Wednesday, November 12

Clever Post Title Not Yet Determined.

Let's talk Writer's Block.

As a public service to you, the CDP Reader, I absolutely refuse to force an essay out just because I feel I'm due for one, nor will I write a sub-par essay on Tuesday when I feel I can turn it into an awesome one by Friday. As you may or may not have noticed, I've been hit with an ever-so-slight bout of Writer's Block, and until it decides to run its course, I'm left to sit here and play Excitebike until the Humor Blog Gods decide to give me my gift back.

Of course, the Gods have typically been good to me. I can't think of many blogs out there that crank out as much quality stuff as the CDP does, so I suppose I have nothing to apologize for. However, when there's something interesting that I want to say, and for whatever reason, I cannot find the words to say it, it's unbearably frustrating, annoying, and more than a little frightening. As a writer, feeling the urge to write and yet, not being able to do so, feels a bit like unrequited love. Why has this become so difficult? Why can I no longer function? Why am I listening to Louder Than Bombs on a constant loop?

The sports fanatics (which I am) would refer to this as 'Steve Blass Disease.' Quick history lesson for you, courtesy of Wikipedia:

In the 1971 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles, Steve Blass pitched two complete game wins, allowing only seven hits and two runs in 18 innings. He finished second in the voting for World Series MVP behind teammate Roberto Clemente.

Besides his Series performance, Blass is best known for his sudden and inexplicable loss of control after the 1972 season. His ERA climbed to 9.81 in t
he 1973 season. He walked 84 batters in 88 innings, and struck out only 27. Blass suffered through the 1973 season, then spent most of 1974 in the minor leagues. He gave it one last try in spring training of 1975. Failing to regain his form, he retired from baseball in March 1975.

Thereafter, a condition referred to as 'Steve Blass Disease' became a part of baseball lexicon because such a change in a player's skill was identified with him. The diagnosis is applied to talented pitchers who inexplicably and permanently seem to lose their talent.

Mark Wohlers had it. You could argue that Mike Vanderjagt had it. But me? Come on. I'm the guy that did 1100 words on killing a spider. 1800 words on American Gladiators. Almost 3000 words on just kissing, for Christ's sake. What is going on, here?

Am I done? Washed up? Have I run my course? Sound off in the comments section and let us know what you do to ward off Steve Blass Disease and stay fresh when it comes to your talents.

Monday, November 10

I Enjoy It When People Say Nice Things About Me.

Several months ago, I was e-mailed by a High School student and CDP fan named Eric Silver. He had been asked to make contact with a well-known author or blogger, secure some sort of an interview with them and write a report about their style, voice and overall themes of their essays or literature. Well, he must have been getting mighty desperate or nearing deadline, because he decided to make me the topic of his report. I gladly accepted, did the interview, and now want to share with you his finished work.

As you know, I very rarely turn over the CDP for the sake of outside essays and interviews (even if they are about me), but today is a very rare instance. I've done a lot of things through the CDP for a lot of different people, but I've never been directly responsible for helping a guy from New York pass his Senior Literature class and eventually graduate from High School. As someone who isn't far enough removed to forget how tremendous a pain in the ass reports like this are to write, I consider it an honor and privilege to help in any way that I could.

Here now, Mr. Silver's wonderful write-up on yours truly. It's better than anything that I ever wrote in school, but then again, I'm probably a little biased because it's entirely about how freaking awesome my blog is.


I’m not a Communist! I’m Just Funny!

The Internet is beautiful. Okay, n00bz, stop laughing at me. My inner geek might be a tad stronger than yours, so I can differentiate the beauty from the bawdy, but just consider this: the Internet defined a generation, substituting a great war or protesting that great war for battles of cybernetic proportions. The Internet stretches the boundaries of information, instilling the power of expertise to any simpleton with motor skills, and lets the simultaneous search for Jesus and Kodiak bears commonplace. But the true radiance of the World Wide Web is exactly what the prefix to all websites suggests. It encompasses the entire globe, and cultivates a freedom of expression that just wouldn’t be possible without an audience. And as that freedom is transferred, translated, and transfigured around the globe, somewhere among the ridiculous majority of horrible spelling, Counterstrike, racist lunatics, and porn, diamonds of genuine intelligence and humor shine.

I was lucky enough to stumble upon one of these gems while searching for a blogger that I could identify as entertaining enough to write an essay about. I typed in “pop culture blog” into my trusty sidekick, Google, and it sniffed out the Communist Dance Party, written and patrolled by the unflappable Ryan J. Zeinert. Don’t let the Marxist name fool you, this blog is as American as telling stories to millions of people for personal amusement and enrichment can be, and is slowly overtaking baking apple pie as the #2 most patriotic activity.

I am now addicted to the CDP. It might seem strange, because why would I really want to take time out of my busy schedule of Facebook, teen angst, and sleeping, to read someone else’s life stories? Really, I don’t, but as I skimmed the first stories, I noticed the two true strengths of Zeinert’s writing. The first is how in every single one of his posts, he maintains his belief in small, mundane things and how much they really matter in life. This shows up mainly in the content, but it is equally reflected in his diction in totally unrelated topics. The second is his voice. Zeinert’s voice is endearing, awkward, confident, alive, super-awesome, and always there. Without it, the blog would just be another sad attempt at getting random people to care, kind of like the news. The Communist Dance Party is better than every other column or blog because Zeinert invites the reader into his own stories through tone that is focused on the appreciation for the little things in life and word choice in his own voice that is always present in his writing.

