By now, most of the readers of the daily stuff have presumably gotten used to my not-exactly-typical choice of blogfodder; if they weren't, they wouldn't still be readers, would they? Still, knowing that I do something is not the same as knowing why I do something, so I'm devoting some space to explaining my motivations, to the extent that my motivations are explainable.

Hello Kitty (27 posts):
Sanrio's infamous mouthless meower is here largely for her sheer ubiquity elsewhere: if you look long enough, eventually you'll find almost every consumer product and every kind of human experience has been touched by her presence. (Hello Kitty Hell, billed as "One Man's Life With Cute Overload," documents a small portion of the HK market.) The key to Hello Kitty, I've always believed, is her single facial expression: inasmuch as she lacks either grin or scowl, what you read into Kitty is probably what someone else would read into you at that moment. In other words, it's that whole window-into-the-soul thing, and I find it somewhat amusing that someone is making billions of yen off the concept.

Carnival of the Vanities (370 posts):
There's no better way to explain this than to quote Bigwig's manifesto in the introduction to the very first Carnival in 2002:

Blogging, if nothing else, is the bleeding edge of vanity publishing. If we didn't think we had something valuable to say, we wouldn't be doing this. We're not stupid, we don't expect Art to appear from the rearranged electrons when we write a post, but we do know when something we've created is a little bit better than the things we have done before. And we cast the child of our mind out into the ether, where it's derided, laughed at, ignored, and sometimes praised, pointed out to the world by a complete stranger who, simply by the act of pointing says Hey, that's pretty cool.

And in the beginning, it was. I duly linked in, inasmuch as I'd contributed the first item in Carnival #1, and continued weekly linkage to the festivities, whether or not I had a piece therein, for about five years. Eventually I switched to a simple Carnival link in the sidebar, and soon thereafter, in a wholly-unrelated set of circumstances, the Carnival itself fell into desuetude. The concept itself, if not entirely dead yet, is about ready to be loaded onto the cart, though Andrew Ian Dodge continues to publish an edition most weeks, and admittedly very few Carnival items these days say Hey, that's pretty cool. I have resumed the linkage, this time focusing on finding a topic that matches Dodge's title and the version number of that particular Carnival, which is now well into the 400s. Doing this requires some small amount of research, and I like to think that I still have time in my allegedly-declining years to do some small amount of research.

Rebecca Black (28 posts):
In the beginning, there was "Friday," and in the eyes, or to the ears, of however many millions of YouTube viewers after Tosh.0 gave it a push, it was Not Good. Anything with that much negative feedback, I reasoned, deserved a look and/or a listen. Hipsters hated it because it was so mainstream; non-hipsters hated it because, well, it was so mainstream: the lyrics are cliché-ridden and the actual voice is artificially manipulated beyond all understanding. In other words, it was of a piece with most of the stuff on the radio in the spring of 2011, though people would rush to tell you that they don't listen to that kind of garbage. Still, said stuff sells, and eventually "Friday" was offered for purchase, climbing into the bottom half of the Billboard Hot 100 and peaking at #58, same spot as Creedence's cover of "I Put a Spell on You" and Eddie Cochran's "Somethin' Else" and Pearl Jam's Spin the Black Circle. Of course, what people really objected to was the lack of Obvious Hard Work, an integral part of the pop-music ethos: mom writes a check for $4000 for a prefab video and song, child winds up a household word, and that's just not fair. Persuaded as I am that "fairness" in life is an illusion at best, I decided I would follow the kid's movements for a while. And "Friday" does grow on you: it's the same old I-vi-IV-V progression you've heard a zillion times before, and the reason you've heard it so often is that composers know you'll respond to it. If the lyrics are a tad scatterbrained, that's hardly a drawback in pop, and hey, it took three people to write "Bawitdaba."

Zooey Deschanel (45 posts):
I blame this on the actual readership. In the spring of 2010, I did a piece on an ensemble worn by Sarah Jessica Parker, and in a comment after the fact, I added: "[Y]ou guys would get sick of constant Zooey Deschanel pics," a line I quoted on the next Zooey pic posted. Said guys reassured me that no, they wouldn't, and bring 'em on already. Apparently this fixation is common. Said Dana Stevens in Slate, reviewing (500) Days of Summer: "Zooey Deschanel, with her goofily mobile face and giant blue eyes, would be America's sweetheart already if America had any taste." I find her enchanting, if occasionally off-putting, but then this is probably what I'd would expect to feel about someone for whom I actually had feelings. (Cue Joe E. Brown: "Well, nobody's perfect.") And she does have a wry sense of humor, the sort of thing which I unfortunately tend to find irresistible.

And if your next question is "But what about the shoes?" you missed the answer:

Think of it as a broadening of scope. I grew up surrounded by lots of gorgeous legs, by dint of having attended a Catholic high school during a period when skirt lengths were becoming, um, less conservative, and shoes are a logical extension of that interest. (So are underpants, I suppose, but those aren't on display. Usually.) Besides, they always invite comment, even if it's only "Yech, I wouldn't wear that."

Note: All post counts are subject to change — upwards.

The Vent

#733
  17 July 2011

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