The Fun Boy Three sang that “The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum” and that’s exactly what happened with the Robot Lounge. I helped start Giant Robot magazine but I was just a tourist at the discussion boards on the Giant Robot website.
Sure, there were a few threads in which Eric or I would announce a new issue or let the public know about art shows at GR2, GRSF, GRNY, JANM… But I don’t think the Loungers were exactly refreshing those feeds. The magazine and shops were just a starting point, bringing together a group of wildly curious outliers who were into Asian and art cinema, new and underground art, toys and cartoons for grown-ups, and other stuff that otaku, punks, and weirdos were seeking out but was hard to find at the time. Their conversations went much deeper than our articles and interviews, and strayed off into new tangents, inside jokes, actual gatherings, and in a few cases, marriage.
A handful of Loungers contributed to the magazine, worked at the store, and even played softball with us. But those overlapping instances were quite small compared to larger group that would go on pilgrimages to see art movies at the Nuart and get wasted at meowy barbecues at Randall Fairbrook’s pad.
The Lounge itself lost a little luster as time spent on bulletin boards was replaced by newer forms of social media and suffered another blow (probably more like a dent) when the mag bit the dust. But the friendships lasted beyond the fairly recent bitter end and now there is a closed group on Facebook that I am honored to be a part of. When the old site was finally dismantled, I asked the crew to share some words about it.
I can flip through a set of GRs that sits on my bookshelf when I got nostalgic about the magazine but only the NSA has a record of the Lounge. For the rest of us, this small and very incomplete tribute will have to suffice…
joetron2030: I came late to both GR the magazine and the GRL. But once I discovered both I felt like I’d found the neatest place ever. Both really went a long way into influencing my tastes in art and culture. Plus, I’ve come to know some really great people through the GRL.
wnoodle: The magazine and the Lounge were two communities (admittedly they were more or less the same community) that made me realize, “Holee carp, there are other people out there as weird as me.” It was liberating.
Shaftoe: This may be long for a quote, but here are my thoughts.
I found the Lounge not through Giant Robot magazine, but from a completely unrelated web search back in 2002. The Lounge made me aware of GR, not the other way around. It was the coolest forum I’d ever seen: a small, active, intelligent, thriving community. It had its own culture distinct and separate from anything else on the Internet. While the “Asian Pop Culture/Arts Community Kitsch” style of the GR brand was well-represented, it was never a focus nor a requirement for feeling like you belonged to the Lounge community.
I lurked, I posted, I kept posting. I loved it. The people on the Lounge were witty, intelligent, progressive, and cross-cultural. I learned, I laughed, and I counted myself lucky for this orange message board that was often my first stop when firing up a web browser. I’ll never forget the inside jokes, the personalities, the humorous-in-hindsight rivalries, or any of it. I went through my twenties with the lounge. Talked through triumphs and tragedies in my life, others’ lives, the world.
Now that it’s gone, I regret ignoring it in recent years. At least I still have my Bruce Made Tapes shirt to help me remember. And when I walk up to groups of friends talking about something and say, “Hey guys, what’s going on in this thread?” it’s okay if they look at me like I’m a weirdo. Because I know that somewhere, 35ft6, myleftlung, shawgirl, evillilgirl, atomiclotusbox, iago (Well, maybe not his pretentious ass, LOL.), martin, ja.net, aaron, ninjakid, Randall Fairbrook, dragonchic, and everybody else who I should remember but whose screen names are sadly fading from memory as these things do, are laughing right along with me. GRL por vida, bitches.
atomiclotusbox: I feel like you bots know me better than anyone else. And that might not be very well at all, but I interacted with the Lounge far more than I did with that large a group of diverse people in real life.
35ft6: Evil Mastermind’s recounting of seeing Shaquille O’Neal in person was hilarious. Some of Happy’s flame posts while battling Iago were just genius. This is a toughie because a lot of the posters were great, but it was usually more about how an intellectual poster responded to a mush head, for example. Or a sarcastic, ironically detached poster responded to a sincere emo type. Like MMA, it was all about match-ups. In a vacuum, most of my favorite posts weren’t that great. It was the timing, what led up to it, knowing the posters’ histories, etc.
fmstlr: The tower was built by hate.
noeruna: I remember that I bought the 10th anniversary issue of GR magazine and there was a mention of the message board. That’s how I ended up spending all those hours reading and reacting to the Robot Lounge. Although I lurked more than I posted. Oh, and clicking the refresh button on the screen just meant that I wouldn’t get work done for the next few hours.
