s case will amply prove.
7. They require that when a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand-tooled, seven- dollar Friendship’s Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a negro minstrel in the end of it. But this rule is flung down and danced upon in the “Deerslayer” tale.
8. They require that crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader as “the craft of the woodsman, the delicate art of the forest,” by either the author or the people in the tale. But this rule is persistently violated in the “Deerslayer” tale.
9. They require that the personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable. But these rules are not respected in the “Deerslayer” tale.
10. They require that the author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and in their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones. But the reader of the “Deerslayer” tale dislikes the good people in it, is indifferent to the others, and wishes they would all get drowned together.
11. They require that the characters in a tale shall be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency. But in the “Deerslayer” tale, this rule is vacated.
In addition to these large rules, there are some little ones. These require that the author shall:
12. Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.
13. Use the right word, not its second cousin.
14. Eschew surplusage.
15. Not omit necessary details.
16. Avoid slovenliness of form.
17. Use good grammar.
18. Employ a simple and straightforward style.
Even these seven are coldly and persistently violated in the “Deerslayer” tale.
You jaywalked your way out of the womb I would recognize you anywhere from the hiccup in your swagger Tell me where in the world did you find all that thunder?
There have never been any seat belts on your side of the car You have always known the better magic tricks You told me once that I was just the first draft And I’m inclined to believe you But you came with a lot more pieces to assemble And mom and dad never got the manual
Your compass always points north But it’s a bit of a crap shoot as to whether you’ll ever walk in that direction And I like that It keeps people on their toes
In the carousal ride of your life The merry-go-round ponies are all narwhals Their horns point straight up
The day they build you a constellation It will be the entire F train spread across the milky way You will be a satellite who dips in and out of every single car The minute it comes to a stop Pissing off everybody on the subway platform And kicking up stardust in your wake
You can solve a Law and Order before the first commercial break
Once, when you were seven You came into the kitchen and asked mom,
“Does my name begin with the letter P because P is the sixteenth letter of the alphabet, and I was born on June sixteenth, and is Sarah just Sarah because S is the nineteenth letter and she was born on the nineteenth day of June?”
And when mom said no, you nodded your head And left the kitchen mumbling to yourself, “Okay, just salt and pepper then.”
You are my favorite stick of dynamite You are the opposite of a rubber band There are so many things I would tell you if I thought that you would listen And so many more you’d tell me if you believed I would understand
I hope you know you were never meant to wear this shadow In fact, I’m the one who always steals your shoes but…
Is that my sweatshirt you’re wearing?
It’s okay. You can keep it. In fact, it really does look better on you.
It’s taken me a long time to admit this to myself, but I can no longer deny the truth.
I am in an abusive relationship with Glee.
As with most such relationships, ours started off with so much promise and hope. You quickly wooed me with your talent and your heart, your story of small town misfits finding the courage to express themselves and strive for more. And what girl doesn’t like a musical.
But things quickly took a turn for the worse. All that well-crafted emotion disappeared almost immediately. Acafellas? What the hell was that about? I started to suspect you had a drug problem, as you would whip through storylines that could have and should have taken seasons to develop in the course of an hour. I started to wonder where this could possibly go.
But we still had our moments — sectionals, Kurt, the emergence of Brittany — so I stuck around to see if maybe I was wrong about you. I soon realized I wasn’t, but I decided that even if you were mercurial, shallow, and didn’t have the capacity for nuance or genuine emotion, you were a good place to bide time until something better came along. And let’s be honest, I didn’t have a whole lot else going on in my TV life at that point.
It was sometime in the middle of season 2, though, when I started to realize that the bad was seriously outweighing the good. You weren’t even pretending to try. Even Sue Sylvester, who had once kept me laughing even when things were bad, seemed like a cloying version of her former self. And you were content to heap on the abuse — idiotic story lines, lackluster musical numbers, the Christmas episode.
I think you could feel me slipping away. So straight out of the playbook, you tried to play nice and apologize, desperately flaunting your former best qualities — Kurt’s storyline, Brittany’s one liners — to get me to stay. You even introduced Blaine. And I’d buy it for a while, and we’d fall back into the same old pattern, but the problem was, you weren’t fixing the fundamental problem — your complete inability to develop a meaningful storyline or evolve your characters.
I knew it was time to leave, but your episodes were still in my Tivo, so I hung around a little longer. But I was watching with one foot out the door, Tivoing past everything but the musical numbers, knowing I would soon walk away for good.
But I overestimated myself. Like you always do, you came crawling back, giving me the alcohol episode, Kurt’s dad’s sex talk, Brittany and Santana. So once again I stayed, even though I know you haven’t really changed, and you never really will. You’re still never going to be able to figure out what to do with Finn or Rachel. Or with Mr. Schuester and Emma. You’re still going to make me watch Gwenyth Paltrow sing Joan Jett. You already fucked up Kurt and Blaine’s first kiss.
But I still can’t seem to walk away even though I know I should. Frankly, at this point I don’t know who I hate more — you or me. All I know is that I really wish I knew how to quit you, Glee.
