On 16 December of last year, Macaulay Culkin posted to YouTube a video of himself eating a slice of pizza:
I watched it and showed it to some friends because, on the one hand, how random! Macaulay Culkin! Eating pizza! Lol! One million other people and counting apparently felt similarly.
The video fascinates because it depicts a star (or a former child star) doing something utterly mundane. The presentation is simple, stripped down. The shot is static and there are no cuts. Culkin looks embarrassed to even be there, to be watched eating. There’s no glitz, no glamor. The guy eats pizza just like you and me, even tearing off the crust (though I would’ve finished the rest of the slice).
At the same time, the video fascinates because it’s awful—it’s “so bad it’s good.” That reaction is breathlessly conveyed in the Time Magazine blog post, “Questions We Asked Ourselves While Watching Macaulay Culkin Eat a Slice of Pizza,” which presents no fewer than forty-six questions about the video, in pseudo-live-blogging fashion:
Why does he look like he really doesn’t want to be wherever he is, or eating the slice?
Has he ever eaten a slice of pizza before?
Why does he look so sad?
Does he know he’s being filmed?
Do the pizza oils get trapped in his beard?
Why does he keep looking up?
Forty-six questions is a lot of questions, prompting a forty-seventh: “How many times did author Eric Dodds watch the damn thing?” And one million views is a lot of views. Thus, despite being banal, despite being awful, the video is somehow also something else. Would it be fair to call it transcendent? Even sublime? And if so, why? Because it purportedly offers us unmediated access to a former star, now desperately embarrassing himself?
But far from being random, or mundane, or excruciatingly candid, Culkin’s pizza video is a put-on, its every second pure artifice. For starters, it’s a loving recreation of another work—a short film of Andy Warhol eating a hamburger:
Wrote about Tao Lin for Hobart.
Exchanged emails with Tao about what I wrote.
Tao cut and pasted part I’d written about Zac Zellers and Marie Calloway and wrote beneath it “this seems funny to me.”
Replied with a paragraph in which I described Zac Zellers as the “Where’s Waldo” of Ann Arbor.
19 mins later got email from Tao saying “you should write something about this and send it to me.”
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Newlyweds were kind of popular shows on the telly when I came to the conclusion that if I were to ever do that disgusting activity that you should probably never do it would be with a boy.
Sometimes, while flipping through the trillions of telly channels, I would stop on Queer Eye. The snippets that I saw of the “queer eyes” turned and twisted my tummy terribly. They had lots of product in their hair, wore insufferably strange trousers, and, just in general, looked as if they had spent the last gazillion hours scrubbing themselves in a shower stall. All these boys seemed to care about was their bodies. They didn’t watch PG movies or collect teddy bears or commit French poetry to memory. Their primary concern was the appearance of their flesh as well as the flesh of the straight guys that they were making over.
Straight people are just as corporeal as gays. Nick Lachey is a straight boy. He sort of has massive muscles and wears product in his hair. Whenever I saw Nick on the Newlyweds, I said to myself, “I do not want to be like this boy. I want to be like Jessica!” Jessica was quirky and inquisitive. She was thoughtful about that which she interacted with. She asked questions, like why a tuna fish company would name themselves Chicken of the Sea. Nick seemed unable and unwilling to string sentences together. But Jessica was a cute chatterbox, like Anne Frank when she was in school.
When I am asked about my writing process I am generally vague and will say I don’t really have a process because I don’t know how to explain my process without sounding completely insane. I saw this movie once, The Muse, starring Albert Brooks, Sharon Stone, and Andi McDowell. It was terrible. He was a burnt out screenwriter and Sharon Stone convinced him she was a muse or something, and suddenly he was writing again on this script he thought was really hot shit. Even though the people around him thought he was crazy for believing in this muse, he needed that faith to keep writing. He needed to believe the inspiration came from some external influence.
Throughout history there have been many famous muses–Kiki de Montparnasse, Patti Smith, Edie Sedgwick, Amanda Lepore, figures great artists drew some kind of inspiration from. Writers have muses too. F. Scott and Zelda seemed to bring out a certain something in one another. The Brownings were clearly inspired by each other in their poetry. A lot is made of these muses and they are often as lauded as the creative types who drew inspiration for them. It’s so exciting that these muses have a certain je ne sais quoi that brings about great art and literature.
1. Lucy Corin Web Log:
Warhol on the Internet (imagine)
567. What is the contagious psoriasis to write shitty poetry? I did it. Hell, some people make a fine time/dime doing it. (I’m going to hell for linking to that kid, but add to tally, that one Tuesday, etc.) Is it developmental, in our DNA (99% of which we share with mice–this explains the dreadful sonnet [titled “Our Chance has Run”] about an ex-lover/farmer’s wife, a shooting star, and a sad owl I found in the cheese)? Maybe it’s a necessary process. The next step is to seek outlets for shitty poetry, explaining scam operations, blogs, script tattoos, and moms. You did it, right? Wrote shitty poems. Do tell.
4. What’s the glow day and time to write? I’m going obvious: Sunday, early morning, while the sky is low/blue, the caffeine burning off the hangover fumes. The brain hops. No?
5. There is a new Hobart. It be quench, yo.
There’s crazy, avant-garde, weird, experimental novels going back almost to the very beginning.
7. The Independent asks: Is popular fiction getting more literary, wiser, good?
122. From flash to novel: Tarah Masih reviews Sherrie Flick.
5. Aaron Burch interview at new Word Riot. Glow like lung tattoos.
I don’t know. I think one of the interesting things of having been writing stories for a good handful of years now is looking back at stuff and seeing what recurs and finding those fascinations that you weren’t really aware of. I guess I could say something like I believe, often, you have to be taken apart, by yourself or something else, and then be put back together to really grow/change/etc., and so I guess that was kind of what the book became about, though that’s the answer I put together just now for this interview; I’ve certainly never thought of it that prescriptively before, nor was it an intention when working the book.
February 1999: Pick up dog at daycare. Do crunches. Run LONG! Select polymer for breast cone. Step into groove. Drink 3 ounces lemon juice. Tell Pepsi Co. to go fuck themselves. Wax.
7. If every single poem you wrote was published in mags would you gather those poems and send out the mss? Aren’t they already out in the world?
213. Prime Number Magazine is open for submissions starting now. You miss 100% of publications you never submit to, blar me, rosy tunnel, etc.
Turns out, making time to read the Times was totally worth it, although this article is free online.
Basically, computer scientists have programed a supercomputer named Watson (not yr dad’s supercomputer, a new one – so you can chew on what that means) to interpret English syntax well enough to answer Jeopardy! questions using a shitload of data uploaded from books, magazines, and newspapers (all the stuff we don’t have time to read ((yet))).
While it’s far from perfect, there’s definitely some potential here for the same sort of freakish synapse connections we make when we play with language and such and !