Furor Scribendi: Zombies, Canadians, Rihanna, and Chet Haze (or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Pretend to be Malcolm Gladwell)

7 Jul

Brother Jürgen Taintsdorf and Evander Jones trade e-mails regarding celebrity, sport, and all things culture.

Evander Jones:
Dear Brother Jürgen,

Took him long enough.

What follows is a pitiful attempt to be either the Bill Simmons to your Malcolm Gladwell or the other way around. If need be, however, I am willing to settle as the Ke$ha to your Flo Rida. Either way I’ll probably come off as a DoucheMcMuffin, even if I edit our email exchanges to make us both look far more witty than our faithful Sherman Ave readers could ever imagine. A tricky task, mind you, as I just kind of assume that all of our readers are beautiful women between the ages of 18 and 27 who harbor a fond appreciation for unreleased Smiths B-sides, The West Wing, and Morty Schapiro to go with their rabid readership of Sherman Ave.

Anyways, for the past two years or so I have devoted a sizeable amount of my time and mental energy to expressing an inexplicable loathing for two men: Chet Haze and LeBron James. I say “inexplicable” because, by all accounts, neither of the two really deserve so much hatred from an undergraduate liberal arts major like myself. Sure, Haze is a shitty rapper, but there are plenty of shitty rappers in the world, and according to numerous reports the prodigal son of Forrest Gump acts no better or worse than pretty much any other Northwestern Fratstar. James, meanwhile, is easily the best basketball player in the NBA, not to mention world champion and consensus runner-up to my ex-girlfriend for having the worst case of “crazy eyes” I’ve ever witnessed in a crucial situation. So what made me invest so much of my valuable effort into hating these two?

I think that part of the reason lies in how they go about branding themselves. As everybody from the President of the United States to the Sinaloa Drug Cartel knows, branding is essential to a product’s success and something that we here at Sherman Ave have been far too lazy to get around to figuring out. Perhaps branding himself as Northwestern’s pre-eminent shirtless photographer/abominable rapper wasn’t Chet Haze’s finest moment, and I would bet my pledge wife that James spent the past two years wishing he could take back the way he acted before and after The Decision.

But can that really explain why I ignored all phone calls from friends asking to play so that I could stay in and watch what I hoped would be James getting the beat-down I desired so badly in Game 2 of the Finals?

Meanwhile, I was so disgusted with myself for transcribing Haze’s lyrics to “White and Purple” that I started building myself a coffee table. Any suggestions?

Also, what do you think will be this year’s song of summer? “Starships?” “Call Me Maybe?” Or will Taio Cruz return from wealth and obscurity to reveal the latest hook that’s going to break, break our heart?

Help me Brother Jürgen, you’re my only hope.

Cordially,
Evander Jones

Brother Jürgen Taintsdorf:

Dude, what if we, like, put plutonium in a DeLorean and turned it into a time machine?

Can I be Malcolm Gladwell, please? I love Simmons and Grantland like no one else, but ever since I saw Gladwell (perhaps the world’s most famous biracial Canadian) give a TED Talk on mustard and noticed that his gigantic hair and general biracial Canadian-ness makes him look like a mad scientist, I determined that henceforth my answer to any “what would you wish for with a genie?” icebreaker question would be “I would wish to be best friends with Malcolm Gladwell.” So I’ll be him, thanks.

Anyway.

This is going to sound weird coming from a Northwestern student like myself, but I don’t hate Chet Haze. We all know he can’t rap any more than I can mud-wrestle with an enraged grizzly bear, but since he has yet to accelerate his douchey rapper persona to the point of blinding Tony Parker with a beer bottle, I still look at him as a harmless source of Twitter hilarity (remember when he bought a snake and named it Diablo??).

LeBron I do hate. Granted, I don’t hate him as much as I hate Dwyane Wade or Shane Battier (I convinced my typically swear-averse dad to allow me an exception for Battier’s threes in the Finals), but I hate him. I laughed a few months ago when he won a third MVP trophy to LITERALLY NO APPLAUSE OR REACTION FROM ANYONE AT ALL. I had no desire to watch him win any championships. In fact, I have no desire to watch him play basketball at all, unless it’s to see him lose (preferably on a colossal meltdown a la the 2011 Finals). This isn’t because I blame him for the Decision or any “Great Player legacy” bullshit like that. I hate him because he beat the Bulls last year. Just some old-fashioned sports hate. Suck on deez nuts, LeBron.

