Archive: May 2006
Rampaging around my room, and finding the solution to all of the world's problems,
in the form of a new T-shirt and band that will play at Williamsburg open mics
For much of this year, I have been traveling for business. There has been little to keep me at home. My favorite bar — nay, the only bar I ever loved — is no more. And grinding out depressing product photography is a constant, regardless of your location, so your location need only be determined by where they want to pay you to be. So, I went to those places. I saw America, again. It is a big, bright, beige place, with lots of concrete, accented with glass bricks when they need some class. It seemed bigger than when I had seen it last.
Leaving New York is not something I normally want to do. But they’ve been changing New York into something I didn’t sign up for. I need to keep my options open.
New York’s transformation into a walled city began around the time that Berlin gave it up. Manhattan is the dirtiest beachless resort town in the world, as more and more millionaire’s aeries are built on the graveyards of egalitarianism. Historically progressive voters who once wanted to improve the city for their fellows now emphasize the more-management-solves-problems approach epitomized by “I-Deserve-This” technocrats like the poorly-prepared mayor, who wants to let the market decide.
As a long-time stalwart of Downtown, I’ve watched as the ultimate indicator of disaster — the canary to our air supply — the price of a Stoli and soda, inflated to approximately double its 1999 index, both because its price increased in the bars that survived and because many bars in which its price did not increase did not survive. (In short, the market decided we wanted to spend a lot more money in bars.)
So I decided to look around, to see what the trends were in our nation as a whole, not just to educate myself and my loyal readership, but with an eye to a possible escape, if it came to that. I was not prepared to give up right away, but did not want to be unready if there was to be a further shift in my city toward unsustainable shittiness.
But, as you may already know, things are not better in the national context. The difference between New York and Tampa is not that people have different ideas, but that they are having their bad ideas proximate to treasures of Art Deco architecture (which they do not appreciate) in one place, and surrounded by swampy, ramshackle stucco boxes (which they incorrectly appreciate) in the other.
I submitted my findings to the Trouble Sells Institute, which has magnanimously promised to study this problem in great depth. After twenty minutes and a few Stoli and sodas mixed at home, we isolated two main trends with wide-ranging ramifications in America. Going the extra mile, TSI developed a response to these problems, explained below.
The first is that Americans are increasingly obese. This is not news, but it is pretty shocking when you see it first-hand. In New York, we are insulated and spoiled. While we may ourselves be hugely obese, as long as we do not look in a mirror, but only ogle women in the subway, we can remain insulated and spoiled. For some reason which is not entirely understood, thin, attractive people from all over America say to themselves, “It is nice to be thin and attractive here in Oklahoma City, but I’ll bet it would be even better to be thin and attractive on Third Avenue between Thirty-Fourth and Thirty-Fifth Streets. As great as it is to be a vaguely ambitious, poorly-focused twenty-something here at home, I’m sure it will be much more exciting to do that at the Joshua Tree on Saturday evening from 10pm until closing, when I will have the opportunity to vomit in a cab.”
Armed with a cattle-class ticket on JetBlue, the thin, attractive people arrive in New York, leaving the shockingly fat behind, mostly because they cannot move. So, point one, Americans are fat.
The second trend is that Americans are increasingly lonely. To take a page from a John Kerry slogan, we are “Less Respected in the World, Lonelier at Home,” especially John Kerry.
In the largest venue, the international community, everyone else thinks we’re a bunch of assholes, which was not uniformly the case in my youth. Previously, we had our stalwart allies with whom we could collaborate, and in nations where the regime was both oppressive and anti-American, the cynical population would figure that there must be something good about us if their leaders trash-talked us so much. But as more freedom in the world has paralleled more chaos, inequity, and war, the jig is up. When was the last time we facilitated peace, change, or progress?
At home in our apartments, of course, where we have little opportunity to affect civil war in Africa, we’re at least attempting to prove our worth by singing on or voting in any of a number of grim sequels to the Gong Show. I would argue that this increasing introspection is a way of hiding from our failures in the larger context. The dominant political party today is the GOP, or Greedy Ostrich Party, wherein one sticks one’s head in the sand for long periods, emerging only to consume saturated fats from colorful foil bags. The anecdotal evidence, supported by polling, is that on every issue of importance, anywhere from a slim to overwhelming majority of people support the position of the Democrats, yet people still vote Republican because to change would be to admit we were really stupid for a really long time. That is, in fact, the GOP message: “We were really stupid and really wrong, but you voted for us. We promise not to change our stupid or wrong policies, which would show that you were wrong, if you promise not to vote us out, which would show that you were wrong.”
