I’ve had some kind of online “presence” since my freshman year in college. Sometimes I go back and read things I’ve written before, as I did a couple of week ago in assembling those “interesting entries”. I am invariably embarrassed by some of the things I’ve written. You might think that this embarrassment stems from my maturation as a writer and thinker: that I’m embarrassed that an old entry doesn’t represent the ideas and thoughts of the now-me, that the equal standing given to it by the (mostly) temporally-blind web allows for a gross misrepresentation of who I am (or want to be, or, even, want to be perceived as) and so is cringe-worthy.
Sometimes you’d be right. (As far as writing goes, though, I’m actually trying to be looser these days. I’d have never let “perceived as” go back then. But more about grammar in another entry, perhaps.) However…
In real life, I get embarrassed pretty easily. Mostly (and this might be amusing to less neurotic people, maybe) it occurs when I realize, usually some time after a conversation has ended, that I’ve been bragging. Boasting is a huge turn-off for me — probably #1 all-time — and when I realize that I’ve done some of my own, it just kills me.
The funny thing is that I don’t realize I’m doing it while I’m talking. I, like most people (I imagine), am secretly proud of some things I’ve done, and while I consciously realize that that’s absolutely not an excuse to go telling other people about them, it’s subversive enough that my brain somehow does so anyway, behind my metaphorical — metaphysical, I guess — back.
So I’ll realize later what an obnoxious, arrogant, unlikeable person I was, and flush with shame for a while. But this problem has plagued me forever: somehow I never learn to completely stop bragging. Grr. With ambition comes pride, perhaps? Dunno. Doesn’t seem like it has to be that way.
Anyway, it translates over to writing, as well. Most of the entries that I’m embarrassed about are ones that brag. And they’re worse than conversations, because LJ entries don’t automatically fade into the ether: they are physical manifestations of embarrassment, rather than just memories. Granted, I could change them — in fact, one of the “interesting entries” is a particularly egregious case — but a good part of me wants to grit my teeth and leave them there, to make sure that I don’t screw up again :).
I wonder if I’m alone in this whole phenomenon. Can’t be, right? Are you embarrassed by some of your older LJ entries? What do you do about it?
Okay I’m not sure why I wrote all of that. It’s been bugging me for a while, though.
Some good news: the UConn victories are, amazingly, still sinking in. Occasionally I’ll just sit back and think, “Damn, wow, UConn really did win. Holy crap.” It doesn’t make any sense. But it does make me happy, and I’ll take that.
Also, my mom’s here for the week. She was nice enough to bring us some Indian sweets, Girl Scout cookies, and 2004 UConn National Championship shirts :). We have some fun activiites planned for the week (I took her to see the Nields yesterday, yay!) but I’ll probably write about all of that later. I hope she enjoys her stay!
Chuck Klosterman is a writer for Spin Magazine whom I’ve liked for years. My officemate Dave happened to bring in a book of his essays that I’ve been meaning to read for a while, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, and I’ve been slowly working my way through it.
In some sense, Chuck writes the kind of stuff I want to write, if you took my ideal (writing and talking) style to the logical extreme: super-self-referential, filled with anecdotes and casual quasi-profundities that make you think and go “hmm” — but only for a moment — so that you’re set to read the next paragraph by the time you get to it.
Some of his observations are spot-on, while others fall flat (but usually in an amusing manner). (Apparently, I’m similar in this respect, too: “AJ has many theories,” Beth quite accurately deadpanned last week, “some of which are good.” [Is mentioning this bragging? Or self-effacing? I can’t figure out if I’m going to hate myself later or not.])
Anyway, it’s been a fun read. Some excerpts:
No woman will ever satisfy me. I know that now, and I would never try to deny it. But this is actually okay, because I will never satisfy a woman, either.
