I think people tend to misunderstand exactly what it is that makes the Casey Kasem U2 rant, a bit of outtake fun that was initially propagated by the satirical collagists Negativeland for their their lawsuit-inducing U2 EP of many years back, so thoroughly admirable. As adepts of outtake humor know, the vitriol was occasioned by copy Kasem had to read during the "America's Top 40" intro, or maybe outro, to the popular band's big hit single "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," and said copy concerned itself with the given names of lead singer Bono and guitarist The Edge. Kasem, despite using an assumed name for professional reasons himself, bristled at having to deliver this exposition, and summed up his, and what he assumed to be everybody else's, can't-be-botheredness with the immortal observation, apropos the gentlemen born Paul Hewson and Dave Evans, "These guys are from England and who gives a shit?"
Now, a lot of people think that what's funny is that EVERYBODY knows that U2 are from Ireland, not England, and that this makes Casey Kasem an out-of-touch know-nothing and the joke's on him. If you're one of the people who thinks that, you're wrong, and the joke is in fact on you. Because saying "England" when maybe he should have been saying "Ireland" is in fact exactly what makes Kasem and his anger so AWESOME, because that's precisely how much he DOESN'T GIVE A SHIT. Are you following me? His defiance in the implacable face of all that is not-give-a-shit-able about becomes practically magisterial as a result. And that's one reason Kasem's my man, and one reason I find myself muttering, "These guys are from England..." several times a day. And of course I blame the internet. You know? Like; Juan Williams? Really?
This is also one reason why I'll never be able to be a regular writer for Salon, not that I'm asking. And I bring this up not in order to pick a fight with my amiable colleague Matt Zoller Seitz, but because I think the case in point, and the way he handles it, say something maybe interesting about how internet publications work with respect to that old print work horse the "think piece." I personally have always been at least slightly dubious about the so-called "think piece"—I'll never forget nodding vigorously the first time I heard one of such things referred to as a "thumbsucker"—and one thing that's noteworthy about the proliferation and relative production speed of the e-zine and/or blogs and what not is there ability to generate think pieces about topics which may or may not bear a whole lot of thinking about. In my own philosophy, the fact that Mel Gibson is not going to appear in a cameo role in the sequel to the very profitable comedy The Hangover doesn't rate much more than a shrug, if I'm in a good mood. In a bad mood, it's "these guys..." time again. In the world outside of my philosophy, the news is a HUGE THING, for maybe the equivalent of ten, or maybe Warhol's fifteen, minutes. And generates a lot of what-does-it-all-mean consideration. Hence, Matt's piece at Salon, in which the incident, or non-incident, spurs some examination pertaining to Hollywood's "double standard on public disgrace." The piece is thorough, and arrives at a conclusion that I can get behind pretty much 100%. And it would have never in a million years occurred to me to write such a piece, and if an editor had assigned me such a piece, I likely would have resented the assignment and tortured myself doing a shitty job of it. Because I'm lousy at generalizations. Matt can look at this Gibson/Hangover 2 thing and do a very solid job of linking it to any number of other incidents and potential scenarios and yoking them all to a thesis. I look at it—if I look at it at all—and I see a case of a somewhat entitled, righteous/self-righteous not-quite-mainstream star (that would be one Zach Galifianakis) getting a little huffy at having one of his no doubt more-tractable-than-he'd-willingly-admit "principles" being potentially violated, and either having, or not having, enough Hollywood clout to get his pissy way and then be able to pat himself on the back for it. And as it turns out, getting it. His pissy way, that is. And again...who gives a shit, as far as I'm concerned. I didn't much care for the first Hangover—it wasn't so much the overweening crassness with the fake moralist non-cherry on top so much as it was the jokes just weren't funny enough—and do not anticipate the prospect of seeing a followup to it with anything resembling enthusiasm. (And here I recall Nick Tosches' kicker for a review he did of a volume of Raymond Carver's ostensible poetry: "I was paid, albeit modestly, to linger amid these lines. I suggest that others await a similar circumstance.")
And I LIKE being lousy at generalizations. Not making generalizations is the rock upon which I build my church, so to speak. The church of being sparsely employed. (Kidding. I've actually got a fair amount of work going these days.) But I do wonder: can we divide critics and essayists into categories of big picture explainers and minutiae dissectors? What's this got to do with a fox and a hedgehog, or white elephant art and termite art? Or is this less something to do with writers' habits of mind than the prerogatives and concerns of assigning editors? A close examination of Matt's piece actually strongly suggests the latter, as its conclusion—which I mentioned being completely sympathetic with—and its overall mode of argumentation are rather at odds with the premises suggested by the story's headline and deck. I said before that he yoked his examples to a thesis, and that's true, but by the end he's at the very least casting strong doubt on the thesis' validity, which is pretty admirably nervy of him, I must say.