Dear George Ouzounian

Dear George Ouzounian,

A friend first turned me on to The Best Page in the Universe in 2009. I loved it. It was the kind of honest, brass-balled, take-no-prisoners, fuck-political-correctness ass-kickery that could only take place via a direct writer-to-reader medium like the internet. Any editor would have toned it down. Every agent would have advised against it. No publisher would have risked the near-certain backlash of delivering it to the public.

I read every post, including the archived sites from the late nineties, and I've read everything you've written since. It wasn't just a good way to kill time while my professor was droning on in Cal 2. The Best Page in the Universe made me see blogging as a legitimate form of creative self-expression for the first time. Before BPU, I thought blogging was only for avid fly fishermen, people who collected weird shit, and stay-at-home moms who found Facebook too concise a medium for sharing their tedious day-to-day experiences.

Up until that point I had seen blogging as a good way to menace family and friends, or to interact with small communities of people who were obsessed with one trivial niche topic or another, but the success that you've had, especially the books that you've published, convinced me that blogging could actually lead somewhere someday if you were good enough at it. In recent years it's led you to create a YouTube channel.

What a blunder.

I realize the video format opens up some opportunities for sight gags, skits, and audio, but you hardly utilize any of the advantages of the medium. Take another good hard look at "Pepperoni Sucks" and tell me that video did something text and images alone couldn't have. I guess some people can't do without graphics that pan into the shot and then rotate in the background; personally I'm fine with them just sitting there on the page, motionless, quietly reminding me of what a pizza looks like. As if to prove that your videos are redundant and superfluous, you basically restate everything from the videos in the post, guaranteeing that regardless of which I watch/read first I'm going to be subjected to a partial rerun immediately afterwards. I don't know whether your posts are now summaries of your videos, or whether the videos are summaries of your posts, but they sure as hell aren't complimentary. "Airline fees I'd be happy to pay" was in improvement, but it still feels like you're only turning your posts into videos because YouTube doesn't accept articles. I understand that YouTube gives you access to a new audience who doesn't have even the cursory attention span required to read a thousand-word blog post. What I don't understand is the vlog format as opposed to something that compliments what you're actually good at- writing.

The never ending intro-outro-background thrasher metal is about what I would have expected given the aesthetics of BPU, and that's not a compliment. What works well as a silent homage to an earlier, simpler, no-frills time from the internet's early days feels like Prince's Love Symbol guitar jammed up my urethra when delivered in music form. For Christ's sake- it never ends; it just decreases in volume enough to allow us to make out your thin, reedy voice, which brings me to my next complaint...

Your voice. It's an informed, snarky voice, but it isn't an authoritative, ass-stomping voice, and your writing style demands the latter more than the former. Up until a few years ago I was blissfully unaware of what your voice sounded like, and was thus free to imagine my own narrator while reading your articles. The voice in my head was a cross between Mr. T and Darth Vader, and that's the way I liked it. Now every time I read the latest article, your whiny, medium-pitched monotone comes slithering into my skull, hollowing out your narrative authority like a melon baller on cantaloupe. Like John Gilbert's voice and the talkies, you don't live up to the on-screen persona your writing requires.

I admire the fact that you have the balls to get in front of a camera and let people watch as your hairline literally recedes before our very eyes, but it's the shrewd thinking going on behind that dopey face that got you to where you are today, not your dashing good looks or on-screen charisma. Dance with the one who brought you.

one of these things is not like the others...

The wizard of Oz knew better than to invite people to peek behind the curtain. You're using it as a backdrop. Maddox is a mythical, larger-than-life character. You've created a modern day legend, like Paul Bunyan or Hercules; the entire concept of putting a mere mortal, fraught with human frailty, up on stage to represent Maddox is questionable, but at any rate it sure as hell shouldn't be you.

I'm not saying you're incapable of making the transition from writing to video, but it's your writing that should be making the jump, and the rest of you should be staying behind the camera. I have no doubt that shit-tons of talented, aspiring, gravel-voiced lumber jacks would love to play the roll of host and lead ranter on The Best Show in the Universe. Mariusz Pudzianowski surely has some extra time between picking up heavy things and cage fighting. You could probably feature a different paragon of masculine virtue every episode.

I know your writing career has always been about you, and that unwavering, rock-solid self-reliance has indeed been the hook that set you apart from a sea of limp-willed "reasonable" people. But The Best Show in the Universe is ruining the image you've spent the last decade creating.

Sebastian Braff


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