Here’s a tip for you Kombat! Kids out there: you can be any kind of asshole so long as you are right and good. For example, I have a bunch of stuff I need to do today, but none of it matters because The New York Times Magazine published an essay I wrote. Monster, undying props to Willy for that one. It’s not that writing an essay is such a great achievement, or even an achievement I undertook today, but I feel like I’m off the hook for the rest of the morning. Today is Friday, and a smug sense of rectitude will compensate for any number of personal failings—from the rectified’s perspective, at least. Won’t you blithely transgress decency with me?
Let’s say you are a minor figure of esteem, for example a New York state legislator representing Suffolk County. As a lawgiver, the people of your community look to you for guidance and honesty. So when a high school student writes to you to say that his mother was hit by a car while bicycling and maybe you should put in some bike lines, you tell him this:
I have lived in West Islip most of my life and my personal feeling is that no one who lives in our hamlet or for that matter in Suffolk County should ever ride a bicycle or a motorcycle. I cannot tell you how many constituents over the years have told me that they are taking up bicycling for pleasure and exercise. I have told them not to do so but they usually do not listen – 90 percent of those people eventually were hit by an automobile many like your mother with serious physical injuries. I have heard the suggestion of bicycle lanes and additional signage but unfortunately this would do little to solve the problem. Suffolk County is a suburban automobile community – drivers expect to see other drivers on the road not bicyclists and motorcyclists.
Rectified! I am mildly depressed by this legislator’s assessment of the efficacy of laws. Also, 90% of people who take up bicycling get hit by automobiles? I question that statistic. But then I read Barraga’s explanation that “I’m not going to tell them what they want to hear, a lot of fluff. I tell them the truth.” He can dispense obviously made-up statistics because he’s a truth-teller.
I will leave you to guess which party Rep. Barraga belongs to. For bonus points, you can guess which party controls the Kansas State House, which just passed a bill allowing business owners and government employees to refuse service to gay couples based on “sincerely felt religious beliefs.” So no faking it if you just hate queers. I’m not an attorney, but I suspect this proposed law may face some kind of challenge in the courts, and that it might run into some kind of precedent. In the meantime, it looks like it will sail through the Kansas senate and get signed by the state’s Republican governor, giving us all at least two more chances to write indignant Slate pieces.
To paraphrase the internet, everyone is an asshole except for me. People who disagree with me are stupid, and people who say things I don’t understand are elitists. Over at some crazy New Zealand publication that I can only assume is their quaint equivalent of the New York Times Magazine, author Eleanor Catton has written this satisfying attack on the consumer approach to literature. Her ire was sparked by a letter to the Paris Review, in which a reader complained that use of the word “crepuscular” constituted elitist writing. First of all, “crepuscular” is one of those words that gives you the least value for your fifty cents. Second, as Catton points out, anyone reading the Paris Review on the internet has near-instantaneous access to a dictionary definition for “crepuscular.” A reader in good faith might enjoy the opportunity to learn a new word, or at least feel smug about reading something obscure. But for the consumerist reader, Catton argues, the existence of difficult words and books is an insult from on high.
We’re doomed, is what she’s saying there. She just means literature, though; celebrity culture is doing great. For example, Jerry O’Connell has opened his own parody of Shia LaBeouf’s pseudo-apologetic art exhibit, right next to Shia LaBeouf’s pseudo-apologetic art exhibit. My friend Dave Schilling wrote the article as a kind of lampoon of Jamie Lee Curtis Taete’s article on SLB—so we’re looking at double irony here, and that’s before we even get into the irony implicit in the the original exhibit. You should read Dave Schilling, because he has one of the most defined aesthetics of any humor writer I know. Specific yet ineffable—and all while Vice readers insult his ethnic background over the internet.
People are assholes. Fortunately for us, people are awesome:
I felt pretty good about myself when I started writing today’s post, but then I asked, “Can I throw a frisbee and knock it out of the air by kicking a soccer ball at it?” No, I cannot. You think you’ve reached the top, but you’re only falling a little further to get back to feeling ordinary.