Tag Archives: grantland

Curate Yourself! Starring Jonah Lehrer

Jonah Lehrer resigned from The New Yorker after it was discovered he’d fabricated a series of “quotes” from Bob Dylan. Thinking you could get away with putting words in the mouth of the most obsessively studied songwriter of the last 100 years might mean Lehrer possessed a Rasputin-like notion of his own indestructibility. Or, it could say less about Lehrer specifically and more about a transformation in ideas of what we expect from media and entertainment.

I wrote about a similar issue earlier this year when I laced into a Verizon commercial that ripped off an SNL ad parody from the early 1990s. What struck me about that Verizon commercial was not only how blatant the concept robbery was, but how long it took me to notice it, which indicated either no one else had noticed it or the world at large was completely unconcerned with the theft.

The Verizon spot didn’t run for very long–suggesting perhaps they got cold feet about such wanton thievery–but it also didn’t garner much outrage outside of media types, ad-centric blogs, and weird trainspotters like myself. Google “Verizon SNL bad idea” and the aforementioned Scratchbomb post is fourth from the top, which is usually a good sign that nobody cares about a subject but me.

When thinking about Verizon’s ripoff and why no one seemed to care, it occurred to me that in our reference-oriented culture, there is no longer a shared concept of what constitutes stealing an idea.

So many folks out there in TV Land may interpret this Verizon ad as more of an homage to Bad Idea Jeans than a ripoff. And for all I know, the ad’s creators may honestly see it that way, too. They don’t think they’ve “gotten away” with something; they think they’re playing by the New Rules. What passes for a new idea in the 21st century is being the first guy to complete bite something we’ve seen before.

While the Jonah Lehrer incident is a bit of a different animal, I think they’re in the same wing of the zoo. Both reflect a shift in attitudes in what both the writer and the reader expect from content.

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How Chuck Klosterman Made the List

Note: I wrote this last week when the events described first blew up the internet. Another site took a pass on it, so I reread and wondered if I was still just as mad as I was when I first scribbled it down. The verdict: Yes! Here’s to Irish Alzheimers!

I have a small, select group of people who crossed a certain line with me and will never be allowed back into my good graces, barring a miracle. Chuck Klosterman is high on that list.

I was reminded of this when he threw up a piece at Grantland that pooped all over tUnE-yArDs for the crime of winning the Village Voice’s Pazz and Jop Poll’s record of the year. It wasn’t so much his choice of target that bugged me as the methods used, and reasons behind aiming in that direction. Per Klosterman habit, the piece made feint, passive-aggressive stabs at its subject, qualifying all of his contempt behind insincere well-wishing for the creator of art he doesn’t like while implying the poor, misguided souls who profess to enjoy it are simply saying they do to bolster their elitist cred. Like much of Klosterman’s writing on music, it  was obsessed with the idea that critics might like things the average slob doesn’t.

Multiple Fire-Joe-Morgan-style takedowns of this post have already been penned, so I won’t attempt that. (I’m partial to this one by Scott Creney.) However, the tone and direction of his tUnE-yArDs hit piece reminded me of another, even more infuriating thing he wrote years ago, one that I believe he still deserves an enormous amount of grief for penning.

Back in 2002, Dee Dee Ramone and Robbin Crosby (late of the hair metal band Ratt) died within 24 hours of each other. The New York Times asked Klosterman to write a look back at both men for the “Lives They Lived” issue of their Sunday magazine (aka Guys Who Died This Year). Klosterman proceeded to pen one of the most rage-inducing, wall-punchingest things I’ve ever read in my entire life.

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