Have we actually had an official “Song of the Summer” last year? Or for the last few years? For me, “Call Me Maybe” is the official Song of Dance Marathon (where I first heard it) and the last few weeks of winter quarter (when I literally listened to nothing else), so it can’t be the Song of the Summer. Is Taio Cruz still alive?

I think the Song of the Summer is a toss-up between “Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men and “Hold On” by Alabama Shakes. At the risk of sounding like a music snob, I want to remind everyone how easily the public embraced Gotye (a goofy Australian with legitimately strange songs who forgot the words to “Somebody I Used to Know” when I saw him live) and (that last parenthetical was a true story) Fun. (“Vampire Weekend 2.0, now with more AutoTune!”). Chuck Klosterman touched on this once in an essay about Nirvana: most people don’t have a music taste. They listen to whatever their friends listen to. If their friends tell them to listen to shitty rap, they’ll download the latest Wiz Khalifa album. But if their friends suggest some weird Australian pop, they have no problem buying “Somebody I Used to Know.” My point being, anyone who hears Brittany Howard’s soulful, aching vocals or the pounding beat and majestic chorus of “Little Talks” would realize those are this summer’s theme songs.

Thoughts? Why don’t more people listen to stand-up comedy on Spotify? Is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter the greatest movie trailer of all time (“it’s time we vampires had a nation of our own”)?? Is Rihanna worth a gigantic bar brawl???

Jones:

I love going for a stroll on a nice fall day right before I get in bed to drink hot cocoa and read a John Grisham book.

I am more than willing to acquiesce to your request that you be the faux-Gladwell in this duo, but I must respectfully dissent from your claim that Gladwell is the world’s most famous biracial Canadian. I ask you, sir, has young Drake not earned that right? He may deserve, in the words of the honorary Ghostface Killah, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place on the list of the top 10 softest rappers in the game, but the dude’s effing popular for an actor who was once considered the Tony Kukoc of Degrassi: The Next Generation. I’m curious to know, Brother J, in your power rankings of Canadian celebrities, who makes your Top 10? If Neil Young and Avril Lavigne get frozen out in favor of Steve Nash, I’ll be pretty damn crushed.

Now, with the power vested in me by Sherman Ave, I have chosen to award you fifteen points for landing a successful yet refreshingly original Tony Parker-blinded-in-a-barfight joke. Keep it up kiddo.

I’m also going to have to push back at you for your expression of disdain for Shane Battier. The dude is brilliant at everything from giving your boy Gladwell a chubby to being the consummate team player. He can shut down the best in the NBA, suddenly learn how to shoot a 3-pointer, and somehow manage to get Pat Riley to do this. I think this makes him the Joe Biden of the Heat — a really smart jackass who adds just the right touch of chemistry and tenacity to your team to make things run well.

I can dig your point about Gotye though. That song is like Community — too fucking weird to be available for national consumption — yet people are eating that shit up right now. They play it on alternative radio stations, they play it on tween stations, on adult contemporary radio stations, and top 40 (albeit with a substituted-in beat that totally changes the mood of the song). I heard one XRT radio DJ say that it was probably one of the most popular songs ever because of the extraordinarily diverse breadth of its appeal. I can’t even conceive of the fact that the song’s music video has more youtube views than there are Indonesians. In the digital age, there is no way that so many people have experienced exes taking the trouble to collect their EPs after a breakup.

Needless to say, I couldn’t see Malcolm Gladwell throwing a bottle of Cristal in a nightclub to defend the honor of Rihanna, even though she’s absolutely 110% worth it. Personally, I have a fantasy that one day I’ll save her, and she’ll pen her 26th hit single about my heroics. The title: “Jonesing for Evander.”

Taintsdorf:

Not sure if The Keg, or Chris Brown and Drake just had another brawl…

Fuck Shane Battier.

Two things I always forget about Drake: one, that he’s Canadian, and two, that he exists. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to his music.  Like, ever. Especially since the title track to his last album appears to be nothing more than a shitty reworking of an amazing, undoubtedly unsurpassable Gil Scott-Heron/Jamie xx collaboration.

I actually meant that parenthetical as a funny aside, like “ha ha he’s the only biracial Canadian in the world.” Of course I forgot that not only are there other biracial Canadians, but others who are more famous than Gladwell. Proud of you, Canada. Turns out you aren’t just a nation of white, syrup-guzzling hockey moms after all.

