Becoming a Douchebag:
the Fourth Law of Thermodynamics
The older I get the more it seems that the laws of thermodynamics permeate not just physics, but everyday life. It brings to mind all manner of clichés: nothing ever stays the same. The only constant is change. We’re born dieing.
Leave your home for a year or so, and you’ll see what I mean, if you don’t already. You can’t go home again.
We could also say that the entropy of an isolated macroscopic system never decreases – that is, if we want to get technical (and we love to get technical — but here’s a good layman’s explanation of the laws of the thermodynamics, since you probably don’t know my high-school physics teacher Mr. Himebaugh). Or, we could elucidate this principal as one of my favorite observational writers of modern times, Bike Snob NYC, has done today on his blog:
It is a rule of physics that all things tend towards douchery, and CBGB is a good example of this. Simply put, things do no not stay cheap and interesting forever. You can call it selling out, or gentrification, or Disneyfication, but if enough people like something eventually someone’s going to be willing to pay a premium for it, and it will finally reach a point at which the people who made it interesting in the first place will no longer be able to afford it and only the shell will remain. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just the Physics of Douchery. Hence CBGB being unable to afford its rent, and instead of playing host to a bunch of actual dirtbags paying small amounts of money to be entertained, its shell is now home to douchebags paying large amounts of money to look like dirtbags.
CBGB was, of course, one of the seminal New York punk clubs back in the 1970s; it is now apparently a John Varvatos clothing boutique. I don’t know who that is, but that’s not surprising. Nor is it surprising that the club that spawned a million street kids and even more wannabe suburban kids bearing “omfug” across their chests now sells even more ridiculous items of clothing to more ridiculous people.
You’ll have to read the Bike Snob’s entire post to learn what this has to do with bicycling, although no doubt cycling nerds and/or geeks of a certain age will be able to connect the dots from CBGB to David Byrne to bicycling.
But this phenomena is true of everything. As countless others have observed throughout the millennia, entropy spares no one or no thing; consequently neither does douchbaggery. Leave for a year, return and various species of bro infiltrate your video games. Your favorite bars close or become filled with hipster douchebags or these same bros and the next thing you know you’re wearing a (possibly) over-sized suit and bowtie and declaiming to yourself “This is not my beautiful house. This is not my beautiful house. Oh my God (omfug?) What have I done?”
Another case in point: Neil Diamond, as relayed by National Public Radio. It seems the same man that gave us so many vomit-worthy 70’s soft-rock staples such as “Song Sung Blue” and “Sweet Caroline,” not to mention face-palming mysteries such as “Coming to America” and “Heartlight” in the 1980s, was at a small label called Bang Records (actually a subsidiary of Atlantic) for a few years in the late 60’s where he penned a number of hits for other artists, such as … wait for it … “I’m a Believer” and “Red, Red, Wine.”
I, did not know this. Now I’m not saying Neil Diamond is a douchebag; in fact as pop music icons go he seems more likely to be the opposite (but I have to say, and think I made it clear above, that I don’t care for his music but am nevertheless curious to hear this early stuff). Rather, I’m wondering how we get from the angry young man of the 60’s (as portrayed on the cover of this Bang Records compilation) to the sequined-wearing, chest-hair baring/bearing, oft flag-draped pop icon of his later years?
Or for that matter, how did we get from hip, svelte Elvis to the sequined-wearing, chest-hair baring/bearing, oft scarf-draped pop icon of his later years?
How do we get from CBGB to John Varvatos? How did we get to David Byrne without Talking Heads? How did we get from art rock and punk to world music?
Or really, not so much how – the laws of thermodynamics tell us how, after all, but rather, why? Science gives us the how, but never supplies the why. It tells us how but not why the universe is structured thus? Why Blue Rock Tavern is closed while douchebag central down the street remains open? That the CBGBs of the world will always end up being John Varvatos boutiques, in the end?
Of course some turn to philosophy to answer why; others drugs. Or some flavor of art. But then I think none of those things ever satisfactorily answers this most fundamental of questions; if it did we would no longer have need of them.
Of course I suppose I might as well ask how did this kid get from this:
And I suppose I might as well ponder why I feel compelled to ask questions for which I know one will not likely ever find a satisfactory nature, given the fact that this answer has remained illusive and elusive ever since human kind grew enough of a frontal lobe to ponder such things. Which perhaps makes me the biggest douchebag of all, in some respects, along with everyone else that spends too much time shoe/navel gazing.
And perhaps that is the fourth law of thermodynamics.
Same as it ever was. At least I’m not wearing sequins and I still have no idea who the hell John Varvatos is – well, I didn’t until today. Shit.
Well played entropy. Well played.
Postscript. Can you believe MTV ever played a video such as this? Some low-budget, art-rock video from some post-punk band most people had never heard of before? Ah, the good olde days, back when MTV was actually young and sorta hip.
Then entropy happened and the so-called Real World — the music channel’s first sequined shirt. And you may ask yourself: well, where did my music television go?