Listen up. I know the shit you’ve been saying behind my back. You think I’m stupid. You think I’m immature. You think I’m a malformed, pathetic excuse for a font. Well think again, nerdhole, because I’m Comic Sans, and I’m the best thing to happen to typography since Johannes fucking Gutenberg.
You don’t like that your coworker used me on that note about stealing her yogurt from the break room fridge? You don’t like that I’m all over your sister-in-law’s blog? You don’t like that I’m on the sign for that new Thai place? You think I’m pedestrian and tacky? Guess the fuck what, Picasso. We don’t all have seventy-three weights of stick-up-my-ass Helvetica sitting on our seventeen-inch MacBook Pros. Sorry the entire world can’t all be done in stark Eurotrash Swiss type. Sorry some people like to have fun. Sorry I’m standing in the way of your minimalist Bauhaus-esque fascist snoozefest. Maybe sometime you should take off your black turtleneck, stop compulsively adjusting your Tumblr theme, and lighten the fuck up for once.
People love me. Why? Because I’m fun. I’m the life of the party. I bring levity to any situation. Need to soften the blow of a harsh message about restroom etiquette? SLAM. There I am. Need to spice up the directions to your graduation party? WHAM. There again. Need to convey your fun-loving, approachable nature on your business’ website? SMACK. Like daffodils in motherfucking spring.
When people need to kick back, have fun, and party, I will be there, unlike your pathetic fonts. While Gotham is at the science fair, I’m banging the prom queen behind the woodshop. While Avenir is practicing the clarinet, I’m shredding “Reign In Blood” on my double-necked Stratocaster. While Univers is refilling his allergy prescriptions, I’m racing my tricked-out, nitrous-laden Honda Civic against Tokyo gangsters who’ll kill me if I don’t cross the finish line first. I am a sans serif Superman and my only kryptonite is pretentious buzzkills like you.
It doesn’t even matter what you think. You know why, jagoff? Cause I’m famous. I am on every major operating system since Microsoft fucking Bob. I’m in your signs. I’m in your browsers. I’m in your instant messengers. I’m not just a font. I am a force of motherfucking nature and I will not rest until every uptight armchair typographer cock-hat like you is surrounded by my lovable, comic-book inspired, sans-serif badassery.
Enough of this bullshit. I’m gonna go get hammered with Papyrus.
A rant against the state of the world / An ode to getting mad
By Howard Beale, 1976, Network
I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth; banks are going bust; shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter; punks are running wild in the street, and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it.
We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat. And we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be!
We all know things are bad — worse than bad — they’re crazy.
It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out any more. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we’re living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, “Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials, and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.”
Well, I’m not going to leave you alone.
I want you to get mad!
I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot. I don’t want you to write to your Congressman, because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street.
All I know is that first, you’ve got to get mad.
You’ve gotta say, “I’m a human being, goddammit! My life has value!”
So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
First, let me say I love my job and it is a privilege to work for my clients. I wish I could do more for them. That being said, there are a few things that need to be discussed.
You have the right to remain silent. So SHUT THE FUCK UP. Those cops are completely serious when they say your statements can and will be used against you. There’s just no need to babble on like it’s a drink and dial session. They are just pretending to like you and be interested in you.
When you come to court, consider your dress. If you’re charged with a DUI, don’t wear a Budweiser shirt. If you have some miscellaneous drug charge, think twice about clothing with a marijuana leaf on it or a t-shirt with the “UniBonger” on it. Long sleeves are very nice for covering tattoos and track marks. Try not to be visibly drunk when you show up.
Consider bathing and brushing your teeth. This is just as a courtesy to me who has to stand by you in court. Smoking 5 generic cigarettes to cover up your bad breath is not the same as brushing. Try not to cough and spit on me while you speak and further transmit your strep, flu, and hepatitis A through Z.
I’m a lawyer, not your fairy godmother. I probably won’t find a loophole or technicality for you, so don’t be pissed off. I didn’t beat up your girlfriend, steal that car, rob that liquor store, sell that crystal meth, or rape that 13 year old. By the time we meet, much of your fate has been sealed, so don’t be too surprised by your limited options and that I’m the one telling you about them.
Don’t think you’ll improve my interest in your case by yelling at me, telling me I’m not doing anything for you, calling me a public pretender or complaining to my supervisor. This does not inspire me, it makes me hate you and want to work with you even less.
It does not help if you leave me nine messages in 17 minutes. Especially if you leave them all on Saturday night and early Sunday morning. This just makes me want to stab you in the eye when we finally meet.
For the guys: Don’t think I’m amused when you flirt or offer to “do me.” You can’t successfully rob a convenience store, forge a signature, pawn stolen merchandise, get through a day without drinking, control your temper, or talk your way out of a routine traffic stop. I figure your performance in other areas is just as spectacular, and the thought of your shriveled unwashed body near me makes me want to kill you and then myself.
For the girls: I know your life is rougher than mine and you have no resources. I’m not going to insult you by suggesting you leave your abusive pimp/boyfriend, that you stop taking meth, or that your stop stealing shit. I do wish you’d stop beating the crap out of your kids and leaving your needles out for them to play with because you aren’t allowing them to have a life that is any better than yours.
