Sing it with me:

Incidentally, that strapping young black man is apparently Jaleel White, who would grow up to be both horribly typecast on Family Matters (which the kids starting college now probably don’t remember at all because they were 5) and ironically good-looking. He starred with Reginald VelJohnson, whose name is actually VelJohnson. My friend Amy would tell you that that’s nothing in terms of ridiculous names. But people don’t often get goofy with the surname.

Really I just wanted an excuse to post a picture of Reginald VelJohnson.

This post (I was trying to write something vaguely coherent?) has been brought to you by Charlie Brooker, who feels precisely the way I do about aging.  Of course he has it slightly worse: he’s old.

P.S. Though he’s totally right about old people and Lady Gaga.

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If you live in the Western world and have at any point crossed paths with a television set, you’ve probably seen, heard or rioted against this classic Kanye West moment:

(N.b. In order to prop up Viacom’s flagging market share this grainy, shitty video will probably be removed in fairly short order. This means you’ll have to do their own research. I trust you.)

Now it would be easy to simply dismiss Kanye as a gay fish, but I won’t.  I’m a sensitive man who understands the soul of the frustrated, lonely multi-platinum recording artist.  Indeed, I dare say Kanye’s story is not as  superficial as it seems. He’s not just some nutty overpaid radio star. Oh no, my friends. Kanye’s doing something here. Something big. Something, dare I say it, historic?

I must tell you first about a favorite philosopher of mine.  His name is Soren Kierkegaard.  His first name is spelt with that fucked-up Danish ‘o’ and I don’t have the patience to look up the alt-code.  But you get the idea.untitledLittle Soren was a strange child – needless to say.  There was a sense of brilliance to him, tinged distinctly with creepiness, perhaps inspired by his selfish siblings who insisted on dying of unpleasant 19th century diseases while Soren was young.  Except his brother. He became a bishop. It’s enough to fuck anybody up.

But eventually little Soren’s parents died and he now had both a solidly middle class upbringing and enough disposable income to avoid real work – as any true philosophical genius must.  And so he set off to make his great works, which challenged the assumptions of his society – and eventually all the world.

Starting to sound familiar?

Try this on for size:

“He writes because for him it is a luxury that becomes all the more enjoyable and conspicuous the fewer who buy and read what he writes.” – Kierkegaard, Either/Or

“I wanna make popular music, but I want less fans.” – Kanye West, Vibe Magazine

Kanye helpfully said that quote while I was in the middle of a second reading of Kierkegaard. It was thoughtful of him. I think it might have been fate.

Because you see, it got me thinking. The work from which that quote was taken, Kierkegaard’s Either/Or, was a really obscure attack on the philosophical mores of the time. He charged that it allowed only two ways of living life: engaged “aesthetically” in drinking, carousing, whoring and other assorted douchebaggeries; or “ethically,” which consists of getting married, being bourgeois and dying old with children. But Kierkegaard said no!  There is a third option. In his case it consisted of Jesus, but this was the sort of Jesus in whom belief and love are accepted as absurd and cherished for it. Kind of a bad ass Jesus.

Both you and Coach Carr need to step away from the underage girls.

Both you and Coach Carr need to step away from the underage girls.

In order to communicate this point Kierkegaard wrote stories, not works of philosophy, and made his point through characters of his own creation – all of whom were thinly-veiled puppets himself, buried deep within still more obscure twists and turns. The person referenced by the quote above was one of these, Johannes the Seducer, who busies himself by trotting around Copenhagen stalking, meeting and then seducing underage girls before he unceremoniously dumps them at the end of a six-month period. (Consumer protections have always been strong in Denmark, even if statuatory rape laws have not.) The book is about Johannes’ relationship with Cordelia, a 16 year-old girl. You might be forgiven for mistaking this character for Kierkegaard, who had his heart broken by… a 16 year-old girl.

