Saturday, August 15, 2009

Pseudo-intellectual cliches

I shared this review of 500 Days of Summer from This Recording in Google Reader and Christen left the following comment (for context, if you haven't seen the movie or read the review, one character falls in smit with another because, I guess, they both like The Smiths; the reviewer says astutely, "Love based on the triviality of one's taste should at least be exclusive to the point where the shared preference saves both souls from eternal ostracism" (her example being the Klingon version of Hamlet)) (Aside: If you're not using Google Reader, you should, and you should share my blog posts; I want something I write to "go viral"):
I said the same thing re: The Smiths being way too popular for this use. Then, later, he says how they "talked for hours about Bananafish." Ugh. Everybody loves Bananafish, you idiot!! You know that on the DVD, there'll be a deleted scene in which they discuss how classic "Dr. Strangelove" is. Fun game: what other references would fit in the "we think we're deep and unique, but we really only operate in cliches"?
Sounds like a good game to me. So let's go: Help me add to this list of pseudo-intellectual/pseudo-hip/over-referenced cliches (Note: Many of these things, like The Smiths, are actually great, but still, you're ruining it for me, culture):
  • Anything Salinger, obvi
  • Bukowski, ditto
  • David Bowie (Sorry, but when a guy puts David Bowie on I automatically think "trying too hard")
  • "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (Sorry again)
  • The Violent Femmes
  • Goonies
  • The Big Lebowski (Haven't needed to watch this movie since 2000 because I hear it quoted in full on a three-week cycle)
  • Freaks & Geeks (ha ha!)
  • Johnny Cash cover of "Hurt"
  • Billie Holiday
  • Old PSAs/DARE shirts/calling pot "weed"
  • Sushi/dim sum/Ethiopian
  • Yoga
  • Watching tennis (I don't know)
I could do a whole separate post on pseudo-indie-movie cliches which are equally loathsome to me (e.g., opening shot of serene, cookie-cutter suburban neighborhood with Elfman-esque music, give me a fucking break!!). I bet Christen could help me compile that list too.

We are off soon to New London for a BBQ and intense-sounding poetry + multimedia event put together by Drunken Boat. It should be pretty cool (not to mention Adam Golaski is reading and he is always a pleasure and always compliments my clothes and accessories (P.S. No, Google, I didn't mean "film forum")) but I am dreading the two-hour drive back at the end of the night. I'm sure I will be tired and I have a phobia about sleeping in cars because I girl I knew in high school was killed that way--her sister who was driving fell asleep too and drove off the road, and she had slipped down in her seat so the seatbelt wasn't properly positioned to save her, and instead killed her.

Sorry, this blogpost took a turn for the macabre.


  1. Steve Reich
    David Lynch
    Hal Hartley
    Gertrude Stein
    I just woke up, I'm a little groggy.
    Wes Anderson
    Ezra Pound
    Chloë Sevigny
    I'm feeling better.
    Jackson Mac Low
    This could be war.

  2. I'm not sure I understand...are you saying we should avoid things once they become well known, even if they're actually great?

  3. OMG, how could I forget Wes Anderson.

    I just heard that some bookstores keep the Kerouac behind the counter because it gets stolen so often.


  4. mmmm this is 79% a joke. so of course not. but I am getting sick of hearing these things referenced all the time.

  5. Watching tennis?! No one watches tennis!

    Saddle staplers
    Cowboy shirts
    Fucking microbrews
    Growing ivy on your face
    Bacon bits
    Coupons for feta cheese
    Vincent D'Onofrio
    Smokey the Bear
    Fresh spices in a little plastic bag
    My friend Jerry
    Light switches
    Massaging your wrist when your wrist hurts a little
    Alvin and the Chimpunks
    The tray underneath the oven where you keep pans and stuff

  6. oh well in that case, any european philosopher or literary critic living or dead



  8. also holy shit how could I forget documentaries.

