I Don't Remember Half Of What Happened Early On Or Very Much At All What Took Place Toward The End

One day I'll come to terms with the fact that genre fiction will never be as objectively compelling and unassailably brilliant in the way that I want it to be. In other words, nothing less than transcending its worth as merely a piece of genre fiction. It's kind of a dick thing to want: if only you were what you set out to be and also insanely good, then I'd be practically moved to tears.

In other words, I've been waiting for a "really good sci-fi" book, thinking I'd been open-minded and accepting of the genre when in reality I've just never enjoyed that type of story — leading you to conclude that eventually there's a point where you just should stop torturing yourself.

All of which is to say, there's probably no point in you reading what I thought about Ernest Cline's Ready Player One. That of course won't stop me from writing it, which is itself just torturous.

I will start with this: I don't understand the glowing blurbs on the back of the paperback. I often don't understand the blurbs — or more accurately, I understand what they're saying but rather I have no idea how people lie to themselves that much. Whatever. Blurbs are not new. But stuff like "time simply evaporates" and "ridiculously fun" seem effusive to the point of seeming ironic. Putting aside the tortured mixed metaphor, I just don't like the idea of time evaporating. One of the reasons I'm so leery of reading is the idea that people seem to do it to kill time. Time shouldn't be treated as a puddle.

Since I already said "whatever," I won't say "whatever." So imagine another transition. Got it? OK.

Then there's the world in which Ready takes place. The premise is that governments everywhere relied too heavily on fossil fuels, and by the year 2044, that stash of fossil fuels ran out, I guess leaving the world without energy (except for those locales serviced by nuclear, hydroelectric, solar or wind energy), and somehow the energy industry disappeared, leading to a collapse of society, while at the same time supporting an entire societal infrastructure within some kind of virtual reality system.

Which is how we get to the main conceit of Player, which in short is that the creators of this virtual reality system grew up in the era of early 1980s computer and gaming equipment: Atari, standup video games, etc. And they also love 1980s music. And no one believes that popular culture progressed past 1989.

So one of the creators of this virtual world dies and then creates this sort of virtual reality scavenger hunt, which is what the book is really about. Oh, and most of the clues have to do with 1980s popular culture, because the guy who died lived through this era and conveniently forgot about everything that happened after 1990. Which is to say, no Nirvana, no Outkast, no Judd Apatow, no Seinfeld, no Kanye (NO KANYE???), no Sopranos, no Mad Men, no Wonderbra, no Forrest Gump, no Crash Bandicoot . . . we could go on and on and on. If you pull yourself out of the head of the character and into the head of the writer whose formative years were in the 1980s, you have to ask yourself: was it at all worth it? Obviously — even in spite of the weird "Nifty 50s" sort of nostalgia about that vapid era — the answer is no. Be real, nobody really [hearts] the 80s. Take a look at the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 Singles of 1986, just for example; it's not pretty (full disclosure: 1983, 1984 and even 1985 come off much, much better).

I guess I "get" that when society has broken down to the point where the only meaningful institutions are in the virtual world, a set of origin myths will rise in the vacuum, leading to a completely unwarranted elegies to Men Without Hats, Family Ties and Radio Shack-manufactured computers (TRS-80).

One works best when it disregards the 1980s nostalgia and focuses on the action. The only problem is that when the action is virtual, sometimes it's unclear what's what. I don't remember half of what happened early on or very much at all what took place toward the end. I do know who Howard Jones is, however.

Posted: September 4th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Books Are The SUVs Of Writing | Tags: , , , ,

Annotated Twitter: Didya Hear The One About Sam Waterston Bringing A Ferret Into Dunkin' Donuts?

December 4, 2014

Why you'd bring a bunny into a Dunkin' Donuts, I have no idea.

December 11, 2014

I actually wrote emails to the Schools Commissioner and Mayor asking whether this was "normal." Haven't heard back. Suffice it to say, there are at least three things that are troubling — take your pick which is the worst: shitty fucking non-curriculum related field trips, shitty fucking corporate pandering or shitty fucking established religion. That no one from either the Board of Ed or the Mayor's office has deigned to respond solidifies what complete fucking jokers these people are. Oh, and we also saw at least one of these same school groups — yes, "groups" as in plural — duck into the subterranean Burger King on the northwest corner of 34th and Sixth. Apparently our children are that fucked.

December 13, 2014

Free NBA League Pass weekend, when the Sixers were still on track to losing every game ever, if memory serves.

December 14, 2014

The silliest audio opener for one of the most exciting shows of recent memory. We never fast-forwarded the DVR just to laugh at this line.

December 15, 2014

I don't, as a rule, "hatewatch," but "friends" of mine do; Whither Forrest Bedford or even Jack McCoy?

Presented without comment.

December 16, 2014

I am *going* to write a song using that abhorrent final phrase at the top of the billboard.

December 23, 2014

Gosh, trying desperately to remember what this was referring to; it's possible it was a riff on something I saw on Nashville.

Ah, 1983.

December 27, 2014

It was Kristin Davis, dummy. She just turned 50 at the end of February.

