Point/Counterpoint is a beloved feature that first appeared in The Weeklings in the fall of 1972. It’s the product of an intellectual tradition hearkening back to Oxford debate squads and the golden age of radio, in which two authors match wits over random subjects while being forced to adjust on the fly. Readers are advised to stand back, as the heat can get intense. This week’s arm-wrestle involves author, raconteur, and amateur beer distributor, Mr. Jonathan Evison.
Point (Evison): Writers who don’t blurb books are dicks. They’re the kind of people who get to the summit and pull the rope up behind them. I’ve heard every excuse in the book. Hey, big-time writer, guess what? We’re ALL busy! I’m not saying you gotta blurb every bodice-ripper that comes across your desk, but blurb the one’s you love. At least be willing to read them occasionally, Mr. I’m-too-busy-farting on Oprah’s couch. Oh wait, I forgot, you got to the top all by yourself, didn’t you? You didn’t benefit from the help of your agent, or your publicist, or your editor, or the writers who blurbed your self-important ass? That’s what I thought. Now start giving back, Mr. You-just-don’t-understand-how many-demands-I-have-coming-at-me-at-any given time.
Counter-Point (Beaudoin): I can only say that ______ book by _____ author was courageous, tender, vicious, and timeless in its wry originality. It was exhilarating, skillful, savvy, sprawling, fierce, vulgar, and superbly imagined. A work of compelling scope and startling beauty, whose protagonist will make you cry in anger and laugh in sorrow, _______ is this generation’s ______. Don’t walk but run to your mouse and click yourself a copy of this unforgettably unforgettable novel.
Also, the word “blurb” itself is ungainly and embarrassing to say aloud. It’s almost as bad as “gravatar.”
Trying to convince anyone of anything politically-
Point (Beaudoin): Politics is essentially a group of people with money and power traipsing around pretending that extremely complex ideas are, in fact, moronically simple. Gay marriage, the deficit, defending our freedoms, etc. The truly evil obverse is that they simultaneously–and with extreme calculation–act as if simple things are far too complex for most of us to understand. Climate change science being unsettled, sexuality being a choice, anyone can grow up to be president, etc. Trying to explain the complex to those indoctrinated in the simple is like trying to stuff calculus down a Kardashian. And pointing out the simple to those who traffic in the arcane is like being cornered at a cocktail party by a Five Families conspiracy theorist. At this point, I pretty much prefer to keep my opinions holstered.
Counter-Point (Evison): My only political observation is that elected officials, particularly presidents, have very large craniums–at least 3500 cubic centimeters. Find me a single small-headed president. Clinton? Ha! Nixon, you say? Guess again. Even Jack Kennedy was a melon head. Line them up, and you’d think you were on Easter Island or something. What they fill those big heads with is another matter entirely.
Foreigner (the band) -
Point (Evison): Classic one trick ponies. All their songs involve the malfunctioning of one metabolic function or another. Either somebody is hot-blooded, or they’re cold as ice, or they’ve got double vision, or their head is playing games with them. How these guys ever became jukebox heroes is anybody’s guess.
Counter-Point (Beaudoin): Foreigner is essentially the American Beatles. Listen, fifty million albums don’t sell themselves. From the soaring vocals of Lou Gramm to the shredding guitar work of Mick Jones to the voluptuous keyboards of Al Greenwood, they had it all. Have you, my friend, forgotten about the angular punk aesthetic of “Dirty White Boy”? How about the lissome harmonics of “Feels Like the First Time”? Maybe John and Paul penned a few good tunes, but they never had the balls to name an album after the number 4. Besides, Junior Walker played the sax solo in “Urgent.” What the hell else do you need to know?
Point (Beaudoin): Who the hell wears a hat anymore? Civil War re-enacters? Subway magicians? Doesn’t the constant abrasion bring on the Rogaine that much faster? And don’t the brims always reek of sweaty forehead? I’m under the impression that a smart author looking to brand themselves would be wiser to go with a Meerschaum pipe, a facial tattoo, or a dowsing wand. Unless you’re Tom Wolfe or Sir Thomas More, the hat routine is like wearing spats and a snood: career doom.
Counter-Point (Evison): Ahem. If you ever did wear a hat, you wouldn’t have the class to take it off in front of a lady or in a church. Not that I do. Just saying. I would argue that a hat is a good thing for a balding author with what amounts to a dorsal fin on top of their head. Not that I’m balding. Really, I’m not. Bottom line: While you’re slopping around with bed-head, raining dandruff all over the place, I’m tying old ladies panties in knots with my super-sharp haberdashery.
Point (Evison): An overrated and inhospitable jungle. Everywhere you look there’s a big snake trying to wrap itself around Jennifer Lopez. Or one of those barbed organisms that swims up your urethra. They’ve got a psycho-active root down there that makes people walk really slow. I mean reeeeeeeaaaaaaaallllllllllllllly slow. I saw a film of these two white guys that ate it. When they were describing the experience, it sounded like they were astral projecting all over the damn place. Whole windows of perception were opening. The cosmos was going off like a white-hearted starburst inside their head. They said it was an absolute mind-fuck. But the thing is, on the actual film, they’re just standing there stupefied, trying to ambulate in a straight line, you know? It took them something like three hours to move ten feet. So, that’s one cool thing about the Amazon. It can slow white people down.
