Webster: Grudges The Bird

by Daniel Radosh

More than a year ago—or seven times that in web years—the now defunct "Real Computing" site ran a story called "The Grudge Page: A New Phenomenon." I looked it up because I had noticed the same phenomenon myself last month and had naturally assumedAre You Grudgeful? that I was the first person to discover it. Even after all this time wasted on the Web, I'm still not caught up. But while grudge pages may not be new anymore, they are still phenomenal, and goddammit, I'm gonna have my say about them.

When I say grudge pages are phenomenal, of course, I mean that in the literal sense of "cognizable by the senses" rather than "extraordinary," though some are extraordinarily stupid, to be sure. "Real Computing" described the grudge page as "an interesting replacement for the old-fashioned poison pen letter." Maybe so, but while these pages may not be more convincing or exciting than poison pen letters, they certainly are more durable.

Before the web, any loser with a complaint about a company, a boss, a family member, or an ex-spouse would maybe dash off a letter to the party in question or to the local newspaper, or vent to the other losers in O'Donnell's Pub for a few weeks, and then no one would have to hear about it again. The complainer might very well nurse the grudge for years, but for the most part she would do it quietly, bringing it up only on drunken benders or family holidays.

A grudge page on the web, however, does not eventually grow quiet. Either its existence compels its creator to keep it updated, thus unnaturally prolonging the grudge's shelf life, or (more commonly) it is forgotten, in which case the original burst of anger remains immutably fixed, never subsiding.

I discovered the grudge page phenomenon by accident. While seeking a picture of a seat belt for an entirely different project,I stumbled onto the "Chevy Truck Problem Page". Problem, judging from the photo, is a euphemism for crumpled like a can of Genny Cream Ale on a frat boy's forehead: "Its airbag did not deploy! Its 4-wheel anti-lock brakes locked! Its rear seat belt failed!" Understandably, the guy driving the truck, Willard J. King, was a little miffed and his wife was a little hospitalized. So Willard did the only thing he could (after lawyers told him he didn't have enough money to take his case to court): he wrote a string of vitriolic letters to Chevrolet, and then he put up a home page.

This is the grudge page at its best—or most sober, rather. It's deeply personal, but the guy actually seems to have a case. He presents relevant data and he provides a service to potential truck buyers who might not have known that "anti-lock brakes" is only a suggestion. In a letter King sent to Chevrolet, reproduced on his home page, he says he hopes that "people who do searches on the key words Chevy, Chevrolet, truck, air bag, anti-lock brakes, or seat-belt will find the page." And, as I proved, it works.

The "Chevy Truck Problem Page," however—which is entirely reasonable and relatively well punctuated—is not a representative example of a grudge page. But before we look at others, let me say what a grudge page is not. It's not one of those ubiquitous hate pages. People can despise Alanis or Sailor Moon all they want and with good reason, but there's no sense of resentment of personal wrongdoing involved there.

Nor is a grudge page one of those pages by people who go out of their way to find something that pisses them off, spewing long alphabetical lists or giving out the Shithead of the Month Award. Heino Polaris's page, for instance, overflows with gripes about landlords, repair men, cops, and the "utter assholishness of many Washington State residents." But more likely it's Polaris himself who's the problem here. When he whines, "Got my cellphone bill today, and 15% of it was for fucking taxes," that only confirms it: anyone who uses a cellphone is in no position to complain about assholishness.

On the other hand, Rebecca Eisenberg seems like an entirely normal person—until she gets on the subject of her former boss. Rebecca not only holds a grudge, she does it in verse: "...i am closer to bliss,/now that i am free of gladys." Bad verse.

i dyed my hair, i tweaked my style
i cried on the phone once in a while,
but the thing that drove her most berserk,
was that i roller-bladed to work.

Rebecca, it should be noted, was working in a law firm.

i fell asleep at one key meeting
and even though, we both were sitting
next to each other, in our chairs,
she thought to look at me or stare
would somehow implicate her in
my nap: my crime, my shame, my sin.

I'm siding with Gladys on this one—and not just because Rebecca rhymes meeting with sitting. If you want to sleep all day, dye your hair, cry on the phone, and careen around the office on roller blades, get a job in new media, not law.

Still, Rebecca's doggerel is charming in comparison with the "Toys R Us Boycott Page." "I recommend a worldwide boycott until Toyz-N-the-HoodzTM ceases its campaign against the Internet and against The Little Guy," writes little guy Miles O'Neal. His gripe? The toy store sent him a form letter when they found out about his "Roadkills-R-Us" page, a spoof that is every bit as funny as you might imagine. Apparently under the misguided belief that Toys-R-Us really gives a shit about what he does, O'Neal became enraged. "Never Again! Jack-booted thugs grow up to be jack-booted storm troopers. A company can never be the latter, but can help create the environment for the latter to flourish. Personally, I don't want to have to deal with either. Stop the Silliness Now." Um...exactly.

And yet, the "Toys-R-Us Boycott Page" is a model of self-control compared to the "Radio Shack Boycott Page". "Get on the Bus and Don't Buy Radio Shack Products," is the slogan—chosen, it would appear, because the guy behind the boycott, Lawrence J. Hansen, just happened to have a gif of buses with flashing lights. The page "Looks and sounds Best with Netscape 2.0," but best is a relative term when the look is green frowny faces on a purple background (the soundtrack is Beethoven's Für Elise; the significance eludes me).

"This page was created," we are told, "because a clerk in Radio Shack sold my wife a VCR with a three-month warranty...and after about 10 times using it broke ejecting a tape (it couldn't eject a tape). CAN YOU NOT LET YOUR WIFE GO SHOPPING ALONE!" When Hansen went to talk to the manager, "I perceived this person to not care and to seem amused...I told him I hope nobody ever lets their wives or children shop in such a store."

That's when Hansen took his grudge to the Net, where, in addition to his grudge page, he promised that "further boycott notices will also be posted in all news groups bi-weekly." All news groups? Bi-weekly? This ensures that it's only a matter of time before somebody else on the Web advertises their grudge against him and judging from the page's recent demise one can only wonder if someone already has.

And yet, at least Hansen had a semiplausible claim to victimhood. The same can not be said for Mike Nelson, who holds a grudge against TDK tapes—and demands the inevitable boycott—because of one of the company's commercials.

"Anyone hear this TDK commercial, something about why TDK is big with people who like Rock cause there's so much Rock to listen to, there's "......." and this "........" and this ".........". "......." Being supposedly a certian (sic.) sound of rock. Trying to exhibit the range, and why TDK is important cause it can handle -the whole range of rock-. I can't tell the difference, sounds the same to me, nearly sounds like the same song if you ask me, and none of em sound like rock! I say don't buy TDK cause they condescendingly make believe they're trumpeting the diversity of rock, "So much rock out there," might have been the exact words, and that commercial is just so much typically misleading cwhoreprat horsesh*t."

Far be it from any Stim contributor to criticize someone for using a word like "cwhoreprat" (it makes me wonder if "certian" isn't also intentional) but I suspect Mike just didn't get this ad. I haven't seen it, so I could be wrong, but from his description, it sounds like TDK is making a joke about how all rock music sounds the same these days. A pretty funny joke, for a commercial.

Besides, ........ is one of my favorite bands. Hey, they're better than Alanis.    </end>

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