All posts by Wylie VanWenger

Ten Years of Dark Humor: A Retrospective of the First Decade of the New Century

We are approaching the half-way point of the last year of the decade.  Sort of.  Officially the last year of this decade is 2010.  That’s if you’re following the rules.  If you’re going by the book then the first year of this decade/century/millennium was not 2000, but 2001.  After all the Julian calendar didn’t start off with the year zero even though maybe it should have.

But who cares about what the officials say?  It was New Year’s Eve 1999 that was the closing of the 20th Century.  Limp Bizkit was at the top of their game.  The World Wrestling Federation had not yet been sued by the World Wildlife Foundation for the legal use of “WWF”.  The XFL was all up in your face.  Everything from snowboards to Cheetos was X-TREME!!!  Cellphones were annoying.  And everyone, or at least the media anyway, was terrified that all the computers in the world would think it was 1900 and the water would stop flowing through the pipes.

Now, nearly ten years later, we can look back on this bleak and confusing decade and still not have any idea what the hell just happened. Continue reading

The Hockey BeardPart 2

The Hockey Beard is a phenomenon I’d only just heard about.  It came up when some friends and I were ganging up on my roommate to try and convince him to shave his wretched beard that his girlfriend proclaims “smells like wet cheese.”

“I can’t shave now.” He declared, “It’s the playoffs.”

“What in god’s name are you talking about?” I asked.

“It’s the third round of the playoffs.  You know, hockey.  It’s a Hockey Beard now.”

“What?”

“You know, a Hockey Beard.  You’ve never heard of this?”

“Heard of what?”

“Oh, man!  You don’t know about the Hockey Beard?”

“What’s a Hockey Beard?”

He explained, “Every year at the beginning of the Stanley Cup Playoffs hardcore hockey fans start growing a beard until their team gets eliminated.  That’s why, at the Stanley Cup Finals, most of the crowd has beards.”

“I’ve never heard of this.  And besides all that, what does hockey have to do with you and your beard?  You’ve never watched a game of hockey in your life.”

“Not true,” he proclaimed, “this is a Hockey Beard and the Red Wings are still in it.  I can’t shave.”

“Bullocks,” I told him.  “You’ve been growing this beard for months now.  It has nothing to do with hockey.  Besides, you’ve never even been to Detroit.”

“Detroit?” he asked.  “Who’s talking about Detroit?  I’m just a fan of red wings.”  He laughed a drug addled laugh and took a sip of his beer.

I had seen through his façade easily enough, but he had sparked new questions in my brain.  I was now fixated on the Hockey Beard.  How long has this been going on?  Where did it originate?  Why hadn’t I heard about it until just now?  Is this somehow related to the phenomenon of the bad indie rock beard of this decade?  Are the hockey playoffs partly responsible for why hipsters everywhere are running around dressed like Tom Sawyer?  Perhaps this is the missing link I’ve been looking for.  Perhaps the Hockey Beard is the root of all my confusion as to why pop culture has been so generally rotten and foul for the last 9 years. Continue reading

The Hockey Beard Part I

Foreword by Stan Lerner: so why not a writer who lives in Olympia WA, we have readers around the world–literally. And my crazy intern, I have no idea where she’s at. So I present to you a funny story by a guy who writes like a downtownster.

My roommate is hell bent on growing a four-foot long ZZ Top style beard for no good reason at all except that he can.  He has made several beard attempts in recent years, but they all have ended with feelings of despair, regret, and shame.

The first time he tried was in the autumn of 2003; the only attempt with any logic behind it.  He had been cast a small speaking role in a production of The Medea, an ancient Greek tragedy by Sophocles.  He, as well as every other male character, was required to grow a sizable beard for his role.

And grow a sizable beard he did indeed.  Jabe is half Italian and very hairy.  His beard grows fast and thick as does the hair on his head.  After 6 weeks he was sporting a full thick mat of hair on his face that would rival that of any Alaskan fishing boat captain.

Being the loyal friend that I am I decided to join him in a “sympathy beard”.  I also refrained from shaving for 6 long weeks.  My beard, by comparison, was pathetic.  It didn’t look all that bad, but compared to Jabe’s it was the difference between a sporty economy coupe and a Formula 1 racecar.  My beard had no real shape and you could still see skin and the remnants of a once-attractive man beneath it.

It was the last time I let any facial hair get out of control.  I didn’t like who I became.  The beard started taking over. Continue reading