New Year’s Eve & the Aesthetics of Trying Too Hard

New Year’s Eve is the most overrated of holidays. Nothing squelches a potential good time faster than the sense that one is obligated to have a good time, which is what New Year’s Eve feels like. This is an example of a more general phenomenon, which could be called Trying Too Hard, or TTH.

TTH can be fatal to the success of many otherwise worthwhile projects, and although I don’t have the inclination at the moment to develop a general theory of TTH, I’d like to throw out a few illustrative examples:

Finnegans Wake

Born To Run (song, not the album)

Reds

Weddings

The Super Bowl

Compare Eric Clapton’s version of Little Wing to Jimi Hendrix’s.

Etc.

148 comments on this post.
  1. JP Stormcrow:

    Buckaroo Banzai.

  2. Leeds man:

    All those silly athletes who give 110%.

  3. DocAmazing:

    About half of male rock vocalists of the 1990s.

  4. Paul Campos:

    Pete Rose was very TTH.

  5. Decrease Mather:

    TGI Friday’s

  6. Jewish Steel:

    Their Satanic Majesties Request

  7. Jewish Steel:

    although i like she’s like a rainbow.

  8. JP Stormcrow:

    Cruises (apologies to DFW).

  9. STH:

    . . . and Applebee’s and all of that ilk. Any restaurant that tries to create a “party atmosphere” by turning up the music too loud.

    And, yes, I am too old.

  10. Davis X. Machina:

    Tom and Victor.

  11. STH:

    And 100% of ’80s hair bands. Screeching and having big hair does not make you Robert Plant.

  12. Tnap01:

    That Flaming Lips album that you are suppose to listen to with all 4 albums playing at the same time, sorry I’m too drunk and/or bored to look it up.

  13. Davis X. Machina:

    Victor Cruz, as of this moment, has 158 career catches, and 2.5 trillion receiving yards, as per Wikipedia.

    That‘s trying too hard.

  14. tonycpsu:

    A cool 0.1 astronomical units per catch. That’s some fantasy value!

  15. JazzBumpa:

    My response is to put very little effort into anything. Tnap01 is setting a fine example.

  16. joe from Lowell:

    Stabbing Westward

    TTH

  17. James E. Powell:

    Any work of art or literature that is intended as a political statement.

  18. MD Rackham:

    Ryan Seacrest.

  19. Tnap01:

    Tk

  20. GeoX:

    Counterpoint: The Public Burning. I’m sure other people can think of others, but this is the one I’ve written a dissertation chapter about.

  21. joe from Lowell:

    The language in most dissertations.

  22. broken heroes:

    Why doesn’t Campos want to guard Wendy’s dreams and visions?

  23. Jonah Goldberg:

    Well this is one thing that Liberals won’t accuse me of doing!

  24. Belle Waring:

    2000 Man is also a legit good song, dude. But OK.

  25. Belle Waring:

    Zaireeka

  26. Erik Loomis:

    I’d like to defend Reds. But it isn’t really possible.

  27. MAJeff:

    That would be all of 1970s and 1980s “lesbian literature.” And I agree. Rita Mae Brown is unreadable.

  28. GeoX:

    Fair enough; I’ll grant that you won’t find too many dissertations that are of interest to more than six people. But I do not think the same can be said of political novels.

  29. Anonymous:

    Cruising the film is pretty okay, though. Pacino definitely didn’t try too hard to learn how to dance. He coulda tried harder, is my point.

  30. Leeds man:

    Guernica? The Grapes of Wrath? Neruda’s La Muerta?

  31. Leeds man:

    Ditto Gandhi

  32. efgoldman:

    And, yes, I am too old.

    And that makes two of us.
    Portion-controlled, over-salted (so you will drink more), over-spiced (so you don’t notice the shitty quality of the underlying food), waitrons who want to be your buddy, (or at out age your niece/nephew). Gakk.
    If you’re going to eat like that, you might as well go fast food and save the money.

