Author Archive

Non Sequiturs, Vol. 2: Verizon culture wars

– posted by russellmania3000

This isn’t really my attempt to be clever or write Twitter-style without using Twitter or whatever, these are just things that if I were in a more self-indulgent mood, I would try to stretch into full written pieces but I’m not so here they all are.

On the subject of Twitter, I registered a few accounts on Twitter for my name and working alias, and one for Redikulus more as just a joke for Sam. I came down pretty hard on Twitter before, and I haven’t entirely had a change of heart, but the issue comes down to one of 1) protecting your name/personal brand, and, especially for design and marketing people like myself, 2) cultural/tech/media literacy. Twitter may be stupid or turn out to be a passing fad, but it’s important to be familiar with the new ways people chose to communicate. You may not like TV or fashion mags either but you won’t go far in design and marketing if you don’t understand or at least make an attempt to learn the nuances of the media you deal with. Besides, if you meet someone you want to have in your corner and they ask if you’re on Twitter, you don’t want to be the guy who obstinately says “I don’t do that.” You don’t have to use it, just have it available for a rainy day. It’s just a good idea in the same way registering the URL for your name or having a Gmail account using your name is a good idea.

I used to feel guilty or slack-ass for not writing more blog, and Sam and I would get on each other’s case about it, but since we’ve lost a little interest and don’t have the time or sense of urgency as much as when we first started, I assuage my anxiety by convincing myself that the relative rarity of our posts makes our blog more valuable, more like a quarterly journal of literary review or something.

I’ve got the cheapo freebee kind of phone (12-button keypad, not a full qwerty keyboard) so when I send text messages, its inordinately difficult to use profanity. The mode that guesses what word I want refuses to admit that I might be interested in cursing and hammering that shit out manually is just stupid and time-consuming, especially because I have to switch from guessing mode to manual and then back to guessing mode when I’m done. People who pay more for phones get the added benefit of the Verizon moral police leaving them the hell alone. Fuck that shit. What business does Verizon or Samsung have making it more difficult for me to use in private conversation words that the FCC unilaterally decided aren’t appropriate for public broadcast? Speaking of, if this digital TV transition ever actually happens and over-the-air goes away, wouldn’t that leave no reason for the FCC to exist?

It just occurred to me that while at first skydivers seem really impressive, what’s more impressive is the skydiving cameraman. Clearly he’s performing the more challenging activity of the two. I don’t necessarily mean skydiving, maybe rock climbing or hang gliding or skiing or other dangerous/physically demanding activities where some people do it and then some other guy does it too but with camera in tow and manages to get some good shots.

I’m not a big soda drinker, but here’s the key to enjoying a carbonated beverage: ginger ale/Sprite-ish stuff tastes much better close to room temperature but cola/root beer/Dr. P is better refrigerated. I say refrigerated and not chilled because putting ice in soda is just about as bad as putting ice in good scotch. I don’t want to hear anything to the contrary.

May 12, 2009 at 8:12 PM Leave a comment

Self-indulgence is the new black

~or~

If you think now is a good time to write an article about Twitter or Facebook or “social media,” you’re high as shit

– posted by russellmania3000

Because really, the last thing I want to hear or see is someone else just now catching on to one of the dumbest things to get big on the web. How about you write me an article about 10 things I should be doing on Twitter and I write you an article about 10 things you should be writing about instead of Twitter? Does that sound like fun? By the way, if you think the fail whale is an ok tattoo because it’s a cute piece of illustration despite what it means, you should know that the same dude also has an Adobe AIR logo tattoo, which is…ugh nevermind.

The Sr. VP of Biz at work sent me this the other day, not as like a joke or a sarcastic musing, but as her way of saying that even though she doesn’t really get Twitter or Facebook, she’s excited that our organization is involved on those platforms. Thanks to me. And I don’t feel great about it, but if I didn’t get them on Twitter, I wouldn’t be doing my job. And that’s the sad state we’re in. What’s sadder than that? My old intern Zack just interviewed with the San Antonio Spurs for a social media position. I’m not familiar with their front office, and maybe they have a new media team that runs 7 deep like the Suns, but I doubt it, and seeing as how their team site isn’t a gleaming example of modernity, I’m not convinced that spending money to lose focus is the right idea.

I’ve been making a concerted effort to avoid own-industry-bridge-burning-slash-mud-slinging, but fuck it, I’ve always wanted to drive a truck or be a cop or something. Here we go.

This is Chris Brogan, and he is high as shit. He writes about social media marketing on his blog, makes good money banking on his reputation, and has all kinds of followers on Twitter. He writes disposable bits about personal branding or storytelling in marketing or how to not be a toolbag when attending a marketing conference, forgetting of course that attending the conference in the first place is grade A toolbaggery. He has no sense of humor. He formulaically ends his posts with cute little open-ended/rhetorical questions like “Now that we’re done discussing turd-polishing, what do you think? What turds have you polished lately? Are there turds you’re leaving unpolished when you should be scrubbing away?” with the intention of generating discussion, or probably more likely the intention of getting some CEO to think “gee wiz I’ve never thought about our business that way. He’s good. We should pay him to polish our turds”, but in practice it reads like he’s writing to third graders or belittling his audience, as in “what did you ever do? Nothing! I invented the piano key necktie.”

The other day I was having a beer with my friend Becky, a card-carrying member of the North American Society of People Who Couldn’t Go 5 Minutes Without Touching Their IPhone Even If They Had No Hands Or Feet. I love Becky, but she’s one of those people who, when you’re hanging out with them, you’re not really hanging out with them, you’re just sort of sharing the same physical space while they tap away at their phones. It’s a whole different thing than people who are always talking on their phone, because at some point the phone call ends and you can reasonably assume their attention has returned to the here and now, at least until the next one begins, but for compulsive texters/emailers/Twitterers/Facebookers, the time spent not tapping away, you know, existing fully in the temporal plane, it’s really just a lull spent in anticipation of that noise that used to mean “your CD is done ripping” but now means something entirely different and I’m not sure exactly what because my phone is the cheap-o free kind that you get three more of when you buy one for like $20. The other pertinent bit of information that makes this whole thing make sense is that she had recently fornicated with a guy whose girlfriend was pregnant and so Becky was currently being ostracized by this particular circle of friends, and understandably so. Mid-beer, roughly the following words were exchanged:

Becky: “I hate those guys, they never tell me what’s going on.”

Me: “Huh?” (I wasn’t paying attention because she had spent the last 5 minutes burried in IPhone)

Her: “They put where they’re going on Twitter, but you know how you can put, like, @-someone? They never put @-me.”

Me: “Why don’t you just follow them? Isn’t that the point of Twitter?”

