Sunday, November 15, 2009

First Notes on the Contemporary American Man

I recently had to cut off the tap that ran from ESPN into my brain. At least the so-called “analysis” portion which is really just guys who talk about their fandom and grossly overestimate the value of sport. I recall Dave Damashek once musing: “In these troubled times I fell sorry for people who don't have sport. What do they do? How do they escape?” These guys worship uniforms. And the question Damashek asks is buried so deeply beneath a foundation of unknowing, I would have no idea how to answer him in terms that would make sense. People read books, Damashek. They try to figure out what the hell is going on instead of hiding from it. They try to learn how to live life rather than escape from it.

I'll still watch a game or twenty, but my days for listening to podcasts are over. Except for Bill Simmons. I should explain. It isn't that I consider him an exception to the standard idiocy; in many ways he is a champion flying the Idiot flag. Though I am sympathetic to him in some ways, and though he occasionally offers genuine insight (but only when talking about the NBA), I would not call him a good writer. He knows a little about sports. I feel sorry for him when he talks about music. I cringe for humanity when he talks about movies. It is not that my standard is high, just that it is a standard at all. This is the problem with Page 2, with culture at large, everyone is just going through the motions.

I read Simmons because to me he represents the Contemporary American Man, and I have to keeps tabs on that spirit/ideology, because I regard it as what I am up against. He is the champion of the middle brow. The Contemporary American Man loves his any art that makes him feel smart and greets anything that confuses him with suspicion and hostility. Simmons loves mediocre sentimentality in movies and resents anything that looks like it may have been made by someone smarter than him. He has two phrases for this: “artsy-fartsy” and “too cool for school.” These terms cover anything that makes him feel stupid. This infantilism is the affliction of the Contemporary American Man. I suffer from it too, but my advantage is that I have diagnosed it correctly.

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