Should I be writing such thoughts? Perhaps not. Perhaps it’s a bad idea. I can definitely foresee a scenario where that first paragraph could come back to haunt me, especially if I somehow became marginally famous. If I become marginally famous, I will undoubtedly be interviewed by someone in the media (hopefully Charlie Rose) and the interviewer will inevitably ask, “Fifteen years ago, you wrote that no woman could ever satisfy you. Now that you’ve been married for almost five years, are those words still true?” And I will have to say, “Oh, God no. Those were the words of an entirely different person — a person whom I can’t even relate to anymore. Honestly, I can’t imagine an existence without _______. She satisfies me in ways that I never even considered. She saved my life, really.”
Now, I will be lying. I won’t really feel that way. But I’ll certainly say those words, and I’ll deliver them with the utmost sincerity, even though those sentiments will not be there. So then the interviewer will undoubtedly quote lines from this particular paragraph, thereby reminding me that I swore I would publicly deny my true feelings, and I’ll chuckle and say, “Come on, Mr. Rose. That was a literary device. You know I never really believed that.”
But here’s the thing: I do believe that….
When I say calculated adult coolness, I’m referring to the kind of coolness that generally applies to people between the ages of nineteen and thirty-six. This is different than mainstream teen coolness and aging hipster default coolness, both of which reflect an opposing (and sort of pathetic) consumer aesthetic. Cereal ads are directed at kids but they barely work on young people; the kind of advertising that works on a teenager are bandwagon spots for things like Trident and khaki Gap pants. Those ads imply that these are products everybody else already owns. Teenagers claim they want to be cool, but they mostly just want to avoid being uncool. It’s the same for aging hipsters, an equally terrified class of Americans who slowly conclude that the key to staying relevant is by exhibiting default appreciation for the most obvious youth culture entities; this is why you often hear forty-seven-year-old men with ponytails saying things like, “Oh, I’m totally into the new stuff. That new Nickelback record is just terrific.” Aging hipsters and corduroy-clad high school sophomores are both primarily concerned with dodging lameness. However, there is a stretch in everyone’s early adulthood when they can choose (or choose against) creating their own personalized version of nonpopulist cool, which may (or may not) succeed. This is accomplished by embracing semioriginal semielitist cultural artifacts that remain just out of reach to those who desire them — the so-called “Cocoa Puffs of Power”.
As America’s best-loved semipro freelance conversationalist, I am often queried about my brazen humorousity. “How is it possible,” I am asked, “that you are able to extemporaneously lecture so effortlessly on such a myriad of complex topics? What is the key to your incisive, witty repertoire?”
It’s a valid question.
Certainly, there is a formula to being relentlessly dynamic. There’s a shockingly simple equation to being uber-interesting, and it works with every subject imaginable.
The formula is as follows: When discussing any given issue, always do three things. First, make an intellectual concession (this makes the listener feel comfortable). Next, make a completely incomprehensible — but remarkably specific — “cultural accusation” (this makes you thoughtful). Finally, end the dialogue by interjecting slang lexicon that does not necessarily exist (this makes you contemporary). Here are a few examples.
When talking about sports: “I mean, come on — you just know that Rodney Rogers is sitting in the locker room before every game reading Nietzsche, and he’s totally thinking to himself, ‘If Ron Artest tries to step to me one more time, I’m gonna slap jack his brisket, Philly style.'”
When talking about music: “Oh, let’s face it — we all know that if Rivers Cuomo makes one more album about the Cubism didactic, he might as well just give up completely and turn Weezer into a hobo-core three-piece.”
When talking about film: “Everybody in this room has seen Peter Bogdanovich at his worst, and everybody in this room already suspects that he probably sits in his gazebo and beats off to Pet Sounds five nights a week, so I think it’s safe to assume this whole era of the ‘Scarecrow Thriller’ is as dead as the diplodocus.”
When talking about politics: “That crazy Condoleeza Rice — who does she think she’s fooling with all that neo-Ventura, post-Dickensian welfare state pseudo-shit? If that’s supposed to be the future, she may as well stick the Q like the salt queen that she is.”
Do you understand? Do you see the forest through the trees? Do you not see what I am no longer not saying to you? If so — congratulations! Prepare to have sex constantly.