I started fourfour on May 31, 2005, and I figure that the fifth anniversary of this blog is an occasion that calls for a look back. Surveying 1,116 posts that have appeared on a single blog over the course of five years is setting yourself up for looking at a whole lot of nothing, but regardless of how foolhardy my time investment has been, clearly this space has mattered to me. I'm grateful that in the rare cases that I feel like I have something that should really get out there, it almost always does. I'm grateful that I can make some money (a modest freelance wage, really) saying exactly what I think needs to be said on my terms. I'm grateful for the work/interview/interpersonal opportunities my work here has presented to me. I'm grateful that people seem to care about what I have to say, for however temporarily (I've heard, "I used to read your blog..." enough times to make me feel like I'm being oversensitive by finding those words offensive). I've always said that I like to have something to show for my time (I'm very material in that respect) and so the most I'll concede after looking at five year's worth of work is that it's been a whole lot of something.
Let it never be said that I don't know how to throw myself a party. The verdict on this blog's best offerings is probably none of my business -- I wouldn't even know how to call that if I had to. However, for the sake of retrospect, I can share with you what the most satisfying posts of the past five years were from the perspective of the person who created them and received feedback on them. My Top 20 is below.
I can barely convey the joy that I feel when I watch something as consistently amazing as Over the Top. (Really, conveying the joy tends to be the entire point of many posts.) Watching something as ridiculous as this movie amounts to an adrenalin rush that beats arm-wrestling, truck-driving and arm-wrestling while truck-driving. I still feel like it's only a matter of time before the video above (of Sly Stallone's character being called both "Hawk" and "Hawks") goes viral or at least racks up a decent amount of views -- cinematic incompetence on this level will not be ignored.
I love making gif walls because it feels like a very cut-and-dry process instead of the less organized one of recapping or reviewing (I was a math nerd through high school, so I'm kind of getting my remedial math on with these) and also artistic in the way that collaging is. But that's not why I loved creating this post so much -- it's because doing so forced me to watch hours of footage of Kate being the brilliant lunatic that she is, all in the name of "work."
Some time after writing about Florrie Fisher and freestyle and Steve "Silk" Hurley and the Shore Mall and Living Dolls and new jack swing, I exhausted almost all of my pre-fourfour pop culture loves (however, every once in a while, a Monster's Christmas does pop up). My favorite movie of all time, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, was one of those relics that I could not wait to write about. I never thought my review did this movie justice (really it couldn't: BVD is the standard that I judge all public communication against), but what it did do justice to was my undying devotion. Sometimes it feels really good just to get that out.
And sometimes it feels really good to get out some pee (or your suspicions of a pop singer's interest in doing just that). I've never had more fun writing an album review, and I doubt I ever will.
I cut my teeth writing about television in the recap format I'd come to refine later with Being Bobby Brown, still one of the most vivid illustrations of the degree to which fame can really fuck you up (said degree can be described as: so fucked up that you don't even care how fucked up you are). Inspired by my love of Television Without Pity (particularly Potes' ANTM recaps), I figured, "I need to do something that they aren't," and so I did. I chose to highlight this recap because it's for the episode that introduced "Skenecia," still my favorite name anyone has ever been named, and one that I will apply to my next female pet, should I acquire one. I forgot how thoroughly I covered this show (retrospective quote and music posts?). Video aside, it's what acclimated me to the blogging medium, as well as the train wreck-following that would essentially define the next five years of my life. I can't even tell you how rewarding it's been.
Before both of these reviews, I remember feeling afraid to just write on this blog. I felt like it was cheap to focus on something that could exist in more traditional media (as opposed to synthesizing words, sounds, pictures, etc.). Taking the leap (backward?) to churn out a string of paragraphs unadorned by gimmicks and distractions felt like a revelation. That my readers seemed to be on board with this relatively quaint mode of communication felt like justification. Now just try to shut me up!
Sometimes when you love something so much, you stop making sense. This never stopped being one of my favorite ideas, the perfect encapsulation of my sense of humor and my overt aspiration to the genius nonsense of Sifl & Olly.
The clip is whatever -- what I really loved about this post is it gave me the opportunity to relate this: "Homosexuality is a choice in the same way that going out to get food so that you don't starve is a choice." I've written a lot about being gay, but I don't think I've ever been more succinctly on the nose.
11. No Enigma: A mix
This might be my most constructive use of nostalgia ever. It's very much in the tradition of my new jack swing mixes, but it also fills something of a void by exploring a sound that's so '90s, it was left there (the soulful, often British dance music that hovered around the 105 BPM mark). Between collecting the tracks, assembling them and then listening to the product, this kept me occupied for months. Also, it may have the most clever title I've ever dreamed up.Mary Carey, Superstar
If I had the stomach to actually read my writing from four years ago, I'm sure I'd say that this is still the best narrative I've ever written. The experience of seeing Mary Carey perform at a strip club 10 miles from Atlantic City (way before I knew her personally) was certainly the best time I had all year, and possibly all decade.
