Everything was better before.

Maybe once a week somebody will tell me that my work was way better a few years ago. And then I think back a few years, when somebody else was telling me that my work was better a few years ago. That leaves me with three possible explanations.

First: I’m getting progressively worse, but my initial work was so amazing that, even after years of denigration, it’s still drawing in new fans who think this watered down crap is the best thing they’ve ever seen. The first column I ever wrote was about how science hates your penis. I don’t think this is the correct answer.

Second: Evolution and growth can sometimes be alienating. People’s tastes slowly change, and what appealed to them once will not appeal to them forever. It’s why you don’t still play with your Cowboys of Moo Mesa action figures. Plus, all creators will (hopefully) develop over time. What they do next year may not appeal to last year’s fans. If it was otherwise, they would just be endlessly repeating themselves. And what’s the point of that?

It’s one of the sadder aspects of reality, but you may not always love the things you love now. When that time comes, you shouldn’t flip the table and scream yourself bloody, accusing everything around you of turning into bullshit. You don’t need to smash all your toys with a hammer when you outgrow them. You can just gracefully move on to what does make you happy, and try to remember all the value that thing once gave you. You can get into music, or cars, or girls, and forget all about those childish things that used to mean the world to you. Maybe one day, when you’re older, you’ll be up in a dusty attic somewhere and you’ll open a box. And you’ll say with a smile: “There you are Marshal Moo Montana – I wondered what happened to you.”

Third: You’re an asshole.

17 thoughts on “Everything was better before.

  1. deadlytoque

    To be fair, your best article ever was the one about real-life doomsday machines, including lightning-lasers and tornado-harnesses back on IFR. I remember thinking that it was a sign of pretty amazing things when you had to take it down and reformat it for them mad Cracked dollahz.

    Of course, I kid. Transforming over time is amazing. Everyone who is any good does it, because otherwise you get stale. Like, Blood Meridian is amazing, but if someone told McCarthy to only write that book for the rest of his career, and he agreed, then we would have no No Country For Old Men and no The Road, and everyone from that timeline would be justified in traveling back to the branch point and punching that someone in the throat.

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  2. Brewhore

    While your wife and I are in complete agreement that you’re clearly just a shell of your former self, I still maintain that you’re my favorite living author, and I think your work continues to improve with time. Now stop fishing for compliments and get back to work.
    Also, yes #3. Very much so.

    Reply
    1. Robert Brockway Post author

      Well, it wasn’t originally supposed to be a fishing for compliments piece, but can I help it if I’m such a great fisherman that they leap into my boat whether I intend for it or not? Actually, I got to thinking about this because of a top rated comment on a Cracked piece (that I had nothing to do with) lamenting that the piece was garbage, and that we were much better a year ago. It referenced a specific article that the commenter thought best represented our prime, so I clicked back to that article and checked the top rated comments, only to find another comment about how this article, that represented us at our prime to the first commenter, was utter garbage, and lamented how much better we were a year ago.

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  3. John Hanson

    I think that the situation with putting less out there of late has (in a sick, twisted, false scarcity sort-of-way) made me appreciate your work more. I love all your old stuff, and I find pieces to re-read pretty regularly. By the time you do have a new piece, I’m just excited to have something new to read! …But I’m also extremely easy to please, and don’t have enough of a stick up my butt to think your new stuff should be judged by your old stuff, so don’t take my word for it. Also, don’t take my advice on what you should do to those people (it involes Lineman’s Pliers and a Croquets Mallet).

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    1. Robert Brockway Post author

      Well it’s all intentional, really. I’m creating demand for my writing by not writing anymore. So the value of my stuff goes up tenfold. I mean, those old columns were free to the reader, but now they’re ten times as much.

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  4. SteveySteve

    There’s nothing wrong with liking a particular era of an artist, but if you’re going out of your way to tell said artist that they’re not as good as they once were, then, yes, you’re an asshole.

    “I kind of like the new Pixies stuff, but it’s not as good as the Doolittle era.” A perfectly defensible statement, unless you’re yelling it in Frank Black’s face.

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    1. Robert Brockway Post author

      Yeah, it’s not to imply that artist’s don’t suffer declines like anybody else, but if it’s happening consistently to every creator you enjoy — maybe the issue is with you.

      Not YOU you, but the abstract you. The royal you.

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  5. violafury

    Hmm, must hunt up the real-life doomsday machine, with lightning lasers and tornado-harnesses; although I am enjoying your new stuff, I have yet to find anything as gut-bustingly hilarious as the 2 things with “Lion Drome” and the scrambled-translator article that approached Shakesperian levels of insanity and written language! I re-read those often and they have aged well.

    One of the things I have noticed on Cracked.com is this weird space-time continuum where the very thing lionized is also the very worst thing to be pilloried. I long ago stopped commenting, after someone commented on my spelling of “kruschev” and “Leningrad” which I had in fact misspelled. I explained I was legally blind and that I had called you “Bwockway” and you didn’t seem to mind, and as you have a fuck-ton of talent, and he didn’t, he could go fuck himself. That has been pretty much the extent of my commeting career on Cracked.com. The articles are swell, the commenters are not so.

    I would say like Joh, I am easy to please, but seeing as I am writing more and being more critical of this particular art, I find it harder to laugh outright at so called “humorists” and I find that often the humor is forced, or situations seem like set ups, or their critical arguments that are supposed to make light of a situation fall like the proverbial lead football. Probably because I can see what’s coming. You do not do that. You shock, surprise and cobble together phrases that are magnificently unique and have lots of dicks, so it works!

    I must be a real asshole, because I tell everyone I meet that Mozart sucks. Sucks! SUCKSSSSSS!!!!!!!!! Sucks out loud!!!! He sucked always and always will suck. Beethoven is a rock and roller. I had to play Mozart in university, freshman year, for about 2 weeks. I was assigned a viola sonata. I worked on it; hated it. My viola professor at the time, said in our 3rd lesson of the semester, “You don’t like this pice.” I looked at him and said, “No, it’s not that. I hate Mozart.” I still hate Mozart. Even more. Because he never, ever got passionate; he never pushed the envelope. His music is bubblegum for the Classical era, with the exception of his Mass and that was probably the last thing he wrote.

    Beethoven kicked it; today, he’d be into death-metal or something equally passionate. He kicked it so hard, he kicked music from the Classical to the Romantic era in 16 measures in his 3rd Symphony in the 3rd movement. That’s genius and hard work. And oh, yeah. He was mightily pissed. That symphony was originally dedicated to Napoleon, but during the writing of that symphony, Napoleon marched through Beethoven’s backyard on his way to conquering the world. This pissed off Beethoven so much, the dis was so way bad, that Ludwig scratched out the dedication to Napoleon and named it the “Eroica”. It’s the symphony that starts out in the Classical era and ends in the Romantic era of classical music. Beethoven was badass; we share the same birthday; just not the same year.

    God forbid I yell in Frank Black’s face; and if we’re talking Doolittle, I’m thinking the Doolittle who flew the Enola Gay and now we’re talking X-Files, Area 51 and my stupid Nuclear Physicist Uncle and I already have enough of those people in my family, root and branches, sheesh.

    Anyway, I wish you continued success and I will go and avidly hunt up your earlier stuff. I love digging up favorite author’s works. Harlan Ellison is a favorite and after I read his books as a kid, I went and dug up all of his early stuff. He started out writing deathless prose about juvie gangs in the 50s. You just never know where the writerly art will take you!

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  6. Anthony

    I think this is a funny coincidence. My sister and I just read ‘This Book is Full of Spiders’ and got into an argument about why it felt so different from ‘John Dies’. That conversation had me trying to convince her that Wong grew up and his writing came along with him, and her trying to convince me that He was just trying to cash in on an established character and his best work is behind him.
    We eventually agreed that over time a writer has to worry about the balance between their early levels of creativity and their later honed abilities. Something trite can be written incredibly well but that does not leave it better than something fascinating written poorly.

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  7. Alvin

    As someone who loves cracked and has had a few pitches rejected by cracked, I can’t say that you “use to be better.” You guys can still be funny as shit. BUT, for the sake of being fair, it’s totally obvious that some articles were more inspired than others. Specifically, articles of yours like of “5 things that seperate troubled geniuses from jerkwards” as well as DOB’s articles like, “5 things you love to discuss that noone cares about,” left me with a deeply satisfying feeling that only comes when I’ve either, A) Had awesome sex or B) Laughed so hard that I thought I was going to shit myself. Now, it’s impossible to shit out gold every time, but as a dedicated reader/ccw reject, I can’t help but think some columns you guys write are a little lazy. Maybe not ‘you’, you but like cracked editors in general. Maybe that’s why assholes think you “used to be better”, but that’s just me.

