Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Ultimate Exercise in Narcissism: Everything you never wanted to know about me.

I (I write the letter I more than any other letter, probably because I’m always talking about myself) have always fantasized that I would take part in some kind of self-congratulatory roundtable forum wherein I, by this time being a legitimate or at least noteworthy writer, would answer questions regarding just why it is that I write. In this fantasy, I would go on and on about how important writing is and what it means to me and how necessary it is for me to go on living because I bring so much meaning into people’s otherwise meaningless lives. Since I will likely never take part in such Kory revelry, I have decided to explain why I write to the only audience that will ever read this: me.

I write first and foremost because I have things to say and no one to say them to. Plain and simple. I write because I have ideas that I think mean something and I want to remember them. I write to practice my communications skills. I write for therapeutic reasons. I write to amuse myself. I write to distract myself. I write things about things I want to read about that I feel nobody else has written about. It would be a lot easier for me if other people would write them for me, so I could read them without having to put the effort into writing them first and these other people’s writing would surely be more thorough and entertaining than my own version. Sometimes I write about things that have already been written about that I feel haven’t been appropriately addressed or maybe have been and I’m just rehashing old ideas.

I’m proud of a lot of the stuff that I write. I don’t know if any of it will ever get published. I don’t know if I’ll ever show any of it to anyone. After all, most of it is very personal, but not in an embarrassing way. It just deals with my opinion mostly on pop culture phenomena. Most people probably wouldn’t want to read my opinions about shit that they don’t care about, which is fine, because I probably wouldn’t want to read theirs either. After all, just what gives me license to write about such topics? I don’t have any more (or less for that matter) knowledge about these things than anyone else. Maybe my insights are unique, but I highly doubt it. My writing tends to be a little philosophical in the way that philosophy always makes the reader think to himself, “Well, duh. That’s all pretty obvious.” My hope is that whomever reads my material will think the same thing, but also say the second thing people think when they read philosophy, “I just didn’t realize it/never could express it/never heard anyone else express it.”

There’s an importance in striking a chord with an audience. Nowadays it’s important for an audience not to feel alienated by the material. They want to be in on the joke. (*It should be noted here that when I say, “audience” I mean me. Again, keeping it purely solipsistic here.) Who can blame them? True, some people want to be blown away and tricked and confused and surprised. But people also want to feel that they are just as capable of expressing things as the writer is, they just don’t have the time/inclination/knowledge/interest to write it out.

I wish that I were interested in writing fiction. But to be honest, it’s too hard. I ‘m not much of a visual person. I can’t write imagery. I think I lack story imagination. I believe I’m a pretty good storyteller, but only in the oral tradition. My fiction tends to get bogged down with too many boring details. The ultimate reason I’m bad at writing fiction is that I’m generally not interested in it, so I generally don’t write it. Sure, I have as many tales I’d like to tell as any lonely, half-crazy septuagenarian and I have the strong urge to write a good novel as much as any bored, under-stimulated housewife, but in the end it just doesn’t currently interest me. Though I have toyed with it from time to time, I find that it’s best left in more capable hands. And also, I’m really lazy. But, I am working on that (a little).

Though a person wouldn’t know it from reading this crap, I write to be funny. Nothing inspires me like a funny idea. Unfortunately, I tend to run short on those lately, so I write things of inconsequential subject matter, such as the reasons why I write about things.

As I said earlier, I like to write about things that I’m interested in. People are interesting to me. Culture is interesting to me. Unfortunately, I can’t get too serious about writing nonfiction, either. That would require research. Research is like studying – boring. I didn’t study in school, so why start now? Sure, if a potential employer wanted me to research a story, I would probably do it, assuming that it’s an interesting topic. One of the great things about writing solely for self is that you have only one person to please. If you don’t want to write about local events like you would at a crappy local newspaper, then you don’t have to. End of story.