For the morons: Your second grade teacher was right — neatness counts. Just clean up! When you rob the store, don’t leave your wallet. When you drive into the front of the bank, don’t leave the front license plate. When you rape/assault/rob a woman on the street, don’t leave behind your cell phone. After you abuse your girlfriend, don’t leave a note saying that you’re sorry.
If you are being chased by the cops and you have dope in your pocket — dump it. These cops are not geniuses. They are out of shape and want to go to Krispy Kreme and most of all go home. They will not scour the woods or the streets for your 2 grams of meth. But they will check your pockets, idiot. 2 grams is not worth six months of jail.
Don’t be offended and say you were harassed because the security was following you all over the store. Girl, you were wearing an electronic ankle bracelet with your mini skirt. And you were stealing. That’s not harassment, that’s good store security.
And those kids you churn out: how is it possible? You’re out there breeding like feral cats. What exactly is the attraction of having sex with other meth addicts? You are lacking in the most basic aspects of hygiene, deathly pale, greasy, grey-toothed, twitchy and covered with open sores. How can you be having sex? You make my baby-whoring crack head clients look positively radiant by comparison.
"I didn’t put it all the way in." Not a defense.
"All the money is gone now." Not a defense
"The bitch deserved it." Not a defense.
"But that dope was so stepped on, I barely got high." Not a defense.
"She didn’t look thirteen." Possibly a defense; it depends.
"She didn’t look six." Never a defense, you just need to die.
For those rare clients that say thank-you, leave a voice mail, send a card or flowers, you are very welcome. I keep them all, and they keep me going more than my pitiful COLA increase.
For the idiots who ask me how I sleep at night: I sleep just fine, thank you. There’s nothing wrong with any of my clients that could not have been fixed with money or the presence of at least one caring adult in their lives. But that window has closed, and that loss diminishes us all.
This is Hideaki Akaiwa. When the Tsunami hit his home town of Ishinomaki, Hideaki was at work. Realising his wife was trapped in their home, he ignored the advice of professionals, who told him to wait for the army to arrive to provide search and rescue.
Instead he found some scuba gear, jumped in the raging torrent - dodging cars, houses and other debris being dragged around by the powerful current, any of which could have killed him instantly - and navigated the now submerged streets in pitch dark, freezing water until he found his house. Swimming inside, he discovered his wife alive on the upper level with only a small amount of breathing room, and sharing his resperator, pulled her out to safety.
If he had waited for the army, his wife of 20 years would be dead.
Oh, and if that’s not enough badassery for one lifetime, Hideaki realised his mother was also unaccounted for, so jumped back in the water and managed to save her life also. Since then Hideaki enters the water everyday on a one man search and rescue mission, saving countless lives and proving that two natural disasters in a single day, and insurmountable odds can’t stand in the way of love. This man is my hero.
I hate you UPS. I really, really hate you. I sit around all day waiting for your package, and then you have the gall to tell me that you made a failed delivery attempt. You’re a fucking liar. We both know that you did not buzz my apartment. And it’s not like this is the first time this has happened. I think you take some sick twisted pleasure in making me trek out to post-apocalyptic downtown to pick up my packages after you fail to alert me to your presence when you make your “delivery attempts.” Yet every time I bring this up, you try to make me feel like I’m crazy or histrionic, or worst of all, that it’s my fault. And the sad part is I believed you. But no longer. I’m not letting you play the victim anymore. I mean is it so hard to buzz my apartment or read the notice with my signature authorizing you to leave the package? No, it’s not. If I were a powerful gypsy I’d curse you with a soul so that you’d suffer for an eternity finally realizing all the pain you have caused me and others. Sadly, this is not an option. Nor can I completely break ties with you as we seem to run in some of the same business circles. But I want you to know that ever time I deal with you, it is with a hate-filled heart. So fuck you, UPS.
And btw, I’ve been fucking FedEx on the side, and they are sooooooooo much better than you.
Why are you closed? Tell us why you’re closed. Tell us why you’re closed.
Why, why, why are you closed? I want to go shopping in the Eaton Centre. Why are you locked? Why are you closing your doors?
Why are you locking your doors to the public? Why? Tell us the reason, why? Why?
Tell us the reason. Tell us the reason why. Why are you putting people through this? Why?
Why are you putting us through this? Who gave you the right? Who gave you the right? By what right do you exclude the population? Why? Who are you?
How dare you do this to us. We are the Toronto public. We want to shop. We want to get into the Eaton Centre. It is a public place. It says it’s open until 7 o’clock. Why are you closed? Why?
Why? Tell us why.
Tell us why.
Doesn’t anyone else care? It’s just a spectacle to you? It’s just a spectacle to you? It’s just funny? Ha ha ha ha ha. Let the police cut off my balls. I don’t mind because it’s the cops and they’re always right. Right? You wanna go shopping?
You don’t give a shit, do you?
Spectator: Not really.
Not really. Then why don’t you go fuck off with your camera and stop… stop filming. I’m saying I’m not giving you permission to film me. Alright? You don’t have permission. Huh?
Spectator: But you’re in a public place.
No, no it’s closed. It’s closed.
Spectator: No, this is actually a privately held, uh —
Oh really, you’re going to explain it to me? Well tell me why they’re closed.
Spectator: I don’t know. Cadillac Fairview doesn’t want you in.
Oh Cadillac Fairview doesn’t want me in? That’s why they closed the whole place?
Are you nuts? Are you crazy? I just walked over here, for Christ’s sake.
Unless you’re over 50 or don’t use the internet, by now you’ve heard Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” declared by many to be the worst music video of all time. However, the fault for this can’t rest on the music itself, which, though uninspiring, is undeniably catchy. After listening to the song exactly two times, I had it stuck in my head for two days.
The video has received knocks for its obvious auto-tuning and for Black’s singing, but, most of all, “Friday” has been getting mercilessly mocked for lyrics such as “Gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal,” “Which seat can I take?,” and, of course, “Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday / Today is Friday, Friday / We we we so excited / Tomorrow is Saturday and Sunday comes … afterwards.”
But here’s the thing. Those lyrics, while admittedly not Shakespeare, could easily be found in a variety of hit pop songs. Most pop songs have some pretty literal lyrics about some pretty mundane things. (See The Black Eyed Peas, the entire catalogue.) Or take Lady Gaga’s “Telelphone”:
Hello, hello, baby, you called? I can’t hear a thing I have got no service, in the club, you see, see Wh-wh-what did you say? Oh, you’re breaking up on me Sorry, I cannot hear you, I’m kinda busy
Even great pop songs do this. Recognize these lyrics?:
Woke up, fell out of bed Dragged a comb across my head Found my way downstairs and drank a cup And looking up, I noticed I was late Found my coat and grabbed my hat Made the bus in seconds flat
It’s from “A Day in the Life” by The Beatles. If you just read the lyrics, there’s more than a passing thematic similarity with the opening of “Friday.”
And that’s not even getting into some of the completely bat-shit insane pop lyrics out there. Say, Shakira’s “Lucky that my breasts are small and humble / So you don’t confuse them with mountains.” WTF? Or Harry Nilsson’s “Coconut.” That entire song is about putting the lime in the coconut and drinking them both up to cure a stomach ache!
So why has Rebecca Black’s “Friday” become a viral sensation if the lyrics are not substantially worse than any number of other pop songs? It’s all about intent. It’s not the lyrics themselves that have provoked a response. It’s the fact that the song and Black imparts what seems like misplaced significance and emotion to these lyrics. When I started watching the video for the first time, I didn’t initially get what was so bad about it. It just seemed like a tween version of a Ke$ha song. But somewhere around the line, “Gotta make my mind up / Which seat can I take?” I realized it was so much more. And it’s not because that lyric is bad. It’s because that lyric is sung with such overblown significance.
And this is why Rebecca Black’s “Friday” is awesome. While modern pop performers are content to mask their subpar wordplay with overwrought production, enthusiastic theatrics and no-handed cartwheels, Rebecca Black has the courage to simply stand in front of the camera, exposed, and say “Fun fun fun fun / looking forward to the weekend” and really mean it.
And so what if she’s stating the obvious? The Black Eyed Peas literally just shout out the days of the week for no apparent reason in “I Gotta Feeling.” But who hasn’t thought to themselves, “Today is Friday, tomorrow is Saturday, and Sunday is afterwards?” That’s what you think when it’s Friday, and you’re excited about the weekend coming! Perhaps our laughter over “Friday” is simply embarrassment that Black is stripping bare our most mundane, yet hopeful thoughts, and laying them out before us with all the uncynical and heartfelt yearning of a 13-year-old aspiring pop star.
Well I for one embrace “Friday” and Rebecca Black. I am looking forward to the weekend. And even though I don’t like cereal, I can appreciate the simple pleasures and decisions in life. And I can appreciate that someone is unafraid to sing about them, not as simply backdrop or lyrical wall-paper, but loud and proud, for their own sake.
On Monday, I read a “Nice Guy Rant” on the myspace page of a friend. It was one of those charming missives that are posted and reposted by bitter young men, ending with the instructions, “If you agree with this, repost it as ‘I’m Sorry.’”
To paraphrase the entry (which was unfortunately very long and rendered in clumsy verse):
"I’m sorry I’ve always been there for you, always been a good friend to you, stood quietly by while you dated assholes who weren’t me. Since you can’t see what a diamond in the rough I am, which would necessarily result in your immediate giving up of the pussy, I am no longer going to be your friend."
Of course it was more delicately worded than that; although I am about to lay into them with a vengeance, I do think that most Nice Guys honestly believe they are being wronged and taken advantage of by the women they fancy. They see themselves as the Duckie character in a real-life “Pretty in Pink,” the lovesick best friend whose devotion and uniqueness are ignored or dismissed by the object of his affection, who would rather date the bland (but much better-looking) popular guy who doesn’t worship the ground she walks on the way her best friend does. His bitterness at this implicit rejection— because rarely do Nice Guys make their true feelings explicit— grows and grows until, in a fit of impotent rage, he channels his pent-up emotions into a passive-aggressive rant casting her as the one with the problem. This passive-aggression is at the heart of what most women find so distasteful about Nice Guys: despite their persistent “niceness,” they are fundamentally dishonest about their intentions.
