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The Death & Rebirth Of Political Meta-Satire As Quantum Comedy

[ 2 Comments ]Posted on September 25, 2010 by admin in Editorial & Opinion

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Figures like Stephen Colbert, Glenn Beck, and Sarah Palin have introduced an uncertainty principle in current politics that makes it hard to distinguish a wave of sentiment from an actual political particle.


The confusion almost makes one
nostalgic for the campy satire of
Pat Paulsen’s
presidential campaigns

Recently I was going to write about the laws in Brazil that prohibit satirical political candidates during election time, criticizing such laws for denying free speech, which many of us would view as a cornerstone of modern democracy. I mean, sure. This can lead to odd results, like porn star Ciccolina being elected to parliament in Italy, but as we long ago pointed out, it’s hard to tell a prostitute from a politician in the first place. But a confluence of recent events has caused me to rethink things a bit. It started when I received an e-mail from a reader referencing my attempt at meta-satire of the Stephen Colbert/Jon Stewart events sheduled to take place in DC at the end of October. The reader – an obvious teabagger – actually said “I’m happy to see that someone in the mainstream media is calling out these socialist Obamanation jokesters for what they are doing, which is obviously ramming there [sic] liberal agenda down America’s throat right before the elections“. Never mind how much it hurt my feelings when they called Dissociated Press “mainstream”, what really was worrying was the fact that they were regurgitating satirist/comedian Glenn Beck’s humorous spin on political commentator Stephen Colbert’s rally in Washington. Oh. Wait. I think I reversed something there. This inability to distinguish the comedians from the commentators and the candidates wasn’t helped any by Colbert’s recent appearance at a congressional hearing. Although you could reasonably argue that Colbert was wasting taxpayer money somehow, or blew a great opportunity to use his clout to make progress on an important issue, I think he did something even more reckless: he not only highlighted how easily the public can be confused and misled, he exposed how easily a politician can be confused and misled. And in the process exposed the American public to something they should NEVER be allowed to see, i.e., the arcane and out-of-touch legislative process in action. It was hard to decide which was more surreal – Colbert’s presence, or the committee’s response. You’ve taken us into dangerous territory Mr. Colbert, the world of “quantum comedy”, in which the frame of observation can completely determine whether an individual is a comedian or a politician. Which now has me thinking that maybe the Brazilians had it right all along. Leave the comedy to the politicians, Mr. Colbert. They do just fine on their own. Read the rest of this entry »

The Death Of Meta-Ironic Hipsterism. No Really, I Mean It.

[ 4 Comments ]Posted on May 11, 2010 by admin in Lifestyle & Culture

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Do hipsters really even exist? If so, share your definition. We’re drowning in the recursive irony.


This rather pervasive and uncredited graphic
sums up my image of a hipster pretty well.

Today I ran across one of my favorite pop culture phenomena, the “meta-hipster reference”. It all started with a Village Voice blog post called The Most Epic Hipster Break-Up Text Message, Ever: The Interview!, which, since I don’t live in Williamsburg or Portland or wherever hipsters live these days, I might have found incomprehensible, but instead just found kind of yawn-worthy. But then a friend asked what a hipster was, and I realized that although I had some media-driven sense of what I thought a hipster was, that in fact perhaps no such thing exists, except when some hipster blog entry denies it’s existence, thereby confirming it. So I of course turned to the most trusted source on the internet for this sort of information. No, not Wikipedia – although the entry there amusingly paraphrases this 2007 Time Out New York piece thusly: “hipsterism fetishizes the authentic elements of all of the fringe movements of the postwar era—beat, hippie, punk, even grunge, and draws on the cultural stores of every unmelted ethnicity and gay style, regurgitating it with a winking inauthenticity and a sense of irony“. Which – while a mildly amusing take on hipsters, hardly captures the spirit. I mean, it misses the whole “death of irony thing” caused by the recursive meta-irony of being intentionally ironic while actually just being an educated but utterly unoriginal millennial. No, for a more insightful look into what hipster really means, I turned to Urban Dictionary, which has over 170 entries, featuring such gems as “twenty-something stroketard whose style of clothing conflicts with their demeanor, thus resulting in a spicy pseudo-intellectual with more flavor-of-the-month conversations than a long island prostitute“. Many of the definitions could have only been written by a hipster. I mean, who else would know what a conversation with a Long Island prostitute is like? If you’re not sure if you’re a hipster or not, there is of course a quiz. And to skip the whole hipster phase and become a meta-hipster straight away, familiarize yourself with Look at this Fucking Hipster (often NSFW). And please, for the love of God, if you know what the hell a hipster really is, enlighten us with a comment.

