R.E.M. – Imitation Of Life

Sook-Yin Lee didn’t want to come to my work party, but you don’t see me talking about how her podcast is an “imitation of (This American) Life” now do you? 

Now, let’s sing that one R.E.M. that’s all prescient about internet lingo ten years after its release: 

‘Dat cinnamon

‘Dat tasted good

‘Dat freezing rain

‘Dat Hollywood

Yes, R.E.M. were always into new technology. That’s why every copy of this single came with an AOL installation disc. Not really, but remember AOL? How about AIM? I had an account on there briefly, when I was an internet person, when I was a teenager. Good times. “Imitation Of Life” might be R.E.M.’s last culturally meaningful single, which makes sense when you hear the other songs on this sniggle!

There’s the standard boring instrumental, but also two demos of songs from the overproduced Reveal, but all they “reveal” is that that album’s biggest problem was bad songwriting instead of overproduction! 

BOOM! Reach out and give me a high five, people who don’t like R.E.M.! 

Both “The Lifting” and “Beat A Drum” suffer the rather serious problem of being completely unmemorable. Listen to “Beat A Drum” in this version: nice little piano backgroundy thing, then some words sung over it that seem to bear no resemblance to the piano line, and it’s all gone once it’s over. I’ve owned the album and this single since I was a teen and I still don’t know how either of these songs go! 

As an added bonus, all three of the bonus tracks are on the B-side disc of upcoming (at the time) greatest hits collection “In Time” so this release is EXTRA worthless! Yay! 

Speaking of (bad) imitations of life, The Perks of Being A Wallflower was a terrible book, now made into a (likely) terrible movie. When I was younger I wrote a scathing review of the book, and a few days ago a friend of mine requested said review. Since I (don’t think) I’ve yet transferred my other writings to this site, I’m gonna paste the review here. This one’s for you, Alex Djedovic: 

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower?” More like “The Perks of Being an Autist!” 

Because otherwise there’s no explanation for this main character.  He lived in cloud cuckoo land until grade nine, but then, shocker dee docker, he becomes popular, attractive, and experienced!  This character is brazenly stupid, as is this book.  His experiences are equally as stupid, and the observations it makes about teenaged life are doubly so, if not simply fucking idiotic.  

I should start charitably, and point out that this book is not intentionally evil.  Chbosky probably really wants to make life easier for socially cast-out teenaged boys, and make them realize they can have friends and lovers and not be sad dejected loners forever.  That said, it is about as effective as BIlly Joel’s hokey anti-teen-suicide song “You’re Only Human” in the eighties.  Or, if you prefer, as nascent as Band-Aid’s “Do They Know it’s Christmas?” I’d also throw in REM’s “Everybody Hurts,” but that song had a nice little progression, unlike this drivel.  

Let’s start with the main character’s autism. Despite Chbosky’s insistence that he is a straight-A student, he is a moron. He learns the difference between “Helen and me” and “Helen and I” at age 15 (pg. 7). The prose is utterly poe-faced and filled with absurd little “observations” about teen life that demonstrate a grown man’s longing to be young and innocent again.  This innocence meme is demonstrated repeatedly, but most notably when protagonist (Charlie) doesn’t know what masturbation is by age 15.  Now, unless Charlie is the most ridiculously sheltered male that has ever been, this is not realistic.  

Whenever Chbosky thinks Charlie’s using a word most 15/16 year olds wouldn’t know he puts it in quotes, because that’s how a 15/16 year old would talk right? Right? Here are a few words Charlie doesn’t know: “erection” (and this well after his first sexual experience, pg. 110), “objectification” (114), “chic” (120), “adroit” (138) “fuck” (159). “joint” (this after Charlie has tried LSD, pot, and many other drugs, somehow). Earlier in the book Charlie doesn’t know the meaning of “corpulent” or “jaundiced” and muses about why people learn words when they don’t have any use for them…I don’t know, asshole, how about when someone’s jaundiced, you freak? Additionally, a few of those examples illustrate the effort Chbosky puts into making Charlie into inexperience personified, which runs aground when he throws him into situations generally experienced only by the much older.  

TPOBAW, while ostensibly written by a teenager, has many of the hallmarks of being written by someone trying to guess what kids these days must be like.  Here are some grating stereotypes: Firstly, every male in the book is either a confused jock or an art fag.  Naturally.  But good news, faggots! It’s the football players who are gay after all! Haha! Are you a woman? Well guess what – you’re either an angel or a bitch! That makes things easy for you.  But here’s the bad news: either way, you’re a self-hating loser!  Here are the female characters in the book: 

1. Charlie’s sister, who is the stereotypical “slut” with an abusive boyfriend and is very unhappy.  Sucks to be you!

2. Mary Elizabeth, the senior year stereotypical activist/vegetarian/fake lesbian/poser.  She’s in love with the protagonist, of course, despite the fact that she’s three years older than him and he’s a moron. 

3. Sam, the pure good girl.  She doesn’t have a personality, but good news! She’s also in love with the protagonist, despite the fact that she’s three years older than him and he’s a moron.  

Of course, all three female characters are attractive.  

Are you gay? Well then, I guess you must either be a popular jock, and you must prowl gay parks looking for anonymous sex every night. Right? Right? Next bus to the gay park, please! 

Here are some horrible things the protagonist does 

1. Almost completely forget about his best friend’s suicide, which happens in the first ten pages then vanishes entirely.  Until, of course…

2. He sees his dead best friend’s ex half a year later, and asks her in the school hallway, verbatim and with no pretense, “do you miss him?”  

3. Is dating hot senior #1 (bear in mind he’s in ninth grade), but has a crush on hot senior #2, but doesn’t tell 1 until a party, when, playing spin bottle, he kisses #2 because she’s “the prettiest girl in the room.”  You so moral and guiltless, protagonist! 

There is the occasional good passage, but really, if you spend 200 pages trying really hard to be insightful you’ll come up with something once in a while.  I mean, this kid is a “prodigy” but he makes me look like Dostoyevsky. And what’s with the fandom for the Fountainhead? Jesus Christ.  

He says “gyp” like it’s not a racial term, like it doesn’t betray the book’s (laudable) goal of egalitarianism.  Chbosky does the little switcheroo twice in a row then forgets about it.  This one: Charlie goes through a harrowing experience, then it’s revealed, all in one line, that he’s “never trying LSD again.” Zing!  The very next chapter does a similar thing with smoking.  Oooh, descent into drug abuse! It’s not surprising that those who bought this on Amazon also bought “Go Ask Alice.”  I can’t believe this book is so popular.  I want to die.  And why does Charlie repeatedly burst into tears at the slightest provocation? I’m all for men being encouraged to have feelings, but what the fuck? I DON’T CARE.

I hate this book. 

And the single’s just okay too!

5 / 10

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