December 28, 2014

The BernzOmatic, in case you were wondering; it works with the Searzall attachment.

December 29, 2014

Drives me fucking nuts. Part of the absurdity of Twitter. And uselessness.

December 31, 2014

A modest proposal: waht if we all started disregarding television cameras?

Posted: March 17th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Too Much Information | Tags: , , , ,

Eric Byrnes Continues To Invade My Mental Space

One thing we can thank the current highest-paid beer-league softball player for is playing a key role in rehabilitating The Outfield's "Your Love."

After we attend a wedding and the wedding band pulls out the number at some point in its final set, I want to argue that former Major League Baseball player Eric Byrnes is singlehandedly responsible for this, but Brother Michael vehemently disagrees, and provides the Wikipedia proof. Yes, Michael, maybe Katy Perry did cover the song in 2007, but that was well before "I Kissed a Girl" catapulted her into the mainstream. And sure, the Decemberists have been covering it since 2005, but who is really paying attention to Decemberists covers? I mean, to the extent that we're hearing "Your Love" at a wedding — and not just a DJ's pick, but a song that a five- or six-piece band actually took the effort to learn — I blame Eric Byrnes.

I have to say that I really do like Eric Byrnes. Maybe you want to dislike Eric Byrnes, but it's not Eric Byrnes' fault that the management under Josh Byrnes (no relation) gave him so much money to play softball (think about that, Wilpons!) (Alright, so maybe it wasn't all Josh Byrnes' fault, but it's difficult to resist a gratuitous dig at the Mets' ownership).

There's a long list of loopy stuff Byrnes did during his career that might get tiresome but which in the rigidly conformist world of baseball seemed relatively endearing: Sliding headfirst into bases when there's no play; Flossing and surfing; Mustaches. He even blithely rode his bike through the clubhouse after forgetting to bunt during a suicide squeeze — of course he was released only a few days later; a "free spirit" is a cool thing — until he starts to suck. And after Eric Byrnes started to suck, he quickly became the highest-paid player in the history of beer-league softball.

One of the funnier things about Byrnes was his walk-up music. Circling back to the original point, Byrnes began the 2008 season by using The Outfield's "Your Love" as his walk-up music (though when he hit a slump, his teammates took matters into their own hands). And the clip he used wasn't the four measures of Summer of '69-ish fart guitar that opens the first 30 seconds of the song but rather that distinctive Alan and The Chipmunks-like first line: "Josie's on a vacation far away . . ."

I know, corny — "The Outfield," get it? Probably even cornier than "Disco Inferno," one of Byrne's previous picks: "Burn, baby burn," get it? But in a milieu where stuff like "Crazy Train" and "Big Pimpin'" is the normal fare, Eric Byrnes' walk-up music was kind of funny. (I'll admit that there are some other goofy songs on this list — did the Reds' Ryan Freel really walk up to "Tom's Diner"? Inexplicable! — but over and over it's stuff like "Slow Ride" or "Sweet Child o' Mine" or "Low Rider" . . . and I hope I go my whole life never again having to think about "Machine Head" — thank god Jeff Cirillo has retired.)

It sounds one of those half-baked arguments that I like to double down on — and it is! — but I'm actually curious: Were we hearing "Your Love" at a wedding because Eric Byrnes started playing it as his walk-up music in 2008? As far as I can tell, "Your Love" had no particular big boost in the way that, say, Trio's "Da Da Da" got a reprieve from the cutout bin of musical history from that VW ad. Even seven straight weekends of I Love the 80s marathons couldn't totally explain why a wedding band would choose to include "Your Love" in its set list.

I admit, it could be that it is a purely organic cultural zeitgeist — part Decemberists, part VH1, part aging demographic and part Byrnes — but if success has a thousand fathers, then rehabilitating "Your Love" should probably be pinned to one asshat. If so, then at least that's something for Byrnes' legacy.

The song itself is an odd choice for a wedding. Sure, it's "fun" to "dance" to, but once you take the lyrics into account, it's hard to justify its inclusion, since it seems to be about a creepy ne'er-do-well having an affair with an underage girl (we caught Adventureland the other night on cable, and without giving too much away, I'll report that "Your Love" is used more appropriately). (The wedding band, by the way, was awesome — the drummer was the lead singer, just like Peter Prescott . . . or Phil Collins.)

One thing I didn't realize was that not only were The Outfield baseball fans but they were actually English, as well. I guess it makes sense — English people seem to love to write creepy sexual subtexts into their pop songs. Their bio page is pretty great for the pictures alone. I don't think even East Williamsburg Industrial Business Zone subletters could bring themselves to wear those high-heeled boots lead singer Tony Lewis is showing off in the top photo there (the pair of shoes that figure so prominently and inexplicably in the foreground of the bottom photo, on the other hand, I feel like I've seen on the B62).

I do hope that Byrnes eventually returns as a commentator or something — he's actually fun to root for — when your team isn't paying him $11 million to play softball that is.

Posted: October 27th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Half-Baked Theory, Jukebox | Tags: , , ,