  9. Note that I like a lot of these myself (but not all):

    Sasha Baron Cohen
    Frank Stanford
    Henry Darger
    Monty Python
    Napoleon Dynamite
    The Comics Curmudgeon
    blog comments

  10. Donnie Darko
    "going viral"

  11. ooh ooh more mac-hating

    wait did we already do that

  12. random precocious/wise-beyond-their-years little siblings




  13. singer songwriters who are actual icelandic spies

    extension cords

    the phrase "is that a grocery list in your pocket or are you just too cheap to see me"

    anything Maldovian

    scissor kicks


    falling in love with the tape of the ocean you originally bought to help you sleep but now listen to all the time, secretly, through flesh-colored earbuds




    singing Happy Birthday in Spanish

  14. One: I watch tennis.

    Two: saying something is cliche is so fucking cliche.

    Three: I want to know who these people are who say they like Hal Hartley, Ezra Pound, and Frank Stanford, so that I can have some new friends.

  15. Thanks guys. The next game will be to try to think of something that's not a cliche.

  16. how bout "Mac hating: the game"

    is this thing on

  17. Yeah, I was at a wedding this weekend, and therefore failed to participate in my own game. (Thanks for the shout-out, EG!) The idea isn't to hate on these things because are popular; as Elisa points out, many of the items on her list are popular for a reason.

    In fact, it's not about the quality of the things at all. Instead, it's a commentary on those who think that they are the only people in the world who have discovered the brilliance of said thing (until they meet that one other brunette-banged person who's ever heard of Sid and Nancy).

    It's about having some flippin' perspective about the world and being aware that you are not a special and unique snowflake, especially when your tastes aren't really that special or unique. I love, love, love the Beatles, but I don't think I'm the only one.

    For what it's worth, I think "Love Will Tear Us Apart" captures this better than anything, especially since everybody seemed to discover this song existed over the past 12 months. Monty Python, Donnie Darko, and Wes Anderson are also excellent contributions. I'd like to add Neutral Milk Hotel to the list.

    And, I would probably fall in love with someone if I overheard them listening to Billie Holliday. We all have our weaknesses.

  18. Harold and Motherfuckin' Maude.

  19. OK, I've figured it out (I can't let this topic go): The people thinking that they are the only ones to discover these "pseudo-intellectual cliches" are often young, misunderstood, and overintelligent (usually the source of their being misunderstood). They think that because the frat boy and the cheerleaders don't like Salinger, they are the only people in the world who like Saligner.

    Now, normally, what happens is one grows up, and what do you know? There are other overintelligent, misunderstood people out there! In fact, there's a lot of us! And we all like the same things!

    This should happen Freshman year of college. Not in your 20s and 30s.

    Story: I went to NYU film school. My first night in college, my roommate Serena and I knocked on every room in the dorm and invited everyone to cram into our room to watch a bootleg copy of Pulp Fiction I had procured (before it was out on video). No one in my tiny town liked Tarantino! And here were all these other people -- most of them were boys! cute boys! -- and they loved him and knew his work and debated it all night long, and they liked me because I liked him, and I was so, so happy.

    I needed that moment, and I will always love Pulp Fiction because of it. But here's what I know now that I didn't know then: Pulp Fiction was a huge, huge movie. Millions of people know and love Pulp Fiction. Maybe not the frat boys (actually, poor example, because they probably do, but my point...), but loving Pulp Fiction makes me a PART OF a community; it doesn't set me apart.

    Yeah, this was all pretty much an ad for Inglourious Basterds. Coming Friday to a theater near you on a wave of MTV-Generation nostalgia!

  20. Wow, this really hit a nerve for Christen. It's the mother lode!

  21. So all this reminded me of a review I read yesterday of Ariana Reines' Coeur de Lion in Rain Taxi: 'She writes that she has been listening to Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and Italian opera to help her “feel the popular emotions” of an “I” for an absent “you”'... Sometimes one wants to feel popular emotions and reaches for The Smiths or [insert whatever from your list above]. Makes one think one's an irreverent member of some shallow, facebookable indie oddball, inc. club. There's some solace in that. As opposed to actual alienation which is not fun. No?

  22. Yes. Also: We want everyone to agree with us while we simultaneously disagree with everyone else.

  23. Wouldn't it be scary/sad if you revisited this blog four years later to find someone left a comment mentioning your name as an over-referenced cliche? Wait, hell, no, it'd be awesome.

    Guided by Voices.