For the record, Nice Guys, if you are only being nice to a woman because you want to get into her pants, you aren’t actually nice. If you are uncomfortable with being just friends, then don’t be friends at all; pretending to be a woman’s friend is lying, and insinuating yourself into her life under false pretenses makes you no better than the asshole boyfriends whom you decry for hurting her over and over. Being a good friend to a woman does not entitle you to her romantic affection.
Let’s repeat that one, because it might be the most important: Being a good friend to a woman does not entitle you to her romantic affection.
This is where the Nice Guy logic gets all screwy. Everyone knows what it’s like to have a bad friend; we’ve all had relationships with people who take more than they give, and nothing sucks more than being the one who’s always putting forth the effort. For most people, the impulse to continue making an effort switches off at some point and we recognize that the friend is not worth it. Nice Guys, however, often add the extra expectation of sexual interest to the list of Good Friend criteria, and even women who are good platonic friends get cast as Bad Friends for not giving it up. This is patently unfair. You cannot expect things of a person who has not agreed to the ruleset by which you’d like to be playing.
Again, for the record, Nice Guys, you need to recognize your own responsibility for your situation. If she is not a good friend to you, you are free at any time to end the friendship. If, on the other hand, she is a good friend but you want more from the relationship, you don’t get to hold that against her. If you make your wishes known and she rejects you, you can either get over it and continue to be a friend, or you can move on and end the friendship entirely; what you should NEVER do is fake being her friend, hoping she’ll change her mind, while silently nursing a grudge over the fact that she doesn’t share your attraction. That is passive-aggressive, dishonest, and perhaps most importantly (to the Nice Guys) unattractive.
Contrary to popular belief, women don’t actually like dating assholes.
Now, before you go throwing all your anecdotal evidence at me, let me elaborate.
People (not just women, but people) are attracted to confidence. It’s no fun spending time with a person who needs constant reassurance — ask any guy who’s dated a woman who constantly demands, “Do I look fat in this?” Assholes of the variety that has great success picking up women in bars are not attractive for the fact that they are assholes, but because their cockiness comes across to many women as self-assurance. We are social animals, and it pleases us on a very base level to be chosen by a popular and charismatic peer, so those assholes who stand us up and treat us disrespectfully are sometimes attractive because the assholish behavior can be mistaken for desirable traits. We like people who have lives of their own and interests outside our immediate relationship; it can be difficult to distinguish between the returned phone call that was late because a person was genuinely busy and the one that was late because the person was playing head games and being rude. While some women have learned to tell the difference between the genuinely well-rounded, socially active man and the carefully-crafted act of an asshole, younger women especially often lack this social savvy and can fall prey to men whose seemingly busy lives are an illusion specifically crafted to lure in a potential easy lay.
Nice Guys, women don’t date assholes just to spite you!
The constructive response to this is not, as many Nice Guys posit, to become an asshole yourself. Unless your goal is only to have meaningless sex, becoming one of the bad guys is not going to help your case with the ladies. If you really want that girl to notice you as more than a friend, you have to actually get a life. I mean it. Get yourself some interests that don’t revolve around her, some other friends, hobbies to occupy your time. You have to be an actual person with an actual life of his own; don’t just “play” hard to get, cultivate a life in which your time is really filled with activities and people you enjoy, and your resulting fulfillment will make you infinitely more attractive than any worshipful sniveling ever could. She shouldn’t be the center of your life unless you are also the center of hers, and to put her in that position without her consent is an unfair burden. Should you make that mistake, your resulting misery is your fault, not hers.
I’m not sure why Nice Guys are so intent on blaming others for the awkward positions they’ve created for themselves, but one thing is for sure: they will never get out of those one-sided relationships as long as they keep avoiding reality. Nice Guys of the world, I challenge you to examine the roots of your “niceness” and honestly assess whether it is as genuine as you would have us believe. If you have fallen into the trap of worshipping an unwilling goddess, then step up and own your actions, and move forward with the resolution to be more forthright in your future dealings with women. Every person wants to be appreciated; no healthy person will expect your worship. It’s a long fall from the pedestal, and most women would prefer not to be boosted up there in the first place.
This is a tribute to the nice guys. The nice guys that finish last, that never become more than friends, that endure hours of whining and bitching about what assholes guys are, while disproving the very point. This is dedicated to those guys who always provide a shoulder to lean on but restrain themselves to tentative hugs, those guys who hold open doors and give reassuring pats on the back and sit patiently outside the changing room at department stores. This is in honor of the guys that obligingly reiterate how cute/beautiful/smart/funny/sexy their female friends are at the appropriate moment, because they know most girls need that litany of support. This is in honor of the guys with open minds, with laid-back attitudes, with honest concern. This is in honor of the guys who respect a girl’s every facet, from her privacy to her theology to her clothing style.