  33. efgoldman:

    I would try a defense of Born to Run, but it will just start an argument, and the statheads will just try to prove their point (whatever it is) with obscure formulas of which no-one has heard.
    When my kid was little, however, Born to Add was a top-five all time.

  34. efgoldman:

    The Star Wars prequels. They have the distinction of both being shitty, awful dreck and trying too hard.

  35. handy:

    Tales From Topographic Oceans

  36. jlr:

    Yes.

  37. Decrease Mather:

    Joel Osteen

  38. Warren Terra:

    Sacrilege!

  39. Leeds man:

    I have obscure formulas which would prove you wrong, but you wouldn’t understand them.

  40. Richard:

    Born to Run is a great song. The only possible problem with it is its embrace by aging middle class baby boomers (but having seen Bruce just a few weeks ago, I found it endearing to be among 17,000 aging middle classers screaming out that “tramps like us, baby we were born to run”)

  41. STH:

    Sigh. Isn’t that always the way it goes?

  42. Scott Lemieux:

    And “2000 Light Years From Home.” Really, take out the jams and it’s a pretty good album.

  43. STH:

    “Hi, I’m Chad and I’ll be serving you your salty deep-fried cardboard today. Can I start you off with some greasy lumps? With extra sugary goo?”

    My partner doesn’t get why I refuse to go back there (I suspect he doesn’t mind it because they have the Black Butte Porter he likes). The last straw was when the chummy-with-extra-chummy-sauce waiter asked me if I had dyed my hair.

    Yes, really.

  44. Richard:

    Absolutely not. Its a terrible album. Truly terrible.

  45. calling all toasters:

    Chocolate everything that was made without chocolate before 1990.

  46. calling all toasters:

    Glee

  47. James E Powell:

    Six? You are defining “of interest” rather broadly.

  48. James E Powell:

    The Grapes of Wrath: Exhibit A

  49. Walt:

    Really, it does. There’s not much to being Robert Plant.

  50. Walt:

    Language.

  51. Walt:

    If you actually read a book about Gandhi, that would be trying too hard. That’s why we have the movie.

  52. Walt:

    Glee, the emotion.

  53. John Revolta:

    I’m normally a big Jim Gordon fan, but he was definitely TTH on Clapton’s Little Wing.

  54. jeer9:

    The interviews in Reds were fairly interesting, and Nicholson as O’Neill isn’t bad but you couldn’t pay me to watch it again.

  55. John Revolta:

    Fripp, usually.

  56. John Revolta:

    And Born to Run, hell yes. What was it, six months he spent mixing that thing?

  57. Murc:

    You know, I’ve only been in a situation where the waiter didn’t get the hint from my body language and tone of voice that I wanted our relationship to be strictly professional once.

    And I simply said ‘Listen, this conversation is far too personal for my taste. I know you have a shitty employee handbook advising you to make friends with your customers, but really all I want to do is sit here and eat before I have to get back on the road. Bring me my food and be generically pleasant, and you get a 25% tip.’

    Worked out fairly well. Like I said, I only had to do that the once.

    And, yes, 25% is my standard tip. Waiter at any kind of mid-range chain restaurant is a hellish job; you will never meet more entitled customers who are worse tippers than, say, the sort of people who show up for all you can eat shrimp at Red Lobster. You have to do something pretty extraordinarily awful to get me to go below 20%.

  58. Murc:

    Portion-controlled, over-salted (so you will drink more)

    This isn’t actually the reason.

    At BEST, you will get a few people who might only have had one adult beverage order a second one. That economic gain is more than offset by the fact that the majority of your customers (these being family-themed restaurants) are ordering soft drinks.

    Soft drinks that come with free refills.

    Which mean that people drinking more costs you time and money.

    And which cause people to fill up on liquid, which means they’ll feel too bloated to order a dessert, and your desserts have a rather high margin.

    This is not to say that the food at most mid-range chains (hell, at most restaurants period) is NOT oversalted. It is. But it is oversalted for entirely different reasons than a cynical plan to get you to drink more.

