Excerpt from Fame!
"I sing the body electric, I celebrate the me yet to come, I toast to my own reunion, When I become one with the sun."
Okay, so here’s the big news! I’m in a band called the Lawrence Arms and we have a new record called Skeleton Coast coming out July 17th on Epitaph Records. It’s actually very good too. I’ve played it for some people and they like it, but don’t take their stupid anonymous words for it. Head here and check out our first single/video for PTA and preorder the record now (update: the vinyl is sold out but still, check out the single!) Things are afoot, folks. Okay, now onto the regular intro.
Hi everyone! Did you all have a nice Memorial Day weekend? I suffered through a hangover, an unprecedented amount of work and a terrible sandwich and now I’m beyond the thunderdome and feeling ready to take on this blog post. If you are a subscriber, thank you. Please know I love you vastly more than any other people on earth. If you’re not, please consider subscribing so you can read the entirety of this article or any number of other ones on here that are all equally whipass. The last pay-only post, which was about how god is actually bad and satan is good, was called “an invigorating romp” by Variety magazine, so um...get on the trolley, y’all. Anyway, let’s begin, eh?
There’s a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while which is about ranking the very worst ways to die, but seeing as how we’re in the midst of a global pandemic and every morning I open my computer and see a rising death toll before I get to see anything else, it seems to me like it’s an unnecessarily maudlin subject. Please know that I’m 100% positive I know what the worst way to die is, but let’s save that for another time.
I decided this time I want to tackle the eternal question “who is the most famous person of all time.” There’s a lot of folks with a lot of ideas about this out there, and in fact, I bet you’re one of them. The end result of this exercise, sadly, is probably more depressing than the “what’s the worst way to die” bit, but what are you gonna do? To quote Homer Simpson, “they weren’t all happy days, Marge.”
Anyway, let’s start with most peoples’ main choice:
Yeah. Jesus is famous. He’s had a lot of books written about him, including one that’s arguably (or maybe inarguably?) the most popular book on earth. Jesus is a weird one, though, because his name is way more famous than he is. He’s kinda like a middle eastern Banksy in that regard. When you think of Jesus, what do you think of? Probably a hippy surfer type w long blond hair and a six pack and a cool beard. Maybe he’s holding some loaves or being executed or what have you. But that’s not Jesus at all. That makes the whole thing kinda weird and non-sustainable, fame wise. Hold on tight here bc I’m gonna digress a second...
There are only three pictures that exist of Shakespeare, and none of them were painted when he was alive and also none of them overtly state that they’re pictures of Shakespeare. All of these pictures were determined to maybe be pictures of Shakespeare after the artists themselves even died, so there’s literally no actual hot blood link to those pictures and therefore no real evidence of what Shakespeare looked like. For real!
When you think of Shakespeare, you’re thinking of a picture of a guy who may or may NOT AT ALL be Shakespeare. Shakespeare could have looked exactly like Shaquille O'neal for all we know. The balding white guy with the dandy coat and the pointy goatee is MAYBE Shakespeare, but if you play the numbers, it’s literally about a billion times more likely that it’s not.
Imagine if you were tasked with painting a picture of someone you’d never met who lived like 3 generations before you. How well do you think you’d do? Even if those particular paintings were SUPPOSED to be of Shakespeare, and even if those basic physical characteristics are right (white guy, bald, dark hair, pointy beard, pervert face, fish skin, outfit that looks like a fancy purse) the idea that you’d capture anything close to the guy you’re immortalizing...small. And, while Shakespeare was no Jesus, I think it’s safe to say that the Bard, pretty famous. And even still just deciding this random guy in this random painting is possibly him because he looks like someone from the same general time period who apparently had money and was flamboyant is literally the best we can do.
So, let’s go back like 1600+ years before Shakespeare to the times of Jesus. The entire record of that era is, to put it mildly, spotty at best (to slightly misquote Nelson Muntz). I mean, just on a very basic level, you’re telling me that in the very beginning of our Anno Domini timeline, in the middle east, there was a group of dudes who were named Mark and Peter and John and Matthew hanging out together? Seems extremely unlikely to me.
If I met a dude NOW who looked like he came from Iran and had an accent and said his name was Mark, I would chalk it up to him being embarrassed for me in advance for probably not being able to pronounce his actual name. And I KNOW that there are some of you out there thinking that these names are just the same thing, but no.
That holds up to no scrutiny whatsoever. The main guy the book is about is named JESUS. That’s not a normal name. There is a dude named Ezekiel and another dude named Nebuchadnezzar, and another guy named Methuselah, so you can miss me with that “they just made the names of the apostles relatable to your basic group of frat brothers” shit. Once they rename Methuselah Glen we can talk.
Speaking of Methuselah, as we were, didn’t he live to be like 700 or something? Probably happened. My point is we don’t have the most reliable info regarding this crew, but here’s what we DO know:
Unless God was even more rampantly racist than we can safely assume he is, Jesus was a little middle eastern guy, very unlike the canonized images we associate with him. He obviously made quite a stir in his three plus decades on this earth, but actual Jesus...man, we don’t know that motherfucker at ALL. I’m not even trying to get into the whole “was he the son of god or not” argument, because it really doesn’t matter. We know a name and a general timeframe of one guy and that’s all. Everything else about him is suspect. He didn’t even write anything down. At least we have Shakespeare’s WORK. All we have about Jesus are other people’s hyperbolic and often contradictory accounts of what he may or may not have done. Also, these people are a crew that’s literally called the apostles of Jesus. To say they’re unreliable narrators is the understatement of the year.
Anyway, to call Jesus the most famous person to ever live is just inaccurate. It would be a lot like calling Spider Man the most famous person to ever live. I mean, I bet there was a guy named Peter Parker who was a journalistic photographer in New York at one point, ya know? The mythology that has developed around Peter Parker, however, probably has no resemblance to the actual guy. Coincidentally, both Spider Man and Jesus can stick to walls and jizz out of their wrists, but my point isn’t that they’re both thought to be supernatural but actually maybe they’re just a dude. My point is that anyone resembling either of these guys is a coincidental figure. The mythology we know has no basis in fact and there’s no one that is thinking of the real historical figure that did or didn’t exist when they think of these conceptual people.
It’s like if I said “Michael Jordan” to you and you all thought of Boba Fett. The guy whose name I said wouldn’t be famous, just his name is famous. The abstract idea of the demonstrably not real guy you thought of that I was referring to would be famous. And that’s not a real guy, so therefore, ergo, vis a vis, key largo, etc, Jesus is not the most famous person in the history of the world. However…
Very famous. This guy is like the Michael Jordan of basketball, in that he’s literally Michael Jordan. When you think of Michael Jordan, the guy you’re thinking of is the exact actually famous Michael Jordan everyone else is thinking of who exists in a relatively non controversial way. He’s associated with basketball, but it’s perhaps more accurate to say that basketball is associated with him. His image is on something like 98% of all Nike clothing items and he’s without a doubt the most famous athlete of the modern era.
If you watched The Last Dance, which you did because there’s literally nothing on TV, you know that the main things that stand out are:
1) He was so fucking good at basketball that he could command whole games and bend the season to his will unlike anyone else before or since
2) He was fucking FAMOUS. He was MORE famous than the whole game of basketball. I would bet there are people out there in like Djibouti or something who don’t totally know what basketball is, and the way you’d explain it to them would be to say “Michael Jordan,” and then they’d be like “Oh!” and suddenly have an idea of what you meant.
I mean, this is a guy who would have the attendance equivalent of a Coheed and Cambria show around him while he was checking into a hotel. People know and love them some MJ, man. In summation, Michael Jordan: famous as shit.
I think there’s an argument to be made that he’s the most famous human ever to live, but I don’t think he actually is. It’s more likely that it’s:
Some Chinese Guy I’ve Never Heard Of
This just stands to reason, but obviously I’m not gonna have much in the way of information about this person, as I’ve never heard of them. The way I see it, China is absolutely packed with people, and even though their government is notoriously into things in China not getting out of China, you gotta imagine there’s some REALLY famous fucking people over there, right?
Admittedly, this is, kinda by my own stupid design, very hard to think about critically, and the big argument against this guy being the most famous person of all time is that I’ve never heard of him, and I just mean “I” as a stand-in for any random western jackoff. I mean, some of the other people in this category include Jesus and Michael Jordan, fer fuckssakes, so it’s probably not this guy. But I WILL say that it’s probably impossible for you to be the most famous person of all time if you’re not well known in China, which is kinda why this guy made the list. If only there were a Chinese person that everyone in China knew of who was ALSO incredibly famous outside of China. Hmmmm...Anyway, moving on:
Oh shit. Mao is a good call….
AAAAAAND that’s where I leave y’all today. There’s much more to read here if you just hit that subscribe button. For a few measly bucks a month you get an unparalleled fount of wit. Thanks for reading and please consider telling someone about this here newsletter. Oh! And go listen to the new Lawrence Arms single called PTA. It’s bigger than Jesus.