I know we link to The New York Times a little too often around here, but today it’s completely justified. I wrote this essay for the Riff section of the Sunday magazine, and somehow they published it and paid me for it and everything. Mad, unrestrained props to Riff editor and Combat! reader Willy for making virtually every step of this process happen. Regulars will recognize the theme from previous posts, which makes it all the sweeter. I’ve been kicking around this idea for months, and finally I feel like I’ve articulated it properly. Today is Friday, and you won’t hear me say it often, but I am proud. Won’t you drift through a miasma of serotonin with me?
First, the good news: the American media does not need my dumb ass to provide it with content. Over at MMA Fighting, Ben al-Fowlkes is writing rad stuff for an audience comparable to the Times every damn day, give or take a Wednesday. If you know me, you’ve probably heard me rhapsodize about his work and/or the now-defunct Japanese fighting promotion PRIDE. Now you can understand them both, by reading this consideration of what’s so great about the unedited ringside videos of mid-2000s PRIDE bouts that surfaced on the internet these last few weeks. Trust me—get past the shaky camera work at the beginning of that Quentin Jackson vs. Wanderlei Silva fight. Watch young Rampage get knocked the fudge out.
Now watch like 20 of these fail GIFs and wonder where the last half hour went. Despite the headline, most of these are not about “idiots who picked fights with the wrong guy.” They’re animated images of people becoming their own undoing, and many of them capture the very essence of comedic irony. This one, for example. As crucial as it is to so much of our narrative entertainment, comic irony seems under-examined. Why is it tragic when Oedipus destroys his life but hilarious when this guy repeatedly swats himself with a tree? Quiet, Aristotle—we already know what you think.
Meanwhile, in actual tragedies, erstwhile UFC fighter War Machine has attempted suicide in his Las Vegas jail cell. He also left a poem. The former Jon Koppenhaver, who legally changed his name to War Machine approximately two weeks before getting cut from the UFC, is being held on charges that he attacked former girlfriend Christy Mack and a male companion. He is alleged to have beaten Mack nearly to death, in the extremely unfunny culmination of years of comically petty neanderthal behavior. The opening lines of his poem suggest that he has learned nothing: “Hated on / The alpha is / For marching to a beat / Only his. / People think / But fear to say / That they agree / With his way.” Can we all agree that “alpha” is a term sociopaths use to out themselves?
People do a lot of weird, revealing things. For example:
Let’s take a couple seconds to marvel at how much Japanese hip hop culture differs from the American, at least in this video. It’s hard to imagine this rap group succeeding in the United States, in part because they are a rap group—something that pretty much ceased to exist in American rap after Ill Communication. Also lost to western hip hop is the rapper whose thing is being totally crazy (1:30) and, at least in this video, kind of effeminate. I bet it’s really hard to flow in Japanese, though.
Meanwhile, in another alternate universe, internationally acclaimed lawyer Amal Alamuddin has married some actor. This article suggests that the best satire of contemporary media is responsible, intelligent coverage. I agree with The Business Woman Media: Clooney has married up. Also, how am I supposed to find a beautiful international litigator my own age when they’ve all been snapped up by older millionaires who played Batman? It still seems like a long-shot possibility that I’ll be rich in 15 years,1 but my time to be Batman is running out.
Probably I should content myself with living in the now, which feels extremely contenting today. Thanks to the Spotify playlist embedded in the article, I have finally achieved my dream of having a mix tape in the New York Times. Granted, it’s a playlist of music mentioned in the Riff, so roughly half the songs suck. I won’t say which half this one is in: