George Saunders and FIRPO

Today's Uber has a funny little rant that reminds me of the old and dearly departed Crash Site. The Crash Site itself disappeared sometime in the late nineties (after some months of increasingly sporadic updates); for a while it was archived over at The Independent Project, but now even that much seems to be gone. I miss it. That site was raw belligerence, but with a purpose. Slap Maxwell, before he quit (supposedly) to become a Hong Kong stuntman, had a column that ran with little Quicktime clips, called "Land of Plenty." Sometimes, he showed you how to carry out useful Hong Kong stuntman-type tricks, like running over a car, or how to dive off a bridge into a large pool of water. "Boredom" and "Pain," neither of which I can link to now, were my personal favorites. The latter, a collection of short and grainy Quicktime clips of various stuntment, skateboarders, and atheletes wiping out big time, all to the gentle strains of Tom Waits' "Sight for Sore Eyes," was one of those perfectly-cut, perfecfly paced short gems, up there with the first Episode I trailer. In addition to the punk-band webcards, the "Pol Pot / Pol Pot / dead little / despot" rollover animation (Courier New X'es appeared over his eyes when you moused over the picture), and the genuinely unsettling site intro video, Mark Driver's "Driverbox" column was a regular staple diet of casual slackerly So-Cal misanthropy raised to the level of a minor art form.

But anyway, the original thing I was going to say was that the Uber piece reminded me, in initial inspiration if not in tone, of George Saunders' "The End of FIRPO in the World" from his just-published Pastoralia. It was one of the stories he read when he came to town, and he had this way of doing the voices -- the imagined voices of elephants and sports announcers inside the head of this fairly loserly kid, mind you -- that still cracks me up. The story is sort of a lesson in how brilliant writing and sharp humor can make just about anything go down smoothly, no matter how grotesque. I wish I'd asked him what the "nose hole sound" was, though.