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The Happiness Issue

Hey You, I See You

Hardcore Multi-Mediated Eye to Eye Combat
December 1, 2003, 12:00am

Photo by Natasha Papadopoulou.
Stills courtesy of the filmmakers.

Once upon a time, a couple of kids were bored in a bar. Since all they were doing was looking at each other, they decided to have a staring contest. Sound familiar? It should. Staring contests have been around since March of 1832. However, 169 years later (i.e. a couple years ago), two Pensacola, Florida, geniuses pumped staring up to the next level. And thus, Staremaster 2000 was born. Today (171 years later), Staremaster has become more than just a drunken pastime between friends. “We had an idea to get a bunch of people together to exploit boredom. We wanted to turn boredom against itself to create fun,” says Sean Linezo, cocreator of Staremaster along with James Miller. So these two dudes started to spread the word at local coffeehouses and bars and the occasional art gallery. “Hardcore Multi-Mediated Eye to Eye Combat,” the fliers said, and although totally retarded in retrospect, people showed up. Lots of them. Here’s how it works: two people sit at a table facing one another with a judge on either side. Accompanied by trippy lighting, loud music, and a computer- generated MC who sort of sounds like “Let’s get ready to rumble… foooooorrrr safety!” but ten octaves lower, the “Ultimate Showdown Round One” starts. And they stare. And stare. Then they stare some more. Nothing else happens. After two minutes, the “Dry-Eye Death Phase” begins, which means no blinking (longest recorded time of no blinking is seventeen minutes). If you blink first or look away, you lose. And that’s Staremaster. Linezo and Miller’s new documentary, Staremaster 2000, sums it up. As Linezo puts it at the beginning of the tape, “We’re taking ‘nothing’ very seriously. Staremaster is seriously about nothing.” Staremaster 2000 gets a little redundant, a little long, and yes, even a little boring. “It’s too long,” says Linezo to me about three days ago, “It’s uncomfortable. You start thinking ‘what the hell am I doing here? This is weird.’ And then you notice that the whole room is involved, including you. And then you realize that it is both fun and funny as hell. And then you realize staring is not a problem. It’s a solution.” LESLEY ARFIN