Her: “I guess, but don’t you think that’s kind of desperate?”

My job is in new media marketing, just like Chris Brogan only I’m not high as shit. I don’t mean to pick on Chris; there are hundreds if not thousands of others just like him but I’m not readily familiar with too many because I don’t live in San Francisco. I know what’s up in the web/tech world, most of the time. Personally, I don’t use Twitter, but I do on behalf of the professional sports franchise that employs me. I thought I was aware of most of the mores and norms of this platform, but apparently not. The new thing I learned that day: actually following your friends on Twitter, you know, using it as it is intended and most effectively used, is so faux pas.

Let’s stop picking on Chris. This is John Chow, who, as he puts it himself, “make[s] money online by telling people how much money [he] make[s] online.” The fact that he can state such openly and still be taken so seriously and make so much coin is a good indicator of just how much Kool Aid is being passed around at the new media cult meeting, I mean party. He is, in point of fact, high as shit, though not in the same way some other guys like Brogan are high as shit (Whoops. Sorry Chris. It just comes so easily.), because deep down I think he gets that what he does is simple Simon nonsense, and to a certain extent he’s honest about it. He also made an adorable video about parenting.

This time I’m going to try really hard not to make fun of Chris. This is Guy Kawasaki. He’s a former marketing guy for Apple, now doing stuff far less interesting, and this is going to shock you, but Guy is high as shit and luuuvs Twitter. Like I mean, he really hearts it, so much so that he’s so busy going to conferences to talk about Twitter that he doesn’t have time to actually do it so he pays other people to do it for him, not like for his business, for him personally like you might pay someone to do your food shopping or dog walking. And this is I believe a good illustration of the internet meme You’re Doing It Wrong(sic). Can you tell I’ve been reading Infinite Jest? But that’s not why I brought Guy up. Guy gave a talk on Twitter at SES recently. I wasn’t there because I’m not a toolbag, but I heard he went on a tangent about how he doesn’t understand why Padmasree Warrior, Cisco’s CTO and holder of the world’s second most awesome name (first being Moxie Crimefighter Jillette), was on so many people’s recommended-to-follow list on Twitter and he wasn’t. Guy, if you’re out there, the answer is because maybe you’re the kind of guy who gets upset over Twitter. That and you don’t work at Apple anymore. Cisco is important and Alltop isn’t. Twitter also probably hates Hawaiians.

The VP of Technology at our team’s parent company sent me this article, right before he sent me a bunch of other stupid articles about social media. Probably around 90% of the people who write for Ad Age are high as shit, but their niche is in being staggeringly behind the curve and painfully speculative, vague and obvious, so one can only fault them so much. But the point is already there are ad agencies that offer placement in Twitter feeds, and Twitter itself is developing paid account features. Like hell it can’t be monetized. That’s exactly what happens when a platform’s user base nearly doubles in a little over one month.

Facebook recently changed the way most of their pages look and behave, and while the word on the street is they’ve gotten enough complaints that they’re already rethinking and making changes, the makeover is a tell that while the network isn’t over yet in the way that MySpace is over, it will be over sooner or later. Facebook’s ui is now clunkier, inelegant, straying from the near-perfect identity that made it such a success. But the upshot, I suppose from Zuckerberg’s view, is that it’s now more like Twitter. That idiot turned down all kinds of ducket in a buyout offer a couple years ago. In a couple more he’ll be kicking himself.

Here’s the thing about Twitter. It’s not all the rage because it’s simple or easy to use or “enables you to communicate in new and interesting ways” or any of that new media cult jargon. For one thing, it’s not simple. If you want to use Facebook, where do you go? Facebook.com. If you want to use Twitter, where do you go? Twitter.com? Amateur. Excuse me. Noob. There are enough third party desktop apps, feed aggregators, publishing tools and tracking utilities to make your head spin. All the really neat/lame/neat again/lame again shit people are doing with Twitter isn’t built in at all. And it’s not even that it’s compatible with mobile devices. There’s this arcane technology called email that’s been on phones for years. Hell, you wouldn’t believe, but phones actually make phone calls, or voice chats if you will, so you can fucking communicate in real fucking time and keep in touch with people and let them know what the fuck you’re doing.

Remember when you used to really like mentally invest yourself in thinking up the perfect song lyric that ever so poignantly expressed how you were feeling, right at that moment, man, so you could put it in your away message on AIM? Don’t lie, yes you do. Remember sitting around just sort of looking at other people’s away messages for the better part of an hour? Or coming home and checking your computer and the surge of pride and validation you felt when you saw all the people who responded to your away message while you were out, or the pang of disappointment you felt when no one responded, not even the person you expressly crafted the message for in the hopes that she would read it (you little emo fucker) ? I have to reach back about 7 years for that kind of warm and fuzzy memory but some of you might not have to go so far. Hell, some of you might have done this same sort of thing a couple months ago with your Facebook status, before you took up, in a nostalgic throwback to crafting AIM profiles, writing lists of 25 things that no one wants to know.

Then again, you might not have to go back that far either. If you’re a Twitter user, chances are you participated in this same sort of time-honored fishing-for-attention ritual earlier today. What Twitter really brings to the table is a diabolical tightening in and expanding upon the core of what makes self-indulgence and voyeurism so appealing to so many while stripping away all the extraneous features of social networks that might cause you to lose focus on yourself. Don’t have digital camera? Can’t edit video worth a damn? Screw that shit, relegate it to links to other sites. Can’t formulate cogent thoughts and arguments in written English? Fuck it, 140 characters is no place for nuance, complete sentences/spelling/punctuation optional. Don’t have any hip interests or feel weird lying about what bands/books/movies you like? Profiles are a thing of the past. Don’t have any real friends to friend? Plenty of people you don’t know will follow you for no reason. Your life is so stunningly uninteresting that your Facebook page is a barren waste of inactivity? Tweet on behalf of your pet. Or real people who have better things to do. Bored by friend counts or unable to generate comments? The following-to-follower ratio provides a brave new paradigm for competing for status.

From a business standpoint, I totally get the whole Twitter cult. There’s no compelling reason not to join and that’s why I helped get our organization on board. People might ask how much money you’ll really make or traffic you’ll generate or engagement you’ll create in your audience and the answer is I don’t know, but however much it is, it’s more than you would get by not doing it. And even though I don’t have a personal account, I can see the potential value for the individual. I just don’t see the potential being put into practice all that much. The kind of people who use Twitter in valuable ways are the kind of people that would get the same shit done if Twitter didn’t exist. They’d be awarded the same jobs, have the same reach to the same audience through blogging or something else, contribute to the same communities, and so on.

