Amy VanDonsel

Eggers on the Accusation of Selling Out, Etc.

A while back, superBadGirl wrote “It’s OK to like Lady Gaga un-ironically. I can like whatever the fuck I want, as I am a grown-ass woman.” And I really liked that. And I remembered it when tonight I was reading a rant that Dave Eggers wrote back in 2000 as a portion of an interview. Really, it’s one of those things that would just be easier to post in its entirety, so you can just read the whole thing here (and the full interview is here.)

But some things that stood out:

“I bought R.E.M.’s first EP, Chronic Town, when it came out and thought I had found God. I loved Murmur, Reckoning, but then watched, with greater and greater dismay, as this obscure little band’s audience grew, grew beyond obsessed people like myself, grew to encompass casual fans, people who had heard a song on the radio and picked up Green and listened for the hits. Old people liked them, and stupid people, and my moron neighbor who had sex with truck drivers. I wanted these phony R.E.M.-lovers dead.”

Kinda like when you’ve been raving about Passion Pit for months and then you’re deflated when it shows up on a car commercial… and why shouldn’t it? S’good.

“Now, at that concert the night before, Wayne Coyne, the lead singer, had himself addressed this issue, and to great effect. After playing much of their new album, the band paused and he spoke to the audience. I will paraphrase what he said:

“Hi. Well, some people get all bitter when some song of theirs gets popular, and they refuse to play it. But we’re not like that. We’re happy that people like this song. So here it goes.”

Then they played the song. (You know the song.) “She Don’t Use Jelly” is the song, and it is a silly song, and it was their most popular song. But to highlight their enthusiasm for playing the song, the band released, from the stage and from the balconies, about 200 balloons. (Some of the balloons, it should be noted, were released by two grown men in bunny suits.) Then while playing the song, Wayne sang with a puppet on his hand, who also sang into the microphone. It was fun. It was good.

But was it a sellout? Probably. By some standards, yes. Can a good band play their hit song? Should we hate them for this? Probably, probably. First 90210, now they go playing the song every stupid night. Everyone knows that 90210 is not cutting edge, and that a cutting edge alternarock band should not appear on such a show. That rule is clearly stated in the obligatory engrained computer-chip sellout manual that we were all given when we hit adolescence.”

The obligatory engrained computer-chip sellout manual reminds me of that South Park episode when one of the characters (I don’t really watch SP, forgive my lack of specificity) gets his heartbroken by a Hooter’s girl and learns that he too can be a non-conformist with all the other goth kids if he just starts dressing and acting exactly as they do.

“We liked Guided by Voices until they let Ric Ocasek produce their latest album, and everyone knows Ocasek is a sellout, having written those mushy Cars songs in the late 80s, and then – gasp! – produced Weezer’s album, and of course Weezer’s no good, because that Sweater song was on the radio, right, and dorky teenage girls were singing it and we cannot have that and so Weezer is bad and Ocasek is bad and Guided by Voices are bad, even if Spike Jonze did direct that one Weezer video, and we like Spike Jonze, don’t we?

Oh. No. We don’t. We don’t like him anymore because he’s married to Sofia Coppola, and she is not cool. Not cool. So bad in Godfather 3, such nepotism. So let’s check off Spike Jonze – leaving room in our brains for… who??

It’s exhausting.”

Yes. Yes, we exhaust ourselves.

“And now, as far as McSweeney’s is concerned, The Advocate interviewer wants to know if we’re losing also our edge, if the magazine is selling out, hitting the mainstream, if we’re still committed to publishing unknowns, and pieces killed by other magazines.

And the fact is, I don’t give a fuck. When we did the last issue, this was my thought process: I saw a box. So I decided we’d do a box. We were given stories by some of our favorite writers – George Saunders, Rick Moody (who is uncool, uncool!), Haruki Murakami, Lydia Davis, others – and so we published them. Did I wonder if people would think we were selling out, that we were not fulfilling the mission they had assumed we had committed ourselves to?