This is for the guys who escort their drunk, bewildered female friends back from parties and never take advantage once they’re at her door, for the guys who accompany girls to bars as buffers against the rest of the creepy male population, for the guys who know a girl is fishing for compliments but give them out anyway, for the guys who always play by the rules in a game where the rules favor cheaters, for the guys who are accredited as boyfriend material but somehow don’t end up being boyfriends, for all the nice guys who are overlooked, underestimated, and unappreciated, for all the nice guys who are manipulated, misled, and unjustly abandoned, this is for you.
This is for that time she left 40 urgent messages on your cell phone, and when you called her back, she spent three hours painstakingly dissecting two sentences her boyfriend said to her over dinner. And even though you thought her boyfriend was a chump and a jerk, you assured her that it was all ok and she shouldn’t worry about it. This is for that time she interrupted the best killing spree you’d ever orchestrated in GTA3 to rant about a rumor that romantically linked her and the guy she thinks is the most repulsive person in the world. And even though you thought it was immature and you had nothing against the guy, you paused the game for two hours and helped her concoct a counter-rumor to spread around the floor. This is also for that time she didn’t have a date, so after numerous vows that there was nothing “serious” between the two of you, she dragged you to a party where you knew nobody, the beer was awful, and she flirted shamelessly with you, justifying each fit of reckless teasing by announcing to everyone: “oh, but we’re just friends!” And even though you were invited purely as a symbolic warm body for her ego, you went anyways. Because you’re nice like that.
The nice guys don’t often get credit where credit is due. And perhaps more disturbing, the nice guys don’t seem to get laid as often as they should. And I wish I could logically explain this trend, but I can’t. From what I have observed on campus and what I have learned from talking to friends at other schools and in the workplace, the only conclusion I can form is that many girls are just illogical, manipulative bitches. Many of them claim they just want to date a nice guy, but when presented with such a specimen, they say irrational, confusing things such as “oh, he’s too nice to date” or “he would be a good boyfriend but he’s not for me” or “he already puts up with so much from me, I couldn’t possibly ask him out!” or the most frustrating of all: “no, it would ruin our friendship.” Yet, they continue to lament the lack of datable men in the world, and they expect their too-nice-to-date male friends to sympathize and apologize for the men that are jerks. Sorry, guys, girls like that are beyond my ability to fathom. I can’t figure out why the connection breaks down between what they say (I want a nice guy!) and what they do (I’m going to sleep with this complete ass now!). But one thing I can do, is say that the nice-guy-finishes-last phenomenon doesn’t last forever. There are definitely many girls who grow out of that train of thought and realize they should be dating the nice guys, not taking them for granted. The tricky part is finding those girls, and even trickier, finding the ones that are single.
So, until those girls are found, I propose a toast to all the nice guys. You know who you are, and I know you’re sick of hearing yourself described as ubiquitously nice. But the truth of the matter is, the world needs your patience in the department store, your holding open of doors, your party escorting services, your propensity to be a sucker for a pretty smile. For all the crazy, inane, absurd things you tolerate, for all the situations where you are the faceless, nameless hero, my accolades, my acknowledgement, and my gratitude go out to you. You do have credibility in this society, and your well deserved vindication is coming.
Crisis averted, ladies and gentlemen, what a relief.
What a relief, I’m glad we got the economy back going, I’m glad we’ve secured our nuclear power plants, I’m so glad the Americans are back to work. We finally found out our problem. We discovered a target we can all agree upon…
It’s these guys! This is the problem, it’s Click and Clack the Tappet brothers. We’re finally getting rid of them. Thank god we solved this problem for the country.
Now let’s look at the… let’s look at the record here. For one, they talk in that Boston accent. Cah Talk? It’s a car. It’s a car, ladies and gentlemen. I need to call Congressman Capuano whenever their on the air.
Secondly, they talk about “master cylinders” and “slave cylinders.” It’s kinky! I am glad my Republican friends are finally getting to the bottom of this. And then with all the giggling and snorting that they do every weekend on their show. It’s gotta be some kind of a code. They’re clearing talking to the Russians or the Chinese or something with all that giggling and snorting.
It is why I’m so relieved that we had this emergency session, that we waived the rules of the House that required 72 hours, so we finally get these guys off my radio!
Click and Clack the Tappet brothers on Car Talk. I know it. Because these guys, clearly they’re political. Well I don’t know if they’re political. They make no sense about what most of what they say. But you know what, I’m glad were finally not going to have to listen to them. I’m glad the Republican party finally said enough of Click and Clack the Tappet brothers.
That clearly was what the America people said in campaign 2010. It’s clearly… it’s in their contract with America or something, right? Get rid of Click and Clack?
It’s about time. I have to tell you something. Because the last thing we want is informative solutions to how we fix our cars and the Car Talk puzzler. And think about all the people we’re finally gonna put out of work. You know their customer care rep, Heywouldya Buzzoff. (I’ll tell you how to spell this latter, I say to the stenographer.) And the director of ethics, Youlying Sack. All of these guys who are finally going to be taken off the public payroll. The Republican Party, no one can say they’re not in touch. They get it. They understand where their American people are.
The American people are not concerned about jobs or the economy or what’s going on around the world. They’re staring at their radios saying, “Get rid of Click and Clack.” Finally my Republican friends are doing it. Kudos to you!