But for the laymen, the students, accountants, bankers, (ahem) fabric designers, media figureheads, entertainers and scores of other people who have joined the cult, something vile and absurd and uncomfortably revealing about what it is to be human is coming out of them on Twitter. It is a gateway drug, an enabler of a kind of short and not-at-all-sweet celebration of self, or the celebration of circuitous, silly shit, like tweeting about how to use Twitter better. It’s another way to shout at the world about nothing of consequence, another way to wear ourselves obnoxiously on our sleeves, another mirror for us to look into. It teaches us to use characters efficiently at the cost of using language well. It encourages us to believe the way to be interesting is to be proliferate rather than thoughtful. I mean for fuck’s sake, athletes are Twittering at halftime instead of listening to their coaches and Congressmen are Twittering instead of listening to the President speak. I don’t know what that speaks volumes about more: how little respect they have for Obama, how much Congressmen are shitty people, how much they don’t really care about how fucked this country is, or how clear it is that, even though we might like it and much like a lot of other things we happen to like, Twitter isn’t a good thing for us.

March 29, 2009 at 6:55 PM 3 comments

The things I chose to keep to myself

– posted by russellmania3000

To the best of my knowledge, I had thought Sam was either in France or dead of bowel cancer, and for my intents and purposes, there isn’t a big distinction between either scenario. But she’s back States-side and if I know her at all she’ll be riding the I-hate-it-here wambulance for a spell, so I guess we’ll see if any further contributions from her are forthcoming. I’ve been terrible busy and working on and off on a long-form piece on Jim Henson, but this is more temporally pertinent, and if I were to go another week without writing anything, I may as well give Redikulus up for keeps.

Until earlier in March, I hadn’t gone to see anything on First Friday in several months; all too often I’m too late getting there or too disillusioned from the last time I went so I skip the galleries and go straight to the bar. This month, I avoided Old City altogether and opted for a few spots I’d never visited, which didn’t really help with the disillusionment but at least it wasn’t ass-to-ankles crowded.

First stop: Juanita & Juan’s for the launch of Megawords issue 10. In case visitors didn’t want to physically handle a zine, a copy had been unbound and the pages had been tacked to the wall, which really deprives you of the experience of paging through 112 pages of in crowd ego stroking that “reflects upon the exhibition’s thirty-one days as a physical outlet for creativity in a melange of color and black and white photographs, reproductions of storefront plans and proposals, and written reflections about the project.” In other words, a scenester scrap book, in effect a publication whose subject is itself. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that this was perhaps not their strongest issue.

Second stop: Vox Populi had a exhibition called Bivouac which included: creepy drawings of Snow White; photos of constructivist/readymade-ish sculptures; film of guy telling molestation story while molesting wad of clay; film of naked Juggernauts; film of hands paging through book. There was also a performance/installation piece called Rented Time, consisting of: balloons; giant cigarette carton spinning on wall; guy in Halloween costume making funny noises, breaking in and out of character. Also three really scrawny guys talking about their weightlifting routines in the corner. Next please.

Third stop: Tiger Strike Asteroid. No link for this place, not a huge surprise, because the name should be a dead giveaway that it was just some art students’ loft. In one room they had hung what looked to be someone’s projects from a freshman year design curriculum, over-performing homework assignments but under-performing pieces of art.

Fourth stop: Toy Factory. Again no link, but again this was just another loft apartment with a name, and in some extra space adjacent the kitchen were a couple found object sculptures and some pseudo-Giger-ish drawings with Game Boys, Transformers and a smattering of other pop culture ironies-du-jour. The antique movie camera converted into a music box was a hugely redeeming factor to an otherwise lackluster display.

I should also mention something about the ambiance of these last two places. As if going into smaller spaces doesn’t already sometimes feel like you’re intruding on a private engagement, entering these last two spots, glorified residences as they were, definitely felt like I inadvertently stumbled into the wrong room. Tiger Strike Asteroid was confined and crowded and full of chatter, the place was pretty sparse, most signs of inhabitation had been tidied away, and there were definitely, like, senior citizens there, presumably done with Vox Populi and just poking around, so that wasn’t so jarring. But Toy Factory was far more awkward in that the place was larger, emptier (of people) and had all the trappings of a very cozy, comfy home. Lived in, is the phrase. A small crowd was to one side and speaking quietly amongst themselves if at all, lounging about rather than huddling together like you do when in unfamiliar territory, and one guy was in an adjacent living room watching a skateboard video like it was Tuesday. And there was a blind dog with cataracts the size of dinner plates. It felt too personal for comfort.

Contemporary art, like much of all art, is self-indulgent to an extent, but usually it comes off as an adverb, as in “this piece self-indulgently but successfully renders so and so” or “this guy paints really well, albeit a little self-indulgently.” But this month more than any other I can remember, the work I saw seemed to embrace self-indulgence in a new and profound way, as sort of the object noun/central thesis/raison d’etre. You know violence for violence’s sake or sex for sex’s sake? Well…yeah. How exquisitely postmodern. More on this to come.

Bonus round: Khmer Art Gallery. You know how in like every kung fu movie there’s some smarmy Brit who’s stealing truckloads of Chinese artifacts and selling them to “the institute” for major ducket? This place is like that dude’s hideout, only substitute Chinese for Cambodian and smarmy Brit for portly, middle-aged hippy lady. I mean, their collection is so extensive it feels pillaged.

Bonus round 2: More recently I popped over to the PMA, because, you know, what the hell, can’t be worse than First Friday. They have an exhibition on called Cézanne and Beyond which is quite possibly worth the $24. Among others, there’s some lesser-known works by Picasso, Matisse, Jasper Johns, Max Beckmann, Giacometti, Gorky, Braque and Mondrian, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. There was also some Japanese photography and a small Gehry exhibition, which is neat if you’re into Gehry.

March 18, 2009 at 12:01 AM Leave a comment

A conversation we have all of us had

– posted by russellmania3000

It begins something like this:

Act I, Scene I: The scene opens to the cold light of dawn. Two middle-aged men exit a makeshift trading post/tavern made of rotting beechwood located on the desolate main drag of a lonely rural mining town. Their skin is leathery and worn full of crevices such that a close-up photograph of one of their cheeks might look like a topographical image of the Himalayas. They walk together, blowing steamy breath into clenched fists and speaking in hushed tones. They wear silly fur hats.

Dmitri: What is this, this Sonic? Day after day I see their advertisements on the moving picture box, teasing and tempting me with their patties of ground beef, and slushie happy hours, and tots! Oh, the tots! But here, in the frozen wastes of the Urals, such an establishment there is not. Believe me comrade, I have looked, for my eyes long for the sight and my tongue for the taste.