No. I did not. Nor will I ever. We just don’t care. We care about doing what we want to do creatively. We want to be interested in it. We want it to challenge us. We want it to be difficult. We want to reinvent the stupid thing every time. Would I ever think, before I did something, of how those with sellout monitors would respond to this or that move? I would not. The second I sense a thought like that trickling into my brain, I will put my head under the tires of a bus.”

Ok, there I just like Dave Eggers talking about putting his head under a bus to prevent stupid thoughts…

“The thing is, I really like saying yes. I like new things, projects, plans, getting people together and doing something, trying something, even when it’s corny or stupid. I am not good at saying no. And I do not get along with people who say no. When you die, and it really could be this afternoon, under the same bus wheels I’ll stick my head if need be, you will not be happy about having said no. You will be kicking your ass about all the no’s you’ve said. No to that opportunity, or no to that trip to Nova Scotia or no to that night out, or no to that project or no to that person who wants to be naked with you but you worry about what your friends will say.

No is for wimps. No is for pussies. No is to live small and embittered, cherishing the opportunities you missed because they might have sent the wrong message.

There is a point in one’s life when one cares about selling out and not selling out. One worries whether or not wearing a certain shirt means that they are behind the curve or ahead of it, or that having certain music in one’s collection means that they are impressive, or unimpressive.”

The bus wheels again. And also encouraging thoughts about saying yes. Sometimes I feel like I say yes too much, like I’m trying to cram all this stuff in, and have no time for sitting at home eating chocolate and watching Netflix on Demand. But I am actually able to do that sometimes- the chocolate + Netflix- so I guess it’s all good. If I didn’t haphazardly commit to a bunch of crazy things all the time, I might have a little less stress and a little more Netflix time, but I’d miss out on so many things that I either end up enjoying or end up learning from, or at the very least, end up being able to without a doubt declare with confidence in the future that I do not ever want to do them again. In other words, less what if.

“Thankfully, for some, this all passes. I am here to tell you that I have, a few years ago, found my way out of that thicket of comparison and relentless suspicion and judgment. And it is a nice feeling. Because, in the end, no one will ever give a shit who has kept shit ‘real’ except the two or three people, sitting in their apartments, bitter and self-devouring, who take it upon themselves to wonder about such things. The keeping real of shit matters to some people, but it does not matter to me. It’s fashion, and I don’t like fashion, because fashion does not matter.”

He straight up just said “the keeping real of shit.”

“Do not be critics, you people, I beg you. I was a critic and I wish I could take it all back because it came from a smelly and ignorant place in me, and spoke with a voice that was all rage and envy. Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them. It is a fuckload of work to be open-minded and generous and understanding and forgiving and accepting, but Christ, that is what matters”

And this, yeah, this. This digs up a whole big thing that’s been bugging me lately, but that I may not be ready to articulate, involving critique. It seems to me that there must be some easily available distinction to us between the sort of critique that seeks to discern the value, or lack thereof, in a meaningful and useful way through the demonstrable examination and attempted understanding of something, and the sort of critique that merely points out in clever ways that someone finds something lame. And if such a distinction does exist, I would like to order an auto-labeling device of said from the catalog please.

A Previous Rube Goldberg Machine Video

Related to the OK Go video I posted yesterday, the fantastic Brain Pickings posted today about other examples Rube Goldberg Machines. (These complex chain reactions are know as such named after an American cartoonist and inventor, and in 1931 “the Merriam–Webster dictionary adopted the word “Rube Goldberg” as an adjective defined as accomplishing something simple through complex means.”)

Brain Pickings says, “But where its use in visual storytelling really originated is a little-known Swiss film from 1987 by director duo Peter Fischli and David Weis, titled Der Lauf der Dinge (The Way Things Go). In it, an incredible chain reaction of common household objects — tea pots, tires, ladders, trash bags, shoes, soap — unfolds over 29 minutes and 45 seconds across 100 feet of meticulously arranged ramps, swings and surfaces.”

I’m Sort of Just Giving You Sign Posts

I was reading a Mark Danielewski interview that looks like it’s from 2008, but which I (miraculously) hadn’t seen before today, and he talks a little bit about St. Louis, in relation (kinda) to the city’s role in the book Only Revolutions.