As for your request, this isn’t going to be a list of Top Ten Canadian Celebrities so much as a “Can I Name Ten Canadian Celebrities???” contest, but here goes nothing:

  1. Justin Bieber
  2. Malcolm Gladwell
  3. Steve Nash
  4. Neil Young
  5. Drake
  6. Deadmau5 (didn’t see that one coming, did you??? Turns out he’s a skinny Canadian guy named Joel with a Playboy Bunny girlfriend and a Space Invader tattoo on his neck)
  7. Um. Margaret Atwood?

So that’s that. My knowledge of Canadian celebrities remains woefully incomplete. Hopefully I’m never on a fictional version of Jeopardy where that’s the category. I’ll leave it to you to psychoanalyze and dissect why I knew these people above all.

As Drake and Chris Brown were undoubtedly told by their mothers from a young age, it’s all fun and games until somebody blinds the Spurs’ star point guard with a bottle. I’ve been thinking: what if Tony Parker suffered real damage? Obviously the Spurs losing to OKC can only be termed a disappointment after ESPN writers had the balls to call them one of the greatest teams EVER (and then they couldn’t even win their own season), but for the good people of San Antonio, the blinding of Tony Parker would be a kick in the balls by Hank McCoy in soccer cleats. What would they do?

That’s not a metaphorical question, and since you obviously have no intention of answering my questions (I can’t be the only one who thinks Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is without a doubt the greatest movie trailer of all time, back me up on this) I’ll answer it myself. Here’s what I think happens if Rihanna ends up indirectly incapacitating Tony Parker: Gregg Popovich, who has always struck me as an unstoppable badass mostly because he spells his name with two g’s, reacts like the Israeli government did after the Black September terrorist attacks, and assembles a black ops team for quiet retribution. Since he has no one to draw from but his team, I can only assume that the Spurs transform into a mercenary team with the goal of revenging themselves on Team Breezy. I mean they already wear black, it’s not that far of a leap of faith to imagine them assassinating Chris Brown. My guess is Tim Duncan continues his role as grizzled veteran mastermind leader, with Boris Diaw as the generic muscle strongman enforcer guy (except with a twist because he’s actually French), Matt Bonner as the sniper/marksman (naturally), Manu Ginobili as the go-to Wolverine brawler (he loves throwing himself around the court with the abandon that only those with a healing factor possess), and rookie Kawhi Leonard as the young hothead out to prove himself who can either make or break the entire operation (think Matt Damon in Ocean’s Eleven), while Popovich settles into a lead-from-afar Professor X role.

That would be the greatest movie ever, and neither you nor Seth Grahame-Smith can tell me otherwise.

Speaking of which, if Hollywood is desperate enough to greenlight Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (which I think is brilliant precisely BECAUSE it takes itself far too seriously), I suggest they hire Ross Packingham as a consultant and start gold-mining Sherman Ave articles for movie ideas. I’ve been waiting for A Long Walk to Freedom for too long now. Thoughts?

Jones:
You’re two-for-two on the Tony Parker jokes! Congratulations on dominating this series like LeBron “I Put the Team on My Back” James or Christian Grey. I suppose both men get a sadistic joy out of physically and psychologically dominating others. Or maybe Christian Grey’s more like the Kobe of soft-core mom porn, giving his most prolific partner the shaft with his megalomaniacal fantasies of power, relevance, and omnipotence. Or maybe I should really just stop embarrassing myself by conducting “research” for 50 Shades of Purple.

I was thoroughly impressed by your Top 7 Canadian Celebrities I Remember Thanks to Google list. To be honest, it made me salivate a bit at the thought of a Neil Young/Justin Bieber collaboration. I think it would sound a bit like if Linkin Park became a Nickelback cover band. But with a chain-smoking Elmo as the lead singer.

Here is a list of the Top 9 ½ Things That Do Not Rhyme With “Bieber:”

1.Meat Cleaver
2. Beaver
3. Turkey Baster
4. Kevin Youkilis
5. Peapod
6. Doodangler
7. Orange
8. OFWGKTA
9. Battier
9 ½. Vampire Slayer.

All my bitches love me.

