White people love recycling (#64). It’s easy and it helps them feel as if they’re saving the Earth. They love grad school (#81), which allows them to impress their friends at parties, when they reference French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan or even Slovenian philosopher and social critic Slavoj Zizek in conversation about American Idol. Oh, also having gay friends (#88) is an essential part of a white person’s diversity roster. But, it’s generally accepted that a gay black friend with a child is considered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — like a quarterback who can pass, run, kick and play linebacker. White people will crawl over each other for the opportunity to claim this person as a friend and add them to their roster of diversity.
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Such is the wisdom, in blog form, of Christian Lander — the Fran Lebowitz of our time, if Fran were a 30-year-old, sweet-natured red-haired man from Toronto, who lived with her/his wife in a modest stretch of Culver City. A social anthropologist of the first order, Lander is also a superlative example of the lightening-fast possibilities of Internet-age self-publishing success.
It started not long ago when Lander and his friend Myles Valentin were IM-ing each other about how much they liked The Wire. Valentin said he didn’t trust anyone who didn’t watch the show and wondered why so few white people were watching. “Well, what are white people doing instead?” Lander asked, and the guys started compiling a list. Multilingual children, bottled water, David Sedaris and, perhaps ironically, The Wire turned out to be other things white people like. Their plan was to maybe self-publish a book after they got to around 90 posts. They had no press and no advertising, but within two-and-a-half weeks, the site was getting 1,000 hits a day. Then the guys got their own server. Suddenly they were up to 30,000 hits a day. And it just kept going. The other day, they got 720,000 hits. Apparently, all kinds of people are interested in stuff white people like.
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“We had no connections whatsoever,” says Lander, sipping a beer on his front porch while his neighbors worked on their car in the street. “It’s not like anyone had a friend at The New York Times.” But the press came knocking, and agents started to call. William Morris got there first. After Lander rode his bike to CAA, UTA and Endeavor, he decided to stick with Morris. It didn’t take them much time to sell the book to Random House — for about three hundred grand. White people gotta like that.
A decidedly modest fellow, Lander is already prepared for his fame to evaporate as quickly as it arrived. And he credits his very white country of origin for his sense of humor. “Canadians are good at laughing at themselves,” he says, “because we know no one cares about us.”
Photo by Kevin Scanlon