Johannes the Seducer, Kierkegaard’s doppelganger, acts a lot like Kanye does. Kierkegaard did, too, at least in his youth. Both were devil-may-care; both stirred unending controversy in the media for their public comments; both, despite protesting about wanting fewer readers, could barely contain their word vomit. (Kanye shouts in that blog of his; Kierkegaard published constantly, including a postscript five times longer than the book it followed.)  Both have issues with their treatment of young girls. And both, of course, are deeply concerned about finding their place in a world in which they don’t quite fit, a world with nothing to believe in. Kierkegaard was never really accepted by anybody, or read outside of Denmark before 1900; as for Kanye,  as late as 2005 some of his plastics still said Kayne.

This is how I cracked the code, you see. Kanye is not just an out-of-control narcissistic superstar. He is not just the out-of-control narcissistic superstar. But he’s not doing it simply because he has everything a person could ever want and still finds himself empty, unsatisfied and alone. I mean, he’s not Michael Jackson. (Too soon?)

No. Kanye is in fact out to teach us all a grand lesson. Kanye is in the process of creating from his very own self a living embodiment of the philosophy of Kierkegaard, one that will make Kierkegaard’s own seem petty and silly and in the process shake our very world to its core.

First he attains his greatest success and greatest controversy. He’s young, insecure, desperate to set his place in the world. (Why else his madcap declarations about already being in the history books?) He does everything wrong and nobody likes him even as they recognize his brilliance. But it can’t go on forever, can it?

Him... or Kanye?

West 52, Monkey 48

He’ll have a change of heart, settles down. Pumps out some kids, maybe gets himself elected to Congress? (Don’t you even tut like it’s at all improbable. People in England elected a monkey.) He’s calmed down, got respectable. But he’ll still be missing something, as will we all, deprived of random outbursts of his lyrical genius and social insanity.

That’s when he reaches the third stage – the religious stage. But this isn’t the 1900s, is it? Maybe this isn’t anything like what Kierkegaard wrote. Maybe it won’t involve Jesus at all. I don’t know. Who can know what a genius like Kanye, who has by now transformed his entire life into a very living a work of philosophy and art, the greatest of all time, will develop when the glorious climax of his life explodes into our consciousness? Will he bring upon us an entirely new philosophy? A new religion? Will he, indeed, reveal himself as the Promised Return of Christ himself?

None of us can know where this onrushing epiphany will lead, or indeed when it will happen. None of us can dare to predict. But we can have faith – dear friends, we can know that it will someday come! Because the sheer tonnage of excellence that Kanye revealed last night, the depth and breadth of his long and tortured road into our very souls, cannot be foreseen any more than it can be denied. He is doing something great – just as he has always said. And we’ve never listened!

Kanye will teach us. He will teach us because he loves us… and he loves us because he loves himself.

Amen.

Remembering Ted Kennedy

28 August 2009

Keith Richards was once asked what he thought about the death of Princess Diana.  He replied, “I don’t know.  I never met the chick.”

So long, Senator.

When you worry the world is spinning out of control, it can be comforting to think back on a simpler, happier time.  A time when the people next door were really neighbors, every house had a car and a Frigidaire, and global catastrophes were for everyone.

Your next CEO: Me

21 August 2009

Dear potential employers,

It has come reluctantly to my attention that the job market is not in such a condition that a 21 year-old with a liberal arts degree and a bad attitude commands employment.  At least not the sort of employment that consists of an unforgivably cushy white-collar job and possibly access to an organizational line of credit.  Sadly, I am grossly unqualified for positions that involve actually performing some useful task by the collective inadequacy of the American school system, and I have become convinced that my attempt at writing an edgy cover letter has simply come across as unhinged.  (Perhaps this is what I get for attempting to use the word “felicity” after 1800.)

The problem

The problem

Nevertheless a job must be had if I am to pay for my British-style teeth in the absence of British-style health care.  So not only must I cast a wider net – indeed the entire interwebs!!!!111! – but also must adapt the horizon of available jobs.  This is difficult for me.  I do quite like money.  But I’m not terribly fond of work.  You see the dilemma.

But in every problem lies a solution.  It was the recognition of this trite rhetorical truth that revealed to me the very simple fact that I must be your next CEO.  Chief Executive Officer.  By repeating the acronym in full I sound decisive and grounded.