Which brings me to your discussion of the Rail Splitter Vampire-skull Splitter himself. I will gladly back you up and reiterate your claim that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has one of the greatest Hollywood trailers of all time. The movie looks fucking awesome, although to be fair I’m kind of a sucker for the whole “Re-purposing Painful Historical Events to Feature Double the Presidential Ass Kicking” genre. Personally, I would devote my life to writing the script for movies like Franklin Roosevelt: Pussy Slayer, Grassy Knoll 2: Jack’s Revenge — featuring a zombified JFK uncovering the conspiracy behind his assassination, and Bucket of Warm Piss– a light-hearted comedic romp featuring good old boys Joe Biden, Spiro Agnew, and Dan Quayle causing all matters of shenanigans as they learn the true meaning of friendship and political irrelevance. All that matters now is finding out how to get Tyler Perry to produce my future box-office dynamite.

And now, a hypothetical for you, my dearest Brother J. One crisp, fall day, while you are running to the Bahai temple and listening to your favorite song that makes girls who dress like Zooey Deschanel swoon, the magic genie of Wilmette suddenly appears. This is the same genie that would hypothetically grant you Malcolm Gladwell as your best friend. He looks identical to Professor Morson with the exception of his skin tone, which is like a more florescent hide of John Boehner. This Genie offers you a proposition, a choice between two fortunes.

Option 1: For the rest of your life, you will exclusively get with beautiful women of your choice. Aside from striking physical beauty, they will have fascinating personalities that never cease to interest you, and these women will be as equally enthralled by you as you to them. However, every time you are with any of these beautiful women, the entire LMFAO discography plays on repeat at full volume for the duration of your encounter.

Option 2: You can be the head figure of any institution for a time period of 10 years. This institution may be any one of your choosing, from President of Northwestern University to President of the United States to chairman of Columbia Records to Editor-in-Chief of the New York Times. For the first 9 years of your tenure in this position, you will be absolutely beloved by all those your life touches, but for the last year of your term, and for another 20 years after that, you will be despised by your former subordinates with the exact amount of passion that they used to devote to their affection for you.

Which option do you choose, Brother Jürgen?

Taintsdorf:

Mr. Jones,

You continue to congratulate me on my blind Tony Parker jokes, but I think your Fifty Shades of Grey reference goes even further above and beyond the call of duty. And yes, I did have to Google “Christian Grey” to figure out what on Earth you were talking about. Thankfully, my brain remains unsullied by Mommy Porn.

Not speaking of which, where can I buy my ticket for Bucket of Warm Piss? Something tells me that you put no more than a handful of minutes into creating those ideas you just rattled off, but I’d bet that’s more time than Seth Grahame-Smith ever spent coming up with his book ideas. I’m reminded of Patton Oswalt’s “Death Bed” joke; did he tell someone, “so I’m thinking of writing a book where Abraham Lincoln is a vampire hunter, I know it’s kind of a bad idea but I’ve got a deadline and–” and whoever he was talking to cut him off with a “stop drilling, you hit oil”? Sure seems that way. Still, it’s the director who deserves credit for creating a two-second teaser consisting only of a fictional Abraham Lincoln putting on his famous hat while a vaguely British voice intones in the background, “save mankind, Mr. Lincoln.” If that’s not the best teaser to ever be produced by Hollywood, I don’t know what is.

He fortunately has a better personality than Jay Cutler.

Anyway, I see someone’s been reading their Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. I’m surprised you didn’t ask me if I would allow a gorilla to join the Oakland Raiders.* Drumroll please…of course I take the first option. For these reasons:

1.      I love beautiful women with fascinating personalities.

2.      I don’t hate LMFAO. Well, actually, I kind of do, which makes it sufferable. Listening to something I hate that much so many times would actually turn it into a kind of perverse pleasure. The truly horrible thing would be if I had to listen to music I kind of like for so long. The US government didn’t blast songs by Britney Spears or William Hung when they were sound torturing Guantanamo prisoners; they used Born to Run and The Marshall Mathers LP. Those poor terrorists could never listen to this century’s best music the same way again. So even though I kinda like Lana Del Rey’s “Blue Jeans,” I wouldn’t if it was blasted at full volume every time I was with beautiful women. Sorry, Lana, I just can’t do it, no matter how much I love your fictional romance with A$AP Rocky.

3.      I have a bit of thin skin, so I don’t know if I could handle ten straight years of pure vitriol. Although the wealth I would gain as Secretary General of the United Nations would probably allow me to escape the caustic world media and live a peaceful, hermitlike existence in the mountains of Paraguay. Hmmm, I should stop before I talk myself out of my own decision…beautiful women!

That’s it for me. Well done, my friend!

-Evander Jones and Brother Jürgen Taintsdorf

*Of course I would.

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