    Reply
    1. Robert Brockway Post author

      Oh hey, I totally forgot that people would take this as an invitation to say the exact same thing I cautioned against. But this is the internet, I should have foreseen.

      Brutal honesty: Some of our columns are more inspired than others. That’s true. That’s what comes from having a weekly deadline. Not every week do I “feel” like writing, much less being funny. I have shitty weeks, too. Weeks where my chronic illness flares up and I feel like I’m going to pass out at the keyboard. Weeks where my dogs are sick, or my wife is sick, or there’s been a death in the family. Weeks where my life is nothing but stress and anxiety, and it’s still part of my job to write two thousand words of jokes. Sometimes you can see when it take its toll, and other times you can’t. But the big mistake you’re making here is assuming you’re qualified to determine when we’re lazy or not based on what end results you happen to have liked. You have an opinion, and that’s fine – if you keep basic respect, empathy and tact in mind while expressing it, it’s also fine to voice that opinion. But you’re not voicing an opinion here. You’re using your opinion as an arbitrary mark of overall quality, and further using that mark to question the level of effort and integrity of the writers — assuming we’re off our game because we’re not trying hard enough, and not because we’re human beings with human being issues. And that’s where you allow for the possibility of your opinion being objectively wrong. For example: I can say without qualification that your favorite column, the one about Sherlock, was not one of my better ones. I was changing dosage on my medication for a few months there, which always clouds my brain, and also had the workshop that week, which adds about thirty more hours to my workweek. I considered your favorite column to be somewhat desperate when I was writing it. I had no inspiration whatsoever. I was hurt and harried and had to wing it. That doesn’t mean I didn’t work on it. I did the same work on it as I do for every column I write. I stressed over it, I read it a dozen times and tweaked every single word with every single pass. I did my best, it’s just that the best I’m capable of varies. And that particular column, when all the work had been done and there was nothing more to do, ended up nowhere near my usual standards.

      And yet it’s your favorite.

      It’s the yardstick you use to measure not only my other columns, but the columns of other authors, and to proclaim them “lazy.” Other people do this, too: They love the Choose Your Own Adventure stuff, or the Chaz and Geoff stuff, or the image based columns — and they think your favorite column is one of my missteps. They come in and say your favorite column is a lazy piece of crap, and that I used to be better a year before I wrote that column. That’s exactly what this post was about. This post was about you, and exactly what you just said. But you couldn’t see it, because you assumed only other people could be that blind. This is what I intrinsically do not understand about the modern internet audience – it’s like it never occurs to some people that their opinions may be unique to them, that other people have opinions too, that those opinions might be different, and that opinions have little to nothing to do with objective quality.

      Reply
  8. rachagainstthemachine

    Oooooooooooooh FACE! Good burn. Also, I have mad respect for anyone that can write well enough for editors to tell them “yes this can be published.” I’m off course not a professional critic, but I do enjoy pretty much everything I read on cracked. In fact I feel lazy and kind of guilty when I don’t read enough cracked articles (because A. I know my friends will have, and will want to talk about it, and B. You guys put so much time and effort into it) I actually try not to see who wrote it until I’m done so that I can play the game “who does this sound like” but I fail because I can’t remember more than like 3 names at a time. Anyways this has gotten away from me, you’re a beautiful butterfly and they’re all dicks.

    Reply
  9. Fernandon't

    First: You were the main reason I started reading Cracked, and
    Second: You are still the main reason I read Cracked (*cough* when you write that is *cough*)
    Possessive fans are reactionary by nature. They fear change the same way they fear soap and that new “ethnic” restaurant down the street.
    Fuck ’em. They are missing out.
    Your recent work is incredible, as always. Don’t become a pillar of salt. Your catalog of articles has expanded, that doesn’t mean you are being diluted. Assholes just don’t want to realize the difference.

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  10. David

    To be honest, I think we’re all getting worse. Collective entropy and ever repeated replacement by newer versions.
    Hey, 38 years old and I can relate to what i considered as the old people’s ramblings…”it wasn’t like that when I was young”. Then again, I AM glad I’m not a kid or teen in this day and age…
    Shit, I just oldpersonrambled.

    Reply

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