Counter-Point (Beaudoin): I pay for things and they are brought to my door. Often in less than forty-eight hours. Once I had to replace a gasket on our water filter and the hardware store didn’t have the obscure and unnecessarily Germanic brand or size, but Amazon sure did. Had it fixed by the weekend. I find that the prices are always very competitive, if not substantially lower than elsewhere. It’s a comfort to know that while it may not be the best deal on the internet, at least I haven’t overpaid. Shopping for high-end watches is fun. Or urethra awls. And I don’t even have to leave the house. There are no fake-friendly counter people with septum piercings pretending to care if my Americano is hot enough. There are no pube-y beard hairs in anything I order. The bell rings. I stand behind the door in my underwear until the UPS guy goes away, and my package is right there, clean and hermetic, just waiting to be carried inside.
Point (Evison): Good condiment. Terrible lube. Truth be told, I was a Miracle Whip kid (bad condiment, bad lube). So, mayonnaise is a step in the right direction for me. I had a friend from Texas who ate the stuff straight out of a bowl—no lie! Just like yogurt or something. Guess what? He’s really fat now.
Counter-Point (Beaudoin): I fear mayonnaise. Always have. Spreadable egg? A back-of-throat product for the Sans-a-belt crowd. Also, I can’t stand the smell. Or the texture. Not to mention the way it glistens, turning yellow when exposed to the light for too long, as if giving up a guilty secret. Closing my eyes and simply envisioning room-temperature mayonnaise is usually enough to make me gag. I would have made a great anorexic. No finger jammed past the tonsils needed here, just a Hellmann’s-y mental image. Mustard, on the other hand, I can get behind. Hearty, spicy, stoneground. That I can pull the lever for. And “pulling the lever” is not an entendre, even with a magazine and a handful of Miracle Whip.
Reading a random essay online out of the vast sloshing ocean of essays online-
Point (Beaudoin): 2012 is the year of opinion fatigue. I can feel it bleeding across servers, staining pixels, screaming from beneath layers of code: no one gives a shit! And they just wrote a two-thousand word piece about how little shit they give. Hey, here’s the link. Hey, go ahead and like it. Hey, do you mind sharing this with your friends list? The internet is slathered with perspectives, persuasions, stances, standpoints, sentiments, conceptions, and random convictions. We’re choking beneath the weight of it all like runaways hiding under a wet mattress behind a Dumpster. There are, for instance, approximately fifty million more earnest and heartfelt takes on last night’s Fear Factor than there are people who will ever read the first line of an essay about it. Opinions aren’t like assholes, they’re like leg hairs: everyone’s got an uncountable number of them, and when you wear shorts they sway in the wind.
Counter-Point (Evison): Here’s a link to an essay I wrote on this subject:
People Who Don’t Read Books -
Point (Evison): I can always tell a non-reader. They skate on the surface of ideas. They never plumb the depths of anything. Within five minutes they’re parroting something they heard on NPR, or appropriating somebody else’s opinion. It’s funny, because they always say they don’t have time to read, and yet they always have time to bore me at parties.
Counter-point (Beaudoin): At parties I always say “The man who never reads has no advantage over the man who cannot read” and three things always happen: 1. People who read know that’s a Mark Twain quote and excuse themselves to go get another drink, 2. People who don’t read have no idea who Mark Twain is but have a sneaking suspicion that I just called them illiterate and punch me in the spleen, and 3. Women get mad that my usage of pronouns is so misogynist and patriarchal that they demand to have their phone number back. So I usually just stick to sports.
Point (Beaudoin): I’ve only been to Martha’s Vineyard once, and I spent the entire time walking around with my chest puffed out because someone told me Winona Ryder was vacationing there that week. I spent every night fantasizing about bumping into her and just being smooth and cool, maybe buying her a drink. We’d sit in a quiet booth somewhere, talk about our mutual upbringings, stare into each other’s eyes, and then by last call be making out against the pinball machine in the back room. I’m sort of under the impression that all middle class arty white dudes of a certain age had to come to terms with how they felt about Winona. She was beautiful but not showy. Smart but sarcastic. Had the arm tat and the piercings and dated rockers. She was our age and hip and wore thrift store dresses. She was that girl in your dorm who everyone was secretly in love with, but was unapproachable because of how much she obviously was in love with herself. Except, you know, she was in movies. Lots of them. Some even good.
Counter-Point (Evison): Not my favorite Grateful Dead song (somewhere, there’s a skinny old dude in a bandana and tie-dye named “Bags” or “Windy” of “Captain Phantasmic” that knows what I’m talking about, here). And he’s probably holding a bag of that good old mellow sensimilla they smoked back in the day, which I much prefer to this new-fangled indica bud the kids are smoking now which makes me want to climb a tree or start swimming for Alaska. Look, to be honest, I don’t have an opinion about Winona Ryder. But who knows, like the song says, maybe I’ll miss her when she’s gone.
People named Rick-
Point (Evison): You can’t trust guys name Rick. They’ll fuck you over every time. Whether it’s pinching from your dime bag of weed, or having sex with your wife, or just trying to run you over with their Camaro. My advice: Never trust a Rick. If they introduce themselves as Rickey, or Rickster, just remember: they’re really just a Rick in sheep’s clothing.
Counter-point (Beaudoin): Um, Rick Perry? Rick Springfield? Rick Derringer? Rick Nelson? Rick Nielson? Rick Patino? Rick Schroeder? Rick Barry? Rick Wakeman? Rick Tocchet? Rick Dees? Also, my father’s name is Rick. So is my grandfather’s. My middle initial is R. My wife’s name is Ricardo. I have a little boy. We call him The Rickster. What are we talking about here again?