A Slice of Fried Gold

Chuck Klosterman in Alaska

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

So this past evening, Amy, Hannah and I went to writer Chuck Klosterman's speaking engagement at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium at UAA here in Anchorage. Predicting that it would be ridiculously full within seconds of opening up, I got there at about 6:25, a full hour and five minutes ahead of time. Of course, even during the presentation it never reached capacity, making me feel a little stupid. Due to the fact that's how I regularly feel, I was okay with it.

Of course, this early arrival time allowed me to do a few things. Most interestingly, it let me talk to Zac Clark, the guy who was putting this show together for UAA and an events coordinator for the school. From him I found out comedian Brian Posehn was coming up (yes!) while I am in Europe (no!), that they're looking to keep getting bigger and better artists (he asked who I would love to see, and I suggested Sigur Ros - cross your fingers!), and that UAA Events coordinators have very, very little interest in you once they find out you don't go to school there. Whoops!

No less, the main event came and Klosterman was predictably an incredibly entertaining speaker. From Bill Simmons' podcasts with Klosterman, I knew before hand that his voice was bit odd, but when seeing him in person it's even odder. Such a tall guy, such a strangely nasally voice. Combined with his mannerisms, I turned to Hannah in the midst of it and suggested that he's like a 6'2" muppet come to life. It was really entertaining to watch.

While the engagement was called "Life Through the Prism of Pop Culture," Klosterman quickly shared with the audience that this was something his literary agent (or something of that sort) had created for him. Really, what he spoke about was his life and how he got his start in the industry, and some entertaining anecdotes along the way.

My personal favorite anecdote from him was probably the one where he revealed that in his first book (Fargo Rock City, a book about growing up listening to hair metal in North Dakota) he included his home phone number at the end of the introduction and encouraged people to call. While he stated that most of people who called were "drunk people who were listening to Motley Crue albums," one of the people who called was David Byrne from the Talking Heads. Apparently he was sitting in an airport reading Klosterman's book and loved it, and wanted him to speak at this engagement for McSweeney's in New York City before he went on. So in a way, Klosterman was opening for the Talking Heads, which was really freaking cool.

When we got to the Q&A section, amazingly enough the whole thing kind of slowed down a bit. I'm not sure if it was because of the questions asked or because Klosterman works better as a speaker rather than an interpreter of ideas, but either way, the event took a bit of a downturn. Actually, I know it's a bit of both, but I did want to share - one person at this event asked the single most monumentally terrible question I've ever heard at any sort of event like this. It was an impenetrable question about someone named "Rushkoff," things called Disinfocons, and the synthesis of media.

Klosterman, quickly trying to gather his thoughts to not embarrass the guy for asking what may be the worst question in the history of questions, effectively destroyed the guy by eventually admitting he wasn't even sure what the question was. Chuck, I hate to say it, but no one in the audience did. It was seriously so painfully awkward, I could hardly do anything but look absently away from everything to forget what was happening in my presence. Of course, I turned to Hannah afterwards and said "I called that," as this was the same guy who came across as the prototypical hipster type, even going so far to deny knowing who Michael Jordan was before the show as he discussed things with the people near him (yes, I am an eavesdropper).

Anyways, while that was a bit disappointing and the book signing afterwards was a little wham, bam, thank you Chuck Klosterman for me, it was still a really entertaining event and something I was very glad to see. Alaska has been getting better at providing quality pop culture events to its denizens, and this one was most appreciated. Now let's start working on improving our concert output, mmmk.


Dave & Samantha said...

I graduated from highschool with Chuck!

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