  59. Djur:

    DFW himself.

  60. Alan Tomlinson:

    Suggest you listen to a song called “A Blessing of Tears” by Mr. Fripp. Or choose to remain in ignorance.

    Cheers,

    Alan Tomlinson

  61. Alan Tomlinson:

    Making critical commentary about things one knows nothing about is definitely an example of TTH.

    Cheers,

    Alan Tomlinson

  62. Dave:

    Surely, blog-commenting on anything more significant that the doings of one’s cat qualifies pretty much by definition?

  63. J. Otto Pohl:

    I understand that the dissertation of Dr. Loomis has become a cult classic in the circles of certain conservative bloggers. It is the only dissertation I have ever seen reviewed on a blog.

  64. J. Otto Pohl:

    Does this include music? I can think of a number of political songs that I quite like as pieces of music.

  65. Thlayli:

    “Good Vibrations”.

  66. Jameson Quinn:

    Sneaky Pie is worse. And gah, I can’t believe I actually know that.

  67. Jameson Quinn:

    Metamagical Themas. While we’re on the subject.

    I’d nominate GEB too but… no… can’t. I suspect it’s only because I read it at the right age. There’s no age at which MT isn’t TTH though.

  68. c u n d gulag:

    THIS!

    Happy New Year, ef!

  69. c u n d gulag:

    TTH?
    I nominate Tim Tebow for the TTH Award – for his attempt to be both a humble Christian, while running around shirtless and never missing a TV camera, and a Football God-Hunk, who can run like a faster Larry Csonka, but passes like… well, Larry Csonka.

    No.
    Let me amend that – The TTH should go to the NY sports media, for trying to make this mucular mysogyinist, who “throws like a girl,” into someone worth breathlessly covering, like he was a male Kardashian in shoulder pads, from the first time this 3rd String QB was flown into NY on a private jet, to meet the press.

    Or, let them share the award.

  70. Malaclypse:

    Ahem.

    Also, too.

  71. catclub:

    Help, by Garret Keizer
    Tries too hard but in a good cause.

  72. Uncle Kvetch:

    Personally, I would say that TTH pretty much is Brooce’s aesthetic in a nutshell, but I realized long ago that this opinion is shared by absolutely no one, so it’s not a soapbox I care to get on.

    I found it endearing to be among 17,000 aging middle classers screaming out that “tramps like us, baby we were born to run”

    I still cherish the memory of seeing the words “IT’S SO HARD TO BE A SAINT IN THE CITY!” written on a bathroom wall at my expensive, suburban Catholic high school.

  73. lawguy:

    Your comment interested me and by golly you are right. Piss those people off and they will come at you forever.

  74. Timb:

    This seems right to me, although 2.29 for a glass of Diet Coke does seem like someone is making bank somewhere

  75. Major Kong:

    I think they turn the music up loud to force turnover. It it’s loud you’ll eat and get out instead of sitting around talking.

  76. Jon H:

    After their video with the woman and the bodily fluids, I’m inclined to say Flaming Lips, in general.

  77. Davis X. Machina:

    …is the reason why “Born to Run” is what it is, and why BTR took six months to mix.

  78. JB2:

    - Holiday beers put out by otherwise reliable craft breweries;

    - The HBO series “Carnivale”;

    - ESPN’s coverage of the Home Run Derby; in fact, pretty much everything Chris Berman has said or done over the last 25 years;

    - The terrible comedian who was co-featured in the Jerry Seinfeld documentary about ten years ago.

  79. Hogan:

    It’s like he wishes she’d just leave him alone.

  80. Anonymous:

    British stand-up comics minus Eddie Izzard

  81. Pinko Punko:

    Scott is right- it is OK- three classic songs at least (mentioned above). If “We Love You” had been on there it would have been even stronger. It just happens to be less good than albums before and after. It is decent.

  82. Leeds man:

    And it didn’t have Diane Keaton in it (did it!?!). So there is that too.

  83. Pinko Punko:

    Heh

  84. Pinko Punko:

    No

  85. Rhino:

    Hospital food.

    Case in point. I have been in a hospital (in Canada, thank god) recovering from an extremely nasty infection (necrotizing fasciitis, in the left latisimus dorsi muscles).

    On Xmas day we got ‘traditional family turkey’ which consisted of a 1/8″ slice of mechanically deboned and formed turkey loaf, and stuffing made out of a mixture of bread crumbs and what seemed to be sand.

    Tonight for New Year’s Day, I am to look forward to ‘beef Wellington’.

    Now don’t get me wrong. I am literally alive only due to an improbable set of coincidences that led to my being admitted to emergency a good 24-36 hours before symptoms would have driven me there (by which time it would have been far too late). I am grateful to be alive and the for opportunity to eat whatever the dreck they serve me.

    But why even try? You are an institutional caterer. The very best you can aspire to is ‘technically edible’. Anything else, well it’s just humiliating yourself. Please don’t.

  86. Pinko Punko:

    Jesus, Pitchfork of course.

  87. Leeds man:

    Funny, I can’t think of a misplaced or unnecessary note. And the man barely moves on stage, so no idea what you mean.

  88. Leeds man:

    WTF? Billy Connolly and Danny Bhoy?

  89. Jon H:

    Shyamalan.

  90. Jon H:

    Morning drive-time ‘zoo’ format DJs and shock jocks.

  91. Leeds man:

    Using more than two acronyms in a comment.

    OK, I give. What’s MT?

  92. Jon H:

    Public TV when trying to attract money from viewers.

  93. Bill Cross:

    The Cruise is an even better film. Speed Levitch does not try too hard

  94. Richard:

    No. No. No.

  95. Bill Cross:

    and for something completely different

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uL0j8XU7oaw

    They’re mavericks

  96. STH:

    Ack! Sneaky Pie! The horror!

  97. Bill Cross:

    see the no misplaced notes shows that he tried too hard to get them in the right place

  98. STH:

    Conservative bloggers who give themselves ancient-Roman-sounding pseudonyms and pontificate in a pompous style that indicates they’ve never actually read anything written by an intelligent person.

  99. JoyfulA:

    Like the uncomfortable plastic seating in fast-food restaurants.

  100. Bill Cross:

    Necrotizing Fascitist? Do you getthat from reading Breitbart.com? or Jonah Goldberg?

  101. Dave:

    LMGTFY: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metamagical_Themas

  102. Tacitus:

    No way

  103. Cincinnatus:

    Tacitus has it right

  104. spencer:

    I always preferred the Kiss cover version of that one.

  105. spencer:

    Jesus and Pitchfork both.

  106. Suetonius:

    Wonkette

  107. Flatulus:

    I disagree.

  108. Catamite Rex:

    I’ll have your head on a spike for that.

  109. Rhino:

    Actually it’s the same bacteria that causes strep throat, which under just the right circumstances attacks internal tissues through a cut or scratch and kills large chunks of muscle and other tissues inside the body. The surgeons have to remove the dead tissue, and as much of the bacteria as possible, and try and set things up for antibiotics to puta a stop to it. Meanwhile, periodic new surgeries clean up any more necrotic tissue until they finally close you up.

    There are few things worse than Brietbart, but this would qualify.

    Incidentally to all of you LGM commenters and the LGM authors themselves? Thanks for keeping me sane the last few weeks. You guys, sadly no, and alicublog were sometimes the only thing that kept me smiling.

    I’m expected, now, to make a full recovery. It’s the only reason I mention it now, when I can give my thanks without burdening you with it, but truly you guys have my gratitude. Never forget that your audience contains more than trolls and fellow pinkos, some of us, sometimes, get a lot more from you than we will ever be able to give back.

  110. Alan Tomlinson:

    Tim Tebow is not eligible for the TTH award since he has already won the dumbshit/Pharisee two-in-one award.

    Cheers,

    Alan Tomlinson

  111. STH:

    You’ve got to work in a “qua” or “ceteris parabus” there somewhere if you’re going to do it right.

  112. Leeds man:

    I’m still working on my MFO.

  113. Bob:

    Ben Stiller. A terrible actor but damn the man tries. You can see the effort oozing out of his every pour in every frame of every movie he’s in. That’s why as bad as he is I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for him. No one who takes what he does that seriously and tries that hard deserves open contempt.
    Say what you will, he never phones it in.

  114. c u n d gulag:

    LOL!

  115. Bob:

    Btw – As one who takes booze seriously I haven’t ventured out on New Year’s Eve in several decades – I have no use for amateur night. BUT no New Year’s Eve gave no “The Apartment”, a great Billy Wilder film. Thus I have to give the day a pass on the TTH meter.

  116. AuRevoirGopher:

    -The Royal Tenenbaums

    -Every actor in The Royal Tenenbaums under the age of 40

    -Wes Anderson generally

  117. The Dead Acorn:

    Born To Run? Naahhh … I think to be in the TTH category, there needs to first exist the unreachable expectations. His first two albums were pretty dang good, but it’s not like there was some “oh jeez, this new one is gonna be THE.BEST.EVAH.” thing in anticipation (which, I think, is sort of the TTH part of NYE, a holiday/party the inclusion of which I tolly agree). The song is the 3rd or 4th best on one of the greatest albums of all time. I don’t get a TTH vibe there at all.

  118. virag:

    the wake only seems like tth for people who are not the intended audience. unfortunately, the intended audience probably wished he had lived another 150 years so he could get it just right. as it is, more than likely jj felt like he didn’t try hard enough.

  119. Cincinnatus:

    I think there’s some drug use required, too

  120. Leeds man:

    Προς Ρωμαίους πιπιλίζουν

  121. LazyMonkey:

    Sting. Every breath he takes. Every move he makes.

    And especially his version of Little Wing!

  122. Bijan Parsia:

    I’m very glad you were “lucky” (given the initial, extreme unluckiness).

    Best wishes and big hopes.

  123. Rhino:

    Me too. The corner was turned about 4 days ago, and the confirmation of the turning, via tests of the wound conducted then, and various blood tests have confirmed that I am now likely okay.

    Thanks, and thanks as I said for being part of the community that in large part kept my mind occupied and my fears distracted for so long. Morphine kept me from posting much back then, but I read doggedly and sometimes even left the boat to kick at mangoes.

  124. DocAmazing:

    For that matter, any DJ who spends more than one-third of his/her show talking or doing anything other than playing music.

  125. mch:

    Auld Lang Syne is about loneliness, and about overcoming it through community (the community of now, the community of now linked to past and future). (A quick Wikipedia check on that song/lyrics helps here.) Nothing like a party (any time of year) to emblematize that dynamic.

    How many of us (me included) who happily stay at home on New Year’s Eve, but stay awake through midnight, tune in to some simulacrum of a party? Just sayin’, let’s not knock it.

  126. rbcoover:

    Well, he can just go to hell. Bruce tried to write the greatest rock song ever and probably didn’t quite get there, but it was not because he was trying too hard and anyone who criticizes that song is terrible.

  127. Halloween Jack:

    Given that the actual greatest rock song ever, “Thunder Road”, is on the same album–oh, look, it’s the first track!–the notion of “failure” in this respect is like that of the pole vaulter who knocks the bar off after he’s already set the world record. I’m getting a little tired of hearing myself say this, but I’ll bring it out again: anyone who can’t get Springsteen, at least in his prime, I have to regard with pity rather than anger.

  128. Halloween Jack:

    Some people’s velvet rims are just too ticklish, I reckon.

  129. Halloween Jack:

    You nailed it. His presence in Mystery Men, next to vastly superior actors such as Hank Azaria and William H. Macy, is both a thing of pity and an ironic reflection on the nature of the title characters.

  130. Halloween Jack:

    I’ve already vented about “Born to Run”, and I could go on (oh, could I), but I do have to agree with Paul on weddings in general. They’re such appalling spectacles that I sometimes wonder if deep down the participants know that it’s all downhill from there. Also:

    - Just about every filmmaker who tries to be like Quentin Tarantino, including the two films (True Romance and Natural Born Killers) made from Tarantino scripts.

    - Mitt Romney, who never convinced people that he really didn’t give a shit about them so much as when he tried to convince them otherwise.

    - 99% of tattoos.

    - Everyone on Jersey Shore, in every imaginable way.

    - Modern sweatshirts. I sometimes wonder if occasionally someone’s head whips back in a double take when I walk past them in a plain black hoodie.

    - My elderly aunt who has unfortunately discovered Facebook and will repost literally at least a dozen huge pictures featuring pets, Jesus, babies, and/or soldiers every day, at least half of them implying that I’m an awful person if I don’t “like” it.

    - Every cake that I see on the internet.

    - Pumped-up dudes who drop their weights at the gym. RARRR FEEL THE GROUND SHAKE AS I HURL MY IRON AT IT RARRRRR. If I believed that I had a soul, I’d gladly trade it for one of these ‘roid pigs to crush his own big toe, just once.

    - Ke$ha. The hell, girl.

  131. Halloween Jack:

    Agreed. Rubyfruit Jungle is intensely self-aggrandizing, but at least it’s sincere in its own way. With the Sneaky Pie books, she’s basically turned herself into a minor character from Dykes To Watch Out For.

  132. Halloween Jack:

    David Coverdale at least did a more-than-passable imitation.

  133. Halloween Jack:

    No. It seems that way on the surface, with Infinite Jest having footnotes for its footnotes, but DFW is having too much fun for it to be TTH.

  134. Halloween Jack:

    +

  135. Leeds man:

    They’re such appalling spectacles that I sometimes wonder if deep down the participants know that it’s all downhill from there.

    Precisely twice as bad as funerals, because of the number of people heading down.

    Quentin Tarantino

    Didn’t quite see the point of all the superfluous words around the name.

  136. brewmn:

    I’m with you, uncle. I like a small subset of Bruce, totalling maybe 3 LPs worth of music, pretty well. But there’s just no way you can make a convincing case that he’s among rock’s truly great, like the Beatles, Stones, Who, etc.

    And that feeling that he’s trying just so damn hard to be serious singer/songwriter who can also rock The Garden to the cheao seats is the main reason he falls far short of greatness, IMO.

  137. Leeds man:

    That sounds like a nightmare, Rhino. All the best.

  138. Bill Murray:

    Mystery Men needed the Flaming Carrot and Screwball and some extra stories like They Cloned Hitler’s Feet

  139. Rhino:

    It was, and thank you.

  140. Scott Lemieux:

    Pinko has it exactly right. It obviously pales next to the astonishing run of albums it’s embedded within, but on its own terms it’s a pretty good record.

  141. Halloween Jack:

    About the only film of Tarantino’s that really comes close to trying too hard is Kill Bill, and I wouldn’t give any random minute of it for both Natural Born Killers and True Romance, although I enjoyed Brad Pitt as a stoner couch potato in the latter.

  142. BKN in Canadia:

    FTW

  143. BKN in Canadia:

    Yes, yes, oh God yes. I’ve run out of “Really?!”s in response to all the times I’ve seen Moonrise Kingdom on Best of lists.

  144. Origami Isopod:

    I enjoyed The Grapes of Wrath, frankly. I preferred it to Of Mice and Men.

  145. Origami Isopod:

    +1

  146. Publius:

    Yea, verily.

  147. mark f:

    Charlemagne had eyes like a lover
    but last winter there was weather, and his eyes they iced right over
    Cassanova’s in the corner and he’s asking for a dance
    Speedshooters driving round and coming down, tryin to hook up with an exit ramp
    Cuz tramps like us . . . and we like tramps
    Charlmagne’s got something in his sweatpants

  148. Pseudonym:

    The left latisimus dorsi is the Jew of necrotizing fasciitis.

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