Interviewer: One part I found interesting, from a personal standpoint, was their stop in St. Louis just because I’ve done my own road trip and me and my friend ended up stopping in St. Louis to do work also, it was just paving driveways. I’m curious of why you had them stop there at that time and what were the reasons or was it just coincidence?

MZD: Oh god yes, there were lots of things. St. Louis is such this rich history you know? There’s a centrality to the US and its not precise, but there’s a strange state that saw an enormous amount of violence during and after the civil war because of the mix of factions between North and South that lived there. It wasn’t just a Northern state; it wasn’t just a Southern state. You know, it’s been called the gateway to the west and you can look at the arch, the ark that finally rose out of its soil which could be looked at as a part of Sam and Hailey’s journey: through it and around it. Some of the literary figures that come from there; Elliot was from there. There are a lot of reasons that I’m sort of just giving you sign posts towards which I’m not going to totally divulge, but St. Louis has a very rich history in that respect.

[Full interview at Everyday Yeah]

This Too Shall Pass

Here is OK Go’s video for “This Too Shall Pass,” which I like very much. There is also a video about the video on their website.

[via bestweekever.tv via Lori White on the Google reader]

That Teenager Who Prowled Old Books

That teenager who prowled old books to find
Any argument with a whiff of the Holy Ghost—
I meet him again in his marginalia,
Which ignored the human sweat and stink and marked
Those passages that confirmed what he was hunting.
There was the milk white hart of evidence.
There was the hound of heaven, italicized bold,
Like an angry footnote chasing it off the page.
And there were the hunters, in pursuit themselves—
Plato, Lucretius, Virgil, Marcus Aurelius—
Who did not know he knew what they were after.
And so he missed a lot, all of it human,
Even while scribbling black and blue Eurekas!,
Bleeding through pages backwards—irrelevant notes.
It was all about something else, which he didn’t see,
As philosophers mounted their lovers from behind
And felt their limbs go dead from the toes upward,
And poets kissed a mouth that fastened tight
And locked tongues and tried to catch their breath.

Mark Jarman

The Change Will Not Be Televised

“Sometimes one has to allow that great changes actually do occur, though I am strongly tempted to recommend that anyone who finds him- or herself about to write the word “revolutionary” first count to ten, and then find another word.”

-Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing, King’s College London

[via Humanist]

My Cranes Fear Becoming This Turkey?

No, really, this short is a whole bunch of what I love all together now.
(All together now, all together now.)

[via @GreatDismal RT @PinkTentaclevia on Twitter, ultimately from Future Shorts. Here’s their YouTube Channel.]

Confusion, Books of Fiction, and Fictional Books

So, apparently, the prominent philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy used spoof books by a fictional philosophy as a primary source for his attack on Kant. (Read all about it in the NYT.)

This is pretty funny of itself, but apparently Lévy’s research issues were first blamed on Wikipedia, to which he responded: “My source of information is books, not Wikipedia.” Oops. So it appears that in this case, the problem could actually be not using Wikipedia, as if you search the name of said fictional philosopher (Jean-Baptiste Botul), you are redirected straight to the page of his creator, Frédéric Pagès. (Which rather does take the fun out of, doesn’t it? Ah, well.)

Anyway, the real point being that this reminds me of something awesome I found on Wikipedia recently: the “List of Fictional Books”. (Not works of fiction, but “non-existent book[s] created specifically for (i.e. within) a work of fiction.”

This website, “The Fictional World of Archives, Art Galleries, and Museums” looks pretty awesome too.

Julie Mehretu: Workday

Yeah. It’s like this.

[via Art 21]

Exploding Cell

A Web project by Peter Halley called Exploding Cell, hosted by MoMA New York in conjunction with the exhibition New Concepts in Printmaking 1: Peter Halley.

Halley Says…

“Halley is the only short-period comet that is clearly visible to the naked eye, and thus, the only naked-eye comet that might appear twice in a human lifetime.”
(“Halley’s Comet,” Wikipedia)

“I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year (1910), and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet.” – Mark Twain (1835-1910)
(“Comet 1P/Halley,” seds.org)

A Brief History of Halley’s Comet

In Progress

Just something I’m working on.