We have met the enemy, and he is Russ

The downside of living in large cultural centre like Accordion City is that there is a distressingly large number of overexposed, under-brained Gen X enfants terribles who get paid terribly large salaries to write terribly bad pronouncements on popular culture. Canada’s National newspaper, the Globe and Mail, is located a short walk south of my house and houses two such twerps. I’ve already introduced you to Leah McLaren, who like outer space is beautiful yet vacous. Her male counterpart is Russell Smith, a well-dressed, well-coiffed, well-read cultural Pharisee who badly needs a good solid punch to the mouth.

His most recent column bears the title Blogs: Hanging Dirty Laundry On-line. Allow me to use one of my stock phrases: I’ve seen better paper after wiping my ass.

Like his co-worker McLaren, he immediately gets up my nose with these lines from the opening paragraph:

The blog phenomenon is perhaps the strangest side of the Internet. It’s stranger even than all the porn. Thousands of unremarkable people are posting their diaries on-line.

“Oh dear,” one can imagine him saying, “the proles are writing about their unremarkable little lives.”

Such acts, it would seem, are best left to professionals. Say, one Russell Smith, whose books about disaffected young twenty-somethings whose stories are derived from his more-remarkable-than-yours-life. Take, for instance, this plot summary of How Insensitive, a book that became a favourite in CanLit circles:

Adrift in Toronto’s gossipy, grant-driven cultural scene, a coterie of overeducated, underemployed young people stab at vaguely artistic projects and scramble after the opportunities that seem tantalizingly within reach — if you know the right people. Searching for work, sex and big-city life is Ted Owen, who quickly finds himself swept into the complicated lives of the young and the jaded, people who thrive in a strange world of hip fashion and surreal night-clubs.

Wow, Russ, that Ted Owen character reminds me of someone. Wish I could put my finger on whom

Here’s the first bit from a summary of his second novel, Noise:

Noise, much like Smith’s first novel How Insensitive, deals with young, Torontonian ladder-climbers.

This time the story revolves around James, a restaurant critic. We follow James as he tries to understand his relationships with those around him, and watch his struggles as he tries to make a name for himself.

Yo, Russ! Are you familiar with a term that gets bandied about in fandom called a “Mary Sue”?

(At writing schools all over North America, the credo seems to be “Write What You Know.” Surely they should teach a corollary: “Expand your knowledge. Please.“)

The difference between Russell Smith and most bloggers boils down to these things:

  • He is paid to go on about his life, which once you remove the College Street West/CanLit crowd trappings, is about as unremarkable as everyone else’s.
  • He has been published in dead tree form.
  • He has nice suits.
  • He must suffer from a little vertigo, what with the universe revolving around him.

Here’s the deal. If you see Russ in some bar, go buy a drink. Then walk up to him and throw it in his face. I’ll reimburse you and take you out for drinks. Sound cool?

6 replies on “We have met the enemy, and he is Russ”

Joey – one small thing – true vertigo requires one to experience the sensation of movement – something that Mr. Smith has yet to encounter in his unimpressive career.

I wouldn’t waste your keystrokes on such a wannabe.

Let’s just say that self-proclaimed high priesthoods of any sort, especially high priesthoods of any creative act, annoy the hell out of me. That, and the fact that Russell Smith broadcasts the belief that every life other than his — and perhaps those in his immediate circle of friends and contacts — is “unremarkable”. When your skill set is apparently limited to skillfully choosing pret a porter items, swilling cocktails and participating in clever repartee, your right to criticize anyone else’s life is automatically forfeit.

But hey, good call on the “vertigo” remark!

Oh boy, don’t get me started. I have to refrain from posting too many more entries on my blog about Rebecca Eckler (National Post resident girl blogger) or I’ll become the googlethority on her, and I certainly don’t want that!

I blogged this column myself last week so I also have a white-hot hate on for Smith. My point was that he doesn’t really even know what a blog is.

In Joey vs. the StayPuff Globe and Mail columnists, Reloaded, I again find myself coming to not quite the defense of, but at least some kind of justification for their existence.

The reasons for Russell Smith’s continued air supply are pretty much the same as Leah’s. As I said in the comments of entry on the first globe writer when Joey dissected her:

“Besides, without a large representation of doughy white bread searching for something exciting to put on itself in the media we would never be able to appreciate the taste of a Bibingkang Malagkit like Joey.

In the end, the only injustice is the difference in pay these two receive for providing us with what they do. But then again, it may just reflect the danger pay a writer gets for having to face deadlines and an editor with a target demo and advertisers forced upon them.”

(it looks like the fine programmers of blogware have done a great job of bringing over the archive. I am hoping the old comments sections are next)

As summer seems to be staying with us a bit longer, I�d like to update the analogy. Russ and Leah are the SPF 30 poster children of accordion city columnists. They long to have the cultural tan of Joey.

Party princess, standing in the spotlights at all the TIFF parties will just leave you with the cultural equivalent of farmer�s arms. Also, the next time you are in the Caribbean, try not to write from the perspective of an intermittent security camera. Ask any food critic, you can’t write about what you haven’t tasted. Coming back from a resort like that in the tropics with any kind of tan line is a crime in itself.

But then again, when your latest tv appearance is having the skid marked, threadbare, tighty whitey covered butt of Kenny or Spenny stuffed in your face instead of the sweet serenades of Joey on the accordion, you have probably already suffered enough.

I do have to admit my bias. Like Leah, Russell Smith has written good columns such as the one on the nearsightedness of internet dating:

and I did borrow his caption from it about �42 year old Hondurans who were into the blues and motorbiking�, which resulted in me meeting a great person. I can�t say I have benefited from Joey�s blog in the same way � yet.

I feel Russell really deserves our sympathies. With this article he showed that he gets it. He knows there is culture out there other than virtual. Like most pale guys, he wants to dance but he just doesn�t seem to have the rhythm.

I have to disagree with Joey here. He would probably benefit more from having a bunch of drinks put in him, and not on him.

Besides needing a day job to support his writing hobby Russ is pretty similiar to one blogger we already know:

-He too is paid to write about his experiences on the internet

-has seen to the death of many trees to bear his name in early days

-has posted recent entries supporting the cause of the sharp dressed man, snappy ties and all

-and has been known to spin at the thought of tv cameras or rooms moving around him.

Russ probably had never seen Joey�s blog or ones like it before he wrote the piece. Had he, he would probably be trying out those new dance steps up on college street as opposed to lamenting the fact that there are over 100,000 blogs and nothing on.

Advice to all the you young Globe and Mail staffers (yes, this means you, Alexander Gill) before you end up being thrown on the cultural ‘barbie here:

Go across the bullpen and take that new writer of yours out drinking. She�ll introduce you to more culture in a few rounds than all the movie parties and webpages you have ever been to could. I know when Joey and I went drinking with her way back when it changed how we saw things forever.

Thanks again Christie!!


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