This is it. The last straw. There have been other last straws, too many to count in fact, but this is really, really it. I have spent 2 years in this godforsaken metropolis testing my tolerance for the intolerable and I have finally given up - I hate you I hate you I hate you.
FUCK YOU Universal Studios, Burbank!! And FUCK YOU Curious George parking structure. I spent 90% of my day waiting in your stupid lines, for your short, stupid fucking rides and paid $60 to do it. I hated you already, and then some stupid fucking zit-faced Valley riff raff stole my fucking iPod. I am not rich, you stupid jerk- I don’t even have hubcabs on my car, jackhole- so what WHAT on earth made you think I had an iPod in my glove compartment, I’ll never know. But I have secretly made a pact with god that if he exists and I make it to heaven that my reward for living a good life will be to meet up with you, alone, in the alley behind St. Peters gate. I’ve got a baseball bat with your name on it.
FUCK YOU man that chased me down Western Ave. in Hollywood. I’m sorry I didn’t have a light, I just quit smoking. I’m even sorrier I didn’t want you to rape me, I just quit getting raped.
FUCK YOU traffic on the 405 at 4am. When I’m driving home at 4am, I’m either drunk, horny, or crying (the only reason one is driving at 4am), so I need you to be clear. I spend my whole day at your mercy, doing runs, burning high-priced watered-down gas, and basing my entire social life on your whims, but at 4 fucking am, I need you to NOT CLOSE DOWN TO ONE FUCKING LANE. I hate you.
FUCK YOU Pacific Ocean. No one told me you would be cold…all.the.time. Pamela Anderson is a fuckin’ liar.
FUCK YOU cum-dumpster that took off my side-view mirror going 55mph and KEPT DRIVING WHILE I WAS SITTING IN MY CAR. I suppose I should be thankful because 10 seconds earlier and I would be eating go-gurt out of a feeding tube. But really, FUCK YOU.
FUCK YOU neighbors that wake me up every single goddamned morning. Yes, the puppy is very cute, but I swear to god if you don’t stop saying it at 6am every morning I am going to drop kick the fucking terrier and then punch out your other front tooth. Perhaps it would help if you spoke English so I knew what you were so excited about at 6am. Maybe you’re talking about the social security crisis or the lack-thereof. Maybe you’re reminiscing about life in the old country; working hard to pass on your oral traditions to the younger generations. But I’m pretty sure you’re asking me to come over there and kick your ass’or just key your car and run away.
And finally, FUCK YOU Los Angeles Craigslist community. I moved to this city a wide-eyed, impressionable recent college graduate [read:poor]. I was in need of many things: a job, a roommate, a love life, a toaster, etc. I turned to you. You came highly recommended from friends back east and so I jumped blindly, expecting to be caught by your soft, fuzzy, missed connections arms. So far, I have found:
- A roommate embroiled in a lawsuit with a ‘major studio’, shooting porn for pocket-money and selling postcards on the off-ramp of a ‘major freeway’ for fun.
- A run in with a ‘pseudo-nudist’. Newsflash, buddy. If you watch re-runs of Golden Girls with your schlong out, there is no ‘pseudo’ about it.
- A crap-tastic desk that has a door that won’t stay shut so that at the most inopportune moment, like say when my tiny little sister is visiting, it flies open, revealing my resin stained bowl and a bag of weed that would make Pablo Escobar proud. Awesome.
- A job selling custom closets in Compton. You don’t need a closet. You need to move. No, I’m not kidding.
I’d put this old, Italian, thousand-year curse I know on you, but I think the wildfires, earthquakes, floods, mudslides, and 800lb flying boulders have got it covered. Perhaps you’ll collapse under the weight of your own smog someday, but til then, you guessed it. FUCK YOU.
Obviously Yours, Me
PS- FUCK YOU if you’re one of those ‘I don’t know why everyone has to be so down on LA’ holier-than-thou types. You’re either dumb or you’re the cunt-rag/douch-bag that took my side-view mirror/iPod, in which case, FFFFFUCK YOUUUUUU!
Before I begin my rant, let me start by saying I’m actually an Aaron Sorkin fan. Sports Night is one of my all time favorite shows, and the first couple of seasons of West Wing rank up there. So I don’t have anything against him or his style of dialogue and writing. I simply think The Social Network is a terrible fucking movie.
The most glaring problem is that Mark Zuckerberg’s character is a complete caricature. I get it, he wants to be part of some exclusive club. Oh yeah, and sometimes he’s also a bitter asshole. I think these points were pretty firmly hammered into the audience by minute 10 of the movie, yet it never develops beyond that. There is zero nuance, depth or arc to this character. It’s like every scene with Zuckerberg is him repeating the mantra of “I want to be part of an exclusive club” and this operating as his prime motivator for everything he does. Except for the deposition scenes where he’s just an asshole for no discernible reason, other than so Sorkin can write funny put downs.
