Did You Ever See The Mean Joe Greene Coke Ad Back In The Day And Think It'd Be Cool To One Day Talk To A Defensive Tackle, And Maybe Get His Jersey? Well, This Is Sort Of Like That, Except Instead Of A Jersey We Just Made Brunch For Him, And He Wasn't A Football Player But Rather A Travel Writer . . .

So when Craig suggested David Farley's An Irreverent Curiosity for book club, and the club picked it to read, he Tweeted to the author that we were reading his book. Farley responded to Craig that he would come to our book club if we wanted, and he did!

As an aside, Twitter is kind of a funny idea. Funny in that Craig — I surmised — was basically pinging Farley to say that we were reading his book. Which is to say, that while yes, he has 537 followers, in a way it's a private-ish message to Farley, because how many of those 537 people are paying attention to their Twitter feed at that particular moment? And even if they are, what do people really care about what he's reading in his book club? Meanwhile, Farley, if he's anything like the rest of everyone, is checking to see who is mentioning him, so he'll definitely get the message.

Goober, Jen and I were talking about stuff last night and I brought up that stuff like Twitter reinforces a larger passive-aggressiveness in, um, society or the world nowadays. In that, you can bitch about something to @AmericanAir and then some poor schlubs who man the @AmericanAir Twitter account respond to your complaint, and maybe even faster based on your Klout, whatever the fuck that is. Time was, you had to write letters to get shit. Now we just Tweet a bunch of passive-aggressive complaints and hope the number of followers we have will scare companies into providing customer service.

(Speaking of @AmericanAir, what kind of foolish bullshit kind of Tweet is this? A warmed-over Tolkien quote about traveling? What the fuck for? And why has it been retweeted 124 times as of June 20, 2012 at 11:19 p.m.? And "favorited" 31 times? Twitter is great, it precipitates revolutions and allows famous people to communicate directly to their fans. And then 124 people retweet some shit the American Airlines communications department puts out there, and you're like . . . Jesus fucking Christ.)

Goober noted that he's seen a bunch of examples of people talking shit on Facebook, as if what they say won't somehow get back to whoever it was they were writing about. That's when you start to think that the Internet's greatest achievement is legitimizing passive-aggressive behavior.

It's funny because it also occurred to me how dumb it is that people get upset about people who talk behind other people's backs. Because outside of Jesus Christ, who never talks behind someone's back? Everyone talks behind everyone else's back — and there's a good reason for this, which is that 90 percent of the time, you don't want someone talking to someone's front. That's what gets people hurt. Or worse.

So when Craig said that Farley was coming, I got a little nervous. What if we hated his book? Would I be willing to take him to task for it? Would I accuse him of barely writing a first draft? Would I berate him for having his overly twee characters suddenly rape one another? Would I beat up on him like I would a world-famous author who had long since died and couldn't defend his craft anyway? Even if the guy lived within 20 miles of me?

Clearly not. I'm a pussy in that way. And while I felt like I got a sense of the author's personality from his first-person book, part of me worried that we were inviting over James Agee, who would want to fuck us, or Henry Miller, who would give us bed bugs or something. But that didn't happen either — Farley's actually a really nice guy, and we had a really cool discussion about the book, as well as the process of writing it and the practical matter of finally seeing it in print. We (read: I) harassed him about the nitty gritty of writing — and he answered all our questions, which was very generous and very cool. He told us some behind the scenes stuff, which was also cool. And that he gets more than his share of queries about circumcision, because of course he's an expert on that now.

And fortunately, An Irreverent Curiosity is also an interesting book about a quirky, interesting topic, and while it was a little frustrating — to me, at least (i.e., not everyone — or anyone — else) — that the book ends with the author so close to resolving his search without finding a resolution, and while I did actually briefly mention that to the author, it didn't take away from the general experience.

So in other words, we were cool. And which is why the book becomes a little beside the point. So let me fix that now.

The "irreverent curiosity" in An Irreverent Curiosity is a relic that was once in a Catholic church in a small town in Italy outside of Rome. If you've never come across a relic in a Catholic church, the whole thing might come as kind of a surprise, but one day you'll be in a European church and your wife, who happens to be a lapsed Catholic and knows about such stuff, will direct your attention to some ornate object and point to the center of it where there will be a small nose bone or toe bone or ear bone or something and before you can say "Why is there a human bone embedded in an ornate gold cross?" or some such, she'll explain that it's a relic and that there was a time in the Catholic church when people dug up bones and worshiped them. Or whatever it is people do with relics. And your mind is momentarily blown until you hear a story like the kind that Farley relates, which is that one of these relics happens to have been — supposedly — Jesus' foreskin. Thus the concept of the irreverent curiosity.

The Holy Foreskin, as it was known, was stolen — or disappeared — in the early 1980s. So Farley's book goes over the mystery of where it went while he contextualizes it in the history of relics, throwing in some history and first-person stories about the quirky Italian town where the relic once resided.

Now you may be thinking — as I did for the first three-quarters of the book — that it's kind of absurd to think that anyone could have Jesus' foreskin. And then it occurs to you — after remembering all the Christmas creches you've seen — that a lot of folks believe in the story of the horsemen or wise men or virgins or whatnot, so in that worldview, of course someone would preserve the son of God's foreskin.

There's a parallel between the belief in the foreskin and the desire to see a story with an airtight resolution that merits some thought but which I can't quite put together right now, especially after all these paragraphs. So that's kind of a cop-out.

