By no popular demand whatsoever, a return of one of those posts with links to things I’ve been reading, or planning to read, with little or no context whatsoever. Hopefully you’ll find something here worth reading.
- Baseball’s craziest game? – self-explanatory, I guess.
- Farewell to the Enchanted City– leaving New York, Joan Didion etc.
- The American cloud – consumption, the industrial monster behind the country farm shop veneer of Whole Foods and others, really fascinating stuff.
- Summertime – a lovely piece about summer, as you might expect. I’d use the term prose poem if it didn’t suggest something awful.
- How Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy learned to grow up and start firing his friends – reasonably self-explanatory too.
And if you have a few pennies spare I highly recommend Epic Fail: Bad Art, Viral Fame, and the History of the Worst Thing Ever. It covers The Room (which I’ve shamefully still not seen), Rebecca Black’s Friday, the ‘Monkey Jesus’ painting, reality TV failures and more. It looks at an apparently frivolous subject yet shows this is a phenomenon we should be taking seriously. The biggest ‘epic fails’ show not just people failing, but those people being unaware of their failure. What does that say about us, that so many of us find that entertaining? The book is short yet covers a lot of ground, brings in some serious theory with a lightness of touch and puts a whole new slant on something I didn’t really care about, but perhaps should.
Thanks for the links. I’ve added several to the Kindle! I enjoy your link posts.
I read the one about the Jefferson/Hamilton dichotomy sometime last week. As someone who’s spent his entire life in “flyover country,” I have to respectfully disagree with the author. He’s clearly never spent more than an afternoon in the Central or Mountain time zones if he doesn’t mention Jeffersonian Bazaars in the “heartland” outside of gentrified towns like Jackson Hole. I also bristle at terms like “flyover country” and “heartland,” which show a serious misunderstanding of a significant portion of the country, both in terms of geography and population. By framing these regions of the country from this mildly condescending perspective, the author shows a failure to understand these middle regions. His thesis is interesting, but ultimately I feel about this essay the same way a professor must feel about an undergrad’s term paper written at 3 am the night before it’s due, and based on a half-hearted reading of the source material.
I’ll have to check out the “Epic Fail” book. I’d argue that the “so bad it’s good” model doesn’t apply; I really do think that “The Room” and “Monkey Jesus” say something about ourselves. Sure, they don’t speak to us in the same way that the artist intended them to, but I think the performer and viewer are really only 100% on the same page w/r/t artist intent with pornography. But dissenting opinions are always nice, especially when they’re inexpensive!
Thanks for the background/context/perspective about the Jefferson/Hamilton dichotomy piece. I thought it made an interesting case, but did wonder about some of the detail. I also thought it was hardly a scoop to announce that Whole Foods are manipulative and selling a brand and way of life. Stores have always done that and always will.
I think “Epic Fail” might be closer to your worldview than you might think from my rather flawed description of it. They really do say something about ourselves, and what they say isn’t always that comfortable.
Your description of the book sounded spot on…it’s mostly a difference of opinion I have with certain fans of kitsch. When I hear someone say a piece of art/entertainment is “so bad it’s good,” I automatically assume that there’s a mean-spirited sense of superiority, as if the critic is somehow better for understanding the artist’s failures. But there’s a reason that the works of The Shaggs and Tommy Wiseau have outlasted thousands of other self-released bands and independent filmmakers–there’s a deep, deep sadness underlying these artists, and they’re communicating it to us on their terms. Maybe that’s why Troll 2 never spoke to me as much–it’s mostly just incompetent, so laughing at this particular movie feels like laughing at a toddler’s art project. I’m picking up the book, though. I’m totally intrigued.
And I think it’s that lack of understanding that undermines the argument in the Hamilton/Jefferson essay, though. (I’ve been thinking about this essay a lot, because I’m trying hard to figure out what bugs me about it, exactly.) It’s one thing to drive through the countryside and admire the architecture, but it’s another thing entirely to think about what it means to actually live in it and with it. And that’s where he didn’t spend enough time.
And “heartland.” If I could excise one word from the language, that would probably be it. Sure, the term implies a certain respect for the middle of the country, in that it couldn’t survive without the farming and natural resources therein. But it also suggests that the “brains” of the country are elsewhere, as though there’s no such thing as intellectual thought in 2/3 of the country.