Vladimir: They are places of legend, my friend, for in all my wandering I have happened upon nary a one for many moons. You will not find Sonic and her fresh bounties within 500 leagues of this place. But I have many fond memories of a carefree childhood in Omsk, for it was there that my family took my sister and me weekly to market and, after a long day of trading and peddling our wares in the village square, we ate a hearty meal of breakfast burritos and onion rings. Those were happier days. But here in the mines of Narodnaya, for us there is only sweat and dust and the meager root stew.

Dmitri: But why, Vladimir, tell me, why do they mock us with promotional messages for goods which we cannot procure? Surely such a ruse is not worth the price!

Vladimir: It is a strange and cruel fate that we should be cast so from the light and warmth of the simple pleasures we desire most.

Exeunt Dmitri and Vladimir stage left. End scene.

Or in 3-panel strip form, if you prefer it.

Like many of you, for years I have seen Sonic ads on TV, shaken my fist at the heavens, spat at almighty God and persevered. Or just went to Five Guys. I don’t want to make pithy banter with a balding friend or dumpy-looking wife or chubby Paris Hilton lookalike and even more busted female. And by busted I don’t mean she has nice mammaries or resembles a plaster cast from the shoulders up. I mean that when photons bounce off her body and are recorded by a camera, and this recording is played back so that more photons in the pattern of her visage scurry in the direction of my ocular cavity, the net result is an unpleasant sensation in my cerebellum. No, I just want a burger.

Last week some coworkers and I took a little 20-minute excursion up I-95 to get to the nearest Sonic, which was out in Bensalem in a run down industrial area that I would have no reason to go to otherwise. This kind of thing isn’t uncommon for us; we’ve driven a half hour to get to an Arby’s because, let’s be honest, time out of the office is time out of the office any way you slice it. Sonic’s website says “[t]here are more than 3400 SONIC® Drive-In locations across the country.” Just none where you live. Especially if you live in a city. Bensalem is not a city. In any case, if you haven’t been or even seen one (both my seeing and tasting cherries were popped with one thrust), Sonic is indeed delicious, though it would have been more delicious if a girl on roller skates brought out our food on one of those trays that hooks onto the car door.

But all this skullduggery does have an explanation, and a method behind the apparent scattershot advertising strategy. National cable advertising is, at certain volumes, cheaper than regionally targeted advertising, so that’s a no brainer right there. But the genius of the whole thing is that it drives people mad with wonder and envy. How flabbergasting it must be, as say, a resident of metropolitan New York, to find yourself jealous of some yokel from Georgia or Tennessee or where-bumblefucking-ever because they have a Sonic and you don’t, and you have to pay out the ass for McDonald’s in NY. They’ve stumbled upon the holy grail of marketing, sort of. They’ve achieved the kind of viral, word-of-mouth-driven national discussion that everyone wants, over the subject of “where the fuck is there a Sonic,” simply by advertising something that’s not available. Now, whenever they open a new joint, they get all kinds of media coverage and blog hype and lines around the block because they’ve been advertising for years to people who want to be customers but can’t.

This is not a new strategy or phenomenon. Companies have been doing this for decades in areas where they plan to launch. You’ll notice the ambiguous “Respekt” outdoor ads for Cricket mobile phone services around Philadelphia presently. They’re not available here yet, but they will be soon, and at that point they’ll start to demystify their messaging and identify that top-heavy K with their wordmark/logotype (a befuddling design choice). The difference here is Cricket isn’t offering any specific deal or even saying who they are, which is…I don’t know, who cares. But Sonic is offering free tots and gigantic slushies for under $1 to anyone in the nation lucky enough to live by or drive by one and that’s apparently been pretty rabble-rousing. The more significant difference is that Cricket’s hype/awareness campaign, and most things of that nature, will last maybe weeks or months. I’m not positive but Leap, their owner, has indicated they hope to that by the end of this year they will have rolled out service in all 27 markets they won bids on in the 2006 FCC auction. By contrast, Sonic has been advertising in Philadelphia and other major metropolitan areas for years and have yet to announce any new locations there. In fact there may never be a Sonic in Philly. But their incessant advertising has given them a legion of customers-in-waiting who are ready for a cross-country road trip, or like me, the opportunity to take an extra long lunch.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, as a marketing guy, I am delighted that a protracted campaign designed to frustrate and drive people bats might actually work really well. It would sure be fun to try.

PS: holy balls.

February 12, 2009 at 2:54 PM Leave a comment

It’s bigger than hip-hop

– posted by russellmania3000

Damn, son. Fuck coffee, I’m awake now, ready to go 12 rounds. My employer is a professional sports franchise that will go unnamed, whose mascot is an outsized mutant rabbit named Hip-Hop and he has a supremely gay theme song. I’ve been trying to get it changed to Dead Prez for a while, but to no avail. Something about being family-friendly or whatever, I hear them talk about kids and I tune out. By the way, in our office we can use “gay” as an epithet as much as we like without being sent to sensitivity training or whatever. So if that’s your beef, I really don’t want to hear it.

I work in interactive marketing so I check out the Google competition for anything I’m involved in, just for kicks. I checked for Redikulus a while back and there used to be a lot more that has since dropped off the face of the nets. There was a pretty cool clothing company that I can find neither hide nor hair of anymore. But there are two interesting things of note.

this image's file name is Blexican.jpg. Really.

The first result, regrettably, is for a misspelling of Ridikulus, a Harry Potter spell. Christ, we are in poor company. But more importantly, as luck would have it, there’s a rapper who goes by same, and why shouldn’t there be? We really asked for it when we chose this spelling. Listen Mr. I Started Rapping At 6, I don’t care if your pops is in jail or what part of Las Vegas you’re from. I watched CSI and it seems like a goofy as all hell kind of place. If you so much as even think about purchasing redikulus.com, you will be in for a world of hurt, mon ami. No wait. What I meant was: perhaps we can come up with a business arrangement that will benefit both of us…

Dag, yo! Hodag!

The other and infinitely more compelling item of interest with which we share a name is Redikulus Dae, an annual street fair/shopping festival in Rhinelander, WI. Sweet crackers, there’s even a second annual Hodag Roaring Contest. I am so there. Back up a minute. Hodag, you say? Yes. Think of it as a Midwestern chupacabra. There’s not enough drugs in this city for me to make up shit like this. American folklore is truly fascinating and batshit crazy.

Anyway…as you were.

