Eating The Dinosaur Part II

So what does Chuck K. Mean by ‘Eating The Dinosaur?’

Like a lot of topics in the book, it’s open to interpretation, and the meaning attached to it depends on the mindset, thought process and logic applied individual readers. For this reader, a first guess is that the title is rooted in irony- like an impressionistic painting of the term ‘biting the hand that feeds you.’ In other words, Chuck K’s been fed by the ‘dinosaur’ of print media and popular culture for many years now. He’s earned an upwardly mobile living primarily as a journalist for magazines whose relevance may be subjective (Spin, Esquire, Rolling Stone etc…) but whose popularity has been undeniable. He’s conducted interviews, written reviews and penned essay on music, sports, television, literature, film and other cultural entities, translating these experiences into several best-selling books of which I’d previously read two (‘Fargo Rock City’ and ‘Killing Yourself To Live,’ both highly recommended). Now he’s turning the table on the juggernaut that has provided his identity and livelihood.

One of the essays in the book (‘T Is For True’), examines our culture’s unspoken battle between irony and literalism- so in the spirit of that essay, here’s another theory: the title is a literal reference to a line in the book’s essay ‘Tomorrow Rarely Knows,’ which examines the fictional concept of time travel in popular books and movies and makes an argument that traveling backwards in time is more or less pointless, with the exception of eating a dinosaur.

While Klosterman’s musings on time travel may be connected to the title, they don’t begin to represent the content of the book as a whole. A better representation would be the numerous essays on mega-celebrities in our day and age. Some have been tragically destroyed by guilt (example: Kurt Cobain, whose comparison to cult leader David Koresh is surprisingly effective), others have been propped up for success, then quickly castigated and brought down (example-Ralph Sampson- an 80’s college basketball superstar whose NBA career failed to live up to expectations). In a few cases, triumphant success has triggered a desperate need to morph into another person- a transformation that has been achieved successfully (David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust) and not (Garth Brooks/Chris Gaines). In other cases, artists have beaten the system by inexplicably remaining both irrelevant and mega-successful at the same time (case in point: ABBA). Other topics include voyeurism, America’s fixation with the automobile, the moral contradictions of football (I admit skipping over one section- only on Mr. K’s strong advice to do so unless you’re a ‘die hard’ sports fan), laughter-canned, faked and otherwise, a philosophical dissection of a Pepsi marketing campaign, and a collection of hilarious yet accurate hypothetical ‘best response’ guide for handling public scandals and other awkward situations.

While these topics may appear to have little in common, there is an indescribable common thread that ties them all together. Readers may not always agree with 100% of Chuck’s barrage of observations, but it is difficult to imagine to imagine anyone not finding not finding them to be thought provoking and at the very least, highly entertaining.

I admit having no idea what this book was ‘about’ when I first saw it, or even glanced at it’s contents, so it’s hard to convey in just a few words. In fact, at this point, I’m pretty sure my descriptions aren’t necessary helping. So the best way I can get across to you why ‘Eating The Dinosaur’ is an important book (at least in this musician/aspiring writer’s opinion) is to share a few favorite passages from the book below. Enjoy!

From “Eating The Dinosaur”

“Cultural slaves are compensated with colossal sacks of cash. But they’re still paid less than they deserve, despite the fact that they produce nothing of consequence… I do not know how much money Britney Spears earned last year. However, I do know that it’s not enough for me to what her life, were I given the option to have it. Every day, random people use Britney’s existence as currency, they talk her epic failures and her lack of talent as a way to fill the emptiness of their own normalcy . She-along with Linsay Lohan and Paris Hilton and all l those androids from ‘The Hills’ – are the unifying entities within this meta-era (Note from Alex S.- since I read this book in 2011, I mentally factored in Kim Kardashian and Snooki). In a splintered society, they are the means through which people devoid of creativity communicate with each other. They allow Americans to understand who they are and who they are not; they allow Americans to unilaterally agree on something they never needed to consciously consider. A person like Britney Spears surrenders her privacy and her integrity, and in exchange we give her huge sums of money. But she still doesn’t earn a fraction of what she warrants in a free-trade cultural economy. If Britney Spears were paid $1 every time a self-loathing stranger used her as a surrogate for his own failure, she would outearn Warren Buffett in three months.”

“If You change any detail about the past, you might accidentally destroy everything in present-day existence. This is why every movie about time travel makes a big, obvious point about not bringing anything from the present back in time, often illustrated by forcing the fictionalized time traveler to travel nude. If you went back to 60,000 BC with a tool box and absentmindedly left the vise grip behind, it’s entirely possible that the world would technologically advance at an exponential rate and destroy itself by the sixteenth century. Or so I’m told.”

“Journalism allows almost anyone to direct questions they would never ask of their own friends at random people; since the ensuing dialogue exists for commercial purposes, both parties accept an acceleration of intimacy. People give emotional responses, but those emotions are projections. The result (when things go well) is a dynamic, adversarial, semi-real conversation. I am at ease with this. If given a choice between interviewing someone or talking to them ‘for real’ I prefer the former. I don’t like having the social limitations of tact imposed upon my day-to day- interactions and I don’t enjoy talking to most people more than once or twice in my lifetime”

“People tend to fixate on the physical downside of growing old, but everyone appreciates the aura of wisdom one inherits from saying aboveground. You live, you learn. That’s how it goes. There aren’t many situations where life experience is assumed to make you dumber. The ability to understand technology is one notable exception (Note from Alex S. I might add in one more: the ability to become bilingual). The ability to understand popular music is another. And this creates a transfer of minor power: Teenagers- who almost always have a limited worldview and aren’t supposed to understand anything essential about taste- will always retain exclusive command over one of the most transformative art forms on the planet. If young people view a pop song as important, it’s important. There’s no other element to that circular equation (if they like it, it matters, and it matters because they like it). If young audiences don’t care about a certain pop song, it can still be amazing and insightful and artistically competent- but it can’t be ‘important.’ Because that’s the one thing they get to decide entirely.”

20 Responses to Eating The Dinosaur Part II

  1. I was skeptical at first, but you've convinced me to check him out, thanks, Alex. I disagree with him about interviews vs real conversation, though. Maybe it's a guy/girl thing, but I can and do talk about very intimate things with my close friends, and the fact that there's a real relationship between us enhances the pleasure of it.

    • You won't be disappointed. Re: the conversation comment- it probably sounds off taking out of context. Given the the timing and pace of the book, I'm pretty sure he's kidding (or at least half kidding).  I don't think it's meant literally, which kind of goes with the theme of the book as a whole.

  2. I think that in part of “cultural slaves” he´s totality right. People sell their souls and forgot who is themselves. My impression is that today is more important show  why Justin Bieber have mustache and not an economic plan for your taxes.

    We create the dinossaur as audience, the big part of us sow him with one click.  I also still dont understand what Kim and Paris Hilton contribute for society…

      • It is the strangest phenomenon. We shouldn't even know their names, but we do. It's the new thing: be born wealthy and do absolutely nothing but be a socialite in LA and have cameras follow you around- the whole world will know your name…for no reason whatsoever.

  3. We all look through different view finders and varying points of reference, adjusting our focus to eliminate or correct distortion. Yet, some distorted views can give a perspective that shows relevance. Like, a myopic artist such as Monet that paints without correction and achieves something to marvel at.  Given Chucks experience in different mediums and background in music( which plays such an important  part in society and speaks truth) he's well equipped to  translate his views with honest discretion or creative distortion. The bites you have shared show pieces with enough flavor to entice my cerebral taste buds. Like the Dinosaurs, we share the need to keep doing things that help us stay alive, and, what we feed on effects our survival. It's good to explore and reflect on those sources. The ones found in these situations, cultural circumstances and consequences, offer plenty of food for thought. Those interested in unifying with celebrity entities,esp those found on reality t.v. may be due to a lack of (creative communication) life, yet, some find it amusing to view those lacking an id or edit button, ie, Snooki, ,who choose to loose their privacy and integrity to gain fame and fortune. People should have more interest in the development and progress of society as found on the History, Science, or Discovery channels than those found on the Jersey Shore. It is a scary thought to travel back in time with a current tool set. That would disrupt the Natural Order and phases of discovery, perhaps with devastating results, or, we could be living among the Dinosaurs. Chuck is lucky to have a journalistic cloak to wear while interviewing. One that can protect him from verbal projections and easily rinsed of tactful limitations. Teenagers may have a newer mindset and less corrupt view finder to listen with less distortion and  target a song important for that particular time, but its relevant hold may not last.

    • It's important for everyone to understand that we all view the world differently and respect others vantage points, even though we don't always agree with their interpretations. CK's musical 'background' is especially fascinating for someone like myself, since, from what I've read of him so far, there's been no mention of any sort of musical training at any point or ever owning an instrument or considering owning an instrument. This is very different from many music writers, who at least play a bit or have at one time entertained notions about being a musician. He's a 'pure' fan and is able to write brilliantly about why certain music is important to him despite never seeing himself as a future performer. Ironically, his public readings have turned him into a type of performer, a very good one, whose audiences are thoroughly entertained.

