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A Thousand-Odd Words on Chuck Klosterman

October 23, 2008 Leave a comment

When you tell people you’re from Fargo, you usually get one of two questions. “Oh, like the movie? Do you really talk like that?” is pretty popular, thanks to the P.R. work done for us by Joel and Ethan Coen. The other is “What do you think of Chuck Klosterman?! I think he’s great!”

Now, I admit to purchasing some Chuck Klosterman. I bought Killing Yourself to Live. And maybe two more. I can’t remember; I’m on the bus right now. Anyway, I admire the fact that Chuck, despite his work to the contrary, has earned himself a great career. His following in the Impressionable Young Hipster demographic can’t be understated. Make fun of him in a crowded room with one person wearing rectangular horn-rimmed glasses and said person will probably tell you how uncool you are. Then they’ll go cry in the corner because you essentially said that Jesus is a cunt.

But something most people don’t understand is that he makes it impossible for people like me to talk to anyone without getting the “metalhead from Fargo” bias. Chuck is not indicative of Fargo, Fargo writers, or anything, y’know, relavant. Am I bitter? Chip on my shoulder? Maybe a little.

But I swear to God I’m going to break the face of the next person that asks if I know Chuck Klosterman. Or if I like him or his writing.

What makes it worse is there’s a strong case of “local boy does good” in that Fargo area. His books constantly have a display at the Barnes and Noble. The colleges invite him to come to speak to their writing classes. I guess his best advice is “Put your actual phone number in the back of your first book and maybe SPIN will call you one day.”

No one ever asks “How was it writing obits, Chuck?” My friend was going to go to one of his Q & As to ask “You’re on my list of people to punch if I ever meet them. How does that make you feel?”

The thing about all of this is that I’m probably irritated the most that he’s successful in the field that I’m halfway attempting to get into. And is not because he broke on the strength of his writing, which I’ll admit is at least good. It’s because he paints himself as some sort of John the Baptist, shouting from the desert that is North Dakota. He’s like Hunter S. Thompson, only with that gosh-darn folksy attitude. His newest book (the one with the ballsiest title I’ve ever seen, IV) actually has something akin to that on the back cover.

It’s like someone at his publisher was like “Holy shit, someone knows how to write in Fargo! Give him a deal cuz Lord knows that’s impossible.” And he constantly plays off that.

Screw Chuck Klosterman. I hate him, and so should you.

Categories: chuck klosterman

Rants about Heroes (spoilers)

October 14, 2008 Leave a comment

So I’m going to try something quick and dirty this time around. I’m writing this on my phone, with the built-in qwerty keyboard, so I won’t be writing a novel here.

This week I’d like to talk about something that’s been bugging me quite a bit: Heroes.

When it initially appeared two seasons ago, the series seemed new and fresh. Even with its obvious indebtedness to Marvel’s X-Men comics, the show seemed to offer up action and gravitas and style in a way that was altogether different from anything before. But then something weird happened: people liked it. Characters suddenly became phenomena in their own right. “Save the cheerleader, save the world” ended up repeated by people who hated cheerleaders and people who hated comic books (and the world, I guess) alike. The show’s first season run was something mythic in television. The Big Hit.

And then there was that second season. The pacing, the new characters (I distinctly remember everyone I know and respect dubbing Maya and her brother “The Latin Wonder Twins” almost simultaneously), and the added twists seemed wholly unnecessary. The one thing I liked about the season is what eveyone else hated: Hiro’s Japanese subplot with Adam Monroe. It dealt with the one thing that is sorely lacking in comics but can be used to great effect in television–character development. But, Hiro notwithstanding, the season was a lost cause before the writer’s strike cut it short.

Series creator Tim Kring claimed that he’s listened to the fans and delivered a more active, kinetic plot. While I’d like to agree with him on that, I can’t. The plot for seaon three seems as convoluted and bizarre as any late-season X-Files episode. Characters with insanely cool powers that just appear from nowhere, only to die within ten minutes’ time. Characters that I never really cared about, like Claire’s birth mother, being given integral roles in the show. Characters I loved getting shafted. Everyone being reduced to a stock version of themselves. Claire Bennet. Is anyone surprised the she’s become a stock Angry At Her Parents Girl? (Also, how unconvincing is she as Future Claire?) Peter Pitrelli, the stock Brooding Hero?

And then you have the Big Sweeping Changes(tm). Hiro kills Ando! Ando kills Hiro! Hiro digs up Adam! Sylar’s not all evil! Peter’s not all good! Old Man Pitrelli’s still alive! Nathan finds God! Linderman’s still dead!

And THEN you have Noah, Anglea Pitrelli, Mohinder, and Matt Parkman. PICK A FUCKING SIDE, PEOPLE. I’m tired of your vacillating!

Oh, and The Big Problem. The Maguffin. The thing that unites them all into one plot: the visions of the impending doom of the future. Operation Impending Doom Three, if you will. First it was the explosion in New York. Then it was the virus. This time it’s the formula (how symbolically ironic is that?) with a bit of exploding California thrown in.

What this is all coming to–my point–is that plot, action, powers, all that is cool. But frankly, if I don’t care about the characters, I’ve stopped caring about the show. And really the only endearing character on the show right now is Mr. Turtle. And that’s because he’s a cute turtle.

All in all, Heroes still has places it can go. There are, at this point, dozens of characters just waiting to be fleshed out into real people. But like I said to my wife and my brother yesterday, Heroes is in a place now that it took Marvel almost 30 years to get to: a place where style is overtaking substance. Where the next buck is more important than the next story.

This show that combined the best elements of The X-Files, X-men, Watchmen, and dozens of other elements has finally turned into simply the sum of its parts, when it had the abilibty to be so much more. At the end of the day, I don’t want to help create a new character by voting with my text messages. I don’t want to read the online comic for information that I should get in the show. I don’t want a media empire to take my money. I just want a show that I can watch that has high-quality writing, acting, directing, and most of all, storytelling. Is it so much to ask from a show that used to promise those very things?

Categories: heroes, television, tim kring

Oh Internet, You Never Fail Me

October 2, 2008 Leave a comment

Hey you remember that thing that I did a few weeks ago? The thing about making money on the internet? The thing that sort of went rambling on and on and really didn’t have much of a point? The thing that Ben Templesmith dubbed “pretty cool” once he read it?*

Turns out someone wrote a better version of it than I did. I thoroughly recommend reading this article. It’s what I would have written if I had the resources. The article I wrote, of course, is no less valid for what it is (ie, people opining on the subject of the internet), but it’s not what I set out to write. So go read that. Then come back here and read what you might not have read before.

*No, this really happened. Yes, I’m mentioning it to feel good about myself.

Categories: Uncategorized