I do imagine that one day, however, I will take a stab making it as some sort of hack writer. I would really prefer to be an essayist. I would love to make a living telling people – I won’t say my “opinions” because I hate opinions – but my ideas about certain subjects. Though it hardly seems possible that anyone would ever want to hear my opinions. Sure, if I were some sort of Lester Bangs-esque, charismatic run-on-sentence “genius” writer like Dave Eggers, people would want to listen, -er read I mean.

The problem with the personal essay is that people read it and think, “Hey, this seems easy. I can do it.” The thing is – they can’t. Oh, wait, yes they can, but don’t tell them. People - and I include myself in that lot - really love to give their opinions. If they’re anything like me, which they most certainly may or may not be, then they have really no business telling people their opinion, unless they want to come off as a hack, or a jerk, or a dork.

Still writing for the self is rewarding. I like to snicker at my own cleverness or “intelligence.” I never really applaud my own literary acrobatics, but sometimes a phrase or two pops up and I surprise myself. I mostly write stream-of-consciousness stuff. When I hit a wall and run out of ideas, I get bored and the piece suffers. (I hate using the word ‘piece’, by the way, it sounds overly snobbish and should be used only in relation to sculpture or should be appended by the words ‘of ass’ or ‘of pie’ or something. But for lack of a better term - piece it is!) The last thing you want is a suffering piece. Who knows what kind of unhappiness a suffering piece will bring. To quote the old timer in the mailroom in my favorite movie, The Hudsucker Proxy, when I hit a wall, “I usually just throw ‘em out.” I don’t literally throw anything away (anymore) but I will definitely sit on a piece for, oh, say – forever. Though, I have recently been going back and touching up old unfinished material, an experience that I find rewarding and frustrating at the same time. It sucks to see an unfinished idea you know has some merit, but still can’t bring into focus.

Now’s a good time to reveal that I have a horrible memory and this, coupled with pathological laziness, creates for an inconsistent creative output. I will often visualize and write out a good piece of material in my head, only to forget everything but the subject when I sit down to write it. This could be any period of time from a few minutes to a few years. Fortunately, I have a sort of memory for forgotten material. It always seems to pop up in one form or another. It’s too bad I can’t immediately recall it when I want to.

Now seems like an equally good time to mention that the quality, frequency and topical nature of my writing seems to be influenced by many factors, over which I have little, or no, or complete control, depending on the circumstances. Suffice it to say that I am an erratic person, inconsistency creeping into just about every aspect of my life, but one thing I can say is that I am pretty consistently lazy and I’m kind of proud of myself for being able to hold onto that one.

Anyway…

Since I’ve always wanted to be interviewed and since I’m also in a weird mood, I’m going to keep this gas going by conducting an interview of myself.* Interviews, if conducted properly, are really awesome. The interviewer can ask interesting questions and, depending on the subject’s importance, either to the interviewer or to the subject himself, he can answer questions as arrogantly as possibly imaginable. I like the prospect of interviewing myself because I can really think my answers through, then go back and amend them to make me appear (even more) interesting and articulate. And no question will take me by surprise, since I am also acting as my own publicist and have full veto power over the content.

*Due credit must be given to Vincent Gallo, who interviewed himself to hilarious effect on his website, www.vincentgallo.com So I admit it, I stole this idea from him.

Question: So tell me a little bit about myself. Where am I from for starters?

Answer: Well, I usually tell people I’m from one of two places, depending on the situation - South Dakota or Montana. If I don’t care what the person thinks of me, I will usually just say South Dakota. If I want to impress some good-ol’ boy charm onto someone or if I’m trying to get laid, or both, I will usually say Montana. For some reason that always goes over better. People tend to be more interested, so it goes down smoother, if ya’ catch my drift. But, it’s pretty complicated, actually. I was born and lived for nine years in South Dakota, then moved to Montana, then back to South Dakota when I was fourteen, then went to college back over in Montana. However, a recent development has given me cause to tell people I’m from South Dakota almost exclusively. HBO has had some success with their show Deadwood, which is based on my hometown. True story: I find that people are now more impressed with my being from Deadwood than they are with my being from Montana. However, I have yet to get laid because of this fact, which is truly a bummer.

