Category Archives: reference

Against mediocrity

The one or two people who still check here, months later, to see if anything new has been posted might wonder why I’ve abandoned this site. I haven’t, not really, I just haven’t felt like I had much to say. Still don’t, but in the last couple of days I’ve at least seen some things other people have written that I want to link to, or paste somewhere, just so I can find them later or shove them under other people’s noses.

They’re all rants, as you might have guessed, so they contain bad language and passionate vitriol. Blog rants are like the garage rock of literature, when they’re bad you wonder how anyone can stand it and when they’re good they’re the best thing you’ve ever heard. I read these to be reminded not to settle into a comfortable little spot on my couch and never come out again. I read these to be inspired.

The first is from Merlin Mann, who isn’t exactly hard to find on the internet. I link to it here for the reasons above, and because it presents the best excuse reason yet for my laziness editorial restraint.

What makes you feel less bored soon makes you into an addict. What makes you feel less vulnerable can easily turn you into a dick. And the things that are meant to make you feel more connected today often turn out to be insubstantial time sinks — empty, programmatic encouragements to groom and refine your personality while sitting alone at a screen. Kung Fu Grippe – “Better”.

The second is a rant posted to the off-topic section of a band’s website today. I paste it here instead of linking because it’s really a collection of various posts that need to be seen together, because reposting allows me to edit grammar and capitalization a bit, and because there are parts of the internet I like to keep at arm’s length. If that makes me a bad internet citizen, so be it.

Posted September 05, 2008 02:55 AM
In answer to the question: Tell Me What You Think About U2

They are pretty good. Not great, not shit, but just pretty good. Not quite as good as REM, but alright. Few good songs, couple of genuinely affecting moments like ‘One’ or ‘Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses’ or ‘With Or Without You’.

But see, mediocrity will be the death of humanity. It is actually DANGEROUS to lower your standards enough to accept something that is pretty good but pretends to be great. Take Teenage Fanclub. They are mediocre and they know it and that makes them lovable and okay listen to. But U2 genuinely believe they are great. That, that’s actually THE BEST THEY CAN DO. They’re a bank manager’s idea of a great rock and roll band. Quite aside from the fact that they are fronted by a poisonous, self important little tosser who thinks he is a world figure, their music is personally damaging to the listener. We all know that ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’ isn’t a bad little tune at all, but its faux epic pretensions and two note riffery through a delay pedal are the beginning of a slippery, slippery slope which ends in utter pointlessness, middle age, bad haircuts, bad breath, tastefully furnished houses, and failure in the sack. If you listen to U2, ultimately, you deserve to die, as you are a danger to the human race. I’ve got no problem with listening to something rubbish…at least it is passionate and inspires a reaction. And I’ve got no problem listening to something brilliant, obviously. But please, please, don’t spend your special, fragile, precious life listening to something that is quite good. It’s a living death. It’s the sound a semi-erect penis would make if it could sing. Burn your U2 records and pray every night for their speedy yet painful death.
Actually, in the minutes since i posted that, inspired by my maths and music thread, i have reconsidered my position. They are useful as a constant, a kind of cosmological constant of mediocrity. Put simply, if something is better than U2, it is good and worth listening to, and if it is not, then it is bad. There is no need to actually listen to them once you know what they sound like.
I just proved my own point to myself. I listened to ‘Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses’. And then I fancied a bit of Embrace and quite enjoyed it. If I hadn’t caught myself in time and listened to The Clash as an antidote I would’ve been onto Coldplay, and from there it’s a short fall to the really hard stuff like David Gray, Keane, James Blunt and so forth. It’s like a slow, incremental suicide by auditory torture. It’s a DISEASE.
We’ve been talking about U2 for an hour now. This is like one of those parties you find yourself going to with your increasingly successful middle class friends, where they talk about the fucking soft furnishings and the local education authority for an hour, and you think, “Am I the only one who would rather strip naked and play Russian Roulette? God, I’m alone in the universe.”

And finally, I can’t resist linking to my all-time favorite rant. I pull this one out a lot, although periodically I have to find it posted somewhere else on the internet since the original site probably only still exists on the Wayback Machine. Fortunately a quick search for “Eggers” and “Selling Out” will find it in no time, since I’m clearly not the only one who holds it close to their heart.

When you die, and it really could be this afternoon, under the same bus wheels I’ll stick my head if need be, you will not be happy about having said no. You will be kicking your ass about all the no’s you’ve said. No to that opportunity, or no to that trip to Nova Scotia or no to that night out, or no to that project or no to that person who wants to be naked with you but you worry about what your friends will say.

No is for wimps. No is for pussies. No is to live small and embittered, cherishing the opportunities you missed because they might have sent the wrong message. Dave Eggers on Selling Out