Besides, the Democrats say we are in trouble and don’t have answers, while the Republicans say we don’t need answers because we aren’t in trouble. Given two parties, neither of whom has answers, wouldn’t it be better just to pretend there are no problems? Do not expect a Democratic victory in 2006, despite almost unbelievable corruption, mismanagement, and unswerving idiocy on the part of the ruling party. We must save face instead.
While political dissatisfaction may prove to have surprisingly little effect on electoral results, it is well-established that American industry depends on consumer dissatisfaction. Loneliness is in fact our largest commercial asset. In case the old Xbox did not make you happy, you owe it to yourself to try the new Xbox. Just to hedge our bets, if you do not believe consumerism will make you happy, we can also sell you some anti-depressants or Stoli and sodas.
So, Americans are fat and lonely. The amazing principle here is that these two facts form an unstoppable feedback loop. Nobody wants to hang out with a fatty, so we sit at home feeling sorry for ourselves and eating Chunky Honkey™ by the hogshead.
These are the two main national trends identified by the Trouble Sells Institute as well as millions of other glib masters of the obvious. Because TSI is staffed predominantly by floppy-haired wearers of the trucker hat, their recommendations are consistently focused on a particular successful formula for market-driven, grassroots societal change. Their white paper, available by subscription, outlines a three-pronged approach:
- Make T-shirt
- Start band
- Wait for resulting worldwide utopia
To communicate the main crises facing America, TSI encapsulated the message in a comprehensive, yet easily-understood catchphrase, which will serve as the logo on the T-shirt and the name of the band. That phrase, importantly, is “My Big Ass Needs Love.”
Ringer-Ts emblazoned with this message, manufactured in sweat-shop-free, sexual-harassment-filled conditions in downtown L.A., will be available for $25 or more, and will come in different colors. In a sop to the reality of our world, they will come in large sizes.
A band will quickly be formed from cross-coordinating the “Do you rock? Need bassist/singer/drummer/guitarist” flyers posted in a three-block stretch of Bedford Avenue by experts at the rock band market-making clearinghouse located behind the Williamsburg branch of HSBC. The resulting band, also called “My Big Ass Needs Love,” will perform in T-shirt-selling venues around Brooklyn, and will release an MP3 on their MySpace page, which will be available everywhere.
Thin, attractive people will feel unthreatened by the “My Big Ass Needs Love” slogan, because no one will think they are fat or in need of love, even if their T-shirt says so. This discrepancy will be seen as “irony,” which is considered highly desirable by the T-shirt-purchasing class.
Normal people, who are fat and unloved, will also feel unthreatened by the “My Big Ass Needs Love” slogan, because they will be wearing the same T-shirt already scouted and pioneered by thin, attractive people, as is the usual path of fashion. The slogan thus becomes a double irony, which may enable a price point starting at $30.
But slowly and increasingly, as they groove out to the suburban middle-class beats of the self-titled debut MP3, people will realize that it is more than a slogan. Just as they once came to know the truths that Pepsi was the choice of a certain generation, that Chevrolets resembled rocks, that many people became enthused by the promise of McDonald’s, and that you could bleed from the crotch while wearing white pants or a swimsuit, America will learn that their big ass needs love, and they will seek this out. They will be fat, but happy. Thin people will still be hungry for the fame that they deserve and expect due to their laudable thinness. Starving Africans will have meager supplies wrapped in our T-shirts and air-dropped near them from a great height.
“My Big Ass Needs Love” is something everyone can agree with, because everyone wants to be loved, fat people should admit they are fat, thin people should pretend that they are fat because their friends will think it’s funny, and starving people should aspire to a post-starving lifestyle. Market testing shows our slogan compares favorably to “In God We Trust” or “Liberty, equality, fraternity,” because those values are not as widely held.
We already have the resources we need to solve our own problems and those of the world. But first we must emerge from our crippling rolls of morbid fat and take action, in defiance of the excellent programming available on television while still in a seated position. “My Big Ass Needs Love,” a rallying cry which in its inherent selfishness is tailored to our American moment, will provide the context for this action. What Bono’s “Red” is for jet-setting rockers whose comprehension of a political movement is limited to one word of three letters, “My Big Ass Needs Love” can be for the rest of us.
Thank you for your attention.