There are some documentary filmmakers trying to make a film about the story:

Farley said that it might actually happen, so it will be interesting to see the town and the characters come to life . . .

Posted: June 21st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Books Are The SUVs Of Writing | Tags: , , , , , ,

Good, We Needed A New Job

I still don't understand Twitter. I mean, I understand it in the sense that it makes sense for large corporations or movie stars to extend their brand via the medium, but I don't see the point of it for "normal people" — you're basically ceding control of your own content and providing that content to someone else for free.

That said, without Twitter, we wouldn't have an updated lesson in theodicy, or the religious concept that seeks to explain why bad things happen to good, God-fearing people. In other words, what the Book of Job is about. Or you could just let Buffalo Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson explain it:

Johnson had a perfect pass in his hands that would have given his team an overtime victory over the heavily favored Steelers.

Instead of walking off the field the hero, however, he dropped it.

Devastated, the 24-year-old watched in horror as the Steelers drove back down the field for the game-winning field goal.

While he seemed to hold it together on the sidelines, after the game, he later addressed the one person he found to blame on Twitter: God.

To be fair, it wasn't so much that he "blamed God" but rather he Tweeted in anguish the centuries-old theodicial paradox. Or maybe we should say he "retweeted" this centuries-old theodicial paradox. This is what he wrote (insane ALL CAPS in original):


Time was, Job 7:20 said: "If I have sinned, what do I unto Thee, O Thou watcher of men?" Now it's Stevie Johnson status:9006757670031360 — "I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!!"

The more awesome thing about Steve Johnson is that instead of deleting the Tweet — or lamely blaming it on his brother — he actually manned up and said this:

And No I Did Not Blame God People! Seriously??!? CMon! I Simply Cried Out And Asked Why? Jus Like yal did wen sumthin went wrong n ur life!

In other words, just like Job . . .

The Steve Johnson Tweet resonated for me because I'm frankly kind of sick of sports figures praising Jesus or God when things go right. Let's be clear here — far be it from me to suggest that it's silly for God or Jesus to concern himself with professional sports (though I do think that) but rather it's that I feel like it's kind of removed from the actual catch or touchdown or home run or slam dunk or a brilliant 6-4-3 put out to end the game. Take Kurt Warner for example:

The clip is from the 2008 NFC Championship game and Terry Bradshaw asks Warner how it feels to be really old and playing in the Super Bowl. And instead of answering how it feels to be really old and playing in the Super Bowl, Warner launches into an explanation that there's only one reason that he's standing there and that's the Lord Above.

Now I love Kurt Warner and I think Kurt Warner is a great inspirational football player. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. And taking the Arizona Cardinals to the Super Bowl — and nearly winning the Super Bowl — is miraculous in itself, but do we have to hear Jesus being praised all the time?

I get that Kurt Warner is a faithful guy. I knew that already. Most Cardinals fans knew that already. Most football fans knew it already. It didn't need to be repeated over and over and over again. And far, far be it from me to argue that Jesus had little to do with Larry Fitzgerald's three touchdown receptions, but is Warner really saying that Jesus was responsible for a seven-point win over the Eagles?

What I always assumed Kurt Warner meant was that it wasn't that Jesus was talking to head coach Ken Whisenhunt and calling plays from the booth above but rather that Jesus blessed Warner with skills and talent and that Warner took that blessing all the way to the Super Bowl. In that sense it's probably not much different than what most of us believe — we all feel fortunate and lucky and blessed for all the great things in our lives. My only point is that it's kind of unrelentingly large-picture to keep referring to Jesus.

Which is to say, you don't hear a president talk about how great it was that the Founding Fathers created this country just as he is about to sign a piece of legislation — we get that in order to have our democracy we needed the Founding Fathers and that all eventually brought the president to the point where he signs a piece of legislation. You don't hear a doctor give props to Hippocrates after performing a successful transplant. You don't hear an Academy Award winner praise Thespis of Icaria before accepting an Oscar. You don't need to hear this stuff because we all understand it — what we want to hear is all the stuff that comes after. That's not to say that Terry Bradshaw's on-field interview with Warner would have been any less lame had Warner not gone all wayback machine on the history of Kurt Warner's football career because on-field interviews are invariably always lame, and besides, that was a dopey "question" — How do you feel to be so old? Really?

It's not just Kurt Warner, though he is one of the best examples of the Sports-Jesus nexus. You hear it a lot. What you don't hear is the logical end of the argument. The Sports Theodicy. Which is where Stevie Johnson comes in. If stuff goes right, it's "Praise Jesus." When stuff goes wrong, it should logically be, "This is how you do me!"

As it happens, Kurt Warner Tweeted at Steve Johnson later on:

@StevieJohnson13 — I asked same thing when released in STL & benched 3 times, But then God did his thing… Be ready! Enjoy watching you play!

Pretty cool actually . . .

While I can't emphasize enough how refreshing it was to hear a sports figure finally give God his comeuppance, I should add that it's probably not a great path to continue down. Kids won't know how to process it if megachurches start praying for defeat or injuries. I don't even want to start thinking about World Cup matches. It could get ugly. But for today at least, we should thank Stevie Johnson for Tweeting the Sports Theodicy. I fully expect at least one sermon this Sunday about it. And I kind of want more anguish — can't wait to see Giants closer Brian Wilson raise his fist at God or Roberto Luongo give the Bras d'honneur/gesto dell'ombrello to his deity. This is how you do me?! Totally.

Posted: November 30th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: FW: Link | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,