This Headline Is Self-Referential

[ 2 Comments ]Posted on November 18, 2009 by admin in Editorial & Opinion

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Is There A Word For When You’re Writing About Nothing?

They say that amongst the basic offenses that one might commit when managing a blog, referencing your own blog borders on felonious. The words you’re reading are not a violation of this principle; for one thing, this site is a magazine-style link aggregator with commentary, not a blog. And for another thing, this content is being placed in the Editorial & Opinion section, which in a way actually requires that it be self-referential. The fact is, for the first time since June 11, 2008, I didn’t have anything I felt like writing about today. This reminded me of the last time this happened, which was back in 2005. At the time, I was thankful for The Nonist’s What Everyone Should Know About Blog Depression. Which I’m sharing as a public service today, since if anyone is in fact reading this, they almost certainly have a blog or web site or as many as 137 Twitter followers, and may find some solace themselves. It has great advice like “IF THE SIMPLE ACT OF READING A MAGAZINE FILLS YOU WITH A DEEP SENSE OF DISQUIET, IF YOU BREAK OUT IN HIVES, OR FIND YOURSELF INEXPLICABLY WEEPING, IT MAY BE CONTENT ANXIETY, IN WHICH YOU SUBCONSCIOUSLY EQUATE EVERY PIECE OF INFORMATION AS A POTENTIAL PIECE OF BLOG CONTENT“. And who hasn’t experienced that? I especially like that I put that whole excerpt in caps. It gave it a lot more oomph, don’t you think? Another powerful insight: “Meta-bloggers may experience particularly severe blog depression when they realize everyone is continually posting the same crap, on every other meta-blog, over and over and over. The realization that meta-content is never ‘owned’ can be painful“. Indeed. Read the rest of this entry »

We’re All So Meta

[ 4 Comments ]Posted on July 31, 2009 by admin in Popular Media

Friday, July 31st, 2009

I want my Verfremdungseffekt back. Our collective tech and media savvy makes me feel like I’m living a fictionalized version of my own life.


William Shatner Gets Meta

Sometimes I feel like my friends and I are living a fictionalized version of our lives as products. How many times a day do you hear someone reference what they said or heard on Facebook or Twitter that day, rather than talking about something that occurred in reality? How many times a day do you hear someone who doesn’t even have a job in advertising or marketing talk about branding, or someone who does have a marketing job talk about utilizing social media as if they have the secret that makes it work? We live in a culture that thinks itself so media-savvy that the best source of news is a comedy show , the most revered art form is reality shows, and the hippest people totally aren’t. I mean, once you move to Williamsburg to be hip, how hip are you? I love metafiction, in fact, I have a half-written novel (Don’t we all? Here’s an excerpt of mine, 116KB PDF) which uses the narrator’s time-traveling and alcohol abuse as the device to explain the writer’s block that prevents him from resolving the story for you. To add an extra layer of “meta” to the whole thing, I plan on not finishing the novel. This kind of hip media self-awareness was cool back when AdBusters was new, or when William Shatner acknowledged his own absurdity in things like this parody trailer for the movie Seven, but now it’s so pervasive that it’s actually cannibalized back into advertising. It’s gotten to the point that I honestly can’t suspend my disbelief about my own life any more, let alone a movie or a product. My fourth wall is gone. I want my Verfremdungseffekt back.

Read the rest of this entry »

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