February 8, 2009 at 10:50 PM Leave a comment

Non sequiturs: vol. 1

– posted by russellmania3000

The problem with reading on public transportation, other than that it can put you to sleep and cause you to miss your stop, is that you can’t look up and check out whether other people are impressed with what you’re reading. Because if you’re looking for around for potential people to chat up, you’re not really reading, are you? Don’t give me this I-read-for-enjoyment/self-betterment crap. Books are fashion accessories, same as everything else on your person.

Is it just me or are keffiyehs the new buffalo plaid button-downs? In fact, in the last couple days I’m pretty sure I’ve seen some oversized purple or aqua buffalo plaid neckerchiefs with tassels, which pretty much qualifies as keffiyeh in the same way Chipotle qualifies as Mexican food. And we wonder why they hate us.

Christoph Niemann - I LEGO NY

The thing about walking downhill on ice is that it’s really easy to start moving diagonally but once moving diagonally it’s really hard to straighten out again. Walking uphill on ice won’t put you in the same quandary.

A woman getting cat called and a man getting stared down by a gay guy are not the same kind of uncomfortable. They’re just not.

The thing about getting idea for a project is that most of the time you just accumulate the idea but never really follow through on it. Maybe you return to it a few months later and realize it’s a terrible idea. If you’re lucky. If you’re unlucky, you start thinking you’re some kind of great idea man when you’re not and maybe you turn it into a start-up and lose some VC firm’s coin and ruin the show for everyone else.

I know that deep down I’m an awful person because I’m not that upset about all the lives drunk driving has claimed, but I am upset that Charles Barkley is off the air. Police are such cockblockers. This segment in which Bob Costas talks 2008 with John McEnroe and Sir Charles on HBO is amazing. No disrespect to Chris Webber, but for the last several years Charles has been the best basketball pundit in business, and outside of Bill Simmons and Nathaniel Friedman a.k.a. Bethlehem Shoals perhaps the best pundit in sports.

equine ass

A while ago Sam was talking about viral marketing and mentioned Ray-Ban’s cow-birthing-a-dude spot. So the guys from Never Hide Films actually contacted us to mention they had 2 new spots out, which is, I mean, hey thanks I guess but we don’t care. Even though Disco Ballers is marginally amusing, once you have a guy coming out a cow vagina all covered in amniotic fluid and chunks of gross, you’ve pretty much maxed yourself out in advertising and you might as well pack up and hit the beach. I think Sam’s tongue-in-cheek/backhanded compliment might have been lost on them had they read her piece at all, but I don’t think they did, which makes me wonder how many times it occurs that a blog pokes fun at – or outright tears new rectums in – a particular ad or product or institution or whatever and said entity’s marketing/web team gets wind of the fact that they’re mentioned in the post but doesn’t pay attention to the context and tries to cozy up to said blog without even realizing they are poor bedfellows.

For some stupid reason I decided not to watch the AC Milan game on Sunday and instead go to the Punk Rock Flea Market, which was so crowded that even if I had wanted to buy something, I doubt I’d have been able to reach for my wallet without groping three asses that were way too young for me to be groping. Every third person smelled of reefer or of just plain body stank. I spotted a mug shaped like a tree trunk with an owl peeking out of a knot in the side, which was actually kind of cool and surely one of a kind, but no, the girl working that table told me she was only selling that in a set of six. So what she meant by that was she wasn’t going to be selling them at all.

February 3, 2009 at 9:20 PM Leave a comment

Adventures in consumption

posted by russellmania3000

We are apparently in the throes of a recession. I wouldn’t know. But I have little doubt that at this point we’re mostly doing it to ourselves. Forget whatever weak housing markets or flawed “financial instruments” or incorrect models you’ve been told of to explain away why. You know what causes a recession to continue? Talking about the recession every goddamn day.

I find it odd that people respond to economic downturn by saving more money, since our economy is defined pretty much by how much we spend, not how much we have. The funny part – as in funny strange, not funny ha ha – is that, if you buy into the Paradox of Thrift, by spending less we actually save less than if we were to spend normally. I know that seems illogical but that is why something like this is called a paradox rather than, say, a law.

Though Sam has lately been on some sort of crazed anti-consumerist crusade, I haven’t personally felt the recession, at least not yet, so I recently posted on some of the newly purchased artwork that I’ve hung in my home, and today I’d like to continue giving props to the creative individuals who have tricked me into giving them my goddamn chips, but this time for neat things that cannot be framed and hung on walls. It’s not my intention to turn Redikulus into some kind of NOTCOT-ish celebration of materialism. I’m simply doing my patriotic duty to stimulate the economy.

By the way, “stimulus package” is my new favorite sexual euphemism. Try that one on and see if it doesn’t tickle you ever so slightly, you gigglepuss you. Okay here we go.

Books

Malfunction - Eric Joyner

I’m currently trudging through Infinite Jest and I have Sidewalk, Collapse, and Godel Escher Bach waiting in the wings. I know, some light recreational reading. So I picked up some lighthearted fare to refresh me when I need a break. I found this Giger book at a local comic shop and it’s way cheaper than any other Giger book you’ll find but just as comprehensive, good quality reproductions and all that. While I was there I picked up Flight Vol. 5 and Eric Joyner’s Robots & Donuts. Flight is without a doubt the most gorgeous and heart-warming series of comic anthologies I’ve ever seen, an absolute joy to look at and read. And Eric Joyner is a terrific painter, even if you’re not into robots or vintage toys.

Kobe - FreeDarko

But far and away the best book purchase I’ve made lately is FreeDarko‘s Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac. This book has been getting a lot of good press from every angle, but I’m not sure about this “you don’t have to like basketball to like this book” idea that a lot of reviewers have been floating. I work in the NBA so whether I like basketball or not isn’t really up to me, but the Almanac makes me like it more but for bizarre, twisted reasons. The book is an otherworldly amalgam of gorgeous illustration, inventively hilarious charts and sports writing that intelligently weaves in science, history, art, and mythology to paint players as cosmic archetypes of style and super- (or sub-) human feats. Their blog is good, but doesn’t even hint at the analytic onslaught the reader is in store for. And the authors occasionally, though more so in the blog or other writing, let the fact that they’re Jewish peek through, which is … what’s the word I’m looking for … charming.

Clothes

Candy Floss

My man Gene, who works up at Dock Street where they make delicious beer and pizza, has a fledgling clothing line going called Candy Floss, and their stuff ain’t cheap but it’s quality. FreeDarko and Damon Soule also make classy shirts in addition to their prints, books, toys, etc.

World of Goo

Games

At a younger age, I used to insist that video games were an art form, but now that this idea is largely accepted and I’ve moved on from wanting to design them for a living, I’ve stopped evangelizing on this. With more demands on my time and better things to do, I don’t really have as much interest in games as I used to. But every now and then, a game comes along that reminds me of both why I loved them so much and the creative potential in the medium. Right now that game is 2D Boy‘s World of Goo. It’s also gotten press and a few award nods lately, though some of you may have been hip to this thing back when it was Tower of Goo at Carnegie Mellon’s Experimental Gameplay Project. You won’t do much better than this for $15 (Wii) to $20 (Mac/PC). It’s got intelligence, humor, charming visual direction, strangely touching music, memorable levels and a well-designed progression of difficulty and physics-based play mechanics. I do so hope 2D Boy makes fleshing out The Swarm their next project. Also, though it’s not by Kyle Gabler and it probably wouldn’t make a good finished product, On a Rainy Day is pretty great batty fun.

Music

It’s been over a month since I attended Blip but I’m still sort of on a chiptune/electronic music kick, though much less than in the days immediately following. Except for a few rare instances, I haven’t been in the habit of paying for music for many years. So as luck would have it, most of these 8-bit artists are total computer nerds and put out a lot of their music for free online anyway. Of the guys I haven’t already given nods to, recently I’ve been favoring Trash80, Stu, and Nullsleep. Speaking of which, Nullsleep is playing 8static (who knew there was a Philly scene for this stuff? Not I.) on Feb 7, and Starscream are no slouches either so I’d consider showing up if I were you.

January 19, 2009 at 4:47 PM Leave a comment

What’s on your wall?

posted by russellmania3000

Though ill-advised as I was still recovering from food poisoning, I went down to National Mechanics on Saturday for Sam’s birthday, to have a beer and put in my face time. She introduced me to a friend who upon hearing my name said something to the effect of “oh, the other half of the blog, the half who never updates.” I feel stupid trotting out the quality-over-quantity cliché, but not so stupid that I won’t do it. And if one was to compare word count rather than number of updates, we’d be about even anyway. Irregardless nonetheless…

Remember the “what’s in your tray?” game? You might not; it had a pretty short shelf life during the 1990s. If you were of that flirty young age but old enough to have a multi-disc CD changer, you could use this to get to know someone on a completely superficial level. It was handy since most people with decent taste in music had trouble naming favorites, there was a good chance a guilty pleasure would slip in, and the number of albums named would speak to economic status. Sadly, it was quickly phased out by the “what’s in your playlist?” game, which is still played competitively today.

Note: this is not to be confused with this variant of the “what’s in your tray?” game. Nerds.

As people get older, taste in music becomes an increasingly poor measure of character, so I’ve taken to making note of the things people use to decorate their living space. It’s rather shameful when someone hasn’t graduated beyond the typical dorm room Pulp Fiction/Animal House/Hendrix/Floyd poster, but it’s a quick way of knowing I won’t have to remember someone’s name.

I put a decent amount of effort into adorning my apartment and office and, especially now that I make a modest living, I like to throw artists some duckets when I find something deserving of my precious little wall space. I know a lot of artists will hang their work in their own homes, but I have a policy against that. I guess they’d say that looking at their work constantly forces them to be critical of it and improve themselves, but I’d argue that it makes you either self-satisfied or simply reminds you of old lines of thought and hinders new ones. Anyway. Some of the things I hang I’ve had since I was a small child, but I’ve recently acquired some new stuff and I feel I should give the artists their due.

New York

I rearranged a few walls to make room for a pair of eBoy posters, which are delightfully playful and colorful and HUGE! The nice thing about pixel art is that it can be enlarged quite a bit without losing clarity. They’re moderately priced if you grab them from a US reseller. But you may notice that they are available only in really large and non-standard sizes, sizes that would cost over $100 to get a fitting poster frame. There’s something disconcerting about paying over four times the coin for a frame than for the piece in it. What to do, what to do?

Fortunately I happened across these handy Poster Hangers which were much cheaper and did the trick nicely. Granted, you wouldn’t want to use these for something really nice unless you got it laminated or something. But they offer a little protection for the top and bottom edges and look a hell of a lot nicer than tacking something to the wall.

Speaking of tacking to the wall. Ever wonder what to do with all those postcards you get from show openings at galleries? You know, the ones you take thinking to yourself “this looks really cool, I’m gonna hang this up or use it in a collage or something” but you never do, they just sit in a folder or at the bottom of a drawer or on a shelf collecting dust. Postcard mobile, bitches! It drives cats bananas.

little blind rat

Without a doubt my favorite additions are a pair of Damon Soule prints. I saw his work several years ago at the Nexus Gallery, before they were rudely displaced from their home in Old City by some fucking hair salon. Please give his work a look; the prints are lovely but do not nearly do justice to the other seminal examples he has on virtual display. He even included a little ink drawing on sketch paper in the package. What a guy. Guess where that is? Postcard mobile, bitches!

I’m currently in the market for a Brute! poster, but not that one. Anyone have any leads? I’m coming up pretty dry. I’ve been chatting with Aidan Hughes himself on Facebook (I know, right?!), where he has a pretty sweet Manhattan Short Film Festival poster for sale, but he says he’s launching a store on his site in the coming weeks, so I guess I can hold out.

So what’s the guilty pleasure in my apartment? The framed equivalent of my Juno Reactor CDs? It could be the Softer World print. Or the Ben Shahn posters. Or the alphabet made of butterfly wings. Or the Pixar colorscript. No no. Child’s play. Behold:

fuck yes

I have no idea what this is or who to attribute it to. It was given to me by a crazy old friend who brought it from Seattle. There’s no writing anywhere on the goddamn thing, no clues. I think “motorcycle warrior” was the second or third thing I tried in Google image search and lo, there was my poster at like number 2. I shit you not. I love this thing. It’s right next to my head when I wake up, so if you were ever to sleep with me, it would be right next to your head too, and that’s something you’d have to take into consideration.

So, I pose the question to you, dear internet denizen: what’s on your wall?

Update: 1/13/2009, 3:47 PM – An old college buddy has informed me that my most prized piece of artwork is in fact the source illustration from the poster for George A. Romero’s 1981 film Knightriders, a movie I’ve never seen, but now I suppose I must. So, um, thanks to Max, the human compendium of B movies.

January 12, 2009 at 4:37 PM Leave a comment

Clap your hands say meh

Earlier this month I dropped my remaining vacation days a 5-day jaunt in Brooklyn during which I attended the Blip Festival, an event whose praises I cannot sing loud or long enough. But as my hearing returned to full capacity, so did my sense of reality and perspective over what had just taken place.

