I don’t know how much effort I’ll put into this post, since here I’ll be looking back at the worst posts I’ve ever written, or just the moments in Mildly Pleased’s history that I’m not super proud of. But that’s the risk you run when you start writing stuff online when you’re 18 and haven’t had anyone read your prose outside of that one creative writing class you took in high school. Which, makes me all the more thankful that I came of age when there was a pretty modest amount of social media available for teens to document the most embarrassing years of their lives on.
But at the same time, I think there is a positive aspect to this era in which creative people can use the internet as a kind of training ground. It makes me think of comedy people uploading their sketches online and honing their looney craft, or today’s major indie artists, many of whom have cut their teeth as teenagers uploading their music to bandcamp. The internet is both a wonderful and terrible place, but more than anything, it’s a great place to waste time in. Here are the moments from this blog that truly felt like a waste, even if they did (hopefully) make me a little bit better at writing for whatever the hell this blog is.
As I’m sure Sean will cover this at some point, we did a lot of posting about the music video game Rock Band in the early days of this blog. And looking back it’s not hard to see why, since we started this blog as a way of staying in touch with what each other was enjoying pop culture-wise while we were all going to separate colleges. Meanwhile, Rock Band was our main activity every time we returned home for the holidays or summer.
So it comes as no surprise that my first post was some completely innocuous comment on Rock Band technique. It’s totally something that would’ve made more sense as just a component of a passing conversation, or a text message. But for some reason, I thought it was a big enough deal to write about on the internet. Clearly, I hadn’t figured out what this blog was supposed to be, but then again, none of us did.
One of the more infamous moments of Mildly Pleased’s then-young life was when John quit the blog (then called Cat Fancy) two months in, because no one else was posting enough. I’ll take some of the blame, in that I was not posting a ton at that time, and it really wasn’t until the blog reached about year 4 or 5 that I was posting all that consistently. I remember that particular week Sean also stopped posting out of solidarity, which left just me and Nancy (remember him?) to carry the weight of the blog. Apparently this was the best I could do – a review of a Rolling Stones concert film. What is the point of reviewing a concert film? I really don’t know, but I suppose I was just trying to keep the blog alive.
Look, I didn’t write this review, but I went with John to see The Love Guru, one of the worst comedies I’ve ever seen. So I feel like I was to some extent an enabler, and that I should’ve known better. Though I feel like we were expecting it to be a bad time. Which along with seeing The Happening that year made it pretty obvious that we should not be spending money on movies that aren’t funny bad, but just painful bad. Though at least we got some amusing reviews out of it, right?
I know we probably did ’90s week with the best of intentions, and I can’t speak for everybody, but this was just lame in retrospect. The formatting is all off, because I had a tendency to write my longer posts in a word document before cutting and pasting, without the slightest idea of formatting it correctly, so it now looks worse than ever.
But apart from that, I just clearly didn’t have that great of a grasp on the truly great pop culture from the ’90s, since I was but a mere child when living through it. Why did I put RHCP on this list? I should have realized by then that they’re not very good. Also, sure, I like Saving Private Ryan, Terminator 2, and Shawshank. But I have zero personal connection to them, but clearly I hadn’t seen enough interesting ’90s movies to be making a definitive list with any sense of authority. But I did include one of the less heralded Pavement albums, so that makes me cool, right?
I had totally forgot about this minor spat that arose between me and Sean around the then-upcoming release of Quantum of Solace. This definitely seems more indicative of the early days of the blog, where just because we held a different opinion from each other on something, we had to passive-aggressively make a big thing about it by writing a post to state our case. Which is weird, because (as I say in this post), it’s not like I’m in love with Casino Royale, but it did mark a necessary point of growth for the series. It just probably felt a bit like Sean won this argument after Quantum of Solace came out and was supremely mediocre. But hey, at least Skyfall was pretty sweet. So let’s call it a draw.
Ah yes, one of the great downsides of doing a blog like this: year-end lists that don’t look too hot in retrospect. Granted, this was our first year of doing these, and this was probably a year in which I most likely listened to about 15 new albums total. But if I were to do a current list of 2008’s best albums, probably only about three of the albums on this original list would make it. A Brian Wilson solo album? My Morning Jacket’s mixed bag follow-up to Z? A Stephen Malkmus solo album at number 1? I’m only a moderate Pavement fan, so how does that make sense? I don’t know, but luckily my year-end lists from about 2010 onward aren’t too painful to look back on.
I’m sure this is something I’m still doing, but one thing me and Sean have often talked about is how easy it is to give something you generally like 4 stars without giving it much thought. It was especially easy in the early days when we hadn’t learned to question the artistic integrity of artists we already liked. Which I’m sure there are plenty of examples of, but I’ll point to this review of Bruce Springsteen’s Working On A Dream as a prime one.
As far as Bruce Springsteen albums go, I’d easily put Working On A Dream in the bottom five of his discography, with its wishy washy production and the pretty stupid lyrics of “Outlaw Pete” and “Queen of The Supermarket”. But it did have the benefit of coming out just after my exhaustive (and poorly formatted) Springsteen Retrospecticus, as well as including the theme to the still-in-theaters The Wrestler, so I just gave it the ol’ 4-star seal of approval.
As you’ve probably noticed, almost all of these regrettable posts happened during the first year or so of the blog’s existence. Which isn’t to say that there haven’t been unnecessary or poorly written posts since then, it’s just that those are the ones that feel the most embarrassing in retrospect. This one was from 2010, and exemplified the fact that I made a little too big of a deal of the fact that I went to college in San Francisco, while my colleagues went to school in (I’ll just say it) shitty college towns. And looking back, I can see where I was coming from. San Francisco’s a great city, quite possibly my favorite on the West Coast. And I was lucky to get to go to school there.
But that didn’t mean I had any right to be writing San Francisco-specific content, such as this top ten of what I thought were the 10 greatest San Francisco Giants. I had been a Giants fan for like a year! What reason did I have to talk about their lifetime roster with any authority? It’s also just weird for me to be writing about baseball here, but I suppose we did have a bit more of a sports presence back in the days when Nancy was writing about Seattle Mariners baseball fairly consistently.
Well, that about does it. It was more fun than I thought it’d be looking back on my least favorite things I’ve ever written. But I’m sure tomorrow will be even more fun when we look back on better times, with our favorite things we’ve reviewed in the 10 years of Mildly Pleased.