Exploiting the Archives Week preview: Is this going to work? An introduction
Nathan Rabin's Happy Place (or rather, Nathan Rabin's Happy Place is taking the week between Christmas and New Year's Off to prevent him from going insane (seriously, dude is on the edge! Writing about himself in the third person and everything). Enjoy! So the next week will be Exploiting the Archives week, where we'll be running some of my favorite pieces from the year that was. This is a re-reun of the very first Big Whoop blog, which ran on April 20th, 2017, the day the site debuted. 420 bro!
Hello! Welcome to the official first day of Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place! I want to make it a nice place to escape the inexorable horror of contemporary life. If everyday existence in Donald Trump’s America increasingly resembles Orwell’s description of the future as “a boot stamping on a human face - forever”, then this will hopefully be a pleasant place to enjoy a laugh, forget your troubles, geek out about semi-obscure “Weird Al” songs and not have your skull stomped on even once, let alone for eternity. And I would of course love it if you would help keep this site afloat by contributing to its Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace
If you’re reading this, you probably know who I am. My name is Nathan Rabin and I am an old motherfucker. As of May, I will have been a professional writer for two decades. I was the first head writer for The A.V Club, a position I held until 2013, when I left to become a staff writer for The Dissolve, Pitchfork’s short-lived but dearly loved film site. I’m in the process of writing my sixth book, a meditation on the video game and movie Postal and our uncertain times that I’m cowriting with Brock Wilbur.
I have been, and remain, a lucky motherfucker. I’ve gotten to live out a lot of my dreams. I co-wrote a book with my childhood hero “Weird Al” Yankovic. I’ve spent a weekend at the home of Robert Evans. I’ve sung onstage with They Might Be Giant and flew in a helicopter in Brazil with the director of Children Of A Lesser God. I have podcast with Harris Wittels and Scott Aukerman and gotten a four star review in Rolling Stone and a front-cover rave in The New York Times for my books.
At the moment I am writing a handful of columns for places like Rotten Tomatoes, Splitsider and TCM Backlot. I am profoundly grateful for these columns. Without the regular income they provide, I would never have been able to move my family out of my in-laws’ basement last year after a thirteen month stint. I’m super appreciative to have these columns, but I’m also acutely aware of how fragile all writing on the internet is, as evidenced by the fact that my longest-lasting, most popular and influential column, My World Of Flops, was just cancelled on the eve of its 10th birthday for not being popular enough. I know all too well how much it relies on complicated algorithms and page-views and clickability.
I understand the realities of the business. Oh, believe you me, I understand the realities of the business. But I also think that there has to be a better way of doing things than tying everything to advertising and page-views and chasing that elusive viral high. I got a tantalizing glimpse of this better way of doing things when I flew to Cleveland to cover the Republican national convention and the Gathering of the Juggalos in the same magical week last year without a concrete assignment to cover the enormous costs of the trip. So, in a blind, hopeful panic, I created a GoFundMe campaign that did far better than I could have possibly imagined.
My most important relationships have always been with readers. Going the crowd-funding route allows them to be my bosses. There were so many elements of that campaign that I loved, but none was as satisfying as the personal connection I felt the readers funding the campaign. I sent out every PDF file and book and “Make America Great Again” hat myself. I tried to give every person who contributed to the campaign more than I promised to thank them for their belief in me and my dreams.
The GoFundMe campaign for the e-book that would become 7 Days In Ohio: Trump, the Gathering of the Juggalos and the Summer Everything Went Insane inspired me to pursue a similar path for another dream of mine. As a freelancer, I’ve always wanted an online home of my own, a place where I have control and where I can embark on ambitious projects because they’re good and worthwhile and creatively fulfilling, not because they’re guaranteed to bring a certain quota of page-views, and with it, sweet, sweet ad revenue.
In the shadow of My World of Flops' death, I'd also like this site to be an incubators for columns like My World Of Flops, or Forgotbusters, or any number of columns I have created over the years that I poured my heart and soul into but do not possess ownership of, legally or otherwise.
That’s what I intend Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place to be. It’s a website, funded through Patreon, where I can be a man in full, where I can write about family, or mental illness, or pop culture, or politics, or anything else that obsesses me, without needing approval from anyone. Here are some of the columns and projects I have lined up for it:
The Big Whoop-A personal blog updated every day
The Weird Accordion to Al-Every weekday beginning April 24th, I will tackle the oeuvre of "Weird Al" on a chronological basis, covering a different song a day and weaving in autobiography and cultural criticism and whatnot. By the time I'm done I will have something like 200,000 words written on Al and his music, or a book roughly twenty times as long as Weird Al: The Book, the coffee-table book Al and myself collaborated on. If you love Al (and who doesn't?) you will love this unhealthily intense project.
Lukewarm takes: I stopped watching new movies and reviewing films after The Dissolve ended (I took it kind of hard), which means there are a whole lot of recent movies I've never written about or even seen. Lukewarm takes is a bi-weekly column, in the vein of My World of Flops or Sub-Cult, tackling the insane deluge of big movies that have come out since May, 2015 (or a little before) that I've never written about, including MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, two STAR WARS movies, two Star Trek movies and a whole heckuva lot of superhero movies, like DEADPOOL and BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN.
Ice-cold takes: This may be hard to believe, but at one point I wrote extensively about hip hop. Was pretty good at it too, though my memory is a little fuzzy. Then I stopped about 8 years ago and never went back. Ice-cold takes would pick up where I left off and have me writing big, meaty columns on all the big hip hop releases.
Control Nathan Rabin! This will be a bimonthly column where I have to write about a movie Patreon contributors will vote on me having to watch.
Daddy blogging: I stopped mommy-blogging because it got too mercenary and commercial. I don't have to worry about that with Nathan Rabin's Happy Place, because I know the guy who runs it, and he seems at least moderately supportive of my more personal writing.
Sweetback's Song: This will be a monthly column tracking the evolution of hip hop and film in chronological order, beginning with 1971's revolutionary Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. It's an idea many major sites have described as "interesting, but a hard pass"
The annals of Southern culture: I moved to the south about a year and a half ago and while I've loved the experience, I've yet to explore many seminal texts of the region. This would correct that by having me experience, and then write about, such seminal Southern texts as Jeff Foxworthy’s first albums and the Smokey & The Bandit trilogy.
Ask A Juggalo! I’m a dad and a Juggalo, so I pretty much know everything. This is a twice-monthly advice column where I get to finally take advantage of my wealth of specialized knowledge.
This Looks Terrible! A lot of stuff looks terrible. This is a column devoted to this phenomenon. Readers and Patreon contributors can help choose terrible things to afflict me with.
Answer a Juggalo! There are lots of advice columns out there. This would be the only one where readers answer the author’s questions instead of vice versa.
Rando! This would be a bi-weekly column about, as the title suggests, whatever. Up first: the Jerky Boys movie. Because of course.
Freelancer corner/Complaining about money: You can probably figure out what this is from the name.
As you can see, it’s pretty ambitious. I really want to do justice to each of these ideas, and in a perfect world it’d be successful enough for me to hire at least a part-time copy-editor and webmaster, but that involves having a decent financial backing for this project. Without a little money behind it, the work that I do for Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place will be an expensive indulgence. So while I’m appropriately worried about, well, everything, I’m choosing to live in hope rather than fear. Hopefully that will still be true three months from now.
There are plenty of reasons for me not to embark on a project like this. It could be argued, and certainly has been aggressively argued, both by doubting voices inside my own head and other human beings, that, objectively speaking, I’m not good enough, I’m not smart enough and doggone it, people just don’t like me.
But there are reasons unconnected to Saturday Night Live catchphrases as well. I’ve always worked under people. I’ve never managed, I’ve never edited, I’ve never run anything. I know my strengths and weaknesses as a writer and an intellect and I know that I benefit from strong editing. I try my damnedest but my writing can be messy and imprecise, imperfect and self-indulgent.
That alone has been enough to keep me from venturing out on my own before, a fear that I won’t be good enough, that I won’t be professional enough, that without responsible adults heroically standing in between the world and my messy prose, I’ll be exposed as a rank amateur who got lucky yet grows less lucky by the day.
I’m going to concede upfront that there are going to errors and typos and misspellings in Nathan Raebin’s Happy Place. Hell, I misspelt my own last name in the previous sentence. Pretty sloppy, eh? But you know what, I’m okay with that. I want the world to see me as I really am.
Frankly, that’s a dude who can’t can’t always be counted upon to correctly spell his name.
It feels liberating to admit all this! I’m letting you know now that some of the mistakes in Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place will surprise you. Some of them will enrage you. Some of the typos will make you want to get up in dance. How is that even possible? I’m not sure, but don’t be surprised if you see me consistently misspelling Scarlett Johannson’s name and it leads you to want to do the Watusi to the point of exhaustion.
Some of these errors will be intentional. I plan to misidentify George Raft as the star of Casablanca dozens of times in the years ahead, because in Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place Raft was the star of Casablanca. We have our own set of alternative facts and alternative spellings, so if you spot something that seems egregiously off here, look deep inside yourself and realize that the mistakes lies within you. Maybe you need to do a little soul-searching and find out why, for example, you’re so irritated that I keep writing that John Hughes wrote It’s A Wonderful Life and most of Prince’s songs.
Is this gonna work? I honestly have no idea. I fail a lot. It’s kind of my thing. Even my biggest success, My World Of Flops, is apparently actually a big failure. I don’t even know what “work” necessarily means in this context. But I’m 41 years old. I’ve been doing this half my life and I figure it’s about time I took a chance on myself. It also helps that a lot of people that I admire and look up to, like Tom Scharpling and The Best Show, and Paul Gilmartin of Mental Illness Happy Hour are pursuing a similar path in order to make a living while preserving the integrity of their vision.
I’m hoping that you will take a chance with me and that together we can create something wonderful, something special, something unique, something whose value cannot be reduced to page-views or ad revenue or even the fanciest algorithm.
Welcome to Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place. I very much want this to be your Happy Place as well.
Join the revolution over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace