Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Best Served Cold, Phlip.

Dear Phlip,

Before we get down to brass tacks, let me congratulate you on the term “anti-intellectual thuggery” with which you described this novelty blog.  That term is awesome. 

I have a few casual points to make in retort.

The truth is that Jersey Circus neither achieves nor aspires to add something to “the pantheon of literature”, a term I find to be a little silly . I was surprised, actually, that you made such a throwaway claim as the crux of your criticism, especially with your background in media studies.  I’m not sure where you fall in terms of classifying your own blog on the spectrum of literary feats, but keep in mind that apart from this entry, our blogs are trying to do different things and for different audiences. We offer bite-sized zingers of delight, and you offer stacks of critique prose. We’re different fruits, Phlip, but we could make a delicious salad if you didn’t hate us so much.

I think it’s a little harsh to have called us perverse, but I can imagine that you are writing for an audience that appreciates a lifestyle different than our Jersey Shore brothers and sisters. I am less willing to allow that what we are doing is anti-intellectual. It’s illogical to presume that a produced unit of culture can be anti-intellectual. As people WITH INTELLECT, we should be engaging everything available to us with nuance and critique. You DID that in your essay on why we suck, and I applaud your method of developing rationale for criticism. But please don’t call us dumb.

I would suggest that Jersey Circus (along with other mash-ups like that of the Kanye West/ New Yorker variety which you ALSO hated) is interested in what disparate memes, when juxtaposed, can suggest about our culture at large. This can be understood on a number of levels, the simplest being that we love to laugh.  Obviously, it's all in the eye of the beholder, and it doesn’t hurt my feelings that you don’t like to behold us.  There are plenty of things I hate.  But I think an even deeper analysis can be made when we begin to parse apart our reactions to the text of Jersey Circus. As is espoused in the comment section of the Do You Know? entry, there can be several readings of the same text, and that should excite us. (Quite honestly, this is one of the main reasons that I TOO am an Episcopalian, Phlip. I find that the liturgy makes room for a wide berth of understanding. We can talk about the Nicene Creed later if you want to grab a beer.)  A question I would love to have you answer is WHY you read a perverse meaning here. There is danger in upholding the American Fifties Lifestyle resonant in the fictional Family Circus and bashing the “American Low Brow” seen in the nonfictional, albeit outrageous, cast of Jersey Shore. Granted that both portray a different population within our cultural lexicon, the combination of the two allows what is current to butt up against what is past. The main thesis of the blog, then, is that All Of This Happened And Is Happening And Describes Us and America and Everyone, And Isn’t That Hilarious And Jarring?

It’s apparent that we are coming from different paradigms, this assertion based mostly on your Heavy Sigh Introductory Paragraph about mash-ups. You are quite clear about not understanding “the allure” of the genre, which is fine, but it absolutely makes you the right person to not be doing insistent scholarship on it.  It would be like me doing insistent scholarship on pleats or extreme sports. I’m not keen on either, Phlip. Well, maybe that’s not fair. Let me say it this way: I studied poetry in college (you’ll note I’m not a famous poet). One thing I’ll say for sure is that my appreciation for that form increased exponentially with the time I spent studying and practicing it. Same goes for my appreciation of Radiohead and Thomas Merton and iPhones.  I had to learn why the form existed, understand the niche it filled,  and allow myself brain-room to like it. I’d say that a novice approach to any subject will never be sophisticated or nuanced enough to write it off.

I DO think I’m cheating a bit, in terms of keeping within Barthes’ rules, but I’m really only saying this because I’m smug. I hope you have read this pithy essay with a twinkle in your eye. Good luck with your radio program! We’re rooting for you.


Liz Laribee

Contributing Writer for Jersey Circus


  1. "Mashing together the simple, clean humor of Family Circus..."
    The fact that he associated Family Circus with humor tells you all you need to know about this guy.

  2. I like "Family Circus" and "Jersey Shore." I love this freakin' blog! It is hilarious! Phil needs to get a clue there are far bigger people making a mockery of culture and religion. Why not try Washington, D.C. first?

  3. I might add that the juxtaposition of two such polar extremes of the American experience serves to point out how both, in their one-dimensionality, are false. The viewer's first thought is: how could such deviancy exist within the Family Circus? How could such innocence be associated with Jersey Shore? But the oxymoron of this blog's very existence forces one then to realize that indeed we are all people, as incompatible as we may seem. Little Billy may well grow up to spout profane inanities, and our Jerseyans were surely at some point adorable unsullied children - arrests for "public annoyingness" notwithstanding. Perhaps if there were more attempts like this one to demonstrate our common humanity, fewer of us would feel the need to stone to death those who dare to stand up to oppression, or to burn the sacred book of an entire people. Jersey Circus: I salute your model of tolerance and understanding.

  4. liz, u rock. i feel so much more safe living under the safe umbrella of this thing called jersey sure.

    luv u, baby.

  5. This all reminds me of the Messiah College classroom, and I'm slightly nostalgic.

  6. "Seeing little Jeffy supposedly mouthing the words of some Jersey Guido isn’t amusing it’s perverse. Forcing the words from the bottom end of our cultural intellect in the mouths of our brightest or most innocent is simple vandalism."

    Guy seems stuck-up, and kindov a prude, very impressed with hissown opinion (and fairly un-creative judgmental for someone raised around media).

    You've nothing to fear JerseyCircusers, pump-on!

  7. Too polite by half. That tool self describes himself as "Writer, father, actor, friend, teacher, follower of Christ, husband, Episcopalian, former radio personality, brother" Shit, leave anything out? Yes, I know you did, just shut the fuck up.

    He just left off "dick head who finds Family circus remotely palatable."

  8. Philip,

    Don't take life too seriously. You'll never get out of it alive. ~ Elbert Hubbard

    Looking forward to your next post, Jersey Circus.

  9. I cringed at the name alone. "View from the Phlipside." Ugh. Then again, he probably gets more hits on his blog than I get on mine. ;-)

  10. Wow.
    That's all I can say. And I say it with a big old smile on my face.

    Liz, great to "meet" you and three cheers from a fellow Episcopalian. I applaud your creative endeavors. They just don't hit the mark with me. I'm profoundly amused by the furor this all has created both here and on my blog. And I'll buy the beer any time!

    The radio show (the name, for Joe in Philly, is a play on my last name and the the old days of records. It was the name of my long running morning drive time show. It has a high familiarity quotient with my audience) is just a commentary program. It is more often tongue in cheek than not. I don't take myself all that seriously at all. It's interesting that folks take such great offense that I would dare to take offense. Seems to me what's good for the goose... But then I can be accused of being a crank and ignorant and a prude and apparently something of a mouth breather since I would show any signs of affection for Family Circus. Jeez, people it's a 2:30 radio commentary. Sorry that for some of you (Liz excepted) discovering that someone thinks differently than you is such a shock.

    You're absolutely right about not making this the subject of deep intellectual study. I didn't think I was. I also make use of hyperbole to make a point. The "anti-intellectual thuggery" while lovely is perhaps just a bit over the top in retrospect.

    But in the end I don't find Jersey Circus funny or amusing or thought provoking. That may certainly be a shortcoming on my part. But the show is a commentary on the media. My opinion. Nothing more, nothing less. And I know exactly the value of my opinion.

    So let me add one more opinion. Liz, I think you're a class act. Thanks for the thoughtful response.


  11. He's a dick, don't worry about it.