Tsar Nicholas: The Lounge was a whirling, treacherous, sloshing, molten anomie crucible inhabited mainly by several dozen specimens of elevated-octane crafty nut-bar. An orange haven for the strange and highly specialized. Awash in equal parts Laphroaig and horchata, Missy and Furtwangler, hate and hormones. Even after the GR mag had stopped being “The Magazine For [Me],” the Lounge gave me a connection to the zeitgeist that was live like Fresh Kid Ice.
wnoodle: The wit found in the Lounge was pretty first-rate (although, what do I know about how to gauge something like wit?) and at the very least forced me to up my game of funny-isms. My wife and friends thank you
joetron: The lounge is where I came across “JDM tyte” and I am all the better for it.
Bosie Herzog: Thanks to board, the terms “robot,” ” juice box,” “Post-It,” and “self sampling” will never be the same.
SDP: Without the lounge, there would be no Crampu.
feralmuppet: I have interacted with many people from the Lounge on a daily basis for over a decade. I have shared with them my secrets, passions, and tragedies. But I haven’t met most of them in real life. I have this fantasy in which we all meet up in SoCal or Vegas for a night of drinks and jokes only Loungers would understand. I think the gathering would feel like a high school reunion. We’d look at each other and think, “Yeah that’s how I always pictured him, but he’s a bit different.”
Invictus: I joined the GRL when I was still living in Minneapolis. For me, the magazine came first, then the Lounge, then moving to LA, then Eric posting that he was looking for help on Sawtelle when I was deciding I didn’t like working where I was working, then an interview in his kitchen (where I think he was nervous), and then becoming manager of the stores, then overseeing the retail operations, then going through a lot of growing pains and greats, then going on vacation one year, then sadly saying goodbye to my GR family.
angoraphobia: Nostalgia is a strange beast. It yields a certain sentimentality through one’s own blinders. My association with GRL is bittersweet. But in the end it was all about learning. The things I didn’t know (but needed to) about sub-culture, art, music, food, ideals, philosophy, psyches, fears, flirtation, betrayal, and hilarity (dark or otherwise). As much as GR informed me, so did the Lounge. They may have been two different beasts, but they will forever be intertwined to me. And then there’s my own personal triumph, the rambling three-letter chat threads at the fringe of the board for folks who didn’t have anywhere else to be. It was like our own little Breakfast Club. That’s what I’ll miss the most.
650lex: I have made awesome friends through GRL that I may never meet in person and the those I was lucky enough to meet hold a special place in my heart. Especially the one I made my Mr. 650Lex and created a family with. Yes, we love telling friends and family how we met. I wrote how Reno, NV is the armpit of America and he wrote in response, “Obviously, you’ve never been to New Jersey.” That’s how he got my heart. We’ve known each other almost 10 years, married for 6 of them. Thanks GRL… I think
Chauncey Chauncey: Over the years, several times, I’ve thought if my sister could have grown up with some of the hilarious, sassy Asian girls of the GRL, her life could have been totally different. Instead she grew up wishing she looked like a skinny tall white chick and is currently a pretty damaged human being.
atomicscissors: What can I say? You just had to be there. If you weren’t, sucks to be you.
Shaftoe: For some odd reason I remember that ninjakid, I think it was ninjakid, was an extra in Sweet Home Alabama, that Reese Witherspoon joint, and proudly posted a pic of his backside at some movie set press conference with Patrick Dempsey. So random. I also remember all the celebrity sighting threads in N.Y. and L.A. and being totes jelly because the only celebrity I’d ever seen up until that time in Sacramento was Jim fucking Palmer when he was shilling for the Money Store.
Jim Haku: It was great from the beginning in late 2000, until the redesign in 09 or whenever. There was still some cool people posting but it felt like nobody on the site really gave it shit about it anymore to even fix the banner, etc. The thing that made it great were the people from the mag posting there and it really felt like a community that made sense all together, instead of like a buncha weirdos in the backroom of a store who have nothing to do with it. Also all the girls left cause dudes started posting straight up porn. The board started with a relatively healthy gender mix, mostly college grads with real lives who talked about real shit. And the meetups were real important. The next phase were everyone who stuck around evolved in weird caricatures of themselves had a lot of great, funny writing, the whole mid-2000s.
As is often the case with the Lounge, the conversation went on many tangents, went deep into in-jokes that no one else would get, and kept going on even after I said that I had enough quotes. (I apologize if I missed you.) It’s telling, also, that I didn’t need to do any copy editing at all. The Loungers are as smart as they are odd. The magazine dipped into the worlds of Huruki Murakami, Wong Kar-Wai, and David Choe, for example, but the Loungers actually own and read every book, have seen every single movie lensed by Christopher Doyle, and started debating Choe’s ethics/sanity way before it was cool.
R.I.P. Robot Lounge, long live the Lounge, and see you guys on Facebook until that fades away, too…