I’ve listened to electronic music nearly all my life and grew up on Nintendo. The mental library of earthly sounds I’ve accumulated over the years contains it’s fair share of lo-fi bloops, bleeps, snaps and peeps. Nonetheless, this was essentially my first experience with the artists and music that define what some would call the chip music or chiptunes scene, a music genre that seems to define itself more by hardware and production aesthetic than by the nature of the music. That is to say that over the course of the festival we were treated to a variety music – pop, rock, hip-hop, reggae, house, ebm/futurepop, idm, breakcore, industrial and every grey area in between – that was apparently all under the umbrella of chiptune.

bloop bloop bleep bleep

That’s Glomag, and yes, that is indeed a Nintendo Game Boy in his hands. The original big honking Game Boy at that, and it’s fitted with one of those screen-brightening and -enlarging doodads. Chip music essentially involves repurposing archaic computer hardware into instruments. Most commonly, this means game consoles, and this in turn most commonly means the Nintendo Game Boy. Of the 40-some-odd artists at Blip, I’d estimate about 95% of them used the Game Boy in some form, and about 75% used it as the sole instrument in their ensemble. A lot of these guys had pretty tricked out Game Boys, like two-tone cases with custom-installed back-lit screens. Once in a while you’d see someone using a Game Boy SP or PSP and you knew they were totally style-fakers. In any event, though photos of the previous two festivals led me to believe we’d see some, there was no truly inventive use of hardware a la James Houston‘s Big Ideas:

In days of yore, electronic musicians often used keyboards, live drums and/or guitars, turntables, theramins, effects pedals, and a bevy of other instruments that involve some sort of physical exertion and performance in their live acts. Those days are largely gone; today, most electronic shows involve some laptop button-pushing, knob-tweaking, fader-flicking and not much more.

So creep with me, if you will, and imagine standing in a crowd of unkempt 20-somethings staring at another unkempt 20-something on stage, garishly dressed, hunched over with Game Boy in hand, queuing tracks and adjusting parameters, intermittently taking a break to fist-pump, thrash about, or gesture awkwardly in some other manner to express his excitement and passion for the music he’s not quite actually playing. It is a very arresting experience to say the least.

I have a back-up NES so I can spike one when I lose.

Believe it or not, there was some dancing, some awkward spastic nerd dancing. And if the music is good and the crowd is good and the dancing is good, then, performance be damned, it’s still a good time. But as you might imagine there was a large contingent just sort of standing there, barely nodding their heads like you do when you don’t want to seem not into the show. What up with that? What were these guys doing at the bloop bleep show? I mean, they’re not partying, not drinking, not molesting women and surely not appreciating the skill of the performance. I’m sure some might take exception, but as a former DJ and musician, a player of video games and a one-time-owner of a Game Boy, I can proclaim with confidence that it’s not that difficult to do and not at all impressive to behold.

What ever happened to showmanship? Say what you will about misogynistic epic metal, but Manowar knew how to put on a fucking show. Guitars would be played in every position imaginable: over the head, behind the back, between the legs, shared betwixt two people. I saw their bassist solo for like 10 goddamn minutes and then proceed to break those absurdly thick strings with his bare hands, one by one. Even if you weren’t that into the music or interested in slamming your fragile body into a crowd of strangers, you still had to be impressed with Manowar. Virtuosity, showmanship, leather codpieces. There is no substitute:

Showmanship is not to be confused with spectacle. One of the better acts at Blip, a duo from Barcelona called Meneo, was sheer spectacle. Don’t misunderstand, they were awesome and everyone had a blast, but their set was all about on-stage antics that involved wrestling, nudity, toilet paper and hiding microphones in various locations inside pants. The guy on the Game Boy came up to me, snatched the ear plugs from my ears and ate them. They didn’t bring that keytar, just leggings and unrestrained Dadaist energy. But for the people in the audience who weren’t that into the music, weren’t dancing and weren’t drinking, they had to have been outrageously uncomfortable during that set.

The other component to Blip, and to most live music of any genre these days, is the visual display that accompanies the performance. It was in this aspect that Blip seemed really appealing when I first heard of it but also fell the most flat in actuality. Last year, the fest had several projection screens and this video screen with ridiculously oversized pixels which produced a look that was really complimentary to the music. Geneva’s Mapping Festival uses all kinds of inventive displays each year – note the translucent curtains for floating projections. The Copenhagen Mikrodisko takes an even more lo-fi approach that still has a wonderful aesthetic. So you can imagine my disappointment when this year’s Blip had a single projection screen behind the stage and nothing more. Granted, the set-up is only as good as the VJs and animators who show their work. Some of the musicians, namely Meneo, Anamanaguchi, and m-.-n did their own visuals or had animators do stuff just for them, which were usually pretty good, and a couple of the guys in the small line-up of VJs that worked with the rest of the acts were okay, but a lot of the time the screen just looked like it was displaying a broken VCR.

Until now, I didn’t realize this was, you know, a thing, chip music, as in deserving of its own scene and word and all. As far as I know, lo-fi electronic video game-ish sounds have been used in music for quite a while but perhaps more sparingly than in this case. This album got a lot of good press when it dropped almost two years ago, but think about how superfluous it is to have bloop-bleep computer music covered by musicians using even more bloopy-bleepy computers. Don’t get me wrong, I heart Kraftwerk. And I like these 8 bit guys. They put on a decent show. I would just maybe take issue with the claim, as they make in 2 Player Productions’ chiptune documentary Reformat The Planet, which was screened at Blip and apparently got a nod at SXSW, that they’re doing something entirely new and revolutionary when what they’re really up to is more or less bizarre bordering on Luddite. This is more a critique of the film and not the musicians, but it seems as if the filmmakers focused on the contemporary NYC scene not because they’re trying to illustrate via microcosm but simply because that’s where they are and that’s who their friends are so that’s who they have access to. They treat Blip as just that – an isolated event – and don’t really touch on the international scene or put chiptunes in the context of the history of electronic music. I would take up that crusade but that’s not really my job or the point of Redikulus. My job is just to draw attention to silly shit, and I believe my work here is done.

– posted by RussellMania3000

December 31, 2008 at 5:34 PM 2 comments

Start as you mean to go on

Sweet crackers it is cold out. My thermometer was reading 10 degrees in the shade when I left this morning, and by the time I got to the office, my face felt like it was a rubber mask stretched over some other face underneath. If you have ever wondered how horrifying it might feel to be so cold you can’t feel your penis, don’t. My nipples are permanently erect from the bars of surgical titanium penetrating the first few dermal layers. But if they weren’t made so by that, they would have been by my ride this morning. By that and this guy right here:

Q: What do you smell? A: Manflesh. So sayeth Lurtz.