That being said and to answer your question succinctly and concisely - I’m from LA.

Q: What, if any, formal education do I have?

A: Regarding writing? Well, none, really. I’ve always felt I was pretty articulate and pretty funny. I don’t know if anybody else did or still does. But, you know…fuck them.

Q: Okay. So, what is it that I like to write about? Break it down for me.

A: Um, I like shit that’s probably pretty boring to other people. Which is fine, ‘cause other people tend to be stupid. Just kidding – kind of. I am fascinated by the phenomenon of religious and ideological cults. I dig on cultural criticism – both popular and ‘un.’ I like satire. I simultaneously loathe and love celebrity culture. I went to film school, so I am programmed to feel that I can comment on just about anything at anytime and people should want to listen to what I have to say.

Q: Wow, was I neglected as I child or something?

A: No, on the contrary. I had/have a kick-ass family. I don’t know what it is about me that makes me want to ramble on as if I know about shit. I certainly got attention when I was growing up. Maybe it just wasn’t enough. That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t given a lot. It just means that nothing is ever enough. I’m never satisfied, but I never do anything about it either. I don’t really know how I get by to be perfectly honest. I’m pretty lazy. I currently work in television and somehow people seem to fail upward in that world, so naturally, I’m on the fast track to superstardom. But, I’m currently on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I’m very fragile and unstable and that’s very crucial to the cultivation of the creative personality. At least that what I think I’m supposed to think. Well, that and a nagging drug habit.

Q: Tell me a little bit about what I think shaped my worldview. What makes a person like Kory Lanphear tick?

A: Hmmm. That’s an interesting and cliched question I have posed to myself. I’m not really sure how to answer that. I can currently divide my life into about five basic parts and those are, in chronological order: pre-cognitive, the part where I pretended I was a ninja, the part where I played a lot of sports, the part where I was a dickhead (carries over into the following two portions), the period where I found out a lot about myself and started hating who I used to be, and the pseudo-genius you see before you now.

Q: (returns from looking lovingly in the mirror): But you, I mean I, have a pessimistic streak in me. Nihlism, maybe? Existentialism?

A: Oh, I don’t really subscribe to any philosophical indoctrination. I will concede that my life has been marked by bouts of depression and rage, which continues to this day. I’m trying to change all of that, but it’s definitely had a huge influence on my work. I find that if one has lowered expectations, they are not surprised when they fail. And conversely, they are elated by small victories because they’re not anticipating them. It’s not such a bad way to think, when looked at that way.

By the way, did I just refer to my writing as “my work.” My work?! Oh, man, I truly am one dork of a kind.


Q: I have a point, there. Speaking of influences…

A: (Laughs) Man, this is weird. I’m a fuckin’ weird dude. I mean I’m interviewing myself here! But – my influences - that’s a good question – and one I’ve always wanted to be asked. My influences are many and I can hardly do justice to anybody by mentioning them, but I’ll give it a shot. From a writing standpoint, I can’t think of any one writer who has inspired or influenced my work, though I’m sure there are some. Oh yeah, Chuck Klosterman – love his shit, though I don’t always agree with it. Some random influences I can definitely cite: The Big Lebowski and the Coen brothers in general, heavy psychedelic rock bands like Dead Meadow and Fu Manchu, Disinformation, pop art, sketch comedy like the Kids In The Hall, Monty Python, Mr. Show, movies - lots and lots of movies - too many to name, in fact, but nothing in black and white, besides Mildred Pierce for some reason, Lolita and Dr. Strangelove, I guess though I’m not really a big Kubrick fan. There are some others, but I can’t really think of them right now. I’ll have to add them when I revise.

Q: Okay, lastly. Sum up my goals for me.

A: Oooh, I’ve got a great answer for this. Real witty ‘n’ shit. I work on the basis of a certain maxim, you might call it my “mantra”, or hell, even my personal philosophy and I am proud to say that it worries my parents. That motto, simply stated is: “Minimum effort, maximum results.”