There’s obviously something interesting about the idea of this guy who struggles to connect with people becoming the creator of the greatest social connector of the time. Except he’s not a real human being in this movie. He’s not struggling to connect. He’s just being a douchebag. And it doesn’t even make any sense. One moment all he wants is to be part of these exclusive clubs and hang out with these people, and then next moment he’s suddenly being a total jerk to them and thinks he’s too good for them. Nor is it ever even clear why he wants to be part of these exclusive clubs since he evinces no interest in their rewards which he so highly extols at the beginning of the film. Perhaps this could have been an interesting dramatic turn — when he finally gets what he wished for it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, or he is still unable to make the connections or have the fun he really longs for. Except he never seems to actually want or try for any of the things that we are told is the whole foundation of his character, and instead seems only interested in continuing to be an Aaron Sorkin dialogue robot.
The movie makes some feeble attempt at the end to give him some arc and depth with the Rooney Mara subplot, if you can even call it that, yet this moment is totally unearned and unconvincing. His character has never demonstrated any genuine interest in or desire and feeling for another human being the entire movie. Why start in the last five seconds? And the premise that Rooney Mara’s character would ever date this totally unappealing jerk is ridiculous. I’m not saying that Zuckerberg has to be totally likable, but don’t expect me to care about or be interested in a one-dimensional asshole for two hours.
I feel like this movie couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a character study of Zuckerberg, which for the reasons described above I think it totally fails as, or more of an ensemble piece exploring the motivations of the other characters in opposition to Zuckerberg. In the end, it just ended up being a horrible hodgepodge of half-baked nothingness. So much in this movie had no point or never went anywhere. Look, I like watching an artsy crew race as much as the next guy, but unless you’re going to make following the Winklevei actually important to the film, then just make a fucking Nike commercial instead. But the Winklevei are just these ridiculous Harvard stereotypes, so don’t waste my time with a ten minute interlude about them that doesn’t shed any real light or interest on them, and then treat them like cardboard cutout villains for the rest of the movie.
And what the hell is with the fucking crazy Asian chicks?! Why is the crazy Asian chick burning Eduardo’s bed? I guess it’s just to portray how hard it is to be a successful guy — you just have to deal with all these crazy bitches. Really profound point. Thank you, Sorkin. We needed a semi-major character and significant amounts of screen time to get this very important point across. Not to mention, why is this shit happening to Eduardo. It’s not like he’s the character in this movie who needs to be shown the double edged sword of money and bitches.
But to me the biggest missed opportunity in this regard is Zuckerberg’s relationship with Eduardo. Everyone has been in situations where personal loyalties and work collide, and this is really complex and relatable and interesting. Yet it’s totally oversimplified in the movie. Zuckerberg is an asshole, lured by the sweet sweet charms of Justin Timberlake, and he unceremoniously dumps noble Eduardo, his only friend and supporter from the beginning. I’m sure the actual reality of the situation was a 1000 times more complicated and interesting, yet we basically just get a poorly done soap opera made even less compelling and dramatic by the fact that Zuckerberg and Eduardo never seemed to even have the semblance of a genuine friendship.
But whatever. The lack of a well crafted plot, developed characters or any insight into its own subject matter might be forgivable and I might even understand why people enjoyed the movie if the movie were actually any fun. I mean surely the rise of a dorky college kid to the heights of money, fame and power should at least be a fun vicarious fantasy, right? Turns out, only if your idea of fun is going to terrible Stanford fraternity parties.
Basically this movie is just some fucked up male fantasy that hey, even though you’re kind of a loser and a jerk and chicks don’t like you, you too could be a billionaire because apparently the only quality you need to be wildly successful is to think you’re smarter than everyone else and have the courage of that conviction. It doesn’t really take any hard work or vision or, god forbid, being remotely nice, humble, gracious or even charming to other people, let alone making genuine connections. Just let your inner arrogant asshole flag fly and you too can have crazy bitches fall at your feet.
Enough with the rants already. I get it — you hate hipsters or Darren Aranofsky or consumerism or whatever. But why do we have to hear about it? Has there ever been a more pointless exercise than the rant? No one’s mind is ever changed by a rant. No one sees a guy ranting and says, “Hey, that guy really knows what’s up.” A rant is just an exercise in narcissism, a masterbatory excuse to stroke one’s own viewpoint and shout out, “I am right and the world is wrong!” It’s the unassailable belief in one’s own rightness, the inability or unwillingness to consider others’ perspectives, and the lack of initiative and creativity to actually try to do something productive about whatever it is you’re shouting about. The rant is the language of the fanatics and the internet trolls and the fallen celebs, where dropping an F-bomb takes the place of a thoughtful and reasoned argument. Well fuck that. I’m over it.
Is there anything more glorious than a rant?! The way as conviction builds, the words tumble out, driven by the perfect blend of passion and reason. A ranter rants for the sake of the rant, not for any end. A rant is pure expression. A barbaric yawp sounding over the roofs of the world.
To rant takes courage. It takes conviction. The ranter is the one who takes a position regardless of what people think. Who stands up and says the emperor has no clothes. Who shouts out “I am right and the world is wrong!”
But it doesn’t matter if I am right and the world is wrong! I rant not to convince you of my truth, but to express my truth. I rant to figure out my thoughts. I rant because I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore. I rant because it’s fun. I rant, therefore I am.