So the big news in the world of sport, for me at least, is that this creamy specimen up top, that being not a model or some crazy naked weirdo but David Beckham, is headed back to Europe, at least temporarily, and is taking his kinda hot but fake-boobied Spice Wife with him. Which is great news, because his talent is totally wasted on American soccer and AC Milan seems like a splendid move. Not that the Rossoneri midfield is soft, but they are a bit defense-oriented and Beckham gives them a nice forward push. And after seeing him face Ronaldinho in several La Liga clasicos during their time with Real Madrid and Barcelona, I for one am excited to see what they might do on the same squad. There’s a lot of nationalistic pride in Serie A football, but is it really any surprise that the team that casts the widest talent net is sitting atop the table? Here’s hoping the LA Galaxy have the grace to let Beckham go for good.

What is going on? Sports on an art fag blog? Hear me out. I have a point, I think. I’m a man, I’m not above caring about sports, and I try to be a man of the people; Rome, after all, has always been a republic.

So, start as you mean to go on.

This is a phrase that doesn’t see much daylight in American English, which is unfortunate since its simplicity and elegance belie the scope of its implications. It sees a fair share of usage across the pond, as it were, but is relegated mostly to the lexicon of sport. A team that wins their season opener is said to have started as they mean to go on. Often this is said as a sarcastic inversion to imply that a poor beginning sets the stage for continued disappointment. English sportscasters routinely employ this phrase in their manifold exhibitions of linguistic superiority.

I’m quite serious. Tune into any English Premiership match and your ears will thank you. Soccer isn’t called “the beautiful game” simply for the action on the pitch. Never mind that the crowd sings rather than cheers. But the language used to give play-by-play to UK laymen is more eloquent than that of most American intellectuals and academics, the word choice and syntax whimsically inventive yet instantly understood. Consider: Martin Tyler, John Motson, Ray Hudson. These aren’t the most darling of examples, but just imagine them whispering sweet nothings in your ear and see if your legs don’t go soft.

Joe Buck can barely describe a passing route without speaking about the receiver in some sort of collective consciousness first/second/third person perspective and issuing forth a bevy of run-on sentences dripping in grammatical errors from the unfortunate, toothy hole in his face. I can’t for the life of me figure out why this amateur hour habit of assuming the first-person perspective of players is so universally embraced by American sportscasters, other than that they are mongoloid amateurs. Though he is perhaps the progenitor of practice, there will always be a place in my heart for John Madden, but his appeal is similar to that of Droopy or Rodney Dangerfield or that chubby girl you’d still fuck – there’s definitely a huge cute/pity factor. Perhaps once a fortnight, Madden will drop a gem of analysis so finely crystalized one might think he was huffing fumes from Big John Runyan‘s jock like some modern day Oracle of Delphi. But most of the time, he’s only marginally huggable because his blue collar celebration of the unsung heroes of run blocking and pass protection only partially masks his bumbling buffoonery. I mean, here’s a guy whose favorite phrase is “I mean, here’s a guy.” That and “boom.”

Speaking of boom, here’s a present for everyone but Pats fans.

Side note: ever wondered why sporting events are usually broadcast with two-man commentary teams instead of solo? Listening to one guy call the play is an awkward, lonely experience. Just as a color commentator can feed companionship through osmosis, a lone announcer exudes isolation that echoes your own as you spend another Sunday afternoon alone, growing older and fatter, watching sweaty men exchange ass pats. FOX Soccer Channel has this Italian guy who calls Serie A matches alone. He sounds like he learned to speak English from a Scotsman, so he has two accents, which is more annoying than you can imagine.

American sportscasters function splendidly as examples of successful mediocrity. These announcers are on TV to remind the young children watching that all is not lost if they fail to develop into professional athletes. They are salesmen pitching the virtues of living vicariously through sport. Perhaps this explains the continued use of altered perspective, but Ockham’s Razor would have me believe that they are simply mongoloid amateurs. To further sell this fantasy, networks hire washed up athletes to do the color commentary. When kids see Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in the FOX booth, they are invited to inquire who this shitgoose working with Troy is and ask “why not me because certainly I could be less of a sniveling shit,” and imagine that one day they might sit in a similar booth and don a headset with perhaps Michael Vick or Plaxico Burress and make pithy banter about prison.

The most glaring contrast between European and American sportscasters, even more so than their ability to use their mother tongue, is their temperament towards failure. Americans will, under most circumstances, fawn over players and teams as they try in earnest to find something good to say about their performance no matter how abysmal it may be. Europeans by comparison are notoriously hard to please and are stunningly critical of even winning teams and good players. What can account for this? Simply that there is no system for instituting collective responsibility in American leagues whereas in Europe there is.

In America, losing teams are rewarded with higher draft picks and thus the chance to radically improve their squad. In Europe, losing teams are kicked out of the league. Imagine, if you will, what blasphemy it would have been if after last year’s football season, the Philadelphia Soul entered the NFL and the Miami Dolphins were forced to play in the Arena league. A European system of promotion and relegation would do exactly that. On top of that, the better teams play in two or three leagues/cups at the same time, and many of their players also have to split time with national teams that are playing on several circuits at the same time. With this environment of heightened personal and collective responsibility for a team’s performance and reputation, it’s understandable why European fans and pundits have less tolerance for failure and mediocrity.

Hence the phrase “start as you mean to go on,” or in Americanese, “do it right the first time, bitch, don’t fuck it up.” It speaks to a certain work ethic that favors precision and deliberation over trial and error, a sentiment that, like preservative-free hippie food, doesn’t travel well over long distances, distances like Atlantic Oceans.

Americans, as both children and adults, are not taught to start as they mean to go on, but rather to start and then go on. Growing up American encourages us to make mistakes, reinvent ourselves and remain flexible in charting our path through life, and this is certainly admirable at a certain level. This cultural legacy has given us our resilience and agility, our aptitude for exploring life and finding what fits. But what we might gain in spirit we lose in ethic. We are conditioned to see success as an end rather than a means. We are encouraged to see mistakes as unlucky but forgettable events that build character, as no fault of our own, as opportunities for growth rather than the breeders of complacency they actually are.

So in examining the condition of our economy and our planet, we’re now seeing the accumulated fallout for our collective unwillingness to view current performance as a forecaster for future results. Our national will to take real action in addressing the challenges of today – climate change, energy, poverty and the declining middle class, healthcare, education – is pretty much the same as it’s always been: virtually non-existent. The American attitude toward problem solving is to hope things self-correct and put off taking immediate, decisive action until it’s far too late and such action takes more the form of haphazard damage control than prevention.

We can learn a thing or two from European sports. Like how to fix our broken country. Or how to cook a proper white center.

– posted by RussellMania3000

December 22, 2008 at 4:35 PM 1 comment

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