It was cathartic to expose just how flagrant the New York Post (and other outlets) have been in labeling any black guy in the music industry a "rapper" (Ne-Yo? Jamie Foxx? Russell Simmons?!?) The heretofore untold postscript, however is that Page Six writer Neel Shah emailed me soon after this went up, saying, "I always refer to both Richard Simmons and Damon Dash as 'hip-hop moguls.' (Also, none of your examples happened at Page Six in my tenure there. Which has only been 10 months, but whatever.) Just call me the Patron Saint of Urban Performers." My response? "Richard Simmons is definitely the greatest hip-hop mogul of all time!"
In the year or so leading up to me starting fourfour, I often said, "On my blog, I'm going to count the number of times per episode that girls cry on America's Next Top Model." Don't ever tell me I'm not a man of my word. Obviously, covering ANTM has been my bread and butter virtually since I started doing so. I know for a fact that it's why I have my job, and it's why I know so much useless information about reality TV and things to do with your face, depending on how the wind blows (sometimes literally, as in the case of wind in the face). I've had good times and bad writing about this. But mostly, I've had time, period. Still, there are things that make it worthwhile: Winston interviewing Allison, for sure (along with meeting Sheena, Celia, Kornie, Amis, Lauren and McKey), but also I think this show can really bring out the best in my writing. Much like The Beyondcé, Sara Tall and Tall is about as good of a thumbnail sketch of my sense of humor as you'll find.
I never thought I'd work up the nerve to be so honest (I still shudder when I think about my masturbation confession in that post). But then, I also never thought I'd work up the nerve to accept myself so fully. If I never write anything as personal again, I will go on feeling secure that I've revealed enough here.
...and I wouldn't have it any other way. Everyone should be so fortunate as to live with an animal that's so fascinating. I've said this plenty, but it always bears repeating: I post about Winston not for the cute-cat factor, but for the alien factor. He is unlike anything I've ever experienced. I love him, yes, but I'm downright obsessed with studying him.
With an intense love of TV Carnage in my heart and no idea what I was doing in my head, I chopped up my favorite bits of this 2006 Liza Minnelli interview and created my first viral video. The editing bug bit me hard that day, and my love for the art and craft has only grown. What's most amazing about this to me is that the original interview aired on a Wednesday, I didn't get around to posting on it till the following Monday and still nobody scooped me. If there's anything that makes me sad about the way the Internet has changed in the past five years, it's its increased pace. Sometimes it'd do us all good to take a cue from those immortal words of Mariah: love takes time.
You know what was the most satisfying thing about my photo essay about all the rebel-flag paraphernalia I found for sale the summer of 2006 in Wildwood, NJ? The fact that most of that merch was nowhere to be found the next year. I have no idea if I influenced that (the post was linked around extensively, but I don't know how much blog activity registered in coastal Bumblefuck four years ago), but part of me hopes that I did. Growing up in South Jersey, I'd see rebel-flag stuff around and it always confused me ("How is it not a symbol or racism?") and examining a lot of this stuff ("You wear your X, I'll wear my X"; "I have a dream") cleared up any ambiguity that came from giving the benefit of the doubt to people who'd proudly rock this stuff. I think this might have been the first thing I posted on this blog that felt actually important.
(Of course, this is the gross underbelly of Wildwood, NJ, a place whose trashiness fascinated me throughout my youth. For the fun underbelly, see Wildwood: The Movie.)
No matter who rips me off (and then continues to incriminate themselves in a series of bonkers quotes, leaving me feeling more righteous than I ever thought possible), nothing will outshine my first supercut (in the original sense of the term). This is probably my most inspired idea ever...in that I'm obviously bombarded by this phrase on nearly a daily basis. I'll take inspiration where I can find it, though, especially in the form of a mantra. This is my "om."
The time I spent making this -- from Christmas 2007 to New Year's Eve -- is one that I'll never forget. I spent that week resting (I was off from work) and amongst family, friends, warm blankets and Céline Dion. Between Carl Wilson's book and the A New Day 2-DVD set, I was ensconced in a French-Canadian fantasia of melodrama and slapstick. Each tic, grunt and outburst provided something I just could not wait to show off (in the 10 Most Ridiculous Things About The Beyoncé Experience template I'd formulated about a month earlier). This video ended up exploding (it was fast approaching a million views, a first for me -- until YouTube yanked my account as it hit the 850,000 mark), making me feel completely justified in my taste for this woman's antics. Imagine my disappointment, then, when its official sequel (Céline Dion is better than you really doesn't count because it was reaching and came from a TV special with limited footage anyway), Céline Dion Is STILL Amazing, could barely muster up 25,000 views. Don't really know what went wrong. Maybe the hook of the first video was how unexpected all this was coming from Céline Dion. Maybe as more footage of Céline Dion's buffoonery amasses, she crosses the line between endearment and irritation. Maybe I'm just losing my touch. I don't know, the whole thing kind of confused me, but whatever! We'll always have the first "amazing," and I'll always strive for that one-two punch of the joy of discovery and the joy of sharing that this video hit me with more intensely than anything that came before or after it. The quest to get that feeling back alone ensures that I'll never give this thing up.
(Also of note: To help organize things, I've created additional categories for the posts on this blog, such as Crazy Old Ladies and Freaks & Weirdos. I mean both affectionately, obviously. I've also created tags for each ANTM cycle and applied more general categories like TV and Music to some posts. I'm OK with being clever and/or obscure with tags, but I feel like they need to be a little bit more guiding so as to have some point. As I realize such things and mature, so does my blog. See how that works?)