Hmm. That thread-uniting rant may have come off as more accusatory or self-righteous than I intended. If so, just pretend I was being ironic. I'm actually a nice boy with a good heart.
by Ryan Gantz on 1/23/2001 10:12:20 PM | bang on

High School: I was lucky enough to attend a small private high school, a school not nearly as preppy and high-minded as this boring and unflattering website would have you believe. My graduating class was 21, and the entire population of the school, grades 7--12, was about 170 students during my time there, and has since been capped off at about 200. I was constantly engaged with the community, and as a result blossomed into a Nice, Smart Young Man. I wrote an idealistic essay once about my problems with our country's educational system, and one approach that I believe might work better. Many of my thoughts on education stem from an understanding of what did work in my high school. Sometimes I look back at those years as the good old days, but hell. I'm about as cool now as I was then, I suppose.

Yearbook Quotes: Being one of only 21 graduates, I had an entire page to myself, with content and design of my choosing. I filled it with some photos of myself making funny faces, some artwork, and a whole bunch of hand-written text. The text included a patchwork of lyrics from songs by Weezer, Nirvana, Paul Simon, PJ Harvey, Tom Waits and the like; thank yous and encouraging words for the school; the usual secret code inside-joke scribbles to friends; and the following quote: "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I ... I blazed my own damn path." Can't you just feel the non-conformity oozing out of your monitor? I sure can. I agree that Robert Frost has its place, of course, but I

Cynicism: am suspicious of common expressions, and common modes of expression, and quotes that are commonly used to express modes. I am suspicious of these things in the same way I am suspicious of third grade drawings filled with appropriated images like hearts and rainbows, with a smiling sun tucked into the corner. There must be third-graders who think rainbows are absolutely beautiful and inspiring, just as there must be seniors who feel that The Road Less Travelled captures in divine line their highschool experience. But I can't tell who is sincere, and who is just riding the pop-culture wave, without taking a little extra effort to get to know someone. No one has time to get to know anyone, so we judge people we encounter based on what they say, or how they act, or the things they enjoy. When it comes to my interests, I don't care how many copies my books and CDs have sold, or what anyone thinks my tastes say about me. I will enjoy Nick Drake even if you figure I didn't buy any of his stuff until that Volkswagen ad came out. But when it comes to expression, an aural or visual or textual or musical representation of me, I feel much more determined to avoid phrases or rhythms or designs that have been made common through the media, because the popular connotation of that element detracts from my meaning, even if I intend it sincerely. Fundamentally, this is a control issue. I like to stand out. Enter

Irony: the easiest way to use a common expression and prove to the people reading and listening that you are at least one layer wiser than whatever it is you're saying or writing. And since "irony is only ironic when it's the exception", years of recursive irony have left us pursuing endless twirls of self-reference. I use irony as a defense: I can't even dance naturally to pop music, because I become self-conscious that I'll look like another tall dumb idiot dancing. So I pretend to get really into silly dances. It's easy and fun. The more difficult way out, of course, involves very careful consideration of what you say, how you say it, and who you're speaking to, to ensure that your sincerity is truly sincere.

And sometimes you just gotta get on the floor and dance, ma nigga.
by Ryan Gantz on 1/22/2001 10:43:58 PM | bang on

I have a number of relationships built solely on irony and cynicism, none so close as to hinder a sincere connection with anyone; I don't want that connection anyway. As for entertainment: irony, as a device and excuse, has worn out its welcome. The atypical occurence being: "That wasn't really horrible, it was pretending to be horrible." Yeah? Well it wasn't funny either. "The Simpsons" have forgotten the simple fact that "you are what you pretend to be" (see Mother Night), so last season's "worst episode ever" was pretty damn close to being their worst episode ever. Irony, like everything, is only ironic when it is the exception.

I am too fond of my cynicism to disparage it. As Nietzsche wrote: "Cynicism is the only form in which common souls come close to honesty." And as such I believe a rational human must approach every topic with a healthy dose of mistrust. But to those who have become too enamored of cynicism, the inability to derive pleasure from anything is not "a healthy dose of mistrust." I know these souls as well; those who will not like anything that sells more than 1,000 copies, because popular acceptance equals refuse no matter what the source.

I guess I'm saying that irony is totally, like, 1995, you know?
by andrew wollman on 1/22/2001 08:30:22 PM | bang on