  4. Alex–without a single reference to sex, drugs and coco puffs, ?? really- this author is an observant crazy man!! I like it and  my female brain gathers this information in a very different fashion; having said that I have read the latter for arguments sake, BUT I have not read this one, and now  I am forced to== seeing that these verses or soundbites seem so out of context.  My first and stronger impression of the title is that it's a euphemism for another phrase, relating to addiction or other unhealthy relationships, being ” the Elephant in the room” When something is that large and in the room taking over all that we see and dominating all that we are allowed to believe and even forcing us or controlling our society in effect, should not be left alone, or ignored, it should be killed and then made useful as sustenance. As morbid and cannibalistic as that may sound, it reminds me of what Mortisha said about her enemies in Addams family, ” We gladly dine on those that would betray us.”  Its not that we really eat these people, like Paris, KIM as you say, or Lyndsay, Brit, but the mere fact they exist in our daily lives makes them food for thought, and we dine on their souls with words that penetrate our memories, thus the phrase– putting junk in your body, getting junk back out if you eat these  femme fatales.  Also the term  Dinaosaur  ( according to Liz M )is that ancient thing that doesn't understand or translate, its a Dino that needs to learn, to get up to date, and get faster better smarter, and because of its sluggish beliefs that holds it back, it gives it the weak spot in the food chain, and this slow and dumb creature will be eaten by faster smarter, meaner  life forms.  ( Have you ever seen Disneys movie Dinosuar? sad movie about asteroids, and lack of water, the food chain and the difference between animals with brains, and animals with  only big stupid muscles. And finding your perfect mate and the laws of prejudice that hurt us all. ) So now I guess Ill nook this book, and maybe Ill thank  you later; that postoffice book was a little odd,  I must say, I could not relate to bare minimal brain power it took to read that book,  or the lake of romance _ I do hope this is much more my stlyle.  Crazy ! And yes we can only see in other what we project from ourselves, that one thing drew me into this conversation.  Alex's book club, so you know you can do this online with your Nook right ? 

      • Glad you like it and nice interpretation of the title. Having just replied to the neighboring comment, it's fascinating how a book can completely resonate with one person and not another. I knew this wouldn't be one for everybody, but since it triggered so many interesting thoughts of my own, it had to be shared.

    • I suppose it can come across differently to different people. Yet somehow when I read it, it all makes perfect sense. I've been thinking of doing a post on the word 'pretentious,' ever since I read someone on-line describing this blog that way.

  5. Nicely introduced! 'Eating the Dinosaur' spews a great deal of irony. A paradoxical panacea. It contains far too much intimation to address at the moment. Collectively we are force-fed on a daily basis. And how can one subsist on a diet of dinosaurs! Perhaps it is a bit grounding as well. A reality check minus the show! In any event, it is intellectually stimulating and entertaining. Speaking of which, 'Altas Shrugged'…need I say more? Rand's magnum opus! You must also read 'The Fountainhead'. I wonder if Nabokov's 'Ada' or Marquez's “One Hundred Years of Solitude' have made it to your list! In retrospect, I should have studied literature! Well, I suppose it is fitting to mention here that I find your musical aptitude unrivaled, barring your interpretative writing skill! In a word, captivating!

    • ETD is an assessment of the dinosaur diet-an unlimited smorgasbord that we are force-fed, not all of it bad, but one that requires independent thinking in order to not become part of the herded masses.  I read 'The Fountainhead' years ago and I see now that I've been very much influenced by it in terms of valuing integrity and quality. Back then, I was ill-advised not to read 'Atlas' because supposedly, she'd written nothing but the same novel re-configured (kind of like Boston's reunion album in the 90's)…TOTALLY UNTRUE. 'Atlas' is its own entity. It may have some of the same principles, but it's a completely different story that takes the ideas of 'The Fountainhead' to whole new level of depth.  Haven't read 'Ada' although I did read Nabakov's 'Lolita' (how could I not, after it was referred to in 'Don't Stand So Close To Me,'  my favorite song by 'The Police.' Thank you, Sting). I own 'One Hundred years,' haven't read yet, it's in the 'to read' pile.

      • Okay I admit, 'The Police' hover near the very top of my musical genius list….and yes, thanks to Sting we all learned about 'Lolita'…DSSC is a fantastic song and 'Lolita' is a great read. Reminiscent of Nin's 'little birds' that so often come to life in her stories. Oh Humbert! By starting with 'Lolita' and let's say, 'Despair', you can work your way into 'Pale Fire' and 'Ada' and truly witness Nabokov's growth as a writer. Sounds like you are absorbing Rand like a sponge! I too remain hooked. (btw, nice Boston reference!) Thanks for the responding Alex.

  6. Hey Alex,

    I've been meaning to check out Klosterman for a long time and reading your post renewed my interest. I went on Amazon and got the Kindle version of ETD and almost read the whole thing in one sitting.  Thanks for the recomendation.

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