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WHAT: A Boing Boing special feature, wittily designed by BB designer Rob Beschizza. READ IT HERE.

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This, and the other mind-crushingly awesome images in this post, were created by the photographer Max Oppenheim and prosthetic artist Bill Turpin, based on the grotesque caricatures of ’70s yearbook photos in Charles Burns’s graphic-novel masterpiece, Black Hole. All rights reserved. (Found at The Operators’ website.)

NO, REALLY, WHAT? My Cabinet essay, “(Face)Book of the Dead,” vastly expanded for Boing Boing, with a bravura passage on what I call “stoner noir.”

OKAY, I’LL BITE: WHAT’S “STONER NOIR”?

the ’70s Southern California vibe that clings, like a low-lying fog of pot smoke, to my high-school memories. Anyone who spent her high-school years in that place, at that time, as I did, knows its youth culture was thick with the atmosphere I’ll call stoner noir.

“Many things in the world have not been named; and many things, even if they have been named, have never been described,” writes Susan Sontag, in the self-consciously quotable opening line to “Notes on Camp.” One of those unnamed things is stoner noir, a fugitive sensibility whose sun-bleached vacuity is infinitely more frightening than the long-shadowed bleakness of a Raymond Chandler novel. […] The sludge-brained anomie of stoner noir is just what it looks like: the rudderless yawing of youth culture on the morning after the ’60s. It’s the numb realization that the tide that carried in the counterculture’s utopian dreams and cries for social justice has ebbed away, leaving the windblown scum of Altamont and My Lai, the Manson murders and the Zodiac Killer. Stoner noir stares back at you with the awful emptiness of the black-hole eyes in a Smiley Face. Have a Nice Decade.

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But stoner noir isn’t just the burned-out roach of ’60s youth culture. It’s equally the toxic mental runoff of suburban sprawl: dirthead existentialism. It’s the psychological miasma that hung, like the sweetly rotten reek of Thai stick, over adolescent psyches battered by divorce, lives dead-ended in high school, torpid afternoons bubbled away in a Journey to the Bottom of the Bong. Stoner noir is the default mindset of teenage wasteland: life seen through a glass pipe, darkly.

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Comments(2)

  1. I very much enjoyed your Facebook of the Dead article. I usually don’t do nostalgia well, and after experiencing some of the same things you did regarding old high school chums from the 70’s, I think I’ll give it up altogether. I would have graduated in ’78, except that I quit high school at 17, and joined the military. I was that desperate for escape. Three months later, I was about 6000 miles out of my comfort zone. The experience served its purpose, I suppose. Before that, all I did was smoke weed.
    Lot’s of it.
    So much, in fact, that it’s quite possible that I was responsible for the Gross National Product of a number of south American countries. I was even in a band. The Marijuana Big-Mouth Quartet (What? I told you). Our music was almost as awful as the name.
    Now, at 50, I work in a small deli near the UofA. Most of my co-workers are college kids, and I’m quite fond of the lot of ’em. They often tell me how cool I am for an old guy, and I tell them to stay the hell off my lawn.
    And I’m on Facebook. Aside from the obvious privacy concerns, it’s not completely a bad thing. I was made peace with a sister I haven’t spoken to in almost a decade. On the other hand, after using FB as a soapbox for my liberal political views, I relatively certain that my brother has hired some guy named Guido to come over and break my kneecaps.

  2. There is something upsetting about pictures of nice young happy people, with those alterations :)

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