You see, I watch television.  I even watched CNBC once.  I found all of the numbers boring and obtuse but I got the jist of it.  The market is a shambles.  Corporations are leaderless and in disarray.  Lately leading these behemoths of industry has become a job that is as political as managerial or economic.  What aspiring young executive wants to be hassled by irritating politicians and C-SPAN obsessives while collecting a paycheck backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government?  Not you.  Doing blow just isn’t the same when Lou Dobbs is watching.

That, of course, is why you need me.  I am the perfect Chief Executive Officer for today’s American corporation.  Indeed I’d thrive in any of the most benighted of our country’s gentle giants.  Why?  I thought you’d never humor me by asking while mugging to your friend at an adjacent table.

I have no past. I don’t mean this like, “I don’t have a criminal record.” (Though at present I do not.)  What I mean is this: where am I from?  Who have I worked for?  What have I done for them?  What happened to my twin sister?  There is absolutely nothing for an enterprising young journalist to discover in my closet simply because my life before becoming Captain of Industry has been empty and pointless.  I haven’t made any of the occasional mistakes that give American business a bad name.  You needn’t worry about scandals anymore.  Nobody goes looking into the vice presidents.

I can pretend to understand anything. No one need know you’re hired an incompetent to direct a multibilliondollar enterprise.  I will stymie Board members and federal investigators alike with my clever tactic of speaking slowly and repeating everything said to me as a question.  Consider:

    Board member: Profits are off fifteen percent on the quarter.

    Me: Fifteen percent?

    Dilletante: Yes, we’ve lost significant market share since the details of Project Lambda became public.

    Me: Oh – market share?

    Obnoxious twat: For some reason investors don’t like to hear that we’re intentionally poisoning an entire Idaho town.

    Me: The whole town?

    Rabblerouser: So that it could be bought out and replaced with a theme park dedicated to Hannah Montana.

    Me: Miley Cyrus?

    I will do only what you tell me. Too often when a company runs into trouble, the government or some know-it-all

    Me with United Colors of Benneton office staff

    Me with United Colors of Benetton office staff

    douchebag on the Board insists on busing in a technocrat directly from Harvard Business School to turn your company around – a technocrat who might not see the wisdom in committing genocide in the name of a rural tween-themed menagerie.

    I have no such obstreperous moral compass.  I don’t know anything about your company and I don’t want to.  I’ll come in at 9:30, leave at 5, take long lunches and sign whatever is placed under my nose.  If necessary I can also develop a bumbling-but-loveable public personality to deflect public attention from the growing black hole emanating from the Accounts department.

    All gone!

    All gone!

    I am completely disposable. Let’s be honest.  I’m just along for the ride, and eventually your continued leadership will continue to degrade your company’s position. What then?  You get yourself a new CEO. I’m perfectly capable of faking my own death or getting caught up in an embarassing sex scandal/drug bust/furry-themed birthday party to help ease the transition. I go down to a humiliating end and ride off into the sunset, never to be heard from again.  You hire another blank suit to rubber-stamp your decisions.  Best of all, I won’t even require a golden parachute!  Your saavy leadership will be the talk of the Board, and there will be nary a wink or whimper from me.  Better to have loved and lost…

    Here’s the bottom line.  I need a job and you need a stooge.  We need each other.  The economy is going nowhere fast and you never know when the ground will fall out from underneath you.  When it does you have a choice. Boy genius with the MBA and career-ending zeal for “transparency,” or a sound, dependable man without particular scruples?

    I think the answer is simple:

    A whole town, Detective?

      I also earned 48 free burgers and 48 free shakes.  But this blog isn’t about me.  At least not the interesting parts.

      Try this instead.

      EUREKA!!!!!!

      23 July 2009

      I’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR THIS SONG FOR FIVE YEARS – AT LAST IT IS MINE!

      Thanks to Krista, Cassie, Shea and others who have all unsuccessfully helped me find it at one time or another.  Thanks to the creators of Daria who used it in the first season.  Thanks to the guy who uploaded French bootlegs of it onto Youtube.