Something monumental does not happen every day. I should not expect to inherit a million dollars, fall in love, lose that love, endure a death in my family, and then find out my love is with child in five successive days; my life is not a soap opera, and there is not a cliffhanger every Friday. Sometimes, days are mundane and routine. But that doesn’t mean there is not something to learn from each day we live on this Earth, no matter how boring or seemingly ordinary that day is. The CDP embraces the little things and makes them extraordinary. “When something vaguely humorous happens to me,” Zeinert wrote in an e-mail to me, “I like to tell it in a way that makes it seem more epic than anything. People like to hear unbelievable stories, but it’s the everyday minutiae that resonates with them the most, and forms more of a familiar bond between the writer and the reader” (E-mail).

One of my favorite posts points out that even a bag of chocolate chip cookies can bring out a revelation about life and yourself. One day, in the middle of a work day of monotony, our fearless author came across a bag of chocolate chip cookies that he had stashed away and forgotten about. He then proceeds to gorge himself on said cookies, and, while realizing the hilarity of a twenty-six-year-old shoving cookies into his mouth in proper work attire, bursts out laughing and takes in “the absurdity and triviality of the Human Experience” ('A Ziploc Bag Full of Chocolate Chip Cookies'). But wait, there’s more!

"In less than a minute, I had learned a powerful life lesson. I also had a mess to clean up…Don’t be embarrassed of what makes you happy. Even if it’s just a Ziploc bag full of chocolate chip cookies, dig your fat ass in and enjoy the moment…Take the time to admire the sadness in the realization that it’s the honest truth, then allow yourself to enjoy it with every fiber of your being... Let the crumbs fall down your shirt; you deserve it ('A Ziploc Bag Full of Chocolate Chip Cookies')."

The subjects of the posts are just what happen in his life: working, watching TV, killing insects, etc. And each post is littered with life lessons like in “Chocolate Chip Cookies” or introspective verbs like “admire”, “remember”, and "learn." This proves that you learn something new everyday; it just takes a trained eye, a blog, and an open mind to accept that ordinary things teach values.

Removing the voice from any piece of writing is literary suicide; it turns the piece into the news. Huckleberry Finn becomes a report on racism in the antebellum South, The Great Gatsby turns into an article about amorality in the 1920’s, and Gone with the Wind is suddenly a harrowing interview with a lot of Southern accents. So, I would never have gone near the CDP without searching for a voice in the letters, phrases, and clauses on the screen. Luckily, I did not have to look very far. Zeinert describes his own use of voice in his writing as, “the most important part of my job…[P]eople read my essays because they like what I’m doing on a personal level, not necessarily what I happen to be talking about on a that particular day. The voice is everything; it’s what makes you better than everyone” (E-mail). It defiantly shows through in every post Zeinert that graces his readers with.

The CDP’s most famous essay is a three-part piece that chronicles the three years that Zeinert worked at a gas station/co-op in his hometown in Wisconsin. I gradually become envious that I never worked at a gas station while making my way through the first two chapters about a death threat and the fantasy sequences that follow it, and three distinct stories about explosions. But the previous posts were only a build up for a beautiful biopic of “Chet”. Now, his real name is not Chet, but, as Zeinert clearly explains, “I’m protecting his identity strictly for my safety, for you see, ‘Chet’ is completely insane” ('Customer'). The blog post recounts some of the meetings between our author and Chet, and the voice is not forgotten. The voice of Ryan J. Zeinert is extremely flexible, ranging from sarcastic--“I don’t think you’re supposed to operate heavy machinery when you’re constantly inebriated and have no license” ('Customer')-- to antagonizing--“Within a few months, Chet lost his driver’s license due to him being a filthy drunk” ('Customer')-- to thoughtful--“So long Chet, wherever you are. Ya’ crazy bastard” ('Customer')--. The word choice is hilarious and conversational, and allows the reader to enjoy and become absorbed in the story.

The appreciative tone and the diction charged with Zeinert’s voice propel the “Communist Dance Party” to the highest echelon of the blogosphere. The tone reminds you there is more to life than just this blog and the horrible job that you despise going to day after day after day; there’s also a little bit to be learned in between groggily falling out of bed in the morning to passing out on that same bed late at night. The voice is like that guy; that friend everyone had or was in school, the geeky, outspoken kid who couldn’t help but make fun of his surroundings and himself.

Zeinert’s ability to talk about himself with an open mind and an open server signifies the rise of the blog and the need for personality in our generation. Newspapers and journalism are afraid of personal voices, and are turning away witty writers because of the oppression of individual voice. Now, no one tunes into CNN unless they want to watch highlights of ridicule from a debate, or laugh at the stature of Wolf Blitzer. We thrive on entertaining opinion, and the CDP is the double-shot of fresh Wisconsin sass that gets me up in the morning.

-Eric Silver.

Awesome. Thanks much, Eric; I'm glad to help. What did you end up getting on this report, anyway? I'd be crushed if I was in any way responsible for you failing the class, not getting enough credits to get into that college you've been dreaming of, getting depressed, hitting the bottle, getting kicked out of your parents house, driving your car through a Wendy's, entering the New York state prison system and more or less disappearing into ex-con obscurity for the next 30 to 40 years, only to have you re-emerge in 2035 and gun me down after approximately three decades of carefully plotting your revenge for the day that I did you so very wrong. Gosh, that would suck pretty hard.

Sound of in the comments section and enjoy your day.

NEXT: Has The CDP Procured Genuine Photos Of A Ghost?